Asleep after sunrise

A pensive mood often strikes me during the quiet before the dawn. In those times, the pure air smells cold, even with a scorching summer day bearing towards us. Nearly silent music glitters its way through my mind to accompany the sight of the stars quietly keeping their courses, ignorant of the coming sunrise. Their tiny brilliance fades to light specks just as infinitely deep black fades to cold grey, and then the upper clouds burst with pink and purple and the time is coming.

By then, we were well underway and settled down. All the complexities, precautions and checklists of lift-off took our necessary attention. Then, we rose, and saw the large shrink to small, and the larger yet make sense before our eyes. There were technical matters needing attention, and navigation, not by stars, but by instruments and technology. The technical matters become lesser and lesser, and finally their trivia became only an invitation to boredom. Instead, enjoy the dawn. Wazn, the often musical cat, nocturnal by nature, but diurnal by habit, chose a pillow and rested asleep while awake.

Quiet, quiet, quiet. My airships are like balloons, but they are not balloons. Balloons can be quiet: a quiet punctuated with the sudden inferno of powerful gas jets. The airships do make some sound, sometimes even continuous sound – I won’t get into it now – but compared to airplanes, trains, cars, boats, balloons, and most any other means of travel, they are quiet. At their quietest, when the wind is low but right, the quiet without relief can be suffocating. Especially as the air warms up with the morning, the heat and quiet blend into a magnificently soporific potion.

Too quiet. So, I left Wazn, a fitter expert in dealing with drowsiness than any human, alone in the Captain’s quarters, and joined the crew who had impatiently brought out the cards and tiles at their first opportunity. They love games, and hence love their jobs, as it gives them seemingly endless paid hours at their games. One loves her guitar more than the games, and was tuning it, hoping for an audience while others gambled. I accommodated her by sitting nearby with a nod.  I didn’t feel like losing money to the experts this morning.

But what the warm drowsy quietness couldn’t accomplish, the gentle hum of conversation, the click of the tiles, and the strum of the guitar, did, and I fell asleep almost instantly.

Early Xevzev Family History

It’s time that I mention something about the earliest Xevzev family history.  First, it is pronounced “Shevzev”, with as much aspiration and buzzing in the consonants as you feel comfortable making.  Both e’s are short continental vowels without the sliding from sound to sound that happens so much in modern English. It’s hard to say what the origin of the name really is, what language it comes from, or even any ethnic groups that most Xevzevs seem related to.  Its form and pronunciation seem to have mutated numerous times over the centuries as the family moved around.  There is some family speculation that it could be related to chevrolet, and in fact there is a chevrolet featured in the family coat of arms.  I have cousins that absolutely believe in this, and furthermore, take it to mean that from earliest times we were goat herders.  In my opinion, this is pure balderdash.  Chevre means goat in some Latin languages, but not in the Northern and East European parts of the world where most Xevzev lore comes from. More interesting is the legend that our family is related to the Chebyshev family of Russia, whose most famous son, Pafnuty, was a great mathematician who made important advancements in Probability Theory.  However, for the most part, the names and place names in our history are more European in focus than Asian.

We heard a lot of old family stories growing up: some were good, some were just long winded, and many were obviously made up or exaggerated versions of different stories.  Even among recently related branches of the family, they conflict in irreconcilable ways.

Although the family didn’t belong to any nomadic group, there is a confusing and complicated web that seems to indicate that even if we weren’t formally nomadic, we sure did a lot of traveling.  There were apparently some places that were considered hometowns, even strongholds, with “tall castles of stone” although it is no longer possible to connect the place to the story.  Oral tradition tends to pass on what is important to the teller. Other things, though they may have been important to previous generations, stop being relevant and are left out and lost.

The oldest stories have to do with horsemanship.  It seems that the elder Xevzevs were frighteningly good riders.  There are various stories in which “the finest horse ever seen in the land” was bred and raised by a member of the family.  We seem to have sometimes produced our own knights, other times had some kind of hand in the training of those of other houses.  Many of the oldest tales deal with battles, horses, politics that don’t quite make sense, and so forth.

Then, around the beginning of the 19th century, vague places and names from “long ago and far away” become more concrete.  At the same time, the family passion for horses seems to have been replaced by “the balloon lunacy” as we call it.  It seems to run in our veins, although how it got there, or why it would seem to possess so many members of the same family is a mystery.

A Business Mission

There was just enough time to start thinking that it would be a slow day.  Starting with coffee, a blank sheet for a to-do list, and a friendly cat threatening to spill the coffee and block any attempts at writing on the paper, the morning looked sunny and pleasant.  A message arrived.  The cat left without a word on some important cat-business.  The message was from one of our most important clients.  “Please come, I’d like to meet you …”.

I didn’t expect this, though I should have.  It meant a trip of several days, probably a week.  It meant preparing, acting, and fast thinking during the meeting.  And, I needed something to wear.  What kind of captain’s uniform should we invent?  I started trying to picture the impression: formal, old-fashioned, and not too kooky.  I changed my mind on that last attribute; it wouldn’t hurt to  push the boundary at least a little.  Why hadn’t I thought about the costume issue earlier?  It was bound to come up soon.

There was also the question of which ship to sail.  This client was used to seeing what we affectionately call “The Barge”, but for meeting the new captain, something else was in order.  We have more than one ship built to impress the neurotically rich.  After all, what work is there for an airship fleet?  Airships tend not to be the most practical choice for travel, except for a few interesting and most unusual circumstances.  Our work tends towards entertainment, even when clothed in the pretense of a “business” mission.

I started a new to-do list.  The cat returned, but this time had no luck breaking my focus.

Captain?

I actually have too many formal titles.  I decided to go with “Captain” here because I imagine the whole world listening, and it feels prestigious and oh-so-cool to me.  I like the sound.

Don’t think I’m a military person — far from it.  In fact, I’m much closer to the peacenik end of that spectrum.  I’m called that, because I now run some airships (yes — I’m basically a balloonist).  We have always called the head person in charge “Captain”, and now, that’s me.

My family also carries a title, which has become mine with the sudden death of my older brother.  I’m uncomfortable with the title right now, so I won’t reveal it, but am likely to change my mind in the future.  I also have an older sister, but due to a historical sexist tradition (and family titles are all about history, sexism, and tradition) she was bypassed, and it went straight to me.  I would be interested in changing that system, but the dust hasn’t quite settled yet so I’m trying to ignore the issue.

My old friends call me Professor.  They do it as a bit of a joke — sometimes I can be a bit too pedantic, and then they tease me.  Actually there’s more to it than that.  I had tried to make it as an academic, but while I was suffering through the juggling act of simultaneous adjunct assignments at sites far too far from each other, I was offered a lucrative job at a big company.  I took the job, gave up on teaching, and settled into the life of a salaryman for many years until just recently.

While working at the big company here in the U.S.A I enjoyed being called “Mr. Xevzev”.  There is still a very strong remnant of the “equality for all” attitude here, despite the modern economic reality, and I relish the equality of calling everyone Mr. and Ms.  Even Mr. President.

Finally, the title that is perhaps most important to me is “Uncle”.  I don’t have children of my own, but grew up in a big family.  I blinked (proverbially), time passed, and I find that I now have abundant nephews and nieces.  I am proud of being an uncle, serious about it, and do my best to be as involved and present as I can.  Actually, I very nearly called this the “Uncle Xevzev Blog”, but ended up deciding to emphasize the formal and professional over the personal.