Saturday, December 29, 2007

Carry On, Son

That thunderous crashing sound you heard wherever you happen to live on the 28th of December, 2007, was destiny. On that honored and hallowed date which is sure to become legend in just a few short weeks, I landed in Wichita, and proceeded to blast that Kansas-shaped hole from the WTHIB Map forever.

Wichita is flat, cold, and treacherous. There was a thin and evil layer of ice on the sidewalks, and even if you stood absolutely still, you still slid slowly in one direction. I eventually developed a technique where I stood still and just thought a direction, and steadily slid that way. Yeah, it was fairly time consuming.
We only had a few short hours on the ground there, but I got out into the war just so I could make a report. Well, and to get some junk food. Seemed a simple enough mission. 25 blocks later, it no longer seemed simple. What do these people eat? Where do they eat? It was actually four blocks in that I discovered why there are no food places. The population of Wichita (and perhaps of Kansas) is constructed wholly of bronze.

Here's a guy reading a newspaper. I almost asked him where a Wendy's was before I noticed that a) he was barefoot in the snow, and b) metal. And he was not the only one. There were a few denizens on almost every street corner, standing politely in still life. Kids playing. Neighbors chatting. Just, nobody was moving. It was a bit disconcerting. Kinda like walking around in Teminator 2 in the ten seconds after the nuclear explosion and before the blast wave.

Here, sensically, is a soda fountain outside next to a building. I hung out for a while on one of the frozen stools, but the waitress seemed to be too busy standing still to take my order. Just as well... it probably would have been a bronze sundae.

Oh yeah, being a farm-type state, there were animals out too.

This pig is listening to some ducks.

This dog is in the Christmas spirit. Except, considering the soda fountain, it might be have been Christmas 1956.

Some dogs get a bird in Kansas.

Some don't.

Some just listen to music.

Fascinating as those bronze folk were, after 25 blocks, I was less fascinated and more becoming transparent from hunger. So, using reverse psychology against fate, I said aloud, "25 blocks and nothing! Well, guess I'll go home now!" One block later, there was a gas station. That's just how my life works, and to get anything done, I just have to know that. A Mr. Pibb and some Hot Fries later, I discovered that fate had brought me to a more cosmopolitan side of town. Here they had places where you could buy a Bu.

You could also get an Avi.

On the way home, I passed Newspaper Man without looking at him, and I discovered that while I had been looking at him the first time, I had not been looking at the intersection down the street that had that Wendy's I had been after, plus a McDonalds and a Burger King and a Subway and six other food places. Damn that guy.
Oh yeah... you know how sink manufacturers sometimes put their company name inside the sink? Well, the sinks in the hotel (and probably most of Kansas) are made by TOTO. Figure that, huh?
Kansas... and with it, the entire West... is now done. I've got North America on the run now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Merry Christmas from Bozeman, Montana.

Yay Bozeman.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Bumblebee Tuna Game

This last flight, a pilot introduced me to the joys of The Bumblebee Tuna Game. Rules are simple. During every announcement, you just have to work in "Bumblebee Tuna" somewhere. This guy was a master... even though I was listening for it, I barely caught him. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to be Bumblebee Tuna around the airport for a few more minutes." "Weather in Los Angeles is sunny, with Bumblebee Tuna from the north at seven miles an hour." "Ladies and Bumblebee Tuna, if you look out the right side of the aircraft, you'll see Burbank.
I, of course, jumped into this game immediately, knowing that my professional delivery would add an automatic layer of camouflage. I discovered something early... when you work it in, you must not pause... otherwise, you allow yourself to become aware of what you just did and lose your place laughing like an idiot, and when people hear you do that, they suddenly and retroactively hear your Bumblebee Tuna (kinda like when you tell someone something and they say, "What?" only to repeat the whole thing with you when you say it again, having needed only to travel backwards in time to hear you say it the first time and not needing you to repeat it).
Another thing that became clear is that when you do successfully work one in, it you can still lose because the other FA explodes laughing. Then the game moves to a different phase, where you have to get through the announcement without laughing at the other FA, who is spinning around on the floor.
Miraculously, not a single passenger has noticed, which only reaffirms what I already knew to be true.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Denver Circus

First stop this last trip was Denver. Denver traditionally gets more snow than it knows how to deal with, and so you automatically know that if it's snowing when you get there, you're not getting out on time. So, when I heard that our plane was delayed leaving, I didn't think much of it. I just camped out by the gate and waited.
An hour goes by. I check with the gate agent. "Plane's not here yet," she says. I go back to my camp.
Another hour. "Plane is ten minutes out," gate agent says. I prepare.
Another hour. I check with the gate agent. "Plane hasn't left yet," she says. It is at this point that I come to the conclusion that the lady in charge of where the plane is is not actually in charge of where the plane is. I head out to the supposedly empty ramp, and there's our plane. The pilot meets me at the door.
"How long you been out here?" I ask.
"Three hours," he replies.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Even More Pilot Stories

One pilot I flew with this last time tells a story about how he once overheard a pilot say, "Man, I'm bored," over the radio. Apparently it's bad to chatter on the air, because immediately an FAA goon replied, "You're in violation of eighteen regulations! Who is this?" And the pilot came back with, "I said I was bored, not stupid."
Another one tells a story about a conversation he heard on the runway. One of our pilots had just landed, and he saw one of those needlessly huge jets execute a hard landing behind him. Now, the bigger the aircraft, the bigger the ego, and this other pilot starts making fun of our RJ (which stands for Regional Jet, by the way). "How is it flying those Recycled Jets?" he quips.
"Not bad," says our guy. "A few more landings like yours and we'll have enough parts to build ourselves a new one!"

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Good Place To Put All Your Dead People

During our travels while she was in town, my girl and I discovered an old cemetery north of Salt Lake. Being from the South, where we pride ourselves on our old cemeteries, we headed in to see if they could do it up like we do.

It's a big and rambling place. The first person was buried there in 1847, right when the Mormon pioneers got there, and I have since read that there are 120,000 people underfoot in the place. It's also got a great view... you can see the entire valley from up there. That is, if you're alive.
There are some old folk in there.

There are also several family plots containing a mother, a father, and several less-than-one-year-old kids, reminding one of the harsh life of a pioneer.

Apparently there was a centennial-and-a-half of some sort, because a lot of the markers for very old dead people are newer, and have a gold plate affixed to them. On this place is a picture of two pioneer-looking folk pulling a handcart (Mormons seem to obsess over handcarts even though they are seldom used today), and inscribed on them is 'Faith In Every Footstep 1847 - 1997.' You can see one of these things on the stone below. You'll also notice that a) this pioneer traveled a long damn way, and b) travel directions are exceedingly simple in Ireland.

No cemetery would be complete without a spooky legend, and here's this one's: the first caretaker was a guy named Jean Baptiste (Being from the Southland, my brain pronounces this name Zhawn BapTEEST, but I suspect that if I asked a local, hes would say Jeen BAPtist). After a robber was shot and killed by police and then buried, one of his relatives decided to move the body to family-owned ground. Upon disinterrment, the relatives discovered the corpse was, in fact, naked. A suspicious visit to Baptiste's house revealed that he had in his possession several boxes filled with over 300 graves' worth of pilfered clothes.
After Brigham Young assured the Mormon townfolk that their loved ones would not rise up the face the judgment trump nude, the city decided to exile Baptiste to an island in the Salt Lake, because everyone he'd share a cell with in jail was related to someone whose grave he'd desecrated. Under cover of night, police waggoned him out to Fremont Island, and though he was never seen again, his legend creeps on. Several years later, some farmers checking their cows on the island found evidence that someone had built a raft, and then in the 1890s some hunters found a ball-and-chained skeleton in the Jordan River.
Why you'd want to build a raft to cross a lake you can stand up in is beyond me. But then, I think we've established what kind of deck this guy was playing with.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Are You Serious?

A few people expressed their amusement to me about 'Phil Kills A Fire!' The funny part is that one or two of them asked me if I put in that sound effect. I don't know whether to laugh because they're dumb or be pleased that they assume I actually move fast enough to make that sound.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Drink Vigilantes

When it's just me doing the beverage service on the one-flight-attendant plane, I go row by row. But when there's two FAs, we utilize what I alone am dorky enough to call the 4-12 Technique, wherein we go to the fourth row and work outwards for four rows, and then go to row 12 and repeat the process. It's a solid plan, I assure you, and ensures even drink coverage for all passengers, though it momentarily leaves rows one through four and nine through 12 unserved. The people in one through four are usually cool about it, I think because if you're in the first row and we don't stop there, you assume we're starting in the back. But sometimes someone in nine through 12 will ding us to tell me that I skipped all these people. Now I know, I know, they're just standing up for their fellow passengers, and I appreciate that. But they're also implying that I'm a moron. I admit that I am addled enough to miss one row. But if I skip four rows, a passenger has to see that it's merely part of a grand design, one that if they really thought about, they may still never understand. So shut up already, you'll get your drink eventually.
Or it could be that before, I was whining about passengers who don't pay attention, and now that I've got my wish, I don't want it. Again, pay no attention to the bitter flight attendant.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


NOW in colorized 29.97-frames-a-second full video motion, it's Where The Hell Is Phil? Brought to you in stereoscopic HALON-O-VISION!

This video is actually from a year ago, in FA school. You finally get to actually see the Protective Breathing Equipment I have much maligned. Note the steely fire extinguishing technique, taught to me by Lee Majors. Also, note the dumb head shake that I do when I take of the P.B.E.; Mark Hamill does that same thing any time he takes a helmet off in the Star Wars movies, and since I was five when I saw the first one, it was a part of my psyche before I could do anything about it. I don't apologize.