I clearly suck at this whole blogging thing. I used to write something two or three times per month. Then I got married and it went to once a month. Then we had a kid and it went to once every other month. I don’t know what happened last year but I ...
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Smiling Paul - 5 new articles

To Read or Not to Read

I clearly suck at this whole blogging thing. I used to write something two or three times per month. Then I got married and it went to once a month. Then we had a kid and it went to once every other month. I don’t know what happened last year but I can tell you this, I promise to write more than twice a year ... or I’m going to give up altogether. You’ll have to check back to see how that goes.

Like last year, I thought I’d publish a list of all the books I read and my recommendation on what you should and shouldn’t read this year. I read 18 books this year, which was one more than 2013. Here’s the list:

1. Extreme Measures - Vince Flynn
2. Labor Day - Joyce Maynard
3. Lone Survivor - Marcus Luttrell
4. The Aviator’s Wife - Melanie Benjamin
5. Be Real, Because Fake is Exhausting - Rick Bezet
6. The Quest - Nelson Demille
7. Your Divine Fingerprint - Keith Craft
8. Forever, Interrupted - Taylor Jenkins Reid
9. 12 years a Slave - Solomon Northrup
10. First Love - James Patterson
12. Killing Jesus - Bill O’Reilly
13. PS, I Love You - Cecelia Ahern
14. Always Looking Up - Michael J Fox
15. If I Stay - Gayle Foreman
16. American Sniper - Chris Kyle
17. Portrait of a Spy - Daniel Silvia
18. The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe
19. Writing Fiction - Gotham Writer’s Workshop

You might have noticed a pattern in the list. I alternated between fiction and non-fiction books this year which definitely forced me to read more non-fiction than I was used to. I’m happy to say I feel a little smarter because of it.

If I had to recommend one of both, Labor Day was probably my favorite novel of the year. The movie, however, didn’t live up to the writing. My favorite non-fiction was American Sniper. I have high hopes that the film will live up to the book.

For 2015, I saw this list and think I might try to follow it:

1. A book you own but haven’t read.
2. A book that was made into a movie.
3. A book you pick solely because of the cover.
4. A book your friend loves.
5. A book published this year.
6. A book by an author you’ve never read before.
7. A book by an author you love.
8. A book at the bottom of your “to be read” pile.
9. A book with a color in the title.
10. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.
11. A book you started but never finished.
12. A book with a lion, a witch, or a wardrobe.
13. A book with a female heroin.
14. A book set in the summer.
15. A book of poems.
16. A book you learned about because of this challenge.
17. A book that will make you smarter.
18. A book with a blue cover.
19. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t.
20. A book “everyone” but you has read.
21. A book with a great first line.
22. A book with pictures.
23. A book from the library.
24. A book you loved, read it again.
25. A book that is more than 10 years old.
26.  A book based on a true story.

As far as books I don’t recommend, well, I’ll let Jimmy do the talking.



A Hard Day's Work

This job of mine affords me some pretty amazing opportunities and brings some awesome people into my life. This last week, I coordinated a surf lesson in Costa da Caparica, Portugal with my friend Liliana who owns a cozy restaurant in Lisbon. After flying all night Liliana came to pick up me and two other members of the crew and we headed to the coast.

After meeting the guys from the surf shop and a light lunch outside we suited up. And by suited up, I mean squeezed 200 pounds of potatoes into a wetsuit that should only hold five pounds of...well, you get the idea. I don’t know how thick this wetsuit was, but I’m pretty sure there was a point where three people were helping me squeeze into it. I started to get lightheaded at one point, next thing I knew there was a plastic bag over my foot and my leg hairs were getting ripped out one by one.

I swear, by the time I got the wetsuit up to my waist I nearly collapsed from exhaustion. And all the compression. Oh God. A little extra winter weight trying to push itself upward was not the cool surfer dude look I was going for. I looked at Gabriele, the surf instructor who looked like he was trying hard not to laugh. He was still wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I turned around and about eight seconds later he’s slid effortlessly into his wetsuit like a doctor who’s about to check your prostate slides on his gloves unusually fast.

So, we grab our boards and head to the beach. A few minutes later we circle up and start what I think is going to be a pep-talk.

Gabriele says, “Okay, first we’re going to run up and down the beach to warm up, we’ll stretch, do some training with the boards on the beach, then go in the water.”

Run? No. I’m paying you. I get to pick what we do. 

But, before I could tell him that I wasn’t really a runner, off we went. At this point, my wetsuit was still around my waist because I didn’t want to overheat before we got in the water. And we’re running. Now, Portugal has some beautiful people and going for a run...on the beach...in a wetsuit that’s half-on...with a torso that’s snow white from months of hibernation...doesn’t exactly boost your confidence.

“Get wet,” Gabriele says.

“I think this is how hell week starts for the Navy SEALs,” I pant.

Gabriele laughed.

After we got back from our run we did some stretching, which was a great way to get the sweat into our eyes. We did some practice getting up on the board while we were still on solid ground then headed into the water.

I’ve surfed before but have never had an official lesson so I took in a lot of good information. One by one we tried to catch waves with help from the instructor. The flight attendant that came with popped up on her second try but when she fell the board hit her head and she was done surfing for the day. The other pilot and I made a lot of attempts and even got up a few times.

Knowing what I now know about surfing, I’m wondering why I paddled into the ten foot waves when I was surfing in Hawaii last September. Mother nature has a quick way of weeding out idiots and got me out of there, but not before she pushed me to the bottom of the ocean and bounced me off the coral a couple times.

Fortunately, the girl from Baywatch didn’t need to come rescue me yesterday. Although...well, never mind.

We rewarded all our "hard work" with a lovely dinner at Liliana's restaurant, A Baiuca. If you’re ever in Lisbon it's a great place for local flavor. It’s in the Bairro Alto and has become my go-to place for dinner. Everyone I bring to her restaurant raves about it. She buys mouthwatering fish every morning from local fisherman before they even get off the boat and seriously, if you want good sangria, hers is the best I’ve ever had. Perhaps the best part of her restaurant though, is the hospitality from her and her mother. They have hearts of gold and when her mom kisses your cheeks as you leave, you almost expect her to hand you a little baggie with snacks for the road, just like my grandma used to do.


Reading, Writing . . . and Publishing?

A guy I know reads 100 books a year. He is the president of a huge company and flies almost more than I do. So, at the beginning of last year I made it a goal to read 100 books. I didn't think it'd be that hard. I work about four trips per month and each time I go to work it involves six hours of flying back and forth, not to mention the hours and hours I sit around waiting for my trip to start, or the long layovers where I'm laying by the ocean. So, 100 books should have been a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

How many books did I read in 2013? Drum roll please............seventeen. Eighteen if you count the one I started in late December and finished in early January. Seventeen freaking books. Not great, but more than a lot of people. Here's the comprehensive list and then I'll tell you which one I liked the most:

1. Kill Shot - Vince Flynn
2. Dear John - Nicholas Sparks
3. East of Denver - Gregory Hill
4. Protect & Defend - Vince Flynn
5. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
6. Out of Mormonism - Judy Robertson
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
8. Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
9. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. The Light Between Oceans - ML Stedman
11. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick
12. A Sport & A Pastime - James Salter
13. Wild - Cheryl Strayed
14. The Hunters - James Salter
15. The History of Love - Nicole Krauss
16. The Panther - Nelson Demille
17. The Longest Ride - Nicholas Sparks

You may be asking yourself, "Why are there so many 'guy books' and so many 'chick books'?" That's easy, I'm a lover . . . and a fighter. But which book was my favorite? Without a doubt, The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman. This debut novel about a lighthouse keeper living on Janus Rock, an island west of Australia, after WWI is by far one of my favorite novels. The premise of the story is that while on a leave from the island, the lighthouse keeper falls in love with a woman. After unsuccessfully trying to have a baby, one day a rowboat washes up onshore. In it, is a dead man and a living three-month-old baby. While they should really report it, they ultimately decide to keep the infant for themselves, which of course is where the story begins.

My goal for 2014 is not necessarily to read 100 books, or even 50 books . . . but to increase the quality of books I read, especially in the non-fiction genre.

And maybe finally get my novel published. One can dream.


Happy, Happy, Happy

So, here I sit. Amelia just threw a huge tantrum. A strand of lights on the Christmas tree is out. My dad has cancer. My sister-in-law is having open heart surgery in a couple weeks. And lately, I can’t seem to stop crying.

But I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m happy.

Seriously. Happy.

Sure, cancer sucks. So does open heart surgery. But you know what doesn’t suck? My three year old daughter trying to sing along to Silent Night in the backseat of my car. Or my wife making Christmas cookies in the kitchen. Christmas doesn’t suck. And neither does the hope and joy that comes with knowing Jesus and His ability to perform miracles. And as someone who has seen a miracle or two, I have no doubt that diseases and broken hearts aren’t really that big of a deal to the One who was born from a virgin and raised from the dead.

And it’s His birthday.

So celebrate. Be happy, happy, happy.

Merry Christmas.


Corporate Pilot for a Weekend

“The team is leaving the stadium now. Is the mechanic going to be done by the time they get here?”

That was the question we faced the other day during a charter for the NFL. One hundred sixty passengers on seven coach buses were on the way to the airport and we had just discovered a major maintenance problem. Oh, and the police had closed down the freeway so they could get there quicker. Wonderful.

One of the emergency slide rafts had a rope hanging out of it. That rope would be attached to the sea anchor in the event we ditched in the water. Of course, ditching in the water on a flight that wouldn’t leave the Upper Midwest wasn’t likely, but that’s probably what Sully thought too. From what I know about slide rafts, the FAA is very picky about their operation. Phone calls to maintenance control were made to see if there was a fix. If there wasn’t a fix, then all the players, coaches, media, and the security team would be stuck until we found a solution.

The team coordinator said, “We need to let them know if they should stay at the stadium.”

We still didn’t know if the mechanic could fix it or not.

“I’m not sure,” the captain said.

Hundreds of steaks and pasta dishes were being cooked in preparation for their arrival. It would be the players first meal after the game and if there was one thing I didn’t want to do, it was get in between a bunch of 300 pound men and their food.

Finally a phone call from maintenance control. The raft could be fixed (versus being replaced which would involve flying in a new one). Good news.

The team coordinator, whom I’m pretty sure was about to throw up, said, “The team is leaving the stadium in five minutes. Where is the mechanic?”

The mechanic didn’t work for us, so an outsourced mechanic was in his office (on the other side of the airport) talking to our maintenance team trying to understand what the fix was.

“The team is leaving the stadium now.”

Pacing back and forth wasn’t doing much so the coordinator and I ate a big steak dinner. Flying charters has it’s benefits. After we finished eating we went outside to the air stair and tried to figure out if the team would board through one air stair or if operations should hook up the jetway to door one. Air stairs were attached at door two and door four of the Boeing 757-300, but the broken slide raft was at door four and if the mechanic was still working on it, they couldn’t use that for boarding. Jetway stairs aren’t the sturdiest things ever and to make someone who made more money in one day than I will all year board on a rickety staircase didn’t seem right. Despite that, time was essential so we decided to attach the jetway to door one.

The operations agent said, “The team is exiting the freeway now.”

A couple minutes later, I began to hear police sirens in the distance. It was the team escort. In the back of the airplane was the team coordinator, the captain and a handful of flight attendants, all anxiously waiting to see if the sole mechanic would fix the raft. I was at door two looking for the first sign of the convoy.

My palms were getting sweaty when finally, from the back of the airplane I heard someone yell, “He fixed it! We’re going to board through the air stairs. Have them remove the jetway.”

The mechanic came forward and began filling out the paperwork. The operations agent removed the jetway from door one just as I saw two police motorcycles and three squad cars escorting a group of coach buses pull onto airport property. Not a minute to spare.

As if nothing had ever been wrong, the team boarded and within 15 minutes of their arrival, we were pushing back and on our way. The flight back to their home base was literally the smoothest flight I’ve ever been on or flown. I managed to grease the landing and we pulled into the FBO (which is where corporate planes park). Over 100 cars were running and waiting, talk about first class service. The team disembarked and an hour later I was on a flight home.

I love it when a plan comes together.


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