tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: marine corps

Hold my M-40, I’ve gotta find my bird book

21 years ago, give or take a month or two, I came to a stop on a steep hillside.

my buddy, Brian, waited patiently for me to move, I was looking down

at a nest with two blue-ish eggs the size of jelly beans in a miniscule nest laced

into the branches of a dead mustard plant.


Brian moved to my side and asked me why I was stopped.

Time is of the essence during this kind of training, clocks tick

and superiors comb the terrain with high-powered lenses.

There is not space in the day for contemplative moments and tiny wonders.


But there we were, in the hinterlands above the pacific, as witnesses

of a secret place where life moved under blue-ish calcium husks

and where helicopters searched for two snipers in training

and where the Future stood on it’s tippy toes to look back and see how Now would arrive.


And Now arrived yesterday as I sat in line for a coffee, Brian at the wheel,

and we talked as old friends do, about anything, because we can.

and I pointed at the California Gnatcatcher in the spindles of a tree

as he looked under leaves for spiders, hiding from the rain.

How to lose 140 pounds

I sat inside my buddy’s house with a cup of coffee, waiting for the morning to happen. The sun came up again and proved that Tuesday still lands between Monday and Wednesday. I like Tuesday, it’s the day nobody talks about. It’s spelled kinda funny, I guess Wednesday and Tuesday have that in common.

On this Tuesday –it might have been this last one, but who’s counting– I sat and watched a little California Towhee throw himself against the sliding glass door over and over. At first I thought, ” aw, look at little buddy, he wants in where it’s warm, ” but then I figured out that he was fighting with his reflection in the glass. I wondered what he was thinking, like, “damn, this guy’s quick, he knows my every move!” or maybe he was thinking he would outlast the other bird staring back at him. There he was, pecking and scrapping and fluttering against his own image in the window. While he was busy with that, I was busy thinking about what he was thinking. I even excused him a little, at least he’s getting some cardio in. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I started feeling bad for a lot of reasons. You see, the California Towhee is a drab little guy, he often goes unnoticed and when he is noticed, folks often call him a sparrow. I guess there’s nothing wrong with being confused with a  sparrow, but why grow out that long narrow tail if you ain’t gonna notice it? And what about that beautiful fade from brown to rust on the lower belly and thighs? I like the California Towhee because he’s just making his way, drab brown with a pretty little voice and a shy demeanor, through the big blue world. I reckon that somewhere out there are two little Towhees all mated up and snuggled beautifully and brownly on a branch, singing deeply each into the others’ heart, and all else is lost. But this little guy at the back window had somehow picked a fight with himself and he was pretty damn determined to win, or lose, however you wanna look at it. I got up and opened the door and broke up the fight. He bounced backward a couple feet, looked at the giant ape that ruined his fight, and flew away chip chip chipping into his Tuesday.

Little dude flew away, but he stayed with me all morning. Hell, he’s still with me, right here in this story, right here in my mind and as plain as day. I think, and this kinda bothers me, he reminds me of me. When I went for a run later that morning, I was daydreaming back and back into my life. All the steps I’ve taken. How many of those steps wasted? How many times have I walked a path toward the same mistakes I’d already made, and staring down at my own damn tracks all the while. Oh yeah, I’ll learn, eventually I’ll learn. These thoughts were in my head and creeping toward my heart while I ran. The path turned and my shadow crossed in front of me, I could see the shape of my nose and the tilt of my head. Sure enough, that’s me, right there in that shadow. I wondered how much of my soul my shadow owns. That ol’ Shadow, cast out on the ground, running and meeting me, only leaving me when I leap. I guess I own my shadow, maybe the sun is a co-owner. If either one of us goes away, the shadow is gone.

My mind found a place in the past, when I was in the Marine Corps. I heard an instructor yapping at me with a hard smile on his mouth, “Crabtree, how much do you weigh?”

140 pounds staff sergeant.

“Well, that’s a small pile’a shit, ain’t it, Crabtree?”

Yes it is staff sergeant.

And then, years later, on Tuesday, that same 140 pound pile of shit was running up a hill near Fosters house toward the rocks that sit in the middle of the buckbrush where the lizards lie cold and wait for the sun to stir their blood and the roadrunners run with chattering beaks, swallowing the frozen lizards, and the little black stink bugs lumber with their hind ends high and my feet were finding the ground over and over, each time meeting my shadow, and I was looking at myself and wondering about that little Towhee in the window. I hope he makes it. I hope I make it.

Oxygen Appreciation

There was this part of training when I was in the Marine Recon Indoctrination Program, called RIP for short, that I found particularly daunting. The corporal running the morning evolution would say it with a particularly wicked snarl on his lips, “oxygen appreciation, fellas, get ready.” Corporal Siedenswartz certainly had a way about him, and it wasn’t a pleasant way at all. Oxygen appreciation might consist of any number of different events, but you could count on one thing for sure, you would be counting every second of your existence until the drills were over. They all took place in a swim tank (that’s the term used for a swimming pool, since “swimming pool” has a note of pleasure to it, they used “swim tank” in it’s stead) and, most often but not always, there were props. The props might include ropes, different sized camouflage blouses and trousers, combat boots, cinderblocks, 45 lb. weight-lifting plates, helmets, 7 and a half lb. rubber rifles, and anything on the pool deck that might add chaos to the churning, gasping, wall-eyed debacle that was called training.

For almost 6 weeks, there were 4 of us. The 4 united by a strange and convoluted training regimen that was loaded with unknowns. Everyday was different. We did not know the schedule, only that the day would usually start in the zero-dark thirty and end when the bodies no longer performed the functions commanded of them. The 4 of us were men, not boys. We looked to one another to make it. Another thing to point out was that we had volunteered to be where we were. Recon is a volunteer unit, you can quit at any point in time and you will be sent away accordingly. Back to the normal Marine Corps.

“Looking to your left, looking to your right, making sure your buddy comes up on the other side, underwater crossover…GO!” Siedenswartz’ voice was always audible. The distance underwater varied from 25 meters to 50 meters. The time between intervals always collapsing down as the burn in the lungs created a panic in the heart of the 4 of us. To come up in the middle of a crossover would create a world of hurt that included burly instructors with tree-trunk legs entering the tank and riding the panicky fool to the wall. Once the instructors were in the water, the games became far more difficult. Each of us would swim under the shadow of the shark above us. Each of us knew that to come up would result in a struggle that would escalate and spread to the rest of  the 4. We learned the hard way, but by god, we learned. A kind of steel started to set in. As we ran like soaked rats to the chow hall, we would find peace in the quiet jokes about the instructors. Jokes they would never hear but might feel just a little when the 4 were in the water with our beady little eyes just above the surface and our hearts slow thumping like alligators. So used to the dreadful evolutions were we that panic became a far off world that took a very long journey to get to. More weights in the water. Tie and re-tie the knots in the ropes that waited down by the drain.

One morning we got to the tank and there was a heavy feeling amongst the instructors. I never figured out what had happened but it was probably personal. The had lives other than being professional bruisers, it’s just that the 4 of us hadn’t a clue what their lives were like. The bottom of the pool was dark and the sun was still a couple hours away. For warmups we would often lie on our backs with fins on our feet and do flutter-kicks while Siedenswartz walked around with a hose, blasting cold water in our faces. “I can’t hear the count! Start again.” We were told to find our boots on the bottom of the tank and put them on before we showed our cake-holes (mouths) above water. This meant, put the boots on the correct feet and have them tied because we might very well be going on a run straight out of the water.  –Ever ran with boots on the wrong feet? I have. It sucks.– We all surfaced with boots on, tied and ready. The 4 of us were Jamie Urlahb, Christian Regenhard, John C. Thomson, and my ownself, Tobias. Christian and I wore boots that were close to the same size. John’s feet were a couple sizes bigger and Jamie’s were bigger yet. In the meeting at the bottom of the tank, there was a quick sorting out. Time is of the essence when surface air is unavailable. We would do our best to quickly put all the rights to one side and all the lefts on the other, then it was a grab at sizes. It sucks more for a bigger footed guy to try and jam his foot into a too small boot than the other way around. –Ever seen a big guy go for a run in a too small pair of boots while you were running in a pair too big? I have, and it sucks.– These are precious seconds without air that make a big difference in the long run. It paid off to let it burn and sus it all out on the bottom, down there where all of our eyes seemed glazed and tiny bubbles collected around our mouths while our hearts thumped and thumped. At the surface, the instructors commented on the time we spent below. They joked that maybe we were starting to like it down there. That maybe it was more peaceful because they weren’t yelling at us. Maybe it was a little peaceful in that particular way. They told us to fetch the 45 lb. plate that was at the bottom. If you’re a water polo player, this would be your kinda gig. It takes a good amount of strength to get a plate that heavy off the bottom. It takes more to keep it at the surface. And it don’t matter who you are, it ain’t staying on the surface for long, especially when the object is to hold the plate free of the water. I went down and got the plate, half way up, Johnny met me and grabbed ahold. Levels, man, levels. The trick was we all were given the task to keep the plate up, but our legs were kicking into one another. The boots weren’t making it easier, that’s for sure. Somehow we kept it up long enough for Siedenswartz to get bored, “drop it, partner up!” Here I could continue to tell you about the different things we were told to do, but it’s easier to go to a pool and show you, so I ain’t doin’ it. Just know that it sucked, and in the end, we made it through that dark morning. There were more days and nights of dread and pain, but I believe that week and those hours were the pinnacle of what amounts to the most difficult moments of my life. To this day, I never enter a swimming pool without thinking of the tank and the living, walking, menace of  Siedenswartz. He pulled me aside once and said, “Crabtree, you’ll never have harder days than these…never in your life.” He might’ve been right about that, as long as we’re talking in the physical realm. I believe I’ve endured things heavier than that in the region of my heart. There’s a difference and I’m more suited to physical suffering. I guess I’d have to thank ol’ Siedenswartz for that.

One thing I can tell you, I do indeed like to breathe.


Before I knew what being a student meant, I was one. I can’t recall exactly what grade, but I remember this one grade where we were all required to stand and read aloud. The order started at the front of the first row and went from one kid to the next, each one standing and reading until the teacher said, “next.” I liked it. I enjoyed the feeling of the words flowing from the book, through my eyes, into my brain and then back out as my little, squeaky voice. I still like reading aloud, although it’s mostly to myself, I guess. I no longer sit in classes and wait till it’s my turn, them times are gone, but I do love my books. But there was this one little girl who I loved to listen to as she read, I even remember her name. Patty. She read with this wonderful, soft lilt that was broken every now and again by some kind of nervous catch, as if her breath didn’t permit her to continue for just a second. It was that part that I loved the most, that involuntary break that chose it’s own space, sometime right in the middle of a word. Nothing was ever said and I don’t remember it ever occurring when we were talking, only during those literary moments of singularity when all the ears of all the little ones were tilted in the same direction. I just thought of Patty again the other day, of how I loved to hear her read, and I wondered if she still does that. Back then, I was kind of afraid of girls. I understood what boys were, they were the same as me and so I recognized them as such. It was as if boys were more my specie and girls were very foreign and beautiful, like a sea otter, or a pine marten or a kinglet; all do things I can’t and won’t ever quite understand, all are wonderful and wild and I feel more here when they turn their eyes toward me.

Them days were good. Back when I was mesmerized by Patty’s reading, and when I saw the girls the same as birds in the sky. I sure do love birds. They move about above us, often quietly, and they turn every way possible, unencumbered by the ground. Birds are multi-dimentional and their dreams are real, like blues, like grays. They do not wonder what it’s like to fly. They know.

We left the ground in a CH-53, which is a big helicopter, capable of dynamic maneuvers for a craft of it’s size. There were 2 teams being inserted, I was on Team Alpha. Team Bravo was strapped in directly across from us, and we were talking loud and rowdy through the blue-green light being cast from various light sources. Scotty the Body was 6’6″ and all raw boned and muscle. His drawl spilled out straight from Clarksville, Arkansas, and he was talking to the pilot as only Scotty could manage. “Hey, I heard these flying boats could flat out kick some ass, but I ain’t never seen shit. Whad’ya say you show us what she’s got for once!” The flyer in back snapped his head toward the pilot and then moved to his place. Well, that ol’ boy sure did decide to take us for a spin and I ain’t sure how safe it all was, but it felt like we were all gonna die. Somewhere in the turnover (a CH-56 is capable of a barrel roll from what I’ve been told) I saw Scotty with his eyes clamped shut and his huge set of teeth shining out of a grimace that must be what comes from a decent amount of G’s. We dropped from out of the clouds and flew, nap-of-the-earth, to our insert point. As we ran off the ramp, I remember seeing a grin on the pilots face. He had given us a fight that was worthy of a story even now, 20 years later. Scotty is still huge and still smiles real big with a few more wrinkles. He’s a good one to have a drink with.

I flew from Lima, Peru towards Santiago, Chile. I was one of the few gringos on the plane and the wind was spectacular as we began to gain altitude. I politely said a weak hola to the short, round Peruana sitting next to me. She answered quietly with the same. I could see her hand, all rough from the work of life and brown from the kiss of the sun, and it was gripped. The plane went high and, right as the pilot began to speak about turbulence, the plane dropped violently, alarms went off. There was a brief moment where it looked like a bunch of people on a roller coaster, hands were raised and the the entire cabin began screaming. The little woman next to me reached over my shoulder and pulled herself nearly into my lap, I put my arms around her and said, very simply, “esta bien,” although I wasn’t sure. The plane straightened out. My seat mate moved back into the middle of her seat and smiled shyly. I smiled back.

Kathy knew me for over 10 years. We were friends. She was Tim’s Ma. Now, Kathy knew how to party. She was old school and could outdrink and outsmoke most anyone. She had endurance when it came to vices. She would light a smoke in your car, and if you asked her to put it out, she would look at you, take one last long draw, and snap the cigarette out the window with regret. I went on trips with her. Tim, her son, invited me several times to several places around the world, and I went. I love Tim and his family, so it was easy to say yeah. Kathy was dying for years, she just had good genes and she was challenging her own existence by pushing all the possible boundaries. Damn, Kathy was tough. I went to Mexico with her one more time, just last year. By then she had shrunk down to a tiny brown bag of skin and bones. As the Mexican sun came up, I often crawled up out of the ocean after a swim and found Kathy smoking out on the porch. We had coffee and she would laugh at my bad jokes. I could pick her up real easy, she seemed to be getting smaller. I thought of the mother in the book, 100 Years of Solitude, and how she eventually got so light that she blew away while taking down the sheets from the clothes line. I wondered if Kathy might not just blow away. On the last flight I took with her, the one before she died, Tim asked me if I could accompany his Ma back to the States. I said I would be glad to do it. The flight left from Puerto Vallarta and switched in Dallas (if I remember right). As the attendant seated us, assuming Kathy was my mother, she asked if we were ok? I must say that we had been seated first due to Kathy’s condition, she was in a wheelchair. Other passengers were still stuffing oversized bags in undersized compartments and Kathy answered the flight attendant with, “vodka and cran.” My head twirled back and forth and I kinda giggled, neither Kathy nor the attendant thought anything was funny. “Mam, drinks will be served once we’ve taken off.” The flight was too long for Kathy and the drinks weren’t as prompt as she had grown accustomed to in Mexico. She had this knee-jerk type habit of shaking her glass of ice when her drink was finished, similar to me when I used to slurp extra hard on my straw at the bottom of a vanilla shake. That rattle would sometimes drive me crazy!

We landed in the States and Customs and Baggage checks and Passports and long lines and check-ins and departure deadlines. Our layover was tight. Kathy was carrying a long wooden staff, similar to something you’d see in Lord of the Rings. It was checked in Mexico because it might be used as a weapon, so when we were collecting baggage, I asked about the staff. There was some multi-lingual chatter and confusion. Now, I knew what that staff meant to Kath and I said that maybe someone better find it…fast. I had all my tattoo gear, my huge bag of boating and swimming clutter, Kathy’s huge suitcase, two bags, a missing staff and Kathy in a wheelchair. There was a half mile between us and the connecting plane and we had 5 minutes. At critical mass, I heard a person whistle and I saw a uniformed dude running toward me with a staff overhead, like some kind of official Lord Gandalf. I grabbed the staff and began the run toward our flight. And here’s the funny part, as i was running and pushing Kathy in her chair, pulling two suitcases, she said something over her shoulder. “What?” I had to shout it. And with her hair blowing in the wind she asked, “could we stop for a quick smoke?”

We made the flight. I didn’t let her smoke, but I wish I coulda. Kath died not too long after that. She was on the path to do what she did, and there was no stopping her. I really loved ol’ Kath and all her bad along with it. Sure, it’s tough, but she was original and real and crazier than a shit-house rat. She rattled her glass at me, and I filled it. She laughed at me and I laughed back. And that one time, we flew together.

In a way, I fly all the time. I fly forward with wonder, backwards with memory. I fly inward with dreams and outward with love. I fly away from fears and I fly into storms with reckless abandon when I’m terribly sad. We all fly, sometimes. Like little birds.

And our words are our wings. Like way back when. When Patty read them words with that soft voice, like a bird.

laughing the long way

i woke up in brian’s backyard this morning. unlike other times on other mornings, i did not drink myself down the night before and i am not waking up with a hangover. instead, i woke up at about 5 a.m. to a dog barking and a rooster crowing and a herd of sparrows having a pow wow over my camper window. it’s gray in the sky. wednesday.

i started my morning routine and, without going into detail, my routine includes finding a restroom. i usually have this kinda thing planned out ahead of time since my dolphin does’t include a latrine ( i took it out so that i am not carrying around a tank of sewage…it’s not my style).  there was a day when brian and i had a very different lifestyle. once upon a time we were marine corps snipers and we went through that school together. we depended on one another in order to complete the program. that was then, my present moments find me using my sniper skills to sneak into his house quietly enough to keep from waking his baby. and so when he walked in on me sitting on the shitter in his house at 5 something a.m. we were not too thrown off by the whole situation. although it’s difficult to look graceful in that position, he has, without a doubt, seen me in worse scenarios. as it was, i simply smiled and said, “hi, dad.” his short retort included a half smile, “oh, goodbye.”

it’s never that cool to start off like that, there’s no way around it, it just ain’t cool. it does however, make me laugh. i laugh at the things like that because when i laugh, there’s less pain. if i could laugh all the time, i’m pretty sure i’d never hurt again. i look for things that’ll make me laugh, especially when i’m alone. i tend to dwell on old sorrows or search for weird bumps in my neck when i’m alone. you know, morbid stuff. i don’t know why, it might be because i know that there are things out there that’ll bring me down if i’m not ready for ’em. it’s not like it’ll change if i’m ready, but maybe that’s more of the old sniper coming out. i’d rather know what i’m getting into so i get a fighting chance rather than the alternative, which i guess is being oblivious. oblivion sounds cool, but i’m not ready to sign up for that. so i swim a little harder against the current in the ocean, in and out before the sharks find me.  and i eat the good greens to keep all the cancers and sicknesses at bay.  and i carry water against the crazy desert heat and i remember the good things about old lovers so that the sorrows don’t get too heavy to drag along. and i laugh on the days when the otherwise is frightening.

i’m changing out the tires on my little toyota dolphin today. the old rubber is worn and mismatched, an updated set is long overdue. it’s amazing how hard it is for me to spend money on something like tires, but hell, if i’m gonna be driving my house around, i guess i gotta do this.  so i bend to the task at hand, each lug-nut squawking as if it’s never been screwed off, i think hard on what it is that i’m doing here. i guess you might say that i’m simply making my way. that wouldn’t be a bad description of my life. it’s not overly romantic. it has no heroic undertones.  tobias, he’s making his way. i like it mostly because it doesn’t give me a chance to lie and make myself sound better or cooler or smarter than i am.

crouching and crawling around on the ground. unscrewing my tires. all the world is waiting. the sky is still gray and my neck kinda hurts. it all makes me laugh a little, and a little is just enough, for now.


after the song is over

sometimes the only evidence of passing is the dust that hangs in the air.

it is the stirring up and moving and then the leaving.

i’ve seen this in life, with lives. those who went before me and who let me know which way to go by following the subtleties; indicators.

these people are the ones that swim across the dark water to reach the other side. and the water has lurking beasts and swirling dangers but no matter. there are those that swim across and lead and they show others that dangers do not keep us from the important stuff.

and thick hands that swing from sore elbows.

and the cowboy hat pulled low and tight so the wind won’t take it.

and the dark tattoos that speak of past wonders and hidden spaces.

and the biceps that held the fists that gripped the rope on bulls and broncs.

and the movement that is indicative of something wild.

and coffee and words.

and a time when i was younger and trying to understand my heart’s direction so i looked around me for a sign, some kind of stone, the heavier pull of something important. and in the seeking there is a foresight that shines through all the doubt. because doubt is dark and heavy. and so it is and so it was then, that i was looking for things through the doubt. this is where i look for someone who has gone before. i look for the dust hanging in the air that was kicked up by old boots, or the phosphorescence in the dark water that peels off of the fins of the swimmer as we pushed toward the blinking lights of land, or the light on the side of a hill across the canyon that told me someone was waiting on the other side.

these are the signs i look for.  still, i look for them.  i know certain ones will always have left proof of passage, for me to find my way.

so it is with stan, who went before me and then left just enough sign for me to follow. and when i came up out of the surf, he was smiling and knowing that i had tried with all my might. across time and miles we are friends and fellow tribesmen. our joints are sore and used. now, both our eyes are creased with wrinkles. our tattoos have stories that are not so very different, because we shared bits and pieces of a path that isn’t common.

Lt Colonel Stan Austin, you are one of the ones. i saw you from the start. thanks, amigo.

(have you ever listened to a song and understood every word? and when the song was over and the music was all played out, the song continued in your head? so as you move, the words and meaning of the song move with you, as if you were made for the song itself, like the living example. this feeling is true of certain kinds of poetry and song, the ones that are created from the fire of life. this is also true for me with some people, i live with the knowledge that i am sharing the same sun as them and it gives me impetus. there is power in simply being. we have only to listen to the song that is ringing in our ears long after the instruments have been laid down and the singers are quiet.)

one man’s dilemma


(i got good news and bad news)

i’d like to start off with the bad news, if you don’t mind, and since you’re not here to say one or the other, i’ll assume it’s ok. i’m going to present the bad news in the form of an allegory, if i was jesus, you might call this a parable but i surely am not jesus, so we’ll stick with allegory.

*note–an apology to those friends of mine who’ve heard this story already, it’s one of my go-to’s whenever i’m digging for some sympathy. double apology to those who’ve heard it more than once due to either my bad memory and/or one too many glasses of bourbon.

setting :   the veteran affairs office in eureka, california.

characters:   1.) a long haired, semi-discouraged, 40-something fella with a hurt back and an aching tooth (me, of course).

                         2.) security guard.

                         3.) i could be mean here and give a full description of the gov’t employee behind the counter in the room at the top of the stairs, but i will refrain…just this once.

i’m not one to go to the doctor or really get help from someone (health-wise) unless it’s really hurting me, the kind of hurt that is affecting my life. so i looked up the vet office and i went down there. i parked and walked in. just to let you know, i was showered and shaved. i took  two steps through the door and was called down by the security guard. he simply said, “turn around, walk back out and come back in without that pocket-knife.” i had a little 3 inch pocket knife on a clip that stuck up outa my pocket. i was taken back by this guy’s aggressive little greeting but i understood…mostly. i walked back in after dropping my cutter in the truck. i walked through the metal detector and the ugly glare that was casting off ol’ hard ass’ glasses.

come on tobe, i was thinkin’, no bad attitude, all flowers and sunshine so maybe this’ll go well. i walked into a little office at the top of the stairs. it was sometime around 11 a.m. 

the woman that was behind the counter glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and then continued to talk…for 10 minutes with a person i could not see in the back of the room. she finally came to the counter and asked me what she could do for me. i said i was looking for some help to figure out my veterans health benefits. she sighed and said i needed to come back after lunch. “when’s that?” i asked, now obviously irritated. “at 1:30,” she said, and turned away.

i went out the door, past ol’ hard-ass and struggled to keep from letting my temper get a foothold this is just a little runaround, i told myself, no big deal.  i was at the door at 1:30.  the same woman asked me for my DD 214. long story short, i didn’t have proper paper work. now i understand that it makes things easier to have the correct paperwork, but in this woman’s eyes, there was nothing to do for me. nothing. she said i could apply for proof of being in the military but that there was a 6 month wait involved with that.

and in my head, there was this: they sure didn’t need tons of proof of who i was in boot camp. i was another shaved head. and 6 months to prove i was a marine? 6 months! and i was a marine corps sniper and a recon man and i’ll bet if i was popping rounds off in the street they would know who i was and what i was in minutes. i mean minutes.

i asked for the papers to begin the 6 month process. that was 2 years ago and i have never received a damn thing in the mail. my guess…she threw my papers in a pile that is still in that office in eureka, california.

ok, that’s the end of that boring story. i want to say that i’m under no illusions here. i don’t think i’m the only person to have this happen. that pile of papers in that office is made up of men and women some of whom are worse off than me by a long shot. there are moments when it’s wonderful to be a nobody, and sometimes it really sucks.

no thanks to my government, i’m healthy as an ox now. i’m healthy because i’m eating veggies from a land that is tended with love. the meat from the sheep is honored because they were raised here, on the same land. there is another way that is less dependent on the government. we should all be exploring these processes…it’s a matter of survival and simple awareness.

this is where i get to the good news. i believe in a way out from under this foolishness. it involves working in small, strong thinking groups that learn how to depend less on what’s being tendered as “need” by the big shots (hey, this includes pharmaceuticals and  bank accounts)  and depend more on one another. here i’d like to say, i’m not against modern medicine, i’m against it’s abuse by doctors who use it as an easy way out.  it involves open-mindedness. the folks in washington do not have open minds. they do not understand. (if you doubt me, ask yourself this question, do you think any senator or house member would ever be treated like i was at the vet’s office? come on, now…they do not know what it’s like to be a nobody. how poor has the poorest president ever been?)

it’s never easy to begin the process of change. it always requires discomfort. the alternative is what we’ve got, and worse, what it’s moving towards. a goal should be to be aware and to start cutting out our dependency on anyone that simply wants a vote (cash).  we should be aware of where our items come from and be willing to support our friends and neighbors (our tribe).  use technology as a tool against the powerful, aggressive money hoarders. the more we understand our own systems, the less we need the system that seems to exclude us. i believe the common man/woman is way more resourceful (and valuable) than any suit in washington.

let ’em play their games. let’s meet out here on the earth and get strong.

this isn’t me shouting faith, it’s me telling truth.

(also, let me make something clear, i don’t think we need to revert to the dark ages here.  i’m not against modern medicine, i’m against it’s abuse by doctors who use it as an easy way out. i had a great doctor when i was a kid, he encouraged us to eat right and play hard. we need those kind of doctors, not the ones more interested in what combo of drugs will make you feel almost the same as if you weren’t using any.)

(and banks, yeah, they suck. i might carry my cash around in a sock if i had enough to put into one…oh yeah, i don’t have socks.)

ah, good night!

i can sing like my dad, not nearly as good but good enough to make my brothers and sisters laugh. i know his changes in cadence and expression.  my pop sings a lot and he sings damn well. he is a preacher and he will break into song whenever the spirit leads. he’s a wonder.

when my dad is surprised, he never cusses. he uses one expression more than any others. he say’s, with a little pause prior, “good night!” i have friends who’ve never met my old man that use this expression because i’ve talked about it so much. i love it. i love him. i have the tendency to falter into a litany of four-letter expletives that would make a sailors neck turn red. i’m nowhere near as eloquent, nor as disciplined as my father. he’s a man of God. i’m less. 

in my experience, it’s what i don’t say that usually makes the difference. like, the more i’m willing to listen and think and refrain, the more help i can be. i’m mostly scratching my head because i just don’t know or i’m thinking and probably won’t know after i’m done doing that. if i’m comfortable, i might start giving my opinion, then we’re all in trouble. my opinion is mixed with experiences that make little sense to me. what i dreamed life would turn me into has resulted in my present person. this ain’t what i expected. i thought maybe it’d be a little more heroic or something. the guy i am is, umm, is, how should i say this without sounding pathetic, is…less. now, i know there’s ways to cope with this; whiskey and long distance running and cold water swimming and blogging (oh my, the last is so damn pathetic i can hardly stand it) but whatever, i gotta write it somewhere and napkins are just too damn flimsy.

wanna know something? i’ll tell you. “good night” is a perfect expression.  it helps set thing aright. somehow, my dad found a way to affect me even through all our differences. he wasn’t there in the ocean when my buddies and i were being thrashed and february was proving that 28 days can be a long, long time. he wasn’t surface swimming with me in the middle east toward failaka island with my recon team while the submarines cruised like nuclear whales below us. he wasn’t with me when christian and i came down in the winds that were crashing against the aleta del tiburon in the french valley. he couldn’t stop my world from turning in it’s course as time ticked off seconds and september 11th approached. (and christian left me in patagonia to take his job as a new firefighter right there across the brooklyn bridge from the world trade center.  i came back a couple weeks later and went to climb in yosemite. while i was 1000 feet off the ground i was told that the towers fell in new york city.) my dad, couldn’t help my relentless heart as i drove toward the city where i was convinced i was going to find my dear brother and he would be safe and he would be full of stories, because no way could he have died; i knew him too well.  i knew that he had found a strong-hold where he and the folks he would save were going to be found. and when i needed help, as i sat in a truck stop and watched, for the first time, the towers fall and turn to powder, there was nothing my old man could do. he couldn’t stop my changing life, as much as he would have liked. i was falling. 

can i tell you? i know everyone has their story. my hurt wasn’t more, it was just mine. i watched my buddy, brian, crawl out of my car and cry. you see, brian loved christian too. let me tell you something, brian doesn’t cry. i watched new york city cry like brian. i sat on the subway and cried like brian. and when nothing of christian was ever found, i conjured his face in the stories i told in the bars i began to haunt and his firefighter fellows raised their whiskeys and their wild irish hearts. i watched the cuban girl cry as she took my money in the breakfast joint on the upper west side. on the train, i watched the jewish woman hold the thick-necked black man whose wife worked in tower 1. and we all cried, man, we all cried. a day before i left nyc, i went to central park and sat on a bench. broken is an understatement, i was shattered from that event. i lost one of the most significant people in my life when christian regenhard burned. he was a powerhouse; he was a raging, dancing-on-the-bar, carrying the-light, fighting-the-man, towing-the-line, i-gotcher-back kinda guy. so, as i sat on the bench, i wondered if what my buddy dave said was true, that i might never stop crying…and so what? a woman with a little dog sat down on the bench next to me. she said, after a minute or two, “darling, you’ll get better. life is made for this. your heart will heal.” well, i put my long-haired head on her little shoulder and crumbled down to nothin’. and you know what? she was right. life keeps on plugging away. since then i’ve been broken down a few times, loves have been lost…and so have keys and wallets, and i’m godamn fine.

like my old man says, “good night.” and good night is right, christian, love you man. i’m carrying your fire.