Friday, 28 June 2013

A Green Story

Sometimes, I'll pull out a story which hadn't really been told, and just lay it out for folks to ponder.

The Air Force came one day to decide on building the greatest BX of all time....at Ramstein....to be called the KMC.  Men, women and children would come from miles away....to see the grand palace.  Army guys were amazed by it....mostly because it offered sixteen places to eat, and actually had a sports bar where you could get drunk while the wife shopped.

Years in the planning stage and years in the construction stage.....there's numerous events about the KMC in construction which can be told, and you kinda sit back and have a laugh over.

The KMC was supposed to be "green".

So a portion would have this glass roof deal, but the rest of it would have a 'pit' of sorts, and dirt tossed around on top.

The Air Force hired up an engineer and his company to develop this nifty covering.  German guy of course, who had done a couple of such buildings.  They hadn't asked a lot on success of the previous buildings, and that might have changed history.

Once the building started going up....there was this big heavy concrete support....with tons and tons of dirt placed on it.  Grass would be planted, and it'd be 'pure-green'.

At some point, the carpet was ready to lay on the concrete inside.  As spring was arriving....rains arrived, and there were leaks.  Numerous leaks.

The support structure for the building.....wasn't holding back the water.

Well...it's a funny thing.  This German guy and his company?  Well....they had leaks in other buildings that they'd done.  By this point, they were going bankrupt.

Quietness fell upon the crowd.  Months passed....lawyers hired....court action.  The construction guys needed to fix the mess and hired a new guy.  Quarter of a million for him to find a solution.

The dirt roof would eventually disappear and a real roof....of a non-green quality was put up.  Added cost, but we'd best not to discuss that part.

It would have been nice if that was the only issue....but that one guy spray-painted 250-odd rooms with florescent paint on doors and windows got the KMC delayed it a bit more.  Sinkage on one end....delayed it more.  Then there was the escalator that arrived to be installed but it was like a foot or two too short to fit.

Eventually, against all odds....the KMC was finished.  It's best not to ask the real cost.

Sometimes, Things Change

In Bama, cop kingdoms are built in certain ways, and it's the way of the land.

Where I grew up...the local town I claim as home....had a grand total of about 250 people. Until the last couple of years....they have one cop....whose chief duty in life....is to monitor the state line (five miles away) and arrest anyone transporting alcohol across or anyone drunk. That is the sole reason of his existence.

The city had to write up some special rule...just to extend the limits five miles beyond the city....to allow him to make bonus money via this method. The town managers were quiet about the deal....but one might reckon that he brought in $80k a year to the town, of which he probably got to keep a fair portion.

Yeah, it's sad, but legal.

Crime was an issue around the town....especially theft operations and meth.  Most residents were upset about this but change the situation.

The other town, just five miles in the other direction, where I went to high school later....had only one cop and he had no country-line road to profit off of. He stayed generally busy there in the local area but you notice that local crime and break-ins rarely ever occur.

They liked their one and only cop....in this town of 700 people. He rarely stayed more than a couple of years and then moved on.

The third town....is on highway 72 (the 4-lane multi-lane super-duper). Around 1000 residents in this sleepy town....although they do have a full-up library, a Hardees, a McDonalds, and a Piggly Wiggly. They have around six cops and five police cars. They also have one of the best speed-traps in the state on highway 72.

One can only venture and guess that they are bringing in over $250k per year on tickets. In fact, they even went out and got one of those homeland security grants for a boat to use on the lake.  The excuse was terrorism but they mostly used it for drunken boaters.

So for a long time....this kingdom business worked fine.  Then, the dry county thing came to an end.  The third town sought the votes....passed dry into history, and liquor/booze flows.  You can drive home from work, pick up a case, and life is good.

My hometown cop likely settling back into a new norm.....without much to say or do....except enforce the law.  Sometime, things actually change, and new kingdoms develop.

Leaving Metroville

After three and a half years....I am finally leaving Arlington (and DC).  Is there a list about this exit?  Well, yeah.

First, people tend to get particular about announcing themselves and their territory.  Folks from Virginia....tend to start using the term "Commonwealth" after a while, refusing to utter 'state'.  Folks in Maryland....tend to want you to know that they are mostly all Democrat and very progressive.  And folks from DC....all want you to know that it just ain't right that they aren't a state....meanwhile looking for some angle of corruption to benefit them or their buddy.

Second, if you haven't been around crime and chaos much in life.....then a year or two in this region will resettle your way of thinking about expecting trouble twenty-four hours a day.  I know some guys who tote a pistol whenever they leave the house.  I know some folks who've spent a thousand bucks on security junk for the house.  I know some folks who've forced the whole family to take handgun classes. You've actually got punks here....who will simply knock at the door and barge right in on your property....day or night.

Third, you tend to notice that the mayor and city council of DC are in corruption situations all year-round now.  Then you notice that the folks in Montgomery county, Maryland, and Prince Georges county, Maryland....also tend to be involved in corruption stuff almost monthly.  But here in Arlington?  There's probably only a thousand folks who can even name one city council person, and I can't think of a single corruption episode in three years in Arlington.  We tend to worry more about what pub is shutting down, or new Thai restaurant opening, or the latest trend in I-Phone technology.

Fourth, with the exception of New York City.....Arlington probably has the largest concentration of folks with no car.  I'd take a guess that between one and two thousand folks in the county....simply use Metro or bike around.

Fifth, after a while, you tend to notice that there are a lot of women in their thirties and forties....single.....looking for eligible bachelors, and they'd be willing to accept various eccentric ways....just to meet up with a professional guy who could stand watching Friends, sipping wine, voting Democrat, and attending musicals or opera in DC.  These are the same women who read three books a month, talk about leaving DC but never do, buy $150 shoes every month, eat Thai food weekly, and whine about the quality of single guys over thirty years old.  A smart intelligent Republican single guy could walk in and be in paradise....if he could be a pretender-Democrat, wear loafers instead of cowboy boots, and sip wine.

Sixth, you can sense in ten years that Arlington will end up being this massive cluster of urban 'Europe'.  The county folks are planning trolley cars, biking trails, parks, and trying to make the area into a magnet that yuppies want to come and stay.  DC?  It's actually redeveloping every inch of the District into the same thing....kicking the low-income folks out....mostly to Prince Georges and Montgomery county.  You can sense that Maryland will end up as this third-world place in a decade or two.

Seventh, I will come to miss the daily conflicts of Metro and the subway system.  They have some of the most brilliant and most incompetent people in the world....working for them.  They are absolutely creative in making accidents of a rare and unusual type occur.  A single accident could happen today and kill a dozen folks on the subway....just because of one stupid mistake by a driver.  Bus drivers get all hyped up....freaked out....and won't hesitate to unbuckle and whoop up on some passenger.  Guys will stop along the track area and urinate right there in front of folks.  Crazy folks will commit suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train....just to avoid doing it themselves quietly somewhere else.  The management guys will spend hundreds of thousands on some fancy artwork....to adorn a Metro entrance....which no one ever notices.

Eighth, there is conflict on a daily basis of one group versus another on DC affairs.  The Eisenhower Memorial folks are locked in mortal combat with the anti-Eisenhower Memorial folks....mostly over a steel curtain contraption that will rust out in a dozen years.  The DC fire department is fighting their chief (a black guy) almost on a daily basis.....because he's an outsider and the position should only be given to a insider (go figure).  The DC city parks people argue over flowers being here, trees there, or giving a contract to a special friend of the mayors.  The Arlington community argues over the stupid trolley car....mostly because it's one single track and costing around $200 million......but will help only one single street area in the whole county.  One upscale housing area in Arlington is in an eternal fight with the city council about buying up a high-scale older building....mostly to house drunks and homeless folks, which the locals really don't want them around.  Then there's the anti-Arlington Cemetery crowd fighting the Cemetery management folks over the plan to cut down 800 trees on the property.....to replant most....giving them more space to buy more our heroes.  The 'anti' crowd says the trees help beautify the area and the Cemetery.  And the Cemetery management folks kinda hint....it is a Cemetery, and not some city park, which aggravates the beautification folks a bit.

Ninth, there are probably a million folks who drive into DC or the surrounding area on a daily basis.  Folks now plan their commute.....getting up at 4AM, and trying to arrive in DC by 6AM to avoid the crowds.  And they do this 52 weeks out of the year.  They sip three cups of coffee either in the car or at work....complaining of stress continually, and it's become an accepted lifestyle.

Finally, there is this layer of history, which most just overlook.  A ninety-minute walk in Arlington Cemetery takes you through a dozen wars.  The Lee House....invites you to consider the significance of the family and it's influence on America.  A single afternoon tour of Jefferson's home....makes you marvel over his continual tinkering with the house.  A morning tour of Washington's home....makes you wonder why he'd ever want to leave it.  A dozen battlefields lay within an hour or two of DC.....where history was in the making....but you have to visit them to understand the impact of one single battle.  In the forty-two months I was here....I toured just about everything of significance.  There's an awful lot that professors left out of college history, and you start to realize volumes of extra knowledge.  We used to have so many duels here in the District....that Congress actually stepped in and mandated that you couldn't duel in DC.....so they'd ride by horse over into Maryland and shoot their mortal enemy there.  Young interns hooked up with political enthusiasts.....some mysteriously died, and some ended up marrying Senator Snuffy.  There are a thousand folks in the DC region...whose claim to fame is that they are part of such-and-such committee for such-and-such historical preservation site, and their life-work is situated around getting dimwit rich guys to donate to tidy up the old sites.

Yeah, it's been an experience.  Steinbeck could have stood around for a year and written some 700-page book over the common man and his downfall.  Hemingway could have spent two nights at some local DC pub in a drunken state and written out a 200-page essay on the wickedness of the District and lucious damsels who partake of alcohol.  And Mark Twain probably would have spent one weekend in the District....then got on a horse heading south, and just left to find something of a more human nature to write about.

The End Point

Tomorrow morning, I will walk out of the Pentagon for the last time.  My quitting day.

There are four observations that I can make.

First, I am one month shy of 36 years of service via the Air Force, contractor in support of the Air Force, or GS worker in the Pentagon.  It's been a long episode.  I can truthfully say that what always captivated me was that  things occurred everyday....that you wouldn't expect.

Sarge would be arrested for tramping with a 17-year old daughter of some Chief on base.  Captain Joe would spend $8,000 on shrubbery to beautify the building....giving the truckload of shrubs to Airman Pete and George....only to discover four months later that all the shrubs are dead.....because neither Airman removed the plastic sheeting on the shrubs as they planted.  Major Gus spent $14,000 on a fancy British-made car that was nine years old....only to discover over the next year that he had to spend another $9,000 to keep it running.  Airman Sid got beat up one night by three female airman....to such a degree....that he refused to walk out of the barracks unless someone went with him at night.  Colonel Bob was drunk on a Rhine River cruise boat....and caught via a camera groping some female fireman....and tossed out six weeks later from the Air Force.

Every single week....there was something new and different.  Yeah, it was a soap opera to some degree.

Second, I traveled to the ends of the Earth, and for the most part....the US government paid for it.  A guy from Bama wouldn't typically travel to Central America, Italy, Turkey, or England.  So I felt privileged to some degree.

Third, I reached a point in the spring of last year where I felt this job was more of a ride on a dead horse, than worth accomplishing.  From a four-man shop that I arrived into...fourteen months later...one associate left, and they terminated the billet.  Six months later, the second person left, and they froze that billet.  Two guys can't run a four-man shop....but the leadership never got that idea.  A year later, the third guy left....and I sat there in November by myself....asking for two weeks of leave at Christmas.  No....was the answer.  I kinda realized the mess this was....they changed their minds a day later, but it didn't matter.  Between that and furlough....there just isn't a reason to remain.

Fourth and final....there's this budget mess approaching in a year or two.  You can sense the Pentagon will take steps to reduce it's size and manpower.  If you stay.....you'd only face some comical organizational effort that won't be explained until it's a done deal.  You'd just be standing there when someone calls you to come up to the front office....then discover that they've done a RIF list, and you got onto it.  The most you get?  $25,000.  All taxable of course.  You might be lucky and six weeks of notice, but the fact will be that most government agencies will all be doing the same thing.

Yeah, it was time to leave....and just simply step to the side of any US government job for the rest of my life.  It was enough.