One of these days…

I have written many-a-time that one of these days I’m going to lay it all out. Not that anybody cares, but the cathartic feeling I’m going to get will be well-worth-it.

I have had a good life. Jeez! Sounds like an obit. But I have had a charmed life. I have had such luck down through the years, it is remarkable.

Just look at the places I’ve been. At 14, I went crazy, ending up in the basement of a much-renowned Doc. Then I took off to parts unknown with a young lady who was interested in more than I could give. I ended up in Elk City, Oklahoma, in a phone booth begging my father to take me back. He did. Peace was in his heart along with love and understanding. Envy, pride, and ego were in my heart. But I survived. Oh, how lucky am I?

At 16, went off to Europe, and sat on rooftops engaging in, perhaps, questionable activities. But peaceful as hell and wonderful. Imagine, a 16-year-old-punk sitting on a rooftop in Paris, looking out to see all that the eye can see. So lucky. So grateful.

Then at 20, a year-long trip to India, where ostensibly, I was supposed to be studying Indian literature, language, arts and mathematics. Instead, I was sitting on rooftops engaging in, perhaps, questionable activities. But I was doing so with peace in my heart and luck on my side. What a deal.

I  didn’t mention that on my way to India I stopped off in Japan. Tokyo to be exact, where I met this wonderful beautiful Japanese lady who introduced me to her ways. Then Bangkok, Thailand; stumbling around the streets in the early hours of the morning, searching for a temporary reprieve, and then Calcutta.

My first night in Calcutta, India, while sitting on a rooftop of an off-the-beaten-path hostel, and engaging in questionable activities, I heard a thunderous noise. It was not a loud thunder, at all. It was constant. More like a low rumble. I peeked out, over the rooftops, and saw a heard of rats. That is correct: A heard of rats. They scurried past, like they knew exactly where they were going and it was not to me. How lucky am I?

While in India, I got caught up in some more questionable activities that ultimately led to the closing of the program. I was not the only one. I was one among many, but I was there in full, questionable force.

Now, one night while sitting on a rooftop in the lovely beach community of Goa, India, I accidentally set my hotel room ablaze by not distinguishing the cigarette I’d been smoking. I was a bit incapacitated, so I was dragged out of the burning room. Once outside and unattended, I stumbled back in because, they told me later, I said I was tired. I wanted to sleep. Didn’t matter that the room was an inferno. I wanted to go to sleep. If they had not been there, sleep would have been forever. How lucky am I?

At 23, I found my myself back in Europe, only this time, I was supposed to be protecting the homeland from Germany. I was in the U.S. Army, having enlisted in 1972. In fact, I enlisted a few days after President Richard Nixon abolished the draft.  I was originally assigned to a line platoon as a gunner on an anti-aircraft gun, called a Vulcan. This was an outpost, small, isolated, readying for war.

Let me further set the scene for you: I was living in a barrack with 25 other men. We were in a line platoon. The Vietnam War was hanging over our heads. Moreover, the barracks were a boiler-room of black, white, Hispanic, some Asian, men sleeping in two-man bunks exploding nightly because of a huge, volatile, hate-driven racial divide. Fights broke out routinely over meaningless things.

Showering was an adventure not always resulting in the desired effect. It was rough. Remember: I am not a rough guy. I am naturally afraid. Afraid of everything. I did have nappy hair so the blacks adopted me and that helped since the African-Americans were in charge. How lucky am I?

But I figured out a way to get in trouble. It seems the U.S. Army doesn’t take to people sitting on rooftops engaging in questionable activities. They were about to lower the legal boom on me when I got summoned to the outfit that does the legalizing. It appeared the Judge Advocate General’s Office of the 8th Infantry Division wanted me as a lawyer assistant, bailiff, criminal investigator, etc, etc, etc. How lucky am I?

Funny thing was when they first offered it up, I turned them down. Now, let’s compare the two: One is a pot-boiler, exploding nightly. Sleeping in a two-man bunk, on the bottom, in a large room with 25 other angry, frustrated men. With the slight possibility of being sent back to Vietnam to help with the withdrawal of our troops.

The other is a two-man room separated by lockers with a single bed. I would have my own private, space. The large space would also have a living room with a view of the commons. It was located at headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. I could sip my life not chug-a-lug-it like back in the barracks. The powers-that-be didn’t listen to my declination and I found myself relocated from hell to paradise. How lucky am I?

In addition to the living arrangements, the Army sent me away for advanced, intense paralegal/criminal investigation training. It was amazing. How lucky am I?

By the way, that’s the same thing with the job I have today. I turned them down. They didn’t listen. How lucky am I?

One of these days, I’m going to lay it all out. Until then, well, talk soon.



About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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