27 March 2007

This is for Malcolm

Just to confirm that I do take an interest in my husband's extracurricular activities, I would like to post these highlights from a very recent Books and Culture interview with William Langewiesche:

Q: Are you a pilot who writes or a writer who flies?

I'm a writer. Even when I was a pilot I was a writer.


Q: Should we honestly believe that if we're in a plane going down that our seat cushions can be used as flotation devices?

There are plenty of cases of airplanes going into the water and people surviving. What to do in that case is not difficult to remember. Get the hell of out the plane and don't wear your high heels down the inflatable exit ramp.

All righty, then.

This reminds me of that night outside Portland, Oregon, when we accidentally passed the Spruce Goose. We had been to a wedding in Medford, though we had stayed in Ashland at the beautiful Ashland Springs Hotel. We spent the post-wedding afternoon in the redwood forest ogling gigantic trees and then took a leisurely drive up the Oregon coast the next day because we were flying back home from Portland the day after that.

So we stopped at various points to watch creatures and eat local desserts and such, but as darkness achieved its westward creep from the east, we set our faces toward Portland. Until we saw this:

Imagine that the sky is a beautiful black and you haven't passed anything worth discussing in a while. Imagine that you're just driving down the highway and happen to glance left as you're approaching a huge hangar full of a huge airplane some ways off the road. Imagine that you say to your pilot husband, "Look, look" and the car drifts in the direction you are gesturing almost instinctually.

We can hardly close our jaws as we turn off the road and drive toward it, for the plane keeps getting bigger and bigger. I scramble for some kind of guide book that might tell us what we see, but signage finally makes it clear: that's the Spruce Goose.

Of course, the museum is closed because it's past dinnertime, but we park and walk around the hangar. The all-glass front wall lets you see the thing fairly well; what you can't see in the photo above is that other small planes (like the ones Micah flies on a regular basis) are lined up for display under the Spruce Goose's wings. The photo below might help you get a sense of scale: note the helicopter flying above the plane.

Now, the history of the Spruce Goose is a fascinating one, and so is the biography of the one who envisioned and built it. But the awe I felt driving toward it and standing next to it (albeit outside its hangar, which seemed all the more awful) was oddly not like the fear I feel for big things (like gigantic artifacts displayed at museums, like whales and all other massive creatures that abide in the ocean, and like the ocean itself) but more like a great intrigue for a meal I have never before eaten but suddenly find before me.

That is, it was deeply satisfying to see such a huge, crafted thing, such a bold creativity put so carefully together. And it was delicious to stand and reverence the thing, because that seemed the only right thing to do. Just like a primo bowl of macaroni and cheese at the Steakhouse. . . .


Muffy said...

Wowzers. That thing scares me. Just LIKE a big ole whale and the ocean itself. But what fun to see it, especially when not expecting it. Very cool. Even the hangar is amazing!

p.s. Malcom, I'm having to type EIGHT letters this time. Geez.

Micah said...

good thing it was a rental car

Jen Strange said...

Oh it's whale-like. Like a big wooden orca. But without those comb-y teeth.

And much better to see accidentally than a whale. Bring me the Spruce Goose anyday but not so much an orca suddenly roadside.

I apologize for the troublesome authentication you must provide in order to make a comment. Oh my, eight letters. Oh my.

Howard (blink, sniff) Howard...Howard (twitch) Howard Hu (blink) Hughes said...

It's a beauty. You should (blink, sniff) see see the original plans (blink) plans I drew up. I need those plans (blink) plans...plans (blink) plans...need those plans. (blink, blink) I'm fine...plans (sniff, blink twitch) plans.

Arthur Jackson said...

Jen, since the Spruce Goose gave you the feeling of a strange meal suddenly set before you, maybe you should try to eat it and more than one-up that guy who's rumored to have eaten a Cessna. You should probably wait until your pregnant again so as to have the aid of that enormous appetite. Fatty!

Jen Strange said...

Mmm, good idea. Makes me hungry. Maybe if I saw the (blink, sniff) plans I could figure out the best fork-and-knife attack (blink, sniff).

Micah said...

The Langeweische piece is excellent. Thanks.

Jen Strange said...

You're welcome.