Over the Arch with the late seven-time
World Aerobatic Champion Art Scholl – 1987 VP Fair
If you like adventure stories you will love this new blog. This blog represents my stories from 50 years of remarkable personal experiences that span the globe.
For more years than I prefer to count I was a freelancer, sometimes a euphemism for an unemployed scribe and sometimes a license to run amuck. The assignments were usually as tenuous as the story being reported. My work has appeared in right leaning news, left leaning news, no spin news and total spin publications. Some pretended to be unbiased and some were so certain they were right there was no pretense of objectivity. Newsmax on the right, and my recent sojourn with the dogged Shinbone Star blog on the left, are good examples of no quarter pubs that want to knife someone.
For readers seeking a glance at the curious residents of the unbeaten path, this is a good place to start. The human character never shines brighter or casts a darker shadow than during turmoil and conflict that often underscores great stories.
One of the best writers about tales of unquenchable spirit is indomitable American adventurer, author and journalist Jack London. He believed successful writers are born to a world filled with breathtaking adventures; profound experiences that allowed them to ply their craft with authentic honesty. It is good advice.
“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.” – Jack London
In our brave new world there is very little patience for the brazen adventurers who prefer breaking the rules by testing themselves against the machine instead of watching others do it. The ugliness and terror their encounters sometimes reveal are daunting barriers that few people nowadays are willing to surmount merely to discover what real adventure is. Someone said it takes a special kind of crazy to go there. Instead, the growing herd of sheep who have replaced the brave and brazen choose to live their adventure vicariously, depending instead on stilted news and rehashed stories of people who still dare. They are still out there. This blog will make the introductions.
A few faces of conflict
My father was an inveterate, unapologetic soldier of fortune who spent his life riding high on waves of fear-induced adrenaline. There were few places he wouldn’t go and even fewer risks he wouldn’t take as long as it involved betting his life for a combat high, the thing he called the “ultimate ride.” Personal battles demand adrenaline, otherwise everyone would probably run away.
Joe Bynum with D Flight, Royal Canadian Air Force – 1941
Some of my favorite yarns are about my father. Here is a taste: Joe Bynum – the Sergeant Pilot in back row in the picture above – fraudulently joined the the Royal Canadian Air Force in March 1941, a year before Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. To do it he depended on the unlawful and influential offices of the Clayton Knight Committee, an officially overlooked quasi-governmental organization that clandestinely fed trained American pilots into the Canadian air force.
Trained was a bit of a misnomer. The biggest plane Joe had ever piloted was a 65 H.P. Taylorcraft high wing, very light, two-seat utility craft. He somehow turned his neophyte flying skills into 450 hours in multi-engine aircraft with an instrument rating. That he survived jumping almost nonstop from a grasshopper into a 1,200 horsepower light bomber is an adventure story by itself.
Joe had already been kicked out of the U.S. Navy after 90 days on cake and champagne in the U.S.S. Lexington brig for kiting checks, and risen Staff Sergeant in Company M of the Illinois Militia, without ever scratching his itch to see action. Eventually he got there. His chariot was a terrible airplane provided by the equipment-strapped British Royal Air Force to the loyal Canadians called the Fairey Battle, a light bomber that was arguably among the worst combat aircraft in World War II. He knew it and flew it anyway. It cost him dearly.
Letter to Joe Bynum from Clayton Knight Committee
Like Joe in 1941, I only have a vague notion of where I am going… right now this blog is at best a huge presumption predicated on actually finding enough readers to inspire the visceral thrill every scribe needs to feed their habits. A recognized byline is a powerful aphrodisiac, the Viagra of the intellect.
Grand Dragon Louis Beam and friends. The Texas Klan – Santa Fe, Texas, 1981
Adventures are not always about war. Sometimes we will sneak into dark alleys in the middle of night with cops looking for desperate men with guns, chase down the Hillside Strangler and delve in the secrets of the infamous saga of alleged sexual abuse of little children by owners and teachers at the “Daycare of the Stars, ” the McMartin Preschool where the wealthy, progressive parents of dozens of children became convinced their child was a victim of monsters, The unfounded allegations emerged from their children’s multiple sessions with psychologists using controversial regression therapy that ultimately convinced them their children had been abused.
In another episode we will learn why white men draped in white cloaks and slit-eyed hoods burn crosses to prove their hate of all that is contrary to their expectations. In case anyone intends to bolt at the mention of the KKK, rest assured I was never a Klansman, although I spent some time pretending to be a wannabe. I attended the U. of Houston with Texas Grand Dragon Louis Beam, a fellow Nam vet and door gunner who got all twisted inside. He knew I was a cop and still invited me to attend a rally condemning Vietnamese refugee fishermen given scarce and treasured government-mandated shrimping licenses in Galveston Bay.
The federal government’s ill-considered benevolence created an angry rift in Gulf Coast society the Klan decided to exploit. Joe max Taylor, then the Sheriff of Galveston County, wanted to know what good ol’ boys from Galveston were involved, and I wanted to write the story. Nowadays the Sheriff and me would be pilloried. After my assignment concluded, my unauthorized story about the Klan’s Hate Day celebration appeared in InBetween Magazine, a Galveston tabloid where I was moonlighting as a journalism intern. The Klan was not amused. The locals ate it up.
Being a cop is an adventure with great risk all by itself. My brother died being a police officer. Police work is similar to low-intensity internecine combat, endless chaos that has to be addressed without any hope of ever containing it. Much of the dirty business is seasoned with hate and despair. Cops by definition are peace makers who paradoxically often engender more hate than they hold at bay. The job sometimes seems a losing proposition until a really rotten bastard gets nailed, and then, for a moment, the cops get to feel like white knights.
Writers, like cops, also live on the dark side. They must pretend to be other people all the time. A Serbian guy on a Russian airliner flying into Zagreb, Croatia during Yugoslavia’s growing upheaval in February 1993 told me that. Otherwise, he assured me, I would be “in the garden,” the Yugoslavian version of pushing up daisies. It was good advice. I spent most of the next six months being someone else in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia in order to stay alive. Another Serb – one that threw me into a piss-soaked jail cell – taught me that “Serbia is where a Serb pisses.” He taught me it is always helps to know something about what other people know before trying to bullshit them.
Somewhere on this journey we will join the Marines at Fallujah and Haditha, Iraq, where the polished image of the Marine Corps was tarnished without redemption. I wrote two books about them. The unanticipated outcome of the Iraq War that followed the two battles is still sending reverberations across the Middle East. I will attempt to explain why.
The gardens where the stories grow
These are just a few of the adventures I hope to share. Perhaps you will join me revisiting them as soon as I figure out how this blog thing works.