Whites in Europe 2: Heading North

The Whites in Europe: Dublin Down

Whites in Europe: Dublin Down

In April, I had the pleasure of taking my parents to Dublin for the first time. They’re not exactly the youngest kiddies on the block anymore, and my father is the type who’ll say “no” to an untried food, only to snag a bit of it from your plate when you order it. But despite the inevitable misunderstandings and temper flare-ups that happen when parents and their adult children travel together, the laughs and sense of mutual discovery outweigh any half-hour periods of silence or heavy sighs of exasperation. So the elder Whites and their eldest son will be hitting the Continent once again for ten days this June, swinging through a trifecta of capital cities – including one I’ve never been to before – that novices to Europe often erroneously overlook: Berlin, Stockholm, and Helsinki.

NorthernEurope

We’ll start our journey with a brief stopover in Frankfurt, where we’ll be celebrating my Fly Mother’s 76th birthday with some cake at Bitter & Zart, recommended by friend and foodie par excellence, Karin of Yum and More. Then, my parents will get their first experience on a high-speed train as we race toward Berlin on the ICE (ICE, baby), arriving in the German capital late that evening.

Berlin at sunset. Photo courtesy das_sabrinchen via Flickr.

Berlin at sunset. Photo courtesy das_sabrinchen via Flickr.

As I don’t want to bore them or wear them out, we’ll take in maybe three points of interest each day we’re there; on the must-do list: the stately Brandenburg Gate, the immense Pergamon Museum, Nefertiti at the Neues Museum, East German culture at the DDR Museum, and sunset at the Bundestag dome – probably the most striking parliamentary structure built since the Congresso Nacional in Brasília. On the must-eat menu: plenty of wurst, döner, and pho.

Stockholm's historic Gamla Stan. Photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely via Flickr.

Stockholm’s historic Gamla Stan. Photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely via Flickr.

Next, we head north to my favoritest city in Europe – Stockholm! I curse you, capital of Sweden, for being cold and dark for six months of the year; that is your only flaw (well, along with being crazy expensive). The city is gorgeous, hip, and full of worldly, attractive people who are fun and welcoming, and I’m excited about having my parents experience the things I love about the ‘holm.

We’ll be staying right in the middle of the historic center – Gamla Stan – in an old postwar-era ferry anchored in the harbor. As lots of Stockholm’s charms lie in the architecture and atmosphere of the place, we may just do the hop-on/hop-off bus and water taxis to get the lay of the land, stopping for Swedish meatballs (called “meatballs” in Sweden) and shots of Gevalia espresso. Then, we’ll bone up on our Viking lore at the Historiska museum, maybe head out to see the royal residence at Drottningholm Palace, or soak up the general pre-Midsummer energy in one of the city’s cool, green parks. At night, since we’ll all still be jet-lagged anyway, jazz and blues at Stampen might be the perfect way to tire ourselves out and celebrate Father’s Day, especially if my girl Germaine Thomas is at the mic.

Helsinki Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Alexander Kolosov via Flickr.

Helsinki Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Alexander Kolosov via Flickr.

Finally, we’re all going to HEL. :-) Helsinki’s not as large as Berlin or Stockholm, so we’ll only be spending two days there. Aside from visiting the big white church that dominates the skyline, we don’t have much on the itinerary yet. Still, this will be my first trip to Finland and I’m excited about being in the home country of one of my favorite architects (Eero Saarinen, who designed Dulles Airport, JFK’s iconic TWA Terminal, and the Gateway Arch), and one of my parents’ favorite composers (Jean Sibelius, whose magnum opus appeared in Die Hard 2…I will always remember watching it on HBO with my folks and my mom turning to my dad and asking, in her Southern accent, “Isn’t that Finlandia?” “Mmhm,” he replied. Classically trained, thank you very much).

So stay tuned for trip developments and (hopefully) some video. I’m trying to bring things into the 21st century, y’all. Lord, I hope they don’t put us out of Europe.

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I Wish I Weren’t Right About Rio

Disappointment, Brazilian-style. Photo by Eduardo Otubo via Flickr.

Disappointment, Brazilian-style. Photo by Eduardo Otubo via Flickr.

Le very big sigh. Recently, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee called Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games as the “worst ever,” fueling rumors that the Games could even be held in London or Moscow. For anyone intimately familiar with Brazil – and I’m not talking about spending a week on Ipanema – this comes as no big surprise. In fact, when Rio was awarded the Games back in 2009, I wrote about my own trepidation at Rio’s readiness. Back then, the signs were clear: institutional corruption, lack of organization, and inadequate long-term planning threatened to dog the project from its inception, just as these things tarnished the legacy of the 2007 Pan-American Games, also held in Rio. In 2010, when I taught high school in Brasília, the students answered my concerns about Brazil’s ability to host big events with a cocky “South Africa did it, so we don’t have anything to worry about.” Oh, dear.

I’m sure the organizers of the World Cup are feeling like they dodged a bullet, but for the past several years, FIFA – the governing body of the international soccer tournament – has been warning Brazil about its cost-overruns, construction delays, and safety issues. In fact, I was in São Paulo at the end of April and saw very little preparation at Brazil’s largest, most congested, technologically impaired airport. English is still rarely spoken by taxi drivers and prices for food and services are still astronomical, with little improvement in quality. The Cup will happen, but this mega-event will be the world’s funnest fiasco; only the extreme affability of Brazilians – and their unparalleled fanaticism for futebol – will salvage it.

In the meantime, protests against corruption and the lack of basic citizen services, as well as the ongoing low-scale street war happening in Rio – and it is a war – call attention to the fact that, unfortunately, Brazil is just not ready. It could have been, in another decade or so and with a cadre of politicians and business leaders serious about Brazil’s socio-economic advancement. But public money continues to get funneled into offshore bank accounts, private companies continue to gouge consumers with shitty products at high prices, and the government and ruling classes continue to be content with a large, permanent underclass without access to decent health care and education.

I have a deep and abiding love for Brazil. Never in any other place have I felt as welcome and as embraced – claimed. But it’s from this love that I find myself disappointed and angry. My biggest fear – that Brazil will be monumentally embarrassed by the failure to successfully execute these endeavors – is coming true. And as with most injustices, the people who have the very least to do with this whole mess will suffer the most for it.

God, I just wish I weren’t right about Rio.

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For captivating, on-the-ground dispatches from Brazil, check out the English-language blogs From Brazil, published by São Paulo’s largest daily and edited/written by several crack journalist friends of mine in SP and RJ, and Andrew Downie’s Brazil Blog, written by a foul-mouthed Scot.

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Fly Favorites: April 2014

 

    • Impactful documentary Gringo Trails explores the dangers of mass tourism. Try and catch a screening if you can…you might recognize a familiar face. ;-)
    • Ecuador-based wordsmith extraordinaire Bani Amor hangs out at the intersection of race, sexuality, identity, and – of course – travel at her website Everywhere All the Time.
    • The Atlantic Cities visualizes 200 years of urban sprawl in Paris, São Paulo, and Los Angeles.
    • Fly sisters Evita Robinson and Arielle Loren help other fly folk take their brands, products, and shows on the road with Touring for Startups.
    • The Economist explains why 67% of passengers departing US airports feel they’ll be landing at a better airport overseas.

San Luis Potosi

Priest and Fly, having our own impromptu writers’ retreat down Mexico way.

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Vintage Travel Posters: San Francisco

SF_UA0Arguably America’s must beautiful city, San Francisco has long lured travelers with its stunning scenery, fresh air, striking bridges, and – as these vintage travel posters indicate – the exotic delights of Chinatown. While the themes may be repetitive in this modest compendium, the charms of the City by the Bay never get old. When you go, don’t forget that flower.

SF_AA1

SF_TWA1

SF_AW

SF_TWA2

SF_UA1

SF_TWA4

SF_AA2

SF_DL

SF_AA4

SF_UA3

SF_SantaFe1

SF_UA4

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I Am Afraid

Doubt and Fear

I am afraid.
I’m afraid of choosing the wrong path.
I’m afraid of getting lost.
I’m afraid of regret.
I’m afraid of missing out.
I’m afraid I’m not smart enough.
I’m afraid of being inarticulate.
I’m afraid of being ridiculous.
I’m afraid of being mediocre.
I’m afraid of never being a published author.
I’m afraid of being a published author, but a commercial (or worse, critical) failure.
I’m afraid I won’t ever realize my full potential.
I’m afraid of always being broke.
I’m afraid of fucking up.
I’m afraid my people – black people – will always be marginalized, forever, and that people – non-black people – really just don’t give a shit.
I’m afraid of people – guys, mostly – acting “funny” because I’m gay.
I’m afraid of losing my looks.
I’m afraid there’s not enough time.
I’m afraid of getting fat again.
I’m afraid I have ADD (seriously, I can’t focus for shit).
I’m afraid of getting physically or mentally ill.
I’m afraid of Alzheimer’s and strokes and shitting on myself.
I’m afraid of getting old.
I’m afraid of the 21st Century (WTFITCS?!).
I’m afraid of losing loved ones before I’m ready to let them go.
I’m afraid of disappointing my parents.
I’m afraid of cheating on my partner.
I’m afraid of catching something when people don’t cover their mouths when they cough.
I’m afraid of becoming bitter.
I’m afraid of not living my best life.

I am afraid every single fucking day of my life. Because all of these risks, dangers, challenges, troubles, and eventualities are real, possible, probable. And so what? Am I supposed to stay in bed until time to go to work at a dead-end job, eating store-brand ice cream and masturbating, afraid to step outside my door? Hardly.

It’s not even a question of fighting fear, really. It’s walking right past that fear as if it didn’t exist. Not that fear doesn’t cause me anxiety, trepidation, or stress. But it’s useless anxiety, trepidation, and stress, so there’s nothing left but to walk past it. And I do it every day. Because for every one of those fears, there’s an unfear – an unfear of flying, an unfear of going someplace where I don’t know the language, an unfear of asking strangers for help, an unfear of engaging in passionate discussions about life, an unfear of escaping my comfort zone, an unfear of trying – I am just as unafraid as I am afraid. More unafraid, even. It’s true; sometimes, the forces of fear win a battle or two. But it’s unfear that has the nuclear bomb in its arsenal.

I repeat: I am unafraid.

You repeat: I am unafraid.

fear2

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Special, heartfelt thanks to Mike Hrostoski, men’s coach and powerlifting yogi, who openly discusses his fears as he prepares for his first ever Conference for Men, and to soul brother and secret superhero Rogue Priest, whose spiritual and worldly musings regularly inspire in me reflection and awe.

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From the AV Room: Time Lapse Airport Ops

8 Hrs at LAX. Image by Mike Kelley

8 Hrs at LAX. Image composed by Mike Kelley.

By now, it should be no secret that Fly Brother is an aviation geek, particularly when it comes to airports and airlines. Even as a kid, I collected Wooster snap-fit model airplanes, memorized airport codes, read the OAG, designed my own mega-airport in the mold of Hartsfield-Jackson (only with more runways, more concourses, and serviced by every major airline on the planet), and created my own version of Monopoly in which players snapped up hub airports in lieu of streets.

Now that I actually work out on the ramp, stacking bags and voguing with glowsticks and whatnot, I can’t help but watch these videos and pay attention to the littlest details, like the baggage carts whirling around the planes and the tiny but powerful tractors that push the planes back from the gates. Here are a few of my favorite time lapse airport operations videos (and a stunning computer-generated map of air traffic flow over northwestern Europe). The music on the Paris vid is particularly fly. Enjoy!





Europe 24 from NATS on Vimeo.

 

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The Not-So-Secret Life of Walter Mitty

thepurposeoflife

On a plane over the Atlantic Ocean, I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the modern film adaptation of a Depression-era short story about an unremarkable everyman stricken by sporadic daydreams of heroism. In the story, mundane tasks inspire epic flights of fancy in the mind of the protagonist, who appears zoned out to the rest of the world. The film, however, takes a mild-mannered photo developer for Life magazine out of his fantasies and sends him on a dizzying adventure to Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan. Actually, the film takes us along for the ride.

To be certain, seeing Walter Mitty, mousy and unsure, morph into a ruggedly handsome philosopher-hero is to witness Hollywood cliché. And it’s easy to dismiss as corny the abridged Life magazine mantra displayed throughout the film (see image above). But on that airplane, I drank in every panoramic mountain vista, swam in every lush measure of the soundtrack, and swallowed whole each word of that mantra, because I am a true believer. I know first-hand the power of travel, of conquering fear, of exploring the unknown, of accomplishing the extraordinary. But more, I’ve been blessed to interact with, to be drawn closer to other people who also know this power intimately. Extraordinary people who give little girls the world in the form of a small, blue, 32-page book with an eagle on the front. People who coach men on becoming better men, who kayak down the coast of Texas in search of solace and solitude, who supply menstrual pads to school-aged girls in developing countries, who move to New York then Buenos Aires then Boston when the mood strikes, or whose hobby is slowly but steadily becoming a profession. People raising their biracial daughters or autistic sons as single mothers in foreign countries or foreign cultures, who unexpectedly fall in love with a certain city and then make that place home, who connect compatriots worldwide, who capture the essence of life for posterity. People who do oh so many more extraordinary, epic things.

The examples are all around us; it’s really no secret at all. An epic life, an extraordinary life isn’t just for the movies. And it isn’t just for people who throw off the yoke of conventionality to go live in Bali and trade stocks over the Internet. It’s about recognizing epic moments that already happen in your life – running on the beach, hugging a loved one, laughing with friends – and embracing them, then devising a way to maximize the frequency and duration of epic-ness in your life. It’s not always easy, and right now, it may only be five minutes a week. But in a few weeks, months, years, extraordinary could be your new ordinary. Walter Mitty reminded me that, despite my own fears, inadequacies, conflicts, or difficulties, extraordinary is already my ordinary. I plan on keeping it that way.

So, who’s down for a trip to Greenland?

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Upcoming Documentary: Whitelandia

oregon heart

“No free negro shall come, reside in, or be within this state… [T]he legislature shall provide by penal law for the removal of all such negroes and their exclusion from the State.” -Oregon State Constitution, 1857-1926

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Black History in Aviation: Patricia Banks

patriciabanks_paper

In 1956, New York college student Patricia Banks counted herself among the first cadre of young black women to finish flight attendant training school. Sadly, like those other young women, she found it possible to gain employment with any of the major airlines, unlike her white classmates.

“…one of the chief hostesses from Capital [Airlines]…she saw me…she said, ‘Pat, I can’t see you go through this anymore.’ She said, ‘The airline does not hire Negroes.'” “It really never came to me that New York was just as racist as the South. I grew up when the South was having such terrible problems, but I had a thing inside of me…this just can’t be, not in New York!” “It was emotionally upsetting.” “But then I vowed, ok…you’re not gonna do this to us. I’m not gonna let you do this. And I decided that I was going to go with it all the way. I don’t care how long it took. And whether it was me that got hired, or somebody else, somebody was going to get hired.”

Ms. Banks sued, and in 1960, the New York State Commission against Discrimination ordered Capital Airlines (which merged with United a year later) to hire her, two years after Mohawk Airlines hired Ruth Carol Taylor as the first black flight attendant. But she knew that while the legal fight may have been over, the internal struggle was just beginning.

“I was very, very excited, very happy about it, but I also knew that it was going to be a challenge. … Because here I was, this black woman on this magnificent airline traveling all through the South, so I had to be … perfect. … I knew if I made any mistakes, they would be magnified and I would ruin the chance for other black people.”

See Ms. Banks’ entire interview below, then discover other black aviation pioneers at American Airlines‘ excellent Black History in Aviation website.
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