Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait No Longer

by 13 Stoploss

Angels 1, Rockies 11


Cafe Orleans, Disneyland

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

Great... just lovely...

Some Queen...

We’re all familiar with the saying, and how true it is in the military. I remember spending Friday mornings working our asses off just to finish the daily chores and runaround before lunch. The possibility of an early release hanging over our heads for a slightly longer weekend was more than enough motivation to a couple joe’s to get the connex swept out, or the Humvee PMCS’d, re-parked, or re-straightened. Most of the time, it didn’t matter. We spent more time waiting for a release formation that was not early than we did hurrying up. Not that I mind sitting around, I’d just preferred to be sitting around at home in shorts than in boots at work.

Much of last summer was a lot of hurrying up. It was the first time in my life that I could remember all my plans coming to fruition without some sort of FRAGO. Not to say it was easy, cuz, to tell you the truth, I hate Algebra. For six weeks straight, from Monday to Thursday, 10:00 to 13:00, I was in Algebra. None of it made a lick of sense. We covered two chapters a day where the regular semester pace was one a week. But, as painful as it was, I got through it, just in time to take Statistics and Speech for the next six weeks, but twice as long in class, per day.

This summer has been the complete opposite. I had considered taking the intro Literary Journalism classes at my new University this summer, from out of my own pocket, which would also stretch my GI Bill money, and hasten my degree progression—but Mrs. 13 talked me out of it. Since I started school, I have been going and going and going like some repetitive, coked-out Energizer Buzzy. I haven’t really had any breaks, aside from Christmas break, and with the baby due in early August, Mrs. 13 told me to relax and enjoy a fun summer. I’ve done just that.

On Monday, we went to an Angel game. They lost 11-1, but it was still a great time for Hot Dogs and Nachos. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we put in new laminate wood floors, considered buying new furniture, but then settled on a new 2-piece couch cover that gives the kitchen/living room a whole new look and feel. Thursday, we went to Disneyland, which, as Annual Passholders, never gets old. Yesterday, we spent some time at the pool, then later barbequed with some friends, had a few beers, played some Wii, and passed out early, though well-rested for a Saturday morning at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and a picnic lunch at a lighthouse in Long Beach.

Best of all, there is no hurry. There is no pace aside from that which we dictate. The June Gloom has lifted, I can see the Mountains over my patio, and the weather is back to the typical, awe-and-jealousy-inspiring that non-SoCal’ians can only dream of.

Is this how the non-military folk do it? Am I normal, yet?

Coming up: friends visiting from Idaho, definitely more pool time, then three days backpacking in the Sierra Nevada’s (with camera!) with my new REI backpack!! After that, just waiting for our little lady, Evelyn, to decide she’s ready to join our family. And that, I don’t mind hurrying up and waiting for.

(I don't do digital, but I decided to not bring the camera with me this week. Instead, enjoy these lo-res crackberry images!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fill-in-the-Blank Photo Essay

by 13 Stoploss

This is Paul.

At first gance, he seems like a raging ____________ with all that hell condemnation stuff.

Maybe he ___/___n't.

I talked to him a few times. He's been to my _______ the last _____ semesters. He's a _________ dude, and as far as I can tell, the loony signals _________/_________ not going off.

Although the sign is fascinating in itself, I was most intrigued by the students. Our focus tends to shift to the words on the sign that many of us reject. This sign is very _________ to a lot of people, but let us also consider that Paul is actively demonstrating his protected ________ ammendment right. Whether or not we agree with the dude does not matter--we must ask ourselves who is more _________? Paul, or those mocking, taunting, and occasionally, physically attacking him. Whatever and whoever is at blame, it isn't __________, for either side. The sign invokes hostility, but the reaction of those around him is downright __________. The man marches peacefully, or as peacefully as one can while ____________ everyone to __________. If you argue, he'll argue back. If you ask, he'll speak, and give you a business card.

(by the way, each photo is scanned at 1200dpi. If you don't know what that means, just click on the small picture, and watch it become a big picture.)

Would you believe he rode out of there on a bicycle?

Before doing so, I asked him, "So, what's next? It's a beautiful day--what do you do when you're not holding a sign condemning people to hell?"

He pondered for a moment, slowly breathed out, and as if he had just got off a six-hour foot-patrol through the streets of Baghdad, said in a relaxing manner--"I think I'll go work on my boat."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Breaking and Entering

by 13 Stoploss

I live on a rehabilitated piece of land that was once a Marine Corp Air Station. Two of the largest wood structures in the hemisphere are a half-mile away, and had formerly housed the blimps that patrolled the Pacific Coast during World War II. Later, the base was refurbished into a Marine Corp Helicopter station. The chemicals used to clean their engines are still in the ground, polluting the ground water. In fact, a toxic plume drifts forty-feet below the surface, skimming the top of the underground water reservoir. Supposedly, it's clean enough. Forty years from now, we'll see.

I see these buildings everyday. I drive by them. In the evenings with my family, I walk by them.

I am curious, and I want to look inside. The ranger in the Ranger doesn't want me to. His people put up fences and ugly green tarps to prevent my peering eyes from seeing the other side.

Still, I am curious. The Santa Ana College Sherrif's station will not stop me. The ranger in the Ranger, patrolling the border, looking for illegals, will not stop me, despite posted threats. I am going to walk right into the unlocked front door, and allow my curiosity to get the best of me. Sometimes, I'll have a guest, accompanying me, wading through piles of rat shit and and debris left behind from the closure.

These are just two buildings--the most accessible, of dozens. They are also the only two that are not fenced in, and have no posted signs. I don't know how long this will last. It isn't me that the authorities need be concerned about. I'm not a thief, except for the wall maps of the base and Southern California coast, that I took from the inside of the Fire Engine bay. But really, I have no interest in destroying what has been curiously preserved. My interest is simple. I want to look, and I want the silver on my film to record a latent image, to preserve the moment, captured in time, and to share with all.

This is how I am going to spend my summer vacation.

That is all.

We'll See...

by 13 Stoploss
(more photos)

Sometime around the beginning of last month was when the new application was due. I was busy, I told myself. I can do it later (and I meant to). I really did do it later, and congratulated myself for being both earnest and punctual in following up on my reslackabilities.

Around that timeframe, I also had an interview. It was a panel interview sat by a table of old ladies, ninety-three percent of which were wearing pastels. Grandmotherly old ladies who probably bake cookies and wear aprons and have colorful, shiny, glitzy knick-knacks, and stuffed cats, stashed all over the house.

And one bald guy who looked an awful a lot like Dickass Cheney.

I love old ladies, especially old ladies who want to hear me talk about being in the war, and especiallyer rich old ladies who might give me money to go to college. They thought I was the most charming young man they had met in that block of fifteen scheduled minutes, maybe even the day.

I thought of the time I went to the Sergeant Promotion Board. I thought of the myriad of interviews I had done since then. I arrived early and seated myself in the appropriate area, waiting to be called. I looked myself over, feeling confident, and looking sharp in my tailored Mens Wearhouse apparel.

The old ladies wanted to know what I had done with myself for the 5+ years I had between High School and now. I told them I went to war. Twice. They had many questions, and I had many well-spoken answers. I made excellent eye contact with each of them, and properly addressed the questioner with thoughtful, articulate, and well reasoned responses.

Dickass Cheney refused to look me in the eye the entire interview, which went several minutes over the allotted time. I slyly let my peripheral peek his way, and he seemed to be smirking, almost gloating, with his eyes bouncing from the stack of papers in his hands, to the objects next to him on the table, and back to the stack of papers in his hands.

Fuck him.

The rest of the old ladies said they were very happy to meet me, and while they weren’t as wealthy as they had hoped, had said they would be making decisions within the following two weeks. I glanced around the room, eyeing each of the grandmothers, and the cocksucker, before exiting the room, feeling good about my chances.

An email two weeks ago promised electronic results by the second week of June. The last time I was anxious about receiving some news, I posted here, and got it the next day.

We'll see.

Also, the Veterans Administration approved my packet for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I have nineteen months and twenty-two days of remaining benefits, and an additional fifteen years with which to exhaust them. Lastly, it looks like the Houseof Representatives just passed the Stop Loss back pay bill, which is now headed to the Senate, to possibly be signed into law by the President. If you didn’t know, my DD 214 says that I was “retained in service 400 days for the convenience of the government.” I may have to create a new Mastercard commercial

We'll see.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Full Circle

by The Usual Suspect

Like a timewarp, a tangent universe, a sick twisted Twilight Zone gag, I was standing in one of many buildings on a college campus, enduring the first day of "orientation".

I looked around at my future classmates and thought, Jesus CHRIST they look young!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another Space Song

by 13 Stoploss

When I was stationed at Fort Campbell, I was so miserable with Army life, all I ever wanted to do was go home (and drink). My off-post home was the place I could be to somewhat get away. But, it’s all I ever did. I was depressed; I had no interest in getting out, or seeing that side of the country. Of course, now that I’m not there, I can think of all the places I wish I had gone while I was there. And mostly, my interest is in taking photos of those places.

The beginning of this summer is my chance to redo. I don’t have to work. Bills are paid, life is comfortable enough, and I’m not blitzkrieging through summer classes. Now, until the baby is due in early August, is my time to have some fun, and to enjoy living again. Truth is, I don’t know that I’ll have another chance, and I want to make the most out of this opportunity before I have to buckle down again.

I’ve been reading, for personal reasons. I’ve been studying, for personal reasons. I’ve been researching, and planning. My DIY, 120 roll film, panoramic pinhole camera is nearly complete. I’m going backpacking in the Sierra’s after “the Fourth.” I have turned my garage workbench into an area to store my photo development and alternative process chemicals. I’ve (somewhat) cleaned out the office, bought a new work desk for all my computer and camera junk, and am feeling more calm than I have in years.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I really love photography, and want to take my “amateur” work to the “next” level, whatever that means. I’m exploring new processes, styles, and bodies of work. I’ve submitted to a couple magazines and shows. I suppose I want to also be known as a photographer, not necessarily someone who carries a camera around. That thought leads me to consider education, and my current path. A majority of Americans do not know how to write. Just because I know how to spell, or to arrange words into sentences doesn’t necessarily mean that I know how to write. This, I am supposed to learn while in school—but I question whether I have what it takes to succeed, whereas, photography has become my passion, and I personally feel I have more talent there than I do with the pen.

Perhaps this is a confidence issue, I’m not sure. In Basic Training, nothing was difficult; it just took time to understand a new way of life, and to quickly practice a few new skills. It’s hard to relate that experience to the classroom. But seriously, how does one learn to write? It just doesn’t seem like I could wake up one day and think, “Sweet! Yesterday I didn’t know what I was doing, but now, I know how to write!”

Anyway, I just finished a book on Henri Cartier-Bresson. You probably don’t know him, but he’s credited with starting a movement in photography called “the decisive moment.” This is my inspiration! I want to travel; I want to see new things; I want to wander and explore, and bring back fifty rolls of black and white film to share with the world. As I look through his photographs, which are mainly just street life/travel/documentary stuff, what I find most startling is that his work is pretty close to being average. His real strength was in composition, and being in interesting places at opportunistic times. Many of his photos are slightly out of focus, occasionally a bit too grey, or just sloppily printed. But it works, and no one will take criticisms like these seriously because he’s freaking Henri Cartier-Bresson who shoots with a Leica! And, mainly, I can do this, too—I’m more sure of that, than I am in my ability to write.