Letter From Milo: Night Work

July 17th, 2017

I wasn’t always a famous, wealthy and beloved figure in the blogging world.

I know it’s hard to believe, but before I was overwhelmed by fame, fortune and the paparazzi, I was just a regular guy. By regular guy I mean I was an average Joe, shuffling along in obscurity, content to make a living, raise a family, get drunk once in a while and get laid on occasion.

Then, the feces got into the central air. Like regular guys everywhere I got hit hard by the Great George Bush Economic Meltdown. The small business I had owned and mismanaged for many years, the Dumbass Advertising Corporation, Ltd, LLC & Sons, nearly went under. The cash stopped coming in. The lovely Mrs. Milo had to shoulder the main burden of keeping us afloat. I had to do something, anything, to crank up the cash flow.

So, I got a night job.

It wasn’t a great job. I had never done anything like it before. I won’t even mention what it was except to say it wasn’t anything I’d care to post on my resume.

The best thing about it was the hours, six hours a night, four days a week. It allowed me to keep my normal activities going during the day and it provided much needed cash. It was what I needed at the time.

The business wasn’t exactly a fly-by-night enterprise, but it was real close. The workforce was a mixed bag of characters. There were middle managers who had been downsized, college kids working their way through school, retirees who couldn’t make it on their pensions, whores who were too old to make a decent living, a number of young men with crude jailhouse tattoos, musicians who had wasted their youths trying to get record deals, a few people who were obviously junkies, and of course, an aging, burned out advertising man.

It seemed that anyone who wanted that job could have it. The only requirements were the ability to read and write and minimal computer skills. None of the employees stayed long. Turnover was ferocious. After a month there were only two of us left out of a group of 12 that started with me.

The other guy was a man named Teddy, who, as a young man, had made a living as a bank robber in Mississippi.

Of course, he didn’t blurt out this information at our first meeting. We had to become friends first. And that wasn’t easy. I wasn’t looking for friends and I doubt if Teddy was, either. All we were looking for was a paycheck, preferably one that didn’t bounce.

But as new faces kept showing up week after week, and the people we knew drifted away, Teddy and I began spending more time with each other. We’d eat lunch and take smoke breaks together, and after work we’d walk to the El train together. Teddy generally carried a half pint in his jacket and had a drink or two on the walk to the train. He was a gentleman and always offered me a drink. And I always accepted.

It was while walking to the El one evening that Teddy said, “Man, you don’t know how good it feels to be walking down this street.”

“It’s a beautiful night.”

“It’s more than that, Milo. You see, I spent 22 years in prison, in Mississippi. Got out eight months ago. Just getting on this El train and going anywhere I want is sweet.”

“Damn, man. 22 years?”

“Yeah, robbed four banks. I should have stopped at three.”

When I got home that evening, I opened a bottle of wine, poured a hefty drink and thought about Teddy. I would have thought someone who had served so much prison time would be bitter and angry. But Teddy was just the opposite. He was one of the sweetest natured men I’d ever met, always smiling, always genial. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He even had a playful side, which he allowed me to see.

He had begun greeting me at work by giving me an ugly look and saying, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

And I’d reply by saying, “Spent it, motherfucker.”

Teddy always laughed at my reply and said, “Shit, man, I would have done the same thing.”

One evening as we walked to the El train, I asked Teddy, “It must have been tough being a black man in a Mississippi prison?”

“It wasn’t easy. The funny thing is that my own people made it tough on me. You see, most of the trustees and guards at the prison are black men. But they have to answer to white men. So they can’t look like they’re taking it easier on their own people than on whites. Motherfuckers can make your life miserable, sometimes.”

“How’d you get this job, anyway? The application form asked about felony convictions.”

“”They just asked if you had been convicted of a felony in the last seven years. Shit, man, I been in prison a lot longer than seven years.”

Another time, Teddy said, “Stolen money don’t last long. This short money we making here last longer than bank money. My biggest hit was $30,000 and it was gone in a month. Course I had to split it with a partner. If you a criminal you got a lot of expenses. Plus, you get crazy with the money. When you work for your money, you watch it closer.”

About a month later, Teddy came in late to work, which was unusual. He never missed work and he was always punctual. He was also disheveled and smelled of alcohol, another unusual occurrence. He never drank at work.

“Are you okay, man?” I asked.

“My woman put me out. I had to move all my shit into my brother’s place.”

“Damn, man, that’s rough.”

“Bitch went crazy. Accused me of all kind of shit. I swear, Milo, I ain’t even looked at another woman since I been out of jail.”

About an hour later, Teddy abruptly stood up at his cubicle, raised his face toward the ceiling and hollered something I couldn’t quite make out. Then he rushed toward the exit door.

That was the last time I saw him.

Word on the street was that Teddy had broken parole, either a domestic dispute, something to do with a car or a concealed weapons charge. I was pretty sure he didn’t go back to robbing banks because I didn’t read anything in the papers about any local banks being robbed. He might be in prison in Illinois or maybe they sent him back to Mississippi. Who the hell knows?

One thing I do know is that I miss him. He was good company and always cheered me up when I saw him.

Sometime in my life I’d like to see Teddy again. If I do, I’ll throw my arms around him, give him a big hug and say, “Motherfucker, where’s my money?”

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Letter From Milo: Old Friends

July 10th, 2017

This past Friday morning, I called the Newton County Jail in Kentland, Indiana. When the receptionist answered, I said, “I’m Milo Samardzija, the Society, Lifestyle, and Religion columnist for The Third City blog site in Chicago, Illinois.”

“What can I do for you, sir?”

“Do you have someone named Thomas Esmond in custody?”

“Yes, sir. He has been detained for several months. He’ll be going to trial in a few weeks.”

“What’s the charge?”

“Attempted murder.”

I met Tom Esmond in the late 1970s, in Sterch’s Tavern on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. He was from Houston, Texas and had come to Chicago to try his luck dealing commodities at the Board of Trade.

Tom and I became barroom acquaintances. He liked to drink and smoke weed, and so did I. When Tom got high he liked to play up his Texas accent. My friends and I started calling him “Texas Tom.”

After I had known him for a while, Tom mentioned that he needed a place to stay for a few months. I was living in Wicker Park at the time, sharing a three-bedroom apartment with another guy. We had a spare bedroom, so I told Tom he could move in with us.

When I got to know Tom better, I noticed that he had some odd mannerisms. He was loud, smug and opinionated, and he didn’t understand the concept of personal space. He’d get uncomfortably close when he talked to you. If you stepped back, he’d just step up and close the gap. He also had a variety of facial tics and twitches, which made it disconcerting to carry on a conversation with him. Other than that, he seemed like a regular guy.

A few months later, the future lovely Mrs. Milo and I decided to set up our own household and I moved out of the Wicker Park apartment. But I still kept in touch with Tom, running into him at various North Side watering holes.

My dear friend, Bruce Diksas, also worked at the Board of Trade, and he ran into Tom regularly. Over the years, Bruce kept me updated on Tom’s circumstances.

Tom was doing real well. He bought a seat at the Board. He got married. He had a son. Tom was drinking a lot. He was doing a lot of coke. He was struggling. His wife left him. He lost his seat. He was deeply in debt. He busted out completely. Tom was tending bar in Uptown, in a joint that catered to Somali taxi drivers.

Tom moved back to Houston to live with his mother. Shortly after moving in, Tom pushed his mother down a flight of stairs, injuring her severely. He spent the next few months in a psychiatric hospital. When Tom was released from the psych ward, he moved back to Chicago.

As soon as Tom returned to Chicago, he began stalking his ex-wife, who was living in Kenosha, Wisconsin. While making her life miserable, he got picked up for drunk driving. He made bail, but didn’t show up for trial. He ended up doing four months in the Kenosha jail for stalking, DUI, and jumping bail.

The last time I saw Tom was purely by accident, about three years ago, at the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital. I was shocked at his appearance. His teeth were rotten, his clothes were shabby, and his tics and twitches were worse than I remembered. He looked like a bum. We chatted a while. He told me he was living in an SRO, above a dive bar, in the Grand Avenue and Halstead area. Before I left, he bummed five dollars and a couple of cigarettes from me.

Every once in a while, my friend, Bruce, would say we should go down to that dive bar and see Tom.

“I don’t want to see that crazy fucker.”

“He used to be a friend.”

“Yeah, that was before he lost his damned mind.”

Last week, Bruce was driving by the bar and decided to stop in and see if Tom was there. When Bruce asked about Tom, one of the regulars told him that Tom was in jail in Indiana.

He had allegedly stabbed a kid, an eight-year-old boy.

That evening, when I turned on my computer, there was an e-mail from Bruce, with a link to an Indianapolis newspaper. When I opened the link, I saw a scary-looking mug shot of Tom, and a headline that read, “66-year-old man stabs eight-year-old boy multiple times.”

The kid survived. Rumor has it that he was Tom’s grandson.

Tom’s trial is in a couple of weeks, and the good people of Indiana will pass judgment. I doubt I’ll ever see Tom again.

And that’s just fine with me.

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Letter From Milo: “Can you find something to do for a couple of hours?”

July 3rd, 2017

Every few months I go down to the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital to get my liver checked and try to convince my doctor to prescribe some, ah, more interesting meds. This past Friday, as I was leaving for the hospital, the lovely Mrs. Milo said, “Can you find something to do until about four o’clock this afternoon?”

“Why?”

“I’ve got some gals coming over for a business lunch and it’ll probably run late.”

“How come you don’t you want me around?”

“You can be a distraction sometimes.”

“Well, I wish you had told me about this earlier. I would have made some plans.”

“Honey, it’s only a few hours. I’m sure you’ll find something to occupy your time.”

Friday is generally the best day to visit the V.A. It’s not as crowded and appointments don’t run too far behind schedule. I didn’t have to wait very long to see my primary physician, Dr. Frankie “Disco” Lopez.

“Dude, we’ve got to make it quick,’ Dr. Frankie said, when I walked into his office. “I’ve got a horse running in the fifth race at Arlington and don’t want to miss it. How do you feel?”

“I feel okay, I guess.”

“That’s great. Saves me the trouble of giving you an examination. Anything else?”

“Yeah, I need some new pain meds, preferably some sort of powerful opiate.”

“Are you in pain?”

“No, but every once in a while I get some stiffness in my groin area.”

“Apparently, you don’t need Viagra. I’m going to give you some new pain meds that were recently developed by a Nigerian pharmaceutical company. I should wait for FDA approval before prescribing it, but I’ll make an exception in your case. Take two pills in the morning and you’ll feel better than James Brown all day long.”

“Thanks, Doc, I really appreciate it.”

I had to wait about a half hour for my meds, so I decided to go outside and enjoy a nice refreshing cigarette. While I was having a smoke I thought about what my wife had said earlier. What did she mean when she said I was “a distraction?” Was I a good distraction or a bad distraction? Or did she just use the word “distraction” because she was too kind to use a more fitting description.

I admit I can be a loose cannon at times. I’ll sometimes do things that don’t make sense or say things that I later regret. And I’m pretty sure my behavior is getting worse as I get older. I hate to think that I’ve become an embarrassment, someone too boorish, too rough around the edges, to mingle in polite society.

How long would it be, I wondered, before my wife started chaining me to the radiator.

I still had a few hours to kill after picking up my meds, so I decided to enjoy a few drinks at Swillagain’s Saloon. Although it was early Friday afternoon, the place was already filling up with regulars. It was great to see and have drinks with old friends and acquaintances, people I’ve known for more than 30 years. These people seemed to think highly of me. A couple of them even invited me to smoke a joint with them.

Still, I couldn’t shake the thought that my wife thought so poorly of me that she couldn’t trust me to behave properly around her friends. I decided to express my concerns to my old and very wise friend, Harlan the bartender. He listened carefully as I explained my situation.

When I finished, he asked, “Is your bar tab paid up?”

“Yeah, I settled it last week.”

“Then you’re a fine human being.”

I left Swillagain’s a little after four o’clock. The few hours I had spent sipping cocktails and catching up with old friends had eased my mind. In fact, I felt mighty fine. I realized that I was just being foolish, making a big deal out of nothing. I was not a crude, loutish character, lacking in the social graces. I was, instead, a witty, charming, sensitive, and, if I do say so myself, a very handsome man.

The lovely Mrs. Milo’s business lunch was still in progress when I walked in the door. She and her guests were seated at the dining room table, which was cluttered with laptops and spread sheets. My wife seemed surprised to see me, but quickly recovered.

“This is my, ah, husband, Milo,” she said, introducing me to her guests.

The ladies all smiled prettily, some of them saying it was nice to meet me.

I acknowledged their greetings and said, “So, what are you bitches up to?”

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Letter From Milo: A Delicate Matter

June 26th, 2017

Being the Lifestyle, Society and Religion columnist for The Third City has taken a terrible toll on me over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all the perks of being a famous and wealthy blogger, especially the money and the chicks, but the challenge of coming up with a brilliant and insightful blog post every Monday is simply wearing me out, mentally and physically.

Due to legal constraints, which I can’t discuss at this time, and which prohibit me from writing more than one blog per week, it’s a real struggle for me to decide what to write about. There is so much going on in the world that it’s difficult to zero in on just one subject.

For example, this week I could have written about Comrade Trump’s latest fuck-ups, the sleazy health care ploy by the Senate, or the fiduciary problems of the State of Illinois. All three of those situations would have benefitted from by my keen observations and thoughtful commentary. But I chose not to write about any of those subjects.

Instead, I decided to write about eating pussy.

To be completely honest, I also have sound financial reasons for writing about this ticklish subject. I recently accepted a handsome commission to write a scholarly paper on the subject from the Triple A College of Human Sexuality & Pet Grooming Academy in Gary, Indiana. When my dear friend at the College, Professor Hunnicut, called to offer me the project, I asked why he needed the scholarly paper.

“I’m going to use it to get some grant money out of those stupid fucking yokels in the Indiana State Senate. Why the fuck should the Kinsey Institute, in that backwater of Bloomington, get all the state’s sex research money.”

“Makes sense to me. How much are you going to pay?

“I’ll give you 50 bucks.”

“I’ll do it for $75.”

“$60.”

“$65.”

“It’s a deal. Just make sure you write it straight. None of that tongue in cheek shit.”

When I took on the project I realized I would have to do a lot of research. The assignment was important to me. I didn’t want to muff it. So, I spent a couple of days doing, ah, my homework. The research process was slow and laborious. Most of the material had to be translated from the original French. The information was elusive and difficult to pin down, sort of like trying to work a fresh oyster out of its shell. I actually got a stiff neck, probably from staring at the computer screen for days at a time. But I finally started making some headway.

When I eventually came up for air and was able to make some sense out of all the material I had gathered, I was amazed at the amount of information that was available on the subject of cunnilingus.

A lot of the information about muff diving is, of course, public knowledge. Most people know why the Mona Lisa has that enigmatic smile, and how Ari Onassis helped Maria Callas hit the high notes. It’s no secret why the immortal Porfirio Rubirosa was able to convince several of the wealthiest women in the world to marry him. The legendary Latin lothario was, according to all reports, a silver-tongued devil.

For me, however, the most fascinating bits of information about the cunnilingual arts concerned the rug munching proclivities of America’s political figures. It goes without saying that Bill Clinton probably ate more chicken than Jim Morrison. Ulysses S. Grant kept a very happy household.

Sadly, Richard Nixon was apparently negligent in his husbandly duties. In every photo of Pat Nixon, she has a strained, pinched look about her that reflects poorly on her husband’s attentiveness to domestic policy.

Teddy Roosevelt was a pussy-eating enthusiast. With his fierce, bristly moustache he gave new meaning to the term “Rough Rider…”

HOLD IT!

I’m Mrs. Milo. I happened to see what Milo was writing and chased him away from the computer with the can of mace I keep handy for occasions like this. This blog piece is so vile that I refuse to even repeat the title of it. I can’t believe he’s become such a despicable old creep. Before the booze and drugs got to him, he was a respectable young man, and fairly good looking. Now all he does is hang around in his ratty old bathrobe, sip from the pints of Old Crow he hides around the house, sneak out to the garage to smoke pot, and work on that stupid blog of his. Swear to God, if I had known he was going to turn out like this I would have put rat poison in his Cheetos a long time ago.

NOTE FROM THE EDITORS:

Let it be known that the editorial staff at The Third City does not endorse, condone, sanction or approve of the subject matter in Mr. Samardzija’s most recent blog posting. According to our stellar fact-checking department, the practice of which Mr. Samardzija writes is illegal in several states. As a matter of fact, the Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are preparing a bill to ban the practice in that fine state. Until further notice, Mr. Samardzija will be suspended, at half pay, until our ethics committee convenes to discuss the matter. On the advice of our attorneys we can say no more.

ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE EDITORS:

For the record, not all of us at The Third City agree with the uptight asshole who wrote the first editor’s note.

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Letter From Milo: Ugly Old Men

June 19th, 2017

I woke up with a hangover yesterday morning. It was one of those cruel, oppressive hangovers that linger all day and make you bitterly regret not only your excesses of the past 24 hours, but also just about everything you’ve done for the past 30 years.

As I was wandering around the house that morning, dressed in my ratty bathrobe and slippers, feeling sorry for myself and muttering about the essential unfairness of life, I happened to glance at a mirror and was shocked by what I saw.

I looked like an ugly old man.

My face was puffy, my lids were drooping, and my eyes were still bloodshot. I hadn’t shaved in a week, my hair was standing on end, and my skin was off-color, almost jaundiced.

To be honest, I looked like shit. And I didn’t like it one bit.

Of course, most people look terrible when they wake up. But after cleaning up — showering and attending to toiletry details — they generally look a lot better.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work for me. After showering, shaving, trimming my eyebrows and nose hairs, and tending to the follicular growths sprouting from my ears, I still looked like Shemp Howard after a rough night.

Maybe I was being too hard on myself. Perhaps the hangover was skewing my perceptions. So I decided to get a second opinion. I asked my wife, the lovely Mrs. Milo, “Honey, do I look okay to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’m feeling kind of old and ugly today.”

“Well, you’re not that young anymore.”

“I’m aware of that.”

“And if you quit drinking and smoking so much it might improve your appearance.”

“Anything else?”

“If I think of something I’ll let you know.”

Thankfully, I don’t have to rely on my looks to keep my job as Society, Lifestyle and Religion columnist here at The Third City. Nobody cares what a blogger looks like. It’s like being a radio personality. Appearance is meaningless.

Now that I think about it, except for Ms. No Blaise, who happens to be a fine looking young woman, most of my colleagues at this blog site are mangy looking fuckers.

Benny Jay, for example, is an ugly bastard. He’s got a face that would give Stephen King nightmares.

Jonny Randolph has seen better days. I’d be willing to bet that he hasn’t gotten laid since the mid-1980s. And I doubt things will improve anytime soon.

Rolando is a nasty looking brute. People cross the street to avoid him. The local kids dress up like Rolando on Halloween, just to scare the neighbors.

Jim Siergey is another homely bastard. Years of obsessive cartooning have ruined his looks. He’s come to resemble a cartoon character himself. If he had a handlebar mustache, he’d look exactly like Yosemite Sam.

I suppose I shouldn’t dwell on appearances. What could be more superficial than judging people by the way they look? After all, some of the great people in history were not much to look at.

Abraham Lincoln was homely, to put it kindly. Mother Teresa could have used a touch of lipstick and a little rouge. Winston Churchill resembled a bulldog. Golda Meir probably had a tough time getting a prom date.

That said, I couldn’t shake the thought that I was becoming an unattractive older man. I was walking along Clark Street later that afternoon, depressed by the notion that time was working against me, that I was only going to get older and uglier, when I saw a very attractive young woman walking in my direction. As she passed by she gave me a beautiful smile and said, “Hi.”

I started feeling better right away.

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Letter From Milo: Girls of a Certain Age

June 12th, 2017

I like women my own age. When I lust, I lust for women in their 40s, 50s, and 60’s. I don’t care if their tits sag a bit, or their butts droop, or if they have a few stretch marks brought on by childbirth. I consider those physical attributes to be marks of distinction, evidence of a lifetime’s achievement.

Of course, not all men have the same taste in women that I have. Some guys like younger women. And some, including a couple of people I used to know years ago, like them very, very young.

By very young, I mean there are guys that take pleasure from sexual relations with children, girls barely in their teens and even younger.

One of the people that I knew who enjoyed frolicking with young girls is a guy I’ll call Glen. In most respects Glen was a pillar of the community. At the time I met him, he was a somewhat successful businessman, in his mid-40s, divorced with children, and a member several civic and fraternal organizations. As far as I knew, he was a law-abiding citizen who wouldn’t dream of breaking any United States statutes, especially those that pertain to inappropriate sexual activity with children. After all, he had his reputation to consider.

But once a year, Glen and a couple of his buddies load up on Viagra and go to Thailand for what is known, in certain jaded circles, as the “Bangkok Child Sex Tour.”

Thailand seems to be the most popular destination for child sex tourists, but it’s not the only place that attracts hordes of drooling, Viagra-stoked perverts. Cuba has a thriving child sex trade, as do a few other islands in the Caribbean. And some South American countries, notably Ecuador and Peru, also cater to vacationing pedophiles.

Despite the variety of destinations available to the discerning sex freak, Southeast Asia seems to be the preferred site for this low-life form of tourism. The Philippines, Cambodia, and Indonesia rank just below Thailand in raking in tourist dollars from child exploitation.

The two things that all of these countries have in common are poverty and a high birth rate. The poverty in some of these countries is so extreme that survival is a day-to-day proposition. Every extra child adds an additional burden, a burden that can overwhelm and destroy a nuclear family.

Some parents are forced to sell one or more of their children just so the rest of the children can eat. Pimps and other human traffickers understand the math and the marketplace. Many of the young girls in child bordellos are from the poorest elements of society, their lives sacrificed so that their siblings might have a chance at survival.

All of the countries I’ve mentioned have statutes prohibiting child sexual abuse. But the child sex business brings in billions of dollars a year and that kind of money buys a lot of protection, at both the local and national levels.

Although I’m sure lots of people get prosecuted for child sexual abuse in foreign countries, the only one I’ve heard of is Gary Glitter, a washed up rock star who was convicted in Vietnam of having sexual relations with two young girls, aged 10 and 11. Glitter spent three years in a Vietnamese prison and was thrown out of the country on his release.

Speaking from personal experience with the Vietnamese, I’m surprised Glitter got off so easy.

A while ago I was sitting on a barstool in a local tavern when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Glen, the traveling man, who I hadn’t seen in years.

“Long time no see,” he said. “Mind if I join you?”

I never liked Glen. I always figured him for a worthless prick. But I didn’t want to be rude, so I said, “Suit yourself.”

As soon as Glen sat down he started jabbering. He had always been a gas bag and, unfortunately, his favorite subject is himself. I did my best to tune him out, but he caught my attention when he mentioned that he and his good buddy, Lloyd, were getting ready to leave for their annual Thailand trip.

“I didn’t know you still made that trip.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Bangkok is wilder than ever.”

“I take it you still enjoy the young ladies?”

Glen smiled broadly. “Who doesn’t?”

I suddenly felt uncomfortable. Why was I wasting time with this fool? Just listening to him made me feel soiled and itchy.

I had a vision of Glen walking into a hotel room that had been decorated with teddy bears and SpongeBob SquarePants posters. I saw a young girl in the room, 12-years-old at most, dressed like a tramp and wearing obscene amounts of makeup. She may have been frightened, she may have been drugged, she may have even feared for her life. And she had no choice but to provide sexual services to a strange man from another country who was 40 years her senior. What horrible things, I wondered, could possibly be going through her mind?

The more I dwelt on that ugly scene, the angrier I got. I knew I had to leave before I did something stupid. I stood up abruptly and said, “I’ve got to go.”

Glen said, “What’s your hurry? Have another drink.”

“I can’t. I’ve got things to do.”

“What?”

“I’ll think of something.”

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Letter From Milo: A Soldier’s Comfort

May 29th, 2017

Memorial Day is a wonderful day for politicians. There are graves of fallen American soldiers scattered all over this country and the photo opportunities for Senators, Congressman and Governors are endless. No career political hack can resist the opportunity to wrap himself in the flag and be photographed at a soldier’s grave site on Memorial Day.

For other folks, the best thing about this holiday is that they don’t have to work on Monday. It’s an extra day away from the office or factory, another day free of the indignities that come with working for a living.

Memorial Day has an entirely different meaning for veterans, especially combat veterans. Military personnel who have been awarded the CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge), which is given to soldiers who have personally fought in ground combat operations, often have mixed feelings about a holiday that was created to honor the dead.

Chances are, if a person has a CIB, they’ve seen and done some terrible things. They have spent time in the Inferno. They have experienced true horror. And the absolute worst of those horrors was seeing friends die. The ghosts of Alpha Company still haunt my dreams.

Some combat veterans, including me, are uncomfortable with the overly sentimental veneration of America’s fallen soldiers. It’s too little, too late, and the sentiments are usually off the mark.

It makes me uneasy when I hear politicians exalt dead soldiers, or read editorials comparing them to saints, calling them God’s warriors, elevating them to the status of angels with assault rifles. The image of the American foot soldier as a noble warrior, different than all the cruel, heartless bastards that came before him, is a false one.

The truth is, the American foot soldier is a bad motherfucker, a dangerous, highly-trained, superbly armed, brutal and efficient killing machine.

A lot of the soldiers in my outfit were tough kids, urban and rural poor boys, before they went into the service. A few months in the jungles and paddies made them even tougher. Spending three weeks at a time on Search and Destroy missions, sleeping in muddy foxholes at night, waiting for the next bit of Hell to arrive, and wondering if your next breath will be your last, has a way of bringing out the beast in a man.

After three weeks in the bush we’d be sent to a relatively safe firebase to relax and unwind. Those seven days were spent trying to forget the terrors of the previous three weeks. We drank heavily, smoked copious amounts of weed, and visited the whores who set up storefronts near every American firebase.

The liquor and drugs helped us escape the grim reality of our lives. The intoxicants made it possible, for a short time, to forget some of the things we had seen and done.

The young whores made us feel human again. The act of love, the skin-to-skin contact, the primal connection between a man and woman, helped soften the rough edges of our memories.

True, these were coarse comforts, frowned upon by church, state and the general public, but they were all we had. A few drinks, a little weed, and a piece of ass made an intolerable existence somewhat bearable.

No, we weren’t knights in shining armor. I doubt we would have been welcomed in polite society. We were just common foot soldiers, flawed in so many ways. But we were young and valiant, and did the best we could.

Here are a few lines from a Rudyard Kipling poem called “Tommy,” about British soldiers. I believe it captures the ambivalence that some civilians have for the military, why dead soldiers are honored, and living ones not so much.

“An’ if sometimes our conduck ain’t all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barracks don’t grow into plastic saints,

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute,’

But it’s ‘Savior of our country” when the guns begin to shoot.”

As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of Memorial Day. It brings back too many bitter memories. But I can understand how the holiday can be a comfort to people, especially those that have lost friends and loved ones in wars.

So, go ahead and celebrate Memorial Day any way you like. I’ll honor the occasion properly.

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