Posts By iron paul

Part I, Chapters 2 & 3 (updated)

2

The Red Phase

Basic training was divided into four phases: red, white, blue, and gold.  The first three phases were roughly two and a half weeks long and were divided by physical assessment tests.  The punishment for failure was being sent back to the beginning of basic training to start again with the next group.  This practice is commonly known as ‘re-cycling,’ or ‘recycling.’  I never ascertained which one.  One suggests you’re going through the cycle again and the other implies that you’re garbage.  They both make sense.

After few days of easy in-processing, we were plunged into the red phase.  This phase is nothing more than where the drill sergeants try to break you down.  They were constantly yelling, and you were always having to stop and do push-ups for some reason or another.

There were no days off from the beatings, either.  Every morning we were awoken far too early, given far too little time to pull ourselves together, and then shouted at until it was time to lay down again.  Even then, we’d have to take shifts cleaning the barracks all night for something called “fire guard,” which, by the way had precisely nothing to do with fires.

After not getting enough sleep, we all had to get up at 5:00 in the morning to conduct Physical Training (PT).  PT was a combination of running, push-ups, and other strange exercises that made muscles in my body ache so intensely I couldn’t help but wonder what evil scientist came up with the program.

Outside of all the exercise, there were a lot of classes during the red phase.  First aid, self-defense, and recognizing rank were all among the lessons we were given during the first two weeks of training.  It was often difficult to concentrate during these classes, however, because I was so exhausted.  It certainly didn’t help that the drill sergeants deliberately kept the heat in the classrooms on high.

That was a typical day in the red phase.  Get up, PT, shower, march to your meal, march to a class, repeat.  Hurry up.  Stand in line.  Have a seat.  Get up.  March.  Do push-ups for not marching in a straight enough line.  It was honestly the most structure I had ever known.  The army was already helping me get my life in order by not letting me oversee myself.

Unfortunately, my friend Hudson was moved to another unit for arguing with a drill sergeant.  It was a stupid thing to do, but I suppose I understand why he did it.  The drill sergeant was just being an idiot that day.  I think ninety percent of all people in that situation would have chosen to comply, but Hudson for whatever reason refused.

The drill sergeant even sat the unit down to talk to us about what happened.  He told us never to do that.  We were supposed to comply.  There was a reason for every order they gave.  If I told you to blah blah blah in the blah blah blah, then you damn well better blah blah the blah blah blah.  I felt the drill sergeant lost a little bit of cred with me when he acted like there would be others who would try and test him, especially since I could have sworn he was looking at me half of the time.  I already respected the drill sergeants.  I did not need a refresher.  Unlike my buddy Hudson, I would be homeless if I made anybody mad and got kicked out.  They didn’t need to worry about me being anything but fluid and compliant.

*****

In the beginning, I was hopeless.  I couldn’t do a dozen push-ups or sit-ups, nor could I run a mile.  My run was pathetic.  I couldn’t run for more than a few minutes at a time, if you could call my wonky shuffle running at all.  This was a little sad considering how active I had always been in high school.

After two weeks of the red phase, however, I had begun to be able to keep up.  The exercises still hurt, but I was able to power through them.  I couldn’t always finish a set of push-ups, but I was doing significantly better, having more than doubled my maximum.  However, my run time was still way too high.  I needed to run a mile in about twelve minutes, but I was finishing at around eighteen.  I knew that I was getting a little faster, but when you’re as big as I was, even that much running around won’t take all the weight off in a couple of weeks.

I tried to step up my game by cutting my rations.  For all three meals, I only allowed myself broiled fish, milk, and two pieces of wheat bread.  The cafeteria often had V8, and since nobody likes that stuff, I would take as many cans as I could get away with.  I didn’t know anything about dieting, but I guessed that these things were probably the healthiest options.

With the white phase fast approaching, I found myself still falling short of the standard.  I was impressed with my own progress, but a practice PT test revealed that I was nowhere near where I needed to be on my run.  I wasn’t sure what else I could do to get faster, so I basically braced myself for having to be recycled.   I made peace with my shortcomings and hoped that I would benefit from another two weeks of the red phase.

I knew I would pass on my second attempt.  I was beginning to understand how basic training worked, so even though it would be unpleasant to start over, I would be armed with a small advantage knowing what was ahead.  For a guy who knew he was going to fail, I certainly was optimistic.

*****

The day of the PT test came, and the results were as expected.  I was able to get a little more than the minimum required number of push-ups, but I was still short on my sit-ups and just plain bad at my run.  I had finished at seventeen minutes, a full one-minute improvement in only a few days, but there still needed to be a great deal of progress before I was able to move on.

Immediately after failing the test, I was taken to a room with a few other soldiers where the drill sergeants said we would be wait to be recycled.  We spent an afternoon sitting around trying to cheer ourselves up, only to be told in the end to go back to our units.  No explanation was given.

I didn’t like this move.  I had failed, and I wanted to be out.  This didn’t exactly seem like an army decision.  This seemed like somebody just said, “screw it.”  I didn’t want anybody saying “screw it” at crucial points of my training like this.  It completely went against my understanding of what the army was.

What did this mean for me?  What did this mean for the army?  Would I still make a good soldier having only partially fulfilled a set of standards?  My morale was still high, but my faith in the system had become a little shaken.  What could the army possibly do with an incomplete soldier?

 

3

Shammer!

Despite my failure, I rolled over to the white phase.  I tried to shake off the feeling of defeat and just keep going, but by the third week I was completely wiped out.  I felt as though I was getting a cold or a sinus infection, and I was experiencing sporadic pain in my right knee.  I tried to talk to the drill sergeants about both of my issues.  For my sinus infection, I was sent to what is called ‘sick call,’ where a medic evaluates your condition.  Apparently, my condition was minor, because I was given sinus pills and cough drops and told to suck it up.

As for my knee:  lose more weight and your knees won’t hurt.

I knew the drill sergeants weren’t there to coddle us, but I felt that in both cases I was dealing with something that was not as simple as the people in charge said.  I felt that I needed antibiotics and bed rest.  I did not believe that soldiering on was the solution.

The pain in my knee was also enough to make me wonder if I was going to have problems later.  We had a few soldiers with injuries in our platoon, and it didn’t seem like they were treated with much dignity.  We had a female soldier in particular, Pvt. Walker, who sustained a knee injury in the previous cycle.  A drill sergeant explained to us that she was “shamming” and “crying to go home.”

Walker was a short, thin girl with mousey brown hair and no real defining characteristics.  She was pale, she mumbled when she spoke, and she wore thick-rimmed army-issued glasses that were far too large for her small face.  She looked a mess every day, too.  She looked as though she was trying to get dressed with a broken arm, not a knee injury.

She also looked intensely demoralized.

Walker would go everywhere we went, but she was on crutches and was simply directed to stand on the sidelines and watch us.  She was not made to march in formations, but she was still required to keep up with everyone.  It seemed a little pointless having her along, however, and you could see on her face that she felt the exact same way.

I was able to talk with Walker one day.  I found out that the story was true.  She did injure herself in the previous cycle, and she asked to be discharged.  She figured if she was already getting scuffed up in basic training, there was no point in continuing.  Her explanation seemed perfectly reasonable to me, but at the same time I felt that there was some information left out of the story by somebody.

Who knows?  Maybe she was shamming.  Regardless, did it have to be that this soldier was a coward?  Why was that a necessary part of her narrative?

Before long, my fellow soldiers started using the word on each other as well.  A few dickheads in the unit decided to break off and form a gang who picked on the fat soldiers.  Since there were soldiers fatter than I was, I was normally in the clear.  However, this one skinny guy, Pvt. Klein, called me a shammer at PT one day.  I gave Klein one finger salute as he ran by me on the track, but after the run was over I told him that I work my ass.  He told me I was too slow and that I slow the group down.  He also told me I should have been recycled.

I mean, he wasn’t wrong, but… I dunno… fuck him.

I took it on the chin like I was supposed to, but deep down I wanted to knock that guy’s teeth out.  How could anybody know how hard you are working?  That was my problem with the accusation of shamming.  “Sham” means that something is pretend or fake.  It’s a stupid way of using the word to begin with.

But I digress.

The part that pissed me off about it was that it should have been obvious that not everybody was cut out for military service.  I don’t think you should give a person grief over not making it through what has been specifically designed to filter out people who are not strong enough.  If you know how to do a backflip, you can’t just go around talking trash to anybody who can’t do a backflip.  That’s just poor sportsmanship.

Klein finally shut up on his own accord.  It didn’t surprise me to have a guy like that among us, but it did make me wonder how things would be later in my enlistment.  What happens to the Kleins after training?  What kind of soldiers do they make?  Would I be seeing more people like him?

Cracks were beginning to form on the already fragile ice that was my faith in this plan.  The pain in my knee was something I felt that would need to be addressed at some point, but what if something happened to me like it did to Pvt. Walker?  Would her fate be my fate, to just get dressed every morning and just hobble along with everyone, being randomly dissed by strangers all day?

*****

After another 48 hours of trudging along, the sinus infection was turning into something much worse.  Whatever remedies the sergeants were giving me at the sick bay were not doing a thing.  I was to the point where I was barely sleeping at night despite physically arduous days.  One night I didn’t sleep at all because of all my coughing.  I rose at four in the morning and dragged myself to the bathroom.  What needed to happen before the drill sergeants realized I wasn’t faking?  Did the drill sergeants think that I was a shammer?

A glimpse in the mirror suddenly filled me with hope.

The previous night, another soldier was sent to the hospital for having pinkeye.  This was the one malady that a drill sergeant would not ignore.  Pinkeye is gross, and it spreads quickly, especially in damp, sweaty environments like the one we were in.  I believed that I needed a doctor to look at me, so I had switched that soldier’s pillow with my own once he left.  Unsurprisingly, it worked right away.

I was simultaneously relieved, fascinated, and appalled as I beheld my half-shut eye.  It was gross, but it was what I wanted.  The other soldier had not yet returned from the hospital, so in my mind that meant I would be quarantined until my pinkeye went away.  That’s all I needed: a bed and a couple days’ rest.

The drill sergeant took one look at me, and immediately sent me to go catch a shuttle to the hospital.  When a doctor finally saw me, he ordered me seventy-two hours of bed rest and gave me three different medications.  I had developed an ear, nose, throat, and upper respiratory infection in addition to my pinkeye, which explained all the coughing and the overall feeling like I was dying.

I don’t know what kind of medicine I was given in addition to antibiotics, but I probably slept about sixty out of those seventy-two hours, maybe more.  I awoke on the third day feeling incredible.  I wanted to get out and run around now that my lungs had cleared up and I was rested.  I felt so good, in fact, that I started to believe I could pass the next set of tests that were waiting for me.

However, there was still a bit of guilt over what I had done.  I cheated to be able to see a doctor, but the drill sergeant forced my hand.  This was not the way I wanted to get through, but I didn’t think that ignoring problems was the right way to go.

I didn’t want to be locked in a battle of wits and will with the army.  I know me.  I’ll always put up a fight.  I’m not a guy who suffers injustice.  In my mind, this was an injustice, and, as is my way, I dealt with this injustice with quick thinking.  Again, this was not at all the way I wanted to get through, but these were the same drill sergeants who were pushed me through the red phase in spite of failing my test.

In the end, I made peace with my decision.  Perhaps if I let the sickness go on a little longer, I could have gotten more bed rest.  However, the way the drill sergeants were acting I doubted they would have let me stop at all.  Up until this point, I felt like the drill sergeants knew what they were doing.  Maybe they were right about my knee.  There would come a point where I wouldn’t be doing all this strenuous activity every day.  Maybe it would stop hurting.  However, I was really sick and both the drill sergeants and the medics ignored it.

What else did they ignore in the army?

Severing Ties

I’m not even going to try and preface this letter with a great deal of context.  It’s to my aunt in response to an email about money refunded to my deceased mother.

For those of you who know what has been going on, you will understand.  For the rest of you, it’s still pretty self-explanatory.

 

Aunt *****,

I don’t know what to say about stuff like the water bill check.  It doesn’t really seem worth the effort to cut me a check for $11 and mail it over, if I am being perfectly honest.  I know you’re trying to be fair and impartial, but I’ve needed this to be over for a long time, and things like this only dredge up issues that renew sour feelings.  I want no further involvement in the estate in anything under $1,000.  My brother thinks it’s all his, anyways.  Let him have it.  I’m serious.

And I really don’t need an arbiter in our quarrel, either.  He is trash, and he will always be trash in my eyes.  He keeps doubling down on being a terrible human being, and he is well past the age where anyone can say it’s just a phase.

That being said, I am going to take steps to un-involve you with my own affairs.  All due respect, but my supposed family has not done very much to try and claim me or keep me around, so I think a clean break is best for all involved.  I have an uncle who hates everyone, another uncle who isn’t even remotely curious as to what my voice sounds like, and a flock of uptight crackers in South Carolina who routinely try to sue each other over property lines.  Repeated attempts at being involved and maintaining relationships only serve to further emphasize what a screwed-up life I’ve had.  The whole point of me moving out here was to make my own way, and I will never be able to do that if I keep hanging on to the remnants of a family who never seemed to want me in the first place.

And I want you to know that I’ve thought about this a lot.  This isn’t a drunken email or a random emotional outburst.  It hurts every single time I think about my family.  It’s easy to redeem a person who is deceased if you’re not the one who was constantly hurt by them, and I’m well past the point of sanctifying and applying sainthood to my mother.  I know she was your sister, but you have no idea what it was like to be an unwanted son.  You could never know.  Just observe Shawn’s attitude towards me, and the indoctrination he went through that still dictates that he should treat “the other” like garbage.

Again, all due respect, but these correspondences do little other than remind me that I will never have a family, and if I do, it will be purely one I create on my own.

So I am going to take steps to redirect my mail from your house.  These emails are becoming more and more forced, and I’m running out of ways to mask my own disappointment with everything.

I thank you for all that you did during what was arguably the hardest stretch of time I have ever endured (and I have had plenty).  However, you could have tried much harder than you did.  I literally don’t know anybody else who is so hopelessly estranged from their entire family the way I am.  It’s made worse by how hard I tried over the years to stay in touch with you all, with those efforts largely thwarted by my own mother.  If this sounds like bitterness, then understand that me walking away is my Hail Mary.  I have tried for years to shed these feelings, and this is the only thing I can come up with now.

This isn’t a middle finger or a “screw you.”  This is me shaking my head sadly and telling you that I want this to be over.  This former life keeps clinging to me, and shedding it will be the final step in me finally becoming who I was meant to be:  a person who loves, a person who helps others, and a person who actually smiles (and not just when he is under the influence).

I’ll let you know how it is going.  I apologize in advance if the changes do not immediately take effect.

Pete

 

Honestly, I think I’ve taken a pretty big step in getting on with my life today.  I feel strangely liberated after doing this.  I am completely unable to justify any further contact with anyone who is a drain on me.

And yes, this forced back-and-forth with my mother’s sister has been just that.  Though she is not prone to emotional outbursts like my mom, she has the same familial sabotage streak in her.

I’m just over it, people.  It’s time to do my own thing.

That being said, it’s business as usual.  I will be making some new posts soon.

 

 

Latte? Americano?

I went to the 7-11 this morning for some laundry soap and paper towels.  There’s a girl there that has always been flirty with me, but I don’t really mind.  The alternative is that everyone glares at you, so you kinda pick and choose your battles.  I already went through my glaring phase with these people when I asked a woman if she was putting sugar in my coffee, and to say that it’s ‘uncomfortable’ would not at all do justice to the concerted coldness that Thai people can show.

I haven’t been drinking their coffee lately, however.  A few weeks ago, I got an alarming blood pressure reading, so I immediately took steps to remedy the situation by cutting out espresso.  That’s what they serve at 7-11:  straight espresso.  Thai people work all the time, and they are perpetually tired.  What they call coffee is often far higher octane than what we are used to.

So, this nice flirty girl used to ask how many coffees I want when I would visit.  I would normally grab two lattes, especially when I was writing all day.  It was a daily thing, and it was actually something I enjoyed doing because I thought it made the population a little more at ease with the big white dude who seems to be rich but dresses like he’s a pauper.

Last week, she asked me if I wanted my usual, but I explained to her that my blood pressure was high and that I had to stop drinking coffee.  I used broken Thai and hand gestures spliced with simple English, and she seemed to understand.  I still thanked her and smiled, because I know saying “no” to a Thai person is the absolute worst thing in the world.

Today she did the same thing, but I just wanted to get in and out today so I pretended to not hear.  When I got to the counter, she asked again if I wanted coffee, and I did the same thing:  I made the gestures, I used my broken Thai, and I indicated that I couldn’t drink coffee because of my blood pressure.  Even the young man at the counter could immediately tell what I was saying, as he actually told me he hopes I feel better after our transaction.

But she pushed the issue.  What about green tea?  What about pink milk?  We have other things!

What about you shut the fuck up and let me go home?

Thai people never know when they’re taking too much.  They never know when they’re being rude.  They know nothing of social cues or what makes us uncomfortable.  Why should they care?  It’s their country.  We want to live there, so we have to do everything their way.

I am ok with this in theory.  It has been a great lesson in observation and social empathy.  I never really possessed the latter until repeatedly making mistakes over here.  However, it’s how they don’t budge that has now been one of the major factors that has me sick of this place.  They get bored, they get too excited, or, worse yet, they like to demonstrate their control over you.  They love reminding you that you are stuck doing things their way.  I’ve never seen such puerile overcompensation before in my life.

So, I can’t really tell what kind of game this gal is playing with me, but I know that I’m tired of it. I’ve tried to have interactions with these people, but every time I don’t read their mind and do it precisely their way, they get pissed off and try to influence everyone’s opinion about me.  It gets old.

I think I’ll just wait and catch a cab to Paseo next time.  I’m starting to prefer their cold indifference to foreigners.

9

Camp Shelby

Early Fall, 2005

Finally, some good news came.  My doctor managed to make an appointment for me to go and get an MRI in late September.  This was another hard-fought victory, and a solid piece of news that once again helped to boost my morale and repair my faith in the system ever-so-slightly.

I was also still on an emotional high since my visit to JAG.  For the first time, I felt that I had a measure of protection from the people who wanted to simply smack me down.  I wasn’t sure if the lawyer really did want to follow up on the other things that went on with the unit, but at least I finally had somebody represent me.  That alone helped to snap me out of my angry rut and compel me to keep being a decent guy.

But then Hurricane Katrina hit, and that unruly bitch wrecked up my plans almost as much as she wrecked up our coast.

*****

Maj. Dwyer informed us that the 40th PAD would be going to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where we would be responsible for sending out press releases and covering the hurricane relief efforts.  It was another TDY that had no definite end date, which meant that if I had to go, I would have to cancel my MRI appointment.  I begged Maj. Dwyer to simply leave me out of it, but she said it was out of the question.  I told her that if she did this, there was a chance that I would not be able to get an MRI again for months, and maybe even not at all if we kept hopping up and going to different installations like we were.

Maj. Dwyer was not moved.

Not only did Maj. Dwyer volunteer our unit for their third TDY in year, but she also saw this as an excellent opportunity to duck out and attend an officer’s school herself.  Not only did she make me cancel an appointment I had waited half a year to get, but she also left me to fend for myself with two people who were going to do whatever they could to prevent my medical discharge.  This wasn’t about me being essential to the mission.  This was about her not having to bother with the situation.  This was a cheap trick to run away from the problem and deal with it later.

How could I see this as anything but a betrayal?

****

Somehow, I ended up with driving duties in one of the two vans when we were heading out to Camp Shelby.  Those who know me know that I love to play DJ, so I focused on playing all of my most abrasive albums (especially the Sex Pistols, who I knew she hated).  I was going to try and get a rise out of SSG McDonald in any way I could.  I knew she would be on edge from having to separate from her daughter, so my plan was to show Maj. Dwyer and the rest of the army how crazy this woman was.

About halfway through our trip, we started to encounter swarms of flying insects that are known as ‘lovebugs’ where I am from.  They have a horrible tendency of splattering and smearing on a windshield, and are quite difficult to remove without some intense scrubbing once their guts dry.  When we made a stop for fuel, I discovered that was a special formula of windshield cleaner for these bugs, so I bought a couple of bottles to clean our vehicles.

While I was pumping gas, SSG McDonald began spraying the windshield of the van furiously with the windshield cleaner.  The wind was rather strong that afternoon, so while she was spraying, the wind blew some into my eyes.  I involuntarily blurted out something like “Ow” or maybe “Ahhh,” something monosyllabic and not quite a word.  SSG McDonald completely freaked out.  She stormed over to me and got directly in my face.

“What the fuck did you say?” she demanded.

My instincts flared up.  I thought we were about to fight.  She was my height, she was my build, and she had her shoulders squared.  As calmly as I could, I drew in my breath and gritted my teeth.

“You got bug spray in my eye, sergeant, and I said ouch.”

She glared at me long and hard.  I could see a nervous twitch in her eye, and I was beginning to wonder if she was going to take a swing at me.

“Don’t you say another fucking word to me,” she growled.

“Roger that, sergeant,” I said, holding eye contact until she broke it off.

*****

Randell was riding shotgun in our van, with Camp being the only other person willing to ride along.  Camp was still my friend, but he was never going to do anything that went against the structure of the army.  As such, I really couldn’t count on him to do anything other than what he was currently doing, which was silently supporting me by sticking close by.

I always appreciated his professionalism, by the way, and I still do.

But Randell hated SSG McDonald, so he played along with my plan to drive her crazy.  He even put on the Sex Pistols a second time, and I could see that he was trying his best not to smile as he did it.  We began to chat as if nothing was wrong, and it felt nice to get away with acting like a couple of bratty kids.

However, I felt that it was a pity that everything had gotten so ugly in our unit, because I truly believed that we all could have been friends if things were different.  That’s the main reason I try not to hold a grudge, by the way.  The army makes jerks out of even the nicest, most timid individuals at times.

*****

Camp Shelby was not at all like any of the other military installations I had visited.  It was a lot smaller, had almost no places to buy anything, and on top of everything else, there were places where the electricity had not yet been restored.  In fact, the main command tent outside of the headquarters building was powered entirely by generators.  The installation had been hit hard by the storms, as evidenced by the fallen trees that had not yet been cleared out and the huge puddles of water that had not yet dried.

Even worse, the barracks were set up like a shitty summer camp.  They were open-bay just like in basic training, except they had no toilets or showers.  The bathroom was a good fifty-yard hike away, which, in my mind, made the whole scene the ultimate shitshow.  No electricity, nowhere to get any food, and showers so far away from where you slept that by the time you made it to your bed, you’d be sweating all over again.

And that wasn’t all.  The barracks were cooled by two wall units.  This was fine, in theory, if you chose a bed close enough to feel it, but even then, you’d have to wait several hours for the concrete and steel enclosure to cool from the extreme heat and humidity that still lingered.  This was one of those situations where I just had to laugh at how perfectly crappy everything was.

*****

As it turned out, we were the lowest-ranking soldiers on assignment by a long shot.  The whole camp was occupied by senior-ranking NCOs and officers.  This added an extra bit of tension in the beginning, as we expected everyone to have very stern demands of us little people.

However, the vibe of the place was far more relaxed than any of us would have expected.  Nobody was particularly stressed or uptight like I thought they would be.  Colonels would insist that you called them by their first name, and a master sergeant might even ask you to take a ride with them into town to find food.

Of course, the only person who was unable to relax was SSG McDonald.  If she wasn’t dressing me down for some random nonsense, she was barking at Cohen for appearing too happy.  Struck seemed to be having a great time, however, skipping around and name-dropping to any who would listen.

But none of that was important to me.  I needed to somehow break away from the PAD and bend the right ear.  I still had thirteen days before my appointment, so I had not yet abandoned the idea that I might be able to leave early.

Somehow, however, SSG McDonald knew this.  Perhaps she didn’t know what my exact intentions were, but for the first few days she did her best not to let me out of her sight.  When we got to our office one morning, I saw that the trash cans and recycle bins were full, so I started grabbing bags and asking around where to dispose of everything.  SSG McDonald demanded that I stop and go sit in the office, but an officer praised my attempt to stay busy and asked that I continue.

In truth, I did want something to do.  Not only was I being denied a crucial doctor appointment, but I was being forced to sit in the corner like a kid in time-out.  It was some of the most perfectly orchestrated meanness I had seen since I joined the army.  I truly had no function there.  She was going to make me sit and watch the days go by leading up to my appointment.

But what was guiding this woman to be this way?  What could she possibly be getting from waking up angry with me and carrying that chip on her shoulder all day?  We actually had some good luck with an informal TDY this time, and she was the only one who couldn’t chill out.

Of course, I didn’t need her to chill out.  I needed her to get even more angry at me.  I needed her to lose her cool in front of these nice people.  Screw the doctor appointment.  I wanted to embarrass this woman.  Judging by how she had been acting for the first few days, it looked like I already had the upper hand.  All I needed to do was keep pissing her off, and she would definitely crack.

 

10 

Graveyard Shift

 

It came up in conversation after a few days that there was a soldier needed to check for press releases overnight.  This soldier may also have to write speeches for any officer who might have to address the media.  This sounded like the perfect way to distance myself from everyone, so I volunteered.  SSG McDonald once again protested, but no other soldier wanted to take an overnight shift.  I won by default, but once again my bad luck reared its ugly head.

On the fourth or fifth day, we were introduced to an air force captain and a subordinate of his.  I don’t know he was an actual public affairs officer, but I know that he loved the sound of his own voice almost as much as he loved smooching army butt cheeks.  His name was Morgan Ottman, and you’re damn right he loved working it into conversation:

“Good afternoon, this is Captain Morgan Ottman.  Ha ha.  Yes, sir.  Ha ha. No, sir, they didn’t name it after me.  Ha ha ha.  I wish, sir.  Dur-hur-hur-hur-hur.”

What a moron.

And I’m not just being a jerk here.  There’s no way for any of you to know this if you’ve never been in the military, but when you’re on the phone like this, you generally don’t give your first name.  You give your rank and your last name only.  He knew that.  He just thought he was being cute.  I hate people that have to do these dumb little tricks to try and superficially warm up to a stranger.  Insecurity breeds all kinds of absurd behaviors like this.

It can also lead to some extremely unfair treatment.

*****

Later that same day, I managed to hear a conversation between SSG McDonald and Capt. Ottman.  I couldn’t hear any of the particulars, but I did hear my name and judging by the tone of her voice, it was not a happy conversation.

Wow.  She wasn’t wasting any time, was she?

“Don’t worry.  I’ll keep him under control.”  Capt. Ottman said.  I quickly walked down the hallway, down the stairs, and out of building.

My hands were shaking as I stormed out of the building, fumbling for my cigarettes.  I just couldn’t seem to catch a break.  It was hard to know exactly what Capt. Ottman meant when he said he’d keep me “under control.”  What had SSG. McDonald told him?  Did he take it at face value, or did he think he was going to be a hero?  It was hard to get a read on him, because honestly he seemed like a little nerd who didn’t know what was going on.

However, I doubted that he was simply going to try and abuse me.  There were too many people around, and let’s not forget this was an army mission.  He knew he was outnumbered.  I reasoned with myself he wasn’t going to do anything stupid.

After all, the aftermath of our country’s largest natural disaster in a hundred years was just outside of our building.  That should take precedence over our quarrels with one another, right?

RIGHT!?!?!

*****

One morning, I heard a few officers bellyaching about there being no coffee in the building.  I was bored, so I grabbed the local phonebook and called a Starbucks.  I wasn’t even prepared to talk to anyone, so when they picked up, I awkwardly asked if they had coffee.  The woman on the other end laughed.  I told her that I was at Camp Shelby, and that we had two dozen soldiers who could really use some caffeine if they were serving.  There was a pause, and then the woman on the other end told me to come out and pick some up.  She said they had plenty of coffee and they were more than happy to provide some for us.  Armed with an excuse to grab a vehicle, I departed quickly and quietly.

The response was beyond what I expected.  Starbucks had three of their five-gallon jugs ready to go when I arrived.  They didn’t even ask for any money.  It was a donation for the poor souls who had to sit out in that miserable situation.

That was a classy move, Starbucks.

I was absolutely thrilled while I was driving back to the installation.  Here was another one of those situations where the screw-up managed to get something right.  I was intensely proud of myself.  For the duration of my brief military service, I always struggled to find some sort of use.  Today, I had found one.  Yesterday and tomorrow could suck it, because I was the coffee guy today.

When I arrived back at Camp Shelby, who did I see but the big man himself:  Lieutenant General Bartholomew Gundersson.   I just happened to pull up right as the general’s Humvee was arriving.  His aide noticed me struggling with the three bulky containers of coffee, so he came over and helped me out.

I briefly explained the coffee donation to the general’s aide.  He nodded, impressed, told me to go offer the general a cup.  I almost peed my pants.

“Big Bad Bart,” as he was known in many circles, was a man’s man; even a non-soldier like me could recognize that.  He stood three or four inches taller than me, easily, and though he was well into his fifties, he was lean, muscular, and spoke with a booming voice that simply compelled you to do what he said.  He had served numerous tours overseas, and now he had been tapped to come and oversee the relief efforts.  The country had a great deal of confidence in this man, especially the locals, as Gundersson was a native of New Orleans.

I cautiously approached the general.  He was sitting on a bench, chomping on a cigar with his back to me, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to do or say.  He had brought his own coffee mug, which had just a little bit left over in the bottom.  My plan was to quickly pour it out and refill the mug, then say his name and hand it over.  I would then be given the Medal of Honor and then the big man himself would personally sign my discharge papers.

That’s how it went in my head, anyways…

But that’s not what happened.  What happened instead was that Capt. Ottman swooped out of nowhere and jerked the container from my hand.  He circled around the bench and offered to refill the general’s coffee mug.

I was too shocked by this childish, sycophantic act to do anything but walk away.

*****

Unfortunately, the day of my doctor appointment came and went.  I was particularly morose on that day, so I decided to get up and take a look around the building.  I waited until Capt. Ottman was out of the office, and I quickly busied myself emptying the garbage cans and recycle bins.  Capt. Ottman came back and saw what I was doing, and to my surprise he simply nodded.  Granted, he did make a remark about the task being perfect for me, but I didn’t care.  At least I wasn’t sitting around listening to him call himself ‘Captain Morgan’ all night.

From that point on, I opened every shift by taking out the trash and the recycling.  The officers seemed impressed that a soldier did not consider himself to be above this kind of work.  A little at a time, they began to chat with me.  I met an IT guy who was into heavy metal, I met a medic who let me bum cigarettes, and I met an extremely nice lady who was a chaplain.  These positive interactions would help me to brace for around 2 or 3 in the morning, when I would have to return to the office to scan the Associated Press for articles.

The first few nights of my new routine went smoothly, but there was a major problem:  I had begun to experience serious insomnia.  The barracks were so hot during the day that I often would only fall asleep for an hour at a time.  Not only that, but after my doctor appointment passed, I found myself so angry with everything that I could never seem to make my brain shut off.  No matter how tired I was or how close I positioned myself to the air conditioners, I could not get more than two or three cumulative hours of sleep.

I had finally managed to fall into a deep sleep on the third day, but as luck would have it, I was awoken an hour later by Claire.  Foggy and absolutely certain she wasn’t traipsing around the men’s barracks, I demanded to know why she was bothering me.  I thought I heard her say something about a camera, but I rolled over told her to go away.  Claire said that she wasn’t leaving until I came back to the office with her.  Furious, I gave her an earful as I struggled to put my uniform back on and pull myself together.  I tried to convince her to go on ahead, but she refused.  She stood there, smirking, as I stumbled to dress myself.

When I arrived at the office, I was stopped by a marine colonel.  He looked me up and down and insisted on knowing what I was doing.  I told him I was probably in trouble, and that I needed to go see my sergeant.  He shook his head and said that I needed to come with him.

The colonel took me to a room and sat me down.  When I asked what was going on, he said I looked dehydrated and about to pass out.  I admitted I hadn’t slept for a few days.

“Yep.  I knew something was off,” he said.  He wagged a finger at me and told me to stay put.  After he left, however, I got up to confront SSG McDonald.  The sooner we got this over, the sooner I could go back to bed.

As I walked into the room, I noticed both Claire and Struck looking rather smugly at me, like a couple of younger siblings who just ratted on me to mom.  Cohen looked away conspicuously, pretending to be reading.  God, what a bunch of dicks.  Camp and Randell were in the corner looking sympathetic, but I tried not to look at them.  I was sure that not hating me would have some kind of repercussions.  SSG McDonald, who was breathing heavily through clenched teeth, stood amongst them like a hulking mass of pure rage.

“Is this your camera?” she asked impatiently.  She was lifted up one of our camera bags and held it out, as if that was going to give me any clue as to what was going on.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”  I blurted.

The room became quiet.  SSG McDonald’s eyes popped wide open and her face began to turn red.  She looked like an angry zombie.

“McCollum,” she said with that kind of calm that precludes screaming, “is… this… your… cam-er-a.”

Too tired to care about the consequences, I let her have it.

“You have everybody in the fucking unit but me here, and you can’t figure out whose fucking camera this is?  Did you really wake me up for this shit?”  I looked over at Claire and pointed.  “Furthermore, sergeant, why the fuck are you sending a female soldier to the men’s barracks?”

Claire stopped smirking, but Struck did not.  He crossed his arms and smiled arrogantly, glancing over to SSG McDonald as if to say “sic ‘em.”  Camp very quickly walked out of the room.  SSG McDonald shook her head in disbelief.

Right then, the marine colonel entered the room.  “Soldier, come with me,” he said, clearly annoyed that I didn’t follow his directive the first time.  He and took me by the arm, walked me to the door, and told me to go back to the other room and not to move until I drank the entire bottle of water that was sitting on the chair.

As I sat entered the room, I noticed that the chaplain I had been getting to know was seated in the room.  She looked concerned.  As I gulped down the water that was left for me, the chaplain asked why she heard shouting coming from the other room.  I assured her it was all a misunderstanding, so she nodded and left it alone.  The look on her face told me that she didn’t believe me, but I think she was still trying to process everything before asking me any other questions.

From the other room, I heard the medic’s calm voice, but I could not hear exactly what he was saying.  I did, however, hear SSG McDonald’s voice very clearly, informing him that it did not concern him.  I couldn’t believe she said something like that to a person who so greatly outranked her.

I didn’t hear the conversation that followed.  All I heard was his calm voice and her harsh voice going back and forth.  I wished that he would write SSG McDonald up for insubordination, though I doubted anything like that was going to happen.  The chaplain heard what was going on as well, and she once again asked if there was anything I needed to talk about.  I motioned to the other room with my head and shrugged, as if to say that pretty much sums it up.

The colonel came back to the room a few minutes later and asked about why I hadn’t been sleeping.  I told him that the barracks did not get cool enough.  He said he would send somebody to fix it right away.  In the interim, he had me sit and drink another bottle of water while he questioned me about what was going on with my unit.  I knew that I could have gone into detail, but I chose to refrain.  I simply told him that a few of us didn’t get along.

The colonel could tell I was deliberately holding back information.  He told me to talk to the chaplain if I had any more trouble, and I agreed to that.  If I had an inkling that he could help the situation, I would have been a little more open.  However, SSG McDonald had seemingly just gotten away with telling him to mind his own business, so I decided just to let it lie.

I did get a little bit of justice, however.  The colonel ordered that I take three days of bed rest.  As it turned out, he was a medic, so he drew up the temporary profile himself.  He even gave me three Valium to make sure I stayed down.  After we were finished, I went back to talk to the chaplain for a while.

We didn’t talk about what was going on in the unit.  Instead, we talked about religion.  I needed to talk to somebody who wasn’t in the PAD, and I needed to talk about something that wasn’t related to the military or the task at hand.  The chaplain was an extremely motherly African American woman, and she had such a presence about her that I couldn’t help but let my guard down.  Truth be told, I wanted to cry on her shoulder.  That’s what kind of peaceful presence she had.

I’m sure she would have let me, too.

*****

The colonel had made good on his promise to cool the barracks down.  I don’t know how he managed to do it, but that evening when I got back to the barracks, it was actually cool in spite of the humidity that still lingered.  Showered and as free from sweat as I could make myself, I remembered the Valium.  I popped two of them, and I ended up sleeping for well over twelve hours.

After my first real sleep since I arrived, I got Randell to sneak me the keys to one of the vans.  I took the remaining Valium, then I searched around outside of the base for any businesses that may have been open.  I managed to secure a pizza from a Little Caesar’s, I picked up a pack of Parliament Menthol Lights from a gas station, and I also grabbed a few donuts from a local shop.  I returned to the barracks to enjoy my rest, my snacks, and my Valium buzz.  It was a well-fought and well-earned reprieve.

On the final night of my mandatory rest, I called Maj. Dwyer and told her everything that had happened (minus the Valium).  She didn’t have much to say on the matter.  She simply sighed and changed the subject.

Why did I call her?  Because we were close at one time.  I used to trust her.  I used to try my best to be a good soldier because of her.  I wanted to hear that she had a reason for it doing what she did.  Lie to me, I don’t care.  Just please tell me that you didn’t leave because you didn’t know how to handle the situation.

Out of nowhere, a kitten walked up and rubbed on my leg.  I had no idea where it came from, but it was nice to see something other than a human during this stressful time.  I sat down on the ground to pet it, still talking with Maj. Dwyer.

We talked about cats.  We talked about life.   She talked about trying to get back into the dating game.  I talked about what I would like to do after the army.  For a few hours, it was just two humans talking on the phone.  It was like the Christmas cease-fire during World War I.

I hung up the phone, somewhat relieved, but not exactly satisfied with how the conversation had gone.  I knew now that Maj. Dwyer was not going to be able to help me in any way.  I was just going to have to figure this out on my own somehow.

But that was tomorrow.  Tomorrow I would be back in the trenches, but tonight I was going to stare at the stars with this random kitty.  I put the tiny creature on my chest and laid back on the soft grass.

 

 

Obligatory Year-End Post

Alright, dearies, 2018 is coming to a close, and I feel the need to scratch out some kind of send-off, as I am feeling particularly grateful (albeit exhausted) from all that has transpired this year.

 “Of course, you’re grateful, Iron Paul.  You’ve got an inheritance.”

#1 – Screw you.  Everybody died.  That’s how I got this money.  I lost all four grandparents and both of my parents, along with my favorite aunt who was violently killed by a drunk driver… all before I turned 40.  They will never see my beautiful half-Asian babies.  They will never get to see how high I soar.

I also lost a few family members to greed, so again I say screw you.

#2 – I spent half of the money on my wedding, taking care of my wife, fixing up our marital home, taking care of friends, and tithing.  So again, screw you.

#3 – Maybe try being happy for a person who has a change in their luck, especially when you know how tough this particular person has had it, asshole.

#4 – Try to imagine yourself in my position.  Try to imagine people you really love completely flipping their script as a result of your change of fortune.  Try to imagine all the mooching and the pandering I’ve had to endure.  You know I have a hard time turning people away, so the disappointment has been pretty devastating.  It ain’t fun.

 

But now that I’ve gotten that business out of the way, let’s look back at 2018 and see all the wackiness that has taken place:

  • Sasi and I tried our hand at a few business ventures. Nothing really panned out, but it was fun getting out there and learning new things.  Actually, I can’t say that nothing has panned out, because I do get random work from the universities in the area.  My name is finally out there, so I’m hoping for a few Spring semester papers to wind up on my desk soon.  I have a shiny new red pen filled with the blood of a dire wolf and the tears of my IEP students.  Bring it.
  • I lost a bit in the stock market trying to figure out how to day trade. No regrets, however, because, again, I learned something new.  Plus, if anybody ever buys out Neovasc, your buddy is going to end up with a very nice return.  It is entirely possible.
  • I started reading more. Actually, I started a dozen books and finished maybe two or three.  Still, it counts.  And if you factor in all the tiny snippets I read day in and day out, then I’m sure that adds up to a couple of full-length books.  Regardless, I’ve enjoyed learning new things from all the reading as well (especially my in-depth study of the Torah).
  • I’ve learned a lot about marriage during our first year. Lots of laughter, lots of tears, lots of compromise, lots of late nights racking my brain trying to figure out how to do things better.  Wouldn’t change a thing.
  • Restarted my writing project, with some rather incredible results. Looking forward to getting this thing off my desk and out there in circulation.
  • Reconnected with some family! It has been wonderful catching up with Cousin Kayla and Sista Sherri… ummm… Sister Sherry (couldn’t resist the old school WCW reference).

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses, however.  I’ve had to cut quite a few people out as a result of the mounting hysteria over He Who Apparently Must Not Be Named.  I’m truly disappointed in many of the people I have had with me on this journey.  Stuff just started getting good, and some of you people just lost your damn minds.  Now you are no longer welcome to share the road with me until you figure out how to apologize.

And, no, this time I’m not apologizing first just to help you save face.  I said precisely what I meant.  Try focusing on the people you love, and you may come to discover that who our Commander-in-Chief is should have very little bearing on what is truly important in this life.

We also had a couple of health scares.  Sasi and I are both on the mend, thanks to some rather persistent efforts to figure out what constitutes a proper diet and exercise program.  At least we figured it out.  I’ve got a doctor appointment in a couple of days about my back, and while I am a little nervous, there is a feeling of relief knowing that I have access to some great healthcare.  Furthermore, at least I will finally find out if it is just a bulging disc or a pinched nerve.  Operating without a diagnosis has made it a little harder to figure out the right exercises for the injury.

I did spend quite a bit of time lost.  We’re out here in the suburbs, so finding a job for me that fits our situation has not panned out at all.  Of course, what came of it was a very patient wife insisting that I stay home and finish writing my book, so I can’t quite chalk it up as all negative.

I also spent quite a bit of time in a bit of an emotional rut.  I may have not gotten along with most of the people in my family, but only when they die do you lose your opportunity to see eye to eye (cue Mike and the Mechanics).  It kinda messed with me that I never really got that opportunity.  I did get to talk to Grandpa Pete and Grandma Joanie a few times before they passed.  I also was in constant contact with Aunt Lynn, so I’ve had to remind myself that some people were rooting for me all along.  However, it’s how things ended with both of my parents that has been messing with me.  I did all I could to honor and respect them.  I have needlessly blamed myself for how a lot of things turned out, and now I just need to pick myself up and carry on.  In then end, my mother did take care of her firstborn, and in a way I would have never imagined.  I miss you, Mama, and I love you so much.  Shine a light on me and let me know you got the message.

 

As for 2019, you know I’m not big on resolutions, but this year I’m making an exception.  As the great poet Muscle Man once said:  “It’s hard to make a New Year’s resolution when you’re always bringing your a-game,” and that’s basically how I see it.  However, there is always room for improvement, so it is my aim to do the following:

– Exercise more.

– Eat better.

– Read more (and not just my random, 1 a.m. fact checking on how old Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are).

– Try harder at the things I attempt (and not give up so easily).

– Love my fellow man and try my best to forgive acts and deeds that are borne of fear and frustration.

That’s a full enough list, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m already hard at work on all of them.  Stay tuned, dearies, because we’ve only just now reached the cool part of the book.

With that all out of the way, I want to thank the following people for sharing the road with me this year:

Drew and Todd – I had to put you two at the top of the list for reading so much of my gibberish.  I don’t care if I end up with a billion readers.  The two of you remain OGs.

Nicole – Where would I be without my bitchy, more than slightly intimidating big sis?  I love your grouchy ass more than you realize, girl.  I’ll let you know when we get a Taco Bell.  Can’t have you starving when you’re out here.

Erin – You may as well be another sister.  I’ve enjoyed our long talks.  You have so much to offer this world.  Still got them Spellfire cards?

Josh B. – Another grouchy oldster, but a great dude.  I appreciate all the encouragement, especially since I know I drove you nuts back in the day.  You’ve damn near morphed into my big bro by this point.

Vo – There’s a lot more to you than I realized.  Now maybe you will realize it as well and start smiling a little more.  Don’t give ‘em too much, though.  Always keep ‘em guessing.  Also, if you find any weird Kit-Kats, you know I’m game.

Risner – Man, you’ve had absolutely no reason to stick with me, but you’ve done it all the same.  You’ve also played a MAJOR role in this book, and I will not forget that.

Pammy Terkins – We love the crap out of you, girl.  Keep the faith.  And if you ever need a vacation, we’ve got you covered.

Holly – Thank you.  You know why.  The invitation stands.

Brother Chang – Next year, brother.  Just you wait.  A new era awaits us.

Pearson – I think I bitch at you more than any of my friends.  It’s because I probably love you the most and wish the world would stand by and let you do your thing.  Don’t ever start taking me seriously.  It’s the secret to a long-term friendship with me (though I suspect you already knew that).

Matthew – We don’t talk very often, but until you tell me otherwise, we’re still friends.  My opinion of you remains slightly above average, and I dislike you less than almost everybody.  You are one of the few people who I do not actively root against.

Shivers – Buddy, buddy, buddy… how much can things change for two OGs like us?  Following your story has inspired me and really made me so much less cynical about life.  Looking forward to scotch, cigars, and bad golf once we find a nice break in all the action.  Stay safe, keep bumping SOAD, and give Craiggers a good ear-scratch for me.

Groves – You are one of my favorite people on this planet.  We shall meet again.  Just lemme get this paper first.  We’ll do another batch of brownies, then you can teach me how to play Texas Hold ‘Em.

Dr. Jamison – How much can one professor influence and inspire one student?  I’m at a loss, really, because you of all people know just how perpetually stoned and panicked I was during those challenging times.  You embody what it means to be a professor and a mentor, and I wish nothing but the very best for you and your family.  Let’s see what happens with this book in 2019!

Pastor Harvey – I love you guys so freakin much, man.  Looking forward to sitting down with you all and feeling that spirit again one fine day.

Spicy Jeff – I’m not giving up on your ass, so don’t get any ideas.  Real talk, I love you, brother, and I pray for a good year for you.

Aunt Brenda – I love you and I appreciate all you’ve done for my brother and I.  I’m gonna keep sending you sweets at random until you tell me to stop.

Aree – You know I can’t split without giving you a shout.  Love it when we talk.  You’ve got one amazing mind, brother.  Wishing you continued success.  We shall meet again.  Bank on that shit.

Also, lots of love and respect to the following people:

Lisa Amani, Feather, Shawn Sattazahn, Skipper, Robby (mad gropus), Sterling, Tim Bond, Mama Karen, Morgan, Michelle, Big Carl, Porkchop, Judy, all them Kerstens (and Pedro), Laura Slaughter (Sarah Laughter), Kim ‘Bassinger,’ Willum, Mandy, Mark and Denny (save me a spot on that fishing boat), Miss Netta (a true all-star), Noble Travonius (so glad to be back in touch), C.A. (maximum respect), Dr. Morris, Dr. Town, Dr. Torres, and finally Pluem, Nont and Yudai for being my staunch supporters (I hope, hope, hope you remember the smart things I said and not as much of the crazy shit).

I also want to thank my Thai family for being so loving and patient.  I have to admit, I’m not quite used to the kind of tolerance and patience you’ve shown.  I am truly humbled.  Khun Niwat, Khun Yupin, Pii Noi, all my sweet aunties and cool uncles (and the cousin who always feeds us well)… I love you guys and I hope I don’t confuse you half as much as I suspect I do.

Lastly, I need to thank my wonderful, beautiful mermaid wife for being my rock and my inspiration to be a better human being.  I will never find another person like you.  I love you more than words can ever say (and you of all people know how much I talk).

 

That’s all for now, dearies.  Keep your eyes open for one or two freshly edited chapters, and with a bit of luck the winds will stay strong and I can get back into a lot more writing in the coming months.  Also, we’re hoping to have some news for you all very soon… wink, wink.

2018 was a great year.  Looking forward to riding that wave of momentum into 2019.

 

December 26

December 26, 2018

Matthew,

Yesterday I ate a bunch of weed cookies and played video games all day.  My wife got me a fitness tracker watch for Christmas.  It was freakin rad.

Somebody please tell 19-year-old Pete everything is going to turn out OK.  I know how scared that poor fucker must be.

Cordially,
Iron Paul, from Space

November 23

Matthew,

I tell myself every day that these are the “good old days.”  These will be the days my mind returns to as my memory begins to fade.  I will remember only that I loved and that I was loved, and I will find comfort and solace in those memories until I am laid to rest.

Life is not sad.  Life is fucking amazing.

Pete

“Failure to Adapt” progress

As some of you probably know, there has been a wave of things to me to take care of.  I started strong on this project around April of this year, but after smashing out a very rough draft of the second half, I slowly lost my momentum.  What was accomplished, however, was that I had finally constructed a timeline of events.  That was very important because that’s what was preventing anything else from being written.  Not much happened after that, however.

I submitted the draft for editing, with one half being well polished and the other being a literal first draft, but the feedback was a lot more forgiving than I thought it was going to be.  A lot of the second half had come out as cathartic gibberish that had no real direction, so I have to tip my hat to a very patient person reading through.

I’m back to work on it again, and it’s going better than I would have imagined.  I had a very hard time bridging the two halves of the story together, but after fighting with it for five days, I was finally able to put enough in place to have a more complete second half.

The first half needed some minor shoe-horning because of some larger points that I try to make later in the book.  One of the issues with the second half was that I was saying a bunch of things and not substantiating them.  It forced me to dig a little deeper into the memory banks, and I actually spent a few afternoons hand-scrawling any and all ideas that popped into my head until I was finally able to create a cogent timeline of events.  Furthermore, I was able to identify what needs more detail, at least for the next few chapters.

I’m almost to the point where I’m back to editing.  There are two kinds of revisions that I do:  editing and writing new material.  I never go a day without re-reading a previously written or edited portion, but the story is finally coming together well enough that I can veer back into the main story.  I’m also getting to the point where I can zip through a few chapters that only need minor corrections or details included.  Editing is so much easier than writing new stuff.

So for the moment, I’m back at it.  I can’t speculate for how long, but I’m smashing into some new territory and enjoying it very much.

At the Mega Bangna mall, and I have already seen two different people with dogs in strollers.

Sometimes I just say to myself,

“Where the fuck do I live?”

November 10

Matthew,

I am riding in a cab to go out for the day. A few minutes ago, we drove past an alley. For whatever reason, I turned and looked down the alley, and somehow I managed to catch a man pissing by his car. One second later, we drove past a concrete statue of a nude man.

Now, I don’t know why the universe decided to show me two dicks like that, but it’s got me really wary of this day.

I’m going to try to just keep my eyes fixed forward.

Enjoy your day,

Pete