Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meet Catherine!

This is Catherine:


She's the love of my life.

We got engaged over Thanksgiving weekend.

She's from Kentucky; she and her daughters are wintering over with me in Flagstaff.

She's a writer too!  :)

(Apologies for not posting in ages.  'Been a wee bit (deliriously happily!) busy of late.)

More to follow!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


No flights so far this shift (24 hours on our Angel 2 helicopter in Kingman) ... but I did finish nine hours of online FEMA classes today.

I've been wanting for awhile now to start doing some kind of volunteer work again.  At different times I've recorded books for the blind, taught CPR classes, been a Kiwanis Club member, and served on the board of an organization helping victims of sexual assaults, among other things -- but it's been several years since I've done any volunteering except at work.  I decided a few months back that using my medical skills and experience to help people in disaster situations would be a good way to do that.

As part of my application to join the Arizona Disaster Medical Assistance Team (AZ1 DMAT), part of the National Disaster Medical System (volunteer medical and support personnel who also become part of the U.S. uniformed services when activated by the federal government), I needed to complete 12 hours of online courses on the Incident Command System (ICS), National Incident Management System (NIMS), and the National Response Framework (NRF).  I'd completed the first three-hour course last shift; today I finished the other three.

For the most part, it was just as mind-numbing as it sounds:  Lots of overlap between the four courses, and lots and lots and lots of bureaucratic-speak, buzzwords and acronyms.

But the system, if it works like it's supposed to, actually sounds pretty good ...

Besides all the terminology and theory, there were some interesting lessons learned from 9/11, Katrina, and other major incidents ... as well as some genuinely scary scenarios that form the current basis for U.S. emergency planning.

I'd better sign off and see if I can get some sleep.  Eight hours left of this shift, then a two-hour drive back to Flag.

Love and hugs, everybody.  Good night.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Good morning from Cottonwood, everybody!

Arrived at work this morning to find the flood repairs all finished, all our stuff back in place -- and new carpets in most of the rooms, even (we were told it would be concrete floors for us from here on out).

Also, it appears that I've been AWOL from Twitter / Tumblr / for ... ten days now?

Yikes, sorry 'bout that folks.

Super-condensed version of what you've missed:  Work/motel, off a day or two, work/motel, repeat several times.  Unpack / wander around like a zombie / write a little on my day(s) off.  Drive out to California for a nice visit with dad and mom, capped by my first-ever visit to the Mission Inn in Riverside.  Which is pretty amazing:  what I imagine you'd get if you crossed Hearst Castle with Disneyland, and added a dash of aviation history:  They have a wall there with wings autographed by everyone from Orville Wright and Amelia Earhart to Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong.  On the way back from CA I stopped by Tucson, hung out with Sam a bit (we finally saw "Cowboys & Aliens", which turned out to be pretty enjoyable).

Love and hugs / more soon ...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Down at Sam's new place for a quick visit.  Just got in about an hour ago.   After some sleep (which will be commencing as soon as I finish this post!), we're going to hit Wal-Mart, the college bookstore, and the movies (we're thinking "Cowboys versus Aliens") before I head back up to Flagstaff and get ready for another 24-hour shift on Thursday.

Love and hugs, everybody.  Yawwwwwwwwwn!  'Night.

Monday, August 15, 2011


After a busy couple of weeks, this weekend was gloriously low-key. 

Only left the apartment twice, last night for a quick trip to Wal-Mart, and this evening to grab a few things from storage.  It rained off and on all day today, with the brightest double rainbow I've ever seen just before sunset.

Besides laundry, unpacking, and general settling in, I watched DVDs, listened to CDs, records, and YouTube music videos (Buddy Holly, Loretta Lynn, Mozart, and Roger Miller, mostly), and read.  Hooked up the phone (the first time I've had a landline in years; I'd actually forgotten about dialing a 1 before the area code), and tonight even found my router and got it to play nice with the new modem ...

... so I officially have internet again!

Work again in the morning.  Yikes -- just realized how late it's getting.  Better sleep fast.

Love and hugs, everybody.


Friday, August 12, 2011


... and the shift is only half over.  It's a full moon.  It's a payday.  It's a Friday night.  It's near the end of summer.

We could very well do some more flying tonight.

But it's been a good shift so far:  Lots of flying over beautiful Northern Arizona, lots of people who really needed helicopters, lots of little fun moments with patients and coworkers.  Even the staff at the local trauma center were kidding when they said they'd lock the doors if we tried to bring them any more patients tonight. 

I think.

I hope we don't test that theory.  But just in case we do, I'm gonna attempt sleep now and finish charting and everything else in the morning.  Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs from our temporary air ambulance base, aka the Quality Inn.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I think I mentioned last week that our base flooded?  Well, apparently it did it again last Friday, only worse.  Like, an inches-deep river flowing down the hallway worse.

So today they’re tearing the carpets out and cutting away the bottom foot or so of drywall.  We’re at the motel down the street.  So, internet, which is good, but no common area, and several minutes from the helicopter, which is … odd.

Today’s also my first 24-hour shift, so at least it’ll only be odd for half as long as I’m used to.
In other news:  Found Sam and AJ a cool apartment in Tucson over the weekend.  Intubated people in the OR most of yesterday.  Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll be helping pack up Sam’s stuff, trucking it down to Tucson, unloading it, then racing back up the hill in time for another 24 on Friday.

Oh!  And!  I should have actual, real-live, non-persnickety internet access by then also.

Miss you guys.  Hope all’s well with you.  Really looking forward to catching up with you soon.  In the meantime, great big enormous hugs!

Love and (more) hugs from your friendly neighborhood motel-based flight medic.  :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Sam, his best friend / soon-to-be roommate AJ, and I are here for the weekend scouting out apartments for them for the coming school year.

The new apartment has turned out to be pretty much like the old apartment in terms of mobile internet and cell phone connectivity -- not so good! -- but my new land line and internet are scheduled to start next Thursday, August 11.  In the meantime, I miss you all, and will try to keep in touch as time / connectivity allows.

I have another O.R. clinical (intubating surgical patients) on Monday, then my first 24-hour shift Tuesday.  
As busy as the 48s have been lately, I'm actually looking forward to the change, although I'm going to need a printout of my schedule to have any idea at all when I'm supposed to go to work for awhile:  After each 24-hour shift I'll have from one to five days off; the schedule only repeats every six weeks or so.
Also hoping to get some more work done on the book as soon as we get back to Flag.

Good night everyone!

Love and hugs,


Tuesday, August 2, 2011


So far:  We've been to the Grand Canyon.  We've been to Kingman.  We've landed on the interstate.  We've played show-and-tell with the helicopter at Sedona's National Night Out.  Our base has flooded in an afternoon downpour, and mostly dried out again.

Still finishing up the paperwork.

Good night everybody.  Love and hugs!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Tomorrow morning I start my last 48-hour shift:  We go to 24-hour shifts starting next week.

I'll still work roughly as many hours (a few less in the case of paramedics at our base, in order to preserve occasional long stretches of time off, but there'll probably  be plenty of overtime available for anyone who wants it).  I'll just work them in smaller chunks, which means I'll be driving to and from work twice as often.  On the bright side, it will also mean when we're flying lots, we won't be doing it for two days at a time ... and I'm really looking forward to that.

Spent the morning hanging out with Sam and doing post-move-in stuff; more unpacking, dishes, laundry, etc.  This afternoon and evening we had another D&D game, the first in a few weeks.  Lots of nerdy fun was had by all.

Well, I'd better get to bed.  Good night everybody!  Love and hugs.

Friday, July 29, 2011


At work again:  Day 1 of one of my last 48-hour shifts (we go to 24s in early August).

Two flights so far.

Sleep has not been happening nearly often or long enough this week.  But the move's basically done (just a little cleanup at the old place when I get off shift Saturday morning); most of the stuff at the new place is already unpacked / in place / up and running.  By and large it's been a very good week.

One of the nurses I work with, Paul Gibson, sometimes calls me "The Panda" because I spend a lot of the non-flying time at work in my room (aka "The Grove"), and he used to think I was hibernating in here (I'm actually usually reading / writing / doing something online). 

I had Panda Express for dinner tonight ... and I just looked over at my drink cup.  It shows the outline of a Panda, arms raised, with a crescent moon and stars above its head.  Inside the panda-outline it says "PANDA'S UP LATE!".


So now, instead of writing and listening to Five For Fighting one more time ("100 years" and "It's Not Easy" have been my entire playlist for the last hour or two) ... good night, love, and hugs, everybody.

Dispatch willing, I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


A long, good day.

Sam and I moved all the furniture and books over today, plus at least half of the other stuff, while mom packed and unpacked.

Sam is ecstatic to have a room (and bathroom!) of his own again, after weeks of camping out in the living room of the old one-bedroom one-bath apartment.

I'm pretty happy with the place myself.  The decor is identical to our old unit, and the view outside is the same (same pines and aspens lining the same road) -- so much so that it almost feels more like the old apartment grew than that we moved.  But it's a LOT bigger, a lot brighter and more open -- and even has something that I've missed having for years:  a fireplace.

It's been great hanging out with the two of them also, catching up on things, mulling over all the news of the day, and solving all the world's problems.

Lots more moving of little stuff, cleaning, and unpacking tomorrow.

But we're basically moved in.  Gotta love a 200-yard move.

Good night, all you wonderful people.  Love and hugs from the new place.

Talk to you again soon.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moving Week

Hi again everybody!

Apologies for another long silent period.  Between busy shifts, internet connectivity issues, more work-related training -- and now moving to another apartment in the same complex in Flagstaff this week -- well, the truth is that I still should have done a better job of keeping in touch in my occasional online time the last couple of weeks.  So yeah, apologies, and I shall once again try to do a better job of keeping in touch with all of you wonderful people.

And (probably starting next week) once again get back to assembling chapters and passing them along to Tom and Hazel.

My one bar that I've managed coax out of my mobile internet card (it's decided to work again once in a while, kinda-sorta) is flickering in and out, so I'll keep it short for tonight.  Tomorrow and Wednesday we (Sam, mom, and I, and possibly Gylde and AJ) will be doing the actual moving of stuff from the old apartment to the new one, so it may be another day or two before I post again.

Love and hugs, everybody.  Talk to you again soon.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Some nice person dropped off some photographs of us on a flight at our base today.  Because patient privacy / confidentiality is a Really Big Deal (more on that later sometime), I've e-painted over all traces of him/her in the photos, and shan't divulge any flight-related details (even the dates/times embedded in the jpegs ain't necessarily so) ... but I thought the pics themselves were pretty cool, and really appreciated the nice person sharing them with us, so here they are in all their clumsily edited glory:

 (That's me in the blue suit, purple gloves, and white helmet.  My partner is on the other side of the aircraft doing Nurse Stuff.)

Tomorrow I'm back to work on the book, getting chapters ready for Tom and Hazel to review.

Good night everybody.  'Hope all's well with all of you.  Love and hugs!


Back at work today and tomorrow -- reliable internet, hurray!

Just back from back-to-back flights.  All's well.  Good night all.  Love and hugs.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


My wireless internet card is getting increasingly cranky (detailed rant on Tumblr).  I'm thinking land line phone and internet service is in my not-so-distant future ...

Overall it's been another good day.  Airway class at work this morning.  Hanging out with Sam.  A nap.  Way too much time on the computer ...

... so now I'm gonna sign off and read an honest-to-gosh book for awhile.

Good night, all!  Love and hugs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


... the first in maybe three weeks that I've spent relaxing alone at home.

Sam and friends are at Sandy's for a movie night.  I've been to the library, Sam's Club, and Walmart, caught up on housework, and even done a little writing.  Now I'm watching a History Channel DVD from the library, Ghost Ships (the Flying Dutchman, the Mary Celeste, the Carroll A. Deering, etc. - even the mystery ship sighted below TWA Flight 800 shortly before it exploded off New York in 1996).

'Hope all's well with all of you.  Love and hugs!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


(From 1999-2004, this building in Williamsburg, NM  housed Sierra Ambulance Service.)


More pics later:  Can't get any more to load right now.



And!  Here are a few pics from our New Mexico road trip:


If you're in Algeria, Cape Verde, or Venezuela, that is.

For everyone else, belated happy Independence Day.

We had a fairly leisurely July 4th until late in the afternoon, when we started flying and dodging thunderstorms until somewhere around 3 AM.  We did make it back for a bit just in time to watch Cottonwood's surprisingly impressive fireworks show.

And then got to sleep in this morning.  So all in all, a nice Independence Day at work, with some beautiful pyrotechnics, both natural and man-made ... and even another double rainbow that at one point made a complete double-circle, something I'd never seen before.

So far today we've launched and then been canceled twice.

And like probably a lot of other people, watched way too much coverage of the Casey Anthony verdict.

I hope all's well with all of you;  hope you had a fun and safe Fourth, and are enjoying the rest of your week so far.  I'm going to see if  I can get some work done on VANISHED before we get another flight.

Love and hugs, everybody.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011


Hello again from the Land of Enchantment, everybody.

Today's travels took us from Carlsbad back to Roswell, back through Hondo (where what looked like hundreds of firefighters are still struggling to keep the fire we passed a couple of nights ago away from the town) to Ruidoso (which apparently had a massive fire almost reach town in several places sometime in the last few years), then down through Tularosa to Alamagordo (too late to visit the Space Museum, alas).  From there we headed to Las Cruces via White Sands (the missile range and the national park), then on up through Truth or Consequences (so weird to see a WALMART in T or C -- they'd fought for years to keep 'em out when we lived there ... so everyone in town regularly drove an hour to the Walmart in Cruces) to Socorro (where the 1964 Zamora UFO Incident took place).

Even though we missed the Space Museum (and elected not to drive an extra hour or more to the Spaceport America site on the off chance of finding it open after dark), it was an amazing day:  Alien kitsch galore in Roswell ... and although the festival was still getting started when we had to leave, a few cool costumes, including a teenage girl dressed as Invader Zim and a guy on stilts in a Lakers uniform with a basketball hoop on the bill of his hat (pictures to follow, probably after we get home tomorrow night).  Then a hike through hourglass-sand dunes, a double-rainbow over the missile range, and fireworks as we drove into Socorro.

Tomorrow we're going to visit with AJ's grandmother and great-grandmother, then head back to Arizona via the Plains of San Agustin and the radio telescopes of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array.

Good night, all.  Love and hugs!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Hello from Carlsbad, NM!

Today we visited the Roswell UFO Museum, then drove down to Carlsbad, where we took a stroll through Carlsbad Caverns.  At sunset we watched thousands of bats fly out of the cavern entrance.

Tomorrow we're going back through Roswell to check out the annual UFO Festival, which just happens to be this weekend, then on to the White Sands National Monument, the Space Museum in Alamogordo, and Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences (if it's open to the public on a drive-up basis) before ending up tomorrow night in Socorro.

Love and hugs everyone.  More tomorrow night.


Couldn't get this to post on the blog last night, but here's yesterday's road trip update:

Good night from Roswell, NM!

Just made it in to our hotel, safe and sound.  Changed our driving plans to avoid a fire / road closure in eastern Arizona; passed another huge forest fire near Lincoln, southwest of Roswell.  Otherwise, a fun and trouble-free trip out after a late start this afternoon.

So weird being back in New Mexico, driving roads I used to travel frequently.  I lived and worked here for seven years.  Now, other than a few air ambulance flights to Albuquerque, it's been seven years since I was last in the state.

So far, doesn't look like much has changed in the parts we've seen tonight.  Maybe a few more lights in the bosque (where all the trees are, along the Rio Grande) south of Los Lunas.  A few new signs on the interstate.  That's about it.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


All ready(-ish) for our road trip!  Carlsbad Caverns, Smokey the Bear, Billy the Kid, White Sands, aliens, a space museum, radio telescopes, and the new Virgin spaceport, not necessarily in that order.

We leave second thing in the morning. 

First thing will be dropping off flowers at the TWA gravesite and up on Switzer Mesa:  Tomorrow is the third anniversary of our mid-air; the day after tomorrow is the 55th anniversary of the Grand Canyon air disaster.

Good night everybody.  Love and hugs.


Just got back to Flagstaff.  Gonna get some sleep, then figure out what I need to do before we head out on our road trip.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Fairly busy shift so far -- four long / challenging flights and counting -- but holding up okay, and looking forward to being off in the morning.  Probably won't leave for Roswell / Carlsbad until tomorrow night or Wednesday morning.

Hope all's well with everyone.  Looking forward to catching up with all of you soon.

Love and hugs!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Spent 12 hours in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit helping take care of newborns today.  Off to Winslow for a  48-hour shift in the morning.  After that -- six days off!

Will probably spend part or all of the first day recovering as needed.  Then off to Carlsbad Caverns (via Roswell!)  with Sam, Gylde, Sandy, and AJ.

Love and hugs, everybody.  More from Winslow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


All's well here so far this shift.

Gonna try to get some sleep before it gets too late and I get a late-night second wind.

Love and hugs!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Off shift this morning.  Class (ACLS renewal) most of the day.  Starting another 48 tomorrow.

But got to see Sam and Gylde for a bit this afternoon, and made it to the library and Bookman's tonight.  Also, a nap, and an episode of Jericho (picked up the Season One DVDs at a truck stop in Winslow a few weeks ago, and have been enjoying it in bits and pieces ever since).  So all in all, a good day.

Love and hugs!  More soon.


Just realized it's been - weeks?  - since I posted here.

Sorry it's been so long.  I'll try to check in more regularly from here on out.

All's well.  Life's been crazy-busy, in a good way.  I'm about halfway through a two-week stretch of shifts, extra shifts, classes, and clinical time that has me doing something work-related 8-24 hours of 12 out of 14 days in a row or so.

Still working on cranking out chapters for review in the nooks and crannies of my schedule.

Tonight I'm working an extra shift in Kingman.

It turns out that the TWA planes are no longer here at the Kingman airport.  They've been replaced sometime in the last couple of years by DHL, Continental Express, and Delta Connection aircraft, among others.

Very cool flight today, into the western end of the Grand Canyon.  Here are a couple of pics, courtesy of my partner, Flight Nurse and Photographer Extraordinaire Paula Clark:

Love and  hugs!

 More soon ...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Not the MOST productive of days, but productive enough, and very pleasant.

Discovered that my patio makes a great home office:  Sheltered from the wind, beautiful view, sound and smells of wind in the aspens and pines, and although north-facing, warmed by a sliver of direct sunlight in the morning.

Ran errands with Sam.  D&D with him and the other kids tomorrow. :)

A rather ill-advised nap from 6 to 8 pm.

Reading tonight, and quite a bit of Twitter (till it crashed sometime this evening -- at least, my bit of it did; nothing but blank screens, not even the usual "Fail Whale" error message) and Tumblr.  There are so many amazing people posting so many amazing things on both.  It's beautiful, and incredibly addictive, and probably something I need to figure out how to time-manage better at some point.

And so to bed.

(A favorite phrase of one of the most prolific, informative, and entertaining bloggers (diarists) of all times, Samuel Pepys ("Peeps").)

Love and hugs, everyone.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


... the first in awhile.  A nice change.  Off work in the morning, and back to work on getting Chapter Two out for review.

Love and hugs, everyone!

Friday, June 3, 2011


Just emailed Chapter One -- The Bloated Chapter That Would Not Die -- off to Tom for review.  Major stress, multiple delays getting it on its way; as soon as it sinks in that I'm finally done messing with it for now, I suspect I'll be very relieved.

Dinner with Tom and Hazel tonight.  Work again tomorrow.

Will try to get another chapter off for review soon.  Hopefully it will get a little easier / faster at some point.  Definitely glad it's getting done.

Love and hugs, everybody.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Back from Show Low, safe and sound.  Intubations, check.  Meeting at the base in Cottonwood in the morning.  After that I'm gonna see if I can do something non-work-related for a day or two.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Long-long-long shift, minimal sleep, up all day today, intubations in the OR in Show Low, about 3 hours away, starting at 0630 tomorrow.  So good night all!  Love and hugs.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Just emailed Tom the Table of Contents and Prologue of VANISHED to look over!  Will be emailing him Chapter One as soon as I give it a quick once-over; should have Chapter Two to him a few days after that.

(Thank you all again for the recent additional proof-reading offers!  May very well take you up on them a little further down the road.)

After years of spinning my wheels, and several weeks of stress and scrambling, it's starting to get exciting again.  With a little bit of luck and some more scrambling I may be done with the book before another June 30 goes by after all.

More Hetalia Clue and hanging out with Sam, Gylde, and their best friends Sandy and AJ today.  So nice to have 'em all around again.

Work tomorrow and Monday, so I'd better sign off for now.  Love and hugs, and Happy Memorial Day weekend, everybody!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Sam's back for the summer.  He, his girlfriend Gylde, and I played Clue last night.  Gylde modified it to include characters from her favorite anime series, Hetalia.  I actually did a lot of work on Chapter One today.  Hope to email it off to Tom in the morning, then hang out with the kids again tomorrow afternoon / evening.

Life is good.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Apparently I titled last night's post TORNDADOES?  I remember looking at it, thinking, "Man, when you look at a word long enough, it NEVER looks right."

So yeah, a little tiring, this most recent shift.

Off-duty this morning after another middle-of-the night flight.  Made it back up to Flagstaff, safe and sound.  Spent a little time catching up on Twitter -- some friends in Kansas City had just had a tornado scare.

Spent several hours working up to a nap.  Slept a couple hours.  Breakfast/lunch/dinner (one meal, a Pollo Loco bowl from Sam's Club.  I really love those things, and they're probably not even horribly bad for you:  Some chicken chunks, salsa, rice, black beans), some more Twitter.

Oh!  And!  Sam's officially finished his freshman year of college, and is on his way here from Southern California.  Yay!!!

So now it's midnight, which I think is the equivalent of sundown or so for me today.  Gonna give the computer a little cool-down time, do some light housekeeping, and then try to write some more.

Love and hugs, everybody.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


When you think of tornadoes, you don't normally think of Arizona.  But they do sometimes happen here.

In the early morning hours of October 6, 2010, five tornadoes struck just West of Flagstaff, derailing a train and damaging over 100 homes in the tiny community of Bellemont -- where several of my co-workers and their families live.  Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured, but the property damage was extensive.  One of our flight crew members found his boat in a neighbor's attic.

The National Weather Service later determined the tornado that hit Bellemont was a category EF-1 tornado, with winds reaching between 86-110 miles-per-hour.

On a flight this morning we passed over the path of one of these tornadoes.  At first it looked like one of the cleared strips of land beneath high-tension power lines, 50-100 feet wide and stretching for at least ten miles through Ponderosa Pine forest.  But as we flew closer we could see that the trees and underbrush hadn't been cleared; they'd been smashed flat.  Thousands upon thousands of giant trees had been knocked over in all directions.  Many had been smashed into jagged stumps surrounded by vehicle-sized splinters of wood.

At one point a second swathe of destruction paralleled the first for a mile or so, until it veered off and then disappeared just past the crest of a small hill.  The main bare strip continued north, straight as an arrow, in the direction of Bellemont.

The tornado that struck Joplin, MO two days ago was an EF-5, the strongest of six categories on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds estimated to be in excess of 200 mph (322 kph).  At least 124 people were killed, and more than 1,150 injured, making it the deadliest single U.S. twister since modern record-keeping began 61 years ago.

Today multiple tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma right after my mom called to tell me that she and my dad were on an airliner heading home from visiting relatives in the Tulsa area.  Our pilot and I watched some amazing, frightening live coverage of the storm system from KFOR TV, Channel 4, Oklahoma City.

Dad and mom made it home safely to Southern California a few hours ago.  As far as I know, all of our friends and relatives in Oklahoma are all right -- but there have been multiple fatalities across the state and elsewhere throughout the nation's midsection.

My hopes and prayers are with all of you who've been affected by these storms.  Since Sunday I've wished I could be out there, in Minnesota or Missouri or Oklahoma, helping out.  But for now I'm here in Cottonwood, on Angel 3, ready to help whoever may need help in this corner of the world.

Off duty in the morning.

Good night everybody.  Love and hugs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Remember how I mentioned yesterday that news breaks first on Twitter?

As I wrote that, I wondered if that meant rumors also propagate wildly on Twitter.  I really hadn't seen any signs of that -- less so, in fact, than in an average week's worth of emails -- so I decided not to mention that thought.

Today, with the Joplin tornado, and now tonight unconfirmed news reports of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, I got double confirmation that breaking news stories do show up on Twitter first. 

I also saw my first probably-false rumors, in the form of tweets that first responders should rush to Joplin.  These were quickly countered by tweets stating that local authorities were following their emergency plan, and did not need to be flooded with out-of-area volunteers.  These tweets arrived amid a swarm of reports on local conditions which seemed to be confirmed by later "official" news, and even a few first-hand reports from Joplin residents.

Tonight came a handful of tweets relaying unconfirmed reports of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Pakistan.  As with the announcement of Osama Bin Laden's death,  and today's tornado reports, they started a good half-hour to an hour ahead of the first "official" news reports.  They appear to have originated from a private Afghan TV network, Tolo TV, quoting unnamed Afghan security sources.  It looks like the Chinese news service Xinhua also received confirmation of the story from an unnamed Afghan intelligence source.  As of a few minutes ago, Pakistani sources and Taliban spokesmen were denying these reports.

There were some tweets referencing a 2008 BBC report of the killing of another Mullah Omar -- and just as many tweets correcting the error.

So overall, I'm pretty impressed with Twitter as a news source.  You hear things there first; unconfirmed reports are pretty clearly labeled as such; and rumors and erroneous reports seem to get corrected at least as quickly as in the conventional news media.

My personal experience with news reports -- from EMS and long-ago campaign work -- leads me to believe that almost all news stories contain some inaccuracies.  One or two little ones per story seems to be the average.  Email "reporting" is far less accurate.

So yeah, I'm thinking you can't go too wrong with Twitter as a first-line news source.

The book?  Yeah, I've been working on that too ... but I'm going to have to email Tom my first batch from work tomorrow / Tuesday, I'm afraid.

I did get a little twitterpated this evening.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Hi again, everybody.

Has it actually been nearly a week since I posted here?  Wow.  Sorry 'bout that.

I've actually been ... well, writing.  Chapters 1 and 2 of VANISHED, to be precise.  When one's driven me bonkers long enough, I switch to the other one and beat my head against it for awhile.  Progress is happening.  But it's slow going. 

Still, getting there.  Told Tom that I'd try to have the first chapter or two to him by yesterday.  Thinking at this point that 'by tomorrow' is still a definite possibility.

I've also spent a lot of time avoiding writing, I'm afraid.  Mostly by wandering the sparkly hallways of the endless candy store / junk shop / art gallery / watering hole that is Twitter-Tumblr-FavStar.

(Twitter = micro-blogging:  140-character-or-less "tweets".  You set up an account, @YourUserName.  You tweet.  Anyone can follow you and your tweets (unless you block them).  You can follow anyone else and their tweets (unless they block you).  You can "favorite" ("star") a tweet, or "retweet" it (which means anyone following you can see it too).)

(Tumblr -- and similar sites, although Tumblr seems to be the most common -- is like a scrapbook.  You can post pictures, texts, video, you name it.  You can follow others' Tumblrs,  "like" ("heart") or repost their posts -- and link the whole thing to your Twitter account, if you want, so that each new post generates a tweet with a link to that post.)

(FavStar ... Favstar is like Twitter's evil, egomaniacal twin.  It's a site that keeps track of all your "favorite"ed and "retweet"ed tweets, and even gives you little virtual trophies if you get enough of either (5 or more).  It's free ... but people can pay a monthly fee, which among other things allows them to nominate one "Tweet of the Day", which is a bigger deal than a mere trophy-thingy.  Trophy-thingies are bigger deals than re-tweets.  Re-tweets are bigger deals than "starring".  It's all very artificial and meaningless -- and highly addictive.  Reminds me of the little consoles where Cold War era lab animals would push buttons or pull levers to get food pellets, or deliver electrical jolts to their brains' pleasure centers.  It's easy to end up sitting at the console all day, tweeting away, hoping for more and more stars and retweets.)

Probably the biggest single focus of everyone's collective attention on Twitter the last few days has been the biblical Rapture that a guy named Camping has been saying would happen today.  He said the same thing in the '90s,  then decided he'd made a mathematical error in his calculations.  Apparently he miscalculated again about today.

I hadn't even heard about "Rapture 5/21/2011" -- or at least it hadn't really registered -- until my San Francisco trip last weekend, when I was treated to dueling billboards (Family Radio versus the Atheists) and multiple joking references on local public radio.  Which makes sense:  Camping lives in Oakland.

But a few days ago on Twitter, the trickle of Rapture-related references (mostly jokes) became a steady flow, then a flood.  No one admitted to taking Camping's prediction seriously -- but almost EVERYONE made some reference to it.  Starting yesterday afternoon, as 5/21 began in the Pacific and worked its way West, some of the jokes started to sound the teensiest bit uneasy.

When reports of earthquakes started popping up -- I've noticed over and over since the day Bin Laden died that breaking news stories DO break on Twitter first --you could actually feel things getting a little tense.

By late last night -- well past Camping's appointed hour in Australia and the far East -- the jokes were all jokey again.  The whistling past the graveyard feeling had pretty much dissipated.  But well into today, it was still the most common topic of humor and conversation.

I wished a non-tweeting friend who's usually pretty up on current events a "Happy Apparently Not Rapture Day" this afternoon.  Turned out she vaguely remembered hearing something about it -- just about like I had a week or so ago.

So was Rapture-Mania 2011 mostly a Twitter / Christian fringe phenomena?  Love to hear your takes on it, everybody.

The whole experience left me sick of Rapture jokes, but more fascinated than ever by Twitter and the people who congregate there.

Up until a couple months ago I thought Twitter was just a place where celebrities kept the world up-to-date on the minutiae of their lives.  So far the corner of it I've been in has been filled mostly with smart, funny, thoughtful, articulate people.  Many of them socially awkward.  Many of them struggling, lonely, unhappy.  Most of them  likable.  A lot of them admirable:  Brave, generous, and caring.

Just about every time I go on Twitter, someone makes me laugh out loud.  Someone breaks my heart a little.  Someone restores my faith in humanity.  Sometimes it's all the same person.

Neat place.  Definitely not G-rated, or even PG-13.  Not terribly politically correct.  But surprisingly cozy and welcoming.

All right, back to working on VANISHED I go.  Or maybe to bed.

Or maybe to Twitter for a little while before bed.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


... but our pilot says it may start to clear out in a few hours, so 'guess I'd better sleep while I can.

Good night, all.  Love and hugs!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


 Hey again, everybody!

Had a busy shift last Wednesday / Thursday, followed by a wonderful California trip.  Made it back to Flagstaff a little after midnight last night.  At work again today and tomorrow.  Busy-but-good shift so far:  Three flights, plus several hours of run review.

Gonna see if I can get a little sleep now.   More bloggage soon.

Love and hugs!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Flying, charting, cleaning, or restocking for almost all of the first thirteen hours of the shift.  I'm on my second flight suit already.

Gonna see if I can get some sleep before we start going again.

Good night everyone.  Love and hugs!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I work Angel 3 (Cottonwood) tomorrow and Thursday, then head out for Northern California Friday.  Back late Monday, then Angel 3 again next Tuesday and Wednesday.  Odds are I'll have plenty of time to post at work / in airports, but just in case, have a wonderful next several days, everyone.

Love and Hugs!

Monday, May 9, 2011


Tired tonight.  Bed soon.

First, though -- Sam, you rock.  Thanks for racing over to drop off my Mom's Day basket before class today.

Hey, Gary and Jeff!  Thanks for following me.  It's great to see you both; you're two of the people I was most hoping to get back in touch with.  And hi and thank you to everyone else who's been stopping by.

Another good day.  Cryptic short version:  Beautiful walk (pics on Tumblr); self-inflicted stress; nice people helped me get over it; laughs with another nice person I hadn't talked to in too long; other peoples' cool stuff on Tumblr; occasional spells of productivity; saw elk; micro-hail (bb-sized); read a little.

Which leads me (smooth segue, eh?) to the "favorite things" portion of tonight's agenda.

San Francisco.  My favorite city, located in my favorite part of the world, the Central / Northern California coast.

Which is where I'm going this weekend!

So here are a few of my favorite San Francisco-related things:

1. Two science fiction novels, SUMMER OF LOVE and THE GOLDEN NINETIES, by a fellow recovering attorney named Lisa Mason, who also worked at Matthew Bender & Co. in Oakland when I was a legal writer / software author there in 1990-1991.  SUMMER OF LOVE is set in SF in the summer of 1967.  THE GOLDEN NINETIES is set in SF in 1895-1896.  They do an amazing job of evoking these two eras in the city's history.

2. The Alfred Hitchcock film VERTIGO (1958), starring James Stewart and Kim Novak.  Spooky, suspenseful, and filled with amazing color footage of 1950s San Francisco and environs.

3. My 1990-1991 commute, by bus from Rohnert Park (just south of Santa Rosa) south across the Golden Gate bridge and through the Presidio to downtown SF,  then under the Bay to Oakland via the BART.  At the time it seemed excessively long (dark to dark, most times of the year), but it was by far the most interesting and beautiful commute I've ever made -- and the only one that let me read and write while traveling to and from work.

4. The view from my umpteenth-story office at Matthew Bender across the Bay to SF.  I remember being able to see Coit Tower and the whole SF skyline -- not to mention the pigeons dog-fighting over the abandoned office building next door.

5. Fisherman's Wharf / Ghirardelli Square.

6. Union Square.

7. Lombard Street.

Good night, all.  Love and hugs!


Just got word that Sam's back at his apartment, safe and sound:  A good end to a good weekend.

Besides hanging with the kids, writing, doing some chapter-reviewing, and in general having a fun but mostly indoor weekend, I actually made it outside for awhile today -- which was wonderful.  I need to remember to do that more often.

The weather's been changing today:  windy, and starting to cloud up.  Looks like monsoon season is on its way.  That's when we get a good chunk of our annual moisture, in the form of frequent isolated thunderstorms than can dump a hellacious amount of rain wherever they happen to wander.  It's another beautiful time of year -- not that Flagstaff actually has many bad times of year.  It's a gorgeous place to live.

After a Mothers Day chat with mom I went out and enjoyed the wind in the pines.  Later I stopped by one of the local bookstores, grabbed some dinner at a new burrito place, then drove up to Mars Hill.

Lowell Observatory, where the guy who discovered Pluto thought he saw canals on Mars, sits on top of the hill, right above the local scenic overlook.  I stopped halfway up to let a herd of deer cross the road (did I mention that I love Flagstaff?), then parked at the overlook, munched, and enjoyed the panoramic view of the lights of town, the sound of the wind and passing trains, and the moon peeking out from behind the fast-moving clouds.

On the way back I picked up an old-fashioned bunny-ears antenna for the TV.  Plugged it in, hoping for a channel or two -- and ended up with ten.  Apparently there's still a local network repeater somewhere nearby, 'cause one of the channels -- ABC? -- is crystal-clear.  I also get some fuzzy PBS, Fox, religious, and Spanish channels.  Dunno if I'll watch any of them much, but it's nice to know that for $15 I can if I get the urge.  Plus I get a kick out of the bunny ears poking out from behind the little flat-screen hi-def TV.  It's a nice retro-incongruous look.

It's just started to rain.  Window's open for the sound and smell ... ahhh.

Hope all of you had a good weekend too.  Love and hugs!  Good night everybody.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Dang it.  Managed to post something on here every day for twenty-odd days in a row ... and then tonight didn't realize I hadn't posted on here 'til almost 3AM.

Ah well.

'And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well in the end.'

I'd heard this somewhere years ago, and had liked it ever since, but only recently discovered (thank you again, Google) that it was from a book called Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.  Believed to be the first book written in English by a woman.  Whose author, Julian of Norwich, 1342 - ca. 1416, is venerated in the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

And whose feast day is today, May 8 -- something I just noticed a few minutes ago.

I love serendipity.

Also, in my defense, I have been posting things on Tumblr (which is more or less a blog) since well before midnight.  I've had an account there ( ) for a week or so now, but just really started to figure out how to use it tonight.  And apparently lost all track of time.

Sam and Gylde (Sam's girlfriend) are here, getting some sleep before Sam drops her off in Tucson and heads back to Southern California later on this morning.  They both had a great time at the Flogging Molly concert last night -- although Gylde decided the mosh pit wasn't her thing.

Sam loved it.  Runs in the family, apparently:  I've always enjoyed the rough-and-tumble of it, along with the fact that most of the time (including last night, according to Sam), no matter how badly you may get tossed around, there are always plenty of hands reaching out to help you if you start to fall.

Well, I guess that's enough Tumblring and Bloggering for tonight.

Good night, everyone.  Love and hugs.  All shall be well.

Friday, May 6, 2011


The helicopter's back.

Gonna make a semi-early night of it, just in case we do any flying tonight.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster.  Here are some color pictures of the surprisingly modern-looking interior of the last of the great passenger airships.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


It's weird to arrive at work and see an empty helipad where Angel 3 usually sits.

Most of the time it means the outgoing crew got a late flight.  But when there's also a company van sitting in front of our quarters (like today), it usually means that the helicopter broke down somewhere, and the pilot and/or crew had to drive back.

They actually do that fairly often:  Break down. When I first started out as a flight paramedic, that was worrisome. 

Eventually, though, I realized that breaking down on the ground  is no big deal.  Even breaking down in the air (which doesn't happen nearly as often) usually just means that the equivalent of a "check engine" light came on.

The most common kinds of helicopter "check engine" lights are "chip" lights (which means the helicopter thinks there are tiny metal chips in one of its fluids) and "FADEC" lights (which means it thinks something else is wrong with the engine).

(There's probably a little more to all this, but I'm giving you the med-crew version of Helicopter Mechanics 101 here.)

My personal specialty is starter failures: I've had three of those so far in six years. 

Again, nothing dramatic:  When the pilot tries to start the engine, it makes its usual wind-up whine ... then, instead of the roar of the jet engine kicking in ... it just winds down (the same sound it makes when the pilot cools the engine before starting it in warm weather).  Or sometimes it doesn't make any noise at all, except for a clicking sound back up behind our heads somewhere.

And sometimes -- like today --  they don't exactly break down at all; our mechanics just find something that needs fixing during one of their frequent inspections of our ride.

Today (actually yesterday) they found a bad bearing in the rotor head.  I think that's what the pilot said this morning, anyway.

So no helicopter for us, probably for at least two or three more days.

Usually when one of our helicopters is down for a long time, we get a loaner from Air Methods, the company that supplies our pilots and mechanics.  But when it's just a matter of being without an aircraft for a few days, we turn into a "package crew" for the duration:  When someone needs to be flown out of our hospital, we walk over and package the patient (get report and paperwork, hook 'em up to our equipment, etc.) while our dispatcher sends another aircraft to us to do the actual transport.

It makes for a strange shift:  Just you and your partner, mostly, instead of the two of you, a pilot, and sometimes a mechanic.  All of your medical equipment stacked out in the mechanic's shed.  No scene flights or transports from other hospitals.

And a great big empty helipad where you're used to seeing your helicopter.

It's been a good day, though.  No packages so far.  Time for a long nap, some phone calls, some writing, a little TV watching with my partner.  Even an 8-mile stationary bike ride (in my jeans and t-shirt, since I forgot to bring exercise clothes; "you're such a nerd", my partner said).

My partner likes to play World of Warcraft, so it's been a very productive day for him too, I gather.  He also does mysterious stock-market stuff, and cooks (he used to be a professional cook before he became a nurse).

He shared an interesting theory with me today:  One of his online gaming friends dropped out of sight abruptly over the weekend.  No sign of him since Sunday.  My partner says he's starting to wonder if maybe this guy was playing WoW from a compound in Pakistan ...

True story.

I love my job.  Even when there's no helicopter.

Good night everybody.  Love and hugs from Cottonwood.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


After my change-of-pace shift in Kingman on Angel 2 last week, I'm back on Angel 3 in Cottonwood tomorrow and the next day.

Sam's in Flagstaff this weekend.  He and his mom and a bunch of their friends are going to see Flogging Molly at the Orpheum Friday night.  Bummed at missing the show (FM is one of my all-time favorite bands; if you like Celtic music, punk, lots of pirate-themed songs, or just high-energy fun, go see 'em any chance you get), but looking forward to hanging out with Sam after my shift.

Also excited about seeing my oldest friend and one of my newest ones in the Bay area weekend after next!

And in book-related news, the super-nice people who took me to see the crash sites a few years back have graciously agreed to review the draft of  VANISHED for me, a chapter at a time as I finish piecing them together, starting next week (Thanks, Tom and Hazel!).

Getting there, folks.  Finally getting there.

Good night everybody.  More tomorrow from Angel 3.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Hey again, everybody.

I actually did a fair bit of work on VANISHED today, this time tinkering with the Star of the Seine and Mainliner Vancouver chapters.  I also made a little more progress on updating my VANISHED-related email lists, so as to be able to invite more interested folks to this blog.  Plus a bunch of good personal-life stuff.  All in all, it's been a great day.

So now I'm about to give my poor tired laptop (and brain) a rest, and see how far into the "War of the Worlds" DVD I can get before bed.  This is the Tom Cruise / Dakota Fanning version, which I somehow managed to miss; looking forward to seeing how it compares to the book / old movie / radio broadcast.

First, though:  Me and TV.

I discovered several years ago that I'm mostly a passive TV watcher:  I'll watch whatever someone else has turned on, but hardly ever think to turn it on myself except to watch a DVD, or maybe the news.

Don't get me wrong, I like TV well enough (except for the how-badly-can-we-possibly-behave "reality" shows (which I'd so like to believe are really scripted, even though I know a lot of them aren't), and daytime commercials, which always make me feel like I should go out and get a job even when I'm watching them at work).  I just rarely am motivated enough to spontaneously watch it.

There have been a few exceptions:  DEAD LIKE ME; the first season or two of RESCUE ME; BATTLESTAR GALACTICA; BIG LOVE ... and most of those I've actually watched on DVD.  The only two shows I remembered to watch semi-consistently were GHOST HUNTERS (which I'd so like to believe isn't scripted, even though I have my doubts) and KINGS (which got canceled halfway through its first season - argh).

So when I moved -- and moved -- and moved -- last year, I didn't even think to keep a TV.  If I wanted to watch a DVD, I just laptopped it.

I finally broke down and bought the littlest, cheapest TV I could find a couple weeks ago (19 inches, which is probably as big as anything we had growing up -- but it looks tiny), when Sam was out on spring break, just so we wouldn't have to huddle around the laptop trying to both be able to see the screen without bonking heads when we watched TANGLED ...

Which is the best Disney movie I've seen in years, maybe ever, for anyone who hasn't seen it yet -- and I like most Disney movies.

... and because it's kind of nice to have an actual TV.

One of these days I may even get around to buying an antenna, or signing up for cable.  In the meantime, at least I can watch DVDs without having to worry about the picture freezing up, or the screen saver coming on.

Good night, everybody.  See you all tomorrow.

Monday, May 2, 2011


All's well here -- hope all's well with all of you.

Have been doing a lot of non-blog writing and other good stuff.  More here soon.

Love and hugs!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Good news:  Learned how to remove the stretcher loading system (this thing that swings out and looks like a pirate-ship plank, that we slide our stretcher onto) from the helicopter. 

Bad news:  Had to figure out how to remove the stretcher loading system from the helicopter in order to clean yucky stuff out from under the stretcher loading system.

In other semi-work-related news, realized how badly out of practice I am at working multiple bases when I had to go out and buy toothbrush, razor, deodorant, etc., at the nearest Mini-Mart.  And I had been so proud of myself for remembering my boots and jacket and helmet liner!  Ah well ...

Back to Flagstaff in the morning.

Good night all.  Love and hugs!

Friday, April 29, 2011


Sleep accomplished!  Actually making it all the way to the book-writing portion of my agenda tonight -- did NOT see that coming several hours ago.

This afternoon and evening have been sprinkled with grace notes like that:  A bird's-eye view of the Hoover Dam and its new bypass bridge on the way back from our flight earlier; the flight itself (first time to Las Vegas in awhile -- it's a ghost town compared to a few years ago, but still fun to fly over); the nap; falling asleep and waking up to wild grasses and clover blowing in the wind right outside my window; a really charming spontaneous story on Twitter; little bits and pieces of time with friends new and old.

I love my job, and my life in general, but it's always a special treat when a day ends up a whole lot better than you expected it to.

Currently wrestling with VANISHED's "Saturday Morning in the City of Angels" chapter.  After trying every way I could think of for several years to figure out which crash victims' stories to tell when, I finally decided to just introduce the passengers I have the best pre-flight stories about in this chapter, then talk about the flight crews and everyone else in the airplane-specific chapters.  Tried that out of sheer frustration at first, but it works better than anything else did.

At the moment, trying to figure how much to say about Disneyland.

Disneyland opened the summer before the mid-air, and was still the subject of media saturation-coverage (ads in every newspaper and magazine, its own TV show, you name it) at the time of the crash.  At least one family, the Kites, were returning from a trip to Disneyland that Saturday morning.  TWA was one of the most prominent corporate sponsors in the park.  All that definitely goes in the book.

But then there's this home movie, Disneyland Dreams ( ...

It was filmed by a family that won a 1956 trip to Disneyland in a Scotch Tape contest.  Among many other cool things, it captured an 11-year-old Steve Martin working as a top-hatted Disneyland street vendor.  It's the best representation of what a visit to Disneyland and Southern California in 1956 would have been like that I can find ... and I'm thinking I'm gonna include a lengthy description of Disneyland Dreams in my introduction of the Kites.

I'd been thinking of cutting Disneyland Dreams out of the chapter (I often worry that VANISHED is gonna end up the size of the New York City phone book) ... but now that I tell you about it ...

... I'm thinking I'd be crazy not to include it.  In fact, now I'm wondering if "Disneyland Dreams" might not make a better chapter title than "Saturday Morning in the City of Angels"?

What do you all think?

Good night everyone.  Thanks for all your help and support!


Still running on fumes, sleep-wise, so gonna try again for a nap.  Just in case we get another flight, or I sleep past midnight, gonna go ahead and post this so everyone knows all's well with me.

Hugs and love, everyone.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


After passing through Kingman twice this week already, I just found out from my boss that I'm going to be working out there tomorrow, too.  Someone had a last-minute emergency, and apparently this is a big biker run weekend out there, so off I go to Angel 2 bright and early in the morning.

I used to work out there a lot, but since we went to fixed bases a couple years ago, I think I've been there ... once or twice?

So should be interesting.  But since it also adds a couple extra hours to my commute and pre-shift prep time, I'm afraid I'm going to have to skimp on the blogging again tonight.  I'll leave you with some more photos -- these are from the 1957 Life Magazine article describing the crash investigation and its conclusions.

Thanks for the emails -- will try to reply later tonight tonight or tomorrow!

In response to the question about Bud Allen and the jump seat, both planes apparently were full.  This makes me suspect Allen rode in the jump seat, as does the fact that he was listed in the accident investigation report as "aboard as an additional crew member".  Janice Heiser, an off-duty hostess (and roommate of hostess Beth Davis) who was also aboard, was not referred to in this fashion.

Good night, everybody!  More tomorrow from Kingman, dispatch permitting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


So nothing VANISHED-related to report tonight, I'm afraid.

Stopped at Chiriaco Summit, just East of Palm Springs.  Down the street from the General George S. Patton Museum, which is pretty nifty if you like tanks, or even just bigger-than-life-size statues of people and their dogs (Patton had a Spuds McKenzie dog - a bull terrier? Yes!  Thanks, Google - and there's a pony-sized bronze of him next to the giant General).

The last couple of days have been hectic, but good.  My son's computer crashed hard and repeatedly (blue screen after blue screen), taking his due-yesterday English paper with it, night before last, but he was able to get a half-day extension , and with a very small amount of IT support from me, and a good old-fashioned college all-nighter from him, both paper and computer turned out all right in the end.

He's a pretty awesome guy, Sam is.

He only needed one tiny bit of help with the paper from me:  At 6:30 this morning I found it both disorienting and heart-warming to stumble out of bed, not to change his diaper or get him a bottle (wasn't that long ago I was doing both of those, was it??), but to help him figure out how to cite a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in MLA format.

Okay, back on the road I go.  Good night all.  Love and hugs and good wishes from Chiriaco Summit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


One of my all-time favorite quotes*, from the 1982 film Blade Runner:

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate**. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

We, each of us, are fragile vessels containing so many unique moments -- most of which will die with us.
I think this is often why we write, and read.  Why we love to tell stories, and love to hear them.

To keep a few of these moments from being washed away.

One of my moments:  A few years ago I mentioned this quote to my dad ... who surprised me by saying that he'd often had the same thought.

Tonight, without even realizing she was doing it, a friend of mine rescued another of my moments from wherever I'd misplaced it for the last thirty-odd years.

When I was in the fifth grade, we used to go to high school hockey games at our local skating rink in Littleton, Colorado.  I doubt I'd even remembered that a half-dozen times since I was old enough to shave.

Tonight, all of a sudden, I could smell the chilly air, taste the too-salty popcorn and the fizzy tang of Coca Cola and the paper (straw, or cup, I'm not sure which) I was drinking it through, or from.  Hear the clatter of skates and sticks and cheers echoing.  Feel the bleachers vibrate and shift beneath us.  Savor the fact that I was up past my usual weeknight bedtime, part of something big and exciting and almost-adult, happy and a little scared that one of these years before too long I'd be old enough to be out there on this same ice, skating for this same team***.  Anticipate the way my boots would squelch across the wet black rubber mats on the way out to our car in the even colder snowy parking lot.

And -- typical, even back then -- picture the book I had brought with me to read before the game and during the breaks in play:  Planet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle.

Thanks, Melissa.

And thank you and Charles and Lynda and Jessica and Paloma and Brandy for following this blog!

Good night, everybody.  Back to Arizona -- and back to work on VANISHED -- tomorrow.

* And apparently I'm not the only one who likes it.  Turns out this quote has its own FaceBook page, which 313 people Like:

** I always thought he was saying -- and always pictured -- sea-beams:  Underwater beams of light.  And would have SWORN the Tanhauser Gate was a real place in ... Berlin? ... but:

***  Or not.  We moved back to Southern California the following year, and I haven't been to a hockey game since.  But now I'm thinking I'd like to go to one again sometime soon ...

Monday, April 25, 2011


Good evening from the Love's Travel Stop in windy Kingman, Arizona!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be on the road for the next few days:  Driving out to Southern California to see my son, parents, and sister (who's visiting from Austin) for a belated Easter.

On a semi-book-related note, although TWA has "flown West" (pilot-speak for died), if you're ever driving along the I-40 through Kingman you can still see airliners in the distinctive red-and-white TWA livery at the airport here.  Like Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, the Kingman airport features a "boneyard" where aging aircraft are stored more-or-less intact for decades after their final flights.

Although the term "flown West" has been used by aviators since the First World War to describe fallen comrades, the concept actually goes back to at least the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the Kingdom of the Dead lay somewhere in the West.  Since the Sun appears to "die" in the West each evening, the conceptual link between the West and death probably predates even the earliest human civilizations.

I decided to call my book VANISHED IN THE WEST partly because of this little bit of aviation- / death-related trivia, and partly because of one of the first New York Times headlines about the air disaster:  "TWO GIANT AIRLINERS VANISH IN WEST".

Okay, I'd better stop blogging and do some more driving.  Good night, everybody.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Happy Easter, everybody!

At first it looked like Easter Sunday was going to start off as busy as Black Saturday had for us:  A few minutes after midnight our crew phones started playing their "dispatch is texting you" ring tones.  My head had literally just hit the pillow (I don't think there's a pressure-activated switch in there, but sometimes I wonder).  I muttered something non-Easter-ish, grabbed my phone, and looked to see what adventures awaited us.


Probably good news:  We're supposed to get an extra page at the end of each flight listing our "fractional miles", because Medicare in its infinite wisdom recently decided that rounding the distance we fly each patient to the nearest mile wasn't accurate enough.  Now they want want our mileages to include tenths of miles as well (528 feet, in a helicopter -- seriously, Medicare?), which requires extra calculations and a separate text message.  So this was either an extremely late page for our flight twelve hours before, or a complete misfire.

Called dispatch.  Determined that it was indeed a complete misfire (intended for one of our other helicopters).  Counted my Easter blessings, and went back to bed.

Well, eventually went back to bed.  A couple hours later.  There's always a certain amount of adrenaline produced by that phone going off when you're in bed -- even if you've just gotten into bed -- so even false alarms tend to cost us some sleep.

Woke up fairly late this morning.  Walked out into the living room to find that the Easter Bunny had left me a big bag full of paper grass and candy (I work with some pretty cool people; have I ever mentioned that?).

Other than a couple more false alarms (standy-bys for accidents that didn't end up requiring a helicopter), nothing else flight-related has happened so far today.

So I've spent the day chatting with pilot, nurse, and mechanic, sending and receiving Easter messages, working on continuing education paperwork, napping a bit, and chipping away at VANISHED.

One thing I haven't been good at this last week is inviting people to this blog.  I've mentioned it to a few family members, some co-workers, listed it on my Twitter profile.  I've been very pleasantly surprised at how many views just that wee bit of publicizing has generated.  But I still have hundreds of VANISHED-related contacts I need to email ... and I'm still horribly embarrassed at how long I've been out of most touch with most of them.

So tonight, without further ado (and as always when at work, dispatch willing), I'm  gonna start emailing invites.

Good night everybody.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Hi again from Cottonwood!  I'll be your Angel 3 paramedic for the Easter weekend.

Some holidays / annual events tend to keep us EMS types busier than others.  No two are ever alike, of course, and one crew may get slammed while a nearby crew twiddles their thumbs all shift.  But I have noticed some patterns over the years.

Memorial and Labor Day weekends are usually crazy-busy, especially on the front end:  lots of bad wrecks while everyone's trying to get wherever they're going for the weekend.  Hardly anyone calls for an ambulance or a helicopter during the Super Bowl.

The rest of 'em generally fall somewhere in between those two extremes:  Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually pretty mellow, Halloween and New Year's Eve, not so much.

It's been awhile since I worked an Easter weekend, so I couldn't remember how they tended to go.  The answer for us so far this year:  Busy start, then nothing much.

We actually started off this morning with a public relations event (PR) -- a mock mass-casualty-incident (MCI) at the local fire academy.  We do this particular PR a couple times a year, landing, loading a volunteer moulaged (medical make-up) to look badly injured, and flying him or her to back to our hospital.  It's part of the student firefighters' final exam.  It gives them a chance to work around the helicopter, and it exposes them to the chaos and confusion that are inevitable parts of any MCI, real or simulated.  It's also good practice for us, and for the hospital, which is simultaneously deluged with "less seriously injured patients" brought in by ground ambulances.

The fun began for us even before takeoff, as we tracked all the weekend pilots taking off and landing at our nearby local airport -- joined this morning by several skydivers -- and discussed how we'd need to orbit for a bit with the "patient" so we'd have time to radio the hospital and let them know we were on our way (our actual flight time would be about one minute).

We lifted, successfully dodging small planes and parachutes, zipped over to the fire academy, and started orbiting while we made radio contact with our landing zone (LZ) officer.  He briefed us on nearby obstructions, wind direction and speed, and told us to land next to the backhoe.  All well and good ... except that we couldn't spot the backhoe.  Or any fire trucks, or ambulances, or anyone else.

Like I said, chaos and confusion, every time.  A good MCI is one where you keep miscommunications to a minimum; you can never eliminate them entirely.

This morning was a good MCI.  Almost immediately we spotted backhoe, big red trucks, and so forth at the community college campus adjacent to the fire academy.  Landed, got our "patient", lifted, orbited, called the hospital, landed, wheeled him inside, turned him over to the ER doc -- and promptly got called out on a real emergency flight.

Since then ... paperwork, a nap, more paperwork.  A visit from some of the local firefighters, and from some of our pilot's motorcycle buddies.

Pilot and nurse both turned in about an hour ago.  I'll probably do the same soon.  First, though, I thought I'd share one of the many, many stories I've come across while researching VANISHED.


On Monday, July 2, 1956, a "$100,000 fire" destroyed the Menzie Dairy Co. in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.

The dairy's owner, John L. Laughlin, did not go to the fire.  "That loss is replaceable," he said, "but nothing can bring back Sally."

Sally Laughlin, 20, was John's youngest daughter.  She was a student at Pennsylvania State University.  Two days before the dairy fire, Sally boarded United Flight 718 in Los Angeles to return home from the Pi Phi Sorority's 40th annual convention, a six-day event held at the Huntington-Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena, California.

Several Pi Phi student and alumni delegates were killed in the mid-air.  There were at least two of them aboard each of the doomed airliners.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I said in my first post that I'd been working on VANISHED for going on seven years.  Actually, it's been more like seven and a half years:   I first saw the "old photograph" of the woman kneeling at the TWA mass grave in Flagstaff that started me on the path to writing this book in November of 2003.

In those seven and a half years I've learned more about the 1956 Grand Canyon air disaster and its victims than I ever would have thought possible back in '03.  But I still have a lot of unanswered questions.

The answers to some of them died with the passengers and crew members of TWA 2 and UAL 718.  But the answers to others may still be "out there", waiting to be revealed ... maybe by some of you.

Here are some of the questions I'd most love to learn the answers to:

  1. Are there any surviving photographs of the Mainliner Vancouver (UAL DC-7, N6324C)?
  2. Are there any photographs of the aircraft / passengers / crew members taken at LAX on the morning of June 30, 1956?  Or for that matter, any photographs / post cards / letters / etc. relating to the crash victims dating from shortly before the crash?
  3. Who was the TWA employee named "Miller" on whose TWA pass crash victim Robert Ernest Sanders was traveling?
  4. Are there any surviving copies of any of the television / newsreel / radio reports about the crash?
  5. Who was the lady who reported seeing smoke in the Canyon from the Desert Watchtower on the afternoon of June 30, 1956?
  6. Was there really a young Navajo girl ("Yazzie Gray Eyes") who also reported seeing smoke in the Canyon that day?
  7. Are there any surviving copies of the July 1, 1956 Extra edition of the Flagstaff newspaper?
  8. What was the source of the "Ancient Indian Legend" regarding a protective spirit in the Canyon referred to in the Los Angeles Times on July 3, 1956?
  9. Whatever happened to the fund Arizona Governor McFarland established to build a memorial to the crash victims at the Grand Canyon?
  10. Did "Mary and Robert Hickman" (the alleged 129th and 130th victims of the crash) really exist?  Were they really on board one of the aircraft involved in the mid-air?  If so, who was the pilot / relative of theirs who brought them aboard?  Whatever happened to "Mrs. Annie S. Hickman", the person who reported that they had died in the crash?
  11. Were there seat assignments on either / both aircraft?  Former airline employees I've spoken with believe it unlikely that there was assigned seating on either flight ... but obtaining a copy of the victims' seat assignments, if they existed, would be something like my personal Holy Grail of crash-related research (I'd LOVE to know who sat where on each plane, and who sat next to whom).
  12. Does anyone have photographs of (or more info about) the following crash victims?
    • John A. Barry (TWA passenger)
    • Staff Sgt. Robert Vernon Beatty (TWA passenger)
    • Rosemary Ferry Bishop (TWA passenger)
    • Stephen Bishop (TWA passenger), Rosemary's infant son
    • Gertrude Agnes Coyne Book (UAL 718 passenger)
    • Milton Barry Carlton  (UAL 718 passenger)
    • Carol Jean Church (UAL 718 passenger), age 6; traveling with her grandfather, Albert Vogt
    • Frank H. Clark (UAL 718 passenger)
    • Leon David Cook, Jr. (UAL 718 passenger)
    • Chester Arnold Crewse (TWA passenger)
    • Helen Colleen Crewse (TWA passenger), Chester's 15-year-old daughter
    • Selma Louise Davis (TWA passenger)
    • Robert Earle DeLonge (TWA passenger)
    • Elizabeth Francis Doering (UAL passenger)
    • Lt. Thomas W. Doyle (UAL passenger)
    • Almeda Inez (Babb) Evans (TWA passenger)
    • Donald Lloyd Flentie (TWA passenger)
    • Stella Blum Fuchs (UAL passenger)
    • Walter M. Fuchs (UAL passenger), husband of Stella
    • Janice Tracy Haas (TWA passenger)
    • James K. Hadfield (UAL passenger)
    • Lillian Ruth Hahn (UAL passenger)
    • Mary Hickman (alleged TWA or UAL passenger)
    • Robert Hickman (alleged TWA or UAL passenger)
    •  Eugene B. Hoffman (UAL passenger)
    • Harry Robinson Holman (TWA passenger) - supposedly "knew the pilot" - which one?
    • Russell Charles Huber (UAL passenger)
    • Wayne Gardner Jeffrey (TWA passenger)
    • Francis Robert Johlie III (UAL passenger)
    • Sidney Roland Joslin (TWA passenger)
    • Donald F. Kiel (UAL passenger)
    • Ted M. Kubiniec (UAL passenger)
    • Ray Oliver Lasby (UAL passenger)
    • Sally Lou Laughlin (UAL passenger)
    • Lois Marie Laxton (TWA passenger)
    • Michael Anthony Laxton (TWA passenger), 4-year-old son of Lois
    • Howard John Maag (TWA passenger), infant son of crash victims John & Claire Maag
    • William H. Markey, Jr. (TWA passenger) - brother of crash investigator W. Dixon Markey
    •  Carl G. Matland (UAL passenger)
    • John J. Muldoon (UAL passenger)
    • Gerald Murchison (UAL passenger)
    • Dwight B. Nims (UAL passenger)
    • Floyd A. Nixon (UAL passenger)
    • Marietta Thompson Noel (TWA passenger), wife of crash victim Richard Curtis Noel
    • Elsie W. Osterbock (UAL passenger)
    • Commander John Walker Payne, USN, Ret. (TWA passenger)
    • Hugo Pekruhn (UAL passenger)
    • Neal Alan Power (TWA passenger)
    • David Karn Robinson (TWA passenger), 11-year-old son of Jeannette
    • Geoffrey Brian Robinson (TWA passenger), 8-year-old son of Jeannette
    • Jeannette Karn Robinson (TWA passenger)
    • Alexander Eugene Rosenblatt (UAL passenger)
    • Esther Fair Sharp (TWA passenger) - corresponding secretary for the NAACP
    • Russell A. Shields, Jr. (UAL passenger)
    • Thomas J. Sulpizio (UAL passenger)
    • Donald L. Winings (UAL passenger)
That's it for tonight; I work tomorrow and Sunday.  Happy Easter, everybody!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


TWA Flight 2

TWA Flight 2 - Captain

TWA Flight 2 - Copilot

TWA Flight 2 - Flight Engineer

TWA Flight 2 - Flight Engineer "(aboard as an additional crew member)":  Not an on-duty flight crew member; most likely riding in the jump seat (an extra seat) in the Super Constellation's cockpit; recently transferred from TWA's Kansas City base to Los Angeles, family still in Kansas City; traveling back to Kansas City for a visit.

TWA Flight 2 - Hostess

                                                                                        Beth Ellis Davis                                                                                           TWA Flight 2 - Hostess

United Flight 718

United Flight 718 - Captain

Robert W. Harms
United Flight 718 - Copilot

Girardo X. Fiore
United Flight 718 - Flight Engineer
United Flight 718 - Stewardess

United Flight 718 - Stewardess