Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Cards, Friends, and Phones

It’s CHRISTMAS CARD season again. Each time I open the mailbox I wonder who will be next. Which couple, man, woman, or long lost compatriot will have put out the effort to address one to us?
They've changed through the years, these cards of greeting and cheer. Once upon a time they were mostly classical – straight up fairy tale. A real tree stood in a corner next to the fire. Above the stone fireplace a re-purposed barn beam offered space for candles and carefully hung stockings. Outside, horse drawn carriages delivered distant relatives home. Children left cookies for Santa.
Next came the whimsical, often lighthearted, non-traditional cards. In them you could feel the move from others to self – from holiday to another day. Colors matched the personalities. Christmas scenes became the sender’s personal hobbies imagined in a snow-covered set. X-mas was a thing.
Along the journey away from the Christmas season and others came another interesting version - the family photo card. Sometimes glossy, yet commonly bordered with festive lace sprinkling glitter, these are the “one year in our life” cards that bring you up to speed on what the senders are doing and how they all look in the current year.
These “yearbook” Christmas cards also served to further my growing disappointment with the season, myself, and society as a whole. Please do not misconstrue my words. It is wonderful to know our friends are well and care enough to send these keepsakes. It is great to receive record of everything going on in their lives. Even better, the mugshots help us recognize them at crosswalks. That’s always nice.
Yet, my disappointment is that we’ve gone from exchanging heartfelt telegrams rich in the season to mass produced family yearbooks displaying mistletoe in a corner to make certain everyone understands it is a Christmas card.
Deeper than that is my curiosity as to what it’s all about. Obviously, if you collected Christmas Cards from the last thirty years you could glean better understanding of the changes in our country than academics using extensive biographical surveys.
Perhaps everyone is so vastly distant we instinctively understand the need for recent family bios. Alternatively, maybe we’ve moved from thinking of others to thinking of ourselves and wrapped it in an envelope to make it deliverable. I suppose there is also a chance people are so long removed from the real Christmas many struggle for a way to celebrate it – unsure of what to do we go to what we know.
There’s also the changing ideas of “friends and family.” That could be to blame. Certainly, the word “friend” isn’t at all what it was a mere decade ago. Where once the word announced “if you mess with them you mess with me.” Today it casually infers the notion, “I may or may not know this person but they put a cool photo online and they hate ____ so we’re friends.”
Years ago a friend was someone who could be trusted to hide the body. Now it is someone who most assuredly will like your social media posts. That leads me to wonder if many feel the vapid nature of this holiday mess and all they’re really trying to do is hold on to friends, real friends, that are too far away for dinner. If so, sharing notes on our lives may be the modern day version of “Hey. Sorry we haven't talked in a while. I've been so busy.”
Ultimately, I believe it is a little bit of everything. Nobody means any harm or arrogance. Our friends certainly don’t. Our lives are busy though, and distant. Society preaches “more is more” while posting “less is more” online. We know what we need and refuse to practice it; somehow believing the most luminous colors, blended, place a magical tint on our lives, when in reality ten of the prettiest colors from across the spectrum, mixed, will give you brown or gray.
A week or ten days ago a friend’s Facebook account was suspended. Being too manly for the masculine police (he likes girls) earned him a one-way ticket to online jail. How do I know this? He called.
Hearing from him was a better gift than countless cards. Although I knew most everything that was going on with our friend from his social media account, hearing the words made them real. Talking to a person made it count and reminded me of all the good memories he is part of. The same would go for the others.
Am I really the only one who feels this way?
Fifteen years ago I quit calling friends at Christmas. One hectic day the calls interfered with the things that fill each square on the calendar and I thought to myself, “Why am I calling these people? They never call me,” and I never did it again. I had always assumed that if they went to the trouble to send cards at Christmas they would be someone who would like to catch up “live.” That wasn’t the case.
Many still send cards but never call. Why?
Understandably, not every card is from a heartfelt friend. I myself have sent Christmas Cards to people who don’t fit the “hide the bodies” definition of friendship, yet having done me a great favor, or written something demanding of recognition, I used the occasion to express thanks and Merry Christmas. Some cards are family to family. These keep everyone in the loop, generally. These best fit the definition of “Hello” cards. Additionally, we all get the friendly card from an acquaintance in sales.
Put to a point, not every card comes from someone who laughed at you from the other side of the bars, shared the hobby of explosives built for fun, not terrorism, and who could still describe how incapacitated you were when your best friend died. Many, though, do. Each time those arrive I think of how nice it would be to talk to them and share a laugh. Heck, being on their list is nice. Real words would be memorable.
Again, please don't get me wrong. I am not angry or upset with these people, senders of cards. To the contrary, I am glad for the season as it delivers their words. Ultimately though, I’d love to have a Christmas filled with their voices instead of the symbols.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge - Update

As was mentioned in another recent post, outwardly visible progress for the Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge has been thin this year. Despite having brought back Sinful Sundays and all of them being a success, people often look here for notes on advancement. Those notes have been few and far between.

2017 has been an interesting year for the organization. Much has been done but little that can be seen. Obvious physical improvements or large group photos did not happen because the primary focus has been on securing the land and land around it. This isn't what we hoped for. Instead, it was forced upon us.

Due to unscrupulous real estate agents, people with no regard for the law, and officials who have not been doing their jobs we have spent most of the year working on time consuming issues that don't produce obvious results. Putting an end to the flaunting of state and federal regulations pertaining to public use airports and zoning is difficult enough. When it is just you attempting to correct widespread disregard for property and the law it's not easy at all. If you are an outsider in a town where everyone is related, grew up with, went school with, or goes to church with everyone else it's maddening. Yet, if we are to secure the future of the field it must be done.

Thankfully, the gracious Lee Bottom Aviation Refuge supporters stepped up this year to cover nearly all the direct operating expenses of the field.  This is exactly what we were hoping for as we transitioned the field management responsibilities to the non-profit, thus taking part of the load off us as we attended to land issues. That, along with an increase in traffic, the return of Sinful Sundays, and potential opportunities for the airport leads us to believe 2018 will be another great year.

*NOTE: The annual fundraiser calendars are currently at the printers. We plan for them to go out early January. If I remember correctly, this is the 30th year of the tradition. Each year they go out to 1500 aviation enthusiasts around the world and account for the majority of the non-profit donations/funding.

*IMPORTANT: The dates for 2018 Sinful Sundays are June 10th, July 8th, and August 12th.  If you recall, we are only able to have these events if other groups volunteer to host them. If your group would be interested in hosting one, two, or all of them, please contact us here.

August 2017 Sinful Sunday

Sunday, December 3, 2017

YL-15 Article Featured in Sport Aviation

Thanks to those of you who emailed, texted, or messaged me about my YL-15 article in Sport Aviation. It's rare to get even the smallest response from anything written. Unless you are a world class author, today most people view you as a server bringing fast food to the table. There is so much content in existence it's often not considered a skill.  And in my case, that could be correct. Nonetheless, I have managed to fool some people so there could be hope.
The YL-15 itself was the most difficult aircraft I have ever written about. Imagine being tasked with documenting the internal workings of a Packard Merlin using only one paragraph. Doing the little Boeing justice with anything short of a book is the same. I suppose you could describe Marilyn Monroe by discussing her dress but the beauty of the mind would have to be ignored - the whos, whats, and whys left undocumented, different with each imagination. How do you chose what to leave out?
Here's Keith on the day we took the YL-15 to Talkeetna.
Making it more difficult was the personal history of the owner and restorer, Keith Brunquist. Everyone always says "aviation is about the people" and in this case the owner was critical to the piece. Therefore, I absolutely had to tell his story then as much about the plane as I could. I hope you enjoyed it.
Finally, here's a special thanks to the folks at Sport Aviation who found temporary room for my work. And thanks again to Keith some great flights around Alaska and allowing me to be one of three pilots qualified in the YL-15.
This plane is laugh-out-loud fun to fly.

Sanity Forces Diminished Blogging

-written late September

Fall is painting the landscape here at Lee Bottom and the usual things are happening. Cool air has made the grass green again, the last brave flowers are blooming against the will of the seasons, and the wildlife is going about the process of preparing for winter. But, what about us?
Recently we got a message from someone who said they had not seen or heard much from us in a while. Despite having three successful events on the field this year, I suppose it is possible for some to feel we haven’t been active. Weekly updates on the blog have been rare and if this is your Lee Bottom source, I (rich davidson) apologize.
The original Lee Bottom website has been allowed to go semi-idle as we figure out how to merge it with the site while also retaining a separation between the two organizations. One is the airport itself and the other is the non-profit. If you’ve been looking for dates of events and haven’t found them be sure to look under the .org site.
As for the blog updates, they’ve been thin because, well, because they just been thin. What was intended to be a casual summer turned out to be something otherwise and when I have free time I spend it working on the field.
Today I spent the daylight hours mowing, trimming, trimming trees, and pulling grass away from each runway marker (by hand) so the boundaries of each could be located and the grass fully removed for better visibility. In future weeks, we will have to find another day to weed eating all 48 of them, one at a time, removing the dirt from them so the yellow shows through again, and then cleaning the cones. Once that is done the entire field needs to be aerated which will be about the same time it needs mowed the final time of the year.  That doesn’t count winterization of all the water lines and equipment, or the bush hogging that has to be done. And this doesn’t count all the our personal stuff and time at work. My guess is that some of you can relate.
Whatever the case, some of you are probably thinking, "Yeah, and it's work you asked for." And, you are correct. However, as time goes on, and the work you do gets tougher, some things have to give. This year it was the blogging. Next might be something else.  But, we're still going.

20 to 40 - That's Where It Happens

You know those moments in life when you realize how right somebody was? I still get them, but at a much slower pace. The tide has turned. Although, there is one which repeats. The class was “Sales Psychology.” The professor was Dr. Cangemi.
Easily the most desired course on campus, to earn a seat you had to work hard. I’m talking all the overtime and long hours your grades could withstand. It was the only legal way to earn enough money to bribe registration. Everyone wanted in.
Why was there such demand? Dr. Cangemi was one of the last educators who spoke, open and honest, about the real world and business. There were no hyperboles or over the top Tony Robins moments. The BS remained in the hall with those sharing an affinity for warm breezes of sunshine up the rear. He couldn’t help it. He had experience.
Looking back, I still marvel at the success of the class. Rational at heart, yet dominating the psychology department, its existence triggered cognitive dissonance in students who heard about “Sales Psychology” then learned where to find it. Despite its title, that specific department was the last place anyone looked for lectures on winning.
Claiming my seat in what rumor said to be the largest class on campus, I wondered how disappointing it would be. Awaiting the professor’s arrival, I scanned the room hoping otherwise. My favorite philosopher once said, “A person is smart. People are stupid.” My version is more rule of thumb, “Whenever the group is sure of something, the safe bet is they are wrong.” Having learned this early in life, the crowd leaned into my mind. Then the door swung open and in walked “Cangemi.” Everything before was forgotten.
My crapshoot had come through. Instantly obvious was the value of the class. More importantly, there was that single Cangemi nugget I still remember today, “Life is arranged for success in your 40s. What you have there is your peak.”
Alarmingly finite for infinite minds, few accepted the depth of the wisdom. Students who believed anything was possible, and life never ends, laughed it off. Some, sensing more, sat still for impending clarity. “What you do in your twenties and thirties will determine your success. Work hard. These critical decades of your life will determine who you become.” He was right.