The Inconclusive "No Go"

Walking the four blocks through Westwood from the Holiday Inn Express to my mom’s place, I  had to laugh (to myself, of course) at the other Angelino pedestrians. Always do. Nobody walks in LA (cue the Missing Persons song). It’s a sort of a spacewalk thing – if you’re out there, it’s for some specific purpose that can’t be achieved by more conventional means, and you’re just doing it for the duration necessary until you can get back into your house, or car.

Me? I’m walking because I like to walk. I guess there must be others like me here, but the few people I pass keep their eyes glued to the pavement ahead on these empty sidewalks, as if traversing the vacuum of space – not a glance and around, and no thought that there might be something of interest out there beyond the simple task of navigating the concrete void to their destination.

Anyhow, I needed to walk this morning. Spent close to an hour trying to cobble together some post about our “no go” decision yesterday. I was planning to fly D and the kids down to LA for our annual family reunion/seder, but the weather was…okay-but-not-great. And the Debonair had just thrown its alternator belt the day before. Had done it a week ago, too. Alberto assured me that he’d really truly gotten the problem fixed this time. But there was that lingering doubt. Sure, if we lost the alternator, we just turn around in VFR conditions and land. Either back at Palo Alto if we’re close enough, or some airport on the way, and rent a car for the rest of the trip. But with the weather… And April – there’s something about April.

So we drove. Six hours of mind-numbing highway on I-5 with the kids plugged into Doritos and cartoons. And on the drive down I wrote the post in my head, about how we pilots – the ones who tend to live to ripe old ages – have inscribed in our hearts a million little phrases to convince ourselves that we’d done the right thing when we scrubbed a flight. “Rather be on the ground, wishing I were in the air than in the air, wishing I were on the ground” and “No place I’ve got to be, bad enough to be dead” and the like. Because we needed to provide something concrete to convince ourselves we’d made the right decision – a talisman against unknowable belief that, in all likelihood, the flight would have been just fine. But short of pounding rain and lightning pouring from the sky, we’ll never have that reinforcement that it *was* the right thing to do. So, to keep ourselves alive, we have evolved the camaraderie of fellow pilots to slap us on the back and remark “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.”

That was the thought – the meat of a good solid post. But when we made it to LA and I set down to put it in writing, it came out all grandiloquent and haughty-sounding. Cheap and chintzy (hey – listening to KDFC a couple of weeks ago, Andy and I actually learned the history of chintz!). I sat and stared at the words and wished again that I could write like Ellen, and like Eden, and those friends of mine for whom words flow like Saturday morning conversation. They’re just telling you, y’know?

So this morning I folded up the laptop, stuffed it in my bag and set out walking. D had taken Jem off to visit with old friends, and I had an hour’s liberty to get from hotel A to apartment B, four blocks away. Too-bright LA sunlight slanting on a Saturday morning, empty concrete sidewalks and six lanes of traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard. Sparse pedestrians emphatically minding their own footsteps, and cherry blossoms from some unseen garden across it all into the discarded campaign sign stacked at the roadside chainlink fence. Lovely. As strange kind of lovely, I’ll admit, but this morning, I’ll take it.

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