Monday, March 29, 2010

The Lunatic and The Boss

This past Friday night after I left work and picked up my daughter from her grandparents she reminded me that there was a fundraiser a radio station was holding and as it turns out one of the gentlemen I know from my church was involved in putting it together. (Also my daughter mentions to me that he will be getting a Pie to the Face.) Now that is a fundraiser in my book!

But, this is not a blog about pies or fundraisers, food, church or even radio. This is about Bruce Springsteen. I know what your thinking; "YOU JUST SAID THIS ISN'T ABOUT RADIO! LIAR!!!! THERE'S A HOLE IN THIS BLOG ALREADY!!!" to which I reply "You obviously have not read enough if that is what your thinking." Ok, first off, if you do not know who Bruce Springsteen is you can do a quick Google or Bing search on him. I'm serious, go do that I will wait here, I won't go anywhere I will be sitting here on my front porch, smoking a Gurkha and humming "The River" by Mr. Bruce Springsteen.

"I come from down in the valley
where mister when you're young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
when she was just seventeen
We'd ride out of this valley down to where the fields were green

We'd go down to the river
And into the river we'd dive
Oh down to the river we'd ride"

What? Your back? Wow, that was fast, I didn't even get to the second verse. So, I assume you now have a better understanding of "The Boss". Cool. I love his music, every time I listen to a song of his I learn more about him, his conducting style, his sense of pride, ownership, morality and his view of what is right and wrong. I have a lot of his music and by a lot I mean there are about 5 or 6 CD's of his I don't have and if you have looked him up you know he has a Metric TON of music out there recorded and released for your listening enjoyment. I have been fortunate enough to even get my hands on some "bootleg" music and I have to tell you it is amazing. I don't really know if there are any "modern" artists that can even come close to digging deep within my crusted, flaky and hardened soul and grab a hold of thoughts and emotions that have been put in a lock box, chained shut, attached to a 10,000 pound rock and dropped into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Only this Mariana Trench is in my mind and inside my mind is a Lunatic that is running foot loose and fancy free with the keys to the kingdom. Which in some cases can be loads of fun and take you to crazy places filled with laughter and quick witted quips. But not so much fun when the sad little lunatic hears "Born in the USA live from New York City" It is an acoustic version of the classic 1980's Springsteen Anthem. Just hearing this song brings morose and maudlin thoughts of my childhood. The Boss's gravely voice filled with emotion and trauma break through the speakers and penetrate straight into that box that is buried within my minds Mariana Trench and those thoughts SCREAM to be set free and the key-wielding Lunatic obliges. He says "Ok, this is gonna be FUN! Lets see what Mr. Mutton Head will do with this moment of insanity. Let's see where his mind will go and what he will do with all this MESS he has locked away." You know, kind of like a kid on a sunny day with a magnifying glass and a hill of ants.

I think about Love lost and won, wars fought, won and lost, I think about my father who served in the Navy during the early days of Viet Nam, my Uncle who did one and a half tours in Nam and left parts of his flesh on a mine field there. I think about my cousin who did two tours in the middle east and left part of his mind, body and soul there. My brother in Law who is there now, fighting for his own sanity and safety with a constant worry of his wife, my sister, and his three sons. I think about the people I have hurt and can never make amends to. The friends I will never see again, the constant day to day existence we take for granted while there are other men and women out in our world fighting for things we will never understand.

And while all this "STUFF" is floating around in my mind, the rain hits the windshield of my car, the wiper blades continue their constant never ending battle of clarity while I attempt to see the brake lights of the car in front of me through the internal mist of emotion and tears that flood my mind and wishing for an internal wiper blade for my soul. Knowing all the while it will never come, that there are some things in my life, your life, every human's life on this planet that will never be wiped away, cleaned up or clarified.

I look over at my daughter in the passenger seat of my Nissan and she is dozing off to the sound of the rain. Oblivious that anything in the world could ever go wrong, be evil, hurt her. I have sheltered her, or I have tried to shelter her from all the crud this mixed up world has to offer. I try to give her security and safety so that she one day wont have to have a box in her mind and her own Mariana Trench to bury her own life's craziness in only to have it break out every now and again to play with her emotions the way a kid on Christmas day plays with their new toys only to eventually tire of them and put them under their bed for another day when they can't go outside to play due to inclement weather conditions.

When the song ends another one takes it's place, this time it's "Don't Look Back" a fitting tittle and song for my mood and I try real hard to take the Boss's advice. It ain't easy. It's hard. You have to gather up all the emotions, scars and scabs, try to piece them back together and play a game of TETRIS just to fit them back into that box. Then try and get the keys from the Lunatic that is sitting in the corner of my mind playing one handed jax. You see, the Lunatic has a death grip on those keys. He don't like to put things away. He likes chaos over order. Insanity over sanity. He has no reason for what he does. He is a complete "Reactionary" to all situations. The Lunatic enjoys strife it AMUSES him and he ADORES the attention it gives him. But I succeed. I get it all put away in time to avoid a car accident, a bridge lift and get my daughter and I to safety.

There are times after moments like this when I picture my Lunatic standing at a podium after all the madness, tears and laughter had settled down. He is answering questions about why he did what he does so well but none of those answers make any sense. I mean, c'mon, he is a freaking LUNATIC. Why should any of what he does say or do make any sense. His best answer he ever gave me was this; "Skip, I am a Lunatic, I am the part of You that is unrestrained in everything, your Love, your Madness, your Hate, your Contempt, your Passion. I AM YOU UNFETTERED! And there are times when I am going to do what needs to be done to make sure YOU don't become ME!"

I write all this on my front porch, it is a very nice front porch. There is a comfy porch swing, an American flag, a step stool, a broom and some potted plants. My front porch is big and gray. Right now it's raining here and on my computer the Boss is lamenting on "If I Should Fall Behind" with some pretty awesome back up singers. I need to go now and finish my cigar. Clarence Clemmons is blowing softly into his Sax and the Lunatic is SCREAMING to come out an play.

Stay safe one and All and know that I love each and every one of you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Memory Loss and Gain

I realize now after just a few short years that I am starting to loose certain details to events in my life. So to assist with my memory loss or more simply put my memory confusion I am going to attempt to write down what I feel are some of the more interesting stories in my life. Stories that I was involved in as a main character a secondary or even tertiary character and maybe one or two that I just happened to witness.

I suppose I should start at the realization of my memory lapses. I first noticed it yesterday when I was talking to a bunch of guys while sitting around a table playing a game and one of the gentlemen, Jordan is his name, whom I have been friends with for about 3 years now, ended up correcting me on a little adventure I had while I was in the United States Navy in 1987. This particular story I have only told about 5 or 6 times and usually I only tell people that I have become close to or when I am with my old Navy buddies who also were involved in this incident. Over the years I have come to think of this story as “The Great Pyramid Slide”

The Great Pyramid Slide

John was stuck on top of a camel about 1500 yards away from the Great Pyramid of Egypt in the desert outside of Cairo and Gale and I were standing at the base of the pyramid laughing uncontrollably. Actually, all three of us had been on a camel at the same time, different camels of course. We had been crazy enough at the time to all agree to go for a camel ride from some of the camel jockeys that hang around the pyramids and let you get on their camels for free but then charge you 20 bucks to get off. We all knew that it was a scam to get our money and that you could haggle with the Jockey’s but we didn’t care we just wanted to have some fun. I actually ended up giving my Jockey 10 bucks to get the camel to kneel down so I could get off of the beast after I had my picture taken on it and Gale was a bit bolder and jumped off his camel. John completely refused to pay so the jockey slapped the camel on its hind quarters and the foul beast took off running with John hanging on for dear life. All the while screaming at the top of his lungs “GAMBO THE CAMEL AVENGER OF CAIRO!!!” Gale and I found that to be just the sort of thing that would only add to John’s already legendary status on the ship started shouting “FREE THE CAMELS FROM THEIR UNLAWFUL ENSLAVEMENT!”

Gale and I soon realized that John was not coming back for some time and started to discuss what to do next. All three of us wanted to tour the pyramids interior and we really did not want to leave John out of the loop since the tours were in groups of 15 to 20 people at a time. So with nothing else to do we decided why not climb the Great Pyramid? I mean how hard could it be? The Egyptians did it, the Jewish slaves did it, why can’t we as Reagan Sailors part of the best Naval force in the history of the World do it? Heck, there was no one around to stop us so up we went and Gale lead the way.

It was AWESOME!!! We must have climbed for 20 minutes and this is not just straight up climbing. Nope, the blocks of the pyramids are about 4 to 5 feet tall and are covered with sand which is loose and slippery also there are rocks which are sometimes on top of the sand or in certain instances buried under the sand which will dig into your fingertips, palms and under your finger nails when you least expect it and make you scream like a 3 year old who just stubbed their toe at 3 a.m. while heading to the bathroom. Meaning, NO FUN FOR ANYONE! On top of this I had Gale kicking sand off of the blocks down on me and laughing about it. Ok, so I was laughing too because I knew I would have done the same thing to him if our rolls were reversed and he were following me. You can’t really climb straight up the pyramid, at best you can get 3 maybe 4 rows up and then you have to move left or right to another area on the pyramid to find a safer ascension point.

Where was I…? Oh, 20 minutes of climbing… Gale and I stopped to check out how high up we had gotten and to take in the sites of Cairo and to also look at the rest of the ruins from a vantage point few get to see. What we saw was amazing and frightening too. There were people pointing at us and screaming and cops running toward the base of the pyramid we were on and blowing whistles. I looked at Gale and said “Oh Fuck… Dude, I think we are in trouble.” Gale did not really reply, he just had a big grin on his face. “GALE…. Shit man, this is serious, we have to get off this thing man.” Gale laughed and then I started to laugh. “Skip, you got a cigarette on you?”I just look at Gale and say “Yeah Gale, I do. And I don’t think now is a good time for one with shit-storm of trouble we have waiting for us down there.” Gale looks at me with a funny look and said “Yeah, I think now is good. They don’t look like they are going to come up after us. As a matter of fact we just might not get to have another smoke if we do get caught.” So I pull out my pack of smokes and we light up.

It was a surreal moment. There we were sitting on the side of the Great Pyramid in Cairo, Egypt smoking Marlboro Lights while down below us there were people screaming, pointing, cursing and walking around wondering what two crazy guys were doing halfway up the Great Pyramid and we could not really care less. I had a sudden flash in my head of what it must have been like for the slaves who built the pyramids or the Pharaohs who had them built and showing up to inspect the work and looking down over the barren expanse of the desert and being filled with the satisfaction of knowing they were going to leave an everlasting impact on the planet, that the sheer power of their Will has helped them Create and Inspire generations of people not yet born or even from their country. It was a bit of a mind blowing experience but it could not last for long.

As Gale and I put out our cigarettes we realized we needed to move quickly and come up with a plan to get off the pyramid and away from the police or we were in for a major shit storm of trouble. Gale started moving quickly and I followed behind.
We both knew what our goal was and we did not need to verbalize the direness of our situation. Gale climbed, I followed but soon we knew we would run out of room as we approached the apex of the pyramid. As I followed I realized we were also approaching a corner and that we would be forced to turn. I did not know what kind of navigation and agility it would require but I knew it was going to happen. Gale went around the corner first and started to yell so I hastened my pace and got to where Gale had been just a moment before. The sand on the ledge was gritty and there was no place for a hand hold. It seemed as if the wind was blowing out of the desert at 40 miles an hour and kicking up enough sand to block out anything within 5 feet of my face. It was almost choking me. I couldn’t see my feet or even the edge of the pyramid, I also heard Gale yelling for me. I reached for the edge of the block, sliding my hand all the way to the edge. I could feel the corner where I needed to turn but the sand was everywhere. In my eyes, nose mouth, I was quite literally blind.

Suddenly there was a hand grabbing arm and pulling me around the corner. When I opened my eyes Gale was standing there grinning at me. “Crazy ass weather here” was all he said while laughing. “C’mon! We have got to move!” and then we were off again. I did not even have time to catch my breath we were moving so fast. We were starting to head down at an angle; Gale was about two rows below me when I felt some cool air coming out of the pyramid. I hollered at Gale to come back and he stopped. “What?” he shouted. “I found something. C’mere.” He climbed up and I told him what I felt and we both thought of the same thing. The Maps. The maps that we sat and looked at on the bus ride to Cairo from Alexandria. The maps showed how the Ancient Egyptians and their slaves built the pyramids but more importantly one of the photos showed a cross section of them and where all the ventilation shafts were and explained why they built them with the vents. We started to search for the source of the cool air and we found it quite easily. It was not even hidden. We both stood there looking down the gaping dark hole with cool air blowing out of it. It was not a large hole and the angle was quite steep. I looked at Gale and we both just grinned at each other. I nodded, Gale shrugged, “Why not.” He said but it was not a question, it was a statement. A statement that said; We have nothing to loose and everything to gain. Then he threw himself down the shaft feet first and laughing all the way. I grabbed the top edge of the vent and smiled to myself and looked over my shoulder down at the base of the pyramid, more people were starting to come around the corner, shouting and pointing at where I was. I waved at them with my free hand and then followed the sound of laughter.

I don’t know how long we slid or how fast we were going. It was dark and I could not see Gale in front of me but I could here him. I was laying on my back with one hand on the roof of the vent and one hand on the side just barely touching it. The cool air blowing up was quite amazing but it also blew up particles of sand and it was getting stuck all in my nose and mouth. Then I heard Gale shouting for me to slow down. To stop. I braced my feet against the sides of the vent and started to slow. I looked down and saw some light, faint but it was light and I knew we were close to getting out of the vent. I stopped. “It is about a 10 foot drop” Gale said. “Ok. What are you waiting for? GO!” was my reply. Then the top of Gales’ head disappeared and I heard a thump. “SWEET! Hurry Skip! It is not too bad.” I let go and fell. It seemed like a long fall but in truth it was really as Gale had said, about ten feet. I landed on my ass and when I looked up Gale was brushing sand off of his jeans and his jacket and laughing.”We have GOT to do that AGAIN!”. “Yeah” I said, “But next time John better be with us.” “Dude,” Gale replied “He would not fit in the ventilation shaft.” “Yeah you’re right, let’s get moving. Where are we?” “Do you still have the map from the bus?” Gale asked. “Uhh, I think.” I started to check my pockets. I found nothing in my pants or my shirt pickets, my jean jacket pocket were barren of maps. “Dude, I do not think I have it, do you?” I said. “Nope” Was Gales’ reply. “Got a smoke?” I heard Gale ask. “Sure” I said and reached into my cigarette pocket inside my jacket and that is when I felt the map. It was sitting next to my cigs. “Dude, got the map.” I said. Gale smiled and said. “Let’s go.” We started off, both looking at the map and trying to figure out where we were.

As we walked we started to hear voices and decided to follow them and also trying to figure out where we were inside this massive structure. We were headed up. As I looked at the map I realized we had landed near the Grand Gallery and were approaching the Kings Chamber. It seemed there was a tour group in there. The voices were getting louder and we hear cameras going off all over the place. Click, click, click, click. “Gale, think we can blend in with the group and get out?” “Sure Skip, I don’t see why not. Just hope no one notices us joining them. Let’s sit back and wait. Be quiet and inconspicuous.” “Sounds like a plan Shipmate.” I replied.
We slowed our walk down as we approached the King’s Chamber. We looked in and saw about 15 people there. Some of them were from our ship and some were just regular civilians. We approached the back of the crowd as quietly as we could. No one seemed to notice us, everyone was looking at the walls, ceiling and sarcophagus of the dead Pharaoh that was supposedly entombed there. We knew then we had a chance, a slim chance but one none-the-less.

We looked at each other and grinned. Then we started to try and blend in with everyone else. I took my jean jacket off and tied it around my waist. I noticed Gale was doing the same thing. After about 20 minutes the group we had joined started to walk out. Gale and I separated within the group and walked out of the Great Pyramid.

When we got outside there were cops everywhere looking for us but it seemed that no one knew what we looked like nor what we were wearing. We stayed as far away from each other as we could but we both seemed to be headed for the refreshments with just about everyone else in our adopted group and the groups of the other pyramids.

Everyone seemed to ignore us. We were invisible to them. That is when we saw John; he was sitting at a table with a beer in his hand a huge grin on his face. He was also waving to us. When we sat down at the table all he said was; “Guys, want to go see the Sphinx?”

Gale and I looked at each other and laughed, I said “Let’s CLIMB THE SPHINX!!!” John started laughing and I knew then we had another adventure coming this day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hypodermics, Pills and Stethoscopes...OH MY!!!

There is a lot of talk recently of Health Care Reform and supplying health care to everyone in this country. Some talking heads in the media and Washington have even gone so far as to say that Health Care needs to be as mandatory as Car Insurance. (S'cuse me sir/ma'am, what if I don't drive or have a car?) Here are some of my thoughts on this issue. I am going to warn you though, if you find this sort of thing boring or you don't care about it (I can't blame you) stop reading now. I have been known to start these kind of talks and not stop until the proverbial horse is not just dog chow and glue but also being bought at the local Mega-Mart Discount Store as a school supply.

First let me say this, Health Care in America is not a quick fix problem. The Health care system as it is now is a Stage 4 Cancerous Brain Tumor that can't truly be removed from the codified American Physche as easily as what is being force fed WE THE PEOPLE by the idiots on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and all the Congressmen and Congresswomen in the united states of America. The system has become almost Lovecraftian in it's ability to invade every aspect of our daily lives and control what we do, see, hear and think. A Hydra of power that when one head gets cut off another quickly grows inexplicably to take the withering bloody stump of rotten and corruption lying at the feet of the Taxpayers place.

It is one truly goofed up system. For instance, Drug Manufacturing companies send out Drug Representatives to all the Doctor offices in America to give the Doctor's FREE samples of the Drugs they make. (Yes, this includes Viagra, Imatrex, Maxalt, Cialis and just about any other non narcotic class of drug. I have even heard that some folks can even get samples of Diabetes medicine.) Crazy. So, pretend your a Doctor with a patient and this patient suffers from Migraines but cant afford the 150 dollar prescription for 10 pills a month, you say to yourself, "Doc, I can just give him a handful of these free samples. Then the patient will come back in a month and I will give the sad, pitiful, sick, poor, transient excuse of a human being more free samples. The patient will be CURED!!! I will be a HERO!!! I AM AMAZING!!!" And the Doc will go on his merry way thinking he has done his country, his state, his profession and this person a good deed. Um, Not so fast Mr. Quick Fix! I call FOUL! For one thing as many of you know there is no real cure for Migraines. I wish there were, I suffer from them. I have been able to control them a bit through diet and stress management but there is still no known cure for those painful hiatus's into sensory overload.

So, this Doc is now finished with his day of work by dispensing free sample drugs to cure everything from warts to Male Pattern Baldness and the Common Cold. He is getting ready to close up shop for the day and head home but he wants to check his email and wouldn't you know it, one of the drug companies that gave him free samples is having a Public Offering of their stock. He thinks, "hmm, if I buy some of this and then I prescribe it I can get some money out of it. Sweet deal!" so he clicks on one of the internet stock sites and purchases 1100 shares of stock at 20 bucks a share. Can't say as I would blame him, you know, what with Capitalism being our mode of income and core value in our country.

Meanwhile back in Washington an airplane is touching down at JFK and onboard this plane are what as known as "LOBBYIST" and they work for the highest bidder. Kind of like hired guns in the old west, but in this day and age they don't use guns, they use money from the deep pockets of the Pharmaceutical Companies to grease the cogs and gears of the Washington Fast Track Political Raceway. Seriously, these guys are taking our elected officials to lunch and dinner and breakfast at some of the most expensive and posh restaurants and hotels in the country. Sometimes these politicians even get trips to foreign countries by these companies through their Lobbyists to see the kindly act of charity and Samaritan-hood they are performing for these poor nations that can't afford the drugs they need to fight off things like Dysentery, HIV, Malaria, H1N1 (Swine Flu), Chicken Pox, Mumps, Measles and a plethora of other ailments we in America seem oblivious to because we are worried about our "Restless Leg Syndrome."

Now, Mr. or Mrs Conrgressman/woman is now overseas and staying in the finest hovel of some village in the middle of no-where and eating the finest free range chicken on the sarenghetti plains of Tibet and he/she sees that this company is trying to do a good thing so when he/she gets back to the good 'ol u.s. of A they end up saying to their constituents "This company is not a bad company, they are trying to do good. Let's let them do whatever it is they want to do to capitalize on what they need to help improve the living style of everyone one the planet." The other congressmen/women agree with this now "Pocketed" Congressman/woman. Why? Because THEY need his/her Vote on a new Dam or Wild Life Refuge or a Job Bill or a GUN LAW or whatever else it is they want or feel they need.

Oh, please remember, there are no term limits for congressional positions so all these "Leaders" are in a continuous race to keep their jobs by being re-elected at whatever price. So if an Insurance Company wants new legislation passed and is headquartered in the state of the commonwealth of WisCaliLaskaSoroui they then seek out the Congressional Representatives for that state, ply them with food, drink, promises of Gianormous donations to their re-election campaign and to a charity or charities of their choice and BINGO you have another "Pocketed" DC insider.

Ok, lets take count of what we have so far;
  1. Doctors in the pockets of Pharmaceutical Companies.
  2. Congressmen/women in the pockets of Lobbyists.
  3. Congressmen/women in the pockets of Insurance Companies.
  4. Congressmen/women looking to get re-elected.
I know I am forgetting something, I am not sure what. Oh, yeah, I know, a General Public force fed pablum by the media that is owned by a multi-national conglomeration of corporations that include both Pharmaceutical and Insurance Companies. DAT DER IS NUMERO 5!!!!

Yup, we need reform but not the type the united states Government is talking about. Look people, I LOVE MY COUNTRY and I RESPECT MY COUNTRY, but that does not mean I LOVE MY GOVERNMENT or even RESPECT MY GOVERNMENT. I do not follow blindly anymore, I gave up being a blind follower when I left the USN so many years ago. Now I question things, maybe not all the time but I do question the big things. Issues that will affect my and my loved ones for years to come.

If our elected leaders were so serious about truly changing health care in this country they would start by getting rid of the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical and the insurance companies. Wait, that is a brilliant idea, let us take it one step further and get rid of all lobbyists with the exception and approval by a vote from WE THE PEOPLE! A revolution of sorts. One that will give the power back to US THE PEOPLE. That is the only true way to reform this system.

I know I am not even touching on other areas of the health care reform that is being forced onto us by the current powers in America such as Illegal Immigrant care and the removal of the PRIVATE Hospital by making them all PUBLIC domain so that all Hospitals now have to accept all who walk through the door to the emergency room whether they have a splinter or a coronary embolism it does not matter, THET HAVE TO TREAT YOU. Even if you can't pay.

Hold on a second, I need to go back and read this and see what I have wrote.

Wow, I am cynical today, but you know what, I don't care and I don't trust our Government to do what is right. I just don't. I wish I could trust them but I can't. I have tried to speak with our representatives here in Virginia, I have sent an email or 3 to them with no response. I have signed online petitions I have even had a conversation or two with people I respect and admire. (One will eventually be a Blog so stay tuned) I have done what I can with the tools that I have but I just don't see things changing. Our system of care in this country is better than most and we do have a decent care on our worst days for most people. Do most people deserve that care? Don't know right now and I don't really care. (Hint; BLOG topic)

I gotta wrap this up so, in conclusion;

Don't trust what they say and only accept what you can afford. No one person can in the position of power can truly say what you need unless they are working your job and paying your bills and dealing with YOUR issues. Just remember you get what you vote for. Now, I am taking my soap box and going home to drown my sorrows and woes in a vat of ICB Root Beer!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Things just may get a Little CRAZY!

In 1985 I joined the united states Navy, four days out of high school I was waking up to a drill instructor/company commander screaming in my face and telling me I was not even good enough to clean the deck he was walking on. It was a tough 9 weeks for me in southern California but it was worth it. I did not know it at the time but I learned a lot about myself then. I learned about my limitations, my strengths, my weaknesses, my ability to push myself to the limits of my physical and mental breaking points. I also began down a road of self discovery that has spanned my lifetime. This blog is going to touch on some of that.

When I graduated boot camp I went to Seaman A school. I was supposed to go to Radio School but that is another story for another blog on another day. My fiancee at the time flew out to San Diego and watched me graduate, she got us a nice little trailer in San Ysidro where we spent the weekend and then she flew back to Ohio. I continued on with my life. I studied my Navy books, took my test, partied as much as I could to try and shake the mid-western dust from my mind and graduated A-school.

When my orders came in from Command I was assigned to the USS Austin (LPD-4) out of Little Creek Amphibious Base in Virginia. Fortunately for me she had just deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and I had a 2 week leave time coming up. I flew to Ohio and spent a week with my Fiancee and then took a train back to Wisconsin to visit with my family. When my leave was up I reported to Philadelphia to fly out to the Med to catch up with my ship.

When I got to Philly, I ran into a buddy of mine from boot camp and we had a few drinks. We found out our MAC flight to Sicily was overbooked so we swapped out our tickets, ordered a few more drinks and had a great time in the airport and then spent a few nice hours getting lost in the darker recesses of the City of Brotherly Love. Things I can't really talk about here. (But it was FUN!) After about 18 hours of sleep deprived carousing and a few run ins with the local constables (Sorry Officer Donnie... I hope you found your night stick.) we hopped on a military jumbo jet and spent the next 18 hours fighting boredom and each other by drinking UA booze, playing cards and trying not to kill each other.

When we landed in Sicily we found out it would be another 2 weeks of sitting on a military air base while our MARG unit caught up with us. The military had us in a "Hurry-Up-And-Wait" pattern. Not good for a bunch of guys with too much money, time and energy on their hands. Sigonella Sicily obliged in supplying us entertainment and distractions for our boredom. And once again, I am not allowed to talk about that too much either. (But we had a REALLY GOOD TIME, oh, and the Caribinari were involved too.)

Eventually we went our separate ways and reported to our separate ships where even more craziness ensued. But mostly what we did was work. We worked non-stop. When our ship was at Sea we had nothing else to do but work. Sure, we had some UA booze, pulled some crazy antics onboard but mostly we just worked. Worked hard. Worked for days on end without rest. We were yelled at, cussed at and treated like dirt by our Superior officers but they did respect us and they knew the ship and their lives depended on us and our lives depended on them. Life onboard the Austin consisted of a crazy balance between Officers and Enlisted men and the flow of Respect both Up the Chain of Command and Down the Chain of Command. It worked for us then and it still works for me today.

The men I served with back then, from 1985 to 1989 in the United States Navy were some of the best I people I have ever have met and worked with in my life. Now, today, I am writing this about them, for them and because of them simply because they have all been on my mind and in my heart for the past 2 years. I miss them. We had a reunion over a year ago and we are getting ready for another reunion this coming August. In Philly no less. Wonder if Officer Donnie is still working for the Police Department? He is the one who chased Torres and I out of a couple bars and back to the airport in 85. I am excited about this trip. I am also worried once again about it. You see at our last reunion I arrived late. I did not want to but I had to. I was nervous and excited. I was also worried about how we would all interact with each other again. I should not have worried so much. Because we had an awesome time. And yes, the local Constabulary were involved but not like the old, heady days of the 80's.

Now, we are all pushing middle age and we all have families, bills, responsibilities to ourselves, our families and in some cases our Communities. Our lives take odd turns and twists. One day you could be sitting in a gutter in Cannes France drunk and trying to shove a loaf of bread in your mouth while the cops are coming to drag your stupid butt off to some God-Forsaken hole of a jail cell and then you wake up and it's 21 years later and your a Stand up guy in your Church, your Community and your Family with bills and responsibilities twisting the screws of an invisible torquing clamp to your mind, heart and soul with each passing minute. The pressure of which is enough to drive people mad and do crazy things. Things like go to a reunion of old Navy Buddies that would take a bullet for you and you them than sit at home and wonder if your neighbors are gonna call the Cities Neighborhood Quality Assurance team if your grass gets more than 4 inches tall. (Yes, this really happens where I live.)

So, you could say I am at a cross roads so to speak. A point where my past filled with youthful insanity is meeting my future/present responsible self. There could be fireworks. There will probably be fireworks in the form of guns, tazers and yes billy clubs. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

I wonder if they sell those crazy looking Bomb Disposal Suits on eBay... I think I just may need one in August.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't Open That Door.

My work affords me certain perks. One of them is that I am able to attend local trade shows in the Tidewater area as well as some out of the area and I don't even have to pay for them. I get paid to go to them and I get reimbursed any expenses. It is pretty cool especially considering that my job is to play, maintain and work with toys and toy trains. So, when the Greenberg's Toy Train show came to Virginia Beach Pavilion in Virginia Beach, Virginia I was informed I could go on the clock. I didn't though. I had a lot of things I needed to get done so I postponed my trip to the train show for a day. And I am happy that I did.

Lets me start off by saying that I have a crazy schedule and when I do get some free time off I like to stay at home and rest. But this past Sunday after church I knew I needed to get out to the Virginia Beach Pavilion to see some friends and check out the new toys and toy train products that are coming out. Also I use the time to build relationships with fellow "Train-Geeks".

I arrived a little before 2 pm in the parking lot, got out of my car and headed towards the front entrance of the Pavilion and I saw 3 guys from one of the local clubs come walking out of one of the side doors with a large box of food. They saw me and waved to me so I walked over. When I got over to them we all sat down about 20 feet from a dumpster on the curb eating Enchiladas, tacos, burritos and sipping on sodas while talking about what we all have been doing over the past 3 months. One guy had lost his mother since I had spoke with him last, another had fallen in love and the 3rd had gotten some great deals on some toy trains on the internet. We talked about our lives, our families, our work and our common passion of trains from a lost period of American history.

When the food was finished and the boxes and wrappers stuffed into the dumpster we continued to talk, I pulled out one of my Gurkha's and lit it up, another guy took out a cigarette and we sent the one non-smoker inside to get us some soda's and when he came back we were all telling jokes and laughing. He passed out the drinks and told us that a few of the guys inside were asking if we were going to come inside and when they found out I was outside talking asked him if I were going to be inside soon. He told them he didn't know. We all chuckled about it and continued to talk and enjoy our cigars and cigarettes while our conversation continued to flow with no uncomfortable silences or awkward moments. After about 30 minutes or so a few other train guys came out and to our surprise they brought supplies, more drinks some chips and hot dogs. We welcomed them with open arms, quick wit, and lighters for their smokes and laughter for their stories. A flask appeared and was passed around with enthusiasm and the contents were enjoyed by all.

It was a serendipitous bonding moment that I have rarely experienced in my life and one that I will remember til the day I die. Eventually we slowly broke up, a few of my friends had trains operating on a layout and one had left his wife in charge of his vending booth an he knew she would be upset if he stayed out too long. So we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I contemplated on going inside and walking around for a bit just to see some of the folks that had not come outside but I had a real nice "Friendship-Buzz" going. I felt good. Real good, like I was floating inside a bubble and I did not want to destroy that bubble so I slowly walked to my car, took the last few puffs of my cigar, sipped down the last of my Mountain Dew until I heard the soda pop gurgling against the ice inside the styrofoam cup. I tossed the cup in a trash can near my car, pulled the cigar ring off my cigar and pocketed it and then set the cigar at the foot of the the lamp post and got in my car. When I put the key in the ignition and started the car the radio came on with the band Journey singing about people going "Separate Ways."

It was the best Train Show I never attended. I hope to not attend many more like this and I hope you all out there get the opportunity to not attend whatever "Trade Show" you may find yourself walking towards.