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Monday, September 10, 2007

Seeing the Capybara

Now Paintball, for those of you who might not know, is what guys who always thought or dreamed of being soldiers but never were do to make themselves feel more manly. Those of us who haven't joined the fraternity of the psychologically-scarred-for-life-by-war always seem to think we missed out on something. Like we're somehow less of men because we never had to prove ourselves in that way. And i'm sure there are fellas out there who feel that paintball is an acceptable substitute for military training, if not service. They can swagger around now because they have a .68 caliber bruise on their arm. They've seen the elephant.

Well, no, no they haven't. i've been on the 'battlefield' and that wasn't an elephant. It was more of a capybara.

Here's a little hint, if it has the word "ball" in it, it isn't a real war. Football is a derivative of war. It has lines, the obect is to get beyond your enemies lines through deception, speed and force. Battles take place all over the field. Generals on the sidelines call in strategies to the commander in the field and he implements the tactics. Heck, folk who have nothing to do with the engagement sit around analyzing it over and over and criticizing every move. But for all that, it is a game. The combatants get to go home afterwards, sore, possibly injured but relatively alive and well.

Paintball while bearing some resemblace to armed combat is not war. For cryin' out loud, i will purposefully step into a stream of 'bullets' because i know the shooter is too far away and his rounds aren't going to break. Take that mentality onto the streets of Bagdad and see how long you last. Just make sure you tattoo your blood type and next of kin somewhere on your body first.

In fact, that's a good indicator for war and real war-like activities. Do you feel the need to tattoo your blood type and next of kin on your person before doing it? Then maybe you are getting ready to see the elephant. Then again, in this age of extreme sports, maybe not.

But for those of us who have seen the capybara, i salute thee. It's a hoot! You know, there's something to be said for a battle where both sides, "Dead" and quick alike, can come together afterwards and talk over, laugh over and generally kibitz about the last "battle." A lot of times, a meal follows and every one is friends. Any PTSD's are usually cured by the next game and most wounds will heal by next week. i think the Vikings called that Valhalla, it was their version of heaven. A fellowship of the brawl.

And that brings me to why i'm not keen on being a soldier anymore. i've seen the capybara and that was real enough for me to realize that in a real war, sticking your head around the wrong corner results in a letter to your spouse and a closed casket, not a bruise on your forehead. War divides. War scars. War creates silences that no one can speak into. It digs holes, craters that no one can fill. War is a necessity that only fools wish for. For those who've seen the elephant, I send a little, humble, pre-Veterens day thanks and prayer.

The rest of us should Praise God and pass the paintballs.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

We were young once...and soldiers.

I don't want to be a soldier anymore. While this might be the most noodle-twitchingly obvious sentiment in the world to you it comes as somewhat of a shock to me for as a child growing up, that is all i wanted to be. We had toy soldiers, GI Joe's and an arsenal of plastic guns in the shed. We wore camoflage long before it was fashionable. Our favorite shows were Rat Patrol and any WWII movie that happened to be on. Star Wars wasn't our favorite because of the Star, but because of the Wars. Even Japanese Anime first caught my attention because of Star Blazers; a ship of soldier/sailors running off in a last ditch mission to save the world. My buddy Panzer and i memorized military hardware and battles,argued over tactics, went out and bought Axis and Allies as soon as we discovered it's existance. We looked up every time we heard a jet and drew enough battle machines and war scenes to fill the Library of Congress. Oh those poor trees.

You know those little aptitude tests they gave you which were designed to help you find a goal for your life and pursue it? A sluagh of questions that were just about your likes and dislikes; would you prefer to work outside or inside? What are your hobbies? What phrase most describes you: a. i like to lead, b. i prefer to be told what to do, c. people suck, i prefer to work alone, or d. work?

i used to flunk those. Yeah, i know, you can't flunk them, they're not being graded. Well, believe it sister, i flunked 'em. Everyone would be eagerly reading and comparing what three choices the computer had spat back at them based upon the numeric data that represented their souls and the teacher would come over to me and say something along the lines of, "Yours didn't turn out. You filled out the questions wrong. Did you not understand how this worked? In one place you said you wanted to work outside and over here you talk about working at a desk? You can't do both? Which do you prefer?" i'd snifflingly explain that i loved to draw so i figured that had to be at a desk, but i hated being inside and loved the outdoors, the more wild the better. She would shake her head as if i was somehow a strange little bone that didn't fit her theory of evolution but a bone that she couldn't ignore and was messing up her thesis and then she'd ask, "well, what do you want to be when you grow up?" And i'd invariably answer, "i dunno. i'll probably just go in the army." i can still see her shaking her head with that pursed little grimace.

Coincidentally, i am writing this from my laptop on the deck overlooking my rather woodsy backyard where as we digitally converse, a red tail hawk is preening itself not twenty feet away. And if i wanted to, i could get a cellular card for this puppy and write to you from the back country of Hardtaggithere, Montana! i wasn't backwards, Mrs. Clewliss, i was ahead of the technology! So pblpblat!

It was true, i didn't know what i wanted to do with my life but the military always beckoned. It seemed like the only sure bet. And when highschool started winding to it's inevitably longed-for yet somehow disappointing end, i started realizing that i had to do something about whatever it was i was going to do when no one was telling me what to do anymore. And turning my life over to people who would tell me what to do again seemed to make sense, particularly if they would give me a gun to carry.

Now, i grew up the sailor's son of a soldier's son of a soldier's son. i had no delusions about military service. i'd seen it. Heck, i went to sea with my dad for a week when i was twelve. i had seen the chiseled jarheads that guarded the ship and i had talked to the greasy line cooks. Both had once been wide-eyed kids who had enlisted in military service but somewhere along the line their paths diverged. And i figured the only way i was going to get to wield a rifle instead of a spatula was if i joined the most elite force i could. So i set my sights on the marines. Figuring, they're smaller so the soldier to line cook ratio was probably better to start with and they had really, really high standards still whereas the army was beginning it's trend of watering itself down in order to meet some sort of meat quota. My mom would be holy disappointed if i didn't go to college so i tried to get in on an ROTC type scholarship. They send me to school and when i'm done, i sign up as an officer for the rest of whatever. Well, the school rejected me. Apparently you have to have good grades and stuff for that. Who knew?

So, sorry mom, i tried and now there's nothing left to do but enlist. So i signed up. Aced my ASVABs which hauntingly reminded me of aptitude tests. Sailed through the physical. Told the recruiter i wanted to be a line soldier. "You don't want to learn electronics or some other trade related skill that you can barter into a career when you get out?" He asked, probably with the results of my ASVAB in his hands. Nope. Unless the Marines start driving tanks. That looks cool. So he shook his head like i was some sort of thesis on evolution that didn't come with pictures and was too long to read for him and filled out my paperwork. Barring the medical, i was in. i was a marine.

Turns out that the marines won't take you if you've had a major head injury in the last five years. Who knew?

So, wiser about what to admit to and what to gloss over i started talking to the Army.

After two pointless conversations with the same Pennslobvian State Trooper, a speeding ticket and an I.O.U. for twenty-five cents to the state of New Jersey all on the way to take some sort of entrance exam for the Army, i decided that i flat out wasn't meant to be a soldier.

Life happened after that, as did time. My little brother joined the marines, made Marksman, got made an airplane mechanic and went off to the Persian Gulf, twice. i'm glad he is a mechanic, he's much safer that way and my three adorable little nieces still have their daddy. All my friends that wished they had been soldiers too still play Axis and Allies every now and then. They almost always kick my butt, i have the strategizing capabilites of a dollop of mashed potatoes. We all got too old to play 'guns.'

And then we discovered paintball.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Labor, we don't need no stinking Labor!

Fshyeeeewww! Must a got a bad batch of feed here lately. Cuz the last two eggs smelt a sulfur. We frickens here at the coop strive to lay nothing but quality, grade A blarghs that leave the customer with a pleasantly full feeling in their tummy and something hopefully to chew on for a little while. And when we're really on our bandbox, maybe a chuckle as it goes down the gullet. Life's too short, in my humble and often misled opinion to read depressing blarghs.

So with that thought firmly fixed in our knobby nugget we slog forward into the murky future!
And slap face first right into fall! Ahh yes! There is no finer time of year here in Pennslobovia, my friends. The glorious weekend that recongizes the fact that weekends are at least one day too short has ended and the lows are dropping down into temperatures that just beg for a fan in the window. It has been the rare weekend that included an event of note on every thrice blessed day.

Friday was buffalo wings (extra hot) with Nanna, Nonno and my very own grandmama who i haven't seen in a Rascal's age. By that i mean we had to reintroduce her to her great-grandpunks. Grandmama, this is Happ Hazzard and the little guy there is Rascal. Perhaps i should go visiting more often.

Satiddy, we went down to the river to be laughed at by fish and tourist alike as we fed chicken livers and rubber worms to the manitous of the Delaware. i did manage to tie into a bridge but i didn't set the hook and it got away. But it was huge! No really!

That evening we spent in our Satiddy ritual of hangin over at Shultzschloss reminding ourselves why it is so akin to pulling your heart out through your navel, throwing it onto the floor and grinding it into the carpet, then picking it up, dusting it off and swallowing it while suppressing the gag reflex for next game to be Philadelphia sports fan.

All healed up for Sunday and the little family get together down at the church. After which, which i have a strong desire to write as one word...afterwich. Can't decide if that sounds like a sandwich you eat after your main course or a town in northern England. After said weekly reunion of the children of the Almighty a bunch of us frickens got together for food, family and flingin. There was a little flingin of eqine footwear which there often is here at the coop but there was also the flingin of taters. The infamous tatermortar was back and the ducks down in carcass basin know it...and tremble. Muhahahahaha! Ah, who knew PVC pipe could be so useful?

Course, it just now occurred to me that i should have filmed it. Feel free to thump me in the thinker next time i'm within reach.

Finally on the day of laborless labor itself, we suited up for the first time this year and got back down to the very serious business of playing war. And that may deserve it's own posting.