Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Under the downspout...

You may have noticed a sudden uptick in political and military posts here lately.

I still want to try and keep this a more "personal" blog, and shift the bulk of my political and military thinking over to MilPub. But between the two of us jim (from RangerAgainstWar) and I were kind of shouting across the room and, I think, were drowning out the other folks who post over there. So we've agreed to shut the hell up for a bit and let other people talk.

But...I'm still a verbose sonofabitch, and it tends to work its way out somehow or somewhere. And as it happens, it's turning up here.

I waon't swear how long I can keep from butting in over there, but at least for now, here's where you can shout back at me for the usual jackassery.

While I'm here, I should do a little business. Here's a snapshot from the files: Me with the Master Chief, right after graduation from 104th Division (Training) Drill Sergeant School.That round brown was the biggest freaking headgear the Army ever issued me. I still have it somewhere, tho. Hard to let go of some things, regardless of how useless.

And Reserve DS School taught me that even in the U.S. Army you get out what you put in. The Reserve drill sergeant program was fairly broken; the USAR schools graduated a fair number of people who never should have gone on the Trail. But I believe - and have the paper trail to prove it - that I was a damn good Hat. And so were several others who graduated with me, or who I ran into down the trail.

I note with some wistfulness that the old Timberwolves - having already been downgraded into something called a "Leader Training" outfit - are being shoved out of our old home in Vancouver into Ft. Lewis, WA this summer. I am all in favor of streamlining our expensive military forces. But what would it hurt to keep a Reserve unit in Vancouver Barracks after 160 years? A corporal's guard, mayhap, to keep the "citizen soldiers" out there amongst the citizens?

Oh, while I'm here, I have to tell you a Drill Sergeant story.

When I was assigned to the 1/413th at the old reserve center on North Chautauqua we had a hat, part of the Leadership Academy (aka DS School). Let's call him Sergeant Rock.

Rock lived in Northeast Portland, and was one of these guys who - and this was before Iraq and its becoming not just possible but likely for an RC guy to make a full-time job of the Army - pretty much had no life outside the USAR. Every drill weekend he'd board the 75 bus - in starched fatigues complete with Smokey-the-Bear hat, mind you - and ride down N. Lombard to Chautauqua and then walk down to the USARC. And this was back when Columbia Villa was really Columbia Villa, and the Crips there would cut off your head and shrink it for walking on their turf if the mood was on them.

He was a sort of skinny guy with a big head, and he had a cracked, nasal voice that always sounded sarcastic even when he wasn't. He was our DSL, our drill sergeant instructor, and he was a tough little character.

Anyway, that particular weekend we had an in-ranks Class A inspection. The lot of us turned up in our fancy dress, all Corfam oxfords and brass nice and shiny...except for Private Drendle. Private Drendle wasn't a fuckup, but he was one of those guys who never seem to get the word quite right. He had his dress uniform, all right...but just that. He'd forgotten his dress shoes and had nothing but his boots, his hat had gone somewhere, and he had nothing else to put on the coat but his PFC stripes, and those were sewn on, so he couldn't really take credit for them.

We all advised him to hide out, or just turn out in his fatigues; better to be honestly out of uniform than to try and half-ass his way through inspection. But for reasons only he could fathom Drendle fell in with the rest of us as Sergeant Rock called us to attention and opened the ranks.He looked, frankly, like one of the guys you see hanging out at the bus station dressed in dirty scraps of old Army clothes, like a wino.

The entire little class had by this time lost all interest in the actual inspection; we all looked to our front, listening to the sound of Rock moving through the ranks, waiting for him to get to Drendle, knowing that something good was going to happen.

We heard him face right, step, stop, face left in front of the victim. We listened to the long, long moment of silence, knowing he was looking up and down at the spectacle in front of him. And when he spoke, we had our moment.

(You should know that back in the Eighties and early Nineties Portland's best known homeless shelter was a place called Baloney Joe's in Old Town, near the end of the Burnside Bridge. It's gone now, but if you were on the bum in Portland back in the day, Baloney Joe's was the place to see and be seen.)

So we all knew what he meant when Rock said, in his fleering tones:

"So. Drendle. How was breakfast at Baloney Joe's this morning?"

Speaking of changes to the urban landscape, what is going up across the alley behind the Fire Direction Center.

The picture is several months old and this McMansion is complete and on the block, and the offering price is shocking; less than $450K for the 3.5-bathroom, 4,000sf monster. And this is in a neighborhood where little 1,500sf Craftsman bungalows from the Teens and Twenties were going for $500K+ two years ago. I can say that I hadn't really thought about the effect the bursting bubble would have on my neighborhood until I saw the flyer for this place.

I have now.

I'm sure glad we don't need to sell anytime soon.

And so far the Oregon "spring" is acting fairly notional. I'm fortunate in being inside instead of out today because it's cold and pouring like piss out of a boot. Our poor tomato plants are perhaps all of two inches taller than when they were planted three weeks ago; just no sunshine for them to like. Or me. I know that we're supposed to be a cool, wet climate here, but, Jesus wept...

Anyway, I've gotta get back and do some more rockfall runs. But my PCC class is over this Monday, so I'll be back blogging again with a little more frequency than the past couple of months. I love my students and the class was great...but I'll be glad to get my evenings back, thanks.

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