If I'd Kept a Journal: Conversations With the Sensei

by: dear occupant

Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 04:34:14 AM EST

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The inauguration speech the president delivered was as eloquent as usual, it still lingers. I've reread it several times now and continue to be absorbed by this passage;
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
Drifting back into my own early history there were some significant markers, profound and perception altering events that would rearrange everything I knew, memories that remain vivid to this day. I'd like to tell these stories from the perspective of the kid I was then, try and recreate the time and the place and the mood.

I was born in 1955.

Previous Diary

dear occupant :: If I'd Kept a Journal: Conversations With the Sensei
As a kid it wasn't often that I got to see my father, in fact it was rare. Silently shaved and showered he even managed to shut the aluminum storm door without the inevitable rattle, start up his '62 white Coupe DeVille which was parked in the driveway just beyond my bedroom window and leave well before daybreak. The roar of that huge engine never did wake me up, somehow it shifted into park every night without notice too.

With so few happy experiences of the time he was home, it wasn't long before I just expected his absence, even secretly hoping for it at the foot of my bed during my nightly prayer.  

Although it was never adequately explained (precious little was) why he was never home and what he did while he was away, the clues were there. Grease stained workboots occupied several brown speckled linoleum treads on the basement stairway, the constant low rumbling of the washing machine and my mom dutifully trudging basket after basket of oliveish green pants and shirts up the steep back stairs, hanging them to dry on the clothesline in our backyard. Sometimes she would ask me to hand her the wooden spring loaded clothespins and I would have ten at the ready, one clipped to each finger.

I always traced the outline of the
stitched red star patch of the shirts
as they hung in the warm breeze, for
some odd reason I really loved that
bright red star.

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There are sounds we came to expect as kids living exclusively on our perfect suburban street; an occasional bark from a neighbor's dog, kids giggling or the thwack of a baseball bat. The best sound at the end of a hot summer afternoon was the instantly recognizable come and get it chime and loud generator of the Carvel soft serve ice cream truck, or the blinging bells of The Good Humor Man, which immediately set off an instant kid pandemonium.

The sound of vehicles was very distinctive and consigned to memory, if you heard your dad's car engine you knew it was time to go home, the Carvel chime meant you had to find your mom and plead for a quarter for that chocolate-vanilla swirl cone.

What ended up in our driveway just after lunch one day was a vehicle that none of us kids recognized, the loud sputtering pierced the quiet as it sped down the street and stopped short with a screech, announcing itself with a high pitched Beeep, Beeep, Beeep! We all stopped playing, rushed over and out of the doorless vehicle jumped, of all people, my father who none of my friends had ever seen, wearing the familiar green pants and shirt with the red star patch smiling like I'd never seen him smile before.

This vehicle was a classic Army issue, Willy's Jeep painted flat black with no top, no doors or windows except the greasy windshield, torn bucket seats and a stick shift between them and I was told to get in. So I did and instantly became the envy of all my friends and as we lurched out of the driveway, my dad pretended not to notice my mom as she stood screaming at him from the side stoop.

I spent the last weeks of that summer at my dad's Texaco station, wiping windshields, having my head patted as I pumped gas inhaling the intoxicating gas fumes and listening for the ding...ding... as every dollar rolled by on the pump gauge.

I collected money and got plenty dirty and if there is a heaven, I was there.
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The timing of what happened after I resumed school is unclear but I do remember not seeing my dad for a long time. His sudden, unannounced reappearance on Christmas Eve, a holiday my mom revered and he dismissed, loaded with presents and luggage did not turn out quite as he planned, when at the doorway stood a short man wearing an ill fitting suit and carrying a single travel case. He was introduced to us as Sensei Ushiro, bowed profusely as he shook our hands and was escorted to the basement where we were told he would be living, indefinitely.

Predictably, all hell broke loose.

Soon after my few weeks spent at the Texaco station it was sold and with the proceeds and a plan, my dad moved himself to Okinawa, Japan. There he studied Karate and Judo with some of the masters of the two disciplines earning himself a half brown belt, which in those days under those teachers was no small accomplishment. He convinced Sensei Ushiro to return to the states with him to open a school, a dojo where the discipline could be properly taught by a master, Sensei Ushiro and himself.

Despite his many flaws my dad was decades ahead of his time, the school became known quickly as the epicenter of the sport and garnered some headlines too. I was eventually convinced and coerced to join the school because according to my dad I was too sensitive, too tentative, afraid of everything that moved.

Of course in his delusional, diagnosed violent schizophrenic mind, it hadn't occurred to him that it was him that I was afraid of, it was his irrational outbursts of anger and violence that was the source of everything I feared. His new chiseled physical stature and prowess was a source of great pride to him, for us, the fact that he could now kill a human being with a well placed thumb to a temple was not anything to celebrate.

It came time to put my Karate training to the test in a tournament held at the school and attended by hundreds. I hated going to the school every Saturday, I hated the physical contact that often resulted in people getting seriously hurt. I learned well, I was always athletically talented and when I had my live match in the middle of the dojo with a kid who had become my friend, I broke his nose and he crumpled to the floor, unconscious. The crowd erupted in cheers as I bowed down in respect as is the custom but I was in shock and nauseated.

I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks as I accepted the half green belt and my trophy. I quit the next day.

I've only hit one other person since then. He was one of two twin bullies who terrorized the Brooklyn neighborhood I eventually moved to. He was twice my weight, he came at me and I struck him right in the heart and he went down in a heap and turned blue. I felt pretty sick about that too, even though it was justified at the time and the bullying from the twins ended that day.

Our homelife eventually settled down and the familiar pattern of my father's absence was again the norm. The Sensei was home more often and much of his time was spent with me, in my bedroom. It was my sanctuary, the place I felt safe and it was chock full with everything to do with war. I was a Civil War and World War II afficianado, devouring every book I could get my hands on, every model I could build, every plastic soldier army I could amass. There were battle enactments permanently set up on the floor, planes hung from the ceiling and all my plastic rifles and gear was conspicuously displayed, everywhere.

The Sensei  would sit crosslegged on the floor while the battles raged, the sound effects of every gun, tank and plane added by me perfectly mimicked the sounds I'd heard from so many war movies. He would occasionally talk with me about how I felt, why I enjoyed playing war so much. He was never judgmental but his broken English would inhibit his conversation.

One of my favorite soldiers was a Marine armed with a flame thrower, he was all green and had the tank strapped to his back. The Whhoooosh! that I learned from movies was my favorite sound effect, it was also the weapon I used when I wanted to kill all the Japanese soldiers hiding in the makeshift caves I built.

Whooosh! Whooosh! I felt a tap on my shoulder, the Sensei raised both his hands as if to say stop, so I did. He got up and began removing his shirt, then his undershirt and pants. He stood there for a moment then bent down and picked up the flame throwing marine and pointed at his body. I sat there with my mouth open shocked at what his skin looked like, even now it would be near impossible for me to describe the scars that covered every inch of his exposed skin.

He explained to me that he was one of the last Japanese soldiers to be taken out of the caves on Okinawa near the end of World War II. He opened my Encyclopedia Brittanica to the pages describing what happened so I would fully understand. He showed me his feet that barely had toes and his hands that barely had fingers.

I remember his leathery hands cupping my face.

Sensei Ushiro was the fiercest man in the dojo, a black belt master in the discipline of self defense. He was also the most serene human I have ever met. When he performed his Katas or forms like the one in the video posted above, he used the wooden staff too with virtually no fingers or toes. To watch him perform was a miracle, he was a master at his craft and an incredible human being who showed that little boy firsthand, the horrors of war.

It's a lesson I hold deeply to this day.

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thank you for taking the time to read my story. (2.00 / 18)

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

Great storyteller, Mr. Do. (2.00 / 11)
Reminds me of a confluence of moments in my own childhood. As I have mentioned before, my own childhood was similarly but differently beset with an odd paternal relationship and with bullies.

In the sixth grade my father decided to take some karate classes and took my brother and I with him. I was wildly happy. It was one of the few father-son activities we had together and it was a year into the period of daily beatings and ritual humiliations at school.

I saw those classes as a recognition by my father of what I was going through as well as a chance to spend time together. Looking back I know it was more an example of his inward-looking obsession with self improvement and his need for hero worship based on his own paternal issues, but kids see what they want and take what they can get.

The classes faded out before the first yellow belt, but I was a quick learner and absorbed the basics of balance and focus. Some months after the last lesson on a cold and sunny Colorado afternoon the after-school routine played itself out again. I had not managed to get out the door first and start running so the bullies had me again.

But this time instead of exercising themselves on me they decided to stage some third-party entertainment. With the large one's meat hook clamping my bicep the piggy-eyed mean one told another kid that I was calling him what they always called me (a word starting with "f", which while I did not know the definition at the time I did know was not a good thing to be).

So a fight was arranged.

On the sand of the swing area of the small park north of Vanderhof elementary, under the new mod-styled swings our City Fathers had installed, I stood in a ring of jeering peers that included most of the school population. In front of me stood a kid who had had me over to his house for supper once, his mother was a nice lady who made copious Italian dinners.

Brian was a chubby kid with a large hooked nose, not one of the cool crowd. With the triad of thugs behind him and the school body ringing the low sodded hills sculpted around the swing area shouting for blood he put up his fists and scrunched his face. I had been released where I stood in front of him.

The usual terror was there but it was something of a relief to be physically free for once. With my hands at my sides I looked into Brian's eyes and tried to talk to him through the noise of the crowd, telling him we didn't have to do this. That I had no issue with him and that I wasn't going to throw the first punch. That he could just leave and didn't have to be part of this.

Finally, he broke under the pressure of the taunting behind and all around him. He pulled back his arm, closed his eyes and swung a haymaker. As his fist came forward I bent my knees and felt it pass over my head, brought my hands up as my sensei had shown me and, rising, rotated my shoulders and punched him in the nose.

I remember the crunch of cartilage and the feel of the bone in his face on the knuckle of my index finger. The look of fear and humiliation, the blood and the tears. I don't really recall the immediate reaction of the crowd, but the noise had changed. Those following seconds in my recollection expand, though. Brian crumpling to his knees crying, holding his face, then lurching up and running away in pain and shame.

I wanted to throw up.

There were congratulations that followed. Respect offered the next day by some who had silently stood and watched me beaten and humiliated so many times before. Each one just made me sicker and more ashamed of myself,I never responded to any of them. I just saw myself doing what my tormentors wanted me to do, acting like them, hurting and humiliating someone else.

It was probably about a week or so later. The bullies had left me alone. I hadn't spoken a word to anyone in response to the 'attaboys' and hadn't had to plead for my freedom from the bullies - the speaking I did at school beyond the schoolroom - so I may not have made a single sound outside my house. It was a weirdly silent space.

Standing still before school in the red-brick area by the doors one morning. The three bullies were now picking on Brian, poking him in his belly and directing their bile into his face. He was crying and pleading, everyone else was watching. Now I was one of the silent enablers, and I didn't like that any better than being the entertainment. There wasn't any freedom running, there wasn't any freedom begging and there wasn't even any freedom being left alone. I had reached a moment where I realized the only freedom was not in getting away from it but to play none of the parts cast by others.

"Why don't you pick on someone your own size, Todd?"

The small mean leader turned and looked at me. Took the few steps over and stood inches in front of me and spit in my face. "You're my size, Blask," with the known sneer. It was true, we were both small kids.

"I guess I am." Scared? I don't really think so. Not brave, either. Just fed up, tired, nothing to lose. Tired of being manipulated, tired of being afraid, not willing to become either my tormentors or those who stand and allow it.

"You're fucking dead." The bell. The doors open. "As soon as we get outside you're fucking dead meat, Blask. I'm going to pound your fucking face."

We moved a few weeks later. I don't really think I spoke another word to a kid in that school after those four words by the doors. The bullies never spoke to me, not sure if anyone did.

That was the only punch I've thrown in my life. Not for lack of situations where violence is in the air. In fact I have since almost obsessively sought such confrontations when the suggestion of violence or intimidation arises. I can't stand the feeling of fear in my stomach and will move towards instinctively rather than give it a chance to build.

It's true, what my brother said decades later. But it wasn't just the bullies who gave me the gift of being who I am, it was the rest who let them. I won't be any of them, neither those who use violence nor those who allow it through their own inaction. Not my mother's tolerant submission, my father's toadying hero worship, the bullies' bluster or the passive safety of the observer. There isn't anywhere to run to find your freedom, nobody who can give freedom to you, nowhere you can stand safely beyond reach of danger and gain freedom.

You have to make your own.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Chris, i need to scoot off to work (2.00 / 8)
and i want to think a little more before i respond.

funny, i kept refreshing the front page to comment in the check in and my diary title kept appearing. heh, took me a few minutes to figure it out, thank you.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
there is a point, and maybe when you crunched his nose (2.00 / 6)
was a start, when some of us begin to realize our true individuality, realize that we don't all fit nicely into the social groups that are readily available, that are convenient. even that realization is painful, most of us want to belong. the thing is, some of us just don't.

seems to me you traveled the hardest road possible Chris, given
how few acceptable options you had, i doubt you regret your choices now. but life is a funny thing somtimes, even when you do what seems like the right thing at the time there always seems to be a price attached. was it 'right' that i punched that bully in his chest and saved myself and all my friends more pain, sure. but to this day, like you, i remember the low thud of my fist hitting his heart and how sickening that felt. that memory won't fade.

there is a burden in having a high functioning brain and an equally high functioning heart, sounds odd but i think it's often true. heh, my brain sometimes goes on the fritz, takes a few unscheduled days off, my heart is expected to pull double shifts. ;-}

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
It's a complex world, that's for certain. (2.00 / 4)
I came out of my youth with a complex view, which all in all is I think best. It doesn't lend itself to sound bites, or even page-long comments, and that too is as it should be. Simple perspectives do not fit well with a complex reality.

There are regrets in my life, no doubt, but none in the diatribe I typed out above as far as my own actions. As Silk's "Broken" diary so well states, often the breaking itself is necessary to get to a given end.

With a less self-involved father, my path would have been simpler and more healthy. With an earlier intervention with the bullies (though that word just doesn't describe it well, think more Ender's Game or Lord of the Flies for intensity, but over a longer span of time and without the supportive sidekick), my path would not have forced me to examine the issues so deeply.

But with any of those improvements my view in the end would not be as nuanced as it is. Physical and other scarring notwithstanding, I am grateful for the end result.

I have no ethical problem with hitting Brian, though he was as much a victim as I was. It was the first time I wasn't out numbered and physically restrained, and a valid act of self defense. It added a concrete clarity to a lifelong rejection of the pure pacifism my parents preached: there are times when violence is the solution. It also added a depth of understanding of just how much I couldn't let myself follow the simpler path of adopting the violence that had been perpetrated on me. There are vanishingly few times when violence is the solution. Far fewer than popular culture would have us believe, and with less honor attached regardless of the circumstances.

There are lessons and lessons buried in both of our stories. Some we can tease out in a page or two, but for anyone else to truly understand would require reading a story as long as our lives.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Gd Dm It - (2.00 / 7)
I hit "Fail" again.  So, so, so, sooooooooooooo sorry (and fixed).

/head smack

[ Parent ]
no worries m, i do it all the time (2.00 / 7)
when i comment over there.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Wow (2.00 / 12)
That's all I can say - wow. You have a gift with words, and this is a well-done piece of work. Thank you for a window into your life.

No matter where you go, there you are...

Buckaroo Banzai

thanks trs. (2.00 / 12)
i've had this title as a diary template for a few months over at GOS, i just never felt up to the task of writing it properly. i went to sleep last night having found the right pics and y'all helped me this morning embedding the vid, thanks again. i do have a few typos to correct, maybe i'll get to it tonight.

it just seemed like the right time and place trs, thank you for your words. they mean an awful lot.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
beautifully written (2.00 / 10)
this is one of those very rare diaries a reader knows is straight from the heart.  thank you, dear occupant.

Twitter Doesn't Make You Martin Luther King

you are very kind Avila. (2.00 / 9)
i'm new to this craft of writing and there certainly are some parallels to painting which i studied. words for me are like nuanced colors, building a story is akin to a multilayered painting, adding texture, highlights and empty space to let the image breathe.

my favorite painting teacher said always, always draw which in essence meant always, always  L O O K. for me it's about the details, i've got decades of images stored in my head that now, finally have a conduit.

The Sensei was a very instrumental person to meet so young, i just wanted to remember him the best way i could.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
An incredible story beautifully told. Wow. (2.00 / 10)

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

nannyboyz, i have to give the Recue Rangers (2.00 / 11)
over at GOS the credit for encouraging me, CC was in that wonderful group too. they kept rec'ing up my feeble attempts to write with all the gramatical errors, they saw something even i didn't see. i owe tham a lot and that's part of the reason it was so difficult to not write there anymore.

i am a sensitive boy and i have to write without fear of trolls, i just found myself self censoring so much for fear of offending, my creativity was being stifled. and thanks to BJM for leaving that link in her diary that led me here.

i love this place.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Me too and I also followed that link, a great move for many (2.00 / 7)
of us!

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

[ Parent ]
heh, NB i visualize following that link (2.00 / 4)
as an intervention for this Orange addict. it's been quite liberating as kicking a habit usually is. :-)

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Glad we both found our way here (2.00 / 3)
Though my gateway was Mets.  And agreed - every time I tried to start a new draft over there, I would end up writing half and then deleting it because I just didn't want to put myself out there in that sort of environment.  I was bullied as a kid too, and the hammering your self confidence takes really sticks with you (well, speaking for myself at least).  I'm getting better slowly, but still hesitant.  

I have been planning lately on reworking my intro diary from GOS into a diary over here, as an introduction for the Meese I don't know yet.

[ Parent ]
it's horrid to feel unsafe (2.00 / 3)
and something I won't put up with. Easy for me to say now I'm retired but during my working life I frequently found myself drawing boundaries for fools who truly failed to understand anything about them except the consequences for violating them. There is never a need for that kind of behavior no matter how desperately anyone defends it. The only cure I've found is shunning.

There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.--Thornton Wilder

[ Parent ]
i agree or in this case, leaving. (2.00 / 3)
i have no tolerance for that behavior in meatspace, those boundaries don't change for me online.
it's simply unnacceptable.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
it was difficult (2.00 / 3)
for me to realize that some people feel that civilized behavior is expecting too much from them. Okay fine, go be a barbarian with others but not in my company. Walking away from a blog is easier than hanging up on someone being rude on the phone, blogs don't call you right back. Or leave incoherent ranting messages when you don't answer.  

There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.--Thornton Wilder

[ Parent ]
'Okay fine, go be a barbarian' (2.00 / 3)
this line made laugh out loud!

brilliant diary title IMHO, ::hint::

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
I'm pondering (2.00 / 3)
right now and will let it percolate on the road trip so when we return I can write a diary. I think it would be nice to write an introduction since I'm often terse in comments. Thanks for the prod.

There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.--Thornton Wilder

[ Parent ]
yeah, percolating is all good in my world. (2.00 / 3)
Coffee and Diaries both benefit from the process. ;-}

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Avilyn i'm so glad you are considering a diary here. (2.00 / 3)
i almost asked you when we both arrived, i actually had the sentence written but thought better of it. you write wonderfully,
i still remember the excitement you felt, we all felt for you when your diary was chosen for the Spotlight.

'the hammering your self confidence takes really sticks with you', you're certainly not alone in feeling this way Avilyn, i do too. it's intimidating enough just posting creative work, fearing an intolerant and hostile audience is enough to shut anyone down.
it certainly did me, there.  

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
written words saved my life (2.00 / 4)
Many times through high school, college, and later years.  Being able to express myself rather than keeping things bottled inside, even tho I was fiercely protective of my works and rarely showed them to anyone.  I have to thank my HS English teachers, they really encouraged me.  

Here, I feel safe; more words will certainly be forth-coming  in time.  :-)

[ Parent ]
write on! looking forward to it A. (2.00 / 3)

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
yay!! (2.00 / 2)

More please!!  :)

[ Parent ]
GOS? (2.00 / 3)
Sorry, I probably shouldn't ask this question before I've started my second cup of tea this morning, but what is GOS? I keep seeing that abbreviation, and it always stops me cold for a moment while I try to figure it out.

I love my country, but I think we should start seeing other people.

[ Parent ]
Cheryl, GOS = Great Orange Satan, also know as (2.00 / 3)
Daily Kos or as some of us now call it, The Place That Shall Not Be Named ;-)  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
Wonderful. Just plain wonderful.Thank you. (2.00 / 6)

Portlaw you are a sweetheart, thanks. (2.00 / 3)
i was thinking this morning about my decision to stop drawing and painting which happened years ago. i beat myself up for a long time, felt guilty not using my ability to create. i'm only recently realizing that i have things to express that i couldn't adequately convey on canvas, like this story. maybe someone could paint this story, i doubt i could. i like the anonymity factor too, my shyness was always an inhibiting, problematic impediment in my artwork.

i'm explaining this so you can understand what your words mean to me, thank you.  

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
this is great (2.00 / 6)
i have work to do, so stop writing such interesting stuff, mmkay?


Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

heh, ok i'll keep that in mind fogiv, can't promise though. (2.00 / 4)
oh and the 79 Ford pick up is being restored as we speak, found an original step side bed, new paint lotsa new parts. should be on a flatbed carrier to Chicago in time for spring.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
79? cool story bro, tell it again. (2.00 / 4)
pics, or it didn't happen*
*srsly, that's cool news. congrats, excited for ya :)

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
ok, remember telling me about your dad's Porsche (2.00 / 5)
that came delivered in a box. it was in a diary when all us Orange refugees first came here over a month ago?

then i posted this pic.....
 photo thefarm020.jpg

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
heh. i remember (2.00 / 4)
that's before, i'm talkin' 'after' pics.  gimmie, gimmie.  lol

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
Very well written, very touching diary (2.00 / 6)
The whole diary held my attention, not a small feat these days. I wasn't tempted to skim over any of it. One sentence really jumped out at me, though:

I collected money and got plenty dirty and if there is a heaven, I was there.

It took me back to age ten, when my dad dropped me off at a Unification Church commune in Denver. While I bravely maintained my private delusion that he would someday return for me, that he couldn't have just abandoned me there, it was still heaven on earth for me. I had a job making and selling candles, I was part of the community, and I didn't have to go to school (fact was, I would later learn, they couldn't enroll me in school due to the lack of any legal guardian, which became a problem for the church vis-à-vis the local authorities). Months later, when a church official told me my grandparents had been located and were on their way to come get me, I broke out in sheer panic, having been told by my mother that they were dangerously insane and banned from my childhood home in Chicago. Yeah, so much for Mom's issues with her folks -- they turned out to be some of the kindest, sweetest people I've ever known.

Chris, a line from your comment struck me, too:

There were congratulations that followed... Each one just made me sicker and more ashamed of myself...

This is how many returning veterans who happen to have sensitive spirits (a strength, not a weakness, IMHO) feel when congratulated and fêted for their combat service. It doesn't feel like anything to be proud of, honestly.

Great stuff here, Meese! Thanks for an uplifting start to my day.

I love my country, but I think we should start seeing other people.

I'm not comfortable with the pat "Thank you for your service" line. (2.00 / 5)
It's like the "We Support Our Troops" bumper sticker, meaningless and verging on offensive. Michael Moore's recent DKOS piece on that was the one thing I agreed adamantly with from him. I have expressed my appreciation to several soldiers, but hopefully it didn't sound like that sounds to me.

It isn't fun hurting people, unless you are sick yourself. The best it ever is is regrettably necessary, but you pay the price for doing it regardless. The whole idea of using a gun to kill in self defense is trite if the people arguing for it do not understand that they are not going to get off uninjured themselves. I would in certain extreme (and incredibly unlikely) scenarios, but I know that would haunt me forever no matter how justified it was.

"Thank you for" taking on the burden in my name. "Thank you for" carrying that weight so I don't have to. "Thank you for" accepting the harm to yourself on behalf of others.

Sure, you bet.

"Thank you for your service" all by itself? I dunno, sounds to me like those "attaboys" I mentioned above. If you don't understand what you are giving someone kudos for, best just to STFU.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
word (2.00 / 5)
"Thank you for" carrying that weight so I don't have to.

--Chris Blask

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together, these items weighed between fifteen and twenty pounds, depending upon a man's habits or rate of metabolism. Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-size bars of soap he'd stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April. By necessity, and because it was SOP, they all carried steel helmets that weighed five pounds including the liner aid camouflage cover. They carried the standard fatigue jackets and trousers. Very few carried underwear. On their feet they carried jungle boots-2.1 pounds - and Dave Jensen carried three pairs of socks and a can of Dr. Scholl's foot powder as a precaution against trench foot. Until he was shot, Ted Lavender carried six or seven ounces of premium dope, which for him was 2 necessity. Mitchell Sanders, the RT0, carried condoms. Norman Bowker carried a diary. Rat Kiley carried comic books. Kiowa, a devout Baptist, Carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother's distrust of the white man, his grandfather's old hunting hatchet. Necessity dictated. Because the land was mined and booby-trapped, it was SOP for each man to carry a steel-centered, nylon-covered flak jacket, which weighed 6.7 pounds, but which on hot days seemed much heavier. Because you could die so quickly, each man carried at least one large compress bandage, usually in the helmet band for easy access. Because the nights were cold, and because the monsoons were wet, each carried a green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat or groundsheet or makeshift tent. With its quilted liner, the poncho weighed almost two pounds, but it was worth every ounce. In April, for instance, when Ted Lavender was shot, they used his poncho to wrap him up, then to carry him across the paddy, then to lift him into the chopper that took him away.

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
Cheryl, i'm trying to grasp the reality of your story, (2.00 / 4)
of what that must have been like as a 10 year old realizing your dad wasn't coming to pick you up, i'm so sorry that happened to you. luckily you got to experience your grandparents on your terms, and they you.

i went to a U.C. weekend retreat when i was 19 when i was in my 'searching for' mode. the food was delicious, it was all vegetarian cuisine, accomodations were comfortable at an estate in upstate New York. i wasn't ready for their idea of communal living though, they were relieved to put me back on the bus home to Manhattan.

thank you for your compliments, you made my day!

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
If you continue writing this well, there's a Moosey Pulitzer (2.00 / 4)
in your future, dear occupant. This is seriously riveting, beautifully evocative writing.

I had the good fortune of studying Shotokan karate in college under a Sensei Kazumi Tabata, a 5th degree black belt from Japan whose further advancement was apparently dependent upon teaching in foreign lands. He gave classes at several Boston-area colleges, and to make ends meet, worked as a night security guard at one of them. When students asked him what he did when danger threatened (imagining that he karate-chopped or kicked the offenders senseless), he would reply with his delightful modesty: "No. Must follow proper procedure. Put feet on desk. Dial "O". Ask for police."

He took no crap from any students, and I delighted in being a 5'4" female survivor of his rigorous training regimen as the boisterous jocks dropped out, one after another.

While I only advanced to yellow belt, what I took from the class was the power of focus: an ability that has served me well personally and professionally ever since. I've never had occasion to fight in self defense, but many who know me have said that I'm someone who doesn't take any crap from anyone. Perhaps its the confidence of knowing that if needed, I could surprise someone even with the ferocity of a well-timed scream.

Thank you for drawing me back to those times, and giving me yet another fascinating glimpse into the developmental years of a very dear occupant.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

in New York slang we called it 'street smarts.' (2.00 / 3)
i lived there during the dark days of the late '70's and '80's when people where being mugged and worse everyday. it helped that i'm 6'2' but i've seen taller victims in NY. my Karate training gave me awareness  and that awareness translated into quiet confidence and that confidence, body language. perpetrators pick up on victim vibes and conversely, 'hhmm, maybe not that guy' vibes too. it's not a macho swagger, it's much more subtle but effective.
it is the essence of self defense, IMHO.

i've seen the transformation take place in women who study self defense, i have no doubt you posess the same quiet confidence that i spoke about and at 5'4'' you'd have all the leverage. :-)

it's very cool that you studied, you must have a keen appreciation for Sensai Ushiro's skill with the wooden staff, considering the state of his hands and feet. wish you could have heard the sounds he made, they were other wordly.

"No. Must follow proper procedure.
Put feet on desk. Dial "O". Ask for police."

comedian Sensai too, hehe.

thank you CC, i can assure you we
have a mutual admiration society.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Do you remember.... (2.00 / 5)
The red flying horse gas sign? That was the station down the block from me... With the old fashioned soda machine where you had to pull the soda out by the neck of the bottle?!

Just one of the memories you brought home tonight as I read this

Thanks, dear o....

As always,


hi K, sure i remember the Mobil gas signs. (2.00 / 5)
 photo thCAHMWNYF.jpg
here are some other
iconic gas station signs
that i saw on L.I. then
 photo thCA34I4LE.jpg
 photo thCAJ71TZJ.jpg
 photo thCA1Q2DXE.jpg
 photo thCA0XSU88-1.jpg
every gas station had
a soda machine, usually coke
 photo thCA933WVD.jpg
and free maps that you could
never fold back together
 photo thCA3XIJWJ.jpg
and vending machines filled
with gumballs and salted cashews
 photo thCARYLFHV.jpg
and all the attendants wore
neat caps with the logo
 photo thCAQXOYS6.jpg

it's always a gas strolling down
memory lane with you K.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Lol (2.00 / 4)
I stiill have real maps like that!

[ Parent ]
Oh what a nice surprise to find you writing here, dear occupant. I always loved (2.00 / 4)
to read your diaries, and when I poked around here tonight, I realized I hadn't read any for a few months. So I'm glad I've found your new home, and look forward to reading more diaries.

hi {{{Lorikeet}}} (2.00 / 4)
i'm so happy to see that you're here too, welcome to the Moose.
there are an awful lot of familiar names here,  almost everyone kept the screen name from the GOS.

actually i got West Nile in August which took me completely out of commission, then too many hurdles to jump posting diaries over there kept me quiet. I came here in the massive migration after BJM's diary.

i like it here and i hope you will too.
I always enjoyed your diary comments.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the nice words. I'm sorry you were sick. That sounds like it knocked (2.00 / 3)
you out for a while.  

[ Parent ]
yes it did, about 4 months. (2.00 / 4)
Although i was very fortunate compared to some.
I got a mild form of the virus, even still the recovery
of my memory, strength and brain functions
were excrutiatingly slow and a little scary.

All better now though.
I'm a very cranky patient.:-)


time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Lorikeet!!! (2.00 / 4)
What a delightful surprise to see you here! I have been hanging out here among the purplicious moose meadow flowers and finding it a very calming and welcoming place.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
Hey, it's your fault ;) You are the one who suggested taking a peek ;) n/t (2.00 / 3)

[ Parent ]

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