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Travis Time


            Travis was my Virginia Dan, a term that will mean nothing to those who are not the originators of this blog and stumbled here for other reasons or simply too drunk to use the internet properly. If you have read this far, you might as well stay and I’ll refrain from using the term furthermore and spare your tiny intellects from the egregious confusion.

            Travis first came to the shop at the same time as Tiff; they had gone to tech school together and had actually found that they had known each other as children in Germany; both of them being army brats. We first hung out the memorable night Tiff invited Tim Kyle and I to the Westgate, an Air Force bar that by convenient coincidence was located right outside the west gate before it was burned down by NASCAR rapscallions. Travis was there with his wife Kelly and we had an enjoyable but brief evening. Tiff had consumed a double Jack and coke too quickly and needed to be carried to the car and taken back to the dorms where Tim and I spent a good two hours walking her around the outside balcony.

            It was around that time that I started hanging out with Travis, Kelly, and Tiff more than the old group of Bryan, Bell, Tim and John, but eventually I managed to merge the two groups and make my calendar easier to manage. Even more convenient for me, if you will recall, Tiff ended up moving into their spare room and made it easy to decide where we would all hang out. Many a warm spring night was spent playing ‘Lucky Bastard’ on their terrace, drinking beer and listening to the endless supply of Bob Marley Travis had accumulated. They seemed to me to be a great couple although I found it odd that their firm advice was to never get married. Something I understand that everyone present completely disregarded.

            Drinking with Travis could be an interesting experience as he was completely uninhibited even when totally sober. In quiet evenings with just a few people present there was never a problem but a crowd of more than five had a way of filling him with boundless energy and zeal while removing any remaining reservations that may have lingered. On more than one occasion we were forcibly ejected from establishments or found ourselves in a position where we had to grab him and run after he somehow managed to incense a far larger group of more dangerous folks, like drinking Marines.

            He eventually took over my old habit of falling asleep in crowds of people and on a few occasions we decided to have some fun with it. Kelly was irritated with him one day for passing out when we were all over and got him back by painting his finger nails pink and then dumping all of the remover she had down the sink. As his wife, she could get away with more than the rest of us as I found out when I decided to enact my revenge for the Diggs Tournament decorating I had endured. When I passed out I asked for and received a nice Sharpie and used it to write ‘penis’ on his forehead and draw on a twirlly moustache. This action woke him up and he lurched for the bathroom to pee. A few moments later we heard him scream “oh fuck no!!” before he came charging out enraged. I owned up and he booted me from the house with a great deal of swearing and threats. Kelly later called me to apologize and the incident remained our one and only altercation.

            One of the fun parts of Travis was his habit of irritating people in the shop with little pranks here and there. I already mentioned the incident whereby he drew fangs on the Wing Commander’s picture; an act akin to burning the flag. At one point we ended up with a mid shift supervisor with no sense of humor. Travis took to stealing the Coke out of his lunch each night which would send this asshole into a rage where he would come by and individually grill us. I tried to get him to also take a single bite out of the guy’s sandwich as well, but Travis feared this insane prick would use the forensic evidence to nail him. I’m not so sure as he seemed fairly leery of Travis to begin with as he was in the habit of spontaneously loudly barking at random intervals during the nightly meeting. He asked Travis why he did that, and Travis responded by simply growling and the question was not posed again.

            In tech school Tiff had told me about a time he received a negative 341 (a form we were all forced to carry that those of superior rank could demand and write positive or negative comments on that would get passed to those in charge) for eating bush. It’s not what you think. Travis had been in formation (wherein independent motion is strictly forbidden) when he suddenly got the urge to turn his head and began loudly knowing on the large bush to his right. Travis confirmed that when he was called on the carpet for it, the commander looked down, saw what it was for, laughed and shooed him away.

            Travis, Kelly, Tiff and I became tight enough that we chose to ring in the millennial New Year together and celebrated the night by having a lobster boil at my apartment, and then walked to downtown Hampton to watch the ball drop and get some champagne. While we had all kind of been hoping something apocalyptic, disastrous, or at least interesting was going to happen at the stroke of midnight, nothing did and we cheered new-years-eve-1999-kelly-bennett-me-tiffany-fitzpatrick-travis-cartoskiloudly at the notion of never hearing the term ‘Y2K’ ever again. The following day it was gratuitous, however, to bear witness to all the nervous Nelly’s trying to return generators and year supplies of toilet paper that were apparently not needed.

            Since the run of the stories is now dealing with my end times with the AF, I’ll put an end to the blissful fond remembrances and get into the meat of how Travis and Kelly figured into the collapse and made it both more bearable and more agonizing for me. While we had always laughed off their ‘never get married’ admonitions, we thought they were solid, but sadly to say problems lurked. If you recall from the last story, I was left in the lurch when Bryan moved out. While my original backup plan was to take the spare room at Vaughn’s, by the month’s end I was already looking at him a bit more critically and convinced myself it was not a good idea. In short, it was becoming apparent that I was screwed and was asking anyone and everyone if they were looking for a new living situation.

            Travis stepped in and saved me at the zero hour. He and Kelly had agreed to a trial separation to see if they could work things out better with a little distance between them. Tiff actually brokered the deal whereby Kelly would take the second spare room at Vaughn’s and Travis would move in with me. While it was a sad day for Travis, it was a great one for me. The first couple of days were good. Travis was understandably a bit on the mopey side, but still a hoot to be around. Then came the night that Bowsher came over.

            I had gone to Harpoon Larry’s with Vaughn and Tiff on a Sat night and came back to find the apartment empty. Not a surprise as Travis rejected our invitation to come with so that he could get the old apartment ready for inspection before turning in the keys. I did my usual thing of turning on the TV and falling asleep on the couch while watching. I woke up to tense hushed whispers and saw Travis and Bowsher staring across the coffee table at each other with beers in hand. The look on Travis’s face was unreadable and nothing I have ever seen before. I asked what was going on and Travis advised I go back to sleep. When I asked again they both rose and walked out the door into the courtyard. I could hear shouting and before I could look, Travis charged back in and smashed the bottle against the wall.

            It took some time to get the story from him, but in sum, he had gone over to the old apartment and was surprised to see two cars already there. He peered in through the window to see Kelly and Bowsher embracing each other. He pounded the window and left. What I had awoken to was Bowsher following Travis back to come clean and admit he had been pursuing Kelly for some time. The kicker of course, and worthy of a classic Degrassi plot, was that Travis and Bowsher had not only been best friends, but worked together on the same shift and in the same specialty area in the shop. Usually one has to turn on Telemundo for such a story, but the tragedy had indeed come to my doorstop. 

            Needless to say, Travis was inconsolable and the next few weeks would seem never-ending. Making the situation more difficult was that another division was occurring among the ranks; this time not precipitated by Vaughn for a change. When any two people fall out, there is an inevitable dividing up of friends and in this case, although Travis was the righteously aggrieved party, a large proportion of those friends they had in common decided to go with Kelly; a real bit of salt in Travis’s wounds. For me it was clear that I stand firmly for Travis and decided to do the difficult thing and not try to see them separately as some were doing, including Tiff who was in the unenviable position of having a prior friendship with Travis but was also housemates with Kelly. Very messy stuff!

            I do not want to give the impression that the 1200 hours of anguish Travis experienced was not terrifically bad, but it was stressing me out considerably as well. Given his state, I made every effort to avoid leaving him alone, which meant many long days in the apartment he was not inclined to leave. In addition, his method of expressing grief was to play his music as loud as the stereo would allow. His play list consisted of the same few Fugazi songs with some Galanas Cerd and Some Soviet Station thrown in for good measure. Here and there he would play some of the stuff from his own old band, which was admittedly pretty good. Given, however, that my preference is to play music just barely creeping above the audible level, the continuous shrieking and pounding was driving me slowly mad. I looked forward to each work shift as an undeniable obligation to release me from the raucous din of hell unleashed. Once I was certain he would not bring himself harm, I eagerly accepted an invitation to fabulous Pittsburgh, which will get a story of its own.

            In order to direct his mind in more favorable directions, he picked up a couple of hobbies that relieved me considerably. First off, he took up skydiving with the funds he had smartly cleared out of the bank account when things started to go south. He prodded me to go with him, which I very much wanted to do, but could never quite raise the capital. Inspired perhaps by listening to the old melodies from bands past, he decided to re-enter the music scene with a bang rather than a whimper.

            Farm Boy was in a band with some friends of his in the Navy and he invited Travis to come down and play with them. This proved to be great for Travis if not so hot for Farm Boy. Travis utilized his natural charisma to direct the band in the direction he felt it should go. When Farm Boy put up some resistance, Travis and the band simply went ahead and voted him out of the organization he and another were the original founders of. I found it somewhat hilarious and the activity kept him down in Norfolk a lot giving me the place to myself.

            In an attempt to better control his surrounding, he took it upon himself to completely redecorate the place. This was something that needed doing anyway as upon moving in, Bryan’s mom had come up and decorated the whole place. Nice at the time as I didn’t have to pay for anything, but as he removed every last item it was pretty bare indeed but for the third hand couches from Tiff and my TV. Travis’ tastes were strikingly similar to Greg Brady’s when he decorated his attic pad in the classic TV episode. Hanging beads in all of the doorways, blinking psychedelic Christmas lights, and some other weird lighting effects hither and dither. His stereo and turn table took prominence over the TV to my dismay, and it was with careful negotiation that we divided the time between them. The only thing I could get him to watch, however, was ‘Fight Club’, which I think we popped in a total of 10 times. After this, the theme of the month was to refer to everything as “I am Jack’s…”, in a game of one-travis-cartoski-me-tiffany-fitzpatrick-some-guyupmanship of outrageousness. This is how the deer head got his name.

            Travis at that time also became known as Paco forevermore. Not for any particular good reason, except that I started calling him that as I tend to do with people. Tiff had much earlier picked up the nickname ‘Pumpkin’ and kept it for the rest of my time there. The three of us ended up as triumvirate alliance as things slowly went to hell, united in a frequent love of Harpoon Larry’s seafood after we claimed ownership of the place from the other competing groups. For a time, and before Vaughn was completely exposed and exiled, we were a somewhat exclusive clique, though included Celeste and Diana from time to time.

            During these famous Harpoon dinners I was introduced to the joy of ‘arsters’, what Travis called oysters, fresh from the bay and served up on the half shell with a squirt of lemon. I had always been a clam fan, but these succulent treats were something I simply could not get enough of. Ironically, the prevailing theory of my illness that percolated in my last days in the AF and nearly killed me soon after arriving home is that it was a virus carried by one of these self same arsters that slid down my gullet so easily. Travis also introduced me to the famous Waffle House home fried, smothered, covered, and in the ring.

            Once the Friday morning beer sessions came to a halt due to lack of attendance, Travis and I fell into tradition of enjoying a glass of single malt scotch and listening to his Gordon Lightfoot LP, ‘Gord’s Gold’ ad nauseum and talking philosophy and whatnot. I convinced him to change it up once for my Pogues tape, but we concluded that Shane McGowan’s melodious chirping was not quite as relaxing as Gord. Much like Dan, without a large group present, he mainly became somewhat quiet, introspective and yielded many flashes of philosophical brilliance one would not necessarily pick out from first impressions. Those mornings remain some of the best conversations I enjoyed. Tiff having no interest in this pastime declined to join us and found other things to do.

            The way the AF handled what happened between him and Bowsher I found reprehensible. Adultery is considered a crime in the AF, and although they could do nothing to Kelly as a civilian, they had the wherewithal to pursue Bowsher. He was questioned, would not admit to any wrong doing, so the matter was dropped. The only initial concession the shop was willing to make was to move Bowsher to another shift, although Travis still had to see him every day at turnover. When Travis took issue with this and wanted additional measures taken, they offered to transfer him to another base. It seemed strange to me that the best offer they could make the offended party was to move them away from their friends and support system during their time of crisis and leave the offender to merrily go about his day.

            Refusing the move, Travis looked for a way out all together so that he could stay in the area for a while but not have to see Bowsher. He moved slowly up the chain of command until the Wing Commander, perhaps having heard of the fang incident, denied his request with final authority. My last act before departing the area for good was to draft a letter to Congress explaining the situation and requesting an honorable discharge. Two months after I left, so did Travis.


2 Responses

  1. Now that you have learned to place photos in the posts, you need to add captions. What has happened to Tavis, Bowsher, and Kelly?

  2. Captions? Why must you people drag me into the 21st Century?

    Travis, disappointed that Virginians never learned the ways of his people, relocated back to the ATL, a place he described as the city of angels and lost souls (not to be confused with Los Angeles which boasts to be the city of angels and lost soles). There he joined several bands, including 1000 Fires, and became a biology student to boot. He also, by the way, was the only one in the shop to break my record for repair values in a calander year.

    Of Kelly and Bowsher, I never found out, though I do have some regrets there as I felt obligated to shun Kelly in order to show solidarity to Travis.

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