Air shows: The last safe place in America to play songs off of whatever the Def Leppard CD after “Hysteria” was

I was once on a 727 from Indianapolis to Raleigh-Durham that did this exact same thing

GateHouse — Having just returned from an Air Show — I can prove it, see look, my hat still smells like a Harrier — I can report with great certainty that American air shows are basically NASCAR events situated vertically, with somewhat fewer people named Kvapil.

This is because, first and foremost, they are awesome. I don’t mean they’re awesome like I’m a huge follower of NASCAR — in fact, all I know is that basically everything is won by Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart and Home Depot broke up recently, possibly over sheet rock — or that I’m planning to become a full on funnel-cake-and-camouflage-t-shirt rocking Blue Angels nerdface. I mean awesome in the sense that air shows are free, they feature loud planes doing bitchin’ things and they allow you to drink beer on a Marine base. What a country.


Def Leppard – Let’s Get Rocked



Yet if it’s awesome for me, it’s triple-scoop awesome for the children we toted along to the show this past weekend, a group headlined by two seven-year-olds: my son, whose obsession with all things transportational leads me to believe his future lies not with the presidency or Major League Baseball (my apologies again about the hitting genetics), but that I am raising a budding Secretary of Transportation, an aspiring Mr. Ray LaHood, a fine public servant whose name I totally knew by heart and did not at all have to Google right there. (Attention, Ray LaHood, do you have intern programs, do they begin at age 7 and are they paid, because basically my son’s dad selected journalism as his major and THINGS ARE NOT GOING SO WELL RIGHT NOW. Seriously, my little man is doing amazing things with block-and-Lego-based bridge systems for the tracks in his room. CALL ME.)

This is off-topic, but did you know that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation had an official blog? It’s called Fast Lane, and it appears to have recently won a Juggle Award for “Top Blog Government,” is currently headlined by the news “FTA grant for Wayne Junction station will connect commuters, restore historic intermodal transit facility” and if you’re thinking of making a snarky crack know that I am accepting them only from anyone who did not wake up at 4 a.m. to watch a wedding last week.


Related, sort of

• Attention, NASCAR driver Greg Biffle: My 6-year-old is fed up with your shenanigans

Kyle Busch, beef wraps, and the flag of the People’s Republic of Kroger: A night at NASCAR


Anyway, air shows: If there’s anything non-awesome about an afternoon of watching awesome planes doing awesome flippy things and awesomely pretending to fall out of the sky (also awesome) only to awesomely glide out of an alarming-looking plummet about 18 inches before smacking concrete with totally awesome nonchalance, I don’t know about it. OK, the reliance on Heartland Music by Kid Rock and whatever the Def Leppard album was after “Hysteria” was not awesome, and frankly I’m a little on the fence about the image of three four-year-olds fighting for control of an inflatable M16 toy. I guess the idea of some of our nation’s finest soldiers, men and women of absolute peak powers of physicality and mental acuity, being ogled mostly by people who pause on the grandstand stairs for a donut is a little weird. Also, I found the funnel cakes to be a little doughy and undercooked, yet retaining a delightfully playful powdered sugar topping that was wonderfully expressive on the nose and palate.

My favorite: The Harrier jet, which hangs suspended in midair by what you would assume to be magic if it wasn’t for the brainmatter-rattling noise, staring at you, like, “Did you want to say something smart-alecky to me, Mister Humor Writer man, because I’m a Harrier jet, and there are 35 objects on me which could turn you into a fine pink mist.” My son’s favorite: The Blue Angels, at least after it was satisfactorily determined that earplugs provided a sufficient auditory barrier to their awesomeness. He also wondered if it was possible to build a bullet train that went as fast as an F/A18 Hornet. Your move, Mr. LaHood.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

4 responses to “Air shows: The last safe place in America to play songs off of whatever the Def Leppard CD after “Hysteria” was

  • Meredith

    Living in Colorado Springs with at least 5 military installations within 20 minutes, I always take air shows for granted. In a few months, my walls will be rattled every Saturday as either massive bombers or screaming fighters fly overhead for Air Force football games, or we’ll have a number of Chinooks or Blackhawks overhead on any given day. And in a few weeks, our interstate will cease to operate as the Thunderbirds practice and perform for graduation. Honestly, it’s met with such nonchalance here, I think so many of us forgot how to appreciate it. I have seen the Blue Angels before, and that was one of my best childhood memories. So, inspired by your post, I think I’ll meet up with my dad this year to watch the USAFA graduation Thunderbirds display.


  • AmyC

    I spent three years as a proud and sunburnt resident of San Diego where it is completely commonplace to be driving on a freeway and see a fighter jet fly overhead, as Miramar is just up the 15 from San Diego proper. Sigh. Memories. So if J stays hooked on all things transportation, I imagine it won’t be long til he’s singing Righteous Brothers songs to women in bars and rocking out to “Danger Zone.” Give it time.


    • Jeff Vrabel

      I should have clarified: the music there is all either Def Leppard, or the entire “Top Gun” soundtrack. also, all the Blue Angels pilots walk in slow motion in real life. weirdest thing


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