Wild Blue Yonder

At Eastertime, Robin hard-boiled a bunch of eggs for the grandkids to decorate. Then she hid them all over the backyard for those same kids to look for, along with candy, money, a spliff here and there, you know, things children like. Yesterday on a very warm afternoon, I found one of those boiled and painted eggs still hidden out there, the shell intact.

I did not crack it, nor drop it, nor do anything but carry it carefully to the trash. I have no personal knowledge of what happens to a forgotten boiled egg, but I feared the worst. I do know what the contents of a neglected un-boiled egg looks and smells like, and the memory of that episode is unpleasant enough to make me careful forever.

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Robin and I went to an honest-to-God movie theater Wednesday and saw Top Gun: Maverick. We enjoyed it. It has some of the flavor of the first one, with a story line that is halfway believable, and aerial photography nothing short of terrific. Rumor is, and I have no way of documenting this, that there is no CGI stuff in the sequences involving aircraft.

I will admit that I don’t look forward to a Tom Cruise performance as much as I did before the gazillion stories over the years about the role of the Church of Scientology in his personal story. Somehow a bit of that negative reportage got past my radar and implanted itself in my brain at vulnerable moments. But Tom did a creditable job here, playing one of those doomed cowboys of the world where the nature of the job is changing but the man refuses to do so.

My second confession is that I really go to these sorts of movies because of the airplanes. It’s an ongoing love affair that started when I was five years old and putting together little cardboard models that came in boxes of Kellogg’s Pep cereal during the WWII years. The infatuation continued as jet fighters replaced the propellor-driven ones, and has not abated much since then.

I built small plastic models from kits, larger versions that were powered by small motors, and in 1959 I enlisted in the Air Force with hopes of becoming a pilot. That didn’t work out as planned, and when the USAF told me that they weren’t going to give me (and more than half the men in my group) that opportunity, but would give me instead the option to choose between becoming a navigator or going back to being a civilian, I chose the latter. Please know that I have nothing against navigators, who I’m sure are all fine people and deserving of our respect and admiration, but I wanted to fly fighters. Period. End of story.

I left to return home with the first of what would eventually be two Honorable Discharge certificates from that branch of the military services. I would get the next one in 1971, when I finished my two-year stint as an Air Force pediatrician.

So when our town has its Tribute to Aircraft out at the local airport each year, and the various military branches send in a handful of planes and pilots, there is a tiny sense of wistfulness when I see the young men and women in their flight suits standing out on the tarmac by the plane they rode in on. I am still smitten. To me they have one of the coolest jobs on the planet, where the government gives them the best airplanes in the world to fly, and actually pays them to do it.

(I know, I know … those splendid aircraft and their dashing pilots are weapons systems capable of inflicting enormous damage, especially on things made of flesh and bone, like human beings. But it’s my fantasy and in my fantasy we never shoot anybody but just point the aircraft’s nose straight up and pour it on.)

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Once upon a time, some of you readers will remember, television stations did not broadcast for 24 hours a day. Late in the evening they would sign off, and when that was done you had only static to look at until the next morning. Often the sign-off was a video featuring The Star Spangled Banner, but in the sixties some stations used this one, a dramatization of the poem High Flight. I thought you might like to see it one more time, even though the video quality leaves much to be desired.

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Perhaps I was being a bit hard on myself after my discharge from the Air Force, but I would watch that video late at night and think:

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Robin has been having some dental work, and Wednesday afternoon I had driven her to the office and was sitting in the waiting room. When she was done with her appointment, our next stop was to be the movie theater. She was the last patient of the dentist’s day, and was a work-in. The clinic receptionist wanted to leave, so she turned the cardboard sign in the window to read Closed and said to me: “I’m leaving you in charge. If someone comes, just tell them we’re closed for the day.” And off she went, my loud protests at being suddenly placed in a position of responsibility without authority still echoing as she drove away.

So there I was alone in the waiting room, everyone else is busy back in the surgery, and in walks an elderly woman, who was ignoring the cardboard sign as not applying to her.

Jon: We’re closed, I say awkwardly, while watching the woman’s face register puzzlement: If that is so, her face said, what are you doing there? (Notice my adoption of the word “we”)

Stranger: I think I have an appointment at 3:00, she says.

Jon: My wife is in the back, she was a work-in.

Stranger: So you’re a “special?

Jon: Yes.

Stranger: I’ll wait … or maybe not … I’ll give them a call.

Jon: Sounds good.

Stranger: I was sure … but then I know the office always closes early on Wednesday …

Jon: We’re “special.

Stranger: That must be it. My memory …

Jon: I have the same problem.

Out the door she goes. We are relieved.

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[In his Writer’s Almanac for June 10th, Garrison Keillor passed along this poem. It describes the feeling Robin and I had about the town on our recent visit to New Mexico.

PASSING THROUGH ALBUQUERQUE

by John Balaban

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing “The Mississippi Sawyer” inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.

***

Mississippi Sawyer, by Tom Adams

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Robin and I received our ballots in the mail for the upcoming Republican primary. Most of Colorado’s voting is done by mail, and is done very well. We chose to change our registration from Democrat to Independent to be able to vote in the Republican primary for the opponent of Lauren Boebert, a representative to Congress. Changing registration is simple to do and undo, using online resources available to everyone. In Colorado unaffiliated voters can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary, but not both. In the general election, you can vote for whoever you choose, regardless of party affiliation.

Boebert should be an embarrassment to the Republican Party for her ignorance, showboating, and dismally obvious unfitness for the job. But, as I have mentioned ad nauseam, the modern incarnation of that party is a malignant zombie version of what it once was. So we have joined a nationwide mini-trend (not sure that is the best word here, but whatever) of voters who are doing what they can to help defeat extremist candidates.

I had been an Independent for years and years before moving to Colorado, having given up on the Democrats in the 80s as a party whose heart was in the right place but whose members couldn’t pull in a coordinated direction if they had to. I have some of the same feelings today that I did back then. If only we could all pull together and do what I tell us.

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