Friday, July 30, 2010


I don’t know if this is good poetry or not. I think it is part of this thing I have taken to calling a life’s work. I am blogging it seems pretty much all of me from fantasy to history. This is certainly part of it. I went to West Point directly after high school graduation in 1963. I spent Plebe summer and into October there, resigned my appointment and entered Santa Clara University to salvage the year. That was really a mistake and I nearly failed out, but I had compulsory ROTC and made Cadet of the Year because my training was so far beyond anything anyone else had. I was assigned to a Signal Company in the US Army Reserve, a company doing telephone line work. I attended weekly meetings and began my six year commitment.

The summer of 1964 I was required to go to Fort Ord, not that far from San Jose. I entered Basic Training on a track to go to Advanced Training in a Signal Company MOS. Very near the end of my Basic, I succumbed to the Meningitis epidemic that was passing through the camp. It happened as I write here, with my morning feeling unusually strong. I assume now that my immune system was in top gear, not yet losing the battle. It didn’t take long to feel awful. By the time I got to the hospital I was barely able to stand or walk I felt so bad. They wanted a chest xray and I went to the area. No one was there so I lay down across the chairs. That was maybe 11 AM. When they finally noticed me I was nearly comatose and my fever had climbed to 106 degrees, maybe by noon. I went from fine to that sick in the matter of about three hours.

They rushed me to the ward and put me on an ice blanket in an isolation room. Now there’s a trip. That was really painful. They also were concerned that I might convulse and puke and aspirate it. So I got the gastric tube. That was also really unpleasant. I was not in any condition to be frightened. I was really uncomfortable though and kind of angry about that in a weak whiny kind of way. It especially seemed to me they overreacted with using the gastric tube.

Afterwards they were treating me with massive doses of Penicillin and I finally started to react badly. I assume I am allergic to it now. When the fever broke they transferred me to the ward. I was unable to move much. Capillaries had burst all over my body in the heat of the fever and my body was bruised from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. This included all my internal organs. It took a month in the hospital, and then another month at home. After that I returned to Fort Ord to finish my basic and was put in the Holding Company supply room for something to do. That made me a supply clerk.

I continued to attend meetings for two more years before I got fed up and quit in the fall of 1966. I have told that story here on my blog somewhere. You don’t usually quit the Army without unpleasant consequences, since they consider that desertion. But I got away with it with a great deal of help from my Mom who was really invested in seeing her baby boy not go to prison or worse. We sort of won the battle explaining that my actions were caused by the brain damage of the meningitis. For my part this included a four month stay in a mental hospital in 1967 prior to disappearing off the Army Reserve map for the rest of my time by going to East Pakistan for two years, more than fifty miles from any army facility.

I have, of course absolutely no concern about any of this, never have. I was not a deserter in the normal sense, toed the line for four years, and nearly gave my life in Basic Training. I was certainly wounded and was damaged as badly as other people who got to go home. But mainly I was not concerned because Viet Nam was, in my opinion an illegal war and deserved an action against it. When I quit, I was conscious of all that too. I did not act very cleverly, but my Mother was more than capable in working the system. I know she did not think much of the war either and certainly was against me going to it.


I woke to brightness
and felt like a million bucks
that morning, almost
done with the basic
and ready to graduate
but then started to
crash down fast, so weak
of a sudden, weird, alone
stumble to sick call,
to hospital, there
to lay across chairs so ill
alone waiting for
something to happen
and then after hours they took
me fast to the ward,
to the ice blanket
and the fucking gastric tube
and the pain of it
all and the month long
slowly now got my life back,
knew my brain had burned.

June 21, 2009 1:29 PM


  1. I've heard about this before but it's interesting to read the details from you. Glad you survived.

  2. Ick! Sounds horrible, thought thankfully there was brain recovered from the flame. A good amount I'll wager. I remember when my son had a temp of 105. He was so young. Horrible. Helpless. Ick!

  3. It can be argued that meningitis changed the way my brain worked and so deflected everything that followed. My narrative would take that out to the critical moment of midnight or so on my 21st birthday when another event exploded the old beyond recognition and left me with the task of picking up the shards. It was not long after that I ended up in the mental institution. First the meningitis and then that midnight event put me there. The following two years in East Pakistan gave me time to recollect. I came together very differently from the place I started. I am grateful.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

Get Your Own Visitor Map!