The Greatest Bluebook EVAR!!!!!!

Yesterday, I received a copy of an old bluebook and the following letter from a grad school friend:

Sorry this took so long to get to you. I kept leaving it at home after they finally placed the office copier in an actual room in the building after renovations. But, maybe the wait will make it even funnier! The second I found it I reached for my phone and called you — you were the first one I thought of. We had so many great laughs and now inside jokes because of this brilliant exam answer!”

The “brilliant” student in question almost assuredly failed Louisiana History, but that didn’t stop him from banging out two hilarious essays for his final exam. It made its rounds on the 3rd floor of Himes Hall for several years before my friend spirited it away for good. But now everyone can savor my transcription of this monstrosity!

The first essay doesn’t require much exposition. This scholar was asked to gauge how Radical Reconstruction impacted the political and legal status of Louisiana’s black population (all of his answers are in bold, italic font).

Throughout Radical Reconstruction up to the Constitution of 1898, the political and legal status of Louisiana’s black population was changing constantly. Of course, the southern blacks were first brought to America as slaves and throughout history it has been a constant struggle for them to gain rights and freedom. 

Okay…an innocuous and generalized opening.

Radical Reconstruction brought about an attempt at black suffrage, putting an end to slavery, and giving slaveholders’ land outright to freed slaves. The North wanted the Confederate states to abolish slavery and rejoin the Union. This began with fairly peaceful negotiations, but would eventually erupt into bloody, racial battles, especially prominent in Northern Louisiana.

I know, just your typical C- paper so far. It will get better soon. I promise.

After the Confederate Louisiana troops handily defeated the Union troops in northwestern Louisiana, and after all of the blood was shed, blacks began to find their way to more and more political power.

The Confederacy won the war AND freed the slaves. Yeehaw!

Pinchback became the first black governor in Louisiana although his time in office lasted only 3 months (he also survived an assassination attempt.) The Louisiana Congress was now also half black; although at this point, blacks still did not have the right to vote.

So blacks couldn’t vote, BUT they were able to hold political office. Nevertheless, there were some awfully enlightened white folks in 1870s Louisiana! I guess they just felt incredibly  magnanimous after winning the Civil War.

Wait, what?!

Blacks were now Americans but not necessarily citizens until they could vote. 

But they could still hold the highest offices in the state, lest ye forget.

“Black codes” were [implemented] to the black folk saying they could not do things like remove manure from canisters without first inserting flaming discs called “Negro Flamin’ Records.”

Annnnnnnd we just entered Crazy Town, folks.

All through this time, generals and presidents and various governors, etc., were practicing routines and carrying out their jobs. Old men grew older, while young newborns rocked gently in their mothers’ loving, tender arms.

It’s the circle of life, y’all.

Only once did a rodent actually survive crossing Highland Road near Starring Lane. One cannot imagine the anguish these creatures feel. I for one would admit only to the philosophy of Carl M. Goodenbough, who said “flamingoes, like doves, have wings.” Rest the souls of my beloved creatures. 

I want those last two sentences as the epitaph on my tombstone.

Now onward to our second essay! It asked about the Robert Charles Riots of 1900. They were sparked after African American laborer Robert Charles shot a white police officer, after an altercation involving Charles, his roommate, and several New Orleans police officers on Monday, July 23, 1900. He subsequently went on a shooting rampage, and inflammatory editorials from the New Orleans newspapers led to a widespread race riot.  Twenty-eight people were killed in the conflict, including Charles who was killed on July 27, 1900.

But let’s ask our amateur historian for the real dirt!

This guy Robert Charles was a man. He was alive and lived back then.


He got beat up because white people hated black people a whole bunch. He died. If he lived and was brought to trial he would be executed anyway, so it really didn’t matter that he was killed.

So Judge Dredd really existed, and he lived in 1900 New Orleans.

/cue Joey Belladonna shrieking “Judge, Jury, and Executionerrrrrrrrr!!!!

//rocking the metal horns.

///banging my head. But not because “I Am The Law” rules.  Which it does, by the way. Go download Anthrax’s “Among The Living” album right now. You’ll thank me later.

////My headbanging is actually from me slamming my head against the desk after reading this essay.

I loved Robert Charles. His grace and honor were so grand indeed. If only I could speak with him. “Robert,” I would say, “you are so cool for standing up for what you believe.”

Robert Charles shot white 27 people and triggered one the bloodiest race riots in American history. Nevertheless, he had unimpeachable integrity. He was like MLK, Charles Whitman, Buddha, and Ice T all at once, but with ten percent more awesome.

Then after the parade you’ll go to the corner grocery store and supply yourself with beads and lemons. Put them all in a basket and worship it. Never eat the contents, for they are now of the land.

It’s a lost verse from Leviticus, folks.

Go quietly into the soft, cool night and tell stories to the children. Stories of love and bravery and always remember your commander-in-chief Calvin Coolidge, for he was a good, good man. Take with you now the memory of Andre the Giant (the famous wrestler). He was a big man, with a big heart, but sadly his size was too big.

I genuflect daily to Silent Cal and The Eighth Wonder of the World. And Gorilla Monsoon, for what it’s worth.

Also, never forget Jim Henson. He brought us the lovable Muppets. Who could ever forget Beaker and Fozzie? Those wily guys will live in my heart forever.

And mine as well. Except for that #$%@ Elmo.

Finally, I speak to you of Wolf Blitzer. CNN and Wolf portrayed the beautiful story of the Gulf War. 

‘Twas majestic.

Wait, what? 

Where is Wolf Blitzer now? Under a tent in Idaho? Trapped inside a flaming Jack in the Box? Jumping from the side of a newly constructed warehouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan? 

I just saw him on “The Situation Room.” But thanks for asking.

 I don’t know, you know, I believe nobody knows.

NOBODY KNOWS. I’ve been outwitted by your sophistry.

I will now devour a small portion of an 8 and a half month old porcupine, too-da-loo!


Striving for the absolute worst

I’m a solitary creature. That nature is especially pronounced when it comes to the creative process. When I was a kid, I used to lock myself in my room and draw for hours. I didn’t emerge until my little comic book was done.

Years later, I was the principal songwriter in one of my bands. I rarely collaborated with the rest of the guys. We didn’t have productive jam sessions, for the most part. I would hand them complete demos that I recorded in my bedroom: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, explosions, etc. My friend Chad and I co-wrote a handful of songs together, but those partnerships were infrequent and the end product was usually very silly. Anyone who ever had the (mis)fortune to hear our magnus opus “Rock Woman, Send Me to Hell Tonight” can vouch for that. It was the first and only time I alternated between soothing falsetto harmonies and death metal growls within the same tune. It was an artistic triumph heard by hundreds, enjoyed by dozens, and remembered by a handful.

My hermitdom also extends to my writing. Of course, no one needs to assist me with this dumb blog. I can embarrass myself all by my lonesome, thank you very much. My war journal (which I will eventually get around to rewriting one day) is a solitary pursuit, save the invaluable critiques I got from those who read my first draft. And I have a few fictional pieces that are range from outlines to completed first drafts, but I’m not sure when I’ll unleash those projects. I imagine most of them will stay confined to my hard drive.

But I do have one story that has some promise. While I was in Iraq, I had everything plotted out save the ending…which is an unforgivable concept when it comes to storytelling. I sat down and occasionally flipped through a stack of index cards chockfull of plot points, but I couldn’t come up with a conclusion that satisfied me. So I mothballed the whole concept.

A recent conversation with one of my friends rekindled my interest in that story. To protect his anonymity, I’ll dub him Fancypants because he usually wears a three piece suit to work, and this moniker will assuredly annoy him. And nothing pleases me more than an opportunity to aggravate or horrify Fancypants. And he rarely reads my blog anyway, so we’ll see if he’s paying attention. Fancypants, Fancypants, Fancypants. There.

ANYWAY, Fancypants and I are lifelong friends, and we are world class cutups whenever we’re together. Our friends always told us that we should team up on a project, but life just kept getting in the way. And then there were times that I’d try to light a fire under Fancypants’ butt, which would inspire him towards forming a tag team of literary awfulness. But he would just tell me to put the blowtorch away. Then he would beat me upside the head, neck, shoulders for brandishing an open flame so close to his nether regions. That Fancypants can be downright ornery.

ANYWAY, back to last month’s tête-à-tête with Fancypants. As usual, our conversation quickly deteriorated to an exchange of heinous barbs and insults, most of which are unfit for publication. But this time, Fancypants said, “Why don’t we write some of this stuff down instead of wasting it on each other?”

“Well, what do you have in mind, Fancypants? I’ve been trying to join forces with you for ages now.”

“I dunno. Something. Anything. We have friends in Hollywood. Let’s write a screenplay together.”

“Sounds like a great idea,” I said. “Now, we clearly don’t want to write anything serious or dramatic. Do you have any suggestions for a topic?”

“Naw, man,” he sighed. “I come up with some crazy stuff, but I can’t be bothered with structure. You can do that.”

“Got it. I’m the brains and the looks of this operation. You’re the wild card. Never forget that. And I think I have a story idea that we can play with. Let me email it to you. You tell me what you think.”

And I did just that. I fired off a 3 page outline that night. Fancypants was excited about the storyline (good) and he told me that he already had some ideas (even better). We spent a couple of days hanging out shortly thereafter. The first thing we did was construct an utterly ridiculous ending that made us howl with laughter. Once we knew how this tale would conclude, we sketched out characters and plot points on dozens of index cards. Then I went home, sifted through those notes, and sent him a 13 page synopsis of the plot, the major characters, and some snippets of dialogue that we’ve already composed.

Then Fancypants called me. “Okay, everything looks cool. I’m inspired, and I’m still laughing,” he said. “What do we do now?”

“It’s time to write for us to start writing a screenplay. But let’s never lose sight of our intention – to tell the funniest, sickest story we can imagine. We’re striving for the absolute worst here. Never forget that.”

“Yeah, whatever. Start writing.”

Then I called my Hollywood screenwriter friend for some additional input. He directed me towards some free Adobe software (as opposed to the $180 Final Draft program), and he gave me some advice. “Just get that first draft done. It will suck, but finish it. And then keep rewriting it until it doesn’t suck anymore. And DO NOT send it to me until it’s under 100 pages.”

So now it’s time to get cracking. I don’t want to spoil much, but it’s a zombie comedy.

And it may or may not have voodoo.

There will most certainly be plenty of chicks with guns.

Ahem. Babes with guns.

We’ll probably have gratuitous midget tossing.

And carnies. God, they’re creepy.

And if at all possible, the lead protagonist will be a baby monkey riding a pig.

Alright. Enough palaver. Time to write this thing.

Job hunting sucks

The longer that I go without work, the harder it is to preserve my self-confidence. Longstanding doubts about my educational choices and work history multiply. Maybe I should have been an accountant after all. Or maybe I should have conquered my squeamishness with blood and other bodily fluids (as well as my narcoleptic spells during Biology class) and gone into the medical field. I say that because most of the vacancies I see these days are for bean counters and health care providers. But then I remember that I’ve only met a handful of likeable accountants with a lick of personality, and I hate hospitals.

I see plenty of sales jobs, but most of those adverts are a) internet scams, b) part-time and/or minimum wage positions, or c) demand that you work an insane number of hours moving a phenomenal amount of product in order to get a taste of the illusory commission rate. In most cases, the type of wage slavery in Category C is an even bigger lie than the identity theft/marketing traps that comprise Category A.  And I won’t break my neck hustling wares that I don’t believe in. I just won’t.

I’ve had several interviews. I’ve followed all of the recommended steps from the stacks from the articles I clipped from the Wall Street Journal. Get a haircut the day before. Wear a black suit, conservative tie, and polished shoes. Show up 15 minutes early. Don’t ogle the secretary, no matter how miniscule her ensemble is. Once I’m in front of the hiring authority, don’t slouch. Take copious notes and ask plenty of questions. Don’t trash your previous employers, no matter how despicable they might be. Don’t be the first one to ask about money. Don’t openly laugh or spit when the initial salary offer is a sliver of your old paycheck (I don’t need a lot of money – just enough to cover living expenses, workout supplements, guitar strings, the occasional book or DVD, and ammunition. For the most part, I just want to work my 40 years and pursue my boring hobbies. But they don’t need to know that, because I’ll never voluntarily disclose my utter lack of ambition during a job interview). And I try not to be overly pushy, but I am direct: how do I stack up against the other candidates, do I meet the requirements for the job description, and what do I need to do to get the job?

Inevitably, I get the phone call or email a few days later that goes “oh, you were great. But you’re overqualified/made too much money at your last two jobs/we found someone even more desperate than you, blah, blah, blah. But we’re sure that someone else will snap you up real quick, blah,blah, blah, because you were a wonderful candidate, blah, blah, blah. Now kindly go jump in a lake.” A pat on the back isn’t going to feed me, you #$%!!!

So the local job market is terrible, but it seems to be pretty horrid everywhere. Most of my fellow jobless friends around the country tell me their prospects are equally grim. That’s certainly not reassuring. As matter of fact, it’s a damning indictment that this economy is in even worse shape than advertised, and it will probably get worse before it gets any better. I even broke down and applied for contracting jobs in Afghanistan yesterday. Trust me, I got my fair share of excitement in Iraq…and then some. But no one else seems to be hiring, and KBR, Fluor, and Dynocorp always have vacancies. And not to be utterly fatalistic, but the only times I’ve made decent money are when I’ve had to relocate and expose myself to a fair amount of physical danger. Maybe I was never meant to work a halfway fulfilling job that’s 40 hours a week, with weekends and holidays off. Perhaps it’s just time to accept my fate.

I’ll keep plugging away. I mean, what other choice is there? I’d make for a hideous streetwalker.

So, about this rapture thingy…

I read a fair number of books about millennialism when I was in grad school. Heck, I even considered the Civil War-era movements as a possible dissertation topic. That should let you know that this latest wave of panic ain’t nothing new. As a matter of fact, comparable beliefs were part of Jewish and Zoroastrian eschatology long before Christ walked the earth.

If I felt like bothering one of these people, I have some questions. First and foremost, I’d ask them, “Really? Jesus has been slinging curveballs about his encore performance for almost two thousand years. Plenty of other movements hedged their bets on a return date and watched their reputations go poof when nothing happened. Are you sure you wanna apply a slide rule to Revelations and figure that one out? Because that book is chockfull of obtuse riddles, mysteries, and allegories. The monsters are awesome and the environmental disasters are scary and all, but theologians have been scratching their heads over its meanings for ages. What makes you so certain it’s this Saturday?

Well, since you’re so certain, do you still have long-term CDs in the bank? Did you pay this month’s mortgage? And what about credit cards? Well, then again, a shopping spree would be rather trite at this point. But would you feel guilty about your creditors holding the bag on a bunch of unpaid bills? Are you concerned about health insurance anymore? Do you worry about your food’s expiration dates? Do you even bother to keep the deep freezer plugged in these days? Are you annoyed that you’re going to miss a pretty awesome NBA Finals? The talent among the final four teams hasn’t been this deep in 20 years. And how are y’all paying for those billboards and radio ads? Did you have to sign a contract that runs past May 21? Or do you pay as you go? And what happens if the status quo prevails? Do you keep the signs up and just spray paint ‘Doh!’ or ‘Yeah, sorry about that’?”

Yeah, I guess I do have a lot of questions. But what if they’re right? What if there is a ginormous teleportation this Saturday? It would be wonderful if I got picked for that rocket ride, but what if I’m not? What happens next? Do the godless heathens left behind resume our fumbling, bumbling antics? Or do we have panic, mass hysteria, and dogs and cats living together? And if that’s the case, then I’m not happy about having to cast allegiances to either Lord Humongous or Mad Max. Do I side up with the steroid-fueled, hockey masked, and merciless Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rollah? Or do I tag along with an assuredly unstable Mel Gibson? Then again, he’s probably hedging his bets on this rapture, given his career’s recent freefall. Then again, he would be surrounded by a whole of bunch of Jews in the hereafter.

I hope our nuclear power plants have some pagans on standby, otherwise we’re gonna have scads of simultaneous meltdowns which would yield the environmental cataclysms promised in the Good Book.  And to avoid mountains of flaming wreckage, we’re going to need some Buddhist copilots in our airplanes, Hindu train conductors, and Muslim barge captains. Do we have enough Wiccans, Scientologists, and Satanists on standby? Someone will have to take the wheel when all of those automobile drivers vanish.

I hope CLECO has enough qualified people actively praying to Thor, because I plan on having a post-rapture looting spree. While everyone else is hitting the gun and liquor shops, I’m going to use a mega-church’s P.A. for my band’s rehearsal gear. I’m playing demolition derby with Greyhound buses. And I’m going to turn the zoo critters loose so Alexandria can resemble the opening sequence from I Am Legend. And who among you could resist this pickup line – “Hey babe, c’mon back to my mansion. I’ve got some pet lions and alligators.” It’s gonna be awesome.

Whenever I have questions about religious issues, all I have to do is look across the dinner table. I asked my grandmother what she thought of this latest movement.

“Well, I hadn’t heard about it, but no one knows. That’s not up to man. The Father is the only one who knows when it’s time. But we should all live everyday like it’s our last anyway. Because The Lord does come for someone every day…every few seconds, as a matter of fact.”

Smart words from a smart lady. But I’ll do a bed check on her this Saturday. Just in case.

What I’ll Remember

There’s very little from the past two months that I want to hang on to. But it wasn’t all bad. I’ve already documented some of the times I made my grandfather smile or laugh, as well as some of his more amusing and weird moments. I enjoyed spending time with my Aunt Margaret, who was his sister. I’ve always relished visits with her, but they’ve always been sporadic. Beforehand, circumstance and distance always seemed to get in the way. Well, we had plenty of time to catch up over the past two months. I enjoyed hearing her stories about our family, even it was the fourth or fifth time I’d heard them. I’d just smile and pretend it was a brand new anecdote whenever she’d start.

But there’s too much that hurts if I dwell on it, so I’ll try not to do that anymore. It will take me a while to bounce back from all of this, but I will. I have to. What I’ll try to focus on are the good memories of him, because there were so many of them. That’s one of the things that sustained me during this period. So I figured I’d share some of them with you.

I’ll always remember that shuffling, shambling walk of his after his back gave up on him. His body moved in ten different directions, which produced a cacophony of jingling coins, clattering keys, and creaking joints. But no matter how much he hurt, he always had a big, joyful grin whenever he saw me. He’d utter “Hey boy!” and give me a crushing bear hug. His north Louisiana hick accent made “boy” sound like “bwah.” I loved that smile and I loved that goofy accent.

When I was little, he and I always woke up before everyone else. We sat on the front porch of their old house on Barrister Street, where we drank black coffee, watched the morning dew glisten, and listened to the birds sing. Then we’d go inside and watch “The Three Stooges.” Our laughter always woke up the rest of the house. Every afternoon, he loaded my brother, sister, and me into a Radio Flyer wagon. He hauled us to the corner store and bought us Icees. I loved that red wagon.

Every Friday night, we went to the movies. He always got a big tub of popcorn and Raisinets and mixed them together. I sat in his lap while we shared our snack. Our faces and fingers would always be smeared and sticky with chocolate by the time the movie ended.

Every Saturday, we’d hit the local garage sales. My grandfather drove, my grandmother hollered directions to the next sale that had a particularly juicy ad in the paper. Hank Williams and Marty Robbins provided our soundtrack. My grandparents collected antiques. My grandfather and I collected old comic books and history books. We’d go home, break out the price guides, and figure out how impressive our haul was.

Every football season, we lived and died with LSU and the Saints. We did a lot more dying than living most years, but that was okay. We had each other to share the disappointment, and we always looked forward to next year. And “next year” finally happened. He stuck around long enough to see both of our teams become winners. No one wanted to strangle Nick Saban and Les Miles more than he did (but not nearly as much as he wanted to throttle Carl Smith for his “run & punt” offense during the Jim Mora era). And no one loved Drew Brees more. “Bwah, he’s better than Archie ever was,” he’d always say. “I can’t believe we got him.” And I’ll never forget when we held each other and cried when the Saints finally went to a Super Bowl and won it.

I’m really going to miss him this upcoming season. No more Sundays with a big box of Popeye’s when I’m home. No more excited phone calls after a big play when I’m out of town. I’ll never again hear him ask “Did you see that, bwah?!”

He was my biggest fan. He’d rave over my artwork. His office walls were covered with my drawings. He bought my first guitar. He let my bands use one of his school’s classrooms as a rehearsal space. He’d let us play so loud that the walls shook. He welcomed my friends over to his house, where we’d write songs and record demos. The bathroom tiles made for great plate reverb. And he gave us enough quilts that we could smother a mic’ed amplifier, crank it to 10, and record it without getting arrested for noise pollution. It didn’t matter if we playing country music or death metal; he’d always pop in with a big grin and say “Sounds good, bwahs!” And he was there for most of my concerts. He’d always be up front and slightly to my right. He videotaped us while he dodged mosh pitters and drunks. If the noise, heat, and my obnoxious stage banter ever annoyed him, he never told us.

I’m glad he was still alive and alert both times I came home from Iraq. I didn’t think I’d see him again when I took that job. But he was still kicking during last October’s R&R. I came home for good on February 14. His birthday was the 15th. He didn’t know I was coming home yet, so I gave him a good and proper surprise when I knocked on his door that morning. “Well, there you are, bwah!” He was so happy that I was back in one piece. I was so happy that he lasted another year.

More than anything, I’ll remember him being someone who would drop everything for someone in need. If someone was hurting or desperate, he could always be counted on for some money, some food, a bed to sleep in, a job reference, a phone call to a local politician or businessman, a receptive ear for counsel, or a shoulder to cry on. He gave freely to so many people for so many years, and he did it without expecting anything in return.

He gave me so much over the years. He meant the world to me. That’s why I couldn’t let him die alone or in pain. I made that vow to him when he got sick. I had the time and resources to fulfill that promise. I hope I did enough. I hope I made him proud. I just hope I get to see my Pawpaw again.

What would you say you do here?

There’s one question I have for many of the staff members at my grandfather’s nursing home.

“What would you say you do here?”

If these idiots spent half as much time working as they do goofing off and finding justification for not doing their jobs, Natchitoches Nursing and Rehabilitation Center would be first rate. But alas. Getting these people to bring a pitcher of water or pain medication is like getting blood from a turnip.

I’ve had two major blowups in the past three days. The first one came a few days ago, when one of the nurse’s aides popped into my grandfather’s room. It was the first time all day I had seen any signs of life from the nursing home staff.

“We’re having a bingo tournament for the residents. It starts in 10 minutes.”

“Thanks,” I said. “But I think we’ll decline.” I motioned to my grandfather, who’s bedridden and barely responsive.

“Well, it starts in 10 minutes in the activity room.”

I threw my hands up in the air. “Ma’am, he hasn’t left his bed since he got here. I’m not wheeling him out for a parlor game.”

“Well, I just wanted to let you know.”

“Jesus Christ, lady! Look at him! What would he do at a bingo game?! Serve as an ink blotter?!”

She bolted out of there. Good riddance.

I almost snapped a couple of times on Tuesday and Wednesday with a nurse who has an utterly piss poor attitude whenever we ask for pain medications. GOD FORBID she administers a dosage 10 or 20 minutes early. Every single time she comes in, she has a nasty disposition. I growled at her a few times, but now I just walk out of the room whenever she walks in.

My biggest blowup came yesterday. My grandfather is going downhill fast. His kidneys are shutting down. His breath is labored and rattles. He’ll go 5 to 10 seconds between breaths. As soon as I saw him this morning, I immediately called my mom and my great-aunt, because I didn’t think he’d last much longer. But the old goat fought through another day.

Shortly after my mom arrived, one of the nurses stormed in. She’s already on my bad side. She previously admonished me for holding my grandfather’s hand when he trembles or moans (which usually happens when it’s time for his pain meds, which never arrive on time because her buddy is too busy sitting on her ass).

“Who called hospice? Why did she take his vitals?! We’re supposed to take his vitals! Don’t you know you’re supposed to come to us first before you call hospice?!”

“NO,” I bellowed. “I DON’T.”

Of course, I was being utterly sarcastic. My aunt probably called them, because she deals with these fools every day. Any request for water, food, or medication requires multiple calls or trips to the nursing station. So to hell with the process. I don’t care who’s looking after him, I just want someone – anyone – to tend to him when he’s hurting. But this twit didn’t notice. She walked over to me and resumed babbling.

“SOMEONE called hospice and told them that his kidneys are shutting down and that his breathing is bad. That’s not true! He’s fine! He’s resting comfortably!”

“Lady, look at his catheter bag! There’s hardly anything there! I’ve been here all day and he’s produced nothing! Listen to his breathing! How can you say he’s comfortable?!”

“Nevertheless, WHOEVER called hospice was supposed to contact us first—-”

“You’re trying to justify your job. We get it. Now dial down the tone of your voice.”


“There you go again. I find your tone and presence offensive. Please leave.”

“Sir, I’m sorry if my tone offends you. I know you’re upset because your grandfather isn’t well—”

“You just said he was fine.” Then I turned to my mom and aunt. “Since she won’t leave, I’ll leave. Let me know when this #$%@ing idiot is out of the room.” I then sat out on the front porch with my brother’s girlfriend and ranted like a lunatic. The old codger next to me didn’t seem to mind.

So I guess I’m the resident malcontent now. For the rest of the day, I noticed that the nurses averted their gaze or walked past me with their heads down. They seemed to have a little more snap in their step when they tended to my grandfather. Whatever. It’s pretty crappy that it took a minor meltdown for them to adopt a pretense of concern. We’ll see how long that lasts. Hopefully this is all over soon.

storm chasing

One of my old professors labeled me a “storm chaser.” She gave me that moniker after she pointed out that many of my jobs were located in fairly dangerous or unhealthy work environments (such as the 9th Ward post-Katrina, submarines, boats during hurricane season, Iraq, and so on). I never saw it that way until she made note of it.

I always thought I took calculated risks. High percentage risks, actually. I’ve thought I was actually a little skittish with most of my endeavors. I was never in the first wave of any of those “dangerous” jobs, save the one time that I was on a crew boat that beat Hurricane Ike’s landfall by six hours or so. Parts of post-storm New Orleans were still scary when I got down there, but you stayed away after nightfall. Iraq could still be pretty hairy at times, but it was nowhere near as rough as it was in 2004 or 2005. You get the point.

And there are still plenty of crazy things that I won’t ever do, like gator rasslin’, skydiving, bungee jumping, or dating a woman who belonged to a sorority. So I actually think I’m a bit a milquetoast, when you get right down to it.

Additionally, I have no interest in outstaying my welcome or putting people I love in an uncomfortable position. I’ve been living with my grandmother since I came home from Iraq. I help out with the expenses, buy groceries, etc. But my presence and my opinions have grown so loathsome to certain people that it’s put her in a terrible position. They want me gone. She’s been firm in her resolve, but I know it has to exhaust her.

I need to get out of here. But there’s not much of anything in Alexandria. Besides, it appears I need to be far away from certain people, lest I have a repeat of this morning’s ordeal (which involved being blocked in my driveway and screamed at). Baton Rouge has gridlocked traffic, violence on par with a Third World nation, and too many reminders of past failures. I’ve had my fill of New Orleans. I’d rather visit it occasionally and not grow to hate it again. Working offshore again holds no allure. Iraqi jobs are drying up rapidly; the pullout there is all but complete by year’s end. So I went ahead and applied for some jobs in Afghanistan. Maybe I’ll get some calls. Maybe I won’t. But it’s painfully obvious that I don’t fit in around here anymore. Maybe it’s time to start chasing storms again.