While suffering my enforced exile in California I could often be found searching for jumping spiders. One day I captured a particularly stunning one with black and white markings, dark black-green eyes and luminescent aquamarine fangs behind the feathery appendages which covered them.
Absolutely Beautiful Spider!
I gently herded her into a mason jar which contained several wood chips of varying shapes and sizes. Jumping spiders do not build webs; they live in caves made by little boys employing wood chips. (This is what my spidery experience had taught me through the years.)
Once I had done my time we moved back to Texas, but not before I was forced to abandon my Most Beautiful Spider, along with all the others I had collected, my mother announcing quite emphatically,
“I am NOT riding in a car all-the-way-home-to-Texas seated next to five jars full of damn spiders!”
Once back in Texas, for several weeks I suffered from PTSL: Post Traumatic Spider Loss. I missed my spiders, especially the beautiful one I had named ‘Sadie’.
Not that Texas has a spider shortage, mind you; I just did not immediately know where to look: “Looking for Spiders in all the wrong places.”
One day, lo’ and behold, I found a jumping spider which looked so very much familiar to me, (or perhaps she found me)
“Sadie! Sadie! Did you follow me all the way from California?” I asked breathlessly.
“Of course,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
I happily gathered her up and placed her into my newest mason jar, assuming she still wanted to be my pet.
About a month later, I proudly announced to my Grandparents:
“My spider is gonna have babies.”
“Lance Son,” my Grandmother informed me rather condescendingly, “There is no daddy spider in there. Your spider cannot possibly have baby spiders.”
Not ill-mannered enough to say it, I thought it: “Of course she can have baby spiders ‘without a ‘daddy.’ Spiders are like guppies: they store sperm until the time is ‘just right.’ But how could this old Tennessee-Baptist-Dyed-In-The-Wool-God-is-Great woman even wrap her mind around such things Darwin?”
Absolutely Incomprehensible To Her.
About two weeks later, I was up to my ass in baby spiders. I did not show grandmother these offspring. She would have told me it was yet one more miraculous example of God’s Work:
“The Immaculate Spider Conception.”
All the baby spiders slowly disappeared over time, crawling through the ice-pick holes in the lid of the Mason Jar two-by-two, or however. Fine. Neither Sadie nor I were interested in raising a passel of little spider crumb snatchers.
My Lady Spider was a huntress and she complained daily regarding my neglect of her need. She ached for something more than the flies I would daily cast into her mason jar. They were just food. No thrills to be had in the hunt, merely a harvest. She was growing morose.
“You’re killing my Spider Soul with all these damn flies Lance,” she said.
“OK Sadie! I will give you something to satiate your arachnid need,” I told her one morning.
Under the eaves of my Grandfather’s shed lived a few Black Widow Spiders. They had established some manner of ‘Black Widow Sisterhood,’ (Not unlike similar ‘Sisterhoods’ to be found on Social Media these days.) Even though I am most definitely a spider geek, Black Widows never intrigued me as potential pets, mainly because they needed more than a Mason Jar Ecosystem for lodging and accoutrements and also because of their lethargic laisser-faire approach to acquiring sustenance:
“Sit in their parlor-web all day; wait for something hapless to happen by.”
No hunt in them whatsoever. Boring.
Slightly peeved with Sadie, I decided to capture one of The Sisters. I took her to Sadie’s Mason jar and dropped her in.
“Happy now damn you?” I said.
Sadie looked about at her new roommate. Then looked up at me through multiple dark green eyes and said,
“I never thought we would come to this.”
“Sorry, ol’ Gal,” I giggled. “This is the part where the cowboy rides away. Catch ya laters. Good luck.”
I was curious and in fact, had nothing but time on my hands so I watched to see how she would deal with her new jar-mate, never really fearful for her safety.
But Black Widow was wily. She taunted Sadie, waving her long, spindly legs about in semaphore fashion, as if to say, “Come hither Little Jumper, let me demonstrate the technique that has given my kind our terrible dark name.”
Sadie began deliberately circling around Black Widow, sizing her up, her little Sadie neurons firing on and off, then seizing what I’m certain she perceived as perfect opportunity, jumped at her full force.
Her momentum caused her to tumble onto her back.
Black Widow capitalized and deftly captured Sadie and began wrapping her in web, presumably to eat at her leisure. But Black Widow made one fatal mistake:
She bound Sadie’s hind legs (all four of them) first, leaving her front legs (all four of THEM) free. As Black Widow was casually wrapping her up, Sadie grabbed her with unencumbered front legs and planted a big wet French Kiss into Black Widow’s thorax. They remained locked in this embrace for thirty minutes. (I know; I was there, timing it–for ‘science’)
Black Widow now hoisted with her own petard and quite dead, was dropped by Sadie, who watched her tumble down and land with an inaudible (to me) thud on the Mason Jar floor.
“Sadie,” I said. “Your indentured servitude has ended. Here, allow me help you out of that.”
Fishing some tweezers that I had stolen from my Grandmother’s “Lady-Bag” bag from my jean’s pocket I gently and meticulously pulled all the Black Widow silk from Sadie, a tedious time consuming effort which took at least half an hour. Then I gingerly laid the Mason Jar on its side hiding it in a pile of kindling away from the prying eyes of opportunistic birds and went on about my business.
Returning the next day, I discovered no Sadie: just a note written in Spider’ease which read:
“Thank you for allowing me to save myself. I will always love you, but I’ve had quite enough of Texas and Texan ways. If you ever make it back to California, look me up. Here is my email addy: (Redacted) Spider On! Y’all!”
And that was how she ended it.
Took me three days to get the webs out of my brain and a week to find another spider, but she was not the same. She was not MY Sadie, just an inadequately inept substitute, but I suppose that’s how it goes with First Loves lost.
“I miss you Sadie,” I caught myself saying to no one in particular few days later.
“Petty Officer Marcom! Your Fifty Cals are Rusty!”
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Daniel J. Mark. Cleared for release by ALBG PAO, LCDR Jeff Bender.
Marco The Sailorman
I had to admit. Yes they were. I had tried so hard to keep ahead of the rust, but here I found myself on the leeward side of the second half of a six-month, ‘round-the-whurl-West Pacific Deployment’, and somewhere just off the coast of Somalia.
Yes, rust was my enemy, certainly never my friend—the machine guns were always mounted while we (The USS Callaghan DDG 994, full cast and crew) were Haze-Gray and Underway.
Yes, always mounted and underway:
Haze-Graying, even then
My Guns were always supposed to be… somewhere upon the sea… this is what they were purchased for…
And subject to rust. Rust Relentless. Relentless She Be: That Sea. That Salt of the Fucking Sea
My Moby Dick-lessness! How could I not keep Rust off my guns?
Freud certainly would have had fun with me
(Sadly, now I know why)
My professional life was to be found somewhere rusting in those machine guns.
And that rust you see, that rust occupied a great deal of my daily routine.
The Navy had a solution though. She had provided canvas covers to cover those guns and make them safe from rust. Alas, those canvas covers had seen better days, probably back when Pearl Harbor was just an ordinary Naval Base that no one had ever heard of.
But rust is relentless and timeless.
While scrubbing the Indian Ocean rust off’n my fifty-cals one morning I hatched a plan. Knowing full well we were soon to pull into Mombasa Kenya, after so many month at sea, I conspired to save my money:
Once in Mombasa, I would smuggle one of the moth infected, salt- digested, jig saw’d, Swiss Cheese, ‘holy’ canvas shards off the ship. I would rent a taxi, find me a young child, show him my smuggled ‘prize’, ask him to direct me somewhere, where I could find and nickel and dime (I did not have much money then, not un-life-like now) find a leather shop in Mombasa, present to the leather-maker my Holy Canvas, My Shroud, My Naval Career, and demand, (for US Dollars), that he make me four such more yet new and brand new.
And This is exactly what I did, and to the amazement and astonishment of my Master Chief Petty Officer and my Department Head (almost a Navy Commander… he kind of looked like JFK, now that I think on it. I did not like particularly like him, but I respected him. Hell, he reminded me of all the things I could have been if I had joined the Nav when I was twelve instead of twenty-eight (Different story. Sorry)
The next time they inspected my Fifty Cals, they were pristine! (They did not take notice nor time to notice that the canvas covers were not exactly Haze-Gray-Naval Gray. No, more like Third-World-Rustic, with just a tiny bit of water buffalo…left over…but Goddamn sure water and sea salt proof.
And I was so desirous that they did NOT notice, but my Master Chief did notice, yet, never ever noticing nor voicing his ‘inner thoughts’ in front of what he referred to as “Shit Birds” — ‘Officers’ — Never let on.
Master Chief never, ever let out his truth thoughts in front of Shit – Birds. This was his genius.
And I should have been cognizant of this, yet I was so somewhat giddy after my .50 Cals had finally passed inspection, that I did not stop to think on that anymore. “Not even Master Chief had seen through my ruse” Yeah, Rite!
I was drunk with my own cleverness and lying back on my back in my rack, curtain drawn, congratulating me.
(Now, you must realize how the Military Mind works. I was my Ship’s Armor All–Armorer– IN Charge of All The Ship’s Small Arms! .225 Cal to .50 Cal. If it took two men to lift, wasn’t mine. But one-man-band? Yep! I was the shit! I was a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class! Freshly rocked out of SEAL Training (twice now, but who counts these sorts of thing? I suppose I do) and trying to retain what little was left of my pride and my so-fifty-caliber-called-life.)
And I loved and Respected My Master Chief. Did not ever want to become an embarrassment to him, nor to my Fellow Gunner’s Mates who worked on the “Big Guns”. (Those ones what ‘bullets’ took two and a half-men to lift)
And even more important, (anyone who has ever ‘Served’ will know this), the Military is Run On Fear:
Well, as I was lying on my back in my middle rack right before Taps with my little blue ‘privacy’ curtain drawn back when someone jerked that sucker back.
Along with my reverie.
Master Chief Anderson!
MY MASTER CHIEF
“Son, tell me where you found those brand new gun covers.”
Trying to lie on my side and find an elbow to lean to, I half-coughed out, feigning sleepy-eyed ignorance,
“Master Chief, I had them made while we were in Mombasa.”
(There are people one may lie to in life, but, A Master Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy is not one found amongst those people. Not if one wishes life beyond that moment of sweet deception)
“I see”, was all he said, as he yanked my curtain back shut, thus leaving me alone with my various and sundry.
I did not sleep that night. For you see, I knew I had broken Naval Regs by doing something not-in-the Naval-Seaman’s-Bible–The Blue Book–The book, inches thick as a brick, “The Book” I had been made to almost memorize while at Recruit Training Command, i.e. boot camp.
I had broken the rule.
In the Nav, there is a sea sailor preamble, most requisite when one wants to recount a story of ‘when ships were made of wood and men were made of iron’… “Back when Moses was a pup, and this is a no-shitter” This validates and is a ritual never broken. In other words, one never breaks the rule.
Sometime mid-morning the next day, I was summoned to the berth/office of The Department Head of my Division, Lt. Commander ‘Kennedy’.
Shitting bricks is too trite.
I was nervous.
I gave a hearty rap on the bulkhead door as I was trained to do in boot camp…
“Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcom Sir!”
“I know who you are Lance; sit down.”
(What??? Lance??? Sit Down???)
Mouth agape I sat down, speechless
“Son, Master Chief Anderson tells me you went out on your own, designed, commissioned, smuggled off a prototype, and paid for, with your own money, those .50 Cal Gun Covers. Is this true?”
“Yes, uh, yessir,” I stammered.
“Well, that shows some fine initiative. How much did you pay Son?”
“Un Sir. Doesn’t matter…. I just, well, the .50 Cals, you know SIR, cost ten-thousand dollars each, and I thought…rust….an…”
“How much did you pay?!”
“250 Dollars Sir.”
Without saying a word he opened a little three-lock-box (OK; I made that up. It was only a one-lock-box) that he had in a drawer, carefully opened it, and proceeded to hand me two-hundred and fifty bucks.
I sat there, dumb founded, a moment too long, still in shock, looking at the bills in my hand…
“Petty Officer Marcom! “
“Huh…Uh, Huh… Sir?”
Jumping up, knocking my chair over, some tears welling in my eyes,
As I saluted him and abruptly left his quarters, quite in haste.
And thus I had survived yet another day in MY Beloved Navy.
And Just As a Reminder Kids:
Don’t Rain on my Parade: I have enuff Rain for All
*And this just once more a rough draft, full of error, so be kind. Trust me: there is no harsher critic of me than me. I sweat commas.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
The point of this post, if there is one, is that I have applied for no less than ten jobs in Saudi Arab today.
Some nine or so in various other shit holes, er, “Developing Countries,” just looking for my next war zone to make me famous, not unlike Hemmingway. At this point in life, I must admit: prolly ain’t gonna happen. All I can hope for is some good monies and some decent health insurance (and maybe some ESOP), but Hell! At this point, I’ll work for room and board…but never bored.
Me? Bored? Never.
Again, when do I get to get outraged? Ppl in Ferguson get to be outraged. I share their outrage, but I just want a small piece of that pie. I have more than one decade experience working in dangerous desolate places, yet, I find it so very difficult to find a job in same. I am feeling some outrage here! I should be entitled. I did my time. Hell! I served my country.
To quote some not so famous line from the movie, “The Right Stuff,” “Where is my parade with Jackie? I wanna meet Jackie. They owe me!” I want to meet Jackie. Or at the very least I want a window… into my golden years. End of Rant…
And of course, as y’all know, this was all ‘tongue-in-cheek’
“Hook ’em Horns!”
(That’s ‘Texan’ for ‘Suck it up and move that ball on down the field.’ Boys.)
Or, even better, to quote Dan Jenkins: “Y’all knew it was gonna be semi-tough, eh?”
And this “trailer” is semi-tough to watch, but it was as advertised: semi tough, as we were growing up in The Seventies.
And of course, as usual, this last link is the important one.
(I stole that line from a favorite movie of mine, loosely based on a wonderful play by some guy: “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” which I first saw in the Sinai, and then saw it… wait for it… in Chicago.
When I saw the movie in Shy – Town, It had been bastardized into… “About Last Night.”
“Travesty” as a word…
“Cynical and drunk?”
“May-hap: C’est moi?”
“What did he say?”
Honestly, when it comes down to it, we all die alone… boring someone in some dark café.
“Jesus Christ! Lance! Some happy thoughts for the New Year?”
“Naw, been there…”
“You’re either too stupid to die, or too stupid to live.”
I like to think that I only write for me.
That is some vain fantasy. Or just a pleasant fiction.
I write to get bed, er… read.
I really do.
I am a “writer”
Or, at least, I think of me in that way.
And I love commas.
And I edit as I go.
Someone once said of “Lord Ernest” (Hemingway),
Someone said he said, “Write Drunk. Edit Sober.”
Now, personally, I think that apocryphal, but what do I know?
Yet, I am going with it.
(at least the write drunk part)
Now, back to Joni:
“Love can be so sweet.”
“Go look at your eyes.”
“Drink up now. It’s gettin’ on time to close.”
Oh, and by the way, The Last time I saw Richard was Great Lakes, Recruit Training Command, ’86, and he told me… something about staying alive while with the Navy SEALs in SO CAL, just before he went to Florida and committed suicide, because He could not handle the Pressure that was (then) the U.S. Navy Nuclear Submarine Program. Thank God I was in Coronado with the SEALs.
And So Safe
I miss Richard.
He was braver than me.
And nobody ever committed suicide while at BUD/s (Navy SEAL) training: we were just all too busy, you see, just ‘busily’ trying to stay the fuck alive.
“Richard got married to a figure-skater–post-humorlessly.”
Somehow, I live.
His name was “Richard” and he was a real person.
Yeah, I left out the tag line (on purpose):
“when you gonna get back on your feet?”
If you happenstance to swerve into this blog, and catch yourself saying,
“Gee! This guy is cool.”
But if’n you do, Do not then… follow the comments.
‘Three-Nine-Six-One-Three Bruning Street Fremont California: 1966-1968’
Funny how I still remember the street address when I cannot remember my mother’s birthday, or what I had for Sunday Supper last week, or my second wife’s maiden name, or who won the World Series last year.
Seems the entire neighborhood moved in on the same summer weekend: Floodgates opened—lots of activity—trucks coming and going, grown-ups schlepping boxes, kids (potential buddies?) playing and yellin’ and runnin’ wild, dogs untethered, barking, yipping, yapping, chasing. Just general mayhem all around: very excited we all were to be living the American Dream. Norman Rockwell should have been there.
A House on Bruning Street
All the houses had small front yards, slightly larger back yards, but no fences. In fact not really proper yards yet. No lawns, just California clay, hard-packed and untenable.
This would soon be remedied. By today’s standards for suburbia the dwellings were quite modest. No McMansions these. Each house had three small bedrooms, one bathroom, smallish kitchen, tiny dining area, and small living room. That was it, but compared to our garage apartment, Mom and I had moved into the Taj Mahal. Everything smelled gloriously of fresh paint, fresh earth, and promise. I immediately picked a spot in the back yard for my garden. As a kid, I was never happier than when I was digging in the dirt, much to the chagrin of my much harried mother and my blatant hatred of regular bathing.