Projection

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Why? Because sunsets are gorgeous.

Often times we love to post on our favorite social media about the wonderful things going on in our lives. However, we all have that one person (or multiple) on our feeds who post everything in exclamation points! Because life is great! And they just went to the grocery store!

For the love of Gaga, I am not your daily diary. And as someone who journals, I don’t even write that down. Disclaimer: I’m not telling you how to post, but I am giving guidelines for proper conduct as not to annoy your friends (real or virtual).

Speaking of that, do you even know the people you add? I have a strict policy with those whom I accept. My rule is that I must have met the requester in real life or would be willing to go to lunch with them. Otherwise, I see no reason to share my life with you, nor would I be interested to hear about yours (except for those rare gems of people who post things you just simply cannot believe. Those people are few and far between for me).

Don’t air your dirty laundry. It’s all right to be candid, upfront, and honest about the happenings of your world. But we live in a world in which we share too many things; what is sacred to you?

You paint a picture of your life online, but know that everyone can see your entire canvas. And it’s especially embarrassing for those who see the offline artwork you’ve created. But in true social media fashion, I’m not going to point out specific examples; I’ll trade passive aggression for blunt rudeness. That would be embarrassing for the targeted individuals and uncouth of me. Your projection of your life is up to you, but make sure it’s accurate.

I take care to post only positive events in my life. It’s not the whole story, though. If you think for one second that my life is purely hunky dory, you are sorely confused. It’s all in an effort to maintain positivity and deflecting negativity, not to spin things.

This new form of communication and arguably medium of self-expression has the potential for great impact, either positively or negatively. And, being an optimist, I think we have the power to make it very positive.

Moral of the story? I don’t need to know if you had lasagna for dinner, unless Emeril Lagasse prepared it for you.

Black…Thursday?

Family might not always be blood.
Fabulous Friendsgiving

We all groan about it each year— the holidays encroach upon us earlier and earlier.

Halloween candy is set out near the start of school, and Christmas music blares in department stores at the beginning of November.

And who even cares about Thanksgiving anymore?

It’s almost comical to observe the progression of the stores’ opening hours over the past decade— the entire premise of Black Friday is comical, given its proximity to a supposedly gracious holiday. We laughed when stores opened at 6 a.m. and then 5 a.m. We raised our eyebrows when stories arose of people being trampled to death when the doors finally opened. And we sighed when the stores started opening at midnight.

But I am outraged at stores that open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, touting their Black Friday deals. Hold the phone— did I miss something? 8 p.m. on a Thursday is not Friday. And, historically and theoretically, Thanksgiving is a patriotic holiday that honors gratitude for the love we have among our family and friends.

We then take a giant dump on that sentiment and flaunt our materialistic desires in the form of of 32″ HD televisions for $4.00 at Walmart.

Fine. I get it. Capitalism is at work, and it seems to be the best fitting system for our country.

But for those who advocate for TRADITIONAL FAMILY VALUES, I sincerely wish that you are not braving the cold tonight, awaiting whatever gaming console that you scoped out in the ads. Shame on you, if you are, for you are not practicing what you preach.

I would rather the employees have at least one day off to spend time with their families, instead of having to work on a “holiday.” What makes this even more upsetting is that Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. It knows no religious affiliation and is a day, much like the 4th of July, that all Americans can celebrate regardless of creed. And what other All-American holiday can one devour massive amounts of food— oh, maybe any other day.

My point is this: get your good deal, but only after having a blissful, heartwarming holiday with those whom you love. And that better be at the ass crack of dawn on Friday.

The Immediate Future

Great Falls sectional

It’s staggering to think that in just six months, I will be a college graduate.

The normal trajectory of a college student begins with a blind eye to their life plan and ends with a succinct idea of their career plans. But mine couldn’t be more the opposite.

When I came to university, I knew exactly where I wanted to be: a captain at Southwest Airlines. Such a lofty goal for an 18 year old.

But now, just three short years later that have, literally, flown by, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Of course, I’m not shying away from that first goal, but I’m more aware of the vast opportunities of what aviation can offer. The problem is that there are too many options.

Ever since I’ve lived abroad, something wants to take me back to Europe. How would I combine my degree in Aviation with an international market that is highly competitive?

I also feel stuck. When I graduate, I will have most likely obtained my certified flight instructor rating, a position that will be needed over the next few years of a pilot shortage. And it is an excellent way to build hours for the highly regarded interview process at a regional airline.

Is that what I want to do? Where would I want to teach? I could go anywhere— East coast, Left coast, pick a place in between.

What if I did the cliche move to New York and be a writer? Or even a yoga instructor?

Once when I was 17, I looked for a job in my hometown. Almost nowhere was hiring, save for a few places to which I applied, but I was never called. But then I found out that Goodwill was accepting applications. I promptly filled out the essentials and submitted them to a manager. She looked at me with a smirk on her face as if to say, “Why in the hell is he applying here?” And that’s exactly how I feel. Too qualified for any job, but under qualified for the big leagues.

I try to simplify the situation by asking myself an easy question: what would make me happy? I would enjoy flying and getting paid for it. I would enjoy traveling the world for next to nothing. I would enjoy writing and sharing my experiences. I would enjoy a modest abode in a nice city with a dog and a partner to greet me when I walk through the door.

So the last few answers aren’t exactly attainable just yet, but I’m open to what the world has to offer. I hereby surrender myself to the Universe and embrace what is.

Coming Out: The Final Frontier

Find your inner peace.

A friend of mine came out on Facebook today, and on his status there was a link to “Surprise So-and-So with a gift!”

I wondered where this button could have been six years (almost seven!) ago for me. Because, let’s be very serious, I could have used a $10 gift card to Starbucks when I came out.

Rarely do I have to out myself— I’m the fabulous gay man who doesn’t need a second thought. But in the few odd instances where a pronoun about an ex-boyfriend or mentioning an attractive man, there is a slight pause and an, “Oh, ok.” And the conversation moves forward.

October 11th was National Coming Out Day, a day to honor and remember the (second) National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights; 25 years ago, almost half a million queer people descended upon Washington D.C. in an effort to raise awareness of our demographic.

One common misconception about coming out is that it’s a one time declaration— but it’s not. We come out every day to new friends we meet, come out as something we previously hadn’t learned about ourselves, or come out as an entire people. And whether you’re flamingly obvious about for which team you play, or we couldn’t tell if you were on a softball team, it doesn’t matter.

Coming out is an excruciatingly personal event to be shared and celebrated. The first time you utter the words to a close friend, a family member, or even yourself is a huge step— regardless of their (or your) reaction. It means that you have the courage to stand up for yourself and say who you are among everyone else. It distinguishes you as a forthright and honest individual.

I can hear the ignorant straight person saying, “Well why do you have to have your own day to come out, and why is it such a big deal?” Please tell me the last time you had to identify yourself as a straight person— our society fosters a straight until proven otherwise formality. And I’m not going to waste my breath on contemplating if that is a good or a bad thing. It simply is the truth and a reality that LGBT persons face every day.

Who knows— maybe one day a Coming Out party will be just as commonplace as a birthday party.  I can see the Subarus with NPR bumper stickers lining the streets to 12 year old Jimmy’s house, where his mom has baked a rainbow cake and invited the entire neighborhood to mark his newfound fabulosity. Until then, a day in October shall suffice.

Cleared to Yap

The Federal Aviation Administration is set to, uncharacteristically, relax on one of its policies. You know, that annoying, “All electronic devices with an on and off switch must be powered down at this time.” Meanwhile, you’re on the lookout for a wandering Flight Attendant, who is playing 7th grade math teacher and scolding passengers for having their cell phones on.

I’m guilty of it. When I look out the window and see that we’re relatively low to the ground, I switch out of airplane mode to see who could have possibly messaged me, tweeted me, or even, archaically, called me. Granted, I’m not a full fledged airline pilot yet and have limited experience with complex flight computers. But I have sat in my own glass cockpit aircraft and used my phone very close to the equipment. Nothing happened. The airplane didn’t veer off course, nor did it display incoherent messages. Therefore, I hardly think that my phone would cause an interference in seat 32A.

PA-28 MFD

Therein lies the necessity (or lack thereof) for regulation on the matter. The FAA is strictly concerned with safety. Their principle question in this investigation is not whether Joe Shmoe is happy that his seat mate is being Kenny Tarmac and announcing that THEY JUST LANDED AT THE ATL. Therefore, the use of electronic devices should be dependent upon the airline policy.

In the court of public opinion, I’m sure the doctrine of No-one-cares-about-your-phone-conversation would be upheld, especially in such a confined space. But that isn’t the case here— the argument is based on the safe and secure operation of the aircraft, not the passenger convenience or discomfort.

Having said this, use discretion. If I’m trying to coordinate a ride from the airport or checking in with friends on the phone, I’m quiet, concise, and considerate. I even try to shield the brightness from my fellow seat mates, depending on the time of day and ambient light level.

It’s a tiny liberty for which I’ll continue to advocate under my breath. Until then, I’ll be breaking federal regulations to tweet one last time before wheels up.

Childhood Dream

“It has always been my dream to fly.”

I’m often prompted with this upon someone’s discovery that I’m a pilot. After I respond with, “It’s pretty fantastic” or something of the like, I encourage them something else.

Do it.

There’s only one way to become a pilot, and that is to start flying. But it costs too much! I don’t think I’m smart enough! Please bore someone else with your…excuses. You have not lived until you’ve experienced a crisp early morning with a graceful departure, or cruising into a metro area shining brightly at night— until you’ve seen the face of a friend who trusts you enough to burn holes through the sky for naught, don’t give me excuses.
Final for 20 at KHFD Here are some ways to get started:

  • Go on a discovery flight. Your local airport probably has a flight instructor sitting around, waiting for you to  hop in. He or she might explain a few basic things, but mostly it’s just to get a feel for flying. The flight will last approximately a half hour or so and shouldn’t be terribly expensive.
  • Be a bum at the airport. Hanging around airports is the best way to meet people; pilots are egotistic and love to brag about their airplanes, so why not schmooze?
  • Don’t be afraid of finances. Yes, flying is expensive. But most FBO’s (fixed based operators) are very flexible— I once paid off my balance at an airport by landscaping and odd jobs (it’s kind of neat to spray weeds on the side of a runway. Not glamorous, but neat).
  • In this day of technology, there is way more information on flying online than ever before. The FAA even publishes the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) for free in PDF format— as well as the Airplane Flying Handbook and a multitude of other resources. It may not be the most savory reading, but it’s free and accessible!

And after your brain hurts from aerodynamic concepts and common procedures, roll on over to airliners.net and drool to beautiful metal.

I’ll leave you with this: aviation is a very small community, one that supports everyone involved. Someone will find a way for you to defy gravity, but only if you want it more than anything. Once you join the rank of supreme beings— pilots —you can continue the tradition of paying it forward.

 

Blue skies!

For the FAA publications in free PDF format, follow this link to download copies of the PHAK, AFH, and more!

What I Learned From Theatre About Flying

This summer is exponentially less exciting than my last (as seen in this post here). I’m taking one course entitled Turbine Transition, which prepares students for crew environments. In addition to learning how to operate a King Air 200 simulator, I’m getting used to working with someone else in the cockpit with a shared responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong— my flight instructors have always assisted me in the cockpit with tasks, and there is a hint of crew resource management. But this environment is different in that each crew member has a definite set of tasks to complete in conjunction with the other.

Maybe I’m just eccentric, but I feel that every flight is a performance, just like being on stage. Although I’ve only had a few times on the stage myself, I remember what it was like to rehearse lines, practice delivery, and blocking. Flying is essentially the same— whether it’s a monologue (solo flight) or a large production (crews). We go through flows, a memorized pattern of tasks, and follow with a checklist to make sure we hit all the items. We synchronize with our cockpit partner like a fellow actor, making sure that he or she doesn’t miss lines. And when we do mess up, we improvise to get back on track— let’s just hope the audience is resilient and notices nothing.

The big performance, then, is the checkride. Stage fright barely begins to scratch the surface of what most feel when that day comes. It’s opening night of the rest of one’s career— a make or break flight if one receives bad reviews (or thrown, rotten tomatoes!). Depending on the level of preparation,

I could be suppressing some lofty dream of making it big in the spotlight, but the similarities between the two professions are eery and reek of ego.

Where in the world?

Amidst a country in crisis, I find one of my own. This expansive round stone floating around an abyss of black magic is the biggest thing humankind can experience.

And so the question arrives: where in the world do I want to live?

I’m not saying that these few trips I’ve taken in Europe have been the most extensive globe trotting— I still have so much to see. But from what I’ve gathered so far, I wouldn’t mind living…anywhere.

Looking at my past, my permanent address is still the house where I came home from the hospital. My little brown house in a middle class neighborhood of a capital city waits for me to arrive on school breaks. And for the past three years of college, my residences have been within blocks of each other, never more than a 15 minute walk to any of them.

Precedent is tough to overturn, but not impossible.

I do believe in the adage “grow where you are planted” but it becomes more a more difficult decision when I can sew the seed.

My dream has always been to live in New York City for a hot minute and eventually make my way to the Pacific Northwest. But this European adventure is broadening my horizons.

The Swedish culture enamored me, and that climate would be best suited for novel writing (I fully intend on publishing some form of sappy teenage love story) and the production of my memoirs. Stockholm itself was cozy; it’s a fun place with warm yet reserved people and not so much in the limelight as Central Europe.

Madrid is a world-class city with plenty of its own history, but it is subdued and not quite as poignant of Rome’s omnipresent ruins.

I’m not looking to settle down soon, but I should have the thought in mind. And with my proposed career, I can live wherever I want; my office is the sky, my elevator a beast.

This question won’t be answered today and quite possibly for years to come. I’m young, have minimal obligations, and a strong sense of geography paired with an internal compass pointing in the direction of my heart.

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La cultura Madrileña

“Siempre yo tengo veinte años,” she said to me, smiling and taking a drag of her cigarette. I asked my host mom, Gloria, why she likes to host university students studying abroad. We sat outside a bar, eating calamari sandwiches and drinking a beer after seeing Picasso’s Guernicas in El Museo Reina Sofia.

Before my arrival, I considered the term “culture shock,” but it didn’t scare me. Madrid isn’t in a third world country, and the language isn’t from an unfamiliar alphabet. But each city has a certain vibe, a signature essence that no other place has. And it was my thought that, immediately after deplaning, I would be hit in the face with it. I was wrong.

After being here for almost a month, I’m gradually noticing what makes Madrid, Madrid. First and foremost, there is the greeting kiss. Two pecks on the cheek— Gloria greeted me in this way when I stood on the stoop of our apartment in Pacífico, suitcases in tow.

The concept of time is blurred here, almost nonexistent; as an American, I didn’t realize our rigid nature until I started being “on time” for things— which, if you know me, I’m not always so punctual. Even a few of my classes start around their posted times. This is reflected in the meal structure here; breakfast is a small portion, and lunch is the main meal. After the meal, it is traditional to rest and take a nap. Stores close for a few hours, and one retires until the evening. Dinner is tapas in the neighborhood bars. Unfortunately, in a house of American boys, that isn’t the case. We eat dinner around 9 p.m. and it’s substantial. Gloria is a fantastic cook and prepares authentic Spanish food like paella, cocido madrileño, and lentajes.

Initially, I was quick to judge America. Most students stepped off the plane and went straight to the bar, making downright fools of themselves. The drinking age is 18 here, a very suitable age in my opinion. However, combine that with college sophomores with 20 years of age and the US’s restriction until age 21, they tend to overindulge. This isn’t to say that the Spanish are refined and tame when it comes to beverages— but the approach to alcohol consumption is more relaxed.

I’m a proud American and have plenty of respect for what our country stands, mostly. But it wasn’t until I was dancing in a completely Spanish bar that I noticed all the music was American. Even the most authentic cervecerías cook hamburgers and fries. We have a massive global influence and presence— we should recognize and consider that.

Several evenings ago, I was stuffing my face with Nutella (the supermarket had collectible Snoopy jars; mine has him flying— how could I not?). Gloria walked in to say good night, and I mumble “hasta mañana” through hazelnut breath. Yesterday, she bought me a big jar of it. I told her that she was going to make me fat. But she said, “Comimos y bebimos bien. Pero caminamos mucho.” And that’s fact— walking is highly encouraged if not expected here. Very few people drive their cars as much as we do in the states, mainly because public transportation is superb. Everyone takes the metro, from the gypsies asking for money to the elderly couple with authentic Burberry scarves.

A note on the fashion: I dress well. But the Europeans put me to shame. Somehow, through their odd combinations of pattern and textile, they pull off the most bizarre outfits like it isn’t anything.

Overall, I think Madrid is fantastic. I’m enjoying the subtle changes to everyday life and will attempt to adopt them upon my return to the states— even if it means arranging my schedule for a siesta.

Journey to Madrid

If I could have taken a boat, it would have been faster.

I have a darling friend who works for an air carrier, and she was able to score me a Buddy Pass— this pass is at a reduced rate, but one only gets a seat if there is space available on the plane; one could be stranded for days if the flights are full. More or less, that is what happened. I left one day earlier than I needed in order to compensate for full flights, if any. My route was St. Louis to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Madrid. Saturday, I got to Atlanta just fine, but the flight was oversold to Madrid. Not a problem, since my friend’s family (and wonderful boyfriend!) took care of me on Saturday night— their Southern hospitality was so delightful and inspiring. I ventured to the airport the next day in hopes of flying up to JFK, but for the most part it was safe to stay put. Down to the wire, there was a family who almost missed their connection from Monterrey, Mexico— but because my flight was delayed, they ended up making it. I was one person away from getting a seat.

Monday, I flew to JFK and tried my chances there. There is no direct flight to Madrid from Atlanta on Monday, so why not take a crazy chance? I ended up getting first class on an Airbus A330 (a widebody plane for international travel), and thoroughly enjoyed the product— as soon as I figured out how to use it. There were so many buttons and functions! The only thing lacking was a heated seat, and I never would have left that plane.

It was an anxious seven hours in New York, and long at that; I watched heavy metal roll in, 747, A380, A340— an airliner enthusiast’s dream! Around boarding time, standing with the eight standby passengers, we were told that it was a completely full flight. One by one, we were called to the counter to receive tickets. My name was finally called. Praise Gaga and her holy melodies! An attractive New Zealander, whom I had befriended briefly, made the flight too— except I didn’t know until seeing him getting his luggage in Madrid.

The flight itself was hell on earth. I was so tired, couldn’t get comfortable, and tried valiantly to sleep with no avail. My seat mate was a sweet guy from Sevilla, returning home after visiting his parents, who now live in Florida. As the lights turned into black water, I attempted to salvage some sleep. Only waking to eat dinner and a quick breakfast (airline food in coach is mediocre at best, by the way), I drift in and out of sleep between turbulence. The last hour of the flight, I was awake as we descended into the Madrid area. A blanket of clouds lay below us, and we finally made the plunge. It seemed like the last notch of flaps were in forever, and I was waiting for us to go missed— we had to have gone to minimums.

After deplaning and walking for miles to customs, something I feared for no legitimate reason, the agent merely looked at my passport, raised an eyebrow, stamped it, and I was on my way. After retrieving my luggage, which was very late off the plane, I simply walked through a door, and I had arrived.

More on how I’m adjusting later— but the more important thing is that I am here!