Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reunions and the Original "Ric Flair"

Whew!  It has been a whirlwind two weeks.  It started off with my Class Reunion and ended with an environmental conference I attended while performing my duties with the mighty NCDOT.  Let me just say this so there isn't any confusion with the two was fun, the other one almost drove me to grab an icepick and jab it in my temple.  Which means we won't be talking about that environmental conference...unless that is, your desperate to know what constitutes hydric soils in a wetland.  I can guarantee that you will be horizontal and counting sheep within 30 seconds.

Anyways, the South View Senior High School class of 1981 finally had their 30 year reunion.  Yep, we're getting old and I gotta tell was absolutely a first class event and one that was geared toward making everyone as comfortable as possible without all that stuffiness that usually accompanies events like this...I really had a good time.  It was a BBQ in lieu of the traditional catering and Jimmy Black's pig is possibly the best 'cue I have ever had.  I'd also like to tip my hat to Linda Bunnell Westerberg, Jennifer Johnson and "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" Joey Hulon, for all the organization and hard work that went into making this very successful.  I think the overall atmosphere led to a lot of interaction that probably wouldn't have happened had it been a sit down formal gathering.

More so than anything, as a demographic such as ours that is about to turn 50, we all just felt a sense of normalcy after hearing all the tales of woe since High School.  Naturally, most from this class are parents and several grandparents. To top it off, I can't begin to tell you how many of us are just thankful to have a JOB!!  Times are tough for everyone and I hope it gets better for our fine class.

We had a strong showing from the 'ole Ashton Forest Neighborhood of Fayetteville.  I'm just amazed at the legacy of that crazy and wonderful 'hood.  It fed into Sherwood Park Elementary School and it's one thing to see just your high school mates after so many years, but some of  these people I can recall from First Grade!  Even our street, Cheltenham Road, brought out myself, naturally, and the still radiant and strikingly beautiful Sanchez sisters, Katrina and Selina, who lived next door to us Laugisch's and across from them, during that era, were the Huskey brothers of which Michael made an appearance at the reunion.

It's not lost on me that I was talking to Katrina and trying to figure out how it was that she could still look like she was 18 years old, when Jeff Albertson, another Ashton Forest Alum, whispered in my ear, "Hey, Michael Huskey just got here.  Didn't you live close to him?" Like the idiot I have proven to be half my life, I interupt the beautiful woman I'm having a conversation with and said, "Excuse me Katrina, It was nice talking to you but I'm going to say hello to Michael."  Considering I hadn't seen him in 30 years, I'm willing to bet, as I was making a bee line for him and had not so many people been there, I would have yelled his name from across the parking lot and knocked him to the ground hugging on him like some horny dog.  I know...too much info Mark. 

You don't understand: This was The MICHAEL HUSKEY.

I'm trying to give you, the reader, a character that you can relate to.  Why not Robin ask?  After all, you can make the corelation between Ashton Forest and Sherwood Park, right?'s stupid and two...Michael wasn't exactly a saint growing up and he needs a character to represent him that blurs the line of right and wrong just a little bit.  In fact, I doubt there were many parents on Cheltenham Road who had a kind word to say about folks absolutely despised the guy.  We Laugisch boys, on the other hand... reverred him.

So who compares favorably to Michael that we can all agree upon would do him justice?  There's only one person.  Michael was Ric Flair before anyone in this world had ever heard of him and his patented "Figure Four" wrestling move.  No, no.  Micheal wasn't a professional wrestler.  He probably could have faked his way doing it like most of them do, but he was way too cool back in the day and he just had this certain Ric Flair.  As I said earlier, he wasn't a choir boy which is why he is closer in comparrison to the "Nature Boy" than anyone else.  Trouble always followed a good way...and for some strange reason he took a liking to us goofy Laugisch boys.

I was ten years old when Dad and the US Army dragged us away from the friendly confines of Ashton Forest and supplanted us in Berlin, Germany.  I would be thirteen upon my return and it's amazing what two and a half years does to a kid and a neighborhood.  We were strangers in a place we thought we were once a part of.  It was Michael Huskey who made us feel welcome and we didn't know why.

Take for instance Halloween...who goes Trick-or-Treating with Fire crackers, a lighter and bags of dog shit?  That's right...Ric Flair.  He'd come get us to play Basketball or Stickball and often we played Football at Sherwood Park Elementary against the GI's.  It never failed, here we were, up against guys five or six years older and damn sure bigger and there's Micheal making sure Fred, Henry and Mark are on his team.  He made us feel like we could beat the Dallas Cowboys and every now and again those GI's left wondering, "What just happened?" some loud mouth punk and his three minions made fools of them.  Even in defeat and it happened a lot, Michael would make it interesting.  Knowing we were going to lose he would point out the guy on the other team that was pissing him off that particular day and state that he was going to throw an interception to his nemesis and instructed us to "smear the queer" and hold him as Ric Flair came off the top rope with his patented cheap shot to the ribs.  It sometimes ended in a mele with the GI's chasing us Laugisch's, but to no avail as we knew the neighborhood.  Naturally, and without knowing how, Micheal would always find a way to not get his ass kicked.  

To put it simply, Micheal Huskey, aka...the original...Ric Flair, made life on Cheltenham Road damn interesting and I thank him for that.  It might be another thirty years before I see him again, but I'll bear hug him if given an opportunity and know that, "To be the got to beat the Man!!  Whoo!!  Rock on was damn good seeing you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

T-Roy for President...Walking with Grace

It's only a matter of months before our country gets knee deep into the business of electing a new president.  To be quite frank with you, I dread it.  It's not that I don't have a passing interest in who runs our country... "contraire mon fraire" can bet your sweet glutimus maximus after the year Ye Old Fat Bastard is having...that I do care who's wasting all my hard earned money that Uncle Sugar takes from me in taxes. It's just that I don't particularly like all the hypocrisy and phoniness of most of the candidates and the fact that we have to endure our leisure time watching all those negative, attacking political adds that leave me mentally fatigued.  We will spend the next year being inundated with commercials and ads that try to convince us, that certain Americans have the right stuff to be POTUS...I don't need that headache.

Being that my political and religious affiliation are one in the same, AMERICAN, I thought I would bring a refreshing, unique and unbiased approach in nominating my own candidate for our country's highest office.  Now, this isn't a "Randy of the Redwoods" type of endorsement.  I'm deadly serious when I say I want this particular individual to run for's just that he has far more important things to accomplish in the real world that may prevent him from leading our nation out of this current mess we find ourselves in.  My guy is T-Roy, actually it's Troy...I'm the only goofball that calls him T-Roy.

I've known Troy from our time spent working together at the RBC Center as Suite Hosts.  We have had some great times rooting for the Carolina Hurricanes and it was his passion and enthusiasm that made me a certified "Caniac" and fan of hockey.  That magical season in '06 when Rod Brind'mour hoisted up Lord Stanly's BIG ASS CUP will always stand out to me and Troy was there to cherish the excitement and nervous energy of winning a game 7 in what is officially known as the "Loudest House in the NHL."  Man, writing about that event doesn't even come close to actually having been a part of it like we were...truly a great memory.

What makes Troy such a great candidate?  To start, he has all the qualifications such as honor, integrity, passion and loyalty that all Americans want in a president.  I could go down the list as to what makes him "the guy," but you only need to know one thing about Troy.  Shit happens around this man.  I don't mean shit gets done around Troy, although it is a well documented fact that he is a hard worker and probably has 3 part time jobs to go along with his primary gig as a teacher; he's also a wonderful husband and father of two beautiful girls.  I mean literally, shit happens around Troy that defies all reason and logic.  Seriously, this guy can walk into a bar and start a chain reaction so bizarre that the National Guard has to be activated just so Law and Order can be restored.  I'm not trying to imply that Troy is a hard-luck guy and that a rain cloud follows him everywhere he goes...on the contrary, he's popular and well liked...he has such an engaging personality that people feel comfortable around him...and...then strange shit just seems to happen.  There was the time he almost swallowed his uvula, (the bell shaped thing-a-ma-gig that hangs from the roof of your mouth) when he was in the hospital, or the time when we decided on the spur of the moment  to "tailgate" after work with just a six pack of beer.  His Liquor Distributor Neighbor/friend just happens to call and asks Troy to drive his SUV home... to our benefit it's loaded down with booze, steaks and a grill.  You'll be hard pressed to top Troy when he walks in and starts out with, "you won't believe this shit!!"  Troy has "been there and done that" ten times over.  Bad stuff doesn't always happen to fact, it usually turns out pretty good.  Which is why this makes him a perfect candidate for President of the USA.

Troy has this uncanny ability to turn everything into a positive experience.  Call it what you want, luck, skill...Johnny on the Spot.  Regardless, he's the right guy for what ails this nation.  Basically we need a "Rabbits Foot."  That's what Troy is.  Troy may not have the support of either the House or the Senate when he's elected but I'm willing to bet that before the session ends he'll have the gallery singing "Lola" in bipartisan harmony. He probably won't have the political savvy or military experience to handle something as easy as invading Mexico, but I guarantee will be one helluva a party and the end result would probably be the Drug Cartels shutting down their drug trade!!  That's how bizarre and wonderful it would turn out. 

There is something else that uniquely qualifies Troy as a bonafied Presidential candidate.  He and his lovely wife Beth, are parents to a child of Special Needs.  Grace, there oldest daughter is autistic.  The wonderful thing about them is that they do not let autism define them as a family.  Strangely, you wouldn't know this about Troy upon meeting him; he's the absolutely most upbeat person I have ever known considering his circumstances.  I'm embarrassed to say that I could never equal his enthusiasm on a day to day basis.  I would dare say that dealing with the travails of the presidency pale in comparison to life in Troy and Beth's home. 

I don't feel sorry for Troy....seriously, I envy the hell out of him, which is why I would walk over hot coals for the guy, but the only thing, outside of an occasional beer, that he's ever asked for, is that I support the charity that directly benefits their child Grace...The Autism Society of North Carolina.  They sponsor a 5k run/walk every year in Raleigh where one of the teams is aptly called, "Walking for Grace."  I can bemoan all the crap that has happened to me this year and I don't have the resources or time to give a lot, but you'll find "The Big Dog" downtown again this year as he runs to support these wonderful people.  I ask all of you to join me...come down and meet Troy and's a huge event, a party will definitely break out and I'm sure some galactically cosmic event will take place near the vicinity...don't fret though, it's only Troy...running for president and it's all good.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Battle of the 'Burn

"There he is!" yelled my nephew from the stands as the Stone Bridge High School Football "Bulldogs" ran onto the field.  "He's amazing and Coach Thompson is the best coach ever!"  Joey, my exuberant nephew, at the young age of 8...knows  more about football than a child of that age should be allowed...was explaining this to me as I was peering through my binoculars.  I'm staring out onto the field and I see the team run bye, the obvious training staff, other coaches and the cheerleaders run past and then I spy this older guy who is gingerly trotting, wearing jeans, a sky blue school polo and cap.  He kneels down as if he is picking clover from the field and I look at Joey and ask, "That guy, he's Mickey Thompson?"  What is it they say about first impressions?  Anyways, he didn't even look like a coach nor did he seem to be caught up in the electric atmosphere of a huge rivalry game that was about to take place.  To be quite honest, Mickey Thompson looked more like the school groundskeeper than that of a Championship winning High School Football coach.

Coach Thompson's resume' speaks for itself though, and I'll give him his due:  In ten years of existence as a High School, Stone Bridge, under Coach Thompson, has won a 3A Virgina State High School Championship and has been defeated in three others.  Not too shabby by any standards, which is why I was rather perplexed at why Coach Thompson didn't seem motivated on this particular Fall evening in Ashburn, VA, and why his team was playing so damn bad in the first half.

Call it nerves, seriously...we're talking High School kids in front of parents and family...facing a cross town rival in Broad Run High School that were ranked 8th in the state in what would be known as the "Battle of the 'Burn."  Catchy, but Stone Bridge wasn't living up to it's 12th ranked billing as they fumbled on the the first play from scrimmage.  It leads to an early Field Goal for the opposition and I was starting to wonder what was so amazing about Mickey Thompson's coaching ability when on his next possession, Stone Bridge goes for it on 4th down and 16 from within their own 40 yard line.  Now, it's High School football and I sorta expect that...Coach Thompson is trying to fire up his boys.  Does he go for broke with a special play that will turn the tide?, it's a running play, right up the gut, that gains only 2 yards.  Broad Run takes over and promptly scores, taking a 10-0 lead. 

If those were the only miscues on the night I would have given Coach Thompson and his team a break but that first half also included a shanked punt by the punter, Broad Run scores another TD where the receiver is so wide open that he stops on the ten yard line and walks in and I kid you not...Stone Bridge's defense finally forces a Broad Run punt and guess what?  There was no return man back to return it.  Some bad tackling and a couple more turnovers lead to another touchdown and  mercifully the score at halftime is Broad Run 24- Stone Bridge 0.

Joey was beside himself.  He might not be big enough to play for that team but he lives vicariously through them...this was going to be where he and his older brother went to school...and his "BULLDOGS" were letting him down at the moment...with each miscue by Stone Bridge he would squeeze my arm tighter and yell in vain into the night air...he'd seen enough and was imploring us to leave.

 First of all, I didn't have a dog in this fight other than the fact that this was my nephews future school.  Secondly, I was right there with him and wanting to leave...we had just watched some really bad football and I honestly didn't have the stomach to see this game turn into some Roman Colesium re-enactment where the Lions ate the Christians.  But, this being America...we don't abandon our team in it's hour of need...did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?(Some of you will get that, if not here's a clue:  Animal House.)  Besides, I wanted to set an example to my nephew about perserverence and team loyalty; we were staying and I leaned down and told Joey, "Hey, you said Coach Thompson was amazing, right?  Well, if he's as good as you say he is he'll find some way to get his team back in the game...that's what good coaches do!  Don't give up.  Trust me, Stone Bridge will come back and it will be close!"  I was just being a good Uncle and if it's what uncles do's tell a white lie every now and again... because, there was no way in Hades that Stone Bridge was going to win this game.

I can't imagine what was going through Coach Thompson's mind during halftime or now, that once the two schools resumed play, Broad Run was still pouring it on his beleaguered side as they were now camped inside the 3 yard line going in, for what would yet, seem like another touchdown. It's 4th down, a field goal would give them 27, but  Broad Run was smelling blood and wanted the touchdown; they knew this was going to be the death blow. Through it all, Mickey Thompson was as calm as a mountain lake in summertime...I sense he thought maybe he was pondering the calls or mistakes that had lead to this moment of defeat or...maybe how the dew glistened off the grass near the end zone...who knew?  I damn sure didn't have a clue to what this amazing coach was thinking.

I do know this:  Football is a momentum sport.  Sometimes you get it by dragging your opponent up and down the field all night or...sometimes you get it by having the shit kicked out you all night.  A  certain Stone Bridge defender probably felt this way as he fought off his blocker and sliced into the backfield on that 4th down and in his best WWF move picked up the ball carrier and suplexed him to the ground.  Touchdown averted...more importantly...the momentum had turned in favor of Stone Bridge.

To mount a great comeback in most sports you need lots of luck and amazing coaching.  Remember that 4th and 16 situation that Stone Bridge found themselves in the first know, where they only got 2 yards?  Coach Thompson is calling the same play on this current drive, but now the runner is gashing the Broad Run defense for huge chunks of real estate.  It's so effective that the Stone Bridge split-end is able to get behind the secondary and catch an easy pass for the first Stone Bridge score. Ok, ok...Coach Thompson can coach...and my first assessment of him was horribly wrong.  I think he knew his boys were about to turn it around...after all he is the coach.

 The luck part:  Broad Run's all world quarterback decides in successive drives to throw two costly interceptions.  Yes, they led to scores and yes Stone Bridge did come back and tie the game but they needed  3 (2) point conversions to go along with those often does that happen?  As dramatic as that sounds Stone Bridge was able to rally with so much time still on the clock;  Both teams had great opportunities to take the lead before the end of regulation.  It was desperation time for both as each was throwing hay makers to try and settle the issue.  It was like watching Ali vs. Frazier...truly a classic in the making as we go to, this game was tough on the 'ole nerves.

It always comes down to the little things being done right, and immense confidence in your ability.  You could tell the Broad Run place kicker was a little nervous on his attempt at the PAT.  Sure enough he clangs it off the right upright.  Stone Bridge's turn on downs and they run it up the gut like they have all night in the second half and tie the game at 30.  Out runs the Stone Bridge kicker with the confidence of Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and he drills the PAT through the goalposts...sending the Stone Bridge Football Stadium into a sheer "moshpit" of delirium as the students rush the field.

By all accounts, it has to rank as one of the most unbelievable comebacks I've ever seen in me I've seen a lot of WOLFPACK football!!  I'd be lying if I told you that Coach Mickie Thompson was carried on his players shoulders...maybe they did...I doubt it, the throng of the crowd prevented me from seeing that take place or maybe he just got out of the way and let his team enjoy the moment as he just plucked some more clover out of the ground...that's what I think happened.  Anyways, Joey and I are walking back to my Toyota Truck, "The Red Dragon," and I ask him, "How was that for a finish?"  The young boy with so much football knowledge responds with one simple word, "Amazing."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Heart" Core

My blog title obligates me to discuss a "better life" every once in a while or it wouldn't be called, "Ye Fat Bastard's Guide to Better Living."  So, today we're going to pontificate on the one organ of the body that the "Tin Man" from the Movie, Wizard of Oz so desperately needed...a Heart.

The reality of the situation is I have a new toy that I recently acquired from that marvelous company known as Amazon.  Yes, I am the proud owner of a Heart Rate Monitor.  I'm not quite as obsessed with it yet as say, my Grandpa was about the weather, but it's close.  Speaking of which, as we all invariably get older and are in need of that one item or task in life that keeps us fulfilled, my grandfather, the resolute Laurie James Page, loved to talk about the weather.  I'm not sure if he checked his rain gauge every day but by God he could tell you down to the 1/4 inch how much rain his yard got and you could sit in his living room and not say a single word for hours; eventually, he'd pipe up and ask you, "did you get any rain in your neck of the woods?"  I do miss that from him and it's kinda funny, but I admit that I have my own rain gauge mounted on the fence outside.

Anyways, I have re-dedicated myself to running again.  This time though, I wanted to put forth a better effort.  Here's the thing:  I have had a hard time maintaining my focus to run; I haven't quit running but it hasn't been very consistent. It's one thing or's too hot...I haven't slept enough...not enough energy to finish...chaffing (sorry, I have my mother's thighs) and not enough hydration.  Then there are those things while running that irritate the living hell out of me such as walkers who hog the sidewalk, skateboarders, dodging foul balls and wondering if the pit bull dragging his owner around the park on a tire chain is going to bite me in the ass!!  More than anything though...I sometimes allow that doubt to creep into my mind.  You know what I'm talking about, where you hear this voice in your head asking you, "What the hell are you doing out here?  You should be propped up on the couch with a beer waiting for the game...come on, lets quit this nonsense!"  Eventually, he grinds away at your willpower and before you know it your done running.  Worse than that, is the effort you expend trying to fight off the "doubt monster." For me, I usually end up trying to jog at a faster pace to overcome this and what do you think happens?  Yup...I get too winded and can't breath normally.

That's where my new toy comes into play.  Heart Rate Monitors have been around for some time now and I was quite astounded at the price of some of the more expensive models, well upwards in the range of 300-400 dollars.  You don't start driving lessons leaving the parking lot in a Indy race car and I damn sure wasn't about to fork over that kinda coin for something I didn't quite understand in the first place.  Needless to say, I got your bare bones model that just keeps time and the heart rate and it ran me forty bucks with free shipping (Only the best for Ye Fat Bastard!!).

I've read several books lately, Running for Mortals and Born to Run to be exact, that have got me motivated and coincidentally, they both advocate the use of Heart Rate Monitors during training.  Now, this contraption comes with a Chest strap sensor, readout wristwatch and a workout guide that discusses these seemingly useless rates such as: Threshold Heart Rate, Max Aerobic Endurance Rate, Max Muscular Endurance Rate and Max Anaerobic Endurance Rate.  T-M-I.  I just want to keep tabs on the 'ole ticker while I'm running...not know my exact heart rate when it's about to burst as I summit K2. 

With that said, I did some research and came to the conclusion that I only need to focus on three particular numbers when wearing this thing:  Max Heart Rate, Resting Heart Rate and Training Heart Rate.  Obvisously, Max Heart Rate is the max that your heart can beat at a given extreme condition and yes, with most things about your body, it too will decrease with age.  I saw on the Internet at least 12 different ways to calculate this number.  The most exact way to obtain this is through a paid and controlled endurance test conducted by medical personnel where they have you run up a hill thirty times and then they record your MHR.  Sorry, I don't have time for that shit and for those hard working individuals like myself, who don't have the means to hire Dr. Kevorkian to measure this number, I found a simple formula:  205 minus1/2 your age.  BOO-YOW!!  Simple and straight to the point and for those keeping score at home that equals to 181.  I'm thinking my true rate is somewhere around 175...I don't really care at this point as I have yet to get the monitor to read past 168 and that was sprinting after a 2.4 mile run. I call it might call it agony in motion after witnessing it in person.

Then there is the Resting Heart Rate.  Pretty simple, when your at rest this is what the heart beats.  Now, from the information I've read a normal Resting Heart Rate is between 60-80 bpm.  They say if your RHR falls below this number then your probably an athlete in training; it's not uncommon and most athletes in top condition are in this range.  Lance Armstrong of the Tour De France fame, was reported to have a RHR of 30 bpm!!   Here's the caveat:  That's for athletes.  I don't want to rain on anyones parade but mine is sitting at 55 bpm and I doubt you've seen me on the medal stand accepting Gold during the last 25 Olympiads.  It's called Bradycardia and can be dangerous if you have low blood pressure. The same thing applies if your RHR is over 100 and is called Tachycardia.  Here's my disclaimer:  I'm not a medical professional. So, if your worried go get yourself checked out!  I don't have low blood pressure but it is something I'll bring up to my doctor the next time he anal probes me during my physical.

Finally, the Training Heart Rate.  I think the instructions stated that this range should be around 75% of your Max Heart Rate.  That would make mine around 135-145 bpm.  Here's the simplicity behind this:  This range is the rate at which your at an aerobic state but not overdoing it.  I'm finding out "Less is More."  At first I felt that this was too easy for me.  My first jog, a 2.4 mile circuit, was extremely easy and it was recommended that I continue this for 3 to 4 weeks.  It really wants me to focus on "time" in this rate and not to focus on my distance.  In my case, I'm not a new runner but decided to train for an upcoming 5k which they suggest that I train in this heart rate range for 30 minutes 3 to 4 times per week with a longer run on the weekend.  I ran a route of 3.2 miles this past Sunday which was just a hair over a traditional 5k.  It was like an epiphany.  There was no "doubt monster" telling me to stop, there was no "out of breath" feeling or "I'm dying out here!"  Having to focus on staying in this training range made me forget about all those things that always make me want to end my runs early.  I didn't labor and I felt as if I could have run a 10k.  The Heart Rate Monitor really makes you focus on your heart and not your running.  I have become such a geek about it that I even wore the monitor to bed and woke up to check my Resting Heart Rate...who does that shit?.  Yes, it's strange but I'm motivated.  Alright everybody, that's it in a nutshell and if you see me running at the Jack Marley Park(Bob's long lost Brother) in Angier, America...don't throw rocks at me!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taste the Boot America!!

Admittedly, every one's first taste of the boot leaves you with a bitter feeling in your stomach...after all it is a boot...but once you get past the dryness of the leather and the sting of its heel, you get an appreciation for the sensation of change inside you that begins to take place.

My first taste?  Since some of you asked and are decidedly quizzical as to where I'm going with this, I'll explain.  Barracks life in the Army can sometimes create bad habits, especially after spending time in a Field Artillery line unit in the Federal Republic of Germany during the Great Cold War where we were seemingly in and out of the field  for a week, spend the next week in garrison-go to the field the following week...rinse, lather and repeat.  I'm not talking summer field trips with knapsacks and bird watching.  It's spend the week doing fire missions at 2:00 am in the morning during a driving rain and driving all over hell and creation in "black out drive" in those dark ass German forests just to get bogged down in mud in some farmers apple orchard...who by the way is so mad at the US Army, he sounds like Hitler when he's yelling at you!  You then spend another six hours in MOPP gear trying to suck water through those useless little hoses in your gas mask as you sweat to death and even when you limp back into the motor pool on a Friday afternoon your starring down the barrel of another five or six hours of recovery time to make sure all the vehicles, weapons and equipment are clean and "on line" in case the mean 'ole Russians decide to surprise attack the free world on the weekend.

Naturally, the barracks became your sanctuary.  After that final formation, you'd head to the PX grab a rack of beer and unwind.  It got to the point at times after a nice warm shower and hot food (that didn't come out of a MRE bag) sitting on your bunk and watching AFN TV became almost hypnotic.  Your will to do nothing was so overpowering that even thinking of going to the Mess Hall was a monumental effort.  That's why you had NCO's whose job it was to make sure you didn't become a certified alcoholic.

I had such an NCO (for the Non-Military in my reading stands for Non-Commissioned Officer or Sergeant) who after one of these afore-mentioned extraordinary weeks in the field, came rapping on my barracks door on a Saturday morning telling me, "Put on some shorts, sweats and running shoes and meet me in the parking lot!"  I complied and grudgingly pulled on my gear and met him by his car, "Where we going chief?"  asking him with this look of, "This better be damn good to rouse me out of my stupor!"   He proceeded to get in the car and shouted, "I'm going to show you some real living, get in!"

About an hour later we arrive at a sporting complex where I noticed two athletic teams warming up for something, this was March in Germany and still chilly...these fools were in shorts and long sleeve "hooped" jerseys.  I kinda figured it out as I knew my Section Sergeant was a Rugby was that I have never seen a real game before.  As we're walking up to the field or in rugby terms, "pitch," he explains to me, "I wanted you to get out of the barracks before you went crazy, and who knows you might find yourself playing today."  I looked at him with an expression that could only mean that he was crazy, "Right sarge...whatever."

I was sorta interested, after all it was sports...a form of football...and no pads...what the hell, I'll stick around til the ambulance shows up.  I watched the kickoff; the two teams collided with each other after about a 20 meter kick; one of the players begins to limp off after what appears to be a turned ankle.  Someone yells, "We need a replacement!"  My Sergeant, who was on the pitch, begins walking towards me and shouts, "LAUGISCH, take his jersey and get in here!"  First off, I've never played Rugby...secondly, I'VE NEVER PLAYED RUGBY!!  My sergeant looks at me and I can see him getting angry as I shake my head in absolute defiance.  He reaches me and wraps a big 'ole arm around me and we start walking toward the injured player.  He is quietly talking to me, "You need this and relax.  It's not that hard of a sport to pick up...and besides, you don't want to make me pull rank on you out here in front of all these ya?"  Naturally, I'm not one to disappoint people even if they are trying to throw me in a shark tank.  "Alright...dammit, I'll do it...what do I have to do?"  A big grin appeared on his face and he let out a hearty laugh that sounded eerily similar to that of a mad scientist, "That's my boy!  This is Rugby Football, almost like American Football but there is no stoppage of play except for serious injuries, you can't throw the ball forward...pass it backwards or laterally and always remember...release the ball when you get tackled." 

Everyone on the pitch knew I was a newbie to the game and I wholeheartedly expected them to let me get a feel for the action before I even came close to the damn ball, sort of like when they put the absolute worst baseball player in right field so that he doesn't impact the game in a bad way.  It doesn't work that way in Rugby...your going to touch the ball and there is no way of getting around it...which is why I felt a deep sense of dread descend upon me as I saw the restart kick spiraling toward my unsuspecting, dumb ass.

Raise your hand if you've ever played "smear the queer?"  I don't know how to be politically correct and I'm not trying to insult a certain segment of Americans by using that phrase...we were kids and that's what we called it and  it's how I viewed Rugby when I first started playing.  The only difference was that when you were kids playing, you could just run any damn where til someone eventually dragged you down and took the ball.  I knew once I caught that ball in Rugby, I had to run forwards, although in the back of my mind my spider senses were telling me,"Run Away, Run Away!!"  I caught the ball and sprinted forward only to see two defenders in front of me and yes, I did run sideways to avoid them but I wasn't nor ever will be compared to Carl Lewis the sprinter and they tackled me quite easily.  I was relieved to know that it didn't hurt as I was thrown to the ground, and was pleasantly surprised at my initial effort until...

I looked up and saw the remainder of both teams thundering towards me like the battle scene from the movie Braveheat; my defensive reaction was to assume a fetal position and cradle that ball so tight til it quit raining bodies.  They poured over me like a wave and both sides locked in mortal combat pushing and shoving against each other.  I look up through this mass of legs and rugby jerseys and see a Viking of man hovering over me with his leg cocked; he looks down at me and yells, "Release the ball!!"  I'm pretty much trying not to shit all over myself much less try and comprehend what THOR is trying to tell me as I mutter, "What...ugh??"  He repeats himself, but more emphatically, "Release the fucking ball!!"  By this time both sides are pawing at me with their legs and feet and I have totally forgotten that seemingly innocuous rule that my Sergeant told me before stepping onto the pitch.

The giant Viking looking dude, who in relative teams has been somewhat patient with me, decides to take matters into his own hands to procure the ball and flatly states, "It's time for your first taste of the boot lad!"  He then proceeds to take his cocked leg and "mashes" his cleated boot against the side of my face and upper neck.  What do you think my reaction was?  You can bet your sweet ass that I let go of that damn ball!!  I personally couldn't tell you how the ball came out but I think they, the Viking guy's team kicked the ball to the back of the ruck once I let it go.  Was I mad?  Hell yeah!! I just got curbed stomped by a WWF wrestler...but discretion is the better part of valor and even if I went after the guy he would have beaten me into a mud hole...he was a big dude.

I made it through the game and even got in on some tackles and got to carry the ball on several other occasions...yes, I released the ball each and every time I went to ground...I might be stupid but having your face and neck raked with a cleat can be a very motivational learning moment.  More so than anything it was a revelation of sorts.  I really felt aliveI had just participated in  something that most of us would have written off as too dangerous or risky.  I see those fools who participate in the "Running of the Bulls" in Spain every year and yes, they're crazy but I truly get it.  That's how I felt after that first taste of the can't live your life in a vacuum.  I no longer play Rugby; after eleven years, and after several concussions and a permanently dilated pupil from being poked by a Samoan I decided that I didn't need anymore Adrenalin moments in my life.  Boy was I wrong. 

I don't plan on taking up Rugby to satisfy my desire to feel alive again but we as Americans have allowed this past decade of terrorism and financial strife  to make us too meek as a nation.  I'm not saying we have to all wrestle alligators, but we need to step away from being so fearful of the real world.  It might do us all a "world of good" to get a taste of the boot again.  Cheers mates, and get hungry for life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

That Day

My wedding day is "that day" which always seems as a blur to me.  Don't get me wrong, I remember it vividly and recall all the wonderful people who turned up on such short notice, but "that day" was a blur due to how fast it took place.  To be totally honest there were forces at work that were conspiring to prevent me from recalling with vigor every detail of that momentous occasion.  The biggest culprit "that day" was my inebriated state due to the fact that I had my bachelor party the night before.  If you can imagine the entire Ft. Sill Rugby team and a bachelor know it did not end well for the Man of Steel.  In fact I had to be transported back to the hoosegow in the bed of a truck.  I'm just glad it was an evening wedding ceremony or yours truly would not have been there...a word of advice for those young men getting not do like this idiot and have your bachelor party the night before.

There are only two days in my life that I have this ability to recall with clear cut precision as to exactly what I was doing. I mean I could stand there with such clarity and dodge bullets like they did in the movie Matrix and at the same time eye some fat bastard in the corner of a pub trying to steal the remainder of my hoagie. 

The first one is April 4 1983.  Yeah, I'm a Wolfpacker for was a surreal moment that I didn't even get to watch on TV!!  I was stationed in Germany and listening to the live feed on Armed Forces Radio at 3:00 am in the morning.  Coincidentally, my young ass was "Charge of Quarters" at the 84th USAFAD  "that day" and after hearing all the bedlam coming out of my radio once Lorenzo Charles flushed down an errant shot from Dereck Whittenburg to win the NCAA Basketball Championship I was in complete delirium.  This fool went screaming down the hallways and banging on doors...of which the occupants were none too happy about...screw 'em, it was the Army they had to get up anyways.  It's funny now that I look back on it, but whenever that event is mentioned or something related to it comes up, I instantly go back in time to this security room with only the sound of the game on, the whirring of the teletype machines and that monotonous voice in the radio demanding that we, "prepare for FLASH traffic!!"

The other might have guessed it by now...9/11.  Yeah, it has such a profound meaning on our country that you don't even have to add a year to it.  I'm not one to get all bent out of shape when it comes to flying...if you spend enough time in the military you'll have flown in enough bad aircraft to know that being in the last row next to some heavy set gentleman and within earshot of two crying babies is pretty comfortable in most cases...but even I get a little antsy when either myself or the lovely and talented Claudia takes to the skies each and every September.  It's just going to be the nature of the beast when we conjure up memories of "that day."  My sweet adorable grandmother talks about the attack on Pearl Harbor in similar fashion, except that in 1941 living in Harnett County I dare say anyone had the media access as we did on 9/11. She actually didn't hear about it til Monday, Dec 8, 1941. For her, and much like the rest of us on "that day" in September 2001, she had never known of so many Americans losing their lives in a singular event such as that.

The one indelible moment for me of  "that day" is when another fellow DOT employee came into my Albemarle, NC office and asked me and my boss David, "Did you hear that a plane flew into the World Trade Center?"  My first response was to ask, "What kind of plane?"  He sort of shrugged and said, "I dunno, I'm thinking maybe a small Cesna."  David said with some sort of confidence, "Oh, that building can handle that sort of impact."  We didn't think much of it til we went back to our desks and happened to notice the stream of traffic in the hallway that was heading for the large conference room where the TV was tuned to the local station.  As I walked into the room I arrived just in time to see the second 747 airliner angle itself and slam into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  We, as a country, have never been the same.

It's going on ten years since "that day" and I'm not ready to classify it as a tragedy or a painful history lesson.  Both are pretty appropriate.  I awoke "that day" never wondering about the historical ramifications of it, but today, I'm not so sure that it hasn't been the catalyst that has been ailing this country since those towers tumbled down.  What I'm saying is, I don't sense our country has truly recovered from the fact that almost 3000 Americans were killed and it has in one form or fashion had a serious effect on our collective psyche. Yes, we have killed Osama Bin Laden and our Armed Forces have performed admirably in taking the fight to the bad guys; Afghanistan is no longer a haven for the Taliban and watching that statue of Saddam Hussein being ripped from it's foundation was a beautiful thing...but...I don't feel any safer today in regards to our effort on terrorism as I did the morning following "that day."

Maybe it's because we have tried so hard to erase the memory of that painful event.  Even our government, the press and Hollywood have all but skirted around it and as much as I heard the battle cry, "Never Forget" the days following 9/11 we seem more interested in making sure there is an NFL season or what the Kardashians are doing.  Maybe it's me, but I just don't see us putting our best effort toward fighting real terrorism...because if we did...I would see more reminders of "that day" instead of waiting every ten years to see it pop up as the final question on Jeopardy.  Never forget America...never forget. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Visit with the Turk

Admittedly, I have never been fired from any job I've ever held.  Now there were occasions when I went out of my way to try and get fired, such as my appointment to Urinalysis NCOIC of my last unit when I was in the Army.    The title says everything you need to know why I so despised that job...essentially, when a male soldier had to be screened for drugs, it was my job to ensure that he filled up the little bottle.  We were dealing with nuclear weapons and Uncle Sugar didn't want the wrong people guarding them.  If the government didn't trust it's soldiers with nuclear think they were on the honor system of filling up that little bottle?  That's right, someone had to physically watch the fluid leave the body and enter the container...enter your Urinalysis NCOIC.  Damn, I hated that job!!

Then there are jobs that I absolutely love.  My current gig as an Environmental Engineer with NCDOT is one of them.  It can be rather mundane and tedious at times but there is no greater calling than helping out good 'ole "Mother Nature."  OK,you got me, I do enjoy the job but I added that last line for the benefit of my bosses, who may read this on occasion and I hope they might spare me when the next round of budget cuts are needed.

I also worked part time at the RBC Center where the NHL Carolina Hurricanes and NC STATE University Men's Basketball team play.  Initially as a Suite Host for about three seasons and the past two as a suite server.  It was only to be temporary but I stayed mainly out of my love for sports.  I will never forget the '06 Stanley Cup Finals between the 'Canes and Edmonton.  Absolutely the most electric and contagious atmosphere I've ever been associated with and the catalyst that has made me a raving "Caniac."  Also, there's no bigger rush than watching Wolfpackers rush the floor after beating those despised is indeed a rare occasion but never gets old.

The last two years have been great monetarily speaking as I was able to make some serious tips serving in the suites...but it was also a hustle gig.  I took a pedometer into work one time just to see how many miles I was getting...8.  Yeah, I was averaging that many miles walking back and forth from the suites and to the kitchen.  The pay made those aching hooves of mine hurt a little less.  I honestly have a new profound respect for wait staff...not that I was ever dis-respectful to those who waited upon me, but it was a job I deemed beneath me til I got on at the RBC Center.  The other keen aspect I took from this position was the attention to detail needed to succeed.  These clients were pretty successful in the business community and if you wanted to get paid, you had better bring your "A" game.  You needed a "shtick" to succeed and being the "old soldier" in the group I became "Sarge."  I fared well in this role but you always had to be at your best.

Here's where I ran into the Turk.  You all know him...the Grim Reaper.  He's also that guy in the NFL camps who has the unenviable task of informing players that they've been cut.  I was getting ready for the new season, running...busting my ass to get into shape...well, the "busting my ass" part might be an exaggeration...but this was going to be a playoff run for the Canes and my Wolfpack were breaking in a new coach... I was jacked...til  that subtle knock at the door with a guy yelling at me to report to the coach with my playbook...which in this case turned out to be an email from my supervisor which read:  We have reviewed your HR file and have decided not to invite you back for the upcoming season.

It's a business; the 'Canes are struggling to sell their suites.  I get it and I wasn't the only one shown the door.  In all fairness, they did offer me a demotion to a position within the building minus the tips.  That was swell of them, but no thanks.   Remember, this is the first time I have ever been fired.  Technically,  I was "released," but damn if it doesn't feel all the same...just like a gut punch.  What's more aggravating is the cowardly manner in how they drop the bomb on you...a cordial way of saying "fuck you very much!"

Don't cry for me Argentina.  I'll be just fine.  In fact Claudia is down right giddy over the prospect of me being home more...I'm worried now.  This also gives me a chance to get into a rhythm physically.  Part time work at my age is hard on the body and doesn't allow me to function on a normal routine.  I'm going to use this time and focus on my running and my day job with NCDOT...Lord knows, I don't want the Turk paying me another visit.  It also affords me the opportunity to write more on this here never know, I might even become so popular with blogging, someone might pay me to write about stupid shit.  Take care everyone and do what you can to avoid the Turk.