Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Nick Galloway Watercolor for United Airlines...

Honest... what were they thinking!

In 1930, Boeing created the revolutionary Monomail, which made traditional biplane construction a design of the past. The Monomail wing was set lower, was smooth, made entirely of metal and had no struts (cantilevered construction). The retractable landing gear, some of the earlier models actually had fixed gear with skirts attached, streamlined the fuselage and the engine covered by an antidrag cowling added up to an advanced, extremely aerodynamic design. I think the angle Nick chose for this illustration perfectly depicts the plane's best aerodynamic advantages. I also like the warm tones on the underwing side of the plane... subtle, but a nice touch to the overall cool tones.
I read that a major drawback of the Monomail was that its design was too advanced for the engines and propellers of the time. The airplane required a low-pitch propeller for takeoff and climb and a high-pitch propeller to cruise. The plane was constantly being modified to accommodate all the new technology, but by the time the variable-pitch propeller and more powerful engines were available, the Monomail was being replaced by newer designs, like the Boeing 247. The aircraft must have been in the airline fleet briefly for they didn't even have time to paint on a United Airlines logo.

Another view. Passengers are loading into the plane via a step ladder, ha!
The Model 200, originally designed as a mail plane, apparently later, was redesigned to make the Model 221 a six-passenger transport. Both were later revised for transcontinental passenger service as Model 221A, which upgraded the passenger seating and hopefully the engine noise since the streamlined fuselage had been built for speed and not necessarily comfort. But, pity the poor pilot sitting in an open cockpit...
Honest, what were they thinking?

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"C'est La Vie," Oue Sera, Sera, and What It Is, Is What It Is!"

Mom Booga-loos it!
More than a week ago, I lost two good friends. One, Bernie David, was 67 years old and died quite unexpectedly while having minor heart surgery and the other, AnneMarie Burgard, fought cancer for over two years. She was 62 years old. Although Anne was very aware of her condition, she rarely spoke about the many chemos she must have endured unless the results of such treatments made it hard to disguise to anyone.

But, Anne was very cool about her condition accepting what she could, graciously answering the myriad of questions we all had to ask. Her faith and her family gave her the courage to continue the fight. Like my wife, Anne was a very intense and dedicated teacher, who was always talking about the trials and tribulations of her students. She really cared about them. Over the period of a year, she'd show up at our weekend breakfasts at Gus's in Folsom regardless of her physical and emotional condition and would eventually end up talking about her class.

AnneMarie at a polo event in May!
Somehow, she had us all believing that she would somehow survive this terrible disease. The last time I saw AnneMarie she was having breakfast with the gang, but had a hard time speaking. What I heard her say was that on Monday, she was going to the hospital for three days of testing.

The news, at first, was very encouraging, but as the days grew into weeks, eventually she would relapse to the point where she was sent to stay at her mother's home in New Orleans. I guess we were all in denial.

Bernie, was a retired oil man, who traveled extensively while employed with various oil companies. Being financially set in retirement, he taught himself to play the accordion, Cajun style. He was also very much into his heritage and discovered not only his Cajun roots, but also his M'kmac Indian roots and celebrated it every chance he got. He loved giving seminars about Indian life in Acadiana as well as Nova Scotia and Acadia. As one would expect, Bernie loved entertaining and making people smile which naturally brings the many stories of his life like playing on the steamboat, Natchez, playing on a street corner in the French Quarter, playing at crawfish gatherings in Acadiana, or playing at the local library.

Mom, Bernie and me at Bastille Day celebration.
One evening, Bernie saw us having dinner at Gus's, which we rarely do. He said he was concerned about his lack of breath whenever he did something strenuous. A week later, he told me that the tests had found a nodule on his lung and a clogged artery that would need attention.

"Ben, what it is, is what is, you know? I just wanna get all this behind me and play my music. That's the most important thing for me, at this time of my life... to play my music!"

He went in for surgery on October 8 and never returned home. Bernie passed away a day before Anne did.

A week ago today, I took my mom and met my wife at a Mexican restaurant. The deaths really had me in a funk, and the rest of the week did not go so well either. It was time to chill out and maybe get drunk, if that's what was called for. Though I'm not one for losing control of myself, saying so was my way of acquiescing... to everything!

After ordering another double margarita, my wife questioned my decision to have another.

"C'est la vie," I replied. That's what Chuck Berry said the "old folks say!"

 "It goes to show, you never can tell!"

And, you can't. It was a beautiful evening with a nice, cool breeze. We had dinner and a few margaritas, but really had not much else to say to one another other than compliment the food. Basically, we just sat and witnessed the sun setting down on a wretched week.

Good riddance, I thought.

Having finished our dinner, as we left the outdoor patio, and walked back into the restaurant, a solo musician was playing his version of Richie Valens," La Bamba" in two thirds waltz time. I laughed and told my mother that the guy was playing a very familiar song but in waltz time. She suddenly decided to dance a kinda of jig as she shuffled her way to the woman's bathroom. My wife gingerly escorted her, as I walked out to the car which was conveniently parked in a handicapped spot just outside the entrance door and waited.

"When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother what would I be?"

Hearing the opening lines of that song, I closed my eyes and slumped down onto the hood of the car. How strange it was that two of my friends were gone and my eighty-eight year old mother is dancing her way to the restroom alive and kicking. How do you make any sense of all of this?

What was it? Good genes? Maybe. Moderate life style? No way, not my mom. Drinking? No! Smoking? Well, actually yes. She did smoke until I promised to stay in college if she stopped smoking! But, smoking all those years didn't seem to have an adverse affect on her.

What is it? Luck of the Irish? No, she's French!

As I was struggling to figure this all out, trying hard not to embrace all those religious cliches about death, despair and destruction, the words of the song that the mistral was playing became more poignant.

"Aw man, this is all too much," I said as I sat up from the hood of the car. And when I did, I noticed my mother was booga-looing her way to exit the restaurant with Therese holding her arms out to catch mom should she lose count on her "waltz time."

"Man, the human spirit," I thought, "it's never gone in people even when they are. It kinda lives on in all of us!"

 I opened the car door for my mother, and smiled as I heard the third chorus of the song...

"Will I be handsome, will I be rich? Here's what she said to me..."

"Que sera, sera, what ever will be, will be,"

The future's not ours to see, "Que sera, sera, What will be, will be..."

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III