[lit-ideas] How it surrealistically is

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 19:39:33 -0700

John brings it all back:  I had forgotten how much I hated Marine Corps'
rules.   I enlisted during the Korean War when the rules were somewhat
relaxed, but after the truce, management decided to whip us back into shape.
A series of picayune rules followed by a series of petty punishments began
the process.  I saw that but actually had some pretty good duty toward the
end of my tour: senior rifle instructor at Camp Pendleton.   I wasn't sure I
was going to get out; so I questioned a number of people about my options.
The Requalification activity at Pendleton was temporary, I was told.  After
that we coaches would be returned to our previous duty stations.  Mine was
the 2nd 90s at 29 Palms.  That wasn't the only reason I got out, but it was
one of them.  I learned to hate silly rules.   And I hated and still hate
standing in line.  

But it seemed to me I hated rules before I ever went in the Corps.   Like
John Amsterdam I frequently snuck into closed and locked places to swim.  At
one time in my town when I was growing up, there was a curfew.  We, some of
us, thought it great fun to sneak about after curfew, keeping a lookout for

And a few years later after the truce a spit-and-polish colonel took over
our base at  K-8 (officers only had to serve for 3 months - the rest of us
were there for 13 months).  He was unhappy with how sloppy we had become and
among other things issued an order that no one was going to be allowed off
base until we shaped up.  This was after some of us promised to attend some
Aussie party at the nearby Aussie base.   When a few of us showed up, a
bunch of them burst into laughter.  They had heard about our Colonel's rule,
and about his order to sentries to shoot to kill anyone found outside the
base, and some of Aussies bet we would show up anyway.   Later when we tried
to get back we were shot at, but if you drink enough beer that's all great
fun, and the Aussies had great beer.  We figured that Sentries would rush
over to see what was being shot at; so we rushed around to the other side
and got in, laughing the whole time.  

But the initial reason I wanted to write this note was Julie's comment about
"the surrealistic notion of Lawrence as butting heads with rules."
Actually, I just want to borrow the concept "surrealistic," for that would
describe an experience I had last night.   I walk my girls (two 85-pound
Rhodesian Ridgebacks) in places where people aren't because  1) we tend to
scare people at night and 2) the girls get excited when they see other dogs.
Last night's walk began ominously.  We had yet to get out of our
neighborhood when a couple of dogs approached us off leash.  No doubt they
had escaped from someone's yard, but their owners weren't about.  The
largest one was about the same size as my girls and approached stiff legged
as though he was looking for trouble.   My girls had always seemed somewhere
between utter meekness and actual timidity, but I think now that was a false
impression.  Maybe they never had a reason to be anything else until last
night.  My timid Sage turned into a roaring lion and barked ferociously at
this approaching dog, tugging at the leash as though she wanted to rip his
throat out.  In all her three years I had never seen this behavior before.
Neither, apparently, had the off leash dog, for he relaxed his stiff legs,
tucked his tail between his legs and scurried back down the street.

When we got out of the neighborhood and onto an old farm-road where there
are no lights and last night no moon, the night was filled with sirens.  I
could see on a distant road two or three miles away the flashing red lights
of something.  I couldn't tell whether it was a fire truck or a police car.
When we came near the outskirts of a yet-to-be completed housing complex, I
could see that it was lighted up.  Was this part of the emergency?  We
approached cautiously and peaked through the remains of a cinder-block fence
that had been blown apart by a recent wind storm.  The lights moved slowly
along and then turned up one of the streets and disappeared; we went in and
walked the fringe until we came out near a park.  We walked on the sidewalk
adjacent to the park and I noticed something lying in the grass.  It was a
machete, a large one.   

I looked at it suspiciously, looking for blood, thinking it might in some
way be connected to the sirens, but I didn't see anything but a little dirt
on it, and so practicing that rule from the depression, "finders keepers," I
picked it up and resolved to take it home, but as I walked along I wondered
what the cops would say if they saw me walking along with this thing.  It's
blade was two feet long.  

It was about ll:00 pm and few people were driving on this street.  No one
was walking on the sidewalk; so I decided to take the chance.   Maybe I
could keep this thing behind my legs when cars went by.  As it turned out I
got no cooperation from my girls.  It seemed that they found some reason to
jerk over toward some bush each time a car went by.  On one occasion a
police car went by as I was inadvertently flashing this machete trying to
pull Ginger out of a bush.  But it  just kept on.  People do carry things
while walking about.  I've seen a woman who likes to carry a golf-club, but
she walks in the day time.

But I did make it home without being arrested . . . is it against the law to
carry a machete at night?   I don't know what rule I violated, but I'm sure
there must be one.   When I got the machete into my garage and inspected it,
I expected to see "made in China," but instead I saw "made in Colombia."
My son who delights in teasing his father suggested that I had the favorite
machete of a hit-man for a Colombian drug cartel who was now sure to be
after me.   While I thought that unlikely I now have this rather formidable
weapon on my desk in front of me as I write and imagine what it would look
like to see someone armed with such a weapon coming at one, whether in the
dark or not.   That would be a good time to be armed with a gun.  Of course
we have rules against carrying guns here in California.  

But I wanted to tell David that my Kukri is no longer the longest edged
weapon I have.  I now have a Colombian machete.  I wonder if his
sword-knowledge extends to such a thing.

Lawrence Helm
Hiding out from the police and the Colombians in San Jacinto

From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of Julie Krueger
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2008 5:47 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: HOW IT IS

Somewhere between wtF are you talking about?? (tv series) and the
surrealistic notion of Lawrence as butting heads with rules, there's an
important post here.
Perhaps tomorrow after the migraine induced by 24 hours of storms I'll
remember what I thought it was about.
Julie Krueger

On 6/6/08, John Wager <john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: 
ALL veterans I have ever met are quite suspicious of rules.  They not only
know how stupid they usually are, but they also know how to circumvent them
to get the job done when necessary. But veterans tend to be in support of
duty, honor, and the defense of the country, which (unfortunately) gets

There is no contradiction between seeing how many REALLY REALLY stupid rules
the military can come up with, and a suspicion that government may not
be the best judge of what we should do... 

Lawrence Helm wrote:
And . . . I wonder why no one has ever suggested an inconsistency between my
conservatism and my dislike of rules.

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