Tag Archives: chicago o’hare airport

Night Flight

in a 53Stuffed into a Crowded MH-53E in Iraq

I slept through most of my flight in the steerage section of my United Express CRJ-7 taking advantage of the open seat next to me to stretch out since in the last row the seat will not recline.  The flight from Norfolk to Chicago was uneventful, good weather all the way across ensured a good flight.

I still am not a fan of flying or crowded airports.  Thankfully due to the lateness of my flight I did  not have to deal with lots of people, I cruised through the security point manned by our local branch of the Federal Sicherheitsdienst.  I am very good at getting through these checkpoints quickly, the key is to go through the checkpoint as close to naked as you can get without causing yourself too much trouble and ensuring that anything unusual that could cause a Sicherheitsdienst officer to search your bags and do an body cavity search placed in your checked baggage.  I remember once after 9-11 when travelling through San Fransisco in uniform being nearly strip searched while obvious foreigners, to include those of the ethic group that had crashed into the twin towers go straight through. Thankfully as a  Kriegsmarine Officer my ausweiss gets me through our local checkpoint without too much trouble.

I slept through much of the flight, aided by the 2 pints of Sam Adams (Patriot, Brewer and Friend) Boston Lager that I had while waiting for my flight.  I do hope that the 2 pints of Goose Island Honker’s Ale that I am finishing off in Chicago has the same effect, beats the hell out of Xanax if you ask me.

I was awakened as the aircraft decelerated and began its descent into Chicago.  I looked out the window to my left and saw a panoply of lights in the distance with a dark void which happens to be Lake Michigan.  I have not flown commercial at night  in a long time and the last time I did took me over no major metro areas.  Seeing the lights I was instantly taken back to flying over Ramadi at night, which I did on a fairly frequent basis while in Iraq.  Usually those flights were uneventful except the one time when the Army MH-47 lifted off popped flares and the tail gunner started shooting at something on the ground. I was sitting just across from the tail gunner and knew that this was not a negligent discharge of a weapon.  The Army denied that anything happened on the flight when I asked about it two days later, but still, it was a bit sporty.

So flying at night, seeing the lights takes me back to Iraq.  I did feel some sense of anxiety that I had not felt earlier as we descended into the airport and when I got off the aircraft was able to start deescalating my stress level.  I find it interesting to see how almost “hard wired” that reposes to danger in combat situations can become.

It is time to finish my beer and start heading down the way to the boarding gate. About 2330 Pacific time I should be on the ground and with any luck by 0100 be safely at my parents home.

Peace, Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Highs and Lows: Baseball versus Alzheimer’s and Mass Murder at Fort Hood

field_of_dreamsField of Dreams

This has been a weird week.  There was some great baseball in the World Series and I even nailed the prediction for it.  Just take a look back if you don’t believe me.  I have never gone public with a World Series prediction and I am pretty pleased that my predictions were pretty good considering that I am neither the Prophet nor the Son of the Prophet.  Neither am I infallible like the Pope being that I am just a miscreant Priest and member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish where I have my season ticket in Section 102, Row B, Seat 2.

The Series was good for me, I really didn’t care who won, except that I predicted the Yankees in six based on match ups, statistics and numbers.  I’m a Giants, A’s and Orioles fan and as I sit here in my O’s hat and sweatshirt I can honestly say that I didn’t have a dog in the fight.  However to be right in analyzing the playoffs and World Series is pretty cool.  Maybe someday I will be a real sportswriter or broadcaster and get to sit opposite Jay Mariotti and Woody Paige on Around the Horn.

However, the series helped distract me in some ways for my trip home to see what I can do to help my brother with my parents.  I don’t look forward to the trip; the airports get to me now.  Thankfully I’m not going through Atlanta or Washington Dulles.  At least O’Hare has decent food and beer.  I guess the thing that gets me the most about going home this time is that my mom wants me to help go through possessions, not paperwork.  I’m thinking about years of memories that she has kept; family heirlooms and the just plain shit in some cases.  The stuff really doesn’t matter to me but it will be taxing.  Likewise the thought of seeing my dad again in his decrepit state, shrunken and mostly demented from Alzheimer’s disease is painful to think about.

johnlithgow

Yesterday morning after my on call shift I went up for my weigh in.  I gained 25 pounds since the spring, I knew that going in, I knew that I would not make the weight.  Most of the weigh came from stopping by Krispy Kreme on the way home from Harbor Park, picking up a dozen hot and fresh glazed and downing 3-4 or more with a beer before going to bed.  Of course the reason I did this was because I was emotionally spent, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t pull myself away from work.  Add stress, anxiety, no sleep, overwork, bad diet and little exercise  together and you get fat…well I get fat, I don’t know about you.  This is the first time in 28 years in the military that I have been officially fat.  I’ve always been close to the limit because the Deity Herself did not endue me with a couple of additional inches of height to help me as the military is run by the tall skinny mafia and the standards reflect that.   Until yesterday I had always made it sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but always made it.  When I was in better shape I would crush the physical fitness part of the assessment even if I was close to the weight limit.  Today after sleeping through my alarm and barely making it in to work I did the Physical Readiness Test and despite having only done 3 sessions of PT since the end of April I did better than a lot of young people, I passed, not to my usually standard of near perfection, but passing.  My diet has already been adjusted; my work schedule and duties have been rearranged to help me recover from Iraq and my return.  I’m doing more supervisory and administrative work vice the heavy clinical work in ICU.  This will give me the time that I need to do what I have not done since my return from Iraq that is to take care of me.  So I do have a sense of humor about this, I’m not going to stay fat and I am going to get my physical edge back.  I’m old but not done.  After the weigh in I thought about the episode of Third Rock from the Sun where Dick Solomon, played by John Lithglow gets fat and joins a weight loss organization called the Fat Losers. I have included the links to the episode on You Tube here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgP2h1x2EZc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x0kzALQPU4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2tYkwhqqxs

I will keep you abreast of my journey to take this off and turn myself into a bald version of Arnold.  If anyone wants to take that journey with me let me know.  We’ll be the real “Fat Losers” and kick some ass.

fort hood shootingsGrieving Soldiers at Fort Hood

The shooting at Fort Hood yesterday shook me and the Abbess pretty bad.  For me it hit my sense of safety and security was rocked as a Moslem Army Major brutally attacked and killed 12 soldiers and an Army civilian and wounded 30 more soldiers.  I’ve mentioned in my Fort Hood updates more about how it hit me so I won’t rehash that here except that I started emotionally melting down a bit as I watched the coverage which I could not let go of.  I thought of friends that I know there and my times about Fort Hood when I was in the Army, and the thought that an officer who swore the same oath that I have committed such an atrocity in the name of his religion really got me.  If he had been an enlisted man I think my reaction would have been different, somehow when I learned that it was an officer, a psychiatrist and a Moslem floored me.  Frankly in my world officers don’t do this.  Today I was able to get with Elmer the Shrink and talk. That helped. My boss and our deputy helped take care of me today and yesterday.  On the way home I stopped by Harbor Park to take in the view of the field and relax.  Thankfully the good folks in the office allow me to do this.  It helped a lot.

harbor park opening dayMy Field of Dreams: Harbor Park

After a nice dinner with the Abbess at Gordon Biersch I did what I almost always do after such a couple of days and retreated into the world of magic that is baseball.  I put on For the Love of the Game and Field of Dreams.  Somehow those help me.  The lead character played by Kevin Costner, Billy Chapel pitches a perfect game and reminisces about his life and career.  It reminds me of possibilities even for me and Field of Dreams reminds me of all that is good, even in spite of all the evil that the world.  The baseball season may be over, but the game reaches me when nothing else can.  I looked at the diamond surrounded by the cornfields and remember when I drove to Iowa and made the trip to Dyersville just to play catch on the Field of Dreams.  I hope that when I go home that somehow I can help ease my dad’s pain in some way, and maybe just maybe have him back for a few minutes.

Me and last last picMy last Visit with Dad in May

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  Please keep praying for the victims and all those affected at Fort Hood.  Pray that the violent and senseless act of Major Hasan will not beget more violence.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, PTSD, traumatic national events

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…Reflections on the Islands of Unhappy Travelers

The 80’s group Blondie had a hit called “Island of Lost Souls.”  I love that song; it is kind of quirky and fun.  However, there is a time when you run into a place where the song seems more true than not. Airports are one of those places, they tend to be some of the most angst and anger filled venues known to man, excepting of course Fed-Ex Field where Dan Snyder is doing his best to destroy the Redskins and drive off their fans. However, I digress as I couldn’t care a whit about the Redskins because they are a football team, though I have sympathy for the fans that have been banned from bringing signs into the stadium.  With that exception and maybe the U.S. Capitol building and the set of any Cable Television talk show where politics is being debated the airports have to be pretty close to the top of the hate and discontent list.

I had to travel to Florida in the spring for chaplain conference.  Since I came back from Iraq I do travel a lot less well than I used to and to make matters worse conferences of almost any kind at best come close to pushing me to the edge.  Sleep tends to be difficult for me, especially before I travel on commercial airlines and endure the hell of airports.  The night before I travel, I try to anticipate every contingency, going through my packing list and ensuring I have everything that I need. Then after I go to bed I get up an hour later to make sure that I indeed get everything. Once I am sure that I do I go back and check the multiple alarm clocks that I have set just to make sure I don’t miss my flight.  I know why I do this. Before Iraq I traveled a lot and got good at it.  However in Iraq a did a lot more of this and got into a routine of checking, double checking and even triple checking to make sure that I had everything that I needed.  Over there I knew that if I forgot something, even something simple that it would not be available the places that I was going or places that I might get marooned.  I have carried that experience back with me.  I pack and lay out all my clothes the night before I go to work.  I actually use the same pack that I carried on every mission in Iraq.  It is an excellent piece of gear, made by Blackhawk.

Anyway that day was a hellish travel day. The weather across the east coast was crappy.  My first flight was delayed an hour, my second flight as well. If that was not bad enough the good folks at Delta airlines failed to have people at gates and jet ways when gate changes happened, leaving people to miss flights and nearly miss vacation cruises.  On our connecting flight at Atlanta’s Harts-Jackson Field was delayed, in my case that was a good thing as had it been on time I would have missed it.  While in line waiting for the flight announcements were periodically made, each one either delivering a later flight time or excuse for the delay.  The excuses often were inconsistent.  I began to think that they were lying to us.  Now I’m not saying that an airline would lie, but it seemed to my little pea brain that the excuses conflicted and each new excuse contradicted the last pathetic excuse.  I hate bad liars.  Let’s face it, if you are going to lie be consistent and strive to make it believable, politicians, lawyers and TV evangelists are great at this.  Unfortunately the people lying to us were not very believable.  However it may have been that they actually believed what they were saying which would be as George Costanza once said: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

As I waited that day I surveyed my fellow disgruntled travelers.  I was deep into a PTSD induced ass kinking anxiety attack.  By the time this was going on time I had taken both of my extra meds as well as my 8 AM and 1230 PM doses of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Normally I’ll wait until dinner for a beer, but I knew that I needed a bit more on that trip.  I try not to self-medicate and over the past year have gotten a lot better in not doing this. However there as something about airports and airline travel that almost inevitably pushes my buttons and so I will do this to take the edge off and keep me somewhat sane until I can get to my destination and hide.

I went to a conference in Orlando in the summer of 2008 shortly after my PTSD diagnosis and that about put me over the edge. If you have PTSD the Gateway to the fricking “Happiest place in the world” is the portal to hell.  Thus only a few months after coming out of a combat zone I discovered that Orlando during the height of the summer pilgrimage to Wally World to see Randy Rodent and Doofey is not a fun experience.

Thanks be to God for her good care during this trip.  She ensured that my doctor had given good drugs and the airport pubs provided good beer not to mention a Chili Dog with mustard.  Thus by the middle of the afternoon I was doing far better than most of my fellow travelers.  It definitely sucked to be them.  It was then that the Blondie song came into my mind.  Atlanta’s airport was not the Island of Lost Souls but the Land of Unhappy Travelers.  I listened to some of the folks around me as they lamented their situation and it sounded like “Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Atlanta had become the vortex of very disgruntled travelers who had missed flights, been bumped from flights or delayed endlessly.  If you don’t believe in the Catholic in the doctrine of Purgatory just try Atlanta on a day like that, which is about 362 days a year.  I looked around, and though barely holding on myself I was able to find some gallows humor in the midst of this agony.  I looked around the people around me and said “Ladies and gentlemen it is my distinct displeasure to welcome you to the land of unhappy travelers.”  I actually got a few laughs.  I then made a comment about the airline, which I had not flown in a couple of years, saying “I’m glad to see that some things stay the same, our airline still has same crappy service that they had a few years ago.”  As we started boarding we boarded by zones as some airlines do.  I personally prefer the first come or first signed in first seated way that Southwest does things, unfortunately the government contract was no longer with Southwest. As they announced “boarding zones one through five,” I commented, “Yep, you guys in zone 92 still have a while to wait.  On each flight we had bad weather, turbulence and on one flight the air condition did not start kicking in until we were getting ready to land.

When I got to my destination I heard stories even worse than mine, all focused around the vortex of doom that swirled around Atlanta.  The only place that I thought it could have gone worse was Washington Dulles, where my experiences have been nearly all bad. I survived but by the time I got to my hotel my ass was kicked. At the end of the day I had survived.  A few beers and a bit of wine with good fellowship with friends made things better.

Saturday I get to fly again and make my third trip to California to see my folks.  I am already making my list and getting mentally prepared for the trip.  I get to fly though Chicago O’Hare and on the way back LAX and O’Hare.  Thank the Deity Herself that Atlanta is not on the itinerary. I’ll do my best to at least find the humor as I pass through these islands of unhappy travelers, so pray for me a sinner.

Peace,

Padre Steve

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Filed under PTSD, travel