Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Judgments of Others

In March of this year, I posted my thoughts on the "marriage equality" issue.  Despite yesterday's landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, I don't feel any differently.

" 'Where there is life, there is hope. Where there are hopes, there are dreams. Where there are vivid dreams repeated, they become goals. Goals become the action plans and game plans that winners dwell on in intricate detail, knowing that achievement is almost automatic when the goal becomes an inner commitment. The response to the challenges of life—purpose—is the healing balm that enables each of us to face up to adversity and strife.'  -Dennis Waitley (b. 1933)

The original quote, "Where there is life, there is hope" has all sorts of attributions:  from an ancient Chinese proverb, to Portuguese lore, to an indigenous tribe of Africa.  It's meaning has such universal import, I doubt that ANY attribution could be discredited.

The purpose for many of my friends and colleagues just now is the issue of marriage equality.  It seems that we may be on the cusp of seeing our society accept the universality of love and love commitments.  Since I am a gay man myself, living in a committed relationship of nearly 30 years, you might think that I see these events as the threshold of some sort of victory.  Ironically, I don't.

Assuming that the issue of marriage equality comes to pass, and all citizens of the U.S. are accorded the same rights and access to "marriage", what has changed in my life?  Do the sanctions of any government render my commitment to my partner, Philip, any more valid than our own mutual commitment to each other?  If our life together suddnely "turns on a dime" in the eyes of the law and community, how do we characterize the life we've led together up until that point?  Does our role as surrogate parents to the boy we helped raise to adulthood suddenly become legitimate?  Will those who must hate, hate us less?  Will all barriers to our happy and successful life together suddenly cease to exist?

Don't be NAIVE!

The life that Philip and I have built together is perfectly capable of standing on its own merit.  We neither need nor seek the sanction of the same individuals who have thrown at us every obstacle imaginable to our happiness before these momentous times arrived.

PHILIP AND I DEFINE WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE STAND FOR.  And based on what I see day-in and day-out of "marriage"...

You can keep it!

I cherish life and venerate hope.  I have happily lived everyday of my life looking ahead in hope.  And I will continue to do so in the blissful knowledge that the acceptance, sanction, validation and LOVE of those who mean the most to me I already have."

One curious side note:  In view of SCOTUS' decision, Philip and I may be compelled to take action.  Isn't it ironic?  Oh, how the judgments of others guide our lives!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

CHANGE: The Final Frontier

STAR TREK insisted that "space" is the final frontier and perhaps it is of the external.  But of the internal, "CHANGE" is the final frontier; it engenders so much potential but, at the same time, so much pain and anxiety.  

The way a given population adapts to change has been documented scientifically using a bell curve:  eager beavers, early adapters, kickers & screamers, never evers.  It doesn't matter where you fall on the curve, change is inevitable.  It's processes were at work before you were born and will persevere long after your demise.  So given the universality of change, why haven't humans assimilated it and embraced it over the millennia?  Why does it instill so much emotion?

My answer is because WE instill so much importance in our "normal", our point of stasis.  We work to achieve a comfortable balance in our lives of work, home, family, friends, wealth, security, comfort.  In my opinion, we fool ourselves into thinking that our individual point of "balance" represents permanence.  Permanence as in immortality.  Crazy isn't it?  For all of our work, expense, fretting and angst, it really is just a house of cards.  We spend our existence fighting to deny our mortality.  When my Dad was at the height of his illness, he wanted so badly to plant and tend a vegetable garden.  I remember thinkinig, "how can he die with a garden to tend?"

After all, death is the ultimate change.

Of all the things that affect our brief existence, change is one of the few of any permanence.  Stop fighting it!  "Resistance is futile."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rather than my regular blog posts, I am reliving the final months of my father's life in "AGAPE:  An Ode to My Father". 

You will find it in the tabs at the top (or, depending on your device, in the "drop down menu") of this page.

I'm also aware that many of you have attempted to leave COMMENTS and have found the process of doing so user-unfriendly.  I have attempted to remove as many obstacles as I can.  I hope that I've been successful.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Milestone: Inaugural DREAMLINER Non-stop Service from Denver to Tokyo

On so many levels...

this week's launch of Boeing Dreamliner non-stop service from the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado to Tokyo, Japan's Narita International Airport was a milestone.  For my airline-employer, it represented the fulfillment of a commitment to the Rocky Mountain region to open an unencumbered gateway to the economic powerhouse of Japan.  For the city of Denver and the state of Clorado, it was the end of a decades-long process of building ties and cementing friendships that will likely prove an economic boon for the region.  For me, my participation was a distinct honor and privilege bestowed by my employer on the eve of my thirtieth year of service.  But this new air service between Denver and Tokyo is nothing less than a 21st century technological marvel.

The economic and cross-cultural promise that this service represents has long been the perfectly ripened fruit hanging just high enough on the tree that it couldn't be reached.  Primarily due to Denver's altitude and climate, it is known worldwide as a prohibitively "hot and high" airport.  Aircraft achieve lift (one of the primary forces required for flight) best when the air is dense (I.e. at lower altitudes, close to sea level and when the air is moist).   The conditions in Denver are prohibitive due to its mile-high altitude above sea level and its relatively dry air.  This atmospheric combination has long been a conundrum for airlines wishing to launch new long-haul and/or international service from the area.  For example, a Boeing 777 could feasibly operate the Denver to Tokyo route but its "metrics" would make it cost-prohibitive to do so.  It is simply too large, has too many seats for the likely demand from new service and consumes fuel at too great a rate to make it practical.

The Dreamliner 787-8 was the perfect solution for the long-standing problem.  It's revolutionary design, materials, and power plants combined into a more-or-less "custom" airplane for the route.  Notwithstanding its battery-related technical issues that kept it out of the air for the better part of four months earlier this year, ship #905 (one of 6 currently in our fleet) proved its readiness and aptitude on Monday, June 10th, 2013 with the on-time launch of flight 139 which followed a northwesterly arc flight path on its 10 hour 50 minute maiden voyage to Japan.

The atmosphere in the boarding area of gate B32 was electric: TAIKO drums whose percussive force could be felt in one's chest, the Shinto priest who performed a ritual purification ceremony, the traditional breaking open of the sake barrel, Japanese food items, commemorative gifts, decorative cherry trees in full, if artificial blossom, a locally-renowned artist painting an original mural commissioned for the occasion and SO MANY august, dignified speakers who placed their oratory stamp of approval on the day's festivities.  It was a memorable event for all in attendance.

On a personal level, it was an opportunity for one frontline employee to show the travel world that the recent merger of his airline alma mater with one of the grande dames of the aviation industry was capable of fulfilling the promise of that marriage.  The pressure to provide a non-pareil example of our award-winning BusinessFirst inflight service on an aircraft where we had never performed that service was daunting.  Each aircraft presents its own set of ergonomic challenges where service is concerned.  The Dreamliner was no different:  from something as complex as locating and assimilating all the service components to ensure that a seamless customer experience would result to something as basic as developing a spatial awareness of a new airplane environment, the challenges were palpable.  Keep in mind that even on a Trans-oceanic flight, the clock is always ticking.  Our first service is to be completed within a 2.5 hour service window.  Our team was the key to our ultimate success.

And what a success it was!  A reporter from THE DENVER POST remarked that the "seasoned" crew made all the difference.  The challenges were great but the team met them and surpassed the expectations of our onboard customers, among whom numbered many VIPs from every aspect of life, customers who are well-acquainted with the "best of the best" in travel.

A mutual friend and colleague of mine at the airline messaged me shortly before our departure from Denver to alert me that two friends she'd met in the frequent flyer chat room FlyerTalk would be travelling with us to Japan.  When she described Ben and Seth, I doubted that we would have the opportunity to meet or chat since I was working in the rather "remote" forward galley.  But coincidentally, I was passing the auxiliary galley at doors 3 after my crew rest break and noticed two guys meeting the descriptions I'd received talking about airplanes!  Ben and Seth are two of those "aviation groupies" I'd heard so much about over the years but whose bona fide existence I had doubted.  They LIVE for opportunities like the Dreamliner route inaugural and plan for years in advance to be included in these events.  Ironically, Seth was only planning to stay in Japan long enough to accompany us BACK to Denver the very next day!  It was on that return flight to Denver that Seth and I really had an opportunity to talk and it was my pleasure to conduct a more "individualized" familiarization tour of the 787 for him.  Regardless of his reasons for flying with us, Seth is one of our more frequent customers.  He flew from his home in New York City just to join us for this inaugural trip and has documented his experience in his own blog.

Our lives are sentences, sometimes run-on (especially in my case), punctuated by milestone events.  Sometimes, those "milestones" can also be "turning points". I have a really good feeling about this one!  And I'm seeing favorable winds for the future...

On so many levels.

(Epilogue:  I hope you enjoy the photographs and links provided.  Together with my narrative, I hope they endow this post with a sense of "being there".  As always, YOU will be the judge!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Milestone: High School Graduation

Yesterday, my partner Philip and I drove by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion where a large crowd was gathering.  It was a warm, clear afternoon and folks looked to be in a happy mood, gleefully anticipating whatever entertainment was on offer.

As it turns out, they were gathering for one of the local high school's graduation ceremony.  Before I knew what was happening, Philip began to reminisce about our boy Joaquin's graduation, now 4 long years ago.  Joaquin is really Philip's brother's grandson (so, Philip's great nephew).  And while he is no direct relation to me, Joaquin will always be "Our Boy".

The story of how Joaquin became "our boy" is important but many of you LIVED those details along with Philip and me (thank you for that).  It was both an opportunity and an obligation that we couldn't have foreseen in our rather "unconventional" lives. 

Philip and I fulfilled the commitment we made to Joaquin that we would see him through those important high school years.  We gave him unconditional love, a safe, secure, comfortable home, regular nutritious meals (we always had dinner together at home),  the time and means to participate in extracurricular activities, church & religious instruction, our involvement in his life and the discipline of boundaries set by those who care about you.  Sounds like a winning formula, huh?

Raising a child is the ultimate example of how extraneous factors can sabotage the best of intentions.  No matter how you plan, no matter how much you care, despite your best efforts, you simply cannot control the outcome!  I have likened children to diamonds and the role of parent to that of the diamond cutter.  You can cleave the stone, facet it, polish it and mount it in any number of different settings.  But you CANNOT change its innate, molecular structure.  The essence which makes a diamond or a child a unique entity is impervious to external matter how good-intentioned they might be.

To put it plainly, Joaquin's high school graduation was a milestone event for all who know and care about him.  Perhaps Philip and I overloaded it with significance.  Perhaps without knowing it, we made it as much about us as we did about Joaquin.  As with so many of the truly "important" things in life, it's hard to be sure.  But there's no denying that it was a turning point.  Four long years later, we can't pass a high school graduation without wondering:  did we do the best we could, would we change anything, was there one pivotal moment that we missed that would have made a difference?

Joaquin launched from his foundation, went on to college and landed a job with a promising future at a recognized leader in the petroleum industry.  Moreover, the Joaquin of today undoubtedly shows signs of our influence.  In the great scheme of things, I can live with that!

The questions that I can answer with certainty are:  

Would I have missed the opportunity if I'd known what I know now, in advance?  NO!

Would I ever do it again?  NO!

Having had Joaquin in our lives taught me one of the most important lessons I'll ever likely learn:  If you undertake a mission, give your very best effort without reservation or hesitation, and never give up, even if it comes up isn't BECAUSE of you, it's IN SPITE of you!  

Our value is determined by the efforts we make, not by the outcomes of those efforts.