29th October 2000

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Well the big news this month is that I started my flying lessons. The first lesson was just an introductory flight, although I did get my hands on the controls briefly. I’m learning in a Cessna 152, a small two seater training plane, very stable but not too quick. My instructor is Nigel, who is quite young, and has only been flying for 2 years, but he’s been doing it full time, so I trust him!

The second lesson was a bit more involved. After the initial walk around, we jumped in, and I had my first go at taxiing, which was ok until it came to to stopping. To apply the brakes you must apply equal pressure to both rudder peddles at the same time, which I failed to do, sending the plan swerving to the right and almost off the runway. I managed to get it back to the centre though, ready for take-off. Nigel took over until we were airborne, then I took the controls and we did some attitude exercises, bringing the nose up, and down, and banking to the left and right. Nothing too scary, and I think I did fairly well.

The following weekend I didn’t have a lesson, as we went down to New York for a long weekend of sight seeing and visiting friends, starting on the Thursday. We met one friend at the airport, Charlie, and got a bus with him into town, followed by a cab to our hotel. We stayed at the Gershwin Hotel on E 27th and 2nd. The hotel has an art gallery, and pictures and photographs throughout, as well as some strange wiggly tongue shaped lighting fixtures. Although the hotel was interesting, our stay there wasn’t perfect, with a not too comfy bed, poor facilities, and awful message handling.

Our first engagement in NYC was a Blue Rodeo concert, at a tiny venue called the Mercury Lounge, which holds about 250 people, much more cosy than the other Blue Rodeo concerts we’ve been to! We sat close to the stage and watched the support band, Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, who were very good, with a female singer who had a fantastic voice. We thought we had a perfect place for the concert, but as Blue Rodeo hour approached we got swamped by people and ended up a little way back from the stage. We still had an excellent view though. I think the audience was almost completely Canadian, with the odd token American here and there!

The venue was so small that the band actually had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage, which took a little while, but once they were up there they did an excellent set, great music interspersed with a few funny moments, like Jim Cuddy asking everyone where we were going afterwards!

Special mention must go to the insane person in the Roots NYC hat who screamed at the start of practically every song, danced frenetically, and topped up Charlie’s beer bottle for him when he was empty.

At the end of the concert we stood outside for a bit, and Jen spotted Greg Keelor coming out the front door, so she gave chase and cornered him for an autograph, which is now on our magnet board (“Hi Jennifer, from Gsquiggle squiggle”).

The next day we decided to do touristy things, so we went to the Empire State Building, up to the observation deck for some panoramic photos of the city. That’s the second time I’ve paid money to ride in an elevator, it’s becoming a habit. We followed that with a very long walk around some shops, and a visit to Times Square, where we bought Harry Potter merchandise and had a meal at “Playwrights” bar and grill.

On the Saturday we braved the subway system to get down to Battery Park, and jumped on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. While waiting in the ridiculously long queue for the ferry, we were entertained by some amusing street entertainers, who not only had great acts, but good messages about their city, and acceptance and tolerance.

We didn’t spend long on the island, a few photos of the green lady (we weren’t going to climb up that thing!), and it was back on the boat back to Manhattan. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the Soho area, and visited a disappointing modern art museum exhibiting some very odd stuff.

Saturday evening was our second main reason for visiting NYC, we had arranged to meet with a bunch of our friends from ChatGames. We met at a mussel restaurant called MarkT, with Nick and Deirdre, Stella and Harry, Roger and Grace, Charlie, and Rob (separately that is, they aren’t a couple or anything!). A good time and good food was had by all, despite a slightly gruesome conversation on the dangers of eating brains. Unfortunately PB was unable to join us, maybe next time…

The next day we headed home. We managed to get seats on an earlier plane, so arrived home a few hours earlier than expected.

Last weekend I had my third flying lesson. I was a bit shocked to hear Nigel saying “you’re going to help me take off today”, and even more shocked to hear him say “Now you’re going to land the plane” at the end of the lesson, but it all went very well despite being a little nerve-racking. While in the air we practiced straight and level flight, with some course changes and altitude changes.

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