Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Giddy - up!

U.S.Army Specialist 5th Class Dada assigned temporary "glamour job" duty as Erosion Specialist. "It was my duty to expedite the decomposition of discarded desert beer bottles back into nature by pulverizing 'em with a tire iron - into sand. Today, if one walks through this deserted desert area, green and brown patches of sand still provide evidence of once exotic military duty performed there." ( Photo circa mid-Sixties Vietnam era.)

When I went into the kitchen to make coffee this morning, there was an article with a part circled from yesterday's newspaper. It was left by my wife. She does this sometimes when she wants to make sure I haven't missed an interesting little blip of news. (I had.) It was a nice little story about the Pentagon and United Airlines.

See, if you're lucky enough to fly United Airlines between April 17 and May 17, you may might catch an interesting 13 minute video segment called "Today's Military." In what's most likely a trial balloon for future in-flight "entertainment" possibilities, it's a film put out by the defense department (although passengers maybe not realize it because no where does it actually ever tell them that).

To make sure it's included in the airline's programming, the Pentagon is paying United $36,000 to run it for the month. So it's nice to know that while you may be trying to catch up on lost sleep from your exhilarating five day stay in Topeka, your 15 year old son may be getting indoctrinated as you snooze. But that's not the point of this. No, it's about what that little film is trying to sell.

"Today's Military" highlights military glamour jobs. Jobs like an "animal-care specialist doing humanitarian work in Thailand," the exciting career of an Air Force language instructor or some navy guy teaching top guns how to survive bailing out of aircraft. (I'm always amused by those stories of how, before their F-14 Tomcat crashed into the sea, its two crew members managed to ejaculate safely. Now I know where they learn that.)

But enough of the Pentagon's exotic jobs. "Glamour, Schmamour, I say!" After spending time in the army, I can tell you about real glamour job opportunities. You want glamour?

Stationed at a missile research and development range in the southwest for three years during Vietnam, I had the privilege as a personnel clerk to envy the occupations of a number of soldiers whose daily jobs seemed much more exciting than typing up next month's payroll.

A couple of my platoon chums worked in "Pictorial". It was their jobs to photograph missile launchings. If that sounds mundane, be assured it wasn't. Actually catching on film one incredibly fast anti-ballistic missile's launch (under development pre-ABM treaty) was like hitting a grandslam homerun with two strikes, two out, in the bottom of the ninth of a game you were losing 3-zip.

And I had buddies who actually tracked those missile's flights and chased 'em across the raw desert as they came crashing back to earth. They were assigned to "Recovery". And trust me, experimental missile flights didn't always go as planned. They sometimes "turned" on you. Or on rare occasions, flew off on their own into Mexico!

Talk about your exotic jobs. Imagine my shock, looking up from my desk one day, to see standing before me in cowboy boots, jeans, blue denim shirt and jacket, kerchief and dusty hat a guy there to review his military records! It was a young army specialist about my age. A cowboy! And his garb was his official military uniform.

That's because our little army base encompassed 4,000 square miles of desert dotted with all kinds of hi-tech radars, missile launch sites and secret weapons under development. As I learned, it was the job of this cowboy and about four others just like him to ride the range with his army horse five days a week keeping the base free of communists and errant shepards. Talk about envy. Living out on the range with Trigger, eating K-rations, no pre-dawn reveille formations or cleaning latrines!

But probably the most glamorous job out there was one I had the fortune to interview for. I don't know how I came to the attention of the Army Intelligence Agency (AIA), but was I ever excited when I did. See, in our three storied headquarters barracks, the entire top floor was occupied by just two very mysterious guys! We never saw much of 'em. They didn't have to make formations like the rest of us. In fact, so secretive were they, they didn't even associate with us. But we knew they were there because they were *special*. They got to sleep in.

It was the job of these GI's to dress as civilians, to go across the border into Mexico; to frequent the bars and brothels that other off duty soldiers were known to frequent; to blend in, observe, and to drink. All in an effort to counteract those ubiquitous tenacles of the information probing Communists.

My interview for this job went very well I thought. But hopes faded fast when I learned one of my fellow co-workers the AIA interviewed as a character reference had a very animated reaction to one of the questions asked him of my requisite qualifications. Seems "Arlo" burst out in guffaws of laughter when queried, "How well can he hold his liquor?" Thus ended my flirtation with the glamorous job of secret agent with the AIA.

I was destined to finish my army career as a clerk typist. But that wasn't bad because there was a bloody war goin' on.

But so much for namby-pamby defense department infomercials for exotic military jobs like foreign language instructor as in-flight entertainment. Isn't it ironic that those exciting job opportunities comprise less than one tenth of one percent of military job vacancies, but those are the ones the pentagon choses to focus on? To glamorize? When the greatest number and urgency of vacancies in need of filling are those of combat infantrymen?

I just know that in the "old days" Uncle Sam didn't need to make infomercials. He had a draft. The number of "volunteers" was nearly limitless. Perhaps we should reactivate that selective service capability. To increase public interest in our military and its aspiring global ambitions.

What better way to stir up interest in wars than to have the public sacrifice family members and loved ones to the effort. And who knows? Those who don't end up extricating Iraqis from their beds in the middle of the night or dodging IED's on Baghdad streets, may end up becoming a cowboy, secret agent, or "animal-care specialist doing humanitarian work in Thailand"!


Nina said...

no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You musn't say such things!

I thought the draft was already back in effect anyway? Maybe I was having a 60's flashback


You should probably feel very greatful you never had to do anything but dig beer bottles out of the sand and type up payrolls (with the occasional trip across the border, of course). You were living the good life, so shut up and be happy you don't have to mutilate yourself or torture small animals to deal with the horrors you incited by building bombs or whatever.

By the way, you may not hear from me for a while. School's almost out and my dad jealously guards his computer.


Anonymous said...

Oh, nina (above), your computer battles with your dad sound familiar to my own "back then", except my battle was over TV use. I wanted to watch political news (student protests) & my dad wanted to watch more Ed Sullivan etc. Even though he was a utah democrat, my dad did not approve of the student protests. But I'll never forget the morning of June 6, 1968, when he woke me up to tell me the candidate I had been earnestly handing out supporting leaflets in shopping center parking lots for, Robert Kennedy, had been killed. We both sat on my bed & cried. After that, he & I watched the whole Chicago Dem Convention, esp the student protests, together. His snide remarks were gone, replaced by a I-can't-believe-this-is-America attitude, which I'm glad to say he has kept to this day. I sure hope you & your dad will learn to share without having to go through such heartache. D.K.

Anonymous said...

Dada, that was cool work in a hot place & at least looks like you got a good tan going on (sun activity I hope, not radioactivity). At first glance, I thought you were helping to create the very beer cans you were supposed to be destroying (by emptying a few yourself). But I have no doubt your environmental efforts were a friendly well-intentioned contribution to the earth, afterall out of sight, out of mind, huh? Good work!

Here's a couple more glamour jobs for UA to work into those ads: A Gonzo cadre of military psychologists schooling new recruits how to break minds without breaking bodies. Or perhaps military lawyers who spend their careers finding legal loopholes to justify torture. We need some more college grads in there & less autistic teens like I saw being recruited on the news yesterday (how proud THOSE recruiters must have been)!

Save Albert Einstein for the ad rebuttal (which surely UA will be offering for fair-n-balancement, perhaps during the bathroom break / intermission) ... "Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war". Followed by Jon Stewart, "You want to mobilize young people against the war? Restart the Draft!" -- D.K.

enigma4ever said...

Wow Dada that was a really well written piece....nice to hear your history...and that you were not chosen for certain "duties"//which I think now might be for the best.....all of us are realizing certain truths and realities about our pasts

...For me it is the Truth about Sanibel Island of my youth..and that Certain People and there Parties were indeed as Evil as I thought...The local man that was quite known....for his parties also "ran' the local paper ( many stories were more than inaccurate- we used to call it "propaganda")...I was a lifeguard and also worked catering parties- had been coming spending the summers on the little quiet island since I was 11, I was in my late teens....even watched that Infamous Watergate Summer on an black and white TV- all 306 hours .....and counted the hours to the demise of the evil Nixon...had my first beer after he flew off in his evil helicopter....

and a couple years later went and worked parties serving food, taking out trash, cleaning up after the boozing drugging crowd. at the condo of the guy with the Greasy Hair... the Newspaper "Guy" was also running for Mayor- Again...he had greasy hair and a sleazy smile and a certain innate lack of morals...As young as I was- I knew that...He had a Past...used to work abroad for the "Government"...and had some interesting health problems...and was a real shitty tipper....He had a rep with the locals...even though he gave great parties to his Coca Cola "Friends"...yup....Some called him Porter....and others called him the Douche....and now certain people give speechs and say he is "Patriotic" and we should be "Thankful for his service"...and some call him Unemployed as of Last Friday.....

But what do I know ? I am just an old grown up patriotic hardworking hippie..who too also remember the Draft and the Body Bags....and the Lies of another Era....that seem to have rearrived in Fresh White Limos....and farway desert sands.

And it is time to tell our stories to our young and pray that they will listen.....

Again thanks...this is one of your best pieces ever...Atlantic Monthley worthy....or hmm, Harpers....excellent....

All of us need to Keep Writing...the Truth...
and Just Maybe the Truth Will Set Us Free....

dada said...

Nina! So good to "see" you. We were beginning to wonder if you'd left for England w/o saying good-bye. Or decided maybe you couldn't wait for the end of the school year, opting instead to take your chances as an illegal Canada!

Didn't mean to arouse such anti-draft sentiments in you. I just thought--like others--it might be a way more Americans could get involved in the wars. To give 'em a bigger stake in it if they were risking their sons, daughters, fathers, moms, brothers and sisters.

Well, sure hope you're able to drop by once in awhile during summer. But in the meantime, here's wishing you a really great one! I saw in yesterday's paper that your little town is number 8 in the best towns in America in which to live. Go out and make it number seven!

(Oh, and yes, you are right! I feel extremely grateful almost everyday for my very fortunate assignment to an army country club for three years.)

Thanks for dropping by!

dada said...

DK: Ah, yes, the computer-TV battles with the parents. I can relate. Mine was with 'em over the "stereo".

So whenever the folks would go out for awhile, I'd crank up the speakers, drop a stack of MY 45's on the turntable and practice my dance moves. We had this big picture window thru which I'd catch an occasional glimpse of a dumbfounded neighor as I was sailing mid-air across the living room in one of my flying leaps! (Ah, the surfer stomp was big then.)

But I think your and Nina's computer/TV/stereo/car are astute observations on the competition over limited family resources.

Thanks for the Jon Stewart quote in support of reinstituting the draft. (Oh, and Nina, they never drafted females, okay? Was that the source of your angst?)

Loved your glamour job suggestions D.K., although a military lawyer finding legal loopholes to justify torture has been pretty well co-opted by our own mister morality man himself, attorney general Alberto "Josef Mengele" Gonzales, illustrating why he rose to the top authority on "justice" in America. Meting it out to those uncharged and undeserving and preventing it from being administered to those deserving of it, i.e., the international war criminals he is now working to shield from their future just deserts.

dada said...

Oh Enigma: How I enjoyed the flashbacks you've chosen to share with us here. The very first thing that jumped out at me was the revelation of your desire to help people, to save them if need be. Talking about your summer work as a lifeguard.

And yes, I enjoyed listening to the Watergate hearings on the radio back then; of the unfolding story of the unravelling president. Being from California, I grew up hating that paranoid Nixon son of a bitch (whom, strangely, I didn't recognize from his glowing funeral eulogies and their promotion in the media).

Oh well, it was the same for Reagan. Both testament to the wonderful media dementia when it comes to recounting history and the roles of international war criminals whose lives are celebrated in their deaths. And now I await the recounting of our glorious American hero, Henry Kissinger. But I digress.

And oh, how fortunate for you to have seen from the outside some of the workings of the insiders. Most often it is their work within public view we all see. It's only a privileged few, such as yourself, that get to see it from the slimy underbelly side. Sadly, it didn't make you a convert. (J/K)

And now you can add to your resume you served one of Bush's medal recipients. Another name in a long list of honorees from over the years that includes the likes of George Tenet, L. Paul Bremer, Charlton Heston, Robert McNamara, and Doris Day. (DORIS DAY! How'd the hell she get in there? Well, sometimes a $7.49 brass or gold plated medal with red, white and blue neck ribbon isn't given just to buy silence, is it? Unless, UNLESS, Doris knew or did something someone didn't want revealed! Hmmm. Ya think?)

But thanks for sharing with us some of that which is the true national treasury, Enigma. Stored in the memory banks of your mind, they are protected from the corruption and bankruptcy being imposed on the US Treasury by psychopathic megalomaniacs.

Oh, and thanks for the most kind words re this blog from my own memory bank. Coming from you, that's far more treasured and valuable than had Bush personally given me one of his flippin' $7.49 medals!

Nina said...

D.K. Its not so much a competition as it is an obsession. Not for me, but for him. He spends all of his time on the computer, on the phone, or totally pissed off at everyone around him. He's an addict, so I don't blame him for it. I keep trying to get him to go to an A.A. meeting with me, but he gives me a bunch of lame-ass excuses about not wanting to be involved in "that kind of thing".

Did you guys live in Utah? What part? Oh, by the way, Utah is on the very bottom of my list on places to live. The culture sucks, and everyone is a conservative mormon republican.\

Anonymous said...

Nina, we are in SW Utah, retired here just last year. My dad's family came from central utah, around Richfield & my mom's from Enterprise & Mesquite. All moved to Vegas in the 1920's, mostly jackmormons who couldn't take the stifling religious atmosphere. But I think I'm related to half the local population here due to shared polygamous background. I love SW Utah, the sheer physical beauty of it! Culture? I create my own! And I think with the population expanding by leaps & bounds, you'll soon see less of the mormon influence (yes, culture suck vs culture shock). At least growing up in Vegas enabled me to escape that aspect. And you must have noticed we do indeed have a democratic congressman here (matheson), well maybe more accurately he should be called republican-lite. Perhaps Dixie College might have student protest groups info or SUU in Cedar City? Re: your dad, in fairness, sometimes pissed-offed-ness becomes so ingrained, it's hard to shuck it, it needs to run its course. You hang in there for him, let him know you see what's happening! D.K.

enigma4ever said...

An apology to Dada for wandering off topic last night..sorry...I guess I was just haunted by the pasts that linger...( BTW Dada- your duty sounds more interesting...(than my lifeguard/waitress days, and working as a waitress at the Catered bad parties on the Island)...and your were actually in the forefront on the Environmental Front, hopefully with sunscreen ) and yeah I think we all are having 60's and 70's flashbacks...( cause History is Bound to repeat itself).
Dk;Your RFK memories- so sad...( seems like yesterday dones't it ?)and DK you are so creative- able to combine John Stewart and ALbert in the same sentence- really are the queen of connecting the dots..

Nina....there is alot of wisdom from Dada and Dk here....too bad there wasn't more of it in DC

Anonymous said...

Enigma, you seem to have seen the worst side of these slimeballs who would one day rise to the peak of power! So, none of these pillars of the community stood up & said enough, that could be my daughter you're debauching? These self-righteous prigs who preach morality yet engage in worse behavior than a porn star (apologies to all moral pornstars) make me gag. And either they never see their hypocracy or they've long ago realized their base is blind (probably cuz they're all doing or wishing they were doing the same things).

Dada, great dancing image of flying across the liv rm floor for the neighbor's entertainment! What, like Tom Cruise's famous scene in his underwear? (Risky Business remains the ONLY Tom Cruise movie I enjoyed) Me & my "music" were banned to the bdrm. Country Joe & The Fish, Jimi Hendrix, Doors, Beatles, Dylan, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc ... just hearing one of their songs today transports me right back then. I think our parents understood how powerful our music was & it scared them.

haha, Doris Day is just someone they threw in for a medal cuz no one would question America's Virgin Sweetheart getting some (acknowledgment!) -- D.K.

dada said...

Oh my....I love this thread. You guys have me "trippin'". Wondering if it's just your discussion or my old age senility you've triggered that I'm so relishing.

E4E--you were NOT off topic. Loved every exploding electron.

Now, I have to confess here...because you guys are so generously heaping praise on my Sixties 'eco-consciousness'. The photo heading this blog was taken on a hot summer day...i.e., about 100 degrees, after I'd had a couple of 16 oz. beers (it didn't take much in that dehydrated state). I was in the middle of nowhere...who gave me the tire iron to smash old beer bottles, I don't remember. But they caught me in the act, i.e., I wasn't doing any official "glamour" duty.

And I'm always thankful for that duty assignment. The summer of '65 was spent poolside every possible moment to include the afternoon I almost died there. It was an 'enigma-as-lifeguard-moment'...when, doing the backstroke in the deep end, my hand suddenly became entangled in something. With all momentum gone, along with any hint of swimming/buoyency, I was reduced to a gasping/desperately helpless, thrashing person, drowning. The only ironic curiosity in all those moments of extreme intensity was momentary distraction of my trapped hand; of what it was feeling. It was in an underwater glimpse I espied it. It had ensnared itself deeply within the bra half of a maiden's two piece suit. Talk of conflicting emotions. On the verge of drowning, my thoughts were racing between death and the last thing I would remember feeling before losing consciousness forever. I guess it couldn't have been a moment of more trauma nor ecstasy combined.

For sure, I could have used an 18 year old redheaded lifeguard to dive to my safety and save a girl from my desperate ravaging.

And D.K.--one of my most overplayed albums was Country Joe and the Fish. Oh geez. "Maria, I'm growing so tired of fighting this war."

Anonymous said...

Ah, hahahaha, nice try, dada. Of the many lame excuses one might exploit to grab a cheap feel, "I'm drowning" has GOT to be, well, UNIQUE at least! Why, I think it even tops the guy in my college astronomy class who crashed his one-piece desk/chair over into mine so that his head landed facedown in my lap. He was wedged in between my lap & my desktop so tightly, it took 3 guys to slowly extract him. Afterward, he CLAIMED he must have fallen asleep! And I guess in the end, it was landing on my lap that saved his head from an otherwise painful crash directly onto the hard floor. I recall patting his struggling head & cooing "it's OK, the boys will have you up & out of there in a minute." I wonder how many women have said those words to a guy in that position?

And I think I've said this before, or possibly senility is spreading, but Country Joe is STILL around. He has a great website
with tons of interesting stuff present (like War and Peace) & past (like his secret FBI file, his testimony from the Chicago 7 trial, much commentary on Berkeley, etc). Enigma might be interested in his (sec 43) Nurse Doll Collection (he idolizes Clara Barton & Florence Nightengale). A very unusual guy! The CJ&F album I played the most was "Electric Music for the Mind & Body" ... must have worn out the grooves on Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine.

Thanks for triggering such great memories with your old army days beer duty! Here's a line from CJ&F "Kiss my Ass" : "I've been up, down & around this country more than a couple of times. But I never knew til I got into the Army that thinking for yourself was a crime." -- D.K.

enigma4ever said...

Dada you and DK are killing me...loved the "drowning story"...( your poor hand got entangled ??? it indeed might be a first....) And DK- that poor fella...

BTW Dada yes, I would have rescued you- I was such a lovely sight in my lifeguard days- zinc nose, hat and sweatshirt and surf shorts- I looked like a Lost Amish
surfer.....yup, burned like bacon on the grill.

Nina said...

Hmmm.... So, Dada, how inebriated were you, my friend? D.K.'s right; that's a pretty unique reason to grab some chic's chest.

enigma4ever said...

Country Joe had a "Nurse Thing"? OMG I almost rolled off the bed laughing....and yes Dada I came back to read about your "near drowning" cough ahem experience...too funny....

Anonymous said...

e4e, country joe sure does have a nurse thing, but in a good way, as role models for mankind. he writes his impressions of everything in his life. I've been laughing about your description of "surfer shorts". The long, baggy flowered ones, right? Oh, I loved those!

And yes, Nina's probably learning a lot about "drowning" men & what they are capable of! D.K.

dada said...

Nina: I don't think drinking and swimming were allowed in the Army Community Pool. So, no, I hadn't been. That's probably why I remember my 'almost' last moments on Earth so distinctly. (Thankfully!)

Of course, there was a night or two after the pool had closed when a small group of us called "The Fizzies" climbed the pool fence after a couple of beers for a midnight swim. (No, no, don't get the wrong impression. It was a "stag party" (damn!)....just me a 4 or 5 other buddies from the barracks.) But in the wee hours of the night, we were definitely mixing beer and water. But it was okay--and much safer--i.e., no bikinis to ensnarl in and drown.

dada said...

e4e said: "BTW Dada yes, I would have rescued you- I was such a lovely sight in my lifeguard days- zinc nose, hat and sweatshirt and surf shorts- I looked like a Lost Amish
surfer.....yup, burned like bacon on the grill."

That was a truly sweet response e4e. Think that if you want, but you don't know--because I say this with extreme authority, how many of your subjects in the pool whose lives depended on you (and yes, I've seen you a thousand times in days of my just didn't notice, because I was among tens or hundreds, but I was there...sometimes staring up thru goggles, 1/2 filled with pool water, at the sweatshirted, zinc nosed w/shades and whistle-of-authority around her neck life guard! ... knowing that should we ever entangle in some foreign matter whilst treading water in the deep end, the huge consolidation overriding our flirt with death and resulting embarrassment, would be the likes of the Amish surfer on the pool deck who would dive to our aid and comfort.

And if we--we geeky, gangly teenaged kids were really unlucky enough--might awaken in the middle of mouth to mouth resuscitation on the deck of dry land by our "Sandra Dee" saviour. (Actually, I never really liked Sandra Dee...I just said her name because she was like every teenager's idol.)

But that would be about as lucky as an unlucky kid could get. And that's so American Graffiti.

dada said...

D.K. That was the most entertaining (and devilish) response yet. Have you noticed I've been dodging responding to this one?

I still am.

Thanks for the CJ lyric. I have that song. Sadly, his "Kiss My Ass" is once again relevant. I suspect it will be til the day we blow it all up.

Anonymous said...

Dada, there may be NO possible response. I know the guy in question never looked me in the eye again. He strongly resembled Lumpy in the old Leave it to Beaver series, which OMG only just now do I realize how appropriate that was! His class nickname was Lumox & may explain his clumsy falling over in his sleep act. Since I weighed about 105 at the time, I'm just glad I lived to tell the tail, er, tale (sorry). D.K.

some_maineiac said...

wow, what a great topic and thread I missed during my self-imposed "exile"!!! dada nearly drowned in the throes of a cheap feel...DK with the head of a lummox wedged between the desk and her lap...the fair-skinned enigma frying in the sun as a lifeguard and exposed to the sleazy underside of deranged debauchery on Sanibel, well before HST documented that life so well in his coverage of Roxanne Pulitzer's divorce trial in Palm Beach... oh well, back with a vengeance, the end result of these funks is usually that I won't shut up...

nina, some friendly advice from a recovering addict, if you're still around to read it...AA meetings in and of themselves aren't always the best way out, but acceptance of their 12-step concept in some form is...and you can't convince an addict to accept anything they don't want to hear, no matter how hard you sad as it is to say, my experience is that all addicts need to hit bottom before they make any real changes, and bottom is different for everyone and non-existent for some...concentrate your efforts on making sure that you're OK (Al-Anon is good for family and others affected by the addicts in their lives) and the rest will happen as it will...