Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Even philosophy professors have daddy issues sometimes...

I am going to preemptively issue a disclaimer.  Ordinarily, in a post like this, I wouldn't name names.  Since this story has to do with a famous person, his famous offspring, and the book written by said offspring, I'm going to name names in this post.  Apologies to anyone who is offended, because I intend to be brutally honest.

The other day, I started a new Facebook group.  It's called Stuttgart Random Bullshit.  I started it on a whim and at the suggestion of a local friend after we became disenfranchised from some of the local Facebook groups.  I decided to make the group fairly open to new members, even those who don't live in Stuttgart, as long as they don't mind oversharing and raunchy humor.  Right after I started the new group, the subject of philosophy professors came up after I put up a link to my post about discovering enemas.  One of my friends said he'd mailed an enema to a former philosophy professor at Ole Miss who had given him a poor grade.  I suddenly remembered my former philosophy professor at Longwood University, Dr. John Peale.

Dr. Peale's philosophy course is, to date, the only one I have ever taken.  In fact, I took the class because I had to; it was called Ethics and everyone at my school had to pass it or something similar to it as part of our general education requirements.  If I recall correctly, the class didn't meet for the entire semester and was only good for two credits.

With a course name like "Ethics", I figured I would find the class stimulating.  I remember looking forward to it.  I thought it would be an interesting class, but I was mistaken.  In fact, the only two things I remember learning from Peale's class are Immanuel Kant (as in, I know he existed and was a philosopher) and existentialism (as in, I know it's a philosophical theory).  I don't remember being very impressed by my professor, who came across as pompous, arrogant, angry, and overbearing.  I do remember getting a C in the course, but that was no big deal.  I got C's in a whole lot of classes, including many of the ones I took for my major.  I never claimed to be a brilliant student.  I came away from Dr. Peale's class not particularly interested in any further study of philosophy.  Other former students' mileages may vary.

One of my best friends in college temporarily had Dr. Peale as an advisor.  One day, he went to see the professor to plan for the next semester's classes.  While he was sitting there talking to Dr. Peale, my friend noticed a bunch of books on the professor's bookshelf written by Norman Vincent Peale.  Norman Vincent Peale, who died at a ripe old age on Christmas Eve in 1993, was a very famous minister and author.  He wrote The Power of Positive Thinking as well as many other well-received books.  He was also a founder of Guideposts, an uplifting little magazine that my grandmother used to keep conveniently stationed by her toilet.  I guess they made good reading material.

My friend, whose parents were big fans of Norman Vincent Peale's books, asked Dr. Peale if he was related to the famous author and preacher.  The good professor said, teeth clenched and with a noticeable edge to his voice, "He is my father."  Fortunately, my friend had the good sense not to press the issue further and got on with planning the next term's courses.

I had mostly forgotten about Dr. Peale until the other day, after bantering with my friend about enemas on Facebook.  That just goes to show you that I have a mind that can find a tangent with anything.  Anyway, as a result of that bantering session, I had a sudden flashback to Dr. Peale's philosophy class and being publicly embarrassed when Peale yelled at me for an answer I gave that must have seemed stupid to him.  I don't remember what I said or why Peale thought it was dumb, but I do remember how I felt.  Fortunately, the incident occurred toward the end of the class period and I was able to slink back to my dorm with relative ease.

At the time, I had never heard of Norman Vincent Peale and had no idea that Dr. Peale was related to anyone important.  I didn't know he had some personal issues that affected him deeply enough to write a book about his dad.  I just wanted to get through my Ethics class and was having a surprisingly difficult time of it.  It's not a pleasant memory.  In Peale's defense, I think he was going through some rather serious health issues at the time and that may have affected his demeanor.  He retired from teaching just a few years after I took his class.

I decided to search for Dr. Peale to see what he was up to these days.  I found a blog that he wrote a few years ago and that's where I discovered the book he wrote about his difficult relationship with his father.  Because I am nosey and find human relationships fascinating, I decided to order the book, Just How Far from the Apple Tree?: A Son in Relation to His Famous Father.  I'm about halfway through it and will probably eventually post a review on this blog.  For now, I will comment that the book does shed some light on why Dr. Peale came across the way he did to me and my friend.  Despite growing up very privileged, well-traveled, and financially supported, according to his book, Dr. Peale never felt appreciated, regarded, or properly loved by his parents.  In particular, Peale felt neglected by his famous father, who was supposedly not "there" enough for him.

I don't mean this to sound snarky because I can understand feeling bitter about having parents who don't appreciate their offspring.  I have felt the same way sometimes about my own parents.  I think a lot of people have this problem and I know it's a real issue.  On the other hand, the book also reveals a lot of what I observed when I had Peale as a teacher.  He is more than a bit impressed with himself.

After graduating from an excellent boarding school in Massachusetts, Peale studied at Washington & Lee University, a fine Virginia school in Lexington, located right next to Virginia Military Institute.  Virginia Military Institute and, to a lesser extent, W&L, are a part of my personal history.  My dad, an uncle, and quite a few cousins went to VMI.  Bill and I got married there.  A couple of my cousins are W&L grads, too.  In any case, I know for a fact that W&L is a very good private university in a beautiful town.

Before he went to college, Dr. Peale went to Scotland to work.  He spent a gap year harvesting salmon with his friends, which he admits was a lot of fun.  He also got to travel to London and Paris after exploring the Scottish countryside.  While catching salmon swimming upstream was hard work, it sure wasn't digging ditches, cleaning horse stalls, or flipping burgers.

Next, Dr. Peale went to Boston University, where he earned a master's degree and met his wife, Lydia.  Boston University is yet another excellent and pricey university, though maybe it wasn't so costly in Peale's day.  Peale followed up by attending Union Theological Seminary in New York, a school he writes his father was against his attending, because Norman Vincent Peale thought it was too liberal.  John Peale's choice apparently caused friction between father and son, though they were never actually estranged.

Having later graduated from seminary, Dr. Peale was qualified to be a minister.  However, though he claims to be a "gifted" minister, Peale felt a calling toward academia, a choice that he claims upset his father.  So he went to the University of Chicago, where he studied and taught courses at nearby Elmhurst College.  Then, he went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a doctorate and taught courses.

Dr. Peale writes in his book that he enjoyed financial support from his parents, who helped him and his wife, Lydia, and their children live comfortably and travel extensively.  One time, his parents even attended one of his lectures; they sat in the back as he taught and weren't obtrusive.  However, Norman Vincent Peale apparently didn't show his son enough support for his choice to be a teacher over a preacher.  That lack of regard, apparently, really offended the younger Peale, which seems to be the whole basis for his book.  Peale writes that after his lecture, his father wasn't effusive enough with praise, and that clearly seriously wounded Peale's ego.

Peale repeatedly boasts about his successes as a teacher, awards he's won, rewarding relationships he's enjoyed with his students and colleagues, and his alleged talents as a musician and minister (and I only write "alleged" because I have never been in a position to see or hear for myself).  More than once, he writes about the great schools he attended and the many countries he's visited, including China several times.  Peale is fascinated by China and was fortunate enough to be able to indulge his curiosity by engaging in in depth study.  Despite that, he's unhappy enough to write a book about his father, the man he admits helped him to become who he is through financial assistance and genetics.  According to him, who John Peale is is pretty damn special and accomplished.  But based on what I've read so far, Peale is wickedly pissed because his famous dad never recognized him as being as great as Peale himself thinks he is.
Again... I don't mean to sound too snarky about this.  I understand that feeling unappreciated by one's parents is difficult.  A lot of other writers have written about this very thing: Pat Conroy and Frank Schaeffer are just two of my favorite writers who have had difficult relationships with their parents.  The struggle is real.

On the other hand, there are so many other things in life that are much more difficult than not being "appreciated enough" by a parent figure.  In fact, Peale has even experienced a couple of them himself.  This is a man who has battled cancer and alcoholism, two significant life challenges that can try a person's mettle.  He doesn't write much about those experiences, though; instead, he chooses to try to convince readers of how accomplished he is.  Moreover, besides being able to travel a lot, marry his sweetheart, have children, and study at some great schools, he's had a career in a field where few are able to flourish.  How much in demand are philosophy professors these days?  How much in demand were they when Peale's career got started?

Has Dr. Peale ever had to worry about the basics in life?  Has he ever gone hungry or wondered how he was going to pay the rent or keep the lights on in his home?  Has he ever lost a child to suicide or a tragic accident?  Besides his health issues, has Dr. Peale ever experienced any true adversity outside the ivory tower of academia?  Were his parents abusive or hateful to him, as Pat Conroy's father was?  Did they neglect him?  Based on his book so far, I have my doubts.  But I'm not quite finished reading it, so I will revisit this topic again when I have.  Suffice to say, while I don't remember learning a whole lot in the so-called "gifted professor's" Ethics course, I am definitely learning something from his book.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Review of Waiter to the Rich and Shameless...

I used to wait tables in a fairly nice restaurant.  When I first started the job, I was completely clueless.  It took several months before I was a really competent server.  I never enjoyed the job much and was happy when I could leave it in my past.

By contrast, author Paul (Pauli) Hartford was a professional server in Beverly Hills for years.  In his book,
Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server, he writes about what it's like to work in "The Cricket Room", where he regularly waits on rich and famous people.  

Hartford didn't always want to be a server.  His big dream was to be a rock star.  He was in bands, wrote music, and moved to Los Angeles in a bid to make his musical dreams come true.  Alas, like many people who dream of turning their artistic talents into fame and fortune, he found that he had to take a day job to pay the bills.  So he cut his hair and cleaned himself up, then applied for the job at the venerable Beverly Hills restaurant where hamburgers cost $38.  

At first, Paul works as the daytime bartender.  The money is decent and the bar is his domain.  He serves drinks to big stars and people hoping to see stars.  Eventually, he becomes a waiter so he can make more money.  He goes from running his own show behind the bar to working as part of a team. In the meantime, he rubs elbows with the likes of Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Katy Perry and Russell Crowe.

This book is about what it's like to be a server, but it's also somewhat a coming of age story.  Hartford reminds readers that most people who wait tables think of the job as temporary, a way to make some decent money while working to achieve a different dream.  He also writes of waiter burnout, which is a big occupational risk.  With about ten years in the service industry, most of which he spends in The Cricket Room, Hartford is able to write effectively about his subject.  He also adds some funny stories about celebrities as well as his co-workers.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading Waiter to the Rich and Shameless.  I like books about celebrity sightings.  Yes, I know I should be concerned with more important things, but there is some value in reading about the stars.  For instance, I noticed that Hartford went from someone who was dazzled by his celebrity guests.  After awhile, he got used to them and was no longer impressed by them.  By the time he finishes his ten year stint, he seems to find celebrities appalling.  

Toward the end of the book, Hartford writes of Charlie Sheen coming into the restaurant and ordering two glasses of 57 year old scotch at $2800 a pour.  During dinner, he downgrades to two glasses of 30 year old scotch at $1000 a pour.  His bill is $7400 and he tips Hartford $1700.  Sheen has a date, a lovely woman who doesn't seem to mean much to him.  Hartford notes that Sheen only spent a couple of hundred dollars on her.  That's about when Hartford starts thinking life is too short for such a shallow existence.

On the other hand, Hartford notes that it's hard to give up the lucrative lifestyle of serving Hollywood stars.  When he's serving celebrities, Hartford has the money to eat out, travel, and enjoy the finer things in life.  He soon comes to realize that the money means less to him than doing what he wants to do with his life.  By the end of the book, Hartford has married and wants to spend holidays and weekends with his wife.  He wants to have more time and inspiration for his music.  And the money, while plentiful, just isn't enough anymore.

I could really relate to Hartford's plight.  I made decent money when I worked in a restaurant and it afforded me the ability to pay my own bills.  It also made me physically sick (I was never so sick so often as I was when I worked full time as a waitress).  It drove me into psychotherapy, which was a good thing, as I needed it before I waited tables.  It also drove me to go to grad school, which was ultimately rewarding, but now I'm an overeducated housewife paying back five figures in student loans.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed Hartford's book.  Sometimes, he comes off a bit shallow, especially when he writes about some of his customers, but I would sort of expect that, given where he was working and the people he was coming into contact with.  There's a fair amount of sex, drugs, rock n' roll, and dirty language in this book, too.  Of course, I am not offended by those things, but realize that others might be.  If you've ever waited tables or find celebrities fascinating, I recommend reading Hartford's book.

Wife won't...

Last night, while sitting on the futon with Bill and Arran, watching An Officer and A Gentleman for the umpteenth time, my attention started to wander.  I had my iPad and decided to do a search for "wife won't go to the doctor".  Yes, I am that wife, but I also wanted to see if there were complaints about it on the Internet.  The results I got from my search were interesting.  As soon as I typed in "wife won't", Google started suggesting stuff I might be looking for.  The first two suggestions were:

"Wife won't go down on me."

"Wife won't lose weight."

I wasn't really surprised by the suggestion to lose weight.  I was a little surprised by the one about oral sex, even though it was at the very top of the list.  I guess there are a whole lot of frustrated men out there who aren't being properly attended to.

Next on the suggestion list were:

"Wife won't talk to me."

"Wife won't get a job."

Some men would love it if their wives wouldn't talk to them, though I know it would distress my Bill greatly if I suddenly became silent.  "Wife won't get a job" can be a serious issue, especially in this day and age when two incomes are often needed to keep families financially afloat.  On the other hand, I don't work outside the home and haven't for a long time.

The next two were "Wife won't go to church" and "Wife won't get out of bed."

I know there are a lot of religious people out there.  I would have thought women would complain about lack of church attendance than men, though.  A lot of men would prefer to sit at home and watch football than get dressed up and sit through a couple of hours of religious indoctrination.  "Wife won't get out of bed" suggests depression more than it does laziness.

When I typed in "Wife won't g", I immediately got more suggestions.  They, too, had to do with oral sex!

"My wife won't go down on me."

"How to get my wife to go down on me."

My God!  This blowjob dearth sounds like a really serious problem if you pay attention to Google.  What follows is a slew of articles about this earth shattering issue.

"Should I divorce my wife if she won't go down on me?"

"5 reasons why she won't go down on you"

"How can I make my wife give me head?"

"My wife used to go down on me a lot, now nothing."

If I type "Wife won't go," I get...

"Wife won't go on top."

"Wife won't go to counseling."

It's not until I type the whole sentence, "Wife won't go to the doctor", that I start finding things that are relevant.  However, most of the articles I find are about wives trying to get their husbands to go to the doctor.

So... what can we conclude about this little experiment?  There are a lot of men out there who are dying for their wives to go down on them.  And there are a lot of women trying to get their husbands to go to the doctor.  Interesting.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Church crotch...

In light of all the Josh Duggar sex scandals that have come to surface recently, I thought I would write a little about my own experiences with church.  Yes, there is a correlation between church and sex for me.  Actually, I should clarify.  I worked at a church camp for two summers.  I was the cook, which meant that I wasn't dealing directly with children.  I did have several teenagers working with me, though.  They were mostly boys.  I used to call them my "heathens".

Working with the heathens was a bit challenging at first.  The first year, it was just the three guys, one of whom was my assistant.  It took awhile before we became friends and worked together as a team.  I eventually came to like them very much, though, because they were a lot of fun.  And though they were a bit obnoxious, so was I.  The second year, it was the same three guys and a girl.  The girl was kind of a fifth wheel and wasn't much fun.

The camp where I worked was Presbyterian, which means it was fairly easy going.  Yes, we had prayers and vespers.  Of course, we sang songs around the campfire that had to do with Jesus.  But it was pretty laid back in terms of what people wore, what people talked about, and our activities.  There weren't any weird or intense discussions about faith.  There were no sexist rules about who was in charge.  It was mostly good, clean fun in a rustic setting.  I can honestly say I loved working there.  In fact, I even played spin the bottle for the first time ever while working at that camp... when I was 20 and 21 years old.

I used to cuss a lot in the kitchen.  I mostly got away with it, except for the second summer, when the teenaged girl was working with me.  She used to show up in the kitchen at the same time I did, early every morning.  It drove me nuts.  I tried to tell her I didn't need her that early, but unlike the boy heathens, she was intent on "impressing" me.  She was a bit intense and mixed up and she eventually ended up quitting; but not before she ratted everyone out for having a good time after hours.  We all used to get together in the hogans and play cards... and the odd drinking game.  On her way out, she told our boss.  He was pissed off, but really just yelled at us more than anything else.  Years later, he officiated at my wedding.

Three years ago, I shared this picture on Facebook.  Those two guys were two of my "heathens".

I have read a lot about Mormon church camp.  I never went to one, obviously, but I have heard that they can be pretty intense.  Everybody has to dress appropriately and act reverently.  There's no off color silliness or horsing around.  You'd never see two big guys like these two, jumping into the pool while grabbing their crotches.  In fact, I have heard that Mormon church camp (and I know there is a special name for it but I'm too lazy to go searching for it) is more about religious indoctrination than fun with nature.  But as I haven't been to a Mormon church camp, I won't speculate... too much, anyway.

Instead, I'll just look at the above photo and be grateful I was raised a Presbyterian.  What fun!  Sometimes I wish I could go back to these days, where I might see a couple of fun loving blokes jumping into an above ground pool while grabbing their nuts.  Try not to think too hard about the fact that they worked in the kitchen with me.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Continuing on with my crap theme...

When Bill goes away, I usually try pretty hard to stay sober.  I do that for a lot of reasons.  For one thing, it's just me and the dogs and I want to try to keep sharp in case something happens and I need to drive somewhere or otherwise take action.  For another thing, I drink a lot of beer and wine and I like to give my body a rest sometimes... and remind myself that I can go a day or two without alcohol.

I won't pretend that my lifestyle is particularly healthy.  It's not, really, especially with the number of alcoholics in my family.  But I will say one thing.  I am rarely constipated, especially when I drink dark beer.

Last night, I drank one of these... and a few more dark beauties.

It's funny that I wrote about enemas yesterday because I woke up this morning at about 5:30am and felt like my body was purging itself as it would after a good colon cleanse.  I mean, it took a good four rounds on the crapper before I was done and could go lie down again.  By that time, I was wide awake and going back to sleep was out of the question.

I intended to stay dry last night, since Bill is due home this morning (sans his garment bag, which got misplaced somewhere in Africa).  I got bored, though, and drinking beer is a way to pass the time.  So I started with a Lion Stout from Sri Lanka.  It was surprisingly good and didn't cost much.  I will be buying more.

Of course, once I had the first beer, I decided to follow up with another... and another.  My guess is that is what made me need to go so much this morning.  I was pretty distressed about it, too, because I could hear Zane's guts rumbling and knew he needed to go out.  I couldn't get up from the toilet as fast as I wanted to.

I guess I should feel lucky Germany has toilets instead of squat holes.  In Armenia, it was not uncommon to have to squat over a hole to go to the bathroom.  In my school, we had squat toilets for the students, though I think there might have been a real toilet for the adults.  Actually, sometimes it was better to squat because the toilets in Armenia could be extremely nasty.  But if you needed to go for awhile, you ran the risk of getting sore thighs... or maybe falling backwards into the mess.

Supposedly, squat toilets are better for you anyway.  When you sit, you kind of kink up the hose, as it were.  Squatting allows you to have a clean chute for the shit to drain out of.  I learned this by reading a book by Dave Praeger called Poop Culture: How America is Shaped By Its Grossest Product.  Maybe seven years ago, I went through a phase where I was reading a lot of books about poop.  They were pretty educational and entertaining.    

Supposedly, this is not as good for you as squatting is...

Anyway, who needs ExLax when you have dark beer around?  Maybe it's not chocolated like a laxative, but it's a lot more fun to drink good beer than take a pill or an enema.  Maybe I should submit a report to Poop Report.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Repost of my review of Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and The United States Marine Corps

Here's another book review I'm trying not to lose.  I really enjoy Frank Schaeffer's books.  Believe it or not, I first heard of him when I was hanging out on the now defunct message board on a site for former Pensacola Christian College students.  After I read Frank Schaeffer's novels, I became a fan of his non-fiction works.  I have read and reviewed many of them, but unfortunately, my reviews may be forever lost to cyberspace.  I am sharing this review again for those who may appreciate the story of a man coming to terms with his son's decision to join the Marines.

  • Frank Schaeffer learns how to let go...

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      February, 07 2004
  • Pros: Honest, poignant, funny, a great read...
    Cons: Bashes the Army, sometimes shows Frank Schaeffer in an unflattering light.
    First off, let me preface by commenting that Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and The United States Marine Corps (2002) by Frank Schaeffer and his son, John Schaeffer, is a wonderfully honest and poignant book. Frank Schaeffer, an author of three novels (two at the time this book was published), is the father of three children. His older two, daughter Jessica, and son, Francis, had done what all of the other kids in Schaeffer's social class had done and, after graduating from private high schools, gone off to private colleges. Youngest son John had always been a good athlete and a talented writer (he specializes in poetry and aspires to one day own a bookstore and write for a living), but he was not a good student. Nevertheless, Frank and his wife, Genie, had always assumed that John would follow in his older siblings' footsteps and go to college, if not for academics, then for athletics. Instead, John decided to join the Marines, an entity that was totally foreign to the Schaeffer family. John Schaeffer wrote that he was not particularly concerned with what his parents thought about the direction of his life, although he did listen to what they had to say and respected their opinions. He had joined the Marines without consulting his parents. I got the feeling that this decision really hurt Frank Schaeffer's feelings, especially when he pictured his boy coming home in a casket, draped with an American flag.

    Frank Schaeffer confesses that he had always felt particularly close to John because his youngest boy had come along when he was "supposed to have children". The elder Schaeffer became a father for the first time at age eighteen. His second child arrived when he was twenty-one. John was born when Frank was fully twenty-eight years old "almost a grown up", he says. He got to enjoy his youngest child. I also got the sense that he shared a sense of adventure with John as well as writing talent. Frank Schaeffer grew up the son of American Calvinist missionaries based in Switzerland. He didn't learn to read until he was eleven years old, vacationed in Portofino, Italy every summer with his three sisters. Schaeffer chronicles his experiences in his novels, Portofino and Saving Grandma, both of which I have read and reviewed on Epinions.com. Frank Schaeffer enjoys cooking, and his son John loves his father's Tuscan pizza. Frank enjoys his youngest son very much, but I got the feeling it went beyond the fact that they were merely blood. It seemed to me that they were also very good friends.

    This sense of friendship was apparent as Frank and John Schaeffer wrote about how they spent their last summer together before boot camp. John had a girlfriend named Erica whom Frank did not like. Frank found Erica cold and distant. She didn't want to spend any time with the Schaeffer family and Frank felt that she was taking his son away from him, especially since there was precious little time left before boot camp would begin. And this is where the honesty of this book comes in. Readers begin to read about situations in which Schaeffer behaved in ways that may seem, quite frankly, embarrassing. Many people would not want have wanted to admit to admit to some of the behavior that Schaeffer writes that he exhibited in the face of losing his son to boot camp. He comes across as, well, a father hen facing an empty nest.

    And then when John starts basic training, we get to read about Frank's angst at never hearing from his son and the constant letters that he sends his boy. We also read from John's side as he experiences life on Parris Island-- the constant harassment that he suffered as a Marine recruit-- the abuse that others suffered, especially those deemed "Fat Bodies or Diet Trays (overweight recruits)". John's letters home are painfully short with one or two lines of information and maybe a request or two. He asks for Power Bars and Gatorade, which Frank gladly sends on several occasions. The treats get stashed in a foot locker for the drill instructors to eat or dole out to all of the recruits. Some of the recruits get no mail at all, but John gets a lot of mail-- mostly courtesy of his father. He actually gets punished for this a few times.

    I found the description of the basic training fascinating. My husband has often told me tales of training, but he didn't enlist and he's in the Army. It was interesting to read another point of view. I also used to live in South Carolina, which is where Parris Island is located. I was living there when John Schaeffer was in basic training. In fact, he wrote of having to be evacuated for Hurricane Floyd. He didn't mention the storm by name, but I know that was the storm he was referring to because it had the distinction of causing one of the worst traffic tie ups in hurricane evacuation history-- and it never even really struck land.

    I also found John's stories of the Marines doing what they could to get their fellow recruits through the course inspiring. He wrote of one recruit who developed double pneumonia right before the final 52 hour test, called the Crucible. There was talk that the recruit would not be allowed to take the test. The other recruits, unbeknownst to the sick one, split up the heavier contents of his pack, and carried his load for him. The Senior Drill Instructor said he would get him through the Crucible if he had to carry him through it himself. In fact the recruit played the injured recruit during the Crucible whenever the test called for an injured recruit, and he ended up passing and becoming a Marine.

    We are also treated to several scenes where drill instructors dispense fatherly advice coated in profanity. For instance, they tell their recruits "not to get married and buy a bunch of stupid crap for Suzie Rottencrotch" the minute they get out of basic training-- instead they should hold off until they make rank and can afford it. They also advise their recruits that there will be plenty of sex to be had once they are Marines and a lot of women will want to "nail them." But they shouldn't try to "bang sixteen year olds" because they could go to jail for that in the Corps. And they add, "Fer Chrissakes, don't get any of 'em pregnant!"

    Interspersed within these inspiring stories are John's poems, stories of life at home in Massachusetts, and Frank's yearnings to hear from his son. At one point in the book, John writes home to tell his parents that he has decided to change his job once he gets out of training. The job change means that he will add another year to his contract. Frank is angry about this change of events and scolds his son for not consulting him first, or at least talking to the one person the family knows who is a Marine. Frank's reason for being angry is that the training will require John to move further away from him for a longer time. Originally, he would have trained in the DC area, but his new job would require him to go to Arizona and then Florida. He wrote an angry letter to his son about this development and then got in a fight with his wife... more embarrassing scenes that one would think might be too embarrassing to include in this book. But that's what makes this book so good. It's quite honest and Schaeffer shows his very human side. Incidentally, my first reaction to this scenario was that Frank Schaeffer was really in for a rude awakening. Service life is all about frequent moves and going wherever the government decides to send you. I'm sure Frank Schaeffer knows all of this now, though. And I'm sure he's allowed his son to grow up and distance himself a bit.

    As it turned out, once John graduated from basic training, he completed some training in North Carolina, then he ended up spending eighteen months in Arizona while he waited for his security clearance. He had left for Arizona four days after meeting Mollie, a woman to whom he really felt attracted. This part of the book was interesting, as John wasn't doing anything in particular but waiting. It was a time in which he proved his allegiance to the Corps, since he had injured his foot and had to have surgery. He had the chance to leave the Marines, go to college, be with Mollie. He stayed in, went to Pensacola, and became an exemplary example of a Marine, just in time for September 11th, 2001. According to the back jacket, John Schaeffer is currently serving in Maryland.

    As expected, this book does do some bashing of the other services, especially the Army. As the wife of a Soldier, I found myself getting a little annoyed at the generalization that all Army Soldiers are slobs. But then again, I know that the Marines have the toughest physical standards of all of the services. I know they take exceptional pride in their appearance. I'm also an Air Force daughter and I used to hear my dad bashing the Army, too (though not quite as much as this book did). I also found myself laughing aloud quite a lot.

    This is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as much as I have enjoyed Frank Schaeffer's novels. I read passages of it aloud to my husband, who also wants to read the book now that I'm finished. If you have a loved one serving in the Armed Forces, especially if he or she is a Marine, this book might be a worthy investment of your time.

    Frank Schaeffer has written two follow ups to Keeping Faith, Faith of Our Sons, and Voices From The Front. 

The day I learned about enemas...

I'd like to include a photo of an old fashioned enema for this post, but when I do a search for images, I come up with a bunch of pictures that are not safe for work.  So readers will have to form their own mental images as I share this special story from my youth.

When I was about eleven years old, I enjoyed reading Mad Magazine.  It should be no surprise that I was introduced to Mad by our neighborhood pervert, the man who referred to himself as The Home of the Whopper.  He had given me my very first issue of Mad.  

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

There it is... December 1981's issue that I got from the guy who used to show me porn on a regular basis.  He also introduced me to the brilliance of Alfred E. Neuman.  I got hooked on Alfred's humor and started reading the magazine regularly.

One day, there was a feature on doctors and the running gag was a physician who would prescribe enemas for everything from a sore throat to hemorrhoids.  Naturally, as a somewhat sheltered eleven year old, I didn't know what enemas were.  I also didn't have access to Google in those days.  So I decided to ask my dad.

My dad was a somewhat formal guy.  He had a sense of humor and could be funny when the mood struck him.  But he was also very military and conservative and he didn't always approve of my raunchy sense of humor.  Still, I was totally innocent about enemas.  I had never heard of them and wanted to understand what they were so I could get the joke in my favorite magazine.

"Dad," I asked, "What's an enema?"

Dad put down what he was doing and said, "What?"

"What's an enema?" I repeated.

He got a strange look on his face and said in a rather matter-of-fact tone of voice, "An enema is a very uncomfortable and unpleasant procedure in which someone forces a tube up your behind and flushes out your bowels with liquid."

"Huh?" I asked, suddenly shocked and grossed out.

"It's very unpleasant." my dad reiterated.  I guess he hadn't heard of Fleet's, which are somewhat less horrifying than the old fashioned enema bags he was likely thinking of.  

I started thinking about it and wondered if my dad was speaking from personal experience.  He probably was, come to think of it.  But somehow, I knew better than to ask him more specific questions about enemas.  At least his reaction to this question was less dramatic than the reaction I got when I asked him about prostitutes.  I learned that word on the school bus when a couple of my classmates called me one.  I went home and asked my dad about it.

"Dad, what's a prostitute?" I asked.

"What?" He was pretty shocked at the question, since I was about eight years old.

"What's a prostitute?" I repeated.

"Where did you learn that word?" he demanded.

"I heard it on the bus." I replied.

My dad got a look of disgust on his face as he explained.  "A prostitute is a woman who sells her love to people."

I was a little confused, since love is supposed to be a good thing.  Selling is legal.  So is loving.  So is fucking, for that matter.  But I didn't press him for more details, because he looked kind of pissed.  My dad could have used this handy musical number from the folks at South Park.

"Sometimes a man needs to be with a woman..."

Josh Duggar can certainly educate his kids about prostitutes.  

I also asked my dad about hemorrhoids, but all he told me about that was that your intestines come out of your ass and bleed on your underwear.  That happens to be factually incorrect as well as disgusting.

I really could have used Google when I was growing up, but if I had, I wouldn't have these memories of asking my dad about inappropriate things like enemas.  At least I never asked him about douching.  And at least this post has taught me how to spell hemorrhoids.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

America is chock full of nuts...

More information has come out about Vester Lee Flanagan II (aka Bryce Williams), the racist, misanthropic asshole who shot WDBJ anchor Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward yesterday as Parker was conducting an interview on live TV.  It seems Mr. Flanagan, now thankfully deceased, perpetrated this crime because he was feeling oppressed in the wake of the Charleston church shootings.  Yep, that's right.  Flanagan blames Dylann Roof, another racist asshole, for shooting up a church.  And, apparently, life has been tough for Mr. Flanagan, who was both black and homosexual, but was once well regarded enough to find jobs in broadcast news.

When I read the news report that included tidbits from the manifesto Flanagan faxed to ABC news, I have to admit that it made me very angry.  My first reaction to the "reasons" given for yesterday's violence was not quite rage... it was more like disgust and disdain...  and frankly, fatigue...  The constant violence and stories about shootings in the United States have left me tired.  It's getting to the point at which this kind of thing is no longer shocking.  It's just disgusting.  It's a senseless waste of human life.  Who needs ISIS when your own countrymen are turning on each other?  No, we don't have a bunch of marauding men with AK47s kidnapping, raping women, and brutally murdering people with swords, but we do have crazed lunatics buying guns and shooting up random places.  How can anyone feel safe in the United States anymore?  You can't go to church, to school, to the movies, to a mall, or even do your job without risking being killed by a psychopath.

It's amazing the ripple effects that come from these acts of violence.  White guy Dylann Roof shoots up a church in Charleston, pisses off a gay black man in Virginia, who then takes it upon himself to target and kill two people in Virginia.  One person is shot on live television while doing her job, so millions of people get to hear her scream and try to run away before she's gunned down.  We see the camera being dropped as her co-worker is also brutally murdered on live TV.

I understand that Flanagan had a personal beef with Alison Parker and claimed that she made racist statements to him.  And that was one "reason" Flanagan decided that she needed to die.  Ward supposedly complained to human resources about Flanagan, which is the "reason" he needed to be killed.  Flanagan drew from the hatred that fueled Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho and put down a deposit on his murder weapon on June 19, 2015, two days after Roof's shooting spree.

Clearly, he wanted to be just like Roof and Cho and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and all the other crazy, violent, hate-filled people in the United States who think they have the right to decide who lives or dies.  These are the people who have helped make living in the so-called "Land of the Free" a very oppressive experience.  They have helped change our way of life, and definitely not for the better.  People like Flanagan steal hope and spread misery and hatred.  And we reward them with notoriety.  They become infamous for the things they do.  Everybody is going to be talking about Flanagan today.  People will remember his name.

If I stop for a moment and think about it, I can only guess that Flanagan was not a well man.  He claims he heard voices.  He killed his cats, perhaps as a way to work up the nerve to commit murder.  Maybe it was a sort of practice.  Maybe murder didn't come that easily to Flanagan, so he had to test his killer instincts on his cats.  

"Yes, it will sound like I am angry," Flanagan writes in his manifesto. "I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace....”

There is a side of me that wants very badly to feel some sort of compassion for Flanagan because he was obviously angry and very sick.  Knowing what I do about mental illness, I can only surmise that Flanagan really was suffering.  I think part of the reason we have so many gun slinging nuts on the loose is because it's easier to buy a gun in the United States than get decent mental health care.  Mr. Flanagan was obviously in dire need of services from a competent mental health professional.  He didn't need a gun.  He needed psych meds... and perhaps a bed in a locked facility somewhere where he couldn't hurt himself or other people.  

At the same time, Flanagan deliberately purchased a weapon two months ago and planned to kill two innocent people in cold blood.  These people had lives, loved ones, friends... all things that Flanagan evidently didn't have and apparently couldn't get for himself, even though he was once given opportunities to work in broadcast news that he pissed away.  He blames racism and homophobia for the fact that he was a loser.  He hated his victims for what they had, and he felt compelled to take it all from them... and everything from all the people who loved them... and all the people who didn't know them, but are still profoundly affected by this murderous act.

Ripple effects...  how many people are going to have nightmares because of what Flanagan chose to do?  How many children are going to be scared to go outside because there might be a gun wielding madman on the loose, ready to pick them off with a few random gunshots?  How many people are going to be outraged by the actions of an angry black homosexual male and decide that more people who happen to share those characteristics "need" to be killed?

We have a bunch of people wanting to become President of the United States in 2016.  Well, I truly hope at least one of them comes up with a strategy to deal with the angry, crazy, well-armed people we have running loose in our society.  Something needs to be done.