Tuesday, April 20, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #10: Honor and Respect

There are moments in your life when you are in just the wrong place at the wrong time. Conversely, there are moments when you find yourself just where you are needed.

In a busy production office, I often find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the direct path of an angry producer marching down the hall, for example, or perched suspiciously close to an unwieldy stapler, or at my desk when that crazy guy comes to visit and wants to share his stories involving unicorns and leprechauns. He doesn’t seem to get that we are a documentary production company, but if anything I have to hand it to him for his persistence.

This afternoon, however, I found myself where I am often not: in the very right place at the very right time.

Three sugarless Red Bulls in and two very lengthy development phone calls, I walked up toward the front of my office to stretch my legs. Spinning around in my chair had left me somewhat dizzy and I could hear my coworker sighing at the rapid click, click, clicking of my pen.

The mail had just arrived, so annoyed that I didn’t receive anything, I decided to relax up in our accountant’s office as she opened the daily mail and launched into a discussion about schedules. I noticed her open one handwritten letter and place it next to her as she engaged me in conversation. That letter felt electric, but I can’t explain why.

It should be noted that we receive quite a few letters and phone calls every day with people suggesting their stories. Most come from homicide detectives who are familiar with our work on Cold Case Files, and truth be told, it can be wearing on the heart to read letter after letter of gruesome and unsolved murders.

But as I glanced down by my accountant’s hand to gloss over the note in her hand, I was immediately drawn to the black and white photograph clipped neatly on top.

“Who is this?”

“I’m not sure, actually. But I recognize the name. This nice man called us last week and asked for our mailing address so he could send a letter.”

"Can I read it?"

"Of course," she replied. “You may have it. I figured I'd send it over to you since you are heading up development.”

I held up the photograph; looking back at me in black and white was a dashing young Marine. Though I could tell the photograph was a copy of an older photo, the image was very clear. He appeared to be roughly the same age as both my husband and me. In the picture, he is smiling so he seems warm and approachable. Though the image is black and white, I could tell that he shared the same ice blue eyes as my husband, the same chiseled cheekbones, similar ears.

As I carefully removed the photograph from its letter, another black and white fell away. I caught it mid air as it floated to the ground. A stunning woman stared back at me with a Mona Lisa smile. Her eyes appear intense, her right eyebrow raised in mock defiance, her neck decorated with what appears to be a colorful chiffon scarf. She is beautiful. I flipped over the photograph and read the inscription:

“My mother: married 57 years before she passed.”

In my right hand, I held the hand written note. With interest, I drew it closer to my face and began to read:

Dear People of KP,
My father is probably the last living member of Amphibious Recon, the most elite of all the services at that time. His story should be told from the perspective of someone who was really there. I have enclosed where was from, and the honors he received. The stories he tells show the fact that truth is stranger than fiction. He was run over by a Russian tank in Korea which broke his back, and this is just one of the many stories he tells.

He was at Gilbert Islands, Tarwara Atoll, Abamoma Atoll, Marshall Islands, Majuro Atoll, Anewetoc Atoll, Saipan, Tinian (he and his team scouted under cover of darkness, unarmed) Kume Shima, Iwo Jima (he was inside Mt. Surabachi while the flag was being raised) Okinawa, Korea, the Pentagon, then a final tour in Korea.

He was awarded:
Korean War Service Medal
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Service Medal
Korean Service Medal with Bronze service star
National Defense Service Medal
WWII Victory Medal
Asiatic-Pacific campaign medal with One Silver and One Bronze Service Star
America Campaign Medal
USMC Good Conduct Medal with Gold Star
Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon/Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon
Combat Ribbon
Personal letter of Commendation Ribbon
Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device

Time is of the essence to get his interview recorded, he is 83, and cannot talk for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. If his biography was produced according to its merits, it would be every bit, actually more I believe, better than any of the recent WWII movies that have been made recently. I look forward to hearing if there is any interest in this project. When my father dies, we will have a full Military funeral with a twenty one-gun salute.

Thank you,
K. Powers

Soon as I had read that last line, I knew that I needed to speak with these men: this son, this father. At least, if I couldn't do something myself, I might be able to garner some interest by another massive production company, film or otherwise.

Time is of the essence, time is of the essence, time is of the essence.

I looked at the date on the top of the letter: 7 April 2010.

I took off running through the halls, oblivious to angry producers or wayward editors or misplaced equipment.

Once I reached my desk, I dialed the first number. Nothing.

My fingers bounced over the keypad like some furious pianist as I tried the second. The other line clicked as though someone has picked up.


"Is Mr. Powers available?"

"This is he."

And with that affirmation I launched into how I had just discovered his letter, how I ran from one end of the office to the next. I was rambling then, breathless.

The man on the other end of the line cleared his voice and for a moment I wondered if I had accidentally dialed the wrong K. Powers.

“I’m so sorry, Ms. Dolack, my father died last night. I should have sent the letter sooner.“

Crushing, to say the least. Not even so much that I didn’t get there in time for this man to narrate his own story, (though that was part of it) but mostly because I never got to shake his hand, give him a hug, tell him thank you. It may have meant little to him, but I think it would have meant the world to me.

Instead, I was just an amorphous voice on the other end of the line, unable to speak for a moment; shocked, one day late and a dollar short. How does one recover from that moment when you want to reach out and find only electrical wires?

“I am so very sorry for your loss, sir. Oh, I am so sorry. God Bless you and him, your family.”

That’s not good enough. I know that’s not good enough.

“I am so sorry I called at such a time and I won’t bother you. If you find yourself with some free time in the future, I’d really love to speak with you.”

“You mean, you still want to hear his story?” He asked somewhat incredulously.

“Yes, sir.”

But speaking to this man’s son in the middle of a crowded production office didn't seem right. A hero and his family deserve so much more.

“My husband,” I said and paused, caught off guard by the crack in my voice and the tears quickly welling my eyes, “My husband is also Marine, and he is currently deployed in Korea.”

I carefully placed the photograph of this man’s father, who I now knew as Master Gunnery Sergeant Homer J. Powers, directly below a photograph of my very own husband posing on a jet in Korea. Both their eyes twinkle back at me mischievously, their similar smiles lighting up the photograph, making them both appear to be lit by a Hollywood movie set.

And I had missed talking to him by one day.

“He really would have enjoyed sharing his stories with you, with your husband. I know he would have.”

I wonder if I wouldn’t have enjoyed it more. It isn’t too often you can pick up the phone or walk into a house and speak with an American hero.

"Yes, he was really trying to hold on," he responded. "I've been reaching out to different companies and no one has ever responded. You are the first person to call us back. I know he had something to do with this though,” and his voice takes an upbeat turn, “that the letter would reach your hands, a Marine's wife, a Marine in Korea, no less. I wish I could have told him in person, but somehow, I think he knows."

I cradle the phone in my neck and rest my ear against the receiver. I can’t take my eyes off that photograph. I think, I almost think, he winks at me.

"Yes, I reply with a smile in my voice, “somehow I think he knows."

We schedule a time to talk in the next few hours; I can’t believe that this man who just lost his father would be willing to sit down and speak with me. I am honored that I get to be that tiny voice on the other end of the line, a tiny voice that will do everything possible to tell this man’s story.

As it should be, and as I await my next phone call with an eager yet heavy heart, with a family who grieves the loss of their hero and a nation who should offer a silent and respectful salute, there is only one way I can think bring this chapter to an appropriate close.

And that is:

To be continued…

Or perhaps, to begin.

Monday, April 12, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #9: The Other Half of my Heart is in...Asia?

This is a phrase I never thought would escape my lips. The other half of my heart is in Asia? I could have seen me saying, “the other half of my heart is on a film set in LA,” “the other half of my heart is in Charleston, South Carolina,” or “the other half of my heart is somewhere on the bathroom floor in The Green Door Tavern.” But The Far East?

Needless to say, the thought of not being able to see my husband’s face on Skype every morning has left me slightly sad and uneasy. So, in the middle of searching YouTube for a good score to place under the sizzle reel I’m editing at work, I found myself mindlessly wandering toward patriotic military videos, like saaaay An Officer and a Gentleman.

If you haven’t seen this film, I recommend it. An Officer and A Gentleman portrays Richard Gere in his finest, long before those nasty gerbil rumors surfaced. And if you can stomach the gratuitous Richard Gere without his shirt, Richard Gere during Aviation training, Richard Gere being all suave with Debra Winger, it’s a great flick. I managed to find the final scene, SPOILER ALERT where he marches into the factory, finds Debra Winger, scoops her up into his arms and passionately kisses her. Everyone starts clapping, whistling and howling as he carries her off into the sunset, and it gives every ‘Deb’ hope that someday a dashing Naval Aviator will whisk her away from her otherwise mundane life.

And I found myself laughing because it made me recall the time that my dashing Naval Aviator tried to scoop me up and carry me out of my mundane (?) life and over the threshold. We had just returned from our Honeymoon: one ferry ride, three flights with just over twelve hours in the air, and a very wild taxi ride home. The first plane resembled something that had been pulled from the depths of the Bermuda Triangle and reassembled twenty minutes prior. The second was simply over eight hours long, and the third was a commuter flight so far from the main terminal at LAX that I’m still not certain we didn’t take that bus from LAX to San Diego and then fly around in the sky for a little bit until we landed. I was irritated and moody, and my husband was irritated because I apparently kept reminding him that it was his fault that we had such a horrendous return because he had booked the tickets. In his defense, it was literally the only way to fly from the US Virgin Islands to San Diego, but nevertheless, I needed someone to blame for that much airtime.

As we sat in the cab on the way home, I continued my moody rant.

“Did you know that we are very close to a dangerous area of Mexico? Our apartment is practically on the border. There is a drug war going on, did you know that? A drug war on the border! You’ve married me and brought me to this foreign land, (keep in mind I lived in Southern California for three years), and now I’m going to become a victim of human trafficking. HUMAN TRAFFICKING. I can see the headlines now: Newlywed wife’s head found buried under the sand. And if I am one of the lucky ones not to get murdered, I’ll probably be transported through the country to ‘entertain’ Mexican dignitaries, if you catch my drift. Have you seen even Taken?!”

“Kate, you don’t do drugs and I think you have a vivid imagination. And we’re in San Diego, not Mexico and Taken, which I HAVE seen, occurred in Paris.”

“I don’t care, just look at me! I’m the perfect kidnapping victim! I know these things because I am a documentary producer. I’ve interviewed these people. They’re nuts! They’re out for blood!”

“Kate, I doubt anyone is going to come after you, you don’t even have a car here and you’re working from home. Do you plan on making daily visits to Tijuana?”

“Well, you never know. Just trying to keep me in the house, are you? I see where you’re going, buster. I see it! You can’t hold me down!”

Once we had arrived ‘home,’ I was having none of it. I wanted a glass of red wine, a burger, and a comfy bed to sleep away the next couple of days. My Marine husband probably wanted to go for a five-mile run, eat a sensible dinner, and discuss the philosophical arguments of Plato.

So when we walked up to the front door and he suggested that I put down the six carry on bags I was holding, I looked at him and said, “Give me a break, just because you’re a Marine doesn’t mean I can’t pull my own weight, damnit. What do you think I am now that we’re married, the little wife at home?”

He paused for a moment, looked me straight in the eye and told me very calmly to put down my bags… please.

“No.” I responded. “Now open the door.”

“Please put down the bags, Kate.”

“WHY?! Just open the door so we can go inside. I’m tired and I don’t want to play around. We’re four feet from where I can finally drop these things and just relax. Finally.”



And so we went about arguing for the next forty or so seconds until he went to remove the bags from my shoulder and not allowing him to do something for me, I shrugged them off.

“There, are you happy? I put down our stupid bags in front of this stupid door so you can show me how strong you are by carrying them in you big, tough Marine. Ugh.”

And then he swooped me up, opened the door, and kissed me.

About ten seconds later once I had recovered from the shock, I laughed.

I laughed loudly, realizing what he was attempting to do in the first place. He was trying to pull the romantic carry your wife over the threshold move and I had totally spoiled the moment.

“Oh,” I giggled. “Now put me down, you’ll break your back.” I added, “And can you grab those bags while you’re at it? I’m just exhausted.”

Debra Winger has nothin’ on me.

Of course in these moments I can’t help but smile wistfully. What I wouldn’t give to have my husband around to argue about carrying bags, to discuss Aristotle, or even to give me the side eye as he prepped for a run as I lay on the couch in pajamas watching ‘The First 48”. “It’s research,” I would offer and shoo him out the door into the California heat.

But now, I must sadly sigh that the other half of my heart is heading to a yet another foreign land. And as I finish watching the final clip from An Officer and A Gentleman, I can proudly say that Richard Gere has nothin’ on my husband. Why? Because he puts up with me and I have a sinking suspicion that if Ms. Winger suggested that she finish her shift before he carried her out, he wouldn’t have been so patient.

And also, he really hates gerbils.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #8: Secret's in the Sauce....

It started with the banana pudding in the kitchen.

It ended with three stereotypical looking mobsters sitting around a table.

And in the interim there were those two garbage bags full of buttered popcorn.

One might wonder: three mobsters sitting around a table? That’s out of the ordinary. But really, all I was thinking at the time was: does anyone know if we have any extra plastic forks left to scoop out the pudding?

Around here it’s normal to walk into the kitchen and find not just homemade pudding sitting out, but three rather large alligator shoe, fedora clad, brown suit wearing Italians hanging out by the coffee machine. Scenarios such as this present themselves more often than not in a production office; I’ve learned to expect the unexpected around here.

What wasn’t normal were those two garbage bags full of popcorn. And when I say garbage bags, I don’t mean those flimsy bathroom garbage bags that fall apart in minutes, I’m talking hefty duty white compactor style garbage bags. Filled to the brim with delicious buttery popcorn. Good morning!

I saddled up right next to the popcorn and buried a bowl in the bag. I continued this about seven times that day, six times the next, and five two days later. The popcorn still remained.

‘Hey, YO!’ I say to a crowded kitchen of coworkers, ‘Where the heck did this stuff come from anyway?’

The entire room shrugs. Though it never occurred to me to ask before, it appears it didn’t occur to anyone else either. I pop another few pieces in my mouth when a coworker walks up behind me and asks how I am enjoying the popcorn.

‘Oh, it’s stale now, but I can’t stop eating it.’

‘Nice, I’m glad a brought that in then.’

‘YOU brought it in? Man! That was so nice; where’s it from?’

‘I found it on my way to work.’

I pause, popcorn kernel in my right hand held mid air on its path toward my mouth.

‘Wait, wait, wait you…you found it? What do you mean you found it?’

‘I mean, I found it. In front of a Salvation Army. It was on the street and I didn’t want it to go to waste.’ His face registers stone cold honesty.

‘You found this (dramatic pause) on a Chicago street (even more of a dramatic pause) in front of a SALVATION ARMY?’


‘Ohmygod,’ I put the three words into one phrase. ‘Ohmygod, I’ve been eating this for the past two days! This was, like, someone’s garbage!’

I am horrified. Shocked. Appalled. Mostly because this isn’t the first time I’ve actually eaten something from the garbage.

When I was a child, my parents built a beautiful greenhouse on the back of our home. My mom filled it with incredible plants, pottery and art. Some of my favorite memories from my youth involve crawling around on the Spanish tile, looking for remnants of a civilization that seemed so far away: a footprint, a tile layer’s instrument. In one orange square, I swore I could see the outline of a rat. I imagined the doomed creature had wandered over the tile when it was drying and gotten stuck in the mix. This provided me with hours of entertainment.

The only downside to the greenhouse was that it often provided an easier way for tiny bugs to sneak in and under the house doors. Which is exactly what happened one hot summer in 1986 when my parent’s experienced something of an epic ant invasion.

These tiny Napoleons were set to conquer all, beginning with our cupboards and moving on to the large cabinets that held the cereal, crackers and jams. I remember my mom standing next to the cabinet and tossing box after box of foodstuffs into the garbage. With each load, she would haul one bag out to the garage cans and walk into the house for more. She must have told me to scoot out of the house and find a friend to play with, because this is exactly what I did. I recruited my neighbor, ‘J, and together we found the perfect place to play…the very dark garage. My mom recalls walking into the garage, flipping the light switch, and finding her four year old daughter and best friend standing over the metal garbage cans. We were caught. Completely. When the light hit our eyes, we froze like deer in a moment of fearful paralysis.

My mom’s first problem was that she threw away the Lucky Charms. Second, she didn’t throw the box deep enough in the garbage that nimble fingers couldn’t reach into the opening. So there we stood, J and I, the portrait of trouble. One hand deep into the cardboard box, the other quickly shoving the tiny marshmallows into our mouths; crumbled parts of cereal dribbling down our respective faces. When she put me in those bows and cute dresses, I don’t think she ever assumed her child would turn out to be a hobo.

More than twenty-three years later, with my hands stuffed in a garbage bag filled with…garbage popcorn, I recall this image. Have I learned nothing?

And then I ponder: I am the woman that my husband married in hopes that I would surprise him by selecting healthy food and creating nutritious meals for a future family? Based on my past behavior, it’s more likely that I’d stand outside a KFC and wait until someone tossed his or her half eaten bucket of seasoned chicken to bring home dinner.

I’ve only had a few occasions to cook for my husband anyway, and on the plus side, I didn’t burn down the house down, (though I did get dangerously close to setting off the fire alarm). I once managed to make some very delicious steaks, but I’m pretty sure they were so good because I marinated them for seven hours in my secret marinade: a bottle of expensive red wine and three cloves of garlic. Success! I had solidified that he wasn’t a vampire, and he couldn’t leave the house to go on more crazy errands that night since he could have easily been arrested for public intoxication.

I also created a new recipe for… green beans! Sounds simple, right? But it isn’t so easy to make healthy green beans as utterly delicious as say, Key Lime pie.

‘Woah, these are great!’ he exclaimed.

‘Secret’s in the sauce, honey,’ I laughingly offered with my best Southern drawl.

I tell him that I just added a little key lime seasoning. What my very health conscious husband didn’t know was that once I boiled them, I left them to cool off in an entire tub of whipped butter.

“See! I can make healthy taste divine!” I sing song.

It is entirely possible he may prefer the garbage route. Garbage or coronary, garbage or coronary. These are probably not the typical decisions a newlywed husband encounters when deciding upon dinner. When he said he married me because I was unique and eccentric in a charming and endearing way, I’m fairly certain he didn’t understand the full spectrum of the phrase eccentrically endearing. Now, perhaps he does. His wife has both the tendencies of Paula Dean and a desperate hobo. Yes, charming indeed.

As I stand there slowly lowering the popcorn kernel away from my mouth, I think about how I need to get a little more serious about both determining the source and type of food I’m consuming. While I may be happy to take my luck for a spin on the garbage wheel of fate, (I’ll take whatever’s behind door number two! Don’t tell me! Nooo, don’t tell me!), my husband is probably not. Besides, like moving in together, picking out hand towels and kitchen appliances, I’m pretty sure getting married to someone means that you should also stop eating out of, or simply, garbage.

So that is why roughly two days later when I walk into the kitchen for a morning snack and am sidetracked by a rather rude mobster looking man who offers me a crude wink, a ‘How you doin’, sweet cheeks?” and a slow look up and down, I smile. I put on my sweetest vocal affectation and say, “Well, I’m doing just wonderful this morning, thank you for asking.”

And then I pause, “Have you tried the popcorn? It’s delicious.”

After all, it would just be such a shame if it went to waste.

Monday, April 5, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #7: Medicating with Karaoke

It isn’t until the woman knocks the microphone stand into a table full of drinks that I realize the video screens throughout the bar don’t match up with the action on stage. I have moved back in my seat, crouched low and cocked my head into my right shoulder in efforts to drown out the sound. Wearing a bedazzled silver hat complete with a myriad color of feathers, the songstress is a walking contradiction of style: she is also wearing a red pleather miniskirt and a Michigan State sweatshirt. She wobbles back and forth on stiletto heels almost like one of those inflatable waving arm monsters they have outside car dealerships, and when she reaches for her drink in the middle of an instrumental section, she topples into the microphone stand and sends it careening into a table full of individuals all wearing Butler t-shirts. This isn’t going to be pretty. Amused finally, I crane my neck up to watch the action unfold on the video screen and realize that I am not witnessing the awful aftermath, but rather a stout Asian man singing what appears to be a very spirited version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ I sigh dejectedly, but perk up when I realize that my good friend has rushed over toward the stage to get photographic proof of the mess unfolding at her feet.

‘Someone save the beer!’ I hear another patron shout, as the feather hat woman is now back on her feet and swinging the microphone cord precariously close to another table. An audible clunk reverberates though the room when the microphone makes contact with another patron’s nose and a rather large bouncer walks up toward the stage to escort our feathered friend to the back patio. In the background, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ wails a rejected symphony.

“OK! Ladies and Gentlemen, looks like that lady was having too much fun!” the DJ apologetically covers. Hardy, har, har. Jeez, where do they find these cheesy DJs? He’s about seventy six years old with what appears to be a lengthy tail of brushed out curls trailing down his back. He’s holding some sort of dark cocktail in his hand, the ice clicking against the glass making a ‘tsk tsk’ sound; somewhere in this man’s life something with terribly wrong.

“We’re gonna slow it down over here right now as Johnny takes the stage.”

A skinny kid wearing a blazer shuffles up to the stage. He kicks a few plastic cups on the ground and wipes the microphone off on his jeans. The DJ switches the stage lights to alternating colors of red and releases some sort of smoke onto the ground. ‘Johnny’ appears to be singing a song to the minions of hell. When I glance around the room at the rest of the bar patrons, I realize that this might not be too far off.

The music swells and before Johnny can even open his vocal chords I am hit with one of those gut punch reactions. The song is “Come Fly With Me,’ and it was our first dance. Nearly two months ago we were twirling around the dance floor, together. Now, I am choking back haze from the smoke machine and balancing my body on a rickety bar stool while a red light pulsates across the table and a guy who bears an appropriate nametag that reads, “Tattoo Stu,” is asking for my drink order.

I have been married to the military for two months. I say ‘married to the military,’ because that’s exactly what it feels like, honestly. When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon, he went directly into work up flights and intense preparation for his upcoming deployment. Unlike typical married couples, when you marry into the military during war time, one spends little time picking out furniture, arranging the coffee table and making dinner together, and more time watching Army Wives marathons on Lifetime and wondering if your husband is in the air or on the ground. Imagine, if you will, a tax accountant getting married in February or March. There is little room for much else.

There is a great quote I once read that went a little something like: “The Marine Corps is his wife, and I’m his mistress. And sometimes that b@#$ gets all the attention.” As much as I hate to admit, I have paused and knowingly laughed.

From what I hear, the first year of marriage for any couple demands a bit of learning. Learning about the other person: how they fold their clothes, what kind of toothpaste they prefer, how they justify spending money on video games over food, etc. The first year of a military marriage that entails a deployment makes little room for learning and demands more room for coping. Lessons typical in a first year of marriage for a civilian couple are quite different than a military couple. So, instead of spending time learning what my husband might like to cook with me for dinner, I spend more time learning the importance of good friends and family. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING falls under a microscope. Everything becomes more intense. Relationships especially. They say that a wedding is symbolic of two people leaving their respective ‘tribes’ and creating their own. I haven’t found that to be the case in the least. In fact, I have found quite the opposite to be true; I haven’t left my tribe, if anything I have pulled it in closer. And for those spouses where this isn’t an option, yes, they do create their own tribes. Often in foreign states, far away from family and friends- they form new friendships: lasting, intense friendships, bonds that can be neither understood and are often unbroken by others outside of the circle…or base.

I am the fortunate one to have strong friendships and family in my circle. This is more a testament to their character than it is to mine. I am simply a lucky girl with friends and family who have exceptional patience. They are the ones that drag me out of the house when I want only to hide under covers in my pajamas. They are the ones who come over and crack open a bottle of wine, to relax on sunny patios with when I am not even sure I feel like seeing the sun, to drag me to karaoke bars when it is raining. They are the ones who sit with me on Skype, even though they are only a few miles away, but it is late and I’ve just had a terrible nightmare. They are the ones who live hundreds of miles away, but check in with me almost daily. They are the ones who have three kids under the age of three, who still pick up the phone or sit down at the computer to a note. They are the ones who forgive me after I’ve been lost in a conversation with them and I realize I have no idea what we’ve been talking about for the past five minutes because I’ve drifted off into the recesses of my head. They are the ones that keep me from being an automaton, tell me when my outfit is mis-matched, or that half of my hair is blonde and the other half is auburn. They are the ones that urge me with a smile on their face to open wedding gifts, when I’d rather they gather cobwebs in some attic of Ms. Havisham.

I am at the Karaoke bar because it is my dear friend’s birthday. I promised her I would attend though I am vehemently against getting up and singing. She tries to drag me by the hand and even threatens to sign me up. But I am in one of those moods where I am lost yet again, and even the glass of wine in my hand isn’t strong enough medication.

Snapped back only when I hear the DJ's voice cut through the smoke, I am at first paranoid- paranoid because I have so consumed myself with memories that I don’t even know what I’ve been staring at for the past three minutes. The room is raucous, yet I haven’t heard or seen a single thing other than a filmstrip of memories. It is my dear friend’s birthday and I have been horribly selfish as I sit at the table reflecting. When she attempts to drag me up again, I smile and finally relent. I physically shake myself as though I am draining water droplets of sadness off my being.

We hit the stage and I squint into the footlights. The room is packed, and from what I can make out, there are roughly two hundred sets of eyes staring at us from the bar area. Suddenly, my dear friend opens her mouth.

“I would like to dedicate this song to my friend’s husband, a US Marine who is currently serving our country.”

With this the room goes wild with applause, and I turn at her open mouthed. It is HER birthday, and she dedicated a song to my husband. These are the friends I am lucky to have in my life. If a heart could swell safely, mine certainly does.

The lights bounce about the stage and I hear the opening notes to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ a favorite of both my husband and I. When we lose ourselves in the lights and laughter, I remember what it feels like to just be…consumed in a wonderful moment. And as we exit the stage, hugging each other and dancing about the bar with just slightly more grace than our silver bedazzled friend, I choose that. I choose to smile a genuine smile and be so thankful for all those friends and family members that have propped me up even when it seems much more convenient to hang out on the floor for a little while. I am sure there are many military spouses who have experienced this, and I truly hope they too have steely support beams.

Sometimes in life, the video screen doesn’t match up with what’s happening on stage. Life can occasionally be, well, disjointed. But if you’re lucky, you will have good friends and family to rush up to the front of the stage, camera in hand, ready to document everything that you occasionally miss while lost in your own little world. They will be the ones to throw their arm around your shoulders and remind you, “Hey, even under hellish red lights, amid a smoky room- with hair that is dyed multiple colors because you were too lazy, too lonely, too sad to fix it yourself, you are still that girl that takes a deep breath, shakes it off and sings very, very bad Karaoke.”

You will look at your friend’s encouraging smile and you will believe her. You will take a deep breath, and remember that no matter how difficult life gets, one thing is for certain: it goes on and on and on.

After all, it is a heck of a lot more fun to be in the middle of it all with friends and family than hiding out on your own-even if you do have to put up with an occasional swinging microphone cord or two.

At the end of the day if all else fails, well, there's always Journey. There's always Karaoke. And I'm pretty sure, there's always going to be that ancient DJ with the long curly hair, his lighting kit and the never-ending smoke machine.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #6: The Impatient Goldfish

I am impatient. Exceptionally impatient. And stubborn. To a fault. I have always had problems waiting for things: summer to arrive, Christmas gifts to be opened, school to finally be over…for good. In other words, if patience is a virtue, then I’m Satan’s mistress.

I usually deal with my impatience by bugging the hell out of everyone around me. One can imagine what holidays were like in my household, or dinners in general. Especially if it meant that there was a surprise waiting for me at the end of a meal. As a child in restaurants, when I finished my meal and wanted dessert, I would get up from the table and begin pacing around it in swooping circles. Looking back, I can only begin to imagine what the other patrons thought of this seemingly mentally challenged child doing laps around the fine china. Tired of my antics, my parents instructed me to stand in one place. So, once I had finished that last pea, I’d simply get up from my chair and stand in place like some bizarre robotic creature. I didn’t make a noise, it was just subtle affirmation that I had finished my meal and would like a sundae. Please.

In early life, I found ways to cope with my severe impatience. For example, when my friend Jennifer and I were frustrated at the amount of time it was taking us to win a goldfish at the school fair, we simply devised an ingenious plan. Since the gym was teeming with roughly three hundred Attention Deficit Disordered children being watched by four or five completely non-medicated and sober adults, (this was before Ritalin was handed out like vitamins and Prozac could readily be purchased like Skittles), we simply walked up to the lady running the goldfish game and told her we had won.

“Yeah, didn’t you see? We threw the ball in the vase. So give us our goldfish.”

Sometimes it’s amazing I didn’t turn out to be a bank robber.

I remember her staring at us, unblinking for a good six seconds, then deeply sighing and handing over a plastic bag with one live goldfish. Except Jennifer and I allowed our greed to overcome us, and by the seventh or eighth time that we had claimed to have won, she stopped forking over the goldfish. Which was fine in our minds, considering we couldn’t carry many more plastic bags in our greedy, grubby fingers than we already had. Those goldfish, which I aptly named Jaws I-IV managed to live for quite a long time. A few even survived an attack by a frog I had brought in from outside and dumped in the tank. So, I consider it a worthy steal. I don’t even remember if my mother questioned me, but I probably confused the heck out of my father when he realized that his daughter didn’t have the throwing arm and steady aim he mistakenly assumed.

Later in life, when I didn’t have the patience to study for exams, I trained myself to think quick and bullshit. It worked for me, actually. During an essay exam, for example, the final question of the test was: (I kid you not) make up your own question and answer it. So I did. My question? Why did I take this class? I ran on for a good three paragraphs by citing my professor’s accomplishments in the medical and anthropological field and why he was a personal hero to me. I ended up getting 100% on the exam.

I maintained solid A’s throughout college, with the exception of Calculus. Apparently, there’s no talking your way to an A in Calculus, especially when your professor speaks little English outside of his native Chinese language. In fact, I’m not so sure he even knew that he was supposed to be teaching. It was as if he wandered off a plane bound to Indiana and an immigrations agent took one look at him and said, “Son, I bet you’d be good at math!”

I’m gonna tell you this right now; math is NOT an international language in any regard. I failed the class. But really, who needs Calculus anyway? I bet Oprah doesn’t know a thing about cosigns. She has people for that, and I always assumed I would as well. I substituted the failed grade by aceing ‘Logic,’ which ironically, makes no logical sense whatsoever; considering anyone who knows me would be willing to admit that I lack greatly in the logical arena. In fact, when I took an IQ test, I was out of the park on reading and language comprehension, but damn near mentally retarded on the logic side. I’m not joking, I think the exam might have said, “Child, if you are reading this and not drooling out of the corner of your mouth with your eyes rolling back in your head, then you better seek immediate help.” But my logic teacher was a Russian lad, and the exams involved drawing symbols; it turns out I’m a lucky guesser.

But I digress. In actuality, my impatience has actually always worked in my favor. Impatient that I wasn’t heading up a company, I worked my derriere off in the television business world. When I wanted something, I went for it with tenacity. And that includes relationships (romantic or otherwise), television shows and occasionally material possessions. I’m not saying I’m some model of ethics, but if I wanted something I wasn’t about to wait around to attain it. I simply found a way, (legally, of course) to obtain the treasure I sought.

And all this was working out for me quite well until I met a veritable opponent. The United States Marine Corps.

See, that’s the thing, the USMC doesn’t care one bit if I’m impatient. Impatient for orders, impatient for where I’m going to be living, impatient to get my husband home safely. Nearly two months ago I was married. And since that time, my husband and I have been in the same city for only half the days we’ve been wed. Before the first year of our marriage is over, we will have spent only 1/3 of the time on the same continent. Even crazier, since my husband and I began dating, we’ve only spent three weeks living in the same city, and during that time my professional life was anchored nearly two thousand miles away.

And the scary thing is; that makes me lucky. I’ve read stories of couples in the military that have been married four years, and of that time, they’ve clocked only about eleven months together. Unlike the gym of Laura B. Sprague elementary, I can’t just walk up to a frustrated and overwhelmed Executive Officer and inform him that, “guess what? When you weren’t looking, my husband completed his seven month deployment, so it’s time to send him home with me.” Even if I stand behind him or her at the dinner table, he or she is probably not going to budge. No matter how much I sigh or bark or whine.

This frustrates me to no end.

I have seen the women that stand behind deployments with pride, finding peace with their husbands being gone, knowing that the sacrifice is well worth their pain. Whew, man oh man do I admire those women. I look up to them, really. But, I’ll be totally honest with you: I am not that woman. Certainly, I feel that sense of swelled pride. I honestly can’t even imagine what it would be like not being married to an Officer in the USMC; if I was Goldilocks, then he was ‘juuussst right.’

Sure, it gets easier (at least, that’s what they tell me), but I’d be a bold faced liar if I said it didn’t righteously suck. And there are days when I want to say to him, (sometimes I actually do say this to him), why didn’t you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, hell, a taxidermist? Heck, even serial killers typically work in one location. There are days when the only company I have is one Robert Mondavi, and the only male action in my life is on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ That’s admittedly pretty scary. Because I’d rather have no male action at all than witnessing some male shaking his behind clad in rhinestones and glitter gel. *Authors note: Unless I am at a gay pride parade, and then it is very tough for any heterosexual male to compete with that kind of fun.

So I play the waiting game. I pause when I see the American flag now, understanding what it stands for, understanding its importance. When I see a Marine Corps sticker, a Navy, Air Force or an Army sticker on the car, I will want to pull over and hug the driver. I will want to tell them that I’m here, that I’m going through the same emotional rollercoaster, and that occasionally I too get angry, lonely and sometimes ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ makes me want to puke as well.

What it comes down to is this: I am one impatient lady who despises waiting; moral of the story. For goldfish, dessert, or my husband.

So hurry home soon.

In the meantime, I’ll be exhausting Netflix, working late hours and bugging my family and friends. I’ll be writing pitches on male escorts and homicide detectives. I’ll be at that Irish pub pouring back drinks, sharing laughs and writing the next story in my head. I’ll be on my back balcony lost in conversation with a best friend while aimlessly glancing at the clock and subconsciously calculating the time in foreign lands. I’ll be snuggling up under the covers with my toothless dog, and I’ll be catching myself from crying over a Folgers commercial when the solider comes home from war and surprises his mom and little sister. I will probably buy a goldfish or two fair and square, namely because I want the company, even if it is in the form of a mindlessly mute friend. I will watch as it swims around and around the tank…waiting for its dessert. Dreaming of the day when it will be free of restrictions and orders.

United States Marine Corps, you win this time. But next time, maybe you won’t be so lucky.

Maybe next time I’ll get to have my dessert. And I will tell you now: I will enjoy every minute of it. Because then I won’t be impatiently waiting for the next big thing, I will already have it home.