Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Beginnings and Old Victories

July 17 was an important day here at the Dougloid Papers. For one, it was the day of Jubilee here as we declared our independence from credit card hell. It was a long five year slog but it meant that we had paid off all our short term debt accumulated since 1993, some $25,000 or more, at 100 cents to the dollar.
I'm kind of like the camel who's been relieved of his load. What do I do now?
It was also coincident to July 14, which every believer in republicanism knows is Bastille Day in France and has ever since been a beacon to the oppressed and an inspiration to those who seek liberty, equality and brotherhood. Long may the tricolor wave.

In addition July 17 was what we here at the Dougloid Papers call Corrigan Day, as it marks the 69th anniversary of Douglas Corrigan's solo crossing of the Atlantic in a second hand Curtiss Robin.
For those of you who are unacquainted with Douglas Corrigan, he was an aviation mechanic who worked at Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego and had a Curtiss Robin he had equipped for long distance flights. Part of that project was ditching the Curtiss engine and installing a Wright Whirlwind, the vitality and dependability of which was vindicated by Charles Lindbergh.
Corrigan flew nonstop from California to New York and was there told by the aeronautical authorities that he could not cross the Atlantic, it was not permitted, his airplane was a death trap, and pezzonovante publicity seekers were not welcome on the North Atlantic trail, thank you very much.
Douglas smiled that enigmatic Irish smile, filled the Curtiss Robin up with gas and announced to all and sundry that he was headed back to Los Angeles, and disappeared into the clouds.
Some hours later he landed in a field in Ireland and reportedly asked "Is this California?" When apprised by startled Irelanders that he had landed in Ireland, he said "I must have gone the wrong way, then." Thus the legend of 'Wrong Way' Corrigan was born.
A book and a movie followed, and Corrigan later worked for Consolidated and Douglas as a test pilot and retired to the orange grove he'd bought with the dough from the book and movie. I saw him once from afar at an airshow a few years before he died, and I've always wished I'd been able to have a conversation with him about ordinary guys up against steep odds with a chorus of naysayers providing the music.
What Corrigan's story is really about is the triumph of the average Joe who listens carefully to all the people who insist they know better, and who then follows his own heart. As I am a teetotaler these days, I shall lift a can of Vernor's ginger ale to Douglas Corrigan today, and I hope you will too.


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