So this one time.

I read about how to use salt water to fuck up pop machines and make them give you either all their money or all their sodas. This is how it works. You fill two liter bottles with water and then dump salt in them until they reach the saturation point. Then you go to a pop machine which was made before 1997 (the ones after have a different mechanism) and, using some sort of funnelling device, you pour as much salt water into the coin slot as fast as you possibly can. The theory is this. The coin recognition mechanism is electronic; it passes a current through the coin as it slides through and the circuit is broken when there is no coin. By pouring the salt water in, you create a steady circuit, thereby tricking the machine into thinking hundreds of coins are being poured into it. I'm not exactly sure why it would give you all the money instead of all the sodas, but I have it on good authority that it does.

In any case, Dylan and I thought it would be a great idea to test 'er out. So we roll around with hellzo salt water cruisin for ye olde pop machines. We figured that we wouldn't find any old ones in downtown Halifax, so we went to Bedford, and then Sackville, and then Cobequid... and then... well, more on that in a minute. So we go to all these pop machines and, really, there's no obvious way to tell how old a pop machine is. The outward design didn't really change from 1997 to 1998, and you couldn't really get inside and read the serial numbers on the mechanism (and if you could, you wouldn't have to pour salt water into 'em). Anyway, none of the ones we tried worked. And it was a bit harder than imagined to even pour the liquid into the slot. Using a makeshift funnel which didn't really work, we were spilling far more than we were pouring in there. It looked so funny, us goons standing in front of a pop machine in the middle of nowhere at like 3 in the morning emptying bottle after bottle of water into the machine to no avail. We were gettin' salty.

Before moving on, we noticed that we were both feeling a bit peckish. It being 3 and our pockets being lined more with malicious intent than any sort of currency, we decided the best spot to hit up would be Sackville's finest Subway. Working were what could only be classed in Sackville terms as "sluts". Two of 'em. A fine mischievious pair of teenage sandwich artists with the glint of lust in their eyes and the smell of meatballs on their digits. Rolling in, they immediately took a shine to us. Our poverty inducing brazenness, we asked for and received free combos. I even got extra meatballs on my sub. After gorging ourselves on our semi-grifted goods, and doffing our caps to our smutty benefactors, we hit the road again. In search of sweet lady soda pop.

So we decided that we'd have to go even further away from the updated technologies of Sackville and Beaverbank...all the way to balmy Rawdon. That's when things got horror movie.

See, there are two ways to get to Rawdon. The first way is easy and light-hearted: you take the highway. The second way is horrific and terrifying at 330 in the morning: you take a 40 minute pitch black utility road through the woods. I can't really accurately describe the road, but picture it like this. It is about as skinny as a two lane road can be. There is no shoulder to drive onto: it's road and then towering trees, and nothing in between. So here you are, in the pitch black, on a road you've never been on, on the verge of running out of gas (I forgot to mention that) and in the middle of the 40 minute drive, miles from the last house in either direction and your lights flash on the following sign just long enough to read it: FREE KITTENS! (and a phone number). I think Dylan and I rolled up the windows after that and prayed to God that we didn't run into whoever put that sign up.

So eventually we get to Rawdon safe and sound, and search around for more pop machines. The only one we find that's rob-able is at an old folks' home. We roll 'pon it and it looks pretty new. So, dejected, we turn tail and head back (on the HIGHWAY) to my native Dartmouth for a last ditch effort at making sweet soda lucre.

We end up, for whatever reason, at a Canoe Club whose soda machines I'd been eyein' the week before, as they looked suitably old time. So we get into theft mode, and roll up all sneak like on the machines and "pour some drinks" as we say in the business. Again, nothing. And we're out of salt water. At this point, we're exhausted and pissed, and in the pettiest fit of futile rage I can recall, we end up dumping the entire lost and found of the canoe club into the lake. Kids shorts, some sneakers, buoys, paddles, hats: we chuck the whole thing in. So, with a look of satisfaction on our smug little faces, we decide to resort to plan B.

Phone booths. Amid all my reading about pop machines I'd been reading about robbing pay telephones of their sweet monies. I'd heard that it was relatively easy to sever a pay phone from its stump and take it home with you, to crack open at your convenience. So, armed with a drill, Dylan and I sojourn to the depths of Burnside to find ourselves a suitable booth to grift. We end up, intelligently enough, with Dylan's Mom's car's headlights illuminating a pay phone we're about to rob directly beside the main highway from Dartmouth to Bedford. "Not clever...GENIUS". So the drill is proving far less effective than expected, for the following reason. To get at the part of the phone where it joins its stump, you have to bust the window beside it, or there isn't enough room to get your hand in there. Sounds easy right, just bust the window and you're done. Well, hardly as easy as it sounds. The windows are some kind of crazy reinforced glass, and busting them proves just as hard as saltin' up a pop machine. We're like drop-kicking the shit out of it (still in the headlights, mind you) to no avail. It just won't bust. So Dylan goes back to the car and pulls out a tire iron. Surely that will do the trick.

No dice.

Dylan, quite a strapping fellow mind you, is wailing on it with the tire iron and it's not even cracking. I decide that a running start is in order and I get a good 20ft sprint on 'er and jump-smash the thing, but nothing doing still. FINALLY Dylan smashes the window, and we realize that drilling the part we want is impossible anyway. A wasted effort.

Dejected, and amused, we went home. Twenty dollars in gas the poorer, for all our scheming.

Yesterday I stood upon the flight deck of the USS Intrepid (CVS-11). The carrier is a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and the people of New York have turned it into a museum, along with the experimental submarine Sturgeon. They have a static display of aircraft on the Intrepid's deck, including an A-12 Blackbird ( a sister to the famed SR-71), and a MiG-21. As I walked to the bows I could see a group of man gathered together ahead of me. They were all clad in sweats but listening to a very clean cut man in a beard, who seemed like a politician to me. At the end of his talk they cheered.

I noticed that one of them had an artificial leg. I looked again and noticed another. Then a man with two artificial legs. Another with a fresh 18" scar down his calf. Artificial hands. Hooks. A man in a wheelchair, a double amputee above the knee. They were all young and fit, and every single one of them bore the scars of war.

I do not know the death toll of Americans in Iraq. It's somewhere around 3,000 but the exact figure really doesn't matter. Most of our knowledge comes from TV. We watched our smart bombs obliterate Iraqi army positions. We hear the stories of suicide bombers and IEDs. We understand intellectually that people die and are mutilated in war, but that doesn't come to most of us. Even the images of flag draped coffins has been suppressed, lest our appetite for the present conflict diminish.

Here before my eyes stood another toll of the war, a cost rarely mentioned in the news statistics. A toll of men whose lives have been changed forever by war, who quite literally left part of themselves on the battlefield.

William Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is hell, which is a good thing lest we grow to fond of it." Any real student of military history soon learns that bonds forged in combat endure the long years of separation. . Why men walk fields and towns where bullets once crackled overhead, remembering the good when there was so much bad.

These men were hurt, and some will never walk again. But at least for that moment they were smiling and happy, their wounds forgotten with the joy of camaraderie. But to me the price also came home. I salute their bravery and patriotism, and I am glad America has such men.

I only wish their civilian leadership was worthy of them. I only wish their President possessed enough humanity to lose sleep over what he has done.


Boris went to sleep around three P.M yesterday in the lap of my friend Chris, He was glad to see her, and I wish I could have been there at his end. Strangely enough, sometimes it feels like he's there perched on my shoulder, like always.

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