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Thread: Tocky's Tales

  1. #201
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    The other day, a light bulb suddenly went bang in my living room and it was bad enough to trip the breaker. When I had the lights back on again, I found that the bulb had turned smoky white from the blast and there was a burnt hole in the metal part. I'd been spending a lazy morning and an afternoon browsing the internet when it happened, cooped up at home with nothing to do what with the pandemic and all, but this kind of shook me awake, so I took a shower to start the day properly and decided this would not be one of those do nothing days that seemed to happen more and more regularly lately.

    Hence, after the clean-up and a very late breakfast, I came back to the living room determined to do something productive instead of just sitting behind the computer all day. The computer case was open and cables could be seen dangling all over the place inside. I'd installed a new hard drive the day before and was too lazy to do cable management afterwards. Okay, no problem, I'll do it right now and clean the dust while I'm at it. The computer I have is nothing special. The case is a crappy cheap one from probably early 2000s with no ventilation or cable management. It still has a place for a floppy drive at the front, that's how old it is. Most of the contents inside are not much better either -- cheap stuff from nearly a decade ago that just gets the job done, save for an SSD from a couple of years ago and a low-tier graphics card I put in the last year for whatever the latest game was didn't get along with the old one. I've been building my own computers since the 90s, but it has been a while since I really needed a serious upgrade, because at 1080p gaming you don't really need a killer computer and I've been quite busy with work and other stuff the recent years.

    Anyway, I found the cleaning up to be quite therapeutic. There's something very zen about seeing a mess of cables become neat and ordered and zip-tied in place. Time to close up the case and check my e-mail, maybe. Except, uh-oh, the bootloader is missing. What the heck? Time to check BIOS and, sure enough, the oldest hard drive could not be seen. Well, it did have Windows at one time, so is that where the bootloader was? Maybe the drive finally gave up the ghost? I tried to boot the system up again, and listening carefully there seemed to be faint clicking sounds coming from the drive bays. Well then, it's busted alright, nothing to do about it now. I did a quick damage review in my head to determine how bad the data loss was. Luckily, I had backed up my data just a couple weeks ago, so anything important was sitting on a portable drive. There were a few downloads sitting on the drive that I could easily get again and a few games I had installed. There was the Wasteland 3 beta I had not had had any time to look into yet and Sekiro, which I hadn't gotten very far in before I ran into a game-breaking problem, and Doom 2016, which I was in the middle of replaying to see how well it held up on a second playthrough. Some progress lost in a few other games as well, but nothing major to worry about. Overall, I wasn't too bad off.

    Time to fix the issue. I did study IT once, after all, and I've done this before (though it has been a while). Besides, I have Hiren's BootCD lying about somewhere and I've prepared a bootable USB stick with a Windows installer for an occasion just like this. First of all, let's fire up Windows setup and let it do its automatic recovery thing. No dice, huh? Well then, let's go to the command prompt and do it the old-fashion way with bootrec. Hmm... again, no dice. I spend a few hours of messing about with various programs from Hiren's BootCD, but I just can't seem to fix the issue. Okay, fine! Since I've been in a cleaning mood, maybe it's time to do a clean install of Windows. I've been running the same Windows 7 for a decade now and a clean break would probably be for the best. Installing all the programs again and setting everything up just the way I like it is going to be a hassle, but I did want to do something productive, didn't I? At least I have a backup of my browser profile with all the extensions and scripts and my desktop is fairly clean anyway.

    So, I boot the old box up once more with the Windows setup media and... "The selected disk has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only installed on GPT disks." The fuck? Did I mess up creating the bootable USB stick somehow? I'm pretty sure I installed Windows 7 on this very computer and this very drive just a few years ago with nary a hitch. I try to remember whether I had dealt with something like this before and some hazy memories from schooldays resurface that I had once learned about MBR limitations and GPT solving them or something, but there's nothing I can recall about Windows being unable to install on MBR partitioned drives. Wait, the school thing must have been about two decades ago. Was GPT even a thing then? Is this one of those false memories? Anyway, never mind, let's click "Format" and maybe there's an option to convert the partition table in there somewhere. Wait, it just did a quick format of the drive and nothing else. You useless piece of Microsoft garbage. Grr... I need a break. Time to make some coffee.

    As I pace around my kitchen, I weigh my options. Fixing the bootloader issue is now off the list -- I'd have to undo the format for that and fixing the GPT issue seems like the easier one. Why the hell doesn't the Windows installer have a tool for this if it requires GPT? Right now I don't have an easy way to check the internet either, since my laptop doesn't have a physical cable jack and the computer that distributes WiFi is the very same one that's ailing right now, so I spend a pretty frustrating half an hour googling the issue on my phone. I don't have a great data plan -- I have a USB wifi adapter for that purpose. Anyway, apparently, 64-bit Windows now only installs on GPT drives. Alright then. If that's how you want to play it... I only have to get my disk drive converted to GPT, and though I have never done it, how hard could it be? Okay, diskpart seems to have a command for it, let's go try it out.

    Wait, what do you mean, disk is not convertible? The disk is not booted up or in use and there are no partitions on it or anything. Okay, let's try the HDD. I do have the stuff backed up, after all. This time, I don't even have the slightest expectation for it to work, though. I spend a few more frustrating hours trying different things and I'm actually angry now. I shouldn't be. Usually, stuff like this doesn't phase me. Not being able to figure out what should be a simple problem did make me feel a bit like that scene from Zoolander where they have to get the files out of the computer, but solving problems like these was part of my job once and normally I'd be happy for a chance to learn new things. It's just that this reminded me of a different time with different problems that used to make me quite miserable. Software issues might be difficult to solve sometimes, but it's the issues above layer 7 that really get to you.

    When I got into IT, I thought it would be a good way to improve my life. I was tired of working menial jobs in construction and at sawmills, car repair garages, etc. It's not that I was especially good with computers or anything, but I had taken a few computer classes when I was a kid and I liked to program stuff for fun and tinker with computers in general. There's something very satisfying about a program compiling successfully and running without a hitch and the "I built this" sense of accomplishment you get is just great. I figured I could make a lot of money doing things that are fun.

    I was wrong. No, not about the money part -- that's pretty good even if you're a lowly code monkey. But the business part of it is absolutely cutthroat. For one thing, cream is not the only thing that rises to the top and IT seems to attract the absolute finest of all the assholes and sociopaths. Though it's probably the same for the financial industry and every other field where a lot of money is moving around. Another issue is that highly skilled people tend to have egos to match. Long story short, I've never been so stressed out in my life. I don't really mind working long hours, as I can be a bit of a workaholic, but I need to be able to do it on my own time and on my own terms, not because the sales rep overpromised and the manager set unrealistic deadlines, leaving people scrambling in what seems like a never ending crunch. It got so bad I started to have panic attacks and I was deeply unhappy to the point I ruined quite a few relationships. Misery needs company, after all. Probably didn't help that I tried to alleviate the symptoms with tobacco and too much alcohol.

    The Vietnam vet style flashbacks aside, I was quite at my wits' end by then and it was getting late. It's not that I had an urgent need for a computer right then and there, but I did have a class to give in a couple of days and also needed to prepare for that, so it wasn't exactly a trivial issue. For a brief moment I even considered going out the next day and buying a pre-built computer, a definite sign I was not thinking straight by then, so I called someone over to bring Linux installation media and to help me figure this out. After a couple more hours of fruitless attempts and messing around we gave up and it was Linux time. Ubuntu was up and running in a matter of minutes. Fuck all the fucking fuckers at Microsoft.

    I didn't get any sleep that night. I was too agitated and I still hadn't solved the problem. Linux is fine and all -- I used to prefer it for programming and I ran a dual boot system with Fedora Core for quite a while --, but I've gotten used to a specific set of tools with a specific workflow in Windows and consequently everything feels sluggish and weird in an unfamiliar system.

    I ended up spending the time by googling for computer parts. I was itching for something to do to keep myself busy. Buying one pre-built had been a stupid idea, but getting a second computer started to seem more and more worth it -- not just for the peace of mind of having a backup, but also because I hadn't built one for such a long time and it would be nice to play with adult legos for a change. As a bonus, I'd be able to get past the Boss fight in Sekiro where it started to stutter uncontrollably on the previous system and became basically unwinnable.

    After getting a rough idea of the market and options for different budgets, I finally added my last item to the shopping cart -- 800 euros for a computer that's a bit on the low end of medium tier, delivery in roughly two weeks time. Computer parts are expensive around here. Going to school for a second time had left me in a bit of a financial hole that I was only now starting to get out of and there was the pandemic to considered, but at that point and at that state of mind I was ready to live a little.

    Anyway, this is the story of how I ended up buying a new computer. What have the rest of you folks been up to?
    Last edited by Starker; 17th Apr 2020 at 13:54.

  2. #202
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    March 2nd, 2019 started off pretty typically. It was a Saturday. I woke up at 5 am, put on a pot of coffee, and made my wife's lunch. We're both nurses, and she was working that day. I sent her off and enjoyed that serene window of time between me waking up and my kids waking up. We have five children, and they're the best kids you'll ever see. My oldest, Chris (10), was finishing up his basketball season. It was finals and he potentially had two games, if his team won the first. I made the kids breakfast--scrambled eggs with onions and peppers and toast. I took a bag of breast milk from the freezer and thawed and warmed it in some hot water, changed Gavin, my youngest (5 months, then), and fed him. I directed my oldest daughter, Chloe, to put on a cartoon for Matt, age 3. We were functioning, life was good. We were going to be gone all day with Chris's basketball, so after breakfast we cleaned the house for 30 minutes. Dishes were done, laundry was running, floors were swept and vacuumed, minivan was loaded--I told the kids I didn't want mom (Mary) coming home to a disaster. Ha. We were happy. I packed up my school books (I'm still in school to be a nurse practitioner), my laptop, some diapers, wipes, and frozen boob-juice, and left.

    We left the house at 10:30ish; I stopped at Costco and grabbed a 184-pack of diapers for the baby. Love that place. Chris and his team dominated in the first game. We cheered, talked to the coach, arranged to meet again at 5 pm, and went to Grandma's house, who lives close by the school where he played that day. We had lunch, we had snacks, the kids watched TV, mom and dad cooed over the baby, and around 5pm I started drifting off with the baby on my chest. My phone rang, and I didn't recognize the number. A very pleasant voiced woman asked if this was Tim. It was, and I affirmed it in an equally pleasant voice, despite the fact that she had awoken me from a very pleasant drowse. What? No, I wasn't home, and no one was in the house. No, I didn't have any pets, and what a weird conversational gambit. I'm sorry, you're handing the phone to wh--Hello? Who? WHAT?

    My house was on fire. "Who" was the guy in charge of the scene, Lieutenant soanso. I tossed the baby at grandma while kicking on shoes and talking to the Overland Park Fire Department. Grandma was concerned; I told her the house was on fire, canyouwatchthekids?chris'sgameisat5! and left. I prayed harder that I've ever prayed in my life in that intervening 6 miles. Antioch was closed at 87th street--Fire trucks were spraying an apartment complex; inconvenient. I diverted, and made it to 91st and Switzer, which was blocked off by several Police SUV's. I started driving around them, informed the officer that it was my house up there, and parked facing the wrong way. Three trucks. The power-company and Gas-company guys were just leaving when I got there. My home, that I had just painted by myself, was smoking. The door and frame were splintered and gaping, every window was broken. There was thick black smoke pouring out the windows, and the sound of chainsaws was LOUD.

    I couldn't believe it. Had I left the stove on? I dried and re-seasoned the cast-iron skillet after breakfast, did I forget to turn it off? I had lit a clean-linen candle while cleaning with the kids, but I saw Chris blow it out before we left...god. damn. it. We were safe, no one was home, no biggie. Didn't matter that I had just finished the kitchen, from the joists up. Sun-room, the same. Re-painted the entire interior and exterior. Personally prepped for and poured an 800 sq.ft. patio, built a 15x10 deck, and regraded the back yard with 36 cubic yards of dirt with a shovel and wheelbarrow. Replaced the furnace and AC. Re-wired the whole...oh god. Some very serious guy in a fire-department t-shirt with bulging nippples (it was 30 degrees, and 6 inches of snow was predicted) started asking me very serious questions. No, I don't know what happened (and I'm very afraid to theorize). No, I don't know who my insurance is through--we just switched. He said guiltily. I need to call my wife.

    You know how it is when you call your wife at work at 6 pm, in the busiest part of a nurse's day, and tell her "hey, we're all fine, but..." Worst phone call of my life. No, I don't know how bad it is, they won't let me in, but I think it's bad. They broke the windows. Hey, hey, HEY..it's ok, we're ok, it's just stuff.

    Oh god, it was a lot of stuff. We had our clothes, the diaper bag, 2 frozen bags of breast milk, 1 bottle, my backpack with my laptop and school-books, and whatever we were wearing. They let me in at around 10 pm, after it started snowing, after the trucks had left. It was black, wet, and smelly. The fire inspector walked me through--it had been burning for hours inside before anyone noticed. The smell is unforgettable and permanently burned into me. Even typing this I smell it, and feel sick. The walls, with the high quality double-coat of paint, were blistered to about 18 inches down. The glass on da Vinci's "The Last Supper" was melting at the top. It looked like Goya had done a number on the wall clock, even though it was still eerily ticking. My attic was all over the floor, my kitchen had been thrown into the dining room (firemen don't fuck around--kitchen counter, cabinets, and sink in the way? THROW IT. God bless them), my piano was..not a piano, and black was dripping down every wall. The "American Girl" dolls in my daughters' room were terrifying. Water was dripping from everything. The basement, which contained an entertainment room, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and laundry/utility room was flooded with 4-6 inches of water.

    Fucking place was my life, and my purpose. The way I could prove to my family that I was capable of what was worthy of respect. Being alone there was heart rending. Mary had come, cried, and taken the minivan back to get the kids. I waited for an hour in that pyre, shivering, listening to dripping water, howling wind, and squeaking roof-vent-things. I cried like a baby, the only time I felt that I could, the only time that I could let it out without letting my wife and kids see it, the only time that I could break down, be weak, and curse god and fate and life like the way it so obviously fucking needed to be cursed, cuz HOW DARE YOU TRY. Presumptuous fool, get DOWN.

    My insurance company was awesome, and put us up in a hotel for 3 weeks, then a 3-bedroom apartment for 3 months. We sold that burned heap of memories for a much better price than I would have dreamed we could get, and moved into a house over twice the size with brand-new, insurance paid for furniture. It moved us up in house, neighborhood, socioeconomic status...pretty much an improvement in every way. I know, I've been told many times--it's a blessing in disguise. If you're ever temped to say that to someone, just shut up.

    I'm a mess, one year after. None of this beautiful shit is mine, and none of it means anything. I've damaged every relationship I have, I've rethought every conviction I've ever had. Many of them are affirmed, but I think I've become more open-minded, too. I haven't told any of this to anyone. My wife, my therapist, and you assholes are the only ones I've let my guard down around. I'm Covid drinking, which is why I can type this. Hug your families, your wives, your kids. Be kind to them--they're more important than anything on this godforsaken planet. The rest of it is just stuff.

  3. #203
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Ooof. Did they ever settle on a cause?

  4. #204
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    First off, thanks for the stories, guys. Second, Jesus Christ, Draxil. Yeah, stuff is stuff, you can get more. But the memories. Tell me you salvaged the pictures. The sad truth is anything can be taken from any of us at any time and that is scary shit. I don't need to tell you.

    And Starker, it takes one hell of a power surge to blow a bulb like that. Usually a nearby bolt of lightening. That might also explain your computer problem. Even a surge protector can't overcome lightening. I had a hard drive get fried like that once. Make certain your breaker box is grounded with an aluminum wire direct to a metal pole in the ground. It won't solve close strikes though.

  5. #205
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    The exact cause was never determined, though the genesis was the basement bathroom ceiling. I'm sure it was the exhaust fan, which was older, and which the kids left on all the time. We hadn't redone the wiring in the bathroom yet because it would've required tearing up all the drywall; since we rarely used it, it wasn't a priority. The rest of the house, that we had redone, was all wired with old 1950's cloth and paper-covered copper. When taking it out of the other areas of the house the insulation on the wire just fell apart. I think whoever had rehabbed the house before we bought it (it was a foreclosure) had done a pretty slap-dash job; we found a lot of wiring connections that were just barely twisted together and then rolled in electrical tape instead of using wiring nuts, for instance, and after the fire you could see the same was true of the fan connection. The joist bay that held the fan was also the same bay where the 220V feed came into the house, so once the insulation on that melted it probably really got going.

    We did save the pictures, Tocky. Most of the pictures of my kids were automatically backed up to google photos, and the CD's and print-pictures were away from anyplace that got doused. They all reek, but they're intact--I intend to scan them all and then get rid of them. Here's a couple pictures of the house, pre and post, if anyone's interested: Kitchen pre and post.

  6. #206
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Now that I have nearly everything to put together a second computer (only RAM has still not arrived), I thought this would be a good time to put into writing a few things that have been rattling around in my brain, sort of like a spring cleaning of mental cobwebs. Whenever I'm trying to make sense of something, I have the tendency to get a bit too obsessed with it and acquire all kinds of random useless tidbits in the process, but I've found that putting at least some of it down in writing allows me to get rid of it from my brain and move on. This won't be a story, really, just some assorted ramblings on tech stuff and weird tangents.

    So, computers. I have already talked about Soviet arcade machines and how I got into gaming in a separate thread, but my fascination with computers began even earlier, before I ever saw a computer. Actually, I was already kind of taking an interest in computing as a child when I read about its fascinating history in books that dealt with ancient cultures -- the sort of thing that would later make me an all too easy victim for Sid Meier's Civilization. For example, I learned how the ancient Babylonians used a base 60 and Mayans a base 20 number system and tried to figure out how different bases worked, I read about the intrigues of the secretive Pythagorean cult who thought the whole world was made up of numbers and the subsequent infighting between the pious akousmatikoi and the nerdy mathēmatikoi, I learned how to write numbers with numerals used by the Romans, who had no interest in mathematical advancements beyond their practical uses, I found out that the first ever female mathematician of note was brutally murdered by a christian mob (Soviet literature loved to point out facts like these), and so on. Anyway, to aid calculations, humankind has been trying to use mechanical tools for thousands of years. Here are a few I've had some personal experience with.

    First of all, there was the only game in town for the longest time, the humble abacus:



    This is the tool my parents learned to do arithmetic with and it was used widely all over the Soviet empire even quite late into the emergence of electronic calculators. We had a couple of these lying about in our home and you could often see them at the market and in smaller shops. I think I ruined at least one of those trying to use it as a makeshift skateboard.

    The second invention didn't come until the Scientific Revolution led to a re-examination of (Aristotelian) physics, the re-emergence of some Pythagorean ideas (such as fire being the center of the universe), and a renewed fascination with math. And when calculations were needed more than ever and computer was a job description, there it was, the symbol of nerds, e pur si muove, a slide rule:



    These never caught on with the general public, since their use was limited and they were kind of difficult to use, having to keep track of the decimal place and whatnot, but scientists and engineers relied on these until they were made largely obsolete by electronic calculators. My brother was taught to use one in school, but we used them in swordfights mostly.

    Now, the previous two have been just simple computing aids, but the third one's almost the real deal. At my aunt's farm, there were quite a few attractions for a city kid (as well as horse-flies, the most annoying of insects), but my main draw were the bookshelves, which, although there were no books for children, had quite a few books that we didn't have at home, like Lāčplēsis and Seitsemän Veljestä. On the top of one of the bookshelves, however, since she worked for a kolkhoz (a type of collective farm), was this thing, the subject of my endless fascination:



    This is a mechanical calculator, the Arithmometer VK-1, the eerily similar twin to the Swedish Facit T, which could do addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, and even a few more complex operations. Mechanical calculators were invented soon after the slide rule, the first working one having been made by the guy who gave his name to the second programming language I learned programming in -- Blaise Pascal, but it only became cost-effective to produce them in any significant quantity after the First Industrial Revolution. Here's how it works:



    Now that's where there's a large gap between my experiences and the development of the computer into a more recognizably modern one. Meanwhile, Charles Babbage would go on conceiving an automated mechanical calculator (the difference engine) and then a programmable mechanical calculator (the analytical engine) that basically laid out most of the groundwork for a modern computer. The latter would have used punch cards for input, been able to print the output, and would have had memory and something that could be recognised as a CPU. In addition, Babbage's protégée was the first person to describe in her notes a test algorithm for the machine, which would make it the world's first published computer program. That person was Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's legitimate daughter who was taught math and logic and was discouraged from literary study at the insistence of her religious mother as a counter to the perceived insanity of her father. Ironically, Lady Byron also patronised and left a sizeable inheritance to George MacDonald, the grandfather of the modern fantasy literature genre, who would go on to inspire a generation of writers (some of them devout christians) to scare the crap out of evangelical parents. In any case, the analytical engine, thought to be too complex and costly to be built, would fade into relative obscurity and the people building the first electronic computers had to re-invent its ideas and re-learn some lessons Babbage's concept had already taken into account.

    Back to the present, though, let me present the main culprit for the fall of all the mechanical analog computing, the electronic calculator. We had a couple of those lying around, but I mostly remember them for the distinctive sound the vacuum fluorescent display made when it was powered on. They might have looked something like this, or perhaps even exactly like this:





    They also came in pocket sizes and the one I had, I think, was this:



    Of course, getting a real PC was far out of reach for any ordinary person living in the Soviet Union until its collapse (and for a while after). It was never a mass market item and you could hardly buy one for regular worker's wages. The first real chance for me came sometime in the 90s when the markets became flooded with cheap, nearly obsolete parts of Western computers. I did my best to put something together, but the lack of knowledge and the shoddy quality of parts led to mostly failed attempts. I think the best I managed was a glorified typing machine with a monochrome display. Anything that could remotely classify as a gaming computer was out of my league anyway -- the 90s were a tough time for our family, culminating in a financial crisis at the end of the decade. It wasn't until the 2000s rolled along that I was finally able to get a used 486 that could run some games that were actually good (and Windows 95, which sucked) and it was all uphill from there on.

    Anyways, that's enough rambling about computers for today. Might ramble a bit more when I actually get to building one.
    Last edited by Starker; 12th May 2020 at 18:11.

  7. #207
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Fascinating. And it takes me back too. This was the calculator I recall my dad using at his clerical job in the late sixties.



    Of course modern calculators soon replaced it but he had used it so often that he brought it home where it sat on his desk and he still used it for a few years. The clear window area was where the paper came out and he would tear it off and staple it to various bills and things. He kept meticulous financial records for the Navy and the University of Mississippi for the better part of his life. His eldest son, my half brother, worked at Texas Instruments for the better part of two decades until they became so cheap it killed them. I recall those calculators of the early seventies in Sears catalogs listing for around fifty bucks. They were much like your last one, Starker. The first digital watches were around that time too and listed for over a hundred. My first one was a quarter inch thick and the numbers glowed in little red dots.

    Freaking weird to get sentimental about obsolete tech but there you go. It takes me back.

  8. #208
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    My state finally decided to get rid of the 1894 flag with the confederate battle flag in the corner. The last state to reject such a flag. My state is last in everything. Likely what gave them the final kick in the ass was the NCAA threatening to withhold finals games in football. Money talks. They won't admit that though. They pretend it was enlightenment. Yeah well, a lot of us had enlightenment a long time ago.

    When I was about eleven or twelve the Ole Miss flag was the confederate flag. Ole Miss is the college where I live and where my Dad worked until retirement. He would get me tickets to the games sometimes and I loved football. I loved everything about it. The plays were like chess moves with multiple pieces let go at once. In those days there was a sea of flags waving and we had Archie Manning. He was a scrambler. He would break out of pocket and throw on the fly which was something not many did. The day Houston broke his arm my sisters cried. He came back and played with a cast. Archie is a saint at Ole Miss (and a Saint at New Orleans). We won in spite of everything when he was on the field. Memphis tried to make fun of him by wearing "Archie Who?" buttons. When we beat them we wore buttons that said "Archie 38 to 0 that's who". I still have one. There was a song written about him. My sister has that record.

    My first job of any note was hawking cokes in the stands during games. You carried a heavy wire rack with straps slung over your shoulders that cokes in cups sat in for sale and walked up and down the steps in your section yelling "cokes" and stopping often to pass them down the row where they were likely used as a chaser for bourbon or scotch. I made roughly fifty dollars an hour doing that, the most money per hour I have made in my life, but I didn't think of that then. I mostly just wanted to see the game. I loved Ole Miss. Still do. They are the only team I root for. Well... there was the New York Giants I rooted for when Eli Manning, Archie's son, won the super bowl. I have a twenty year old cat named after him because he chose the alma mater of his father.

    We didn't think much about the negative concerning the flag back in my youth. We were Rebels. Fuck Yankees and what they thought. It was our defining difference. The band played Dixie when we got a touchdown. I had no idea then about James Meredith and his breaking of the color barrier. My Dad knew. He had a friend and coworker who died during the riots when James enrolled. KKK had been bused in from the Delta and they fought with federal troops in the grove. His friend had gone to the second floor balcony of the Engineering building to watch and when the troops sent by Kennedy fired over the heads of the asshole KKK they hit him instead. My Dad had told him he needed to get home to his family and declined going with him. Those were the days when Dad would look for me as soon as he came home and I would run and jump into his arms. I like to think love saved him.

    Ole Miss kept the flag for a long time. Some time mid eighties. I heard Ole Miss mentioned in Billy Joel's song but didn't even know the history. When I attended there I asked a black acquaintance wasn't Meredith just stirring trouble by his visits which I read of in the Daily Mississippian. I cringe now at his explanation recalled. He was patient and listened to me but I can only imagine the conversation that happened after I left. I had been the only white guy in a dorm room full of blacks and they were polite and accommodating. I was so stupid. I suppose I was reaching out and they took that into account. Blacks put up with a lot from us.

    Now there is a statue to Meredith heading to a glass door at the Lyceum and we are taking down the confederate statue out front and moving it to the confederate graveyard of the University Grays who suffered 100% casualties in Pickets charge during Gettysburg. I've butted heads with rednecks over this. They speak of history but I know it. I've read Shelby Foote's 2968 page tome about the Civil War and can level truth at every turn and twist. They hate me.

    I personally dropped the flag during my Air Force years. The box I sent to England from Sheppard AFB had an Ole Miss Frisbee which didn't make it and I imagine some warehouse guy flying it down some long isle. My Ole Miss T shirt did and it had the battle flag on it's front. I wore it a lot. I had black friends who never said a word. One day I was talking with Mack whose name was McGee and nobody really knew his first name when my T shirt came up. He was New York and knew some Swahili. I always greeted him with "Jambo Habari" because of that. It's all I knew of that language but he appreciated it. We were talking about Tung Sudo which we had both taken at the base and is a form of Karate. I was all exited and saying how we should just start fighting whenever we saw each other out of the blue and freak everyone out. Then he says I don't seem prejudice. WTF? I hope I'm not. He points to my shirt and says I have a KKK symbol on it. I was mortified. I explained it's the Ole Miss flag and I never thought of it as anything else. I quit wearing it that day.

    I was reminded recently of the column Chico put out in the Oxford Town magazine back in the nineties which stirred so much hate (heritage not hate you N word!) recently when I was butting heads with rednecks and being cursed. They really hate that the confederate statue is being moved from it's place of prominence out front of the Lyceum. Nutso hate. It brought back so many memories and how I've been so wrong without being able to see it. He was explaining then why the flag was wrong and so alone and brave in doing so. I admired that. Now that I'm his facebook friend I can at least have his back. I know shit now. More than most. More than him even. Sure as hell more than those who speak of history without knowing it.

  9. #209
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Let's talk about gay people. It's okay. They aren't here. They would likely be cool about it anyway. But who knows? There are as many kinds of them as there are of us. I'm really shit at telling who they are though. I recall my twenty year high school reunion. I was talking to Scott when he mentioned his wife and kids. "WIFE AND KIDS?" I said, "I THOUGHT YOU WERE GAY." Not the best thing to say to a guy who just told you he has a wife and kids. Rena was real helpful. She said, "what do you mean saying that?" Everyone at the table turned to look at me. Well he had that swishy walk and kept his legs close together and talked with that lisp and never had a girl. I didn't say that but I was thinking it real hard. "Well I just thought you were, not that there is anything wrong with that, you just ( I couldn't say had the mannerisms right?) never even flirted with any girl. But hey, you found the right one and now you have kids and that's really cool. So what's teaching like?" And then I'm sure I said something else stupid. Hey, I raised a lot of money for him when he got cancer okay? Gave up my birthday presents for him and everything. I'm not a bad guy. Get off my back. He has tested okay for the cancer since BTW.

    But I'm shit at gaydar. Always have been. Completely clueless. I recall visiting my cousin in Wisconsin when we were teens and asking him where the girls were. He gave me the strangest look. You know, where do they hang out? How about we go there and see if we can find us some? You're a good looking guy so you must know. Still that look. Okay then, what do you do for fun? And we did something else. I don't recall. Now him and his partner are my friends on facebook and live in San Francisco. How cliche. I told him if I ever take him up on coming out we have to go to Dunsmuir though. That's the house they filmed Phantasm at. He said we would. Nice guys. I really like his better half.

    Then in the service there was Bob and Derek. We hung out sometimes. They weren't the wild sort ordinarily but that was okay. They liked me well enough to buy me a steak dinner on my twentieth birthday which was damn nice of them. I had danced with Derek's girlfriend earlier and thought how cool it was she cared enough to fly to England just to see him. She was a great dancer and I would have put the moves on her if he wasn't my friend. One of the best looking black girls I've ever met and Derek was just so goofy with all his effeminate gestures and posing. I wondered how the hell he got her. If anything I would have thought Derek was gay. He wasn't. Bob was. After drinking myself sloppy I was going to walk back to my dorm when Bob said to just sleep over. Sure. I was at the point where I was pretty sure I wouldn't throw up if I just lay down and slept for a bit. Maybe an hour later I awoke to Bob's hand on my butt. I was so zonked still I thought of just letting him keep polishing that lamp until he found out no Jeannie was going to grant him a wish. I rolled over on my side instead and he quit. The next morning we went for breakfast at the chow hall and had omelettes the size of a cat. I'm serious. They had these Texas ones with ham and cheese and onions and green peppers that they just piled on till you couldn't hardly eat it what with all the bacon and grits and stewed tomatoes and hash browns that went with it. Bob was a good guy. There is a picture I have of the three of us under a sign that says "Expert Sight Testing" when we are just hammered cross-eyed from pub crawling in Banbury.

    Then there was the time I was sitting on a bench outside the Hoka waiting for Rocky Horror to start. I love the songs in that movie and had the tape I used to blast full volume and sing to. I guess I looked like a hippy freak with my hair down my shoulders. Certainly not like the car load of preppy pink Polo shirted shits who pulled up in front of me. One got out and came over asking for a rolling paper. Yeah, I had one, and loaned it. I was that much of what I looked like anyway. Then he asked if I wanted a blow job. What? Who the fuck pulls up and asks a stranger if they want a blow job? I looked from him to his buddies shoulder to shoulder front and back seats as they waited on him and thought, you know, they don't look anything like gay guys. Matter of fact, they looked like the sort to beat up gay guys. Maybe it was some initiation. The frats do that. They make initiates do crazy shit. I told him no, that was okay, I'm good. Then he got back in and drove away. I guess I'll never know which it was.

    I recall one time me and Richard were at a bar and I'm just there to further our friendship. I wanted to go home earlier but old times, you know? So we are talking and this couple comes up and Richard hits it off with the girl and Richard is ugly so good for him once I find out the guy she was with was just her roommate. He gets some so seldom I'm pulling for him. They want to go back to their place. Sure, however I can make this happen for my old bud. They leave before we do. I'm nuts and stand on the ledge of the picture window in my leather jacket shouting "Attica" when we make it to the apartment. He let's us in. Unfortunately I've made an impression and he turns out to be gay. He wants to put honey on our nipples. Hilarious. He is an artist and we go around discussing his art and other art while my friend bangs this girl. "It's okay, I've blown lot's of happily married men." Yeah, no. I kept his mind off the booty till Richard reappears. I liked the guy. If I had been gay he would have gotten in my pants. Dude was funny as shit.

    I never know till they reveal it though. Hell, my wife's old boss had a pic of a muscular guy up in his basement apartment and my wife said he must be. Nah. Not Matt. He told me he just uses that as his work out spur. He slept with my female cousin, Crissakes. We all went on that trip to Las Vegas together. Not Matt. Yeah but he kept sneaking off to do stuff by himself in Vegas. I still didn't believe. Not that I cared. I liked Matt. I just didn't think he would lie to me. I guess there is such stigma still. It must be hard on them. And when you run a company you also have customers to think of. Here we are in the heart of the Bible belt where all the concerned Christians would, I'm sure, be very forgiving and accommodating. Sure. Better not eat any smart apples around here buddy. Go be gay in hell.

    Well my ex buddy Elliott who cheated on my cousin all during their marriage got mad at my cousin when she left him and slashed her tires multiple times. He even slashed her moms tires. You would just have to know what a sweet woman she was to know why that ended my lifelong friendship with him. I know. I should have ended it years earlier before all the fights and him pulling a knife on me. I know this. I just have this thing about friends I grew up with. I tried to warn my cousin. I even let her listen in on a conversation I had with him on the extension as he talked about banging other girls before they married. Surely she wouldn't marry him now. Nope. Still did. Sigh. I guess I wasn't the best friend but in retrospect fuck him. He pulled a knife on me when I stepped between him and Ginger. I told him, "man, I'm doing this as much for you as her" but he still held that blade to my gut. He was hitting her and no way could I allow that. He didn't kill me, I guess there is that, we fought though. It always came out about even. Sometimes me and sometimes him. I fought him more than anyone in my life. He was tough and evil.

    Anyway I guess I could make a story of our friendship but screw that motherfucker. He even hit on my wife though I never found out till we busted our friendship for good. She wouldn't tell. She knew what I would do, only I might go easy on him and that would be a mistake on my part. I sometimes did. I would think, "I can't grab his ankles and maybe bust his head on this concrete" so I would let go and rise up only to catch an uppercut from the ungrateful bastard. No. I wouldn't have gone easy if I had known that. Anyway, I didn't have to. He slashed Matt's tires because he was Gingers boss and Elliott thought they had a thing going (they did for a short while). I always thought Matt kind of wimpy. To my discredit when I found he really was gay I thought he truly was wimpy. He caught up with Elliott and beat the shit out of him. Better than I could have done. Tickled the shit out of me. To no end. Elliott who thought he was the most masculine dick on the planet got the shit beat out of him by a gay. I love Matt. Do I give a shit if he is gay? Yes. It matters because Elliott knows he was beaten by a gay and Elliott is such a macho fuck. It must kill him to know he was bested by a gay. I love that.

    Did I say I love Matt? Dude. I fucking love Matt.

  10. #210
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Forrest died. We worked close together for over a decade. He always made me laugh. We went fishing together at Enid (this pic) we went canoeing on the Buffalo river and camping out. He was the one I was talking about in the Buffalo River story a page back. The young couple Rena and I embarrassed with our drunken behavior. He was a good guitar picker and drummer and we had similar tastes in music. He told a good ghost story around a campfire. He insisted we decorate his brand new truck one year as a float for my daughter (Miss Toccopola at the time) to ride in the Pontotoc Christmas parade. He went all out for it. He wasn't worried about tape holding the blinking lights on either.

    He died a hero saving his son from drowning which is nothing less than I would have expected from him. They were at Saint George Island, a place Rena and I have been, and when his son went out too far he brought him back safe but it must have taken everything he had working against a rip tide. He had gained a lot of weight recently much as I have. Maybe that worked against him. All I know is I lost a friend and it hurts real bad but the world lost a good man and that is a tragedy beyond measure. I picture that stretch of beach and him doing what he had to do no matter how it ended. His son was special needs and I'm sure didn't know what was happening and very frightened. His son made it to shore after Forrest had given all the energy he had with none in reserve.

    I remember a time when just the two of them stopped by my house while I was working on my porch. His son was running about as we talked and tripped on my steps. His head made a bee line for the concrete and Forrest just scooped him up quick as lightening. I admired how instinctively protective he was. I never once doubted his heart.

    I will always remember this smile.



    Edit: Okay. I've drank and called Kevin and laughed and caught up and told lots of stories and heard some and cried a little and I think I'm going to be alright. I didn't tell him I'm in the bottle because he is six years sober but he could probably tell. At any rate I'm not going into the black hole. I'm okay. I don't know how the old guys do it. All the accumulation of pain from loss over the years. It's the part that hurts worst. All those beautiful people gone. But others remind you of the beautiful ones still left. That's what you need. Affirmation of life. Shit I love Kevin. We laugh so much when we talk. And it's okay to cry too. Not a lot. What are you some kinda puss? But you got to some. It keeps you out of the hole. He knows what I'm fighting but bless his soul he never mentions it.
    Last edited by Tocky; 29th Jul 2020 at 01:57.

  11. #211
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    I'm so very sorry for your loss, Tocky. His death was a beautiful example of sacrifice and fatherly love--I can only imagine the fear he must have felt watching his child in the waves, and the courage it took to go in after him. God rest his beautiful soul, and grant his family the peace they so richly deserve.

  12. #212
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Thanks Draxil. I think every father does that in their head when they hear of something like this. You see yourself in that place and hope to hell you will never have to be. Forrest was a great guy. I never feel I really appreciate exactly how great some folks are until they are gone. I just take for granted they are always going to be there and then when they are gone I see the size of the hole they leave in life and kick myself for not checking in on them more. It would have been nice to go on another fishing trip together and catch up. It's selfish I guess because it's not mourning for them as much as it is mourning for your own life without them. There are a lot of great people in life.

    I'll tell a story I've told elsewhere about one of my best old buds dad since I'm here. Riley was just a big old farmer and you rarely saw him in anything but overalls and straw hat. He was always feeding cows or doing something on his Ford 8N tractor. A fair number of times me and Richard would pitch in bailing hay or shucking corn in our teens but it's like with all your friends dads they are just sort of background. Later he worked at the mall as their plant guy, a sort of green house on the concourse thing and he and my wife made friends talking every day because she also worked there at a drug store. Just a big old friendly guy. Only... there was this picture in their house of him in the Marines. He was sitting position with a big water cooled Browning machine gun he was holding onto and smiling. A posed shot I figured lots of GI's did. I didn't think much of it.

    Then one day he died. A heart defect he had lived with a long while finally got him. I went to be there for Richard and they had a 21 gun salute at the grave site. I had never asked Riley what he did in WWII. Never even considered any stories he might have to tell. I asked Richard about all the military pomp and he said "well you know he did get the silver star". No. I didn't. How? You recall that picture of him with his machine gun right? Well that was his gun as they pushed the Germans across Europe. Him and another guy took turns with it because it was so heavy. One would start out way ahead of the rest of the battalion and fall back with it until they had made it all the way back through the pack and the other machine gunner at the rear would take it and run way out ahead again until he gradually fell back to the one who was rested. A water cooled Browning is a heavy son of a bitch. Just carrying it wears you down.

    Well Riley had just taken it and run way ahead of the rest of the guys along a dirt road and into a copse of wood. He jogged right over a hill and right into a camp site of Germans. There were four Panzer tanks parked in the road. The soldiers had leaned their rifles against the tanks and were warming over fires and eating a bite. They were quite surprised to see him burst on the scene. He was just as surprised. Several of them started for the guns left against the tank fenders and he stitched a line of bullets between them and their weapons. That stopped them in their tracks. Doubtless some of the officers had side arms but 600 rounds a minute gives one pause. Normally it has a team to feed it a long belt as it sits on a tripod but Riley just shot it from the hip tearing up leaves and soil then brought it to bear on the men and waited. I like to picture him standing there. This big farm boy with that monster propped on his hip waiting. All the hands went up. One nineteen year old kid captured four tanks and crews by himself. The best part, Richard said, was he did it without killing a single person.
    Last edited by Tocky; 17th Aug 2020 at 00:50. Reason: To b or not to b. B instead.

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