Today’s mystery statement is: He’s very stubborn; so am I. Both of us are very strong-willed, very Type A. [M]y whole family is not super touchy-feely emotional. My dad is just like an old-school ballsy sailor, in the best way possible. Guess who said it?
Me at an Argentinean Restaurant: Gym Chicken? That sounds fascinating. Is that some Argentinean delicacy?
Argentinean waitress: (Smiling weakly) Not really. We named it that because of the gym next door. Those customers like low-carb options.
Me: Oh, I’ll take that. . .
Me: Wisconsin or Minnesota basketball could be really good.
Me: All those teams have a couple of gangly white kids who drop threes. Some jug-eared farm-boy.
Co-worker: You know I went to Wisconsin, right?
Me: Ah, that’s right. Great team. . .
Conversation is in trouble, Judith Martin said. People have been brought up to express themselves rather than to exchange ideas.
Today’s quote, from a source you would perhaps not expect: You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff… If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys…
Out in Oklahoma, they have different conversations than we do in California. Lou over at the Bag Blog illustrates why:
Jes: Dad, will you buy me a smart phone for my birthday?
Dad: I thought you wanted a gun.
Jes: Well (pause) if I had a phone and I ran into trouble, I could just call you, and you could come shoot them.
Ha ha, I love it! Lou, whenever you read this, you have to say what Jes was gifted. . .
“You surf, really?” he asks, his eyes lighting up.
I smile, it is an old joke, this. One I have trotted out many times. “The internet,” I reply. “I surf the internet.”
He laughs and I squint at the surfer on his blue t-shirt. “What does Toes on the Nose mean?”
“It’s like when you hang ten or hang five.” I give him a blank stare and he repositions himself, as if walking up a surfboard. “When you hang ten, you stand at the front of your board with both feet and when you hang five, you have one foot on the nose.”
I nod. “Those are great chairs.”
“An adirondack chair,” Tony says. “Except we use aerospace screws at our shop. We buy them in mass, at eight cents a pop.”
“Today is our last day. We are closing up.”
“The economy. That is why the chair is so reduced. I am just an apprentice here, but I enjoy it. I am 51 years old and I’m going back to marketing.” He goes on to tell me his work history, of putting in dozens of applications for skilled and unskilled craftman jobs.
I look around, at a loss. “God bless you,” I finally say.
“He has.” And he nods his head and there is nothing I can add. I buy two chairs and arrange to have them delivered.
An hour later, I am standing in a restaurant. An elderly man labors behind me at the buffet. A faded Marine Corps tattoo runs the length of his left arm. An Eagle, Globe, and Anchor in silhouette.
“I’m active-duty Navy,” I tell him.
He looks at me firmly. “Ah, Navy.”
“You were at Chosin?” I point to his hat, his cover.
“Yep. Three months.”
“Got pushed off. I was part of the Seventh.” He rattles off a company name and something else, a battalion, brigade, which I immediately forget. “There are not a lot of us left. I used to go meet ‘em all. Now it is expensive and we don’t get together.”
“Can I take I picture of your hat, sir?”
He nods and I snap the photo and thank him. I move forward in the line and when it comes to pay, I buy his lunch. I am not a thief. I will not steal a picture of a man’s hat and his story without paying for it. Least of all, for a hero. He tries to give me money, but I refuse.
“Sir, thank you,” is all I can say.
I am standing in Jamba Juice, in uniform, staring at the wheatgrass. The shoots are yellow and mold encircles the roots. It is a disgusting thing that, wheatgrass. That wheatgrass especially, considering its color, its mold. I cancel my order and the girl with big eyes and the stained red, Jamba Juice apron nods knowingly. I don’t do yellow and moldy. I got a hard enough time doing wheatgrass green and fresh.
A voice interupts my revulsion. “You a Marine?”
The man has white hair. He beams at me. “My son is graduating from Marine Bootcamp on Friday.”
“I’ll bet. That was a high school picture, from Colorado.” He laughs. “Do you know how to get to the Marine Base?”
I give him directions and wait for my pumpkin shake, the one I had nearly befouled with wheatgrass. A mother and a daughter hover behind me.
“Whatever,” the daughter says to her mother and I frown. I don’t understand that word. If I ever use whatever in this blog, dear reader, you have license to come and find me and kick my ass. My daily thoughts this last month have not been far from here. And even in Jamba Juice, I think of these pages. These non-pages. This screen. You know, this blog.
I reach for my pumpkin shake and make a promise to myself. To relax and to not measure success with numbers. To not blog in my mind when I am not blogging. And to blog when I am here, in front of my keyboard, screen.
I see the Marine’s father out in the parking lot later. “You want to follow me?” I ask. “I can take you to the gate.”
“Sure, thanks.” He pulls up behind my car in a white Toyota. We twist through the parking lot and turn out onto Midway Avenue. I switch lanes and we merge with the road running parallel to MCRD. I point out my window to the gate as we pass, but he stays on my tail. I point again and he makes the next right. He’ll have to flip a u-turn somewhere. He’ll figure it out. Marine (fathers): Delivered to the battle by the Navy as usual.
I roll to a red traffic light, waiting to turn around myself, to take me back to my base. A sun-tanned man with black dirt streaking his face holds a sign. I try not to look, but I do. And the sign reads: I need help. Hungry and without work. God bless you.
I reach around my backseat and grab the bag of Japanese snacks I had bought from my friend’s store. It is unopened and I roll down my window. He stares at me. For five seconds. Which feels like fifteen. Does he expect me to open my door and walk the four feet to him? What kind of American is this?
Finally, he stands up and takes the bag with a smile. I smile and understand that I do not understand. His story. What brought him to the streets. He looks healthy and about my age. “Thank you,” he says. He is tanner than me, but dirtier too. I want to remind him where he lives. That he is an American and he must do whatever it takes to get a job. That I have worked at three in the morning, driven forklifts, worked every meal for days. Washed dishes. But I don’t. Because maybe times are different now.
The light changes and I take off. I know I have a blogpost in these last moments and my mind starts running through the events. Then it switches to new readers, bloggers. And how I can link them. That thing about not blogging when I was not blogging? To only blog when in front of my laptop? Whatever. . .
Every American should learn a martial art. It instills confidence and, if taught correctly, keeps one from becoming a victim. My choice in the past has been Krav Maga. The following exchange happened back when I was an Ensign and another Ensign I knew from OCS happened to be in my class.
We were doing the front kick. I lashed out, skimmed the kick bag (the other Ensign was holding) and hit him squarely in the hip.
Other Ensign: Oooof-daaa! (doubles over)
Me: You okay, bro?
Other Ensign: (Groaning)
Me: Hey, are you okay?
Other Ensign: (Still groaning) Yeah.
Me: Are you wearing a cup?
Other Ensign: (Straightening out) No, should I?
Me: (Nodding vigorously) Yes! Yes! Always.
Instructor: (Yelling) Alright, 20 pushups. . .
Other Ensign: Oooof-daaa.
Moral of the story: If an Ensign, always wear a cup around other Ensigns. They are a treacherous and dangerous lot, especially to themselves.
“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman
“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman (updated)
I am in a meeting with two high-ranking civilians and a Master Chief. Yes, I outrank the Master Chief, but at more than 25 in, I listen to every word she says.
Master Chief: This Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell thing is going to be easy.
Me: I heard the courts are back to enforcing it, no?
Master Chief: Doesn’t make a difference, this generation, these kids, they all don’t care. Tri-sexual, anything’s good.
Me: Tri-sexual? I am the youngest person in the room and I am not good with tri-sexual, whatever that is. . .
Conversing is an art. These two, real-world conversations prove I am a novice:
Her: Hey NavyOne, you got any siblings?
Me: Yeah two. I am the middle child.
Her: Middle, ha! I could have guessed that.
Me: (Frowning) What about you? You got brothers or sisters?
Her: Yes, I am the oldest.
Me: Figures you are the oldest.
Her: Why is that?
Me: Well, you are very bossy, for one.
Me: Ah, sorry. (Looking around to escape.) I did not mean to offend you.
Her: It is very hard to offend me.
Me: (Exhaling) Good.
New Her: I am thinking about starting a personal blog. Something frilly, but with guns.
Me: (Smiling) Great. What are you going to call it?
New Her: I don’t know. Something tough, but girly.
Me: What about Hose and Handguns?
New Her: Hoes?
Me: (Looking around to escape.) Ah, maybe not.