Everyone has to start somewhere. I started a few years ago writing about things using a blog similar to this one. I will soon retire from my day job and thought I might try fiction.

I grew up with my nose between the pages of books. I remember fondly of owning a lockable attache where I would store my favorites for reading over and over again. My love of reading still shines brightly and I would love nothing more than to create my own for the pleasure of stories, writing and entertainment.

This blog is to be my training hall. I will study diligently and then attempt to create short stories of fiction for anyone who would dare to enter the darkest of rooms, my mind of imagination.

Venture forth my friends, enjoy and if you find it pleasing - return at your leisure for more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Day

Caveat dtd Tuesday, October 7th, 2014: After reading a book about getting shot for writers I have to say read this at your own risk cause I really got a lot of things wrong and in the end this needs a huge reality re-write - arghhhhh - no one said it would be easy.

Just a day with the cold wind, the hawk, blowing down Division Street passing by the projects and entering a broken door flapping in the strong, frigid and icy winds of Chicago. A small and unheated office space where three of us bundled in our overcoats with scarves and our covers (hats) pulled down to give some protection of our ears. You see, we all start out at this office with the proverbial “high and tight.” It takes a while to adjust to civilian influences in a military endeavor - Marine Recruiting. Just another day in the life of a Marine.

Now, this day is special as it is a day that will help one understand that one turning point in life that has great influence and effect. It was like any other except we arrived at work earlier than the chickens and roosters. They, the chickens and roosters, are still dreaming of the sun rising and the feed being spread like a warm blanket over the cold and hard ground. The hustle and bustle of the start of the day in preparation for going out and about and among the young masses that are the teens, and perspective recruits, of Chicago. 

No one can truly understand and appreciate the work that a military recruiter has to go through to achieve what only those recruiters understand as, “Quota.” I remember one time the Commandant came to visit us and took our questions and concerns unlike any other General officer before him. Of course, as you might assume, the question of quota rose up like bile in a scratchy throat. He said simply, “I understand Marines, quota is a bad thing so I declare at this moment you no longer have a quota!” Well, the heavy din of roaring Marine grunts and shouts nearly brought down the building around our heads. 

When the quiet resumed the General continued, “I am now instating a new recruiter directive. As of now you no longer have a quota, but you do have a mission. That mission is to get five new recruits a month, every month of duty as a Recruiter.” Needless to say the sudden quiet was so still as to hear a pin falling through the air. 

After the morning festivities and preparations I begin to get geared up for a ride and search and recruit mission at the Cabrini Green Projects of Chicago’s near north side. My fellow Marines had schooled me on the dangers inherent to this place. Sometimes it felt, so I assumed since I had not as yet entered a combat zone for duty, like entering into harms way. I was actually thinking that my gearing up would include a flak jacket and weapon but alas all us Marines had to enter into the Green Zone with just our wits and a clean, sharp, pressed uniform - the Marine Dress Blues modified with long sleeve and overcoat.

As I grabbed a cup of Mississippi Mud, the Marine Van keys and my cover strolling out the flapping wind tunnel that acted as a door to our offices I did not realize that today, a day, was going to go the direction it went and that was as unexpected as anything in life. I had no idea, no warning, no indication and no inclination while going to the van that I would be encountering a level of violence I had not as yet truly experienced. 

Let me set the stage, I am a violent person. Earlier I explained a smidgeon as to what that means but now we begin to open the door that enlightens us to what I am trying to convey that will set the tone for the entire story as it relates to my role. I had trained a lot early on and that training changed suddenly so that on the occasion I was triggered the actions and reactions would be as trained. As trained because my sensei actually perceived in me a quality that said I would be exceptional when applying the training that would come. 

I parked across the street from the commons area of the Green. Most of the building entrances were open to that common area so it would give me the most open observable environment. Knowing that this area and the building housed some very dangerous people warranted a type of awareness necessary to trigger my “spidey sense” when things were perceived as “hinkey.” Although my spidey sense didn’t trigger there was this ghost of a feeling that said, “Beware and be aware.”

You gotta know that my training and other pre-deployment data provided by the more experienced Marine “Green” Recruiters is and will always be a requirement to gain and maintain a state of environmental and situational awareness necessary for safety and security. You can’t expect anyone to enter a field of potential violence with no pre-knowledge of its various dangers along with protections because when the spidey sense goes ballistic you won’t have the pre-cog ability to act appropriately and instinctively. In ever situation you have to have the data and tools to evoke the proper force, etc. for the current moments situational circumstance. You know, you gotta know when to hold-em and know when to fold-em and know when to walk away and know when to run type thing. Anyway, the ghosts were speaking to me and there was this disquieting quiet about the commons even tho there was nothing “obvious” in my visual and auditory detection efforts. 

I scanned both sight and sound for an issues and any issues that pinged outside my current knowledge and experience base. You have to go that way because the most dangerous situation is one you thought you knew but you didn’t really know or that things you didn’t know that you didn’t know. You have to know what was normal for the Green to detect both what is unusual and what you don’t know is unusual. 

Let me take a moment to explain something here that is not explainable, it is something to experience to achieve understanding. But, this story has to come to paper somehow so what I will explain to explain the story is this, “I am going to break the whole of the situation down into a more or less linear fashion, i.e. explain what I am doing, what an adversary or adversaries are doing and the action as it might be explained step-by-step but here is the rub. All that will follow in those actions will actually take place simultaneously as if it happens in an instance. That is actually more true than you can imagine, it does happen in a moment or two and all the independent descriptions are happening instantly together as one whole while some very small instances may fall in a microsecond of one another depending on other factors. Confusing, I know, but the descriptions will be such so as to give your mind a chance to picture it in the mind in a way that will give a sense of the action and actions and so on. Hey, don’t get pissed at me, I tried to explain it but when it comes to violence a lot of it when explained loses its true essence.

I continued my stroll over to the building the young prospect provided as his home address. The apartment is on the tenth floor and I just hope that those elevators actually work today. I don’t mind the exercise, especially out here on recruiting duty since that duty tends to take up a lot of time, time that could and should be used to train. Anyway, I entered the building, passed the common lobby area covered in both crappy and artistic, graffiti,  tagging and lo-n-behold the elevator door swooshed open at the press of the button. 

I pressed the tenth floor button and the door slide almost smoothly closed. With a slight jerk the elevator started its long, slow and mostly silent ride upward into the bowels of the building. There is this soft ping when the elevator stopped with a slight quiver at the tenth floor and the doors began to slide into the wall, opening on the dimly lit hall and my spidey sense went absolutely berserk. 

The hall, it was a “T” shaped passage with one long one directly viewed from the elevator and then two branches headed both right and left of that elevator door. There was one guy standing slightly back and to the right against the far hall wall holding what appeared to be a 10mm smith & wesson automatic. Another guy stood directly in the hall directly opposite my position as I stepped one step out of the elevator. The last guy was to my left taking up the same position as the first guy but at the opposite side hallway wall. The guy in front and to my left both wore large shirt jackets with liners that hung down to just about the upper thigh area. 

The first guy on my right with the S&W held the gun straight out and cantered forty-five degrees, just like in the movies where the gangster thinks holding a handgun, especially an auto, at this angle is cool. He is also standing flatfooted, feet parallel and his right shoulder braced against the wall holding that firearm straight out, elbow locked.

The other two are standing in a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart, shoulders parallel facing me and hands and arms down by their sides. None of these guys is in a position to apply any physical power so one could assume they are dependent on getting a freeze because of the gun held by the first guy. It was then I noticed both the second and third guy do the “John Wayne shrug with forearms hitching up the waist as if pulling up their trousers.” I just assumed they were doing a weapons check.

The guy with the gun remained steady while the other two looked left, right and behind to check for witnesses and listening for the sound of a door, any door, opening. Remember, this took all of a millisecond to register in my mind and we can assume with the presence of three guys and the gun that my mind and body were working overtime and flooding with all kinds of chemicals. It was then I consciously looked at the two on the left, then down toward the floor to check and gauge distances then I rotated my head slightly to put my gaze on the gunman. With no movement from the other two after the weapons check, i.e. the shrug would let the forearms feel the position, other than returning the arms down by their sides I reasoned that I had a few seconds, max, to take care of the gunman and then address the other two. 

Since the shirts were out and down I made the now correct assumption that they would need to do the two hand draw to pull the weapon, raise them up in my direction, take sloppy aim and then fire. The time it takes for the arms to raise up, one to pull up the shirt and the other to grasp and pull the gun from that tangle of the waistband, raise it up, aim it and pull the triggers would mean about two or three-seconds approximately to get the job done. With some other factors taken on my part I felt that I could force them to drop back in the loop one or two steps giving me a bit more time. Their positions and distance also gave me time because if they just went physical their stance and position made for extra moves to get the momentum of their bodies moving in my direction. Plenty of time.

The gunman stated to say something and that meant his mind just shifted away from the gun. Add in that he decided to gesture with his gun hand to emphasis his words took the point off of me so that was when I moved. 

I stepped off with my left foot while moving off the gunman’s center and out of line for the shot, stepping forward at an thirty to forty-five degree angle also shifting me toward the other two resulting in their surprise and stepping or stumbling back a step or two, more time. I reached up with my right, grasped the top of the weapon, continued toward the gunman a step with the right foot, bent-twisted the gun causing the gunman to release the weapon, stepping back and to a position of power with the left foot taking me back a step away from the other two, raising the weapon while the other two did exactly what I predicted by starting the two handed gangster draw. 

The gunman reached with his gun-hand, now empty of a gun, and reached behind his right hip, I heard a click and saw a glint of metal so I took the first shot. I then shifted around counter clock wise and shifted the weapon along that horizontal plane taking point at the second guy, shot, shifted to the third and shot one more time. 

Knowing full well that a single shot doesn’t always mean, a downed adversary, I started to move to my left and around forward to keep my body moving until I could scan and shift with the weapon acting as a pointed finger moving from target to target assessing damage and adversaries viability to continue the attack. I help back the urge to keep pumping bullets into these bozo’s but also kept my head in the game by not taking any more shots or actions unless the level of danger, i.e. the ability and means to continue the attack at a high level of force, remained high enough to warrant additional expanse of ammunition. It also occurred to me that if the weapon actually was not fully loaded my continued movement would make a counter by these three knowing they are also holding on the three separate bullets would give me an advantage to continue the assessment of danger, etc. 

Upon seeing the three down on the ground and making no overt moves to reach for weapons I took a moment to go  from adversary to adversary reaching under the shirts and removing the guns as well as removing a folding knife from the original gunman placing the weapons next to the now closed elevator door so I could wait the arrival of ambulances, medics and of course, the police - assuming with gunshots fired they would venture into this building without first getting support from their tactical swat team.

I kept the weapon, after checking the mag and pipe, by my side and positioned myself to observe the three adversaries as well as doors to the apartments and that door to the building stairwell just in case the authorities or other adversaries arrived. 

My uniform actually saved me the discomfort of being shot on sight. Even tho someone called since no one actually stuck their heads out any doors I can assume they, as the authorities, didn’t know anyone other than guys like those on the floor were involved. Remember, there were no cell phones in those days so calls had to be made by hard lines, i.e. home phones or phone booths, etc.

Three guys down, no personal injuries and the only after effects so far is the normal effects of the flood, the adrenal rushes, etc. I was happy and surprised that the effects were not a lot stronger. I realized that I actually began combat breathing and held on to that until my body seemed normal. My scans and shifting body may have contributed toward a lessor impact of those natural chemicals that flood the body in moments of extreme danger. I also am thrilled that my training and knowledge contributed toward keeping the amount of applied force to within acceptable and levels easily articulated to authorities. 

Actually the before and during of this event seemed, on the surface since there are effects that would distort things in the heat of the moment, fairly stable so that I had some time before the arrival of a lot of folks to go over in my mind the details of events to see if any of it warranted more time so the effects of the flood could dissipate allowing the normal mind to collect, collate and analyzes events before I had to start talking. I also wanted to be ready since I would provide cooperation to the authorities by pointing out evidence and adversaries, etc. while holding back until I contacted the Marine main command to get a lawyer here so I could fully cooperate and give statement. I realized as I was considering such things that I was actually handling things well and that my mind was working apparently at normal levels. I would have thought, for my first time in a violent conflict, that my mind would be chattering away like a newly laid teen getting it for the first time. I guess all things considered, I was very lucky but felt calm and in control I would verify that when I got copies of reports, statements and pictures from the investigation. I also could come to realize that although the before and during went really well that it was critical that the after remain steadfast, correct, concise and true to reality would be the more challenging effort of the entire incident. 

I begin to hear a faint sound that became sirens as they approached the Greens. It would be another five minutes until they came though the doors and possiby through the elevator so I positioned myself ready to relinquish the weapon when the entered. I remember how my sense trained me to act and react when this type of encounter happened so that flashed through my mind when the far hall stair door popped open about two inches and the barrel of an automatic weapon slide out into view. I slowly stooped down, laid the weapon on the floor behind my feet farthest from any adversary even tho they were not moving or going anywhere, you know, better safe than sorry and it would present to the authorities a weapon not easily accessed by me. I then raised my hands over my head, knelt down, and then placed my hands behind my head fingers interlaced, sat back on my heels and waited.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Humble Beginnings

He was a spiritual man who had been practicing his are for over sixty years. I started with him around the age of thirteen. The Ole Man, as I called him and he took as a compliment, said the first day of your teen years is a good time to start studying the world, nature and in general the Universe. Much like other spiritually minded people he did meditation, both sitting and moving, that involved many esoteric things. I was intrigued even at that young age. I suspect it was because, deep down inside me, I was an introvert who suffered from simply being around folks.

The funny thing tho is I felt comfortable around the ole-man. I guess now I sensed something peaceful and harmonious about him back then and more so today almost forty years later. It wasn’t until I had trained under him for thirteen years did I come to realize what lay underneath that harmonious spirit. I will get back to that but this is my story, not the ole-man’s.

As I said, it took about thirteen years for reality of what I got into when I joined up with him and that has lead me to be the violent but humble man I am today and it was that which lead me to be the force of nature I became. You might say this is a bit egoistic me telling you this and far and away from being a humble person but it is a story and to get you the full and complete picture of said story you need to hear it all. At least all that I am willing to tell at this juncture in our journey together. It won’t take thirteen years for me to tell that part and you will get a sense as this part of the story continues. 

In those first thirteen years a lot went on and today I now understand why the ole-man made me take that journey when like most he could have skipped all that and took me directly to that end result. It would have been quicker but I know now that my flame would have burned a lot faster than it has and I would not be here today telling this story.

His meditations really allowed a young mind like mine to find a more peaceful state that remained in each moment as it would flirt and fly through my time and that would be of great importance later when something unique and real began to happen. In the beginning the ole-man wanted me to learn how to be still, both in body and mind, so that my spirit would connect to the Universe. Come on, stick around man because this esoteric Asian sage like statement isn’t really out there and it will come together as the story continues. It is also an example why the ole-man took me on and trained me the way he did. Oh, before I go on, the ole-man is still going strong and I am now sixty, funny ain’t it?

Some of my fundamental lessons were in a quiet place sitting in a meditation seated position where the method was as important as all the other stuff that followed those thirteen years. They would be the key to unlock all the other stuff that followed in those years after the first thirteen. If you are familiar with the Japanese tea ceremony you might understand that from the moment one enters the tea garden, through it, approaching the tea room, entering, sitting and the process of being served or serving the tea, after, leaving, moving in reverse to leave the garden and exiting. Every little detail of that alone took me many years to learn and correctly execute. 

Each day included how some minute change would change the dynamics of the entire process. Whether we sat seiza or kiza meant we created a different approach to the meditation and the mind-state both in the processes of and the after feelings and so on of that particular session. It was dynamic, chaotic yet full of rhythm, cadence and patterns that would lead to many different paths along this journey. 

Take sitting seiza vs. kiza, the difference is merely how one sits with the buttocks resting either on the heels with the feet stretched out vs. with the feet higher and the toes curled under. Just this difference changed the entire dynamics of mokuso, being a term for meditation. 

What the ole-man taught first seemed easy to follow since it set a pattern that once learned allowed you to continue without thought then he began to insert thoughts into the process. Those thoughts were about the movements when doing moving meditation. Oh, I didn’t tell you about moving mediation but if you are familiar with martial arts, as many are, you will recognize them as basics, kata and drills. It would be easy at this point in the story to say, it were bunkai, but actually it was that then more - it gets a skosh complicated but we will cover that in the future tellings as well.

Don’t you worry none cause this story is not going to be that long since all I need to get across to you is an outline of the process I gladly followed from the ole-man so I could reach that point where things go really boring and really interesting all in one very chaotic moment at the end of that thirteen year learning curve. The curve got a lot sharper and the path became confusing like trying to interpret an ancient Zen koan. 

Let me say to those who are familiar with martial arts or any combative discipline like them this process looks, feels, and sometime is a typical classical and traditional martial system but that ends quickly at the end of that first thirteen years. We’ll get there just like any drive to another place and time similar to taking that long awaited vacation during the summer to some seemingly exotic local like the cliffs off the San Francisco coastline where the East meets the West by the gently ebb and flow of the ocean tides of the Pacific. 

To be continued …..

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Violent Person, That's Me

The chair is hard, made of metal and hard woods. It has straps similar to the old electric chairs to hold a person fast and mostly immovable. It is not electric but the end results as I sit here bound tighter then a too small girdle waiting for the opportunity, the chance, to do what I do best. Oh yea, I am a violent person and I do it well. At least I have been given time to consider my plight, make a plan and when the opening arrives - it always arrives - I can exploit it. 

Why am I here? Well, because, as I stated, I am a violent person. I do things that most human beings find repulsive. It is the type of thing that society wants desperately when they are endangered yet when no danger is evident they tend to want me gone. It is strange, I don’t think like other people. I can fake it to fit in. At least I could fake it before the first time I took that step across the line and made violence my buddy. Even that statement will make most squirm and fidget in their comfortable lounge chairs. It is about accepting it when they think it is either necessary or simply a movie directors imagination put on film. 

When I say I am a violent person I tend to mean also that I have been cursed and blessed with certain physical and psychological traits that allow me to do things that others will find impossible. I am not a psychopath or anything like that but there is similarities that I use to help me do things that need doing. 

I realize that I have to do what the group wants in order to belong. When I say belong, I mean that I live within the cultural confines of that group simply to have a place to live. I could live separately but that tends to become difficult when you need certain things to eat and obtain medical services, etc. 

Oh, did I tell you - I am a Marine. Now, don’t go thinking that the Marines have anything to do with what I am. They provided me the exact same training that all Marines get. I was expected to perform within those constraints set by the various codes of conduct for all military to include those imposed to govern hostilities be they in war or police actions. One difference, my perspective of all that was similar to the ancient warrior generals of early Chinese history. 

Let me explain, there was a famous philosopher and general who was asked by the Emperor how he would conduct his business regarding war. The general explained but the Emperor could not fully comprehend what it meant to go to war, to win. The general said he could train anyone to be a good soldier and to fight and win any war. The stipulation was once the Emperor declared war and put the onus on the general to go out and finish it the genaral stated that once he left with his directive the needs, wants or influences of the Emperor stopped. 

The emperor then asked what that meant. The general stated that war was his domain while the kingdom was the Emperor’s. Once the general took to the battle field all he did and all he accomplished was his total and complete domain with no interferences from anyone including the Emperor. The Emperor accepted those terms.

Then the question of the generals ability to lead the forces, any one as a soldier. In order to demonstrate the general said the Emperor could assign anyone to him and then direct him to train that force to do what it took to win the war. 

The emperor thinking he could really test that generals abilities chose his wives and consorts. The general, once more, stated that once he gave over the Emperors wives and consorts that the Emperor could not interfere no matter what. The Emperor agreed and made it a decree that all his wives and consorts were now soldiers for the day.

The general had the soldiers make a formation of three squads in a military formation. They tended to move slowly and giggled due to their feelings of embarrassment, etc. When they didn’t move and form fast enough the general then stated that three of the soldiers taking the lead of each squad and were responsible for their soldiers following orders. He then instructed them again to what he required then ordered the leaders to make it happen. 

Once again, the slowness, the confusion and the giggling got in the way. The general then ordered that the three leaders be immediately executed. He had their heads cut off in front of the others. The Emperor was shocked and dismayed and tried to order the general to stop. The Emperor was reminded of his decree. The process was repeated and lo-n-behold all the soldiers immediately stopped the slowness and the giggling and followed orders quickly and with out question. The point was made. Politics were to be strictly separated from war and the warriors were left, once unloosed, to do what was necessary to get the job done, the war won. 

What I am trying to convey here is that for me, it was a matter of separation. It was a matter of doing whatever was necessary to get the job done and win the war, regardless of what others think or what politicians wanted or needed. It became the distinction that once I was unloosed upon the world with the need and mandate to use violence, I used it as it was meant to be used. 

As I said, I am a violent man and all this other oopla is why I am sitting in this chair at this moment. An attempt to curb the proverbial “dog of war” to fit the agenda’s of those who would not know violence even when it bit them in the face. The type of violence I would unleash like a junk yard dog protecting life, property and family. Once the dog is released you can not expect to control its ferocity and instinct to “get the job done.”

Don’t get me wrong. Before they let me loose if there were any possible means to achieving the goals needed that strategy was discussed and used but if it was found to “not get the job done” then it was discarded and the dog is let loose. 

I kept telling them that, like the general with the Emperor, once you turn me loose I don’t and won’t answer or respond to anyone. I warned them and got their approval even knowing deep down when the deed is done they were going to go ballistic with how I got things done. 

Stayed tuned in for the next installment :-)