Please don’t get me started on flying commercially in this country. I don’t do it very often, but I have many strong opinions, most involving the stubborn refusal of too many customers to check their bags. It really chaps my ass, getting on a plane with a bunch of people, all of whom are trying to shove 10 pounds of bag into 5 pounds of overhead storage. It’s like traveling with a bunch of Soviet Siberians, back when the only place you could buy anything was Moscow, and you had to shlep it home on the Trans-Siberian Express. Of course, if you asked any of my fellow travelers, they’d say they’ve all lost luggage, oy but it was a nightmare and never again.

I’ve never lost my luggage. Maybe it’s just luck. To be sure, I don’t fly often. But before every flight, when the agent is tagging my bags, I check to make sure they have the right city on them. I rarely board with anything larger than what can be tucked under the seat. And for an extra 15 minutes at baggage claim, I am not one of the problem people.

How often in your life do you get to say this? If only there were more people in the world…well, like me.

Back and happy to be so. A few thoughts/clarifications:

** Just for the record, I didn’t spend my entire vacation thinking about the food movement in northern California. But I always need something to think about, and the Kingdom of Foodies made for satisfying vacation cogitation — not particularly consequential, and a lot less scary than, say, the fate of Fannie, Freddie and IndyMac. Plus, it was reinforced with every overpriced-yet-tasty meal.

So please don’t get the idea I’m obsessing about this. But I just came back from my post-vacation replenishment of the fridge and pantry, and it’s on my mind. Again.

Here’s what I spent a lot of time thinking about: Why do people I have so much in common with bug me so deeply? I enjoy eating well, eating local, eating slow. Few things bring me as much joy as a farmer’s market in July. I think fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers is a good thing. I want the earth to be replenished by our agriculture, not depleted by it. I think farm animals have a right to cruelty-free lives.

And yet, one morning when we were getting dressed, the local NPR affiliate carried a local feature about a speed-dating event for people interested in green living, i.e., people who believe all those things about food, plus a few more covering how they live their lives and get to their jobs. One of the interviews was with a man who went away disappointed at the lack of commitment he found — people who thought recycling a few bottles and tolerating compact-fluorescent light bulbs constituted a green lifestyle. As opposed to him, for instance, who did everything short of composting his own excrement.

It wasn’t what he said that struck me so much as the tone — that blend of 90 percent smugness and 10 percent whining. It tickled a zone of deep familiarity in my brain before I figured where I’d heard it before. It is precisely the same one employed by certain Christians (I’m thinking Missouri Synod Lutherans here, but your local variety may be another denomination) when they’re finding fault with a world that fails to live up to their expectations and, far more important, reward their piety with social approval. And that’s when it clicked: This isn’t a lifestyle choice or even a movement, it’s a religion. And there’s nothing like religion to rinse all the fun out of something.

** How’s this for irony? When we were in Carmel, Clint Eastwood’s hometown, guess where he was? In our hometown.

** Sorry, Danny, didn’t make it up to Muir Woods, but we did spend an afternoon at Point Lobos State Reserve, and another kayaking on Elkhorn Slough. We got a pretty good dose of California’s loveliness.

** Someday I’d like to live in NoCal, if a) I can somehow go there with about $10 million in my pocket; and b) I can ever figure out the weather. As a Midwesterner, I prefer our Fisher-Price version — it comes from the west, it can be seen coming for days and days, there are no mountains to impede its progress and “summer” generally means “temperatures above 75 degrees.” The coastal breezes were wonderful for the first 48 hours — hey, why are all these people wearing down vests? — until we got acclimated, and then it was just, well, freezing. The rule seemed to be: Whatever the weather is in the morning, it will be the opposite by afternoon. Although it could be something else entirely.

Well, I have my old weather back now: The humidity smells like mold, not sage. The weather is on its old pattern, and sorry this is a disjointed mess but I have to go pick up the dog, whom I miss more than I ever imagined. Hang on, Spriggy — I’m on my way. The rest of you, back in a bit. And thanks for being such good chatterboxes when I was gone. You can run my bar anytime.

Posted at 8:12 am in Uncategorized |

68 responses to “DTW.”

  1. Snarkworth said on July 21, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Welcome home, Nancy.

    I de-lurk here just to say, I grew up in that lovely state, albeit in the less lovely southern portion. Now I’m in the East. Different climates influence us in different ways. Predictable seasons here, quirky wet/dry seasons, monsoons and mistrals out there.

    It’s all good. Bloom where you’re planted.

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  2. Kirk said on July 21, 2008 at 8:43 am

    I heard that holier-than-all speed dater, too, Nance. Sounds to me as though he’s doomed to a life of flubbing his dub in his feather bed.

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  3. Jen said on July 21, 2008 at 8:46 am

    I’ve flown many times, and I’ve never lost a bag either. *knock on wood* I always take everything I absolutely need to survive in my carry-on (toothbrush, glasses, contacts, medicine, deodorant, comb, a book, a couple changes of underwear, and maybe an extra change of clothes) and figure I’ll eventually get the rest back. Or not. I always wonder where people are going when I see them wheeling two massive rolling suitcases through the airport while also toting a backpack and a purse. I went to Europe for 2 1/2 weeks with a small rolling suitcase and an over-the-shoulder bag and I survived. I had to wash a few things in hotel sinks, but it’s a small price to pay to not schlep everything you’ve ever owned around an airport.

    Now that they’re charging for checked bags on some carriers, I fear to see how much crap people are going to try to carry on. The airlines are going to have to crack down on people trying to cram all their worldly possessions in the overhead compartments.

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  4. Dorothy said on July 21, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Welcome back, and I hear ya about missing Spriggy. I am miserable to be home without the dog around. I’m always the first one at the kennel to get my dog the morning after I get home from vacation.

    I only had luggage lost once, and thank heavens it was when I arrived home from a week in the UK. That’s the way to lose luggage – I got to go home to all my own underpants and bras! The suitcases caught up with me about 12 hours later.

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  5. MichaelG said on July 21, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Boy did you hit one of my pet peeves. Luggage bin hogs. You wouldn’t believe the stuff people bring on the plane. I’ve had several jobs over the years that entailed lots of flying. One time I was flying home from the east coast to SF and checked everything, even my brief case. All I had was a paperback book. Some dipshit, loaded down with everything but the kitchen sink, asked me if he could put one of his bags under the seat in front of me. I was struck dumb — couldn’t think of a thing to say. Just a couple of months ago another dipshit dropped his bag on me. Fortunately I was alert and caught it. They just fry my tootsies. I think the airlines encourage it because every bag handled by the pax is one less they have to handle. The new charges for checked bags aren’t going to help.

    SF and Monterey are always cool. Always have a jacket in your car if not on your back.

    I heard that NPR bit. I really like that 90% smug and 10% whining combo. Great description. Imagine what that guy takes on to the plane.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 21, 2008 at 9:15 am

    “Why do people I have so much in common with bug me so deeply?”

    Ain’t that always the way? And Civil Wars are always the most vicious. I would have had 82% less anxiety going into this past weekend and enjoyed the event of my parents’ 50th anniversary 21% more if i hadn’t been dealing with all family. The quirks would have been amusingly quirky and the foibles worth dispassionate noting in the long ride back to Ohio, not heated dissection even before we got in the car.

    All of which is because it makes us see our own role in the weirdnesses more clearly, which is discomforting even when we haven’t yet realized our part in the peculiarity.

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  7. coozledad said on July 21, 2008 at 9:29 am

    We’re actually considering a composting toilet here, but given the amount of shit our animals produce, our impact on the compost heap would be minimal.
    Is there some personals shorthand for “composts own excrement”? It’d have to be right up there with “Loves to attend Ren Faires”, or “Poetry slam junkie” as a selling point.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 21, 2008 at 9:49 am

    “Searching for off-grid, closed-loop lifestyle, or working to close the loop.” Not short, but seen in The Other Paper not long ago.

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  9. colleen said on July 21, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I hear ya on the bags. I’ve had them DELAYED, but never lost forever. I’ve been on flights where the only thing missing as carry ons were live chickens. I just shook my head when I read about the fees for baggage, and that airlines were encouraging people to carry on. Cuz I guess the lines at security aren’t QUITE long enough.

    Flying anymore is so….dehumanizing. Everyone’s got the thousand yard stare and that look of utter hopelessness.

    I’m starting to notice “NPR Smugness” a lot more lately, whether in stories or in letters to the programs. Suddenly, our listeners are as stick up the butt as any LCMS member, just about different things…..

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  10. nancy said on July 21, 2008 at 10:02 am

    You know what really threw a spanner into the works for flying? The shoe thing. It’s hard to maintain even a shred of dignity and optimism when you’re barefoot in an airport. There’s something so awful about seeing some 80-year-old geezer, hands out for wanding because he tripped the metal detector, saying, “It’s my artificial hip!” in his old-man voice. All while barefoot.

    Thanks, al-Qaeda. You assholes.

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  11. brian stouder said on July 21, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I’m starting to notice “NPR Smugness” a lot more lately, whether in stories or in letters to the programs. Suddenly, our listeners are as stick up the butt as any LCMS member, just about different things…..

    and consider (amongst all other things) –

    the LCMS crowd has (as an article of faith) the promise that they’re forgiven for their transgressions; whereas the greenies and the Earth in the Balance crowd have the Old Testament thing going just now, wherein their transgressions are not only NOT forgiven (by the Earth), but they are accumulating at an alarming rate!!

    So that even if they struggle and sweat and studiously avoid all sorts of other on-the-grid temptations (even as some SWF who drives a Hummer to the Drivethrough to buy a processed cheeseburger, while on the way to her job at Monsanto), it COULD still be that THEY will end up being the one to flush the toilet that one last time that sends us over the edge, and into irredeemable Global Meltdown!!

    It’s all so damned unFAIR!!

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  12. Jen said on July 21, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Yeah, my mom and grandma both get wanded and frisked and poked and probed every time they fly because they have artificial knees. My mom just thinks it’s kind of funny, I think, though she’s always annoyed that they have to track down a female to frisk her. It’s kind of sad with my grandma, though, who really has trouble getting around. She gets pretty irritable when she flies, for numerous reasons.

    I hope that we have good flights in December when my husband and I finally go on our honeymoon. He’s never flown in a plane (though he will go for a ride with my dad before December, I’m sure), and December will be his first commercial flight. If it’s bad, I’m afraid I won’t ever get him to fly on vacation again, and I don’t want to drive everywhere we want to go! I’ve never had a horribly bad experience, but service has definitely gotten worse. We didn’t get anything but a little cup of pop on the plane last time I flew somewhere (in March).

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  13. MichaelG said on July 21, 2008 at 10:28 am

    A composting toilet. The ultimate gift for the anal retentive.

    One day last year I was flying home from Orange County. For reasons that don’t matter I was carrying more stuff than usual and checked a bag. I was an hour early but had a good book. Once at the gate I noticed there was a flight to Sacto that was boarding as I watched. I went to the desk and asked and was able to get a seat since the aircraft was only about half full. Relaxing on the flight north with my paperback, I smugly congratulated myself on the swift move that would get me home an hour early. We were on short final for SMF when the penny dropped. Oh well, an hour here, an hour there . . .

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  14. Gasman said on July 21, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I lost – permanently, gone forever, poof – a suitcase with a favorite sport coat, winter coat, lots of other clothes, 2 bottles of Czech wine (ouch!), and a hand cut crystal vase that was supposed to be an anniversary gift. If anyone is ever in the Prague airport, please look for a dark blue wheeled American Tourister hardside suitcase. I’ll cut you in on the wine. I also had some sensitive recording gear damaged and delayed by 2 days, even though I gate checked it.

    However, my biggest problem flying is dealing with the arbitrary attitude that airlines have toward musical instruments. As a professional musician, there is absolutely NO WAY IN HELL that I will subject an expensive instrument – my livelihood – to the gorillas in the baggage handling system. The airlines limit liability to $1,500 for damage they do. A top of the line case costs about that much, the guitar much, much more. Carrying on a classical guitar is generally impossible anymore. I am left with gate checking, but with connecting flights, I am always in fear of the guitar not getting off the flight with me. Buying a seat for a guitar is not always an option. Sometimes the airlines still won’t let you bring an instrument on. Not fun being a musician right now.

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  15. brian stouder said on July 21, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I think I’ve flown seven or eight times, total. One of those flights was Charlotte, NC to Houston, TX. We took off and climbed and then – it felt like the pilot locked up the brakes. I’ve felt that cessation of acceleration before – but this was fairly striking (passengers across the plane exchanged glances and raised eyebrows). Then the pilot came onto the pa and announces that some access door (I think for a cable plug-in) had been left open, and it was causing white-noise in his headset…so we were going to circle Charlotte and burn fuel off, and then land and fix it, which we proceeded to do. The pilot threw the coal back into the engines, and the plane became very noisey, and remained so as we circled above the (really quite lovely) city of Charlotte for the next 70 or 80 minutes, and then after we landed we had to wait for a gate for another hour, and then there was “paperwork”, etc etc etc – so that we arrived at Houston many hours later than originally scheduled.

    This didn’t matter to Pam and I – we had no schedule to adhere to; but two guys behind us were Businessmen and Had Places to Be, and found the whole deal to be Completely Unacceptable, and the conducted a pointedly audible conversation about how Poorly Run This Airline Is for the last 1/2 of the flight, until, upon arriving at the George HW Bush Airport at Houston, the one bolted for the front before we were done taxiing (because of course he was the Most Important Person on the Plane, don’t you know), and the Flight Attendent pointedly informed the mad man that she would summon security and have him arrested if he didn’t return to his seat immediately (Pam and I exchanged smiles), and he grudgingly returned to his seat (with more stage-whispered ruminations and denunciations)

    Not for nothing, the airline folks were giving free beer during the fuel burn (I scored another can of Diet Coke) and those fellows had no less than three apeice

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  16. colleen said on July 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

    My parents get pulled out for extra screening quite often. Because, you know, they look like troublemakers…

    You’re right. There’s something extra demeaning about the shoe thing.

    I guess it gives me a vague idea what my not-to-far-back ancestors experienced at Ellis Island. People barking at them, searches, and being sent into one line or another, for reasons never made quite clear to them….

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  17. nancy said on July 21, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Gasman, you have my sympathies. Isn’t there a stand-up closet for larger, delicate instruments, or is that reserved for First Class golf clubs?

    What does Yo-Yo Ma do? Surely he doesn’t have his own Gulfstream yet.

    (Never mind: Probably buys the extra seat.)

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  18. Julie Robinson said on July 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Well, I’m flying home on Wednesday, so bring on those horror stories! I don’t normally fly much, but with going back and forth this spring/summer I’ll total 9 take-offs/landings, since you can’t get anywhere directly from the Fort. So far, no delays, no flights missed, no lost luggage. I must be due. I was going to mail back everything but Delta’s website says they aren’t charging for the first checked bag.

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  19. LAMary said on July 21, 2008 at 10:56 am

    When my oldest son was three months old we flew to NYC to show him off to family. On the flight was a woman and her child returning from a kiddie beauty pageant, a male one at that, with a giant trophy. At least two and a half feet tall with sunbursts and wingy shapes all over it. Attempting to put into the overhead bin above my seat, where I was holding the baby on my lap, she dropped it. I put up my arm to keep it from hitting my son and she yelled at me when it hit the floor in the aisle instead letting my first born absorb the impact. This is when I noticed that it was not wise to fuck with me about my kids.

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  20. coozledad said on July 21, 2008 at 10:58 am

    MichaelG: Our problem out here is despite having a septic tank, the soil doesn’t perk. It’s not a big deal until you wash a load of clothes, and then the contents of the tank go flooding downhill, where our geese, ducks and potbellied pig wait to either lap it up or enjoy a refreshing shit-bath, or both.
    We’re also in in a pretty bad drought, and I’m thinking about installing a gray water system.
    My biggest problem with the idea of a composting toilet, aside from “where do you put the damned thing” is the ones I’ve seen advertised look like they have the durability and functionality of a styrofoam cooler. I did a little research, and found out you can build a thing called a “thunderbox”, which is a shithouse elevated on a tall masonry platform so you can periodically shovel it out. There are tremendous drawbacks with that as well, not the least of which is the pervasive threat of a black widow biting you on the nuts.
    There’s a dilapidated outhouse on the place here, and looking at it makes me realize just how tough people were back in the day. It’s a good hundred yards from the house. Just imagine that January morning walk through the snow, stopping off at the corncrib to grab a couple of cobs.

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  21. Julie Robinson said on July 21, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Oh, and can someone explain the whole policy on liquids? All you can take is a one quart bag with bottles that are less than three ounces each. But after you go through security you can buy (at inflated prices) as many beverages as you want AND take them on the plane with you. What would prevent us from mixing up combustibles in one of those? And will I get a full body cavity search for writing that?

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  22. Mindy said on July 21, 2008 at 11:18 am

    I was the unlucky random person to be pulled out of line and inspected with the wand during my last airport visit. Had to take off my shoes because they set off the metal detector. So did my bra. Fortunately, they didn’t ask me to take it off.

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  23. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 21, 2008 at 11:19 am

    The boys in Britain who got arrested (not the ones who blew themselves up on public buses and the Tube) were working on a chemistry set approach, which i’m told they had pretty well developed, where they could mix two 12 oz. bottles of viscous, non-smelly fluid, add a few ounces of another slightly more caustic fluid, and have a decent explosive within an hour, which they intended to use over the Atlantic on a half-dozen planes at once for maximum confusion and lasting uncertainty.

    So the new system, however misguidedly applied, is to eliminate or minimize that probability. Ditto the shoes, which goes back to Richard Reid and the guys arrested back in Germany after he was caught — it was no joking matter that the plan following 9-11 was to use “sneaker bombs” to tear open the outer skin of a jetliner in the middle of the fuselage at maximum altitude, which woulda worked if his fellow passengers hadn’t been sharp and he hadn’t been a pretty dim bulb.

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  24. Dorothy said on July 21, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Oh Mary what I would have given to have been there to witness what you said to that boob on the plane!

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  25. Jim said on July 21, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I much agree with Nancy’s comment that the shoe thing is one of the worst aspects of flying . The only thing that remotely helps is reminding myself of a comment I read from another flyer, who said she’s just glad that Richared Reed didn’t become known as the “underwear bomber.” It gives me a smile while I’m pulling my shoes off.

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  26. Sue said on July 21, 2008 at 11:54 am

    1. My son had a piece of lost luggage on one trip. The hardest part was notifying the baggage claim department. When we went in and gave our information, the woman at the desk stood there and typed for twenty minutes straight – no joke. I couldn’t figure out what information she could possibly be entering. The luggage was returned to his door in 24 hours.
    2. Mitchell Airport has named the area beyond the check spot the “Recombobulation Area”. Gentle Midwest humor.
    3. The superior-lifestyle smugness thing feels awfully nostalgic to me. When my kids were little, most of my pals were of the crunchy-granola, breastfeed-til-they’re-three, may-God-smite-thee-if-you-took-an-epidural-during-labor persuasion. I found them amusing and thought they were a nice bunch of people, but I did keep a certain distance. I lost track of many of them after they went on to become home-schoolers due to the evil influence of public schools on their children’s right to express their Christian beliefs. (I had (emphasis “had”) a friend who even pulled her daughter out of a Lutheran grade school because they did not teach homemaking.) Good times.
    4. MMJeff, one of my favorite blogs, suburbankamikaze.com, recently went into the subject of family gatherings in the form of a “We The People” takeoff, listing Article One as “The family shall make no law abridging the freedom of other family members to shoot their mouths off, spill family secrets and otherwise embarrass themselves and others in ways that can be retold at future family gatherings. This includes the right of uppity Miami women to make Midwestern jokes in a room full of her brother’s Iowan in-laws. She should not, however, expect anyone to come rushing to her defense should they turn on her in one corn-fed mass.” Sound familiar?

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  27. del said on July 21, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Mindy’s comment reminds me of the wand-waving action in the movie, This is Spinal Tap. (Cucumber wrapped in tin foil triggered the alarm.)

    A sweet plane story: When my wife’s friend was a very young child she had to take a flight from Detroit to NY — I believe she was travelling alone or with an older sibling, himself a child. A kindly stranger on the flight comforted her and held her, calming her down. She did not know him but years later she met, and married, his son.

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  28. Catherine said on July 21, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Wow, so much to respond to here. Let’s start with the prosaic since it’s Monday morning.

    The only time an airline lost my luggage, they had to deliver it from Albany NY to Blue Mountain Lake NY, a 2-3 hour drive each way. I used to fly a lot for business; this incident seems to have taught all the airlines not to lose my stuff.

    Most dramatic story: Recently flew into LAX in time to find the entire airport shut down due to a bomb scare. I stood on the curb for about 1 1/2 hours, waiting for a taxi with a well-behaved crowd and a freaked-out airport employee, in an eerily vehicle-free United terminal. Post-apocalpse, indeed. Thanks from me, too, Al-Qaeda a$$holes.

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  29. Gasman said on July 21, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Yes, there is such a closet on most planes, however, you usually have to flirt heavily with a flight attendant to gain access. Not too painful for me if the attendants are female, but I really don’t want to go down that path with the boys.

    I’ve been in many discussions with other pro players. A cellist from the Dallas Symphony told me that about half the time he pays for a seat for his cello, they make him gate check it anyway. Most pro cellists pay more for their good bows than I paid for my handmade classical guitar. Airlines won’t let you put an instrument in bulkhead or emergency exit rows. Your best bet is first class, but I don’t make enough to put my own butt in first class, let alone my guitar.

    I’ve heard that it’s faster, cheaper, and safer to send an instrument separately with UPS, Fed Ex, or DHL. You can insure for the replacement value – which means they are more likely to treat it with respect – and it’s probably easier to track. However, this route would necessitate an additional travel day to retrieve an instrument.

    The last time I flew with a guitar I opted to take a cheap one and leave the good one at home. I think more and more domestic musicians would rather drive than fly, even with expensive gas. The hassle and the uncertainty is just too great. The U.S. is also being very shitty about giving out visas for visiting performers. It’s gotten so bad that many European touring ensembles are simply bypassing the U.S. on their tours.

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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 21, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Shucks, Sue, the Iowa half of my clan would have just upped the ante on the Miamian, telling an even more derisive Midwestern joke, then asking her “so, tell us a good Miami joke, eh?”

    Keep in mind, as those of us who do park/museum talks for Homeschooler Tuesday programs know full well, a major contingent of homeschoolers aren’t any more Christian than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. I watched a lady talk herself into ever tighter circles of “what i meant was” until she augered in and fled the room, having tried to pander to what she assumed were a bunch of Dobsonite moms, who actually were full-on, hemp oriented, anti-plastic wives of college science profs.

    Me, i just say thousands and millions and billions with a smile, and when the throat-clearing starts from the lady with a bun and a glint in her eye, we have a fun chat over the heads of the toddlers. I doubt if i convince her scientists may be onto something with “deep time” or that i will someday share in the Beatifica Vision, but they usually leave satisfied with having voiced their qualms out loud.

    But many homeschoolers are not only Darwinian, but Marxist. YMMV.

    Oh, and not to steal from the proprietess, but swiping a fun link from Romenesko — i am shocked, shocked to find that broadcast does their story meeting around a copy of the local print rag:

    TV and radio news outlets suffer when newspapers shrink (http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117989178.html?categoryId=1682&cs=1) Variety
    Brian Lowry notes that television and radio news operations rely on the local newspaper for most of their news. “The thinness in assembling TV and radio news — and the manner in which they use newspapers as de facto tip sheets and newsgathering surrogates — has long been one of broadcasting’s dirty little secrets,” he writes.

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  31. Hattie said on July 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Fascinating thread. As a commenter on my blog would put it, “Everyone seems to be on some bandwagon or other.” It is mighty tiresome.

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  32. Sue said on July 21, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Homeschooling was a growing part of the area about 20 years ago, and it was almost 100% religious-oriented. Since I had friends who were going down that route, and I also worked in a library, I got to see first-hand the good and the bad. We had an organized group of homeschooling parents who used the library to stage plays and introduce their kids to a wider group of people, but we also had: a strong push to outlaw the annual library Halloween costume children’s time (satanism); a strong push to censor library books, (remove this/that/the other book, such as a children’s book that contained pictures of mischievous imps, because it was a demonic influence); a strong push to remove undesirables from the library while allowing total access to free-ranging “good” children (bad influences who distract from lessons being taught right there at the library). I personally felt that the kids were shortchanged (seriously, your math lesson is the story of the loaves and fishes?) but it eventually ran its course. Just my personal observation, but on the whole I have never seen such a grim group in my life.

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  33. michaela said on July 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Wow, I must be cursed by the luggage gods… I’ve had bags lost multiple times, though they always show up eventually. Worst was the trip we took a few months ago to our nation’s capital — a nonstop flight wherein they somehow lost the effing carseat for our daughter. And lemme tell you: the Bawlmer airport has exactly the kind of loaner carseats you’d think they would. And of course 30 minutes into our 45-minute drive to our friends’ house, the airline called to say they’d found the seat. They did send a very nice man to deliver it the next morning, though….

    Oh, and we flew thru DTW last week; actually had a fantastic experience wherein a Northwest gate agent found the wallet that had fallen out of my laptop bag. Sure, I had to make three round trips across the place & through the trippy tunnel before I got it back… but all my stuff – even the cash – was intact. Amazing.

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  34. Joe Kobiela said on July 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Being that I am now a professional CHARTER pilot, The airlines are my company’s best friend. The more they screw up, the better it is for our business. Just wait till this fall when they cut capacity and raise ticket prices.
    Charter is the only way to go. If you have 3-5 people to get someplace, we can get you there for about the same price as the cattle cars. You fly on your schedules, get to the town you want, don’t make you take off your shoes and get you home on the same day. Ask anyone who has flown charter and I bet they wouldn’t go back to the airlines if you payed them.
    Livin the dream in Auburn In.

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  35. LAMary said on July 21, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    United lost a trunk holding all my worldly posessions once when I was moving from NJ to Denver. I got it back three weeks later.

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  36. Jolene said on July 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    So great to have you back, Nance! Your post struck my own sense of self-righteousness. I, too, am superior to all those dorks who carry on everything except the car they left in the parking lot. Infuriating, as are those Businessmen Who Have Places to Be.

    My parents live in North Dakota, and a visit there requires a plane-change in Minneapolis no matter where you are coming from, which always creates an opportunity for lost luggage. Several times, my bag has been delayed, which would have been annoying if I’d been doing anything other than going home to drink endless cups of coffee with my folks, but it’s still better than wrestling with bags that, really, are too big to carry during layovers of indeterminate length in the MPLS airport.

    On one of my many trips to ND, after a long layover in MPLS and delays on the runway, a baby only a few months old was crying and crying and her barely older mother was reluctant to feed her because she’d have to expose her breast. She couldn’t seem to figure out that (1) given the seating arrangements, no one could see and (2) given our exhaustion and the pain of listening to the baby, no one cared.

    Re musical instruments: A cellist friend, now retired, always bought his instrument a first-class seat and also always made sure that he got its free drink!

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  37. Jolene said on July 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    On another topic: Phrase I am most tired on hearing today: Conditions on the ground.

    Jeff, the story about TV people having trouble figuring out what to say as the content of newspapers diminishes would be funny if it weren’t so sad. I can’t figure out why some of the cable stations (I’m looking at you MSNBC.) don’t send some of the people who read news for an hour or two each day out to find things out so that they can say something different between 3 PM and 4 PM than they said between 2 PM and 3 PM.

    Clearly, those people are making plenty of money; they should do something to earn it. I’m sure they once upon a time thought of themselves as journalists. With a little stimulation–such as the threat of losing their jobs–those impulses could be reawakened.

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  38. Jolene said on July 21, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Joe’s comment about charter flights reminds me of a book that some might find interesting. By James Fallows, it’s called Free Flight: Inventing the Future of Travel. According to Fallows, new kinds of aircraft operating under different business models will soon make patterns of travel similar to charter-flying much more widely available. An exciting prospect. Check out the two-paragraph abstract.

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  39. Jolene said on July 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    One last thing: Wanted to mention a story by Carlos Rotella from yesterday’s Washington Post Magazine. It’s about George Pelecanos, who’s written crime novels set in Washington, DC and was also one of the writers for “The Wire”. It’s a good piece of writing by itself and also a good introduction to a writer that you might enjoy, assuming you’re not already a fan.

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  40. Bill said on July 21, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Yesterday’s Trib announced the latest airport security device: http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/chi-airport-bd20jul20,0,2583531.story

    The money quote:
    “The new full-body imaging machines that will arrive at O’Hare this fall look through clothing to create an explicit silhouette of the traveler—showing shapes, folds of fat and other anatomical characteristics—to identify possible hidden objects.

    Even though facial features are blurred to protect privacy, the images reveal breasts, buttocks and other private parts, prompting some civil liberties groups to call the machines an unacceptable intrusion.”

    I’d rather remove my shoes, thanks.

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  41. moe99 said on July 21, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Food purists are today’s Puritans. I have a former brother in law who lives in Maine in a house he built w/ an outhouse in the back. No electricity and the running water is from the stream next to the house. So no hot water either. He and his current wife are vegans. And there was always this sort of looking down their noses mentality that went with that that was very hard to deal with. But the family is descended on both sides from stern Calvinists so it makes sense in an odd sort of way.

    This fellow repairs foreign cars to make a living but does not own one–rides a bike. And as soon as he’s made enough so that he will have to pay income taxes, he quits. Life just seems so grim for him.

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  42. Julie Robinson said on July 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Joe K, I think you’re right. I’ve just been searching for tickets around, but not on, Thanksgiving for my sister–West Palm Beach to Chicago. Almost nothing available, poor times, few direct flights, and high prices. If you-all haven’t booked holiday travel yet, do it today.

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  43. Dexter said on July 21, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Here’s where lost bags go.

    Lots of bargains and mucho interesting merchandise. I have never had a lost bag, and I have checked bags many times, but now I won’t do it. I travel lightly, wash socks and shorts out in the sink , and buy small items along the way. For gifts and hard item purchases , I mail them home. Also, if I buy some new clothes, I’ll just grab a box and go to a mailing service place and mail my old stuff home. Anything to keep the luggage down to that little boxy roll-along bag.

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  44. nancy said on July 21, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Moe, there’s a guy who lives outside FW, a Brethren-church guy whose main activity in life is Witness for Peace — they’re the folks who parachute in to world trouble spots and hang around keeping an eye on things. The idea is that the wicked oppressor will be less likely to open fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters if they know a bunch of Americans are watching.

    You can have your arguments with them, and I do — they seem inordinately fond of some fairly nasty Palestinians. But that’s what they do.

    Anyway, this guy lives a purposefully simple, off-the-grid life. Bought a parcel of land no one wanted, converted a corn crib to a house, grows his own food, doesn’t own a car, barters for everything else, and keeps his cash earnings below taxpaying level. When the weather turns cold, he goes off witnessing for peace, or whatever you call it.

    I saw photos taken inside his corn crib/house. The particleboard walls are unpainted, the furniture is all cast-off junk — there’s not a whisper of beauty anywhere. And I have to be honest. It didn’t exactly offend me, but it bugged me (if that makes any sense). I think it’s a minor sort of sin to reject beauty in favor of ugliness, to be too pure for even simple pleasures. I’m reminded of Rod Steiger’s great speech in “Doctor Zhivago,” about Lara’s boyfriend, the revolutionary:

    There are two kinds of men and only two. And that young man is one kind. He is high-minded. He is pure. He’s the kind of man the world pretends to look up to, and in fact despises.

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  45. Joe Kobiela said on July 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    When I get back tonight I’ll try and explain what has happened with free flight, if you look, the date of that artical is 2001. A lot has happened good and bad since then.
    Off to Travers City, Grand Rapids,over dtw,(wave at Nancy)and on to Clevland.

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  46. Jim in Fla said on July 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    The Brethren’s priorities are different than your priorities and my priorities. That’s not a bad thing.

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  47. Sue said on July 21, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Midwest Express (“the best care in the air”) has announced many route cancellations and huge cuts in staffing. They are being pretty open about this being a last-ditch effort to fight off bankruptcy. Of course, the TV crews are at the airport interviewing passengers. Almost every person they talked to emphasized their loyalty to Midwest but stated they would now be looking for another airline, because, you know, Midwest is not treating them right. Define loyal, please? I’ll bet these were the same loyal customers who protested several months back when negotiations were going on to merge with a discount carrier. Same difference in the end, especially if you refuse to support the effort, and no chocolate chip cookies, either.

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  48. nancy said on July 21, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Oh, I know the Brethren are different from thee and me. I was just observing that some people are cut from a bolt of cloth I don’t recognize — rough burlap, maybe.

    Mary Gordon’s first novel has a main character who has an epiphany over Jesus’ line about the poor, whom you always have with you, “but you do not always have Me.” Her lightbulb moment was that we’re supposed to give ourselves the gift of beauty once in a while, and not always reject it because of good works left undone. There’s always time for that, and in the meantime, unpainted particleboard bespeaks a sort of asceticism that does little more than buff your own abstemious ego.

    If that makes any sense. Which I doubt it does.

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  49. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 21, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Nancy, are these the CPT – Christian Peacemaker Team folks? They do some very admirable work, but you sum up yourself my own hesitation on their Palestine-Israel approach. They follow a “getting in the way of violence” philosophy without courting martyrdom, which is a fine line to manage. But the regrettable settlers seem to deserve rocks and shots in their view, while in Hebron they take pride in “getting in the way” of angry glares. (For a dramatic exception, see the wiki article below.)

    Not that i have the faintest idea of what to do with the settlements, since pullouts have done so little other than encourage the Islamic militants, and Israel can’t go back to the 1967 borders (nor, on the merits, does it seem to me that they ought to). Whoops, as Hattie would say, another bandwagon on the road.

    Anyhow, i admire the heck out of the CPTers mostly, and that’s what your guy sounds like. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Peacemaker_Teams (their own website is painfully slow to load, linked at article’s end).

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  50. brian stouder said on July 21, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    One scene from Dr Zhivago that stuck with me was when Omar Shariff confronts the revolutionary guy with the fast red train, about a village that was destroyed. The scarred revolutionary says that they (the villagers) were harboring counter-revolutionaries, and he had to “make a point”; whereupon Omar says “Your point – their village”

    If that makes any sense. Which I doubt it does. I had never stopped to consider the meaning of the poor that will always be with us, so I got my my moment of enlightenment for the day, today.

    This past weekend we were at my in-laws house, and went to their church, and they have a brand new pastor, and his sermon was all about……judgement and damnation and repentence!

    And, although I was on-guard for a sudden veer into contemporary politics (he used the catch-phrase “Jesus should be presidential and not residential in your life” several times), and generally didn’t go for the theme, ALL the women liked his sermon!

    Go figure

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  51. Dexter said on July 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Years ago I watched a TV show on “happiness”. Interviewed were ,among many others, a family man who worked 96 hours or so every week in a Detroit auto plant (in boom cycles , in some jobs, OT is nearly unlimited), and a drop-out type who lived in a commune some where in Colorado , where he sang songs to his heart’s content and had many friends and roommates , but no money or any benefits like medical care .
    The conclusion was that the drop-out was much more content than the guy busting his balls 16 hours a day and a shift every weekend, every day of the year except maybe Christmas.
    I was much more like the over-worked man, as for years I worked overtime in a hot factory until I had enough years to retire…and I would never do it again.
    I would head for the mountains and become a hermit or some damn thing.
    Ah yes, that’s so easy to say..now!

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  52. coozledad said on July 21, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I’ve always dreamed of being able to grow all of my own food, but my own farm is more of a contingency against the day I might have to. I know I will never be able to grow, press and vintage a facsimile of a Cruz de Piedra Grenacha, or cultivate cacao to make my own chocolate bars, and as long as my wife can afford these things, I’ll be damned if I’ll live without them.
    But to be honest with you, any effort to simplify your life paradoxically seems, at least to me, to add new layers of complexity. Here’s an example: When we moved out here we temporarily lost convenient access to tofu (I know a lot of you are saying “Well boo-fucking- hoo!”) but it’s one of the many otherwise healthy foods we’ve learned to enjoy through the medium of deep-frying. So I learned how to make tofu from whole soybeans. It involves standing over a five gallon stainless steel pot for a good part of a day with a large spoon in one hand and a thermometer in the other to make soymilk. You learn to coagulate it at precisely 185 degrees with calcium chloride(or Nigari) for firm tofu or epsom salts (for the squishy kind- and yes, it will give you the runs if you’re not careful). I wound up having to build a cheese press to get the consistency we were used to. When you are done with the beans, the waste product (okara) can be made into tempeh, so I learned to make tempeh in order to avoid having to feed those organic soybeans to my chickens, who would just as soon eat a dead rodent or a dog turd. I had to construct a box with a heating element to promote the growth of the fungi (rhizopus spores) that makes the okara congeal into a bricklike mass.
    See how simple it is?
    And after I learned this, we found a local source for both tofu and tempeh.

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  53. alex said on July 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    The Brethren are not-too-distant cousins of the Amish and have their own strange sort of asceticism.

    Had a very interesting conversation with a young man raised Amish who’s currently in Rumpspringa and has no intention of joining the Amish church. I assumed this meant he’d be disowned and shunned by his family and community, but he tells me it’s not this way at all. That sort of treatment is reserved only for those who join the church and then change their minds.

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  54. Julie Robinson said on July 21, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Yes, Coozledad–you can take it too far. I used to make almost everything from scratch and prided myself on that. Then I got a life! But recently I decided that yogurt was getting too expensive and I could make that. After several batches I just about had it right, then I noticed it was all staying in the refrigerator. Rest of the family admitted they didn’t actually care for the stuff.

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  55. Sue said on July 21, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Julie, a friend of mine used to say “When my kids were little, they would have killed for a piece of white bread”. My own dear ones are white bread eating carnivores, so nothing took. My daughter is squeamish about eating meat, but that doesn’t stop her; she just blames me for making her think about it. Of course it might have helped if I had been more consistent – by the time they were in their late teens I had thrown in the towel pretty completely.

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  56. nancy said on July 21, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    C’dad, you should run one of the exhibits at Greenfield Village. On my last visit, I was impressed by the House of Looms (which isn’t what it’s called). But it’s a house, and they have four or five looms in there, ranging from the most primitive, Colonial-era specimens to the first electric-powered ones. “Labor-saving” doesn’t really cover it. It really makes you see how significant the Industrial Revolution really was in terms of how people lived their daily lives, how much drudgery they were freed from.

    Of course, some would say it went too far, and they’re certainly free to discover the Zen of weaving, but it’s one thing to weave an artful shawl of colorful wool and quite another to churn out a dozen yards of homespun for the family’s clothing.

    Which is (this just occurred to me) another thing to dislike about the food revolutionaries. They forget that “less work for Mother” was once seen as a good thing, that modern agriculture might be guilty of many sins but also made food plentiful and cheap, and that is a blessing to the multitudes. The pendulum swings, but the day I have to make it myself is the day I give up tofu.

    But good on you for trying, anyway. The soybean farmers of the American breadbasket salute you.

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  57. Dexter said on July 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    I used to eat a lot of tufu in stir frys. Then our local store quit stocking it, and I sort of forgot about it, even when I would shop at stores that might have had it. Now I prefer hummus anyway.
    In a scene from a movie, Paulie makes a gigantic submarine sandwich and takes a bite.

    Charlie: “You oughtta apply for a license to shit in the street.”

    Paulie: “Why?”

    Charlie: ” Because you eat like a horse.”

    …”The Pope of Greenwich Village”, Charlie, Mickey Rourke…Paulie, Eric Roberts.

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  58. Danny said on July 21, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Nancy, great to have you back. Sounds like you had an excellent vacation.

    I’m too busy to participate much this week. Hope we can all catch up soon!

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  59. brian stouder said on July 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    A 100% non-sequitur: The young folks and I just got back from The Dark Knight, and I must say – the movie is 100% engaging, and Heath Ledger’s Joker absolutely MAKES the movie. It has more than a few laughs, and it is about 15% incoherent (the director LOVES swirling, spinning shots; I think more than 50% of the movie is a panning rotation)……………and, I have problems with about 75% of its politics.

    The movie pretty regularly presents the Good Guys as (essentially) torturing the bad guys – who they begin referring to as “terrorists” – to get information from them. Toward the end, they attach a fig leaf by having the hero (Christian Bale) lose his best, most conscientious employee (Morgan Freeman) ove a dispute regarding illegal wiretapping, but not before Freeman helps conduct an “extraordinary rendition” (or kidnapping!) of a bad guy.

    Toward the end, the ethics of the movie become (to me) simply incoherent….and granted, all this is intended to be is a big budget summertime flick, made to generate gonzo cash (which it seems to be doing).

    But in the movie’s garbled attempt at modern relevancy to the current day, I think it was akin to ideological pornography – raising important, serious issues soley for wham-boom salacious sizzle.

    I found myself wincing on more than one occasion

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  60. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 21, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Don’t know from Dark Knights, but i can recommend as Jolene did earlier the George Pelecanos piece from the WaPo magazine yesterday — http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/15/AR2008071502119.html?sub=AR

    Reminded me when i was night manager of Von’s Book Shop in West Lafayette in 84 & 85, and one night someone brought Stanley Fish by after a lecture. He’d just hit academic rock star status with “Is There a Text In This Class?” but no one was around, it was late, and Dr. Fish cruised up and down the high aisles crammed with used and new nudged against each other (today Von’s keeps the used in the newly cleaned up basement).

    Just at close at 10 pm he and the prof who was his local guide came back to the counter, asked me some unnecessarily nice questions about life and plans and such, and then laid two George Pelecanos novels down in front of me and paid up. “I’ve never heard of him,” said the clerk that was me, and Stanley Fish said “You will,” took the bag, shook my hand, and walked off.

    Next payday i bought copies of both, employee discount. Loaned ’em out and never got ’em back years ago. Fish knows talent, 17th century or 21st.

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  61. Joe Kobiela said on July 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    The planes that are mentioned in the book, Cirrus and Eclipse jet are now both in production. The cirrus is a 4-place single engine prop plane, Fast,easy to fly but unpressurized. Really do to weight restriction you can have a pilot and 2 passengers and fly about 600 miles in 3hr not bad but it is small. The eclipse jet is faster yet but has its problems. It was suppose to sell for around 850,00 but due to engine and avionic problems the price is up to around,2.15 million, this eliminates the owner pilot and puts it in to the same class as a Cessna mustang price wise and the mustang is much larger inside.As far as free flight goes, we already use it in charter and private flight using gps to fly a straight line point to point. The airlines can not use gps unless their entire fleet is upgraded and pilots trained to use it so they still fly from vor to vor sometimes miles out of there way. The airlines are in deep trouble and they are looking for to blame anyone or anything but them selfs. They will tell you that small planes will blacken the sky’s over major city’s where in reality small planes do not use O’hare Dulles, JFK or LAX. The system works but if you have 5airlines schedule a 9:00am departure someone is going to be late getting airborne.
    It is bad now, but going to get worse

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  62. Dexter said on July 22, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Pilot Joe: My daughter’s S.O. just finished training on the new Hawker. He is a pilot for NetJets, the way to go, for sure. Fractionalized ownership of an aircraft makes more sense than owning a jet outright. I was thinking that when our host gets her ten million dollars and moves to NorCal, she will be able to afford NetJets, but maybe not…it’s very expensive. Not all big shot V.I.Ps travel privately on jets.

    Al Gore told Tom Brokaw “I am flying on Southwest tonight”, for example.
    Of course most of the people my pilot flies are C.E.O.s , with the occassional celebrity flight, even some very famous movie stars.
    He told me that once he flew a plane across country with one name on the manifest. A rich woman flew her cat out to be her. A cat. A kitty cat. Meow kind.
    Ain’t that the shits?

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  63. Jolene said on July 22, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the detail, Joe. I only knew about this topic from reading Fallows’s blog. Sounds like we’re in for “interesting times” aviation-wise in the years ahead.

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  64. Jolene said on July 22, 2008 at 7:27 am

    Jeff, which of Pelecanos’s books would you recommend that I read first?

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  65. alex said on July 22, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Hey, Pilot Joe — DeKalb is the closest airport to my home. Always thought I had to be rich and have my own plane to fly out of there. No? I can take a charter plane wherever? Tell me more, ‘cuz I really hate flying commercial. I’m one of those people who has all the luck. Flying out of Fort Wayne is expensive and usually requires a connection or two, and the planes I’m on are always late and miss the next flight. It’s especially bad at that clusterfuck of an airport in Atlanta, where they never give you a reasonable amount of time to take the tram from the terminal you’ve landed at to the one you need to be at.

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  66. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 22, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Jolene, i’d say “his latest” since he’s so consistent, or “The Big Blowdown.” And i have to note in checking the title — my story absolutely has to be wrong, which bugs me not the least because i’ve been telling it for years. Stanley Fish bought two books by some up and coming crime novelist from me in ’85, and i read them and liked them (and loaned them and didn’t get them back) and that author became Pelecanos over time . . . but his first novel was ’92.

    I am abashed, and baffled. Forget the Fish tale, and read the Pelecanos anyhow.

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  67. brian stouder said on July 22, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Sounds like a case for Laura Lippman’s Memory Project…!

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  68. Jolene said on July 22, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Thanks, Jeff. I think I’ll remember the story as you told it. I like it that way.

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