For over twenty years I traveled to the farthest away football game of the Washington Huskies each season. Each trip was an adventure as well as a learning and sometimes touching experience.
My 1997 trip to the University of Arizona in Tucson proved no different. In addition to enjoying the football game (We won!), golfing, and visiting a few watering holes, I feasted on a 32 oz. steak (I couldn’t eat it all. Next time I’ll skip the baked potato, well, the second one anyway.) at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse.
Later at my yearly physical, when I told my doctor about the steak, he said "You could eat a 32 oz. steak?" I replied, "We all ordered one, except for the doctor. He ordered the smaller 26 oz. one."
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Pima Air Museum. It was there that I met history face to face. . . so to speak.
The air museum contains nearly 150 planes and helicopters scattered over enough desert acreage to give me blisters . . . and that was just on my lips. Rotary and Husky friend Rob Erb, surveyor and part-time pilot, shared his knowledge of almost every plane. There was a replica of the Wright Brothers’ flying machine, World War I vintage craft, and a good representation of everything up to the current era.
One plane even had its own tour -- the last propeller driven "Air Force One." This airplane served as a cargo plane when originally built in 1959. After a year it was refitted and serviced both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. It was replaced by a new 707 version in 1962, but still was used by both administrations for flights to areas that could not accommodate the longer runways needed for jet passenger planes.
The interior of the plane reminds me of my truck and camper days. Everything is so compact. The plane was a lot longer than my camper, but just about as wide. With flight crew, Secret Service agents, cook, President and guests, it must have been like playing Twister to go a mere five feet anywhere in the cabin.
The main cabin was just large enough to contain two small couches that faced each other across the aisle. Two easy chairs were there, too. Both the couches and chairs were not of the comfortable, overstuffed variety of today. They were Spartan by 1997 standards.
The President’s desk was there, also, with short-wave radio and telephone to Moscow. The phone was for emergency discussions between the two heads of the most powerful countries on Earth. I picked up the phone. It’s now connected to a 900 line for “Naughty Russian Gals.” Times have certainly changed.
The desk reminded me of a Tacoma School District student desk, but nicely finished with no graffiti. I felt under the edge for bubble gum. I was disappointed.
In the rear of the plane was the roped off, ugly, powder blue lavatory. I leaned out and touched the potty. A warm glow enveloped my body. My hand had touched the seat of sixty's power. Now, I feel a connection between John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Onasis, LBJ, Lady Bird and, yes, even Marilyn Monroe (if rumors are true . . . and they usually are) and me. If you ever meet me, I’d be happy to shake your hand and extend the connection. You’ll be able to tell your friends, “I touched the hand that touched the potty that touched the fancy bottoms of Camelot, Washington, D.C., and Hollywood.” History knows no bounds, or taste for that matter.
I only saw JFK live once. I was selected to play the Saxophone for him, along with other members of the Clover Park High School Band when he appeared at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
As our tour made its way through the galley, I spied an electric toaster. As the guide looked the other way, I quickly reached out and tipped it upside down. A small pile of crumbs dropped onto my palm. I slipped them into my pocket. Later, while others snacked on Snickers, my hand pulled the few toast morsels out and popped them into my mouth. I truly have broken bread with the political greats of the sixties . . . John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jackie O. and Marilyn Monroe.
Tucson, filled me with delight and was a satisfying experience.