Saturday, July 29, 2006


"Pure Dumb Luck".

Pops used to say he made it to the finish line on PDL. We'd always wait for the explanation, because he thought he was clever and we were absentminded and had forgotten the last time he had mentioned PDL.

"Pure dumb luck," he'd say, with a blue-eyed twinkle. Pops had hidden dimples that came out at times likes these.

"Yeah pops. We know."

The older I get, the more I understand why he was given so much glee recounting this silly little set of consonants. PDL. Pure dumb luck...

It suggests one of two things. You have no control over your situations in life, and events transpire without your consent or your manipulation. You are a lottery ticket lost in an offshore wind. A to-go-cup on the freeway in between lanes. A burp in a church.

You float while others paddle. You idle, clutch in, while all those around you hit the gas.

Pops was never one of those. He was the other. The cool kind of PDL'er. The ones we look to in awe and respect. "How can he be so damn lucky?"

This is a photo of our family taken because of double hernias. That's right. If it were not for double hernias, this photo would never have occured. This photo may represent my father's life. This photo may have been one of the mitigating aspects of PDL that kept my father from being shot down over Vietnam. I know this because the fella who took my father's place, the guy who filled in because my father had double hernias, was shot down over Vietnam and killed. On his first mission. He had a family too.

I don't think he possessed what my father calls PDL.

This is a family passport photo. This photo was taken because our family was asked to travel to Jerusalem, in 1963, and my father to this day calls the circumstances-- you guessed it-- PDL.

I tend to agree with his assessment.

We were a new family of five, living the Airforce life, housed in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. There's a now defunct Airforce hospital in Aurora, where John Kerry was born (just a tidbit, not an endorsement-- in fact, I tend to think JK would do better as a mountain bike rep. then a Senator) where my older brother and I were born. In the photo, I am Buddha. My brother looks like a young John Kerry. Don't tell him I told you that. My sister had the enormous blue eyes of a doll.

Pops was in flight training. That is what they did in the Airforce with their pilots. You were trained. This was your job. You were paid to practice something, over and over. You didn't create a thing. You just made money for getting good at something. Like flying a plane without crashing.

Pops had a pair of hernias that throbbed and ached everytime he pulled a G or two. Every turn. Every turbulent bump. Every hop down from the plane wing to the ground. He said nothing to noone.

Pops loved flying. PDL got him started when he was fourteen. A man rebuilt an old Piper Cub. And had an oil leak. And seized the engine over my father's father's mechanics shop and filling station. The man landed the plane on the highway and was so disgusted by the seized engine that he simply gave the plane away. My father's father was a pretty good mechanic and could rebuild seized engines. PDL...

Like most pilots, Pops felt flying was his destiny. It sure started out that way. A mere double hernia was not going to unseat him, no how, no way, no sir. He could take the pain. The pain was a discomfort. What Pops couldn't tolerate was the mere thought of not being up in the air.

The way I understand it, Pops was called in with his group of pilots in training, and given their assignment. His group of pilots was to learn Vietnamese. They were to fly fighters in Vietnam. They were to fly backseat to poorly trained South Vietnamese pilots and try to keep them from crashing. The idea was to greatly improve the abilities of the South Vietnamese pilots and still maintain the facade that it was the South Vietnamese fighting the war. Americans were really only there as advisors. They wanted Pops to be one of these. A second fiddle to a bad musician. Pops wasn't even going to get a hand on the bow. Pops wasn't too sure-- with a family of five that depended on him--that this was the greatestr hits album he wanted to make.

He went to the doctor and pointed out his hernias.

The doctor pulled him off of flight status.

Six weeks later, an odd assignment had come up, and it required an odd man out pilot with PDL. The UN wanted a pilot for their DC-3. They needed a guy to fly around dignitaries, to solve the Middle East conundrum and the troubles with Israel...

Pops could fly a DC-3. He was definately odd...

We had this pastport photo taken and we were sent packing. My sister learned Arabic and my brother and I learned to wear dresses and fall from stone fences.

My mother would entertain the troups with her guitar and her voice. Our apartment would be shelled. Our UN jeep blown up. Our DC-3 would lose a wing. PDL kept us all safe.

But that's for another day.


Kris, Seattle said...

Buddha? LOL.
You look like a squirming 5 year old who sees an opportunity for mischief just aching for your attention. Probably some girl adjusting the lighting that you wanted to go engage in a round of "what are you doing?" followed by "and what are you doing now?". And by the fact that this became the official passport photo, I'm guessing your mom had already learned by that time to appreciate your squirminess (resigned herself) and had long since abandoned the "lets try this one more time - now Scott, please sit still" approach.

Konfused Kid said...

Great blog Scotty, didn't know u had it....


Scott from Oregon said...

kris-- I'm just older'n one in this photo. My sister is the five year old.

Hey konfused kid! Good to see you safe and almost sound.

Watch out for nanpa...

Nanpa leads to cleaning your fingernails everyday and learning to "be sensitive"...

Liz said...

Nice blog Scott, you have a great way of telling your stories.

Kris, Seattle said...

So I was off on the age. You still looked ready to squirm off your mom's lap and go explore whatever was happening outside of the picture frame. My guess is that you probably had that look on your face from the moment you popped into this world. No?

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