Archive for November, 2009

THE DAY KENNEDY DIED

MEMOIR

November is the month of thanksgiving, when the weather no longer bounces between summer and winter, when the chill of fall sets in with a vengeance preparing us for the hard cold of winter. It is also the month John F. Kennedy died at the hands of an assassin.
During November 1963 I was a junior at East Side High School. I already had a deep interest in science and forfeited my study hall to work in the school biology lab. I designed an experiment to study Medallion heredity. The experiment required two black and two white mice, which I purchased, and began mating the mice in all the various combinations possible, trying to predict the color of the littermates. I soon ran out of space in the cellar where I was keeping my mouse colony and asked permission to move my many mice to school I pressed on, until I began seeing litters with brown siblings, something I had not anticipated. This brought an end to my experiment and an introduction to the unpredictability of science.
It was while I was working in the school lab one November Friday afternoon that someone came in and said that the president had been shot. I recall reacting to the news with horror and disbelief. The emotions of I felt will always stay with me, the sense of experiencing a moment that defied all logic, the vitality of our young president in jeopardy. I sensed that the world had changed; this quiet November afternoon would become a milestone in history. All I knew was that the president had been shot; there was still hope of survival as I headed home from school that day. But as I walked the mile and a half home from school, I saw something I shall never forget, something that dimmed my hope. On my way, I saw clusters of people standing on corners and most were crying. The residents of Newark are not known for their emotional displays so this sight was disturbing. It was the first signal I had that something was extremely wrong, that the world had changed, and not for the better.
When I reached home, my father was already there, not unusual for he began work early in the morning and was home before me most of the time. I would find him sitting in the kitchen with his beer and paper, but today he was in the parlor watching the TV and he was crying too, something I recalled seeing only once before. The last time I saw my father cry was when my mother lost a baby girl shortly after birth. Ironically, my sister died almost the same time the Kennedy’s lost their third child and also for the same reason, underdeveloped lungs. As my father sat weeping before the TV, he told me that the president had died.
The days that followed were surreal. Long before the age of cable and satellite dishes, there were only three major networks and a few independent New York stations broadcasting to Newark. All normal broadcasting ceased; TV carried nothing but news and insight into the assassination. On the radio, all normal programming came to a halt. The radio played nothing but somber music and news of the assassination. Everyone watched the news all weekend, watching history unfold before our eyes. Shortly after Kennedy died, Oswald was captured. The nation viewed live, the instrument of their sorrow. We watched Oswald’s murder at the hands of Jack Ruby, adding confusion on top of the misery. Everyone’s thoughts were in turmoil as these historic events concluded with JFK Jr. saluting his father’s casket.
The day Kennedy died; I learned something of the unpredictability of life.

November 10, 2009 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

A Dream Fulfilled

MEMOIR

 

When I was a young, growing up in Newark, New Jersey, I dreamed of what it would be like to fly and during the spring of 1969, that dream was fulfilled.
My father built model aircraft, which I immediately destroyed when I was a toddler. But I caught the bug and built models, both plastic and flying examples, as a youth.
That spring of 1969, I was a senior attending Oklahoma State University. For men my age, the military was a certainty. Vietnam was chewing us up and spitting us out whole, broken or somewhere in between. Since childhood, I had always loved airplanes, thrilled at the thought of being able to course the sky – free. As a freshman, enrolled in Air Force ROTC and eventually qualified for pilot training beginning immediately upon graduation. The exciting part of this acceptance was that I would learn to fly during my last year of college. I would learn to fly the Cessna 150 at an airport a few miles south of campus, taught by civilian flight instructors hired by the government. Since I had not yet learned to drive, I would need to catch rides with other future pilots to the airport. I made it to the airport that first day and met my flight instructor, a seasoned pilot, and began flight lessons.
Oklahoma is not a very forgiving place to learn to fly. One of the most unforgiving elements of the weather was the wind. My lessons were twice a week, at 7:30AM and 1:30PM, with the afternoon lessons were the most challenging. One day in particular, the wind was blowing at almost hurricane strength, or so it seemed as I rode to my 1:30 lesson. All the other instructors had cancelled their lessons, but my crusty instructor said, “We’re flying.” We walked out to the aircraft and I performed the preflight. We then climbed into the Cessna and I started the engine. Much to my relief, my instructor said that he would perform the takeoff. Instead of going to the taxiway, then to the runway, he gunned the engine and headed for the grassy area just beyond the parking apron. The airport at Stillwater, Oklahoma was an uncontrolled airport, meaning the tower could give weather advisory and what the current active runway was, but everyone landing and taking off were on their own.
Once on the grass, my instructor checked for other traffic and began his takeoff roll. The Cessna needed little distance to become airborne, and he performed a muddy field take off which requires even less distance. For this takeoff, you lifted the nose of the aircraft early and applied full flaps, after you left the ground you lowered the nose until you gained enough speed to climb. Once in the air, the only effect the wind had on the plane was in its speed; the aircraft was in its medium.
We did some training and then my instructor demonstrated a phenomenon that I will never forget. He set up the aircraft for slow flight into the wind. During slow flight, you lift the nose of the aircraft, and since attitude governs speed, your speed is reduced. Once he had established the attitude he wanted, he asked me to look down. The force of the wind matched our speed and we hung motionless. Next he lowered the flaps and brought the nose up slightly. Now we were going in reverse; the winds of Oklahoma were mighty indeed.
My training progressed and I was rapidly approaching the flight-training hurdle of my first solo flight. After six hours of training, you were expected to soon solo. I had been practicing touch and go landings for the last few sessions, then one beautiful Oklahoma morning it happened. After a few practice landings, my instructor had me stop the aircraft and he climbed out saying that I was ready to solo. In seconds my emotions ranged from joy to apprehension.
I pushed the throttle forward and began my takeoff roll. The Cessna 150 is a light plane and I was amazed how differently it handled with only one person aboard instead of two. I shall never forget the thrill of watching the ground drop away as I soared into the sky, alone.
Weeks later, I was to go on a solo cross-country flight. To this day, I have no sense of direction. During my solo cross-country flight my sense of direction, or lack thereof, became obvious. Now, when I’m driving and have spent some time wandering aimlessly, I’ll eventually pull over to find out where I am. You cannot pull over when in flight. The trouble first began when I felt my instruments were not performing properly and decided to go in the direction that my instincts told me was correct. BIG MISTAKE. Turns out, my instruments were performing perfectly. Soon there were lakes and towns that did not appear on the map I had strapped to my knee. I spotted a town with a water tower and flew low hoping the name of the town was written on its side; there was no name. I finally saw a small airport, and from the configuration of the runway, figured out where I was, which was way off course. I then followed the railroad that headed straight for the small town that was my destination. During my flight, my instructor radioed once to ask how I was doing. As I wiped the sweat from my brow I said, “Great.” A flight that should have taken one hour took me two and I’m sure my instructor never suspected a thing.
Once I arrived back at Stillwater, I entered the traffic pattern and the tower informed me that the wind had picked up quite a bit since I left. That was all I needed after this flight. To get some appreciation for what occurred next, let me tell you something about the runway. Boeing 707s can land on this runway. I came in on final and tried to line up the plane to land and managed to travel the entire length of the runway without making a landing. I radioed the tower that I was going around for another try. I made it on my second attempt. I parked the plane and opened the door, which was torn from my grasp by the wind. This helped my ego only slightly.
My 1:30PM lessons were always the most challenging due to the winds and also the thermals that developed during the hot afternoons. Flying over land was not a problem, but when crossing from land to water you encountered quite a buffeting because the water heated at a rate different from the land. Once, I was in the process of radioing the tower when I flew over a lake and my little aircraft was tossed by the difference in the thermals. My transmission was less than professional.
My 7:30AM lessons were more enjoyable. There was little wind and the air was like silk. These conditions allowed the sheer enjoyment of flight, when the pilot ventures from merely performing a maneuver to becoming one with the aircraft as it courses the sky and his soul glimpses freedom. One morning in the Oklahoma skies I had that experience. I arrived for my solo lesson and was soon in the air. The wind was calm. The first maneuver I practiced was a 360-degree circle over an intersection. This maneuver taught you how judge the amount of bank required in relation to the wind velocity. For the first time, my circle was perfect. I flew on with a sense of joy, solitude and peace. I felt that the aircraft and I were one as we flew over the flat landscape. Totally relaxed in the air, all my worries about school and my future just melted away. I did not want this moment to end. But soon I had to enter the traffic pattern and made a good landing. I taxied to the parking area, tied down the aircraft, and walked back into my life.
Almost immediately after graduation I entered pilot training. I went on to fly the Cessna 172, designated the T-41 by the Air Force. Next came many white-knuckled flights in the T-37, a small jet. I washed out of pilot training before that aircraft and I ever took to the Alabama skies alone. It has been years since I sat at the controls of a plane, but that morning when I truly experienced the pure joy of flight remains in my mind; that morning my dream was fulfilled.

November 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm Leave a comment

Introduction

MEMOIR

Years ago, before I began writing fiction, I worked on a memoir.
I grew up during the 50’s and 60’s in Newark, New Jersey. I felt that I was old enough, that this would be a glimpse into history. Back then, life was tough and so different. People accepted their lot in life and adjusted.
As a look at my past, I will tell you the title of my memoir, You Had Hot Water. The flat my family inhabited did not have hot running water, and I lived there beyond the beginning of college. I hope to publish this work, but in the meantime, I want to share some of it with you.
I will also, on occasion, offer work that is not from my memoir, but are a glimpse at the road I took to put me where I am now. The following piece is one of them.

November 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

READERS AND WRITERS CORNER

READERS AND WRITERS CORNER

FINDING AN AGENT

This is the second article in a continuing series to help writers to find reputable agents and get their work published.
The subject of this piece is the website PREDITORS AND EDITORS found on both the websites for ANOTHER REALM, and iN Vitro. For a writer, I feel this is a must site to add to your favorites.
Provided is a constant updated list of agents, as well as attorneys and publishers, rating them and their strengths or weaknesses. The site recommends which to use and from which to stay clear. No matter who the agent is, check this site before submitting.
Along with all this information, is a vast source of material to help the writer in his quest to be published. The benefits of this site must be explored to be truly appreciated.

GOOD LUCK

http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/

November 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm Leave a comment


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