Thursday, December 31, 2009

To dream the impossible dream

As I sit here sipping an ice cold beer my mind has taken off on a warp speed flight of fancy. Slipping the surly bonds of a drab reality with its chilly winds and persistent drizzle from iron gray clouds that have hung over the house all day my wildest fantasies-and yes they are mostly about sex-seem to take on an existence all their own.

A beautiful young lady whose body moves with a sensual cat-like grace climbs up the companionway from the cabin of my 42' Catalina sailboat wearing only the barest of shoulder wraps and fish net stockings carrying a bottle of Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam Champagne. She joins me on the rear deck sitting next to me, her body smelling of both soft flowers and the salty ocean.

I slowly work the cork of the Champagne bottle out taking my time not to wanting to waste the golden liquid. But in a sudden spasm it explodes releasing the pressure stored inside. My beautiful companion gazes at me with a smile that is both demure and seductive.

After the champagne is poured we relax in each others arms sipping the cold liquid and gaze out across the dark South Pacific waters listening to the sounds of the nearby deserted tropical island feeling the blood in our bodies race to the primal beat of the jungle at night. Above us the stars of the Milky Way blaze with a rare radiance that cause my companion and I to draw closer. The light of those stars reflecting off her ebony skin almost gives her body a heavenly glow. Her touch is scorching and that longing look of promise beckons us to taste the wine from each others lips.

She draws away briefly to undo the light, sheer wrap that she left the cabin wearing. As it falls gently to the deck I gaze at her stunning body. She reaches for me again, slowly moving her hands down my chest..........

Sorry, but as expected both my daughter and wife has joined me in the upstairs room forcing the usual retreat from my beer-induced dream and back to boring reality. Like the title implies, its the impossible dream.

It is my sincerest hope that everyone in our extended group has a Happy New Year and that the second decade of the 21st century is at least a little better than the cluster fuck of the last ten years. Special arrangements are being considered for late December of 2012 figuring that if the world is going to end like the crazed media has suggested about all the Mayan calender drama we all need to have an uproarious doomsday party.

No, I don't believe the world will end but I sure as Hell ain't going to hang around the in-laws like I did with the wife when many were freaking about the Y2K stuff thinking the missiles would fly cause the Air Force boys and the Russkies hadn't upgraded their computers from the 1970's.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After the house of cards has fallen.

Watching the large screen mounted on the far wall of the seedy little Mexican bar I liked to hang out in you would have figured that the final cessation of hostilities called the Second American Civil War would have drawn more attention. I know it wasn’t the same as the Chinese manned landing on Mars or the establishment of their first Helium-3 mining facility on the moon but Americans these last few years were having a hard time doing much beyond killing each other. The collection of delegates representing the various new American nations and assorted militias and factions were a study in contrast from smug superiority to casual indifference to barely hidden despair.

The presidents of the resurrected Confederate States, Republic of Texas, and Republic of Alaska stood on one side of the group standing for the photo op along with their various allies. The three new heads of state were clearly happy on ending up atop the burned and destroyed remains of society. In the middle was the monarch of the newly restored Kingdom of Hawaii and the Prime Minister of Puerto Rico, both clearly impatient to get away from those that surrounded them. On the other end were the presidents of California, the states of the Atlantic American Federation, and the Republic of Olympia which was made up of Oregon and Washington State. These two men and one woman at least had the sense to realize what the formal peace treaty meant. They huddled close and could be seen whispering to each other, refusing to even attempt to wear a false political mask and smile for the cameras. None of the assemblied group wanted to stand next the Grand Councilman of the Mormon Republic who was seperated from the others by a few feet. His intent look of disdain clearly showed such distance was fine with him.

But the crowd in my formerly secluded bar seemed to be making a point to ignore the television Ricardo, the owner of the bar, had recently installed showing the proceedings. Most were hidden in the shadows intent on their card games. Piles of Mexican New Pesos, empty beer bottles, and discarded playing cards littered the tables as stony eyed men and women watched for deception from their table mates. A few faced a far corner of the room listening to a young senorita play a sad tune on an old guitar. Others scattered about just stared off into space, seemingly frozen and lost to the world with only a gradually emptying bottle to show they moved at all.

I couldn’t fault them; most were long time American expats living in Tapachula. Watching the horrific comedy that was American politics and society unfold was simply something to be avoided. On the other hand from my point of view sitting at the bar nursing both a warm beer and a very cynical attitude I was proud of how I had long since abandoned the land of the ignorant and the home of the spoiled. What is now a whole other lost era twenty-three years ago I came from a very patriotic family caught up in America’s War on Terror. When I turned eighteen in 2004 I proudly volunteered to serve in the army of the now former United States. When offered a chance to learn to fly helicopters a couple of years later I jumped at it and excelled in my training finding my way inside an Apache gunship.

My service took me to Iraq and Afghanistan several times and later in 2013, Pakistan when the newly elected trailer trash from the last frontier convinced the nation expanding the war would in fact end it. All it did was result in the Pakistani government falling and a nuclear exchange between it and India killing millions. What did the good people of the United States do after causing untold deaths? They elected her Vice President to live in the White House with Congressional inquiries derailed by her party or abandoned by the spineless opposition.

The memories of burned children were forever imprinted on my brain as military commanders sent us into the affected areas bringing supplies to help as many as we could. When my enlistment was up I sought work flying choppers anyplace but the States. To my still patriotic family I became a ghost and for me they became a blank, a part of my life that I refused to think about.

“Please sir”, a voice called behind me pulling me away from my memories and the screen. I focused my eyes on the prime example of the American Diaspora. She was barely twenty, had blonde hair that hadn’t seen any type of real soap in weeks with God knows what crawling around on her scalp. Sunken eyes that betrayed despair and that she was living off far fewer calories than she needed. Her clothes were clean but had the look of hand washing which was a sign of the United Nations ran refugee camps scattered around southern Mexico. It was my guess that five years ago, before America’s ultimate suicide, she was some upwardly mobile suburban kid, her family desperately hanging onto the disappearing middleclass lifestyle, dreaming of marrying some high school jock, while listening to the newest music and texting the latest Hollywood gossip to her friends.

Now at best she was reduced to begging, at best, and at worst she was pulling tricks on the side to make a little money for the family stuck back at the camp. I studied her for several moments wondering which tack she would take with me. Despite my cynical attitude I wasn’t beyond slipping her a few New Pesos nor was I beyond bringing her to my little apartment, cleaning her up, and making her work for the money.

“What do you want Sweetie?” I said smiling, gauging the look in her eyes. The gaunt and empty look of her face could not hide that she had figured out the timeless ways of desperate women knowing they had only their bodies to make a living. Despite her physical appearance and condition a very young woman was standing in front of me and I had been alone for almost two years since my last girlfriend had gotten tired of my ways. It wouldn’t take much to clean off the dirt and fatten her up beyond the near skeleton standing in front of me.

“Well sir,” she said stepping closer to the bar stool a sickly coy smile dancing across her face. My apparent reaction was enough for her to reach for my hand only to lightly stroke it. “It’s not what you can do for me, but what how I can make you feel. What’s it worth? On that I know we can we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement, don’t you think?”

My pulse had quickened considerably and I found myself reaching for my wallet to pay my tab long before my brain realized that the decision had been made. Ricardo has seen the exchange and called me over before I had a chance to leave.

“Luke my friend, are you sure you want to get involved with the ragged yanqui? Look at the green card hanging around your neck, the federales are cracking down on these vermin and all the troubles they have brought with them. You don’t want to endanger your resident status for just a little piece of young pussy do you?

Ricardo was just being a friend and understood my answer as I grabbed the young woman’s hand and walked out his bar. “Vermin?” I called out at the last minute. “Ricardo my friend, if she performs to my liking I may marry her.”

It was close to sundown and Tapachula was coming alive with vendors and street performers greeting the people who were finally coming back out after spending the hot afternoon indoors hiding from the heat. The girl remained quiet not offering a name and me not really caring right then but I couldn’t help but begin wondering about her story.

I figured in my head that she and her family, if she had one, might be survivors from the Rockville, Maryland massacre in which the Southern Free Soldiers of Jesus infiltrated across the Potomac to make a point of killing every man, women, and child they could find in an otherwise collection of neutral refugee camps. The handful of survivors were told to spread the word it was for the greater glory of Southern independence and to teach the vengeful lessons of Christ to the godless masses. A joint British/French team monitoring other camps raced to collect the survivors and get them out of the shattered country. The local Tapachula paper had reported a batch of the new refugees came from those camps.

Once back inside my little apartment the woman was quickly sent off to the shower with two bottles of soap while I washed the clothes she had worn. While she was scrubbing herself clean I made us dinner knowing in my sick head it was the first step in getting her ready for the real reason I had brought her to my place.
After a couple of hours the door opened and she walked out wearing the robe I had loaned her and a towel wrapped around her wet hair. Dinner was laid out on the kitchen table and she fell upon the simple rice and beans like a locust devours wheat, cleaning both her plate and what was left in the pot on the stove. Once that was done she looked up at me with eyes both grateful and wanting more.

I offered her a beer and guided her to a set of chairs next a set of open French style doors looking out upon the city. She took the offered seat arranging her robe to show off her legs. I sat next her dragging a small table over with a tray of crackers and cheeses which she attacked with as much gusto as the rice and beans.

“So tell me your story”, I said stretching out and watching her eat and thinking about what we would be doing in a short time. I found out her name was Jenny, although she said it was actually Jennifer on her birth certificate. At that moment I didn’t give a damn but it became an issue not long later.

Between her munching on the cheese and crackers she began her story. “My family was from southern Missouri,” she said, “and our town was loyal to the state government and in turn the elected federal president…”

I had to laugh right there, not only because she was from the general area of my home state but her use of the phrase “elected federal president.” If there was anyone one particular reason that pushed America off the cliff into the abyss was the 2022 election. After the brilliant light of progressive politics flamed out less than a year after getting elected in 2008 leaving his coalition demoralized and fighting amongst themselves the other party found itself rallying around radicalized policies with talk of purity tests and talking back the country as if it had ever been out of their hands.

The 2012 election was a foregone conclusion with the minions of the newly elected president quickly moving to engineer a permanent majority much like the chief adviser of a previous president wanted to do. Even after the 2013 nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India while Madam President had screwed the pooch far too much to survive politically her Vice President was able to carry the election even as the other party was able to win back enough seats to claim just one house of Congress.

Blatant political maneuvering and sheer cowardice after that kept the country in gridlock unable to answer the major issues that faced it. While the government was mired to the point of ineffectiveness the people became more polarized with lines being drawn and no middle ground to be found. It all came to a head in 2022 when a new and angry coalition was formed promising to change the way America worked. However, the machinery that had been established to protect those holding the reins of power leaped back into action to keep control of the government. But, the victory was so obviously fixed that protests quickly boiled over into street brawls, then riots, then full scale battles which involved the National Guard then the army. The army itself was by this time was so riddled with the same factions that had polarized the country it quickly fell apart along the same lines bringing an end to the experiment called the United States of America.

Jenny was looking at me quizzically, even stopping her relentless eating of a dwindling supply of cheese and cracker on the tray. “Sorry, go ahead," I said.

She looked off in the distance for a moment and started again. “But a band of American People’s Liberation fighters came down from Illinois and burned us out. They overwhelmed National Guard forces and after stealing everything of value set off a bio-bomb inside the town which contaminated the entire county. It was some sort of flu virus that killed my father and grandmother and about two thousand others but my mom, brother, and I didn’t even catch a cold.”

“What happened after that?” I asked drawn into her faraway look.

“We were gathered up into FEMA camps where an old friend of my mother’s, an old guy named Richard Bowers found us…”

The second she said that name I was thrown back in time. When I was a child a Richard Bowers had been a fixture in my county. “Just where in southern Missouri are you from Jenny?”

“Jackson, a small town just northwest of Cape Girardeau,” she said not understanding the weight of my question.

“Jenny, just what is your last name and what were your parent’s names?”

She hesitated like it might mean a quick exit from a place that had supplied a hot shower with real soap, food, and the promise of a warm bed even if it meant her doing certain things. “My father was named Roger Lucas, my mother's name is Carol.”

Roger Lucas meant nothing to me but hearing the name Carol and looking more closely at Jenny’s face I began to feel an impending revelation hover over me like a hammer about to fall. “Jenny sweetie, what was your mother’s maiden name?”

“She was Carol Allen before she married my father.”

The impact of hearing the name of my baby sister and figuring out that the niece I had never seen was sitting essentially naked in my small apartment with me bringing her to it only to satisfy my sick needs did indeed crush both my mind and what was left of my spirit. God knows I’m far from the sickest person living in this town but that moment brought the realization that the degree of my perversion didn’t matter. I could no longer blame others for my disengagement with life and people and how I cushioned it in a cocoon of cynicism.

God and me had been on the outs since I had to fly into medical camps outside the blasted remains of both Islamabad and New Delhi seeing dead children piled up like cord wood as bulldozers readied mass graves. The question that raced through my mind at the time was how a loving God could allow such things. I left the responsibility for such actions at God’s doorstep never once considering how humanity itself could be at fault.

Jenny, not knowing that she had stumbled onto her lost uncle, looked more scared at the tears now streaming down my face than I was surprised at their mere existence. I still doubted if God was even out there but I must admit this circumstance and how it so seemingly happened by accident left even that assumption dented.

Jenny took the revelation about as unemotionally as I thought she would. She had simply been through far too much with her scars running to deep for tears of her own. But she slept soundly and alone in my bed minutes later with me watching the city lights and the people walk along the streets. The next day we headed out to the refugee camp to find her mother and brother.

The filth and desperation at the camps equaled anything I had seen while in the army. Except this time it was Americans living as refugees, looked down and laughed at by the world. It was a surreal and humbling experience and I’m sure those left back in the former United States still a hair’s breath away from resuming the civil war over laughable political differences and territorial aspirations thought nothing of such camps spread out all over the world and in America.

I brought my sister, niece, and nephew back to my place permanently with the intention of finding a larger place for us all. It was not a warm family reunion but both my sister and I knew that we had a responsibility to Jenny and her brother Kevin. And while the rest of the American people had lost sight of their duties to their children seeking only to keep old and imaginary wounds open I could at least do the right thing for mine.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Rambling Christmas Essay

Standing on the precipice staring into the abyss for too long wrapped up in our collective fears and prejudices our humanity is stretched beyond the breaking point. The animal instinct to view the stranger, the unknown, and the different overrides our better angels and we only see the world as a place of horror and danger. In this state we all too easily abandon our compassion and our conscious for the easy rationalization that only our small group holds the God give rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or even worse, come to believe that we are God’s only chosen people.
Such justifications have allowed every nation, tribe, or religion to subjugate and enslave those weaker than themselves. Such actions only result in a bitter harvest because those that dominated now will in time through inherent human weakness only fall from power and change places with those that were once slaves. This cycle only feeds on itself condemning our children to a continuous reign of terror where only the names change.
When the world was much larger and people were fewer such cycles could be contained but the world has changed and our numbers have exploded and our new toys have become a danger not only to the human race but the earth itself. But our ways have not; we are still the same violent and ignorant race that only a few thousand years ago looked out at the night from the cave fearing the darkness and what demons lurked beyond the safety of the fire.
Figures through history have warned us of our primitive and destructive ways; only for those messengers of peace and love to have their words bent to serve the needs of those seeking power and dominance not only of their fellow men and women but of the earth itself.
Still we go on clawing our way on top of each other sacrificing the many for the benefit of the few. The words of peace and love curiously both strained to serve our own purpose and ignored when they become inconvenient to what ends we wish to justify, the greater glories of creation forgotten for the shallow and tepid joys of material goods and to serve our egos.
It is hard not to see warnings in the wind with a few worried people crying out that we can’t go on very much longer like this. A few understand that it is our time to grow up and learn that we are no longer a scattered band of savages struggling to keep our small group safe from the dangers of a world we did not understand. That denying the basic rights and needs of others for reasons of power or to please a distant and quiet God does nothing but seal our own destiny in sadness.
Despite our intransigent ways change does come, although the pace is slow with setbacks and blind alleys as we fight with ourselves over which changes should come first. Let’s hope that the second decade of the twenty-first century can be a time of changing the course of our violent history, realizing that while we cannot change our nature we can begin to understand that it can be controlled and channeled for more productive results.
Such efforts to tame the worst aspects of our nature are by far the most important task we can undertake. But we have no other option; we have to answer this challenge because we say we love our children, that we hope for them at least the happiness we enjoyed. But such happiness is everyday more tied to the lack of happiness of some lost soul on the other side of the world living in fear and need.

Failure will only result in the eventual fall of us all. To change and alter our history for the better we will have to embrace the stranger, the unknown, and those far different than ourselves. Words will no longer suffice, actions and painful efforts will have to take their place but truth be told this has been known all through our civilized existence it’s just that the stakes have never been this high. In the end its more than just about simple survival, it’s about being the people we have always wanted to be, it’s about finding that spark of the divine God created inside each of us.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lost and found in the woods

The active army of the mid to late 1980’s I served in no longer exists. It was a peace time army whose primary mission at the time was to prepare and be ready for a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The term “Dog and pony show” was used a lot to describe the daily affairs that seemed to bog down into the mundane waiting for the legions of Soviet tanks to cross the Fulda Gap starting the next world war. Such duties spawned less than motivated attitudes and at times let some slip into leadership positions whose approach to how they lead men could be less than inspiring.
For me being a Southern boy winters in Colorado were right from the start a learning experience. Many times during the morning hours of a new day that I would watch heavy, dark clouds slide in from the west only to sink over Cheyenne Mountain literally flow down the eastern side like a liquid knowing that a snow storm was highly likely later on.
It was during such a morning as the First Sergeant read off such things as who had head count at the mess hall, the revised CQ schedule for the barracks, and what poor fool was on his weekly shit list the snow, which had only been light flurries until then, within minutes became a raging snow storm.

For us enlisted standing in formation it was par for the course with everyone standing at ease listening to the First Sergeant but for the fresh batch of young lieutenants that were newly arrived to the unit from the various places such refuse is compacted, given a gold colored bar to wear as rank and then sent out with maps to get soldiers lost it was a new experience. These young military leaders could easily be heard jumping around behind the formation trying to keep warm in their starched, brand-new uniforms and heard whispering about how damn cold they were. So when the First Sergeant finally called us to attention to have us fall out and begin that day’s duties both the NCO’s and us enlisted couldn’t help by snicker some at the genuine sighs of relief coming from behind us.

That day was spent at the motor pool doing simple maintenance on the assorted company vehicles and just trying to stay warm. For the young lieutenants playing platoon leader for the first time it was a hectic day running back and forth from offices with policy papers, duty forms, and sign-out sheets trying to become fully integrated with the unit. The snow storm, which had only gotten worse over the hour or so it took us to arrive at the motor pool, was making matters harder as they often had to go looking for their platoon sergeants to ask how something was done or if they could go to the latrine by themselves.

Being grizzled and experienced veterans many platoon sergeants get tired of offering wisdom and advice to little boys who upon receiving their gold bar signifying the rank of Second Lieutenant immediately believe they are Patton, Macarthur, or even Alexander the Great and went to great pains to legally adjust their misguided and delusional attitudes.

Sergeant Terrance Lewis was such a man. After twenty-five years of service he was as burned out as a NCO could get. Lewis had joined the army to escape a bad neighborhood full of crime and family violence only to finish training and be dropped into the middle of Vietnam with all sorts of locals trying to kill him. Well humans being a strange breed Lewis completed his year in country having survived both the locals overtly trying to kill him as well as a nasty case of VD that came close on its own and after some soul searching decided he would reenlist. Reenlistment brought a tour of duty over in beautiful Germany in which the young man found that all foreigners don’t automatically hate Americans, unless they get caught dating a young frau whose father had very 1940’s ideas.

Years later after all sorts of adventures the now tired and weary Sergeant Lewis found his closing days in the army being spent in a cold place far from his hometown Atlanta dealing which such fine examples of the American educational system as an addled brained country boy from South Carolina. Lewis found that if he gritted his teeth hard enough and his truly lovely wife kept his blood pressure medicine prescription filled he could deal with the assorted misfits that battalion personnel had assigned him. That is until Sergeant Lewis was saddled with about the worst example that the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) had let slip through the cracks.

Second Lieutenant William C. Caldwell was the only son of now retired army colonel, and combat veteran, who by all accounts had raised his son specifically for the purpose to make him a combat hero in one of America’s wars and to achieve the rank of general. That is son never should have worn the uniform much less been part of the officer corps was evident to everyone from the moment he arrived at the unit.

The poor fellow had a very short stature, was skinny and physically weak, and making things worse had such a high pitched voice that he always sounded like he was whining no matter what he said. After Caldwell had taken over duties as our platoon leader, Sergeant Lewis soon found himself not only guiding him, as was his responsibility to the inexperienced officer, but correcting the most simple and basic affairs that he should have known from his Officer Basic Course where he was suppose learn such things as drill, ceremonies, basic leadership skills, and customs to name a few. After a few months it became very apparent that Sergeant Lewis had cut the young lieutenant loose and was going to allow him to figure everything out on his own and swim or continue to be a walking example of the term FUBAR and sink.

Where I came into the picture was during that snow storm in which had a few others and myself cranking up and running our brand new humvees to charge up the batteries along with securing the interiors of the vehicles to prevent the snow from getting inside.

These humvees only had soft panel doors made of vinyl with a very primitive door handle made from about the weakest plastic available to American manufacturing. Add very cold weather and the handles would often break at the slightest touch resulting in some tiny increase in the profit margin for the corporation and I'm sure huge bonuses for some suit sitting in his corner office that thought up the idea of selling crap to the army.

Which given chance and purposeful crappy design is what happened. I accidentally broke the door handle and in a blur I was pushed out by my loyal comrades who were sitting inside the vehicle with me enjoying the one thing the manufacture got right, the heater. Knowing they would not let me back until I got the replacement I made my way to the maintenance garage to sign one out.

The motor pool was sectioned off with the other companies of the battalion each having a portion where their vehicles were lined up along with a large shipping container used to store equipment and a few tools. My quest for a new door handle would have me walking diagonally through the motor pool to reach my unit’s garage and as I was doing so I began to hear someone whistling the ABBA tune “Dancing Queen” and immediately realized that my platoon’s beloved lieutenant was walking nearby. Now if the world was fair and just no one who would openly whistle “Dancing Queen” would be allowed to possibly lead men into combat but at least I knew my ABBA loving platoon leader was close and adjusted my course to greet and salute him.
I stepped out from behind a shipping container well enough in front of the man that I shouldn’t have had to worry about surprising him even with the snow obscuring visibility. Caldwell, at least to me, was clearly visible carrying his expensive briefcase he kept all his paperwork in and about ten feet away I snapped a salute and said “good morning sir”.
Somehow I had disturbed the young officer with him jumping in surprise, dropping his briefcase which of course popped open with the wind blowing away his papers, and him coming to attention and saluting me.
“Good morning colonel,” Caldwell said awaiting a reply and holding the salute which at the time me being only a private first class, not quite the lowest rank in the army but with the difference not being enough to brag about, I was at a loss to say anything so I just returned the salute and kept on walking noticing the headphones somewhat tucked under his BDU cap and trailing wire leading to what I believed would have been an old Sony Walkman with built in cassette player. Such an addition to the army uniform was not allowed for enlisted and for and officer, well let’s just say it would have called for a major ass chewing if in fact the colonel had caught him wearing it.
Momentarily enjoying my totally improper and utterly impossible field promotion, and not wanting the lieutenant to realize his mistake, I picked up the pace to get away from the man now chasing his papers being blown across the motor pool. Only to have Sergeant Lewis step out from behind another storage container with me realizing almost instantly from the look on his face that he had been hiding behind the storage container and that he had seen the entire incident.
“Please tell me he didn’t salute and call you colonel.” Lewis said sounding both tired and resigned staring off in the distance as the lieutenant disappeared into the blowing snow chasing his papers.
The idea of getting stuck between two people, both with far higher rank that I have has never appealed to me. But when it came to a choice between the lieutenant who by all visible signs would have a hard time finding his way out of a water paper bag and the grizzled combat veteran who survived the best the Vietcong and a Saigon brothel could throw at him I found it a no brainer.
“Yeah, Sergeant he did seem to have me confused.” I said trying to be at least a little diplomatic. Sergeant Lewis ignored my remark and just walked away snatching the briefcase the lieutenant had dropped and left behind to chase down his paperwork.
I sort of felt bad about the situation since I was the one who had now set the lieutenant up for more trouble which would be even worse once Sergeant Caldwell saw the Walkman he was wearing. In truth Lieutenant Caldwell had been pretty cool toward us enlisted and daily gave the other sergeants of the platoon plenty of shit. The main reason for this may have been because he was about the same age as us. It wasn’t until I became a noncommissioned officer myself that I realized how off base he was with this behavior.
A couple of months later the battalion went out on its own for a week long field training exercise namely to integrate all the new arrivals. For Lieutenant Caldwell this relatively minor field exercise was going to be his crunch time being that he simply wasn’t getting the hang of actual military life despite the best efforts of all who had contact with him.
At first things went fairly well for the struggling lieutenant until it came time for him to lead a convoy back to the rear. The battalion cooks had been left at the mess hall for the exercise with them making the morning and evening chow which was picked up and transported out to the battalion bivouac area. Lieutenant Caldwell was tasked one day to lead the group in, pick up the chow along with other items and be back before nightfall, which of course just didn’t happened.
Nightfall came with an over 400 man sized unit wondering where in the Hell evening chow was and looking longingly at a small nearby colony of prairie dogs with them hovering visibly nearer to their holes as if a coyote was nearby. Sergeant Lewis right from the moment the lieutenant became overdue knew the worst had happened and went out looking for the lost convoy.
Not only had the lieutenant gotten lost taking the three deuce and a half cargo trucks and drivers along with him but had somehow guided one into a pond with the cab flooded up to the seats. Being that radios at the time were not normally installed in such vehicles there was no way for him to contact the unit so and with it being dark Caldwell decided it would be best just to wait for the unit to find him.
While Fort Carson is a large post the battalion was bivouacked just a short distance on a secondary road just off the main highway going down range. Once all concerned were accounted for with the evening chow being served and the nearby prairie dog colony breathing a sigh of relief it was determined that Caldwell was delinquent for listening to his Walkman instead of helping the lead driver navigate.
Caldwell was relieved as platoon leader and reassigned to the post Public Affairs Office which amounted to death sentence for his military career and the hopes of his father for another combat hero in the family. At his new assignment Lieutenant Caldwell actually seemed to find his niche dealing with the news media and writing articles for the on-post paper. Given the situation it will be no surprise that Caldwell soon faded into oblivion never stopping by the unit or keeping any contact with the people in it.
What brought on this dubious and long winded romp down memory lane? A few weeks ago as I was surfing the internet looking for something to write about I stumbled upon a somewhat obscure Chicago newspaper with a familiar name listed as one of the writers. Yeah, it was the man I have named in this post as “Caldwell”. I sent off an email just saying hi and got one back yesterday confirming it was my old platoon leader. He seemed to have gotten a kick out one of his former troops finding him writing that leading that truck into the pond was the best thing that had ever happened to him taking him the very place he needed to be. I have come away thinking how funny life can be and how our mistakes at times can be more important for our happiness than our successes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What can you do with twenty-six dollars?

You can hack into vital information feeds on our nice high tech Predator drones.

Somebody in the IT shop has made a big boo boo. That enemy hackers sitting in double super secret bases in isolated sections of China or Russia breaking into live satellite feeds on Predator drones is one thing. But to have low tech terrorists using twenty-six dollar software and off the shelf laptops break in such information feeds is something from a very bad spy thriller or cheap movie. Well, we are not talking about the national priority of greedy bankers and investment types who trashed the economy but yet receive billions. This is just weapons systems that we depend on to properly identify and attack our enemies.

I sure as Hell wish I could laugh about this but with everything else about our screwed up government its just sad.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Splotchy strikes again

The great and mighty god Splotchy has saw fit to look kindly on us mortals and set us upon the path of righteousness and mediocre (that would be me) story telling. The holy premise as set in the unwritten scriptures is that Splotchy will set in motion a story through the use of one blessed paragraph and then select a series of prophets to expand and then pass on the blessings to yet another grouping.

The great god Splotchy beginnings were as such:
The mall was crowded. There were happy people, angry people, people in a hurry, even a few people sleeping on benches. To the security guard, they were a blur of coats, hats and scarves. He was just beginning his second eight hour shift. He yawned, leaning against a pillar in the food court, the aftertaste of terrible mall cookies lingering on his tongue. His eyes abruptly snapped open with the loud sound of glass shattering behind him.

Let it be written that it was good with the first prophet Cormac the Great:
The glass landed on the main concourse floor and the strung Christmas lights around the mall made the floor glitter like a field of glittering gems. Out of Hot Topic came a huge tasseled-shod foot and the glass cracked like ice under the foot's immense weight. Above that antiquated shoe was a massive muscular leg, clad in green tights.The elder Mrs. Hajba knows what this creature is and she screams out its name, yet no one understands her. Mostly because everyone else is too busy screaming, but also because the only person would understand, her daughter Anastasia, is across the mall at T.G. McFunster's...trying to find husband number four, lest her, and her mother be deported.This being that apparently is unknown to America, stands some sixteen feet tall in bright green and red clothing that would be more suitable to the Renaissance. The brute is muscular and misshapen, with veins that bulge and throb at a preternaturally speed. Its skin is bright white, and its teeth silver and black like tinsel. The eyes of the beast have no pupils or irises to speak of. They could best be described as giant red, opaque Christmas ball ornaments.Mrs. Hajba summons every brain cell that American TV soaps haven't manged to destroy yet and she yells at the security guard, "It's Ghost of Kreestmass Disappoint-ted!"
The second prophet, MRMacrum the Fantastic, was dazzled and was able to pass along:
Christmas was especially hectic here at the largest Mall in the Universe. Jenkins had been temporarily transferred over from his normal eight hours of checking doors at the local high school to double shifts here at the mall. On any given day starting in November, as many as 1,ooo,ooo shoppers a day flocked here to drop their credits in one or more of the 3000 shop til you drop stores found inside it's ten story 5000 acre complex. Increased traffic meant more shoplifting, assaults, and an uptick in the usual run of the mill bag thefts and purse snatchings. Jenkins definitely did not consider the quarter an hour raise to be enough compensation for what he had to put up with here. Nodding off sitting on a hard chair at the high school seemed like heaven about now."Base. Come in Base.""Jenkins, that you? What's the problem? Jeezus guy, hold the mic away from your mouth some. I thought we went over that. The feed back is terrible.""Uh, well okay, gotcha Base. Seems one of those new Tron androids got loose. Looks like the big one in the window display as a matter of fact. He's headed for food court 23.""Jenkins, that display cannot move. They promised us that it was completely non-functional. Get your shit together and check it out.""Base, that display maybe is supposed to be inoperative, but I tell you something big has just made a helluva mess from Hot Topic to the big tree display here on floor five. I see some woman up ahead waving at me. Maybe she has a clue. Jenkins out.""Lady, lady." Jenkins shook the woman on the floor. She turned her head in Jenkins' direction. Panicked shoppers continued streaming by them in the opposite direction of the commotion closing in on food court 23."It's Ghost of Kreestmass Disappoint-ted!" That's all she said. "What's that mean lady? Tell me."Her eyes suddenly fixed on something over Jenkins shoulder. Jenkins turned........

Now the third prophet being a hopeless slacker yearning for beaches and scantily clad ladies dancing in the surf but stuck all weekend at the house grabbed his new Jimmy Buffett CD, a couple of slices of cold pizza, and a two liter bottle of diet Coke and presents his offering to the Holy Spoltchy:

Jenkins was a fan of all sorts of zombie and horror movies often sitting up late at night alone watching some horde of monsters, ghosts, or demons attempt to cause as much destruction on earth as possible. For him such movies had long since become untangled from the base fear and dread they were made to cause and were more enjoyable from the nearly subconscious fantasies he entertained about his ex-wife and her rich new husband being chased, then eaten by one of the evil creatures.

Until now that is, turning away from the babbling woman and focusing his eyes on the insectoid creatures streaming from the mega-Tracy’s department store into the mall concourse Jenkins felt a fresh rush of terror that paled all others in his life. The creatures were about two to three feet high, walked on four legs with an identical front pair that was being used to catch and hold whatever unlucky human had remained too close. Even now Jenkins watched a blond woman replete with excessive jewelry dangling outside her expensive coat still struggling to hold onto her full shopping bags be lifted and fed into pair of over sized mandibles.

The spasm of blood that followed at least slightly camouflaged the woman being ingested. The creatures until that moment had only been entering the mall concourse grabbing whatever people were nearby but once the blond lady had completely disappeared chuck by bloody chunk the rest of bugs made quick work of those they had caught.

The first people to scatter upon the arrival of the sixteen foot Tron android had long since made their way to whatever exit they could find but more than a few had either been too stupid to move or frozen in fear now panicked as the insect creatures now flooded down the concourse grabbing the old and whatever foolish types refused to drop their loads of Christmas booty. It was then the giant android raised his arms, his veins throbbing ever faster, and began moving in the direction of the over sized roaches.

“Base, this is Jenkins,” the still stunned rent-a-cop said. “You guys better get down here quickly and call the National Guard or the freaking army because not only do we have a loose android but the cockroaches we have been bitching about to management have broken out of the basement.”

“Jenkins this is base, the shift supervisor is on his way,” Jenkins heard the kiss ass Thomas say over the radio. Thomas had accidentally left his microphone keyed and Jenkins could still hear the conversation going on back at base. “Someone call the exterminators again and tell the bastards we need them to bring the good stuff, not that bargain crap management insists on them using, looks like we might have another Omaha incident on our hands.”

Mrs. Hajba had been strangely quiet during all this and Jenkins noticed from the look on her face more than slightly smug. “The Ghost of Kreestmass Disappointed is exacting its revenge on you petulant Americans.” Was all she said and with that she pulled out her cell phone and by all appearances once the person she was calling answered began speaking in a language Jenkins could not understand and to the best of his knowledge have never even heard spoken before.

The giant android had been busy through all this and after it had reached the leading element of the over sized cockroaches had begun to do a stomping dance with its big feet flattening the bugs as a surprising rate given its size and initial slowness. The mall background music was playing a soft version of "Beat It" with the android keeping keeping in step withe the music.

The bugs, angered by the android’s attack, swarmed all around forgetting for the moment all the shoppers they had been snacking on and did their best to bring the American made automaton down.

Jenkins watched as Mrs. Hajba continued to talk on her cell phone and the bugs try to get a footing at the base of the android to crawl up. If the situation couldn't get any more surreal a lovely young woman was now walking toward Jenkins and the old crazy woman from one of the branching concourses dragging a young boy by the ear. The boy was holding a fancy stick in one hand and with the other a shimmering book that Jenkins could clearly see had the title of “East Salem Community College of Magic and Wizardry: Advanced animation and transformations 210”.

Jenkins stomach sank down to his knees while his balls launched themselves into his throat. Dealing with the loose android was one thing, the bugs another, but throwing in some kid playing with a magic textbook from those East Salem losers was a whole new world of shit. I better get a freaking raise after all this shit is over he thought.

The third prophet's duty is to now appoint another to add to the holy Scriptures. While the Beach Bum is usually not blessed enough for such an endeavor choosing to let someone pick up the mantle on their own but just for shits and giggles I pick and double dog dare: Madmike, Stimpson, Doc, and Utah Savage. Whether any will answer to the Spoltchy call I do not know but I will not be held responsible for the lightening striking them down.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feline Fixations

“Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance”
Dan Greenburg

While I'm sure that is the case Spock the cat when he is not fascinated with the swirling waters of the toilet does spend a good bit of time watching me type. Not so much lately since with me on third shift and the associated duties of being a dad and a personal serf to my wife both the time and inclination to write has been greatly diminished. Right now Spock the cat is sitting on a very rarely used piece of exercise equipment watching me with an interest that if it was a person I was find extremely unnerving. If only Spock could be useful, or had interest in doing it, editing my prattle I'm sure the quality would greatly improve.

"I have noticed that what cats most appreciate in a human being is not the ability to produce food, which they take for granted-but his or her entertainment value."
Geoffery Household

Leaving the debate alone between fanatical dog and cat owners about which is the better pet this quote is very true. Watching Spock watch the normal activities of the family I often wonder if cats in fact are not only far more intelligent than humans suspect but in actuality more intelligent than humans themselves. True, most of the chaotic crap we humans have trapped ourselves into doing only raises our blood pressure or in a strange inverse relationship deadens our brains at the same time. The prime example of this is most people who are alternately driven to rage over the verbal garbage that issues forth from any Fox News show and come away after the fact losing several IQ points. Which explains that while channel surfing and momentarily stopping at Fox News during a Glenn Beck rerun that Spock begins watching me intently with the cat-like expression wondering when in the Hell I was going to turn that crap. Stay too long on such brain draining garbage he starts playing with the remote again seemingly saying that if he had an opposable thumb not only would he turn the channel but would beat me aside the head with it. On the other hand I have seen Spock enthralled by one of the fishing shows and from reactions when a large mouth bass is caught he could have been named Ahab.

“Watch a cat when it enters a room for the first time. It searches and smells about, it is not quiet for a moment, it trusts nothing until it has examined and made acquaintance with everything.
”Jean-Jacques Rousseau

One of the things that has worked to increase the alliance between Spock the cat and myself is the obvious distaste Spock shows for many of the local residents of Rightwingberg, the town I find myself marooned in. A couple of weekends ago we were visited by one of the locals who through casual, and inappropriate, conversation informed us of her personal distaste not only with the president but with his wife. Both my wife and I looked at each other as this lady explained how she felt both the Obama's were bad examples for "true American values".
The lady was on what amounted to a recruiting mission for her nearby church and while I would have never let her in Dragonwife has had repeated talks with me about not being a complete dick, that I actually need to get to know some of the people before coming to a conclusion about how insidiously evil all these people are. Upon revealing her political views Spock, who until that moment, had been very comfortable laying in her lap and being stroked suddenly jumped up and leaped across the room digging his claws into her to get away. The howls of surprise and pain from the subconsciously racist lady promptly ended the visit with Spock not coming back into the room for several hours.

“Who among us hasn't envied a cat's ability to ignore the cares of daily life and to relax completely?”
Karen Brademeyer
The last thing that firmly binds the alliance between Beach Bum and feline Spock is that while everyone else in my house can have episodes of near panic on any number of items both he and I can calmly lay on the couch and watch in curious disinterest. In my opinion nothing beyond preventing the death of someone or the immanent destruction of the new 42 inch high definition television and the loss of chips, salsa, and beer is cause for panic. Truthfully this is one item that all people could learn something from cats. Quite frankly most of what people fret about to the point that they often need a pill to get relief from the daily fears and concerns that come close to overwhelming them are just illusions that Madison Avenue and social peer pressure impose in hopes of selling something or keeping us all tied up like unthinking lemmings.

Of course once the litter box needs cleaning even a cool, calm cat can get a little freaky. As for me the resulting look I get from my wife and kids about needing to clean out said litter box can get me freaky and nauseous.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

One of the reasons why I hate suburbia

There use to be a time in this wonderful country when a home and yard were nearly sovereign territory for the owners. While in some neighborhoods there were justifiable limits on what a family could do on their property, just about anything was okay as long as it did not interfere or harm the people living next door. These were people that bought a house for it to become a home, not some strangely considered investment believing that while they maxed out the credit cards the house would be their piggy bank.

Now in these wonderful preplanned and highly regimented suburban developments full of little drones whose sphincters pucker up to microscopic sizes the moment an errant leaf has the audacity of landing on their prized hunter-green colored lawn spoiling the carpet like flow. Such situations automatically results in the drone mounting his or her equally prized riding lawnmower with vacuum attachment and padded insulated cup holder bringing it to life and spewing forth all sorts of carbon dioxide from the four-stroke engine so the obsessed homeowners can cruise across the lawn to that misguided leaf so that it and any of its brethren will be sucked up, bagged in a non-biodegradable trash bag, and then be dropped off in a landfill to spend several centuries buried.

Making things even more ridiculous these insidious little drones are not only obsessed with keeping their precious yards, despite the near hazardous levels of fertilizers used, pristine. But like some bad example of an East German informant network with neighbors spying on neighbors on violations of the smallest of rules these drones run off and report possible acts of independent thought to the Homeowners Association which in turn acts like some damn Orwellian suburban Big Brother forcing the offender through threat of lawsuit to tow the party line.

Yes, this is the new America where brave men and women put their lives on the line even now to protect property values and "aesthetic guidelines" so the collective group of weasels, chickenhawks, and anal retentive mindless parasites are not visually disturbed by such horrible things as wrecked cars on cinder blocks, empty liquor bottle collection littered about the yard, and the American flag flying proudly in the breeze. What a wonderful country.

Veteran battles homeowners group on flag issue

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A brief statement about the Tiger Woods situation

After listening to the news all day from several different sources ranging from NPR this morning, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, and later this evening NBC Nightly News I have one thing to say. With all due respect to Mr. Woods' very important ability to hit a small white ball into an almost equally small hole in the ground hundreds of yards away I frankly do not give a rat's ass about him wrecking his car backing out from his driveway. I also do not give a flying shit about the reasons this happened. Whether he got caught fooling around on his wife with her trying to beat his brains out because of it with one of his computer balanced carbon fiber thousand dollar golf clubs or if he was being kidnapped by Martians forcing his wife to defend her husband by breaking out several windows in his expensive SUV to get at the little green men, I simply don't care.

Anyone who has read my stuff would find it extremely easy to understand I have no love for the '"sport" of golf and in truth golf courses to me are an environmental abomination. The massive amounts of fertilizer being used to keep the grass green runoff into coastal waters around here killing the marshes in which much of the seafood we eat lives. I also find most avid golfers insufferable bores who I often daydream become afternoon snacks for the assorted gators that live in the small ponds that are a part of golf course architecture. The idea of loose wild pythons crawling up from Florida getting a hold of the obnoxious middle-aged white guy who has a nationally broadcast conservative radio talk show while he is practising his putting is another daydream of mine that often produces a few chuckles.

That being said the main reason for the illicit rant is the huge amount of time "journalists" have spent today speculating for the reasons this happened along with the banal babble on what this might mean for Tiger's billion dollar endorsements of everything from overpriced sweatshop made clothes to overpriced flavored water. Once again critical issues and problems that face the nation and world have been left by the wayside because at best some spoiled twit with far too much money can't drive his damn car and at worst the same twit couldn't keep his pecker in his pants despite a hot babe of a wife. If the latter is the reason expect further delays and interruptions in real news as the media has an orgasmic meltdown covering the divorce proceedings.

Thank you for your time, good night and good luck.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Modern American Slavery

When I was in elementary school learning about history not just in this country but all human history I was consistently struck dumbfounded by the idea of one person keeping other people in bondage. Something inside my head could not understand how it could be justified in any way that people could be viewed as property with every aspect of their lives being controlled by another person or group.

Many might be surprised how openly the discussion of all aspects of slavery were brought out down here in the South. While the most gruesome and explicit details about slavery didn't come until high school none the less as a young child my classmates and I understood that families were torn apart and bought and sold like farm equipment. Physical and sexual abuse could come at any moment with it later being laughed about by otherwise "pillars of the community." Even as something basic as learning to read could be a death sentence for both the person wanting to learn and the teacher. While slavery was a nightmare on all levels when you boiled it down what most got me was the simple idea that a slave had absolutely no control over what was done to them and had no recourse to correct it. That total inability to have even the most basic control over ones own fate still makes my skin crawl.

In my youth I could at least take some comfort with the belief that the institution of slavery was something had been confined to the past. Years later I would come to believe that while it had been abolished here in America that in other, less developed and enlighten parts of the world some form of it still survived. Much to my sadness my next revelation would have me find out that in far away and forgotten corners of America isolated pockets of what amounted to slavery was being practiced. Still I hoped and believed that these were exceptions to the rule and that shining the light of day on these hideous affairs would stamp them out. Now even that is gone with word that while the institution might be relegated to the past like some contagious virus the scourge of slavery has not only appeared again but is growing.