Friday, June 10, 2005

The Trip That I Will Not Write About For B4B

Blogging For Books is still on and I am considering participating. One of the options this month is to write about a memorable trip or mini-vacation. At first, I thought about translating this story that I posted on my Russian forum two years ago, but then decided against it, for several reasons. Reason number one, of course, is that I feel kind of odd about translating my own story. It has already been written; it has its own style, its own rhythm, its own language; it is living a life of its own. If I try translating it, or retelling it in English, that would be a whole new story and I’m not sure if I will like it.

Reason number two is that, after the story was written, posted, and published as a part of a collection of the forum members’ works, there have been new, and very sad, developments involving one of the characters. The story is about a trip to the Black Sea that I took in 1988. Initially, it was supposed to be me and my then-best-female-friend, but, at the last minute, a close family friend asked if we could bring her son along. I had grown up with the guy, so I agreed. He had just returned from the Army (in case you haven’t heard, the USSR, and now Russia, have mandatory draft for all males over 18). He had been a good fit for the Army, and had loved it there. So, for most part of the trip, this guy was still in the Army mode, which created some comical situations throughout the trip (he tried to put my friend and myself on a strict schedule - imagine that), along with a few that were not so comical. There was a conflict between him and me, because, exactly at that time, I was going through my most intense Army-hating stage. A good college friend of mine had been drafted about a year prior to our trip, couldn’t handle the Red Army atmosphere, and shot himself after spending six months there. He was 19; he was a good friend; he wrote great poetry; he left behind his parents, a younger brother, and a pregnant wife. So, at one point during our trip, as my childhood friend was lecturing us on the joy and fun of the Army life, specifically stressing how, if a guy didn’t fit in with the Army, it was his own fault, - I flipped. I barely talked to my childhood friend after that. Ever. He did hit it off with my girlfriend on that trip, whereas I met a local man forty years older than myself, and spent most of the vacation in his company.

That was almost twenty years ago. I posted the story in 2003. Last year, we got word that my childhood friend - the one that loved the Army - had passed away. He was 36. He left a widow, but they did not have any children. Thing is, when he was drafted, they sent him to the Chernobyl area, right after the nuclear power plant blew up in that town. Apparently it seriously affected his health. He didn’t find out until many years later. He loved kids, but he could not have any of his own. He was depressed. He had a drinking problem. He couldn’t hold a job. He died of unrelated reasons – he was asleep in his apartment and the electrical caught on fire. Thank God he didn’t feel any pain, and died peacefully in his sleep. But, I cannot help thinking that the Army ruined his life, just as it ruined the life of my other friend.

I am now thoroughly convinced that the Army needs to be professional. Mandatory draft is only acceptable when our country is under attack. When instituted in times of peace, it wreaks havoc. It leads to millions of 18-year-olds being drafted, which leads to unnecessary expenses, because you need to house and feed these 18-year-olds and you need higher-ranking officers to manage them. On top of that, you have to keep these kids busy doing something productive for two years, and there’s just not enough work for all of them, so you have to invent some senseless, mind-numbing labor for them to do, just so they’re occupied. You end up with a bloated army that cannot function. Mandatory draft is evil. Don’t support it, don’t ever vote for it. This is my story.

Needless to say, I won’t be submitting it to B4B. I’ll think of something else instead.

Have a great weekend, all!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:56 PM

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