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.

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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.

Abandonment: Part One

Every year my wife heads off to Pensacola to tend to the needs of her mother. It always seems to happen at the same time each year and she goes to great lengths to make sure we are fed for the duration. Without fail, the two weeks’ worth of food she prepares ahead of time seems to last approximately three days. I get it. We are grown and should be able to fend for ourselves and we do. However, while doing so I like to ensure she sees the plight she has inflicted on us through her absence. This serves the purpose of also providing her with daily updates.

The first couple of days are typically the same: We boys eat well and are happy. I begin to miss her and start putting “Aint no sunshine when she’s gone” videos on her FB timeline. It is usually that third day when semblances of civilization begin to crumble and we descend into a world not unlike the one depicted in Lord of the Flies. Here are the updates from her 2013 trip.

Day one without spousal oversight: Early August in the Georgia Low County. The temperature and humidity levels flirt with a third digit. Doc vanished in the early morning hours for a time indeterminate. I used the last sliver of soap this morning. While trusting the Timber Wolf and Pigdog to watch my back, I spent the morning trying to render fat in order to produce a rudimentary substance to bathe with. I have nothing to show for it but a full belly and the pervasive odor of bacon clinging to me like sweaty clothes and some soot with which to camouflage myself when I hunt for sustenance.

Day two without spousal oversight: The Boy and I have gone native. Despite the best efforts of the wife to leave us well provisioned, we’ve resorted to killing things and eating them. Tonight we shared a meal of dozen fried bream I skillfully caught.

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Day three without Doc’s supervision: The plague is taking its toll on the other half of my faction, threatening to upset the power balance. The common cold is deadly to us primitives. I think I may have to sacrifice him in order to save myself. My other son has formed a separatist faction and makes the rest of our territory uncomfortable. (If y’all knew the Man Child back then you would know that I am only half joking. He was going through some dark times and became slightly reclusive and perpetually agitated). This other faction persists in unwarranted territorial posturing. We may have to take him out before the plague weakens us too far. It’s ok, I know where he sleeps.

Day four unsupervised: It looks like the Boy and I will survive this round of plague, even as the other faction’s leader, the Man Child, begins to feel its effects. The dogs have stopped incessantly trying to go outside. Could be the thunderstorm or it could be that inside has become a jungle of sorts. I’m sure Doc would be furious at the state of things if she were here, but we no longer fear whip nor wrath since she is nearly a thousand miles away. For now, we are learning the art of war and the use of implements of destruction. I’ve attached a picture of us in the newly renovated living room so that you might better visualize our advancement.

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Day five…….or seven without Doc’s supervision: Time has lost all meaning here. Due to threats of bodily harm, the Boy and I have agreed not to bring down the vengeful wrath of our distant queen. We still refuse praying to her, but we will not kill her beloved pigdog. However, we are forced to forage farther afield for sustenance following the feast in which we devoured most of the bounty bestowed upon us prior to her departure. I called upon a place miles away from us and demanded food. Our strength and reputation must have preceded us as they brought it to our very gates. We must be fearsome indeed. Or so we thought. These subversives wore the same raiment as the Man Child. Red uniforms bearing the crest of some chieftain called Papa of clan John. It seems he’s forged alliances against us with other clans now.

You’ll Never Find Your Super Power While Wearing Clothes

I had a fun little thought while I was showering this morning. The bathroom is where most of my most interesting thoughts come from, after all. I like to think that my best thoughts arrive in the bathroom because clothes inhibit free thought and creativity. I’m telling you, if I were dressed right now I’d still be staring at a blank page with no idea where to begin. Sure, one might mistakenly think the shower thought phenomenon is due to the absence of distractions in the bathroom. There’s just the mirror. And maybe some books. Not in my bathroom though. E-readers don’t live long in there. Other than shaving my face, I can’t tell you when the last time I even looked in the mirror. Except for that time last year when my face started sliding off in the hospital. OK. So that was the last good look in the mirror. But in my defense, one’s face sliding off is something one shouldn’t miss. I was all “Yo, Adrian! I can’t spit.”, but my wife didn’t think it was funny and neither did the doctor who immediately had my head rushed into an inordinately loud magnetic tube. Anyway, the whole blaming it on distractions thing seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s totally the clothing’s fault.

So I was rinsing the soap out of my hair (and no I don’t use shampoo because Army regulation keeps my hair so short that shampoo seems like a purely superfluous amenity) when I realized that my eyes were open. Not that big a deal at first glance, but bear with me. I thought back and realized that I’d been doing this whole open eyed thing for most of my life. When I was a child though, I could chemical burn my corneas in the shower with eyes shut and goggles on while using baby shampoo. It took no effort whatsoever. Now it feels like I have to put forth a great deal of effort to get lye flavored pain in my eyes. Not that I want to do so of course, but you get the idea.

I puzzled it out and had something like an epiphany. One or two things could have occurred to make this possible. 1) As I aged I grew this Neanderthal-like forehead that shields my eyes while the wrinkles I developed serve to divert water away like drainage ditches. And 2) My ludicrously thick eyebrows serve as self-grown sham-wows that soaks up all the water and protects my eyes.

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I actually felt the need to go watch that commercial right then and ended up watching Apocalyptica and people interacting with pet ocelot videos. The ocelots, of course, took me to an Archer episode… Sorry. I’m back.

The point is that my body reacted to external threats and mutated accordingly kind of like when Deadpool spent the weekend in that little chamber-o-torture to make his mutations manifest. Long story short: I’m one of the X-Men, y’all! One childhood dream now checked off the bucket list. Granted, it may not be effective against Magneto, frost giants or dark elves, and it’ll get me nowhere with Scarlett Johansson unless I paint myself green and live as an angsty teenager who then develops a gothy “I’m always angry” attitude. Maybe I could jump brands and use my unique abilities to help the Justice League fight Poseidon. BAM! Problem solved. ‘Tis what I do. Well, that and divert water.

Doc is going to be so stoked when she gets this call in the morning!

If anybody has good name suggestions for a dude who fights off evil with his water dissuading facial features, please share.

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.

 

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.