Sunday, March 06, 2005

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's nothing much!

Like it? 
Dear millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett:

You just became the first person to fly around the world solo without stopping or refueling, but I don't give a shit.

It was even in the news and everything. Wasn't impressed. Not even a little. Found the crossword puzzle and thought that was much more fascinating than your trip. For instance: Did you know that "ort" is a word? It's true! Look it up.

You're famous for doing all kinds of goofy-ass stunts to impress me, and so far I haven't cared. I remember you as that guy who blew millions of dollars trying to be the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon. You failed five times before finally succeeding on the sixth attempt, thus proving that when it comes to overseas travel there is a worse experience than leaving through Logan.

Your balloon ride was no big deal, in my book. Whoop de-doo, you went around the world -- but you flew from Australia back to Australia. Earth is much narrower down there. If I made the rules, an around-the-world flight would be cheating unless you followed the equator. Or if you went north and south over both poles. I'm flexible on this point.

Also, the word "balloon" conjures up images of riding in a big wicker picnic basket with sandbags tied to the sides. Your balloon, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, if I remember correctly, was a space capsule-type object that cost more money than I will ever see in my life and contained as much technology as the average Best Buy store.

If it had been a giant picnic basket, you would have had my attention. Since it wasn't: no, thanks anyway.

Now you go on a phony-baloney airplane flight and I'm supposed to be astonished by your adventurous spirit. Not likely, Steve. You want to talk adventurous flights? I once flew to Rome, coach, and had to sit through "Chocolat." A drink was five bucks. An old lady sitting beside my wife kept farting in her sleep. That's a flight, my friend.

Getting back to your hobby. According to an AP story, Steve, you took off from Salina, Kan., in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer and returned to Salina 67 hours later, having not stopped or refueled the whole time.

That sounds amazing -- until you realize that the GlobalFlyer is (I'm quoting the official GlobalFlyer Web site here) "a single-engine turbofan aircraft specifically designed for non-stop global circumnavigation by a solo pilot with no passengers."

In other words, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, you flew a plane that was built for the specific purpose of circling you around the world very fast. The plane was designed by some highly intelligent people to do that and nothing but that. In fact, from what I read, the plane is so expensive, so well-designed, so aerodynamically perfect, that once you get it off the ground the damn thing can't help but fly itself around the world. You just sit in it, and boom, there it goes.

I'm not the kind of person who's easily amazed when a tool works the way it's supposed to. If I see somebody driving a forklift, am I supposed to cheer when the forklift picks things up?

And before you bring it up, this isn't the same as astronauts sitting in a space shuttle. Those people are scientists, and when they go into space they're conducting research that benefits mankind -- not for their own self-aggrandizement, and not so they could have the fun of saying they went on a wicked fast ride.

And, not to be persnickety, but didn't you at least have to dodge anything on this flight? Was somebody trying to shoot you down with lasers? Did you have to pedal to make the engine go? Were you required to spend a certain amount of the time doing a headstand on one of the wings?


So you sat in a cockpit for 67 hours?

I daresay that could be cramped. The AP wrote that you could only take power naps, and "survived on 12 milkshakes and water during the flight." The story helpfully adds, "Fossett used bottles as his bathroom."

Bully for you, but the level of courage necessary to survive that experience isn't breaking my heart. Give me a milkshake and watch me drink the hell out of it. I could go for days like that. I once went almost a week eating nothing but pumpkin pie.

And if you and your partner, "Rebel Billionaire" adventurer Sir Richard Branson, could spend an unholy sum of money buying this airplane capable of zipping around the world nonstop without refueling, couldn't you have had MIT devise some other way of going pee-pee besides using bottles?

Let me come to my point, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett. I'm sick of being in the newspaper business. Can I be an adventurer, too, if it's so easy? I could be The Rebel Thousandaire Dan Medeiros -- fearless, dashing as hell, and middle-class.

Below is a list of my accomplishments. Let me know if I can be of any help on your team when you attempt whatever stunt you waste millions of dollars on next.


Dan M., adventurer for hire

Dan's adventure resume

Longest amount of time a newspaper columnist has gone without eating a rutabaga:
as of this writing, 28 years, 27 days.

Broken Fall River-to-Boston speed record in a custom-built 2000 Toyota Echo, code-named Quigley: 45 minutes.

Most consecutive snooze-button hits without actually rolling out of bed: 13.

Greatest distance flying and safely landing a specially engineered paper aircraft across the newsroom: 46 feet.

Longest number of hours spent sitting quietly and doing nothing: 9.

Shortest duration of time needed to order take-out from China Star: 19 seconds.

In this latter case, Mr. Fossett, I utilized a special Samsung cellular telephone device, aerodynamically constructed to break the sound barrier by transmitting speech from one place to another. Is that cheating?

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