photo proof that I was once young / Veterans Day letter from your old Army buddy Joe Shloblowdowski / intense fucking & better music during wartime
Proof that I was once young. That's moi when I was a draftee in the U.S. Army during some Asian war whose name I seem to have forgotten, maybe a reader knows the name of the old war and can Leave a Comment and remind me. The war took 58,000 young American lives, they all came back to the USA in flag-draped coffins, and it just went on and on and on and on and on. We lost.
The faux poster behind me refers to an MOS -- Military Occupation Specialty, a code for your Army job. 11B ("Eleven Bravo") was the MOS you most did not want to end up with (unless you're suicidally insane): 11B = Light Weapons Infantryman.
I was a 71Q (Seventy-one Quebec), an MOS so rare and obscure that when I got my orders, my officers had to go back to headquarters to look it up in The Great Book of All MOSes. They had never seen one of me before.
HINT: Al Gore and I had the same MOS.
Letter to my old Army Pal in the USA state shaped like the palm of the mitten of the right hand.
My Old Army Buddy Name (OABN) is Joe Schloblodowski. Once a year the phone rings and a confused wife answers and some guy says, "Hey, Mrs. Plodkin, this is Art's old Army Buddy Joe Schloblodowski! It's Veterans Day! Is Art there?"
Horrible horrible day -- and wrapping it in a gorgeous Indian Summer day in my beautiful new house in the middle of the Great Boreal Deciduous Forest, with my new polydactyl pussycat Stuart Wallace Darnley (Cynthia actually had an uncle Wally with all those names), isn't doing a damn thing to make it any less horrible.
Girls and women struggle through life accumulating evidence that their only reason for existence is to reproduce, and that surely must be an unpleasant and confusing lifelong pain in the ass; they have always had my sympathy, and my cooperative efforts to help them with their aspirations beyond reproduction. I like to tutor them in calculus so they can become engineers.
They should try our gender, and our magic Prom Night -- we seem to exist to be put on ships or airplanes and sent to the far side of the world to try to murder strangers while the strangers are trying to murder us.
Yesterday in front of the supermarket Cynthia encountered an Old Vet -- he had all the proper identification, he was the McCoy -- and the only thing she could find in her pocket was a $5 bill. She gave it to him, he was quite startled, and he took her hand and kissed it. (I think she would have preferred a simple "Thank you, Ma'am.")
I actually went to a small-town Veterans Day parade during the Clinton years, I was shacked up with a woman who had a 4-year-old son, and we thought he might like to see/hear the cannon and the bugles and the blank rifle fire. (The cannon terrified him.)
For myself I thought a VD in which I did not cower and cringe in the basement might have some magical power to heal me and bring me some closure and all that kind of theraupeutic Mumbo-Crappo. Clinton was pretty good about not starting Big Wars, and the Little Wars he bumbled into were short, he clearly had a Vision that was allergic to American wars that just went on and on and on and on. So it seemed I might be able to survive a small-town simple VD during peacetime.
It was okay. There was a lot of genuine sincerity. And they wheeled out a gentleman I knew, funny old geezer who'd flown Spads or Fokkers or Whatevers in World War One, he must have been in his 90s, and he loved to wear his leather flying cap and goggles and scarf and the whole outfit. My buddy at the church shelter was a deacon and said the geezer used to regale him with stories about being shot down behind enemy lines in France and spending a month hiding in farmhouse basements drinking beaujolaise and having lots of sex with French farm girls. War Is Hell, and if you're lucky, Fun.
But I'm cowering in the basement again. It's not peacetime. And these are just going on and on and on and on. I don't think Obama will have the balls to just look at the folks and say, "Okay, we're out of here now, I'm bringing everybody home, let the Asians work it out amongst themselves, we'll send a check every Ramadan and wish everybody good things."
If I hear one more American citizen say, "Well, it's different for these guys, there's no draft, they all knew what they were getting themselves into," watch for my photo on Page One as the State Police lead me away.
I wouldn't have minded if we'd learned something. Outside of the dread, terror and fear, it was a spectacularly interesting experience.
And in wartime, Death is so close, that young people want to fuck a lot more, they want to cling to each other ferociously much more, to try to conquer or dispel or forget about Death with fucking and Life and unplanned pregnancies. Everything they were taught in church and Scouts and Hygiene Class, they just stop caring about while the war rages.
And the music was so much better. (Apologies to Rap Boy, who still owes me some music and graphic novels. Please also tell him that if I ever catch him with a recruiter's business card in his pocket, I am driving to Ann Arbor to beat the living shit out of him, and I can do it, too, I just found my aluminum baseball bat.)
It is possible I hold the US Army record for wearing my uniform less than any other soldier in American history. My Top [First Sergeant] at Fort Benning ordered me never again to try to sew anything on my uniform by myself, and he also told me that if the entire United States Army were assembled in one huge formation, and he could stand on a hill and see every soldier, he could spot me in an instant.
I don't know what's wrong with me, that I think young lives are valuable, and worth protecting, that I think young men and young women have a right to try to get older and find love and become what they dream of becoming. I'll never be a Good American thinking this way. I'm a disgrace. This should have been obvious to you and everyone in Corpus Christi even then.
Sometimes Cynthia warns me of anniversaries, like her dad's passing, and tells me she may be very sad that day. I started to tell her that this might be a rough day for me, and she said she knew what day it was, and was way ahead of me. I do so hate this holiday and the anger and fury it cooks up in my addled personality.
I see the television images, and except that color and Hi-Def have replaced B&W, I see myself again, and you, and B******, I see us all again, wondering what condition we'll be in when our Time in Service ends, if we'll still have our genitalia, if we'll still have some semblence of emotional and psychological stability, if we can go Home and re-shuffle ourselves into our interrupted lives, if our old friends will embrace us or cringe as if we were lepers.
On hand today I have Valium -- I'll start with half a yellow and hope that suffices -- and in January Massachusetts voters decriminalized 1 oz. or less of marijuana, just like Ann Arbor, and I have some very nice stuff. If by mischance I should get popped with it, I'll pay my $100 fine and frame the ticket and hang it on my office wall. No jail anymore, no criminal record.
A few years ago I read that marijuana was becoming popular with the troops again -- so they could flunk their drug tests and be dishonorably discharged [and get the fuck out of Iraq or Afghanistan, or avoid being sent there]. I'll bet that when push comes to shove, a lot of the flunkees get a stern lecture from the sergeant major, an Article 15, and are ordered to return to the barracks and not do it again.
If these wars ever end, can we get together and throw some sort of raucous party? Your kids, my cats, our wives, B******, B******'s lovely son R***** -- he's at U-Mass down the road, blossoming into a very talented classical woodwind player -- and I just treated him and a pal to a real swell Korean dinner, it was a treat to spend a few hours with him. He has better things to do at his age than be bored for hours by Joe Schloblodowski, but I think he was curious about me, and I was certainly curious to see what kind of creature B****** produced. He's a very nice, very interesting, talented creature, like your creatures. Long rich lives to them all.
Well, this maudlin letter is Your Fault, I was planning to hide in the basement all day, but I checked my e-mail first. Thanks for saving all those remarkable negatives. Send me any of them you like -- I can use them as documentary evidence that I once was young, and frightened, and miserable, and had lots of young, frightened, miserable, worried friends.
As the beautiful old Irish fiddle air sings:
SP5 Joe Schloblodowski
[U.S. Army, 1969 - 1971]