Thursday, April 30, 2009

Scene One.

Bill is asleep in his twin sized bed, covered in a thin light blue blanket. When I flipped on the light it startled him. He peeked above the blanket. His hair is pure white and messy. He remembered my face and the tall brown boots I was wearing. He asked about them. He asked about them three more times before I left. The 75 year old, Schenectady, New York, native has been in the Albany County Nursing home for four years and can’t understand why.

Born to Sally “Sadie” Dixon on September 14, 1933 at the Belleview Hospital in Schenectady, Bill has seen his mother married to four different men, three of which walked out on him and his mom, he was sent to Burke, New York, to work on his aunt and uncles farm, joined the army, and has been married four times himself. He can only recall two of his wives names.

The memory of growing up in Schenectady during General Electrics booming years evades his memory. To him Schenectady was “just busy.” Bill went to junior high school at Van Corlear and then onto Mount Pleasant high school. He was a self-proclaimed average student, his favorite subject was the arts, he didn’t play sports, and his best friend was an Italian boy named Tony. Once he mentions Tony’s name, he remembers they use to play baseball. Tony was better then him.

His Aunt Katherine and Uncle Lawrence took him into their home for a few years. Burke, New York was only miles from Canada. On clear days, Bill remembers walking out onto the porch and seeing the St. Lawrence river. His smile tells me he misses those days. Bill remembers their farm. It was large and beautiful, there were a lot of cattle, and he spent his days working. His smile vanished.

“Uncle L worked my ass off!” said Bill.

Once Sally married her fourth husband, Raymond C. Smith, Bill moved back home. This is the only husband Bill liked. The family moved into a brown and white two story house on 5th Street in Schenectady. It was only a two bedroom house. Sally had one room and Raymond had the other.

“They had separate rooms because mom was starting to get fat,” said Bill, “They couldn’t fit in the same bed. I had my own room in the basement.”

After a few years Bill went back up to Burke, New York and attended the Adirondack School of Commerce. He graduated from their one year business program and then moved back to Schenectady. When he got home, the Korean War had just started. Instead of being drafted, Bill volunteered for a two year commitment with the Army. He was put on a bus and wound up in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He was processed in and then sent across the country to Fort Ord, California. When he starts talking about California, he sits up from his bed. He’s wearing a green sweater and a nametag around his neck. This tag allows him a little more freedom then the other decaying residents.

“I loved the west coast,” said Bill, “The oceans, the weather, San Francisco. The east coast stinks.”

Bill boarded a ship and left California. He spent the next year and a half at a base outside of Frankfurt, Germany. Since he learned to type at the Adirondack School of Commerce, the Army put him in personnel. His job was easy and he was good at it. He traveled to England, Switzerland, Finland, and Scotland. Scotland was his favorite because that’s where his mother was from.

He came back to Schenectady and met his first wife Pat. They had three boys; Jeff, Tim, and Freddy. They moved around from Peabody, and Boston Massachusetts then eventually back to New York. Pat filed for divorce and Bill can’t remember why.

Bill stops the interview.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” said Bill, “it’s bringing back bad memories.”

He lays back down in his bed and closes his eyes. He tells me he is tired. His room is adorned with four American flags, a lighthouse calendar, a dream catcher, three certificates of recognition, family photos, a valentines day gift from his wife, and a nursing home event calendar. I asked him if he’s going to go to bingo tonight. No response. He was asleep.

There are seven packs of gummy bears on his shelve. He used to love gummy bears. Whenever he went to the store, he would always buy them. He woke up when I opened up a bag. He told me to take them home with me. I don’t think he likes gummy bears anymore.

At the end of his bed there is a brown recliner chair and next to it is a Vanity Fair magazine. Bill bookmarked a page with a dirty napkin. I opened up to the page and it’s a Versace advertisement. The model is tan, wearing a short beige dress, and heels. I put the napkin back in place and put the magazine on the floor. He fell back asleep.

I woke him up and told him I was going to leave. Bill didn’t lift his head off the pillow but he smiled at me. I asked him if he knew why he was at the nursing home.

“No. Why?” asked Bill.
“Do you know what Alzheimer’s is?” I responded.
“No. What is it?”
“It’s a disease that deteriorates your memory.”
“That’s what they say I have?”
“Well, that’s probably true…What memory?”

Bill and I both laughed. He’s always had the same sense of humor. I leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“What day is it?” asked Bill.
“Saturday,” I said.
“Shut off the light.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Birthday pictures...

Around UAlbany.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I just got the best gift ever...

My boyfriend bought me a Remington rifle! Now we are going shooting! He's the best!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At 4:09am...

I will be 25! And I've never felt so complete in my life! I have great friends who support me, a mother who is crazy (in a good way) and my partner in crime, a father who is literally going crazy but still awesome, a boyfriend that I totally adore (I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world), great professors, a few jobs, and I'm out of the Reserves in December! 25 is looking good!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Penn State University's Office of Student Affairs and President Graham Spanier...

produced a video featuring a "stereotypical "aggressive" veteran who threatens his professor." First and foremost, bravo on making yourselves look completely ignorant and uneducated. I do not know why this video was produced, I do not understand what point this video was attempting to make, and I do not understand why a group of people would go out of their way to make veterans seem unstable and irrational.

It’s hard enough to be a veteran and enrolled in college. Regardless, students and even professors already have preconceived notions about veterans. So not only do veterans have to prove they’re good students, intelligent, eager to learn…they also have to answer questions their peers may have, debunk absurd stereotypes, and show they are obtainable…not ticking time bombs like this video portrays them to be.

Veterans can only do so much. Somewhere along the line one can only hope the general public attempts to educate themselves…and produce a more accurate video. Maybe Penn State should invite a group of veteran students to speak at their school…this way we can speak for ourselves and allow the students to know what it’s really like to be a veteran in college.

Thanks for nothing Penn State and hats off to a brilliant President…clearly you’re all in good hands.

Here's the bullshit video...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Today Restored My Faith...

in my generation!

I met the professor around 11:30, chatted a little, and headed to her classroom. Whenever students walked in she had them introduce themselves to me...this made me feel a little important. Then she introduced me and had me speak about how I came to write my piece. Then it was question time...

Everyone just stared at me. Awesome. But that only lasted a very long few seconds. We got talking about situations with the Iraqis, how the Army is known for its piss poor planning, sex, what it’s like coming home, censorship, other blogs (I pulled up Army of Dude, LT Nixon, and The Usual Suspect), stop-loss, the medias coverage on the war (what coverage?), word usage...I used the word insurgent in my piece, not terrorist...this surprised some, my personal relationships with the two men I talk about in my piece, socioeconomic something something...I don't really know what this one kid was trying to get at but he was adorable so I just pretended to know what the hell he was talking about, and they asked about how much control the average soldier has over the orders given to them and what happens if they disagree. Death I told them! Just joking...the Army needs everyone they have.

One girl was extremely surprised to find out some soldiers engage in sexual activities...what! I was surprised to find someone who thought that was a surprise! The same girl commented that in some parts of my piece I was "sweet" and in other parts I was blunt and not so sweet. Then she asked me who I was...I smiled and told her I was a little bit of both.

The professor dropped the “F bomb” and I don’t think she was too excited about that. In fact, she informed the class that the only time they would hear her say “fuck” was when it was a direct quote…so she said it a few times. I felt bad.

A few students made comments that now they realize soldiers aren’t superheroes or baby killers…but we are just normal human beings. I succeeded in getting my point across and that was the best feeling in the world.

So we did this for about an hour. Everyone was so sweet and curious. It made me realize people do care.

As I was leaving the professor made a comment about me writing some more and possibly turning my piece into a book…I laughed. However, a kid asked me when the projected date was for the book…I told him it was being negotiated.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I was wrong...

I speak tomorrow! Ahh!

The Week Ahead...

Today I have to work on a paper about the automobile industry. Not completely excited about this paper but whatever I have to get it done. I have to read, "The Sorrow Of War" by Bao 2:45 tomorrow. Not sure if that's going to happen but I'll try. On Thursday, I'm going to be a guest speaker in the Mass Media and War In U.S. History honors class. The students read a memoir piece I wrote about my time in Iraq and now I get to answer a few questions. I'm nervous. The professor who asked me to speak is the Director of the journalism program, has a few books out, went to Brown University (had a horrible experience there once), and participated in a Strategic Policy Implementation Seminar at the Army War College. She's excited for me to come in...I just hope I don't screw up. Give me some tips! Also anyone know any bloggers who are currently overseas? She wants her students to check out some blogs. Let me know! Thanks!

Time to write about the big three going down in flames.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Today Eyeliner asked...

Upon hearing the news my unit is suppose to deploy to Afghanistan May 2010, Eyeliner asked...

"Where is Afghanistan?"

"By Iran and Pakistan," I responded.

"Like I know where that is."

So I googled "world map" and showed her. She looked and said...

"So they have the same weather as Virginia?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Army life...

I'm sitting in a hotel room in the washed up city of Schenectady. This weekend I play Army. The soldiers who live at least 50 miles from the unit get put up for the weekend. My two lovely but crazy army buddies are fixing their hair and not talking about their guy problems. The world might be coming to an end. Now one is putting on looks like shit but I don't have the heart to tell her.

I think the movie Crank looks completely stupid.

"When is New York going to have a flood?" Move to North Dakota.

I'm going to watch my little freedom fighters put on makeup. Army Strong!

p.s. I got an iPhone. Can you tell?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Out of Step...

with blogging! I apologize. I'll be making a comeback soon!

If you have Twitter...lets tweet together. I'm just starting to get into it.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell...

Sign a petition to overturn this out-of-date policy.

Sign the VoteVets petition here!