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The Silent Thunder Story

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posted on Apr, 6 2012 @ 01:18 PM
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The Silent Thunder Story


An attempt at an autobiography

Having recently gotten engaged to the most wonderful woman in the world, I’ve been doing a lot of navel-gazing lately, trying to pick up the pieces of my life as I stand on the threshold of a new chapter. It is not easy to make sense or coherence of any human life, still less one’s own. And yet it is something we all must do in various ways, each and every day.

With that in mind, I thought I’d throw together an autobiographical piece and see where it takes me. I’ve never tried this before, and if it seems self-indulgent, well…it is. So read no further unless you wish to accompany me on a jaunt deep into my own egotistical ramblings. Ultimately I’m doing this for myself and nobody else, but it helps me to write something important if I feel I’m writing for an audience of some sort, no matter how big or how small. This board has become an important part of my life, so what better place to put it?

I’ll try to be as honest as possible, with the knowledge that all autobiographers have a tendency to downplay the weak points and play up the strong. That’s just the nature of the beast. I’m going to keep some details deliberately vague, of course. A lot of this info has come out in one way or another as I have posted here over the years, so I’m not really giving anything away that isn’t already out there in “the cloud” one way or another. So be it.

I was born towards the end of that tumultuous decade, the 1960s, in a very rural part of the northern United States. Where and when, I choose not to pinpoint. A place with lots of snow and pine, winter wheat and sharp blue skies streaked with feathery clouds. My father was what you might charitably call a “dirt farmer.” He began his career as a country doctor, but heavy drinking eventually rendered that noble profession impossible for him, and he struggled bitterly in his later years to keep our family farm above the poverty line – a struggle he ultimately failed at. His real vocation in life was drinking heavily, gambling, and philandering. I have no memory of this gaunt, terrifying tyrant of my youth cracking a single smile, let alone saying anything positive or encouraging to me. His face was as creased and worn as shoeleather, as was his soul.

My father was no longer a young man when he married my mother, a teacher in the local public school with dream-clouded eyes and a perpetual love of literature. Looking at old photos, I can see how the years with my father must weighed on her, turning her from a laughing local beauty into something infinitely quieter and more defeated. It was as if she was a vibrant color slowly diluted over the years by the paint-thinner of my father’s caustic personality, until only a pale shadow of her original vitality remained.

And yet my mother was not without her own quiet strength. My father (an intensely jealous man who apparently saw no hypocrisy in carrying on a plethora of affairs while keeping my mother on a psychic leash) eventually forbade her from teaching and, finally, from even leaving the farm alone. Slowly my mother retreated into reading and religion, both of which she passed on to me. Besides life itself, these were her greatest gifts to me. “No matter what happens, if you have a book with you, you’ll never be alone, or bored,” she taught me. “And if the real world disappoints, you’ll always have the world of words.” It is a lesson I hold dear to this day, and wherever I am I make sure a book is not far from my reach.

As a child, both I and my younger sister were beaten mercilessly for the slightest infraction of my father’s long and draconian list of rules. Even after his medical license had been revoked for grotesque incompetence, he had enough skill to treat the broken ribs, lacerated skin, and clothing-iron burns that dot-and-dashed my path through childhood from the earliest days, so that nobody in the community had any idea the extent of my punishments.

Besides my beloved books, I had the comfort of friendship with Amanda, a local girl in my class at school. My happiest memories of childhood are playing with Amanda in the fields, woods, and streams that were our universe. Amanda and I would tell stories to each other about an imaginary kingdom we invented, the land of Windland. It was named after the endless wind that always blew fresh and strong in this empire of the childhood mind. It was our private fantasy world to withdraw into, and we told tales of its battles and cities, drawing maps and flags, histories and geographies. We imagined its wars and coups, its clothing and animals, and incidents bizarre and delightful as only two country children in a northern woodland could come up with.

I was a strong young boy, and I earned the respect of my classmates by taking stupid risks – playing with fire, walking further out on the scary cliff than others dared, and getting into fights. This was how I compensated for my bookishness, which would have probably have condemned me to the role of childhood outcast if not balanced with swinging fists. I fought dirty and hard, and won my place in the childhood pecking order this way. Unfortunately it did not endear me to my teachers and other authority figures, and I found myself getting into deeper and deeper trouble as the shadows of my childhood lengthened into early adolescence. Despite excelling at schoolwork, I was marked as a “problem child.” I finally got into real trouble in Junior High for two illicit activities: Stealing from the general store, and writing dirty screeds that I sold to my classmates for a dime a page.

Eventually the predictable happened – Amanda and I became more than friends, something that both sets of our parents took a very dim view of. Amanda, too, was from a violent and troubled home, and neither of us needed to encourage each other too much before running away together at age 16. This lasted all of a week before we decided, as any two sane 16 years olds would, to come home. There was one hitch – my father wouldn’t let me come back. I had committed a cardinal sin in his eyes by running away, and that was that as far as he was concerned. Neither Amanda nor I were too worried about this. In our favorite sun-dappled woodland clearing, I knelt as Amanda, by the power invested in her as the Princess of Windland, ordained me the High Priest of said kingdom. I stood, took her hand, and we gazed at our reflection in a clear pool of water as I used my priestly powers to join us in holy matrimony. What marriage could be more legitimate? We were husband and wife, and on the run.
edit on 4/6/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)




posted on Apr, 6 2012 @ 01:19 PM
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The next two years on the road together were hard and yet in some ways wondrous, both exciting and terrifying. It wasn’t so difficult to be teen runaways in the 1980s as one might imagine, although luck played a big part in the fact that we survived without getting our throats slit or worse. There was no electronic paper trail, no surveillance cameras. I was large for my age, strong, and (they tell me) fearless, able to get manual labor jobs in every town we passed through. Farmwork for food and a place to bed down, light manufacturing, sweeping up in mom-and-pop stores. We could find places to crash with other kids, or sleep in our bedrolls in public parks and even highway median strips. Payment for day-labor in cash was my friend, and I could often smooth-talk my way into letting rich kids allow us to spend the night in their homes, parents blissfully unaware.

But life on the road for young runaways is no fairy-tale. Usually with no more than a few day’s cash in pocket and with more passion than experience, our adventure was bound to come to a less-than-pleasant end. We may have been High Priest and Princess of Windland, but in the real world of the Reagan years, that and 35 cents would get you a cup of coffee. Amanda was a blossoming young woman and I was a grubby teen boy with more muscles than sense. Eventually Amanda realized there were other men in this world, and that she needn’t spend every night in sleeping bags and under bushes if she didn’t want to. She found more stability elsewhere, of course, and something in me died, never to return to life.

I continued my travels alone, crisscrossing the US, never staying in one place too long. Somewhere in there I got my GED. I also got in trouble, various types, some of it serious. I did things I was not proud of. My pen halts here, friends. I won’t speak of these years. Suffice it to say that good things and bad things alike happened. Eventually I was no longer a boy. I was a man, and I was finally able to put a roof of sorts over my head. There were other girls and women in this world besides Amanda, I also learned in these years. Perhaps it was the combination of a female best friend as a child and a loving mother plus a father who pulled no punches, but I learned in those years that I really did enjoy the company of women far more than the company of men.

Farming and factory work gave way to a vocation I found I had a particular aptitude for: Security guard. Usually this was easy money, involving simply pacing around on a roof or a parking lot. Occasionally it involved beating the snot out of people, and getting the snot beaten out of me. As the late 1980s began to draw to a close, I found myself finally living something like a normal life, in an actual apartment I could call my own. An exotic dancer named Bethany became my actual lawfully wedded wife in 1988. It doesn’t get too much more white-trash than a security guard and a stripper living month-to-month in a studio apartment, but after a few years on the road it felt to me like the Trump Tower. For the first time in my life I had a home that I could call my own and a city I didn’t plan on leaving at the first of the next month. I even had a car. Things were looking up.

edit on 4/6/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 6 2012 @ 01:19 PM
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Then I did something breathtakingly stupid, and I ended up in a place of concrete crosshatched with shadows made by long metal rods, where everyone wears the same color clothing. Another chapter in my life I choose to skip over in our account today. Your understanding is appreciated, friends. However, this time did give me a chance to read more than ever before, and to learn the joys of writing, too. Bethany, like any sane woman, decided that her destiny lay elsewhere.

When I rejoined the real world, the 80s had shaded into the early 90s, and the economy was no longer even a vaguely friendly place for someone with my resume. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn’t get my big break, but I finally did get a big break, a once-in-a-lifetime chance at gainful (if somewhat shady) employment outside the United States. By pure coincidence, I crossed paths with a very unusual man, who was looking for other unusual men. Adventure abroad beckoned for a young and stupid security guard. Would I like to join a team guarding a metals depot in the wild, wild East of ex-Communist Russia? Why not? What was not to love for a young man with few roots and dim future prospects? The Berlin Wall had fallen, and Russia was being looted by oligarchs both foreign and domestic. With the drunken hand of Yeltsin on the wobbly tiller of state, all kinds of changes were taking place in the ex-Soviet states. Shrewd internationalists like my benefactor were quietly looking for enterprising young men with resumes like mine, as it turned out. Young men who had more anger than fear but who still had enough brains to take orders—and who could disappear off the face of the planet without anyone being any the wiser, if it came to that.

But more about this later. I’ll continue my tale another day. I’m tired of talking about myself after all this. Writing this took a surprising amount out of me, and to be honest I don’t know how I feel about this. I’ve never tried to write my life story before, and seeing it laid out like this on the screen makes me feel a bit strange. I need to stop for a while. Your patience would be appreciated. If anyone has actually bothered to read this so far, I thank you for your patience. Part II to follow at some point.


All the best,
Silent Thunder
Vladivostok, April 2012



posted on Apr, 6 2012 @ 02:53 PM
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Dear Sir -

I just finished reading and I'm practically breathless for more. The avid reader in me wants to know how the story ends .............but I am content to know ( and be pleased ) that the story will continue. And that, my friend, is how it should be.



posted on Apr, 6 2012 @ 03:35 PM
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I too am enjoying the story of your life, and looking forward to more. We have a few things in common, my Father beat me, and I love to read, it has been my freedom and my escape. Books are revered objects in my life. A better education than college.

Waiting for the next installment.



posted on Apr, 7 2012 @ 09:08 AM
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s&f
thanks for sharing ...
but your skipping all the Good Stuff Bra


you write well by the way



posted on Apr, 7 2012 @ 10:06 AM
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With a deep sigh of connectedness...I patiently wait....

Des



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 02:55 AM
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Chapter II


Text above: “Fate plays with man, but man never plays with fate!”


One random afternoon in the early-to-mid 90s, one of many:

It is a beautiful warm day in Sarkatvelo, better known to the outside world as “Georgia,” – the Eurasian, not North American state, of course. I sit contentedly on a small hill outside the city of Tbilisi, looking through the humid haze at the distant Mtkvari River making its way leisurely through the elegant (if a bit scuffed with age and upheaval, recent and otherwise) 19th century architecture of the city. I’m spreading delicious fresh cheese over a hunk of dark bread, washing it down with thin but high-quality tea. There are some dumpling-like khinkali to enjoy, with tangerines for dessert - today we eat well indeed! Only the occasional crackle of gunfire and distant boom of artillery reminds me that there is a war on.

Is this a warzone? The outside world seems to think so, and certainly the signs are everywhere. Rusty old Sukhoi-25 jets trundle ponderously across the skies, sometimes flying low enough to rattle my thin windows. At night the streets are home to packs of armed thugs and nihilistic young men full of alcohol or worse. Supplies and electricity are often erratic, communication even more so, and transportation often well-nigh impossible. It’s a good thing I don’t want to leave the city, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to. But none of this touches my world. I’m at peace, and in love, and war is the furthest thing from my mind. The sun plays softly over the hill and the humid air is thick with the gentle drone of harmless insects.

My Tbilisi is not a world of guns and war and splinter-factions with confusing names. It’s a place of soft rain rattling on zinc roof of my apartment and the lovely young Russian English teacher inexplicably marooned as a fellow foreigner here with me in Georgia, the blonde-hair-dyed-black woman with the shy smile who shares my bed. Dear sweet Alisa, or “Lisa” as she likes to be called, being a lover of all things English-language. And I’m an English teacher too now, the one job an American can get in the 1990s almost everywhere on the planet, it seems, with few questions asked and by dint of his native language alone. An English teacher abroad is not as romantic-sounding or manly as a security guard or a PMC member, perhaps, which is what I’ve been doing for the past year, but believe me I’m glad for the new line of work. I’ve had my fill of guns and military cots and stale rations and the company of other aggressive, unbathed and roughly-shorn men. At least for now.

Teaching English is a gentle and noble profession: it is what my dear old mom did, after all. And it puts the zinc roof over our heads and the cracked-plaster walls around us, and keeps the cistern full of the water we use to sponge-bathe each other after love, the plumbing being notoriously rusty and unreliable when it spits up rusty-brown goo at all. Not much glamour in teaching perhaps, but that’s fine by me. It’s easily the most respectable job I’ve ever had. Maybe the most respectable job I’ll ever have. And nothing short of a miracle for an ex-con in a foreign land with limited skills and dubious papers and a roll of hard currency in his boot and not too much else. Give me my earnest Georgian students and my beautiful Russian lover with her exotically accented English and my long afternoons of black bread and sunlight on the hills outside Tbilisi, and I shall want for nothing else! In the mornings my alarm clock is the clop-clop of men on horses selling yoghurt door-to-door. The Georgian women are lovely in their conservative homemade clothes, but mostly off-limits to foreigners like me. We foreigners find each other, and in Tbilisi a Russian woman is every bit as much a foreigner as an American like me. Moreso, perhaps. Alisa is a natural blonde but she’s dyed her hair black so as not to attract stares or unwanted attention in this all-to-nervous city. Details like that remind me that things aren’t quite as safe and blissful as my love-besotted mind might like to imagine.

edit on 4/19/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 02:55 AM
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It’s been an interesting couple of years. My first job put me in a deep forest in Southwest Russia, guarding a metals depot. Perhaps I’ll backtrack a bit and talk about that strange job sometime, and the strange gaggle people I met there, but today I’m enjoying the sunlight of my memoy’s Tbilisi hills too much to want to visit that dank forest that sits like a leaden idol in my memory. Not too much went down during the almost-a-year I was skulking about there. There were no security threats whatsoever, despite the nifty heavy weaponry I got to lug around, and the prevalent emotions were boredom and confusion over what I was doing there. Who was I working for, exactly? Best not to ask. What was I doing? Guarding metals. Whose metals, what metals? Better not to ask. They came from somewhere (where?) and went somewhere else (where?) Best not to ask. It was all I knew because it was all I needed to know. When would I get paid, anyway? Be patient, son. I’m keeping your money for you. Uh-huh.

But what choice did I have? Without legitimate papers or Russian language skills to explain myself, I was as much a prisoner of the depot as its guard.

Later I got to ride trains. Trains taking metals all over southwestern Russia and sometimes into the Caucuses, to other similar depots. I wish I could be more specific, but the truth is, most of the time I didn’t know where the heck I was in those days. The Russian language came slow to me; I picked it up in drips and drabs and my “teachers” were other scruffy men like myself who liked bawdy songs and lewd jokes.

Then one day things changed. The train I was on was held up inexplicably by some other men with guns, men who knew a lot more about what they were doing than I and my buddies did. There was a lot of shouting and pushing. There was some shooting. Some people didn’t make it off the train that day, and none of us got to keep the train, or our guns. The train’s new owners told us to run off towards the woods and keep running and not look back. I was pretty certain I’d be shot in the back as I ran off, a defeated coward, but maybe they didn’t want to waste the bullets. Run and live to run another day.

Fortunately for us, we weren’t far from a major city – Tbilisi. Fortunately for me I had my roll of hard currency. Fortunately for me I met somebody who could speak English the next day, outside the stately House of Chess in Tbilisi where I sat with my filthy face in my filthy hands wondering if I was going to die in this foreign-city square or the one over. Fortunately that person was Alisa.

Suddenly, inexplicably, Alisa. Peace and happiness were dumped in my lap when I least expected or deserved it, sitting there filthy and openmouthed like a halfwit. Her delivery of happiness, like a ton of happy bricks. She got me some bread and fish, and before too much longer I was teaching at the local secondary school, with her. Some local officials were also happy to use me occasionally to practice their broken English, paying me either in food, trinkets, or the ridiculously-inflated local currency, the Georgian “interim coupons” of the day (I preferred the food and trinkets). And I still had my secret roll of cash in my boot.

Those were, without a doubt, the happiest days of my life so far, at the time. I was radient with bliss and love. I was even getting back some of the weight I’d lost in the murky woods and chugging trains over the past year.

edit on 4/19/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 02:56 AM
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But I couldn’t leave well enough alone, could I? That stupid old monkey, greed, which hops up on your back and whispers in your ear hopped up on my back. Otherwise maybe I’d probably still be blissfully teaching away in sunny Tbilisi. But the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh war had been burping up thousands of Azerbajiani refugees in the recent years, and fate (and that monkey named greed) was to connect me with the destiny of a few of them in a specific way.

A local half-Russian, half-Georgian man of some means I’d been tutoring in English in the evenings came to me one night with a business proposition – the chaos was producing lots of desperate people, which does funny things to prices of natural resources, every time. He was poised to take advantage of it, but he had to move now, or the opportunity would be lost forever. And his English was too poor to communicate properly with the Azerbaijanis, who wouldn’t negotiate with him in either Russian or Georgian. He had to convince them he was a foreigner like me to make it happen (he’d pretend to be a non-English-speaking Frenchman), and my face as well as my language skills would be needed. Would I help him stumble through the necessary conversations? I protested – My Russian was as bad as his English, neither of us knew French, and as for my Georgian, it was laughable to a toddler at best. No matter. I have to move now on this, son. I have to try. There is a fortune to be made. He insisted – He needed somebody to help him haggle, and I was the only one available one, and certainly the only one he felt he could trust. Plus I at least knew how to hold a gun and look menacing - big plus.

My mind started working, the greed-monkey started whispering. My bootfull of money was getting lighter and lighter these days, and it was hard to turn the wad of cash he suddenly tossed casually across the table at me. It was an awfully big wad. And there would be more where that came from, a lot more, he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

We’d be taking a trip with him to go meet some Azerbaijanis. After that we would be heading east, to the land of the Uzbeks. What for? He smiled mysteriously. Oh, you’ll see. Another big wad of cash was suddenly tossed my way. The conversation was making me feel light-headed. I’m telling you, son, there is a lot of money floating around out there... How long until we got back? Oh, maybe a month. Maybe two at most.

Alisa cried and cried and turned her face to the wall and wouldn’t speak to me. I’d be back in a month, two at most, Lisa! She glared at me. She knew better than me how these things worked, but I was angry. This was serious money. It could really help us to make our lives stable. She wouldn’t answer. Foolish woman, I thought angrily. Wait until she sees how much money I’ll be bringing back!

As it turns out, I never saw Alisa or Tbilisi again.


…to be continued, sometime in the future….

edit on 4/19/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 02:59 PM
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Riviting. Have you considered writing a book before? You are a good writer and obviously have a lot of material to work with.

I'm interested in the post-Soviet collapse; I don't know it this is the thread to give questions on general (rather than personal) conditions but I'd be interested in hearing a bit more about the general lifestyles of people in that country around the time you describe.



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 05:12 PM
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reply to post by Leftist
 


Thanks. ATS is my book.


When I thought about your question, obviously its a big one, so if you have something more specific, let me know.

Some of the most notable factors that come to mind when I think about that time are communication and transportation, and general flow of information. For example, there were all sorts of civil disturbances and unrest in Georgia when I was living there but I didn't find out about them until much later becase I was not directly involved. It was almost impossible to communicate with the outside world for large stretches of time. If you wanted to make a long-distance call (which I didn't, but others did), you had to wait in a kind of list for your turn, or you could bribe the operators to bump your position up on the list. A far cry from smartphones. I had no idea what was going on in the wider world for the most part. Electricity came and went. Transportation was spotty too...I remember a lot of frustrated foreigners waiting for planes and trains out of there, sometimes for days. Everything was clouded with uncertainty. Less than 20 years ago but it was so different in terms of what you were able to know and where you were able to go. The internet really has made a huge impact.

edit on 4/19/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 05:34 PM
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When I was a young girl, age still in single digits, I read my first biography. There have been so many since, I really can't remember which one (who) it was even though I'm trying.


There has been a biography, or an autobiography, typically by my bedside table, or in my 'tote" bag, since then. Other than my professional books, my book shelves at home are lined with biographies, and autobiographies.

This is my way of saying that I've enjoyed your words immensely. You've led a rich life thus far, filled with love and pain. I hope you will continue this project... ( right up to the proposal) .



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 07:28 PM
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I enjoyed Chapter 2 very much and I look forward to the next installment. I am not the most patient person and waiting for the second part was a challenge . :lol I kept looking to see your handle next to the subscribed thread title, again and again and again......



posted on Apr, 19 2012 @ 09:13 PM
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reply to post by Iamschist
 


Thanks for the complement...and to all others who have replied. I'm glad people are enjoying it.

Kurt Vonnegut, a writer I like very much, said that in order to write well you need to be keeping an audience in mind...you can't simply write for yourself. So you people are the audience I keep in my mind. It's been helpful and cathartic to look at my life as a story. Usually I don't think of it making any kind of sense or having a flow, but putting it in order can be a great thing. I highly recommend this type of writing to everyone, to get your own lives in order as it were. (If you need to...I know I do, anyway.)

Not sure how long it will take me to do the next installment, I sort of wait for circumstances to move me...but I'll keep chugging along with it in bits and pieces I guess. Thanks again for reading, everyone!

edit on 4/19/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 10:50 AM
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Originally posted by silent thunder

When I thought about your question, obviously its a big one, so if you have something more specific, let me know.



Thanks, and thanks for your earlier answer.

Here is a question: When you were traveling around the ex-USSR in the 90s, did it really feel like a SHTF type situation, where the actual fabric of society had totally fallen apart? Or was it not that dramatic? Because I wonder if we in America are headed into similar times. Did people feel like the whole of society was falling apart, or was it only certain segments? Like, you mention having picnics and working at a local school, it doesn't sound all that post-apocalyptic. On the other hand clearly there was a war on and you noted problems with infrastructure. It's hard for me to reconcile the two in my mind.

I guess what I'm asking is how "normal" did most people perceive life, or in contrast did they have the feeling that normal was over and they were in a SHTF situation?



posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 11:02 AM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


Well...Thank You for keeping us in mind while presenting your very interesting life, in an open book. This is a real treat. I do hope other writers take your kind advice to heart...I know I will keep what you said in mind, as I post.

Patiently awaiting the turn of the page.....

Des



posted on Apr, 24 2012 @ 08:08 PM
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I was with you on your Tokyo thread and read every word. There's a book in you, friend. Really. I'm subscribing to this thread. Thanks for what you have written so far.
edit on 4/24/2012 by schuyler because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 25 2012 @ 03:16 AM
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Chapter III


Above: "But in the graveyard, everything is peaceful, everything is proper, absolute bliss!"



And the years went by.

The closer I get to the now, the harder it is to write this, because people like me flourish in the shadows and instinctively shy away from the light, even when there is no reason to do so. Here, then, are some truths, to be taken as you wish. As with all my truths, they do best in the half-dark, like the waxy plants that live in the jungle undergrowth where shafts of sunlight are naturally dimmed by higher, more noble forms of vegetation.

As the 90s went on, I found myself again and again in the same kind of place, somehow, without really consciously seeking this place. Like water, I always rolled downhill to it, constantly seeking my own level. The place is many places, and yet something about it is the same. It is a generally dirty and depressing place, with the obligatory corrugated-metal roofs, and crumbling walls of cinderblock. And yet always bright, almost shocking details of great cleanliness or beauty wink on and off in the gloom: a spotless white tablecloth laid out on a battered wooden table, say, or a bright red vest or cap that stands out brilliantly on a wire hanger against a stained concrete wall. Women walk miles to get water in this place, and often the men stand around smoking or fiddling with something – a whittling stick, a traditional instrument, a pouch of tobacco.

There is not much to do but talk and talk in this place, most of the time. This place may be a place of great lushness, or perhaps it is bone-dry with whistling wind full of alkaline dust. Occasionally great violence erupts, and that’s what I’m waiting for in this place. I do not cause the violence, but I wait for it. I cultivate friendships, connections. I take my time, I never hurry. I never go in alone, I always put together a team of people who know more about the place than I do.

Always in this place there is money to be made. The money is related to basic things – grain, metal, bauxite, talc, even gravel. Always the definition of right and wrong is plastic and crazymaking if you try to follow the smooth contours of this place’s morality with the sharp, angular logic of the more civilized world.

Or maybe I’m just fooling myself.

Here are some things I learned in that place, which is many places, from about 1994 to 2002: Never, ever hurry. Always take your time. Always speak calmly, slowly, with respect. Treat every person you meet like an honored guest, even if they are crazed, dangerous, or evil. Especially, if they are those things. When people get excited, remain calm. Speak in low, slow tones, like you are soothing a wounded animal back on the farm. Speak humbly, never brag. Never say anything if you don’t have to. If you have to say something, try to say the truth. If you have to lie, lie as little as possible. Don’t say you like soccer if you hate it, for example, even if you have to lie about something else. Be quiet and the other person will talk more than ever. Give people enough rope and they will hang themselves, so to speak, revealing everything about themselves without the need for you to even ask a single question. When you are lucky enough to end up with money, keep your money squirreled in many different places, in many different forms. A boot is actually a terrible place to keep a roll of money, you come to realize. Because people look there first every time. Keep lots of small stashes in many different places. Learn how to fold and tuck paper money in many different ways.

And above all, stay in the shadows, and observe those in the light. The less people know about you, the more of themselves they will reveal. And always, always seek the coolest, darkest place to sit and wait, with patience. The quietest place, a place of silence, if possible. Because it turns out that the strongest thunder is always silent.

edit on 4/25/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 25 2012 @ 03:17 AM
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Somewhere in there, among all these lessons, the millennium turned over and we all survived Y2K. But not long after the beginning of the new millennium, somebody very much like myself put a bullet in my leg, in a very dry, mountainous place. I guess I deserved it, for my sins. And my leg was never right again, even unto this day. That’s OK, that’s also for my sins. That was when I decided it was time to stop living the way I had been living for so long. My lungs were shot from too many cheap cigarettes and silicate in the air, my stomach had become a shriveled bag of acid, my once-strong muscles were beginning to sag. I began to enjoy whisky a little too much, in a way that reminded me uncomfortably of my father. And the litany of pain goes on. My back ached, I had ringing in my ears, my torso was a story of scars, mostly little nicks and notches. And so on. Nobody is immortal. My eyes had become hard and haunted, and people dropped their stares when looking at me. Even women, who I had always seen as something pure outside the filthy life I lived with men. The way women began to look at me, with a little fear and a little loathing, hurt more than anything. That hurt more than a bullet, and that’s when I knew beyond a doubt it was time to make a change.

Nothing lasts forever. Nobody is immortal. I am just glad I realized this in time.

So stashes were broken open, holes were un-dug. The squirrel retrieved the nuts he had hidden for just this sort of wintery day. And life changed. I became an “investor.” Instead of getting cash for doing things, I began to give cash to other people to do things. Things society approved of more...even if it shouldn't. It was a hard change to make, but after a while it became easier. It became easier after I internalized a shocking truth – a squirrel could actually get more nuts by getting other people to run around doing things for him than he could doing things himself. What a mystery! And how cruelly unfair. But my last lesson was that the squirrel either accepts this truth and profits, or rails against it and become broken by it.

After I made my big decision to change, I began to look to other things. I had time to read again, and study languages, something else I learned I was good at. Religion, philosophy, history…all opened their arms to me and I ran hungrily toward them. I’m still running. My boat to sail this infinite sea was a curious new invention (new to me, anyway) people called “the Internet.” Discovering the internet was like coming home at last to a home I never knew I had. Full of such interesting places and people. Places like ATS, where I can connect with other minds. Isn’t it funny that after all that running around and real-life, squirreling away fat nuts, my favorite thing of all turns out to be simply to stay logged on and post on message-boards, hour after hour, day after day? Some people call this activity crazymaking, but the years since I discovered the Internet have been the sanest, calmest, most peaceful and wonderful ones of my funny old life.

These years, among which I include this year, have been a lot less objectively interesting than the earlier years. There isn’t as much to say about them. Not much exciting about a man in a book-lined den who invests in markets and posts on message-boards day after day, usually while wearing a bathrobe. A man who describes himself as “semi-retired,” but who still finds time to work on some business projects, usually involving Russia and Japan. Sometimes the man goes a little nuts and throws his new-found cash around like a flamboyant idiot. Growing up poor makes you want to do things like that, when you can. The man still travels and works on business projects of a sort, but only ones he wants to work on. Objectively interesting things still happen to this man from time to time – he was caught in a big earthquake while working on a tricky project in Japan in 2011, for example. But these tales are not as necessary to tell, because in a way they’ve already been told, right here.

And so this man bids you a good day, and ends the Silent Thunder Story at this more-or-less happy point, in April 2012. Try not to think too badly of him, if you can. For all his numerous sins and shortcomings, at least he isn’t a cruel man. There are side-stories yet to be told, about a beautiful woman who charmed him over the last few years, a fellow ex-con washed up in a strange land, a beautiful female mirror of himself in many ways, and yet a better version of himself than he could ever be. Perhaps those stories will be told, perhaps not. Chances are, if you stick around on the internet (where this middle-aged man spends more and more of his time, happier and happier to do so), you’ll get to see the stories ahead unfold in real-time.

Aint life a funny old thing?

All the best,

Silent Thunder
Tokyo, April 2012.

The End



edit on 4/25/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)





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