Running on Greed – The Journey of a Senator

For the Record

I am not saying all politicians are crooks and puppets. This short story tries to dive into the mental change that one would have to go through in order to become a corrupt public servant. They have to be okay with trading their morals for a materialistic bliss. Be able to put the wants of few over the needs of many in order to indulge in a deadly sin. It’s a frightening state of mind to be in if you one day become aware that all you are is a distraction for the evils of the world. It’s the closest one can get to being a sociopath without physically killing someone. This is a short story for entertainment purposes only – not to start a debate.

Campaign Road Trip

I ran an honest campaign. I didn’t drag anyone through the mud and I actually listened to what the people wanted. They say they want change, but they don’t know from what or how. Catch them off guard and they won’t be able to explain why they are angry, or in support of, an issue and end up sounding like five year olds trying to explain a dream. I know what the people want; they want the news to stop scaring them, not worry about Wall Street taking their 401k’s, “terrorists” defeated, even though they are no longer sure who we are fighting and why, and they want to stop hearing stories about immigration so they can stop feeling guilty when they hire a Hispanic to do something they don’t want, or know, how to do.

The election is the easy part. Make one speech, and just change the name of the city you are in. One long road trip saying the same speech that someone crafted, not wrote, with just the right amount of buzz words. It makes it sound like I’m answering questions when in reality I am not saying anything at all. The hard part is coming up with the money to win, not run.

In the Beginning There was Ambition

“I’m not going to be like them.” I tell myself as I walk up the steps of the capitol building. Today is my first day as a senator. I am young enough to use slang words without sounding like a dad, but old enough to be one. I worked hard in school, did what was asked of me and never arrived late. I couldn’t wait to start doing my part in changing the country for the better. I’m going to do great things. When I walk into my new office I stare at my name on a gold plate at the edge of my desk. My heart races with excitement at the realization that my hard work is finally going to start bearing fruit.

Exposed to Infections

I have been a senator for a few months now and I am starting to learn the jargon and operations of this place. Every hand you shake comes with a favor, or an IOU, and every dinner ends with a deal. When civilians are not around you see them take off their mask and relieve who they truly are, people. Normal people with many imperfections like the rest of us. Frat boys riding on the past glory of their fathers or grandfathers, independent women trying to play the man’s game, ex-attorneys who couldn’t make it as a judge, or ex-military trying to provide steady work for their enlisted brothers. I am an outsider to them because I have not asked or taken a favor from anyone. I can feel their judgement when I walk the halls. Like a new kid in middle school with a foreign name.

Being outside the loop gives me a front row seat to how the game is played. They try to combine two issues and turn it into a “one or the other” situation. They laugh amongst each other as they watch the country tear itself apart debating the issue they created from two mistakes. It’s all an act to them. If we keep the debate going we don’t actually have to come up with a solution. Just keep throwing logs into the fire and never let the flames get low enough to see what we are doing.

The Darkness Begins to Set In

Being here can wear out your morals. Constantly being surrounded by greed and seeing FOR SALE signs on people’s backs. I try to stay moral, but every bill I try to pass gets shut down because I am not, “one of them.” Some nights I drive home and question why I even bother going to work the next day, I’m powerless.

Then one day my mind goes dark. I see how the system works and its ugly truth sinks my heart down to my feet. I could leave but then it dawns on me – I do have power. My decisions have an impact on millions of people. I am a god, a king, a supreme being, in my own way for I have the power to make people suffer, or bring joy, by signing a piece of paper. This sense of power is overwhelming as I sit in my desk staring a bill I was about to propose. Things are going to be different from now on…

Into the Depths of Greed

A man in a suit comes into my office carrying a briefcase. He tells me that he wishes to speak to me about a sensitive issue. The meeting turns into a sales pitch and I’m the product. He is trying to sell me to myself. He opens the briefcase and I see stacks of tax free income in front of me. “One deal couldn’t hurt”, I thought. I can always make up for it on something else, something to benefit the community. It will even out. Checks and balances.

With one motion I sell my soul to him and curl up in his pocket. I am now part of the club, much to my co-worker’s delight. Now my inbox consists of invites to CEO yacht parties, top dollar fundraisers, and appointments to make more deals. They all need me because I have the power their money cannot buy, unless they buy me first. I am the missing link they are willing to pour money into in order to fuel their greed addiction. My ego grows in parallel with my off shore accounts.

One of Them

Everyday the word “enough” gets washed away from my vocabulary.  I do not recognize myself when I stare into the mirror, but a voice inside tells me that I am not the bad guy. I am just one man trying to survive and find a way to live comfortably. The oil companies are polluting the earth, not me, I am not shooting at our troops hoping for their death, that’s the enemy – I’m just a man trying to make a living. With each briefcase I take I feel a part of my soul vanishing, but I cheer myself up with a new watch and a suit to hide my inner disgust.

I wouldn’t feel as bad if it wasn’t so easy. The public will believe anything if the media talks about it long enough. The media is a business, just like us. It’s all a game we play to keep the money flowing in the directions we want. Fear is our greatest weapon.

Too Late to Turn Back

It’s been 20 years since my first day as I walk up the same steps, only a little slower now. The man that first started has been dead for years, but the memory of him still haunts me on certain nights when I am alone with Johnny Walker. It is too late to turn back now, even if I wanted to. The only way out is up and my craving for “more” has found a new target, a big white house. Ultimate power is within my reach, but I feel the weight of the favors I owe on my shoulders like a wet coat. Alcohol allows me to drown the dark reality of my live. I am a puppet – all my ideas of having power were long sold off for pennies on the dollar. I only represent the idea of power. I put myself before my country, before millions of people, just so I could have a coin in my pocket. The pain of this realization doesn’t go away no matter how much whiskey I pour into it.

The shame is excruciating and I can no longer bare it, but I cannot quit for I am a slave with a debt to pay. As I finish the last drop in the bottle I look up to see my old hunting rifle. I take the rifle and study it in my hands. This honest piece of steel and wood has never given up on its purpose in life. It was built to do one thing and one thing only, and now it was going to be the solution to all my problems. “I’m not going to be like them”, Is the last thought that pops into my head before the bullet runs through it.

Staring Down the Barrel of Fantasy – Trigger Happy Americans

I Love Guns

My father and I own 27 different firearms in our collection. Notice I said collection and not armory, because we are not dooms day preppers, nor are we forming a militia to overthrow the government based off Fox News statistics. We own so many guns for the same reason we own over 20 cars – we like them. We appreciate the art and craftsmanship that goes into  a revolver or the mechanism in a lever action rifle. We do not go hunting, nor do we aspire to gun down a, “bad guy”. We use our firearms for recreation, which consists of shooting beer bottles and inanimate objects in the safety of our ranch.

Steel Mystique

Guns have a mystique about them, much like a car does. A fast car can make a driver believe he/she is better than they really are. A big truck can make a driver feel stronger than they really are. That’s why jokes about compensating for something always come up. Whether they are true or not is beside the point because even if you have nothing to prove, you will get that feeling of confidence.

Holding a loaded gun for the first time is an experience. I was 12 when I held my first hand gun. It was a nickel plated 9mm Smith & Weston, with a hare trigger, that used to belong to a U.S Marshal at some point in its life. You feel the weight of gun in your hand and the first thought in your mind is, “I have the power to take away life in the palm of my hand.” It is a powerful feeling, and with any amount of power comes the possibility for corruption.

MURICA’s Guns

America is divided on many issues – one of them is gun control. The media only seems to be spamming the two extreme sides of the argument. Either they take away all the guns, or give everyone a gun to “defend” themselves, with no room for compromise. I hear the phase, “God given right”, being thrown around a lot during gun control debates as the NRA treats the second amendment as a way of life.

Let’s be perfectly clear about something. The only right God gives us is the right to an ending. We come into this world with only one certainty in life and that is that one day it will end for all of us. Everything else that people claim is a, “God given right”, is just bullshit used to distract bible thumpers from the smell.

Now, why are so many people pro-gun? That is a question people ask me because I own firearms and I am here to explain the mentality of a gun owner who fears the day a G-man will knock on his door asking for his gun. The following does not apply to all gun owners, but it does for those who are against common sense gun control.

All this fighting over what to do with guns in the America can be traced down to one thing, guns are cool. Blame who you want, the movie industry, television, the MURICA mentality, but having a gun strapped to your side is cool. It’s like smoking, doesn’t matter how many studies are published explaining the dangerous of smoking, it still looks cool.

Open Carry All Around

The argument is that if everyone carried a gun out in the open, crime would go down. That theory, which is what it is, would work…in a perfect world where nobody was angry and stress didn’t exist. The reality is that we are all just one small incident away blowing up. One rude driver cutting you off, one rude retail customer, one coffee made incorrectly, one annoying dog that won’t shut up, away from the last straw. What will prevent us from using our guns, in the heat of the moment, as a problem solver? This is 2016, not 1886.

Fight Against Tyranny

Another argument is that we need guns to protect ourselves against tyranny. The idea that armed with a 12 gauge and an AR-15 we will be able to stop the largest military force in history from breaking in our doors. That alone is nonsense, but what amazes me is that they don’t stop to think about what tyranny would mean for this country.

That would mean that all of our troops, that we love and support, would have to betray their own families, neighbors, and friends under direct orders from a government that under pays them and cuts their benefits at any given opportunity. What incentive would a Marine need to have in order to go out and kill his/her countrymen? That argument has no value in the real world.

What about other countries invading the US? That may happen, and attacks have happened in has in the past, but again we fail to remember that we have the largest military force ever seen. Our military can out gun, and out muscle every country on this planet. Being in constant “conflict” with other counties means we have a massive surplus of unused tanks, planes, guns, and bombs collecting dust in graveyards for that, “just in case”, moment. So if someone does decide to bring a fight to our soil, they will not stand a chance, realistically. So that argument is on thin ice. If someone attacks the US it is because our government allowed it.

CHL Fantasies

What kind of person carries a gun in public? Not talking about police or military, I mean civilians who are proud supporters of the NRA. Well, there are different mentalities to these kinds of people.

One is the hero fantasy. They strap on their piece hiding behind the idea that they want to protect themselves from a, “bad guy with a gun”, but in reality they just want to feel tough. Have that feeling that if someone dared to mess with them they will pull out their piece and say, “Go ahead, make my day.” Have that sense of authority that they are closer to being a bad-ass then those who are not carrying a gun. It’s an ego booster.

They live with a constant fantasy. They wait in line at a gas station, or a bank, and secretly wish that a junkie would bust in waving a shotgun, so that him/her can save the day with their best Dirty Harry impression. Itching for a chance to use their weapon for what it was built to do, kill.

Hate to burst their bubble but all gun owners who practice at a gun range must use protective eye wear, and ear plugs. Why? Because when you fire a gun you don’t actually hear it. Those that know understand that firing a gun without ear protection means your ears will be ringing for the rest of the day, and followed by a possible headache.

Life is not an action movie. In life you miss, a lot. The odds of you pulling your gun out, without stumbling, aiming at the criminal and squeezing off two rounds into their chest is near impossible. You will miss, or maybe hit someone else, and propably get killed in the process. Now you’re just a jerk who tired to play cowboy and lost. Ask any military or law enforcement official and they will tell you that you are never fully trained to handle a life and death situation with a firearm.

I don’t carry any of my guns in public because I know that I have better odds of dating a Playboy bunny than being in a situation where I need to shoot .357 magnum rounds at someone.

Bad Guys With Guns

My favorite argument is, “if you take away our guns, then only the bad guns will have them.” Illegal guns in America are dirt cheap compared to illegal guns in countries with strict gun control, why? Because in America you can find a gun just about anywhere, but in other countries like Australia, getting a hold of a handgun will cost you up to five figures! Paying over ten grand for a 9mm is impossible for the thug looking to knock over a convenience store. If we can buy cheap guns, so can the bad guys. We all live in the same country people.

Some of you may look to Mexico saying that their people are not allowed to bear arms and that is why their country is being overrun with cartel drug lords. You are correct, but where does some of the cartel’s weapons come from? From good old USA, the world’s Walmart for weapons.

Let’s Admit the Truth

I am not saying that we need to outlaw every single gun in the country, because that would be impossible. The government would spend billions trying to collect every single piece of gun metal in this country, so please stop with that stupid bullshit. It is just another fantasy argument.

I do feel that if you want to protect your home, get a shotgun. If you want to protect yourself, get a revolver. If you enjoy hunting, get a nice bolt-action rifle. Everything else is just unnecessary and you want them because you like them, admit it! There is no shame in saying you want a fully automatic assault rifle because it’s cool – they are.

A gun’s purpose is not to protect, its purpose is to kill. The context of how it is used is what will categorize a killing as self defense or murder. Guns kill, fact, because that is what they are purpose built to do. Giving this tool to an untrained, misinformed, and angry public is bringing the analogy of a monkey with a machine gun to life. What else would you call a mass shooting?

Cut the Bull

I am neither pro-gun or anti-gun, I just believe in common sense. In a country where racism is coming out of the shadows from 1960, while the modern age tries to progress forward, guns are the last thing we need to be allowing people to carry. We are a short tempered, ignorant, close to the breaking point society and this fantasy argument over guns needs to stop. Cut the bullshit and return to reality.

1970 Chevelle SS: Garage POW

The Story of a 1970 Chevelle SS, told by the car itself.

I don’t remember the day I was born, but I have a faint image of the moment they slapped these shiny SS badges on me. Sitting center stage on the showroom floor can give any car a massive ego. I sat there sporting my arrest me red paint, and black racing stripes, just day dreaming of the day I get to strut my stuff on the sunset strip. Then one day the call came in that I had been purchased over the phone, which made me a little sad. I always felt that whoever was going to buy me was going to walk into the dealership and stop dead in their tracks when they say me and all my muscle car glory. Then they would open the hood to stare at my 454 cubic inch heart, and the salesmen would utter my favorite phase, “most powerful muscle car on the market for 1970.”

I didn’t get to go out much after I was delivered to my new home. I mostly stayed covered up in the garage, I didn’t even know who my owner was. During my first week, as I was sleeping in the garage when I was awoken by lights coming on and felt the cover being brushed across my panels to expose one of my headlights – I could see a small boy looking at me. He must have been maybe ten years old, still wearing his PJ’s as he stared at his reflection on my chrome bumper. “When my big brother comes back from his tour we are going to have so much fun going fast. He said he would teach me how to drive a 4-speed with you.” The little boy said as he ran his little fingers across my flawless paint. I wondered if the boy’s big brother was my new owner, I couldn’t wait to meet him.

At least once a week the little boy, who I overheard his mother call Johnny once, came to visit me at night. Sometimes he would sit in the driver seat and pretend to steer or turn on the radio, and once he fell asleep in one of my bucket seats. On weekends, Johnny’s father would come in and turn the key to start me up. It was one of the few times I got to hear my own voice and every time Johnny would stop whatever he was doing to listen to me. His eyes would widen in sync with my throttle. Whenever the father juiced the gas pedal and my 454 gave out a roar, Johnny’s eyes widened in excitement.

Johnny must have been very persistent because one day his father took me out of the garage and drove us around the block a few times. I never seen Johnny so happy and I felt so proud to be the reason for his happiness. The father even ran me through the gears to show Johnny how fast I was and I felt my tires get hot and sticky for the first time. I felt like I could catch, eat, and spit out anything on the road that dared to go wheel to wheel with me at a street light. A memory to last a lifetime for Johnny and his father.

I was getting attached to my family, and I hadn’t even met my real owner yet. Even though I wasn’t on the road as often I liked I was still able to gaze out in the afternoons and weekends when the garage door was opened and Johnny lifted the cover so I could see out and he could stare at me while he played out in the yard. Life was good during these months.

It was winter when I saw Johnny’s mother go to the mail box and opened a letter that made her drop to her knees in tears. Johnny and his father came to her aid, but soon they too fell to the ground in uncontrollable tears. That night, Johnny came in to the garage and covered me up. “I’m sorry”, was the last thing he said before he shut off the light and left me alone in the dark.

Johnny stopped visiting me after that night. His father stopped opening the garage door and instead started to use me as a shelf to put his tools and boxes. Over time I felt the oil in my system begin to run down into the bottom of the pan, and my tires begin to lose air until I was sitting on my magnum 500 wheels. After a few years you couldn’t tell a car was sitting in the garage for I was completely covered in stuff. The depression was unbearable so I decided to just go to sleep.

I had no idea how much time had gone past when I was woken up by the sound of a commotion in the garage. I couldn’t see what the sound was but I started to feel weight being lifted off my hood. Someone was removing stuff looking for me! It took probably a whole afternoon of moving stuff around before the cover was removed and I could see day light once again. A young man stood before me wearing a black T-shirt with some kind of monsters drawn on it and had the word “KISS” written across it. He had long hair and smiled when he saw me. “Sorry it took me so long David…I’ll watch over it for you. I promise.” He said. It was Johnny! He was grown up now.

It took Johnny a few days to completely clear a path so I could be pushed out into the driveway. Out in the daylight I was treated to fresh gas, oil, battery, and a much needed detailing. Soon I was brought back to my younger years. Thankfully, being trapped in a garage for nearly a decade can retire the aging process.

The first time back on the road I couldn’t believe it, I thought I was going to wake up in darkness again. The other cars on the road looked a lot different from the last time I was out. Seeing cars with wild paint schemes and wearing huge fat tires with chrome side pipes. They looked wild! The gas tasted different as well, it had a very nasty aftertaste that I didn’t like at all but at least it kept me running. I was itching to stretch my wheels.

I soon got my chance when we stopped at a stoplight and a cousin Pontiac rolled up alongside me. Least I think it was a Pontiac, I wasn’t quite sure because it had an ugly gold bird painted on its hood and half of its roof was missing. My ego took a hit when I spotted a 455 Super Duty badge on its hood. “One cubic inch bigger than me, should I be nervous?” I thought to myself. Johnny gave the Pontiac’s driver the signal – the race was on.

I was amped up as I revved past 3,000 RPM wanting to launch into outer space. The light flashed green and I threw Johnny back in his seat as he tried to hang on to the shifter to change into second gear. Tunnel vision was setting in as I ran hard up to 60mph and I couldn’t see where the Pontiac was but I knew he wasn’t ahead of me. I didn’t want to stop and a gear change into fourth meant I was finally running flat out. I was doing what I was built to do all those years ago, go fast and look good doing it.

All these years of never knowing my real owner when all the while it was Johnny who was there, and even though he left me, he was the one who came back to rescue me. I was not left behind.

2016’s Rant on 2015

Every holiday we celebrate comes with its own specific brand of optimistic anticipation. The problem with anticipation is that the results are never as good as the idea. New Years is the shortest holiday, yet it delivers the most anticipation. The holiday only lasts for one minute, but the effects of the build up to the idea of a new year can last from 2 weeks to a lifetime. The idea of a “clean slate”, to start over, reset, restart, or finally do a change in your life.

The year 2015, for me, felt like half a decade. A lot of change happened in that year as I transitioned between two big chapters in my life. The ending of my college career and the beginning journey into adulthood. It was also my first official year as a freelance writer. I met a lot of interesting, and wonderful, people who helped me lay the foundation for what will eventually prove to be a successful writing career. I added a few more job titles to my resume this year, first by working as a copywriter. Lived a brief fantasy of a, “starving artist”, during the summer of no steady work while looking for writing gigs. Days with nothing to do but flex my fingers on a computer screen describing the vivid details of my inner thoughts for no one’s eyes but my own.

A good friend of mine got married this year too. He is one of a small select group of friends that have been a part of my life for over a decade now. This year was a culture shock as my friends and I suddenly entered a new reality in which people we remember seeing on monkey bars and coloring with crayons are now getting married or having children. For someone who is still not completely sure what kind of person he is going to be, it is hard to cope with the idea of having another person’s life depending on you emotionally and financially.

Towards the end of 2015 I was looking at a fork in the road. Both roads are filled with rough terrain and possible stormy weather, but they end in the same peaceful destination. The difference between them is that one has a beautiful landscape while the other road feels like you are just going around in circles. I became a member of a writing association, which means I now have a real world opportunity to start my career as an automotive writer. A dream career of getting paid to write about my life’s hobby and seeing the world in the process. Some may think differently, but I am a strong believer in that if you do what you love the money will follow. Sadly, in order to do that you have to find a day job to keep the bills paid until the money starts following.

I ended 2015 by started my first ever “grown up” job. Working for Hertz. Renting cars as a glorified insurance salesman; pushing $65 a day full coverage on a Toyota Yaris with roll up windows to people who make me question Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Having to wear a tie while sitting in a grey colored office for a 10 hour shift sparks my deep fear of a “normal life”. Being normal, to me, means having the same routine for days on end. Doing the same thing over and over again is my greatest fear in life because that does not mean living. Everyday should be a different road that ends in the same destination. Working for Hertz does mean that I now have a steady form of income with a guaranteed opportunity for promotion and advancement. Theoretically, I could force down my anger and dislike for most humans and grow a career with Hertz. The money would be good, and I would be able to afford more toys for myself. However, that would mean I would have to be someone I am not, and work just so I can afford to be myself on weekends.

I do have the ability to sell someone a product, but I hate doing it. I like creating, not selling. I like putting words together and creating a sentence that will cause a reaction in someone’s subconscious when they read it. Selling forces you to shovel heaps of fertilizer in order to convince someone that their way of thinking is wrong. I have the luxury of youth so I have a choice in whether to dedicate 2016 to my writing career or my corporate career.

There is also the idea of going back to school and become a history professor. I want to do my part in helping burst the bubbles of blissful ignorance of future generations. Teaching young people on why those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it seems like a good way to help change the world for the better. 2016 will be my first official year as an adult and I have three possible career paths ahead of me, for now.

I can remember once reading a joke that went, “Writer’s block is when the voices in your head stop talking.” I remember it because not only did it make me laugh, it made me realize something I had not noticed before. Ever since I became serious about wanting to be a writer I have developed a little voice in my head that I never had before. Not a voice to tell me right from wrong, or prevent me from hurting myself, a voice that seems to have all the answers. A voice that creates its own dialog as I go about my day. I can be completely focused on a task at hand while the voice in the back of my head starts to rant and deconstruct my reality. I do not know if other writers have a similar situation, but that is how it works for me. When I write I am basically just writing whatever the voice seems to be talking about at that moment. Some of you may be curious as to what the voice in my head sounds like. It is hard to put into words, but the best way to describe it is that is sounds like my ego. I hear the voice and it sounds like my own, but with confidence in its tone. The kind of voice that could help a politician win elections. A blunt, serious sense of righteousness with zero doubt.

My low self-esteem is in constant battle with my furious ego. I have had a number of my articles published in over a handful of magazines, newspapers, and websites, yet I still feel like a kid with a BB gun trying to enter a gunslinger’s saloon. I write with a soul crushing paranoid fear that I am not good enough to be a famous writer, but with an entitled sense of pride that what I am typing will be quoted by students writing essays in decades to come.

So why am I writing this? Why is this the first thing I write about for the year? It came to me on New Year’s Eve. I was not feeling as happy as I should have been and couldn’t understand why. I began to play back the memories of past New Year’s and noticed that for each one I always felt a little neutral. It was because I was always so lost inside my own head trying to predict and fantasize what I wanted the New Year to be like.

This was the year when I became self-aware. The year when I became aware of how the world really works. Run by a selected few, and kept in power through marketing fear to the people. Politics is bought, not won. The world could end in my life time. Reading between the lines of society. Being part of a species that fights over its differences instead of bonding over its similarities. Being able to write is a blessing for it allows me to get all these frustrating emotions of all the unnecessary hate and disgust in the world and put it on to paper. I am truly grateful for that.

For those that read this, I am sorry if I sound conceded or entitled. I was merely speaking my mind exactly as it sounds in my head. This writing was just a reflection of my 2015, while dealing with my fear of uncertainty and optimism. I hope you were entertained at least and I wish all of you nothing but the absolute best for as many New Years as possible.

The Skeleton Driver

Headlights cut through the darkness of a lonely highway as you watch the yellow lines getting swept under the front of the car. You have an endless stretch of two lane blacktop all to yourself. The only noise passing through your ears is Johnny Cash’s somber voice as he sings about wishing he was stoned on a Sunday morning. The steady repetition can make it easy for someone to wander off into the depths of their subconscious while they let muscle memory take the wheel. Least that’s what was happening to me as I suddenly realized I couldn’t recall the last couple of miles I had driven. I was on my way home from the bar after yet another night out with Johnny Walker, and his wing-man Miller, as they helped me drown the demons that chased my soul every night.

I never considered myself a bad guy; even when a dirty, self-entitled, draft dodging hippy spat in my face as he called me a baby killer. No sir, I was not a bad guy, just a man put in a bad situation. Even with the start of a new year just a month away I felt that 1972 was only going to bring 365 days of liquid dinners and sleepless nights of regret. “I was following orders, I did nothing wrong.” I would tell myself to try and convince me that I was alright. Sitting behind the wheel of my ‘64 Chevy step-side, my body felt numb as the truck rolled along the dark road. My mind began to drift off again into the alcohol fueled anarchy of my imagination, and I could feel goosebumps beginning to form on my arms as ice cold sweat starting running down the back of my neck. My mind was going to take a trip, a trip back to Vietnam, 1970.

First thing I heard before I went back was the sound of my lieutenant yelling at us to clear a village of all hostiles. Feeling the weight of my gear on my back as I we marched into the village. We didn’t have to be stealth, the moonless night and pouring rain gave us plenty of cover to walk in unnoticed. Intelligence had told us that this village was a suspected supply dump for Charlie, and we were ordered to search and destroy. I had heard the stories of Charlie using civilians as suicide bombers to trap unsuspecting GI’s. Hiding a grenade in a baby stroller, or a woman hiding a bomb in her hat as she walked up to a platoon before detonating.

We wandered through the village, using the storm’s lighting strikes to see where we were going. It was the middle of monsoon season and there were times when I couldn’t remember what it felt like to be dry. Paranoia, exhaustion, fear, and impaired senses make for a deadly cocktail as most of the men, including myself, balanced our minds on a tight rope between sanity and suicide. I started to remember the vision of muzzle flashes as one man in our unit begin to open fire at a hut in the village. My ears going deaf and not being able to hear myself think; the high pitched ringing echoing in my head as I opened fire with my M16.

That was as far as my flashback went because I was suddenly thrown back into reality when the interior of my truck was filled with an orange glow from a set of headlights coming up behind me. “Turn off your high beams asshole”, I muttered to myself as I eased the truck to the shoulder to let the car behind me pass. The car wouldn’t pass me though, it just kept inching closer and closer to my rear bumper. Before I could decide on whether or not to brake check this dude I was greeted by a sudden shunt as the car’s front-end kissed the back of my Chevy truck, and then sped up to ram into me. Dropping the column shifter down into second gear, I forced the Chevy to give me every single rev the tired V8 had to give as I stood on the gas pedal.

I was pushing 90 as the Chevy bounded over every imperfection on the road. The car chasing me didn’t lose a beat as it stayed glued to my bumper, ramming into me as if it was hammering in a nail. Adrenaline was pulling me out of my drunken haze, trying to keep the truck from fishtailing as the hits started getting more and more violent. I could feel the truck wanting to let go as every shunt pushed the rear wheels faster than they were turning. Suddenly the car backed off, enough for me to get the truck stable. The orange light even began to dim as if the car was slowing down. The faint sigh of relief lasted only a few seconds before I was completely blinded by the orange light and thrown back in my seat by a metal crushing slam that managed to push the rear-end off the ground long enough to lose traction. Richard Petty couldn’t have done a much better job of preventing the truck from spinning out. All I could do was hang on as the truck began to spin circles down the road before smashing through a guardrail and slide down an embankment. I tired the brakes but the truck skidded on the grass before crashing nose first into a tree. Everything when black at the moment of impact as my face greeted the steering wheel.

Within the darkness, the memories started once again. I had been in the jungle for nearly 6 months and I knew I was never going to be the same again. The smell of death and decay was an invisible fog that never lifted, but instead fell over us like the thick humid air. Even my hands looked different when I stared at them, they were now the hands that had taken life away. I had six confirm kills to my name, and at least a dozen unknown. It had gotten to the point that I no longer saw Charlie as humans but rats that needed to be exterminated with napalm. My morals were slowly being erased by the horrors of war and I could feel the change happening but couldn’t stop it.

After we had cleared the area of Charlie, we had gathered all the supplies into a huge pile. Hundreds and thousands of pounds of ammo and guns being prepped to get blown sky high with explosives. The lieutenant ordered me to check the last hut for stragglers. “Clear it!” He barked. When I stormed into the hut all I find is a family of 6 small children, couldn’t have been more than ten or twelve years old with their eyes wide, stricken with terror. I spotted a couple of AK-47 rifles at their feet and a box of ammo behind one of the kids. “Davis! Clear that hut now!” yells the lieutenant, not knowing what I am staring at. I wanted to turn around and just pretend I didn’t see them, “walk away…” I thought. I lower my M16 and motioned my foot backwards to turn around. I was almost out, just a half second later and I would have been outside in the rain again, but I saw it. I saw a sudden movement out in the corner in my eye and my training took over. After the last full metal jacket casing had finished bouncing off the wooden floor, a lightning strike showed me what the sudden movement had been. It was my own shadow! My own paranoia had made me kill 6 children. I stood frozen in shock as I watched the collecting pool of blood crawl towards the tips of my boots as I felt the last moral in my soul being washed away by cold sweat.

The image of my shadow towering over the corpse of innocents shocked me back into conciseness. Drunken adrenaline kept the pain away but I could feel warm blood running down my face from a gash in my head. I put all my weight up against the door to force it to open as I stumbled out. Standing myself up to try and catch my breath, I looked around to readjust my eyes to see where I was, and what that orange light had been. Took only a moment for me to hear the sound of a souped up engine in the distance, a thumping clank of an engine with a hot camshaft singing through a pair of straight pipe exhaust. I heard the sound before I saw the source, but when I saw it I questioned whether or not I was still dreaming.

The orange light dimmed to show a ‘68 Cadillac hearse. The paint was animated as it bubbled and boiled as if it was under extreme heat. Suddenly the orange headlights turned off as a figure stepped out of the driver side door, and a neon green light beamed from within the interior of the hearse. “Who are you?” I shouted at the man sized figure. The figure stood there for a moment before walking down the embankment up to me. The red glow from my truck’s taillights were enough for me to see who it was and I froze with terror. The driver was dead! His suit was covered in mud and dirt as his skeleton hands adjusted his tie before looking up at me to revile his face. A skull with maggots and worms crawling inside his eye holes. My legs wouldn’t work, all I could do was tremble in fear as every instinct in my head was praying for me to run, but I couldn’t. The skull’s jaw moved as if it was going to say something, “Judgement”, was all it said before it launched itself at me. The last thing I saw before it all went dark was its mouth opening and running towards me in the blink of an eye.

When I opened my eyes all I could see was darkness, and when I tried to move I realized I was in a confined space…a coffin. I could still hear the engine running all around me, it was running at full throttle. “I’m not dead! You can’t do this! I am NOT DEAD!” I shouted into the dark. No answer. I couldn’t tell if it was tears or blood that was running down my cheeks but the panic was starting to set in as I begin to hit, kick, and scratch at the walls around me. Shouting for god and his mercy as my finger nails snapped off my flesh trying to claw away at the wooden box. Suddenly, I was jolted forward to the end of the coffin as the hearse slammed on its brakes to come to a stop. I silenced my screaming to wait and see what happened next.

I felt like a rag dog as the coffin was unloaded and dropped on what I hoped was solid ground. The coffin doors flew open and I was looking up at the night sky again. Not waiting to get trapped I jumped out of the coffin and looked around at where I was. I was still on the same road, the two lane blacktop I always used to get home. It wasn’t until I turned around that I saw emergency vehicles blocking off the road to attend to an accident of some kind. I felt a gust of wind push me forward to investigate what had happened. Paramedics and fire fighters seemed to run past me as if I didn’t exist, scrambling to attend to whoever it was that was injured.

Passing the blockade of police cars I saw three body bags on the ground side by side, one was noticeably shorter than the other two. Beyond that I saw the cause behind all this commotion, it was a head on collision between a station wagon, and a pickup truck…my pickup truck. The front-ends of both cars had vanished as they had both been pushed in like soda cans from the impact leaving nothing but bits of metal and glass scattered across the asphalt. I didn’t understand what was going on. I had just been driven off the road into a tree by a skeleton in a hearse and now here was my truck, completely demolished with three body bags as a result of it. I wanted to run away, run home and fall asleep so I could wake up from this hellish night terror. I wanted to wake up in a pool of my own sweat again just as the nights before, at least then I would take comfort in that this was all just a horrid dream. Why couldn’t I wake up!

I closed my eyes, “Wake up man! You need to wake up! For the love of God, wake the hell up!” I shouted. Then I heard one of the paramedics, he was shouting, “clear!” and I felt an extreme wave of heat fly across my chest. It was enough to knock me down to my knees. I turned to the ambulance to see a crowd had formed around the two paramedics. As I made my way to ambulance I could feel the strength leaving my body. I felt weak and was knocked down by another wave of extreme heat burning through my chest. I carried myself as my legs began to start feeling numb until I reached the crowd of firefighters and policemen who were surrounding the paramedics.

What I saw next threw me into shock. It was me! My legs were gone! They had been completely chopped off in the accident, my face was nearly unrecognizable, just a vague resemblance of bloody flesh. “It’s no good, I’m calling it, 12:01 am November 21, 1971.” Said the paramedic. “I’m dead…” I thought as the fully realization of my fate had become clear to me. That’s when I heard the sound of the engine again and saw the haunted hearse slowly creep up to meet me. The skeleton driver stepped out yet again and pointed at me. “Judgement”, it said in an oily voice that shook me to my core.

“Tragic, this family was traveling back from vacation.” I heard someone say but nobody was around. “How do you know?” said another voice. “I found these Disneyland Mickey Mouse ears on the side of the road, must have belonged to the little girl.” My eyes widen. The little girl, the smaller body bag. I had killed a family, and myself, in a drunk driving accident. I remembered now. Driving on the road, seeing everything go black as I tried to fight the urge to fall sleep just before I saw a set of headlights in the distance. So much innocence taken away by my hand and now it was time to answer for my mistakes. The skeleton driver opened the coffin for me to get in, but I refused to get back in that box. I turned to run away into the night. The driver stood like a statue as he pulled a handheld scythe from behind his back and then set off sprinting holding the scythe over his head.

The skeleton driver wiped the blood off his scythe before placing it carefully back in its engraved silver case. He placed the now loaded coffin in the back of his chariot of hellfire before adjusting his tie one last time and getting behind the wheel of his Cadillac. The orange headlights beamed as the engine cranked over, spitting fire out of the exhaust. The bubbling black paint boiling intensely as the hearse roared away down the two lane blacktop before vanishing into thin air leaving no trace of its presence. All that was left on the road after the accident was a set of military dog tags that had appeared to have been burned.

Happy Halloween Everybody – J.G.

Curse of a Speeder

To my friends and family, it is no secret that I like to drive fast occasionally. Some people say I have a problem, others say it is just a side effect of being young, but I see it as a way to forget about the annoyances of everyday life. Every day we are constantly bombarded by the media about horrific events happening around the world, flooded in a tsunami of ignorance on social media by people who are masters at spraying hate and fertilizer out of their mouths, and that’s just checking your phone in the morning. Life is hard, but it is simple, its people that make it complicated. In order to keep one’s sanity, one has to find a way to get away from it all – even if it is just for a few minutes each day.

I confess that I am a speeder, although I do not drive like a madman. Like most people with my, “problem”, I do enjoy painting asphalt with rubber, going sideways, and reaching top end speeds when the conditions are right. The problem with this relaxation technique is that police officers do not find it very amusing and love showing their disapproval in the form of traffic tickets. I could fill a glove box, and I have, with the number of citations, warnings, and court receipts I’ve collected over the years. I am here to talk about the struggle of being a driver with an exuberant driving style.

At this point, some of you might be thinking that I am just an obnoxious punk whose only problem is being too stubborn to slow down and letting his ego fool him into thinking he’s the next Richard Petty. Before you unleash your judgement upon me, please let me point out that I know I am not a professional driver and I know that I can be as stubborn and rebellious as a teenaged mule. However, I do need to point out that because I have a passion for driving and car control, I do feel that I am at least more qualified than the average driver. I’m certainly safer than someone who’s bad habits behind the wheel consist of applying makeup, checking their Twitter feed, or sending Snap Chat videos of them looking into a camera while their favorite song plays on the radio. Those are only a handful of bad habits that I witness on a daily bases when I’m traveling on the Interstates.

When I say I have a passion for driving I mean I love it! To me, driving is a skill that is fun and challenging. Most people can safely drive a car from A to B and not give it a second thought for the rest of the day, but I like knowing what a car can and can’t do as far as braking, steering, and acceleration. It is important to know how a car will behave during an emergency, so yeah sometimes I like to give a car’s ABS system a workout and drive it like I stole it. But, there is nothing more relaxing, in my opinion, than being behind the wheel of a car on a beautiful, low traffic, day with your favorite playlist humming through the stereo. You don’t need to drive fast in order to enjoy driving; sometimes a nice quiet drive is all you need to get your stress out.

The Curse of a Speeder is that once you’ve earned a reputation as a speeder some people will label you as being reckless or a, “Bad Driver”. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never wrecked, practice car control – to most people speed equals danger. The irony of it is that people who text and drive do not, for the most part, get the same stigma. Sure there are campaigns warning us of the dangerous of texting while driving, but we all think, “That won’t happen to me, because I’m careful”. Maybe you have a system of only answering a buzzing phone when you are at a stoplight, or maybe your eyes can part into two different directions like a chameleon. Whatever the system is, the response for someone who texts and drives is usually, “Oh? Haha, I do that to sometimes”. The usual response for someone who speeds is, “Oh. Be careful…”

This year alone I have received two speeding tickets, three months apart, in two different cities. What annoys me is that when the police officers spotted me on their radar, I wasn’t trying to speed I was simply driving. The first time I was caught speeding I was driving home and I knew I was getting on the interstate so muscle memory took over and I sped up before the on-ramp. The second time, I was traveling between cities. I was passing a convoy of five semi-trucks and I sped up because I hate when they bounce peddles and road dirt off my hood and windshield – that landed me speeding ticket number two. If I was doing triple digit speeds or doing donuts in a parking lot than yeah I would have gladly accepted my law breaking punishment, but speeding up a mile before an on-ramp or passing semi-trucks is not what I would consider, “reckless driving”.

Since I am still under 25 years old, taking online defensive driving courses in order to reduce, and dismiss, a traffic citation is an option I always take. The problem is that the course is six hours long, and hilariously outdated. The safely videos shown were filmed in 1994, so you hear instructors recommending you to purchase a vehicle with Anti-Lock Brakes and telling you how to use them. Safety features in cars, and traffic laws in general, have changed a lot in the last two decades, so the course is a joke. It is detention for drivers.

A better system would be a written Driver’s Ed exam that you need to pass in order for it to count as taking a defensive driving course. It wouldn’t take you more than half an hour and at least then a person is forced to review traffic laws before getting a ticket reduced or dismissed.

Auto makers build cars that practically beg us to break the law. The new Ford Focus RS has a Drift Mode button which allows you to slide the compact car around a corner easier. Dodge created the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, normal family sedans that can reach 200 mph. That is like a general store selling high proof whiskey in a dry county. Why make such powerful cars if the average driver has no place to fully enjoy their bang for the buck? Not everyone with a fast car has time to go to a drag strip, which are constantly being closed, or a race track, which don’t always offer track-days here in the U.S. The easier option is street racing and that is about as dangerous as it can get.

So what is a speeder to do? We are entering an era where cars are getting faster and traffic laws are getting stricter. It’s not like in the old days when you could in fact out run the police if your car was hot enough, the days before dash cams and speed cameras. It is a curse to have a need for speed these days, one that can affect your wallet as well as your health.

I think I can speak for most people who can relate to my story that we won’t change, driving is a passion and speed is a byproduct. There are always a few rotten apples that spoil it for all of us by not being able to control their cars or not knowing their own limitations, but we are not a danger to the public nor should not be seen as such. We just like to fully enjoy our cars as the engineers who designed them intended us to. If they built a car that can produce 707 horsepower, why shouldn’t we be allowed to experience every last galloping pony? So whether you are a speeder or see driving as a chore remember to keep your eyes on the road, and both hands on the wheel. Drive safe everyone.

Legacy. (Happy Father’s Day)

Being a dad means following a lot of traditions in life, but those traditions can differ depending on the father those dad’s had. Good or bad, a father will pass on something to their children and I personally pray and hope that every child learns at least one positive thing from their fathers. My dad has taught me more things that you can put on a Swiss Army knife, and there is so much I still need to learn, but the most important thing he has passed on to me is a legacy. My father’s father was also an automotive enthusiast who traded and sold cars on the side to support his wife and seven children. Of all the things my father gained from spending time with my grandfather, the two most important were a set of tools and a passion for cars. A skill and a hobby that he later on used in his own life to support his own young family when I was just a baby. A skill and a hobby that he passed on to me in the form of Hot Wheels and letting me hold the flash light when he worked on the family sedan. I am a third generation Gearhead, and the passion for this hobby seems to increase with each generation.

I often wonder what kind of man I would be if it wasn’t for my father, and the assumptions always lean towards worse. My father is the one who, 23 years ago, tossed a pebble down the snowy mountain which snowballed into who I am today. Those Hot Wheels turned into pedal cars, and they turned into bicycles, then go-karts, and ending with cars and trucks. Along the way he taught me how to keep my cars and trucks on the road, and how to handle a situation if they happened to misbehave and leave me on the side of the road. I never worry if my car breaks down, mostly because I am used to it by now, but mainly because I know that I can take care of myself in these situations. I also take great comfort in knowing that if the trouble is too great for me, my father is just a phone call away where I can ask for his help and wisdom. For that I am blessed.

I like to think that everything in life happens for a reason, it helps to calm me down during stressful times in my life when I feel lost. I know that sometimes we like to stop and look back at our lives and wonder, “what if”, those critical moments in our lives never happened or changed. If my father never introduced me to the automotive hobby, I probably would have never found my second hobby in life which is writing. I say that because anything that I write for fun has an automotive tone or element behind it, and the same goes for anything creative I do in life.

This father’s day I am thankful for the life my father has passed on to me. Biologically I am a man already, but I know I still have decades of knowledge ahead of me before I can even hope to measure up to the legacy of my father and his father. Men who relied on their hands and mind in order to keep food on the table and the house in working order. My father always says that the main goal for any parent is to live to see the day when their children’s success in life outweighs their own, because that means they have done their job right. My little brother and I are currently working on that.

I wish a happy father’s day to dads, step-dads, grandfathers, and moms who play both roles, for thriving to teach and inspire their children to be better than them in life. A loving parent that raises a child, that grows up to become a loving parent is the ultimate legacy.

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