Thursday, October 09, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

This is Fleet Week in San Francisco. The main event is performances Saturday and Sunday by the Blue Angels, the US Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, executing utterly amazing maneuvers with their warplanes.

They begin to practice two days before, which means that we are treated to constant ear-splitting, heart-stopping noise for about six hours today and tomorrow, longer on the weekend. It sounds as if we are under siege.

It transports me to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as I imagine how the people in those buildings must have felt. I also think about cities being bombed during World War II, Honolulu, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, London, Dresden, and about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur, all the many human habitats destroyed to make a point, to subject one people to the will of another.

It gets old.

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder without having been bombed in any of those places because I feel a cellular connection to people everywhere.

With all respect to our brave service men and women and nothing but the greatest admiration for the fliers who put on these fantastic shows, I wonder how much the fuel costs to astonish people around the country nearly every day of the year. It seems like a flagrant waste of money that could be spent on something more beneficial, like health and education.

Two years ago, we went to the show and I admit that I was thrilled to be there.

Last year, we took our frightened cat in the car and drove considerably south of the city, out of the airplane traffic patterns, and walked on the beach. I feel for all the petrified cats and dogs and babies who are subjected to four days of fighter planes roaring close to the ground, causing structures to tremble and windows to rattle, with no conception of what is happening.

I'm thinking we'll go back to that beach which does not require a passport or even a full tank of gas and ride it out until Sunday night.


The CEO said...

Somehow I think that Clint Eastwood made sure they weren't flying over his house for four days. Not that the rich and famous are treated differently in California, or Washington, DC, where I live,or anyplace else.

Ronald Reagan decided to visit a friend several miles from my home near the end of his second term. The Secret Service blocked off streets for miles around as Reagan sat at his friend's house. I was diverted close to twenty miles out of the way to get home because Reagan was visiting. Not as bad as flight practice over your head for four days....

Of course, every time the President, any President takes off from the White House in the helicopter, traffic is halted so it doesn't fly over cars or trucks. Sorry for the rant.

Nick said...

Yes, it must be very thrilling to watch but as you say, surely that money could be put to better use and provide some tangible benefits to people. I live under the flight path to Belfast City Airport but luckily there aren't that many flights and the planes are still fairly high at this point. And I rather like it that the planes remind me of Belfast's connections with every city in the world.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea "riding it out" by moving against the grain, the crowds and heading for a (much) quieter, less dense destination.

Good luck and happy ear-muffling.

I loved your previous post, "in which a gentle opinion is expressed," especially the title. You have an amazing way with words. You do. Oh how you should be published and on every nightstand.

On a limb with Claudia said...

Gosh, I wonder if they are practicing in Denver this morning. (There's a lot of jet traffic today.)

OH CRAP!! I just remembered that we are an 'undecided state' - so McCain and what's-her-face are here every other day. ARRRRGGG!


Jocelyn said...

See? This is why I adore you. We had the Fly Boys in town a few months ago, and while I "got" the awe of it all, I moreso found it annoying and an appalling waste of gas and money and time and human power. You remain The Observation Queen.

Oh, and I HAVE been cutting your son's hair these last years. I don't use a tweezers, though; I use my teeth.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Well, Clint Eastwood doesn't live here, that's for sure.

Chaney (Dick, not Lon) was in town about a year ago and they cordoned off half the city.

Are they afraid the President will drop bombs on traffic from his helicopter?


I like airplanes quite a lot, actually, but I'm not sure that our ears were made to withstand the noise level generated by war planes.

I love the name "Belfast" for some reason. It sounds romantic in a nostalgic kind of way.


Oh, thank you so much! I love the idea of being on nightstands, the perfect soporific, the insomniac's friend. With a nice restful color on the book jacket.

I do need to get away. I'm having fantasies about being strafed from the air.


Well, it's your own fault for being so indecisive, Colorado. Still, constant visitations from the Peppy Duo seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

Have you ever read any Richard Condon novels? (Manchurian Candidate, among others.) McCain and Palin seem like characters he would invent.


I think I'm in need of Awe Withdrawal. I re-read my previous post about this event which I linked in this one, and couldn't believe the difference in tone.

I guess it's official now -- I am old and jaded.

How much does my son pay you to mow his hair with your teeth? Do you give lollipops?

Bob said...

I grew up on or around air force bases. the sounds of jets taking off, flying overhead, landing were a part of my daily existence, just part of the background noise.

thailandchani said...

Where in the world can you go to escape that noise? It can be heard for miles. (I remember something similar here.)

The whole display is something I find oddly sickening. Military shock and awe just leaves me cold.


Pam said...

I lived under a flight path for many years and it didn't bother me at all until one afternoon when an incredible earsplitting noise made me cower, the baby scream, dogs howl and the windows just about shatter.Ringing the airport to enquire what could possibly be so highly offensive to the senses,I was told "Oh don't worry about it, it's just the Prime Minister's plane." I thought,the Prime Minister knows what he can do with it, no matter how much you might like aircraft.If the noise and vibration affect humans that much, it must be on an atom bomb scale to small birds.To tell you the truth I felt s.#1t on from a great height. Give me bird poop any day.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Despite the noise, it is exciting to see these planes - FA-18 Hornets and B-2 Stealth Bombers. The pilots are incredibly skillful.

Long ago, I used to drive to a small airfield and watch planes take off for hours, but they were mostly small, single-engine aircraft.


I hate war too, of course. But it is thrilling to watch anyone, athletes, pilots, poets, at the top of their game.

We'll probably go to that beach south of here and watch seagulls.


Oh, the Prime Minister. Well, that's different.

Yes, poop is still poop, no matter where it comes from.

Some of these planes fly between buildings and things shatter. While I very much admire the pilots' abilities, four days of intense racket is simply too much.

Maria said...

It's kind of like on the fourth of July when our dog was so traumatized that he was a ball of shivers...

I suppose, though, that lots of people really enjoy the blue angels...

seventh sister said...

we have streets blocked off all the time around here wehn W comes to town. He doesn't come around so much since his daughter graduated fro UT. I think that beach sounds wonderful even if there aren't any planes around. so you ever go up to Samuel P. Taylor state park? I camped there about 9 years ago and it was great. It isn't too far from point Reyes.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Oh, poor Socks.

They are awesome fliers, and I believe they do this to boost enlistment. But I don't think that war planes should be used for performing, and definitely not in cities.


We haven't been to Taylor State Park, but go to Muir Woods often. It sounds lovely, and we'll check it out soon.

As far as I know, W never goes there.

meggie said...

So glad to be nowhere near any of that! They are very skilled, but I hate excess noise.

the walking man said...

I sometimes wonder if the display of military prowess is intended for the world or to let the citizens know what it could be that would control them in the event of dissent towards the government.

When the f-18's fly towards Selfridge ANG base I am not awed by them but they do take my mind to this place of "what if..."

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Every time I read about an accident at an air show, my heart aches - so unneccessary and such a waste.

I hadn't thought of the post-stress disorder patients or the animals and children that might be scared to death.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


So do I. I never did well at rock concerts, even with ear plugs.


Funny you should mention that. I just read that this month, the president has begun deploying troops to patrol American cities in the name of crowd control, which they practiced in Iraq.

It does not bode well for our future as free people.

I just sent you an email about this.


I saw and heard far more emergency vehicles during the weekend than usual, and wondered if people were having heart attacks since none of the Blue Angels crashed their planes, thankfully.

And all night, we were inundated with thick smoke from fires on Angel Island, right across SF Bay from us, even with the windows closed. Firefighters had to be transported to the scene by boat.

They probably started with a dropped cigarette or an untended campfire, more unnecessary waste that could have been avoided.

Say It said...

The beach is a far better way to spend the time. I know my dog needs anti-anxiety meds for fireworks and thunderstorm. I can only image what four days would do to her.

And yes!!! It does seem wasteful. I'm wondering how many families this winter wouldn't mind that fuel. (i know its a different grade of fuel, but still)

the walking man said...

From the Army Times confirming deployment of the 1st of the 3rd for homeland duty.

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

You've made an important connection we tend to push aside in our video-game world: real sounds with real consequences -- as well as imagined ones we tend to deny. Plus, one can't quantify the Swagger Coefficient, which influences hearts, minds, and policy makers.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Say it,

Beaches are nearly always the best place to be under any circumstances.


You read the article I sent you. Pretty damn amazing, huh?

I fear the worst is yet to come.


The Swagger Coefficient. Perfect.

So are you influenced yet?

Me neither.

Maddy said...

Beach therapy is the best therapy, as well as being free, if you ignore the current gas prices of course.
Best wishes

Ian Lidster said...

I go through the same conflict as you, despite the fact I love airshows. One year at our show (I live in a major AF base town) we had both the Blue Angels and the Canadian Snowbirds. It was quite a rush. I know what such planes exist for, but I pretend they're just for show.

Anonymous said...

I have always found these shows to be a little disturbing - reminders of war and terror. And yes, wasteful and dangerous.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I love beaches, and also airplanes, but not the extreme noise of an air show.


That must have been quite a show. We had the Thunderbirds here a few years ago, but never at the same time as the Blue Angels.


And yet, despite my pacifistic leanings they do inspire a bit of confidence, and a very large headache.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

God I miss the beach and the ocean. Nice shot.

I have desperately wanted to fly those planes since I was about 10.
Soley for the purpose of flying *really* fast.
I do NOT like their purpose at all, and it barred me from lifelong servitude in the air force.

But the shows are nice.
When the economy is not tanking.
When the exhaust doesn't hurt the planet (and boy howdy does it).
When they are performed OUT of town.

I'm split on this one. Jealous that they are there and you could see it, and annoyed that they are there doing it.


The beach sounds a lot better for several reasons.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I took flying lessons in college, (which I think I mentioned in the earlier post linked to this one) until my parents put a stop to it. So then I drove cars much too fast for much too long. I was lucky. Now I'm a reformed speeder.

Glamourpuss said...

I grew up next to a RAF base, so I empathise.


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I am a reformed speeder too, fines and the threat of losing a license (and insurance rates) will do that to you.

I am also halfway through my private pilots license.

Goddess sisters to the core.

I love that you're like that.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


And that was 24-7, year round, not just for four days once a year.

I feel so ashamed of complaining now.


I'm so excited for you and the pilot's license you will have, and also quite jealous. Will you have instrument training, too?

You totally rock!

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Si, Senora,

I love it so much that it's one of my minors. Major in photojournalism, minor in aviation and foreign language (French, Italian, Spanish & Japanese).

For the girl traipsing around the world with her camera, a good handle on communication and able to fly over and to/from anything in a single moment...
I'm taking martial arts too... just in case. Good for a globe trotting girl to know.

Scarlett & V.

PS ~ I'll take you for a spin someday, if you've a mind to go up.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett, aka James Bond,

I can't believe this - I speak French, Spanish and Italian to some degree, and have been trying to learn Japanese on my own while looking for a class. Photojournalism is one of my avocations, too. We are kindred spirits for sure.

As for the ride, I thought you'd never ask. How soon can you be here?

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

It depends on if I can sneak the stealth bomber out of the hanger without waking the guards.

If I fly the cessna, it'll take a bit longer.

Soul sister goddesses, absolutely.

S & V

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Except that one of us will have a pilot's license. Can I hold the wheel once we're up there if I don't tell anyone?

Oh, and definitely the stealth bomber. Was there any doubt?