Welcome to my blog
This blog has various writings and things that pertain to me and are primarily for me. So if you enjoy them great, if not, well they weren’t put here for you anyway.
When I was eight I gloriously declared the whole year my hell-week, because I enjoyed my first true life threatening experience. It was late winter on Long Island, 1988. The day was a gloom overcast but the air was cool and fresh, the air that seems electrified with sobering encouragement. Around the corner from my house was a beautiful dirt forest of sorts. A new house was being put up in the Fall but for some reason, probably the weather, they paused for the coldest of the New York winter months.
My parents didn’t fool around when it came to unsupervised construction sites. Oh, they knew it was the second coming of Disney for an eight year old, only more dangerous because it was around the block. The thing is, they never took their eye off me long enough to take the ride. Eventually a day came when my grandparents visited. Both of which could have been loony-toon characters or some Jim Henson creations. Though, my grandma Thelma came more from the mind of Stephen King or George Lucas. I think she was related to Darth Vader. Maybe his sister, or distant cousin but related all the same. As bad as this might seem, the idea of my Grandma being Darth Vader’s sister excited me at that age. It would make me the jedi nephew. These thoughts only made sense to a child when hugs were forbidden with the woman, as was talking without being addressed first. According to my Darth Thelma childhood was a phase, one only had to make it through and you would be alright. My Grandfather was a different character altogether. He was the prisoner, handcuffed to the undying witch, but holding a smile to his face as if he didn’t mind going down with sinking ship. I could tell my parents agreed loosely with my conclusions on both of my Grandparents. We never said as much, but my father would smile as he watched my Grandpa bring a brilliant gift and spoiling me, while giving my Grandmother the stink eye.
These two wonderfully abstract people were finally the break I had been waiting for in my attempts to excavate the construction site fortress. With my mother stretching herself thin to prepare for Darth Thelma, I snuck out the back screen door, over the fence and across the street before the door slammed home. Never having been there mattered not, because I had eyed the sand paradise for weeks every time I walked to my bus stop.
I was standing facing the wondrous rippled cement foundation within minutes. Like a puppy sniffing out the far corners of a yard, I walked the perimeter of the towering concrete walls of a foundation. I remember briefly taking in the flying trapeze man, preparing to disembark and gain gasps from the crowd, when I scrapped it for the Dark Knight. I was Batman creeping the walls, curving left than right, preparing to pounce on the unsuspecting criminals below.
The thing I guess I never noticed before planting my front foot and pouncing, was a rusty steel bar protruding out of the wall ankle high. Nor did I fully respect the consequences of a twelve foot drop for a pip-squeak third grader.
It took two hours before my Father found me with a ankle the size of a pumpkin and a face that looked more like Two-Face than Batman. The good news; the rusty bar slowed my fall- the bad news; I fell on my face crushing some teeth and lips in the process. My Father wasn’t as mad as I feared. He handled me well like a good father should. I laid in my parents bed for a week as my mother nursed me back to health. I still remember it being one of the only times in my life I was allowed in that bed. Oh yea, and I got a hug from Darth Thelma, apparently even Dark Lords have hearts too- especially when they see how treacherous their grandson’s can look.
The Day Seven Died
On one day in mid December we got called out of the base to back up a Bradley fighting vehicle that was attacked. One of ours. The story over the radio didn’t say much, but did imply that the seven man crew were killed in a large roadside explosion. Bradley’s were always the iron work horse of the company, needless to say we were pretty intimidated. Upon arrival the soldiers buzzed about. We parked on the far road and watched the horizon while non-combatmen cleaned up the leftovers. I remember seeing a five hundred pound tread in front of us making a donut in the sand. It had blown over a hundred yards in the blast.
Sitting in a gun turret can get boring. It sounds hard to believe, but it happened quite often. Sitting and staring, waiting on that contradiction; of the inevitable that never happens. My eye lids slid down until I was peering through my prison-bar lashes. My mind started to drift when the radio crackled and broke drifting daze. The radioman spoke of hounds, wild and vicious starting to devour the body parts of our fallen friends.
“Shoot on sight,” the radioman order. The boredom was zapped. A game started up of sniping dogs. I remember Auturi hit one dead from a hundred and fifty yards moving- an impressive feat. We later disembarked and were sent with black bags to pick up the pieces of the fallen soldiers. The game continued into this new task as well since the smell of flesh continued to attract wild dogs. Joe fired twice and clipped a dusty tan mutt in the neck. It panicked and frantically licked it’s wound until the surety of death washed over it. The week before a man in a gray t-shirt was shot and he pressed his two hands hard to his entry wound and wandered around in a panicked. Neither said much; both acted the same man and dog. I felt a rising in my stomach at the sight of the dog’s “old man like” like behavior. But it wasn’t the dog that burned into my memory that day, it was the filling of the black bag. I filled mine a quarter of the way, much less then the others. I remember only reaching out for one large fleshy piece. A butterscotch porterhouse steak. It oozed like ice melting in the sun. My stomach was fine while I placed it in my bag.
I never knew the name of the soldier it belonged to. To have it leave such an impression and to never know who it belonged to is shameful. 😦
How does an adult learn grammar? This question might seem silly, it may even seem pointless, but regardless it is something that has been avoided and left to die. The grammar elites point us back to grammar school. As if the days of elementary school and the basics are the place to start. The image of a grown 28 year old sitting like a pretzel on a shag carpet surrounded by 30 eight year olds is not working of me. I can’t go back to grammar school; after all I have a Masters Degree.
The truth is that I am too advanced to start at the beginning. I know where a period goes. What I need is the scientific break down of sentence structure. I want a complete comprehension of verbs and prepositions. I want to learn the make-up of the English language. To think that I am so eager to learn, so hungry to educate myself makes me proud. Almost proud enough to forget about the shame and embarrassment I suffer through when thinking about being 28 and not knowing the blue-prints of my own language. It can be humiliating when you place a comma in the wrong place or add an apostrophe where one doesn’t belong.
Where does an adult learn grammar? I have read Shrunk and Whites Elements of Style. It has helped, but seems to assume I know the things I should have learned between the fourth grade and now. I have read various guides to grammar and again they are informative but fall short of giving me complete comprehension.
The two main problems I find when trying to educate myself is
- They (grammar snobs, grammar guides, and style manuals) assume I know the elements of grammar so they focus of the common mistakes or tricks that the pros make.
- They (educators, grammar guides) assume I am in the third grade and focus on periods and capital letters.
Is there nowhere in the middle for people like me? Am I destined to watch the grammar boat sail away into the horizon because I refused to buy a ticket while I attended school? Can’t a person be a late bloomer, not in that I couldn’t learn but rather that I never thought it was important enough for me to learn? At the age of 24 I left a boy for a far off war and returned a man ready to fix some past mistakes. Can someone please help me?
Is there anywhere an adult can learn English grammar?
It has been awhile since I have written anything on this blog, but as of late I have been getting the itch to give it some attention. I think I will be writing short diary entries into the blog space until I get back into the mode of writing again.
These are newspaper clippings and Memorial cards from my unit, the fighting 69, in Iraq. Some of this stuff is sad and close to my heart. (more…)
This is a little bit of an experiment. I am tinkering around with putting letters that I have from when I fought in the Iraq war up on my blog. They are pretty interesting. At the time of writing these letters the last thing on my mind was whether someone other than my wife would be reading these letters so they can be a little sloppy. I think I might start by putting some original letters up and some translated letters up that I have modified. But I promise I will keep the original integrity of the letters intact if I do modify the letters. Either way I will write which ones are original and which are modified. (more…)