Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flashback to 1993, 1994--Abortion Provider Killed

With the murder of Dr. George Tiller this morning (in church--sick irony, there), I'm thinking back to the two murderers here in Pensacola.

Dr. David Gunn was shot in the back by Michael Griffin on March 10, 1993. David was near the back door of one of two clinics in town. Griffin reportedly came up behind him and said or shouted, "Stop killing babies!" before unloading 3 rounds from a nickel-plate revolver. Several hours and several units of blood later, David was gone.

Dr. John Britton and a friend of mine, Jim Barrett, were gunned down a year later, on July 29, 1994, by Paul Hill. Jim had driven out to the airport to bring the Doc to work at the other clinic in town. As they were pulling into the driveway, Hill stepped up to the driver's side of Jim's pickup truck and fired a shotgun point-blank. Jim and the Doc died instantly. Jim's wife was in the back seat. I can still see the two bodies arranged on the driveway near the truck, shrouded. Several of my clinic escort acquaintences stood across 9th Avenue and watched in the aftermath. One woman cried and muttered, "they shouldn't be alone over there...we should go to them."

I started volunteering shortly after John Burt, one of our resident anti-abortion kooks (and now in prison for molesting underage girls, strangely enough) staged an event claiming he was going to bury an aborted fetus on a little piece of land right next to the 9th Avenue clinic (I'll tell his story later). His stunt pissed me off to the point where I joined NOW and volunteered to escort women across the vast distance from their car to the clinic door. That asshole and his buddy Donnie Gratton would stand on scaffolding erected along the back fence of the clinic property and either shout or use a bullhorn to harrass women. These scumbag right-wing religious terrorists are wrong. They harrass every woman who goes into such a place, not knowing or caring beyond their own overinflated egos whether that woman's going for a breast exam, a blood test, a regular checkup, or the Big A.

And it is none of their fucking business.

My attitude on abortion? I don't believe human life is sacred or special. It's only important to humans--and so life is important to that person and those around them. I won't argue that abortion ends a future life.

BUT...I will argue that banning abortion and terrorizing people are wrong. Banning it will not make it stop. It'll make it more expensive, both financially and in lives, because desperate women will still look for and find unscrupulous someones willing to make a few bucks off of them. It will not be the utopia the anti-abortion idiots think things will be--"Oh, once we ban it, everyone will think like we do!"


No, I'd rather have it freely available and performed by competent, licensed medical professionals if only to protect womens' lives--so that they CAN have a kid later on.

I should note that I do not and WILL not accept any argument against abortion, gay marriage, or other social or political or scientific matters if those arguments come from religion. If you have to look it up in your book, looking for quotes; if you have to get your opinion from some preacher; if your main reason for opposing something stems from your religous have no argument.

I hardly knew David Gunn, outside of the "Hey, how you doing?" sort of thing. His killer got a life sentence, unfortunately.

I knew Jim Barrett. I celebrated when his killer got the needle on September 3, 2003.

Not happy thoughts, no...and I should note that in the wake of these killings, abortions continued. Within hours of Gunn's death, we had volunteers ready to drive or fly into town as needed. Within a week, we had people on the clock.

I wonder how things will unfold in the aftermath of Dr. Tiller's murder.

Friday, May 29, 2009


No, not the detective.

Back in 1986, just before I went into Basic, I had to go to the Fitness Training Company. I couldn't pass the minimum on the sit-ups test.

All we did was work out--jogging, push-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, weights, push-ups, and push-ups. Our Assistant Drill Sergeant was a cool guy from Kingston, complete with the accent, mon, but without the Eddie Grant dreadlocks. One afternoon, he took us out on a little hike and called a "cadence" that was...frowned upon by the powers that be.

This is a cleaner version of it--not nearly as raunchy as the one we did:

In eighteen hundred and ninety four,
in the streets of old Bigotti.
There lived a young Italian lad,
selling hot tomalies.
He said the world was round-o,
he said it could be found-o.
The hypothetical, navigatin', son-of-a-bitch Columbo.

The queen she gave him three tall ships,
they all were triple deckers.
The queen she waved her handkerchief,
Columbo waved his pecker
He said the the world was round-o,
he said it could be found-o.
That hypothetical, navigatin', son-of-a-bitch Columbo.

His first mate was a cabin boy,
a dirty little nipper.
They lined his bunk with broken glass,
and circumcised the skipper.
He said the world was round-o,
he said it could be found-o.
That hypothetical, navigatin', son-of-a-bitch Columbo.

It was a welcome change from stuff like this:

Here we go again
Same old stuff again
Marching down the avenue
Six more weeks and we'll be through
I'll be glad and so will you

This was the era of the "New Army"--the cadences had to be cleaned, the Drills couldn't touch you (to administer attitude adjustments), couldn't curse, lots of new rules. I don't think I missed out, really, given my attitude toward authority types. The people I trained with in Basic were smart and knew their stuff, and they were some of the few authority figures I've ever actually respected. I don't think I'd have made it, though, with the R. Lee Ermey approach to Drill Instructors. Still, it makes for great cinema, seeing him in "Full Metal Jacket."

Basic Training was the most fun I've ever had--but when my ETS date came up on August 3, 1992, I walked away and haven't even considered going back: the authority figures in my home unit were lacking. My immediate superior was an insurance salesman who had to be trained by yours truly before he could do his job. More about him...later.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SOTD: Digital Man (Rush)

This one kept running through my mind all day. It's the 4th track from "Signals," one of my top 5 Rush albums. As with "Moving Pictures" before it, the guys are in great form and there's not a weak song on the disc.

"Signals" marks the first of a new "cycle" of albums for the band; they maintained a habit for quite a while of doing 4 studio albums, then a live album that encapsulates their sound for that "cycle." With "Signals," Geddy Lee (bass/vocals/keyboards) started adding more keyboard textures. Guitarist Alex Lifeson had to change his guitar sound somewhat after this album because those keyboards tend to take up the same sonic space as a guitar--and it shows. The guitars just aren't as loud in the mix as I'd like.

With that in mind, "Digital Man" is a strongly drum- and bass-driven song. The bass line stands out--and Lee's got some wicked chops to take advantage of that. Very good for intimidating the hell out of beginning bass players: I've been playing for 5 years and still haven't "got" this song.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Radio FM list--newer

A month or so ago, I posted a list of local FM stations from 2005, showing the unholy amount of *spit* country and religious infestation on the local airwaves. Now I've made up a new listing for 2009 and sorted them together:

2005 -- 88.1 -- NPR
2009 -- 88.1 -- NPR

2005 -- 88.5 -- preachers
2009 -- 88.5 -- preachers

2005 -- 88.9 -- preachers
2009 -- ?

2005 -- 89.5 -- preachers
2009 -- 89.5 -- preachers

2005 -- 90.1 -- preachers
2009 -- ?

2005 -- 90.5 -- preachers
2009 -- 90.5 -- preachers

2005 -- 91.1 -- preachers
2009 -- ?

2005 -- 91.3 -- classical
2009 -- 91.3 -- classical

2005 -- 91.7 -- preachers
2009 -- 91.7 -- preachers

2009 -- 92.9 -- r&b/soul

2009 -- 93.3 -- r&b

2005 -- 94.1 -- adult contemptible
2009 -- 94.1 -- adult contemptible

2009 -- 94.7 -- praise 95 preachers

2005 -- 94.9 -- country
2009 -- 94.9 -- country

2005 -- 95.7 -- preachers (fake rock)

2005 -- 96.1 -- The Rocket classic rock
2009 -- 96.1 -- The Rocket classic rock

2005 -- 96.5 -- light rock, r&b, homogenous ugliness ("light mix"?)
2009 -- 96.5 -- country

2005 -- 97.5 -- wabb, pop crap
2009 -- 97.5 -- wabb, pop crap

2005 -- 98.1 -- sports crap
2009 -- 98.1 -- country

2005 -- 98.7 -- country
2009 -- 98.7 -- country

2005 -- 99.5 -- classic rock (fort walton)
2009 -- 99.5 -- classic rock (fort walton)

2005 -- 99.9 -- country
2009 -- 99.9 -- light crappy mix

2005 -- 100.7 -- adult contemptible
2009 -- 100.7 -- adult contemptible

2005 -- 101.5 -- playlist rock (tk-101)
2009 -- 101.5 -- playlist rock (tk-101)

2005 -- 102.7 -- country
2009 -- 102.7 -- country

2009 -- 104.1 -- "jack" mix contemptible

2005 -- 105.1 -- moldies
2009 -- 105.1 -- sunny cheerful/nostalgic pop

2005 -- 105.7 -- sunny cheerful/nostalgic pop

2009 -- 106.1 -- magic soul r&b

2005 -- 106.5 -- moldies

2005 -- 107.3 -- adult contemptible
2009 -- 107.3 -- moldies

So we lost an adult contemptible and replaced it with country, as if there weren't enough horseturds in the pasture. We also ditched the sports channel and replaced IT with country. BUT...we got rid of one pile of horseturds and replaced it with light mix, so the evil country cabal only gets one net fake-leather cowboy boot (or is that a "bewt"?) in the door.

So now we're at 5 preacher stations, 5 country, 3 rock stations, a bunch of offensively inoffensive stuff, and NPR.

I miss "Z-ROCK" from my Tallahassee days. It was a national "surperstation" network and they played anything and everything, as long as it rocked. About 6 months after I moved there in 1995, some business genius changed the format to "house" (dance club) crap, then lightweight r&b, then something occasionally close to listenable rock.

I'll always have my iPod.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fort Pickens--the November 2006 "Hike & Bike"

My first try at blogging was back in August of 2005...then in 2007, over at LiveJournal. I think I got bored, probably because I was trying to write about just a single topic.

I'm surprised the thing's still up, really.

So anyway, instead of me trying to edit down a 7-page transcript and make it seem more interesting than it really is, just hit the link and go to the FortGeek LiveJournal page to see a much better write-up of the '06 "Hike & Bike."

Visiting an Old Friend

In September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept through the area and wrecked a lot of lives. I and my folks were fortunate--just some shingles off the roof.

The most direct effect the storm had on me was that it demolished a few miles of winding asphalt road that ran like a backbone along Santa Rosa Island to end at Fort Pickens. My last drive out to this, my favorite place on Earth, was just a few days before Ivan blew in. The National Park Service scrambled to rebuild or repair the road in time for the 2005 tourist season.

On practically the first day of Hurricane Season 2005, Tropical Storm Arlene left her trailer park, cruised along the Gulf of Mexico in her ratty old 1984 Camaro, and threw a relatively small amount of water around...and washed out the damn road. The other storms of 2005 did their bit to wreck the road.

By October, the word was that Fort Pickens Road was in limbo. The National Park Service and Florida Department of Transportation wanted to study their options. The park was re-opened, but the only way to get to the Fort was a 7-mile hike with maybe 5 miles of good road and 2 miles of sand. In November of '06 I just couldn't take it anymore--and I determined to hike and bike my way to the fort.

The first mile and a half was easy. From there, for another mile and change, the road was washed away and the island itself looked like a river bottom. The sugar-white sands were mixed with tawny brown, and there were chunks of asphalt (from rice-grain to several feet across) that made it all look like a "cookies & cream" dessert. There were places where the road had been bent like toffee. And there was a 30-foot-high mountain of asphalt chunks and sand that was visible for miles: I dubbed it Mount Asphalt. This was the halfway point between the ends of the destroyed road.

I'll post the transcript of that original hike tonight or tomorrow--it's pretty long.

But I had those images in mind this morning. Fort Pickens Road officially reopened yesterday (5/22/09), just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

And, ironically, just in time for the first sizable cyclone-type storm of the season. For several days, a weak system spiraled its way out of the Atlantic, dumping several inches of rain on Jacksonville and points south, then crawling over Central Florida to go into the Gulf. The center of rotation stayed offshore, roughly level with Tampa's latitude, and it kept going more or less West. Until this morning, when it decided it'd had enough swimming and made north for land. It came ashore somewhere along the Alabama-Mississippi border, and it brought us some 10 to 15 foot waves.

The road flooded. All those places that had been damaged or destroyed by storms in 2004 and 2005, all the areas where the island itself had been cut through from the Gulf to Pensacola Bay, all the places graded flat, are all the places that were under several feet of water.

So here's me, impatient to get to "my" fort, pissed off already because I managed to hit EVERY bleeding red light but 2 on the way out, pulling up at the entrance to the park to find it blocked.




I went down to the Gulf side of the island and took pictures of the rollers and combers smiting the shoreline. There were some gorgeous opportunities for shots of an advancing stormfront far to the southwest, out over the Gulf, and stretching north along one of the bands of that cyclone for as far as the eye could see.

I waited for 2 hours, went off to find lunch, came back...and now the roadblock was gone.

Road was still flooded, but only inches deep. Good idea to roll your windows up; I got drenched from my own bow wave before I could manage that. But I didn't care. The only thing that mattered was getting to the fort.

It's still there, of course, and still as lovely and brooding and majestic and wounded as ever. I didn't break down in tears of joy--but I did caress a wall occasionally, an irrational greeting as if to say, "Good to see you again, old friend."

Things are finally right in my little part of the world.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Everyone Wins!" karate tournament

Back in my karate days--I think this was 1991 or early '92--I went to the one and only kata tournament I've ever attended.

What's kata? Basically, it's a specific sequence of techniques and stances intended to get you used to moving around in a proper stance. The link takes you to the North Austin Tae Kwon Do site for an MPEG demonstration of Heian Shodan, the first such kata (or "form") you learn in Shotokan karate (and maybe other Japanese/Okinawan tyles--but I only know Shotokan).

This was a local event assembled in a high school gym. There were maybe a dozen people from my class (local Junior College), lots of kids from Tae Kwon Do classes, a Shotokan club from the University of West Florida, maybe 100 participants total. Everyone got a T-shirt when they signed in and paid their fee.

The UWF Shotokan guys' stances and technique execution were subtly different from ours. One guy did the "spear-hand" strike (about 16 seconds into this kata (Heian Sandan)) at about a 45-degree angle downward rather than keeping his right arm horizontal. I've always wondered why, since it doesn't seem practical. With that strike, you're using the tips of your fingers--only good against a soft target like the base of the throat, below the sternum, or the eyes, for example. If he's going for a groin strike, there's a lot of stuff in the way that could earn him broken fingers.

So anyway, I was one of a mess of other orange belts from my club, and all of us were doing Heian Yondan. The idea was that each participant can do whichever kata they want, but it was recommended that they do their testing kata. There wasn't really anything making us stand apart as far as performance, so I ended up with a silver. I can't remember whether I messed up somewhere or not, but it could have been any little detail that scored against me. Or it could have been "not standing out" that did it.

I shoulda done this one (Heian Godan)--the next-higher one. And I knew that even before I started the one I did do.

That said, I didn't really give much thought to the "everyone's a winner!" approach of the tournament. I can understand the notion of wanting to protect the kids' ego and self-esteem, but it seems like an attempt to make life seem fair regardless of the effort one puts into it. I wonder if it's the right sort of message to be teaching various precious snowflakes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Arguing for the Church: Your Atheist Boyfriend!

Well, I wasn't actually an atheist yet. I was some sort of lapsing Pagan or somesuch, after being some other sort of believer in the aftermath of the Big Breakup of April 1995.

Let's call this girlfriend "Number Two"; it's appropriate in quite a few ways, now that I think about it--she was the second woman I'd ever been involved with, and she's the crappiest human being I've ever met. Maybe she had good reasons, maybe not--that's a different post. Also, this was the single worst relationship I've ever been in.

Oh, hell, I might as well give a little background. I met Two while I was still living in Scumbag's living room, about 3 months after I tried to keep "Whitney" from killing herself over him. Two and Scumbag are cousins of some sort, and he was trying to hook up with her. She called on August 8th, 1996 (certain dates stick with ya, huh?) and ended up talking to me, instead.

I shoulda hung up the damn phone. Nope. I ended up going out with her, and by month's end we were an "item." I helped her move out of her tiny one-bedroom apartment and into a relatively palatial 14-by-80 trailer on Tallahassee's outskirts. This is a big deal for anyone--having their own place--but in her case it's even more than that. Two is legally blind, something like 10% of the normal range of vision, and forget about 20/20. She's also bipolar--and at the time, the docs were tinkering with meds, trying to find the right pill and the right dosage.

She was also on Norplant.

Holy crap, what a combination. I really shoulda hung up that damn phone. But the horror stories can wait: this is about me arguing for her church.

She had this notion that the church she was going to was supposed to give her communion, and that they were interfering with her closeness to the Divine by denying her the cookies and juice. She complained to me at one point that they weren't playing along, being fair, giving her HER WAY, and like that. She was even taking Bible study classes!

So here's me, trying to get it through that skull of hers that the church doesn't play from her book. They have their own, and they've got hoops for her to jump through, and she was only on the third or fourth Bible class out of several. She hadn't done all of her own part yet.

"But they don't have the RIGHT to deny me! There's only one perfect man, and that's Jesus Christ!" blah, blah, blah. I know I didn't wear her down, so I'm pretty sure Two thought she'd won. But the church continued in its disobedience of Her will and she dumped them a few weeks later.

I'd say they won. I think they owe me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Song of the Day: Holy Mountains (System of a Down)

Track 8 off System's "Hypnotize" disc (2005).

This song covers a typical topic of theirs--the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) around the time of World War 1. The "Holy Mountain"--Mount Ararat, believed to be the landing point for Noah's Ark--was taken from Armenia by the Turks (source: Song Facts).

Rather than being a standard thrash-fest, this song has a spooky feel; Serj Tankian doesn't indulge in his usual screeching vocals, here. He maintains an introspective, dark mood that becomes horrifying in the choruses, when Daron Malakian adds the primal-scream "Liar, Killer, Demon!" that describes the Turkish government.

For the first few weeks after I got this CD and threw it to my iPod, I found "Mountains" disturbing--the chorus would bring a knot to my throat. I didn't even know what the song was about at the time. Now, though, I'd say it's very effective.

They're Baptist, so I have to be too!

When the Old Man married my mother, I was maybe 5 years old. He adopted me, so technically (legally) he's my father, I guess. That's another post.

With him I inherited a large contingent of assorted conservative Southern Baptists in the form of a pair of step-grandparents (whom I dubbed "New Granny" and "New Grampa"), an uncle, his wife, and their litter of kids, all with "T" names (Terry, Tammy, Tracy, Tristi & Troy), all living on the same road.

I enjoyed going over there; Troy and I were about the same age, and we hit it off like little kids do.

But one thing I didn't like was Church Day. This was a day when the entire brood formed up and marched to the station wagon for several hours of preacher-talk. There was no discussion of me not going--such a thing was unthinkable, resistance was futile, I would be assimilated.

So I sat on the pew or knelt or stood, wondering how these people could take such things seriously. I was given a $5.00 bill for the collection plate. This was one of those little hellfire joints where the list of people going to hell went like this (from worst to least):

Non-Southern Baptists.
Non-SBC-Southern Baptists.
SBC's who went to the wrong SBC church (this one was the right one, see).
People sitting on the wrong side of the building.
People sitting on the wrong pew.
People not of the family.
People not in the car.

You know the type--everyone but our little group, but I was going to hell anyway because my parents were Episcopalians. They really didn't like it when I went into the Boy Scouts in 1980 or so.

I went to their Sunday School and sat there wondering where this "Israel" was, and why it was so important, and not believing a word of it: it was obviously made-up stuff.

If a 6-year old can figure that out...

Gramps died of a heart attack in the mid-'70s. Mrs. Gramps died of Alzheimer's in 1999. Uncle and Aunt divorced in the late '80s (I thought that was a sin?). The Five Tees are well on their way to repopulating the county themselves and ignore me when I go to family reunions. I wonder how many of them still go to that church....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Band Goes to Panama City

In maybe late February or early March of 1995, we got called to play what was to be one of a few travel gigs: Spinnaker's in Panama City, Florida.

We piled our stuff and crammed ourselves into GC's extra-cab Ford for the 100-mile drive. Kind of cramped. I probably had a book. I always have a book.

Once we got to this place--a club with a bar--no one there had any idea where we were supposed to park, where to set up, when to set up, or any of the other important details. It was late afternoon, and we picked a spot, dropped the tailgate, and sat while GC went hunting intelligent life in Spinnaker Land.

About 60 yards from us was the back door to a little Creole restaurant. White-clothed cooking types maneuvered around each other, pots steamed and clanged...and a tiny critter with claws raised in defiance came running out of the building, high-tailing it for the rain puddle near our truck: a crawfish.

We rooted for the escapee, but its freedom was temporary. One of the white-suits came out and caught it.

GC got things sorted out. We started unloading and moving our gear.

The stage was tiny: a triangle roughly 8 x 8 x 12 feet. Navy Jim and his drums took up the corner. Wodger was scrunched in right in front of him. GC and I bracketed him on left and right, respectively, and MC the "singer" was as out-front as the stage allowed. GC's rig was as big as a filing cabinet, Wodger's amp was the size of a dorm fridge. Next to their rigs, my (borrowed) amp and speaker were pathetically small. I don't know how we played without tripping each other up or hitting Navy Jim in the head with our guitars.

At some point, some Navy guy yelled out a request: "Play some Rush! Play some Rush!" GC frowned, rolled his eyes and shook his head. Navy Jim and I played the opening riff from "Time Stand Still"--and left it at that.

I remember the gig being a lot of fun. By this point we did sound a lot better--but MC's singing and my playing never did improve enough where I'd say either of us was any good.

Song of the Day: Plowed (Sponge)

This is the only song by Sponge I can remember ever hearing.

It's in a painful place for me, though. The first time I heard it, I was on the way back from Tallahassee. It was late evening, March 28, 1995. Eleven days later, on April 8th, my little world fell apart when the girl I'd been visiting broke up with me out of the blue (well, it was "out of the blue" for me; she'd apparently been preparing this for several weeks, but didn't have the backbone to discuss it. Her freaking DOG knew, her family, her friends, and so did the guy who sold me gas on the way home. I'm pretty sure my car knew).

I must have known something was happening on the 28th; I knew "he" was back in town. I didn't know enough to think there was anything going on. I'm dumb enough that I tried to be friends with her afterward. For two and a half years.

The rock station in Tallahassee at 101.5 had a competition: they play two songs and people call in to vote for which one's cool and which one sucks. "Plowed" premiered there that night. I don't remember whether it won or not, but every time I hear the intro, I'm back in my ratty monstrous '76 Chevy Impala wagon, steering along the winding access road leading to a rest area about an hour west of Tallahassee. It's pitch-black, dark trees looming in my headlights, and the song sounds as lonely as I felt that night.

There's a wailing guitar in the second half--all the way to the end--that sounds even more painful and really fits the mood of those days.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Beef Steak" jerky and cats

I bought one of these things (not the Slim Jim kind, which I would have preferred) for a quick lunch a few weeks back. I finished maybe half of it.

Once I got home, I found it still wrapped up and dumped it out, thinking maybe one of the local cats would want it.

That was two weeks ago. It's still sitting there--dried up, darkened from sitting in the sun, and not a bite taken from it.

Even the ants won't eat this stuff.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Song of the Day: 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson)

This is an amazing song. I was introduced to progressive-rock band King Crimson by Woger, the bass player in that band I was in, and I'd never heard anything like this before.

"Schizoid" is on Crimson's 1969 debut album "In The Court of the Crimson King"

The lineup for this track is

vocals--Greg Lake (later of Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
guitar--Robert Fripp
bass--Greg Lake
drums--Michael Giles
sax--Ian McDonald
keys--Peter Sinfield

I can't really hear any keyboards in the song, aside from some wonks and whoooshes at the beginning before all hell breaks loose.

The song's "A" part is played "straight"--everyone's in tune, and in harmony, and Lake's distorted vocals sound appropriately demented.

The "B" part sounds more jazz-like, with a brittle, angular guitar solo (typical of Fripp's style) and screeching double sax (one for each ear) solo that loses any semblance of tonality while still being cool as hell.

The "C" part still cracks me up: the entire band plays the same riff--guitar, sax, bass, and drums. They're utterly tight! They throw in random stop-time, tease you with more of the riff, stop cold, go, stop. I don't know why it affects me this way, but it's hysterically funny.

The "D" part reprises the "A" and gets us to the ending, where they pull out any remaining stops and do their level best to make it sound like the band is self-destructing. Twice.

Awesome song.

The Day the World Ended

It was a Saturday. I'm surprised no one noticed when it happened, for we had a Private with detailed inside knowledge prowling the Armory and its grounds with a smug smile upon his countenance.

He shared this knowledge with one and all, singly or in groups, and he caught me unawares as I was toiling at some chore or other: "If you don't see me tomorrow," he began, a beatific smile on his mug, "you'll know what happened. The Lord is calling us home!" He started trying to save my life.

I nodded politely, hoping he would Rapture his ass right then and there and leave his car and wallet behind. No. No, he had to explain that his super-special knowledge was utterly correct, and this took maybe 10 minutes of my life which I shall never have again.

He finally wandered off, trying to save lives. I forgot all about him.

Until the next morning, when he wasn't so smug.

Apparently the world ended--and Gawd didn't want him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Favorite "West Wing" quote

Leo's "hole" story to Josh; this is probably the most touching thing I've heard.

[after Josh's therapy session with Stanley Keworth, Josh inquires why Leo is trying to help him]

Leo McGarry: This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey, you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?" The priest writes a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me. Can you help me Out" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you nuts? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before - and I know the way out."

Saving Whitney

Not her real name. "Whitney" was the fiancee' and housemate of a guy whose living room I lived in for a few months back in 1996. Things fell apart pretty dramatically, and by mid-to-late April they were no longer an item: Scumbag threw her off for this piece of crap he went to high school with (oddly enough, I dated that same piece of crap a few months before: Piglet).

Whitney tried to stay with him--and I'm sure Scumbag was playing her so he was getting some either way.

She finally reached a point where she couldn't take it anymore.

On Mother's day evening in 1996, Whitney walked out of the house. I was sitting at my old PC, writing. I didn't think much about where she'd gone. Then Scumbag comes into the living room and mutters something about her killing herself...then goes to the couch, sits on his scumbag ass, and turns on the TV.

I got up and walked out with no idea of where Whitney had gone. I knew she wasn't able to drive, had no car, and no one had picked her up, so I just picked a direction and went.

Scumbag apparently decided that This Was Important, and he tagged along.

I found her huddled in the bus stop shelter around the corner. I sat down with her and tried to get her to talk. I sent Scumbag home. Whitney told me that she'd taken pills, and she had a razor blade in her purse in case they didn't work. I tried to talk her out of it, but I knew I was out of my depth. I knew Whitney would only really listen to one of her close friends, and I knew I had to get to a phone to get that person out here. And I knew she needed medical help, since I had no idea what pills she'd taken. She told me to go away.

I felt shitty doing it, but who had a cell phone in 1996?

I ran all the way back to the house. Scumbag was still watching TV. Apparently the notion of calling 9-1-1 or friends or anyone who might help hadn't occurred to him.

I grabbed the phone and shouted at Scumbag to give me the friend's number. It rang for more than a minute.

"She might be out for dinner," Scumbag suggested. I tried a different friend. No answer. I called 9-1-1, knowing everyone in that tight-knit little group would resent the intrusion and not caring (maybe I'll try to explain their attitudes at some point). Within a minute, flashing blue lights whipped past the house, converging on Whitney. They found her wandering in the road. I was still trying to reach anyone in the group to have them get their asses moving, but it was nearly an hour before I got an answer.

I was right--everyone got pissed off at me for calling cops and ambulances and fire trucks out to help Whitney. None of them bothered to think that maybe her life was more important than some outsiders' intrusion on their clique.

Whitney spent a few days under observation in a psych house and made a full (physical) recovery.

But last I saw of her when I moved out a few months later, she'd moved back in with Scumbag. And that was 1996.

I did look her up online recently and found her blog. She's still alive and apparently happier, but still busted up over Scumbag even 13 years later. At least she's not with him--and I'm happy with that. She deserves better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Basic Training & Private Key's hair

I went into Basic on October 1, 1986. I didn't pass the Physical Fitness test, so I got sent over to the Fitness Training Company for a few weeks of pushups, sit-ups, weights, jogs, and the dreaded exercise bike.

Once I was fit enough to leave there, I was assigned to B-Company 6-2-4 (6th Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 4th Platoon).
We awoke daily at 4:30, hit the mess hall by 5 a.m., and were ready to head out by 5:30, Monday through Sunday.

Sundays were more relaxed--no regular training, but those of us who didn't go to church services ended up cleaning the barracks (if I remember correctly, they had a share of cleanup when they came back, so it worked out). You could talk, hang out, whatever, as long as the work was getting done, but sleeping was a no-no.

Private Key sagged down between lockers and fell asleep.

Drill Sergeant Driscoll came out of his office to check on things. He got this grin on his face and held a single finger to his lips, then whispered: "Sshhh! Someone get me their shaving cream!"

Thus armed, he made a good-sized pile of the stuff on Key's head, then snuck back to his office. "Give me a minute."

Silence for a few moments.

"PRIVATE KEY! Come to my office!"

We had to wake the sleeper up--careful not to disturb his decoration. Key un-assed the floor and went to the office. We followed as quietly as we could.

"Sergeant Driscoll, Private Key reporting as ordered!" (I assume he saluted)

Silence for a few moments.

"Private...what is that on your head?"

Confused--then shocked--silence, then a stammered, "I--I don't know, Sergeant."

"Clean it up--and give me fifty for sleeping."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Frog-Marched to Church!

In the waning days of Basic Training, in mid-December [actually, it was November 11--J.] of 1986, there came a Sunday evening when some religious-type sergeant on CQ duty ("Charge of Quarters"--he's basically handling the administrative stuff, managing the troops on guard duty, etc.) decided that since he was stuck on CQ, EVERYone had to come with him.

He wanted to go to the Christmas chorus concert being held up the hill in a local church. The entire Company (Bravo 6-2) had to suit up, form up, and march 2,000 feet so this goofball could enjoy himself. There weren't many objections aside from mine and one other guy: both of us were nonbelievers. And since all the higher-ups who didn't have duty were gone for the night, there was no one to stop it.

So we marched. At some point I started up that mental tape deck and cued up Def Leppard's "Pyromania" album. "Rock! Rock! Till You Drop" got us across the parking lot. It might have been "Too Late For Love" by the time we got to the church doors.

As we filed into the little building, we filed into the pews. My platoon ended up about three-fourths of the way back, on the left side. If I looked straight up and little to the rear, I could see the people in the balcony seats.

The minister came in to mumble some prayers. Everyone else stood up.

I stayed seated. Yeah, maybe it was "rude" (I don't think so), but it'd be hypocritical of me to stand up and go through the motions just to make everyone else happy if I don't feel the same way. I'd be lying, and lying is wrong, isn't it?

So I sat.

I sat and looked around me. There were some offended faces glaring at me from the pews behind, and looking down upon me from the balcony. I glared back and stayed put.

The choir filed in and started their gig. They made so much noise I lost my place in Def Lep's "Rock of Ages" and had to start over. For two hours they danced and sang, the audience clapped and stood and prayed and amened and glared at the asshole who wasn't playing along.

The asshole ran out of Def Leppard songs and started on John William's "Star Wars" soundtrack, from the 20th Century Fox Fanfare to the droids' walk in the desert to Luke's finding his dead aunt and uncle to being captured by the Death Star to freeing the Princess to blowing that thing and going home to everyone but Chewbacca getting a medal to the final notes of the ending titles.

If I'd had a laptop and wireless Internet, I'd have been reading Pharyngula, if it had existed in 1986.

Finally all the sectarian turmoil wound down and we lined up, formed up, and marched back to the barracks. By this time it was between 10 pm and 11 pm, and the evening was shot. A waste.

A curse and a gift?

Writing the Song of the Day entry (Dixie Flyer) made me think of how a song will get stuck in my head, sometimes for days.

Usually it'll be something I like and have learned to play recently--like "Synchronicity II" by The Police. That one hung around for weeks and drove me nuts! At first it was the bass line, but then I had the drum part going round and round. I think Edgar Winters' "Frankenstein" haunted my inner studio for a few days while I worked out some of the more complex bass riffs.

It's pretty useful--once I learn a song, as long as I go through it often enough to keep it "alive" in memory, it stays put and I can play it back anytime.

These days, though, it's hardly ever a song I like. Where I work, the boss listens exclusively to...cuh...cuhhh...*deep breath* And yes, it hurts me to even type that word. If I'm in the building, I get to hear the same set of utter crap all day long, be it the mindless religious stupidity of "Jesus Take the Wheel," the mindless gonna-whup-yer-ass attitude of "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue," the unsexy posturing of "Redneck Woman," the imbecile who don't know the differnce between Iraq and Iran, or the moron who thinks America is One Nation Under God.

Hey, dumbass, the correct motto is "E. Pluribus Unum." From many, ONE, no matter what you buggers voted for in 1952.

So now I hear this crap all day...and on the way home I've got the stupid oozing around in my head like some virus trying to replicate. Bleah.

Fortunately, I can scare that country (cut & pasted that one) crap away with a proper placement of System of a Down for the more severe infestations. Any decent Rush song will clobber them. Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden...if I need reinforcement, I can always set the iPod to "shuffle."

It's a gift. It's a curse.

Song of the Day: Dixie Flyer (Randy Newman)

The first time I heard the piano intro to this song, it was being used as "bumper" music between segments of NPR's Car Talk. I was utterly captivated. It's amazing how such a simple melody can hold one's attention.

I was disappointed, maybe 3 years later, when I heard...the rest of the song. It wasn't anything like what I'd imagined. It was...okay.

For days after I found it, either the piano part or the bass line kept playing through my mind, keeping me awake at night or making me wish my car had a radio so I could drown it out.

It's been nearly a decade since, and I don't have it haunting me anymore (that usually happens on "new" stuff, whether I like a song or despise it). But every now and then I'll cue it up and get carried away by that beautiful, flowing arpeggio and remember why I had to hear the rest.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Song of the Day: Here's Where the Story Ends (The Sundays)

Sometime back in my RGIS inventory days (2001-2004), we were counting a Lowe's and I was wandering around doing the end-caps at the ends of the aisles. I was somewhere in the electrical department and this song came on. I'd never heard it before, and I couldn't make out the words, but I immediately wanted it. It took several months of hearing the song without being able to make anything out before I finally nailed it by taking a restroom break (this grocery store's PA was pretty loud in the restrooms).

Turned out this song's on The Sundays' debut album.

Harriet Wheeler's got the lovely, bright voice that caught my attention--mainly in the unusual melody in the choruses. I've never heard anything like it before or since.

Sure could have used her talents in that band I was in.

Weird products

Seen at a nearby convenience store:

-- A butane lighter with a fingernail clipper.

"Man, I need a smoke." *sounds of smoker getting lit up* "Crap! This fingernail needs some trimming! If only I had a way of saving myself the extra expense and bulk of nail clippers!"

--A Pen with fingernail clippers riding in a little compartment.

"Dear Kelly...Oh, crap! This fingernail needs trimming and I don't have my lighter. Good thing I bought this pen for $5.99!"