Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.

Music

Life is interesting sometimes.

My Dad is a Vietnam vet, but we didn’t talk much about it growing up.  He told funny Navy stories about basic training, or Thailand or the Philippines or Adak, Alaska, but he kind of skipped over Vietnam.  Even after I joined the military he skipped over it.  The closest he came was when he wanted me to read “A Rumor of War” because it was written by a guy on the same fire-base he was on in Vietnam at roughly the same time.  It wasn’t til I went to Afghanistan for the first time that he started opening up.  Then a little more after Iraq, and more yet after the last trip to Afghanistan.

A couple years later he sat at a table with a bunch of my veteran friends, and that was really where a lot of magic happened.  Hearing all of them tell tall tales started him going, and inter-service rivalry helped.  A couple things happened after that and now we’re in a good, supportive place of one another, as far as being vets go.  Different wars, different turf, same stories.

We’ve swapped books and movies over the years.  I made him sit and watch “Restrepo” a couple of years ago and it hit him the same as it did me.  He didn’t have to be THERE, he had been in the same spot years before.

He was a good father in his way.  There’s things that as his son I wish would’ve happened differently, but I’m still proud of him.  He did so much better than his father before him, and he tried, and he was there and that’s pretty much all you can ask for.  Never really heard him cuss growing up, a “damnit” or “shit” or “sonofabitch” when he whacked the snot out of his finger with a hammer, but other than that…  The only time I saw him drink was a can of beer with a neighbor on a front step or sharing a margarita with mom at a Mexican restaurant.  He’s loosened up with age, and now he’ll have a beer or two with dinner.  But I still have this incomplete picture of him as a kid.

He called me tonight and told me to listen to Joan Baez’s “A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall” sometime when I was mellow.  Said that a friend of his and him used to get shit faced together at night in Alaska in their room and listen to her album over and over.  Said he hadn’t listened to it in years, but came across it when he got sucked into the black-hole that is youtube tonight.  Said that listening to it, and putting him back in the mindset of post-Vietnam he could hear pieces of himself and me in it.  He told me I couldn’t listen to it in a roomful of people, or when I was excited.  He said maybe I needed to have a beer or two first.  I’ve never heard him talk like that.

So I will.  I’m curious.  Tonight’s not that night, but I will.

 

PS – I posted it before I saw the daily prompt, but since I titled it with the same word…