Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hitting The Heavy Bag...

ipod song: Rocky Theme song

Jab, jab, right hook, jab, uppercut, uppercut.

Jab, jab, right hook, jab, uppercut, uppercut.

The rhythm was intoxicating.

My hands almost moved on their own after so many years as a kid having my dad chant the cadence for me.

Jab, Jab, right, Jab, Jab, right hook.

I'm not sure if it was a punishment, or a way of instilling something in my brother and me. It always felt like punishment to me. He would take us out to the garage, put on the heavy gloves and have us do combination's over and over again.

Our shoulders would hurt, our hands would feel like sand bags, and snot would run freely from our noses. As kids we grew up watching "Rocky" with our dad and we would cheer for Stallone and we would want to hit the gloves.

Jab, Jab, right, Jab, Jab, right hook.

"Rocky" was the everyman, the any man, a hero for my dad and two snotty kids. I knew Stallone was just an actor but it gave me a reason to get up and go running as I got older. In high school I would get up early and run up to the corner and back. I'd think of those running scenes in the second movie with the kids following behind the star up the steps of the capital building. In the Army it motivated me to run as far as i could and then do it again.

So there I was, some years later, on the other side of the world exploring another gym on yet another military camp in Iraq and what did I see in the corner; a heavy bag.

I walked over to the desk and was rewarded with a pair of gloves and walked back to the bag. Like an old friend it seemed to be calling me, 'hit me.'

Jab, Jab, right hook, jab, jab.

Taking off my watch I took out my ipod and found my 'Rocky' sound track. It was cheesy, but it helped. I hit the play button and I was a kid again, listening to the famous orchestral soundtrack of my youth.

Jab, Jab, right hook, jab.

I could hear my dad's voice in my ear and I started to pounded the bag.

Jab, Jab, right, jab, jab, right hook!

I'd found one of these bags before, and I'd beat it until my hands ached. I had a lot of my mind then, but now I just played with this bag. I moved left, I moved right, I got in close, I worked on my combination's.

Jab, Jab, right hook!

When my dad died I picked up a lot of odds and ends from his stuff. The one thing I knew I wanted was his gloves. Those gloves. The gloves that as a kid I remembered wearing, loading down my hands, draining my shoulders, making me sweat. The ones he wore.

Jab, Jab, right, jab, jab, right!

I let my dad's cadence drive me.

Jab, Jab, right, jab, jab, right!

I can still hear him.

Jab, Jab, right hook, jab, jab, right hook...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Voice.

iTunes Selection: "Here" -Jackson Browne.

We all have an inner voice, we all have our way of speaking, we all have that inner part of you that speaks out and talks for you. It speaks when you are trying to say something and takes over and starts speaking.

I found that voice when i spoke at my father's funeral. I said some things I hadn't had the opportunity to say before.

At my father's Service I told how I had found my voice. When I stand up at work and make a speech, give a command, or give that two minute class I've heard myself, and for that second I hear something I've heard before, my father.

I was uncomfortable with my father for the longest time, he and my mother had a terrible relationship. Learning from their example I endeavored to have a similarly disastrous marriage that ended in divorce.

But, my favorite word(but), I realized my mistake, too late for the first time. I endeavor now to have a functional marriage, and learn from my earlier mistakes.

I don't drink to excess anymore, in fact I normally have a beer or two and I'm good.

I stop myself from arguing, and listen, no matter how angry I am.

I don't run away from the argument and hide and do something else (still working on this one)

I realize when I'm wrong.

I still spend money without thinking, but I am working at realizing when I do it.

And in the end, if I ever feel like I need a good talking to, I just open my mouth...

And hear my father's lecture...

Why Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sucks!

iTunes selection: "Let it Die" Foo Fighters.

Have you ever read David Poole's Blog Life in the Turn Lane ? Well if you haven't I strongly suggest you do. David Poole pasted away about 6 months ago but most of his blog is still on here.

I used to listen to him on Sirius satellite radio's Nascar station on his show the "Morning Drive." He was funny, country, and had some incredible in-site about motor sports and Nascar in particular. Over the short 2 years I listened to him on Satellite radio I had to admit he knew way more about the sport than I will ever know. I did pick up enough to baffle my wonderful wife that turned me on to the sport, to her dismay of course.

I was left with one idea, no I am not throwing the poor man under the bus, he's already dead, but the one idea I got from paying attention to my morning drive was that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is never going to be the driver his father was, no insult, no injury to him as a fine driver. I know I just committed blasfamy, but bear with me.

Dale Jr., as he is known to most of the Nascar fans, is the living embodiment of what the sport was, is, should be and will be. He has the spirit of his father riding shotgun in the car next to him and because of that he will never push the envelop and excel the way his father did for so long.

I'm not calling Dale Jr. a failure, far from it, he's an inspiration to us all; he raced on after his father died, left his step-mothers failing business and went out on his own with a huge company, and has continued to fight the good fight every Sunday since then.

But, yes i had to use but, Dale Jr. is not his father. His father lived on being the bad guy, the man in black. He wanted the crowd to think he was a "bad-ass" and do what ever it took to win. No, I don't think he was a bad guy, but he had the desire to win. The desire that most of us mere mortals don't have in a race car traveling 190mph around a track pushed by G-forces into the corner of your seat just hoping you don't fly off into oblivion if one guy in front of you makes the wrong move and ends up side ways in the blink of an eye.

But, yes I'm using it again, we as mere mortals don't all have the reflexes, hand eye coordination, patience, and nerves of steal to be racing, that's why its watched on TV and not performed in your back yard. Dale Sr. was a champion, and as Dale Jr's team mate Jimmy Johnson can atest to it. Its about going out every day and working hard every single work day. Jimmy's on his way to a 4th uncontested Sprint Cup Championship. And in every interview they ask him, how are you able to do this? What is your secret? Are you taking something, is your crew putting something, are you saying your prayers to someone special? No, he does the same thing every day, every race, he listens to his crew chief, communicates his car status, and drives the car to just short of the breaking point Every race. He doesn't just show up for one race and toss off the next, every race he trains, learns, and does his part with the crew.

Dale Jr might have been Jimmy Johnson, maybe will be, but for the time being is going to be the shadow his father once was and will continue to be that way till he either grows up and admits he needs to be watching what his team mate is doing, or sheds that ghost.

As David Poole used to say, "...just another day fighting the foo..."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happiness is... Leaving Scania.

Short story.

iTunes suggest listening: "Happy Jack" The Who!

This has been an article a year in the making. When I first stepped off the blawkhawk a little over a year ago I couldn't tell you much about this place. It was 5 km's of a walled in freeway with two circular mile tracks inside, one for the living area and one with the truck stop.

But that's what Scania is, a truck stop. A place where truckers come and go, eat and sleep and then get back on the road.

I saw a coffee cup one day that said, "happiness is Scania in your review mirror."

I never thought it'd be true...

When I got there i was happy! I was happy to have a job and happy to be working.

Though I never thought I'd be this happy when I got back on the blackhawk to fly away for the last time... I never guessed it would be like being set free from purgatory.

I remember remarking to a friend that Scania was my own 40 days and 40 nights in the desert being tempted by the devil, feeling like I'd have to drag myself around and wait for the calendar to change.

I had my highs and my lows this past year. My highest was getting promoted and feeling like i could make a difference. The lowest was watching the humvee that three soldiers from 3-16FA died in. It had been towed back on camp after it had rolled over into a swamp with them inside. The poor guys had drowned in mud.

So there I was, on the HLZ where I had said goodbye to so many friends before and I was finally the SOB flying away. And as the Black Hawk flew away I sang, I waved and I finally shed a tear.

Because no one could prevent me from being happier...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In the Angel's Outfield...

Short story today. Hope you enjoy.

Suggested listening: "Me, I'm Not" NIN

I never considered myself a "veteran." Standing here at the Angel game I kept thinking about it. Lord knows I had just gotten off a plane from Iraq. But I was a 'slimy contractor.'

Six some-odd years ago when I left the army I had been in Afghanistan. A land lost in time, mountainous, but blossomed with just a little rain. Even while there it all seemed surreal. Driving around with body armor on was the biggest thrill I had in my short life as I ran around picking up American flags in Kabul.

But there I was, Memorial Day at the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) game sitting next to my 80 something year old grandfather and the announcer asked for all the veterans to please stand up. As my grandfather went to stand up, he paused for a second and pulled me up next to him.

And it hit me, here I was with my grandfather, and he was pulling me up to stand with him.

As a kid I always thought it was cool both my grandfathers had served in the army. I never really thought about it again till my mother told me that my grandfather was raising his flag in the front of his house.

But there I was, with my grandfather, standing up together. I had a weeks worth of a beard, the official contractor look, and we were both wearing our "Inn and Out" hamburger t-shirts. We didn't plan it...

Standing up together as "In and Out" burger Veterans... ;o)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

You'll Never Make a Saint of Me...

You'll Never Make a Saint of Me...(still not happy with the way I ended this story)

iTunes suggest listening: "Saint of Me" -Rolling Stones

"So are you a good catholic?" the priest asked me.

"er, ah" what do I say to this one?

"My commander say's if you go to mass more than twice a year than your a good catholic." the priest said with a smile.

"Well than I'm good on that one!" I'd been to mass more than I'd been since I was in catholic school in middle school. I'd been every Sunday morning since I started coming back to church for just about every event I could come to, service, mass, bible study, heck even cigar night with the chaplain.

"So are you married" as he looked at my ring finger.

"Ah, yes, 6 months."

"Is your wife apart of the church?" he said as he leaned forward.

"Ah, no, we, ah both kinda grew up around it but we haven't really been apart of our local church." I was starting to fidget.

"Did you get married in the church?" He kept on going with more and more questions...

I figured it was time to 'fess up and give him something to go on. "no, this is my second marriage, my first didn't work out." I sat a little straighter in the wooded pew. "I just started coming back, i realized I needed a little help."

A little help. I could hear the Rolling Stones song in my head...

"I said yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
You'll never make a saint of me
Oh yeah, oh yeah

You'll never make a saint of me"

A couple of months earlier I'd been walking around one day, distraught and worried about something at work.

"John the Baptist was a martyr
But he stirred up Herod's hate

And Salome got her wish

To have him served up on a plate

I found myself in front of the chapel and I walked in. Normally, I thought, they had the schedule posted for Sunday services. I figured I'd walk in and look around. I walked into find a small Tupperware tub with a note on it, "Holy Water."

I dipped my finger into it and made the sign of the cross and mumbled 'in the name of the father, son and holy ghost.'

Just then two people came out of the side room, "oh look, someone else is here!" I was like ah, yeah.

They asked me, "how long has it been since you've been to mass?"

I took a second and looked up and right, "Ah, three years or so, when my dad died?"
It wasn't the answer he was looking for, but he was excited to have someone else attending and went about preparing for his mini service.

"And I do believe in miracles
And I want to save my soul

And I know that I'm a sinner

I'm gonna die here in the cold

I was sitting in a classroom with the priest. "Were you baptized in the church?"

"I don't believe so, I was baptized in the Baptist church in high school."

"And why do you want to be a Catholic?" His accent made the word Catholic sound final.

"I realized I liked the form. I went to mass as a kid and i was always amazed by the whole procession. It gives me that ahh inspired feeling." I wasn't sure what to say, no one had actually asked me that before. I'd asked a couple other people at bible study, most had just responded with, 'well that's what i did when i was a kid.'

I guess somewhere or another we were all inspired, maybe it was the formality, maybe it was the singing, or maybe it was just a magical feeling.

Saint Paul the persecutor
Was a cruel and sinful man

Jesus hit him with a blinding light
And then his life began

"So tell me about yourself" This felt like a job interview.

I'd asked if the priest had had time while he was visiting us after mass one day. During our extremely small mass, about 4 of us, he had walked up to everyone to offer them communion and I had said no thank you.

He'd didn't say anything but he had a strange look on his face for a minute and I decided I needed to talk to him.

"I wanted to ask you Father, how I could become part of the church?" I put my elbows up on the table and moved forward. "I have not been apart of the church, officially, i went to catholic school briefly in middle school, but i don't believe i was baptized until i went to Baptist church in high school."

"And why do you want to be part of the church, what has changed for you?"

"I realized I needed some help." I took a deep breath in and began my story. I'd been married before, it hadn't worked out, but I had made myself a promise I was going to do the right thing this time and I loved my wife way too much to let this marriage fail.

You'll never make a saint of me
You'll never make a saint of me

"Is your ex-wife apart of the church?" He was a good listener.

"Ah, yes, i think, i know we went to church together along time ago when we were in Afghan, it might have been when we were the strongest together." As I tried to remember how long ago that had been, 6 years?

I remembered when I got to Afghan she had told me, "I've been going to church again, they have my faith here." I kinda thought it was funny, the army had a Wicken service?

She slugged me in the arm and said, "Catholic, stupid!"

"And could you stand the torture
And could you stand the pain

"Are you still talking to your ex-wife?" This was a hard question for me.

"Ah, no, we kinda had it out." I really didn't want to open up that much but I was on the road to redemption.

"Your going to have to get your marriage certificate, divorce certificate, and her baptism certificate, we'll submit it and then the church can annul your marriage. It'll take about 3 months, at which point you can be confirmed."

Ah, a quest, my own personal quest to get confirmed, should be interesting...

I said yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
You'll never make a saint of me
Oh yeah, oh yeah

A couple of days later I did write my ex-wife and asked for her help in this matter. Not to take the words out of context but her response was, "you can burn in hell for all i care..."

Could you put your faith in Jesus
When you're burning in the flames

Oh yeah, oh yeah
You'll never make a saint of me

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Friends.

Saying Goodbye to Friends...

(Found a better song)
iTunes selection: "Brothers in Arms" -Dire Straits

I guess i've done this quite a bit since being over here. I get to know someone, or some people and they leave. The last couple left tonight. They were friends. I'm not sure if they humored me, if they enjoyed my company, or they just thought I was sometimes funny.

But I do know I'm going to miss them. I'm going to miss having lunch with them, I'm going to miss seeing them at functions and chatting with them and lord knows I'm going to miss praying with them.

I guess its no big thing to miss people, it happens when a space is left empty and there is nothing there to fill the void. I really just started to get to know these two people about 6 months ago. They were the air force combat stress team. A military term for the on site mental health team that looks after a deployed unit. They listened to peoples worries, they documented people's issues, and they attempted to help the chain of command 'deal' with their soldiers.

I guess they helped me in a professional manner, I know one time I went in and had to vent to them about a dumb issue. I think they found it more entertaining than anything else. I can only assume i wasn't the run of the mill person who had been 'recommended' by their chain of command to go in and have a session with them. I took a couple of minutes, complained and then asked them how their day was?

The best part was they had a good sense of humor. I could make bad jokes, compare the incomparable over breakfast and either one of them couldn't be rattled.

But once again I was at the LZ waiting for a Blackhawk to swoop in and take away someone I enjoyed being around. The last time this happened I had to put a friend of mine I worked with, Redcloud, on one of these black helicopters.

Redcloud had made the unforgivable sin of having his pistol go off in the office, discharging a round through the office wall into a concert barrier outside the building. The instant judgment was for him to be removed and sent to Baghdad to await termination.

I guess it wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't had to be the one putting him on the aircraft. I was the 'acting' second in command and the 'acting' first in command jumped a convoy the day before with the instructions that Redcloud be put on the first thing smoking. I guess I could have disobeyed, but when i went to casually check on flights the administrative office had raised him to the top of their list. They had been given orders as well, but from their unit commander, this guy needed to be on the first thing, today.

So I rushed to Redcloud's room and told him he had to pack for an afternoon flight, and that the army wanted him out. He was angry, and of course disappointed. And I couldn't blame him, hell I wanted him to stay.

Fate leads to the same end every time and I found myself on the landing zone waving at him as he walked up to the aircraft. Just before he boarded the helicopter he stopped, turned in my direction and performed a crisp marine salute, a good bye.

I think I returned it, at least I hopped I did. And then he climbed inside, and the black helicopter flew away with another friend. I didn't care when they medi-vac'd the crack head out of here. We had a guy over dose on sleeping pills and start running around camp in his flip flops, shorts and t-shirt uncontrollably. He ducked in and out of the dining facility, ran around the office with a rifle, and started tell us his wife was in the next room and needed to speak to him. Eventually we got him to the first aid station and the army medics said they couldn't do anything for him and he needed to be sent to a hospital for help. I helped carry his litter he was strapped down to up to the helicopter and loaded him on one hand at a time. I didn't smile, i didn't get angry, i just put the guy on and told him good luck.

Actually to be specific our medic, Doc, did the right thing and followed through with his duties and made the guy pee for him and then tested it. Doc left too, his company ousted by our corporate office decided they could make more money if they hunted down, vetted, and employed their own medics. Doc was personala non grata by corporate within a week after the two company's split.

So here I was again, at Fiddler's Green waiting to say good bye to yet another couple of folks that I considered friends. The chaplain, also a friend, was there with his folding chair and a hand full of his trade mark cigars. Weren't cigars for celebrating child births and stuff like that? Not saying goodbye? I smoked one and found another friend to chat with for a minute.

Out of the dark two black helicopters again arrived, everybody picked up their bags, and shuffled out to the waiting aircraft. Like church goers quietly finding a seat they ambled out to the flight line. I gave them both a hug and told them god bless and backed away from the rotor wash coming from the gap in the cement walls. I took one last drag on my cigar and held it up to the moon light. I nodded toward the S1 next to me and said, "fitting, I finished my cigar as they boarded the chopper."