Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Refugees

I don't normally do politics in my blog. As a former government worker, I avoid it like the plague simply because I don't want to relive dealing with pompous, entitled folks without the skills to hold a legitimate job. And talking politics generally devolves into a death spiral, each side getting more and more entrenched with each rotation.

Like the Middle East.

Like the current crop of displaced refugees.

There seems to be two sides of thought on these folks. Either, they are enemy agents and should be repelled immediately, or they are total victims that will die if nothing is done.

I fall into the second camp. 95% of the displaced people are exactly that. They lost their homes, businesses, farms, etc due to the political turmoil. And because most don't subscribe to the particular brand of Islam that ISIS champions, they are considered to be blasphemers and apostates and should be exterminated without mercy. And as such, they are deserving of a safe harbor.

However, I realize a group this large is going to bring massive problems.In the remaining 5% are two types of bad seeds: 1) Agents of the various Islamic terror groups hoping to find a foothold and 2) Criminals. If you look at prior immigration and refugee groups, it will be the second group that will cause the most trouble. Extortion and prostitution rings set up to exploit the other 95% is guaranteed. Some will use opium connections and make their fortunes in the heroin trade, and some of that money will find its way to the first group only because it is expedient.

Can any of this be stopped?

No. It is like a ocean wave. You might be able to slow it down with vetting (which already takes 18 months), but at least some of these folks are coming.

You might as well deal with it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mail Call



So, the other day I got home from picking up my wife and picked up the mail. Most days, it is ads, bills and other items that frankly they shouldn't have bothered with. Just think of how many trees died for that slick coupon sheet advertising house cleaning services and what not. And this batch of mail was similar, except for one envelope with a laser printed address label. I shrug, guesses it is a dinner invitation from a stock broker wanting to "invest" my non-existent money in a fake warehouse scheme, or maybe for some inaccessible land in the mountains.

The shredder is hungry, but I stop.What really is in there? Ripping the flap open are vouchers to a local restaurant, and then I notice who sent it.

A local funeral home.

Great! Now, I know I'm getting old. I mean, I've been getting crap from AARP for at least ten years and now someone wants me to face my own mortality, probably on the monthly finance plan.

I showed it to my wife and she laughed.

I'll wait a bit.


Picture: (c) 2011, Don Teuton, Savannah GA.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Leave (Blogophilia 39.8)



It all started when I met Charlie Balczak at Mess. Who’s he? An E4 grunt I’d bunked with. A short, wiry guy from Ohio, he could drink guys twice his size under the table and then hold his own in the fights that followed. Oh, he was alright for a Marine. Not quite as crazy as most of them, but he did have his moments. And this was one of those moments.

We were assigned to a demolition unit at Ft. Bliss and had just gotten our deployment orders. Yippee. We get to do our jobs for real and get out of this Godforsaken desert. Still a desert, just not this one. This was my first deployment and Charlie’s third. He had warned me that fun was not allowed over there, so we drew overnight passes to get our kicks out before we left. 

A good thing was there were no girl friends or wives to answer to. And for what we were planning, that was a very good thing. Butterbar told us Juarez was off limits again, but we’d been 86’d out of every bar in El Paso and Las Cruces was a dump. We had to go somewhere and there was Puta we wanted to see.

Charlie had an old yellow Bronco he called The Wayfarer he bought after Boot. The truck was a combination dog and family, it traveled with him to every stateside duty station and had waited patiently in a storage yard at LeJeune the last time he deployed. One night at a bar, he had told me there had been no one waiting for him when he deplaned, but when he went over to the truck, it started up right away. And he’d been gone fourteen months. A lot better than the girl he’d left. She’d fucked some flyboy and followed him to Alaska. 

The truck had been across the border a couple of times already.  It was almost entirely rust, but the engine was strong. There were the four bullet holes from a prior adventure, but I didn’t care. It was ugly enough not to attract the attention of Banditos and roomy enough to use for sleeping if need be. Packing it with clothes, condoms and a couple of gallons of water, we hopped in and left Bliss in a cloud of dust, radio blasting.

Traffic across town to the bridge was almost nonexistent. The freeway green sign: Bienvenidos De Mexico!, beckoning fun and danger for all gave me a little thrill.  A lone Federale stood at the check point and after a quick check of licenses, he waved us through. I should have thought something was up when nothing was said about the Base sticker. I didn’t care, though. There was going to be no reality for a while. 

We turned off the main road, past broken houses and trash. A statue of Guadelupe looked lovingly over an open air drug market. We weren’t interested. Beer and munchies came from a little bodega on the outskirts of the city. Paying for it wasn’t a problem. U.S. money was welcomed with a slight mark up and it was still cheaper than in El Paso. You just had to be careful not to show too much. Loading back up, we headed to Doña Maria’s farm. 

It wasn’t much, a four room adobe shack in so-so repair on a plot of chaparral scrub. The roof was faded clay, which contrasted sharply with the rest of the house and the hill behind. A mangy dog sounded our introduction as we turned into the pitted driveway. A boy of about 13 was tending to a small vegetable garden. He turned toward us, smiled and shouted back at the shack. A petite, dark skinned woman appeared at the door, smiling at the arrival of the truck. Returning customers were always welcomed, even if we kind of tore the place up last time.

Eh Bien, Amigoes.” She gave us both big hugs. The smell of sweat overlaid in cheap perfume was exciting. The boy had already taken the hint and was heading down the road toward town. Charlie got the cooler and I got the munchies and like good soldiers waited for orders. 

“Don’t just stand there, come in.” She stepped away from the door and we escaped the sun. 

The main room was dimly lit and over furnished. A large couch sat on the wall opposite the door. A hand hewn piñon coffee table and several chairs competed for space. An American football game flickered silently on the screen hung up in the corner. Lifting the lid of the cooler in Charlie’s hands and opened a Modelo, taking it down in one chug. Motioning toward the sofa, Charlie set the beer down and had a seat. I put the bag of food on the dining table next to the kitchen. 

“So good to see you again. You promise to behave this time?

“Si, Doña Maria.” Our voices sounded in unison. “We promise.”

“Good. If you don’t, I’ll have to use the Nun’s lessons.” A twinkle of fire lit in her eyes as she said it. The old steel ruler glinted in the sun next to the door, begging to be used. She would enjoy every bit of that and, really, so would we. 

Maria became the hostess with the moistest, handing us open beers and kissing our foreheads and rubbing our legs like we were her lost children. Flipping a switch on an old stereo, music began to pour out.

Dear Lover, It’s been a long, long time…

She was not really a whore, but more like the mothers we had left behind, always concerned that we would be killed in action. She listened as we talked about the Sergeant and our chain of command.  We asked about Paco, the boy outside. He’d managed to stay out of the local gangs and was trying to get enough money to go to his Aunt’s in San Antonio. 

Soon the chit chat was over. The soft voice became our mother’s. 

“Señor Charlie, move the table over there.” It was done without delay.

“George, rub my shoulders.” I knew not to hesitate. Grasping at the seam of her collar, I rubbed the cured skin and watched her relax. 

“Hmm… so strong…ayi” 

Charlie in the front and me in the back, we began our dance…


And that’s the last thing I remember until the Federales found me. Sir? Yes, Sir! I was insubordinate going to Juarez. No, Sir! I do not know what happened to Cpl. Balczak or his truck. Sir? Yes, Sir! Those red marks are from where Maria hit me with the ruler. I’m willing to take my punishment. Sir? Yes, Sir! 15 days in the Stockade and six hours extra duty for six months after I get off the plane? Sir? Yes, Sir! I’ll show myself out, Sir!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Sketch




The picture sat on the desk mocking him from behind the screen. It was a simple thing, really, a sketch of an old cigarette ad. The vested sax player stared at him across time and space, playing some silent tune, a memory that was happily slumbering two hours ago. But it sprung out from the holiday decorations box and onto the floor. Honestly, he had thought the picture was lost two or three moves ago. 

What does she look like now? A homely girl that everyone ignored, the only reason he even met her was passed out at a party that had already died. He would have been just as happy for her not to have woken up. But, no, his buddy threw his empties at her, and he had to open his mouth. So began the four year odyssey of drama and pain. 

It was fun at first. Impulsive and spontaneous, she would chide him for public displays of affection and then pull him behind a car to have her way. Emotions more changeable than the weather and more powerful than the tides buffeted him. There was the call where he thought she was going to kill herself, only to find out after making the hour ride she fell asleep and she wondered why I had come. They broke up and made up more times than he could remember every encounter more intense than the last.

Finally, she ran off with a teacher at the college. She ended up getting charged with interference of custody when she sheltered the kids during the divorce. The charges were settled and the teacher moved on without her.  One of the last calls to him had been trying to talk her off the ledge. He had assured her she was worthy of someone, even though it wasn’t him. 

After all the legal crap, she dropped completely out of sight. Over the years, there had been updates passed on from mutual friends. She had never married. Drifting from town to town, she eventually settled in a small fishing town and worked for an oil company as a safety manager. 

The sketch was the only skeleton left. He had watched her draw it, eyes focused and to Hell with the rest of the world, including him. None of proportions were right, but that didn’t matter. Nothing in their relationship was right either. She thought since the band was still together, it fit. It was gift for his birthday and was supposed to have been a surprise. So, he kept up the charade of being surprised, like she kept up her charade of sanity. And the party did go as well as could be expected. 

Now he is digging bones in the cemetery of his mind. Just because a two bit amateur drawing wouldn’t leave him alone. A cup of coffee stands cold alone next to the keyboard. The wife somehow understands. She had never been her rival, just a ghost in his past that never really went away. And this exorcism is the only way for peace to prevail.

With a couple of strokes, the mother’s obituary is seen. The list of survivors confirms the location. With another inquiry, an address and a phone number is written down. The oscillating hand drifts between the keyboard and phone, not sure. The ring startles him out of the daze. The caller ID blinks the number of a fake veteran’s charity that has called before. They can talk to the machine, he thinks as he presses the reject symbol. Mechanically sipping the cold coffee, he gathers his wits. 

Was this really a good idea? 

There was only one way to find out.

He picked up the phone.


Monday, November 9, 2015

The Shareholders Meeting

In a small auditorium on the top floor of a skyscraper in Seattle, a group of people are gathered around a small banquet table making small talk. At the far end if the room is a podium. A short, rotund man in a tuxedo with a red vest approaches. Picking up a gavel, he gets the audience’s attention. 
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please come to order.”
[shuffling of chairs, then silence]
“Good evening. I am, of course, Lucifer J Beelzebub, and on behalf of the Demons, Harpies, Spirits in our perpetual indenture, we welcome you to the 5776th shareholders’ meeting for Devil’s Quill Communications. We want to thank Mr. Harold Schultz and his staff here at Starbucks for his hospitality. The coffee is cold and bitter and pastries are stale. You thought of everything! And I must compliment you, Sir, on your current Holiday marketing plan. A simple design that is divide and conquer at its finest.”
“Now back to business.”
“It has been an exciting and challenging year for us here at the Quill. Full of ups and a few downs and a lot of adventure on the way. We come together today to recount our successes, put away our failures and plan our course for the years ahead.”
“You are aware, of course, of the takeover rumors between us and the Global Division of Guardian Angel’s Inc. Don’t jump to the conclusion that this is anything close to a done deal. They approached us and we did agree to put it up for a vote. The results have spoken loudly. You say the terms offered: sin forgiveness and everlasting life in exchange for the severe limiting our faith testing abilities is totally inadequate. And, I, Lucifer J. Beelzebub, promise that this company will never face the final sunset.”
“Many years ago, I was employed by Guardian Angels. It was a fine company, but the time came whereby mutual agreement, I left their employ and started this vast and wonderful enterprise known worldwide as The Quill. Contrary to popular belief, our parting was amicable and Guardian rewarded me with our main contract, testing the weak spots in human behavior. Our very first contract, The Job Project, was praised in the Heavens as a rousing success. This led to other work with Samuel, David, Jonah and then the big one with Yeshuva. Throughout the growth process, we were able winnow out the best hay and sift out the worst straw. And our ranks increased with the chaff left over from the process.”
“But those glory days waned. The raw product has become more and more contaminated over the millennia and our efficiencies decreased accordingly. We had to change our focus from carrot and stick temptation products that just didn’t work. But thanks to the envy and ingenuity of our fallen, we were able to make the transition to false justice and deception vehicles. We soon became the premier provider of divisive discord in the world, with many conflicts large and small all over the world.”
“But not all of our efforts were loved or appreciated. We took a great deal of heat (pardon the pun) over our Kaiser and Reich projects, which critics said went too far and too fast. So we retreated and our competitors made inroads all over the Eastern Front.”
“As a result of this retrenchment, we truly are at a crossroads. But in grand Quill tradition we plan to meet the challenge of a declining product in a rapidly changing world. Starting today, we are rolling out a new product; The Crusher. It designed to frighten and subdue even the most obstinate sheep with a combination of selective pain and undefined threats. And with it comes our new company motto: ‘Life will not break your heart. It will crush it.’ It is being developed in conjunction with Guardian Angels and for those of you who wonder about the conflict of interest, I assure you, there is none…”
Rrnng…rrnng.
 
“Oh, excuse me. I meant to turn this thing off.”
“Beezelbub, here…What? You don’t say?... Well, thank you and I’ll get back to you.”
“Pardon the interruption, but that was Jerry Dewey, our legal counsel with Dewey, Cheatham. and Howe. He has informed me that Guardian Angel has gone to court and won a judgment awarding them total control of our assets and that it is absolute and cannot be appealed. I regret to inform all of you that we are to be completely terminated in the next 60 seconds. On behalf of all of us at Devils Quill, thank you so much for your support.”
“Good bye.”
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Pic guesses:Carrot and stick (in blog), Hay (in blog), Straw (in blog), Horsepower, Horsed Carriage, Mule-headed, Fertilizer wagon, Alternate energy.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Harry Handy on Dreams (Blogophila 37.8)

Hey, Heidy and Howdy! It's Harry Handy on WOFT. I'm the randiest, dandiest D.J. in all oldies radio and I'm here to fuel your Geritol dreams. Dreams of long ago and far away, when you were sixteen and stupid. What's that you say? You weren't stupid? So, give me your answer to this.



Yep. your past is NEVER far from the Google archives.And I am willing to go where no man (or imaginary DJ) has gone before to find it. (And this was the safe for work one).

Speaking of Geritol Dreams, if you are man that is older than ol' Harry, you may have lusted after Ann-Margaret. Her red head meant fiery times alone in the dark. The girls hated her because she (along with a lot of others) date Elvis. The guys just wanted her. These days, she likes her privacy, but I'm willing to ignore that.


Yes, you were Dazed and Confused.


Then you got older. Found a girl and supposedly got wiser. Then you became this song.


Now your doctor is telling you to give up smoking and liquor. Weed and speed left long ago after the girl above put her foot down. She's managed to hang on, though, through thick and thin. And you appreciate that, simply because you can now watch your own kids in their struggles and lost dreams.

Misery does love company, doesn't it?

Weird thing, after so many years of living you have the material to follow that rock and roll dream, but none of the talent and energy.

And you realize that sermon the Preacher said long ago is true.

It's all in vain.



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Topic-Doris Emmett

Pic-Tyler Myrth.

Pic guesses: To go where no man... (in blog), Trek, Enterprise, Kirk, Star date, Spock, Bones, Explore, Klingon, Marvin's visitor, Earthling leaving the nest,