An old Northern fossil…

Having returned from an early walk at 07:00 hrs, I was surprised to hear ‘Sarah’ politely requesting a caller to leave a message after the beep. As I had to attend to the canine’s needs and wants after an epic patrol, I allowed the caller to leave their communique. Settling into my breakfast routine, I hit the button to listen in to the potential wit and wisdom of what I thought would be from an international business associate; it was not so.

article-2413653-1BA7D105000005DC-962_634x318The message was an abusive rant from a very good mate who works abroad, in and around Europe. Who does very little except flex his muscles when protecting a high profile female ‘celebrity’, and never stops talking about it. Or maintains a low profile when the principle is a lightly-scented-French-male-fashion-designer, of which very little is mentioned…

Without going into the nuts & bolts of the whole message, it was a reference towards me being a fossil of sorts, as it has been reported in the UK’s newspapers that ‘Britain’s oldest Northerner’ has been discovered inside a Cumbrian cave, some thing he thought hilarious. As Marines we ‘yomped’ across the Cumbrian landscape numerous times over the years, part of Hadrian’s wall runs through it. On one of our many adventures we had to resort to an over night stop in Lacy’s Caves, Cumbria, as we were caught in a huge electrical thunderstorm that rolled on for hours. It was getting dark in the cave as we unpacked our bergans of food and gonk bags, one of my throw away comments as I lit a storm candle was “I would hate to die in a cave, and remain undiscovered“, normal banter ensued between us with never a reference to my simple sentence, until now. The man has the memory of an elephant, and he will pay dearly for his mockery…            Yours Aye.
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A pot of tea & savouries

Modern FamilyEarlier yesterday I had the wind taken out of my sails, as I was presented with an image of a like-minded doppleganger, or at least I think that’s what happened? I met up with a mate in a local café, for our usual (put the world to right) meeting over a pot of tea and savouries. Being a few minutes adrift, I arrived to find my good oppo knee deep in an assortment of sausage rolls, corned beef slices, and home made cake (the honour of choice and purchase falls to the first man across the threshold). Formalities over, I took my seat and assumed the role of ‘mother’ and poured out the luscious dark strong liquid.

Me and the missus have come to a decision“! Say’s he, looking morose as he surveyed the calorific choice in front of him. My heart missed a beat as his words sunk in, they have been together for many years, happily married… Shrugging my shoulders and calling upon memories of combat triage, I immediately stepped up and came to his aid “Mate, your still fighting fit, got all of your own teeth, and a full head of hair; all you require is an up to date wardrobe of clothes. You’ll only be on the market for a short while, and then you can”…… He picked the largest of the corned dog slices and looked at me, a huge  grin appeared from ear to ear “Not that sort of decision you clown. We have come to the decision that you are ‘Jay Pritchett’ from the TV show”! I obviously looked bemused (and relieved) as he giggled like a schoolgirl at my faux pas. “Who the bloody hell is Jay Pritchett“?  I asked, composing myself, feeling a little out of step. He looked at me as though I had two heads. “You know, the guy in Modern Family, the American TV show, Ed O’Neill, he plays the part of Jay Pritchett” ~ “Who, who“? Say’s I, sounding like an owl as I twisted my head to one side, which provided more ammunition for merriment. Ed O'Neill is Jay Pritchett

And so the gurning halfwit rattled on about ‘my’ TV character, and almost choked on a piece of corned dog as he explained the show, as well as the goings on of each character within it. As he continued his gurgling banter I googled Ed O’Neall and Jay Pritchett; the actor/character appeared. Ahhh him” I said, pointing at my phone, “Is that Jay Pritchett“? ~ Yes, him, his personality, word for word, the shrugs, the facial expressions, its you, to a T“! ~ “But I look nothing like him” I wailed…

He went on to explain that when he and his ‘missus’ watch the program, they both place me as the character ‘Jay Pritchett’. My lost-look-arched-eyebrow-expression had him giggling again, initially controlled, and then laughing so infectiously for so long, that he contaminated both tables either side of us. Part way through his teary eyed explanation he turned to the now giggling and bemused strangers, and pointed at me saying “Jay Pritchett-Modern Family“, with his voice trailing off to a high hysterical girly squeak, due to the air being squeezed from his lungs. All I could do was put on a stupid bewildered face, smile, nod politely to each table, and then stare at my boots, whilst pretending I knew what he was talking about (obviously the two occupied tables did)! When the lull came I looked at the strangers and calmly said “He’s just split up with his wife, it’s his way of dealing with it“, which set him off again, with the strangers following his lead?

It was the longest short meeting I have ever endured, my whispered promise of “cease now, or I will slap you daft” brought him back to earth… Having quaffed our fare, and placed certain parts of the world to right we departed our venue. ‘Helium head’ went on his way still grinning like a cheshire cat, leaving me feeling a trite bemused, he certainly had the edge on me, as I have never watched any episode of ‘Modern Family’. That is until late afternoon, when I eventually found one episode screening on SKY TV. I sat bewildered, trying to make the comparison. During the short ad break, I called a good friend and asked if she had ever watched ‘Modern Family’. “Absolutely love it, why?” ~ “Ahem! Do I remind you of ‘Jay Pritchett”? After a short silence she started laughing, “Oh my God, he is you, you are him”! I quickly explained what happened earlier, and she also headed off into rapturous laughter.  (Points to note readers; for a start I am a lot younger, I weigh in at 189Ib, and I have a thick head of hair). Having thanked my friend (the laughing hyena) I consoled myself with a warm pot of tea and the second half of ‘Modern Family’. In truth it may well grow on me, as the slick humour appeals, though it is early days yet, and it could have been worse, i.e. Phil Dunphy worse! 

Yours Aye.

Ain’t No Fool Like An Old Fool

I can’t help that I’m a linguist; I can’t turn my ears off. So when I’m in public and an old couple sits near me talking about the Trayvon Martin case, I try not to listen. But they are super loud with their raspy voices:

Lady: I’ve been thinking about this Trayvon Murder in Florida.
Man: What about it?
Lady: It is like Einstein said. He had a curiosity question in his mind.
Man: Zimmerman?
Lady: Yes and his question was about an urge to kill someone who was taking over his neighborhood.
Man: And was angry about it.
Lady: No one saw it, so we’ll never know.

I hum to myself so I don’t have to hear any more of their stupidity. I have no idea what Einstein has to do with it. And I don’t doubt that is exatctly what did not happen. Who thinks that Zimmerman was hunting neighborhood kids for kicks? And the old folks were totally wrong about no one seeing it. Both Joe Manalo and John Good were eyewitnesses. And Rachel “Dee Dee” Jeantel was an earwitness. In that she was on the phone with Trayvon.

The Beast In Me…

Super Moon over Yorkshire 2013

The beast in me Is caged by frail and fragile bonds Restless by day And by night, rants and rages at the stars God help, the beast in me…

The beast in me Has had to learn to live with pain And how to shelter from the rain And in the twinkling of an eye Might have to be restrained God help the beast in me…

Sometimes It tries to kid me that it’s just a teddy bear Or even somehow managed To vanish in the air And that is when I must beware Of the beast in me That everybody knows They’ve seen him out dressed in my clothes Patently unclear If it’s New York or New Year

God help the beast in me… “The Beast in Me” by Nick LoweSunset over Yorkshire

Sat 22 Jun 2013. Had a great day today, walked and talked with the dogs, and then witnessed a great sunset from our seat on the felled tree logs. Slurped tea from my old tin mug, and howled as the ‘super moon’ rose and illuminated the countryside, the gentle waft of warm damp air adding to the pleasure. After all of these years, life is starting to make sense in civvie street.

Yours Aye.

Two Dicey Conversations

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.
Co-worker: Definitely.
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. . .

You Could Come Shoot Them

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. . .

A Surfer, a Man, and a Marine

I don’t surf, but still I tell the man with the surf shirt that I do.

“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.”

“Adirondacks.” He waves over another guy. “Tony will tell you about them.”

“An adirondack chair,” Tony says. “Except we use aerospace screws at our shop. We buy them in mass, at eight cents a pop.”

“Amazing craftmanship.”

“Today is our last day. We are closing up.”

“Really, why?”

“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.”

“What happened?”

“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.

I see him later and he grins at me like I am a fellow warrior. “Thanks, brother,” he tells me quietly. So quietly, I wonder if he really called me brother. “For lunch.”

“Sir, thank you,” is all I can say.

Zen and the Art of Not Blogging

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?”

I smile. Had I been insulted, complimented? “No, Navy,” I reply.

The man has white hair. He beams at me. “My son is graduating from Marine Bootcamp on Friday.”

“Oh.” He shows me a picture. The kid is overweight with big, Frodo hair. And Puka shells. “He’s probably going to look different now,” I tell the father.

“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. . .

Krav Maga Ensigns

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.

Krav Maga Ensigns

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.

Sahara Sahara

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman

I agree with you, Mr. Friedman.  What you may or may not have known is that Sahara (صحراء) is the Arabic word for desert.  So you are calling it the Desert Desert.

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman (updated)

Don’t Ask

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. . .

How to Win Enemies and Influence People

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.
Her: Really?
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.