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My First Pair of Combat Boots (another drafty excerpt)

November 11, 2017

Veterans Day. I am a veteran. I am writing a magically real memoir about my six years service in the United States Air Force. Following is one snapshot from my time in technical school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. Thank you for reading and supporting me.

I can’t discern if I am recalling the places or the music first. Both options are possible. “Where was I when I first heard X?” “When I first heard X, I was there. When was that?” Two entrances to the same room where what’s inside doesn’t change based on the door I choose; the remembering and telling does.

1989, autumn: Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

The first time I heard Pretty Hate Machine I was sitting on a flimsy, white plastic patio chair outside my room at the Angelo Inn on Goodfellow Air Force Base (GAFB) in San Angelo, Texas. The Angelo Inn was an on-base hotel mostly used by temporary duty personnel and vacationing service members. During my training period at GAFB, the Air Force personnel resided there as well. This was a constant source of pain for the other enlisted service members stationed at GAFB because they lived in real military barracks. It was another case of “The Air Force always gets the best….”

My buddy K-Matt (an ex-boyfriend of my first roommate at DLI) brought the tape and his portable boombox to my room. He proclaimed that it was the best music I’d ever hear. K-Matt was a serious music-head. I trusted him.

The sun just set. The sky was stale butter yellow. From the third floor balcony we could see the toasted expanse of central Texas beyond the perimeter of the base. The wind kicked up and thunder started, then lightening of the dry, summer type. We were accustomed to these threats and knew no rain would come. The storms in that part of Texas were always more wind than water.

The overhead lights triggered. K-Matt climbed on one of the patio chairs and loosened the bulbs to secure the mood. We shared a mug of flat root beer and a Djarum Black. Our spiced smoke hung and perfumed the air enough for us to feel slightly civilized as we listened to the album.

The speakers lost their boom to the night. The music was all treble. The distant thunder played an erratic bass. By the time “Sin” began with it’s screechy screams-of-synth and four-beat purity, the wind was raging and strong enough to cause our chairs, with us in them, to grind and scrape, and tip and rock.

We rode the wind. We saw dust devils moshing. We were up above it and down in it. And, for those 48 minutes, Nine Inch Nails (1989), Pretty Hate Machine, was the greatest music I ever heard.

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