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One on One

July 26, 2014

Sanders (440x312)

I know many of you don’t follow or care about football. That’s your problem. Deion Sanders was one of the best to ever play. No exaggeration. He excelled at football. You know how easy it is for you to make toast? That’s how easy he made football look. Being an IT in the Navy is like being a corner back in the NFL. High profile, high stress, high expectations. If you fail everyone sees it. If you do well most won’t notice and fewer care.

I hate it as much as I love it. I thrived on it.

Always depended on the kindness of strangers

I live in my own head. I have complicated, vivid and recurring fantasies. Insecurities, pride, humor, my natural irreverence all of that drives the movie that seem to play on loop in my idol mind. Let me see if i can get this across…

I have said it before and I will say it again. I have amazing friends. They aren’t just good to me but they are driven, smart and kind people. Good things have happened in their lives and I am a little jealous. The Navy is wonderful but in terms of my life goals I feel a little behind the power curve. So I always joke that two of you meet in a public place and you guys have an exchange where you recount your personal and professional achievements and over the course of the conversation you exchange the whereabouts of mutual friends with each other an then someone says “Hey what about Adam Milton?” and they sigh and respond with muted and forced joy “Oh after the Navy he sorta lost touch with reality and now dresses up like Batman and beats up homeless people. He’s…he’s in great shape though.”

"NO! I! DON'T! HAVE! ANY! CHANGE!"

“NO! I! DON’T! HAVE! ANY! CHANGE!”

I don’t know what is more upsetting that I  imagine myself as the aging, hulking and mildly sociopathic version of Batman from Frank Miller’s landmark The Dark Knight Returns. OR the fact that when I imagine myself doing this I can only laugh.

I am no where near as apathetic about my future as I used to be. I have hope, actual not fake hope, that the things I want are possible. I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT DATING. I am talking about my career.

I constantly meet people, either at work or through a friend that knows about Network Security or does it themselves and when I ask questions I get mostly two things 1) Affirmation that I am going down the right path. 2) enthusiasm.

The industry I want to get into isn’t hard to start in. There are plenty of resources out there. Websites. Organizations and books, books and more books. So much that I didn’t know which ones to focus on. If I wasted money, worse yet time, I would be angry. Its good to hear that I was on the right track and all I needed was a little push.

When I meet security professionals and start to talk about their job their enthusiasm starts to bubble over. I ask questions and they talk and when they realize I am more than just a guy with some passing interest their enthusiasm for me is more than apparent. An almost child like excitement. Not the potential money making or the end game but the journey. I am excited to learn. I am excited to finish books about the subject, magazines and classes.

The trick now is focusing that excitement into something useful.

Throw Back

I went to the University of Missouri from 2004 until 2007. If I could go back to any point in my life I would return to 2004. I met so many wonderful people in that short stretch of time. I had so many firsts and learned so much. I tell every young person they should go to college and just experience it.

I went to the wedding of another FARCer and it was just as wonderful and stunning as they deserved.

I flew first class, sitting in seat 1A eating nuts out of a ramekin and drinking soda out of actual glassware. When I landed I spent the day with my Dad, woke up the next morning, dawned my dress blue uniform and drove to my friends apartment. That’s where this story starts. At Nate’s front door.

I smell India. Body odor and curry. I am in my stiff wool uniform walking down the dull sky blue hallway. I knock on his door and he opens it. Standing there dressed in basketball shorts, a tee-shirt and a boyish smile that could light up a room. “Hiiiiiii…” he lingers on that word because he knows I am ready and he is not. “Most of my friends would be late. I gotta get used to this military thing.”

Let me tell you about Nate. You have that friend that oozes confidence without any self-satisfaction. The friend that all your lady friends wanna get to know? The friend that drops wisdom like Johnny Appleseed, with a casual grace and shades Steve McQueen level cool that makes him a blast to be around even when you are in the most boring situations. You read this and now you think I have a crush on Nate. I don’t care. Why? Am I that progressive? Secure in my sexuality? Nope. Nate is that goddamned cool.

We speak for a moment and I decided to let him get dressed while I drive to McDonald’s for breakfast. As I return, walking down the hallway, he makes himself laugh “Dude what happened? I said 7:30?!?”

Fucker. I said this. Maybe I can’t be sure. I don’t know exactly what I said but it was in the same vain.

The open interstate of my beloved home state of Missouri aren’t much to look at. Unless you like the slate gray of well worn asphalt, the dull green of wide open America and minivans buzzing you as they forget the brake pedal and fly past you going 90 MPH. We speak and like any good friendship its like we never left.

Before too long we are in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. No its not St. Louis or Kansas City. The city is non-discript and looks like a college-less version of Columbia. The brownish brick buildings, windows framed with flaking window trimming like some beach town relocated without regard, bathed in the warm summer sun.

It isn’t long before we are at the wedding, me and half of my college friends, riffing back and forth with the sophomoric banter, quick and pointless. A girl we all knew leans in close and says to someone “Don’t you miss this?” in her own brand of knowing sarcasm. She is taken back to all those nights when we played halo and did the same things. This must be her own version of a war story flashback.

Without thinking, and as quick as a crack from a whip, my arm shot out, pointed at her and I said “Fuck Yes You Do.” And I realized that I did indeed missed this. I missed this. I missed the rambunctious, irreverent, whiskey dulled, madcap adventures I had in college. Now one of us is getting married. And most of us have moved away. All professionals. One is a doctor. THEY LET ME HOLD A GUN.

I'm just gonna leave this...right...here...

I’m just gonna leave this…right…here…

The other guy I spent most of my time with was Chris Terrell. I wish I hung out with him more in college. I have plenty of funny friends. I mean everyone has their moments. If there was a game where you could score points from being funny Chris is your five tool player, your go-to shooter, your clutch receiver. He has the beard of an epic hero. I bust his balls about his lack of writing productivity (rightfully so he is a monster in Microsoft word). They call him CT and he is always a good time.

I feel one day that they, the world, is going to gather me and most of my friends up and sit us in a room and say “Listen there was a terrible mistake. We let you guys become adults. We let you guys drive cars, buy houses and even have children. That was our mistake. There was a horrible mix up an we are sorry. Most of you will be shipped back to second grade. Adam Milton…you are going back to Kindergarten. You know why.”

The night ends the way it started with beer and laughter. We are all sharing six of the biggest onion rings I have ever seen. Big enough that they had to come from baseball sized onions and the batter was sweet and salty and fell apart perfectly as you bit into them. I am a sucker for bar food. All of us had been to enough bars, with enough mediocre beer, soggy fries and burgers I could have done better myself that I knew these were some of the best onion rings any of us were going to have. I looked at them and wished nights like this could happen every weekend.

This is the sad part because I know as soon as the night ends it all turns back into pumpkins and mice. The adventure ends. Chris drives back to Columbia. Nate and myself drive back to St. Louis and I fly east. I know we are going to stay in touch. I will call and we will text and we might all take a road trip to South Carolina for a Mizzou game. But this night is what I crave. Nights where we sit in a strange little bar drinking and playing pool. Laughing and encouraging each other. I miss it.

Here’s to that night and the nights spent at the Boner farm. Here’s to the Mizzou wins and the losses. Here’s to it all. The bad jokes and unearned laughter. The faded college shirts and the time they pulled me off the girl who was trying to take advantage of me. What…I never told you about that? Ask Nate about the Valentine’s Day massacre he does that story justice.

I miss all of it but more than miss I am happy to have had it and prouder to call those men my friends.

Lies I Tell Myself

I remember coming home from my last day of school in 4th grade, crying because I was going to a new school in the fall. It was a defining moment in my life. I have so many memories, most of them bad from St. Roch. It was a culture shock. I went from medium income and a very diverse environment to what felt like the sheltered white privileged epicenter of St. Louis. There was where I cultivated my love for sarcasm and hate for self-pity and complaining. One of my classmates, who by most accounts had an incredible life, spent a sickening amount of time complaining that he wouldn’t get to see Star Wars as quickly as the rest of us. He would be left out. He complained about everything and seemed to go out of his way to be petty. I told him he shouldn’t complain and-

He cut me off and told me he didn’t want to hear about it. I rolled my eyes and that interaction stayed with me for years, and still does. I remember his entitlement and so much more that just annoyed me. He was the type of guy to snitch on you when it was easy too. Once the teacher asked who had thrown a lunch box and on accident. I had done it. Forgive me I was 10 years old. Either way before anyone could say anything, before I could explain, he shouted “Adam did it!” Just shouted it to the teacher. I was fuming. He was a snitch. I told myself if it were public school he would have gotten a fat lip.

He was also the type of guy to see someone else with something cool and would go out and copy it immediately. If I got a book he would get it also and would read it as fast as he could and ask me what page I was on daily. Even after we left St. Roch he would constantly ask me about my grades. He messaged me after September Eleventh over ICQ (did anyone else use that) and after some idol small talk he just rudely asked. He was insipid and with the dull emotional and social quotient I am sure then given a wider array of choices we wouldn’t have been friends.

That was 15 years ago. At the time I was only 13 and having the perspective to look back and realize something happened 15 years ago was unfathomable. Its hard to grasp now.

Something I learned a few years ago was that Allies never really the underdog during the second world war. In fact many Japanese admirals told their leadership that they should avoid total war with the US because of our overwhelming industrial base and natural resources. That is one of the reasons why that war is so idolized and revered. America and the rest of the Allies were courageous underdogs drug into war by a bellicose and overconfident Axis war machine, or so the legend goes. I read some of this in a book called “Sea of Thunder“. Mostly the part about the Naval war in the pacific. I bought this book on the anniversary of the Battle of Midway in 2010, June 4th. My birthday as well. I remember because it was 35$ on itunes and I could justify the expenditure because I was turning 24.

I went back through my iTunes to look at all of my audio books and realized something.

Check the date.

Check the date.

I bought this audiobook on the Sunday before my birthday. I could have sworn, up and down, that I bought it on the morning of the 4th and not the night of the 30th. What am I…stupid? How could I confuse something so different?

Stupid is a harsh word. It was four years ago and, to be frank, I hardly ever remember the dates I buy anything. This leads me to think about the myths that persist about our history. There are too many to count and the farther you go back the more evidence exists that our ancient history that it is blatantly made up in order to fit the narratives that echo in our cultural memory. History is selectively told and repeated and eventually become fact.

That subject could be the subject of a series of books written by more studied, more intelligent and more patient men. This is my blog and I write about the only thing I am a scholar on: My life.

There is a great episode of 30 Rock called “Reunion” where Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon goes back to high school, a place where she thought she was the victim of a cruel social class of popular kids that picked on her. She had vivid memories of being bullied. She goes back and realizes that her smart remarks and the wit she uses to make money now she used to cut people down. Like “I Am Legend” (the novella) she was the monster in the end.

I would say things like this to people. And dress slightly better than this...

I would say things like this to people. And dress slightly better than this…

I look back now and realize how many times I used my rapier wit to attack people. Even the boy I spoke about in the paragraphs above. I have a knack of getting a crowd going and I know I used that to make my friends laugh at people who hurt me, slights real or imagined. How many times was I the aggressor or the villain by my own definition

I have a cousin. My entire life my mother stuck up for him. “He isn’t mean. He just needs a friend.” I would protest that her nephew wasn’t just disliked by me but by everyone. “He is lonely. I gave him your number you two should hangout.” He spent my entire life bullying me, attacking me and trying to set me up to get into trouble. On Halloween my mother, always the bleeding heart, had invited him to go trick-o-treating with me. Eight-year-old Adam was incredulous, how could she invite him to ruin my night. After a evening of colorful candy and bad jokes we all piled back into the car. As we are driving away he has used his finger to write “Ass” in the condensation that sat on the outside of the glass.

“Look what Adam did!” I turned to see the offending word and tried to erase it. I protested and he laughed. Even at 8 it was painfully obvious that he had done it to sabotage my night. I don’t remember what I said and what my mother’s response was. I do remember the seething anger and hate for my own blood relative.

Looking back though he didn’t have a father or a stable home life or the toys that a father and a stable home life could provide. He was jealous of me and my trips to Disneyland and the cable I had, the heat and the food. Looking back he must have seen an aloof and “holier-than-thou” little prick that never wanted to be around him. My Mom may have been right and he just wanted a friend. Even now as I look back on that Halloween night I can see his shoddily made costume in the dim fading twilight.

So now I am spiraling out of control, hands on the tiller and desperately careening down memory lane. What about the time I remember going to the Zoo when I was little, one of my earliest memories. I am playing hide and seek with my Dad and I am 3 years old. Did that happen or do I only remember the stories my parents told me and the pictures I have seen from that Day? Was I really ignored in school or did girls out of my league (and when I say “out of my league” I mean breathing) hit on me and I didn’t know how to respond. Was that class, test, game rigged or didn’t I try my hardest? Was it my skill or dumb luck that allowed me to win? Did I really try my best, my damnedest and most dogged in Nuke school or was that the lie, the narrative, I told myself after I left to feel better. And did the legend of that struggle and my time there get reinforced by what my friends and instructors saw and wanted to believe themselves. Did they need, as much as I did, to believe in a man that could and would do such things? Was I the hero they deserved or the one they needed right then?

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~ Adam

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