Good bye. You’ve been a good and bad year. Horrible things happened and amazing things happened. All I can say, really, is that I’ll be glad to see you go. 2013 will without a shadow of a doubt be better.
Last night I started watching the movie Adventureland, which had been marketed as a romping summer comedy, but was really a rather touching post college coming of age story. While I finished watching it this morning over my breakfast of bacon, eggs, and some weak tea I realized something. Life only begins when you want it to begin. Its funny how it takes a movie to make me realize that, but as they say, life imitates art.
So as I sit here convalescing after my unfortunate accident involving 300 degree cooking oil, my left hand and right foot a week ago (thank god for auto spell correct on Mac’s) I was thinking about how I’ve paused my life, and always have. For other people, such as my ex-wife, for the ‘next thing’, for money… Whatever. I’ve always found an excuse to stagnate. To play it safe. And that can be fine at times, but at other times you just have to do it.
When Tomi left me for her coworker a new life opened for me. But instead of grasping it, by and large, I either timidly stepped into it, or looked back and mourned the loss of my life as a married man. I’m not saying that the past 7-8 months haven’t been good. They have overall. I just know that I haven’t done what I could have it that time. But this life is young yet.
My bandages and associated hospital trip (and bills) have at the very least postponed my sojourner to Australia. But I think that that may be a blessing in disguise. While a journey to the land down under is certainly a dream of mine that I would love to fulfill, right now might not be the time to do so. There is still so much else to see and do here. In Utah, in the West and in the US in general. I’ve never been to San Francisco or Phoenix. I’ve never traversed the US in a car. I’ve never swum in the Atlantic or Gulf. And I have the ability to do all those things right here, right now (sans bandages of course).
Life isn’t just about travel, of course, but for me it has always been connected. The open road is an allegory for the artery of life to me. I love little else as much as sitting behind the wheel of a car with nothing but asphalt stretched ahead of me. I’ve made too little effort to follow this love in my life. Always time, work, whatever finds itself in the way. I find excuses in other words. I plan to change that when the bandages come off. I’m going to need gloves for my hand any way for a while, may as well be driving gloves.
Six months ago today my ex-wife Tomi left me because she felt her affair with coworker Chris Kareis would provide her with more happiness than remaining married. It’s hard to beleive that it has been six months. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday that the two of us were making plans for the future. Talking about our pending five year anniversary. Enjoying our lives together. Another part of me feels like it’s been a lifetime since that date.
I have a hard time remembering what she looked like. I’ve tried very hard to forget the sound of her voice. I’ve done all I can to erase my memories of her. I can only assume that this is how most victims of traumatic events cope. I still remember her laugh… and the way she used to say “I love you” to me. I can’t seem to block those out. And unfortunately when I remember those things, it still makes me sad that she is gone.
But the sadness lasts much less than it used to, and I feel like the more time is placed between now and then, the less I miss her and the more I realize that the future is brighter without her. In many ways, I feel pity for her. Anyone that does what she did does deserve pity, because really, they will never be happy. They can’t be. How could they? They will always know in the back of their minds that they are bad people. Pathetic people. And though I had such a horrible thing happen to me, I can still hold my head high that I’m not someone like her. I have dignity, where as she and Chris do not, and never will again.
So when I find myself missing her now, I know that I’m missing who she was, not who she is. And this is what she is, an adultress. She will never be anything else for the rest of her life. This event is what defines her now, not just to me, but to herself as well. And that’s unfortunate.
As our lives go through constant revision, I am forced to ask the hard questions. The why’s, the who’s, the when’s. The whats it all for’s. My wife Tomi turned out to be a whore. She hurt me in ways that most men cannot ever conceive of being hurt. But as that torment starts to fade away, I’m left with feeling like maybe, just maybe it was for the best. In the past four months or so since she decided to start slutting it up on the side, I’ve had more fun than I have in years. It’s made me realize that she always held me back to some extent. That she truly was that “old ball and chain”. I loved her, I did. And I thought that she loved me. Maybe she did at one point, I guess I’ll never really be sure. But the fact of the matter is that she’s gone now, and for the first time in years, I feel a sense of freedom. I’ve been forced to learn that change is the only constant in life. And I’m enjoying that.
A little background on Wendover Airbase, during the Second World War this was one of the primary locations for training heavy bomber crews that served in the war. Thousands of personnel came through the base to train in B-17’s, B-24’s and finally, the B-29’s of the 509th Composite Group; who dropped the atomic bombs on Japan to ultimately end the war. Wendover is unique in that having been so far away from a major population center, after the war ended it was more or less abandoned in place. It wasn’t converted into a municipal airport, and it wasn’t seen as a logical place to maintain a large, peacetime airbase. So it sat.
Over the decades the weather has eaten away at its buildings. Its been used on and off by the military for various training exercises and experiments. Movies such as Con Air and Independence Day had parts shot here, but by in large, it was ignored and forgotten. This may sound sad, but it now provides us with a rare opportunity to see the most intact example of a WWII era airbase anywhere in the world. A group of dedicated individuals called the Historic Wendover Airfield Foundation headed by the father and son team of Jim and Tom Petersen have been working diligently at piecing together the history of the base and restoring many of the buildings that are left.
Expedition Utah’s tour of the Wendover Historic Airfield on June 2nd started with what anyone planning on spending several hours out in the desert hopes for: mild weather! The sky was mostly clear and the temperature was perfect for being outdoors. We had about 30 people show up for this very unique opportunity to tour all of this historic base.
We began with a short movie giving an overview of the bases history in the museum before we headed into the under restoration Officers Club just across the parking lot. Tom acted as our tour guide for the whole day and was quite passionate about the base and the work going on. The Officers Club is going to get a full restoration and will have a café in it and will be rented out for events. It’s quite an impressive building, and the work that is happening is top notch.
From here we loaded up into what many people said was the coolest part of the tour, a fully restored 1942 Ford GPW and a GMC CCKW, or Deuce and a Half… and a Ford tour van… but lets focus on the first two!
From the Officers Club we bounced around until we made a tailgate jump at one of the enlisted mess halls. During the height of the war there were four of these to serve the 20,000 or so enlisted personnel on the base, this is the last surviving one. It was abandoned at the end of the war, but then renovated slightly in the 1980’s to be used by the US Air Force’s Aggressor Squadron. All along the walls are the painted insignia’s of the various detachments that were based here during that period.
We remounted our rigs and headed over to what is left of the base hospital and got to look around at what had been the surgical ward, and then wandered around looking at what is stored there now.
After the hospital we made for what was one of the more interesting buildings on the base, the bombsight storage building. During the war one of the most closely guarded secrets was the Norden bombsight. So before and after each training flight the bombsights were checked out and into this building, which had large concrete reinforced safes, air conditioning and heaters to keeps the bombsights in perfect condition. And a nifty 7up vending machine!
From here we stopped off at a hanger on the flight line to see a F-86 Super Saber that the base recently acquired and is slowly working on restoring. And you know how in most museums they tell you to not touch anything? Well here Jim and Tom encouraged us to hop on the wings for a group photo! Awesome!
After the hanger we went back to the museum for lunch and then took off for the most exciting part of the tour. The south side of the base where all the munitions were stored, and the secret components were for the 509th. To get there we had to cross the active runways and traverse several miles of dirt roads. As you approach you get the feeling of how desolate this part of the base really is now. Nothing appears to really have been touched in more than half a century. The observation tower still stands stoically over the compound, watching; making sure nothing that isn’t supposed to get in does.
Inside the barbed wire fence behind Tom is where the prototype atomic bombs were constructed. These were inert bombs designed to test the ballistics of the actual atomic weapons, but their design was so secret that the crews building them and the flight crews dropping them never interacted. After the war all the buildings associated with the 509th, including the ones here, we broken down to the foundations and shipped to Los Alamos.
Down the road from where the prototype bombs were constructed are the munitions bunkers. Large concrete vaults covered in tons of dirt. Impressive, imposing structure to say the least. And very cool inside, both temperature and otherwise.
From the bunkers we headed out to part of the bases more modern history. During the Apollo program in the 1960’s, NASA used Wendover to test the capsules for resistance to direct lightning strikes. They did this by mounting a capsule nose piece packed with electronics on a dolly and suspending a large wire grid above it. They then electrified the grid and simulated a lightning strike. Very fascinating and the dolly and one of the nose cones are still sitting out there. Ironically, this was the only part of the trip that it rained!
Not far from the Apollo test site sits what looks like an unassuming hole in the ground. In fact, this hole has significant historical value. This is a bomb pit. Since the atomic bombs of the day were so heavy, and so large, they couldn’t be loaded the way conventional bombs were. So this special pit was dug and the bombs we first loaded into the pit with a hoist, then a B-29 was backed over the pit and a hydraulic lift moved to bomb into the bomb bay. There are only two such pits uncovered in the world. This one in Wendover, and the one in Tinian that actually loaded the bombs for the attacks on Japan.
After reflecting on the importance that that hole in the ground represented, the tour found us at what is referred to as the “Enola Gay” hanger, the hanger built specifically to house the larger B-29’s, such as the famous Enola Gay. It was a impressive building. Large enough to fit two B-29’s if need be. But rather than those old warbirds, it had a beautiful T-33 done up in Blue Angel livery and a prototype de Havilland jet.
After poking around the hanger for a bit, we completed out loop back at the museum and up in the beautifully restored control tower.
It was an amazing tour. Such history to behold, and we are so lucky that so much of it is still around and that there are people like the Historic Wendover Airfield Foundation working to preserve it. Wendover Airbase truly is a national treasure.
Thanks to all who made it out! We look forward to seeing you at the next summit!
All photos courtesy of Stephen Nielson and Jason Goates
One of the worst things about being freshly divorced is being alone. I don’t know, maybe its not so bad if you’re the one who did the leaving, but when you were left I’ll tell you its bad sometimes. There are times when I find myself just standing there looking into the kitchen cabinet blankly, thinking about what to make. Because you know, its hard to figure out what you want to make for yourself. It used to be that you had another opinion. Now its just you. And you have to make decisions like that. Little stupid decisions that shouldn’t matter for shit, suddenly can make you feel just terrible.
For example, I was folding some clothes a little bit ago and I started to fold them one way, the way I always used to fold them. But I stopped, unfolded them and folded them the way she always wanted them folded. After I did it I stopped for a second, just stared at the clothes and though, “What the fuck was that?” I didn’t unfold it again and fold it the way I liked to fold it, instead I just stared at it for a few more moments thinking about all the times we joked back and forth over stupid stuff like that. It never mattered, but it was always pointed out when we folded clothes.
So, yeah, stuff like that. Being alone. Having to fold clothes, make food, watch TV, decide if opening that bottle of wine is a good idea, because, well, you’re alone and it used to be a “together” activity to have wine. Along with eating dinner, and everything else in your life. And now, you’re alone trying to figure out who you are again. I guess on the upside, you don’t have to ask if she’ll have a problem with you brewing beer. Or if it’s ok to take off to the Swell for the weekend. Or spending hours working on the car. So there are ups. But when you’d committed yourself to someone, you kinda resigned yourself to being OK with discussing those things.
As everyone has said, and will say, it just takes time. In time I won’t assume that every interaction with women will just take me down the route of despair. I’ll stop thinking, “Oh yeah, you’re great, and hot and this is going good! But in seven and a half years you’ll just run off with a fucking grad student too!” But for now, I’ll just keep figuring out how to make meals for one, and yes, opening that bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for myself. Because why the fuck not?
One of the hardest things about moving on from my previous life are the memories. Obviously, I suppose. But hardest of all have been the tangible ones. When my now ex-wife ran away to be in the arms of another man, she took nothing to remind herself. No pictures, no sentimental items, she was even planning on leaving her wedding dress in the closet until I insisted on her taking it because really, what the hell was I going to do with it? She got off easy, she has some furniture and maybe some books that I gave her as gifts, and that’s it. I was left to literally clean out the home that we had shared for five an a half years. I got to pick over the memories of our eight years together.
I ended up throwing away most of it. Books, pictures, furniture, dishware… anything that had a tangible link was junked. All of her Christmas decorations, even the stuff she had had as a kid. That was hard because I wanted to be nice and get it back to her some how, but my friends said, “Fuck her, why would you want to be nice to that whore ever again?” So I didn’t, and just threw it all in the garbage. Her piggy bank? Yeah, I smashed that against an aqueduct at 1am on a particularly sleepless night.
When I finally moved into my own apartment I was down to the bare minimum of stuff, but I still keep finding things. A stupid turtle sugar jar she was so excited to find. A book mark shaped like a knight that she gave me because I was her ‘knight in shining armour’, books… stuff like that. Every time I find one, I throw it away or donate it. No reason to keep them around. Even functional things like a watch that I rather liked, but was purchased during our last vacation to Chicago, gone.
Yesterday I did one of the hardest things yet. I deleted all the photo’s of her or associated with her off of the file server. Perhaps it was fitting that it was Memorial Day. It was so difficult because I had to look at pictures of her. Her smiling, laughing, being her… the woman who I loved with all my heart. That I vowed to be with for the rest of my life… The woman who betrayed me in such a heinous way all in the name of instant gratification.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, her script was written for her. Her mom ran away from her dad when she couldn’t handle him being deployed. Her dad, whom I will add a caveat here and say I always really liked, went through a string of marriages or relationships that failed. And her extended family is riddled with divorce. So to her it was the normal thing to do and say, “Hey, I’m not happy. Rather than actually work on this, I’ll just start fucking my coworker and leave my husband. Yeah! Thats the ticket!”
Doesn’t make it hurt any less.
But I did it. I deleted all the pictures. Most, hundreds, I thankfully didn’t have to look at because they were buried in folders labeled, ‘Denver 2011′, ‘Justin’s 21st B-Day’, ect. ect. But there were enough to send me spiraling into the worst depression I’ve had in weeks. Thankfully, being Memorial Day there was a BBQ to go to, and people to be with. As I said in my last post, I’ve been fortunate to have family and a group of friends who have buoyed me in this time. And I’m moving forward with them in my life. As I was at the BBQ, I realized that Tomi would have hated this event. It was rambunctious, loud, people were talking over each other, cracking jokes, lawn games were being played. It was fun. And, not to say we never had fun, Tomi was always so reserved that it was hard to really be with a group like this because it was always so obvious that she was uncomfortable and I felt like I had to shield her. Well no more.
So when Memorial Day closed and I left the BBQ, I was again glad for the life that I’ve found myself in, even if it was not by my choosing. I’m making the best of it and I’m moving forward.