Thursday, December 26, 2013

They grow up much too fast

I drove through a fairly thick fog recently on my way out to the Plains Conservation Center to lead a naturalist walk, and it reminded me of a trip my son Al and I took one day years ago. I was in Socorro, NM, for a meeting at New Mexico Tech, and Al drove up from El Paso where he was working as a field geologist doing remediation work at a refinery there.

One of Al's favorite books during his undergraduate days was The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and it turned out that the weekend we were in Socorro was one of two weekends each year when the AEC opens the Trinity Site to visitors. We drove out there and were both in awe of the history of the place where we stood. I took some photos which I've since lost, but Al has framed on his wall at his home in Casper.

When we left the Trinity Site, we drove into fog and decided to climb up to the west of Socorro onto the Plain of San Augustin to the Very Large Array, a series of 27 radio telescopes that was featured in the Jodi Foster movie Contact way back in 1997. We drove up in fog through Magdalena Gap onto the high plateau and were still in fog. Anyway that thought triggered a poem in my mind that I've been working on and probably still needs some tweaks.

A Foggy Morning at the VLA

Thick fog rolls up through Magdalena Gap
and spills out onto the high desert Plain  
of San Agustin. The fog spreads beyond  
the low buildings at the center's parking lot.
A light breeze stirs and the thick fog thins.
The angular shape of a giant dish antenna,
a Cyclops, slowly appears. Soon another
and another appears until all twenty-seven
are there. They listen for faint radio signals
from the dark beyond the sun. Scientists
here watch and record the birth and death
of galaxies from millions of light years ago.

Those scientists also listen for alien voices,
hoping to discover life on distant planets.
But if we hear them, will we understand
them any better than those we hear today
from our own planet?

And then, as if by some sort of influence of the stars, I recently read a poem that talked about a son's voice breaking as he tried to sing, a sort of first sign of that terrible affliction called puberty. It reminded me of that time in Al's life. So I sat down and worked out a poem about that time in Al's life. Some sweet nostalgia for me here. 

The passing of innocence 
A chance reading of a poem this morning 
brought back a memory of my son when 
he sang in a middle school musical. 
His voice was pure and clear and high. 
He sang a minor part, but sang it well. 

On those nights during the drive home 
from visiting family, we would play 
a tape of the Nylons, a male group with 
one voice that reached falsetto highs. 
My son could sing there with him. 

One night we sang along as always, 
and at the point when we would quit 
and our son would sing up the ladder 
of notes, his voice faltered. We knew 
the age of innocence was behind him

And all this of course reminded me of a couple of pics of Al when he was still singing falsetto--almost said castrato, but that would embarrass him--so I'll say falsetto. In this first pic, he's standing on a rock by a waterfall during one of our favorite hikes. In the second pic he's fishing in the reservoir at the top of that hike, I think on a different hike. We got the tent set up on that hike just in time to hide from a hail storm which covers the ground and causes fog in the second pic. And yes, that's a fro on his little ole blonde head. I had one too then. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Visiting with an old friend

As we got ready to head for Denton, Texas, to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter, Barbara, her partner, Lisa, and our grandson, Louis, I thought I'd check on aviation museums in the Dallas area. I remembered reading somewhere that a museum or two in that area had Vietnam era airplanes. I wanted to find an O-1 or O-2 to show my family.

I discovered that the Cavanaugh Aviation Museum in Addison, a Dallas suburb, had a newly restored to flying condition O-2. I wrote to the museum and made arrangements to visit the museum and see the airplane. I was given a name of the maintenance director to meet on Friday. He was the man who oversaw the restoration of the bird and got it back into flying condition. He flies it in air shows and takes passengers on rides.

So, I visited the Cavanaugh on Friday after Thanksgiving and met with Russell Martin, the maintenance director. We spent about two hours looking at the O-2 and talking about flying the airplane and the missions we flew. I brought my logbook because I had flown this very airplane at Pleiku on a couple of night missions in early November, 67. I wanted to show Russell that I'd flown his airplane 46 years ago in Vietnam. That made the visit so much more meaningful for me and my family.

Here's a picture of me with 21334, the tail number of this O-2. It matches entries in my log book.

Barbara posed this picture to try to get me to look like a picture we've had of my in front of my O-1. 

Here's a picture of me and Kath during an emotional moment. I'm flooded with memories of those days of flying into Laos and getting scared and shot at regularly. 

Kath was emotional because I had been talking with Russell about some of the missions and the craziness of them and some of the really scary stuff. 

Here's another picture of me standing at the cockpit door. I had forgotten how small this bird is and how cramped we were flying for four or five hours in the pitch dark over the Laotian jungle looking for trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 

I've set up a nice relationship with this museum. I gave Russell a copy of my new book of poetry, We Leave the Safety of the Sea. The title poem in that book describes a mission I flew in North Vietnam in an O-2. And I will provide them some pictures and other materials to help them make their display more informative. All in all, a good visit to a museum. Now if I can sleep again, things will be better.