Friday, February 27, 2009

The Troops.....

The American military supposedly runs to about three million folks....about 1% of the populace. Most Americans don't know anyone even in the military.....and in our blessed little corner of the Pastures of Heaven it is even more remote, despite the presence of the DLI, NPS, etc.

So, let me introduce you to my friend, Kevin.

Kevin is not actually IN the military yet. He is working his ass off to GET into the military. After Fahrenheit 911 and stories about recruiting scandals and terrible retention rates in the Army, and even worse recruitment rates......isolated, cosseted folk like me had the idea that the Army would take anyone with a pulse and an IQ above room temperature.

No one would actually disrespect our serving military directly.....but I confess to guilt of indirectly disrespecting them by buying into all of the above.

My friend Kevin is a hardworking guy from a local Salinas Portagee family. His Grandma came to America on a sailing ship. Many of our local Portugese came to California by way of Hawaii, with the fishing and sailing industry. Kalani Fonseca, for example. Not Kevin's people.....they were cod fishermen from the Azores who used to row from the Azores to the cod banks off Nova Scotia and Maine. Eventually they got tired of rowing and settled in places like Cape Cod, and Brockton, Mass.

Brockton, Massachusetts is the home of Marvin of the last true hero boxers of the last century. Marvin fighting skills were honed in Brockton by fighting Kevin's relatives. Brockton is a nice little town on the surface.....but if you drift to the wrong quarter at the wrong time of night....they will fuck you up, just for not being Portugese. friend Kevin is a sweet, kind, sensitive guy. He works his ass off. He is one of the few people....and definitely one of the few male humans....who I have ever spontaneously tipped a hundred dollar bill. Kevin has worked for us, and when he works......this kid works.

Kevin worked his whole high school and post high school time saving money to buy a car. Meanwhile, he drove beaters and hated every minute of the experience.

Finally, this fall he had enough money to pay cash for his dream car....which I am ashamed to say I have no idea what it was. It was a something something RX2000 Z.......Whatever, Kevin had spent his entire post driver's license life researching cars and finally bought his dream car in October.

To help pay for the car....Kevin prostituted himself out working for us. Some NATO beach parties, and finally the Ventana Wilderness Condor Release in October at the Packard Ranch in Big Sur.

We all met at the Highlands Store, and my friend Dan Keig doesn't mind if we park there and carpool down to Big Sur. Kevin parked next to Gilda, and next to Shawn with his brand new RTZ-5390 whatever....with 300 miles on it.

While we were working in Big Sur....a pharmacy sales girl stopped at the Highlands for a latte, got back in her Avis rent-a-car and mistook the accelerator for the brake and charged into Shawn's car, which slammed into Kevin's car.

Kevin's life dream was completely fucked up in a minute....Cops came....messages were sent to us in Big Sur that we never received......So the kid came back from this high of helping the planet in this gorgeous environment to find his car completely fucked up.

But.......the kid kept on working a double shift that day and helped us do a fundraiser for Kim Weston right next door to the scene of the crime....after he had already done eight hours with the condors. And kept a smile the entire time.....

Meanwhile.......The paint on Kevin's dream car was so complex that no local bodyshop could deal with it....and the pharm rep girl had a phony driver's license, and Avis had to hire lawyers.

Kevin lost his car for months, and was back to driving beaters.....after only 300 miles of driving his dream car.

Finally, in late December.....he got his car back. Not perfect, but it still runs like a bat out of hell, even though the paint is a mess.

OK.....Life in America in the 21st Century is all about diminished expectations.

No problem.....I mean, the kid graduated from Salinas High.......

The second night he had his car back he picked up a high school friend and they went driving around Salinas. The friend asked to drive the car......and Kevin said, "Well, sure....."

They switched seats, and Kevin started showing his buddy the different controls..... and all that.

At that moment, a gangster car drove by and the teenagers inside it randomly opened up gunfire on Kevin's car. As Kevin was explaining the handbrake to his buddy....a bullet passed through the buddy's head and splattered Kevin with his friend's brains.

Kevin enlisted in the Army the next morning.

His rationale was partly: If I am going to get shot at....I might as well get paid for it.

So....super smart, sensitive, crazy hard-working, honest local kid joins up. My heart sank....but I had nothing to offer him that could compete or attempt to heal his wounds.

The Army was not actually so in to Kevin. He was overweight, and out of shape. This is the kid that personally hauled two or three tons of equipment for me off the 13th Street Beach in Carmel without losing his smile or dirtying his apron.

Kevin stopped eating....and has lost 65 pounds in five weeks. He gets up every morning in Salinas and runs five miles with a 70 pound backpack full of rocks.

The Army still wants him to lose a half inch from his waist.

He has until Monday.....the first.

If not, he can get a fitness waiver.

All he has to do is: be able (in front of a crowd of other applicants) to do two full minutes of push ups at one per second......then run to a station where he jumps with both feet together up onto a box 18" tall once per second and then back down again.....for five full minutes. 300 reps.

After which he runs on a treadmill for four miles in under 30 minutes.

All of which exercises are completed with drill seargents screaming abuse in front of a crowd of other job applicants.

Kevin canvassed his neighborhood for Obama (he lives behind Star Market in the nice old lady part of Salinas......though the foreclosures are letting the vatos move in). Kevin want to go to Afghanistan because he actually believes that he can help make the world a better place....

Oh......and he figures the mountains of Afghanistan are probably safer than Salinas.

He has done his research......He understands weaponry; he has studied Islam, and understands the difference between Shia and Sunni....and is willing to argue about it.

We will watch his car for him......if the Army takes him.

Are you fucking kidding me??!!! He has to compete for this honor? Run with 60 pounds of bricks every morning and lose 65 pounds in a month?

I would give this kid my house....much less let him take a shit job halfway around the world for $1700 a month where he gets shot at.

I bought his flat-screen earlier tonight.

When Obama talks about leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq for decades......

Think about the Kevins.

What would it be like if that much desire, energy, and focussed on his homeland?