Sunday, November 13, 2011

Idiots and Regrets

If only I could have known then what I know now.  Unlike Jean Luc Pickard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) who in one episode told an adversary (Q) that he had no regrets at all in his life . . .  me, I have too many to count.  One of the greatest regrets is my attitude (poor, hostile) during my 2 years in the U.S. Army (1972 - 1974).  I was drafted in the last draft call and was dragged kicking and screaming, figuratively speaking, through those 2 years.  Truth be told I really did have a lot of good times in that time span, traveled like I never had before, had so many experiences I would not have had otherwise, met so many memorable people, some I wish I'd never encountered.  I remember them all, people, places and things.  But if I had a more mature perspective, a better big-picture viewpoint I'd never had made some of the very regrettable errors in judgement leading to detrimental forces in the direction in my life.

On the day of induction after being dropped off by my parents downtown Detroit, I endured with controlled patience the poking and prodding of doctors and tests and interviews.  I took the tests to the best of my ability, in spite of hearing from other disgruntled inductees that the opposite was a better idea, and was rewarded later by an offer to join a nuclear electronics mechanic MOS, escaping my original assignment in the infantry.  Relieved that I'd not be heading for Vietnam, and heading instead for El Paso, Texas (Ft. Bliss), I realized that doing well on those test saved my life.  But while embracing a far better path in employment, I held tightly to my adolescent attitude still hating to be kept from my family and friends for 2 whole years.  And having 2 years prior embracing the drug and drink lifestyle, I was blind to the inevitable  hazards I was to encounter very shortly, derailing what would have been a profitable career path, inside and then outside the army, a career in electronics.

So, regrettably, the choices I made to my ruin began almost immediately after arrival in El Paso.  I took up with a gang of idiots and mental midgets, because they had drugs available.  Why couldn't I foresee the disaster and lose these losers instead of joining them on their skid down the bitter path of stupidity?  I remember one night being a passenger in a VW bus driven by a moron called "Bear," with his neanderthal henchmen (why was I even with them, they were not my normal crowd, being even more reprehensible in character than my own buddies?), because he needed a part for his vehicle and drove around residential El Paso looking for another van from which he could confiscate a part.  This event did jolt me almost awake, as I stayed in the van while everyone else snuck over to the target vehicle to steal the desired part. I never again associated with this demented group of sociopaths.  But I hadn't yet reached the low point in my own stupidity.  I didn't have to wait long.

After only about 7 months in the Army, a couple months after reaching Ft. Bliss, I returned over the border between Juarez Mexico back into El Paso at 11 pm wearing sunglasses to hide my red eyes from being high on pot causing the border guard to pull me aside and finding a few joints in my jeans.  One stupid move effectively ended any hopes of a bright career path in electronics, even as I have been getting excellent grades in my Advanced Individual Training in artillery school.  Violating my security clearance by this stupid stunt, I was removed from school.  I'd ended up working in the Orderly Room awaiting further orders, certainly not to be as distinguished as a nuclear electronics program.  But at least I was only disciplined with an article 15, and not court-martialed.  No, that wold come a couple months later, completing my military ruin!

The details of the court-martial can be read at this link, so I won't rehash them here.  Suffice it to say if only I had a more mature, grown-up, adult attitude my employment future would have been much more satisfactory.  An electronics career had so much more potential for satisfaction than what I ended up with - purchasing!  And as everyone knows, job satisfaction is paramount to one's mental health and well-being.  Even Steve Jobs said it - "do what you love to do."  A bad attitude and stupid decisions can have dramatic and undesirable consequences on that objective.  And once committed to one path one is under a very powerful force of inertia to attempt to jump rails onto another track.

If I only knew.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bad Bad Juarez

It is with interest I read and hear of the horrid press Juarez Mexico is getting these days, the murders and drug wars, wreaking havoc on the inhabitants. It has devolved much in the 30 years since I was in El Paso, Ft. Bliss, TX.

I only walked across the Rio Grande a couple times in my stay at Ft. Bliss (Summer of 1972 - Spring 1973). Once during the day, doing some tourist-type shopping, enduring the respected but new to me art of negotiation, buying a pair of pointy toed cowboy boots (see ), and a hippie-type brown, fringe leather jacket. The boots I wore until they disintegrated, long after I ETA'd from the Army, the jacket I gave to my brother Mark who was 8 years my junior, and just getting into his hippie development. I also purchased an onyx chess set while there, all of which are now long gone except in memory. Another trip to Juarez occurred this time at night. I visited very briefly a bar which you had to enter going down a flight of stairs. It wasn't something I thought was fun so I didn't stay long. But walking back over the border with a couple joints in my jeans and wearing sunglasses to hide the redness in my eyes from smoking dope, the customs guard, appropriately suspicious, found the contraband, and took me into custody. I was released into the arms of the US Army. But the damage was done, impacting greatly on my future, as I was kicked out of Nike Hercules training for violating my security clearance. If I had maintained that training I probably would have turned the training into an enjoyable career in electronics after my tour of duty, instead of getting stuck in the mundane and often brutal career of Purchasing.

But, back on topic, while not quite a city of Angels, Juarez at that time was a place you could walk in without much fear of life. Looks like those days are gone forever. The times are definitely a' changing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Honor in Letters

We've lost the art of letterwriting even amidst the growing flurry of texting, tweetering, and blogging which is such a rage in the 21st century. But actually taking pen to hand and putting ink on paper, I fear we've lost that art.

This seems more obvious as I read the letters written to me almost 40 years ago, as I was deployed in the US Army. Reading my family's letters to me still touches me deeply, as they used the vehicle of their letters to show more of their heart to me than I'd see while in their midst, growing up in so large a household.

So I count it an honor to read and display their letters to me, showing the depth of love, the struggles of life, that would not often be expressed verbally.

Sometimes it takes a going away, to come completely home.