Storytime – Easy Rider

That’s right, it’s that time again!

Buckle up, buttercup, we’re going for a ride!

For those of you new to this game, Storytime is where I relate something true that happened in my life that popped to mind recently, because I’m an old fart living in the past. And since this is my blog, and I’m waxing nostalgic, I’m taking you all with me!

Oh, and I’m a huge Jethro Tull fan. I can’t use the phrase ‘living in the past’ in a sentence without hearing Ian Anderson actually proclaim in my head, “Living… in… The Past!” Just an FYI.

So, back in the glorious heyday of my youth, we return once more to Beaufort, South Carolina, scene of many of my previous escapades. Ah, the trouble you get into when you are young, single, Enlisted without being an NCO just yet, and have no bills and lots of disposable income.

Ah, youth. How the hell do we live through those years? Seriously?

At any rate…

I was stationed there in lovely Beaufort, SC, but my parent’s home was in far away Boca Raton, Florida.

I had some income, certainly… but not the kind of cash to dump on a plane ticket to go home to visit the folks and my old school friends whenever I got a three or four day pass.

So what I did, was I bought a motorcycle from a fellow Jarhead taht was having divorce issues and needed the money.

It was a Yamaha Maxim 550, used of course, with a whole heck of a lot of miles on it. It may have looked a little rough, but I loved that bike.

Here’s a photo so you can see the body style, this ain’t the actual bike, just the closest thing I could find to a pic of what my bike looked like.


Even the tank color is right.

So, I had never ridden a motorcycle before, and now I owned one. And anyone that lives on base can tell you, getting a bike registered, licensed, insured and getting your own MC DL are all required before you get to actually ride the damn thing around.

So for a month or so, I left it out at my friends’ place, and he would drive me out there weeknights or weekends, where I would hop on, crank it up, and go driving around the backroads of Beaufort, teaching myself to ride.

You gotta love the South. I mean, really.

The gas stations I would stop at had the usual pumps… but they also had one pump that would be listed as “Racing Fuel – 99 octane”.

Racing Fuel, of course, is designed to burn faster, so more of it’s energy is released before  going further than about 20° past Top Dead Center… and I just realized I have no intention of explaining that.

Ummm… Racing Fuel packs more of a kick. Corrodes normal engines, though. At least the old stuff used to. 

Anyway, yeah, the regular Unleaded was pretty expensive back then going for around .88¢ a gallon… but I always splurged and went with the Racing Fuel at $1.02, and to heck with the expense! Go crazy with that money! Get the GOOD stuff!

Ah, the joys of tearing around on your own motorcycle… I loved it. I truly did.

So, after a month or two, I went and took my test and got my license, yadda yadda, and started tooling around town. All the joys life off-base had for a single Marine were now open to me. Meaning, mostly, the movie theater, McDonalds, and video rentals.

A few months later, we had a 4 day weekend coming up. I called home and proudly let my mom and dad know that I was coming home to visit.

This being South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida,  the route wasn’t the most difficult in the world. You get on I-95 Southbound, and you stay there. When you need gas, you pull over. Repeat as needed.

On the day of the trip, I stuffed a seabag full of clothes, bungie-corded it onto the back of the bike (where it actually provided a comfy back rest to lean against) and headed on out.

I always wore a helmet, and on the ride down I had on jeans, combat boots and my field jacket.


Because it was a kind of rainy day. And rain or no rain, I said I was coming, so I was coming. 

I had never before ridden farther than Savannah, Georgia on the bike, and then it had been the summer. I had attended St Patricks’ Day at River Street (awesome, bigtime), and done a lot of tooling up and down the roads, but never before had I gone for a long, long run.

Looking at Mapquest, it’s about 480 miles, and they say it should take about 7 hours. I have no idea what speeds they are talking about, though.

What I do know is, I was excited. I was stoked. (Remember when it was okay to say stoked? Yeah, those were a happy 5 minutes.)

Screw the rain, I was going to know the freedom of the open road, the wind roaring around me, the pedal to the metal, blue sky and hard asphalt and the dreams of a free country everywhere around me.

Okay, no blue sky. But it can’t rain all the time!

Damn, was I excited.

Visions of Vanishing Point stuffed in my head, I WAS Kowalski, one man and the loneliness of the open road.

Yes, I know. You’re shocked. What can I say, I wasn’t BORN bitter, after all. 🙂

So I hit the road. Hard. I nailed 80 mph out the gate, and stuck it there as much as possible. I only left the road when gas got very, very low, and some of the stretches of Interstate highway left me feeling it might be a while until I saw another offramp.

And yes, it can in fact rain all the time. You’d think, after three states, at some point you would get out from under it.

Along the way, I learned many valuable lessons about riding a motorcycle on long journeys.

Some lessons I learned fast, and others took a while to sink in.

First and foremost, I learned that a lot of people in cars and trucks will actually swerve towards you, trying to force you off the road and off the shoulder, in the hopes of seeing you lose control, and die.

Yes, I’m serious. If you’re young and thinking about getting a bike, keep that in mind. Watch your ass, all the time. Check your mirrors, and maintain your spatial awareness. Do not give them a chance to block you, and keep an eye for escape routes, such as simply being ready to take the grassy median, or being prepared to accelerate or brake if you see an attempted swerve.

I don’t think it has to do with people in cars hating motorcyclists, either.

I think it has more to do with some people seeing someone else in a potentially dangerous, vulnerable situation, traveling at high speeds without a steel cocoon to protect them, and either they are on an open stretch of road, or in a heavy rain where visibility and identification are hindered, and they get the sudden urge to inflict hate and suffering on someone else just because they can. And I truly think they feel that they’ll easily get away with it, free and clear.

Kind of the road version of John Gabriels’ Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

I also learned that, to a motorcyclist, a large 18-wheeled tractor-trailer combo barrelling along at 75mph – 80mph sucks a massive windstorm in it’s wake and all around it, and it WILL cause you to concentrate all your energies just on control as it passes you, or you pass it, because you get the feeling your tires may very well lose traction on the slick roads, and you wonder if you’ll get sucked under the semi’s wheels if you’re not careful.

I learned that when they cordoroy, or roughen, the road with those lengthwise grooves when preparing for road work, it channels narrow bike tires and makes it difficult to safely control your bike during lane changes.

I learned that steel grate bridges like the ones in Jacksonville at the time are horrible.

I learned that a LOT of cars leak a LOT of oil, right down the middle of the road, which turns nice and slick in the rain. How slick? Why, much like an oil slick, I would say. And if you are on a motorcycle, the temptation is to ride down the center of the road where the bulk of the oil is.

And finally, I learned that bugs suck.

Especially clouds of those tiny little f’ing gnats. But I learned that lesson later.

For the moment, however, the sky was full of rain, the wind was a steady blur of icy needles in my exposed flesh, chilling and stinging me hour after hour, but the the roar of the road was in my veins, and I was free to ride.

I blasted on through, on the solo road trip of a lifetime.

It was awesome.

When I finally pulled on into the parent’s place in Boca Raton, I was bone tired.

But I was also exhilirated, and felt like I was riding a massive endorphin rush. NO energy, but no pain at all, and no stiffness either.

I was chilled bone deep, and soaking wet, but I was way past caring at this point. I was just exhilirated that the ride down was done, and in a thunderstorm from hell at the end of it. 

I stumbled on in, dumped my wet seabag on the floor, yelled “High Ma” as nonchalantly as I possibly could, as though I take three-state road trips all the time, no big deal, and then went back out to the bike.

You see, I had ridden that sucker hard for hours.

And when you run an engine that hard, you can’t just dump it on a driveway in the icy rain to sit, and instantly cool, and expect it to be fine.

You kind of need to ease it down gentle. Let the temperature cool gradually, let the oil circulate a little as it runs easy. Idle it a bit. A block or two is fine, maybe a mile if that, just puttering along. Don’t let a super hot, expanded-metal engine get chilled, it will only cause problems down the road.

So I went on out into the rain, hopped right back on the bike, backed it out and started her up again.

I puttered gently down the half a block to the corner, and eased into the left hand turn.

And as I turned left, the engine roared instantly into life, accelerating to the max the gear ratio could handle, and slamming me full tilt into the stop sign on the corner.


I was pinned under the bike, and I could tell my ankle was not doing very well. I shifted a bit, got under and hefted the bike up off me, and using it to lift myself off the grass, I gently propped it on it’s kickstand. I say gently, when what I really wanted to do was kick the hell out of it.

I had jumped the curb before I nailed the stop sign, and came to rest on the grass, so I didn’t have any road rash. The bike frame still looked straight, and the only visible damage was the right front turn signal was dangling by the wiring.

And yes, my right ankle was at least sprained.

Son of a…

Well, first thing I did was ruefully acknowledge that God has a fine sense of humor.

On the one hand, if you’re going to have an accident, it sure is nice to be able to walk away from it in one piece, and be able to hop a half a block home.

On the other hand, I was 480 miles from my duty station, my only mode of transport just tried to kill me out of the blue, and my right foot, my braking foot, was all messed up. If my foot didn’t get better fast, I was going to be relying strictly on the front wheel hand brake, which is a terribly unsafe, stupid thing to attempt. 

And I had three days to fix it all before I had to make the journey home. During a holiday weekend.

I pushed the bike the half block back to the house in the rain, limped on inside, and acknowledged that yes, it was mildly amusing that I drove 480 miles just to have an accident a half a block from the house. Thank you very much. Yes, I thought so too.

Now, I could say that the rest of the weekend was spent staying off my foot in the hopes it would heal, packing it with ice.

And I could relate the fun of finding a mechanic willing to do a rush repair on a motorcycle over a holiday weekend so I could ride back on Sunday. Eventually my dad found a Porsche mechanic friend willing to do a personal favor for me.

I could tell you of my annoyance at finding out the reason I crashed was not my own stupidity, but was instead that the accelerator cable got pinched in the sleeve, and as I turned the corner, it pulled the cable hard and fast, just as though I had redlined the engine intentionally. A simple problem that probably would have happened anyway, from prior abuse of the bike, but might have been prevented had I used a graphite lubricant in the sleeves of the cables as some preventive maintenance.

I could tell you how, nursing a tightly wrapped and unusable right foot, I made the return trip on my repaired bike, and this time the sun was high in the sky, the birds were singing, the wind was warm and delightful, and I had a picture-perfect, gorgeous ride back, wearing helmet, jeans and a tank top on the entire run, basking in the sun and the wind. And how the experience was severely lessened by my stress at not being able to use the foot brake.

Seriously, only having the front wheel hand brake is a horribly dangerous  way to ride.

I could tell you of the triumph of making it back to base just in time late on a Sunday night, using only the hand brake, fighting a fogged-over faceshield in the delightful late evening fog and humidity of South Carolina for the last hour in the dark along the coastal roads.

I could even tell you of my joy at discovering, the very next day, that when you ride with a tank top in the sun in 80mph winds for 6 to 7 hours straight, the combination of sunburn and windburn feel simply delightful. I highly recommend it.

Oh yeah, and pure Aloe gel is awesome.

But I think I’ll simply end with this thought, for all my friends;

Clouds of small bugs really suck. I am totally not kidding.


Storytime: Judgment may be impaired

I was chatting with the Sidhe Devils a bit last night, and somehow the subject got on me being really damn old (but not the oldest one in our guild, thankfully), and that I can clearly remember a time from before the internet.

You know, that ancient time when, if we were bored, we had to find something OUTSIDE the house to do.

And with one thing or another, I was reminded of an episode that I had gratefully almost forgotten.

And the stars aligned, and suddenly I both had a story on the tip of my tongue, and also felt in the mood to share.

Thus, we bring you… Storytime!

If you don’t like it, blame Wulfa and Dammy.

Continue reading

Storytime: Marines and sailing, what could go wrong?

Back in the earliest days of my time in our beloved Corps, I was stationed at the Marine Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina. It’s just a hop, skip and jump away from Parris Island (where real Marines, not those effeminate Hollywood Marines, are made), and a fast drive North from Savannah, Georgia and the endless joys of River Street.

Okay, one of the joys of River Street? Irish Pubs. More? Great nightclubs. My favorite? A bar that professed to carry 101 beers from all around the world… and if you drank one of each, you got a shirt showing you’d ‘Been around the world’. Thankfully, you were not expected to drink them all in one night, they gave you a punch card. Although some Jarheads tried. Oh yes, they tried.

One of the other local pleasures was Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, storied locale of hot beaches, hotter women, and drink shacks right on the water’s edge.

All in all, if you are mobile, life in Beaufort ain’t too bad at all. For being in a swamp, anyway. And PT in Beaufort is fun… I love running in the rain, and it rains in Beaufort ALL THE DAMN TIME. Screw Seattle. I was always partial to throwing my headphones on and going for a run in the rain around the flight line, a trip on pavement that tended to always be deserted.

One of the lesser known conveniences of living at the Marine Air Station, was that they actually had access to the waterway… and the base has a marina. I say has, I am assuming that, like much else in the military, nothing has changed. I could be wrong.

But there was a marina. And while it was, technically, funded so that the legendary gods of the officer ranks had a place to stash their yachts, (insert Kelly’s Heroes joke here), it was not actually off limits to the enlisted population. Just… not advertised. Or mentioned. Or encouraged for young Marines to go make themselves a nuisance there.

But, being the curious sort that I am, I took a jog down that way one day and saw the sign saying marina, and ducked into the quiant wood hut that stood at the waters’ edge to see what there was to see.

And behold, there was a window with a counter and a sign out log, and a Marine that attended said counter. And upon questioning, it was discovered that, if one were to take a written test on water safety and traversing intra-coastal waterways, and navigating channel traffic markings, then simply by presenting one’s ID card, one could check out… a boat.

A real life, kick ass sailboat. They’d actually GIVE you the damn thing! And trust you to bring it back!

Well, considering that you have to give them your ID, yeah, I guess they figured what the heck. But considering how controlled so many other facets of a young Marines’ life are, where you go, when you go, HOW you go… the fact someone would just trust you with a sailboat was pretty extraordinary.

So, having grown up in South Florida, and having spent one summer working a deep sea fishing boat as crew for my uncle, who owned and ran the boat as his livelihood, I knew my way around boats to a certain extent. the motored kind, anyway. Powered. Churning the waves, blasting through the sea. Fun!

Right then and there, I hatched Operation: Island Invasion.

I launched phase 1 the next day. I mentioned, casually, how it was possible to check out a Sunfish sailboat at the base Marina for fun and games.. and that it sounded like a neat way to spend a weekend… some brews, some sailing, some sun and maybe even some fishing.

And one of my compatriots in the unit allowed that it sounded mighty fun, indeed.

So off we went, that week after the duty schedule, to take the tests and get some maps of the waterways in the area.

It should be said, that neither of us had any previous experience piloting a sailboat. Ever. BUT, I was a Marine… how hard can it be?

My buddy for this task was a rather skinny little runt (as Marines go, anyway) that I shall call Corporal Henderson. He had been in the unit for about a year, and after another year, he would be able to change duty stations. He was single, lived in the barracks, and as far as I could ascertain had zero hobbies at all. Still, a pretty nice guy. And single, which was key to my plan.

I had hit upon my master plan at the very beginning of summer. Each weekend, we would jog on down to the marina with backpacks of drinks, check out a Sunfish, and head on out into the water. We learned to tack back and forth to sail into the wind, to maneuver and generally have ourselves a blast. Sailing, just for the sake of being out on the water, is a hell of a lot of fun.

Now, I say we, but the fact is that I was the captain of the vessel, and Corporal Henderson, sadly, was just along for the ride. He really did show an appalling lack of initiative and imagination for a Marine. Very content to just put his brain into neutral and do what he was told. So, I took the lead in learning, training, and getting the sailing of this little sailboat down pat.

Finally, the day came where I felt we were ready to discuss the second stage of my master plan.

I mentioned to Corporal Henderson how I felt that we were doing quite well in small boat handling skills. He allowed as to how he felt the same.

And then I painted for him a picture with my words. I said to him, “Imagine this… here they are, these beautiful ladies, lounging in the summer sun on Hilton Head Island… drinking foofy little drinks with fruit stuck on sticks and little umbrellas in ’em. And from out of the ocean comes this agile little vessel, crewed by two buff and rugged young Marines such as ourselves, who pull our little boat up on shore and join them in drinks on the sand. And think how impressed these fine young ladies are sure to be when they hear of the length of our voyage and our travails across the seas. Frolicking, I dare say, may then commence in the surf and the sand. How does that sound to you, young Mr. Henderson?”

He seemed particularly delighted by this idea. Operation: Island Invasion was a go!

I had planned out our course most carefully. Making our way from the base marina to the waters of the ocean would be a long and interesting navigation, considering that there would actually be very heavy traffic. We were planning to take our adventurous voyage over the course of a 4 day weekend, and there were sure to be many other ships plying the waves at the same time. Plus, the Sunfush has a very shallow draft, making it an interesting challenge in heavy waves. We were going to need plenty of practise in choppier waters than the calm millpond crap you see in an intracoastal to complete our mission successfully.

So we stepped up our weekend excursions with longer and longer trips, lasting many hours of sailing time, to get closer out into the actual ocean. Much of the route actually passes right offshore of Parris Island, which was kind of spooky at the time. Kinda the same feeling I’d imagine I’d have sailing past Alcatraz… knowing that you were passing a land of pain and suffering beyond human ken. But I digress.

The point was, we’d need to get really comfortable with sailing in all environments.

I took to watching the weather reports VERY closely. It’s a serious shock how the smallest changes in wind velocity and direction, things that have little impact to traveling over the road, make traveling at sea on a wind-powered ship VERY different. There were more than a few hairy incidents, but we handled them all with calm and style.

Finally, the week had come, where that very next weekend we would be taking a little sailing trip. We were going to be taking the waters, leaving Marine Air Station Beaufort, SC, sailing through Beaufort itself to access Port Royal Sound, cutting across to the south side and then skirting the coast as we made our way to the beaches of Hilton Head Island… and we were going to take our sleeping bags in waterproof bags with us and sleep right on the damn boat on the beach. We’d spend the night there, and then sail on back. Perhaps we’d even be sleeping somewhere other than on the boat? 

The thought of who would be watching the damn boat once we got there and had no place to lock it never crossed my mind.

A truly magnificent adventure!

But first, we had to get through the week.

That week, we had an event that all Marines must do at some point. You have to requalify in many different things over the course of your time in the service, to ensure you are still prepared to do your basic job as an amphibious infantryman. Land, Sea, and Air. Gotta be prepared.

And while you obviously expect Marines to requalify on the shooting range, or the land navigation course with map and compass, or in moutaineering, or cold weather training… this week, we had our swimming requalification test to complete.

Among these tests include holding one’s breath while swimming a set distance underwater, treading water while in full uniform and loaded pack and gear (and mock rifle for the dead weight) for a certain time, that kind of thing. It was done at the on-base swimming pool.

And my unit formed up, and the instructors looked us over, and then, before we got started, said, “Okay, everyone that has had no problems with swimming in the past, over to that side of the pool. Those of you that can’t swim, over here.”

And as we all got ourselves sorted out, I see to my laughter that Corporal Henderson has gotten into the non-swim, or ‘brick’, lineup.

And as I laugh, because that’s a pretty funny joke, I tell him to get back over in our line.

And he informs me that, no, in fact he cannot swim.

He can’t swim.

He. Can. Not. Swim.


For three months we’ve been sailing over the waters for endless hours in a little freaking boat that could flip at any moment, without the faintest idea what we were doing, we were planning on sailing the damn thing into the ocean for a trip of about 30 miles, we have never, EVER worn our damn life vests the entire time, although we DID have to take them on the boat, I used mine for a cushion to sit on, and he doesn’t know how to WHAT?!?!

Just shoot me now, oh Lord, just shoot me now. 

And my fellow Jarheads, seeing my poleaxed look and dazed countenance, ask me what the hells got my panties all twisted up in a bunch.

And, more fool me, I told them.

Now, in my unit we all had GI Joe nicknames for fun. You earned your nickname the hard way.

We had one guy that had a pitbull, a dog he dearly loved, he was married and lived off base and god did he love that dog. And the base commander had gotten calls from the cops about his damn dog barking all the time. So, of course, he was “The K-9 Kid”.

I usually pulled the early watch, and I would jog into work early for my PT, get dressed there, get the coffee going, and drink about a pot of it with plenty of non-dairy creamer and sugar. All before 3 AM. By the time the rest of my team would come rolling on in, I’d have early radio checks done, radar would be turning and burning and ready for flight ops, and I’d be buzzing from caffeine like a livewire. My nickname was “Johnny Storm”. Flame on! Bouncy bouncy bouncy, ferret shock, ooh shiny!

So of course, right then and there, Corporal Henderson gets a brand new nickname, and “Aqualad” was born.

Needless to say, I never did make my trip to Hilton Head Island by sea. A failing I shall never forget.

Maybe it’s just me?

Back when I drove a truck cross-country for Dick Simon Trucking (the skunk trucks!), we had no nationwide cell phones, no satellite uplink computers to browse the internet, none of the new stuff you damn kids take for granted. Get off my lawn, damn you!

That’s a damn good thing, now that I think about it. I was single, I was making pretty awesome money, I lived in the truck so I had zero personal expenses except food and clothes…. the only reason I stopped driving was because I was lonely out there with no one to talk with or share things with. If I had a computer in the truck that I could connect to the internet with via satellite to play WoW on during federally mandated rest periods?

Yeah, I never would have quit trucking… I can admit that. It’s a fact.

Point is, I used to listen to audiobooks on cassette all the time, and comedy albums on tape.

Jeff Foxworthy, before he transformed his career into a family friendly persona, did some good old fashioned raunchy humor back in the day.

I was on the road listening to this show he recorded before a live audience, and he’s telling a story of how he was doing a stand up act near a local military base, and when in the course of the show he happened to mention the nearby military base with some 5000 Airmen (or whatever it was), he said that a cranky female voice piped up from the back of the audience to loudly announce “And every one of them is a bad lay.”

And he said he stopped, totally surprised, and said, “Excuse me, ma’am?” And she called out again “You heard me. Every one of them is lousy in bed.”

And his reply just floored me, I was laughing so hard… he said, “You know, ma’am… after a while, did you ever stop to think…. maybe it’s ME?”


I have carried that bit in my head as a universal truth ever since. Years pass, but I’ll never forget the lesson in there.

If you’re doing something over and over, and you are bitching and complaining constantly about how everyone else is screwed up… take a step back. Maybe it’s not everyone else… maybe it’s you?

Used to be a funny little office sign you’d see in cubes… “If you are calm and collected while everyone about you is losing their heads… maybe you’ve failed to grasp just how deep in the shit you really are.”

Where am I going with this?

Well, as I’ve said before, Cassie and I have been PvPing in battelgrounds to earn the Honor for our Season 2 Merciless weapons. She has more than enough for her main hand, but she wants to have all the Honor she needs so she can buy them both at once. She even already has mats for both Mongoose enchants.

Her favorite BG? Eye of the Storm. She LOVES the fast paced action and sudden changes in fortune that can occur in the blink of an eye.

Me? I love me some Alterac Valley. I can’t help it, I love the large scale coordination it takes to make it all work.

Last night I popped into an AV, pretty late, just before bed. And it was one of those awesome battles, where everyone seems to know just where they should go.

I charged into the offense, as I am prone to do, and for the first time, instead of stopping to help down Galv, I decided to push on to help secure the first tower and hold it.

And I promptly found out what happens to those leading the pack past Galv… they die. And rez in the damn northernmost graveyard, with the entire Horde between you and the offensive team.

Okay, well, I remember from my pre-BC days that the easiest way to get through the cut when the Horde is inbound is to run down and under your own bridge, cut down through the valley on the west and kinda sneak up on the high road and wait for a gap in the Horde flow.

Funny how the Horde NEVER seems to decide to charge the graveyard by leaving the main high road, taking the dive down to the west into the deep canyon and coming up from that route under the bridge… no one ever defends it. I used to play defense on turtles and keep an eye on that avenue of approach worriedly… and never once have I seen a Horde mass attack through there to take a turtle defense from behind. Only lone rogue type folks take it, it seems.

Anyway, I take the valley approach to flank teh road from below where there is some cover, wait for a large pack of horde to flow past, then charge up onto the high road and hop/skip past the straggling Horde into which I appeared and made it safely past to rejoin the offense.

I passed each tower and GY, each was defended and held, got to the Relief Hut, and the timers for capture countdowns were nearing the end, got there just as the call went out “ALL IN”, charged in and identiifed the tank and spent the rest of the fight casting Flash Heal… boom. Alliance victory, 15 minutes into the fight.

Flawless Victory.

So what the hey… 15 minutes? if I rejoin immediately, maybe I’ll get most of the same team!

Went into AV number two… and as we charge south towards our usual offensive targets, it becomes apparent the Horde on this AV are playing a VERY different strategy.

They are staying in the southern half of the map, in groups of 8 to 12, and camping all the towers, every graveyard, and the relief hut. All of the Horde, not just a handful of griefers. I tried taking and holding a tower, and 8+ Horde actually assaulted the tower and all of them came all the way to the flag room at the top. Not the usual one or two to make sure it’s retaken, the WHOLE BUNCH in a coordinated move swarmed into the top room.

As I rezzed and rejoined the battle, and worked my way south, I saw that it was true everywhere. The Horde had turned turtle. Pure turtle. Zero offense, in favor of holding all the Alliance target points.

Alliance chat started to have the usual “Can’t you worthless noobs hold a Tower? We’re never going to win if you don’t hold the tower after you take it” comments.

I actually responded to that one, something I rarely do, announcing to the people who are bitching in chat, the same ones that ran straight to the Relief Hut and are now standing there bored waiting for the rest of the raid to do the work of capping and holding the towers and GYs while they sit and wait to rush in, “A mage and I were holding Tower Point, and 8+ Hordes bum rushed it. I’m heading south now and the Horde are camping, in force, every tower and GY south of Galv. Come back north and help retake them.”

I got taken out again trying to take a graveyard, and rezzed all the way north again. And as I watched the BG chat, the rest of the Alliance realised it was not just A turtle, it was THE turtle to end all turtles. Alliance BG chat exploded into hate and blame.

And I looked at the battle map… and I remembered I had all those AV quests you get by physically going to Alterac Valley north of Southshore, quests to get your Alliance trinket, cap a graveyard, burn a banner, take a mine.. those quests.

Well, I’m gonna be here for a while anyway, right?

So off I went, and I personally took a graveyard (FWGY, if you please), and I assaulted a tower (and died, but got credit for the Banner burning first), and I fought my way into the harpy den and got the banner for the Alliance trinket quest… and then I soloed my way deep into Coldtooth Mine, and made me way near to the Horde mine master… and waited in a side passage for the rogue I was certain was there to get bored and leave. I stood behind a pillar and moved my camera to watch, while I hid behind one of the mine supports, kinda sneaky like.

And sure enough, after a few minutes… off runs a rogue breaking their own stealth, secure in the knowledge that the Mine was theirs.

And 30 seconds later I burn down the Horde mine boss to recapture the mine, just as the whistle sounds to signal the Horde have wiped out the Alliance reinforcements.

I had a great time. I kept running around doing stuff, I nailed a few Horde, my only complaint being that EVERYONE resists my Psychic Scream, or is able to click out of it in 1 second it seems. Everyone. I thought that damn trinket was supposed to have a 5 minute cooldown, so I’m pretty sure everyone isn’t blowing their cooldown every time I happen to fire off Psychic Scream. Maybe it’s a Resilience thing, but I didn’t think Resilience had ANYTHING to do with resisting Fear effects.

Anyway, I had a great time. I didn’t get a win, or more than 100 bonus Honor, but I completed all the quests, got my Trinket, got 36 gold (those AV quests are worth 12 gold apiece. Cha-ching!) and that is my first time on Windburn capturing the mine solo. It was just… fun.

And the whole time I’m doing that… the Alliance BG chat channel is just going batshit INSANE with rage and hate and anger at being in a turtle. People are leaving the Alliance side, deserting in a FLOOD. The chat was full of epic hate and bannable language, it was just amazing. I haven’t seen that kind of wild abandon in spewing forth hate in ages. Maybe it’s the effect of being in a BG with people who are mostly from other servers in your battlegroup, that makes you feel even more anonymous than normal, like there are truly no consequences for being an utter douchebag on chat.

Just, the amount of blame being assigned to everyone, all the many reasons we would just WIN if all the REST of you would have done what you were supposed to , you’re all noobs, retards, stupid, etc etc etc. And all the hot replies, oh yeah. Feeding the flames. I’m surprised, totally surprised, it didn’t Godwin out towards the end.

And as always when I see that kind of finger pointing, that assumption that everyone else in the entire raid sucks because of a wipe, or a bad pull, or a failed BG, that line floats up in the back of my memory…

“You ever stop to think…. maybe it’s you?”

A different kind of red shirt

I’ve mentioned on here a few times before, that John Ringo is one of my favorite authors. He writes truly great military Sci-Fi with tons of black humor, and he also has had lots of fun with different genres, like fantasy, and what could be called GURPS Black Ops, and just knocked them out of the park.

Oh yeah, Princess of Wands. Great book, and I hope like heck more in the series are coming.

For those of you that don’t know, GURPS is a table-top role playing game system developed by Steve Jackson Games, a set of rules that are supposed to be a ‘generic universal role playing system’, meaning that you can grab the basic book, and then have rules for how fast characters can run, how much damage you take by being hit upside the head by a blunt object, that sort of thing. Then, you design your own setting, apply the rules, and away you go.

In reality, the draw of GURPS for me were the hundreds of books that laid forth special rules and background for various settings. GURPS Supers, GURPS Robots, that sort of thing.

And GURPS Black Ops was a world setting for playing special agents of a black ops department of the government that takes care of ‘things man was not meant to know’.

Think the movie Men In Black, but with the possibility that the bad guys weren’t just aliens, but could also be remnants of ancient civilizations, mythical creatures, time travelers, dimensional explorers, demons, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and anything else that could go bump in the night. Super agents vs Cthulhu. You know exactly what I mean.

I ran one GURPS Black Ops game once where the agents went down to Georgia to investigate a strange energy spike, and got tangled up in a plot that involved the Russian government, nuclear waste disposal, dimensional travel and space orcs. It was a lot of fun, and I spent many hours researching it, too.

Anyway, my point here is that John Ringo wrote one of his books, Princess of Wands, creating a brand new approach to the black ops concept that just blew me away, not just with the stories but with the character and the world setting. I wanted to play a role playing game set in that world, and I can’t wait to see more books in the series.

As great as his books are, though, one of the best things about John Ringo, to me, is his willingness to go places you just can’t believe he went, and then to wonder just how many folks read what you just did, stopped, and stared at the page in shocked horror.

Most of John Ringo’s books are perfectly appropriate for all audiences, well-written books of adventure and war, as long as that audience is mature enough to read about honor and duty, loss and sacrifice, and the death and dying that comes from being at war. The Posleen saga and There will be Dragons comes immediately to mind.

He writes novels that are filled with death and violence as men and women struggle in war and battle against terrorists, slavers, and genocidal aliens. You know, military adventure fiction.

Yet he is getting famous in some circles for the outrage his Ghost series has caused, because in that series he included his own version of sex scenes in the same way that James Bond books would normally have scenes of seduction in exotic locales. 

Yes, I said outrage. Over sex scenes. In a book filled with people getting killed in battle. No, these aren’t picture books, either.  

It’s the same kind of distorted sense of proportion you see when politicians and lawyers are outraged over the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod for Grand Theft Auto, a mod that let you play a sex based minigame, inside of a game that is about jacking a car and killing hundreds of people by running them over, blowing them up or shooting them.

I just want to scream sometimes… “You can’t stand the thought that gamers might see a naked breast… but stopping a car at gunpoint, yanking the driver out, getting in, and running over 40 pedestrians on your way to a drug deal is okay? Are you people INSANE?!?”

Not that I want the violence banned either, mind you… I’d just like a game, OR book, to be sold to the audience it’s designed for. If it says “M” on the box, then sell it to a mature audience, not a freaking 13 year old, hmmm? And if it says “M” on the box already, and it’s a mature audience that is playing the game, and you were okay with selling a game about killing innocent people while building your criminal empire in the first place, what the heck does adding breasts do to make it more inappropriate?

Anyway… off topic from the off topic, as usual…

Bottom line, John Ringo writes great books, and at the same time is becoming notorious for writing over the top sex scenes in the middle of some of his Ghost books, books that are filled with terrorists getting killed in gruesome ways,  and it’s the sex scenes that prompt a shocked exclamation of “Oh John Ringo, NO!” Never mind that I think the writing of the Ghost series to be the best I’ve seen anywhere, for it’s sense of pure adrenaline super-spy anti-terrorist mercenary action.

This amuses me a great deal. And, as I have a particularly dark sense of humor, I saw with pride that there is a new shirt available from John Ringo’s website.

That’s right… you can now get a red shirt (to show that you are liable to die within seconds of your away team appearing on the planet’s surface) that proudly proclaims “Oh John Ringo, NO!”

The thought that this whole thing not only makes me laugh, but also makes enough other people laugh that someone created a shirt, raises it to the level of greatness.

By the way… if you are now worried that reading a John Ringo book might expose you to inappropriate material… well, then I suggest you just avoid the Ghost series, and either read Princess of Wands, the ‘Prince Roger’ series he co-wrote with David Weber that starts with March Upcountry, or the War with the Posleen saga that starts with A Hymn Before Battle (brilliant military sci-fi).

Those are all great books, and there will be nothing in them more offensive than people getting killed in battle. And maybe the possibility of all life on earth being eradicated by aliens. But at least the aliens don’t have sex, right?

Isn’t that a relief?

Sigh. Like life isn’t difficult enough without trying to find more things to be offended by. I used to watch violent, gory movies and TV shows all the time. Since Alex was born, however, I don’t watch anything with blood, guts or gore if there is the slightest chance he could come into the room and see it. That means we watch Top Chef, basically.

If I want to watch something, I wait until he’s tucked away in bed. Or go see it in the theater. I’d love to take him to see Iron Man, but some of the early battle scenes are a little more than I want my five year old to see. And I’m pissed at Transformers, because the movie toys are all marketed at his age group, and he loves the toys, he knows exactly who Bumblebee and Ultimus Prime are, but there is no way that I want him to see a Marine base in Iraq torn apart, and the Scorpion spearing Marines to death. He’ll just have to watch the cartoons. I wish that wasn’t necessary, all his other five year old friends seem to have seen it, but that’s the way it is.

So no CSI, no NCIS, and no Matrix or Dirty Harry or Platoon or Starship Troopers. He doesn’t need to see people getting torn apart or cut open and their brain removed at the age of five. Why? Because I am mature and able to tell the difference between fiction and reality, but he isn’t. And, as I am the adult, (cue the laughter), it is my responsibility to make that decision for him.

Every time someone tries to ban something outright as being inappropriate, whether they be a politician or an outraged parent, the message they are sending me is, they think that I am a child and unable to make decisions for myself, that I cannot tell reality from fiction, and only THEY are mature and wise enough to make those decisions FOR me.

Oh John Ringo, NO!

Thinking about my strong feelings towards people telling me what I should or should not believe, has reminded me of a Storytime… but it’s short, so I’ll tack it on here. 

Warning, this is another note in the “Big bear is not a nice person” file.

There was a very strong ‘born again’ congregation in Yucca Valley, CA, during my brief stay in the area back in the late 80’s. It was very common to see groups of earnest young missionaries hanging out in public areas, looking for Marines.

The group of four to five young people would, upon seeing a Marine of an imperssionable age leaving a gas station, or movie theater, or grocery store, surround the said Marine and start with the opening line “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior”, and move on from there.

Now, while I certainly have nothing against the sentiment, it was the approach, the surrounding, isolating, and pressure inherent in the way they would try to seek converts amongst the Marines off-base that I found personally offensive.

I found out about this because I had a good friend, a PFC that played in my role playing group that we nicknamed “El Destructo” because there wasn’t a single challenge he wouldn’t try to find some way to blow up, that was pretty upset by a run-in he had with them. He was genuinely scared at the way they surrounded him and treated him, because when he told them he was Jewish, he said they got pretty ugly and threatening. And to be fair, he wasn’t scared because he thought they were gonna hurt him, as much as because he knew damned well that if he got into a fight off-base with civilians, for any reason, his butt would have been in big trouble. When you’re a PFC, you dread ever being in any kind of trouble.

So yeah, I had a chip on my shoulder after I talked to him, and I planned in advance what I would do if I ever ran into that kind of trouble in Yucca.

And of course, I did have the pleasure of running into some of them… they accosted me as I left the movie theater in town, after watching the latest new release, Predator. Looking at IMDB tells me it came out in 1987, so that pins down when this happened.

They were very clean, young, somberly dressed men and women, a nice group of people, really. They certainly didn’t look like they were the kind of folks that would cause a disturbance, or start a fight. They’d been hanging out in teh parking lot of a gas station that shared a parking lot with the theater.

One of them, I guess the spokeman, walked up to and in front of me to block my way to my car, while the rest circled and closed in. It felt pretty threatening, they were well within what we think of in the states as our ‘personal space’. And the spokesman asked me the line I will never forget, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

And I replied immediately, having previously thought long and hard about this exact situation, and what I would say if I had the chance. I can’t remember exactly anymore, but I practised it enough that I remember what the high points were. And I know that I was so happy that I had practised what I was going to say, that I was grinning in my most menacing way. Which, sadly, probably isn’t all that menacing, but you do what you can.

“I am a believer in the coming of Nyarlathotop, the deep old one of ancient times, the Goat with a Thousand Young. I am one of the true chosen ones that will serve to usher unto the world the great return, when the skies will turn to blood and the unenlightened shall be eaten by the mighty, and the balance of power on this world shall finally be restored to the dark gods as spoken of in the Books of Blood and the Necronomicon”.

They ran. They really did. It wasn’t the spokesman that started it, but as I kept going on, they broke and ran to their car and got in.

El Destructo laughed, and laughed, and laughed when I told him. 

Ah, good times. Good times.

I do think of those kids every so often, and wonder just what they thought. Did they really think I was serious? Do any of them still remember that? Do they tell stories in hushed voices around the campfire of the day a dark cult of devil worshippers revealed their existence? Do they make plans?

Well, as the New Testament says, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

These days, I am much more boring. If I was accosted in the same way now, I’m far more likely to just say, “Thanks, I’ve got to be somewhere, you guys have a nice day though,” and move along.

Hey, enough rambling. Go buy a shirt! Or a book!

Omigod lol, pics!

So I was thinking about that Storytime I wrote, and it suddenly occured to me…

I have a pic that was scanned back then, from the quality of crap scanners we had back in the day, that should have survived on my hard drive.

So for fun, I went looking.

I’m pretty dissapointed.

It does have me in one of the shirts I wore ALL the time, [whose caption, by the way, says “naughty or nice?” underneath], but sadly I was not wearing spandex at that precise moment in time.

The picture might have been taken by Cassie, shortly after we first met. I have absolutely no memory of when it was taken, but it would explain why I’m wearing dressy shorts. You know, shorts that have, like, pockets. And a belt! A freaking belt! Now THAT’S class, right there.

And the belt goes good with my floppy hat, doesn’t it? Too bad you can’t see the plume, though. It’s got a very pretty feathered plume. I have a stuffed bear around here somewhere wearing that hat, I’ll have to find it and snap a picture.

And for a bonus, I’ll give ya a pic of me as a Sergeant in the Marines, from out in Camp Pendleton, at the height of my surfing joy.

Note the sun-bleached hair. And the $100 Gargoyle sunglasses. And the sun bleached old school cammies. Damn, those were some comfy cammies. I had those for years, and yet they were in pristine condition. Just ridiculously faded from the sun. That’s about 7 years of wear, right there, boys and gals. The new rip-stop stuff just don’t fade like those did.

Anyway, enjoy. Let the mocking begin!


Now, I mentioned in the comments below how the Mannyac is a huge guy, you can tell when you see him. But for point of reference, here is a recent pic… you dirty old man, you.

Nice kilt. /envy

Just to be clear, the top two pics are me, and the bottom one is Manny. For some reason, the longer I look at that, the more I swear he looks like he’s my brother. And what is it with evil people and goatees? Why do we feel like we have to advertise we’re evil? I wised up and shaved mine off, man… don’t give ’em the advance warning.

The Kilted Mannyac

Damn, I love that kilt.

Storytime! Look out, he’s got a knife!

It’s that time again.

To set the stage for this adventure, I’ll cast my mind back to a time, oh, about eight years ago. Or nine. Wait a minute, I need to go figure out how long it’s been. Sadly, I’m serious.

Omigod. It’s been over ten years. Maybe closer to eleven or twelve. I’m not really THAT old, am I? This is one of my recent stories!


Ok, enough sadness. I can get depressed later.

At the time of this tale, I’d been out of the Marines for about three years. Due to various circumstances, I was living in a state where I had no real ties. I’d come up to the frozen North to visit with my father and baby brother, who had themselves come up to Minnesota to live and be close to my grandma, and I quit my truck driving job and decided to settle down. I had kinda thought I’d be able to stay with my dad while I found another job, but almost immediately my father took off for Idaho to move in with a woman in another state he had met on the internet (this was in the age of AOL chatroom singles dating, before there really wasn’t much of a world wide web. How things change, eh?)

Anyway, he bailed, my little brother went back to Florida to live with my step-mom, and I had no place to go, and no job. I’d quit my truck driving job pretty much because I was tired of being alone 100% of the time. There is only so much awesomeness you can stand seeing in this world, and saying to yourself, “Boy I wish I had someone to share that with.”

If my father had made his decision to just up and bail a week earlier, I would have kept on trucking and undoubtedly would never have chosen to live in a state with no oceans worth surfing.

Anyway… while I was single, I never worried much about what would happen or where I’d turn up. No matter what, someone will always need dishwashers, so it’s not like I’d starve. It’s only once you are responsible for other peoples’ happiness that the stress builds up.

So I had thought I was gonna have a few months hanging with dad to find a place to stay and a job, but since he found true love, I was suddenly single, homeless and jobless. Yay.

First thing I did was find a flophouse to stay at, and i was way too broke to be picky. In northeast Minneapolis there is an area full of crackhouses, places where the 100 year-old homes have been bought, split up into individual rooms, and the rooms get rented out for about $150 a week. Bathrooms and kitchens are shared. You get a room in the house for $150 cash, paid by the week every Friday. 

A very nice room goes for $225 a week. These are 10 year old prices, btw.

So anyway, I got a room, grabbed a Goodwill sofa and dresser, ok, I’m good. Then I went out and looked for a job through the temp agencies, and got one as an engineer very close by, designing and fabricating test cells for commercial jet engines. FAA requires engines be removed from housings and tested periodically, and this company designed and built the test cells, and then supervised the installations. 

Sadly, at entry level it didn’t pay very well. And it’s amazing how hard it is to save first, last and security deposit for an apartment when you’re pumping out tons of cash for a room in a crackhouse.

For about 3 months, I lived on cans of vegetables, and the $1 whopper special at Burger King. I could eat vegetables by the can all day long, and my treat was paying $1 for a whopper each day, with extra veggies. Yum. Still, you can get by a LONG time on ramen, eggs, cans of vegetables, and $1 burgers.

So, not a nice neighborhood. My room would periodically be broken into while I was gone, but since I didn’t have anything but some clothes, nothing got taken. I kept all my money in the bank, saving for an apartment.

I just about got enough saved for an apartment, when I got let go at the engineering job. Turned out, they were hiring mostly to prepare for a nice big contract to build a test cell facility in Ireland, and lost the contract. Oh well, bye bye John.

So I had just enough money to live on while I looked for a new job.

The only real thing I remember from this time, was that I had two resolutions. One, I would never, ever, work in a fast food joint. I may have been flat broke, and I didn’t really care what I did short term, but I was pretty firm on that rule. I spent 8 years in the Marines, and I’ll be damned if I would ever, ever, work in fast food. Wash dishes, sure, but work at McDonalds? Never!

The second resolution was that no one in my family would know what the situation was with me until it was straightened out. I don’t know if this is common with other people, but in my family, when nobody hears from you for a few months, they know you’re going through hard times. When everything is peachy, it’s calls and cards, and “Hi? How’s it going?” If your life is in turmoil, you go quiet and run in stealth mode while you deal with it. I do it, my step-mom does it, as far as I know we all do it.

I do remember that Christmas came and I was down to my last bit of savings, and I was looking at being homeless for Christmas because I wasn’t going to have enough to cover the room another week. A very strange feeling, to be living in a Minnesota winter and contemplating being homeless for Christmas.

Finally, I found another job, although one not quite so lofty. The temp agency had an opening for someone that could handle industrial machines. A company that cut blocks of foam down into bed matresses, that kind of thing. So sure, sounds fun, why not?

The place was miles away, but the bus lines ran there, so I got the job, and started working on second shift cutting foam.

Now, the majority of the plant went home after first shift, and second shift consisted of about 6 guys in their early twenties, and an old fart that ran a forklift. And I’m chatting with the shift manager, and it turns out he played D&D. So we’re talking gaming, and the Sandman books by Neil Gaiman that we both admired, and whatnot, and it turns out that he, and all the other guys in the entire plant except the forklift driver, all lived in the same house.


Why right around the corner less than a block and a half from the crackhouse I was living in now. One of the guys’ moms owned the house, she bought a new house near her antique business in Alexandria, and the guy lived there with all his friends, and they all rolled in to work in one beat up old car. The whole shift, including the supervisor, except the forklift driver.

And every single one of ’em was a gamer.

This is the real world. Crazy shit happens every single day. Who else would end up working at a company where your entire shift lives in the same house, a few blocks from where you live, but you all work miles from the house, and everyone plays D&D?

Well, I get to know these guys, and the one of ’em says, “Hey, no one’s staying in the basement, you want to come hang out at our place?”

Well sure, why the hell not?

How much does the guy want?

“Eh, how does $100 a month sound?”

Umm… it sounds kinda like freedom, actually.

So I moved in with these guys. Not a one of ’em was going to college, a couple didn’t graduate high school, they all lived in a house, but it was still in a very bad neghborhood. Although it was more ‘on the edge’ now, a block and a half made a big difference between being in the bad neighborhood and just being next to the bad neghborhood.

These guys had the house, a massive two story job with attic and basement, all decked out into nerdvana. Pooltable converted to hold Warhammer 40k and Warhammer fantasy battles, stereos and video games, and everything. And they had thousands of dollars in fully self-painted miniatures. Every dime these guys made, went into gaming and stuff.

Every gaming console you could imagine was there. First time I ever personally even saw a Playstation 1. Music, movies, comic books, no clean clothes, nothing but junk food, and Sci-Fi TV movie marathons.

You had the supervisor kid that drank nothing but whiskey and smoked cigars, the kid that wanted to be the Joker when he grew up, the kid that was built like a string bean and was doing SEAL exercises from a book he bought and had zero muscle mass, and played his guitar in his room and wanted to be Jimmy Hendrix. And the kid that was younger than everyone, loved GWAR and Natural Born Killers, and was a true asshat and got picked on by everyone.

I call them kids, but they were in their early twenties. They just made me feel OLD, man.

And all of them, I mean every single one, smoked pot, and they grew their own in the basement with their own hydroponic lighting systems and stuff that you could buy at the ‘Brew and Grow’ store. Seriously, grew a ton of their own stuff. Worked harder on growing weed than they ever did at work. And smoked it ALL THE TIME.

I learned a great deal about kids and pot, that’s for sure. Didn’t use it myself, but I’ve never been the kind of person to tell a grown adult what they can or cannot do, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. Myself, it’s not like I was a paragon of virtue. I had chewing tobacco and the occasional Guinness. Pot just seemed to be more their kind of thing, frankly. Like, they could have had a life, OR they could just give up, hang out and smoke pot. And they preferred the pot. 

These kids were nice, and friendly, but it was pretty sad hanging out there. They were still young and living in the moment, and waiting for the next video game or distraction, but none of them could save money. Money for a game console, sure. I couldn’t quite forget while I was there that none of them had an education, or the ambition to get it, to go much further than they were right now. And they were good guys, so it was pretty depressing to think about it, but they certainly didn’t want to hear any of my BS.

I was there with them in the same house, same job, sure. But I HAD my adventures, I had my education, and I was pretty much just biding my time after a massive life change until I had enough saved for a serious job search… and my own computer.

And that computer is what changed my life, since not only did I find my new job with it eventually, just as planned, but it’s also how I first met Cassie… and her first time meeting me, she did see this house as I’ve described it. I guess this is realistically the story of my last great escapade before meeting and falling in love with Cassie. How about that.

Now, like I said, we worked the second shift. And I had only been out of the Marines about 3 or 4 years. I worked a boring plant job with 6 guys, cutting tons of foam and then sitting idle waiting for the forklift to bring more. Since I couldn’t stand there reading, I did push-ups to relieve the boredom.

So yeah, the life of a bored-ass former Marine with no responsibilities. I’d get up, get cleaned up and pile in the car to go to work, get there and cut foam and do pushups for 8 hours, and then pile in the car to head back for some gaming, tabletop or role playing or video, and some reading. On the weekends… more gaming, and taking the bus downtown to buy more books. A real rough life.

Now, being who I am, and totally not giving a shit about what anyone else might think, I dress in ways that are comfortable to me to work out in, all the time. And you can check Cassie on this one, I’m serious. I still sorta dress how I like in the privacy of our home, and I WILL burn your eyeballs out with my clothes. She keeps me from wearing what I like outside the house, though.

But back then? Oh, I wore whatever I felt like, and often just for the shock value. There are few things I like MORE than watching some close minded twit make assumptions based on my appearance and shutting down.

What do I mean? At that time, my favored style of dress when not at work was a string tank top I used to play volleyball in after surfing, and some electric blue spandex bicycle shorts. I liked the shorts because when running at night in the rain, they didn’t get bogged down in water and chafe. And I like running in the rain. I used to do it a ton on Okinawa, one of the more pleasant areas to run I’ve ever known.

And since spandex shorts don’t have pockets, I carried my wallet and keys and stuff in a cute little fanny pack.

So if you saw me walking around in the summer, well… I’m sure I did not present an especially fearsome image. Although I do have tattoos on my arms, somehow I do not think that ‘butched up’ my appearance very much.

Gack! Dagnabit, on to the meat of the story.

I get home from work one night with the guys, and I’ve got the munchies. I get changed into comfy clothes, it’s about midnight, so I figure I’ll walk the mile or so to Walgreens and grab a microwave pizza or something. I’m wearing spandex shorts, sneakers with no socks, a tank top, headphones and a walkman playing a tape I made of Metallica, and I’ve got my keys, wallet and walkman in my fanny pack around my waist.

I’m sure it must have painted a very pretty picture. 

So there I am, strolling along the street, avoiding the sidewalks because, hey! This is Minneapolis, and if it’s not winter, then the roads must be under construction, right? And sure enough, the sidewalks are all ripped up and blocked off with 6 foot long leaning barricades.  So fine, I’m walking on the street itself, grooving to King Nothing, it’s well after midnight, and WHAM!

Lights out for a second.

Something nailed me in the back of the head, hard, my headphones went flying, I was a bit disoriented, I hadn’t been bothering to check my six at all, in any way.

I was just too arrogant to worry about my own safety, secure in the belief that no harm could possibly come to me. I mean, it’s Minneapolis, for cripes sake. We’re not exactly talking downtown Miami where I grew up, or LA or Detroit. It’s Minneapolis! It’s like, are you serious? What kind of punks could you possibly have HERE?

So I whirl around, roll across the ground and pivot in a crouch to get some situational awareness, and standing there are four kids, maybe in their eighteens, I dunno, dressed in some kind of white gangsta wanna-be crap. Hats all tilted to the side, I think one of them had one of those shirts showing the Wu-Tang Clan, you know. I do remember one of them had Insane Clown Posse on his shirt, ’cause one of the guys in the house listened to them and had one of their posters.

In short, idiots.

I’m standing there in the grass beside the street, and there are four of them, and they’re spread out in a half circle advancing on me in that “Talking myself up to something” way. And the guy in the middle is talking smack that I’m paying no attention to at all, and he has his right hand held behind his back, all stiff, and he’s talking like he’s gonna cut me. All I could figure was he was trying to make me think he had a knife that he was holding behind him, out of sight.

I just looked at the four of them, checked out the area around me, and decided if he had a knife he’d have it out already, but what kind of gang wouldn’t have SOME kind of weapons? Why all the bullshit hopping around? What the hell’s with the hand behind the back?? And what the fuck did I get hit with, anyway?

About then I noticed that there was a plastic milk crate sitting nearby, where the sidewalk was under construction. So okay, I got smacked upside the head with a plastic milk crate. That’s pretty heroic, right there.

And the whole time, the kids are talking smack, and I honest to god haven’t heard a word they’ve said the whole time, it’s just white noise, “yadda yadda gonna cut you fag, yadda yadda yadda, whatever”. And giggling. I remember giggling coming from someone.

All told, I spent at least 10 seconds just standing there like a dumbass assessing the situation. 

But after I glanced around the area, I did what any good Marine would do in an ambush. I counterattacked and fought my way through the center of the enemy line to get behind them.

I grabbed one of the sidewalk barricades that was nearby, a 2″x4″x6′ piece of wood striped with the orange and silver warning tape, shook off the big metal thingie on the end of it that had propped it up at an angle, and proceeded to beat the unholy shit out of them.

I just charged right towards “I’ve got a knife, fear me” boy, nailed him with a solid hit upside the head, and as the rest scattered, I started chasing them up and down the street beating each of them as I ran them down, with this big unwieldy club thing from the barricade.

It was fun. No, it was more than that. It was glorious.

I honestly had a huge amount of fun running ’em down, nailing their legs, tripping them into the street, smacking them around. The screaming and the shouting… ah, it was priceless. I’m pretty sure I must have had a shit eating grin on my face the whole time.

And I wasn’t even trying to hurt them that much after a while, early on I wanted to eliminate any possibility of a threat from them, but as it became obvious they seriously didn’t really have a knife, they were just trying to shake me down or shake me up or something, I was just amazed… Minneapolis mafia? White street punks in Northeast representing? What the hell kind of lame crap was this?

It was kinda like a game… they wanted to step up, they took the first shot, and they had me outnumbered, so all’s fair if I beat ’em up, right? I have no idea what they were thinking.

And frankly, I assumed that some of them had to at least have knives. I mean, I grew up in downtown Miami. I, no shit, carried a knife at all times, in 6th – 9th grades. I ran with a gang, and at times I ran FROM gangs, thank you very much. We had knifings frequently, and the year before I was going to go to the high school in Miami, they installed metal detectors and had patrol dogs and cops roaming the halls. My mom pulled me from school and sent me to live with my dad in Boca Raton mainly because of the gang I was involved with and the violence I was neck deep in, and my first year or two in my new High School in the yuppie-ville of Boca Raton was culture shock from heck. A happy new world of kids that were full of angst over who was seen with who at the mall. Just, wtf? Not a single knifing, the entire 3 years I went to high School in Boca Raton. A complete and total change. And I loved it. It was so incredibly relaxing and stress free to live without fear when going to school.

Anyway, I was sure, totally certain, that they had to have real weapons. In what universe do gangs not carry weapons? So, I beat the hell out of them, and when they had all stopped running and fighting back and were all kinda huddled up in different parts of the street and sidewalk, moaning or bitching or whatever, I stopped and looked around… nope, no witnesses to be seen to call the cops. Damn it!

So I did what any decent, law abiding young former Marine would do in a similar situation… I dropped the wood post and jogged the 7 blocks or so to the nearest police station, right on Central Avenue, and reported an attempted mugging. And then I waited, patiently, while they dug up a cop that was willing to go to the scene to check it out. And he gave me a ride, and we headed back up the road.

When we got there, the four guys were gone. Damn it! It couldn’t have been ten minutes!

And the cop is looking at me like I am soooo full of shit, and I’m like, well, they WERE right here, when out of the darkness of one house’s front porch comes this old lady voice… “I was right’chere ossifer, and I seen the whole thang”.

And I’m like, WTF? By the way, I mock that voice all the time. I call cops ‘ossifers’ all the time. It’s one of my defaults. I’ll never forget that woman.

Sitting on a porch, in the dark, drinking beer or whatever it was at 1 in the damn morning during the week, is this little old lady in a old lady robe and a hairnet, sitting on a plastic folding chair.

And she goes on to say that she had watched the whole damn thing, from the start of them standing near a porch in the dark a few houses up the street, to me walking by oblivious, to one of the guys grabbing a milk crate and following me from behind, to him throwing it at my head, to everything that followed. And then she showed me where my damn headset had flown to in the grass when it got knocked off my head.

And I’m just, like, “Geez lady, thanks for like, I dunno… warning me? Or something? I’m glad I was at least able to provide you with some entertainment. You dingbat. And who the hell sits on their porch at 1 in the morning drinking? And why couldn’t you have spoken up and like, called the cops instead of my having to jog to the police station?”

The cop takes a statement from her, from me, and tells me he’ll drive around and see if he finds any kids wearing the clothes I described, and if so he’d call me.

Yeah, right. Sure. Sure you will. I’m still waiting for that call, ossifer. I’m holding my breath here. Can’t you see my face turning blue?

Meanwhile… I’m still hungry. So I go to Walgreens, get whatever the hell it was, and walked back home…

And had to try to explain to a house full of gamers that all lived in the area their whole life that I’d just gotten jumped by and beat the shit out of four local punks.

At first, as you might imagine, the story was met by a lot of “you’re full of shit”.

Then one of the guys asks me what street…

Next thing you know, half the house is laughing their asses off… because the kids that jumped me sometimes bought their pot from the guys I roomed with.

And the end of this story, is that about a month later, I come upstairs to grab something from the fridge, and wander on into the living room to see a gathering of young guys smoking up, a fairly common sight on any weekend… and some of them look kinda familiar, but nothing is ringing any bells…

And then one of the guys on the couch turns around and sees me clearly, dressed as I usually dress… and made a mad panicked dash for the front door. Since they were playing some game at the time, it was chaos and cords and controllers flying, baggie breaking and weed flying everywhere… just utter madness.

After the guy was gone, the story came out.

Apparently, the guys in the house had forgotten all about my little escapade, and some friends of some friends had come over to smoke a little, and, well… nobody had thought to ask them, “Hey do you remember this guy you maybe jumped a while back… he might be living in our basement”.

True story.

Poor dumb bastards.