I rode past them every afternoon.
They were all men and strangers to me.
But every afternoon there they were without fail. And there I was, riding my bike past them, loaded down with a backpack full of schoolbooks and other foolishness.
I looked at them. They looked at me. I rode past.
This went on for months.
Then one day I decided to wave at them.
The old men sitting in front of the “old folks home” – actually a convalescent facility — waved back.
We started waving at each other everyday after that.
One day that spring, after months of riding my bike past the home and waving, I decided to ride up the short driveway that led to the long porch where the ten or so men sat watching the world go by and from where they’d seen me ride past. That day I stopped and said hello.
When you’re 15 you tend to think that old men have been old men forever. I couldn’t imagine that these old dudes had ever been anything but old dudes. After that first day of stopping and saying hello, I learned that those old men had once been young men like me.
It might have been pity that motivated me to stop that first day – I felt sorry for the old guys, seldom visited by any family — but it was genuine intrigue that kept me coming back. The “Old Breed,” as I nicknamed them, became friends to me. I laughed as they made fun of one another and “goofed” on each other in pretty much the same way that my friends and I did. After several weeks they started messin’ with me too. That was when I knew I’d been accepted as a part of the group.
“Bicycle Boy, (what they called me when “Tony” escaped them) do you shave yet?” one would ask.
“Yes sir,” I’d said.
“With a blade and all?” another would say with a laugh.
“NO! He don’t use no blade!” another would insist! “Bet he just smears some milk on his chin and gets the cat to lick it off!”
And this kind of thing would send them all into a laughing and coughing frenzy!
“Hey, bicycle boy, got a girlfriend?” they’d ask. And no matter what my answer was, I was gonna catch hell. If I said that I did, in fact, have a girlfriend, they’d say stuff like, “oooohh! Lookie lookie at bicycle boy, havin’ a girlfriend and all … why don’t you bring her ‘round and let us have a look at her!”
Ridicule with affection.
And if I said that I didn’t have a girlfriend, they’d say things like, “What’s wrong little man, can’t get a gal to like ya with that big ol’ nose of yers? Hahahaha!”
Humiliation with humor.
As the Old Breed let me into their little club, I started paying attention to the things they said to dig at each other, I discovered that these old dudes were real men, through and through. Harold would call Carl a pansy because during World War II Carl was “livin’ it up in Paris chasin’ French girls, while I was gettin’ my ass shot off on Guadalcanal.”
Carl would counter with, “Yeah, Harold you and your little jarhead buddies (“jarhead” is a derogatory reference to Marines) wuz enjoyin’ a south sea vacation while I was freezin’ my ass off in a Belgian forest with no food and no ammunition and the Jerries shellin’ us all night.”
And on and on it would go like that with these guys.
The Old Breed included a survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during WWII. (I had to look that up.) One had stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. One had parachuted into occupied France. One had been on an aircraft carrier that was sunk by a kamikaze in the Pacific, and then spent hours in the open sea hoping to be rescued. One had been a prisoner of war in a concentration camp in Germany. One had fought for his life on the sulfur beaches of Iwo Jima and had gotten wounded, winning a Silver Star on the first day of the battle and had to be taken off the island to a hospital ship. The Old Breed called him a “feather merchant quitter!” (I had no idea what a “feather merchant” was) … No one was spared the harassment! Everyone got “the business!” So you can only imagine the crap they gave me, a skinny, pimply faced 15 year-old kid on a bike, waiting for his voice to change.
Theirs was a fraternity of men’s men and I was accepted into that fraternity on a limited probationary provisional basis. I had to promise to become a real man. I had to solemnly swear to “lose my virginity, buy a car, join the service, do something spectacular, and not be a wussy.” Not necessarily in that order. (They used another word that rhymes with wussy.) “Don’t you dare be a punk! You hear?! You be a man!”
These were men who could say that the only thing they minded about getting old was that other men no longer saw them as dangerous.
There are plenty of shallow and vacuous people in the world without a thing of depth, or compassion, or achievement, or contribution, or accomplishment, or self-sacrifice to commend them.
Most will live and die, unheralded, uncelebrated, unsung, and forgotten. Others will, unfortunately, be famous. (Hear me Lindsey? Kardashians? Housewives of (fill in the blank) … )
But on the other hand, there are untold numbers of people you casually encounter everyday who carry within them a history of incredible courage, strength, achievement, depth, dignity, survival, and meaning. But you’d never know it. This is especially true of old folks.
So many have outlived their spouses, their families and their friends. Yet here they are, alone and often forgotten, in a culture that elevates youth without merit and scoffs at anything old. A culture that has quit treating them as human beings.
Yesterday Buck Compton died at 90 years of age. Buck was a retired judge and prosecutor, having prosecuted Robert Kennedy’s murderer. But in an earlier life at a different time he was a soldier in WWII whose wartime heroics were dramatized in the brilliant HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers.”
There are untold stories behind the most unexpected people. Old men sitting in chairs waving at a kid on a bike turned out to be heroes and great men beyond my imagination. And I grieved as the years took members of the Old Breed away. Today, over 1000 of those World War II veterans die every single day. A generation of gallantry lost to a generation that doesn’t know and doesn’t care. There’s was a generation that said hard work builds character, struggle builds strength, and pride is earned not given. The Greatest Generation disappearing as The Whiny Generation takes their place.
I like what John Prine said.
“So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ‘em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello.’”
– 30 -
ARE WE FACEBOOK FRIENDS?
We should be!
HAVE YOU “LIKED” THE USMC FITNESS BOOT CAMP FACEBOOK PAGE?
You should totally do that!
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
This is just a gentle reminder that we all have different tolerances to smells and fragrances.
While B.O. might be bad (wash those nasty workout clothes!) strong perfume or cologne can be worse!
I once quit dating a girl in high school because she wore Secret Powder deodorant. I should have just told her that her deodorant was the most horrible thing ever and that it made me gag. But I was young and it just seemed easier to break up with her than to hurt her feelings about her deodorant. What? I know. I was young and all. But to this day, Secret Powder is a deal breaker!
I’ve run races before where I’ve literally sped up to pass someone simply because their perfume or cologne made it hard for me to breathe running behind them.
What smells nice to one person, won’t smell nice to another. So may I remind everyone that the Quarterdeck is a “fragrance free zone.” Soap and water are great, but perfume and cologne are going to be too overpowering for the lungs of people exercising and breathing heavy.
WIND CHILL AND INCLEMENT WEATHER POLICY
When the wind chill (what I feels like) is 29 or lower in the 38117 zip code, we’ll go inside at 0530, 0830, and 5:45 PM. The 0645 class is inside from now until August. hahaha.
Check with weather.com or The Weather Channel app for your smart phone. I’ll post it on my Facebook page and the Boot Camp website Blog page (http://usmcfitnessbootcamp.com/blog/) if there’s a question. And if you’re not sure, you can text me at 901-644-0145.
What about inclement weather days?
We’ll follow the Memphis City Schools decision. If they close, we’ll stand-down. If they close in the morning but the streets are clear and good to go by the afternoon, the evening class will meet. I’ll post that status on Facebook and the Boot Camp Blog page.
SPRING HALF MARATHON!
Our next training run is this Saturday at 7 AM. We’ll meet at Shelby Farms in front of the Visitor’s Center. Saturday’s weather is expected to be good! But if it’s raining or snowing we’ll go on Sunday instead.
Wanna get your one hour of continuous cardio with a group? You can join us! We’ll be going 2 hours on Saturday, passing through the Visitor’s Center parking lot every 25 to 30 minutes. You can hop on-board!
BOGA tomorrow morning at 5:30am – No chanting. No patchouli.
M-16 Workout at CUMC next Tuesday, March 6 at 5:30am!
HOODIES ARE IN!!
Red, Royal Blue, and Navy Blue!
THE 0645 CLASS
The 0645 Class is inside for their winter hibernation until March 2012 We’ll use the “blue gym” aka “the pizza gym!”
IN HIS STEPS 5K
Every year Christ Methodist Church conducts a 5K fundraiser called “In His Steps.” The race starts and finishes at the church and winds around the neighborhood.
This would be an excellent first 5K for those who’ve been thinking about running one. It’d be an excellent race for the veteran 5K runner too!
Save the date: March 31st at 8am!
NEW BOOT CAMP DISCOUNT
If you set up an automatic payment at your bank (Boot Camp mailing address is 4888 Southern, Memphis 38117) you can subtract $10 off your fee! That’s right, instead of $75, you can pay $65!
USMC FITNESS BOOT CAMP CLASSES
0530 Monday through Friday
5:45 PM: Monday and Wednesday, and 5:30 PM on Friday.
THE TUESDAY AND THURSDAY EVENING CLASSES ARE ON HIATUS UNTIL THE TIME CHANGE.
JOB OPENING – this from our own Andrew Forsdick
NTTC is looking to hire an entry level Launch Manager in Memphis. Contact me with any candidate names or details on the position. Position works with Telcos & other video operators and TV channel owners such as Discovery, Scripps, ESPN. Needs to be detail oriented, customer friendly, extremely organized, good communicator. Project management & customer service role. Opportunity for advancement.
Andrew Forsdick: email@example.com
BOOT CAMP DISCOUNTS AND FACEBOOK EXPERIMENT!
First of all, find me on Facebook and make me your friend. (Also, be sure to “like” USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP on Facebook.)
Here’s how the discount works!
It’s simple: make a Facebook status update and get a discount!
For every status update that you make that references:
“USMC Fitness Boot Camp,”
“Sgt. Tony’s Boot Camp,”
“Tony’s Boot Camp,”
or something similar, you can take $2.50 off your next reenlistment fee for each update!
You can take up to $20 off for any given month!
Your status update has to be a specific reference to USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP or to me specifically by name.
BE SURE TO TAG ME!
You can do the same thing by “checking in” at USMC Fitness Boot Camp either by using Facebook “places,” Foursquare, or any of the other “check in” apps that show up on your Facebook News Feed.
So log on and start getting your discounts now!
FREE MONTH OF BOOT CAMP FOR YOU!
Remember that when one of your family or friends joins the program at full price because of your recruiting efforts, YOU get a free month of Boot Camp!
THE 0830 AND THE 0645 CLASSES!!
The 0830 Class meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Don’t forget that there is child-care available at the church for this class!
The 0645 meets on MWF inside!
ATTENTION 0830 CLASS MEMBERS: please remember that no cell phone usage is allowed while you drive your car on the campus. So when you pull onto the campus, no cell phones please!
PARKING AT CHRIST METHODIST
No change for the 0530 class.
0645: If you could park on the side of the building – not in the handicapped spaces, that would be great.
Evening Class: On Wednesday evening, if you could park west of the Quarterdeck in between the Quarterdeck and the ball field, that would be great.
WANT TO LOSE 20 POUNDS BY THE END OF NEXT MONTH?
Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!
You can also go to www.combatchallenge.tsfl.com/
TUESDAY & THURSDAY EVENING CLASSES ARE ON HIATUS
The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes are standing down until the end of next month.
A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.
For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.
What would you do if money was not an issue, fear was not a factor, and failure was not an option?
To your optimum health and fitness!
SEE YOU ON THE QUARTERDECK!
Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145