A sort of life

The now-distant conflict

RICHMOND, Va. — My hair is matted grease. It lies atop my head in the shape of my fitted baseball cap. I smoke a pack a day. My diet is pizza. The highlight of my day? Family Guy reruns. What the fuck am I doing? When does the mercy rule kick in?

Queue Edna St. Vincent Millay: “It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another; it is one damn thing over and over.”

I have a cat running around the place like a misbehaving toddler. One moment ripping into the corner of the mattress. The next making mimic calls to pidgins from my library window. He’s back and forth. He’s mounting the headboard. He’s mounting the refrigerator. The pitter-patter from his padded feet disturbs me in concert with the acid from last night’s pepperoni. He flushes the toilet. He’s back at the window. The toilet. The window.

I’m a dog person.

I feel guilty when I lock him in his crate. This guilt is why he’s not on the street. Yet. That, and he’s my only friend.

Renée Montagne eased me into the day. She’s a welcome morning voice. Her and Inskeep. And so I woke to Renée as a buffer between reality and Bush campaigning in Bucharest: (paraphrased) we need more troops […] fight them over there […] so we don’t fight them over here. Yawn. We’ve heard it all before haven’t we, boys and girls. I pushed snooze.

Which got me thinking about boys and girls. Renée’s a nice name. Maybe I’d call my kid Renée. Run it together: Renée De Soto. Doesn’t really work, does it? Maybe she’ll take my wife’s name. Maybe that’s better. What is my wife’s name? Oh, I don’t have one of those. It’s a premature thought, like a lot of the thoughts I’ve been having recently. Snooze was pushed again.

I lived in Bucharest. It’s hard to believe that those were simpler times. People in bread lines, and they were simpler times. Simple for me. I often go back to that place in my head. Communist block. Black and white. We were good guys and I was on the right team. Watching Star Wars in the consulate basement with pizza grease on my cheeks. I didn’t know better. I was in that protected place, fat and happy, trading Mark Rypien and Earnest Byner Pro Set cards between friends. I had little awareness of the real place outside that compound.

I grew up, of course, and the details filled in. Talk about guilt. Does Bush know about the bread lines? Does he know what it took for the Romanians to get to a place where they could join NATO? To get to a place where they could send troops to Afghanistan?

I remember standing on a Boston Whaler grounded in the Danube’s shallow waters, my country’s gift to Bucharest to help stop the smuggling to Yugoslavia. A preemptive step in what would become NATO’s action in Belgrade six years later. I had no concept of where I was or what I was doing there. There we were, my family stranded on a boat that would be later used in an effort to stop munitions from making it to Bosnia. There was no connection in my mind between this work and what later happened in Srebrenica. I had no idea.

I lived in the world. I’ve been there. But it wasn’t until I left that lifestyle that I really began thinking about where I was and why I was there. I played no part in the Yugoslav sanctions, or OSCE election monitoring or its work against people smuggling, or early expansion of NATO, or the rebuilding of Eastern Europe post Cold War. That was my father’s effort. That’s why I was there. My father was there.

And that makes me think all the more about where I am now. What I’m doing. My value to mankind. My father wont be remembered individually for the work he did when I was little. He was a proverbial cog in a great machine. That machine has slowed down and lost its way, but it still exists. I, on the other hand, am a cog, a part of a much greater machine. Not greater better. But greater larger. And my work for that machine is much less valuable. Much less so.

I feel lost. Ambition drained. I’ve lost my way and I don’t know how to get it back. I yearn for simple times, when things were black and white. When in the world of bread lines. Things remained black and white.

“The now-distant conflict” is from Volume One: Frank’s Wild Years (1983–2009). Written between 2003 and 2009, Volume One was this author’s attempt to find meaning from life as a young twenty-something. While this endeavor would ultimately fail, what remains is a comical tale of loneliness and debauchery.

When I let go of what I am I become what I might be

When I let go of what I am I become what I might be

A mess of hand written pages and bulk mail scattered on the floor of the Floyd Avenue apartment in Richmond, Va. on Sept. 22, 2006.

The pitter-patter from his padded feet disturbs me in concert with the acid from last night's pepperoni.