Electronic Cigarettes are Back In My Life Again

I’ve tried quitting smoking before. I even tried e-cigarettes a while back. But still ended up puffing the old fag. It’s not that easy you know. Well, it’s the new year and we all make resolutions. I made the resolution to quit smoking now for good. Maybe last time I chose the wrong e-cigarette brand. I tried Green Smoke. Or maybe it was the wrong starter kit (got myself the smallest one). Anyway, a friend of mine suggested to visit this site to read reviews and I opted for the brand they have ranked the highest – EverSmoke. Day before yesterday I received the kit and I was like a little kid opening it up and seeing what’s inside.

This time I decided not to be chap and got a fancier starter kit, a pro Kit :) Not sure I’m a pro vaper yet, but anyway, this is how it’s called. It cost $80 and included 2 batteries, an usb e-cigarette (no need to charge it, it’s connected to your PC-s USB port and has always power), chargers and 10 cartridges. Last time I ordered Green Smoke, I just got one battery, so while charging it, I couldn’t use it and ended up smoking a regular tobacco cigarette. Maybe this was the reason I couldn’t stop smoking after all? Now, with EverSmoke, when one battery is charging, I can use the 2nd one. And if both of them should be empty somehow, I can use the USB e-cig. So, some friendly advice – when getting yourself an electronic cigarette, make sure it has 2 or more batteries in the starter kit. Wish i had known it before.

And the best thing is that I haven’t smoked a single cigarette after I started using Eversmoke. It’s been a bit more than a day now, which is such a big achievement for me. Well, I feel like taking out the regular one sometimes, but then i go vaping the ecig and I’m happy again and forget about the tobacco stick. Just awesome, I’m so happy right now. I guess I smell much better already. Also, I’ve heard that the cigarette smoke leaves the body in a few days if you don’t smoke, so i should be free from the harmful ingredients of smoke by tomorrow. Feels good to be healthy :)

Regarding taste – it’s quite authentic, I get a nice throat hit and there’s lots of vapor. I think it’s quite similar to Green Smoke ecigs, as I remember I quite liked these as well. Right now I have just tobacco flavor, haven’t tried any other. But I’m surely going to try out other flavors as well. Peach could be nice, or cherry as well. let’s see how it goes. They have several tobacco flavors as well. Tried just classic one as of now.

So, as you can understand, I’m pretty exited. Can I keep my promise and stop smoking for good this year? Really hope so. At least i will try my best. And I think I have an excellent e-cigarette product to support that. I will definitely keep you updated, how this “experiment” goes. I think electronic cigarettes are amazing and can really save lives. Just you have to get yourself a good product. That’s why it’s wise to read the reviews before purchasing. So, wish me luck and if there are any questions about e-cigarettes or anything else, let me know.

fireworks

The dusty little cowboy town I live in puts on a fireworks show every NYE.  It’s always convenient as it is held in the rodeo grounds that happen to be directly across from my neighborhood.  Minus a tad bit of blockage from a Camphor tree, my driveway, or in years past, my rooftop is a picture perfect vantage point.  Every year, neighbors from down the street bang on the door in the afternoon to make sure they can camp in my driveway for yet another year.  But of course, sez me.  This year, I humbugged and ignored what would surely be a repeat.

 

The show never seems to vary.  Same predictable patterns.  Same staging.  Same soundtrack simulcast over a local radio station.Same “Proud To Be An American” finale.  It’s a great show, given the town where we live and the budget for such extravagances, but in the greater scheme of things, it’s anemic at best.

 

Despite the totalitarian ban on personal fireworks in these parts, there were a few folks braving incarceration in order to briefly light up their little patch of night sky;  and perhaps set their neighbor’s wood shake roof on fire.  There were a few window rattlers here and there through the night.  Here, however, so much as a sparkler is considered high treason.

 

My youth in the South spent with a a gross of bottle rockets in a paper sack are the days I long for.  Squinting over a fuse in the warm darkness through the smoke of a slow burning punk to get a glow, and then exhilaration at the moment of ignition make the bulk of my memories of the Fourth .  The simple stupidity of youth translated to braving the hissing fuse and waiting till just the right moment to sling the bottle rocket skyward.  Properly done, the propellant charge fired just as the rocket reached the top of the arc, thereby gaining another 20 or 30 feet of altitude before popping.  If you wanted to properly defend yourself in a neighborhood-wide bottle rocket war, you had to be versed at timing the burning fuse and throwing.  Otherwise, you stood behind trees, hoping concealment was the path to salvation.

 

I come from a place where recreational holiday explosives are to be enjoyed by one and all.  Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Fourth of July have their traditional meanings in Mississippi.  Those calender dates also mean colorful tents are raised outside the city limits and ceremoniously stuffed with enough cardboard and flash powder to take the tent and levitate it several hundred feet in the air.

 

And if one knew where to look?  There were even more powerful pyrotechnics to be had.

 

There was the venerable M-80.  Outlawed as a consumer firework in the late 1960s, the giant firecracker usually manifested itself in a red cardboard tube about an inch and a half long.  It was an unhealthy shade of red.  It had a thick, green Visco fuse sticking out of the side and contained about 3 grams of flash powder.  Heavily waxed on both ends, it made a helluva boom.

 

Much more choice, but also much more rare, was the Super M-80. It was the same “salute” type of firework as the M-80, just bootlegger bigger, as in twice as to three times as big as the standard M-80.

 

And if one saved his lunch money for a few weeks before the Fourth and knew which direction to point his bicycle, these little red tubes of instant mayhem could be purchased without much risk of prosecution by the local authorities.

 

One such outlet was Russel’s Used Cars on Shiloh Road.  A shabby little establishment with an even shabbier owner, Russel could be counted on to cast his morality aside for some quick profit.  Sometimes it took a bit of prodding, but eventually a brown grocery bag would be produced.  It would be brimming with green fuses and red bodies, like fruit just harvested from a tree.  He’d want to see the money first, so we’d each count out ten bucks.  In exchange, we’d get ten salutes each counted out into a smaller sack.  Then he’d issue his customary warning that if we were caught with the damned things and told anyone where we got them, he’d hunt us all down and castrate us with packing rubber bands and axle grease once he got out of jail.  Then he’d wink as we left, knowing we’d never sell out our source for explosives, even though pretty much everyone in town, including the cops, knew he sold them every year.

 

The M-80 was an awesome piece of powder manipulation.  Nowhere near the power of dynamite (dynamite has nitroglycerine in it.  The M-80 is just flash powder), it still had enough oomph to banana mailboxes and blow holes in creek banks and surface catfish all over Alcorn County.

 

There was one story I heard more than once.  My Daddy was supposedly riding around Corinth with a bunch of his boys.  Someone saw a setup for a good prank and produced an M-80 and lit it from the back seat.  He lobbed the smoking firework from left to right and recoiled in horror as it bounced off the rolled up window and skittered to the floor mat below.  All four doors opened and the occupants evacuated the still moving vehicle.  And as the creeping car collected a lampost on the corner, the M-80 detonated and blew out the back window.  Not to mention the tattered and charred tuck and roll……and the cost of the lamp post, come to think of it.

 

Insult to injury and all that.

 

More later from your pal, bitterman.

my favorite

I’m not sure how the thought entered my head, but I flashed back last night to one of my absolute favorite toys. Partly because it seems as though (like a ton of stuff that has passed through my hands over the years) it is now quite collectible; but mostly because it was a hard Christmas that year, both emotionally and financially.

 

The toy in question was the Vertibird Rescue Ship. For those not in the know, the Vertibird was a small toy helicopter made by Mattel. The little red plastic chopper was tethered to it’s base by a thin plastic trellis contraption that not only served to forever harness the tiny craft to a never ending three foot radius, but also functioned as a companionway for the drive wire that turned the rotor blade. The kit was extremely popular with the 8-12 year old crowd, myself included. Over the years, Mattel issued several versions of the Vertibird sets until its demise underneath more and more exotic technology.

 

We were living in Appomattox, Virginia, at the time. My father, just a slight year away from a premature death, was Superintendent of Appomattox Court House National Historic Site. I found my Vertibird underneath the Christmas tree one cold December morning in the living room of the Isabell House, the designated quarters of the Superintendent of the park at the time.

 

Many hours were frittered away pretending my styrofoam ship was the USS Hornet cruising the Pacific somewhere east of Hawaii. I was piloting the Sikorsky Sea King engaged in picking up the crew of Apollo 11. The Vertibird had a retractable hook amidships. A good pilot could use the hook to snag a small red plastic humanoid crouched in a life raft as the raft had a small plastic hoop arched from port to starboard. Likewise, there was a space capsule outfitted with the same lifting rig. Unfortunately for the detail oriented, the capsule resembled those of the Mercury/Gemini era, but it served well enough as a target for endless airborne lifesaving missions.

 

Once the attention to realism had faded slightly, it was always entertaining to throw down a maximum lateral g-loading test on my freshly saved subject. Usually he went all Gus Grissom on me, skittering under the couch or into the hall at an extremely high rate of speed. But he survived and lived on to be alternately rescued and tortured many thousands of times.

 

I’m not sure exactly what happened to my Vertibird Rescue Ship. I believe the drive wire finally wore out after months upon months of hellish use, finally bending to the point that the small chopper would not fly without serious control issues and massive vibration. Then, as any hellion child would that was worth is salt, I dismembered the styrofoam ship bit by bit and the whole contraption finally ended up in the trash.

 

It’s silly, but I sure wish I had it back……….

 

More later from your pal, bitterman.

 

an ultimatum

Skip the new Bourne movie, especially if you are down with the Ludlum books.  The first two movies, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, were suprisingly quite good, given Hollywood’s zeal for fucking up good stories.  The second only fell slightly short of the first.  However, the third installment of the Bourne saga fails miserably.

 

The story is difficult to follow given the sound bite style of dialogue and the awful camera work.  I suppose the director tried to give the movie goer a first person seat in the script but only succeeded in given me a headache and making Wifey motion sick.  The camera constantly jumps around and shakes off frame.  The action sequences, which I was looking foward to, are completely factored out thanks to the blurry speed shots and queasy ride alongs that ricochet off the roof and seat non stop.  A smattering of the “through my eyes” camera work cut here and there would have been fine, but a twenty second shot of Bourne’s out of focus, shakey ear eclipsing the Nicky Parsons character as she looks forlorn for yet a third time broke the straw for me.  We get it, director.  Way to run it in the ground.  Where are the sweeping, lost, urban vistas and some respect for the level of stunt work from the lense?  The whole experience was a pure letdown, as most all movies are these days.  Hollywood has turned into enemy number one.

 

Well, that and a passle of kids who wouldn’t shut their yaps over some dinglenut girl’s birthday.  So we had them tossed out.  Told them as a group as they passed that I would be coming for my $10.00 they managed to wash if they were hanging around.  Would be extracting it from their ass if they didn’t have cash, sez me.

 

Here’s a word to you parents of 12-14 year old kids.  Quit shoving cell phones and A&F and XBox and money and everything else under the fucking sun in these kids hands so you don’t have to deal with them.  You are only tailspinning your children by giving them such an overblown, distorted sense of entitlement.  How about teaching them some life’s lessons, like having some respect for the folks around you at a movie theater.  That’s supposedly an easy one.

 

But then again, most of you idiots out there in the world that breed are not much smarter than your kids anyway.  Generally, the mother of a brainless, gum smacking airhead with a cell phone glued to her ear will be a brainless, gum smacking airhead with a cell phone glued to her ear.  How tragic.

 

More later from your pal, bitterman.

rerun

Pop definitely had a twisted sense of humor…..

 

My little town was void of any form of weekend entertainment.  A few fast food places and a two screen movie house were about the extent of leisure choices.

 

As a result, we road tripped a lot on the weekends as a family. Our destinations and activities were pretty much the norm for any family, I suppose.  We never ventured much more than 100 miles out of town.  Eating at a nice restaurant usually occupied the top rung on the priorities ladder.  Dinner would be followed by farting around a mall or window shopping downtown.  Our town had no big discount stores at the time, so sometimes a trip to a larger town would include visiting the Kmart or the Wal-Mart for sundry item purchases at volume store prices.  We were also regulars at big auto mall areas to look over the latest Buicks and Fords.  Car shopping was among Pop’s passions.

 

Before we got too far down the road, Pop always polled us on a dinner selection for the evening.  The meal choice determined which of the two highways to take out of town and in which direction we would travel.

 

A consensus for Chinese food dictated south on US 45 to Tupelo, Mississippi, to the Sun Kai, elegantly situated in front of the All American Motor Inn.  Requests for Mexican food meant east on US 72 to Florence, Alabama, and El Toro Restaurant, or perhaps west on US 72 to Memphis, Tennessee, and a Pancho’s sit down place.  Steak indicated a trip north on US 45 to Jackson, Tennessee, to visit The Ribeye Barn, where they brought a marbled side of beef to your table and carved off a slab to your specifications.  Fish (a regional catch all term referring to Catfish) meant a trip off the beaten path through Shiloh, Tennessee, on Hwy 22 to Hagy’s Catfish Hotel, which was situated on the West Bank of the Tennessee River.

 

There were many other selections, cities, and directions, but you get the general idea.  We were pretty predictable but we always had fun.

 

One Friday night, while on an easterly itenerary along US 72 for Mexican food, Mom decided that we needed to stop at the Kmart for a few things.

 

Up and down the isles we walked while Mom selected whatever items she needed.  I believe a sale table caught Mother’s eye because the procession suddenly stopped for a few moments.

 

I remember seeing the rack of hideous fur and velour hats next to the table that was occupying Mom.  It was like a beacon for a circus troupe that might have strayed off course.  There were big floppy pimp hats of all colors and shapes.  There were Zebra print and purple ones.  There were big brims and bowlers.  Some had fuzzy bands.  Others had scarves and feathers.

 

Pop made a beeline to the hat rack and immediately called me over.  He shoved the zebra striped number down on my ears and selected the big floppy purple chapeau for himself.  We turned and “ta-dah’d” in Mom’s direction.  She looked up from her rummaging long enough to cringe and call us by our long names.  Getting called by your long name, that is to say your first and middle name, usually indicated trouble. She huffed her displeasure, directed my father to please act his age for once, and immediately went back to rummaging.

 

The long names were delivered quickly and at a moderate tone followed by only moderate eye roll, so the threat meter was still low.  There was usually a long way to travel between the blue zone and the red zone on Mom’s threat meter.  A few buttons had been pushed but not nearly enough in the humble opinion of my Pop.  As he passed me, he snagged the hat off my head and replaced it on the rack.  Sidling up next to my mother, he began to try to kiss and nuzzle her playfully.  The brim of the silly hat was banging her in the ear and folding over on her neck.  Mother would have none of it.  She pushed him away and followed up by swatting at him with whatever article of clothing she had in her hand at the time.  Pop backed off a few steps, laughing.  He held his arms up and shrugged his shoulders as if to ask how she could possibly turn her nose up at such a stylish wardrobe choice?

 

Waggling his eyebrows and adjusting his hat, he moved in again.

 

This time, as he drew closer, he folded up one arm like a chicken wing as if to mimic a disability.  He began dragging one leg behind him.  He stuck his tongue out and sloppily licked his lips all round, rolled his eyes, and tucked his right ear over on his right shoulder.  My mother’s eyes narrowed in anger. It may not have been the most PC thing to lay claim to, but my Pop had the hair lip, physically disabled, retard impression down cold.  My sister and I cheered the new developments.

 

Mom, in a cunning bit of strategy, immediately put the table between them, intent on continuing her rummaging unmolested.  Undeterred, Pop took up the pursuit, pursing and smacking his lips, begging for a kiss in his mogoloid mimic, and dragging his bum leg across the tile floor.

 

My parents lapped the table four or five times before Mom had enough and made a defiant stand.  She picked up a package of socks and began wailing away on poor Pop.  The more she swatted him, the more boldly he advanced.  The more she made contact with the Hanes, the tighter he wadded himself up in mock defense.  The more she hollered his long name, the louder he grunted.  The longer the sock whipping lasted, the louder my sister and I cheered and twirled.  As Pop’s arms wrapped around Mother’s waist, the melee fell into Mother accenting each blow she struck at point blank range with a syllable of Pop’s long name.  My sister and I jumped up and down and egged on Pop’s advance.

 

I noticed a pair of little blue-haired ladies out of the corner of my eye and turned to face them.  It was obvious by the look of sheer horror on their faces that they rebuked my mother for whipping the tar out of a poor retarded man with a package of Hanes Crew Socks.  They were equally mortified at the level of joy my sister and I derived from witnessing the depraved act.  I am sure that when they returned from whence they came, they related the story to their own loved ones, making sure to point out the fact that the crazy woman’s kids were, in fact, cheering and dancing around like little devils.

 

Once they realized they had been spotted, the two little old ladies made a beeline for the next available isle and disappeared from site.  By that time, Mom had broken out into spontaneous laughter and the ass whipping by socks slowly dissolved into a mutual embrace.  Pop set her back down on the ground, released her from his grip, and turned to replace the purple pimp hat.  Mom smacked him in the back of the head for good measure before replacing the mangled package of socks on the shelf.

 

Pop simply grinned out from under his crazy white eyebrows, hitched up his pants, and began to glide towards the front of the store doing the most ridiculous hip walk you have ever seen in your life.

 

Mom followed with my sister and I in tow, begging him to behave and hollering his long name.

 

More later from your pal, bitterman.

 

 

remember college?

I opened up the internet news this morning and this article was first to assault my eyeballs. Obviously, there is a very low percentage of citizens under the age of 38 who reside outside Metro Atlanta -or even the State of Georgia, for that matter- that have even a vague clue who Drivin N Cryin might be. No matter.

 

I hated the fact that some tweeker asshole nicked their gear trailer, but I remembered I had bestowed upon them a Bullet With Spangles on a solid Top 10 placing on my “Twenty-five Bands That Will Always Reside In My Record Collection” list.

 

One day you ignorant consumers of copious amounts of Pro Tooled and Auto Tuned slop will wake up, old, tired, and forgotten. And it will be too late to search for your soul over the internet. No one assembles bands like this anymore. Some corporate spook rivets together instrumentation backed up with gigabytes and holds his hand out for the million. Bah.

 

“What was it like in the bad old days, uncle bitterman?”

 

Well, I’ll tell you, you obnoxious little puke……

 

Gas, beer, gravel roads, and cassette tapes were cheap and plentiful. We used a lot of all four of them. That’s all you really need to know right now. The rest will either come to you or it won’t and I cannot help you with that.

a repost in memorial

I recently heard of the passing of Howard Anderson, body man and wrecker driver of some local note, back home. Pop’s 79th birthday was a few days ago.

 

I figured this would be a worthy repost……..

 

I read in my hometown paper that the honorable Judge James P. Dean passed away recently.

 

Judge Dean was the Municipal Judge in my hometown for 30 years. In his tenure on the City Hall bench, he presided over 3,200 cases per year; some 96,000 cases all told, the simple math tells us.

 

And on one fateful summer afternoon in May, 1981, a rough estimation would put my singular little run-in with Judge Dean long about case number 8,000. The hefty impression his bench left upon my noggin remains quite indelible to this day.

 

The story goes a little something like this…….

 

While fetching my sister from a piano lesson, a shapely bottom and a tanned pair of long legs attached to a girl pumping gas distracted me from my driving duties. I had earned my Mississippi driver’s license the previous November.

 

My heart sank to my knees as I looked back to 12 o’clock just in time to see the welded steel business end of Howard Anderson’s wrecker at a dead stop at the Red Light in front of B&R Drugs on Shiloh Road. I knew it was over the moment I looked back to the road ahead.

 

I stomped the brakes as hard as my Converse-shod foot would allow, but it was to no avail. The little white Celica coupe crawled right up the tow bar, which was lowered parallel with the roadway. The hood crinkled and was uplifted into a foot tall vertical fold, shedding large flakes of white paint on the way. Glass and plastic crunched and busted. The sweet smell of ethylene glycol made its way to my nose. Steam floated into the air and condensed on the windshield. My sister began shrieking in panic shortly after impact.

 

I had managed to fatally wound my Mother’s little Toyota by skewering it right through the radiator with the tow bar of a stationary wrecker, no less, just a mile or so from home.

 

It was a helpless feeling of dread that washed over me when Pop’s red El Camino made the turn onto Shiloh Road. How did he find out so fast? A bunch of people honked and waved. Briefly, I considered fleeing the scene, leaving my sister to her own fate and taking my chances with the wild animals in Sharp’s Bottom. Unable to summon the nerve to run, I stood my ground and tried to second guess the outcome as the El Camino swayed to a stop and the driver’s door swung open.

 

Pop never acknowledged my existence, really.  Instead, he made a beeline for the cop and and the car. The officer on the scene gestured here and pointed there and at me. I stuffed my hands farther into my jeans pockets and swept a few gravels aside with my sneaker.

 

Then Pop steered for the damaged car. He peered under the hood, now shaped much like a Boy Scout pup tent. Digging his pen knife from a front pocket, he rocked up on his toes, exerted some force, and momentarily emerged with the fan belts in hand.  The belts got tossed in the back of the El Camino.  He took my sister in tow and told me to take the Toyota, even though damaged, and follow him directly home.

 

Once we got home, he lectured me briefly on the educational as well as room and board opportunities the Armed Services were offering. There was some finger pointing, a bit of yelling, and a hastily drawn up cost analysis sheet, as I recall. I thought a time or two he might reach back and pop me, but he never did. Not that I didn’t deserve a sore behind or even a fat lip, mind you.

 

Then, almost with the same intensity, he left it alone. It was if the incident had never happened. The car magically found its way to a body shop. Life was seemingly back to normal.

 

The matter of the moving violation I received for slamming into a wrecker at a stoplight came due just as the silence was getting comfortable. “Following Too Closely” was the actual charge.

 

“Hey, Pop,” I said as I entered the kitchen one morning holding the ticket, “This thing is due in a day or two so I thought I’d go down to the City Hall and pay it.  Can I borrow a car today?”

 

He smiled shrewdly across the top of his half glasses.

 

“Oh, no, boy. I’m afraid that I cannot help you with transportation for some time yet to come,” he said. “In addition, there will be no payment of the ticket. You’ll be going to court to see what the judge has to say about this situation.”

 

Pop had a plan, you see. I would stew and brood over my fate for the better part of two weeks more. And with a bit of casual propaganda flung about courtesy of Pop, I was pretty much convinced that the Municipal Courtroom in City Hall would be the next to last stop on my merry way to the Mississippi State Prison at Parchman.

 

I rose and dressed in my Sunday clothes the morning of my date with the court. Pop kept sticking his head in my room as I prepared, casting looks of gloom and doom. He asked me to hurry up. Apparently, it was a bad omen to be late for your very first in what – in his humble opinion – promised to be a long line of court dates. With breakfast done, Pop and I were off to see Judge James P. Dean.

 

We were an hour early for my appearance time. Pop lead me to a ringside seat on Judge Dean’s right hand side and motioned to a chair. There, we sat while Judge Dean processed my corrupted peers one after the other.

 

I was rattled to the core. I felt light headed. My lips stuck together. It was as if someone had place wool socks on all of my teeth. The sweat ran in uncomfortably hot rivulets down my rib cage and saturated my shirt. The parade of hooligans and their foolish behavior popped every rivet in any boilerplate idea I might have ever had about a life less than the moderately straight and narrow. And if I had a moment’s clarity, I could have glanced to my left and realized that Pop could barely contain the joy he was experiencing as the pressure folded me up like a cheap card table.

 

The baliff bellowed my case number and name. Pop elbowed me in the ribs and told me to get moving. I complied and weaved my way through the seats and rows to a worn spot on the marble floor in front of Judge Dean’s bench. My legs felt wobbly and my head was swimming in fear. There I was. All legs and arms and zits, at a loose stance of attention. All I needed at that point was a cigarette and the blindfold.

 

Honestly, I don’t remember a word that Judge Dean spoke to me on that morning. I was too busy trying not to pass out on the man’s altar of justice to pay any attention to what grains of wisdom he might be imparting to me.

 

Finally he swung the gavel down on his bench and the sullen thump snapped me to my senses.

 

“I’m going to assume for your sake, Mr. Madden, that I shall not being seeing you in my court room again. Is this a true statement, sir?” said Judge Dean as he leaned over his elbow and affixed my wide eyes with his.

 

“Yes, sir,” I stammered. “That would be a true statement.”

 

“See that the charges are dropped against Mr. Madden and dismiss this case from the docket,” said the judge.

 

Pop stood up and motioned me towards the double doors in the back of the court room. I wheeled around and beelined for the hall. The cool air in the dim passage hung heavy with the scent of Pine-Sol and floor wax. I loosened my neck tie, wiped the remaining beads of sweat from my forehead and out of my eyes, and shouldered a section of marble clad wall to compose myself.

 

Pop sauntered out shortly and I followed him to the car, humbled but relieved.

 

I don’t recall what transpired on the drive home. Time has erased our conversation – if there was any – from my memory.

 

But for the remainder of my time at home with Pop and as an eventual reinstated, trusted operator of his vehicles, I never again – not once – wrinkled sheet metal on any of his cars.

 

 

 

 

 

only a dream

It wasn’t so much that I was floating above the melee looking down upon myself. Not at all. But it was as if someone had transformed the scene my eyes were trying to process into a small slice of cinematic glory; as if it were running as a 35mm film on a screen. I even saw the scratches and motes of dust slip by. At one point, I thought I smelled buttered popcorn.

 

Barely three months into our probationary year, six of us were selected to attend a Mississippi State Fire Academy class designed to introduce us to techniques favored in harnessing conflagrations fueled by that friend of trailer parks and meth labs through out the Piney Woods, Liquid Propane gas.

 

There was to be a day long class followed by a dinner break. We were to reconvene after sunset at a large parking lot for a series of training evolutions with live fire conditions.

 

The class glopped along like a tootsie roll stuck to your shoe. It’s fire. We spray water at it until it submits, blah, blah, blah. However, the in-depth mechanics of the adjustable 1 ½ inch fog nozzles we staked our lives upon broke my 6 hour snooze. Water is broken into fine droplets and spread out conically, lterally thrown by rotating turbines in the nozzle head. Supposedly, by spinning the water out into very small droplets, the surface area of the water is increased, allowing the water to absorb more heat, turn to steam, and then displace atmosphere from the fire, effectively smothering it.

 

Before we left the classroom, one bad ass instructor in particular slowed our roll with a firm suggestion. There would be two apparatus on the training ground that night. One simulated an average 500 gallon LP gas tank impinged with fire and venting gas.

 

“The second apparatus we call the Christmas Tree”, said No Neck from under his push broom mustache. He about-faced and once again blocked the door we were trying to escape through.

 

“You boys fuck this up,” and he eyeballed us rookies and backhandedly grinned at us like he’d wiped his hairy ass with every strip of bacon we consumed that morning, ” and somebody will get burned. It’s a guarantee.”

 

The concept was easy enough to understand; the trusty inch and a half fog nozzle flowing its full capacity would be used to push the fire back; to corral it, in a word, to get a man to a shut off valve, thereby killing the monster.

 

Now, I may have fallen off the turnip truck when it rolled through town on day but I can assure you it was not in the dark.

 

There is no inbound shut off valve on a stand alone LP tank. Either the product is expended or at some point, or the metal tank fails due to heat and WHA-BOOOOOOM……

 

Everything within (distance grows based on capacity of tank) feet or so is incinerated by x gallons of propane morphing into a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. There will be LP tanks impinged with fire in the real world. Big ones, small ones, mobile ones; it’s a sure thing. There is another sure thing on that betting line. You can bet your sweet ass any fire brigade with a brain in their head will stand off and huck thousands of gallons of water on the tank to control the temperature in a effort to lessen metal fatigue until the gas burns itself out.

 

Simulated, I thought. Meaning controlled, a fail safe in place somewhere, manageable, dangerous if not executed properly, but no one was going home in an ash tray unless they were known for habitually wearing their ass for a hat. My boys and I were ready.

 

They are certainly not going to march up to it behind a couple of inch and a half fog nozzles. Heh. Right? Uh….

 

But this Christmas Tree thing was an unknown quantity. I pondered the techniques over and over in my head while we drove around Hattiesburg looking for a decent place to eat.

 

Evening came. We navigated through the gloam to this parking lot in an industrial area of the county. We parked and suited up. It was a ritual pounded into our heads at the academy. Your turn out gear goes on the same way, every time. You do not enter the training field unless you are booted and suited. Helmets on. Shields down. Chin strap buckled.

 

All a trainer would have to do is say the word “ding” or any other monosyllabic place holder for the sound of a bell ringing. Hell, he could just whisper it. You had a grand total of 60 seconds from the first foot into the boot till the shield on the helmet coming down. A glove-muffled overhead hand clap signified completion. Your hands remained over your head until the trainer looked at your buttons, snaps, straps, and so on. Then you grabbed a face full of ground and counted off 25 or so.

 

We passed by several groups of mismatched county volunteers and a large LP gas delivery truck; the kind you might see in any rural county. A rubber hose, perhaps an inch or so in diameter led a couple hundred feet away to a structure built out of unidentifiable pipe that indeed resembled a tree. Somewhat……

 

The “tree” was about 8 feet tall. Scrawny doesn’t even begin to describe this sad little statue. Unimpressive, even given the fact that this tree was welded steel and not wood. It’s skeletal appearance gave it no character. There was nothing here to dread, other than the toothless rednecks from the volunteer ranks. This evergreen edifice was of no consequence whatsoever, or so it seemed.

 

The training officers made their preachments and called for the first groups to stand by. We lowered our eye protection on command as a trainer advanced on the tree with a burning torch affixed to the end of a 12 foot pike pole. The engine in the LP gas truck revved a slight bit and with a whoosh, the steel tree was covered in a small orange fireball. I remember thinking if that was it, this whole deal would be a cake walk.

 

Two hose lines advance with 4 men on each. A training officer was in the middle of the two hose lines and within ear shot of the person holding the nozzle. A ninth man stood behind the training officer. It was his job to wriggle through the mass of water and fire and extend his hand to the base of the tree to a shutoff valve located there.

 

The training officer raised an arm and spun his hand in a circle.

 

The LP gas truck now grunted down low as the revs built up to a hollow diesel moan. Promptly, the truck was drown out by what could only be attributed to a large jet plane landing directly on us, if one was to go by aural cues alone. The rising, whooshing, thunderous rumble of large volumes of gas whistling and screaming out the open ends of pipe was then accented by a fireball at least forty feet tall and twelve or fifteen feet around at the base. It layered and lapped itself into more or less a tear drop shape.

 

The instant sunrise lit our faces to a golden glow and revealed commonalities. Never mind, personal beliefs, religious affiliations, political parties, sexual proclivities, or anything else that might separate us on the street.

 

Tonight, for whatever it was worth, we walked into this fire together………

 

 

 

nightstalker

There was an unexpected change in temperature. The mission planners calculated the load for another temperature. The Blackhawk couldn’t hold a hover and she bumped. It happens. The difference here is that any other pilot would have most likely screwed the machine into the ground and there would have been loss of life. The Nightstalker PIC either manhandled the Blackhawk into staying aloft until the SEALs were off the ropes and clear, or he never let them out when he realized he had a problem on what would have been a hellaciously fast decent, and then safely got the thing on the ground so the SEALs could deplane. Either way, the reason no one was killed were the men in the right seats of those Blackhawks.

 

There were big, blacked out MH-47Gs just minutes away and in place for just such a contingency. The unfortunate lessons learned from the valiant and brave actions of the crews of the Super Sea Stallion Dashes at Desert One and Mike Durant’s Super Six Four have taken root and the deadly Chinooks raced in with guns blazing for the extraction. Add to it that Nighstalkers never quit, and the result is nobody died this time, that is except for the those with the Nighstalker reticle on their foreheads.

 

I am biased, of course. Two good friends are deep into helos. One is a DoD test engineer that has worked closely with the 160th SOAR developing various projects. The other is just beginning his Army helicopter career with the mighty Bell 209 and is on his way to making a fine military pilot. I wish them both good luck and good flying. Like me, their respect of SEAL Team Six is undeniable, but their hearts and souls were flying with the Nightstalker crews and their Blackhawks.

 

The Nightstalkers make no secret of their mission or their creed, my pinheaded friends. Death waits in the dark. It’s as simple as that.

 

ACHTUNG!

 

The following video contains naked chicks, folks of the Middle Eastern persuasion disappearing before your very eyes into a silky red mist, and the absolute baddesthelo pilots in the entire world.

 

NSDQ!

closed due to pox. check back thursday

Seems as though I have managed to procure myself a little dose of Le Grippe. Consumption. Bloody Flux. Grocer’s Itch. Hook Worm. Commotion. Scrumpox. Scrofula. Scriviner’s Palsy. The Screws. And so on and so on.

 

I did make out like a bandit in the heavy antibiotics and liquid narcotics department, however. Thus one can easily explain away the rambling verbosity I am currently exhibiting. it leads me to believe that Faulkner could be replicated perhaps -reconstituted for these modern times- with just a dram or two of the purple drank. Beats the bloody hell out of a two quart a day bourbon habit. Although he’d have been hard pressed for a Jolly Rancher.

 

Ah the miracle of modern medicine. Praise be, I’m five lowly Azithromycin pills away from salvation – 250 mg to be taken with food.

 

There was a time fate found me facing a critical aquatics test for a summer job and a ripping case of bronchitis simultaneously. I pleaded and begged with the attending Doc at the student health center. He was a friend of the bass player in my band, not that it is relevant. I gladly dropped trou for the nurse. She blasted my gluteus maximus with a boat load of Bicillin LA – the standard treatment for Syphilis as well. Good for what has crawled upon you and died, either way.

 

Twas many a year ago now, but I seem to remember catching a glimpse of a Prince Albert can with a 23G 1.5 bolted to the end of it. Think in terms of something with enough bore to push chunky peanut butter through. This sterile mother would have been suitable to harpoon the family cat.

 

Anyway. Twelve hours later found me cured, kicking with one leg, and steady clicking off 2000 meters in the pool.

 

I’m currently hoping for a similar result.

 

 

 

Let’s get a few things straight.

 

There is no doubt that DEVGRU -more commonly known as SEAL Team Six- are an elite team of nearly superhuman warriors. The press certainly seems to think that they stand alone on the pinnacle of military power. But if you consider the airborne chariots that delivered DEVGRU to their insertion point, exposed themselves to provide air cover, and then extracted the SEALs when the bad guys were full of 5.56 NATO, you might realize there is another group that deserve as many accolades as the SEALs, if not more.

 

 

 

 

May I be perhaps the only person in the free world currently without an uncontrollable hard on for SEAL Team Six to acknowledge and thank the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the Nightstalkers, for their care and seriously professional skill in delivering DEVGRU to their glory. Even with the loss of one Blackhawk, they did not suffer a casualty.

 

In regards to the Blackhawk that bumped…….

 

Firstly, helicopters -just as a concept- really only fly on paper. The ones you see over your freeways or wildfires or neighborhoods (if you live in Oakland) are really held up by wires and made to appear to fly by little men in suits in Pasadena. And you think I am clowning around here. Really.

 

Secondly, based on the firstly fact that they really don’t fly without a little man in a suit furiously flapping his arms and rowing his legs to and fro in an angular plane, helos crashing is an all too common scenario. Hot, heavy, and high. It’s killed more helo pilots in the high desert terrain of that god forsaken shit hole called Afghanistan than you know about.