When I Last Saw Jean-Luc

     This morning I received a phone call from my friend Jean-Luc Nash’s West Point class mate, Don Mooney. Don was given the unenviable task of telling me that Jean-Luc had passed away at his home in Pensacola last night.  Those of you who know my story, know about Jean-Luc and Tim Andruss and their heroic efforts on the battlefield during Operation Urgent Fury on that October afternoon in 1983, in the wake of a misdirected air strike that hit the Second Brigade Tactical Operations Center (TOC) for the 82nd Airborne Division.

 

I know a lot about the depths of desperation and despair and loss, but, nothing in my life has compared to the absolute sense of loss of this great giant of a man. There is a hole in the world and there is a hole in the depths of my heart.  Superlatives pale in comparison to the magnitude of the greatness that was Jean-Luc Nash. I did not know him before we invaded Grenada on October 25th 1983.  There has not been a day that has passed since then that I have not thought of him.  What transpired on that bloody battleground was more than lives (my own included) being saved.  One cannot truly understand the depths of true brotherhood until one has shared the absolute intensities and desperations and depravations of warfare.  Jean-Luc Nash did more than make it possible for me to have a chance at surviving that day. He gave me countless opportunities.

 

The last time I saw Jean-Luc was in September when we spent a few days with him and his wife Michele at their home in Pensacola, Florida.  We were on our way to Disneyworld for the first time and we had our granddaughter Maia along with us for the three week trip.  Miss Maia was particularly smitten by Jean-Luc and he with her.  Jean-Luc and Michele had a little girl’s tricycle that he kept in the garage for their grandkids.  Maia would ride her “bike” up and down the driveway at the house there in Pensacola.  Maia’s second favorite activity was gathering up all the acorns and placing them in the basket of the tricycle to plant to make “baby trees.”  Jean-Luc, being Jean-Luc, played gracefully along. He was like that. He was always accommodating, and, he always had time for the soft cuddly tyranny of a toddler’s whims and fancies.

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I remember taking this picture on my phone camera and thinking then how poignant it was.  I also remember thinking how he—Jean-Luc—had made this scene possible. Without me surviving that dreadful day in Grenada in 1983, there would have never been the possibility or the opportunity to share this quiet reflective moment in Pensacola 32 years later. Yeah, you made it possible big guy! You made so much possible. I had hoped to have more scenes like this to share with you before you left this world too soon. And now, you are gone.  I will forever reach out to you and the memory of who you were and seek to be worthy of the faith you had in my life.

 

Godspeed my friend. “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. “

 

 

Grenada

Some might find it curious that on the thirty year anniversary of the day I was wounded in action that I would long to be back in the one place that it all ended and began for me:

Grenada.

I have always believed that the universe holds its breath when we mortals come to the crossroads of life-changing events. Enter one door, and the force of creation lets out a sigh of relief–choose the other, and, angels weep. I also believe that some doors we enter are not by the gentle knocking and turning of handles. Some doors we enter crashing through in an explosion of chaos and splinters. Upon entering we are given one question to answer:

“What are you going to do now?”

How you answer this each and every day determines what kind of life you lead.

Robert Ruark, is one of my favorite authors. In the second chapter of his book, “Horn of the Hunter,” he muses that his soul has forever been catching up to his heart because of his travels. I believe that this is something that anyone who has ever been seriously wounded in combat can relate to. Combat has the capability to disintegrate bodies into unrecognizable fragments. I also believe that it is also responsible for fragmenting souls.

Thirty years of trying to piece my fragmented soul back together again has taught me that I can never tell just where one of those disembodied pieces will show up.

I found a piece of it on the green grass of Arlington National Cemetery when I visited the gravesite of Sergeant Sean Luketina on the ten year anniversary of his death. I don’t have answers to the riddles of fortune and luck. Nor, can I answer why good men die too young. I do know like Ruark that, “If they keep exposing you to education, you might even realize some day that man becomes immortal only in what he writes on paper, or hacks into rock, or slabbers onto a canvas, or pulls out of a piano.” ( Robert Ruark,   The Old Man and the Boy).

So it is left for survivors to tell the tale.

Where was I? Oh yes! Let me continue.

One week on the San Juan River in North Western New Mexico is where the trout led me to another piece of my soul.

I had to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1997 to find a missing piece in Cardiff, Wales where I met my wife, Ginny. When our daughter Lucienne was born in 2002, I found yet another.

The pieces are never found where you are looking. They sort of descend upon you like loving-kindness. They reside in ordinary things and hide in extraordinary ways. Always, I have been aware of one indisputable fact:

The greater sum of my soul has remained in the verdant hills of that island–merged with the soul of a nation freed. Carried on the tropical scented breeze, down to the achingly white beaches to the sea.

It calls to me…..

I am forever haunted.

The Story of Us

 

Go tell the Spartans,
Passerby,
That here, obedient to their laws,
We lie.

Simonides, Epitaph for the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae
Greek poet (556 BC – 468 BC)

Greetings from the Center for the Intrepid!

I have not posted on this blog since late July—not because I had nothing of importance to say. In fact, what I wanted to say had even more importance than just about anything I had written previously. Too often one can get caught up in the retelling of events and the lens of recall gets focused solely on the individual deeds and accomplishments. The real problem lies with one fundamental fact: war is not an individual sport. It took coming here to the Center for the Intrepid to remind me of this fundamental maxim.

In addition to my daily schedule of physical therapy, I have of been re-reading Steven Pressfield’s stunning book, Gates of Fire. The book is about the Battle of Thermopylae and the defense and sacrifice of the 300 Spartans under the command of King Leonidas. The story seems to me to be a fitting metaphor for the men and women who have been sent here to the Center for the Intrepid and I would grant that a solid core of those here assembled are every bit the equal of any of those 300 Spartans of ancient Greece. That is not to say that there is not a smattering of miscreants and schmoes here; but, that these are a most rare species and it is not duty nor my calling to tell tales. I look at it this way, those assembled here are but a microcosm of the Armed Forces of these United States and only a fool him or herself would assume that true perfection exists there or here because it just is not so.

What we do have here is a stunning collection of individuals some of whom who’s stories may never be told. However, that does not mean that their courage and their sacrifice and what is lost are any less poignant or compelling. One cannot stay here long without becoming painfully aware of the heavy burden of war’s doom being paid by the men and women of our armed forces—that is if one has a soul. It fills me with a yearning and sorrowful ache some days to know and see first hand the cost being borne with such resolute courage and conviction by these assembled here. I vowed early on in my stay that my first obligation was for me to discard the “me” “myself” and “I” and tell the story of “us.”

There is a deep and abiding secret that lies in the heart of every warrior and it comprises the glue that binds this brotherhood of valor together. Fundamental truths are revealed in the fulcrum of battle: All we have is this and each other. Now if I may borrow a speech toward the end of the book Gates of Fire to highlight this point. Pressfield writes most eloquently:

When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. This is why the warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. The truth is too holy, too sacred for words.”

Hardcore Harry

A Perfect Chaos

For those of you who survived the 1990s (I would pretty much bet that includes everyone reading this!!) you probably remember the hit series “Third Rock From The Sun”. Joe Diffie sang these words in the title track for the opening credits of every episode:

“Cause and effect, chain of events

All of the chaos makes perfect sense”

It was while I was trying to make sense of the events that have transpired since the First of May of this year that Joe Diffie’s playful tune popped into my head.

I was thinking that the chain of events that have transpired since the failed parachute jump in Houston are the most divinely perfect kind of chaos—if there can possibly be such a thing! Nevertheless, it has defined my crazy life and I am going to stick with the metaphor! I think of it as a showering of goodwill and incredible good luck that has fallen down on me like a welcome warm summer rain that comes out of nowhere here in South Texas sometimes on those white-hot wide afternoons and you feel refreshed.

So, if any of my loyal readers have been wondering what is up with my efforts to walk again and why I have not posted anything on my blog these last few weeks, it is not that I have given up—no sir! Far from it! These last few weeks have been filled with action but not the kind that lends itself to insightful writing and cutting epiphany. The repetitious nature of physical therapy is like that—repetitious, not particularly capable of invoking cutting edge commentary. It is probably equally true that physical therapists, coaches, and especially sports stars don’t make brilliant scholarly insights above the standard overused sporting cliches. So, rather than give you a grocery list of reps and sets of particular exercises I decided to spare you the details and wait till I had something of substance to write about.

So there I was about a week and a half ago in the Tricare office at NAS Corpus Christi making sure that the next round of physical therapy was good to go and that there would be no breaks in the treatment. When I made the comment that while I was generally ok with how things were going; however, what I would really like more than anything else in the world was an all expense paid trip to the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston. To my surprise, was met with the response by the Tricare representative Charlene Hagar, “Well, why not!?”

I was dumbfounded. Could it really be that easy???

A few emails exchanged by my dear friend Jean-Luc to his friend Don and Johnny and lo and behold tomorrow I have my first appointment at the Center for the Intrepid with my doctor and will meet the team that will set my course of treatment for the next few weeks. Johnny was the secret weapon so to speak, he is a retired Sergeant Major. Anyone who knows the Army will tell you without a doubt it is the NCOs that make things happen. I do not make this statement in jest either!

Throughout this process of getting my legs I have been humbled and astounded by the level of effort and faith that people have put forth on my behalf. In Houston the TMC Orthopedic and the Amputee and Prosthetic Center broke every record getting me measured and fit for my C-Legs. A process normally took a couple weeks was done in less than 72 hours! Moreover, this has carried forth to the selection process for the Center for the Intrepid where I have been informed that a great many people went to great effort on my behalf and again new benchmarks were set.

To all who have advocated on my behalf and who have offered the most kind words of support and encouragement, I vow to you that your efforts and support are and will be worthwhile.

Thank you! I promise to not disappoint! So, for the next few weeks, me and my wife and daughter Lucie will be staying at one of the Fisher Houses here on Fort Sam Houston and I will be setting course on a a redefined treatment to get me up and walking on my C-legs.

Exciting stuff!

Stay tuned for more!

Hardcore Harry

Sergeant Sean Luketina

Some days are indelibly burned into your memory. For me, one of those days is June 30th. Today is the day that Sergeant Sean Luketina died. I did not know Sean before Operation Urgent Fury; but, there has not been a day that has passed that I have not thought of him.

I live near the ocean. I find that the massive expanse of the sea helps me to put everything in perspective. Today Hurricane Alex is bearing down on the Gulf Coast south of where me and my family have made our home. In a strange way I find the immense power of a hurricane calmly reassuring. It helps me to feel small. I know too well what it is like to get caught up in the whirlwinds of life and the storms that churn in the Gulf of Mexico offer an affirmation of proportion in all things.

James Taylor sings the song “Walking Man” that I have never been able to get out of my head for many, many years. It is only now that I am beginning just now to add meaning to the last part of the opening refrain:

 Moving in silent desperation

Keeping an eye on the holy land

A hypothetical destination

Say, Who is this walking man?

 Who is this walking man? I am: a husband; the father who dotes on his daughter; always the paratrooper; eyes on the sky wishing to fly…again; a college graduate; a font of trivial knowledge; a teacher, sometimes the muse; always the seeker of truth; and I am the survivor of tragedy unspeakable.

Sean and I were wounded side by side in the misdirected air strike that took my legs. Sean was evacuated immediately as it was determined that he had the best chance of surviving. Me? If you ask Jean-luc Nash he will tell you that they really didn’t know where to start. I was a perfect mess.

It was a month later that Sean went into the coma. He was suffering from uremic poisoning and it was during the operation that the doctors at Walter Reed removed his legs that he went into the coma from which he would never awake. It was shortly after that that I got a letter from his mother. She told me about her son who had also lost his legs. She was looking for answers. She did not know that Sean and I had been shot in the same incident. I am not sure she found comfort in the truth that I wrote her. I can only hope that she did.

I visited Sean’s grave in Arlington in 1994 on the tenth anniversary of his death. I did not know that his mother had chosen to be buried with her son. It was a touching display of motherly devotion and this sight on the green fields of Arlington haunts me to this day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He died one day shy of his 24th birthday.

Who is this walking man?

I am the keeper of memories of fallen heroes.

Rest in peace my brother.

Hardcore Harry

Notes To My Daughter

I wrote the following piece when my daughter Lucie was three years old. My wife and I had been out that night attending a minor league baseball game. The game had gone into extra innings and we had arrived home late that night. I was particularly taken with the sight of my daughter asleep on our bed. It was obvious that she had tried to wait up for us.

I have been particularly blessed by being retired from the military that I have been able to be the “stay-at-home-dad” and number one playmate for our youngest. As a parent, I have also been our daughter’s first teacher—a role I do not take lightly in the least as Lucie, on top of being incredibly imaginative and creative, is also insanely smart! It can be tough sometimes keeping up with a child genius. I try always to be honest in my answers and offer on the spot comments on her insights and observations. I figure by the time she is twelve or so she will reverse our roles and be teaching me!

I wrote this four years ago. I have kept the hand written notes safe for inclusion in an anthology I had planned. I like referring to it now and then as a sort of “time capsule” of how things were in that time in our lives. I figure this is as good a place as any to put this down officially as today is Father’s Day! Enjoy!

 

 

NOTES TO MY DAUGHTER

You were asleep when I came home.

A brown plastic cow, a story book, and a hairbrush were there hidden under my pillow to remind me of your intentions. I was not there tonight to brush your wispy blond hair before bed and read you your bed time story.

The muse visits me in the echo of your infectious laughter. It speaks to me in you tiny voice and invites me to write down these simple truths.

I remember the giant mulberry tree where I used to sit and count the clouds in the sky and the multi-colored cattle in the fields and wonder what my life would be like when I was older.

While sometimes it seems you have always been in the world, your three year old wondrous playful visions remind me that your dreams are being made by you with your cracktoothed games that never cease to amaze me.

Today I’ll be the lion and you will be the lion catcher daddy.”

A brief chase, a blanket net, a defiant roar, muffled giggles and the ever-fearsome lion has been captured!

A hug and gallons of tickles, followed by breathless laughter as we both stare up at the ceiling and pick out imaginary shapes in the applied textures.

Here dad, hold my bear. He will keep you company while I set the table for our very special tea party.”

The tea is served and now we must be: Two spotted frogs, sitting on a log, catching tasty flies. YUM! YUM!”

I laugh at the crazy tyranny as I am forced to eat a raisin which really is a “tasty fly.” My play director has insisted this is so!

Giant soapy bubbles borne on a south wind, and a vision of you as you shriek and chase them across the front yard.

Next, we have a bucket of chalk and a, “Let’s see how many shapes we can make!”

A game of hopscotch.

The sun is really hot in the afternoon sky. Red-faced and dripping with sweat you inform me how good a glass of chocolate milk tastes—especially after a game of hopscotch!

But wait!

First we must play cowboys on the lowest hanging branch of the biggest mesquite tree in the neighborhood that just so happens to live in our front yard!

Afterwards we count the clouds in the sky. A jet takes off from the nearby naval air station and we watch it dreamily.

I cannot remember ever being so free as I am right here, right now.

A dog-eared cloud reminds you of your big black Briard sheepdog who waits patiently inside the house. We know she waits ready to lick the sweet-salty joyous perspiration from our faces with a wet-nosed doggie exuberance!

It is no accident why children and puppies are among the most special of God’s gifts. With both, everything happens as if for the first time you do a thing!!

A cow, a cloud, a tea party, jumping, laughing, playing: You are here to remind us that some things remain and that it is only when we get older do we tire of a thing.

You sleep.

I count your breaths. Yes, there seems to be a little bit of a cold coming on for you wee one.

I fall asleep and I dream again.

I dream of a field of the greenest grasses. It is covered by a heard of brown plastic cows.

The cows are chasing giant soapy bubbles.

I remember these! They were borne on that South wind.

We chase the bubbles again.

Your golden hair shines in the sun as we run. We laugh.

When I wake, there you are!

Good morning honey.”

Good morning Daddy”

Are you hungry?”

She nods.

I carry my daughter to the kitchen to make waffles.

What adventures will we have today my little munchkin?”

She giggles and buries her head into my shoulder.

Slowly…

Slowly, she peeks out from under her blanket where she is hiding and smiles tenderly. It is then that you know that you could never tire of this!

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 5:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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How’s Your Ischial Tuberosity?

My darling wife has brought it to my attention on numerous occasions these last couple weeks that I have not been writing as much as I should in my blog. Incidentally, I was not aware that the word nag was of Scandinavian origin. Think about it. It was the persistent action of the womenfolk back in Scandinavia that led to one of the greatest invasions in all of history!! What probably started out with a blond, vivacious, buxom, Scandinavian goddess, we’ll call her Helga, complaining that her man, Thor, had left his chain mail and sword on the kitchen table again and why is it he could never pick the lid up on the slit trench??? So it was with the shrill echo of the lovely Helga still ringing in his ears reminding poor Thor that the thatch roof needed repairing, and that they were about to run out of moose burgers, that the Vikings set off to engage in an all out war of conquest. (The Viking’s must have looked to the sanctuary of the longship much like Homer Simpson eyes a box of glazed donuts!) Helga was to eventually be bought off with a few shiny trinkets of booty from far away lands and Thor was able to get a group of monks in a monastery write a revisionist history—in exchange for their lives–that covered up Thor’s shortcomings as a husband!

This last week marked my first full week of physical therapy. Slowly along the way I am being re-introduced to the peculiar language of the physical therapist. One of my favorite questions is: “How is your is your ischial tuberosity?” Or, “Is your prosthesis bearing weight on your tuberosity?” No doubt some of my more curious readers were sent scampering away toward yonder bookshelf upon reading that—we’ll call this category reader the more distinguished scholars amongst us: that being the reader who has books that they actually read; books that do more than prop up the shorter leg of the kitchen table that the darling wife with her persistent ministrations caused the reader to “fix” himself rather than call a skilled tradesman. Never underestimate the value of a feeling of self-sufficiency however sad or misplaced!!

Now, that the rest of you lazy bastages have finished looking up the words on Google we can continue!

The ischial tuberosity is quite a common set of protrusions that will be instantly familiar with anyone who has ridden a horse for any length of time. Being “saddle sore” and having a pain in your ischial tuberosity are the same thing! Now there are a great many feelings and sensations that accompany a person such as myself who has not walked in 26+ years that are pretty dang cool: shopping for shoes, standing, and, taking first steps. Trust me when I tell you that remembering that you have an ischial tuberosity IS NOT ONE OF THESE SUPER-DOOPER COOL BEANS (RE)DISCOVERIES!!!

So there I was a saddle sore trooper and nary a horse in sight! It was then that I remembered that I had just turned 48 and thought that this kind of physical endeavor would have been easier 20 some years ago had only the technology been available. It was then that I remind myself that if it were easy then everybody would do it and dang if I can’t help the challenge!!

After all of this, a funny thing happened Thursday afternoon. It was while standing up on my C Legs that I knew right then and there that this was actually going to happen! It was then that balance didn’t seem all that hard a thing to achieve and for the first time I was able to stand without powering through with my upper body. Up until then walking again was something I had imagined in my mind. It was then something I knew with the rest of my body.

My wife Ginny was there too, smiling. For now she didn’t care that my underwear drawer was full of assorted books, half finished journals, and the odd box or ten of ammunition. “Stand up straight! Look straight ahead! Quit looking at your shoes! One more!”

I love her!

 

Hardcore Harry

You’re In the Army Now!

I imagine that being married to a teacher is a lot like being drafted into the Army. Since I volunteered for every post I ever served at, those of you not married to a teacher are just going to have to take my word for it! My job description reads like a modern day, “Jack of All Trades!” I have served as a guest lecturer on many occasions—my favorite duty is teaching pre-kindergarten kids on board airplane procedures and jump commands of the Airborne. Nothing is quite so entertaining as seeing a bunch of four year olds doing the “Airborne Shuffle” and hearing them count to four while waiting for their chute to open! Teaching them how to properly shout a “Hooah” and stomp their feet in a military fashion is quite a lot of fun too!!

I have other duties as well. I am the class carpenter. I don’t believe there has ever been a summer vacation that has ever passed that I have not been called up from my “Inactive Reserve” status and brought in to make something or other for my wife’s classroom. Since this usually requires the judicious application of power tools and the production of massive piles of sawdust I find this duty to be a great deal of fun. If the project requires the purchase of yet more power tools it is even better!! You would be amazed how often you can misplace something as necessary as a chuck key for a drill. It seems every time I go to a hardware store I have to buy another one. Perhaps they hide with all the socks that everyone in the family loses??!! I don’t know. Even power tools can be “misplaced” from time to time. I know I have at least three routers and three jig saws—just in case! And since summer vacation is fast approaching I am ever hopeful that any new project will require a trip to the hardware store. I have been trying to figure out how I can work in the purchase of a thickness planer, band saw and stationary drill press but alas my fair spouse has resisted my best entreaties for these items. The fact that I could also use these to build the boat I have been wanting to build all these years could have something to do with her un-natural reluctance to green light these items. I remain ever optimistic however!!

Another of my classroom duties is class pumpkin carver for Halloween. Now, this rates high up there as far as a “Guy” chore. Where else can you use sharp knives and stab things,be a hero in the process and not get arrested!!!??? In fact it is darn near the perfect Man-skill! Here I am carving a “Ghost Cat” jack-o-lantern this past Halloween.

There is one activity that is thrust on us poor defenseless spouses of teachers and that is anything involving cutting things out with scissors.

“Oh Lord please help the poor husbands of teachers we humbly pray!”

Cutting stuff out for your espousa is pretty much the equivalent of peeling potatoes for KP in the Army. It is not a place you want to find yourself! Now, since my loving wife took off all of this last week—the week before the end of school mind you—to be there for me in Houston for my first steps I am now paying for my sins. My penance is cutting stuff out with scissors—lots and lots of stuff. Oh my! To think that there could possibly be so many items of interest to cut out and laminate for a Pre-K class!!! Now, I have heard some folks bandy about words like “hero” and “inspirational” but really I am just a lowly “Draftee” with a pair of scissors helping my wife make sure that everything is in order for graduation day! It is times like these that I long for the relative calm of the battlefield. Give me a clear field of fire and an advancing enemy any day over a pile of pictures, artwork, and a pair of scissors!!!!

Hardcore Harry

MAKE IT HAPPEN–MAKE IT REAL

There is a sign that hangs in my house that has a great deal of significance. It reads, “MAKE IT HAPPEN.” My wife and I bought the sign at the Buc-ees just outside of Houston on Highway 59 on May 10th after the initial assessment at the Amputee and Prosthetic Center. It has become the mantra which drives me forward in my goal to walk again. The phrase is also engraved on the back of a Saint Michael’s Medallion I wear, a gift from my wife Ginny. Saint Michael is the patron saint of paratroopers for those of you who are not in the know!

During the events of the last week, the phrase “Make it Happen” has served me well. The attention the event generated in the television media was exiting but it is important to keep everything in perspective and in proportion. Even now, it is hard to comprehend just where everything fits. I had an idea beforehand of the level of commitment that the folks at TMC Orthopedics and the Amputee and Prosthetic Center had to the amputee community. What I had not realized until later in the week was the degree that they had mobilized on my behalf. It was extremely humbling to find out that the turn around on my new legs had never before been achieved. It was only seventy-two hours from first fitting to final product. In order for this to happen it took a great many unnamed dedicated and professional individuals giving their all to see that my legs were ready on time. I am deeply moved by the level of effort that everyone put forward on my behalf. From Joe Sansone the CEO of TMC Orthopedic to the technicians at the Amputee and Prosthetic Center, you all simply rock! It was with a heavy heart that we left Houston this week for our journey home, we have made new friends and acquired a new branch of our family so to speak!

Getting the legs was the easy part, learning to use them is where the real work for me begins. This is where the sense of perspective and proportion will come in handy. It occurred to me that the catchwords, “Make It Happen” that have carried me thus far on this journey need a re-clarification of sorts to bring them up to date. Now it is time for me to make real on my dreams to walk again. Cameras and reporters do not make things like this happen. These happen because of what is in your heart. The path before me is clear and my success or failure is all up to me from here on.

MAKE IT HAPPEN—MAKE IT REAL!

Hardcore Harry

“Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

The great comedy troupe Monty Python is wildly famous for its zany off-beat British humor.  One of the zaniest spoofs was a series  sketches titled “The Spanish Inquisition.”  Who could ever forget the high-pitched shrill phrase, “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!”  once they have heard it at least once. If you are a true Monty Python fan you don’t just experience the Monty Python sketches just once! No, you take them and adopt them as part of your daily life.

Case in point: I remember one Christmas holiday some years back while visiting my sister Robin in Southern California. It was during this particular Christmas holiday that my brother-in-law Chris and I took to  (re)watching (and reciting in the process) all of the Monty Python classics. It just so happened that my young niece Nicole who had just turned six was also particularly smitten with many of the comedy skits and movies that we were viewing during this post Christmas Monty Python Marathon. She was so smitten in fact that she began reciting many of her favorite lines. It was all fun and laughs, that is until the angelic Nicole returned to school after the Christmas break and she promptly began reciting one liners from Monty Python and the The Holy Grail. In no time her teacher called my sister horrified and requested a family conference immediately. Apparently repeating such classics like: “I unplug my nose in your general direction!”  and, “I wave my private parts at your aunties!” were not received with universal acclaim that one would expect in a classroom of six year olds!!! Go figure!

(Grin)
So, where was I? Oh yes! “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” One would think that for such a momentous occasion as taking one’s first steps after twenty-seven years that the Spanish Inquisition would take a holiday? Apparently not! No, the Spanish Inquisition is alive and well and its Inquisitor General is none other than Prosthetist Ben Falls of the Amputee and Prosthetic Center in Houston, Texas!!! What proof do I have you ask? Lets compare the photographic evidence. Here is a picture of the most infamous Inquisitor General of all, Tomás de Torquemada, the fifteenth century Dominican friar and original leader of the Spanish Inquisition

Inquisitor General, Tomás de Torquemada (Wikipedia)

Now, here is a Top Secret-For Your Eyes Only photograph of Ben Falls taken by one of our covert operatives at Grand Inquisitor Falls’ top secret hideout. (Note of the latest high technology torture devices in the foreground–the very latest in up-to-date devices used by the New Spanish Inquisition!):

Is it a coincidence that both men–even though these pictures were obtained centuries apart–have receeding hair lines? I think not!!!!

Moreover, what is even more sinsiter is the previosly unknown fact that Ben Falls was in his youth was a Dang Hippie!!! And, what is even worse is that Ben is a Reformed Danged Hippie!!

Here I am attempting to run for my life at the blistering pace of 1 meter per minute upon learning that the Spanish Inquisition has chosen me as its next victim:

Try as I might, I can never get more than an arms reach from the leader of the Spanish Inquisition! Exhausted and dejected I take a seat to rest and come up with a new plan to combat the Inquisitors.

Lastly, here is Inquisitor Ben’s toady, Nick, to adminsiter the last rites of the damned! “Shoulders straight!” they say. “Hips back!” “Stand up!” “Initiate Swing Phase!” Moreover, they have programmed my wife and kids to recite their entreaties and prayerful chants!

“Nobody Expects the Spanish Iquisition!”

Bugger!!!

Hardcore Harry