Can you hang?

They say life is a series of experiences. Okay, I don't really know what they say about life or who "they" are; however [raising a finger to proclaim], I do know that there are few moments or experiences you only get once in a lifetime. (And I'm sure you know where this is leading.) Today--technically yesterday by the time I finish this post--for me, was one of those days.

Though the background isn't so important to my day, I will expound on it briefly because my brain and memory deteriorate on a daily basis. (It's always nice to remind yourself of your constant decline or downward spiral as my boss calls it.) Yesterday, as I was going through my morning ritual to be presentable for the day, I correctly identified a snippet of a song played backwards on the radio. My prize was to get to fly in the Red Baron biplane. And when I say Red Baron, I'm sure you ask, "As in pizza?" and the answer to that question would be, "Yes, as in the pizza." There is an airshow planned for the weekend here at our airforce base. So, in preparation for the show and good advertising, Red Baron is a sponsor for the show and came up with the great mini trip.

So, I was stoked. I mean, a chance to fly is always great for me. I immediately looked up the capabilities of a biplane. I wanted to ensure I could loopty-loop (isn't that the technical term for it) and perform all sorts of equilibrium-spinning stunts. What chick wouldn't?

Fast forward to today. I'm at the airforce base. I spy two little red biplanes. Please keep in mind, I grew up with a father who flies for a living, and oddly enough, I work in the aviaiton business. It should also be said, I'm a little bit of a grease monkey, but in a very "I have manicured nails" kind of way. I want to paint the picture accurately. So, I slap my hair up in a ponytail fully prepared to revisit the butterscotch shake, McDonald's cheeseburger, and few Pringles I inhaled about two hours prior. My tummy is feeling a little anxious. There's some pressure for it--my tummy, to stomach this ride (pun completely intended).

The morning DJ is joining me on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Isn't it queer how listening to someone every morning & then meeting them is always awkward? Okay, maybe that one is just me. Anyway, I've seen the boy around town. He has a form of a mullet. He's a little pudgey but in a cute way, and I love to hear him laugh on the radio. It always makes me smile. Well, as the pilot is telling me how to step in the plane, I glance over at the DJ who seems to be way ahead of me. He has removed his baseball cap, which caused me to do a double-take. The man is nearly bald! How on earth does he sport a mullet? I was so distracted, I couldn't pay attention to what the pilot was saying. I was then even more alarmed watching the DJ put on a little cap with goggles. My worst fear was coming true. Let it be noted that I'm not a fan of "public" equipment. Unless unsaid item has emerged from fresh packaging, I will probably grimace.

So, back to the pilot. He tells be how to climb into the aircraft. I'm only allowed to climb the wing in a specified area that has tracking on it. Picture black sandpaper or roof shingles. I'm certain I gave him a splendid view of my ass on the way up. I wedge myself into the cockpit. He proceeds to strap on a parachute, a harness, and the dreaded cap, goggles, and headset. At this point, I'm thinking my second round of perfume and body splash were a great idea. He and I are very acquainted as he buckles straps betwixt my thighs and breasts. I'm certain most men envy his job right about now. So, all I'm missing is the scarf that the Red Baron pizza guy & Amelia Earhart have made so famous. He then runs down the "Bail out! Bail out! Bail out!" protocol should we run into trouble. Keep in mind, he must utter "Bail out!" three times before action takes place. He directs me that I'm not supposed to jump out the plane or do anything until he does. Always good to know. He tells me where to hang on inside the cockpit and what not to touch. Lucky for me, I've flown a Cessna once in my life. I'm vaguely familiar with what operates what.

So we taxi out. I can't see anything in front of me besides the inside of the cockpit. I take notes. I'm in a 1941 Boeing aircraft. My Pratt & Whitney engines have 450 horsepower. We're cleared for 14,000 feet without oxygen masks. Our cruising speed is 140 mph, and we can max at 186 mph. I have my specs down, though I never spied our N-number. Before we even get off the ground, the pilot has managed to make me a little more queasy. Instead of driving in a relatively straight line, we're swiving back and forth. I'm recalling driving the Cessna with the two rutter pedals on the floor. I'm remembering what a pain in the ass it was to drive straight. My father definitely made that look easier than it was. I managed to make all the other passengers pretty sick when I attempted to control anything inside the aircraft. So, I'm wondering if this is the appropriate way to taxi...with an experienced pilot. I'm definitely ready for takeoff.

Flash past about ten minutes. I'm still excited to be in the air, but thinking to myself I'm not getting to loopty-loop. Even though I was promised, I thought that I perhaps missed the sarcasm in the answer. Right then, my pilot inquires if I'm ready to do some loopty-loops. I say, "Bring it on." He tells me we will first try a loop, I believe he called it. He tells me to look to my left at the ground. Puzzled, I ignore him thinking I'm experienced roller-coaster-rider. I remember injuring my neck by looking down at those fearful moments. My wise father told me to look up, which definitely takes the pressure off the neck and also seems to slow down the movement. After a small dive, we do a gradual loop similar to the roller coaster. He then inquires if I'd like to do a barrel roll. I'm picturing Top Gun action where the aircraft spirals away from live fire by enemy aircraft. I ask if we are doing one roll or a series. (My tummy needs to be privy.) He says just one, and instructs me to look to my left. It's not bad. I think I attempted to take a picture at this point. Please keep in mind I can hardly move due to all the strappings and the G-force. I probably got pictures of the cockpit rather than the ground. Our next stunt is called a hammer head, I believe. Later, I was informed there is an engine stalling involved. That much, I did not notice. I'm not sure what it was, but it went sideways and upside down. It's a little rougher, but my tummy didn't speak up, so I'm okay. I send in another request for the loop. (I'd neglected to fire a shot with the camera the first time.) Feeling greedy, I ask if we can barrel roll quicker thinking the plane may not be able to, or perhaps, he was taking it easy for me. He says we can indeed go faster, asking if I'd like to do so. I say sure, let's go a little faster. We glide through it perfectly, and I let out an excited scream, which I might have been doing all along. I'm really feeling it now. He says, "Hey want to try a snap roll?" So, I'm like "Yeah! What is it?" (Dummy! Greed is a deadly sin for a reason, but I figure, once-in-a-lifetime, and I need to make papa proud.) So, we roll to the right this time. And suddenly, my tummy starts talking--loudly. After each manuever, the pilot's been asking how I am. So far, I've had nothing to offer but a bunch of cool's in my girly, high-pitched excitement. He inquires this time. "Um, yeah, I think that did me in." He's immediately apologetic, telling me to keep my eyes on the horizon. I'm starting to look in the cockpit for a place to toss my butterscotch and Pringles. My choices are limited. I have my lap, my lap, or my lap. Leaning outside the aircraft isn't really an option. Between the angle I'm sitting at and the harness holding me in, I realize I'm doomed.

Side bar: I have severe flashbacks of the vicious spider ride at the Mid-South Fair when I was in 5th grade. I had downed a coke because I was dying of thirst. My sister and I hopped on the ride. After a few seconds, I was PLEADING for the evil fair workers to stop the ride because my coke was resurfacing. I gave up, and lauched spew all down my outfit as my sister shrieks. The ride didn't end early, though my day did. They hosed out our bucket, and said "Neeeext." My fair experience ended with my father carrying me back to the car. My sister is still a little bitter.

Now, I'm concentrating on not getting sick. It's strange that when you plead with your body that everything is okay, it constantly sends you messages that everything is most certainly not okay. The organs in my body are having an all out war. I'm hoping to give credence to the cliche mind over matter. At this point, it's not looking good, but we are heading to the runway now.

Finally, I'm back on the ground. As a non-sweater, I'm soaked in sweat. I'm a little shakey, but otherwise happy. My tummy is still thinking we're doing some snap rolls, but other than that, I have survived. My pilot gives me a hug, probably because I made it without puking on him. So, the whole car ride home, I'm hunched over still thinking my tummy wants revenge. I have this very nostalgic stinch as well. I immediately recognize the scent of my father returning from work in his flight suit. My mother tells me it's "jet fuel." I return to the house with my father eagerly saying "So, how did it go?" then realizing I'm still a little white errr green. I had to take a nap to rid myself of the need to purge all my insides.

When I came back downstairs, my dad wanted the full story. He looked pretty excited for me. I told him about all the acrobatics we did and the final roll that led to my demise. He laughed at me, but assured me that was a hard one to get used to. I was disappointed I got so sick so quickly. I asked him if this is something hard to conquer. He said that when he flew in the marine corps, it's easier if you're the one controlling the aircraft--that I might not have gotten sick if I would have rolled the plane. I'm really still wondering how fighter pilots manage to spin the aircraft. He said most of the Top Gun I was imagining wasn't quite like that. (Damn Hollywood.) He seems proud of me regardless.

I might be adding some pictures from today. I shall see if anything came of all the loopty-loops and rolls. It's probably just blurs of the cockpit and greens if I managed to get the lens focused remotely in the right direction. When it's all said and done, I'm glad I got the opportunity, and I will try not to beat myself up too bad for getting so woozy. I can kick most chicks' ass.