Tales From an American Legion
It’s a tradition. This is the third year I’m posting this on Memorial Day weekend for two specific reasons:
- I like it.
- Unapologetic laziness.
Years ago I worked at an American Legion post. I met a lot of people during my time there. Some of them were ordinary people, some were interesting, some were bizarre and some were bizarrely interesting.
One of the more interesting people was Jack.
Jack constantly spoke in non sequiturs. At first I thought that he was simply hard of hearing, but I began to realize there was a thread of continuity in the things he was saying. His conversations would go off in seemingly weird and irrelevant tangents, but they generally made it back to their original points.
I’ve often wished that I had written some of them down, unfortunately I’m a moron.
Here are a few of my favorites that haven’t been lost to my faulty memory:
Jack: I remember when I paid only ten dollars a week for rent.
Other patron: We don’t live in the fifties anymore Jack.
Jack: What! (slamming his fist against the bar in indignation) I haven’t ridden a bicycle in years.
Other patron: What?
Jack: I’d rather pay for my truck insurance than ride a bicycle.
Other patron: Again, what?
Jack: I can barely afford to pay my for rent and my truck insurance.
Or this one:
Me: Do you want another beer Jack?
Jack: (giving me a dismissive wave): I don’t know anyone named Dan.
Me: Firstly, I asked you if wanted another beer. Secondly, what about Dan sitting there right next to you?
Jack: (looking at Dan suspiciously) His last name isn’t White.
Jack: Then why would someone named Dan White want to buy me a beer?
Me: Obviously he wouldn’t. I can’t believe I’ve behaved so foolishly.
But this was my favorite:
Me: How are you doing today Jack?
Jack: You’re nuts!
Me: I hesitate to ask, but apart from the obvious, why do say that?
Jack: My wife was never an Eskimo.
Yeah. I still have no idea.
But of all the interesting people I met, John was the most interesting.
John had a lot of stories to tell and a keen willingness to tell them, under one condition: you had to keep a cold rum and coke in front of him. He needed the proper “lubrication” to keep the vocal chords going.
John was man in his late eighties but still very spry. He had a weird sense of humor, which was probably a good thing because his wife seemed to have none at all. She was constantly reprimanding John for his jokes.
But that didn’t stop John.
John was a rifle bearer for the Honor Guard. One day after performing their duties, the members of the Honor Guard were returning to the post to have a few drinks together, as was their custom.
John walked calmly up to bar in full dress uniform, carrying his rifle, and wearing his eye-patch (John had to occasionally wear an eye-patch because of condition he had. He claimed he wore so he didn’t see double after he’s had a few too many) and stood there with a slight impish grin on his face.
He looked like pirate.
He then quickly pulled the rifle to his shoulder and discharged it toward the back of the bar.
The crack of the rifle echoed through the hall. If you’ve never heard a rifle discharged in a building, it’s loud. Beer flew into air, drinks were spilled, people scattered, some hit the floor. Even though I knew it was only a blank, it was still jarring to have a weapon discharged in your general direction.
A cloud of smoke hung in air the along with the pungent smell of spent gun powder. For a moment after the echo of the rifle had disappeared there was total silence. Then there chaos. Some people were laughing; some people were not. Some people were cursing, especially John’s wife, who unleashed a stream of foul language that to this day, I am certain has never been matched.
Once I made sure I still a whole person, I laughed, maybe as hard as I ever had in my life.
He later told me he thought it would be funny.
“When isn’t heart failure funny,” I told him.
John was reprimanded by the post, but that didn’t bother him. In fact, I’m not sure I ever saw anything bother him.
John was there that day on June 6th 1944. It’s estimated that 2,500 allied soldiers lost their lives on D-Day… but John didn’t. He had to hang around long enough to nearly scare me to death.
So this Memorial Day weekend, I’m dedicating this blog post to Jack, John and every other veteran who is no longer with us.