My best/craziest/funniest story… EVER!!

If you have hungout with me long enough, you have likely heard this story, as I often consider it one of my best and funniest tales. I figured it was time to post it on here… It all begins on Thanksgiving night, 2003, not long after our Kosovo deployment, and just before our deployment to Iraq…

          We heard that one of our favorite punk rock bands, the Bouncing Souls, was coming to Germany and would be playing in Schweinfurt Germany. I had fallen in love with the band a few years prior as Garett had introduced me to them in my intro to punk rock, that would shift my way of thinking as well as my musical tastes. Our buddy Joe, who we met in bootcamp, was stationed at Schweinfurt, so we let him know we were coming to party. We arrived late in the afternoon, and a few of the guys had decided to take some mushrooms before the show (though I refrained this time because I wanted to remember the show), so needless to say we were all over the place at the show. 

maxresdefault.jpg

After the show as we sat at a table drinking beers, Pete (lead guitar) walked by the table, and one of us said, "Hey! Great show!" Pete replied, "Americans! Hey just a minute!" He then proceeded to get Bryan (bass) and Bob (sound tech), and a large bottle of Jack Daniels. Pete, Bryan, Bob, Jeff, Garett, Joe, Fuckin A McCray, and myself, proceeded to sit around the table BSing the night away. McCray, fell asleep and we tried to get Pete to sign his face, but Pete just kept saying, "hell no, that guy will kill me!" At the end of the night we all exchanged contact information and they invited us to their show in Prague on Saturday night, telling us they would put us on the guest-list.

            The next day we went back to our base in Vielseck, and prepared for our voyage to Prague, which was actually a short 2 1/2 hour drive from our base.  I almost didn’t go because I had gotten in a fight with a girl I was seeing at the time. She had planned on hanging out with me that weekend, but couldn’t come to the show. I thought if I didn’t hangout with her, it may be over, but I really wanted to see the show. After hours of back and forth texting, she told me "fine," which I now know wasn’t fine, but that is neither here nor there… So it was Jeff, Joe, McCray, and I, all headed to Prague. Garett was in a similar situation as me, but in his case, his girlfriend won out.

           Since Jeff hated driving, he let me drive. We got to the German/Czech border and I asked everyone for their passports, which Joe responded with, "What?! We need passports? I thought we just needed our military ID's like all the other countries we go to." Joe not knowing that the Czech Republic was notcovered under the Schengen Agreement yet. I thought it was worth a shot, but didn’t think it would work. Sure enough, we were rejected at the border.

           Desperate, we turned the car around and pulled off at the first exit. We found a dirt road and started trying to make our way across the border, but couldn’t find a backroad across. I pulled over the car, got the map out, and found another border crossing in a town about 5 miles away. Once we reached the small border town, we pulled over again and threw Joe in the trunk of the car. It was a pretty big trunk, and Jeff had a lot of crap in the back including a large blanket, so we hid Joe underneath it.

           By this time, it was already dark, but it was still early. We pulled up to the checkpoint and two Germans sat in the small shack. They looked at our passports and one asked in an excited voice, "goin to gamble, ja?" which we all replied, "jaaaaaa!" He returned our passports and waived us through. We all congratulated each other, exlaming the ease with which we executed our plan, but as we went around the corner we saw another checkpoint, the Czech checkpoint.

            A single orange streetlight shoneover the guard shack, and outside stood two seemingly battle-hardened Czech soldiers with AK-47's. I pulled the car to a stop, as one stood in front of the car holding his rifle at the ready. The other came to my window and asked me to shut off the car and wanted to see our passports. He looked at them and passed them to a third inside the shack. He came back and asked our business, and we said we were going to Prague for a visit. He then said, "please open the trunk," and my heart sank. I got out of the car, and moved to the rear of the car. I opened the trunk and scanned quickly. Thankfully it was a bit dark back here as all I could see was a small piece of Joe's pants, and his black and white checkered Vans shoes. The guard sifted through a few things and then grabbed one of the shoes, that slipped off Joe's foot. He looked at the shoe, then looked at me, and said "do you have any guns?" In complete shock of him holding the shoe and not immediately putting us all in handcuffs, I replied, "What?!"

"Guns, guns, do you have any guns," and he patted his AK-47 with one hand while making a pistol with his other hand. Realizing what he asked, I said, "NO, no! We don’t have any guns!"

He then put the shoe down, closed the trunk, and said, "you can go."

In complete awe and disbelief of what just happened, I got in the car, started it, and zoomed off.

            Once we were out of earshot of the guard tower, they asked me what happened in the back, and they listened in astonishment.  About 5 miles down the road, I pulled over to let Joe out. He jumped out of the trunk and screamed,

"HOLY SHIT! HE GRABBED MY FOOT! HE TOOK MY SHOE OFF!!"

            The whole way to Prague we thought they were just fucking with us, and talked about just over the hill we would meet another checkpoint where they would arrest us and throw us in some sort of gulag prison for human trafficking. Our hearts were racing until we finally made it into the city. We were gitty as school girls, feeling as if we just pulled off the crime of the century. 

5c427b7f82147b84fb7d5a59af256fa7--vans-slip-on-outfit-men-vans-checkered.jpg

We arrived in Prague, but had no clue as to where we were supposed to go from there. We pulled the car into a parking garage near the city center. We then proceeded to talk to different cabbies, hoping one of them would know where the best place for a punk rock show would be. We finally found one who knew just where to go, and within minutes we were outside the Matrix Club. As we walked up, Pete was walking back from their equipment van, and we hollered, he spun and greeted us with a "Hey!" He told us he would make sure we were on the list, but to wait outside for a few minutes. Bob, was also outside and as we smoked wanted to make a liquor store run to find some Absinth, so me and him walked down the road looking for an open store. It only took a few minutes to find what we were looking for, and as soon as we stepped outside, we opened the bottle and had a few drinks.

Left to Right: Joe, Bryan, Fuckin A McCray, Pete, & Marketa

Left to Right: Joe, Bryan, Fuckin A McCray, Pete, & Marketa

The night was amazing, from one of the opening acts, Tsunami Bomb to the Souls show, to sitting around afterwards getting wasted. It was also at this show that I would meet one of my best friends, Marketa, who allowed us crazy boys to crash on her floor that night after the show. The next day she showed us around Prague a little, and I would form a life-long friendship with her, that I am very happy still lasts today. As we told our story to our new friends, they listened on in amazement, and we all knew that we would all be friends from here on out. To this day, whenever the Souls are in town, or when we are in their town, we all hangout. While we were in Iraq, we would send them emails, and they would post them on their webpage on a link called "Letters From Iraq." They even turned one of Garett's poems into a song called "Letters From Iraq." To which, when we got out of the military and involved in IVAW, they let us table at their events, come up on stage and say something before they played the song as well. We still have a close bond!

The return home was tense, as we strategized how we would get Joe back over the border back into Germany. We considered putting Joe in the trunk again, but thought since it was day time he would be easier to spot, as well as it might be a better check since they were more worried about keeping things out of Germany, not in it, much like the US-Mexico border. We decided to try and argue our way in. We would all give the border guards our military IDs, and insist that this is what they let us in with.

           We got to the border, handed our IDs, which got us confused looks from the guards. We sat there and argued with them for a good 10 minutes, insisting this was what we used to get in. And once we realized that their patience was just about to its limit, we pulled 2 passports out of the glove compartment, and I went to the trunk where mine was, in my camera bag. I opened the bag and saw my current passport, and my previous (temporary) passport, and pulled both out. Fed up, he saw that I had two passports in my hand, he looked at me disgusted and said "go…"

          So basically, we smuggled someone over an international border (human trafficking) just to see a punk rock show… This is my craziest/funniest story!

Joining the Army

I think one of the questions I get the most is, "why did you join the army?" This usually leads into a much longer story, unless I'm in a bad mood, which can bring about a snarky response such as "I lost a game of tic-tac-toe." But this is the long version of this story…

         After I graduated in 1998, I was supposed to go to Mesa State College to play football. Had I went, I would have been able to get a partial scholarship, only covering my tuition since I planned on living at home. One night though I got in a blow-out argument with my father, which caused me to move in with a friend and his family. This arrangement wasn’t sustainable, so I had to make a choice. A few of my friends had joined the military and I knew the recruiters, so I went to explore that possibility.  I went to MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station), and after going through my physical, they sent me home being slightly overweight. They told me to come back the following month, but I was angry so I decided to go another direction. Instead, I moved to Greeley, Colorado to live with my mother and work with my Aunt and Uncle.

       My Aunt and Uncle owned a large number of rental properties and apartment complexes, as well as an excavating company. My work ranged from maintaining the properties to different construction type work. It was hard work, but what bothered me most was loneliness, as I had no friends in the area, and none of my coworkers were my age. I returned to Grand Junction for a visit and realized that I wanted to return to where my friends were.

        My father had moved out of the house, so I came home and lived with my step-mother, as well as my step and half sisters. I started working at JC Penny, in the Men's department upon my return. After a few months, a friend got me a job at a paint store, as well as working as a bouncer at Grand Junction's only real night club, Mesa Theater. I had also became a part of a local semi-pro football league, where I met my friend Micah. After a few months he had talked me into moving out of my step-mothers house and into what would become one of the most popular party houses in Grand Junction. After a couple years of partying and working, I decided to return to school. From 2000-2001, I went to Mesa State College, studying Political Science. I had always enjoyed politics, but to many folks surprise, I used to be very conservative. I was a member of the Young Republicans, and I helped out on G.W. Bush's first presidential campaign. While I excelled in these courses, I didn’t do well in my other courses, failing 2D art (basically a drawing class), as well as failing Biology 101 (not realizing the final was not on the same day class was normally held). In all honesty, I was working and partying too much to really do well in school, I wasn’t ready.

        My job at the paint store felt like a dead end. While they offered me an assistant manager position in Glenwood Springs, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I started looking for a new job and found an amazing job as a river raft guide. Between being a bouncer and a river raft guide, life felt pretty good. The only problem I had was that I wanted to go to school still, but was tired of taking out student loans. It was at the beginning of the summer of 2001, while giving one of my best friends Garett a ride to work, when he said, 'I had this weird dream last night that I was in the army. It's crazy, my dad was in the Army, and I hated it, and him. But I have this feeling that it is what I need to do.' His initial thought was to just join the reserves or the National Guard, where it would only be a 1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year time commitment. I thought, fuck it, I would join with you. We called the National Guard but they didn’t return our calls. So I told Garett, "I know the Army recruiters, I almost joined a couple years ago. Let's go talk to them."

        We went into the Army recruiters office and they were all too happy to see me. They knew I was interested, so I wouldn’t be a hard sell. We looked at a few different jobs, the recruiters were trying to push us into combat arms, one of them being a Cavalry Scout; as they showed us videos of soldiers riding around on dirt bikes and dune buggies. But we both got excited about a job doing PsyOps (Psychological Operations) as a reserve. So about 3 years later than my first visit, I once again found myself at the MEPS center in Denver, and having a job working outdoors on the river I was in much better shape than before.

        The MEPS process takes all day. You are put up in a hotel the night before, woken up early the next day, and taken in to be poked, prodded, and asked a bunch of questions. You start with the basic physical. It was at this step that I had previously failed for being overweight, but this time I was fine (though I was still fairly large compared to most). After the physical, you go to a doctor where he asks you a number of mental health questions, and finally you go to take the ASVAB standard test. Once your test scores are available and your background check is completed, you are allowed to go to contracting. Garett had finished just before me and came out to talk to me before I went into contracting. He told me that he didn’t qualify to be in PsyOps due to a past legal discretion. Instead he said that he could be guaranteed a posting in Germany if he went into the regular Army instead of the reserves, and he wanted to go as a Cavalry Scout. He also said that we could go into the "Buddy Program," if we wanted to, which would ensure we would be stationed together through boot camp and during our first duty station so long as we didn’t get in trouble at any point along the way. I said, "Fuck it! Let's go to Germany!" So in many ways it was a way out of Grand Junction, a way to see the world, and a way to pay for college once I got out. We both signed a contract for 3 years active duty, 5 years individual ready reserve (though the 5 years IRR part of the contract was never really understood until we were in the military, basically it says that if the Army wants you to do something in that extra time, they can). So on July 11, 2001, two months before highjackers would fly planes into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, we joined the US Army. Though we were on what was known as the Delayed Entry Program, so we would not officially leave until October. A few weeks later, another friend, Jeff, would decide he wanted to join with us, in order to 'get the hell out of Grand Junction,' so he joined us in the Buddy program.

        The summer was amazing, working nights in a fun night club, and spending days on the river, and knowing I would be living in Germany shortly after, life was good! On September 10th, I had to work at the night club, and the next morning, my roommate would wake me up to tell me that the towers were just hit by planes. "Fuck off," I said, but he urged me to come to his room to see the TV. As I walked in, the first tower fell. I was in shock, not knowing where our future was now headed. That day I had an afternoon river rafting trip. The family was from upstate New York, so the trip was a bit silent and solemn, but they assured me their friends and family were safe.

         It was perhaps the day after September 11, that our recruiters would call us in order to ensure that we knew that we signed a contract and there could be "repercussions" if we didn’t follow through (which we would later realize there was nothing they could really do if we didn’t go in), but also to make sure we were doing ok. It was a weird dichotomy, them showing care and concern, while also trying to scare us into upholding our contract. While Jeff and Garett definitely questioned our decision, as they were much more liberal than I was, I was determined to go. My conservative politics, felt this was the right thing to do, and what we were doing was honorable. And the disappearance of my ideals and beliefs is for another blog… But that is why I joined the Army.

Middle School and High School

As mentioned previously, I went to a different elementary school every year, as me and my mother moved from Grand Junction to Kansas City, then to Denver. Halfway through 5th grade my mother got in a bad car accident due to drinking and driving, and because of it, she could not take care of me day to day. After the accident I moved in with my father back in Grand Junction, for the school year, and would spend summers with my mom. This move meant much more stability. I no longer had to try and constantly impress people to make new friends, I would see the same teachers walking the halls, and I would be able to have a stable routine. I also went from being an only child to being in a family with a step-brother Brett who was 4 years older than me, a step-sister Eryn who was a year younger than me, and a new born half-sister, Kelsie (From here on out I drop the step and half since I consider them not step or half, but full sisters and brother). I was never able to go to school with my older brother, but we spent a lot of time hanging out, getting in trouble, growing up, and being close friends. My sister Eryn on the other hand was a year younger than me, so we went to the same middle school together, but then decided to go to different high schools. The shift from being an only child to one in a big family, there were many differences. When it was just me, I could do just about anything I wanted, which led me to lying, stealing, and cheating, but in a larger family it got me no where. I would often watch how my brother and sister would get in trouble, and then go around those limits, as I'm fairly certain I did way more bad things growing up then both of them.

The one time I got caught doing something bad was when I got caught shoplifting from JC Penny during my freshman year of high school. While at the Mesa Mall I saw a Michael Jordan jersey I liked, told my buddy and then with a pile of other things, he snagged them and walked out the door. When we were outside he threw it to me, but as we rounded the corner the security guard was waiting for us. My dad was mad, I was grounded for a couple weeks, and ended up having to walk the 5 miles home from the mall. But that was pretty much the only trouble I ever got caught for. I had done much worse: vandalism, theft, drinking, drugs, etc. But I also think that is just par for the course as a kid growing up in Grand Junction, CO.

I went to Mt. Garfield Middle School for 3 years, played football, was one of the leads in the school musical (Wagon Wheels West), and was in the choir. Similarly, when I was in high school at Central High, I played football, swam, track, choir, and theater. I was pretty much the only "jock" in our school who was also in the arts. So needless to say I was a social butterfly that had friends in every social circle, I was fairly chameleon like. As for school, well my grades were not that good, I was a high C, low B student, my favorite class was weights with Coach Mac.

Growing up, like many children, my dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up changed a lot. For a while I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy to be a pilot, then I wanted to be a cop, then a firefighter, being in the arts I always wanted to act and sing, and I always loved politics so I wanted to be a politician, another one that I kept running into was a teacher, which is what I would eventually become (though I never would have guessed that I would teach at the college level).

The last few months of high school were like something out of a coming of age high school film, very much like a mix between Varsity Blues, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Dazed and Confused. A lot of goofing off, a lot of drinking, and a ton of fun. I probably should have died of alcohol poisoning at our senior class camping trip, as I drank around 15 beers, a full bottle of Southern Comfort, and half a bottle of Jägermeister. I puked most of the night, and was sick for a week. 

By the time I was about to graduate, I had settled on going to Mesa State to play football, but because of a fight with my father, I decided to move out of the house and ended up back with my mom in Greeley, working for my aunt and uncle. But I wouldn’t last long in Greeley since I had no one my age to hangout with, so I moved back to Grand Junction. But that's a whole different era of my life, which will be the basis of a different blog…

Earliest Memories

It's weird trying to remember my earliest memories. A lot of the things I remember from before around 7 years old or so is just small flashes. Usually it is things that were traumatic, times I was really scared, and sometimes things that made me really happy or really sad. Trying to pinpoint my oldest memory is difficult. I vaguely remember laying on a beanbag chair behind a couch in an old house that I think I lived in. The room was dark, and someone was watching a movie, but that's it. Why is it something so boring? All I remember is the flickering of the TV, and laying there. I think I must have been maybe 4 or 5. Around that same time, but living elsewhere, I remember getting angry with my parents, and saying "I'm running away." My parents likely thought it was funny, as I packed a little bag with some of my toys and stomped out the apartment door. I walked around outside, it was dark, and cut scene, that's all I remember. But that's one of the only memories I have of my parents together.

The traumas stick too. Bicycling down a hill at Mesa College, headed home, I hit a curb, flipped over my handlebars and landed on my forehead. Some guys found me and took me to their apartment, filled with naked women on the walls, and my mom frantically coming to pick me up. It was close to Halloween. I remember I was Robin Hood that year, and had to wear a big bandage over my forehead. Another Halloween I was at a neighbors house carving pumpkins with the neighbor girl, when she decided to cut me with the knife, I raised my hand to block the blow, and it left a big gash in my hand.

The older I get, the longer the memories, but again, it is usually only high emotions. Like when I was bat boy for my mom's softball team and I had my face against the fence, only to have the ball come back and hit me right in the nose. Or driving by the airport in Grand Junction, on what me and my mom's best friend called, "the bumpy road," in her white truck as we would fly in the air driving 80-90 mph.

One thing that typified my childhood was never being in one place too long. My parents split when I was really young, and I primarily lived with my mother in the early part of my life. It also seemed like we moved every few months. I lived in the dorms as my mom was the residence director, we lived in different apartments all over Grand Junction, and shared these places with different people as we would always have new roommates. I sometimes feel jealous of friends who lived in one place their whole childhood, who never had to move, who had and have childhood friends they have known their whole life. Around 1st grade me and my mother moved to Kansas City so that she could get her Master's degree, then we moved to Denver, all the while going back to Grand Junction to spend holidays and summers with my dad. Every year throughout elementary school, I went to a different school. So there was never any of those early childhood bonds built, but I do not think that this is all bad. It taught me how to be social, to make new friends quickly, and to be self reliant. Though it also built some bad habits, because I was always the new kid, I often exaggerated a lot, or straight up lied in order to make new friends. I lied, cheated, and stole, whenever I wanted or felt I needed to. There was little to no consequences, as my mom was usually busy working 2 jobs, and I often had free reign to do whatever I wanted. 

It wasn't until 5th grade that things would begin to change as my Mom got into a horrible drinking and driving accident, as she flipped her car end over end 5 times. Thankfully she was wearing her seatbelt, and would survive. But she wouldn't be able to take care of me, so I moved in with my Dad who had recently remarried, and I all of a sudden went from being an only child to having a step-brother, a step-sister, and a new born half-sister. There was rules and structure. It was hard, and always a fight with my step-mom and siblings, but it was also stable. I would go on to go to the middle school for 3 years, and the same high school for 4 years. I would still visit my mom in the summer, which would usually give me that same streak of wildness and spontaneity that I didn't have with my dad.

Though there were many different life lessons that I would get from each, directly and indirectly. Even though my dad was angry with my aunt that she gave me the condom talk at 12, I learned about sex from him long before that age. Again reaching back to my youngest memories, I remember he always had a stack of porno mags in a drawer under his bed. It was a fun bed to crawl around under as there was a secret passage under the frame, so it was obvious I would find them. And in kindergarten, I remember coming back to his house before he was home, and turning on the playboy channel. I could always see him coming and could change the channel in time, often to cartoons or Disney and he was never the wiser.

From my mom, I learned about drugs and alcohol. She was a bartender most of my life, so while she was good at being discreet with drugs, alcohol was always around. But as a clever little boy, it was easy to learn about drugs as well, especially since I spent a lot of time at bars, as the laws were much more lax about kids being in bars during the 80's and early 90's... My Dad had thought I hadn't drank until I was 18 and went to Mexico, little did he know, my first beer was around 8 or 9, same with my first sip of Wild Turkey (which tasted like hot cardboard). On my 12th birthday I got wasted at a Jimmy Buffet concert as my Mom's friends, who were cocktail waitresses at the bar my Mom worked at, as they slipped me Zima's all night. That wasn't the only time Candy and Erin would get me drunk as I would come in to see my Mom at the bar, play video games, and they would bring me rum and cherry cokes. Some may find this appalling, I find it hilarious, either way, I was in a safe controlled environment. My Mom's side of the family would often let me drink so long as it was under their supervision. I got drunk at my Aunt and Uncle's wedding and danced all night doing the electric slide after doing my first keg stand. In many ways, this helped me understand alcohol, instead of hiding it away, I learned moderation, though I've learned that moderation goes out the window when you emotionally drink, but that's for a different blog.

While I was wild and reckless with my mother, I became responsible and patient because of my father, I honestly believe it is a great balance, as I have my mother's heart and my fathers brain. Not to say that I don't admire my mother's brain or my father's heart, cause both are beautiful, but that is how I am able to order it in my own head and thinking. I needed both to be who I am today, I needed both to be compassionate and thoughtful, to understand the world and other people, to understand myself.