Back in the Saddle Again
Vol: 74 Issue: 19 Monday, November 19, 2007
I learned something new while I was on vacation that I didn’t realize until this morning. I realized for the first time just what a hard job keeping up with the Omega Letter Daily Digest really is.
I’m not complaining — far from it. I love my work, I love my OL family and I love being part of something so spiritually vital as our fellowship. Indeed, one of the hardest things I’ve done in the past week is NOT look at a computer.
As I sit down this morning to sort out what is going on in the world, I feel like I am trying to take a surprise test that I didn’t study for. So instead of bluffing my way through, I’ll just share some of my vacation with you, and we’ll get back to figuring out who’s on first tomorrow.
I stayed at my buddy Rick’s house for the week in his spare room — which didn’t make things any easier. Rick’s spare room is also his computer room.
(It gave me a glimmer of how hard it would be for an addict to kick his habit — in some strange way, NOT working was harder than working.)
I arrived just in time for the start of the Marine Corps Birthday celebration — nobody knew I was coming — it was a grand reunion.
Captain John acted as if he expected me all along — he handed me the Commandant’s yearly greeting to read to the group like I do every year.
“I see you adapted and overcame,” he growled. “Take your station!”
Our guest of honor was a retired Marine Lt. Col. with enough fruit salad on his chest to start his own produce department.
(Translation for you non-military types — “fruit salad” is Marine slang for combat decoration ribbons)
It was a great evening of war stories and old war horses reliving their glory days from many battlefields; WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the unknown battles of unnamed conflicts known only to them and a handful of spook-types.
I spent the rest of the Veteran’s Day weekend watching old war movies with my buddies. It sounds boring to some, but there is a real education there, if one takes the time to study the lessons offered.
The WWII movies I like the best were the ones Hollywood was churning out in the early years of the war when its outcome was still in doubt. Hollywood didn’t understand the enemy, and it didn’t try to.
Instead, they stuck to what they DID understand; we were good, the enemy was bad, they started it, and it was up to us to finish it. Our soldiers were heroic, brutal yet honorable, a force for good in an epic struggle with evil incarnate.
The war turned out the way Hollywood scripted it. We utterly destroyed our enemies and marched home in triumph.
We watched a couple of movies set during the Korean War, and one could see a subtle shift. Our forces were still brave, but so were the enemy’s. The main characters were not quite so fierce, not quite so honorable; the enemy was not quite so evil, our cause not quite so just.
The Korea War ended in stalemate. Nobody won, nobody lost, and the Korean War has yet to formally draw to a conclusion.
Then Hollywood moved on to Vietnam. We watched “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” and “Hamburger Hill”. In those films, it was hard to figure out exactly who the enemy really was or which side to root for.
Vietnam ended in a loss. Or as observed by a character in the Clint Eastwood film, “Heartbreak Ridge” the score was 1, 0 and 0 for our side.
In post-Vietnam war movies, no matter which conflict they chronicled, there were no ‘good’ guys’ — just some guys were worse than others.
In the most recent war movies, our forces are depicted as dangerous psychopathic Nazi wannabes — unless they are gay, disloyal or cowards, like the hero in the slanderous 2004 movie, “Jarhead.”
It was like watching our society implode in fast forward.
But the men who fought those wars didn’t change. There is no difference between a Japanese bullet and a Taliban bullet — when it is fired at you.
Marines from all these wars didn’t fight for governments or to advance some kind of unpopular foreign policy. They fought for their buddies, for their flag, for their families — and for the ungrateful morons who can’t tell the difference.
I was blessed with some pretty nice weather for this time of year — mostly mid-sixties to low seventies — there were only two days where I had to wear shoes.
The rest of the time was flip-flops and T-shirt weather. I had plenty of time and the right weather to sit on my favorite sand dune, watch the waves break against the shore, and spend some time alone with God surrounded by what is, (to me) His most magnificent creation.
I didn’t get a chance to go out and do any deep sea fishing this time — the “Scarlet Lady” was out to sea under the command of a new captain, Barry, whom Rick hired to fish her commercially.
(I might have been on vacation, but she wasn’t. Timing is everything.)
However, when she came in on Thursday after three nights at sea, Rick and I went down to meet her at the fish house and see how she did. Rick told me to prepare to be amazed, and he was right.
Barry was somebody who’d stepped right out of a Hemingway novel. He’s a crusty old one-legged Down Easter with a brogue so thick my out-out-tune ears could only catch one word in three.
True to the Hemingway model, Rick told me Barry lost his leg to case of fish poisoning. (But he got around that boat on a peg-leg better than I could on two.)
The only thing missing to complete picture was the eye-patch. (Rick asked how the weather was off-shore and Barry growled, “One of my legs like to froze solid out there.”)
Fishing a two-man crew, using rod and reel, three days and three nights, the boat’s fish box was crammed to overflowing with what tallied up to over twelve hundred pounds of beeliners, grouper, triggerfish and other delicacies from the sea.
There were a couple of fish I’d never seen, and I asked Rick what they were. He told me they were from the “deep water” saying, “I’ve never carried you out that deep.”
Rick and I usually fish fifty miles off-shore from Morehead City in the Gulf Stream. I didn’t want to ask any more stupid land-lubber questions, but I was impressed. Both of these guys were close to my age (and, as a ‘junior’ senior, I qualify for free-checking and some senior’s discounts).
After eight hours on the water, I need three days of Ben-Gay. I caught five tuna in one day once and I was unable to lift my arms the next day. All five fish combined weighed 130 pounds.
They were out there for three days and nights. If the average fish they caught weighed twelve pounds, then they caught about a thousand fish the same way I caught those five tuna. There’s deep sea fishing — and then there’s DEEP sea fishing.
Meeting Peg-leg Barry and watching them unload those fish was the high point of my vacation.
Other than that, I really didn’t do much more than relax. Rick and I suffer from the same old guy disease. We get tired when it gets dark.
And since it gets dark at 6 this time of year, if we went to bed later than eight-thirty in the evening, it was because one of us would wake the other one up snoring in front of the TV.
(I didn’t believe I snored. Rick didn’t believe he did, either. Now we know.)
The only night we ventured out later than the dinner hour was the last one. Becky’s annual Thanksgiving dinner was Sunday morning, and the locals living abroad all come home the night before, including one who moved to Nashville to pursue his songwriting career.
Billy Todd always plays at Becky’s the night before and everybody comes out. I couldn’t make the dinner because I was leaving the next day, but I was able to make his concert and see all the expatriate locals that I wouldn’t get a chance to see at dinner.
We had a ball, but we stayed out WAY too late. My flight left at five-thirty AM, so we had to get up for the drive to the airport at three.
I hate flying too much to be able to sleep on the plane, so I looked quite a sight when Gayle picked me up at the airport Sunday morning at ten.
I was unshaved and rumpled, and my suitcase smelled slightly of fish, but I am a new man.
Thanks for the vacation. I hope you enjoyed the retrospective series while I was away on my adventure.
Now I’m back in the saddle again.