Aeromancy: Short stories of imagination and dreams taking flight by Paul Berge

The Book

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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..

The Author

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Wikileaked opening statement by Paul Berge from
investigation into reports of unbound joy in aviation
“To the best of my knowledge, Senator, these are the facts of my life as I recall. Allowances must be made for the first 2-3 years as I was in not terribly observant. “I’m told I was born in Newark, New Jersey. The name of the hospital eludes me but it did have a diner across the street where my father drank coffee and smoked his pipe awaiting the news of my arrival. I was late, so he moved to a tavern down the block where he lost $13 shooting pool with some fat guy from Minnesota.

“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.

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“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.”

My Thoughts

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.

Highly recommended.

9 comments

  1. I have a big grin on my face from reading Berge’s “artist’s statement.” Are the stories written in the same vein? Oh, and I’ve bookmarked Rejection Slip Theater to enjoy at my leisure! (Totally irresistible title for a podcast.)

    • Have a look at his back cover copy for “Aeromancy” on Amazon! Since coming down with fibromyalgia, one thing I’ve sorely missed was getting to experience euphoria (think: first snow). His writing is so poignant that it seems to nudge me right up against it again. His adult daughter was the first one to spot my early meme about the book on Instagram, so it was fun to connect with her. (Long ago he even produced my story about Reconciling Dad for rejection slip theater. I was just learning to write so I could eventually share the Wilson family WWII story.)

      • I just took a look at the back cover of the book. I found a lot of information about him online, including two websites. I’ll look for “Reconciling Dad” on Rejection Slip Theater.

      • Liz, Paul Berge is the narrator for the audiobook of “Leora’s Letters.” I choked up when I heard Clabe’s words through his voice. It’s being edited, then we need to learn how to get the audio and the new cover uploaded to connect with the paperback and ebook. A learning experience for all involved!

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