Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Lemming, 2005, in French with English subtitles. Directed and co-written by Dominick Mol.

Lemming is a movie that reminds me of the old cliché, "a mystery wrapped in an enigma." How much of the movie is a dream, how much is real? Laurent Lucas is Alain Getty, a computer hardware designer--in this case a flying webcam--who works for Richard Pollock (André Dusollier), the philandering husband of Alice, played wonderfully by the talented Charlotte Rampling. Mix in Alain's wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg as the beautiful Bénédicte, and you have the makings of a four-sided love affair.

Lucas, who looks a lot like a young Martin Landau, is the most innocent of the four until the end. Unless you count Bénédicte, who may or may not be innocent, depending on how much of a dream you think the story is. Alice and Richard arrive for dinner at the Getty's, where Alice proceeds to create an embarrassing scene over her husband's infidelities.

Later she appears at Alain's work and makes a pass at him, which he refuses. Alain's life goes downhill from there. His wife taunts him when she finds out about the pass. Alice told her, then committed suicide in the guest bedroom of the Getty's home. Alain goes to Biarritz with Richard, harangued by his boss for the pass by Alice, telling him he should have taken her up on the offer. Alain calls Bénédicte from Biarritz, only to have her tell him to "go to hell" and hang up the phone.

The "lemming" of the title is a creature found blocking the drainpipe of the sink after the disastrous dinner visit by Richard and Alice. A lemming is found only in Scandinavia, so it adds to the mystery. In the movie's only identified dream sequence, Alain arrives home from Biarritz to find Bénédicte sleeping, but can't wake her. He goes into the kitchen to find lemmings swarming all over the floor. He backs up, falls down the stairs and breaks his arm. When he wakes in hospital he finds that he had not been home, but had been in a car wreck on his way home from Biarritz. His wife tells him there was no "go to hell" phone call, nor did he come home and find lemmings. It was all a nightmare. Poor Alain. The nightmare builds, only we're not sure whether it's real or he's still trapped in his dream. He's really in for it while in the mountains with his wife at his boss's cabin. The wife coerces him into a confession of the pass by Alice, then has him call her Alice while they begin he process of making love. He wakes to find he's been deserted, and has to walk down the mountain, then hitchhike home. When he gets there Bénédicte tells him she is now with his boss, Richard. It's no wonder the poor guy is turning into a paranoid wreck!

In one of the most chilling scenes in the movie, Richard is asleep on his own couch and wakes to see a silhouette in the darkness. It's Bénédicte, who reminds him that Alice told him while making her pass at him that she wants to see her husband "croak". Bénédicte sits back in the darkness, then comes forward again into the light, only to have been replaced by Alice, who gives him the key to her house. She wants him to kill Richard, and make it look like suicide.

SPOILER WARNING! At the very first, before things start to unravel for the Gettys, as Alain arrives home he sees a scene across the street. A man is slapping his young son. It isn't revealed until the last scene why this happened, but it ties the lemming plot element together. The imdb board that discusses this movie is divided on several points, including what is a dream and what isn't. This is the way people's minds work. They've just got to know what is real. One person posits that Alice has possessed Bénédicte, but another argues there's no evidence anywhere in the movie that Alice is a ghost or a witch. And I agree. The part that is driving these reviewers crazy is that Bénédicte is in the room when Alain murders Richard, yet appears not to remember the murder later, or her affair with Richard. Did it happen? Who knows? There are some parallels to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, maybe the most audacious movie I've ever seen for confusing a viewer. At one point all of the characters in Mulholland Drive turn into other characters, and the discussion boards on imdb are full of people trying to explain that, too.

In the case of Lemming I find it more entertaining to just let the ambiguities remain ambiguous. Whether Alain dreamed it, whether it happened, whether there was an unexplained supernatural element is less important than the total mood the movie evokes, and the tantalizing questions left in the moviegoers' minds that they get to argue endlessly over.

Lemming gets four out of five stars on the Paranoia Index.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Birthday gal Sal

It's Sally's birthday today. Happy birthday, Sal!

Tonight we go out for dinner, but before we go, thought I'd share with you some pictures of Sally: mom, grandma, wife, sweetheart, friend.

Sally at nine.
Sally at 15.
Sally at 19.
Sally at 25.
Sally at our 40th high school reunion.
Sally with our friends, Dave and Karen, in Albany, California, 2006.Sally by our granddaughter, Bella.
Sally, on my personal Most Wanted list!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Techno? Heck, no!

One thing I've had to do in the past 16 years is form an uneasy alliance with computer technology. When Sally bought our first computer, an IBM PS-2, in 1992, I had screaming fits of frustration in trying to deal with the obstinate beast. Computers were designed by engineers and people who did not look at the way things work in the real world, but how in their heads they wanted them to work, and then forced the rest of us to have to work it their way.

Here we are a decade-and-a-half later and I'm still fighting the equipment. I bought a laptop for Sally's birthday, and that was OK to set up because computers have--thank the geek gods--gotten a bit more friendly to us users. Then I bought a LinkSys wireless router. The first router crashed after two days so I took it back to Best Buy and got another. That one I had to configure three times before getting it to finally do what it's supposed to do. Last night I did the easiest thing of all, get Sally a wireless mouse. Those things are great. Pop 'em in and they start working. Hallelujah.

My latest computer woe is software related. For years, since the late '90s at least, I've used a program called CompuPic 5.2. It's an antique now, kind of a poor man's PhotoShop. As a photo editor CompuPic has been simple to use and very user friendly, until the other night when it turned on me. I usually save all my photos as JPEGs, because they take up less room and JPEG is compatible with everything, but the other night in the middle of a project I did some editing and when I saved it it turned into this:

It's some sort of digital abstraction. No matter what I did, everything I saved in JPEG format turned into this gray blob of pixels. Having obsessive-compulsive disorder puts me at a disadvantage, because I can't just shrug my shoulders and say, "Oh, well," then go on and do something using another program. I don't have another program I like as much as I like CompuPic. So I went to bed after tussling with it for an hour or more past my usual bedtime, and while I was able to fall asleep, woke up a couple of hours later with the gears in my brain spinning, working on the problem. I got back up. The simplest solution, after experimenting, is to save everything I scan as a bitmap file. CompuPic doesn't mind bitmaps. It adds a step for me, because then I go to another program I use, Paint Shop Pro, and save the bitmap as a JPEG. It's a solution only in the sense that I can make it work. As a real solution to my problem--what the hell is going on that makes CompuPic think a saved JPEG looks like the picture above?--it's unsatisfying.

Something else that socks in another gray hair is the computer's way of making you think you did something wrong, the old "fatal error" message that has sent heart attacks to unwary users when it pops up. What I've found from years of feudin', fussin' and fightin' with these recalcitrant machines is that it isn't my fault. It's the fault of some geeky engineer who designed the damn program in the first place, and whose brain doesn't work the same way a normal brain works.

(The great-looking photo of "The Personalities" is something my friend Dave Miller found in a thrift store. I'm sure this toothsome threesome put on quite a show. Anything with an accordion has just gotta be great!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

I know you're reading this blog, I can hear you breathing

My friend Eddie ran this picture of some very short people in his Chicken Fat blog. By coincidence just a few days before I had found a similar picture in an antique store. In the picture below the woman is wearing flat shoes so she doesn't appear taller than the man.

Remember elevator shoes? "Now you can be taller than her!" They put 2" lifts in the heels. They still make those shoes because guys still need to be taller than her.

Or maybe not. There's a Lowe's ad on TV right now, showing a couple entering the garden section of a Lowe's store, and the woman is half a head taller than the guy. The reason I can remember the ad and the store is because it's so jarringly noticeable. I read once that men are usually 4" taller than the women they're with. So what's wrong with shorter guys and taller women, anyway? If a woman can stand to look down on my bald spot, I can stand looking up her nostrils. Seriously, where did this start? Why is the guy supposed to be taller? OK, that's a rhetorical question. I'll never have an answer for that.


This is my 300th Paranoia Strikes Deep blog, by yet another coincidence posted exactly two years to the day of my first blog. My purpose when starting this blog was to air out my personal paranoia, which I've done. I was raised by a paranoid mother, have a paranoid boss, am surrounded by paranoid coworkers, and I'm a damn paranoid, hence the name of my blog. I believe that paranoia is a survival mechanism, developed through evolution so we'll watch our backs. Some of us have a more heightened sense of it. For instance, I'd have more than 300 postings if I hadn't gotten paranoid my boss would see some of my more personal anti-boss postings, so I deleted them. They prove my point.

I knew my mother was paranoid when I was 18, came home and found her screaming into the telephone, "I know you're there! I can hear you breathing!" When I took the phone from her all I heard was a dial tone. At the time she was worried about one of my dad's business competitors tapping our phones. Why? Paranoia knows no why…"They" are just out to get us is all.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

State kidnapers

Watching the disaster unfolding in Texas as the state kidnaps over 400 children and holds them hostage to some alleged phone call from an alleged 16-year-old wife of an alleged 50-year-old man--a polygamous wife, no less--is watching a whole culture come into sharp focus. Both of the polygamist group and the state showing how much power it can wield against the helpless.

As a 17-year-old in the mid-1960s I walked away from the Mormon church and I've never had cause to regret it. I can deny my early religious training but don't deny I come from a Mormon family that dates itself back to 1847 with the pioneers who arrived in Salt Lake Valley. I also live in a place where polygamists were once common. When I moved into my home in 1975 we had at least four polygamous families within a stone's throw. All but one family has left, and that family keeps itself pretty well hidden. Occasionally I see them in a local grocery store. They are the same style of polygamist you're seeing on the nightly news, women in old-fashioned long dresses with puffy hair, no makeup and tennis shoes. I don't know how many polygamists of other groups are still in the area. They don't dress that way, and blend in with the rest of the residents. One family, the infamous Kingston clan, allows their women to dress in tight clothes and show--gasp!--cleavage. They still marry off their young women to older guys, though.

This is where the FLDS, who had lived quietly for decades in the Utah-Arizona twin border towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona started to come unraveled. Their prophet, Warren Jeffs, who is now serving time after being a federal fugitive, started doing what cult leaders with ultimate power do: he used his power and ruled with the iron fist of the autocrat. At one point a few years ago a few dozen teenage boys were expelled from the towns, and drifted to Salt Lake City, where they became known as the Lost Boys. They aren't to be confused with the other Lost Boys, Africans who came here after warfare destroyed their countries and families, but some of the trauma was the same. The FLDS Lost Boys were expelled because they had become a threat to the older men who desired younger wives. Warren Jeffs assigned wives to men, and if there were boys around to distract the girls, then they couldn't be completely subservient. Off went the boys into the spiritual wilderness. Jeffs began to seal his own doom with acts like those.

Jeffs doesn't look so powerful after being arrested in Nevada:

A branch of his organization, the Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, built a compound in Texas. They told the Texans it was a hunting compound. When the townsfolk, bible belt Christian evangelicals that they are, found out it was a Mormon fundamentalist cult group, I'm sure all hell (you'll excuse the expression) broke loose, leading up to the recent events. My wife and I really feel for the women and children in this mess. We feel bad for young women forced into marriage with older men, becoming mothers before they're 16, but we also feel the state overreacted, and is abusing its power. But then we are talking about Texas, the state that twice elected George W. Bush governor.

In my own past there are polygamists. On the top of this page is my great-great grandfather, Nathaniel Henry, who had three wives. His son, Harry, was not a polygamist, but was father to my grandmother, who idol-worshiped her own polygamous grandfather, even though she was a mainstream Mormon. After 1890 the Latter-day Saints disavowed polygamy. It was then that the splinter groups started to spring up, those who wouldn't give up on polygamy. All my young life I was told that yes, we had a polygamist heritage but no, those folks didn't exist any more. Ah, the lies we're told when we're young…

Actually, mainstream Mormons, as much as they try to distance themselves from groups like the FLDS, do believe in polygamy. They believe it will still exist in heaven. I don't think that modern mainstream Mormon wives are all that fond of the idea.

Right now we watch and wait to see how big a hole Texas is digging for itself with its actions against women and children. Texas, being a big place, can dig itself a really big hole

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

...the whole tooth and nothing but...

I had Monday off as a vacation day, but some vacation it turned out to be: two hours in a dentist's chair.

I've had problems with a tooth off-and-on since January. The dentist gave me a root canal under a broken tooth, and told me it would need a crown before I bit down hard and split the tooth, because he'd have to pull it. Yeah, yeah, Doc…sure.

I thought about it for a few weeks, then decided I'd better get an appointment for the crown, so set it up with the office. Within hours of setting the appointment I bit down--hard--and split the tooth. I knew I'd done something but hoped it wasn't as bad as I was imagining. As it turned out it was that bad.

So now I have yet another hole in my mouth. I called in sick today although I guess I could have gone to work. I just didn't feel like it: "under the weather" is how I explained it to my boss. Since I rarely call in sick he can't say much when I do.

I'm still set for a crown, but on the tooth behind the pulled tooth, because that was is ready to chomp down on and split. I, who never had a cavity until age 27, who felt himself invincible, who didn't know what people meant when they talked about root canals or Novocain, am now a walking catalogue of what can go wrong with teeth, and what happens when it does.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rucker Rup!

Sometimes I'm mistaken for other people. It happens often. The most recent was a couple of weeks ago. I was approached by a junior high school teacher while I was in his school, asking if it was me "in the Auto Zone poster."

My guess is that it's my white beard which might be what people are focusing in on when they see me, and when they see someone with a similar beard they think of me.

Twenty years ago at an elementary school the school librarian, Marcia, came up to me and said, "I've found an ad in a magazine I think is a picture of you in your underwear." That got my attention. I told her it wasn't. She said, "I've taken it all over the school, asking people, and they all think it's you." I asked if I could see the magazine, and she said she didn't have it with her that day. It was home. I said, "I'd like to see what you think I look like in my underwear."

A few days later one of the school secretaries commented on the alleged underwear ad and how much the guy in the ad looked like me. If you ever saw me in person you'd know right off I just ain't the underwear model type, not now, not then. I asked the secretary if I could see the ad and she said she didn't have it. Aha, I thought. Is there really an ad or are these girls just ribbing me? I never saw the ad.

For those of you who are curious, here's an actual picture of me in my underwear.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Rosie Ruiz syndrome

Sally and I walked in the annual Salt Lake City MS Walk on Saturday, April 12. I need to come right out and say we cheated. We waited until the last walkers were heading out on the three mile course, then joined the end of the line. We walked approximately half the course and saw the walkers were going up a steep hill. We decided to stay on the level ground, so we walked along a sidewalk about a block below the street the walkers were following. We could see the hundreds of other walkers a block from us as we'd get to intersections. At last they headed down toward us, and as luck would have it we reached the intersection at the same time as the first in, so we, who had cut corners, joined the front of the line.

Remember Rosie Ruiz? Rosie came in first at the Boston Marathon in 1980. She was found to have jumped in toward the end. Like Rosie, we crossed the finish line with a couple of dozen of the fastest walkers to the cheers of the volunteers who had been staffing the event. They waved and applauded, and I waved right back. I accepted my medal as a person who completed the walk. Why not? We completed the walk; we just took a shortcut. Sally had earned close to $300 for the MS folks, so I didn't feel a bit guilty.

We got to the event early, so we could sign up before the crowds got too big. They always lots of food: bagels, muffins, doughnuts and sweet rolls. Since we got there about two hours before the walk I had one of each. And a cup of coffee. I was glad I was walking for an hour just to burn off some of the excess calories I'd ingested before the walk.

Lots of people brought their dogs, and dogs did what dogs do…they checked each other out, and they pooped. It paid to look down to avoid the doggy-doo on the street. We had to maneuver around some turds the owners couldn't take a couple of seconds to pick up.

The picture is of Sally with her niece, Kayla, at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the event started. According to the news there were about 3000 walkers and they raised over $100,000. So that's why I didn't feel bad about cheating. I cheated for a good cause!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Punk you

Last night Sally and I had dinner at a local mall. It's always interesting to watch the passing parade of people at shopping malls. They definitely run the gamut. Lots of Asians, Mexicans, white teenagers. White punk teenagers. One kid walked by wearing a black baseball cap with huge white letters on front: FUCK YOU. My thought was, well, fuck you too, kid. A message that hostile makes you wonder about that kid. He didn't look older than 17, but he had those huge silver dollar-size things in his earlobes. You know, the kind that will stretch him out until he has a hole in his lobe big enough to park a Hummer. He'll feel like shouting out FUCK YOU to the world when he is unemployable because of his stupid earlobes. Where did the fad for self-mutilation start, anyhow?

Today walking through the hall of a local high school full of affluent white kids, I encountered a hardcore kid all decked out in his punk finest. Why hasn’t this style died the death it should have died back in the late '70s, when it popped up in the UK? The high school kid had on a Misfits t-shirt and his hair was arranged Sid Vicious-style. Sid was the subject of the 1986 Gary Oldman film, Sid and Nancy, about how two people can effectively screw up their lives beyond all recognition and die young (Vicious at age 21), yet be remembered nearly 30 years later. I'm not sure he's remembered by the high school kid wearing his hair. More likely the kid is just aping what others have done on down the line to 1979 and Sid Vicious.

Whenever I see these kids with spiky hair, ratty black clothes, chains dripping off their tight pants, I wonder why? What is it exactly about the anarchic rebellion of that era that appeals to kids over 30 years later? Or have I answered my own question with the word anarchic?

Punk is something that as a style manages to hang on, and it's probably because in over 30 years no one has managed to look any worse, any less employable, any less social or more FUCK YOU-in-your-face than the punks.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


In these days of contractors like Halliburton running parts of what used to be Army responsibilities, do soldiers even have KP anymore? When I was in training from December 1966 through April 1967 I got more than my share of that deadly duty. KP stood for Kitchen Police, although no one could actually tell me why. Military Police were cops, and policing the area meant picking up cigarette butts and debris from the ground, but why there were kitchen police was a mystery.

Like most GIs I hated KP. It meant going to work at around 4:00 a.m., and not getting off until as late as 9:00 p.m., depending on how industrious we could be or how fastidious or prickish the cooks were. I saw all kinds. The cooks in our Artillery training unit at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma were some of the worst slave-driving sadists I encountered. We fixed them, though, by sending them Scout.

I don't remember Scout's real name; we called him Scout because he told us to, and Scout was a man to be reckoned with. He came from Montana. He didn't talk very much, but from what we learned from him, he had been on federal probation for several years for bootlegging--bootlegging! of all things, in the 1960s--and when his probation was over the draft board snapped him up. Scout was tall and lean, with a pinched face and perpetual scowl. His eyes were dark and his eyelids were heavy, giving him a hooded look. He always looked like the wheels in his head were turning. In retrospect I think of Scout as a survivalist or a militiaman type, hiding out in the hills, living off the land. Often I'd wake up to see Scout walking the floor at 2:00 a.m. He was an insomniac, so sometimes other guys paid him to take their fire guard shifts. We had two hour turns where we were up and walking the floor to make sure the place didn't burn down. Some guys just couldn't stay awake and crashed onto a bunk during their guard duties. I did that a couple of times, but Scout never did.

The rumor was that Scout was more than a bootlegger, that he had killed some men in Montana but that the law couldn't prove it. It was probably a legend grown up around his mysterious personage, but to a bunch of 19 and 20 year olds it seemed real enough. Scout was older than us, probably not more than five or six years, but to us he looked much older. You could see he'd had a hard life. Scout didn't plan on staying in the Army. He told us he wouldn't be going to Vietnam no matter where they said they were going to send him. We figured when we got our orders at the end of our training he was planning to go over the hill to Canada or disappear into the wilds of Montana . To that end Scout was saving money. He'd charge people $5.00 or $10.00 to take their fire guard shift, depending on the time of night, he charged between $15 to $25 for a KP shift, depending on whether it was a weekday or on a Sunday. Everybody wanted Sundays off. I paid Scout $25.00 once so I wouldn't have to do Sunday KP because I thought my parents were driving to Oklahoma to see me. They canceled out, but I didn't dare tell Scout, so I gave him the $25 and went to a movie that Sunday.

The sergeants were probably listening to the same scuttlebutt and rumors as us trainees. They might have believed that Scout was a dangerous person. They didn't stop him from taking those KP shifts even though it meant he missed training. He wasn't lazy. He did his work in the mess hall but the cooks didn't treat him like they treated the rest of us. In a place like the Army it pays to cause fear in people. I never found out what happened to him. When the orders were read out at the end of our training his name was called for Vietnam. I looked at him and his face looked like it always did, like he'd as soon kill you as look at you. Whether Scout ended up in Canada as a deserter, somewhere hidden in America, or whether he actually went to Vietnam as a soldier I'm sure there were people who ended up either seriously intimidated or dead.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mask art

I live in a town just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. When I moved here in 1975 it was rural; there were 6,000 residents, and now there are over 100,000. Our current mayor is trying to put us on the map; we're building a soccer stadium for a pro soccer team, and hizzoner is trying to land us a deal for a major arts complex.

The other day I got this extraordinary mailer from the city. It's a fancy large brochure with these four exceptional-looking masks, attempting to sell us citizens on the proposed arts complex. To find this sort of thing in Utah, especially coming from a municipal government, is more than extraordinary…it's unheard of. I love these masks and want you to see them. The artist isn't credited. Mask #1 can be used either way so I'm showing you both versions.

Click on the pictures for full-size images.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Bonnie is a secretary at one of the elementary schools I visit on my daily service route through the school district. She sits at the end of a long cubicle. The counter covers her so when I walk in the door I see only her head. I can always tell what she's wearing, though, because of the number of men hanging around her. Bonnie has an ordinary face, usually wears no make-up--she's kind of an outdoor type in that way--has straight dull-looking hair, but she's a buxom woman, and her mammoth mammaries are why the guys are hanging around.

The fashion of showing cleavage has done wonders for girls who never got male attention before, hasn't it? Despite her shortcomings above her shoulders, Bonnie gets her share of attention directly below. She and her husband are into fitness, proud of their bodies, so when it comes to her boobs the title of the old song says it all, "Let It All Hang Out."

Whenever I need Bonnie to sign for anything I'm bringing, I see her hey-look-at-me hooters. I use the technique I've described here, where I take a mental snapshot and "look" at it later. Some guys are better at it than others. Some guys, eyeballs bulging out of their skulls, aren't even pretending not to look. Their thoughts aren't hard to read: If Bonnie's cleavage was a swimming pool they'd dive in. I've come up with a name for people who act like this: tidiots.

I don't mind women and girls going with the fashion and showing us boys some skin and cleavage. We appreciate it, we really do. I've seen a lot of it in person, and I've seen a lot of it on the Internet. Photo hosting programs like Flickr, Blogger and Photobucket allow us to peer into peoples' private photo albums. There are a lot of self portraits in these albums, women and girls who take their own pictures in the mirror or by holding their camera phones or digital cameras at arm's length. Someone should make a collection of these pictures and publish them. It's a sort of cultural phenom that is slipping under the radar of the folks who look for trends.

I've put digital pasties on a few of the pictures, and have just a word of advice for the gals who are sharing their pictures with us: don't ever run for public office. This stuff will live somewhere forever.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


The years 1967 and 1968 in America were years of civil rights and anti-war demonstrations. Watching old film on TV of protestors being gassed by police reminds me of an old line I used to use: I went through more tear gas than most demonstrators.

Despite the Vietnam war being current, when I took U.S. Army basic training in January, 1967 it had a definite World War I flavor. We went through an infiltration course where we came out of trenches, then crossed a simulated battlefield while live machine gun bullets were shot over our heads. I guess the Army brass figured if World War I ever came around again we'd be trained for it. We also had gas canisters thrown at us. That wasn't the first time we'd experienced gas. Our introduction to that took most of a day. We were taken to a place on the Fort Lewis, Washington Army base with several run-down looking shacks. I also noticed a sand pit with wire stretched over the top. "That just doesn't look very good," I thought. I was right.

I've pushed a lot of this unpleasant experience out of my mind over the years, but here's what I remember. We were marched, 10 or so at a time, while wearing our gas masks, into a small shack. In the air was a thick mist of CS gas, also known as tear gas. We were told, "when it's your turn, take off your mask, say your name, rank and service number, then right face, put your hand on the shoulder of the soldier next to you. When everyone has said their piece, we will march around in a circle and out the door. At any time if anyone breaks rank and runs we will all be brought back to do it again." Needless to say, after taking off my mask and gasping out my name, rank, and service number, then marching around the shack praying for the ordeal to end, had anyone run the rest of us would have killed him. We stood outside with our faces to what breeze there was, our eyes watering and stinging.

A while later we went into a chamber filled with chlorine gas. We went in without masks, and told we had nine seconds to don our masks or die. Seemed drastic to me, and I'm still not convinced that stuff was really lethal. The capper was the aforementioned sandpit. We were lined up four men abreast. We had our masks in our carriers at our sides. We low-crawled through the sand, and then a canister of vomit gas was thrown amongst us. We had a few seconds to get our masks on. Some guys tried to jump up, and that's what the wire stretched over the pit was for. A jumper would bounce right back into the sand. Several guys--but not me--crawled to the end of the sandpit, threw off their masks and ran for the nearby woods where they heaved. Some guys vomited in their masks. Not me. I had my mask on in no time, because I was watching the sergeant's movements as he got the canister ready to throw. I had my mask on before the first fumes hit me.

After the training we were lined up in formation to march to our barracks. I looked back and at the edge of the wood line I saw a soldier skulking through the trees. I grabbed the snaps of my mask carrier. I told the guy next to me, Porter, "Get ready, we're gonna get gassed again!" Porter looked at me stupidly, and then the canister landed right by his foot. We had been told if we saw anyone throwing gas we were to yell at the top of our lungs, "GAS!" The hell with that, I was too busy getting my mask out. Porter made no move for his mask, but I had mine on before the gas got to me. He just stood there looking dumb, and when the gas hit him he headed for the woods. It took fifteen minutes of the sergeant hollering, "Porter! Come out! Private Porter, report for formation, NOW!" before they could convince him to come out of the woods, and even then he was suspicious he'd be gassed again.

In my service time, two years in the regular Army and two weeks serving with an Enlisted Reserve unit in California a year and a half after leaving Germany, I went through tear gas five times. None of the experiences were even remotely pleasant, but by the fifth time into the chamber I felt I had it down. The instructions were, "Take a deep breath, crack your mask, remove your mask, say your name, rank and service number and then walk in an orderly fashion for the door. No running." I thought, I know this drill. But when it got to be my turn I turned things around. I cracked my mask, then took a deep breath, pulling a big load of tear gas into my lungs. What came out of my mouth was a strangled peep. The sergeant grabbed me by the arm and literally threw me out of the chamber.

What I learned about tear gas is that you really want to avoid it.