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Sunday, April 29, 2018

ABBA Reunion

I'm just really happy to learn that ABBA is going to come out with a couple of new songs. I have enjoyed their music in the past, although in recent years I have become a lot more appreciative of their music. I find myself listening to them more often. Dancing Queen is one of my all-time favorite disco songs. I'm just looking forward to hearing the new songs when they come out.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Tips For Going on a Cruise

Several wonderful points about taking a cruise include:
  • It's an all-inclusive price for your accomodations, gourmet meals, on-board entertainment and activities.
  • You only have to unpack once to travel to various destinations.
  • You have a different "view" outside your window every day.

If you've never cruised before, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the choices. There are cruise lines and ships available to suit many different desires. There are medium-sized to mega-ships that appeal to a broad segment of the population. Some smaller ships create a more intimate experience and/or sail to exotic locations. Some ships create a party-like atmosphere while others offer a more sophisticated experience. River cruising is gaining in popularity; you can sail through Europe or Asia on long, narrow boats that feature cabins just as decked out as full-sized ships. To determine what sort of cruise suits your needs and desires, you can research and book yourself on the internet or you can use the services of a travel agent.
The cruise lines that offer a fun experience for families and couples include Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
The cruise lines that offer a more sophisticated experience include Azamara, Celebrity, Holland America, Oceania, and Princess.
Luxury cruise lines include Cunard, Crystal, Seaborn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, and Windstar.
Exotic locations include Costa, MSC and Paul Gauquin.
River cruise lines include Uniworld and Viking.
There are cruise lines and paddleboats that sail some of the rivers in the United States, and others that sail the Great Lakes.

What can you do when you're on board? Activities may include: Vegas/Broadway-style shows, live music, discos, piano bars, nightclubs, indoor and outdoor movies, casino gaming, classes, lectures, pools (some are adult-only), waterslides, wave pools, hot tubs, exercise rooms, running tracks, miniature golf, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, basketball, bowling lounges, teen centers, and plenty of kids activities. Many ships offer babysitting or supervised childrens' opportunities so that parents can have time to themselves. Extra cost items on board a ship include spa treatments, massages, specialty restaurants, and shops & boutiques.
When you're in port, you can choose to remain on the ship if you desire or you can visit the local area. You can book a shore excursion, which may include sightseeing or any of dozens of activities. You can get off the ship and just walk around the local area, which generally includes shopping, places to eat and some activities.

Costs: The costs you see advertised for a cruise generally are for the cruise only. These are usually per-person based on two people per cabin. If you have a third or fourth person in the same cabin, they are usually at a lower rate. The cost will vary, depending on the length of the cruise, what cruise line it is, where you are going, what time of the year it is, and what your accomodations are (see below). These costs include your accomodations, meals, and entertainment. Alcoholic and soft drinks are extra. You can usually find juices and some other drinks for free. Taxes and port fees will be added at the time you total up your price. Generally you must make a down payment of around $200-$300 per person at the time you book a cruise. Full payment will be required approximately a month before the departure. If you are booking a 'last-minute" cruise, you will be required to pay the full amount at the time of booking. Gratuities and amounts are optional, but most cruise lines highly "recommend" certain amounts, which generally total around $10-$15 per day for each passenger in your group. Many offer the opportunity to include gratutities in your total bill at the time of booking. Shore excursions are extra. You can book ahead on shore excursions or you can book them once you are on the ship.

Trip insurance: I can't stress how important I believe trip insurance is, especially for a cruise or when you are travelling in foreign countries. There is a very high probability you will not need it, but if you do, it can save you from financial ruin. I don't mean just the little things like lost luggage and missed connections, but if you are sick or injured at sea, in international waters or on an excursion, costs can run VERY high. Your medical insurance very likely does not include foreign travel. It's bad enough if your vacation is ruined by illness or injuries, but if you need hospitalization in a foreign country, it can be a disaster for you. You will also need to get home again. Trip insurance can cover such hospitalization, ambulance transportation, airline transportation back home, and even an airlift off the ship if it were to become necessary. Also, medical services on the ship itself are not included in the price of your cruise. Trip insurance can cover it. The cost of trip insurance is very low when you consider the peace of mind you get for it.

Meals: Meals included in your cruise fare include breakfast, lunch and a gourmet dinner in one of the ship's main dining rooms, the cafeteria-style restaurant, plus snack fare including pizza slices and ice cream. Breakfast and lunch are usually open-style, meaning you can go to the designated dining room anytime it's open. There is no assigned seating. The cafeteria-style restaurant is always open-style for all meals. Traditional dining in the evening is at an assigned time at an assigned table, which is usually arranged before you even board the ship. There is usually an early serving, around 6:00 PM, or a late serving, around 800 PM. If you choose traditional dining, you will select an early or late seating at the time you book your cruise. You will have the same wait staff for the entire cruise; they will get to know you and your tastes early on. Some cruise lines now offer open-style dining as an alternative in a separate dining room. One cruise line, Norwegian, has no traditional dining; they advertise their cruises and meals as being totally "free-style." Disney offers tradtional seating and times, but you will rotate among dining rooms on different nights. Your wait staff will move with you. It's true what they say about eating as much as you want; in the dining rooms and in the cafeteria, there is no limit to the amount of food you can eat. I've seen people order several meals at once in the main dining room! Most ships also have a number of specialty restaurants on board. You need to pay for these meals.

Accomodations: The prices you see advertised for a cruise are usually for the lowest-price cabin available. This is usually an interior cabin on a lower deck. From there, everything goes up in price. Generally the higher your cabin is on a ship, the more you will pay for it. Interior rooms cost less. If you want a window, you will pay more. If you want a verandah (balcony) outside your cabin, you will pay more. The typical cabin on a cruise ship is usually quite small, especially compared to an average hotel room. Usually they are fine for two people, but if you have a third or fourth person, it will get a bit crowded. If you want more space, such as a larger-than-usual cabin or a suite, you will pay more. What you choose should be based on what you want to do in your cabin. If you only need it for sleeping and the basics, and plan to spend most of your time elsewhere on the ship, an interior cabin will do just fine. If you'd like to see outside, you can get a cabin with a "view" (meaning a window). If you'd like to relax on your own private balcony, you can get a verandah room. Royal Caribbean's larger ships have another class of cabins with a view of the promenade that runs through the center of the ship. Some cabins come with an "obstructed view." This means you have a window, but something outside the ship may be blocking part of the view, such as a lifeboat hanging above the window. Cabins come with their own private bathroom and shower. All cabins come with TV's, which have some standard channels for news, sports, movies and cable channels. They also have specialty channels for the ship. You will see video crews roaming around the ship for your entire cruise and will often see shots of you and your shipmates on some of these channels. There may be a channel that shows a live camera view outside, and/or a map showing where you're going and where you've been. Information about the ship's speed, time/distance since you left port, time/distance remaining, and weather conditions are often posted.

Before the Cruise: After booking a cruise, your cruise line will have you fill out various forms and let you know when and how to receive your boarding papers. Much of this can be done on the cruise line's website. Beginning several weeks before the cruise, boarding papers can either be printed out from the website or they will be mailed to you. If you are flying to your cruise port, I recommend that you fly in a day early and spend the night in a hotel. This will ensure that any airline delays will not cause you to miss your cruise departure. Otherwise you will be one very unhappy vacationer. Make sure you have the necessary documents including passports when you arrive for your cruise. The cruise line will let you know what time you can begin boarding. This process takes about 3-5 hours. Most cruise lines take your luggage outside the port and bring it to your cabin, although it may be several hours before your luggage arrives at your cabin. So pack whatever you need for the first few hours in a carry-on bag (swimsuit, sunscreen, etc.) What's nice is that your vacation begins as soon as you step on board the ship. Bands may be playing, pools will be open, the cafeteria will be serving food, and the ship will generally be open for touring. You can visit the spa (you can book treatments at this time), the children's centers, teen center, see the various nightclubs, the theatre, etc. (Once the ship embarks, the children's center is generally closed to adults. Parents must sign their kids in and kids are only released to parents or others authorized to pick them up.) I like to tour the ship as soon as I get settled in my cabin. I take the elevator to the highest deck and explore each deck as I work my way down. With people still boarding, the elevators will be crowded so it's easier to start at the top and work my way down the stairs. Most cruise lines offer a soft drink card; this card will allow you unlimited soft drinks for the duration of the cruise. You can purchase your soft drink card after you board. Also, if you have any issues regarding your dining room time/seating, this would be the time to see the maitre'd and resolve those issues.

After the Cruise: If you are flying home after the cruise, make sure you allow enough time to disembark the ship, go through customs, travel to the airport, check in, go through security and get to your gate on time. Depending on your cruise port city, your cruise line can help determine how much time you need, so plan your flight accordingly. The ship's crew will be anxious to get you off the ship as soon as possible when you arrive back in your home port. The process takes several hours and they need to clean the entire ship for the next group of passengers, which will begin arriving late that morning. Traditionally, you pack most of your luggage by the last night, set it outside your cabin, and then it will be available for you to pick up when you disembark the ship. Many cruise lines are now offering the opportunity to carry your luggage off the ship. It's your choice. Follow the instructions for disembarking. Once you are off the ship, you will need to go through customs. After that, you're on your own.

Safety: As with anything else in life, there are reasonable precautions you should take to ensure your own safety. Keep your valuables locked (cabins usually come with a safe), keep your cabin door locked, use common sense around people you just met, and follow the safety information posted in your cabin or given to you during the muster drill. All cruises must begin with a muster drill. This will usually be started approximately an hour or so before departure. Follow the directions given to you at the time. Use common sense with alcohol; the tragedy of people falling overboard is rare, but the news reports I've seen regarding this seem to imply they are usually alcohol-related incidents. Norovirus outbreaks can and do occur on ships, but do not happen as often as media reports seem to imply. The best way to avoid being infected is to wash your hands frequently. For detailed information on this topic, you can see this link about norovirus oubreaks by the Center for Disease Control. It's comprehensive and has links to inspection reports on individual cruise lines. When you disembark in a port, remember that you are in a foreign country. Make sure you carry ID and passport information and use common sense regarding whoever you come in contact with. Make sure you return to the ship by the designated time; the ship will wait for no one.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My Autobiography, Chapter 7 - Broadcasting Memories, Part 4: Getting Started in Television

by Paul Pakusch

Near the end of my junior year in college at SUNY Geneseo in the spring of 1982, I was looking for a summer job.  My friend, Brad Smith at Geneseo, was working at WROC Channel 8 at the time and told me about vacation summer relief jobs.  I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by applying, so I sent in a job application and resume.  In the meantime, I was offered a job as s security guard for a security company (I don’t remember which one).  When I got home from accepting my new job, my sister told me there was a phone message from Channel 8.  Chief Engineer John Coon wanted me to come in for a job interview.  I think I went the next day and was hired on the spot.  So I called back the security company and told them I got another job.

My job at Channel 8 was to work in the control room and studio.  It was a temporary job for the summer with full time hours.  My WeMoCo training came in handy here.  I started out on studio camera, then added audio and master control.  My hours were 2:45 to 11:45 PM; I was involved in daily late afternoon production of commercials and interview shows.  Then we got ready for and produced the 6:00 PM newscast.  In the evening we did the 11:00 news.

Master control was a lot like running a radio station except with video.  I found I really enjoyed that, and it remained my favorite control room position through my entire 32-year television career. The times we had to scramble for special reports, breaking news, or other quick program changes were invigorating for me.  I prided myself in quick, smooth changes.

I also learned how to edit video for news.  We were using ¾” U-Matic videocassettes at the time.  I was often assigned to edit some news stories in the evening.

It was just a few short months for me at WROC Channel 8.  As my temporary job was coming to an end in August, I started thinking about continuing my career in television instead of radio.  I recognized that control room TV jobs were a lot more secure than pretty much any job in a radio station. There were no permanent openings at WROC, so a longtime employee and supervisor at WROC, Joe Mazzaferro,  offered to call his friend, Jerry Evans, chief engineer at WHEC Channel 10.  I stood right in the office while he made the phone call to Jerry.  He told Jerry that if any openings came up, he had a guy he could recommend.

My last evening on the job at Channel 8 was a Sunday.  The crew wished me well.  The following Wednesday, I got a phone call from Jerry Evans.  I was interviewed on Thursday and offered a weekend part time job on the spot.  It was perfect!  I could go to school for my senior year at Geneseo during the week and work weekend evenings at Channel 10.  I started the following Saturday, so I didn’t miss a weekend!

You get familiar with certain places and routines.  The weekend I started at Channel 10 I was badly missing being at Channel 8.  But I got over it quickly enough.  I continued working studio camera, master control, audio, and editing news at Channel 10.

In 1982, it was still common for TV stations to sign off during the overnight hours, and channel 10 signed off around 1:30 or 2:00 AM.  While I was working there during my senior year, Jerry told me they were going to start staying on 24 hours a day during the week.  He offered me a full-time job for the overnight hours.  It was tempting, but since I was trying to graduate from college, I turned it down.

Towards the end of my school year and graduation, I was once again offered a full time vacation relief job.  I did that for the summer of 1983 at Channel 10; in August, a full-time position opened up and I was offered the job. My part-time college job turned into my full-time career.  There I would stay for the next 31 years.

In my next chapter, I will have memorable highlights from 32 years at WHEC Channel 10.

Subsequent entries to my autobiography series will be posted every Saturday morning until further notice.  If you wish to subscribe to notifications of my posts, please enter your e-mail address in the form at the right, under "Follow by e-mail."  If you wish to view previous blog posts of my autobiography, please click on the link under "blog categories" at the top right, "autobiography."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Big Plane vs Small Plane

By Paul Pakusch

Many times I see people express concern over flying in a small plane, especially if it's a plane that connects them in another city to their destination. Smaller planes are not necessarily any more dangerous than larger planes, which do tend to feel more stable because they take up more mass.

Personally, I enjoy flying smaller planes because I like to fly. Being in a smaller plane makes flying seem more pure. Airlines don't use turboprops very much anymore for short flights, but when they did these planes tended to fly lower and therefore you could see the ground better. I booked those turboprops whenever it was possible.

The only real issue I have with smaller planes is the lack of legroom in the seats. Being 6 foot 5, legroom is a huge issue for me on any kind of a flight. But in those turboprops it was a bigger problem.

So, the next time you find yourself in a smaller plane, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Original song

Here's an original song by my old band, The Mods, from 1982. Listen to Make it Right - The Mods by PaulPakusch #np on #SoundCloud

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How to Watch the Weather Forecast Like A Pilot

by Paul Pakusch

Last weekend, as the ice storm was approaching, Stacey and I considered whether we should go ahead with our plans for a night out or not.  Stacey doesn't particularly enjoy driving, so she often leaves it up to me.  She said, "You're the driver, so you decide if we go out or not."

My main concern was whether roads would have black ice or not.  Actually, the correct term is "clear ice," if you want to talk knowledgeably like an airplane pilot.  The ice that you can't see on roads is actually clear, but it is commonly known as black ice because you see the blackish pavement below the ice, not the ice itself, which is clear so you can't see it.

When a pilot checks the weather forecast for a flight, he or she gets a personalized weather briefing from one of two services contracted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  (Aviation fuel taxes pay for this, in case you wondered)  The briefing includes such things as current and forecast conditions at the departure point, the destination and along the route.  Pilots need to know what sort of weather they can expect to need to deal with along the way.  The briefing includes severe weather alerts and other conditions that pilots need to know about.  These and other factors are considered as a pilot makes a decision about whether to proceed with the flight as planned, or make other alternate plans as needed.

It's important to realize that no weather briefing is cast in stone.  Conditions constantly change and sometimes pilots need to make changes to the route while in flight.  Therefore pilots get timely weather reports while in flight. A pilot must always have an "out."  If the weather deteriorates significantly, he or she must be able to return to the departure point, alter the route, or go to a different destination.

As a private pilot myself, I take the same approach when I'm considering driving in bad weather conditions.  For example, in the case of a winter storm, I check several weather sources for forecasts to see how they compare.  If I feel comfortable making the drive, I proceed, but with an "out." I consider what might make me decide to turn around and come home, and I keep watching weather conditions as I drive.

In the case of last week's ice storm, we kept our plans for the evening as tentative.  It appeared to me that the ice accumulation that was expected was not arriving in our area as early as originally forecast.  Our destination for the night out was in Farmington, NY, and our home is in Brighton.  I considered that most of our route would be on the NYS Thruway, which I know from experience is generally maintained well with salting and snow removal.  So, we set out as planned, I was ready to turn back home at any point, and I kept a sharp eye on the road for clear ice.  I even safely slowed down a few times and braked hard to see if my mini-van would slide or not.  Everything seemed fine so we proceeded.  As it turned out, we had no issues whatsoever with weather and enjoyed a night out!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Autobiography Chapter 6 - Broadcasting Part 3: Radio During My College Years

CHAPTER 6 Broadcasting Memories, Part 3: Radio During My College Years
by Paul Pakusch

While I was a senior in high school, a family friend gave me the birthday gift of several nights spent in his dorm room at SUNY Geneseo.  I was looking for a college to attend and he thought it would be a nice way for me to experience college life.  He also included meal coupons in the package deal so I could eat.

I spent many hours of that time on campus at the college radio stations, WGBC-AM and WGSU-FM, chatting with other Communications students and learning how college radio worked.  WGBC was a carrier current station, meaning it used a building’s electrical system as an antenna. There were small transmitters in each of the dorm buildings, broadcasting at 640 AM.  It could only be picked up on radio receivers within or very close to the building, much like WiFi is today.  WGSU was and still is a licensed FM station that broadcasts to the local community at 89.3.

It was a no brainer for me to choose SUNY Geneseo.  It was affordable, it was close by, and it had the communications program that I wanted.  Since I didn’t have a car yet, it was also conveniently on the Trailways bus route.

My mom, family friend Ruth and sisters gave me the complimentary first ride to campus.  I was to share my dorm room with two other freshman; we were the first to arrive.  After checking into my room, my mom noticed that there were some knobs missing from the dresser that I chose as my own.  She unscrewed a couple of them from one of the other dressers to put on mine, leaving the other two dressers with knobs missing.  We were out of the room when my other two roommates, Vinnie and David, arrived. Apparently Vinnie’s family did the same thing. Later on, when I met them, David told me he had been the last one to arrive.  He said, “Funny thing we noticed.  When I got here, the dresser I got didn’t have any knobs on it.”

After my family left, I wasted no time heading up to the Blake B building, where the two radio stations were located.  WGBC was on the top floor and WGSU was down in the basement.  I met the student managers of the stations.  Neither was offering any DJ slots for new students yet, so I had to wait for auditions before I could start.

If you read my chapter about WGMC, you’ll recall that I had speech impediments due to my hearing loss. I never liked the way I sounded during my high school years.  Starting in college radio, I still had some issues to overcome, but it was at WGBC and WGSU that I honed my radio announcing skills.  I was also able to get speech therapy, which if memory serves correctly, came in 1980.  There were two older girls who did the therapy for me.  They were both seniors in the speech pathology program.  I was one of the cases in their student teaching programs.  They would analyze my speech patterns and come back at the next session with methods to help me overcome my impediments.  They had a teacher who would listen in on the sessions to monitor my progress and evaluate their work with me.  It was an actual course for me as well since I got college credit for it.

It didn’t take long for me to get past the required auditions for DJ slots at the two campus stations, and I kept them for every single semester of my college years.  In addition to shifts that played the standard formats of both stations, I was also offered a rock and roll oldies show on WGSU, which I hosted for a couple years.  I continued doing newscasts as well.

I held director and management positions at both stations.  At WGSU, I was Production Director during my junior year, and at WGBC, I was Station Manager for my senior year.  A number of my campus colleagues moved on to careers in radio and TV.  Quite a few ended up in the Rochester market; others moved on to other parts of the country.

I did get involved with the campus TV station, GSTV, but it was more of a footnote compared to campus radio.  I did some news anchoring and studio camera my first couple of years.

My college classes were all about radio and TV.  There were the required core classes, of course, but the ones that excited me were Radio Production, TV Production, Radio & TV Writing, Newspaper Writing, Public Speaking, Fiction Writing, Poetry Writing and similar courses.  Many people graduate from college with a degree that they never use; I’m happy I’ve been able to benefit at times in my life from most of the courses that I took in college.

In my sophomore year, I got a job as a DJ at the Statesmen Bar.  It could have happened sooner, but Leona’s policy was not to hire freshmen.  Tony and Leona Battaglia were the owners of the Statesmen.  I heard that Tony was the first person to get a liquor license in Geneseo after Prohibition ended.  I started going to the Statesmen soon after starting college in the Fall of 1979. Leona told me she believed freshmen should get settled in schoolwork their first year, so I would have to wait a year before becoming employed at the Statesmen.  In the meantime, she waived my admission fee every time I went there.  As soon as my sophomore year started, she hired me as a DJ.

A disco floor had been built in the back room, complete with mirror balls, flashing colored lights, and a DJ booth.  This was where I developed some of the dance moves I have today; some of it was by copying other people I saw dancing and some of it was from improvising my own moves. When I hear certain disco songs today, my mind goes back to the Statesmen and I can vividly picture being on the dance floor.  Among my favorites, still today, are “Heart of Glass,” “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground,” “Born to Be Alive,” “Rapper’s Delight,” “Bad Girls,” “MacArthur Park,” and “Ring My Bell,” which always got Leona on the dance floor with her finger cymbals.

DJ’ing at the Statesmen was pretty easy.  All I had to do was play the regular favorites and include new songs.  It wasn’t all disco; we had new songs from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, Bruce Springsteen’s “River” album, and some New Wave tracks. We were supposed to push the drink specials from time to time. Every night ended with Donna Summers’ “Last Dance.”  We were to never play it until the night was over.

My DJ job at the Statesmen lasted only for the Fall semester of 1980.  I quit because I had also started a weekend job at WPXY over the summer.  Leona was not happy about my leaving; she had expected me to stay the full year.  I told her my career goal was in radio and that I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to work at a radio station.  She lost her chance with me by not hiring me as a freshman, the year before.  The problem I ran into was that my weekend shifts at WPXY started at 6:00 AM.  I finished at the Statesmen at 1:00 the night before.  It meant getting a few hours of sleep and then getting up early enough to drive from Geneseo to be at my job in Rochester by 6:00.  Leona asked me if I could recommend anyone else; I recommended my friend, Sharon, and she was hired.

My job at WPXY over the summer of 1980 began as a full-time automation operator.  It was part of the AM-FM combo originally at WROC-TV. The company that owned the TV station had sold the radio stations.  By 1980, WROC-AM was an all-talk station with the call letters WPXN.  It was being moved out of the historic building on Humboldt Street and into office space at the Chamber of Commerce building on St. Paul Street in downtown Rochester.  The automation system, similar to the one I had operated at WEZO, was in the TV transmitter building on Pinnacle Hill.

The automation was set up in the future sales manager’s office while the rest of the space was being renovated into offices and radio studios.  As was the case at WEZO, my job was to change the reels of music, keep the commercials up to date in the cart carousels, and make sure the weather forecasts and news broadcasts got recorded and ready for playback.  As the studios were being completed, the automation equipment was moved into its new home, and new radio equipment was installed in the other studios.

When summer ended and I went back to college, I changed my hours to weekend mornings.  WPXN was changing, too.  They started doing away with talk radio and changed the format to a mellow music type of format, which added to my duties.  In addition to overseeing the automation for WPXY, I would now be running the board manually for WPXN.  The music was provided on reels of tape, just like WPXY, but nothing was automated.  We still provided regular news updates live from the news booth and we carried Rochester Red Wing baseball games, which I engineered during my shifts.

By the summer of 1981, I was dating Mary. We came up with an arrangement for me to live at her house in Saugerties, NY, during summer vacation, so I quit my job at WPXN-WPXY.  I had worked there a full year.

I needed to support myself while I was in Saugerties.  I got a job working five overnights a week at the Malden Thruway rest stop as a cleaner and dishwasher.  I also got a job working weekend overnights at WJJB-WHPN in Hyde Park, NY.  This became the job I had where I never met my boss.

I had sent resumes to various radio stations near Saugerties, hoping to continue my radio career for the summer.  A program director, I don’t remember his name, called me one day and, based on my previous automation experience, hired me over the phone to work weekend overnights.  I was to work something like 12:00 midnight to 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning.  Training consisted of my showing up at 11:30 the first night so the previous operator could show me the ropes for a half hour. So, I’d babysit WJJB-FM for the overnight hours.  Then at 6:00, I’d sign on WHPN-AM and run religious programs until the end of my shift.  I never saw anyone except the operators before and after me.  After a few weekends of this, my schedule at the Thruway stop changed and the radio hours became a conflict.  I had to choose the job that was earning more money for me, so I called up the program director and told him I had no choice but to quit.  That was it.  I never met my boss.

After returning to school in the Fall of 1981, I once again obtained employment in radio.  This time, a former colleague from WNYR-WEZO, Nelson Guyette, had become program director of the legendary WSAY in Rochester and he hired me for weekend board shifts.  WSAY was no longer owned by Gordon Brown, who had passed away a couple years earlier.  The new owner was Lou Dickie, and he had changed the format to an adult contemporary station.  The legendary team of Jack Slattery and George Haefner had been hired away from WHAM for the morning program.

My weekend shifts were 12:00 midnight Saturday to 9:00 Sunday morning, 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM Sunday, and 10:00 PM Sunday to 5:30 Monday morning.  Then I’d curl up in a sleeping bag in one of the offices for a couple hours of sleep before going to Geneseo for my classes.  Mary was with me on a lot of those Sunday overnights so we could drive to school together.

While I was employed at WSAY, the format and call letters changed to all-talk WRTK.  In June of 1982, I was hired for a full-time summer position in the control room and studio of WROC Channel 8.  The start of my career in television will be the subject of my next chapter.

Subsequent entries to my autobiography series will be posted every Saturday morning until further notice.  If you wish to subscribe to notifications of my posts, please enter your e-mail address in the form at the right, under "Follow by e-mail."  If you wish to view previous blog posts of my autobiography, please click on the link under "blog categories" at the top right, "autobiography."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Niagara Falls

I've been blessed to live all my life about a 90-minute drive from one of the great natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls. It has given me the opportunity to visit on average of about twice a year.

There's much about the Falls that fascinates me. The natural history of how the Falls evolved to what and where they are today, the cultural history of how humans view, react to and have settled around the Falls, and the two strikingly different experiences of visiting the Falls whether on the American side or the Canadian side.

The Niagara River flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and forms a natural border between the U.S. and Canada. Due to erosion, the Falls are actually moving; they have moved from their start near present-day Lewiston along the Niagara Escarpment, seven miles upstream over the past 12,000 years to where they are today at Goat Island. Through those years, the Falls have carved out a gorge, with the Niagara River racing toward Lake Ontario several hundred feet below the surrounding landscape.

Goat Island, seen in the center of the lower half of the picture below, is entirely within New York State. Canada is in the upper half. The island splits the river as the water flows towards the Falls. On the left is the wider portion of the Falls, known as Horseshoe Falls because of its horseshoe shape. The border between the U.S. and Canada bisects this part of the river. On the right side of Goat Island is a much narrower strip of the river leading to the American Falls. Just to the left of the American Falls, creeks within the island lead to a very narrow band of water streaming over Bridal Veil Falls. The bridge at the far right is the Rainbow Bridge.

This is how the Falls look today. Over the course of time, erosion will continue to drive the Falls around both sides of Goat Island, further back towards and around Grand Island, and eventually to the source of the Niagara River at Lake Erie.

Today we are lucky that time and geography have intersected to give us the current wondrous views of Niagara Falls. You get a better panoramic view from Canada, which no doubt has influenced the tremendous growth of its tourist area. For several miles along the Canadian shore of the Niagara River, there is a road and a walkway with unlimited views of the gorge, the Falls, and the river upstream. Look carefully and you will see a barge that has been stuck among the rocks since 1917. There is parking in this area giving access to these sights within walking distance, but during the summer tourist season, you have to get there early to get one of these spots. Otherwise, drive further upstream to a much larger parking area that offers shuttle service back to where you want to be.

Going uphill and into town you will find a vast array of hotels, motels, bars, and restaurants of all varieties plus some of the cheesiest tourist traps you can imagine, including wax museums and haunted houses. I remember when the Skylon and Panasonic Towers were the lone tall structures in Niagara Falls; in recent years, development of modern hotels now dwarfs the Minolta Tower. The Skylon Tower still stands pretty much by itself. Many hotels have been built with all guest rooms facing the Falls. You will pay handsomely for the view; if you want to stay in Canadian Niagara Falls on a budget, choose one of the smaller hotels that doesn't necessarily offer a view. A huge draw are the casinos; there is a casino on both the U.S. and Canadian sides.

Figuring prominently in the landscape is Rainbow Bridge, which connects the two cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York. There are customs and immigration stations at both ends of the bridge, so depending on what time of the day and year you are crossing the bridge, you may end up sitting on it for awhile as you wait your turn for a customs agent. Halfway across the bridge is the international border that bisects the Niagara River. The border point is marked by several flags; carloads of kids can marvel over the moment when half of them are in the U.S. and the other half of them are in Canada.
Niagara Falls, New York has not kept pace with its sister city across the river. Much of it is worn and tired-looking. The bright spots include the area surrounding the casino, which has seen some hotel development in recent years, and Goat Island. For someone who has spent umpteen hours over the years ogling the wide spectacle from the Canadian side, Goat Island represents a quiet, natural retreat in a state park.

To enter Goat Island, you will drive over a stone bridge crossing the river rapids that lead to the American Falls. Once on the island, you will follow a road that winds through the island's forest until you reach a large parking area. Park here if you want to get out and stay awhile. You can visit some of the island's attractions, take a trolley tour, or visit the restaurant that has a view of the rapids and part of the Falls. From here you can get a very up-close and personal view of the edges of the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Here are some photos taken on Goat Island.

If you continue on the road, you will get a tour of the rest of the island. One place to make a short stop that does not charge for parking is Three Sisters Islands. You can only park here for 20 minutes, but it's enough time to walk over to the edge of the rapids that lead to the Horseshoe Falls, as seen in the picture above. All views from Goat Island are awe-inspiring. Most of the island is covered in trees and grass, so it makes a stark contrast to the steel forest on the other side of the river. The island is completely surrounded by the rushing water of the rapids leading to the Falls on both sides of it. I sometimes make the 90-minute drive just to visit Goat Island.

Niagara Falls is spectacular to see from any angle, and it is literally possible to see it from all angles. Besides the views from the river's edge, you can take a helicopter ride over the Falls, a walk through tunnels underground on the Canadian side to get a view from behind the Horseshoe Falls, or a walk down wooden stairs on Goat Island to stand beside the Falls. With all the ice that builds up over the winter, these stairs have to be rebuilt every spring. My favorite view is from the Maid of the Mist boat rides, which you can access from both countries. Boarding from a safe distance away, the boats ride along the river into the center of the horseshoe where a nearly permanent column of mist exists. With water spraying from three sides of the horseshoe-shaped falls, millions of droplets collect in this central location and rise with air currents. The Maid of the Mist boats go right into this spray zone, enabling passengers standing on the decks to experience the power of Niagara Falls. Everyone is issued a disposable poncho. Gone are the days when guests were issued rubber raincoats that left you feeling as if you'd stepped out of a humid junkyard.

The peak tourist season of Niagara Falls is the warm summer months. For a vastly different experience, consider visiting in January or February when it's below freezing. The mist will have drifted over the nearby land, coating the trees, buildings and any sort of structure with ice. Certain areas will be closed off to the public because there's too much ice to walk safely on, but park workers do a marvelous job at keeping certain areas clear of ice so you can safely enjoy the spectacle. If you're really lucky, you'll see huge chunks of ice in the gorge below. You will need to dress warm, but the view is well worth the effort.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Browns

I was first exposed to the country music group the Browns when I was a very young child. My mother had at least a couple albums by them. I especially remember learning the songs Scarlet Ribbons and The Old Lamplighter. As I got older and became a teenager, my music interests headed in a different direction. Around 1996 I happened to be channel surfing and came across the Nashville Network just as I caught the Browns being introduced on a live TV show. Since I often wear headphones while I'm watching TV due to my hearing loss, I had them on when the Browns started singing The Three Bells. I was suddenly mesmerized by the harmony.
The Browns were a country music crossover into pop music back in 1959 when that song hit it big. Although I was aware of the song, it was not one that I knew well at that point. I sat there absolutely spellbound as I listened to their vocal harmony. I've always believed that sibling harmony is the best because the speech patterns are similar. That is certainly the case for Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown. After listening to them sing it on the Nashville Network, I needed to get myself a copy of it, so I did. Thus begin a few month period when I played the song over and over. After that I purchased more Brown's music so I could learn more of their music.
About 10 years later, I came across something on the Internet advertising a book written by Maxine Brown called "Looking Back to See."  The book's title is named after a song that Maxine wrote. It is mostly an autobiography of Maxine's life up to that point, but it is also a general history of what country music was like in the 1950s and 1960s. I decided I needed to contact Maxine and let her know how I felt about the book. I could not find a way to reach her, so I wrote to Jim Ed and sent it to the Grand Ole Opry. He wrote back to me a short time later and said to send a letter to Maxine addressed to him and he would see that she would get it. I did, she received it, and I heard back from her a few weeks later. I was very impressed that she wrote a four-page letter to me expressing how she really enjoyed reading my letter to her.
A couple years later I happened to come across Maxine's Facebook page and wrote to her again, reminding her who I was and she said she remembered. From that point on a very nice Facebook friendship develped between us. She posted some nice things that I wrote about the Browns on her website. I also became part of a movement to get the Browns into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which many of the Browns fans believed they belong in.
In 2013, while on a trip to Memphis Tennessee, my daughter Kristi and I had an opportunity to visit Maxine. We had lunch together and she talked about some of her experiences, including her friendship with Elvis back in the mid-1950s. Elvis and the Browns used to do some touring together.
Back home, I continued my participation in trying to get the Browns into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It took awhile, but happily, thanks to the help of many of their fans, they finally made it in. And just in time, too, because shortly after the announcement of the Browns going into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Jim Ed passed away from cancer. Maxine and Bonnie were there for the induction, and then sadly Bonnie passed away not too long after that.
I hope to get to Nashville sometime in the near future so I can see their exhibit along with many others in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
These days, I continue to enjoy listening to the Browns' music on a regular basis. I have my own collection at home, and I also hear their songs from time to time on Sirius XM Radio.

Here is Maxine Brown's website:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

My Idea For Health Care

By Paul Pakusch
There has been a lot of talk about making school districts, governments and agencies run more like a business. Do you know what the purpose of a business is? The purpose of a business is to make a profit. This means that for whatever service the business provides, the priority  is to make a profit for the owners. So that means health insurance companies main purpose is to make a profit for the shareholders of the company. To provide Health Care is a service, but that service is secondary to making sure that the shareholders get their money. To me, this is bass ackwards to the way it should be. I think the purpose of health insurance should be to provide health care, not to make money for shareholders. There's just something wrong with a system where money is more important than someone's health.
In the Declaration of Independence, it states that the United States is to provide for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Much has been said about liberty and the freedom for the pursuit of happiness. But I haven't heard much about the "life" portion of that clause. To me, it means that the United States should provide for the opportunity of life through the most advanced technological means in medicine. Why should just rich people be able to obtain this care? It should be available to all citizens of the United States. That's how I interpret that clause.
Therefore, I believe the system where private health insurance companies are providing healthcare based on who can afford it is just wrong.
My idea is to do away with all of the health insurance companies in this country and come up with one nonprofit Foundation whose main purpose is to provide healthcare for all of the citizens of the United States. It would be recognized by Congress, but operate independently of the US government. Every citizen would fund it through a reasonable and fair income tax, such as Medicaid is funded now. Every US citizen would have access to this program. Every US citizen is assigned a social security number, and this same number can be your ID number for healthcare services.
Additional funding could also be done by individuals and companies making donations to this Foundation and getting tax deductions in return. It would be an incentive for companies to invest in US Healthcare.
Doctors and specialists could continue to operate as they are now.  Patients would schedule appointments just as they do now. A system would be set up so that billing would be done to this Foundation. There could be a reasonable fee system set up so that doctors, specialists, and other Healthcare facilities would be paid for their services. If a doctor or specialist wishes to charge more, they would be free to do so provided the patient is willing to pay the difference. But that would be outside of the normal fee structure and the patient would not be reimbursed by the Foundation for the difference. It would be their choice to do that.
I recognize that you need competition to advance research and keep prices in check. That's where the pharmaceutical companies come in. The pharmaceutical companies can keep researching medications to cure illnesses and diseases. Doctors should be able to prescribe the medication that would be the most effective for their patients without any interference from anyone else. The Foundation would pay for prescriptions. There should not be any incentive from pharmaceutical companies for doctors to pick one company over another, just the most effective medication, and competition among the pharmaceuticals  to keep the prices in check.
This is just a brief description of what I'd love to see for health care.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Autobiography Chapter 5 - Broadcasting Memories, Part 2: High School Job at the #1 Radio Station in Town

by Paul Pakusch

I turned 16 in December of 1976 and was ready to look for my first paying job.  You needed a work permit if you were under 18, so I quickly got one at my high school office.  Getting the first job wasn’t quite so quick.  I don’t remember what I did between December of 1976 and the summer of 1977; did I apply for jobs?  I don’t recall.  What I do remember is that when school was out for the summer, I began in earnest to find a job at a radio station.

I literally hit the pavement.  My mother, at the time, worked for Visiting Nurse Service which was headquartered in downtown Rochester.  On several occasions that summer, I would ride to work with her.  Then I would walk to each radio station’s office to apply for a job.

WNYR and WEZO was an AM/FM combo of radio stations, a popular arrangement in the 1970’s.  There were federal rules against ownership of multiple stations in one market, which is the case today.  WNYR was at 680 AM for daytime broadcasts only, and was a country music format.  WEZO was at 101.3 FM and featured “beautiful music,” a very popular format in the late 1970’s.  In fact, it was the number one station in ratings at the time.  The stations and their offices were located upstairs in a small building on East Main Street in Rochester, across the street from the old Armory.

The first time I walked into WNYR/WEZO, I met Jerry Warner.  He was the voice of WEZO, giving his smooth delivery of station ID’s, times, and morning announcements.  WEZO was a fully automated station.  The equipment racks included 4 reel-to-reel tape decks, 2 carousel cart machines for commercials, two large cart machines that alternated between the even minutes and odd minutes of every single minute of the day, and a few more cart machines from which newscasts were played.

Had there been a job opening on my first visit, Jerry would’ve been the one to hire me.  He invited me to stay and chat a bit.  I remember asking him, “What would my main job be?”  His answer, “To stay awake!”  The position was automation operator; you had to change the reels of tape and the carts in the carousels, based on what was scheduled in the program log.  That, and of course, stay awake while beautiful music threatened to lull you to sleep.

The computer system was extremely rudimentary.  All it did was put the various tape machines in a sequence.  Each of the songs on the reels of tape had a very low-pitch audio tone at the end of them; the tone was below the hearing level of the average human ear.  When the computer heard this tone, it would trigger the next tape deck in sequence to start, whether it was another music tape, a commercial, or one of the carts with Jerry’s ID or time on it.  I can still hear him say in a smooth tone, “The WEZO time is 7:24.”

I think I made about two more rounds of radio stations that summer.  I never got a job then, but on my last visit to WEZO/WNYR, Jerry introduced me to a new chief engineer, John H.  John was taking over the  hiring of automation operators.  Not long after school started in September, I happened to be at WGMC when John called me, offering me a job working weekend evenings.  Wow!  I’d get paid to work in radio!  Of course I accepted!

My job consisted of running the automation for WEZO, and transferring commercials from reels of tape to carts for both stations.  I got to know the DJ’s who were on WNYR and we'd talk about the business.

Not long after I started working there, John told me he needed an operator for the overnights. I was still in high school, so it was not an option for me.  I mentioned it to my friend, Burt, who applied and got the job.  He often arrived early enough so that we could chat for a bit before my shift ended.  We still have a good laugh every time we remember seeing sidewalk snowplows, one night, on the streets below.  It was like bumper cars out there; the plows kept knocking into tree planters and mailboxes!

While we were both employed there, the station was building new offices and studios a couple miles away on East Avenue, in the block of the 111 East Avenue Hotel.  I think it was in January of 1978 that we made the move.  What stands out to me is that I remember another building under construction one block away.  Little did I know that in another few years, I would end up spending over three decades in that building, WHEC Channel 10.

My time at WEZO/WNYR was short.  In February, 1978, I ended up being fired from a job for the first time in my life.  They claimed I had made a mistake in carting a commercial, but I’ve always suspected that there was more to the story than what they told me.  There seemed to be a house-cleaning going on at the time, and it left my friend Burt out of a job, too.

That ended my paid broadcasting jobs while in high school.  More successes came later on in college.  For the record, I spent most of the rest of high school working at two different nursing homes. 

This gives me an opportunity to brag about the shortest job interview I ever had.  My mother had worked as a Registered Nurse at Lake Shore Nursing Home, on Beach Avenue in Rochester.  By the time I stopped there in September, 1978 to apply for a job, she had already moved onto Visiting Nurse Service.  So, I walked in the front door and asked for an application.  After filling it out, I gave it back to the receptionist.  She told me to have a seat. 

A few moments later, the administrator came out and looked at the application.  He said, “Are you Dorothy Pakusch’s son?”

 I said, “Yes.” 

He said, “Can you start today?”

Bang, hired!

I started the next day, in the kitchen. (Thanks, mom, for having a good reputation that got passed on to your son!)

In my next chapter, I will talk about my college radio experience.

Subsequent entries to my autobiography series will be posted every Saturday morning until further notice.  If you wish to subscribe to notifications of my posts, please enter your e-mail address in the form at the right, under "Follow by e-mail."  If you wish to view previous blog posts of my autobiography, please click on the link under "blog categories" at the top right, "autobiography."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Paul Pakusch

In 2013, while on a trip to Memphis, Tennessee with my daughter, Kristi, we visited the National Civil Rights Museum to see the historic Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  Part of the museum was undergoing an extensive renovation at the time, but we were able to walk around the Motel.  I felt humbled by being there.  I was 7 years old when King was assassinated, so I didn't really understand who he was at the time. I remember I was watching my favorite TV show, "Bewitched," when ABC broke in with a News Bulletin about him being shot.

I was humbled by being there.  We stood on the historic spot on the balcony and I could see the window from where the shots allegedly came from.  Kristi felt a little bit different; I think she was a little freaked out by standing where "someone got murdered."  I think she had a point.

Here's a few pictures from our visit that day.  They show the Lorraine Motel, the spot on the balcony where King was standing, us by King's motel room, and a view of the window from where the shots allegedly came from:

Monday, April 9, 2018

Running For Office

By Paul Pakusch
Sometimes I think of running for office. I'm not really sure what I would run for. I don't even know what party I would run with. I pride myself on being moderate, so that would mean I could run with either Democrats or Republicans. I have to admit I am extremely disappointed with the way the Republicans have been running things in recent years. So the question would be would I join the Democrats because I don't like the Republicans these days, or join the Republicans to do my part to get them to be more moderate?
In any case, there is really not much of a chance that I would run for any office because I am so fed up with the divisiveness of this country these days. It's an interesting thought though, and certainly it would be another adventure for me.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Something to Do

By Paul Pakusch

As we get older, many of us start to find more time for ourselves. Family and work responsibilties become less and less There's a motto that's one of my favorites: "To have a good life, you need someone to love, someone to be loved by, something to do, something to look forward to, and a good BM every day." I'm intrigued by how much wisdom there is in that single sentence. Sure, there's humor, but who can argue the point of having a good BM every day? As for the rest of the motto, aren't we always in pursuit of a good, loving relationship? If you have that, then life is good. We all want something to do. Whether it's to indulge in a hobby, work a job, see a show or watch TV or a movie, listen to music, take a stroll or hang out with friends or loved ones, we're happiest when we are doing something. No one wants to be left in a sterile environment, staring at a blank wall. And we all look forward to something: "I can't wait for my vacation! I can't wait for Christmas! I can't wait for the weekend!" If we have nothing to look forward to, then we may as well be staring at a blank wall.

I love walking through an arts and crafts store to see the various raw materials that people use to form their own creations. People will spend many happy hours working on a painting, a pottery project, a knick knack, a doily, or a refrigerator door masterpiece. I don't think it's so much the final project that brings someone happiness, but the act of working on the project. When finished, many of these items will be given away to appreciating or unappreciating relatives, sold at an arts and crafts fair, or set on display in their own home. The point of these objects isn't the object iself; it's the hours of joy that go into creating these objects that matters.

This is what drumming is all about for me. I love picking up a pair of drum sticks and playing patterns that form drum beats and/or songs. Whether I'm playing by myself or with a group of other musicians, it feels like the organized sound we are creating is something tangible that you can almost hold. You can't actually hold it, of course, but you can move to it, groove to it, be emotionally attached to it, or become mesmerized by it. While I am playing, I "have something to do." I can drum for hours at a time and be perfectly happy. I am creating something; it is art. But as soon as I stop playing, it doesn't exist anymore. I can't give it to you or sell it to you. It can't be placed on a shelf for display or thrown into a landfill. It was never really tangible to begin with. But yet it is there.

Yet, it is art. It is subjective. Like a painting, you either like what I play or you don't like what I play. It takes many months and years of practice for me to be able to play the way I do. I have a goal to be even better than I am. I would never be satisfied creating the stick figures of a child for the rest of my life; I'd want to paint a masterpiece. I am never satisfied playing the basic drum beats I learned as a beginner; I constantly want to challenge myself and be a better drummer. It is a satisfaction that I bring to myself for doing it. It is even more fun to do with a group of other musicians. Together we are painting that masterpiece. When we finish playing, the masterpiece doesn't exist anymore. To live the good life I described in the motto, we must continually get together to paint yet another masterpiece, time and time again. We look forward to it.

And when we're done, we go off our separate ways to have a good BM. :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

My Take on Global Warming

By Paul Pakusch

My feeling about global warming is that humans have been on earth for such a short amount of time that we do not have enough data recorded to really recognize a trend. One thing I am not going to do is listen to what politicians have to say about it. That makes the whole thing political. If politicians would just shut up about it, that would certainly reduce the amount of hot air in the atmosphere, haha

What matters is what scientists have to say about it; but again it's such a such a short period of recorded history that we do not have enough data to really put together a trend for global warming as affected by human activities. We do know that there are cycles of warming and cooling trends in the lifespan of planet Earth. That happens regardless of the effect by humans. I remember back in the 1970s people thought the earth was cooling. But yet now they say it is warming. So there has been a contradiction. Also, whatever happened to the big concern over the big hole in the ozone layer?

I think it's impossible to get a true picture of whether humans are in fact causing global warming. I feel that as humans the best thing we can do is just keep the environment as clean as possible for our own health benefits. Whether we affect global warming or not, it's to our benefit to keep fuel emissions down, for example. If nothing else, it keeps the air clean.

Friday, April 6, 2018

First Passenger - September 1991

By Paul Pakusch

This was originally written in 1991:

I had just earned my private pilot's license in September, 1991, and it was an awesome feeling to realize that I could now take a passenger flying with me. During the course of learning to fly, a student pilot is not allowed to carry passengers when he or she flies solo. I wanted to do some flying for fun in my two-seat training airplane, a Cessna 152, before checking out in a 4-seat aircraft. Therefore I could take one passenger with me: My first passenger!

Since my wife and I were at 39,000 feet aboard a DC-9 en route from Rochester, New York, to Orlando, Florida for our honeymoon in 1984 when I became bitten by the flying bug, I had long wanted her to be my first passenger. Besides, she was just as affected by the expense of flying lessons as I was, so I figured it was only fair. But since then we had had three young children who would now need a baby-sitter during that flight. No baby-sitter was available.

My wife suggested the alternative that was already on my mind: She would stay home with the two younger girls while I took Kristy, age 5, as my first passenger. "It will be something special," my wife said. "Besides, she loves to fly."

It's true. Kristy was a real pro at being a passenger for her age. She had flown a jet round trip from Rochester to Seattle at three months (she claims she remembers the trip!), a sightseeing ride in a small plane near Lake Placid at age two, a seaplane ride in Inlet, New York and a helicopter ride age three, and another ride in a four-seat Beechcraft Sundowner once on a lesson with my instructor.
Kristy was thrilled when I asked her to go flying with me. I told her we would fly to Darien Lake, an amusement and waterslide park between Rochester and Buffalo that we had been to about a week earlier. I told Kristy we would circle around the park a couple times and that she would see the roller coasters, the waterslides and some of the other big rides.

Kristy had never shown a fear of flying. I suppose that's normal for young children, because to them, sitting in an airplane is not all that different from sitting in a car.

But Kristy did have a fear of loud noises. She knew that jets taxiing near us at the airport and taking off from the runway would be loud. She had kept her hands over her ears during our entire helicopter ride. I did my best to relieve her fears before we got out of the car.

After getting the keys for the rented Cessna 152, I bought her a set of earplugs to wear inside the plane. They were the spongy kind held together by a plastic string. They didn't work too well because they kept falling out of her ears. I told her she could just hold them up to her ears if she wanted to use them.

I took Kristy to the airplane and let her touch the wings. Then I helped her inside and told her I needed to take a few minutes to check the outside of the plane to make sure everything was working OK. I told her the "steering wheel" would move around in front of her when I moved parts of the wing and tail. She was intrigued by that!

When I finished the preflight and climbed into the seat beside her, she already had her hands up to her ears in anticipation of the engine starting! She did this several times as I finished my preflight inside the plane and I promised to warn her just before I started the engine. I also told her the engine would get "loud" during the run-up and during the take-off.

I did as I promised and we taxied to the runway. What a feeling to have my sweet little daughter sitting next to me instead of my flight instructor or the flight examiner!

Kristy kept her ears covered and head hunched down during the run-up. When we were told by the tower to enter the runway and then wait for further clearance, I had the opportunity to tell her, "It's OK to keep your ears covered, but make sure you watch out the window because that's the best part of flying!"

She did, and at the moment we broke ground she became enthralled with the view. After leaving the control area, I took off my headset. She was singing! That meant she was very relaxed and enjoying herself!

OK, I know she had flown several times before, but it had been over a year since she last flew. That's a long time in a five-year-old's life. I guess I was just a nervous dad concerned about how his daughter would react to this situation.

Why, to her it was just like riding in a car except that "The cars look like toys!" she exclaimed. "And I see a swimming pool!"

I was beaming. This is what I had dreamed of for seven years and it had finally come true: Just going for a nice, leisurely cruise in an airplane with my loved ones.

I looked at Kristy watching the view below. What a vision of repose she was! Singing softly to herself, commenting on the view below and totally enjoying the ride. I asked her if the engine noise was bothering her anymore and she told me it wasn't.

Darien Lake Amusement Park was not shown on the aviation map, so I had a compass heading to take us to the town of Darien. I knew the park was just a few miles away from the town.
When we were near the town of Darien, I told Kristy she could help me look for the park. Then I spotted it in our two o'clock position about six miles away.

"There it is!" I told Kristy. "Do you see the Ferris wheel?"

We had to get a mile or two closer before she finally said, "I see it! I see the Ferris wheel! And I see the roller coaster!"

On our visit to Darien Lake a week earlier, I had noticed helicopters for sightseeing rides. My concern now was to watch out for those helicopters if they were still there, so I stayed higher than they would be flying. It was by now past Labor Day and the park was only open on weekends for the rest of the season, so I doubted the helicopters were there. But still, you have to watch out.

My practice in doing circles around a point paid off here as I made two circles around the park so Kristy could get a good look. I was pleased as I maintained my altitude almost perfectly while watching out for traffic.

Kristy had a ball as she called out the park's attractions that she recognized. Then I asked her if she wanted to fly near the lake. She said yes.

I chose a heading that would take us near Rochester when we reached Lake Ontario. That would give us a few miles of flying along the lake shore before I needed to contact the controller again.

It was a very smooth and pleasant ride from Darien Lake to Lake Ontario, a distance of about 30 miles over mostly farm land. By the time we reached the shore, Kristy seemed to be getting bored. She was fidgeting with her earplugs, trying to get them to stay on. I've read that no one makes earplugs that fit children. Maybe it's about time that someone did.

I established communications with Rochester Approach Control and we headed for the airport. Since we were back over suburban and city congestion, Kristy had more to watch on the ground. I was pleased with my landing and pleased overall with the flight. I now felt like a real private pilot and could take passengers!

In the following weeks, I was able to take my wife flying (we found a baby-sitter!) and a few more relatives.