De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


The Misadventure Continues

January is probably the coldest month of the year in Alabama, but that's not saying much. There are many days of mild weather, but it's often overcast and grey, which is almost suicidally depressing. The bicentenniel hype was finally over with, but now we had Peanut Man in the White House. You'd think that a veteran would have been a bit more sympathetic toward the military, but that turned out not to be the case. Most of 1977 was pretty unremarkable, except for a few incidents.

I was still trying to get myself in good physical condition, and decided to do some more walking. Out on the Perimeter Road, there was a route marked out to do the 3-mile aerobics walk. I figured if I used my PT time to go to Tang Soo Do classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and walked the 3 miles on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, that would help. And it did. At first, I bumped the time limit a lot, but since I had been walking so much since such an early age, it didn't take long to get back into it.

In early Spring, we did the annual aerobics testing and I wound up being stupid again. The oval track for the 1½ run was right across the street from my dorm, the the Perimeter Road was over on the southwest side of the base. I was all geared up to do the walk, but on the way out the door, I thought to myself that I could get it over and done with a lot faster if I simply walked across the street and did the run. Bad move. I think it took three days for the shin splints to heal. After that, I never did the run again for my entire career.

Somewhere around June, Master Yu left town and turned the school over to Master Chung from Iowa, who taught Tae Kwon Do. We had had a student transfer in from Mobile, and he had studied TKD, but I didn't like the looks of it. The way Paul did it, it just didn't look as graceful and fluid as Tang Soo Do. After a while, I discovered that it was simply because he wasn't all that good at it yet. We kept our rank (I was a green belt by that time) and just learned the routines for the lower ranks on a catch-as-catch-can basis. In time, I grew to actually like the routines for TKD.

It wasn't long after Master Chung arrived that things took a strange turn. One afternoon, as I was changing in the back, I noticed a book ("Zen Combat") on a shelf. I picked it up and look at it, and was quite intrigued by it. (It's been out of print for a lot of years, but is now back in print. I highly recommend it for anyone curious about pure Zen, as opposed to Zen Buddhism.) Book in hand, I went out front and asked whose it was. One woman said it was hers, and agreed to let me borrow it. I managed to read most of it over the next couple of days, and was fascinated by it. It verified a lot of things that I had long suspected.

Sometime the next week, I sustained one of those inevitable injuries. Master Chung and I were on the floor, helping each other stretch, when I tore a muscle. I wasn't a severe injury, but enough to keep me out of class for about two weeks. During that time, I finished reading "Zen Combat" and then re-read it. Then I started doing some of the exercises in it. By the time I started back at school, I was really starting to get into it.

On my first day back at class, we were doing our usual free sparring and I wound up opposite Master Chung, which is always intimidating. Here I was, a mere green belt, up against a 5th degree black belt Master Instructor. Oddly enough, it didn't seem all that bad. After a couple of rotations, I wound up opposite Jerri, who had loaned me the book. When we stopped, she asked me what I had been doing lately, commenting that my free sparring had really improved. I was completely non-plussed, especially when Master Chung chimed in and said he had noticed a marked improvement. I just kind of gave Jerri a blank stare and said all that I had done was read "Zen Combat" a couple of times.

Over Columbus Day weekend, I decided to take a little trip to a place where my Dad had lived -- Silver Lake, New Hampshire. I booked a flight thru Atlanta and Boston to Portland, Maine and planned to ride a bus over into Vermont, with a stopover in New Hampshire to visit Silver Lake. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men.....

Somewhere out of Atlanta, I realized that I had my checkbook with me with plenty of money in my account, but only a few dollars cash in my pocket. This did not bode well. During my layover in Boston, I called Traveler's Aid (do they even still exist?) to see if they could help me cash a check. No dice. The best thing they could do for me would be to call a hotel and talk them into taking my check. So, I continued to Portland and tried the same thing, with the same results. I managed to get a room in a nearby hotel, and they accepted my check.

The next morning, I went to a nearby bank and explained my situation. No dice. Despite the fact that I was on active duty in the military and could be court-martialed for writing a bad check, they wouldn't even cash a lousy $30 check for me. Such wonderful people. Then I had a brainstorm. I looked up the Church in the phone book and called the local Bishop and explained my situation. He was willing to help me, but wondered if I'd mind him checking me out first. No problem. I gave him the number for a guy in Montgomery and waited. Later, his wife met me at the bank. I wrote the check for $40 and told her I only needed $30. I figured they'd been stiffed before and that was my way of partially making up for it.

Saturday was shot by now, so I couldn't take the trip over into Vermont. I wish I could remember the family's name, but it's been too many years. I wound up going back to their place and helping them harvest beans, then had dinner with them and learned to play Uno. Great evening. During dinner, the Bishop told me about the phone call to Montgomery. He said that Ed (the guy he talked with) seemed rather hesitant until finally he said "Well, this guy says you know him". Ed's reply was "Yeah, I know a guy named Jahn, I just can't believe he's in Portland, Maine!"

On Sunday morning, I caught the bus to Vermont, but couldn't do the side trip to Silver Lake. Still, the trip was nice and I got some great pictures. On Monday, I flew back to Montgomery, where I checked in with Ed Turek, who had put in a good word for me. We had a good laugh, and I promised that if I ever left town again, I'd let him know where I was going. And I'd be sure to take plenty of cash with me.

It was a bit later in October when I met someone who would turn out to have a profound effect on my life. The younger singles of the Church had planted sweet potatoes on the Church grounds, and it was time to harvest them. The morning dawned all grey and overcast, not unusual in October. I was really tempted to just roll over and pull the covers back over me, but I had said I'd be there, and I tend to keep my word.

As I pulled up on my motorcycle, I spotted her. She was kneeling down, dressed in old jeans and a sweatshirt, with a scarf tied around her head to keep her hair in place. What I noticed about her was not physical beauty, as she hardly looked like the most glamorous creature I had ever seen. It was something metaphysical. As things turned out, I got assigned to work right next to her, so we had a chance to chat and get acquainted. It turned out that she was a student out at Auburn University, about 60 miles east of Montgomery. When we finished and she left, I had the distinct impression that she was going to have a profound influence in my life. LIttle did I know...

Later, at one of our monthly Sunday evening get-togethers, I met her again and learned that her name was Barbara. I'm not good with names, so she might have told me at the service project. This time, I decided I'd better make a note of it and remember it.

Christmas 1977 was also nothing memorable.



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