“Memorial Day” (from a Combat Vet’s Perspective)

Here’s a quick history lesson: Memorial Day, or “Decoration Day” as it was originally called, was created after the Civil War to pay tribute to the men who died serving in the civil war. Later on, it became “Memorial Day” as we know it today and came to recognize all soldiers/sailors/marines/airmen that were lost during their service.

Judging by the text messages I receive every Memorial Day, somewhere along the line Memorial Day got confused with Veteran’s Day. This kind of bugs me to be honest. If you want to show your appreciation to veterans and can only bring yourself to do it once a year, do it on Veteran’s Day (that’s November 11, or the day the First World War officially ended, another history lesson). By the way, this may just be me but one of the most awkward situations I can find myself in is when someone says, “thanks for your service.” Even if it is sincere and not cliche, I don’t know what to say. If I say, “you’re welcome,” I come off as arrogant, but how do you say, “thank you” for someone having said the same?

Unfortunately – and this is the primary trigger for me writing this post – I can’t remember the last time I heard the words “Memorial Day” used in the context of discussing deceased servicemen. I only hear it used to discuss long-weekend plans, BBQs, camping trips, etc, or worse, in commercials. That’s the big one, folks. I know it happened probably long before I was born, but when did a day to honor men and women who DIED protecting your country become an excuse for the neighborhood furniture store/home improvement store/car dealership’s “BIG FUCKING SALE?” Leave it to Americans to turn a holiday they themselves created to remember fallen servicemen into a chance to make more money or buy more useless shit because they can save $3.

At any rate, back to the original point of this post. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who passed, to take some time to reflect on those who volunteered or were drafted to do things the majority of this country can’t imagine doing and lost their lives in the process. For me, it’s a day to remember Lieutenant Philip Neel, Corporal Steve Raderstorf, Specialist Robert Hendrickson specifically, but also to think about the others whom I saw perish, or arrived on the scene after it was too late, but never had the pleasure of meeting. Unfortunately, given the prevalence of IEDs and vehicle-borne IEDs, this numbers around two dozen even though there were only in a few instances. These men all pop into my head often on normal days, so Memorial Day is more a day of reflection for me. It is also a time to think about those that had it so much worse than me, in Vietnam, Korea, WWII, and prior, and how some of these men and women were never even found.

As far as appreciating veterans goes, do it any time you have the chance. When you see a guy in uniform waiting on a flight at the airport, buy him a beer. If you see a young uniformed woman on leave at church, pat her on the back. When your cousin gets deployed to Afghanistan, send him care packages filled with things you can only get at home. When you see a guy like me, shy and alone at a Starbucks table, wearing one of those goofy black hats that says “[Insert war here] Veteran” with a bunch of shiny pins on it, say hi and shake his hand. If your veteran brother is at home alone wondering why he can’t relate or converse with normal citizens, don’t complain about how you threw a fit when someone forgot to put foam on your iced latte yesterday morning.  We have to deal with the burden of what we’ve seen and done every day, and we rarely see any sort of real appreciation from a country who has all but forgotten that the military exists and that there is still a war going on. But do us a favor, don’t thank us on Memorial Day. Thank those who gave it all.

A Day In the Life: An Android Photo Diary

In light of Monday’s events, let me start off by saying, Boston, I love you. I may have grown up 50 miles away, but most of my fondest childhood memories are of evening games at Fenway, Bruins games at the old Garden, and exploring the historical monuments scattered about the city on school trips and family outings. And sitting in traffic on 93 in my dad’s Saab. This being the case, I still consider Boston to be My City. Even from 1,800+ miles away, the news on Patriots’ Day hit home more than if it had happened 90 miles away in Dallas or Austin.  Part of this is because I saw this type of thing numerous times in Iraq, and seeing it happen at home just makes me feel for all those innocent civilians who witnessed it and were affected by it. I’m not a religious man, but my thoughts have been with Boston since Monday evening. I know you will pull through, you’re the toughest city in the country. Also, thank you to the folks in New York (even the Yankees), for displaying solidarity and support; seeing and hearing fans singing “Sweet Caroline” in Yankee Stadium literally brought tears to my eyes. 

Now that the sappy stuff is out of the way, I’ll get on to my topic. I saw this idea a few weeks ago, I think on the WP Daily Post page. Basically a day in my life, in photos. I was planning to use my Nikon for this, but frankly, I’m afraid I’d break the damn thing at work or when I inevitably bust my ass on the bike trails. So, all these photos were taken with my Motorola Droid Razr M with the native camera app. It’s surprisingly much better than my last Droid, actually better than the Vignette app in most cases, which was my preferred camera app previously.

IMG_20130415_064602_239

Starting the day.

My work: aircraft fuel pumps before disassembly

My work: aircraft fuel pumps before disassembly

And after disassembly. I'll go on to overhaul these, test them, and they'll be calibrated and returned to stock.

And after disassembly. I’ll go on to overhaul these, test them, and they’ll be calibrated and returned to stock.

After work exercise. I don't do gyms.

After-work exercise. I don’t do gyms.

Having an iced latte with a book while the sun goes down.

Having an iced latte with a book while the sun goes down.

Evening music time. BTW, these are GREAT headphones.

Evening music time. By the way, these are GREAT headphones.

Bedtime

Bedtime

 

Pardon My Absence

I know I haven’t posted in two full months, but it is with good reason. After a little over two years, my trusty HP laptop committed a terrible suicide at the end of January. Until this weekend, I was unable to scrape up funds to replace it with anything more than a Netbook. Given that the main thing I used my computer for is photo editing, a 10″ screen was definitely not ideal. I could have gotten the HP fixed, but being two years old, and given the fact that I already had to replace the hard drive after a year, who’s to say I wouldn’t be fixing something else in a few more months.

This weekend I finally received a large payment that I had been expecting for a month and a half, for a vehicle I sold in the fall, so my first stop was the electronics store. I type to you now from my new Dell Inspiron One “All-in-one” desktop. This is my first computer that is not a laptop and I’m loving the 20″ screen. 

Image

At any rate, I’ll be posting much more regularly now (at least more than once every two months, that’s for sure). Next weekend is the Lone Star Rod & Kustom Round-Up of which I have posted photos from in the past, so in the coming weeks I’ll have lots of hot rod porn on the blog. On top of that, I’ve been going to more live shows lately and have been taking more trips out of town, so I should have more to post about than in the past. 

Thanks for your patience!

On Reader’s Block

I’ve written previously about writer’s (or blogger’s) and photographer’s block, which turned into a post about an entirely different subject. Namely, my spontaneous Iowa road trip over Christmas weekend. It’s pretty obvious that I’ve had this problem for awhile since I just realized yesterday that I haven’t posted in three weeks. 

Lately though, I am suffering from another ailment, we’ll call it reader’s block. Last year I made it through 26 books. Until late August, I was in school full time and working 25 hours every weekend. I also spent a few months studying for my aircraft mechanic license exams and the inevitable cramming for finals in April and August. Somehow I found the time to read at least 26 books, including Atlas Shrugged and John Keegan’s monster, The Second World War. 

Here it is late January, and I have yet to finish a book, or even make it halfway through one for that matter. I started the year by picking up the copy of The Picture of Dorian Grey I picked up at the library’s book sale, but I really wanted to read the new copy of Catch-22 I had bought to replace the one my ex never gave back. I picked it up to re-read it, being one of my all-time favorites, but I just couldn’t get into it this time. I made it probably 200 pages in, but eventually gave up on it after buying Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and staring at the pretty hardcover sitting on my coffee table every night. I got a little more than 250 pages into that one when I realized I was completely lost on the story since there are several chapters which are just one or another character’s philosophical rants. I’m not sure if it’s the translation, Dostoevsky’s story, or just my being unfocused and unmotivated. Something tells me you really need to concentrate when reading Dostoevsky, but lately I just haven’t been there.

So what is causing this literary lull that’s going on in my brain? Is it a poor choice in books or is it that I read so many over the last two years that I’m just burned out? Perhaps the Tivo is distracting me way too much? But no, I rarely use it and I don’t watch much TV at all these days. Which makes me wonder why I pay $150 a month for cable and internet. Maybe it’s the complete lack of motivation I’ve had to do much of anything after work lately. I was sick last week and was in bed early every night on account of the drugs, but that only accounts for five days. 

Let’s talk possible solutions here. I could buy some shitty murder novel or maybe a good one, like the new Michael Connolly I saw at the store last week. Perhaps a good old caper that really sucks me in would do me good. Or maybe I just need to go on another murder novel binge for a few months where I just read one per week until I remember that almost every one winds up with the same ending. Maybe I should just forget to pay the cable bill this month so it and my internet gets cut off and I don’t have anything else to do. Then I’ll be forced to read. Then again, I could just pick up another non-fiction history volume that’s on my shelf since it’s been almost a year since I finished one of those. I’ve read that just giving reading a rest for awhile helps sometimes, but for the past few years I’ve always been reading at least one book at any given time, so this is a tough one to swallow.

How about you? What do you do when you can’t seem to get into a reading rhythm? 

 

Writer’s/Photographer’s Block

I know, I’ve been severely neglecting this blog for a few weeks. I went from posting photos nearly every day, to writing once a week and posting photos twice a week, to writing OR posting photos once a week, to almost nothing. Part of the reason is that I worked overtime for three weeks this month, and spent the weekends working on my vehicles. But, let’s not make excuses.

More recently, I spent Christmas weekend on a completely unplanned roadtrip with one of my old army buddies, Seth. He was supposed to leave earlier in the week, but ended up having to wait til a debtor paid up on Saturday. We were texting and I asked him if he had left yet. He said no, but he was leaving that night and oh, by the way, was I up for a roadtrip? I’m always up for a roadtrip, especially when I’d otherwise be sitting home alone over Christmas weekend. So, despite my having to work at 8am on Tuesday, I was on the road beginning a two thousand-mile roadtrip at 7pm Saturday night.

The central Iowa area had gotten hit by a foot of snow or more Thursday and Friday. By the time we reached the area at daybreak on Sunday, the roads were all clear and we pointed at all the cars in the ditch along the way. Funny story, but last time I drove to Iowa by myself to visit another friend, I was in a front-wheel drive car with summer tires and the area had been hit by a very similar storm. That time the roads weren’t quite so clear, but regardless, I hauled ass down the highway while noting to myself all the cars in the ditch. The good thing is that that trip five years ago was the last time I’d seen snow, so this was a welcome sight:

I was hoping I’d get to take a lot of cool pictures in the snow and whatnot all weekend, but this is the only decent one that came out of it. Anyway, we got to meet a friend I’ve been speaking to online and over the phone for the past two years for lunch, so despite looking like a couple of cokeheads coming down from a week-long binge we had a good time Sunday and got to relax a bit. After having dinner with Seth’s parents that night, we settled down for some TV watching until bedtime. Isn’t it sad that after being on the road for 14 hours and not having much to do all day, we still didn’t head to bed until midnight? Monday was a pretty lazy day, hanging at Seth’s mom’s house until evening, when we hitched up our trailer for the drive further north to his hometown. We spent the evening drinking beer in Seth’s friend’s shop (oh how that reminded me of high school) and trying to avoid the subzero weather.

Christmas morning was not very Christmasy. We had to go try and get a truck (that hadn’t moved in four months) running long enough to get it on the trailer. This didn’t happen so eventually we ended up pushing it on with another truck, while I cranked on a pulley to pull it up all the way. Those were a fun three hours outside where it was at least five below zero. Somehow this got me wondering how and why in the hell I spent so much time in high school (in Wisconsin) standing around outside in jeans and a Carhartt jacket drinking beer for hours on end. Nine years between Texas and Iraq really spoils a person as far as weather is concerned. We had a little time for Seth to visit with his siblings before we hit the road around noon. After visiting Seth’s dad in Sioux City, we were on our way into a snow storm in Oklahoma. Now normally this would have been a minor storm, if it hadn’t been in Oklahoma. Besides the lack of road maintenance, we were hauling a gooseneck trailer containing a nine foot-tall truck, in a truck that has mud tires. Great in mud and offroad, not so great on snowy highways.

Norman, Oklahoma; December 26, 1am

After making our way through the remnants of the storm, we arrived back at my apartment at 5:30am Wednesday morning. Unable to fall asleep for a quick nap, I showered, shaved, dressed, and made some coffee before going to work at 8.

How was your holiday weekend?

 

Resolutions, 2013

I’m a firm non-believer in the December 21st, end-of-the-world theory, and since I finally have a decent job and am out of the military and college, I feel like I am finally in a place to write my first New Year’s resolutions list. I’m turning 29 in three weeks, so this is also a before-30 list. I’m looking forward to 30, but the last couple years of my twenties has been pretty lame so I’d like to make up a little lost time.

1. See my father

I haven’t seen my dad in five years this month. A 2,000+ mile distance, my previous military career, and a lack of funds on both our parts are the main reasons for this. My dad has also become increasingly conservative, and Baptist, over the last few years and I the opposite. So there is also a bit of fear present in my mind. In 2013 though, I have to come up with one way or another of getting up to New England to see dad and meet the fiancee of his whom I still have not met.

2. Lose the rest of the weight

In the last year and a half I have lost 65 pounds of my post-army weight gain. It came (or left) i n two 30- to 40-pound, three-month spurts. Both times, once I hit about 35 pounds, it was like I hit a wall. I’m back to where I was when I left the Army in 2010 (I gained weight FAST), but I’d like to be about 15 or 20 pounds closer to where I was when I was at my ideal shape. This should be fairly easy after I take a two or three-month break to let my body catch up.

3. Meet someone special

Online dating has become a huge crutch for me, as I’ve written previously. Given that this is the third town I’ve lived in in four years, online dating has been a convenient way for this shy dude to meet new people, and now I am absolutely petrified about approaching someone in person. Not knowing their relationship status, things we may or may not have in common, or if she has kids, is information I’m now used to knowing before meeting someone. 2013 will be the year I finally overcome this fear and stop wasting time waiting for someone to come to me.

4. Go back to school

I know, I just graduated in August, but I’m addicted to knowledge and I’m always looking for the next step. I’m ready to begin the next thing, or find the next step of my current thing. This will be part-time and mostly, if not all online, but it will begin soon.

5. Begin planning a new business venture

I’ve been thinking about this one for years. Finally, I have a regular job with a set schedule, leaving me plenty of time to work on building the this thing. The scheme is one I started in high school: buying cheap, used, often broken-down engines, buying performance parts, rebuilding and hot-rodding them, then selling for a small profit. This is less a business venture, more of an excuse to do something I like which normally costs money, and trying to make a little money doing it. Of course this has to wait until my lease runs out in August/September, when I can get out of the apartment I moved into out of desperation when I got to town, and into a house or duplex with a garage. Maybe even rent a shop with a friend.

Bonus: Take a real vacation

I’m almost thirty years old and have never taken a real vacation. Sure, in the Army I would go on leave for two weeks, or a month after deployment, but I would either spend it at home being lazy or going out partying, or driving cross-country to visit family. I would like to actually take a trip completely selfishly. Drive to California, stopping along the way for photo ops and sampling local food. Maybe go backpacking in Big Bend National Park. I’ve made it a life’s goal to make Bonneville Speed Week at least once in my life, why not 2013? There are many places outside of the United States that I’d love to visit, but those will have to wait until I have a higher income. For now, I’d settle for a long-distance, slow, road trip.