I’ve always had the ability to remain calm and collected during times of great stress. The world, in a manner of speaking, could be on fire… and I would pause, assess my situation, and cautiously plan my next several moves. In such times, my dreams would roughly parallel reality. The dreams would be very lucid, almost tangible, and would leave me thinking about them long after waking.
One particular dream seems to reoccur periodically. The dream would pick up about where it left off previously but would then loop around and begin again… much like a skipping record. In the dream, I would be crouched on a narrow wall, looking inward, as best I could… into a small square-shaped, but very dark courtyard and, with what little light was available, a shadowy vapor-like mass could be seen lurking… wandering about. It moved much like a living organism and behaved as if it were intelligent. From time to time, I’d have to re position myself along the top of the wall trying to avoid the shadow below. It appeared to me that it was seeking me out but it didn’t know quite where I was. My periodic movements would attract its attention… and it would just be a matter of time before I’d have to move again, to avoid being caught.
The shadow had the air about it of malevolence and harshness. It filled me with a sense of dread and impending doom. From my vantage point along the wall, I could faintly make out that the ground below was slowly rising. As it rose, I could see the mist getting closer to reaching me. Moving away quickly and quietly as I could, I snuck along the wall to escape its reach. To my amazement, the wall must’ve been on an incline, because I could see that I was putting more height between myself and the following mist. The ground kept rising… I crept along… the mist kept coming…
Inevitably I’d awake with an uneasy feeling… with the dream fresh upon my mind. I’ve thought at length about the underlying meanings of this dream. I could feel my angst reflected perfectly in the dream. I’m the type of person who avoids conflict if at all possible. The mist symbolized the stressful situation at that point in my life. Moving along the wall just out of reach, and trying to not attract the attention of the mist, was my way of distancing myself from an unpleasant event. The ground rising up, to me, symbolized unresolved issues coming back to haunt me. The inclined wall was my temporary escape route.
Would the courtyard ground ever stop rising? Would the wall level off and allow the mist to reach me? Would I finally have to confront the mist?

Series: My brother, the Gunny.

My brother is a moron. That’s right, I said it. We’re family and I love him, but he’s still touched in the head. Tony is the middle child in our family and he always had to be at the center of attention. I’ve compiled a few stories for your consumption.
Never, and I mean never, go out to eat with my brother. Drive thru windows aren’t safe either. We were out together one day and decided to get something to eat. Pulling into a Wendy’s drive thru, he place his order. “Yes, I’d like a number two combo, large, with a coke. And don’t be stingy with the chili sauce either!” He then turned to me and asked, “Hey, you want anything?”
Seriously? I’m going to order something after he was an ass at a drive thru window? Those guys make minimum wage. Do you think they’d give a damn or think twice before screwing with your order?
“No, thanks, I’m good.” I replied.

He did the same thing once at a Carl’s Jr. After placing his order, he finished by telling the order taker, “And don’t put any of that goddamn secret sauce on it either!”
Good move, Tony! I’m sure they’re not inside, lining up to spit on your order… Dumbass.

My brother, the Gunny.

My brother has a way of doing things to cause a stink… literally. It’s his way of saying he likes you.
One afternoon I was watching TV when the phone rang. I saw from the caller ID that it was from my brother so I answered.
“Patrick! You know what the hell your brother just did?????” screamed his wife Kelly through the phone.
“Hey, you married the guy. What do you want me to do about it?” I replied.
“Listen to what he just did to me!” she said.
“Ok…” Hell, in all honesty, I didn’t have anything else to do and she was pissed. I figured this might be fun.
“I was in taking a shower, all by myself…” she started out saying.
“Get to the point, Kelly. The sun is going down.” I sarcastically replied.
“Shut it, mister! Shut your damned pie hole and listen!” Yeah, she was mad. Kelly was a Navy Corpsman, a psych tech (Marine Certified) to be exact. She was used to other people’s attitude and she wasn’t having any of mine or my brother’s.
“Go ahead….” I knew this had to be good.
“I was taking a damned shower and all of a sudden this god awful smell started choking me. I was like WTF??? So I pulled the shower curtain back and saw YOUR brother taking a shit! Right there… while I was taking a shower!!!” Her voice trailed off in a high pitched squeak.
“Kelly, did you lock the door?” I asked.
‘No!” she said.
“Then it’s your own damned fault. You know how Tony is…. YOU married him!” I shot back. Kelly hung up. She should have known she’d get no sympathy from me.

Southern Charm

Growing up in the Deep South, it was always ingrained into me that manners were important. Rich or poor, even if you had nothing else in life, you should have good manners. Common courtesy was a fundamental part of everyday life.

I moved to San Diego in the summer of 1999 after divorcing my wife of eight years. I wasn’t too surprised at the pace of life being much brisker than Alabama. I had moved around a bit as a child and had experienced life in other places but San Diego took a little bit of getting used to. The typical pleasantries that defined the world I was accustomed were noticeably lacking.

Shopping was awkward when it came time to pay for my purchases. The cashier would almost always ask, “Did you find everything you needed?” My response would habitually be “Yes, ma’am/sir”. That, more often than not, generated somewhat of a pained expression upon the cashier’s face. It happened that one cashier retorted to my “yes, ma’am” with “I’m not that old!” To which I replied that it had nothing to do with age but rather common courtesy. It didn’t matter how old she was. It was all about being respectful towards others.

In the Deep South, ostentatious display of wealth is also frowned upon. You could be in line next to someone wearing overalls, sporting a few days growth of beard, and looking as if they hadn’t a dime to their name… in truth, that person could very well be a wealthy man. They just didn’t ‘put on airs’, as it is locally known.

Dating was another area where I was called out on my social graces. More than a few times, I would attempt to open a door for a lady and she would say something like “I can open my own door.” I made it a point not to ever ask her out again. One thing that bothered me when dating some women here in San Diego had to do with them asking me what I considered to be very superficial questions. Things like, what kind of car to you drive? Do you own or rent? How much do you make?

Wow! I never could get used to that. Before formulating what my net worth could be, wouldn’t be a better idea to get to know me as a human being? What happened to politeness? Were these people not taught manners as children? Was I expecting too much? I married my second wife in 2002. Neither of us knew what the other earned until about two weeks before our wedding day. Our relationship wasn’t based upon financial statements.

Over time, I’ve learned to just ‘go with the flow’. I try not to let the lack of courtesy bother me as much as I did years ago. I do miss what some would call ‘Southern charm’ but still remain true to my roots… to my manners.

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