Monday, April 29, 2013

"Y" is for Yonder (the Wild Blue)


Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away.
If you can use some exotic booze, there’s a bar in far Bombay.
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away.

Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru.
In llama-land, there's a one-man band, and he'll toot his flute for you.
Come fly with me, let's take off in the blue.

Once I get you up there where the air is rarefied
We’ll just fly, starry-eyed
Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near,
You may hear, angels cheer, ‘cause we’re together

Weather-wise, it’s such a lovely day,
You just say the word and we’ll beat the birds down to Acapulco Bay
It’s perfect for a flying honeymoon they say,
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly
Pack up, let’s fly away…

© Cahn Music Company; Maraville Music Corporation

Are any of you old enough to remember when train travel was common and air travel was a big deal?  When a trip on an airplane was exotic and exciting?  When Frank Sinatra sang "Come Fly With Me" and you wished you could take him up on it?

Do any of you remember this scene?

Your dad wore his best brown suit and hat (well, back then he always wore a suit, although at the beach he'd at least roll up his pant legs and leave his coat and tie in the Buick) and your mom wore her new floral-print summer dress and lacy white hat. Airport security consisted of a middle-aged guy with a nightstick and revolver and clip-on tie who looked like he'd eaten more than his share of donuts and rocked back and forth on his heels as he gave you a wink and a nod.  You strode out from the terminal building across the tarmac toward a gleaming, streamlined airplane with either a blue or orange stripe or two red ones, depending on whether you were flying Pan Am, American or TWA.  You ascended a set of air stairs that coveralled mechanics had wheeled up to the plane and were greeted at the top by a beaming stewardess (as female flight attendants were called in that less enlightened age), impeccably attired in a neat blue suit adorned with silver wings and a smart, military-style cap.

The cabin wasn't cavernous, but only because wide-body jets weren’t yet invented, not because you were being stuffed into it like so much sausage by a bean counter corps trying to stave off bankruptcy proceedings.  Maybe your dad brought you up to the cockpit where the pilot (who almost certainly flew during the War) pointed out what the various levers and switches did and handed you a set of Junior Aviator wings that weren't made in China. The biggest challenge for the flight attendants was your little brother wanting to zoom through the cabin with his toy F-86 Sabre jet, not business travelers refusing to turn off cell phones or surly men glancing furtively about.

Jet air travel was in its infancy.  You could get on a 707 or DC-8 for a trans-oceanic flight or major domestic route, but just flying was excitement enough and you felt a thrill, tempered with a bit of healthy apprehension as you looked out the window of your DC-6 or Super Constellation and saw the mechanic standing below the streamlined engine nacelle, fire extinguisher at the ready, and each propeller slowly turn before its massive Double Wasp or Turbo Compound radial engine caught and fired in a thunderous coughing fit and cloud of white smoke.  The booming cacophony calmed to a loafing, lopey idle until the pilot deftly eased the four throttles forward together with a practiced touch, unleashing ten thousand stamping, impatient horses to urge you free of the ground.  And then, leveling out at cruise speed and altitude, the engines settled down to a reassuring, steady drone.

It was still only 15 years since those same engines powered the Thunderbolts and Corsairs and Superfortresses that helped your dad and uncles whip the bad guys in the big war.  And even though they couldn't go down and have a big time in Havana anymore since that Castro clown took over, and even though the Russkies were rattling their sabers and sending stuff into space and you had to do duck and cover drills at school and your dad looked over brochures for backyard bomb shelters as he smoked his pipe, you still liked Ike and it was still an idyllic and exciting time, full of ideas and pregnant with possibility.  And on a day like today, bobbing on invisible currents of air between puffs of blinding white cloud in the achingly, impossibly blue heavens, even the Reds couldn't spoil it.

* * *

High Flight by John G. Magee, Jr.

Oh!  I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor eagle flew-
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.


  1. Excellent! Love it. I applied for a job at PSA in the early 70's. I used to love to fly back then. I hate it now.

    1. I remember PSA; didn't they have the smiling airplanes? Yes, too bad much humanity and pleasure has been sucked out of the flying experience. What happened?

    2. Hey Son, I was somewhat familiar with that type of plane. I happened to fly to Vietnam in one like it while most of my fellow soldiers flew there in Boeing 707s. The 707 jets made the trip in about 13 1/2 hours, mine took a total of about 44 hours counting stopovers. It was not an uneventful flight. As we approached Wake Island, a long way from land, one of the engines decided to loosen it's mounts so much the Pilot decided it was an emergeny and we ended up on Wake Island. Not a nice stop over.

    3. Hi, Dad. So was that on a DC-6 like in the pic? I guess your plane trip wasn't what you'd call fun, but it was an adventure. I bet you didn't have any complaints about the trip back to the World on the Freedom Bird.

    4. It was a DC6, that was chartered by our Uncle Sam to ferry soldiers to Vietnam, and was still being used by a small Airline Co, that year of 1967. I was thrilled to learn when, it was time to board the plane that took me home from Vietnam was a Boeing 707 jet. Yahoooooooooo, 13 1/2 hours to get hame instead of the 44 hours it took to get there. I left Vietnam at 9:00 am on a saturday morning and arrived at Ft. Lewis Washington at 9:30 am that same morning because we crossed the International Date Line. Very fast 1/2 hour flight, I loved it!

    5. That's a great story, Dad.

  2. Love this one! May have to make room on the refrigerator!

    1. Ha ha, thanks, Mom. I can always count on my biggest fan. I don't remember if you told me about any plane trips like this when you were little.

    2. We flew from Long Beach, CA to Detroit when I was six. We picked up our new car and had a road trip home. I remember we all wore our best clothes for the flight. Mom had bought me new books, but didn't let me see them until we were on the plane.
      I have enjoyed all of your A to Z blogs, but the nostalgic ones are my favorite!

    3. Now, I remember. Picking up your new car in Detroit, what an adventure. Thanks, Mom, love you.

  3. I love this post. So many wonderful descriptions and memories.

    I remember flying back east when I was six. We walked up the stairs and were shown our seats. My dad talked to the pilot and I was invited to sit in the Captain's seat. There were buttons and dials everywhere. He carefully explained what a few of them meant, and then he gave me the (not made in China) wings.

    1. Thanks, Joan! Since I was born about ten years after my little scene takes place, I had to rely on some general knowledge and imagination. Glad I got at least part of it right!

  4. Jerry, this is a wonderful post. Yes, I remember those days when we dressed up to fly and when you boarded, it was as if the stewardesses were inviting you into their living rooms.

    I especially love the long sentence in your last paragraph: "And even though they couldn't go down and have a big time in Havana anymore since that Castro clown took over, and even though the Russkies were rattling their sabers and sending stuff into space and you had to do duck and cover drills at school and your dad looked over brochures for backyard bomb shelters as he smoked his pipe, you still liked Ike and it was still an idyllic and exciting time, full of ideas and pregnant with possibility." (I've read it three times.) I believe,as Roy Peter Clark says in his book about essential strategies for writers, we should not "Fear not the long sentence." Love it.

    Thank you for a delightful read.

    1. Thanks, Annis. Glad you liked it. Yes, I'm fearless when it comes to breaking the rules. I love to use long sentences, and I use incomplete sentences and other devices that are common in spoken language but frowned upon in the written kind. We just need to remember that Picasso mastered anatomy and classical painting before he put both a woman's eyes on the same side of her head.

  5. O this brought back memories thank you, when boarding a plane was excitement at its highest!
    John G. Magee's poem is beautiful. Your writing about this is extraordinary. The long sentence had me tumbling about in the stratosphere! There's still something magical about commercial flying, lift off and into the air - touch down some hours later -
    Thanks Jer, great post!
    Susan Scott's Soul Stuff

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Susan. As much of a downer as commercial flying can be, I too also find the magic in the actual flying part. For me, it's kind of like with baseball. So much garbage comes along for he ride now, but I concentrate on the game itself and try not to let the other stuff bother me.

      The poem is one of my favorites, because it paints such a vivid picture. I like reading it aloud because it seems like it was meant to be, with tempo and dynamics, zooming, climbing, slowing, then diving again. Pilot Officer J.G. Magee, Jr was an American flier with the Royal
      Canadian Air Force. He died in aerial combat on December 11, 1941, just days after Pearl Harbor. Thanks as always for coming by.

    2. When I was a kid, the television stations went off for the night. I loved to be on the channel that quoted this poem and showed a plane in flight before the screen went black and snowy. xoA

    3. I didn't know they showed this poem! It was reprinted in a book I have. What a trip.

      Stations still went off air until the '90s. When I was a kid, they showed a color test pattern, and before color television, I know they showed the "Indian Head Test Card."

  6. Just passing, trying to get to visit A to Z blogs before we all vanish back into the dark. Well done on getting through it, it appears many have got disheartened or ran out of time in their days. It is a lot of work.

    Rob Z Tobor

    1. Thanks, Rob. Yep, there were times it was tempting to quit and it just got to be one foot in front of the other. It looks like you're more faithful to the A to Z idea than anyone I've seen. Congratulations for making it through, and thanks for stopping by.

  7. Wow! Great post! The song is a really nice set up for the rest.

  8. Thanks for the kind words! Now that you mention that, I think I'll see if I can find a video for it on YouTube and embed it.

  9. I love this, Jer. Makes a person long for "the good ol' days"...even if we were't alive back then!

  10. Thanks, DK, glad you liked it.


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