Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<





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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?


"50 First Dates"






Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
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or Search by State

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Contact The Media
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Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)

Quasar
Hyperbole
Amenable
Taciturn
Ennui
Prophetic
Tawdry
Hubris
Ethereal
Syzygy
Umbrageous
Twerp
Sluice
Omnipotent
Sanctuary
Malevolent
Maelstrom
Luddite
Subterfuge
Akimbo
Hoosegow
Dodecahedron
Visceral
Soupçon
Truculent
Vitriol
Mercurial
Kerfuffle
Sangfroid




























 







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Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue

Slanglish

It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations


Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"


















 
Mail Trillian here





Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)

CellStories

Alliance for the Great Lakes


Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras


The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.



Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.

Shag

Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto

Jotto




Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.





Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"







Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


< chicago blogs >





Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains





























Life(?) of Trillian
Single/Zero

 
Friday, June 04, 2010  
Okay, so, yeah. Um. Hoooo boy this is awkward. Is it hot in here? Um. Uh. Um.

Okay. We're all friends, right? I mean, this is a judgment-free zone, right? Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh.

Okay.

Deep breath.

Remember how I said I wrote a couple books for the mere reason of seeing if I could do it? Anything beyond the exercise of writing the books was not the point?

No. I don't have a publishing deal, I didn't look for an agent, an editor or anything remotely resembling "doing something" with the books I wrote.

But some of you have suggested that perhaps now, in my time of need and desperation, now, would be the time to "do" something with these words. A few have even suggested that my unemployment is a "gift" from the Universe wrapped in a message to "do something" with all these words in my head.

I've been cajoled and coaxed into an idea. Just for you, or, those of you who are interested, anyway, just for you I am going to start posting one of my less personal works of fiction in serial format, a chapter at a time.

This is one of now three books, fiction, I've written, and the one that I feel more "comfortable" presenting to the world. It's less ambitious and more accessible, intended only to be a bit of fun with a few nods to pop culture/modern life thrown in to keep it from floating away.

I have opened comments on the site and I would really love feedback, positive and negative. I especially enjoy first impressions, so if you read a chapter and feel something and are inspired to say something, please, let me know! I'm doing this to prove once and for all I am not a writer and hopefully you'll have some fun, too. If, if I touch or inspire someone, well, that's a huge positive bonus. If I give someone a laugh or strike a poignant chord of understanding, that would be more payment than I could ever hope to earn as a real writer.

However, and I stress this with a squinty-eyed threatening look of contempt, if any, and I mean even one negative comment is made to or about other readers/commenters, the comment box will disappear.

Be as harsh, snarky, mean, snotty and cynical to me as you want. I'm tough, I can take it, bring it on.

But. Apart from a few h8ers my readers are my friends. They are very, very nice people and I will not tolerate mean, judgmental, immature comments and bickering aimed at them. Period. This is a judgment-free zone. Judge my writing, my story, my characters and me, that's all fine. I welcome it. But other readers are off limits. Think of me as a mama bear and the non-h8er readers as my cubs.

As always, you can email me.  A lot of you keep a low internet profile and I completely respect that. We understand each other that way.

The book is written, but, I'm still not sure about a couple aspects, I have a couple different sub-plots and endings written and I'm not entirely sure which I like best, so as the story unfolds and you leave comments a more clear path for the story may emerge. (that's my lofty goal, anyway). Also, as the story unfolds it will be interesting for me to hear speculation on where it's going. No, I'm not looking for you to edit and spark ideas and do the work for me. One more time with feeling, the book is complete, I just have a few different plotlines in a few chapters, and two entirely different endings already written. I feel like it's a very predictable, formulaic and trite story. Your presumptions and speculation about what's going to happen next will prove that or, possibly, surprise me. It's kind of a social studies project.

Most of all as I post it online and (for those of you willing to go on the ride) I thought this might be a fun process for all of us.

My plan is to post one chapter every 10 days (or so).

Every now and then I might post some back-story - if there's any interest from the gallery - about the characters, the storyline, the car...

And, for the main point of this: You can all, finally, read why I am not a professional writer. 

Okay, without further ado, the first chapter of Just Drive, She Said.

Note: There are some naughty words and sexual situations. Not yet rated but I'm guessing PG-13 or R. Most 10-year-olds have heard and seen worse, but since I typically don't post profanity or sexual details I should warn you that it'll be a little saltier than you might expect from me. 

(Oh, and, yes, yes, those are ads you see on JDSS. I'm trying AdSense to see just how much money you don't generate from it. It's a marketing research project. And hey, yeah, if I can earn more with AdSense than from telemarketing, well, yes, I'll quit telemarketing. And I do kind of love that Stan Ridgway's CD is featured as an Amazon "you might also like."Funny stuff, this keyword marketing.)

Labels:


12:01 PM

Tuesday, June 01, 2010  
Friend's husband: "Who made this potato salad?"

Friend: "Trillian."

Friend's husband: "Wow! It's great! I'm always surprised at what a great cook you are, Trillian."

Friend: "Why?"

Friend's husband: "I dunno. Single career gal in the city...undomesticated stereotype and all that."

Me: "Three martini dinners, take-out and ice cream. Nothing but diet pop and face spritzer in the fridge. Jeans folded and stored in the oven."

Friend's husband: "Bingo."

Friend: "Just because that's how I lived before we got married doesn't mean all single women, especially Trillian, live that way."

Me: "Meh. I kinda live that way. But I can cook on demand. Or not. Sometimes I do it just for fun. Every now and then I pretend I'm married with children and make a meal containing all of the food groups. I feel like I'm a kid playing house."

Friend's husband: "You should tell guys you can cook then invite them over for dinner. You'd have men lined up down the block. Offer a guy a free meal, made in your kitchen and he'll come back for more and eventually he'll just assume you're his girlfriend and then you start threatening to stop cooking and then he'll ask you to marry him."

Me to friend: "Ahhhhh, so that's how you bagged this wild tiger. I always thought you weren't letting me in on some ancient sexual secret even Cosmo won't divulge."

Friend: "Nah, I just fed him."

Friend's husband: "Get Trillian's recipe for this potato salad. Yours has too much onion."

Friend: "Really?"

Me: "That's subjective. But I don't use onions. Try shallots or leeks and a little white wine vinegar."

Friend: "Really? Not red onion or green onion?"

Me: "In a pinch green onion but shallots or leeks."

Friend's husband: "See? You know stuff about food. You should put a notice on Craig's List. 'Men! Dinner's at my place, bring a bottle of wine and lively conversation and I'll make you dinner. No sex, no strings, just food and conversation.'"

Friend: "That's actually not a bad idea. Especially the 'no strings, just food and conversation' part. Men won't think you're trying to ensnare them."

Me: "I'm not trying to ensnare anyone. I'm not dating anymore, remember? And if I don't get a full time job in the next couple of weeks I'm not going to have a home much less a kitchen."

Friend's husband: "You could charge a flat fee, like $15 or $20. Not too much because guys won't pay a lot for dinner."

Me: "So, I'm opening a restaurant? Aren't there zoning and health department issues? Permits and licenses and inspections, that sort of thing?"

Friend's husband: "By the time they catch you you'll be married and not advertising anymore."

Me: "Oh yeah, of course. But once more with feeling, I'm not dating, I don't want to date. I'm out, I'm done, I'm up on the shelf collecting dust."

Friend: "You could trade food for sex, then. No strings attached, just dinner and sex."

Me: "Niiiiiice. There's a great idea."

Friend's husband: "Hey, people exchange food for sex all the time. They call it a dinner date."

Me: "Ah, but enough about your courtship."

Friend's husband: "Seriously Trill, if men knew you can cook they might be more interested in you. See you in a different light. At this point, you know, out of college, into your career, a homeowner, men assume you have brains and independence and all the respect that goes with that is implied, but we don't have a clue if you're domesticatable. We want it all, brains, beauty, wife and mother domestication. There's no way to know that if you don't offer some sample of domestication. Like dinner. Maybe you could do laundry, too. Like while you're eating dinner you could throw in a couple loads of laundry for them. And a comfortable couch to sack out on after dinner. A fancy couch will only impress gay guys. You want a super comfortable broken in nap worthy couch. You have ESPN, right?"

Me: "So basically I should offer maid service and a place to take naps in front of the game to entice a man to date me. This sounds like something from the pre-ERA era. This cannot be good for the advancement of women in the workplace."

Friend's husband: "Uhhh, how many of your female friends are still in the workplace? The whole ERA thing is backfiring on women because you work...until you get pregnant and then suddenly you're all June Cleaver."

Friend: "Hey! I could get a job! I quit on purpose, because of the kids. I'm going to go back to work when the kids' schedules aren't so demanding. I have two degrees and executive experience. I'm just taking a few years off for the kids."

Friend's husband: "When we dated you were into your career, super smart and independent and talked about world affairs and art and music and traveling to interesting places. We got married and had kids and that all changed."

Me: "Yeah, I noticed that, too. Kinda weird. Seems like fraud. Us single women don't get why men put up with that. Seems unfair. Oh crap. I said that out loud. Sorry, Friend."

Friend: "He's the one who didn't want the kids in daycare and we didn't earn enough to pay for a nanny and he didn't like that I was traveling so much for work." 

Great. So I make potato salad to take to a barbecue and it sets off an argument about my friends' workplace viability.

So here's the thing, though. Is the appearance of a lack of domestication part of what turns men off? For all the talk about men being turned on by confident, professional, successful women, is that just a sort of fantasy that lures them in, but day in, day out they want a woman who can cook, is willing to do their laundry and doesn't mind if they sack out on a comfy couch in front of the television?

My friend is right, her husband didn't want their kids in daycare and after the first child was born he didn't like that she had to travel for work. Not because he didn't want to take care of the baby, but because he felt anxious about her traveling on her own. She is an integral part of of the home team and if anything happened to her the baby would be motherless and that upset him. A lot. Maybe he's more old school than some modern guys, but, generally he's pretty cool, even a little metrosexual. He's not some neanderthalic chauvinistic jerk. Put it this way: I respect his opinion. Maybe the Craig's List idea is a bit much, but he might have a point about not showing any overt signs of domestication.

If I still cared I might try luring a man by touting my cooking and cleaning skills and trade in my stylish couch for a big, cushy sucks-you-in-for-a-nap couch. But would I be interested in a man who values me for my ability to cook him a meal, do his laundry and supply him with a comfy place for a nap in front of the television? I think not. And maybe that's why I am, and always will be, a single zero, the Mayor of Singleton.

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12:01 PM

Monday, May 31, 2010  
Another weird thing about being unemployed is that the perspective on holiday weekends, well, holidays in general, is completely different. When you're working a holiday weekend is a day off work that's not a vacation or sick day. It's exciting. I always feel like I'm playing hookie on holiday weekends, like I'm getting away with something. Well, I mean, I felt that way when I had a full time job.

But now, 300 days, yes 300 days into my unemployment the stark trance-like shock has turned to a dull zombie-like malaise. I have more experiences as an unemployedee under my belt, now. I have a different perspective on a lot of things. Most of those perspectives are scary, sad, and woeful. But, there are a few good things, some good insights gained when you're unemployed.

This weekend is a good example.

Memorial Day.

A day off work, the official start of summer.

Road trips. Barbecues. Picnics. Ice cream. Opening of pools and beaches here in the Midwest. Parades. Furniture sales.

And, oh yeah, trips to cemeteries and war memorials. Or at least remembering those who served/serve in the armed services. Yes. That is the point of Memorial Day. Hence the name Memorial Day. The purpose of the day kind of gets clouded and lost in the flurry of the summer kickoff plans. There's usually a 3 minute segment tacked on the end of the local late news featuring a local old vet and/or the family of someone currently serving in the military.

Now that I'm unemployed and holidays aren't just a day off work to cram in a schedule of relaxing/partying/eating/shopping. Because I'm not trying to cram in a week's worth of vacation into one day I'm a lot more conscious (and conscientious) of the holidays. It is more than a day off work to me because I'm not working. I'm forced to focus on the holiday solely for it's intended purpose.


I spent a lot of my childhood in a really, really, really, really, really small town. There's a lot of social/cultural pressure in small towns. You do what you're supposed to do. Because if you don't everyone will notice. You go to work. You go to school. You go to church. You go to scouts. You go to the high school sporting events. You take your cookies to the bake sales and you buy a pie. You donate to the school fundraisers, library fundraisers, community park fundraisers, memorial plaque fundraisers, Elks Club, Moose Lodge, Lions Club, Rotary, Shriners, VFW and 4H (the Masons exist but they're in a whole other league club-wise - they keep a low fundraiser and parade profile - everyone knows, accepts and respects this) You also volunteer and belong to all or at least a few of those fundraisers/clubs.

You just do. Mainly because you truly do care but also because the fear of the unknown is strong in small towns. No one really knows what will happen if you don't participate because no one's dared to opt out. People probably consider it, think about how nice it would be to have some down time, a little free time away from the community. Every now and then a mystery illness or last minute trip comes up and the cookies go unbaked and the meeting goes on without a member.

But. You recover/return for the next fundraiser/meeting.

You participate. You're an active member of the community. Period.

And you go to the parades. Chances are good that you're in the parades.

You just do. You go. You stand and salute or put your hand over your heart when the flag passes by - every time it passes you.

When I was really young there were some old vets who served in WWI living in my town. Yes, one I. On Memorial Day they put on their uniforms and younger WWII and Korea guys from the VFW pushed them in wheel chairs down main street in the parade, always the first ones behind the fire truck. (In my home town the parades are led by a local cop car followed by a fire truck. It was a big stinking deal when we got a third fire truck so that the parade could have two fire trucks, one to signal the start and one to signal the end of the parade and one back at the fire house on active duty in case a fire broke out during the parade. It was also a huge deal that the new fire truck was yellow instead of red and to this day people are split into two groups: Those who are pro-yellow fire truck and those who are anti-yellow fire truck. I told you, it's a really, really, really, really small town.) The VFW always leads the Memorial Day parade. That's a sacred right of the VFW, never questioned, never argued.

When I was a kid, and to this day, I'm confused by the name VFW. Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"But Mum, aren't all wars foreign?"

"Not the Civil War."

"But that was a super long time ago, no one's still alive from that war and even if they were why should they be left out? That's not fair. They were in a war. Just because it wasn't foreign they shouldn't be left out of the club. Shouldn't they just call it VW?"

"Yes, Trillian, it should but it's not. Go get your good shoes, it's almost time to go. We want to get a good spot so we can see your brother."

"But Mum, what about cousin Tim who's in San Diego? He's in the Navy but he's not in a foreign war. Will the VFW let him join?"

"Trillian, Tim probably won't want to join the VFW anyway. Go get your good shoes."

"But what if he does? What if he wants to be in parades and wear his uniform?"

"Trillian, we're all just very grateful Tim isn't in Viet Nam and we hope and pray he stays in San Diego until they release him. And when they do I'm quite certain Tim is not going to want to put on a uniform ever again."

"But why, Mum? Why wouldn't he want to wear his uniform and be in the parade? The VFW guys get to go first behind the fire truck. If I was in a war I'd want to wear my uniform and be first behind the fire truck."

"Good shoes. Now."

Mutter mutter mutter I don't get it mutter mutter foreign war mutter mutter.

I'm still unclear about the VFW. Who is allowed in? Do you have to have touched foreign soil? Is just being on foreign turf enough or do you have to have served in combat on foreign soil?

I have three cousins who were drafted during Viet Nam. Two of them actually showed up and did their time. And as my mother stated, we are exceptionally lucky and grateful they were newly minted college grad geeks majoring in math and science using something called computers. Their active duty was confined to computer rooms. But. They were drafted and served during Viet Nam. They weren't in the military by choice but they did it. They went. They gave up part of their lives for America. Unlike my third cousin, who, without a degree in math or science and a history of "public disturbances," (read: drunk and stoned at concerts; several speeding tickets on his motorcycle; and playing his guitar in the park) had a high likelihood of being sent to Viet Nam. I'm not saying I agree with draft dodging, but in his case...let's just say it's for the greater good that he burned his draft card and hung out with relatives in Canada for a few years. But here's the thing. My cousins who did their military time during Viet Nam but not in Viet Nam...are they lesser veterans because they didn't step foot on foreign soil? Lesser veterans because they didn't see combat?

Turns out my mother was right, neither one of them cares about the VFW. They both left the second the US government released them of their draft duties and immediately resumed their regularly scheduled lives in the geek world. The thought of either of them donning their uniforms and marching in a parade (behind the VFW banner or not) is comedic. But still, what if they did care? Serving in the military was not on their life agenda but they were drafted the second they graduated college and they went. They did it. They served. During Viet Nam. Doesn't that count for something?

Let's forget Viet Nam for a minute (oh, would that we could, would that we could). Like my cousins during Viet Nam, my dad got nabbed at the start of Korea. He had a draft card for WWII, but came of age at the tail end and somehow managed to escape WWII. But he wasn't so lucky with Korea. Straight out of college and off to...border patrol. In Alaska. Okay. Thankfully he didn't have to go to Korea. Again: Gratitude to the Universe for that. But. He served, willingly, but not voluntarily, during the Korean conflict. Was he less of a soldier because he didn't set foot on foreign turf? Also like my cousins, my dad harbored no desire to put on a uniform again, nor did he want to be part of the VFW. So, no big deal.

But what if he did? What if he wanted to hang out with the other veterans at the local VFW hall? Just because he didn't step foot on foreign soil were his experiences in the military less worthy? Did he have less reason to drink and eat fried fish on Friday nights? He was issued a uniform, a gun, dog tags and the right to die for his country just like the guys who served in foreign countries.

My dad always thought he was sent to Alaska because of his family "history" during WWII. Three of his brothers and his sister's husband all served in WWII.

One of his brothers died. Well. He's listed as "missing" but we're pretty sure he's dead. Some people call deceased submariners "The Eternal Patrol." We just call him dead. Killed in action. Even though he had previous pilot experience he wanted to be in the water. He said he knew how to swim but so far had not learned to fly. He and his brothers had some narrow escapes flying in their plane before the war. My uncles and their friend, my aunt's first husband, had an old plane they fixed up and flew - yes, they were teenagers and in college and they had a plane. (What? That's weird? Their jalopy happened to be an old plane instead of an old car.) One particularly harrowing brush with death in their old plane on a cold Minnesota night convinced my submariner uncle that his odds of survival were better on sea than in the air. In a mean, ironic joke from the Universe that decision cost him his life.

My dad's other two brothers and my aunt's first husband took their chances in the air and were pilots during WWII. They all felt they had more control of their destiny while in the cockpit of a plane. They knew how to fly. They knew how to fix old broken down planes with tin cans, paper clips and tape. They were all relatively recent Norwegian immigrants and were fighting not just for the US but for Norway and their friends and relatives at risk in Norway. My oldest uncle, who was a teenager when they immigrated from Norway, spoke fluent Norwegian and German and knew the Northern European terrain. If you're sending an airstrikeforce into Germany he's the guy you want behind the throttle.

He and my aunt's first husband were shot down over Germany.

My uncle survived the crash and not only escaped POW imprisonment, but also led a group of POWs to safety, went home for a quick visit, sired one of my cousins and was back in the air two months later. (I know, it's like a movie. Robopilot.)

My aunt's first husband was not as lucky. My eldest cousin never knew her dad. It's doubtful her dad even knew he fathered a child. My aunt sent him a letter with the news but it's unlikely he received it before he was shot down.

My other uncle flew several missions and somehow escaped enemy fire on every mission. Which is weird because he flew straight into some of the most notorious battles at the most violent height of the war. Weirdness aside, it's good that he returned unscathed every time. Because unlike his older brother, his foreign language skills were rusty and his leadership skills were not exactly sharp. He brought a lot to the military table - daring, cunning and wit, mainly - but he's not the guy you'd want in charge of an enemy air strike. Organizing the poker game, taking the plane out for a booze run, yes, he's the guy you want in charge. And where angels fear to tread my uncle rushed in, the word "antic" is often used in sentences about that uncle. He's the Dean Martin of our family - I am unable to conjure an image of him without him holding a cocktail, cigarette and telling a really funny story. But funny as Hogan's Heroes is, my uncle's humor would most likely not have been appreciated by enemy captors or allied prisoners. If the enemy captors didn't kill him, his co-prisoners would have. And, he later fathered seven children, my cousins, most of whom I really like and all of whom who are making great and glorious impacts on the world.

Which makes me wonder and contemplate who my submariner uncle might have fathered. Apart from me, my dad and his brothers and sister are responsible for parenting some very successful, interesting and vital members of society. People who are truly changing the world for the better. (I'm the loser of my generation of the family tree, the cousin talked about in whisper. Excuses used to be made because I'm the youngest, the baby, but now that I've been unemployed for 300 days and about to be homeless, my position as family loser is secure.)

It's not that I don't think about my dad's and uncles' armed service. I do. And I am proud of them. I don't think any of them really wanted to be in a war, but, they did what they were asked/told to do. But I am not proud that my cousin's dad and submariner uncle died. It's sad. It's unfair. It's a loss of life for the sake of war. My pacifistic nature can't reconcile the justification of sacrificing a few lives for the greater good. And yes, sure, they knew the risks. My uncle volunteered for submarine duty. I am proud of anyone who does that. (Seriously, have you ever been on a submarine? It's nothing like in the movies.) And I am proud of their service and dedication to their country, particularly since they were all very recent immigrants, all born far, far away from American soil. In my eldest two uncles' case it was, "Hello! Welcome to America! Now go to school, eat healthy, get medical care and in a few years we'll give you a call to go into battle for us." I am not bashing them or their service. I am proud of them for that. But my cousin never knew her dad and has a lot of seriously painful issues because of that. And my submariner uncle never had a chance to really live his life. He was plucked into service at age 19 and dead at age 21. Now that my dad's dead there's no one left who remembers him except my eldest uncles' wife, who knew him only briefly while she dated my uncle before the war.

I think about how different and sad it would be if my other uncles had died. For a lot of obvious reasons it would be awful. But, impacting the here and now, ten children would not have been born. Ten people who've done and are doing really impressive things with their lives. I cannot imagine any of my cousins not existing. And the world would be worse without them. Teachers, scientists, engineers, doctors, volunteers, musicians, poets...the amount of things they do and the lives they touch, and help, is staggering. And for that matter, my brother and sister, too, have made positive dents in society.

But there's a gaping hole and big question mark over my submariner uncle. Maybe his kids would have been, like me, losers, embarrassments on the family tree. But, then, is that so awful? I wouldn't be alone in the shame I bring to the family.

After my last uncle died several years ago my dad was left to carry on the Memorial Day tribute and reflection on his own. When my uncles were all alive every family gathering included a toast and many stories about my submariner uncle. Death didn't make him a less vital part of our family. They talked about him was like he was still alive, that he just couldn't attend this particular family gathering. So much so that I didn't grasp that he was dead until I was about 6 years old. We went to Minnesota for a Memorial Day dedication of a submariner plaque. My dad and his brothers and sister were there to represent their brother. There was a gun salute, a flowery wreath, flags and a plaque on a rock in the cemetery by the lake.

After the ceremony we walked through the cemetery. My mother pointed out the graves marked with a flag and/or military insignia to me. Which set off my aunt's rant about "burying" my submariner uncle. She wanted to "bury" him in the cemetery. My uncles thought that was wrong and inappropriate because they had nothing to bury. And more to the point, they didn't want to waste a perfectly good cemetery plot for a body that isn't there. This is all a ridiculous argument anyway since my dad's family are all cremated. If my aunt had her way my submariner uncle, who's body is buried at sea, would be the only one with a full grave in a cemetery. This bit of irony of course did not escape my Dean Martin-esque uncle who never failed to point out the absurdity of my aunt's desire to "bury" my uncle. It caused more than its share of arguments and drunken jokes at my aunt's and dead uncle's expense.

That's when I started to understand that my uncle was, in fact, dead. Up to that point I just thought he couldn't make it to our family gatherings. I thought he lived somewhere far away under the sea and that maybe there were other cousins, cousins more my age and more like me, that I'd yet to meet.

At that age learning of my uncle's death was disappointing on a personal level. I desperately wanted cousins closer to my age to play with at family gatherings. I desperately wanted to have "a group." We always split into three groups: The adults and two groups of cousins - the older cousins and the younger cousins. I was too young even be part of the younger cousins. One of them, the one closest in age to me, three years older, was always nice to me, but she later confessed she was really glad when I was born because it meant she was no longer the baby. My birth gave her cred. This mysterious missing uncle gave me hope for kids and a group to which I could belong. Those hopes were dashed on that Memorial Day visit and plaque dedication.

Further complicating the whole thing was the term "vet." My dad, his brothers, my aunt, used the term "vet." Short for veteran. When they talked about each other, if it came up contextually, they'd throw in the aside, "He's a vet, air corp." Or, in my submariner uncle's case, "He's a vet, subs."  Okay. I know I'm not the only kid who got this incredibly confused. I heard the term vet and assumed along with their day jobs my uncles were also veterinarians. Hey. They liked animals. We all always had a lot of pets. They all took in all manner of strays. We're all very respectful to animals. My POW uncle even once helped a bear cub who got tangled up in fishing line and was abandoned. (Robopilot. You want him on your team.) It made sense in my young head, okay? Plus I thought it was really cool that my uncles were all veterinarians.

So in my very little, very confused head I got the idea that my submariner uncle was an underwater veterinarian and that he was working with Jacques Cousteau on some Jules Vernian undersea adventure. The sum total of my underwater war/submarine knowledge was at that time limited to Jacques Cousteau documentaries, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Disney World, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Flipper, and some weird '60s trippy animation I saw via my sister, something about a Yellow Submarine and an Octopus' Garden. (I know they're two different albums but in my head they're together, joined as one hippie '60s undersea acid trip.) Naturally I assumed my uncle was involved with all of that underwater amazement and that was why he couldn't attend family gatherings. I thought that was pretty cool. I drew pictures of strange multicolored undersea creatures and my uncle, in a submarine, floating by waving to them or administering first aid to them and curing their sick tummies. I even told kids at school my uncle worked under water in a submarine.

Again, another crushing blow dealt on the Memorial Day trip to dedicate a plaque to my dead uncle. He was still cool, a submariner to the end, but the possibility of getting to ride in a submarine was eliminated when I realized he was dead. My other uncles took me for rides in their airplanes, which I thoroughly enjoyed and bragged about in the school yard. Up to the dawn of the dead uncle realization I was holding out hope for a ride in a submarine. I imagined us in a really snazzy submarine floating around the seabed looking at octopi and whales and turtles and the Loch Ness monster. (Don't ask.)

When we got in the car to leave the Memorial Day plaque dedication I turned around and looked out the rear window of the car as first the plaque, then the cemetery diminished from view. Tears gushed  down my cheeks. My parents thought I was overwhelmed by the ceremony and gun salute. (I was kind of a sensitive kid.) My mother tried to make me feel better by telling me it's a nice thing, we'd done a good thing, that now no one would forget my uncle. Which made me start out and out bawling. I was utterly confused. Not only was my cool submariner uncle dead, he'd been dead since 1944. 1944 seemed like hundreds of years, it was the Olden Days as far as I was concerned. It was in the time before television. The Dark Ages. (Until I was 7 I honestly thought they were called the dark ages because there was no television.) How could this guy who featured so prominently in family stories and jokes, talked about so regularly, revered for his submarine life aquatic, have been dead for so long?

All my hopes and dreams for one day meeting this cool submariner vet uncle and maybe even cousins were dashed. All those pictures I drew, all that schoolyard bragging, all those undersea adventures I imagined stopped. They ceased to exist because my uncle was dead. And had been dead since before television.

My parents didn't understand. They eventually figured out that I was completely confused about my uncle, that I thought he was still alive. They tried to explain WWII and they tried to help me understand that even though people die we still remember them and talk about them and care about them and love them and that's how our spirit lives on after we're dead. Really heady concepts for a 6-year-old who up to that point was harboring great hopes for a submarine ride with her aquatic veterinarian uncle.

Apart from my Robopilot uncle's wife, my father was the lone living member of that generation of the family. My dad carried out the Memorial Day tributes. Sometimes traveling to Minnesota for Memorial Day, other times marking the memory of his brother and other vets by participating in or watching the local Memorial Day parade. Now that my dad's gone I'm suddenly very aware that if none of us kids, me, my siblings and/or cousins carry on the memorial traditions those guys and their stories will fade. They're our family and it's up to us. Particularly our submariner uncle who died before he had a chance to have children. The only legacy he left was the stories his family told about him. I respect all that he did and all he sacrificed in a very short life.

But. I can't help but think about all the unanswerable what ifs of his life. He was smart, top in his high school class. He could have, no doubt, done a lot with his life. I'm sure he had plans beyond the war. My dad always remembered him as being patient. When his other older siblings teased and ignored him the submariner was patient and kind to him, taught him how to throw a football for maximum velocity and how to solve long division problems. (I could have used patience and help like that when my dad was ready to disown me for my inability to solve math problems.)

Now that my dad's gone I feel obligated to think about him and his siblings and their military service. The thing is, they never really talked about the war. They went, they did it, they were fortunate enough to return home alive, and resumed their lives. None of them joined the VFW even though with the exception of my dad they spent tours of duty on foreign soil. They didn't have military funerals, although they all received a flag and memorial from the military.

Military service was something they did not just because they had to, they wanted to do it. Even my dad, as convoluted as the Korean conflict was/is, even my dad put on the uniform and did what was asked of him, wholeheartedly. Then came home and resumed his life. They weren't ashamed of their service, but they didn't brag about it, either.

Sure, there were stories, sure, I heard about the POW camp escape, saw the medals awarded for heroic deeds and service, but none of them liked the word hero and didn't consider themselves special or better or different and didn't expect privilege or commendation for their service. If you met them, unless you asked them directly, the topic of the war or their service would never come up in conversation. Not because they were shell shocked or ashamed, they just had more interesting, current things to talk about.

So, what's the "right" way to honor guys like that? These aren't the guys who put on the uniform and march with the VFW in the parade, or drink beer at the fish fry talking about the old days in the war. They never dwelt on it. I always got the feeling they looked at their military service like any other chore you don't want to do. You just go ahead and do it, get it done and out of the way so you can move on to doing the things you want to do. I suppose there's some psychology to losing their brother and brother-in-law. "Living life to the fullest" in honor of their dead brother and friend who had their lives taken too soon and all that. I know my dad never took a second of life for granted. I think that was mainly his personality, but I'm sure it had a little bit to do with his brother and brother-in-law's deaths at such young ages.

Further cementing, and further confusing my thoughts on "what to do" for my uncles is the fact that when my cousin refused his draft notice no one, including my parents, were ashamed or angry at him. It was pretty obvious he would be Viet Nam bound and, particularly at that point, no one understood what was going on in Viet Nam and didn't think sending more boys would help anyone. There was no puffery or pontificating or grandstanding from my uncles. No one said anything like, "We served and we were proud to go, it's your turn, you don't ask questions, you serve your country." Everyone pretty much said, "Oh shit. Not Kevin. They'll send him straight over there. He won't last a week. Let's get him to Canada."

Not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from people like the Robopilot, my dad or even my Dean Martin-esque uncle. So much for patriotic duty above all. So much for supporting your government.

And yet, then again, my dad hated what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he and my mother regularly donated goods and helped assemble and send loads of care packages to troops.

What's the right thing to do for veterans like that? These are people worth remembering, but maybe not so much for their military service. Not that that's irrelevant. It's very important. But they didn't measure their lives by it so should we?

My uncles would talk your ears off about their children, their grandchildren, their trip to Bismark, ND in the middle of winter, the new design of an intake manifold or an interesting book they read about Canadian Goose migration or the new starting quarterback on the local football team. They'd ask you about your family, your car, your job and if you took the by-pass or went straight through on your way into town. Military service would not come up in casual conversation.

My dad always said things like, "We served so you wouldn't have to..." or "He died so others could have a chance to live." My dad did make a point to pay tribute to my submariner uncle. Because he was his brother but also because I think my dad felt obligated. My uncle didn't have children to carry on for him. There's no one but his siblings to "do" anything for him. And now that my dad's dead, well, that leaves us kids, the nieces and nephews to "do" something. But what?

The whole point of Memorial Day is not about the parades and the VFW or the wreathes or the plaques or the gun salutes. It's about remembering them. In my submariner uncle's case that's difficult. None of us nieces and nephews were even born when he died. How are we supposed to remember him? Ahhhh yes. All those stories my uncles told about him, stupid stuff they did when they were kids, his good grades and how he was patient and nice to his little brother, my dad. Yes, he died in a submarine while serving in WWII, but there's a lot more to him than that. And yes, my Robopilot uncle's plane was shot down, he survived, was a POW and escaped. But yes, really, there is a lot more to him that that. He saved a bear cub and took flew sick kids to far away hospitals. And yes, my Dean Martin-esque uncle flew an incredible number of missions but there's a lot more to him than that. He was a great dad to seven kids who all turned out hugely successful, he never passed judgment on anyone and could make everyone he met laugh in seconds flat.

Those guys weren't ashamed of their military service but it didn't define them. Their time in the military was important, but it wasn't their penultimate achievement in life.

So what do we, us kids, the next generation, do on Memorial Day to honor our dads and uncles on Memorial Day? All I can come up with is: Remember them. Be grateful for them. Be glad they came home alive and hope we're grabbing as much out of life as our submariner uncle would have if he'd had the chance.

2:18 PM

 
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