Friday, October 30, 2009

An Original Ghost Story - Happy Halloween


Through the Keyhole

Jacob always wanted his own room. In his new house, he got his own floor. And so much more.

The third floor of the old Victorian house was only half finished. Drafty and cold, Jacob’s room had peeling wallpaper and cracked plaster walls. The attic was through a dark oak door, scuffed and ominous, and forever locked. The key, it was told, had long since disappeared.

Jacob didn’t care about the key. He only cared that he no longer shared a room with five-year-old twins. He didn’t care about the dormers overlooking the cemetery, half a block away. He didn’t worry about the leafless branches scraping against frosted over windows. He thought nothing of that old oak door, heavy with varnish and a wrought iron doorknob. That was, until the first night fell.

Gas lamps flickered along the street. Shadows danced on Jacob’s walls and he crawled into bed, pulling the covers up to his chin. An eerie mist hovered over the bed each time Jacob exhaled. He heard the tick of a grandfather clock coming from the first floor parlor.

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

The antique clock had always soothed him as he’d tried to ignore the twin’s nightly whimpers. He’d helped his father restore it and knew every gear; felt every pulley and chain as the seconds ticked away. Finally alone, Jacob heard the clock as if it were in the next room. But it was two floors below. He shouldn’t have heard it at all.

There was a whisper.

“You have until the clock runs down.”

Jacob stiffened where he lay. Even his eyes remained still. He held his breath, listening for more. With great caution, Jacob glanced at the old wooden door, looming in the dark. Cold air slid underneath, rising up to swirl the mist above his head. Jacob inched toward the edge of the bed, while tightening his grip on the covers. There was a vent in the floor just above his parent’s room.

Tick

Tock

Tick

Then, he heard a whimper. Of course. It was the twins’ first night without him. Easing out of bed, Jacob’s feet slid across the cold floor. The staircase creaked with each step. The doorway to the second floor whined when he opened it. He held his breath a moment to listen.

In silence, he noticed the quiet.

The twins were sound asleep. As were Jacob’s parents. He was the lone soul awake in the house. Turning to go back upstairs, he realized just how quiet the quiet was. He no longer heard the tick of the grandfather clock. It should have been louder, only one floor below.

Jacob eased down to the first floor parlor. The grandfather clock was in the corner. The pendulum, pulleys and weights were laid out on the floor where the movers had left them.

Outside, branches beat against the windows in the whipping wind. The street lamps flickered out and Jacob stood alone in the dark. But only for a second. He raced back upstairs, whirled around the corner and jumped the third floor steps two at a time, leaping into bed and the safety of his covers.

Tick

Tock

No part of Jacob was exposed. He hugged his pillow until his fingers numbed. A baby cried. There was a muffled scream. Scratches at the door.

Jacob was about to bolt for his parent’s room, when he froze once more.

“Time runs out.”

“No! Please!”

“The child—God no!.”

Jacob’s heart leapt. The cold held him down. He wanted to run; wanted to cry out, but couldn’t overcome the weight of fear.

Tick

Jacob heard a thud. The clink of metal echoed from the attic. Then, silence.

He lay there a while. His heart calmed. His breathing slowed. He eased the covers from his head. That’s when the attic doorknob started to turn.

A faint light dashed across the floor and settled on the open keyhole. Jacob was drawn to it. He slipped out of bed and, with ginger steps, found himself peering through the keyhole.

There was a woman, bathed in a pale yellow glow, with a baby emanating soft pink, pressed to her chest. A man dragged her across the attic by the hair.

“I will never abide this child.”

The old man shoved the woman. The baby fell to the floor, its wail echoed through the empty attic.

“Did you think you could hide? Then you will never leave this place.”

The man was a rage of fiery orange. The old man picked up the light that was the baby, and snuffed it out. The woman, sobbing, fell to the floor, an arm draped across her forehead in sorrow. Her light began to dim. She pulled on the locked door, but Jacob didn’t move.

Her eyes were blank. Behind her, the man glowed hot as the sun. His fingers reached around her throat. Pawing at the door, she peered through the keyhole and found Jacob’s eyes. She put a hand to her mouth in stunned recognition. Then, her light returned. A smile crept across her face. She reached up, and the light of her finger passed through the keyhole, into Jacob’s eyes.

She pulled the hands from her throat and stood to face the man, who shook his head in shock as she passed by him.

“No more,” she said, picking up the dead infant, who began to glow once more. “Never again. This is the last time. There is a new force here. One you cannot touch.”

With the child in her arms, the woman passed through the man. All three lights extinguished.

Outside, the wind calmed. The light of the street lamps returned. And the cold passed from Jacob’s room.

The next morning, Jacob tried the attic door. A skeleton in a pale yellow dress fell into his room when the door opened. Across the attic, wrapped in a soft pink blanket, lay the skeleton of an infant, its skull shattered against a broken clock. And, from the rafters, and wearing an orange flannel shirt, hung a skeleton with one bony hand tugging at the noose. On the floor beneath it, covered in dust, was the key to the attic door.

The twins were happy to have Jacob back the next night. And every night after that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Wow, I'm having some week.  First Erica picked me as her first ever link of the week, now I've been given the Kreativ Blogger award by Julie Dao at Silver Lining.  Thanks gals.


The rules are:
1. Copy the Kreativ Blogger picture and post it on your page.
2. Thank the person that gave the award to you and link back to their blog.
3. Write 7 things about you that we don't know.
4. Choose 7 other bloggers that you would like to give the award to.
5. Link to the bloggers that you chose.
6. Let your winners know that they have the lovely award!

Traci at Writer's Corner - Started blogging the same day as me and was my first ever follower.  She knows a thing or two about writing (enough to teach it), and she's smart too.

Erica at Laugh.Write.Play. - If for no othe reason than she's a long suffering Detroit Lions fan who won't give up.  And she's got some cool things to say.

Jm Diaz at An Ulterior Motive - He's sarcastic like me.  It's what my blog would be like.  If I were bald.

Kara at Moomurs(Better than Rumors) - I just discovered this blog in recent days.  I like it because she's young and smart and reminds me of when I was young and stupid.

Cary at List of the Day - The blog I followed before I knew what blogs were.  Need a laugh?  Offended easily?  Check it out anyway.

Lost Wanderer at Lost Wanderer's Writing Blog - She's a Brit who named her laptop Finn.  I think she'll go online with it.

Kathy at It Bloggles the Mind - A cool chick with a neat take on life.  I love the pictures.

And, seven things you don't know about me.
1. I abhor creamy white condiments.
2. I'm a good singer, but too insecure to prove it.
3. My favorite flavor Gatorade is red.
4. I miss the smell of the Great Lakes.
5. I'm an airline pilot and I'm afraid of heights.  And roofs.  And ladders.
6. I have an irrational fear someone's going to toss their cigarette out their car window and it's going to get sucked into my gas tank and blow me up.
7. I still like to put potato chips in my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Would Larry Do # 2

So, we're walking through the Venetian, commenting how the Las Vegas version looks and smells much cleaner than the real thing.  It turns out, there is a benefit to that filthy Italian water.  In Las Vegas, it's so clean you can see tiny propellers on the gondolas.  I'm thinking my Pisan brethryn could easily take one of their Vegas counterparts in a fight.  Then I nearly got into one of my own.
One of the pushy timeshare salespeople cornered us, and it seems I'm not quick enough with the no.
"Want free show tickets?" she asked.
I very much did want free show tickets.  However, I'd faced this same spiel a few days earlier.
"What's the catch?" I asked, already knowing.
"We're not interested in a Timeshare," jumped in Mrs. Sarcasm.
"I want to show you these shows," said the salesgirl.
"No thanks," said Mrs. Sarcasm.
"What shows have you got?" I asked.  I said I was slow.
She ran down the list.
"We have to listen to a Timeshare offer?" I asked.
She hesitated.  I don't think she was expecting resistance.  She looked at her screen for a moment, then back at us, and nodded.
"No thank you," said Mrs. Sarcasm, pulling me away.
"What do you have against Timeshares?" snapped the girl.  "See those people?  They're going right now.  What's the big deal?  You're just walking around anyway."

What would Larry do?

"Yeah," I said.  "I'd rather walk around than listen to some pushy salesman."
"Our salesmen aren't pushy," she said.
"Oh, really?" I asked.
"Yeah."
"'Cause you're being pretty pushy," I said.
"I'm just doing my job, sir."
"Oh, is that right?"
"That's right."
"So is it part of your job to insult people who are just walking around?"
"It's my job to bring in business," she said.
"What does that even mean, we're just walking around?  What should we be doing?  Standing around?  Sitting around?"
"It means you were walking by."
"Yeah," I agreed.  "So's that guy.  Why don't you accost him?"
"I didn't accost you."
"I think you did," I said.  "I think we're being accosted.  This feels like an accosting."
"An accosting?"
"Mmhmm," I nodded.  "And by the way, there's a very good chance..." I needed a really good line here, "we were on our way to a very specific destination."
"Very specific?"  She folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow.
"Yep," I nodded, quite proud.  "Pretty specific.  Pretty, prettyy, prettyyy specific."
"Really?" she said.  "Where were you going?  Nothing's open yet."
"As a matter of fact," I waved a finger, stalling.  "We were on our way to buy show tickets."
"Well," she said.  "I offered you free tickets."
I stood there, nodding.  She had offered free tickets.  All I had to do was listen to a brief speech.  Mrs. Sarcasm stood a few feet away, tapping a foot.
"So, uh, you got any left?" I asked the sales girl.
"Sorry," she said.  "I just gave the last pair to that guy."
"That guy?" I pointed to him.
She nodded.
"The guy who was just walking around?" I asked.
"Yep."
I leaned in close, peering deep into her eyes.  We held each other's gaze a minute.  Finally, I pulled back, nodding.  "Okay."
Mrs. Sarcasm was none too happy when we paid full price for tonight's show.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trendsetters

I've never been the least bit trendy.  At least, not during a trend.  So I can't understand when something is trendy, why it's trendy.
It's a blustery day out here in Las Vegas, where Mrs. Sarcasm and I are holed up for a time.  She suggested hot chocolate from Starbucks, but when we went in I noticed some apple caramel thingamabrew, which she ordered.  I, having stuck to the hot chocolate mandate, took a sip of hers.
"Mmm," I said.  "I may have made a mistake."  Then I looked into the crowd.  "But not nearly so big a mistake as that guy."
Some goober in his mid thirties was sporting a chicken topper for a hair do.  It was like a faux-hawk, but to call it that would give the guy more credit than his do deserved.  So I had to ask myself what would lead someone to such poor decision making?
We'd been in a store where the clerk was doing his best Jonas Brothers tribute, complete with brown flannel shirt, untucked from his blue jeans, and a white silk tie.  Now, I've seen these boys perform in their worst attire and I can not get it.  Their music: not good.  Fashion sense:  non-existent.  Are they good looking?  I'm a straight, so I don't know.  But I do know whatever you throw on the Disney channel sells.  Hannah Montana: bad actress.  Worse singer?  Again, I wouldn't know.  They don't play her, or the Jonas Brothers, on the stations I listen to.  But then, the stuff I like tends to run under the rails.  How many of you have heard of Chickenfoot?  Probably not many because good rock and roll ain't cool.  Which is really too bad because they just released the best record in the last two decades, and it might have gotten more notice if Michael Jackson hadn't gone and died two weeks after its release, stealing the music thunder from everybody.  Of course, in death, Jacko once again became trendy.
Meanwhile the rest of us regular folk meander along trying to make sense of these trends.  Take baby names.  For every Apple, Pilot Inspektor and Jermasjesty, there are quite a few Matts nobody's talking about.  Of course, when you've got teenage bullies named Denver Colorado, who cares about Matt?
So I'm thinking of making a change.  For nearly thirty-seven years I've been too uncool for smoking.  No more.  Maybe I'll get a faux-hawk.  And I'm thinking about a tattoo.  How about Robin, the frog?
Then again, maybe I'll just continue my clueless existence while setting future trends. 
And oh... yes I am.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Well YeeHaw!

This blog broke a major barrier, at least for me.  In the last 24 hours I made it to double-digits in followers.  While I understand this may not give everyone cause for celebration, it is, for me, validation I actually have something worthwhile to say on occassion.  If you're new here know that I started this thing amidst the process of querrying agents in the hopes Schmitty the Pirate would become the next big thing.  That has yet to happen (and I stress yet)  (okay I didn't stress yet.  I could have.  I could have used italics, or bold, or underlined it, or used a different color, the point is, I haven't given up hope.)  Just knowing you folks are willing to spend a few minutes however often listening to my silly stories about being a pilot, writing, not writing or whatever other insane thing I write, makes me grateful. 

So thank you, followers, one and all.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Still Looking For An Agent? Did You Try The Men's Room?

What follows is a true story.  Despite my best efforts, I could not prevent it.

After lunch, my friend Joe wanted to stop by ABC Agency's office in Miami.  I'd given up trying to convince him it wasn't how a professional writer goes about seeking representation.
"None of that other shit works," Joe said.  "Sometimes you gotta walk in and say, 'Hey, I'm  here.'  Who gives a fuck?"
Joe's always been a delicate flower.
He was dressed in a fine white linen suit when I dropped him off in front of the building.
"You're not coming in with me?" he asked.
"I want no part of this," I said.  And I didn't want them knowing who I was.
"Suit yourself Buddy," said Joe.  "You gonna find a place to park?"
"I'm gonna drive around the block one time," I said.  "You should be back by then."
I drove around the block two times.  Joe was waiting at the curb.
"I got off the elevator and there was no one there," Joe explained.  "There was a phone, an empty desk.  Nobody.  I tried opening a couple doors but they were all locked.  I really tried, Buddy."
"Oh well," I said.  "I didn't think--"
"Then I heard a toilet flush, so I went into the restroom."
"You did what?"
"That door was locked too.  I had to force my way in."
"To the men's room?"
He nodded.
"There was a guy standing there--"
"He was standing?  Not sitting?" I asked.
"Yeah, but you know, he was...So I said, 'Are you with ABC Agency?' and the guy said 'yeah.'  He's probably thinking, 'Who the fuck is this motherfucker?' but he said 'How'd you get in here?'  I told him 'I just walked in,' and then I said 'I'm a writer and I'm looking for representation.  I wrote a memoir about Vietnam and a novel about the hunt for terrorists."  Joe started laughing pretty hard.  "The motherfucker asked if I was special ops, so I said, 'Yeah, now who can I give this manuscript to?'"
I, of course, pictured this poor schlep with his pants around his ankles, cowering as the big burly wierdo accosted him.
"Well," I said.  "Sorry you wasted your time."
"Yeah, fuck you Buddy," Joe said, tossing the guy's business card in my face.  "I'm gonna email him tonight.  He said he'd read it and forward it to the right people in New York."

Success?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Would Larry Do?

If I could be anyone in pop culture it would be Larry David, who stars as himself on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry says and does the things I wish I could get away with. Often I find myself, after a particularly irksome encounter, thinking, what would Larry do? So this is the first of a new installment based on what I wish I'd done.

One of my friends, Steven Labree, has written a new book. I realized on my way to this week's critique group meeting, I'd promised last time I saw him I would buy a copy for ten dollars. Of course I only had a twenty, and no one could break it. Since we meet in a library, I assumed I could get change, and lo and behold, they even had a desk with a big sign that read 'Monetary Transactions.'
I sauntered up to the counter, twenty in one hand, Steve's book in the other, and waited for someone to look up. And waited. And waited.
"Can I help you?" asked a quirky bald man with glasses.
Waving the twenty I said, "I'd like to get change please."
"For what?" he asked.
I hadn't expected that. I had to think a minute.
"So I can break this twenty," I said.
He gave me a skeptical glance and I noticed a growing group of gawkers, suddenly interested in my transaction.
"No," he said. "What is the reason you want change."
Now I was really taken aback. I chose my words carefully, and spoke slowly.
"So I will have two tens, instead of one twenty."
He took a step back and folded his arms. "Do you have an overdue book? Need to add money to your account? Are you making copies?"
I thought I'd been pretty clear, but I repeated, "I just want change."
"Well we don't just give change," he said. "You must make a transaction."

This is the part where I answer what would Larry do. And what I wish I had done.

"Well," I said, cocking my head. "I'm trying to make a transaction. You're not letting me."
"Well I'm sorry," he said, waving his arms.
"There's no need to be sorry," I said. "Just break my twenty."
"I've explained to you, I can't just break your twenty."
"I don't understand why not," I said.
"Because that's our policy."
"But what's the difference?" I asked. "I give you twenty, you give me twenty. It's all the same."
"No. It's against policy."
"But your policy doesn't make any sense."
"Look," he said. "The policy is, you make a transaction, I can give you change."
Now he was talking down to me, so I straightened my spine and tried to be cool.
"I understand...the policy," I said. We stared each other in the eye for a second. "What I don't understand...is the reason for the policy."
"The reason?" He was offended. And a little gay. "The reason?"
"Yeah," I tried to explain it. "I think it's a stupid policy."
"Now our policy's stupid?" He was definitely offended.
"Not now," I explained. "Probably always. Look, I have a need. You're in a position to fill it. It's win for both of us."
"I don't want to fill your need," he said. "And how is it a win for me?"
"Because," I said. "I get my money. You get to help me out. You should feel very good about that."
"I don't feel good about any of this," he said.
"Of course you don't," I said. "You're beholden to a very restrictive policy. It's too confining."
"Yes, well, it is our policy."
"Break free." I shoved the metaphorical policy aside for all to see. "Give me two tens."
"No," he said. "The library's closing."
"No change?" I asked. He shook his head. "You really should re-think this policy. It's a bad policy."
"Thank you sir," he said. "We'll take it under advisement."
I paused at the door and looked at him. "I don't think you will."
"No," he said. "We won't."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stuck

I'm struggling to revise my WIP. I'm struggling because I thought my work in progress was my work finished. I'm struggling to decide if it needs revision. I'm wondering if I should take up the challenge of NaNoWriMo. Part of the problem is staring at the page, seeing all that I've put there already and deciding what to change, what to leave, what to move around, or whether to do it at all. Part of me, a big part today, thinks I should just start over. I don't want to change the story. I think it's pretty good, but maybe the notion of creating something, even something that's already been created, is the motivation I need. With my work schedule I should have no problem writing 50K in a month. But do I want to? Or need to? That's why I'm stuck.

More Whiny Pilots

I was going to write a rather biting response to this article about a pilot who, rather than losing his job entirely, was merely downgraded and forced to endure a pay cut. He comes off completely self absorbed, all about the money, and trying to hide the truth of his circumstances from his kids, by continuing to buy them expensive Christmas gifts he can no longer afford. If you read the article, you'll see he even sold most of his furniture, as if living in an empty house wouldn't tip the kids off.

As I said, I was going to respond, more ticked off, not as a fellow pilot, who has gone through actual job loss, but as an adult irked by this guy's irresponsible parenting. Then I read this comment, which summed it all up for me:


I was sympathetic to the shock of the paycut for this family until I watched the video. They lost me.

Their $75,000 income is in the TOP 17% of all households in the US.

And he whines that they are not 'secure'? If he can't pick up an occasional dinner check for his parents on $75,000 a year, someone needs to eat at different restaurants or learn to budget. They could't afford furniture on $75,000 a year or, is it more accurate to say, they couldn't afford the top-of-the-line brand-spanking new stuff they wanted and were too spoiled to buy anything but what they wanted that minute?

Their former income of around $105,000 before the pay cut put them in the top 10% in the US!!

And he thinks that is the minimum they need to be comfortable?

Oh PUH-LEASE!

The video was very instructive - acres of the cliched granite countertops, quite a large kitchen, spanking new-looking funiture......the lifestyle it took his parents (from whom he bought the house) around 40 years to achieve. And he feels entitled to it at the age of 32ish....

Then they blow through $18,000 so the kiddie-widdies won't be 'disappointed' by being told 'no' over a 'Mommy I want this, that and simply everything' demand. Do try to get a firm grip on reality!

If they had had the slightest bit of sense they would have done 2 things:

(1) When he got the promotion a couple years ago and was being paid another $34,000 for 14 months, they should have put it in the bank and kept living in the same manner as before the raise. They didn't even have 6 months living expenses saved when his wages were cut - forget having 1 year of expenses. Sounds like they spent every penny the minute he had gotten the raise.

(2) Tell the darling little kiddie something new. Teach them a new phrase and an idea to which they will have to accustom themselves their whole lives. Here is what you say - "NO you can NOT have that. We can NOT afford it."

Easier for the little darlings to learn the following concepts as children that get smacked in the face as an adult (after having grown up haveing their every wish and whim granted at any cost) with the ideas that:

(a) you can't have everything you want
(b) things cost money
(c) and you can only buy what you can afford
(d) and if you want it that badly save your allowance until you save up the money.

Period. End of discussion.

Sounds like the parents never learned these fundamental lessons when they were children since they beleve themselves entitled rapidly acquiring a lifestyle that took their parents generation decades to afford.

That overblown sense of entitlement which pervaded US culture is what caused the credit mess in the first place. The 'I want and I want it now and I will borrow the money to get it now' mentality was fatal in the end. When only an income in the upper 10% is considered satisfactory to such people, god help them since the odds are they will end up in the bottom 90%.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blacklists

There's a dirty little secret professional pilots probably don't want the public to know. They're petty, vindictive bitches. Well, not all. But enough to warrant a calling out. So, I'm calling 'em out.
Pilots at most airlines are unionized. And you don't have a choice but to join the union. Oh, sure, dig through enough law books; hire your own lawyer; espouse your right to work, and you could get away with not paying dues. But believe me, you're not getting away with anything. You want problems? Kick and scream. Want a peaceful existence? Join the union.

Unionized workers, no matter the industry, are slaves to conformity. They do not tolerate indivdualism and rally to the cause of the mindless drone. To that end, there exists a 'burn it down' mentality, wherein the union believes if it can be successful in hurting the company that signs its member's paychecks, they will emerge victorious in the eternal struggle against 'the man.'

(Please visualize air quotes where you see real quotes above, for whilst I believe air quotes to be quite silly, I also believe the same of unions.)

Well, 'the man' sometimes fights back. Contract negotiations can be especially charged. Occasionally labor groups go on strike and pilots are no different. But woe be the fool who dares cross a picket line. And pilots actually form picket lines. I grew up in the motor city, where auto workers could pose a nasty threat to anyone who didn't support their cause. But, their organization consisted of hanging around parking lots in mobs, waving broken bottles and hurling foul language. Pilots actually walk a single file line looking rather ridiculous with their poster boards and hats.

Even so, people have crossed the lines. And those people end up on a scab list, of pilots now, or in the past, flying for airlines, but known to have contributed to union busting. I, as you might be able to tell, am not the biggest fan of unions, especially the one currently using 2.5% of my pay to throw weekly beer guzzling events in the name of solidarity. I believe someone might have any number of reasons for risking, not just career suicide, and, in some cases, physical harm, to earn a living.

Most of my union brethryn disagree. They hold fast to the belief that management's sole reason for existence is to ruin the lives of its employees. Unfortunately, on occassion, this belief has been confirmed. There are a couple of airlines out there that are, in fact, non-union. A couple of companies have started alter ego airlines, and offered their most junior and lowest paid pilots the chance to work at the new airline as captains, something they would have to wait years for if they stayed where they were. The catch: they will earn less as captains at the new airline, than at their current airline, in essence brining down the value of the captain position industry wide and saving money for the airlines.

Some people took the offer, and found themselves blacklisted. Others, through circumstance, ended up at these airlines because they simply couldn't get a job elsewhere. Believe me, these people had no motivation other than to pay their bills.

Today, one of these pitiable souls had the misfortune of needing a free ride on my airplane. Usually no problem. We give each other free rides all the time. It makes it easier to live where we want even as the airlines open and close our bases on a whim. Unfortunately the captain I was working with today was one of those union grudge holders. I had only met him about five minutes earlier, so consider this a first impression.

When the captain asked who the freeloader worked for. His answer: UnionBustingAir. Oh boy. Uncomfortable hesitation followed. The captain screwed up his face in disgust and for a moment I thought he would kick this poor guy off the plane. (As captain, he would have been within his rights.)

What followed instead was a lecture about the evils this guy was doing to the industry. Why would he go work there? How could he live with himself? Did he consider the effect on his fellow pilots? I stayed out of it, but was cordial to the guy. What's worse is there were no seats in the passenger cabin, so this poor schlep had to sit in the cockpit with us for three hours. I must applaud him. No doubt he deals with this every time he goes to or from work. He dealt with it the best way possible. He slept.

When he was awake, however, he spent his time apologizing. He'd been furloughed from a 'respectable' airline. He couldn't find a job anywhere else and had caved in desperation. He was, he said, on his way to give his two week notice. He'd found a job as a corporate pilot. Even better for him. No more union BS.

I offered my sympathies when the captain left to use the restroom. As I said, I was cordial to the guy, doing my best to make him feel welcome and to let him know, I am not a dick.

But the captain was a dick, and couldn't even control his dick. I went into the restroom immediately after him, and he'd been fast. So fast, in fact, he hadn't bothered to lift the seat. Or aim. Thanks to swine flu I'm always armed with hand sanitizer.

As he left, the jumpseater thanked us. I shook his hand and wished him luck. He then extended his hand to the captain, who grumbled something nasty without looking up or shaking hands. After the guy was gone, the captain said to me, "I didn't meant to be a dick to the guy, but..." Which is what made his being a dick all the more ironic. Much like a person starting a sentence with, "I'm not a racist but..." I stopped listening.

I had hoped to extol the virtues of humanity on the way back, but lectures aren't my thing. The best I could do was a display of my superior avitating. Unfortunately I blew the landing but made up for it by nearly running him over in the parking lot. I didn't mean to almost kill him, but...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Old, Young, Black, White Or Asian?

I found this website that lets you upload a photo and then age progresses you. Actually it can make you older or younger, although I found age progressing a baby picture only made for a creepy looking baby. The fun part is you can also make yourself a different race. I think it would be fun to post everyone's would be selves.

Query Shark

I just discovered Query Shark's blog. It's a great place to read other people's queries get ripped to shreds. Seriously, it is fun reading, though I have to wonder where she finds the time. All I ever hear is how agents don't have time to read all the queries they get. This chick puts some serious thought into these rejections. No way I would ever send her one of mine.

Balloon Boy Lets Us Know How He Feels

video

I love the brother's reaction, to say nothing of the father, who really looks like an ass. But how about the fact no one mentions what's happening? Oh well, maybe this was a dress rehearsal. I heard he gave a repeat performance on Good Morning America. By the way, was anyone else disturbed when the firefighters started stabbing the balloon they thought the boy was inside with pitchforks? WTF!?!?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Problem Getting Rejected?

On occassion, I'm forced to go to work. Not by force, of course, but fear of losing my cushy job. On such occassions, I sometimes engage in banter with my fellow pilot. Today was such an occassion. When forced to endure long hours at a time in a small space with a fellow human it helps to interrupt the boredom with banter. Occasionally I will mention that I'm a writer. Yesterday was such an occassion. After finishing relatively early and then resuming our trip again today, we invariably ask what the other did on their layover. Today the subject of writing came up again.

"Did you work on your book?" he asked.

"No," I responded. "I knew I wouldn't." And I did. I can look at a schedule and know, even if I have a whole day with nothing but time, depending on what city I'm in, what amenities are offered and what time of day I get there, whether I will write or not. Yesterday was such a day.

Then I explained how I was in the submission process and how rejection had become a way of life.

"Did you ever see the movie about some writer?" he asked.

Of course. The movie about some writer. How I'd longed to see it. I'd waited months, while reading all I could about the production. What actor could properly portray the writer? And how, oh how, could they make it all so real?

"No," I answered.

"You'd like it," he told me. "It was all about this writer who kept having problems getting rejected."

"Huh," I said. "Doesn't sound plausable."

Friday, October 9, 2009

We're Not Supposed To Use Cliches, So Here's The Whole Nine Yards

So I responded to someone's comment that I was waiting with baited breath. Then I got all bent out of shape. What does that even mean? And how many of these godawful cliches are there? I don't mean to push your buttons but I'm working on my last good nerve. I tried to come up with some of my favorites. And by that I mean, those I hate the most because they make no sense. Wear your heart on your sleeve, is the hands down winner (which should be a cliche, but apparently isn't) Aside from the obvious hygienic implications, this saying doesn't make any sense at all. Why (and how) the hell would I wear my heart on my sleeve? I need it where it is. I know what it's supposed to mean, yet at the same time, I don't. Well thank your lucky stars for the interwebs. With one click of the google I had my answer. But when it rains it pours, so when life gives you lemons make lemonade. Make no bones about it, us writer types don't have to be worry warts any more. Think you're using a cliche? Check here first.

Dwight K. Schrute - Howling Wolf



Last night on The Office - the funniest show not starring Larry David - Dwight sported this fashion gem. Today I was led to Amazon, which actually sells this thing for real. If you do nothing important this weekend, at least read the first review.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'm In A Quandry

All right people, I need your help. Since receiving this lovely rejection, I've been rethinking the voice of my main character. He's someone I've gotten to know pretty well over the years, but I must admit, even I get bored by him sometimes. So I challenged myself to give him more life. I re-wrote the first chapter, hoping inspiration might spring from it. I think it might be better, but I need encouragement. I posted the original first chapter, and the re-write on Absolute Write. I believe you need a membership, which is free. If you're so inclined, and you have a minute, and it won't take more than five, please let me know which one you like.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Spirit of Radio

Halloween is near and the ghouls are making themselves known.

A long time ago in a state far, far away...

I was a simpleminded college student with dreams of a career in radio and television. I even won an award as Best New Television Personality for hosting a segment on the campus cable show, The Ultimate Talk Show. The following year I had my own Nite Time gabfest. My plans to conquer the entertainment world were firmly in place, only to be derailed when my show was canceled after only one episode. I still like to think I'm the only one in school history to hold that distinction.

But it was during this time a strange phenomenon occurred. I happened to be driving along Mission Road in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan when the radio in my car suddenly switched to a station broadcasting out of Tampa, Florida. Now, I learned all about broadcast law and broadcast history, wasted time in classes where all we did was watch movies. I even developed a sitcom in one class. But never did they tell us about the ghosts in the machine.

I went to my professors. None could explain how a car in Michigan could suddenly start playing a radio station over 1200 miles away. For years I was haunted by the spectre of that day, always tentative on the dial. Would my fingertips unsettle the long dormant ghoul I always knew was stalking me?

Today, they did.

I was at a light, not moving, when suddenly, it happened again. With white knuckles, I gripped the wheel while the spirits of Orlando descended on South Florida. Okay, I realize it's not the same as Tampa to mid-Michigan, but radio signals don't travel 200 miles. Maybe I now live closer to the astral plane.

Or maybe, they're trying to tell me something. Maybe the first incident was a message, a harbinger of my failed broadcast career. I've never held a job more than a few years since. Maybe the spirits of the radio are letting me know they're done playing with me. Maybe now I'll get that publishing deal. Maybe I'll finally stop looking for that next best thing.

In order to appease them, I beseech my readers to share their favorite ghoulish encounter, real or imagined. Let's get into the spirit of Halloween.

Not Worth Mentioning



So I won't.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Disney In A Day



One of my favorite time wasters is a video game called Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. I love theme parks. When I was a kid I fantasised about owning one. But this video freaks me out. I know it's the real place, but all I see is stop motion miniatures. The buildings look like models. The landscaping is too perfect. And the people look like extras from an old Christmas special.

Life Coaches

Apparently I need one because enough people take it upon themselves to tell me what I should be doing. Today at work, I had a captain insist I wasn't being proactive enough with the things most important to him. He's convinced President Obama is the harbinger of society's downfall. I need to put all my money into precious metals, he explained. The debt's out of control. China's gonna pull out. I didn't ask from what, but when they do the stock market's going to crash and there will be marshall law.

"Do you own a gun?" he asked.

"No."

"Go get your concealed weapons permit," he told me. "Then you can order an H & K. (I don't know anything about guns, but I'm guessing it's his favorite.) Sign up for the FFDO program. (that's the deal where pilots get to carry guns in the cockpit. I always thought it was stupid until some jackass fired his by accident and put a hole in the plane. Then I knew it was stupid.) You don't need to carry it."

Then what's the point.

"Why would I need a gun?" I asked.

"Suppose there's civil unrest. Someone might break into your house."

"Someone might do that now," I said.

"That's right. You've got to protect yourself. Guns are great."

"I'll be alright," I said. "I've survived this long."

He huffed a response, then explained how he was spending his vacation checking out new countries to move to when the United States collapses. He mentioned how rough it is along the Honduras/Nicaragua border and said I'd never survive. I told him I didn't think I'd be going there.

I hope he tells me where he ends up though. I'll still need him to tell me what to do.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And You Thought You Worked Hard

Compared to me, I imagine you do. I've said it before. Pilots, by nature, are generally a lazy lot. I certainly am. One of my first posts gave a brief description of what I do for a living. Some readers remarked how interesting they found it since most people don't know how a pilot's life works. After the day I had yesterday, I thought I'd share a bit more.

In the airlines, everything is based on seniority. How long you've worked there means everything. Pay. Scheduling. Vacation.

Captains are captains simply because they've worked there longer than first officers, but both are equally trained and qualified. Once a first officer reaches a certain seniority, and a position opens up, that pilot can upgrade to captain, which comes with a hefty pay raise. However, there is also seniority among captains and seniority among first officers, although everyone belongs to one master seniority list. In addition, an airline with multiple bases has seniority within each base. It may sound confusing, but for me it boils down to this. I'm at the bottom of the seniority list. Not the very bottom, but pretty close.

Because I lack seniority I generally don't get my choice when it comes to scheduling.

Choice? Why would I get a choice? Don't I have to work when I'm told, like people with regular jobs? Yes and no. Because airlines run 24 hour schedules all over the country, and for some, the world, they have to have a reliable system in place to make sure they have crews for all their flights. This includes flight attendants as well, and they have the same seniority system as pilots.

Every month the airline publishes the schedule for the following month. It includes all of the flying they will have, broken down into trips, which can be anywhere from one day trips, to six day trips. Most airlines further organize schedules into lines of flying, which include groups of trips and days off. These lines are then bid on by the pilots and flight attendants in seniority order. Seniority #1 gets first pick and so on down the line. By the time it gets to me there's not much left. I only have three people below me in my base.

The good thing is I live where I'm based. Many, and probably most, don't. Because we get to fly for free, and generally have several days off in a row, most people commute to their base. In these cases, they fly into town the day of, or the day before they start a trip, and then fly home when it's over. Unfortunately, this is done on their own time and dime. If they have to spend the night in a crashpad, they pay for it. Some will get a hotel room, others rent a house or apartment on a monthly basis, sharing it with many, many others. I've done both and let me tell you, nothing beats living in base.

Especially when your junior like me. After all the trips have been bid on and assigned, there are reserve lines. These are simply days on call, for pilots who didn't have the seniority to get actual trips, or who choose to bid reserve. Reserves fill in when someone gets sick, or any other reason a flight isn't covered. Where I work reserve is pretty good. I'm guaranteed at least 12 days off, and on days I don't get called, I'm simply at home. I can go out and do things if I choose, because I have to be given a minimum three hours notice before a flight.

The thing is, most of the time, I don't get called to work. I've worked for airlines where reserves work every day, but where I am now, people must not call in sick very often. By law a pilot can not fly more than 100 hours in a month. That's actual flight time, the only time we're actually paid. It doesn't include preflight preparations or anything else. Only when the plane is moving.

100 hours may not sound like a lot, but it really is. On average, most pilots fly between 75 and 85 hours per month. But on reserve, I've been averaging less than 40 hours per month. This equates to a lot of time at home. But don't worry. I get paid for 72 hours, whether I fly them or not. Anything above 72 is paid at a specific rate. So if I fly over 72 hours I make more money, but if I fly less, I'm guaranteed a 72 hour paycheck. Plus, I can volunteer to fly on my day off at 150% pay. The less I fly, the more I make when I do. So reserve at home suits me just fine. I have time to write, take care of the yard, be lazy, go to the pool or anything else.

If you're still here after all that, we now come to my point. Yesterday I told my captain I wasn't flying much on reserve. I pulled out my logbook and totaled my September flying.

"Thirty-five hours," I said.

Not to be out done, he whipped his own logbook up. He counted his much faster. "Seven."

"Good lord!" I said.

He flipped back a page. "Four hours for August."

We had a pretty good laugh, thinking of the bean counters trying to justify his salary. After a minute we calmed down and he yawned. Then he said, "What is it? Tuesday? Wednesday?"

It was the best moment of my day and I laughed as I said, "Friday."

That's one of the problems with this job. Odd hours, strange co-workers and too many hotel rooms. Now, I've woken up in the middle of the night, not realizing I was actually in my own bed. But I've never been off by more than a day. Still beats a real job.