Vapour Trails of Jets

The news story about the hand grenade found in someone’s carry-on bag at LAX made me think about my last encounter with the Transportation Security Administration two weeks ago, when I went through the security screening at Orlando Airport on my way home from the March for Persecuted Christians.

I got in line, ready to take off my belt, my shoes, and my jacket and pass through the naked scanner. But when I got to the first TSA officer and presented my boarding pass and photo ID, I got a wonderful surprise: my ticket had been marked as “TSA Pre-Screened”. She pointed me to another — much shorter — line, where I was allowed to show my boarding pass and be waved through without having to show my junk to anyone. I avoided all the customary hassle, and had an extra twenty minutes to spend eating breakfast and drinking espresso before boarding the plane for Charlotte.

But why did the TSA grant me the privilege of pre-screening? No one could tell me — it said so on my boarding pass, so that was that: I was King for a Day.

Maybe it was like a lottery ticket — one in 10,000 passengers gets the extra-special TSA reward bonus! It will probably never happen again, but I certainly enjoyed it.

And what if I had packed a hand grenade in my hand luggage? Fortunately for everyone going to Charlotte that day, I decided to bring my Kindle instead…

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Whenever I go through airport security, it puts me in mind of the song “Life in the Air Age” by Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe, from their 1976 album Sunburst Finish:

Life in the air age isn’t all the brochures say
Life in the air age, it’s too dangerous to stay
Life in the air age, airships crashing every day into the bay

Life in the air age, it’s all highways in the sky
Life in the air age, all the oceans have run dry
Life in the air age, it’s grim enough to make a robot cry

Yep, that about sums it up. Unless you qualify for TSA pre-screening, of course! Then life in the Air Age is a bowl of aeronautical cherries.

For a change of pace, here’s another air-themed song. This one is about the dawn of the Air Age, set during the Great War: “Fields of France” by Al Stewart, from his 1988 album Last Days of the Century. The deliberate anachronism in the penultimate line of this song is evidence of a master lyricist at his craft. I also recommend it for the music — it has an excellent flute part as counterpoint to the lyric:

Fields of France
by Al Stewart

His flying jacket still has her perfume
Memories of the night
Play across his mind
High above the fields of France

A single biplane in a clear blue sky
1917, no enemy was seen
High above the fields of France

Oh she looks
But there’s nothing to see
Still she looks
Saying come back to me

He tells her just remember me this way
For here am I more true
Than anything I do
High above the fields of France

Oh she looks
Though he’ll never come back
And the letter that came
Was bordered in black

She’ll find somebody else
But not forget
Leaving her regrets
Like vapour trails of jets
High above the fields of France

7 thoughts on “Vapour Trails of Jets

  1. About that grenade at Los Angeles Airport in California:

    Police confiscate grenade from Stanford professor at LAX

    A political science professor at Stanford University who attempted to bring a World War II-era grenade Tuesday afternoon through security at Los Angeles International Airport — forcing police to evacuate a portion of the airport — was being questioned by police Tuesday evening, three law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles News Group.

    Gary Walter Cox, 58, told authorities the grenade had belonged to his father, who had recently died, the sources said. He thought it was inert but a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said police determined that it might actually have been live.

    The grenade was spotted by Transportation Security Administration workers during routine screening, a federal law enforcement official said.

    The Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad was called out to the airport, and Terminal 1 was evacuated at about 3:45 p.m. Police transported the item and later blew it up, the three sources said. The terminal was reopened about 4:20 p.m.

    A law enforcement source said that even after the grenade was detonated, it wasn’t clear if it could have caused damage on its own.

    Cox was planning to board Southwest Airlines Flight 1143 to San Jose, a 4:35 p.m. departure, according to one of the law enforcement sources.

    Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports, said officials could not comment on the matter. LAPD officials also declined to comment.

    Exhale. However, Calif. Taxpayers Funded Professors’ Meeting with Terrorists

    “Documents show San Francisco State University spent $7,000 to send professors on terror tour

    Begs the question, did these professors receive TSA’s prescreening privileges?

  2. Al Stewart: best lyricist ever.

    His other great biplane-themed songs (and what other artist even has ONE!) would be “Flying Sorcery” and “The Immelman Turn.”

    Utter, utter genius.

    • I don’t have “Last Days of the Century”, but I saw Al & Dave play “Flying Sorcery” in mid-April. It was one of the highlights of the show for me.

      There are a couple of great versions on YouTube:

      Thanks again, Baron, for reintroducing me to Al Stewart. I had his “Year of the Cat” album on vinyl from when it was a hit in the mid-70s, then forgot about him until I read a post you wrote a few years ago. While he doesn’t have any hits nowadays, I’m definitely a member of his cult following now.

  3. Bill Nelson (and Be Bop Deluxe)–yes!!! The Love that Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart) is an amazing solo lp from 1982. Masterful track, of a diabolical figure who takes delight in nihilism and decadence: October Man

    Also, from a subsequent lp (On a Blue Wing, 1987), this work of genius: Suvasini and Contemplation

    Extraordinary lyrics and ebow guitar on both.

  4. I don’t know the Al Stewart song so I read it in the cadence of Sky Pilot by Eric Burden and the Animals. Surprisingly, it worked.

    One Room Country Shack is the only song of his that I can remember. Thanks to the above posters for their suggestions, on my way to YouTube right now.

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