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Hoop Dreams!

Hubie Brown in 1981.

Image via Wikipedia

During the winter of 1985 I found myself with my Mother attempting to board a plane to NYC from Denver. The plane was overbooked, the airport was pure madness, my Mother pulled of one of her best performances and got us first class tickets on the next flight out.  The only catch was we would have to stop over in Chicago. We were assured by the United Airlines agent that we would not have to get off the plane. I was excited for my first time in first class, even if we sat in the last row of first class. First class is first class!

Back in those days United flew wide body DC-10‘s across the country. First class on the DC-10 was very spacious, big leather seats, 2 aisles, good food…..I felt like a king! It’s as if Coach class didn’t even exist. We were part of upper crust society, and no longer squished in the cattle car behind us.

We landed in a sprinkle of snow in Chicago, pulled to the gate, and turned off the engines. I was determined not to give up my seat, all the time waiting for my bubble to burst and be sent back to that god for awful section in the rear. To my surprise, everyone in first class got up and left the plane, leaving my mother and I alone amongst all the leather seats. A few minutes later one of the new flight attendants turned on the main TV in the First Class cabin…..a TV…..can you imagine…..what technology! All of a sudden I was watching the NY Giants playing the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the NFL playoffs. Could life get any better than this? I didn’t even mind that our “layover” was taking quite some time….some sort of delay. Who cares, I was sitting in First Class watching playoff football!

There was a bit of commotion by the First Class cabin crew, they were preparing for passengers to arrive. These first class people were really pampered. It’s as if the King of Sweden was about to board the plane.

Finally passengers began to board, I looked up, and up and up. To my amazement everyone who was walking into first class was about 7 feet tall. Shocked and awed, I sat there watching these real life “Giants” walk by. And then, I saw Patrick Ewing.….and it all made sense. I was in first class with the NY Knicks! There was Hubie Brown, the coach, who I thought was of average height, but was really tall! I recognized Trent Tucker and Rory Sparrow…..Wow! There was Ken Bannister, not one of the prettiest guys in the world…..

Now this was not a good team, in fact they stunk! But it was the Knicks no less. You would think as a young guy who was a big fan of the Knicks I would be running up and down the aisles asking for autographs and hooting it up with the team, but that day I learned two things about myself:

1. A group of men with the average height of 6’6″ are very intimidating to be around.

2. I am the type of person who respects peoples space. No matter who they are.

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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in Music & Entertainment

 

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Aviation Obsession!

When did I become afraid of Flying……?

 

We were cleared to land at New York City’s JFK International Airport. It was sometime in the early 1980’s. As the plane, I believe a United Airlines DC-10, started lowering into ominous black clouds, the cabin grew dark as night…we were in a full-blown summer storm. Lightning was crashing outside our windows and exposing terrified faces. I quickly glanced over at my mother and noticed she was white as a ghost….it was a bit surreal…. We were all strapped in and it felt like we were on  Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure….

A few minutes later we landed and the passengers broke out into cheers. Why all the fuss? What could ever possibly go afoul. I thought all the old folk were nuts!

15 years later

Having not flown for 15 years I found myself with my future wife boarding a Northwest Airways DC 9 for Detroit. As we sat down my nerves got the best of me. The doors closed and I felt like I was trapped in a sardine can. As we taxied down towards the runway, the cockpit doors flapped open and closed, adding to my anxiety. Airborne I was a white knuckled goon, sweating with clammy hands and stink breath!

SO WHAT GIVES?

How did I go from a fearless passenger bounding through turbulence to a pathetic nervous fool gliding over calm skies?

I pondered this question for a long time. I had travel plans in my future. I couldn’t go through the same horrible experience every time I boarded a plane.

I figured I had anxiety from a small case of claustrophobia and a slight fear of heights. But the big thing was a lack of control. I felt at the mercy of the aircraft, the weather and the Pilots. I would feel better if I was up in the cockpit, “controlling the thing”! But who was I to fly a plane? I will never be a pilot….So what could I control, how could I fly comfortably?

I addressed my fears by doing some of the following:

Fear of Heights: I take a pill before flying, this quells my anxiety. I am not a pill popper, but this little ones seem to take the edge off. xanex

Claustrophobia: I find the most spacious seat available. Economy class is different on certain airlines and plane types. Take control of where you sit and how much extra room you can get/afford. This website lets you compare different airlines seat set ups.Seat Guru

Control:  I went about to learn as much info about aviation as I could, to the point of becoming an aviation buff! I researched the safest aircraft and safest airlines. This site has an awesome data base that let’s you decide who and where you want to fly. Aviation Safety Network

I found out that the best cure for my fear of flying, was Flying!

So we flew from JFK to Berlin direct on a Delta 767 ER. Straight across the Atlantic, over a lightning storm, and then landed in pea soup fog…amazing!

Then we flew from JFK to Johannesburg South Africa on a South African Airways A340-500. 16 hours on a plane. We slept most the time, enjoyed South African wines, and were happy with the very comfortable economy class experience.

More recently I took a solo flight to San Diego on a Jet Blue A320. First thing I did was take advantage of the seat upgrade for $40. This gave me a larger seat up front in the plane, which provides a smoother ride. Surprisingly, no one else took advantage of this option. When we took off the pilot let us know we were going to hit some bumps on the way up, and we did. I could see the engine pods bouncing up and down in the turbulence. Once we hit smooth air one of the pilots came out of the cockpit and apologized for the rough ride. Was I bit nervous? Yes. Turbulence always gets my heart racing a bit, but all was good. I seem to be able to fly again….and even enjoy it!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in World Travel

 

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