I am at the airport waiting for a plane to take me to a job interview in Louisiana. I have on a shirt and tie, an expensive leather jacket and I have Starbucks in one hand and a Blackberry in the other. Is this me? In case that's not enough, the guy sitting across from me looks like I usually do: a slacker. He's probably thinking the same thing I would be. "I sure am glad I'm not living like that materialistic corporate peon over there.". Oh well... It's all about the Benjamins I guess.
I don't know what to say about Thanksgiving. It was special in that nothin' special way of all good family gatherings. It was just nice to hang out with kin. It was amazing to see cousin Caroline all grown up into her own person all of a sudden. Aunt Barbara took the old table segregation technique to a whole new level to accomodate the record turnout. There were no less than four tables spread throughout the first floor and back yard. One was for old people, one was for adults, one was for kids and one was for toddlers. There was some cross-pollenation; Ruth and Brant were at the old table and I get the feeling that the majority of the conversation there was directed toward them. This left us hip, young adults to banter away about our careers, politics, world events, and food while the numerous children and young adults (William is like fourteen or something) generally took care of each other. It was a masterpiece of social planning and I think all parties involved ejoyed it. Anyway today, Mom and I drove down to College Station for my sister Ruth's last recital as a vocal performance major at Texas A&M. There were about eight students taking turns doing short opera pieces accompanied by piano until each had done three songs in three different languages. All of them were female sopranos. The order was such that we heard all the other girls before we heard Ruth and Ruth also got to sing last. All of them were good and most were very good, but none of them prepared me for when Ruth took the stage and just nailed a gorgeous piece in French. Ruth is a small person with delicate features and thin bones, but that voice of hers could fill a stadium. She then did a more modern piece in English by an American dude in the twenties which was interesting because there were some traces of jazz influence in his chord voicings, but it was still a classical piece. Ruth's final song was a very challenging aria from W.A. Mozart's Don Giovanni. Her accompanist even had trouble keeping up as Ruthie raced through the complex piece with skill and flare appropriate to the flirtatious tone of the lyrics. I've always been proud of my sister's singing and even more so since she took up classical instead of country, but I haven't actually heard her sing in years. I was blown away. She has really developed her talent to masterful heights. Anyway, that's all for now but I am really going to try tomix in some more introspective posts in the future. The purpose of this blog is primarily a diary, but it is also for simply practicing writing and hopefully just to help increase my creative gas mileage if that makes any sense. And if you actually got to the end of this post, you may qualify for a FREE HUG! (Payable any time you see me, some restrictions apply, void where prohibited)
It's been kind of a boring and frustrating week of job hunting so I haven't written anything. I have had some very interesting leads mainly from recruiters who have contacted me saying that they help ex-military folks find jobs for free! Anyway, more to come if when I choose a good college job. So it was another day at Joe's today. I can use my computer there just as well as at Mom and Dad's, so I spend lots of time there in 24 or 48 hour stretches. This time I brought my new Winchester 30-30 (thanks, Dad) so that I could test it out on the plentiful rabbits out at Joe's farm. Joe told me that they come out by the driveway at dusk and that if I sit by the window facing the driveway, I should be able to wax a bunny from the comfort of a their heated home. Sure enough, just after the Sun (Are you s'posed to capitalize Sun? I think our planet's source of energy and warmth deserves it) had set, out pops little Peter Cottontail from the bushes near the driveway. At this point in the story, I feel I should give a little background info in case your'e not a hunting/gun person. A 30-30 is a hunting rifle with bullets about 2.5 inches long and half an inch thick. It's normally used for deer, not rabbits. So when I hit the rabbit, I was kind of surprised that was able to limp back into the bushes. We went to check it out and get the carcass (bunnies = dog and cat food at Joe's). When we got to the scene of the crime, I saw a little tuft of white fluff about four feet away from where I had shot it. No way, I thought. But sure enough, I had cleanly shot that bunnies cotton tail namesake right off. Of course, the rest of it's hind end was nowhere to be found, so we euthanized it and by then, one of the tiny cute little kittens had found us. Joe picked the kitten and dropped it next to the rabbit. It literally hadn't hit the ground with its paws yet and was already buried ears deep in that bunny and making crazy little growling sounds that fluffy, sweet kittens shouldn't be able to make. It was pretty gruesome, but Joe's kids were very mature about the whole thing. I thought it would bring at least a few tears to the girls. but here's what I learned from this gritty display of Nature's brutality: Kittens are unbelievably cute even with a Bugs Bunny flavored Kool-Aid smile. Anyway, time for dinner! Everyone washed up and then Joe and I realized that Jessica was still gone at the store. Joe isn't into cooking and even though I am, I don't know my way around their kitchen very well, so we decided on pancakes. Halfway through, I found some ground beef in the fridge. Burgers and pancakes struck me as a very odd combination and I'm a man intrigued by all things odd. So we decided to try mixing the ground beef in the pancake batter(after making some normal pancakes for the kids). The result... BEEFCAKES! They just tasted like pancakes, but greasier. I don't recommend it, but not because it tastes bad, but because it's just too silly. Pink batter.... Hey, at least it's not yellow snow ;-) The finished product: the unholy bastard child of breakfast and lunch served for dinner. Please do not attempt to recreate this abomination. It has been destroyed for the good of all mankind. TTFN.
Well it turns out that it's Veteran's Day. I guess being a veteran doesn't mean that you automatically get a memo reminding you of that. Fortunately, I have a grandmother. This afternoon she asked me if I would please take her to the cemetery like it would be some kind of favor to her. I tried to explain to her that there was absolutely nothing in the world I would rather do than honor the memory of the best man I ever knew on the most appropriate day of the year to do so, but she still seemed to think that I was somehow inconvenienced. Of course, the trip still meant much more to her than I. Grandma had gotten some small American flags from somewhere beforehand, and we picked up two bunches of red carnations on the way. The drive to South Dallas took about an hour and a half so there was a good deal of quality time with Grandma thrown into the deal for free! After some minor navigational difficulties, we arrived at the Dallas/Fort Worth National Cemetery. Grandma expressed a desire to drive around and see the grounds. The cemetery is centered around a pond encircled with plaques honoring various services and units who had distinguished themselves in the wars. We had arrived just as the ceremony overlooking the lake was ending which was a shame because it looked like quite a production complete with a stage for distinguished speakers, a Marine color guard in full dress regalia, and some massive Army artillery guns for firing salutes. We did a full circle around the grounds enjoying the weather which was uncharacteristically warm and sunny for this time of year. Grandma was already beside herself with joy and pride and we hadn't even gotten to Grandpa's grave yet. The walk from where we parked to Grandpa was pretty long for an 85 year old woman, and the grass was spongy and treacherous after the previous night's storm, so Grandma was winded and exhausted when we finally found the marker for William Benac. She sent me to fetch some of the vases provided by the facility as she leaned forward almost doubled over on the marker stone. She was still in this position when I returned and for a long while afterward. I patiently waited at a respectful distance as I tried to imagine the love, longing, joy, grief, and hope that filled her during those minutes. I realized that I will be a very lucky man indeed if the day ever comes that I have as much to lose as she already had. To me, William Benac has always embodied the "Greatest Generation." He was a true patriarch and to a young boy or teenager, he seemed more than a man. He had a quiet patience and confidence which I found daunting at times, but was also one of the most tender and caring men I have ever known. He had accomplished great things with his life and took pride in them. Grandma always tells me how proud of me he must be watching from the other side, but when he died, I was a perfect loser. I will always live with the knowledge that I was a disapointment to my hero on his deathbed. The least I could do was to pay my respects for the sacrifices and hardships that he and his peers made so that my generation could have the opportunity to live and to make the poor choices that we have. I guess that my own abuse of my legacy mirrors that of my generation's abuse of our nation. But as always in life there is hope and I am beginning to learn that hope can go a long way.
There. It took a lot longer to write captions for all those photos than just posting them, but at least now I have anecdotal evidence that I was actually there and didn't just find those photos somewhere.
Being unemployed means doing lots of fun stuff, but I've gotten behind so here's what I been up to: This is my new truck. It's a beaut.
Here's one of my brother Joe's goats. The shaggy pile next to it is all the fleece that we just finished shearing from it. My job was to pin the goat down by holding his horns on the deck. Just in case none of you've tried it before, let me tell ya: shaving goats is hard, smelly work and you get absolutely no appreciation from the animal. But it's satisfying work all the same. During a weekend trip to visit sister Ruthie in College Station, we had a hayride for her student ward. Here is Ruthie coaching us from atop a 10 foot stack of hay bails while her brother and fiance are at the bottom pitching bails on to the trailer for the hayride. It was tons of fun and I got to know her hubby-to-be better. What a guy. Today I took my nephew Sterling to the park. We went exploring in the woods and found this "bwokin summawine" I have no idea what it really is, but it sure is cool. Joe's entire fam came over for dinner tonight, and for some reason, it was just like a family reunion: total blissful chaos. Children were screaming, photos were oohed and ahhed over, and at least four people were involved in a turbulent swarm of kitchen activity that somehow resulted in a wonderful Sunday dinner. Good times. Other than that, i've been looking for a job to tide me over while I finish this phase of Operation Build a Successful and Fulfilling Civilian Life. I will start a full schedule of correspondence classes after the holidays in order to get an AA and become acceptable to a four year school where I will get a bachelor's in Audio Design, and go on to an exciting, lucrative, and creatively satisfying career making and processing sounds. I've been getting out to Joe's farm at least once a week lately just for fun. They are always up to something there wether it's re-flooring their house, rearranging their rooms, fixing cars, etc. It's all good stuff plus, once we've done enough useful stuff to feel productive, there's always time for fishing, tractor driving, rabbit hunting, armadillo chasing, home run derbys with golf balls, camping, or just playing with the chickens or cats or goats or cows or frogs or dogs or turtles or anything else we can find.
This is a pelican at Point Loma Submarine Base, San Diego. What a cool looking bird. This is the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada. Victoria a popular tourist destination for Europeans and English folks. This is where the Queen of England used to stay when British Columbia was still British and the Queen wanted to go on 'oliday. Victoria was an awesome place to visit, and it's just north of the border. I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area. First of all, let me say that I don't normally dress that way, but I was camping, OK? Anyway, this is a ridge about 1000 feet above the famous Pali lookout on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. When King Kamehameha was conquering the Hawaiian islands, he met the fiercest resistance on Oahu. He finally managed to push the opposing army high up into the Pali pass in the middle of the Island. Rather than surrender to Kamehameha, the entire army (reputedly over 100,000 men) jumped off the cliff to their deaths. From that foot wide ridge, there is a 300 foot drop on both sides. I could see both Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe Bay from there. This is the view from my friend's 17th floor apartment in Honolulu. Wow. I really miss that place. This is myself and the great Seaman Owens doing what we did best: scrubbing toilets. Owens later went on to serve honorably and proudly in Iraq and return safely.
This is my sub, the USS Buffalo returning from six months away from home port. This was we were still stationed in Pearl Harbor, so that's Oahu. Hawaii in the background. That day I was filled with a sense of accomplishment that was truly rare during my long years in the Navy. This is a statue at the Kawasaki-Daishi bhuddist temple in Japan. This was one of two warrior statues on either side of the main gate to the temple. I guess they are there to watch the gate. The temple was just part of a complex spanning about two square miles in the middle of a densely populated suburb of Tokyo. There were stunning statues and paintings everywhere, and the landscaping was incredible. A tour guide told us that there had been a temple on that site for over 800 years. Allied forces destroyed it in the war, but they rebuilt it. Sorry guys. This is another statue at the Kawasaki temple. I liked this one because it reminded me of the old monk from that movie Ninja Scroll. I guess that's how they dressed. I wish I knew who it is a statue of, because he's probably important to bhuddists and he probably wasn't a kung fu masta. This is part of a sprawling mural beneath the elevated train track in Yokohama, Japan. There were dozens of amazing pieces of street art all along a sidewalk under the track next to a normal street. This piece is featured in a book about grafitti art that I have, so it's cool to have a picture of me beside it. This banner loomed over the Sonar shack on my sub. It's an old joke dating back to the misty beginnings of seafaring history.
I took this picture in Olongapo, Phillipines. They seem to love bolting shiny bits on their trucks and there's lots like this. What I didn't know at the time was that while my friends and I were gawking and taking pictures of it, there was a family living inside looking at us and probably wondering what all these white men were doing staring at their truck. This is just a bunch of salty sea dogs fresh in from a month under the waves. My friend Joe is reading a book that came from the mail call, and the rest are smoking cigarettes, and waiting to have their US dollars changed for Phillipine pisos. And we're all enjoying the sunlight.
So everyone keeps telling me I should have this blog so they can know me better, and I just keep wanting to fill it with silly, trite anecdotes. The fact is that there are very important facts about me that none of the most important people in my life are aware of. This came up tonight when Angela mentioned that there was a great deal of ambiguity in the family concerning my beliefs about the church and my other beliefs. I don't talk about these things because I really don't think there is any way to reconcile the way I have chosen to live and the way my loved ones choose to. Or maybe I just don't want to make them sad. But the real reason is that I have been a coward. This is a very difficult subject to discuss and I am very ashamed and sorry, but I do not believe in the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints or any other. I am sorry. Really. But I will not change, and I have decided to stop trying to hide because there's nowhere to go, and no one is fooled. I have worked very hard to correct some the mistakes I made in my life before I joined the Navy, and I have. Don't mistake that for some kind of change of heart. For lack of a better term, I am R-rated. What we do is who we are. I am only ashamed of myself when I am around my family because I know this makes them unhappy because they think my actions make me unhappy. Does anyone get it yet? It's a self fulfilling prophecy. I drink, smoke, fornicate etc. and the only reason it makes me unhappy is because somebody told my mother that it would. Sure there are natural consequences for such risky behavior; I would know. But It's all part of life, and I love life. This is who I am. I am not hard hearted; I am wild and free. I know what you're thinking, because a part of me is just like you. I've heard all the same things in church about us apostates as you have. You all know I love you and I treasure my family above all things. But I will not fake it. Bieng a Mormon Is hard. Maybe I just don't have what it takes. I seriously doubt you understand, but at least now I have given you the opportunity to try.
So every one in my immediate family blogs dilligently and I have been assigned to do the same. Actually, I've been meaning to do this for a while just for a journal and to write more. I am back in Texas just trying to shape my post-navy life into something I can wake up to on the morning with a smile. The other day I was helping dad build a wooden quilting frame for someone. I was just sanding the cut wooden pieces while my father shaped and stained them. Dad also keeps bees and had this trash can full of old honeycombs that had already been pressed. We had opened the garage door to enjoy the nice weather and the bees from the back yard smelled the honey. First we noticed a few buzzing around, then a few more. Dad didn't seem concerned, and I was definitely in his world, so I figured we were ok. By sunset, a full-scale invasion was underway. The sound of thousands of bees was almost audible above the whine of the table saw. Still Dad continued his peaceful, methodical work. He had already taught me that bees usually won't sting you if you are calm around them and don't make any sudden moves. No problem until one landed on me. Dad acted like I was crazy to get so upset and just brushed the bee off my arm. We worked into the evening and I began to embrace the beauty of doing everyday, prosaic work while surrounded by wild animals that could kill me just as easily as a lion or shark if I gave them a reason. It was a truly strange experience.