Monday, August 27, 2007

Invasion of the Wills

Anyone else notice the recent influx of "Wills" to the ranks of comedic actors today?

Will Ferrell
Will Forte
Will Arnett

Coincidence? I think not.

Certainly part of some super-secret plot to overwhelm the movie making industry with a surplus of Will-ness.

All bets are off when they start to make a film together.

(What may be coincidence is how hilarious each one of these Wills is. Ferrell and Arnett have already appeared together in Blades of Glory. Arnett and Forte appear together in the

upcoming Brothers Solomon. Perhaps a cataclysmic event will occur when all three join forces. I think it should be a superhero movie.)

An Homage to Steve Lemme

A member of Broken Lizard's comedy writing/acting troupe.
Partially responsible for such films as Puddle Cruiser, Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beerfest.

I do not know what part of the film production Mr. Lemme is responsible for. Perhaps he is a joke writer, but what we are most concerned with is his capacity as the most dynamic character actor in the Broken Lizard's ranks.

From playing a Latino cabana boy to a state trooper to a Jewish scientist, Lemme's interpretations have been the most drastic and vastly different from film to film. Equally interesting and hilarious to watch, in part because of his commitment to the role, however ridiculous it may be. (See wearing a kevlar jockstrap to test its bullet-proof capacity.)

A toast to the funniest member of Broken Lizard's ranks! Here's to your success in the future.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Man Can't Even go to the Mall Safely Anymore.

Yesterday, in order to fight boredom, I decided to scout out a nearby shopping mall.
The trip fared better than I had hoped, and I walked through the colorful hallways with a small shopping bag of action figures dangling from fist.

Just around the time I had completed making the traditionally awkward pass-by of Victoria's Secret, I caught a glimpse of a girl coming towards me, offering me a sample of hand lotion.

Caught off guard, I accepted and paused my step while she squirted me a sample-size portion of lotion onto my palm. I had to stop and look at her now, since in one hand I had an offering of moisturizing lotion, and in the other my bag of man-toys. Her first clever move.

"Oh here, let me help you with that." She cooed, snatching my bag of treasures away and placing it on the kiosk next to her bottles of lotion. "Rub the lotion in."

I obliged.

"Do you know where the Dead Sea is?"


"So you know that it's right between Israel and Jordan?"


"...and that it's the lowest point on the entire planet?"


"...and that the salt content of the water is 65%?"


"I'm from Israel too. Just like these fine products."


"Here, let me show you something."

Grabbing my freshly moisturized hand, she turns her attention to my index finger. Grabbing a four-sided file, she proceeds to "get rid of the ridges on your nail. The ridges are bad." in her fine Israeli accent.


A few moments later, she turns the file over to another surface and continues to buff, all the while extolling the virtues of this hand spa set.

"Do you have a girlfriend?"


"A wife?"


"A mother?"


I begin to feel my lies creeping up the back of my neck.
"Well, certainly there is someone special you know might be able to use this set! Of course, we even have men coming and buying these for themselves today. Maybe you could use one."

No, I couldn't.

While she proceeded to show me mirror-finished fingernail in relationship to the nine other dull, ridged and ugly looking ones, she pulled out a cuticle oil, ("made from salts, minerals and olive oil from the Dead Sea!") and began massaging it into my finger. My masculinity is curling up in my toes.

All this while, she hadn't let go of my hand, effectively anchoring me physically and gently caressing my meaty palm. She knew her business.

"Now, you try one!" she purred.


The file is pushed into my other, moisturized hand, and I begin to buff and file away the unsightly ridges on my thumbnail. I never did like those stupid ridges there.

I buff, and she asks me questions about what I'm doing here, where do I live and she laughs at everything I say.

Finally, someone who knows how funny I am!

We proceed to the next side of the file. The buffing phase.

She observes my progress closely, helping to hold my hand steady beneath the fierce pummeling my man muscles are delivering to it through the buffer.

"Let's see how it looks."

I take away the buffer to see a thumbnail with slightly glossy edges, and the entire center still dull, unfinished and full of ridges.

Undaunted, she quickly throws cuticle oil everywhere and proceeds to rub it in.

"Good job! Most guys don't get this far." she confides in me from a mere six inches from my face.


Why didn't I shave today?

She finally comes around to telling me that this manicure set, which includes the remarkable value of the buffer, cuticle oil, my choice of lotion, (cucumber melon,) emory board and some well-deserved self confidence is all for sale for $59.00

I consider the rude implications of just walking away right then. It certainly is the right thing to do. But she has spent so much of her time with me. I would hate to be considered boorish.

Sensing my reluctance (see also: deer in the headlights) she quickly lowers her tone, grabs me by the elbow and whispers that she will give me her employee discount.

"It must stay between us. I'm not supposed to give anyone else this discount."

Really? Special deal, huh?

Then a moment of reason lit up my brain. It occurred to me that I was standing in a crowded mall, surrounded by thousands of people actually considering buying a organically produced manicure set. Pretty girl or not.

She must think you're stupid, T.

Ten minutes later, I am walking through the mall carrying my new organically produced manicure set. Within twenty minutes the shrewdness of the Israeli salesgirl sinks in, and I assume an appropriate level of sheepishness, turning a bright shade of purple and carrying my head tucked between my shoulder blades.

You jedi powers are weak, old man! She walked all over you!

Well, she was touching my hand! I didn't know what to do!

Did she reach into your pocket and take out your wallet, too?!

Yeah, she might as well.

Let this be a lesson to you: If you decide to lie to a persuasive salesperson about having anyone special in your life, either 1) be an orphaned only child with severe social disorders or 2) have a mom and sisters to give the stupid thing to for Christmas.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

BMT Chapter 2

The plot thickens.

We are herded off of our bus and told to line up in four columns outside of the processing center. We must carry our baggage in our left hands, and God help us if anyone of us made so much as a peep.

I disembark the bus, replaying the advice administered by others who had gone before me in my head. "Don't be the first one off the bus, but don't be the last one, either."
I had the sense, however, that due to our late arrival, we had caught the normal welcoming committee off guard. Perhaps we would escape some torture for the first evening. As it turned out, they had a whole different method of torture reserved for late-comers.

We line up and stand at attention, bags in our left hands, and the stack of manila envelopes containing super top secret military information tucked into the sweaty crook of my right elbow. Dusk is settling, and the light brown bricks of the processing center give off a rosy glow. After a few minutes, a middle-aged sergeant comes out of the door flanked by two young airmen doing their best to look feisty.

"Put your bags on the ground!" the sergeant yells at us. At least three of our group drop their bags on the cement.
"Pick 'em up!!" he screams.
"Put 'em down!"
More bags drop.
"Pick 'em up!"
"Put 'em down..."

Eventually the dimmer members of our flight began to understand that this would continue until none of us dropped our bags when instructed to "put 'em down." Rather, when all of the bags were placed on the ground at our side, then we would be allowed to proceed inside the building.

The super secret military documents surrendered to the rightful authority, we proceed inside in single file. We pass giant posters informing us about the Airman's Creed and the proper form for a salute, and finally to a reception desk where you recite your name fourteen times, your social security number, answer "yes" or "no" to anything else they ask and then one by one, we are all seated in one long line of chairs, in a room that looked like it could have accommodated ten times our number.

By the time we are all seated, it's 8 o'clock.
No sleeping.
No talking.
No leaning on your hands.
No crossing your legs.

Little happens for the next hour. A senior airman (SrA) comes out to a computer and begins punching a few cursory keys. Occasionally he asks one of us a random question. Finally he calls my name.
"Do you play a musical instrument, trainee Sieh?"
Yes, sir, I do.
"What do you play?"
The violin, sir. (If you question my response, ask me about it sometime.)
"How long have you played the violin?"
Fourteen years, sir.
"You are going to be in the band flight, is that understood?"
Yes, sir.

This compelling conversation completed, the SrA begins to look up new weight lifting routines to try out on his next visit to the gym. This proceeds for the next two hours.
We sit silent, trying hard not to fall asleep. I exchange glances when I can with the other members of the group, hoping to communicate silently that it would be a really bad idea if one of them decided to do something stupid. Like, talk, for instance.

This was our first test. Perhaps we had avoided two days of torturous marching, screaming and organization, but we were to be dangled over the edge of consciousness and not allowed to fall into sweet slumber.

"Everybody move to the other side of the room."

We stagger out of our chairs, shuffle across the room to a group of chairs facing towards us.

Another hour passes.

"Move to the other chairs."

We were barely being watched. By this time, it was past midnight, and I was getting a sinking feeling about how long we were going to be drug back and forth across this room in the middle of the night. The SrA and his constituents were watching a television program in the adjacent room, and would step out every once in a while to ensure that we hadn't fallen asleep. If they got too bored with us, then we would have to move to the other side of the room again.

Finally another group of late arrivals shows up at the processing center. We glumly watch them file in and go through the same process of name and number recitation. We are fed a half-frozen packaged meal containing a ham sandwich, Knottsberry Farms' boisenberry cookies and a not-quite-liquid Capri Sun.

More hours pass. I know it takes precisely 95 seconds for the second hand to go around the clock face once. It doesn't seem fair, somehow.
We are stood up and led into a room to sign our names on W2's and make arrangements for our life insurance, should anything befall us while we were here at BMT. Perish the thought.
Our next-of-kin adequately provided for, we are led back to our original seats where we wait some more.

Finally, we are told that we are departing for our respective squadrons. We are put aboard a bus and driven through the night a mere seven and a half hours after we arrived. Looking at the clock with some curiosity, knowing that reveille came at 4:45 am, (or 0445) I did hope that I would be allowed to go to bed rather immediately.

Only myself and another girl were separated from the pack to join the 323rd training squadron. I now realize that the dark bus was the last time I saw most of those Ohio boys. They were all going to a flight together, and I was the only one who got taken away. Because I played the violin.

Standing under orange halogen bulbs on the drill pad outside of the 323rd's "Tunnel" (headquarters) at 0330. Life suddenly became very surreal. I was exhausted. I smelled horribly, and I badly needed a shower. I looked at the girl standing next to me. She was hyperventilating. I wanted to say something to her, but decided against it.
The door to the Tunnel flew open and our presence was demanded inside.

You must look directly ahead.
You may only stand along the right-hand wall.
Don't you dare lean on the wall.
Keep your arms at your side.
"Who do you think you are?! Don't you dare look at me ever again, or I'll rip your eyeballs out of their sockets!" said the kind CSS clerk.

This was going to be fun.

I am met by a staff sergeant (SSgt.) who takes me up a flight of stairs and into my new home. There is a guard at the door, and he asks for the sergeant's name and mine.
I follow the SSgt. into the day room where I fill out a Red Cross emergency information card; information that will be used to ship my dead body to my parents in a few days' time. The handwriting is scrawled and illegible, the pen uneven on the paper because of writing on the tile floor ("How dare you write on my desk!! You'd better get on your face and write that out on the floor right now!!")

I am shown how to hang my clothes up for tomorrow morning. I am made to shave off any hair touching my ears. I am shown a top bunk that will be mine. I am shown where my bag may be placed. I am told that I will go to sleep now.

Staring up at the ceiling only a few feet away, I listen to the cacophony of snoring, breathing and coughing swirling around me. I listen to the night watchmen having a conversation in the hallway. I realize that it is 4 o'clock, and in forty-five minutes we will have to get up. I shut my eyes.

The first notes of reveille have started when the fluorescent lamps blaze to life and our dorm chief and element leaders run down the aisles, hitting bed posts and screaming for all of us to get up! Get up! Get up!
I fall out of bed onto the tile floor and try to scamble into my jeans and t-shirt. Not even given the opportunity to take of the one I had on yesterday, I am left with no choice but to wear two shirts today.
There is a bleary half-dash to the bathroom, toothbrushes and razors in hand. Fifty bodies crowd around ten sinks, all trying to accomplish our duties first. Of course, you had to make sure they were done correctly. If you were caught with even a trace of missed facial hair, several TIs would descend upon you like freshly-killed prey.

Quickly, from the bathroom to your wall locker to lock your toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and shaving cream in your security drawer. Hang the key around your neck and keep it tucked inside your shirt at all times. Get your shoes on. Now! Heel-to-toe in the hallway! Now!

Lined up, chests and hips pressed against the back of the person in front of us, we await the order to charge down the stairs and prepare for breakfast chow. The time: 0500.

Thus began the longest day of my life.

Why does Nicholas Cage choose to suck so much?

Here we find the actor Nicholas Cage. A good-looking man. A handsome man. A talented man.
Why does he insist on making so many garbage-y films?! The man can act, (see or Matchstick Men or Adaptation) but he insists on making so many films that leave him looking ridiculous. (See Wicker Man, Ghost Rider or National Treasure:Book of Secrets. And that's this year alone.)
I wonder what kind of career he has decided to pursue.
A few years ago, Nicholas Cage was the "it" man for blockbuster action films (Face/Off, Con Air) but now seems to favor PG-friendly family adventure films. Nothing against that type of film, but why do his performances suck so badly?
Often times his lines feel horribly written. I have to suggest, however, that since it seems to happen to Mr. Cage with such relative frequency, it is average screenwriting in the hands of a particularly dull, uninspired performer.

It is a mystery to me. Care to respond, Mr. Cage?
The Best Albums of Recent Memory

The White Stripes - Icky Thump
The Stripes' sixth studio album has a far more accessible sound than the Stripes have ever indulged in. Built road-ready for dynamite live performance, make sure you check out the title track as well as Martyr for My Love, Catch Hell Blues, and Bone Broke.

The Roots - Game Theory
Always politicized and never marginalized, the Roots make one of their funkiest albums yet. ?uestlove is in funkalicious form on such tracks as It Don't Feel Right and Blackthought makes some of his most direct accusations in False Media and It's In The Music.

Beck - The Information
Accurately described as "the best best-of album until Beck puts out his Greatest Hits." A blend between the funked-out hillbilly country techno styles of Odelay and Guero, and the sprawling, melodic soundscapes of Sea Change and Mutations. If you don't know Beck at all, this is probably the best place to start.

Thom Yorke - Eraser
It's been over two years since Radiohead's Hail to the Thief was released. That's a long time to wait for another go-around of the tripped-out complexity that only Radiohead has been able to offer. Lead singer Yorke attempts to bide the time with this 2006 solo release. All of the tunes are penned by Yorke himself, and while they are haunting and compelling, the instrumental make-up lacks the same energy and genius that the rest of Radiohead used to support Thom's ethereal vocals.

The Black Keys - Magic Potion
The fourth full-length album by the Akron duo does little to change the status quo. Much is often said about a musician's need to search and explore new styles and voices. The Keys are content to stick with the back-door greasy garage-floor style of blues/rock that has carried them thus far. The playing in this album is more restrained, more reserved, as though Dan and Pat have grown out of their youthful flailing instrumental solos. Only one trip to see them perform live will tell you this is hardly the case.
It's a Great Time to Love Cartoons
Never before in history have comics/cartoons/animation been regarded as much a part of American artistic tradition as they are right now.

Whether it be the film projects of Pixar, the comic books of Frank Miller and Alex Ross or the web artists such as Sam Fout, the world of exposure has never been greater for comic artists, and their medium has never been granted this amount of artistic validity.

Part of the reason is Hollywood's realization that great stories make great movies, and there are a lot of great stories within the traditions of America's comic book traditions. Whether it is a revival of the Superman franchise or a revitalization of the Batman films, or the popularity of Frank Miller's artistic stylings (Sin City, Batman Begins/Dark Knight, 300) the capabilities and talents of these great artists is seeing the light of day in a way in which it never has had the opportunity to do before.

For so long cartoons/comics relied exclusively on printed format for exposure and success. Whether it was syndication in newspapers or being picked up by a publishing house, or working for particular animation studios was the only way a comic animator could enjoy any measure of success. And in many respects, the early forms of comic animation/illustration are still viewed as the benchmark to which we all still strive. Artists like Herge, Kelly, Eisner, Avery, Freleng, Disney and Hanna & Barbara crafted such tremendous art forms that it has taken almost seventy years for art form to evolve beyond that first incarnation.

In my opinion, two things have contributed to this change in the world cartoons.

1) The Internet caused a revolution for the world in countless ways. For the artist, it created an opportunity for even the most unheard obscure comic to have its moment in the spotlight. As a result, many artists subsist entirely on web-based comics and animations.
Artists like Sam Fout (top illustration) create entire worlds of creatures that would probably not find any sort of audience in mainstream publication. But as a web-comic, these stories find precisely the audience that they are intended for. Also, the internet has raised awareness a thousand fold, creating and strengthening communities of like-minded artists and comic enthusiasts who may have
otherwise never have met.

2)Baby Boomers Grew Up
I regard this as the far more significant development of the two key points of reason.
Prior to World War II, there were only a handful of comic book creations (Seigel & Schuster's Superman) and well-known newspaper comic strips. In the late 1920's, Walt Disney began to realize his dream of animation that would capture the imagination of America, but these ideas would not really begin to bear fruit until the next generation of artists began to mature.
Within the next thirty years we experienced the explosion of the feature animated film from Disney studios, as well as the legendary work from the Warner Brothers' studios. Comic books enjoyed what historians now refer to as its "golden age," which saw the birth of such characters as Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, the X-men, Captain America, Batman and the Silver Surfer.

The children of this generation had the unparalleled privilege of growing up in the shadows of these great charaters, both in the theater and at home on their television, and in their newspapers and newstands.

The fundamental difference between the generations before them is that while cartoons had been regarded as "children's entertainment" and little more to their parents, baby boomers regarded comics as something more, and saw them for the art form they could become.
My generation grew up with the enjoyment of Saturday morning cartoons, (the Smurfs, the Gummi Bears) and now-legendary cartoon strips (Watterson, Larsen and Davis,) but something else happened.

Not only did a renaissance of animation and cartooning occur, but an explosion of creative ideas. No longer was it just about a cartoon strip or an 8-minute short. Artists began using computers and film and ink in ways that hadn't been done yet. The internet allowed artists to see the work of other artists on the other side of the globe. Cartoon art became fused with traditional artistic expression, destroying any idea that comics were only "children's entertainment."

More recently, the success of film studios like Pixar and Dreamworks have brought a new appreciation for cartoons, creating such beautiful scenes, creatures and (most importantly) stories that both kids and adults will enjoy.

This trend doesn't show any sign of slowing down. In fact, it's amazing to think of where the art form could go within the next five, ten and fifteen years. As the form becomes more accessible, more people will have the opportunity to create. And while this will create more schlock than ever before, the talented artists will be discovered, and hopefully allowed to create something truly unique.

Hot Tracks of the Day:

M.I.A. - Boyz
The White Stripes - Catch Hell Blues
Joe Crocker - Woman to Woman
The Electric Six (feat. Jack White) - Danger! High Voltage

For banging good time, look no further.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Basic Military Training chapter 1

Earlier this year I had the dubious honor of participating in our nation's military basic training program. Most readers know why this undertaking was initiated, and if you don't, ask me some other time.

Aside from being a means to an end, basic military training (or BMT) was one of those life experiences I considered on my list of "things I should do before I die," somewhere between base jumping in Hawaii and drinking a quart of paint.
I'm not suggesting that BMT was something I didn't think I couldn't live without, but it was on my list because of the desire to push myself, physically and mentally, just so I knew how far I could go. Besides, who wouldn't want the bragging rights?

This is the first in a series of posts where I will try to (as accurately as I can) re-create my experience at Basic Military Training for the United States Air Force. I hope to avoid a lot of the bravado and machismo that comes along with the territory. I have wanted to commit as much of the experience to the record for a while, before more of it is lost my own shabby memory. So, here goes.

I began the enlistment process at a recruiting station in a poorer neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. It wasn't destitute, but it was the sort of neighborhood that you wouldn't probably have much business in. I wasn't out of place - quite, but my unwillingness to roam the streets wearing nothing but an undershirt and baggy jeans did make me stand out a little bit. And, I was (for better or worse) employed.

This sort of environment is perfect for Armed Forces recruiting. As much as certain points of view may sneer on the "preying on poor inner-city youth," the simple truth is that the military is one very good option these kids have for getting out of their "poor inner-city" existence.
For most of the kids I met who were also in the process of enlisting in the Air Force, they were either finishing high school, were aimless, slightly stupid and without any real motivation to begin the next chapter in their lives. Whether it was their parents' or their own idea to join the Air Force, their complacency was about to be removed. Forcibly, if necessary.

Without going too far back into my recent life history, it should be understood that my journey through the enlistment process was not without hiccups. My first task was weight loss (so that the Air Force planes wouldn't fall from the sky because of my body mass,) and then I was faced with a six-month wait in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) simply because there was no available spot for me to fill at basic training.

So from a job offering in April of 2006, we don't actually take the next step in this adventure until February of 2007, when I, and 11 other gentlemen from Northern Ohio were slated for departure on Feb. 14.

One thing no one should ever forget about in planning adventures in Northern Ohio is what time of year you plan on having this grand adventure. In our case, February 14 happens to fall (on Valentine's day, yes, but also) during the winter season. Duh.

February 13: A group of 200+ young soldier/seamen/airmen/marine hopefuls are roused from our slumber at 0430 (civilian translation: way too early) and bused down to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to complete a last-minute physical, sign some papers, take an oath and then jump aboard a bus to the airport bound to sunny Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

This day, however, was not to go quite so smoothly.

Our bus arrives to the MEPS station amidst an early morning snowfall. We all climb off the buses, our bodies running on little more than adrenaline and fear. We are ushered inside, given our cursory warnings about firearms, drugs and ill intention and proceed to have our possessions searched.

A word on packing for basic training: Don't. Whatever items that the Air Force suggests you pack along for your foray into the wild blue abyss they will promptly take away from you on your arrival. Best plan: aside from the clothes you are wearing, take a toothbrush, a razor and some shaving cream. Everything else that you could use/need they will make you purchase once you're down there anyway. And in case you are unsure about what kind of product to buy, don't worry! Your Military Training Instructor (MTI or TI) will kindly assist you in only selecting from a prescribed selection of items that you may purchase.
The more stuff you bring, the more you'll love playing the TI's favorite game "pick it up, put it down" during zero week. More on this later.

The final processing at MEPS underway, our hapless heroes had only one final underwear-only processional to complete, another urinalysis, and then finally, the first real taste of military precision and order: hurry up and wait.

The group (interchange "flight" from henceforth) going to our relaxing stay in Lackland made it out of MEPS by late morning, after taking our oath of enlistment and enjoying a little USO hospitality. Our arrival at the airport was through more snow showers. However, as dully appointed leader of the dozen idiots from Ohio, I was more concerned with the charge of getting all of these kids through airport security, baggage checked and to the same gate without losing anyone. And on top of that, I had been handed a stack of manila envelopes, containing the medical and enlistment paperwork for every member of our troupe that I was to hand-deliver to the personnel at Lackland. Any deviation from this plan was considered a felony, and compromised official military documents. So far, I'm in love with the Air Force.

No sooner do we nestle into our wait at the crowded gate than we begin noticing "delayed" signs beginning to flash above our heads. Yes, dear readers, our plane had been delayed. But not just delayed. After a couple of hours, the air traffic was shut down because of the snow, so our flight was cancelled, and we were sent back to the hotel, confused, perhaps a little frustrated, but mostly relieved that we'd gotten such a late stay in our sentence. It didn't take too much imagination to think of the "fun" we would be missing during the first 24 hours of basic training.

Our trip back to the hotel took hours. The trains were slow, clogged by snow on the rails, and also the inability to stop, therefore it was ill-advised that they go any faster than would permit them to coast to a comfortable stop later on. Arriving at the landmark Tower City Terminal in downtown Cleveland, we then proceeded to wait another hour in the lobby for the hotel's shuttle to come and pick us up.
(Thinking that our trip back to the hotel would take equally long, we were shocked and perturbed when our drive back only took five minutes, which somewhat deflated the hotel clerk's affirmation that "the shuttle was sent out for you over twenty minutes ago!")

Safely back in the cocoon of our hotel rooms, phone calls frantically began to our respective recruiters, MEPS authorities and our parents to notify them what had happened, and what, precisely, were we supposed to do now? Quietly and firmly, we were told to stay put, but plan on awakening at 0430 again the next morning for departure on the next flight to San Antonio.

"Never," we were told "has MEPS been shut down for any reason. The last time it happened was during the east coast blackout. Snow never shuts us down out here."

The next morning we were informed that MEPS was closed, and no one would be coming in for the next 24 hours, so we were trapped at the hotel for the next two days. Sorry about this, just watch some TV, go to the gym, and stay out of trouble.

Those of us remaining did our best to stay out of trouble, eating decent hotel meals three times a day and letting the TV meteorologists tell us that it was a storm like we've never seen in the last hundred years. The most useful thing we did manage to do was bond.

Zwick, Crawford, Cowx and eight other names that don't match up to their faces in my mind spent a lot of time in central hotel rooms, eating together, watching TV together and wondering when we actually were going to leave. I earned the nickname "Chief," (the moniker for a Chief Master Sergeant or CMSgt. - the highest rank of enlisted airmen) since I was the oldest, was the contact with the MEPS authorities and knew how to check baggage, go through security and how to read flight information off of the airport monitors. All in all, this was a fun couple of days. The attitudes remained good, and we entertained ourselves well, making new friends and enjoying thinking about the torture the rest of our flight was already going through.

Finally we received the call. Tomorrow morning. 0430. We are on a flight departing at 1030.

One more early morning, one more groggy bus ride, one more search of our belongings. As we proceeded through the hallways at MEPS, the Air Force liaison came up to me and said I'd done a great job at the airport yesterday, and that we would talk more about it later.

We never got the chance to talk. Too bad.

Again on a bus, again to the airport. Again through security and again to our gate. This time, the sun is shining. There are a lot of people in the airport, equally delayed in their travels, most certainly.

Our arrival in to San Antonio was uneventful, although it was memorable because of the amount of adrenaline beginning to pump through my body. I wasn't sure if we were going to be met at the arrival gate by some firey sergeant in uniform, or if we would get outside before having a combat boot shoved in our faces.

Pausing only to change my voicemail message to something like "If you're hearing this, that means I'm lying face-down, dead in a puddle somewhere in basic training. Don't touch my stuff" we made our way through the airport, following the signs marked "USO" - our designated rally point. Along the way any candy, magazines or other comforts that we had acquired along the trip were disposed of.

The USO lounge in San Antonio is spacious and you can enjoy watching aircraft on the tarmac. There are easily twenty lay-z-boy recliners arranged around the room. We cautiously took a seat in these chairs, after being told that we would met by the bus driver in a few minutes.
Some of us fell asleep, others decided to eat as many of the USO-provided Oreos as possible. For the most part, we were dead quiet. If someone did start to talk, they were hushed by the others. We didn't know when the test would begin, if it had started already, if we were already failing...

A wrinkled old black man walked into the lounge and called for all of the Air Force's recruits. We gather our things and follow him through the airport and along side to where a school bus with "Lackland AFB" painted plainly on the side sits waiting for us. I am pretty sure the driver is not in the military, but still we are deathly quiet. We are already mentally exhausted, wide-eyed and nervously expecting someone to jump out of nowhere and toss a hand grenade at us.

There is one other passenger on the bus in addition to us recruits; a tech sergeant who has been stationed temporarily (TDY) at Lackland as an aircraft maintenance specialist of some sort. He was talkative, and seemed to enjoy laughing at us quite a bit when he found out we were all heading to BMT at that very moment. I wasn't sure if it was safe to talk with him or not. So I didn't.

The bus ride is short. Soon after leaving the airport, you will begin to see signs for Lackland AFB along the interstate. Along the way, I consciously make an effort to take in the fast food restaurants, the hotels, the billboards - any sign of normal life that I could see. The dread was overtaking me that I would never again enjoy freedom like I had.

What exactly have I gotten myself into?

The bus arrives at Lackland AFB at roughly 1900.

Let's give this another go...

Like the new look?