UPDATE: Error reading fixed. You should be able to read the post now.
On December 17, 1903 in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina….in the United States…Two great American brothers did the impossible: an expression that if considered at any length, truly makes no sense at all, for if they actually did it, then clearly it’s possible. In reality it’s impossible to do the impossible.
I’ll be right back.
On December 17, 1903 in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina….in the United States…Two great American brothers did the possible, albeit, the improbable. On that glorious and mystical morning, the conditions were perfect save for the freezing headwinds gusting up to 27 mph, slapping both the brothers in their collective face like a cold black glove from the cruel dominatrix Nature herself. But they would not be deterred. They would press on…because the wheels of Innovation do not stop for a little ice on the tracks nor does Greatness reveal itself only in the most moderate of conditions. Not to mention, and let me preface this with I can’t speak for Orville and Wilbur, but some people like a good slap in the face from a cold black glove, I being one of them.
Bear with me.
On December 17, 1903 in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright became the first people in the world to execute sustained flight of a powered heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of a pilot….They invented the airplane and it worked….they flew…well Orville flew….for 12 seconds…120 feet.
At noon Wilbur took the final flight of the day and soared 852 feet for a flight time of 59 seconds. No movie. No snacks. No Sky Mall. The only luggage he carried was a dream.
Now this is where my theory deviates from most aeronautic historians.
If you were to read any thorough history of the Wright Brothers, and by thorough, I mean Googling “The Wright Brothers,” you would find passage after passage describing their fascination with flight…the way they spent hours observing birds in flight, noticing how the air flowing over the curved surface of their wings created lift…how they change the shape of their wings to turn and maneuver.
Why this fascination? Was manned flight truly their end game? Or was it something even greater? And if so, what?
59 seconds. 59 seconds. Why the celebration over 59 seconds? Doesn’t seem like a long time at all. But then I thought of my own experiences and how there were many occasions where 59 seconds would have been setting the bar fairly high. Then it became clear to me. 59 seconds was plenty of time to accomplish what they needed to accomplish. What they knew was possible. What they needed to be possible.
The Wright Brothers were innovators, sure….but they were more than that. They were fetishists with foresight: sexual soothsayers if you will. Perverted visionaries where flight was not about getting from one place to another, but rather about creating an arena of sexual gratification where only the boldest dare attempt to enter….an arena that would eventually reach legendary and mythical status in our culture.
God Bless Orville and Wilbur for realizing that those 59 seconds were more than enough time to gain entry into what would eventually be dubbed The Mile High Club.
As I boarded American Airlines flight 75 returning from a recent trip to DC, I was filled with very little anticipation. The plane was filled to capacity with coughing masses such that one could almost visualize strains of swine flu chilling on head rests waiting on their next host.
The only thing I enjoy about flying is the fleetingly cinematic fantasy that I as head down the aisle, repeatedly checking my ticket to verify a seat number I’ve already memorized, I might look up to see beautiful girl sitting in the seat next to mine….not just beautiful, but the kind of beauty where she doesn’t know she’s beautiful…but I think she’s really beautiful. Or even better, she’s beautiful to me but not necessarily beautiful to other people…but beautiful enough such that I garner a certain stature without eliciting any competition.
I moved further down the aisle, checking my seat assignment again. It hadn’t changed. As the impatient jammed carry-on luggage too large to be called carry-on luggage into overhead bins, the view of my row was slowly revealed. I could feel it in my soul: this would be the flight where fantasy would merge with reality. Where a dream would become truth instead some of some nocturnal lie only exposed by the sound of an alarm clock.
There was my seat: 14B…I confirmed it on my ticket.
And next to mine 14A….and sitting in 14 A….was 71 year old Ed.
He looked up, far more excited to see me, than I, him. Almost as if he had something to get off his chest, like he was waiting for me…or frankly, waiting for anybody. The only thing that fit him more closely than his expensive suit, was the coat of sadness he seemed unable to take off and yet hoped nobody noticed. Something about this man moved me instantly, and to this day I cannot explain why. There was a hollowness in his blue eyes, and a weathering around them which only accentuated that feature.
What was equally intriguing was the amount of facial extremity hair. And by facial extremity hair, I mean his nostrils looked like 2 sea anemones, his eyebrows like pregnant caterpillars, and his ear hair so unwieldy I couldn’t help but wonder if he might benefit from a landscape designer.
Now some of you might be thinking that this is not a “Date.” Well that might be the case if defined in romantic terms. However, the way I look at it is this: Flight time was estimated 5 and hours which is certainly longer than the majority of my real dates….not to mention Ed and I were traveling together…an intimate first step in a relationship. We shared a destination. But the conversation would take us somewhere not listed on our itineraries and the black box housing the flight data recorder would be opened up right here on Big Hollywood.
For the first hour we exchanged pleasantries but I was more concerned with out maneuvering Ed in an attempt to lay claim to the real estate we shared in the form of the elbow rest. It was a chess game which due to my claustrophobia, I had to win, and I did. I can’t tell you how I won for fear you might use this strategy against me should we share a flight some day.
Once our spacial relationship was firmly established, I relaxed a bit. Sensing this, Ed felt more comfortable engaging me in conversation bigger than small talk. He relayed a story about a recent dinner party he attended where a hypothetical scenario was presented by one of the guests…and it apparently caused a disruption in the party and some irreparable damage between guests. Ed was interested in my take on the scenario.
If you were King and in possession of a handcrafted Cello retrieved from a thief, to whom of the follow would you give the cello?
- The man who built it. Would you give it back and allow him to keep it?
- A man who has nothing, never had anything, and no means to build a cello?
- A musician of immense talent?
I asked him what his answer was and he told me that he’d give the cello to the man with nothing.
I said you’re a Democrat. This was not accusatory.
He nodded and said you’re not?
No. I’m a Republican.
Then what would you do if you were King?
I would give it back to the man who made it. He asked why and I explained that I believe in innovation, personal responsibility, and free markets. So if I were King, I’d give the man his cello back and hope that he would sell it to the musician with immense talent. Perhaps that musician would create a piece of music that would be heard by the man with nothing such that it might inspire him to get off his ass and build his own cello.
Ed smiled. He was oddly curious, as if he had never been exposed to this ideology. I thought maybe he was toying with me because I outgunned him on the arm rest. But he wasn’t toying. He was 71….a seasoned lawyer, recently retired from the Justice Department…and legitimately unfamiliar with the tenets of the only other political party in the nation.
Just then the captain came on the radio. Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened. Looks like we’re going to encounter some choppy air. I recognized the voice. Like the message was meant solely for me. It was Breitbart. How did he know the air was gonna get choppy? How did he hear my conversation? When did he learn to fly a plane?
But he was right: the air was about to get choppy.
The flight continued as did our conversation. We covered a wide array of subjects and he seemed sincerely interested in my life which I thought was a unique quality in a liberal.
There was trust developing between us….a trust so pure that I had no qualms telling him that he had half a sandwich lodged in his beard. He thanked me and wiped his chin. He didn’t get all of it.
Ed liked me. I don’t say this because I am inherently likable. I say this because he needed to like me…at that moment….on that flight. He stopped talking abruptly, as if he had come to some conversational intersection and wasn’t sure if he should turn. He turned.
Do you have a good relationship with your father? He asked me.
I looked at him. I could feel the depth of the question.
Not particularly. No.
He nodded sadly. We do our best you know?
This didn’t require an answer, so I didn’t give him one.
My daughter doesn’t like me. He said.
Why? I asked.
Because I meddle in her life and she resents me for it. The problem is I can’t stop.
She makes mistakes. Bad choices.
Where does that end? How many choices can you make for her? I asked.
He had no answer.
He was sacrificing the greater relationship for his need to engineer a life he thought she should have. The same unconsciously progressive ideology that dictated his answer to the cello scenario was spilling over into his parenting style and it was destroying two lives. This relationship was a microcosm of the political debate happening in America: Ed was Big Government. His daughter…The Tea Party movement.
When doing research for this installment, and by research I mean Googling “The Wright Brothers,” I came across the following passage:
The Wrights supportive home life provided Wilbur and Orville with a strong belief in themselves. This self-confidence enabled them to reject the theories of well-known and more experienced aeronautical experimenter when the brothers felt their own ideas were correct. Often it was the emotional anchor provided by their strong family ties that helped Wilbur and Orville persevere when they encountered difficulties in their research.
It’s belief in the self that fuels innovation. And it’s innovation that makes America great. It starts with family. It starts at home…that belief….that anything is possible. It’s not a bumper sticker or a catch phrase, but it is the purest meaning of “Yes We Can,” because if you limit choice or make choices for another which is the aim of our current administration, our King, our collective Father, then you are essentially say “No You Can’t.” And when you say “No You Can’t,” then you will have a revolution.
What do I do? What am I supposed to do now? Ed asked.
I found myself in the odd position of giving advice to a man well my senior with far more life experience. I didn’t have much time as we were pulling into the gate in Los Angeles.
I said: It’s very simple. Tell your daughter you love her and believe in her. She’ll forgive you. I promise you.
He had tears in his eyes and he thanked me. He said he would think about it.
I said isn’t your daughter picking you up curbside?
He said yes….I said what’s to think about?
He smiled. We shook hands, and I then I watched Ed exit the plane. My Date with a Liberal had ended. Whether it was successful, I won’t ever know. What I did know was that flight 75 would not be the flight on which I would obtain that elusive membership card to….
….The Mile High Club.
As I left the plane I wanted to thank the Captain but was told by a rather uppity flight attendant that he was unavailable. Apparently he was currently embroiled in a ferocious Twitter war with a rival airline.
Note: As an interesting addendum to this story. I Googled Ed upon my return home. The first result was an article about 3 lawyers who chose to defend terrorists and war criminals. Ed was one of them.