An Ode to Claudia
Reno, Nevada isn't usually too hot on August nights. All those trees get to swaying and they dance a breeze around you that makes you forget the sweltering heat of the day. That's why I liked being a musician, a keeper of the night and night things. My band usually played till two in the morning and if we were lucky enough to get a gig over in Vegas we made sure to travel in those cool still hours before dawn.
But catching a private plane can be hell. Independent pilots may be portrayed as quirky in the media but it made me crazy when they showed up three hours late or not at all.
I decided to get my own license to fly. Kind of went with my image, you know? Female lead singer in an otherwise all male band. I wore leather most shows and kept myself bony and edgy. I fancied I channeled Amelia Earhart, navigating the skies how and when I chose, not needing or wanting any other pilot. Rented a six-seater and, once the guys got used to flying with me, we accepted gigs as far away as Salt Lake City and LA.
Turned out I was born to fly. Music paled in comparison to going up alone and executing loops and dives. I would turn my plane, swallow and deal with a tiny balloon of panic and aim the nose straight at the earth. There may be a thousand thrills in thunderous applause but it will never match the excitement of racing God for your life.
I suppose I had to grow up sooner or later. Walked in the airport office one afternoon and saw several of my buddies filling out forms. "What you doing?" I asked.
They shuffled their papers and tried to ignore me.
"What are you doing?" I repeated.
"Commercial applications," Jim Hightower finally said. "We didn't want you to know cause you'll beat us all out."
Howdy Bates handed me a form. "Don't worry. We would have told you. We got you one, too."
Six months later I found myself in a blue pilot's uniform, a stiff and spiffy cap on my head, maneuvering a 737 into Dallas' Love Field. Pretty tame business with auto-pilot and all those controllers. Still, sometimes in those night skies over America, I lean back, let that jet fly itself and Amelia sings seductive songs inside my head.
The band is just an echo now but I'm still a keeper of night things.
First published: August, 2007
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