Alaska Over Israel is still going strong and I'm enjoying the occasional perk, such as being flown down to San Francisco last week to meet with execs from El Al, the Israeli Ambassador, and the heads of Alaska Airlines to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the airlift as well as the new partnership between Alaska Airlines and El Al. I got another invitation to Israel from it, and hope I can follow it up this time. Israel is on my bucket list.
Every time I give a talk, a reading, have a signing, or whatnot, people come up afterward and tell me stories about my parents, about the airlift, about their experiences with the Exodus, that are, to me, entirely unexpected and entirely wonderful. Stories are perhaps our most precious possessions in life. They tell us who we are. Who we have been. Who we may yet aspire to be. I've felt honored to be the recipient of these stories, and grateful to have been allowed to hear them. Some were merely odd, some incredibly moving, some magical. And some of them were just plain fun.
But I had no idea what to do with them.
An idea I've been toying with for a while is to simply put all the ones involving Alaska Airlines alumni into a volume or two of stories about life in the air, the adventure that flying used to be way back when. I can't go back in time and recapture the tales I heard from my folks and their friends when I was a little kid sitting on the living room floor during parties, but I have a growing collection of stories, tales, and anecdotes that, while they didn't belong in Alaska Over Israel, they very much deserve to be told.
And now, I've finally starting the laborious interview process, hunting down leads, etc.
Depending on how many good stories I end up with, this will either be one volume divided into 3 parts, or 3 volumes, all titled A Breed Apart. The first would be for the oldest tales, from just prior to World War II all the way through the 1950's. Working title: A Breed Apart: This Airline Ain't for Sissies (reference to a quote from Linus "Mac" Magee or Mudhole Smith, two of the early bush pilots who went on to found what became Alaska Airlines).
The second would be all those stories from the point of view of the intrepid women who used to be called Stewardesses or Air Hostesses. For that one, I've chosen the working title: A Breed Apart: A Baseball Bat in One Hand and a Fire Extinguisher in the Other. The latter part of that is a quote from my mother, a former Stewardess, referencing the flights where she and the other "beanies" refereed fishermen, miners, mushers, or other manly types who hadn't seen a woman in six months. Those women were pioneers in their own right, adventurers one and all, and their stories are usually uproarious, riotous, wild, and very much worth sharing.
For the last one I'm thinking A Breed Apart: I Survived Whiskey Willis. This would be all the stories from 1960 to the late 70's, when Charlie "Whiskey" Willis was President and CEO of Alaska Airlines and life in the company is a 3-ring circus. The era of most of my childhood, when Alaska Airlines was more of a clan than a company, and we never knew if the company would survive from one day to the next, and yet we thought it would never end.
We'll see where this next adventure takes us. Onward.