The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot went wheels up for the last time on Friday.
Logan J. Daub, known to one and all as Jack, known to anyone who paused long enough to hear him speak for 17 seconds as the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot, died in his home after a three-year battle with cancer.
It wasn’t the sort of battle Jack was used to fighting. In those, he normally flew fast and accurate and aggressive over the jungled lands below, dodging anti-aircraft fire all the way and flicked his Bic on North Vietnam. He was an unrepentant believer in the rightness of the cause, our Jack.
When he finished his tours and decided eventually to muster out of the Air Force, Jack did some private plane flying. While he won’t confirm or deny (except under the heavy, heavy, heavy influence of many, many, many, many stiff drinks [and, even then, I couldn’t be sure he wasn’t pulling my leg]), I’m pretty sure he did some work for certain three-letter orgs. The names of which would no doubt be familiar to many of you.
With friends all over the U.S., Jack found himself traveling quite a lot. Thankfully, his flying job allowed him to indulge his passion for women, talk and drinks. Not necessarily in that order.
He was a man who could sit down in any bar, any where and talk to any one and become best friends with whoever it was that was lucky enough to enter into a discussion with him. Not just bar friends, lifetime blood brothers who only ever talk that one time. No, Jack was the sort to actually keep up with all his new friends.
My parents met Jack when my dad was serving his two years during Vietnam. He was given a choice: Either serve for two years, work as an orthopedic surgeon in some stateside Army base, or serve for one year and be pretty damn sure you’re going to the ‘Nam. He chose stateside.
We lived on Fort Leavenworth, amongst the prisoners and the pilots and the plebes. It was there Jack entered our lives. Along with several other friends, they remain close with my dad still today.
I will always remember Jack because of how he treated me. He was the first adult to treat me like an adult. He would ask me a question and then sit still listening to my reply. What’s more, he’d carefully consider what I’d said before replying in turn, showing he’d actually listened to me and cared enough to really want my opinion. He never humored me and I could never thank him enough for that.
For the past three years or so, he’s been battling some Godforsaken form of cancer or another. As if there were any forms of cancer that aren’t Godforsaken horrors. And it brought him low. Lower than he’s ever been.
He made it through, though. He made it to the other side. Or so we thought. For about the last two and a half months, he’s been his old self. He drove with a friend to San Diego to see another old friend, reconnect with a few exes, see his god-daughter again and just enjoy the life.
It wasn’t his new lease on life, though. It was a rally. And, eventually, all rallies end. His ended Friday.
His sons hadn’t heard from him in a little while so they went to his house, worried the flu he’d been fighting had knocked him out. Instead, they found him on his bed, Tango Uniform for the final time.
Tango Uniform is a bit of slang he taught me a long time ago. It stands for either Toes Up or Tits Up, a description of someone passed out and no longer moving, stretched out flat on their back, TU to the ceiling.
Of all the things Jack loved (his friends, his drinks and the wide-open sky not included because nothing else came close), the thing he most loved was college football. He was the only man alive who understood and perhaps surpassed my hatred for the University of Georgia. Jack always considered himself a Yellowjacket from Georgia Institute of Technology, a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.
And now he’s gone. And the world is the poorer for no longer having his presence in it. And you are the poorer for not having met him.
Having known Jack as long as I have, I should feel lucky to have had that pleasure. And, yet, it feels as if we’d only just now started our friendship.
Jack always struck me as someone who would live forever because he was having too much fun to ever want to leave.
I suppose the lure of the unexplored and open sky was too tempting for Jack to resist this time.
I will miss you, Jack. And always wonder about the pretender now walking around thinking he’s the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. Will that pretender ever know just how wrong he is?
That and the way they hold their obnoxiously gained food up between their paws, grasping it with their poorly developed thumbs, and nibble at it, taking one little bite at a time but very quickly. And despite those huge teeth.
They’ve got fur, of course. That comes along with the furry tail, that does. The presence of fur makes any animal just that much more cute in human eyes.
I mean, it’s not like anyone has ever gone out of his or her way to rescue a baby stink bug, just out of its egg and about to die. I stumble across stories of the deluded amongst us caring for little orphaned babies of this species all the time.
Does no one ever stop to think that the little baby is lying on the grass, twitching and drooling, because its mama finally realized just how disgusting it is, what a horror show of it will inflict on everyone, and how life-denying it is that it continues living, and simply pushed the furless post-fetus thing out of the nest?
That’s got to be considered, doesn’t it?
Apparently? No. No it does not.
Instead, all I ever hear is about how cute squirrels are and
what amazing little animals they are to watch.
Yes. That’s right.
I said squirrels. I told you that I had good reason to despise the horrifying rodents, even if they do have fluffy tails.
And, yes, the world would be far better off if every single mama squirrel pushed every single baby squirrel out of the nest, into the open air and laughed maniacally as it dropped, twitching, to the ground far below. Then, once that job was done, I believe, the best thing for those mama squirrels to do would be to die whilst taking out any nearby male squirrels in bloody, tooth-on-tooth, claw-on-claw, disemboweled belly to disemboweled belly combat to the painful, horrible death.
Yes. I did say every single syllable of that. And, by FSM, I meant it.
Sciurus carolinensis, the scientific name for the eastern gray squirrel, is, a blight on the civilization we’ve striven so hard to create in the city and suburb. Squirrels, just to be clear, are not cute.
At best, squirrels are pests responsible for damage to the wild and the civilized areas of the human ecosystem. At best.
The Worst? Keep Reading. You’ll See.
Here’s the thing. I am, at heart, an exceedingly green person. Not literally, of course. I believe nature is wonderful and would still be beautiful and amazing even if there were no parking lots to hold the human-driven automobiles that convey we hairless apes over long distances to observe it.
Humans surviving to hang around and see just how amazing nature really is. . . Well, that surely adds a major bonus. Without humans around to observe nature, we’d never have had such immortal poetry as “I THINK that I shall never see. A poem lovely as a tree,” by the inimitable Joyce Kilmer.
Nor would we have seen Barbara Walters skewered for almost asking, “If you were a tree, what kind would you be?” of American actress Katharine Hepburn. In reality, Hepburn told Walters that she would like to be a tree, to which Walters responded, “What kind of tree?” Hepburn told viewers she would like to be an oak because they are tall and strong.
Note that Hepburn did not say she would like to be an oak because they are tall and strong and shelter many, many horrible squirrels. In her long public life, she never mentioned squirrels at all.
Which, I think we can all agree, says something powerful about the reprehensible, unspeakable nature of squirrels. Even if she doesn’t.
Weighing in at between 14 and 21 ounces as an adult (maybe a pound and a half if Andre-the-Giant-sized for a squirrel), the eastern gray squirrel packs a potent destructive power in its pint-sized body.
Squirrels? Attack!! (You Know That Is Totally What They Would Say If They Could Speak Past Those Horrible Teeth)
Everyone knows the story the squirrel in your neighbor’s attic. The ferocious rodent will find a tiny hole in a home’s exterior and quickly set up camp in whatever attic space is available. The squirrel’s nasty habit of stripping trees of their bark to use in nests is in full force in this instance.
Once set up inside your house’s attic, that squirrel will begin stripping and digging at any exposed wooden surface. He wants to collect enough scraps and bits with which to create a nest, so he can invite his stinking sweetie in to settle down and produce the next generation of rodentia terrors.
In addition to tree bark, squirrels, like birds, will use any fluffy materials they can find to help pad the nest. Fluffy materials like. . . oh. . . maybe the insulation lining the ceiling of your home.
The stench of squirrel droppings and other biological detritus left behind by an active squirrel colony could stun a jackal at twenty-seven paces. Setting up a stinking breeding ground in your attic isn’t the invading squirrel’s worst offense. Squirrel-afflicted homeowners throughout the eastern United States and up into southern Canada must contend with squirrel-related hauntings!
Okay, fine. It’s not a real haunting, only the sound produced when squirrels run and dart across the attic, making unexplained noises any time of the day or night. Fortunately, unless they’re disturbed, the small rodents aren’t likely to be rushing around making ghost sounds at night, as that’s usually when they also are catching a few Z’s.
Not only have eastern gray squirrel populations in their home range continued increasing, Sciurus carolinensis also are spreading into the traditional range of the western gray squirrel and other squirrels on the western side of the American great plains. That is through their own mindless efforts.
Traitors In Our Midst
What’s worse is that humans, supposedly with the ability to form higher-order thoughts, have been helping the eastern gray squirrel achieve world squirrel domination.
Over the years, various people who have been suckered in by the squirrel’s supposed cuteness have managed to create enough of a population foothold that the eastern gray squirrel menace has leapt the ocean and is beginning to take overtrees throughout much of the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and parts of Europe.
Because of the eastern gray squirrel’s tendency to strip bark from trees, the species has been declared a hazard in Britain, as it has been outcompeting the indigenous red squirrel and taking over many formerly native ecological niches. In fact, the eastern gray squirrel is so destructive to property that it is ranked second only to the Norway rat in negative impact.
In fact, it’s easy to see that squirrels are softening up humans for their eventual mass attack with the rest of the vermin. See the map? It’s all about places where squirrels have damaged the national power grid. They’re planning, friends. They’re planning.
It’s easy to look at the squirrel nibbling away at an acorn and think it’s cute. But the eastern gray squirrel is a cold, hard killer. Naturalists’ surveys found that at least 10 percent of squirrel stomachs contained the remains of some sort of vertebrate animal. Squirrels have been observed stalking and attacking en-masse animals as diverse as a young chick or a silk mouse.
The squirrel is deceptively sized. When people hear that its head and body normally measure less than 12 inches, they assume it’s a cute little animal. But their great bushy tail clocks in at almost a squirrel body length, normally around 10 inches in length. It’s this bushy tail that afflicts many hairless apes with the cutes, causing humans to provide food and shelter to this natural-born killer.
Even without the help of deluded hairless apes, squirrels are well adapted to their lives in the tree limbs. They are amongst the only mammals able to climb down a tree head facing toward the ground. They can do this thanks to their freakish ability to rotate their back ankles 180 degrees, until the hind paws are facing backward and can grip the tree bark well enough to allow it to waltz down the tree.
Sadly, this twisted arrangement of limbs, combined with its poorly developed, yet still useful, thumb, allow the eastern gray squirrel harm other, more productive, species in backyards all across the squirrel’s range. Many songbirds, Nature’s present to a grateful humanity, are imperiled by squirrels even beyond watching these furry monsters stalk and eat newly hatched chicks.
That’s Right! It Gets Worse Than Squirrels Being Carnivorous Killers!
As should we all, I’ve long been leaving out copious amounts of birdseed to attract and help songbirds. This free feeding trough allows birds to worry less about finding enough food to feed themselves and more time to concentrate on getting busy and producing another generation of the ruby-throated warbler. Or similar.
Which leads to the problem. Squirrels, not content with attacking and killing whatever smaller vertebrate that happens across their paths, also love a good seed. Or just about anything we set out for songbirds.
The thieves. Even worse, they’ll lie and cheat to keep those seeds and nuts. Squirrels are scatter hoarders. That is, they steal a lot of food that should be going to the beautiful songbirds, then bury the food in different places around their environment. If a squirrel feels it’s being watched, it will pretend to bury the food, then scurry away with it to bury it in a more secure location.
Squirrels also will hide behind vegetation or tree limbs when hiding the stolen booty. This implies an ability to think and reason beyond what you might have considered for the smallish horror.
Yes, They Know.
They know what the food they’re stealing should be going for. They know they’re taking seed from the mouths of young songbirds yet to hatch.
They know they are eating high-quality, high-cost, elite bird food purchased at great expense in a speciality store. They know and are laughing at me when they empty out a just-filled feeder in mere minutes, making fools of the supposedly squirrel-proof enclosure.
Oh, yes. They know.
But now, so do you.
Now you also understand the need, nay, the necessity to deny these ferocious predators any sort of foothold in our ecosystem.
So boycott any store selling “squirrel corn” as a health hazard. Carry signs identifying squirrels as the ecological disaster in waiting that they are.
Join me in the fight to eradicate the squirrel. It serves no good purpose. It isn’t cute. And it’s really starting to tick me off by eating the expensive bird food I just purchased. And they’re laughing when they do it.
Answer The Call
Not all nature is pretty. Sometimes, a nature essay is a call to action. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s a call to extinction.
This is one such call.
I like dogs. I’m sure you like dogs also. And I think we can both agree that they’re pretty darn smart, dogs. Like Dug here. He’s smart. What does Dug the Dog think about squirrels?
At one time, I suppose, squirrels might have served a valid point in the ecosystem. But the rise of the hairless ape has allowed the squirrel to ride our coattails, giving the rodents a hand up they don’t deserve. It’s gone too far. It’s out of balance and tilted to the destructive side of things far too much.
It’s up to you, the no-longer-deluded, to redress that balance. It is up to you to answer the call.
I believe the phrase was something along the lines of, “AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!” Or words to that effect.
In any case, I said something completely appropriate and totally not twelve-year-old-girl-
seeing-Nick-Jonas-In-Her-Living-Roomish at all. No. It was all manly. Completely manly.
In fact, I’m surprised I didn’t have to shave my tongue after that sort of verbal outburst.
My dialogue was so manly*, I thought my tongue would grow a beard? Shave my tongue? Never mind. Moving on.
Anyway, I’d like to see you remember clearly what — exactly — you said when you came suddenly nose to flicking, forked tongue with what could be (but wasn’t [not even close]) the most deadly snake in existence.
It Could Have Been Deadly, Not Merely A Common Rat Snake.
A snake, I might add, that I’d only recently discovered in the upstairs Creature Cave (the family room we ceded to the three creatures who are the spawn of our loins), thanks to a similarly manly shout from my middle son.
With the sort of alacrity and fast thinking that landed me in an Emergency Room a decade before during the incident (forever known in family lore as, “That Time Rick Was Even Dumber Than Normal. And A Snake.) that marked my last extended interaction with a snake, I’d used a six-boot bamboo pole (kept for just such an emergency), a laundry basket and a towel to snatch the snake from the carpet and transfer it outside.
What I’d not realized in my haste to save my 21-year-old son from what could be (but wasn’t [why do I have to keep repeating this? Does he think anyone really believes he was up against a seven-step viper?]) the deadliest snake in the world, was that most laundry baskets (very much including this one) come equipped with numerous holes in them.
Holes which, despite the top of the laundry basket being covered with a large towel preventing the snake from egressing that way, provide an excellent egress for a narrow snake used to wriggling through tight spaces. This must have been like a human “trying” to walk across a football endzone without going out of bounds.
And So The Story Moves Forward. Finally.
To a human such as me, (don’t say it. Don’t say it.) it would be easy to overlook such tiny holes in the laundry basket. Not so the snake. I came nose to tongue (my nose, its tongue) with the slithering sibilant, screamed my manly scream and then acted.
Essentially, I teleported down the stairway by virtue of turning, trying to run, realizing my feet hadn’t magically transformed into rocket boots, tripping over my left shoe, stumbling forward, missing the first step and heading down out of control, and barely careening to a standstill next to the door leading to our back deck thanks to some deft maneuvering, clean living, strong muscles, and slamming chest first into a very large chair that I placed there with foresight some seven years previously.
Somehow, my son, known to many as Zippy the College Graduate Boy, arrived at the door nearly at the same time as did the snake, the laundry basket and my bruised self. Zippy the College Graduate Boy opened the door and leaned in close to the snake. Apparently, he’d gotten over his initial startle and was back to being the boy most likely to try and pet a scorpion because, “It’s cute. Look at the widdle stinger tail. Awwwwww.”
I deftly maneuvered past him (read stumbled to the left, bounced off the door jamb and out onto the deck) and set the laundry basket gently onto the deck (from a height of about four feet because I was not hanging onto that thing any longer than I had to). Once the basket stopped bouncing around, the snake calmly slithered the rest of the way free and looked around at the deck.
It then began slithering straight toward the still open door. Zippy the College Graduate Boy closed the door and used his sandal-clad feet to shoo the snake away.
No, thank you for asking, it wasn’t a heart attack. The doctors later said it was only a mild panic reaction from watching my son thrust a naked foot close to what could hav– close to a snake. (See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?) [I hate you.] My son had brought along the six-foot bamboo pole and handed it to me with the solemnity of a samurai receiving his sword.
Snake Versus Stick. . . To The Irritated
I shooed the snake away from the door. At which point, it turned around and began slithering straight toward the bird’s nest and the little birdie eggs nestled inside. Yes, my deck is a bit of a wildlife sanctuary at the moment. Momma bird built her nest in a couple of storage bins I’d not cleaned up. I thought it was cute so left the nest there.
The snake must have sniffed the eggs and thought it was lunch time. It was not.
I kept poking and prodding at the snake and, rather than guide it gently to the side of the deck and off, managed to really tick it off. Which, of course, was when I decided to take a selfie with the snake.
Look. I just. . . There was. . . I. . .
I mean, come on! Selfies are a thing now. I had to do it. I was thinking of you, friends. I did it for you. Surely you’re buying that. No? Well, screw it. Just look at the darn selfie with snake.
Eventually, I managed to get the snake near enough the edge that it became even more ticked off, reared back and began striking at anything within reach. Fortunately, it was not longer than my bamboo stick. I continued to poke and prod until the snake darted away. . . and into the woodpile we keep outside for the fireplace.
So it is, sadly, still nearby. Still out there. But now it knows my strengths, my preferred methods of containment. It knows all this and . . . it is planning. Even worse, I’m almost positive I saw it talking to a squirrel.
You know nothing good can come of that.
For more on men behaving manly in a manly manner, see the post coming next week on “Manly Men Doing Manly Things In A Manly Manner.” No, really.
I reared three sons while my wife was away working hard, stamping out diseases and delivering babies. Being boys, they got into things that are best left undiscussed. Even by people like us who make a habit of talking about things no one else will even contemplate.
Trust me. You do not want to hear the possum story. I mean, once we get to the bit where I’m reaching my hand inside just to get out the– No. Never mind. I don’t want to remember that part.
Anyway. My point is, I can take almost anything. Take it so much in stride that you’d think I was strolling naked (Is he going to keep talking about that forever?) down the promenade secure in the knowledge that the finest tailors in the land had clothed my kingly body in robes of the most astonishing quality.
I don’t startle, is what I’m saying. Well, that’s not quite true. There are some things that will startle me. There are even less things that will make me straighten up, drop a laundry basket full of clean clothes onto the floor and sprint towards the back door, yelling.
I dropped the laundry basket full of clean clothes onto the floor and sprinted towards the back door, yelling to my son, “Don’t touch it! I’ll be right there.”
If I’d been smart, I’d have kept on running down the steps, across the driveway, into my car and just driven away, secure in the knowledge that I’d have to stop sometime. Instead, I went outside, grabbed a seven-foot length of stout bamboo that I keep for just such an emergency (as far as you know it’s true) and raced upstairs to the room we so quaintly call the Creature Cave. The boys are our creatures. The room is the cave in which they congregate and destroy armies and civilizations.
Although, apparently, the sighting of a real snake was a bit much for these killers of digital zombie hordes, these destroyers of worlds. Honestly, when I went running up the steps, picking up the laundry basket as I went, I still thought my son had . . . exaggerated things. Just a tad.
“Holy carp, Zippy The Graduate Boy. There’s a huge snake up here.”
My son, perched on the seat of the couch and keeping a very sharp eye on the unmoving snake, quickly looked away from the snake and glared words at me before turning back to the reptile. The words glared at me were indecipherable, but probably went something along the lines of, “Geez, Pater. What is your damage?”
You Want A List Of The Damages?
I saw something twitch out of the corner of my eye. I saw my son levitate to the back of the couch out of the other corner of my other eye and immediately wished I had some chameleon in me because that hurt. I decided to follow the less amusing movement and turned to see the snake s-ing slowly over the carpeted floor.
Moving quickly, with the decisive firmness that already landed me several guest slots at the local Emergency Room, I lowered the lanudry basket to the floor, open end toward the snake and began poking at the slithering being, gently guiding it to the laundry basket.
It wasn’t all that hard, really. The snake seemed almost eager to be away from the gibbering young man making with the motions. I’ve a feeling the snake was equally as eager to get away from the slower-moving hairless ape with the long stick that kept poking at it.
This, I thought, was not going to be a problem. Certainly not like the last time I’d mixed it up with a snake of unknown provenance. My stick wobbled a bit when my body shuddered at the memory. The black snake paused and flicked its forked tongue into the air, perhaps tasting the memory of fear sliming from my pores.
I shook my head, clearing room for more rational thoughts, banishing the memory of that snake, the one that caused such a ruckus and led to me claiming a spot in a Charlotte emergency room in the midst of all the shouting and whatnot.
Of course, this was different. It had to be different. I’d learned a thing or two since the last snake. This time I’d thought ahead. I’d brought my laundry basket. My long bamboo pole and my towel. That last bit was the most important.
A Towel Is A Massively Useful Thing To Have Whilst Hitchhiking…And Snake Wrangling
As soon as the snake was inside the laundry basket, I gently tilted it upright and covered the opening with the towel. Problem solved. Snake on the inside, me on the outside and not a single fang in sight.
Turning back to my son, I motioned him to come down off the ceiling and, yes, off the back of the couch. I moved toward the door and the stairs, which ended just before the door to the outside and the back yard.
“Come on, son,” I said. “Let’s let this confused beast loose and back into its natural habitat. Maybe we’ll get really lucky and it’ll grow big and strong and drive the local squirrel population to extinction.”*
“But, Dad. . .”
“Come along, son,” I said. “It’s perfectly safe. I’ve got the snake in the laundry basket and a towel over the top. What could go wrong?”
I really said those words out loud. You’d think being a media-savvy consumer of pop culture media, I’d have known better. I did not.
“But what if the snake slithers out of one of the many, many holes in the mesh laundry basket?”
I kept moving down the stairs, my brain mulling over his last sentence. Something about that was ringing a distant bell. Something about plastic laundry baskets and holes and suchlike. I admit it. He had me puzzled.
Straightening my arms, I lifted the towel-covered laundry basket up higher and found the snake staring at me, the tip of his forked tongue flickering millimeters from the end of my nose.
I opened my mouth to make a cogent comment on the inadvisability of attempting to move snakes of unknown etiology in a laundry basket constructed like a giant plastic sieve, but what came out was, “glub? Glarm? BlaaaaaaaaAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!”
Next: Instantaneous Translation Fail
*I have a justifiable hatred of all things squirrly. There is a reason for this. They all should be destroyed as painfully as possible.
Which isn’t to say that there are not a metaphorical crap ton of bad selfies clogging the tubes of the Internutz out there. Because there most certainly are. A lot. Of bad — really bad — selfies.
Think about that a minute. People don’t want to look bad. They will take a bad selfie, though. Usually it’s not because they mean to take a bad selfie, only that. . . Well. . . Stuff happens. And it’s usually stinky.
The strange thing is, rather than discretely dispose of a bad selfie, lots of folks will publish it on the Intranutz for everyone to look at.
Even stranger? If you google something like bad selfie and great selfie, you’ll find plenty of the same pics on both lists.
Sometimes, the difference between a good selfie and a bad selfie is all in the perspective. If you’re the person in the selfie, it’s horrifying. If you’re someone else seeing the selfie from far away in space and time, it’s fantastic.
I suppose at this point, some of you are wondering why a blog dedicated to personal storytelling and memoiring is going on and on about selfies. If you’re not, you should be. Go on. Say you are. You are, aren’t you?
Yes, I thought so.
I’m going on and on about selfies because what is a memoir but a written example of the selfie. It’s a snapshot of a time in your life, taken by you and then shown to others. Excepting the fact that you’re not using a camera, it’s exactly the same thing.
In a way.
In a manner of– I think you get the point.
Getting To The Point
And, like a selfie, there’s something important to understand about getting metaphorically naked (See? Told you it was a metaphor.) in front of the mirror and then telling everyone who’ll listen about what you see.
Personal's not the same as important. People just think it is. -- Sir Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
Just because it happens to you, that doesn’t mean it will be important or interesting to anyone else. It’s up to you to not only make that decision, but also make sure that when you trot out your prose version of a selfie, it’s something that people will want to read.
The best way to do that is to make sure that what you write isn’t focused only on the naked parts of yourself you’re exposing to the world, but also shows why other people should be interested in what you’re saying.
Take a look at the selfie I took of me yesterday. There is, as you might expect, a story that goes along with that picture. It’s a sad story, full of head shakes and wonders about how I could have made it to my current age, much less have been able to successfully breed and rear three children.
In The Beginning. . .
The story starts with my middle son — a recent college graduate — going upstairs and then shrieking, followed by a lot of cursing. None of which really made me look up from my work.
I told you. . . I reared three children — three boys — so I’ve heard a lot of shrieking and cursing and large thumps and loud bangs in the last decade plus. There’s not much that really bothers me any more.
“Holy crap, Dad! There’s a huge snake up here!” is definitely one of those things that will bother me.
Scratch that. I need a better opening. I need something more dramatic. Something to convey the stygian depths to which my spirit has sunk thanks to the difficult, nigh-unthinkable amount of work, effort, pain and sweat I expended merely a few days ago, effort that left me staggering with weariness and wincing in agony with nearly even the slightest movement. Something like that. Ah-ha!
I am in . . . a lot of pain.
And I did it all for you, my friends. All for you. I can’t believe you made me do this. I mean, seriously. It’s no joke this whole pain thing.
Though, perhaps I should back up and explain just a bit before I continue with the rant and the lesson within the rant.
A year ago, in a fit of manly bravado, (my wife signed up to do the race and completed it with some friends of hers. When I inquired as to whether I could come along with her that
day and cheer her on, she didn’t hear the cheer her on part and thought I was volunteering to come participate with her. To which she replied, quite quickly and without any
forethought, “But you’re not in good enough shape.” Which lead me inevitably to the website where I signed up two days after she crossed the finish line) I signed up to compete in the Battlefrog Obstacle Race Series.
The Charlotte version of the event graced me with the opportunity to cover 8 kilometers (about five miles) of running, interspersed with 22 different obstacles. Each and every single one of them designed by sadistic former U.S. Navy SEALS with a taste for torture.
Each obstacle was designed to test (read damage with intent to humiliate) every part of your body. Not only did we have to climb walls, we had to climb walls that were leaning
back over us at a 60-degree angle. Like so. No, this was not easy. Had I stopped to think
about it, I’d probably never have agreed to do this.
But when my inner caveMAN rears his head, there’s not much thinking involved.
Out of 1,219 people participating in the race, I finished 895th. Which, now that I think about it, is pretty darn good. I was hoping to finish, but wasn’t all that certain I would. Feeling pretty good about beating out the other 224 people in the event. Even better, I finished 30th in my age group. Out of 51, so that’s almost the top half.
I finished in under two hours and only gained approximately 3.2 pounds of mud ingested into various bodily orifices. (Friends, I’ve got mud in cracks I didn’t even know where places that I had cracks.) After I crossed the finish line and gloried in the sensation of the heavy medal being lowered around my head, I staggered off to the festival grounds, desperately in search of food.
It was right around then that I really wished I’d thought to actually eat something before heading out to the race four hours before. Skipping breakfast before an endurance workout. . . Not a good idea. Still, I survived.
Which meant I could live to the next couple of days, to experience the torture of overworked muscles trying to let me know just how much they appreciated me not training for the silly event. Those piercing screams heard and reported through most of south Charlotte on Sunday? Yeah, sorry about that.
So, I hear you thinking, that’s all well and good. But why did he blame us for his pain? It’s simple. I blame you for my pain because a) I’m kind of whiny that way and don’t like to take responsibility for doing the spectacularly stupid things that keep happening in my life so frequently and b) to make a point about your unexamined life.
Last time out, I talked about how you can look at experiences through different lenses and come up with different stories. I also promised that I would talk about how you’d know which memories would make for good stories.
To my mind, the best way to have a good story that you will want to write about and others will want to read is to actually go out there in the real world and live a story. That’s right. . . When they tell you to write what you know, that’s actually sound advice up to a point. The important point is for you to get out there and have the sorts of experiences that not everyone will be able to attempt. Do the things that not everyone can do.
Then come back and think about what you’ve done. If you’re like me, that thinking part following one of these adventures often takes place in either a hospital emergency room or the guest suite at the local constabulary. You’ve got to think about what makes your story unique. What makes your story something that others will be able to connect with, even if they’ve not ever had the experience you just did.
Sort of like I just did above.
Next time, I’d like to take another look at the Battlefrog race and see if we can break it down a bit more to look at what — exactly — makes for the important pieces of a story.