Bangkok, Amsterdam, Arnhem, Köln, Remagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bangkok. Manila, Chicago, San Francisco, Manila, Bangkok, Singapore. Manila, Nashville, San Francisco, Manila, Bangkok, Singapore. Bangkok, Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Bangkok, Manila. My travel schedule for the last 60 days. Oct 23 to Dec 23. A lifetime of travel for many people.
Somewhere in there I squeezed in an annual inspection of the airplane, a test flight for a new airworthiness certificate, a condominium search in Singapore, and closing and transferring my office from Bangkok to Singapore. And about eight thousand conference calls, budget meetings, business reviews.
The airplane was grounded for most of October, for re-registration, re-insurance and the annual inspection. Carlo and I hardly flew. Carlo too was swamped with work. He is now a full-time English teacher at the Ateneo. There was very little time to write, and no inspiration.
What there was too much of was business travel.
But there were some light moments. I boarded an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago on the eve of the US Presidential Elections. The Captain, wearing a tie plastered with American flags, stood at the cockpit door greeting everyone. I boarded in a suit, a trench coat and a fedora. ‘Skyfall’ was already showing in Asia.
Tonet: Nice tie, Captain.
Captain: Make a hole, MI6 is coming through!
Tonet (shaking the Captain’s hand): Bond. James Bond.
Captain (gesturing to the cockpit): That’s your seat, then. Just don’t touch anything!
As I sat down in the passenger cabin, he called out.
Captain: Do you have any spare poker chips, Mr. Bond?
Tonet: No. I put them all on red and lost.
Captain: I plan to vote in San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C., myself! Can’t be too sure!
I was in Chicago when Obama won the election. Huge crowd at the Democratic Party headquarters.
Two weeks later and three countries later I was back in the US. As I boarded an American Airlines jet in Dallas, the same Captain was at the boarding gate. “Bond. James Bond,” I said, shaking his hand. He was speechless. Probably convinced that I was spying on him.
Germany was a short holiday. I defected from East to West at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, scene of many Cold War confrontations.
In Köln, one of my favorite cities in Germany, I visited the great cathedral, where the relics of the three Magi are kept in a gilded urn.
In the Netherlands, I walked the woods around the Market-Garden airborne drop zones at Renkum Heath, taking call after conference call. Holiday or not, I was on call 24×7 on work crisis after crisis. The ‘Autumn Leaves’ was my Dad’s favorite song.
I peered at the Lower Rhine at Arnhem, and in the far distance, the arched girders of the Bridge Too Far.
In Singapore I dropped by the historic Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling was invented, and Somerset Maugham wrote some of his best work.
In Bangkok, Carlo and Julio visited during their semester break. It was the last time they would visit the apartment we had lived in for the last eight years. Julio, who is pile-driving his way through his last semester towards an Economics Honors degree, had a lot of sleep to catch up on. When he was awake he hammered his way across Europe and conquered Africa and the UK, something that no one has accomplished since the Roman Legions.
At Woodland airfield, with the airplane undergoing its annual inspection, I watched with envy while Mike and his instructor put Mike’s and Owen’s Stearman through a short, snappy and spectacular show for us hangar rats. Damn, the airplane is beautiful! Five years of loving restoration, all authentic parts. A real jewel. The video is a good one, but the photo below shows an impossible sideslip at 45 degrees to the runway, eight feet off the ground. Total control.
It was a brutal 60 days. Twenty-five cities in six countries on three continents. Not counting connections or layovers. That’s why there hasn’t been an article since September. Carlo has been no less busy. We owe you lots of stories.
Posted from Manila, December 23, 2012.