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Friday, September 25, 2009

Two Weeks' Notice

In just under two weeks, we are going to play host to a couple of the world's greatest friends. And we couldn't be happier. These boys have hosted me/us several times and have gone out of their way to make our stays with them picture perfect. They've even washed the sheets on my visits. They have allowed us to invade their home, allowed us to be a part of New Year's 2009, lay naked in front of their fire, swim in their pool, drink Cosmos with them, ride in the car to/from Provincetown for Bear Week, picked us up and delivered us to the Albany airport at the most ungodly hours, and have always done it with a smile. We're more than happy to be able to reciprocate. In fact, I don't know if you'd call this irony or what, but they will arrive here on October 8....exactly, precisely, one year to the date since I arrived for the very first time on their doorstep and said hi to people that I'd only known on the internet up to that point....I think that's weird, quite frankly. Eerie. Meant to be? I think so.

Sean and Jeffrey have developed into the kind of friends that I expect to be around for a while. It's one of those internet relationships gone high on crack. Happy times, good times. And they've introduced us to a whole world of good people who have turned into some of our favorite people. And our week with them this past July at Bear Week in Provincetown was nothing short of a super cool freakishly fantastic time.

We've got such a long list of things for them to see here in Portland that we're not exactly sure where to start. It's also pretty cool because neither of them have ever been to the West Coast.....and it'll be the very first time ever for one of them on an airplane ride! We've got restaurants galore to eat at, gay bars to peruse, and the Columbia River National Scenic Area to check out. We're also going to host a party at our condo for a bunch of our friends so that we can introduce them to our measly little groupies. And, of course, Mason is nothing but on pins and needles with anticipation -- worried sick that he won't compare to the cuteness of Sean and Jeffrey's little Clyde E. Breen. I have a feeling it'll be love at first bite. Oh, and there's just one other little piece of excitement -- if you've followed Sean's blog or Jeffrey's blog for any length of time, you'll know that he/they/WE! spends an exorbitant amount of time at the nearest Target store.....you know, the one with big red balls in front of it.....well, there's great news......we've got a brand new giant Target super store with groceries and all opening very near us exactly on the weekend they are here! We'll definitely have to take in the festivities...and maybe even get a bag of popcorn or a slushy or something.
So, that's it. I could go on and on...and I'm sure we all will while we're jammed into the 850 square feet that we call home. Look out boys, you're in for the ride of your life!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Madness That Is Mondays

First and foremost, here are the boys showin' off their panties -- shameful little things that they are. It is Monday, you know.....

Secondly, I'm off to Seattle this afternoon to rendezvous with my Hubby for our annual Recurrent Training. He's done a nice job of telling what we're required to do in his post. I'll be glad when it's over and the pressure is off. We've done this for many, many years so you'd think it gets easier. It does in some ways. In other ways, it's always a nerve-wracking to be yelling and shouting airplane evacuation drill commands.

We had the chance to meet Mark and His Hubby from Tales of The Sissy. What a nice couple....we really enjoyed their casual and relaxed company. They loved Portland -- so, who knows...we may have them as permanent residents at some point in the future.

Our summertime has not come to an end yet....we're going to be basking in the 90s again over the next few days -- it's such a lovely city and the blue sky always shows it off so nicely.

We've got out-of-town visitors coming in October for nearly a week -- that story will be forthcoming very soon! Suffice it to say, that we're excited for the visit and the opportunity to say Hi to these friends again. I know, I know....you're on pins and needles with anticipation......

Hope you all enjoy your week, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just a Casual Acquaintance

I'm feelin' kinda funny inside (no, not the "one who can easily hide," either). I've been Defriended. Horrors! Now this isn't by someone that I don't know, or someone that I've had a disagreement with, or someone that I've never met.....nope, it's by someone that I've known for a number of years who simply decided that I am a "casual acquaintance" and that his Facebook page is for "friends and family." It's the funniest thing because I always considered us friends. We've bantered back and forth on FB for a long time. We know many, many mutual friends. We get along well, I think. We are both sort of smart asses. Now, I totally understand that each person in this big wide technology world has to make decisions about who they will email back and forth with, who they will be friends with on Facebook, and all of that. And I know that our needs and wants change over time. It's happened to me as well, I must confess. And I know full well that each of us has to give permission to one another to make our own personal decisions and that we must live with those decisions. Truly, the Defriending part isn't the entire point of my thoughts.....the irony is that it came on the heels of my post the very day before on What Draws Us Together and also reminds me of my writing early last year on What Do You Call Me? My intent here is much a much wider thought than the simple defriending.

My work schedule plays a pretty big part on what I get to do in life and what I don't. I typically get up at 4am and am in bed by 9pm.....in addition to being out of town much of my life. Those work hours don't play well with typical Monday-Friday sort of schedules and it has kept me from being able to participate in many activities throughout the years.

I am not the type of person that will chat you up every single day of my life. I won't call you on a daily basis nor feel obligated to email you, check in on you, or "make sure you're okay"...unless there's a need to. If you need honest help, I'm the first guy to be there to assist -- I will run to the grocery store for you, walk your dog for you, drive you to the doctor, cook a hot meal for you, and even do your laundry and, yes, clean your bathroom for you. I'm all of that, and more! But I'm not the pat-you-on-the-back sort of guy nor do I frequently exhibit the warm and fuzzy feelings that some require. I am the sort of guy that enjoys a beer or coffee with you, digs getting to look at gardens and trees and flowers and the sky, loves learning about new places and things, is more than happy to sit and stare at the earth and all that she offers. I have ended friendships over the other party "needing" for me to check in with them every day -- over others "requiring" me to spend my free time with them. I am the kind of guy who will not typically over analyze our relationship -- I will consider it good and fine and okay unless there's a good solid reason why it isn't. I won't lay awake nights wondering if you like me or that I do, or don't, like you. I'm the kind of guy who can go without seeing someone for six months, or even a year, and pick right back up where we left over -- without guilt, without wishing that we hadn't waited so long, without feeling badly. I love it for what it is, not what it is not.

So, I have been thinking about the long list of 123 friends that I have on Facebook not to mention the others on Twitter or who read my website or that I know in person or that I work with or that I meet via a mutual friend (can I actually use the word "friend"??...maybe its just an acquaintance.....) or that I say hi to in the coffee shop downstairs or or or or. And then I consider the many times while I've got Mason outside in public when I say to him, "Look, Mason, there's another nice lady....she's our friend"....trying to show him that she is not our enemy and that he is supposed to be nice to her. Maybe I should stop lying to him and tell him that "There's a lady we've never met -- don't trust her because we don't know who she is or what she is going to do to us." I counted them this morning......I have actually met 77 of my Facebook friends on at least one occasion. I certainly don't count all 123 as "friends and family"....most of you are, indeed, "casual acquaintances" that I enjoy and don't mind using the word "friend" at all. Some of you I see much more regularly than others. Others of you I have only met once -- and the reality of that is that may very well be the only time we will ever have the good chance to actually meet in person. I honor that time. I don't count it badly that it won't happen again. Others of you, hehehehe, may wish that you'd NEVER met me....... ahh, it's all good times, isn't it.....

I've discovered this whole Facebook and Twitter and texting world to be quite shallow. There is rarely depth amidst the posting and Twitting. It does not take the place of conversation, or phone calls, or one-on-one dinner or chatting. If we're looking for any sort of depth, it won't often be found online. So, I take it for what it is.....good, acceptable, enjoyable ..... the posts, the quick updates, the "here's what I'm having for dinner." It allows me to keep in some sort of contact with a huge number of adorable people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. So whether I call you friend, family, casual acquaintance or something else....it is what it is and I appreciate it for that.

I guess what I'm wondering is now that I'm not this friend's friend on Facebook, what am I? Oh, that's right, it's a casual acquaintance. It's an interesting world we live in, folks. Laden with technology, I've been relinquished to a casual acquaintance in spite of knowing the guy for years. I'm going to have to think about that for a bit, I'm afraid.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What Draws Us Together

I had a chance to catch the article Is Happiness Catching from the New York Times Magazine over the weekend. It definitely prompts one's mind to think about who is in your close circle of friends and what effect they have on you and what affect you have on them.

The article leans toward the fact that positive people have a bit more influence on negative people than the other way around. It also points out that there is always a common denominator in any group -- something that has drawn them together -- and that it is difficult to sustain outside of that common denominator for any length of time. Say, for example, that there is a group of friends who have known one another for quite some time because they walk at the mall every single day of their lives. Within this group, it would be difficult to be a part of it and not enjoy walking and good health. Your time within that group would be limited. It goes on to say that smokers have a tough time hanging with non-smokers over the long term. And that overweight people typically don't tend to migrate toward a group of gym rats and folks to try to take care of themselves -- and that happy people don't hang with negative for very long.

It's interesting food for thought on what ties us to our friends. We certainly have differences but there has to have been some common ground to bring us together and then keep us together. Differences? Commonality? What is it that has brought you to reside within the group of people you spend the majority of your lives with? Are you the influence on them or are they the ones influencing you? Interesting.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Trip of a Lifetime -- Bring a Pretty Dress

Trips. Pairings. Lines. These words are etched in my mind. I have used them for the past 15 years. They are my life. They are what I do. They are what I live. You'll see what we call a trip pairing in this image (I think you can click on it to make it bigger...). This is one single solitary flight attendant or pilot trip. Each month we get hundreds of these trips printed (well, they used to be printed...nowadays they are only online) for us to peruse. They show up on the 5th of each month.....we all live and breath for the day that the pairings are released for the following month. I work out of a fairly small flight attendant base -- we only have just over 300 FAs here -- so our "bid packet" is relatively small. The bid packet contains all of our trips for the following month. For example, on September 5, we received our October bid packets. There are 30 pages of trips to choose from (trips like you see in the image above). Large FA bases would have hundreds of pages of trips to look through and choose from! FAs choose trips for a million different reasons -- every one seems to have a different set of criteria -- and those criteria change from month to month.....child care issues, spouse work schedules, special days needed off, don't want to work weekends, don't want to go to work early or late, want or don't want particular layover cities, like to work a particular type of aircraft, and the list goes on and on. We FAs are picky people as far as what we like and don't like in our trips.

So, I go through our trip choices and pick out the ones that I like. Those come at the top of our choice list. Then I pick out the second tier of acceptable trips and so on with the least desirable trips at the end. We use an electronic bidding system whereby we input all of our choice parameters and the system builds a "line" for us for the following month. For example, my October selections look like this:

1. Want maximum time (want to work the most I can in the month).
2. Want October 7-8th off (I start vacation on October 9th and want to extend it by two days).
3. Want Mondays off (hubby is out of town on Mondays and it's easier for doggy care).
4. Do NOT want these trip pairing numbers: 6007, 6008, 6307, etc. (icky poo poo trips).
5. Do want these trip numbers: 6028, 6037, 6041, etc...(these are trips I ideally want).
6. Do want these trip numbers: 3087, 6689, 2398, etc (these are my second choices).
7. Do want these trip numbers: 8774, 2883, etc. (these are my third choices).
8. Don't want to work all-night flights.
9. Don't want to work flights that overnight in Mexico (many people love them, I can't stand them).
10. Don't want to work flights that end after 10pm (ideally I like to be done in the afternoon).

It's a very flexible system that typically provides me with nearly whatever I ask. So, the bids are due into the system by 09:00 on the 10th of each month and then the lines are awarded by 09:00 on the 13th of the month -- we live and breath for the release of our schedules for the following month. And we do this every single month, over and over, year after year. It's a real time consumer but it's also a little fun for those of us analytic types.

In the trip I've shown above, you can see that it is:

* A 4-day trip that has overnights for two nights in San Francisco and one night in Tucson. It "shows" (start time) at 06:25am (one hour before departure) on the first day and ends at 20:44pm on the last day. Also note the "pay" column versus the "duty" column -- for instance,the first day's on-duty time is 9 hours 26 minutes but the pay for that day is only 6 hours 16 minutes. Our pay is complicated to say the least. But it's also worth pointing out that we are only paid when the doors on the aircraft are closed -- we are NOT paid for the one hour before departure nor sit time in between flights. We are also not paid for any of the time spent during boarding nor deplaning. Delays on the ground are not paid either. You are gone from home on this trip 86 hours and 34 minutes (the bottom right number on the pairing).

The pay for trips that go out away from my base and back to my base in the same day are fully taxable trips. Some of the pay for trips that leave my base and do not return to my home base until some other day in the future is not taxable so it pays tax wise to work overnight trips that stay away from home base.

My schedule for September has a variety of "turns" (out and back in the same day) to Denver, Los Angeles, and Orange County. It also has a few overnights in Austin, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Anchorage.

So, that's it in a nutshell. Complicated? Yes. Anybody want to apply? You'll need a pretty dress, scarf, hat, and gloves.

Friday, September 04, 2009

What If I Didn't Have That Thought?

So, what if I didn't have that thought? The thought that I didn't want to go to work. Or that I thought so and so was overweight. Or that person sure is an idiot. Or that woman sure is a horrible person. Or that I wish that parent would control their child. Or that coworkers, friends, and family wouldn't have bad attitudes. Or that certain people wouldn't use handicapped parking spaces when I don't think they should be using them. Or that negative attitudes really piss me off. Or that toxic relationships beat the hell out of me. Or that I wish certain parts of my life were different than they are. Or that I wish people would learn to enjoy the sunrise instead of be all hacked off that they have to get up to go to work. Or that the evangelicals would be the ones to end up in hell. Or that screaming children really send me over the top. Or that other people could be the ones to change instead of me. Yeah, so what if I didn't have that thought? What if it never entered my mind. What if it plain old never even happened?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

For All of My Bear Buddies

Now you know where you can for a trim. I don't think the $8 includes the tip, though. And if any of you missed out on our Provincetown Bear Week 2009 pictures, check 'em out here. Grr.....Grrr.....