Open our hearts to the goodness of the universe, and the universe graciously delivers. I didn’t know it, but I was going to have one of those days.
I didn’t go paragliding with the intent of thermaling, if I had, there would have been a cozy jacket on my body so that I didn’t turn into a popsicle at higher altitudes. Instead, my mission was to just fly, to cruise around the trees, swoop through canals, and enjoy the perfection of life under a canopy. But the world had other plans.
As my wing caught the breeze, and my feet left the ground, I noticed the vultures gracefully circling to the south. In the middle of them, was a bald eagle and he looked like he wanted some company. As I neared the group, they were obviously out-climbing me (a sure sign of huge lift.) The moment I was near them, I hit the column of rising air, well, it felt like it hit me. My wing shot far behind me, the feeling of air across my legs changed and suddenly, I knew my day was about to be amazing.
From that point, it was non-stop lift. At one point, I even got directly on top of a towering cumulus that was climbing like a home sick angle.
This rising air is here almost all the time, but so few people ever get to experience just how powerful it is. Thermaling towering cumulus is like surfing big, beefy swells; sketchy to get into, but once you’re on it, the ride is unforgettable. So on this day, as I rode the rising, invisible waves in the sky, shivering like crazy, but smiling the whole time through, I felt so lucky to experience a little slice of the world that so few know.
Was all I could say when my friend Greg asked if I wanted to go for a ride in one of the most famous aircraft ever built, the B-24 Liberator. But shortly after my arrival at the airport, as I strapped into my green metal “seat,” which positioned my head about 2 feet from a gigantic turbo-supercharged, 1,200 horse power radial engine spinning a huge three-bladed prop, I thought to myself, “I hope I don’t die on this plane.” A thought which motivated this blog, and a thought which I’m quite sure was said by every other person to sit in that seat.
The liberator holds many records for being the most produced twin engine airplane, about 19,000 units. This is an incredible feat of Engineering. There are also a few other stats which are less likely to put a smile on your face and which brings me back to the original thought about dying while on this tiny piece of cold aluminum in primer-green. Depending upon which statistic you take, the loss rate for some strategic bomber groups was around 45% or more. That’s right, for every 100 men who flew, only 55 of them came home. This is the thought that raced in my head, as Greg gently pushed all four long power levers up for takeoff power and my first flight in a B-24 began.
There was no way I was ever going to hear again. My ear drums had just given up this whole, “hearing stuff” notion about the time those huge radials roared to life and we lumbered down the runway. There was only sharp popping sounds in my right ear as I sat just below and aft of the flight deck facing the tail section of the plane, staring at a sign that said something about proper bomb loading.
More impressive than the sound of pop-rocks mixing with water in my ear, was the impact of the engines and props. It was a concussive force that you could literally feel in your organs. I will never forget it. Slowly, very slowly we accelerated on runway 9L at Melbourne International Airport. Greg pulled on the yoke, and up we went, again, very slowly. “How in the hell did this thing fly with an engine out and lots of bombs?” I wondered.
Soon, we were in the air, around 1000ft above the ground and cruising down the East Coast of Florida headed towards Ft. Lauderdale Executive airport. They opened the waist gunner window and I got up to take a peek around the airplane sometimes referred to as, “The Flying Coffin.”
As I walked down the bomb bay towards the .50 cal machine guns (of which there were usually 10 on a combat aircraft) I thought about how damn old I would have been compared to the crews of these planes. I would have been about 10 years senior to many of the 19 and 20 year olds who bravely manned these stations. They probably would have called me “Gramps” or “Old Guy.” At that point, I just resigned myself to the fact that there was going to be many humbling revelations in this flight and to enjoy them.
Once at the waist gunner position, I realized I could easily fall out of the damn thing. Not like, if I tripped and fell, No, I mean like the bottom of the window was below my waist and that if at any point I stumbled, I would simply fall out of the damn window. After mentally reminding myself to not fall out of the plane, I grabbed a .50 caliber machine gun, whose barrel was pointed aft, due to the wind rushing over its barrel and tried to move it around. It was very, very difficult to say the least. 130mph wind blazing down the gun meant that I had to exert a great deal of effort to even move the gun around and aim. Again, I imagined the men who actually had to do this. They were flying around 27,000ft in an un-pressurized plane, at a temperature somewhere in the -20f throug
h -50f range, breathing off of an oxygen mask all while getting shot by other planes, hit by flak, and trying to return fire themselves. I just lowered my head in reverence and reminded myself to not fall out.
On this flight, we were lucky enough to have a fighter escort and were joined by a lone P-51 Mustang. This plane is considered one of the best flying planes ever built and I was thrilled to see one swing by for a closer look.
Through the rest of the flight, I crawled around the plane in various stations and was continually stunned by how raw and unforgiving every mission must have been. As a pilot myself, I hoped I would be able to get a glimmer of an understanding as to what it must have been like to fly one of these planes. After my flight that day, I knew I would never be able to understand what it was like to fly one of these beasts, unless I had been there, over the skies of Germany myself.
The whole experience was humbling, especially having heard my grandfather talk about the bomber formations he saw when he was on the ground that, “seemed to go on forever.” It put a lot of things in perspective. I was extremely grateful for the experience and came away from it with many emotions, but most of all, there was a sense of reverence and admiration for the people involved with these airplanes. They accomplished so much despite incredible and devastating hardships. It made me realize how much is possible. And I also no longer complain to myself when I have to do a pre-flight inspection on a jet when it’s -20 and blowing snow in Montreal or in the Dakotas, cause, well, I don’t wanna be a whiny bitch. If they could manage to do 20 missions over Europe, I can at least have the dignity to do a thorough pre-flight inspection.
Joking aside, if you get a chance to hop a ride in one of these planes, you need to do it. Also, there are two books I’ve read about the missions these men flew. “ The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24 Over Germany” and also “A Higher Call.” Both were incredible and inspirational reads.
Special thanks, to my friend Greg who spends a great deal of his time helping keep this B-24 as well as B-17 and a Corsair flying so that others can experience them! Hope you enjoyed it, go find one of these and get a ride!
Let’s face it, you don’t always get good seeds in life, and sometimes, you don’t have a clue what kind of plant is going to grow from some random seed that life haphazardly tossed in your way. Hell, you may have even tripped on it and skinned your knee. But I can tell you what, life is about experience and if you don’t sow a seemingly good seed when you get it you’re gonna miss out, because until you give it a shot, you’ll never know what could be. So, plant that fucking thing, water it, and take good care of it! The worst thing that happens is that you get to be a gardener for a moment in time. If it doesn’t work out, fuck it, at least you tried.
Things don’t always need to make sense to you in order for them to be epic. If you have your bases covered, have faith in yourself to explore what is happening.
Be bold, not shy. Be courageous, not timid. Be vulnerable, not invincible (because you are in fact, not invincible). Accept and embrace the fact that those things which are incredible, are often scary and surrounded by uncertainty. Look that fear, uncertainty and scariness in the face, accept that you will be roughed up a little and press on with honesty, trueness to yourself and trueness to an yone else involved.
Only by accepting the perils, are we fully able to accept the beauty of life when we are so lucky to find ourselves in the situations which include that amazing, rare, precious, delicate, tender, intense, magical, and life bringing feeling of sowing seeds to grow moments in time.
This is a letter I wrote to my Dad, and step mom recently.
NORMALLY IT’S THE PARENTS writing letters to the kids, but I’ve been doing a bunch of soul searching recently and have had some incredible moments of clarity in this searching. One of the things that I realized was that sometimes, a small gesture can put a big smile on people’s faces, so I figured I’d be a little weird (duh) and give them a nudge about stopping working and heading towards retirement. Both of them have worked extremely hard their whole life, and quite frankly, it’s time to cut the crap, stop the 9-5, 6, 7, sometimes 8 o’clock days, crawl the hell out of the office and get to living! I left this letter for them to come home to, along with an easel, poster board, and real Magic Markers. Luckily, it was well received, and I will be sure to post their dream board when I see it!
Dear Father and Bonus Mother,
As I head off to training to bust my ass for the next 3 months training on the 767, I was reflecting upon how much you guys work and bust your ass as well. In doing this, I was contemplating how to make the things I have for boating and water activities available to you while I am gone so that if you wanted to use them, they would be easily accessible. In keeping with this thought, all of the possible fishing and diving gear that you need will be in my living room for you both. There are bags of ice in my deep freeze downstairs as well as some beer and lots of booze in my kitchen.
As I considered the effort and trials you both have endured in life in order to get to where you are, (far from where you once were) it is clear that continued and focused hard work has been at the core of your path to success. (I’m especially looking at you, Nancy) Even though I don’t have a kid, I know that a beautiful daughter like Jenna doesn’t raise herself, and I know you’ve been grinding at Harris for a long fucking time.
With that said, I also don’t in any way want to pretend that I know how you feel about what you are currently doing, or what you want in life, or what your goals and dreams are for the next 5, 10, and 15 years. Unfortunately, those aren’t the kinds of conversations parents have with their children too much; although I would be interested to hear about it.
The reason I’m mentioning this stuff is because I have been in a period of transition over the last two years and seen all of the things, the goals, the dreams, they are real, and they are possible. To add to the excitement, I’ll also toss out there… I’ve realized (sadly) that I am, in fact, not getting any younger, and neither are you; no one is. The average lifespan in the USA, who ranks #31 in life span, is 79.3. That number is the average of when people die, so you’ve gotta figure you’re out of commission well before then. I’m guessing I’ve got another 35 years of active and healthy life where I can ride a bike, go for long walks, or get out of bed and make coffee for the person sleeping next to me without my creaking joints giving away the surprise. How many do you guys have?
So, the time is now (whatever now means to you). I want you to know that I believe in both of you 110%. They say we’re supposed to leave no stone unturned. Well, I want you to leave no sick time unused, I want no spare money left un-saved, I want no financial planning left un-done, no workout weaseled out of, no champagne to stay corked, no lips un kissed, and I expect a board with a list of hopes, dreams, and goals to be proudly displayed for you both to revel in. (HINT: I’ve already put a board with lots of Magic Markers at your house to get you started) It is important to do this now, because the reality of just how attainable our dreams are once we take away the mental blocks the world has imposed on us, can take a while to set in. Ya know, the fog takes a while to clear, and the vision for your dreams takes a while to adjust and improve.
I also expect the boat to be used and some beer bottles left in there for me to clean up when I get done with my training. And for there to be at least a few days where you both do abso-fucking-lutely nothing other than enjoy that you’re alive on this fascinating, medium-sized planet, in a medium-sized solar system, swinging about halfway out on the arm of a medium-sized, spiral galaxy, we call home. I will be very disappointed in you both if this doesn’t happen. 😉
You both are free people, no kids, no nothing and you don’t owe anything to anyone, especially not some fucking slave merchant company or the millionth “just this one more project,” (john).
Again, I believe in you 110% no matter what and will support you and help you in any way I can. Hopefully starting with taking you sailing in November.
Let me start by saying I have some amazing friends. Seriously, I do. Look at those beautiful animals! I’m almost positive they were supposed to be at work and called in sick because I was in town. So, yea, that’s a boat behind the truck and off we go!
The dude in the picture actually loaded my broken, bleeding self onto a stretcher to the hospital after a particularly memorable day back in 2007, but that’s a story for another time. In this story, we are talking about how epic the Pacific Northwest is.
I have been extremely fortunate to be able to travel for my job. With the whole, “I’m a pilot thing,” comes the “I can jumpseat all over the world for free thing too.” It works out great for someone like me who loves nature and just being part of this little slice of heaven, earth. Every so often, I am able to get out to one of my favorite spots called, “Neah Bay.” It is situated at just about the tippy top of the North West, of the Pacific North West. It is remote, but has a beautiful road that weaves along the rugged coast. The whole drive is magical to me. You pass old growth rain forests, huge snow-capped peaks, and can often see entire mountain ranges on the way there. From my friends house, you have to endure 3.5 hours of those tortuous views that just leave you breathless and humbled before you arrive at your equally magical destination.
Because of how remote this area is, not to many people make the trek, so I was surprised to find this beautiful scene here on the shoreline, miles from anywhere. It made me really happy to think that two people found this little beach, took the time to gather up all the shells and leave these hearts for someone else to find. It was a sure sign that it was going to be a killer day out there.
Our mission out here is generally to partake in some nautical pursuits which frequently involves spotting whales, seals, and hopefully catching some fish. Today was a day of free diving the forests of the sea, the kelp beds. The water was clear and cold (52 degrees), krill were everywhere and we even had a couple stellar sea lions check us out. They were beautiful and peaceful, and also large and terrifying. We were relieved they kept their distance, although you could tell they wanted to get closer. We of course had a great time in the kelp, and even nabbed a few fish for dinner. But the unique treat of the day (aside from the sea lions) was an ocean scallop I spotted on a rock. After a few dives, I was able to stuff him in the wet suit and add him to the dinner list.
We of course had an amazing drive home, through the same stunning views and arrived back with time to cook up dinner. These are the best pictures I got of the adventure, next time, I promise to take more.
It can sometimes be hard to read passages illustrating in great detail, the slaughter of majestic creatures. Herman Melville is a detailed writer if there ever was one, and he is also the author of my favorite book, Moby Dick. While I was regaling my Aunt with my favorite quotes from the book, she mentioned to me how much she hated Ahab. I think we can all agree that Ahab wasn’t the best guy. He is to Moby Dick, what King Geoffrey was to Game of Thrones. So, being the kinda guy I am, (weird, but with a taste for fine literature,) I decided to re-write Moby Dick for her. I then thought about how stupid an idea that was, and decided to just re-write the ending for her. Below, you will find Ahab gets the justice we all hoped he would get, as Captain Lizard and her trusty dog Chuck liberate the world from this Leviathan sized, nautical douche bag. Also, it is written in the style of Herman Melville, and I have tried to incorporate some great phrases he uses. ENJOY!
AHAB, NOW LASHED to a chair on the quarterdeck, all bound, and tied resembled so strikingly a whale fast to the ship, she was sure the similarity of their shared predicament would not escape him. As much as her disdain for the man prevented even the most infinitesimal display of sympathy, so too did her respect for his wit make it impossible to think this ignominious growth named Ahab might not realize the karmic role reversal at the present time.
In the dim light, she took a moment to survey the stage for the final show. Covered from tip to stern in the ship’s own spermaceti, the whole of Ahab glistened; like a mirror, his salt-cured hide reflecting back the ethereal glow of stars whose light travelled millennia to bear witness to the cleansing; a sight so precious, from this reflection, distant nebulous gasses will receive the tale in waves and reflect the sacred event out for the universe once they are born into stars. His ragged locks hung like infected Spanish moss from the gutter of a house built on the grave of a once mighty oak, the previously hateful and fearless brow furled into perpetual condemnation, now looked like that of a man being slowly lowered feet first into a pool of water, just as the rising liquid covers his mouth and nose, the reality of Ahab’s situation finally breaks him. Eyes, once covered by burlap lids, now dart about frantically, he tries to cry out, but is muffled by the harpoon line used to gag him. He is in fact a whale, stuck fast to his own ship. The dog with the white tipped tail edges closer, teeth barred and shining like ivory daggers in the moonlight, he dared not move, even if he could. The mood is tense, and the lizard has not made a sound. In the pale illuminations, Ahab thought he might have even seen a smile; he shuddered at the thought. All was quiet; there was not a breeze in the sky, no halyard made a sound, it was like an opera at its climax, the whole of the cosmic audience on the edge of their seat awaiting the final note; sheer silence until their need for an ending is met, not even the planks of the deck dared to creek.
Finally, the Lizard reached into her pocket and found a lighter. She took it out, stared into Ahab’s eyes and raked the flint, drawing a blaze from the wick which in turn drew a muffled gasp from Ahab. The small light from an even smaller flame looked like an inferno to a man covered in a substance he himself pilfered from the earth’s most majestic creatures so that he could make a buck and humanity could light its otherwise perpetually dark path. That tiny flame scorched whatever refuse festered in place of where a soul might once have been; all he could see behind the blaze was a toothy grin far surpassing the fearsomeness of the mutt’s teeth still being gnashed at him presently. She asked the man covered in boiled whale fat, “why so unctuous?” He readied himself for the inevitable, reflecting on his life. To his amazement though, she turned about and proceed towards the boats, never once looking back, she descended to the boats obviously on her way back to that sub which had caused so much damage to the whaling fleet. Ahab felt a wave of relief wash over him and he knew he had been given another chance, God himself had saved poor Ahab. God had reached down to him alone; finally noticing him and offering salvation, he thought to himself. All these years, poor hard working Ahab has been providing oil for lighting the Christian churches, so that people’s souls can be saved and have eternal happiness and peace; oil to illuminate the solemn churches use many barrels of the spermaceti he provides so they may preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all.
In those moments, Ahab vowed to live the life of a righteous man, to live by his wife and child and to be a servant of the God who saved him, the God who gave his son to cleanse humanity from their sins; he wept joyous tears upon realizing his new calling.
Ahab even smiled a little as he watched Captain Lizard’s boat lowering towards the water as she and her hateful mutt fell from of view. “Thanks to the God who created the universe and loves his children,” Ahab thought to himself, still reveling in the fantasy of his second chance. As he smiled, in his periphery, he thought he saw a shooting star, an angel sent down to meet him and guide him on his new mission graced the sky, arcing beautifully through the heavens. Time slowed as the angel neared; drunk with blind faith, the newly saved sailor thrust his gaze forth in order to gain a better view of his salvation and as it came near. As his eyes fixed on the heavenly body he was so sure would guide him to the eternity he so deserved for years of servitude, time stopped. Burning, icy chills stabbed through his corpse and no matter how many times he blinked, he could not change the arcing shape back to an angel and no God could save him, because there is no such God like the one in his fantasy, for what he had seen arcing through the night sky was not an angel sent to him from a God that doesn’t exist, it was the tiny flame of a lighter, sent by a God who answers injustice with justice, moments from striking the spermaceti planks and setting wretched Ahab ablaze; he was to become a his own tryworks. As the tiny lighter struck the deck, Ahab immediately felt the intense searing heat lash on to his oil soaked body as his immolation began. Flames filled his lungs as he tried to close his eyes to hide from his reality, but he could not because the scornful lids were now seared and torched away into fleshy, carbon tears that flew upward with the heat. As his odious flesh melted away like butter under a summer sun and Ahab began to scream, like half-articulated wailings of the ghosts of all Herod’s murdered Innocents, the wretch cried the cries of all the earth’s majestic creatures he slaughtered. Even in the midst of his own boiling flesh, Ahab was startled by his sounds, how his cries were so much like all distressed creatures. Just before his torment of the world ended and his molecular contribution began, a thought occurred to him, “perhaps if man and beast are so similar in our endings, we creatures are really no different from the beginnings.”
Good food is like a beautiful girl. They both look best when they have the least on.
Seriously, think about it! When was the last time you were just waking up and looked at your significant other as they sleepily looked at you and smiled as the morning sun washed the bed, and thought to yourself, “dude, I totally wish she had on more clothes right now.” You’ve never done it. Not one freaking time. And there is a perfectly logical explanation for that! She is perfect right now, totally natural, and it is in that natural state that real, perfectly flawed beauty is found. The same holds true for fresh, real ingredients.
Before we dive into the meal, let me tell you how I came upon the main ingredient, the Permit. I was lucky enough to snag a solo boat trip late in the afternoon and decided to run to a secret spot. Per usual, I always have my speargun on
the boat just in case I see something in the ocean grocery that I want to take home. On this occasion, I came upon this massive school of fish, grabbed my float line, jumped in the water, and speared some dinner.
Maybe I’ll write more about that in the nautical pursuits section, but for now, lets hit the food.
Fresh Permit. You’ll never get it in the grocery, but it is a real treat. Super firm, very flaky and a smooth, almost buttery taste. Because I happened to have a number of different ingredients, I rocked it out three different ways.
Main course was grilled up, nice and easy (so that it was almost medium rare when I took it off), then a simple balsamic sauce (equal parts balsamic and olive oil in bender, salt and pepper and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard…blend it till smoooooooth), hit it with some fresh tomatoes, and feta cheese. The creamy Feta with the tang of the balsamic combine with the sweetness of the tomato to be the perfect flavor when you take a bite of the firm grilled seared fish. In my opinion, this flavor combo wouldn’t work if the fish wasn’t grilled with some marks on it. It’s just this huge hit of simple, but familiar flavors all coming together at the perfect time.
Just for fun: Permit Ceviche. I did the usual lemon/lime mixture, but I wanted to crank it up a notch and added some coconut water as well as oil, just a little bit of cayenne pepper and sugar. Then a few avocado chunks to offset how firm the fish is and provide some creamy goodness. the busted coconut seemed like the best place for it. And last but not least, the Permit sashimi. Honestly, not my fav. It is way too firm for me. This stuff is definitely better cooked.
Overall, this was a fantastic meal, especially because it was so simple. It just goes to show, that even when you’re tired from being in the boat all day, you can still whip up a killer meal.
So you’ve probably heard about the invasion. You know, the invasion of florida waters by non-native and invasive lion fish? Well if you haven’t, they’re a fish, they’re here and they are bad news for our reefs. Luckily for us, they also happen to be one the tastiest morsels our ocean has to offer!
The ocean was total glass, the sky was clear, the water was a deep sapphire blue, and warm as bath water. If you can imagine driving a 22ft boat on a huge bowl of liquid sapphire, a never ending horizon and some Led Zeppelin playing over the stereo as I steered a course to my reef, then you would be imagining the day I was having. Seriously epic stuff.
The mission today was to dive (of course) but also to help ease the burden on our local ecosystems by harvesting some lion fish for dinner. This mission was expertly accomplished and a number of the invasive, but tasty fish were put on ice.
Once home, I already knew what I was going to do…
The lion fish meat is extremely tender (not mushy) but tender, and has a wonderful and delicate flavor that I hate to alter it too much. Tonight was going to be ceviche night. To me, there isn’t much better than a tangy, sweet, natural bite of fresh fish ceviche style. For the uninitiated, this just means that the fish is allowed to marinate in some acidic lemon and lime juice and seasonings for a while. It actually gets, “cooked,” while in there.
So, more lime than lemon juice, salt, pepper, some sugar, tomato, and green onions were added as well as the lion fish. After 15 mins in the fridge, it was ready. I dusted just a tiny bit of smoked Hungarian paprika and it was truly one of the best meals of my life.
Oh yeah, I also cooked up some mangrove snapper. Bread flower, no batter, just into a pan of butter an olive oil (would have been way better with coconut oil) sear it up, take it off while still medium rare and it was perfect.
I hope you enjoyed the post. If you made it through the whole thing, way to go! Be sure to check out my other posts! If you have a food idea or suggestion, please send it to us!