When I turned twenty-eight, I decided I wanted to be a photo journalist. I couldn’t quit my day job (Middle School English Teacher) as I had a mortgage to pay. So, my good buddy, Greg, a former Green Beret, talked me into joining the Army Reserves where I could train on the job to be a journalist. As I explained in one of my earlier posts, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft astray.”(Wisely put, Mr. Burns)
When you join the army, you first must go to Basic Training (Boot Camp). My training was ill-timed. July at Fort McClellan, Alabama. You have not experience heat until you have gone on a five-mile forced march in new, stiff shiny, black army boots, thick woolen socks, carrying ten tons of gear on your back while canisters of tear gas are tossed at you intermittently along the route. I should stop to explain. This is so you can practice pulling on and sealing your smelly, rubber gas mask around your already slippery, sweaty face in nine seconds (the estimated time it would take you to fall dead in your tracks if this were something more lethal.) At the three-mile mark in our little trek, death would have been welcomed with open arms, had I not been carrying a nine pound tent in my back pack and an M-16 slung over my left shoulder. My arms were indisposed, so surrendering to anything with arms opened was not an option. I will not bore you with any of the other details of boot camp. Suffice it to say it is not where you want to find yourself at age twenty-eight (Did I mention I was the oldest one there?) in the hottest July on record down south.
During the next three years, I would be sent on active duty with other reservists to train in such exotic places as Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania doing such exotic things as avoiding rattlesnake nests (the baby rattlers are the most lethal); using an entrenching tool to make sure the rain did not enter my tent and engulf me in my sleep; eating meals from green tins dated back to World War I and brought to a perfect boil in large garbage barrels; setting off Claymore mines; qualifying with M-1’s; grenade throwing; marching, marching to Pretoria or some such place. “Ah, the horror!” (Well put Mr. Conrad) And all of this culminating at the end of our week of camping in the woods with a ceremony fondly referred to as “The Burning of the Skivvies”. At this point I could press “Add Media” to display my photos of men grasping tree limbs with tattered underwear dangling pitifully off the ends over campfires, but I torched them all.The memories, however, are still etched firmly in my own mind, unfortunately.
A clerical error was discovered much later, just before my three years were up. I had been given the wrong MOS (Military Occupational Skill). I was assigned an MOS of 84B20 – COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHER, not photo journalist. The mystery of why I kept being placed on active duty with a couple hundred guys from New England had been solved. But the damage had been done. I did not re-up (no mystery there) but used my combat training expertise to take administrative classes and become a vice principal. How ironic is that, I ask you?
When I came across Bob Ramsak’s Blog, Piran Cafe http://pirancafe.wordpress.com I stared in amazement at the pages. This is what I had wanted to be. A photojournalist who roamed the world documenting events, sharing stories, experiences, music, videos. And then it struck me – this is what I wanted my blog to be. I wanted my photos to move around on the page like his. How did he do that? I wanted Tunes du Jour to burst forth from my tuneless pages. How did he do that? I wanted to take fantastic photos of people doing great things; doing ordinary things. Damn! How did he do that?
But I realized while writing this post, that I had other things to learn before I came anywhere near to the quality of his Blog. Case in point: I pushed “publish” instead of “save draft” before it was even completed. Sorry for those of you following who couldn’t figure out why this post ended mid sentence! Please bear with me for one more week.Combat training seems easier to me right now then getting this blogging stuff straight. Now to figure out Blogrolling……..