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09 May

Sometimes I blog about important social issues.  Sometimes I just publish something I have been working on for my next book, which is scheduled to come out sometime between next week and before I die.

This below is more of the latter.  It’s not that there aren’t any important social issues deserving of my time; it’s more that I work with high school students all day and by the time I get home my brain is mostly old tires and tapioca.  So sometimes I have to keep it light.

Those of you that read my book know that it went right up until the time I met my lovely bride, Ivy.  This is one of the early stories I wrote about our amazing life together.

DISCLAIMER:  If you haven’t seen TOP GUN, you might not follow much of the story.  Read the plot summary on Wikipedia here.

I don’t really remember what number birthday I was celebrating, so don’t ask.  Here we go…


To celebrate my recent birthday, my wife indulged me and we went to a local military Air and Space Museum. Normally, she shies away from such things, as when I get around military aircraft I tend to drool and make weird hand motions like I’m re-enacting a dog fight. But my birthday only comes once a year, so we went.
After looking at all the aircraft, my testosterone was on afterburner, and just then we turned the corner and were face to face with a fully interactive flight simulator. True, it was just a very large video game. But it was a VERY LARGE video game, and I was so excited I almost cried.
You may remember that once upon a time, I based my entire life’s goals on the movie TOP GUN, and was determined to be a Naval Aviator. God had determined that I was going to have cancer instead, so my dreams of going a million miles an hour strapped to an engine built by the lowest bidder were put on hold. Still, I never let go of the dream entirely, and it lay dormant in my engineer’s soul until that very moment in time.
I tried to explain that intelligently to my wife. Unfortunately, it came out more like a child begging for a lollipop. Still, whether because she truly loved me or because she just wanted me to not make a scene, she caved and bought me a ticket.
The flight simulator was a recycled Navy trainer, made from an old F-4 Phantom II jet of Vietnam fame. They had taken the cockpit off and thrown away the rest of the aircraft. They then put the cockpit inside a semi-hemisphere of screen, and there’s your flight simulator. The Phantom had a two-seat tandem cockpit, meaning that the pilot sat up front and the radar operator sat in back. This allowed the Navy to have twice as many cool aviator types as it did Phantom jets.
I climbed up the steps so quickly that I almost fell off, so anxious was I to begin this journey. And that’s when the problem started. The gate keeper of the attraction pointed out that with the purchase of the ticket two people were allowed into the simulator; one pilot and one back-seater.
I looked at my wife expectantly. My wife looked at the floor. I cleared my throat. My wife looked towards the ceiling. Finally, I broke the silence.
“Honey, do you want to go for a ride in the nice fighter jet? I’ll drive.”
“No, you go ahead. I’ll wait.”
“Honey, I need you to help me shoot down all the bad Soviets.”
“Not my thing, dear. Plus, the Berlin Wall has been down for like a decade.” Leave it to my wife to interject politics into my fantasy birthday.
“Honey, PLEASE. I won’t ask for another thing ever in my whole life. And your mother can come visit. Again.”
Eventually, she agreed, probably just to shut me up, but I’m ok with that. She rolled her eyes and climbed into the back seat, and we were now ready to take our memorable first combat sortie as man and wife.
I wanted the experience to be real as possible, so I strapped myself in and called over my shoulder, in a very cool aviator voice, “Pilot to RIO (Radar Intercept Officer, the guy in the back of a Navy jet), strap in and standby for takeoff.” For the first time all afternoon, my wife got exited.
“We’re going to RIO? Wow!”
When I explained to her that she should just buckle up, she reminded me that we weren’t really going anywhere, and that I should start acting my considerable age. I responded by slamming the throttles forward, which did not result in the bone crunching acceleration it would in a real jet, but at least made enough noise to drown out her voice, even with the headphones on. We hurtled down the digital runway and were immediately up over a digital copy of San Diego. The controller alerted me to bandits, and the fight was on.
Still trying to keep her involved, I told my wife over the intercom, “Honey, bandits at 2 o’clock.”
She became irritated immediately. “Oh great, it’s only one thirty. What are we going to do in this thing for thirty minutes?” Our teamwork needed considerable improvement if we were going to survive this fight.
I didn’t even bother to explain, because at that moment the two bandits were on us like NASCAR fans on free beer. I put on max power and threw the aircraft into a tight turn (which in real life probably would have killed us) and bought us a few precious seconds. I craned my neck all around, looking for the bad guys. In a moment of panic, I realized I had lost them, and called to me partner, “Honey, where did they go?”
No answer.
I yelled again, louder this time, “Honey, need your help. Did you see where the bad guys went?” Still nothing, so I torqued my head around to see if I could find out where my trusty back-seater went. I found her, right where she should have been, in the back seat. Filing her nails.
Obviously, I was on my own. I began to dogfight the hated digital foe, and bagged one of them with a lucky shot. That left just one bad guy, and I began to feel like I had the edge. My wife, now finished her manicure, asked me how I was doing.
“Just great, honey. Thanks. Just need one more bit of info and I think I can turn this around. Can you tell me how fast we are going?”
She tried; she really did. She looked around the cockpit for something with numbers on it, and reported immediately. “We are going six knots.”
Incredulous, I lost all concentration. I was in a (truncated) supersonic fighter, capable of going twice the speed of sound, and was reportedly going slightly faster than an out-of-shape jogger. Just as I turned around to ask for confirmation, bandit number two put a rocket up our tailpipe, and we crashed into San Diego Bay. Game over, dude.
I told my wife at the debrief that I wished maybe she could have been a little more helpful during our recent engagement, and I could have broken off before we got smoked and ended up in the drink. She countered that I should have been more helpful during our actual engagement, that she should have broken it off, and that she needed a drink.
I wonder if Maverick and Goose started like this?


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