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Gooding traveling in an airplane

Maybe it’s growing up in my teenage years in the Air Capital of Wichita, Kansas, maybe it’s just wanderlust, maybe it’s just being able to fly now more than ever after years of trekking the nation in old vans and trailers, but I LOVE flying.

I write lyrics and dream up new schemes up in the sky more than anywhere else. Something about moving always helps me write. There is no distraction—can’t use your phone, etc.

I hear from older folks that the airlines used to be steak tartare, free cigarettes, go-go dancers, free gold watches, etc., but you don’t know what you don’t know, and I still think the whole experience is pretty amazing.

I always make a little note on whatever song I’m tinkering with at the bottom right of the page as to where I wrote it, maybe a little of what was going on, and some of the best ones say DEN TO ICT or LAX to BNA.

Our bass player of over a decade, Billy Driver, once told me his three goals were to

  1. Be a rock star (check—he will always be a rock star, regardless of what he does).
  2. Be a ghost hunter (see Strangetown, Austin, Texas).
  3. Be a pilot.

When I roomed with Billy, I would wake up in the middle of the night and see a little glow from his laptop lighting up his face. He was transfixed and moving slowly side to side. I asked him what the hell he was doing—he was learning to fly on a flight simulator program for his laptop. That’s just badass.

Speaking of flight simulators, for those of you who hate flying (my wifey), a shrink once told me if you take a simulation course and see how easy it is to correct the plane, how much it flies itself, etc., it can help you. Now I’m the jerk who constantly tells my wife, “Safer than drivin’! Safer than drivin’! What don’t kill ya makes ya stronger!” (as she is leaning over, dreading the takeoff and considering suffocating me with the puke bag).

Ever seen the photo of Led Zeppellin coming off their plane? It’s so rock ’n’ roll it will turn insurance agents into guitar players. It might be the single most rock ’n’ roll thing I’ve ever seen.

Led Zeppelin

The Rolling Stones plane is cool—their logo was meant to be on the side of a plane. But no one ever looked more in their element getting off a flight than Zeppelin. You read Hammer of the Gods and know that their manager Peter Grant had a suitcase with 250K CASH handcuffed to his hand, and it just makes you want to go join the circus.

(I talk a good game about the glitz and glam of rock ’n’ roll, but if you see me on a flight, it’s most likely West Wing episodes, Jack Daniels, and furious reading or writing.

All right. Here’s my favorite air travel story with the band and I’m out of here. Write me and tell me any of yours please.

The band did two tours of the UK a couple years back. Exactly halfway into the flight back home—I mean dead center over the Atlantic, like Redford in All Is Lost or Tom Hanks with the volleyball, NOTHINGNESS but sharks—we hit an air pocket. Well, not an air pocket so much as a living nightmare where it feels like another plane crashed into the damn plane (I hate even writing this for those of you who are afraid to fly… “Safer ’en drivin’!”

Now, this is a giant airplane, and there are few people in it, so the band members each have their own set of seats to sprawl out on. All of a sudden the plane shakes again, drink carts about to roll down the aisle, and there is a linebacker to the right of me who screams out “HOLY dammit F–K S–T”—just lines of wonderful nonsensical cuss words (kind of like how I talk to my dogs when I’m kissing them on their faces and swearing at them).

In my mind I think, Well, this dude, built like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, is holding on for dear life, and he’s probably the air marshal, so yeah, we’re screwed.

I’m tensing up and telling myself over and over “SAFER EN DRIVIN’!” I ain’t goin’ down like this. Visions of people saying good-bye into their cell phones, hoping their loved ones find them with the black box.

I look to my left, and it’s our other guitarist/vocalist at the time, and she is saying “Ay, dios mío” over and over and making cross signs over her chest.

I look up about three rows and see Billy Driver with two sleep masks on and his head on the window. We get another jolt. His head rises and falls, and he doesn’t even wake up (see, I told ya, ROCK ’N’ ROLL).

Then, one of the coolest things I’ve seen from endless years of touring with this man, I look up a few rows dead center and Jesse Rich turns right back at me with a drink in his hand that he is balancing against the crushing blows to the plane, not a drop of whiskey spilling out, and he just gives me a simple, confident wink.

Yup. Grown men are about to weep, and Jesse Rich is just trying to enjoy a little drinkin’ on a 12-hour flight.

Love y’all. Thanks for reading. See you soon.


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