The Ladder


I was going to write about something different tonight but I think I’m going to write about something else.
I sat down to write a blog about the day and about going back to DC in a week when I really wanted to—

I write with this cat named Max. We’ve never met in person but he’s a writer too and he knows how terrified I am to write so each night he Skypes me and gently coaxes me into to, at least, writing the blog. So far, our batting average is pretty good—my “commitment” was to blog every day that I wasn’t in ceremony and so far in two weeks— well, actually now that I look at the numbers, it turns out I’m a shitty human being.

When I sat down to write. After Max was on Skype and all the other pieces were in place, sage burnt, incantations said–
(Did I tell you I’m headed back to Washington next week? I’m terrified. I hate conflict. I joined the Marine Corps because I hate conflict so bad (and recognizing it as a part of the human condition) I just wanted to put myself in between conflict and people who–

But if not me, then who? I sat down with Max to write a blog about my day and about the importance of what we’re up to here with this resistance to growing Fascism—look motherfuckers, you can’t convince me that every motherfucker in Germany in 1939 was evil to the core but they let horrible things be done in their name. Explain to me how what we’re up to is so different? How far does it need to go? When good people avert their eyes when evil is brewing, evil grows.

So I’ll go back to Washington, DC next week and I’ll walk up to member of Congress who’ve been elected by other not-completely-bad people and I’ll appeal to their humanity. I’ll appeal to their sense of patriotism. I’ll appeal, if they’ll hear it, to their sense of decency because you see, even though most people see politicians as soulless marionettes, stripped now by the system of whatever noble intention that might have led them initially to politics, I see them as other humans. They’ve made a shitty career choice as we can now mostly all agree but I really don’t think they are all just simply evil.
We’re animals. We, in some ways, are ruled by our biochemistry.
We are anthropoids. To see why we do what we do, why not look at anthropology?

If you look at most Indigenous (the term is problematic given the age of the planet and the species) cultures, at the structure of their villages, they are mostly all similar in that they are circled up around those members of the tribe who are most revered. Even in a Matriarchal and egalitarian cultures, Chiefs and Medicine People were placed at the center and all the other members of the community lived around them making them the least accessible kill for an invading tribe (or saber tooth tiger or whatever). Being on the fringe has never been safe and being the most ingratiated to the person or persons at the center, is hard-wired into us as humans.
So in that way I don’t hate these Republicans who are running like rats around the ship waiting for just the last, safe moment to jump off. It’s cowardice to be sure but even for that I don’t judge them. I’ve been afraid before.  Then someone put an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor in my hand.
It doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you’re afraid and do it anyway.


Oh! The thing I was going to tell you instead of what I was going to tell you:

When I (finally) sat down to write the blog. After two day’s worth of running around packed into a single day, my neighbor stopped by.
“Jeff, I hate to bother you man but my smoke alarm is going off again. I was cooking some sausage and I forgot to turn on the fan and—“

And we were out the door. I was too stupid to put on shoes but at least pulled on my hoodie ‘cause it’s going down into the 40s tonight in New Orleans. The ladder which would be needed to shut off his smoke alarm is stored over by the office. Raymond, my brother, followed me into the night.
We stopped once for him to breath. “Hang on man, I got that CLPD.”
“Tell me when you need to stop. I’m not gonna mind a rest. I’m getting old too!”

By the time we got to his apartment and increased the neighborhood nuisance by opening his door to let the screaming alarm pour out and up into the soggy oaks, the Spanish moss awakened by the din.
We must have looked like two clowns trying to navigate this 30” ladder over his balcony and into his door.

Inside his apartment, as I ascend the ladder to “shut that motherfucker up,” I regale my brother of a story and with that story I’ll close the blog tonight and go to bed.
I’ll save the story I really wanted to tell you for tomorrow.
When I first joined the Marine Corps I was active duty for training for almost a year. After Boot Camp I went to Marine Combat Training and after checking into my unit I applied to and was accepted into MOUT School (Military Operations Urban Terrain). Little did we know who useful that training would become when less than a year we were attacked on 9/11 and all the deployments that happened after that which would—

As I ascended the ladder in Raymond’s apartment to quiet the thing that was ice-skating razor blades on each of our veteran spinal cords, I told him this story:
When I was in MOUT school, we were doing “upper level entry” drills. They involved every conceivable way that you could enter a building and kill the people in it without going through the front door. In this drill, my brother (Ukrainian) Marine Karras, was supposed to turn around and secure the ladder.
I was the anchor man. In reality, we all know that in combat I would probably be dead. The anchor man’s job is to hook his arms and legs into the bottom rungs of the ladder so that even after he’s been shot, his body can act as an anchor for the ladder as the Marines ascend and enter the building to take care of business.
In this exercise, Karras (I still love you man and I’m sorry about all this Ukraine ugliness)(Karras is from the Ukriane) was an asshole and forgot to turn around and secure the ladder so that the anchor (me) could enter the building with the fire team. I thought “well what the fuck can I do? I wouldn’t just sit here on the street.” So I looked up at the three story window and said the word “target” to myself, and I ran up the ladder to the sound of training rounds entering the air. I was within a hand’s grasp of the window seal when the ladder pitched.
You’ve seen those tin canteen cups? Mine was smashed to a ¾ inch thickness when my 250 pounds came crashing down on it from three stories. In cartoons I’ve seen falling portrayed when the process was seen. Mostly in life it’s just like, “Damn! I fell!” But in this case I remember watching that third floor window getting smaller in the distance. And then it was black.
I “came to” looking into the sky-blue eyes of this muscled-up Navy Corpsman with his index fingers inserted into my awaking grasp saying, “Squeeze my fingers. Squeeze my fingers” and I thought, “Well goddamn if that’s not a reason to live right there…”
And I never really understood the whole resistance to queers serving in the military. I mean, Alexander the Great and all—

We have all the reasons they painted big-boobed bombshells on the fuselage of their bombers and the complete brotherhood piece to boot.
Wait, I couldn’t possibly have told Raymond all this while I was ascending the ladder in this living room to shut off his smoke alarm.

I think it probably went more like this:
ME: Hold the ladder still. When I was in training I feel out a third story window. Thought I was dead.
RAYMOND: Damn, man.

ME: (having silenced the smoke alarm) I think that got it.
RAYMOND: Awe thank you man, I hated to bother you.
ME: You bother me anytime ‘cause I know I’m gonna need you and I’m gonna bother you.

Bother somebody. And be grateful when they bother you.

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