Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Unexpected Influences

Several years go, when President Bush first announced the beginning of OIF, I started looking for better information on the war than what was being reported on the news at night. I found this world called "blogging", and started reading Salam Pax's blog. I don't believe the original site exists anymore because he's turned it into a book. Salam is an Iraqi citizen, blogging under a pseudonym, because he was afraid that Saddam would find out about his site and kill him. He was afraid that the US would try to liberate the country, and then leave before the job was done, allowing another terroristic regime to take over. He served as an interpreter for a US journalist who didn't even know he was "Salam". One of his writing assignments was to find the mysterious Iraqi blogger, Salam Pax, and interview him. It wasn't until he returned to the United States that he learned that the man helping him search for Salam was, in fact, Salam. Every day I would turn on the computer, and go to his site, hoping that there would be a new post. Reading his first-hand report of what it was like during those first few months was breathtaking.

Not long after that I started reading CB's "My War", which has also been turned into a book (along with other commentary that was never a part of the blog). Through Colby's blog, I found Free, Jen, ALa, Kat, Ciggy, and others, and then ALa started her own blog. Many of CB's readers were also commenters at ALa's site. My experiment into finding out first-hand information into the war had lead me to so many different places. I started reading The Castle, Blackfive, Sean, Redsix, Currie, and so many others.

Most of the blogs I read regularly are either military or political. There are some which are not, and one of those "others" belonged to a tell-it-like-it-is southerner, Acidman. I wasn't a regular reader or commenter, but I did go there quite often. He was brash. He was non-PC. He was sad. He was hurting. He was reaching out. He was an alcoholic. He was a father. And now... he's an angel.

When I first found out about Acidman's death, it was late last night- maybe 10:30 or 11. John reported it, and I was just stunned. Rob has gone through HELL these past couple of years, and I was really hoping things were turning around for him. He was found about 2 o'clock in the morning on Monday, June 26, slumped over on the couch. There were already 211 comments on his daughter's post, announcing her father's death. By this morning at 9am, there were over 400 comments.

One of his last posts, on June 24th, mentions being denied pain pills for his aching shoulders because of his alcoholic past. The post blasts a friend of his for telling the doctor about the alcholism. In the comments, Acidman hints at committing suicide over the pain and lack of relief from it. Looking at the comments on that post now is so eery- many make jokes about him dying too soon to "win the pool", or make reference to where, when and how he might off himself. There's no evidence that he did commit suicide, and so far they haven't found any drugs or alcohol in his apartment, so they really don't know how he died.

Many of the comments talk about how wonderful he was, despite his brash behavior: "A-man was an outstanding writer, with depth and feeling... a Cracker-Jack character, like the prize inside the box. He will be greatly missed."; he was at his best when he described life's simple joys and beauty, like a raging midnight thunderstorm, or the taste of homegrown tomatos or boiled peanuts, or a peaceful afternoon spent crabbing on a quiet saltwater creek with the daughter he loved...; I don't know how much you realize this, but your Father was special to so many of us. There are thousands of people who were entertained, saddened, frustrated, infuriated, and blown over by what he did here. He was a man of a different time. He was a great adventurer and explorer of life, along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt and Hemingway. He didn't care what anyone thought of what he did nor did their admonitions deter him from telling all of us about it. There is a little bit of Rob in all of us... I hope. And I don't wish him peace. He'd have HATED peace. I hope he has dancing girls, prostitutes, hot beaches, and every drink he can get his hands around. I wish him a continuation of all that brought him joy and pleasure.. I'm sure he left this world with no regrets. I will now carry one with me... that I never met the man in person.

And then there was this one, by commenter "Saved":
Bloody hell.

Rob Smith saved my life.

He never knew it, and I never told the got damned cracker so, but he did.

Its mid 2003, my marriage had failed and the relationship with a woman who was once my best friend was now a smouldering wreck. My ex and her team of lawyers were running me through a wringer, with a pleasant helping of perjured testimony and outright bullsh* in the process. I missed seeing my kid on a regular and predictable basis and the courts, while all too quick to remind me for whom the bell tolled if my cash was late, never seemed to care when my ex wouldn't let me see my daughter, the most important thing to me in my life. Work was hell and I was on the outs with my own folks.

I was on my heels, careening down the ski slope. Felt like my life wasn't mine, wasn't in control. For the first and only time in my 35 years, I considered eating a bullet. Not just considered, but started making plans. Plans involving a camping trip to a remote location where it'd be a while before I was found. I was as low as one can imagine.

Two days before I was going to take the trip, I followed a link to gutrumbles from Instapundit. And I found a kindred soul. This man, this profoundly southern gentleman, spoke the words of my feelings. He summed up in one catchy phrase the "rut" I felt like I was in: Can't keep all my shit in one sock. And that S.O.B. told his tale. He told it all, unapologetically and without varish or spin. And he pushed through and perservered through a level of sh*t that made my troubles look like Sunday school. But most of all, he opened up. He let people know that going through this kind of shit hurts, that there's a pain in having a black-robe screw with your ability to be a parent that is deep and unending. He dealt with it.

And so, I did. I read Rob's stuff, devoured his archives, and reread some of the more serious posts. And when it came time to leave for my "camping" trip, I didn't go. Just decided that I wouldn't. And I know Rob's writing, his spirit, his essence was a big reason for that.

This weekend, literally, I took my little girl camping at what was to be "the spot." Sound's off kilter, I know, but it was something I had to do. Closing that chapter and starting to write a new one.

I'm stunned and saddened that Rob is gone. And I'm ashamed I never wrote to him to tell him what a profound influence he had on me. In a way, I'm sure much of my hesitance was in recognizing that although my sh*tstorm was starting to pass, Rob was still hurting and still being battered by his own. Perhaps it was pride, and not wanting Rob to know that shit he brushed aside with an acid wit nearly brought me to an end. But I am sitting here now, I know, because of Rob and for that I am forever in his debt.

Requiest in passem, ya grumpy son of a bitch. Thank you. Thank you for the gift you gave me: I will do my very best to earn it.

Rob himself once wrote "Long ago, I described this blog as an exercise where I stuffed notes in bottles and threw them into a vast ocean where I hoped someone would find the bottle and read the note. But that's not really what I was doing. This blog was my lifeline that towed me to shore when I was totally shipwrecked. It kept me alive for more than two of the worst years I've lived in my life. I wasn't stuffing notes in bottles. I was standing on the shore and shouting frantically for rescue. People came. I WAS rescued. And I will always appreciate that fact."

I wonder how many of us are influenced by the blogs we read, and the bloggers we have become friends with. I wonder if I've written anything that has made an impact on anyone. I wonder if any of us realize the impact our lives have on those around us- both physically and virtually.

It's the unexpected influences that shape our lives. I hope that when I die, I have made positive impacts on people I've met, both in "real life", and online. In case I don't get the chance to say it to you in person....

Thanks. I love you guys. You've all had an unexpected influence on my life.


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