Facebook Lamentations 8:25

Tuesday, 25 August. What fresh hell is this? Somewhere near Starke, Florida we amble about like the undead as we struggle against the heat, inappropriately clad in full duty uniform. Our clothes stay wet and there seems to be no reprieve in sight. I saw a Soldier today who has begun growing moss on his uniform and moves much like a sloth. This must be how sloths are made. It is unsure if our drenched clothing got this way from profuse sweating or from absorbing humidity. I think that it is from the latter since the atmosphere is already saturated in excess of capacity. All I know for sure is that I showered on Saturday and have yet to successfully dry off.

The shower. The horror. It is a broom closet with an exotic dancer’s pole in the center of it with four high-pressure water jets attached.

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Fifty of us share this little chamber of pain. Obviously not at the same time. That would be awkward. The stall can barely accommodate two people, much less fifty or even the intended four unless they were a foot wide at the shoulders. There is a single hole in each shower head/jet that puts enough force behind the water to strip paint or even rust from a battleship. My first experience here was very nearly my last. Reveling in the act of being cleaned, I was caught unawares when the water very nearly pierced one of my boy bits. As it turns out, I am a great soprano. I used the dance pole to pull myself up off the floor and was briefly concerned that people might start throwing dollars at me. What’s worse is that none did. It was just one of those moments that leaves you torn between relief and insult. However, I was entertained when the water jet and a different, now overly sensitive appendage inadvertently recreated the same action that can be seen by strumming those stupid spring type door stops often enjoyed by cats and babies. And me. I love those door stops.

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Ultimately the entertainment value was brief and taught me much regarding the fundamentals required of a world class opera singer.

 

Forever Jung

I’m sorry. This has nothing to do with Carl Jung, I just liked the way it sounded as a title. I know it may have given you the wrong impression, but that is ultimately irrelevant. Focus on the important part. I just may be the next Sigmund Freud, y’all! How does that make you feel? Not the old grumpy looking one. The young Freud with the killer mustache that I would totally wax into handlebars. You have to give it to him. The man did demonstrate a certain je ne sais quoi I’m almost positive derived from his flair for impeccable personal grooming. This is especially true when compared to the lackluster…. whatever that is he did to his head and stache of Jung.

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Here is how I reached this conclusion:

“I swear this heat and humidity sucked the life out of me today,” I lamented to my Queen.

“Ugh,” She replied. She’s quite monosyllabic before that first cup of coffee at 5 p.m. It’s funny how when I go to Korea, she lays about until late afternoon in our home near Savannah, Georgia.

“I had to grind the narcotic beans of a foreign plant, strain water through them, and drink it at lunch it just to survive the day and beat the heat drooziness. Oh what a wretched life,” I explained.

“Ah. We’re being dramatic. That helps.”

“Why are you always falsely accusing me of drama and hypochondria?”

“You sound like you are gearing up for a Shakespearean play. “Oh what a wretched life!” Really? Yes, you are dramatic and a hypochondriac,” apparently she inhaled a whole cup of coffee while I was being decidedly not dramatic. “You are dramatic and hypochondriac and you are my love.”

“I’m just your love, but the other two are figments of your imagination.”

“Maybe my love is a figment of my imagination too?” Ooooo! Maybe she hadn’t gotten through that coffee after all. She doesn’t play well until her BCC (blood-coffee content) are at certain levels. I’m convinced that this is the manifestation of condition based learning similar to when an alcoholic learns to play pool or something. If they learned it on a bender, they can’t play well sober.

“You aren’t following me here,” I began. “Bear with me for a minute.”

“Oh god,” Her syllable count was shrinking again. I’d need to type fast.

“So you love me greatly and part of you thinks I’m perfect, but there is another part that thinks I can’t be perfect. As a way of coping with this cognitive dissonance, you project dramatic and hypochondriac behaviors onto your perception of my persona. It’s really quite simple. Your id and ego are at odds. Boom! I can psychoanalyze too. We’re like professional associates now. I can so be a shrink. I’m really good at this”

“Lol,” Was her only response.

I think she may have been regressing syllabically at this point and thought of that as one word pronounced “laul” or “loll” maybe, but I suppose she could have been waking up and that was an “el-oh-el”.  Either way, I’m honestly not sure if she thought I was being funny or if she was laughing at me or laughing at my epiphany regarding the innate skills I possess as a psychoanalyst.

*Footnote: When she read this, my Queen informed me that I need to clear some things up.

1) She would like everyone to know that there are time differences between Korea and Georgia and that it was only 5 p.m. in Korea.

2) She claims she said I was a dramatic hypochondriac rather than dramatic and a hypochondriac.

3) She also claims she did not mean “el-oh-el”, but that it was an autocorrected “oh hell”.

 

Photo Credits:

The Freuds: http://discovermagazine.com/2014/april/14-the-second-coming-of-sigmund-freud

Carl Jung: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung

Mad Cow Blog

It occurs to me that perhaps I should clear some things up since only a select few of you potentially reading this know the true nature of my malady. I know it seems like I may spend more time explaining things than I should, but…. OK. So yeah. Maybe I do, but this topic is one that really needs to be expounded upon. If you read my blog’s “Under the Hood” section or the introductory paragraph formerly pinned to the top of the corresponding Face Book page, you may recall mention of mad cow disease and other microscopic tormentors afflicting my person. I realized today that most people have no idea what I’m talking about. So here it is. The truth. The whole truth. The whole horrifying truth. At least the first part of it anyway. So help me Rod of Asclepius or Caduceus of Hermes. Whichever you prefer. Reader’s choice, really. Unless you work for the World Health Organization and swear your snakey stick is the only correct one.

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As a military dependent in my mid-teens, I found myself living in Germany during roughly the same time period in which several calamities befell Europa. Chernobyl went up and we were forced to stay indoors for days on end with our chief form of entertainment being the watching of birds outside in the hopes we’d see them go bald or begin to glow. Italian Wines were giving people lead poisoning, which didn’t really distress me as I had yet to discover the joys of fermented produce. That would come soon though. We had armed and armored Soldiers guarding us in school because the US had yet to take out the Libyan threat.

Then there was an outbreak of mad cow disease. At the time I thought this bore no impact on my life since I typically favored German pork (by God those people cook the best pig in the world). Additionally, the meat we ate almost always came from the commissary on post which was stocked with American meat and produce. I never even got to see a mad cow.

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(It’s a great song. Look it up sometime.)

Some time later we returned to the States and my maternal grandmother was facing surgery. They wanted a blood supply, and as luck would have it we shared a common blood type. I guess it’s also beneficial to get your blood from family for a reason they tried to explain. The nurse doing the explaining was quite distracting to a boy in his teens and I can’t tell you a single thing she said after “Hello”. The unfortunate looking vampire taking our blood was not nearly so distracting and I clearly remember her asking if we’d traveled through or lived in Europe during the mid-80s. Before I could open my mouth, I saw my mother shaking her head in an unmistakable “No” from behind the frightful phlebotomist. I quickly lied with a “no” while cataloging the parentally sanctioned fibbery for future ammunition. I later asked my mother why she had me do this thing she’d always taught me not to do. She explained that due to the mad cow outbreak in Europe, the US medical community couldn’t risk spreading the disease.

“So you would have me do it?” I asked. “Who are you? Nergal?”

“What in God’s name are you talking about?” She seemed genuinely perplexed.

“Exactly! Nergal: The Mesopotamian god of death, pestilence, and plague! Or would it be Nergala to make it feminine? I’m likely to reduce the US population by a third and I don’t even know how Mesopotamian naming conventions work!” I was despondent.

She blinked.

“You’ve turned me into a plague rat like the ones loosed on Medieval Europe by North African nations!”

“That is unfounded conspiracy theory,” She corrected.

“I read it somewhere.”

“I should have never encouraged that in you.”

“What?”

“Reading,” She said without hint of humor.

I know what you are thinking right about now, but you are mistaken. That little convo IS essential to the plotting of how I got this way. You’ll note that she never once denied the fact that I have mad cow disease. Boom! I need the world to know this for two reasons.

1) If you get it, it isn’t because of me. It’s Nergala’s fault (Love you Mom).

2) Mad cow is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. When I start losing it, please have them consider all options.

It gets even more convoluted, but that is a story for another time.

Fun With Engineers

So how did I get to this point? Perhaps a review of my nightly log of events may help. Then again, it may just serve to chart my descent into the mud and mosquito choked misery that eventually landed me in the hospital. That last bit is technically unfounded, but for the life of me I can’t imagine where else I might have picked up Lyme’s disease especially considering that it corresponded with my return home from this debacle.

March 10: It’s a good thing we got here at three in the morning. Had we not, they wouldn’t have been able to get accountability of everyone so we could then sleep on the sidewalk for six hours, propped up on our bags while we waited for the bus. I’m showing up at nine in the morning next time.

March 11: I’ve calmed a bit since my last entry. I just wonder if we set the tone of this exercise by bringing everyone in six hours early. Turns out that every echelon below the Battalion Commander bumped up the time when we were supposed to be there. So basically, he said be there at seven a.m. and everyone under him moved that time to something 15 minutes earlier when they passed the message downstream but felt like jerks for their practical joke and showed up in a display of belated solidarity.

*So here is something to brighten up my day: A positive note to self. When the sun last set on me, I was in the Georgia low country. I was greeted this morning by a light drizzle, grey skies, and steam rising off of a Mississippi bayou. I do love the South.

March 14: It has been raining for the past fifty hours. As soon as my soul becomes slightly less water logged, I will resume recording events. I don’t love all of the South.

March 15: I told a counterpart that the mac-n-cheese at breakfast was nasty. He then informed me that it was actually scrambled eggs. I’m not sure where he got that idea unless it was the overwhelming odor of sulfur. Still, the texture and consistency was undeniably pasta-ish. There was also a nickel size hunk of a questionable meat product they claimed was steak. I’m pretty sure that if it did come from a terrestrial bovine that it was slices of unwashed boiled hoof. The highpoint of the meal was a lovely oatmeal/brown rice medley that only had a mild numbing effect on the tongue and throat.

March 16: Perhaps at this point considering this adventure to be something of a personal winter is a bit misguided as it gets uncomfortably warm at points. I’ve decided not to brave the dining facility for breakfast. Despite the delightful numbing effect of the oatmeal/brown rice thing during consumption, it provided a violent form of sensory overload on the downstream side.
*On an interesting note, I have saluted 4,357 and 1\2 times. The 1\2 salute was due to a hesitation while rendering the greeting of the day. I found myself unable to ascertain the gender of the Captain to whom I was rendering proper courtesies. Fortunately, he\she was note paying attention and I was able to drop the half salute.

March 17. Day three of my personal fall. I choose fall because despite the best efforts of the cooks, I am still alive. The days are starting to meld into an uninterrupted line of bad ideas punctuated only by more food. I’m only aware of the date at this point because of the well intentioned St. Patrick’s day greetings.
I stayed completely away from the dining facility today as a personal favor to my driver’s olfactory sensitivities. This proved a prudent move as the convoy took eight hours to traverse less than fifty miles.
I fear that mutiny is on the horizon stemming from the absence of hot meals. I shall need to make an example of someone in order to maintain discipline. Perhaps a plank walking at Alligator Lake. Look it up. Narrow your search to the Fort Polk area. It’s real.

March 18. Day four in my own personal fall. I’ve learned much despite my discomfort. For instance: I just learned that sleep apnea is not just dangerous to the sufferer, but risks the few meager hours of sleep all around the guy in the cot nearest the door. Had mutinous sedition still stalked our ranks, he would make a fine candidate for a disciplinary example. His counterpart on the other end of our “great hall” grinding out a higher pitched counterpoint might also serve should the need arise.
At some point during the night, the clothing I had become quite literally attached to became self-aware and had to be put down. I cannot abide menu request out of clothes despite our unbroken eight-day relationship. Call it what you will, but symbiotic relations with trousers makes me uncomfortable.
After two days of nothing but the digestible plastic mix with copious amounts of saturated fat that the Army jokingly refers to as “Meal Ready to Eat” or MRE, the cooks have returned to their playful shenanigans. Lasagna? Still not sure. And what were those oval-esque chunks of what I think were meat? My ex pants would have liked it I think.

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MRE Chili with Beans (I think)

March 19. Day five. I asked for the corned beef hash at breakfast to which the server replied “Uh. That’s oatmeal, Chief”. I put my tray back and sought out pop tarts and granola bars. I am obviously at some entry level of gastrointestinal hell. I am not alone. The Company XO has reached an advanced stage of this yet unnamed malady. He doesn’t even exhale anymore. He simply inhales then levitates momentarily. I thought the engineers were running a vibe roller near our HQ at one point. I am sure he will explode soon and take out several Soldiers in the blast. Regrettably, I am convinced that I am not far behind him. On the bright side, if this new disease I have discovered does indeed kill me, I will be immortalized like Madame Curie. The down side is that our manners of demise may look similar once I’ve run down the curtain and joined the Choir Invisible.
Now that I think about it, maybe I should get a Geiger counter to the DFAC.

March 20. Day …… Six of the exercise? I could have sworn I left home on the10th. I just learned that it is Friday. Not sure how I was still on Tuesday. This very well may be the most elaborate ruse ever pulled by an entire unit on one person. The good news is that I am onto them. I refused all alleged victuals and seem to have entered a period of lucidity. It is plain to see that I have been being drugged at the chow hall. To what end, I cannot yet say. Maybe we stand on the cusp of perfecting MK Ultra and I am the guinea pig. Maybe I’m like Dolph Lungren (without all the muscle) in Universal Soldier. Being a Unisol looks like it sucked though. I don’t like this experiment anymore.
The XO is a lost cause. He persists in consuming mass quantities of all that the “cooks” put before him. He has yet to explode, but his voice is definitely two octaves higher. It’s quite reminiscent of inhaling helium and he seems perplexed by my reaction to him speaking. Coughing fits failed to cover my mirth during his brief so I gave up the pretense. Apparently this is frowned on in the Army. I would never have guessed that the service cherishes pretense.

March 21: Today we finished loading our equipment back onto rail cars and ourselves onto buses. Several cases of hypothermia later and at least one heat casualty all in the same day, the task force has learned a lot about Louisiana weather. Oh! And we also had one hydraulic excavator accidentally discover an underground stream, much to the operator’s chagrin, making this the most memorable training exercise in which I’ve taken part. All is not lost. Personally, I gained several valuable tidbits of good to know info from participating in this exercise.

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Field training lessons learned:

  • When your female commander is in your area of operations, lock the door to the porta-john. “Jesus peaches, Chief”! I swear she sounded like Pam from Archer when she said that.
  • Hydraulic excavators are not ideal for subterranean amphibious operations.
  • A three-day exercise takes ten days.
  • Despite CDC protestations, Lyme’s disease IS TOO present in the South and probably transmitted to me when I got stabbed by the blind fish I caught by hand while standing in waist deep mud.

Vodka, IVs, and Iraq

The floor of our barracks room in a commandeered Iraqi building on Camp Taji had a scrap of ancient brown carpet that resembled sand paper more so than it resembled carpet. It now looked like we had just sacrificed a small animal on it.

So let me back this up just a little.

Soldiers will always find ways to occupy their minds and capitalize on any little bit of free time. This is still true even in the austere conditions in which we live while deployed. Some activities are harmless or even beneficial. A pick-up game of basketball, working out frustrations at the gym, constructing a grill out of whatever is available so we can enjoy something we’ve charred as a community, or any number of things often taken for granted back home. Then there are the odd things one could reasonably expect not to see. My buddy and roommate, Trohizzle (name slightly altered) and I once witnessed medics engage in batting practice with expired IV bags. Other times we will find mischief because it just feels good to get away with something. We don’t always get away with things though. Trohizzle and I were forced to dismantle our potato mortar that we’d planned to mount to the rood of our living accommodations. The idea was to lob rotting produce into the area in which our battery’s vehicles were parked when the crews were prepping for mission. We could have even hit the First Sergeant in his smoking area and never be seen. It would have been brilliant! Thanks a lot, Chief. It was a good design. For me, the ultimate in “getting away with things” happened when Trohizzle and I scored a bottle of vodka. I then went to the dining facility and secured as many boxes of cranberry and orange juice as could fit in my uniform pants cargo pockets.

If you aren’t familiar with modern combat zones, there is this little thing called General Order One. It’s just a fancy way of saying that US Soldiers aren’t allowed to consume alcohol and are instead forced to look on while the Italians enjoyed wines, the Macedonians swilled Rakija, the Australian guzzled beer, or the South Africans imbibed on any one of the thousands of drink types they stockpiled. The South Africans really like to drink. A lot. Seriously. They had a bar in their maintenance bay that was better stocked than any I’ve ever seen.

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(Young Frankenstein 1974)

I’m pretty sure I looked like Igor in the image above when returning to my room with pilfered juice laden pockets. Coincidently, I made the same face after seeing the South African bar as well. And the first time I saw my wife. Pretty much every time I see something that catches my eye. I’m positive that this is why my wife can read me so well. I make this face often.

It had to be winter because we were still working days (we worked nights in the summer to avoid the worst of the heat) which was good because it would have seemed over-the-top wrong to get off work at seven in the morning and debauch myself with hot fruity vodka drinks. Everybody knows hot fruity contraband is best consumed under the cover of darkness. So we did. And it was awful and glorious and we felt a little bit like men again.

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(The Shawshank Redemption 1994)

We’d gotten away with it despite a Lieutenant losing his weapon and inducing a mass formation at 2 A.M. in which the whole battery had to account for weapons. This is how I found myself inebriated in the middle of the war in Iraq, wobbling at the back of a formation while holding an M16 and 210 rounds of ammo. I’ve never felt more redneck in my life.

The next morning was as one might expect after splitting nearly two liters of vodka between two guys. We were miserable, but it was worth it. We also had a plan of action to correct our misery. We’d convinced the medics at batting practice to spare two bags of normal saline and we’d both been through the combat life saver’s course in which Soldiers are taught how to start an IV. Voila! Instant hangover cure! Trohizzle applied the tourniquet and deftly inserted the needle. He popped the tourniquet off and stood to admire his handy work. It was then that he realized he’d failed to free the catheter from the needle or even hook up tubing. He stood bent over with his hands cupped and rapidly filling with my blood.

“What are you going to do? Put it back?” I asked while laughing.

With that he opened his hands and stood.

I never did get my bag of saline.

On Spicket Docility and Other Entomological Myths

According to research, the Camel Cricket is harmless and timid. The researchers suggesting such are obviously terrible at their jobs. First of all, these cursed things aren’t even well named. When I discovered the species I dubbed them with a more appropriate moniker: Spickit. Since this species is clearly a mash-up of a cricket and a spider, Spicket just works better. They also kind of remind me of a tick but leggier. Grandticky Longlegs is just too much of a mouthful to be practical though. The second bit the bug specialist types got wrong is in regards to the alleged harmless and timid nature. They aren’t harmless or even mildly timid. They also sport a highly evolved social structure that will become clear as you read. I have personal case studies backing up my claims. What do these entomologists have? That’s right. Opinions.

On Spicket Harmlessness

0200 hours. Training area Tom somewhere on the Korean peninsula. I crawled into my sleeping bag for some much needed down time. In case you aren’t aware of how these things work in cold weather, the fewer articles of clothing you wear the warmer the sleeping bag keeps you. I did keep my boxers on just because there was typically only a foot of space between cots in our tent. Nobody wants to wake at two a.m. with an unwashed naked dude standing over them. I’m considerate like that. After a few minutes my sleeping bag began to warm comfortably and I began to drift off. I scratched absently at my chest and was jolted awake by what I was sure was a wasp or a spider. It felt a lot like a sting and I extracted myself from the sleeping bag at a high rate of speed propelled by nothing but my glutes working in a rapid scissor-like fashion. With my flashlight I found that a Spicket had lay claim to my accommodations and was perched on a fold of cloth with bits of my flesh still hanging from his mouth. I almost crushed it with my M16 but it retreated deeper into the folds of my bed and the army doesn’t like it when you wield a rifle like a fly swatter. Then I had an epiphany. I closed the mouth of the sleeping bag and took it outside the tent and shook it out. The Spicket bite left a raised welt that burned and itched for days. Harmless nature debunked! Take that, entomologists!

*Graphic Representation

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On Spicket Timidity

Several weeks later and back at my barracks I had one assault me in the shower. It was so large I could see its eyes tracking my movement and I swear I saw some intelligence in there. All I did was pull back the curtain and it began leaping at my nude form. After unleashing a string of profanity coupled with many instantly fabricated words, I tried to reason with it.

“Look, you,” I said. “I get it. I don’t like my nude form either, but it is more offensive to the nose right now than to the eyes. Umm. Yeah. So I don’t see a nose, so I can see your point, but this isn’t going to work.”

It seemed to take “this isn’t going to work” as a declaration of hostilities and began lunging at me again. With each leap it splayed its legs wide and threw its belly at whatever the intended target was. It was seriously exactly like a face hugger from the Alien movies. Except it didn’t have a tail. Or a mouth underneath. And it was more crunchy sounding every time it landed in the tub. So maybe exactly isn’t the best choice of words here, but it felt exactly like a face hugger attack. I’d anticipated this and applied a liberal coating of baby oil to my entire body in the hopes that if it did land on me it would not be able to gain a toe-hold. I forgot to mention the toes! The danged thing had discernable toes! I also donned my Army issue body armor but took the plates out. I just felt like steel and Kevlar plates was overkill at this point, but I was interested in the groin protector that dangles from the front of the armor vest.

*Spicket/Facehugger comparison

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The donning of armor came after my second attempt to rid myself of this violent bug with a honey badger’s attitude. It takes two hands to operate an ad hoc flamethrower comprised of an aerosol can and cigarette lighter. It takes one hand to draw the shower curtain behind which my source of torment lurked. I was simply not fast enough to draw the curtain and deploy my weaponry before the Spicket launched a preemptive strike. Wielding the shower curtain like a matador employs a cape, I beat a hasty advance to the rear (I hate retreating), regrouped, and donned body armor. I also determined that my homemade flammenwerfer required my hands be too close to the target and opted for hot shower water and an open drain as my new weapons. I began by proffering my helmet on one side as a decoy kind of like you might see in a movie to trick a sniper into firing and exposing his position. I then turned the water on as high as I could and began trying to wash a now hyper hoppy flesh eating Spicket down the drain.

It took some effort, but my superior skills as a Soldier eventually won out over his unadulterated rage and hopping skills.

Spickets: 1. Me: 2. Timid fallacy perpetuated by entomologists: Debunked!

Closing Comments

It occurs to me (and should to you now as well) that Spicket society is largely unstudied and drastically misunderstood. It is clear to me from my own encounters that they are only semi-isolationist and practice a caste system like some South American ants. There are the drones who go out into the world and bring back food (aka: me-flesh). There are also Spickets similar to the ant soldier caste except these are more like lone assassins or Mafioso hitmen. The one that lay in wait behind my shower curtain was one of these. If I had just killed the bitey one, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to put out that Spicket fatwa on me.

Death and Dirty Hands

While speaking with the Brain recently, he reminded me of a time in which I very nearly died because of his aversion to red clay. He didn’t initially go into detail about it and just referred to it as “The Dirty Hands Incident”. Seeing as how my entire childhood is rife with incidences of both literal and figurative dirty hands, I had to ask that he refresh my memory. Then it all came back to me in a flood of memory filled with innocence lost following a scene I am pretty sure was observed by Disney and replicated when Scar let go of Mufasa, except that the herd animals at the bottom of the ravine were already dead and there was really only one instead of a herd. Also, he momentarily refused to take my hand rather than let go so I could fall to my demise. So maybe it was nothing like The Lion King incident except that there was a ravine and two brothers.

The Brain and I stalked these woods with a small arsenal of BB guns, shooting at anything that sat still long enough. The Daisy Red Rider was my primary weapon, but I also sported a CO2 powered sidearm made to look like a Luger. Its barrel had a distinct bend to the left which made it great for shooting around a tree I suppose, but it was as inaccurate as a Red Rider. It was great though for shock and awe campaigns designed to impress my Lugerless contemporaries. None of this has any bearing on the story except that I just wanted you to know that nothing was in any real danger of the mild bruising our weaponry could produce IF we were actually able to hit a target.

*Just as an aside to any young people out there wishing to explore while armed with BB guns. If the muzzle velocity is so low that you can watch the BB as it arches in the general vicinity of that at which you are aiming, do NOT shoot at a coiled viper. Also, why are you sitting here reading this? Go get a BB gun and get into the woods. Avoid snakes.

Our inquisitive natures led us to explore a ravine we’d stumbled upon during one of our explorations. There was a cool stream of crystal clear spring water ran at the bottom of this small canyon strewn with boulders and lumps of Alabama red clay.  We began at its shallowest point on higher ground and worked our way deeper into the abyss. As we reached the end of our long trek, the walls seemed twice as tall as the ancient pine and oak that clung precariously to the edges. These old growth trees were huge and blotted out the sun where they arched over the expansive void between the cliffs. At the end of the canyon we met a rain swollen, silt blackened river and no outlet other than the way we’d come. A great buck had apparently tried to leap from one cliff to the other. He’d failed and plummeted to his death, dashed on the water smoothed boulders below. At first glance we could see through the scraps of remaining skin that his fall left him with no single unbroken bone. It was truly impressive. Despite our fascinating discovery, the sun would be setting soon and we required sustenance. Rather than trek back up the way we had come, we opted for a climbing adventure. The short cut was not simply a matter of expedience however. At some point we became convinced of a possibility that was of no concern on our way down. The thought of a flash flood striking suddenly out of the clear blue sky imbued us with superhuman speed and primate-like climbing abilities. In short order, we had scaled the vertical face on the southern wall of the ravine. It could have actually been a side affiliated with any one of the cardinal directions since I was pretty terrible at telling directions, but in an arbitrary proclamation I deemed it the southern cliff. The Brain went up first and I followed closely in the hopes that I could save him should he fall. Knowing his proclivity for maximizing every opportunity to gain new stitches, it was just the right thing to do. He skittered over the lip unscathed and looked down at me with a blank look on his face. This is it, I thought. Today is they day he deposes me as the heir apparent. I also marveled for a second at the realization that he was still clean. Loose dirt and scree began to give way under the crushing bulk of my 110-pound frame. I handed up my trusty Daisy Red Rider then reached out my dirty and now bleeding hand.

“Brother,” I pleaded. “Take my hand. Pull me up”.

He looked at my hand, his visage blank and calculating.

“Your hand is dirty,” he stated in a flat, mechanical tone.

I held myself in place by the crook of my left arm around a rapidly loosening root while he poured the contents of a canteen into my hands for cleaning. Then and only then would he save me from the same fate as the once proud buck lying dashed hundreds of feet below.

Despite the fact that it was I that had a brush with death, it seems that the Brain suffers some misplaced trauma and to this day has something just shy of a phobia regarding red clay. I’m pretty sure it’s his way of coping with an uncomfortable affection for an older brother he nearly killed. Me? I just have a fear of asking people for help because they might dump their backwashed water on me. Shudder

Dear Recruiting Command

Dear Recruiting Command,

Please at least try make better choices based on names when putting someone into the service. You did great with Captain Obvious, but have missed the mark on so many others. Last names like Savage and Major should be enlisted. For example: Sergeant Savage and Major Private. The Sergeant I met today should have been a Commissioned Officer. One day could have become Colonel Sanders, but you wasted that opportunity. Sergeant First Class Jackson would have been great as a Warrant Officer: Sorry Mrs. Jackson, I am for real! Priorities, recruiting command. Get some.

(Captain Obvious Photo Via: www.pinterest.com)

Too short to blog, Really. Too long to Tweet

Why does no one in the house speak to me until I put earbuds in?
Me: I think I’ll put on some tunes while I straighten up.
Man Child: I think I’ll wake up and go speak to Dad.
Boy: I think I’ll come in from cutting the grass and talk to Dad.
Pigdog: Wanna see how hard I can throat punch you with my face now that you are bent over?
Timber Wolf: I wanna go outside. Oh look, something moved on the ceiling! Oh wow! You have food? I wanna go outside. Hey! Can your butt tell me if my nose is too dry? I wanna go outside. YOW! Gotta pee.
Me: You keep singing about that Mercedes-Benz, Ms. Joplin. We’ll duet later.

How I Got Kicked Out of a Korean Temple. Sort of. By My Wife.

Korean Buddhist temples. There are some extravagantly beautiful ones here and there are some that are spectacular in their simplicity. I guess the same could be said for churches back in the States. The Catholics build some of the most beautiful and elaborate places of worship I’ve ever seen, while a multitude of other denominations might reside in prefabricated steel buildings that are completely bare of any adornment whatsoever. With these Western places of worship in mind, I find it odd to just go wandering into someone’s church or temple to go look at it. Especially if there were people at worship there.

Apparently it is an acceptable thing to do in most temples in South Korea though. They even have little “Temple Stay” tours in which you go live as a monk for the weekend. Eating nothing but mugwort and raw garlic for dinner and then sleeping on a stone bed with nothing but your spiritual acumen to keep your body warm does not sound like my thing after a hard day of contemplating a rock while sitting cross-legged in an ant bed. But hey. You do you. I’ll stick to the tours on which I am free to come and go. What isn’t going to happen for my wife to accompany me on such a trip. She seems fairly certain that I’m banned for life and tracked on some monk monitored all-points bulletin social media site where they have reached a new level of oneness and demand profuse amounts of Kung Fu as a means to right a cosmic wrong.

I’m not sure what the mug wort and raw garlic eating is all about. I’m actually not even sure that it is a real thing. It is present in the Korea creation myth in which a tiger and a bear had to eat nothing but that for 20 days while forced to live in a completely dark cave in order to be granted human form. Apparently the tiger was all “Screw that noise” and left the cave with the now halitosis suffering bear. Long story short, the bear became a human woman, married the deity who subjugated her to this treatment, and gave birth to the first Korean king in the world’s first known case of Stockholm Syndrome. Anyway, I think this is why I think Korean monks practice this weird diet that they may not really practice.

It would be a real shame if they did though. There is literally food everywhere in this country. It’s like a national pastime or something to wander about aimlessly and eat things all day. Go to a Korean rest stop off their main highway. They contain no less than 10 different restaurants, two convenience stores, and not a single danged trash can present in the entire country. Just about every street corner has some vendor of something edible, but sometimes not so edible. Do NOT even bother to try Bundaegi. I’m sure that’s spelled wrong, but it’s just boiled silkworm larvae that taste an awful lot like a urinal smells. On the more delectable side of things are some pretty spectacular frozen treats. A particularly popular one among Koreans and Americans alike is this green colored melon popsicle. It is absolutely wonderful during the heat of summer.

The point is that when in Korea, do as Koreans. This means walking around all day long and looking at things. Between looking at things you have to buy things to eat while you walk to the next thing at which you are going to look. So we did. We each had one of those popsicles I mentioned, but it was quite hot out and I was slow to finish it and ended up with sticky hands. Right before we walked into a quaint little temple in the Korean folk village. There was this stone wall in the foyer with the giant face of Korean Buddha carved into it. There was a gravel bed at the base of the wall and water perpetually ran from the top of the wall, over Buddha’s face, and disappeared into the gravel below. It produced a tranquil sound that seemed to be an overtone to the deep toned background of chanting. I’m sure there is a technical term for the effect, but I’m not a musician. You’d have to ask my wife. Some monk I presumed to be an important man walked among the crowd blessing people or little patches of cloth they brought to him. We were really quite fascinated by it all and stood in reverent silence, soaking the cultural experience in. I was particularly pleased at the sight of my wife enjoying herself so much and I stayed a little behind her so I could watch her soak it all in. My tranquility was brought to an abrupt halt when I noticed the chanting had stopped and that every person, including the monks, had stopped what they were doing and were now openly glaring in our direction. An angry sounding utterance in Korean was issued by one of the…parishioners? somewhere in the crowd. The important looking monk extended both arms out to the sides and made a motion that was obvious in its meaning. He was motioning for the people to remain calm even as he narrowed his eyes and began to inch (millimeter?) towards us. I was kind of impressed that he could narrow his eyes more than they were in their natural state, but he took on a look reminiscent of Clint Eastwood as he began addressing us in a firm but calm manner.

“Even people of other nations slow down and speak louder when trying to get foreigners to understand them,” I remember thinking. Then, “They’re onto us. They know we aren’t Korean or Buddhists”.

My wife turned and was already asking what I had done before she’d completely rounded on me. Upon completion of her turn her eyes flew open and all I could do was mutter “What?” around my popsicle stick. Then I decided that there must be something behind me that was freaking everyone out, so I turned that way while using my pants to dry my now clean hands.

The wife began gesticulating in an overly dramatic fashion that matched her tone but not her words. “Did you seriously just wash your hands on Buddha’s face”?

“She washed her face on it,” I said, indicating an ancient looking Korean woman.

“She was performing a blessing!” My wife began gesturing to the door as if telling me to get out like I was some outsider. “Just play along,” she bellowed. “Lower your gaze, bow, mumble something contrite sounding, and go”.

I did so and she followed me still yelling and gesticulating like a mad woman.

We rounded the corner and I kissed her. “That was some quick thinking,” I said. Truly amazed.

“This is why I can’t take you anywhere”.

“This is why I should take you everywhere,” I began. “Hey! They have cuttlefish on a stick over by that museum….”

“Stop talking”.

I do love this woman.