Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Stand Up at Comedy Palace

     I've been taking part in a course in writing for stand up comedy for the past six weeks at the Comedy Palace in Kearny Mesa. This past weekend we had our graduation showcase, and I performed for friends, family, and about 10-12 strangers.

     Wow, I was telling those jokes way too fast. I was so concerned about forgetting them (most of it I'd made up that morning and the night before) that I was trying to get through them before I could lose them. Even so, I left three jokes unfinished; there were finishing lines to the dog bit, the babies are creepy bit, and TSA bit, but I left them out, leaving the chain of jokes uncapped. Going so fast made me fumble the "the Potatoheads and I are concerned" line. I would launch into the next joke before people were finished laughing from the one I'd just told, and the beginnings of them would be somewhat lost in laughs.
     Overall, though, I am pleased with how it for a first try. The whole act could be fine-tuned, but hell, people laughed, and that's pretty much what I was going for. It was so much fun, and I'm really grateful to everyone who showed up and laughed; even though a lot of people couldn't be there, they texted words of encouragement, and that was pretty damn neat too.
     They're having the whole class put on another show at Winston's in Ocean Beach, Oct. 25th, if anybody wants to see me sing more made up shit make a general ass of myself.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rachael is pregnant!

     Ladies and gentlemen, the rumors are true: my tackle works. I know everyone was sooooo worried, well, you can rest assured now.
     Oh yeah, Rachael's tackle works as well. Do you call that tackle? Tackled?
     How did this all come about, you ask? The technical aspects of the whole ordeal can be found here; for those with more experience and less time, suffice it to say, some monkey business occurred during the excellent honeymoon Grace and my dad sent us on. blame them!

      Allow me now to dispel one of the myriad myths surrounding birth control: regardless of how long a woman has been on it, her reproductive system needs no time to cycle back up; once she ceases taking it, she is actually at her most fertile (assuming of course, she stops taking it before reaching menopause.) Rachael had been on hormonal birth control in one form or another for more than a decade. When I imagined her reproductive system, I envisioned an old abandoned factory, dusty from disuse, with rusted "WARNING: CONDEMNED" signs all over the place.

Foreplay was actually just a tetanus shot.
     It was this image that made me shrug and say, "yeah, sure," when Rachael suggested abstaining from birth control during the honeymoon, for reasons spelled out here. Besides, I reasoned, I could further lessen our chances of conception by employing the birth control method of "coitus interruptus."
     That didn't work out, for reasons spelled out here.
     And so Rachael is almost four months pregnant. Over the course of the last 17 weeks, she has conveyed the size of the fetus to me in terms of various spherical foods, starting with a blueberry, moving up to a raspberry, then a kiwi, a peach, this week it's apparently a navel orange. Throw a banana in her and she'd have a delicious smoothie center (Just add rum and voila: human daquiri!) Though I must admit, throwing a banana in her is pretty much what got us here in the first place.
     We're still waiting to find out the sex, although Rachael's sister Jonna guided us through two thoroughly scientific tests during our recent trip to Maine to visit her and Donovan.

     Accordingly, our next ultrasound appointment will reveal the baby's sex, and people have asked if we'll wait until birth to find out. Being the fan of instant gratification that I am, the answer is a resounding "HELL NO." I'm the guy who'll read a plot synopsis on Wikipedia for a movie if it looks like I won't get to see it as soon as I'd like. I do NOT have the will power to wait this one out. For that matter, why wait? I've yet to hear a convincing argument for it, other than to start a penis/vagina betting pool, and if your eyes lit up at the thought of that, click here.
     Every time Rachael and I sit down to think up names, we invariably descend to coming up with embarrassing or comical names for either gender. For instance, if we have a boy, I could name him Toby, and teach him to tell every stranger who asks him in my presence what his name is, "Kunta Kinte." Then I can look down at him and remind him condescendingly, "We've been over this a thousand times, your name is TOBY."
     Too obscure? My second choice was to name him Jesus Christ Hopkins, so that when people come to the door and ask "Have you heard the news about Jesus Christ?" I can say, "Aww dammit, what has that little turd done now?" Or for that matter, when people utter the phrase, "Jesus H. Christ," I can correct them, "Jesus Christ H."
     You HAVE to get THAT one...
     So what has pregnant Rachael been like? Mostly this:

For fuck's sake woman, who do you think you are, me?
     Not sure about the reading material in that picture (The Contortionists' Handbook, by Craig Clevenger;) my assumption is it's some natural birth stuff. She hasn't been any crazier than normal, other than referring to our unborn child in terms of food (over which I can't decide whether I should be alarmed or not. I guess she can't eat what's already inside of her.) She has been using the phrase "I don't know why I bother" a lot, and if I remember correctly, amnesia can be indicative of a neurological disorder. I'll keep an eye on it. Other than that, she's just had a tendency to nap. I assume that's something she's passed to the baby, as it's a quiet little sucker. Let's hope that persists.
     I took out a second mortgage on my man card and went to one of those horseshit "what will my baby look like?" websites, and though I was sorely tempted by their offer to splice my visage with that of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Snookie, I declined and uploaded some photos of Rachael and I. The first result was an abomination, which the internet mercifully deleted for me of its own accord. I guess it got mostly Rachael's genes. I had put in a call to the Kennedy's, and they informed me they were out of room in their basement, so let's hope that one was a fluke. I tried again with some more head-on shots, and got this:

I'll take it.
     At least it looks more like a baby.
     That's probably adequate news for now, I'll keep updating as we get more information.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Short Story: Trilobite Terror

A good friend of mine, Gary gave me a pack of "Dinosaurs Attack! " cards, and I decided to write up what I think is going on in the card. So, without further ado, I give you #39: Trilobite Terror! 

"Awwwwewwww, it's putting its tentacle in my mouuuth," Gerald moaned to himself, as one of several prehistoric lobster creatures did exactly as he had described.
Gerald had seen enough Japanese porn to know where this was going, and he supposed this could be God's punishment for his viewing of said porn. The trilobite's other tentacle touched Gerald's ear lobe almost reassuringly, as if to say, "It's okay buddy, it'll all be over in a second, and then we'll take you out for some ice cream. That sound good champ?  Huh?  Ice cream?"
"Trilobite Terror" was a bit of an exaggeration; "Trilobite Tension" would be more apt, or to skip the alliteration and just lay it all out there, "Trilobite Annoyance" described it best. There was absolutely nothing even approaching terrifying about the creatures. They looked like horseshoe crabs, and had the same curious nature as a puppy, albeit a puppy whose curiousity extended to what it might be like inside a human body. The Mayor had described the tiny nuisances as "flesh-eating worms from the Devonian period," but the journalist, for the purposes of maintaining the sensation of dangerous monsters on a rampage, had left out the fact that the Mayor operated in a constant state of inebriation, and could hardly be considered a subject matter expert on anything further than the contents of a mini-bar.
Gerald was minding his own fucking business, having his lunch on a park bench when four of the little bastards had dropped out of the tree limbs above him like a seafood rainstorm, and he had shrieked hard enough to ruffle his perfectly combed Geraldo Rivera moustache. Having grown tired of fighting the obvious nickname,  Gerald had gone to lengths to actually invite the comparison, and he had certainly embarrassed himself in public in classic Geraldo style.
Trilobites, for fuck's sweet sake! They seemed harmless,  but other than the name, Gerald knew nothing about them. He had no idea if they were quick to startle, nor what kind of self-defense mechanisms they might have. Thus,  he opted for that old cautious standard, the Triple-D: Don't Do Dick. He was going to sit still and let them do their lobster thing; once they lost interest and departed, he would shake off the icky-hoo-has and call it an early day to go home and take a shower.
Currently however, the trilobites' curiousity did not alppear to be on the wane. The two on Gerald's chest gazed into his eyes with their green, button-candy orbs, a dumb intensity in their unblinking, unwavering stare. He could almost hear them thinking "what's this,  what's this?" in idiot sing-song.
The Nightmare Before Christ.
One of them finally went for broke and slipped a feeler into Gerald's mouth. It was slimy. It was cold. It tasted not unlike garlic.
"Mmmmmokaythat'sitI'mDONE!" Gerald spat out the feeler and stood up explosively, thrashing his limbs and shaking his head. The trilobites were tenacious little fuckers, though, and it was a full two minutes before he bucked them.  They hit the ground and skittered away, timid as cockroaches.  Gerald smacked himself in the forehead. He'd been so nervous about the bugs' defensive capabilities that he'd needlessly granted them free-reign for like, ten whole fucking minutes!  He'd been so focused on the situation, he'd failed to notice a small crowd had gathered around him. He looked at them, and great irritation formed in his chest.
He voiced it.
"Why the FUCK didn't anyone HELP me?!"
A young man piped up.
"You were just kind of sitting there, we weren't sure if you were digging it."
"DIGGING IT!?" Gerald screamed indignantly, and, overwhelmed by the situation, descended into a fit of body-brushing and head-shaking.
"Eeeeaaaauuuugh!" He said, through it all.
The freak show over, the crowd dispersed around Gerald, and he was left alone in the park, trilobite slime drying on his shirt.
He sobbed.
Later that afternoon in the shower, Gerald decided the most disturbing part of the whole affair was how innocent their intentions had been, and that when he'd thrown them from himself and their small forms had scurried away, the Trilobite Terror had been their own. He had actually felt sorry for them.
Fucking trilobites.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Short story: On Earth, No One Can Hear You Scream

     Recently my friend Jose and I spent a few hours stuck in adjacent rooms with little to entertain ourselves, and we decided to each write a short-story with a few identical elements. Here are the results:

Jeff Hopkins

As the newly-emptied planet Earth smoldered below him, astronaut Mike Jones floated alone in his capsule, chewing pensively at the end of his space. He was concentrating harder than he’d had to on his applied aeronautics final in college.
The question? What’s a nine-letter word for elephant?
It started with a “p,” and dammit if it wasn’t right on the tip of his tongue. Fucking ZooBooks crossword…
The last human being in existence (presumably) was attempting to distract himself from the fact that he was, presumably, the last human being in existence. Other than creating a symphony from the random tones created by pressing buttons on the instruments, all Jones had to keep him occupied was a couple of old ZooBooks fellow astronaut Rick Berkley had given him as a prank before his pod had disengaged from the International Space Station. Berkley had been a joker, and now he was random atoms, exploded across space.
Jones felt no survivor’s guilt, for he knew the fact he was still alive did not make him a survivor. His pod wasn’t rated to withstand the stress of atmospheric reentry; all it had been made for was to take specific readings of space, free from the interference thrown off by instruments aboard ISS. It could undock from the space station, orbit, and dock with the space station, nothing more.
Unfortunately, ISS had been destroyed, had actually been destroyed before anyone on Earth had died. When China’s silos had opened up to release their phallic fury, the space station had been directly overhead, and, as only American astronauts had been aboard at the time, had been targeted for destruction. Jones had been floating halfway around the planet at the time, safe from the blast and, for the moment, alive. His orbit was to return him to dock with ISS in a little under half a day now, but there would be nothing to dock with, save radioactive debris.
“Puh… puh… um. Python. Pragmatist. Puh-terodactyl! FUCKING ‘PELEPHANT,’ I DON’T FUCKING KNOW!” Jones exclaimed in frustration and tossed the periodical over his shoulder. Behind him, it bounced off a touch-screen GPS panel, switching the voice option from American male to Australian female.
“No GPS data available,” the system said.
“No shit, Sheila,” Jones replied irritably. Why was it whenever he said something witty and quick, no one was around to hear it?
Even more confounding than the crossword clue was the question, “What the hell happened?” The political climate between America and China hadn’t been great recently, what with the former defaulting on loans to the latter, but nuclear war was the last thing anyone could have expected at this point.
…he thought.
Clearly something had happened however, and whatever it was, its consequences had triggered a domino effect, causing allies on both sides to empty their nuclear arsenals and fall victim to their opposites’ counter-attacks. From what Jones could see through the instruments in his pod, the entirety of Earth’s land mass was burned up. The once-pristine atmosphere had taken on a brownish haze.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we now return you to our featured program, ‘The Floating Dead,’ starring Mike Jones,” the lone astronaut soliloquized. Above and beside him, a gibbon leered at him from the cover of ZooBooks: Primate-Palooza! He swatted at it.
His cavalier outlook on his fate was the result of rocketing (no pun intended, though apt on many levels) through all of the stages of grief, arriving at acceptance in what had to be record time. At the abrupt interruption of mission control’s last transmission, Jones had looked out the small porthole in his pod in time to catch the brilliant flashed of the rest of humanity’s obliteration, and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance issued from his mouth in one long syllable of varied inflection:
“AHHHH(!)aaaaah(…)AAAAHHH(!!!)Aaaah(?)aaaah(L)Aaaah well.”
Jones had immediately tried raising ISS, and when that failed, he knew they were dead. There were more than enough communications satellites left in the sky to provide optimum relay, and in an event like this, if they weren’t attempting to contact him, or even just answer his call, it could only mean they weren’t there.
This presented a rather major problem, for if they were dead, so was he. His pod, for all its marvelous modern technology, was only capable of self-sustenance for approximately a day and a half, and he was approaching the 24 hours since detaching. He had about 12 hours before his pod lost life-support capability and became a frigid, airless space-tomb. He’d been trying to spend those hours not counting the seconds until his impending doom, and had been doing great before he’d found himself outsmarted by an elementary school reading-level magazine.
“Apparently, I’m NOT smarter than a fucking fifth-grader,” Jones muttered disgustedly. “How the hell is a fifth-grader supposed to know that word anyway?”
He stared out the window.
“Pah… Pacifist.” He chuckled.
Mike Jones would die soon, and dammit, he wanted to die knowing the word. Was that so much to ask?
Probably, he decided with grim resignation. He was without reference tools, no dictionary, no, no “dude, what’s a nine-letter word for elephant?,” so what the hell was he waiting for? Why draw it out? And for that matter, did he really want to die alone in the freezing dark?
“Fuck that,” he mumbled to himself.
What then, were his options for suicide? Looking around the compartment, he saw what little choice he had. A bullet to the head was obviously out, there was nothing to poison himself with, and everything inside the capsule had been designed bluntly, so as not to cut oneself if one should float into it. He could loosen a cable enough to strangle himself with, he supposed, but the idea of floating dead through space forever didn’t appeal to him.
“Well, it wouldn’t be forever,” Jones thought out loud. “Eventually the orbit would decay.”
That was it! He could use the pod’s maneuvering thrusters to move himself into Earth’s gravitational pull. The capsule would burn up in reentry, which sucked, but at least he’d be warm, and on his way home. He could consider it a sort of Viking funeral in space. A small grin appeared on his face as he ran the firing sequence through the computer.
He keyed the ignition.
Weightlessness subsided slightly as the pod’s forward motion pushed him back in his seat. Behind him, he heard a ruffling thump as several issues of ZooBooks struck the pod’s aft bulkhead. The pod cruised along for a few minutes, and then the engines and gravity cut out, returning Jones’ stomach to his throat, as free-fall always did.
“Eeebiddaeeeebiddaeeebiddathat’s allllll, folks,” Jones said to no one.
His pod had become Earth’s captive, and as his final descent began, astronaut Mike Jones tried to think of ways to distract himself until his demise. Should he sing a patriotic song? No. Nationalism had brought the present circumstances. Tetris was out. He toyed briefly with the idea of masturbating, but to what? Every woman he’d ever met, or even seen on TV or in porn had been vaporized, and jerking it to the recently deceased just felt disrespectful.
The newly-freed Primate-Palooza! floated by his head, and Jones eyed it questioningly. They were, after all, primates… could he pretend they were just hirsute, ugly human beings?
He could not, he decided. It wouldn’t matter anyway; erections were pretty hard (lol) to maintain in microgravity, and besides, the human race needed to die with dignity! He would not go out with a nature magazine in one hand and himself in the other.
The ride was getting warm and bumpy; Jones decided whether or not he had an audience, he would go out speaking of humanity’s accomplishments.
“As I sink toward my home, I’m in awe of the fact I was able to leave it,” Jones began. “No too fucking shabby for a race of beings that began life throwing its own feces from tree limbs. Over the course of human history, we have triumphed over disease, famine, wild beasts, the elements; so many things that would do us harm, we conquered. In the end, no one could beat us but ourselves.”
The pod began to buck. He was getting hot.
“We managed to conquer the land, the sea, the air, the OHMYGOD PACHYDERM! THE FUCKING WORD WAS PACHYDERM, SONOFABI-“
Astronaut Mike Jones and his pod disintegrated several miles above the surface of the earth. On the charred continent of Australia, a burnt, empty piece of crossword fluttered to the radioactive ground.

*     *     *     *

    There’s an itch in my eye.
     It’s not one of those normal itches that can be scratched out with actual scratching or an ounce of blow.
    This itch is unscratchable
     I only get itchy, whenever I look out the window. We don’t go on trips very much- or at least I don’t. My dad takes me on trips with him to Earth wherever we have business. I hate the way it smells down there. It’s a mixed stench of Mars Cabbage and Mars Cat droppings. I hate Mars too. My family moved to Titan near Saturn at the peak of democratic hysteria during the Reagan Wars of 2032. My grandfather always dreamed that life would be this way: barbershops open at 6am, current President Reagan is still alive, everyone’s lawn is mowed daily, Russia has been broken up into tiny territories all owned by the United States, and China is next. “It’s America for real Americans,” he called it. He decided to leave all of that for the booming oil business on Titan. Once they drained Mercury of all of its oil, they needed more apparently.
      “I don’t get it, dad, if they need energy, why don’t they just use solar power?”
      “Because son, we’re America. Not San Francisco. You saw what happened to them! They started using solar power. And now they don’t shower. Their women are hairier than a Jupiter potato. And all they do is sit in circles and play with the drums and smoke plants. Those plants can be used to make oil! Hell we can use them to make oil! The skinnier ones can be shipped off to mining plants on Venus, the fatter ones can be sent to processing plants on China. It’s natural order son. And they first step to breaking that order is taking advantage of The Sun. We’re Am-“
       This time I’m not so lucky. Not only do I have to listen to this, but Grandpa Rush is dying. We can’t have a father and son business if there’s no father and son. “Ma and Pa” maybe, but then who will stay at home and cook and spend dad’s money on spaceamazon. Reagan? The negroes? Bah! Dad says that’s preposterous. SO that’s why I’m boarding the shuttle with him to Earth. Saturn Gameboys don’t work near Earth. It’s stupid electro stupid magnetic stupid field throws my space AA batteries out of space whack. So now I’m stuck, staring through this small window, with Earth as my only entertainment. It’s a short ride, but I hope I don’t blind myself by the time it’s over.
      They say that Neptune women are prettier than Earth women. It’s definitely true, but for some reason they’ve got this saying on Earth:
     “Neptune women are prettier than Earth women. But you should never marry or have kids with them.”
     Maybe it’s because they eat their firstborn sons or maybe it’s because of their purple arms. Either way, Earth cesspools and strip clubs are filled with them. Back during the Nixon Wars, Earth was sending all of its garbage to Neptune. They managed to fit all of our trash into their diet, and now they live in cesspools on Earth. Go figure. But only cesspools in the south United America Mexico. Turns out, they like sunlight in the form of heat. Go figure.
     “I have to attend a private meeting first.”
     “But dad what am I supposed to do? I hate it here!”
    “You’re a smart boy- you went to Space Harvard. Go figure something out.”
     Our hotel is on Washington Street. It just so happens that it’s Washington Remembrance Day VI. There’s a parade going on. Hundreds of people are there cheering, waving tiny American flags. Millions of pieces of red, white, and blue confetti are falling from the sky like salmon in heat. Space salmon, sorry.
     “Ugh, these people are so loud!” I leave the hotel to find a nice quiet park or library. I thought I saw one when we were flying in.
      I walk up to the gold glittering corners of Hoover and Coolidge. There was a parade going on there too. This time it was for veterans/winners of the Korean War. Hundreds of people were there cheering, waving tiny American flags. Millions of pieces of red, white, and blue confetti fell from the sky like salmon in heat.
I walk away disgusted up to Taylor and Heston Avenues. There’s another parade happening. This one’s a pride parade. American pride. Hundreds of people are there, cheering, waving tiny American flags. Millions of pieces of red, white, and blue confetti are falling from the sky like salmon in heat. I look around for a friendly face and see a man with a mustache and an odd outfit.
      “Excuse me sir, do you know where I can find the nearest library or park?”
      “Well howdy there, partner! Yessir I reckon I can! The nearest Wal-Mart is just around the corner on Franklin.”
       I’ve had enough of this planet. I run into the middle of the parade and catch a ride on the non-tax, non-government funded “Salute To Traditional Values” float and I take it all the way to the hotel.
As I salute the soldier at the door, and recite to him the Pledge of Allegiance so that I may go through security so that I may go through an x-ray machine so that I may go to my room, I hear planes fly overhead. It’s weird though; no one’s seen a plane in years. I noticed a weird design on the sides of the aircraft, aside from their multicolored paint job. It looked like the emblem on the United America Canada flag, but green and the edges of the tips were longer. I thought nothing of it, and neither did the soldier.
       Limping a bit, I open the door to the hotel. Dad’s suitcase is on the floor and the keys to the shuttle are on the nightstand. There’s a note too.
      “Be right back. Met up with a war buddy of mine from when I willingly signed up for the draft. We’re gonna go catch some communists get the death penalty for sharing gum with each other. Don’t take the shuttle.”
      But I take the shuttle. You best believe I take the shuttle. I take the keys and throw away the note. Next thing I know, I’m back in the sky.
      “Faster faster faster faster
       Almost theeeeere
       Almost hooooome
       Space porn is terrible, but it’s all I’ve got. Exhausted, I stretch and stare out the window.
       Huh, Earth got really cloudy all of a sudden.
       I turn on space radio. And through the static I can make out:
       “San… Fra… Cis… O.”
       I dock with the rest of the ship and take a nap.
       My dreams take me to-
       No, that’s not right.
       My dreams put me-
       No, that’s not right either.
       I dream of a French maid, outside of her outfit, underneath a gazebo in a garden that hides a tiny cottage for 2 or 3 on a planet that I don’t think I’ve ever been to before. A hovercraft lands in the front yard and she readies herself and lays out on the swing.
      “Mike!” she yells, “Can you come here?”
       He comes.
       “I’ve been jonesing for you all day, Mike.”
       He comes.
       She shows him her loading bay.
      “Loading bay alert! Fire in the loading bay! Section quarantine in progress!”
       I run as fast as I can, my lower half already drenched in sweat. But it seems I have come too late. The ship has ejected the loading bay, and all of the shuttles with it. I take the horizontal escalator to the cockpit and manually remove the sun shield from the windshield.
      Earth’s gone.
      Billions of tiny pieces of rock/Earth whiz past me like I’m a stationary rock in a stream and they’re salmon in heat. I turn on autopilot and set course for home. On my way to cryostasis, I see a large chunk of the planet headed straight for the ship. I try to steer out of the way, but its gravitational pull is too strong, and the ship and I start falling for it.
      “You are in restricted airspace. If you do not comply with Space Zimbabwe government regulations when you land, you will be executed on site.”
      “On site?” chimed in another voice.
      “On site!”
      There’s no air in space, how could these people have survived? Under the trees I find a runway that leads up to the most magnificent palace.
       It’s Castle Zimbabwe.
      There’s a few ways I can end this. The first way involved the Prince of Zimbabwe framing San Francisco for the attack. The second is like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but where the Prince of Zimbabwe frames San Francisco for the attack. The third is like The Wizard of Oz, but where the Prince of Zimbabwe frames San Francisco for the attack. The fourth is real Zimbabwe being a front for Space Zimbabwe, which has actually been in space this entire time, but where the Prince of Zimbabwe frames San Francisco for the attack. The real ending has Mike team up with the Mikes from all of these other timelines that are off by a butterfly effect factor of how close amoth flew next to Marsha Brady’s head during the taping of an episode of the Brady Bunch, to fight the combined forces of all of the Princes of Zimbabwe, MegaPrince of Zimbabwe. Three Mikes die, Marsha’s brought back to life, her and mainline Mike get married, the MegaPrince of Zimbabwe is defeated, and the story ends ends with mainline Mike looking at his kingdom, there on his throne, as the new Prince of Zimbabwe.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Jazz Catfish Presents: The Interrogation

     The first published video of me on the internet has me sporting a shaved head, a full-black trench coat, and a swastika armband. Hire me, corporate America! I also have tattoos and a foul mouth!
     The first time I met up with Rick Del Vecchio in person, he handed me a rolled-up script for the below-posted video, titled simply, "The Interrogation." He told me I had only one line in the skit, but it was the punchline, and he wasn't wrong; since the premier of the clip, every shindig I went to at which Rick's friends were present, upon Rick introducing me, everyone would look at me for a second, then recite the line with vigor and elation. I won't ruin it, here it is:


     The captured American pilot is our friend Jake, a Soldier who, at the time, worked for the Army Channel in a subterranean level of the Pentagon (I've been in a sub-basement of the Pentagon. The kind of shit you get to do as a member of the military media machine, and really just for the fuck of it, I swear) and in whose apartment we shot the short. It was a blast to make; you can see how beat up the banana got after all the slap-takes we did with it when Jake goes to pick it up with his feet. 
     The main Nazi is Tim, Rick's brother, who was at the time a Soldier separated from the Army. I met Tim that day, and by the wrap, he was a buddy, Jake too. More to come. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tales from the Navy: Tales from the Gettysburg

My 2009 deployment on USS Boxer was a departure from the typical WESTPAC, and ultimately, I'm grateful for it. Sure, we missed out on some ports, and yeah, we spent long enough at sea in one stretch for me to completely lose touch with reality for a while, and true, we were full past capacity on several occasions with our complement of 2,000 Marines, plus 90 or so embarked SEALs, a good amount of Counter-Piracy Task Force 151 personnel, and at one point a contingent of German SWAT specialists, but I got to experience a lot of things most Sailors don't.
Or the same things, just more of it. I don't know.
One of these days I'll write the story of deployment 2009, and it will probably need to be cut up into about 10 or 12 different posts, but for now, I'm going to post a small, five-entry journal I kept during my seven-day stay aboard the USS Gettysburg (CG 64,) a Ticonderoga-class Navy cruiser that Boxer worked alongside during counter-piracy operations. Boxer served as Combined Task Force 151's (CTF 151) flagship and detention facility, while smaller, faster, and more agile ships like Gettysburg did the chasing and deployed the boarding teams in inflatable boats.


     Since the photo cutline option won't let me make more than one line, I'll leave the photography credit here:
     U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd class Steven A. Ortiz.

Mass Communication Specialists (MCs; my rating, a merger of journalists, photographers, lithographers and draftsmen) are a rare billet in the smaller classes of ships. Boxer, being a 3,000+ person vessel had a division of seven or eight MCs while in port, and was augmented by a Naval Public Affairs Support Element (NPASE; had enough acronyms yet?) detachment of six or so more when deployed. The USS Green Bay (LPD 20) had a combined-personnel (Sailors and Marines) of 700, and had a single MC1 assigned. Gettysburg had a capacity of around 400, and had no MCs.
Instead, the duties of the MC were distributed amongst other rates; the Interior Communications Electricians (ICs) ran the movies on the ship's CCTV system, the Intelligence Specialist (IS) chief (for there was only the ISC aboard to rep ISs, with a single Operations Specialist [OS] to assist her) took photos for the cruisebook and pulled SNOOPY team duty. Yes, SNOOPY was a fucking backronym for something, and I don't remember what, and I don't care what, because for fuck's sweet sake people, we're a military organization, not a goddam floating kindergarten.
The point I am just inching towards is that the brass had ample coverage of the detention/headquarters end of things, they wanted more coverage of the shit-going-dowwwwn end to round out the collection. Chief asked the division at evening quarters one night if anyone would be interested in "cross-decking" to the Gettysburg for two weeks to cover Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team operations, and my hand shot up. I was surprised to see no one else's at first, but going through the list mentally, I could see where each of them would have issues with being a stranger in a strange land. Tough the idea scared me somewhat too, I was the only one who really didn't have anything keeping me on Boxer; quite the contrary, I would have done all manner of unspeakable things for just ten minutes away from the fucker at that point.
This introduction is going long, and unfortunately, the journal goes pretty short. When I bust out WESTPAC 2k9: THE SERIAL NOVELLA, I'll cover it in better depth, but for now, here's a bit of a peek into the mindset of 23-year-old MC2 Jeff Hopkins at a strange point in his life.

Tales from the Gettysburg

Day 1.

I waited in flight deck triage for what seemed like forever, waiting for the bird from the Gettysburg to arrive on Boxer. Sitting there in my utilities on a seabag packed so full it felt like brick, I began to realize the gravity of my situation: I was flying to a small ship leaden with firearms, where I would get on an even smaller boat, likely without a gun, and take pictures as Sailors attempted to arrest suspected pirates, who may possibly be as heavily armed as they are.
A grin surfaced on my salty fucking face.
The helicopter was an SH-60B Seaknight. It was equipped with Forward Looking Infrared video cameras. The Aircrewman made sure I knew that. He demonstrated it the whole flight. It was fun.
The ocean stretches on for days. Literally for days. If you fall overboard, unless you can learn to sprout gills, you’re dead fucking meat. Give up the ghost and just inhale water. Who knows, maybe that will spur the gill-adaptation process.

Day 2.
I managed to pull my ass out of the rack a little after 0600 this morning. It’s as cold as a whore’s heart in there each morning; I’m going to need to procure an extra blanket. The shower is the atmosphere’s immediate opposite: hot as Hades is purported to be. It felt good, when it wasn’t scalding my no-no’s.
On the plus side, I was up early enough to hit up breakfast!
On the negative side, breakfast sucked. I didn’t think breakfast could get worse than Boxer’s, but somehow they managed. The waffles were these tiny, dry bricks, and the spam was cold. But it was better than nothing of course; it was just good to have food in my stomach.
I guess I was supposed to be at quarters. Who knew, right? Ha-ha. Well, the day before, Seaman Ellis, one of the guys I work with in the office told me I didn’t have to be there for morning muster, so I said fuck it and checked my email in the office. Wrong answer; apparently I need to muster with these guys every morning at 0715. Roger that.
I’m far enough away from home as it is, dammit. I was just getting comfortable with being on the Boxer, and then I volunteered to step out of THAT comfort zone and into an entirely new place, where I don’t even belong. I’m here all by myself for six weeks. I don’t know, I guess I just feel really lonely at the moment.
Enough about that. Gettysburg is much smaller then Boxer, so if I’m going anywhere, it’s up and down a ladder well. Almost nothing I need to be at is on the same level as anything else.
I photographed Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team training drill today. There are a couple of Coasties here from the Law Enforcement Detachment assigned to Boxer, so I know a few of them already. My ass has sweated through my underwear, and now it is itching me something fierce, but I can’t do anything about it because there are people around and oh my God it’s driving me crazy ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod-
The 1MC here is so much quieter.
I don’t have a home anymore. I need to settle down and make one. I need to find a home. I need to find a homie. I need to find a fold and fuck it.
The constant hum of ships, I fear, will drive me mad.
Dinner was decent. I ate alone in a room full of people. How melodramatic. And then I performed the lock. Oh yeah. I read a whole volume of the Maxx and watched Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Ah, it made me want to fall in looooooooove. That’s the last thing I need right now, that’s for damn sure.

Day 3.

Well, I went to quarters this morning. It’s kind of weird seeing the way other divisions run on other ships. It makes me realize just how laid back my division really is. We sit down in the office for quarters in the morning instead of sweating outside, we speak informally, and we just have our chief and MC1 there as leadership, as opposed to Gettysburg’s three chiefs and a divisional officer. However, I am working for Gettysburg’s Intelligence department, whereas on Boxer I’m part of Executive, which comprises several personnel-support divisions, rather than technical, operations-dependant groups. Morning quarters here is like departmental quarters on Boxer.
I got sucked into sweepers too. Looks like I’m an all-purpose Sailor for the next six weeks. Oh well, I don’t mind physical labor, it makes me feel valuable. Heh heh. “Minus Tree Charlie.”
Dis bro’s got da goggles, haha. Ratty lady. “She’s da coolest chick I know.”
I don’t know, this whole cross-decking thing kind makes me feel like a tool, or a unit of a machine, with interchangeable parts. A mechanical hand picks me out of my slot, moves me over to a different machine, and drops me into another identical slot, where I perform the same function. I used to think that sort of thing was cool, but now it makes me want to barf in terror. I can’t explain it. It doesn’t make me feel very manly or secure.
I went out in the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat. It was a blast; we went and harassed people in boats. They waved to us, we pointed guns at them. Hooray for diplomacy! I got really wet, with salt water. My boots are still damp. I need to get another pair. All the pictures I took, I really need to get a new external hard drive and a copy of Photoshop for my laptop. I can’t edit the pictures with the program Windows Vista gives you, other than to crop, which is horseshit. All I really need to do is fix the levels, but I can’t even do that.
I went to bed at 1800 or so. I was bushed. But now I’m bushy tailed. Right?

Day 4.

I have come to understand that the Leading Petty Officer for this division is a douche bag. Col. DEWregard. I think I may have just thought up a Mountain Dew commercial, right here, right now, in real-time ladies and gentlemen, please, hold the buzzword-chat to a minimum. Also, the saltwater washed all the polish off my boots. Did I bring any? Probably not. Must check the ship’s store, when it opens.
We’ve hit the 1/3 point of deployment. I already hate WESTPAC. I don’t want to do another. I don’t know how these lifers get off on it so much. They must either hate their families, their free time, or they just don’t have any other purpose in life. Maybe they’re afraid to get out in the civilian world and feel some risk, but me, I’m ready to live on the wild side.
I don’t know what it is, but my eyes have been burning since I got here. Like bad. Like whoah. Like oww.
I just want to be driving up the 395 towards Ridgecrest right now. Right at the big drop before Atolia, knowing I’m almost home, but not quite there, some music on, the wind blowing, people waiting for me to get in so we can drink and catch up. I’m fucking lost out here.
Siller emailed me and said I may be going home today. Already. I’ve only been here four days. According to him, Chief said they’re sending the combat camera guy they have onboard over here, and that I’d be coming back. I overheard the ISC in here talking about receiving two personnel from Boxer, so who knows.
I wish he hadn’t said anything, because now I’ve got this stupid hope that I’m going back to Boxer. I’m not really adjusted here yet, so having them take me back rather than asking them to take me back is a lot better. It doesn’t feel so much like quitting. And it’s just a rumor at this point, so I really don’t want to hear it until there’s something concrete. I’m starving. I finished the feature I wrote on the Gettysburg’s only Mater-at-Arms, but I have to get the operational story taken care of. I was supposed to go speak with the Navigator last night, but instead I slept for twelve hours. I needed the sleep, but I bet he thinks I’m a douche bag now. No big deal. I’ll see if I can’t get to him tonight. I also have to talk to the LEDET about the Coastie side of the ops.
I need fooooooooooooood. I was going to get breakfast this morning, but the douche bag divisional LPO told us to be at quarters at 0705 this morning, so I got out of the chow line and went upstairs when I remembered, and then the dumb fucker didn’t show. So for now, I’m running on a can of Mountain Dew and a bag of plain M&M’s.
When the phone rings, I hope it’s someone calling ISC to tell her to get me to pack my bags.  Lame.
OSSN Ellis reminds me of the gay kid from “School of Rock.” It’s adorable.
Some of these ladies have “Queen for a year” syndrome. And the boys have goggles an inch thick, too. One of them calls everybody “honey” or “sweety,” I can’t quite recall, and they just get off on it. I think she’s the one with the flack vest that said “Love, Peace, and HURRICANE JANE” on the back of it. She is mousey. Sorta cute, in an “I haven’t seen land women in a month” kind of way.

Day 5.

I didn’t make it onto the bird last night. Not too big a deal, there’s this combat camera MC3 who came onboard and he seems pretty cool. At least I’ve got somebody to be strange with.  I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or not.
Nix that. I AM disappointed, I’m just not sure if I SHOULD be or not. I guess it doesn’t really matter, we’re still hitting a port at the same time, no beer day, but I can go without. I’m just used to the creature comforts of Boxer, as strange as that sounds. I don’t have my ATM card, that’s my biggest worry. I’m not sure how I’m going to get money to go out on liberty. They don’t have money changers come aboard for this next port, you just use your atm card at a machine and it gives you the local currency. Shit balls. All I’ve got is my Navy cash card here and my check book. I don’t think I’ll be able to find a place to cash a check. I’m hoping disbursing will be able to give me cash and I can take it to a currency exchange somewhere.
When I was a lad, my parents told me, “Son, we don’t care who yeh are… wieners don’t belong in buttholes.”
Words to live by.
Words to totally disregard.
Besides, they weren’t Scottish. I don’t know who they thought they were fooling.
That was my last beer you dick! Maybe I should have joined the merchant marines instead. I’m not entirely sure they’re allowed to bring alcohol onboard though. That would be pretty sweet. Now and again I do dream of having a beer.
     So that's where it cuts off. An MC3 from Combat Camera had arrived, and I started hanging out with him and not writing by myself anymore. I think I spent a few more days there, dicking around with my new buddy. As I said before, more to come, whether you're into it or not. Sorry.