Tuesday, March 1, 2016

where were you on october 17, 1991?

I was cleaning out a book shelf the other day, going through the stacks of paperbacks and papers piled up behind the front row of books on the shelves. I made a lot of fun discoveries that day, including some of my army medals, the American flag that was placed on my grandfather's coffin, the typed manuscript for the screenplay of The Ice Beneath You I wrote with Matt Walker, and I found two pocket-sized bibles. The first I recognized immediately. My father gave it to me when I was 13 and going to live in India for the year. There was a scrawled note inside from him about all the answers to all my questions etc etc etc blah blah blah...not much to say about that or him, but if you're curious you can read the first essay listed on this page.

Of much more interest was the second little bible, which I didn't recognize at all, until I opened the cover. See picture above. I love life's little surprises. I have no memory of this bible, but apparently I wrote that because it's my handwriting for sure. I have a vague memory of the activity itself. I'll translate for you. "DOD MEPPS Station, Newark" means Department of Defense Military Entry Point (or something like that). That was the actual day I entered active duty. I went to Newark (no memory whatsoever how I got there, maybe my recruiter drive me?), did the final selection for what my job would be (Waterborne, not what I'd planned, but a happy result), went through the torture session where the mean Marine takes you into the back room and tries to get you to confess to drugs and other assorted illegalities and/or immoralities, then I took the oath with a bunch of other pimply kids. They put us up for the night in a really crappy motel in Newark, and the next morning flew us to Ft Knox, Kentucky for basic training. It was either waiting to go to the motel that first day, or waiting to go to the airport the next morning, that the "sad looking chubby fellow with facial hair" walked around the recruit TV lounge with a box of little bibles and gave one to each of us. I wasn't religious but I was scared shitless, so it seemed like a good idea to take the bible. Did I write that inscription then? A week later? A month later? Given that the date is on it, and given the far more memorable things that were about to happen to me, I think it's safe to say I wrote that right there and then. I knew where I was going and what my unit would be (Delta 2/46, as it says there), because they made us write it down so we could tell our families or whoever. But did I know I'd be in 2nd Platoon? Who knows. Maybe I did write it later.

I wonder what that guy was thinking, walking around, handing us those bibles. I think he was about our age, but he sure wasn't army-bound. What did he think of us? Was he deeply religious? Did anyone ever say to him, "Sorry, I'm a Jew?" Or just pass it by, like I almost did? I don't know who he was or what he was thinking. But he's been documented. I hope he's doing well, wherever he is.

I know what I was thinking. I was terrified.

It passed.

I remember that the first time I had the chance to read something that wasn't an army manual, about four weeks later, on the first Sunday that they gave us a few hours off, it wasn't this bible I reached for, but a copy of the Louisville newspaper. I read that bad boy cover to cover, ads and all, every word.