My Day with the ‘Analist’

Lance walks into his physic therapist’s office and slumps down.

“Hello” too effusive physiotherapist says. “How are we today?”

“Shitty,” I answer. “But we be chillin’”

“Oh no!!” he says. “We can never feel ‘shitty’, as you say; We are always ‘happy’.”

“Fuck you,” I say.

“Mister Marcom. WE do not talk this way.”

“Fuck you Doc, I talk this way. I am paying you so I can talk this way.”

“OK, why then, are you “shitty” as you call it?”

Leaning back… wondering how long this court – ordered bullshit must go on, I decide to hit him with it:

“I am feeling shitty ‘cause I have written some good shit on my blog and no one is readin’ it.”

“Do go on….”

“Well… there is that one about Southpark

“Yes?”

“Some great shit there.”

“No one reads it?”

“Yeah,” I say; “It is too long.”

“Why is it too long? Do you hate your mother?”  he asked brilliantly.

“Well, it took three days to write. An’…who are you? Do you even know what it is to write?”

“Let us focus on ‘your problem.’ shall we?”

“Doc, let us focus on yers: I don’t wanna be here. I just want folks to read my shit.”

“I cannot help you there, Son.”

“Then what am I paying protection for?”

Bring Yer Own Goat

So I’m standing in line at Kroger’s last night reading the tabloid headlines:

“Jennifer Lawrence gives birth to purple alien.”

”Perfectly preserved Elvis head found under back seat of ’57 Chevy in Dallas” (Why does this shit always happen in Texas?)

“Bill O’Reilly Comes Out” (Out of what? Stupidity?)

Just kiddin’ Bill. I love you man! Hahaha! (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

Anyhow, there is an elderly black gentleman in front of me, driving one of those grocery store golf carts. He has maybe five items in his basket. Still perusing the latest headlines, I hear the cashier say,

Bitch you crazy

It’s OK to say “Mother-Fucker” on my site. Tis rated “M”

“Eighty-one-fifty.”

“Eighty dollars?!” the man exclaims.

Now I look up.

“Yessir, eight-one-fifty.”

“Lan’ sakes chile. For what?”

“Well, you got them short ribs there… them was eighteen. Then you got that cough medicine, thas eight ninety-nine. Then you got that ‘luminum foil casserole dish, seven. Then you got them chips. Fo’ dollar. Then you got that gum there…. It all adds up.”

Black gentleman shakes grizzled head.

“Lawd ah mercy!”

“Yep. Y’all gonna be in big trouble onc’t y’all git home,” Cashier says. “Got a Kroger Loyalty Card?”

“Yessum, but far as I kin see, doan do no damn good.”

Now. I ask you: Since when do short ribs fetch nine dollar a pound? Since when does a nickel’s worth of aluminum foil shaped to look like a roasting pan cost seven bucks? Since when does a bag of potato chips cost four dollars? What has happened to my country?

Fuck it.

I’m moving back to Baghdad, where you can still purchase goat on the hoof for four bits a pound. (BYOB)

“Bring yer own bullets.”

No prob.

Part One of a Sailor’s Scholarly Series on U.S. Naval History in The South Pacific

Liberty Call!

Dateline: 1989 Subic Bay Naval Base / Olongapo City, Philippines 1600hrs

“Knock Off Ship’s Work! Liberty Call! Liberty Call!” reverberated from the 1MC onboard the USS Frederick, LST 1184.

fred.jpg

Simultaneously a couple hundred sailors went into Fred Flintstone mode, “Yabba Dabba Dooo!!”

To beat the stampede off the ship, Matt, Rogers, and I were already in our berthing compartment donning our civvies. We were, as always, five minutes ahead of the game. We double-timed up to the quarterdeck,

“Permission to go ashore” we said in unison to the O.O.D, (Officer of the Deck)

“Very well,” he replied, and we scampered down to the pier almost knocking each other down in our haste. Free at last!

Olongapo City was Sexual Disneyland for Sailors and Marines. Up and down Magsaysay Boulevard, every other venue a bar, and every other venue was a massage parlor (“Hey Sailor! You want massage with sensation?”) and every other, other joint was what could be better described as a ‘Mega-Club’. These had no less than three to four hundred ‘working girls.’ These Mega-Clubs, (solely owned and operated by the Chinese Mafia) which were often three stories high, were death traps in the event of a fire, no matter how small. The din inside was cacophonous. Ear plugs were prudent. If the place didn’t burn down during your sojourn, you could still get trampled to death in the stampede to get out the solitary door. Cigarette smoke swirled up like morning Mekong mist in Apocalypse Now. No one felt the danger. Nor cared.

This was not my first rodeo. I had been to Olongapo before (WESTPAC deployment in 1986). Ditto for my two compadres. All three of us were GM’s—Gunner’s mates.  We were ‘Old Salts’. Matt was married to a Filipina and she seconded to San Dog (San Diego), happily fucking every Marine she could lay legs on. This TMI came directly from Matt and was common knowledge. He admitted to being a cuckold, but was so blindly in love he was powerless to do anything about it.  Rogers was married as well, but cuckold, he was none. Rogers was a little wiry Irish descendant, reddish blond-haired crazy son of a bitch. The three of us were absolutely the best of friends.

There could not be a more divergent set of personalities. Matt was an artist. He was thoughtful, mild-mannered, and really too nice of a guy for his chosen vocation. Rogers was coarse, with a bit of a Napoleon Complex, fearless, rowdy. And crazy. My persona was dark and foreboding and dangerous. I had ‘rocked out’ of SEAL training for the second time and had but one year left before I could turn in my Canoe Club Card and get the hell outta This Man’s Navy. Having failed to make it in Naval Spec-Warfare, my Naval Career was over as far as I was able to give one shit. This made me dangerous. Rogers loved that about me. Matt was just generally apprehensive.

We did not enjoy the Magsaysay scene: it was just too rowdy—too loud—too frenetic—too immature (Yes: I said ‘immature’) We were not looking for prostitutes. Matt had his loving wife; Rogers had his Trailer-Park-Shotgun-Bride with their four tow-headed kids, each born precisely nine months and twenty minutes after the preceding.  And I had my transplanted Yankee Girlfriend waiting (?) back in San Dog.

We just wanted a joint which would have that “Cheers” ambiance. We found it at Viva Young, a little shit-hole-in-the-wall bar off on a side street (And actually ‘Off Limits’—even better: nothing more fun than jacking with the SP’s—Shore Patrol). Viva Young had become our place and all the girls (and the Mama-San) knew our names. There was not much to it. It was a narrow long bar, perhaps 1500 square feet, dark and smoky and the music volume did not force us to shout.

Upon entering Viva Young, one was instantly assaulted with ‘Welcome!’

“We love you here, Sailor Man!”

“Take your shoes off! We love you!”

There was a long cat walk. The cat walk was the main attraction—taking up most of the bar. At the very back of the bar, just for fun, were two pool tables.

The nubile Filipinas, fresh from Soccer Practice (we always seemed to show up during the lax time-that time between the end of girls soccer and the Real Deal), would greet us:

Hey Mister Marcone! Hey Mista Matt! Hey Mista Rog! We love you! Buy me drink?!”

“Sure Honey!”

Stay tuned…it gets better.

Make No Beans About It

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The ‘pinto bean’

“Phaseolus Vulgaris”

“texmexiconus pintofusiorius”

(My etymology)

Consider for a moment the lowly pinto bean. In The Great Republic of Texas the National Dish is Chili. Specifically: Texan Chili.

Which-Means-No-Beans.

Do not bean up chili. On pain of death Son, do not bean-up chili.

Still freshly pressed from California, (Actually four years into being ‘freshly pressed,’ but some things take more time to take than others) I did not know this.

My junior year in Honey Grove High School I volunteered to provide the chili for the fundraising endeavor of my class. We were to sell chili-dogs and Frito pies during the breaks—the break before lunch and the break after lunch just before liberty: Two of the hungriest times in High School. We would have a captive audience.

Yep.

On the Friday afternoon before the Monday break time when the ’74 Junior Class was to unveil their fundraising enterprise, I was at-a-loss. I had never until that day cooked anything resembling food. Once, during a camping trip years before, a man who was somehow kin to me, (by marriage—not genes), brought out some bacon and proceeded to throw it into a skillet on the camp fire.

“Hey!” I said. “Don’t you need to put some flour in there with that bacon?”

Yes. I was stupid.

Anyway… Here I was after shooting my big mouth off, now needing to produce tons of chili for the chili dogs and Frito pies. (OK. I do realize there are some not-Texans who have no idea what the fuck is a Frito Pie. Here is the quick version: Take one ah dem very small packs of Frito’s corn chips, slice it down the side, open it up, pour chili on top, et voila! Frito Pie, or as some call it: Meskin Lasagna.)

Dear Gloria, (My Stepmother, who was actually from ‘Up North—Montana- or sum such place), Dear Step Momma, I need to cook up a big batch O’ Chili. Kin ya help me?”

“Sure, Stepson, I can help you.”

Well… what do I do first?” I honestly enquired.

“Stepson, first you soak some beans.”

“Beans? I am makin’ chili. Why do I need beans?”

“You need beans, Red-Headed-Step-Son, to fill in the profit.”

“Ah don’t recall beans in chili, Step-Mom.”

“Trust me: Step-Son; beans are what everyone needs… in chili… here.”

“So… I need to cook beans before chili?”

“Yes.”

“How do I do that?” I asked.

“First you soak them. Soak them for fifteen hours.”

“Then what?”

“Cook them. Cook them for another fourteen hours.”

“And the chili?”

“Cook that for hours…”

“And then?”

“Combine.”

“So… I ‘combine’ the chili with them beans?”

“Do not say ‘them’ in this house.”

“Sorry.”

“Yes, you ‘combine’ the beans with the chili, and then you have a profitable enterprise.”

“I see, thanks Step-Mother-from-North-Dakota.”

Following Monday, I show up with my ‘CHILI’

“Marcom! What the fuck is this? This ain’t chili! This shit has beans! Beans! Beans!”

Imagine my shame.

“But…but…but… My Mom… er…my sometime Mom…

Ah shit!

Beans!

IN chili.

I shouda knowed better.

Carl Jung’s Opinion…

I AM gonna write on this…

But just now, I am working some other thing.

Oh, and by the way, This movie is top shelf.

Comment below, (or not) on how this film is great, or not great.

I mean, how can you go wrong with

Elton John?

Shoot at me, You Sumbitch. You Caint Hit Shit!

“Between the lines of photographs I’ve seen the past. It isn’t pleasing.”

-Janis Ian

This post is for Teela

Teela

******************

My grandfather beat his wife. He was a jealous man. He was a boxer in his youth, and his beatings were top-notch.

He could beat:

This man. That man. Any man. (He could beat women too)

And he did; he beat my grandmother.

For fifty years.

He was a jealous man.

He hated me, but more important, he hated the spring I had sprung from.

He hated those “Marcoms.”

“Who the hell do they think they are, Boy? Doctors, lawyers? Scum! That’s what they are!”

“Yes, gran-dad, they are scum.”

“That old Doc Marcom… he is communisss.”

“Yes, Grand-dad, surely”

“If’n you sass me Boy, I gonna send you there to live among ‘em.”

“Yes, Granddaddy.”

“Go on in there and do yer homework.”

“Yes, Granddaddy.”

That conversation happened in 1969, if memory serves.

In 1974, when I had ‘matured’ and I was spending a summer there (in Winnsboro), late one night, my Grandmother came flying through my room:

“Lance! Lance! He’s trying to kill me! Help me!”

I jumped out of bed, followed them onto the porch, and confronted my so old nemesis:

“Hey! You son of a bitch! Don’t be hittin’ my grandmother!,” I shouted.

He took a swing and a miss.

I countered and decked him. Knocked him off the porch actually.

He gathered his wits and said,

“Boy! I am gonna shoot your ass!” And  I believed him.

He ran into the house, as I was grabbing my Grandmother by the arm and dragging her to the road. He reappeared with his deer rifle and shot at us. We dived into the bar ditch, an’ cowered.

He missed.

But he did not miss the mark that I would have some difficulties lookin’ at him as ‘Gran-dad” anymore.

But… we forgave him.

We should not have.

(I know this now)

The Basra BugMan

Basrah Bug Man

I Am Become Death: Destroyer of Tiny Worlds.

Bugs were a huge problem for us in Basra. There were big bugs, small bugs, flying bugs, crawling bugs, creeping bugs, biting bugs, fighting bugs, suicide bomber bugs, and worst of all: No-See’um bugs. (I love bugs: please read Queendom )

Then every day at precisely 1600hrs,

BUGMAN!

“Here I come to savvve the day!!!”

Mister Bugman

Sung to the tune ‘Mister Sandman”

*****************

bug, bug, bug, bug, bug

bug, bug, bug, bug, bug

bug, bug, bug, bug, bug

Mr. Bugman, save us from screams

(bug, bug, bug, bug, bug)

Kill all those bugs that we’ve ever seen

(bug, bug, bug, bug, bug)

Give them a tank of poison and smoker

(bug, bug, bug, bug, bug)

Then tell them their buggy nights are over

Bugman, Now I’m so alone

Don’t have no bugs to crawl in my home

Please turn off your smoky beam

Mr. Bugman, bring us a scream

bug, bug, bug, bug, bug

Mr. Bugman, don’t save us from screams

Bring back those bugs, the cutest we’ve seen

Give them the word that we’ll not roll over

Then tell them their lonesome nights are over

bug, bug, bug, bug, bug

Mr. Bugman bring back our screams

(Yes)

Give them six eyes with a come-hither green

Give them six legs like bugs Versace

And lots of wavy hairs like Liber-auntsy

Mr Bugman, someone to scold

(Someone to scold)

Would be so peachy before we’re too old

So please turn off your poison beam

Mr Bugman, bring us, please, please, please

Mr bugman, bring us our screams

bug, bug, bug, bug, bug…

‘Cause now we miss the bugs an’ we’re bored…

(With Apologies to The Chordettes)

TA: It Doesn’t Always Necessarily Mean Tits an’ Ass

Arrived Tel Aviv one afternoon Late ‘78. Soon to be Stoned, Dazed, and Confused and somewhat abused. One of my fellow SFM drivers, Perry, a good bud of mine, had convoyed with me into TA. Each of us driving deuce and a’halfs and at dangerous speeds. We checked into the Pal Hotel which SFM had retired to after the New Sheraton had made it plain they no longer desired nor needed the patronage of Sinai Field Mission types, specifically the Texan ones. I preferred the Pal Hotel anyway.

“Screw you Sheraton New Hotel!”

Of course for both of you Lenny Fans out there in ‘Radio Land’  I just had to drop this audio bit in. It really is not germane (nor certainly not German) to the point, but it do expand on the title somewhat.

It occurred to me that when using the term ‘Tits an’ Ass” some would not know the etymology. Lenny first coined the phrase. (Bless his heart).  He did some jail time too… for his transgressions.

So…when I first arrived to SFM and folks would talk of TA, imagine my confusion.

Lenny Bruce audio below ‘Tits and Ass’

After settling in, Perry called me from his room, “Hey Lance. Got anything goin’ tonight?”

“Nope,” I replied. “Not a damn thing. You know Gladys done dumped me for that Venzu-walon dude.”

“Come on up to my room. We’ll smoke a bowl.”

“On my way,” I said and hung up. We smoked a few bowls of hash, drank some Amstels, and decided to head over to Dizengoff Street to check out the action. And sate some munchies. Just yet another night in TA.

dizengoff-cafe

Dizengoff Cafe

We stepped out onto Hayarkon Street just after sundown and proceeded to float on toward Dizengoff, a few short blocks away. We were stoned beyond repair. As we tried to navigate across the busy Hayarkon four lane, we noticed more than the average number of folk on foot. As soon as we had arrived on the leeward shore of Hayarkon, a teenage girl came running up to us and smacked us both on the top of our heads with a little plastic mallet. Then said something unintelligible in Hebrew and ran giggling away.

“What the fuck was that?!” I asked Perry.

“Dude, I gots no idea, but look yonder!” he said pointing up the street. Sure as shit, there were people everywhere; all armed with similar plastic mallets, just wailing the shit outta each other’s heads.

“Dude! We gotta sort this out. This is just too weird. Must be some kinda religious ritual.” This is what my hashish soaked brain was telling me anyway. We made our way to Dizengoff, after having our heads bonked repeatedly by overzealous religious fanatics. I spied a street vendor displaying the plastic mallets with aplomb.

“Perry, we gots to git one ah them for self-defense.” We purchased one each and went to whackin’ pretty Sabras about the head. (Great way to meet women, I must confess—Kinda Neanderthal—but what the hell?) Later I was told we had experienced some joyful Israeli Halloween-Like festival. Mardi Gras, it weren’t but dammit! I had fun. (But I didn’t get any beads)

To this day, I do not know the holiday, or festival. Are there any out there who would care to enlighten me? Tis one-of-those-unknown-things that still haunt me today. Perhaps if I had not been stoned…

banner_purim_sm[1]

Purim

My Jewish Friends: Was it Purim I had experienced? My enquirin’ mind really do wanna know.

Armadillos Should Not Golf

“Golf is a Gentleman’s and Lady’s game.”

I looked around at my twenty-odd fellow PE classmates sitting Indian-style in a semi-circle in front of Coach. It was late spring in Winnsboro Texas. I was twelve.

drunk dillo

Yeah, this is me: mocking.”

Poking my buddy (a lanky, slow-drawling ugly tow head of a boy named Gary) in the ribs with my elbow, whispered, “Golf? What’s he talkin’ ‘bout?”

Coach continued, “Gentlemen, today I am going to introduce you to the greatest sport of all: Golf.”

“Coach done lost his mind,” I remember thinking. “Ever’one knows there ain’t but one sport: Football.”

“Golf,” Coach said, “Is a sport you will enjoy for the rest of your lives. It requires skill, intelligence, decorum, and class. You all will search me out later in life and thank me for this day.”

(Coach was about twenty-nine and was going to night school in Tyler studying to become a physician. He was not your typical Deep East Texas Football Coach. He had a brain.)

We just sat there, dumb-founded, but we, to a boy, respected Coach so we said nothing. Although we did exchange some incredulous, ‘What the hell?’ looks.

Coach took us out to the practice football field and introduced us to “The Greatest Game on Earth.”

I cannot speak for the rest, but I was hooked.

Rode the bus home to Granddaddy that afternoon and announced, “I am gonna be a pro golfer.”

Gran-dad was sober that day (see shot not fired in anger) and said, “Is that a fack? What you know ‘bout golf young’un?”

“I know it is a Gentleman’s game, and I know I am a gentleman.”

“Pshaw Boy! You doan know anything about anything. I know about golf.”

Turns out, my Grandfather did, in fact, know a lot about golf. He had actually almost convinced his neighbor to combine his one hundred twenty adjoining acres with his and build a golf course for Winnsboro. Granddad was somewhat of an entrepreneur, having been in the Grocery Business, the Appliance Store business, the Catfish Restaurant Business (on the Tennessee river), the Worm Ranch business (selling red-worms to the bait shops at the area lakes), and pretty much had failed at all of them.

The following Friday I got off the school bus and noticed two little flags poking up from two little golf greens in our huge front yard. The ‘yard’ was about sixty ‘yards’ deep. There was a green next to the Farm-to-Market road just behind the bar ditch, nestled between the two Crepe Myrtles, and another green just in front of the house. Granddad found me as I was rummaging the fridge for left-over cornbread and sweet milk.

“Boy! I dun built you a golf course.”

“Yes, Granddaddy, I saw.”

He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a golf club and some golf balls.

“Come on, I gonna see how much golfin’ that coach dun taught you.”

Eagerly I followed him out to the front yard. He dropped the balls in front of the porch and handed me the nine iron.

“See if’n you can hit that green yonder.”

I tee’d her up. Took a few practice strokes, remembering to keep my head down, and then I addressed the ball. My back swing was perfect. The downswing weren’t. I hit the ball and watched it sail over the barb-wire fence into the deep pasture.

“Sheeit Boy! You damn sure ain’t no natural.”

He coached me all that afternoon and after I finally managed to at least find the ‘fairway’ he went into the house and got drunk.

For the next several weeks, I played golf on my private course. But I had a major problem: I had no putter. Try putting with a nine iron. Even Phil Mickelson won’t do this. Granddad crafted a putter for me out of some scrap lumber. It was too light, so he drilled it out and poured lead into it. Then it was perfect. My putting skills improved instantly.

Summer now and I was growing unhappy with my greens. I wanted greens resembling those at Augusta. Mine were one notch above cow pasture cut short. I spent a week or two pulling weeds and planting fresh Bermuda grass. My tender mercies eventually produced two greens Jack Nicklaus would have been honored to putt upon. They were smooth, silky smooth, and wonderfully… green. Lush green. In contrast to the rest of the yard (fairway) which was somewhat brown, with some grass burrs serving as hazards. Hazards to my feet. Young’uns in Texas never wear shoes in summertime, but of course you’d know that.

I watered my greens every day. I mowed them every other day. Being a sometime gardener, I loved green things. My golf greens were my pride. I loved the way the Bermuda grass had thrived and how smoothly the golf ball would travel on its way to the pin.

In golf you will make maybe one or two shots in your lifetime that you never forget. I made my first unforgettable shot that summer. I had clipped my ‘Tee Shot’ from the tee next to the road. It had travelled about fifteen feet.  I needed a great second shot (my course was of course a par three), to have any hope of making par. (I had fantasy tournaments with imaginary friends in my head—going head to head with Arnold and Jack). My second shot was from about fifty yards. I had a good lie. No grass burrs to distract me. I addressed the ball. Took several looks up to the flag. Did my waggle to set my stance. Backswing. Fore swing. Clean crisp hit. Watched my ball bounce twice on the green and roll straight at the flag. It disappeared.

“Hole in One!” My grandfather shouted from the porch. (Until then, I had not realized I had an audience, or a color commentator, a slightly nose painted color commentator.)

“Yeah!” I shouted. I saw no need to inform him it was my second shot.

One morning about mid-summer I went out to water my greens. There were small holes in the one closest to the house. Holes! Holes the size of tea cups! “Fuckin’ ‘dillo!” was my first thought. My dog Spot would never disfigure my green. Nope. Was an armadillo. No doubt about it. This armadillo had made a fatal mistake.

I was resolved to terminate him.

mocking dillo

Don’t Shoot! I am only the Piano-Player

With extreme prejudice.

I dragged my sleeping bag onto my belov’d green that night and with my .22 rifle under my arm I lay in wait.

Fell asleep on watch around midnight. Woke up with the sun to discover more holes in my green. Further enraged now.

This MEANS WAR!

Made repairs to the ‘dillo divets and played a few rounds that day. Close to sunset, I downed some strong black coffee and filled a thermos with more. Camped out again on my green. Feigning sleep, I waited with my rifle and a flashlight. Sometime in the night, I heard him. Grubbing for grubs on MY Green. The moon was half. I did not need the flashlight. I spied him on the edge of my green, mockingly desecrating my pride and joy. Ever so slowly I turned toward him while resting on my side cradling my rifle. Took aim and shot him square in his armadillo ass. Bam! ‘Run tell that, fuckin’ ‘dillo!” He did (run) and I am quite certain he did tell all his ‘dillo friends not to fuck with my golf course. Ever again. I suppose he died, or not. Actually, I probably only clipped him, but that was sufficient; he never came back, and I continued my golfing career. It would be five years before I actually set foot on a real golf course, but I did impress the hell outta my peers with my ‘short game’, as that was all I had known. Took me two years to learn how to drive golf balls (and cars and trains and such other things.)

But Coach was right: I wish I could find him now to tell him just how right he was, per his prophesy.

I Jumped Off A Bridge Once. Someone Wrote A Song About It. I wasn’t impressed, Bein’ Dead an’ All

I love ‘Southern’

“Pass the biscuits please.”

Really love Southern.

bobbie_gentry

Truly absolutely love Southern

Truly absolutey love Southern, and all them entrails… (That would be ‘boudin’, for those uninitiated out there)

I love Bobbie Gentry, arguably one of the best Southern Singer-Song-Writers to come down from the hollow.

Been wanting to write about her, but somewhat overawed and, quite frankly, struck. (and stuck)
“Loss for words,” would suffice.

Message in a bottle time:

Help me out here: what can be said (personal experience with the music here: Please no Wiki shit) about Bobbie Gentry?

I await

California on my Mind & Texas in my Heart

California

Loved it. Hated it. Few decades ago I could truthfully say, “Hey! I’ve spent half my life in California.” (See This Or This)

Now I can say, “Hey! I’ve spent most of my life in Dangerous Desolate Places.” (Middle East &  East Texas) That worm did turn some. (Go Here or There)

As a Native Texan, I am supposed to always hate California and yes, Yes to all you Texans out there: I know this. I get it. Put the rope down.

Yet I more love than hate California.

In California I learned to appreciate music, art, science, literature, hippies, beaches and blondes. My first kiss was not in California, but I didn’t miss that milestone by much–In California.

In Texas I learned to appreciate drankin’ whiskey and beer , smokin’ dope, playin’ football, chasin’ cheerleaders, and Raisin’ Hell.

Arriving home to Texas late 1968 folks made fun of my ‘California Accent’ if there even is such a thing. (There were no Valley Girls in the Sixties as far as I know). My ‘accent’ was ‘just the way normal people talked’ as far as I was concerned. Texans sounded funny to me (Blasphemy!)

My Attitude Adjustment didn’t take long to take.

In California I was a Little League Baseball Star. In Texas no one gave two shits about baseball. I had to learn football. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing, but I had all those baseball skills which were not worth a cup of spit in Texas.

I love Texas and don’t get me wrong. But once in a while, when I see a photo or a news bit showing San Francisco, or San Diego, or a beach, or a blonde… I hear this guy singing:

Sometimes I even hear this blonde singing:

And I tear up. (Just a little bit) but then I throw on some Bob Wills and Remember Who I am.

Bob Wills

And thus remembering, I go out and buy a case of Lone Star Long Necks and listen to this guy:

And I Thank The Spirit of Sam Houston I Am A Texan.

A Conversation from Mosul about a Forklift

My mechanic (Of Parsons Mechanic fame) came by to have some ‘chat’ with me:

Bob

The most Interesting
Mechanic in the World

“Way’ll… I have a natch’ral disaster on my hands.”

“Ok Bob,” I said, “I’m ‘bout to bust with anticipation.”

“Yep. A natch’ral disaster.”

“You mentioned that already.”

“A real-life natch’ral calamity.”

“Do I have time to go to chow while you go through your preamble?”

Ignoring me, he continued, “That Six Kay (‘6K’ as in six thousand pound lifting capacity) forklift is all a-pieces. hamorr’agin’ parts all over th’ place. The Boys (Filipino mechanics times two) tol’ me it was the fuel injector pump. So, I kin’ly smiled and said ‘Okaaay…,’ and let ‘em go at it. They need ta learn how ta fix thangs without me onct in ah’while. Well,  they dun got tha’ forklift tore all ta pieces.  Now, I dun give ‘em all mornin’ to dick ‘round with it, an’ I’m gonna give ‘em all this aftr’noon to dick ‘round with it some more. Then first thing tomorra, I’m gonna ask ‘em, ‘Boys, how come that forklift ain’t a-workin’ this fine morning?’”

“Your ‘personnel management style’ is showing Bob,” I said.

“Yeah, whatever… An’ tomorra’s Thursday. An’ day after that’s Friday. An’ I ain’t doin’ nothin’ on Friday. Tomorra, we gonna start our dee-cent inta th’ day off.”

“Kinda start slowin’ ‘er down ‘round mid-noon time, eh?” I said. (I can do ‘Southern’ just as slick as you please when I want to.)

“X-actly. We start double-clutchin’ and dee-celeratin’ an’ bring her in nice and slow like.”

“And what about my forklift?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.

“She’s all ‘In’shalah’d’ out Boss.”

“Dead in the water?”

“Tits up.”

“Broke dick?”

“Send her saddle home.”

“I need to call Baghdad?”

“She ain’t lookin’ none too fav’erble.”

“Call HQ an’ tell ‘em we need another forklift?”

“Now, jes hol’ on. Doan git ’em all wadded jes yet.”

“Ok. I got it. Thanks.”

“We’re Parsons’ Mechanics an’ jes watch how we roll,” he said on his way out the door.

I love my job.

I have a “Ten Kay” forklift that still works. So I should be alright for now. Besides, Bob just  loves the drama and we do this little dance everytime there is a crisis in the motor pool. If I were a betting man (And actually I am) I’d wager two of my pay checks that come Friday if that 6K forklift is still down, he’ll be out there bright and early with his boys working on it until it is repaired even if it means giving up his day off. I’ve seen him do that already too many times over the past year and a half he has worked for me. There is no man made of better stuff. An’ he sure do entertain. Yessir, he certainly does. And I’d never have been able to keep the operation afloat without him.

I love all my crew and wouldn’t trade a single one of them for a pile of cash money or a case of Johnny Walker Black with the authorization to drink it.

Please Don’t Shit in My Shower

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

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Dispatches From Iraq: The Man Who Blew Up Goats

In ‘08 I gave my notice to Parsons and went to work for an Iraqi company called Leadstay. Leadstay was the outfit that provided all the heavy equipment and operators we employed at Camp Wolf in Anbar Province. They worked under the direction of our EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) guys, (Tetra Tech) helping them to locate and destroy the UO (unexploded ordnance) that Saddam had so graciously left behind.

goats

The project, USACE CMC (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coalition Munitions Clearance project), was a noble one and I worked for them two years, “Kicking bombs” as my IT guy referred to it.

Previously I had worked for Parsons on the USAID (U.S. Dept. of State) Rural Water Project. We built water treatment plants for rural villages all over Iraq providing clean potable water to people who had never put lips to same. Spent two years doing that. I was in the ‘Construction’ business. At CMC I had moved into the ‘Destruction’ business, or for you literary types: ‘deconstruction business’. The circle was now complete.

CMC was winding down in ’08 after having destroyed roughly four hundred thousand short tons of old live ordnance during the five years they had been ‘kicking the bombs’ which the bad guys would surely have turned into IED’s.

I needed to find a new gig.

leadstay_operators

Through my connections with Leadstay I was hired on as ‘Business Development Manager.” They paid me fifteen thousand bucks a month (In cash if I so desired) plus two percent of any new contracts I landed. Potentially very lucrative.

The Leadstay ‘Man Camp’ was in the ‘Red Zone’ just outside the wire of Camp Victory, which bordered BIAP (Baghdad International Air Port). Electricity was hit or miss. The power grid from Baghdad was kind of like Texas weather; “If you don’t like it just wait a minute and it’ll change.” We had backup generators, but they were only for show. The shower in my hooch often gave me little shocks, reminding me that “OSHA does not live here.” All the Iraqis (and some of us) were armed. I wasn’t, but I had my eye on an AK-47 for sale in the duty-free shop Ahmed owned.  Mostly the Duty-Free was a liquor store.  We were only allowed to drink booze on Thursday nights. (Of course we mangled that rule, being ‘By God Americans!”)

I lasted about a month.

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Real Good. Really Good. Really Good For Free

Been watchin’ this vid

over and over and over past few days.

Why? I suppose it’s because I have discovered the HBO gig: Treme.

New Orleans!

It’s mostly about music, street music and street musicians. And I love it. Highly reccomend it. Also recommend Spike Lee’s documentary on NOLA and Katrina: When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts 

Joni’s performance of “For Free” has always moved me, but now it has more meaning and I finally ‘get it’.

Take a look.

–Lancers: A Real Good Blog (For Free)

Tell all yer friends, y’all.

A Conversation Over a Plywood Wall In a Tent in Afghanistan

A co-worker from Trinidad, but calling Houston home for the past 20 years, (let’s call him “Persad” since that’s his name), lives in the “cubicle” next to mine in Tent C-9.

He was “home” when I arrived. He greeted me from over the cube wall.

My Hooch_Afghanistan

My Hooch

“Lance Mar—cone!” (that’s how he calls me, ’cause to him, that’s MY name) “Waz da happn’in’s?”

“Same ol’ same ol’. Where you working these days?” (he just got back from RR yesterday)

“Dey got me over to the new LSA, Bro.”

“That would be LSA Six… Bro,” I answered back. “You got an office over there?”

“Nope, no office,” he lied.

“Well, I heard you got a CHU.” (Containerized Housing Unit–small trailer, kind of)

“Ya, but no furniture.”

“Pretend you’re Japanese; sit on the damn floor. What you need furniture for anyway?”

“Damn Bro! I be too old an’ shit for dat.” (I am aiming for “Island Accent” here.)

“You do realize, Persad, that you are in a war zone?”

*Unintelligible grumbling*

After a pause…

“Hey Mar—cone!”

“Yes?”

“I spoke to yer girl today.”

“You mean Lashonda?”

“Yeah, dat one.”

“She’s not my Girl, but, yes, she works for me; ‘Bout what?”

“She said you dun give her dat office chair.”

“You mean that office chair I bought with my own money months ago for my hooch here?”

“Ya dat’s de one.”

“What about it?”

“She said you give it to her.”

“I did in fact; it’s my chair.”

“You give it to her, or to the office?”

“I gave it to her for as long as she is on Dwyer.”

“Why you give her dat chair, Mon?”

“Because her back was hurting and I am a gentleman.”

“Oh.”

“You want a chair?

“Ya.”

“Amazon dot com.”

“Damn Bro, caint you H Bee Oh; Help a brother out?”

“No.”

“You gots some scissors I can borrow?”

“Yes,” I said, handing them over the wall, “Here ya go; don’t run with them.”

“Tanks.”

“No prob.”

“The Cowards Never Started and the Weak Died Along the Way”

And Yet One More Post From the email Archives:

************

Please tell me all about your therapy session today once it is done. I know a little about back trouble as I went through some during my Navy SEAL training. I know there is nothing worse than that for pain. There were several days during that training whereby I thought it would be better to be dead than run/swim yet another step. Somehow we always managed just one more step. “The only easy day was yesterday” was our mantra and that had been passed down over the years to all BUD/s classes.

There was one guy in my first class (Class 140) who actually broke his femur during a fun little evolution called “Rock Portage.” For two days he remained in training after that. His roommates would walk him about every morning until his leg got numb. Obviously he couldn’t keep up on any of the evolutions and the SEAL instructors kicked him out. No one knew his leg was broken. Once he was drummed out and had gone to Balboa Naval Hospital they told him he had a broken femur. Imagine his surprise!

Rock-portage1

Rock Portage

Hahahah!  A footnote: Seems his father was a retired SEAL. Well when daddy found out how his son had been kicked out of training for having a broken leg, yet still “putting out” to use the vernacular, he was, shall we say, livid. Needless to say, the kid in question was apologized to (ad nauseam) and invited to return once healed so that he would have an opportunity to break the other leg. I talked to him about this and he told me he’d had enough, but then I ran into him a few weeks later and he told me he would be coming back. It takes a special kind of idiot to go through that. I know, as I was just such an idiot. Twice. I suppose that’s why they call it “Special Forces.”

We had a guy in my second BUD/s class (158) whose name was Lundtmark. One day while we were running the obstacle course he got to the very top of the cargo net (roughly 60 feet above the beach) and fell off.

cargo net1

Whoosh!

Bam!

Boom!

He survived, but from that day forward Lundtmark was reborn and known as “Sand-Dart.”

Some of the funniest moments I recall were during “Drown Proofing.” Drown-proofing is quite simple: one’s ankles are tied up and one’s wrists tied together behind one’s back. Then the “wog” (Short for pollywog, a neophyte, wanna-be SEAL) must simply swim 100 meters in 12 foot deep water. Once that is accomplished, the wog must do some acrobatic maneuvers underwater while still tied up and then somehow get to the bottom and pick up a scuba mask with his teeth and bring it to the edge of the pool where the instructors await to pull him out and beach him. All great fun.

I never had any apprehension with this evolution since I am very relaxed in water. Others had slightly more trouble. One idiot after being cast into the water did nothing but bob up and down screaming, “I’m drowning! I’m drowning! Save me!” As he would get close to the edge of the pool the instructors would push him back toward the middle using long poles while yelling, “You idiot! If you were drowning, you wouldn’t be able to say you’re drowning!” It was all great fun, but I suspect you’d have had to actually been there at that precise moment to fully appreciate it.

drownproofing

Drownproofing

Another idiot didn’t even make it into the water. His name was “Feather.” (His name really was Feather and he was a body-builder which made him a target of opportunity for the instructors’ “special attention.”) Well, seems Feather had second thoughts about BUD/s and his desire to “Kill some Commie Bastards” when it came time for drown-proofing. As soon as we were told to start getting tied up, Feather bolted. He actually ran away! Just like a little bitch. Never saw him again.

He’s probably still running…

Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, aka: ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’

Yet another email I dispatched from Camp Dwyer, 2012:

***********

Around 1730hrs a truck pulls up outside my office at LSA 2. I didn’t see who was in the truck, but I figured I was about to have a visitor. (I’m really smart that way) After the truck had been literally blocking my door for about five minutes, Mike Smith (My Manager. The BBB: Billeting BIG BOSS) walks in holding up a pack of L&M cigarettes. Now remember, I have not seen this guy for the day-and-a-half he has been “back” on Dwyer.

“Anyone in here smoke these?” were the first words out of his mouth.
I look up from my personal emails and say, “Dunno. Lashonda smokes, but afraid I don’t know her brand.” (She was out of the office, actually smoking at this time)

“Well, I wish whoever is smoking these would stop doing it on the bench.” (There’s a bench just outside my office door and it sits in a ‘No-Smoking’ area.)

“Sorry Mike; not on ‘bench patrol duty’ today. Could’ve been anybody; probably a Marine with a rifle or a Jordanian with a goat. Did you trek all the way across this burning desert to tell me this? Or do you have some business here? Oh and welcome back by the way.” (Saturated sarcasm, I’m afraid.)

“Uh, no… You do realize we have a serious situation on our hands in Billeting?” (Well, duh. You’re the schmuck who has been gone, not me). I just gave him my best *You’re fucking kidding me, right? Lance, peering-over-his-glasses look.*

Are You Kidding Me

He continues, struggling now to maintain his Authority Voice, “Uh, of course you know everyone is gonna have to ‘get on board’ with all this new responsibility.”

I continue *Lance-looking* him.

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Emails From Afghanistan: Stop The War!

Excerpts from a couple of emails I sent from Camp Dwyer in 2012:

The boys are still moving cots and I think we just had a heat casualty. At least that’s what I heard on the hand-held radio. At first I thought it was here in LSA 2. (LSA—‘Life Support Area’—euphemism for ‘Small Tent City’)

LSA2_tents

LSA 2

I went to the tent where Kushal was supervising but the casualty wasn’t there; apparently he was in LSA 6. The radios aren’t good enough to transmit from here to LSA 6 so details are sketchy. We don’t need any safety issues. Management gets all stupid over the slightest incident. Personally, I would just put the dude in the shade, give him a cold beer (NA of course) and continue on with the mission. But in Corporate America these days, a “Safety Stand Down” is required. All work stops while they “train” us once again to “drink plenty of water.” One would think that since humans have been drinking water for some years now, it would not be necessary to conduct this training, but hey! Guess that’s why I’m not in Upper Management. “Keep on spendin’ Boys! It’s only money!”

Speaking of management and such, I suppose I should get my butt back to work…

–Lance, just another worker-bee schmuck.

My Office

My Office

  ***Breaking News***

The “heat casualty” turned out to be a bug bite on the neck. Yes, you read that right: a fucking bug bite! Kushal told me this just now and my reaction?

“Are you shitting me?!”

 

 

Pandemonium on the radio. People freakin’ out.

Stop the work! Stop the War! A bug bite?

I need to find another job.

And they call me crazy for walking around wearing ankle weights.

Unbelievable!

******************************

We have a crisis of sorts here in my LSA at this very moment: All work has stopped. It seems someone spotted a spider in the passenger van used by the Labor Guys. Eye witnesses reported the spider to be about the size of a cantaloupe. I heard this on the hand-held radio and burst out laughing. I grabbed a fly-swatter and headed over to the van. I forced my way through the crowd of Indians and Filipinos who were all staring into the windows of the vehicle and trembling visibly. I immediately started moving shit around inside the van, looking for this monster, and laughing at all of them for their antics and panic. Not finding the spider, I stood up and announced to the assembled crowd:

“STOP THE WAR! WE HAVE A SPIDER IN THIS VAN! SHUT DOWN THE OPERATION! PACK YOUR SHIT BOYS! WE’RE GOIN’ HOME!”

No one really appreciates my sense of humor over here.

These Boots Ain’t Made For Walkin’

Shortly after I moved from Winnsboro to Honey Grove my grandmother decided it would be a grand idea for the two of us to take a road trip out west to Levelland, (“There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.” –Lawrence of Arabia) which was her childhood hometown.

nocona_Boots

“Lance, it will be wonderful; you’ll be able to meet all the Marcoms who have lived in Levelland for generations.” (Oh goody)

I really had no say in the matter, but Grandmother Marcom always spoiled me, and since I was a little bit mercenary even back then, I figured what the hell? I’ll probably get something out of the deal. Just about half-way to Levelland we stopped in Nocona. You know, ‘Nocona’: World Famous Texan Cowboy Boot Capital of The Universe? Yeah, that one.  Grandmother informed me that I could not enter her hometown without looking like a proper Texan, so while in Nocona she got me decked out in some true Texan dude clothing and a pair of fine Nocona boots. Forty-five bucks she spent on those boots, and in my mind, that was just shy of a million. Damn expensive is what I’m telling you.

These boots were Fine. Luscious dark brown all leather vamp, all leather cow hide boot top with three rows of stitching, toes not too pointy, soft leather lining. Damn fine cowboy boots, all shiny and smellin’ richly of new leather. “Nothing smells better than a bran’ new pair of Nocona boots Son.” (I was told, but I’m thinkin’ what about a brand new Corvette? Bet that smell ranks right on up there.)

After long hot miles on desolate roads, we arrived in Levelland. (Nailed the name for that town, they did) Did the Marcom Fam-dam-ly circuit. I met aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, lesser aunts, lesser uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins, fourth cousins, and yawn and yawn and yawn.

I was extremely proud of my first pair of real Texas boots though. So the price of admission was worth it.

After a couple of days of my being paraded around to all the kin, we headed home to Fannin County. I absolutely could not wait to show off my new boots.

One of my hobbies at the time was building little wooden models of medieval torture and execution devices: guillotines, gallows, pendulums, the rack—see my post, “Addam’s Family Values,” and you will understand–Maybe.

I kept all my modeling stuff in my room: various pieces of scrap wood, x-acto knives, glue, brushes, sand paper, reference books, wood stain, and varnish.

One day while admiring my boots, I perceived some dullness had begun to set in. They just didn’t have that new glossy look I had been so proud of. (They also were unable to retain that new Nocona boot smell, but that didn’t concern me). I had some Kiwi shoe polish, but after working with it for some time, sweating and tiring, the results I was getting were unsatisfactory. I put the boots and polish down, thinking there must be an easier way to get some shine back on the damn things. Spying the small can of varnish on my desk ignited an idea in my mind: ‘Hey, this stuff works instantly and beautifully on my models…’

I took a little brush and painted a penny-sized spot on my left boot. Wow! Instant shine. But best let it dry a bit and make sure the wet glossiness doesn’t fade.

It didn’t.

Thirty minutes later both boots were completely varnished and Yessir, they looked great. Better in fact than when they were new. “I wonder if anyone else knows this secret to boot shining?” I pondered. “Naw. Bet I’m the first to discover this.”

Wanting to show off my now shinier than ever boots, I put them on and headed over to a buddy’s house. “Dwayne, just take a good look here at my shiny boots,” I announced as soon as he answered my knock to his door.

“Damn! Marcom. They are right shiny,” Musta took ya ‘bout two hours of polishin’ and a whole can of Kiwi.”

“Nope. ‘Bout twenty minutes and a can of varnish,” I announced proudly.

“Varnish? Wood varnish?”

“Yep. Works great, eh?”

“Uh… I dunno. I never heard a such.”

“Well, you should try it, as you can see it works better ‘n Kiwi. Gotta go now. See ya at school,” I said and headed on home, satisfied I had properly impressed Dwayne with my ingenuity.

As I was getting ready to crawl into bed, I placed my very glossy boots on my night stand so I could get one last look at them before I turned out the lights and went to sleep.

Next morning I dressed quickly, donned my boots and couldn’t wait to get to school to parade about in them. I didn’t cop out to anyone after Dwayne as to how I had gotten them so marvelously ‘polished’. Things were going great until around lunchtime. I began to notice little cracks in the smooth veneer of my boots. My boots were cracking! How could this happen?

“Hey Marcom! Them boots lookin’ a little sad now,” was the comment of the first to notice.

“Yeah, they look kinda… uh, wrinkly,” someone else added.

Dwayne came over and announced, “He done varnished them boots y’all.”

“Varnished?” another said. “You caint be puttin’ that shit on L-e-a-t-h-e-r, you dumbass. When it gets hard, it gonna crack, just like it a-doin’ now.”

This never occurred to me. Shit.

Word spread quickly and before the end of the day, ‘Laughing Stock’ was my new claim to fame.

For weeks after that I suffered the greatest humiliations of my young life.

“Hey Marcom! I got some boots need a shine. Kin y’all hep me out?”

“Hey Lance, when ya gonna open your boot varnishin’ stand ‘front ah Ol’ Johnny Smith’s feed store?”

kiw

Read The Words:
BOOT POLISH

Folks I didn’t even know would cackle as I walked by, “Hey, there’s that dumbass kid whut varnished his Noconas. Ye ever heard a-such? Varnishin’ boots!”

I was a celebrity, just like Charley Brown.

My boots took an early retirement while I lived on in shame.

Letters From Iraq: A Day in the Life of a Camp Manager

An Excerpt from an email I sent from Mosul, late 2008. Victor was a soft-spoken, highly educated and proper gentleman originally from Nigeria. He could not have been more out of place and time.

I realize this is rather a crude ‘toilet joke’ post, but it is a true story. Regarding ‘dirty words’ and ‘dirty toilet stories’, no one had better commentary on the subject than Lenny Bruce. Please have a listen below.

Lenny Bruce – 1961 arrest for using obscene language

*************

There was another ‘Victor Moment’ during this morning’s meeting with Parsons and my Boys. After I had finished discussing everything I had on today’s agenda I asked if anyone had any issues which needed to be addressed. Usually there are none, but today Victor piped up and said,

“I want to report an incident that causes friction.”

“Now what?” I’m thinking. “Friction?” I said. “Friction’s no good; friction causes fires.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Victor said.

“Oh, of course not… Okay Victor. I’m all ears. What’re you talking about?”

“There must be more respect and decorum in this camp. This morning at the Tetra-Tech meeting, one of the security guys, the big fat one, sat right in front of me and he leaned forward and…’Brrrrruuuuppp!’”

Laughter all around.

“Victor, you mean he farted in your general direction?” I said.

More laughter.

Very serious now, Victor said, “Yes. This was disrespectful. I told the gentleman that this was not good to do this. He turned around and said, ‘No really; it’s good for you.’ I told him I did not appreciate this behavior. There were eye witnesses too. The CRG guys were sitting right next to me.”

Trying to stifle my laughs (and failing), I said, “Any nose witnesses?” Then over the howling laughter of the boys said, “Sorry Vic, couldn’t resist. So, do you want to, uh… file a grievance against this guy?”

“Not yet,” he said. “But I want it on record.”

“Ok Victor. Consider it on record. Hey Dana, would this be considered a health, safety & welfare issue and do we have a form for this kind of… uh, grievance?”

The Boys still giggling.

“I’ll have to look online and get back to you on that one,” Dana said as straight-faced as he could which wasn’t very convincing.

“Ok, please do that.” Then I said to all, “Does anyone else have any ‘incidents’ that require my attention this morning?”

Nope.

“Ok then, Launch!” (Which is how I end all my meetings: I ‘launch’ my Boys off into their work day.)

Later as I was signing out for my walk at the TOC (Tactical Ops Center—Radio Room) with the CRG guys, they told me they had an ‘incident’ to report.

“Let me guess,” I said. “Someone has farted at you, eh?”

Laughter again all around.

“Yes,” Garth said, “Actually not at one of us, but Victor was just in here trying to muster support for his case. Says we’re all witnesses and we will be compelled to provide a written statement.”

“Oh Christ,” I said. “This guy wears me out.”

“Well, we just fucked him off,” Mark said.

Gareth (the Welshman) chimed in, “Yeah, I told him, ‘Hey we’re all just a bunch of blokes working here for fuck’s sake! Take a look at where we work: fuckin’ Iraq. What a wanker!” (Gotta love those Brits)

“Well, I guess the war’s over,” I said.

“What?” Gareth said.

“War must be over if this is the kind of shit we have to worry about. Some people seem to think we’re working on Madison Avenue. Too bad Miss Canada wasn’t here for this. (She had actually been here for a USO Show a week earlier.) We’d probably be looking at sexual harassment… Well, I’m off on my morning walk-about; gotta keep up my girlish figure ya know. You can call me on Channel One if there are any more wind-breaking developments.” I said as I headed out the door.

I could still hear them laughing and joking about Victor and his complaint as I walked away. I’m sure there will be more to this story. I sincerely hope Victor complains to Baghdad about this. Those guys could use some humor injected into their lives. Once again, I really can’t make this stuff up.

 

Never A Shot Fired In Anger: Just Sweet Revenge

 

Elton_John_-_Don't_Shoot_Me_I'm_Only_the_Piano_Player.jpg

My maternal grandfather was an alcoholic. Not an everyday alcoholic, but he did have a schedule and he stuck to it religiously. I lived with him and my grandmother in Winnsboro for one year before escaping to Honey Grove to live with my father. My grandmother was a librarian working at Gladewater High School, about fifty miles away. She kept a small apartment there and would only come home on the weekends.

Granddaddy’s routine was to get drunk on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sunday evenings after my grandmother had hit the road back to Gladewater. His preference was cheap bourbon: Ten High. When I first moved in with them I had never seen anyone drunk before. My first thought was “He must be ill.” The old dog that lived with us knew better and from the first drink of whiskey he would disappear. I should have asked the dog what was the problem. Dogs can be very perceptive (and smart). But it didn’t take me too long to figure out nothing wrong with the old bastard, ‘cept he drunk.

He would sit beneath the ancient pecan tree in the back yard and have conversations with people from his past—rather one-sided conversations from my perspective, but fully engaging from his, as he would pause frequently to allow his guests to respond, then light into them again. Freaked me out at first and gave me nightmares, but later I became fascinated and would sneak up and hide in the bushes close by so my young ears could catch all the juicy bits. My cuss-word vocabulary increased exponentially. He would rant and rave at people who had wronged him, owed him money, or had just pissed him off in general. This could go on for hours and he was very animated, waving his arms and thrusting his finger in the face of folks who had probably been dead for decades. He apparently saved grudges like cash money. And there was nothing wrong with his memory.

A few times he threatened to beat me, but never quite got around to it. He was a boxer in his youth, but I really wasn’t concerned. Pretty much I just ignored him when he was hell-bent on terrorizing me.

I did have one little moment of sweet revenge. I was a bit of a hunter, nothing substantial, just varmints, small birds, water snakes, and the occasional tin can or empty Smuckers jelly jar–Just another burr-headed young Texan with a twenty-two rifle and a blood lust. One afternoon while trudging through the lush pasture which surrounded our house, a full box of .22 long rifle shells fell out of my jacket pocket. I searched diligently for the shells, as they had cost me real money, but I could not find them in the tall grass. I gave up and wrote them off.

Several weeks later my grandfather was on his John Deere tractor shredding the pasture. I was just coming out of the back door when the shredder found my long lost .22 shells:

“POP! POP! POP! POP! POP!” Vietnam had come to Texas.

I hit the ground and watched my grandfather desperately trying to drive his tractor out of the firefight he suddenly found himself in the middle of. I just couldn’t help myself. I laughed hysterically at this comic old fucker, spittin’ and swearin’ and doing his damndest to drive the hell out of Dodge.

After the bullets stopped flying, he started ‘tractoring’ back toward the house. I took this as my cue to make myself scarce. He had not heard my laughter over the burst of bullets going off all around him. When he found me in my bedroom earnestly playing at doing my school work, he was still visibly shaken and not just a little enraged.

“Boy! Did you lose a box o’ shells in the pasture?” he shouted.

“Uh… maybe. Why, did you find ‘em?”

“Ya coulda killed me! That’s why! I oughta beat your ass.”

“Yeah, well maybe you oughta an’ maybe you ought not,” I said with a bit of a mockery, then was betrayed by my overwhelming amusement at his standing there, trembling with rage and sweat pouring out from his grizzled old dome. I broke out in uncontrollable laughter.

Then he beat me, but it was worth it.  Oh yeah. Worth ever’ lick.

I Got Dem Ol’ Time Turtle Blues Again Mama! (Sorry Janis)

Yet another bit gleaned from my longer post of 29 Jan. The Time Has Come,’ The Walrus Said, ‘To Talk of Many Things: Of Murdered Birds, Of Turtles Green, and Hippies Sellin’ Rings.

****************

My mother was probably “The Original Hippy Chick.” When Haight-Asbury was in full bloom, she would not shut up about it until we went there. I knew a little of the Hippy Culture then, yet had no desire to experience it ‘up close an’ personal.’ Mom did.  So one bright sunny Saturday morning we packed up the Rambler and headed to ‘Frisco and Haight-Ashbury. To say that trip opened my eyes would be an understatement bordering on felonious.  I was shocked, awed, amazed, bothered, bewildered, enlightened, enchanted, enthralled, and all at the same time. The whole day was a whorl of attacks on my senses and emotions. I remember clearly all the people with their long hair, colorful clothing, love beads, head bands, peace signs, guitars, laughter, and smoke coming from everywhere and not smelling at all like the smoke from the cigarettes my mother used to light up. But most of all, I remember the music. Music was ubiquitous and oh how I did love the music.

We walked up and down those streets for hours and I do believe my mother stopped and purchased some trinket from every single hippy-trinket-seller she visited, which, by my estimation, would have been all of two hundred of them.

Not really being a trinkets-man myself, I purchased a pair of small green turtles that I wanted to rescue from a hippy life I was certain they were not well suited for.  I actually remember telling the turtles during the ride home not to worry; that they were safe now, and also apologizing to them if I had left any of their family members behind due to the fact that my meager allowance did not afford me the luxury of benevolence to purchase freedom for the whole lot of them–Even though I did beg mom for an advance to do just that.

The turtles ended up having a fine long Turtle – Life and were probably the only two green turtles to ever migrate from California to Texas. Texas suited them, and me, better.

How I came to live in the Shit Hole Garage Apartment which was not really a garage apartment, but only a Shit Hole underneath a garage apartment

Memory fails, but I have pieced together something approaching honest fact. I lost my posh digs at Ponderosa Apartments, and was forced to down-size. Madelyn was living in the ‘Proper Garage Apartment’ and was ‘in good’ with the Landlord. She informed me he had this ‘wonderful little apartment’ for rent, which was ‘just perfect’ for me. Read CHEAP.

I checked it out, paid my fifty bucks and moved in. The moving in took all of two minutes, for I had not much to move.

Working for Ruth at her Liquor store in Ladonia and making a solid three dollars fifty cents an hour (plus ‘benefits), it was indeed, ‘perfect’ for me.

Now mind you, I never complained about living in such a place. After all, it did suit me and no one would have cared anyhow if it didn’t. It had some kind of ‘certain charm (just like this place) to be sure. How many folks could invite a guest into their home and lead them past the shitter before arriving into the living room/bedroom/kitchen/study proper? As far as I knew, I had the only such place in all of Commerce. It was special.

And truth be told, I did some ‘entertaining’ there a couple of times. The only person who I would invite over was my girlfriend. She never judged me. She was always happy to be with me, no matter the venue. (Yes, that sounds conceited, but there it is Gentle Reader—c’est vrai, or quel dommage, or… choose your own français).

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Braum’s Vern. Braum’s. Know what I mean?

Jim Varney studied Shakespeare at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. Most folks don’t know he began his career as a Thespian. He is of course, most remembered for portraying ‘Earnest’ in hundreds of commercials during the Eighties and Nineties. (And for a few horrible movies based on the same character) I caught my first “Know-what-I-mean-Vern” commercial while living in Nacogdoches, Texas. Instant Bromance. It was for Braum’s. I loved Braum’s. They absolutely did make the best burgers in all of Christendom. And their ice cream weren’t bad neither.

Some may think performing Southern Humor is easy, simple, and formulaic. I guess if based on Larry-The-Cable-Guy, or Foxworthy–‘you-just-might-be-a-redneck” or any number of clones of same–you’d be correct. Not that I am saying these gents don’t have talent and a mass appeal, but if you listen to the likes of Brother Dave Gardner or Kinky Friedmam and The Texas Jewboys, or even Lewis Grizzard you might come away with a new-found love of a Southern humor that is truly funny on top of being cerebral, philosophical, and just a mite bit more poignant—and lasting. To me, comedy is serious business. And yes, I am rather a snob about it–Please don’t shoot me; I’m only the piano-player in this joint.

Feel free to post some comments about your favorite comics and why you love ‘em. Or, if you prefer, why I am full of shit. If you list Lenny Bruce, I will send you a free life-time pass to any theme park of your choice and a Mickey Mouse pencil sharpener. “Lance! Leave Lenny out of it! He was from New-York-City fer Chrissakes!”

Git a rope.

“Oh yeah? So was Jerry Jeff Walker, but y’all dun forgave him, din’t ya?”

If you are not familiar with Varney, please take five minutes and watch this collage. If you are familiar, I believe you will enjoy revisiting his humor. Ya see? The Eighties were not completely devoid of culture.

Thank you for reading (and watching). I appreciate your time. Know whut I mean?

It’s My Blog and I’ll Cry If I Wanna

Some in my close circle have chastised me roundly for posting bullshit. (‘Bullshit’ is rather harsh, wouldn’t you say? I prefer to refer: ‘The Beer Blogs’)  Well to them I say: “See above title.”

I post shit that makes me happy. Things that I enjoy. Moods and swings and those kinds of things. In other words: “These are a few of my favorite things.” Anyway, publishing inane Bullshit is good for the soul (and good for the ‘more serious’ writing.) Clears the palette, as it were. I will do it again and again and again.

As needed.

Your Humble Servant: Capt. Von Trapp, circa, 1975

Your Humble Servant: Capt. Von Trapp, circa, 1975

Thanks for your support.

–Maria Von Trapped

A Kingdom For a Stage

I love Shakespeare. I love words. I love the simple fact that the only good advice my father once gave to me were the words out of his mouth: “Son, words have meaning and their coinage, well spend them well…”

Now… I am not that too heady. In fact, I am simple. Yet I do still love the coinage of a good phrase. Indeed I do.

Therefore, I leave you this. As all good Bloggers do, I desire a Stage! My Kingdom for a Stage!

Read… and…

I bought a box of tampons today.

Specifically, Tampax Pearl… “in the Green Box.” That’s what she required. That was my quest, my only quest: to find those and only those specific tampons. (In that green box? Are you fucking kidding me? Lots of tampons in green boxes… I discovered. Never mind…)

Pearl

Mission Accomplished. No apparent casualties.

Now Men, I know what some of you are thinking… I will go even further: the box of The Pearl Tampons (in the green box—there must be some metaphor there.) was the only item in my shopping cart, naked they were, all alone. In a big ol’ shoppin’cart, just sittin’ there.

Did I try to cover ‘em up with some dead red animal flesh, some pound or four of ground beef, some Biker Mags? Did I try to repeat the scene from “Summer of Forty Two” with the kid tryin’ to buy condoms? Askin’ for sprinkles and…”Oh, by the way, gimme some rubbers while you’re at it?” -been there, did that one. No mas.

Naw.

Here is the reason: I am secure in my masculinity. I can purchase tampons for my woman. No sweat.

I also listen to Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian and I cry at movies (some movies anyway–RoboCop comes immediately to mind).

Point is, Guys Git Over It!

Go out and buy some tampons. The experience will set you free.

Don’t Rain Shit On My Parade

Three A.M. and I was in the middle of a dream about ‘Shit River’ in Ologapo City, Philippines. (Freud would’ve loved me)

Then I woke up.

Woke up to a very un-dreamy-like smell of real shit. Real potent shit. Horrible smelling shit. Knock a buzzard off a shit wagon smelling shit.

I was living in an old two-story house in Commerce. Just outside my bedroom was the walk-in closet where I kept all the clothes I owned. I have never owned much in the way of clothes, by the way.

I heard something dripping like rain behind the door, but it wasn’t raining outside. I opened the door and sure as shit, shit was raining down from the ceiling.  All over my clothes. Spattering on the floor. My Chow Mix doggie, Tizzy, was obviously responsible. I went around the corner, and there  he was  in that dog-taking-a-shit posture at the top of the stairway: Obviously with a really bad case of the doggie drizzling shits.

Took me until seven a.m. to clean up the shit and wash all my clothes.

I called in sick to work telling my boss, “I feel like shit.”

No Bare Feet Beyond This Point

I grew into manhood in the Sinai desert: 1977-1980. Missed out on Disco, but it was damn well worth it.  What you may choose to read below is the first installment of a personal history I am determined to write about the men and women I had the honor to know, to love, to work and walk among, and to call ‘Friend’, as we all tried in our way, to bring peace between the Egyptians and the Israelis after the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The conditions were harsh; the boredom at times mind-numbing. Seventy-five percent of us were under thirty. Most of us were Texans. We were not actually building anything see-able, tangible, touchable: we were, in fact, civilian ‘Paid Political Hostages,’ not construction contractors, not U.S. military Special Forces, but we ended up building something immensely more important than bricks and mortar: The Camp David Accords—Peace between two enemies who had not known peace since before Moses was a pup. Some of us who spent too many years there, went slowly and surely insane…

SFM_Letter

1979 Sinai Field Mission

postcard

WARNING:

NO BARE FEET BEYOND THIS POINT

A faint laughing snort escaped as I shook my head upon seeing that sign duct-taped to the door of the hooch belonging to some of my fellow drivers: ‘Rocket Tom’, ‘J.R. Mog’, ‘Jet’, and ‘Big Mo’. Big Mo wasn’t a driver per se; I mean he didn’t drive trucks or R&R passenger vehicles: He drove dozers, road graders,  front-end loaders, and the occasional fork lift, although he considered fork-lifts “Too wussy for a Texan named Big Mo” to drive.

I gave the door a hearty knock.

“Enter!”

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Sometimes There Just Aren’t Enough Crud- Eaters

After having accumulated a little money during my three years’ working in the Sinai Desert (Sinai Field Mission), I decided to come home to Texas. My wife (the first one) and I settled in Nacogdoches resolved to open a tropical fish store. A dream I’d had since I was a kid. I had never been to Nacogdoches, but according to U.S. News & World Report, it was one of “The Ten Best Places to Live in the United States” and the city fathers had even erected a billboard on the main road into town proclaiming this quote from the magazine, just in case some folks missed reading that issue. Nacogdoches, for any non-Texans who may be reading this, is Ass-Deep in the heart of the Deep East Texas Piney Woods—gorgeous country, simply breathtaking. ‘Paradise On Texas’.

We leased a small building on South Street, which was the southern part of the main drag through town, just off the square. Wanting everything to be perfect, I spent the entire summer of 1980 fitting out the inside of my shop. I built all the fixtures, assembled all the equipment, and even built the office desk my wife would be using to keep the books. I built floor-to-ceiling rustic cabinets to display the sixty aquariums which would hold our retail stock. All that could be seen were the fronts of the tanks; no filters, hoses, wires or anything to wreck the ambiance.

The overhead lights were dimmed, keeping the atmosphere what one would expect in a fine Public Aquarium, most of the light coming only from the aquariums themselves. At the very back of the store, I built a nine-foot by three-foot display tank, roughly 600 gallons—it was built into the wall, again so as not to ruin the effect. This was my dream aquarium, showcasing all the skills I had honed over a lifetime of fish-keeping. It was decorated with huge driftwood, rocky multi-leveled terraces, and no less than two dozen different varieties of live plants. The effect was that of looking into a cross section of the Amazon River. Beautiful Blue Discus, shoals of Cardinal Tetras, various South American catfish, and many other exotic South American species were all stocked in this display. It was the perfect closed ecosystem.

display

Not MY Original Display Tank
But a Reasonable Facsimile

The retail stock tanks were also painstakingly decorated to provide examples of how fish should be kept in a home aquarium. No burping clams, no rotating ship’s wheels, no deep sea divers with bubbles coming out of their butt, no ‘Creatures from the Black Lagoon’, no ‘No Fishin’ signs—none of this dime-store shit in MY Shoppe. Oh Hell No. Every display reflected my fundamental conviction that tropical fish deserved to be represented in natural surroundings. Period.

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Being The Sad Story and Lamentable Fate of the Good and Gracious Mister Peabody: A Turkey

I’ve had a few requests to pull this passage out of the longer post: The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said…(29 Jan)  and publish it as stand-alone. I suppose it can best be described as “The Peabody Affair.” which occurred sometime in 1963. For those of you who may not have read the original, which I know is a bit longish, perhaps this will pique your interest.

Thanks for reading

***angry_Turkey

Those were happy times for the most part, and we lived in a very small garage apartment owned by some friends of my grandparents. My mother had a beautiful voice and would sing a cappella constantly while cooking, doing dishes, or just mucking about the apartment. My musical talents have obviously come from my father’s side.

The elderly couple who owned the apartment and the very large house and yard surrounding it were called Benbow. They were very nice people and apparently very, very good friends of my grandmother; hence our living there for what I now must assume was cheap rent.  I liked them well enough I suppose. They had a ranch somewhere close to Fremont and I do remember going there at least once for the ‘roundup.’ There were horses, cows, dog, cats, varmints, barbecue, (Not barbecued varmints!) and a nice creek to go skinny dipping in. All right there in the Bay Area. Amazing to me now, but then, that was many years ago…

What I didn’t like about the arrangement was the fact that Mrs. Benbow had a pet Tom Turkey, named ‘Mr. Peabody.’ This bird hated little boys. And he was passionate about it. Mom would give me a cookie and tell me, “Now, go play outside and let me finish cleaning the house.” I feared the outside while holding cookies. Mr. Peabody would lie in wait for me, and as soon as he saw me with cookies or anything resembling cookies, he would launch his attack. With a strongly developed sense of self-preservation even at that tender age, I would drop the cookies and flee (Read: Run Like Hell) back to mom, complaining about this evil bird. She would just laugh and tell me to get over it, or “Why don’t you just play somewhere else?”  Easily said Mom, but impossibly done. “Remember?  I can’t cross the street???” Grrrr…. This was not the proper response from someone who was supposed to love me above and beyond all things on Earth.

One day as I was warily munching a cookie, I saw Mr. Peabody circling, sizing me up for the attack that was certain to follow, but this day I did not flee. Something had come over me and instead of running for the apartment I ran for a large stick I had noticed on the ground just outside the door. Someone, or Some Thing had put that stick there for a reason and I was quite certain I knew what the reason was. I grabbed the stick and confronted Mr. Peabody. Now, most of the turkeys I have known are not terribly bright and Mr. Peabody being no exception kept charging me with his wings flapping, his beak squawking, and his talons kicking up dust as if he expected this to be just another easy victory for him in the never ending Cookie Wars.

scared_turkey

Au contraire.

I smacked him full force right in the side, “dusting him off” so to speak and releasing a small cloud of turkey feathers from him and a large “Whoop!” from me. This shocked him for an instant, but then he rejoined the battle in earnest and came at me again complaining even louder than before. With new found courage and drunk from the power that only MWTD, Massive Weapons of Turkey Destruction can provide, I stood my ground and let him have it again. This time he grew some intelligence and ran from me. He actually ran from me! I couldn’t believe it. Of course I had to chase him now. Memories of all the times of torment and of all the cookies lost flooded my mind. I was going to have my satisfaction. I chased that poor bird all around the yard, giddy with my newly found manhood and laughing manically the whole time. Mr. Peabody ended up running into the entrance to the stairwell leading to our apartment and promptly got stuck behind the water heater. As much as I hated that turkey I did not want him to die stuck behind that appliance in that awful way. I tried in vain to poke him out, but had to give up when called in to supper. Panic had started growing in my mind at that point, as I knew I would be blamed for the untimely end of The Gracious and Good Mr. Peabody even though I am certain there had been no witnesses.

Well, the damn bird did end up dying there and horribly so I am sure, and at the time I was somewhat remorseful, but as I look back on that experience, no longer am. May he rot in Hell.  And even though relentlessly interrogated and upon more than one occasion, I never confessed to the murder of the Beloved Mr. Peabody–Until this day. And I am confident I can trust you not to drop a dime…

Woe To The Wheeless Wheelbarrow

Heard this exchange on the handheld radio while in Afghanistan in 2012. (The Labor guys are Romanian and have that thick accent; The Plumber is American and without an interesting accent whatsoever…)

BrokenWheelbarrow

********

“Labor Two, this is Plumber One, copy?”

“Go for Labor Two…”

“Yessir, you told me you were gonna remove that dirt when you got the wheelbarrow.”

“Come back, Sir! You breakin’ up!”

“I SAID, You told me you gonna move that DIRT once you got the WHEEL–BARROW.”

“BREAK BREAK BREAK! This is Labor One.”

“Yessir, this is Plumber One. You promised me you gonna have your guys move that dirt from my job site when you got your wheelbarrow.”

“Sir, that wheelbarrow we got, got no wheel.”

***Pregnant Pause***

“Labor Two, this is Labor One. Look in connex. Tell me you got wheel for dis wheelbarrow.”

“Good Copy, Sir. We have.”

“You have wheel for dis wheelbarrow?”

“Yessir! We have wheel.”

“Okay. You check see if dis wheel is good one.”

“Yessir, dis wheel, she is good one.”

“Okay. Five mikes, I be dere. You wait me dere. I come see dis wheel.”

***Few minutes later***

“Plumber One, dis is Labor One, where you want dis wheelbarrow?”

“Labor One, this is Plumber One. Next to the dirt.”

“Ok, five mikes I be dere…”

So, my question is: what do you call a wheelbarrow without a wheel?

A “barrow?”

And what the hell good is it?

And so it went there at Camp Dwyer, Afghan-is-sand…

A Raccoon’s Tale

I raised a raccoon once. His name was Leroy, Leroy Rastus. Raised him from a cub I did.

baby_coon

His eyes were recently newly opened and I fed him from a baby bottle. A local rancher in Honey Grove had killed his mama while Coon-Hunting one night and he brought all her cubs home. The next day he adopted them out to several local high school kids. Peanut adopted Leroy’s sister. Another kid adopted his brother. There may have been one or two more siblings, but I don’t recall. Leroy’s adoption experiences were somewhat more transitory. First he was taken by Kim. Kim got bored with him and gave him to my step-sister Madelyn. She thought he was just the coolest thing ever!

For about three days…

His coolness factor, having for her it seems, a very short half-life. I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse for her coon: Cash Money. Money’s coolness factor has no half-life. She was only too happy to surrender Leroy to my care for the tidy sum of thirty-five bucks. Quite tidy indeed to an unemployed High School girl in 1974.

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Letter From A South Park Jail

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else sooner than later…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

southpark-afghanistan

*****************

Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan 1218hrs

Dear Lady,

I’m sitting in the PAX terminal. We boarded the plane, (Sixties-Era, prop job) a couple of hours ago, but they were just kidding. After sitting on the tarmac for about forty five minutes they brought us back here. Seems someone forgot to feed the hamsters which are actually responsible for propelling the plane and consequently, they died. We were told not to worry; they are flying in some fresh, well-fed hamsters from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and once they get those settled into the plane’s power plant, we will be good to go: wheels up around 1430hrs.

So here I sit, thinking of you, Dubai, and Hamster Avionics.

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Frogicide: Is This a Capital Offense?

When I hear songs, they lead me into other songs, which lead me into more songs, and then inevitably,  they collide, atom like, and split into even further songs, and therein lies that rub. Yet in the currency of life, well… songs are life. Fatal collisions notwithstanding.

But they do resurrect memories.

At least mine in my mind do.

This one, This Herb Alpert one, Taste of Honey, I first heard while shopping for glass slides for my microscope. (I think I was approaching my nine years’ on Earth anniversary) I was in a shopping mall–long before there were such things in any other place but my Bellwether California.

No matter…

I was walking through the ‘toy store’, for that was the only place a ‘wee child’ could purchase slides for microscopes back then (without a legal guardian), when I, with the helpful help of the condescending moron at the store, found the blank glass slides.

“How much?” I earnestly asked.

“Four dollars,” he earnestly answered.

“Four dollars!” I exclaimed.

“Yes Son, Four dollars.”

“OK,” I said. “When a child needs slides, a child needs slides, but be somewhat forewarned and aware, that your sum represents two months’ allowance for me, reaped from the heavy hot labor of mowing yards, taking out trash, keeping my mouth shut, (when so ordered), and generally just being an unwillingly good kid. Someday you will lament this encounter when you are in Purgatory for ripping off a wee child.”

“Plus tax,” he said.

Shit!

Sometimes one’s Bullshit falls short, and fails to hit The Mark.

You see? I was a wanna-be microbiologist even then. Of course, I did murder, sacrifice  dissect-ize, euthanize some frogs along the way. (For The Good of Frog-Kind, and for Science, of course) I figure the ‘statue’ of limitations on Frogicide has long since crumbled…

Dust now, most likely, that statute.

So now, Gentles All, I confess to my crime… of Frogicide.

I did it for the tadpoles.

Ribbit, Ribbit.

“Not Like Going Down The Pond Chasing Blue Gills Or Tommy Cats”–Quint

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.”

― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Galveston! Oh Galveston!

Many times during my life Galveston has been my ‘stomping grounds’ and remains to this day one of my most favored places on Earth, even though it has been “cleaned up” and my favorite sleazy bar now just an empty spot on the beach and a vacant void in my heart.

LH_1

My step-father took me to Galveston in late summer 1969 on a fishing trip, and I have loved Galveston ever since. Mike was a good stepfather who loved fishing and some of my happiest memories of him are the many times just the two of us would spend the day fishing in Santa Cruz, California or in this case, Galveston.

Leaving Houston, we rambled down Interstate 45 coming upon more and more water, (canals), as we approached Galveston. Seeing houses built over water without garages, but with little piers and small boats tied up in lieu of cars, I said to Mike, “That’s how I would like to live.”

Crossing the big bridge over to Galveston Island afforded a magnificent view. It was a beautiful bright clear day and I could see the fishing boats and sailboats in Galveston Bay. Over the bridge and driving through Galveston City we intersected Seawall Boulevard and the Gulf of Mexico appeared abruptly as if from nowhere and that overpowering first sight of it absolutely blew me away.

We went to the fishing pier which was connected to The Flagship Hotel and even though I caught nothing noteworthy, I had one of the best times of my young life. The smells of the sea, the fresh cut bait, the salt spray were all things familiar to me from so many trips to Santa Cruz. I love the sea, to be sure.

Many years later, after having read Peter Benchley’s Jaws and becoming obsessed with the idea of fishing for something that held the very real possibility of turning the tables and making me the “bait,” I decided Galveston was the place to explore the potential of this heady new-found avocation.

After high school graduation and a couple of semesters attending college in Commerce I moved to La Porte, which is about an hour from Galveston and there developed a plan for my first shark-fishing expedition. Since sharks, big sharks, the kind I was after, could not generally be found by fishing from the beach or even from the many fishing piers which run out from Seawall Boulevard, and since I had no boat, the South Jetty which runs almost two miles out into the Gulf from the eastern tip of Galveston Isle would be my causeway to deep water, no boat required. All it would take is a little forethought, some equipment, and some brass balls. I had all three available to me.

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