Thursday, November 23, 2006

Life on the train

A friend sent me this inspirational email today. It's a little slow and maybe a little too deep, but I thought it belonged on a blog called "Derailed."

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Timothy Turkey

Yesterday, I saw my first bald eagle. It was roosting in a tree that stands behind the church parsonage, which in turn stands next to the church where we were attending service. The reverend told the Sunday school kids that he discovered the eagle while raking leaves on Saturday. He then suggested that after service, everybody go next door and investigate the bird which was still sitting sentinel on a tree limb. Being a big kid myself, I was one of the first out the door. I was a little disappointed that the eagle didn’t have a white head and I speculated that it was wearing a toupee, or maybe it was using "Grecian formula" or "Just for Eagles". One of the sixth grade boys seemed disgusted by these comments. “It’s only two years old,” he explained, “its head hasn’t turned white yet.”

When we walked closer to the tree, we noticed that the eagle had a squirrel trapped in its talons. The squirrel’s fuzzy tail swayed in the breeze as the eagle eagerly ripped it to shreds with its enormous beak. The boys watched in amazement as the bird disemboweled its prey. The girls, on the other hand, thought it disgusting. I was with the girls on this one.

Watching this majestic eagle, made me think of how wrong Benjamin Franklin was when he petitioned to have the turkey, not the eagle, be our national symbol. Thoughts of turkey then turned to memories of kindergarten and my beautiful young teacher, Miss Flanagan. This was the song she taught us at Union School, November 1967:

Timothy Turkey
Why do you cry?
Boo Hoo Hoo

Timothy Turkey
I’ll tell you why
Boo Hoo Hoo

Thanksgiving is coming
They’ll Chop off your head
(We emphasized this last line by making a slashing hand movement across our throats)
And if you don’t hide
Then soon you'll be dead

Boo Hoo Hoo

I don’t think I ate much turkey that year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Scenes from a Marriage

Act I
Scene I

As the curtain rises, we find a bald man in his mid 40's, dressed casually in a sweat shirt and blue jeans. He is seated in the family room in front of his computer. Stage left, his attractive wife enters the room.

Wife: When you're out running errands today, could you stop at CVS and pick up Ibuprofen, and hair conditioner.

Husband: (typing) Um...Yeah.

Wife: Can you please stop typing and pay attention for a second.

Husband: (still typing) Yeah, yeah, I got want me to pick up aspirin and...

Wife: Aspirin? I said ibupofen.

Husband: (stops typing) That's what I meant. I was just using the generic word for a pain reliever.

Wife: But aspirin isn't ibuprofen. Advil and Motrin are ibuprofen. Tylenol is acetaminophen. Bayer is aspirin.

Husband: What are you a pharmacist?

Wife: No. But if you get rushed to the hospital and tell the doctor that you took aspirin when you really took ibuprofen, there could be consequences.

Husband: Fine!... I'll buy ibuprofen.

Wife: And...what else?

Husband: rinse?

Wife: Creme rinse? You mean hair conditioner. They don't call it creme rinse anymore.

Husband: Really?...Since when?

Wife: Since you lost your hair.

Act I
Scene II

Later that day.

Wife: Did you go to CVS?

Husband: Ohhhhh!...I forgot.

Wife: UGH!!!


Post Script: Wife told daughters about above conversation. Now daughters take great delight in asking dad to, "please go to the store and buy creme rinse." They usually then convulse with laughter and fall on the floor.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Soldier's Story

In honor of the men of A co, 2nd of the 3rd inf. 199th light inf bd. "Is this you?" I asked. 
"Yeah, that's me, second from the left...the handsome guy holding the machine gun."
 My Engineer, Bobby Tracy, showed me this picture last week. It was taken by a soldier that had a small Instamatic camera tucked up in the band of his helmet. The helmet band was usually used to store cigarettes or a flask of whiskey, so Bobby found it memorable that this photographer had tucked his camera there. The photo shows Bobby and four of his comrades, trudging through a swamp, somewhere in the jungles north of Saigon, not far from the Cambodian border.
 I was somewhat surprised that Bobby showed me this picture. Like most veterans, he doesn't like to talk about his military service, and in the past I could never get him to tell me much about his experiences in Vietnam.
 Since he was being so verbose this day, I decided to press my luck, and ask him some questions.
"What became of these guys?" I asked. 
"Well, as they say... a picture's worth a thousand words," Bobby said. 
 He then looked down at the photo and pointed to the guy bending down in the far left hand side of the photo

"This guy here...the one filling his canteen, that's Jasper McGruder from Elmira, New York. Jasper and I were great friends. We went through basic training together in Fort Dix. From there we went to Fort Benning, Georgia for helicopter and counter insurgency training, then to Camp Shelby in Mississippi for jungle training and finally to Oakland California where we got on a troop ship to Vietnam. That was December, 1966. "
 Bobby's face now brightened, "Did I ever tell you about the time when I met up with Jasper in New Haven?"
"No," I said. "I don't think you have." 
"It was five, maybe six years ago. I was thumbing through The New Haven Advocate and I came across an ad for a play by Moliere, called School for Wives. Anyway, I'm looking at the ad and it says that it stars a guy named Jasper McGruder. I thought to myself...How many Jasper McGruders could there be? I drove down to The Yale Rep Theatre and picked up a play bill, and there on the second page, was a picture of my old buddy Jasper. He had lost some hair since I had seen him last, but it was definitely Jasper. I asked around and found out which hotel he was staying in and I paid him a surprise visit. Later that week, my wife and I had him over for dinner at the house, and he got to meet the family. It was really great to see him again." 
Bobby's face was beaming now. It was as though he'd been reunited with a long lost brother.
 He pointed again to the photo, picking out the soldier immediately to his right. 
"This guy here, that's Otto Guhl from Stamford, CT. He was injured in two different fire fights, and earned two separate Purple Hearts. He still lives in Connecticut and we call each other from time to time and get together." 

Bobby now moved his finger along the photo to a soldier standing in the background. "That's Elmo Reilly. I'm not sure what happened to him, but someone told me that he stayed in the military and made a career out of it."
"And who's this guy in the foreground?" I asked. 

"Here lies the signigficance of this picture," he said. "That's the late Sam Arrington. I believe he was from Florida. About a week after this picture was taken, February 5th, 1967, to be exact. Our platoon was ambushed while we were walking through a rice paddy. Sam poked his head up from behind a dike to check the enemy's position, and..." 
 Bobby's mood now turned sullen,
 "Well, let's just say that Sam made the ultimate sacrifice for his country." 
 Bobby nervously rubbed his chin and placed the photo back in it's envelope. I wondered if he felt he'd said too much...but he continued: 
"Our platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Richard Coachys (not pictured) was standing near me at the time of the ambush. Coachys had been shot twice in the upper thigh and had a piece of his rifle embedded in his stomach. He was bleeding badly, but he still found the strength to get on the radio and call for air support. A few minutes later, we had planes dropping artillery all around us. By the end of the day we had lost two members of our platoon and had about five guys wounded.
“ What ever happened to Coachys? I asked. 

Bobby said that the last time he had seen his Lieutenant, he was recovering from his injuries in a field hospital in Saigon. He went onto say, that a couple of years ago, he was reading a VFW magazine and saw that The 199th was having a reunion in Virginia. One of the people mentioned in the article was Richard Coachys. Unfortunately, the reunion was the same week as Bobby's daughter's wedding, and he was unable to attend. He did, however, track down Coachys' phone number and gave him a call. It turns out that the lieutenant stayed in the military and eventually made it to the rank of Colonel. He retired a few years ago and he now lives in Georgia. He has three sons, all who serve or have served in the army. One of his sons is a West Point grad, and another is now serving in Iraq." 

We were pulling into Grand Central, so I thanked Bobby for showing me his picture and telling me his story. I then asked him for his permission to mention his experiences in a Veteran's Day blog. He said that I could use his story, but he didn't want me to make it too "dramatic" or "sappy." I told him that it would be hard to not make the story "dramatic" but I'd try to keep the sappiness at a minimum. I think he was worried that I'd make the story all "Stars and Stripes" and try to paint he and the members of his platoon as a American heroes. 
 But aren't they? 
 This Veteran's Day, take the time to say a prayer for our troops and our veterans. Please thank a veteran for their service and remember to say an extra prayer for Pvt. Sam Arrington, and all the other members of the military who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I rake, Iraq

After careful consideration, I have determined that the trees in my yard are evil-doers. Every year at this time, they dump layer upon layer of leaves in my yard, causing mass destruction to my lawn. I tried to form a coalition of friends to help me route these leaves out, but some of them told me I was rushing in and raking too soon. Other friends told me to, "let the leaves fall where they may." I was especially hurt by the lack of support shown by my friend Pierre. I’m forever helping him out at his house, and you would think that he would return the favor every once in a while. “ Listen Pierre" I said, "You’re either with me or you’re against me.”

This year I decided to use a scorched-yard policy. In addition to my rake, I’m using a leaf blower with a Cheney motor. This baby provides 2000 cfm with 200 mph winds and it really shocks and awes those leaves into submission. The only trouble is, when I get one section of the lawn cleared, insurgent leaves blow in from neighboring yards to take their place. When I clear those leaves, suicidal foliage falls from the branches overhead. It’s a vicious cycle, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have my yard cleared. There’s also a Bush in my yard that’s detaining some leaves in it’s lower branches, and no matter how hard I try to release them, it just won’t let them go. It's very frustrating. I thought my lawn would see me as a liberator, not an occupier... I guess I was wrong. It seems the harder I rake, the tighter the grass hangs onto the leaves. This has resulted in me breaking several rakes and truthfully, the price of this venture is becoming too costly.

I think I need an exit strategy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Life" in the fast lane

Do you think you have what it takes to be the "YOUR OCCUPATION HERE to the Stars?"

As has been well documented in the pages of this blog, I have a gift for spotting celebrities on my trains. In fact, as many of you know, I am the self-proclaimed "Conductor to the Stars."
Tonight, I must admit, I even surprised myself. Meet John Gilchrist (photo below.) John is an Advertising Executive with the ESPN Network in Manhattan, and he was a passenger on my 6:07 train home tonight. Because I am gifted in the art of star spotting, I immediately recognized John as his alter-ego.

Can you?

If you can guess where you've seen John before, you just might have what it takes to be the next "________to the Stars!"

Need a hint?

John was a child actor.

Got it now?

Here are a few more hints:

  1. Urban legend claims that John died from mixing Pop Rocks and Coca Cola. (Rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.)

  2. He starred in a TV commercial (with his brothers) in which he didn't even have a speaking part.

  3. He likes "life."

Sorry, but if you don't have the answer by now, you're just not worthy of the "To the stars" title.


"He likes it!...Hey Mikey!"

Thanks to John Gilchrist for giving me permission to use his name and likeness in this post.