Plane Conversations and God Thoughts

dog cloud

My lap top indicates I’m flying at 536 miles per hour at a hight of 39,239 feet.  This is over 6 miles above the earth.  Even though I’ve flown many times and the aerodynamics’ of flight has been explained to me in great detail on Wikipedia, I still find it hard to grasp the unrealness of it all.  Animal shaped clouds drift by offering me a grin and a wink, several aisles over a baby wails, experienced flyers snooze, everyone is somewhere between “here and there”—ain’t life funny that way.

To forget how to fly at this altitude, to lose ones faith in formulas and physics would send this metal contraption plummeting nose first towards the brown wrinkled rug looking mountains below.  I feel a sense of powerlessness as a wave of panic serge’s through my sweaty body.  Physics is only numbers, numbers can’t keep a plane from dropping out of the sky like a rock—at this moment, at least for me, it’s magic and faith holding this metal tube in a state of flight.  The fusel-lodge shutters as we pass through another set of turbulent winds and thermals.  The jet engines drone on in the background as I throw back my third ginger-ale and Jack.  I eat my stale pretzels and ask God to have mercy on my undeserving wicked soul—–the fear of impending doom brings out the dormant God in us all.

The air in the cabin is stale and smells and tastes as if it has been inhaled and exhaled by everyone on the plane five times over. I sit squeezed in my chair next to a middle aged guy who has commandeered control of our common armrest forcing me to tuck my elbow uncomfortably into my ribcage. Why am I always seated next to these infidel foreigners who have no appreciation or understanding of the American, Christian, democratic way of life.  I’d love to challenge him to recite the pledge of Allegiance or ask him to spout-off a few bible quotes by heart.  If he failed (which I know he would) I’d take great pleasure in confiscating his “forged” passport.   I’m growing more angry by the moment, his wheezing breath, his mere presence beside me is unbearably annoying. I stare at him out of the corner of my eye to size him up.  “Yeah, I think I could kick his scrawny imperialistic ass.” I fight back the urge to slam my left elbow into his right arm and rightfully claim dominion over my armrest.  Or—-better yet, I could open a magazine and in the process covertly “accidentally” yet firmly nudge his arm out of my territory.  As I consider my available tactics and strategies the stewardess comes by and leans into our hellish tangle of arms, legs, drop-down trays, newspapers and laptops to whisper something in my insurgents—I mean, neighbors ear.

The stewardess gives him a hug and I immediately seize the opportunity to claim the vacated space.  What a freaking idiot to be so easily distracted and in the process expose his vulnerability.  The stewardess isn’t even all that pretty, the poor fool probably never gets laid and is some kind of androgens eunuch. As for that bitch—I mean stewardess, she’s nothing but a glorified snack-bar attendant. I smugly settle back in my chair and relish my hard-won victory.

The alcohol has filled my bladder causing me extreme discomfort as I fight back the need to relive myself. I’m sure, that as soon as I vacate my seat I will lose the hard-won ground I’d so valiantly conquered.  I decide that the situation is not worth pissing my pants over, so I brashly force my way out to the center aisle (without excusing myself) and head for the lavatory at the tail of the plane.

As I exit the restroom I come face to face with the stewardess who solemnly asks, “Would you mind taking this heating pad and pillow to your neighbor?”  With a knee jerk reflex I respond in a voice of intolerance, “Can’t he get his own Goddamn pillow and hot pad.”  She takes a deep breath and in an even voice responds, “Your neighbor, John—he has a shunt in his right arm.  Once every week he flies to the Denver Medical Center to provide bone marrow treatments to his nine-year old son.  His right arm gets sore, so the heat and pillow is just a small courtesy to try and help him feel more comfortable.  It appears that its too much trouble for you, so just forget it.”  I look down at her name tag and respond, “Ah—oh”—well—–uh-um–Cathy, well of course not, it’s no trouble at all.  Now give me that pillow please.”  My forehead breaks out in beads of sweat, I apologize to her and then turn to make that long trek back to my seat.  The jet jumbles about and I stumble sideways.  I wish this piece of shit plane would fall out of the sky and crash so I wouldn’t have to face this stranger, this guy named John, the person to whom I’ve invested so much hate. . . A sense of shame pulses from my temples, traveling down my throat and settling at the pit of my twisting stomach.

I’ve been trying to become a better person, but so easily and so often, I forget how to do the right thing.  The briefness of being alive, the cruelty of nature, the unexplainable unfairness of life, the uncertainty of losing those closest to us, the inevitability of disease, calamity, misfortune and death, all this should teach us to be kinder to one another—to be accepting and forgiving, but it doesn’t.  We pull and push at each other, we slash and tear at one another—-I have so much to learn and such a long way to go, and so little time to get there.

I take my seat and hand over the pillow and heating pad.  “The stewardess Cathy, she wanted you to have this.”  He shakes his head, “I told her not to make a fuss. She’s ridiculous, but she’s such a great spirit.”  I ask about his arm but he skirts the issue and says its nothing.  I’m tempted to inquire about his son but I get the feeling that this is sacred territory reserved for those who know and understand such a heartache.  We fill our time with such mundane topics as the weather, smart phone apps and our musical tastes.  He pulls up pictures of his family on his laptop.  There is one of his son decked out in a blue and white little league uniform.  He’s on one knee smiling with a bat slung over his shoulder.  I’m a writer and pride myself in being observant and compassionate, but apparently I’m neither. It is only now that I detect the worrisome lines on his face and a sadness hiding deep his eyes.

The captain comes over the intercom telling us that the temperature in Denver is seventy-seven degrees and that the wind is blowing from the northwest at 15 mph.  With the muted enthusiasm of a fast food attendant, he announces that in approximately eighteen minutes we will be touching down in Denver.  To me, these words are proclaiming a miracle, we’re almost there.  We’ve flown one-third of the way across the country without stalling and succumbing to the effects of gravity.

I look out my window at a patch quilt of green parks, subdivisions with backyard pools, golden fields and a skyline on a hazy horizon.  With my finger against the window I trace along the path of a toy-sized road, its purpose and destination is a mystery to me.   Down there, life is forcing itself over roads, across rivers, filling up water-towers, absorbing countryside, suburbs and cities—occupying space, falling through time, desperately moving its way through, over and inside everyone and everything that stands in its way. Down there, thousands of people carry on with their lives, their purpose and destination is a mystery to me—-so many people I’ll never know, so many things I’ll never understand.  Where is god in all this?  God isn’t, knowing.  God isn’t, not knowing. God is in the wonder—ah yes, the enigmatic and elusive wonder of it all.

I want to say something inspirational or encouraging to John, but he doesn’t know that I’m aware of his dire predicament.  I have no words for the secret revelations surfacing in me—so I sit dumbfounded lost in the sorrow of this solemn moment.

The wheels thump down on the runway, everyone lurches forward and there is a loud skidding sound of brakes being applied as the engines make a roaring sound. We taxi our way towards the terminal. Suddenly everyone is on their feet pulling down their carry-on luggage.  John turns around, “Hey can you do me a favor?”  “Sure, anything.  What do ya need?”  He hands me an envelope, “If I try to give this to Cathy I know she’ll refuse it.  She’s a volunteer for the Wounded Warrior Program. They raise funds to help returning Vets.  Ya know, for things like housing, counseling and medical needs. Could ya please give her this card and envelope.”  He hesitates and then leans into me, “Her husbands a Vet.  He was hurt really bad over there and is now confined to a facility where he receives around the clock care.”  I nod to John and offer up a stern grimace to convey my empathy.   Yeah right—-I’m suddenly Mr. Empathetic.

When you come to understand that God uniquely, personally, unequivocally and eternally loves you, that’s when it becomes easier to be compassionate—-and it also becomes less threatening to forgive all and give yourself to others—conversely it becomes more difficult to be selfish and unkind—who wants to disappoint God—–not me. It’s required a huge leap of faith to get to this place, but these divine convictions are what allow planes to defy gravity and mere mortals to let Gods love flow through them—-and then to be passed on to all others.

It’s not important my point of departure or my final destination, it’s the things I do between “here and there” that define me.

e. sistine-chapel-michelangelo-paintings-5

A Short List Of Amazing and Awesome Things That Are Vastly Overrated


Everything these days is either awesome or amazing—  Ironically, these two terms themselves are vastly overrated and overused.  The truth is, a lot of the things celebrated in our modern culture as awesome and amazing are at best mediocre. Many of the things that now fill our mental and emotional voids are the same things that diminish our humanity and elevate our gullibility.  Pop culture at first glance appears accepting and liberating, but a closer inspection reveals a culture that defaults to a herd like mentality. This state of clone-ly-ness requires its participants to surrender their individuality in exchange for being uniquely trendy (an intentional oxymoron). To illustrate this point I’ve listed 27 things that are overrated.

  1. Hammocks, They are as comfortable as napping on a tightrope.  Designed more for a cat who lands on its feet rather than a middle aged fat man who is better suited for a stable Lazy-Boy recliner (Disclaimer: You must weigh at least 200 pounds, be over 50 and drowsy and/or drunk to ride this chair).
  2. Cigars, Foul tobacco that smells like rancid rat droppings sprinkled over a burning tire that is then wrapped in rotten seaweed that falls apart in your mouth. Anyone within 100 yards of the smoke will need to burn their clothes because it is impossible to washout the stench.
  3. Partying,  Basically, hanging out with people you don’t know, spending money you don’t have, doing things you won’t remember. The next morning you wake up feeling as stupid as Charlie Sheen (Females may substitute, Lindsay Lohan) and looking as haggard as Keith Richards (Females may substitute Beetle Juice or The Joker) .
  4. Bob Dylan, The only thing worse than his singing voice is his harmonica playing.
  5. Lawns, The process of spending excessive amounts of money and endless hours manicuring a crop that bares no fruit. The only person allowed to walk on it is you, and only when it is being mowed in mid-August when and the thermometer hits triple digits.  Furthermore,  fescue is the one thing your entire family is allergic too, leaving everyone hacking, sneezing and coughing like patients locked away in a TB ward.  Mid September arrives and  you helplessly watch as it turns yellow and goes dormant for the next eight months.
  6. Video Games, No one except your spaz friends, who have no life, give a flip that you’ve reached the 48th level and are now knighted in the game Slayer.  If you’re over fourteen years old and spend the majority of your time living in a virtual world, then you’re a loser! Wake up, leave your bedroom and carpe diem before you end up living in your mothers unfinished basement with a severe case of carpel tunnel syndrome.
  7. Designer Pet Foods, If you are buying dog food that is glutton free or formulated for an animal that is lactose intolerant, then you’re a certified animal kook.  Remember this: a dogs favorite treats include rotten roadkill, cat-shit, puke and garbage.  All that foolish money you’ve wasted on gourmet dog food, would’ve been better spent on meals for starving children in third world countries.
  8. Twenty-Four Hour TV News, Walter Cronkite reported all the daily events that occurred around the world in one hour.  Today misery and mayhem is entertainment, the more grisly the story, the higher the TV ratings.  We incessantly feed our souls a toxic diet of murders, rapes, wars, earthquakes, terrorist plots, bombings, serial killers, corruption, child abuse, kidnapping, famine, mass killings and all things inhumane and horrid.  It’s an industry that breeds fear and apathy while desensitizing us to violence and cruelty.  We’re a culture that grooms its children to accept monsters as normal and consider kindness a weakness.
  9. Award Shows,  Watching famous people congratulate each other, their hairdresser, clothes-designer, publicist, God, and their Mother (Prioritized in that order) for their hard-earned success.
  10. Opera, large girthed men and women screaming (singing) at you in a language you don’t understand, about things you can’t relate to.
  11. Rap music, outlandishly dressed men and women (singing) screaming at you in a language you don’t understand, about things you can’t relate to.
  12. Ballet, Gay men in tights shaking their package in front of bulimic women as they warble about on their toes.
  13. Abstract Art, Shit no one really likes nor understands, but rich people buy for investment purposes and to make them feel cultured.
  14. Things labeled organic, I have one word for that “Tofu”.  I rest my case.
  15. Tattoos, Skin covered in graffiti.  It once was a way that bikers, cons and sailors could assert their stupidity.  But now, it’s a way middle class people can assert their stupidity.  Something is just plain wrong about hordes of people going to a chic tattoo parlor and allowing an “ex-con” looking dude to permanently scrawl drawings on their body. Common themes, snakes, skulls, butterflies and the names of people whom in the future you will no longer love (You can pawn a wedding ring, but a tattoo is truly a lifetime commitment!).
  16. Micro brews,  Over priced beers with fancy labels and clever names that taste like cat piss.
  17. Classic Rock Radio Stations  I have no need to hear songs like “Give me Three Steps” “Play That Funky Music White Boy” or any of the KC and the Sunshine song catalogue ever, ever, ever again!  Its Lawrence Welk for baby boomers.
  18. Drug Commercials, I don’t want to hear an announcer in a calm reassuring voice itemize the side effects of their prescription drugs e.g. “anal leakage”, “suicidal tendencies”,  “erections lasting longer than four hours” (with my daughter in the same room) “rashes”, irritability” and “fits of insanity brought on by false promises of miracle cures from snake oil”.
  19. Insurance Commercials, Any company that uses a duck, lizard, pig or a dingbat named Flow to promote their product cannot be taken seriously or trusted.
  20. The salaries of pro athletes, movie stars and musicians.  They are spoiled assholes that are overpaid and overrated.
  21. Shows about rich people’s problems,  Talk shows dedicated to mindless discussions regarding the hardships of famous people, including such intriguing topics as, addictions, eating disorders, troubled relationships, arrests, rehab treatments, diets, sex lives, political views and spiritual advice etc….  Please see #19 . I DON’T FREAKIN CARE!
  22. The virtues of Social Networking.  The statistical breakdown of internet usage, 60% porn, 8% Facebook postings detailing crap about people’s lives you don’t give a rats ass about, 5% buying crap you don’t need, 5% selling you crap you don’t need, 5% illegally down loading songs and movies, 5% spam, 5% betting on sports, 2% playing Sudoku when you should be working, 2% research, 2% education, 1% advancing the betterment of mankind.
  23. Reality TV  Those two words are an oxymoron.  SORRY, BUT TV IS NOT REALITY!!!
  24. TV, Brief moments of shitty commercials interrupted by briefer moments of shitty-er programing.
  25. Super Churches,  Rock star preachers with big goofy smiles wearing way to much hair gel selling their books, tapes and DVD’s extolling the virtues of giving and servanthood—-tax free.  In God we trust, but if he wants to purchase a “Sharing is Caring” T shirt, he too must provide two forms of ID and have a valid credit card.   His out-of-state check will not be accepted—-City“Heaven”Address“Cloud Nine”State“Of Grace” (Yeah right).  Act now, operators and soul scalpers are standing by!
  26. Medical marijuana dispensaries. Marijuana will relieve pain, but so does Jack Daniels.  What do you call a whiskey medical treatment dispensary?  An all night liquor store.
  27. Starbucks, Where else can you spend $4.00 for a bitter coffee after waiting in line for thirty minutes with a bunch of snobs while listening to soulless smooth jazz.  And then having a seat in their pretentious bistro among all the WI FI wired patrons as they silently interact with their iPhones, laptops and other electronic gadgets.