Author Archive for jdbernard743 – Page 3

Travel is Like Chocolate Mousse…

It might have been Treasure Island or Mutiny on the Bounty that sparked my interest, but islands have always exerted a magnetic pull on me. Small. Romantic. Isolated. Surrounded by water. Their attraction is galvanic.

I first heard about the Balearic Islands when I was in college.  Dots in the Mediterranean Sea, ruled successively by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Moors, and Catalans. Spain, but not quite Spanish – Mallorquin. Exotic.

The archipelago has four major islands – Mallorca, the largest, with Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera in descending order. My first visit was to Formentera a few years before its first hotel was built. Then, a windless sailing trip took me to Ibiza, the party island, where we repaired the blown engine that left us becalmed in Mediterranean shipping lanes at night. Mallorca was last in the sequence but not least in its appeal. read more

Have We Passed the Point of No Return?

I am profoundly sad today. Yesterday, the country I love, the country I served, and the liberal democracy I believed in revealed itself to be under the thumb of an ultra-conservative, self-serving minority.

I remember the racist backlash when Michelle Obama told a 2008 primary campaign audience,

“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback … not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

I too was proud – for the same reason. We were about to elect an African American, running on a platform of “hope and change,” to the presidency of the United States. I was all in. read more

Zipless Death, PTSD, and Suicide…

The guided missile attacks that are an important part of Putin’s assault on Ukraine remind me of my own sharply contrasting experience as a fighter pilot in the 1960s. Combined with a recent story of a University of Washington graduate turned drone pilot, it’s brought the horror of today’s remote killing machines home in a heart-wrenching manner.

For seven years I flew state-of-the-art Marine Corps fighters in air-to-air combat, but it was peacetime and my aerial combat took place over California’s Salton Sea. It was the Marine Corps vs. the Air Force. We flew out of MCAS El Toro and the Air Force from bases in the So Cal desert. Engagement was unplanned but both sides entered the restricted area over the Salton Sea looking for targets of opportunity. Our F8s would jump their F-100s or vice versa, and the fight was on. Then, having burned thousands of gallons of JP4, we would return to base and regale comrades at Happy Hour with “war stories” of how we kicked Air “Farce” ass. read more

You Can’t Beat Haydn…

Once upon a time, in what seems like a galaxy faraway, I was living the perfect life. Perfect wife. Three perfect children. East Coast boarding schools. A mountain house near Sun Valley. A large manicured lawn. My own tennis court. A large clear-redwood deck. Flying for Pan Am. Commuting to Europe. A month on.  A month off. Berlin-based. In and out of European capitals. A classic high-ceilinged Alt-Bau apartment on the edge of the Grunewald. Training for marathons.

And then one day the perfect life ended… I came down with a neuromuscular disease. Symptoms included double vision, drooping eyelids, legs too weak to climb into a van, and jaw muscles too weak to bite into an apple. Then my sick pay ran out, income went to half, Pan Am went bankrupt, income went to zero, and I lost most of my pension. read more

Thoughts on Holy Week…

At one time I considered myself a seeker. In college I had a split major in English and Philosophy, and during that period I dipped my toe in the waters of youth group born-again evangelism. It didn’t last long. I found the waters contaminated, but it was a stage in my spiritual life.

Buddhism also piqued my curiosity as a young man, but I found sitting “lotus” was so uncomfortable my efforts to reach a higher state of being was doomed. I continue to admire its principles but I dropped the practice. read more