Where have I been? Another story, another time. Back now–on a more regular basis.
Let’s get colorful. We will do more mashups as often as we can. This time it’s Waiting for Westmoreland (WFW) and The Vacation of My Life.
The tenth anniversary edition of WFW, a memoir of a 20th century Candide, came out in 2017. Vacation is a work in progress. It’s a sci-fi psychological mystery/thriller—or something else we will define further when it comes out.
Waiting for Westmoreland–excerpted, condensed and revised snippets
“Hey pope, pass the dope,” a common refrain I heard in Nam. I started smoking marijuana there. Amazing stuff. But I stopped when back in the US. One year at Ft Knox to go before leaving the Army.
Strait-laced Gloria was unchanged in 1968. Drinking was evil, she said. Grass would never do, even after leaving the military. But I had grown. Illusions about America were shattered. I had thoughts, not carried out, of killing a psychotic drunk, MSgt Seagram—the bane of my existence in Nam.
Five days out from the army, came my first march, the Vietnam Mortarium Day, October 15, 1969.
. . . .
March 1970 I finally started college. . .. Week one, Jill, a pixie- faced natural blond started hitting on me. She said, during between-class coffee-fueled dialogues, “Dave and I have an understanding, he doesn’t mind if I go out with other men.”
I was trying to reclaim my ideals, not corrupt them further. She was as married as me. But she casually showed me a model portfolio, including an array of classic nudes.
On April 30th the court entered my divorce decree from Gloria. That same day, with Jill in tow, I tossed my wedding ring into the Mississippi River from the bridge joining the East and West Bank campuses of the University of Minnesota. The ring a Vietnamese woman had pointed to, while giving me a lesson in morality, two years before.
Jill and I went to a Neil Diamond concert two weeks later. I picked her up at her home. [S]he waved goodbye to her husband, leaning down at the doorway to get a look at behind the wheel. It would be 2:30 a.m. before I brought her home. While the agreement with Dave did not extend to sleepovers, apparently it didn’t preclude wild sex.
Life was good. It had never been so good. Five years later, when I first heard the Brian Ferry song, “Love is the drug,” Jill immediately came to mind. She was an addiction. It left me in a state of withdrawal when I didn’t get my fix. I surrendered control of my heart and my life to Jill, playing by her rules.
At summer’s end, October, Jill gave me the news, over coffee at Coffman Union. “It’s over,” she said.“What do you mean, over?”
“I’m leaving Dave.”
“So,” I began, optimistically “Does that mean you’ll be spending more time with me?”
“No. It means I need space to consider what I really want, what I really need.”
“OK. So where does that leave us?”
“There is no us. There is you and there is me. If I continued seeing you now, it would remind me of Dave. It just wouldn’t work.”
“So, you’re leaving him and me.”
“Yes. We’ve had some great times together, which I will always treasure, but all good things must end. This is the end.”
“Don’t worry, John, there will be other women after me,” she said as she stood up to walk away.
I sat in shock at the table. I had put too much of myself into our relationship. Jill had left me bleeding raw, ripping away the tendrils of heart and soul I had foolishly attached to her. Jim Morrison’s voice ran through my head, singing the Doors slow dirge, “The End.”
The Vacation of My Life—opening pages
Sam left the building in a daze. How could I have done that? How could I forget all that? I’ve got to call Melanie, maybe she knows something. Plopping down on a transit bench, he speed-dialed her. If anybody knew him, she did.
Surprisingly, she answered again, “Call me again and I will get a restraining order!” Melanie screamed.
“Wait, don’t hang up—please. Whatever I did, I’m sorry. But I don’t know what I did. I just went to my office and found out I got fired. They said I did some crazy stuff; stuff that didn’t make sense. I don’t remember any of it.”
“What—are you kidding? Are you trying to say you have amnesia, or is this some kind of line?”
“No, it’s not some kind of line. I woke up late this morning; my alarm didn’t go off. I couldn’t find my building pass. When I got to work and asked for a temporary ID, the guard at the desk couldn’t find me in the employee directory. He put me through to Bob Jackson. He said they fired me on the spot at a staff meeting after I called the CEO an idiot and urinated all over the agenda. It’s crazy! Why would I do something like that? I remember summarizing the Gibson contract at the last meeting. It comes up for renewal in July.”
“Sam, this is August.”
“What! No, it can’t be. I— I don’t understand,” Sam sucked in air.
“What you did at the staff meeting isn’t any crazier than your Fourth of July stunt. I suppose you don’t remember that either?”
“No; wait—I’m still trying to get a grip on what day it is.”
“It’s Tuesday, August 4, 2015, Sam. A month after you offered the woman next to us at the fireworks $50 to help me launch your ‘trouser rocket.’ You said it would shoot off higher and brighter than any of the ones at the show,” Melanie said.
“No—no, I didn’t!” Sam gasped.
“Yes, yes you did. After she slapped you, I dragged you out of there and back to your car. I insisted you take me home immediately. When we got to my door, you actually had the nerve to want to come up. You said you would have to settle for just one booster to blast off!” Melanie snarled.
“I’m feeling sick.”
“Good. I hope you puke. I called you the next day, expecting an apology. Instead, you just laughed. Look, I’m at work—I don’t have time for this. Like I said, it’s over. You want a synopsis, look for the letter I sent you three weeks ago. Don’t call me again,” she said, hanging up.