Flying Aces

Although I have something of a reputation for being a gun nut, I’m more of an admirer than an aficionado. Sure, I can tell the difference between most older bolt-action rifles with just a brief inspection (because that’s a particular passion of mine), but the model numbers of the various Glock, SIG and S&W guns leave me cross-eyed with confusion. Unless I actually own or want a particular model, I have little interest in its stablemates, clones, extensions or forerunners.

When it comes to things aeronautical, I’m likewise not one of those obsessive types who can tell at a glance the difference between a Spitfire Mk.III or Mk.IX, but my goodness, I do love the shape of the things:

One of the very few regrets of my life is that apart from puttering around with a friend’s ultralight, I never learned to fly and get my PPL, because I would love to have taken a WWII-era fighter aircraft for a quick flight. Even the much-maligned Hawker Hurricane has not escaped my gaze:

The great WWII flying ace Douglas Bader flew both in action during the Battle of Britain, and his comment was that while he loved the agility and performance of the Spit, he grew to appreciate the Hurri as a rock-solid gun platform that could withstand an incredible amount of punishment — even though its rear fuselage was made entirely of canvas-covered wood.

I’ve seen a Spitfire in the flesh, as it were, as well as its major opponent, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as both were displayed at the War Museum in Johannesburg.

What struck me then, as now, is how small those wonderful aircraft are. Also at the museum was one of the few remaining Me 262 jet aircraft, and by comparison to the dainty 109, it was a great hulking brute of a thing:

…although I have to tell you, that shark-like fuselage has its own particular attraction for me too.

As a boy, I was fascinated by WWII fighter aircraft and built models of almost all of them: Spitfire, Hurricane, P-51 Mustang, Me 109; you name it, I probably built it. As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to understand just what it is that attracted me (and still does to this day) to these aircraft, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.

These were not the fragile, unreliable and dangerous aircraft of WWI, nor are they the techno-laden jet fighters of the post-WWII era. Instead, they were flying machines which made you feel like you were part of a miracle. The speeds were nowhere close to supersonic (a modern-day Bugatti Veyron has a top speed just 100mph slower than that of a 1939 Hurricane), and honestly, I think my criterion for these WWII fighter planes is one of enjoyment: you’re going fast, but not that fast that you have no time to think about the experience. Kind of like the difference between, say, a Caterham 7 and a Pagani Zonda.

     

I like both, but I’d rather drive a Caterham than a Zonda for the same reason that I prefer a bolt-action rifle to a full-auto rifle: there’s more of an element of actively making the 7 and the turnbolt work, rather than just controlling the Zonda and (say) a BAR. Speed has little to do with it, although I suspect that the thrill of speed in a Caterham may be every bit as good as in a Zonda, even though the latter may be going half as fast again as the 7. Fast is fast: what’s the difference is how much one can feel it — and I suspect that without a speedometer to tell you the difference, you might not be able to quantify it that much.

So give me a good old WWII aircraft — the aeronautical equivalent of the Caterham — any day of the week.

And to quote a friend in a different context: when I see a pic like this one, parts of me start to tingle that haven’t tingled in a long while.

Can you imagine the sound those nine Merlin-engined beauties make as they thunder overhead? I don’t smoke, but I’m pretty sure I’d want a cigarette after that flyover.


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Stop That Shit #1

I was reading some article wherein a so-called “style and etiquette” expert was making suggestions for the ages at which one should stop doing certain activities (e.g. wearing a bikini), and while I agreed with some of his statements, I found myself in stark disagreement with others. [pause while Longtime Readers pick themselves off the floor because they know I am more like the Church Lady than the Church Lady is like the Church Lady]

Here’s the first of his suggestions:

Computer games: age 18

I understand why he would think so. After all, the apparent reason why young people today, and I mean Millenials, are so socially inept is because they’re all trying to conquer World of Warcraft (WOW, as they call it) Level 76 or something, rather than actually interacting with other people [unspoken: like we old farts used to do]. Here’s the stereotype:

But Nazzo fast, Guido*. What Millennials have done is created a culture for themselves — listen to any group of Millennials (and I have three) talking, and within thirty seconds they’ll be speaking a different language which is incomprehensible to anyone other than their own generation. In other words, they are interacting with each other, but just using a platform — the Internet — which is different from what we Old ‘Uns used. And as for actual socialization (or as they wonderfully call it, meat space), there are all the ComicCons and suchlike to consider. ComicCon, in other words, is to the Snowflake Millennial Generation what a Grateful Dead concert was to the Filthy Hippie Generation. Think I’m kidding? Consider these two pics of ComicCon and a Dead farewell concert:

Other than the age difference, they are essentially the same picture: people at a cultural event, wearing costumes which identify them as being part of a distinct group, and each speaking a language which would most likely be incomprehensible to their grandparents.

“Yeah, but kids today lock themselves in their room and just play computer games all day!” is the moan.

If you haven’t done the Boomer equivalent of the Led Zeppelin haj — putting on the headphones and listening non-stop to all the Zep albums in chronological order without leaving your bedroom / college dorm — then you wouldn’t see the similarities. (Full disclosure: I’ve never done the Zep thing, but I have done the same with Steely Dan, more than once.)

I think every generation does this kind of thing — or have since maybe the Great War, or maybe even the beginning of the 20th century. Of course, the Millennials have opened themselves up to ridicule:

Then again, you should hear the shit they say about us.

I’ll be doing more of these as the fancy takes me. It’s a rich vein, and it gives me a chance to do one of my favorite things: generational mockery.


*look up “Guido Nazzo” here for an explanation of my obtuse inside joke


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Bucket List Entry #3: Spa Francorchamps

I’ve never been a racing driver, nor wanted to be one. However, I do like driving sports cars hard, ever since a buddy let me cane his Alfa Romeo Montreal over a newly-opened freeway outside Johannesburg. I haven’t had much opportunity, however, so on my bucket list here’s a simple entry: drive a sports car around a race track — and the track of choice would be Spa Francorchamps, in the Ardennes Mountains in Belgium.

…and I have to tell you, a large part of my desire for Spa is that the countryside surrounding it is just gorgeous. Ditto the Circuit Paul Ricard, because it’s in Provence, fer goshsakes (but Spa still wins it every time, for me).

 

The car? I don’t really care, as long as it doesn’t break down in mid-circuit. Modern sports cars are too clinical, too perfect with all the mechanical and electronic doodads they bring to the party — not that I’d say “no” to a flip around Spa in a Ferrari California, though:

But I’m an old fashioned kinda guy, and I’d prefer to drive something a little more… elemental, something which captures the spirit of a bygone era. Something like a Caterham Seven 360, which is based on the old Lotus Seven of the 1960s:

Six-speed manual gearbox, 2.0-liter Duratec engine (yeah, from a Ford Mondeo) which puts out 180hp — on a chassis that weighs less than I do — all in a car that seats my ass but six inches off the ground and can out-drag a Kawasaki.

Sounds like fun, dunnit? Which is why it’s on the old Bucket List.

 


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Everyday Ennui

Is it just me, or is the news nowadays really boring? I’m sure that to some people, it’s fascinating to watch the intrigues surrounding The Donald’s Executive Orders, or how the Socialists in the Democrat Party are doing their usual petulant-spoiled-child snit because they can’t get their own way, and of course there’s always the Loony Left who are still running around with their hair on fire because omigod-Hillary-wasn’t-elected-and-now-we’re-stuck-with-literally-Hitler! (Pro tip: not even close. In fact, if you look at their respective proclivities and ideologies, that Stalinist sow Hillary Bitch Clinton is far closer to the actual Hitler than Donald Hairstyle-Casino Trump.)

Then there’s the non-news, usually revolving around a Kardashian or some equally foul “reality” star (all of whom, I am glad to say, I know little or nothing at all), whose latest nude “selfies” have been “leaked” to Britain’s Daily Mail or whatever, or who have fallen in / out of love with some tattooed thug / rapper / loser [some redundancy]. To me, this is like having favorite performing seals at the zoo, and following their cute antics and tragedies and joys and heartbreaks and, and, and… and is that not a good description of reality TV? Does any of that shit actually matter to anyone who doesn’t write a gossip column / host a TV show? Does anyone care that some trailer-park artiste named Mama June (who actually looked like a walrus, according to some picture I saw which attached itself, burr-like, to my memory) has lost half her body-weight and now looks merely repulsive as opposed to slit-my-wrists grotesque?

Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh. Because I’m right now at a stage of my life where I honestly don’t give much of a flying fuck about anything, perhaps the Republican “replacement” for ObamaCare really is a stinker, or it isn’t. Maybe it’s a Big Deal that Senate Democrats, that bunch of neo-Trotskyist turdbrains, are risking the “nuclear option” of a simple majority vote (having created that little bit of parliamentary legerdemain themselves, anyway) that would put Trump’s guy Gorsuch in the Supreme Court. And maybe the ceaseless yowling of the Left and their publicity arm (a.k.a. the mainstream press and TV) means something in terms of how it’s affecting Trump’s First 100 Days. (Which, by the way, is an equally-specious construct because a hundred days means sweet F.A. to anything. What if the number was 105? 110? 92? They’re all just numbers, artificial deadlines meant to put pressure on a new President, and they, along with the people who have created this artificial yardstick, mean precisely squat.)

And maybe the riots on campus and inner-city streets by the frigging loonies of the so-called “antifa” are going to continue apace without any action by the Justice Department or local police forces — right up until a couple of Korean shopkeepers grab themselves some AR-15s and start doing a little riot control on their own behalf. (You can stop all that cheering and clapping now; it’s a hypothetical.)

And maybe Russia did this, and maybe they didn’t; and ditto the Israelis, or the Brits, or the inhabitants of Outer Assholistan, whoever the hell is breathlessly “discovered” to have influenced blah blah blah, b-b-blah blah blah —  is it any wonder that we look on this bullshit as though it were just a plotline of Days Of Our World Turns General Hospital? (Are any of those shows still airing? No, don’t tell me; I care even less about them than I do about Amy Schumer’s latest fiasco, or maybe it’s not hers but her Uncle Charlie’s.)

Here’s my take on all of it: it’s all bullshit, the whole fucking lot of it. Everybody’s either lying, making shit up or telling the absolute truth, or telling partial truths. Nobody can tell the difference nowadays, so in the absence of a decent alternative, I’m not going to believe a single thing anyone tells me anymore — whether it’s the President, the Congress, the Pope, the EPA, the CDC, the FBI, the State Department and especially the lying Jackals Of The Press (JOTP) — I’m going to assume that each and every one of them is lying their asses off, and I’m going to ignore them all until the bullets start to fly.

Which is what I think will have to happen before we can start trusting these assholes again, because it’s no longer in vino veritas; it’s in telo veritas — in modern terms, truth at gunpoint.

In the meantime, I’m going to concentrate on turning the 5,000-odd photographs of my adult life into pixels so I can finally throw away that damn giant shoebox of prints which I’ve schlepped across the Atlantic and over much of the United States for the past three decades.

That will have more meaning to my life than anything that mountebank Mitch McConnell says or does. Until the bullets start to fly, of course. And I don’t even care about that — because I am, as ever, extremely well-armed myself. They can all go to hell; I’m already in Texas. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the range.


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Screw The Moon

One of the characteristics The Mrs. and I shared was that if we liked something a lot, we kept using it: whether it was revisiting a restaurant every other month (or more frequently), or patronizing the same four grocery stores for our supplies, or (in her case) only buying Sony electronics, whatever. If we liked a service, or place, or thing, that kept our loyalty.

That habit extended itself particularly to cars. When we lived in New Jersey, I’d brought to the relationship a VW Jetta, and as The Mrs. worked out of home, we just used the one (she and I were both huge fans of VW cars, from Beetles to Rabbits to Jettas to Passats to Kombi vans). Later on, her job required that she get her own car, so there was really no decision to be made: we went off to the VW dealer and walked around the lot. When we saw one we liked, she pointed at the blue Jetta and said to the bewildered salesman:
“We want that car. How long will it take before we can drive it away?”
“D-don’t you want to test drive it first?”
“Does it drive any differently to the green one we parked out front? No? Then there’s no need to test it, is there?”

Many years passed by, and we’d strayed a little from the VW fold because we had different needs — ergo, a Ford F-150 truck for me, a Chev Suburban for her, etc. — but when the kids grew up and got their own cars, we downsized: back to VW, this time, the weirdly-named Tiguan, which is essentially a slightly-larger Golf with a taller ride height. Then, after a few years of that, of course we got a “new” Tiguan (Carmax-new; we’d never bought new cars except Jetta #2), because the Tiggy fit our needs perfectly, so why change?

Just one little problem: the new Tiguan had a “moonroof”. Now that was fine with The Mrs.: a California girl always, she loved the openness that a moonroof brings to driving — except that, of course, she’d forgotten about Texas summers, where lizards are fried to death on the sidewalks and even a Sahara camel would go, “Enough, already.” And Texas winters, while brief, can be really cold, and rainy — which leaves about three non-consecutive weeks in the year when you can use the damn thing as intended.

Moonroofs also lower the internal dimensions of the car because of the mechanism they require, they’re just one more Thing That Can Go Wrong, and of course they add to the cost. So basically, we ended up with a feature that we used, if memory serves me, about four times in the eighteen months since its purchase.

I’m stuck with the stupid thing now: I owe more than the car’s worth, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get another car because I still like the Tiggy a great deal. And considering that a “career” as an Uber/Lyft driver is probably in my future anyway, the Tiguan is not the worst car to own.

Except for the useless moonroof.


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Gone

Finally out of the house yesterday; all items meant for Goodwill stashed in the garage, all items meant for other people also duly stashed in the garage, all items destined for storage stashed in the garage, and while the garage was completely full, that meant the house was empty.

So the reno crew came in to get the place ready for sale — without a new floor in the main bedroom and new carpet upstairs, the house wouldn’t sell for ages — so they were really necessary. Fortunately, their fee comes off the final sale price so I don’t have to go to my rapidly-thinning wallet.

The first thing they did was rip the bookshelves off the walls in the den and dining room. Three days of backbreaking work for Connie and me to build and install the things; ten minutes and they were down, destroyed.

I had to leave at that point. I know: intellectually I could see that what sells a house is bare walls so that the new owners can put their imprint on the place, just as Connie and I did; emotionally, all I could see was one of our favorite projects reduced to splinters and our house being turned into someone else’s home. So I fled.

Fortunately, Doc Russia was available (night shifts this week) and as always, he had the right answer: “Lunch with booze, at an establishment which features scantily-clad women.”

I was so distraught I let him take me to just such an establishment, and yet another sign of my distraction was that I ordered a salad. [pause for gasps of shock to die down] Okay, it was a steak salad with avo, bacon, blue cheese and blue cheese dressing but honestly, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever ordered a salad as a meal in a restaurant. A tall mug of draft Shiner Bock (too fizzy, of course, but okay-tasting), a waitress of extraordinary loveliness (tangential thought: why would such a pretty girl resort to working at a place like that?), and with the wall-to-wall TV screens showing everything from fishing to football (both kinds), my mood turned from bleak and miserable to if not Happiness Stan, at least away from Blubbering-Sorry-For-Himself Kim. (Another tangential thought: on one of the TV talk shows, some guy was being compared to another guy, and I realized that I’d never heard of either of them. I am really out of touch.)

And as always with Doc, the conversation was all Guy Talk: guns (duh), hunting, cars, women and sports — we both turn off the TV when it’s people talking about a game versus people actually playing a game.

So the meal was done, and the music was making us both jittery (final tangential thought: when did rap music become acceptable in a sports bar?), so we left. When we got back to my new home, Doc got ready to go to work and I started unpacking the few paltry possessions I’ll need as a house guest: clothes, guns, books, my laptop — you know, the bare essentials.

And then to bed. For the first time since Connie died, there were no dreams, no nightmares; I slept all the way through the night and I didn’t wake up dreading the day to come — also for the first time.

Today I’ll be back at the old homestead, supervising the demolition of the workshop side of the garage and the clearing up of the backyard (which until recently looked like part of the Amazon forest had skipped over the border and established itself firmly in my little plot of land in N. Texas). A couple-three trips to Goodwill, a trip or two to the storage unit, and that’ll be it.

I don’t think I’ll go back inside the house. Not for a while, anyway.


7 comments already!