Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wouldn't it be odd?

Wouldn't it be odd if my five year plan actually worked?

I mean, really, who would have, objectively speaking, said, upon being informed that I was literally dropping off the face of corporate America to become a portrait painter, "Hey, that makes a lot of sense."?
You're having trouble with too many commas again.
Perhaps, but my question has to do with where the question mark goes at the end of that sentence. I mean, people aren't saying "Hey, that makes a lot of sense?" with a question mark at the end. So I put a period in, closed the quotation marks, and then threw down a question mark. But it looks strange.
Me? I wouldn't have put the comma before "and then threw down a question mark."
I love the commas.
Everyone knows.
Anyway. Really, who would have thought? Because I'm feeling like a good deal of progress, despite whatever the odds are, has been made. And we're not even done with Year Two. We're about two weeks short.

I remember when I was in the Cambodian Highlands, circa 1968 (tell no one, by the way, because us being where we were at that particular time was really totally inappropriate), and I was two weeks short. Crawling through the jungle, two weeks short, doing the usual shit. I will say, my head was spinning a bit because after about 36 hours of no sleep, several of my key people and I had decided to drop some of the acid. Just to take the edge off the speed. (Now changing to present tense for added effect) Fast-forward half an hour and there I am, crawling through the jungle, face camo'd in a nice combination of heliotrope and puce, wearing nothing but a knife, an AR-15 with a twenty round magazine (the thirties were too big--you couldn't get close enough to the ground), and some GI boxers. I am slathered in pig fat for reasons I can't, at that exact moment, put my finger on but I remember it has something to do with the barbed wire surrounding the NVA compound we are scoping. I had recently added a couple of ears to my necklace (I only later learned they were ears. For the longest time I just thought they were dried apricots), and now they're stinking like week-old sea scallops, the drugs are kicking in, and I'm thinking, "I wish I was half an hour outside Barstow instead of crawling through this fucking jungle."

Now it is axiomatic that when you survive long enough in the deep jungle with the same couple of guys you start to think alike. No sooner had I thought about Barstow than Bobby the Gravedigger starts shouting, "I feel a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive." Which, really, is the worst idea imaginable since: a) I was already on the point, so I was, de facto, doing the driving, and b) about half the North Vietnamese army wakes up and starts unloading half a ton or so of small caliber ordinance in our general direction.

Shittt...shittt.

You can hear a round go by you if it's close. It sounds like shitttt.

At which point I suggest to Bobby that he shut the fuck up.

Shittt...shittt.

He, undeterred, shouts back, "Tell me you've got the golf shoes." Which is okay, I suppose, since by this time the noise from what one might call the opposition is so loud you could have said anything you wanted and not drawn any more attention than we were getting. Black Eddie then crawls up next to me and says, with kind of a crazy grin, "Could be worse. Could be raining." At which point the mortars start going off.

"Let's get the fuck out of here," I reply, as calmly as I can. And Black Eddie says, "I don't mind running for my life, but I'm not carrying the bag."

He is, of course, referring to the one piece of luggage we all took turns carrying. He hands me his rucksack and I take a quick inventory of its contents. After one day and two nights in the bush it still contains two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, laughers, screamers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.

I pull out two of the amyl nitrites, give one to Black Eddie and pop one myself.

"Shittt"

This is me actually saying "shit." I always do that after I pop an amyl.


And fuck Bobby, by the way. No drugs for him. He gets nothing. I mean, if he hadn't started shouting we wouldn't be in this mess. Then we all run as fast as we can to a predetermined spot about 600 meters away and hide like cats under the bed during a thunderstorm until the shit has passed.

The next day, when I show everyone that I still have the bag, we decide we should make something up so I can get the Congressional Medal of Honor. Lawrence suggests we shoot Bobby in the head and then claim that I had risked my life because I wouldn't leave his body behind. And while we all think there is a good deal of merit to the idea, it has it's share of problems as well. So we come up with something else.

And that, kids, is how I became a hero.

And then later threw it all away to become a painter.

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