Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Last Night of the Year

The Boy is the only one of us to honor tradition this year. He's off with his pals playing "Dance Dance Revolution" and awaiting midnight as part of a New Year's sleepover.

The Girl is watching ponies with her little budgie under her hair, my Bride is reading the latest installment of the "Gentlemen Bastards" series.

I'm right here.

Tonight is supposed to be the night that we look back over the past year. And make promises for the coming one.

I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore; making pledges on my honor tends to end up with either breaking the pledge or the honor. And I have little enough honor left as it is. So that leaves looking back.

2013 wasn't an awful year for me (other than the slow painful deconstruction of my right hip, which would have happened regardless of what year it was).

I did some good.

Some good parenting, first. The Bride and I topped off our visits with Jean the Kid Counselor with the agreement that I would stop using my Drill Sergeant voice on The Boy. Jean said that although it worked - it stopped the Boy's behaviors that summoned the Drill Sergeant from the black depths of R'yleh - it had built up a pretty massive pile of anger and resentment in the Boy. So I stopped getting angry, at least on the outside where it showed, and since August the Boy has gotten much less angry and rough with his mother.

So, there's that.

The Girl? She's easy; just give her love and she turns to you like a flower seeks the sun. She loves her ponies and her soccer and her little budgie and her parents and her friend Lilah because Lilah likes what the Queen likes and it is important that you like what the Queen likes.

I've done some good marriage, too. My Bride and I have lived and loved in the way that good married couples live and love; sometime we've leaned on each other, sometimes we've pounded on each other, sometimes we've just leaned together against the winds of children and work and worry that never stop blowing.

Sometimes we fought, although usually fairly.

Sometimes were agreed to let each other go to hell each in our own way.

Mojo has done a terrific job working as a reading instructor at the kid's elementary school this year. She's also developed a sudden utter fascination with the news from North Korea (my Bride, the woman hitherto devoid of current events. Huh.)

Her sewing has grown apace. She is more accomplished, wiser, and more graceful than she was a year ago.

I've done some good work, more of the same I've been doing now for...21 years.

Damn, that's a long time.

Looking back I realize that there's a hell of a lot of awful crap littering the Portland area that I'm responsible for; fast food joints, quickie marts, cell towers, subdivisions. Think of any sort of horrible eyesore and I've been responsible for helping it get built.

But I've also worked for some good projects, too. Landslide fixes, road and embankment repairs, bridges...although if I never have to hike in two miles to another wilderness bridge project it'll be too soon.

Good citizen? Well, as always, the world outside my city and state seems to be going do hell in a handbasket, largely because of the toxic combination of a greedy elite that has learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the lessons taught the French aristocracy in 1789 and an intractably moronic Teabagging tribe of adult-sized four-year-olds on the political Right that is completely fooled by the former.

The pair of them are doing their level best to return my country to the Gilded Age, a time that was exceptionally awful for people like me. And for people like the Teabaggers, too, had they the wit to understand anything but their spastic grasp for guns and God. Which they do not, more's the pity.

So what has become a weary sort of year-end political ritual I look backward without fondness and ahead without hope. The chances for a renewed social contract that will benefit I and mine in any sort of reasonable way seem dimmer and dimmer. I do not look for a new New Deal in my lifetime.

As always, I stop at year's end to wonder what my purpose here at this blog is.

I can read the numbers, and the average supermarket flier probably gets a wider readership. I cannot pretend that I am doing any political good here, or any social good. It does seem that my essays on military history draw readers, but my own interests there are growing slender.

For those who take interest in this sort of thing, I have roughly eleven more "Battles" posts over the next two years.

Nothing at all for January and February. Glorieta Pass in March, nothing in April, two posts - the 1453 Fall of Constantinople and Crete 1941 - in May. Two more for June: Chalons in 451 and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After that Bosworth Field in August along with a sort of extended rumination on the Stalingrad campaign. Marathon in September, The 1813 Battle of the Thames in October, and the Battle of Baquoba in November.

That's it.

Much of what I write here I write to amuse or entertain myself. But I could do that on a sheet of foolscap that I would put into a box, so clearly I must want someone else to read what I write. And though I am foolishly fond of some of what I write I won't pretend that I am better at it than many other writers out there in the Aether.

This past year I've found some of those writers to enjoy and refreshed my delight in some familiar companions.

Lisa Jakub is doing a fine job over at her joint; she's simple and fresh and intelligent, a good woman learning the strength and depth of her own goodness and finding her voice as a writer.

And Paul Bibeau is always reliably wonderful; acerbic as a splash of lemon in the eye, unsparing of fools and with a gift for the fine language that I wish I could summon as deftly as he can. An unfailing dispenser of delights.

And so to the end; I have no more tonight.

I wish I had something of exceptional matter, some crafty comment about the passing of the old year to end this post with.

I don't; my own life had no great joys or sorrows, no subject of great weight for me to jot down here. I and mine passed through the year with the small passing days, the pattering succession that marked our way from darkness to darkness, us holding up our lights as best we could.

But perhaps the simple steady passing of the days and the year is matter enough.

We choose this night to mark a boundary between the years, making the sunset one and the sunrise another.

But at the same time we know that tonight is not really different from every other night, that it is just one more pass in the the endless passing of the terminator, that boundary between day and night, that every night of every year passes over us as we move with the turning earth and wakes us with the light of a new day.

And a New Year.


Don Francisco said...

Happy new year chief. If the selection of battles you want to write about are dwindling, maybe try something different? A battle a month has advantage in that it is always dramatic and time limited, meaning you can put a post together covering the main (or most interesting) points. One each month keeps it fresh as you have to jump time periods - far more interesting than a series of posts on battles in one campaign.

The disadvantage is those months without any interesting battles of note, and that's before you consider there may a an upper limit to battles you want to write about. No point in a hobby that becomes a chore.

Where are your interests at the moment if not military history?

FDChief said...

Soccer, as always, but given the viewing stats my soccer posts are about as popular as a Palestinian marching band at a B'nai B'rith convention.

Politics is always a perennial but I'm frankly getting tired of shouting over the ocean; so many others do a better job with a wider reach.

I still enjoy telling tales from my Army, the Army of the Eighties.

Then there's always the one-offs and oddities; those, like the poor, will always be with us.

One thought I had was that I might actually go further with telling stories, from recounting past events to writing genuine fiction. I'll have to sleep on that a bit. I couldn't stray much from what I know, but short stories set in places I knew or know, about people I met or meet there...that's been on my mind for a while.

Regardless, hopefully you and yours are enjoying a peaceful and happy New Year's Day and anticipating a pleasant year to come...

Anonymous said...

So you might write fiction...military? I predict this century's new George MacDonald Frasier. Really.
But if I show up as a bosomy menopausal wench with a weakness for NCOs, you had better be using a pen name.
(May I suggest a combination of roller derby and porn star? Dick Smasher ? Then t could be feminist)

Ael said...

Chief, what I would like to read is more of your day job "muddy boot" tales. I really enjoy reading about how people built homes and businesses in the past and how well they last over the years. I also like reading about people building new homes and businesses and their plans for the future. There are good and interesting stories staring us in the face, but we simply don't notice.

And, if you can toss a couple of "hard lessons learned" and a "there but for the grace of god" into the mix, so much the better.

Don Francisco said...

Sounds like you still have a lot of irons in the fire. Your army tales are cracking, keep them coming. I don't mind the politics ones but don't feel like commenting on the increasingly uncaring ruling classes. Nobody and nothing is able to stop them, all the more depressing. I enjoy your family posts having one myself, albeit mine is a bit younger.

Football is passion, write those for yourself. I bypass them as I've fallen out of love with the game of late, a combination of being Scottish (all downhill since mid 90's) & living in England with the money drenched Premier League, MTV cribs for those who like sports. I make exceptions for World & European cup though, the rich haven't worked how to hijack those yet.

Telling stories could be a good way to talk about the past. A podcast I recently listened to posed the question - If you could time travel back to past to live for a year, would you? It then used this as the jumping off point to describe how different the past was, how you would survive.

Keep it up chief!

Podunk Paul said...

Y’know, Chief, you could write about indecisive battles, like some of the stuff that went on during the Italian colonial campaigns or the contributions WW2 Russian partisans made. And ole T.E. Lawrence – was he a charlatan? – and what exactly did De Gaulle army reforms amount to? Meanwhile, it sounds as if you had a pretty good year, considering the political climate. Here things have not been so bad either. My step-daughter will receive her law degree in March. So far her scores have been 10, or perfect in the Mexican grading system. The Secretary of Education sent her a congratulatory email, and she has already arranged an apprenticeship with two practicing abogados.
Happy New Year to you and your family.

FDChief said...

Anon: I live in hope that you are my Bride, since if anyone else can guess my derby/pornstar name so accurately then I am being entirely too indiscreet here.

Ael: I would be happy to provide some Tales from Behind the Drill Rig with the caveat that I do need to keep things confidential enough so as not to embarrass either my firm or its clients, though Heaven knows both have done enough embarrassingly idiotic things. Though I should caution you, too, that getting things built is like making sausage; often you don't want to look too closely at the process. Working in this biz has always made me sympathetic to the nameless contractors that built things like the Colosseum in Rome. Must be some pretty awesome stories there that we'll never know.

DF: I have the same sense about politics and economics you do; that we're utterly screwed, those of us not in the two-yacht-families, and that there's little we can do about that other than hunker down and hope. I think I will write a "the only political/economic post I will write in 2014" some time this month and then let it go.

Paul: that's great to hear! The poor kids coming out as freshly-minted attorneys here in the States are in an awful situation, so your daughter has done a terrific job getting herself situated for the future.

And I like telling family stories, provided there's some bite to them. I can't imagine anything more awful than inflicting nothing more than the usual "my kid burped today, isn't that incredible!" sorts of doting-parent stories on you all...

John Cunningham said...


Happy New Year to you, the wife, son, daughter, and bird.

Reading your post I am reminded of a Joni Mitchell song:

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

May we all, with some measure of grace, this year, go round one more time.

I am one who makes unexpected visits to your blog. I feel given always a gift when landing here, picking and choosing the posts I read, knowing each are well written.

Keep writing. I enjoy your work very much.

Your fellow soldier in the muddy battle to keep civil works stable.


Big Daddy said...

Happy new year and please keep up the army of the 80s stories. You may yet produce a latter day McAuslan in the Rough.
As for politics, we can only hope that the 1% finally grasp the true meaning of "what's good for America is good for General Motors" and realize that they are poisoning the goose that lays their golden eggs.
I can even find something nice to say about the Catholic Church for a change, check out this article about billionaires crying that the Pope is being mean to rich people http://www.politicususa.com/2014/01/01/wealthy-americans-prove-pope-francis-point-threatening-economic-blackmail.html.

PS: we will have chips and beer next time.