Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A relationship Has Ended

Facebook. It’s part of the language. It is the flagship of social networking. I remember, and not that long ago, defending the fact that I used it and had more pleasing experiences than unpleasant ones.
I reconnected with my old high school and grade school friends and acquaintances. I got in touch and had an easy way to stay connected with long lost family members. Friends from every era of my life came and went through the Facebook profile. I could read about them and they could read about me.

Where I proudly went to High School

It’s over. I’ve had enough. Facebook has gotten the better of me already and I know that, but I’m done. Here’s the last Facebook post I wrote:
This is my last post on Facebook until, and/or if, I change my mind. If you want to contact me, use e-mail, spadoman@gmail.com
If you need my phone number, e-mail me and ask me for it. If you want me to have your e-mail and/or phone number, e-mail it to me.
Facebook has crossed the line and I don't want to be involved and exposed to it any longer. It looks like old posts and comments will remain, for now.
One of the more fabulous parts of being on Facebook has been the reconnection with many old friends and school mates. I hope to hear from you, and also hope you'll want to hear from me. Peace to all.
I really don’t want to lose contact with my friends, but I can’t allow myself the daily visits to Facebook any longer. If I search for saddlebags for my motorcycle on Google, then I see motorcycle saddlebag advertisements on my Facebook side bar. Same with anything I happen to search for. I do a lot of browsing going gaga over motorcycle parts, so I get suggestions on my side bar and in my spam mailbox on Gmail that shows me they know exactly what I’ve been looking at.
When they want me to see about home refinancing, solar windows or how to save money on my car insurance, the ad usually has a women with large augmented breasts, with extreme emphasis on the boobs, to announce the ad. I haven’t been looking at porn or looking to buy breasts on Ebay or Craigslist, but being a male, they are selling sex, just like TV does. By the way, they screwed up because they don’t really know what kind of woman makes my head turn. See ladies, it happens to men as well.
I don’t see ⅔’s of what my Facebook friends post. I see the same 10-15 people every day, over and over. I ask FB not to post the game invites, they do anyway and clutter up the other side of my page with requests to play Facebook games. I don’t want to play games. I did at one time, but didn’t want to be sitting in my chair doing the games, so I quit them all.

A popular Facebook game, Farmville
I've lost contact with many friends because they play games and that's all I see is their game moves on their status reports. They don't ever say anything personal to me, they just play the games. That is their prerogative, but if I don't care to look through pages and pages of Farmville or any other game scenarios and I block the content, I lose that friend and the contact, and the only way I can find them is to type in their name and wade through page upon page of game data.
I don’t even see the photos my spousal unit posts on her status!  If I search a friend’s name, I’ll see their page and know that time and many posts have passed and I didn’t get to see any of them. Facebook suggests who my friends should be. They suggest all kinds of things in their attempt to make money. Do you really think they can have a network this large throughout the world and not be making money? It’s the underhanded way they do it that really bothers me.
I had chosen to let them do it so I can stay in contact with my friends, play games and have a social network to belong to, but I don’t choose to any longer. If you do, I don’t judge you or do any name calling. I just accept the fact that to some, it doesn’t matter. That is a personal choice and I have made mine.
I get spam mail on my e-mail accounts from firms that have something I looked up information about on Google. I am always being harassed to give my cell phone number to them, and if I want to read most stories, I need to allow them to share my information. One time, years ago, I put my cell phone number in an ad and my cell phone bill went up by $9.99 every month. I went months before I noticed it and paid for a service I didn't want or even know I had signed up for. My blunder, I know, but to me, that is an unethical way to make money and the same as theft.
I actually have met people that have become “friends”, because they were friends with someone that I was friends with, but they don’t know me and I don’t know them. I even have one "friend" that I have been in contact with for over three years because she saw a picture of me on my motorcycle on someone else's page! And although this isn’t so bad as it broadens a person’s horizons and the idea of making a new friend is enjoyable, I find myself spending more time with people I’ve never met and don’t know as the person I do know and was excited about reconnecting with fades away in to the sunset.
No More!
I asked my friends to give me their e-mail addresses and if they want, their phone number. I’ll keep in touch when I need or want to. They can have mine and do the same. I have plenty of friends that I don’t talk to real often, but when we do talk or get together, it will be like we never had a gap of time when we didn’t have a chat. I much prefer getting an e-mail, see a text or getting a call from someone than trying to edge in a serious comment along with so many others. How about a letter on paper delivered by the US Postal Service?
Even though I’m never ashamed of what I’m saying to someone, some correspondence needs to be personal. Commenting on a funny, political or satirical photo or other posting might not be the place to ask the simple question of “How’re ya doin’?”
Facebook already has so much information on everyone. Your tendencies as to what you look at while browsing, for instance, drives the spam mail you get. Your Facebook page gathers information even when you are not on Facebook itself. They keep an eye on you. Now, with Facebook changing your e-mail to (so-and-so)@facebook.com, we’ve let them control everything in and out of our lives. This blog is a Google run deal. I’m sure the content here is used like this as well to some extent. I know there are other blog hosting sites and I’m frantically looking for one right now.
There you have it. My reasons for leaving Facebook and my lament about knowing there will be some of the great people that I know that will no longer “Poke” me or say “Hello”, “Good Morning” or “Have a Safe Trip.”
In my perfect world, I’ll get up, power on the computer and see an e-mail from someone that just wants to say Hi and let me know they’ve been thinking about me and decided to touch base. Or better yet, start a discussion about whatever it is they might want to talk about. Something in my life that they read on the blog, or something in theirs that they want to say.
I posted this essay on my blog, Round Circle. I also linked to it on my Facebook page. So, I guess the announcement about not participating on Facebook is already a lie, but I’ll risk it to let my feelings be known and in hopes of not losing years of contacts to cyberspace.
Peace to all

Friday, July 27, 2012

Haiku My Heart
July 27, 2012

Every Friday, we come together and share. We write and do show and tell through our poetic words. Friends have been made and the circle grows as we visit each other. Have a look. See if you'd like to join us. You can find all you need at Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon.

Maggie, Please come back
I knew you would, if you could
Never ending dream
Thirty Nine. She’d have been thirty nine on the 26th of July, 2012. That was yesterday. We had cake after dinner. I try to remember more, but the years have taken away some of it. 
The last time I saw her in person was at her high school graduation on a Monday night in June, 1991, June 4th. It was held in downtown St. Paul at the Roy Wilkins auditorium. Then, we went to Applebee’s and had dinner.
Graduation night, June 4, 1991, with her friends Bobby and Adrienne, in the green dress

The next day, her Mom and sisters and I left to live and work in Northern Minnesota at a YMCA Camp called Camp Menogyn. Maggie stayed in St. Paul and had a small efficiency apartment a few blocks from her work and on the bus line, so in the Fall, she could take the bus to classes at the University of Minnesota.
Maggie inn the steps of her apartment building, 1991

Instead of the typical kid going off to college and the family staying back in the home town, we went off to work way up on the Canadian border and the kid stayed in the home town.
My fondest memory, the scene that I see over and over in my mind’s eye, was when I went to Camp Menogyn for a few weeks the month before, May of 1991. I went to set up the kitchen and orientate myself to the logistics of the camp.
The day I returned, I was up in the apartment and Maggie got home from school. She bounded up the flight of stairs that led to our apartment on Goodrich Avenue. I see her coming up that stairwell, screaming and smiling, in a hurry to get up there to see me, her dad, because I had been away. I remember the thunderous noise of her footsteps as she rushed up the wooden steps in her exuberance.
I’m glad that is the memory I see. I wish I would wake up now, and have it all be a dream. My God how I miss her.
I can’t help but wonder what things would be like if this tragic event hadn’t taken place. She was already in college at 17, with multiple post-secondary education credits. Her boyfriend, Bobby Jens, was already the perfect, respectful, courageous son-in-law, and that was when they were dating! She had achieved things that many people don’t achieve in a lifetime, like her acceptance into the first class of the Rudy Perpich Center for the Arts.
I wrote a song some short time after she left us. I noticed that some of the lines fit right into the 5-7-5 Haiku, so I am using it today for Haiku My Heart. After all, nothing has ever touched my heart more than my children and Grandchildren. Maggie was our first born child. She taught me what love is. So, the Haiku is truly from the heart, about the heart and for the heart and soul of a family.
Here are the words, I have never put a title on this:
When I was young
I followed my dreams
My friends thought I was crazy
With some of my schemes
But you stood by me, baby
Through good and through bad
Now the dream is over
The end is so sad
Maggie, please come back
I knew you would if you could
Through twenty years of marriage
The love did divide
‘Twas a Pearl named Maggie
So sweet and sublime
She awakened our spirits
And of others around
Made her mark on the world
Her legend lives on
Life is a card game
The luck of the draw
It was comin’ up aces
But fate had a flaw
Something has happened
No more smilin' sweet song
Our world has ended
Maggie is gone
Dale Apartments in St. Paul, MN. I snapped a cell phone shot as I sat at the light outside Maggie's apartment building yesterday

Please don’t be sad. Death is a part of life. No one gets out alive. I accept this, and although I would have wanted it to be different and every one I ever knew to die of old age after me, that’s not the master plan for every living creature. I mark this day because it is just that, this day. Yesterday was Maggie's birthday, and like we would feel after a grand celebration, we feel everyday.
Margaret Ellen (Maggie) Spado
July 26, 1973 -- June 8, 1991
Peace to all

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Journaling, 40 Years After the Fact

Good Morning

Some time ago, I wrote an article mentioning all the different jobs I’ve had over the years. There were indeed quite a few. The post mentions 81 jobs that I’ve held. Some I did one day, some I did for years. Working for wages is what we do to support ourselves and our families.
Some of the jobs I have had were certainly more glamorous than others. When the subject comes up and the conversation goes over to what we do for work, the motion picture production business gets mentioned. So many people find that it is a big deal to have worked with the movie stars.
I guess the conversation sort of flitters out when I mention sorting tomatoes for minimum wage at a day labor facility. Yeah, really. I sorted tomatoes. They were in cardboard fruit boxes and came down a conveyor. I’d grab a box and pull it off the rollers and put it in front of me. I’d open the lid and pick up a tomato. If it was red, it went in this box. Green, and it goes to the other one. Small, large, small red, small green, large red, large green, medium red… and so on and so forth.
The thing about working, no matter if you have had one job or eighty one like I’ve had, is that every day you may do the same thing, but you do experience different people, different weather, different things in every aspect of a job that differ from day to day.
I have held many jobs a a furniture mover for a few different companies over the years, mostly when I was a lot younger and stronger. Furniture moving is unique in that when you do household moving or furniture delivery, you go into peoples homes. Different people, every day.
Not only are you in their homes, but we see the rooms in those homes. The bedrooms, the closets, all the rooms. I’m sure I’ve used the bathroom in a large percentage of the homes I went into to deliver furniture or move someone from one place to another. By the way, in Chicago, no one that lived in a first floor apartment and was moving to a first floor apartment ever called the movers. People on the third floor moving to another third floor called the movers.
So, different people everyday. Think about it. People of every ilk. People with all sorts of personalities and all kinds of furniture. Old heavy steamer trunks, spindly legged tables, large items, small items, over packed boxes, under packed boxes. One lady handed me a light bulb once as I was carrying an armload of boxes out the door, and another man didn’t pay attention to anything we moved except one very ugly frail piece of crap wooden breakfront that he called his Welsh cabinet!
The large van lines that I worked for in Chicago, Allied Van Lines, was run by a company called Jackson Storage and Van Company. They had six offices in and around Chicago. I worked at all six at one time or another. Chicago, LaGrange, Oak Park, West Chicago, Naperville and Maywood.
The office and warehouse for Jackson Storage and Van on Madison Street in Chicago. We called this Number 7. I don't know why. The piano moving division worked out of this office.

The company would do local and long distance moving. We had some of our own long distance trucks that worked out of the company’s offices and other long distance drivers would come to our warehouses to deliver a customers belongings or put them in storage.
We did all kinds of moving. We moved single items, like a piano, or a whole household. We did commercial jobs where 40 and 50 men would move an entire corporate office in the course of a weekend.
One time we had to move an entire apartment complex out to other places and to storage. A water main had broken and they had a central boiler. No heat in the middle of a cold damp Chicago winter. It was going to be a long term fix to get heat back into the building and pipes were freezing and bursting, then that water would freeze in the hallways and stairwells.
We moved them all. Came in, hauled boxes in and packed everything, then loaded onto trucks and moved people to hotels, apartments and some folks had their belongings put into storage until they found a place to live.
I actually have bad dreams about having to do all this work and I just arrived at the apartment complex when I wake up. That is such a miserable feeling.
I remember having to do evictions. The Sheriff would be waiting for us and when we arrived, he’d knock on the door and walk in and serve the eviction papers to the tenant. We’d go in and get everything out of the house or apartment and put it on the front lawn.
I’m sorry to say we were sometimes disrespectful and would throw stuff down the stairs instead of the usual care we would take with the property of a paying customer. The deputy sheriff didn’t care, he just wanted the place empty so the owner can come and take possession.
One time, this drugged out hooker was on the bed naked and begging us not to take her bed as she makes her living there. Honest!
I’ve moved sports figures in Chicago. Jackson had the contract for the Chicago Black Hawks Hockey team. I moved several hockey players over the years. Baseball players too from time to time, but there was no one at the house. The star was gone and the family in a fancy hotel in another city. We’d just go in and do our job, and all we’d see was their furniture.
People always were worried about us breaking stuff or if it will be safe in the truck. When we packed up boxes, we used a lot of newsprint to wrap stuff.The boxes were packed tightly so nothing moved. It was safe all right.
One of our tricks was to put an egg in a dresser drawer and pick up the dresser and take it out to the truck. When we got to the new home and delivered the dresser, we’d show the customer the unbroken egg. We earned a lot of tips for being safe with their personal belongings, and for those local moves where people pay by the hour, we moved fast and got tips for being below the estimate.
Some folks never got it and never tipped. They thought tips were for doormen, waitresses and cab drivers. Furniture moving companies were charging big bucks, so they thought we made a lot of money. It’s just like it is today. The company owners made the big bucks, we got paid an hourly wage for our labor.

Couldn't find an old photo I had of one of the Jackson Storage trucks I actually drover, but I did find this one. No relation to me, there are a lot mod guys named Joey

I’ll leave you with a story about one of the guys that drove the trucks over-the-road for Allied Van Lines. He worked out of our Chicago office. His name is Sam Carson.
Sam was a character. Many of the workers at Jackson were characters, but Sam was a cut above. A large man, over 6’ 2” tall, big, round and strong. Sam’s sense of humor was notorious, and his stories would have us riveted to his words.
One day, we were in an apartment on the third floor. These people had an upright piano. Upright pianos weigh in the neighborhood of 700 to 1000 pounds. The people that owned the piano didn’t want it to be moved and just assumed that the movers would take it out of the apartment that they were to vacate.
If it wasn’t part of the move, we weren’t going to take it. We would move it out of the house, but if it didn’t go into the truck to be delivered somewhere, all we could do is put it on the street.
Well, Sam got wind of this heavy piano that had to come down out of the tight winding third floor stairway, but wasn’t going to the new place with the rest of the furniture. He came up with an idea to save us all a lot of time and a lot of work.
First, he made sure the people didn’t want the piano any longer. They said they just wanted to get rid of it any way they could. That was Sam’s opening.
He nodded towards us labor types to lift one end of the piano and slide a 4-wheel dolly under its midsection. Now, it was on wheels and we rolled it out of the apartment and down the hall in the opposite direction of the stairwell.
Sam kicked open the huge steel fire door that went out to a fire escape and waved his arm underhand across his belly in a gesture that usually means, “After you.”
We rolled the piano to the edge of the building and lifted one end, slid the dolly out from underneath of it and let ‘er go end over end to the alley. Looked like slow motion for that piano to fall three stories.
It made a thunderous crash and held this awful sounding chord for what seemed like an eternity.
Now, this thing was scattered in the middle of the alley all broken into small pieces. Sam said, “See, now it’s easier to move!”
We went to the alley and sort of just pushed the remnants to the side so a car could drive through and left it there. I’m sure we missed a few keys, but the kids in the neighborhood were picking them up to keep as souvenirs.
Next time, I’ll tell you about the rat that Sam speared with a pointed edged spade shovel as it shimmied across the priceless antique baroque dining room table that was sitting in the truck.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Miracles, Alive and Well

Haiku My Heart
July 20, 2012

Haiku My Heart happens every Friday at recuerda mi corazon. Come,  join and share with us the poetry of life's precious journey. Try your hand, there is no right or wrong if it comes from our hearts. You will be amazed.

Capturing my heart
Their precious glow captivates
From fruit of my loin
These are my two youngest Grandchildren. My daughter’s children. We call them G, on the left, and Yoody. G is five, Yoody is eight in human years. I can’t begin to describe the love I have for them as well as their older brother and sister who are not pictured here today. This love as strong as the love that created our daughters, the bearing of loving fruit. Sustenance for our souls.
This summer, these two have been hanging around a lot. We talk, listen to music, sing and dance, play games, eat and go places. Their Grandmother does all of that and more with them.
My daughter, their mother, posted this photo and it grabbed a hold of me. It is a perfect image of them. It is how I see them when I glance in their direction, making faces randomly in any given moment. Their love and happiness shining through.
When I pray for the health and happiness of the children, this is what I see as the answer to these prayers. I am so blessed to have this family and family life, the prosperity to not be hungry and have a safe and stable roof over our heads. To be able to cool ourselves in the searing summer heat, sheltered from the thunder rain, and the ability to stay warm and comfortable in the cold of the upper Midwest winter.
These and all children are the image of Spirit. Life’s lessons can be learned by watching and listening to them. As we guide them, they teach us. 

Their embrace akin
To owning piles of gold,
Their sleep brings us Peace

Author's Note:
Earlier this week, three children, very close in age to my own Grandchildren, were murdered in River Falls, WI, our home town. This tragedy will last a lifetime for all River Falls residents as well as in my heart. I will count my extreme blessings and pray for any kind of peace that can come to the Mother, family members and friends left behind. This post is an attempt to lift us up as there is no way to fathom this kind of loss. I pray hard for Peace for everyone concerned.

Peace to All

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lighten Up a Little

Just thought I'd inject some humor into the blog today with a few thoughts. It's a slow news day except for constant bantering about how freakin' hot it is. So it's hot. If you have a computer, you probably have air conditioning. If you don't have A/C, either sell or pawn your computer and get a small window unit to cool yourself down, or go to Walmart and use theirs for a couple of hours. For my friends in OZ, it's Winter? I don't believe it!

So, the kids were watching something on TV the other day. Actually, it was Anna, the 14 year old. She knows everything you know? She had the closed captioning on. I guess it was just too loud and noisy having other people in the room talking, so she used that feature that allows the words the actors are speaking to be printed at the bottom of the screen.

I have trouble with some words and letters because of astigmatism. I told her to turn it up a little. She responded, "There is no sound, I'm using closed captioning."

I said, "I know, but don't the letters get bigger on the captions if you turn the sound up?"

I think it's a good idea if they don't have that function to invent it. Like large print books or large print keyboards. In fact, I think they should bring back the old analog phones with the big-as-yer-thumbprint numbers so I can see them to dial. (I don't think we 'dial' anymore, just like the cell phone doesn't 'ring'. Some things need to be changed.) Also big enough for my island sized paws to press down on a letter to send a text.

Example of a text I sent the other day:

Plz c if amma cam done over, i neerd tp asl her a question. thz

Talk about the fat fingered mambo on the keypad, I had a hard tome fit]guring out what I chad tried to say when my daughter asked me to interpret the message!

Another idea that came to mind is a new design for a plastic pitcher. You know how the person that takes the last slug from the lemonade leaves about a 1/2 ounce in the bottom of the pitcher, then puts it back into the refrigerator? Well, the one I'm inventing has a false bottom. It looks like there is an inch of liquid when the pitcher is empty. So, the last person to pick it up has to fill it and can't put it back into the fridge with 1/2 ounce left.

"How do we police this?" you ask. Well, it's simple. The pitcher has a hangman sign on the side of it to remind the user that if they put it back into the fridge empty, they will hang from the yard arm. (Might as well infuse some of the Pirate lore into the household, Aurghhhg Matey)

Lastly, I was talking with some folks the other day and the subject of kilts came up. You known the Scottish with their bag pipes, kilts, single malt whiskey and aptitude for being thrifty? Well, each year at the Triumph Motorcycle Rally in Taos, there are a couple of mates that wear a traditional kilt to the Saturday night Meet and Greet BBQ. The connection of Scotland and the British made Triumph brand and all.

So, I heard about some working man's kilts, similar to the rugged heavy cotton twill of tough wearing Carhartt work jeans. I looked it up and found this great site that sells Made in America kilts for any occasion, but does indeed cater to the working man, (or woman), with work wear kilts.

I am definitely going to order a pair of these to wear at the rally in September. The hardest decision will be to decide whether or not I will go commando or not. I say yes, what do you think? If not commando, my red micro-fiber breathable boxer briefs might do the trick in the event of the cooler weather that sometimes appears up in the mountains that time of year.

There you have it. My mid-week thoughts and reflections. "Hot", you say? ( Not the kilts, I know I'd look HOT wearing them, I'm talking about the stupid weather we're having.) Just maybe a tad. Might be frying my brain. Why else would I think up stuff like this?

Peace to all.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Marigolds on the Front Porch

Haiku My Heart
July 13, 2012

See more Haiku at recuerda mi corazón, where we meet weekly to share stories, photos, art, haiku and wonderful conversation.

Flowering front porch
Sweet marigolds on parade
Spadoville beauties
Bought colorful Mexican pottery planters on the March trip down to Santa Fe.
Bought flowery plants and set them in the planters, watered them and watched them bear flower gifts.

Bought more planters at the local hardware store.
Got a bunch of nutrient rich composted soil.

Bought a half dozen small pots of marigolds, cultivated by a neighbor, at our local Farmer’s Market.

Played in the dirt, planting the golden flowers.
Took photos of the Spadoville front porch.

Wrote Haiku poetry to acknowledge Mother Natures efforts.

I remember that my first name, Joseph, means "Sower of seeds". I used to garden extensively. Making soil from compost, planting, cultivating, canning vegetables, hanging flowers to dry them. Totally working the soil between multiple jobs along with raising cattle, chickens and children.

I lost the desire some time ago, well, not the desire, I lost the will as getting down on my hands and knees and handling a large tiller became impossible. It was with great enthusiasm that I bought this flat of marigolds, and planters to put them in, and planted them.

Every day this Summer, I see the beautiful flowers and marvel at the colors. Makes me feel good that I planted something. 

Feel Peace

Monday, July 9, 2012

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Yesterday, we celebrated my oldest Grand daughter’s fourteenth birthday. It was a nice party. Family gathered together. Anna had her best friend hanging around all day. My youngest daughter, the one that lives in St. Paul and is single, was being visited by her boyfriend’s parents. They were told they’d be welcome to drop by and accepted the dinner invite. Her boyfriend had his three children along as well. Safe to say, we had a houseful. It was a good time.
Fourteen isn’t an exceptional right-of-passage age like becoming a teenager at thirteen or the age of maturity, eighteen. No special acknowledgement for fourteen as far as I know. Just more of the crap attitude and thinking they know everything, which is the case with Anna and her up and coming twelve year old Brother.
Yet when I need to express an observation, she will sit and listen. Maybe it’s the way I can tell a story that allows her to silently listen to the tale. She’ll ask questions after I’ve said my piece. She’ll transfer the experience of my youth to someone she knows from school and how the same type of thing might have happened to them. She’ll see the wisdom.
That is not any kind of guarantee that she will heed said advice or change her mind about anything, but she does listen. I guess it would be too good to be true to believe she’ll become Marsha Brady and do the right thing.
Funny though, to watch them growing up. I’m telling her I hope I’m around to see her driving at 16 and that maybe she can take another road trip with me where she can do some of the driving. She likes that idea a lot, and so do I.
This week at Spadoville we will have some accessory parts delivered for the new motorcycle. I’ll install them and take some photos. New saddlebags and a luggage rack along with a couple of small screws and things you’d never notice if I didn’t tell you they were there.
No appointments at the VA. Continued work, as health and heat indexes permit, on the projects that are started here at home. Loading my bike and my friend’s bike on the trailer Thursday and leaving crack of dawn Friday for Elkader, Iowa and the Moto Guzzi Motorcycle Rally.
We’ll spend the weekend there with other motorcycle enthusiasts, sharing stories, taking short rides into the beautiful countryside and stopping at out-of-the-way eating establishments that someone found a long time ago to be good enough for a yearly sabbatical.
So, looks like an easy going week ahead, and I’ll get started on it with a trip to the Dish and the Spoon Cafe for some morning Java and conversation as soon as I click the “post” for this short update. Of course, things can change rapidly. We’ll take it as it comes and roll with it if it does.
In the meantime, take care and be well. Be nice to each other.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Something's Happening Here

Postcards From Paradise
July 8, 2012

More "postcards" at recuerda mi corazón.

Nui Ba Den, The Black Virgin Mountain, Republic of Vietnam, 1969
Hard to explain how this crooked photo of a mountain in war torn Republic of Vietnam in 1969 during the monsoon season can be a postcard from paradise, but it is. This volcanic mound, jutting from the vast flatness of the rice paddys Northwest of Saigon, had an almost hollow interior formed by a series of tunnels that were a stronghold for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. The Americans and South Vietnamese forces controlled the top and bottom of the mountain on the outside. A visual memory from the time I spent there.

Let me explain why this is paradise. Something fantastic has happened over the past couple of weeks. Something I haven’t even mentioned until today. I haven’t felt like writing anything for a while, but now I do. Like someone told me "It's okay" or like a freight train that sits on a siding, waiting for a faster train to pass, then, all of a sudden, starts up and moves along on its way.
I got an e-mail from a guy I served with in Vietnam. I knew him. I remembered knowing him when I was there, yet when I would see his picture, my mind drew a blank and I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name, and no one else of the few guys I am in contact with, could remember it either.
The e-mail was simple. It just said that this was the third e-mail address he had found for me and wondered if I was still alive. He also told me that he was in one of the pictures I posted on the Triple Deuce website where I said I couldn’t remember his name. 
As soon as I saw the name as the sender, I remembered the guy in the photos and remembered his name.
I told him that he had found me and that I remembered him and his name. We’ve been going back and forth for a while now, every e-mail longer and longer in each direction. Reliving the fact that we do, indeed, know each other and were there together in that rice patty hell hole called Vietnam.

That's me holding Buddy on my shoulders as Howard, the guy that sent me the e-mail, looks on from the turret of an Amoured Personal Carrier. We called these 22 ton behemoths "Tracks" or APC's. Howard is from Washington State, it says so on the side of the track

Don’t get me wrong. Vietnam is as beautiful a place as anywhere else, physically. It was the circumstances that put us there that made it a hell hole. We recalled a few incidents, not in detail, just a mere mention of “That night” or names of places like Ben Cui, Nui Ba Den, Tay Ninh or simply saying “The rubber”. One of the names that keeps popping up is Sergeant Jacobs. We all knew him as “Jake”.
Then, even more talk about life after the war. We are finding we walked similar paths since we returned home way back 43 years ago. We have both mentioned the wonderment of our own existence by muttering words questioning our own survival, not only while there dodging bullets, but here at home, through the addictive drug and alcohol abuse, health issues, changing jobs, anger, depression and other PTSD behavioral symptoms. We both honor and respect the women in our lives. 
Yours truly, as the driver of the APC. The new guy always had the job as the driver because the threat of hitting a mine was great on the roads and the guys with more time in country would pass on the dangerous driving task to the new guy.

The women are called the life givers because of their unique ability to bear human life. Yet women are so much more, as in our cases, as they have kept us alive and saved us from ourselves and certain death of not only our lives, but if our spirit.
It has been good to connect. He says so too. We will talk soon on the phone. A visit to see each other must be made. And of course you know that it doesn’t take too much to have me start planning a road trip. 
I tell you, we picked up automatically, like we just experienced the war last week.
I’ve sent some photos, so Howard can tell me who some other guys, whose names I forgot, are. He already told me the name of one guy who I was frantically trying to remember his name.
Jennings, Spadoman, Duke, Buddy and Howard showing off eating the steak we stole from a visit to the base camp

Not sure what will happen next. Encounters like this can be strange as they dig up so much dirt. Let’s face it, the experiences of combat infantry soldiers can be quite brutal. Even if we don’t recall details, and we don’t, the memory lives in our heads and we recall it in our dreams and even conscious thoughts. We cry. We feel sorry. We feel guilt, we feel so many emotions. I don’t expect you to understand.
But I understand. And we both agree, so far, that the experience made us who we are and there is no way to forget it. In my own case, I don’t think I want to forget it, although there are parts of it that I don’t want to see anymore. And we do see these things. We see them often, relive them. Hard to imagine, I would wager, that simple decisions now can make me feel like I am in a war zone fighting for my very life. Something as simple as "What would you like for dinner, honey?" See, I told you, you wouldn't understand.

Interacting with the locals

That’s the thing about PTSD. We have learned to accept these thoughts, these memories. We hold them for our eternity, and when another Veteran Brother comes along, like Howard, all we need do is say a word or look into the eyes and know it’s true and we lived it and came out the other side.
Howard is going to try to get the the reunion of our Triple Deuce Vietnam group in Colorado Springs in September. If he can’t make it, I’ll be headed to Seattle at some point. When you’ve made it this far and have had a few health experiences like heart attacks and such, I get antsy and don’t think I should, or could, wait until next year. In my mind, tomorrow will never come, so I need to do what I need to do today.
The squad leader, Jennings, and me, showing off a captured Russian made Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher

Howard signs off every e-mail with the word “Peace” and a wish for Peace to me and my family. Can you believe that? Can you believe that we hardened off Warriors still seek Peace and have since we set foot in country. Good to know I am not alone anymore.
Having Howard step back in to my life is like a healing, a cleansing. It tells me it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to laugh, at the war, and at ourselves.
If this hearing and remembering my friend Howard isn’t a postcard from paradise, I don’t know what is.