Bizarre Coping Mechanisms, Mary Shelley, Army Dentists, and School Avoidance

As per standard operating procedure, I tend to randomly exercise word association which takes me down twisting trains of thought with infinite branches where I get lost and forget what it is I am supposed to be doing. I think it is a coping mechanism or something that my channel surfing brain uses to spare me from the torment of pressing deadlines. It’s a flawed mechanism if you ask me and I have no idea how it originated.

So, here’s an innocuous example of what I’m talking about. This school project has me discussing the Gothic elements in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Having never actually read the novel, but being familiar with the tale, I felt pretty confident I could knock this out. Then I got to the part where I’m supposed to talk about Gothic themes in the story. Interestingly enough, this isn’t a requirement, but I already typed that I would point it out and I figured it couldn’t be that hard to discuss the topic.

An hour later, I found myself staring at a screen and repeating the word “theme” like some kind of lame mantra. You’d be amazed at how many different ways you can say a single word. This chanting took me back, like transcendental meditation/astral projection/displacement, to a dental visit for which I was awarded a gold crown as a replacement for a cracked and far less blingy natural tooth. New dental Lieutenants were brought in to learn by watching the Major who was performing the task of grinding away the old tooth to create a tiny spike of tooth for the crown to sit on like a decapitated head on a villain’s castle walls— only much smaller. And without bodiless heads. So, basically nothing like castle wall head spikes, but it is really boring laying there for that long and my mind wanders.

Apparently, I bleed a lot when people take gardening sheers to my gums and masonry grinders to my teeth. Who knew? Ostensibly, some people are disturbed by the word “blood”, so instead of saying blood, they threw around the shortened version of “hemoglobin”. They tossed the word “heam” about as if they’d just learned it and were seeking every opportunity to use it in a sentence. I did my best to ignore them, but it got truly annoying after a while.

Major: “That’s a lot of heam. I’m going to go grab some (insert made up Latin sounding drug name here). You stay here and make sure he doesn’t drown in heam and slobber.”

I briefly wondered if he was ordering them to slobber, but who am I to judge sentence structure?

LT #1: “Yes, Sir. That certainly is a lot of heam.”

LT #2: “Wow, I’ve never seen so much heam. Have you ever seen so much heam?”

The situation degraded from there and I soon had to grab LT #2 by the wrist because the heam/saliva sucky tube was now firmly affixed to the dangly thing in the back of my throat following an impromptu tonsillectomy by vacuum.

She must have misunderstood my intent and decided to clue me in because I’m apparently retarded and can’t understand the lingo of her profession. “When we say heam, we mean blood.” She touched my shoulder with her fingertips as she said it which made me feel slightly flirted with and simultaneously condescended to. Then she returned to absent-minded soft tissue removal as she turned back to the heam usage contest.

LT #1: “No, I’ve never seen heam like this either. It’s like a heamopocalypse in there.”

LT #2: Giggle giggle touch on LT#1’s elbow. “It’s a heam tsunami.”

The Major returned. “How’s it heaming, Chief?”

LT#2: Giggle giggle touch on the Major’s elbow. “Heams going to be just fine, Sir.” She purred.

I feel so cheap.

I gestured at the two-pound block of rubber jammed between my molars.

*Note to self: Majors don’t like being bitten. Retaliation is swift and painful.

He removed the bite block and I told him how the flirty-with-apparently-everybody LT was just explaining to me what heam was.

She leaned in and put her fingertips on my shoulder again to which I responded with crossed arms and a quick jerk away from her false affections. She then told me: “Heam is short for hemoglobin— which is blood.”

“Ma’am.” I began. “It is not. Hemoglobin is a component of blood. It is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. The normal adult hemoglobin molecule contains two alpha-globulin…”

I heard her teeth click back together under her mask.

“Also, the unorthodox usage of that sucky tube has my lower esophageal sphincter in need of some of that hemostatic compound you have there, Major.”

Aaaaand now I’ve written two and a half pages that has nothing to do with Gothic themes in a work of fiction. Awesome.

And this is how North Korea convinced me to not become a nudist- sort of

Well, it is that time of year again. Time for the US and South Korea to do one of a few joint exercises. The little guy up north doesn’t like it much, so he lobbed some missiles. Really, he reminds of the French dudes in the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

“I fart in your general direction.”images

They (the missiles— not the French) fell harmlessly into a sea of disputed naming rights. Depends on who you ask, really. South Korea calls it the East Sea while Japan calls it the Sea of Japan and North Korea calls it the East Sea of Korea— because reasons. Either way, Japan isn’t happy about it and neither are we, but for different reasons.

The powers that be decided it was time for us to be at a heightened state of alert. This means no drinking and no civilian clothes. Being a general non-conformist, I rebelled and sat around my room with no clothing at all. BOOM! Because words have meaning and meaning is important. Which brings me to my next point. Sort of. So, my uniforms were all in the wash. As per standard operating procedure, I get hungry while lounging about in the buff. I had a few choices before me:

1) Starve to death and have my emaciated nude corps be found at a later date, which would be hilarious if I were around to see the discovery. Dangerous game that. Best not try it.

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2) Don civilian attire to go to the commissary and risk the wrath of countless dozens. Also normally fun, but not so much on an empty stomach.

3) Or subsist on the only food(?) left in my room: an eight-month-old package of frozen pizza rolls. BINGO! We have a winner.

Just a tiny problem though. Have you ever read the microwave instructions for pizza rolls? I may be non-conformist, but I am a bit of a stickler for adherence to the instructions found on packages of food-like substances. It’s why they’ve been there for eight months. It says to place six frozen pizza rolls on a plate in a wide circle and nuke for 60 seconds. Who eats just six pizza rolls? My three-year-old grandson requires more than six. Where are the instructions for a half package? I had to give in though and just wing it. I covered a plate in the little nuggets of questionable nutrition and made some quick calculations. If six require a minute and still come out half frozen, then surely a dozen and a half require a couple of additional minutes. As it turns out, the ones in the center did not need more time, while the ones on the fringe needed more. So, I gave them more.

Has anyone cracked the code on which end of a pizza roll is the one designed to give way first? At internal temperatures roughly equal to that of molten lava, it is hardly advisable to pop the whole thing in your mouth. MMJgO_s-200x150

So, I nibble and learn a new game I like to call “nude pizza roll roulette”. I like to live dangerously. While learning the game, I discovered that there are six different directions molten cheeses can travel once a pizza roll is chomped on. Not a single direction produces a pleasant result— especially when one lacks the protection of habiliments. Not wanting to explain this at the clinic and getting zero relevant Google search results, I have to invent a way to properly bandage giggle berries…

Google Search

I stumbled across my travel notes from last June

Woke up without a clue as to where I was and launched into full blown, bleary eyed panic to find myself looking out at the pre-sunrise skyline of Seoul. My second thought was “Why did I just dream that my wife and I proposed a three-way marriage to Gail?” Just how I came to this point follows:

There were two exceedingly irritating children who played cartoon like video games at full volume the entire time we were in the terminal. I have a plan. As I write this I am fabricating an entire language that shall serve as my response to these game sounds should I be stuck near them on the plane. It will work something like Tourette’s outbursts that are induced by certain electronic game sounds. Allow me to expound. “ding ding ding” elicites a hearty “F@*k”, “boing” is rewarded with a thunderous “sonofabitch”, and “toot toot” will be met with a sudden “shite!!”. It’s still in the earliest stages of development. I have an entire fake language to fabricate and we board in 15 minutes. Challenge accepted!

During boarding and I began to grow concerned that I would be seated with these hellions and their nonattentive mother. I was not even a quarter of the way through cataloguing the cacophony of sounds produced by these toddler gaming devices. I’d just have to wing it.

Having aircraft maintenance brought aboard shortly after hearing engine shutdown isn’t exactly confidence inspiring. The mechanic type was wearing a reflective vest I can only assume proofs him against getting sucked into jet engines. His vest had his name (was it really his?) scrawled in ink pen on the left side of his chest. This is equally detrimental to confidence. Do they go through so many of these guys that they can’t afford real name tapes? I wouldn’t spend money on name tapes that get sucked into engines while riding on the backs of fat hairy dudes either. To top it off, a flight attendant waited until he was done to approach and tell him to “Come look at something back here because they are just hanging off”. I thought she might have been talking about his pants or her ancient bust, but mention of either is generally frowned upon in public. Seriously though. She was like 80 and heavy chested, but still liked to show off the girls. Consequently, her v-neck revealed a navel piercing between her cleavage.

There is a woman who at some point changed into pajamas and ran her seat row mate off of her row so she can sprawl across the three linear feet of luxurious space afforded by the acquisition of multiple seats in coach. I suppose this is possible to one when one can bully another out of seats. She was a large and scary looking woman, truth be told. The bully, not the mouse that scurried out of the bully’s path.

Had dinner with my daughter and a tranny. He\she is a friend of my daughter from her college years. He got married right out of school, joined the army, became a father, and then decided that he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body. Obviously, he needed to transition to realize this to the fullest extent possible. Never mind that all straight men are lesbians trapped in men’s bodies. The point is that I knew him when he was a him. Back then I kept my head shaved, but have since grown it out. I was passing through SeaTac and it just so happened that my daughter was in town visiting her friend and she thought it would be cool for us to go get something to eat during my layover. Imagine my surprise when a young man I once knew showed up dressed as a girl. His makeup did little to cover up his tendency to a heavy five o’clock shadow and he was now blonde. Not sure how to approach the situation, but not wanting to be rude either, I extended my hand and shook his firmly. I then made related fuax paxs (fuaxs pax?) in calling him by the original name by which I knew him and winced every time I said him or he.

It was all really quite exhausting. The point is that he/she made comment as to me having more hair than last time we saw each other. I played with the idea of pointing out that he does too, but wasn’t sure if he’d know I was referring to his head or making an insensitive remark about the five o’clock shadow. Seriously, Mark Anna. Stop being so sensitive.

The inflight entertainment was a Will Smith movie about football and concussions. Not real sure about more than that as I never bothered to plug earphones in. What I was more interested in was the caliber of the television screen on which it was displayed. I’m actually surprised it was in color because the image quality was so low you could distinguish individual pixels. Honestly, it was like watching a show about football and concussions as told in the world of Minecraft. Plus, there is no Wi-Fi. How primitive is this aircraft? Is it reliable? It’s cool though. Being an almost history major I enjoyed experiencing firsthand what it must have been like for Icarus. Fine. Maybe that was over the top. Change Icarus to Orville and Wilbur Wright. Really? Icarus? I never claimed to be a Greek history buff.

Then they showed a wonderfully whimsical movie about miners and it opened with the statement that 12,000 die every year. From Puss in Boots to this, Banderas? I’m really quite disappointed in you. I think the selections have been by design, really. Not Antonio’s selections in films he wants to make. The selections by the airlines designed to put us at ease about being ensconced in a heavy metal cigar tube filled with volatile petrochemicals needed to fire these whirling mechanical failures waiting to happen that they call turbine engines. They show us movies like this so we think “Whew! Glad I’m safe up here and not getting my skull bashed in by that beast of a linebacker”. Or “Dodged that bullet! No chance of getting stuck in a collapsed mine from up here!” Better yet “Suck it you strangely shod feline! I’m safely up here with Melanie Griffith. What do you have going for you? A little flashlight on your head and maybe a canary or two to split with 32 other trapped miners?” OK. So, that got away from me a little, but the point is that I’d rather be up here eating tasteless little chicken patties with fake grill marks than down there eating a helmet full of brain damage or trying to fend off the clingy advances of Antonio’s bipolar wife. Well played airline entertainment coordinator.

Are they still married? If not, I can’t say blame him. She might be adorable, but she is way too fragile in a crisis.

It seems that there is some federal mandate regarding the position of the single most superfluous part of a chair when you are aboard an airplane. Armrests must be down while the aircraft is in flight. Mine isn’t. I’m a rebel. Something like a pirate, maybe. A sky pirate. Scourge over the seven seas. Denizen of the deep….blue sky. Fine. Yes, ma’am I will put them down. Just get your belly button ring out of my face.

The Minecraft TV showed us fun facts like the fact that we were moving at 1 knot while we were in fact standing still on the tarmac. It also showed us at an altitude of 400+ feet while still on the ground. I suppose I could overlook both of these as calibration or our location in relation to sea level. Then it showed us something I wasn’t cool with: We were leaving Yokota, Japan bound for Osan, Korea. And we were heading due south. Last I checked, Korea would be a right turn if you were pointed south. I then theorized that the pilot had possibly hogged all the little shot sized bottles of whiskey from the galley. He must have heard me because the little Minecraft plane icon took a wobbly yet inadequate right hand turn. The alpha flight attendant then decided to put on something else to watch. Honestly, I’d much rather watch our inebriated captain’s drunken globe trotting. Despite my loss of suitable entertainment, I still think I’ve experienced a net gain. Yokota proved to be the final destination of the trio of baby banshees that disrupted my every attempt to sleep during our trans pacific crossing.

Landing at Incheon was far different for me than it was for MacArthur and his boys. I’m actually OK with that. It was a little unsettling though. Koreans seem to treat movement from gate to gate as a sporting event. I felt a little like I was in a Godzilla movie with all the Asians running around frantically. Yes, I know Godzilla was Japanese, but we’d just left Japan, so there is no telling what the Koreans were running from. Better keep up.

The last leg of my journey was spent drooling on myself during a bus ride to Seoul as I finally got some sleep. And now we’ve come full circle with me in the RoK having inexplicable dreams.

Good times.

PTassD

A friend and former medical care provider who will remain anonymous posted a video today about a girl who was suing the guy who saved her from drowning. The plaintiff was under for about two minutes, so this dude jumped in and saved her. She woke up a little while later and apparently his touching her in order to get her out of the water was a violation of her body. So, she is suing for “hashtag save rape”. Her words. Not mine. Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself here:

So, I messaged Doc. “I was save raped by my old battalion’s physician’s assistant.”

Maybe I should just back up a moment and provide backstory. That was really not meant to remotely resemble a pun, but it kind of reads that way in my head.

Long story short, I was dying. Not as in dying my hair. As in I was dying of an indeterminate malady I like to call “Fort Polk I hate your face what did you do to me”, or FPIHYFWDYDTM for short because I’m a super creative wordsmith. I really wanted to call it something else beginning in the letter P to go with Polk, but all I could find was related to a nipple malady of which I thankfully unfamiliar. And quite frankly, my nipples are fine, if not wholly unnecessary. Also quite frankly, this long story short is about to take a strange turn. My apologies.

After running an exhaustive battery of tests which revealed nothing, family history came into question and the decision was made to examine my prostate. Good times. I was too weak at this point to drive. On top of this, I was also a little nervous about the whole procedure. It’s not everyday someone you know puts a finger in your butt. I can’t believe I’m even considering sharing this information on an open forum. Awesome. Not really. The PA is a tiny woman, so I had that going for me. My wife, Doc, is a shrink so not much help there unless the idea is to psychoanalyze (Oh my god so much makes sense right now reading that word) my prostate, she wasn’t going to be much help in this particular situation.

*Fun Observation: In retrospect, this might have worked given the opinion of my wife and my father that my head often needs to be removed from the location being discussed.

imagesStill, I felt better having her in the room because the PA had to have a chaperone and I wanted one as well because I was not about to be caught outnumbered with my pants literally down. Her chaperone of choice was a male medic who I promptly instructed to face the wall while Doc sat in a chair shaking in poorly disguised mirth. I was outnumbered after all. The procedure was over quickly enough. I squeaked and counted unexplained lights that popped up before my eyes.

The PA was very professional about it and had spectacularly tiny fingers. In hindsight (don’t say it), the three showers, a pack of baby wipes, a Brazilian, and cologne booty spritzing seemed like a bit of a waste considering how quickly it all ended. Oddly, I feel an inexplicable sense of empathy now when I overhear ladies speaking of disappointing dates.

The PA and her medic left the room to give me a moment to pick my pants and my dignity up off the floor. Doc burst into uncontrollable laughter. At least her bladder was on my side. It made all kinds of threats against her while she gleefully howled at my plight. It was at the peak of her tearful laughter that the PA walked back into the room and asked Doc if she was OK. I think she even hugged Doc at some point but I can’t be sure because eye contact felt weird so I just looked at my feet. Seriously? Is SHE OK? You didn’t even probe her derrière. I didn’t get a hug. Isn’t a kiss customary after an encounter like this? Apparently, the PA thought she was crying because of my unexplained sickness to which we still had no answer. So, what happened?

Doc replied, “I’m fine, but he has PTassD!” At which point they both broke into gleeful vocal demonstrations.

Now that you have the facts in my short story made far longer than I’d intended, I’ll return you to my original purpose for writing this entry.

“I was save raped by my old battalion’s physician’s assistant.”

“You were not,” she began. “You consented and I was sitting right there so it was more of a twisted ménage a trois.”

“A dying person can’t give consent. I wasn’t in my right mind. I have been save raped by a tiny Carnival dancer. This is almost certainly not what Sir Elton John was referring to in “Tiny Dancer”, which makes it that much more rapey. #save rape.”

Then that song went through my head coupled with psychoanalysis and misheard lyrics. It’s “in my hand” not “in my head” so the location of my noggin in relation to my prostate isn’t on the table any longer. Boom! Dad and spouse theory on my head’s location debunked!

I had an epiphany. The song was prophetic. Go read the lyrics when you are done here and tell me I’m wrong. She’s a dancer, was having a busy day, I was on a sheet of paper and I’m sure linen has been used to make paper, I made a little squeak that possibly only she could hear. There’s more, but I really don’t want to discuss the “Now she’s in me” part of the lyrics.

3 A.M.

Three o’clock in the morning. Again. Why am I awake? Welcome to my mind on jet lag.

Wednesday:

I think my right pinky toe is broken. It hurts like all hell at the very least which is essentially the same thing as far as I’m concerned. It seems that the left foot learned proper target acquisition from the right foot, which is an old pro at this game it likes to play. I have to wonder if it isn’t from being tall. You know, like dinosaurs had two brains because they were big and needed additional globs of self-aware cholesterol in order to get around without dragging their back end behind them? It’s a sound theory. My noodle is too far away from my skis for the skis to function in such a manner as to NOT cause me harm. It only took 44 years, but the right foot is now getting good at finding things for me in the dark. It’s a slow learner. Apparently. This may explain why I can’t dance. I think these considerations may strengthen my theory.

Come to think of it, I didn’t have this problem when I was younger. My head was closer to my feet back then. I didn’t exceed six feet until after high school. Add to this the observation of my father that I walked around with my head up my butt or with my butt on my shoulders (he was full of these fun little observations), and you may find that my theory is plausible.

Yet there is my grandson to consider. Tiny little guy who bumps into everything. His head and feet share close proximity and neither are pointed in the same direction at any given time. More research is required. I wonder if I could get a government grant for this one.

Tuesday:

Burning existential questions: If a step is one foot moved forward and a pace is two steps, what is a stride? Is it just a long step or is it like a pace? Who cares? I do. This may impact how 10,000 steps a day is reached. If I knock out 10,000 steps first thing in the morning, maybe I can just lay down under a warm blanket today. All day. Why am I awake at 0300? Does putting my foot onto the floor count as one step? Sometimes I hate my brain. Is this why we sleep? To give us time away from that annoying organ? Maybe I can bank the excess steps every day so I can be a vegetable on Saturday. I’m so frigging tired…

Monday:

Dear Army Sock Maker

Dear Army sock maker,
You suck. Find a new line of work. Preferably one that does not require the matching of length or color on anything under the sun. I pulled out eleven different socks this morning. I have no clue as to where the twelfth might have absconded. Though I did notice new coat hangers in my closet I have no recollection of buying. This may confirm the theory that socks are indeed the larval form of wire coat hangers. Given enough incubation time in a drier, they hatch and migrate under the cover of darkness to their point of origin to guard the other larvae. These eleven unhatched coat hangers are from a two different packs of size large, allegedly olive drab socks. Of these eleven, there were ten different sizes and 47.3 varying shades of a drab that were most assuredly not olive. Any olive that shade is unfit for human consumption. Some socks had entire panels turned almost tan and the panel for the top of the foot on one sock was rust colored. I refuse to relinquish them though as I insist upon get my money’s worth out of them.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S.

Your elastic vendor is ripping you off too and may be slipping spaghetti noodles into your purchases. Serves you right.

A day at the Dentist

“Your blood pressure is elevated,” the snooty dental hygienist accused.

“You think?” I’m not a fan of snootiness. “Why do you need my BP to examine my teeth anyway? Are you going to stop a heart attack with an emergency tooth extraction?” Maybe it came out more, ah… less civil than I’d hoped. But in my defense, I was quite traumatized at this point.

*Crickets.

“I apologize. My pressure runs borderline anyway. Add to that a 300-pound dude in a lab coat jamming “bite wings” down my throat while he shoots radiation through a plastic basketball hoop attached to and dangling from the side of my head and you might understand my anxious state. Danged thing herniated a disk in my neck. And why do they cover my torso in a lead vest while leaving my face in the path of directed radiation? Is my face not as important? Why no crotch flap? I’m pretty sure that’s important too. Also, I saw my own toes sticking out of my own nose, my innie is now an outie, and I think I have a hernia now.” I took a short breath and spoke in the general direction of the x-ray tech. “Thanks for that by the way, Gigantor.”

Feeling better, I turned and almost attempted my best disarming smile. I don’t know that it’s ever disarmed anyone and may even more closely resemble a snarl that has at least frightened some children. She was about to get intimate with my teeth anyway so I deprived her of the opportunity to experience disarmament and kept that smile in check just in case she got paid by the number of exposures to my teeth. You aren’t getting double time pay out of me, snooty one.

“We need those x-rays, Sir.” That sounded like a weak excuse. Maybe because she couldn’t close her mouth and it’s hard to enunciate when you hang your mouth open like a fish out of water at every little inconsequential thing your patient says.

“Yeah. But do the “bite wings” have to come off of a 747? Then they cover these gargantuan airfoils with enough sharp-edged tarpaulins to cover the entire plane. Seriously, my bowel movements are going to come out shrink wrapped for the next three weeks.”

“You miiiight be overreacting at this point. You should just try to calm down.”

“And how does that work out when your husband says that to you? YOU START GETTING indexEXCITED!!” *Note to self: I need to watch Boondock Saints again.

I actually just thought that bit, but decided to keep it to myself. After all, she was hovering over my face with a Dremel and what looked like a small scythe. “Do you have to mow grass on my tongue?” I offered instead.

“What?”

“Never mind. Where were we? BP? I can explain that beyond having passenger planes shoved down my throat. Also, I do not get along with dental dams.”

“Oooo-K?”

“It’s your coat.” I stated it as plainly as I could. “Not the not-getting-along-with-dental-dams part. The BP part, I mean.”

“My coat? What’s wrong with my coat?” She sniffed it. I almost left.

“My BP goes up any time I’m near you medical types. Something to do with the coat. It might help if you had a nice camouflaged one. That probably wouldn’t help with X-Ray Kong in there though. I bet his kids freak out when he makes airplane noises with a giant spoonful of gag reflex coming their way. I honestly don’t know how you guys’ heads don’t explode every time you put one on. Which I guess would only happen once. Each.”12345678

She affected a look that reminded me of the one my wife wears quite often, sighed, and had me lay back. Then she put these safety glasses on me that are designed for the sole purpose of rendering all men unattractive to anything other than vultures.

“We’re just going to slip this dental dam in…”

I sat up. “No we are not. Didn’t I just tell you I don’t get on well with those things?”

“Just let me give it a try. I’m really good with these things. Just breathe through your nose. You won’t even notice it.”

“And that is what the last thirteen people to attempt it said. Statistically speaking, you just lied to me. I have no real reason to trust you anymore. Besides, this is just supposed to be a cleaning and exam. And I don’t appreciate the mouth breather accusations.”

“What? No. Looking at your x-rays here,” she pointed at a dark spot, deflecting. “You are going to need a filling immediately.”

I looked at the film for myself

“That’s a boot lace eyelet. If you squint, you can make out the rest of the boot. Told you I saw my toes. I’d also like to point out that gold crowns don’t get cavities so unless I have some mutant oral bacteria, you aren’t filling my crown.”

So yeah. That last part wasn’t true, but I’ve been waiting to use that whole bit about trust since my last visit where they attempted to choke me with a wad of latex bearing the innocuous sounding moniker “dental dam”.

Turns out I did need a filling, but not in the gold tooth, and they had time. I guess they saw more discussion coming from me and knocked me out which is incredibly unfair considering the amount of talking and question posing they normally do while they have you as a captive audience incapable of response other than thumbs up.

“Where were you May 28th?” I asked as a woke.

“What?”

“See what you did right there? To me? You could have saved Harambe….”

“Please stop talking.”

Be snooty with me, will you?

How I Became an Extroverted Introvert

My wife pointed out that I am no longer the introverted guy she married 20 years ago. This got me to thinking about how this came to pass. She is right (don’t ever tell her I said that) about me having been an introvert. I have leaned that way since I can remember. I was always awkward socially, terrible with and terrified by the opposite sex, reclusive, antisocial, and a bit of a fire bug. Basically a serial killer in the making if documentaries are to be believed. I never hurt animals though. I quite preferred their company to that of people. Sometimes I still do, truth be told.

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Really. Who wouldn’t prefer the company of these guys?

This isn’t me these days. Except for the socially awkward part. If you’ve read any of my blog entries, you’ll have seen some of the things that run through my head. More often than not, these things come out in social settings. Typically, they induce uncomfortable silences from those that hear me. Then I have to fill the silent void with things in hope of making it entertaining. My wife thinks this is how I came to be afflicted with Moosa. She still claims it to be a demented fabrication, but she’s a psychologist, not an M.D. If she was up to speed on her dementia she would know that mad cow is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s which is a form of senile dementia. And that is just half of the mutated thing I dubbed Moosa. Don’t judge me.

That said, memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember certain things that happened while living on Fort Riley, Kansas, that still entertain my parents to this day. I wasn’t even in the first grade yet, but they laugh when they tell me how I put little balls of poo in my dad’s combat boots. I don’t remember rubbing my junk on the sliding glass door while standing between the curtain and the glass. I guess it kind of freaked my mother out who was in the back yard watching funnel clouds with her friends only to have them point out a scrawny kid hitting a home run with a glass door while grinning like an idiot. Good times. These are the kinds of things I wish I could remember so I could introduce them as topics of discussion in polite company. Now they are just second hand stories rather than my own.

The crap I do remember from back then actually kind of sucks. Like my first exposure to a group of bullies. It was the same day I found a puppy and tried to keep it behind a little stone wall so I could go ask permission to keep it. I had to go back outside and break the bad news to the puppy, but dogs have really good ears and apparently he’d already heard through the walls and left without a goodbye. I clearly remember how upset I was. My mother skillfully distracted me by tying a cape around my neck so I could be superman. I must have been superman for days because it was just a few days later when I “flew” around to a friend’s back yard that I met my kryptonite for the first time. A group of older kids had my friend in tears and began threatening him with bodily harm if he didn’t beat me up. I decided I should be elsewhere because this was so not cool. They formed a ring around me and the butt kicking commenced. Brock Lesnar couldn’t have done a more thorough job. I dragged myself home and swore off of capes and became a bit of a recluse… for the next 20 years.

Somewhere in my mind, I linked that event to the Army. It’s understandable, I suppose. Most of my life has been linked to the Army. I guess my point is that I think this is where my reclusive, socially awkward nature originated. It didn’t help that we moved every three years and I was forced to find that one other kid with no friends. That got really weird when that other kid was female and we were both beginning to recognize that the other gender was more interesting than our own.

I think I’ve figured out when the shift took place in the social arena though. I didn’t like the idea of my brothers being in a combat zone while I sat safely ensconced in my isolation. I’d already been married to my wife for seven years and at 31 years old, I enlisted in the Army. I turned 32 the day I arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to become a cannon crew member.

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I was driven and climbed the rank ladder as fast as I could. Consequently, I was forced to be in front of a squad. I had to teach, coach, mentor, and lead young soldiers. This is pretty tough for one who has lived as introvert for decades, yet I was fairly proficient at it and this eventually led to my becoming a platoon Sergeant. The point is that the Army forced me out of my shell, made me face the uncomfortable and overcome it. I’d found my niche and that niche was in front of some of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.

ftx

So here I am. A mid-forties social bug who now embraces the awkwardness. I love my unique brand of oddness. There was a time during which my concern over other people’s perception of me was absolutely debilitating. I’m glad that is gone. I like being the guy at a formal military ball who removes his dress blue uniform top to reveal his dress shirt’s sleeves and back panel are colorful patches containing bulldogs on motorcycles.

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I was the only person in the room full of officers and senior NCOs wearing a “party shirt” and it created a strange sort of conversational ripple as people turned to look. It was actually fun rather than mortifying. Now I kind of enjoy it when I introduce a topic of discussion that leaves others feeling awkward and unsure of how to respond. Welcome to my world, peeps! Embrace yours. It’s the only one you got.

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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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.