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To see my words in print

February 28, 2021

I set out at the beginning of this month to try to write consistently about something that brought me delight. Like the sun illuminating your world every morning, I’d scribe a new post each day.

Sounds simple enough. Things were getting pretty heavy in the world in recent weeks, so I was hoping to redirect some energy towards a more airy topic. Who doesn’t like to delight over something, anything? I even picked the shortest of all months to do so.

If you’re one of the two or three people that might actually read past the first sentence of my blog, I thank you. You, my devoted reader(s) also probably noted that I did not succeed in my endeavor.

I missed a few days. More than a few. 10 to be exact.

True, I do work some strange hours, gobbling up my usual late night typing time. And yes, I have personal obligations in which to attend just like the rest of us.

But sometimes I just wasn’t feeling all that delightfully contemplative. Some nights I just wanted to sit on the sofa with Drew and watch Jeopardy! reruns. Or try to fix partially functioning strings of Christmas tree lights. Curling up with Kat and a glass of wine sounded better than burrowing away in a quiet corner of our home with my laptop, especially given how cold it’s been.

I still do like to write, to produce, to read what I’ve finished–usually the day after I press the “Publish” button on my blog. Something about a night’s rest tends to reset my head when I reread what I’ve typed. Invariably, this means I notice a punctuation or grammar gaffe or the redundant use of a word, so I have to edit my post. Whatever. It’s how I write. Better than nothing, right?

I don’t like that last sentence because ‘write’ and ‘right’ don’t sound, ahem–right.

But still I persist.

I grew up reading Flying magazine. Knowing that I’m a pilot, this probably doesn’t surprise any of you. I’ve had an uninterrupted subscription to this monthly periodical for almost 40 years now. Initially, I was drawn to the sharp photography of the beautiful aircraft that were typical of what I could expect to be flying the day I earned my pilot’s license. Plus they featured bigger planes, too. Fancy bizjets. Exotic homebuilts. Nostalgic biplanes. Historic warbirds. And, of course, big jet airliners. That was my real dream, to fly one of those beauties. I devoured every page of every issue.

Between the front and back cover were also articles devoted to flying techniques, tips for safer flying, and even a column called “I Learned About Flying From That.” In that section, Flying readers would submit their own tales of adventure or woe, and with the providence and solace of hindsight, they would describe exactly how they escaped calamity. I wanted to learn this. This! To keep my neck out of trouble–this!

Eventually, I would work my way to the end of the magazine each month, to where the staff columnists would hold court on their aviation specialties. Peter Garrison and his ‘Technicalities,’ usually something esoteric and mathematical. Len Morgan’s ‘Vectors’ column, written from the salty perspective of a senior airline Captain. Dick Collins and his ‘On Top’ entries, focusing on flying general aviation aircraft safely and efficiently.

But by far my favorite column–and eventually the part of Flying magazine I would turn to first–was ‘Bax Seat,’ written by a warm, earthy fellow from east Texas named Gordon Baxter. “Bax,” as he was known, was a prolific communicator starting in local radio way back in the 1940s, eventually branching out into writing for newspapers and magazines, most notably Flying, where I first discovered him.

Bax’s column spoke to me because Bax was a storyteller. He just had this uncanny ability to draw any reader into the room as he typed. He loved little airplanes. He loved little airports. He loved the people that inhabited both. Those are the stories he would fill Bax Seat with. His own novice escapades. His soaring triumphs, like when he finally earned his pilot’s license after years of trying. Or when he somehow learned to fly by instruments, even when the instruments he was looking at “were making faces at him.”

Or his abject failures, like after being disqualified from flight status due to seizures, he admitted to having blacked-out at the controls of his own private airplane, at night, alone–for 15 astonishing minutes–and lived to tell about it. His column contained breathtaking gut punches just like that. They were rollicking, subversive or riveting, often all in the same monthly installment.

Reading Bax’s humor, homespun style and self-deprecating ways felt like eating a plate of biscuits and gravy fresh off the stove. His humility took a little bit of the mystique out of my vision of what being a pilot was. And in doing so, it made my dreams of being a pilot that more attainable.

And so, while in college, I wrote to Bax. Like an acolyte, I gushed a bit describing to him how religiously I read his work. I also asked, in my chicken scratch penmanship I had by then mastered, “How does one become a writer?” An obvious question, and mostly rhetorical for sure, but I did want to hear directly from the best writer I knew.

Of course Bax wrote me back. I dug out the very letter from the rest of my college memories, cataloged as “JUNK” in that plastic tub in my crawlspace.

In his single-sheet reply, monogrammed with a caricaturized drawing of himself, Bax wrote in clear, stylized print:

“Dear Dave,

I get about one letter a week like yours. All of them I hear seriously.

The only way to write is 1st, be a reader,

2nd just be a writer

–but learn to type.

Good luck,

Bax”

So it’s with that, with Bax sharing his ‘secret’ way to become a writer, I continue my journey. His own joy and delightful gift is what inspires me to keep typing. Thanks for reading. And stay tuned.

My delightful inspiration

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