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Learning to fly by learning to fly
The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie

I learned to fly by learning to fly.  Back in the seventies--about two decades too early to have the uber-cool moniker "slacker" attached to my aimless butt--I had a problem.


I started everything.  Finished nothing.  I had a few years of college, no degree.  I had a succession of girlfriends, no wife.  I had enough half-finished projects, sketchily-filled collections and fragmentary hobbies to stock the game room of a Senior Center.  In Boca.


We didn't call it self-esteem yet, but mine was in the dumper.  I got so tired of my wet-fuse enthusiasms I gave up.  The one way not to quit on something was not to start on anything.  If you want to save face without facing who you are, that's a heck of a strategy.  It worked for me and it'll work for you, and I'd recommend it highly if I wasn't a changed man.


San Diego in the Seventies was a dumping ground for war surplus warriors.  I worked with one of them, an ex-hotshot Navy pilot, now reduced to selling stereos for a living.  His name was Jim, and he had a little sidelight. He owned small flying club, just a couple of old Cessnas, based at Montgomery Field.  Would I like to come out and take a look?


Now, Jim couldn't sell stereos any better than I could fly jets, but I was moving so much product on commission the money was starting to back up on me.  It was either find an expensive hobby or get a drug habit.  And I liked the guy; I figured I could drop a few bucks in his club and everybody's happy.


But I was scared to death.  Not of flying, but of failing.  The statistics weren't comforting.  Of every five student pilots, only one ever earned a ticket.  The rest washed out or quit.  I knew, I just knew, that if I started this journey and didn't finish, I was done.  I'd spend my life as the guy who started everything and finished nothing.


There was no inspirational moment, no sudden clarity of vision, no epiphany, there was only a small decision.  I am going to do this thing and I'm going to see it through to the end or die trying.  I am going to learn to fly.


And that's what I did.  I bored holes through the sky above Southern California weekly, studied my FAA regs and charts and drove my instructor crazy, but I never missed a lesson.  And on an August day that was almost too foggy to take my test, a crusty, old, WWII fighter jock of an inspector told me, "Well, you don't know what the effing rudder is for, but you fly pretty good," and he signed my license.  I was a pilot.


Once I learned to fly, I learned to fly.  I began to use my trick in other commitments.  I needed to get into shape.  I joined a gym and went, and went, and kept on going.  I found a girlfriend who was much too good to stay a girlfriend.  We got married, our eighteenth anniversary is this September.  And in 1994, I decided to write.  Every day.  I still do.


A newspaper column followed in 1999.  "Caught off Base," has appeared in every issue of San Francisco's "West Portal Monthly," since.  I published articles, reviews, a little fiction.  My first novel was an ungodly long, quarter million word jumble of grand ideas and insufficient restraint.  I tried again.


"The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie," is the happy result.  Out for a couple of months on Amazon and already doing pretty well.  A few blogs have picked it up, a few nice reviews have appeared, here and there.  And later this month, Cat Fancy Magazine will be covering it in their books section.  Cat Fancy Magazine has a circulation of 273,000.  With a little luck, I think my book can fly.


I sure hope so.  But I learned how to fly thirty-six years ago, in a Cessna 150.  And I'm already twenty chapters into my third book.