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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sewing Is like Welding, I'm Awful At (And Hate) Both.



Hi there. It’s been a while. 

I’d like to remind you that I’m no boy scout. Not to imply that I only play by my own rules, scoff at authority, or exhibit other “dangerous” or un-boyscout-like behavior, but rather that I lack certain useful skills that boy scouts usually possess. Today it was Knot-tying. Basic fucking knot-tying.  I had a hole in my coveralls and was told that it needed to be fixed over this weekend. “Sewing isn’t that hard,” I thought, naively. With the Marine Corps sewing kit I was able to enrage and exhaust myself within only a few minutes. GET IN THE GOD DAMN NEEDLE. Quick, turn on the Enya Pandora station, if that Orinoco Flow can’t soothe your anger at inanimate objects you’re going to end up breaking something important. It looks like shit now, but there’s no hole. I’m done. I need to go to the fucking gym, scratch that, the fucking vending machine will work just as well. 

In similar fashion, welding is hard for me because I have no skill. Maybe I had some at one point, perhaps a few weeks ago when we were finishing stick. What I do know is that my performance yesterday, when my class returned to welding after a two and a half weeks of sitting around and taking classes (much more the former), revealed how absolutely terrible I am. 

Our final weld test starts on November 6th. It involves plasma cutting a piece of high hard armor plate and reattaching it to simulate a crack, which we then grind out a bevel in and weld back together. We then have to repeat this process on the opposite side. After each weld we grind everything down flat and spray magic dye on which reveals how shitty the weld is. To not go into any more specifics, I’m terrified because the test takes three days to do and there are endless opportunities for us to be dinged points off our final score (you need an 80% or more to pass). I don’t know why I’ve been saying “us,” when really it’s only “me” that I’m worried about. Everyone else in my class seems to get along fine, while my first step (the plasma cut) looks less like a crack and more like finger-painting with Parkinson’s. I don’t have Parkinson’s, just a complete lack of talent. 

Thankfully, this is the only thing I’ll be practicing until Nov. 6th. And I get two whole chances to pass. That’s all I need to do in order to keep my dream of graduating in time (Nov. 22nd) alive. Otherwise, I could be stuck here and disgraced until mid-December or later. Up until now I had confidently formed a theory, I would examine the failure rate of the classes ahead of me and designate a particularly incompetent looking trainee as the “canary.” As long as he was getting by fine I could be assured of my own success. However, the class directly in front of us ran into particularly gaseous mine-shaft (keeping the metaphor) and half the class along with my canary failed and barely passed the retake or was dropped back to my class. Now I’m worried as shit. 

Also, can’t forget about grinding. I could still always accidentally maim or kill myself with a grinder. I heard a story about some Marine trainee who lost his left nut to a grinder, the other one succumbed to loneliness and passed away shortly after.  So, over the next two weeks I can’t help but cross my fingers (or legs). I don't like this. Can I just write an essay instead?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Profanity Has Lost Its Meaning



While in a cab last night on our way to Petersburg, my compatriots and I were lectured by the driver on swearing. Her objections rambled on as we all looked sheepishly at each other and tried to fill the terribly awkward space with quiet conversations that deliberately avoided our usual, more colorful language. This clunky self-censorship produced gems such as:
“Hey… man, isn’t it… bad that we have to do extra PT this weekend.” “Yeah. That… Sucks. A lot. I can’t wait to be out of this… Place.” 

It’s moments like these that highlight how the Marine Corps has altered my language.  The term, “mouth like a sailor,” doesn’t do it justice. For one, we aren’t sailors, but we also probably swear a lot more than whatever sailor the person who coined that term was referring to. It’s become an essential, excuse me, it’s become a fucking essential part of our dialect. As a reservist I’ve been used to being a more or less normal person who communicates in a more or less normal fashion. Moving here to Fort Lee has brought the Marine dialect back with a vengeance. Now that I’ve settled in, my use of profanity is fucking ridiculous as shit. 

This habit began, like most, in bootcamp. By the first day the things you thought you knew the name of not only had new names but they had new profane prefixes as well. My bed was no longer a “bed”, it was a “rack”, but in practical application it was a “fucking rack,” as in: “make your fucking rack right now.” While in the bathroom, which was now a “head” (or, get in the fucking head), you would fight for a spot to fucking piss in a “pisser” or a “shitter” with ninety other fucking recruits and would fucking end up sharing one shitter with three other fucking idiots as you all tried not to look at anyone else’s fucking dick because we’re all shitty homophobes here, it’s pretty fucking depressing. 

 It’s also depressing that my swearing is limited to the usual suspects. There are rare spurts of creativity (see “Ass Bitch” from "Language Barriers and Chow") but they don’t do much to alter the profane landscape. With profanity having lost all of its novelty, I understand now why I tend to use it as punctuation. I’ll start off a sentence with a good fucking (boom phrasing, haha) just to order my thoughts and any other pauses can be covered with a searching “fucking…” as I try to recover my train of…  Shit. I’ve lost it. In the end it doesn’t carry any significance due to overuse, which is why we were so shocked by the cab driver’s opinion.

Speaking of the cabbie, her distaste for our language was actually relevant to the changing circumstances here at Fort CripplingDepression. We have a new female welding student, the first in a few months. After sitting through multiple lectures by different instructors each threatening us with castration if we even think about touching her, we were also informed that we’re not allowed to use sexist language in her company. This doesn’t affect my profanity so much (I try to be socially-conscious in my swearing), but it does limit the type of running repeat-after-me cadences we’re allowed to do during PT. I guess there’s no more singing about how I’m going to murder superman and sleep with his girlfriend (no, for real though, there’s a cadence I’ve been singing in which the archetype Marine hits superman in the head with kryptonite and then dates Louis Lane, who then has a baby that is born mentally retarded and ends up joining the Navy).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

#ShutdownProblems Part II: The Fort Lee Blues



I delayed publishing this entry in order to surprise my Mom and Dad, they’re great people and seeing their reaction as I unexpectedly met them at the front door was priceless. I’m home. Quite a bit earlier than I expected. On Friday word came down that all of us LAT-movers were to be sent home immediately. I was handed a ticket for a flight out of Richmond in two hours. As I rushed back to the barracks there were a dozen things on my mind. Firstly, I wasn’t going to be able to give a proper goodbye to all the guys I’ve been friends with for the past two months, but secondly, I didn’t give a shit about that compared to the feeling of “WOOOOOO YEAH GOING HOME, FINALLY, YES.” After frantically changing and packing (while grinning uncontrollably from ear to ear),  I was in a cab giving a ceremonial middle finger to Fort Neverleave as we drove through the gate. The timing was amazing since I could start school as soon as Monday (picking up Fall term a week late wouldn’t be that hard at all). While it’s regrettable that I didn’t finish my training as a welder, I wasn’t that torn up about it, considering I had been originally told that the training was only six weeks long (I believe this would be week nine, with six weeks to go). All in all, it's good to be home.

Did I get you? The above is what happened up until I was going to call a cab. But the dream ended as I was called back to the admin building and told very firmly by the chief warrant officer that my unit was in the wrong for calling me back and that I’m going to stay here and finish my training. Though not voicing my opinion at the time, I was really mad, livid, more than I can remember ever being. I had the ticket in my goddamned hand. I was convinced it was over, done with, inevitable that I wouldn’t have to be here another minute. A very happy moment in my life. Any skepticism I had about actually leaving had left by then, but then they still managed to fuck it up for me. I’m astounded. But it’s fine. It’s okay. Shit happens. We all have to learn how to deal with whatever life doles out to us. After all, I volunteered for this.


What I hope is that this experience will only work to make my eventual return more victorious. However, in the meantime I can't help but sing the Fort Lee blues. Here's a sample:

V1
 I know a pretty lady, she's in the army,
I see her at the chow hall but she don't look at me,
Oh pretty lady, why can't I see,
You look like a nine, but you're probably a three.

C1
I got the Fort Lee Blues, I got the Fort Lee Blues,
Fight with depression and you'll always lose,
You live in a barracks with 300 dudes,
I got the Fort Lee Blues.

Also, it gives me a good month and a half to keep blogging. Yippee.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

#ShutdownProblems



 For those of you with tender ears/eyes/dispositions who would prefer not to read excessive profanity, this entry is not for you. Actually the whole blog isn't for you. Who are you? Are you an adult? I hope you're an adult. I wouldn't want my kids or anyone else's kids to read this shit.

Fort Lee has not keeled over and died from the government shutdown. There was a solution to keep paying active duty military and “essential personnel” (civilian instructors and other contractors required for training). All of these people are being paid like normal. However, every reserve unit is shut down because they don’t have any money. It just so happens that my pay (at the active duty rate) comes from my unit back home. Therefore, I’m one of the few (probably like ten) people who aren’t getting paid here. I’m guaranteed to receive backpay whenever the government gets their shit together, and I’m not exactly living paycheck to paycheck, but the belligerent part of my brain is urging me to refuse the boots and utes run tomorrow morning at 5am, just to make a statement. Realistically, any open protest would be unsuccessful, so I’m reverting to guerrilla tactics by stealing and hoarding insignificant items like pens in order to be compensated. I’m calling it “interest.” 

The shutdown also prompted a huge “fuck you- oh nevermind” from admin to us LAT-movers. Within the span of two hours, I was told that I was probably getting dropped from training and sent home, and then told that I will be staying because Master Sergeant thinks I should complete the training even though there isn’t funding. You know, I could have used the second answer first. Because for two hours I stood in my welding booth thinking: “If I’m getting sent home, why the fuck am I still welding.” Part of me said: “No! This is bullshit, I’ve been here for over half the course and now they’re just dropping me, I’ve wasted two months.” But then the smarter part of me thought: “Haha wow. Why am I upset? This is great. This place fucking sucks. Who cares if I have a welding degree from the Marine Corps, we aren’t even legitimately certified.” Then I started thinking about my car and school and beer and I felt that maybe this government shutdown wasn’t such a bad thing. Thanks for setting things straight Master Sergeant, all that excitement was ruining the shittiness of my time here, no don’t worry it’s cool, I don’t mind not being paid. Also I didn’t get promoted.  My other Lance Corporal buddy (now “Corporal” buddy) did, I missed it by like twenty points (out of about 1600). Oh well, there’s always next year.

Happy fucking October. 

The issue of me being here is apparently still volatile, but rest assured, if they do send me home early it will be a week from now and just a bit too late to catch up on Fall term classes.