When I Was a Kid, We Had a Plane

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

My Dad had been flying for a couple of years, renting a plane or paying a teacher from the various airports that he was taking lessons at, before he decided that he’d be buying a plane of his own.

I’m not sure how he met the guy, but he was splitting the cost with a guy named Dick. Dick already owned his own plane and this was a secondary plane for him. Clearly neither Dick or my family was hurting for money when I was growing up. Dad did okay money wise.

I’ll guesstimate I was about 8 or 9, 10 at the most when we flew to pick up the plane from its seller. We piled into Dick’s tiny plane — known as a tail dragger, because it had a tiny wheel in the back that sat firmly on the ground at the tailend of the plane — and flew to get it.

The photo you see up top there is actually the plane as we picked it up that morning.

I remember flying back to Lawrence airport, conveniently located in North Andover (as if that’s not confusing) where Dad would store the plane, have it serviced and fueled and whatnot.

Once we got the plane, all bets were off. We used it a lot, flying all over the place.  Some of my favorite memories were just my Dad and I flying somewhere for breakfast or lunch on a Saturday morning.

He joked that it was our trip for the “$100 hamburger”. Not that we paid that much for a burger, but when you factored in the cost of flying to get it, the cost came out to around a hundred bucks.

We flew as far as Plum Island, Maine, to Martha’s Vineyard from time to time. Most of the little airports had little diners situated right by the runway, so you could fly in, hope out of the plane, walk a few feet, eat, and then leave. It worked out pretty well for most of the places that we’d go.

I remember one time we flew to Pepperill Airport, a common place where people skydive from. We were going to see my Uncle Jim skydive, something he did quite often.

We were coming in for a landing, just zipping along, when I recall my Dad saying “I wonder where the skydivers are.”

When all of a sudden, out of the blue, one of them flew by the front of the plane. We almost chopped him to bits with the propeller.  We learned, pretty quickly, that they just fall from the sky and that you have to be incredibly careful about hitting someone. Thankfully, we swerved and didn’t hit him.

I took a few flying lessons when I was around 15, but was too young to see it through and get my license. I logged a bunch of hours and stopped going around the time my parents split up, maybe a little longer after that.

One of my favorite locations to go was Plum Island. It was a tiny little airport, just a long strip of pavement for a runway stuck in a long field of grass. A tiny little shack, presumably where the radio controls were, as there was no tower, sat about halfway down the runway.

I loved flying there specifically because it was where the ultralight planes flew out of.  They were little tiny planes made of fiberglass and nylon, powered by lawn mower engines.  They could fly pretty low, holding the weight of a full grown man, zipping around in the sky, in an open cockpit. They were just so cool to see when I was a kid.

Later in life I decided to try flying again. That was about 3 years ago now.  I took a few lessons and really enjoyed it while I was up in the sky, complete freedom to go where I wanted, do what I want. It brought me back to my childhood and all of those hundred dollar hamburgers. When I told my Dad about it, he joked that with the price of inflation our hamburgers would cost $300 nowadays.

I don’t know if it was because I didn’t really enjoy it, or because I didn’t like the teacher I got, but I eventually stopped taking lessons once I’d burnt up all of the money I’d prepaid. I logged a good twenty hours and could probably have passed the test to get my license, it just didn’t feel right. It was a lot more complicated than I’d remembered; push this, pull that, tweak this, tell the tower where you are, watch out for other planes. I think I just didn’t like my teacher, he wasn’t really teaching me in a way that made me want to keep learning.

It was a great experience as a child to get to enjoy that freedom with your Dad. Even if your sister threw up in the plane from time to time and made it smell like puke.

Dan & Jen

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

If you’ve been following along, you know that Dan was my best friend though most of my teenage years. We, along with other members of our band, were fairly inseparable. As we grew older, we grew distant. I don’t think there’s anyone or anything to blame — certainly not anything you’re about to read in this story — we just grew apart. As you get older, you become the person you are. And the person you are doesn’t necessarily get along with your friends.

As we learned back in the Winnipesaukee story, I knew Jen from working at Johnny Rockets. I had a pretty big crush on her as soon as I met her — but I was a stupid 16 year old. I had a crush on any girl that paid attention to me and even some that didn’t. It was just part of my character flaws when I was that age. Any pretty girl that batted her eyes my way was the one I wanted, Jen included.

Needless to say that when she and Dan started dating, I was a little hurt. Later in life I’d find out that Dan broke the bro code on that, but I won’t hold that against him all these years later.

I had introduced them one of the many times that we’d been hanging out together — Jen and I, that is — and I could tell that they immediately liked each other. In hindsight, they were a good fit for one another.

I don’t know about how long they dated when they were 17, but it wasn’t that long. Maybe a few months. It was around this time that my relationship with that group had started dwindling. Like I said, I don’t know what it was, we just grew into different people. I started going my way, and no one pulled me back. That was that.

One of my favorite stories about the two of them, back then, still makes me chuckle to this day.

A group of us had stopped by Wendy’s house one night, to hang out and watch a movie. According to my internet sleuthing, this must have been mid-December 1997. According to Amazon, the first Scream movie came out on December 2nd, 1997 and that was the film that Wendy had rented and wanted to watch.  As soon as she took out the tape, Jen stood up and said she was refusing to watch it and wanted to leave.

Dan, being the good guy he was, took her home and then came back. He’d already seen the movie, so he didn’t mind missing some of it.

Once the movie was over and we were all talking about it, Dan told us that on the ride home Jen had told him that she was terrified of the concept and that she had a true fear of having someone break into her house.

The fun part was, at the time, Dan was working at a party store — either Party City or iParty, I think iParty — and they had a bunch of leftover Scream costumes from Halloween a few months before. He’d already picked one up just to have for the following year.

A few weeks later Dan called me and told me that Jen had finally watched the movie, by herself at home, and she was terrified of the entire thing.

Costume in hand, Dan, Kevin, Brian and I got in my car and drove over to Burlington to where Jen’s house was. Dan donned the costume and the three of us took turns calling Jen’s landline and saying scary things to her. I’m fairly certain there was no caller ID in 1997 and it certainly wasn’t a time when all of us had cell phones, so calling from a car was fairly unusual.

After about half an hour, Dan came back to the car, laughing his ass off. He said that she was really really mad about the whole thing and that we should probably get out of there.

It’s hard to describe in words how funny it was at the time, but adult me looking back on it realizes how truly mean that whole thing was.

Cut to about 12 years later. The scene, Facebook. I finally, after years and years, decide to look Dan up and see how he’s doing. We re-connect, send a few messages back and forth and I do the typical Facebook stalker routing – check photos, look at job history, look at relationship status. He told me that he was engaged and was about to get married. I had just gotten married the year before, so we chatted a bit about that and then lost touch.

Adult Dan isn’t as into technology as teenage Dan was, and we eventually lost touch. He doesn’t post much and doesn’t reply to messages at all.

But on April 9th, 2011, his relationship status changed and popped up in my feed.

Dan Prentiss is now in a relationship with Jennifer Fentress.

I did a double take. A triple take. That couldn’t be real, or true.  But there it was, in my timeline, followed shortly by two photos of them, together, smiling and having a beer.

By my math, they’d been broken up for around 14 years.  I don’t know how they found each other again, but I suppose love finds you when you’re not looking for it. Even if it found you initially when you were a teenager.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but around a year or so later, they got engaged. I don’t have the details on what happened with the girl that Dan was supposed to marry in 2009 when we first reconnected, but I imagine when he and Jen found each other again, that other woman quickly feel to the wayside.

Jen and Dan got married on September 29th, 2012. I imagine it was completely unintentional, but that happens to be my birthday. Another weird instance of how things in my life come full circle, without me intervening or being involved in any way. Just, by the luck of it, the couple that I introduced 15 years earlier had reconnected and gotten married on my birthday.

To wrap up the story, they had their first child, a baby girl named Ella on March 4th. And from what I can see on their limited Facebook activity, parents and baby are happy, healthy and glad to have found one another again after all of these years.


I Won Tickets to see Michael Bolton, Unintentionally

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time, hanging out at home, by myself after school.  It’s how I spent a lot of afternoons as a kid around that age.

I picked up the phone hanging on the wall in the kitchen, stretched its cord as far as I could, and dialed.  931-1945.  This was back before you had to dial an area code.  Just seven short digits between me and whatever underpaid intern would answer the phone at Jam’n 94.5.  If you think about it now, it’s really weird that I’d call that station. They don’t exactly play music that’s to my taste these days.

I had wanted to call in and request a song — who knows what — before turning on the radio.  If you’ve ever called into a radio station to request something (do people even do that anymore?), you know it takes a few hours for them to play something.

When the girl on the other end answered, she said “Jam’n”
“Hi, I wanted to request a song.”
“Sure thing. What do you want to hear?”
<insert whatever song I asked for here.>

The weird thing was that after that happened, she asked for my name, address and phone number.  I was young enough that I didn’t give it any thought.  I just forked over that information to her.

She thanked and congratulated me and I hung up.

I didn’t give it a second thought. I just went about my day, eventually turning on the radio waiting for my song.

About a week later, I got a letter in the mail with a Jam’n 94.5 return address label.  At that age you don’t get much mail, so I ripped it right open to find out what was inside.

It was a letter from the Program Director, congratulating me on being the 7th caller in their “Great Woods Michael Bolton Giveaway”.  Enclosed were two lawn seats to Michael Bolton.  If you’ve ever been to Great Woods (which is now called the Xfinity Center) in Mansfield, you know that winning lawn seats is almost like a punishment, rather than a prize.

I showed them to my mom, still a bit confused how I’d unintentionally been the right caller for a contest I didn’t even know was happening — talk about luck, right?

I don’t remember if it was on a school night, or because it was so far away, but my mom decided that she and my dad would go to the concert, instead of me.  I remember her telling me, matter of factly, that she loved Michael Bolton and that she’d take the tickets.

“You’re too young to go,” I’m sure was said.

So I gave in. I handed over the tickets and let them go.

Now that I think of it, I’m fairly certain the show took place over the summer. Regardless.

Pre-teen me was pretty happy the morning after the concert when my mom woke up.  I asked her how the show was.

Apparently it rained. A lot. All night.

They got soaked, had to sit in a very muddy “lawn” area, and didn’t enjoy the concert all that much.  I don’t remember if she said they even left early, but I think that in some way, that was Karma jumping in and raining on her parade for stealing the tickets that I didn’t mean to win and didn’t want to have.