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Wednesday, December 27
There's only a handful of people that still read the blogs, and most of them are friends I met through writing. And this is for them, because of those that I met through writing - only a handful of us are still doing so. It was easier when we had teachers and deadlines, less bills and responsibility. More alcohol. We had one another - we inspired one another, maybe it was out of competition, but we were never at a lost for words back then. So much optimism and so many of us. Different wasn't even an adequate word. But to those of you still reading, here are a few excerpts that I've been working on:

Patrick lived in a hundred-thousand dollar condo built in a section of Cleveland that looked evacuated. The streets were named Madison, Denison, and Lorain. They read like a page from a 1950’s obituary. It was built across the street from a vacant factory, and most of its windows were broken. The parking lot was overridden with weeds that had grown through the cracks of the asphalt.

He noticed a yellow Chevette parked on the street. It looked as if it had been there for years. Benton wondered, did its engine breakdown? Did it fail? Or did the driver just park the car, open the door, and walk away? The rust on the car’s back fender had spread everywhere. It was on the barbwire fence, the guard rails, the train tracks, and on the underbelly of the bridge. Benton smiled at the graffiti on the factory. The message on the smokestack read: Hope 1984 – 1999. We miss you.

Dear Benton,

Five days ago, I killed a man. When he fell, his body hit the ground stiff and fast. Practice targets never fell like that, they can stand up to multiple clips of gunfire. He only took two bullets to the chest. When I saw him up close, he had dust on his face, his arms were at his side, palms up, and he looked older than Dad.

We had positioned ourselves just outside of the Baghdad, moving a couple of miles a day. Usually, it was Lawrence Simons that called the point, but since our platoon was coming so close to civilian territory, he thought Bob McNamara could handle the job for the night. “The experience will be good for him,” he said. But more importantly, Simons wanted to talk to his wife; she was in labor that night.

The platoon advanced and set up camp just edging the man’s yard. That night, he started yelling at us [long after the fact, I found out it was because two of our men were stealing his chickens], then McNamara yelled out rifle and I fired on the man. It just took two bullets to the chest. Children [I think they were his grandchildren] were screaming from inside the house. Two women came out and smothered the man with their bodies and tears.

And what Bob McNamara said he thought was a rifle, was actually a broom. He said, “Who the fuck sweeps their house at 10.30 PM?” Once the women composed themselves—they began to curse us. Later that night, I apologized relentlessly and tried to give them two hundred dollars out of my own pocket. They threw the money back at me and spit in my face, and then they continued to cry. When the sun came up, I stayed in the tank’s shade. The sun here makes you feel like you’re always wearing a second layer of heavy skin. I stayed and listened to them cry for two days, stopping only to eat, pray, and sleep. Simons checked in on me once and while, he told me he had a boy. And that these people tend to do their house cleaning at night, because it’s too hot during the day. “Just keep that mind for the future,” he said. After they buried him, they kept crying. Simons said it’s customary for the family to cry for the dead for two weeks. I smoked and read to their wailing, listening as if they were Johnny Mathis.

Louise Santiago is a guy we call Spanish Rice, he’s part Cuban and Korean. He quit the seminary to join the Army and works as a minister’s assistant. He baptized me at a strip club before we left. I talk to him about God a lot. After I shot the guy, I asked Spanish if God was going to forgive me.

He said that when you confess to God, He grants forgiveness. Just like that, He gives you a clean slate and loves you all over again. I told him that the government forgave me and mom forgave. I hope his family will one day forgive me. Benton, I hope you can forgive me too, but I still don’t forgive myself. I asked Spanish, “What’s the use of believing in God if he can’t help you out now?”

He said, “God understands things get bad, and there are days He wishes He could do more, but all He can really do is offer you a cracker, some wine, and a good ear, and say—tomorrow man, it will be better. It’s not much, but it’s more than a person can offer you these days.”Love, Vinh

The Wii Nintendo Platform

Friday, December 15
With the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 being the dominant videogaming platforms, Nintendo got back into the fold with the Wii. And one of the biggest problems that came up was that the strap, on his wireless [bluetooth] controller was that it was flying out of people's hands when it was playing the sport games. In an article discussing the problem, this quote struck me:

Nintendo is hoping the easy-to-control wand will appeal to a wider crowd of players — not just young men.

Men and our sticks, always flying about. Isn't that the truth?

Parts of a Letter to a Stranger

Wednesday, December 13
My grandfather [a man I called a grandfather] said to me, hurry and be rich and get married. Do it all before I die. His face is puffy from the heart pills he’s on, and he still smokes. I nudged him in the shoulder and said, “We’ll you better live longer then.”He tried to introduce [that’s the Vietnamese introduction] to some women, but I knew it wasn’t going to work. They thought I was picky, but I said, “But she’s under 20.” An arm’s length, a wall, racism, politics, or a bubble suit should be the only things that separate people – not a decade. And besides – she hardly speaks English, which to some mean very little but I’m a talker. Hesitant people already irritate me.

It sounds gay [maybe there’s a better word, but it’s the only word I can hear my friends calling me]. But I want it all – companionship, trust, but most importantly love. I think a relationship can survive with two out of three things, but some people just settle for one and fake the other two. I think about it – just being with someone, to fill in the void. It’s what we do by nature. Dogs dig up the yard, and we fill in the holes. Cats cover up their shit. The unpleasant, the holes – weaknesses, embarrassment, and shame, we cover them all up. And ask the simple question – why aren’t I with someone.

And when you rush it and it doesn’t work out, there’s divorce. I’m not going to into that, except to say – no one ever thinks they’re going into the contract with someone thinking that they’ll be the downfall of their lives, especially so early on it. I used to be deadly afraid of it, especially when it failed – it’s like having the wind knocked out of you, your feet swept from underneath you, and then you wake up. Nothing looks the same, and you spend days, weeks, and months trying to find out where you are, and what type of man [person] that you are in this new place in your life. But I wrote this last night, and I liked it.

I want an epic love, the type that endures the world. It’s shit out there, and when you come home, when you see that person – that person is your shield. It glows and ornamental, legendary in many eyes because it has endured so much punishment. And it will continue to do so.

I want lightning – in that blink of an eye, it hits you, surging volts and volts of energy, capable of jump starting your new life. You even have to look up in amazement from time to time. A friend and I talked about how long it was since we’ve had that long conversation – that six hour talk, and it made me long for it. To have that conversation and connect, words flowing like rivers and good music. Talks so long lasting that keep you up until dawn, and the only reason you stop is because your body can’t last that long. It has to sleep. You hate it, and you think you might not be able to, because you’re excited, but you can, because there’s a piece of mind that you carry with you. That there is love that won’t fail you, and it will only breakdown because you can’t physically meet its perpetual nature.

I Used to Call Him Jesus Mike

Monday, December 11
He looked like Jesus, and he was passed out on the couch at a party that I took him to. Whose Jesus is here? That was what I remember, because all the guys had long hair and a beard. He slept for most of the party, but remembered the part he was awake for. Said he had a good time. That was my first memory of him. I learned he died on myspace today. A common friend wrote back and said:

Hey Dave,
Yeah, Michael was in a car accident early in the morning on Oct 29. His car drifted into the right railing and bounced across to the concrete median on 670 in Columbus [OH]. His car was the the only one involved and I guess it was just one of those things.

I also learned that one of my friend's mother had just passed from cancer today. She was alive long enough to see him get engaged, get married, and have a son in one year. All the important matters were attended, she just won't be able to see how it all ends.

Stories from the Ironbound

Sunday, December 10
I emailed a friend today, but I decided that I should start sharing these stories here:

My friend Freeze and Hadji came into town and we met the Clevland Women's Rugby Team, a quarter of which are lesbians. With that said, Freeze made out with three of the members in a four day span. Two of which were lesbians, hence he was dubbed "The Converter."

Last Friday, I met with the girls and played "Beer Jenga," which may be the best fucking game ever. EVER. EVER! First, begin with a pitcher of beer, and each person has a glass and when it's your turn, dump a small or large amount into a tumbler glass. When the glass hits the bottom, said person must drink. These people brought tongs with them to a bar. WHO THE FUCK DOES THAT? So hence, a large hangover followed.

Now this story begins with Hadji in a bar in New Jersey, the week before said event, Hadji hooked up with a cow. Not a literal one, but just a large female. MOO MOO! Let it be said, cows are sacred to his people. We now flash forward to present week, where Hadji meets up with her 'smaller' friends at same said bar.

Things aren't going well. So he calls Freeze, who comes up to the bar, downs a 24 oz beer and decides to carry a conversation with one of these said smaller friends.

"I speak four languages," said the woman.
"Well, what are they?" Freeze responds.
"English, Spanish, some German, and sign language," the woman says.
"Sign language isn't a language, "he says, laughing hysterically.
She disagrees and appears to be offended.
"Are you telling me there is an island of deaf people out there. Yeah, do you?" he says.

Hadji laughs so hard that he has to take a knee.