De’ja Vu

I took my son Kyle on a trip in 2005. We visited several states including Oklahoma, and while stopped for an ice cream at Braum’s on North 32nd Street in Muskogee, I turned and was hit with a case of de’ja vu.  

I had been in the area before but couldn’t figure out when or why.

As I sat in the ice cream shop, looking out the window, it dawned on me: the Western Motel, jus’ a few the yards up the street, is Grandpa’s old motor-inn. It was all I could do to keep from busting a seam to tell someone.

Lucky for me, Kyle is both a polite and patient listener.

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Mighty the Mouse

The ward was squared away and I was sitting around bored, waiting for something—anything really—to happen. My boredom gave way to a tiny, but quick movement in the corner of the tent.

As I focused on the area of movement, I realized I was looking a small field mouse. I grabbed my empty coffee cup and dashed over to catch the little rodent.

To my surprise, the mouse didn’t run away. Instead it moved towards me, its little nose twitching in interest. I put my hand down and it climbed on to it without fear.

That’s when I was struck by a great idea.

The next day, during my spare time, I started training my new pet, which I named, “Mighty.” The training didn’t take long as I had only one singular trick in mind.

By the second day I was certain Mighty was good to go. So taking the long strand of wire with the mouse attached at the end, I took Mighty for a walk around the fire-base.

Mighty was an immediate hit with the other Marines. They thought I was the smartest SOB in country because I was able teach a mouse to walk on a leash.

Within a few minutes I was being begged to let this Gyrene or that Jarhead walk Mighty. Being the ever-enterprising corpsmen, I told those who asked, it would cost them five-bucks for the pleasure.

By the end of the day I had a couple hundred dollars in my pocket. The cash would go a long way when supplies ran low or were slow in coming. I also noticed over the week that sick-call numbers dropped by three or four men a day.

It was funny to watch those big, ol’ tough, burley manly-men taking turns walking that itsy-bitsy mouse around the fire-base. Some of the men actually argued with one another to see who’d get the next turn.

It was day six since I had discovered the mouse, when the base was hit by mortar and small-arms fire. Somewhere in the ensuing melee, Mighty disappeared never to be seen again.

Needless to say the boy’s were disheartened by the loss of Mighty the Mouse. I jus’ wish I’d more time. I think I could have house broke him.

Lessons from the Sandpit

When I arrived at boot camp, I was five foot-seven and about 160 pounds. The majority of others were a good four to six inches taller, 20 to 30 pound heavier and younger.

Needless to say I felt intimidated.

And while I only had to complete an indoctrination course, my biggest fear was failing and not receiving my EGA pin. I was also worried that I’d run into some so much stronger than me, that I’d be humiliated in some way

One early afternoon, the DI’s ran us out and into the “sandpit,” and handed us pugilist sticks. A stick as it is called is about three-and-a half-feet long with heavily padded ends. They weighed about 10 pounds, but by the time I finished, they would feel more like 100 pound.

We were outfitted in an old football helmet to protect our brains, or what little we had and a set of football-style shoulder pads. I was so small they could not be tightened up properly, while the others guys had to have their pads loosened a bit.

The exercise as it is known was to be man-to-man and hard charging. The outcome was decided by the “best of three” rounds. I knew I was in trouble when the guy I was facing off against was well over six-feet tall and out weighed me by at least 40 pounds.

His biceps were bigger than my head was round. Unfortunately, these massive arms were all I could focus on at first.

At the first whistle, I hardly saw what happened to me. All I know I felt like a rag-doll on a string. This came from repeated blows to chin, then top of head, right side of the head chin, top of head, left side of the head, until I hit the deck.

As quickly as I found myself lying in the sand, I scrambled to my feet. I could hear the DI’s screaming at me to “kill” as I waited for the next whistle.

When it sounded, I charged my opponent, only to find myself in the same situation. I was being beaten without mercy. What seemed worse, was I couldn’t defend myself, from his blows which rained down on me rapidly.

Once again, I found myself in the sand, this time face down. Only it was more difficult to get to my feet as fast as I had the first time.

My head was swimming and I was out of breath. But slowly, I did manage to get to my feet. This was time I used to access my situation.

It didn’t look good. This the exact situation I had been afraid of from day one.

When the whistle blew for the third time, I charged out. Instead of facing my opponent head on, I threw my stick at him like a spear. My opponent ducked to his right and I grabbed his stick with both hands.

True to human nature he pushed me backwards. I purposely flopped on my back. I placed a boot into his gut and flipped him over my head. He landed hard into the sandpit.

His momentum, as well as mine, carried me up and overtop of him. I had his stick in my hands and was in the process of using one end of it as a club.

The whistle must have blown and I didn’t hear it. I was still slamming the padded end of the stick into his helmet when a couple of DI’s bodily lifted me off my opponent.

In short order I had three or maybe four DI’s, surrounding me, screaming for not following instruction. They wanted to know, “What do you think you were doing?”

Amid the confusion I heard myself say, “I wasn’t thinking, I was adapting and overcoming, Sergeant!”

Suddenly it grew quiet and I figured I was in for the worst of it. Instead, I was told to fall in formation. There was no further mention of the incident by the DI’s.

And while I would never win a “best of three” stick-match, that day I learned fear is good, but it shouldn’t rule one’s attitude.

Weeked Dig

My son and I went for a weekend dig. It was a university-sponsored event and he found a Chinese coin dating to the late 19th century.

The head of the operation said that he could keep the find since they had over a thousand of them from the site. My little man was very proud of himself.

It seemed to spark an interest in archeology for him as he jabbered all the way home about this method of digging verses that method of digging. To me I only know of one way of digging, so I was actually learning something here.

Later that night he asked if I had a chain so that he might put his coin around his neck. I gave him the chain from my old military dog tags. The following day I had to take him home to his mother.

Four days later I picked him up and I noticed he wasn’t wearing his coin on his neck. I waited until he was in the car and we were out of the driveway before I asked where it was.

He told me that his mother didn’t want him wearing it any more because it didn’t represent Jesus. I instantly felt angry, but I managed to keep my mouth shut for the sake of my son.

Later that evening, he and I sat down and had a little discussion. He wanted to know if wearing the coin around his neck was the same as ‘idol worshiping?’ I told him that it was not.

I explained that idol worshiping was when a person starts ‘putting’ something before Jesus, like money, work, or even worry. This is when my son’s understanding and wisdom knocked my socks off.

He looked at me and asked, “Then a golden cross full of diamonds could be an idol even though it represents Jesus, right?”

I had to sit and think about that for a moment. I answered, “Yes.”

Then he reminded me, “After all the original cross was made by man.”

Fired for the Truth

Daniel found himself in the middle of one political story after another. He interviewed statewide candidates as well as local candidates. Daniel was viewed as “somewhat of a political guru,” by the other reporters in the office.

He wrote articles about each politician and each campaign using the information that the candidate’s handler emailed him or he researched a news wire story, working it into a local angle. One such campaign was a judicial seat in Sparks between a Republican attorney and a former city mayor and a devout Democrat.

The former mayor’s handlers had issued several press releases during the course of the political season. These were emailed directly to Daniel and he gleaned from them ideas for new stories involving the candidate and his opponent.

The set back was the attorney, who refused to return Daniel or any other reporters’ telephone call. Therefore when it came press time, Daniel would write an article about the ex-mayor and the attorney’s name appeared in the last paragraph that usually read that he was “unavailable for comment at the time of publication.”

The lawyer called and left messages on both Daniel’s cell-phone and office phone, complaining about what he believed was “lopsided coverage.” Daniel returned two of the four calls.

“Sir,” Daniel replied, “I’ve called you for comment and never heard back. Our deadline in 4 p.m. and if I don’t hear from you I can’t quote you. Do you have another phone number where you can be reached immediately?”

Daniel never heard from the attorney again.

Then one afternoon the papers editor told Daniel that the newspaper would not carry another article about the former mayor. She said, “I think we’re being too one-sided about our coverage on this campaign.”

“Okay,” Daniel said. “But can I ask what prompted this action?”

“I received a letter from his opponent complaining that he has hardly been mentioned and the ex-mayor is getting loads of press from us,” she said. She paused and continued, “I looked it up and every story has been written by you.”

She didn’t say anything about the article Daniel had written about the lawyer when he announced his candidacy for the judgeship. Daniel thought that it was odd that the editor would overlook such a detail.

“Can I see the letter?” Daniel asked.

“No, I think it would be better left alone,” she answered.

The following day Daniel opened his email and found that she had forwarded the letter to him. He wasn’t surprised by the act since the editor was known to change her mind.

The letter was a full page and was filled with varying complaints leveled at Daniel. As he read it, Daniel felt a sense of betrayal because the editor felt inclined to allow the newspapers goals to be swayed by a political candidate rather than stand up for her reporters and staff.

Then he read the final paragraph that called Daniel “a puppet,” of the former mayor. Daniel realized that he was being allowed to look-like the scapegoat for the attorney’s public relations difficulties.

It felt like a burr had suddenly become caught between the saddle blanket and saddle on Daniel’s skin. He forwarded the emailed letter to his personal email address.

“I’ll deal with this later,” he said to himself. Daniel continued with his daily assignments.

Hours later and back at home, Daniel took the letter and posted it on his personal website. He also wrote a response to it, defending himself and the news staff against the label of puppet.

In the mean time Daniel worked feverishly to uncover several websites that seemed bent on defaming politicians using lies and vulgar humor. He had nearly cracked the top offender and was prepared to expose the designer and author of one of these sites when he got a call from the editor.

“You had no right to steal that letter from my email,” she accused Daniel. “I’m changing my email password and locking you out of the system.”

Daniel was stunned.

For nearly three months he had tried to get her interested in his website. He even pointed out that their competition had sites that were attached directly to their newspaper. Daniel told her that he thought the paper should look at the same design.

“Suddenly she decides to read my blog and now she’s pissed off at me,” he said to himself as he hung up the telephone.
Her action was puzzling to Daniel, and then he found out why she had decided to read his website. The editor had been prompted to read it by the very person whom he was preparing to expose as the writer of so many nasty websites.

This person was the mastermind behind a political action committee, which once a politician paid for an endorsement from the Committee; he would go to work designing a nasty campaign aimed at discrediting that Politian’s opponent.

Daniel had even proved that the same man had committed fraud by creating a credit card account in another man’s name.

Daniel was even collaborating with Nevada’s Secretary of State, who along with his daughter had been a personal victim of the man’s attacks.

“It’s just that nobody wants to use his name,” he had told Daniel. He added, “Because he is a creep that will continue attacking a person until he nearly destroys them. He’s a ‘Right-wing Internet Jihadist.’”

In one of the several emails that Daniel and the so-call right-wing Jihadist had exchanged, he warned Daniel that an e-mail attack was eminent. He said Daniel should “be prepared to explain things to his editor.”

“You may want to try and start working on damage control before it gets real messy,” the man wrote. He continued, “Just trying to give you a heads up. I would hate to see you go the way of Dan Rather.”

Naively Daniel didn’t take the warning seriously. It was less than a week after Daniel was warned that he found himself in the publisher’s office once again.

“This is nothing personal,” the publisher stated calmly, “but I create enough problems of my own without having to deal with the ones you create. That’s why we’re letting you go. I don’t want to lose my job because you can’t hold your temper.”

Daniel didn’t say anything. There was nothing for him to say.

He had seen it coming the moment his editor had called him. It was even more evident when she had spoken to him about the letter during a private meeting the day before.

He told her that he was standing up for himself and everyone in the newsroom.
Daniel said, “I know that I’m not a puppet and I don’t think anyone here is a puppet.”

The editor disagreed. “We’re all puppets!” she exclaimed.

From that minute onward, Daniel had a clear understanding of the position his editor was taking. Daniel had already taken steps to protect the newspaper and himself by deleted his website, making certain that the man and his cronies were unable to “lift” anymore material from what he had written.

The newspaper’s editor added, “I don’t know how we’re going to stop a lawsuit from occurring. Anything over two million dollars will bankrupt this paper.”

Still Daniel said nothing.

Instead he slowly rose up out of the chair he was sitting in and exited the office. He walked over to his desk and started clearing it off. As he did so he chuckled to himself and thought, “Of all the things that I could have been fired for, I get fired for telling the truth about a lying politician.”

Later Daniel would learn the editor was involved in the Washoe County Republican Party and was president of the Women’s’ Republican Committee.

He suddenly understood where the truth lay in what had happened to him.

Sidewalk Ambush

It was a nice weekend to visit the City by the Bay. Kyle and I were looking forward to touring Ripley’s and the wax museum. He had never been to either and I really wanted him to see the places.

As we headed down the sidewalk, we were also doing some window shopping, talking about having lunch at one of many restuarants along the street. Neither one of us were paying any attention to the shrubbery in front of us.

Without warning, a guy jumped up and out at us. He was using a large piece brush to camoflage his position. And as he jumped towards the two of us, he screamed out a roar.

My reaction, embarrassingly, was to throw a punch at him. My fist struck him squarely in the forehead and he fell backward off the sidewalk.

Suddenly, there was laughter, sheers and clapping all around us. Even the guy who had scared Kyle and me got up laughing.

Under my breath, I muttered a few dirty words and called him a name, then walked away. What really ticked me off was the fact he was being tipped for what he call theatrics.

All I got out of it was bruised knuckles.

Connecting a Memory

Its jus’ a fragment of memory, that’s all. So I have had to rely on what my parents told me after I brought it up to them one evening years ago.

Both say I wasn’t even two-years old yet, so they were astonished that I could recall even the smallest of detail. They had to tell me what it was I was remembering.

My God-father had bought a little red wagon for me and we were out front of the apartments that my folks rented in the little French town. It was a three-story, red-brick building with a large patio area.

The patio was finished with a set of three steps leading to a driveway. I was climbing on the wagon as my dad and God-father were talking.

In the small bit of memory I have regarding this I recall being picked up because I was crying. I was at the bottom of the steps with the wagon on top of me.

Dad told me that the wagon rolled backwards off the steps and I tumbled down with it. He said both he and my God-father rushed to pick me up.

The arms that lifted me were dressed in a light khaki-brown long sleeved shirt. Dad told me that was what my God-father was wearing as he was in his Air Force uniform.

What happened from there I don’t have any memory regarding. My parents said that I stopped crying after a while and wanted to continue playing with the wagon.

Such fragmented memories can be hard to figure out.