Florida For Just 34,852 Minutes
... Part II

After Part I

June 2001

Saturday, June 16, 2001

Lala Palooza

"Lala Palooza" was a cartoon strip written and drawn by Rube Goldberg in the 1930s. I found this particular one in a scrapbook kept by my mother. She was an airhostess on TWA during the mid 1930s. I suppose that she kept it because the subject matter of the cartoon dealt with the fear of flying ... a fear that was even more common with DC-2 fliers than with today's 747 passengers. The cartoon, in a hyperbolic way, tries to contrast the 'real' dangers of earth travel with the perceived dangers in the sky.

Sunday, June 17, 2001

More from the TWA scrapbook ...

"The Lure of the Skyway ..."

"Surely, silently, swiftly, this mighty monarch of the air glides across the central trans-continental skyway, offering the utmost in comfort and security. Here is speed the fastest mode of transportation yet smooth and motionless beyond comparison."

"Mile after mile of soft, fleecy clouds unfold in all their splendor, a sea of cotton tinted with the hues of the setting sun. The air castles formed by the billowy clouds often separate to disclose the world below. Restless cities and the winding trails of a former day pass in review before those who have chosen this supreme achievement in transportation the criterion for all air travel The Sky Chief."1

In the late 1930s TWA's "Sky Chiefs"2 chugged from Newark to Chicago3 to Kansas City to Albuquerque and then on to LA on a pretty regular basis. The 17 hour and 39 minute journey carried 17 passengers and 3 crew:

Newark's Eastern Terminal of the Lindbergh Line was the place where they started. Every day at 4:45pm (ET) TWA flight #5 started the long journey west. Chicago's Municipal Airport was touch-downed just shy of five hours later, at 8:30 (CT) that same night. Thirty minutes after that the "gigantic monster of the air ... eight tons of metal" left for Kansas City. After a 27 minute-long near-midnight refueling stop in Missouri the "mighty monarch of the air" continued west into "Indian country" and landed at Albuquerque at 4:17am (MT). A little more than four hours later, at 7:30am (PT), saw the DC-2 hangared at Los Angeles's Grand Central Airport in Glendale. Paranthetically, from LA you could connect upward to San Francisco on a United Air Lines flight (adding another 159 minutes to your travel day). Twelve hours later the same crew flew the same plane back to Newark.

In flight meals, 'laptop' typewriters, reclining seats, fluffy pillows ... hey, the 30's had them. This 1935 TWA "Sky Chief" guide to your transcontinental flight pretty much told you what to expect:

"A short trip from the center of town to the airport, with a careful driver in a modern limousine ... "

Boarding the Sky Chief

"The air terminal a veritable hum of activity uniformed attendants baggage checked telegrams sent magazines bought ... "

"And then the thrilling call, 'All Aboard' the two engines roar in perfect unison ... "

"From city to city, from coast to coast a message is flashed 'Sky Chief departed on time' Seventeen people and a thousand pounds of mail rise to the skyway. The mighty liner gains altitude charting its course for the first of five stops between New York and California ... "

"Up front, seated side-by-side two thoroughly trained pilots study their maps keep a watchful eye on their instruments while the plane, powered by two 710-horsepower engines and guided by a gyro pilot, never deviates from its chartered course ... "

Airborne Comfort

"Hello Chicago First Westbound Sky Chief calling we are now flying 10 miles west of Plymouth at eight thousand feet ceiling unlimited, visibility 10 miles will be landing in Chicago in 25 minutes. What is your wind and weather? ... "

" ... Chicago calling First Sky Chief wind here 10 miles per hour southwest barometer thirty ten weather clear and unlimited ... "

"A dinner served above the clouds is so tempting so appetizing. Just to breathe the clean, fresh air aloft seems to stimulate an appetite that only a tasty fried chicken dinner can satisfy ... "

"The lights of a city ahead the flash of a beacon and the skyliner begins its slow descent to the airport of another city ... "

"The skyliner takes a long drink of gasoline 510 gallons enough to fly over a thousand miles without refueling ... "

Skilled Pilot

"In ten minutes the plane is off to a fresh start next stop Kansas City half way across the continent ... "

"The air is still and calm. There is no perceptible motion and the cabin is very quiet. The watchful hostess notes a nod of the head suggests a more comfortable position adjusts the chair adds a pillow or two for perfect comfort draws a curtain and hundreds of miles slip by unnoticed as sleep creeps across the passenger ... "

"In another part of the cabin a bridge game is in progress two chairs having been reversed to face two others ... "

"And as the journey draws to a close the passengers, refreshed and relaxed and with renewed energy, reluctantly leave the skyliner. Quiet, luxurious parlor cabins freedom from dust and dirt and the smooth swift flights place TWA unequaled by other means of travel. Weary travel hours and days were for pioneers while today's passengers enjoy the energy saving, time saving and economical air transportation ... "

"It is a story to tell the story of the Sky Chief."

1 From ON TIME THE SKY CHIEF, Copyright 1935, Transcontinental & Western Airways, Inc. This booklet was given to all passengers who traveled on TWA's "Sky Chief" service. Incidentally, the TWA logo did not require any alphabet surgery when the "W" word morphed from "Western" to "World" and when the "T" word lost 11 tail letters.

2 Along with the slower "Sun Racer" and the really pokey "Sky Master" which made the same coast to coast journey, but utilizing many more stops: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Wichita, Amarillo and Winslow, Arizona. The 12 stop "Sky Master" made the trip in 21 hours and 15 minutes. Incidentally, on April 30, 1935 a TWA Douglas DC-1 set a transcontinental record by flying from Los Angeles to New York in 11 hours and 5 minutes.

3 In 1936 a DC-2 scheduled flight from Chicago to Newark broke the up-to-then record of 2 hours 58 minutes. According to the pilot, favorable tail winds deserved the credit.

Monday, June 18, 2001

No wonder ..............

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Oh My God!

The SopranosFor the past 2 days Watcharee and I have been welded to our DVD player ... watching the entire first year (13 episodes) of The Sopranos. Neither of us has ever seen this program before.1 We were tipped off as to this video experience by a book review in the World Weekly News. Though the book itself does not attempt to track the adventures of Tony Soprano and his family, friends and work associates it is a wonderfully useful guide for everyone: a handy coping tool for walking safely around the rougher edges and sharper corners2 of life.

FUHGEDDABOUTIT: HOW TO BADDA BOOM, BADDA BING AND FIND YOUR INNER MOBSTER3 suggests ways to look like a "mafia kingpin". Most of them are just silly: like kissing men on both cheeks before betraying them or driving a Lincoln Town Car. But, living close to a bakery, topless club and a pay phone works.

Elsewhere in the WWN:

They all died. One was mysteriously poisoned, another left us in a bizarre motorcycle accident, a plane killed a third, a heroin-prompted stroke sent another on his way, suicide pushed "Breezy" to the wrong side of the curtain ... a terrible eating disorder caused "Chubby" to explode.

In this group ... but, out of it ... was Robert "Mickey" Blake. At age 67 it looked like he would not die of the 'nickname curse'. And then along came Bonny Lee Bakley.

1 No, we do not live under a stone.

2 Though the book does not get into that awful 'mother thing', its suggested 'life-tools' nudge-nudge and hint-hint all but the blindest of us in the right direction. But, we have to fast-forward the 'tape' itself to reach that blunter instrument: the hammer, the final tool, and the thing of last resort. Episode #13 shows Tony walking toward his mother's hospital gurney with a soft pillow in hand. However, we are left puzzled by the smile on the old lady's face. Was it induced by her medication ... the 'drip' into her arm? The way the hospital mask tugged at her face? Irony? Pathos? Or, just plain, "Fuck You, Tony!"?

3 By Jon Macks, Simon & Schuster; $9.95. Will a cookbook be far behind? Lisa?

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

It all started with action taken at a relatively low level. I should say, at two bureaucratic levels ... but, ones that were far apart, geographically and philosophically, from one another. Of course, we only see these things once they have been written on paper; what the actual brain waves were that messed about with the shoreline pebbles ... well, we'll never know, we just see what's left after the water pulls back.

Anyway, the Whitehall decision was a just a reaction to something that was decided over near the Docklands.

The small British Telecom office over there looks after coins ... coins from telephone kiosks. For decades its people have counted coins, bagged them and taken them to the bank. Tart cardsBut, sometime in the 80's their job became more complicated: not only did they have to empty the telephones of the daily money; too, they had to brush and sweep the kiosks clean of tart cards.

In Whitehall the Ministry of Posts covers a lot of ground. A tiny parcel of this turf deals with telephone kiosk licensing and regulating. Normally a quiet place, as it basically only has to deal with giving the OK to ... say, putting up a new phone kiosk on Oxford Street or laying a telephone wire across Brompton Road. But, starting in the 80's it had to deal with mothers of children, wives of husbands and women of neither. Again, tart cards were the reason for the extra work.

But even these additional responsibilities would not have changed the world. It took the mobile phone to do that.

So, what happened?

Telephone kiosks no longer were used for making phone calls ... at least not phone calls from British Telecom installed phones. They became billboards, community notice boards, advertisement forums, places free from rain ... little booths from which you could book tart card services. That's it! British Telecom didn't win. Whitehall just got complaints from pissed off ladies. That was the death ring for the phone booth.

And that, dear reader, is why I am going to London. For in just a few short months the world (at least the English world) will loose one more precious part. I want to be there one more time before the terrible taper takes its final toll. I want to sweep up just one more batch of tart cards. I want to say that I was there at the end.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Today, WORST-CASE SCENARIO authors Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht guide us through very rough airplane landings. In their "... an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ..." section their wagging fingers and furrowed eyebrows sagely emphasize: "... it is far better to be on the ground, checking your watch and wishing that you were on your skyward way than to be so commingled with vaporized plastic, melted glass, fused aluminum and other people's liquefied flesh that all of everything that went burrowing into the earth at near super sonic speed will be just left there with only a granite marker to note where and how you and the others died ..."1


(First) Take a nonstop flight, if possible.
Most accidents happen in the takeoff and landing phase of flight; the fewer stops you make, the less chance of an accident.

(Second) Watch the skies.
Many accidents involve severe weather. As takeoff time approaches, check the weather along the route, particularly in places where you will land. Consider delaying your flight if the weather could be severe.


(First) Wear log-sleeved shirts and long pants made of natural fibers.
Radiant heat and flash burns can be avoided if you put a barrier between you and the heat. Avoid easy-care polyester or nylon: most synthetic materials that aren't specifically treated to be fire resistant will melt at relatively low temperatures (300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit). Synthetic fabrics will usually shrink before they melt, and if they are in contact with skin when this happens, they will make the burn and its treatment much more serious. Wear closed-toe, hard-sole shoes; you might have to walk through twisted, torn metal or flames. In many cases, people survive the crash, but are killed or injured by post-impact fire and its by-products, like smoke and toxic gases.

(Second) Select a seat on the aisle, somewhere in the rear half of the cabin.
The odds of surviving a crash are higher in the middle-to-rear section compared to the middle-to-front section of the cabin. An aisle seat offers the easiest escape route access, unless you are sitting right next to an emergency exit: if you can get a window seat right next to the emergency exit, this is a better choice.

(Third) Listen to the safety briefing and locate your nearest exits.
Most airplane accident survivors had listened to the briefing and knew how to get out of the plane. Pick an exit to use in an emergency; and an alternate in case the first one is not available.

(Fourth) Count the seats between you and the exits in case smoke fills the plane and you cannot see them.
Make sure you understand how the exit doors work and how to operate them.

(Fifth) Practice opening your seat belt a few times.
Many people mistakenly try to push the center of the buckle rather than pull up on it.

TWA CrashThat said, the authors do not show you any sketches of an airplane going down; no illustrations of passengers groping their way through smoke and fire filled cabins; no graphics of dazed survivors picking their way about charred and pointy ruins.

Thanks to my mother's TWA scrapbook (covering the years 1934 -1937), we at corkscrew-balloon.com are able to show you a wreck from which no one walked away. Bad weather (iced wings) brought this DC-2 into the ground just outside of Pittsburgh. Though all were killed, the logbook of the stewardess2 gives us something to think about:

"Sadness must always be for the living. When a ship sets sail it is the eyes of those who watch from the shore that are filled with tears."

1 Had they thought about it, this is probably how they would have put it.

2 She was my mother's roommate.

Friday, June 22, 2001

Only Paul and a few others will get this.


Saturday, June 23, 2001

Maps have always been 'political'. During the Cold War era the Soviets had all sorts of creative maps of their country. None of their major cities were where they were. For example, Moscow University cartographers1 were forced to position Leningrad a few degrees off center because the Red Army generals were thoroughly convinced that the human brains that programmed America's ICBMs were relying2 on Russian made maps to get the latitude and longitude coordinates of Peter's city just right.

The American travel company, TRAVCOA, for years just plain ignored some countries. If one of its comprehensive 'continent' tours did not hit a particular country ... well, the company just left it off the map. For TRAVCOA, Nigeria did not exist in Africa. And, the Sahara was reduced to sandbox size. Much of South America came out with thalidomidic proportions.

What are you getting at, Alf?

Ah ... Yes! The Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok recently published a 'Location Map'. Cutely designed ... with little boats on the Chao Phraya River ... tuk-tuks on Petchaburi Road ... busses on Charoen Nakorn Road ... taxis on the Expressway ... Creative Maphelicopters flying overhead ... kick boxers in the Lumphini Boxing Stadium ... children flying kites at Sanamluang Park ... yes, all sorts of helpful icons to direct the visitor to where he wanted to go.


I'm getting there! Naturally, the Peninsula Hotel has given itself the grandest icon on this map. This is understandable as the Peninsula paid for the thing. Granted, the map shows some other hotels, albeit in diminished scale: the Sheraton and the Shangri-la look very 'office-blockish' and downright fawning, as if they were the town's underdressed dolts who had to tug at their forelocks every time they looked across the river.


Well, The Oriental is not even on the map! Where it should be is nothing; nothing that even looks like anything in the area. Sure, there are some bushes, several trees and something that looks suspiciously like a cross between a Las Vegas casino and a Turkish Mosque with a mansard roof. But, no Oriental Hotel.

1 Lucky were the cartographers who worked in the 'international' section. They got to put the cities where they were. But, they were forever puzzled at how close were Helsinki and Leningrad (see footnote 2, below).

2 Had this been true ... .and had America launched a first strike against Leningrad, Helsinki would have been reduced to ash ... .while the residents of Leningrad would have been treated to an unusual sunset.

Sunday, June 24, 2001

London is about 40% of the way there. Eight or nine hours, depending on the wind. Onward to BKK is the balance. Cosmo GirlOne is mostly over water; the other is almost entirely over the Asian land mass. This will be the first time that we'll break the trip in two. Aside from once when we changed planes, Watcharee has never been in the UK.

Anyway, on Tuesday we'll fly to Gatwick; on the 2nd we'll leave from Heathrow. In between we'll take as many London Walks as we can schedule. Dear Reader, you remember these! They are the very best way to see the niches of the city. Each walk is about two to three hours long and each explores a little bit of the city's past, real and not so real. In The Footsteps Of Sherlock Holmes starts at Baker Street ... Legal London at the Inns of Court ... Jack The Ripper Haunts wanders around the Tower Hill working streets of the 'drink-sodden East End prostitutes' ... Ghosts Of The Old City hovers near St. Paul's. And, so on.

Looking at a more personal past, the TWA scrapbook has some more. In the mid-1930's my mother's picture was on the cover of two magazines: Family Circle and Cosmopolitan. Both covers were reflected on the inside pages with stories about airhostesses: one a fictional piece about terror and romance in the sky, the other about hospitality in the air.

Monday, June 25, 2001

More SURVIVAL tips:


(ONE) Do not cross if you have an open wound; insist that someone carry you.
Piranhas are attracted to blood.

Piranha!Piranha!(TWO) Avoid areas where small schoolboys who think it is fun to watch a feeding orgy have tossed the freshly killed small pets of neighbors into the water.
Piranhas may become habituated to feeding in these areas and may be more aggressive there. Jaded piranhas may not worry much over whether the thing is a strolling foot or a strangled cat.

(THREE) Encourage people whom you care little about to splash about in the water when piranhas are feeding.
When large numbers of piranhas are attacking prey a true feeding frenzy they may snap and bite at anything around them. Allow others to take the risk. While the piranhas are stripping the meat from the fools, sit calmly on the bank and wait until their stomachs are full. At that time you can cross safely.

(FOUR) Cross the river at night ... leave behind a note asking others to follow in your footsteps at dawn. Should they take your advice, the river crossing at this point will become a regular haunt for piranhas ... allowing you a safe return passage further upstream.
Virtually every species of piranha rests at night, and when awakened, will swim away rather than attack. Piranhas are most active at dawn, though some large adults may hunt in the evening.

(FIVE) Swim or walk across quickly and quietly. Jibe others into splashing while they walk ... after you are safely on the other shore.
Disturbances in the water will awake otherwise nodding piranhas.



Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Quarterly WormeThe cover of the June 2001 issue of The Quarterly Worme1 has a photograph of Corkscrew Balloon #3 at tether in Esbjerg, Denmark. Thanks go to Buster Berntson for this photograph and the accompanying article.

The occasion was the 8th AGM of Helix Scandinavica. The 9th AGM will be held next year in Oslo, Norway. We shall be there again ... along with the Flying Ladies.2 Or ... perhaps ... with 'someone' new.3

1 A quarterly publication of the Canadian Corkscrew Collectors Club (CCCC).

2 Perhaps it is again time to remind our readers of the pedigree of the 'flying ladies'. This topic can be explored in depth by flipping through the back pages of my journal. Readers are particularly directed to: the gestation and birth period of the machine, the incredibly complicated search for a look-a-like model, the multi-lingual 'holy card' ... and, finally, San Porn's wise words about the whole thing.

3 As you read this very footnote ... dye vats sit empty ... fabric is waiting to be cut ... wires and cables remain still tightly coiled ... sewing machines hum not ... the great Cameron Balloon Works at Bristol needs just one more thing: THE MODEL FOR CORKSCREW BALLON NUMBER FOUR. The search is about to escalate. May God bless our efforts! Christ and Allah be with us!

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Into my hands this day a book did fall; so wondrous ...

"Get off it, Alf, you bought it on e-Bay!"

True ... but ...

"Oh, just get on with it."

Cleverly disguised under the cover of RUDIMENTARY ECONOMICS is hidden a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from the late 1800s. Steele1885 to be exact. The first clipping apparently is from April, the last from January 26, 1986. A few are out of chronological order.

I have been looking for something new ... something less tired than NEWNES ... something more secular than Wescott. I think I have found it: I shall call it Steele's RUDIMENTARY ECONOMICS ... perhaps, "Steele"1 for short.

"So, what are we in for?"

Ah, yes! It is a scrapbook of sadness, gore, tragedy, woe, wasted lives, bloodlettings, shootings, live burials and fatal fogs. Little things that will make your own life a little peppier ... perhaps, perhaps not.

Shall we start with:

"A CORPSE IN A TRUNK ... The Horrible Discovery Made By A Baggage Master ... The remains of a man found packed tightly in a trunk with no clue to the perpetrators of the deed is it another Maxwell-Preller tragedy?"

Corpse in a Trunk

1 Would Steele turn over in his grave if he knew what was happening? I hope so.

Thursday, June 28, 2001

Today (May 7, 1885) Steele's RUDIMENTARY ECONOMICS reported that the body in the trunk; the one found "... securely bound and in an advanced state of decomposition ... badly discolored and bloated ..." had been identified by the brother. In the same 'breath' the murderer was identified as Agiostino Jurado, an Italian.

We'll continue to follow this story. Is there a Sicilian connection? Who else is involved? Sex? Money?

In a far lighter vein Steele finds a 'typo' in this Petersburg, Virginia case: Burned alive or buried alive? Cremation or traditional turf burial?


Burned for Sure

Whewwwww ... "the damage done to property was small."

Friday, June 29, 2001

Mighty sad it is!

What has happened to our country? Are we becoming the ultimate yogurt people? Bland this ... and, never-risk that ... chalk flavored folks through and through. Bowing and nodding, here and there and everywhere. Oh, so gentle ... oh, so wimpy gentle. Yes, we are just that: ever wishy washy swishy, in every which way ... that's what we have become. Yep. Pieces of walking milk toast!

We turn to our government to settle everything. Gone are the days when we could blow the bastard away with our 12-gauge. Now we ask the Ritter Company to build us 'half-way' couches to dispatch our real bad baddies. Where are the posse and the hanging tree? And God only knows how many federal, state and county acronyms cocoon us from all the exciting maimings and colliery disasters of long ago. Even cemeteries are off limits for a bit of fun. Counselors, therapists, interveners ... hell, the 19th century never heard of them!

But, it wasn't always that way. Let Professor Steele crack open his book again and take us back to 1885 ... the year General Grant died ... the year Victor Hugo's sarcophagus rested under the Arc de Triomphe.

But, before we do ...

This week's only bright spot is Andrea Yates. Her deeds said it all: "Fuck it! No more hot meals on the table at 6 o'clock. Screw laundry! Stuff birthdays! I'm out of here."1 2

1 Of course, we had those things back in the 1880's ... only then it wasn't such a big deal. It got only a paragraph or two in the local paper. Yates got the cover of Newsweek.

2 Hey, kids, do you think your Mom was ever tempted? Five seems to be the threshold number. Looking back, do those baths seem scary?

Saturday, June 30, 2001

Happy Birthday, David1

This father and son hanging is a real throat-grabber. The boys at Terre Haute could never have pulled this one off without a lot of whining from the press.

This balloon incident is for Mike.

The 4th of July is just around the corner.

Patty, you don't have a dog, do you?

1 Make sure that was baking soda in the cake.

P.S. Mom's bed was next to the door ... first floor. Was PPD a late arrival?

P.P.S. Dearest reader:

I left you hanging. On the 28th (Thursday) I gave you a few details about a man found in a trunk: a man bound in twine and badly decomposed ... and, yes, it was the putrid green gas that escaped from the trunk that turned up an inquisitive nose; a nose that ferreted out this flesh most foul. But, I wax too much on this point. Anyway, at the time that was all I knew ... a body, a suspect. Little more.

Fresh news has just rolled off the presses.

Sunday, July 1, 2001

In a few hours Watcharee and I will leave for Bangkok, via Zurich. As we have about a dozen hours in Zurich between flights, our 'day' will be a long one: door-to-door about 36 hours. But, both flights are 'sleepers'; and the twelve hours in Zurich can easily be passed in the Swiss Army Knife Airport Duty Free Shop.

I'll sign on again on Tuesday, with SUMMER AND FALL IN BANGKOK.

Bye Florida!

Hello Bangkok!

Next up: Back to Bangkok

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