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‘Cause A Ruckus, No Fly With Us

Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder — Seriously?

Yep, its a wild world up the the blue yonder. Just how wild was made clear this week when the International Air Transport Association released a report showing that approximately 70 times a day, some airline, somewhere in the world has an unruly passenger to contend with.

Now, to be fair, the 9,837 incidents reported in 2016 aren’t all folks acting out like the travelers mentioned above. Eighty seven percent of the time, it might be verbal abuse either of another passenger or a flight attendant. Sometimes that can be chalked up to the increasingly small seats on airliners and the diminution of services included in the price of the ticket.  Those policies aren’t the result of decisions made by cabin attendants, but as the airline’s most public face, flight attendants have to put up with a lot of guff.

This is from Forbes and used here as formatting future blog. Watch too much YouTube and you’re likely to think every airliner in the sky has some over-caffeinated, wiseguy looking for trouble at cruise altitude. Remember Delta Air Lines passenger Adam Saleh of “I like to talk loud in Arabic while my buddy films me” fame? Or the two American guys who went at it on an All Nippon Airways flight from Tokyo to L.A. while frightened children screamed in the background?

Not confined to men alone, Anna Christine Koosmann and her boyfriend Blake Adam Flesig were unceremoniously, albeit loudly removed from a Delta flight in Minneapolis in December 2016.

Yep, its a wild world up the the blue yonder. Just how wild was made clear this week when the International Air Transport Association released a report showing that approximately 70 times a day, some airline, somewhere in the world has an unruly passenger to contend with.

Now, to be fair, the 9,837 incidents reported in 2016 aren’t all folks acting out like the travelers mentioned above. Eighty seven percent of the time, it might be verbal abuse either of another passenger or a flight attendant. Sometimes that can be chalked up to the increasingly small seats on airliners and the diminution of services included in the price of the ticket.  Those policies aren’t the result of decisions made by cabin attendants, but as the airline’s most public face, flight attendants have to put up with a lot of guff.

One out of eight times however the event got physical either abusive, obscene or, horrors! the traveler began tampering with airplane equipment. The challenge for airlines is to train employees how to recognize a potentially unruly passenger before he or she disrupts the flight. According to Phillip Baum managing director of Green Light Limited, an aviation security training company, that means recognizing things are not going well for the passenger before he or she erupts.

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Goodnight Karen Mihoch, Wherever You Are

With apologies to Jimmy Durante for hijacking the closing line from his 1955 TV program, every July 20th I revisit an unforgettable 1969 marker in my life.  It is a signpost to an uncomplicated and yet, more confusing time: 1969. Back then, I had my “roadmap to success” albeit, a simple one but identical to many young men of the late 1960s.  My plan: I would (1) find a girlfriend (2) get a car (3) finish my Senior  high school year and (4) if my luck continued, graduate. 

Assuming I accomplished goals three and four, I would begin applying to colleges.  If my grades were good enough and I was accepted, the US Selective Service would issue me a student deferment classification.  This would reverse the increasing gravitational pull on me from the political Black Hole known as the Vietnam War.

However, grades alone were not enough. If you had good grades but your family didn’t have the money to send you to college, you simply were not going to college.  Instead, you were going to Vietnam.

Nonetheless, truth be told I had waited too long to begin caring about grades or college. By May 1967, I had already received my draft notice.  I had to choose between serving as a two-year draftee in the Army — with a year in Vietnam almost guaranteed — or spending four years in a different armed service branch. I chose the latter and the US Air Force.

A little more than two years later, July 1969, I was home on leave and bravely looked up one of the most attractive Class of ’67 girls and called. Incredibly, she (1) remembered me and (2) agreed to go out with me.

Her name was Karen Mihoch, and in the two years since graduation, she had gone from very-attractive high school girl to, frankly, a fully-grown babe.  She was a head-turner; the epitome of the late 60’s “breath-taking” model-quality woman; great body, er, … “lovely figure,” willowy but not anorexic, long blonde straight hair, big bangs, and a micro-skirt (where have they gone?).  Her final fashion statement featured white “Go-Go” boots and 1960’s pink lipstick.  Whoa.  

We headed to the then (and still today) very casual-hip-chic Georgetown Pub called, The Tombs.

We had a great meal and conversation that I thought hinted at better things later. As we talked, a small “portable” television appeared on the bar for all to view. The bartender fidgeted with the antenna (not familiar with the term?) and waited for the set to warm up (not familiar with that term, either?).  

In about a minute, (not familiar with the wait?) there on the small screen, I watched a grainy, black and white television picture from the moon fade into view.  

Wow, from the moon?

Being a huge fan of aviation and space exploration, I was desperately torn between watching her — and her inviting, porcelain décolletage — or the television.  Should I be talking about her last heartbreak (Hey, take a chance on me!), or marveling at man’s greatest technological event ever?

I was sitting across from a heavenly body but, man was on the moon! 

Describing the lunar event was CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. He was uncharacteristically speechless as he watched Neil Armstrong leave his footprints on the moon. 

I was near-speechless thinking about leaving my fingerprints all over her.

But, it was not to be. Sadly, she had to be back early that evening (maybe due to her family’s reluctance over her dating a military guy; it was the late 60s, after all).  

We watched that historical event along with the rest of the world, and although we saw each other from time to time, we eventually faded from each other’s lives. Life, I have learned, is sometimes like that and I hope her’s has been as rewarding as mine. 

But, every July 20th, I revisit “our” moment in time.  How can it have been nearly 50 years ago?

I bet she is still a babe.

Good night Karen Mihoch, Wherever You Are

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The Fireworks Flag

Recently, I was a guest at the lovely Ft. Lauderdale Yacht Club for their Independence Day celebration.  It was especially picturesque–complete with happy children splashing in the pools, an enormous cookout, and open bar.

Under the poolside high-ceiling cabana, slowly revolving fans bathed friends, parents, and grandparents below in a soft post-meal tropical breeze as they sat chatting.

Situated along Ft. Lauderdale’s scenic Intracoastal, growing numbers of boats — from small-cabined family cruisers and pontoon boats to anchored floating palaces — positioned for the big July 4th fireworks show.  Unlike inland celebrations, along Ft. Lauderdale’s extensive waterways, holiday fireworks launch from pyrotechnics-packed platforms in the water tethered to navigation buoys.

As I fought off strong waves of “maybe a little nap” temptation, an exuberant 4-year child ran up to his grandfather waving a small American Flag on a stick that had been part of a nearby Independence Day table decoration.

“Look Granddad!” he proclaimed while excitedly waving the flag. “It’s the fireworks flag!”  

He handed the little flag to his grandfather and in a flash, dashed away to play with the other sugar-buzzed yuppie larva.  

Gradually, the July sunshine gave way to the evening’s darkening skies.  Large yachts tied to the docks (I like big boats, and I can’t deny it) outlined a grassy peninsula adjacent to the cabana. Families, including the grandfather and grandkid, now moved to the grassy area of the small peninsula where they positioned themselves on blankets.  Anticipation was high.  It was almost showtime.

“Granddad!” the child pointed to several other American flags flying from the nearby boats, “more fireworks flags!”

This time the grandfather asked, “Why do you call it the “fireworks flag?

“Because the flags mean fireworks are coming!” he answered immediately.

BOOM! The first fireworks volley began.  The 4-year old instinctively burrowed into his grandfather’s embrace.

BOOM, BOOM-BOOM!  Being this close to the fireworks platform, I could feel the blasts from the nearby floating barge. It was similar to being in a thunderstorm and experiencing the “flash-bang” of lightning and its immediate thunderclap.  Whoa!

In a few seconds, the grandchild cautiously peeked into the sky marveling at the loud, colorful spectacle above him.  Soon, he happily joined the chorus of  “Ooooohs” and “Ahhhhs” from others in the blanketed area.

By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out the grandchild is mine.  And, that evening the precocious 4-year old taught his youthful, virile and ahem, studly grandfather a lesson in perception.  I never saw “the fireworks flag” coming. 

As depicted in the movie Truman, you accept the world you are born into as proper and correct, framing your world and forming perceptions from a circular combination of behavior modeling, negative/positive reinforcement, observation, et al.

In my grandboy’s world, if he saw an American Flag, a fireworks show would soon follow.  How adorable.

In a few years though, he will learn “the why” behind the 4th of July celebration and the sweeping, world-changing effects of that pivotal event.

He will discover our fight for independence was a horrific, brutal and savage clash.  He’ll read about that struggle for individual freedoms; freedom of speech, press, the right to bear arms, assembly, and religion.  He will understand this was a period of such suffering that history books today cannot accurately describe it.

He will develop a sense of awe for those America-Founding Fathers, and the enormous obstacles overcome in writing arguably, the second most pervasive document in the history of man by consensus of a group. Their signatures severed all political ties with Great Britain. That is well known. Rarely mentioned is: with this action, they also placed themselves at the top of King George III’s “Most Wanted Dead or Alive List.” They had to succeed — or they and all like-minded colonists were dead.

He will recognize the dangerous dichotomy produced by those 56 signatures; complete independence from Great Britain could be the only outcome.  There could be no compromise, no middle ground, no striking a balance, no give and take, no happy medium.  With this bold action, these delegates pledged to each other, all thirteen colonies, and all future Americans, their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.  The grandboy will also realize those citizen soldiers defending the declaration were poorly trained, poorly equipped, yet took on the world’s best military; the best trained, best equipped, the most experienced, and won.

But, as he will learn, winning the war was only step one.  Step two was hammering out the US Constitution. That happened in Philadelphia when the Constitutional Delegates forever fused together a pronoun, an article, and a noun.

Three words that changed a nation — formally defining America. These three words were a sweeping expression of the American mind and immediately became an American Cultural touchstone.

“We The People” was revolutionary political thought in the late 18th century. Indeed, it is still today not welcome in many countries. Nonetheless, those three little words would change much of the world as other nations adopted the American philosophy of government answering to the people instead of the reverse. 

These facts will drive a growing awareness in him that this nation is like no other.  He will recognize the brilliance of our Founding Fathers’ vision;  that individual freedom, individual choice and the dignity placed by this culture on the individual supersede everything else — and particularly, government overreach.  

He and his generation will come to see that maintaining this vision requires vigilance. They face ongoing confrontation with complacent citizens or worse, those persons who conspire to erode this unique cultural and political structure for their own personal or political gains.  

Likewise, he and his fellow Americans of the future will recognize that the flame of individual freedom is targeted by violent individuals, both foreign and domestic.  They fear the power of the individual unleashed in a culture that places this strength, this force, above everything.

He will marvel at the far-reaching power found in that historical three-word fusion.  Most importantly though, he will understand the responsibility to protect what those three words created, now reside in him. 

But for now, it’s the “Fireworks Flag,” and that’s OK.

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Flamenco Guitar’s Brightest Star Gone

For fans of Flamenco music, you simply could not get any better than Paco de Lucia. He was one of the greatest guitar players of all times and a Spanish national treasure.

For the rest of the world and especially guitar aficionados, on February 25, 2014, one of the brightest stars in the musical heavens suddenly flickered and  went dark when Paco de Lucia died. 

I first heard his music while living in Zaragoza, Spain during the 1970s. His seemingly casual mastery and unique style were stunning. I have been an avid fan ever since.  I found a 1976 Spanish TV video of him performing Entre Dos Aquas. You can watch it now by clicking here

In a musical watershed moment, the world learned about this virtuoso guitarist through his rumba; Entre Dos Aguas (Between Two Waters) referring to his hometown of Algeciras, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. It was a sweeping introduction to the musical fierceness, passion, and elegance of centuries-old gypsy flamenco music from at least four cultures: Gypsy, Moors (Arab), Jews and Andalusian.

The global music industry immediately noticed la entrada of Paco de Lucia. They quickly embraced his signature picados (what guitar ‘riffs’ want to be when they grow up) and the unique Paco de Lucia strumming and fingering style characterized as the most advanced flamenco approach the world had ever known.

Present-day jazz greats Al Dimeola, John McLaughlin and Chick Corea were the first to add de Lucia’s emotional elegance to their work. Soon, they played to audiences of 5-10,000 all over the world. 

This was followed by several orchestral performances and even the blending of de Lucia’s unique style with Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” for the TV show soundtrack “Spain: On The Road Again.”

But, it was rock music superstar Bryan Adams who showcased the romantic, sensual, and intimate side of Paco de Lucia’s work to the enormous international pop-rock audience. In 1995 Adams wrote the Oscar-Nominated “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” for the movie, Don Juan DeMarco. The music video for the song featured both Adams and Paco de Lucia. You can watch it now by clicking here.

Akin to a flame passing from a single candle to another which in turn, lights another candle and another over and again, the influence of this flamenco maestro cannot be overstated. Indeed, at this moment somewhere, there is an acoustic guitarist relentlessly practicing their picados; seeking to emulate and perhaps momentarily capture the essence of what was and what always will be, Paco de Lucia.