De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

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


How To Get Fit In 6 Days Or Drop Dead In 7.

At no time in my life have I ever been what one would call an "athlete". But at times, I've been in better physical condition than others. From kindergarten thru my junior year in high school, I walked to school almost every day. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I got a ride. And the only reason I drove during my senior year was to give my sister a ride (and she needed the walk more than I did). Any time she didn't go to school, I walked. My two years in Germany were spent walking or riding a bicycle.

When I got back, I still did a lot of walking, partly because almost everything was within walking distance, and partly because I wanted to.

Then I entered the Air Force.

Right off the bat, I got sick (sinusitis). They pumped me so full of meds, I felt like a walking pharmacy. This seems to have screwed up my metabolism a bit, and I started putting on weight. After a while, I had a bit of trouble fitting into my uniform. OK, so I cut out midnight chow and all desserts until I got my weight back down.

One evening, I had dorm guard duty, which consisted of standing at the front door and making sure no one entered who wasn't authorized. Dorm Guard was a two-hour shift, but we used to hire ourselves out at $2 an hour to anyone who didn't want to do it or had something else to do. I had the 10-to-midnight shift, and took the midnight-to-two shift for a guy who had a date. Needless to say, this is not the most exciting part of military life. To put it mildly, I was bored out of my gourd.

And a bored mind is a dangerous mind.

It occurred to me that I had some time on my hands and had nothing to do the next day. I got the idea in my head that if I did 10 push-ups every half-hour, I could do 70 before my shift ended at 2 am. So, starting at 10:30, I did 10 push-ups every half-hour. The last 10 were pretty tough. By the time I got to bed (in the upper bunk, of course), I could barely drag myself up into it.

Next morning.... well, let's not go there. Let's just say that I wish we had had Ibuprofen available back then. Stupidity can be painful.

By the time I got to tech school at Sheppard AFB, I was pretty out of shape. One of the first things they did with me was make me do the annual Aerobics Test, which consisted of my choice of either a 3-mile walk or a 1½-mile run. I chose the walk. I came in two seconds off the squadron record. No, not the fastest -- the slowest. I did it in 16:24, which was only two seconds faster than the record-holder and six seconds under the time limit.

When I got to Maxwell, I decided it was time for drastic action. At first, I started walking the 3-mile course on the perimeter road. Then I marked out a 4-mile course on the old unused part of the flightline. At first, I simply walked it three days a week. After a while, I started wearing 2½-pound leg weights. By the time I left 5½ years later, I was doing it at least three days a week with 5-pound leg weights on. I was in pretty good shape.

In addition to that, I learned how to do isometrics. This put a lot of power in my muscles without adding bulk. Over the years. I've tried to keep it up, but it isn't always possible, especially when I'm on the road a lot.

While I was at my sister's place during the summer of 2004, I knew I needed to get back in shape, so I started walking. It was a 3.3-mile route, and I did it once in the morning and once in the evening. (It wasn't until just before I left that I actually measured it.) In addition, while watching TV in the evenings, I'd do either a set of 15 push-ups or a set of 15 sit-ups. Of course, I started out slow and worked my way up. At first, it was only sets of 5, then 10, then 15. And I worked my way up from a total of 20 or 25 to a total of 135.

Last December, when I arrived back in Chattanooga, I knew I had gotten out of shape and decided to do something about it. At first, I would just do a lap around the place where I'm living (again, during the commercials). After a while, I added the leg weights back in; something I hadn't done in a couple of years. Unfortunately, I overdid it one evening and got myself sick. By the time I had recovered, I was on my way back out to Albuquerque, where I really slacked off for about a month and a half.

In late April, I arrived back in Chattanooga, but got lazy and then hurt my upper back. While recuperating, I decided to start walking again. At first, it was without the leg weights, and not very many laps, as almost any movement at all caused pain in my shoulder and upper back.

Now that I've pretty much recovered from my back injury, I've started back -- this time with the leg weights. I went out and took some measurements and did some calculations and discovered that 20 laps around this place equals just about 4.4 miles. Not bad for an old man. I've also started back with the push-ups, first at 60, now up to 75. But I only do it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Of course, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings.... well, let's not go there. At least, theses days I have Ibuprofen and Aleve.

If I can keep this up long enough, and lose two pounds a week, I'll be down to my target weight of 175 in just 20 weeks. Right now, I'm down to 214 from a high of 220. I'll have to post progress reports here, just to give myself an incentive to keep losing.


Perfect Friends

Earlier this evening, I was reading thru some friends' blogs and left a comment on one that I thought I'd follow up on. If I understaood correctly, her complaint was the same that a lot of people -- mostly women -- have. A couple of thoughts occurred to me. The first was from a poem by Kipling:

"Oh East is East and West is West
and never the twain shall meet;
'til Earth and Sky stand presently
at God's great judgement seat.

For there is neither East nor West,
border, breed nor birth,
where two strong men stand face to face,
though they come from the ends of the Earth."

The jist, of course, being that only when people are on equal footing can they truly get along -- or be friends. If one "needs" the other too much, it won't work. (Although Maslow correctly points out that we all need some socialization.) As for me, my friends are my friends because we like each other more than we need each other.

And what kind of friendship would we have if each doesn't accept the other with all our faults? If anyone were perfect, no one lesser would feel comfortable in their presence. How could friendship be possible then? Obviously, being imperfect doesn't mean that we're not "good enough" for others. Here's a little essay I thought was pretty good.

Perfection is a goal well worth striving for, but "good enough" is a great starting point. Are you "good enough"? Of course! God doesn't make junk.


Is it too late?

Probably. It doesn't look like there are all that many people interested in recovering their rights after this latest fiasco from Foggy Bottom. But, if you are, here are some excellent links on the subect, some of them containing links to still more sites. There are even some excellent ideas on letters to public officials, as well as a proposed Constitutional amendment to restore our property rights and restrict the government's power of eminent domain. (One slight correction to one of the blogs: impeachments of federal officials begins in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.)

Herewith, in no particular order, are the links:

Neal Boortz

Vox Day

The Empty Mind

T. F. Stern's Rantings

Pangalactic Blogger Blaster

Fearless Philosophy

Unrepentant Individual

Kim du Toit

Tech Central Station

Oh, dopey me....

I've only recently discovered that one of my LinkUp buddies has blogrolled me and I haven't returned the favor. So, I'll have to correct that this evening (right after I get finished with a very important post about the latest fiasco out of Foggy Bottom). Meanwhile, if anyone else wants to blogroll, just let me know. I'll have to check everyone else's blog to make sure I haven't overlooked anyone else.


Walking Wounded

In the course of my morning reading, I learned that one of my favorite bloggers -- Capt Ziegenfuss -- has been injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He's been airlifted out to Landstuhl for medical treatment, but it looks like his injuries are not severe (i.e. no lost limbs). He and his family could use your prayers.

Although I have about two dozen blogs bookmarked, I haven't blogrolled very many. But I'll be adding him today. His is the only MilBlog I read, and I like his style.



"Hello? Vern?"

Back in '86, I moved into a new apartment and got a new phone number. A friend of mine moved in with me a couple of weeks later, which worked out pretty well. He was working nights and going to school; I was going to school and working evenings, so we hardly saw each other. Luckily, I had an answering machine so people could leave messages when neither of us was there.

It wasn't long after we moved in that it started. One day, I came home and there was a msg on the machine: "Hello? Vern? This is ______. Gimme a call sometime."

OK, wrong number. Happens all the time. No harm, no foul.

A couple of weeks later, same thing, but a different person. No biggie. Vern just hasn't gotten his new number out to everyone yet.

After a couple of months of this, it got to be a little annoying. Vern's getting way too far behind the Power Curve. Finally, I happened to be home one day when a call came in. I grabbed the phone and said "Listen -- no offense, but who the heck is this Vern guy?" The guy on the other end laughed and explained that Vern _____ was a handyman who had done some work for him a couple of years ago and he had need of his services again.

While we were talking, I opened up the phone book and sure enough, there was a Vern _____ listed as living down in Los Lunas. I gave the guy the number out of the phone book and that was that. A little while later, I called the number and talked to Vern in person. We had a good laugh about it and I asked if he wanted me to pass on his new number to future callers. He said that'd be nice.

That was sometime in late '86.

A couple of months before we moved out of that apartment in September 1990, the phone rang. "Hello? Vern?" Unbelievable.

To this day, every once in a while when Terry or I will call each other, we'll start out with "Hello? Mr. _____?". And it still gets a laugh.

I should call Vern the next time I'm in Albuquerque.

Another good phone story happened when our friend Keith was staying with me before I even moved into that apartment. He had stayed with me for about two weeks when I had been living in another place, then I had moved and he came to stay a couple of more weeks before heading off to Japan for two years. He gave out my number to several people so they could stay in touch with him for that last little while, but no one ever called. It was about a week later that we found out he had been giving out the wrong number! Terry stopped by and in the course of conversation, we discovered the error. Some poor sap somewhere in town was getting a ton of calls for Keith. We suggested that as soon as Keith got done calling everyone to give them the correct number, he should call the incorrect one and say "Hi, this is Keith. Any messages for me?"

Nah, he was too chicken.



Stupidity On A Shingle

One of the time-honored traditional foods that they inflict on serve us in the chow hall is called "SOS", which stands for "Something (euphemism) On a Shingle" -- a.k.a. creamed chipped beef on toast; the creamed beef being the "something" and the toast being the shingle. I doubt that there was anyone who ever wore our country's uniform who didn't eat it at least once. For all I know, it might be a requirement for graduation from Basic Training. Not that there's anything wrong with it; I'd rather eat SOS than an MRE any day.

Some people developed a taste for the creamed beef on their eggs. Unfortunately, given the sloppiness of American thinking and -- by extension -- speech, they'd usually ask for "SOS" on their eggs. This is obviously incorrect, as it can't be "SOS" without the shingle. But....

One of the irritants in the dining hall was when I would go thru the line and ask for "SOS". Almost invariably, the moron person on the line would ask me if I wanted it "on toast". (Since they were all civilian contractors, I could almost overlook this. Once. After that, all bets are off.) Each time, I would have to patiently explain that of course I wanted it "on toast". I think they did it deliberately, just to annoy me. I mean, it wasn't like I was some guy who just dropped in; I was stationed there for 5½ years.

UPDATE: A quick search of the Web via resulted in two recipes. The first is the current official Army recipe; the second is from the Navy Wives Club and more closely resembles the original recipe. Note that the second one does not call for salt, as there's usually enough salt in any dried beef you might buy.

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 tbsp. sifted flour
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup water
2 tbsp. butter

Brown ground beef in its own fat. Remove excess fat and save for making roux. Season with salt and pepper. To make roux, place 2 tbsp. reserved fat in double broiler or heavy pan. Slowly add sifted flour, stirring constantly over low heat until thoroughly blended. Cook for five minutes. Do not brown. Combine milk and water. Add butter and scald (not burn) in double broiler or heavy pan. Add roux to scalded milk, stirring constantly until thoroughly blended. Add meat mixture and cook about 10 minutes, or until desired consistency. Serve on toast.

Navy Wives' Recipe:

4½ oz. dried beef
2 cups milk
2 tbs. butter
¼ cup flour
6 slices bread
Cooking Instructions:
Melt butter in pan, add dried beef. Cook 2-3 minutes to brown. Add milk (reserve ¼ cup for later), & pepper. Bring to boil. Mix flour and remaining milk together. Slowly add to boiling mixture until it begins to thicken. Serve over toast.



Say What??

One challenge faces the services as they attempt to operate jointly is a lack of a common language. For instance, if instructed to "secure" a building, the Navy would turn off the lights and lock the doors. The Army would occupy the building and prevent unauthorized entry. The Marines would assault the building, capture it, and defend it with small arms fire. The Air Force would take out a three-year lease with option to buy.

Of course, things get even worse when dealing with civilians. Most of them have no clue what we're talking about. So, herewith a short glossary of terminology used in the military; specifically, the Air Force:

35-10 = Old uniform regulation
AFSC = Air Force Specialty Code
AGR = Active Guard/Reserve
ART = Air Reserve Technician
ASAP = As Soon As Possible (pronounced "Ay-sap", not spelled out)
COB = Close of Business
CONUS = Contiguous United States
CYA = Cover Your A**
FIGMO = Forget It; Got My Orders
GMT = Greenwich Mean Time; same as Zulu Time (q.v.)
GSU = Geographically Separated Unit
IAW = In Accordance With
IMA = Individual Mobilization Augmentee
LOB = Lost on Base (i.e., out goofing off)
MFR = Memo For Record
MPF = Military Personnel Flight
NCO = Non-Commissioned Officer
NCOIC = Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge
NET = Not Earlier Than
NLT = Not Later Than
NTE = Not To Exceed
OBE = Overtaken By Events
OCONUS = Outside CONUS (q.v.)
OIC = Officer in Charge
POC = Point of Contact
POV = Privately Owned Vehicle
PCS = Permanent Change of Station (i.e., transfer)
RIF = Reduction in Force
RIP = Report on Individual Personnel
TDY = Temporary DutY
SAV = Staff Assistance Visit
SNAFU = Situation Normal, All Fouled Up
TACFU = Totally And Completely Fouled Up
FUBAR = Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition
TTX = Table-Top Exercise
UTA = Unit Training Assembly
WAG = Wild-A** Guess

Above my pay grade = at a higher level than I am
Airman No-Class = low-ranking know-it-all
Buck slip = routing slip
Can of worms = An unbelievably convoluted and complex situation
Deep Kimchi = serious trouble
Drop-dead date = a SERIOUS deadline
Face time = person-to-person meeting
Foot-stomper = an extremely important issue
Fruit Salad = military decorations
Geo-Bachelor = member separated from his family
GI Party = to party what military music is to music
Lots on the windscreen = a full schedule; lots of stuff to do
Name, Rank & Airspeed = personal data
O-dark-thirty = v-e-r-y early in the morning
Off the radar = out of sight, out of mind
On the horizon = Something waiting to happen
One-way fire drill = leaving the office early
Order of battle = program of events
Out-of-pocket = Not available (improper usage)
Out-years = The future, not part of the immediate plan
Purple (suit) = anything of a joint-service nature
Puzzle Palace (a.k.a Fort Fumble; the Fudge Factory) = the Pentagon
Rack & Stack = to prioritize or organize
Real Air Force = no one knows
Rules of engagement = ground rules
Show-stopper = Something that causes operations to grind to a halt
SitRep = Situation Report
Straw Man = hypothetical
When the balloon goes up = when all h--- breaks loose
Whitewalls = the white strip that shows after a proper haircut
You fly; I'll buy = You get us there; I'll pay for what we're getting
Zulu Time = Unchanging time zone at Greenwich, England


"I Don't Have To Tell You That"

From the "Never Take A Knife To A Gunfight" File:

One morning, as I stopped for breakfast in the chow hall on my way to work, I had an unopened bottle of Pepsi with me, which I set on my tray as I went thru the line. Some new moron supervisor came by and saw my Pepsi and said "You can't bring that in here".

Huh? I had certainly been doing it long enough.

"Why not?"

"It's in the reg."

"What reg?"

"I don't have to tell you that."

Oh, yeah??

Well, what this particular individual didn't know was that I new his boss (the Food Services Officer) pretty well, having served on the Airmen's Dining Hall Menu Planning Board with him for a couple of years. So, I walked over to the office, left my Pepsi in the fridge, and walked back for breakfast. Later that morning, I got Leonard on the phone and recounted what had happened. I could hear him wince over the phone. A while later, he called me back and said he had taken care of the problem (there is no such restriction on bringing outside condiments into the chow hall). He also mentioned that he had told the guy that A) that was the wrong thing to say; and B) that was the wrong guy to say it to.


Fillet of What?

OK, it looks like Bonnie's Dad and I have fallen into a game of "one-upsmanship" with career "war stories". It looks like we've run into an equal number of morons, but at least he was allowed to carry a gun. :-)

Anyway, I got to thinking about some of my misadventures in the Airmen's Dining Hall at Maxwel AFB (outside Montgomery, AL). At least once in every 10-day menu cycle, they served fish. Sometimes it was something really good like cod or mullet, but most often it was perch. Not exactly gourmet dining, but then, there's a reason why it's called the "mess hall".

Invariably, the menu only listed "fish", without specifying what kind of fish. So, as I went thru the line, I'd ask "What kind of fish is that?". And just as invariably, the moron person on the serving line would say "Fillet". After a while, I got to the point where I became convinced they were doing this just to tick me off. Finally, I went to the Food Services Officer and said "Look, you can fillet a shark. 'Fillet' is not a kind of fish. Someone needs to tell these people the difference." The problem pretty much cleared up after that, but every once in a while....

Years later, when I was doing some duty over at Robins AFB (south of Macon, GA), I made a little side trip back to Maxwell. While there, I decided to have dinner at the chow hall, just for old times' sake. And what was on the menu? Fish. I braced myself as I went thru the line and asked the time-honored question and steeled myself for the answer.


I couldn't believe my ears.

I rather enjoyed that dinner.



In Praise of Rednecks

The Chief has some good words to pass along:

We have enjoyed the redneck jokes for years. It's time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God. If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I'd choose a half-dozen or so rednecks to back me up. Tire irons, squirrel guns and grit -- that's what rednecks are made of. I hope I am one of those. If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck friends. Ya'll know who ya' are...

You might be a redneck if: It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, "One nation, under God".

You might be a redneck if: You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.

You might be a redneck if: You still say "Christmas" instead of "Winter Festival".

You might be a redneck if: You bow your head when someone prays.

You might be a redneck if: You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem.

You might be a redneck if: You treat Viet Nam vets with great respect, and always have.

You might be a redneck if: You've never burned an American flag.

You might be a redneck if: You know what you believe and you aren't afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.

You might be a redneck if: You respect your elders and expect your kids to do the same.

You might be a redneck if: You'd give your last dollar to a friend.

Yeah, stick that in your multiculturalism.


You Might Be A Real New Mexican If:

(You can take the man out of New Mexico, but you can't take New Mexico out of the man. How do you know if you're a real New Mexican? Simple.)

you buy salsa by the quart
you never take down your outside Christmas lights
your favorite restaurant has a chile list instead of a wine list
your Christmas decorations include "a yard of sand and 100 paper bags"
half of the Yellow Pages in your town are lawyer listings
you hated Texans until the Californians moved in
you remember when Santa Fe wasn't like San Francisco
you have T-shirts printed up for your family reunions and friends' funerals
your car can't clear a speed bump
your stereo system costs more than your car
you stop at a drive-up liquor window on your way home from the bar
you think that a red light is merely a suggestion
you believe that using a turn signal is a sign of weakness
you think that six tons of crushed rock makes a beautiful yard
your son's back pockets are located behind his knees
you have to sign a waiver to buy hot coffee at a drive-up window
most restaurants in your town begin with "El" or "Los"
you can't control your vehicle on wet pavement
you wish you had bought stock in that orange barrel business
there is a piece of a UFO displayed in your home
all your out-of-state friends visit in October
you have just gotten your 5th DWI and you still drive
you can actually hear the Taos hum
you use the expression "I'll cross that bridge when they build it"
your out-of-state mail arrives with enough postage to take it out of the country


Speaking of Urban Legends.....

(The only thing wrong with it is that they didn't charge two-fifty for the cookie recipe.)

The KKK is endorsed by Procter and Gamble, which also supports the satanists, and who sold Mrs. Field's cookie recipe to Neiman Marcus for $2,000 after the kiddie tatoos laced with LSD that were supposed to be used for satanic ritual abuse at that day care center in Beaufort were mistakenly eaten by the choking Doberman that was bitten by the snake that came out of the fur coat that was worn by the escaped homicidal maniac whose hook prosthesis was found hanging from the door of the car of the teenagers who high-tailed it out of a lovers' lane when they heard that he had escaped and then they went to the pot party where they were making out on the waterbed until it burst and washed them out into the street while the kids who were supposed to be babysitting got high on marijuana and were so stoned they accidentally put the baby in the oven instead of the turkey that makes you sleepy because it contains tryptophan but the microwave was ruined by the exploding poodle that the girl with the beehive hairdo that turned out to contain roaches who had gotten an automatic "A" at college because her roommate had committed suicide had put in to dry after it had gotten wet chasing the vanishing hitchhiker who had tried to warn the girl that her insides were cooked because she had stayed too long under the sun lamp at the local tanning salon while her dad poured a load of concrete into a new convertible parked outside of the house because he thought it belonged to a guy who was having sex with his wife but was really a prize he had won in a contest at that radio station that played rock records that contained hidden commands and subliminal messages planted by the Jews, international bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati, the New World Order, multinational corporations, Jerry Falwell, the Christian Coalition, Planned Parenthood, and the spooks at Hanger 18 of Area 51 in Dreamland who performed the autopsies on the aliens who crashed at Roswell, New Mexico while on a mission to abduct people and conduct weird sexual and reproductive experiments on them because they knew we use only 10% of our brains and that engineers had "proven" that bumblebees can't fly and that sugar wakes you up even if you're a CIA agent who has recovered memories about conspiring with organized crime and anti-Castro extremists to kill JFK with a magic bullet, and then killed dozens of other people whose odds of all dying within the period in which they did are infintesimal even if you don't count their near-death experiences in which they were sitting on Black Aggie's lap on Hallowe'en and started experiencing severe pain in the chest that started to radiate out into their arm and up into the jaw so they knew they were having a heart attack and the nearest hospital was 25 miles away and they only had about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness and the only way to survive was to cough deeply in order to squeeze the heart to keep the blood circulating but an angel guided them to the light before they were called back because it wasn't time for them to die like Mikey from the Life cereal commercials did after eating Pop Rocks(R) candy when his friend Alice Cooper who was Eddie Haskell on Leave it to Beaver woke up after a one-night stand in a hotel only to find that the girl he was with was gone and had written "Welcome to the world of AIDS" in lipstick on the bathroom mirror which terrified him because he knew that it is just as easy to get AIDS from heterosexual intercourse as it is from homosexual sodomy with an IV drug user because when the US government created AIDS to commit genocide against blacks who aren't adversely affected by the minimum wage with the aid of Korean grocers who don't give anything back to the community they knew that Anne Klein had said on the Donahue show that she didn't want blacks buying her clothes because when the poison they put in that fried chicken at Church's so The Rich could keep the poor down because they can't be rich if nobody is poor there would be a massive coverup like the Philadelphia Experiment or the carburetor that can allow a car to get 100 mpg in perpetual motion just like Nikola Tesla had done a hundred years ago using the same principal that Uri Geller uses to bend spoons and psychic friends use to give you valuable insights that improve your life for amusement purposes only while smoking a cigarette that has no more been proven to give you cancer than evolution has been proven to occur because it's only a theory and there are no transitional fossils and it violates the second law of thermodynamics unlike creation science which is not religious and fear of irradiated food which is rational because we know it's bad just like the assault weapons that are more dangerous than other semi-automatic weapons because they look scary and ugly and they're OK to ban because the Second Amendment wasn't meant to preserve the rights of individuals against the state like the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights but instead is the only amendment designed to protect the state against individuals because if there is no effective way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals the next best thing is to keep them out of the hands of law- abiding citizens and make sure only the state has them because countries where the state doesn't permit its citizens to own guns are never oppressive even though they keep flying their planes over the Antarctic and making the penguins tip over and the government doesn't become arrogant and intractable and corrupt because the government can improve our lives by suspending the laws of supply and demand to make prices fair and deciding how many people of each race and sex should be in colleges and jobs which is good because when control of everyday life is centralized in the state the people who get to make the decisions are never capricious or high-handed or make decisions favoring their friends and family and people who pay them money because if only we can get the right people into positions of control it will be safe to let them run things because smart people can figure out how to allocate resources and what fair prices are for goods and services and labor and who should be allowed to do what much more efficiently and constructively than just letting millions of people make their own decisions about what they should eat or drink or smoke or for whom they should work for under what conditions for how much money on what schedule based on their own perceptions concerns and plans in accordance with their best interests.

But I digress...


The Roar Of The Greasepaint; The Smell Of The Crowd

Few things in life have given me the kind of rush that comes from stepping out onto a stage in front of a live audience. My earliest acting gig was in kindergarten, when I was Joseph in the Christmas play. (Yeah, you trying playing second fiddle to a plastic baby doll!) After that, I didn't do anything until high school. I did a minor part in an absolutely atrocious piece of dreck called "Heavy, Heavy, Hangs Over Thy Head". I still don't know how or why I did it, as it was just another of those anti-war, anti-nuke, anti-everything-to-the-right-of-FDR leftist rants. Horrible. But, it was experience.

The local Catholic church did their annual "Passion Play" during Easter time and I wound up being a Roman soldier in that. (Portent of things to come? Omen of 28 years in the Air Force?) That was pretty forgettable, too. Mostly because all I did was stand around, holding a spear.

It wasn't until I got to Albuquerque that I did anything at all worthwhile. I was driving home from duty one weekend and heard an announcement on the radio that there was a film company in town, shooting a movie, and they needed extras. Knit long and cut short, I showed up at the time and place specified and, as I was filling out the fact sheet, the casting director came over and told me to bring my fact sheet directly to him when I was finished instead of standing in line. He later told me he had noticed my shiny black (uniform) shoes and decided to cast me as a cop extra. (How come I keep winding up playing authority figures?)

At any rate, the movie (Policewoman Centerfold) was another forgettable piece. The only good things about it were A)I got paid for doing practically nothing; B)they fed us quite well; and C)I got to meet Ed ("Hill Street Blues") Marinaro, a really nice guy.

Sometime after that, the local talent agent -- who had been working with the casting director -- called me. She had kept all the fact sheets from all the people who had worked on the movie and she was looking desperately for people to work on a TV commercial. Dare I say "no"? It was a commercial for a local amusement park, so we got to ride the rides for free all day long while they filmed us (and fed us! actors eat well). There was no "pay", but we each got a couple of free passes to the park (which I promply gave away). I went home thinking "OK, that was weird" and figured that would be the end of it.

A few weeks later, Joy calls me up again. This time, it's a car commercial for a dealership in Indiana(!). Since I had been so accomodating about the amusement park one, she thought she'd throw something nice my way. It was scheduled to take four hours, so no free lunch, but I got a whole days pay out of it. And got to work with a very nice director and crew.

Somewhere around this time, I decided to try my hand at stage work. The first play I remember auditioning for was The Goodbye People by Herb Gardner. This was something I could sink my teeth into. The audition went well; the director was a great guy, and I wound up working with him on another project later. I didn't get the part I wanted, but Tom called me less than a week before opening night to see if I'd be interested in understudying for one of the actors, who was suffering stage fright and didn't know if he could go on (it was his first time on stage). So... I managed to learn not only the lines but the blocking in FOUR DAYS!!! The guy managed to do the part with no problems, so I never even got to go on. (Now, I would have given a guy one shot on stage for doing what I did, but....)

Along the way, I had some horrible experiences auditioning for local plays (stoned directors, etc), but also did some commercial work and wound up working on another movie Animal Behavior with Karen Allen and Armand Assante -- two really professional types. Loved every minute of it. About a year later, I went out to audition for the only male part in a play called "Best Friend" at the now-defunct University of Albuqerque. The director turned out to be the same one who had done "The Goodbye People" years before at Corrales Adobe Theatre. Tom said he had tried to contact me to see if I was interested in the part, but because I had moved a couple of times -- and changed phone numbers -- in the intervening years, he couldn't find me. Oddly enough, I was the only man to show up, so....

The play was a blast. It was more lines than I had ever tried to learn, including a quick back-and-forth of about a page and a half that looked impossible to me. But the blocking was simple (Tom's very much a minimalist), so learning lines was relatively easy. I can't say it went off without a hitch. One evening, Mae Ellen and I were doing a scene where I'm seated at a piano and then get up and go over and sit in a chair near her. As I got up, I realized that we had deleted AN ENTIRE PAGE(!!) of dialog. Panic time! She told me later that she knew something was wrong by the look in my eyes. The page we had forgotten included some background information on my character, but I was able to ad lib the most important stuff and move on. Tom said he never even noticed.

A few years after that, Albuquerque Little Theater decided to do "The Goodbye People", so I went down to audition. When I got there, I found out that the character I wanted to do and had previously understudied for (Michael) had been kinda sorta pre-cast. (I always hate it when directors do that, especially if they don't mention it in the casting call.) Anyway, the assistant said Jeff wanted all the younger men to read for Eddie, which I really didn't want to do. But, I said I do it if he'd let me read Michael too. Deal.

So I read Eddie. Meh.... Read Michael, too, and did rather well (or at least, I thought so). And left. No call-back. No problem; life's like that. That was on a Saturday. Friday, I go over to Joy's house to drop off a new picture and updated resume. And who's sitting in her living room? Jeff! OK, I'm thinking to myself "This is odd..." So, the three of us get to shooting the breeze and I wind up doing a ten-minute floor show right there in her living room. I can't even remember what sparked it. All I can remember is that the three of us were laughing ourselves silly. Anyway, I go home and think nothing of it.

Next morning, the phone rings.

It's Jeff.

He tells me he had gotten a completely different impression of me at Joy's than he had the previous Saturday. Says he still hasn't cast the part of Eddie yet and would I be interested in coming over to his office to read for it again? No problem, says I, and head off to his office. We have a really nice read-through with a couple of other people and I go home.

Sunday morning, the phone rings.

It's Jeff

He's decided to cast me as Eddie. Would I be available to come down to the theater for a read-through that evening. Wild animals couldn't have kept me away. Needless to say, the six weeks of rehearsals and three weeks of performances were a total blast.

In keeping with tradition, of course, I did get to pull a great prank on the three lead characters on the last night. Near the end of the play, they do a toast with "pineapple juice" (actually lemon Kool-Aid). I bribed one of the techs to help me put a quart(!) of ReaLemon juice in the machine instead of the usual Kool-Aid. Martin chug-a-lugged the entire cup without even noticing anything. Susan just mimed it, so she didn't even taste it. The other guy was thirsty and took a big gulp and said later that his whole head almost puckered. Mwahahaha!

The last play I remember doing was "The Black Phantom". Aside from one really good anecdote, all I'll say about this is that I will NEVER again work for anyone who's directing his own work.

But we did have fun. The play centers around two families: one old money, the other new money. The son (me) of the new money family wants to marry the daughter of the old money family and move into a house that's said to be haunted by the title Black Phantom. At one point, I get frisked by a cop, who "finds" a pair of black gloves tucked in my belt in the back. The girlfriend's mother then says "There... you see? Everyone knows the Phantom always wears black gloves!" One evening, during rehearsal -- in what I can only describe as The Best Freudian Slip Ever, Pat says "There... you see? Everyone knows the Phantom always wears black panties!" When we finally managed to stop laughing, we finished up. But after that, I could never look at Pat when she said that line, or we'd both crack up.

On the last night -- again, in keeping with tradition -- I pulled a good one. When Pete searched me, he found more than just the gloves. Sandwiched in between was a pair of black panties. We both almost lost it. Pat couldn't see what was going on (Pete was in her line of sight), but she knew something was up. Afterwards, we told her. She loved it.

Unfortunately, I haven't done any theater since. But I'm seriously thinking about getting involved here in Chattanooga.