On suffering to be good and living in hell

This is from an encounter I had last May – I meant to post about it long ago and never quite finished it –

I walked down the aisle to my assigned seat and it was occupied by a big, bulky young man. Body builder type in plain, clean clothes. I socked him in the shoulder lightly and said “You’re in my seat, bud.” He jumped up and moved over to the center seat, we belted in and the plane took off.

Staff Sargent Chris somebody sat beside me for the four hour plane ride from Houston to Sac. He was lonesome and bored. I got his life history. 35, never been married. Three tours in Iraq, and trying to get back over there. He can’t yet, because he got blown out of his humvee and messed up his shoulder. Got a concussion. Doesn’t matter, he needs to go back over there.  He said that again and again.

He trains new recruits. He said if he doesn’t go over there and watch over them, they’ll all get killed.

He grew up in Ohio, Texas, and Southern California.  Mom raised him singly, but he spent a lot of time with his maternal grandfather. He had a strong bond with this abuelo who taught him to be a man. With a belt. Mom had 11 sisters and two brothers, they all stayed in one place with their father.  There was never enough hot water, so Chris  learned to take fast showers. Good thing, too, because in Iraq the shower water has fecal matter in it, and you can’t get it in your eyes or nose or mouth or you’ll get sick. He was very matter of fact about that. All his random tales of suffering and atrocity were presented in the same way. It is what it is. This is what it’s like. It just is, in a flat voice.

He said Geraldo Rivera took a ride with him and his crew in a humvee to see what it was like. It was supposed to be a three hour tour, but they had to come back in early because Geraldo, completely white-faced,  couldn’t take it anymore and begged to go back. The soldiers in the humvee  were laughing and joking the whole time, but Geraldo just couldn’t take the bullets anymore. They were getting shot at the whole time he was driving around with them. Chris said, “Well, we’re just used to it. Happens every day.”

Chris drank steadily while we talked, and a couple of hours into it he began to sound a little bit scary.  He talked about a man who drove with him, who reached up and caught a bomb that blew his hands off, and how lucky the guy thought he was to be alive and still had arms to hug with.  If he hadn’t done what he did the bomb would have killed everyone in the humvee.  Chris sounded like he truly envied the guy.

He talked about going to his mom’s for Christmas and not knowing how to be part of the family any more.  He just sat off by himself and drank.  He said, ” I don’t know how to feel any more.  I am aware of what’s going on around me, but I can’t relate to it or feel anything about it now. I don’t belong there anymore. ”  He is dreadfully desensitized which is probably why he’s sane, but also why he’s very scary.  I’m 100% certain he could stick a knife in someone’s gut as easily as he was talking to me.  But faster.

He started talking about sex and then started flirting with the flight attendant.  She saw how scary he was and shut him down, albeit nicely.  He said, “I’m so lonely, and the only time I can feel anything is when I’m making love.” It was a good line – who knows if it was true or not.

I told him he sounded like he really needed someone to talk to, and he said he was trying to see a shrink.  I hope he was telling the truth, and I hope the shrink is one of the good ones.

Cool Date Ideas

Alright, I’m old and don’t go on many dates, but I would have loved this list if I was younger and single.  I could just see doing #17 with someone fun ….

Unusual (and fun!) Date Ideas, from oncealways

1. Go on a search for as many good climbing trees as possible, climb as high as you both can in all of them, compile photo evidence
2. Go to a major chain bookstore, and leave notes to future readers in copies of your favorite books
3. Have her dress up as a ghost and you dress up as Pacman. Walk around downtown holding hands, and whenever anyone sees you two, pretend to be embarrassed, and run off screaming “wocka wocka wocka.”
4. Create photo evidence suggesting that you went on an adventure that didn’t really happen
5. Dress up as superherous and stop at least one petty crime “ie. jaywalking, littering….”
6. Build forts out of furniture and blankets, and wage war with paper airplanes.
7. Try and visit as many people as you can in one night, and turn as many things inside their apartment upside down as you can, without them noticing.
8. Go to the airport, get the cheapest, soonest departing flight to anywhere when you show up, and stay there for a weekend.
9. Write a piece of fiction together. Outside at a cafe. Ask strangers when you get stuck.
10. Dress to the nines, pretend to be married, and test drive very expensive vehicles at an auto dealership.
11. Do the lamest tourist thing in your area that you have both secretly wanted to do forever. Have an unabashed good time!
12. In the middle of the night, drive to the beach, so you arrive just as the sun is rising. Have a breakfast picnic, then fall asleep together. Bring a sun umbrella.
13. Drive somewhere unknown and have dinner in a city you’ve never been to. With fake names.
14. Go to a minor league baseball game under the stars. Tell each other stories about how bad you are at athletics. Randomly cheer for both teams. Eat lots of Cracker Jacks.
15. Go around the city with sidewalk chalk and draw hearts with equations inside on random things
16. Walk around a city and perform short silent plays in front of security cameras
17. With camera and pair of boots, make a photolog of a day in the life of the invisible man.
18. Walk around the city all night and find a place to eat breakfast at dawn
19. Go to a restraunt and convince the cook to create something completely new for you.
20. Rent a movie you’ve never seen before. Set on mute and improvise dialogue.

I cried …

on and off through the whole inaugural process today.  I’m simultaneously frightened and ridiculously cheered and charged up by all of it – frightened because now we’ll see what happens when the new President is really engaged – and OMFG what if he’s not as good as we hope?  Can anyone be that good, anyway?

And cheered because that hack Bush is finally gone, replaced by a man with brains and compassion and  FINALLY we can be patriotic Americans again.  I missed that.  I very much want to be proud of the person(s) in the Whitehouse.

Didn’t Barack and Michelle look fabulous?  They are classing the Whitehouse back up after its long decline into Bud Light Land.

I read this somewhere today:

Crying is a sign of hope. When we stop crying, we know we have lost. I add a swell of tears to the changing tide…

T-Shirt Friday, late by a week and a half.

So what’s new? The late part, I mean.  This is for Nurse Myra’s T-Shirt Friday collection.

This is leftover from my pre-election set of billboard t-shirts.  I’m feeling all patriotic for the inauguration.


This is crunched up, so if you can’t read it, it says McCain 1908.

I had one old man give me a bad time about it Saturday, but the person behind him in line laughed with me …

Photohunt: Hats!

This week’s theme: Hats


Bob is nothing if not a good sport.  I bought us matching dollar hats for St. Patty’s Day last year and Bob modeled his.  Fortunately, I lost mine almost immediately.

PS:  sorry about the fuzzy pic, but, really, it’s rather the norm for me, isn’t it?



Hats are de rigeur at blues festivals.  Sis-in-Law Marcia, Bob, Bro-in-Law Dave.


Pat-in-the-Hat, at Swabbies watching the Beer Dawgs.    Acorns were bombing us from above, so the hats were not just eye candy 🙂 they were protection.  I was hatless and got beaned big time.

Mr. Bush is no longer president

One sunny day in January, 2009 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he’d been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine looked at the man and said, “Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.” The old man said, “Okay”, and walked away. The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine again told the man, “Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.” The man thanked him and, again, just walked away. The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, “Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I’ve told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don’t you understand?”

The old man looked at the Marine and said, “Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.” The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, “See you tomorrow, Sir.”


January 10: Kitchenheimer’s

When you’re in the kitchen going around in circles because you can’t remember what you were doing there.

I was in the kitchen this morning walking around in circles wondering what the hell I was looking for when the microwave beeped reminding me I was heating up my cup of coffee. My Kitchenheimer’s is getting worse!



I totally have Kitchenheimers.  The running joke for Thanksgiving was that my sister would help me by following me around while I made circles in the kitchen. 🙂  (She turned out to be a LOT more helpful than that, however. )