Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some Things The Army Taught Me

It was almost sixty years ago but it was clear in his mind today as though it happened yesterday. He was in the middle of his first eight weeks of basic training and he was sure he hated the Army and would get out as soon as his time was up which would be in a little less than two years but for now he had to put up with all this "chicken s**t". From the very first day it was a battle for control. They, the Cadre, wanted to control him but he wasn't going to let those SOB's take away his identity, his very sense of self. They could go screw themselves. And so the battle for control, survival was on, waged. The question was who was going to win.

This exercise was starting in a trench. You had to crawl out of it and reaching barbed wire, roll on your back put your M1 on your chest and lift the barbed wire up so you could crawl to the end of the run while live bullets, or so he was told, were fired about ten feet above you. They were told the war stories of how some guys stood up and the machine guns yanked off their anchors and those guys were killed. Personally he thought this was a lot of BS, but all the same he wasn't going to test the theory.

The first exercise was done during daylight. When your company got through the full course instead of going back to the barracks to clean up from all the dirt and dust the Cadre made them police, clean up, the place and dig holes with their entrenching tools. Being in Company C (Charlie Company), they were among the first ones finished and they worked the longest and hardest whereas the last company didn't work at at all.
He figured the night exercise would be the same and he swore to himself he wasn't going to be controlled by these sadist anymore. He would start out with Charlie Company but it would be dark and he would stop crawling once he first got on his back under the barbed wire and wait for the last company to come out and he would finish the course with them. He didn't want to be left behind because the exercise was being conducted out in the boon docks and he wouldn't be able to find his way back, which could lead to him being marked AWOL and then there would be hell to pay.

The night was dark even though the skies were lit up by the moon and skies. He never saw skies like that in the city but out here it was a sight to behold, beautiful. The exercise  started and the first wave left the trench. The bullets lit up the overhead with their fiery blasts but he was certain they could not see the crawlers. He was with the next wave and then all of a sudden the firing stopped and big lights lit the whole area up and everyone stopped while a voice over the loud speakers told everyone not to move until the lights went out again. He wondered if this unexpected happening would foul up his plan. We shall see what we shall see, he thought. The lights went out, the machine guns exploded with their rat-a-tat and he crawled to the wire turned over on his back and with the rifle, M1, he lifted the wire up crawled under it and stopped. The next wave of guys came and he asked how many more till the last wave of guys would come. The guys crawled past him and he waited, actually snoozing at one point, the bright lights woke him.

Then something unusual happened, a guy started yelling and trying to get out from under the barbed wire, the bullets stopped, the spotlights went on and there were Cadre cutting the wire to free the guy who was about fifty yards away from him. The guy cracked, was yelling for his mama and crying like a baby. He recognized him. He was with another company, he was a bully, a wise guy, always looking for a fight. This tough guy cracked. He thought "I guess he wasn't so tough after all.". Later he heard he was mustered out on a Section 8, which in those days was a mental discharge but later was a discharge for pregnancy, only God knows what it might be today. The Cadre removed the guy, the waves of companies kept coming as the machine guns kept firing their rat-a-tat. Finally one guy said his was the last wave so he crawled out with them. Got on the truck for the ride back to camp and found his barracks.

When he walked into the barracks his Sargent and two other Cadre came up to him yelling. screaming curses wanting to know where he had been. He claimed he got separated somehow but he was here now and OK. The Sargent wasn't really a bright light, maybe a helluva soldier but not too much gray matter.
After he vented he went into his room leaving him to take a shower and talk to his buddies. In those days The shower was open and you didn't drop the soap even if you weren't in the navy. The barracks was an open space with bunk beds and a small aera was yours. He heard it was quite different now, even co-ed. Hey maybe today's Army wouldn't be bad except of course for all the fighting one may be involved in. His buddies told him that they were worked liked slaves until the full exercise was over.

Looking back on those days he chuckled to himself. The Army taught him patience; to plan; to find other ways to accomplish a plan; that some tough guys aren't so tough after all; to never let someone or something control you. There may be times when it appears that you have lost control of your destiny but the only real time that happens is when you get sick and die. In the long run it is always good to have the last laugh even if it doesn't look that way in the short run.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coincidence or God Wink

CBS News on Sunday, today, had a segment about things happening that we call coincidences, asking if they are really happenstance of divinely inspired.   They explored different happenings and had different views. Naturally the scientific view supported by Mathematicians was these occurrences were just "coincidences" supported by something I for one never heard of  called "Law of large numbers" which when applied to this earth which has so many people in it that events, occurrences are bound to happen . This is applied to the roll of dice or flipping of coins. The other point of view is that there is something outside of the laws of probability that causes the "coincidences".  These people are speaking about a supreme being who is involved with creation on a level that can be called micro-managing. However just because these occurrences present themselves doesn't mean the desired outcome will happen. One has to recognize and act on the opportunities as the occur.  I can't speak for others but I can tell you about some of these coincidences that have happened to me that is inexplicable in the events that followed all connected but at the time they were happening seemed unconnected.
As a young man I was enthralled by a young women who wouldn't give me more that a minute of her time. I couldn't get up to the plate with her much less than first base. I started hanging out with a guy that lived across the street from me who had a brother that I didn't know until my friend introduced me. It so happens that my friends brother was trying to get to know the gal's sister that had interested me. I found out a lot about her through him and finally he introduced me to her. We eventually dated on and off for about two years. In those days I wasn't looking to get married, all that interested me was having a good time, drinking, sex but most of all ball playing and Trumpet playing. Most of the girls I dated were interested in me but I managed to break off the dates by telling them they were too good for me. They wanted to be friends and keep seeing each other. All of them but this special beauty who didn't seem to care if we kept seeing each other or not. This drove me batty. Eventually we were married. Notice all the unusual things that were happening. But there is more to come.

Back in those days every young man had to serve in the Army through the draft or joining an armed service or the peace corps. After being eligible for four years I eventually pushed my draft number up and went into the Army in the summer of 1956. Spent a week at Fort Dix until my orders came through sending me down to Fort Benning, Georgia. When I arrived at Benning my papers couldn't be found. They finally determined that I was sent down to Georgia by accident, that I was supposed to take my Basic Training in New Jersey at Fort Dix. I thought this was a colossal turn      of bad luck. I was thousands of miles away from my girl, the one that I finally married,and I could have been close by seeing her on weekends. Here I am stuck in no man's land, what a rotten break! It so happens that my records showed I was a musician that club dated. After the first eight weeks of basic came the second eight. I was called to audition for the Third Infantry Division Band. It so happens that many of the band members were short timers going to be mustered out in six months or so. There was a shortage of musicians to fill the slots and of course the US Army must have it's parades. My audition went well and I was pulled from my second eight weeks of basic to play Trumpet in the band. I stayed in the band throughout my term, was able to get married and this beautiful girl who wouldn't give me a tumble came to live with me off base at 79 B Baker Village off Victory Blvd. a mile or two from the Fort which I went to every day to play my Trumpet.

All this wouldn't have happened if I didn't make friends with a guy who had a brother who was pursuing a gal who happened to be the sister of the girl I eventually married. But if I wasn't so much in love I never would've pushed my number up at the time I did which caused me to be inducted in the Army and be sent down to Georgia by mistake so I would be easily taken in the band , which allowed me to marry and live off base and eventually come home and spent fifty years of married life with this girl who wouldn't give me a tumble. But the way these unconnected events led to us having seven children, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The ripple effect of these unconnected events, coincidences, have touched many people, and will continue to do so long after I am gone. All this just the effect of  "The Law of Large Numbers"? I don't think so. I really don't think so! But it doesn't stop there. The coincidences keep on coming.

So I just go along taking care of life as it happens thinking what happens in life isn't necessarily connected especially if it happened in the past, many, many years ago. As an example sometime in 1974 my happy career with American International Pictures was over unceremoniously ended and I joined the banking community. Manufacturers Hanover affectionately called Manny Hanny became my home for The next 15 years. A very unhappy union except for a few things. I lost the glamour of the motion picture industry and most of the people I had come to know as everything was shifting to the west coast. The work was sometimes interesting but for the most part very boring because of the politics connected with it. Yet because of great insurance coverage and some pension rights it fell into place during and even after I left it. There were many coincidences connected with this part of my life but not he most important which I wouldn't realize until almost a quarter of a century passed. During one of the most depressing years there I met a young lady who was just beginning her journey that would lead to marriage and becoming a mother.  She was one of my refuges from the boring, political grind of the day. We'd go to lunch, maybe stop at one of those New York mini parks that had foliage and a water fall. Stop at the UN grounds which could be visited without worry in those days, looking at the great rose gardens and just talking sharing a few laughs. Nothing romantic, she was in love with the people in her life and I was in love with the people in mine. Then came the downsizing for me and she had a little child to take care of so we apparently went our separate ways.  Apparently to live out our lives as the gods would have it. Or so one would think.

My wife had past after a very long bout with Alzheimer's. I figured there was some life left to live but didn't quite know how to get my footing. Then on day I received a message from some one who wondered if we had known each other at Manny Hanny. This was quite sometime after I had left Manny Hanny. Of course it was that wonderful young, beautiful, vivacious lady who spent time with me when Manny Hanny had gotten too much to handle.  We met for lunch, met a few more times, we were both single, available but a huge age differential was there yet despite that, guess what? We fell in love. Remember, I had left my job at American International because I wouldn't move to the west coast, couldn't get another job for a few months until a neighbor referred me to a guy that lived around the block form me who happened to be looking for someone that had credentials like I had. He was let go and the job I was hired for was dissolved causing me to be transferred uptown where eventually I met this young, beautiful lady who some twenty five years after we said goodbye forever we became part of each others life again on a more personal, loving level than we could have ever dreamed would be happening.  Now I can't trace the events that may occur from this coincidence the way I could with the ones mentioned above because not enough time has elapsed for the meanings to show themselves. So I have hope that this micro managing God will let us know in his own good time what he has happily planned for us. For me and I hope for her so far what we have experienced is just the beginning of all the good things to follow, for love is full of beauty and happiness and we have that.

So I must say it is my experience "The law of large numbers" while seeming to make much sense really isn't the cause of some mathematical probability that cause coincidences. What one writer terms as "God Wink" while seemingly very illogical, is the true reason that coincidences occur. I ask the reader to ponder their own lives and visualize what their lives might have been if not for those unusual happenstances that have occurred.


Friday, October 10, 2014

And A Child Shall Lead Them!!!

He was reminiscing about the the times when he was a kid. Things seemed clearer then. Everyone's role was pretty clear. The father went to work and provided the money and was the boss of the family or so the mother made him think so. The mother stayed home and cleaned the house, raised the kids, cooked the meals and was the REAL boss of the house, sort of the power behind the throne. The children were to be seen and not heard which drove them outside the house for their little world which really wasn't "little" after all. The dress for the boys even signified their place in the world around them. Up to six or seven short pants was the order of the day, from 8 till 12 knickers which golfers like to call plus fours after Confirmation long pants. You knew your place if you were a male child just by the length of  your pants.

He had fallen arches which caused him to wear high shoes that gave support to his ankles but combined with his baby fat and inability to run really fast made him slow as a turtle.  This led to many confrontations at least a few fights a week. At first he was the winner but after a talking to by the Principal of his elementary school and a good beating by his mom and the fact he was getting fatter not stronger he started to lose more than he won. He remembered the thing that saved him was he was a good softball player, could hit a ton and he had bats, gloves and saved softballs after they lost their cover by taping them over with black rubber tape so they could last forever until they went down a sewer or became soft as a marshmallow Then about long pants time he got a bike started exercising and growing soon he was winning the fights again. He was getting real good at chasing down fly balls and he was taller than most of his peers. He even was able to climb the rope in Gym at his High School.

He loved his bike, a Schwinn. He rode it all over. It was the equivalent of his car. Got him away from the neighborhood so he could sneak a smoke. Got him down to the parks for try-outs for the local baseball teams. The one bad thing was his mom made him go to the local Italian grocery store for milk, bread, ham and all the fill in stuff that was needed. In those days there wasn't any real super markets and the local grocery store was a daily drop in. With the advent of super markets came shopping for the week. In those days there was Joe's grocery, Franks vegetable and fruit store and the butcher. The ice box was replaced by the refrigerator but there wasn't a freezer so you had to use what you purchased fairly soon or else it would go bad and who could afford to throw out food. Money was really tight in those days.
.Things change, maybe for the better. But life was simpler then. He thought today everything is more complicated. One thing is sure though, we really don't have "places" in life. Women have just as much right to everything that men have rights to. Children shouldn't just be seen and not heard. Children have the right to be happy in this world and the problems they encounter are just as real and debilitating to them as the problems adults have.

Malala Yousafzai, a 17 year old Pakistani girl became the youngest to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. When she was 16 she was almost killed by being shot in the head by a Taliban. All she did was be a girl, a girl who wanted education. She was female and they felt her place was to be married at a young age have children and take care of home and husband. She had no rights as she was female, a child and didn't need an education. Well she miraculously survived and is leading a crusade for children all over the world to get an education because knowledge frees us, it allows all of us to become the person we were meant to be.
We all have a place in this world and that place is to be all we can be, some might say all that our Creator meant us to be. This young lady can be the focal point to help women and children all over God's green earth to be free and realize the potential that is in all of us. He thought, "There is going to be a brave new world as long as we have people like Malala. We grown-ups haven't the courage, or desire she has shown. So to get to this brave new world I guess the old Biblical verse is true; 'A child shall lead them!'".


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Season, Life, Death, Rebirth

The  Spring came with it's promise of life and new awakenings. The trees didn't just sprout the leaves we see during the summer, first are some blossoms of some kind. Some trees seem to have golden rods attached to their branches that fall off before the buds sprout and the leaves appear. The flowers are pushing up their heads from their underground shelter from the cold storms of the winter. There are birds flying in formation, Vees, with one bird leading the migration to the north where the sun was shifting it's warmth and light.  The breezes were light and refreshing. Everything seemed new, full of life, fresh and bright.

Summer followed and the sun showed it's light longer giving brightness to the colors of life that surround us. At the height of summer the sun belched it's hot breath upon us forcing us back from whence we came, the water, ocean, with it's cooler breezes and hypnotic ebb and flow. Everything moved slower as the day's heat came down upon us. But it was nice and wonderful as our bodies just ate up all the life, light and slowness that life's gait becomes when the weather is warm and hot and full of sexiness. The hotter it becomes the more lovers kiss, come closer, become one with one another and the elements around us.

As summer winds down Autumn sneaks upon the scene. Before we know it the air becomes colder, colors not like the Spring, appear. Colors of bright reds, oranges and yellows. The days become shorter as we get closer to winter and the trees begin to lose their leaves, flowers begin to droop as they try to hold on to their blooms but fail to do so. Life is heading towards hibernation but before that happens there is a last breath of life, fun, lights and parties.

Winter begins rather slowly as Autumn exits. The air is quite a bit colder but not as cold as the dead of winter. Celebrations of life lead to feasts, parties, lights, and a try to keep remembering the joys of life. As winter keeps advancing, and the coldness is upon us, we try to substitute the light of the sun by hanging lights all around us. The trees are bare, very few green things are around yet we have our Fir Trees, Pine Trees, Christmas Trees. we have our Green Wreaths, our egg nogs, our songs and soon Auld Lang Syne is sung and the lights come down and all we have left is the winter. The winter , cold, bleak with howling winds and only the soft white snow to comfort us as we watch the world around us seemingly die.

However, the world regenerates itself and the poet, Shelly said it best giving us hope for life, afterlife and all the good that it brings.

"If Winter comes can Spring be far behind?"