HARD AS STONE

SENSITIVITY STATEMENT

DukeCrop

I’m Jay Stone, Chief Petty Officer (CPO or simply “Chief”) in the United States Navy. At least, I think I’m still officially working for the Navy. You’ll see what I mean shortly. I’m the Team Leader of Bravo Team. No, that doesn’t make me the unit “commander;” that would be Lieutenant-Commander (LCDR) Graves. He’s the team’s commissioned officer & formal unit chief. As Team Leader, I’m simply the field lead operative. Depending on who you ask, I’m the team’s real leader while Graves is more of the department administrator. All the big wigs in Washington see Graves as the leader while most of the operator’s you meet in the field defer to me instead. You see, I’m an enlisted guy just like the other 80% or so of military professionals who trade slugs with the enemy face-to-face in the mud. But as a small special warfare element, everyone on this unit is a capable & experienced grunt. Graves included; hell, his nickname before he received his commission was Grunt!

Anyway, you’ll hear more about Graves–or “LT” as we call him–later. But while we’re on the topic, technically we should address Graves as “Sir” or “Commander.” But since most of us came up from SEAL platoons, which are 16-men units headed by a Lieutenant, its just habit to call the boss man “L-T.” He doesn’t seem to mind. He’s not too caught up in the officer/enlisted thing; but really at this level, hardly anyone is. As I was saying, we are a 5-man direct action combat unit modeled heavily after the US Navy SEALs. I say “man” because, as of now, there are only men on the team. We don’t have any qualms about having a women join our ranks. In fact, we often go into the teeth of battle with women leading the way; mostly the secretive CIA types. We are the CQB (Close-Quarter-Battle) element of a small special warfare task force, the name of which I will reveal later. Our unit, Bravo Team, infiltrates & exfiltrates our target areas the same way SEAL Platoons do–by Sea, Air, & Land. In addition, we share most of the same mission profiles, although our charter calls for a narrower list of responsibilities. We only deploy with a max of our 5 guys with occasional support of a 2-man sniper team; SEALs can deploy in a full platoon of 16, or at least they did when I was there.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about unit integrity & have you meet the other guys. Typically, I lead a 4-man team in the field; but I don’t technically always lead the way. That’s the Point man’s job. That would be Reyes. He acts as our primary pathfinder & almost always spearheads the formation. I’m usually next followed by our Assaulter/Breacher Bowman. After him its Compton bringing up the rear as Assaulter/Tail Gunner. This scheme represents our most frequently used load out. Sometimes, LT goes out into the field with us. When he does, he lines up between Bowman & me. This way, LT is the man in the middle if we make contact & he can split us up into two separate maneuver elements with me & Reyes as alpha & Bowman & Compton as bravo. LT can join either element as needed but he most often stays under cover & directs each element as an observing 3rd party. In our task force, we call this our “fireteam plus one”(fireteam + 1) format. When we go full force, we work alongside Variable, a 2-man sniper unit for fire support. Typically, that’s it; that’s all we got. Now, depending on the situation, we usually have close air support via helicopter or drone strike; but that’s when we really get fancy!

In formal military parlance, they call units like us low intensity conflict solutions. That’s a bit of a misnomer, because the conflict gets really intense & the stakes are always really high. When I say stakes are high, we are talking the difference between making to work for your 9 am presentation or nuclear holocaust depending on mission success or failure. I laugh when I hear my friends back home talk about not being able to sleep because of anxiety from their jobs. If they only knew!

Anyway, they call us “low intensity conflict” operatives not because the conflict is low stakes, just small scale. When I say small scale, I mean 4 to 16 guys taking on an enemy maybe 12 to 60 members strong; and that’s on a big operation. The fighting is still fierce & high risk, it’s just not high intensity in terms of a giant World War II style battlefield with 100,000 soldiers all jumbled in an area of a few square miles. Our missions look more like those of a big city SWAT team raiding a local organized crime warehouse. The difference is, our jurisdiction is global & the implications are bigger than that. How “big” you ask? Real “big”. We’re talking borders on your smart phone’s GPS change day by day based on the things me & my guys do the night before “big”. We’re talking North Korea doesn’t launch a missile capable of reaching our capital because one of my guys made a pin point shot with his last bullet from 100 meters with his left hand when he’s right handed “big”!

SShheeewww! Low intensity conflict. Pahhh-LEAZE!! Anxiety over having to present a proposal to the boss the next day. Most people wouldn’t last two hours in my world. But, truth be told, I’m probably no more stressed or no loss stressed than everyone else is at their office job or in their factory somewhere. Because the truth is, this is simply what I’ve chosen to do. And I explain it to people like this. Stress, fear, anger, anxiety . . . they are all just universal emotions. It’s just like turning up the volume on your fancy stereo when you favorite song comes up. If your volume meter only goes up to ten & you typically have it on 8 or 9 for your average song, you can still only crank it up one more notch even for a real kick ass song!  We can’t freak out 10 times worse than normal just because the stakes are 10 times higher. That’s a realization that brought me some finally brought me some peace. I used to resent my civilian neighbors more than I do now for living filled with such petty concerns. But then I realized that what looks petty to be as I’m trying prevent the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile looks big to someone back home trying to hold down a job. I don’t consider those guys lesser men anymore–just different. After all, I choose to do this. I was made to do this. God has different plans for different men; but we are still men. We are all still necessary & valuable. We each just have to serve our purpose. And I haven’t even gotten to the women yet! Where would we do without them?

Anyway, that’s what terminal recognition did for me; enabled me to forgive my neighbors for living a life different from mine. Terminal recognition is the term we use in the task force for that idea that we can only feel fear up a a set max level. Once you hit level 10, rest assured you are adequately aware of the high stakes. Focusing on your fear or how big a moment it is beyond this becomes counter productive. At this point, you’ve acknowledged the risk. Now it’s time to block out the emotion, formulate a plan, & execute it. That’s what we call terminal recognition. Any emotion beyond that point is just pure distraction.

We may be SEALs. We may be badass. We may be tough. But we’re still only programmed to max out emotional awareness at level 10.

I’m Jay Stone. Most people think I’m a hard-ass. The guys I work with tell me I’m “hard as stone.” And I don’t guess they’re wrong.

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FICTION FRONT PAGE

ADVENTURE FICTION

SENSITIVITY STATEMENT

LT

Up to this point (May 2020), I’ve used this site as a virtual shelf to display my collection of 12″ GI Joes along with an assortment of other 1/6 scale action figures.Now I’ve decided to write a bit of fiction recording the action through the eyes of my 12 ” heroes as they navigate the perils of my scaled down, imaginary world. I have always had a deep interest in the military, in history, & recently in politics: as such, I will strive to keep everything realistic insofar as I will base everything on the real world without specifically writing about real world events. I never served in the military. I do not intend to criticize or to judge anyone else’s culture, beliefs, or  life experience (see SENSITIVITY STATEMENT for details). I just want to tell a compelling story and, in doing so, demonstrate the reason that a man well into his thirties has remained so glued to relics of his childhood. Some people play video games to visit an alternate reality; I used to drink to do so. But now, I choose to do this. It’s more creative, less expensive, & less dangerous.

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Two Princes

“One, two, princes kneel before you . . . Princes, princes who adore you . . . One has diamonds in his pockets . . . This one, he wants to buy you rockets/ Ain’t in  his head, now.”     —-From a song by Spin Doctors, circa 1993

Princes
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A few years ago, when I was already a grown man, my father revealed something to me. He had recently experienced a vision. Everything happened from the first person point of view & from the perspective of an older man. This older man seeks the counsel of a psychic. We’ll call him, “the Seeker.” Through the opaque sphere of the crystal ball, the Seeker perceives his past life as a prince. He sees the splendor of medieval castles complete with all the accouterments befitting royalty. The Seeker sees himself through the crystal ball as a strapping young man at the peak of his physical strength but still too headstrong & inexperienced to become king. Still, this prince appears right on the brink of ascension. The son brims with excitement at the prospect of replacing his father as undisputed ruler. You know how the saying goes; like father, like son. But in this case, the son has become the father’s biggest rival.

The vision becomes vague from here. You see, reading crystal balls is not a precise action like watching YouTube on your wireless tablet. Sometimes you can see a story with clear, concise chronology; but the more you watch, the more you become entranced with the whole practice. Towards the end, you only see bits & pieces of scattered images & then it’s up to you to piece together what it all means. I guess it’s because they didn’t have high speed WiFi during the era that produced crystal balls! Anyway, the Seeker also sees the image of an embellished broad sword hanging on a wall. The sword, although beautifully elaborate, has never tasted blood. The next image the Seeker relays is that of a treasure locked away deep underneath the castle in a room that seems oddly familiar. The Seeker leaves the session with the psychic believing only what he wants to believe. He perceives the images to mean that in a past life, he, the Seeker, had been a prince on the brink of greatness. But somehow, he dies before he fulfills his destiny–symbolized by the unused sword. However, the Seeker can still reap the spoils of the conquest he never completed in his previous life in his current one–symbolized by the hidden treasure locked in a room that he can almost locate. The trick, the Seeker believes, is to decode the hidden location of the treasure room through his repressed memory; then, the glorious reign he never experienced in his past life, he can enjoy in the here & now!

My older brother got married several years ago now. It was so long ago, the one & only child from that union is now a committed middle school student who already grapples with adult-level questions, like her future occupation. My brother is the kind of man who would have always lived this model, dutiful life. He was always a one-woman man; & true to form, he & his wife are still married & will always be till death do they part; because, that’s just the kind of man he is. This brother currently lives the life that our father would have hoped for all of us. I bring the story of his wedding into our current one because it was such a spectacular affair. They held their combined ceremony & reception at a venue that stood atop a steep multi-terraced hill. At least one of the hills featured a lavish fountain. Further down the terrace eventually disappeared into a gently flowing river.  And all the guests could enjoy this amazing sight from atop the pinnacle, from a reception area complete with tables shaded under white canopies; their banners flying proudly against the warm, blue May sky. The ceremony was one fit for a King–& a Queen of course. On a side note, I’d like to make a clarification in the pursuit of accuracy. Earlier, I stated that my brother had always been a one woman man. This statement was correct up to the time the happy couple’s daughter was born. Now, my brother is technically a “two woman man” but I think we can all give him a pass for this: his daughter does have a rather pleasant demeanor to her. It’s as though my brother & his wife have their very own princess!

TO BE CONTINUED (SOON)

Wedding
For photo’s source material, CLICK HERE.

It’s Covid19, but still: Take a Breath

Sometimes it is so difficult to allow life to happen in the order it should. For example, I had planned to post my reflection on the arrival of our real world SHTF scenario when life in the Great United States stood still in mid-March over Covid19 fears. It would’ve made so much more sense for that declaration to come before what I’m going to say today. That even in a crisis when many communities have been stricken with tragedy; there is still time to stop & take a breath, to look around, and to reassess the direction our lives have been going all that time before when we were stuck in top gear.

I watch the news too; as much as I can tolerate to do so, that is. My Mom used to say that too much of anything is a poison & she recently retired as an accomplished Family Care Physician.  So although I strive to stay informed, I refuse to spend my entire day soaking up all the doom & gloom. I recognize that many people have died; and many survivors suffer amid the loss & despair that have been left behind. Today I heard some expert on some network declare that breathing in the presence of another person in public spaces is one of the easiest ways to proliferate the spread, hence the emphasis on the use of masks. “They are not for your protection but for the protection of those around you,” the experts say. I heard on the radio yesterday that somewhere in Texas, a person could be fined $1000.00 per day if they are discovered in public without a mask. I also heard today some pundits debating the future of air travel, with one supposed employee of the airline industry asserting that all flights for the purpose of pleasure or leisure should be banned outright. She reasoned that the act of packing a cabin to even half of its occupancy capacity would expose everyone on board to the noxious fumes of one another’s breath. We have become a poison to one another. The virus is no longer the greatest danger we face but our own insistence on fellowship!

I took a walk today. The temperature was over seventy & the sun was bright. The only clouds in the air were the ones that looked like mass plumes of cotton balls strewn together & they were few & far between, exposing the serenity-inspiring blue of a wide sky on an early spring day. I took a deep breath; the air felt good. There was no one around so it was safe. But before long, there were people around; but way off in other wide opened spaces just like the one I happened to occupy. I saw neighbors walking their dogs; parents sitting with their kids on front porches; cars driving about here & there. Seemingly all the news had been about death & darkness but today, I saw life occurring around me—albeit at a slower than normal pace, but occurring nonetheless.  This more leisure pace of things brought back a memory from earlier in the week when I stood in a line—with individuals spaced out at six feet intervals, of course—at a local sandwich shop. The service was painfully slow. I pitied the small remaining staff as they fumbled around to diminish their huge work load. On a day back when “life was normal,” I’m sure every customer in that line would be fuming with indignant rage. But today, everyone quietly waited their turn. Everyone was polite even when receiving bad news, like news their online order was never found & all the time in line they spent had been wasted. Even then, everyone was at peace–& I believe it was because none of us had any place to go! When I cashed out, I told the checkout girl: “Thanks for being opened today.” She smiled. Just four weeks ago or so, I thought that the people who got to keep their jobs were the lucky ones. But today, I felt like those of us in line waiting for sandwiches during The Apocalypse were the lucky ones.

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I know that the last six weeks or so have been tough on many of us; even tragic for some. And I in no way intend to minimize the pain of those who are suffering. But even in the midst of all the uncertainty & chaos, I’ve found that it is still possible to find tranquility. It’s amazing what having a little extra time can do to our outlook on things; even a crisis. As I took another deep, unmasked breath of fresh air, I realized how much of our lives that we spend pressed for time—aggravated because we can’t quite meet our obligation to someone else’s timetable. With all that Covid19 has taken from us, at least it gave some of us something back—time.

So if you’re feeling down, just remember that good things can come even during bad times. I, for one, have taken a moment to reflect on what track I’m currently on in my life; and then question whether or not the destination it’s leading to is really where I want to go. When you’re working as much as most of us are, you hardly have time for some idle inner banter during the little bit of free time we may have.  But, at least for some of us, Covid19 has given us that, at least.

The experts seem to be telling us that our very breath is an invitation to death, at least when unmasked & in the presence of others. I find that thought ironic since life is not possible without breath. I say, if you have a space all to yourself & no one is around—take off your mask &take a deep breath. Take a few seconds to let it set in. Just a few weeks ago, the world acted as though the sky would turn blood red & come crashing into the earth. But who knows—on a beautiful spring day like today, you may as I did, look up while taking that deep breath in private & see that the sky is indeed intact . . . and very often, still blue!

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Living Anachronism

Longmire
Click for image source material.

I am a living anachronism. I’ve known this for a while but with the business of adult life, its easy to forget when I don’t have any free time to dwell on it. But with our current shutdown, I’ve had both time & opportunity to remember. It seems during our current apocalypse, binge watching old television shows has been the thing to do. There was a time–before smart phones & social media of course–when watching TV was considered a colossal waste of time as the custodians of our society considered it mindless, idle time. Well, I was never the poster boy for what the “custodians of our society” thought we should do; and, true to form, I disagree with their grossly generalized statement. I agree that watching TV can be a waste of time but it can also be a worthwhile use of time: all depending on what it is you choose to watch. Today I watched an episode of Longmire that made me remember something about myself. I am currently on Season 6/ Episode 7 & deeply regret that I stand just three full episodes away from completing the entire series. Endings are always so bitter-sweet. And so is the revelation that I experienced while watching the show today. I, too, am a man better suited for a different era; someone mismatched for our current time.

Here’s what I like about television shows. They are rich with stock characters. If you remember from your lit classes of yesteryear, stock characters are characters molded out of rigid stereotypes with the assumption that they are so cliche that every town or community would have their own version of that same character. I realize that the “custodians of our society” have attempted to ween us off the idea of stereotypes as a means to “universal social justice.” But in literature, or in a TV series, we don’t have enough time to experience the full depth of a character’s personality & only need to know them in terms of what personality traits coincide with the story line. That said, while it’s debatable how useful stereotypes are in real life, they are obviously useful in performance art in the form of stock characters. Think in terms of the town drunk, the noble hero, & the selfish villain. These are all examples of stock characters whose one-dimensional aspects may clash with the values of the “custodians of our society” but certainly make for rich story telling.

Today’s focus is on Walt Longmire–the hero of the series. I’ve read online reviews of Walt as a “throwback character” from the old western genres but tinged with fallible qualities to make him more believable to contemporary audiences. He is a career sheriff in the fictional Absaroka county of “big sky Wyoming,” set during contemporary times. He works with no more than three deputies who, along with him, patrol a vast western wilderness scattered with communities living a simple, rural life. Walt is not the traditional hero by contemporary standards. He is faithful to his deceased wife as the series begins. He later reveals that he & his wife held off on sleeping together until their wedding night. Despite being an accomplished football hero, Walt is shy around women. He is also sympathetic to the victims of the crimes he investigates but stern with the suspects behind those crimes. Walt Longmire, as one if his own rivals in the fiction reluctantly proclaims, “Is a man of honor.” And he manages all of this without the benefit of a smart phone!

Early in the series, Walt is able to apply his old world approach to policing his county successfully. By old world approach, I mean he interviews suspects without corroborating witnesses. He rarely wears a wire or feels the need to record any conversations or actions. Walt’s reputation is such that he is able to police with his word being as good as the law. While this refreshingly simple approach functions well in the early seasons, Walt eventually finds himself in deep legal trouble & social controversy.  Media scrutiny & modern day bureaucracy demand proof of every claim. Before Walt can prove a criminal guilty, he must first prove himself to be innocent. Walt’s simple world, his small town rural community unpolluted by the “guilty by hearsay unless you have iPhone footage proving otherwise” modern dynamic, turns into a world of baseless accusations & creates an environment where whoever is willing to cry foul first wins with the community’s blessing. Walt considers retiring as he feels as though the culture governing the people he has been elected to police has rendered him an artifact from a by gone era. A man’s word is no longer as good as a thirty second iPhone video. The reputation built by a lifetime of doing everything the right way, the hard way; suddenly evaporates.  Towards the end,  Longmire bemoans to his law school-educated daughter, “I don’t want to spend the rest of my career defending my career.”

We live in a day when “progressive” is the golden standard. By definition, progressive means moving forward; promoting change. And while some change is useful & even necessary, sometimes it seems as if society pushes us to change just for the sake of change; just to uphold this mantra of progress. What happened to the idea, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it”?  “Traditional” has become a bad word. The stock character of Walt Longmire comes from a time when men would politely ask a lady to dance & honesty was commonplace even among wrongdoers. Longmire sees his career coming to an end as the mayor & other public influences bring in developers to create new employment & income opportunities into their quiet corner of America. In doing so, they sacrifice the charm of their secluded hamlet that has remained unchanged for generations. This new world has passed Longmire by. His fictional Absaroka county has finally joined the modern age, but in doing so, sold its soul. Longmire is one of the few characters who recognizes the flip side of progress–that there is a price to pay for anything, even something good–& he is willing to mourn that loss openly. So dies the age of the cowboy & the folklore traditions of rural America.

At least Longmire was true to  himself, as I strive to be in my own life. Let the chips fall where they may–CNN be damned. We are who we are, & in the competition of life, there can still only be one number one. In my humble opinion, all we can do to be worthy of winning status in our own lives is to be true to ourselves–whether or not doing so aligns with the wishes of the “custodians of our modern society.” I’ve had my teeth kicked in enough by real life to realize that we all don’t get to ride off into the sunset triumphantly. But if I can at least be true to who I was meant to be, I know that I will at least be at peace. And so for better or worse, “Gettyup cowboy.”I’m still going to ride out my own path.

Gettyup
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No Hard Feelings

I grew up the youngest of four kids. My parents were accomplished professionals. My siblings were all over-achievers. I’ll try to spare you all the details but to create a bit of context, I must state that all three older siblings graduated from the prestigious University of Virginia, Charlottesville: the college founded by Thomas Jefferson. Two of my three  older siblings have doctorate level degrees & I am the only offspring of my parents to have just one Bachelors degree. The one sibling who chose not to pursue a doctorate level degree works as an IT professional with aspirations to become a network engineer. I’m the youngest by a wide gap in my family so by the time it came to me, my parents were able to ease up on their level of involvement. The blueprint was already in place;  my path had already been laid out. I knew what I had to do & that was to measure up to those over-achievers who came before me. And no one sibling embodied that standard of excellence more so than “the middle child.” We will just call him J. As an adult, you will discover J to be one of the most humble men you could ever meet. He is, however, the kind of person who would get on your nerves if you are a person who wants to cruise through life. He holds himself to a standard of excellence that he has rarely failed to uphold  himself, he can’t understand when others cannot do the same. As a child, no one mentored me more than J other than  my parents. Sometimes, J supported me even more so than they did. But on my path to adulthood, my biggest supporter became my biggest rival. In order for me to prove my value to The Family, I had to do the UNTHINKABLE! I had to beat J.

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The ferocity of competition.

 

J is currently a successful MD with a family of his own similar to the family we grew up in. Although he didn’t study technology in college, he is also the medical liason to the team in charge if implementing & maintaining the electronic medical record system in his network. I won’t leave you in further suspense: I failed miserably at beating J.

Truthfully, looking at my adult life from an outside lens, you might be tempted to perceive my life as–to use a phrase associated with clandestine special warfare–“a total mission failure.” I don’t have nice cars, I don’t have a nice house, I haven’t started a family—okay, enough self-deprecation–you get it. For a long time, I did feel like a failure. But I no longer do. The great Magic Johnson summed it up best when questioned about his friendship with Isiah Thomas. He essentially said that in order to become a champion, you have to create a level of hatred for your opponent. That’s the price to pay. Now, I wouldn’t dare compare my competitive spirit to that of Magic Johnson. Still, I don’t easily back down from challenges & growing up, I have exhibited flashes of my own fierce competitive spirit. I never hated by brother, but there were times when I was jealous of his accomplishments because every accomplishment he secured meant one other obstacle that I had to overcome. It seemed as if my Dad would never accept me unless I did exactly what J did. If I came in 3rd, he would remind me that J had come in 1st. As a boy, I was conditioned to win my father’s acceptance–even if that meant defeating my own dear brother J. The more my Dad demanded, the more I resented J for making my life so much harder than it should have been. But then I realized that it was useless for me to compete; I wasn’t J.

I cannot describe the sense of relief I finally felt once I arrived at this realization. It felt good to be able to embrace my brother’s successes wholeheartedly again; & I was ashamed to recognize that for a time in my life, I could not. His accomplishments weren’t about me. He had no obligation to “ease up” on his goals in life just because I couldn’t keep up. It took me a while to realize, but his accomplishments were my accomplishments because he was my brother & I supported him.

The lesson I learned then was reinforced later when I lay on the gurney in the recovery room after heart surgery 3 1/2 years ago. It was quiet. I barely had the strength to think. I realized that I was still in real danger of losing my biological life. In the humility of my broken physical state, I questioned the purity of my motivation through life. My regrets were no longer about what I did or did not do but why I did it. Was I driven through hated or motivated by love: or at least, peaceful acceptance?

In the contest to measure up to my brother J, I lost. But in the challenge to accept myself, I won. I eventually learned to measure success by a different standard. I can best explain it this way: Have you ever ended a job or friendship with the phrase, “No hard feelings.” That’s such a vague phrase–“hard feelings” can mean anything from hatred to something not quite as bitter as hatred to sadness to self-loathing. When I lay on that gurney in the recovery room in that one peaceful, lucid moment between two surgeries, I saw first hand the importance of letting go of all such negative sentiments. I know that God granted me a reprieve but not complete absolution. One day, I will be on the precipice of life & death & will slip over the edge. My hope is that when that day comes & it truly is my day to go, I will be able to let go with “No hard feelings.” And I will be sure to be proud of all the accomplishments my brother J, my other siblings, & all the people dear to me experienced whether I did the same in my life or not. I realize that life wasn’t an external competition among peers but an internal challenge to find peace. And few things bring me peace than the recognition that the blessings of my loved ones are my blessings too.

Peace
Winning the internal battle  for peace.

Can I see your ID?

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It was late July 2016. I was participating in a new hire training program for an employer that depended on an usually young demographic for the bulk of its new hires. Almost everyone was just out of high school or in their early twenties. One boastful individual in the class declared that he was accustomed to real work with real pay since he was thirty-one. Instead of impressing everyone in the class, he quickly became the “old man” of the bunch. If his goal was to impress the females in our class, I’d say it backfired. One of them instantly responded that he looked “kind of short & scrawny to be thirty-one.” On of the younger members of the class had guessed my age at twenty-one or so. I was forty. I decided I wasn’t going to say jack about my age while in the company of this group.

About a month later, I was hooked up to a heparin drip & an IV on a bed in one of my region’s premiere heart hospitals. Sometime in the last month, I had suffered a hard attack. I had stubbornly refused to consider that possibility despite my progressively eroding physical state. It felt so much like a combination of heartburn & anxiety; two conditions that were common in my family. I was convinced that what I had been experiencing was much of the same as well as the stress of my new job with an employer with a less than reputable professional atmosphere. Glassdoor.com had warned that this work site frequently experienced fights in the restrooms. I’m not a huge guy & mostly a peaceful fellow; to be blunt, I’m not much of a trouble maker. But even I had just gotten into a shoving match in the gravel lot a couple of weeks earlier. It just so happens, it was against that aforementioned thirty-one-year-old. Now, here I was, having been laid low after so recently weilding formidable strength. I thought it was just a matter of aging. Welcome to forty, I thought. Then one of the numerous, nameless health care employees came into my room to administer some kind of test or take some kind of blood sample. After a period of silence, he stared at me & said quietly: “You’re too young to be here for this.” At this point, youth was relative. But I wanted to say, “Well, if you really feel that way about it . . . cut me loose & help me get out of here.” At that time, I was more worried about having my skeletal structure broken open to get to my heart than I was worried about my constant fatigue & heartburn. I wanted to get the heck out of there! Spider man style, if need be–scaling down walls & hiding inside linen carts. Anything but open heart surgery!

Torso
Photographed here is a sample of my fairly solid torso area, pre-surgery.

Pardon the language, but this shit isn’t designed to come open. It’s not a desktop computer that’s designed for easy access to the internals with a screw driver & a little bit of time. Although I referenced earlier that I had never been a huge guy, I had strength-trained for years & had a pretty solid torso area. Lord knows how many sets of flat & incline bench press I had done along with unknown amounts of push-ups to solidify the muscles around the skeletal structure around my chest. And now, these freaks wanted to cut it open? How were they planning to close it back too? No thanks!

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