Tuesday, February 25, 2014


So I was "lucky" enough to have to fly through one of this year's snow storms.  Not only that, my flight was one of the only flights to land in Charlotte during the great cancelfest, as well as even depart for Austin, with only a deicing delay.  I wouldn't be surprised if my flight was the only flight that day to do so.  Here are a few pics.

Just pulling into the gate.  Just prior to landing we were under our landing minimums, so we held for a bit, and nearly had to divert to Knoxville.

An Airbus A330 covered in snow.

Thick flakes at Charlotte-Douglas.

Approaching white-out conditions.

I was one of the few, lucky, unaffected flights to arrive and leave.  SAV - CLT - AUS - PHX with minimal delays, and light loads too.  And Phoenix was sunny and warm, as always.  The airport was a ghost town because of the inbound cancellations.

At one of the deicing bays.  All the planes were dripping with green glycol.

A few more from the deicing bay.

Finally our turn.  It was freezing rain at this point, so whatever fell that was wet instantly froze to the plane, so deicing was thick and took half an hour per plane.

A US Airways A319 gets the glycol treatment.

Deicing an A321.

Apparently Charlotte ran out of glycol the next day, meaning the entire airport was shut down.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to cook a steak, and other gastronomic concoctions

So aside from travelling, coffee, and all of the other things I've written about, I seem to have an interest in cooking as well.  It started with trial and error when I was young, with an emphasis on error.  I would cook and throw in whatever spices I had, eventually learning which flavors went together, by learning more often than not which flavors didn't.  Bachelor cooking is easy once you know the basics, and have a few basic supplies; a good chef's knife, cutting board, heavy duty wok, small saucepan, large pot, and a few basic seasonings and herbs.  Sea or kosher salt, peppercorns, garlic and onion powder, etc.  With only a few ingredients and knowing which flavors and herbs go together, you can mix and match for weeks with only a few ingredients.  I rarely cook the same thing twice, and I almost never cook it the same way.  Every meal is a learning experience, and the next always has a few tweaks.  I rarely use recipes, instead I draw on past experience.  I've also found that presentation is key.  You can take a gas station taquito from the rollers that sit all day (which are a guilty pleasure,) cut at an angle, spoon a cream sauce on the side, and it looks like a $10 appetizer.  Like my $3 TJ's terriyaki burrito.  Plating matters.  Below are some of the things I've made recently, with an approximation of ingredients and cooking methods.

South African Smoke Chicken and Rice.
Smoked Paprika Chicken and Rice.  Aka last night's thrown together dinner.  Wok simmer two boneless chicken thighs (way underrated and better than breasts.)  Shred when tender.  For the rice, cook in a separate pot (one shot glass basmati rice to two shot glasses water, salt, seasoning, and a few drops of oil.)  Once the rice is done, combine, sprinkle on whatever seasoning you want.  It can be curry, peanut sauce, cajun, asian, anything.  Chicken and rice is an empty canvas.  I used Trader Joe's South African Smoke.  Wok simmer on high heat for a few minutes and there you have it.  Here's the same recipe, only I didn't shred the chicken, and served it with a peanut sauce I picked up from the local Asian market instead of the other.

This morning I had Gordon Ramsay style scrambled eggs, over a toasted whole grain pita, slice of ham, and a homemade béchamel (technically mornay) sauce made with Havarti.  I substituted coconut oil for butter with everything, because, you know, cholesterol.

Crispy Shrimp Tacos.

Crispy Shrimp Tacos.  Battered fried shrimp, peeled and de-veined, wok tossed with Thai sweet chili sauce, served in a pan toasted corn tortilla with shredded cabbage.  Super simple.

Cran-apple sage pork steaks.

Cran-apple sage pork steaks.  Apple goes great with pork, and cranberry goes great with apple, and sage goes great with pork too.  It would make sense to throw these ingredients together.  For the steaks, I used two very thick pork steaks, boneless.  I seasoned with salt, pepper, and liberally with dried sage.  Then I cooked those just like I cook a beef steak (see below.)  Start with high heat in a skillet, preferably cast-iron, and throw the steaks in to sear over smoking high heat with a little oil.  It's important to let the steaks rest to room temperature before cooking.  Cook until both sides look like the picture.  Serve with cran-apple compote.  Apple slices (I think I used honeycrisp,) dried cranberries, a dash of honey, pinch of cinnamon, pinch of sea salt, and a pat of butter.  Simmer with a little water until soft.  Serve steaks on top, or thin slice the steaks, and pour compote over.  I forgot to mention, after cooking, always let steaks, whether it be beef or pork rest.  They will continue to cook.  If you slice too early you'll lose juices.  It also lets them break down a bit and become more tender.

Vietnamese fried rice.  Not pictured.  This is another recipe I discovered by accident.  I call it Vietnamese because it tastes just like pho.  Cook white rice, and sauteé it over very high heat with Chinese five spice, fish sauce, and any meat or vegetable you choose.  Adding a cooked egg works well too.  The texture and feel of fried rice, with the aroma and flavor of pho.

I don't want to bore you all with a crazy long update, and I've got tons more pictures and recipes to share, so I'll save them for another update, but not before how to cook a steak.

How to cook a steak.  When I cook a steak, I usually go for a NY strip, cut really thick.  The first thing your have to do is let the steak sit, for at least an hour, until it's room temperature.  If the steak is sitting in juices, take it out (I'm talking about un-marinated steaks.)  Get a skillet, preferably cast-iron, and get it smoking hot, with a high flash point oil.  The pan should be very hot because you want to sear the steak.  I season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  I season with the salt right before cooking, but apply the other seasonings when the heat isn't as high, or they'll burn.

Right, so the pan is smoking and ready, now using tongs, sear the edges of the steak.  I tilt the pan towards the handle to move the oil to the edge, and hold the steak upright, searing all four corners.  Next, throw on the steak.  Since the pan is so hot, it doesn't take very long to sear.  How long?  No clue.  I always guesstimate.  Then I turn down the heat just a but.  Once that side it done, I take the steak off, crank the pan up to full blast again, and throw it on the other side, and repeat.  That's it.  You MUST let the steak sit for at least ten minutes before cutting or serving, for reasons mentioned above.  That's enough time to make creamed spinach from scratch.  If you're wondering, the sauce is milk, AP flour, garlic powder, and onion powder.  I keep some in my fridge for thickening stuff.

Room temperature steak, seared on all sides, on a pan that's hotter than the surface of the sun.  If the smoke detector doesn't go off, you're doing it wrong.

Smoky and seared on the outside, but...

Oh yeah, let it rest.

...but tender and juicy on the inside.

Served with a little homemade creamed spinach (that I screwed up,) and drizzled with whatever sauce you please.  This, by the way, was a FOUR DOLLAR steak from Basha's.  It doesn't need to be expensive to be prepared well.
Enjoy the food porn I have given you, but be careful.

Friday, January 31, 2014


I was supposed to go to do a Santa Barbara round trip today, then have a two hour airport sit, then fly back to Santa Barbara tonight, but the SBA round trip was cancelled due to maintenance, so I'm now sitting at home, with freshly cut hair, in Uniform, waiting on my flight at 9PM tonight.  I don't mind, considering I get cancellation pay for maintenance.  I'm enjoying my loose leaf English Breakfast tea with cream, honey, and cinnamon.  Not a bad trade off.

Most pilots and flight attendants need their daily intake of shitty airplane coffee.  I don't touch the stuff because it tastes like burned wood chips.  I'm one of those coffee (and tea) snobs who prefers to make their own via either pour-over, French press, or some other method, with fresh roasted beans ground right before brewing.  My local coffee of choice is Cartel Coffee Lab in Phoenix and Tempe, AZ.  In addition to amazing, in-house roasted, single-origin beans (their Ethiopian, fruity and amazing,) they make each cup at a time, via either pour-over, Aeropress, or other methods.  Their teas are also quite good.

Making some Ethiopian Yergacheffe at home, courtesy Cartel Coffee, Tempe, AZ
So being able to fly for free has it's perks, like when I want good coffee, and I have the day off.  So that's what I did last week.  Portland is known for Stumptown coffee.  I wrote about it on Reddit and my little adventure got me the top post of all time in /r/coffee.

Oh no.  Out of coffee.
Clearly the only option is to go get some more.
Wide open both ways.  Score.  Row to myself.
Departing Sky Harbor.
Crater Lake, Oregon.
After a brief light rail ride from the airport, I've arrived.
Cargo has been secured.
Exit row to myself for the ride back.
Mt. Hood, Oregon.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Testing out my new(ish) toy

So a few months back I decided to buy a GoPro.  If you haven't heard of them, they're small camera that shoot high definition still pictures, videos, and make time-lapses.  In addition to their small size, they're highly shock resistant and come with a case that makes them waterproof.  In short, they're arguably the best action camera on the market.  Whenever you see those action videos of people surfing, skiing, skydiving, etc., and wonder what type of camera they used, it's typically a GoPro.

Because of the small size, it's perfect to pack in my flight bag and take on trips.  I've done everything from getting a time-lapse of the sunrise over L.A. from the 16th floor of our Burbank hotel, to strapping it to my head, renting a bike, and biking around San Luis Obispo.  There are tons of ways to mount this thing, ranging from helmet mounts, to suction cups, to tripod mounts, chest mounts, etc.  If I'm deadheading on a flight and the crew doesn't mind, getting a time-lapse of the flight can be interesting.  Here is my setup.

Over Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Doing so can create some pretty cool results.

This is the first video I made the day I bought it.  It's a stupid little video of me driving to work.

And then riding the train into the terminal.

It's also fun to stick to the roof of a car and drive around, like Portland, Oregon.

Or here in Phoenix

Or through rural Arizona

Or even around Hawaii

Or getting a nice shot of the sunset over Phoenix.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Greetings from Austin, Texas.

I'm here for a 30 hour layover, which I tend to get in either A.) boring locations, B.) places where the weather is awful, or C.) all of the above.  Austin is a fun city, however our hotel is right by the airport instead of downtown where all the fun is.  Luckily the city bus runs by the hotel.  Yesterday was spent lounging by the pool in 70 degree, sunny weather in Phoenix.  I worked a night flight in last night.  When we arrived, it was raining here in Austin.  It rained throughout the night as the temperature slowly dropped, so this morning, the city is covered in a layer of ice.  The morning flights were cancelled here today, since there is apparently no deicing fluid, so the pilots ferried the plane back to Phoenix empty last night, and the FAs stayed here in Austin.  I awoke to my heater spewing ice cold air rather than heat, so after finally pulling myself out of bed and into a lukewarm shower, I got dressed, printed out a bus schedule, and decided to head downtown.  I'm usually the one who likes to explore cities on layovers, however, after standing at the bus stop for five minutes, all while being pelted with freezing rain, I decided a "fuck this" was in order.  I walked next door to Starbucks, and now I'm in my room.  Oh well.

Yesterday.  Slightly different weather than today.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Airline Terminology

I notice I use a lot of airline terminology when talking to people not as versed in airline lingo as myself, followed by having to explain what I meant.  Here are a few in-flight words and phrases we use regularly:

  • Base/Domicile:  Where an airline operates flights in and out of, where crew members reside or commute to.  For example, I'm based in Phoenix.  I can also say my domicile is Phoenix.  While we may operate flights to and from Austin, Austin isn't a base, it's an outstation.
  • Outstation:  Any airport that isn't a base.
  • Deadhead:  Any crewmember, pilot or flight attendant, who is riding as a passenger, and not working the flight, but is flying on company business in uniform, for the purpose of working a flight from another location.  For example, someone calls in sick on an overnight out of base, they would deadhead someone to the outstation to work that flight back.  Deadheading is different from commuting or non-revving, as it is considered working.
  • Repo flight/Ferry flight:  Moving an airport from point A to point B, without revenue passengers, for the purpose of getting that aircraft to another location.  Common reasons can range from maintenance to weather.  For example, an aircraft breaks down in Albuquerque, and per FAA can be flown with maintenance issues back to base, but isn't passenger worthy as per FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations,) it will be repo'd (repositioned,) or ferried back to base.
  • Non-rev:  Non-revenue.  As in non-revenue travels.  Airline employees and guests of airline employees can fly for free, or at a reduced rate, either domestically or internationally.  Non-revenue passengers fly standby, meaning they only get on if a seat is available.  Employees can see how many passengers and employees are listed for the flight, and how many seats are available.
  • Flight benefits:  Ability for employees. family, and friends of said employee to fly for free, or cheap for non-employees to fly on the airline said employee works for, for the purpose of vacation travel or commuting.
  • Jumpseat:  The ability of pilots and flight attendants to fly on other airlines for free, for the purpose of commuting or pleasure travel.  Jumpseating doesn't necessarily mean sitting in the jumpseat, which is the extra seat in the cockpit, however pilots can sit in that seat if there are no seats available in the cabin.
  • Buddy pass/Companion pass:  Employee get a set number of reduced fare, standby tickets each year, that they can give out to whomever they please.
  • Layover/Overnight:  When a flight takes you to a location out of base where you end up spending the night in a hotel paid for by the company.  Crews generally stay in the same hotel in each city, and per contract, certain amenities and guidelines have to be met, such as free wifi for the crew, a business center with working printer, an inward facing room not on the first floor, shuttle service to food and entertainment, etc.
  • Sit:  Any time between flights that isn't a layover or overnight.  If I fly to Tucson from Phoenix, arrive in Tucson at 12PM, but don't fly back to Phoenix until 2PM, I have a two hour sit.
  • Turn/Round Trip/Out and back:  A turn is a flight from point A to point B, then back to point A without an overnight.  If I fly from Phoenix to San Antonio, then right back to Phoenix, then that is known as a San Antonio turn.  Generally most turns you don't even leave the aircraft.
  • Loads:  How full a flight is in terms of passengers.  Commonly you hear "how are the loads" when travelling standby.  Or, "loads were too high to non-rev following that storm," or "Loads look good today, let's go to Hawaii."  Cancellations and weather affect loads greatly in a domino effect.
  • Standby/Listed:  When you "list" for a flight on standby, that means you or your registered guest books that flight, either at the ticket counter, gate, or online with the employee travel site for each airline.  It's important to see how full a flight is, and how many employees are listed, and where you stand as an employee in the non-rev hierarchy.  Examples below.
Can I fly to San Diego from Phoenix today?  Let's see, there are 34 seats available in coach on the next flight.  Wonder how many non-revs are listed.

Nine non-revs for 34 seats.  Loads look good.  Shouldn't be an issue flying standby on this flight.

Can I fly to Charlotte direct today?  The next flight has been cancelled, which means everyone (for the most part) on that cancelled flight will be "rolled over" to the next flight, filling it completely full  (and more than likely oversold,) if it wasn't already full.

That flight is full, and there are 6 standbys listed which won't get on.  If there were 5 seats available and 10 standbys, I could check to see where I am on the standby list, which is based on seniority and status (employees have higher standby priority than buddy passes, but are they same boarding priority of they are flying together.)

  • Clear:  When a standby is given a seat on a flight, they are "cleared."
  • Redeye:  Any flight, generally west to east, that starts at night and ends the next morning.  Called that because after the flight your eyes are red from not sleeping and dry airplane air.  A flight that leaves LAX at 10PM and gets into JFK at 7AM the next morning is a redeye flight.
  • Standup:  Working a late night flight, then an early morning flight the next morning.  You're considered on duty throughout the entire night, so you start your shift before the night flight, then end your shift after you get back the base the next morning.
  • Shift vs. Line:  Each month, flight attendants and pilots do what's called "bid" for their schedules.  There are two types of schedules, hard lines and reserves lines, or "lines" and "shifts."  Whether or not you are a line-holder or a reserve is all based on seniority.  Hard lines let you know where you are going to be each day, and are month to month.  You know each flight you will be working each month, and you bid which line you want.  Reserve lines are basically shifts.  With reserve bidding, you bid days off and shifts you want.  I usually bid noon to midnight shift, and the shifts that have the most days off in a row.  The sacrifice is working six days in a row usually.
  • Ready reserve/Hot reserve/Airport reserve:  There are two types of flight attendants and pilots.  Reserves and line-holders, as mentioned above.  When you are on reserve, you go where you are needed, and can be called out on a moment's notice for a trip or flight, or can be given a trip a few days in advance.  Ready reserve is considered working.  Ready reserve means being in the airport, in uniform, ready to do a flight in a moment's notice, for instance, in the case of a last minute sick call, fatigue call, a crew gets stuck somewhere out of base because of maintenance or weather, or any other reason they need someone to work a flight or deadhead somewhere.  Tonight I'm on ready reserve from 7PM until midnight.
  • Regular reserve/Home reserve:  This means being ready to be called to a flight, trip, or ready reserve, but you are on call, and have an hour and a half to get to the airport.
  • Crew tracking:  The people who monitor flights and take sick calls, who call reserves and assign them to trips.
Any other terminology I've left out, or any other questions, feel free to ask.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What's New

As promised the other day, I'm going to get back to making regular updates to my travel journal.  A lot has happened since I last updated regularly.  The biggest is relocation.  I've relocated to Phoenix, and have had an apartment here near downtown for about two years now.  I love this city.  The lack of humidity, the mild winters, and the proximity to the rest of the west coast via airplane, minus the high cost of SoCal, SFO, SEA, etc., make it a great place to live.  I can deal with the heat in the summer too.  I'm an avid hiker and outdoors type, so living in the desert is exciting to me.  Right now I'm in Phoenix, in my apartment, sitting on reserve.  I flew in from Tucson this morning, and due to a maintenance delay, we were about two hours late.  It was a fiasco.  The entire flight for the most part had to be rebooked, so my job was crowd control and keeping everyone semi-happy, and as informed as I could.  Never a dull moment.

I'm going to be posting some pics from previous trips over the past two years over the course of the next few updates, until I get caught up and travel more.  Unless crew tracking calls me out today and screws up my 30 hour Austin layover the day after tomorrow, I'm going to a retirement party of a really great Captain in Tempe.

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's been a while...

Recently I was asked on a post on Reddit why I'm not a travel writer.  Expect more updates in the coming days.  A lot has changed since I last updated.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Lifestyle

Note:  I ramble on a lot in this update, but I’m getting a lot off of my chest.  I need to vent for a while.

In 2006, I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a major in Music, and an emphasis in Education.  My life up until then, and the 4 years I spent teaching music were dedicated to music in every aspect.  It all started when I was very young—as young as I can remember.  I was always running around my house with a toy keyboard, or banging on things with drumsticks.  I joined the band in middle school, and it consumed my life.  I became, in all sense of the words, a band nerd.  In high school, I knew I wanted to be a band director.  My band-nerdness (yes, it’s a word now,) had grown to an all new level.  I was drum major my senior year of high school.  Literally the day I graduated high school, I went straight to spring training with, and then go on tour with Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps during the summer of 2000.  Then came college.

Throughout college, I was even more consumed with music than I was in high school.  I lived in the school of music building.  From daily music theory classes, ear training, master-classes, seminar, and all of the other music classes I took, I was around music, and was honing my craft on a daily basis.  I played my trumpet daily, I played a piano daily, and I was composing, even it was just a musical doodle, on a daily basis.  In college, I made tons of friends, went to concerts, was exposed to some sort of a performance on a near daily basis, and performed in all types of ensembles.  I was in the USC marching band, the basketball pep band, University band, USC concert band, Camden Community Concert Band, and performed in numerous small ensembles throughout my time there.  Between practices and performances, I was playing with a group in one form or another numerous times per week.  This was fun and very intellectually stimulating.  In 2004, I even went back and aged out with Carolina Crown.

In 2006, I began my teaching career by student teaching a great group of kids from a local Columbia area high school.  This was a very rewarding experience.  I learned a lot about teaching through hard work, but most importantly trial and error.  I knew I was good at this whole teaching thing.  That next year, my first year actually teaching and getting paid for it, I was an assistant director at a very poor school district.  It was a completely different experience than student teaching, and required a whole different mindset, as well as an augmented direction of my teaching.  I couldn’t really do what I wanted with the program, as I didn’t have the resources, as well as administrative support to do what I really wanted to do with a band program.  The administration saw me more of a babysitter than a band director.  So I left the district.

That next year, I got a job as the assistant director at the high school from which I graduated.  Ever since high school, I had dreamed of becoming the band director of my local high school band.  I had a great group of kids, and a semi-supportive administration, but the band director, in charge of both the middle and high school, made my life a living hell.  She was the reason that all of the directors before me had left, but I naively thought that I could work with her.  It’s a long story, but it involves borderline personality disorder.  I had the support of the community, students, and parents however, and they all understood and backed my decision to leave, despite the fact that I had always wanted this job, and they wanted me there.  They all knew what it was like to work with her.

The next year I went back to teaching middle school in a small school district outside of Charlotte.  I had a great little program that was growing.  I wouldn’t say that I was happy in this school district, but I knew there I could make a difference from the bottom up, and I already saw a huge difference in the program from the beginning of the year, to the first concert.  The school administration and community could see the change and see that I was making a difference as well.  Overall it was a good year there.  The band program was growing, and I was finally making a difference in a program.  I ended up losing one of my 8th grade trumpet players however, due to a heart attack.  The community, kids, parents, and administration liked me, and the direction I was taking the program in.

Despite all of that, I still wasn’t happy.  This was still a school district that was performing poorly within the state, and many of my classes were still babysitting classes.  I still wasn’t motivated, since teaching here was still more about just getting the kids to shut the hell up most of the time, rather than making music.  It was a struggle.  To my surprise, although not really, the high school director went to another district suddenly at the end of the year, and I moved up to the position of high school director.  I finally had my own program.  I set out with a plan, and envisioned things to go one way.  They went the other.  I always wanted my own program—to do things my way—and my expectations couldn’t have been more wrong.  I had to abandon every philosophy on how to do things, and run a band program—run it in a way that made me absolutely miserable, and was against all of the values I had crafted over the years.  I hated getting up in the morning and coming to work.  I had absolutely no motivation for this job.  The administration, kids, and community all wanted a show band (shake your ass at halftime, be unprofessional, and walk down the street high stepping,) and I didn’t.  They were not going to budge on this, and the problem is that neither would I.  I did end up having a few semi-decent concert band classes (with very low numbers however,) that I could run well, and that actually ended up sounding quite good by the end of the year.  I still had babysitting classes, a piano class (that actually turned out to be quite talented and was the highlight of this school year,) but my colorguard class with 4 kids, and chorus with 4 tone-deaf kids—both 90 minutes a day, were a joke.  The only band class I had that semester consisted of 13 students—12 of them freshmen.  All of the pieces I dreamed about conducting while I was in high school and college couldn’t be performed by 13 kids.

So all of my dreams of running a program the way I wanted to, with my set of values, rules, regulations, idiosyncrasies—using my warm-ups I’ve written over the years, as well as pieces I’ve written for band over the years, which couldn’t be performed by a high school band that sight-reads at a 7th grade level—another thing I didn’t have the patience for, were shattered by a band and community where all they wanted to do were shake their asses at a football game, and play rap music.  I don’t even feel like going back and editing that previous train wreck of a sentence.  The highlight of that year was telling that band parent who got in my face at a football game to go fuck himself—and the week of paid administrative leave that resulted thereafter (I went on vacation.)  As much as I didn’t like teaching there, I did enjoy the rapport I had with my students, and influencing them in a positive way.  The teaching aspect of teaching was fun, but with an unsupportive administration, I didn’t get to do very much actual teaching.

Through years of teacher training, classroom experience, musical training, and self discovery, I was exposed to, performed, and surrounded myself to music on a daily basis.  My creative side was stimulated.  The year I had my own program, I wrote the marching band show, and came up with the idea from scratch—something I always wanted to.  I was able to craft that marching band, but poor attendance kept that band from reaching its true potential—and kept me from getting done with the show what needed to be done.  Every week was a giant step backward.  It was all of the other bullshit that I had to deal with that held us back, and what made me really dislike it.  Despite all of that, I still had my music to fall back on.  I still composed a lot, and had access to a piano to perform on, which was very therapeutic for me.  I could sit in front of one for hours and experiment, improvise, and learn a lot of the staples of piano literature.  I also played my trumpet daily.  Although I didn’t perform as much as I used to, I was around music enough, and went to enough clinics and band related functions to feel musically and creatively stimulated.  I felt in the loop, so to speak, in the band world, which was something, since middle school, I’ve been involved in.

And now all of that is fading away.  All of the knowledge gained in classes, all of the skill on all of the instruments I’ve learned over the years, and played on a daily basis, are fading, much like atrophy on muscles that are rarely used when an astronaut goes into space for an extended period of time.  I feel my creativity stifled and my creative side as a whole under-stimulated.  Despite carrying my trumpet mouthpiece in my flight bag, the last time I played my trumpet was several months ago for a gig (I play the bugle call for the Carolina Cup steeplechase races.)  I haven’t played a piano, aside from once, in over a year, or my guitar, or composed anything.  I feel that this isn’t like riding a bicycle, and that the time I’ve spent away from music has been wasted, and will take years to get back.  I miss being in the loop with the SCBDA, and colleagues that I used to associate with, many of whom were college buddies.

Which leads me to where I am today.  I live in an airport—literally.  Since the last time I wrote in this blog, which was a while ago due to general blasé, I’ve transferred domiciles to Phoenix.  Now I absolutely love it out here, the lack of humidity, the great hiking, the Tempe nightlife, the proximity for a quick flight to Vegas, L.A., the Pacific Ocean, Grand Canyon, etc., but I feel very empty.  My first year teaching I felt like an adult.  I rented a house that year, bought a brand new car, and did all of the things an adult could do.  I paid bills, had a yard, and had a normal adult life.  Fast forward to the last two years.  I bought my own two bedroom house.  I was an adult.  I had a cat that I came home to daily (that is now my dad’s best buddy,) went to Lowes and Home Depot, I had a yard of my own, and was excited to do landscaping projects.  I had my own furniture, a fireplace that I used daily during the winter, cooked daily in my own kitchen, and was big on the interior design of the place.  I went to iKea (which is like Ikea, but more pretentious,) and had my own little inside and outside house projects.  I got excited about actually being an adult.  While I didn’t enjoy mopping, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the toilet, and doing all of the other chores that came with owning a house, I felt like I accomplished something because I actually had to do them.  It was responsibility.  I had a house that I had to take care of, a yard, a car, a cat, neighbors, a mailbox, and an adult life.

Having been a teacher for four years, and having been so unhappy, I knew it was time for a change.  Knowing this meant I had to give this all up.  Becoming a flight attendant seemed like a logical choice.  I was working on my PPL at the time, but ironically, can no longer afford the flight lessons now that I work for an airline.  I’ve always enjoyed aviation, and have taught myself a lot over the years.  I was obsessed with traveling, and any job where I got paid to travel, and could fly for free on my days off seemed great.  Now don’t get me wrong—I really enjoy this job.  I enjoy dealing with the general public (for the most part,) being the center of attention on the airplane, and having a great view on a daily basis.  I just don’t feel fulfilled intellectually and creatively.  I have a college degree, and a talent in another field, and I serve drinks for a living now.  With this job, I do get to travel, but most of my time is spent sitting reserve in the airport.  At first, not knowing which city I would spend the night in was exciting, but now all I need is a little stability, so I can at least plan an evening.  I travel on my days off, but all I can afford to see are airports.  My travel benefits are great, but useless if I can’t afford a hotel room for a night in a city, or go out for a nice steak dinner somewhere once I’m there.

So it feels like I’m reverting back to high school, with adult responsibilities.  I had worked so hard to make a living, with my own house and car.  I’m in high school, without all of the daily social interaction with friends, but in the aspect where I’m not able to support myself financially, and have somewhere to call my own.  In looking at things from that perspective, I don’t feel like an adult anymore.  Despite being around people 24 hours a day, I’ve never felt more alone.  After a long day of work, I don’t have somewhere to go back to and relax, I just stay at the airport and find a couch to fall asleep on.  When I taught, despite being miserable with my job, I made $41,000 a year.  My house payments, car payments, and bills weren’t an issue.  I could live comfortably.  I did the math recently, and with this job, I make roughly $13,000 a year.  After my monthly car payment, student loan payment, and credit card bill, I’ve got a little money left over to eat with.  If I want to go out and enjoy myself, I can forget it, despite mountain climbing and biking here in the city which are free, for the most part.  If I have a medial issue, or another unexpected expense, my bills don’t get paid for the month.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not careless with my expenses, and I do save what I can, I just don’t make enough with this job to support myself.  I can’t afford to rent an apartment, or even a room.  I get this crashpad for $17 a night on occasion, but even that becomes expensive after a while, and even then I don’t have a room to myself.  I get paid in four days, and I currently have $12 in my banking account due to being screwed over by Enterprise Rent a Car recently, and an unexpected medical bill this month.  Today I got a cheeseburger from a fast food place, something I never do, and that was all I ate for today.  I really love my job, but I’m almost 29 years old, and never thought I’d be unable to pay for food, and wonder if I’ll eat today.  I’ve got the evenings off the next few days, as well as a training event, but I won’t be going out with my colleagues.  I’ll be sitting here at the airport.  I pay my car payments, student loan bill, and credit card bills when I can, but if I run out of money until the next payday, those bills don’t get paid, or partially paid, until the next payday, and even then they are consistently behind.  I had to foreclose on my house because it wouldn’t sell, and I get over 10 calls a day from creditors.  I’ve even stopped listening to voice mails from numbers I don’t recognize because they’re too depressing.  I don’t even want to begin to think about how low my credit score is, which is something I used to be proud of.  Paying my bills on time, and being financially responsible was something I used to be proud of.  As long as I can keep my car payment up enough to keep my car from being repossessed, I’ll be good to go, but an adult with a college education shouldn’t live like this.  I’ve paid my dues.

It’s been over a month since I’ve been home.  I miss everyone back home, my cat, and the East coast in general.  I’ve tried all month to get back, but all the flights back east are oversold.  I tried for two whole days the past few days, but couldn’t get on any flight.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great job, but I can’t keep this lifestyle up.  I need stability, and a place to sleep at night, other than an airport or crashpad on occasion.  I need to occasionally not have to get up at 2AM, and work until 2AM the next night, and constantly adjust my sleep schedule.  I do get overnights occasionally, but more often than not they’re taken away from me.  The past few weeks, I was given 4 very long overnights, enough to where I have a hotel room anywhere from 20 to 30 hours, only to have them taken away from me, one by one, and given an overnight where I can get 5 hours of sleep at the max.  Day after day this happens.  It’s emotionally and physically draining, especially when I’ve prepared myself to have some time to myself and get caught up on sleep.  Watching NetFlix for hours on end isn’t stimulation.  I never thought a good night’s sleep, or even a good 8 hours of sleep would be so difficult to come by.  I’m writing this from the airport, which is where I will sleep tonight.  I get a couch, and have a blanket, but there is a guy painting the wall about 10 feet away, so I won’t get much sleep tonight, especially when the stream of pilots and flight attendants start to come in the next morning.  EDIT:  The fire alarm went off for about an hour last night.  Something that happens quite frequently.

Don’t think that this blog entry means that I want to quit this job—I don’t.  I just am having trouble adjusting to this lifestyle, and lack of income, which made my previous lifestyle possible.  I don’t think that this is a permanent livable lifestyle.

The movie "The Terminal" parallels my life in my ways than I can imagine.  When I was based in Dulles, I made more money returning carts for quarters per hour than I did with my actual job.  This is me when the couches in the crew room are full.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

DCA, and Annoyed with Crew Tracking (again.)

Location:  Smelly Cat Coffeehouse, NoDa, Charlotte, NC

Crew tracking can kiss the fattest part of my ass.  I don’t mind sitting reserve, but don’t give me overnights and call right before I get on the flight, take them away, and put me back on reserve.  My friend was working a charter flight to Mardi Gras, while I was sitting in the crew room finishing season 5 of Weeds.  Yesterday I was in Austin.  I woke up early, and my flight out wasn’t until 6PM.  72 degrees, no humidity, no clouds.  Awesome day for a walk, and I was full of energy, so I went for a very long 5 mile walk around town, only to be questioned by the Austin Highway Patrol for “looking suspicious.”  Apparently I wasn’t wearing the state-mandated big-ass belt buckle and cowboy hat.  Last night I was supposed to go to Newark, spend the entire day there (which meant train to NYC for the day,) fly back to Charlotte, and go back to Newark again tonight.  I had an entire trip where I could sleep really late.  Not only that, it’s really windy in Newark, and bumpy cross-landings are fun.  Then I went to Wilmington, where I always have famous people on my flights.  Of course they took that away, and gave me a DC overnight with a 7AM flight out in the morning, and Memphis and Phoenix overnights.  Which work, only I couldn’t find the DC flight in the system, so I called and I was told that I would now sit reserve until midnight, and do an O’Hare round trip today.  So naturally, rather than a bed, I slept in the crew room last night, and will sleep there again tonight.  There or my car.  I have a headache due to my current state of pissedoffedness.  At least I still have my long Pensacola overnight the last day of the month.  If they take that away I will have words with them.  The good thing to come out of this is not having to do the long flight from Phoenix back to Charlotte.

My last 3 days off I sat around the house bored for the first two days, and then couldn’t take it anymore.  I booked a flight to DCA from Columbia, because there were three people on the plane.  Nothing like having a plane to myself.  After that I took an empty Airbus to LaGuardia, and then back to Columbia on another empty plane.  I fly just to fly.  I walked around DC for a bit, took a few pics, and ate a nice brunch near Metro Center.

EDIT:  As I was typing this crew tracking called and gave me 2 overnights, which I can deal with.  But they took away my Pensacola overnight, which I'm not happy about.  Picked up Newark tonight (after Chicago round trip,) and a Savannah overnight.
Airbus at DCA

Austin skyline from my walk yesterday

US Capitol


Clouds over SC

DCA terminal

DCA tower

About to descend through the clouds

Dawn over SC

Washington-Dulles from cruise

Empty Airbus, with my receding hairline

Itinerary booked the night before.  Notice the price.

Seagul doing an impression of Jesus

Philadelphia International Airport


Approaching LaGuardia, before the left turn to land

Lower Manhattan


Washington Monument

View of Manhattan while approaching LaGuardia


United/Continental Airbus

Panthers Airbus at DCA

Philadelphia from cruise

Seagulls in DC

Statue of Liberty

Sunrise over SC

About to take off and make the left.  Stewardess got bitchy that I took this pic.  She got over it.

Just descended through the clouds, over the Potomac.


View from DCA