Archive for August, 2009


30 August 2009 at 4:52 pm
by Jonah


Every weekend, when I don’t have to work, I look to see where Berck is flying to, if he has a long “overnight”, and if there are any seats to and from such place. I’d finally just about caught up on the week I took off to go to the beach this month, so I thought I’d have time. Berck would be working an early morning and ending up in Casper, WY around 9 a.m, then fly back out first thing Sunday morning. I checked the seat maps on, but they said they were unavailable. In the past that’s meant that there are no empty seats, so I gave up on the idea.

But Berck suggested Friday that think about coming to Casper. He checked the loads and said there was plenty of room. I thought about what I would have to do before I left and decided I didn’t have to do anything. I packed my old book-bag with a change of clothes, my new swimsuit, my 3-1-1 bag, and the assorted items I keep in whichever backpack I’m traveling with and tried to go to bed early. Of course, I couldn’t fall asleep until about 11 or so.

At 5 a.m. the BBC World Service awoke me on my clock radio. I got ready, got in the car, plugged up the new Shuffle Berck got me, and hit next until I got to a podcast I hadn’t heard yet. The Shuffle makes the 1.25 hour drive to the Denver airport so much better (and probably safer too, as I don’t try to find a radio station I want to hear in the dead spot around Larkspur.

They’ve changed the bus route at the Pikes Peak (long term parking) lot, and I ended up getting on a completely empty bus that had just begun its route all the way around the lot. Fortunately, as usual I had allowed myself plenty of time, so it wasn’t a big deal. I had a seat and a book to read, so I was content on the increasingly crowded bus, though I made a point to remember to park on the other side of the lot next time, or at least board the buses from over there. As it was, my bus driver had just begun pulling away from his stop as I approached and ground to a stop when he saw me walking toward him. I HAD to get on his bus then.

I was reading Julie & Julia, which Berck hadn’t bothered to buy until the movie came out and the only paperback available featured Meryl Streep on the cover. As we rode along, the lady next to me said to her companion, “Oh, they didn’t do much last weekend, just went to see Julie & Julia.”

There was fortunately no line in security. I was walking toward my gate on the moving walkway when Berck called and told me to meet him under the airplane in terminal B. He asked the gate agent if I could come with him early onto the plane. The gate agent said he used to live in Casper and work at the Ramada Inn where we’d be staying. I wondered if he decided to work for the airlines after seeing all the aircrews stay at his hotel. He said, “I always tell people there’s one thing not to miss in Casper, and that’s your flight home.”

Berck took me out onto the ramp and gave me a tour of his plane.

Berck in his plane

He showed me all the places where other pilots hide porn (behind the life jacket, under the cup holder, places where you won’t find it unless you’re looking for it). He demonstrated the stick shaker and had the automated warning shout out some advisories. Since I helped him study so much when he was in training, it was fun to see all the actual buttons and levers in person. I was glad I had gotten there early.

1st Officer Jonah

Then it was time to load the passengers, so I took my seat in the back. There were only nine of us on board, and the flight attendant made us all sit in the back.

don't get out on the side of the airplane that's underwater

I amused myself by looking at the incongruously new safety information booklets in relation to how old the airplane was. As you can see, no TV’s with remotes are allowed.

No TV remotes

Berck flew that leg and did a good job as far as I could tell. I took a video of him landing, probably in violation of FAA regulations, from the vantage point of the right landing gear. The landing was pretty hard, but the Dash is notorious for that.

Then Berck indulged me and let me take a picture of him on the ramp.

Dash 8

We checked into the hotel. Then Berck changed his clothes and we went exploring Casper. It’s an easy walk to downtown Casper from the hotel. Berck had taken a lot of pictures along this walk and posted them in the gallery, so it was fun to spot all the objects he had photographed. Some objects he said he had shot but they didn’t come out. Casper has a nice little downtown. Our current job fortunes have us both working in Capser, oddly enough. Berck flies there, and I perform foreclosures there, but from my office in Colorado Springs. We walked past the courthouse, where I have all my Notices and Deeds recorded and the title company I use. They usually record everything for me, so felt a little better that the Recorder’s office was half a block away from them.

We stopped at the tiny record store, and I pointed out a new Son Volt CD that had just come out, one of our favorite bands. Berck decided to buy it and then realized that it was probably on an RIAA label. He felt bad for that but good for supporting a little independent record store, so maybe it evens out.

Next we stopped at the brewery, which Berck said had good beer but bad salads. He ordered a big summer ale of theirs, which I found watery but he liked, and I just had a draught Alaskan Summer Ale. I ordered the garbage burger and some French onion soup for us to split, and Berck also ordered some onion rings. Our waitress had them half the burger and gave us each a full order of fries, and the soup came with a bunch of house potato chips. The onion rings were huge, thick slices heavily breaded and pretty good. The fries and chips were good too. The soup was some crunchy onions in some bullion with croutons and cheap Parmesan—not very impressive. The garbage burger sounded much better in theory than in practice; it’s basically a surprise burger, and you’re not allowed to ask what’s on it. I ordered it with the stipulation that it not come with blue cheese, because Berck couldn’t eat it. The waitress came back with our food and proudly announced that today was pizza burger day; this consisted of a burger patty on a bun topped with marinara sauce, some mozzarella embedded with a generous helping of black olives and topped with a lengthwise sliced dill pickle. Other than the pickle, I was very unimpressed, especially since olives are about the only thing in the world I don’t like. Berck was thrilled, though, exclaiming, “I love pizza burgers!” Despite knowing I’d regret it later, I mostly ate the various forms of onions.

Our bellies filled, we wandered around downtown a bit more, venturing into the Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters, which is several stories of cowboy gear. Here’s part of their selection of lariats.

roping selection

We stopped in a bookstore, where I was hoping to find some used sci fi paperbacks, but they only sold new books.  Berck fingered a slim hardcover biography of Julia Child but left it on the shelf. By now it was pretty hot, so we headed back to the hotel, pausing to watch two green BNSF engines push two to three cars at time into the old train station.

To get back, we had to cross under the Interstate and then over the North Platte River. This had a chute of water noodles threaded through with orange bailing twine ending somewhere around the next bend. We passed a guy on a bike towing his kid in a little trailer who asked, “Have the ducks gone by?”

Somehow I realized what was going to happen and what all the noodles in the water were for. Colorado Springs does the same thing to raise money. You pay a certain amount to fill out a little card with your contact info. They put it in a rubber ducky, then release all the ducks into the water at once. Whoever’s ducky comes down the river and gets shunted into the collecting area at the end of the water noodle course wins a prize.

We crossed over the river and then walked down the path downstream, where we could hear live music playing. Not only could you buy a ducky, you could also buy a barbeque dinner and some beer and listen to a very old threesome play country, oldies, and classic rock. We wandered around some and then headed back to the hotel room, where Berck had cranked the air down to 68 degrees. I found I was too tired to sit at my computer, so I curled up under the spread on the kind sized bed Berck had managed to convince the front desk to give him and read Julie & Julia in between Berck reading the actual blog to me from his computer, as we compared passages.

The book is by Julie, who back in 2002 wrote one of the first blogs out there chronicling her quest to cook every single recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the space of a year. In a tiny New York apartment. When she wasn’t working as a secretary full-time downtown. Berck was a fan of the blog back when it was new, and now it’s been made into a feature film. This passage is especially for Ben, who when he was here last, proudly informed me that he had successfully made omelets the way JC shows how to do it here. When she started the project, Julie didn’t like eggs.

Still, I think it was the omelette section that really turned me around on eggs.

The diagrams in MtAoFC are always exciting. You can pretend you’re masting something really daunting, like lithography or cold fusion or something. Or maybe there’s another analogy in here somewhere:

Grasp the handle of the pan with both hands, thumbs on top, and immediately begin jerking the pan vigorously and roughly toward you at an even, 20-degree angle over the heat, one jerk per second.

It is the sharp pull of the pan toward you which throws the eggs against the lip of the pan, then back over its bottom surface. You must have the courage to be rough of the eggs will not loosen themselves from the bottom of the pan. After several jerk, the eggs will begin to thicken.

It’s not just me, is it? Surely you too think immediately of some ancient and probably very painful Japanese sex practice you vaguely remember reading about when you were in college?

Okay, maybe it’s just me.

JC writes, “A simple-minded but perfect way to master the movement is to practice outdoors with half a cupful of dried beans.” I can just picture her chortling to herself as she wrote this, thinking of all those early-sixties American housewives in their sweater sets and Mary Tyler Moore flip hairdos scattering beans all over their manicured lawns. Because simple-minded is my middle name, I followed her advice, only instead of a lawn, my pinto beans got scattered all over the grimy sidewalks of Jackson Avenue. Drivers of semis honked at me; prostitutes stared.

“Reading Julie & Julia makes me want to cook,” said Berck. “Does it you?”

“Not really,” I answered. “It makes me want to write.”

At around 4:30 we went down to the bar so that Berck could claim his free drink before it was technically too late for him to consume alcohol. The security guard Berck had told me about in the past was now working as a bartender, and complaining how he had to work instead of getting to be down with the rubber duckies (actually, I think he said “all the beer”). We were the only ones in the bar, so he chatted with us, telling us about how someone was going to end up shooting the President because he was going to take all our guns away, how his first firearm was an SKS, and how he was saving up for a crossbow for bow hunting season. Berck absolutely loves this guy. He kept us stocked with draught Shiners and huge 25 cent buffalo wings. We watched him pour several “red beers”, actually most of a beer with Clamato juice filled to the top, apparently pretty popular in Wyoming. For a hotel bar, it filled up really quickly. We were going to miss the karaoke later on.

Berck fell asleep at about 8. It took me longer, but I did too, but then dreamed about having to get correctly executed Substitution of Trustee forms to the title company downtown. We woke up right before Berck’s alarm went off and were in the van to head back to the airport at 5 a.m. on the dot. The captain flew this leg, so I got to hear Berck make his cabin announcements this time. He had another two legs to fly, so I headed home alone. I swung by the office and got a couple of hours of work done before I had to run by the store to buy o.j. and milk and then to wash the car in the drizzle. The replacement of the fire hydrant has left a pile of dirt blocking a mud puddle that forms in our driveway, which we have to splash through to get in and out of the parking lot.

Berck came home and is now attempting Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon at my request.

And I’m writing about it, between blanching and peeling the pearl onions.

Fire Hydrant

25 August 2009 at 2:07 pm
by Berck

I just read Julie & Julia. I enjoyed it, though it’d be hard to say if I did so because it has any particular merit, or because I understand. For some reason, us humans like things we can relate to, and I can relate to an attempt to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Back when we lived in Oklahoma, I considered trying to cook everything in Marcela Harzan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. I know the feeling of frustration Julie describes. As I tried to simply flip gnocchi off the back of a fork or stuff hand-rolled ravioli in my tiny kitchen, I could envision Marcella sitting at my table with her head buried in her hands. I gave up for a couple reasons. The biggest obstacle to many of the dishes is that I simply could not locate the ingredients. Even something as simple as swiss chard was simply not to be found in Norman, Oklahoma. Julie is lucky that she lived in New York, as I’m sure it’s one of the only places in the world she could have actually completed the project.

Just try to find a real butcher in most places across America, today. It can’t be done. Grocery stores are mostly supplied with pre-cut meat these days, or at least heavily prepared. A store might get a whole loin, so you can ask them to cut steaks however you want, but you’ll be pretty much out of luck if you want something as simple as a bone-in chuck roast.

Places like Whole Foods are good and bad. Good if you want to find something like semolina flour or San Marzano tomatoes. But the whole over-priced organic food bullshit isn’t helping anything. The cheese selection at the local whole foods in the Springs has been going downhill steadily. It used to be they had hundreds of kinds of cheese, but now they’re down to a few dozens. Instead it seems to be much more important that they cater to the organic granola crowd than those of us interested in a exotic, exciting food.

Anyway, there was also just the aspect that I didn’t want to eat things like liver and octopus, even if I could have found them in Oklahoma.

I feel a bit late to the crowd reading it now, now that there’s a movie out. I haven’t seen the movie as I’m a bit confused as to how one turns a blog into a movie and makes it at all interesting. Additionally, my copy of the book has Meryl Streep on the cover, and Jonah said that I’d look incredibly gay reading it. So now she’s got me all self-conscious about it.

So I’ve been back to work, post-vacation. While I like doing my job, there’s the ever-hanging cloud of the furlough hanging over my head, which makes it a whole lot less fun. I’d been concentrating on the vacation in order to distract me from my impending unemployment, but now that’s over. Additionally, my trips this month have been pretty awful. There’s endless 5am report times and 7-leg days. I don’t think that 7 leg days are safe. It’s simply too much work even when things go right, which they never do. How safe do you feel knowing that your pilot is making less than $20,000/year, just worked 7 legs/day spread out over 14 hours the last several days and has already worked 6 legs before getting to yours? Does that make you feel safe? No? But are you willing to pay more for your airline tickets?

At this point, I’m not sure what I want to do. I don’t know if I really want to move to Alaska, if it’s even an option. I’m not sure why, maybe at 28 I’m just getting old? At this point, I want a house with a garage and to pay off my debt. And to get paid to fly airplanes in some capacity, with some actual time off. I don’t mind being gone from home a lot, in fact, I like it. But I need more than 10 days off/month.

Jonah mentioned this ad to me the other night:

OR AUTO MECHANIC 1BD/1BA house w/ 4 car heated garage w/ 220 elect. 2 add’l covered storage spaces, fenced yard, pets OK. $675 + util

So tempting. I could tinker on my cars in peace. And build an airplane.

All this reading about cooking puts me in a cooky mood, but I have no idea what to cook. I hate deciding (another reason that simply going through a cookbook appealed to me). And the vidallia-onion induced plague of flies in the kitchen is a bit off-putting.

When I got home last night, there were no less than 10 giant trucks in the vicinity of my apartment, many caterpillar-tracked devices and a giant hole in front of my apartment. I didn’t think I could get anywhere near the apartment, so I parked in the day care lot. Jonah came out to tell me that I could, in fact, get through the maze to the driveway that there was a path.

The giant hole is mostly around the shaft that used to sport a fire hydrant on top of it, but which for the past several months has been capped off ever since a car crashed into the hydrant and our mailbox. I’m not sure if the project entirely a result of the missing water hydrant, but the scope of the work seems to make me think that it’s not. The hole is about 15 feet deep and wide. There are large portions of the road missing, now. Our mailbox is sitting precariously at the edge of the hole. While we had water when we went to bed, I suggested to Jonah that we probably wouldn’t for long.

They worked all night, waking me up several times. I was so tired I thought perhaps I would sleep through it, but the noise was, at times, tremendous. I kept thinking it was morning, then realizing that the light shining through the blinds was from the project, not the sun. Jonah informed me that our water was, indeed, turned off some time while we slept. The water finally returned around Noon. I would have been seriously annoyed if I’d had to get up and go to work and not shower. The work continues, though it’s entirely unclear what’s actually going on.

Casper, Wyoming

18 August 2009 at 5:20 pm
by Berck

I took some pictures today.


18 August 2009 at 3:36 pm
by Berck

Bed-Stuy from the LIRR

18 August 2009 at 3:29 pm
by Berck

Sydney’s old neighborhood.