Wednesday, December 24

The Last Shopping Day

This is it: the last shopping day. No more procrastinating . . . unless of course you wait 'til after Christmas for the deep discounts. My gift idea for today, however, will not likely go on sale—ever.

Dear Santa,

Perhaps you've been waiting for a better idea, something more suitable for me. I think a 2 million dollar gift is approaching the range you're looking for. You can blame Gene for forwarding this YouTube video nearly a year ago.

Behold, the Bugatti!

16 cylinder, turbocharged
1001 horsepower
0 - 60 in 2.3 seconds
253 MPH
4 wheel drive
850,000 lbs "!"

Bugatti built a website almost as fascinating as their cars. This post would have been published earlier had they not hypnotized me just this morning. They have footage there too.

I'd prefer the EB 16.4 Veyron Sang Noir model; but really, any one of them will do.

I realize that a gift of this magnitude will require lifelong behavioral adjustments. I'm in.

Oh, yeah! Merry Christmas Santa.

Tuesday, December 23

Only Two Shopping Days Left

Technically, we really only have 1 1/2 shopping days left. This is where it starts to get interesting for those who thrive on unnecessary stress. Even I feel a twinge of motivation.

Time is a tickin' so let's get on with today's gift idea.

Dear Santa,

With COLD, crystal clear skies, the density altitude would allow stellar performance in the smallest of engines. What better way to witness a fresh blanket of snow or thousands of Christmas lights than from the cockpit of a Fury.

Lycoming IO 360A1B6
200 HP
Red Line - 285 MPH
Cruise - 215 MPH
Vso - 54 MPH
75% power - 10 GPH
Useable Fuel -60 gal
Climb @ SL - 1350 FPM
Ceiling - 21,000 FT
Gross Wt - 2300 LBS
Empty Wt - 1450 LBS
Fully Aerobatic
Ultimate Load 7+G's
Completely flush riveted

If you don't have time to chat with the LoPrestis when you are in Vero Beach, Florida, check out their website.

For this one, I'd promise to be good all of '09 too. Thanks Santa.

Monday, December 22

Only Three Shopping Days Left

With an outside temperature of 4 degrees (Fahrenheit) and fresh flakes adding to an—already—healthy accumulation of snow, I can't help but praise my virtual shopping idea. Since we are all busy with holiday preparations, or shoveling snow from our steps, I'll get right to the point.

Dear Santa,

On the third Eve of Christmas I'd like to request something relatively petite. You can blame Anthony for letting me test out his "sport" earlier this year. If you thought the previous gift ideas too reckless, this one comes equipped with airbags.

A Mini . . . please 'o' please!

A John Cooper Works Hardtop to be exact - in red, checkered top and mirrors please.

1.6L - 4 cyl
208 hp
torque 192/1850
manual trans 6 speed
*automatic N/A!
0 - 60 in 6.2 sec
147 MPH
2700 lbs

I'd be happy to pick it up . . . unless of course you'd prefer to deliver.

Thanks Santa.

Sunday, December 21

Only Four Shopping Days Left

Okay, maybe I got a little carried away yesterday. I'll step it down a notch. Today’s gift idea might even fit under the tree, but not for long.

Dear Santa, how about a squirrel suit. You can blame Randy for educating me about their low-level capabilities with this video from YouTube.

For your convenience, I've picked out a few suits at the following stores:

Birdman Flight Gear
Style: Blade
Size: ME
Color: Red — of course

Phoenix Fly — Human Flight Innovations
Style: Vampire 3
Size: M

Nitro Rigging
Style: Rigor Mortis II
Size: M

Thanks Santa. With aging reindeer you might want to look into one for yourself.

Saturday, December 20

Only Five Shopping Days Left

If you, like I, procrastinate, you'll wait until Christmas Eve to buy gifts. Anyone who has made a habit of this knows that fulfilling Aunt Jude's list on the 24th–in Walmart–sucks. I, however, can help reduce your stress by making my list user friendly. Shoot! My presents don't even have to arrive by Christmas since none of them will fit under the tree. Just send an email letting me know they're on the way. Easy!

Each day 'til Christmas I will post one item including information on where you can purchase it. That'll give you five options. Who knows, you might even find yourself adding one to your own list.

Let's start off with a bang, shall we.

Dear Santa,
I'd like to request a Ducati Streetfighter . . .

1099 cc – V twin
155 horsepower
368 lbs – dry
Fuel injected
Dual exhaust
Ohlins suspension
Alloy wheels
Brembo break calipers

Doesn't it just whisper, “I’m too sexy for my rider.”

You can get more info and download pics at the Streetfighter website. Unfortunately, it doesn't hit the market until spring of '09; however, my local Ducati dealer is currently taking reservations. Visit the awesome folks at Bend Euro Moto or check out their website.

When placing the order please specify "single seat" version . . . in "midnight black."

Thanks Santa.

Monday, December 15

Where Can I Get a Cat Like That?

When I was 11 or so my father married his longtime girlfriend, Jill, or ‘Lil Toot as we called her. Hey, she made the mistake of sharing that story. When she moved in she brought a black and white, short haired kitty named Paris.

Fortunate for Paris, the custody battle only granted me three weekends a month with my dad. Even still, Paris tolerated more than any cat should. I was not malicious or anything, I just played with her like she was my friend. And she put up with it. She put up with me.

Here’s Paris waiting to be wheeled around the house in a toy grocery cart. Imagine a white, hand-knit hat atop her head—sadly missing during the photo op.

As Paris and I aged it became clear that if I were to own a cat it would have to be one just like her. It would need the temperament of a saint and unsurpassed tolerance. But those attributes don’t typically grace cats.

The kitten I adopted has lived up to the Paris standard. Even though he’s named after a fictitious planet, kPax is the best kitty on earth. I know, he’s only on loan here. I tried using the name Paris on him one day, just to see. He didn’t respond. Then again, he doesn’t really respond to kPax either. It might be interference . . . you know, from the mother ship—static so loud he can't hear us, his host family.

Thursday, December 11

Product Red

“It’s a sickness,” my boyfriend would say. But he’d say that about any of my idiosyncrasies. Yeah, so, I like the color red — fire engine, candy apple, whorehouse, red-red.

I may have noticed a mild fever while looking to replace my classic 20GB iPod. After four years of dutiful service, it locks up when used to jog. Relentless research pointed me toward the 8GB nano. The new chromatics are hot. Eight of the nine colors are easy to find and price compare. The one I wanted, not so much.

A wise relative inquired, “Oh, but how will you choose a color, they’re all so pretty?”


It’s a no brainer really. The color does something to my psyche. Many of my possessions are red. Vehicles: red — to be expected of a Ducati, but not necessarily an ‘87 VW. My toaster, French press, salt and pepper grinders: all red. My leather couch: red. Variations of the color like maroon, or burgundy, or fuchsia will not do. A little metallic fleck intermixed, sure — especially on speedboats and Cameros.

Come to find out, Apple likes red too. They’ve even given their red items a special name: (PRODUCT) RED. And because they give a portion of the purchase price to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa, they are sold exclusively by Apple — well, almost. There are a few select web stores offering them online.

For those in the market, I am gonna let you in on a little secret. Amazingly, the cheapest place I found a 4th generation iPod nano 8GB – (PRODUCT) RED was through Apple. A few sellers on eBay had them but the bids were higher than Apple’s price. Shop around, but don’t forget about Apple.

You’ll be happy to know that my new nano arrived the other day. It’s beautiful; matches my toaster. Okay, maybe it is a sickness; but this time, at least, it helped to fight one of greater gravity.

Saturday, November 29

He's Cute Enough to Eat

My household prepared for something even more exciting than Thanksgiving this week. Instead of shopping for turkeys, I priced inedible items like bedding, blankets, and toys. Proud parents educate me all the time, “Oh, but it’s different when you have your own.” It must be true because every person with child says so. It’s just not for me, I tell them. Recent circumstances, however, have helped me understand the attraction.

In hindsight, my empathy toward the doting parent rarely existed. Though I thought my heart open, it barely gave me the tolerance to listen. One might consider my decision to avoid parenthood as a lack of interest—if one were to consider. Regardless of my inattentiveness, people love to brag about their offspring. As hard as they try, their enthusiasm never transfers to me . . . until the other day.

My sweetie and I went to one of my favorite chocolate stores for a couple of truffles and espressos. We sat down at the only table the shop can accommodate to enjoy our treats and chat with Pierre, the owner. Pierre leaned against his side of the counter and asked, “So, you have any ideas on how to survive the RECESSION?”

“Are you saying sales are down? I would have thought chocolate a resilient product—especially now,” I said.

While shaking his head in a deliberate up and down fashion, Pierre rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, yeah.”

Between bites of truffle my companion asked Pierre about his marketing plan and online presence.

“Well, I don’t have a website. I should. People just call me when they want an order,” Pierre said. “My son, he’s 19, does well. Pays for everything in cash. Just bought a gorgeous Audi.”

The transition of topics was abrupt and I felt awkward. Frequent practice has allowed me to perfect the art of engaging in conversation while battling internal dialog: What did I say to bring up children? We sat patiently, attentively, sucking the droplets of espresso from our cups while Pierre launched into a fifteen minute dissertation about his son.

Previous conversations with Pierre had educated me on numerous details about his life; this was the first time he had launched into an epic rendition of his son’s accomplishments. The fact that I liked Pierre, and his shop, made it easier to listen. I actually enjoyed watching his smile grow as he spoke of his son.

Perhaps Pierre shifted from depressing topics like recession and the state of his business to that which brings him joy: his son. Had I not recently shifted my own priorities, I might have continued to grit my teeth at his mention of offspring. But I understand, now, what it’s like to have a living creature inject hope when you thought all was lost. The miracle is the same, I guess; they’re just wrapped differently for each of us.

Our miracle arrives next Wednesday in the form of a kitten. We are adopting him from the pound. He’s grey with white toes, and adorable. Sometimes when I go visit him he’ll put his tiny little paws on my chin and . . . Oh! look at me, I’m doting.

Tuesday, November 11

Apple Seeds

The window near my desk provides a view offering little more than offense. A marine-blue, two-story 4 plex blocks a natural expanse of canyon and its inhabitants. The structure embodies the character of a cardboard box—only blue, and interrupted methodically by windows. At night, when the tenants illuminate their dwellings and open their shades, a gigantic entertainment system comes alive and redefines "reality TV." Fortunately, I’m not one much for television.

Little separates my place from theirs. The six foot, wooden fence goes virtually unnoticed from the window near my desk. Further ignored is an anemic tree, part of a series intermittently planted along and inside the fence line. Though my tree appears miniature, adjacent trees stand tall and robust; their lustrous leaves hiding the eyesore that lies beyond.

From that tree, the little one between here and there, hung an apple—just one, the size of a ping pong and colored golden green. The tree in support of this apple is petite; its trunk no larger than a twig, two branches splay, spindly like that of a Willow. If I’d not seen proof, I’d doubt it to bear fruit. No matter, the apple clung to its wispy branch well into the frosted nights of fall and past the demise of its brethren.

I found myself cheering for the apple, eager each morning to confirm its survival of the night before. What strength, I’d mutter, inspired to face the day with the same demonstrated determination. If an apple of that size—from a tree that small—can hold on day after day, then surely I can succeed. Morning inspections multiplied; I’d frequent the window just to smile. Regardless of my own health, a day the apple conquered was extraordinary.

One morning, I looked to that strand atop the tree and did not find what I sought. The tree was barren, its limbs naked, cold. During the darkness, my apple had surrendered. Though I knew the hour inevitable, the process natural, my heart became heavy and threatened to let go my frame, to join its friend resting, now, in the dirt.

I look out my window still, though not as often. The adjacent trees, once a source of envy, resemble nothing more than a collection of vertical sticks, their leaves no longer bettering the view for my neighbors. Though my tree is bare and will be for months, it has gifted me a richer sight. Every time I look out the window near my desk and see that wisp of tree, it reminds me of the apple . . . and of what we all can be.

Monday, October 20

From Bitch to Books

Having survived a bleak fire season, I welcomed fall and the changes it signifies. I could have continued to sit on a tanker base, but only because the earnings would pay the shrink I’d learn to rely upon. I greeted this season like a spoiled puppy with a bad case of separation anxiety. How dare it test my bladder for such an extended period of time.

Fall also creates a little anxiety for me. It has proven a tough transition to go from being someone else’s full-time . . . bitch (remember the puppy?), to working for myself. Last winter I penned out optimistic schedules that included hours of writing each day. Instead, I’d clean my bamboo floors three times between sunrise and sunset to abate restlessness. I conquered lesser projects with ease: cleaning the glass shelving in my fridge, alphabetizing reference books, conditioning my red leather couch, and organizing the garage. I’d do just about anything but write.

But I found the solution: take on the task of writing a book—a memoir of sorts—in 90 days. It does wonders for your priorities. Now, my place is a mess and I freak out if I can’t fit five hours of writing into a day. For a limited time only, here’s a paragraph taken from a recently completed chapter:

Significantly souring my objectivity early on was the divorce of my parents and subsequent absence of my father. My life was supposed to brim with happiness and carefree joy: mother and father living under one roof sharing their lives and the progression of their only daughter, Clydesdales frolicking in the pastures out back, the sun forever shining between harmless billowing clouds that dance overhead. Instead ours was the broken home filled with fear, tears, and pointed anger. Ours was the house where animals were sold and rarely a person witnessed. Ours was the house where witches lived. That part is true, though this witch transcended gender bias and arrived with the title “stepfather.” I’m sure I was boiled once or twice, if not physically then a doll made to be me. There were hexes and hatred and overly enthusiastic celebrations of Halloween. Shy of submerging my stepfather into his own caldron of boiling frog hearts and wart juice, excusing him as a witch was the best I could do.

I need some help—obviously—with my book. Drop a note in the comments section and educate me on what you, the reader, would like to know more about; is it the tanker industry in general, the chick behind the stick, or witches’ brew.

Saturday, October 4


As fire season draws to an end, my favorite temperate season begins. I love the fall: the crispness of the air, vibrant foliage, the comfort of donning forgotten knits, and Halloween candy. This year’s fall, however, holds a hint of spring, as if a chocolate bunny surfaced in my bag of treats.

Now, I’m not referring to spring’s weather patterns, clothing choices, or cleaning agendas. Instead, consider what spring symbolizes, its essence. Spring gives birth to everything from blossoms to farm animals. It is exciting and fresh and beautiful. In the Northwest, where I grew up, it meant waking from hibernation to take action with renewed energy. That’s what I mean.

The arrival of fall cannot be ignored. Days are shorter. Clouds linger on the horizon. Soup always sounds delicious. And everywhere you go you are surrounded by gourds. For me, it also signifies the ability to set my flight helmet aside, and the luxury of silencing my cell phone at night. Yep! that unfamiliar freedom I associate with fall has returned.

Instead of hunkering down this year—in anticipation for winter—my engine revs. It’s like a rush one might feel after escaping from prison. My surroundings feel foreign in a way that makes me pay attention to details, a way that allows gratitude to permeate any situation. A number of tanker bases this year felt like prison—if only for 9 to 14 hours of each 24. In a matter of days, I will have moved beyond the preparation phase and have scaled the walls, free to nurture the flowers that exist beyond entrapment.

Perhaps I am not alone. Perhaps you have morphed your seasons too. Please share in the comments section below if you have found spring in your step this fall.

May we each find our golden egg this season.

Thursday, September 18

Transcending Ascents

The air base, once a source of inspiration for the column, has led, mainly, to frustration. Just this morning, I searched my cranium for topics vaguely relating to tankers—besides the cosmetic upkeep I’ve been busying myself with. Perhaps I could explore the nuances of personalities one typically does not experience so intimately, or the reasons why I don’t workout with the rappellers, or the many uses of WD40. But fortunately, for both of us, I had a fire mission today.

During the past month, my SEAT contract in northeastern Oregon has provided an average of one mission per week—barely enough to keep one proficient let alone motivated. Confidence in my abilities can wane as quickly as a few hours or a significant increase in wind—whichever occurs first. That might be a chick thing, I'm sorry to admit. Anyway, whatever, a week on the ground makes the adrenaline that much more unfamiliar when the call comes in.

I was in the middle of a brutal leg workout when my services as an aerial firefighter were requested. You have to navigate boredom somehow and the circumference of my biceps portray the lack of hours flown. I can’t say for sure that my trembling hands and accelerated heart rate were in direct response to the impending flight. What I do know is that it took deliberate effort to calm myself enough to get my flight suit on without ripping out a pant leg. That wouldn’t have helped anyone.

I set a gentle authoritative tone for the mission to avoid aggression often acted out in response to my stagnant skills. After all, tanker 413 is my favorite. With the help of calm winds and seamless communications, it became one of the smoothest operations yet. Each party involved projected a calm confidence as if it were only a drill—no need to panic.

I managed to put the retardant where I, and the firefighters on the ground, wanted it. With smooth control applications and power adjustments I pointed the nose toward the airport for a hold.

That tranquility surrounded me all the way to the runway . . . where I proceeded to contact the ground a solid five feet before expected. The good news is the airplane bounced high enough to try the landing again.

Tuesday, September 2

The blog will remain silent this week in honor of those killed in Tanker 09 yesterday. Shortly after departing Stead Airport—near Reno, the aircraft crashed killing three crewmen onboard. My heart goes out to the family surrounding Tanker 09—blood relations, industry, and otherwise; their friends are spread far and wide.

Wednesday, August 20

R E L I E F ?

I must first apologize for my absence. I have been held to the ground—the worst place for a tanker chick—against my wishes. There, I said it out loud. They say that once you verbalize a thought—or write it down—it evolves into a better thing, what ever that means.

Days off encourage me to brush away the bits of tarmac embedded during the previous two weeks of duty. Though I will not get airborne during my “weekend” either, at least I'll have freedom to spread my wings.

Unfortunately, in the SEAT world, a much needed reprieve has its price: the relief pilot. Already, for those in the business, the utterance of such words causes restrictions to the body’s passageways. The characters themselves are not the issue, but the wreckage left in their wake. Rarely do I return to the aircraft in the condition it was left. Word to the brother: If you break my tanker during my absence I suggest you get it fixed by the time I return. Do not put me out of service because of your neglect.

The business of relieving is not an easy gig. You are dealing with multiple personalities and character flaws. Everything everywhere is different: dispatching procedures, SEAT managers, other pilots and crew members, air base hierarchy, and the airplanes themselves. But that’s part of the deal . . . to be chameleon like and go about your business as covertly as possible.

I can assume the worst from the comfort of my home. I know there is lightning where my airplane is. I know my relief pilot is flying. I know I turned off my phone after trying to return his call about not being able to get the airplane started. I am seething with jealousy and depressing rage.

I realize that even at two and a half hours (drive) away, I am still stuck to that tarmac . . . wondering why they call it relief.

Thursday, July 24

Tanker / Bench Warmer - Chick

In the previous post, I mentioned the start of a new column called Tanker Chick. Due to lack of inspiration that column has been slow to launch. So instead of waiting another month for “the big one” (as we like to say in the biz) we’ll call this week’s contribution Bench Warmer Chick—for obvious reasons.

People like to irritate me. I’ve recollected numerous occasions on the blog before. During such confrontations I pretend to act unscathed and rebound quickly. Kind of like the time I crashed my bicycle; I got up, brushed the gravel from my skinned knee, and clenched my jaw every time I needed to inhale. The tactic holds true for less violent situations.

“Oh! All those fires in California, you must be flying your fanny off,” some say.

Rebound. Brush. Clench.

“yeah, california does have a mess of activity but it’s not burning where i am.” I say. We cannot swarm to wildfires as we did soccer balls during the second grade. Dispatch is a complicated, illogical process, and something that many aerial firefighters will never understand.

What I can say—with a respectable level of energy—is that “‘bench warming’ sucks.”

“Well, at least you get paid to wait,” they say. What I get paid for, while biding time, is not the waiting itself but managing a fine line of sanity.

A common phrase heard over and over on air-bases: days of absolute boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. That’s fairly accurate, except for the terror part. What frustrates me most is the waste of resource. For example, I could buy one of those expensive industrial food mixers the size of a small bath tub and never use it. The mixer becomes a conversation piece producing nothing more than dents on the linoleum.

Years ago, I had a regional bigwig tell me that my airplane and I might as well be cardboard cut-outs. Meaning we wouldn’t be utilized. Because he said it arrogantly, I ignored him. But with little more than ten fire hours in three weeks, I can no longer squelch his voice. Moral plummets.

Sunday, July 6

Don't Be Doubtin'

Months ago I wrote a piece entitled "What Not to Say to An Aviatrix." In effort to delay sounding too feminist, I chose not to post it. But delay longer I cannot, as I heard a voice bellow out that list’s top offender yet again.

"Hey, you flyin' that thing?" a man shouted in a thick southern drawl. Shock laced his speech—as it has for the many before him.

Allow me to set the stage. I was standing near my airplane performing some sort of pilot duty: preflight inspection, fueling, connecting my helmet and GPS in the cockpit, whatever. The question might be moderately intelligent if I were scuffling around a larger aircraft, requiring a greater number of crewmen, like the P2-V. But a single seat airtanker? If I am the only person in sight I am either flying it, or vandalizing it.

Yesterday's little outburst was textbook example but not my favorite. The most drastic demonstration of such genius transpired in Arkansas. I landed a Dromader—also a single seat airtanker—and taxied to the fuel pump. There, stood a fellow on the other side of the fence. Upon shutting the engine down, flopping open the window and climbing onto the wing, I heard my favorite sentence pluck each nerve in my neck. “You flyin’ that?”

Looking back, I wish I had said something sharper. As it was, only my tone conveyed slight irritation. I wanted to rip him apart with wit and sarcasm. Instead, I answered with a blasé, “Yep.”

Out of the dozen times or so I’ve been asked this ridiculous question, not once has it come from the lips of a woman. Nor have I, during my involvement with aviation, uttered that sentence to another pilot—man or woman.

Scottsdale airport, Arizona, I participated in a static display for the public with an Air Tractor 802 (single seat). A very knowledgeable state fire official accompanied me. He was not an aviator; but the eye contact initiating every airplane question started with him. Since he was a friend of mine I made a game of it, entertaining myself by silently watching him stutter through his own presumptions.

An observer might think the initiation of conversation flattering. But it’s not. It is infuriating. I hate the inquirer’s implied doubt. And I envy my male counterparts in that they rarely have to explain themselves—for them, their capability is assumed.

For the fellow who can’t keep his curiosity quiet, be subtle. There are other ways to find out if the woman on the ramp flies “that thing.” Ask about cruise speeds, or takeoff distance, or gallons per hour, or horse power. Then listen to the answers; your aviatrix will have no choice but to shed her disguise.

Wednesday, June 25

Vog Blog

“The only thing we should leave behind is good art.”
—John Fluevog

Who the hell is John Fluevog you ask? Why, only the hippest shoe designer alive. Don’t believe me? Check em out at I have a pair of Angel Supervogs—in blue—that have survived over ten years of abuse; and they’re still kickin’.

A fan of my caliber receives an e-letter called Fluevog News. This, my friends, is where I found the above passage. Instead of the usual smirk surrendered to the quote of the month, this one kept me thinking. So much so that I dusted off the dictionary to look up “good” and “art.” I found a single word defining each: skill.

To inquire upon the numerous opinions of “good art” would only lead us to inconclusive nausea. Throw in a qualifying word, however, like skill, and we’ve eliminated a few offensive ingredients. “Art” in its most general terms means: form taking shape from nothing. I can already hear grumbles from art enthusiasts abroad. Is it safe to say, then, that form must arrive through skill to be considered good?

My personal parameters are a bit tighter. I enjoy creations that transcend the heart and mind, works that take me from myself—in observation or creation. A piece that can persuade emotion is powerful . . . and good.

Lesser forms of art, however, are left behind everyday. What about television sets, NiCad batteries, Tupperware, and Twinkies? Those forms will survive us by light years. But we can hardly call them art. I mean really; I’ve never felt the creator’s soul of, say, a Twinkie.

So for the sake of those whom have to clean up after us, I invite you to support “good art” this week. The medium is unimportant. Just allow yourself to appreciate a few paintings, sculptures, literature, the theater, a divine meal, or, yes, John, even shoes.

Feel free to drop by the comments section to create your own piece, or recommend someone else's.

Sunday, June 8

Due to mud slides, power outages, hurricanes, and the inability to choose unreliable internet access over a white, sandy beach, the post will be delayed until later this week, when life in paradise comes to an abrupt end.

Thursday, May 29


We, as human beings, naturaly gravitate toward beauty. Consider the many cathedrals, museums, luxury resorts, national parks, even fashion models and show dogs; we love beautiful things. But is picturesque perfection enough? Do our desires wade as shallow as physical beauty?

An ex(boyfriend) once said to me, "You'd be so beautiful if you'd just shut up." Back then, given an insatiable thirst for all things fermented, and enough anger to spawn any spat, he may have had a point. But what I think he really meant was, "peace and quiet would be so beautiful." For the record, I often felt the same about him.

For Adam (names may or may not have been changed to protect the spoken of), I am confident that beauty was enough. It was the one thing that could brighten his darkest place. Just about any thing had potential to be beautiful: a job well done--an attactive finished product, a gigantic plate of spagetti, a 1954 Norton, and--apparently--my silence.

But what about those whose standards are . . . let's say . . . more specific? Festering details can, in time, erode face-value. Once detected, can we ignore the aphid infestation on a prized rose bush? Will we tolerate the blue-ribbon Terrior--best in class and show--who can't seem to shit outside? Would we adopt Shiloh if all attempts to potty train were unsuccessful? Sure things may look good on the surface--the carton of eggs free of collapsed corners and dried yolk--but I have learned to look inside--at each individual egg.

The dozen I failed to inspect, however, came in the form of a tropical paradise. What better place for salvation than a postcard image constructed almost entirely from my own imagination? It was fool proof, really, or so I thought. But such an image does not allow for closer inspection. In it, you cannot detect mosquitos, travel delays, language barriers, stolen baggage, torrential downpours, frequent power outages, or hurricanes. The carton of paradise was bought--and already home--before I realized my haste had a greater price than $2.69.

There are moments, amidst the jungle, that provide photo opportunies. Don't get me wrong; it is a beautiful place. But there are days when you are unable to pull out your camera, for various reasons--you hope none of them involve questionable limb integrity. I have learned that, for me, beauty alone is not enough.

Sadly, I have fallen out of love with my tropical paradise. The honeymoon is over, as they say, evidenced by the keyword "annulment" in recent Google searches. I just hope there was more to the collapse of my vision than an inability to deal with toenail clippings in bed. Oh, wait . . . nevermind; that was Adam.

Thursday, May 22

Time is Money

When purchasing an item in excess of several hundred dollars—or pounds—I prefer to research my options. Some people choose not to fret over such nuances, claiming that time is money. But this, my friends, is exactly what I mean. Money takes time. It took a considerable amount of time to make the money to buy that shiny, or delicious, or useful often useless, or entertaining thing. Perhaps it’s obvious on which side of the tracks my car stalled?

Due to a compulsion toward extensive research, my relationship with newly purchased, semi-precious items extend beyond the receipt's date. Take my digital camera for example. Last year, after months of painstaking comparisons, I bought a Cannon G7. I needed something compact, in the10 mega pixel range, more manual options than I know how to use, and capable of producing incredible shots—despite its operator. On paper, the G7 looked good. In practical application, it has exceeded all expectations.

The downside, however, presents itself in the item's absence. Absence due to theft, for example. No longer is it the monetary loss, but the loss of the gadget itself. Replaceable? Yes. Doubtful, though, to gather endurance for another quest. The next one will most likely just fill the hole. Like the “replacement” dog—acquired before the grieving dissolves. Yeah, you have a dog again, but the floppy ear and high-pitched bark somehow irritates you more this time. Fortunately, Cannon has manufactured a successor to the G7—with a few more bells and pixels.

You'd think that an easy decision such as this would let the neurosis rest. But quite the opposite. Idle energy has the potential of burning a hole in your butt. Perhaps it’s time to place emotional attachment elsewhere . . . like onto more appropriate objects . . . like my car. With enough love maybe it will decide to stall on the other side of the tracks.

Thursday, May 8


Like a fogging machine and 80’s glam-rock, so goes spring and allergens. Billions of florescent-green spores can make this time of year miserable. Persistent sneezing leads to a runny nose; itchy eyes turn red; and one's head feels as heavy as a dinosaur's. My father’s battle with hay fever taught me early-on to appreciate my resilience to pollen and macrospores. Certain social situations, however, presented a greater challenge than just avoiding the lawn.

As our sensitivities broaden, specific foods, particular activities, and people, demonstrate that the body—or mind—is capable of rejecting almost anything. In a vast arena of possible allergens, accurately identifying one can be more trouble than it’s worth. The banana, according to Dr. Meyers, for example, can take over three months to nail down as an offender.

A recent business layover in Phoenix provided more than a stuffy nose. Irritability, anxiety, claustrophobia, and an unshakable urge to harm the locals manifested immediately upon arrival. Can overexposure—like excessive consumption of dairy, or wheat—degrade our immunity? If so, then perhaps this also explains my aversion to cell phones, email, television, and—frequently—my own writing.

I began to question the placement of blame when, in the safety and air-conditioned comfort of the company vehicle, the beauty of the landscape, however faint, lightened the angst. When allowed suitable space—to breath, I was able to appreciate the conveniences of a big city. I found peace in the absence of people. Perhaps Phoenix was not the allergen, but the people in it.

So, Dr. Meyers, how long does it take to test people as allergens? Or do we just develop a new perspective, realizing that we can not live without them—no matter how hideous the rash? If only we could make them taste like bananas, maybe, then, it would be more palatable.

Thursday, April 24

A Heapin' Helping of Life - Indulge

I love it when a conglomeration of ideas come together. On occasion, the universe graciously meets me in the middle, presenting an irresistible opportunity, provided I make a sacrifice. The latest proposition sends me searching for goats, chickens, or semi-coherent blondes as an offering to the gods. Major detours, however, haven’t always been so graceful.

During high school, possibilities and personal potential seemed endless. I was overwhelmed to the point of indecision; thus, explaining premature withdrawal from college—twice. Life seemed far too interesting to limit myself to a classroom. Invited to dine from an elaborate smorgasbord sometimes presents too many choices, and we end up gorging ourselves. Unable to forfeit the consumption of three nationalities in one sitting, we vow to attack the trough differently next time. History, though, inevitably repeats itself.

Fear forces us to recoil in the absence of self control. Safety and predetermined portions become appealing. And eventually, security replaces our sense of adventure. We can consume half an order—no more—of Chili’s chicken fajitas without evidence on the scale; the ramifications of ingesting the jalapeño burger with fries . . . unclear. With financial insecurities on the rise, reluctance to spend twenty bucks on an experimental dish does little to satiate our deprived taste buds.

Through the survival of several sketchy situations, I have learned to trust myself. Years of concentrated self-analysis has helped clarify my own desires. Sounds a bit desperate, I know. But I can tell you, without reservation, that chocolate pudding pie will not curb my affinity for chocolate decadence. No one can influence that. The complexity of life altering decisions, however, often require the solicitation of an outside opinion—or two.

With a little soul searching, several conversations, and a very generous boss, I am happy to report that twenty dollars and a couple of goats secured a pretty sweet deal. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as the next adventure unfolds.

Thursday, April 17

Lucky Strikes

Just the other day, a chance at supernatural powers missed me by thirty feet. Had the lightning bolt chosen me over the nearby power line, things might be different today.

Thanks to the ten o’clock news and their quest for drama, countless images of destruction have instilled a healthy respect for Mother Nature. The spectacle generated from a severe thunderstorm is magnificent; sometimes, you just can’t help but watch from the open doorway of a third-floor balcony.

While calculating the distance of a blinding lightning strike, a deafening crack seemed to originate from within my very own eardrums—every electric oscillation was audible. Electric current, or flying debris, found my hand braced against the metal door frame. I humbly watched the rest of the show from deep within the—now—unlit dwelling.

Later, when journeying out in search for an operable wall socket, I found a huge chunk of bark lying on the sidewalk in front of the condo. A nearby tree bared a jagged scar where the bolt scored a line deep into its trunk. Perhaps I did feel debris, or current, or both.

Lucky? I guess. But I can’t shake mild disappointment. I could have become clairvoyant, or gained some other equally impressive talent. Pleased to toss out the likely possibility of mortal wounding or fatality. Instead, I’m left with an insatiable appetite for all things sweet—as usual.

Hindsight exposes intuition we perhaps ignore. Tossing a coin, for example, can provide insight to what we really desire. When the coin comes to rest, you immediately know if you wished for that particular outcome, or not. No, I’m not saying that I will pair heads with swimming next time I hear thunder, but, apparently, one side of my coin is favored.

Perhaps you had a similar experience this week, an “almost”—something that could, and you wished would, have happened? Feel free to shed some light on your change in the comments section below.

Thursday, April 10


As if using the motor skills of Frankenstein himself, this lightning strike carved a jagged incision deep into the tree's trunk.

Thursday, April 3

Exploring the Possibilities

Would you abandon your present life for something completely different? Could you, if given the opportunity, give up the conveniences you’ve spent years creating to nurture a new you? Well, yes! I’ve dreamed of winning the lottery everyday since I was twelve. This scenario, however, does not entail buckets of money. More so, it may require effort—and possibly even sweat—to pursue a stifled alternative.

You might respond—as I did, “it depends.” Damn the ambiguity. Allow me to sharpen the contrast and rid the grey. People relocate and transform for many logical reasons: to help an ailing family member, for their employer, their income fails to support their lifestyle, etc. For sport, we will not use obvious logic.

Imagine, instead, a premeditated shake-down of your personal infrastructure. Only the things that make you unique will remain the same: personality, passions, drive, character flaws, name, etc. You can also keep the people you care to associate with. Everything else is subject to change: your address, job, vehicles, hierarchy, and perhaps even hair color.

If your heart rate increases while pondering this idea, and you have a belly full of butterflies, we can assume the excitement is overwhelming. You—immediately—begin packing your bags, assured that a new game plan is for you. Clearly, then, your answer to the question is, “Yes, I would like to try something different. When do I start?”

Perhaps your mind battles the onslaught of additional questions—questions requiring answers that will only validate your hesitation. You become dizzy, firmly grasping familiar surroundings; your chair feels as though it will collapse under your massive determination to stay in it. Obviously, then, the answer is, “No! Whatever would I do with my geraniums?”

So, tell me, are you happily sowing your oats, or shopping for gain? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Friday, March 28

Here Scooter!

Being, again, in the proximity of a TV, I am convinced that commercials are responsible for the invention of the remote control. Your program breaks for an advertisement . . . Click! Bam! Like a pair of ruby slippers, you are transcended to one of five other shows you’ve been monitoring. I don’t know anyone who hangs around for commercials—except, of course, for my friend Jimmi, but only during hockey games.

The other day, I clicked to a commercial. Even though I stayed with it, I have no idea what they were selling. Prominent point: a dog and a ten foot scoot—hind legs raised above his shoulders—across the carpet of a staged living room. A golden lab exploited over an ailment. You might as well just film it laying logs on the front lawn, for God’s sake. It’s not the dog’s fault it has an itch.

We would never see something as a result of, “Yes, Mr. Winston, can you give us another hearty cough? We know you are dying of emphysema, but we didn’t quite get that last shot.” That would be inhumane.

I can hear you now, even during the creation of this piece. You're probably grumbling, "The dog doesn’t know the degree of humiliation, if any." But I disagree. I have, unfortunately, been present during the manufacturing of dog waste. For the record, I almost always have the courtesy to avert my eyes. On the rare occasion I make eye contact during such event, the animal’s head and eye position are never that of invitation. It is more of a shy—I’m not looking at you because I don’t want to see you looking at me—expression.

As you can probably tell, I am not in the market for an inflicted dog. Nor, now, am I interested in whatever else those idiots were selling, unless, perhaps, they were offering a slice of their carpet. I would like to see if their Berber scratches better than I can!

Thursday, March 20

Tornados, Flooding, and Hail; Oh, My!

One thing you don’t want to bring with you to a wildland fire-fighting contract is vicious weather. Regardless of my agenda (saving the state of Arkansas from imminent danger), Mother Nature had plans of her own.

In the wee hours following my arrival, The Weather Channel reminds me that the Southeast brews some wild weather. Clips of tornados wreaking havoc on downtown Atlanta loop incessantly, emphasizing the imminent wrath. Tall, solid, block-letters forming the words “STORM WATCH” periodically fill the screen. No wonder I can’t sleep.

Warnings of flash floods turn into the probability of general flooding. Tornado watches turn to warnings. Severe thunderstorms promise hail stones exceeding one inch. Dogs and cats . . . Oops, wrong show. Our safety and the security of our aircraft become the primary concern; fighting fire will not transpire anytime soon.

It occurred to me—in one of those revolutionary moments—that, no matter what came this way, there was nothing we could do about it. If a tornado were to rip off the roof of my corner-unit condo or destroy our equipment or sacrifice any one of us to Oz, we were virtually helpless. Mother Nature was in no mood to negotiate, as demonstrated—a few hours earlier—in Atlanta.

During one of the heavier downpours, I stood outside under the protection of an overhang. The power of the storm was fierce; its stamina impressive. It had already pummeled several states; and according to the Weather Channel, we weren’t the last. Several inches of rain would eventually fall locally, and up to a foot just north. Fortunately, tornados spared Hot Springs, and the storm passed.

Humbled by her puissance, I patiently utilize the idle time. Perhaps the nature of things will afford some work. That, of course, will require several dry, warm, and—preferably—windy days.

Just as my optimism rises enough to meet the surface tension of the puddle below, something catches my attention. I hear a murmur from the TV in the other room, “And Sunday . . . expect a chance of rain.” Oh! Say it isn’t so.

Thursday, March 13

Faux Hare

Holiday paraphernalia can consume isles of your local grocery: plastic eggs; baskets; chocolate bunnies—solid and hollow; jelly beans; chocolate eggs; chicks—edible or not; candy carrots; Peeps; Cadbury eggs—regular and caramel; teddy bears in bunny suits; bunnies sans suits; and even edible grass. A recent bombardment of all things pastel, combined with my annual departure to Arkansas, catapulted me to an awkward Easter past.

During a fire fighting contract in Arkansas, I found myself shuffling through a shopping mall one rainy day in Hot Springs. The mall was that of a small town; the kind where only two of the twelve store fronts are recognizable, say, maybe Sears and a book store. Fewer stores offer less to look at—in the way of goods, as well as people. The saunter did nothing to alleviate my boredom. But just when all hope vanished, I found my entertainment.

This Easter bunny was the largest rabbit ever. Seven feet of faux fur—excluding ears—paced within a white-picket corral. The caliber of his habitat equaled that of Santa’s North Pole; the color scheme and idolized character differed, but it was an empire just the same. The employees stood their posts, cameras on the ready, and the basket grass—a saturated green. But where were the children?

The scene was a mirage of nostalgia—tangible but absent history; like clam chowder without the clams. I’ve posed with Santa numerous times with documented proof of each embarrassment—even as an adult once or twice. But never the Easter bunny. What, I wondered, could transpire on the lap of a giant, disproportionate rabbit?

“I sat on the Easter bunny’s lap yesterday,” I proclaimed to my adorable friend Kim. “The Easter bunny,” I repeat—as if she had not yet seen such a sight.

“He sounds like a pervert,” Kim said, shattering my innocence.

She had a point. Judging from the line of, well, none, Kim wasn’t the only skeptic. For what reason would you dress yourself in a human size bunny outfit? The Playboys have done it for years, but then again they aren’t really bunnies, hairless or otherwise. And there must be a clause that only other Playboys are allowed on their laps. But I digress.

I never did sit upon the legs of questionable intent. Instead, I stood with a fixed stare, too perplexed to move. During what seemed like eternity, the money in my pocket was the closest of any to the bunny throne. Had I been on the road a bit longer, feeling a little more sentimental, or less vulnerable, that cash might have changed hands. For a shy twenty dollars I could send a full color glossy to my loved ones, proving my unfaltering state of mind.

I hope to travel to unreachable lengths by August for “sneak a zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” day. I know, Kim, I hear you. Those 5 x 7's will go for way more than twenty bucks.

Wednesday, March 5

The Mighty Neptune P2-V

Tanker 44, embarking upon a practice mission during recurrent training in Missoula, MT. I was not on this flight--hence the photo--but was able to fly the same P2-V the following day. Note the absence of snow on the tarmac, quite a luxury within the month of February.

Thursday, February 28

Learning Stupidity

I am nostril deep in hydraulic fluid. If you know anything about said fluid, you know that it's stinky. Unfortunately, that's the extent of my knowledge on the matter today. Continuing education has turned me into an idiot.

The first company to employ me as a tanker pilot honored me with an invitation to recurrent training. Within a few hours of class, during preparation for a power point presentation, my intelligence dimmed right along with the overhead fluorescents. The addition of information somehow reduced that which I already knew.

The phenomena attacks more than my flying career; writing has been the same. Education does not propel me forward as I expect. Instead, miles of blackout provide one little light bulb to go off—shedding only enough light to see a towering stack of study materials. Information within reach but that cannot be read nor learned.

But to tell you the truth, I am concerned most about not snorting the fluid beneath my nose. Too bad there isn’t anything I can stand on.

Thursday, February 21

Queries . . . as Difficult as Fiction

I’ve spent the better part of the week at the dentist’s office. Well, not really. In reality, I’ve wrestled with the task of writing sales pitches to literary agents. Trust me; it feels similar to a root canal.

So far, I have braved the publishing jungles on my own—sans professional guidance. I query major publishing houses; I get rejected. The process has become predictable, if nothing else. In the beginning, I calculated that I had enough fight and stamina for one book. But I am getting tired, and new story ideas are coming out my nose. Soliciting agents seems a necessary evil. Not that agents are evil—let me make that clear to any agent reading this piece—it's just that the solicitation process is hell.

My luck within the industry thus far looks something like this: I have adorned my least crippled foot in the most outrageously expensive shoe; immediately upon unveiling such priceless combo, it is run over by an overweight semi-truck and trailer. Once a thing of beauty, now lie in an unrecognizable pool of patent leather poop.

It is because of this drab—and so far fruitless—task that I detoured from my usual genres. Adult fiction is not my thing, but amusement was necessary in order to resurrect my flat-lined heartbeat earlier this week. I thought I’d extend the hilarity of a paragraph I worked up. You can thank me later; I prefer dark chocolate—from Belgium.


There you have it. Magically, the queries don't seem all that bad now.

Friday, February 15

Finally, Links to Published Pieces

Where can I get a hold of articles you've previously had published?
Good question. Here, I will offer up a couple sites where you can find my earlier works. gets credit for the first publication of "118 Degrees, 22 Minutes, 10 Seconds," a personal narrative about flying air tankers for fire suppression. You can find it at

Aviation for Women kindly made the same story a cover piece in the Sept/Oct issue of 2007. For the first time, you can view the magazine layout online thanks to my dear friend at, go to - it's the last link listed (for now) including the phrase "fire bomber."

Are you are hungry for some culture? You'll find a restaurant review about a quaint eatery on the shores—literally—of the Pacific Ocean in Montezuma, Costa Rica. Check it out at

I've also included these websites under "A few sites I live by" column on the homepage—for future reference.

There you have it. Proceed with caution; no lifeguard on duty.

Wednesday, February 13

I Like Ocelots A Lot

What's not to like about a furry, smallish creature with large, clawed paws. They need help though. With less than a hundred American ocelots surviving in southern Texas, they've made the endangered species list. If you want to learn more about them, and how you can help, visit the ocelots here.

Wednesday, February 6

A Review of "Interview"

O.K. little bro . . . as you wish!

The movie Interview stars Steve Buscemi (Lonesome Jim, Fargo, Reservoir Dogs) opposite Sienna Miller (Factory Girl, Casanova, Alfie). Buscemi plays Pierre Peders—a journalist with fading credibility. He also directs this film. Miller holds her own as a self-absorbed, no-talent celebrity named Kayta. Replicating Theo Van Gogh’s original (same title, released in 2003) simplicity may have been unavoidable, considering Buscemi used the same Dutch production crew.

Ordinarily covering hot politics, Pierre squabbles about the “fluff” assignment of interviewing an actress known more for her fluctuating breast size than for her talent. Her tardiness to the restaurant only feeds Pierre’s disgust. Pierre’s poignant disinterest and lack of respect irritates Kayta and the interview ends promptly. We think we are fortunate to have escaped such a volatile mixture, but a minor fender bender reunites them. Feeling some responsibility for the mishap, Kayta cons Pierre to her flat—where we’ll stay for the remainder.

The characters and their chemistry propel the film. The script is good, but the performances are magnificent. As their level of intoxication increases, the volley of questions intensifies. No answer escapes judgment. With Pierre’s assignment lost, their involvement dissolves into a battle of wits, where knowing what to say is as important as knowing what not to say. Dizzying transitions between compassion and contempt leave us firmly planted on the couch.

Kayta practices her acting by exaggerating the boundaries of charm—perhaps an attempt to prove that she is not just a B rate actress. Pierre can’t decide if he wants to be her lover, guidance counselor, or father-figure. Despite their vulnerability and meandering passion, they manage to explore a level of intimacy that many couples never know.

Interview's brilliance reminds us that films can still—just—be about people and their complexities.

Tuesday, January 29

1973, According to the Inscription

Wait! Wait, just a minute. I gotta close me eyes. Fellas, the jackets, the ties, and all yous together, well, it's dizzying. Urp. Oh! here comes the apple juice . . .

Wednesday, January 23

It's a Gosh-Dern Revolution

I'd like to honor the arrival of 2008—before I loose enthusiasm, expectations wilt, and my taste buds detect souring disappointment. I hear you. The ball dropped in Time Square nearly a month ago. It's late, I know, but I started the year behind, however that works.

The recent buzz about resolutions and goal setting has upset the blog's prior trajectory. A once benign presence, breathing quietly in the corner, will now adorn a florescent, floral-print mu mu and slap passing asses. Chocolate Dynamite is steppin’ it up. The site is always under construction, but a renovation of this magnitude will necessitate the hands of many, or, in this case, the brains of several.

I’m asking for your input. If you don't speak up, I will continue to blog-along as I have in the past. But I'd love to hear—or read—some feedback. Here’s a sneak peak of things to come, and where you can help.

If you haven't noticed, the colors of the blog have displayed the spectrum. Good Lord! You change the colors of the blog as frequently as I changed outfits as an overly self-conscious teen. I read somewhere that viewing a darker computer screen uses less energy than its brighter counterpart. But if you can't read the text, we might as well leave the damn thing off. What do you think . . . Does the color scheme give you a headache? Is the font large enough? Do you have to squint? Do the necessary links link you? Should the pictures be larger?

February encourages prolificacy. For the first time in Chocolate Dynamite history, I will post weekly. Granted, each post may not be a literary piece, but I will provide something for your viewing pleasure each week. Your turn . . . Can you handle that much Choc.D? Or is the thought of additional torture nauseating? What would you like to see more of . . . photos, essays, reviews?

Some handy features have already been implimented. An email icon/link (looks like a miniature envelope) at the end of each post allows you to forward any post to any one. You can now subscribe to the blog (feeder icon found on the top right corner of the home page, beneath the profile link), once signed up, post notifications are sent automatically through the site, rather than from me—at my convenience.

A funky new template is in the works; it's totally hip and will hopefully stave off feeling old—one more year. On top of all the mods to the blog, a legitimate dot-com website is in the making, you'll be able to get cool stuff there, including PDF links to my articles not published elsewhere on the Internet.

I hope you share a fraction of my excitement for things to come. Please leave any comments in the "comments" section below—anonymous or not. You can also email me directly—the address can be found in "my complete profile." I will read all comments and listen to most. Thanks for your help.

If you'd like to help re-model in proper party attire . . . check out

Thursday, January 10

Detour Ahead

Just when I was about to sell out—by posting an irrelevant top-five list involving canine apparel—I visited one of my favorite blog sites. The author of provided the inspiration necessary to trudge beyond my recent ambivalence. Thanks Kevin. Apparently I’m not the only one frustrated with getting words to paper.

Is it possible, this early in the year, to run out of ideas, motivation, and time? The billowing recycle-bin on my desktop displays my answer. Thoughts beyond a sentence or two quickly dissolve. I can’t blame it on writer’s block because characters are rampant and naked and running amuck within the confines of my imagination. The problem is isolating a single scheme for further study. Once I get a hold of the buggers, my concentration wanes.

Let us utilize the freeway to better understand this torture. First, we will establish some parameters. Personal safety is assured. Traffic is moving (I’m a big city girl). And it is daylight—no rain. Liken, for a minute, ideas to autos. If you observe the speeding sea of cars as a whole, collecting specific information beyond color and make will be difficult. Focusing your attention on one car, however, may afford a few extra details—like number of occupants and the license plate number.

You can’t write an engaging story knowing—only—that someone drove a Ford. But watching that Ford drive down the highway as far as you can see will solve more questions. The criminal sped away in a blue Ford Escort—license RMT118. But then what? So what the Ford is blue. What did the person do to gain crook status anyway? Who cares? This, my friends, explains the death of innumerable, partially written pieces.

By the way . . . the little brown Yugo we’ve been riding in, the one I plucked from the expressway, has now vanished. Sorry. I followed it as long as I could. But a juicy red Ferrari has caught my eye.