Category Archives: Youth

Paradigm Shifts – Same Song, New Shorter Stanza

Time was, ages 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, an inordinate time without hearing from a friend, he’d pick up the phone.  If nothing came of it, wondering whether he pissed the person off, whether something’s wrong.  Does a bit of memory searching about the last meeting, conversation, communication trying to recall anything sour.

Decades roll by and a person goes through a lot of friends, discovers a lot who’d been thought of as friends weren’t, discovers there was no bottom to it, or the bottom was too soft to hold an anchor.  Realizes people need to have elbow-room and it might as well include a lack of interest in continuing communication with whomever they wish.  Just bugs on the windshield of the time machine.

“Wonder what ever became of old Jimbo Watkins,” a person muses.  “Best man at his wedding.  Can’t recall seeing him much after his 25th Anniversary party.  Hmm.  Most likely dead, I reckons.”

“Wonder what ever became of old David McCreary.  Stayed in touch and visited all those years.  God-Father to his kids, watched them grow up.  Last I heard he was teaching English in China somewhere.  Had a Chinese wife.

“Hmm.  Most likely dead, I reckons.”

As late as the 1990s I must have seen things this way, because I wrote it:

To Stanley, Hank, and Others
Gone before

Eyesight blurs with years;
Silty pond of vision clears
Legion days march past,
Blend the timbre, tones;
Common denominator of sound
Runs down
Stirs a rich musical soup
Of drum, of trumpet,
Crash of boot on pavement,
Of human voice, human words,
Singing murmur of human
intercourse;
Cacophony in a foreign tongue
But hearing deepens.
“What’s that you say?
Cupped hand behind ear;
Study in vain his moving lips
Behind the roar;
Puzzle the melting printed word,
Uncomprehending,
Dawns the underlying truth,
River of comprehension
Beneath the racing chaos
Of the spoken word,
The printed page.
Blindness recedes
With failing sight;
Deafness fades
As hearing dies.
Oh, dear life.
Dear muted daze
Fast-forward
Psychedelic film
Of lost unknowing.
Poor, desolate ghosts
Lost in forgotten trails
Of yesteryear,
Wander on.
Take heart in your despair
Mute the silent horror;
Calm the wild
Searching eye
And rest.
And rest in peace.

From Poems of the New Old West

————————

All that damned drama.  Sheeze.  Seems completely foreign to me today.  Words someone else wrote.

Most likely just dead,” works a hell of a lot better.  Or if I’m feeling verbose, a limerick.

Old Jules

Introduction to Being a Hermit

The following is an email that Old Jules wrote several years ago and subsequently posted on a previous blog. I’m posting it after his description of the Peace Corps experience to give continuity to that time period.  ~Jeanne

Old Jules:
This was the most recent of a long line of exchanges with an online friend, a man  who mostly he believes his life is a living hell out of habit, except when he reminds himself he’s blessed, which is only when I remind him to remind himself, thinks I.

Thought I’d share it with you blog readers.  I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned my brief life as a hermit.

Morning Pal:

I suppose you’re right.  You live a complicated life.  It would be complicated, just with your interpersonal relationships, even if you didn’t have a job that would be enough to satisfy most needs for complication.  Even if you didn’t have a piece of real estate that’s located in and part of a subtle war zone.  It’s relatively easy to imagine how you’d have some difficulties focusing, relaxing, or anything else.

A long time ago, when I had a complicated life, I used to wonder whether a stay in the sort of place where you work, an asylum, would do the trick as a means of getting me removed from the system of complications I’d built around myself to help make myself unhappy.  I concluded that it wouldn’t.

 I also gave some thought to whether prison life would do it, but unless it was one of those kinds of Federal prisons all the Watergate folks went to, I don’t think it could.

Thought about a Trappist monastery a bit, even.  That might do it.  I don’t know, but it seemed so otherwise out of sync with my nature that I never tried it.

But I had the advantage over most people, because I knew what I was missing.  When I got booted out of the Peace Corps in 1964, after a bit of time trying to complicate my life in Honolulu the way a person will, I was contacted by the US Army Reserve telling me they wanted to know where I was in case they wanted to reactivate me for Vietnam if they needed people with my particular MOS.  In those early days of 1965 nobody knew where all that was going and reactivating the reserves was considered a real possibility.

My support for US military adventures overseas went away entirely during my tour in the Far East.  I was gonna have nothing to do with Vietnam.  I decided I was going to spend the remainder of my life as a hermit living in the jungle on the big island….. a place called Wiamono Valley on the drainage of the Kohala range…. used to be a village in there but it was wiped out by the tidal wave in 1947 and nobody laid claim on it since.  Nobody in there but a blind mule and me…. for six weeks that mule had company.

That six weeks with nobody to talk to but a blind mule changed my whole life.  It was a pivotal moment for me, one of the greatest blessings of my stay in this reality this time around.  In addition to a book-full of other benefits, it gave me a realization of what’s possible for a human being, mind-wise, if he can succeed in either simplifying his life, or in (I didn’t know then) distancing himself from the web of values, properties, interpersonal relationships and other tangle we do our best to mire ourselves in so we can’t see or hear what we’re trying to keep from seeing and hearing…… the voice of what’s beneath.

I definitely understand what you’re saying, my friend.  Hang in there.

(Old Jules)

Day of Lost Souls (Part Two)


Peer Ratings and Mid-Selection
Mid selection was coming in that beautiful land, and before it arrived, I was fairly certain I would be one of the de-selectees.  I was also fairly certain McCreary would be.  Neither of us fit in.  We weren’t much like the others I thought would be deselected, but we were different.  We’d been through the Minnesota Multi-Phased Personality Test.  The rumor was you couldn’t even lie consistently on that one, except they could sniff you out, flush you like quail in the cool dawn.  I knew I was doomed.

The morning before selection time the staff added the final horror.  Humiliation and forced betrayal.  Peer ratings.

Question:  Here is a list of your fellow trainees.  Top to bottom, list the people you consider most equipped for the task of peace corpsman, down to least favorable.  Top to bottom, who do you like the most.  Down to who you like the least.  And so on.  Sell your young souls, trainees; young Americans…..won’t accept the papers back until you’ve listed them all, every white space above a black line filled with a name of someone here around you.

I was angry, watching 80 eyes probe the room, checking names against faces.  I worked out my own strategy, locking eyes, whenever I could.  I reversed the list they wanted.  Picked the weakest and least liked for my Ajax and Penelope.  Threw the leaders to the dogs.  With my own name at the pinnacle, of course.  But I knew it was futile.

De-selection and Jumping Ship in Honolulu
Still, I was crushed when my name came out on the list of get-outs.  I didn’t notice how the others reacted, and I don’t remember much about the time between the boot and the airplane.  I do know that somewhere in there, I decided I wasn’t going back to the mainland.  Somewhere in there David also decided something similar.

The rain was falling sideways when we got off the plane in Honolulu.  Big Joe Weiss, Korean War marine was with us on the plane to Oahu.  He listened to our dreams talked quietly of staying in the islands with us.  He was as crushed as I was about being given the shove.  But in the terminal building, he couldn’t look at either of us as he told us he was going on to the mainland.  I could see that big Joe was limping inside, hurting.  Maybe worse than I was, with all my bravado.

David and I had some kind of notion about catching a sailing boat, heading for Australia or New Zealand.  We had a couple of hundred bucks each, guts, energy, and no promises to keep.  We’d signed on for a two year stint in Injia, and Injia had belched us back like a bolus flying out the mouth of someone who’s just had the Heimlich performed unexpectedly in the middle of a dying incident.

We spent a few precious bucks on a taxicab…..told the driver we wanted the cheapest hotel he knew of.  It was the Huna Hotel, he took us to.  Twelve bucks a night.  But we were young in that country.

The rain continued through the night, and we emerged from the room still full of energy and bravado….we were taking big steps, making deep tracks in our future lives…..we thought we were about to make big tracks on the land.
Picked up a newspaper looking for boarding houses……David found one belonging to a Japanese lady named Matsushige….he wrote down the address as I looked over his shoulder….wrote on the classified page of the newspaper…..2323 East Manoa Road.

We took a city bus, carrying our bags, our belongings from the dead peace corps experience, and got off at the confluence of east Manoa and Manoa.  The driver pointed a direction for us.

But at 2323, our knock was answered by a man who appeared to be dressed in a pair of WWII Japanese uniform trousers.  He explained curtly that he didn’t know what the hell we wanted, didn’t want to know.  Didn’t appreciate our disturbing his home, his morning. We walked to Manoa and looked….nothing made any sense.

So, we found a pay phone and David called the number from earlier…..wrote 2319 on the newspaper.  Hung up the phone, turned puzzled from the booth.  “Twenty twee twenty twee?”  I burst out in laughter every time I thought of that incident for more than three decades.  I can still see him turning puzzled from the booth, frowning, “Twenty twee twenty twee?”

Matsushige’s Boarding House, Finding Work and a Gypsy Good Time
We settled in at Matsushige’s that day, a second floor room with two bunks, 4 feet or so apart, parallel, a desk between the two at the head.   Shared john with some other roomers….settled in young, full of bravado, full of dreams.

Next day we went looking for work and such.  David took a paper and headed down to check out the openings on Waikiki…..I headed for the bars on hotel street, looking for a job or a hooker to fix me up for my job search.  I’d go down to Waikiki tomorrow to  find my busboy job at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  Today, more pressing matters.

In a while, I came to a booth with a pretty gypsy lady…..started flirting a bit, talking around the issue.  Was pretty certain she was a hooker.  Finally, “You want a gypsy good-time?” she demanded.
“Yeah!  A gypsy goodtime!”
She took me into an attached room with nothing but a cot, sat me down.  “$10″….she took my money and assured she’d be back in a moment.  I sat there and knew when she brought in a snaggle toothed crone that I’d just lost a sawbuck for another of my lessons in life.

“Here it is!  A gypsy goodtime!”  She and the crone danced back and forth in front of me, all of us laughing.  My life has been rich in gypsy goodtimes, I’ve been a man wealthy in gypsy goodtimes, but that one was best in those times when the coconuts fell beside us and mangos piled high under the trees blocking the sidewalks and David and I grumbled in our cots picking off sunburned skin to throw to the giant roaches.  We were young in that country.

Final Selection – Dropouts and Volunteers – Honolulu
We stayed in touch with a few of the trainees on the big island.  Lillie and I wrote and sometimes talked by phone.  We made plans, after final selection to meet in Oahu, whether she went on to India or not.  Nancy Philson and Priscilla Thomas came through a few days ahead, voluntarily dropped from the venture.  An evening of drunken revelry on hotel street and they were off to the future.

I met Lillie at the airport with the other triumphant survivors.  Chianti, baby gouda cheese, and a rented jeep, and we made long and easy love on the beaches in sight of Chinamans Hat, Hanauma Bay, the blowhole, toward the end, pounding surf spraying the moonlight.  Her red hair tickled my face as we idled the jeep down the inland spine of Oahu, back to Honolulu.

Next night, the gin mills of Honolulu and Hotel Street.  Lillie’d never seen a stripper….I took her to a place I’d been a few nights previously with Nancy and Priscilla.  The best I’d ever seen, her veils of blue velvet, blue chiffon.

They boarded the plane, and India X was off to save the world from hunger, from savage restraints, from a historic dearth of fowl in their diets.  Off to Gujarat.

Back to the Big Island – The Jungle and Solitude
In a while, I flew back to the big island and went into the jungle off the Kohala range, thinking to become a hermit, thinking to die there.  David met a Japanese Hawaiian girl named Janice and flew back to the mainland with her.
In six weeks I came out of the jungle, in a maelstrom of roiling greyblue clouds.  I’d met myself for the first time.  I finally had seen myself, seen god in that quiet forest.  I knew I had more to do.

David’s kids, when he was in the marine corps, and after came to be among my favorite children….Janice, an object of my deep respect.

This year, she left him for a Japanese man.  David’s in Seattle, trying to find what he should do with his life, henceforth. Searching for the greatest gypsy good-time of them all.

And I await the moment I’ll go again into the woods as I did so many years ago beneath a savage sky in that country of youth and springtime.

Life’s a strange place for a human being to have to spend a lifetime.” Josephus Minimus

Day of Lost Souls (Part One)

Today and tomorrow’s post (part two) is a short story that was written many years ago. We had decided it was too long for the blog, even in two parts,  but since many of our readers are also writers,  I think you won’t mind the length.  ~Jeanne

Blue on blue, I tunneled through tints and shades of airy void  from the New Mexico desert to arrive in San Francisco several hours ahead of my outbound rendezvous.  The old DC3 clubbed the air dizzy and crawled over the unconscious body getting me to the coast; hammered the molecules of blue air into something solid as ice to hold man and machine aloft and skim across the bumpy surface.

In some other reality pilots and navigators of the heavens probably do spectra-soundings of color and hue, the way old mariners sounded the nighttime and foggy channel bottoms sampling with buckets to fix their positions by mud color, or sand, or shells.  These sky mariners in the elsewhere examine the debris in the  buckets and ponder;  arid Southwest: almost turquoise.  Inland California:  grey blue.  Coastal: yellow hazy blue.  But that was 1964.  Perhaps the atmosphere has grayed these intervening years, the way my own mustache, eyebrows, and hair has shifted to bare metal silver.

San Francisco
But we were young in that country.  The November 9, 1964, San Francisco airport terminal teemed with us. We milled around the gate that Sunday awaiting our flight to Hawaii.  Ten more days and I’d be a full 21, a legal man.  Full of mature, critical appraisal I skulked the waiting area; studied the rosy cheeks and sunny attitudes; the strapping young adults I knew I’d spend the next piece of my life among.  Though some carried more years, I thought to myself they were mostly kids.

I watched those youngsters straight-on for a while, until they noticed.  Then I shifted and gazed covertly at the reflections from the plate glass window/wall shielding us from the din of steel-gray planes and scorching ash-gray runways cut by yellow stripes threading the distant taxiways to vanish in the heatwaves and hazy yellowblue skies.  I pretended to read my book and scrutinized my soon to be companions out of the corners of my eyes; strained to hear the dribble of their conversations which each seemed to say, “I’m a neat person.  I’m worthy of this.”  Some, I could surmise, tacitly agreed to allow certain others to be as neat as themselves.

We were an elite, the acceptance letter implied.  Only one of every forty applicants, the letter whispered, were accepted for the intensive preparation to save the poor in hungry backward lands.  We were all riding on the bobsled thrill of those flattering words.  As a result the fast pulsebeat of waiting in the terminal became a political caucus.  Probably most of us figured those others were likely to be awfully special, but secretly believed they made a mistake in letting our particular selves in.

The candidates talked films; of Viradiana, of Antonioni, of Fellini and of a swede who made foreign films in those days. Of existentialism.  Talked about the beatnik poets.  All so serious.    What’s your major?  Where did you get your degree?   I pondered the words, scowling to myself.

I could see these mostly weren’t my kind of folks.  I’d scraped and cheated to get a high school diploma several years earlier, did three years in the army.  Hitch-hiked across the country several times, been in jail more than once.  Sweated under a blazing sky in dozens of hellish jobs that didn’t carry any prestige in these circles of toy-people, I thought, who were going off to India to teach the native how to raise chickens.  Bouncing off through rainbow skies bearing the weight of the white man’s burden to teach a culture older than our God how to raise poultry.  But we were young in that country.

I felt uncomfortable in my snazzy dark suit with narrow lapels. My only suit.  It had been the leading edge of fashion when I bought it for $20 a couple of years earlier in Boston.  The pencil thin blue tie with gold flecks felt awful on my neck, and worse as I became conscious of the width of ties the others were wearing.

Trainees impressing one another
As the morning wore into early afternoon more of the India X peace corps trainees filtered in the waiting area from incoming flights, draining the rest of the country of heroes…..I hung around alone and tried to guess which were trainees, and which were just transients.  I gazed at the women who were obvious volunteers, wondering whether any peace corps taboos would stand between me and female companionship during the next few months.  I idly checked out the prospects, most of whom didn’t bear up under a lot of scrutiny.  Rules of training could make for a long dry spell, and the fraternity boys were already busy staking out their campsites among the curly haired goldiloxes of the crew.
Eventually, I noticed a lean, freckle-faced red-headed Irish looking chap hanging around watching, same as I was……he wasn’t mingling with the other selectees much, and he appeared gangling and awkward.  I smiled to myself, musing, probably feeling superior, just as I felt somehow superior to all these fresh-scrubbed college folks, off to slum among the huddled masses.  McCreary,  I learned, was his name.  David McCreary.  At that moment I  watched, listened to, studied a future friend for life for the first time.

Strangely vacant blue-eyed, lanky, ruddy faced and scarlet haired, a lady schoolmarm from Virginia caught my focus.  I heard her tell someone she was an English teacher.  Lillie Rogers.  Lillie Belle Rogers, I learned later.  No raving beauty, but a touch of class, presence, bearing.  Straight and tall.  I sensed an underlying tinge of bitterness in her manner.  Sometime later it came to mind, and in some ways, a female counterpart to McCreary.  There among all the others, I didn’t sense that Lillie would be the lady of this group I’d come to know best.  I’d have rejected that notion, then.  Lillie Belle Rogers.  A long, sensuous neck ahead of Nancy Philson and  Priscilla Thomas in a dead heat.  Women I wouldn’t have picked for myself that day in the San Francisco airport, but in a few weeks, the training gave everyone a chance to show their mettle.  Or their fluff.  For those three and a few others, it was bare, polished metal.

The flight to Oahu was long…..I was seated next to a tough blonde named Georgia Grover…..nice humor, vaguely pretty, and I began laying what I hoped was groundwork for later.  Foundations for things to come which never came.

Arrival in Honolulu
When eventually we arrived on the islands the alienation I felt was already rising.  I didn’t like a lot of folks in those days, and I could tell I mostly wasn’t going to like these.  The chaos leaving the main terminal created visible stress among the chosen.  We had half a mile or so to walk to the Hawaiian Airlines Terminal and the next jump to the big island.  No transportation for the bags.  An early test.

The husky young college gentlemen struggled with their own bags and staggered in macho competition to help the attractive ladies.  Mr. and Mrs. Eebie, the elderly retired couple of the group shuffled along behind with the jaded males and less attractive females while the girly girls and ex-twirlers chattered across the tarmac admiring the white man and his burden.  Georgia Grover shrugged away the offers of help and shouldered her own bags.  Most likely, Lillie Rogers, Priscilla Thomas, and Nancy Philson never had the offer.

Hilo Training Center
During the next weeks the time passed quickly;…..language lessons, chicken house made from lava rock passed down hand to hand, chopping sugarcane in the fields for the thatched roof, a walking bridge made from downed palm trees, formal exercise, poultry disease classes, inoculations against the diseases of the distant east.  I gradually came to know the other trainees, and they, me.  I gradually found a few  worthy of respect.

Somehow we found time to frolic in bluegreen waters under the bluewhite waterfall.  We climbed the nearby cliffs and gazed into the swift discharge.

And late one afternoon I found myself with Lillie whispering from a cradle of limbs in a huge banyan tree near the falls; lips brushing ear and neck to be heard above the cascading clamor of falling water.  Forms and futures swirled in clouds studied through a break in the green umbrella.

One afternoon in a distance run, I began jogging beside the redhead, David.  We outdistanced the whole crowd on a ten mile run, came in long before the rest.  Found we weren’t appreciated for our efforts.  Evidently it was intended to be something of a fellowship, team thing.  The whole affair on the big island was a distance run, and David and I were already far behind.

That night, David and I went into Hilo and had a few beers, exchanging a few dreams, disappointments, and observations about the place and the people.  We were young in that country.

Exploring Alley Oop’s Home Circa 1947

When my mom left her second husband near Apache Junction, Arizona  to move near my granddad’s place at Causey, New Mexico, I was considerable upset about it all.  I’d become overfond of the Arizona guy, liked him a lot despite his human flaws that bothered my mom.

Time proved my level of upset couldn’t be handled by beating it out of me, nor by any of the other usual ways people tried back then to nudge a kid back into being seen and not heard.  The Runaways, 1947

My first step-dad [Arizona] was fond of reading the Alley Oop comic strip to me and I was a huge fan.  Alley was a cave man skipping forward and backward in time thanks to a 20th Century scientist.  Alley even had a 20th Century lady friend named Oola. 

About the only thing I’d brought with me from Arizona was my stack of Alley Oop comic strips.  We’d travelled light across the desert.  And when we arrived in Causey one of the jobs my sisters had was reading those Alley Oops to me, trying to bring up my spirits.  Which I suppose it did until they’d finished reading them to me.

Something more permanent had to be done, and my granddad decided to have a shot at it.  He promised to take me to visit Alley’s home.  Mesa Verde, Colorado.

What a trip that must have been, me pestering him whether we were there yet, how much further before we’d see Alley’s home.  I don’t know how long we stayed, but I never forgot old Alley and his home.  I still had one picture of the cave dwelling he took back then until Y2K.

And of the hundreds of ancient ruins, documented and undocumented, I’ve poked around in during my life, I’ve never visited one, found one, without thinking to myself with a smile that Alley Oop might have lived there, visited there ahead of me.

When Mel King and I were exploring the ruin on Gobbler’s Knob and were driving back to Socorro when he reached into his daypack for something, came out with a human skull it was the first thing I said to him.  “What the hell is that?  You packed off Oola’s skull.  Get it the hell out of this truck!” 

I screeched onto the shoulder and he hid it behind a cedar until  we’d be headed back to Gobber’s Knob so he could put it back where it belongs.

Nowadays I think I have more in common with Alley Oop than with any modern human being.  If there was ever a right time for me to pop out of the gene pool it would probably have been more appropriate temporally in some other Universe where Alley Oop lived and breathed.  It made more sense than this one.

Old Jules

 

Back Just Before Hippies Were Invented

1964 was a big year in my life.  I rode the USNS Breckinridge troop ship back from Korea with 2000 other GIs coming home, separated from the army late in June.  Hung around Portales, New Mexico for a while, applied to join the Peace Corps, then hitch-hiked to New York to pass the time until I heard from the Peace Corps.

Beatniks hadn’t yet been displaced by hippies and Greenwich Village was jam-packed with thousands of us implying we were beatniks but carefully not saying so.  Hanging around coffee shops writing poetry, playing chess, saying momentous deep-thinking things back and forth to one another.  Listening to folk singers. 

Being rocked back on our heels in mock, simulated shock and disgust when wheat-straw blondes from Westchester down for the weekend to be beatniks, too, refused our advances.  “WHAT?  You don’t believe in FREE LOVE?”

Which, surprisingly, almost always worked.  Provided you’d done a convincing enough job trickling out the bona fides of being a REAL beatnik.  And wouldn’t even think of hopping in the sack with someone so uncool she didn’t even believe in free love.  Even if she did iron her long hair out straight.

So after I hopped the freight to go back to New Mexico, got thrown in jail in Rochester for taking the wrong train, The Hitch-Hiking Hoodoos, got released to hitch home, things stayed eventful for a while.

A guy from Buffalo picked me up on the Interstate, older guy in his 30s.  When I got in I threw the pillow-case with my belongings into the back seat“I don’t know why I picked you up,” he glanced at me with disgust.  “I never pick up hitch hikers.”  

Over the next few miles he questioned me about who I was, where I was from, what I was doing hitching, what I’d do when I arrived, and I explained it all in loving detail.

“Well, I’ve never had any trouble with a hitch hiker the few times I’ve picked them up.  But if I do ever get killed by a hitcher it will probably be some half-baked kid who doesn’t know what he wants in life.”  He thought about it a minute.  “But I don’t have to worry about you.  You threw your gun into the back seat in that pillow case when you got in.”

We talked a lot over the highway between Rochester and Buffalo.  Enough so he didn’t take the Buffalo exit and carried me down to where a tollway squeezed the traffic going south to Cincinnati, Ohio.  He pulled up beside a car with a family in it, man, woman and a couple of kids.  Motioned for them to roll down the passenger-side window.

“Are you going on through Cincinnati?  I’ve carried this guy all the way from Rochester and he’s okay.  He’s going to New Mexico.  But I’d like to get him a ride past Cincinnati.  He’ll never get through that town walking.”

The couple said they were just going to Cincinnati, but we were all watching the traffic edge forward to the toll gates.  “We’d better take him anyway.  He might not get another ride.”

The Buffalo guy was right, but it began the next phase of a long story.  Guess I’d best hold it for another day.

Old Jules

 

Get a Job! Internment/Resettlement Specialist, US Army

Old Jules:

This brought a chuckle for me this morning. Amazing the stuff you find on these blogs. Jules

Originally posted on asians art museum's samurai blog:

Updated 12/31/11.

At www.goarmy.com, for real:

US Army Internment/Resettlement Specialist job

“Dust storm at this War Relocation Authority center where evacuees of Japanese ancestry are spending the duration.” Dorothea Lange, Manzanar, CA, July 3, 1942. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the War Relocation Authority, 210-G-10C-839.

UPDATE (12/31/11)

We’re screwed: President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law (ACLU press release, 12/31/11)

 

View original

My Original Veteran’s Day Post


I'd guess Phil probably resembled this young marine when he arrived

I hadn’t thought about my old running buddy, Phil, for a while.  That last blog entry got me chewing on thoughts of him.  I’ll tell you a bit more about him.

Phil went to the Marine Corps as the result of being a 17 year old driving from Temple, Texas, to Austin with a case of beer in the car.  A Williamson County Sheriff Deputy stopped him on a tail light violation, asked for his drivers license and saw the case of beer.  Old Phil, being a clever youth, gave the officer a Texas Drivers License with an altered date of birth, so’s to keep from being arrested as a minor in possession of alcoholic beverages.

The deputy wasn’t fooled.  He hauled Phil off to the slammer to reflect on his sins.  He was offered the alternatives of going to prison for presenting a phony ID, or going into the US Marine Corps.

In Vietnam, at least, Phil was old enough to drink.  He became Marine Recon and a sniper.  Phil was in the jungle with a squad of other snipers surrounded by a NVA rocket launching unit when the first rockets were fired into Da Nang AFB.  The squad wisely stayed hidden and didn’t take any shots, they radioed in the location of the rocket unit and brought an airstrike down on top of themselves.

They’d be dropped into an area where the NVA was expected to set up a battalion or division headquarters, sit there a couple of weeks waiting quietly, and try for a head shot at a senior officer.  Once the shots were fired they’d try to sink back into the bushes until things went quiet, then slink out to some place where they could be lifted out.

Phil did two tours over there.  When he came back he had such a chest full of medals they snatched him up for Nixon’s Honor Guard.  Which Phil believed would be easy duty.

Instead, it was riot control.  Wherever Nixon went there were anti-war riots, and Phil and his unit busting heads, which he thoroughly hated, since he agreed with the demonstrators.

Phil hated politicians, hated war, hated the men responsible for sending him over there and making him the troubled, rage filled human being he was during the decade and a half I knew him.

But the Vietnamese body counts were a lot higher because of Phil.

When I last saw him half his face was eaten away by Lupus, contracted as a result of Agent Orange in those jungles.  The Veterans Administration was fighting and squirming denying all those guys were ill from Agent Orange, that the problems were Service Connected, so they’d have to offer disability and whatnot.

Phil used to observe that he might have been a lot better off if he’d just let them send him to prison for the beer and phony ID.  Then they couldn’t have even drafted him for that place.

I wonder if that old Agent Orange has killed him yet.  Another victim of friendly fire with a delayed action fuse.

Old Jules

Tom Russell –Veteran’s Day

Thinking on your Feet

A friend and I were chewing the fat outside a car wash business he owns next to a convenience store in Las Lunas, New Mexico a few years ago. A pregnant woman who worked at the convenience store came outside and plopped down out of sight of the front door, smoking a cigarette, sitting on the concrete and leaning against the building.

We’d discussed this woman before…. a nice young lady with a life a person wouldn’t wish on anyone…. last time I’d seen her she was sitting in the same spot crying, which is how I came to ask my bud about her story. Anyway, seeing her brought her into the conversation again.

Most recent weirdness in her life:

The lady was  20 years old. She’d gone into Isleta Casino a while back with a friend, began feeding her paycheck into the slot machines. Now, it was illegal for this woman and her friend to be playing the slots, minimum age being 21.

So what happens? She hits a $5000 jackpot on the machine she’s playing. It lights up like Times Square on New Years Eve, making all kinds of commotion, people coming from all directions to see. She knows she’s going to have to show an ID to get the money. So what does this poor lady do?

She and her friend beat feet out of there, leaving the jackpot.

I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is this: What the hell was she doing putting her money into a gambling machine if she couldn’t accept a payoff, supposing she hit?  Did she do some heavy thinking about this?

But, even so, she ought to have been able to get someone legal to accept the payoff and split it with her, thinks I.

But she knew she was breaking the law, and what do you do when you get caught red-handed? Why hell, you run if your knees are still good enough to allow it.

That’s what’s called thinking on your feet.  Thinking afterward what you done-already should have thought before-wards.

Old Jules

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie– Luck be a Lady

The Hitch-Hiking Hoodoos

I was reading clickclack gorilla’s hitching story and it dawned on me what’s going on in Europe with hitch-hiking is entirely different from it in the US.  Evidently thumbing rides there still includes ‘respectable’ people.  It wasn’t so long ago the same was true in the US.

As a youngster and young man I hitched across the US up-down and sideways more times than I’ve traveled it any other way.  In the military it used to be the most common way soldiers traveled, but it was also a legitimate way of getting to a destination for anyone else, as well.  When I got out of jail for riding trains in Rochester, New York, in 1964, the judge at the arraignment told me, “Don’t you know hopping trains in New York is a FELONY?”

“No sir.  I didn’t know that.”

“Is there someone you can contact to get money for a bus ticket to get back to New Mexico?”

“No sir, there isn’t.”

“I’m going to say this, then I’m going to let you go.  Hitch-hiking is only a misdemeanor in New York.”

After I was released a police officer drove me out to the Interstate and let me off at a freeway entrance.  And way led onto way.

All that hitching as a youth was an adventure I suspect a lot of people alive today haven’t experienced.  Every trip was a hundred stories, including the one above.  And every hitch-hiker I’ve picked up over the decades since [I still do] has been a story in itself.  I keep a case of Dinty Moore stew in the truck and usually give them a can or two if they’ve convinced me they’re hungry.

Today people are generally frightened of hitch-hikers, or just don’t believe the potential feel-good rewards of picking them up is worth the risk of getting robbed, assaulted, or just being trapped inside a vehicle with a person who smells as though he’s been on the road a while is worth it.  I’d opine they’re thinking smart.   I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had some close calls, both hitching, and picking up hitch-hikers.

But I do it anyway, and I’m glad I do, glad I have, wouldn’t trade having done it for the alternative.

I’m thinking I might throw in a few of those hitch-hiking, hitch-hiker tales on this blog occasionally.  Some are chilling, some are strange, but every one is unique.

Old Jules

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – SWEET HITCH-HIKER