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Thread: Tocky's Tales

  1. #201
    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
    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,'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
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Ooof. Did they ever settle on a cause?

  4. #204
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.

  13. #213
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    I've been arguing with someone. I didn't mean to. I meant to reach out. I just wanted to let a stranger know. But it always causes friction between the one who nurses a fetish for suicide and the one who hates it. Life is hard. Depression is different for every person. It's personalized torture one does to oneself. But truth is truth. It does not matter how you feel about it. I was honest about how it hurts the ones who love them for the rest of their lives. Oh I was casting guilt they said. No. It just is. It is it is it is. I don't know how to say I was not saying anything but the truth. Your loved ones will hurt the rest of their lives. Just a fact. If you want lies go to somebody else.

    I tried telling them if they feel the urge to call a friend. Hell, call me. If you just want to argue even. I don't care. As long as it keeps your finger off the trigger or your neck from the noose. Call somebody. Anybody. Have a friend remind you of old times or laugh about new ones or ponder the mysteries of the universe. They would likely cut off their arm just to have the other to hug you with because you are here. You are here. You are not in a silent cemetery forever. Time stretches forever in both directions from now. We only have this small sliver between the two. This life is all we have and it is ineffably precious. Today may be bad but tomorrow may be better. We do not know what is around the corner. Forever we are dead. Forever. Don't go. Don't go away. How do I say it so you understand? It isn't blessed peace for you. It is nothing. Nothing. Life is everything. And for those you leave behind it is so not peace. It is hard. On top of every hard thing they have to face every day they have that. That hurt. That pain that never fully goes away. And they have to look in the eyes of those they love and know they feel the same pain. How do you convey that?

    Feel guilty? FINE. Just don't go. Talk to somebody. Anybody. You are already contemplating suicide. I'm making it worse by making you see what you will do? Oh boo hoo you have to hold on for others? Tough. What am I doing right now? I'm up at night drinking alone with my wife in bed asleep while crying and typing because I can't forget. I can't show weakness because I'm the rock to lean on. But I'm here. I'm holding on for those I love. It isn't easy. I know that. But how you feel now may not be how you feel tomorrow. Hold on. What can you lose by doing that? Pain? Life is pain. It's pain and wonder and worry and wonderful. Bad shit happens. Awful shit. Ungodly bad. You suffer through and hope. And then one day someone smiles at you and you know it was worth it to hold on. All your life crashes in on you and you know. That love, that hand held, that hug, that laugh, you know then it was worth it.

    Such a short time we live. Some of us have mansions and some of us shacks. All that means nothing. The time. That is what is important. That we had the time of our lives. That we used it all. It was all we had. That and the people who we love. That we fought for. That we got up every day and went to jobs that sucked and dealt with people who sucked but came home to those we loved. We don't do life for ourselves mostly. We do it for those we care for. What self indulgence we do is more guilt than any we feel for having held on for others. Suicide is self indulgence. Only once it happens it can't be undone. You hurt. We all hurt. Share it. We understand. We all fight depression. If you are losing reach out. The hand that grabs yours knows. How arrogant to think only you feel the pain of living.

    But because the truth is hard when you feel vulnerable and want to just throw in the towel makes it no less the truth. The people you care for will hurt. They will imagine how you would have been were you here. How would you be at this age? Would you have children? Would you still have the same humor or sharp observation? Would you come see me and play chess again? I haven't been able to play since you are gone. I can't. I've tried. I can't. I will miss you forever.

    I don't know how to say any of that but I tried. I don't think I got through.

  14. #214
    Registered: Dec 2000
    Very powerful Tocky. I salute you.

  15. #215
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Thanks zacharias. Honestly I am a little ashamed I get drunk and have these crying jags. I must need them though. How is your health these days? No recurrence of the cancer?

  16. #216
    Registered: Dec 2000
    Oh I guess you mean Zaccheus, I believe he did pass away unfortunately. My father also got cancer and died this last January. A bugger of a disease. Anyway, fingers crossed I don’t have it yet

    Time stretches forever in both directions from now. A simple enough line, but I really dug it. You should get drunk more often. All the best.

  17. #217
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Oh hell, that's right. Well shit. I was happy to think he had beaten it. Sorry to hear about both deaths. Go have the colonoscopy. Get those polyps. Check out the funny bump. Do the cat scan or x ray. Get the buggers before they get you.

    Yeahhhhh I kind of drink too much. Normally I'm a happy drunk but I have a sore emotional spot. It's not my liver just yet though. Ha ha! Fuck you death! Go get your own liver.

  18. #218
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Tomorrow we get the grandkids and go do stuff in Tupelo. Likely we will go by the mall and let them ride the carousel. We've done that many times when they were younger. Then we will go by the book store and discuss books. We are just old grandparents now and nobody would ever suspect what a drug addled hedonist lunatic Papaw once was. I didn't really mean to be. It wasn't something I set out to be. It was partly the times I grew up in and partly my personality. Easy Rider was my hero movie. Fonda said most folks would be scared to death of actual freedom. Total freedom. What a temptation that was. Yeah. We were all sort of pushing for that back then. Even on an Air Force base.

    I had long hair a few times before I entered service. High school had a dress code but I grew it as long as I could during the summers before school started again. It grew quick then. There is a picture of me in the local paper coming back from an FFA leadership camp with hair on my shoulders. Just cocky as hell propped on a brick structure outside the federal building. I never was afraid of the law or "authority". I just always felt the law was bullshit. Somebody else's idea of what should be against the law wasn't my idea. When our car got rear ended at the mall parking lot early in my marriage as we watched a movie inside we got an announcement over the loud speaker about it and we had to go down to the police station to make out a report. When we entered they had a display case with captured bongs and other paraphernalia. I laughed and pointed at one and said I knew where that one came from. It was funny to me. Still is really. Fuck those stern guys. The police guy taking the report didn't find it amusing. How? It's funny.

    Oh I guess fooling around with buddies on drugs is not the ideal way to deal with an invasion by a hostile foreign power. We had drills in England called alerts where we suited up in our chemical suits and built field hospitals and sweated until the water came up to nose level in those gas masks and we had to burp them though of course that meant any nerve agents would invade and we would have to atropine ourselves if it had been real. A slap on the thigh with a spring loaded injection and you would be able to live. But who is better to deal with the hallucinogenic effects of atropine than someone used to tripping? At that point the Russians would have slaughtered most of us with the nerve agent because that shit takes effect in about ten seconds and the Aardvark F111's would be in the air with the nukes anyway. Sure I could be at the hospital dealing with puking twitching people while Russians tried to kill us but it's about as useful as hiding under desks during a nuclear shelling which would likely be next anyway. They took that shit serious though.

    It's not that I couldn't take shit serious. I could. I was damn serious about my job. I wanted to be able to fix people. Got a hole in you? I'm your man. Want someone to be all regs and rules off duty? Fuck you. Not my job. That was party time. So when Tony asked did I want to pitch in for an ounce of weed I was in. He had a local Britt who was going to come through for him. Only he didn't. He brought him an ounce of dried mushrooms instead.

    My buddy Tony took shit about as serious as I did though. He was a medic like me. When we were on duty we were straight and narrow. When we were off we were way off. He hated to tell me we were stiffed on the weed though. He brought the bag over and suggested we do them. Sure, what the hell, we had a few days off after a nine day period on. We weren't strangers to shrooms. This could be fun. The thing is you have to know your mind all the way down to the id. Any insecurities or mental quirks will surface. But Tony was a cool guy. He was into Floyd and played guitar and had brought some tunes over. In retrospect partying in my room when I lived in the Security Police barracks and roomed with a security police may not have been the most well thought out thing to do.

    It was an ounce of dried shrooms to replace the ounce of weed the guy didn't have but we didn't know how much to do. We just split it and swallowed it down with some cheap whisky. We should have given it some thought. If three or four regular shrooms make you trip then when they are dried it would take maybe forty to make an ounce and you can see where there might be a problem just splitting a bag. Ordinarily they would begin to take effect from forty minutes to an hour after taking them. Longer for the fewer you take. These started at five minutes. I knew that was wrong. I knew we had messed up. We discussed it with him being in denial and me wanting to be but unable. Maybe it won't be so bad. No. It was surging. Colors and emotions like waves. I had to turn the Black Sabbath off. Too much dark energy when I needed lightness and comfort. I could nearly see the very atoms of things crackle with energy. Too much. I knew this was a wash. It would have to be slept off. Had we been camping, sitting around a fire in the middle of nowhere, that would be one thing, but here the negative variables were overwhelming.

    I apologized. There would have to be another time for something like this. This one was going to have to be slept off. I knew it with every fiber of my being. I could get him my sleeping bag and he could stay but there was no couch. He still clung to the idea of having just a regular trip. I was freaking. I admit that. He was still trying to be on an even keel. Bless his stupid heart. After a fair bit of discussion where he was all optimism and light and I was all disaster and shameful court marshal about the situation he decided to leave. I made him promise to go to his room and not leave. Just promise me. Don't go out. Weather it. Hold on till morning.

    He left. I lay there seeing everything like a newborn babe. I felt the objects of the room like each thing was connected to a deep seated memory. I saw everything. You don't want to see everything. You think you do but a lot of it is the bad you want to ignore. You DO ignore. We all do. You just don't realize how much we ignore. You can't ignore anything on half a bag of mushrooms. Everything is glowing neon in your face. I lived a million possible lifetimes before he came back. It was an electrical shock when he opened the door and yet inevitable and natural. It had to happen. It always had in every lifetime. He could not find his way back to his dorm. We had the same low key argument about the possibility of just ignoring we were beyond any possible reconciliation with reality. We could not act normal. We were in the spirit world. He had to stay over. He wouldn't. Okay. I would have to help. I'm staunch. I know real. I can fake it. I always have. How hard can this be? I do it every day. I have in my head exactly where his room is. The visual is a flaming path with a chattering herd of chipmunks pointing the way. I even know that is wrong to think in those terms with full visuals of the thought. See? I'm okay.

    The hallway is yellow. Not a normal yellow. A radioactive sickly yellow stretching for a mile. Walking is a series of muscle impulses moving bone like a stick figure yanking itself along. Other times it is floating. It's this head with camera capability recording the disembodied balloon wandering. As we pass under the fluorescents I become a collection of electrical impulses moving not from pole to pole but universe to universe only the other universe is totally foreign and unknowable in totality and smallest part. He needs to use the restroom. Okay. I could go too. It's midway of the hall though it seems eons of time in getting there. Inside is beyond bright. It's electric and shimmering. Millions of tiny tiles of grey and white painstakingly fitted together in a futility of sameness. A wall of urinals and sinks with mirrors over them. I don't want to contemplate mirrors just now. Farther back is showers. My bare feet in wetness at the mere thought. We pee. A release. Liquid pouring golden wetness into a porcelain chamber from my body warm and natural into a thing I could not fathom creating. Someone comes in. Loud and drunk. It is Saturday night. Tony is rocking his head as if to a silent hard rock beat. He sees me staring and says "hell yeah". We move to the sinks and water is a strange crawling clear thing. We don't look at the guy who came in. He says something about a sports team winning. Tony says hell yeah again and the guy says hell yeah. He laughs. We laugh. We are laughing about different things but laughing is universal. I was right about the mirror. The plastic thing in it is too knowing so I turn away without drying my hands.

    The rest of the trip down the hall is less unnerving. We survived the mind stabbing brightness of the bathroom and the world is fine. The metal door is impossibly heavy and angular. Outside the cold is biting. Waking to a harsh and less insulated fourth floor world our breath becomes ghostly clouds from astonished and nervous laughs with instant shivers. And yet it is freeing. The world has opened up though night has swallowed most of it. Islands of blue lit parking lots and buildings of yellow squares of light stretch to the NCO club. Tony thinks we ought to go there. I don't think we could handle it and remind him he could not find his way to his room. Yeah he says then hell yeah and we laugh about that. On the way down from the top of this outside stair case he points to as far as he had gotten before and there is puke. I ask if he is okay now. Yeah. Hell yeah I ask? Hell yeah. Our footsteps echo of concrete openings. Our voices are things which find surfaces like bats with echo location and come back quickly but a little foreign. We make it to the bottom. It had come a blanketing frost.

    I can't describe how beautiful it was. Perhaps it had been a foggy freeze. Billions of tiny prisms on every surface. It was astonishing. We marveled at this wonderland. The most ordinary things, cars, grass, lamp posts, were made things of incredible beauty. To this day it remains one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The world made over in micro rainbows. Wow. Are you seeing this? The detail is fantastic. Look closely at this flag pole. It's like a lace of little snowflakes. No don't stick your tongue to it. I have no idea if the old saying is true but I don't want to find out tonight. We have to get you home. One building over from this next one is yours. Room 19 third floor. It was a magical walk.

    We got him inside. He was hungry. All I could find was a half box of King Vitamin cereal. No milk. He began to crunch on it. He put on music too loud. I turned it to halfway. We talked for a bit while the shrooms seemed to find another gear. He wanted to play cards. We busted a pack and he insisted we play for match sticks. Buck a match? No, just the sticks. Uh... okay. Despite the cards being incredibly slick I managed to shuffle and deal for five card draw. The colors on the cards were outstandingly garish and the stylized characters comical. The game seemed to have no meaning. We were easily distracted. On his shuffle when I cut the cards he took half the deck and fanned it face down telling me to pick a card and place it back anywhere. I did and he closed the fan and immediately reopened it. He took his other hand and as he touched each card fell away like petals of a flower till there was one left. When he turned it up it was my card. Not magic he said. When I reinserted the card he could feel it more keenly between his fingers and kept track of it with just feel. Looked like magic to me. How do you keep up with one card out of over twenty by the feel of it on your finger tip?

    Then he got his acoustic guitar and played stairway to heaven. That also looked like magic to me but he said he kept hitting flat notes and was dissatisfied. I didn't hear a single flat note. It was perfect. We talked about home and what we had left behind there. We talked about girls and I showed him a picture of Michelle Clifton who had taken to writing me from my little home town. I felt deep and sudden homesickness for the place that had nurtured me and all the people I hadn't appreciated when I was there. He asked could he keep the picture. Hell no. Just for a few days. Until he got tired of beating off to it. Oh sure in that case... fuck no! Beat off to page three of the Sun like everybody else. As much as he made me laugh the hair on my scalp was crawling back and forth like it was trying to escape and I wanted to go back to my own room and sleep this off. There hadn't been any sort of peak to it yet. Normally you get to a plateau to catch your bearings and regroup but this kept coming on harder and I was afraid I was going to become confused and do something stupid. I've heard guys say, "look from here on it's the shrooms talking and not me" before and that troubled me. How could you ever become anything not you? I didn't want to find out. I told Tony I had to go while I still could.

    He said he understood and saw me to the door. I told him to resist turning the music up all the way because he didn't understand how loud that Akai system was. He told me it was Saturday night. True enough. Maybe he was being the reasonable one and I was just a nervous Nelly. I couldn't tell. Okay. Just stay in your room and don't go anywhere. Okay, mom. Yeah yeah. I left him with a feeling of good will and trust. The last thing I said to him was that my scalp was trying to crawl off my head and he said me too and scratched his head like crazy so I did too and we laughed as the door shut.

    I passed folks in the hall but I was a ghost and nobody looked at me. The parking lot was still a spectacular light show and I stood a long time admiring it. Nobody stirred in all the time I stood there. I felt alone on the earth. I remembered to avoid the puke on the stairs. In my room at last I lay on the bed and made the bebudabee noise drumming my fingers on my lips and laughed. My lips were rubber. I turned the light off and even fell asleep. Some time later I dreamed I was looking at myself sitting in a chair across the room. That me had advice. It's all a game he said. Maybe I said. Everything is a game he said. Not everything I said. Maybe he said. I woke. There were flashing blue lights on my ceiling. I could hear voices in the parking lot outside. The shrooms had calmed from a ripping guitar solo to just a calm steady beat but I still wondered if I was really seeing SP's arrest someone outside my window. Then I had the irrational fear they would see me watching and someone would point and say there he is and come get me from my fourth floor bed so I lay down again and listened to them. One seemed to be teaching the new one proper procedure for arresting drunks. I felt very world weary. Then just weary and drifted off to sleep, mostly to strange dreams I can't recall, and slept till morning when I woke normal again.

    Then I was ravenously hungry and headed to the chow hall for one of those western omelettes the size of a cat. On the way I ran into Tony. The first thing he said was that he was never doing shrooms ever again. I thought that was funny and laughed in a knowing way but he was dead serious. Oh crap. You didn't stay in your room did you? No. Then he told me this story.

    He had gotten hungry again and the cereal wasn't cutting it. So he did what anyone would do who was tripping and went door to door in an Air Force dorm in his underwear knocking and saying he was tripping balls and needed something to eat. Please I've eaten some bad mushrooms and I'm really freaking out hungry. Finally one guy ushered him in and told him to be quiet and not everyone was his friend about this kind of shit. He made him some tuna fish sandwiches. Sated but still on a one track about bad shrooms he thanked the guy and wandered down the hall until he entered the showers and turned the hot water on him full force. He said it was like thousands of tiny demons screaming at him. Well shit. Were they screaming get the fuck out from under scalding water maybe? He said he wasn't really thinking about that. His grandmother had died recently and he was all down about it. He just knew that he too was going to die. That night. The shrooms were bad and were going to kill him. Jesus man, tell me you went to your room and tried to regroup. No. After shouting in the hallway about bad shrooms he did something else.

    What he did was walk in his wet underwear through an Air Force base on a Saturday night when it's likely most busy down streets in the middle of an English winter to the emergency room where we both worked and tell them he had eaten bad shrooms and was going to die. He needed a Catholic priest right away to give him last rights... and your face is melting. But he is probably the most lucky bastard other than myself alive. Nobody called the SP's. It was so late no officer was on duty. The ones who were there were all our friends. They tried to calm him as they let him know you can't be yelling so loud about faces melting. He begged for a priest and alternately laughed. They laughed too but still held him down. No but I'm dying! Laugh. I really am. The mushrooms were poison! Oh Christ who painted this room? I need last rights! I'm nearly dead already! Everybody has too many hands! Where is the priest? The lights are bubbling! I can feel my heart slowing down! Hurry! A priest! I'm seeing angels already! Oh god the things he told me he said. He told me in a look of wonder and wince.

    They had him on a gurney trying to calm him or at least shut him up but they had to take it somewhat serious as well. It's their job to do so. They had to go wake the doc. Lucky for him it was that old Vietnam doc I was so fond of. He was pissed at being wakened at three in the morning. He listened to him babble about poison mushrooms, ran a blood test, looked in his eyes, and asked had he been drinking. He asked had he thrown up. Luckily the answer to both was yes but I can tell you he didn't feel those few drinks at all. Doc diagnosed him with drunk and dysentery and after telling the folks in ER to watch him for a couple hours to let him go sleep it off and not to wake him unless his blood pressure dropped or spiked or he had seizures or more vomiting. Doc let him know he wasn't happy and to shut up about a damn priest.

    Holy crap man. We ate our huge breakfast and I felt bad I hadn't stayed with him. I said as much. He just said I warned him and there was nothing I could have done anyway. We talked about past trips and the power of emotion to make you go bonkers. We had a laugh or two at his trip and talked a bit about his grandma. He even waffled on doing them again by the end of the meal. But no time soon. Hell no. By lunch he asked me if I wanted to go in with him should the guy have some more shrooms. I laughed. The universe takes care of fools if your heart is right. No that isn't quite right. People take care of you if you are a good person. I still have a picture of him sitting on his bed playing guitar beneath the pyramid poster that came with the Dark Side of the Moon album. It makes me wish we had kept in touch after Heyford. I hope folks continued to look out for him. He was the sort you liked immediately.

  19. #219
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    My best friend Richard Smith is gone now. The cancer got him. I had so hoped to go on a road trip when he felt up to it but he never did. We had been good buddies since the 6th grade when he, Kevin Baxter, Roger Nicholas, and me formed the four leaf clover club at eleven. I still have my card. We spent the night at each others house on the weekend, we played with GI Joe, we swam in every pond and creek, we climbed fire towers, we built mud cities on creekbanks, shot BB guns, had corn cob fights, dirt clod fights, pine cone fights, bottle rocket fights, even cow patty fights. We braved each others driving. I don't know how he lived smashing into that stand of pines that time. We threw fire crackers on the constables car and ran. We peed on an electric fence. He let go when he was jumping over a few of us on my mini bike and the rear tire burned a black mark on his chest. We were in Air Force tech school together. I'm sure I've told stories of him here.

    So much of my life is tied up with him. He was there when I married and there for my son and daughter and later grand children when we came to visit and fish his lake. He came to Thanksgivings and Christmases and Birthdays. He taught my daughter to drive a stick. He was always a hermit but for me and mine he relented. He has always been the best of friends. I'm going to miss him terribly. I'm going to miss coming by his place and discussing life. He had a great philosophy and was one of the most unique people you could ever meet. In nearly every picture of him that I have he is laughing and everyone around him is as well. I have been so truly blessed to have known him. He left a hole that just can't be filled in my life. My daughter too. We sat looking over old photos of him this evening. I've already called or been called by his friends and family and they want me to say a few words. We lower him into a hole beside his dad this Monday. I have been asked to carry him that last short trip. It's not the trip I hoped to take him but it will be my honor to do so. He said he had lived the life he wanted and had no regrets. I have no reason to doubt that. Goodbye you fantastic colorful bastard. You made life better. You were a true and lifelong friend.

    Last edited by Tocky; 19th Jun 2021 at 02:24.

  20. #220
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Rest in peace.

  21. #221
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: Netherlands
    Sorry for your loss Tocky. One of those days. Today 4 years ago my wife passed. Here’s a pic of us. Also, a friend of mine also lost one of her friends today.

    Before I’m going to bed today I’m having a Scotch for my wife, your friend and my friend’s friend. Take care man!

  22. #222
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Such a beautiful woman must have been hard to let go of. I'm sure I can't imagine the half of what you have gone through. It's piss poor consolation but you got to be there for her and shoulder the pain she would have had to feel if the roles had been reversed. Here's to the ones we love then. Here's to knowing them for however long. However long is never long enough.

  23. #223
    Gone, but not forgotten
    Registered: Dec 1999
    Location: Everywhere
    How did I miss this thread? This is GREAT stuff. Can I play? Does everyone have access to some type of mild sedative?

  24. #224
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    Quote Originally Posted by fett View Post
    How did I miss this thread? This is GREAT stuff. Can I play? Does everyone have access to some type of mild sedative?
    I usually do. Play away. I've been trying to get folks to tell me stories.

    It was as good a funeral as one could have I suppose. My family had been asked to come early and be counted as their family. A little heart stuck to the lapel in signification. Karen came and Rena was a little catty about it. Bless her she still thinks I'm attractive to women though that ship has long sailed. I spent time catching up with folks I hadn't seen in a long time. For a guy who never liked to go much of anywhere he had a lot of friends and we told stories of him and laughed. Even the preacher said there were some stories he couldn't tell and everyone knew what he meant and got a chuckle. We did the ritual. The speeches, the songs, the hereafter. He was heavy. I expected the lost weight from cancer to have whittled him down but not so much really. Nobody stumbled though. The procession proceeded.

    I lost it some and sobbed when I set my boutonniere on the casket and then again when I hugged his mom, Ruth. She kept asking what are we going to do without him and all I could reply is I don't know. I don't. When I got to the end of the line and stepped out from the shade of the tent top one of the other pall bearers, a big burly biker, hugged me and we both cried on each other for a bit. Storm clouds were rolling in and since it had been such a walk to where he was buried at the back of the grave yard, one Richard and I had mowed back in our teens, I had left my unsteady mom with my wife in our car. As I stood there various folks, his brothers and sisters and cousins, came by to shake my hand. I tried not to hog all the comforting and to give back as good as I got. People dwindled a bit. Then I saw Linda alone near a grave a bit farther along.

    I wondered would she come. Of course she did. She wouldn't let Cuz be buried without her though she had to make the trip from Ocean Springs to do so. I called her name and went to hug her. I didn't want to hug too long and make her uncomfortable but it had been nearly forty years. Maybe we both hugged a bit longer than we meant to. She said she had wanted to make it up before he passed and had planned to just the next week. I told her how fast it was and how it surprised us all. She spoke of various things I don't recall as I looked in her eyes and she in mine without breaking contact. Still that deep cornflower blue. Then my daughter ambled up, curious I suppose, and I introduced them. I told Linda my daughter was like the daughter Richard never had and Samantha told a story or two of their relationship over the years. Then Linda called her daughter over who I hadn't seen since she was three. As we talked I marveled that she still had the same smile. I told her I had pictures of that smile and we agreed to share ones we had, hers of Richard and mine of her, her mother, and her uncle Jerry who had passed some years back. She mentioned Richard being a mall Santa one year and I let her know I had a picture of that.

    Linda asked would I come to an after party at her cousin David's house. I let her know I had to get my mom home and made excuses. Really, I didn't think my wife would go and didn't think it appropriate for me to without her. The butterfly tattoo passed briefly through my mind as we looked one last time then parted. I don't think either of our daughters caught on. I hope not. It was before my life really began with the marriage to the love of my life and really none of their business. Just a fragment of sweetness before real life happened.

    On the road out my daughter put her head on my shoulder and damned if we didn't cry again. Her husband Dustin said he didn't think she would cry that much if HE died. Oh he would be surprised, I said. Love is damned powerful.

  25. #225
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    When I went to my son's for the fourth my brother in law, Bubba, came too and told the story of running through the dry cornfield in Sean's and Troy's trucks. It was interesting to hear from another perspective so I kept quiet. He marveled that he could recall it so well. Then I told him about the other three stories he forgot from the same day. I told them here. I don't mean to upstage anyone. I just remember everything. I love my life and all the crazy people in it. So many are dying though. My old boss died now. He wasn't a favorite. I never thought he appreciated me much. Maybe we don't think any of them do that enough. They never seem to see all the extra effort we put in. But then a week before he stopped by the place and mentioned how long I had been at the company and that nobody outlasted me or worked harder. It doesn't make up for all the long hours at less pay than I deserved but my stupid ass stayed didn't I? It was steady and covered the bills and a little more. It made my family life possible. It was good to hear it acknowledged there at the end that he knew the effort I put in. Hell, I worked twelve hours a day for a year straight on the Tennessee route.

    And now I have another funeral to go to. Fuck. A good memory doesn't help sometimes. I recall too many times I was fucked over. So many times I wasn't listened to. So many times the work I put in was rewarded to someone else. I should have opened my own business back when it was easier to. Now it's too late for a number of reasons. Besides I work for another guy now, same business though, Robert just sold it to him. He knew what he was doing. He saw the shape of things coming. I do too. I just want to hold on till I retire in five to seven years. If I live. Who can tell? People are dying all over. Be nice to get that camper and tour the country in it with all the time needed though. Not a lot of money, nothing new there, but I always managed to do the things I liked without a lot of it. I likely had times and saw things no rich man ever will. "It's something unpredictable but in the end it's right." Nail on the head Greenday.

    God the miles I've driven. Never a serious accident. Lot's of close calls. I've seen People fuck up in spectacular ways. I've seen cars turn over. I nearly had a pulp wood truck turn over on me. He hit a curve too fast and he was too top heavy. He came up on two wheels or however many touch when they tilt till the whole side comes off the ground. I've seen the results when they do go all the way over. This guy got to the balancing point then came back down right side up. Good thing since I was in the oncoming lane with nowhere to go to get out of the way. I've slid sideways and gone into the other lane to avoid folks because I was going too fast and they were too stupid. Sometimes I've been the stupid one taking chances. I'll take luck over all the skill in the world but I am a skilled driver. I see the stupid in time. The last was a car that put on a right turn signal so I got into the other lane to go around as he did so. He made a left instead. I caught just enough whiff of stupid before it happened to hit my breaks and alter my course to avoid collision. It's close though. Lot's of miracles. Lot's of split second decisions.

    One day. One day something comes up on our blind side and gets us. All the luck in the world won't help then. It's time. I just hope I go first. Can you imagine waking next to a cold body instead of the spouse you love so much? The horror and sadness has to be incomprehensible. I feel so bad for Judy, Roberts wife. It's tempting to want a hand to hold as you go but maybe a log truck isn't so bad. At least you don't put them through that. It happens away from their sight. The warmth gone. The realization the world you lived for is gone and you are lying next to a husk never again to speak and touch. I can't imagine. I'll be there for the funeral.

    Fuck you death.

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