November 1, 2008
Some notes from a few days ago:
Today brings back a little reality, we're in an airport waiting area for an airline flght. We've had a wonderful week or so traveling to Siberia and back to Moscow in a Tupelov 134. In the last notes I wrote about the flight attendant sternly saying 'ticofi' to let you know that you are being offered tea or coffee. This time she came up to me and said 'nowcockpit', which is something I always enjoy, as long as I feel like I'm not distracting the guys up front from flying. They were very warm and friendly, and even though we had very few words in common, they more or less understood my general comments. They more or less insisted that I sit down in the first officer's seat and get some photos. It was very warm and smoky up there since there were always several cigarettes going. Without getting anyone in trouble, I can only say that now I have a much better idea of what it would be like to do a takeoff and climbout in a plane exactly like that. After af while when the autopilot was on, I asked if I could see the navigator's station. You see, the Tu-134 has a glass nose, made up of lots of small windshield pieces in the very front part of the nose, about where we would expect the weather radar and radome to be. People instantly assume that the glass nose (on an airliner!) is for a bombardier or something like that, since the flying fortress of WWII looked that way for the nose gunner. But the navigator is a dedicated crew member that does nothing but navigation, like on a submarine. So he can look down for deduced reckoning ("ded" reckoning........not dead reckoning) waypoints, look up for basic celestial navigation, and he has a dedicated workstation down there with access to all the controls, as well as the 1st officer's directional gyro, as I found out!
Anyway, I had a blast, they gave me a gift of a "Russian GPS" which was the time/speed sliderule that the navigator used, and one of pilots gave me his flight officer's uniform hat. All Russian uniform hats are huge, and I hope this one makes if home looking similar after being bounced around in my suitcase for 100 or so handlings. I sure do feel right at home with most every crew we have ever had the pleasure of hanging around with.
These russian gigs have really been going well. Last night was a sold out show in the garguntuan arena, so big that there is a wall dividing the arena in to two halves. One side is the backstage area, which you could play soccer in, and the other side is the gig. As you look at the audience, there are tiers that go up so high and so steep, that it requires leaning back a little to see them all. Amazing stuff, and a very energetic audience in the perfect arrangement of standing in front, seated in back along raised tiers. That way the ones that want to endure the conditions in front can, and the ones that want to sit there with their arms folded and simply watch the show, can also do it without having their view blocked. Most of our shows here have had the front rows seated, (obviously premium priced tickets) and the absolutely energetic fans back in the distance, nearly out of view. Problem was, the people in front would just sit there with arms folded....which is no problem, but 100 yards behind them were the rabid fans, waving, jumping up and down, cheering, applauding, whistling. So, for a classical guitar concert, seated works great, but for a rock concert,.....uh.....well.....er, uh....it sure is nice to get some signs of life from the crowd. In reality, they were very successful gigs, it just turns out to be a lot more fun to play with people in your field of view who are bursting with energy to have a good time. I've heard critics put down performers who were 'playing to the fans in the front rows' as if that's a bad thing. When you're up there with spotlights in your eyes, that's what you can mainly see, so it's just a natural thing, that's all.
This is a long tour leg, and it's hard to believe that we have an entire german tour coming up following all this. I heard that Pyro's (photographer who died suddenly) family will be coming to Frankfurt, and I look forward to telling them what an enjoyable personality he had, as well as turning out great photos. Time after time of seeing a family's grief has made me savor each day of life that I have left. More and more, I ponder the finite moments of life, especially at my age, which most men used to not live to see, until modern medicine and advancements. I wish I had figured out at a very young age how precious every minute of life is. Not sure what I would have ended up as, but it probably wouldn't have changed much of what I like to do..........just changed the importance that I attached to little problems that shouldn't have had much impact on my life.
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