Lock, Stock, and Barrel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s official. I’m a lifer.

For those who don’t understand the term lifer, one of those quirky military words that outsiders wouldn’t typically understand.  Lifer refers to the commitment made beyond the 4 year volunteer service in the military.

The funny thing is, I still don’t feel like a lifer.  To the military member, anything beyond 10 years is a commitment to the service that would classify one as a lifer and even though I am well beyond 10 years of service, I still can’t believe that I am where I am (today).  So today, when I posted a Happy Anniversary To Me on Facebook as I surpass the 20-year milestone of military service, the overwhelming response caused me to reflect.

Twenty years into service and retirement in my sights, what have I learned?  One thing stands out, leaders aren’t always born, they can be made.  I’ve witnessed this repeatedly.  I’ve watched young people join my military, with little guidance and challenging environmental surroundings while growing up in the most impressionable years of their life, become genuine, full fledged leaders of people.  I’ve watched them rise in rank with true merit, cross that threshold from Soldier to Noncommissioned Officer (NCO), Soldier of the Quarter, NCO of the Year, reach achievements that are valued in the military; Airborne School, Expert Field Medical Badge, Air Assault, and the most impressive, Bachelor’s Degrees while working daily, high stress duties in the course of their Soldiering, all because they joined the military to make themselves a better person, to have a better life.

I’ve also realized that despite my intent to do my 4-year commitment and leave service, that I was and continue to be drawn to the greater good of military service.  Service to something larger than yourself, larger than any one person or individual, but service to God, Country, and Constitution.  It may sound cliche, but this is a life I’ve chosen.  In the course of this life, I’ve lost certain rights, which I have never dwelled upon.  Ever.  Because service to a greater good has always been the main draw for my continuance of service. I cannot criticize politicians or the commander in chief, despite how I’ve felt about all of them in my service (Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama). When I first joined the military, I was forbidden from doing things that the Millenials or the Silent Generation wouldn’t believe; wearing a T-shirt with a beer advertisement or derogatory message, show up in the company area in civilian clothes, or ‘forgetting’ to say the greeting of the day.  I was and I am required to set the example, so I’ve always taken every rule, internalized them, and lived them both in and out of the military.  If you have trouble understanding this, ask my close friends, ask my sisters.


So as I watch friends celebrate their children’s high school graduation, college entry, 20 year wedding anniversaries, I am overwhelmed with celebrations that I’ve had in the course of my service.  Dedication, where I recognize that many of my peers, colleagues don’t share 20 years with one company.  Practically unheard of these days. I am thankful for the cherished lifestyle I’ve had, the beautiful people I’ve shared these times with, the best friends I’ve loved, lost or simply parted ways with, and lastly the comraderie and friendship of my cherished senior NCOs and officers over the years.  They are like the best friend you had when you were 8 years old, and become the type of friend that defines your family.  You surround yourself with their company because friends are the family you choose when family isn’t close behind.

Military members have chosen this path and your appreciation for what we do and when you verbalize it (thank us for our service), makes us uncomfortable.   We do this because we love it, lock, stock and barrel (pun intended).  But I thank you for your appreciation.  It proves we have learned from our history and so I absorb your appreciation if only to channel to those Veterans who have gone before me and did not benefit from this great society that we know today, The United States of America. *raises salute*


I Love This Town…. but,

So, against my better judgement and at risk of offending my hometown family and friends I proceed with caution on this topic however, I just can’t help myself…

So, having left my hometown at the age of 18 and only returning home for the frequent family visits, I have found that I have become a citidiot. Otherwise known as someone who comes from great roots in a small town but has a tendency to forget the simple things in life because of the convenience and excitement of living in multiple cities over the past 23 years. Holy $#!7, I’m old, but that is not the topic today.

The topic today is still a woven theme of a Yinzer living outside of Yinz-ville and a simple little convenience of a modern store with modern conveniences that are all too often, taken for granted.

This brings me to my newly acquired hometown of Negley, Ohio and their one-horse stop, Gorby’s Grocery. On most occasions, I have little need to visit this small convenient store, but let me tell you, when I do, there is much adventure that usually leaves me with a little chuckle and sometimes, gut-busting laughter with my family. Take for instance a few years ago, when I stopped by to buy some Ohio Lottery scratch off tickets, which I normally do when I am home. It happened to be fall, deer season in fact, when as I was waiting in line patiently, I overheard several camouflage clad simpletons discussing their early morning adventures; “whatcha doing,” “oh, just out hunting some deers.” Which has now become a staple quote with me and my family.

Honestly, my small issue with this little necessary store in this very small town is not the people or the laughter I get at their expense, but the lack of modernization in the year 2012.

o when I need cash, I can hear the dial-up ATM, like my first connection to the internet with MCI in 1995

o when I need gas, the pumps do not have the ability to pay at the pump. Seriously? I avoid this exercise at all cost, which doesn’t seem to bother anybody but me. However, on the rare occasion before I make the 5 hour drive back to baltimore, I need fuel. Here is a snapshot of this 15 minute saga to fill up my tank. First, I must slosh my sport utility vehicle through several, very large mud puddles, muddy, wet and full of sloshy goop that makes my vehicle look like I literally went four-wheeling in the sand-pits, just to get “to the pump.” Then, after placing my vehicle in park, and before I can lift the pump handle, I must make my first trip inside because, lets face it, I am a citidiot and I rarely carry cash. So I must take my debit card into the store and leave my card with the cashier so I can fill-up on pump number ?, oh shit, really?, I forgot that I needed to look at the pump number I parked at. Ugggh… so I try to peer through the front door to see if I can discern at which pump I am parked. Then I return to pump my vehicle with fuel. Of course, I must close out my “gas tab.” Yes, I just compared this to a bar tab… and return to the cashier to settle my tab for my fuel. Because this grocery/fuel station is the only game in town, it is a very busy little place so each time I return to the cashier, there is a wait, usually behind someone (or many) buying cigarettes or more likely, someone (or many) buying Lotto or scratch offs. So my main goal is to avoid getting fuel and most items at this location. Even still, because the local fracking situation in this area has caused this tiny, little one-horse store to be a major stop for all of the heavy truck traffic and drivers passing through this area. Yo, Gorby’s, ever heard of “pay at the pump?” Geezuz. I’ll never understand why people in this area would tolerate, one, sometimes two trips in and out of the store, just to get fuel. I really can’t be the only person on earth with an aversion to carrying cash?

I do love being from a small town, but I do not have to love the inconveniences that have become second nature to my daily survival. Yes, I pay dearly for living outside of Ohio. So sue me, I like convenience. I am ok with paying for minor conveniences. And honestly, the gas here is the same price in baltimore. I just waste valuable, precious time when I fill up at Gorby’s Grocery in Negley, Ohio.

Love yinz, and love this town. But I’m still a Yinzer in an Outside World, and in this instance, I’m slightly ok with that….

Hey Hon, “Steelers $%@&”

The friendly greeting in baltimore usually begins or ends with some kind of “Hon.”  As a matter of fact if you hear someone say “Hon,” you can almost bet money on the fact that they are from Maryland.  Much like you would win a bet about a Yinzer using the word, “yinz.”

I have a local hangout in my neighborhood where there are a few  in the the restaurant that might use the word “Hon.”  As well, I’ve become quite fond of the creative introductions that I get from my local ratbird friends when being introduced to other locals.  Like, “this is Gayle, she is a Steelers fan, but she’s cool.”  Or, “she’s a Steelers fan, but she’s not like the rest of ’em,” insinuating we act like fans from Philadelphia.

I have also grown quite fond of my dear friend, the bartender, who loves to be creative with how she names my seat on my tab.  Each visit, and there are many visits, brings a new and creative way to tell me her opinion of my team(s). You see it really doesn’t matter to her which team from Pittsburgh that I support.  She just wants to display creative expression in her own way.  I don’t hate her for it.  I’ve grown to enjoy her way of keeping the rivalries going.  So really, she doesn’t just hate on my Steelers, she is just a true hater of all things Pittsburgh.  She has several tattoos, her most recent is a replica of the ratbird seal (yes, they have a seal, that rivals a seal from a State).  The Steelers could never have a seal (not that they need one), because eeeh hmm, there are numerous great teams from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and not all of them are in Pittsburgh.  Either way, I certainly expect her next tattoo, to be hatin’ on something from Pittsburgh…

I enjoy walking around this city in all of my Steelers/Penguins (not Pirates, not yet anyway) gear.  So I recognize that the pride I have in my team can be annoying.  I also can’t help that it is over half of my wardrobe when you add in t-shirts, sweatshirts, and jerseys.  My apparel is why I get most of my jabs, because aside from my friend Kim, who insists on introducing me as a Steelers fan, how would anyone know?  Oh yea, it might be my t-shirt.  I guess I could put the stuff away when we are out of season, but damn, between the NFL which starts in August and the the NHL which ends in June, when really, am I “out of season.”  Sorry, I won’t do it.  I won’t put my stuff away, just like I never expect to hear the polite greeting when I walk into that bar, “Hey Hon,” unless it is followed by, “Steelers Suck.”  

It All Started with a Wallet.

this is my wallet. this is where it starts.

Yes. It’s true, I have a Steelers wallet and coupled with yellow iPhone case, it is truly challenging to hide that I am a diehard fan.

Today’s rubbish takes you into a restaurant just north of baltimore city, where I was finishing up a mid-afternoon shopping extravaganza and decided to grab a bite to eat.  I sat at the bar, the corner of the bar where there were three middle aged men seated next to me.

When I reached for my wallet, immediately my private thoughts were interrupted with, “awww, would you look at that.”  Yes, the man in the middle pointed to my black and gold, Steelers wallet and yellow phone.  He asked me why I was a Steelers fan and why in the hell was I wearing an Army shirt, which clearly he stated, gave me two strikes since the Naval Academy is right down the road.

I said, “well you see, I grew up near Pittsburgh and I am in the Army.”  His friend suggested that being from Pittsburgh made it ok for me to be a fan. I do find it entertaining on most occasions that the city is obsessed with such a deep hatred for the black and gold.  Even more interesting, the three gentlemen dove into a conversation among themselves about how the Steeler Nation is everywhere.  Apparently, they work together, and travel a lot and commenced to naming cities where they’ve traveled to, that had Steeler bars.  Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver were among the ones I remember.  Albeit, their conversation did not involve me at this point… which was interesting to me, to say the least.  It’s a small but very common obsession these baltimoreans have… normally that is a conversation I have among my Steeler friends.

What I found to be the funniest part of the conversation was that the two of them were helping the third move from one part of town to the other. They left their wives at home to help him move one dresser and two night-stands, four hours ago. There they sat, downing at least 4 Miller Lites each, in the short time it took me to order and eat a grilled-chicken wrap.  I am just glad I left and was on the highway before they were.

SOBO football

So I have lived in and around baltimore for about 7 years.  Of those 7 years, 3 plus years have been in the city of baltimore.  The residential life is fantastic, restaurants and bars on every corner.  I enjoy my living situation.  The weather is great, mostly sunny on most days…  very different from the gloomy, cloudy, all out depressing tri-state area where I grew up.

Having said that, I wouldn’t trade my sports loyalties even if tortured.  I love my ‘burgh.  I love my black and gold. Which brings me to the point of this blog, and this post.  Not a day goes by where I am not reminded that I am in enemy territory however, I am not alone.  There are plenty of Steelers fans in this city of purple, and for that I am thankful.

For those who live in Pittsburgh and especially to those who have not traveled outside of the area to experience the sarcastic comments directed at Steelers fans, well, that is what this blog is about.  Understanding my experiences and sharing the level of evil hatred that I experience, how I experience it, and on some occasions how I deal with it.

Today, for instance, March 10, not football season, not even draft season, technically, and I was bombarded by a group of friends with whom I play on a social football team.  The ratbird fans on our team clearly outnumber the 4 Steelers fans on the team.  It’s almost as if you must lay out your loyalties on the table before socialization can begin, regardless of what I do in this city.

The topic quickly turned to Hines Ward, what a wimp, they claim.  Begging to be a part of the team.  Why yes, I thought, that is what it means to be a Steeler.  Loyalty, teamwork, blue collar smash-mouth football.  I love it , wouldn’t have it any other way.  I didn’t see Todd Heap, begging to come back to the ratbirds when they cut him last year.  Though he expressed a respectful one-page add in the Baltimore Sun when the Cardinals came to town this past season, still a team does what a team needs to do.

Unlike the ratbirds, we have history, we learn from our past.  The Steelers team of the ’80s held onto those ’70s superstars far longer than they needed to and it brought us a decade that most Steelers fans try to forget.

I usually don’t get too amped up when it is the off-season but I really wish that I could have a conversation in baltimore that wasn’t about the Steelers and the ratbirds.  But I do, uninstigated, and that my friends is the point of this blog.

I wonder how long Ray-Ray will stick around.  History baby, history.

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