Sunday, December 05, 2004

A Little Bit About Myself

So, why should anyone bother reading this and care at all what I have to say? Well, at this point, I would venture to say that they probably shouldn’t. If I expect anyone to read this journal and put any credence to it, it is only fair that they should know at least a little bit about the person behind it.

I was born in the Downriver Area of Detroit, Michigan, an area most aptly described by the rest of Southeastern Michigan as the “wrong side of the tracks”. Though this is the wide perception of many people native to the Motor City, it’s not an entirely fair one. I grew up in Allen Park, and though the backbone of the city’s population were assembly line workers, blue collar, union and Democratic, the city itself could still be accurately described a middle to upper-middle class community. If Downriver was the wrong side of the tracks, I can honestly say that from a material standpoint, I was not wanting for much in my earlier years.

I was adopted at birth in 1970 and came to be with my family via the family that lived across the street from me. My parents and this couple were both trying to adopt at the same time. They had apparently applied to several agencies and soon after adopting a son in late 1969, received word that they could also adopt me a few months later. They somehow found a way to transfer my adoption to my parents across the street to where I came to belong. The neighbors’ boy is now my brother-in-law and we have remained best friends for our entire lives.

My early childhood was turbulent, to put it mildly, and I would rather leave it out to avoid the appearance of a shameless attempt at eliciting reader pity, which is neither wanted nor deserved. The only thing I will say about it is that my father died when I was thirteen and my mother, little brother and I were much better off for it.

After that, the fun really started. I was fourteen when I fell in with a wild crowd. It was a fun group from the start, filled with a penchant for mayhem and chaos that got us into just enough trouble to be entertaining but stopped shy of inflicting any real damage on anyone else but ourselves. I was 6’3” when I was fourteen and able to sport a full mustache. Naturally, I became the alcohol supplier. Wearing my father’s wedding ring, I would enter a convenience store and buy a package of diapers, a box of feminine hygiene products and a couple of cases of beer. In hindsight, the clerks had to eventually start suspecting something since I seemed have had one extremely incontinent baby with a terminal case of diarrhea and a wife who was on the verge of bleeding to death. If their suspicions were aroused however, they must have been offset by the amount of business we were giving them since I never got questioned.

This pretty much set the tone for my entire high school career. It was also during this period that, as an avid reader, I discovered the writings of PJ O’Rourke and Hunter S. Thompson. As misdirected a path that I was already embarked upon, it was the words of these two men that really pushed me over the edge. I had already developed keen interests in street pharmaceuticals and amateur gynecology before I read them but afterwards my interests became obsessive pursuits and worse, I was determined to pursue them all over the globe in places where civil rights and reservations about police brutality were not quite the pressing points of public concern as they are in the US. I found myself set upon a path that could only have ended in the tragic obliteration of my health and sanity. I am eternally grateful to them for that. I do not think that, without their unknowing guidance, I could have possibly gotten into as much fun as I did. I owe them a few drinks if I ever run into them.

Desperate to get out of Detroit and see what else was going on in the world, I joined the US Army Reserve when I was seventeen. The plan was to spend my summer vacation going to boot camp, return to finish high school and then graduate to make a career an Army MP. My friends threw my going-away party on the roof of a local high school and a large portion of my last night as a civilian was spent in the Allen Park City Jail. My recruiter managed to work out a deal with the police however that allowed me to still go off to the army as long as I returned to deal with my charges when I came back to finish school.

A lot of people do not have very fond memories of basic training but personally, I had the time of my life. I left a house where my mother would not allow me to run down the hallway with a pair of scissors to some twisted version of summer camp where the counselors made you play with automatic weapons, anti-tank rockets and high explosives. We got to stay up late and blow stuff up. The only thing missing were the panty raids on the girls’ camp a couple miles up the road and a huge field of wild growing cannabis on the outer perimeter. True, there were a lot of people yelling at me all of the time but I got into a lot of trouble in school and was pretty much used to that sort of thing. The hours were a little long but at least there was always something to do. There were some guys who really hated the random tear gas assaults, but as someone who had had more than one girlfriend tell him “we should start seeing other people” with a blast of mace and a restraining order (especially after catching him making out with her younger sister) I had built up a pretty high tolerance to that kind of stuff as well.

After finishing the army’s basic training, I returned home, pled guilty to my trespassing charge, paid my $35 fine and picked up where I left off. As I approached graduation, I returned to my recruiter to change my job part of a verbal agreement I had made upon enlisting. I was still in high school when I joined the service and obviously was not yet the recipient of a high school diploma. A consequence of this was that I was not yet qualified to be a military police officer. So, in order to still go to boot camp when I wanted, I initially enlisted in the infantry. When I returned to change my job, I was told there were no longer any open billets for MPs so I was effectively trapped in the infantry. Don’t get me wrong, the infantry was an incredibly good time but if something happened and I got discharged, the few jobs available for someone with my set of skills would be in either the Irish Republican Army or in the mafia. Despite my somewhat less than spectacular grade point average in high school, I scored very highly on the military’s entrance examination and wanted something a little more marketable once I left. After a lot of wrangling with the army, I went across the hall to the navy and made a deal with them. If they got me out of the army, I would sign for as long as they wanted.

I ended up signing on with the navy for six years. I spent eighteen months training to be an electronics technician, over a year in San Diego and Long Beach California and then nearly three years home-ported in Sasebo Japan. During that time I went to Hawaii, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Guam, Okinawa and Australia. Basically, I was bar-brawling my way across the entire Pacific Rim. I embraced the lifestyle whole heartedly. I had a girl in every port, a terminal hangover and the uncanny ability to get my face slapped in seven different languages. I fought US Marines and French Foreign Legionnaires but unfortunately came out on the losing end of that pastime then not. I was nearly arrested for driving an elephant while drunk in Thailand and once came out of four-day bender in a run-down bar in Olongapo surrounded by midgets. I saw and did things during that time that I could not have possibly imagined, and I have a very broad imagination. It was an awesome time that I will never forget except for the times that I just can’t, for the life of me, remember.

The navy did have its down side though. My last year was during the tenure of a very bad captain and President Clinton’s attempts to practically destroy the US’s ability to defend itself. Up until that last year, I was a military Democrat having the time of my life. Twelve months later I left the navy pretty jaded with a new found appreciation for the Republican Party. I came home to an economy in recession with a trade that was anything but in high demand. My greatest attributes at the time were my cast-iron liver and a set of moral values that would make a Kennedy blush. The only job I managed to land was one sorting parts for a foreign automotive supplier, six months after leaving the service, for $6 an hour. The one thing I really had going for me was a strong work ethic and a lot of exposure to working in an international environment. I was hired full time within six months, traveling all over the country troubleshooting product failures within eight, and before I was employed a year, was traveling to our plants in Europe, Mexico and South America, trying to prevent problems from arising in the first place. Within two years I was making more money than my step-father, who did not believe I had a real job because I didn’t have a union card.

Five years later I got married and, though still with the same company, changed jobs to one that would still keep me going abroad but at the same time keep me home enough to avoid an early trip to divorce court. Our first year of marriage was a killer. I had been enjoying single life so much that initially, I just was not sure whether I could handle being tied down. When my wife became pregnant three months after our wedding however, I did not have a lot of choice. I had to settle down and I did. I am very glad I did because after our daughter was born, everything just fell into place. Our son was born two years later and we presently have another child on the way. Things are going great on all sides.

The thing about having a demanding career, a house, a wife and a few kids is that after a while, you really start neglecting your drinking. The next thing you know, your head starts clearing up and you find yourself thinking a lot more. For most people, this can be a good thing. For those of us who have gotten nothing but trouble out of having to think too hard though, it can be very disconcerting. Here I am now nearly 35 years old and painfully aware that, though I have everything I could have possibly wanted, I really need something else. Now, I’m not talking about a new wife, new kids or new dog (well, I have to admit I have entertained the thought of turning the dog in for a newer model with better bladder control). I’m talking about the lifestyle thing in general. I don’t want to be financially comfortable anymore. I want to be prosperous. I no longer want to be a wage slave. I also am not willing to sacrifice any more time with my kids in order to be so. I want to make a great living off of whatever marketable talents I possess without contributing any capital, excessive time or effort in the endeavor. I am just stupid enough to truly believe that it can be done. I just have to find a way and the chronicle of that endeavor (along with a lot of nonsense that has absolutely nothing to do with it) can be found right here in the pages of The JEP Report.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look forward to seeing your progress in becoming independently wealthy while not spending any time, energy nor money.

RR

2:10 PM  

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