If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.

"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chapter III.2

Further Accounts of the Slithy Toves and Other Random Musings



Third day in AT land; pretty cool. Nothing could have prepared me though for the changes that took place in one week to the guys of C903. A lot of them have copped some seriously inflated attitudes and the whole team seemed to split up except for small cliques. It’s really kinda depressing. My quad-mates are cool but unfortunately they’re leaving in a week and a half. Went to the Mariner’s club Fri and Sat night and drank rather swankly, but my body refused to get inebriated. It was good though to have some drinks and listen to some relatively mediocre music.


It was good to have someone hate him, made him feel appreciated in a different way, slightly dangerous. Sometimes you were more defined by what you weren’t than what you were— to make friends, make enemies. Now he’d just sit back and wait, see what happened.

People are furiously in pursuit of past happiness in the future, chasing yesterday in hopes that it will be tomorrow.


The whole last year, insane as it was, was just the getting here. I’m up against something now, whatever it was I was chasing, I still don’t know what to call it. It’s the sea that I’m up against— my subconscious— which is as large as the Universe and as full as the sum of all existence, nonexistence, and everything in between. My Beast lives in this sea and I must enter to find it. And yet I’m left with the feeling that my Beast is not really a beast but a “summoner” and that I will find that the real Beast is much larger and more terrifying than I ever imagined. People are addicted to what they fear the most. Don’t forget that; sometime soon you’re going to have to decide what that is.

The journey through the desert to the sea, but what comes after that? I’m standing on the edge of a vast body of subconscious knowledge— a sea— but I’ve been skirting around the edge, afraid to go in, get wet. Actually, I hadn’t realized I was here till yesterday. I needed a drink. This whole thing reminds me of the dream I had where Major Dad comes out of the lake and warned me that the world was going to end in some amount of days and that I should kill anyone else who tried to come out of the lake.

Thursday night I dreamed that mom took me to see dad’s grave. He’d died cross-country skiing down some mountain.


The human spirit is the noblest of creatures, for when it finds something in the Universe that is true and right it grasps it and will forsake all other things for that idea and endure untold hardships and even suffer death for it. When the human spirit has found something to hold onto, it is indomitable.


I spent the last year far away in myself searching and healing— the analogy, the metaphor, a savage, twisted nightmare of a shit-hole Wasteland inhabited by insanity and a Beast that was always one dream ahead of me. I thought I left that place around Christmas with the finishing of Twenty2 the Hard Way, and, in a way I did. But now it seems I’ve found myself in an adjacent reality, which seems to have the possibility to be a thousand times more terrifying.

What the hell am I saying? You know exactly where you’re at (I think). You’re at the end of your quest (almost). The BIG secret, if there is one, lies beneath the waves of the ocean you now find before you. It’s all been a trip through the subconscious and your past. But now, you’re at the deep of the deep, what you’ve been looking for all along. But now it seems that I am more scared than I thought I would be, don’t know why.


Fear and Loathing at NTC

The assembled crowd of ATs rocked back and forth, murmuring and growling amongst themselves, waiting for the captain and the beginning of CO’s Mast. Impatient, they began to chant, “Yezenski, Yezenski, Yezenski!” The chiefs and POs tried to regain control but they were beat back and doused by a hail of beer, cups, and smaller ATs as the MAAs whipped the drunken, bloodthirsty crowd into a drunken frenzy. A couple of fistfights broke out and the chiefs and POs gave up entirely, retreating to the safety of the hanger where the Master Chief was propping up the Captain as they watched the scene from behind a plane.

“Savages,” the Captain slurred, “fucking savages. If we go out there now they’ll tear us limb from limb. They want blood and they don’t care whose.” The Master Chief nodded silently, peeking around the nose of the place and calculating odds.

“What would John Wayne have done?” he thought to himself, cracking his knuckles.

“Loose the SPs on the dirty, drunken little sots,” the Captain clapped gleefully, “the savages will kill ‘em but we can escape in the confusion.”

“But sir,” the Master Chief turned, “they’re here to see you.”

“Goddamn right you are bucko, let’s go.”

“Sir, you know I hate it when you call me ‘bucko’,”

“Shut up king shithead, I’m the Captain here; why do you think they gave me these?” he snarled, pointing to the eagles on his collar and striding out into the crowd, followed by the Master Chief king shithead.

The hanger door was obscured by teargas and the Captain stumbled out of the smoke as the first bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man began to play over the 1MC. The crowd turned, silent for a moment, and then went wild as the Captain staggered around the circle of bodies, smiling, flashing thumbs-up, and high-fiving ATs. Having circled twice, he stumbled back over to the podium and leaned up against it. The crowd fell silent, waiting for him to speak.

“Good morning AT land,” the Captain slurred as the crowd went wild. “Shut up! Shut up! Say, does anyone have a cigarette, the Master Chief snaked my last one?” His sentence was punctuated by an instantaneous hail of cigarettes bouncing off of him and the podium. The Captain dropped to his knees, crawling in a small circle, stuffing cigarettes into his pockets and several into his mouth. When he was finished the Master Chief helped him back up and the Captain bounced, ducked, and shadow-boxed for a moment, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, mah name is Captain Yezenskiiiiiiii.” He accented the last syllable by kicking the Master Chief in the crotch which doubled him over.

“Okay,” the Captain bellowed, “where are the bastards?” He looked around; the Master Chief was trying to get up, clutching his crotch. “Well…get them out here, I’ve got a noon tee time.”

The first SR was led out and posted in front of the podium.

“Seaman recruit Larry P….”

“Shut up! I find you guilty as suspected.” The crowd cheered but the Master Chief pulled the Captain aside whispering,

“Sir, you have to try him first.”

“Why?” the Captain asked, “Look at him, he’s guilty as hell. He should have his nuts ripped off and his citizenship revoked.” The crowd caught part of the conversation and began to boo. “Look at them,” the Captain said nervously, “we have to find him guilty or they’ll kill us.”

“I know,” whispered the Master Chief, “but we have to go by the book.”

“Oh yeah, the book,” the Captain mused, straightening up. “What are you accused of son?”

“Sexual harassment, sir.”

“Hmmm, I see. Did it work? I mean did you get any?”

“No sir.” There was a sympathetic murmur from the crowd.

“Well then, I guess I have to find you guilty.”

The crowd cheered enthusiastically, stomping their feet and pumping fists into the air; several exposed themselves. The Captain, suddenly bemused, beamed and flashed the peace sign, “I am not a Captain,” he intoned gravely. As the crowd cheered even louder he began to take off his shoes, sox and shirt, tossing them into the crowd and pouring a beer that the Master Chief had given him over his chest.

“PBR me ASAP,” he giggled. “Maybe that would have worked,” he said to the seaman recruit, “next time try that.”

“Yes sir,” SR Larry whimpered in reply.

“Quiet!” the Captain screamed, waving his arms and almost falling over. Off on the left a small crowd cheered on two women busily trying to gouge each other’s eyes out and/or pull what was left of the their boot camp hair for possession of the Captain’s shirt.

“Quiet!” the Captain screamed again, the women pausing in mid-gouge/pull. He turned back to the SR and addressed him gravely, “Son, I have no choice but to find you guilty, nothing personal you know. And I sentence you…hmmm…to join the Marines.” The crowd gasped in shock and horror and SR Larry was dragged away in tears, making slashing motions at his wrists.

The Captain and the Master Chief were warming up to the show, the latter prowling around like a rabid gorilla and occasionally smiling at the crowd or propping up the Captain when he leaned too far in his wild gestures. The Captain, had taken a tangential tack and was babbling about martians in ‘Nam and the gradual destabilization of the equator. The next victim was led in, a shapely blond airman apprentice and the Captain snapped to.

“Hey chief,” he whispered, gesturing for the Master Chief, “she’s a sweetie, could you get her digits for me? I have to take a leak.” He staggered over to the corner of the hanger and began pissing, muttering to himself, “Thugs and vicious murders, the whole lot…got to warn Mickey, if those lizards catch us we’re history…more speed, more booze…where’s my one-iron?”

The Captain, finished, turned around and spasm’d, and then screamed as he ran for the hanger door. “Ayeee, savages, homozexual lizards…never should have voted for Clinton. No one said anything about reptiles, and so soon. Why wasn’t I warned? Someone stop the music…I can’t see….”

The crowd stood silently, looking at each other confused, the Captain’s screams fading in the distance as the Master Chief snuck off with the blond airman saying he knew a good party.



I have secured my own damnation
Not because of what I am
But because of what I am not—
Empty, not full
Hollow, nothing to offer
A place where the wind blows cold
And the tears are sucked away
As soon as they’re cried
Cold and vast, the grand and great
Potential of nothing
The wind blows the sand
Into your eyes
And you can’t see but it matters little
Since all is dark and the darkness cloaks
You from yourself
And others
The agonies of a million lifetimes
Ripping your flesh like rabid wolves
But the pain comes from the hole
Inside that threatens to consume you
Inside out
Sisyphus on acid
Stumbling blindly
A scarecrow
They live without hope
Less than human
More than nothing.

2 Variations on Words

They said I was crazy
They said I was smart
They said I was so fucked up
that I didn’t have a heart.
I can put words together and write
the most saccharine smelling shit
of poetry you ever read
but what’s the point
when it’s only words?

* * *

They said I was crazy
They said I was smart
They said I was so fucked up
that I didn’t have a heart
and it was only words
what “They” said
but they didn’t see the monsters
didn’t see the dead
lurking behind the words they said
and so I was crazy, insane, and smart
so fucked up that I didn’t have a heart.


I need to have it out with Dad one last time, deliberately, not an accident. I can feel the hot, dry winds of the Santa Anas and see the hills, sage and yellow, ready to burn; the heat ripples off the black, now soft, tarmac and the omnipresent brown serving as a constant reminder that you are in the land of the dead— California…yeah, California.

It’s always been dangerous to be around dad, a frightened animal hounded by a horde of ghosts, demons and illusions. He has no idea what he wants and is unable to keep from lashing out if he believes you have something that is his, want something that is his, or won’t give up something he thinks is his or that he needs. The list of things is infinite and changes from moment to moment. Spend enough time around him and your number is guaranteed to come up. And of course, it’s all justifiable on his part, no matter who the hell you are or think you are or the damage he’s inflicted in reclaiming what was rightfully his all along. My father is a walking pain-producing machine, King-fucking-Midas, doomed to taint everything he touches. But he is not a tragic character because his flaw is one of self-willed ignorance and complete irresponsibility. Not tragic, just a son-of-a-bitch, a goddamned son-of-a-bitch.

One More Time Around

Out of the desperation and the dirt
out of the chaos
bloodied and beaten I come—
having slain my twin.
(Fuck you who would stand in my way
or try to stop me
I will be me
I will be FREE.)

It’s almost as if, when I was born, another being came into existence with me in my mother’s head. In many ways he was similar to me but he was not me; he was what my mother wanted me to be. It started out as a hope of what I could become, a hope all mother’s have, a desire for their children to have more. But as the years went by the dream, the ideal grew; and when my mother spoke, it was no longer to me but to the dream; and the dream continued to grow until one day, I no longer existed, only the dream did, only this mental/psychic doppelgänger.

I was no longer accepted for me, my expectations and goals were never as high as my dream twin’s; my dreams, fears, highs, lows, victories, losses, my life did not exist except in that I lived up to the expectations of the “other” me, which existed only in my mother’s mind. Illusion had become more real than flesh.

I was to be something to show off to the world, the crowning piece in my mother’s cap, proof to the world that she had overcome some hard shit, real or imagined, to be a successful parent, a good parent, a great parent. I was to be that proof, standing smartly on a pedestal for the world to see, my mother’s finest work. And I would love her like no other, before any other. She would always be the first female in my life and one day, I would take care of her, lovingly, dotingly, the caring, grateful, perfect son.

I fell for the illusion, I knew no better. And small wonder that nothing matters to me and I care for nothing, that I feel empty, hollow and have a vaguely alarming suspicion that I am not quite who I should be, that the real me is off somewhere else having a smashingly grand time. I was numb; it kept the self-loathing locked away in the back of my head. But all the while the darkness was at work and the coldness overtook me. I had nothing but a lifetime of failures to point to, always falling short of the expected standards; and the successes, the successes were not my own but someone else’s, someone who didn’t exist, my mother’s ideal. Still I struggled on, not understanding what was wrong with me, wanting sincerely to please but never quite sure how.

It reached a peak, or maybe a low on a snowy Valentine’s night— it was better to be dead than to be alive and not know who or what you were. The shotgun barrel felt cold, sharp against my throat, it felt real that night. I don’t know how I walked away. I hated myself beyond description. That was a year and a half ago, a very long year and a half. I’m still trying to make sense of things. Mostly I’m still confused, trying to sort through twenty-two years worth of crap, repressed feelings, fears, dreams and myself.

I’m tired right now, very tired. I just want to curl up with someone to hold me and just watch over me, just be there.

I’m crazy? When I went to your schools and I went to your churches and to your institutional learning facilities? How can you say I’m crazy?


I dreamed I was coming back from somewhere, boot camp maybe, and Gregg S. and Rob S. were waiting for me. I hadn’t seen these guys in ten years and there they were, sitting on my doorstep waiting for me to get back. They each had a different paper airplane and they threw them for me to watch. They were both terribly interested in their planes and excited about the different flight paths they took. I didn’t give a shit, and in fact, wished that they weren’t there. I wanted to explain that things had changed since we’d been apart, that I was different now. I was totally unhappy, just sitting there on the steps.


Friday. Six and a half hours to liberty call.

I find myself, suddenly, in a familiar position and I’m not sure what to make of it. But already, as I write this sentence, arguments, solutions, what have you, are racing through my head. I’ll try to put it down to the paper.

It hit me that my heart is not in doing this Navy thing— at least not now— and in a way that bothers me ‘cause it seems like one more thing I could really care less about. I didn’t join the Navy because I wanted oh so badly, to be a sailor, but to buy some time, make some $, see a little more of life, that’s it. But then, so what if my heart’s not in it, my heart wasn’t in any other job I’ve had. But I have no desire to be great at what I do, I just want to do my job and get out. I mean, I don’t want to be the best at whatever I’m doing. Of course, I realize that I’m not doing a job in the Navy yet and that maybe that will change when I actually start. I don’t even feel particularly proud to be here; at least not any more than to be anything else to speak of.

Maybe I’m too much of an idealist, and probably, haven’t spent enough time in the Navy for it to mean anything (and maybe it never will) but I keep looking for that something that’s got “me” written all over it and excites the hell out of me…that I’d do anything for. For now, the Navy’s just another job that I need to do and I may not be the best but at least no one will have to pick up after me.

The Ghost in You

The lights on the radio towers flashed in the distance, intermingling with the heat lightning and mumbling thunder knifing the still, sticky air. The clouds were low and heavy and you could feel the tension and taste the humidity. Below, the lake quietly reflected the pregnant sky and somewhere a lone alligator floated silently, watching.

He inhaled slowly on the cigarette, thinking, the glow etching his features against the darkness as she turned away from the look on his face and stared out at nothing.

“Why do you have to be so unreasonable?” she asked flatly.

He exhaled, the light disappearing as he flicked the butt into the lake, and faded back into the shadows.

“Don’t you mean, why do I always have to be so damned right?” he replied bitterly. Thunder rumbled nearby and she flinched as if slapped. “Let’s face it,” turning to her and lighting another cigarette, “it’s over between us, it’s been over. I don’t know you anymore, you’ve changed.” Her eye caught the glint from the Zippo and held it for a moment, as if it were trapped there. The first drops from the clouds began to fall. “You don’t love me anymore and I don’t know why,” he paused, “and I…I’m in love with someone who doesn’t exist anymore, a ghost.”

The rain came down a little harder. She looked up at the sky, wiping away a hot tear with the back of her hand as he sat down heavily, staring out at the reflection of the two towers in the lake; feeling for all the world like he’d just cut out a part of himself.

“I…I didn’t want it to end this way…,” she said quietly, almost a whisper.

“I know…,” he shrugged, “no one ever does.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat and left him sitting there, fading into the rain and the mist.


I was afraid in boot camp but I’m not sure what of.


Supposed to have left yesterday— fifteen-minute leeway— still here; oh well, what the hell.

Finally, I’m on the plane to Chicago and I’m so fucked up, even if I am late, which I am. Going to try to sleep. Adios.

The following notes were found penciled in the margins of various pages in a copy of The Blue Jackets Manual that was found adrift off of Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico in late August, 1998.

I basically ran away and joined the Navy. My sister was the only one in my family who knew. My mom found out at her church when my buddy’s mom asked her how I was enjoying boot camp. She replied that I wasn’t in boot camp but in school. I have to believe that she was surprised to find out that that wasn’t the case. I have no idea how my dad found out.

The below is the letter my sister gave me as I left for MEPS

I hardly know where to start, there is so much I want to say but I’m not really sure how to put it into words. I still can hardly believe you’re leaving; I’ve always taken for granted that you would be near if I needed you. Now, I’m not really sure where you’ll be or if you’ll have time for me. I’m a little bit selfish, I guess. You were really the only one I could count on to be there since we went through everything together when we were kids.

But now you’ve got to go make your own place in the world and do what’s good for you. It’s finally your turn. It seems like I’ve wanted you to change so that you could fit in better and be happy. And now that I find you leaving, my great fear is that you’ll change I won’t know you anymore. That maybe you won’t be my brother anymore or you won’t be the same brother I love. I know I’ve hardly begun to understand you and you’re leaving. I’m afraid I won’t have the chance again to know who you are now.

I hate myself for not having spent more time getting to know my only brother. But I suppose if you weren’t leaving it wouldn’t be like this anyway, right? I’ve enjoyed the last week so much but I was afraid to talk seriously with you because I knew I would break down. I wish more than anything that you could stay here and be a part of my life but I know it’s not what you need.

I have so much respect for what you’ve been through and what you’ve become. I am sorry that I showed so little interest when I read your book (Twenty2 the Hard Way) but it was like all of a sudden I understood you a little better and it was all I could to keep from crying. I think your book is incredible! I’m so proud of your writing, I always brag about it to everyone.

You always said I was the stranger in a strange land, but I think it was you, not I. So good luck traveler. Go find your own but make sure you come back to me someday. I’ll be waiting for you.


I had no idea what I was doing, I mean really no idea when I enlisted; had never really had the desire to be in the military and hated authority more than just about anything else in the world. I had no idea at all. The recruiter must have seen dollar signs (or sucker) walk in that door when I first went in and the conversation was likely something along the lines of:


“What can I do for you?”

I was thinking about enlisting.”



“Well, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. I saw that movie with Steven Segal and that battleship. I think what he was was pretty cool.”

“A cook?”

“No, the other thing.”

“Ah, a SEAL.”

“Yeah, that’s it; how do I get to be one of those?”

“You look like you could be a SEAL, yeah, a real killer. I’ll bet you could do twenty push-ups right now.”

Hmm, yeah, I think I could.”

“Well that’s good enough for me. Okay, I just need you to start filling out this paperwork (cha-ching). We have a delayed entry program, how long do you think you want to be in that?”

“Well, how soon can I leave?” (cha-ching, cha-ching)

And the rest, as they say, is history. It’s probably not nearly as interesting as being press-ganged, which is what I tell most people happened.

It’s funny looking back now, how little I wrote about boot camp itself. What’s there to say? It wasn’t nearly the challenge I had thought it would be or had hoped it would be. Yet it was a challenge in what seemed all the dumb, lowbrow ways. I was looking for something that would undeniably alter me, a rite of passage from a boy to a man. I just got yelled at a lot and did my fair share of push-ups, some deserved, some not. In that regards, it was an abject disappointment.

And it was an act of desperation anyway. I was at the end of my rope. I remember sitting by the window after lights out, staring out into the night (every once in a while there would be a bolter as some kid made a desperate break for the fence) and thinking that this was it, if I didn’t make it here my only choices left were suicide or maybe the French Foreign Legion, not necessarily in that order. And I don’t say that flippantly, that is where I was at. It was not a great place to be.

And actually, I don’t remember that much specifically about the whole eight weeks. I remember going to the phone center for our one phone call home. I didn’t have anyone to call. Our CC was incredulous and I think maybe he felt a little bad for me. I just stood outside, at ease, while everyone else stood in line to go inside and make their call.

I remember one night, after a particularly bad day of not marching very well. It was dark out, after dinner, and we were all doing something in the barracks— folding uniforms, polishing boondockers, or some other inane yet oh so important activity— when our CC came out and told everyone to get two quarters, put them in their left pocket and fall in. He said that his old CC or some insanely old, salty sailor had taught him years ago that with the two quarters in our left pocket, we would be able to hear the cadence/stride better than we normally did. Everyone was so tired and frustrated that we just didn’t give a damn anymore and off we marched into the night. There’s not a lot of pocket in dungarees and I don’t know that we could hear the quarters bouncing around that much or not but we were willing to believe. We ended up marching over to a couple of soda vending machines and the CC told everyone to fall out and get themselves a soda. It was completely unexpected and the coolest thing the guy ever did. To this day I still think that our CC was a self-serving prick, but that night he was awesome.

Another thing that sticks out was the gas chamber training. The company all dons gasmasks, Mk 48’s I think, and then stands in formation as the chamber is flooded with CS gas. One by one, each recruit has to doff his mask and stand there long enough to get a good couple of breaths, answering a couple of question; you can hold your breath but it will just prolong the waiting, and then you bolt for the door, many to commence to retching outside. You can always tell a company that has just come from the gas chambers because the front of their shirts are covered in snot and/or puke, their eyes are blood-shot and watering, and you can still smell the CS gas wafting off of them. A pissed off CC will make his company go to chow like this rather than going back and getting a shower first. The whole purpose is to build your confidence in your equipment.

Anyway, we were lined up in rows of about four or five guys across and I was at the far end. The CC was next to me and I though he was going to step in front of me next so I went ahead a removed my mask, being the proactive kind of guy I way.

“You just fucked up recruit. Did I tell you to take your mask off?”

“No sir,” trying not to breathe.

“Well, you’re going to have to stand there till I come back to you, give you some time to think about what you’ve done.”

So I stood there while the CC went down the row behind me, taking his time. He finally got back to me and I answered my two questions and then bolted for the door. I didn’t puke. It wasn’t fun though. I earned a few extra tough-guy points for standing in there longer sans mask than anyone else. I can’t say that it was worth it.

I got horribly sick twice, running temps of over 104° and got a slew of IVs each time as well as going on bed rest. You’d think that being able to sleep all day would be nice, but not when the rest of your unit is out doing stuff; there was no TV, no radio, nothing to read, just laying there in your rack and feeling guilty for being there. The second time was a week or so before graduation. I was so weak after that that I couldn’t even pass the final PT test. I was sick in bed when my company marched and graduated so I can’t tell you what that’s like. And in all honesty, it didn’t matter to me because I would have been the only one there with no friends or family to watch. Because I couldn’t pass the final PT test my CC tried to send me back, all the fucking way to the 1-1 days, meaning I’d have to do every damned thing I’d just done over again, another eight weeks of boot camp. I told you the guy was a prick. It was bad enough that I hadn’t passed the BUDS qualifying PT test, but this was about the worst thing that could happen.

Somehow I ended up going to a PT hold company which was mainly full of recruits in some phase of disciplinary separation from the Navy. As far as boot camp went, PT hold kicked ass. I went every morning for two hours of PT and then had the rest of the day to myself, seeings as how I wasn’t a problem child. I couldn’t go anywhere, except to chow, but I could sit in the barracks and read or write all day. I snuck over to the AT/NTC side twice and went to the NEX and McDonald’s. It was like a vacation. I was there one week, passed the PT test on fleet standards and dragged all my crap over to AT.

For what little I remember of boot camp, I remember even less about AT. I could drink there, on the weekends, which made it a LOT better, and wasn’t treated quite as much as a snot-nosed kid. I remember having duty one weekend and some chief calls all the guys who weren’t on watch down for a muster and then sat and just talked to us, like a dad to his sons, telling us what to expect when we reached the fleet. It was the coolest thing.

I graduated third in my class and was promoted to SN, which if nothing else, meant more money…but not a lot. I was originally supposed to report to the USS Wainwright, CG-28, which was pierside in Charleston, SC and in the process of being decommissioned. About fifteen minutes before I was supposed to depart for two weeks of leave they canceled my orders and I had to spend another night in Orlando. The next day they cut me replacement orders to the USS Richmond K. Turner, CG-20, which was in the middle of a Med cruise. I flew home to get really, really drunk.


And they prepared a glorious feast
for him,
the returned something or other.
But in truth
He neither was nor wasn’t
He thought he had been,
they thought he had been
before he had left.
And he certainly wasn’t anymore that now—
only that he’d had the courage
to go in the first place.

End of Transmission….

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chapter III.1

Big Blue

The Haphazard Journals of Charlie Nine Zero Three

I am just a poor boy and my story’s seldom told
I’ve squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family, I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station, runnin’ scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters, where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know
— The Boxer
Orlando, Florida, Recruit Training Command- boot camp to the rest of us. I heard my muse on the fourth day here marching out on the grinder. It was the first time I’d had the urge to write since Christmas, and for a while had thought the desire might have left me altogether.
Already I can see that it’s going to be a war of attrition with the prize going to the person who keeps his head in line (and on his shoulders), his mouth shut with eyes forward, and runs till his heart bursts or the CC keels over. God help us all.
Dental screening today; I got lucky and caught a twenty minute nap in the dentist’s chair while the dentist took a break. As long as these P-days have seemed, this week has gone by really fast; and things are just starting to take off. I’ve passed the vision, hearing, and dental screening and the only thing standing between me and BUDS that is beyond my control is the dive physical which is next Monday. If I pass that the only thing that will keep me from being a SEAL is myself. The resolve, the belief in myself hasn’t gelled yet and sometimes it makes me wonder. Part of the reason I’m here is to find that belief in myself, but I don’t think that I can get through this without it. Once again the absurd has taken command and it would seem that in order to find what I seek I must believe that I have it already.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo- Devotion to the Mystic Law of Cause and Effect

Went to the Buddhist service today with Hardee. I’d never been to anything like it before and I enjoyed it a great deal
I’ve been thinking about the IT (PT) we’ve been doing, ‘cause I’ve managed to do more than I though possible and I realized that the pain is an illusion, an illusion that can be broken through. The body is capable of doing much more than the mind thinks it can. Pain is only perceived in the mind. So how do you get to ignoring the pain, seeing through it, transforming it, or getting rid of it completely? The best I can figure is that you have to not let there be anything to feel the pain. If you become the pain and that is all there is, then there cannot even be pain. To become one with one’s enemy is to fade away from his sight and he is left without a target to strike (at).
Monday: Dive physical- so far so good.
Passed the swim test today and got the first round of shots. I’ve realized that I’m afraid of PT. I think I’m afraid that I won’t try or give a 100%, or maybe I’ll fail, I’m not sure though. I want to put my entire heart into something, to lay it all on the line but I’m afraid to. I’m not sure what’s up.
1-5 Day: The first inspection, what a hollow victory. What we though we might have gained is drowned in what we aren’t. The shame of it just makes me want to quit. The frustration and confusion are starting to build and I feel like I’m wandering through my childhood again, reliving it. I have the overwhelming impression that nothing I do is quite right and that there is some invisible standard to which I can’t quite measure up to. I’m afraid of being trapped there, in the frustration and hopelessness of my childhood. If I don’t make it here, what’s left? I have to get off the old track and onto the new but I’m not sure how. And I don’t even know why I’m here because I seem to have no desire to be a SEAL. And without that desire I’ll never even come close to getting there. Lights out, gotta go, adios.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for eighteen days already. The days here all blur into one another, it’s almost as if each day is my first and my last. My recollections of yesterday are already hazy and beyond three days are lost forever. Maybe it’s better that way, only time will tell.

Seaman slack
get out of your rack
and prepare to do push-ups!
— Unknown
The CC’s wouldn’t let me PT today and now I’m in sick-call; still don’t feel too hot. The two days of bed rest gave me the time to think and sort some things out, get my head straight. The way things are looking now I’m thinking about reclassifying into an A-school that will transfer over into SEALs, finishing out boot camp with the company, going to A-school and then spending a year in the fleet before reapplying. This course of action feels right. I’m coming at this thing on so many levels and trying to do too much for any of it to work out well. Right now I just want to get myself through boot camp learning the things I’m supposed to learn. By doing that I think a lot of the mental stuff will fall in place. By then I’ll be much better prepared to go to BUDS and it will also give me more time to get into shape. So that’s the plan for now. Whatever I do, I don’t want to quit on myself or sell myself short.
The stress of the last three weeks and the impending six are starting to take their toll, mainly on people more like me who really have no business being in any branch of the armed services at all. The warrior spirit is a state of mind not of body, or better, a state of mind and body; and so far, I don’t see any indication that there will be any philosophy with the PT, indoctrination maybe, but no philosophy.
The ones who are going to make it as far as BUDS (and probably not much further) are the dumb, brute, shark types who have to constantly move (or drown) and have no mind that can be fucked with. I am no longer interested in running headlong with the pack in some anabolic frenzy, but in just getting out of here with an A-school. SEALs will come later or not at all. I don’t feel like I’m getting any more in touch with my body except when it is screaming.
Walking is the process of falling forward, catching yourself, and doing it again; in a plane, to climb more quickly, you dive first. Life is realizing that up comes with down and down with up, and, by making the most of these “controlled” downs you can go ever higher. The trick to life is keeping your own rhythm and not getting hung up on anyone else’s.

At night, after lights out in the barracks, I sit at the window and watch the cars go by.
It’s been a busy week and it seems like there hasn’t been any time to write; there were a lot of things I wanted to get to but I don’t remember most of them. Anyway, something did occur to me this afternoon: The main reason I’m here is to learn. I’ve taken myself and put me in a completely different environment and I’m learning about myself, expanding, growing. I think that’s why I’m really here.
The nights are short here, and the days long, as long as years— an endless repetition of PT, eating, marching, drills, and yelling. You get to the point where the yelling doesn’t even bother you anymore, where you don’t even care if it’s somebody else; and, if it is you, your mind isn’t even there but somewhere far away where no one can get at it.
Johnson passed out in the chow line as we stood there, the rain beating down on us, hot and miserable. There wasn’t a one out of the eighty-nine of us who didn’t envy the hell out of Johnson; to just quit and sit down with our heads in our hands. But we were SEAL candidates, followers of a higher, harder dream. We knew that in the end, only a few of us would stand there at the top, but that didn’t matter now. So we stood there in the rain, hot and miserable, our gaze hard and our shoulders squared, dreaming with tears in our eyes: we are the pilgrims father, we will always go a little further.
Over the weeks I’ve felt something changing in me. It’s far too subtle, too soon to put a finger on yet, but I feel more confident about myself. Of course there are days when I feel totally helpless to do anything but they seem to be getting fewer and further between. I took the first PT test yesterday and failed wonderfully. That’s okay though, I know what I need to work on and I was very happy with my run. I wonder if Kim’s going to write back. I guess I’m hoping she does. I hadn’t thought about her for a while and then I got here; is it just the desperate need to hang onto something amid all this insanity?
Company C903 will go down in RTC history with the rather dubious distinction of being only the third dive company since RTC Orlando’s opening to not make the hall of fame. Many people have speculated as to the reasons for this, but, they were outsiders, they didn’t eat, sleep, PT, sweat, cry, fight, or band together with C903. In fact, they had nothing to do with C903 and generalizations like fuck-ups, unmotivated, individuals, and problem children seemed to ring hollow and uninformed.
Here’s a poem I started at 3 A.M. this morning on watch. I can tell my writing is getting better and I feel it more deeply.

Remembering Kim…
The clouds are low
and far away, above the tree line
a red light flashes on a radio tower.
The earth smells of wet dirt and rain
and I sit here in boot camp
thinking of you
and Pink Floyd
on rainy summer nights—
your dad’s too large
faded gray sweatshirt
falling off your shoulders
as sailboats bobbed slowly
in the swells—
mast lines slapping
against booms
and wispy white clouds
speeding beneath
dark gray, ominous ones.
Thunder rumbled in the distance
and you squeezed my hand,
leaning back with a sigh
as the wet breeze
blew your short blond bangs
about your forehead
and piled sand around our bare legs.
Pulling your brown knees up
and wrapping your slender arms around them
you tilted your head back and looked
at me and my upside down world;
your serious, stormy green eyes holding me
steady in the wind and whitecaps.
“Will you love me…always?”
you asked quietly
with that half-sad, quirky smile.
I held my breath
and looked up at the clouds
running a calloused hand
through short, sandy, wind-whipped hair.
I shivered
and your hand found mine
pulling it warmly
down around your waist.
as I breathed out
and leaned forward against you
resting my chin on your shoulder.
And, slowly, just barely over the wind—
I whispered with my heart,

The relationship between a warrior and his god is a special one that only another warrior can understand. The warrior relies upon his god to give him courage and the strength to do the extraordinary tasks he is asked to do. His god is his lifeline, his shield, protecting him, his buddies and family at home. I can feel the presence of my shipmate’s god’s in this compartment and though they are not mine I am reassured by them. In some ways I am envious because I have no god to put my trust in other than myself, which at times is a heavy responsibility. But I am a warrior, of this world and it of me, mutually supporting and creating. Where is defeat when victory is assured?

Well, the letter I thought would never come from Kim came today and … I’m disappointed, but it’s what I really expected. On one hand I just want to not write again and disappear from her life but I expect I’ll be writing again. She still haunts me to this day. She tried to be polite and concerned in her letter but she was distant and cold (can I say I blame her?).

Kalamazoo, MI

SR Slack—

Ok, I’ve sat here for ten minutes; how do I start.  So here I go.

Thanks for the letter.  I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about opening it.  I wasn’t sure you were gonna bitch or be civil.  It was nice to read something nice from you.

SR Slack, I also really care about you too, you were a big part of my life, a big changing part of my life.  I hated to end things the way we did, but you just made me so mad! (and I’m sure I did the same to you!)  I read your letter and began to cry.  Slack, I do not hate you!  I loved you then and I love you now (only in a different way).

I’m glad to see you moving somewhere in your life.  Maybe this will be the thing you need.  Your apology is accepted. 

Things are going well for me too.  Yes, I’m still dating Chris.  And just for laughs, my mother doesn’t care much for him either.  Things at home are pretty much the same, except we have a guy from Finland staying with my family.  He is cool, 16 and in high school.

I do hope things continue to look up for you from here.  It’s wonderful to end things on a better note this time.

Slack, keep your head up and push through!  I know you’ll make it.

Good luck in life and maybe we may run into each other somewhere down the line.


Company leave today and I’m burnt like an idiot. Over the last twenty-three years I’ve become desensitized to corporate American advertising but it is funny to see the effects of two months of corporate America deprivation— just so taken in watching billboards on the bus ride to the water park.

Something’s changed in me (more than what I was babbling about earlier). Today, walking around at Wet & Wild’s, I saw the same vacant-dead, lost, hopeless look in everyone’s eyes that I only used to see in my own. I don’t know what’s changed yet but I should get some perspective when I get out of here.
I am a dreamer, and, at various points in my life I’ve run into the hard walls of reality. Then I got here, and from the feeling of my head, there are a great deal more walls here than elsewhere.

I’m a bit of an oddball here, in the fact that I don’t look like your average SEAL candidate, whatever that may be. So people just pass me off. But some of the guys have been around when I really got into a conversation or read some of the things I’ve written and it blows their minds. They’re like, “Man, I can’t believe you’re so deep and intense…man.” I have to laugh. In some ways it’s an ego boost, but that’s beside the point, it’s just funny as hell.
My third day of 102-103.9° temperature. I think it’s starting to get to me ‘cause I feel terribly disorientated. I know where I am, who I am and how I got here, but I feel like I’m in a dream, like everything’s totally unreal. I wonder how many IVs I’ll get today.

It seems to me that people are addicted to what they fear the most. I’ve been looking to PO1 O’Grady (CC) to replace my father in a way, to affirm me or something. I’m not sure. It feels like I am going to be here forever. My biggest fear is that there’s something wrong with me and that I can’t ever do anything right and I’ll go through life a failure, disappointing them and letting them down.
Boot camp ceased to be fun after I’d read the back of all the cereal boxes.

It’s interesting to sit and watch your company eat, you only get fifteen minutes from the time the last guy at the table sits down. You can learn a lot about people.

Then one day I realized how much the Navy liked running and I wondered, not for the last time, what the hell I was thinking when I signed on.

If the Navy was a baseball team, it would be the kind of team that would look for its players in the gutter, pay them sub-minimum, and make them buy their own uniforms. Sometimes it’s hard to not feel superior to the whole system.

The military’s love of straight lines and 90° angles borders on the orgasmic.
I was half-awake, half-asleep last night thinking that if a physical object moved into a space occupied by another physical object and displaced it does the displaced object move into another, displacing it and creating an infinite chain reaction. Obviously the laws of motion, friction, heat, and energy say no, but something always has to be displaced it would seem, even if only one atom. But what then? Or does the displaced object make a quantum leap and fill an empty space somewhere else in the Universe? Don’t ask me, I was half-asleep myself.
I think the reason I’ve been afraid of talking to PO1 O’Grady like the plague is because he reminds me so much of my father. He makes me feel like my father used to, confused, stupid, guilty, and scared— all without even knowing what it was I had supposedly done.

Saturday. Day two of PT Hold: Actually, it’s more like a vacation; I’ve already finished one book. Good god, when will the fun end?

Last night I was listening to U2- Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses- and thinking about Kim and just the general mood, feelings, and memories that the music (magic) invoked…and I wanted to go back to then. Not because the “now” is so bad but because there was something special about those times, something wild, desperate, lived on the edge, pushing the limits of tolerance, sanity, life. I look back (and maybe that’s the problem right there) and I see something, a piece to the puzzle, a feeling, something, permeating everything I did and intertwined completely in those two years. And yet, I somehow missed seeing it at the time, or I don’t have it now. Not sure. I can see it but I can’t see/feel what it is. I can feel something in that time, sublime, flowing but it has no shape. I’d like to point out right now that if I have any idea of what I’m saying I don’t understand it one bit; just saving it for a later, more coherent date.

Waldo’s. Waldo’s is also a part of it, along with Pearl Jam. Those nights— long, boring, half-drunk ‘cause no one could afford to get totally drunk nights— god they were so boring most of the time, but that vibe was there, an orange warmth, camaraderie maybe, or loneliness. It was a deep time, a feeling vulnerable time. I was deep into something, myself maybe, or what I was doing/going through/experiencing. I was half there and half somewhere else, very deep, somewhere that probably doesn’t/didn’t exist; or maybe it does but it’s hard to get there and even harder to get back once you are there. I was somewhere deep. I don’t think I realized it till late and even then I didn’t realize where I was. But I had enough sense to start writing from there— what I saw, what I felt. I touched a part of myself in a way I never had before; talked, wrote, walked, drove from somewhere I’d never been before. Now, right now, this instant, looking back, it feels like a part of me stepped out of my body or soul or something and went way deep inside me and touched things, healing things that were sick, fixing things that were broken. It was a light, airy, narcissistic trip, hard to break the hold, the addiction; to come back and not just stay. Enlisting had something to do with helping me to come back. I don’t know, don’t understand yet. I want to keep the path to that place open. It’s a damned unbeatable place to write from. When I’m there I can feel it all around me and the words and ideas just flow. It’s very deep, very still, quiet, tranquil…just sitting.

I don’t know, I can’t see all the pieces together yet, time though, time and I will. It’s all about being patient and believing…in yourself and your innate ability to take of yourself and to make sure you’re at the reasonably right place at the reasonably right time to learn what you need to learn.
I grow weary of this place and pace like a caged animal. It’s the limiting of my freedom that gets me the most. I don’t mind being here when I can come and go as I please. But this vice-like grip of authority…I’m tired of being a non-being. The people who run this place are a bunch of ignorant, pompous fools and asses. I’m sure that I’ll be accused of not seeing the “big picture” but the reality is that this place breeds nothing but distrust, fear, and paranoia for anyone with an above-rock intelligence. Whoever thought that confidence came from the wrong end of 200 push-ups and a good ass chewing was either a Marine, abused as a child, or probably both. And the bureaucracy rolls on, a paper juggernaut leaving a ravaged trail of paper in its haphazard wake. A strange rider on a strange wave…whatever initially compelled me on this course of action has since left and vanished from memory. I want a better seat or off. The sad truth though is that I’m on for the whole ride, no matter how fucked it may be. When will I learn?

Well, McBee and Lattuca made it today and now I’m the last of the Mohicans. I’m a little down right now; some fool reported me UA. At most I only have to hang in here till Friday, Monday at the latest. I can do it.

Started trying to write to Kim last night and it’s going a little slow, frustrating trying to find the medium between actually saying something, saying nothing and saying too much. It should be interesting (below).


It would seem that strange movies call for strange characters in strange places, and so I sit in an unconditioned Navy barracks in central Florida on a hot and muggy spring night wondering what’s going on in your head, 2000 miles away, and trying furiously to figure out what’s going on in mine.

I was surprised to hear from you, I didn’t think you’d write back, didn’t know how black of a memory I was, wondered if you’d have the courage. Should’ve known better than that…Kim and courage, what was I thinking? But what made you turn around, pause, look back?

I need to talk with you Kim; not at you, not to you, with you. I don’t want to rehash old arguments or dredge up spent animosity; but our chapter wasn’t completed, at least not for me and there remains links that must be broken or reforged before a proper ending can be brought about and a new chapter started. It feels much the same as it did in the end with Colleen, a sense that things aren’t quite right or over.

Jesus, I’ve been trying to write this letter for three days now and I don’t even know if I am making any sense at all. I’m trying my damndest not to get carried away and drown you in a flood of details, questions and stories and I agonize over every word and try to gauge your reactions in my head. It’s been too long though and I fear I’ve been doing rather badly at it.

I need help putting some of the pieces together, a different view, someone who was there. I know what I’m asking, the implications, the nuances, the risks; it’s a lot, I know, maybe too much. I never thought I’d be here asking this, swore I’d never turn around. Well, I don’t know what else to say, how else to explain right now so I guess I’ll wait to hear from you.

I’ve staked out an area roughly 15’ x 7’ and it is my domain. It is here that I write, read, sleep, think, and daydream. Once there, I rarely venture forth unless necessity dictates; and the sad reality of it is, there is nowhere else to go.
I finished the letter to Kim last night (after another rewrite) and mailed it today. I realized that the thing was so damned hard to write because I was making it hard. Let me try to clarify here— this made more sense last night and I’m trying to get back on the train of thought. It was hard because I really want to talk to Kim, need to; and I didn’t totally realize that and was trying to get around to saying that and at the same time I was trying not to say too much. To sum it up, I was trying to ask for something that I didn’t quite totally realize I was asking for as well as trying to convey a meaning without saying too much. I make myself nuts.

Last night I dreamed that I was in some way responsible for the legal order being given to execute my father and someone else, a little boy, myself I think. The only part I remember is running to talk to some kindly scientist-type guy who was working on the means of execution, a large oven, and asking him if death would be instantaneous. The scientist said that the oven was so hot that they would be consumed instantly. The oven was this room that you could see into through a window as the victims were wheeled in strapped on this hospital bed/stretcher type gig. The scientist was testing the oven. I think I felt a little bad that the boy had to die as well but I didn’t know what else there was to do.

I learned to fear and despise authority from, or more aptly, because of my father. I had forgotten how much I looked up to, worshipped, and feared my father until I came to boot camp. Our CC (a lying son of a bitch) reminded me terribly of my father and I constantly found myself hoping and trying to win his attention and admiration much as a puppy or a small child. I was also terrified of him and his anger, which was practically identical to my father’s. Both of them would make me feel guilty, ashamed, and like a loser without me ever knowing what, if anything, I had done.

Subtly, my focus has shifted off of my mother and onto my father who I thought I had dealt with years ago. But as I look back now, it becomes apparent that I never did and it makes sense that this is so since I set out to “initiate” myself into manhood in lieu of my father who is quite incapable of the act. But enough of that for now; here’s why I joined the Navy, more or less:

—Buy some time to figure out what it is I’d like to do
—It seemed like the right thing to do at the time
—To initiate myself into manhood
—Subconsciously, to pull myself out of the trip/course I was on
—Didn’t know what else to do at the time
—Dog tags and a tattoo

Somehow this wasn’t quite the list I was expecting but it’s what came out.

The other recruits here in Div. One won’t leave me alone— it seems to be that damned “unwanted leadership paradox” again. I don’t know what it is; I think part of it is because my quietness and laid-back attitude are mistaken for confidence and centeredness. In some ways it’s annoying because everyone wants to tell their irrelevant and tiresome stories— especially when I’m listening to my Walkman— but I find myself being much less, much, much less self-conscious and I interact with people much easier. Huh? That’s funny; I hadn’t even realized how unself-conscious I’ve become.
Well, I’m outta here tomorrow, hit fleet standards no problem; and just in time too, they’re taking away all the privileges we never had, at least officially. Mazzaralla left today, I miss him already. Myers and I kinda slinked over, unofficially, to McDonald’s for lunch. It felt good to have something besides Navy chow for once. That makes our second trip since we’ve been here. Monday Maz, Hemmingway and I went to the big exchange.
4/30, 0945
Hold the presses; here it is…SR XXXXX has finally finished boot camp. Now it’s SA XXXXX. Ha! Ha! I still don’t believe it. Boot camp has seemed to last forever. I don’t even rem ember what it felt like coming here in the beginning and my life before that is only a dream. It feels like I’ve been here forever and it felt like I’d be here forever— a bad loop that keeps on replaying itself. No more though, I’m off to AT land; despite the worst intentions of my CC’s; assholes. Don’t try to weasel the weasel fuckers…!
BT…wait out…

Album- The Essential Sailor Mk1 Mod 0

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