Following Akela

I think I was seven. It was the end of the year Cub Scout meeting, the one where all the dens of a dozen kids each came together into a pack of two hundred and filled up the local high school cafeteria. Most of the pack meetings were pretty boring. They were dominated by business announcements, calendar reminders and other items of note only to our parents.

This one, though, was the big one. This was the graduation meeting at which we would all be promoted to the next level in scouting. I was a Wolf at the time and I was excited about moving up to Bear, the level at which we started doing real scout stuff like hiking and archery rather than morality skits and macaroni pictures.

The WeBeLo's made the ceremonial crossing of the bridge and were given their Boy Scout hats. The Bears were given their WeBeLo patches and scarves. Then the Wolves came up to receive their Bear patches, each boy from each den called by name to deliver the Cub Scout oath and shake hands with the pack leader.

Except for me. They never called my name. I was not asked up to receive my patch and I did not shake hands with the pack leader and when my den had all stood up, I was left alone at our table, still wearing the accoutremonts of a Wolf Cub and doing little but wonder why.

What had I done wrong?

I'd completed every exercise in the scout book. I'd attended every meeting, done every project. I'd earned the longest chain of conservation beads in my den and more silver arrow points than any but one other boy. Sure I came in second to last in the Pine Wood Derby and I wasn't well liked by most of the boys in my Den, but that should have been of no consequence. Cub Scouting isn't supposed to be a popularity contest.

It seems silly now but scouting mattered to me. The son of an overworked single mother and speaking with a pronounced English accent, I had struggled at such a quintessentially American, father/son activity as scouting. Despite this, I'd done well in scouts that year and I was, rightly I think, proud of myself.

But, the rest of my den marched forward and were each in turn awarded their Bear patch and were applauded by the rest of the Cub Scout pack while I sat, obvious and alone, without that honor and without an explanation.

A week later, after making quite a row with the local scouting administrators, my mother discovered that she had transposed two numbers on the check for the next year's dues, effectively post-dating it. My mother, who worked fifty-five hour weeks while raising a budding super-villain of a child, was up late doing bills and, as was the style back in England, wrote the date DD/MM/YY, rather than MM/DD/YY. The twelfth of April became the fourth of December, the BSA didn't get their forty-four dollars and I was held back without so much as a phone call of inquiry.

I did get my Bear patch, a month later, without ceremony or apology. It was simply handed to me in afterthought as I left a weekly den meeting. That was when I began to realize that I was a bit of a pariah in scouts, rather than simply unpopular. Apparently our predominantly Catholic midwestern town had trouble stomaching success on the part the English kid with the divorced single mother. The following year, my Bear year, I'd finished every project in the guidebook by Christmas, had more silver arrow points than anyone in the pack, won the Pine Wood Derby and then quit scouts before the last pack meeting of the year.

Granted, the tribulations of my scouting career are trivial in the face of others' much more substantial adversity and I'm probably being self indulgent by bothering to think of it. It is funny, though how some things stick with you.

I learned a lesson that day, perhaps the first truly adult lesson of my life, a lesson far removed from "to do my BEST for GOD any my Country." I learned that the world is not a meritocracy, that circumstances often conspire and that the actions, omissions and prejudices of others can hold more sway over one's success than one's own efforts. I learned that the Cub Scout motto, "Do Your Best," sometimes counts for fuckall.

In retrospect, I think the words of Teddy Roosevelt count for much more than a thousand occasions reciting the Cub Scout oath. "The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats."

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Rule #2 - Double Tap

Rawkstar and I went to the pistol range yesterday. Lacking my enthusiasm for exiting airplanes in flight, she insisted that we find an exiting hobby that we could to together. So, we took up shooting sports.

We've not been at it long. We've only gone to the range together a half dozen times or so but she enjoys it a lot and, for her experience level, is on her way to being a shooter of some skill. Her pattern is tight, her stance solid, her hands steady. She's actually a better shot than I am, though for the sake of my pride it tell myself that that's because her .22A is much more manageable than my 1911. At 25 yards, both of our patters were decently tight. Neither of us is going to qualify for the FBI but we'll both be okay in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse.*

I did notice something the last time we were at the range, something important in regards to this post from a few weeks ago. Excluding the guy in the stall next to us, who I garner is an ex-cop that likes to keep his skills up, nobody else in the place could hit a fucking thing. Seriously, we're talking about the firearms' equivalent of broad side of the barn here. Of the eight occupied lanes, only the two of us and the cop could consistently hit what we aimed at.

Were these novice shooters? No, they all talked the gun talk and they had all brought their own weapons. Granted, there was a guy a few stalls over that was obviously coaching his son, but I really got the feeling that his son had been shooting since he could first talk. Everyone there seemed to be a veteran shooter and not a single one of them had a pattern that would garner a Boy Scout merit badge, let alone a confirmed kill. Most of these people had no pattern whatsoever; they couldn't put two slugs within six inches of one another. At the same time, Rawkstahr and I, who've not fired five thousand rounds between the two of us, can each put half the clip in a target's vitals every time. I even triple stacked, a rare achievement for me.

Was this a fluke day and everyone else was off their game or was I right in my previous post and most gun owners are yee-haw types who care a lot more about getting off on shooting guns than on actually being competent to shoot one?

*In addition to the usual bulls-eye and silhouettes, our range offers several varieties of Zombie targets. Aim for the head.

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Everyone's Irish Today, Except Those of us that Aren't

Granted, I'll take just about any excuse to raise a pint and perhaps a bit of hell along with it, but I'm not much a fan of St. Patrick's day.

Though it's not a holiday of any spiritual significance, for Pagans, this might be the least auspicious day in the year.

Apparently, a number of people think that St. Paddy's is Irish Independence day, akin to our 4th of July, England's Guy Fawkes' Day or Mexico's Cinco de Mayo (which isn't Mexican independence day either but that's another post entirely). Those people are idiots. It's nothing of the sort.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig, the seventeenth of march, is the anniversary of the death of an English-born, French-educated* former slave turned Catholic zealot that led a campaign of Xian conversion throughout Ireland in the late fifth century. Bishop Patricius' notable intellectual achievement being the use of the shamrock as a visual aid to teach the Xian concept of holy trinity.

His famous miracle of "driving the snakes out of Ireland," the very act that ultimately canonized him as the patron saint of that country, is a euphemism for his systematic conversion of the nobility of the island, ending the influence of the Druidic orders and disenfranchising the Animist peasants from their governors.

So, drink up to the memory of this culturally genocidal theocrat, and give a nod to your Pagan friends with the knowledge that, while we're raising one as well, we're all drinking to forget.

Oh, and if you pinch me, I'll fucking stab you.

* To be precise, neither England, nor France, as we understood them today, existed at this point in history. Patricius was born an Angle or a Briton and studied for the priesthood in Gaul.

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I am the Screen, I Work at Night

Crew call was 18:00 hours and they will be working hard through the night, lunch at midnight, camera wrap sometime just after dawn, weary eyes and welcome beds come morning rush hour.

I'm not with them, as much as I would like to be. I've worked many such nights. I did one show that was nothing but. Since that time I've traded my career on location for the life of the production office.

The junior-most of administrators, I arrive shortly after my colleagues have had lunch and remain until the wee hours of the morning. Someone has to be here, you see. Like a flotilla upon the sea, the shooting company on location needs a connection to port, a single voice on a telephone waiting to take messages, deliver documents, record milestones and sometimes to extinguish fires.

I can't do much besides wait. All our vendors are closed on east coast and the west. No deliveries will arrive until morning. The accountants and gate keepers have all gone home to whatever semblance of a regular life this industry can offer.

And I am here, alone, a single sentry soul amidst a quarter million square feet of production space, left to stoke the braziers and email the wrap report.

It is the life I have chosen, and proudly so.

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