Saturday, December 31, 2011

Frat Life 101: How To Earn A Pledge Nickname

One of the traditions of Sig Tau was that a member was assigned for every pledge to be their big brother. Ostensibly the role of the big brother was one of mentorship, to help guide the pledge through their journey and to assist them when they needed it. That was the theory at least. Put into practice the results would always vary depending upon who the big and little brothers were. The pledge was required to learn about their big brother (as well as their fellow pledges). His hometown, how many brothers or sisters he had, his major and so forth. I believe the idea was it would build more brotherhood and strengthen the fraternity as a whole.

The big brother was also responsible for another long standing tradition, the pledge nickname. Now don't go flashing back to Animal House and how they did it. With us it wasn't a ceremony attended by all, instead at a certain point early in pledgeship (hopefully after observing the pledge a bit) the big brother would bestow one on you and that was it. You were christened with it wherever you happened to be at the time. I don't even remember when or where I received mine to be honest. You could be given more nicknames in the future but the one given in pledgeship was considered the "official" one.

In my case my big brother was Buzz, aka The Captain. Buzz didn't go out of his way to mentor me a great deal. As I recall he was soon to leave NSU and move onto adult life. In his infinite wisdom he gifted me with the nickname of Captain Dangerous. Well, there is more to it than that but I don't want to repeat it here. By giving me this nickname he managed to keep the captain theme going as well as name me something that was completely against my nature and didn't fit me at all. I mean, here I was, 6' 1" and 130 pounds of a nerdish stick of a lad that had an extremely poor self image as well as absolutely no belief in myself socially or otherwise. At first I found it to be embarrassing since it was such an ill fitting nickname but eventually I warmed to the idea and embraced it.

After all, college was the place I could learn and grow and start changing into the person I was to become right? Yeah, right. After my pledging was over and I became a member the very next semester I was immediately given the honor of having a little brother. His name was Randy and he had pledged another frat which was known for being preppies, something Randy couldn't approximate with the help of a Hollywood special effects team. It just wasn't who he was. They ended up blackballing him which is the nice way of saying that they used him as a number, took his money for pledging and then got rid of him because they never intended to let him in.

Somehow Randy found his way to Sig Tau where he found that he fit in with the rest of us dirtbags. We didn't care about money, clothes, etc. All we cared about was brotherhood. The one thing I still recall about Randy after all these years was how much of a klutz he was. So it was incredibly appropriate when I continued the captain legacy and named him Captain Klutz. He was a good guy that just needed people to look past superficial things and get to know him. I tried my best to help him as I couldn't help but see a little of me in him. After that semester I left for the summer and then sat out the Fall 1984 semester and when I came back to school Randy was gone, I believe he transferred to another school but I can't say for sure.

In the Spring semester of 1985 I had returned to school and my brother from other parents Tommy started there as well. He had graduated from high school a semester early and was now interested in pledging Sig Tau. I tried to tell him that he needed to look at other fraternities to make sure he got the right fit but he wouldn't hear of it. He simply told me that if Sig Tau was good enough for me, it was good enough for him. I then tried to tell the other members that they shouldn't make him my little brother because we already knew each other and the idea was to make the pledge learn about their big brother. Of course they immediately assigned him to be my little brother.

Tommy was a good guy (still is too) and approached pledging with the right frame of mind. One day I observed him walking quickly with a purpose and it reminded me of how Groucho Marx walked in his movies. Captain Groucho was born that day, although I'm not sure if he appreciated the name. Tommy stayed in and was one of the core guys until after he graduated. Not long after he and several others left, the chapter died off, never to return. There were a lot of contributing factors that added together spelled the demise of Zeta Chapter. Some things aren't meant to last forever, they run their course and disappear. But while it was there Sig Tau had a major impact in a lot of lives, the least of which was mine and a lot of people still remember me as Captain Dangerous.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Flight Of The Trooper

In November of 1987 I joined the U.S. Army and since I was already in the National Guard and had attended all of my training all I had to do was go back and get a new MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). Basically that means getting trained for a new job. My training took me back to Ft. Jackson, S.C., the scene of so much pain, sweat and a few curse words that we shall call Basic Training. The Christmas and New Years holidays were fast approaching and at this time every year all of the training units were to be shut down and all of the trainees sent home for two weeks. It's a strange procedure called Christmas Exodus.

We weren't allowed to take all of our belongings with us since we would be coming back so we had to decide what we couldn't live without. The problem for me was that I had many cassette tapes to choose from and not a lot of space to put them in. This clearly was a process that required a great deal of thought and careful deliberation. After all, if I left a tape behind that meant I wouldn't have access to it for two whole weeks, almost an eternity in those days. So there I was kneeling in front of my locker going through my box of cassettes trying to make the hard choices.

Some choices were easy, like Moving Pictures by Rush, that went in the yes pile without a thought. Next to that was the maybe pile followed by the no pile. The maybe pile was the largest. As I went through them I came upon Iron Maiden's Piece Of Mind and I immediately put it in the no pile. However as soon as I did this and started to reach for another cassette I hesitated. It occurred to me that it did contain my favorite Maiden song "The Trooper" and you never know, I might be in the mood for something that aggressive during the holidays since I never was much for celebrating and didn't care for Christmas music.

With that thought my mind was quickly changed and I relocated Iron Maiden to the yes pile and continued with my selections. Once finished the cassettes were placed in my carry on bag with my walkman and a book or two, the bag properly zipped up and off I went to catch a cab to the airport dressed in my Class A uniform (it was a requirement not a style choice). From there I waited for my flight to Huntington, W.V. I'm not from Huntington, it's just that it has the closest airport to my hometown of Ironton, Ohio, which itself is not a huge, bustling borough. The ride was a short one and after checking my bag I still had time to kill once I arrived at my departure gate. So on came the headphones and I started jamming to some music and read a magazine.

Right after the announcement was made for first class to board I noticed a skinny, long haired guy walking past me with a very attractive, dark haired woman. The only thought that entered my brain was "Wow, that guy's got a messed up nose just like the drummer from Iron Maiden." Upon closer inspection I saw that he was carrying the kind of case that looked like it contained drum sticks and a practice pad. This called for a re-evaluation so I gave him a good once over and my next thought was "He even looks like the drummer from Iron Maiden."

As the rest of the passengers started boarding I could tell that the ladies working at the gate were excited as they were eagerly chattering to each other in hushed tones. Feeling that it was appropriate, I asked them if that indeed this fellow was the drummer from Iron Maiden, but they wouldn't confirm or deny it. Clearly something was up though. Again I gave him the once over as I walked down the aisle to my seat and as I did so I was totally convinced. It was Nicko McBrain, the drummer from Iron Maiden, here on my flight to Huntington, W.V. of all places. I knew I couldn't let a golden opportunity like this pass me by.

After sitting in my assigned window seat I immediately started digging through my bag frantically trying to find my Piece Of Mind cassette tape. The man sitting next to me in his dress shirt, tie and slacks asked me what was going on. I tried to explain to him that the drummer for the world famous heavy metal band Iron Maiden was at this very moment sitting in first class on our plane and I intended to get his autograph. After all, this is a group that could sell out stadiums in countries like Poland which always seemed like a pretty impressive an accomplishment to me. Although my seat companion clearly had no idea about who or what I was speaking of he was nevertheless impressed by my excitement and quickly loaned me his sharpie and wished me luck.

Slowly I made my way up the aisle (it wasn't a very large plane) into first class where I could see the stewardess talking to the only occupants there, Nicko and his lady friend. The stewardess glanced at me and asked me if she could help me. Looking directly into her eyes I told her "No, but he can" and immediately turned to Nicko thrusting out my tape and the sharpie and asked for his autograph. If he was surprised at the sight of this tall, skinny guy with his hair buzzed off, dressed in a military uniform, who had readily recognized him he didn't let it faze him. Instead he happily complied and asked my name as he started writing. Now at this moment my head almost overflowed with questions that I could ask of him now that I had been gifted with this rare chance meeting. Topics like when were they touring, when would a new album be coming and so forth all burst into my consciousness.

Instead, I only managed to blurt out "You guys rock!" That's it. That's all I could muster in my moment in the sun. So sad. I'm sure that he noticed the change in my demeanor as immediately I started berating myself mentally for sounding so stupid but if he did he didn't show it. He merely thanked me, finished signing my tape and handed it back to me. Realizing that my time was rapidly fading I regained my senses and asked him why he was going to Huntington. It turned out that the lady was his fiance and she was from a town located about midway between Huntington and Charleston, WV and they were on their way to spend the holidays with her parents. Thanking him again I quickly made my way back to my seat in the nether regions of coach class and prepared for takeoff.

The rest of the flight was a blur for me and yes, I did listen to Piece Of Mind during the flight. Once we arrived in Huntington I informed my sister and her husband of the famous musician on my flight and as we walked to claim my baggage Nicko was already walking away with his. I caught his eye and he nodded to me, a move of which I made sure my sister and her husband were aware of. We grabbed my bags and on the way to their car we could see Nicko putting his bags into his rental car with a cluster of teens around him. As we walked on those teens came by us and I overheard one of them saying "I don't know who he is but I know he's famous." I wanted to smack those young punks right then and there for having the audacity to ask someone for an autograph when they didn't even know who he was. The nerve.

There's my story of how I met a famous rock star and said something totally and completely lame to him. Some may say that my change of heart about bringing the only Iron Maiden cassette tape that I owned was merely a coincidence and nothing more but I think not. It was instead some strange twist of fate not meant to be life altering, perhaps only to be an amusing tale (hopefully) for me to bore people with later in life. That's where all of you come in. As for the only other question that can be asked about this momentous occasion, do I still have the tape? You better believe it. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tell Me Something

Okay, it's been a while but here are some lyrics I wrote tonight on my break at work. They are pretty straight forward, at least for me.

Tell me Something

You got an opinion and you’re
Not afraid to share it with
Whoever is so dreadfully unlucky to
Drift into the space of your gravity well
Life, liberty, religion, sports
All the behind the scenes politics
Your tongue leaves no topic unscathed
Nor any sacred cows unspared

Vapid girl spouting vapid words
Standing tall speaking for all
Spitting out multisyllabic words
Trying oh so hard to impress
Who appointed you to speak
And have all our ills addressed
I have to wonder seriously whether
You really are all that sincere

Tell me something
That I don’t know
While you’re telling
Me just where to go
Tell me something
That I don’t know
Tell me, tell me, tell me

Open your mouth and spit out
An awful lot of nothing nonsense
Half thought out comments built
On even more half baked ideas
You can quote the Dalai Lama
James Dean and Henry Rollins
It makes the question spring to my mind
Do you know what any of it means

Tell me something
That I don’t know
While you’re telling
Me just where to go
Tell me something
That I don’t know
Tell me, tell me, tell me

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Story That Became A Story

Previously I had written a fictional story and placed it here on my blog. Several people had read it and enjoyed it. In an effort to gain more readers for the blog I decided to submit the story to a blog of English speaking writers based in Peru. My thinking was that perhaps I could expose my writing to more people and gain some constructive criticism that would help improve the story. I did this on a whim and didn't really read the kind of stories that they wrote which would have helped me in the long run.

When I received the criticism from three of the writers I was stunned at what they said. As a matter of fact, I had trouble getting through the volumes of notes that they left because of how angry it made me. Then I had to sit back and think about why I was so angry when reading their comments. Was it just because it was criticism? Was that what I was bristling about? It was not, after all I was expecting some criticism, just not that massive volume that came. Was it because I thought that my story wasn't so good after all? Perhaps I didn't feel my story was good enough? No, none of those things were what I was feeling.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that it was because not only did they not "get" where I was coming from but that they seemed to want me to write it the way that they would have. I know my writing style isn't very classical or even common but everybody has their own way of writing and mine is what it is. It's not my place to say if another person's style is good or not, after all it's theirs not mine. Their notes were laden with comments about what they would like in the story, more dialogue, less big words, more about the mother and basically at the end for me to wrap it all up in a nice neat package that explained everything to them.

What they missed was the idea that this was about a man remembering a time when he was young that totally changed what he thought he knew about his life. It was perhaps the very first time that he looked at what went on around him without blinders covering his vision. It was about him starting to realize that there was a lot bigger picture than he could ever have conceived. It was not supposed to answer all of the questions, instead it was supposed to make you question the assumptions you had made when reading the story. It was simply dropping the reader in the middle of a small piece of this persons life without giving a back story. The idea is to challenge the reader to keep up and come up with your own ideas for what had gone on in the boy/mans life.

In the future I'm going to have to do some research and make my choices better when sending anything I've written out to be criticized. After all, you wouldn't want a romance author telling you what's wrong with a sci-fi story would you? I also plan on sifting through the large amount of notes and eliminating the comments about how they wanted it and instead look for those that can actually improve my story. There are some in there and I just need to go through and draw them out. Then I'll bring the story back in it's new and (hopefully) improved state. It will have to be soon however because there is a writing competition coming up in about two months and I'd like to submit my story, if it's ready. That's a big if.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mortality Has Reared It's Ugly Head

This year I've been feeling my mortality for the first time, and not because I turned forty-seven yesterday. Earlier in the year my wife had a blood clot on her brain and it really made me look at life and assess where I am in my own life. Yes I did realize that I have more than likely already lived more than half of my allotted time and I haven't accomplished much of what I want to. What I learned is that the clock is ticking. Clearly most people end up frustrated in life, not doing the things they would most like to be able to do. We get stuck in jobs we really would rather not do just to pay our bills. After all, it costs (a lot) to pay for a mortgage and associated bills, vehicles and gas, phones, food, clothes....this list could keep on going. The trick is to find a way to pay those bills while doing something that you enjoy. I'm not there yet.

Years ago when I worked at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, WV my co-workers and I would laugh and joke about men (okay doctors) that would go through a mid-life crisis. These men always bought either a sports car or motorcycle and tried to look younger than they were. Now I feel that I understand them a lot better. Some of them clearly were trying to regain a part of their youth, a time when they were much happier, but they tried to do it by purchasing things instead of finding things that they like. That can only help superficially, smoothing the outside image that a person sends out without discovering what actually makes them happy. Also, it's usually at mid-life when you have the money to spend on these things, unless you're me. I've always been a late bloomer in life.

As for the others who were actually just trying to enjoy life more, well my experiences this year have made me think about what was really important in life. It isn't the things you accumulate, that you own. As a matter of fact those things usually end up owning you. You end up chasing the most recent, newest model or the coolest new gadget. I think it's much more important to be with people that you love and who enhance who and what you are. Basically, if you surround yourself with cool people you'll enjoy life more. Where you live, what you drive, your social status, none of those things are important to me. Making a huge sum of money while nice isn't that important either. What good does it do to make a million dollars a year if you work eighty hours a week and never get to see your family and friends? You never get to see your favorite band or go to the beach or see your child grow.

Believe me, if I could pay my bills off and find a way to support my family on a smaller budget I'd move to Peru right now. The cost of living is lower and there are so many beautiful things to see. I have many ideas that I need to work on, perhaps one of them could be the one to allow me to get paid to do what I like. You can write a hundred movie scripts but if nobody is willing to buy one, well you can't pay your bills with that. It seems that we always need a little help in one form or another to make our dreams and ideas work. Of course you have to put in the effort first to be properly prepared and make it easy for someone to say yes to those ideas. There are untold masses out there who have talent so you have to come with more than that. Determination and a strong will are necessary and even then you aren't guaranteed to succeed. The hardest thing is to find that someone who can help make it happen especially when you don't have any contacts in that field.

All I can do is keep working and planning and doing my research. At least then I can say that I gave it my best effort no matter what the outcome is. You can try and succeed or fail, but if you don't try you can only fail. Besides, if you throw enough crap against the wall eventually some of it will stick. Anybody out there who wants to help show me the way?

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Nice, Easy Going Day For Once

Last Saturday turned out to be a pretty good day for me. First, a friend from another ward at church asked me if I wanted to help take the Boy Scouts to the Marshall University vs Tulsa University football game. Since I had lived in Huntington and volunteered at Marshall’s radio station (WMUL) I of course said yes. It turned out that the tickets were free for us and I only had to forego a little sleep because the game was at 11 AM. We ended up having more adults than scouts. I showed up wearing my Marshall t-shirt and my Tulsa hat but ended up keeping the shirt covered by my zip up hoodie due to (a) the extremely windy and cool conditions and (b) the fact that Marshall got the snot beat out of them. It was if they didn’t practice or even watch any game film. Still, it was the first time I’ve been to a football game in four or five years and it was nice to get out with friends.

We ended up leaving the game a little early, which normally I loathe to do, but it was clear that Marshall had no chance to come back and win and it was rather cool in the wind so I agreed. After I got home I took a short nap until my wife and son got home and they ended up falling asleep so I got on the computer with my headphones and watched the UFC preliminary fights on Facebook. It was the first time I have ever done this and it wasn’t a bad experience. During the breaks between fights I would do something else until the next fight started. Then it was time for the main event, the heavyweight title fight between the champion Cain Velasquez and the challenger Junior Dos Santos. This looked to be an exciting fight and was tabbed to be the only one shown on the inaugural UFC show live on Fox. In order to explain the sport to those who had never seen it before (this was the first time MMA was ever shown on free television in the U.S.) there was a lot of footage showing who the fighters are and where they came from. The diehard fans (like me) would of course preferred that they had shown more fights but hey, it was free so I won’t complain (too much).

Unfortunately I had run out of time. My brother Tommy and his son Chris came to pick me up and we went downtown to Joe Mammas Pizza. A band led by Tommy’s co-worker was playing and he wanted to go and show some support. Although the music style wasn’t what any of us would regularly listen to it was nice to go hang out, listen to live music, eat some pizza and soak up the atmosphere. As we get older things like this just don’t seem to happen enough which speaks loudly about how convoluted our lives have become. We spoke with Tommy’s co-worker between sets and stayed for a little while longer before calling it a night. I made it home while my wife and son were still awake and we spent some time together too. All in all it was a nice day. Not too hectic but not too slow paced either. I had no deadlines to meet or someplace that I had to speed to get to. It showed me how important it is to periodically get away from it all, relieve the stress and relax. Trust me, the way things have been going lately that is something that I sorely need. The trick now is to make it happen more frequently. By the way, Dos Santos beat Velasquez by technical knockout in one minute and four seconds. Just wished I could have stayed home a few minutes longer and seen it.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cleaning Up The Ipod

I've been cleaning up my Ipod lately, trying to determine what songs to keep and which ones to get rid of. I have a really bad habit of putting an entire album by an artist on there and forgetting about it. Since my Ipod is only 8 gigs and I also have many podcasts I listen to it doesn't take much to fill it up anymore. What I end up doing is making a list of the songs on the album and then I listen to and mark which ones to get rid of. Although this was easy for a lot of artists, there were a few that I have encountered which were very difficult to decide on. Some albums are so good from the first track to the last that I just can't hardly decide which songs to get rid of.

With that in mind I decided to start writing down those that proved to be a challenge and so far the list below is what I've come up with. It is by no means a final list as I am sure I will find more later (I'm only halfway through the alphabet so far) but here it is for your consideration in no particular order:

Alejandro Escovedo - A Man Under The Influence I was first able to see Al in 2001 at The Mountain Stage and bought this cd at the merch table. Every song is outstanding. His lyrics are amazing and I find his songs very personal.

The Skoidats - The Times When I started doing my ska and reggae radio show at WMUL this cd found it's way to me and I immediately took to it. Thankfully I was able to see them play live before they broke up. Rollicking OI/Ska from Montana.

Jim Carroll Band - Catholic Boy I knew about the song People Who Died from the tv show Fridays but never was able to find the complete album back in the day and then kind of forgot about Jim Carroll. Until about five or six years ago that is. Unbelievable.

Jason & The Scorchers - Lost And Found I bought this cowpunkrock gem on cassette while in college and it still holds up for me after all these years. There's something about this sound that I identify with.

Rush - Moving Pictures My favorite album by one of my top three favorite music acts of all time. It only has seven songs but man, those songs are great. I've seen them seven times in concert and they keep getting better. Intricate music partnered with intelligent lyrics.

Bad Religion - Recipe For Hate Brilliant punk from intelligent people who don't want to just rehash their old stuff. This album is chock full of songs that stay in your head.

Joey Kneiser - The All-Night Bedroom Revival This was a free download and these songs are very sparse, serious acoustic guitar (mainly) alt country.

Helmet - Meantime What a heavy album. Just loud guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. They played in D.C. at the 9:30 Club when I didn't know who they were and I couldn't get in because it was sold out. But years later I did see them in Huntington, WV. I played this one loud and often in the early to mid 90s.

The Dropkick Murphys Do Or Die I was able to see the Murphys with original singer Mike McColgan when they were on tour with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and they blew me away. Fierce, anthemic songs about Irish people, drinking and unions. After McGolgan left it wasn't the same for me.

So there it is. The first list of this sort from me. I'm sure there will be more because I'm always finding new (or old) music.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The First New Lyrics of November

I've taken a little time off from the blog but it hasn't been because I lack ideas to write about. Quite the opposite, I have many ideas but not much time to use on them. Also, I've had this feeling, I want to write but when the chance comes I can't bring myself to do it. It's not writers block, more like I allow myself to distract myself and end up running out of time without having accomplished anything. Perhaps that will change with this sudden surge of song lyrics that came pouring out of me last night at work.

I had already clocked out when they broke through and forced themselves onto my consciousness to the point that I couldn't deny them the time. The first came about in a few moments fueled by emotions held barely in check. The second came with an idea for the chorus first then followed by the song. Neither one of them took long (as you can tell) and both are very raw. We'll see what will happen to them in the future, which direction they take. Already I've started writing another song so more than likely parts of them will end up merged together to build one stronger, better song. I hope. That's usually the way it goes.

A Life Like This

The only words I hear you say
Are filled with negativity
The only sounds you make
Express misplaced anger
If that’s all you want to do
Then I’m done with this
I’ve got better things to do
It’s time to walk away
(Was it worth it?)

I don’t want to live
A life like this
I don’t need to live
A life like this

No problem is your problem
No need for made up drama
But there you go again
Making something from nothing
Now I’m sitting here with
My stomach tied in knots
You’re sitting there with
Your high priced excitement
(Was it worth it?)

Where do we go from here
As if there’s someplace to go
My patience it at its end
My head is about to explode
Don’t beat around the bush
Or hint about what you say
I won’t beat around the bush
Let the truth come out
(Is it worth it?)

You Don’t Love Me

Your anger bites sharply
Spit in its venomous zeal
Lashing out at the only one
You know can really feel

You don’t love me
(Do you love me)
You don’t love me
(Do you love me)
You don’t love me
Unless you love me

Will this storm blow over
Like a thousand times before
What does the future hold
I don’t really know anymore

You don’t like me
(Do you like me)
You don’t like me
(Do you like me)
You don’t like me
Unless you like me

If I run away to the hills
Until the wrath and fury are gone
Will you give up the search
Before I finish this song

You don’t know me
(Do you know me)
You don’t know me)
(Do you know me)
You don’t know me
Unless you know me

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Very Military Halloween

After leaving college I ended up joining the Army for almost eight years and seeing the world, at least a good part of it. I can only remember two times in that period dressing up in a costume for Halloween and one of them doesn't really count. Both were while I was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The one that didn't count was at work, we were allowed to dress in costume and a friend and I went as movers which was our part time job. All we did was put on the company shirt and wear our jeans so really we cheated, but hey, still counts.

The other time was completely unplanned. My friend Adam and the girl that he wanted to be his girlfriend and I were hanging out. It's been over fifteen years and sadly I no longer remember her name so for the sake of the story we'll call her Lisa. Our other friends had gone out of town and we were hanging out at Lisa's apartment but were bored. They came upon the idea of going down to Georgetown and hitting a few bars but wanted to do it in costume. Personally I would have been just as happy going home and watching a movie but I gave in to them and their adventurous plans. It had to be more fun than sitting at home by myself, right? Adam was able to put together a sort of swashbuckler/pirate costume with a red shirt, black pants and a sash. It worked. Lisa already had a costume that she had worn before and it was basically a warrior but the best way to describe it is as a female Conan The Barbarian.

That left me and I had nothing, including the desire to dress up. I had long ago outgrown the police officer costume from my college days so we were left grasping at straws as to what I could be. Just when I thought I wouldn't have to dress in one Adam had a brilliant idea. We drove into the post and since Adam worked as an operating room tech he snuck in and grabbed a pair of scrubs for me. When we got back to her apartment Lisa broke out the red paint and we covered the front of the scrubs in it. My costume was now set, I was to be a not very good doctor.

We made the drive to Georgetown and found a less expensive parking place and started our pub crawl.If you've never been there before let me tell you it was a sight to behold. Almost every adult was in a costume and most of them were quite bizarre. The one that stands out for me to this day was the guy dressed in an adult diaper with a bonnet and a giant baby bottle and nothing more. I don't know how he could stand it in the cold weather but I guess he was well lubricated by the end of the night. The rest of our night consisted of me being the third wheel as Adam and Lisa groped, kissed and flirted with each other. As I said before Adam wanted her to be his girlfriend but while Lisa was fine with occasionally being intimate with him, she also didn't want to be constricted by a relationship. This drove Adam crazy.

He should have realized that it wasn't meant to be and moved on but the heart wants what it wants, no matter how wrong it is for you. Needless to say their situation didn't hold up well and Adam finally understood that it wasn't very healthy for him so he moved on. I left the Army on terminal leave about six months later and only got to see him once more. That was when I came back after I was officially out, to get my final check from the Army. Adam was on a different path then and like most people in the military, once you move on you rarely ever see them again. After this I only recall dressing up for Halloween once more but I don't know if I'll tell that story yet. Now I get to take my son out trick or treating and let him experience it all for himself. I just hope that he doesn't lose the joy of it for a long time.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

And You Shall Know Them By Their Fruits....

October 21st passed by rather quietly. You may ask what the significance of that date is. I only ask that you please indulge me and it will all be clear. Harold Camping is a preacher who predicted that on May 21st of this year the rapture would occur and that on October 21st, after five months of plagues, fire, disease and war that the end of the world would come about. Camping had previously made the same prediction about the rapture in 1988 and 1994 but after the world continued as usual he went back to the drawing board and claimed that he had made a mathematical error when he determined the date. This time he swore that no such error could occur. His numbers were solid and there was absolutely zero chance that he was wrong.

Over the years despite his incorrect predictions Camping had attracted a large following and had even established Family Radio, a radio station that broadcasted to over one hundred and fifty markets. This of course was very prosperous for him. Many of his followers quit their jobs, sold their possessions and went abroad to spread the word of the coming end of the world. Only it didn't happen. Again. Some had even donated their money to the church although why it would need it if the world was ending soon was a question left unanswered. Camping was puzzled as to why the rapture had not occurred so he decided to study some more. When asked if the church would give back the donated money or help those who had gotten rid of everything he said "We're not at the end. Why would we return it?"

Two days later Camping announced that after reinterpreting his prophecy that a "spiritual" judgment had happened and that the physical rapture would now occur on October 21st simultaneously as the world would be destroyed. There was no definition of what the "spiritual" judgment had been and indeed nothing appeared to have changed. Since this had been at least three times he had made this prophecy and every time it did not come about Camping lost many of his followers. He had retired from his post at Family Radio five days before his next predicted date of October 21st but true to form, it also passed without notice. He has remained in seclusion ever since.

The thing that puzzles me is that his followers professed to be Christians. Yet even when he claimed to know the date of the end of humanity, which goes against what the scriptures say (no man shall know the time), they continued to believe him and what he said. Time after time. Indeed, until this last debacle his ministry kept growing. Many have called Camping a fraud, a charlatan or just a plain fake but I have a different name to consider for him. False Prophet, that is a person who makes claims not backed up the scriptures and lures others to his side. One that opens up Christians to mockery and ridicule (something they seem to be able to do quite well on their own) and makes a nice chunk of change doing it. Someone who claims to know what no man knows. Sounds like a false prophet to me.

Perhaps it's simply because people want to believe so badly that they are willing to let little things like details slip aside in favor of their desires. Or perhaps Camping was a clever, silver tongued speaker who was able to deceive them and separate them from their finances. Clearly there are a lot of problems in the world that many would like to escape from to a more loving and peaceful place where there won't be any pain and suffering. There have been false prophets before (anyone remember David Koresh?) and more shall come before it's all over. That is of course if you believe in God in some fashion or another. If you don't then you have probably been laughing derisively at this whole thing content and secure in your knowledge. Belief is a funny thing though.

Perhaps it's a good idea to actually read the source material so that when a false prophet does start preaching you can identify him or her for what they are. Then we could eliminate all of the messy problems that they bring forth. But then again, they wouldn't be worth their salt at the old False Prophet Club if they couldn't get a few people to believe them, could they? It's their job, it's what they do. And we just keep on believing what we believe, for better or worse.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Been A Good Month For Song Lyrics

It's been quite a month for me as far as writing song lyrics. This one came to me last week and to be honest I haven't had time to go back and look at it to make changes. Still, why should this stop me from putting it up here? As usual most of my lyrics don't mean what they appear to mean, so what does this say about me? And in case you are wondering, no this isn't about my wife and our relationship, that's fine thank you.

Let Me Go

The tie around my neck
Doesn’t hold me to you
Like you wanted it to
It only ends up irritating me
Constantly at the back
Of my mind someplace
Always tugging at it
My heart can’t take this

The restless shake of my arm
Twitches me out of a dream
About me and you it seems
The end of time has come
Even separated by space
You find a way to invade me
I’m not sure what’s going on
Anymore or any less

If we wait for the perfect day
Some might look the other way
Do you believe it will ever come
One thing leads to another
Never finishing what we tried
To start over again and again
Better to stay inside and
Shake this feeling from my heart

Living with you day to day
Tell me there’s no other way
Keeping this pain inside me
Comes at too high a cost
It’s time to let me go
Let me go, let me go
It’s time to let me go

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Frat Life 101: A Very Different Costume Party

In the summer of 1986 I attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training for the Oklahoma National Guard which was not exactly my idea of the perfect way to spend a summer. There's something about spending the majority of your time outside marching, doing pushups and so forth that kind of ruins the day. Still, it was required in order for me to get my bonus check and I thought it would be best to get all of the training out of the way at once. I came back in the beginning of October and at the end of the month decided to go down to NSU and see all of my friends in Sig Tau right on time for a Halloween costume party. Once I got to Tahlequah I hung out with some friends and we started planning on what kind of costume I could cobble together on short notice.

The key was to use what was on hand, buying things to use for a one time occasion wasn't really an option. What we came up with was very simple, I hadn't shaved so we put on my black military trench coat and my military glasses that I had tinted black and decided I would be a terrorist. Our only research material on the subject was having seen action movies and their stereotypical versions of what terrorists looked and acted like. Still, it wasn't enough, something more was needed so we took some penny rolls and filled them with something (don't remember what) and then taped them together. That was my explosives. An old stereo microphone was added as my detonator and the costume was finished.

Well I walked in to the party and loudly informed everybody that I was seizing it until my demands were met and was immediately taken down and "disarmed" by a few of my friends. This was the first they had seen of me for about five months and most of them didn't know that I was even coming to the party so they were happy to see me. Most of them anyway. The rest of the night was a celebration of friendship for me but it also was the beginning of the end. I chose not to go back to college and in a few short months I moved back home to Ohio and then ended up joining the active Army because I really couldn't see any future for myself back there or anywhere else for that matter. I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life (some would say I still don't know) and the Army was a job, something that I could do for at least four years without thinking much about the future. My world was never the same.

This was twenty-five years ago and it shows how much our world has changed. Back then terrorism had not made it's way to our shores, it was an abstract concept to us. Sure it existed all over the world but it wasn't real to us because we had never experienced it, it had never touched our lives or anyone that we knew. For us it wasn't a big deal to dress as a terrorist, it was even considered funny, but a lot has changed over the years since then. We've had homegrown and foreign terrorist operations on our soil to deal with. The world wide web has shown us vividly how bad the rest of the world has had it. Now the very thought of wearing such a costume would be considered to be in bad taste. But back then it was a simpler time for us. There was no thought of how others would react to something that was only meant to be a joke, where no harm was ever intended. With the world we live in now I often long for those simpler days when my eyes had not been shown what we humans are capable of.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dealing With An Angry Son

My son was angry with me yesterday which is not unusual since he is four years old and most children at that age do not have a good grasp on controlling their emotions. Normally he forgets about those kinds of feelings as soon as his attention in turned somewhere else. In other words, if you distract him from what made him mad he forgets about it immediately. In this case however it was for something that I said to him and he held onto that feeling for quite a long piece of time.

As we were pulling out of our driveway my windows were down and we heard some people talking who were walking in the street. It's quite normal for our neighborhood as there are no sidewalks there. My son yelled out something to them, he feels that he is the people police and when he thinks something is wrong he is not afraid to voice his opinion. At such a young age it's hard for him to understand that not everybody will take what he says kindly, some people get angry and others might even take a more violent reaction. Plus it's just plain rude to say things when something doesn't concern you.

So in that moment, where I knew I wouldn't like it if some unknown person yelled out at me, I turned to him quickly and told him to shut up, following it up with saying that what they were doing was none of his business. That was the first time that I can remember ever saying that phrase to him. I try not to say it to anybody ever, something that was instilled in me from the time that I worked at a Boys & Girls Club. Yes, I know that there are some extremely rare times that you may need to say it but this was not one of those times.

Several minutes passed by and then I said something to him but I could tell he was not happy with me so I asked him if he was angry. He said he was and when I asked why he told me it was because I told him to shut up. I confessed that I should not have said it but also reminded him that he needed to watch what he said to other people. He wouldn't look at me and in a moment of anger I told him he needed to learn about these things and that I wasn't happy with him and that I was done talking. It was childish of me but I was frustrated and in a moment of weakness I let it out.

At the babysitters house he wouldn't look at me or say goodbye and on the drive to work it really bothered me. Yes he shouldn't have yelled anything but I shouldn't have said things the way I did either, After all, I am the adult here, the one who is supposed to have learned some things in life. When my wife called me later she said that he had told her what I had said and she said that I shouldn't let it bother me so much, that I was the one who was trying to teach him these lessons and sometimes he would get his feelings hurt. Like me, he is very sensitive.

After getting home my wife woke up and told me that he was still angry and had told her that he wanted her to sleep with him, not me, even though he knew he would be asleep long before I got home. She agreed with me that he would be over it by the next day. True to form, the next morning all was well between us even though he made it clear that he remembered what I had said. I just tried to let him know that he couldn't go around yelling things at strangers. In this world we have today you never can tell how someone will react and I just want him to be safe. Nobody ever said it would be easy to raise a child and it isn't. He's a good kid, very intelligent and very inquisitive and he loves to help. I just hope I can arm him with enough life lessons and common sense that he'll be prepared.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Frat Life 101: The Costume Party

As Halloween fast approaches I am reminded of the handful of times that I have worn a costume on that day as an adult. This is the tale of one of those days. One thing to remember is that I am a person who has never felt comfortable in social settings, especially with large amounts of people, even more so when those people are consuming alcoholic beverages. I've never been one for celebrating holidays very much and also don't care for attending birthday parties or weddings and don't even get me started on funerals. To me they are all basically just another day and I feel they are only important because society has deemed that they are and now we are pressured to conform. Then I feel pressure to interact with people when I'd rather not. But I digress.

During my first semester in college as I was pledging Sigma Tau Gamma a female who was friends with a member of the fraternity invited that member and all other Sig Taus to a Halloween party that she was having. Even though it meant that I had to go to a party where I would not know the majority of the people (a terrifying thought to me) I agreed to go with some of my pledge brothers. Once that was decided the only issue was what costume to wear. Since I was a poor college student with little to no money my choices were limited and I needed to use some originality in devising what to wear.

Luckily for me while working my summer job before starting college I had "acquired" a few items from my employer that were not being used at that time. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, besides, I'm sure the statute of limitations has expired. Still, just to be safe I'm not naming where this job occurred. You see, the summer job was for a police department and among the items was a uniform or two and a few ticket books. Please remember that this was a different era and if someone tried to do something like this now they would be treated in a very different and more serious manner if caught. In my time however, it was still looked upon in a mostly innocent way. No serious harm was ever intended. It was just a young person having fun and being stupid all at the same time.

Originally I thought I would wear a pillow under my shirt and go as a fat, country police officer however that idea changed because I really didn't want to wear the pillow all night. Instead I just went as a police officer. I had a belt and nightstick that were loaned to me but did not have a badge or a gun, not even a toy one. To me it was clear that I was only wearing a costume, especially since in my mind's eye I looked nothing like what I thought a real police officer looked like. As I left my dorm room I saw another guy leaving his room from across the quad and as it happened we were going in the same direction. Later we became friends and he told me that he and his roommate had been smoking pot in their room and when he saw me he thought that someone had smelled the smoke and called the police and that he believed he was going to get arrested. That thought was cemented as fact in his paranoid brain as I followed him to the stairwell and down to the ground floor.

Once there however he slipped away to certain freedom and I stepped out the front door and stood there for a few moments taking in the night air. Several people were gathered there and most of them drifted away immediately and to those few that remained I nodded and said something like "What's up man?" They nodded back but were acting strange towards me, almost as if they were nervous. That's when it hit me, they thought that I really was a cop! Never mind the fact that the patch on the arm of the shirt was for a different city or that I really didn't look like a cop, they totally believed it. Armed with this knowledge I went over to my friends dorm room and gathered with the rest of the pledges who were going to the party.

When we arrived at the party I walked in the door and immediately saw multiple dirty looks being cast in my direction. You could almost see the thoughts that were forming, they were angry that a police officer had dared to come into the party surely only to hassle them and ruin their good time. That is until I stepped up to the keg and poured myself a beer. Then it was if a light went off for all of them and they thought "Oh right. It's Halloween. This is a costume party and that's his costume." After that all was well and the night was fairly uneventful until right before my friends and I left. We went outside and decided to start writing fake tickets and put them on all of the vehicles parked in the yard and on the street only instead of giving them real violations we made them all up. The violations that we came up with were for things like parking like an idiot or behaving like a moron.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we were not there to see the looks on peoples faces as they stumbled out to their cars and went from believing that somehow they had been given a ticket to the uncertainty as they read what it was for. That would have been hilarious. Instead it was back to the dorms for us to sleep off whatever we had imbibed and to start a new day. We did these kinds of things as a joke back then but I can't help thinking what would happen today if someone in that position were caught how much trouble they would be in. More than likely they would be in front of a judge pretty fast for impersonating an officer, theft and whatever else they could be charged with. It makes me pretty glad I lived in that era where the motto seemed to be no harm, no foul. That's really what the intent was. It's strange to think of it as a more innocent time considering what we did.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Frat Life 101: Care To Watch A Scary Movie Anyone?

It's that time of the year to think of scary things and a few nights ago at work somehow a few of us started talking about zombie movies which then led to further discussion on vampires and even werewolves. Although I do like a good zombie or vampire movie I've never really been a fan of horror movies per se. There is a distinction between the two. To me a horror movie is pretty much the same as a scary movie, the overall intended effect is to scare or terrify you. The same cannot be said of all zombie, vampire or werewolf movies though. Some can be funny, dramatic, intense, action packed or just so well made I don't mind if they're a little scary. Now if it's just a plain old slasher flick well, that's where I have to draw the line. I have seen some but really it's not my idea of a good time.

One of those times that I willingly watched a scary movie was in college. A favorite pastime in the fraternity was to gather in our run down, ramshackle house and watch, or should I say interact, with movies. We were doing Mystery Science Theater 3000 before we'd even heard of it. It was one our favorite activities, to sit around a room full of friends with all of the lights out bagging on whatever movie was on HBO that night. On one particular night the movie turned out to be A Nightmare On Elm Street. For it's time it was a very scary movie and right up to the end of it I thought I understood what it was about, it almost seemed to make sense in it's own way, until the very end that is. I was baffled and I will admit a bit scared.

Afterwards at around 2 a.m. a group of us were walking back to the dorms when I noticed something unusual. At that age men (or boys or whatever you wish to call us) have this macho attitude about not showing fear, especially to our friends. As we walked it became clear to me that as the group approached a corner almost everybody started to slow down just a little bit so that they were not the first one to come around the corner, myself included. Even in a large group (there were at least seven or eight of us) that little bit of fear that was preying on our individual minds manifested itself on the entire group, at least on a subconscious level. I would have laughed out loud if it weren't for the fact that I was busy concentrating on the shadows in an effort to make sure that nobody (or thing for that matter) was going to jump and kill all of us.

When something gets into your head like that it doesn't matter how hard you try to rationalize it, the truth doesn't matter. All you can do is wait for it do go away and for me that takes a lot of time which is why I don't like to watch movies like that in the first place. It's also why I have never and will never watch The Exorcist. The previews for it alone when I was young were so terrifying to me that to this day if I see it on a channel I will immediately close my eyes and change it to something, anything else. Well, we all reached our dorms and our rooms safely, with not a one of us lost in the effort and the next day we found ourselves at the house watching movies again, although I'm quite sure that most of us were more than happy to watch something different, like a nice safe comedy. Nobody ever got killed walking home from watching a comedy right?

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Empty Jar or An Empty Life?

Last week in my Sunday School the teacher held up a jar and informed the class that it was perfect. It was clean and unblemished and had been shined so that it was sparkling. It was also empty. He then said that he was going to put it up on a shelf so that it could be admired. The question that was asked was if this was the correct thing to do, would there be a problem if he were to do that? A member of the class spoke and said that if that were done then the jar couldn't be used for the purpose it was created for.

As the class went on I was reminded of something that I had just read a few days before in the book that I was currently digesting by author Graham Hancock. The book is "The Sign and the Seal" and is about locating the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. While in Ethiopia in the early eighties working on a project he caught wind of a story that the Ark resided in a church in the town of Axum and had been brought there by Menelek, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Hancock was intrigued by the story and set about using what connections he had to do some research.

Now here is what I was reminded of in my class, Hancock went to an island that had monks living there and he spoke with one that said he had not been off of the island in twenty five years. He did not wish to go into the world and be distracted by anything that could set back his spiritual growth. I can guess that he was implying that he wanted to avoid any chance of temptation as well. In my mind I then compared that monk to the glass jar. He was keeping himself clean, trying to attain a level of personal perfection and spiritual enlightenment yet he was also not allowing anybody else to learn from him except for perhaps other monks.

He also was not living in an imperfect world and did not have to face the trials and tribulations that everybody else has to face. So the lessons that he had learned perhaps could not apply to others because we do live in an imperfect world. We face problems on an everyday basis. It's easy to have an answer for how things should be but in truth they cannot be in the real world. We wish that everybody could be honest and truthful but there are many out there that are corrupt and who will try to take advantage of your good will and use it against you. If you do not experience the bad then you will have no defense against it when it appears suddenly.

I don't know if it was right or wrong for the monk to live as he did. That's not for me to say. He felt the need to do so and made his choice and that's between God and himself. I do believe however that if you separate yourself from the world and it's problems no matter how much enlightenment you gain it's not worth much because without works you will go nowhere in this life or the next life and you can't do works while living apart. I know something about this because for a long time I lived a very hermit-like life choosing when or if I would interact with people. Even when I was in public I would only do so if I had no other choice. It was better to drift in and out of places as if I were a ghost leaving no trace or sign that I had been there. Sometimes I wouldn't even speak to another person aside from work or family for days at a time.

By not interacting I was trying to limit how much pain I could potentially expose myself to but by doing so it took away the chances for learning from others, to share with others, to find happiness. Besides, the world has a way of insinuating itself into your existence at one point or another whether you wish it to or not. Then you have to deal with the situation. Is it better to be imperfect yet prepared when that happens or to be at a higher spiritual level and totally unprepared? Who can say? I'm still not the most social person around but I am opening up myself more and trying to experience more of what life has to offer. This blog is one example of that.

If you don't believe in God or any of this then you might think that it's just a waste of time to think about it. That's your choice. I for one do believe, the only issue is defining that belief in a way that makes sense to me in the world I live in and that is an ongoing, ever changing process.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

What Do You Mean More Lyrics????

THese go back a few months, nothing has been done with them so I thought why not put them up as they are with no new work done on them? What have I got to lose? No, besides weight.

Broken Down

Broken down and worn out
From an older time different world
One era is done barely begun
Shelved before anyone notices
Thought you got the better end
The bargain wasn’t the deal
Frustrated lonely and unused
Left to your own devices

Is it any wonder
why we win the battles
but lose the war
Is it any wonder
That we’re still here

Weakened from the outside
Attacked and subdivided
Belittled and brought to shame
Where does it all end
Quote the statistics and
Sound the battle cry
Sever all ties instantly
Better to fade away than die

Is it any wonder
why we win the battles
but lose the war
Is it any wonder
We’ve lost the war

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yet more song lyrics..............

I won't say where I was when I got the inspiration for this song but it all came about in roughly three minutes or so. I was playing a game of Mahjong when I said outloud to myself the first two lines after which I immediately paused and said hmmmm. That sound good. Bang presto there it came. By the way, more than likely it's not about what you think it is.

Make It Back

I’m having trouble seeing
What you’re telling me is there
The future that you believe in
To me doesn’t seem so clear
Once upon a time I would
Have followed you anywhere
Believed a word that you said
Now I’m not so sure anymore

Where do we go from here
The future is looking pretty bleak
Where do we go from here
The earth has inherited the meek

Tell me anything you feel
About living beyond our means
The money flows out easily
Not enough ends up coming in
You say that good is evil
Something I can’t comprehend
All the lies have been added up
Into the beginning of the end

Where do we go from here
We’ve fallen from our path
Where do we go from here
I don’t think we’ll make it back

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Father's Best Advice

My name is Ernesto Rivera. Roughly a week after my fourteenth birthday my mother came into my room and said that my father wanted to speak with me which came as quite a shock because I had never seen him before in my life. While my mother was pregnant with me he left her for his mistress and in the years since he had never come to see me. Not for when I as in the school play, not for any awards I've received, not for any of my futbol games, not even ever on a birthday. As a matter of fact I have never even received so much as a letter, a birthday card or a single present from him although he did make sure that he was never late sending money every month to my mother, presumably to help in my upbringing. So you can imagine what a surprise it was to hear my mother speak those words.

I looked her with a blank expression on my face, dumbfounded. Had I heard her wrong? Surely that must be the case. But she confirmed that he was there and wanted to talk to me. I asked why and she merely shrugged her shoulders and said for me to go to him in the living room. As I walked into the room she disappeared into the kitchen although I am quite sure that if one were to be able to float through the walls like a ghost she would be found with her ear on the other side of the door straining to hear what was being said. Upon seeing him for this unusual first time I must say I was not impressed. Throughout the years I had built up stories and images in my head that could explain why he had not been involved in my life, after all, I was his firstborn child as far as I knew. He looked nothing like the covert spy or adventurer that I had imagined him to be.

I sat down quietly and looked at him even more intently. He was shorter than me, was starting to put extra weight on his middle and his hair was thinning quickly so he mistakenly chose to leave it long and used a hideous combover to make believe he had more than he actually did. He looked like any other man I would see walking on the street. There was nothing about him that stood out. His clothes didn't seem to match the person, as if he were trying to disguise who he was, to make himself appear younger and more attractive. Instead they failed miserably and only drew attention to the aging that he was trying so desperately to hide. Underneath a nauseating coat of cologne I detected a faint odor of alcohol emanating from his sweating pores and he looked as if his nerves had gotten the better of him. He mustered a quickly fading smile and greeted me.

Hello son.

Hello sir.

I have come at this time because it is your fourteenth birthday and you are now becoming a man so I thought it would be appropriate for me to give you some life advice.

But my birthday was last week.

Ah, a few days do not matter!

He tried to smile again and I only looked at him, stone faced, devoid of emotion, not speaking. His smile faltered once again.

Well, to start, as you are getting older you will start having feelings for girls and they will try to trick you, to make you think they love you when they don't. They are sly devils who only look to get a man in their clutches so that they can sponge off of him and have him take care of them for the rest of their lives. Just like your mo..... well, never mind that. They will play you against your friends or other men if you allow them to. Do not do so, if you do you will have a lifetime of problems. Do you understand what I am saying?

As my mother had done to me a few moments before I merely shrugged my shoulders. This was all mystifying to me, even more so as to why he was even here in the first place.

Well, I'm sure it will become all too clear to you as you get older. Now then, here are some simple rules to live by. Number one, never go with a girl that weighs more than you. There is nothing sadder than a woman physically dominating a man. It's disgraceful and emasculating. Second, never marry a lazy woman. Pick one who understands it's her place to work in the house and cook and take care of you. If she leaves the house dirty while she lays on the sofa eating candies and watches her soap operas, if she makes you cook for yourself or get your food elsewhere then it makes you appear to be less of a man. You do not want to invite that kind of condemnation from your peers. It's degrading. Also, do not let her mother come between you or insert herself into your lives, they tend to be very intrusive when they get old and if they can they will always create problems. Lastly, never choose a woman you have to explain yourself to. You are the man and as such you should never have to explain what you do or say to a woman. You must rule the house without questions from her. There, with those simple rules you can make your life much easier and not have too many problems. Do you have any questions?

I wanted to scream DO I HAVE ANY QUESTIONS? OF COURSE I DO! WHY DID YOU LEAVE US? WHY HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN ME BEFORE? WAS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME? WAS I NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU? WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? I wanted to scream that and much more at him but it was not correct, it would be disrespectful and not proper so instead I tried to mask what I was feeling and appear contemplative. What next came to mind now was why after fourteen years, after all of my life, did you come to me now with this? This information is what you felt you needed to share with me? This horrible information that even I at my inexperienced age could tell was completely wrong and out of place? That's the best you could do? Yet even this I could not say to him. Instead....

Well, I guess, that is, no, I better not....

It's okay son, go ahead and ask me what your question is.

It's just that I was wondering which of those rules was the one you didn't follow? (As I blurted this out a confused look spread across his face. Now that I had said it I couldn't stop myself.) I mean with my mother, which of these rules did you not follow with her?

His face immediately turned a bright red and he started to stammer and shake as he attempted to control himself. He stood up quickly and for a moment I thought he would strike me for my impudence but instead he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face with it.

Yes, well that's a subject for another time as I have some pressing engagements that I must attend to. Please consider what I have said to you. It will really help you later in life, trust me.

With that he turned on his heel and started to leave the room. He was halfway there when he put his hand in his pocket and stopped as if remembering something. Slowly he turned and I could see that he was still visibly shaken by my comment. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for him, almost but not quite. He pulled out a crumpled card and gave it to me, no longer trying to make eye contact.

This is for you, it's not much but I thought you might use it for something, uh, for something that you like. Perhaps for some of those history books you like to read or you could go see one of those American movies that you like so much. Well, use it on whatever you feel like. Goodbye son.

Once more he turned on his heel and this time he did leave the room, going out by way of the garage and I followed so that I could lock the door, there were thieves here after all and as I walked back into the living room I looked at what he had given me and saw that it was a old birthday card with a clown on it, clearly intended for someone younger than I and immediately I thought how pathetic it was. When I opened it a 50 soles bill fell out and then I noticed the inscription. "Son, I know I haven't been there for you and I am sorry. Please forgive me. Papi"

Now I was the one confused. What did this mean? How old was this card? How did he know about my reading and the movies that I liked? I heard a sound coming from the kitchen and thought what did I really know? Is there something that my mother hasn't told me? I started towards the kitchen but halted, unsure of what I would say or do if I went in there. Instead I slowly made my way back to my room but could not bring myself to enter it and then changed my mind and climbed the steps to the roof. Once there I laid on my back and stared at the sky, barely noticing the clouds as they drifted across a rare sunny sky for this time of the year. My mind instead was on all of the questions that I now had and they threatened to overwhelm me. Before long I fell asleep with none of them answered.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Critics (A World Of)

Here are some new lyrics that I came up with on Friday. These took a little time, I opened a Word document and would come back to it every so often and add to it. See if you can guess what it's about.

It doesn’t matter what you say
If your opinion goes either way
All they want is to pull you down
From behind a safety net of anonymity
Spewing vitriolic verbal diarrhea
It stands to reason they’re glad to see
Even noncommittal comments
Provide a bounty of new enemies

It’s a twist of the times
Log on set up blast off
Don’t hold back so much
Tell me what you really think

Over analyze each step taken
Cut the context stir it all up
Transform a lie into the truth
Now your point is made
With a smirk and a smug smile
Looking down the nose of society
Judging those that are in the right
Pious indignity falsely applied

Written and Published by Don Leach.May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My (Lack) Of Vision

Somewhere around the age of eight or nine years old was the time when the terrible news was handed down to me. My vision had deteriorated to the point that I now needed glasses. My mother was raising three children with no help from our father, back then a person could seemingly disappear and never have to worry about being made to actually contribute to the raising of his children. Apparently my father did this with more than one woman too (see my earlier story about my father for all of the details). Since my mother was raising us on the salary of a secretary she had to have some assistance and soon we were living in the projects of Ironton and on food stamps. I personally viewed the food stamps as a shameful thing which came back on me at a much later date.

Another program (state, county, federal?) that we were eligible for was one that through which I could get my glasses for free. The only catch was that there were only three styles of frames to choose from. The first was ugly and was sure to get you insulted and ridiculed by your friends. The second was uglier and was sure to get you insulted, ridiculed and possibly beaten up by strangers. The third was the ugliest and was sure to get you insulted, ridiculed and beaten up by everybody. Guess which ones I would invariably choose? Back then before the many technological advances that we have today my lenses were very thick, attesting to how poor my eyesight actually was, and very large which meant that the frames had to be sturdy enough to hold the lenses in place properly.

Here I am as a cute, normal kid before glasses

And here I am a few years later looking nerdly with glasses

Nowadays even though my vision is far worse the lenses are much thinner and I can wear wireframes if I so desire. Not so back then. So there I was at a young lad at a tender age with poor self confidence and a bad self image and I had to wear these ugly frames with huge lenses that dwarfed my face and that would certainly not mix well at all later when puberty set in. The shy sensitive person that I was now became an instant nerd in the publics opinion simply with the addition of glasses. Life was never the same in more ways than one.

The best time for me was the brief period that I was able to wear contact lenses while in college. For the first time since I was a young child I could actually see out of my whole eyes clearly without the curse of my vision being limited by the outline of the frames. No, it was total freedom, until dust blew into my eyes that is. Still, it was very liberating. Later in life my eyes would change and now they dry out very easily so contacts are pretty much not an option anymore for me. As I said earlier though technology did bring me lighter and better glasses that don't take up my whole face so I've got that going for me.

Unfortunately I don't know if I've ever felt like a single pair of glasses that I've had ever really suited me or just looked good on me. It's probably just all in my head, which can be a dangerous place to be. The thing I want to know is, after a lifetime of watching Star Trek and other sci-fi shows, where's the technology that can simply and quickly fix your vision? And the flying cars, where are the flying cars we were promised? That never came to be. Sure there's expensive laser treatment that might be able to fix your vision but that's just not the same. Come on scientists, work on this. Invent something like Bones used and let's get this vision thing licked once and for all. And get me that flying car, stat.

Written and Published by Don Leach.May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Love, Marriage and Illness

The alarm clock sounded for the second time and instead of hitting the snooze button again he shut it off and struggled to his feet. Squinting his eyes against the light he stumbled to the bathroom and relieved his bladder and following that as he washed his hands he stared at his image in the mirror. For most of his life he had looked younger than he was, even after he started losing his hair. Now though, the events of the recent months had taken their toll on him and his true age was starting to show. He sighed and thought briefly how it is inevitable that everybody gets older before veering sharply away from the direction those thoughts would take him in. Not now, there would be plenty of time during the day for that.

After a small breakfast, which was all he had ever been able to stomach, he washed the dishes and took his shower then dressed and before he knew it the time had come for him to go. He caught a taxi and looked at the all too familiar buildings along the way. The multitude of taxi drivers rarely varied the route so he let his mind drift a bit and very shortly he was there. Slowly he walked up the sidewalk and in the front door and turned left at the first hallway he came across followed by a right turn into another hallway and in a few feet he was there. Room 317. He emitted a heavy sigh and tried to let go of any negative feelings he had. It would do no good to go into the room in that frame of mind.

Forcing a smile on his face he pushed the door open and beheld her, his love. She fastened her gaze upon him, momentarily unsure of who this man was before it all came back to her. He told her how beautiful she was. She said that it was a lie. He told her how much he loved her, how special she was. She denied it all. She was tired of this place, didn't like the doctors and the staff was so rude. He could only tell her to be patient, perhaps soon she could come home. She fixed a fiery gaze at him and asked who he was. Why are you even here? The man weathered her storm of anger, after all, given her condition it was to be understood. Even though it was difficult seeing her this way it had to be incredibly worse to see it from her view.

Her anger dissipated into meandering stories about her life and shortly after that sleep came to her. This was his cue, his time to leave and go out into the world where he could briefly distract himself from the problems of life. He had work to do so that the bills could be paid and food bought. In the evening he would make his way here again to be by her side, silently listening to the same questions and stories all over again, in this building that normally housed people much older than her that was now her home. No, that word isn't correct at all he thought darkly. This is merely her residence, it's not a home at all. A home is a place where love, hope and dreams live. None of that can be found here, this place has no soul and is only where her body resides and occasionally, if he was lucky, he was able to catch frighteningly short glimpses of the woman he had loved his whole life. Most of the time that woman no longer existed, but sometimes, for those few, short moments she came back to him and those moments of clarity are what he now lived for.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Unspoken Dress Code And A Sense Of Not Fitting In

Saturday was the Priesthood session of General Conference at my church. I had not attended for the last two years and since I recently had become a teacher in the Elders Quorum I decided that I should be there. In true fashion however I chose to go wearing my jeans and a polo style shirt. I was the odd man out in a sea of dark suits and white dress shirts. Sure, there was the occasional different colored shirt but by and large the white shirt paired with a tie or a complete suit is the norm. Nobody can accuse me of being the norm, certainly not in church.

I was late as usual (that didn't use to happen) and when I came into the back of the room I hesitated and then chose to stay by the doorway. I recognized that the reason for this was that looking into the room I felt alone and out of place. When I first joined the church before very long I found myself to be one of those members wearing a dress shirt, tie and slacks almost without realizing it. I've never felt comfortable dressed up and certainly not with a tie. They always seem to be choking me, a constant reminder tugging at my mind, distracting me from what I should be concentrating on.

At some point I realized I was not satisfied with this situation and I stopped wearing a tie. It was liberating to say the least however it wasn't long before I came to understand that it wasn't enough. I needed to be me, not some image of what I or anybody else thought a church member should be. So slowly but surely I've been testing the waters and so far it's been good. When I first started coming to this ward I met Mikey and we became friends and on the first day that I wore my jeans he thanked me, saying that now he didn't feel so out of place. You see, Mikey also doesn't dress in conventional "church" attire, nor is he the standard Mormon, but he's a cool person with a great heart and a strong desire to become a better person. He also teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and used to fight MMA in the UFC.

I feel that there is this unwritten dress code that seems to be in effect in the church. Nobody tells you that you have to dress in any particular way. Nobody comes down on you or even says anything, at least not that I've seen. However it's still there, on the periphery, lurking at the edge of my consciousness. I know for certain that you cannot pass the sacrament unless you are wearing at a minimum slacks, a white dress shirt and a tie. Perhaps I feel this way because this style of dress is so prevalent that you cannot help but notice when someone is different, that they don't look the same as almost everyone else. Maybe I'm only imagining this unspoken pressure because of my own insecurities. I guess that anything is possible.

At any rate, until I'm told something different I will continue to dress as I feel like on that particular day. If at any time I'm informed I need to dress differently because I'm a teacher or for me to gain passage to another class well, I'll have to address that issue at that time, but I don't see myself going back to what was so uncomfortable both physically and mentally for me. The most important thing is that I'm there right? Ready to learn with the right attitude and spirit. There is something to be said for individuality and I guess I'll be one of the poster boys for it in church.

By the way, during the Priesthood session my quorum president came back to talk with me for a few moments and after he went back in and took his seat he pulled another chair next to him and motioned for me to come on in and sit, thereby showing me that indeed the most important thing was that I was there and that I should feel comfortable and accepted. That's how I took it and I appreciated the gesture. I just need to get more comfortable in my own skin I guess.

Written and Published by Don Leach

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Girl That I Didn't Understand

In late 1991 I re-enlisted in the Army and got to choose my next duty station. The Presidio in San Francisco was available and it was very tempting for a variety of reasons but ultimately I chose Walter Reed Army Medical Center because it was reasonably close to my hometown and my family whom I had not seen a great deal of ever since I first joined the Army. In February of 1992 I left Ft Hood and traveled home for some leave time. The trip itself was quite a story but instead of that I want to talk about someone that I came to refer to as the girl that I didn't understand.

While at home I went out with my younger sister Karen to a bar in Ironton, our hometown. Karen is very different from me. Where I am more reserved and uncomfortable in public she is the exact opposite and can go into a room without knowing anybody and you would swear that she knew every single person in the room. That was the case on this night. We spent some time there and after a while she was standing at the bar and I went up there as well when I noticed this blond girl standing to my left. She was attractive and was mouthing the words to a song playing on the jukebox and staring straight at me.

This had never happened to me before (and hasn't since). I did the classic movie thing of looking behind me to see if there was someone else standing there that she was singing to but there wasn't anybody there. I looked directly into her eyes, pointed to myself and asked her "Me?" She nodded the affirmative. This was foreign territory for me and I wasn't sure what I should do. I mean girls just did not come on to me, ever. I realized that if I let this opportunity pass me by then I'd never let myself live it down so I slid over next to her and started talking.

As I said earlier I've never been comfortable in public settings, especially social ones. I don't like going to places where there are a lot of people, I just feel like I don't belong there. However, she was attractive and I was lonely and was trying to get over the breakup of my marriage so in I went. We talked for some time and I ended up giving her a ride home. Don't get all excited here, nothing happened more than a few moments of intense kissing and then she was gone. We arranged to go on a proper date (to the same bar) and while I enjoyed her company I was not having an overwhelmingly good time as my social anxieties were in full effect. At some point she started playing pool with a guy that she knew and was a friend of one of her friends.

She came up to me and wanted to ask if it was okay if he gave her a ride to her friends house. I'm not exactly a dummy so I knew what was going on, this guy was the type that she was attracted to on a very basic level and she finally had a chance at him. The thing is, even though I was angry that she wanted to ditch out of our date I felt I had no real say in this. This was only our first date, I didn't "own" her, so who was I to say anything. I told her that much and as they piled into his car I spun my tires on the gravel and got out of there, angry at how I had been screwed over again by life and vowed that I'd never talk to her again.

The next day she called me and although I didn't really want to talk to her I did but I tried to be short with my answers. She didn't take the hint though and wanted to meet me at the Ashland mall after she got off of work. Against my better judgment I agreed and at the food court we talked and before I knew it everything was okay, so long as either one of us didn't speak of the night before. If we ignored it then it didn't really happen I guess. We talked about Washington D.C. and how she loved it there and that she'd like to visit me once I got settled in and she could get the time off. A few days later I was on my way to report to my duty station and although I did think of her a little I was pretty busy getting used to my new routine.

A few weeks passed by when I had a knock on my barracks door. There was a phone call for me and you guessed it, it was her. She was coming to town on the next Friday and wanted to see me which did wonders for my mood. I offered to pick her up at the train station but she said her friends were picking her up and that she'd call me as soon as she got to their place so that we could arrange a meeting as soon as possible. All day Friday I was anxious, I couldn't wait for the workday to end. After it did I stayed in my room waiting for the phone call. After more than enough time had passed I started going out to the CQ desk (Charge of Quarters) and asked if there was a message for me. Nothing. I kept checking with them every twenty to thirty minutes and I'm sure they were sick of the sight of me before long.

Eventually I gave up and sank into my bed as I allowed all of the negative thoughts to swarm over me. The big question was why? Why do any of this if she had no real interest in me. Why call me at all if she didn't intend to follow through? Why call if she wasn't sure she'd even have time to see me? Was she ever interested in me or was this all just a big game to her? It's possible that she lost my number or that there was some kind of accident (the train didn't crash, I checked) but the best I could surmise was that I was her backup plan and she didn't end up needing me. The only thing that was clear was that my already fragile ego was at an all time low and didn't look to be improving anytime soon. No answers were forthcoming as I never heard from her again and that's how I came to call her the girl that I didn't understand.

Written and published by Don Leach

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mikey Burnett Opens A New School In Tulsa

Former UFC fighter Mikey Burnett opened a new school in Tulsa today. The new gym features a large grappling area and will feature adult, children's (and more importantly for me) old men's classes. I went there to support Mikey because he is a great person and I feel privileged to call him a friend. We both attend the Brookhollow Ward of the LDS church and he always has words of encouragement to everybody he meets. At this point I don't know if I'll be able to take classes myself because I work 2nd shift so until I get off of that shift I'll try and get myself in good enough shape that when I do get to take a class I won't totally gas out in 3 minutes or less.

Mikey has a wealth of experience that he can impart on you so if you're in the Tulsa area check in on him and learn about MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi. Here's his contact info:

Mikey's Gym
3320 E. 32nd St
Tulsa, Ok 74135
(918) 551-6222

Published by Don Leach