I normally avoid shopping malls with a zeal unmatched by your garden variety zealot. Malls reek of debt and fashion, two things that leave me feeling annoyed and itchy. Nevertheless, I recently found myself with some time to kill and decided to murder it by heading to a place that I’ve mentioned previously as being the most opulent mall I’d ever seen by virtue of its having a valet service. I’m not sure how this happens, but as soon as you enter a mall with concierge desks, you immediately feel special in ways that you didn’t before walking through the front door. It’s a place where all of the ice cream tastes like Haagen Dazs (because it’s the only option) and there are displays featuring shoes that cost more than my mortgage payment; shoes that require the woman wearing them to sport a high degree of self-hate accompanying an even higher pain threshold. With the onset of the warm fuzzy that comes with being surrounded by beauty and ease came a resolution to do two things upon my becoming terrifyingly rich:
1. Dress in a 3-piece suit and mosey into a Crate & Barrel where, with a rolled up magazine in hand (probably Private Jet Weekly, Yacht Monthly, or Cavier Aficionado), I begin to slowly walk along the displays of glassware, casually knocking random pieces from the shelves while a store clerk keeps track of the damage. When asked why I’m doing this, I reply, ‘Because it’s my pleasure’, and continue onward.
2. After building myself an enormous kitchen with a house surrounding it, I will walk into a Williams & Sonoma, hand the nearest employee a note containing my address, and say, ‘Wrap up one of everything and send it here’, then walk out.
That’s about the extent of my wealthy ‘To Do’ list.*
In an effort to decompress following my and the dogs’ cross-country drive of death (I did most of the driving), I planned for my last stop to be at the alma mater in Lexington, VA. I’ve spent most of the past couple of days sitting in large, comfy chairs and typing gibberish like this. In the mornings, the dogs and I walk the woods that snake behind VMI and Washington & Lee, trails that I used to run nearly every day for three years, then to a coffee shop for ~4 hours of reading and caffeination. The stay has once again been everything I’d hoped it would be and never ceases to disappoint; my vacation from the ‘vacation’, as it were.
Now is likely the quietest the post and the town will be until this time next year and by virtue of this fact, I’ve been the lone alumnus staying in the building set aside for our use. The barracks are empty and the academic buildings are mostly dormant. The only activity that can be seen involves maintenance crews preparing everything for both the hustle and the bustle that will arrive shortly in the form of cadets, old and new. In about a week, a cadre of older cadets will show up to undergo their immersion into the world of becoming trainers/tormentors. Theirs is the job of preparing the new crop of
fools ambitious youth for their journey into pain a transformative experience. The new kids will arrive for the charmingly termed Hell Week in the middle of August and the fun will begin anew.
Because the place is more or less deserted, I’ve felt comfortable unleashing the dogs onto the parade ground to run and tackle each other with reckless abandon. It’s a huge hunk of real estate and we’re all pretty spent after a couple of circuits, largely due to the heat and humidity that seems to both hover over and radiate upward from the ground. Virginia’s weather in August sits pretty high on the list of ‘Things That Oppress’. The humidity seems to spike and combine with the heat in ways reminiscent of Florida, but without the crazy people and retirees. The first payment for the price of admission to the relative luxury of the building in which I’m currently sitting required a lot of sweat. Every moment spent walking on the parade ground served as a reminder of how little I envy the
poor bastards highly principled young men and women that will, three weeks hence, be wondering what the hell they’ve gotten themselves into. Endless hours marching back and forth learning what it means to do things as part of a group, sharing a common experience of discomfort, how much an M14 rifle weighs, understanding the difference between ‘right’ and ‘left’ in ways never before appreciated. Until I spent some quality time in the Middle East, I had never been as miserable as I was during the third week of August in 1994. And yet, if I could go back and do it all again, knowing what I know now, reliving the formation of friendships and bonds that remain the closest I’ve ever known or will ever know, wouldn’t I gladly throw myself back into the crucible?
God, no. I want to kick my own ass for even typing such a question out loud, rhetorical or not. Still, I would eagerly stand in front of a gaggle of very tired and miserable people, all of whom will look awful and feel worse, and tell them that it’s worth it. Only about half of them will finish, it’s true, but for those that do, the finish line will be all the sweeter. Then I’ll point at the alumni building and whisper, ‘The chairs. They’re awesome.’
* I might also hire a large man with digestive issues to take a dump on Glenn Beck’s driveway/porch/car every morning.
Sir @ July 29, 2010