Another Shooting

Today, as I sit in my “cube” counting the days until my retirement from the US Military I can’t help but think, “what the hell is next?”  A friend of mine is blowing up my phone with text messages about a new job that he’s been offered by the post office.  $17.78 an hour with very little supervision and an easy schedule and route.  That’s like, $35,000 a year, which is fine for him.  With his retirement check from Uncle Sam and his disability from time served, he’ll have a nice little life.  There’s only one problem with that.  That’s not the life I want.

I’m in a similar position.  I will be retiring with a disability rating but the money I will receive each month won’t maintain the life I’m used to and, more importantly, $35,000 wouldn’t supplement me enough to live the way I want, my wife and I, to live.  So, how do I land that next career?  What are my passions?  What would I like to do, that wouldn’t seem like a job?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

In other news, some disturbed teen opened fire into a school out in Texas.  So far the death count is under ten but it’s still ten and that’s to many.  What’s wrong with people?  Life isn’t that hard.  It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, but what are the alternatives?  Most of us aren’t born into a wildly wealthy lifestyle like Prince Harry, but even he has put in work and earned the respect of the people by serving.  Most of us are on the grind, everyday, every moment of our lives, once we step out of the shadow’s of our parents, although less than 1% serve in the Military but that’s a topic for another story.  For me, I left the shelter and security of my parents about 25 years ago and sadly, I haven’t grown that much since then.  I mean, I’m married to an amazing woman who is way to good for me (SHHH, don’t tell her), I have had a good career in the military that has spanned a quarter of a century.  Financially, I’m fine, I mean, not having children helps with the financial strain and I’ll speak to that, a little bit, later in this post.  Problem is, that financial security will disappear on day one of my retirement (t-70).

I’ve promised my wife that once I retire I will do whatever she would like, and I would.  After all, she has put up with every cockamamie plan or change of plan the military has put on us since we first met.  So far, she has said that she wants to stay where we are, gain a little more experience at her current position and start a family.  Her first request is easy, stay put, it’s her second request that I am failing at and that is starting to bother me and affect my confidence.  Question is, how do I fix that?  I know the simple answer is, “have some sex,” but I’m afraid it isn’t that easy.

With all these things going on, I still work for the Military and my first line leader is a toxic, idiot.  He’s about the same age and he out-ranks me but his experience is virtually the same and I would argue I’ve challenged myself as much, if not more, than he has in our careers.  That being said, I don’t want to get into a whole thing about who’s better but I do want to express my displeasure with the way he treats us here in the office.  It’s a, “do what I say, not what I do” culture and it sucks.  I’m at the point in a soldiers career where we set it to cruise (I have less than 2 months) and help where we can but primarily work on the next step.  The military has an entire organization designed for transitioning soldiers and they encourage retirees to start to fade away in order to give the organization we are leaving the opportunity to move forward without us and it gives us the chance to try to get ahead of the game as we move to our next life.

I often say that I feel like Brooks from the film, “Shawshank Redemption.”  The elderly, librarian who has spent nearly his entire life in prison when suddenly he is granted parole and set out onto the streets of the free world for the fist time in a long time.  He feels scared and alone and more importantly, he has no idea which way to go.  He’s lost and after a short time of struggle, Brooks gives up and takes his life.  Now, that’s a bit drastic but I certainly see how someone can become institutionalized after spending their life living a certain way, having their life managed for them.  It’s scary and I’m feeling it but I’ll sort it out.

I better get back to work before any of my bosses start to circle like a shark that smells fresh blood.  I’ve been doing this to long to have these feelings.  I’ve done it right for a long time, fuck these incompetent turds.  Let me retire and get on with my life.  I’m supposed to be doing something big.  I know it.

MC

Air Condition

As my eyes opened, still confused as to time and place, I felt a moisture on my face.  I had no idea what time it was but based on my current predicament I instantly knew that it was well after midnight.

My face was soggy and my pillow was equally soggy and that meant one of two things, either I was in the throes of a cold sweat from too much alcohol, which was pretty normal, or there was something devastatingly wrong with our homes HVAC.  The fact that our home was built at the turn of the century, led me to only one conclusion, the air condition was broken.  Now, I’m not talking about central air, that godsend from the glorious decade of the 70’s.  I’m talking about the fact that our home ,that was built at the turn of the century, not this most recent “turn of the century,” I’m talking about the “turn of the century” before this most recent one.  Our home was built in 1905 so the concept of “duct work” was unheard of and indoor heating and cooling was in it’s infancy.  Our house is heated with a boiler.  Yup, steam heats this old Victorian charmer, which means that there are pipes coursing through the walls of our home and so far, so good (wood is now being knocked on).

As for the conditioned air that is intended to cool us off when the swampy temperatures of southern Indiana arrive, we don’t have it.  Yup, no duct work equals no central air and, did I mention how hot it gets in the Ohio River valley in the summer?  It gets hot.  Damn hot.  And, it’s not just the heat that wears you out it’s the oppressive humidity that will quite literally, melt your face off.  So, no duct work and we have been relegated to “window bangers,” a term I had not heard until we moved into this oven.  Window bangers are window air conditioning units, designed to cool zones based on the square footage of a room or zone.  Basically, we put one in each bedroom and the dining room and, for the most part the units we have are all to small to cool the rooms we have them in which sucks.  Bottom line, our house is hot.

This morning at roughly 1 a.m. my wife and I both woke up at approximately the same time, actually I have no idea when she woke up.  You see, she doesn’t sleep but that’s a story for another time.  We were both up and we were both hot.  I checked the “window banger” and shockingly (sarcasm) it had stopped and pressing the power button achieved nothing.  My wife and I scrambled to fix the issue but nothing was working so we ran through two courses of action.  One, move out to our guest house, which is simply a room above our garage but after a significant upgrade, it’s quite a nice place and more importantly it has central air.  We now rent out the space on airbnb.com, look it up (shameless plug).  Or two, tough it out and crank up the fan.  Well, we’re both pretty lazy after midnight so we augered in and prepared for the miserable night we had ahead.

After five hours of tossing, turning, sweating and “airing it out”, I grabbed my phone and texted my bosses to inform them that we had had a catastrophic loss and I would need the entire day off from my duties at work.  I knew that not only would this request be approved (someone at work had just had this same issue last week so they had no choice but to let me stay home) but it would also cause one of my bosses an issue because he would be forced to cover down on my work, a thought that made me smile even in my sweaty, sticky state.  Having sent the text I rolled over and tried to find some more sleep.  My wife gave up and prepared for work.  She was out the door at about 9am and so it was up to me to fix the problem.

It wasn’t a huge issue because we had other “window bangers” out in our shed so simply changing it out would have been the easiest fix but no, not when I’m pissed.  When I’m pissed off at what I think is a simple issue that only happens to me, I become an idiot.  So, that being said, I took the broken air conditioning unit and carried it down the steps, as it leaked water, and out the back door.  As I stepped out the back door, I tripped and dropped the unit, crashing it into the cement walkway, sending pieces flying into the air.  Of course, that’s my version.  If you went to the camera’s you might see that the unit was thrown about ten feet (nothing to be proud of) and then crashed onto the concrete.  Either way, significant damage was done to the unit but to be certain, I decided to plug it in and BOOM, it worked.  Turns out that it had frozen throughout the night and as part of it’s self-recovery, it was thawing before it would restart.  Unfortunately for the unit, it decided to do this while we were sleeping and that’s a bad plan for survival of an appliance in my world.

I dressed myself appropriately and headed to the local hardware store to purchase a replacement and, as per usual, the little hometown store didn’t have anything that would meet my needs so, after making a comment about the shops inadequacies I stormed out and began the trek to the nearest “big” town in order to find what I needed.  Like a drug addict, I knew what I needed and I needed it now so I drove and I drove.  Finding the nearest super-hardware store, I found the unit that just might work however I feel that it will cause other issues, which you’ll hear all about when they happen.  I paid the $300 and drove and drove back to our home in the sweltering valley and attempted to install this new behemoth, which, of course, took me way to long.  It would’ve taken a normal guy about thirty minutes but because I missed an entire part of life that teaches a person how to take care of a home, it took me the better part of two hours.  That did not make me happy.  At about that time, my wife strolled in with a friend from work to have lunch.  Unfortunately, I had reached my peak of frustration with the installation process so I probably owe them both an apology.  My wife will let me know of my punishment when she gets home tonight, I’m sure.

Ugh!  I’ve been trying to find the right time to take a day off but this isn’t exactly how I had planned it but nevertheless, the new air conditioning unit is installed and working so we shall see.

It goes to show that life gets in the way of living sometimes and the more patient a person is and a person’s ability to work through the daily minutia of life, the faster a person can fine the happiness that so often eludes me.  I struggle with patients and because of it I often feel that I’m missing part of life.  I think writing down the things that bother me may help me reflect and that reflection might help me find the moments of happiness that seem to elude me.

Funny thing is, I have every reason to be happy and generally I feel happy, but apparently I don’t reflect that feeling outwardly which is something I need to work on too.  Man!  The list of things I need to work on is growing longer as I age and I always assumed the list would shrink, like a frightened turtle, as I reach decrepitude (I’m aware that’s not a word).

#SMH

MC

 

So This One Time, Part 2

The idea wasn’t mine. I swear! It was Mike’s. It was always Mike’s idea. No matter the adventure, no matter the risk, Mike was always scheming to have an adventure. Whether it be skirt chasing in Southeast Asia while doing God’s work, to protecting Moroccan virginity from the would be ravaging’s of a young ladies drunk uncle, Mike was up for a good adventure. No matter the adventure, no matter the location, if it meant a chance for fortune and glory, Mike and I were usually, all in. This night would be no different.

Mike and I were sitting at the restaurant at the Puerto Chico Marina in Fajardo. I think it was the marina. Could have been Puerto Del Rey Marina a little further down the road but I was drinking and all marina’s look the same after rum. Either way, our flip-flopped feet were propped up on the sea wall and we were kicked back, drinking rum while a beautiful local girl sang reggae tunes accompanied by her steel drum band. As we drifted away into the reggae music and Mike polished off another cigarette, a habit I was trying to quit, we began to share ideas about the big boat in the marina. The boat had no earthly place in this particular marina, or any marina along the east coast of Puerto Rico or anywhere else for that matter. It looked like a throw away boat. Something made and then left to sink to the bottom of the ocean once it was decided that it wasn’t what the builder had in mind, but there it was.

It was giant. Maybe 100 feet long and approximately 20 feet wide. The majority of the ship looked like a barge but it stood to high above the water to be a barge. It was rusted out and appeared as if it were set for demolition, perhaps to create an artificial reef off the coast. The only thing that stood out was the bow of the ship. It had been decorated in a way that would have made Robert Louis Stevenson proud (author of Treasure Island). There was a larger than life skeleton holding a spear, as if in anticipation of an attack, hanging from the bow. A figure head that was as ominous as it was enormous hung like a gargoyle from this rickety old craft. This ship made no sense. It looked like a pirate ship from the late 1700s had an affair with a salvage barge but it was strangely magnificent. Little did I know that by the end of the night, Mike and I would have quite the story to tell.

As the rum flowed the ship docked in the marina became the subject of conversation. At some point in the evening well before midnight, (I know this because the bar closed at midnight and when the story wraps up we were still able to order more rum before the bar closed. That’s how I tell time when I’ve been drinking) we had concocted a plan to get aboard that ghost ship and snap a few selfies. Why, you may be asking? Well, there is no good answer other than, we had to.

The plan was simple. Wade into the waters of the marina and commandeer another vessel to take us out to the ship, scurry up the rope ladder (yup, it had a rope ladder hanging off the side) and snap a couple of photos to include the always impressive, Leonardo and Kate, “I’m King of the world” scene from the movie Titanic. It wasn’t the best plan but it was simple and easy to remember. We did not, however, take into account any other variables that might disrupt our adventure and why should we? We were drunk, young and invincible. The fact that the ship was privately owned, didn’t matter. The fact that the anchor chain wasn’t properly fastened to the ship, didn’t matter and the fact that the current was attempting to pull the old ship out into the Caribbean, didn’t matter. It should have. IT ALL SHOULD HAVE. In our head the only thing that mattered was getting proof that we were on that ship. It would all fall on the success of phase one of our operation, boost a vessel (Boost in the slang dictionary means to steal). Without a way out to the ship the story couldn’t even start.

Mike was the first to make a move as he tossed his most recent cig into the water and set off down the beach. I quickly slammed my rum and followed him down the beach. After a few hundred feet we headed out to sea, and by “headed out to sea” I mean walk about twenty feet into waist deep water and board the first boat we can reach. Of course, the first boat we came to was a million years old and it appeared it had been used for fishing. It was about 20 feet long with a closed bow and covered, open stern. It was painted, many, many years ago in a very Caribbean yellow but had been worn by the sands of time. As Mike approached the steering wheel he slowly turned and looked over his shoulder with the grin I’ve seen several times and says, “Easier than I thought. Keys are in it.”

I reply, “The first part always works in our favor. It’s the second and third part that usually backfire and we end up trying to talk out way outta shit.”

And as slyly as his initial response was he retorts, “Hey! We’re off to a good start. Cut it out with those negative waves. Quick pull the anchor and get ready to make way.”

There was no way I was going to let that comment go, “Ready to make way? Calm down there Jack Sparrow. Twenty feet into the Caribbean and all of a sudden you’re a seasoned pirate of the high seas?”

To which he smiles, his crooked smile and simply responds, “Savvy?”

Mike can always make me laugh. He has been a friend since the turn of the century and while it’s been a bumpy friendship it has always been a good friendship. The story of Mike will be the next part of my story. I promise that it won’t take away from this story. It will only add to the humor and the almost mythological adventure that we have been thru during our time as friends.

So for now and until next time, we leave you, drunk on a random little fishing boat in a small marina on the east coast of Puerto Rico, planning the next step but at least, hey! The “keys are in it.”

THE RIVER WALK

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