By no coincidence it is 4:30 in the morning and the cabin is silent, except for the hushing buzz of the HVAC system lulling nearly everyone into a pseudo dream state. I can hear Glen Frey “You belong to the Night” in my earphones and it strikes me ironic as we are headed to Miami and it reminds me of the eighties TV series by Stephen J. Cannell. Technology today has grown by leaps and bounds, it blows me away. I can take a picture with my cell phone- which is now more intelligent than many who attempt to operate it. People are checking emails, updating status and check-ins, all with a mini hand held device many pounds lighter than the old pouch car-phone bag Crockett or Tubbs used to use to make their connection for the next big bust just minutes before a hot car chase with that jet black Ferrari Daytona Spyder we could easily imagine cruising the sunset strip in. Meanwhile this Facebook thing has me connected and regulating posts and seeing who ‘likes’ me and who has a discrepancy with certain words or statements that may or may not have anything to do with a certain body of water in question. Even though this new industrial revolution has us all wired in more hours than there are in a single rotation on the Earth’s axis, it hasn’t dulled our innovation and creativity. I find myself looking at everything with new or different eyes. Before, I would just rest my head and nod off on this flight, waking every ten or twenty minutes with a severe kink in my neck and a stiffness in my knees, now I am scribbling notes down on the back of the barf bag I found in the magazine pocket in front of me.
My wife awakens and glances my way with her warming smile, I feel giddy, I truly am one of the luckiest guys in the world. After she shakes off her momentary slumber, she pages through the SKYMALL catalog. Not really looking for anything, but finding tons of things we need. Really? Who ‘needs’ this shit stuff? We don’t ‘need’ a multi-light colored showerhead or multi-benefit undergarments? I do not need a ‘Plantar Fasciatis Orthotic Walking Shoe’ nor do I need an ‘Isometric Resistant Upper Body Strengthener’, if you are in the air, check it out. Rule #221- If you have to include four or more words in the Title to describe exactly WHAT it is you are selling, it may not be a hot item. Just a thought. Back to searching in the catalog of useless lawn ornaments and toys for adults. Simone has her headphones on and is watching MONSTERS INC. or some other equally charming movie from Disney/Pixar. The sun is rising and catches her cheek and I am again reminded of my good fortune.
This is the fourth trip she has made to the island of Saint Martin. Her first was intrauterine, but I believe because of her Aquarian nature it began her romance with the ocean and swimming with me. Armored with goggles and a PFD that resembles a flak jacket, she learned to swim in the hotel pool a couple of years back. We soon graduated to a mask and snorkel so we could explore the colorful fishes and saltwater environs in Simpson bay and on Islet Pinel. I am looking forward to more of these moments with my little girl, simply because I know the inevitable escape of childhood and innocence is fleeting before my very eyes.
Trying to balance so many aspects and interests in my life has made more contemplative in nature. I feel caught up in the blog thing, checking on how many followers give a shit about the menial and trivial happenings in one man’s Northern Michigan rivers. My biggest concern is to not miss the opportunities before me and to treasure the time I have with friends and family. Those who do, know the delicate tightrope and work hard to maintain not only a following, but a sense of serenity and well being. I check my email. There are like 64 messages in my INBOX. One of them jumps out at me. It is from Ethan Smith from SMITHFLY. They are making a totally unique and durable multifaceted line of Fishing Hip sacks and slings that modify and attach to each other. The material is military grade yet soft and supple at the same time. Recently, the company held a contest for would-be SMITHFLY ‘Dream Team Members’- of course I entered, My philosophy is reminiscent of my bachelorhood days, the more contests one enters, the higher the likelihood I might score. It is really a matter of odds. I learned such valuable life lessons by sending a few French Kami-Kazes across the bar back in the day. I received the ‘We regret to inform you- form letter, but something different was attached. “We would however, like to thank you for your time and possibly consider being a product tester from time to time while doing reviews for us.” How very cool! I was elated. My wife could see I could hardly stay in my seat. This is a pretty cool thing to happen to me~ and very proud to be a part of such an innovative line of products.
The TV monitors overhead are playing snippets of NBC primetime sitcoms. One, apparently has Matthew Perry resurrected from FRIENDS in need of counseling for the loss of his wife and so his therapy includes taking other clients for tests drives in the bowling alley parking lot with his new Porsche Boxster. That doesn’t happen at any meetings I attend, I could really use therapy like that.
There is a group of would be Rugby players or Military Special OPS boys occupying a few rows of seats in front of us. They are all 6’+ and #245 or better, and I think I am crammed in this sardine can of a seat. They have digital camo sling backs, military issue boots, and one is reading the Bible. They could be off duty firefighters , or whatever. There is a buzz among them that a relief pitcher for the Tigers is in First Class who is on his way to Miami before heading to California to start the World Series against the Giants. I don’t follow baseball, but there is certainly a level of excitement in Detroit very similar to the Pistons in the Isaiah Thomas era of my youth. Funny how many years in the service industry has installed an automatic “Guess that persons life story” ability. Turns out I am wrong, after listening to the conversation another gentleman on his way to the lavatory has with one of the team. They are on their way to Guatemala or Nicaragua for a missionary trip to help build homes for families that don’t have a patriarch. Many men vanish into the hills or other bigger cities for jobs and the promise of good pay, only never to return to their families. Unthinkable.
The mini monitors overhead now have a preview of a sitcom that has three dads who, despite their individual struggles in parenthood, have all adapted to methods of ‘Daddy Day Care’ and actually utilize their adorable offspring to attract a potential new mate. Crazy stuff. It certainly isn’t something you would have written for “Leave it to Beaver”.
I am looking forward to my coffee on the beach. It’s not that the airline brand is plain or lacking character, but something about the azucar y leche of the island combined with the brackish salty air stirs memories of Belize and chasing bones. Sunrise is 6:30 near the equator and it is a quiet time on an island that has more bars and restaurants per square metre than many college towns of my Midwestern upbringing. You can find stray dogs wandering, looking for scraps, they have an emaciated appearance that leads me to believe they aren’t as friendly as the Island’s License plate might imply.
We are on our second leg to the Island. Simone travels fairly well for a seven year old. A new DVD has restored her attention; this one is RANGO and a favorite for both of us. As we glide over a small series of Islands, Lesley sees a larger landmass beneath us. She inquires the name of this remote destination, I really don’t know, but I can’t give away that secret. A quick and confident “It’s Cuba.” and couldn’t be further from the truth. We are more likely to be cruising over one of the Turks or Grand Caicos. It doesn’t matter. We make small talk of the island, its cultural diversity and how the bonefishing has exploded in the past few years. I mention we should visit sometime, maybe before we retire. In reality, Turks & Caicos or the Bahamas might be even better, but I would need to do some “knee deep” research to confirm those theories. My years as a service industry grunt has also allowed for a special appreciation for the people who attend to our needs while in the air. There are days when I feel we tend to tolerate a cruel bunch. The airline attendants have even more to accommodate. Nervous first time flyers and others who ‘simply don’t fly well’ certainly have an elevated level of need in the smallest of matters. “My coffee is not hot.” “Don’t you have skim milk for my coffee?” “What do you mean you don’t have any more Banana-Nut Crunch Muffins?” REALLY? We are merely just a little more than a soaring bus with wings at 27,000 feet. They can’t just go run out back and check dry storage for back-up muffins. “I am so sorry sir, we sold out of those a moment ago, is there something else I could interest you in?” I purchased one of those cookies for Simone. That was the best $3.65 chocolate chip cookie she never ate. One of our attendants resembles Steve Carrell from the Forty Year Old Virgin, but is not nearly as funny nor witty. He does an excellent job manipulating the often less than impressed lady in front of us with a piping hot cup of coffee. I am very happy with mine, knowing how much these people prepare for a short little flight that could last a longer than a feature film. If you are in the air reading this, or the next time you fly, be mindful and thank the attendant who does their best to make you comfortable on your way to your next destination.
The aquamarine turquoise water below beckons my eyes to scan it for torpedo shaped fish with large pectoral fins, scavenging for prey in the bays between the islands. I recognize Saba on the horizon. I can almost taste that cup of coffee with the warm salt water dancing between my toes.