John & Anne Wiley

2011/10/31

Hobbies & Obsessions

When I was a kid, airplanes were my hobby. I built plastic scale aircraft models that helped develop patience and fine motor skills, and opened a world of imaginary adventures “flying” them into combat or over trackless jungles. I built flying models with balsa wood and paper, that would climb in lazy circles and glide for a mile or two as I ran in exuberant pursuit.

My largest improvised free flying model had a wing span of 3 feet, and bubble canopies made of clear packaging on either side of the upholstered cockpit. I caught an alligator lizard and trimmed the plane to fly straight so that when the lizard would run from one window to the other, the plane would change directions in response. While some kids still build planes and dream of flight, many now enjoy new sports like this.

7441 Ojai Skate Park

7441 Ojai Skate Park

I was delighted to spot this on our flight over Ojai, and look forward to snapping the similar park on Cabrillo (along the beach by the wharf). We’ve paused there on the beach sidewalk for great free entertainment watching the impressive tricks kids of all ages practice.

But is there a dividing line between hobby and obsession, and should there be? How can these kids (or aviation buffs like me in an earlier era) develop knowledge and skills without at least temporary obsession? Should I have grown out of it, or can I be excused an obsession that costs only about twice what driving a car does, or if I only fly once a week? I confess that despite the relatively small expense and infrequent indulgence, it feels like an obsession (case in point, my recent “itchy feather” post). I often think of our pilot and aircraft-owning friend’s answer to Anne’s question: “How do you budget your flying?” After a long and thoughtful pause she replied, “Well, I fly. Then I budget what’s left.”

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