PARIS, the last time…
Paris, my heart is breaking. My heart was young and gay… so was yours. Will it ever be again? I think mine will not. It’s aching for your terrible bloodbath, one that never should have happened.
The magical city of my teens has erupted, perhaps the ripple down from a long-ago (1830) far-reaching contretemps between Hussein Dey of the Ottoman outreach empire, and the French Consul. A naval blockade ensued. France puffed up its pride and breached the blockade, and went on to eventually eliminate the Ottoman threat, capturing and colonizing Algiers. (The Barbary Pirates had been such a plague.) Then eventually gave house to all the denizens of Algiers. They flooded the nicer country of France, set up shops and mosques.
And here we are.
“Sous les Ponts de Paris” – under the bridges of Paris. In my youthful Paris, lovers strolled and canoodled in peace, deep in their shadows under heavy arches. There, also, the occasional dreaming wino curled up with his comfort. Will lovers ever again see the Seine shimmer in moonlight, arms folded around each other? Will the homeless man find his bench place again? Homeless – but the whole of Paris has been his home.
“Where do you live, monsieur?” – “Moi? Chez Paris.”
Our hearts are breaking.
“JEEZ, DON’T GROUND-LOOP IT!”
“Jeez! – don’t let it ground-loop!!!” Shrinking from the baggy-eyed bully as he grabbed the controls, I glared at him. “Hey wait, dammit – ground loop?!” He relaxed his grip as we rolled out, giving me back the rudder to steer the wheels (and the yoke to manage the ailerons). And explained. Quietly. He got hold of himself. “A ground-loop is an un-commanded sudden spin-around on the runway, possibly yanking us off of it and wreaking havoc with dipping scraping, wingtips – caused by after you’ve got the plane aligned straight to the runway – the wheels still are not.” Cigarette Breath frowned at me. “Your car can’t crab-sidle down the street, can it? Neither can the plane. Straighten the rudder to straighten the wheels, babe, use your feet to straighten the rudder!” It had been a cross-wind landing – the wind was blowing in a bit from the side; I was learning how to handle that. We had been to another airport to do some learning… there breezes had been directly on our nose. He always liked to go where he could buy a hamburger, to indulge his pot belly. My lessons appeared to be his transportation to said burger joints. I was disgruntled. At least I liked them too – juicy ones.
Well – the wind seemed always to be drifting in from the side. Crosswind landings are a critical part of the flight lesson syllabus. Do you crab? (angle the plane to point into the wind as you descend on final approach to the touchdown point, then last second rudder the plane straight to put wheels to the concrete), or do you slip it? (cross-control the ailerons so the craft slices down through its descent to touchdown, kind of like a knife leaning on its edge) and tip-toe the touch-down with wheels straight – the wheel into the wind touching first? I chose crabbing and didn’t straighten out in time, so grumpy Bubba grabbed the controls. Good thing. In time I developed the right technique. I learned so well that for my Flight Exam I had to find a runway with a crosswind. Almost couldn’t land in a direct headwind. Those were the days. In fact, in the earliest days of aviation, planes used pastures. There were no runways per se. One could always head directly into the wind. Crosswind landing? No such thing.
But that ground-loop. A friend who was taking lessons with me did one, on solo (by herself), scared herself right witless and never went back to the airport. Ahhh, she shouldn’t have been flying anyway, if a little sudden whip-circling on the runway could scare her off. Yes, she could have been hurt. Nobody said you couldn’t get hurt, doing this. “If it cain’t kill you, it ain’t a sport.”
Oh, the ground can indeed rise up and smite you. You have to learn not to let it, to earn the glories of flight.