Sunday, October 23, 2011

Impermanence


“That's the word that comes to mind,” Peter said, “Impermanence!”

Unfortunately, I hadn't heard the question. Our meeting of the Sarasota Chapter of the Florida Writers Association was having a discussion of impressions of readings we had just heard, and I had thoughtlessly wandered off mentally while taking notes about the meeting. I caught Peter's response and scribbled it down on a fresh page, but I missed the question. I was stuck with “Impermanence!” staring at me from the otherwise blank page. I'm pretty sure we weren't discussing Buddhism, but Rod, our moderator, soon moved to a different speaker so I was left adrift in a room full of avid, attentive listeners who decided “Impermanence” was indeed the right word!

The word bounces around in my mind like bug in a Mexican jumping bean. It magically appears on the computer screen as I sit here typing. How do I rid myself of this enigma? I can only envision one quick definition of impermanence, and it has absolutely nothing to do with our meeting!  Impermanence is my definition of the Internet.  Can I sneak in an article about the evolution of the electronic media that has so revolutionized our vocation, or avocation, redefining impermanence, as a blog component of last Wednesdays' meeting? Probably not, they're a sharp group. But, here goes anyway.

Nothing better defines impermanence than clicking through your bookmarks on your PC. Really! Try it! Start at the top of your bookmark file and click your way down the list. See how many of your favorite websites are nothing more than a “404” error. Impermanence! Those valued treasures that you so diligently marked for future reference fall victim to today's economics. If no one pays money to keep that website active, it fades into the ether as easily as it came into being. As a matter of fact, it disappears in a single keystroke!

Web sites disappear so much quicker than the printed word. Once the Internet has pulled down your website, you are on your own. If you didn't electronically copy the material to your own temporal universe, you are out of luck. There is no recourse.

Books are not subjected to the same stark, brutally traceless removal from the face of the earth! Your library may remove old, tattered, or unpopular books from their shelves. Brick and mortar book stores may not ever carry the printed material you want to read or buy in the first place, but there are resources around the world dedicated to saving the printed word. The Library of Congress is dedicated to that end, but who saves the websites? And how could they?

Anything found on the web fits the definition of impermanence. Don't believe me? Just click through your bookmarks. Let me know at my e-mail address, let's see, this month it's aah, no. not that one, let me see if I can find the current one I use...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Withdrawal


It's as bad as if an old friend had died. One who stayed with you, no matter what. Always there when you needed them, one to carry you away from the tedious routine of life, one to make you forget your trials and tribulations, if only for an hour a day! Reliable! Yes, and flexible, too! Always available for you through the wonder of Digital Video Recording, or TIVO if you couldn't meet their 1:00pm schedule! When the day was more than just tumultuous, or a disaster, filled with planning that didn't work, and workers who didn't plan. Cars that failed, friends who weren't, or doctor's appointments that were for all intent and purposes an exercise in futility, you could always count on Erica and Tad and all their friends and family to whisk you away to Pine Valley, if only for a brief trip into a land where your thoughts and worries were simply suspended in time. The fantastic actors on one of America's longest running soap operas supplied the drama in every conceivable form of social commentary possible. From gay and lesbian situations, to social acceptance for injured war veterans, to racial injustice and women's rights, All My Children never shied from its social conscience.

On Friday, the September 23, 2011, a part of my wife's daily routine ignominiously faded away. She began watching AMC when she was pregnant with our daughter back in 1971. She remembers when Susan Lucci first appeared on the show, way back when.  Through old VHS tapes and later rewritable DVD's, while working as a stack supervisor for the library at Florida International University and for a short, miserable time for Eastern Airlines, she usually found a way to fit the daily suspension of routine by watching All My Children.  Skipping commercials, of course.  Even after spending 13 years with IBM as an executive secretary, Erica Cane's escapades and marriages were always there to offer the escape to a land where romance and treachery were non-stop.  Retirement from one career was no reason to change, and after ten years as a yoga instructor, All My Children was again blended into quiet evenings whenever there was a free hour or so. 


We still love to identify the myriad corps of actresses and actors who used the daily drama as a springboard to fame over the many years. 
 
We didn't get to see the final show. We were traveling, out of town when the show was broadcast. We had set up our usually reliable Digital Recorder to capture the show, but for some reason, a technical problem arose during the show and we only got to see disjointed, incomprehensible segments of the finale. Sadly, my wife turned off the TV and picked up a magazine. I said, “We can find it on the Internet, come on, let's go sign on!” But, no, it was like an appropriate end, one that really wasn't consummated. As if, maybe, they weren't finished after all. If she didn't see the ending, perhaps it hadn't occurred.


She knew something was wrong when earlier this year the show was uprooted from New York and relocated unceremoniously in L.A. “That's the handwriting on the wall!” She said. She was right. Executives at ABC decided what the viewers wanted was another cooking show. No, what they really wanted was a better return on the production costs, and a cooking show is far cheaper to produce, and therefore needs a smaller audience to be profitable. The audience will be smaller by one, certainly. No matter how depressed and sad she may be, my wife will not watch daytime ABC. Aah, withdrawal. Or, as someone said, the wrath of a woman scorned. I'm surprised she still watches Dancing with The Stars.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lessons Learned


I met Russ Kyper at the first Dearborn Street Book Fair two years ago in Englewood, Florida, while I was attending my very first book fair as an author.  I was second display from the beginning of the book fair, next to Priscilla Hurd, author of "The 13th Goddess, A Tale of Atlantis." She had a marvelous display with professional looking backdrops and cutouts. Me? I had a plastic model of the tactical missile my book is about. And newspapers from 1954 extolling the new missile programs at Cape Canaveral. Of course I had my book, U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949 – 1969 The Pioneers, on display as well, mounted vertically on a display pedestal on the side of the display table. I watched with envy as Priscilla sold book after book, while I on the other hand, got to hear war stories from every veteran who needed a captive audience to talk to.

Many people stopped and read my material, then moved on without saying a word. A few nodded and smiled, but only the veterans stopped to chat. And chat they did. I probably should write a book about the myriad experiences I heard from men, and several women, describing their incredibly varied military pasts. Several browsers, however, triggered warnings when they told stories often seen on television, some quite distorted from the truth, as personal experiences. Aah, human nature!

One gentleman I met was Russ Kyper, the driving force behind the annual Buchan-Dearborn Fly-in. The fly-in draws light, personal and even experimental aircraft from all over Southwest Florida and specializes in a great breakfast and inspection of the great airplanes that arrive for the display. Many old “tail-draggers,” bi-planes from a long gone era, were annual visitors to the fly-in. They had had as many as 50 or 60 aircraft in the past. The event is open to the public and includes vendors who set up with out charge. After realizing I hadn't sold any books, Russ suggested perhaps I needed a specialized audience, as I might find at the fly-in. He invited me to set up my display at the next fly-in and exuded confidence I simply needed to be in the right place. After one overweight, middle-aged woman, stopped, looked at the missile and raised her eyebrows and said, “Is that phallic, or what?,” I decided he was right and packed in the missile model.

So, early on a recent gusty, overcast Saturday morning I packed the Toyota with a folding card table, a box of books, and everything I had used before and sat off for the grass strip airport known as Buchan-Dearborn. Russ had asked over the phone if I had a display tent, or set up. When I told him I had nothing more than a table, he said “No problem, we'll set you at the end of the display area.” In theory, that works well. If the two closest vendors are no-shows, however, the stark emptiness of an open airfield only magnifies the pitiful inadequacy of your display. 
















Believe me, this is a test of your belief in yourself and what you want to do.  Talk about being exposed!  I unloaded and looked around, and decided not to wait any longer on the Coast Guard display, which was supposed to be adjacent to me, or the display that was supposed to be adjacent to them. How pitiful my little table looked!  I had worn my daughter's gift shirt that said boldly across the front, “Ask me About My Book!  No, Really” and I decided I wouldn't back down now.

With the 20 knot winds blowing across the field, it was impossible to set any displays more than just laying books on the awkwardly tiny card table. No, I didn't sell any books though many of the visitors went out of their way to see what I offered.  I did, however, meet a B-24 pilot who flew 17 combat missions in the Pacific, a Clipper ship pilot from Pan Am, and a restaurant owner who drove over from Punta Gorda rather than fly because of the windy, gusty weather. Three people actually asked me about my book!  They didn't buy it though!


The weather was a major factor this year as only four aircraft actually flew in. Other aircraft were taxied across from the other side of the airport so there were at least several airplanes for the crowd to see. No book buyers, though. None.  So, when the first drops of moisture dampened the table top, I decided to pack it in. I again met some neat and interesting people, but I've found my type of book has an audience even narrower and more specialized than I thought. Displaying to the general public doesn't sell my book. Amazon seems to do just fine, people who are interested find it, rather than me trying to sell it to the world.  It just became available as an Ebook and I have no idea how I'd sell that at a display.

The airplane crashing in the background is actually a toy glider thrown by the boy in the blue hat. 





However, If I ever decide to collect material from aging veterans struggling to find someone to listen to their stories, I'll just set up a book display. Works every time. 



Monday, October 3, 2011

Corse Cliente


Fresh roses to go with breakfast!  Corse Cliente treats its guests well!

Having had the pleasure of being guests of Ferrari Corse Cliente during the recent Petit Le Mans (yes, they spell it Petit Le Mans) at Road Atlanta, I have come to two conclusions: One: there are no fat Ferrari owners, and especially no overweight wives or girl friends! Two: the absolute height of tackiness is wearing a Lamborghini T-shirt to the Ferrari VIP Hospitality Suite. Yes, someone actually wore a black Lambo T-shirt to the suite!  Corse Cliente is the part of Ferrari that supports their clients’ motorsport activities in the GT championships, among other things. That means fresh roses on the breakfast table along with fine white linen tablecloths. And of course a breakfast of the same caliber to match.



Oooh!  A horsey!

Our daughter and her husband arranged for my wife and I to be included in the guest list for the Ferrari hospitality suite overlooking the main strait at Road Atlanta. Quite a change from when we first came here in 1977 when our daughter was six years old. We drove up from Miami in our rather barren Dodge van just to watch the old IMSA Camel GT 100 mile race. That was back when Al Holbert drove his blue and yellow Chevrolet Monza to the class win for the IMSA race. We sat on blankets on the grassy hillside and got sunburned in the early April Georgia sunshine watching the Porsches and BMWs battle it out for the overall win.

We actually left that very first race early so the van wouldn't boil over while stuck in traffic leaving the race. Didn't work. We only got about 30 miles from the track before we got sidelined with the temperature gauge going off the scale and steam rolling out from under the hood! A trip to remember as we had to have the radiator replaced just outside Stone Mountain. That solved the problem for about two hundred miles and we boiled over again! 

We limped into Miami at four in the morning as the cool night air was the only way we could do over 40 miles an hour and not overheat! But it was the start of our love affair with Road Atlanta, and especially the international 12 hours of endurance racing known as the Petit Le Mans. The full 24 Heures du Mans is of course in France, and is the famous 24 hours the epitomizes sports car road racing.

For my 65th birthday, my daughter arranged for the both of us to take the Skip Barber driving training class at Road Atlanta. After a morning of having my daughter blow my doors off in Miatas, RX-8s and even the lane-changing exercise with the MX-3s, we got to do 30 laps of the full track in two-liter Formula Dodge race cars during the afternoon. I finally got to use my old VW driving habits of driving straight-cut gears and double clutching on downshifts.  My daughter was raised on automatic transmissions so here I finally had an advantage.  Great stuff!  Yes, we are very familiar with Road Atlanta.

We enjoyed the courteous and friendly service of Corse Cliente, and we certainly enjoyed the food! The location was marvelous to watch the pit action as well as the racing from the famous downhill turn twelve and into uphill turn one. It was nice to have a real porcelain toilet, in the appropriate Ferrari black, of course, rather than the odoriferous fiberglass porta-potty that has always seen too many users.

Still, sitting in the grass and having the ability to move from corner to corner has its appeal. After all, sports car racing is about different lines and different techniques, different viewing angles, and best yet, getting close to the noise and smell of fast racing cars.

All in all it was a marvelous experience, certainly one to be remembered. The last time I was at the Petit Le Mans, I burst my appendix just after the race and spent several days in a hospital bed. But, aaah, the racing was great! 

We'll be back again next year. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to be guests of Corse Cliente, but if not, we'll be found on the hill overlooking turn five.