Forty Years Ago Today

I was doing a walking patrol at work in the early AM this morning, with jacket and ear mitts and gloves and knit cap on, thinking that if the weather got much colder in coming days I'd have to dig out my old woolen long underwear left from when I was in the Army.

And that was when I realized that exactly forty years ago was my first day of that three-year enlistment in the US Army.  January 23rd, 1972.

It was an interesting three years.  I had some of the best experiences of my life, and some of the worst.  All my service was at Stateside posts.  I never saw combat.  But there was one period when things got stressful enough I would have jumped at a chance to go to Vietnam rather than stay where I was.  (I got lucky, and ended up in a different company at the same post, with different people and doing a different job, and did pretty well the rest of my enlistment.)

The deep tint on my rose-colored glasses faded a lot during those three years.  I met a lot of good men, and some outstanding ones.  But it was also the first time in my life that I met, and lived and worked with, bad men, men who would probably have ended up in prison in civilian life.  Some of whom were in the Army because enlisting was offered as an alternative to prison, and a few who went to military prison in the end anyway.

But the worst was learning that... well, when I went into the Army it was with the belief that officers were the cream of the crop.  They were smarter and wiser and better trained for and more suited to leadership than us ordinary grunts.  And you know what?  Some of them were.  And then I learned, from harsh experience (this was part of that very bad period I mentioned above), that there were some officers who put the welfare of their careers ahead of the welfare of their men.  Hell, ahead of the lives of their men!  It was... disheartening.

But overall... overall, it was a positive experience.  I learned I had more strengths and abilities than I'd thought.  That was a good thing.  And I learned what some of my weaknesses were, and are.  And that was a good thing, too.

For years after getting back into civilian life, I had the thought in the back of my head that if things got rough in the real world, I could re-enlist in the military.  Sometimes that seemed like a tempting thought.  And then one day I found myself taken quite aback when I realized, "Holy crap, I'm too old to re-enlist anymore!"

(photo above from Library of Congress, via Flickr Commons)


Changes In The Works

For the last three years, I've been working as a security guard ("security officer" if you want to make it sound a little more important) during graveyard shifts at an upscale shopping/office development in Scottsdale.  The company I technically work for had a contract to provide security there, but for most of those three years the actual management of the development has said they intend to move to providing their own in-house security team "in a few months".

Much to almost everyone's surprise, that's actually going to finally happen, on February 5th.  Most of the current security personnel are being offered the opportunity to be hired on as part of the "new" security team, but a sizeable proportion (including me) have decided to pass on that offer and try to find new positions elsewhere. 

(At times over those three years, there have been issues with the workplace that have left me feeling very frustrated and unsatisified.  Particularly recently, and I'd already told my shift supervisor earlier this month that if things didn't change soon I'd be leaving.  The move to an in-house team isn't a move that will solve those problems, so....)

I'll probably be offered a position at one of the other properties my company has contracts with, but it may be a while before an opening becomes available.  So in the meantime, I'm already starting to send out resumes and applications to other companies and places.  With three-plus years experience and some good references, I should be able to land somewhere fairly soon.  It would also be nice to end up someplace with better pay and/or better hours and/or a shorter commute and/or a better working environment.

I'm also better off than some of the people who are leaving, because I have my retirement checks from the Postal Service and Hilde's disability that cover most of our monthly expenses.  So the idea of being without that extra paycheck for a while isn't as scary as it might be otherwise.

(No, I won't actually work for books.  But I'm willing to work for that extra paycheck that allows Hilde and me to buy books.  You can get the t-shirt that image comes from at the Unshelved store.)


Weird referring sites

One of the things Blogger Stats keeps track of is the "referring sites" where people can find links to various posts here.

One of the recent such was a hemorrhoid treatment site in France.  Say what?  To the best of my memory, I've never mentioned hemorrhoids here, ever.Or ever had any thoughts to write such a post.

But hey, if you have to mention hemorrhoids:


Writing: the middle is the beginning

More on my renewed efforts at writing.  Here's a brief excerpt from the current work-in-progress, tentatively titled "Alice In Zero":

"There are no wonders in this world," said the Zero King.

"Oh, sir," Alice replied.  "I believe you are much mistaken. I have met a cat that consumes itself in fire, and is born again. I have spoken with eagles, and they have spoken back. I have sailed with pirates on a sea of mirrors, and fished for the reflections of shadows. I have outplayed the Crooked Man with his own deck of cards, and won an Unbreakable Promise. And, sir, you yourself live in a palace carved from a unicorn's horn a full mile high."
 (Not, as is probably obvious, from the beginning of the story.  But sometimes you start writing from the middle, or the end, to know where the beginning will come from.  I know, now, where the beginning begins, and where the end will end.)



Like most people, any New Year's Resolutions I make tend to be better in concept than execution.

But the Ur-resolution, which would pretty much apply to any more specifc resolution I'd make, would be to try and become more organized and effective.  To Get Shit Done, Quicker.  Like, oh, writing and posting about New Year's Resolutions on January 1st, when it would be most pertinent.

Two specific goals I'd like to accomplish this year:
  1. To get back into fiction writing.  I'm trying to write a little bit every day, hopefully several pages, but something, even if only a paragraph.  (So far, so good, on that.)
  2. Get my backyard garden reestablished.  At present, it's devolved back into bare dirt, weeds, and grass.
One of the big time and energy commitments the past several years has been acting as personal representative (aka executor) for our friend Anne's estate.  That should finally be resolved and concluded by sometime in the spring, which will be a considerable relief. 

(Anne died without a will.  Write a friggin' will, people!  Don't make the whole mess of dying even messier for your family and friends.)


The Santorum Surge

In the last few days leading up to the Iowa presidential caucuses, candidate Rick Santorum has had a sudden surge in his support.  One news source accredited this to his "impeccable conservative credentials."  As a public service, I thought I'd translate that bit of Newspeak into plain English:

  • "impeccable":  bat-shit crazy
  • "conservative":  bat-shit crazy
  • "credentials":  bat-shit crazy

You're welcome.