Hey Fuzz fans, I figured since we are getting into the swing of the summer travel season now would be a good time to regale you with a few of my past experiences in the sky and maybe pass along a couple tips all wrapped up in a summer playlist that’s perfect for riding in a chair 30,000 feet above the earth at 400 miles per hour. (Boy, that sentence really ran on, didn’t it?)
Have you seen the film Iron Eagle? As a child I was obsessed with it. In brief, (spoilers) this high school kid steals a fully loaded F-16 fighter jet off an air force base, flies it to the middle east, kills enemies, loses his mentor (CHAPPY!!!!!!), rescues his father from a hell-hole prison, and makes it back alive.
It’s practically the The Godfather parts I and II combined.
What gets our teenaged hero through these toils and troubles in the sky? A mixed tape. Think i’m lying? Watch this:
And what a mixtape it is! How could an adolescent not destroy an enemy base, radar tower and an oil refinery with the Spencer Davis Group classic “Gimme Some Lovin” blasting through that tape player strapped to his leg.
Curiously, Steve Winwood was around high school age when he wrote this song. The only good piloting I did at that age was figuring out how to drive a maroon Toyota Camry with constantly fogged windows due to water leaks in the seals around the front and back glass. I also did not write any songs.
Mega-spoiler: Our hero had some quality last words for his enemy:
For purposes of this article I’ll consider myself a bit of a mix between Chappy (a mentor offering up words of wisdom in the sky) and Doug (the teen fighter pilot providing a solid playlist for your mission). Who knows, maybe Fuzz will let me record an episode of the podcast wherein I read you this article betwixt specially chosen songs for your in-flight entertainment. Strap that iPhone to your leg, put in your earbuds and let’s get started:
1. Jackson Browne “Late for the Sky”
As stated in my last column, I love music from the 1970s. If you aren’t acquainted with this track (and album), don’t wait until the next time you are taxying away from the jetway to get it. Depending on your time of day and runway configuration, this 7+ minute tome to lost love could get you all the way through takeoff and into your ascent.
2. John Prine “Far From Me”
Congratulations! You are now listening to a top-5 American songwriter while flying through the air. That’s incredible!
Now’s about the time that the pilot will make the announcements regarding the seat belt light being turned off and of your freedom to move about the cabin. Keep your eyes peeled during this announcement because you will see a 45 year-old man jump up to be first in the bathroom and bang his head on the overhead compartment in the process. Bonus points if this causes the door to the overhead compartment to fly open. Double bonus if he brings his hand up to his forehead and forces a grimace/smile at his seatmate. TRIPLE BONUS if he does NOTHING and pretends that everybody didn’t see it.
3. Iron & Wine “Upward Over the Mountain”
Figured I would throw some Iron and Wine in there for any of you Fuzz fans who take prescription anti-anxiety medication before all your flights. Five minutes of dulcet tones from Sam Beam combined with the pill(s) you took while sitting in the terminal floor reading the Huffington Post (or Huffpo as you likely call it) on your iPad will have you in dream land for the next few hours.
While you sleep i’ll tell your non-anxious friends a story. It starts with a loaded question.
Have you ever thrown up on an airplane?
I had not until an eventful Easter weekend a couple years ago. Many friends of the Fuzz were living in New York City at the time, and I travelled up for a weekend of fun. Having stayed up way too late that Saturday night, I arrived at LaGuardia not feeling well. I convinced myself that I could tough it out and would be home in a couple hours. What I did not know while waiting on my flight was that I was in the early stages of a virulent stomach virus acquired at some point in my travels.
Feeling a little hot after finding my seat on the plane I immediately turned the overhead nozzle of air directly onto my face (warning sign #1) and shut the window shade.
As we climbed to altitude the pilot came over the intercom informing us that he expected a few “bumps” on the way up. Hearing this, my stomach came alive (warning sign #2).
After some jostling, I felt it best to wait the bumps out in the lavatory. I clamored over my neighbor without even the briefest warning and got to the front of the plane. There I was told some terrible news. The only bathroom on this specific Delta regional jet was in the back. I turned away from the flight attendant and ran. Nothing could stop me on the 30 yard sprint the other direction. I slammed open that weird accordion bathroom door just in time.
Throwing up on an airplane is no fun, but if you have to, please do it in the bathroom. I don’t think anybody could hear what was happening in there, but I know they would have heard it if I was in my seat. We are told the constant refrain in airports to say something if we see something. My additional advice is if you sense something, and then feel something, start running to a bathroom.
At this time I presume you have a mental image of what I looked like vomiting in that cramped space. Allow me to add these details:
- I did not have the time or wherewithal to remove my earbuds from my ears while racing to the toilet.
- I was wearing my sunglasses to block the ambient light in the plane in hopes that I could get some sleep prior to the, um, unrest.
After attempting to clean myself up I looked in that weird non-glass mirror thing they have on jets and it held an image I’ll never forget. I had one earbud in, one strewn about, and my sunglasses were on sideways.
4. Procol Harum “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
The closest musical approximation to how I looked and felt on that flight from New York.
5. Beck “Round the Bend”
Another calm tune to make sure the anxious ones among us remain fully asleep. This is Beck’s greatest record. Equally good for both driving and flying.
6. Joe Jackson “Sunday Papers”
What’s going on with those Hudson News stores in every airport? How did they form this all-powerful cartel controlling the flow of tabloid magazines and cashew-shaped neck-pillows? For variety’s sake I want half of their outlets to convert to Spencer’s Gifts stores. Another true story–I’ve gone into a Spencer’s gifts, as an adult, specifically to buy a rubber chicken. From my research it’s the only place that reliably has ’em.
7. Steve Winwood “Back in the High Life Again”
Hey the flight attendant is here with the drink cart! You have either just been awakened by your neighbor reaching over you for a miniature bottle of scotch, or you’ve been eyeing the drink cart for the last 27 minutes hoping each person in front of you doesn’t ask for the coffee they have to go brew in the front of the plane.
8. The Band “Time to Kill”
You’ve got a specific series of things to do now. First, order a ginger ale. Ginger ale and air travel are a perfect pair. Second, rummage through all pockets in your “personal item” and find the moleskin notebook or whatever you use to take notes. Scribble “buy ginger ale” while your neighbor reads your notes and judges you. Close the notebook, put it back in your bag, stuff the bag back under the seat in front of you, and forget the note forever.
9. Warren Zevon “Tenderness On The Block”
Take a wild guess who co-wrote this beauty with Warren Zevon. Yep, it was Jackson Browne.
10. Talking Heads “And She Was”
Welcome back to the reality, Xanax people! That cowbell + David Byrne combo startled you awake didn’t it? The sad news is that you missed the drink cart. The good news is that we’ve started our descent and we’ll be landing any minute.
Mark is a former lawyer who lives in Nashville. If you see a guy who looks like this caricature walking a golden retriever in Germantown, feel free to say hi. You should know, however, that there is another guy who looks a lot like Mark who also walks a golden retriever in Germantown so you might be saying hi to the wrong dude. It has caused confusion in the past—including one particular incident where the other dude’s wife hollered down the street at Mark several times before getting a closer look and realizing her mistake. Anyway, say hi. You can also find him on the internet at basketofchips.com and instagram.com/cmharrod.