34 Years for Platoon 2036

August 21, 1981, MCRD San Diego. Just a mess call and a C bag drag to the parade deck after 84 days. Graduation Day.

We started with the logical view that it would be done in less than three months, nothing to it. But quickly, we figured out that time did not fly in this place. There were people and challenges that seemed to make time stop.

When you're suffering on T-17, it's not very comforting to do the math and rationalize that T-84 is only 67 days away.

Rational and logical didn't seem to matter when you're getting thrashed in The Pit because some other Private fell asleep in a first aid class. And at some point, that kind of discipline becomes logical, and that's when time does seem to pick up a little pace.

Still, it's pretty far off when you hit the middle at T-37 and you're humping. You don't feel like you've reached a hump. But rifle training and field training happen and you're suddenly in a different state of mind.

You turn a corner with about a month to go, and then you're not referring to it as T-84 all the time. Now it's August 21 and Graduation Day.

You're marching to chow and medical and admin in squads of four or eight with no drill instructors, and the first phase privates don't know what to think. If you're squared away and doing it right, a drill instructor stops you, but you're not worried. He uses you as an example, telling the fresh recruits that they might, MIGHT, get to this point one day ... but he SERIOUSLY f@#%in doubts it. He gives you a nod, a "Thanks" and a "Carry On" and you're off.

Then you're marching in the graduation ceremony the week ahead of yours, fot filler and for practice and you know thid is real. You get an afternoon of base liberty over the weekend, and you're able get food at the snack bar and walk among teal people .., and girls.

And then August 20 is here, and you're packed up and nobody is asleep at light's out our for a few hours afterward.

Nobody needs any help at reveille, they're up and dressed for breakfast. No full platoon formation, it's groups of six or so when people are ready and there's someone who feels comfortable calling cadence.

It's over and back, nothing stupid now. The drill instructs throw out threats of last thrashing sessions, but there's no conviction in their voices. There might be a ceremonial call for begin and a few bend and thrusts, but it's just in fun. Both sides now the fight is over. Both sides have won.

And then it's over. You're in you dress unis, you heard some speeches in thr theater, marched the parade deck as the stars of the show, and then did the about face out of there.

Family and friends are there hugging is happening, then there are introductions of fellow graduates and hand shakes. Then awkward tours of the place, and the you're gone.

Back into the world.

To August 21 and everything after. (Nod to AD)

Astros have second-half opportunity

By now, the Astros are no longer a surprise. Sure, their a surprising contender in the AL West, an unlikely presence in the American League postseason picture.

But as the second half kicks in tonight, they’re not going to sneak up on anybody.

ESPN profiled their second-half hopes, so it must be legit, right?

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of 50-50 regarding the Astros’ hopes for the rest of the season. Obviously, they’ve put together a team with some talent and a group of players who produced pretty well over the first half … except for the six-game losing streak right before the All-Star break. The were in first place from Opening Day, right up to the last game when they slipped a half-game behind the Angels.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Astros. They’ve had key injuries (George Springer, Jed Lowrie). They’ve struck out a lot … really, a lot, liked leading MLB.

But they’ve had solid showings from established players like Jose Altuve, and they’ve benefited from great contributions from new additions like Carlos Correa.

If they can keep this up, if all of these guys stay on track and the injured players come back and perform, there’s no reason the Astros won’t be making postseason plans.

But …

I’m not so optimistic that I can ignore a nagging feeling inside that comes from knowing that it’s possible, possible I say, that the wheels could fall off. Young players could slump and struggle, other injuries could crop up, the pitching staff could come back to earth.

Hopefully, the Astros can get off to a quick re-start here and erase the memories of the six-game slide. I’d like to see them back in first, or at least fighting it out with the Angels. What I don’t want to see is them fall behind by five or six games and then start pressing. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Lots of talk about cures

The last couple of days, with ESPN’s annual ESPY awards show on the schedule, there was lots of talk on the sports radio and television about looking for cures for cancer. Since the ESPYs are held, along with a lot of other events, to benefit the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, the talk makes a lot of sense.

For me, as I listen to the tear-jerking features and hear doctors and researchers talking about strides being made in the fight against cancer, I find myself balancing this information with the regular flow of information I receive regarding treatment advances for Multiple Myeloma.

I get a daily update email from Google that basically gives me links to web pages that have been added or updated and respond to a search for the term “myeloma.” I get a bunch of links to obits … that’s not good. There are plenty of items about fund raisers and fun runs that are being held to benefit a myeloma patient. And there are many links to blogs written by myeloma patients or their caregivers.

What I get most of, however, is links to articles, press releases and reports from medical and pharmaceutical interests outlining new treatment options and new drugs/novel agents that are being developed or introduced or made available for the treatment of multiple myeloma. There’s a lot going on in this arena. New drugs are coming on line that claim to offer improved results for all types of myeloma patients, newly diagnosed, relapsed, refractory, relapsed/refractory, high-risk, etc. For every one of these new drugs … proteasone inhibitors, immune-modifying, monoclonal antibodies … information is provided about how long the drug (or combination of drugs) can be expected to extend life (in months) versus other treatments or no treatments.

Never, within this steady flow of information that is viewed as positive, does the word “cure” come into play. Don’t get me wrong, seeing that a new drug is likely to give a myeloma patient nine more months of survival or continued remission IS good news. And the research and testing and focus that goes into developing these new drugs obviously increases the overall knowledge about myeloma and, in theory, moves us closer to a cure.

I get some optimism from thinking that somewhere in the world, a researcher or team of researchers, is working feverishly on some theory that suggests a cure is just around the corner.

I get a sour taste of cynicism when I think that these new drugs, with their HUGE price tags, might pave a pretty profitable path for pharmaceutical companies who have a very captive market and insurance companies willing to pay the tab. I’d absolutely hate to find out that the emphasis was steered away from a cure and toward life-extending drugs due to profit motive.

Other cancers are different, I know. Cures are within reach and research is vital. Either way, don’t talk a lot about a cure for myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a “manageable” cancer. And the advances we’re seeing help us to manage longer. And maybe we manage long enough that a cure does come about.

Piano playing paints a picture

My 15-year-old son is working on his piano, and he’s taken to learning the introduction to the Styx classic, “Come Sail Away.”

It’s a very nice piece, and he’s getting pretty good at it. I’m not sure exactly when and where he picked it up, but it’s not such a bad thing when those sounds begin drifting through the house. The other evening, he and I were the only ones home, it was quiet and getting dark outside, and the gentle notes were very relaxing and comforting.

For some reason, it made me remember another piano player and another song from a completely different setting many years and many miles ago. It was back in the fall of 1981, my first semester at Stephen F. Austin. I was in the lobby of Griffith or Kerr Hall, one of those girls dorms that were mirror images of each other on the southwest side of the SFA campus. I went there to meet up with a blind date that my older sister had set me up with. I was taking her to a fraternity party, and as a Pi Kappa Alpha pledge, I was told that I would get hassled by active members significantly less at the party if I brought a date.

So, my sister to the rescue, setting me up with one of her Delta Zeta pledges. I was supposed to meet my date in the lobby, so I sat down and waited since I was a few minutes early. Then I heard someone playing the piano, the intro to Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland.” It’s a haunting kind of tune, and it leads into one of my absolute favorite Springsteen songs.

But there, in that moment, my mind raced into a scenario that was overly optimistic, sadly romantic and pathetically tragic. I thought/hoped for a minute that the girl playing the piano was my date, she came down early because she was a little nervous and playing the piano helped her relax. Her song selection signaled a connection between the two of us, like minds with similar tastes and appreciation for music and and entertainment and life.

Yeah, well, no, that’s not exactly how it worked out. My date hadn’t come down 10 minutes after the time we were supposed to meet, so I called up to her room. She came down and was clearly not a Springsteen fan. We had very little in common in terms of music, entertainment or life. I never saw the girl playing the piano again on campus. Maybe she was just visiting a friend for the weekend. Maybe she was just Born to Run.

Oh well. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it would have been cool.

Kind of the same romantic scenario that I always thought might happen where I’d turn around while Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” was playing and this beautiful woman would be bump into me and our eyes would meet and it would be “happily ever after.”

Different dex?

With my new maintenance therapy, I only have to get dexamethasone twice in each cycle, instead of taking it four days in a row. However, instead of four days of 20mg a day,I get two days of 40mg.

So either way, it works out to 80mg out dex over a relatively short period of time.

But I will say, I think the larger doses don’t affect me as much on the actual infusion days. About the same level of tension as the smaller dose used to cause but not the big blast of roid rage I sort of feared.

The post-dex hangover is pretty much the same though. Spent Sunday with my brain buzzing, trying to keep myself in a quiet, calm place. Watching golf on the television seems to help a lot.

It’s all worth it if the drugs do their job. We’ll find out in s couple of months.

On the trail

Colin is taking part in the St. George Trek, a 12-day trek through Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. The can follow the trek on Facebook, but there’s limited information because they are pretty much off the grid for most of the trek.

SGT Crew 2 2015
This is a picture of Colin’s crew, Crew 2, before they left the base camp Saturday. Colin is fourth from the left, looking like a pirate.

We’re confident that he’ll be safe and come home with tons of stories about his experiences.

What sick, cruel joke is this, Life?

I’m not even going into details about having cancer and getting treatment for Multiple Myeloma and all that is included with that.

But today, why, with five hours locked up with an infusion, would one song get stuck in my head to the point that I had to finally fire up my Windows Media Player and chase the tune away? Why would I be constantly hearing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”?

This just can’t be explained, I know.

Why Texas Independence Was/Is a Big Deal

In my travels and dealings with folks from different parts of the country, I’ve been told more than once that we Texans have a bit of an inflated sense of importance. I’ve heard it called “cockiness” and even “arrogance.”

Well, guilty as charged.

A Texan is always proud of the Lone Star State’s history and prominence. And why not? The truth is that Texas has been involved in things and generated stories and tales that most other states can’t even come close to matching. Nothing against a state like say, West Virginia, but other than being a major chess piece in the lead-up to the Civil War, what has West Virginia ever done to really impact the history of the United States?

So today, as we celebrate San Jacinto Day, let’s look how Sam Houston’s victory over Santa Anna and the Mexican army in 1836 changed THE WORLD.

After losses at Goliad and the Alamo, the Texian army was in the middle of “The Runaway Scrape,” a bit of a strategic withdrawal/retreat. But they trapped Santa Anna at San Jacinto and that led to Texas independence. And that led to Texas being annexed by the United States, which fueled the Mexican War. And as a result of the victory over Mexico, we laid claim to most of what is now the western United States. The US grew by almost one million square miles as a result of the fight over Texas. (I’m not making this up)

Again, nothing against the other 49 states. They’re all very nice. But when you’re talking about making an impact, things are bigger in Texas.

Still not sure about Jenner

Bruce JennerEver since the news broke that Bruce Jenner was planning to “transition into a woman,” I’ve had a very difficult time getting my brain to really understand the situation.

Remember, in 1976, when Bruce Jenner won the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics, I was 13. He was “the greatest athlete in the world,” as decathlon gold medalists are often called. He was on the front of the Wheaties box. He was everywhere.

Sure, the time since his gold medal has been a long and winding road. And though I’ve never watched a second of that Kardashian show crap, I’ve heard enough about the train wreck he’s been living among over the past few years.

But this, transitioning to a woman, is just too much. If he came out as gay, I’d be less stressed. The idea that someone who succeeded so mightily as an athlete, who claimed a title held in such high regard by men, would somehow opt to become a woman, is just too strange for me.

What it does tell me is that success in athletics does not always come as a result of the kind of toughness that we normally assume a person must possess. Bruce Jenner worked hard and put in the hours of training in order to succeed. But his ability to focus on that victory did not cement in him a lifelong approach to life that we would have expected.

Old records, old sounds

At some point, around 1974 or so I’m guessing, my father convinced my mother to agree to some deal that involved getting a Longines Symphonette record player and a bunch of records.

I assume it went down that way because my mom has never been a supporter of those kinds of deals. Whereas my dad …

Anyway, I remember some of those records even today because they were the only ones we probably had for a while. Jerry Lee Lewis’ Greatest Hits. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Tapestry by Carole King. The Carpenters.

I hear songs from those albums, and it’s weird how I can track my history back to our living room back on Pine Knoll in Alief.

I’m just wishing Dad had held off on that Carpenters selection.