"... and I ain't lying."

I got a call around 1:30 AM to pick up at The Hidden East, at SE 52nd & Duke. One of many dive bars in zone 118 that caters to a clientele of hardcore older alcoholics who aren't going anywhere. The "extra remarks" on the order were "BAR'S CLOSING, HE'S OUTSIDE."

"Wonderful," I thought to myself.

I pulled up and the lights were off, the parking lot empty. I had my windows down, and heard someone yell "Hey!" I heard it again. I got out to look around, and still couldn't see anyone. Then the same voice - "Hold on! I'll be right there!" I looked over and saw a man in the shadows of the dumpster, urinating.

"Wonderful," I thought to myself, and got back in the cab.

After a minute or two, a man with white hair and wrinkled skin stumbled over to the car and got in. He asked me to take him to the Harmony Inn, another very fine drinking establishment, but also one that was at least far enough away to be worth my while.

As I drove, he asked me my name. I told him. He said his name was Charlie Brown, and that he'd killed more men than God himself. He was the second most decorated Indian in Oregon who fought in the Korean War. He'd blown up all kinds of people, but he hadn't been killed in Korea, and neither had any of his Marines. His Marines had loved him because he was good and he was lucky, and he'd given them all BARs.

The Marines as a branch hadn't loved him, though. He'd wanted to go back, to fight in Vietnam, but they'd told him he was an asshole and wouldn't take him back.

"That's what they told me!" he said. "We won't take you, Charlie, you're too big an asshole! And I ain't lying!"

"Did you ask to go to Iraq?" I asked.


"Well did you go back and ask to go to Iraq? I mean by now they've probably forgotten you're such an asshole."

This got a big laugh out of him, and an "I like you kid, you're alright." He then got serious. "They didn't let me go to Vietnam. They didn't let me go to Vietnam and a lot of people died. 5,000, no, 500,000 people died. They didn't know what they were doing. And what would it've done if I'd gone over there, too? If they had let me? Just another one dead."

He continued. "It's the same way now over there in Iraq. Except not as many kids die, so you don't hear as much about it. No, now they're so good at medicine the kids don't die, what would've killed on of my men you're stuck living with now. Double, triple, quadruple amputees. It's sick. You know how many wounded we've had? And 'wounded' is worse than it what it used to be. Fuck the dead, the dead get the good deal of it these days. The wounded numbers is what tell you how bad it really is."

I already knew all of this, but didn't tell him.

"This Bush," he said. "This Bush is the worst. Worse than Johnson, worse than Nixon, just a fucking spoiled, evil piece of shit. I hate 'im more than anything. And I'm a killer, I've killed so many people. And this Bush I hate more than anyone I killed. It's bad. It's real bad over there in Iraq.

Ah, listen to me. Just a drunk old man. It was 50, 60 years ago, but I killed a lot of people kid, and I ain't lying. I was 18 when I started and I'm 72 now, but I can remember."

And I didn't doubt him.

It came to $11 on the meter, and he tipped me a buck. As he got out of the car, he said "It's bad over there, real bad in Iraq, and I ain't lying. What's your name?"

I told him for the third time, and extended my hand for him to shake. Instead of shaking it, he clasped it weakly over the top, the way my grandmother used to hold my hand.

"Good to meet you, Crabbie," he said, "My name's Charlie Brown, and I'm the second most decorated Indian from the Korean War in Oregon."

He started to withdraw his hand, but then grabbed mine again, with more force this time.

"I killed a lot of people, and this war is a horrible thing, and I ain't lying."

"I know," I said.

But I often find myself forgetting. I was arrested protesting this war at its beginning, and I have a friend who fought in it. Yet it ony touches me in tangential and indirect ways - I go about my daily life protected by two oceans and two pussy-whipped neighbors, and if anything my quality of life has improved since the war began almost 3 and a half years ago.

But the vets don't forget. And thank God they don't, because it's so easy for something as horrible and immediate as war to become vague and abstract in my sheltered little mind.

He let go of my hand, and looked back at me with doubt as he closed the door, like I didn't understand what he was trying to say. And having not killed anyone myself, there's a very good chance that I didn't except in the most abstract and intellectuaized terms.


Blogger Talia said...

Hey Crabbie! I'm one of the many who read and don't comment, but this entry seems to beg at least a little note.

This time last year I was heavily involved in protests and gathering support via fundraisers to send little goodies to the troops and the like. During that time, I didn't understand how people could walk past our little booth. We were quiet, we weren't political, we were just asking people to sign Christmas cards for the troops. There we were, one of very few opportunities most people have ... and they walked right past.

This year is a different story. I got all sorts of selfish and my personal issues took center stage. No fundraising, no sending letters, not a thing. Of course now I feel guilty ...

Anyhow, rambling mess of a note to say, "I feel ya!" Keep up the great writing.

August 01, 2006 1:41 PM  
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August 01, 2006 4:47 PM  
Blogger Crabbie said...

Glad you enjoy the blog, Talia.

I'm sorry you couldn't find what you were looking for, anonymous, but now you can at least know that because of you, everyone who wants to leave a comment will have to write a word of gibberish to do so! Isn't that AWESOME?

August 01, 2006 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, my gibberish didn't even anagram to anything.

August 01, 2006 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A tip from the teepee your fares are like a box of chocolates well done soldier [OF THE ROAD].

August 03, 2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger wil said...

Would you please turn your "comments" back on.

August 23, 2006 8:59 AM  

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