Posts Tagged ‘essay’

This isn’t normal. Glasses aren’t supposed to roll off the flight attendant’s table and shatter on the floor. The pilot isn’t supposed to sound so shaky on the flight PA. We’re 32,000 feet over the icy North Pacific Ocean. A butterfly-in-your stomach dip later and we’re 31,800 feet up.

Your whole life is supposed to flash in front of you in moments like these. The big events—graduations, weddings, Super Bowls. And the even more memorable, smaller events—sleepy Sunday brunches with the favorites, Chinese checkers games with the grandparents.

And I did think about all that. Eventually. But at that moment—at the very moment when my life hung in the balance—I was thinking about college basketball. I was wondering if Duke had enough inside presence to survive the ACC. I was thinking about March Madness brackets and why some company didn’t just offer $1 billion to anyone who correctly predicted every game AND the championship game final score.

In my defense: 1) Not even the prophetic Paul the Octopus would win the billion, and the free publicity would be a marketing bonanza. 2) Such random near-death thoughts are not uncommon. One “Miracle on the Hudson” passenger reported all she could think about during Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger’s valorous water-landing was how she never cleaned out her garage.

The plane barreled through another gust. Passengers gasped. I sighed: this is it. Vague feelings of unfilled potential. Things I’d never said. Books I’d never read. Countries I’d only seen on Rand McNally rainbow colored world maps. Then the hodge-podge check-lists of lasts. The last meal I would ever eat was those Biscotti airline cookies and tomato juice. The last conversation I would ever have with my younger brother was my secret trick to baking the best pre-made Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies on Earth (Patent pending). The last movie I would ever see was the in-flight film “Nights In Rodanthe”, starring Diane Lane, Richard Gere –which would have arguably been the greatest tragedy of all.

Nights In Rodanthe Movie Cover

And then calm. Ten minutes later, the pilot turned off the fasten seat belt sign. 30 minutes later, the flight attendant drink cart rolled down the aisle again. And 5 hours later, the soggy McGriddle sandwich at O’Hare that remains to this day the best meal I’ve ever had.

*****

I know. The odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11 million. You are more than 100 times more likely to be killed by a swarm of killer bees. Statistically, you are much more at risk driving to the airport. “Relax,” my dad always says. “It’s out of control. Let it go.”

But flying just doesn’t feel right. And percentages and common sense mean nothing to me when the plane ride gets bumpy. So below are three leading methods I’ve devised to cope with my fear of flying (starting with least effective):

1) The Stay Up The Whole Night Before Strategy: In theory, you will be so tired you will sleep through the turbulence. In practice, you just end up exhausted and terrified. If you’re lucky.

In college I was supposed to fly to Hawaii for Spring Break. I stayed up all night with my buddies, but I still magically made it to LaGuardia. I made it through security. And I even made it to the gate, where I promptly fell asleep. I woke up five hours later to find out I’d not only missed my scheduled flight but the only other one I could have boarded three hours afterward. Due to the Spring Break crush, it would cost $1400 to get on another flight. I instead paid $2.25 for the saddest Subway ride back to school of my life.

2) The Megan Fox Strategy: There’s a lot to like about Megan Fox.

My favorite detail, though, is how she deals with her fear of flying. Megan Fox knows it’s not her destiny to die listening to a Britney Spears song. So every time she flies she blasts a Britney Spears album on her iPhone.

Warning: Results may vary. I have confused many a fellow passenger when I boom “Oops, I Did It Again” on repeat. And I know the lyrics to “Toxic” far, far too well.

3) The American Pilots Are Meaner Argument: In his 2008 book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell examined why plane crashes occurred in some developed countries more than others. He found the reason why certain nations suffered more plane crashes lay not so much in technological and quality control discrepancies but “the cultural heritage” of the pilot and First Officer. Gladwell argued there tended to be more plane crashes in Colombia because Colombian people tend to be more respectful to authority than people in other nations.

Essentially, the more obnoxious and blunt the pilot, the safer the plane. If a plane is running low on fuel, a meeker pilot would patiently wait on the command tower to reroute other planes and wave him in. But could you picture a loudmouth pilot from the Bronx being put on hold by headquarters before he was signaled in? It’s for this reason Australia’s Quantas Airlines last fatal airplane crash took place in 1951.

*****

Don’t tell the fine folks at Delta, but I have a Superpower. The rest of the world would call it a technical glitch. My dad and I share the same first initial (K) and last name (Moats). Somehow Delta Airlines fused our accounts and SkyMiles together years ago. So collectively, we have flown over 1 million miles and are automatically upgraded to first class anytime we fly Delta. When I check in curbside, the bag guy typically looks down at his computer, looks over at my passport, and finally looks up at me puzzled. “Business,” I sigh. “It takes me everywhere.” Nonetheless, the K.Moats account has a long way to go before 10 million miles and its name stenciled on a plane like George Clooney. Current estimates peg our Estimated Time of Arrival at 2039.

Thirty years before the Air K.Moats, George Clooney mythologized the rarefied air of the ultimate jet-setter in the overlooked 2009 film “Up In The Air.” He is perfectly at ease at a life in transition in between time-zones, Hilton Hotels, and first class lounges. Clooney is ironically both surrounded and yet (spoiler alert) insulated from his fellow passengers:

I hope these tips helped. And if you ever see an exhausted, terrified twenty-something listening to “Hit Me Baby One More Time” on your next Delta flight… don’t take it personally.

Republished from ProseBeforeHos: Up In The Air And Terrified.

This is the second part of the Half Year In Review. See the first part here, 2010 Half Year In Review.

Lebron LeLoser

LeLoser Of The Half-Year, LeBron James: You had it all. You were the hometown boy bringing the local team to the cusp of NBA glory and immortality. You were so beloved even President Obama said he was you: “I’m LeBron, baby! I got this.”

But then you quit. You bailed on your Cleveland Cavaliers when the going got tough against the Celtics in the playoffs. Then you deserted them for good in free agency a few weeks later. The irony is your Cavaliers were arguably the best team in the league last year. Everyone just got hurt, including your own elbow—now closing in on 17,000 followers on Twitter. (http://twitter.com/lebronselbow) But you didn’t just bail on your home-state, you opted to dump Ohio on the grandest stage possible. You arranged an ESPN made-for-TV event dubbed “The Decision” to announce you would be “taking [your] talents to the South Beach”.

Admit it. You were afraid you’d be another Kevin Garnett. A.k.a. a freakish, high-school-straight-to-the-pros prodigy who let his prime years go to waste for an also-ran team in the Midwest. You panicked about the rings. Jordan won 6. Kobe now has 5. DWade, 1. You have 0.

And LeBacklash began. You, with the Akron area code inked on your arm had to flee your own state. Cleveland fans are burning your jersey. There’s now even a beer named after you. Great Lakes Brewing Co. created “Quitness”, a dry hopped India pale ale that leaves an appropriately bitter aftertaste. The most recent batch sold out in three hours—almost as quickly as LeBron did.

#5: Snoop Dogg: To film your latest music video, you just tried to rent Liechtenstein. () As in an entire sovereign country. Smoke more weed, Snoop Dogg. Seriously. Smoke more weed.

#6 Glenn Beck: You’ve cried away 50% your audience. News Corp. Inc has had to buy up over half of your ad spots after you called President Obama a Nazi. And Jon Stewart skewered you in one of the most pitch-perfect impersonations ever.

#7 President Obama: The man heralded as the most promising politician since Robert F. Kennedy is starting to look a lot like… Black Cinderella.

The President misread his sweeping 2008 election as a mandate for federal activism. Except Americans didn’t want a more involved government. They just didn’t want George W. Bush, or 95% of him in John McCain. And yes, Obama got a little caught up in the “Change” election fever. Lobbyists not only stock his administration, but remember the iconic Hope poster than captured the nation’s imagination in 2008? It was sold to a museum by two lobbyists and is now a work of satire.

Obama Dope Poster

Yes, Obama dithers. Save for health-care reform, the cerebral Professor-In-Chief doesn’t have his Cheerleader-In-Chief predecessor’s brazen gung ho to just ram legislation through. Obama holds office hours, not pep rallies. Obama’s Afghanistan decision took painfully long and isn’t working. His response to the Gulf Oil Leak has been judged worse than President George “Brownie’s doing a heckuva job” W. Bush’s to Hurricane Katrina. For the first time, less than half the country approves of President Obama. But the clock hasn’t struck midnight on Black Cinderella.

Obama and Reagan Poll Numbers

Don’t tell the former half-term-Governor-from-Alaska-turned-Wannabe-White-Oprah but President Obama’s tanking approval ratings mirror those of her idol—Ronald Reagan. Like Reagan, President Obama is an outside-the-Beltway, eloquent President who inherited the office in a time of dire economic conditions and war. Like Reagan, President Obama is liked more for his personality than his actual policies.

Spoiler Alert I: Reagan’s popularity plummeted to a low of 42 percent in 1982, and Republicans lost 26 seats in the House of Representatives in the mid-term election. Spoiler Alert II: The economy recovered. President Reagan went on to land-slide the 1984 re-election bid and became one of the most popular presidents in recent memory.

Dishonorable Mention: Baltimore Orioles, Europe, The French World Cup Team, “Girls Busch Girls” (The ladies’ ridiculously lame rebuttal to “Bros Icing Bros”), “Jersey Shore 2” (I’m calling it now), Jesse James (REAAALLY? You’re married to Sandra Bullock!), Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus (The tail-spin Britney Spears trajectory begins), and Tiger Woods.

Lindsay Lohan Loser 2010

And Finally The Getting Beer Fail Of The Half-Year: True, this incident occurred last October, but something tells me this fella still can’t tell the difference:

http://embed.break.com/MTQ0NjA2OA==

Republished from ProseBeforeHos: The 7 Biggest Losers Of The Half-Year

We threw everything at it. Trash, dog hair, “containment domes.” We even called in Kevin Costner’s goofy ping-pong ball machine. But the oil kept on gushing. Only BP’s lies could keep up. BP first reported 210,000 gallons were spurting out a day, if that. The latest estimate is between 1.5 and 2.5 million gallons were leaking into the Gulf. (Or one 1989 Exxon Valdez catastrophe every 4-7 days.) We are holding our breath that BP finally capped the leak last Thursday, but you’ll understand if we’re still a tad skeptical.

“The Half-Yearish In Review: Part 2” premieres Thursday, featuring The Biggest Losers Of 2010. (NBC, take a bow.)

Via ProseBeforeHos: 2010 Half Year In review

For the previous entry, please see War & Pizza Hut: Volume 1

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Vietnam

My “uncle” would not go to Vietnam. Some of his friends fled to Canada. Others loped off part of their trigger fingers. He settled on a less permanent escape. The night before his Army evaluation he chugged coffee and pounded bars of butter. When he showed up the next morning, the tester gasped at his blood pressure readings. Normal blood pressure is 120/80, but he racked up 100/150. He was a miracle to be alive, let alone fight in a war half across the globe.

Vietnam was the ignominious chapter when the American Empire got its dark streak. Man fought machine and man, unfortunately, won. If JFK’s assassination was when America lost its innocence at home, Vietnam was when America lost its innocence abroad. (see: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964). Now, it wasn’t the first time the U.S. started a war under false pretenses (American Indian Wars, Mexican War, Spanish-American War) or the last (Iraq), but it was the first time America picked a fight and lost. And 58,159 of America’s finest paid the ultimate sacrifice. 58,159 sons, brothers, and fathers died because President Johnson couldn’t admit he was wrong.

Vietnam War Helicopters Photograph

American artists painted some of the country’s most vivid artwork against this murky canvas of imperialism and government deceit. Filmmakers and musicians fearlessly plunged into America’s throbbing wound and plucked out some of the rawest artwork the nation has ever seen it. Vietnam inspired the greatest war soundtrack (“American Woman” by The Guess Who, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen, alluding to The Siege of Khe Sanh, “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Revolution” by The Beatles, “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane, and “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath). Jaded disillusionment imbued some of the finest masterpieces for print (“The Things They Carried”) and the screen (“Full Metal Jacket”, “The Deer Hunter”, “Platoon”, “Born On The Fourth Of July”).

Vietnam cast a tall shadow over American psyche ever since. We have whispered whether each subsequent war would be the next Vietnam. America held her breath when she invaded the tiny island-nation of Grenada in 1983. Maybe it’s for this reason we never gave our Vietnam War heroes-turned-politicians a fair shake. Serviceman John Kerry was a true American war hero. He earned two Purple Hearts for his valor in saving the lives of his crew. But when he returned home he was America’s most hardened war critic. He tossed his medals onto the White House lawn in disgust. He was the first Vietnam solider to testify against the war. There was nary a dry eye in Congress in 1974 when Kerry asked, “How can you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?”

Thirty years later though, Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry was painted as the effete, flip-flopping elitist who lied about his war record in the Swift Boats imbroglio. Never mind that President Bush spent the war defending South Texas from the impending Vietnam air menace (when he showed up at all). No, it was John Kerry who was vilified as the most glaring reminder of our most chronicled defeat. Four years later, pundits openly discussed how John McCain’s Vietnam selfless imprisonment rendered him mentally unsound for Presidency.

It’s tragic that America looked the other way so quickly. Our Vietnam heroes have offered some of the sagest advice for the War on Terror. John McCain was one of the earliest and adamant proponents of the Surge, which—in tandem with the Anbar Awakening—pulled Iraq back from the precipice. We need John Kerry, now on the other side of the Congressional tables, asking: How can you ask a man to be the last to die for Hamid Karzai?

The War On Terror

I accidentally did my part for the War on Terror propaganda effort. And it’s all thanks to this YouTube video.

Bush made the world pick sides: “You’re either with us or against us.” And the world didn’t pick Saddam, but the world didn’t exactly pick Bush either. The War on Terror polarized into us vs. them, black vs. white absolutes. But what followed was a slippery slope decent into the seedy underworld of secret CIA prisons and the grayish nether reaches of legality and morality. Water-boarding, suspending habeas corpus, Abu Ghraib, torture—the lasting buzz words of the War on Terror smacked more of the Medieval Ages than the world’s lone Superpower in the early 21st century.

The mission was never accomplished, and we never found Iraq’s connection to 9/11 or the WMDs. Americans still don’t know the details, and more troublesome, they just don’t care. 1/3 of FOX News viewers polled believe we really did find WMDs in Iraq (compared to 5% of NPR listeners). Ironic because everything Iraq was supposed to be—an Islamic threat to regional stability, bent on nuclear power—Iran is. The CIA learned Saddam Hussein made up his weapon of mass destruction bluster because he was so scared of Iran. But Second Term President Bush was chastened. His political capital spent. W listened to Condoleezza, fired Rummy, and the centrifuges in Nawaz kept on spinning…

Talking About Gen Y!

Generation Y is sick, yo! We’re 70 million Americans strong, born between 1981 and 1992, and always have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ back:

We still love Obama but disillusionment is starting to creep in. Change may be coming, but it’s glacially slow. Remember the iconic “Hope” poster that was a clarion call for fresh thinking? It was donated to a museum by a pair of lobbyists.

Obama Hope and Change

Deep down, we’re starting to think we missed the peak of the American Empire by 40 years. We quietly fear Afghanistan, “the graveyard of Empires”, is our Vietnam. Domestically, 15 months of filibustering and partisan infighting over health care reform reminded us why we hated politics in the first place. We don’t understand why “don’t ask, don’t tell” is still an issue. And don’t even get us started on Arizona:

no illegals no burritos

Grown-ups I talk to are befuddled as to why we aren’t angrier. My Dad emails me gloomy Wall Street Journal articles enumerating the mountains of debt his Baby Boomers are putting on our tab. My dad laments that unpaid interns are conquering the world. He’s not alone. Economists whisper that, thanks to the protracted Great Recession, we are showing the symptoms of another Lost Generation. My school Dean Glenn Hubbard worries about Generation Y’s perniciously high unemployment rates (over 16% for 24-year-olds). He fears for twenty-somethings two years out of work can become virtually a “life-sentence”.

Despite all of the turmoil, us Generation Y’ers are still a bubbly bunch. Maybe we’re naïve. Maybe YouTube keeps us happy. Or maybe it’s that the world has doubted American generations since our Founding Fathers. And never before has the world seen a generation with our tolerance, creativity, and innovation. It won’t be easy. But I have no doubt we have the vitality and ambition to become the Sweetest Generation. And perhaps one day our grandchildren will marvel at our achievements against tall odds. Even if they never get our love for the “Jersey Shore.”