Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Well, I Took My Son to a Whore House Last Night…



Well, I took my son to a whore house last night.

But all in all, it probably wasn’t my worst parenting fail ever.

The night started off innocently enough, I suppose. I was standing at the bar in the Rising of the Moon pub, drinking Jameson (and not that Protestant shite, Bushmill’s), while talking with a drunk Pinkerton detective. He was buying.

The warm Irish whisky had emboldened me enough to insult my commanding officer—Brigadier General of 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, II Corps who was also at the bar—which got my company captain laughing, before saying, “Hey, we should all go over to the bordello and visit some Dutch whores!”

Seemed like a fine idea to me, and soon a small knot of officers, non-coms, and enlisted men like me (and my 20 year-old kid) were stumbling down the dark road towards this tent of ill repute.

It was over in the Confederate side of camp.

All this happened last weekend in Huntington Beach, California, of course, at the 24th Annual Civil War Days Living History Event.


See, a few months ago and against all better judgment I fell in with a group of Civil War re-enactors. They portray Company C of the 69th New York State Volunteers—part of the legendary Irish Brigade during this country’s war between the states.

For years, I swore I’d never do something like this. After all, I considered myself a serious armchair historian, so donning a uniform and assuming a character seemed reductive. And sad.

Having read Tony Horwitz’ “Confederates in the Attic,” I also assumed that all reenactors were humorless pedants—obnoxious purists with an overinflated sense of self-importance derived from their annoying insistence on period-correct detail.

But that description doesn’t fit the guys of the 69th.

Profane. Outrageously funny. Generous. Fiercely loyal. Family men. Most of these guys are firefighters and first responders, public servants and government employees. There’s no pretense. No delusions of grandeur. They try not to be too “farby" (you can look that one up), but they don’t drain all the fun out of it, either. 


Yeah, the heavy wool uniforms are brutal in the summer heat, the hobnail brogans are absolutely sadistic, and field-cleaning a 1861 Springfield replica is tedious at best. It’s not an easy hobby. So of course, I had to try it.


But as it turns out, Civil War Reenacting is equal parts cosplay, weekend camping, frat party, history class, and gun club. 

But you really join up for the camaraderie.

Unfortunately just as I enlisted, historical reenactors came under heavy fire from a formidable new foe—and it isn't Johnny Reb. No, the enemy is smug, short-sighted “social justice warriors” on a mission to silence any expression of this country’s past that does not conform to their Orwellian vision.

Antifa demonstrators across the country are pulling down statues, desecrating cemeteries, and vilifying even Ulysses Grant and Abraham Lincoln. Under the threat of such violent protests, several long-standing Living History events have been canceled. After all, according to a 2016 article written by VICE‘s Wilbert Cooper, such reenactments are simply an “attempt to fantasize about living in a bygone world of white supremacy.”

All I can say is that has NOT been my experience.

Two qualifiers:
1.) I belong to a Union army unit. While joining a Confederate group may seem more precarious in this current political climate, all I can say is that for there to be a battle re-enactment you have to have two sides, winners and losers. Wouldn’t be much of a show if only one army showed up.
2.) I can only report what I’ve observed.

That said, reenactment is not some good ‘ol boys club. Female reenactors are a common sight. Many (on BOTH sides) are noncommissioned officers or hold high rank. One of the generals in our Union Army of the West is a woman.

Many different races, ethnicities, and religions are represented in the ranks: White, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Black. Our quartermaster sergeant is Pakistani. At my first event I fought alongside an Asian twenty-something woman. And this past weekend, I observed an African-American gentleman fighting on the Confederate side. I know that none of this neatly fits certain narratives.

It’s a family event. Our weekend campsite is comprised of men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and even entire families with toddlers and preschoolers. Some in period dress, others in Scooby Doo jammies.


All of the above holds true of the spectators as well. Families stroll the re-enactment camps, take pictures and ask questions, shop at the sutlers tents, peruse historical displays, and join in period games and dances. Since these events draw from the surrounding communities, our Huntington Beach crowd last weekend was largely Asian, Hispanic, and white.

So there’s definitely a disconnect between what protesters are claiming and what is actually taking place. And this is America: A vocal and violent minority cannot tell us what we can and cannot do. They do not get to approve or deny our weekend amusements. And I don’t have to justify myself to ANYONE. I don’t owe any group an explanation or defense of Living History events. And they don’t get to shut it down.

But I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me that the generation criticizing re-enactors for putting on historically accurate costumes and playing Billy Yank is the same generation that dresses up like Harley Quinn and Cassian Andor and lines up by the thousands for Comic Con.

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As I said, for the re-enactors themselves these events can be equal parts cosplay, weekend camping, frat party, history class, and gun club.

As an amateur historian, I was finally drawn in by the chance to experience vicariously some semblance, however slight, of what life may have been like for the common soldier during the Civil War. It also seems like a good way to continue some of the experiences that my son and I shared during his time as a Boy Scout. (He “Eagled out” a few years ago.)

My son—like many young men—has always sought out unique, intense, and challenging experiences, preferring outdoor activities in spartan conditions. And he craves the camaraderie that the close-knit reenacting units provide. 

Oh, and the whore house thing…

At night, after the crowds of spectators go home, these Living History camps come alive: Canvas-walled pubs open up, cotillions commence with officers in dress uniform bowing to ladies in hoop-skirts, and musicians pull out mandolins and banjos and sing “I Wish I Was Back Home in Derry.” These camps feature many of the attractions—and vices—that traveling army camps had back in the day. Including, as it turns out, a “bordello.”


Of course the coquettish lady there is no more a prostitute than I am a solider. She pretended to flirt with some of the boys while we sat at a faro table and a shady card dealer tried to teach us the most popular game of that era. (I think he might have been cheating, but I‘m not sure.)

And while the nighttime visit to the whorehouse was faux fun, the boys could seek out real-life repentance and redemption the next morning. This Living History camp also featured a Roman Catholic Mass in Latin. 

The priest wore period-correct vestments.

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(*I noticed that the Rebel units didn’t fly the now-notorious battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, and instead unfurled unit banners or even the flag of the Confederacy itself—which 99.5% of Americans would not even recognize. Probably a prudent move on their part.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Wonder Women



I fully acknowledge that the fire service had a long history of discrimination, and was at one time quite unwelcoming to women in its ranks. In many ways, those prejudices were  reflective of our culture at the time. But attitudes began changing in the 1980s and 90s--in fact, several women at the Los Angeles County Fire Department were instrumental in helping usher in those changes. And I'm sure it took plenty courage for them. 

Even today, I'm guessing that female firefighters still hear boorish comments from time to time. 

But our world has changed significantly. Today's fire service actively and aggressively pursues female candidates. Our department has earmarked millions of dollars in its annual budget for recruitment outreach that specifically targets women and people of color.

One of the newest female firefighters for the County works in my battalion, and she is pretty badass. A track team star in school, she brings the same determination, drive, and can-do attitude to her job. I’m glad she decided she wanted to be a firefighter, and I know she’s an inspiration to a few young girls out there who want to do the same thing when they grow up.

As reported in a recent LA Times article, the County Board of Supervisors wonders “why so few women work as firefighters.” But I have long suspected that it is simply not a very popular career destination for women. Could this be a fact that some are just unwilling to accept? Today much of the new recruitment effort seems focused on “selling” the job to women in the first place.


When I first pursued my dream job as a firefighter, there were literally thousands of applicants for a single opening. Lines in front of city hall would stretch down the block and around the corner. But fire department and human resources personnel couldn’t have cared less about me. There was no outreach drive, no color brochures, no meet-and-greets, no “how to” seminars, no introductory classes conducted by the departments themselves. No organization ever tried to convince me how much they valued me.

So I have to admit that this idea of trying to “sell” a job to a demographic that may be largely indifferent is completely baffling to me.

On the other hand, what would I know?

I just drive a truck...






Monday, May 22, 2017

Bono, Rosa Parks, and...Lena Dunham?

Can someone please explain to me why, in a video montage celebrating great women in U.S. history, a true American hero like Rosa Parks shares the screen with…Lena Dunham?


This past weekend, U2 played two sold-out shows at the Rose Bowl.

I was there. 

The focal point of the concert was a vast video screen which “displayed striking high-definition landscape scenes by the photographer Anton Corbijn, who’s managed U2’s visual approach for decades,” according to the L.A. Times.

For example: An early segment showed a clip from the obscure 1958 TV western “Trackdown,” in which a “huckster” by the name of Trump “tries to frighten the residents of a small town into building a protective wall.” 

Big cheers for hitting the obvious target.

Ok, I get it. So clearly it was going to be a night of feel-good “virtue signaling,” during which the once subtle and inviting frontman Bono instead simply checked all the politically correct boxes: Immigration, gender issues, AIDS, poverty, social justice, and what have you.

We in the audience could clap along while simultaneously patting ourselves on the back for sharing all the right values—for being one of the cool kids.

Late in the set, the band played “Ultraviolet” as a tribute to women of significance throughout American history. A wide-screen montage showed images of true trailblazers such as Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks alongside more recent public figures with arguably more modest resum├ęs. (Michelle Obama got the biggest cheers.)

Notably absent were women from more conservative backgrounds—Nikki Haley, Condoleezza Rice, or, say, Sandra Susan Merritt, even.

Still, Lena Dunham made the cut.


Dunham is an outspoken liberal who (to use liberal argot) grew up in privilege. A celebrity comedienne who, like virtually all comedians these days, mines a vein of coarse, cringe-worthy “humor.” In her recent book, she recounts how she sexually molested her six year-old sister. She won a Director’s Guild Award, and is a darling of the Hollywood community.

But I think conflating the achievements of the truly courageous Parks, the “first lady of civil rights,”  with Dunham is nothing short of dumb and insulting. It diminishes Park's landmark contribution to our country.

I fully appreciate that an overarching theme of this leg of the Joshua Tree tour is a sincere appreciation of, and tribute to America—even as Bono seeks to prod or even chide its citizens, all in an effort to encourage us to continue to “reach out and touch the flame.”

But I don’t think people like Dunham will be leading us to that promised land.



On the other hand, what would I know?

I just drive a truck...





Monday, March 20, 2017

Fire Departments Take on Latest Diversity Challenge


SPADRA, CA—After two decades of successfully diversifying its ranks, the nation’s fire departments are now set to tackle the latest challenge when it comes to hiring practices.

“The humorless are still under-represented in fire departments across the county,” notes Peter Throckmorton, a human resources expert for the generational consulting firm of Weiner, Throckmorton & Franks.

Although municipal departments have steadily increased the number of minority and female members over the last 25 years, a recent study concludes that younger, humor-impaired employees still only represent a modest percentage of the total workforce.

“There’s no question about it—we have to do a better job,” concedes John Thomas, Fire Chief for the City of Spadra, California. 

But some legacy members seem resistant to change. “I’m not gonna lie to you, we had some good times back in the day,” reminisced Captain Geoffrey Simms. “Pranks, practical jokes, water buckets, crams, sarcasm, Pollack jokes—you name it.”

But Millennials apparently aren't having any of it. 

“Today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings are more brittle, more easily offended,” notes Throckmorton. “They grew up on soccer trophies, safe spaces, trigger warnings, safety pins—all of that. Their parents and teachers assured them they were precious and special, so Millennials get confused and even butt-hurt if they get Miller-boarded,” he says, referring to a time-honored fire service initiation ritual that has all but disappeared.

And offending the humorless can be costly.

“We’re getting our asses sued off,” said one city official who asked to remain anonymous, but whose name is Norma A. Smith, a secretary in the legal department. “We just can’t afford humor anymore.”

Conceded Throckmorton, “It’s true that the humorless are naturally more litigious. But that doesn’t mean agencies shouldn't aggressively pursue them in the hiring process.”

To that end, Spadra City Fire has joined hundreds of other departments nationwide in developing finely-tuned and specifically targeted outreach programs and offering special workshops in an effort to attract more humorless prospects. In fact, that department’s program is headed by Firefighter Scot Erickson, who is himself humor-impaired. 

“We’re setting up recruiting booths at college campuses, yoga classes, whole food groceries, Bernie Sanders rallies, and even local Starbucks,” says Erikson, who is genetically unable to detect irony. “Any venue where Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock lost a booking, we definitely take a closer look.”

Will it work?

Chief Thomas is optimistic. After all, he says, “The humorless are our future.”


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As reported by “I Just Drive a Truck.” For more information, read our apology and disclaimer here...





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Firefighter Stuck in Tree Calls Cat for Rescue

MOUNT LEE, CA--In an ironic twist to an age-old story, an off-duty firefighter trimming a tree in his backyard became stuck and had to call his cat for help.

Aaron Stott, a veteran firefighter/paramedic for the City of Mount Lee, was thinning out the uppermost branches of a 40 foot-tall eucalyptus tree when the ladder he had propped up against the trunk shifted and fell to the ground, stranding the rescue worker high above in the canopy.

“My heart just sunk,” said Stott.

He attempted to call out for his wife but realized she was inside their home doing mat pilates while blasting to the “Fifty Shades Darker” soundtrack on her iPod earbuds. Only the family cat, Mister Whiskers, loitered below at the base of the tree.

“So I’m like, ‘Mister Whiskers, go get your mom!’” explained Stott.

At first the six year-old siamese simply sat down and started grooming himself. But after about a half hour of imploring the cat to get help and tossing twigs at it, Stott says the tabby finally wandered over to the screen door at the rear of the house and started meowing.

Unfortunately, when his distracted wife opened the backdoor, Stott could only watch on helplessly as the cat then sat down and waited to either be let back out or let back in. This continued for about another hour until the cat ran after a butterfly. It was only then that Stott’s wife Cindy notice her husband high up in the eucalyptus.

“He’s an idiot,” said Cindy Stott, who placed the ladder back against the tree, enabling her exhausted and embarrassed husband to climb down. “I told him to hire an arborist.”

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As reported by “I Just Drive a Truck.” For more information, read our apology and disclaimer here...




Monday, February 27, 2017

Fire Department Responds to Mass Casualty Incident after Academy Awards


HOLLYWOOD—City Fire units responded to multiple 911 calls at the Dolby Theater immediately following the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night in what quickly became a “mass casualty incident,” according to department spokesman Ryan Humphreys.

The Fire Department’s dispatch center was inundated with frantic calls placed from backstage even as the final credits rolled. When units arrived on scene, fire crews found dozens of celebrities in the wings, proscenium, and even wandering the stage itself complaining of various minor injuries and medical issues resulting from a protracted night of self-congratulation and mutual adulation. 

“It was complete chaos backstage,” Humphreys said of the horrific scene. 

Fire officials immediately declared a mass casualty incident, established unified command, and began triaging the human carnage.

“We had dozens of celebrities with severely dislocated shoulders from patting themselves on the back all night, an actress who reported being short of breath after delivering a long-winded acceptance speech vilifying President Trump, an actor whose delicate hand was crushed when he accepted a congratulatory handshake from a real man, and even a PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant who was pale, cool, and diaphoretic,” said Humpreys. “The accountant had also lost bowel control,” he grimly added.

The entire cast and crew of “La La Land” suffered a syncopal event after they won and then quickly lost the award for Best Picture and producer Jordan Horowitz announced the wrong envelope had been read.


Late, unconfirmed reports stated that presenter Warren Beatty nearly died of embarrassment and is now on life support at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

Even those not directly involved in the show’s embarrassing finale complained that the last two minutes were “excruciatingly painful to watch” and had to be transported to a nearby hospital for evaluation.

The confused awards show host Jimmy Kimmel attempted to render aid but it quickly became apparent that neither he nor any other of the Hollywood celebrities present had any actual, useful, real-world skills.


“It was insane,” said Humpreys. “Every year the Detroit Fire Department bitches about the devastation on ‘Devil’s Night’ but they have no idea what a bloodbath the Academy Awards is.”



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As reported by “I Just Drive a Truck: Running Over Political Correctness, One Lug Nut at a Time.” For more info, read my apology, disclaimer, and lame excuses here...