Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You Don't Like Me Cause I'm White? Really?

I had planned for my next post about my life in the Air Force to be about my first "job," which was during basic training, but it occurred to me this morning that I needed to address one other vital ingredient to this saga, beforehand...

Yup, that's me just before entering the USAF
When I left home on July 14th, 1981, to enter the military, I left a very small rural area called Embreeville, Pennsylvania. I had been bused to the same school district miles away my entire young life. I believe in our high school graduating class we had two black kids that I can recall, one of which I had been friends with since preschool (which was a brief introductory class that students back then attended before first grade.) 

I had been raised in a Christian home and until my father married my stepmother when I was twelve, racial hatred had been an unknown. Until then it had never occurred to me to think of people as white or black or brown or olive or anything else, kids were kids and grownups were grownups and that was as far as it went in my young mind. So, as I arrived in Philadelphia that fateful, humid July day, I walked wham-bam into the biggest eye opener of my entire young life.

The first people around my age that I met were two girls from Philly. The first one, I don't remember her name, after all that was thirty-three years ago, and the other I will never forget as long as I live, funny how that works. I'll refer to her as Airman C., I don't remember her first name, but from the moment we met she took an install dislike to me and I had no idea why, not until two days later...

Shortly after first introductions and a quick walk to breakfast at McDonald's, which for me was a major treat (I did say I was from a very small town, right?), when we got back to the Military Enlistment Processing Station (or MEPS for short) we were joined by two more women, both black, and I was immediately excluded, shunned. 

Now, being excluded wasn't new for me, I had always been the wall flower at school. The quiet loner who stood on the outside looking in, but dammit this was a new start for me and I knew I hadn't done anything to deserve this ostracism, so I really didn't get it... So the next day, which really felt more like a lifetime, as we all sat around our new "home" for the next six weeks in our brand-spanking new, olive-drab uniforms and with our new "mother" so to speak, we received our dorm assignments, a.k.a. "jobs." 

No, I didn't get a cool one like "House Mouse," my bunk mate and new best friend, Meggie Byers,
These aren't actually "my" stairs but as close a pic as I could find.
got that one. No, my job, the one I shared with another girl, was Stairwell Monitor. Oh, just a hint, the military likes to give cool-sounding names to their otherwise mundane, menial assignments, my job was to keep the stairwell that led up to our dorm clean. Definitely not an easy job when you share a dorm with twenty-some other "women," who apparently like to use the stairs A LOT.

Oh, and guess who my partner in that illustrious task was, one of those four girls from Philly, Airman S., and as we started our new "job," together, I found out why the four of them didn't like me. You know that was the first time I was ever called, "whitey," and my new "partner" also made it very clear that cleaning the stairwell was not only beneath her, but that I was on my own. Which was actually fine with me, I'd been cleaning the cement stairs at home for years. 

So as the days progressed I quickly earned a reputation for having "spotless stairs." As for my absentee partner, at first Airman C. blamed me for her friend's unhappiness at having to work with me. But days later when it became clear that I was the only one cleaning the stairs and Airman S. soon found herself on the way home, Airman C. actually stopped sending venomous looks my way. No, we never became friends, but I believe I had earned her respect and that was good enough for me.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

NETHERWORLD by K.N. Lee

Recently finished K.N. Lee's NETHERWORLD, the first book in her Chronicles of Koa series.

The story is about a Korean half-vampire named Koa who works for an angel named Halston. Together, their job is to keep the human population safe from Netherworld vampires. 

The only catch is two-fold, Koa's mother is trapped inside a cat's body and the only one who can release her is an imprisoned Netherworld vampire prince. A prince Halston and Koa must go to Netherworld to rescue and bring back to the human world. 

The opening for the book is an instant hook, the characters entertaining and engaging. Though the writing isn't as smooth as I'd prefer, from start to finish I couldn't stop reading.

NETHERWORLD by K.N. Lee, the first book in her Chronicles of Koa series, a glowing 4 out of 5 stars! 







Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My First Official Day in Organized Chaos

...otherwise known as Air Force BMT (Basic Military Training.) We woke up early, 5 am,  to  the sounds of Reveille, which is surprisingly loud that early in the morning, and then were immediately yelled at. Between that damn, persistent bugle and the even more persistent TIs (Training Instructors) I think I went into shock.

Now, bear in mind, that I had spent most of my teenage years being yelled at. My father and stepmother had the whole yelling-and-making-me-feel-like-dirt-thing down pat. But to have uniformed strangers do it was an entirely different feeling of low, especially at 5 o'clock in the morning.

As I'm writing this, I'm doing my best to remember that first day, which is clear in bits and pieces, but the sequence of events is a lot more fuzzy. As the echo of that bugle continued to radiate inside my ears, my first thoughts were a mixture of, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" and "Get up! Get up! Get up!"

We were immediately ordered to get dressed and come to attention beside our beds. That first day, we were allowed our only leniency in regards to getting out of bed and falling into formation. Instead of what was to be the usual waking up just before Reveille, quickly going to the bathroom and then at the first sound of the bugle, getting dressed and hurrying down the stairs so we could fall into formation before Reveille ended, that first morning we were actually allowed the luxury of going to the bathroom and then straggling downstairs. Mind you, even that day, us newbies to military life were only given mere minutes to use the bathroom and fall in.

Everything about those days was rush, rush, rush. "Hurry up and wait," quickly became a favorite description of life in the military. That was the extend of our lives from day one, we had to hurry into formation, which consisted of us standing in four or five organized rows (dependent upon the size of the flight) and then wait for our next command.

Then, in the still early morning hours, we went to breakfast or "chow." Later that day we would all receive our assignments, one of which was "Chow Runner." To avoid all flights arriving at the "mess hall," (dining hall) at one time, each flight sent their Chow Runner down to be given an assigned time and to stay on schedule, you were only allowed a few minutes to eat. It was all very organized, organized chaos.

When it came our turn, we marched row by row, person by person through the door into the mess hall. If you've ever been to a cafeteria, it's pretty much the same idea, only there's a wall behind you and you immediately pick up a tray, take the plate of food that is given to you, no choices, grab two glasses of water (mandatory) and anything else you want to drink (optional) and then you find a seat with your flight. The mess hall tables are pretty much like any public school cafeteria tables.

The first thing we had to do, before coffee or orange juice, or our first bite of food, was drink the two glasses of water. That was mandatory and that was with every meal. Later, the rumors would fly that there was saltpeter in the water to keep us from getting "horny," but there were A LOT of rumors in "Basic."

After a rushed breakfast that I didn't finish, no wonder I lost six pounds during Basic Training, we were ordered back into formation and then began the busy day of getting our uniforms and supplies, health examinations (blood work), and for the guys, there was the infamous shaving of the heads.

Yes, we did see our "guys" from time to time, sometimes in passing, other times while in group formations. You know you'd think you'd recognize a guy, even without his hair. But, honestly, shave his head, put an olive-drab uniform on him, and stand him in a sea of other guys dressed in olive-drab and he becomes hard to recognize.

But what occurred to me in all this, was that I wasn't the only girl in our group with overactive hormones. And girls do talk, especially in later weeks when we became more like "friends" than strangers, and memories of those first days were easier to laugh at.

To All of You Who Are Motherly!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are motherly! Mother's Day has always been an enigma to me and every year I am puzzled as to...