Getting Paid $50,000 for One Sentence

Alright bloggers, novelists, even you shy, wilting haiku-ists!

Today is your lucky day. It’s time to pull on those big-boy pants. How would you like to make 50K? As in $5o,ooo. 50,000! For only, get this, one (uno, 1, un, ein) sentence worth of work.

But wait! There’s more!

Not only do you have to write a full sentence, you must also sign your letter. And salutate it. Can you do it?  I suggest using the salutation thank you. Like one such author did. And he got paid 50 big’uns! You up? Or down for it?

Don’t answer!

The gentlemen in question, whose letter sold for the princely (bordering on kingly) sum of 50 large, wrote the original missive to his maid. That is correct. His maid, Mary, received a life-changing, poetic thrill (up her leg.) Let’s read, shall we, the masterpiece:

Dear Mary — Please make sure all the errands are done before you go on vacation, as I do not want to be bothered with insignificant things. Thank you, J.D. Salinger

Ah ha, you say. Mr. Salinger, I presume. Yes, the papa of Holden is being exploited. The owners of the above letter are hoping to get 50K for it. Considering he passed away last year, J.D. will not be producing any new literary jottings.

J.D. Salinger's Letter

Bloggers, writers of all stripes (or even you rare, stripe-free variety), toil your craft mightily.

For your meaningless meanderings may be sold once, now or in the future, for ridiculous quantities of turtles, clams, lucre, quid, calamari.

(Or I am trying to disuade you from the eBay auction, by labeling the price as ludicrous, hoping to drive it down to a respectable 35 large medium? So as to buy it out from under you?)(Hmmm, question for you: if that is true, what’s the letter doing under you?)(It’s not an egg. It won’t hatch into any more baby letters.)(Or will it?)(Note to self: start roosting on the classics.)(Begin with Shakespeare.)(Then move, ever so gently, onto Marley and Me.)(Hmmm, I only own the French translation, Marley et moi. Will that suffice? Oui?)(Easy street, and a full library, here I come!)

Mr. JD Salinger, letter writer-er, potentially voracious Mellow Jihadi reader

Possibly unknown facts on Mr. Salinger:

1. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and participated in the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944.

2. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy from 1934-36.

3. He was a voracious reader of blogs and always thought the blogosphere lacked something that brought the jihad. But in a mellow, gentle way.

Mr. Salinger: Rest easy, kind sir, it has been broughten! (Editor’s note: Factoid 3 remains unconfirmed as of press time. Our editorial squirrel hopes obtain some clarity before the next printing. Stand by for confirmation of this elusive, but clearly obvious, fact.)

(Now what’s gonna be in my 50K letter? Hows’ about this: Dear Reader–I appreciate you actually reading all of this blogpost, as I thought you might not want to be bothered with insignificant things. Thank you. MJ Jihadi Jr. Signed, by direction, Editorial Squirrel #1.)

Charleston, California

My plane floats down onto the Charleston runway, light and feathery. Aviators rate their landings and I make a note to tell our captain when I disembark. The man seated next to me gets up, breathing with a rasp. I had sirred him earlier, except he was not a sir. He had given me a little puff of attitude. Like he was doing me a favor by chatting.

As for the sirs, I can’t help myself. I do it to many when in civilian clothes. The janitor who takes out my office garbage gets a sir. But he earned his. He had glanced once at my khaki and called me Lieutenant with great pride. I could tell it was not his first time addressing someone by rank. He was Filipino and probably once part of the Flipino mafia of storekeepers and CSs, or whatever they called CSs back in the day.

He had pulled the Lieutenant out in long slablyes. Looo-tennnnn-annnnt, as if dragging a bunt down the third base line. Like that jerk Brett Butler used to do when he played for San Francisco. Before he joined the Dodgers and became one of my favorite players.

What I shoulda told the man seated next to me on the plane: addressing someone by sir is more respectful than addressing them by rank, despite what some idiot politician thinks. Addressing by rank acknowledges the playing field, but it also makes note that both of us are players. As for sir and ma’am, it is deferential, ask any enlisted Sailor. I chose to call the janitor sir. It gladdened us both.

I pass the cockpit and holler inside. “Great job, guys,” I say.

“Thanks,” two voices reply. I wonder if the pilots know I am referring to the landing, but it doesn’t matter now, does it?

I get my bag at baggage claim and wait as the rental-car lady rattles on over the phone. It gives me time to plan my tactics. I am tall, like six-four tall, and the little compact the government lets me rent isn’t big enough. I’ve traveled ten times in the last year and at half of the places, I’d dropped my stats (height) and my job (Navy) and they had upgraded me. But the lady is having none it. She hardly makes eye contact. I still call her dear and accept the lousy compact without argument. No way she was getting one of my extra special ma’ams.

Outside, I walk through the fick Carolina night. Fick like only Charleston is.  I drive to my hotel. There, I update my blog for hours, wondering where I am going to get the 28K in new hits to meet the 50,000 goal I had set for my first month. If not 50K, what am I going to do with the article I had written for newbie bloggers: 50 Ways to Getcho’ 50K?

In the morning, my back is sore from the flight and the powdered eggs have no taste. I am in uniform and happy, as I had finally gotten my ribbons mounted with thin ones. I guess I’ll have to throw out the greasy rack I was using before, the one with crooked devices, the E hanging off my pistol ribbon like anyone on the Titanic.

I finish my eggs and read the paper. I don’t give it much thought. For one, I am a blogger and bloggers slew the newspapers, right? The whole damn industry is laid tits up, they just don’t know it yet. . .

Work is work and I drive to it and taste my second real blast of military politics. This blog is no place to vent, but I am a Lieutenant, what do I care about politics? I wonder what kind of Commander I will make, whether I will make Lieutenant Commander. My first foray into command politic had been a bloody affair. An affair not for a blog post. . .

After a day of working on Navy equipment issues, I step outside and gasp. This city has air that you wear and it always fits. Around your neck, behind your ears, sliding between your toes.

I leave the workday behind me and cruise across the base in my piece of junk. I sit either the right distance from the steering wheel or the correct distance to the pedals. But not both. Some Korean engineer is laughing heartily at me. It’s mutual, I laugh heartily at me too.

I pull into a Quiznos and once again Charleston embraces me in its heat. S’nothing like California. Somewhere, someone forgot to add weather to Cali. Whenever I step outside in that place, it’s the same: room temperature.

I catch my refection staring at me in the window. My hair is well within regs, but at two inches, is shaggy for me. A barber shop looms and I look forward, not to the haircut, but to the conversation. I can speak to anyone, anywhere.  But only if it has purpose. Like a taxi driver or a barber. Don’t ask me, it just seems to work out that way.

The bells above announce my arrival and I stare around the shop. Everyone is black and I like it. One guy teeters at my uniform and I boom out to the one open-seated barber. “You have an free chair?” The barber nods.

“Mmm, you look sharp,” a large woman with a tattoo running across her dark chest murmurs to me. “Navy.”

“Thanks,” I reply, clunking into the chair and turning to the barber. “Hey sir, high and tight, three on top, skin fade.”

“We can do that,” he says approvingly.

We chat, first about sports. His brother-in-law is an NFL tailback. “He always eats good, but if he slips up, he’ll pop one of them Smooth Moves to get it out.”

I nod. “This your own shop?”

“Yeah, me and them.” He throws his chin at a couple of busy barbers.

“How are taxes?”

He gives me a don’t get me started, Shipmate look. You know, rolled eyes, flared nostrils. “High.”

I want to tell him that the black community’s support for Obama is misplaced. That there are black businessmen, like Herman Cain, who are far more appropriate for him to back. Or Allen West, not that I know the barber’s politics. But I am in uniform and the man is running a pair of clippers two inches from my eyes.

He spends forty-five minutes on my hair. The main reason I know: one-and-a-half episodes of “I Hate Chris” blares in front of us.

He holds up a mirror and surprises me. A rake with my face grins back. He has manscaped my upper sideburns. I am a Sailor, not a golf course, I want to tell him, but I stay mute. I look again and like it, knowing it will keep the Charleston sweat off me.

He sprays and then lathers on four or five products. Pomades, gels, spritzes, and alcohols. “Twenty dollars,” he says and I wonder if I’m getting rolled the white-guy price. Still, it’s a great haircut. I give him 25.

I leave, buy dinner at Quiznos, and slip through the cooler Charleston night. It no longer embraces me in its sweaty clamp.

I pull into my hotel parking lot, my hair higher, tighter. In front of me an orange plate shines back from a truck’s license plate holder. It reads: EAT BEEF. I nod my manscaped head. Eat beef, I can do that.

Officially Yours

Words, I am in love.

Of them, I have grabbed great big handfuls, strewn on these pages like pine needles for you, my reader, to rest.

I am not the Mellow Jihadi. The title comes from an unpublished novel I wrote, at various shore stations, deployments. The book is half set in Berkeley and half over there, the new over there, the Middle East. I don’t feel like writing another one, not yet. Hence, this blog.

One of the great honors of my life is to wear the uniform. Adventures have stalked me in my ten year career and I like sharing them. Every one told is true, to the best of my ability. Occasionally, I may write fiction, perhaps even post a poem. I will always denote it as such if not readily obvious.

I take my Navy job very seriously, these pages are the vehicle in which my relaxation rides. Disclaimer for my military readers: do not be uneasy with my easiness here. I am not in the brig as I write this, my back is not raw with the lash. I have excelled, mostly, at my job, through seven ranks, with the rare failure, occasional skeleton.

I am a lover of excellence, as well as a purveyor of the ridiculous. I make no promises about my site, only that you will find something unique. It will always be PG rated. There are many other places to go for scantier stuff.

Must I drop names? I am a grad of Berkeley. I am not now, nor have I ever been a hippie. I am nearly 40 years old and have held almost the same number of jobs, 40, as my age (counting the military as one job.) I needed to pay my bills and it was not uncommon for me to ply two trades simultaneously.

Politically, I am a true American independent. Five national elections have worked their wiles on me and my stats are thus: I voted twice for Democrats for President, twice for Republicans, and once for a third party. Each day that passes pulls me more to the right. I do not recognize the America that the left wants to build.

As for being pulled, the Tea Party tugs my curiosity. Go ahead, call me a racist. Just try. Liberals, I am a Berkeley grad, I have played in your playground for years and have exchanged it for greener pastures. There is no trick from your playbook hidden to me. The whole freeze it, personalize it thing? Old stuff, that. Bottom line: no party owns me.

I am somewhat prolific in that I love to write and generate content. You can rest assured that I will be posting regularly. Counting my entries, I have well over two dozen spread out over two weeks.

When I read Henry Miller wrote 8000 words a day, I matched him. Then I stumbled across his work. Not my train, nor my track. I was lost, without a drummer in which to follow, until I heard Norman Mailer wrote 3000 daily. I could do that, I thought, and I did. But then the story of him stabbing his wife surfaced and I stopped my 3000 experiment. My last mentor, an obscure fellow named Jack London, pounded out 1K. Easily mimicked until I read of his odd political lean. Moral of the story: I march to my own literary drummer. I write a lot, live my life. I write a little and continue to live. This blog idea has tied me to my computer. I love it.

Piles of journals haunt me. I once threw out 17 pounds. They dwell now at the bottom of a Kentucky landfill. If you run across the buggers on your travels, please return ‘em. You will recognize my writing by its illegibility and its promise. Of course, there are many promises, many whispers. That which my writing promises, I will not say, may not know.

Someone is reading this thing. The Mellow Jihadi is a day older than two weeks and has had 21K page views. Instapundit linked me, so did Lex and Linkiest and a bunch of other great minds. Please comment, readers, as you are moved.

Thank you for reading. My tip jar is that you send me a link or pass a post on to a friend. As stated earlier, it is an honor to wear the uniform. ‘Tis an honor too, to have you appreciate the Mellow Jihadi. NavyOne, out. . .

Grey Iron

I am not a trigger-puller. I don’t run towards danger. I lack a plan to kill everyone I meet. I don’t fly the tip of the spear. I am, by training, a cryptologist, that is: I see signals, I taste dialects. I profile our enemies so that the rough men who stand ready in the night can ply their trade.

Of my brothers and sisters in uniform, we share something special, knowing that we fight, each on our own, each together, one mission. Towards one goal. To defend the country from all enemies foreign and domestic.

I am an American exceptionalist, that is I see the United States’ role in the world and know it to be an overwhelmingly positive one. I live in that shining city on a hill. I wear the clothes of that last, best hope.

I have walked through a Texas airport, dirty from deployment, shaking hands of all colors, of one America. I have ducked that very same line, still in uniform, afraid I might cry. How urgently I smiled. How happy I was to see a bathroom to veer into. Yes, I will always be a Texan.

It was a Dairy Queen in Alabama where I left my heart. Where a little girl peered up at me, with her shy little brother hiding behind her windy hair, and smiled.  I too smiled back, tired as I was from training, in my Navy whites. “Thank you Sir for fighting for our freedom,” she said in voice stronger than mine. “You are welcome, Sweetheart,” I croaked. To her and then to her quiet family. To whom I walked over to thank. Yes, I will always be an Alabaman.

And it was in California today, this San Diego morning, that I glanced down a line of warships, their hulls hulking out of the water like dinosaur bones, and knew. That we Americans would make it through this tough time. And I prayed that the hands I shook in Texas and the little girl and her family in Alabama were doing well.

And I remembered President Reagan’s words:

. . .In my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

And knew that I was a Texan. An Alabaman. A Californian. That we would make it through this tough time. . .

Grey Iron - San Diego - 21 July 2010