When the smoke clears

 
 


Birdies

“Specialist!”

“Yessir!” I turned around. It was the colonel. I had stopped by to drop off a computer for one of my first sergeant buddies. I think his wife had spilled coffee on it so I was doing my best to recover and clean the keyboard.

“Where the hell you think you’re going?” The colonel said as his new Sergeant-Major poked his enormous head out of the office behind him.

“Dropping off equipment and then saying bye to everyone, sir,” I smiled at him.

“Have you had a chance to meet Sergeant-Major?”

“Yessir, I met up with him a couple of weeks ago.”

The Sergeant-Major chimed in, “He got all my email stuff straightened out then arranged for one of his folks to do some one-on-one training with me in a few weeks.”

“Good. Good,” the colonel responded. “What the hell are we gonna do without you around here?”

“Well I’ll be back in a couple of months and…”

“… yeah yeah, and we’ll manage. You just make everything work right so we don’t waste time on some of the stupid stuff.”

“Thanks for that, sir.”

“And you sure as hell had better have had in mind to see me before you left, there, Specialist.” I smiled, reached out to shake his hand. He gripped hard and pulled me into a hug with the obligatory 2 slaps on the back. I’m heading off and my colonel hugs me goodbye. Crazy. “I’m proud. I’m amazed. The hardest part about this for you is that it’s going to be humbling, and you’re used to being in charge.”

“Sir, I’m looking forward to not having to make big decisions and be in charge of things for a while.”

“True. Well they are going to yell at you for things you didn’t do wrong as if it’s your fault. Just keep your cool.”

“Yessir. Sounds kind of like my job in IT as it is.”

The colonel laughed, then behind him boomed the Sergeant Major’s guffaw. The new Sergeant Major is one of the more intimidating ones I have ever met, and that’s saying something. He’s been the non-commissioned officer in charge of a Ranger Battalion and Command Sergeant Major for many years, standing wider than most people stand tall. I knew I liked him the first time we talked.

“You got my number here, RSM, right?” the Sergeant Major asked.

“Yes I do.”

“And my address…”

“Yes, sergeant.”

“Good. You let me know if you need ANYTHING at all. I mean that. Anything. Any problems that come up.”

The colonel added in, “Yep, I expect to hear about it, too.”

I offered, “I really appreciate that. I do. I’m going to do my best to fly under the radar as much as possible. Something tells me calling in favors from my friends might make me stand out. Besides, there’s still a lot for me to learn.”

“Well, if anything happens there will be a colonel flying himself up there with the meanest Sergeant Major in the Army and we’ll get right up in their $#!t.”

“Yeah,” the Sergeant Major growled. “I’ll let ‘em know I’m coming hungry, and I got a taste for ass, ready to chew.”

I looked at him unable to completely hold back my smile successfully, eyes watering.

“You… like… eating… ass… Sergeant Major… sir… person…? You want to get a tossed salad for lunch?”

“Yeah, maybe I should have phrased that differently.”

The colonel saved me, “Well you be safe there, Specialist, and write to us to let us know you made it and all, and when you’re finishing up and getting back here. Hell I wouldn’t mind running you up there myself.”

I laughed. “Oh that’s the LAST thing I need, sir. I’d be sure to stand out if I arrived for Basic in my own bird-colonel-flown chopper.”

“Well I’ll miss ya, buddy. I still owe you a couple more lunches or dinners anyway when you get back.”

“Yes, sir, you do,” I grinned.

A couple more handshakes and one more hug and I had completed my goodbyes for that building.

I am looking forward to this.

Conspiracy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

The beauty of a conspiracy theory is that you are ALWAYS right. Even when people try to present evidence to show how ridiculous the theory is, you can point to the fact that such evidence is further proof since “They” are just trying to create the illusion that there is no conspiracy.

It’s magnificent.

Which brings me to one simple FACT. The government was conducting experiments last night involving radio and sound waves while another section, unbeknownst to them since they are in a different codeword clearance area, was using the psychics they have on staff to pool their psionic resources.

Need proof?

I could not fall asleep.

I’m trying to get my body set up to waking up at 0430 again. Instead it seems I am staying awake until then. But here’s the kicker: I’m not the only one.

Not by far.

From emails I was receiving from friends at 0445 to various blog-posts from moms and dads to a sleepy phone call from Iraq that included details of the numerous IEDs they came across yesterday while in convoy, all I can say is that it is apparent the government is up to something.

And the dreams get freaky. All kinds of freaky: some of the upgrades to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World include a Gothic Princess land, upside-down roller coasters, golf carts for everyone (and no traffic… somehow) as well as college dorms over by Frontier Land. It was an interesting time but not worth the admission price.

Again, need I remind everyone that the X-Files was actually a part of the Clinton Administration Conspiracy to hide the truth in plain site so that if anyone were to discover it, everyone else would dismiss that person by saying “oh, you saw that on X-files.” Ever notice the show ended very soon after Bush2 took office?

Watch yourselves. I am sure to be censored soon.

Memo to the consumer world

I’m an Apple fanboy. Make no mistake.

But the new iPhone: HEY! it’s just a phone with some extra features. And it’s expensive. And it’s a first generation product of an entirely new product line. Possible problems? You bet.

Y’all who are camping out, most of whom are certainly looking to make a little money on the side by camping out for someone else or acquiring multiple phones: dudes, seriously, you’re going to have to sign a contract with each phone. And if you’ve got the time to sit in a lawnchair in front of an Apple store for more than a day during the work week, I’m guessing the cash-flow isn’t that great for you, overachiever.

Let me explain to you what is going to happen to you if you AREN’T one of the first to get an iPhone:

And there you have it. Nothing. You lived today without it. You can live tomorrow without it.

Please, y’all are embarrassing me.

Go buy a MacBook and learn a skill or otherwise get something done. It will be cheaper than your first year with an iPhone.

The Rice

With all the last minute details to be handled before the big day, I’m running from place to place, purchasing toiletries, last minute copies and faxes to various agencies, even time at the post office to secure some stamps and send of the last round of care packages to my soldier/friends from me for a while.

But I found myself a ways away from the cabin around lunch, and close to my favorite sushi restaurant anywhere.

When I say this place has the best sushi I have eaten, I am not lying. I have eaten in California, Seattle, around most major cities, and nothing compares to this place in a little strip mall at the foothills of the mountains. Sushi is not just about the freshness of the fish, though that is a key component. The rice and even the way the fish is cut can affect the flavor. A bad white tuna tastes flat, fishy, and has a rubbery texture. A good piece cut at the right angle and just the right thickness is like a light version of the most tender of kobe beef soaked in butter. Decadent.

Today I sat quietly at the sushi bar, the only one there. Two of the four chefs were working lunch, one was my favorite of all of them. He was always too busy to talk the other times I had visited, but not today. I watched as his long knife cut the seaweed, his hands constantly being washed, then dipped in water, then shaping the rice. The many times I have been in before I have tried to catch his eye to say hi, to say I appreciated how well he worked. Sometimes I would, other times not.

Even in his white smock and white hat, always impeccably clean, he had a hard look about him. He seems almost unable to smile, his attempts at smiling looking almost dangerous, his eyes hard, and cold.

“Everything okay?” He asked when he had a moment to slow down as Chopin played gently on the speakers overhead.

“Yessir. Every time you make it, it is always outstanding.”

“Thank you,” he bowed, his heavy accent coming through his soft, but gravelly voice. “You sometime not here often.”

“Yes, I live 35 miles away up in the mountains.”

“Oh,” his eyes narrowed, harder. Analyzing. His brow wrinkling, gray hair at his temples bristling. “Why here for lunch?”

At that moment a regular patron wandered in and sat near me at the sushi bar. The wait staff came over and filled his water glass, exchanged his disposable chopsticks for some quality ones, and began asking about why he had been away lately. He liked the attention. I would, too, though my disposable chopsticks were fine. He began talking loudly about the new videogame he had started playing, some sort of fantasy role-playing quest. The chef’s eyes turned colder as the loud man stood up on his stool and stuck out his hand to shake the chef’s hand, which was engaged in rearranging the fish in the case. The chef shook his head no and issues a curt, “sorry.”

He moved closer towards me. “So why for lunch today?”

“I’m leaving for military training in a few days. I will be gone for at least a few months and I know I won’t be able to have any food this good while there.” Glasses in the seated area of the restaurant clinked away as new groups settled in at their tables. I enjoyed my little corner away from the crowd.

I began to notice the worry crease between his brows was not natural like mine, but rather inked in the green of an old tattoo. As his hands busied themselves, I saw characters that didn’t seem to be Japanese on his arms and hands. Then came another of his grimacing smiles, enough to frighten a child. “I train for military too. I miss it sometime.”

“The military?”

“No. Only training. I train in Thailand for one year.”

“That sounds great,” I added while he tore a strip of paper from the machine next to him detailing his next order. He dipped the paper in water and laid it on the second level of the counter in front of him.

“Is that where you learned about this?”

“No,” he said, his eyes losing focus, drifting to another place. “No, I learn fight.” He seemed to pause for a moment in thought, though his body did not slow down. I could see his physical presence while his mind abandoned this place for a vivid memory long past.

“…aaaaand the chicken chow mein and a couple of those sushi piece things,” the loud patron at the other end of the bar called out to the waitress.

I saw the chef come back to the moment, anger in his eyes that dissipated in a flash.

“Which army were you with if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Cambodia. After Thailand I fight in Cambodia. Seven years. It was bad time then. That war not good. I had to leave.”

“Seven years is a long time to be fighting.”

His eyes drifted again, harder, reviewing. “Yes. Too long.” He came back to the present for a moment, “What is your name, please?” I told him, he repeated it and tried to smile again.

“What about yours?” I asked.

“Tom.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Tom?” Another grin/grimace. “What’s your real name, if I may?”

“Sah-rhin.” I repeated it, attempting to mimic his intonation and accent as closely as possible. He nodded his approval at my pronunciation. “It easier for most people say Tom.”

“Thank you for trusting me Sah-rhin.”

I opened my fortune cookie. Okay, it’s not at all Japanese, but I’m eating sushi made by a Thai-trained Cambodian war fighter who probably witnessed, and, from the intensity of his gaze, may have participated in some horrible things. Inside were three fortunes:
Your family is young, gifted and attractive. - no comment. Not much of a family here.
You will soon be crossing great waters on a fun vacation. Well at least that means I won’t be deployed right away, unless the ’stan is turning into a tourist hotspot.
Your surrounding friends will take good care of you. Yes, I get the hint everyone, Michele, Chou, etc.

I laughed. “Three?” Sah-rhin asked. I tried to show them to him, but he said, “Oh no, I not read that small with bad eyes.”

I nodded.

“You come back again before you leave?” he asked as I signed the card slip for my meal.

“I don’t think I’ll have time.”

“Maybe you can. We talk more.”

“I will try, then.”

“It good we talk.” Perhaps I could hear more about the tattoos.

“Thank you, Sah-rhin,” I said with a slight bow. “I won’t forget your name.” He set down his knife, rinsed his hands and bowed towards me. Then he stepped forward, reached across the counter and presented his hand to shake. His grip was coarse, hard, firm, almost like the wall he placed around himself.

“Even if you not come back many month or year I not forget your name, RSM.”

I don’t doubt it.

Do It for the Soldiers

Army Wife is over at her place asking folks for recipes for the upcoming Fourth of July. It’s at the end of another one of her experiential posts but the real insult is in the phrasing. She has the unmitigated gall to ask for recipes from the LADIES as if there aren’t a few men around the blogosphere who happen to know a thang er two about cooking. (Speaking of, has anyone ever found their gall mitigated, or is it usually in its unmitigated format? Did you have to put anything on it? Like maybe an ointment? or a salve?)

So I will not present a cream cheese desert, oh no. I’ll not share a recipe for food. I’ll share a recipe for alcohol. If you want to celebrate the 4th as an adult, fix up some of these for your friends after the kids are tuckered out and sleeping. Raise one for me. I’ll be in-processing somewhere at an Army base near you.

You will need a shot glass and a spoon.

Pour clear Creme de Cacao into the shot glass to fill it about halfway. Turn the spoon over and gently pour red grenadine syrup over the spoon letting it drop down the side. It will settle on the bottom. Clean the spoon and again, with the spoon turned over, edge of the spoon against the side of the shot glass, gently, and very slowly, pour in Blue Curaçao. If the top layer mixes with the bottom layer, you will get permanent purple and lose the effect.

The effect is a red, white and blue shot of stuff that you take in one quick gulp. It ends up tasting like a chocolate-covered cherry with a hint of orange. Behold the Viking Medic with his very own: 

Did I Tell You?

Sixteen years ago, my mother came to watch me graduate from college. It was the end of the basic steps I needed to take to start failing and succeeding in life. She awkwardly tolerated the presence of my father.

Among the presents from the few relatives I have was a small booklet she gave me written by Elizabeth Knapp. I have kept it with me ever since, because the truth is, the words sounded so much like her, as I would think it would sound like many other parents out there as well. The book is still available.

Even when my possessions amounted to little more than a few boxes of clothes, shoes, dog dishes and a smattering of books stuffed in the floorboards of an old gray Jetta, it was there, somewhere. It’s on the “good” shelf in the library and I opened it again last night.

…Did I tell you to be bold. To be not afraid
of the unknown, but to live life to
the fullest and meet each new experience
with joy and anticipation.

And did I tell you to be cautious. To temper
your daring and sense of
adventure with good judgment and consideration.

Did I tell you to serve other people, if
only in a small way. There is growth
and satisfaction in being part of something
larger than yourself and your life
will be richer for knowing this.

Did I tell you to maintain a sense of the past.
To recall and uphold all that is
best and meaningful in our country and
in our society. But never be afraid to
speak out where you don’t believe or where
there is room for improvement.
Work for what you believe, but work in a
positive way within a structure of
order and reason…

…And did I tell you the challenge of being a man
the challenge of balancing your worlds
the need to achieve and the need to nurture
the need to be strong and the need to be tender
the need to meet the tests that life brings
yet always keep love at the center
letting it be the star by which you set your sail.

Did I tell you these things as we went along
the way? If I did I am humbly grateful.
If I did not then, you must choose
for yourself. If it has meaning,
accept it and make it your own. If it does not,
discard it. Your life is yours to
build as you choose.

And did I tell you
I hope it will be a good life?

I DO
Love - Mom

It has been so far, momma. Thank you for teaching me.

SuperPowers

Last night, my blog-sis Christina mentioned her judge of character as one of her superpowers. “We all have them, you know.”

It’s true. And I’m about to reveal my limited superpowers, lest they remain secret for too long:

1. I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order.
2. I have an overcharged sense of smell. I knew my dog’s urine verses other dogs when we were out walking. I can smell some medical conditions on people. If someone becomes important to me, I can track their scent, even knowing if they have been in my house in the previous few hours.
3. My sweat is highly acidic, so much so that it will pit metal over time. My aluminum Powerbooks look strange down where the wrists rest. And those rubber dog-tag silencers? They melt into goo over a couple of months in the summer.

For everyone out there, if you need someone to put your election results in order and tell you if you’re getting too much protein in your diet while sharing the public restroom with you, I’m your man. And if someone attacks you, and we manage to hold him down, I can slowly dissolve the attacker over a period of several years… so long as it’s hot out.

So watcha got?

Age of Words, Age of Books

I will miss the calm of the library. The cabin has a room downstairs that I refer to as the library, and though the layout is awkward for much of anything, several walls have built-in shelves carefully crafted by the second owner of this house. I just wish someone hadn’t come along and painted them all white.

It is also one of the constantly cooled rooms in the cabin as it is slightly underground. Coming down the stairs one sees the fireplace first, then the wall of windows looking out into the woods down towards the stream, then the walls of books. The room invites both conversation and silence. Browse the shelves then go sit in the big, comfy brown leather chair, feet up, or stretch out on the leather sofa, or sit across from friends. My bedroom is just off of the library and when I stumble towards a day it is here that I first see the lush green of summer mornings or the ghostly blue glow of a snowy winter’s night.

There are so many things I would like to do with this space: redo the shelves already here (the white has to go, but the way these are built it would be such a pain in the a##), some more subdued lighting, maybe a small writing table, but more shelves. definitely more shelves. The ones here are deep and I now have the books in two ranks on several.

Today I pulled some off the shelf to look for a few favorite words. I was thinking about one of them as I held it, rough cut paper edges, leather binding, the author’s signature prominent on the first page. I looked up the value on a few sites. A great $15 investment is now worth over 50 times that much. There are a few other books on the shelves with similar lineage.

Near it on the shelf is a recent hardcover facsimile of the first edition of my favorite fiction book for some time: Atlas Shrugged. I thought about maybe acquiring a first edition, maybe even a signed copy, then saw the prices for those and thought to myself, “What is the fascination with having to have the very first of something, especially a book?” I mean, think about it: yes, it would be nice if I had acquired it at the time it first came out or soon afterwards. However, the words are still there. It’s the words that count, the thoughts, the dreams, the ideas of the author whom we are paying to lie to us.

Some of these books are for reference, some are gifts, some are purchased with the intention of reading someday, though most of them I would term “friends.” They stick with me through the years, I spent some quality time with them and they kept me entertained, sometimes challenged. One interesting note in pulling one of these older friends down is finding those things you’ve forgotten about, tucked into their pages for safekeeping, like a letter from an old flame, a souvenir ticket, an Austrian 20 schilling note, a reading assignment list from college, relics of past moments in time full of happiness and hurts. Even the words can recall those emotions completely unrelated, the text having first passed before one’s eyes and held forever as a victim by association to events and people never meant to be a part of the story.

So with a setting sun and a quieting forest just beyond the glass, the three owls coming over to coo and screech outside for our evening’s conversation, I’ll get the library ready for an extended absence, straightening, clearing all non-book items from the shelves, the hopes of returning to this space a different person but with the same love.

Morning Report

Pre-shipping Personal Fitness Test conducted. In the cool air I was out at the track with a few active soldiers and guardsmen. I can tell how it’s going to be for me for the next few months. “Don’t let the old guy beat you, Maltese!”

Yeah, I’m the whipping boy motivation for the youngsters.

My assessment: I need to work on my running game even more. I hate running, but there it is. Still, I was lapping a few of the regular Army folks, running at a 7:10 mile right now. I want that in the sixes, like 6:30 at the most. That’s my goal for Basic. I want a 2 mile time with a 12 at the beginning. (In high school I was doing 11-minute 2-miles)

As to the other stuff, I just went. Apparently I maxed-out the 2-minute requirement of push-ups in one minute (76). Got it… upper body strength is good. Work on form, I had a few that didn’t count. Situps: maxed-out, but barely and with much pain, and missed a few with bad form. Core body strength needs some work as well. Fair enough.

According to weigh-in and tape… I’m at 14% bodyfat. Not bad, but I’m getting soft. I’m sure I’ll lose a lot of that in the hot sun very soon.

So here’s how I’m looking at Basic:
* It’s an opportunity to participate in a great workout program in a remote, spa-like environment with other like minded people free from outside distractions
* attend some interesting educational workshops and focus groups with a broad diversity of people on a wide range of subjects
* one-on-one time with some outstanding motivational life coaches speaking on courage, finding direction and purpose, and constantly setting new goals for oneself to push one to further excellence
* An excellent diet free from temptations

* The chance to participate in team-building exercises and problem solving challenges similar to those multi-thousand dollar corporate retreats.

Can you believe they are going to pay me for this? Positive attitude. That’s what it’s all about.

Anyone else want to come along? I get a bonus if I sign you up.

Later this morning I discovered one of the worst sounds in the world, even worse than a 3-year old throwing up in your the bedroom at 3 am: It’s the sound of the SECOND bounce just behind you, the one following the first, of your MacBook hitting concrete as it falls from your backpack and out of its protective sleeve.

Bright side: it seems to be working fine. Downside: “what the hell?” marks on the outer casing.

Cripes.

Can’t Stay this Way

A pink newspaper lay on the white tablecloth next to my copy of Atlas Shrugged as I sat back for lunch this afternoon.

“Hey, RSM! How’s it going? You get all you need?” the owner of the cafe said, catching himself in a sudden stop as he was rushing out, down the street.

“Thanks, Sam, yep, I’m just fine.”

“Good. Good. I mean…”

“Sam, looks like you were headed somewhere on business…”

“Well, yeah…”

“I’ll catch you when you get back,” I nodded, not dissuasively. Sam is also a city councilman, not just a restaurant owner.

He nodded back at me, understanding that I knew he had city business to take care of and that I would not be insulted if he didn’t entertain a regular customer this afternoon. “Thanks,” he smiled.

Sitting at an outdoor table on the square, I took lunch for myself today, a chance to relax, deep in the knowledge that my lunches and all my time are about to change dramatically. Hell, my whole life is about to change dramatically. But these moments won’t always be here like this, even if I weren’t to go into the military, so I grab the time I can have.

In less than 2 weeks I’ll be in a fog of confusion, unable to control my own life, unable to control situations back home, and learning a whole new way of things. But right at that moment I sat, having read through the main articles from the Financial Times, awaiting the arrival of my hand-crafted sandwich of apricot-chicken salad, glancing up to see the town I love going by, the locals on stage almost for the amusement of the tourists who come to visit and get a sense of the wonder that is our community; Disney-esque in the quaint, comfortable feel, but far from Disney. Our imperfections are not planned, but earned. Brick-covered sidewalks in front of the barber shop and General Store are woefully uneven, the roots from trees across the street stretching far; the aged timbers on some gables having attained their patina from the sun over the last hundred years, paint finally giving up on the grip it once had.

And I breathed slowly, filling myself with the day, not wanting to waste a moment.

The waitress brought a pitcher to refill my cup of tea. “I’ll just leave your check at the counter, if that’s alright, sir.”

“No problem, I should be going, and it looks like someone would like to enjoy the day outside as well,” I said, noticing a tall, slender woman a little older than myself looking towards us.

She piped in, “Actually, I was about to ask if I might join you.”

I arose, slightly bowing. “I would be very pleased.”

“Thank you. This really is such a beautiful day.”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

All the Cool Kids are Doing It

WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yes. First name was my father’s… which is why my mom started calling me by my middle name.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Not too long ago.

DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? When I’m not rapidly jotting notes I hear it looks very 19th century so, yeah.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Boar’s Head roast beef.

DO YOU HAVE KIDS? None biological.

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I hope so.

DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? No

DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes, unfortunately.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? depends. Probably.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Apple Jacks… I know I know…

DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No, since they are usually set to just the right tension.

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Godiva White Chocolate Raspberry. And Vanilla. A really good vanilla is the benchmark for anything else a creamery makes. All the extras just cover up a low quality, crystallized, watered cream and too rapid a freezing process.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Eyes, posture, movement, potential locations of weapons, reaction/comfort within environment, signs of current or past injuries.

RED OR PINK? Red. (Would you rather be a part of Red Shirt Fridays or Code Pink?)

WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? extreme self-criticism

WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My best friend.

WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Shorts. No shoes.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Chicken Diane with wild rice and extra grapes.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The cabin. Lots of little noises as the day cools off.

IF YOU WHERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Forest Green

FAVORITE SMELLS? Pine. The Ocean. Newborns.

WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? The Amazing Lady

FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Rugby

HAIR COLOR[S]? Most time brown, blond with a lot of sunshine

EYE COLOR? Blue.

DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Yes.

FAVORITE FOOD? Something with melted cheese.

SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Any way to have both? Scary, then.

LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Flyboys. It was PAINFULLY bad. Great effects but COME ON. How many stereotypes can we fit in a war movie? And the tiger just roaming around? the unit had 2 tigers as mascots but they were not treated like housecats.

WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? None. Flesh tones.

SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter. I grew up going to a school in Florida without air conditioning. Summers and high school in sweltering parts of Georgia. Went to college in Miami. Lived in the Caymans. When I felt the summertime nights of the upper Yukon Territories dipping into the 20s I felt comfortable. Yes, Basic is going to suck for me.

HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs.

FAVORITE DESSERT? something with dark chocolate and raspberries.

WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Some WWII pulp fiction thing and Atlas Shrugged yet again. The book is so rich. It’s the only book I’ve read more than once besides parts of the Bible.

WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don’t have a mousepad. I use a trackpad.

WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT? No TV

FAVORITE SOUND[S]? The stream by the cabin during the rain. My friends or their children sleeping deeply trusting that I’ll watch out for them.

ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Stones. Beatles had a couple of adequate things but come on. As creepy and freaked out as they are, the Stones rocked.

WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Need to check a map but either Vienna, Austria or Soacha, Colombia.

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I can delude myself into thinking that everything will work out in the end.

WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Small coastal Florida town.

WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK? meh.

Scenes From MEPS* (part 1)

(*Military Entrance Processing Station… where I had to visit twice.)

A group of seven are gathered around a small table in the chow hall, laughing. Questions flying, speculations about what’s coming up, where people are going.

Kerrie (to RSM): Just make sure they don’t give you Benning. You won’t like that.

RSM: Where are you headed?

Kerrie: Jackson. See if you can get that.

Dmetrius: Dang, me too. See if you can go with us!

RSM: I’ll…

Nick rushes to the table, interrupting…

Nick: Guys… guys… you are NOT going to believe this. I was in there doing the physical stuff and right after you left (points to RSM) this guy comes in. 38-years old, bro. He is 38 and he is trying to join the Army.

Kerrie: No way!

Dmetrius: What the…?

Rob: You gotta be kidding…

RSM: You guys do know how old I am, right?

Dmetrius: Well, yeah, bro, you’re older but you’re not like 38.

Sarah: Yeah, you’re what? like 29?

RSM: Uh… no. Look around the eyes. I’m just about there. But God bless you, girl.

RSM opens his folder, finger on the birthdate and slides it over.

Rob, Sarah, Dmetrius, Nick, Kerrie, Phil, David:

Nick: Well, you definitely don’t look it. That guy looked like a 38-year-old. You’re like in shape.

RSM: So you’re saying when you turn late 30s you automatically lose shape?

Nick: no… I…

RSM: So you’re saying all I have to look forward to is a fat belly and real soon and there’s nothing I can do about it?

Nick: I … NO…

RSM: Forget it. You’re on the list, boy. I’ll find you.

Kerrie: Something tells me you’re gonna get your ass kicked.

Nick: Aw, Crap. Don’t pick Fort ***.

RSM: Too late. 

Scenes From MEPS (part 2)

I had to take the ASVAB again.

The last time I took it was several years ago, just for the heck of it. I was having fun, questions popping up on the screen that weren’t too tough, just lots of them. I stalled out on one math question because the right answer was not one of the choices. Trust me, I’m positive about this one.*

They sat me down at the computer, handed me a single piece of paper and a pencil and typed in a few things. Two recruits were on either side of me, having started up just a minute or so before me. For some reason, my system took an extra code.

Click, click, click. I understood the instructions. Pick the best answer. blah blah. Then the science questions showed up. Interesting. And interesting they asked for such specifics on embryonic development, but ok. Seemed a bit hard for what this test was supposed to be, a lot harder than I remembered.

Next up, Word Knowledge. I consider myself to have a pretty good vocabulary. I like learning words. I’m almost done paying for my nearly $100K private education. I better know a few 50¢ words.

There were words on there I have never seen before in my life. I’m not just talking about I had heard them before and was a little fuzzy on the precise definition. No clue. To the right and left of me, words like “deny” and “treacherous.” I was getting pissed. My test took an extra code. Someone must have been messing with me.

Then came Math. A factorial, a complex statistical analysis that took one entire side of the sheet of paper and the monitor had to come over to do an unlock on my computer since I had spent more than 4 minutes on a single question, quickly followed by calculation of a payment on a loan amortized over 6 years. To the right and left of me: 2x+3=9.

Very much not happy. Someone had to have been messing with me. The rest of the test was like that, too, though I have no idea if I was anywhere on track in the automotive or electronics section.

Got home, started reading up and thank goodness, it’s now an adaptive test. Answer the first couple of questions quickly and correctly and you get bumped into a different class of questions. I thought I had completely bombed the thing and the test admins had decided to give me the “special” treatment.

_____
* hint for multi-subject standardized tests. On a math section, whenever a geometry problem involving a right triangle appears, the combination will be either 2,2,4 or 3,4,5. It will be some variation on that theme because there isn’t time to have a tester do more complex calculations. With that in mind:

A tree stands 30 feet tall. It casts a shadow 40 feet long. What is the distance from the top of the tree to the end of the shadow?
a) 30 feet b) 60 feet c) 70 feet d) 140 feet

Why So Quiet?

I’ve been holding a lot of cards close for a while, obviously, about this decision and been keeping my own counsel in spite of all the blogfodder. (stories forthcoming.)

Part of the reason is that there are things to work out at the regular job, things that were not going well in spite of my performance and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings I generated for the organization, while taking on several new employees. Oh and did I mention through streamlining and completely rebuilding processes to make them far more efficient with better quality service I managed to increase my department’s operating budget in the past two fiscal years by… and I’m serious here… 1452.6%? [/ego]

Yeah, I can do the business thing. At least in the eyes of some.

But I knew one of the hardest conversations about this decision wouldn’t be with the Amazing Lady, my friend, confidant, inspiration, etc. She has far more business savvy than I do. And she supports me though she hates this idea to a degree. But I don’t blog about certain aspects of my personal life, so she rarely appears here. (One of my favorite things she says regularly: It’s only money. If we need to, we’ll just make some more.)

No, I knew the hard conversation would be with my mom. Like so many other moms out there, I knew there would be a great sense of worry. I’m her only child. She knows she’s also my friend. I can laugh with her. And let’s be blunt… I’m getting older, joining the military at a time when people my age are just about to retire from it… during a wartime.

I didn’t want to hurt her. I know she will have some worries.

We did talk.

But regular readers here have already figured out she’s someone special. No-nonsense. Be your own person. If you fall down, get your ass back up and try another tactic. Everything happens for a reason. Pay attention.

I should have put more faith into her reaction, though her voice was restrained, quiet at first as she digested the news.

“You really are having a problem with this, aren’t you?” I ventured.

“Well, I’m surprised. Not entirely. Look. I know you must have been thinking about this for a while…”

“… I didn’t want to get you started worrying if it wasn’t going to happen.”

“Whatever. Here’s the deal: I know you. You’ve thought this through. You don’t make bad decisions. I might not have all the reasoning down but I know that much about you. Yeah, I’m a little worried. That’s what I’m supposed to do. But everything happens for a reason. So go do this like you do everything else and excel. Now, when do you leave?…”

Not everything in life has been roses, but with that kind of inspiration and faith…

very blessed.

Where Thoughts Take You

There are reasons for it all. There is a reason for turning my back on a (currently tenuous) executive position, putting it on hold knowing it will go away.

And I have had doubts. Many excessive doubts.

But for the last 2 years a plan was bubbling underneath. I’ve not just taken these classes for the heck of it, I took Anatomy for a reason. I go back and help tutor in it to keep my knowledge fresh, to go beyond being able to answer the questions on a test, instead moving towards an ability to recall details of the subject. I refresh my skills in mathematics for a reason. I look back at my medical texts to keep my skills active.

Sitting in a hotel room alone I thought to myself, What the hell are you thinking? This is the time in your life when you career should be peaking and you’re about to turn your back on it and walk away. Stupid. Stupid.

But then I revealed that weakness to my friend the Chief.

“Bull$h!^,” he explained. “You have been out of the rat race for 4 years and they are STILL going after you, raising the stakes each time. After this, you’ll be even more poised to work federal if it all goes bad and you decide to go back. This is you enhancing your career. If you decide to go back, great, if you move forward with your real plan, even better. * by the way, you oughta think about Special Forces…” Memo to Chief: the hell?

So my goal as it stands now: military, working my way towards the military’s Physician’s Assistant school, picking up other classes along the way, if I can.

I have seen first hand some of the quality of care problems our soldiers receive from outside contractors and winced. I am happy in the field, often the more miserable, the bigger the grin on my face. I know I’m probably not going to be able to change the whole system, having started so late (though who knows?) but I have no wife, no kids to worry about right now so I can take a few risks still. I’ll probably be forced to sell the cabin at some point. That will hurt. But I can build a better one later.

Will I get deployed? At some point, absolutely. I have no problem with that.

And I won’t be able to make everyone’s life better, but I like taking care of the good guys. The classes I take and the information I learn receives my full attention and desire to master it because it I’m doing it for all the right people. I can make my most concerted effort to be certain the soldiers in my charge receive some of the best medical care possible, and where I can, provide it to their families in hopes of easing some of their worries and burdens.

I could easily spend the next 20 years happily doing just that. I might not make it, but, ups and downs, I will damned sure enjoy the journey.

Country Stories

While traveling the other week with Butterbar to see his little brother compete in a lumberjack competition in West Virginia, there were a few chances for insights and revelations but for the most part, I slept. Once we rolled off the interstates into the backyards of West Virginia, we found the mountains and rushing rivers that make this place so beautiful and yet hard to access. It is a complete mystery to me why more people who are just looking to get away do not look to West Virginia.

(note that I am pointing them away from my homestead where others are encroaching as it is in vain hope of avoiding the McMansion developments and other progress to which I am sure we are doomed. At least my little chunk and surroundings are protected… until the taxes become too much.)

The competition was held in the tiny town of Webster Springs. The town is not so much “nestled” in a valley as it is “plunged.” The road into and out of town are fairly sharp switchbacks up the side of the mountains, the bit of plateau on which the town sits appears to have been left behind from the carving of granite by the river. Thousands of people converge on this place over Memorial Day weekend for their “Woodchopping Festival” along with the Firefighter Rodeo and Bike show going on at the same time. Basically, a testosterone haven for a weekend. One thing fascinating about this competition was the amount of sportsmanship involved. Competitors helped each other, gave each other advice and encouraged each other even with prize money on the line. The crowd would join in as well. Also fun to watch was how after a particularly fast chop or split, a number of competitors would huddle around the two log pieces, examining the forensic evidence of each axe blow to learn how best to treat the wood and how the person managed to split the log in under 15 seconds.

During the Axe Throw I saw an older (70+ year old) man that I know no one had better mess with. Most participants were like golfers, carefully gripping the handle with both hands, taking several practice swings, checking their breathing, then a final release and as often as not, the axe would not quite seat well in the target. This powerful gentleman casually walked to the throwing line and with one hand took a short, over the shoulder backwards wind-up then threw the axe at target landing and sticking perfectly in the bullseye three times. I’m talking a full-sized axe, not a hatchet. Stay on his good side should a bar fight break out.

Take the gentleman on the right. Here he was competing for the first time in “Springboard.” In this event, contestants must cut a notch into the side of a tall standing log, insert a board, climb up and stand on it, cut another notch higher up the log, insert another board, stand on that, and then chop a wood block in half as in any standing woodchop event. Each round takes a long time to set up and then a heat normally takes 2 minutes or so.

Since it was his first time, this man was not as familiar with the event but he was encouraged by other competitors to at least try it and get some experience. His heat was towards the end of the day as well with a crowd of spectators tired, sweating and full of funnel cakes.

The other contestants in his heat completed their chops in under 2 minutes while he was still on the first board, just off the ground, and needing to climb down and recut his notch. Not only was it clear he was not going to place, he would probably be dead last if he continued. He started looking around as if ready to leave, but the crowd would not let him. They cheered him on. His fellow competitors came over to give encouragement and advice of where to place the next blow. Five minutes into his heat and the crowd was even more encouraging as he stood atop the second plank, 8 feet off the ground and unsure of himself to begin to split the topmost log.

Everyone was tired, but the man’s struggle was everyone’s struggle, the clapping and encouragement pushing him on. Another minute later he was done, drenched in sweat more from nerves than the effort, but he was proud and the audience was just as proud of him. Next time he will have practiced and will be better.

That is something I do not see in events and competitions in the cities. Crowds would normally wander away at this point, not come in closer, congratulating the last place competitor and asking the honor of buying him beers later. That is the attitude that restores my faith.

Natural Disaster

Now I know y’all have been worried with the random, occasional postings that something might have happened here. I want to get the word out during this time of crisis that we are fine, the cabin in fine, there are a few trees down, but otherwise, we’re going to get through this…

The Great East Tennessee Quake of 2006 struck with a ferocity earlier this week. Yes, I was in the cabin. Yes, I was in my underground crypt at the time, something like 0430*. It measured as high as a 3.3. Keep in mind that the entire state of Florida evacuates whenever their Hurricane Richter Scale hits a 3.0 and that should give you some idea of the magnitude. I am less than 100 miles (more than 22 meters) from the epicenter. I am afraid the straight white blog-father is still in shock, considering he was less than 10 miles from the Hellmouth. Prayers, people.

Like I said, trees are down… yes, they’ve been down for months, but this really emphasized the tragedy… and I could use a crew with some chainsaws and some woodchippers to help clear them on out of here, and maybe a bushhog to do some other cleaning up while we’re at it… and maybe one of those tractor thingies so we can haul the chips up to the main side-lawn area and lay down some mulch… and if anyone has a tiller, I really could use a grass planting… I think the grass was damaged pretty badly from the quake and I’ll need to start over.

But like I said, everything is going to be okay here. I have a few cases of MREs and my home can function just fine off the power grid for a while, not that we’ve lost power, but if we did, things are cool. It’s a little old fashioned but I can move the vodka and beer down to the stream to keep it ice-cold. I owe Laughing Wolf for his recent repostings that reminded me I needed to recheck my emergency kits.

The physical damage can be easily assessed and repaired. It’s the emotional damage of which we need to be aware. I’m going to need some comforting, here. I was all alone when this happened. I was having bad dreams even, made that much more nightmarish, I guess, from the earth moving against my refuge. For those unable to reach out with cookies and other “comfort foods,” I refer you to the quick reference guide midway through a previous post. (guns, books, DVDs, opthalmoscope, CamelBak™, etc.) Plus any cleanup crew assistance. We devoutly independent mountain men sometimes could use a little help.

(And a Big Hat Tip to Big Stupid Tommy for alerting me to the opportunity for disaster money catastrophe.)
———–
(*Metric Conversion for Canadian Readers: 0430=4:30 a.m.=21.1 cubic decaliters Kelvin)

™Camelbak is a trademark of CamelBak Products, LLC, who in no way endorse or sponsor this blog. However, if they would like to, I already own 4 smaller ones and would love to put their BFM (with Med-bag insert) and some of their new Combat/Tactical packs into field testing. I mean, come on, guys, I’ve already mentioned y’all twice in a week.

What Others are Saying

"Lesbian-Approved Conservative White Guy" - Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls

"A Tiger... sneaky..." - Lieutenant-General Honoré

"he just has a kindness about him and he has beautiful eyes" - Bou

"RSM... is like an angel of pain" - eodguy789

"My very own sneaky little Minja*" - The Wildebeest
*Midget Ninja

"Nice chair. Like your office. Thanks for letting me take it over..." - General Schoomaker, former Chief of Staff, US Army


"Freaking Huge!" - Butterbar

About Me


The blogsite name is derived in part from a song that has stood the test of some time on my iPod. It is also in part from the image of the smoke clearing from the field of battle. The song is “Everyday” by Toby Lightman. If you have not heard her voice, do so. Go on iTunes and BUY her music. She is a beautiful young lady with a gift of soul living out in California. She even replied to my email.

Just a sample of the lyrics:

…so I find myself in need of a pause
I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because
Of this desire to be what others want me to be
Which is nothing close to me.

But I’ll see better when the smoke clears
… when the smoke clears inside my head.

And I can listen when the screaming
… doesn’t repeat everything I’ve said.

All that remains is me and who I am
at the end of the day,
And this happens everyday.


Name: RSM

Nickname: depends on the social circle: Captain (nothing to do with rank), Diesel (nothing to do with Vin), Sir (nothing to do with knighthood), etc.

Astrological sign: Libra

Age: 37

Height: 5′8"

Weight: 184lbs

Occupation: Update: Joined the military, not because I had to but purely because I want to serve before it is too late. Also, IT (currently) with work in medicine, for the military, communications and as a reporter

Marital status: Single

How many children: unfortunately none (biological. Plenty who have grown attached to me.)

Do you drink (alcohol): Yes

Do you smoke: No

Favorite outdoor activities: Hiking, sleeping, reading

Favorite indoor activities: Cards, games, talking with friends, cooking

Favorite colors: Green, Blue

Favorite type of music: 30s & 40s, acoustical rock, electronica

Favorite musical groups/performers: Hoagy Carmichael, ‘Til Tuesday, Alison Kraus, Talk Talk (late 80s bizarre period), Everything But the Girl, Kate Bush, Sarah McLachlan, Seamus Egan, Toby Lightman, Billie Holiday, Mildred Baily, Louis Armstrong, Hikaru Utada

What’s in your home CD/Cassette player right now: It’s all on the iPod now, so it’s everything I have.

What’s in you car CD/Cassette player right now: Nothing. Again, iPod

Do you play an instrument: Used to.

Have you ever gone skinny-dipping: frequently. Still do.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up: Reporter

What would be your dream job now: Chief Medical Officer on a military starship

Have you ever been convicted of a crime: Not that I’m aware of

Places you’d most like to visit: Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Nunavut, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Micronesia, Tahiti, France (maybe)

Your first car: 1976 Chevrolet Malibu Classic, Primer Gray

Dream car: Don’t care. Something Jeep-like with all the power that got great gas mileage or, even better, ran on alternative fuels. Cars don’t thrill me.

Car you Drive now: 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Favorite season: Fall

Favorite holiday: Halloween

Favorite hobbies: Reading, writing, hiking, traveling, cooking

Favorite sport to play: seek and destroy

Favorite sport to watch: rarely watch a sport, but if I have to: College Football, Rugby

Least favorite sport to watch: Swimming events, especially synchronized

Most humiliating moment: I’d have to have self-worth to be humiliated

Do you have any siblings: None

Do you get along with your parents: Mom became a great friend once I hit adulthood. Dad is someone I’m not comfortable with.

Favorite place to chill: On my property by the stream.

Favorite place to visit: southern Yukon Territories

What is your bad time of day: 1500-1700.

What is your good time of day: 0300

Favorite flower/plant: Cedar trees

Favorite subject in school: History

Least favorite subject in school: "Social Studies"

Favorite authors: Rand, Hardy, Hemingway, Rice, Hammet, Cain, Conroy, Morrell

Favorite book genre: History, Horror, Fantasy, Medical, tacky military scifi

Favorite book: Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, Luke, Total War, Wilderness Medicine :

Current book I’m reading: See home page

Favorite magazines: Sélections (Québécois), Leatherneck, Creative Screenwriting, Dell Crossword Puzzles Plus Variety, JEMS, American Heritage, Military History

Favorite movie of all time: Key Largo

Other favorite movies: Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, North by Northwest, Big Sleep, A River Runs Through It, Rear Window

Favorite Current Television: BSG. Don’t have TV hooked up to anything, so whatever I have on DVD or download.

Favorite All-time TV: Twin Peaks, X-Files, Firefly, Northern Exposure, Due South

Favorite actors/actresses: Humphry Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, Sarah Michelle-Gellar

Favorite cartoon character: Stewie Griffin

Favorite food: Rahmschnitzel

Chocolate or Vanilla: Vanilla

Favorite alcoholic Drink: Rum and Coke

What is your bedtime: 2300

Interesting fact about your childhood: I used to think my third grade teacher was hitting on my mom until I found out what "gay" meant.

The first thing you think of in the morning: Where’s my dog

Favorite thing to do when you’re home alone: Read, nap, hot tub, sit and dream

Things that make you feel good: learning, creating something wonderful to eat, a good massage by strong hands, helping someone who’s injured, cool breezes on bare skin, a hard workout, surviving, my friends’ children napping on me while their parents and I talk, the teenagers and 20-somethings around here who want me to go hang out with them, my best friend.

Things you don’t like: Lack of civility in my own countrymen, blind arrogance among the highly educated, faith without substance, getting older, traffic, crowds, someone on the other side of the valley deciding to share his music with everyone, communication blackouts (though necessary at times), hypocritical moral judgments against those who are different.

Worst feeling in the world: Having to make the choice of whom to let die while trying to save others, then listening to them die.

Scariest feeling in the world: Being unable to help someone you love.

Best feeling in the world: knowing you have had a positive effect on someone else’s life.

Do you get motion sickness: Not yet

Roller Coasters – Deadly or Exciting: VERY exciting

Thunderstorms – Cool or Scary: Very Cool and relaxing

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Do you like to drive: yes, as long as I don’t have to be anywhere in particular and I am not in a city.

Do you sleep with stuffed animals: No. That’s just silly. They stand watch while I sleep.

Did you have imaginary friends or a blanket as a child: Nope

What is on the walls of your room: side of leather, piece of cloth, couple of hawk feathers, books.

What words or phrases do you overuse: Holy Crap, Sweet, Take it down a notch

Coolest things anyone ever gave you: their heart. (not literally this time)

How would you characterize your political leanings: Libertarian Conservative – expect me to defend your right to live your life like a moron as long as you are only hurting yourself; just don’t expect my government to make me pay for it when you overdose, get diseased, or go "special" after riding your motorcycle without a helmet. Can’t afford it? Didn’t plan for it? Family doesn’t care? Ask a charity or too bad. I’ve seen far better people die.

If you could pick one super-human power, what would you choose: Immortality (with perfect health, until I choose to no longer live)

Favorite Quotes/Lyrics/Poems:

The man at the top of the mountain did not fall there.

The most tender place in my heart is for strangers
I know it’s unkind but my own blood is much too dangerous.

ENTJ – Commandant

You scored 54% I to E, 36% N to S, 66% F to T, and 31% J to P!
The single word to describe your type is fieldmarshal or commandant. You also belong to the larger group called rationals. You love to organize others in matters of logic. Even as a child, you likely naturally assumed the role of leader in groups. You share your personality type with 2% of the population. When you lead, you are more concerned with policy and goals than rules and regulations. You have a tendency to become a workaholic. You are impatient with repetition of error. You are friendly and outgoing, though. You don’t mince words and willingly share your many strong opinions.

Modern, Cool Nerd
86 % Nerd, 65% Geek, 43% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.



Nerds didn’t use to be cool, but in the 90’s that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn’t quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and “geek is chic.” The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!

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