Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Friday

Dragging the Dog to the Vet
Just after sunrise on Friday we loaded our asses into Jungle Jim's '78 VW Bus and pointed her North towards Daytona Beach and the local Veteran's Administration. Jim is an old hand up there; he has long been going in for treatment of his body and soul. Me, I usually only see a doctor after a few moments of wild excitement and an ambulance ride.

But recent episodes around the Park and some lack of physical aptitude on my part caused Jim to come around to my trailer recently armed with a six-pack of Bud and god knows what else. He was a point man on a mission: get the Fix-it Man to a place that understands the aging process in guys who have a powerful aversion to admitting weakness and who may have a few tunes playing in their heads that never made it to the Top Forty.

I Am Stubborn
I drank his beer and nodded solemnly in agreement to everything he was saying but I wasn't going. That shortness of breath is just my recent weight gain and the fact that after only fifty miles on my bike I need a recovery day of 48 hours was lack of training. Sitting in my room for hours on end playing computer chess and drinking beer while honing the Ka-Bar to razor sharpness was, was, well; those are my hobbies. No need to get poked, prodded, interrogated and classified by those incompetent hacks at the VA. Who needs 'em.

I Am Crafty
But I agreed to go, then I started figuring out a way to get out of it. I was confident of my ability to dodge the whole thing by going for a predawn bicycle ride and I laid my plans with care. I oiled the chain and topped off the tires. I filled my water bottle and threw a banana and some trail mix into my Goodwill messenger bag. I went to bed feeling a little guilty but proud nonetheless that I was my own man and Independent of the System.

The next morning I quietly opened the trailer door with my Schwinn on my shoulder and gently crept down the stairs.

“You don't plan on riding in the dark without lights, do you?” I didn't drop the bike, but I jumped a little into the air.

“No, man, I was, uh...what are you doing out and about so early?”

“Waiting for you. Go suit up, brother. The first visit is the hard one.”

“Oh, that's right! We're supposed to go to the VA this morning! Damn, I forgot. Let me get changed and I'll be right out.”

Old and Older Discuss Right and Wrong
So as another Memorial Day Weekend began, two old pony-tailed veterans found themselves trundling North in a thirty-four year old hippie van as the morning sun came blasting out of the Atlantic Ocean. The day was clear and made for long rides and sailboats, drinking in the shade, taking the dog for a swim; the day was perfect for everything except a visit to the vet. I mean doctor's office.

“Jim, you realize I wasn't in Vietnam, right? I didn't enlist until the end of the war and I spent the whole time in the Air Force, riding my motorcycle up and down the Pacific Coast smoking pot and chasing girls.”

“Doesn't matter.”

'Yeah, man, but it just doesn't seem fair. You and your buddies in the Marines were over there getting your asses shot off and I was just goofing off Stateside the whole time. And what about all these young guys coming back from the Middle East? They need help worse than I do.”

“No they don't.”


“If you were still knocking back the bucks and had medical insurance, would you have gone to the Doctor by now?”

'Well, hell yeah.”

“OK. So you know that you need to see a Doctor. When you gave Sam those four years of your life when you were just a kid, you made a deal and he made a deal and now here you are years later at a time when a guy needs a little help. You held up your end of the deal, you kept your promise and now it's time for Sam to keep his.”

I Am A Veteran
The sun was up now and I was looking out the window of the bus. I had my face turned full right, I was Right Face and I was watching the sun and it would be a couple more seconds before I could turn my face back into the van. Familiar scenery was flashing by but I was not seeing it; I was seeing a time long ago and remembering how it felt to be eighteen and me and a couple buddies were picking up our greens from the base tailor. We had them tailored to fit a little better and look a little sharper and we polished our boots while we sat around doing nothing. You do that a lot in the military. But you never know. We were proud to be a part of something, right or wrong, and while this time it wasn't our turn to bleed or die or kill and suffer we had the strength and pride in our hearts to know that called upon, we would go. Willingly and with sharp uniforms and polished boots and nervous smiles, ready to do whatever it took for Our Service, Our Country, and Each Other. Most of all for each other.

“Thanks, Jim. Really. The bus is running sweet.”

“Yeah, brother, I adjusted the valves a couple days ago. And you're welcome.”

For an excellent short piece by my friend Jim: Deep Hunting

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Old Soldier's Home


  1. TJ, Thank you for your service. What Jim said was right, you agreed to give up 4 years of your life and possibly more, so now its time for Uncle Sam to keep his end of the bargain. Hope the trip didn't turn up any big issues.

    Tell Jim thank you for his service as well.


  2. Thanks, Dan. Hope you and yours are enjoying the Holiday.


  3. tj,
    Good luck brother.Sending good thoughts your way.

    1. Hey Tohner! Thanks for dropping by! I'm fine, just way over-due for a tune-up.

      I follow a lot of Blogs and I noticed this Spring that a lot of us have been mentioning a certain ennui or lack of general joi de vie and I find myself wandering if there isn't a national epidemic of Tired of this Shit.

      I know I am. It seems the economy in this part of Florida is maybe sticking its head out of the ground, but listening to the election year rhetoric and looking at our choices makes me wonder if it is worth a bike trip to the polls. At the start it looked like a no-brainer but now it seems maybe I decided to gird my loins as it were and get one of those super check-ups and whatever else I need to kick 'em in the balls one last time.

      They need it.


  4. Jim sounds like a sage guy, the kind of dude who would ride Italian bikes with names like superleggera. Good to have friends like Jim. Thank you both for your service, Jim is right, Medical care is the least of what Sam owes ya.

    Tailwinds Velo Brotha

    1. Plus he has that full Campy Raleigh.

  5. TJ,
    Thanks for standing up for the US - I appreciate you and all the other brave men and women who put on the uniform.

    You know I enjoy your writing, but this seems like half a story. I don't know what's not said, or if it will be said, but I'm sending extra good karma down your way. Us old VW guys/bicycle nuts gotta stick together.

    Keep strong. Get in a ride if you can.

    Steve Z

    1. Thanks Steve. I don't know either. Rest assured I'll be on here bragging or complaining after the visits. It being the VA, my next appointment isn't until July.

      I'm riding. Not as much, but I'm riding.


  6. Hey TJ...been lurking here for quite some time (this is my first-ever comment tho)'s hoping your visit to the vet went swimmingly.

    I'm a day late (that's my style)...but still wishing a happy Memorial Day to you (and Jim) from another vet (retired Navy).

    I'm hoping Sam remembers his deal w/ the current crop of kids coming back from this latest dust-up...but I'm sure afraid for our future...things are all out of whack and it seems like nobody's driving the bus.

    Anyway, keep the rubber side down and a cool one in your hand my friend.

    1. Hey Matt, thanks for your comments.

      When I was at the VA Friday I didn't see anyone under fifty in the mostly empty halls and waiting rooms. But the parking lot was full so there must have been some action I didn't see.

      I'll have more to say on this later.

      Meanwhile, I just realized you aren't on my Bloglist. I'm fixing that now.

      thanks, buddy tj

    2. OK, "Inane Asylum" is now on the Honor Roll.

  7. TJ,
    I went through some weird thoughts today. I pulled up your blog after being off the grid for a week, vacationing with the family in the Outer Banks of NC. When I saw an update, I was thrilled. When I started to read it, I started to get nervous. Now that I know you're okay, at least until the VA gets ahold of you in July, I'm better. Hope you will be, too! (I also found myself wishing I lived in FL so I could come visit and drag you out for a ride.) Get healthy soon, my 2 wheeled brother.

    Thanks for the post and thanks to you and Jim for your service. You're the best of America!

    Brian in VA

    1. Actually, Brian, you were indirectly involved. I read your original Blog Post from last year and it caused me to re-think my lack of concern about symptoms that would send a sane person straight to the doctor. But it took a hammerhead of equal obstinacy (thanks Jim!) to get me off the stump and into action. Here is the post I refer to:

      So I owe you a big thank you as well, Brian! Thanks, man! tj

  8. Some folks call the Individual Time Trial the Race of Truth. I say Life in general is more the Race of Truth, but some times we don't know we are racing, much less where we are heading and other days the truth part can get a little sideways. I'm hoping that whole truth part moved up front with The Doc so he knows if you just need some oil or if you need your gears adjusted.

    Anyway, I know your Race of Truth is not nearly over. You still have much to write and we still have miles to roll into the wind. Plua, it is not so bad to take a ride in an old VW once and a while.

    Keep em' spinning. Yer Pal

    1. The ride in the hippie bus was a major persuader. Jim and I went to a car show last year and were looking for a parking place when they opened up the barricades and flagged us in, handed us a card with a number on it and pointed us to a display spot. Magic bus.

      Thanks, buddy. I didn't mean for this post to be an enigmatic "what's wrong with TJ" thing. I've just been feeling like the Energizer Bunny with his batteries in backwards and Jungle Jim knew what to do about it. So we did it.

      yr bddy, tj

  9. Good Karma riding in that bus TJ.

    Joining others in saying thanks to you and Jim for your service.

    I have a buddy who drives an old Porsche 356 that he inherited from his Dad. Same thing happened to him at a car show. Waved him in. Told me it saved him a bunch. No parking lot fee, no entry fee and a free lunch as a show entry.

  10. Jungle Jim has a magical knack for such a thing. Thanks for the thanks.