Carlo was born when the movie Top Gun first came out, in 1986. Hard to believe that 22 years have gone by. Crocodile Dundee, Sigourney Weaver and Aliens, Mr. T’s A-Team and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera were terrorizing audiences worldwide. Chernobyl and the Shuttle Challenger were the real-life horror stories. CD players (remember what “CD” means?) were the hottest technology.
I remember the moment Carlo was born. At same Manila hospital I was born in, a nurse gave me a thumbs up and mouthed the word, “Boy!”
I would have been very happy with any gender, as long as it was a boy.
I had 3 sisters, you see, and if another baby girl butted into my life I would have seriously considered ethnic cleansing.
I’d just visited the Fighter Weapons School at Miramar, but didn’t know about Top Gun until it came out on video.
At my pet bootleg Betamax (remember those?) rental store, they were playing the tape on TV.
An A-6 Intruder was taxiing, a hook up bar was being taken up by a catapult shuttle, and …
Holy Cow, was that a Tomcat?!
… an F-14 was catapulting off a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier!
There was no worldwide web, no computer games. The only F-14s seen on any screen was in Final Countdown, where the original Sheen (Martin, not Charlie aka Navy Seals) joined the Navy, two F-14s blew Japanese Zeros out of the air, and the CAG got very rich.
My cousin Albert was on the USS Nimitz where they filmed Final Countdown. He said the Hollywood F-14s were too clean.
He’s a Master Chief Petty Officer now. So I can reveal that he stole a real F-14 jock’s flight suit for me, and proved that it was fire-proofed by putting a lighter to it before I swatted his hand away.
Anyway, when Top Gun came out, it filled a desperate, yawning abyss in the imaginations of every red-blooded would-be fighter jock in the universe.
Back to Top Gun and Carlo. He of course caught the airplane bug as soon as his eyes could make out my scale models of Viggens, Tornados, Tomcats, Falcons, Dakotas, Blackhawks, … . From the time he could toddle around, Carlo watched the tape of Top Gun every morning.
That’s right. Every morning. Regularly. As soon as he woke up.
If I was still shaving in the bathroom when Goose started babbling about the MiG, international relations and the Finger, I knew I was running late for work.
Carlo learned to put the Top Gun tape into the machine before he learned to use the potty. (He learned to fly before he learned to drive, too. It’s all about prioritizing the essentials.)
There he was, in diapers, intently watching Maverick put the moves on Charlie (he thought that scene was boring).
Carlo quickly memorized choice dialogue from the movie.
“You two characters are going to Top Gun… . But you remember one thing. You screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dogshit outta Hong Kong!”
Later in life that Carlo learned that “dogshit” wasn’t an aviation term.
I’ve had more landings under my belt, so I get luckier with greasers. But Carlo is more conservative, meticulous, obsessive compulsive, as a pilot. Nothing beats that moment on takeoff, when we are sitting side-by-side in the cockpit, pushing the throttle in on takeoff, and Carlo says,
“Let’s go flying!”
One of my biggest regrets is that my own Dad, whose birthday it is today, died 9 years before Carlo was born. He would have insisted on flying with us every time.
Carlo is my best friend now. We share everything except underwear and girlfriends. He does our flight plans, fills up the logbooks and pulls the chocks. When he protests, I point out that the copilot always does these chores. When he takes the left seat, I tell him that passengers like me never have to do these chores.
I tell him he’ll understand when he becomes Captain.
To which he replies, in his best Iceman voice, “You’re a cool Dad. You can be my wingman any time.”
Happy Birthday, Carlo! Flight Lead, copilot, best friend. Son.