R.I.P.Frank Spivey

Standard

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!

Standard

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

Standard

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!