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

Jul 11, 2010

Just a Few Pictures That I Wanted To Share...

Thought I might share these pictures with you.  They were some of the good times in Afghanistan.  And as soon as I find a power cord for my terabyte hard drive we'll have a bunch more. 

Hope you like 'em...

Guess who that is sitting on the stoop!













A Few Days In One...

Okay, so the letter to my father thing took quite a bit out of me.  I've been sitting around like a slug for a couple of days.  So be it.

So I needed to do a few things that were on the list.

First up, make a meal.

This one was bullshit because I can cook.  You don't get as big as I am without being able to feed yourself.

I made Chicken Divan (flipping fantastic.)

Here's the mom's recipe...

4 chicken breasts (cooked, boned and diced), 1 10 oz. package of chopped broccoli

Sauce (mix all this shit together)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup of mayo
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/4 cup of sherry.
pepper

Topping (mix all this stuff together separately)
1/3 cup of melted butter
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Place broccoli in a 2 qt. casserole.  Add meat and pour sauce over.  Sprinkle with topping and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Great stuff!!!

Next thing I had to do was create a budget.  Well I've been living on one since I got back.  Wouldn't want to bore you with the details.  Needless to say I spend less than I take in and this is a good thing.  So done and done.

Another one I had to do was talk to three strangers in one day.  This one is a bit difficult, given that I work the 2-10pm shift.  So I'll get back to you on this one after my weekend.

Next up...find your N.U.T.S.

N.U.T.S. are Non-negotiable unalterable terms.

Now I will tell you that I thought about these for quite a while.  I didn't arrive at these lightly.

1.  My loyalty to my family trumps any and all else.  I refuse to do anything at all that will hurt my family in any way, shape or form.

2.  I have made a conscious decision to defend this country.  I will continue to do so until my body won't let me anymore.  I will do my duty until there is nothing left of me.

3.  There's entirely too much laziness in this world today.  I will not succumb to this.  I will work hard at my job, my self and my life every fucking day.

4.  My own integrity is second only to my family.  I will do what's right regardless of who sees it.  Wherever I go, there I am.  Make sure you can live with yourself.

5.  The welfare of others.  My family, friends, fellow service members and this nation comes before my own welfare.

6.  Personally speaking, nothing means more to me than my education.  I will do something everyday to increase my knowledge.  I'll study, I'll get back into school, I'll read something that isn't trash.  Every fucking day!  Something, everyday!

Holy O' shit Batman, that's a tall order.  Now let's see if I can pull it off.

Faltering is inevitable.

Which really sucks.  But what are you gonna do?  Now I don't have much else to say about this.  Made it all the way to Day 18.

What I want to hear is what your N.U.T.S. are...

Let's hear it.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 7, 2010

Show Ponies...

I was watching TV a while back with my Auntie Buddy.

Here is the exchange that took place.  We were watching the Chicago Bulls vs. the Detroit Pistons.

Auntie Buddy:  Who is that guy?
Me:  Which one?
Auntie Buddy:  The black guy.
Me:  Okay, not narrowing it down at all.
Auntie Buddy:  The bald one.
Me:  Okay, so you want to know who the bald black guy on the basketball team is?
Auntie Buddy:  Yes.

I tell you that story because I think that Auntie Buddy was on to something as far as America's obsession with sports/athletes goes.

She couldn't give a shit less.  They were nothing more than show ponies to her.

I bring this up because no doubt, unless you live in Antarctica you have heard about the LeBron James sweepstakes that is sweeping the NBA right now.  He is announcing his decision tomorrow night no ESPN in an hour long special.  How self-important do you have to be to think that the decision on which team you are playing for next year is worth an entire hour on national television?

Hi, I'm LeBron James and I'll be playing in...insert NBA city here.

That should take all of a minute, if that.  But this guy is going to make it take an hour.

Now here's my thought.  Americans are obsessed with their sports teams.  And for the record I am just as culpable, if not more so, than a lot of people.  The Bears, The Blackhawks, The White Sox, The Bulls.  These teams are never far from my mind during their respective seasons.

I watch them on TV.  I follow them in the news.  I check their websites.  I follow them on ESPN.com.  I talk about them with my friends.  And here's the one that truly pisses me off, my mood is affected by whether they win or lose.

For the most part I've stopped going to the games.  I still like going, and for special occasions I still go.  But think about it...

300 level seats at the Cell:  $36 or so a piece.
Parking:  $20+
Hot Dog:  $4.75
Beer:  $6.75  (When you drink like I do they add up.)

We're already over sixty bucks just for one person.  Sprinkle in a kid or two, your significant other and you're looking at over $200 just to go to a baseball game.

So yeah, the prices at the park piss me off.  And every other team in town is just as bad.  I haven't been to a Bears game in years.  Same with the Bulls, and same with the Hawks.

Its simple logic for me.

At the park, you sit with 60,000 other people, you wait in line for a hot dog, beer or whatever else.  You wait in line for the bathroom.  You deal with traffic backed up forever when you go and when you leave.  And on and on I could go.

At home, you sit with only those you invite over, on a nice comfy luxurious couch.  No line for the bathroom and if there is its just one guy.  Never wait for food, plus you get exactly what you want.  And the beer is just a short jaunt over to the fridge.  And NO ONE will ever convince me that there is a better seat in the house than watching that game in your house on TV.  Ever tried to see a puck from the nose-bleeds at the United Center?

Now back to the point of this.  LeBron James gets an hour of TV time to announce his decision because?

Because people are going to watch.

People are crazy.  There have been people outside LeBron's offices (why does a basketball player need offices) everyday campaigning for this team or that.  There are entire websites dedicated to this.  Online polls, and the fucking President has even gotten involved.  Telling the world that he would love to see LeBron come to the Bulls.

Here's the point.  Athletes are not role models, nor are they heroes.  Role models should be fathers, mothers, friends, people with real accomplishments.  Throwing a ball through a hoop doesn't qualify.  Curing cancer, raising a family, helping the poor.  These qualify.

Athletes are show ponies.  There to entertain us.  Run, jump, hit, score.  Do it all.  We'll watch.

Then go away.

Your ridiculous salaries don't even bother me.  If the guy that signs the checks is willing to pay you that, then he must be making at least a few bucks off of you so God bless you both.

I'm sorry, I love my hometown teams.  Same as many of you do.  But I've gotten just a bit disillusioned with the entirety of it.  Its like a religion with some.  (As I look at the 5 foot White Sox banner I have on my wall, while the flag I got in Afghanistan is but 2'x2'.  Twisted.

And stop (this is for the fans) referring to your teams and using the pronoun "we".  We implies you are on the team.  You aren't.  You are there as the cattle that makes the pilgrimage to the stadium and spends exorbitant amounts of money to support those salaries.

Athletes are show ponies, nothing more.  And we have to learn to put them in the stable till the next time we want to see them.

Now I've got to set my DVR to record LeBron's special, and I need to get back to the White Sox game.  Top of the 6th, Sox 2 Angels 1.  We're only one game out of 1st.

Ugh...

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 4, 2010

Dear Dad...

I couldn't help but dread this day.

I know its you, and I'm your son, and you love me.  But given the rather strange relationship that you and I have had, I couldn't help but be a tad apprehensive about writing this.

I would hope that if you were here you would've told me, "Man up, and get it done boy."

But there's the hitch.  You're not here.

You haven't been.  Not since I was three.  I turn 32 in three days.

TJ was still in the oven, and I was too young to know which side of the playpen smelled the worst, and you took off.

Don't worry, I'm not mad at you.  How could I be?  I'm pretty sure that if you had anything to say about it you'd still be here.  But that wasn't meant to be.

I'll be honest, it hurt.  It hurt quite a bit.  Not at first.  C'mon I was three.  I didn't know what the hell was going on.  Best I can figure the only thing that I understood was that mom was pretty sad, and she stayed like that for a long time.  I'm not sure she's come out of that yet.  As a matter of fact, I know she hasn't.

Well then things were okay for a while.  Young kid like that doesn't understand death.  I remember Mom telling me about how she had to have Grandpa take your car away because I would see it and say, "Daddy's home, see Mommy there's his car."

Then I got older.

I began to understand what happened.  I learned just how much different things were going to be for me than they were for all the other kids.  I gotta admit, here is one of the few times that I can say that I'm glad you died.  You see, when I got older and met all the kids who didn't have fathers it was always the same thing with them.  Their father's left.  Divorced the mom, and took off.  Never giving a second thought to their kids.  You died.  

Which made it easier for me.  At least you didn't choose to leave me.  I can take solace in that.

Growing up without you meant pretty much one thing to me.  That all this "man" stuff I was going to have to figure out on my own.  Which truly sucked.  I was going to have to learn how to be a man without a man to show me how.  For that, I hated...not you, but your death.

I could go on and on about how I tried to learn without a teacher.  But I'm pretty sure you know all that already.  

But later on I realized that you left me with more than a lot of kids have.  You left me with the stories.  You left me with a gaggle of women that loved you more than life itself and thought that you walked on water.  I heard about you every day.

I heard how much you loved the mom.

I heard how good you were to the family.

I heard how dearly you loved me.

I heard how excited you were when I was born and when you found out TJ was coming.

I heard about how you worked two jobs so that mom didn't have to work.

I heard about it all.

Couple of my favorite stories.

-The mom was an avid bowler when I was a kid.  She was good too.  She went on a bowling trip where she had to stay in a hotel overnight.  When she came home the next evening it was getting late and it was past my infant bedtime by the time she got home.  She came into the house to find you sleeping soundly on the floor right next to my crib.  She woke you up, and asked you why you were sleeping there.  To which you replied, "I was afraid I wouldn't hear him crying if he needed me."

-The mom was pregnant with me and her, you and Auntie Buddie went to a restaurant/bar to eat.  It was crowded.  You politely asked a guy to give up his seat so that mom could sit down.  He refused.  You asked him politely again.  He refused again and said something very rude about mom.  At which point you grabbed him by his collar and threw him out the front door and down the stairs leading into the place.  (That made me very happy.)

-You worked weird hours when I was a baby.  So a lot of the time I would be sleeping when you came home from work.  You would go into my bedroom and look in on me.  Now you didn't know it, but mom was watching you.  Because you would gently nudge me awake and I would fuss or maybe cry a little and you would call out to mom, "The baby's awake, don't worry I got him."  And then you would sit and rock me back to sleep.

Those are some of my favorites.

But time waits for no man, especially a dead one.

I grew up.  Had a few years in the middle there where things got pretty tough.  Had my issues with drinking, had my issues with drugs, had my issues with gambling.  I pretty much just took everything I loved, doused it in kerosene and watched it burn.  Not the most pride-inducing part of my life.

But I got over it.  Joined the Army.  Became an MP, just like you.

Went to college, which is what mom always wanted.  You should've seen the look on her face as she watched me walk across that stage.  Totally worth every paper I ever wrote.

And now I'm here.  Few other things happened in between and you and everyone else that might be reading this knows all about them.

But why dread this day?

Well that's a simple one.  I've never quite made my peace with you, and your death.

I wrote a while back about how I'm always asked why I do what I do...

To which I replied, 

My father...

You see my father passed away when I was three years old and my brother was still a bun in the oven. His death destroyed at least one life and completely altered the course of mine.

Instead of being a solidly middle class family, with the resources and comforts of that standing, my family slipped to what I would describe as upper working class. Where my mother constantly struggled to make ends meet and keep us in the house where we grew up and make sure that our lives were as stable as possible. (She pulled it off.)

Needless to say, I didn't have everything I wanted growing up, but I had everything I needed. Even though I was somewhat of a spoiled brat of a kid. But that doesn't really matter as far as all this is concerned.

What does matter is the stories that I heard about my father. I never heard a person speak ill of my father, never, not once. I met people throughout my life that knew my father, whether they be friends of his, ex-coworkers, or whoever and not a one of them ever had a derogatory thing to say about the man. In fact, they all had at least one or two stories about what a wonderful man my father was.

Then there was my family. My cousins, my aunts, uncles, and mother. These people, without even realizing that they were doing it, implanted in my brother and I an impossible standard of what it is to be a man, through the stories they would tell us about my father.

If you took my family and my father's friends at their word, (and I did and still do) my father was Zeus and could walk on water, eat bullets, and shit ice cream!

So that leads me to what that did to me. I have always thought of my life as this big ole' stairwell that I am walking up. Each step is another epoch in my life. School, sports, girls, work, college, the military, marriage, divorce, all of that, just another step.

Now there has always been someone walking up that stairwell in front of me. If you guessed my dear old daddy, then get yourself a cookie. He has always been walking up in front of me, pulling me at times, showing me the way. Looking back in disgust and picking me up off my ass at other times. But always in front of me. Never behind and certainly never even with me.

Now my father was a Vietnam veteran and a devout husband, and father and also a police officer. Which easily explains my habit of getting into law enforcement jobs even though I absolutely despise authority in all its forms. But right now we are dealing with the veteran part of the equation.

Maybe in some small measure I think that by doing what I do, and going where I have gone, and am going that maybe someday I will be able to look at my side and see my father as opposed to always having to look up in front to see him.

I don't ever want to be ahead of him, no son ever wants to eclipse their father, no son worth their salt anyway. But I do want to be able to look him in the eye and walk next to him as an equal. 

Its funny too, because anyone who knew my father would tell you that, he would have told me a long time ago to get out of this shit. He would never have wanted me to go into harms way, he would've been proud of me but he never would've wanted this. I just can't seem to escape the fact that I have never seen myself as an equal to my father. I still, after all I have done and been through, have an unrelenting need to prove myself to a dead guy.

My brother (who is a lot smarter than people give him credit for) said it the best, "Dude, you have been chasing a ghost since we were kids." And I ain't Bill Murray and this isn't Ghostbusters so chances are real good that I am never going to catch that ghost.

So that's it, that's why I do what I do. I still have something to prove to someone who's approval I can never get, no matter how hard I try...

Yep, that's what I wrote August 14, 2008 at 5:32 a.m.

That was a month or so prior to me landing in Afghanistan.

But I was right when I said that you're a ghost that I can't catch.

No matter how hard or fast I run, I'll never be able to catch your ghost.  And I know that you wouldn't want me to.

You'd want me to be who I am, and be the man that I'm supposed to be.

It may have taken me 29 years, but after I dropped that medal off at your grave I can't explain it, but it just kind of felt like we were even.  I don't know why, but that's just what I felt.

You managed to teach me to be a man without even being around, just by listening to everyone talk about you I knew what a man was supposed to be.

I don't know where I am going from here.  I don't know what the future holds.  But I do know that you loved me, and you are proud of the man I've become.  Whether you can tell me or not.

So every morning I wake up and walk over to the dresser and I see your policeman's badge and your picture on the mirror, and I see myself in you.  Or maybe the other way around.  But the fact of that matter is I am 50% mom, and 50% you.  And those are good odds for any guy to have on his side.

Don't worry about me Dad.  I've got a pretty good handle on things.

But feel free to look in on the mom from time to time if you can.  Say hello, because she misses you more than I could ever tell you.  But I'm sure you knew that already.

So thanks for being who you were so that I knew what I should be.

Thanks for loving mom the way you did.

Thanks for leaving me with all those stories.  

Someday we'll sit down and have a beer or two and talk about all of this.  But until then I'm going to do the best I can.  And regardless of what happens, about the only thing that I hope for is that you're proud of me.

I'm done now.

Later,

I love you...Dad.


Father
Son











Sometimes at night Dad, I can see you in the moonlight.  I know you are there w/ me and I can feel you in my heart.  Please, father help me along, make me strong so I can make you proud.

Love, 

Dan

(What I wrote on the back of my father's picture.)

Jul 2, 2010

AOM, Day 13...

Declutter your life.

I jumped to this one because "take a woman on a date" hasn't quite happened yet.  Give me a couple days and we'll deal with that.  I may or may not have something special in mind for that one.

I skipped over "give yourself a testicular exam" because (not that I haven't done it) but honestly, who wants to hear about a guy kneading his nuts like they're pizza dough for 20 minutes?

And I went straight to de-cluttering my life.

This turned out to be a two day process!  Which I find humorous given the fact that I have only a one bedroom apartment.

Started in the living room.  Half the shit I found doesn't even belong in the basement crawl space of a crack house.  Alright, maybe it wasn't that bad.  But really, what the hell is a piece of incense and the burner doing under my coffee table?  I have had absolutely no need for incense since my relationship with Mary Jane ended.  And that was in 1998!!!

Then I tore through the rest of it.  800 square foot apartment I managed to fill up six trash bags full of shit that I should've gotten rid of a long time ago.  I am going to have to start doing this once a week.  For two reasons.  One to prevent what should take maybe an hour or two from becoming a two day ordeal, and for the great feeling you get when its done.  Dare I say its therapeutic.

I look around now and I see the top of my coffee table.  All that's up there now are the remotes for the TV and the glass of tea that I am currently drinking.  (God bless Arizona)

My bed is made (with freshly washed 620 thread count sheets and an Egyptian cotton blanket), the dinette (easily the second faggiest word ever, right behind duvet.) is clean, like hospital clean.  The kitchen was clean, for a while, of course then dinnertime came and I fucked that all up.  But we'll hit that in the morning and make it all better.  I've returned the bathroom to a state that I would actually allow a family member or close friend to use it without fearing for their lives.  I found out that I do, in fact, have a stainless steel sink. (Could never see it under the mountain of dishes.)

I'm not kidding, I really cleaned the shit out of this place.  I even included some pictures.  Not before and after.  That would've been entirely too embarrassing.















Then I set about the monumental task of doing the laundry. Which, unfortunately is still not done. I gotta do all the uniforms and shit still, but I don't have to go to drill again until August. So it can wait. At least until tomorrow.


Now I'm sitting here trying to figure out what else I should tell you guys about spending two days cleaning out my apartment. About the only thing surprising is figuring out that I have entirely too many pieces of clothing. I had managed, without any prior planning and/or knowledge struck a delicate balance in my fashion life. I created a system where the clothes in the hamper and the clothes in the dresser or closet were perfectly balanced so that none of my clothes were on the floor. Today, as I completed my sixth load of laundry and began the arduous task of getting them into their designated drawer/hanger I realized that without the relief of the dirty clothes in the hamper, my bedroom furniture and my closets are going to go boom, much like so many IED's.

I miss the magic bucket.

Oh, what's that?

You want to know what the magic bucket is?

The magic bucket lives at my mother's house.  I swiped it and brought it to my place when I moved out.  Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that the buckets magic is tied to the home of my upbringing.

Let me tell you what the magic bucket is.  In the hall closet of my childhood home, directly across from my room, down from my brother's and right next to my mom's is the magic bucket.

After I wore my clothes.  Regardless of the condition you leave them.  Regardless of the stain.  Whether it be, grass, grease, ketchup, blood (mine and/or that of others), wine and/or any other kind of booze, or whatever I had managed to grind into the fabric of my clothing.  I would place the soiled clothing into the magic bucket and close the hall closet door.

From the time I placed the soiled clothing into the magic bucket, there was a window of 48 hours that opened.  Sometime between when I put them in there and when I came in the next two days, the clothes would magically reappear in my dresser and/or closet.  Except when they reappeared, they were pristine clean.  Cleaner than they had ever been.  I don't really know how this happened given the fact that over the years I deposited the same articles of clothing into the bucket on more than one occasion.  Yet, they always came back cleaner than ever.  Smelled like babies, and were as soft as kittens.  Every last trace of any stain was gone.  All wrinkles were removed.  And there sat or hung my clothes.  Neatly put away, each in its own place...

Mom's are magic.

And their sons are smart asses.

Later,

Oops, wait tomorrow is a big day.  Tomorrow is write a letter to your father day...

...Oh shit.

I love you Mom...and your magic bucket.