Every morning, Monday thru Friday, I drive down to Old Town, San Diego, to enjoy breakfast on the hotel patio. Always have the LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune papers with me. The reason I started eating breakfast out every morning was so I could read those papers uninterrupted.
You know what they say about "best intentions"? Yep.
So there I sat this past Monday morn, happily reading away. It's true, as a Navy SEAL told me, that "motion catches the eye". It surely did. Caught movement to my right and looked up to see this guy in camoflage halfway to my table. Then realized he was an old friend whom I hadn't seen for a few years.
He'd phoned a few days before and I told him where I'd be at breakfast time. So here he was. I jumped up and we hugged and patted each other's backs.
I'll tell you, I was delighted to see him alive. He's a full-fledged hero. Did the invasion of Iraq (which we never should have invaded, by the way). Before that, was a Federal Firefighter. Before that, a Marine. Between the firefighter and Marines, he was in a cross county race, another vehicle hit his, threw him out on the road in a huge cloud of dust, and before he could move, he was hit by another vehicle going 90 miles per hour. Tore his right leg off just below the knee.
No matter. He got a new leg, worked like hell and passed a physical test again to rejoin the firefighters. Thus he became the first firefighter amputee in the USA. And he joined the Army National Guard. Whereupon he was sent off to combat in Iraq.
Where, in trying to rescue another soldier in the midst of a firefight, he tore his own stomach open, bandaged it, and pulled the wounded soldier to safety, bullets flying the entire time. He's still in the Army...Master Sgt. PsyOps.
One of the most physically strong guys I've ever met. We were walking on South Embarcadero Island, behind the Convention Center, one afternoon. They have exercise gear built in along the path. He stopped at the pull-up bar and began to do pull-ups...FAST...talking away all the while.
So there we were at breakfast. I'd just finished but had a slice of wheat toast spread with strawberry jam. Didn't want it, so pushed it over and told him, "Eat toast". He did. I poured more coffee in my cup and lit a smoke.
While stationed down in Georgia, he'd decided, since everybody he knew was constantly yelling at him that he ought to write a book, to get himself a ghostwriter, since he can't write worth a damn. Not that kind of writing anyway.
So what did he do? Googled "ghostwriter" and found a gal in Georgia who does that work. What they do, since they've never met, is he talks and sends her the tape. She writes. Didn't take long until I discovered she didn't know proper manuscript format.
That evening, I emailed him to tell him how a book manuscript is laid out. Ah me. How this is gonna end, I have no idea, but I'm NOT going to get involved.
It was neat to see him again. Old times are not ... And no, I didn't get the papers read until that evening.