Friday, June 27, 2008

Captain Trouble

He's no longer Lieutenant Trouble. He was promoted a few weeks ago. So now he's actually the rank that matches the duties he's been doing for a year.

I was supposed to fly down to Texas to pin his bars on him; but since he's now in northern Iraq, I didn't get the chance. The bad news is that I wasn't there to pin his bars on; the good news is I didn't have to spend any time in southwest Texas.

So yes, he's in a war zone again. And no, he's not all that happy about it. But there is this: It's the first time in his career that he's actually doing the job he wants to do: policework. It took three-plus years, three changes of station and a tour and a half to get there, but, all in all, it could be worse.

And in case you're wondering, he's still living up to his nickname. A week ago, an Army Colonel was giving one of his troops a hard time (although he's in the Air Force, he and his troops are stationed at an Army base.) According to my son, the important issue that was keeping the Col. away from winning the war was the fact that MP vehicles are parked in a certain position and their lights flashed in a specific way, and this troop's vehicle did not addhere to those specifications. That may not be exactly the issue, but it's pretty damned close.

My son slid in between the two, and informed the man that since the Troop was Air Force Security Forces and not Army Military Police, he was required to follow the Air Force SF procedures, not the Army ones. Additionally, my son pointed out politely but firmly, since the Troop was under my son's command, any issues should be taken up with him, and not the Troop. And, my son added, he was confident that the Troop was following the correct procedure as per his orders.

Believe it or not, the Colonel was not appeased by this. Captain Trouble stood there and took a full-force gale of an ass-chewing from the man. Took it, but did not back down from his position, until the Colonel blew himself out.

When he related the story to me, my son told me that he was secretly wishing that the Colonel would lay his hands on him, or do something else that would allow him to, in his words, "offer the Colonel maximum law enforcement services." Alas, the man seemed to know exactly where the line was in this area, and stood right on it. I told him I wasn't surprised. I figure someone doesn't get a bird on his shoulder who doesn't have a real good idea of where the boundaries are.

Anyways, that was a few weeks ago--not even two days after his promotion. Earlier this week, Trouble was in the gym working out while a couple of Army officers of the same rank were there as well. They got to talking while they were working out, and the following event occurred (copied directly from his email to me)

The Capt from the Brigade asked me my name first (he thought he recognized me). So I told him. He was like "I have heard of you! You are the one that our Commander went out and screamed at, you got him worked up". I said something like "yea it happens once in a while" I mean, I don't know how to respond to that, and he seemed like a decent guy so there was no reason to get defensive either. I was expecting him to go on about how his Colonel is looking into how to get me into trouble or why my Colonel hadn't contacted his yet. But then he surprised me...he went on to say...."yea, I guess he was impressed with you because when he got back all he could talk about was the fact that this Capt (me) he screamed at wouldn't back down and stood his ground". So that took me by surprise. He did mention that his Colonel gets worked up pretty easy. But needless to say, I wasn't expecting that!

Truly, one of the more endearing qualities of this kid is that he has no idea about just how impressive he really is.

So, here's some pictures of him in his native habitat. Already while he's there, he's got to hang out with both Dane Cook and Puddle of Mudd.

Life could be worse for him, you know?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Cruelest Month

Yeah, yeah, I know it's supposed to be April.

Not for me. For the forseeable future it will be July.

My child-free month.

It seemed like a good idea back in September: The ex gets the kids for a month in the summer. Now that the month is one week away, not so much.

Snap out of it, I tell myself. Remember last year? Remember how you ran yourself inside-out finding things for them to do for two solid frikkin' months? Remember how relieved you felt when you realized you wouldn't need to figure anything out for them for a month?

I remember.

But still.

Thing is: I've got plans. I'll be busy. I know that I've only got these kids for a tiny slice of time, so I need to be able to find things to do without them. And I have. I've got at least eight freelance gigs--possibly more; I'm going to ride my bike a lot, I've got a bunch of meetings that I want to attend, and I already have two dates scheduled.

With the same woman.

A woman I've known for several years.

A woman I like.

A lot.

No,what's bothering me the most is: I don't think my kids will have a good time. Their mother has no job, no car, and no money. Yet, she's promised them trips to Chuck E. Cheese's, to the local water/amusement park, and to a Rennaisance Festival that's a three-hour drive east of here. And she's already asked me, in front of the kids, if I wanted to take the kids and her to a state park 45 miles south of here.

Of course the kids want to do this. And I would love to take them. But not her. Plus, I've got every weekend pretty much booked.

I know I'm overworried. I know that, even if they have a lousy time, it's just one stinking month.

But I'm telling you--it's gonna be a cruel one.


Saturday, June 21, 2008


I did something I normally don't do. I went to a bar and had a drink. Actually, more than one.

When I say more than one, I mean more than one drink.

Okay, okay--more than one bar as well.

But the kids were at their mother's, we had just finished working a game, and my buddy and I decided to hoist a few. And the bars were within walking distance of my house. Honest.

The first bar was known for its chicken wings. I had a dozen. Okay, eighteen. But I had gone from my day job directly to the next, so this was, in fact, dinner at 10:30 pm. The place had a wide variety, and I chose chipotle-garlic wings. Yum. But spicy.

So, when you're chomping on wings, of course you need something to wash them down with, right?

Right. That's where the beer came in. Very few adult pleasures* match the combination of spicy chicken wings and cold beer.

But the place was getting crowded, and noisy. A zydeco band was playing. Zydeco's great when you're in the mood for zydeco. We weren't. Especially since the entire percussion session consisted of a guy playing the triangle.

This is the job of the triangle player: TING-a-ting-a-tingle-TING-a-ting-a-tingle-TING-a-ting-a-tingle-tingle-tingle.

Repeat until everyone's drunk.

Doesn't matter what the rest of the band is doing. The triangle part goes TING-a-ting-a-tingle-TING-a-ting-a-tingle-TING-a-ting-a-tingle-tingle-tingle.

"What's the matter? Is the washboard player sick?" I asked the guy to the left of me.

I was joking.

"He's down with pneumonia," was his response.

He wasn't joking.

So we ambled down the street to the ol' Tap-n-Mallet. I'm sure every city has an ol' Tap-n-Mallet in them--the sort of place that treats beer with the same sort of reverence the pimply-faced blue shirted salesboys at Best Buy treat their selection of Hi-Def LCD-based home theatre choices.

Ours happens to be called the ol' Tap-n-Mallet.

Since I was still on a chipotle buzz, I decided to drink a chipotle beer. Yes, there is such a thing, and it's available at your local variation of the ol Tap-n-Mablet. It was good. quite good, with a lip-stinging buzz that matched the one that was starting in my head.

As I was draining the last of it, the spiciness really hit me. This was a problem. When I ate spicy wings, I would cool them off with a nice cold beer. What does one do with a spicy beer?

For guidance, I turned to the pages of the ol' Map-n-Tablet's beer selection. and chose a Raspberry Hefeweizen. A hefeweizen is a wheat beer, and a lot of fun to say--especially after spending half an hour at the ol' Tablinmablet. It did the job of quenching the burn, but the raspberry flavor combined with its native wheat overtones to make it quite similar to drinking a jelly sandwich, which was not at all the sort of thing I wanted when discussing the serious issues of the day.**

So, after finishing that, I picked out a nice hearty Oatmeal Stout. It's about as different from the previous beer as can be while still falling in the beer category, and added much to the important discussion we were having at the ol' Tablabambla.***

For some reason, the staff at the ol' Tapnmallmat wanted to go home for the night, so I wound my way down the wobbly road. And as I did, the thought occurred to me that I had drank, in reverse, the meals I had that day.

This is why I don't do this much.


*at least of the leave-your-pants-on-and-remain-upright variety.
**which, at this time was, I believe, what was Casper before he was a Friendly Ghost.
***at this point we were discussing whether baseball or yacht racing was the better sport.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Some Lessons...

When she was 19 years old, she was just another college student in Philadelphia, riding her bike. That all changed one sunny Sunday morning when someone in a jeep ran into her, and kept on going.

The damage to her body was extensive. Her pelvis was crushed. Plus, there was neurological damage. Cognitive difficulties. Short-term memory loss.

Her recovery was going poorly. The pelvis is not an easy thing to repair. Plus, she didn't seem to respond well to treatment. She felt, perhaps rightly so, that the medical staff was cold and uncaring.

At 23, she walks with a cane. Probably will for the rest of her life. She wears dark glasses and ear protection pretty much all of the time, because the accident left her hypersensitive to bright lights and loud noises. She spends much of her time with a TENS unit strapped to her waist to help with the muscle pains in her lower back that are a symptom of walking around with a reconstructed pelvis. Plus all that neurological damage. All of these issues will likely be with ther for the rest of her life.

In the eyes of the law, she is classified as 100% disabled as a result of this accident. Tragic.


Two years to the day ofher accident, she was in a recording studio, the co-producer of her first major album.

Melody Gardot sings with an unironic hipness. A smoky, blues-tinged voice very much like Peggy Lee at her best. I loved her music before I knew her story, and now I love it even more.

And it all happened because while she was in the hospital a doctor had an idea. He had read about music therapy, and suggested she try it. She was a talented pianist, but the broken hip made it impossible for her to sit at a piano. So she was given a guitar,and learned how to play it. The goal was simply for her to find a way to cope with the tragedy that had happened to her, and to give her a mechanism to aid in her recovery.

It worked. Not only did the music help her emotionally, she started writing songs. Let me repeat that: a woman with short-term memory loss began writing songs. She recorded an EP while she was still in the hospital.

Now, this young woman is touring Europe. A person sensitive to bright lights and loud noises is standing in front of spotlights with amplified instruments behind her.

Is her life perfect? Far from it, of course. But she's at a place where she never in a million years would have thought she would be before that person in an SUV left her for dead on an empty street.

This is what I've learned from Melody Gardot: you never know from where the blessings in your life will come.

I told this story to an acquaintance of mine, who asked me if I thought Melody Gardot would trade her fame and fortune for the ability to be a 'normal' twentysomething woman.

That's not a valid question, is it? Point is, she can't. No one can change what has happened to them. We can do is change--if necessary--the way we react.

Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.

Put that way, just about anything can be a gift. Or a curse.

What are the gifts in your life?


Well I'm buckled up inside
It's a miracle that I'm alive
I do not think I can survive
On bread and wine alone
To think that I could have fallen
A centimeter to the left
Would not be here to see the sunset
Or have myself a time
Well why do the hands of time
So easily unwind
Some lessons we learn the hard way
Some lessons don't come easy
That's the price we have to pay
Some lessons we learn the hard way
They don't come right off and right easy
That's why they say some lessons learned we learn the hard way

Remember the sound of the pavement
World turned upside down
City streets unlined and empty
Not a soul around
Life goes away in a flash
Right before your eyes
If I think real hard well I reckon
I've had some real good times
Well why do the hands of time
So easily unwind
Some lessons we learn the hard way
Some lessons don't come easy
That's the price we have to pay
Some lessons we learn the hard way
They don't come right off and right easy
That's why they say some lessons learned we learn the hard way