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The Spirits of Abandoned Ambitions



“I SAW YOURS today.”

“Oh?” you said. “Where was she?” Your tone was nonchalant, but I knew you were pretending. I’m your husband. I can tell.

“On the side of the road by the gorge. Near the big Douglas fir.”

That part of the road curved around the fir, cutting so close that the cars drove right over its roots. Back when the road was still dirt and not well traveled, the tree was OK, but when the car ferry came in the ’60s, the road got paved, and the fir started to die. Pity. It was a magnificent tree. Old growth. Girthy. The old-timers came to rue that ferry. They rued all of us newcomers, who crossed the border into Canada and traveled up the coast: first, the hippies and draft dodgers, then the New Age seekers and utopianists, then the dropouts from Silicon Valley and the pandemic refugees. We came with our big cars and big dreams. Our architects and our American dollars. Our fancy ambitions.

“What was she doing?”

“Hitchhiking. Toward the ferry.”

The ferry was the only way off the island. All our ambitions tried to leave at some point, when they woke up to the fact we had betrayed them. When they realized what was in store for them if they stayed.

“How did she look?”

“Not great. Pretty wan. Transparent, even. It won’t be long before she — ”

You cut me off. “Yeah,” you said. “Well, it’s probably better.”

“I suppose.”

What I didn’t tell you was how young she still looked, with her long black hair and furious face, even in her frailty. She was so beautiful once. Strong and full of life, lithe in her struggle and vivid in her suffering. I remember how she animated you, glaring at me from behind your eyes, during those first long winters of rain. The rain caged her, the island imprisoned her; she clawed inside you like a wild animal, and I could feel her writhing when I held you in my arms. From time to time, you would throw open the door and stride out into the rain, throw back your head and let her howl. I watched you through the window as you turned your face to the sky. Her howl tore from your throat, but from inside the house, I could barely hear it. Just a thin trickle of sound, quickly swallowed by the pelting rain and the mossy forest, by the wind that lashed the cedars and the density of fog. We humans were so insignificant in that landscape, and she didn’t like that. She was still trying to write that novel back then. I mean, you were.

“Did she see you?” you asked.

“Yeah. She gave me the finger. I saw her in the rearview mirror as I passed.”

You smiled. “She’s got some life in her yet.”

“She still blames me for bringing you here.”

“You didn’t bring me,” you said, pulling back your long, graying hair. “I came of my own accord.”

Dripping, you would come inside, face wet with rain, and I never knew if you were crying or if she was.

“I’M NOT UNHAPPY,” you informed me. As if I, your husband of close to three decades, wouldn’t know.

“I know.”

“In many ways, I’m happier without her,” you said. “She was never satisfied. Always complaining … ”

“Yeah, she was a total pain in the ass,” I concurred. You looked hurt when I said this, so I added, “but she was awfully cute.” You frowned. “I mean, you were cute.” You glared at me, and I tried again. “I mean, you still are cute.”

You made a face, but then you relented. “And those insanely grandiose plans of hers! Just one damn thing after another. Relentless!”

“Do you remember when she started the bakery? Built that cob oven and almost set the forest on fire.”

“Well,” you said, smiling, “we ate some nice bread for a while.” You paused. “Sorry about your tooth.”

I’d broken my tooth on one of her loaves. It was sourdough. Hard as a rock. “Do you remember when she got into ayahuasca and apprenticed with that shaman?”

You shuddered. “Her shamanic phase was the worst!”

“No,” I said. “The worst phase was the polyamory.”

You didn’t hear me, or maybe you did. Quickly, you changed the subject. “And then there was the Institute, when she wanted to start an international field station for mycologists and fungi researchers and canopy biologists.”

“That was my idea.”

“Oh,” you said. “Right.”

“I had my dreams, too, you know.”

“I know. I forgot.”

THE POLYAMORY PHASE almost ended our marriage, but you don’t like to talk about this. I think you’re still embarrassed, even after all these years. I don’t blame you, though. I blame her. She was blinded by the charismatic prophet who had come to the island to teach a workshop on energy healing, which she convinced you to take, telling you that it was necessary “research” for the novel you were writing at the time. It was a novel about a somewhat futuristic back-to-the-land movement, peopled by neo-hippies, earth muffins, meat punks and New Age refugees, and set on a remote Pacific Northwest island in Desolation Sound. You described it to me once as a fictional meditation on the theme of failed utopias, which I thought sounded fascinating, but unfortunately I never got to read it. I think there’s still a draft of it in a box somewhere in the basement, moldering away, eaten by silverfish. You never finished it, because she abandoned you. You couldn’t finish a novel without her.

Failed utopias. Failed novels. Failed marriages. Desolation Sound abounds with these.

One night, during the weeklong workshop, the prophet was scheduled to do a public talk for the islanders. His talk was to be about sylphs, and, needless to say, I didn’t want to go with you, but she insisted. We argued. She won. By the time we arrived, the large yurt was mostly full, but we found seats on the floor in front. When the prophet took his place at the mic, I was startled. I had expected a tall, willowy man with flowing gray hair, pulled back in a ponytail. Maybe an ethnically embroidered skullcap hiding his bald spot. Prayer beads, for sure, and maybe a caftan. But I was wrong. This prophet had an expensive haircut and was wearing a suit. He had the body of a man who works out with a trainer. Turns out he had made an enormous fortune in new battery technologies, but I didn’t know this at the time. Sitting there at his feet, I listened as he recounted what he laughingly called his awakening, which led to his decision to sell his immensely profitable company and retire at the age of 35. His delivery was casual, modest and precise as he described how the sylphs, with their etheric bodies, transmute and neutralize the toxic chemtrails being pumped into the sky by government geo-engineers, multinational corporations and U.S. Army biological weapons testing programs. Without the heroic intervention of the sylphs, and other intracosmic beings, he said, we would all die of bioengineered pandemics.

Of course, I thought he was being ironic. At some point, I remember nudging you, but you didn’t turn or seem to notice. When I looked back up at the prophet, I saw he was staring straight at you as he spoke, and she was gazing back at him, transfixed by his pale blue eyes. After the talk was over, he glided up to us, captured both your hands in his and clasped them. I glanced over at you and saw her blush. When you introduced us, he drew himself up and pressed his palms together at his heart chakra, bending at the waist in a slight namaste bow. I bowed, too, awkwardly, and then, as I straightened, he smiled and winked at me. She said I must have been mistaken, but I swear that wink happened. Later, at home, I went online and found his website. It had a menu of his offerings, which included exclusive workshops, consulting services and a full line of high-end orgone generators, tower busters and power wands. When I showed you the site, we both scoffed, but she remained silent. When I made a harmless joke about the spelling of “profit,” she turned and left the room. I sensed she was attracted to him then, but you denied it, and so I let it go.

Like so many prophets and gurus and shamans and healers before him, he fell under the spell of the island, and soon we learned that he had purchased a prime stretch of waterfront on the south end, where he was building a long house capable of deflecting microwaves, electromagnetic rays and cellphone signals. This was not surprising. I was, however, startled when you told me that he’d invited us to move onto his land and into his long house and to become a part of his polyamorous family. I knew immediately that she was behind this — she had a terrible weakness for men in power positions, and the challenge of rising in the ranks of the prophet’s disciples and gaining his esteem was irresistible to her — but what truly surprised me was that you wanted us to try.

“Wife-swapping?” I remember asking. The island has a long history of this sort of thing, dating back to the proto-hippies in the ’60s. “Free love?”

You glared at me, or maybe it was her. “I’m not a commodity that’s yours to trade,” she said, or maybe that was both of you.

The long house, with its cubit coils and crystal shields, was not what protected us from the pandemic. We were no longer living on the compound by then, ever since she realized that the prophet, too, was driven by ambition, which dwindled the longer he stayed on the island. Ambition was the fuel of his sexual charisma, what made him burn so brightly, and without it, the prophet paled, turning into a ghost of his former self. His hair grew long and lank. He stopped working out and developed a paunch. She came to her senses then, as did you, and when he started wearing tie-dye, we moved out, putting the long-house affair behind us. Our marriage survived, although the episode did leave its mark. I think you began to distrust your judgment then, and your ambition never quite recovered.

I fancy I’ve always had a slight edge when it comes to judgment, but my ambition has never been a match for yours, and consequently I had far less to lose. My ambition never troubled me the way yours did, and so I just assumed he was already dead. Given my relative contentment during the global pandemic, when everyone’s ambitions were being thwarted, this was not an unreasonable assumption. I figured mine must have passed away quietly in the night, and I never missed him.

But someone told me they’d seen him recently, too, and I was surprised. I was at the post office, picking up the mail, and this person said they’d spotted him, alive and running through the forest. I’ve always been a runner — you know this, of course — but never an ambitious one. Other people clock their pace and track their mileage, run half-marathons, set goals and post new milestones, but I never have. I run for the fun of it, for the pleasure of moving swiftly through the forest along the narrow trails. I love skirting those massive old-growth trees, jumping over their roots, ducking under dripping mosses and feeling the spongy ground underneath my feet. Sometimes I stop to eat wild huckleberries or photograph a slime mold or stare at an owl. I run for the smells of the forest, of cedar and fir, lichen and fungi. I run for the sweat and the way it makes me feel after. Ambition has never been a part of it.

So when this person said they’d seen him running through the forest, I pressed for details: Did he look ill? Was something chasing him? Was he running away? They said that no, actually, he looked quite fit, jogging at a good clip up one of the steeper trails that the mountain bikers sometimes use, never breaking a sweat. This puzzled me. This is the island where ambition goes to die. Had mine survived somehow? Adapted to island conditions? Was he in training? This was a frightening thought. I didn’t tell you about it, but frankly, I was worried.

WHEN THE PANDEMIC hit, the island closed its doors. The ferry still ran on a reduced schedule, but only islanders and essential businesses were allowed passage, and tourists and nonresidents were turned away. The wealthy Americans with homes on the island, fearing long months of isolation and deprivation, cut their vacations short and left before the borders closed. They have big lives and big needs. They have primary residences in big American cities serviced by Amazon Prime, and they can afford to pay for private health insurance and concierge medical care, so we weren’t terribly worried about them. The rest of us hunkered down and counted ourselves lucky.

We had public health care through our little medical clinic. Food was available. With the tourist trade suspended, even the young earth muffins had year-round housing. People had their small gardens, and some of the local farms stepped up production. The local food co-op brought in bulk orders of staples like flour, rice and pasta. We collected oysters and dug for clams, grew our own garlic and traded it for butter. Certain things, like toilet paper, were in short supply, but this was true everywhere else in the world, too. Cash money became a thing of the past, as people began to barter and share. The population was always sparse, so social distancing was never a problem. Folks drawn to a remote island in Desolation Sound were social isolates to begin with. We preferred it this way.

Then, as the months went by, something very odd started to happen. There were reports of sightings. Shadowy ambitions, like the ghosts of shy children, were spotted hiding behind tree trunks or fences or outhouses, quietly watching us as we went about our business. We’d see them when we were chatting with a masked neighbor at the post office, or taking long walks after dinner. Sometimes, as we were weeding the garden or chopping firewood, we would feel their eyes upon us and look up, and there they were, studying us from an appropriate social distance. What did they want? We were worried, at first. The equilibrium of the island depended upon keeping their o’erweening appetites in check, but as time went on, and in the absence of any wild leaping or vaulting behaviors, we began to trust them again and allowed them to come a bit nearer. Could it be that they’d learned moderation? Had they begun to acclimatize to the island ecosystem, too?

You still worried, though. Once, when you were collecting oyster mushrooms in the alder grove, you spotted yours flitting from tree to tree in the dappled light.

“I think she was looking for mushrooms,” you told me later. “I think she was trying to help.”

“That’s sweet … ”

“No, it’s not sweet. It’s terrifying. I don’t want her help! She’ll try to monetize the mushrooms. Turn it into a business.”

“Don’t be so hard on her. She’s helped you in the past …”

You grimaced. “Listen. You don’t know her. You don’t know what it’s like to live with her.”

I put my hands on your shoulders. “Well,” I said, kissing the frown line on your forehead, “actually, I do.”

IN THE END, though, you didn’t have to worry. Eventually, you even started writing again. Not novels. Nothing that big or ambitious. But a draft of a short story now and again, or sometimes a poem, scribbled on the back of a recycled envelope, which you would later read to us by the fire. I say “us” because by then, we were all there on the couch together. Me, with my arm around you as you read. Yours, listening quietly and leaning into mine. The stories were short and didn’t take long. We’d listen and nod. Maybe ask a question or two. Yours, I noticed, was careful never to offer feedback or make a suggestion unless asked, and you rarely asked these days. What was the point? Like my running, you now wrote for your pleasure, and for ours.

The native people used to call this the island of the dead, for surely it is full of ghosts. Now, after you read to us, I dampen down the fire, and we all say good night, and then we go to bed. When we sleep, we dream, unhaunted.

By: Ruth Ozeki and David Burdeny
Title: The Spirits of Abandoned Ambitions
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2020 17:00:08 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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