The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

(Book 138) Geri hosted this month and sent out this email:  Hello friends,  Please join me at gate number 1720 at SMC on Wednesday October 20,2021 for the scheduled literary flight of Book Club 101. The fight was originally planned for October 19, 2021, the  121st anniversary of the first flight at Kitty Hawk, but the wind speeds that day are only forecasted at 5 mph.  An unfortunate delay as is often experienced in the aeronautic world. The good news is the mosquitos will be at bay. Please join in celebration of the Wright family’s achievements. As Bishop Wright instilled in them: family is everything. Wilbur and Orville couldn’t have done it alone (and what about that sister Katherine!)  Departure time is 6:30pm. No need to come early. Book Club 101 members have special security clearance. There is plenty of parking for automobiles and Van Cleve bicycles should you choose to ride.  Please rsvp so we can assign your seats.  Let there be sustaining winds and soft landings, Geri

My email summary entitled Literary Flight of Book Club 101 was as follows:  Members of Book Club 101 were treated to a mosquito-less literary flight on the near 121st anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk on Wednesday, October 20 by club member and organizer Geri Kelley. Members gathered in an outdoor VIP lounge where they were greeted by a handsome young flight attendant who served a selection of red and white wines. (I enjoyed a vibrant Sancerre.) We particularly enjoyed the steward’s consternation after passenger Christine Benton stole into the galley and brought full wine bottles back to the lounge. It was in the lounge that the culinary theme was recognized to highlight the Wright Brothers’ time in France: there were three French cheeses, including a Mimolette that delighted passenger Marcia Bernsten, and a deliciously flaky Alsatian onion tartine. The wine, cheese board and tartines were enjoyed in the embrace of what may have been the last lovely outdoor night of the year.

From the lounge we took the stairs of the airbridge up to the cabin where dinner was served. There was no sight of the tiny compartmentalized airplane food but rather, the table was set with an abundant serving of coq au vin et purée de pomme de terre at each place setting. Geri cleverly used the bird placemats she was unable to use last year to complement the theme of flight. The coq au vin was so delicious that passenger Mary Mabus started to regret her offer to host next month. Both French bread and tasty sweet potato biscuits were available to accompany the main course.

There were actually three desserts: the center stage dessert was the amazing Poire belle Hélène, a lovely poached pear, drizzled in chocolate and served with vanilla ice cream, which was accompanied by a choice of chocolates from Esther Price chocolates one of the only culinary delights to come from the Wright brothers hometown of Dayton, Ohio. The third dessert would have been macaroons but Geri forgot to serve them and texted me in alarm at 10:49 pm. 

The book discussion was marked by the surprise many of us felt to have enjoyed it. As passenger Linda Buckley expressed, she had no particular technical, mechanical or physics of flight knowledge that spurred any interest in the book and yet she found it very readable. Passenger Rosalee Reigle suggested that it was the author’s talent that held our interest, but other passengers suggested that might be taking credit away from the Wright brothers personas — that may not have dazzled us but certainly impressed us with the breadth of their knowledge and the strength of their focus. There were discussions of the intersections in history such as Wilbur being hit in the face by the most notorious murderer in Ohio; that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who designed Mount Rushmore was in the audience for Orville’s 57 and 1/2 circles; that Teddy Roosevelt could have had Selfridge’s seat on the flight that ended in disaster, and that a fashion design was created because Madame Berg tied a rope around her skirt. We all admired a valuable original rendering of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer that Geri cleverly scooped up for cheap on Amazon. We discussed Katherine’s strong presence in her brothers’ lives and the strange “spells” that caused Orville to disown her when she chose to marry and move away. There was great sharing of experiences in small planes and passenger Susan Andrews talked of her travel in a hot air balloon. I was fascinated by the fact that the French inventor and engineer, Clement Ader added the word avion to the French lexicon before an airplane existed. And passenger Sharon Gonzalez was repeatedly bewildered by passenger Melissa Alderton’s out of the wide blue yonder reference to Lee Bailey, not F. Lee Bailey.

After some members had already deplaned, it was decided that the next meeting would take place at the home of passenger Mary Mabus on Tuesday, November 16 (because Chris already wrote it down and she has real trouble trying to change it) to discuss My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman.

Our manymanymany thanks to the Event Coordinator!

May your air be clear, the flight be smooth, the plane be safe, and the sky be blue!

I’ll just stand in the airport by the Arrivals terminal until you get back,