Moments where I am made small

Once, while standing on a beach near Tarifa, Spain, I was stunned with the reality that the African continent was a mere 8 miles away… south across the Straits of Gibraltar. The closeness of Africa and standing in southern Spain was a moment of weight… a moment of clarity. People see stars and are humbled… I see continents and the ease of modern travel and shiver. My stomach was full of spanish beef and wine… yet a hunger rumbled inside of me. The world may be interconnected and made small by the globalization of commerce and communications… yet the world gives off a radiance of bigness when your toes are buried in beach sand, sea water splashes your ankles, and on the southern horizon another continent looms. The sand and water may have been small things… the time and place made them large in my mind.

These moments of mental poetry don’t happen often… ah, but when they do… words fail, knees are buckled, tears flow, and the universe expands. I’ve struggled recently to form into words the thoughts that have been running races through my brain. I realize now that there are some interconnectedness to them… the everyday experiences meeting what my heart and head say are substantial… important… big… vast… stupendous.

Yesterday evening I sat on my couch and noticed that I was surrounded by technology. Immediately within hand-grasping range were my iPhone, iPod, Kindle, and iPad. Wireless technology that is totally dependent on wires for powering of supposed long-life batteries. Both their visual and tactile presence etched a burning thought into my head… it snapped up quick… I noticed that my PlayStation 3 was a few steps away… resting beneath my HD TV. My laptop sat on a desk a few steps further away. The explosive presence of technology was made even more astounding when I noticed that my XM satellite radio was playing. I was stunned at the amount of modernity involved in my life. How did I survive before these tiny pieces of plastic, metal, and wires entered into my life? I didn’t get work email until 1998, cable television had not been something I knew until 1989… my parents didn’t get any sort of cable until I left for college. Yesterday evening I was made small by the presence of these “tools” and realized that I either embrace their importance in my life or abandon all hope in the coming apocalypse… the tools of man will eventually fail… those long-life batteries will die and cause little red blinking symbols… technology will go quiet.

I am comforted in these moments of technological reliance when I think of how I ensure I stay active and maintain some sort of physical activity in my life… I don’t live in my mom’s basement… I don’t subsist on Oreos and Dr. Pepper. Physical exertions are another way to experience something bigger than self. Running a marathon was an event… marathons are not races… they are events… a mountain to climb that meant nothing to no one but me. Climbing mountains is definitely one way to feel small and significant at the same time. Climbing mountains is how I would categorize certain moments in my life when I am made small and the world’s size is projected into my soul.

Climbing a Mountain, literally

Colorado has 54 peaks that spike forth into the sky that tower above 14,000 feet. No state in the continental U.S. has more 14ers than Colorado, Mount Whitney in California is the tallest at 14,497, then Colorado begins to fill the list quickly… it has 119 ranked peaks, California 27, and Washington and Wyoming competing for third with just 2 ranked peaks apiece. The race for big mountains in the continental U.S. has been won and dominated by Colorado… the Rockies are truly magnificent in their lordly position of bigness. One summer recently I hiked… not climbed… Huron Peak, which is a meekly peak of 14,003 feet. It is ranked number 63 out of the top 150. Here is me steps away from attaining the summit of Huron Peak:

Fortunately for me… my mountain climbing skills are nonexistent… Huron Peak is a “walk-up” ascent. I had a friend, who had retired in Colorado, as a guide and teacher… his patience and entertaining banter kept me going. His mountain goat nimbleness looked so fluid next to my lumbering attempts to gain oxygen and put one foot in front of the other. The day had begun at a lowly 7,000 feet, followed by a drive that wove us up another 1,500 feet… from there we began walking UP… UP… and UP some more. The hike didn’t seem more than a stroll until we hit the end of the timberline at approximately 11,000 feet. Birches and evergreens disappeared and produced an almost lunar landscape. Mid-summer snow melt trickled by… watering nothing more than short grass… no one had informed the grass that it wasn’t supposed to be growing at this elevation. Soon the grass ended and nothing remained but different sized rocks and icy snow. It was disconcerting to be sweating profusely while snow glistened on both sides of the trail to the summit. Every step beyond 13,000 feet became a laborious attempt to breathe. One breath, two steps… rest… two steps… rest. What was assumed to be a quick morning hike was turning into an all day exercise in will power. I would not descend until I made the summit… but dying was no longer a vague concept. Finally I stumbled the last feet forward and reached the pinnacle. Other hikers were cast about… drinking water… eating calorie-laden lunches… tightening hiking gear for their descent. I signed the summit log… a protected notebook… my name was added to the list of hikers who had made the summit. I stood and removed my shirt and donned a dry one. I looked about… in that moment the significance of the elevation hike receded and I stared in awe at mountains that stretched as far as my eyes could see. Startlingly blue skies clashed against gun-metal colored peaks… roof top seating… all of creation seemed to be below me. The sky was closer than the valleys below. I was made small.

Desert trekking

Where man has wondered about the existence of life… life lives. Deserts are places where man travels briefly… or exists with barely a toe hold on loose and sandy soil… gas stations and hamlets beaten by both sun and wind. Yet through this life exists. I have trekked a few deserts. I have hiked southern Texas with my dad… storing our gear on our backs or in the bed of my truck. A week of burning dead cacti and staring at fields of nightly stars… daylight brought forth fields of color that carpet… Big Ben’s desert in the month of April is a patchwork of color. This was a time, months actually, before 9/11… thus we crossed the Rio Grande easily for a few dollars and explored the Mexican side of this ambling river… it was like a stanza from a Robert Earl Keen song… in the shade of awning in a tiny Mexican village we sipped cold beers and wondered how to make our life as banditos. This imaginary life as some cowboy punching cattle in the dry lands of the southwest was matched in significance by a single evening… dusk… near Death Valley. I was in the military and participating in training at Fort Irwin, California. In a rare moment of stillness, I found myself reclined back against the windshield of my HMMWV and staring at canyon walls in the distance. Because of the high tempo of the training, I was fatigued… to compensate I had put a large amount of Skoal in my lower lip, lit a cigar, and poured a cup of cold coffee. I removed my helmet and stared. As the sun set behind me the canyon walls began to change colors… melting from brown to fantastically pastel pinks, reds, and oranges… some colors were indescribable… unknown hues dazzled. Truly, the desert is a colorful place. As the sun set, the canyon played a Crayola symphony, and the night’s stars began to twinkle on… I began to hum a few lines from Woody Gutherie’s “California Stars“… I knew this song from Wilco and Billy Bragg… but I know it was Woody Gutherie who I was channeling at that moment. The desert always makes me small.

Hiking a Glacier

Feeling important and powerful is easily disputed when the raw power of nature is revealed… even when the power is slow-moving… moving at glacial speed. This is a view of a glacier I hiked from the front seat of helicopter I rode. This glacier is just a few miles north of Juneau, Alaska. When planning a vacation to Alaska, I had told myself that if the opportunity arose for me to see a glacier up close and personal… I would follow through. No price was too great to place my feet on an icy wonderland. I had already seen massive glaciers calving into the sea… now I was afforded a seat aboard a helicopter to fly up and trek where the ice carved… slowly… through mountains. Thousands of years had formed this monstrosity… a quick 20 minute flight took me from airport to glacier. Outfitted in helmet, ice axes, and spikes, I stepped out of the helicopter and met my guide. Other than dirt, there is no real color in glaciers… the deep blue haze from a distance turns bright upon closer inspection… this is a result of being the only color of the spectrum that reflects out of the ice. Many think it is a color resulting from the ice being made of water… no, it is nothing more than refracting light. The blue danced out of the ice and into me. The surface from the distance, like the blue, seemed insignificant… rugged and peaked ice on the surface looked like little troughs… oh, how mistaken I was… this terrain was actually man-sized and larger. Ice towered above and below… there is no flat surface… no shit… helmet, ice axes and spikes indeed. Small and freezing streams of water skimmed along the surface that would suddenly disappear into gaping holes dotted around the surface. These holes plunged down… watered by these streams… falling away like small pieces of silver and white… no sound made as the water descended and descended. There were no safety ropes, no trails, no warnings… no shit… helmet, ice axes and spikes indeed. The National Geographic moment happened when my guide forced his ice axe into the glacier tethering it as an anchor, then he dug his spikes in… I wondered why he was preparing himself as a human anchor… he then grabbed me by the belt and told me to lean forward. At top this glacier, I leaned forward and looked into the depths of one of these deep holes and marveled at a blue and black sprinkled with falling water… a gaping hole that disappeared… the deep dark coloring of its depth bore back into my mind… I snapped a quick picture… I pissed a little on myself and let my guide know to pull me back straight… this was probably done with a small and weak yelp. I had looked down and realized I was small.

Moments such as these are never as numerous as we desire… thankfully so. Realizing the smallness of self is important but overwhelming. The monotonous routine of day-in and day-out are there to allow us to live… but these moments of being small allow us to know we are alive.

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Twilight for Men… damn it! (A book review of The Passage)

Wisps of smoke, that is what dreams are… you reach out to remember them after you awaken and they dissolve in your hands… shifting and changing. You think you have the dream remembered… then gone… no substance. Early in the week I awoke feeling like I had just experienced a nightmare. It wasn’t a boogeyman or monster nightmare, it didn’t even seem like anxiety type nightmare… no nude lecturing in front of students type anxiety. This one was subtle, it was about a tiled room and shower followed by a quick snapshot of a dream memory of a dog in a cage. The dog and shower by themselves didn’t seem nightmarish or evil… it was the disturbed feeling I awakened to that threw me for a loop. As I walked to work that morning… summer sun beating down on me… the dream memories seemed to recede further back into my consciousness… as if the sun’s rays pushed it back into the earthen dark of my mind. A nightmare can be a Dracula, avoiding the waking hours of day, to return once night has fallen and the mind is unprotected from the day’s warmth.

Dreams are an important part of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Dreams drive the characters to act and react to the world. Dreams are a vehicle that allows characters and readers to understand why things happen as they do. Dreams are a big part of this book… this book is big… 1,342 pages big. It is part of a trilogy… a damn vampire trilogy. I didn’t know it was about vampires and I didn’t know it was a trilogy when I started reading it.

I started reading the book on a friend’s recommendation… I bought it on Kindle… I didn’t notice page numbers. After a few days of reading, I noticed that the percent of book completed was a low 20%… shit this book must be big… I never went to see how big a book this was until I started writing this review. It’s a damn big book. The friend didn’t say it was big. The friend didn’t say it was a trilogy… the friend didn’t say it was a vampire trilogy. These realizations that flowed out of the book and into me is what gave me a dawning idea that I was reading an epic… about fucking vampires.

Its two parts… one is present day and the typical government/military experiment gone wrong. Then there is an almost 100 year jump in time that describes the new world following the evil (vampires) that was released by the U.S. government. The two parts are connected by a single character that travels through both parts… yeah, a sort of character that is neither living nor dead. Imagine Ann Rice’s vampires beginning today and moving forward… instead of vampires from history moving forward into our time.

No spoiler alert… but man releases a vampire virus on the world… the world is nearly destroyed… survivors do what they must… the book ends and then I realized the story wasn’t over. The read is pleasurable… the story engaging… the idea mesmerizing… you crave more. A more educated reader would have been aware of what they were embarking on… I stumbled into the story… I hate myself for enjoying it.

I haven’t read any Twilight books… no clue what they are really about other than vampires and young girl love. The Passage is also vampires and love and girls and dealing with the actions of imperfect characters. It is not romantic though, it is more digression into the actions of people affected by time and place… affected by a world gone fucking mad, yet it is also a world that has evolved due the actions of time. Biblical symbolism echo through the book like crazy… just like Stephen King’s The Stand… this is a story of traveling and a battle between good and evil. This is a story about how ambiguity, forgiveness, and human emotion are shown not only through actions but through the dreams of characters. The violence and blood are very male like… the pure fear and danger makes me think that the only facts of being about vampires and being a trilogy are what connect it to Twilight.

My dreams are never easily remembered. The tiled room with its single shower are easily remembered… the large collie in the cage are pictured in my mind’s eye. I have no idea what either one represents or means… I have no idea how either one is connected to the other but I know they were in the same dream. This dream followed the evening of me finishing The Passage. There were no vampires in my dream… no blood craving… no crazy world where I am forced to traverse a landscape that is familiar, yet foreboding. My dream left me disturbed though… my dream left me wondering… considering what lay ahead… worse yet, what lay beneath my conscious mind. The Passage is like this dream… it disturbed me, it left me wondering… it left me grateful for daylight. I just wish I had known it when I embarked on this Twilight like saga. I can forgive my mind for dreaming, I can’t forgive it for not looking before it jumped into the saga with some sort of idea how long the passage would be from beginning to end.

Read it, but you have been warned.

The Smell of a Campfire: a Travelogue of Home

 It wasn’t until the Monday morning that I took the time to walk around… extended family and friends had left. My nephew was asleep… four nights of sleeping by a campfire had taken its toll, my dad was busying himself with horses and garden. It had started raining Saturday night after midnight… drizzled through Sunday. A low fog hung on the hills of my parent’s farm. Walking around the “old” barn I snapped pictures with my iPad, the one above is of an old fence post… the ceramic insulator dripped from the previous night’s moisture. Donkeys, horses, goats had been kept behind this fence once… now deer, squirrels, rabbits, field mice, and the flotsam of nature moved through, over, and under it. The donkeys and horses have been moved… the goats gotten rid of.

I had arrived on Wednesday afternoon and immediately went to assisting to prepare for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. This included more supervising of two 14 year-old boys than actual manual labor on my part. When I was 14 and lived on this farm I worked under the gaze of my 44 year-old dad… now he is a 71 year-old grandfather and content to let others get stuff done… as long as they leave his garden and horses alone. Grass and weeds were cut, trash picked up… seems 30 years of living on the farm had resulted in a number of things being cast about on the ground… mainly feed buckets and sacks… errant cast-offs of what once was more working farm than hobby farm. By Saturday morning the general clean-up had turned specific… party tents were erected… tables and chairs arranged… flowers and lights placed around by the vision of my 16 year-old niece who had decided how she wanted it decorated for her grandparents’ 50th anniversary. The rest of us followed her directions… she had actually made a list… more than the rest of us could claim… never argue or contradict a person with a list.

In between the general and specific preparations for the party, I managed to get some fishing in… I caught nothing… my fish catching skills have always been suspect. My parents like to fish… it wasn’t until I was older that I realized that one could mix fishing and beer drinking could be combined… my parents are teetotalers… but this fishing trip was dry as a bone. My nephew, my dad, and another 14 year-old boy were my fishing companions… the two boys seemed more interested in seeing how many small Breams they could snag over the amount my dad snagged. Competition seemed important to them… I walked around the pond randomly casting and wondering how one gets a life like this everyday… getting old and retiring in the country is one way… another is to return to the age of early teenage years and spend the summer with indulgent grandparents… neither is the life I lead right now.

Other than fishing, I was fortunate enough to make three “runs” to Wal-Mart in town… adventuresome on many levels. This is the new Wal-Mart… it sports groceries and a plethora of items that seem necessary in our modern world of consumerism. The “old” Wal-Mart was smaller… and up the road (which is actually more southern on the road… but using “up the road” denotes the way one would head) near McDonalds… staples of the cruising route of youth. Circle through McDonalds’ parking lot… exit through the old Wal-Mart parking lot… then out on the main road and head toward the square… you could loop the square or head a little farther and turn around at a gas station. Along the route your fellow teenage friends would be parked… primarily in the old Wal-Mart parking lot bullshitting and imagining the day when you could move out into the world. This old stomping and dreaming ground has moved though… the new Wal-Mart shines like a beacon. The new Wal-Mart sells shiny hamburger-emblazoned t-shirts… the two 14 year-old boys both agreed that only a goober would buy and wear one.

The trips to town did allow me to get text messages that had been bouncing among the stars… my parent’s live on a farm with no cell coverage… land line and Internet is the only way to communicate with the world. My iPhone would start dinging like crazy once I got close to town… signaling that I had returned to what one would consider a more modern era… with new Wal-Mart and all.

In reality, the days home “celebrating” my parents’ anniversary was an excuse for me to burn some wood. My nephew and I considered it our duty to run through as much as possible… my dad, his grandfather, would mumble every now and then about us using too much wood… when we weren’t around he would slip a piece of wood on the fire to keep the coals and embers going… he wasn’t fooling anyone, he had passed this campfire gene on to the two of us. Nightly, we would throw the cots and my mother’s quilts out … build up the fire and settle down under the stars… if either of us got chilly one would rise and put more wood on… such is the easy life when you have no place to go or be… other than where you are. Sitting around wood burning was the primary activity of the weekend. My dad sat by three smokers cooking pork butts that magically turned into pulled pork sandwiches at the party. He was almost tribal elder-like in the way he hovered around the smoke telling stories to us “boys”… passing on tradition… later he was joined by his brother who added to the elder-status of the stories… slight interpretation was needed… they never really finished a sentence or a paragraph… the stories were meant to entertain… we were entertained. At one point, generations of the “men” of my family sat around the fire from 8-71 years of age… lies were told, bullshit was spread.

The party, the anniversary itself, felt a little bit of an afterthought. Over a hundred guests arrived to eat and catch up. A bluegrass band played in the background… a magician strolled around making balloon animals and hats… I had wanted a clown… a clown was voted creepy… my mom and I decided to go with the magician… it was total entertainment. It did not match the feeling of the fire and family though. My parents cut their cake… I gave a speech… friends and family mingled.

Sunday it drizzled and we had to collapse tents in the rain. Folding chairs and tables were returned to the volunteer fire department… on the return trip they were tied down… when I picked them up I had cast caution to the wind and hoped I wouldn’t cause an accident with a trailer bounce and a flying chair.  Rain and drizzle continued all day… my nephew and I decided to head indoors for my final night there… campfires don’t burn as well. Monday morning was the only time I was alone to take a quick walk and look around. It was quiet and green… rain and mist dripped off everything. It felt good to have the moment and contemplate the weekend and realize that time with family is both refreshing and draining. Petty and important run together amongst the dialogue of family. I was back in DC by Monday evening… as I unpacked my bag I was hit by the smell of smoke and campfire… I smiled.

Blame: Elected Officials’ Pay

Small children get a pass… you don’t. If you are reading this post then you are old enough to know better. At a minimum, you should know that nothing is black and white… gray1 is the color of the world. I understand how easy it is to blame something or someone else for things that may not be easily explained or understood. Being creatures with a neocortex, logic and abstract thought are types of reasoning we are graced with.2 Unfortunately, common sense has not been scientifically identified in the brain… thus it makes one wonder if it exists at all. When we attempt to shift blame, we have a tendency to look for simplistic cause and effects… or attempt to identify easy solutions.

Elected Official’s Pay

Seems there is a populist “picture” floating around the Intertubes that is attempting to make an example of how much elected officials get paid and how it is large compared to military members and Social Security recipients. The basic premise of this picture is that if the budget needs to be cut, then the pay of these politicians is what should lose some money. Here is the picture:

This is a populist response to the complicated issues associated with the U.S. debt and budget. Populism is an ideology or type of political discourse that, generally, compares “the people” against “the elite.” Academically, populism is identified as political language and action that denotes an appeal to “the people” and is divisive in nature. It is argued that populism dumbs-down complicated issues to simple phrases and ideas to get “the people” to vote or act a certain way.

First, one has to look at the U.S. government budget overall:

This graph shows you that it is not the amount politicians are paid that truly affects the budget, but the sheer volume of the other issues such as Defense and Social Security. Even if every Member of Congress decided to stop being paid for a year, it would be less than $100 million (based on the numbers in the picture above stating salaries). This $100 million is part of the orange “Discretionary” budget item, which overall is $646 billion, and this $100 million is less than 1% overall. Discretionary budget items are everything the government pays for that isn’t Medicare, Social Security, and Defense (excluding mandatory spending and debt interest). In 2008, $615 billion was paid to over 50,000 Social Security recipients. It is about volume, not amount of pay to individuals.

Then there is the issue of what the “average” salary for a military service member to Afghanistan gets paid… there is no explanation of how this figure is reached and not sure if it is accurate, but it is probably close. According to Social Security Administration data, however, the average Social Security recipient does receive approximately $12,000 annually.

Overall, this idea of cutting politicians’ pay is at a minimum misleading, and at the most deceitful. It isn’t about how much elected officials get paid, it is about the number of them versus the number of Social Security and Medicare recipients, and the total amount spent on Defense. The premise seems to be that there is a need to reduce government spending and attacking what populists’ call “the elite” is the way to do it… unfortunately, even my response to this issue is simplistic. We haven’t even discussed the idea of value of work done. $450,000 isn’t enough for me to be President… that job would suck.

1. Grey can also be used because both are used throughout the English-speaking world… but “gray” is more common.

2. Specific reasoning is primarily conducted in the frontal lobe, and spatial reasoning is part of the parietal lobe. Grammar and linguistic rules are supposedly handled by the temporal lobe.

God Save the Queen

In an alcoholic stupor, I once called Queen Elizabeth II a bitch … out loud and in front of a few of her subjects… military officers in her service specifically. After what seemed like a 12 pack of Foster’s oil cans and Victoria Bitter, I disparaged her royal highness. Back story is important here… don’t want people thinking that I call British royalty names for no reason. In all honesty, I was defending American honor by verbally assaulting the Queen.

While a captain in the US Army, I attended what is called the Field Artillery Officer’s Advance Course (FAOAC) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This course was not only attended by young US military officers, but a number of our allies were also in attendance. I distinctly remember a Czech army officer… always stating he didn’t understand the instruction, thus never forced to complete any assignment, and a Saudi Arabian army officer… who married a large buxom blonde from Oklahoma… wonder how her life turned out.

Not only were numerous military students from foreign countries, but a number of the instructors were also from other countries… specifically British Commonwealth countries. The US military has an exchange program with our allies that allows different countries to send instructors to different military schools… all in the name of cooperation. My primary instructor was Canadian, and other instructors included an Australian and a Brit. Good solid… and proficient… artillerymen. Unfortunately, like most British Commonwealth military officers, there was a hint of superiority… as if their countries’ history of warfare allowed them to look down their noses at us “colonists”… for the record the Canadians and Aussies are colonists too… just didn’t have the balls to gain independence as early as the Americans did… and they still attach themselves to the Queen’s apron strings.

At one of the numerous get-togethers, students and instructors mingled over beers and a grill covered in meat… it was Oklahoma. After a copious amount of beer, my Canadian instructor decided to liven the party by bringing out a bottle of Canadian whisky… typical mixed batch of shit that burned the nose and watered the eye. Somewhere between getting the whisky and the gathering of Americans and Commonwealth officers a gauntlet was thrown. “Americans don’t know how to drink.”… simple statement that garnered the obvious response… “fuck you.”

I had served with British and Commonwealth soldiers before. I had deployed with them for training in Germany… the Queen’s Own Hussars… proud soldiers who weren’t afraid to drink a beer and fire a weapon. Later, I served and soldiered with the 1st Royal Horse Artillery near Glamoc, Bosnia… they had traded their horses a long time ago for self-propelled howitzers. Again proud soldiers who weren’t afraid. These soldiers, however, had one thing in common… they looked back on their regimental and unit history with an air of superiority that bordered on rude. Pride and service to their Queen ran deeply, and they never failed to inform you of some historical moment when their unit had served gallantly for King or Queen… it usually was dated in a time prior to the birth of America. The common American response… other than “fuck you”… was asking them the last time they won a war without American assistance. Brits have a better track record than our French colleagues… cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

So my response to the “Americans don’t know how to drink” challenge evoked a quick response from me and a couple of my fellow American Army captains… two immediately jump to mind and both were of Irish descent… we were not going to let this challenge go without a good ol’ American try. The whisky was quickly consumed with Foster’s and VB chasers. In the midst of this, stupid reindeer games commenced… one included a grown-ass man (and an Army officer) attempting to ride a small child’s wagon down a hill while standing and pounding a beer. When military officers gather… regardless of nationality… crazy frivolity abounds.

Through it all, we Americans gave a good showing by matching our Commonwealth colleagues drink for drink… good-natured insults ensued… physical challenges given… challenges met. Then young (28 years-old) Captain Sublimemonkey decided to raise the bar after hearing one too many insults specifically directed toward America, the American South specifically. Slow, dim-witted, droll, common… all words used to describe my heritage. In a gaggle of drunk United Nations’ military officers, I stated in an extremely slurred speech the ultimate insult to our Commonwealth allies…. the Queen is a bitch.

The moment was one for the crickets… dead silence. My American colleagues inhaled quickly and waited… my Commonwealth allies eyed me quickly. Then laughter poured forth from everyone gathered… the moment passed… Captain Sublimemonkey was being his typical obnoxious self. An Aussie handed me another VB and patted me on the back… but I am sure he plotted my murder. The rest of the evening, even with continued drinking and stupid reindeer games, moved uneventfully. I don’t remember getting home… but I do remember waking up in my pitch black garage in a pool of the night before’s beer and whisky. Any night that results in that is a good night of drinking… but I was sorry for disparaging the Queen… sorry for insulting one of the reasons my Commonwealth friends serve.

Queen Elizabeth II just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee (60 years)… Queen Victoria is the only British monarch to have served longer. Countless men have marched forth under the British royal banner, generations of British youth have died serving their royal, country, and God. Commentators state that the Queen represents continuity and the British ideal of the stiff upper lip. For others she represents a reason to serve, and in some cases die.

To my fellow British Commonwealth military personnel, veterans, and others… I apologize. The Queen is not a bitch. The Queen represents your countries, heritage, and history. I can not disparage a man’s service to those things. The Queen’s Own Hussars’ motto is “Nec Aspera Terrent” (Nor do difficulties deter)… one can’t be deterred when one knows their service is to God, Country, and Queen.