"Around age 10 or so, just before school started at the end of summer, I removed the flying machine my uncle and I built from the hanging position of it's construction lair and hauled it up to the rooftop of the second story building across the street. Then, holding onto the machine for dear life, I jumped off."
"The Buddha said 'If a monk should frame a wish as follows: 'Let me travel through the air like a winged bird,' then must he be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be frequenter to lonely places.'"
Well before I even reached the age of entering kindergarten my mother's health began to deteriorate, eventually reaching a point that she was unable to care for herself let alone my two brothers and me. At the same time, my father began putting in more and more hours working in order to pay for mounting medical expenses. As my mother's condition continued to go downhill, almost under pure necessity, my father began placing my brothers and me more and more under the care of others. First as needed using day-by-day babysitters, then overnight with grandparents or neighbors, then for whole weekends. One day a childless husband and wife couple who were really good friends with the neighbors next door suggested to my father having one of us boys come live with them until things improved. After thinking it over my father agreed and for whatever reason the couple selected me.
No sooner had I moved in with in with the couple and started a new school than the two-week Christmas vacation, or winter recess as they call it now, rolled around and they took me, without my father's consent, to India, not returning until sometime around the start of summer --- in the interim missing the whole last half of the school year.
Prior to my mothers eventual passing, when my family was still whole and intact, that is, my mother well and in good health along with my father and my two brothers all living together under one roof, I had become enamored with a hand held toy of my older brother that was actually a free radio premium offer called a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph. My mother, seeing that using the decoder in the appropriate manner required dealing regularly with letters and numbers, and me willingly learning them at such an early age, she bought a bunch of Ovaltine and sent for a second decoder so both my brother and I would have one.
During those years from my early childhood up to high school, because of the death of my mother and the breakup of my family, I moved so much I was unable to haul a lot of stuff around with me from place to place, especially big stuff like bicycles, books, and desks. With so much of my life in flux month to month, year to year, the regular listening to Captain Midnight on the radio and decoding his daily secret messages using a Code-O-Graph, provided me with a strong, solid continuance and lifeline in an otherwise tumultuous world. People and families seemed to come and go, Captain Midnight seemed to stay. So said, decoders eventually floated to the top as my number one possession. When I was taken to India by the aforementioned couple and told I could take one toy and one toy only, there was no question, hands down, it was the then most up to date decoder at the time called a Photo-Matic.
Because of that perceived, real or not, strong, solid continuance and lifeline in an otherwise tumultuous world provided through influences such as Captain Midnight, et al, I was somewhat more attuned to comic book and radio premium offers than some of my peers, spending an inordinate amount of time conniving ways to send for, receive, and playing with such offers. So said, no sooner than I returned from India and placed with a new foster couple than I renewed my engagement into such activities.
Some of the very earliest premium offers I participated in immediately upon my return revolved around two of my foremost interests at the time, my favorite World War II fighter aircraft, the venerable P-40 Tomahawk or Warhawk depending on who flew them and where, the most notable being the Flying Tigers, and a comic book super hero tag-lined as the world's mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel. Both offers basically circulated around the same theme, two almost exactly alike. Once assembled they flew, flight and flying at even such an early age, being something I was becoming more and more taken by.
Over a roughly two-year period, with the end of their run just about the same time I returned from India, the Kellogg's cereal company, in a marketing campaign tied in with the war effort, began putting easy to assemble flyable balsa wood model war planes into boxes of their breakfast cereal PEP.
The inside-the-box free Kellogg's PEP premium offer consisted of a small flat sheet of balsa wood with the parts of the plane printed on it inserted inside a paper envelope. Directions for constructing the planes were printed on the envelope along with a brief description of the aircraft itself. Kellogg's claimed thirty different models, although the number varied from eight to twenty-one to thirty. There may have been a thirty plane run over the span of the promotion. Of course the one I was interested in was the P-40 which meant if I didn't get one right off or trade for one, most likely I ended up having to buy 3,000 boxes.
(for larger image to read instructions, etc., click image)
The other model I built and flew in those days, rather than being a more-or-less flat balsa wood plane like the PEP offer, was a dimensional penny in the nose P-40 cut out of heavy card-stock paper adorned with a Flying Tiger motif and USAAF insignia. The model was a promotional offer through General Mills, their cereal Wheaties, and their hunkering down stud Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy.
Which brings us up to the Flying Captain Marvel:
"Even though I had been known to jump off one-story porches, garages, and house tops with a bed sheet made into a parachute or behind my back tied to my wrists and ankles a la Captain Midnight's glider chute on more than one occasion, my very, very first serious attempt to build an airplane-like craft that would carry me in flight was based almost exactly on the glider I saw in Tarzan and the Huntress as seen above, except for a few slight modifications."
Tarzan and the Huntress
The above two offers involved the P-40 and similar war time aircraft. The fact that they flew was to be expected, because after all, they were airplanes. However, Captain Marvel was a man, yet he flew. The more I built and flew the flying Captain Marvel glider-type toy --- with a penny in its nose just like the Jack Armstrong P-40 --- the more intrigued I became. Here was a man, not a plane flying. In my young mind I could see no reason for such a thing not to be able to happen.
My uncle often stated that he felt the reason for my fascination with flying and flying things went back to an incident that involved the fly over of a giant airborne object that I witnessed as a young boy. The object, of an unknown nature and an unknown origin and as large as a Zeppelin at over 800 feet in length, was seen by literally thousands of people along the coast of California barely three months into World War II. Known variously as the UFO Over L.A., The Battle of Los Angeles, etc., etc., or as I call it The Battle of Los Angeles: 1942 UFO. Even though the object was able to take over 1440 direct rounds of anti-aircraft fire and still escape unscathed, the incident is mostly forgotten now except by maybe myself and a few others. Actually, although the L.A. UFO no doubt had a major impact, I personally think what really capped my fascination regarding the ability to fly, flying machines, giant flying creatures, giant feathers, et al, that seemed to dominate in later life, was born from a germ initiated from building, flying, and watching the Captain Marvel flying toy.
YOU CAN PRINT OUT THE ABOVE, CUT IT OUT, PUT A PENNEY IN THE NOSE AND FLY IT
In the above previous quote surrounding the black and white 1947 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan and the Huntress movie I write that my very first serious attempt to build an airplane-like craft that would carry me in flight was based almost exactly on the glider I saw in the movie, except for a few slight modifications. Even then in an early attempt at a short flight it was unsuccessful. My uncle, seeing how serious I was about the whole thing, stepped in suggesting I study the flight attempts of Leonardo Da Vinci and his Flying Machines. Again seeing the problems inherit with Leonardo's 1490 AD designs we switched to those by the 1895 AD German inventor Otto Lilienthal. After that it wasn't long before we had a workable flying machine. Almost.
Re the following, again from Tarzan and the Huntress:
"(D)uring the summer of 1948, just before school started and around age 10 or so, I removed the flying machine my uncle and I built from the hanging position of it's construction lair and hauled it up to the rooftop of the second story building across the street. Then, holding onto the machine for dear life, I jumped off.
"At first the craft seemed easily able to maintain the same two-story height advantage over quite some distance. But then, partway into the flight, instead of continuing in the direction I wanted, it began tipping lower on the right and turning. Without ailerons or maneuverable rudder controls and with inexperienced over-correcting on my part creating an adverse yaw followed by a sudden stall, the ensuing results ended with a somewhat dramatic drop, crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house diagonally across the way."
THE WANDERLING'S FIRST FLIGHT USED A HAND-BUILT FLYING MACHINE FROM A LILIENTHAL DESIGN
Many, many years following the above ill fated flight found me as a grown adult living in a small isolated cabin nearly a mile high up along the south facing cliff-sides of the Blue Mountains on the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, the West Indies.
One day a young girl living in the small village close to where I lived was hit by a car on the mountain road. The vehicle took off leaving her injured and unconscious laying facedown in the scrub brush of a muddy ditch alongside the weathered asphalt. The girl's parents, like most of the locals, were poor. Being poor they were not able to afford a regular doctor, so instead they opted for a less expensive, local solution. That solution included me, because I had found the young girl and knew the parents, and a village member because he knew the way among the mountain perilous trails and where we were going. We made a sling hammock suspended between two poles placed on our shoulders and carrying her slung front-to-back between us on what turned out to be an all day rugged journey high into the mountains of Jamaica. Our goal, to find a nearly hermit man of spells called an Obeah.
After the Obeah had performed a healing ritual for the young girl he joined me around an open fire outside his hut. He poured a warm tea-like broth into two small bowl-shaped cups without handles. He took one and gave me the other, gulping down the liquid while motioning me to do the same.
He asked me what I liked about Jamaica. I told him things like the weather and the people. Then he asked again what I liked about Jamaica. But now I wasn't able to answer. It was like my mind had grown so huge that trying to focus on something as minuscule as a few words to string together into a sentence had become an impossible hardship. As I struggled to form something at least semi-comprehensible the Obeah asked, "What about the old man in a far away place a long time ago that constructed bird-like contraptions in order to fly even as you did as a child?" Da Vinci was the answer, but I couldn't form the words. Finally I told him about my Totem Animal, Cathartes Aura, the huge six-foot wingspan condor-like turkey vultures Jamaicans call John Crows, that glide and soar for hours, riding the thermals, never flapping their wings. Then the following happened as found at the source so cited:
"That the Obeah seemed to like. Soon a cool breeze fell across my face even though it came from a direction from across the fire. The Obeahman took a vessel of water and tossed it onto the flames. A huge cloud of steam burst forth followed by a thick cloud of smoke. I jumped back and turned away, stumbling to the ground while covering my face and eyes. Then it got cold, very cold. The breeze began to blow harder and I could no longer feel the ground underneath me. It felt as though I was moving very fast, yet as far as I knew I was still on the ground by the fire. I moved my arm away from my face just barely squinting my eyes open. For an instant I was still in the billowing white smoke, then suddenly I broke through to clean, fresh air. The smoke was no longer smoke, but clouds high in the night sky. I wasn't on the ground, but hundreds of feet in the air, soaring through the night, arms along my side, wind in my face, stars over my head.
"With absolutely no effort I was able to swoop down the darkened mountain gullies and high into the air, eventually passing above Bamboo Lodge recognizable along the mountain road even in the dark because of a large empty swimming pool. Then, just barely above the treetops I picked up speed and headed toward the lighted streets and tall buildings of New Kingston. Soon I was even higher in the air over Port Royal, Lime Cay, and the Caribbean. Then somehow the exhilaration began to fade. I turned back toward the mountains as a creeping apprehension seeped into my thoughts. Then nothing."
The Wanderling's Journey
Around ten the next morning a couple of Jamaican kids found me unconscious in a ravine about a mile from Bamboo Lodge and miles from the Obeah's hut, naked, all scratched up, and in the bushes, as though I had crashed through the trees or something. The kids apparently went to their parents or adults and told them there was a naked white man in the gully all beat up. Since I was one of the few white men in the area the adults must have assumed it was me and told Benji, the Bamboo Lodge groundskeeper. After discovering for sure who it was, he brought some shoes and clothes and took me home. Everybody in the village area knew what had happened.
THE ZEN MAN FLIES
THE TIME PILL PARADOX
(please click image)
LEONARDO DA VINCI: 500 YEARS TO SOON
THE FLYING MACHINE: CHINA 400 A.D.
DID LEONARDO DA VINCI FLY?
THE WANDERLING, BEGGARMAN, THIEF
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
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YOU CAN PRINT OUT THE ABOVE, ENLARGE IT IF YOU LIKE, CUT IT OUT, PUT A PENNEY IN THE NOSE AND FLY IT