Almost Heaven

We were in Aspen, Colorado, waiting for the passengers. From a bench alongside the FBO I watched the planes come and go and peacefully stared at the sunlit rocks and green mountainside. When my twenty-something co-pilot approached, wagging his head, pained look of bewilderment, I knew one of mankind’s sins had gotten hold of him. We occasionally argued politics but recently I had taken a more passive approach, letting him rant, asking a question or two, and then watch him bite into fresh new material and not let go. Hands on his hips, he started complaining about our dependency on oil as he scanned a full ramp of corporate jets. I reminded him that he flew a plane that guzzled more fuel on a two-hour flight than most people would burn in a year driving. But he was uninterested in facts. He looked at the mountain across the runway and told me about his aunt who recently died of cancer.

“She was in hospice. And at first, when I went to visit her, I didn’t know what to say. Our family’s not very religious and it seemed hypocritical to read from the Bible or anything like that. So I started talking about anything—family members, my job, and then I felt like sharing some of my ideas with her. Growing up, we visited her in Florida, where she lived. But we just did family stuff. I never told her what I thought about anything. So I started with the environment, saying that it was a shame we still had the gasoline engine. But that a new day was coming when not only cars, but even planes would be powered by the sun. She smiled a lot. She couldn’t really talk anymore, too weak.”

I kept quiet. I saw his aunt in the next world driving an electric car, passing fields of windmills and solar panels creating good clean energy for heaven’s populace.

He crossed his arms and spoke to the mountains, “Too much greed, I told her. And she’d nod her head in agreement. That meant a lot to me.”

I thought he was finished, when he started again.

“When my aunt was near the end I read to her from a preventative health book. Sound a little weird?”

I shook my head no. I wanted to hear the rest of the story.

“In this book there’re several prayers that you say before dinner. I thought it was appropriate to say a prayer, nothing Christian, of course.”

“Of course,” I replied.

“The prayer gives thanks to the earth for all her blessings and asks that the food we consume nourish our bodies and our souls. We’ve got to give people hope,” he finished, satisfied with his good deed.

I didn’t respond, watching the wind sock alongside the runway shift directions one hundred and eighty degrees, not unusual in a box-canyon airport: one way in, one way out.

“Anything we need to do before the passengers arrive?” my partner asked.

“Yeah, have the line crew put a quart of oil in each engine.”

For a moment he looked troubled.

“Don’t forget,” I said, “the oil’s synthetic.”

He laughed good-naturedly. “That’s a start.”

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Of Blood and Brothers: Library Journal Review by Douglas Lord


blood Perfect 289s | Books for DudesHelms, E  Michael. Of Blood and Brothers:Book One. Koehler. 2013.

Helms, E. Michael. Of Blood and Brothers: Book Two. Koehler. Mar. 2014.

This superbly enjoyable historical fiction features a simple and quite skilfully written story centered on family, the Civil War, and lost love. In 1927 Northern Florida, rookie reporter Calvin Hogue stumbles upon the two elderly Malburn brothers, who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War. It’s easy to get the two talking, but not together. Daniel, the older brother, and Elijah don’t speak to each other, but each tells Hogue his life’s story over the course of many meetings that the reporter dutifully transcribes into a weekly newspaper series. The two ended up on opposite sides inadvertently when young Elijah was captured and forced to work for the North as a scout. He eventually, and reluctantly, led a raid on his home valley of Econfina. The books chronicle seven intense years, from battles in Georgia to Reconstruction in Florida. The genuine, homespun voices Helms uses for the brothers (e.g., “Laying there under that hot sun I soon got powerful thirsty”) work perfectly as they potently recount harrowing battlefield experiences (e.g., “A yell went up like the bowels of Hell had busted open and ten thousand screaming demons was set loose”) and tell of sadnesses—including both falling for the same girl. The chronicle continues into the 1870s after Daniel returns home on foot from a Northern POW camp and Elijah is branded by some as a traitor. The young, excitable Hogue is also a well-drawn character; he coughs through sips of offered moonshine and obsesses about honoring the two brothers with the “whole story.” Helms’s steady intensity and pace keep the three narratives on track with little frittering away of precious pages. Both books are quick and pleasurable reads. VERDICT Helms’s (Proud Bastards) fiction carries the ring of truth.

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Book Talk: Elegant ‘American Sky’ tome chronicles flight adventures, by Barbara McIntyre, Akron Beacon Journal —April 27, 2014

American Sky: Good Landings and Other Flying Adventures is the story of how Ravenna resident Fred Tribuzzo has “made grooves in the heavens” in his life as a professional pilot, beginning in 1981 as a flight instructor at Miller Field in Alliance and advancing to fly a Boeing 737 for a private jet company.

Although music fans may recognize his name as a former bass player for the popular Kent-based Numbers Band, Tribuzzo, also has expanded his resume to literary agent and promoter. Writing with elegance and maturity, he tells of the “unending view of America” and the world he enjoys from 30,000 feet.

For an early assignment delivering bank checks, Tribuzzo flew from frozen Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Buffalo, back and forth, several times a night, with a failing heater. Most later assignments were more comfortable, involving flying businessmen and families to meetings and vacation destinations, learning from everyone he meets. Throughout, Tribuzzo maintains a special relationship with his mentor, a World War II veteran who challenges and encourages him.

American Sky (264 pages, softcover) costs $16.95 from Koehlerbooks. Fred Tribuzzo will appear at a pancake breakfast at the MAPS Air Museum, 2260 International Parkway, North Canton, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. The $8 cost includes museum admission. Tribuzzo also will appear at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake.

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Test Pilots: from American Sky

I always believed the early test pilots had the Mercury and Apollo astronauts beat. You see, space travel was empty to me, like the vacuum it operated in. (more…)

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American Sky Breaks Cloud Cover: Review by Chantal Berendsen, at Runway Girl Network

Growing up, I always looked forward to my dad’s stories. Over fresh baked cookies and tea or steaks, he’d pull back the curtain on the mystical pilot’s world just long enough for me to snatch a glimpse. Even now, older and with plenty of boarding passes in my pocket, the pilot’s world and my father’s stories from the cockpit are the stuff of legend for me—high altitude sunlight gleaming off the gold thread on his uniform, the warm smell of leather and plastic, static-y, almost coded transmissions always delivered in the same casual, unaffected monotonous drawl. (more…)

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AMERICAN SKY – Review by Bob Livingstone, Author of UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS and B-24 flight adviser for the movie UNBROKEN

American Sky is no ordinary book about flying; it’s as much about the people who populated Fred Tribuzzo’s world of aviation, good and bad, as it is about flight.  This is something I can relate to powerfully; after many years of thinking it was just the aeroplanes that I wanted to be around, I discovered that it was actually the people who were part of this world that I enjoyed spending time with.  We were all very different, but it was our mutual enthusiasm for aviation which bound us together.


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Costa Rica: from American Sky

“I’m preparing to die,” Alan said excitedly. “I can see it clearly. I know what I’ve done, what I can’t do—”

“This is your Costa Rican experience? Death in Central America?” I countered.

“Costa Rica is coming,” Alan said, looking for the sugar bowl as I poured his coffee.


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The Beautiful American

During training on the 737, Skip, our instructor, entertained us daily with stories from his travels as a Boeing flight instructor. A family that he had met in Russia eventually immigrated to the States. While in Russia, Skip had noted the woman’s homely face: “But then they all walk around with a sour look,” he said in his deep, scratchy voice. “And if you’re ugly, it sure makes it worse.” A few years later Skip saw the family and the same woman after making the U.S. their home. He noticed that the woman was now attractive, a real head-turner. He asked her about the transformation and she said, “You Americans taught us how to smile.”

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Night Flight

The cities below us were alien constellations. The amber lights outlined roads or clustered around downtown buildings. One city evoked the microscopic world; another the mythic realm, where the profile of an Egyptian could be seen kneeling before the darkness of the surrounding countryside. Some towns resembled crushed fireflies; others were jewels flung upon a dark lawn.

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At the Seelbach Hotel in downtown Louisville, the lobby walls are constructed with several types of marble. Some of the marble, fifteen feet above the floor, is cut in long rectangles and circles. Red and brown designs in the circular cuts resemble planets; longer sections portray geological wars that span eons.

In the face of this stone I see the work of Michelangelo. The markings in these metamorphic rocks reveal nature’s endless battles—swirling flames and clouds, the cosmic force of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Like the metamorphosis of limestone into marble, the artist underground is tortured by heat and pressure before his release into the world romance of everyday life.

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