l Stevo pinged me a few weeks back and asked if I’d like to join him on photosafari shooting WWII warbirds—meaning vintage World War II airplanes. Being a WWII nerd, and having not dusted off my camera for far too long, I said yes, paid my fees online, and a few Saturdays later, joined El Stevo at the regional airport in Culpeper, Virginia at 9:00am.
The airplanes, of which there were officially scads (seriously, here’s a list), were to do flyovers over the National Mall Friday and Saturday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. El Stevo and I had tix to shoot pics from one of two “pits” at either end of the runway (the “pit” would be chosen according to the prevailing wind direction), where from close range we could shoot the planes (meaning “photograph,” NSA people) as they taxied, took off, and landed.
Naturally, the morning was foggy.
Also naturally, to the heartbreak of all involved—the organizers, the aficionados who traveled to watch the Friday and Saturday flyovers, the pilots and crews of these grand old airplanes, and the photographers—the flyover was scrubbed. Both days.
The organizers had worked, literally, for years to set up this event. The owners and caretakers of the vintage aircraft had spent gazillions of hours preparing, repairing, and prepping the planes. The pilots had taken, in some cases, DAYS to fly the airplanes to the DC area. (Fuel tanks aren’t big on a lot of these planes. Fly 90 minutes, land, refuel, fly ninety minutes, land, refuel…) And then two day of fog killed the whole event.
My shrink has a story he tells from time. I recount it here, but it’s called “Good? Bad? Who Knows?” and the point is that we don’t know the benefit or injury of any given event until long after the fact, and even then the tide may turn and what was a blessing becomes a curse, and/or vice versa.
The good/bad/who knows? for El Stevo and I was that we were able to spend hours walking around and photographing up-close-and-personal these beautiful airplanes where they were parked on the tarmac. And talk to the crews and pilots about them. And take more pics as the pilots taxied in front of us and took off to fly home.
I hope there is a good in all this somewhere for the organizers. They worked their tails off and the weather proved that Old Testament God was on duty Friday and Saturday.
A last thing about the photo shoot. I learned that the Holy Grail when shooting propeller-driven airplanes is to photograph the plane with a radial blur of its propeller. Too fast a shutter speed will freeze the propeller and you’ll see the two or three or four blades distinctly, making the plane look like it’s sitting still (if it’s on the ground) or hanging like a model from the ceiling (if it’s in flight). Turns out, depending on rotational speed, 1/60th – 1/90th of second is pretty good for capturing a nice radial blur. Capturing that same radial blur while getting sharp pic of the rest of the plane while its moving? Another beast altogether. My text last night to El Stevo explained my success with the moving airplanes:
I stopped sorting pics for dinner at number 838 of 906. I’m not sure what the exact number of taking-off pics I deleted for blurriness is, but I think the equivalent English word is “most.”
Anyway, here’s one I like: very pretty nose art flanked by two very deadly 50-caliber machine guns on the starboard fuselage of Show Me, a B-25J Mitchell medium bomber (44-31385) owned and maintained by the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force..
The Train Case
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My story, The Train Case, stars an acid-tripping Siamese, a Marxist Emu, a ferret priestess, and a young boy, all launched on separate journeys from the wreckage of a stolen Volkswagen Beetle crash-landed atop a mesa in Northern Arizona from an altitude of 30,000 feet. Or somewhere up around there. Maybe a little less due to oxygen levels, pressurization, and the impact of high-altitude temperatures on animals in a topless flying car.
The Gospel of Isabelle Dequenne
What does a teenage girl do when she’s thrown out of her home into the middle of a war that’s just landed squarely on top of the village where she lives? This is Isabelle‘s dilemma when she’s cast out on, of all days, June 6, 1944. I’ve got the bones of the scene and am working to identify all the places where the volcanic events of the previous scene “peek through” into the current scene in terms of action, dialog, emotion, thought, and subtext. You know, just some little stuff.
A few days back, my streak of consecutive 100%-complete-100%-correct-no-cheating New York Times Sunday crosswords puzzles stopped at 18, word-murdered by an American folk singer and a three-stringed Japanese musical instrument.
Had I known Nanci Griffith was Nanci-with-an-i and not Nancy-with-a-y then I would not have spelled “shamisen” as “shamysen” and my streak would be at 19 now.
This is Nanci Griffith, a quite successful and well-known folk singer and musician. Like the shamisens shown above—and no, I don’t know if Nanci shamisens in her shows—there is not a “y” to be found. (Public domain)
It goes without saying that had I known what a shamisen was, I might also have learned about Nanci-with-an-i before Nanci and the Shamisens ended my NYT Sunday crossword streak.
So a new streak begins. I hope. Depends on if I can work out 46 across: Procrastinator’s catchword. I think if I get that one then the last few answers fall into place and I can put Puzzle #61 in the NYT Sunday Crossword Omnibus to bed.
WHAT I’M READING
Not a damn thing, my fellow babies.
Aside from the normal COVID-19 losses: travel, tripping the life unmasktastic, visiting friends in groups larger than two without needing semaphore flags, going to events, et cetera, there have been two significant losses in my life. They are a) my ability to correspond with pretty much anyone, and b) reading.
My email and chat response rates are about zero (sorry everyone, it’s me, not you, I promise), I’ve read exactly two books this year (“Charge,” the ninth installment in JJ Pike’s excellent MELT post-apocalypse series, and “Sapiens,” Yuval Noah Harari’s outstanding study of the evolution of Homo sapiens and what it means to be human). I’m not a fast reader, because ADHD, but measured against last year’s pace I am 25 books behind. Even at my revised “worldwide pandemic apocalypse” target of five books in 2020, I am three behind. It’s not getting better. I finished “Sapiens” three months ago. I’ve not cracked a book since.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO
Led Zeppelin III
Mostly show tunes. I mean shower tunes. On a JBL Flip 5 that’s Bluetoothed to my mobile. And right now? Led Zeppelin III.
I haven’t listened to the whole album in quite a while, even though it’s a personal fave (I love the quirky tunings and the dark acousticicity and of course the chuh-chuh-chuggida-chuggida of Immigrant Song). Since my showers are ten minutes or less, it’s taking a few days to get through the album. I’m up to Gallows Pole and there are about two showers left after that.
I’ve noticed during the Quarantimes that I’m listening to comfort music, so things will likely remain in a Beatles/Zeppelin vein for a while. Perhaps with some Jimi Hendrix thrown in.
ON THIS DATE IN TEAMRAYMOND HISTORY
I saved a mouse from drowning in our swimming pool (2008)…
…and The Debra and I, fresh into Ho Chi Minh City from Da Nang, hung out in temples and stuff (2013).