I Start to Dream
. . . At least, this latest disaster in my life had taken a long time to arrive at its climax. As usual, it was all Tom Glaeser's fault. Tom and I had been getting into trouble together since our high school days. We chased the same girls, and Tom, for awhile, in spite of all my warning about what she was really like, dated my sister. We worked on junker cars together, built and raced sailboats together, and both got involved in airplanes at an early age. We used to fly U-Control combat in my back yard and coined the term "instant kits" to describe what most of the flights looked like. We very rarely cut the other plane's ribbon. Usually it was a massive, sudden, and very entertaining mid-air collision. Sometimes it took several minutes for all the parts to flutter to the ground.
People used to come from miles around when they heard that Tom and I were going to be flying combat, just to see the crashes. We never disappointed them. We could build a plane in an evening-and we put in a lot of evenings surrounded by the smell of butyrate dope and glue.
When we both finally got our first summer jobs, the sudden influx of new funds made it possible for us to get into radio control airplanes. Now the crashes meant that a lot more money had just smashed into the ground. The craters were larger and the wreckage had interesting little electronic bits scattered in them to add color and variety. Our crowds of followers got bigger.
When we graduated from high school, we drifted apart for a few years. I went to college to get my teaching degree and he went to trade school to become a tool-and-die/injection mold/machinist/millwright specialist. The Vietnam years added to the separation. He got called up as a helicopter crew chief and I was teaching math. When we finally got back together, he was a machinist at TWA and had his pilot's license and I was getting fat. It was time to get in trouble again. He knew just what I needed.
When I heard that Tom had a pilot's license I started to think about getting one for myself. But if he hadn't invited me over to see his KR-2 homebuilt airplane project, I probably would have been content to keep on flying radio control models and spending my extra money on wild parties and high living. It took four years for the transformation from model builder to pilot to take place. It started with Tom giving me some old copies of Trade-A-Plane to look at.
Wow! What a revelation that was! I had thought planes were expensive. Well, at least they weren't terribly, horribly expensive. I mean, some of the ones in the paper were less than five figures.
One trip through the magic yellow pages of the pilot's wish book was all it took to get the juices flowing. By golly, some of those suckers could almost be afforded!
I started to dream and scheme. Sweetums (Sharon) had to be approached with care when something like this was in the works. She has abnormally acute extrasensory avoidance radar when it comes to spending money on "stupid things." I was sure that an airplane would be at the top of the "stupid" list.
When I asked her if it was all right if I took flying lessons she said yes. Then, I just casually mentioned about how much I was going to have to pay to rent a plane for the lessons. She got that look. Then, with an ease born from years of practice, smoothly and subtly, without a ripple, I laid it on. I've had years and years of practice. You've just got to know how to handle women--LIE! Or if you can't bring yourself to lie, AVOID THE TRUTH!!!
"You know, dear," I said with my best bland, innocent expression, "if I could find a good used plane for sale, I could buy it, learn to fly in it, and then sell it and not have spent a cent except for the instructor and gas. The plane is bound to appreciate in value while I have it and all that money would just be an INVESTMENT. Why, my dear, we could get it back in a second and maybe even make a tidy little profit." The lie slipped smoothly into place without making a ripple.
I waited with a thudding heart and bated breath for her response. I could see her mentally trying to figure all the different ways I was going to snooker her on this deal. Then, SHE SAID YES! Wow! The way was clear. A check for a subscription to Trade-A-Plane was in the mail the next day. . .
Cross Country Adventures
. . . There's something positively sensuous about a perfect touch-and-go sequence. The "perfect" takeoff is made without stomping grapes on the rudder pedals to keep her straight and the ball miraculously stays in the center on the crosswind, downwind, base, and final turns. The throttle is closed at just the right moment after the turn from base to final is made, and you don't have to touch it again throughout the whole approach. The wheels gently kiss-kiss the runway at just the right moment and the rollout is straight without any taildragger shuffle. Pure ecstasy! Believe me, after a hard day at school trying to unravel the mysteries of percent to 13- and 14-year-old eighth grade math students, an hour of touch-and-goes is a lot more effective than a double martini. You can feel the stress flowing out of you like water from a hose.
It's never the same, either. You can make ten great "greaser" landings while no one is watching at the airport, but just as soon as one guy comes out of the hangar to watch you land, you will bounce higher than the hangar roof. The height of the bounce is usually directly proportional to the number of rail birds watching you land. It's always a challenge. I still love to spend an afternoon doing touch-and-goes and highly recommend it to anyone with a need to unwind. . .