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Football!


The NFL kicks off today.  Well, Denver and Baltimore played Thursday nite.  But most of the teams start their season today.  Despite the concussive nature of the sport, I am still a fan.  I’ve quit chewing tobacco.  I’ve quit drinking to excess.  But I haven’t quit the internet and I haven’t quit football.  I have stopped watching boxing, but that is more of a function of who I hang out with.  My wife never had a thing for combat sports, but she does like football.

I grew up a Giants fan.  My dad was one.  When he was a kid, there was no Boston team and he never switched over to the Patriots.  I started following the team around the time that Herm Edwards scooped up a fumble when an exchange between Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka went awry.   I stayed with them for 30 years.  Saw some terrible ones,  but I also saw three Super Bowl champs.  Well, the middle one was when I was out of the country fighting Saddam and the Iraqis.

But when I got married, I switched over to the Patriots.  It wasn’t so much a switch as it was a change in emphasis.  I always sort of liked the Patriots.  It was easy to root for them while rooting for the Giants.  Then, this millenium, I came to admire Bill Bellichek’s coaching.  He’s supplanted Bill Walsh as the premier NFL coach in my lifetime.  The fact that he and my wife are both Wesleyan grads didn’t hurt.

Anyways, I’ve already been up for over an hour.  I’m like a kid on Christmas day.  Only the fat guy I am waiting for isn’t Santa.  It is Vince Willfork.

 

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Fahrenheit 32


Fire trucks fight fires. Why don’t ice cream trucks fight ice cream? I bet that’s Mayor Bloomberg’s dream; a whole cadre of converted ice cream trucks whizzing down Manhattan streets and those of the other borough; sirens playing off-key versions of Old MacDonald’ looking for desserts to seize.

We’ve got a bakery in progress at the corner of Lexington and 42nd.

That’s a four alarmer.

If this catches on, like smoking bans, small towns will have volunteer ice cream men. They’ll hang out at the gingerbread house and help old ladies by getting pies out of their trees. They’d be assisted by teen-aged dessert Explorers. Some of these teens will fight boredom by baking cakes; just so they can have a call to respond to.

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Parenting


You’ve heard of helicopter parents? Always hovering over their children? My mom was the opposite. I told her I was joining the Army. “That’s nice. Don’t get shot. Come back in four years.”

Now my youngest cousin is in an aviation battalion in the National Guard. They got activated to go to Afghanistan. My aunt and another private’s mother went along with the unit. They rented a condo in Kandahar and pestered theirs kids’ platoon sergeant. “Why did Jones get promoted to spec 4 before my Peterson?”

They pestered the mess sergeant. “T-rats again? My boy deserves better.”

“Moooom.” Their sons would protest.

“We’re not just Army moms. We’re helicopter parents.”

“You don’t know how right you are.”

One of the Apache pilots gave serious thought to letting a stray missile hit their townhouse.

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More Ruxpin


Eddy Ruxpin admitted to selling secrets to the Russians.  He wanted to sell Alaska back to them.  He really did, in his mind.  But the reality is that he was one delusional young man.  I never thought I’d be writing this, but here is the whole story.  From the beginning.  Dead drops.  Tundra.  Cyanide. Taiga.  Secret codes. The Pipeline. Invisible ink.  Northern Lights. Microfilm.  Firing recoiless rifles at avalanches.

Alaska from the birth of the earth.  Gold, black gold, earthquakes and volcanoes.  Continental Drift.  Aurora Borealis.  Flora and fauna.

The land bridge.  Vitus Bering.  The Russians.  Expansion.  Exploration.  Industrial Revolution.  Capitalism and Socialism.  The Civil War.  Karl Marx.  William Seward.  John Wilkes Booth.  The Klondike.  Jack London.  Henry Ford.  World War II.  The Cold War.  Statehood. Lee Harvey Oswald.

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The Spy Who Wasn’t


Let’s see what’s cookin’ in Oppenheimer’s bitchin’ kitchen. Let’s see what cookin’ in Oppenhiemer’s bitchin’ kitchen. It might be seafood. He was talking ‘bout fission. Watcha drinkin’, Lincoln? Is that a barium frappe or some other radioactive crap? I think I’ll have a Manhattan… Project. Whatcha thinkin’, Lincoln? Find these thoughts confining? Remember! Every mushroom cloud has a silver lining.

Eddy Ruxpin thinks he is a secret agent man; an ersatz Aldrich Ames selling secrets to Japan. But he is more like a real life Walter Mitty and the way this whole thing ends is a real pity.

JD Anaconda is a puzzling gent. He isn’t proud to be a Grenada vet. But he’s a hawk not a dove. When he hits the bottle, he dreams of ‘Nam and glorious guerilla battles. An electronic warrior, he used his head. Planned to get out and go back to school. But he met a Mystic gal instead. Wedding bells would soon toll. Now he writes word games for the New London Day. His cryptography training is starting to pay.

Why do some people deceive themselves? Is it good or is it bad or is it something else? Is reality not good enough that we have to bluff ourselves?

Ruxpin is a squid on a submarine. Decompresses by smoking Stroh’s and drinking pot. The drills they have at sea are frighteningly grim. They never know down there if the Cold War’s getting hot. They go through a launch sequence right to the end never knowing if the balloon went up or if it was just a drill. Locked down in a nuclear powered prison at the bottom of the sea. For Ruxpin it’s no thrill.

Drinking Boone’s Farm and watching Platoon, envelopes Anaconda within an ethanol cocoon. That isn’t Memorex in the VCR; those are memories. Oh yeah, those scenes are his. JD wasn’t infantry; he was a rear echelon guy. That’s not good for his mystique, he’d cry. Yet, he never fired a shot in anger. Truth was that he was a chairborne Ranger.

Why do some people disease themselves by pretending to be someone who they’re not? Reality bites; it may not be up to snuff. But it’s all we got.

Ruxpin screens the Falcon and The Snowman. Dreams that he was played by Timothy Hutton. Dead drops and disguises. Code Names, chalk marks on the street. Invisible ink revealed by applying heat. He writes a phony manual on acquiring a sonar fix on pages and pages of phony code. But it’s all smoke and dagger tricks. One day they inspect his bunk in the barracks. His CPO sees his handiwork. He starts to explode.

They call NCIS for an investigation. NCIS takes Ruxpin in for interrogation. Someone calls for JD, who isn’t in the navy. But he has the skills to decode. 48 hours in a soundproof basement cell two tins of Skoal were enough tell. Ruxpin’s notes are nothing to decipher, that’s Anaconda tells the navy lifer overseeing the case. Ruxpin breaks down; admits it was a hoax. His twisted mind plays sick jokes. He’s dishonorably discharged and sent home to upstate New York; somewhere near Rome.

Why do some people deceive themselves? Is it good or is it bad or is it something else? Is reality not good enough that we have to bluff ourselves?

Thus endeth the story except for a sad coda. Ruxpin wasn’t Ruxpin since I don’t know, nineteen eighty-four. He ends things by drinking Prestone and soda. The spy who wasn’t was no more.

Daydreams are all fine and good as long as you don’t cross over that invisible line, Anaconda would flash back to events that didn’t really happen, but he could always stop that 100 MPH tape. Ruxpin didn’t have that control and it put him in a deep hole. Try to hold on to reality or you might end up in a tragedy.

Why do some people disease themselves by pretending to be someone who they’re not? Reality bites; it may not be up to snuff. But it’s all we got.

Dicky Nixon thought he was Lincoln…

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GeneCrimes


Troopers Jhonny Diaz and Ed Hickey sat in a late model Crown Vic. They were GeneCrimes best. Today their job was to arrest fourteen-year old Ryan Rivers. Waiting outside of Ryan’s high school, Diaz and Hickey hoped that no one got to the kid first. They wanted the collar. It would turn out to be a good day.

At two on the dot, the final bell rand. Teenagers streamed out of the building. Diaz pointed at a lanky kid, “That him?”

“Yup,” said Hickey.

“Never forget 12-12-12!’

The pair of cops walked up to a school bus Rivers was waiting in line to enter. “Come here. We’d like to talk to you.”

The cops talked with their hands. First they frisked the kid, then cuffed and stuffed him into the back of their cruiser. His crime? A genetic deficiency.

Two mass murders in two years rattled the state. The people wanted the carnage stopped whatever the price. The Constitutional Public Safety Department dissected the shootings from every conceivable angle. The chief medical examiner called in Sanford Watts. Watts was a geneticist from the state university’s medical school. Geneticists had been used to solve crimes before. DNA evidence went mainstream years ago. But this was a step in an entirely new direction.

Guillaime Barbier delivered Budweiser. Sometimes he stole cases of the suds. Little Brother, the security cams at work caught him. The distributorship fired him and he went postal. Shot up the warehouse like he was in a Western. Then he turned the gun on himself.

Jared D’Orlando was a withdrawn loner with an apocalyptic mom. She had an arsenal. He liked FPS games. Had he been born twenty years earlier and played Mortal Kombat, he wouldn’t have had the balls to turn a local elementary school into a live action X Box game. But he went on a spree raining lead upon flesh and bones. The body count was more than a score. Most of his victims were little kids. Never forget 12-12-12!

Watts examined DNA samples from Barbier and D’Orlando as well as other massacrists like Colin Ferguson, James Huberty, William Calley, and Jared Holmes among others. 90% of them carried an extremely rare variant of the warrior gene that Watts dubbed the “commando gene.” A statistically significant percentage of those with the commando gene committed violent crimes against persons.

A decision was made behind closed doors. It was Executive Order 13-009. The public would have approved (never forget 12-12-12,) but the Constitution wouldn’t. So double-oh-nine was all hush hush. GeneCrimes was formed.

Rivers Ryan had the commando gene and a date with a holding cell. Diaz and Hickey had bagged their quarry and brought him into a sally port at One Public Safety Plaza in New Jerusalem. They were star so they didn’t have to do any paperwork. Junior troopers were stuck with that drudgery. They’d come up with some trumped up charge that would allow them to hold the kid. It was Miller Time. But before they could head out for a celebratory beer, Major Eckert corralled them. Eckert was in charge of GeneCrimes. “Boys, I need a favor.”

“Governor Ned’s in a tight primary race. Judge Horan’s opposition research folks have caught wind of double-oh-nine and our whole operation. Any word of this gets out and we’re in serious trouble. Never forget 12-12-12!”

That was GeneCrimes’ unofficial motto; the date of the D’Orlando shootings. Eckert went on. Apparently a bounty hunter named Chevy Burby found out about double-oh-nine and is feed info to Horan’s people. He needs to be silenced.” The major drew his index finger horizontally across his neck in a throat cutting gesture. “You Puerto Ricans are good with knives, Diaz. A Colombian necktie would send the right message.” Diaz was a cop wannabe since he was eight. And he got his dream job. Hickey couldn’t do anything with a soils science degree and joined the force soon after college. They both became loyal foot soldiers and were malleable by the higher ups. They knew their stuff, but they’d always follow orders.

GeneCrimes couldn’t just pull people off the street and test them for the commando gene. But they could test the inmates in the Constitutional Corrections Facilities. So they did. No one gave a shit about their rights. Carriers had paroles denied, time tacked on to sentences for phony infractions. “Inhumane!” some argued internally. But there was no cure for the commando gene. You had to keep these people off the streets. Never forget 12-12-12!

Male blood relatives of carriers in the prison system were put on a list. First, the ones who had visiting privileges. Then, officials asked inmates for names of family members. These were prioritized by age and other factors. For example, Joel Ryan’s son, Rivers was young and lived in an old Swamp Yankee mill town with terrible schools and less t look forward to after that. He was a high-risk carrier. Five teams of two agents roamed the state checking off names from the list.

Diaz & Hickey were the stars, but the duo of Rob Aselton and Philip Decker weren’t far behind. They had only one less collar on the big whiteboard in GeneCrimes’ basement HQ. Law enforcement was in Decker’s blood. His dad worked homicide for years. His mom’s dad drove a paddy wagon almost a century ago. Peter, his older brother was Border Patrol. Paul, his younger brother, was a correction’s officer. Philip was close to Paul. They lived nearby and their kids were close in age. They’d grill together and watch roller ball on Paul’s HD big screen. After several beers one night, Philip mentioned his new assignment in passing. Paul didn’t pry. Philip didn’t let slip all the details. Nevertheless, Paul got the gist. Carriers of the commando gene were singled out for special treatment. Never forget 12-12-12!

Paul Decker patrolled Cellblock C at Constitutional Max. One of the inmates was Omar Foreman. Hired muscle on the outside, he’d done good time and was up for parole. It was denied. He did not know why. Decker and Foreman were friendly, well, as friendly as Cos and inmates can be. Foreman tells Decker his woes. Decker offers a possible explanation as t why the parole board shitcanned his request. Never forget 12-12-12!

Two weeks later, there was a jailbreak. Foreman was a free man, fugitive, on the run. There was a price on his head; $250,000. It was a different world from the one he left 14 years earlier. Smart phones. Barely any pay phones. Smoking bans. Homeland Security. Chevy Burby.
Burby was literally a human bloodhound. A bounty hunter, he was able to track his prey by scent. A strange cocktail of Angel dust, meth, and coke heightened his sense of smell. Foreman was able to elude the authorities, but he could only escape the nose of Shane Burby for so long. The bounty hunter caught up with him trying to board a Chinatown bus at Union Station. He hauled him into his Monte Carlo SS. 454 cubic inches of power were under the hood. They hauled balls through surface streets and onto I-95.

“Shit, man. I ain’t going back into the system. They’ll never let me out alive.”

“Tough shit, Omar. I’d bring in my mother for 250K. That’s the price on your head.”

“Dead or alive?”

“Dead or alive.”

“Then kill me. I’m dead anyways. Might as well make it official.”
“No can do. I’d lose my license. “
“Awwwww, let me tell you my story. You wouldn’t believe the crazy shit going down. A few months back, they bring in some docs to test us. They won’t tell us what for. Then I got to my parole hearing. I served good time! But they denied me. I was talking to one of the guards and he said they was lookin’ for some commando gene and if you have it, they ain’t letting you out. ‘Whaaat?’ I says. He says some mad scientist located some gene that says whether or not you a threat to go postal. Shit! I remember some preacher who visited us at the Hotel Graybar. He said that either you a saint or a sinner and you can’t change that no matter what you do. Only a cracker would think that you don’t have, whatchoocallit, free will. He should go to the hood. Tell some of the mofuckers I grew up wit’ they can’t do what they want.”
Burby was listening to the rant. “This is all very interesting, Omar. But I’m trying to figure out how to spend $250,000.”
“It’s not just inmates, man. They starting to pick cats up off the street. It’s un Constitutional. If I was a lawyer, I’d sue Ned Dumont for this shit. Make enough to buy an island, too.”
“Dumont, huh? Normally he’s a bleeding heart. Makes it hard for my biz. I’ve been wanting a piece of him.”
Thus, a plan was hatched. Burby turned Foreman in and collected a quarter of a million. He promised Omar that he could get him out again and soon. Meanwhile he planned to blow the lid off this scandal. He also got his hands on The List somehow and started smuggling some dudes on the list over the border into New Moscow. (That’s what they called New York after Russian Gangsters became the de facto rulers and the elected officials became puppets.)
Alas, Eckert was right. Burby was burly, but Diaz was quick with a knife. It was easy to hunt down the bounty hunter. His particular drug regimen was well known in certain circles and few pushers had the inventory to allow him to one stop shop. A big dude was hard to put down, but Trooper Jhonny prevailed and gave him a Colombian necktie; just like the major ordered. Never forget 12-12-12!
Two days after Diaz and Hickey picked up Ryan Rivers, his mother went to the local PD to report him missing. The desk officer entered his name into the computer and it said to contact the Constitutional Public Safety Department. Soon after, two men in black arrived to talk to Mrs. Ryan. Never forget 12-12-12!
About the same time, Diaz and Hickey were at GeneCrimes HQ to get a new name off the list. Never forget 12-12-12!

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Hot Dog and a Sheikh


The Timeline

Some guys like George got sent to the desert early.  They wound up at FOB Bastogne in An-Nariyuh.  I was part of a group that flew over with sensitive equipment.  We wound up at a water treatment plant or some sort of infrastructure industrial site for King Fahd International Airport.  We stayed there until the rest of the battalion arrived and we moved into the Tent City.  That meant more supervision and we resented that a bit.  We were desert veterans while the rest of the battalion were a bunch of cherries.

We were on tenterhooks for a while.  At the time, we weren’t sure whether or not Saddam would keep rolling past Kuwait into Saudi Arabia.  The 101st was light.  We had no armor.  If the Republican Guard rolled in, we might be a mere speed bump for them to roll over.  But the Iraqis dug in and stayed put.  Eventually a sort of normalcy set in at the Tent City.  There were three brigades in the 101st.  Parachute Infantry Regiments, they were called.  This was despite the fact that the Division used helicopters and no longer jumped out of perfectly good airplanes.  I don’t recall the name of the other two, but one brigade was called the Rakkasans.  Regardless, each of the brigades had a team from our battalion assigned to them.  There was a platoon of Golfs from Alpha Company, a squad of GSRs from Bravo, some interros, some CI guys, and other support personnel and staff.  TCAE was part of the battalion HQ and we set up in the battalion area. 

The mess tent was across the road and the motor pool was about a quarter of a mile away; just past an MP checkpoint.  The MPs had a pole to block vehicles and they stopped everyone, pedestrian or driver and they had to give the password of the day.  There was some fear of local terrorists attacking us.  One time, Bond fell out of a run and arrived at the gate after everyone else.  No one thought to give him the word of the day.  They detained him for a while until one of us came buy and vouched for him.  The guy was wearing a gray t-shirt that said “Army” and was obviously American.  Irvine was creative and would give the password in a funny sentence.  One time, it was Tartar and he talked to the guard about tar turds. 

Chief Joseph wasn’t an Indian.  He was the BMO or Battalion Motor Officer and he lived in the motor pool; like he was Coach Gruden at the practice facilities.  There was a giant radar next to the motor pool.  It had a warning sign warning people to steer clear of it because the microwave radiation might fry your nuts.  It didn’t say so in so many words, but that was the message.  The sign wasn’t translated into Arabic, so native beware.

Eventually, the battalion itself would go out into the field on FTXs.  Mostly, these consisted of jumps.  These were not jumps in the airborne sense.  They consisted of setting up the TOC then tearing it down and moving it to another location.  Usually, there was some captain timing us with a stopwatch.

Brad and I got assigned to the Jump TOC along with Page and Ladison.  The TOC consisted of TCAE and S-3 or Operations.  The jump TOC was a smaller version of the TOC that would move to the new location first, set up operations and operate while the main TOC was in transit.  Got it?  Good.  We did a few jump TOC exercises.  One of them involved carrying all of our gear while we were on foot.  My rucksack felt like it was full of boulders.  Captain Cesar Moreira was in charge of us.  He had a Big Ten education in zoology, but somehow fell into military intelligence.  I think he wanted to get away from Tent City from time to time and used Jump TOC as an excuse.  

This was how things stood in the fall of 1990.  This phase of operations was called Desert Shield.  We were there to defend Saudi Arabia while negations went on to try and peacefully remove Iraq from Kuwait.  Christmas saw a lot of gifts from family and regular Americans who sent stuff to us.  I remember that UConn basketball was starting to obtain national prominence so some aunt sent me some swag.  My godmother taught elementary school, so I’d get letters from those kids, as well.  Page and I saw Bob Hope.  He came to Tent City in late December.  I didn’t see much of the show.  Bob’s cue card guy blocked my view. 

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Exiles in Babylon


In January of 1991, gears shifted and Desert Storm started. You might have seen the air war on CNN. You saw more than we did. Once Desert Storm started, the XVIII Airborne Corps went n motion and shifted west. This was Schwarzkopf’s Hail Mary Play. Like I said, we had no tanks or any armored vehicles. Those heavy units stayed to the east near the Persian Gulf and would do the frontal assault against T-72s going in reverse. Meanwhile we’d sweep in from the west in a flanking movement.

It was time to tear down and move out. to the Iraqi border. The jump TOC would fly there. So we left and headed to the airfield to wait for a flight. We waited and waited. Someone had a radio and we listened to CNN for a play by play of the air war. This was a first time a war was broadcast live on TV. Eventually, the wait for a flight was too long. It was like trying to travel on a holiday. So we drove to the border by way of Riyadh. The drive took a couple of days. This was when Iraq was firing SCUDS and we had a SCUD scare outside of the capital so we drove for a while in MOPP gear. I cannot sleep while riding in a vehicle, so I started to hallucinate.

At nite, I could see trees. I was missing the desert for the trees. By the time we got to our destination, the rest of the battalion was there. That is how long we were waiting at the airfield. Now that the war was afoot, I remember all of our vehicles had upside down Vees on them. This was also the Arab number seven. Oddly enough, they don’t use Arab numerals in Arabia. This was to prevent friendly planes from shooting at us.

We didn’t set up tents up north. We just put our cots next to one of the deuce and a half’s. We also had to burn our own shit. I still have a picture of myself doing this. It is one of my few war photos. You had to get the right mixture of mogas and diesel to do it right. Some would take pride in their recipe like they were barbeque pit masters. They made another jump TOC. Or maybe it was called 311th MI Battalion (Forward.) I was a part of this as well.

At one point, a Catholic chaplain passed through. I was an a la carte Catholic at the time and Mass was rarely on the menu, but I wasn’t taking any chances before I set foot into Iraq. You know what they say about atheists and foxholes and all that.

We had kerchiefs and goggles to protect us from the sand. The ground war was getting underway. I almost missed my ride. I forget why that happened, but they were pissed at me. It would have been a serious offense, but I hopped into the Humvee on time. We weren’t part of the first wave, but we crossed the border a day later or so. I recall driving by a SCUD that was downed by a PATRIOT missile. We drove through a Martian landscape (in both senses of the word, it was Martian) then stopped to bivouac. At this point, we heard that they called a cease-fire. Col Riccadelli was pissed. He was with us because he wanted to be the forward most battalion commander and he wanted glory. He missed out on ‘Nam by joining ROTC and this was his chance. He felt that we should have marched on Baghdad. I was filthy and wouldn’t have minded a dip in the Euphrates myself. In the intervening twenty years, I’ve wavered back and forth on whether the colonel was right. He probably was. HW surely would have handled a Saddamless Iraq better than his son did.

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Cease Fire!


We spent twenty days in Iraq before they sent us back to Tent City. We had a lot of work ahead of us before we could go home. We had to clean our vehicles so they could pass USDA inspection before they were shipped stateside. They didn’t want any Saudi flora or fauna to come back. No prizes of war were allowed, although some folks tried. Many took sand back. At one point in the motor pool, SFC Irvine asked what I was thinking.

“Echo Tango Suitcase” was what I said. I didn’t mean it personally, but he thought that I was pissed at him. Eventually we reconciled. And I did ETS.

We flew back to the states in April. The flight took three legs. We flew commercial. The Air Force didn’t have enough planes to fly all of us back. First we landed in Rome to refuel, and then it was on to New York. I actually fell asleep on this leg. They were showing Dick Tracy as the in flight movie. I woke up for a few seconds and found the bright colors jarring, so I closed my eyes again. We landed at JFK and they let us off the plane. We were sequestered in a military only area. The men’s room had a lot of military graffiti in it. It was cool. Now it was on to the Campbell Army Airfield. Before we landed, they played that Lee Greenwood song “God Bless The USA.” Yeah, it’s jingoistic, tear-jerking pabulum, but my eyes did well up. I was happy to finally be on US soil and I ran on the tarmac away from the plane. It was sweeter for the married guys who had family to greet them, but I was happy as a clam to be back. It was only seven months, but it seemed like a lifetime.

They let us loose for a week or two. I went home to see my family and friends. Will Hickey had kept in touch with my during my Army days, so I went with him to a party that the Wig’s older brother was holding in Wethersfield. Will had shaved his head during the war. That was his way of showing solidarity and supporting the troops. Folks there were thrilled to see a genuine veteran. Someone asked me if I knew Don Custer; a friend of there’s who was on the Reserves and called up as an MP. Shit. There were only half a million troops over in Southwest Asia.

After I got back to Kentucky, HHOC had a big formation on Monday morning. The XO gave a big speech about doing some “Nitnoid” bullshit. (I think nitnoid was a term he used to avoid profane language, but he wasn’t fooling me.) It was all busywork, cleaning stuff and straightening out the camo nets. At that point, I asked for terminal leave. I had enough leave saved up where I could get out of the army two months early. And I got one over on the government. Right before I left, I felt a pain in my gut that wouldn’t go away. I tried sleeping. That didn’t wok. I was still up at 4:30 when I diagnosed myself with appendicitis. I got into my Cavalier and Chevroleted over to the base hospital. Sure enough, I need to get my appendix removed. Uncle Sam picked up my medical tab.

I almost went back to Kentucky and reenlisted in July. That’s how indecisive I am.

It’s like my Army career had a perfect progression. School training followed by on-the-job training culminating in the war. I didn’t stick around for much of an after action review, though and missed out on some stories from the frontline guys from Alpha and Bravo.
What was Greg’s last name? I left my car at his house. He was a homeboy and played in a local band. Butch Epstein called him a “drummer trapped in a soldier’s body” while were guarding that ammo dump. What was TF-160 up to that week?

Greg went home for some family emergency. And I think Strahan got to leave in the middle of the war to go to WOC school. Greg came back, though. Another guy who went home for a funeral or something was Ray Custudio. He lived on some Pacific island, but they flew him west instead of eat, which would have been shorter. Was he a Golf?

Here’s some stuff about camp life. The 101st was a covering force. I forget exactly what this means. I caught dysentery soon after we got to Saudi. I think it was the milk. Did you know Gamma Globulin shots made birth control ineffective? That might explain some of the pregnancies. IIRC, we originally did laundry in those plastic pans. They weren’t gov’t issue, but we got them somehow. Maybe Captain Thomas picked them up when he went into town in his SUV. I think they let him wear civvies while in towns. All you had to do was add water and detergent, rinse, and they’d dry in 15 minutes. But I think we eventually sent our clothes out.

You couldn’t smoke in Tent City, IIRC. You had to go across the street. Some Warrant Officer liked to yank Grover’s chain by walking around with an unlit cigarette. I think he was in charge of the radio mechanics.

The Saudis would check the mail for any incoming contraband, but they weren’t perfect. Chief Danio’s son subscribed to Playboy and somehow an issue got forwarded to her. I have no idea what happened to it. I don’t think I looked through it. Desert Shield was also my introduction to bottled water. Eventually we were supposed to have running water in tent City, but it wasn’t the highest priority project.

RUMINT was big. Nothing better to do in the desert than speculate. Browne was good at this. He’d also complain,“If only we were one year older, we’d have got out.” Hey! I was a year older than you guys. Some guys did get out in time like some CI guy they called Jam for Jean Marie and that Quickfix guy who liked cows. There were rumors that once the Seventh Corps came in we’d go home. I remember some other rumors like a bored guy on patrol killing a camel with an anti-tank weapon. All that was left were hooves. And supposedly some Marine took a dump on the floor of the King’s mosque.

The Zenith laptops had a basic suite of office software, if I remember correctly. They had a word processor, spreadsheet program, and database. It was tough keeping them and other electronics cool. We got other new equipment while we were out there. I recall civilian trainers being with us while the air war started. They had masks, but no weapons. There were also civilian maintenance guys. I remember one who was a Dead ringer for Jerry Garcia.

Riccadelli and McBryar visited me in the hospital after I had my appendix removed. They knew I was getting out and asked me what I wanted to do. I didn’t really know, but I wanted to go to UConn and major in engineering. I thought that I could learn about the equipment we were using in the Army and how to design or repair it. I kind of wanted to design my own program where I was an expert in SIGINT. But the UConn experience wasn’t good. I tried to take too many hard classes all at once. One was Chem 101. It had a lab on Friday morning. Big Mistake. Thursday nite was like Friday or Saturday nite at UConn. It was the big going out nite. Too, the classes were in giant lecture halls and my Physics prof was talking way above us “P sub naught” might have meant something to me, if he explained it to us first.

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Better Than Perfect


When did my twenties end? Did they end when I turned thirty? Did they end a year later when I turned thirty-one? Well, I considered it an end of an era when I finally graduated college not much after my thirtieth birthday. Around that time another significant baseball game took place. I was leaving 1000 Asylum one Sunday at 4 and got into my Cavalier and turned on the radio. I heard the last out to David Wells’s perfect game. John Sterling compared Wells to Homer… Homer Simpson, in contrast to a more patrician looking David Cone. Oddly enough, Cone would pitch a perfecto a year or two later.

1998 was a bittersweet year for baseball. There was a Titanic home run race in the NL between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Folks would show up at BP just to watch Big Mac launch balls into the stands. Turns out that they were using steroids, most likely. I didn’t know at the time or didn’t care. I think that Jose Canseco was suspected of being a user, but most fans figured it was football players who were the big users. I thought ‘roids were bad. The Hickey’s had a kid in their neighborhood named Ken Braithwaite who used them. He killed himself one Christmas Eve by eating a bullet at his father’s garage. But it turns out he had bigger problems then that. He was using heroin as well and his parents were gong through an ugly divorce. One put out a contract on the other.

The Dodgers traded Mike Piazza in a pure salary dump. The O’Malley’s had sold the team to Fox and Piazza wanted to much money. Then again, the team would turn around in the off-season and sign Kevin Brown for the GDP of a small country.

I’m not sure why I was following the Yankees. Was it an inferiority complex? The Red Sox were rather humdrum at that point and New York had crept back up from the abyss. Also, Baseball Prospectus came out around then; a worthy successor to Bill James’s Abstracts and that lit the baseball fires underneath my ass. My friend Bob Plante got a job with WPOP after attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, so I may have been listening to the station for moral support. Baseball was always a radio game to me.

What was more tainted? Was it the home run race or was it Well’s perfect game on a chilly afternoon? Wells was hung-over when he pitched it. It might not have even been the best pitching performance that month. Two weeks earlier, Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters in a game. He blew out his arm. He was still around earlier this year, but what a career his might have been.

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