A little music makes everything better…
As I write this it is 5:06AM, I am sitting in the Detroit airport waiting for a flight home. Oh the joys of being a vampire working all night just to comminute home. All things being equal there are much more difficult ways to earn an income. To help the time pass by, I have the Pandora Radio going which helps drown out the endless announcements from the gate agents, the overbearing, noncontroversial television speaker that blares at an intensely obnoxious level and the idle conversations from the already weary travelers. A lady just told her husband that he was at the airport, not home. He was going to have to take care of himself as opposed to her wonderful service. I am slightly jealous of her biting sarcasm, it was delivered in a deliciously condescending tone. My flight leaves at 6:40 and I need to tell a little story to get my mind off the insanity around me.
In September 2003, the number one, most essential item for any crew deployed to Iraq was a patch cord. The Communications/Radio technicians were able to use their training and skills to fashion a hybrid cord that would connect a CD player/Walkman to the aircraft intercom system. In the days before smart phones, I-PADs, MP3 players and other music devices all we had were the now antiquated CD players. In the pre-Napster days, all the bases in the region had file sharing drives on the base computer systems. It seems that the computer literate folks were able to load any song from a CD to the intra-net. Then anyone (who was computer literate) could download their favorite music for free. A novel concept for someone whose computer knowledge began and ended by putting a quarter into a video game.
Fortunately Gummy, the Flight Engineer, and Kevin M, the Co-Pilot, were computer literate and had the knowledge, ability, and willingness to create hours of unending music for the flights. Gummy became the DJ for the crew because his seat was nearest to the patch cord. Technically, Harry the Navigator was closer but he is as technologically backwards as I am. I am sure he could have learned how to press the play button but his other drawback is that he couldn’t pick out good tunes. Like DJ Jazzy Jeff, Gummy could pick out the perfect song for any moment. Gummy would ask about my mood before the flight, my reply was always the same; angry.
The music was the perfect distractor from the continuous drone of the four engines. Playing low in the background, we could still hear all the radio transmissions, the crew communications, and everything else that was important. Gummy was cleared to start and end the music as he desired. Thanks to him, I was introduced to groups like Evanesence, The Foo Fighters, Three Doors Down, Godsmack, Puddle of Mudd and so many others that escape my mind at this hour.
But to me there was nothing better than rolling in on Baghdad, Balad, or Mosul with some old school Ozzy, Van Halen, or Metallica cranking at full volume. Gummy was a full service DJ playing some great tunes from all genres including David Allen Cloe, Hank Williams Jr, Nelly, Fifty Cent, and old school NWA. I know that no one off the intercom could hear it but it gave us a feeling of Apocalypse Now. I think today the crews have the ability to plug their headsets directly into their smartphone, tablet or MP3 player so they can enjoy individual music but to me there was something that brought a crew together by sharing a song.
One specific memory was about a year later, flying in Afghanistan. John B., was the Co-Pilot. Roy S. was the Navigator, Richie L. was the Flight Engineer, and Pat M. was the Load Master. We had just taken off from Jalabad on the Pakistan border heading back to Bagram on a regularly scheduled trash hauling mission. John B had made us a mix CD or randomly selected songs. We were rolling at about 100 feet and 300 knots just flying over the barren moonscape when the next song up was Roadhouse Blues by the Doors. The only sound was the music from Jim Morrison, otherwise the radios and the intercom was absolutely silent. Suddenly we all keyed the intercom at the exact same moment singing one of the famous lines in rock history. “I woke up this morning and got myself a beer.”
I looked over at John then back at Roy and Richie. I saw Pat standing next to Richie and we all started laughing. We finished singing the song, overriding Jim’s voice in of own off key voices. It was the sound track of a collective effort to make it back home.
If you are so inclined you can head over to the Magill Review and check out my latest article about Huntington WV being voted the nation’s most obese city. Sometime soon, Josh Magill is going to honor us with his presence with a full length article. I can’t wait, it will be nice to finally have a professional writer grace this site. I hope you all have a wonderful week, Good Friday and Easter.
Until next time, keep on rockin.