They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...


These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Oct 28, 2009

It's Funny What God Will Say To You, If You Just Stop To Listen...

So a few things have happened since I last wrote.

Remember a while back when I told you about how the war in Afghanistan had basically turned the volume down on everything back home? Well, I came back, started back to work and inevitably succumbed to acting and feeling just like everyone else. (Something that I swore to myself I wouldn't do.) But I went and did it.

I started to bitch about my job. I started to feel burdened by my family and friends. I started to whine about not having enough money. I became lazy, complacent, and an overall slug.

This all happened pretty quickly given that I have been home for just two months.

But the transformation hadn't taken full and complete effect. The volume was still low enough that I could hear the things that I needed to hear. And I think that I may have gotten a little kick in the ass from the big guy upstairs. At least I hope that's what it was. Either that or it was a polite message of "quit yer bitchin!"

So I ride the CTA (Chicago transit authority) buses and trains to work. Which most people consider to be a pain in the ass. However, I consider parking in downtown Chicago to be an even larger pain in the ass. So I have selected the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, so I was standing at the bus stop waiting on the bus. When the guy next to me said, "Excuse me, but could you give me a hand getting on the bus?"

I looked over and saw a guy, probably mid twenties, good looking kid. Except for a few glaring items. He was in a wheelchair, and he was minus a left leg.

I told him that I'd help him, and what did he need me to do? He replied, just to watch the chair as he got on the bus. (Chicago has kneeling buses. The shocks compress so that the bus basically kneels down so that he can get on the bus.)

Easy enough.

So we're sitting there waiting, and I can't help but ask. What happened?

He told me he lost his limbs in an IED blast in Afghanistan, not far from where I had been stomping around not more than 70 days ago. He his leg in 2002, when he was 18 years old.

So we swapped a few pleasantries, what unit we were each in, where we were, what we had done there and blah, blah, blah.

Then (while trying to ignore the elephant in our collective living room.) I asked what he had been up to since then.

(Here's where I got what I think is my message from God.)

He got home in 2002, had to rehab his injuries for a year. Then they sent him home. However, all the while he had been in the hospital he had been taking classes on the internet toward his bachelors degree. Now since he was 100% disabled he got a monthly check from the government that enabled him to keep on going to school. He was working on his masters in psychology, hoping to go on to get his PSY D. So that he could be a psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever.

I asked what he wanted to do with that, and he stated very matter of factly (like I should've known) that he wanted to work with Vets and help get them over PTSD.

We talked a bit more and I got a few other things out of him. Turns out he is an avid rock climber. (Yeah, only one leg and he decides to climb rocks.) On top of that, he runs 5 miles a day.

This one threw me off, I was like, "Dude, you're in a wheelchair. What gives?" Oh, he only uses the wheelchair for trips around the city. That way he doesn't have to wait in any lines, and its just easier to scoot a chair around than it is to deal with the prosthetic limb he's got, which he says hasn't been fitted exactly right yet so it still hurts over long distances. Not to mention people give him free stuff a lot.

That's a boy! Anyone who's ever been in the military will tell you that you take full advantage of every opportunity afforded you. And if a wheelchair will get you some free stuff every now and then and shoot you to the front of the line. So be it.

I couldn't resist. When we got to the train station I asked him if I could buy him a beer. He said sure, and then said, "See I already got a free beer out of this ride!"

Shithead.

So we sat down at the bar and ordered up a couple cold ones, and I started to pick his brain some more.

Do you work?

Yeah, I got a job at a mental hospital.

How much do you work?

40 a week.

Dude, and you go to school full time?

Yeah.

How do you pull that off?

I can sleep when I'm dead.

What's with all the running?

The running prosthetic I have is the only one that fits right, so I use it. Thinking about running a marathon too.

Of course, why wouldn't you? And I have a helluva time getting off my ass and going to the gym.

Well, (he looks down at where his leg should be) what the hell is your problem?

I don't know.

Do you ever get pissed about losing your leg?

I did, but then I just figured, what the fuck. Its a leg, its gone, and its not coming back. What's the use of sitting around being mad about it. Most guys in that hospital were mad about what happened to them. I fell in with them for a while, until I realized that I should be more happy than mad.

What the hell are you talking about?

I'm not dead...and given the fact that I'm not dead, means that I'm still alive.

Alright, Captain obvious, what are you talking about?

I'm not dead, sure I'm missing a leg, but I'm still breathing. And so long as I'm still breathing I can do something. Legs are a convenience. That's all. They make life easier. They don't make it possible. You don't need a leg to live. So fuck the leg. I'm gonna live. Embrace the suck, right?

I looked at him and laughed. Then explained to him this whole blog thing of mine.

We shot the shit for a few more minutes until his train was boarding and off he went.

I sat there, watching him roll away. And couldn't help but be ashamed of myself.

How dare I be pissed about...anything really. I've pretty much got it all. I've got a good job, all limbs attached and working, brain functional (for the most part), a family and friends that love me, and a million other things that are going for me.

But I manage to piss and moan and feel depressed about a few little things that if I were in Afghanistan wouldn't even register as problems.

This guy does more than I do, with less than I have.

So it turned into a little motivational shot in the arm. This is a guy who truly understands embracing the suck. Problems are only real if you let them stop you. Maybe things got altered a little bit for this guy, but he didn't stop. As a matter of fact he probably sped up!

This guy turned what most people would consider a big road block, into nothing more than an inconsequential speed bump in his life.

And here I am with the balls to complain about having to work 10 pm to 6 am.

Message received. Good talk. Hope to have another one again soon!

Later,

I love you Mom...

Oct 21, 2009

Observations...

I've kept telling all of you that sooner or later I would pull my head out of my ass and share some of my observations with you about being home and coming home and seeing everyone and everything through a different set of spectacles.

So here goes...

(and this one will probably sound redundant) I've noticed how INCREDIBLY spoiled and RIDICULOUSLY entitled the lion's share of Americans are. Especially those of us 30 and under.

I mean its a trip just watching it. I was in a Wal-mart the other day. (I'm not proud of it, but I needed batteries.) And it was one of those super Wal-Marts. Thing was the size of an airplane hangar. I actually heard a guy walking around in there say, "I hate this f-ing place, they never have anything!"

Dude, are you serious? They don't have anything here. They have EVERYTHING! There isn't a thing you could possibly need that you can't find in Wal-Mart.

Oh, and by the way my personal opinion of Wal-Mart is that they are fascist sacks of shit who do not deserve to live. They pay their workers next to nothing, and actually have infrastructure in place that helps their employees collect welfare benefits from the government so that they don't bitch so much about how badly they're being f-ed by their corporate masters.

When I got home and I went into a store for the first time, I dove right in. I went to the largest outdoor mall in my area. Every single store under the sun. Everything from glow in the dark condoms to ladies plus sized clothing. I was awed. I walked around like a kid at Disney land. It took me a good half an hour to wrap my brain around it all.

I couldn't help but think to myself, "Who the fuck needs all this shit?" Its no wonder the whole country is in debt. But that's a tired argument. Simple fact is that people need to discipline themselves to live within their means, however meager they might be.

I came from a place where I thought I was king of the world if I was able to buy a 23 oz can of Arizona Lemon Iced Tea. I never even bothered to think about what brand of toothpaste I wanted, because I was going to get what they had at the PX which was the size of my closet, or whatever you guys had sent to me.

I didn't even think of what kind of soap I would use. Because I would use whatever I could get my hands on.

I thought that a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups was a little slice of heaven.

A cupcake was orgasmic!

I wasn't even the slightest bit bothered by my drinks not being cold.

And a million other little indignities that no red blooded American would tolerate here.

So here's the observation. How about a little appreciation America? Not of soldiers, I'm not talking about that. Appreciation of the standard of living here.

It makes me laugh that there has been much made of the fact that mine is the first generation that will not have a higher standard of living than its predecessor. All I have to say about that is...have you ever heard of critical mass? Basically, when you grow so big that you can't grow any larger without crushing yourself underneath the weight of your own massiveness. (And even if that's not what it means, that's how I understand it so that's what we're going with.)

We don't need a higher standard of living. We need to lower our standards.

Not everyone needs a new car, a $200,000 house, a 60 inch TV, and all the toys that most of these jokers are running around with.

Another observation that is related to the first one.

I hang out with a decidedly blue collar crowd. Cops, prison guards, truckers, electricians, plumbers, factory workers, warehouse workers, beer delivery guys, and the like.

Now most of these guys are great, and they are hard working and dedicated and true blue down to the bone. And I love them for it.

Yet there's some of them who piss me off. Now here's where I get pissed. Given the current economic climate there aren't a lot of jobs out there. And for every job that is open currently, there are 6 workers chasing it. (Heard that on MSNBC)

So its tough out there. If you haven't got a job, you are probably going to have to do some serious "crow eating" in order to get one. In other words, swallow your pride and get a job.

Another sentence I heard out of a guys mouth, "I won't take that job, they only pay $12 an hour!"

To which I replied, "How much you making now?"

"Nothing"

"Last time I checked, twelve is twelve more than nothing!"

After which, he promptly stomped off and mumbled something about me under his breath.

Every time I see these guys, or hear about the employment situation on the news, or hear about it at work, or in a bar, or wherever, my brain rockets back to Waza Khwa Afghanistan. I see that kid (the one I gave the $20 to) and I remember him coming to the gate every single day. Not looking for a handout but asking if there was any work he could do for us. Kid couldn't have been more than 14, if that. But he showed up every day looking for work. Every single damn day!

Sure, if you lose your job that sucks. But embrace it and get on with your life. Get a new job, try a new field, take a lower paying job, do whatever you have to do to make money. Beggars cannot be choosers. Get off your ass, get out there and do something! There is nothing beneath anyone.

Any legal labor for which someone is willing to give you money is an honorable profession. Hey, if you are really hard up, join the Army. They're always looking for people.

Working for slave wages, to me, is better than sitting on your ass and collecting your government cheese. All that makes you is a dependent little nothing, who can't live unless your Uncle supports you. (Get it, "Uncle" Sam)

But that is an entirely different rant.

Moving on, my last observation for today will be this...

Why is it, that so many people feel the need to thank me for what I just did this past year? People I don't know, people I meet, pretty much everyone. Will talk to me and find out that I was in Afghanistan and then inevitably the next sentence is, "Well thank you so very much for what you did for us. I know a lot of people say it, but I really mean it."

I have to say though, the look on the guys face when I asked him, "What you think everyone else was just bullshitting me?"

Uh, well, I don't, Well, what I meant was...and on like that he went.

Until I let him off the hook and told him I was just kidding.

Now the thanks don't really bother me. I appreciate them. I am just trying to understand why people feel the need to come over and talk to me when they don't even know who I am. But I usually get a free beer or two out of the deal so its not all bad.

Now here's something that only guys have said to me. And this really does, PISS ME OFF!!!

I've probably imagined myself pummeling about 10 guys in my time since getting home when they come up to me and after exchanging pleasantries and accepting their thanks they say something to the effect of...

(If its an old guy) Yeah when I was younger I thought about joining the service. But it didn't work out because

A. I met a girl
B. I got a girl pregnant
C. They wouldn't take me
D. There was no war going on (am I the only one who thinks that "because there is a war going on" has got to be the dumbest reason ever to join the military?)
E. Or any number of other random reasons

(If its a young guy) I wanted to join the military but...

A. I've got a girlfriend
B. I've got kids
C. I couldn't leave my family
D. I got stoned too much and failed the drug test
E. My (insert ailment here) won't get past the medical test
F. Or any number of other random resons

Its not that I want to pummel them for not having joined the military. I couldn't care any less about that than I already do. What I want to beat their asses for is their almost pathological need to explain themselves to me. I'm going to paraphrase Jack Nicholson here and say, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain anything to anyone for any reason. Enough said. Besides my opinion of people who don't join the military is pretty neutral, well maybe not. I'd have to say that the bumper sticker on my mother's car is an accurate description.

"My son serves, so that yours doesn't have to"

I like that.

Alright, I'm done for now.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Oct 11, 2009

Well, I Don't Know What To Tell Ya...

Alright, so I have been out of the loop for quite a while. Not really, I have been pretty well drunk for about a month and a half now. Don't worry, this is not unusual. But its finally happened.

The hammer has finally dropped.

The party's over.

The fat lady sang.

Its all over...

I...have...to...go...back...to...WORK TOMORROW!!!!

So all the fun is now over. Back to the workaday grind.

So hopefully, the plan is to get back to work and begin doing some productive things with my days. You know, working out, working, getting some editing done and just being a productive member of society again. As opposed to hanging out in the drunken limbo that my life became after returning from deployment.

Everything is fine, I'm doing good, and I have a few world events and trends that I am going to comment on very soon...I hope.

Anyways,

Later,

I love you Mom...