Picture a fence. On one side stand wingless adults with stunted imaginations. On the other are kids of all ages who know that physical barriers can’t keep freed minds down. Aeromancy, by Paul Berge, takes sides and flies the reader across a landscape of dreams unlocked during his lifetime or two of flight. Ninety-one short stories present the irrational passion of those who inhabit the small airports where real aviation lives.
The characters are outcasts, aeromantics who shun perceived reality and, instead, casually lift into the sky where there are no limits to an open-cockpit mind. You’ll taxi old taildraggers across Midwestern grass airfields and challenge a lover to a Biplane Dual above the Hawaiian Islands. On a small airport along California’s Monterey Bay, you’ll meet a man, a dog, and a woman who flies into their lives to show that the spirit of life is free to anyone who falls in love.
Aeromancy takes you to the other side of the airport fence. If you’re already there, it’s reminder just how lucky we pilots are..
investigation into reports of unbound joy in aviation
“After that it was the typical Eisenhower Era childhood in Westwood, New Jersey : TV dinners, Lionel Trains, Yoo-hoo, and Catholic guilt. At age 18, I joined the Army. There was well publicized war in Vietnam, and since my draft number was 323, and I was headed to college—a place I didn’t want to be—I joined up.
“They made me a pharmacist (no kidding; pharmacy specialist MOS: 91Q) and sent me to Monterey, California. Yeah, tough duty. Later, I was sent to Hawaii for 13 months, where I learned to body surf and fly airplanes. I still fly airplanes. In fact, that’s one of my first loves. I’m very egalitarian about loves, so have many firsts. The Vietnam war ended, no doubt in part due to my prescription filling abilities.
“I managed to stumble through four years of college and graduated with a BA in European History from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Tried graduate school but grew bored after a year, went home and wrote a novel called Bootleg Skies. Someone accidentally published it, so I wrote three more. Luck ran out while mounds of rejection slips piled up. So, remembering what Sister Belladonna told me in the third grade, ‘When you get lemons, make lemon daiquiris,’ I contacted a producer named Joe Pundzak (who also was the someone who published Bootleg Skies) and together we created the radio drama series, Rejection Slip Theater (RST).
“Didn’t make a nickel, but RST aired on WHO 1040 am, Sunday nights at nine for ten years and can still be heard on podcasts. In between fighting surfing wars in Hawaii, gleaning liberal arts degrees in California and producing weird radio, I’ve managed to work 17 years as a FAA air traffic controller, 13 at Des Moines International Airport. I’ve written for a handful of aviation magazines and was editor of IFR—which stands for Instrument Flight Rules—from 1999 to 2005. And thanks to one of the RST actors, Morgan Halgren, I was invited to host a travel series called Side Roads, on Iowa Public TV.
“I fly as often as possible and manage to do a little flight instructing in my 70-year old Aeronca 7AC Champ whenever weather and spare parts allow.
“My wife, Kathy (a veterinarian), and I live outside Indianola, Iowa, not because they won’t let us in, but because we like woods and fields and power outages in winter. Our daughter, Emily, lives in New Jersey, and don’t think we don’t see the irony of that. My favorite movie is White Christmas; my favorite color is red because it’s easy to spell. My favorite book is Horton Hears a Who, favorite Beatle is John and favorite baseball player is dead. But, then, so is Lennon. These things happen.
“I don’t like neckties, but I’ve been to Italy and all but four states in the USA. I don’t play a musical instrument but once shook hands with Richard Nixon (true). I was in pharmacy specialist school at the Texas medical center where LBJ died and still get choked up when Old Yeller dies. That’s about it. I will now take questions and give evasive answers.”
When you fly old airplanes it’s the journey that matters. – Paul Berge
I hadn’t planned to spend the weekend with my head in the clouds, so to speak. Captured by the beautiful writing in the back cover copy, I was irretrievably hooked.
I hate flying, but didn’t realize that having only been on airliners, I’ve never really experienced real flying. The compelling story about airplane ghosts had me lured almost ready to experience the real thing–in an open cockpit machine. But since I feel queasy on the kiddy rides at Adventureland, I’d better stick with this vicarious experience through Paul Berge’s compelling essays and stories.
Eleven fascinating chapters of short stories take you through Airport Kids, Romance in the Air, Learning to Fly, Ghosts, California Flyin’ and Mid-American Skies to Holiday Flights and The Whole Point of Flight.
You can’t skim poetry like you can prose. So many of these pieces are beautiful poetic. The lucky humans who love piloting small planes and being wrapped in the sky, and even for those of us who are sadly earth-bound, this is a delightful collection of stories to help us escape the “tyranny of gravity” through them.