It has been three months, five days and six hours since the fateful call. The blindsight call with no explanation. I have been “released” from my contract.
The flying circus has left town, less the clown, and a camel has sat on my flying carpet of Arabia. One day a friend, the next a pariah.
It has taken this long just to reduce the emotions of anger, bitterness, disbelief and lack of closure to a simmer. It is terribly vexing without details, logic, or of why; and I am filled with angst with loose ends and unfinished
And so the “strum und drang” begins and life goes on. I am now looking for my twelfth job with wings. Three bankruptcies, three shutdowns, and now a “release from contract” adding to the colour of my vision. Grateful for, yet despite my syncopated perspectives, aviation has not been kind in career, and my once bright avocation has turned into dark perturbations.
The most profoundly difficult human nature to accept, I have realized, is change – wayfaring the quicksilver of life. The Phoenix shall rise again in some form, some where, without doubt…
I couldn’t resist sharing this VW advert with you; found while the flying carpet heads home for Houston and reading the morning Limerick newspaper. Great advertising – art in-and-of-itself…
Also stumbled upon whilst walking along the streets in the Georgian area of Limerick, was the newly opened art gallery on the edge of “People’s Park”. As I entered the gallery, the first thing I saw displayed hit me full force – an extremely cool modern art display piece; in fact, one of the rare modern art pieces that have really grabbed me – titled “Downside Memory”. I’m still working through it.
I shall leave you all to your own interpretations…
I was walking through the quaint town of Limerick, enjoying the medieavel-ness of it all, when I rounded the corner to cross the bridge at King John’s castle (built in 1197 at the banks of the river Shannon), and stopped short with a plethora of brightly outfitted people in the middle of the coursing river Shannon – practicing a form of wave or rapids surf kayaking! Not the sight one expects to see in such situations, but as always, a pleasant surprise and a colourful world around us if we just open our eyes…
A Lutheran, a Catholic and a Baptist attend Irish Anglican Evensong.
The Catholic says “Where’s Mary?”
The Lutheran says “The church name is Mary.”
The Baptist says “And the preacher’s name is Mary.”
They drank meade from the cup,
Were blessed as they supped,
And all were forgiven just the same…
There once was a dad quite glad
And a son who missed him like mad
Wishes and happiness are had
Happy Birthday from Limerick Dad!
After a much-needed rest – one of those hard sleeps where your dreams are not normal, but more like hallucination type dreams. I awoke fairly, and relatively refreshed, and headed out for exploration in Limerick’s quaintness. Being a Sunday, I happened upon St. Mary’s Church and sneaked in for the last half of the celebration and soul restoration – Anglican style.
The music from the organ resonated off stone walls with the weight of 840 years and uplifted my spirit to the heavens. I left the church humming the hymns when my ears were greeted by a young girl in the square across the street playing an Irish jig for all to hear on the fife! My soul already soaring, my steps lightened and my feet began to dance with the jig as I walked down the street dodging doggie doo drops.
I was following an old woman of town, thinking what a fine Irish top o’ the day it ’twas, and began to pass her when out of this woman came the most rip-roaring, long, full and melodious root, toot and toot ever heard! Really.
Tootally spectacular. Pipes, fifes and farts.
Made me step in doo, and then I added my own melody…
Well, another pair of skivvies are to far gone for rejuvenation, and removed from inventory… After a long day waiting on the plane for the Arab League meeting to finish, we took the Prince back to Riyadh from Cairo and then continued on to Shannon Ireland for crew rest in Limerick. Another nearly 30 hour day, but eagerly endured for the always enjoyable respite in Limerick.
To bad we are going to miss the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Ireland. A week early and a few euro short…
I guess when you are used to 100 + degree temperatures, 75 is freezing…
While waiting on the airplane for the Prince, the Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to persuade Russia to end its support of the Assad regime in Syria. Russia, Syrians main arms supplier, has defended President Assad against Western and Arab critics. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said shortcomings in the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have twice vetoed resolutions on Syria, had allowed the killing to go on. Lavrov’s reluctance drew an angry response from the Prince accusing Moscow of giving Damascus a “licence to extend its brutal practices against the Syrian people, without compassion or mercy.”
The egyptian K-9 bomb sniffing dogs… slightly larger than a dachshund. The mechanics thought it would be fun to leave some habanero doritos on the floor and see if the dogs would eat them – they didn’t – eat them that is…
After the nice visit with my brother in Washington, DC, we departed earlier than planned for Dhahran to drop off the Oil Minister, on to Jeddah to wait for and pick up the Prince, then take him on to Cairo for an Arab league meeting.
There has been huge solar flares occurring recently, wrecking havoc with HF communications over the Atlantic and we were right in the thick of the worst of it trying like madmen to communicate with someone, anywhere, with nothing but static, hisses and pops. We even tried howling at the full moon… A nice treat for our efforts however, was a spectacular viewing of the rare and elusive aurora borealis – to fly amongst it is like hacking at golf balls, then hitting one on the sweet spot. It keeps you coming back to try again and again…
My biblical sightings tour continued with an unexpected surprise passing through eastern Turkey and a flyby of Mt Ararat – the location of Noah’s ark.
The three leg, extra long 30 hour day with a sunset, sunrise and another sunset, ended at the hotel with a skivvies burning; our smalls having grown much larger in their ripeness.
Our stay in Washington, DC was long enough for me to have a visit with my brother Kraig and his wife Rebecca at their new home in Alexandria, VA. I usually only see him once a year at Christmas time, so this was a very nice respite. All to easily in today’s society, the siblings of a family move away from the parents home town for jobs and no less drift apart. So it was especially nice to catch up with each other with the usual brotherly rivalry of electronic toy acquisitions, house tour, lifestyle and career comparisons, etc. Their townhouse is located a block away from the high street in Alexandria and is a delightful walking area replete with varying enticing shops and restaurants. The evening meal was at a small county french establishment. We downed the speciality of the house – cassoulet; a favourite of Kraig’s happening to also be one of mine and both discovered while exploring the French countryside. A seemingly minor discovery but yet a nice emotional link to bring the distance between us closer…
Havard and King Street ending in the George Washington Masonic Temple.
Best cassoulet this side of Paris…
(Pictures courtesy of Kraig’s new awesome retro Fuji camera)
Occasionally, when not flying the Foreign Minister (HRH Prince Saud Al Faisal), we fly the Oil Minister, (HE Ali Al Naimi). As is the case so far this trip. After a short night in Amsterdam, we winged west to Washington, DC…
Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi says the country is overly dependent on exporting crude, and together with a senior official has vowed to hugely increase the kingdom’s downstream exports in a bid to diversify is export income and create opportunities for the country’s increasing young population.
“Our dependency on crude export is a challenge that we need to overcome,” Al-Naimi told the Saudi Downstream Forum. “Our on-going downstream projects will allow us to lessen our dependency on crude export and will add value to our crude,” he added. (AP)
After a short night in Amsterdam, we pressed on to Washington, DC with the Oil Minister. A very northern routing with very clear weather enabled these rare photos of Greenland…
As the scenery below morphed from brown to green and white, thoughts meandered from Arabian nights, biblical wars and modern foes, the repetition of history to mediaevil history as we crossed the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania into Romania… We just happened to cross over the location of the Poenari castle ruins on the Argusl river, one of Vlad Tepes’ “the Impaler’s” (aka Dracula) castles and thought to be “the” castle.
P.S. A tidbit for you from the Anglophile that you all know me to be – England’s HRH Prince Charles, happens to be a descendent of Vlad, the Impaler – so I guess he has a bit of a stake in the country…
Beginning of the Carpathians…
Vlad Tepes’ Poenari castle ruins in the Carpathians, overlooking the Argusl River in Transylvania, Romania. (web photo)
I’m always amazed flying over the Middle East, looking down upon all the strange and exotic biblical locations that I know of by faith. Once just religious and mystical, now historical, living, war-torn and real. Much like flying over and seeing Mt. Sinai of Moses’ fame on the last trip, my list of touching, treading where trodden, and seeing locations from the bible is ever-increasing.
Today, after an extended stay in the Dammam camp, we flew the Oil Minister to Amsterdam for a short night. It was one of the rarest clear days in Saudi memory and our routing took us over Kuwait City, and the traditionally accepted spot of the Garden of Eden; the tip of the Persian Gulf and the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. An inspired viewing of un-inspiring sand, but further intriguing by research illuminating a theory that “the”spot is really miles further south under the Gulf water.
Even more inspiring, however, is the now accurately and accepted theory by more than trustworthy sources, geologists, theologians, linguists and religious bodies, is that “the” spot is really at the rivers other end (their origins) – and is actually in Israel – Jerusalem no less! Something about tectonic plate movement, rivers drying up, world flood (Noah) sedimentary deposits, fossilization, and now correct ancient word translations, and their contextual, cultural and period meanings. (enquire further for source info). Wow…
The eerie awe continued as we flew so quietly and peacefully on, with thoughts of Mesopotamia, Sumerians and such; far removed from below in our reality warp machine and continuing over Basra with huge still burning fires of the scorched earth campaign of Saddam Hussein. The brown turned to green as we followed the Tigris northward, leading us to the infamous Baghdad and 1001 nights…
Kuwait City & Iraq beyond…
Garden of Eden area (Iraq)…
Tree of Life…?
Just outside of Basra…
Baghdad and the Tigris river.
After three weeks home, I commercialed to crew change in Saudi Arabia and start a new trip rotation. Fort Wayne to Chicago, on to London and Bahrain, then a drive across the causeway into Saudi and Steineke Hall in the Dammam compound. A long 26 hour journey from my kingdom to this Kingdom.
As it happened, a few days prior to arrival, one of the worst Sandstorms in a decade hit the east coast of Arabia. It has lasted in varying intensity for 6 days; only subsiding yesterday. With the strong winds for power, a perfect skin exfoliation experience ensues just walking across the street to the mess hall, and turns my white shirt tan. Visibility is severely reduced (especially with eyes closed to keep the sand out), and no need for hair gel, the sand is glue. After a shower there is almost enough sand to build a castle – and plug the drain.
The Chicago AA concourse. Around the world in a trip.
Sunset landing in Bahrain in a British Airways 777.
Saudi Sandstorm – walking down the street.
Since my thousands of TWA St. Louis landings, and my final flight before furlough with TWA/American landed in St. Louis, 9 years have passed and five other flying experiences have come and gone. Now the mighty American has gone bankrupt as well and may cease to exist…
So it is with a great flood of emotion that the final flight for me on this lengthy trip 1 should end with a landing on 30L in St. Louis – the first time returning since that final landing. A parallel approach with the first jet flown, and all the ghosts of jets and friends from years gone by…
Somewhere over the Atlantic between heaven and hell.
Trip day 37.
For those of you who might think this is all just a glorious holiday, who see the pretty photographs with wanderlust, who imagine the glamour of the far-flung foreign locales, who wish for a break away from life, allow me to enlighten you.
There is an expensive price to pay, very expensive. Not only in mental and physical degradation, but more so in the anguish of heartache as well.
Life does not wait for me to return. I left during Christmas with family unfulfilled, and will return for Valentines – not as a father and husband – but as a stranger in my own house. I missed my daughter’s birthday and my parents 47th anniversary. I missed accompanying my daughter in a gold medal winning violin competition. I missed a first tooth lost, a second tooth lost, and a new one growing in. I missed a science project, good grades and bad grades, math homework and bedtime stories. I missed new clothes with bigger sizes, a snowman built and melted, and the end of cheerleading season. I wipe the tears away from a computer screen and return with everything changed – except me. I leave a young man and return old and weary, tasting the bitterness of knowing so many lost moments are gone.
Oh yes, there is a price to pay for this avocation/vocation, this love/hate profession, this deal with the devil to serve at the pleasure of a Prince – and it’s very, very expensive…