Anti-social?

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I’m not sure if I’m becoming more anti-social or what. I have no desire to meet new people. I don’t know what to say to people, even neighbors, unless we already have at least one shared story. Maybe I need to carry a list of conversation starters.

If I come in on a conversation I can often join – I know a lot of useless shit about a lot of subjects, after all. But starting talking with somebody I don’t know? Nope.

Not going anywhere with this – just enunciating it for the first time.

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RIP Frank and Jeff

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I was going to write about Frank Spivey again, anyway, and then I saw another news article shared on Facebook. This was from the police report on the events. Apparently after he got back from the 25 Club he put on his Blues before grabbing his rifle and shooting up Eagle Trace (I was right about the apartment complex being where Jody used to live – I just couldn’t remember the name the other night).  He fired a total of 23 shots. When they finally had to take him down it was a shot to the chest. He didn’t die immediately. He crawled back in to his apartment. They sent in a robot to verify, then went in and tried to resuscitate him. Maybe if he hadn’t crawled back inside he would have lived. I just hope he didn’t suffer too much. Hopefully he went in to shock and wasn’t in pain. He was a good man.

It’s nice to see all the comments on the AMMO pages. Lots of positive memories from people who worked for him. I wish he knew what kind of an impact his life had had. Maybe it would have saved him. Maybe if people knew what kind of pain he was going through they could have reached out to him, showed their support. Like I said the other day, we didn’t work together for long, but he was a good man. You heard (then and hear now) nothing but good things about the way he lived his life. Godspeed, Frank!

There was one negative poster the other day. This was somebody who didn’t know him. He shared the story with the interview with Frank’s wife and called him a loser. Lots of people jumped to Frank’s defense. I can imagine a time (in the not so distant past) where I would have felt the same way. But knowing Frank, and knowing that he was a kind, gentle soul, I couldn’t feel that way at all. It’s so easy to judge when we don’t know the circumstances. I think I’ll try to remember that! If this wasn’t somebody I knew I would have forgotten the story within a few hours. As it is I’m having a lot of trouble letting it go. Maybe if Frank had been an asshole it would be easy to reconcile.

He was the second guy I worked with who’s killed himself (yes, technically the cop shot him, but he himself called it suicide by cop). Jeff Culp was my sponsor at my first base. That was Nellis, the same place where Frank died. We used to go to the 25 Club after work even.

Jeff Culp was a big country boy from Oklahoma. When he picked us up from the airport he had on a big belt buckle and a bright red, white, and blue shirt. I don’t know much about the particulars of his suicide. He was a TSgt by then, and I believe he was in Germany. He shot himself at work in the bomb dump. It may have been after hours. I don’t know if he was in a storage structure, an office, or one of the shops. I just don’t know what happened with Jeff. I don’t know if he and his wife were having problems (or even if they were still married) or what. It sucks drawing a blank. He was a good guy, too, and deserves the honor of being remembered.

I’ve never considered suicide to be a coward’s way out like many people do. Aside from the fact that many people who do it are at least temporarily unbalanced; I think it also takes a huge amount of nerve. It’s just so unnatural. But more than anything is the fact that you’re are forcing yourself into the biggest unknown of all. If you’re a person of faith you probably view suicide as one of the ultimate evils you can commit. Do you really want to piss off God right before heading out to meet him? And if you are an atheist, then is nothingness really better than anything you can hope for the rest of your life? And if you are one of the many who are unsure, do you want to take the risk? You can’t come back from it, you know.

I’ve contemplated it myself at various times in my life. But I’ve only come close once. And that was in 4th grade, when my best friend said he was going to kill himself when he got home, so I decided to also. I wrote a note. I ran a belt up through the light fixture in our bathroom. I then realized that I would most likely break the fixture, and how in the heck could I explain THAT? I’m sure if I’d really wanted to I could have found a place to do it. My heart just wasn’t in it. Suicide pacts are pretty stupid. And then he showed up to school the next day like nothing had even happened.

The other times it’s been more of a fleeting thought. “I could just drive my car off this cliff” and that sort of thing. I’ve never tried, and with each passing day I find it much less likely that I ever would. I have a good life now, and a wonderful fiancé, and life is good. I just wish Frank and Jeff had been able to hold out for a better day, too.

RIP, brothers.

Honeymoon in the South Pacific!

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So K just booked the flights for our honeymoon! We’re getting married on a Saturday this fall and we’ll be flying out that Tuesday, heading from Atlanta to LA and then on to Tahiti! We’ll be staying in an over-water bungalow in Moorea, most likely at the Hilton property. Private bungalow on the lagoon, snorkeling and swimming from our deck, a glass bottom spot in the living room to view the fish swimming under us (and they have lights to attract them at night), free use of kayaks, a private beach… not too bad if I do say so myself!

We’ll be in Moorea for about a week, flying out the following Wednesday, heading down to New Zealand! We’ll be there from Thursday to the following Thursday (the flight to Auckland will bring us over the date line). We’ll fly from Auckland to LA, LA to Atlanta, getting back on a Thursday night. That gives us a three day weekend to try and recover and get back to work on Monday. We’re both taking off the Thursday and Friday before the wedding, so we’ll be off over three weeks. We’re trying to decide what to do in New Zealand for that week. The country has two main islands. Since we’ll be landing on the north island, we may just stay there. There’s plenty to see and do, and we don’t want to feel so rushed we miss everything and have a crappy time (slim chance of that, methinks). We’ll probably be taking a scenic train ride down the east coast. Lots of things to see and do, so it’s hard to choose. But we can eliminate some based on the first part of our trip. We can go whale watching in Moorea (and swim with dolphins as well). Those are both options in New Zealand, but we may do them in Tahiti first. There is also a glacier to hike on or fly over on the south island. However, we want to do a trip to Alaska some time, and plan on doing the glacier trip there instead. I’m guessing we’ll see the caves with the glow worms, and hit a winery. My favorite wines are the Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, so a trip to the source may be worth it. There are lots of beaches there as well, but we’ll have just come from a week over the water. I think we’ll be playing part of it by ear.

We’ve both lived abroad before – I lived in England for 4 years while in the Air Force, and did 100 or so days in the Middle East the summer of 2002 as well. K did a semester abroad in France, and has traveled back to France many times (including last years’ trip when we got engaged) as well as many other places around the world (including Australia). We both are firmly of the belief that you can’t truly learn much about a country’s culture in a week. However, we will be able to see a lot, and enjoy ourselves. I think the Moorea portion will be mostly relaxation. Swimming, snorkeling (which I’ve never done), baking in the sun… The New Zealand portion may involve more hiking and walking and activities. We may need another week off just to recover…

R.I.P.Frank Spivey

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I used to work with Frank Spivey, and now he’s dead. He committed suicide by cop earlier this week. He was living in Las Vegas, recently retired from the Air Force. Watching a news clip, it seems he was depressed and overwhelmed about the difficulty he was having in finding a job. He’d asked his wife for a divorce, saying it might be easier for her and the kids, but wasn’t sure that’s what he really wanted.

He was outside his apartment with a rifle. It looks like the apartments where Jody used to live, just down the street from my Vegas apartment (I was stationed there in 1995 – 1996). He was shooting rounds into the air, and the police came. They tried to talk him down, but it didn’t work. When he started shooting into an apartment, which they thought may have people in it, they had no choice but to shoot him. I really feel for that poor cop, too. He did the right thing, but still has to live with this for the rest of his life…

I worked with Frank at RAF Lakenheath, in England. We were both working Storage. He was a Staff Sergeant at the time – he made Master Sergeant before he retired. I was probably a Senior Airman, but I put on Staff Sergeant a few months before I left there. I just remember him as a genuine, nice person. He treated others with respect, and really listened to them. He tried to get me to go to a Bible study or church group with him, but never pressed it when I declined.

The last 6 months I was in England I lived in the small village of Weeting. This was after my now ex-wife and the boys left and headed back to the States. Frank was also living in Weeting. I think he had just arrived. We sometimes rode to work together. I used to walk around Weeting, and passed his house a few times. He was always affable and friendly. And now he’s dead.

It’s funny, but one of my overriding memories of SSgt Spivey is his bad haircut. His hair was too long for the Air Force, and it was just basically cut back around his ears. A lot of us ended up doing that when we too broke to get a real haircut…

I hadn’t thought much of him over the years. And now he’s dead. Our time didn’t overlap much. And yet I still find myself thinking about him. Maybe because it seems so out of character. Or maybe because we’ve all had those suicidal thoughts. Leaving the military can be rough. Finding a new job can take many months. It’s a completely different world. AMMO (our career field) supports one another, pretty much without fail. You don’t find that in the civilian world, even after you find a permanent position. You definitely don’t have that during your job hunt. It can be depressing and heart-breaking to realize that the skills you picked up over the course of a career aren’t valued by the “real” world. Actually, you pick up many skills that really are valued, but many employers are too narrow-minded to see how those skills carry over: You’ve handled millions of dollars’ worth of accounts. You’ve supervised a wide variety of people in sometimes stressful situations. You’ve placed the well-being of your unit ahead of yourself. You’ve sacrificed.

Employers look at the job title, I think, and don’t see a correlation. No, you will not be building bombs, but you will be dealing with the same issues and struggles you’ve faced for years. It’s a shame, really. I know from personal experience that it’s hard to even format a resume coming from the military.

What drove Frank over the edge? Was he dealing with depression for years in the military? I didn’t see it, but I didn’t know him very long. Robin Williams always laughed and smiled – outward appearances can be deceiving. Was Frank only recently depressed, due to his job woes? Or was something like this bound to happen to him at some point? I wish I knew.

He was a good man. He was a kind man. He was a loving man. And now he’s dead.

Engaged in Paris!

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It was a beautiful spring day in Paris.  We had been wandering around all day.  We thought we were someplace else, but then K noticed ‘The Thinker’ over a wall and said “The Rodin museum!  Let’s go in!”

I’d been looking for the perfect time and place to propose.  I’d been carrying the ring around for a few days, but no moment had seemed right.  I’d planned on the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, seeing how as she loves gardens and, come on – Versailles!  However, it just wasn’t right.  The gardens were huge, but we never had any privacy.  I knew she didn’t want a big crowd at her proposal.  Also, there were very few spots with flowers, which is what I figured she would prefer.  But now we were at the Rodin Museum, and I figured that a museum would not work at all for a proposal.  Once we got out back in the gardens I began to change my mind.  At the far end of the lawn there’s a fountain with a sculpture of a father and his sons playing.  There were a lot of people there, many sketching the fountain.  But around the back side there was some privacy, and lots of greenery.  Perfect!  But, for some reason, I didn’t suggest we sit down.  I was kicking myself the whole time as we continued on the path up the side of the garden, looking at sculptures.  We went in the house, too.  From the upstairs window I could see down the lawn to the fountain, and kicked myself again.  Where would I find a better spot?  In beautiful gardens, behind a lovely house, with a few beautiful buildings in view over the wall?  How was I going to top that?  And I had blown it!

After we came out of the house K suggested that we go back through the garden.  I don’t know why she said it, but this was my reprieve!  We went all the way around, stopping here and there to see some flowers.  As we passed behind the fountain, I saw that the chairs I’d been planning on using were now occupied.  As we went just a tiny bit further, an open bench appeared.  I suggested that we sit down for a bit.  We talked a bit, and I pulled out the ring box without her noticing.  I said “K, this has been a wonderful day, and I’d like you to make it a perfect day by agreeing to become my wife.  Will you marry me?” She’d seen what I had in my hand, and stopped breathing.  She started to tear up.  She couldn’t speak, but hugged me and kissed me.  I said “Does that mean yes?”

It did.

We sat for a long time, just enjoying the moment and savoring every second.  We took a few pictures of us and the ring.

We eventually continued our tour, but the rest was anti-climactic.  There was a Maplethorpe exhibit, and we left through the gift shop and headed out on our merry way.  And the rest is history!

My return to writing

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I must be afraid. I started the 500 word writing challenge way back in August, 6 months ago. I missed only one day out of the first thirty. Now it’s the 53rd day of the New Year, and I’m writing for just the second time. February 22nd. The only other day I wrote this year was on February 9th. Well, at least I’m writing in the same month! Beats the hell out of January!

What is the fear? I think it’s not that I can’t write. I know I can put words together well. But I think it may be that I can’t write like I WANT to write. I don’t know if I can write consistently for 300 pages or so. I want to write a novel. The longest thing I’ve ever written is probably around 20 pages worth, and that would have been term papers for college. Research papers, not exactly original content through and through. Maybe I’m afraid of the work? It’s a lot of work writing like that every day. Maybe I’m afraid of the rejection of my work? I think partially, I’m afraid of my own rejection of it. Any time I’ve written a story longer than 2 or 3 pages I find something wrong with it. Usually I feel like I just tied it up too quickly. I’m also afraid I can’t write good dialogue. I find it too forced and stilted. I may be my own worst critic.

I don’t know what to write. I remember when I first started the challenge I just assumed that by the end of 30 days I’d have an idea for a novel, and would almost assuredly be started on it. Now I’m just… lost? I don’t know. I feel better when I write, but I just won’t make myself do it. I never finish writing and say “That was a waste of time”. During this process I’ve learned more of what I like and don’t like. I like REAL language. That must be why I like Hemingway and Elmore Leonard. Hemingway wrote the way people talk. There really is no need for a lot of verbosity. I remember reading an article by Leonard where he mentioned an author (I can’t remember her name) and how he had to stop and go get a dictionary to look up a word as she was making a simple description. I think many people mistake using unusual words with good writing. Don’t only use one syllable words though! But use a word that people know, if it will suffice.

“It is one thing to speak much. It is another to speak well”! I need to remember that…

Whenever I’ve had to write something longer, even 20 pages, I’ve mostly done the actual writing in one sitting. I’d get my research, string stuff together; maybe even spend a few different days on my rough draft, but when I actually wrote it, it was almost always in one sitting. Once I switched from typewriters to computer I usually did my editing as I wrote, even, so there wasn’t a rough draft. Just me and a computer (along with some junk food and a Coke or three).

So where does this leave me? Does acknowledging a fear mean I’m going to conquer it? I hope so! How do I not keep going back and tearing it down as I try to build it up, though? I can do these 500 word dailies – part of the process is just writing, do not edit! Hence the typos (yeah, that’s my excuse…). A book requires editing. A book requires focus. A book probably requires dialogue…

And…

If I don’t start I will never know!

I’ve been letting my whole life slide, lately. No going to the gym. No writing. No looking for a new job. No practicing my French. Just…whatever. Kind of sad. No wonder I’m getting sick more often these days.

Tomorrow I will write again. And the day after. And I will keep writing every day, because THAT is who I am!

Growing up Iowan

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I had a pretty damn good childhood, and maybe I should acknowledge my parents more for that.  We were never rich, but I never went without necessities.  I also had plenty of toys, a bike, sports equipment, and whatever I needed.  The best thing I ever received was their attention, though.

Before I reached school age, my mom would stay home with me.  I watched Sesame Street every day.  If she stepped out for a bit she always asked me if The Count had been on.  He was our favorite.  Also Kermit doing the news, Super Grover, and the Cookie Monster (because who doesn’t love cookies?).

My dad came home for lunch pretty much every day.  I’d oftentimes hide first, and he’d spend the first few minutes of his lunch time looking for me.  Usually it wasn’t too difficult to find me.  I’d probably be in the bath tub or behind their bed.  Yet he always managed to look surprised that he’d actually been able to find the master hide and go seek player!

Sometimes mom and I would bring him donuts at work.  I remember being able to bring them in by myself!  It made me feel so big and responsible.  He once gave me an old key he said was for his work building.  Now that made me feel important!  This was when Asher Motors was in the spot that later became Sernett’s department store (which is gone now, too).

Mom and Betty and I (and some others I think but can’t remember who) would sometimes go out to the north shopping center (the Southpark Mall wasn’t in existence yet) to the café for breakfast.  They had the most amazing cinnamon rolls!  Huge!  I guess not necessarily cinnamon – I remember lots of caramel on them.  Yummy, sticky deliciousness!

I didn’t learn to appreciate these things until years later.  Staying home with small children is hard!  Even if they’re behaving perfectly (as I’m sure I always did, duh!), it’s hard as an adult to not have another adult to talk to.  Even us incredibly bright and articulate (and humble, I might add) children don’t converse the same as adults.  There’s probably only so many conversations an educated, working adult wants to have about Scooby Doo or the arcane rules to some game you just made up.  Hmm, bad example – anybody would be glad to talk about Scooby Doo for hours on end, I’m sure!

They made sure I knew how to read and write.  I can’t remember how many times I wrote “Danny”.   It was never made into a chore.  Learning was made fun.  I guess that’s the advantage to having an awesome teacher as a mom!  I loved any book with my name in the title.  “Danny and the Dinosaur” was a favorite for years.  We also had “Where the Wild Things Are” and many of the Clifford the Big Red Dog books.  Clifford rocked.  And Little Bear.  As I got older we spent a lot of time at the library.  Found another Danny book – “Slide, Danny, Slide”.  Baseball, ya know.  Football was always the king of sports, but I never found a book called “Tackle, Danny, Tackle”…

Mom and Dad always included me in little things.   Maybe carry some small things when dad was going flying (model airplanes), or “help” mom with some little chore.

I had it pretty good, and I think I’m so much better off for it.  I love them both more than I could ever say!