Sunday, May 13, 2012

More of a wandering mind

Blue Ridge Parkway tree: shot last week for my own use and pleasure.

More wondering and wandering

Memories crowd in, to the point where description is unlikely to be accurate, as the memories themselves are surely tainted by years of storage without use. Then, my mind makes the jump to many of the “What ifs” of life. I have a feeling this may be the course of many minds at a certain point in life, but that, too, is irrelevant. As long as I continue to realize those alternate lives are shadows, that they did not occur, and that current memories of those peopling the daydreams are figments of my imagination, or of my sleeplessness, there's no problem.

Some of the memories are wonderful, while others are less so, and some would be terrifying if I were still a child. As a rather elderly adult, I find terror less easy to come by than I did in the days when I delivered newspapers to all of the movie houses in New Rochelle, NY. One theater specialized in Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi films: Chaney, for those who are too young to know, was the original Wolfman of horror movies; Bela Lugosi, the most famous of the Count Draculas of that era. Special effects were laughable by today’s standards, but many was the late afternoon when I got chills traveling my spine as one or another of those characters metamorphosized into less, or more, than human title characters. The next time I was that terrified I was at Parris Island, with my first drill instructor looking at me while hollering, “Your ass is grass and I’m the lawn mower”. And he was for 13 very long weeks. Finally, on April 14, I joined most of the rest of my recruit platoon in boarding a bus heading north to Camp Geiger and our Infantry Training Regiment month of fun in the sun…when there was any sun. 

All I solidly recall is sweat, chiggers, Nissen huts, and shelter halves. The Nissen huts are variants of Quonset huts (or Quonset huts are variants of Nissen’s design, depending on who you ask). Major Peter Nissen, a Brit, designed the basic half tube huts during World War I.
Life in the hut was not pleasant. Fortunately, true cold isn’t much of a factor in North Carolina in April and early May, nor is true heat, but those metal half-tubes were cookers when the temperature rose above 70. I’d hate to have been there in January.
Replica of 1966 Cobra. I shot this some time ago for a magazine article...and my own pleasure.
 I can remember exactly one name from those of my hut-mates during that month: Shanahan. His first name is long gone from memory, yet his photo sits next to mine in the Parris Island, First Battalion, Platoon 105, book that was sent to my mother later.

Today, I have to wonder if I would have more friends from my Marine Corps years if I hadn’t been so socially inept (that is a condition that changed, though not an immense amount). The path never taken looms up, though without urgency. I’m not young enough to believe there is some magical way to go back and try again. I never was, at least after I quit believing in the tooth fairy.

I’ve always been a step to the side of the crowd, usually on the opposite side from those who work to be apart, who consciously work at being different. I just stumble along, at least if my memory is at all correct, always standing aside, often scratching my head in wonder.

As a writer and photographer with too many decades of experience, I also wonder just how different my life might have been if cameras had been my earliest interest, rather than words. My current photography skills have built up quickly with digital work, but I believe I’d have been at or close to this point 50 years ago if…

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