Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't judge a Brit by the color of his kit

Kit being a uniform, gear, outfit used to play sports. There have been some post recently on Shysterball and It Is About The Money, Stupid, about the Brits recently claiming they actually invented the game.

There were accusations, justifications and all manner of comments from the Brits trying to assert their influence over anything American, and Americans telling them what we thought of their attempt to claim our game.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that not all Brits have these issues about Americans and our sports. I hear it almost every day, at work, at the pub, or just out and about at the store, or wherever I am.

It gets a little old, and I have a post I'm working on about that subject. Its just too long for me to finish in one evening.

But at the local pub I go to, only occasionally of course, I have gotten to know a lot of people, and count many of them as friends already. The people who own the pub have been great to me. They know I'm in a tight financial situation right now, but will let me run a tab through the end of the month until payday. If they wouldn't, I would find myself sitting at home much more than I do.

But what is really great about them, is they understand the situation I'm in. A stranger in a strange land, for away from my comfort zone and all alone really. So, on a Saturday or Sunday evening, if there isn't too much of a a crowd or a soccer match on that people have specifically come to watch, they will put on a baseball or football game for me. I don't know if they know how important that is to me. Its my little slice of home when I'm feeling homesick and alone. It's fantastic on their part.

There have been some complaints at times, and a lot of negative comments, but they don't' listen. If they turn it on, they let me watch until I'm ready to go home. So while there are still some issues out there that we need to watch, not every Brit takes the opportunity to rag on Americans.

In fact, some of them go out of their way to make us feel welcome. And its making my life a lot better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Scenes from a charmed life # 1

I’ve been pretty lucky in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to go places, and live places, that most people never get a chance to see. It doesn’t make me anything special, I’ve just has some unique opportunities and I’ve tried to take advantage of them. For a guy from a small town in Missouri, I’ve been around. I know a lot of people who have been many more places than I have, but I also know a lot of people who have never left the state of Missouri. As much as I love Missouri, that’s a little sad that it defines the boundaries of so many people’s world.

One of the things I’ve always loved is being around water. I like swimming, I like being out on boats, I like walking on the beach. Some of it is the sun and the sand and the warm weather. Some of it is the beautiful women in skimpy bikinis, or less in places. Hey, I am who I am. Sometimes it’s just the peace and solitude. I’ve spent lots of nights out fishing, just drifting in the boat or sitting along the river. It’s quiet, it’s serene, and it’s peaceful. Sometimes it’s a bonfire and a party on the beach. Sometimes it’s sitting on a rock during a grey, stormy day and watching the waves break. There are a hundred reasons why I like being around water.

In my life, I’ve been lucky to be around many different and types of bodies of water. I’ve lived near the east coast of the US several times. Close enough to get to the shore without much effort. I’ve lived on the west coast in LA. I’ve lived on the west coast of England and Angola. I’ve lived near the east coast of Asia. I’ve swam in the Pacific and Atlantic from both sides. I’ve been in the South Atlantic. I’ve lived less than a mile from the Puget Sound and grew up in the Lake of the Ozarks. I’ve swam in the Persian Gulf and seen the Indian Ocean. I swam in the English Channel and taken the ferry from Dover to Calais. Yes, the cliffs are amazing to see. I’ve waded in the Baltic Sea (too cold to swim) and spent summers swimming in the Ohio River while visiting family in Kentucky. I’ve swam in the Mediterranean and lost count of the lakes, ponds, streams and creeks any kid from the country or a small town gets to experience.

Some of the best. For the women: Venice in LA; for the water: Angola (its bathwater warm in the summer), for the challenge: the Ohio River (a strong current); for the beauty: the Lewis and Clark River west of US93 in Montana; for the unique experience: the Persian Gulf on a break from Desert Storm (swimming around while watching the oil tankers and warships moving around; for the good memories: any day on the Lake of the Ozarks as a kid growing up; best sunset: a beach in Angola with a woman you love; best sunrise: over the English Channel in Bournemouth, because it made me understand why I was there and that I was doing the right thing.

I think one of the great pleasures of life is watching a sunset or a sunrise. Whatever you’re location, just stopping and taking the time to watch is well worth it. To me, however, there is something different about watching a sunrise or sunset over the water. Maybe it’s the reflection of light, maybe it’s the unbroken horizon that lets you focus, or maybe it’s usually the distance from any distraction because of the location. If you’ve never had the chance to experience it, you really should. It’s an experience that you will never forget. While I was in Angola, we couldn’t really watch a sunset from the beach. The security situation was bad, and it was too far from town. We had to be back to a certain point by sunset. But we could go out to the Ilha and sit at a restaurant and watch a sunset.

It’s exactly what you see in the movies about islands in the Pacific. You’re sitting at a cafĂ© with friends or someone close. A drink or dinner. Some good conversation. And it reaches a point where sunset is near. It’s not defined. There’s no line in the sky. It doesn’t follow a clock. It isn’t, then it is. And time slows. I swear it really does. And people slow. Conversations lag. There’s less movement. Suddenly you can hear the waves breaking against the rocks. The calls of the birds are clearer. You can see the intricate patterns left in the sand by the waves as the tide changes. Colors in the sky change. The color of the sun changes. Shadows lose their shape and you can hear the flames in the tiki torches. The sun drops, and then it hits the horizon. And suddenly it’s gone. That quickly. And life resumes again. Movement starts. The hands on the clock turn. The shadows are gone. The birds are asleep. And people move on with their lives. Just a brief interlude that we too often forget about after it happens. But life is mostly a series of brief interludes that we don’t pay enough attention to. We just string them together and forget they are usually more important and a lot more fun that the events that come in between.

One of the great things about where I’m living now, in Bournemouth, is that it’s on the English Channel. I live about 3 miles from the beach. And because of where’s it at, on the southern coast, you can actually watch a sunset and sunrise over open water from the same spot. There are only a few places in the world where you can really do that. Patagonia. The tip of Florida. Gibraltar. The Cape of Good Hope. Southern England. Some ocean islands or maybe in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. I’m sure there are some I’ve missed, but not a lot of places really.

So here in Bournemouth, you can watch the sun set over the ocean and rise over the channel. If you’re having a good enough time, you can do both in the same night. Sometimes, before I moved over here, when I was still traveling over to see my daughter, I would go sit at the beach. I would come over for about 5 days, and didn’t have anything to do. I didn’t really know anyone outside of the hotel staff. I didn’t go out to the pubs or clubs because it just really isn’t any fun by yourself. So on the weekends here, I would just roam around town and end up finding myself down at the beach in time to watch the sunset. And some morning, when I couldn’t sleep because of jet lag, I would walk down and watch it rise. Even though I was seeing my daughter, these weren’t really good trips for me because of all stress and issues involved.

But going down to the beach to watch a sunset always helped. Some people do yoga. Some mediate. Some pray. Some just drink. But to me, watching a sunset or sunrise, whether alone or with someone, is the best medicine in the world. It makes me think more clearly. It makes me see the things I was blocking out for some reason. It gives me time to work out issues I have. Or it gives me an opportunity to just sit and forget about everything for a short while. When I come back to the word, I’ve usually forgotten what it was that got me thinking in the first place.

I just received an e-mail about a friend from Angola who has been hospitalized for depression. I’m not making light of it. It’s a serious situation. There are doctors and medication that can help her.

But I wonder if watching a sunset over the Praia de Sol would help. I know it would help me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A day to remember

For those of you who don't read Jason at It Is About The Money, Stupid (sorry, not getting the link to work), you should go over and check out his blog about 9/11.

I'm embarrassed to say, I forgot completely about it. I knew today was the 11th, but I just never associated today with THAT day. It isn't a big day here, for the general public. There was nothing I heard on the radio, or saw on the Internet. People weren't talking about it. I'm sure it was out there, but I just didn't hear it. Which is strange, because it had a profound impact on me.
I was in the Army at the time, stationed in DC. My apartment was about 1 1/2 miles from the Pentagon. I was at the Pentagon that morning, about 2 hours before anything happened, so I was never in any danger. But they did lock us down on Bolling AFB and we couldn't leave until late afternoon.

There are some things I remember from that day. Everyone in my family and my friends knew I was in DC and lived near the Pentagon. I didn't have my address book with me, and I couldn't remember anyone's number. I just never could. I still don't know my own phone number without looking it up. I knew I needed to call someone, so I tried to dial my brother's number from memory. I was off by two digits. But I come from a small town, and I explained to the girl who I was, what was going on, and what I needed. We knew each other's family, and she looked up the number in the phone book, and I was able to get hold of my sister-in-law to let her know what was going on.

Think about that. On 9/11 of all days, some strangers calls you and asks you to look up a number in the phone book for them. How many people do you know who might be willing to do that. Things like that happen, but it still seems to be the exception more than the rule in today's world.

Another very vivid memory I have is sitting out on my front steps for the next few nights and the smell coming from the Pentagon. And it wasn't just jet fuel. Not to be too graphic, but there are some things that never leave you. That's why the rescue workers deserve more credit than anyone could ever give them. I've never see Ground Zero, but I have seen the damage to the Pentagon up close. I don't need pictures. I can see it right here in front of me right now.

One thing I would like people to remember is the fact that over 300 people died in DC. I know the numbers pale in comparison, but it doesn't change the fact that it happened. Everyone knows about the Twin Towers. Almost everyone knows about United 93. But lets remember everyone who died that day. As retired military, it might mean a lot more to me than most other people.

But regardless of where and how, and regardless of politics and the events that have happened since, we should always remember that day. And that includes me. Its important.