My brothers and I back in the US just after I graduated from High School.
My motorcycle in High School in Indonesia - The Beast
One of 3 of the Mission airplanes - "Yankee Mike Bravo"
High School in Indonesia was fun. I finally started growing and getting picked on less and less until I could bring the hammer down on my bullies and best them or at least give them a run for their money. Sweet relief. I’ve always made sure to look out for other little guys too, since then. My first motorcycle was a Frankenstein of a creature. It was a Suzuki 185cc. I think it was a 1977 or thereabouts. Or at least one or more of the motorcycles that comprised its being was. It was light and quick because it was a two cylinder two-stroke engine. I loved that thing. My brothers and I cobbled it together one summer from spare parts and junked bikes in the garage. My older brother already had a motorcycle and my little brother didn’t have a license yet, so “The Beast” went to me. I painted a Flying Tiger’s shark mouth on the tank and was the terror of Pontianak on that thing. One time I decided to clean out all the carbon from my mufflers. I got most of it out in the shop with only afew fragments of it left in there. Shortly thereafter a buddy and I decided to take a trip into town. I was driving about 30 yards in front of him and the engine backfired and launched a smoking hot piece of carbon directly between the gaps in his button-up fly. It made for a puzzling spectacle in my rear view mirror. Driving there was dangerous as fuck. That’s all there is to it. Even if you survived the accident, if it was your fault, you might get hacked up with a parang a little bit. The lines on the road were there only as decorations and the only rule was…again: don’t die. Just for fun, there were other random factors at play as well. I was coming home from a basketball game late one night and suddenly the asphalt in front of me was gone and replaced by 100 yards of pea gravel. All I could do was stay frozen in terror and stay on the gas. I swam the bike all the way through it and came out the other side none the worse for wear except for afew shattered nerves, but that’s just the kind of thing you’d expect an Indonesian road crew to do for you. No signs. No asphalt. Pea gravel. Fuckin’ pea gravel. I also remember a few times I had to dodge a pissed off cobra on the road. For that you just pin the throttle and lift your feet up as high as you can.
I didn’t really care about school and was a dumb kid through most of it. I was always in trouble. I remember back when I was in first or second grade, my teacher asked if anyone had any questions. And, as right at that moment, I happened to be thinking of how, that afternoon, I was going to build an airplane out of blocks of wood from the woodshed. One that could fly. I asked a question about it. About the airplane. The teacher beat on me with the paddle for that one. There was no such thing as attention deficit disorder back then…well, maybe there was, but not out there… so I muddled on through and learned the best I could.
I had always wanted to be a pilot. I loved it when the mission plane would fly over. Any plane for that matter. Planes didn’t fly over very frequently there. I would always stop and look up in the sky with wonder at them. I can’t imagine what the Tribal people thought they were. Anyway, the mission plane was great because the pilot would sometimes buzz the school. Especially one of the pilots over in Sulawesi. He would buzz the school low, fast, and loud. First he’d pop out over the ridge with his engine cut and idling so we didn’t know he was there, then he’d swoop down on the school building and right above it he would open the throttle all the way and scare the hell out of all of us. Then we’d all bail of our classrooms and run outside and wave at him as he waggled his wings and flew away. He was great. Funny too. He died in a plane crash in Venezuela afew years later. His son was one of my best friends. He went on to become a Fighter Pilot flying F-15s.
I heard a story about some of the pilots on one of the other mission fields who were trying to do something nice for the kids around Christmas time. They had rigged a dummy to look like Santa into one of the planes. One of the pilots was going to fly over the school and throw the dummy Santa out into the jungle, then the other pilot, hidden just inside the jungle, would come strolling out with gifts and candy for all the kids. Unfortunately, and in view of all the kids, the Santa dummy came hurtling out of the airplane and “shacked” the school roof in a perfect dive-bomb. Direct hit. The kids were distraught, thinking that Santa had just plummeted to his death in their midst, in spite of the most noble efforts of the other pilot who came bounding out of the jungle with his bag full of goodies.
It was around that time that someone burned our house down with us in it. Good thing my dog started barking or my whole family would have been toast. We all made it out. It was about 4:30 in the morning so we only just woke up and ran out of the place before it burned to the ground in front of our eyes. The fire department never showed up. I guess we didn’t really expect it to. At the time I didn’t know what had happened, I thought it was an electrical fire, but years later I found out the truth about it. When I found out, I thought it over. But I decided not to go back and find the guy and kill him. I know who it was. We lost everything we owned. I don’t mind that so much. But ole’ boy tried to kill my family and he tried to kill me, and people are always trying to kill me and it pisses me off. But no... Water under the bridge and all that. That’s kind of the risk you took of living there. It was a truly amazing culture. Directly influenced by people either making living in the jungle, or people only just removed within afew generations of living in the jungle. It was a surreal and fascinating glimpse into the ragged evolution of culture happening before our eyes every day just as it does in our present, but to see it thousands of years from what you already know it to become, and see from the tribes still in the jungle to the people living in the city a span of the millennia, really made you think. It is simple. Elegant. They were exceptionally polite and considerate, extremely deferential and gracious to a fault, yet brutally violent and sudden when the time ever came for it. And we were living in it, so it’s just one of those things that we had to accept.
As I said, ever since I can remember I had wanted to be a pilot. Well, except Indiana Jones. I remember watching Indiana Jones as a kid and deciding that’s what I wanted to be…until I realized that I couldn’t, and then I was pissed. But other than Indiana Jones, I’d always wanted to be a pilot. And thanks to Top Gun – the highly edited version with all the swears dubbed out – and a tattered old Naval Academy Admissions guide that I had found lying around our library, by the 10th grade I knew I wanted to be a fighter pilot. All of the sudden I started getting A’s in everything. Not so dumb after all. My girlfriend was a beautiful Kiwi/Aussie girl. Her parents were one of each. But I never got to see her because her parents worked on an island far away. Over in the Malukus. I got to talk to her on the radio once though. Which was nice. But odd. Since every other missionary within afew hundred miles was listening in on our conversation. My senior year I was the Captain of the Basketball team and the Student Council President. Pee-Wee, the comeback kid! I received Congressional and Senatorial nominations to the US Naval Academy, US Air Force Academy, and the US Military Academy. I went for the Navy. In filling out the admissions packet the Medical equipment that was needed to conduct some of the tests was not available at the hospitals there, so since the Medical portion was incomplete, so was my packet and I was not offered an appointment. I was pretty bummed out. Hell, I was devastated. I had spent the past two years of my young life getting ready for this, and now nothing. I remember running barefoot 3 miles a day on a gravel and dirt road, studying my ass off, and obsessing over it for what had seemed an eternity. It’s hard to write about this stuff. I don’t like remembering all the feelings of disappointment and even shame when I found out that I couldn’t go to the Naval Academy. Everyone had very subtly let me know that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. It was such a long shot, especially given my situation, that I probably wouldn’t make it. Like I didn’t already know that. But I wanted so badly to prove them all wrong. And now they were right. All of them. Fuck. I get it now. I understand now. But I still felt slighted and ripped off at the time. I was pissed. I finished up my high school year and came back to the States in June 1995. I turned 18 afew days after getting back. I didn’t really have a back up plan for the Naval Academy so I thought I’d just go to the Missionary school that my older brother was going to, to kill time while I figured something out. To my surprise, during that first semester I got a letter from the Naval Academy inviting me to re-apply. So I went through it all again. I got another Congressional nomination and commenced to filling out the paperwork. This time the hospital that I went to for my physical failed to submit the paperwork to the Naval Academy. Yea. That’s when I decided: “Fuck it. I’m joining the Marines.”
NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.
All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022