Squid Pancakes, Mushu, and Baby Dragons

I wish I’d gotten a pic of the most absolutely bizarre traffic jam of my life but I failed to do so because, you know, I was driving and laughing and examining rice close up. If driving a rattling, noisy, $400 dollar, 20-year-old Kia down a pitted dirt road in the middle of a random rice paddy near the Yellow Sea (Or West Sea if talking to Koreans. It’s a point of some contention) wasn’t odd enough for a pair of brothers from Alabama, we found ourselves starving and stuck behind an ancient Korean woman on a Rascal type mobility device. Running ahead of us at about two miles per hour, she sat hunched forward in her seat as if willing the scooter to greater speed. It’s an experience I can honestly say I have never had before. I like those.

We eventually got where we were going and took care of the first order of business. Lunch. A second encounter with ancient Korean ladies this day saw us tricked us into eating a squid pancake and fermented radishes. It’s actually much better than it sounds. I promise. I do think the two old women were in cahoots though and they thought to punish us for scooter tailgating. Then again, it could have been due to lack of mastery where the Korean vocabulary is concerned.

pajun

We then went to see the shrine of my Korean military hero, Admiral Yi Sun Shin. The man led an epic life that would rival any modern fictional work of political intrigue, martial prowess, and heroic struggle.

Shrine

 

On reaching the top step of the shrine we noted a bowl of burning incense at the center and an attendant just off to the right. I would have loved to see what noise it made when struck, but hesitated upon seeing the attendant. The Brain wanted to take a pic, and taking a different approach to the preferred forgiveness-is-easier-than-permission tactic, decided to ask first. He then complicated matters by asking her if she spoke English. She answered with several bewildered and frightened looking blinks as if she was being addressed by frost giants. With him at nearly 6’7” and her at about 5’ flat, I could kind of see where this might have been a fear display. He then held up his phone and showed her his intent. She smiled from her new place on the ground (a reaction to his quick draw I think) and sighed with relief at not being offered the place of honor as his dinner. She gave us the go ahead and lots of little bows at the waist. On leaving I explained to my brother that I understood Koreans often have great trouble stating an outright “no” and that her blinks were a sign of her trying to mentally work out how she was going to say no without saying no. Then again, they could have been code blinks for help. I don’t claim to know how Korean distress signals work. It’s all just speculation at this point.

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The we found Eddie Murphy!

Eddie Murphy

On the way to Admiral Yi’s ancestral home (about a block away) we pondered deep philosophical considerations such as how far away from a shrine could one place their grave and still hear the prayers offered at said shrine. His actual grave is like nine kilometers away from his shrine for some reason. If anybody wants to build me a shrine, please do so on top of my grave. My hearing isn’t what it used to be. Plus, I don’t know how this works either.

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Complete with authentic 16th century track lighting in the master bedroom.

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Beside the old home there stood a brick chimney for the fire that was used to pump heat under all the floors of the home. The Brain took the time to explain his vast knowledge of ancient Korean masonry practices and techniques. Knowing that masonry isn’t exactly cool, he tried to tell our father that he was admiring the fact that the well was close to the house instead of in the village center like Europeans wells, or in the next county over like African wells. Nice try, Brain. Here is the evidence of your fondness for brick and mortar work. I redacted his face because he’s a little funny about his image circulating on the interwebs.

bain

As a fan of living history and mechanical apparatuses (apperati?), I was intrigued by the fact that the entire front of the house has these little folding door/windows. The cool part is that each pair are hinged vertically with one of each pair being hinged horizontally so that they could be opened and then swung upward to latch to the house’s eaves. I wanted to see these function as designed, but the Brain employed his highly evolved sense of impending disaster to divine (It’s like magic, really) my intent and reminded me of the temple incident and that this was somehow tantamount to me washing my hands on Buddha’s face. That’s a different blog post in my July archives if you’re interested. After reminding him that forgiveness is definitely easier to ask for than permission when you’re in a foreign land, he threatened to tell my wife and stated that if I thought after 20 years of marriage that my wife couldn’t reach across 4,000 miles and jerk my butt back in line, I was basically Forrest Gump.

Hinges!!! Towards the end of our tour we crossed a bridge and these gigantic Asian dragon hatchlings made a mass under the bridge that one could walk on. The Brain again reminded me of the temple incident and my wife’s great reach so we opted to just feed them instead of hike on them. There are these little vending machines that will sell you like a pound of fish food for less than fifty cents so I got a paper bucket full. To my delight, the fish began stacking on top of one another in a pyramid-like formation to get to the food first. It looked exactly like the zombies in World War Z climbing the walls in Israel. Except that they were baby dragons. And the baby dragons were just koi and carp. So nothing like World War Z. Way to kill the mood, Brain.

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I may have mentioned this in other posts, but there are practically zero trash cans in this country. There are also healthy fines for littering so I walk around with pockets bulging with empty bottles, coffee cups, and various scraps of paper and/or food wrappers. Basically like a really tall self-propelled dumpster that got lost on its way to the landfill and just keeps picking up more trash. The Brain had a better plan. A pair of Korean grandparents approached with their grandchildren and were as amazed as I at the baby dragons. So the Brain took my bucket of dragon kibble and offered it to the kids. He then bade me walk with him. Absolutely brilliant. My trash became pocket adornment for someone else in what was cleverly disguised as a random act of kindness.

I didn’t get a pic of the plaques posted near the exit. Apparently they were special in that only “filial sons and virtuous wives” were ever awarded these things. There were five. The only five I’ve ever seen. In a country with something like five thousand years of history, this comes out to only one filial son or virtuous wife every millennium. Way to set an impossible standard Korea. I still love you.

 

So Much Awesome

I have thought about this for a week now and I have decided I will not taint the glory that is this image with the fumbling words of an amateur blogger. I will explain though what you are seeing.

I sent my guys to go recover an inoperable trailer belonging to another unit. I asked for pictures of the recovery operation. This is what they sent me:

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The Confluence of Jewish Zombies and Ddeokbokki: Lunchtime Ponderings

The day brought me one of those life lessons not quickly forgotten. Long story short, I learned that when eating delicious, spicy, Korean foods, I need to remember that the napkin used during the meal to clear pepper paste from my lips is unsuitable for the task of stemming the tide of capsaicin induced snot after the meal.

I then joked about using a neti pot of milk to cool my inflamed nasal passages. It was either that or nose plugs made of bread or chocolate, but neither struck me as more interesting than the neti pot thing. Having never used a neti pot, I got curious and went to YouTube. It was nearly as disturbing as Googling cerulean hued breakfast foods. If you have delicate sensibilities, please do not do that. Except for the neti pot thing. It’s totally cool and clean if not disgusting.

I realized quickly that the narrator of the instructional neti pot video might be something of a sadist. He suggested that I use water warmed to the temperature of a bath. Dude! He either takes really cold baths or thinks I should snort near boiling water. It took my skin years of intense training to get used to my predilection for lobster imitation. I can’t imagine what this would do to my schnoz. Add to this that he suggested salt go into said boiling water. Have you ever seen what salt does to your windshield? How is this cleaning my sinuses? Will it raise my blood pressure? Or is he zombie who likes his hors d’oeuvres of a pickled nature or slightly cooked in brine? If the last is true, then he is certainly a Jewish zombie as he recommended Kosher salt. How do you reconcile your diet with your faith, Zionbie? People aren’t Kosher, guy.

I’ll just stick to spicy foods. And two napkins. Maybe a third for my eyes.

Sadness

I once heard a minister talk about the differences between the ways men and women typically deal with stress. Long story short, men think about the stressor and try to figure it out for themselves. When they reach a point where they can’t, they may ask someone about it. On the other hand, women will talk through a stressor and it makes them feel better. It’s like frickin magic, if you ask me. With this in mind, I’ve begun trying to talk these things out with my psychology professor wife.

“I has a sad, Doc.”

“Why honey?”

That’s the question of the day, isn’t it? If I hit my finger with a hammer, it hurts. It hurts because I smashed it. Boom! Puzzled that one out all by myself. Cause and effect. I just need to identify the preceding event to current sadness.

“I blinked.”

“….what?”

“No worries, Doc. I’m just as confused as you.”

I am almost always a happy person. I have found that I am happy just about anywhere, doing just about any thing. Whether it’s chillin in a 3,600 square foot home in the states, sweating in a cramped and dusty room in a combat zone with vodka scented blood stains on the floor, or doing schoolwork in my tiny barracks room in Korea, I just bop along through life. I think I figured out how I manage this. I spend a lot of time avoiding feelings. My wife shared with me a video of some martial arts match where one girl deftly dodged thrust after thrust from her opponent’s spear. It was quite impressive, honestly. My wife then told me that this was like me ducking feelings. I couldn’t argue against her point though. I think feelings are messy, uncomfortable things to be avoided at all costs. Kind of like hungry sharks or rabid dogs. And maybe zombies. I may need to reevaluate that last statement. Now that I think about it, I’m better equipped to deal with sharks, froth faced canines, or the undead. I have a number of weapons that would suffice. But how does one fight something like a mysterious sudden onset of inexplicable sadness? No fricking clue.

On top of this, being sad is startlingly abrupt when it happens to me. It’s like some earth shattering revelation between blinks (you like how I foreshadowed that in the opening convo?) when I realize that I am not happy. It’s honestly quite confusing. More often than not I have no idea why I am not happy when a sad slaps me in the face.

I don’t like opening my mouth on a topic I don’t understand. The thought of discussing feelings is horrifying. And there is that one snowflake that kicks off the avalanche. Being scared set’s off confusion. I don’t know why the prospect would scare me. Confusion sets off anger. And what do I have when the raw energy of fury dissipates? Sadness. It’s like some emotionally charged sequential vortex from which you can’t see a way out once you’ve crossed the event horizon.

Then I wake up the next day and it’s gone. I feel like laughing manically at my resounding defeat of this unknowable foe. What happens though when I’ve pushed it aside for decades? Will it rage out of control one day like wildfires in the western US because the firefighters have been so effective at stopping fires that forty years of fuel sits waiting for an opportunity to level entire communities?

Could the ladies be right about this one? Is the solution found in words? I think maybe it’s time I start talking about things even if I can’t Spock that mess into making sense. Maybe the girls are right. Maybe a controlled burn will avert a wildfire in the future.

So I write.

Stuff That Almost Killed Bowmen: Conclusion

Item 6: CD player. Still in his splint but moving around more as the meds ran out, Bowmen was getting back into the swing of things. He was signing out tools and talking awkward smack to anyone who passed by his area. He’d been banned from all activities not related to tool accountability and we’d done our best to make him comfortable in his place of duty. He had his CD player set up and all was going smoothly. Until inventory time. Tool room inventories are a tiresome, mind numbing experiences, but are a necessary evil. This doesn’t make them any less stressful, and Bowmen never did handle stress well. The skipping in the CD he was playing became too much for him during the inventory. The problem was compounded by the fact that normal operations still had to be conducted and those operations required tools. Having had enough, Bowmen’s neck and forehead veins erupted. He charged over to the CD player, cussing it, its maker, me for needing a tool, the Iraqi heat, and the Army in general. He raised his left hand as he hobble/darted to his transistorized source of torment, and punched downward in a sweeping overhand arc. All was silent for about five seconds. He screamed and cradled his still bandaged hand against his chest as he flung himself earthward. The aid station reset the bone and refilled his prescription. We brought him meals for the next few days and wouldn’t let him off his stool except to relieve himself or to go to his rack at the end of the shift.

Item 7: Fire extinguisher. As with most military activities, there are record keeping requirements and destruction schedules with which to comply. In Iraq, we didn’t have a destruction facility so we used a burn barrel. The barrel had to be extinguished at the end of each business day lest we cause a wild fire fully fueled by sand and dust. This is where Bowmen comes back into play. Feeling back up to snuff and getting bored tending the tool room, he was given the task to extinguish the barrel every day when he’d finished burning old maintenance records. The Army uses a variety of fire extinguishers for a variety of fire types. For example, we use halon fire suppression systems to remove oxygen from the inside of burning vehicles or ABC type as a general purpose extinguisher. As we began our end of day briefing with Chief and the NCOs, Bowmen went outside to douse the burn barrel.

A cloud of smoke and chemical wafted slowly by the maintenance bay doors and caught our attention. Realizing that it was just the barrel being put out, we gave it little more than a passing glance. Then we saw the hand. A yellow dust coated hand twisted into something like an arthritic’s gnarled phalanges groped at the ground and was then passed by a second, equally twisted appendage. Bowmen’s head then came into view. It too was coated in yellow chemical dust and the grayish soot of burned paper. His hair was blown upward and to the left. He was coughing and gasping for breath and rolled onto his back and gazed in our direction with pleading, extinguisher dust choked eyes. We sprang into immediate action. Bursting into fits of uncontrolled laughter proved the correct course of action as it spurred Bowmen into a fit of rage. With a loud and thunderous “F@(R%(*&#&*U*UQO!”, Bowmen cleared his lungs and proceeded to announce that each of us came from parents who were never legally wed and suggested we commit carnal acts upon ourselves that are technically impossible and most likely quite painful. Some people just don’t know how to express gratitude when their lives have been saved.
I still don’t know where he found a hand-held halon fire extinguisher.

Item 8: Truck grille (or Iraqi mud depending on interpretation). While not the funniest of accounts, I can’t reminisce about Iraq without remembering Bowmen losing a fight to an armored truck’s grille. The truck in question was a cab over engine design that required the cab to tilt forward on hinges and hydraulics in order to work on the engine. The radiator was protected by a heavy armor plate designed to permit air flow for cooling the engine while protecting the engine compartment from damage. It was too heavy to remove each time a cab was lifted, so we’d remove the bottom two bolts and swing it upwards. You could then place the bolts back through the holes and they would hold the plate up so the cab could be raised. I was outside in my camo net covered welding shop adjacent to what we called “deadline row”. It was a small parking lot we parked disabled vehicles in until we could get the parts to fix them. Helpful as ever, Bowmen was sweeping the lot with a large push broom. I mentally noted his general vicinity the way a parent might be perpetually aware of a toddler’s whereabouts. After a while I relaxed. After all, he’s sweeping dirt. What could go wrong, right? A large patch of dried mud is what can go wrong. He ducked under the raised grille of the broken truck an extended the broom out to reach the mud pile that had fallen from the undercarriage. I don’t know why he stood up so fast, but there was a loud clang like a church bell ringing followed by a clipped yelp. I turned back around just as he went limp and crumpled to the ground. He came too as I arrived and commenced to screaming, cussing, and yelling at the truck, the broom, the dirt, Iraq, and me. He tried to break the broom handle across his knee which did nothing to the broom. The now sprung broom handle seemed to act like a crossbow. Then again, it could have been knee pain and Bowmen’s typical response to discomfort: the oft employed Bowmen self-earthward hurl.

Concluded

Matt Bowmen was not a good Soldier. I can’t think of a single thing he ever accomplished on his own. I have to say this though: He served with honor. This is a claim that about 1% of the American population can make. He was discharged honorably for medical reasons, but his new life as a civilian brought more troubles. He couldn’t hold down a job and had difficulty forming lasting relationships. Bowmen made a lot of bad choices after the Army and was eventually arrested for charges I won’t share. As disturbing as the charges were, you don’t air a Brother’s dirty laundry. His first night in a county jail in a back woods Florida town was his last. Rather than face society for the crimes he’d committed, he fashioned a noose out of bed sheets and ended his life after just 28 short years.
You were a screwed up little guy, but you are missed.

Stuff That Almost Killed Bowmen: Part II

 

Bowmen recovered from his traumatizing and short lived stint as a welding apprentice and eventually began to emerge from his social shell. It wasn’t long before he started adding to the list of things in Iraq that nearly killed him.

Item 3: Truck Tire. We retained one of the old five-ton truck variants left by the unit we replaced. It was used by one of our NCOs to pick up and drop off people from the flight line or any sundry of miscellanies errands on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Taji. The NCO that owned the truck had to pick up some Soldiers from the flight line the night before he brought it in to us for a new dispatch. He’d changed one of the tires and needed a new spare. Once the tire had been lowered to the ground, he spotted Bowmen and told him to hold the tire upright until he could get down from the truck and take it from him. Bowmen was happy to comply and placed one hand on either side walls of the tire. Trying to be helpful, Bowmen tried to straighten the tire so that the NCO could simply take the tire and roll it straight out the door of the maintenance bay. The massive tire leaned slightly to one side and Bowmen hugged it closely to his chest in an attempt to right it. He didn’t, however, move himself to the tire. Rather, he muscled (a term I use loosely here) the tire over to him. The tire gained enough momentum by traversing the length of Bowmen’s arms to throw him off balance. Going for his now patented self-preservative posture, Bowmen threw himself flat on his back. Unfortunately, he did so in the path of the tire. I heard a yelp as I rounded the back bumper of the 5-ton just in time to see the tire leave its path. So basically, the tire rolled up Bowmen’s leg, traveled the short distance up the length of his torso, and regained contact with concrete shortly after crossing the left side of Bowmen’s face. The tire pattern was pristine. It left perfectly outlined black tread patterns all along its makeshift road surface. Bowmen bounced up, screamed at the tire, kicked it over Bruce Lee style, and hobbled across the street to the Battalion Aid Station. As it turns out, it rolled up the leg opposite his traditional complaint. He claimed from that point on that it compounded his pre-existing knee injury.

Item 4: ASV Door. The Battery Commander opted to incorporate some Armored Security Vehicles (ASV) into the mix of our other “up-armored” vehicles. They were beautiful. Bowmen was fascinated with them and made every attempt to be shown something new on them when they came in. A fellow Gun Bunny turned Mechanic, T-Diddy, had just come back from an external maintenance support facility and Bowmen wanted to show T-Diddy that he had learned how to seal the back hatch of this ASV. It was a two-part door that had a pneumatic cylinder preventing the bottom half from slamming to the ground when released. The upper half had a sturdy latch, but closed by gravity. The idea was to put your right hand on the upper door half and push up just the tiniest bit while hitting the latch with your left hand. You could then lower the door into place. It was at least as heavy as the gun box door that I mentioned earlier with an additional layer of Kevlar on both sides of the armor plating. He correctly explained the process while standing under the top half of the door. He was short enough that if it swung down it wouldn’t hit his head so we didn’t worry about it. When he reached the part in his explanation where you had to hit the release, he reached up with his right hand and punched the catch with his right forearm bisecting the space the door would travel: his hand was outside the vehicle and his arm was in. The heavy door swung down and pinned him to the vehicle spurring an immediate, explosive, and profanity laced reaction. As T-Diddy reached for the door, Bowmen did something he’d never been able to do during physical fitness training: A flawlessly executed one-armed pull-up. It was poorly timed though since the door was lifted off his arm at the pull-up’s apex. He dropped to the lower half of the hatch and rolled onto the bay floor holding his injured arm. He was picked up and escorted to the aid station where they determined that it was not actually broken. They put him in a half half-cast and gave him “Ranger Candy” (800 mg ibuprofen) in addition to some fairly potent pain meds.
Narcotics had a great calming effect on Bowmen and our days became a little less entertaining while he sat drooling in the tool room.

Item 5: Hammer. Bowmen was always trying to organize his tool room. He had shelving aplenty, but liked to hang things. So he scrounged some nails and picked up a 5-pound mallet. By the time he got done, the tool room looked like a medieval torture chamber and had the music to match. He tended to choke up on the hammer quite a bit. His hand just under the head of the tool that was overly large for the task at hand, and tapped lightly at each of the 200 plus nails he sank to a depth of about 1/8 of an inch. This worked fine for most things, but for heavier we had to show him how to wield a hammer. He politely declined, citing reasons of self-mistrust and general klutziness. One day a heavy bar with an eyelet in one end kept falling and he grew progressively angrier. He would gently tap the nail back into place without achieving any real penetration into the post. The bar fell a final time and startled him. Unable to take it any longer, Bowmen grabbed his mallet and wielded it the way we showed him. He held the nail firmly in his left hand and drew back as far as he could with the right, wielding this maul the way Thor wields Mjolnir (think of a very small Thor and very small Mjolnir). I think it goes without saying that this only ended well for everything except Bowmen. The hammer, nail, tanker bar, and wood came out on top, but he broke a finger this time and dropped the mallet on his previously good, (but bad since the tire incident) foot. The aid station placed him in a finger splint and wrapped his hand up. He returned to work with more pain meds. For the next week or so, he sat on a bar stool in the tool room and grinned at everything. It was the most calm any of us had ever seen out of him.

 

Stuff that Almost Killed Bowmen: Part I

Stuff That Almost Killed Bowmen* (Name altered to protect identity) Part I

I shared this three-part series on Facebook a while back, long before I started this blog. I find it mildly entertaining and worth sharing. I hope you enjoy.
Private Bowmen was probably the smallest Trooper in our Battery when we deployed to Iraq in 2005. He was a socially awkward kid from Florida that stood just under 5’5” and couldn’t possibly weigh any more than 130 pounds. Bowmen had a perpetual limp that seemed to switch legs from one day to the next depending on what we did for physical fitness training, but based on his ability to hurt himself I believe there may have been actual injury. By trade he was nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) Soldier. At this stage in the war there wasn’t much concern over enemy use of NBC weapons, so Bowmen needed to be gainfully employed elsewhere. Having been reorganized from an artillery battery to a convoy security company, there was a need for qualified drivers and able gunners. As it turns out, Bowmen was neither. He couldn’t charge the .50 caliber in the turret and I’m pretty sure he couldn’t see over the steering wheel. The truth of the matter is that Bowmen was the single most accident prone individual I have ever met in my life and couldn’t be trusted to drive a 2.25-ton Army vehicle. So, he was designated as the tool room custodian in our maintenance bay.

Bowmen didn’t take well to the inevitable banter that goes on between Soldiers and was prone to fits of rage when included in our verbal sparring. Like any good Soldier will do when discovering an injury in a buddy, we stuck our figurative fingers in the wound. If you ever join the military, for the love of all things holy, do not let on when something bothers you physically or emotionally. Bowmen did eventually join in the game but was quick to blow up when what he dished out was fed back to him. We never physically abused the guy except for our section’s tradition of “birthday pink bellies”. (*Disclaimer: This has since been deemed “hazing” and has no place in our organization). Besides, he was far better equipped to damage himself than we were. After a short period of something like mild neglect, he found his place in the pecking order and began to be seen like an annoying younger sibling who we wouldn’t allow others to harass. He was something of a motor pool mascot to us and a source of endless and humorous distraction.
Coming out of his self-inflicted isolation, Bowmen expressed an interest in doing more to help out. Our Chief gave Bowmen over to me so that he could learn the use of cutting torches and plasma cutters. What could go wrong? At this stage of the war there was a great many units that fabricated their own add on armor to supplement the poor protection offered by standard equipment. This became one of my areas of responsibility. I had to reclaim armor from obsolete fabrications by the previous unit then design and build armored items for our use. In a muddy patch of unused ground, the unit we replaced left large steel boxes that were designed to go in the back of the trucks they used for convoy security missions. There was a raised platform inside with a swiveling seat and gun mount since the trucks they used did not have roof turrets. My task was to instruct Bowmen on the use of cutting tools to dismantle these boxes. Not comfortable giving him fire attached to rubber hoses filled with volatile gases, I opted to give him the plasma cutter. After all, he couldn’t blow us up with an electric arc shielded in argon gas.

I say all of that to set the stage for what began a list of items that very nearly killed the little guy.
Item 1: Iraqi dog. A three legged stray dog had taken up residence under a platform in one of the gun boxes. While I began setting up the plasma cutter for Bowmen and attempted to teach him how to do it, he became distracted by the gunner’s seat in the box. In a display of childlike glee, he hopped around the corner and opened the door to the gun box to go get in the seat.

It was at this point we were introduced to the dog. She was startled by his entrance into the box and decided she should be elsewhere as quick a manner as her three legs could get her there. She never made a sound but shot like a bolt straight for the door. The door currently held a small, shocked, and now frozen Bowmen. As the dog lunged towards freedom, Bowmen simply went over backwards with a scream I haven’t heard out of anyone other than 3rd grade girls. This was good for the dog though as she didn’t have to get her paws stuck in the six in deep mud since Bowmen now filled a five-foot stretch of that. Upon regaining his senses (the dog was long gone) he extracted himself from the mud and darted (still screaming like a little girl) around the gun box in the opposite direction the dog had gone. Upon noticing my uncontrolled mirth Bowmen became enraged, and kicked the steel box with his good foot, screamed and fell again. This only added to my glee and he stormed off towards Chief’s office with his middle finger over his shoulder. I gathered myself and finished setting up for the day’s work. It was only six in the morning. This was going to be a good day.

 

Item 2: Gun box door. Chief managed to calm Bowmen down and send him back out. Bowmen apologized for his outburst and asked me to show him what to do. I needed repair parts to get the plasma cutter up and running. So against better judgment, I schooled him on the use of the oxygen/acetylene torch and boarded the six-wheeled Gator to retrieve tools and parts. “He’ll be fine” I thought. “I’ll only be gone for five minutes”. An unsupervised Bowmen, plus fire, plus five minutes proved to be an equation that Chaos Theorists would be proud of.
I returned to the mud pit where I’d left Bowmen with the gun box only to find that he wasn’t there. I looked around thinking that he couldn’t have gone far, not on that limp. I drove the loud diesel driven Gator to the other end of the mud lot to see if he’s wandered over to a group of Soldiers nearby. They hadn’t seen him either. So maybe he was in the latrine. I drove back over to the gun box and shut the Gator down. I immediately heard Bowmen screaming again, but didn’t see him.
“AHHHHH!!! Get this F#$%*&^ thing off me!! Getitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoff!!!!” Was just the first few seconds.
I ran over to the gun box entrance to find that he had been standing inside the gun box with his feet under the door made of armor plating when he decided to cut the hinges off of said door. It only dropped a couple of inches, but it was heavy and the ground was soft. The door was standing upright in the mud on Bowmen’s toes. He was on his back in the mud again, sunk to about mid-calf and thrashing about like a drop of water on hot steel. He was trying to reach an upright position, face red with rage, veins popping out of his neck and forehead. He was still screaming obscenities and other words un-separated by the natural breaks often heard between verbiage. I grabbed the door and lifted it out of the mud. Bowmen burst upright then hurled himself over into the mud again in a dramatic display of relief.

He never did come back out to help finish the job.

 

Laundry Herpes

I have many nemeses. Nemesises? Nemesi? I’m going with nemesi. I just like the way it sounds and my butchery of the language will drive my daughter insane. Whatever your preferred plural of nemesis is, I have many of them.

You remember my problem with odoriferous bathroom textiles, yeah? If not, please refer to the “To Drink or to Stink” post. Stinky towels haven’t quite made the list, so don’t worry. I’m not talking about them again except to say that a friend offered advice on how to eliminate the offending aroma. She suggested I use dryer sheets. What she doesn’t understand is that I absolutely loathe the danged things. They are, without a doubt, the unruliest participants in laundering operations.

You use one, just a single one, and countless others show up. It’s like plucking a grey hair. My grandmother used to say that if you pulled one grey hair, then seven would come to its funeral. Well, dryer sheets work the same way. Except maybe in that you don’t pluck them unless you consider it plucking when you have to pick up off the floor the dozens spawned by the one. Also, more than seven show up. Try like seventy. And they keep coming. Laundry herpes. That’s what they are.

I used a dryer sheet once and spent weeks picking them up off the floor. They refused to stay in trash cans and if you do manage to catch the one lurking under the edge of the bed and throw it away, then its buddies show up to congregate at the trash can like some great horde of peaceful protestors silently demanding an inmate’s release. I’d find them in my clothing as I dressed after having hung or folded items. They’d be wadded up in the toe of my socks or under my pillow at night. I’m pretty sure I woke up coughing them up once. I am also fairly certain they can lift the lid to trash cans and parachute unharmed to the ground to get lost in a sea of protestors. They are all in cahoots.

I expressed this to my wife who then informed me that I have an irrationally vehement attitude towards these translucent travesties of industry. Not two days later I went to the barracks laundry room and had to send her a message.

“Remember how I told you that if you use one dryer sheet it won’t stay in the trash and all its buddies show up and then you said something unhelpful about an irrational disdain for them?”

“Yes.”

“All you did was mention the danged things. See what horrors you’ve wrought? They breed like rabbits from nothing more than mere mention of them!”

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Then I gave her the grey hair analogy.

“You are the only person I know who can manage to bring up dryer sheets and funerals in the same sentence.”

I suspect that she may be their deity if she can speak them into existence.

Moral of the story? I need to work on my people skills. It’s not cool to ask for laundry tips from a tiny, timid, and bespectacled female Lieutenant in the laundry room by opening with “Do your towels stink too?” Apparently.

Broken Beans

I found out today that my coffee is broken. Yes, you read that right. My coffee. Not the pot. The pot works fine, if not a little slow. I complained to my wife that I had no energy and felt generally lethargic all day for several days. I told her that my coffee intake had increased dramatically and I was sleeping more, but it wasn’t helping any longer. I also don’t want to leave my room and have to deal with people. Being a Doctor of psychology, she immediately began questioning my mental and emotional state.

“I’ve never been depressed before. So I don’t know what depression feels like to begin with so how can I tell you if I’m feeling depressed?”

She then suggested that about all I may be missing is a sense of hopelessness.

“I don’t feel hopeless though. I know what that feels like. I felt it once when Lyme’s disease was trying to kill me. I know how to fix that feeling. It’s called morphine on demand. It worked when I was in the hospital.”

“Go pick up a vitamin B supplement and see if that helps,” she offered.

“I get plenty of that in my coffee? Besides, you suggest morphine and then offer vitamin B as a substitute?”

“When did I….”

“When you suggested, in a roundabout way, morphine for depression,” I began.

“No. Just no,” she cut me off. “And there is no vitamin B in your coffee.”

“WTH? My coffee is broken? Now I am depressed. I’ll see doc about that morphine.”

Left thumb to cheek. Left fingers cover eyes. And there it is, folks. Her signature sign that she thinks I’m a genius!

Winning

We all know that the way men speak and listen is not the same way women speak and listen. This will inevitably lead to the occasional misunderstanding and the need for crisis management from time to time. Fortunately for me, I am something of a pro at managing this type of crisis when it comes to my wife.

For example: My wife recently cracked a tooth and somehow didn’t know until she had pain shooting up the side of her face and into her skull. One doc suggested some kind of temporal aneurysm that would leave me a widower as I sat helpless in Korea. Thankfully he was wrong and a different doc sent her to see a dentist who then found a tooth cracked from gritting her teeth. I’m pretty sure it happened during one of our conversations. Anyway, she answered one of our twice daily video calls and let me know she wasn’t dying. Her face was still numb and I couldn’t help but think that when she spoke, her mouth moved a little like Drew Barrymore’s or Meredith Grey’s. More like Natalie Dormer, really. She even had this cute little lisp going on and I found myself grinning stupidly at her adorableness. The conversation went like this:

Me: “You’re tho cute!” I told her.

Wife: “You’re a butthole.” That didn’t come out the way you read it. It came out more of a “buth hole”.

Me: “For calling you cute?”

Wife: “You’re making fun of me.”

Me: “No. I think you’re adorable.”

Wife: “I think you’re an ath-hole.”

Me: “Look. I get that we both speak the same language differently so maybe I need to clear this up. When I say you’re cute, I genuinely mean it. I also know that you underthtand the way males interact and perhaps you calling me an ath-hole is an attempt at bonding on my level. I also think you are genuinely upset and our differing communication thtyles have caused a misunderthtanding.”

Wife: “Now you’re treating me like I’m thtupid.”

Me: “No. I’m treating me like I’m smart!”

She laughs. I win and am no longer an ath-hole. Sort of. But only sort of on the ath-hole part. I totally win.