Late Spring Cleanin’: Or, ‘Fishin’ by the creek’, Your Choice

I am cleaning out some old posts and kickin’ ’em to the curb

Please bare with me. (Bear? Is that a word? Or just an animal?)

Anyhow…

Read if you will. (And if not, well, thanks for the auto-likes)

Cheers!

***

‘Three-Nine-Six-One-Three Bruning Street Fremont California: 1964-1968’

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.

All the houses on Bruning Street were brand new. And they were all alike. But their alikeness did not dampen my spirits, especially since mom and I had left the moldy old garage apartment across town. I had finally escaped that place and the Ghost of that Murdered Turkey.

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 Today

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.

Mom and I settled in quickly. For a few days, I shyly & longingly watched some of the other kids playing around up the street.

My shyness prevented me from going up and introducing myself, but I had a secret weapon: some small incendiary devices. Actually they were just marble-sized balls that when slammed into the pavement would explode like firecrackers. Cannot recall where I had procured them, but they suited my purpose rather elegantly.

Nonchalantly I walked over to the sidewalk one day and commenced to fling them down, one at a time. The ensuing explosions captured the attention of the group of kids up the street and they all came stampeding over to investigate.

Attention Getter

Attention Getter

This was how I broke the ice and made my first friends on Bruning Street. Call it an old magician’s trick, if you will.

“Wow! Those are so neat! Where’d ya get ‘em?”

“Just got ‘em,” I said, ever so cool.

“Can I try one?”

“Well… Yeah, but be careful; they’re not for kids, ya know.”

“What’s your name?”

“Lance. What’s yours?”

Thus the beginning of some of my beautiful friendships.

As summer turned to fall and the lawns and juvenile trees and fences and dog shit sprouted up on Bruning Street, I had cemented many friendships. Most of the kids were very close to my age. We never extended our circle beyond the confines of our street.

Later I would break that unwritten code by becoming best friends with the kid who lived in the house bordering mine in the back. His name was Ricky Martinez.

His people came from Puerto Rico, but he didn’t speak Spanish. He was a few years older and a bit of a gangster and we hit it off from the start. Right then I began my propensity of always living double lives. When I really wanted mischief I sought Ricky. Other times when it was baseball or playing army or watching Saturday morning cartoons I was after, I kept to my Bruning Street buddies.

Once school started (fourth grade for me), I made even more friends who could never mix with my Bruning Street friends or my Gangster friend Ricky. So now I had three lives to juggle.

Of course we all had bicycles and would fearlessly ride them all over town: Sometimes to the public swimming pool about four miles away and sometimes to the mall and the movie theater also about four miles distant.

No one worried after our safety because we were never in any danger. We also had skateboards as second ‘cars’ and Ricky convinced me to paint mine silver. His reasoning was that when we eventually were confronted with rival gangs (Ricky and I were the only ones in our ‘gang’, but we did attempt some recruiting) we could turn the silver side of the skateboard toward the rival gang and blind them into submission with the sunlight reflected off our boards. We never encountered any menacing ‘rival gangs’, but we were ever vigilant and ready for them, should they appear.

My ‘Bruning Street Gang’ was so very much like the kids from South Park that it amazes me when I watch that TV show today. W

e cussed blue streaks amongst ourselves and had very strong and learned opinions about everything going on in the world. There was Randy Francin and his little brother Paul who lived right across the street. There were the DuBords who lived down the block. Craig the elder, Tommy the young ‘un and their older sister Kim, who looked a lot like Julie Andrews.

There was ‘Steve-Our-Hero’, a lanky sixteen year old blond-haired kid who looked like someone right out of a surfer movie. He lived about four doors down from me and was worshipped by us all. He had a grown-up job delivering newspapers and it was high honor to be ordered by him to bike down to the Seven-Eleven and pick him up a sixteen-ounce Pepsi.

(I kept the bottle caps from my missions as souvenirs, almost like saintly relics in fact, and I kept them displayed in my bedroom) Our undying ambition was to grow up to be Steve.

A few doors down in the opposite direction lived another sixteen year old: A GIRL. Her name was Linda. She was also blond and I was madly in love with her. She once showed me her Janis Joplin album cover: Cheap Thrills Big Brother and the Holding Company and she was the coolest girl I had ever known.

Cheap Thrills

My Baptism

(actually the only girl I had ever known) I wanted to marry her, but all I was allowed to do was worship, which I did shamelessly.

One day, she actually let me listen to the album. We sat on her bed silent through the entire record. My life changed that day. It reads corny, but sometimes corny is the best read. She was my first unrequited love and my first elusive butterfly.

Why she and Steve never hooked up, I have no idea.

They were our royalty and it just didn’t seem right to me that they were not a couple. If I could not have her, surely Steve could. The two coolest people I knew and they were each too busy for the other. I don’t think they even knew of each other. Shakespeare could not have written it better.

Linda had her nemesis who lived at the far end of the street. Her name escapes me, but she was the same age as Linda and a brunette. Linda confided in me one day that she had gone over to her house and caught her sitting on the toilet picking at her pussy hairs. Oh my god! I had never heard a woman say ‘pussy’ before. I was certain that she had never said that to anyone but me and I fell even more in love with her. It was my little secret: Linda had talked dirty to me.

OK. You had to know I just could not resist. For all you Musical Fans out there, my apologies to Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, George Bernard Shaw, et al.

This one is for you Linda, wherever you are:

We had our pecking order. Hell, we even had our South Park ‘Kenny’, a young Hispanic kid who lived next door to me and always wanted to hang out with us ‘older kids.’ He never died, by the way, but we did torment him mercilessly, once almost conning him into drinking piss out of a Pepsi bottle. Would have worked too, if we had had the presence of mind to let it cool down before offering it to him. I cannot recall whose piss it was. Might have been a group effort.

Occasionally we would get into fights within our group, invariably causing us to split into two factions. Loyalties were often divided. These little insurrections could go on for weeks at a time, but eventually there would be a truce and a general détente. For fighting we had strict protocol. If one kid desired fisticuffs, he was required to proclaim in a loud and clear voice:

“I choose you out!”

The opponent had two choices: He could say, “I accept,” and get it on, or he could walk away, but no one ever walked away. The shame of not accepting such a challenge would have been career ending and would mean certain banishment forever.

The fights were furious but generally brief with not much harm done to anything but the pride of the loser. I won some of these encounters and I lost some. I guess on this front I was generally batting about five hundred.

One day I was forced too young into manhood. Ricky was a kleptomaniac. I knew he had this failing, but I kept overlooking it, denying it actually. He kept stealing stuff from me. Nothing important but it hurt me deep inside. We were best friends. One day he was ‘pumping me’ (which means I was riding on the back of his bicycle) over to his house. My bike had a flat.

Anyway, I was seated behind him and I saw a toy top of mine bulging out of his pocket. I could not feign denial any longer. When we got to his house, I mustered all the character I had and I broached this subject,

“Rick,” I said, “You know you are my best friend, right?”

“Yeah of course.”

“Well, it hurts me to tell you this, but I know you have been stealing stuff from my house.”

“Whaaat?! Bullshit!” he said.

“Ricky, I saw my top in your pocket on the way over here.”

Top of The Day

Top of The Day

“Oh… Yeah… Well here. Take it back,” he said, digging it out of his pocket.

“Ricky,” I said, “It ain’t about the top. It’s about friendship. And trust. I don’t care about the fuckin’ top. I care about our friendship.”

He gave me his best ‘I’m sorry look.’ And then I insisted he keep the top, but I think that was the beginning of the end of our friendship.

That was up until then, the most painful conversation I had ever had to initiate in my young life, but it had to be; I just could not let him slide. Or me either. I would have hated him if I had not confronted him. The hate would have just festered and poisoned me. Somehow I instinctively knew this.

I loved all my friends good and bad and I was loyal to a fault.

These happy times rolled on along for a couple of years; then I was overtaken by events and my life would never be the same.

I had to go, you see, but I did miss the Saturday Cartoons.

To Be Continued. Here

“Letter From a South Park Jail” Part Four: “Homeward Bound”

Semi-Subliminal Message for Lance-The-‘Writer’

Interior of a KAF South Park ‘Port-A-Shitter’ in case you have never ‘experienced’ one

This is the continuation of a transcribed letter/email I sent to my Girlfriend (Isn’t she pretty?) while stuck in Kandahar, Afghanistan

***

1423hrs: South Park DFAC

It was a long and winding road which led me back to South Park home base. As I was trudging along, sweating my ass off, I kept reminding myself of the New Yorker’s directions given to someone looking to get to Texas from NYC:

“Head west until you smell shit. That’s Oklahoma. Go south until you step in it. That’s Texas.”

I found my way back to South Park in similar fashion: Followed my nose to the ‘Poo Pond’ and took a left—ran right into South Park. Easy as Poo Pie.

Poo Pond Song

#1 With A Bullet

Street Cred for Shared Vid: JimmyMisawa

Original Artist Credit:  Music and video by Jimmy Moreland

***

Kandahar the Song

Also #1 With A Bullet

(It was a ‘Foto-Finish’)

“Kandahar the song is about life at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan.  Everything was filmed, photographed, recorded and edited at Kandahar (KAF) except the stuff that wasn’t.  Yep, Rocket Attacks, the Poo Pond and reflective belts are a way of life at KAF.  Enjoy”

Street Cred for Vid:  HeySargeUSA Spillane

***

As soon as I got back and kicked yet another Gomer off’n my rack (What’s wrong with these people?), I went to Flight Ops to see if I could fly the hell outta here tomorrow. I’ll tell you what they told me:

“We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

1738hrs: Sitting on my Rack

Shoo’d the Gomes off… again. I sent you an email few minutes ago, telling you my show-time is 0100hrs for my flight back to Dwyer. I believe it’s a Helo this time. They are slower, but it’s a short trip. On Saturday, I could have walked here and gotten to the CAC office same day before they closed.

The computers here have been acting stupid today, so I don’t know if you got my recent posts. Only thing left for me to do is update my time sheet at 1900hrs and eat supper.

I stole a sleeping bag from the Billeting laundry box so I wouldn’t freeze my ass off tonight. (The A/C works really good in this tent starting around midnight). Problem is, not getting to sleep much. I must confess something: I like a routine.

I do much better when I have a routine. You probably would never have guessed that about me.  

Mike!! 

Hopefully will not still be there on Dwyer whenever I get home, but I had no email from Shannon, so I suspect he remains. Shannon surely would have told me if he finally did leave. I would hope so anyway.

Ode To An Asshole:

***

1915hrs: Sitting on my rack

Supper was yummy. Roast pork(?) and a chicken breast. South Park’s population seems to have doubled today. Trying to find a spot to sit in the smoking arena is an exercise in futility. Time for me to leave obviously.

I’m gonna miss this place.

SORTA…

I am really exhausted now. Tomorrow will be another Long Day, but at least at the end of it I’ll be back in my own bed and in my own hooch.

My Classy, Comfy, Cozy, Crib

***

I’m sad right now a little bit ‘cause I have not heard from you. Hopefully a bit later before I depart for the flight line and most likely another long wait to get on yet another bird… I hope they fed the hamsters this time: “Helicopter Hamsters.” Sounds like a song: ‘Muskrat Love…’ (Lance, you need sleep Son)

2020hrs: DFAC

Tried to sleep. Failed. Ideas of what to show you and do with you and to you in Dubai race around in my head and look for a place to rest.

31 July Tuesday 0021hrs: DFAC – Strong coffee

Taster’s Choice instant. ‘Twill serve. Just got off the computer a few minutes ago and had several emails from you. Happy Now. Some dude was very vociferous about some folks taking more than their allotted ten minutes (I’m not guilty of that. Not Much). Anyway, I had to go.

Got a couple hours of death-like sleep until a Billeting Gome woke me up (very politely) tapping me on the shoulder, making sure I knew I was scheduled to fly. I assured him that “Yeah Baby! I’m flying outta here.” My alarm was about to go off, but I’m glad he woke me up just in case it didn’t.

They have the Olympics on TV now here in the DFAC. I had forgotten about them and I suppose they are well underway by now. I do hope Texas brings home a lot of gold this time! Gotta go and grab my ‘kit’. See? I can speak Brit. Heading to the rally point.

Rally Ho!

0315hrs: PAX Terminal KAF

Been successfully herded from South Park.

0348hrs: Taxi Runway

Didn’t even have time to finish my coffee.

Gryphon Airlines exhibited uncharacteristic efficiency today. I did manage to wolf down part of an MRE I had rat-fucked on the 28th. Not on a helo—thought I would be. A/C on this bird no better than the last one.

Waiting to take off… Plane is full and we have two stops before Dwyer. Hopefully I’ll be home in time for DFAC breakfast, but not likely. Oh, plane holds about forty-six in case you’re wondering.

0404hrs: Airborne!

Escape Velocity Breached!

“Once more unto the Breach!”

On our way! Yippee Ki Aye! Captain is female, Michelle. I love her already.

Homeward Bound!

0519hrs: FOB Shindand

Sitting here in Beautiful Shindand. Well, just sittin’ on the plane which is sittin’ on the tarmac in Beautiful Shindand. I have never been to Shindand, so I have no emotions one way or another about Shindand, but apparently I like writing the word ‘Shindand.’

FOB Shindand

Breaking dusk, a C-130 takes off from Shindand Air Base.

***

It is just before sunrise here and this time tomorrow I should be back in MY Gym on MY FOB. But for now, next stop FOB Ferah. Shindand Gomes are boarding now…

While they are settling in, I’d like to tell you more about this airplane. As I said, she seats around forty-six. I am semi-comfortably ensconced in a window seat, seated near-the-rear of this DHC-8-300, aka: ‘Dash Eight’ and we just ‘dashed’ from KAF to here at twenty-thousand feet and I must assume at about 250 mph, but I’d have to verify that with Michelle, or her hamsters.

Here is a Dash Eight that ‘Dashed’ to the Scene of the Crash.

For brevity in the local vernacular: a ‘Dash Crash’

This is an Eight-Hamster plane: two hamsters per propeller which is in accordance with FAA, ‘Fuckin Afghan Aviation’ regulations. Our Flight Attendant, Gail, is going through her spiel again (poorly) and has informed us that

“No one would like to hear the smoke alarm going off (ya think?), so please don’t smoke Schmuck.”

I added the “Schmuck” because I am in charge of this letter and it made me happy to do so. Well, the hamsters are warming up their little legs, so I reckon, we’ll be departing presently. And… in fact we ARE!

I love my Life!

Airborne now and I see the sun just peeking over a mountain—very romantic. Why does Shindan get to have mountains and Dwyer does not? Shindand looks like Aspen on a bad day, and Dwyer looks like Lubbock on any day.

0613hrs: FOB Farah

Gotta get off here briefly. The hamsters will be taking on Hamster Fuel, probably corn, or corn nuts, or whatever it is that fuels hamsters.

0629hrs: FOB Farah

I love this FOB! Well, what little I have seen of it anyway. It is tiny and nestled in some really cool-looking mountains. As we were landing I was watching for the asphalt runway to appear. It didn’t. We landed on a dirt strip. How cool is that? Not my first dirt strip landing but it caught me pleasantly off guard.

FOB Farah

When I first got to Afghanistan, I was hoping to be sent to a small remote FOB such as this, alas, I’ve been stuck at Dwyer for a year.

Now that the hamsters have refueled and I’ve had a taste of my ‘Dream FOB’ nothing left to do but head back to Dwyer, which should begin in a minute or two.

0655hrs: Airborne Again

Gail told us we have thirty-five minutes to Dwyer and I believe her. Shouldn’t get over twelve thousand feet altitude, “And once again, this is a non-smoking flight.”

“Thank you Gail. It’s been at least thirty minutes since I heard that.”

0730hrs: Home

This concludes our Special Broadcast and we now return you to your regularly scheduled emails, already in progress.

It’s good  GREAT to be Home

Shannon ‘Duck’ & Lance

My Good Friend Lady Lucy

***

“There’s no place like home”

“There’s no place like home.”

***

***

Previously:

Sorry Kids. Must Re-Post This. It is All About A Promise I Pledged, Decades Ago… (And P.S. Proper Punctuation & Spelling Ain’t My Thang–Just Saying)

Although I know The Fu*k’ed Up Anniversary Has Long Since Passed. Are We Approaching November?

****

Septembers Are Always Very Hard On Me. Because They Remind Me… Brings Back Insanity… They Break Me! I’d Just as Soon as to fore-get. But, I cannot! I just Cannot!

Maddy?

Why Did You Die On Me???!!!

Yu Fukin’ Cunt!

OF Course, I NEVER Call’d You”Maddy”

And I CERTAINLY Never Called You “Cunt”

That would’ve just pissed You off!

So I always just call’d You ‘

Madelyn’…

*****

Re-Whines Me Of…

Of A Sad Anniversary I’d Just As Soon As Try To Forget. But I Can’t. Won’t. For I Made A Promise You See. One Promise I Hold Near & Dear And Shall Always Keep. Until That Day I Die Too.

“Cowards Die Many Times Before Their Deaths;

The Valiant Never Taste of Death but Once.”

–W. Shakespeare

In 1971 when my step-sister Madelyn and I were fourteen and thirteen respectively, my parents would often go out of town on the weekends. My father and stepmother seemed to always have some magic convention or gathering to attend in Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, or any number of other venues.

So She and I ‘fended!’

Oh Good Gawd!

Oh! How we Fended!

And We Broke  a lot  of  fending fences along-the-way,

Left them in the dust, to rust.

****

My father knew all the local high school kids from his directing of the senior plays every year. Two of the former graduatesGood Gawd! Hded’ Oh , Ronnie and Doug, then about twenty years old, remained very good friends of my father and particularly Ronnie, (who was Peanut’s Uncle). My father decided that Madelyn and I needed a ‘baby-sitter’ while he and Gloria were off on their long weekends, so they paid Doug and Ronnie to look after us.

Now mind you, Madelyn and I were both pretty certain we were over-mature for our age and could easily fend for ourselves, but we loved having two “big brothers” to help us throw the greatest parties in the history of Honey Grove while under their tutelage.

We used Marcom Manor as our venue of course and were always in a rush to get the house back into some semblance of order before the folks returned, usually on a Sunday, but occasionally on a Monday or Tuesday.

During Labor Day Weekend of 1971 my parents were off to a big convention in Houston and we had a great party planned for Sunday the Fifth of September.

We were to have ‘The Mother of All Parties’ out at Lake Coffeemill, north of Honey Grove. (The party was going to serve double duty for me, as my fourteenth birthday was just five days away.)  Right up until the night before, I had no date lined up for this all-day Blow-Out, and I was in a panic.

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I MISS HIM! So Marvelous Much. “My Friend Jimmy” As Long As There Is Breath Left In My Body, I Will Never Allow His Memory To Die

My Head Hurts.

My Feet Stink.

And I Don’t Love Jesus.

“If I Don’t Die by Thursday I’ll Be Roarin’ Friday Night.”

Since I am in “Peanut Mode” tonight, I thought I would post this excerpt from a very ‘early-in-my-blogging days’ post regarding same, in the vain hope some would read the bits in their entirety: Sharking, Campin’, Bow-Fishin’.

peanut.jpg

Seems to me we sometimes realize far too late the true value of friends had and lost.

There is a scene in “Tombstone” where Wyatt Earp hands a smallish book over to a bed-ridden Doc Holiday, entitled:

“My Friend: Doc Holiday.”

“Hell I Got lots of Friends”

“I Don’t”

Here is to wishing Peanut could receive same from me.

Alas, he cannot.

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

Jimmy ‘Peanut’ Piland was a character like none other: Possessing a smallish frame, medium blond hair always askew and asunder, Paul Newman blue eyes, a perpetual boyish ‘possum’ grin, and a wiry build replete with a hard-wired energy. Yet looks can be somewhat deceiving: he was tough as nails and feared nothing, or no one.

There was no Brahma bull he wouldn’t attempt to ride, no man he wouldn’t attempt to fight (if provoked—him usually doing the ‘provokin’—“That sonuvabitch done pissed me off…”), no tractor, truck, nor heavy machinery he wouldn’t attempt to operate, instructed or not. Good that he never had access to an airplane, for he would have, no doubt, tried to fly it.

And actually, he did fly, by and by.

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WP is So Fu*k’ed UP! T-Back Thirst-Day: Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, aka: ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’

Never Live That Negative Way.

Okay?

(I love all Y’all–My Readers)

My Uncle:

Bob!

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.

 “I’m going to want you to run LSA 1 from this office; (LSA 2) are you ready to take ownership of this mission?”

“Sure, no problem,” I said. “But you do realize, Michael, that LSA 1 is over a half-mile from here and I have no vehicle?”

“Uh, I didn’t mean right now. But just as soon as Shannon gets everything settled down. Then we can come up with a plan forward.”

“Sorry Mike, but I’m not in the ‘Plan-Forward coming up with’ business anymore; above my pay grade, you see. But as soon as YOU come up with a Plan, forward or otherwise, I will be happy to follow it.”

*Looks hurt & confused* Mikey does.

“Well, uh” he stammers, “Everyone is gonna have to get on-board with all this.”

You mentioned that. Anything else? How was your R&R?” I said, hoping to change the subject and also out of mean-spiritedness, because I knew he was going to tell me something stupid. He didn’t disappoint:

“I had the flu for the first week and spent the next week getting over it.”

“Damn rotten luck. Perhaps DynCorp will allow you a ‘do-over.’ Whaddya think?”

*gears grinding as he searches—in vain—for something to say: painful to witness the mechanics of this*

“Nice chair,” he said finally, plopping his fat ass down in a chair Shannon had liberated from a Marine Corps office in one of the LSAs we’re taking over.

“Yeah, Shannon delivered that to us yesterday; nice to finally have a proper office chair in here after twelve months.”

“I have chairs on order for Billeting,” he reminded me.

“Yes, and ever since forever, even before I got here; still no sign of them,” I reminded him.

“Uh, yeah… they’re stuck at the Pakistani border; they’re gonna fly ‘em out.”

“Whatever. By the way, you do know these other two chairs are my personal property, purchased with my personal money, so don’t get any ideas.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I know those belong to you and your office.”

“Of course.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation; I think you get the drift and the general tenor of it.

After leaving work for the day I stopped by the Housing Office in the DynCorp LSA Compound (where there’s a tent I call ‘home’), and caught Shannon there, still working. (See? He does deserve to be Billeting Manager.)

Lance and Shannon

Shannon and Lance

“Mister Duckworth!” I saluted.

“Mister Marcom!” he returned.

“What up Duck?”

*gives me his best ‘exasperated’ look*

“Yeah, I know; they cancelled Christmas. What the fuck’s going on with MJS?”

I asked as discreetly as I could; (there were others present) which was none too discreet

I fear, but don’t matter; All Departments despise Monsieur le Mike, aka Michael J. Smith. (Not sure, but I think the ‘J’ stands for ‘Jagoff’)

“Don’t worry; it’s still gonna happen.”

“Christmas?”

“Yeah, an’ New Year’s too.”
“Ok, I’ll cool my jets an’ cancel my de-mobe.” (de-mobilization)

“Lance Bro,” (he sometimes calls me ‘Bro’) “Mike went to HR on me today.”

“Get the fuck out!” I said, honestly shocked. “Some brass balls on this guy.”

“Yeah, he told HR he couldn’t work with me anymore.”

“Pardon me a moment Shannon, while I fall down on this plywood floor and laugh my ass off. It’ll just take a sec.”

“Dude, (he sometimes calls me ‘Dude’) I’m serious! He went to HR on me and HR told me later about it and also told me to sit tight an’ chill; he will be leaving us soon.”

“Before Christmas, let’s hope,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah. Listen, Mike came to see me after he left LSA 2.

He asked me, ‘What’s wrong with Lance?’ I tole him, I said, ‘Mike, every time you go to LSA 2 and talk to Lance, you come back and ask me this same stupid shit.’ An’ he says, ‘I don’t think Lance likes me. Why doesn’t he like me?’ This mothafucka is stupid.”

“Yeah Shannon, ya think? We all know this.

Hell, tell the sonuvabitch to ask me next time, and you know what? It’s not as if I haven’t told him more than once to his face my issues with him. This guy wears me out.” (And I wonder why I have not been promoted)

“Yeah. You’re right.”

“Listen to me Shannon, take your ass on outta here and go to bed; it’s late.”

“Okay Brother (sometimes he calls me ‘Brother’), I’m heading out now.”

“Good. See you tomorrow. Night.”

“Peace out, My Friend.”

(He sometimes even calls me “Friend”)

Oh Why Not? Why Not Re-Cycle/Re-Post It?—“On The Street Where I Lived” My Baptism of Fire. “Supper-Time–And The Liver Is Greezy”–You’ll Have To Scroll Down…

My B’Lov’d Mother:

‘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.

All the houses on Bruning Street were brand new. And they were all alike. But their alikeness did not dampen my spirits, especially since mom and I had left the moldy old garage apartment across town. I had finally escaped that place and the Ghost of that Murdered Turkey.

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 Today

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.

Mom and I settled in quickly. For a few days, I shyly & longingly watched some of the other kids playing around up the street. My shyness prevented me from going up and introducing myself, but I had a secret weapon: some small incendiary devices.

Actually they were just marble-sized balls that when slammed into the pavement would explode like firecrackers. Cannot recall where I had procured them, but they suited my purpose rather elegantly.

Nonchalantly I walked over to the sidewalk one day and commenced to fling them down, one at a time. The ensuing explosions captured the attention of the group of kids up the street and they all came stampeding over to investigate.

Attention Getter

Attention Getter

This was how I broke the ice and made my first friends on Bruning Street. Call it an old magician’s trick, if you will.

“Wow! Those are so neat! Where’d ya get ‘em?”

“Just got ‘em,” I said, ever so cool.

“Can I try one?”

“Well… Yeah, but be careful; they’re not for kids, ya know.”

“What’s your name?”

“Lance. What’s yours?”

Thus the beginning of some of my beautiful friendships.

As summer turned to fall and the lawns and juvenile trees and fences and dog shit sprouted up on Bruning Street, I had cemented many friendships.

Most of the kids were very close to my age. We never extended our circle beyond the confines of our street.

Later I would break that unwritten code by becoming best friends with the kid who lived in the house bordering mine in the back. His name was Ricky Martinez. His people came from Puerto Rico, but he didn’t speak Spanish.

He was a few years older and a bit of a gangster and we hit it off from the start.

Right then I began my propensity of always living double lives. When I really wanted mischief I sought Ricky. Other times when it was baseball or playing army or watching Saturday morning cartoons I was after, I kept to my Bruning Street buddies.

Once school started (fourth grade for me), I made even more friends who could never mix with my Bruning Street friends or my Gangster friend Ricky. So now I had three lives to juggle.

Of course we all had bicycles and would fearlessly ride them all over town:

Sometimes to the public swimming pool about four miles away and sometimes to the mall and the movie theater also about four miles distant. No one worried after our safety because we were never in any danger.

We also had skateboards as second ‘cars’ and Ricky convinced me to paint mine silver. His reasoning was that when we eventually were confronted with rival gangs

(Ricky and I were the only ones in our ‘gang’, but we did attempt some recruiting) we could turn the silver side of the skateboard toward the rival gang and blind them into submission with the sunlight reflected off our boards.

We never encountered any menacing ‘rival gangs’, but we were ever vigilant and ready for them, should they appear.

My ‘Bruning Street Gang’ was so very much like the kids from South Park that it amazes me when I watch that TV show today. We cussed blue streaks amongst ourselves and had very strong and learned opinions about everything going on in the world.

There was Randy Francin and his little brother Paul who lived right across the street. There were the DuBords who lived down the block. Craig the elder, Tommy the young ‘un and their older sister Kim, who looked a lot like Julie Andrews.

There was ‘Steve-Our-Hero’, a lanky sixteen year old blond-haired kid who looked like someone right out of a surfer movie. He lived about four doors down from me and was worshipped by us all. He had a grown-up job delivering newspapers and it was high honor to be ordered by him to bike down to the Seven-Eleven and pick him up a sixteen-ounce Pepsi.

(I kept the bottle caps from my missions as souvenirs, almost like saintly relics in fact, and I kept them displayed in my bedroom) Our undying ambition was to grow up to be Steve.

A few doors down in the opposite direction lived another sixteen year old: A GIRL. Her name was Linda.

She was also blond and I was madly in love with her. She once showed me her Janis Joplin album cover: Cheap Thrills Big Brother and the Holding Company and she was the coolest girl I had ever known.

Cheap Thrills

My Baptism

(actually the only girl I had ever known) I wanted to marry her, but all I was allowed to do was worship, which I did shamelessly. One day, she actually let me listen to the album.

We sat on her bed silent through the entire record. My life changed that day. It reads corny, but sometimes corny is the best read. She was my first unrequited love and my first elusive butterfly.

Why she and Steve never hooked up, I have no idea. They were our royalty and it just didn’t seem right to me that they were not a couple.

If I could not have her, surely Steve could. The two coolest people I knew and they were each too busy for the other. I don’t think they even knew of each other. Shakespeare could not have written it better.

Linda had her nemesis who lived at the far end of the street. Her name escapes me, but she was the same age as Linda and a brunette. Linda confided in me one day that she had gone over to her house and caught her sitting on the toilet picking at her pussy hairs.

Oh my god! I had never heard a woman say ‘pussy’ before. I was certain that she had never said that to anyone but me and I fell even more in love with her. It was my little secret: Linda had talked dirty to me.

OK. You had to know I just could not resist. For all you Musical Fans out there, my apologies to Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, George Bernard Shaw, et al.

This one is for you Linda, wherever you are:

We had our pecking order. Hell, we even had our South Park ‘Kenny’, a young Hispanic kid who lived next door to me and always wanted to hang out with us ‘older kids.’

He never died, by the way, but we did torment him mercilessly, once almost conning him into drinking piss out of a Pepsi bottle. Would have worked too, if we had had the presence of mind to let it cool down before offering it to him. I cannot recall whose piss it was. Might have been a group effort.

Occasionally we would get into fights within our group, invariably causing us to split into two factions.

Loyalties were often divided. These little insurrections could go on for weeks at a time, but eventually there would be a truce and a general détente. For fighting we had strict protocol. If one kid desired fisticuffs, he was required to proclaim in a loud and clear voice:

“I choose you out!”

The opponent had two choices: He could say, “I accept,” and get it on, or he could walk away, but no one ever walked away. The shame of not accepting such a challenge would have been career ending and would mean certain banishment forever.

The fights were furious but generally brief with not much harm done to anything but the pride of the loser. I won some of these encounters and I lost some. I guess on this front I was generally batting about five hundred.

One day I was forced too young into manhood. Ricky was a kleptomaniac. I knew he had this failing, but I kept overlooking it, denying it actually. He kept stealing stuff from me.

Nothing important but it hurt me deep inside. We were best friends. One day he was ‘pumping me’ (which means I was riding on the back of his bicycle) over to his house. My bike had a flat.

Anyway, I was seated behind him and I saw a toy top of mine bulging out of his pocket. I could not feign denial any longer. When we got to his house, I mustered all the character I had and I broached this subject,

“Rick,” I said, “You know you are my best friend, right?”

“Yeah of course.”

“Well, it hurts me to tell you this, but I know you have been stealing stuff from my house.”

“Whaaat?! Bullshit!” he said.

“Ricky, I saw my top in your pocket on the way over here.”

Top of The Day

Top of The Day

“Oh… Yeah… Well here. Take it back,” he said, digging it out of his pocket.

“Ricky,” I said, “It ain’t about the top. It’s about friendship. And trust. I don’t care about the fuckin’ top. I care about our friendship.”

He gave me his best ‘I’m sorry look.’ And then I insisted he keep the top, but I think that was the beginning of the end of our friendship. That was up until then, the most painful conversation I had ever had to initiate in my young life, but it had to be; I just could not let him slide. Or me either. I would have hated him if I had not confronted him.

The hate would have just festered and poisoned me. Somehow I instinctively knew this.

I loved all my friends good and bad and I was loyal to a fault.

These happy times rolled on along for a couple of years; then I was overtaken by events and my life would never be the same.

I had to go, you see, but I did miss the Saturday Cartoons.

To Be Continued. Here