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October 15th

Random act of kindness.  Wow.

Last night I went to Highland Falls (the town right next to West Point) to do laundry and get everything ready for the weekend in DC visitng my mother and Atlanta to see Celine.  I started 3 loads in the laundromat and left to go top off on gas and put Rain-X on the windshield. 

Side note:  Everyone should Rain-X their windshield.  If you've never tried it, you honestly don't know what you're missing.  You don't even NEED windshield wipers when it rains if that stuff is on your glass.  Check it out.  Trust me.

Anyway, I came back after topping off the gas tank and putting Rain-X on the windshield to switch my laundry to the dryer.  By now it was about 8:45.  I left again to take the Trooper to the car wash at The Five Corners in Cornwall and to check and see if Blockbuster had any decent used DVDs for sale.  I'm not a big fan of the automatic "touchless" car washes so I used the one where you have to put quarters in the gizmo on the wall and then use the foaming brush and high pressure water gun and yeah, you get the idea. 

I picked up Stuck On You, The Untouchables, and The Punisher at Blockbuster and then tried to call my buddy Drew Scoggins from high school.  I got ahold of his fiancée Kelly and she told me he was in Africa working with some kind of construction company and that he wouldn't be back in the States until Christmas time.  I gotta keep in closer touch with that guy.  He was one of my best friends in high school and I haven't seen him since we graduated over 6 years ago. 

I finally left and got back to Highland Falls just after 10:00 which was about the time the laundromat closed.  The guy let me in to pick up my laundry, but it wasn't there.  NO LAUNDRY.  This was no good.  I remembered seeing a few other cadets in there earlier so I hoped one of them had picked it up for me.  I got back here and called a few of the people I had seen, but none of them had it. 

I'm not allowed to talk trash about our cheerleaders ever again because I got a call about 20 minutes later from one who had picked up my laundry, brought it back to the barracks, and FOLDED IT FOR ME.  I was floored.  I barely know this girl.  We had actually never spoken before I went to pick it up from her room.  She folded my laundry for me.  Holy Jeebus...  The world needs more good people like that. 

It's a good thing I bought all new Polo boxers and socks a few weeks ago.  That could have been embarrassing, you know?  Life lesson for you...  You never know when random people will be folding your underwear. 

-Tom

 

 


 

October 12th

So last night the yuks next door came over to visit.  Dre, Tom, Adam, and Rob asked if they could use my camera and this was the result:

Adam, Tom, Rob, and Dre.  4 of my Dirty Joes from the summer and now my neighbors.

 

FOR ME TO POOP ON!!! 

If you don't know what this is referencing, kill yourself, and then go watch Triumph the Wonder Dog.

 

Andre "Douglas MacArthur" Touafek

 

The future leaders of America, ladies and gentlemen.

-Tom

 

 


 

October 11th

Yolanda made me famous on her website yesterday.  Thanks much for the birthday shout out.

You're all probably tired of hearing me write/talk about skydiving, but I've got pictures this time.  I got 3 jumps in yesterday for my birthday, 2 of which were completely solo.  No instructor going out the door with me. 

 So THAT'S an altimeter...

 

The first jump of the 3 I learned how to do backflips while in freefall.  They're easy, but the first time you try it you're like "Uh... ok, that was kinda funky.  Let's do it again!!!"  You just have to be mindful of your rate of descent because when you're tumbling like that you fall much faster.  Instead of 130-150 mph, you're falling at 200+ which means you gotta be checking that altimeter often. 

To do one you throw your hands down quickly, bring your knees to your chest, and lean your head back.  As the air catches the backside of your calves it flips you right over.  If you hold the position you keep flipping.  To stop, you just go back to the neutral position and arch out really hard.

My 2nd jump was absolutely solo.  My instructor did a gear check in the bird and said "Have fun out there, but don't get dead."  I gave her a thumbs up, and took a running dive headfirst out the door.  Those exits are way "more gooder" than just stepping off sideways and going right into a stable position.  At 13,500' you've got all kinds of time to mess around and have fun so that's what I did.  I did a 720 left, 540 right, stabilized, saw I was at 9,500, did a backflip, did a TRIPLE backflip, dove headfirst for 5 seconds, and then fell through a cloud around 6,000'.  Incredible.  The cloud wasn't very thick so I went through it in just a few seconds.  You're not "supposed" to do that, but I couldn't help it.  It's official, I'm addicted.

The 3rd jump was what they call a "hop and pop" from 4,500'.  I have to do at least one to get my Class A license and the clouds had rolled in so I went ahead and got it knocked out.  You exit the door, count to 3, pull the pilot chute, and fly the canopy in.  On this jump my radio was non-existent so I flew her all the way in without any help from the guy on the ground and still managed to land 15 meters from the target. 

This picture is from Friday, but that's me.

My roommate Colin met Jason and I up there at The Ranch on Friday and we got to jump together.  He's almost done with his certification and they let him do almost whatever he wants. 

So, yeah.  If anyone ever wants to go with us, you should.  To all of you who STILL think I'm crazy or that I'm spending too much, you're either a very boring person or too scared to go yourself. 

-Tom

 

 


 

October 9th

ARMY WINS!!!  ARMY WINS!!!

Wow.  Mass hysteria doesn't even come close to describing what is going on around here right now.  Holy Jeebus...

Today was homecoming for us, and what better way to celebrate it than by breaking our 19 game losing streak.  Laugh all you want at that number, this team is back.  Yeah, Navy is 5-0 right now.  They've been playing some seriously weak teams and they know it.  Army/Navy this year is going to be all out war and just like the war that's going on overseas right now, Army is gonna stick it out to the end emerging victorious while the Navy loads up on their boats and goes home losers.  Yeah, I said it, and we're gonna back it up in Philadelphia.

Army vs. Cincinatti.  Better luck next time, punks.  We knew a win was coming soon; it HAD to be this weekend.  We were too pumped up for the game to be let down like a week ago.  That was brutal watching those kids play their hearts out and coming up just short in the last 41 seconds of the game. 

Instead of writing out a huge rundown of what happened, check out these pictures:

 Cincinatti scored first.  That was the last time they were in the lead because...

 

We came right back. 

 

And then again.

 

And... again.

 

Another touchdown?!?!  Hell, yeah.

 

Rock and roll boys...

 

BRING IT!!!

 

YOU'VE BEEN OWNED.

 

Ok, up until this point, we were having a great time in the stands doing our usual yells and taunts and such, but Brian "Crazy" Harris thought he'd step it up a bit.  That's him on the bottom, my boy Will Lee next, then the infamous PVT Stilwell, and then some midget plebe girl on top.  Craziness.

 

What goes up must come down...

 

The end of the game finally came and when I say "Mass Hysteria", I don't even come close to describing what happened inside that stadium.  Pandemonium, bedlam, lunacy, craziness.  Those might give you somewhat of an idea of what it was like.  Here's some pictures of us rushing the field and tearing the goal posts down. 

 

FINAL SCORE

 

Great day, it's gonna be a great night.  Tomorrow's my birthday and I'm treating myself to some more time in free fall with Jason.  Completely solo.  I'll graduate from the IAF (Instructor Assisted Freefall) school tomorrow so happy birthday to me.  Oh yeah, my parents got me THE GREATEST present.  Pajama pants with pints of Guinness all over them.  HELL YEAH.

-Tom

 

 


 

October 8th

Jason and I headed up to The Ranch today after lunch to get as many jumps in before dark as we could.  We got 3 jumps in before they called it a day because of darkness.  For the first time, my instructor let go of me completely and I was all on my own once I was stable in the air.  Karol, my instructor, had me do 360's left and right, hold a heading, and then try and dock with her after we separated about 35 or 40 feet from each other in freefall.

We never got that last maneuver to work because I weigh 205 and she's much less than that.  If I had to guess, I'd say I outweighed her by at least 80 pounds.  That's not good when you're freefalling because I fall faster than she does so she has to play catch up.  When she backed away and motioned for me to track towards her I did so, but dove underneath her.  When I realized what had happened, I went back to neutral and just kind of hung out because I knew she was ALOT more experienced (she has over 4,500 jumps) than I was and would catch me. 

All of a sudden I saw Karol come swooping down in a headfirst dive from high and right and then she did a few minor corrections and she was right in front of me again.  It was incredible how she looked like a bird in her dive to catch me and then slowed down and she was right there.  Made me laugh.

We tried to dock again and the same thing happened.  I dove underneath her, but I held the tracking position for a few seconds longer so I was about 100' lower than she was.  Just like before, she went into a headfirst dive and came swooping in from high and right about 60 feet out, just playing around, and stayed there until it was time to pull.  She wanted to make sure I knew I was all on my own and it was just incredible.  At 5,500' I waved off, pulled the pilot chute, let it go, the chute opened, and then I was under canopy.  I started getting more confidence in my canopy control so I started doing sharp left and right turns or spiraling down and...  Words can't describe the feeling you get when your freefalling and then under canopy. 

Since I was a little kid I've always wanted to fly.  It's always been my dream, but in the 2nd grade I had to get glasses and my eyes have gotten progressively worse over time.  They're stable now, but my uncorrected vision is something like 20/400 in the left eye and 20/375 in the right.  I say all this because you can't fly in the military without perfect vision. 

People ask me why I'm paying so much to do this.  If you only knew...

-Tom

 


 

October 7th

Tonight we had the 1st Annual Scooter/Dairy Relay Race Challenge.  A grand time, let me assure you.  This was supposed to be a "spirit competition" between the platoons in our company; each platoon had one representative from each class year compete and the winner got 2 days of PMI (that means you can sleep in your room during the day, a most excellent thing). 

I was the Firstie competitor for 4th PLT and even though we came in 2nd in the company, it was fun to watch...

We went from 4th to 1st class (lowest to highest rank in the platoon) and had to chug 4 half-pints of milk, take a lap around the building on Razor scooters, and tag our teammate so they could start chugging their milk and so on. 

PVT Stilwell started our platoon off, that's him on the left with the glasses.

And then Tom Pierczynski (Dirty Joe) took over, that's him on the left with the blonde hair.

And then Samantha Rossi, our Platoon Sergeant. 

And finally, yours truly.  The goggles make me go faster on the scooter.  Yep.

Yeah, REAL long hallway.  It's about 85 or 90 meters to the end.  This is only one side of the building; we had to come back on the other side to complete the lap.  REAL long.

Pete had a little trouble.  Any of you ever try to chug 4 cartons of milk back to back?  Not easy. 

We came in 2nd place, but it was a ton o' fun, and it was good to get my mind off things.  Hope everyone else is doing great either here at WP or elsewhere. 

Oh, one more thing.  I know it's not a good idea to buy stocks for the long-term payoffs and then check them every day, but I've already made 65 bucks in the last 2 days from the companies I bought into.  Ebay, Pixar, Amazon, Yahoo, and Google are gonna make me rich someday so make sure you're using those services or going to see those movies, ya heard???

Also, if anyone knows how I can get ahold of some Heckler & Koch (the gun manufacturer) stock, LET ME KNOW!!!  They're about to close a deal with the DoD to produce the rifle which will replace the M-16 and I want a piece of the action.

That's all for now. 

-Tom

 

 


 

October 6th

Random pictures... 

One of my Dirty Joes from this summer, Adam Bartsch, on the Q.

 

 

Les getting a close-up on the left.  On the right is another of my Dirty Joes from this summer after a birthday party.  That's super concentrated Kool-Aid mix, not blood.

This, however, is real blood.  Brent had an accident during drill one day and this is our recreation of what happened. 

 

Clay with another of my Dirty Joes from this summer, John Nielsen. 

 

Colin and Rob enjoying the $50 couch.  Rob's the one I had a conversation with that went something like this:

Rob: Yo, Two Six, check out our plant.

Tom: Sweet flower, dude.

R: (Beavis laugh)  Huh huh... Huh huh...

T: Ok Rob, what did you do now?

R: Huh huh... Huh huh...  I gave it Nitro-Tech.

T: You fed your plant protein powder???

R: Hell yeah!!  It's gonna get JACKED!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Andre Touafek.  Professional noisemaker, I mean entertainer.

 

Colin, the true guitarist and entertainer.

 

-Tom

 

 


 

October 3rd

Wow, emotional roller coaster of a weekend.  Went to the Firstie club Thursday night.  That's Chris and Jack.

Got to see what a reserve parachute looks like Friday afternoon, but finished my tandem skydives and had a great time.  I already wrote about that on the October 1st post, look below.

Saturday morning my company had a BBQ up in Ft. Putnam before the home football game.  Yeah, INSIDE Fort Putnam, the old Revolutionary War era fortress overlooking Michie Stadium.  I highly recommend you all consider having activities/events like that up there.  After we all had our fill and "socialized" for awhile we walked down to the football game.

Ah, yes.  The football game.  That has got to be the most heart-breaking game I've ever watched.  I'll explain.  We came out and scored a touchdown less than a minute into the game

 and then another a few minutes later

 and then a field goal before the end of the 1st quarter

  Yes, the score was 17-0 at the end of the 1st quarter and stayed that way until after halftime.  You should have seen The Corps going absolutely NUTS!!!  It was incredible. 

We were dominating another team for the first time since ANY of us had come to West Point as plebes.  Check out the down and yardage in this instance...

4th and 32!!!  Yeah, they punted on that one...

Army football has never done this well.  Times are changing, people.  Bobby Ross, our new head coach, is turning things around.  The guy's got more heart than any of us thought possible, and showed it yesterday.  One time, the referee missed a blatantly obvious block in the back on a punt return.  Bobby Ross went out on that field and absolutely tore into this ref and it was insane watching this almost 70 year old man thunder away at this referee half his age and the entire Corps of Cadets chanting in deafening unison "BOBBY ROSS!!!  BOBBY ROSS!!! BOBBY ROSS!!!"  as he told the ref what he thought of him and his officiating.  God, what a great feeling.  Finally we've got someone to bring our football program back to life. 

Coach Ross wasn't the only one showing heart out there.  Towards the end of the 1st half and more so in the 2nd, our players started getting hurt one after the other.  90% of the time, they'd go right back out on the field and keep at it.  The injuries started to take a toll and eventually we had a defensive lineman matched up against the TCU offensive line, wearing a cast on his arm.  This kid, my classmate Matt Maimone, was playing Division 1 football with a broken arm, and put the TCU quarterback out of the game with a trainwreck collision in the 4th quarter.  Just another example of how fired up everyone was and how badly we wanted that win.

TCU somehow came back late in the 2nd half and scored their 3rd TD with 41 seconds left.  Unbelievable.  Heart-breaking doesn't even come close to describing the the way we all felt.  Next time...

The program is turning around one game at a time, and I've got a good feeling we'll finally see some wins this season. 

Ok, so that was Saturday.  Today I headed up to The Ranch again to take an 8 hour class and get one jump in before it got dark.  I had an instructor hanging onto my leg strap as we left the aircraft, but I was in control and after she saw I was stable in the air and that I had done all the tasks I needed to during freefall, I was on my own.  At 5,500' I pulled the pilot chute out, let it go, the canopy opened, and I was a mile high in absolute control.  I had a one-way radio on my harness and an instructor on the ground talked me down, but it was me doing the flying.  Now I see why people get so hooked on this sport.  I'm gonna do whatever it takes to keep going as long as I'm physically able. 

-Tom

"If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming.  If you want to experience the element, get out of the vehicle."

 

 


 

October 1st

I am absolutely convinced I'm immortal. What with the incident this summer with Baker and what happened today while skydiving... Haha, wow. I've got some SERIOUS guardian angels on my shoulder. Rock.

Ok, so here's what happened.  First off, no mother, I didn't get hurt.  Jason and I went up to The Ranch today to finish our tandem jumps so we can get started on our solos on Sunday.  My friend Erika asked to go along and she had a great time, this being her first jump.  Jason and I met with our instructors who showed us what we'd need to do while in freefall to advance to the next level.  For the T-2 (Tandem level 2) jump we had to do 180 degree turns using only our legs and then pull the ripcord at 6000'.  Sounds easy, and it is.  It's still a hell of an adrenaline rush like I described before and this time I was in control the whole time.  The instructor was just there in case I forgot to do something, but everything went perfectly and he cleared me for the next level.  For T-3 we had to do two 360 degree turns using only our arms and then "track" for 5-10 seconds.  That means you bring your arms in pretty tight to your body and extend your legs out straight so that your body inverts by 45 degrees and you start moving forward instead of straight down.  After a little bit of that, I just kind of hung out and enjoyed the ride until 6000'.  I waved off, pulled the ripcord, and then...

As the chute opened I saw that it wasn't quite as square as it should have been.  I kept looking straight up as it deployed like we were told to do and then I started to feel some serious G-forces in my harness.  Something had fouled up just a bit on one of the lines and we were sent into a flat spin.  As I looked up, I saw the canopy and directly above that was the horizon.  Yeah, FLAT spin.  I just kind of hung out because I knew the instructor was right there and would fix the problem, and it was actually a hell of a fun ride, but then he cut us loose and we started free falling again.  He immediately deployed the reserve chute and it opened fine.  Once everything slowed down and I could talk to him, I was like uh... what was that all about?  He said he didn't know, but that everything was cool.  We landed, and a bunch of people were like "Holy $#!^ dude!!!  How you feeling?!  I've never seen that happen!  What was it like?!  Are you ok?!"  I didn't really know what to say, so I just started returning high fives and telling them that no, it wasn't scary, I knew we'd be ok, and that I actually thought it was a helluva ride.  Alot of the other instructors were joking about how I got 2 rides for the price of one.  Whatever, it was still a kickass skydive and I'm not about to stop going back. 

The safety record of this place is one of the best in the nation, and everyone I talked to said this was a seriously isolated event.  It's cool, I've got a sweet story to tell now. 

-Tom

"It is one thing to be in the proximity of death, to know more or less what she is, and it is quite another thing to seek her."  — Ernest Hemingway

 

 


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