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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Fly Favorites: January 2014

Tokyo at Dusk by Padmanaba01 via Flickr

The Last Match

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Do You Know What It Means to Miss São Paulo?

Sao Paulo by Gregoire Fossemalle via Flickr

São Paulo and I were together for two years. She was high-maintenance from the start; this, I knew going in. She would order the most expensive thing on the menu, sometimes flirt with other guys, and make me pay dearly whenever I didn’t call at the exact time I said I would. She knew her worth and she played with my heart, but I knew deep down, she loved me: when we were in sync, when our energies mixed and we danced and played and reveled in each others’ company, we knew we had a good thing going. I won’t lie; the sex was volcanic. And be it in her brand new Mustang or her little red Corvette, we rode fast and wild, and I would always end up broke, spent, and sprung – she was The One.

But I couldn’t afford her and, one day, she let me go. And I was bitter for a while, heartbroken and rejected.

The next time we saw each other, a few weeks later, she welcomed me back to dance and play and revel. Over a cafezinho at Bella Paulista one Sunday morning, she looked at me and admitted that every once in a while, she envied what Berlin and I have because we were marrying for love. But in the very next moment, when I asked her to marry me, she just stared out the window and said nothing.

I paid for our coffees and we walked out into the bright sun, our feet hurting from the previous night’s debauchery and still a little lightheaded from the party favors. She kissed me deeply and passionately before getting into her car with a tchau, disconnecting and leaving me with only three reais to catch the bus home.

I see her less frequently these days, though our rendezvous are no less intense. Neither one of us has brought up the m-word again, especially since we’re each married to someone else.

But what if…?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

My friend and São Paulo-native Rodrigo Pitta loves that damn place so much, he’s filmed three music videos in his hometown. Here’s the newest. I’m already booking my flight back down to see her.

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It’s 2014. Create. Inspire. Travel. Live.

Fly Brother 2014 - Be Authentic.It’s a new year. Now’s the time to embrace your goals, your desires, your dreams and passions and make them reality. For me, 2014 is all about authenticity. This means that my actions and activities will involve engaging my own interests and talents – not ignoring my responsibilities as a son, partner, and friend, of course – but building a life with maximum fulfillment and minimal regret, on my own terms. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth the effort.

In 2014, make magic in your own life.

Create.

Inspire.

Travel.

Live.

“Unite rhythm with words, and they will unlock to empower you.”
-Ms. Tebbit, Were the World Mine

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Annual Review and Reveal 2013

In this video, I discuss what went well and not-so-well in 2013, and talk about my goals and aspirations for the coming year, including a kinda big reveal (well, the word should be revelation, but who says that anymore?).

Sorry about the length. :-/

Fly Brother 2013 Annual Review (and Reveal) from Fly Brother on Vimeo.

 

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Miami is an Aviation Geek’s Dream

Lufthansa A380 at MIA. Photo courtesy of Aero Icarus via Flickr.

Lufthansa A380 from Frankfurt landing at MIA

Despite its setting amid a flat, wildly sprawling car-topia, Miami International Airport is an aviation geek’s dream. Airliners from places as far away as Moscow and Buenos Aires or as close as Key West and Nassau, cargo planes all the way from China, the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger aircraft – riding heavy over Biscayne Bay on its way across the Atlantic; if you look in the sky long enough, you’ll see it all. And unlike most big-city airports relegated to the boondocks, MIA is right in the heart of town.

TAM departing for Brazil

TAM departing for Brazil

Vantage points are everywhere: you can catch the afternoon arrivals from Europe at the LA Fitness on Northwest 12th Street, the planes so low you can almost touch them – Iberia, Alitalia, Virgin, Swiss, and British all in a row. Commuters on the Dolphin Expressway course alongside the south runway, sometimes racing TAM to Brazil, LAN to Chile, or Copa to Panama. Delta and United and Avianca and TACA and FedEx and UPS skirt the towers of downtown Miami throughout the day. But all-day, everyday, it’s American – old American, new American, big American, small American – it could be to Tallahassee or Tegucigalpa, somebody’s going somewhere on American.

AA dominates MIA

AA dominates MIA. They’ve been slow at repainting with the new logo.

Nearby Fort Lauderdale might have the most dramatic landings in the region, jets just barely missing the tops of the semis speeding up and down I-95. But Miami’s got the most diverse range of aircraft, airlines, landing patterns, and striking silhouettes of any city I’ve ever lived in.

Swiss airliner at MIA

Swiss prepping for the return to Zurich

So if you’re driving past the airport and see someone creeping along on the expressway at 5 miles an hour trying to snap a shot of a departing AirBerlin jet on their phone, it’s probably me. I really have to stop that; it’s just not safe.

Terminal J at MIA from Dolphin Expressway

Terminal J at MIA from Dolphin Expressway

Oh…and is anybody else but me excited that Qatar Airways will be flying here come next June?! Nobody? Bueller?

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Brazil’s Iconic Varig Airlines Brand to be Discontinued

Varig Airlines Travel Poster Bahia

Once a standard-bearer of glamour and adventure during the Golden Age of jet travel, Brazil’s Varig brand will cease to exist by next April. That’s when Brazilian low-cost airline Gol, owner of the brand, will officially dispense with the iconic logo and name that it acquired when the original Varig stopped flying in 2006, repainting the remaining Varig-branded planes in Gol’s fluorescent orange livery.

Varig-Gol

Founded in Porto Alegre in 1927 as Viação Aérea Rio-Grandense, the airline known as Varig once connected Brazil with destinations as far-flung as Copenhagen, Tokyo, Maputo, and Toronto, carrying with it idealized exoticism, the promise of sun and sex south of the equator. Jet-setters, when not flying Pan Am, flew Varig down to Rio. Even the plucky Holly Golightly adorned the walls of her Manhattan apartment with Varig’s eye-catching posters as she dreamt of a new life in Brazil in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Sadly, as air travel became more accessible to the masses, Varig’s stellar service waned, as did its profits, and by the 2000s, the airline found it hard to compete against nimble competition in a stormy economic environment. After an embarrassing bankruptcy in 2006, with planes repossessed at JFK and soccer fans stranded in Germany during the World Cup, competitor Gol snapped up a few bits and pieces of the legacy carrier, hoping to bank on Varig’s international brand recognition and global image. Subsequently, as archrival TAM has taken up the mantle as Brazil’s de facto flag carrier and Gol has steadily built its own brand awareness through aggressive advertizing and solid service, Varig’s name proved irrelevant and, come next April, will be consigned to history, alongside Pan Am, TWA, Swissair, and a few other paragons of 20th century air travel.

I only flew Varig once, round-trip from Miami to Salvador da Bahia via São Paulo. It was my first trip to Brazil. The seats on the Boeing 777 were cramped, the flight attendants on the international legs mostly surly, middle-aged men. Our return domestic flight was late and an agent had to rush us through the concrete maze that is São Paulo’s airport to make our connection to Miami and as I approached the door, one flight attendant smiled at me and asked, “Baiano?” “Não,” I responded, flattered to have been mistaken for Brazilian, “americano.”

Varig, you will be missed.

Varig Airlines Travel Poster Rio2

Varig Airlines Travel Poster Sao Paulo

Varig Airlines Travel Poster Brazil

Varig Airlines Travel Poster Rio1

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