Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Writer's Outtake, Episode 3 - Donkeys, Camels, and Goats Oh My!



In the Spring of 1969, I was among 12 TWA sales reps selected to take a five-day quick tour of the Holy Land, compliments of a Chicago tour wholesaler who specializes in Holy Land tours. Other than the significant historical aspects of the the tour, I most remember several offbeat cultural experiences.

My room at the Mount Scopus Hotel on the West Bank was located on the lower level, rear. Outside my window was an open field with rocky ground cover and a smattering of olive trees. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a loud braying of he-haws. Jumping from bed and parting the drapes, I was surprised-and I must say, amused-to see a jackass, no more than 15 feet away, looking at me. He stopped braying when he saw me. We stared at one another for five seconds or so before he turned and moved away. I wonder if he got his kicks by waking hotel guests on the ground floor. I have to admit I have been awakened several times by jackasses (rowdy hotel guests) but this was the first time it was a real "jackass".

Another animal-related experience occured in the Old City of Jerusalem. I was standing in front of an open-air meat market, observing cuts of meats hung on a wall drawing flies, when something brushed against my calves. Turning around, expecting to see an unruly toddler, I was surprised to see a herd of goats passing by (something I'll never see at my neighborhood grocery store).

A moving cultural experience happened as we drove through the desert. I had an opportunity to meet, and have my picture taken, with two Bedouin boys. I wish I had more time to spend with them. I
couldn't help but think how different our lives were. Here I was being driven through the desert in an air-conditioned limousine and they spend their whole lives herding camels and goats thru the desert. I'm sure we both could have learned a lot from each other.

I often like to pick up souveniors to take home on my travels. This time I bought a Coke by the Dead Sea at Jericho. Upon my return to the U.S., a customs agent held it up and asked "Why this?"
"Turn it around," I answered.
He then noticed it had the English on one side and the Hebrew on the other. The Coke is one of the cheapest souvenirs I've ever bought, yet one of the most unique. I don't know if Hebrew Coke tastes any different, It's still sitting on my shelf unopened.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Chaplin Autograph Forty Five Years Later


Just came upon this while thumbing through some of my TWA memorabilia. In my memoir,
Up, Up and Astray, I've recounted having Charlie Chaplin and his entourage on my flight from Los Angeles to London after Mr. Chaplin was presented an honorary Academy Award. Although his movies were before my time, I was delighted to get his autograph for my mother. She adored Charlie Chaplin. The only paper I could find on board the plane was TWA stationery. I also kept the envelope with the postmark from Hounslow, UK dated April 13, 1972. While writing brings back memories, having something physical from the past almost brings it back to life. I'll never forget how excited mom was to get Chaplin's autograph.

Of all the Hollywood celebs I met while working
flights out of LAX, Mr. Chaplin was the only one
I asked for an autograph (for my mom, Ellen).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Writer's Outtake, Episode 2 - Lost Mom in Cabin D

From the movie "Airplane"
One of the strangest happenings on one of my flights occurred during a daytime trip from Boston to Los Angeles. Shortly after lunch service was completed, I was standing in first class chatting with a passenger when an anxious-looking flight attendant approached me. "Jim, there's a problem in D-cabin." As I followed her to the second-most rear cabin on the plane, she explained that an elderly lady is upset because she found another elderly lady sitting next to her son.

The lady was waiting for me at the front of D-cabin. She was trembling while pointing down several rows to an elderly lady in an aisle seat beside a man in his forties. "When I came back from the rest room I saw that lady sitting next to my son. She told me she was with her son, and she refused to move." When I escorted the complaining lady to the alleged 'false mother', something akin to an old Abbott and Costello routine ensued for the next several minutes.
The standing mother said, "She's sitting in my seat."
The seated mother replied defensively, "I'm in my own seat."
Futher declarations and pointing continued:
"She's sitting next to my son."
"He's my son."
"She's my mom."
And so on. I began to wonder if the woman standing beside me really had her son on the plane. As a last resort, I could make a 'missing mother' announcement. That could be embarrassing to the woman, especially if she, in fact, had no son on the plane.

Soon, a middle-aged man approached us from the rearmost E-cabin. "Mom, what are you doing up here? You must have passed your seat after going to the rest room." The tearful, relieved mother embraced her son for a moment before they walked back to their assigned seats. It was a touching scene, but I couldn't help but chuckle considering the two sons really didn't resemble each other. The flight continued on without further 'events.' So as you're traveling this holiday season make sure you keep an eye on the kids as well as mom!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Writer's Outtake Episode 1 - Death In Flight

Credit-Neil/Rob Melnychuk Getty Images
When DCS (Director Customer Service) John McGlade made his departure announcement on TW841 as the 747 taxied from the gate at Rome's Flumicino Airport terminal, he anticipated a routine flight to New York. John was pleased to announce the flight's anticipated on-time arrival at JFK. The flight was full, with close to 200 passengers having connections to make at JFK. But this was no routine flight. Having recently attended a TWA reunion in Tucson, I got to relive John's tale of what happened next.

Shortly after takeoff from Rome, a troubled flight attendant located John in the front of the the aircraft, asking him to immediately follow her to the rearmost cabin in economy. Simultaneously, another flight attendant was paging for a doctor or nurse to ring their call bell. By the time John rushed to the scene, several nearby doctors and nurses were attending to the passenger, a grandfather, flying back home to the U.S. with his 13-year-old granddaughter.

The man appeared to have died instantly, likely from a massive heart attack. As there were no empty seats available to relocate the deceased, John had the flight attendant place a blanket over the grandfather's head and recline his seat, until John discussed the situation with the captain.

The captain, told John he would return to Rome, as they were only about 30 minutes airborne. Obvious to the captain, nine more hours of a full flight with a corpse on board was unthinkable. John thought otherwise. He told the captain that the man's family will have enough grief as it is, without having to go through a myriad of paperwork and additional agony to bring back the body from Italy. He also remarked that more than half of the passengers would miss their connection flights at JFK. Also, if they returned to Rome, Italian authorities may keep the plane at the gate for some required investigation after removing the body. This could cause the crew to become illegal to fly, thus requiring cancellation of the flight.

"So, where do you expect to put the body?" asked the captain.
"On the floor, behind the coach-lounge bar." answered John. "The coach lounge is closed to economy passengers on international flights due to IATA (International Air Transport Assn.) rules."
"Okay." nodded the captain. "We'll continue on to New York. Do what you've gotta do."

Luckily, John was one of only two DCS's hired with a background in TWA's maintenance department. In no time at all, he proceeded to the rearmost lavatory and removed the door. It was used as a stretcher for John and some volunteers to transport the blanket-covered corpse to the coach-lounge.

For the remainder of the flight, one of the lady passengers, a nurse, sat beside the grieving and shaken granddaughter. Showing typical TWA employee compassion and proactivity, a ground hostess at JFK voluntarily accompanied the granddaughter to her final destination on her connecting flight.

I personally applaud John for his handling of a delicate and sad situation with creativity and dignity. He was an excellent example of what the DCS program was all about.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seeing Cincinnati in a Different Light


This Loveland suburbanite seldom goes to Cincinnati's Downtown and Over-the-Rhine areas more than once a month. Practically everything I want, I can find closer in the 'burbs', including convenient free parking. Last weekend I experienced one exception though--Blink Cincinnati.


I've seen many transformations of the city in my years. Growing up in the 40's & 50's I remember going with my mom to Fountain Square on VJ-Day in August 1945 celebrating the end of WWII. As a young naive Cincinnati Police Cadet in 1959-60 I worked District 2, walking every inch from the Riverfront to Liberty Street. And by the late 60's (considering myself a sophisticated man-about-town) I worked in TWA's sales office on 4th & Walnut. But in all those years I had never seen my city transformed into a spectacular work of art.



In its first year of operation, Blink attracted more than a million visitors. That breaks a Cincinnati record for the most people for one event. Families and individuals of all ages came together to enjoy the many creative aspects of illumination, whether they be displayed upon buildings or in a parade.




Certainly, many of those who didn't attend, but heard the rave reviews, will make next year's even more popular. The following videos represent only a miniscule part of the event. Enjoy!


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tribute to High Flying Hugh

Getty Images, Bettmann
With the passing of Hugh Hefner, the world has lost a cultural icon, the likes of which we will never see duplicated.

For airliner buffs, the above photo was shot in part of the first class lounge of a TWA Convair 880 (note the small holes at the end of the armrests for insertion of bayonet meal trays). The lounge was later replaced with three rows of first class seating. I understand Mr. Hefner was a frequent TWA flyer, especially between Los Angeles and Chicago, before receiving delivery of his own custom-made DC9 in 1969. His seat partner in the photo is Cynthia Maddox, Playboy's Assistant Cartoon Editor, who appeared on the Playboy cover five times.

Photo Credit-Just Plane History Blog

"Big Bunny" aka "Hare Force One"

In my years working out of LAX whenever I saw "Big Bunny" parked on the charter tarmac, I often fantasized what I'd experience if I were a priviliged guest on one of its flights. A unique feature of the DC9 was its retractable stairs, eliminating the need to have passenger steps brought to the plane. I read that Hef sold his plane in 1976 to a Venezuelan airline. Later, it was flown by Aeromexico on scheduled service. In 2004 it was finally retired. The parted-out jet's fuselage is now an educational tool, having been donated to the city of Cadereyta in Mexico. Hugh was larger than life and his legacy will not soon be forgotten.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bon Voyage for Pittsburgh???

Should Non-flyers have Access into Secure Airport Areas?


Courtesy: On Call International Blog

What do you think? Should non-flyers--restricted from access since 9/11 terrorist attacks--now be permitted access to secure concourses and concessions? If so, should these non-flyers have to pay a fee to be cleared through TSA Security?

Aunt Mildred would certainly be delighted to have several nephews and nieces there to meet her as she emerges from the jetway. Certainly, the concessionaires would be pleased to serve the nephews and nieces some food, or sell them apparel, books, souvenirs, etc. as they wait for their aunt's arrival. Airport parking lots would see increased revenue from their short-term parking as well. Creative airport concessionaire could offer to validate a non-flyers short term parking ticket, allowing an hour or two of complimentary parking--if the non-flyer purchases a certain dollar minimum.

Pittsburgh's airport is trying such a procedure.  Pittsburgh Post Gazette-28 AUG 2017 Airmall Article

Pittsburgh's airport lost its hub status to Philadelphia when U.S. Air merged into American Airlines, just as Cincinnati's airport lost its to Detroit when Northwest merged into Delta. Both have become what is termed 'origin-destination' airports in airline parlance. No longer must they accommodate massive numbers of connection passengers, scurrying from one gate to another, during scheduled surge periods.

I personally think hub airports should forbid non-flyer access. It's just too darn crowded during the surge periods to have non-flyers slowing down connecting passengers. Not to mention if you think TSA lines are long now, just think how long they will be with non-flyers having to clear security.

As for the origin-destination airports, I think each airport should decide for themselves. Cultural aspects may come into play. For example, folks deplaning in Jackson, Mississippi may be more patient waiting for Aunt Mildred and her greeters to clear the gate area, than those, say, in White Plains New York. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Real Thing This Time

The Booksellers on Fountain Square
Although I'm now a published author, I must concede that words cannot describe how I feel, seeing my memoir displayed here at The Booksellers on Fountain Square (Joseph Beth Books and Roebling Books as well).

Now, I have a confession to make, about something that's not in my memoir. It's something I hadn't told my wife about till just now. It occured during my earlier life, when I was a student patrolman at the University of Cincinnati. Early one Sunday morning, when the library building was closed, I used my master key to admit myself and my friend Denny Cooper. We went to the card catalogue desk, removed two blank cards, then typed in bogus names of books that we "authored." Denny, who had worked in a library during high school, gave each book a logical, but phony, Dewey Decimal number.

I remember the title of my 'book' had something to do with cybernetics. Maybe this was my first subconscious indication that I wanted to be a real author someday. That was over 50yrs ago. I guess it's a good lesson, you're never too old to give up on your dreams!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Before There Was BAYWATCH...There Was BREECH


Breech Academy Summer 1970
Admittedly, I would never be mistaken for David Hasselhoff, but some of the TWA 'hostesses' could easily rival the Baywatch beauties. Plus, we all had extensive ditching training. Uh, sorry I meant to say extensive 'water landing' training. When I think of this airline euphemism, I can imagine my late idol, George Carlin shouting with gusto, "We no longer 'stand by' for 'ditching'!" Then in a softer, more effeminate voice he continues, "We're going to have to 'get ready' for a...'water landing.'" And if you're wondering, no, I don't usually wear a life jacket at hotel pools. Behind me is Breech Academy, TWA's training center for cabin crews.

Call it what you want, an aircraft evacuation in a body of water is, in my opinion the most difficult safety maneuver to execute. In the calm of Breech's pool, it took all I had to pull myself up into the 25-man life raft. I can imagine how difficult it is to enter the raft amidst ocean swells.








On the other hand, when on terra firma, taking a ride down the 747's evacuation slide from 18 feet above the ground is a piece of cake. The dual slides even allow you to bring a buddy along. A velcro surface at the bottom stops you from spilling out onto the runway, grass, sand (whatever). 

If you enjoy riding in the upper deck of the 747-400 series, the secondary evacution route is from a height of 35 feet, or about 50-some feet of slide. Now that's a real thrill! So ladies, while you may want to see Hasselhoff at the beach, I can guarantee you'd rather be sitting next to me on a plane if things get rough.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

'Shaving Down My Bucket List'

   Bucket List items shouldn't necessarily consist of such feats as climbing El Capitan at Yosemite or milking cobra's venom in Thailand. No. They can be less risky and more accessible, like enjoying evening cocktails at the 107 Sky Lounge in Las Vegas, or renting an exotic car for an afternoon drive while vacationing in Miami.

For the past two years, my wife, Stacey, and I have manned a water station for the Price Hill Pacer's Charity Run, in neighboring Cincinnati. It was located on West Eight Street, in front of Grote's Barber Shop. There I noticed a window sign promoting 'Hot Towel Shaves.' Childhood memories of waiting for my turn in the barber's chair while watching men get those shaves came back to mind.
Hot towel shaves have become a relic of the past. Today, men tend to look at shaving as a necessary evil. Get it done-fast! Fine, but that's not what hot towel shaves are about. They're about relaxing and disengaging from your typical world for thirty minutes. Don't even think about checking your smart phone, or even talking, while a licensed expert glides a straight-razor against your face and throat--unless an ambulance ride is on your bucket list. For me a hot towel shave is the guy's version of a lady's spa visit.
Terry Grote has been giving hot towel shaves for over 40yrs.
By the way, ladies, perhaps you should consider pampering your guy to a hot towel shave for his birthday. It's the least we deserve after all those years of spa gift certificates.