Monday, February 27, 2012

Remembering old grandpa & a young Marine

Wars come and go, deaths happen. The chance finding a few days ago of a magazine published twenty-one years ago this month brought back memories of one war and one death in particular. There are a few words about this incident in the second element of this post. Semper Fi, until the end of time. But, before those words, here are a few about my old grandpa. Today is his day.

Happy birthday, old one

As I have done in past years, I want to note that today is my maternal grandfather's birthday. I grew up without a father in my life, and by the time a step-father arrived, I was entering my teenage years and had no time for strangers.

That is another story for another time -- maybe.

This grandfather was an identical twin. He loved horses and raised them. He rarely spoke to me or to anyone else. He drank too much. He loved to read. Drinking too much and reading too much are traits I probably picked up from him. (I think like Wolf Larsen thought: "My mistake was in ever opening the books." Or something like that. You do not know Wolf Larsen? What can I say other than, be curious.) Both habits -- drinking and reading -- have been much fun, no matter what else.

For better or for worse, old grandpa and my grandmother's brother were the two most influential men in my young life. Great uncle Harry had left the family farm and fought in Europe. I mean, actually fought. Most military veterans have never been close to real combat, although they usually like to pretend they have been. Harry later became a cop and a part-time farmer. From him, I learned about firearms and how to shoot.

Harry believed in the old saying about Samuel Colt: "God made men, but Sam Colt made them equal." Please, do not tell me you do not know Sam Colt. If you do not know who Sam Colt was, I feel sorry for you. And, if before you did not recognize the name of Wolf Larsen, either, that is two in a row. Then, I would feel really sorry for you. Obviously, you do not understand the reality of equality and live in a fairy tale world. (Do not take me too seriously this evening.) Anyway, I am like Harry in that regard. (Or, take me too seriously any evening, come to think of it.)

All right. Enough about this and that and other things. Happy birthday, old one. See you sooner or later, and we will have a beer together like we did the last time we saw each other. Your turn to buy the next round ....

The curse of political correctness

I have called October more-or-less a month of deaths in my life. January is almost as much so, and perhaps one of greater relevance in the course of my life. I doubt I ever will write about all of these things here, but I do want to pull from the recesses of my mind a January event which always lurks within me but seldom rises to the surface.

The event returned from memory to mind this week when I ran across an old magazine which contained an article about the incident. Eleven troopers of the U.S. Marine Corps were killed by friendly fire on January 29, 1991, during the opening days of the American invasion of Iraq in the so-called Gulf War. Two more Marines were badly wounded.

This "accident" (negligent homicide, I would call it) was broadcast live on television. I saw it happen, heard the chopper pilots celebrating their "kill," heard a ground control voice come on and say there might have been a "mistake," heard the talk slow and the silence grow -- then, the abrupt end of the transmission.

The trigger-happy crew in a U.S. Army helicopter had cut loose with missiles on a Marine convoy of Bradley armored vehicles engaged in a night-time reconnaissance patrol. One of the Marines killed was related to me through marriage. He was twenty-three years old.

I guess the losses were considered acceptable in context of the fact that thirty-three Iraqi tanks and twenty-eight armored personnel carriers were also taken out by American fliers that night. Apparently, most of these "heroes" actually were intelligent enough to tell the good guys from the bad guys, in a manner of speaking.

The really sick element about this incident is that today, in this age of political correctness, accounts of this "accident of war" and the Marine deaths are made to appear as though they were not caused by friendly fire.

Did you know that about one-quarter of all allied deaths in the Gulf War were caused by trigger-happy friendlys, most of them pilots? Not one of them ever faced courts martial for negligence.

Oh, well. What the hell. Time to shut my mouth and just glare. So ends February, not with a whimper, but with some vivid memories.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Curiosity, seeking Ms. Perfect & water skiing

Most say Icarus flew too close to the sun because he was careless and failed to follow the warnings of his father, Daedalus. I am not so sure. It might have been that he flew where he flew because he was curious and willing to pay any price to satisfy his curiosity. In any event, as the tale goes, Icarus approached the sun too closely and the heat melted the wax which secured his artificial wings to his body. He fell into the sea and drowned. In this painting, the legs of Icarus can be seen as he hits the water between the ship and the land. The painting once was attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder, although now it is generally considered to be a copy of his work by one of his students or by another unknown artist. It is thought to have been completed in the 1560s, long before the age of water skiing. I have used paintings by Bruegel in previous posts and, if I last long enough, probably will again. I do not think I would have liked him, but I like his work.

The story of Sam

(Note: This is a continuation of my attempt to explain why I choose to be alone (at the moment), to live without a companion. And, just possibly, it will serve as a bedtime story/riddle for a magic girl.)

Some of you might recall that among my activities in college I was a player (in the real sense of the word) on the judo team. Among the members was a young man who I shall call Sam for the purposes of this post.

Sam came from a family that had a prosperous business. He worked in the business on average two hours a day, five days a week. For this extraordinary exertion, he received the same wages as a full-time, forty-hour-a-week, non-family member received for doing exactly the same manner of work. That means ten hours = forty hours worth of money for Sam.

Needless to say, he was well to do for a college boy.

Sam was very short and stocky. Sort of like a tree stump. This was a great advantage when competing in judo, where leverage and motion are the primary ingredients of competition. If you are uncertain what I mean, try pulling a tree stump out of the ground.

Unfortunately for Sam, being a tree-stump-type of fellow is not an advantage in competing for the attention of the opposite sex. Add to that, he was somewhat less than average in terms of facial features and hid most of them behind a rather large beard.

Sam had a thing about women. He was saving himself in a Biblical sense for Ms. Perfect. I am serious. Due to his physical characteristics, most women did not look at him twice unless, possibly, they saw him driving his classy, new car down the road pulling his classy, new boat behind it or noticed him separating the hundred dollar bills from the fifty dollar bills while buying a bottle of Southern Comfort. (Yummy.) This is to say, some very beautiful women became very interested in him if they saw him under the "right" circumstances. But, did Sam notice them? No way.

We, Sam's friends and fellow judo enthusiasts, often tried our best to introduce him to girls we genuinely thought would be good for him -- and, on occasion, tried to trick him into stop saving himself for Ms. Perfect. For instance, there was the time we got him into a game of strip poker with four women who agreed to lose intentionally.

The exercise was a complete failure. Sam got drunk, got mad and left the house naked. It quickly had become evident he was not born to play poker. He slept in his car outside the house that night. Alone.

There was one girl Sam thought might be Ms. Perfect. Again, unfortunately for Sam, this was Becky, and Becky was his best friend's girl. This meant she was off limits. All right .... rather than go on down that path into unpleasant memories and infidelity and indiscretion and betrayal, I will return to the thrust of the story. (Captured your interest there, did I not? But, I never tell stories out of school.)

Sam never did finish college. He took over the family business and, shocking his friends and judo teammates, got married to a rather plain, dull woman with a shrill voice. She was the daughter of a friend of his parents and his grandparents. Hmmm.

Sam built a huge house by a lake, bought a more expensive car and a larger boat and .... and .... and .... well, try imagining your own ending to this story and Sam's search for Ms. Perfect -- and, how it might apply to me. If you do try, I will tell you if you are right or wrong. If you are bored or not the curious type, see you another time -- maybe.

Side note No. 1: I have mentioned Sam a time or two in earlier posts. He was the man who said that he admired me more than anyone he had ever known because I was the only person he had ever known who did not give a damn about anything. I told him he was misinterpreting me. My actions were the result of giving a damn about everything, but not knowing how to handle it.

Side note No. 2: Even in college, Sam had a boat to match no others in speed. Skiing behind it on one occasion, I decided to hold on to the rope to see what would happen the next time I took a tumble. Well, I took a tumble and hung on to the rope. I learned what it feels like to be a torpedo -- and, my swim suit ended up at my ankles. It could have been worse.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I do not know

You wonder about the photograph. So do I, and I am guilty of posting it. The illustration (as opposed to photograph) is meant for the book, "Marbles of Pearl," published by a friend of mine from days of old. The other elements are stage props. You know me (sort of). I have a tendency to mix this and that with confusion and teasing. If you wish to know more about the book, read on and on and on. And, try the music. Unless you are a Deep Purple aficionado, you probably are unfamiliar with "April." I think you might be pleasantly surprised. And, after all, what is life if not one surprise after another and another and another? Dare you ....

Maybe, there is no reason

(Note: A few weeks ago, I was asked why I choose to be alone -- to live without a companion. My initial response was the words which are printed here. It is not a complete answer, because I am not sure there can be a definitive answer. I do keep thinking about an answer, and I have a few more thoughts which will emerge at some point in the future. A short response might have been: Why does anyone do anything? The lyrics from, "A Whiter Shade of Pale," keep echoing in my mind. There is no reason.)

I do not know if I am missing something within me which most people have, or if I have something extra within me which most people do not have.

I do know Robert Louis Stevenson was absolutely right when he wrote, "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The battle between good and evil rages on in all men and, probably, in all women, too. To have been Jesus Christ, I think, was very easy. Most of us wish we could cure heartaches and illness and poverty. Some of us (maybe, even many of us), would die to accomplish it.

To die for a reason, for a cause, I think is not too difficult. Too live without a reason or a cause is what truly is difficult. At least, it is to me.

I have said in posts and to individuals that for the past few years I have had no hopes, no dreams, no goals. Why this is, I am not certain. I also have said in posts and to individuals that by the time I was twenty-five I had experienced everything a person can experience in one form or another. Since then, life has been repetition and variation.

I know there is nothing left to experience here in this life except death, and I have a great curiosity about it. Possibly, I have yet to experience great and true love. There are women I would have died to protect or to save, but that is simply the way I am and never because I thought any of them would mourn me longer than a year or two later.

I want a companion who is unique and unlike all others because she needs nothing or no one, but is willing to share her heart and her soul because it is her intellectual choice, her decision to do so.

I want a companion who has control over physical fear and will watch my back, just as I watch her back. To me, that is equality.

These things I have said in posts and to individuals, and my mind is beginning to wander. The last line here is that I search, and I hope I will know what I search for when I find it.

Now, about the book in the photograph

No, I did not write this book -- "Marbles of Pearl." It was published in 2010 by a friend. I did not learn of its existence until the last weeks of 2011. It is a book of poetry.

If the name of the author sounds familiar, it probably should. Bruce Wayne. Think for a moment. If you do not get it, think about it again tomorrow.

Of course, it is not the author's actual name. It is a pen name, a pseudonym. As a side note, there are clues to my identity within this book, although that certainly is not of relevance.

The reason I just learned of the book is because I am a traveler. I have lived in many times in my mind, and in many places in reality. I move. I roam. I follow the rivers. I leave friends of the hour behind and find new ones. Sometimes, one from the past tracks me down and we communicate -- for a while, at least. This was the case of Bruce Wayne. We worked together once upon a time. He found me because he wanted me to read his poetry. This guy is almost as strange as I am in terms of living life beyond conventional patterns.

Anyway .... find a copy of "Marbles of Pearl" if you are able and curious (I hope you are always curious), read it, measure the dedications of the poems against your own knowledge and the quality of the poetry against the songs your own mind sings. You might have a revelation. You might discover if you are a lemming or a wolf.

Something special ....