My Long Term Gun Relationship


I’ve had a long relationship with guns. It started when I was a very young boy, the December that my Vietnam Veteran dad bought me and my little brother plastic army guns for Christmas when we were 5 and 4 years old. We both treasured them, and wore out the clicking rapid fire mechanisms, and snapped substantial components off of them within months. It was a sad day when those plastic toy guns went into the trash.

The relationship continued when as a young American lad I fashioned guns from appropriately shaped sticks, and tacked small boards together to create cowboy guns, cops & robbers guns, laser guns. Everything was a gun. I made drawings of guns, labored over creating realistic cardboard cutouts of guns, and made solemn visits to the department store toy aisle to inspect the latest selection of cap and water weaponry during my family’s infrequent shopping visits.

My feelings of fascination, love, and respectful admiration for guns rose when as a young man I was invited with some of Dad’s friends to “go plinking” with them one day. The feeling of a single-shot .22 recoiling against my shoulder was very grown-up that day, and I actually managed to hit the target with a handful of small shiny bullets before the rain began in earnest and we packed up to leave. The experience of that first “range day” caused my adrenaline and testosterone levels to spike into new territory. I fell head over heels for guns, and stayed that way for a very long time.

But then one day, the relationship changed for me. It was the day a gun saved my life.

The black clad jihadist militia men crouched along the dusty berm had never seen me before, and I had never seen them. They didn’t know me, or my adorable 2 year-old daughter back home with Mom some six thousand miles west of the Tigris River valley. I didn’t know them, or their motivated anger in defense of our perceived invasion. I didn’t fully understand their lineage of dissension and holy war, and they didn’t fully understand my desire to help liberate their land and faithfully execute my orders.

But there we were, a convoy of Coalition military trucks passing through their homeland. And here they were, risking their lives in an unwelcoming ambush of us which started when a rocket propelled grenade whipped across in front of my truck’s bumper and popped among the riverbank reeds with a smoky bang.

The rocket grenade was immediately followed by gunfire. A dozen Soviet-crafted AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles, gripped in two dozen dark and trembling hands, began spitting flame and jacketed shards of metal at our speeding convoy.

So this, THIS, is what guns are all about?!

Time really does slow to milliseconds when you are about to die.

SHOOT BACK, SIR!” my Driver yelled in panic from his seat behind the steering wheel.

I looked down at my gloved hands gripping the sun-warmed black metal of my own issued assault rifle and, for the first time ever, I saw a tool. An instrument of deliverance that would allow me to kiss my wife’s lips again after today, see the dark pools of sparkling eternity in my daughter’s eyes again after today. Not a cool plastic toy under the Christmas tree. Not a roughly hewn one-by-four with a couple bent nails and a dowel rod. Not a clear molded water pistol. Not an exotic target shooting sport gun. A tool.

In the next millisecond after noticing this tool in my hands, the safety lever was instinctively switched from SAFE to SEMI. Already trained out the window, my gun barrel swept across those black-robed attackers in the underbrush as I saw the flaming strobes of their blazing ambush in progress.

The shortest prayer I have ever prayed erupted from deep inside my core as I began to urgently operate this power tool of deliverance out the open truck window.

We continued to drive at maximum travel speed, and in moments the ambush was behind us and gone. I was unharmed.

Eyes blurring, body quivering, heart pounding, I looked down on the floor of my truck and saw the empty brass casings rolling and bouncing between my ankles. Rounds I had just fired.

At human beings…

…who were intent on taking me away from my wife and daughter, ending my purpose on Earth.

An inadvertent shudder went through me, and I at once desperately loved and viciously hated this smoking black tool in my hands.


I have not broken off my relationship with guns. I still keep them around, cleaning them frequently and testing them out occasionally. But the mystique has faded, and the attraction has waned. I will always be grateful for my training on these tools, and thankful that these tools have afforded me the chance to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding someday, and to meet her darling little sister and hilarious baby brother a couple of years later. These tools have enabled me to grow old with my precious wife, and it is my hope that these tools will prevent us from becoming statistics or victims in the future.

Forever more I am destined to continue this relationship, not out of desire but out of necessity.

But the thrill is gone.

I had the presence of mind to preserve one of those 5.56 casings from the floor of the 5-ton that day, and it is matted within my framed Jody Harmon OIF print today as a memento.
This piece was first published in a special #Guns feature online at Memoir Magazine in Summer 2018.


In Memoriam of the Honorable Sen. John McCain (August 1936 – August 2018)

Day 5: Part I ~ October 6th, 2015 ~ Tuesday Morning – Hanoi, Vietnam

*** Each day was so overwhelming, so full, that more than one blog post is needed. Hope it is fairly easy to follow.***

Mornings in a windowless hotel are interesting, yet I awoke refreshed. Burt was showering, so I checked email on the decent wifi signal and prayed quietly, waiting my turn in the shower. We have been informed that today we will be meeting with Montagnard pastors, and we’re scheduled to fly to South Vietnam and Saigon this afternoon.

After Burt headed downstairs for breakfast, I prepared for the day and was just finished dressing when the bedside phone rang. It was Burt, calling to let me know that Minh had organized a last-minute trip to tour downtown Hanoi and visit Hoa Lo Prison.

The Hanoi Hilton.

I was frozen for a moment, and just stood there with the phone in my hand.


Yes, I’m here. I’ll be right down.
But what about devotions?

He said we had to leave in 10 minutes, so we’ll postpone devotions for now. After blindly scrambling around the room to shove my wallet and passport into my pocket and grab the room key, I hurried downstairs only to find that not everyone was ready yet. Thankfully, I had time to select a few items from the breakfast buffet while we waited for the group to be ready.

Mind spinning, I climbed aboard the van and after a short drive we pulled up at a large orange/yellow building with ugly walls and barred gates, with the words “MAISON CENTRALE” over the arched entrance in dirty white letters. The majority of the sprawling Hoa Lo Prison was demolished two decades ago, but the gatehouse remains along with a portion of a cellblock, with the intent to be a historical museum and symbol of Vietnamese nationalism. I was not fooled, and could not stop the tears that began to fall with abandon the moment I stepped onto the sidewalk.

Minh went over and purchased tickets for all of us, and then we walked in the main entrance and turned right down the hallway. We slowly and quietly moved past locked cell doors, peering into dark holes of rooms, each with a tiny barred window high on the wall. The air seemed chilled and clammy, and antiquated electrical circuitry traced along the corridor walls, fragments of an alert system long silent. I was deeply affected, and raw with barely contained emotion.

As we walked, I thought about the resilient hopefulness of American Prisoners of War once kept here, who walked these depressing halls and trod this heartless ground. I thought about how Isaiah 61 talks about how God’s Spirit brings “freedom to the captive”, and how in my own life and in the lives of my parents, freedom from the captivity of the traumatic past leads to unquenchable hope for the future.

Probably because they knew they had screwed up, the Vietnamese Government has dedicated most of the prison to their own patriots and hero citizens who resisted French occupation to form a sovereign nation. There are parts of the museum dedicated to the daring escapes of Vietnamese prisoners.

A sewer grate supposedly cut thru by Vietnamese patriots.

A proclamation handwritten by U.S. prisoners, at the strong invitation of their captors.
There is also a part of the prison museum dedicated to United States military prisoners of war. There are carefully worded captions and signage explaining the loving and caring treatment extended to American POWs during their stay, and how in spite of the cruel bombing these prisoners had carried out, they were cherished by the North Vietnamese government. I know from reading personal accounts of our servicemembers, memoirs written after their return and personal observations of the hobbled physical toll almost 50 years later on these men, that these signs and messages are untrue.


Draped by an ejection seat parachute canopy, there is a well-worn U.S. Navy flight helmet and flight suit on display in a tidy glass floor case, with Senator (CPT ret.) John McCain’s name on the name tape. In the corner next to the glass case is a short bed frame of brass or iron, with a thin lumpy mattress and threadbare blanket, which museum guests are asked to believe was the bed he slept on during his imprisonment. They had flight plan charts with targeting map overlays, and all types of propaganda all over the walls and displays. I cannot hate them for that, as “shaping the message” was one of my primary tasks in Baghdad. But it was all very sad and real, and at that moment I was anything but a tourist or sightseer.

I stood transfixed in that room, surrounded by bomb shards and captured intel and Navy issued gear, and soaked it all in. There was a feeling of antiquity and historical significance in the room, and I could also sense a faint fragrance of pain, grief and heartache on the soft breezes in this drafty wing  of what was once a sprawling above-ground dungeon fortress.

The rest of our group had moved on to another section, so I hurried to catch back up with them at the back of the museum. Walking out into the narrow alleyway behind this gatehouse structure of Hoa Lo Prison, I noticed we were blocked in on three sides by high stone walls with glass shards embedded along the top. The fresh air was nice, and as I rejoined our group, Minh was explaining the story of the adjacent commercial development. I craned my neck to look above the back wall, and there stood a majestic and towering luxury hotel, The Somerset Grand Hanoi! The land is owned and managed by a massive Asian hotel and residency service corporation now, and they have built a wonderful modern “Hilton-esque” property on the site of the prison, which daily employs and serves thousands of people. Genius. Overwhelming happiness and joy flooded my spirit as I watched the sunlight glint from hundreds of picture windows high above the city.

Rebuild. Repair. Revive. Restore.

I had seen enough, and as I was walking out thru the gift shop, a display of postcards caught my eye. Each was a black & white photograph of American POWs from the Vietnam War, taken in-country during their imprisonment. I had the impulse to buy the entire pack, so I did.

Privately, symbolically, America’s POWs flew home to the US with me a few days later.


Although  the back alleyway was open to the elements and light had been streaming in, coming back out thru the front gate with the ugly lettering was a relief and the sunshine seemed brighter as self-absorbed morning moped commuters ambled past on this quiet and lightly-used street.

A very friendly man on a Honda taxi dirtbike made eye contact and came over to me with a huge smile. It was not clear if he wanted to befriend me or the U.S. currency in my pocket, but we exchanged one or two sentences in broken english, then he saw that I was sort of distracted and distant. “Ok?” he clumsily asked with a thumbs up and a nodding smile. I gestured behind me at the façade of the prison and said something to the effect that “this place makes me sad”.

“Ok, ok!”, he nodded, and then fumbled with his saddle bag to pull out an old-style pea green “steel pot” military helmet with a mix of various national flag insignia. He seemed to be asking if I would don the helmet and allow him to take a picture of me in front of Hoa Lo Prison, no doubt for a small donation. In spite of the sadness in my heart, I chuckled and said “No you wear it for the picture!” The result was hilarious, and I did end up giving Honda Taxi Biker a small but tidy sum of $1.00 USD or 20,000 Dong for his efforts. It was a cheerful exchange, and I was feeling lifted as the rest of our group came wandering out to the sidewalk to climb back in the van.

After we pulled back out into the morning Hanoi commute, I was able to briefly share my background, testimony, and parental history with the group. It was a powerful moment, and the team seemed to view me in a different light at the conclusion of my sharing.


Sen. McCain’s body will Lie in State at the U.S. Capitol this week, only the 31st person to be so honored in over 166 years. Welcome home, sir.
For more of my fascinating 2015 journey to Vietnam, please visit:  You will discover more than you expected to find. ~DD

The Story of Mary Helen’s Healing

As told by her mom, Julie Dutilly


When our second daughter Mary Helen was about 18 months old she began having stomachaches at night. When they became more frequent in early 2007, we took her to the doctor in Florida but they couldn’t find anything wrong. In October of 2008 we moved to North Carolina. By August of 2009 her stomach problems were really bad, and she had stopped playing and almost completely stopped eating.  In mid-August, after a week of Mary Helen dealing with vomiting, I called her pediatrician in fear that I was slowly watching my tiny 4-year-old who weighed only twenty-three pounds starve to death. The doctor met us at his office on that Sunday morning, ran tests, and concluded that whatever was going on was serious and that a diagnosis was badly needed. Mary Helen recovered after a few days of rest and nausea medication, and we waited a couple of months to see a Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Brenner Children’s Hospital to hopefully get some help. During this time I was praying and begging God to help us find an answer or just heal her right now.

In November 2009, we went to Brenner for the first time to see Dr. Hill.  He listened intently, asked lots of questions and came up with a diagnosis of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), pending a couple of tests he wanted to order. Mary Helen began taking medicine to help with her stomach issues which the doctor described as “migraines in her stomach”. The medicine helped and Mary Helen began to improve. There were several setbacks with her failure to gain weight, additional discoveries, and medicine changes, which caused us to see other specialists. I continued to pray and ask God to just heal her outright.

In October of 2011, Mary Helen began to have pain in her legs to the point she couldn’t walk for than 5 minutes at a time. We took her to her Pediatrician and they took x-rays and ran blood tests. One of the blood tests came back and the doctors told us that Mary Helen had tested positive for arthritis. This was a blow. What’s going on God?!  We were referred to a Pediatric Rheumatologist at Duke University Hospital with the soonest available appointment being February of 2012.  I knew she didn’t have arthritis, and I contemplated cancelling the appointment many times over the next few months. As we got closer to the Duke appointment date, I began to hear God tell me, “Your Answer is there.”

With much skepticism, we went to Duke in February. They examined her and I overheard whispering between the doctors about something called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I never got to ask about it before we were whisked away quickly for an EKG because her heart rate was irregular enough to concern them. Eventually we would head home with very few answers and a possible new diagnosis of issues with her heart. We were very dismayed, but as soon as I got home I remembered the overheard conversation and began to research Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It didn’t take long for me to realize that what the doctors had been talking about was a genetic connective tissue disorder that affects the entire body, often inherited maternally. As we would come to find out, this was our Answer.

Our appointment at Duke was on a Friday. Early the following Monday morning, we got an urgent phone call from Duke that Mary Helen needed to see a Cardiologist immediately, and that they had set up an appointment in 2 hours! We scrambled to get ready and rush out the door with very little time to digest this new bump in the road and new round of tests.

Everything came back borderline OK, but a Cardiologist would now be added to Mary Helen’s list of doctors, which had grown to include a Pediatric Gastroenterologist, a Nutritionist (for something insidiously called “failure to thrive”), and a Pediatric Neurologist (for the “migraine-like” aspect of CVS).

At the end of the week, Duke called back requesting yet another new appointment and a new specialist that we need to see, a Geneticist.  I was floored. What next?!

Mary Helen had been doing so well with her CVS that when we saw the GI in May of 2012, he decided to see how she would do if we discontinued her medicine. Still waiting on our Genetics appointment, we took her off her medicine for CVS and declared to the world that she was healed. Our line in the sand was 3 months off medicine because it would take that long to completely get all of the medicine out of her system. During months one and two, June and July, she was doing great! But then in August, right at the 3-month point, Mary Helen again got incredibly sick.

For 7 days she couldn’t keep anything down. We saw the doctor and they wanted to hospitalize her immediately. I asked the doctor to give us a couple of hours and if it didn’t improve we would do that. I prayed the whole way home and when we got inside I began to give Mary Helen small sips of water, with total faith that she would keep it down. She did! Thank you Jesus! With the news that she was able to keep fluids down, the doctor agreed to let her stay at home. Over the next several hours and days she slowly improved, but after this scare the doctor made the decision to place Mary Helen back on her medicine to safeguard against further episodes. The healing that we had proclaimed felt like it was becoming another disappointment.

During this low time I had a conversation with my pastor, and when he asked me how I was doing, my answer was, “Honestly? I’m angry, hurt, and disappointed with God.” I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “That’s OK, just don’t stay there.” It took a little while, but after a short season of venting it all to God I was quiet and in that quiet I heard God say, “Don’t diminish her purpose.” Clinging to those words of revelation and comfort, my heart slowly began to heal and I began to have Hope again.

Towards the end of 2012 we had our first Genetics appointment and Mary Helen was officially diagnosed with genetically inherited Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). We were told she would need to see a Geneticist at least once a year for the rest of her life.

We adjusted to a life with an array of doctors and a list of appointments that kept us at Brenner Children’s Hospital for an 8 hour day every 6 months, a whirlwind of information and tests which were necessary as we learned to deal with this official diagnosis. Through it all we continued to pray for Mary Helen to be healed.

Over the next 5 years we would slowly begin to see the evidence of her healing. First, we were released by the Rheumatology department with a clean report of no arthritic symptoms, and then were released by Audiology. Yes, even Mary Helen’s ability to hear had come into question, but this was ruled out once her hearing tests were stable for 2 years.

Eventually, once no heart problems could be found, Cardiology released Mary Helen, followed by Gastroenterology releasing us as her GI stomach issues began to clear up. In turn, Nutrition released us as Mary Helen attained a healthy weight gain. Finally, with no more migraines and all trace of CVS gone, we were released by Neurology!

Back in 2012, when her Rheumatologist made the original diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome it had been confirmed by two different Geneticists. So now in the midst of all this improvement, Mary Helen had only one cautionary specialist left, Genetics, with checkup appointments once every year or two. I was ecstatic. God had slowly healed her symptoms, and I was content in the situation where He had placed us.


Because Mary Helen hadn’t been seen in about 2 years, in July of 2018 we were scheduled for a routine appointment with a new Geneticist, as our previous doctor had moved away a few years before. Significantly, this appointment had been scheduled months in advance, but would end up taking place at the exact mid-point of a 21-Day Holy Fast which our church was observing across the corporate body of believers. The resulted of this was that starting on the morning of Mary Helen’s appointment and throughout the day, there was a significant core group of intercessors who were lifting her up in prayer, having walked beside our family for the last seven years of Mary Helen’s journey with EDS.

At our appointment, the doctor went through the normal process of checking joint hypermobility, skin examination, taking measurements, and other indicators of this genetic condition. When the exam was finished, the doctor said that she wanted to re-evaluate Mary Helen a second time for EDS. As she began a new evaluation, she noted that Mary Helen’s skin wasn’t overly thin. Thin skin tissue was one of the markers of EDS which was very evident in Mary Helen’s original diagnosis. She also observed that the degree of Mary Helen’s joint hypermobility was reduced, from an 8 to a 6 as measured on the Brighton diagnostic scale. After checking a few other “markers” and once again reviewing her medical history, the doctor looked over at me and calmly told me that Mary Helen no longer has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

The Geneticist continued, “You can remove this tag from her now. After today, you never have to come back.” It was the doctor’s voice that spoke out these words, but in my Spirit I could hear the voice of our loving heavenly Father speaking unimaginable, miraculous, healing restoration.

“You can remove this tag from her now. After today, you never have to come back.”

I’m not really sure what happened after that, but I did think to snap a quick, slightly blurry, picture to commemorate the moment.  In a daze, we made our way to the car in silence and complete shock. I called Daniel when I got to the car and relayed the facts of our new reality to him, but I still couldn’t process the meaning behind the words.

As we drove home from Brenner Children’s Hospital for the last time, Mary Helen began to cry and I asked her if she was ok. Her reply was priceless.

“It’s finally over.”

I drove speechlessly, in awe of my God. I could not find words enough to tell Him thank you, knowing that from this day forward, nothing anyone could ever say to our daughter Mary Helen would ever convince her that God does not heal, does not restore, and does not revive.

When we got home I called several friends who had been prayer warriors with me for Mary Helen’s healing throughout this journey. It was time to tell our testimony.  Eventually, it all began to sink in with each retelling and the reality of Mary Helen’s TOTAL healing brought me past shock to tears.

Which it still does.

We are in awe, because science would tell us that the only way to be rid of a genetic disease is to change the carrier’s genetics. Not only did God slowly heal each part of Mary Helen’s body over a period of time, He even went so far as to change her DNA so she would no longer have the tag of a genetic disease. God changed and healed our daughter’s DNA, one cell at a time, one drop of healing oil at a time.

And now she is whole and healed.


The power of prayer should never be underestimated, and when you receive tangible, physical evidence of it’s power, I implore you to do what my wife & guest blogger has done. WRITE IT DOWN. We both hope this story has encouraged and inspired the reader, and we give God all the glory for the healing of our daughter. – DD

The Healing Continues

Evidently, I still struggle when a Muslim woman in a head-to-floor, black hijab walks into the cramped quarters of a lucratively located neighborhood coffee shop. She’s not really a she. It is a dude fresh back from Yemen with a bomb strapped underneath the fabric of his man-dress, and that cell phone in his hand is actually the detonator.

In my mind a picture of body parts erupts with a roar, flying from that side of the room in charcoal gray clouds of smoke, particles and the deliciously off-putting odor of burning cordite.

Women, or men disguised as women, wearing black hijabs can be a real pain in the brain, torso, and limbs, given the right circumstances. You know, the right circumstances? A dusty alley in Baghdad, or following a donkey cart with some 105mm shells under the hay and straw, or 13 years ago in the summer heat of Ramadan. And what about a hipster coffee shop?

A curiosity, that seeing a figure clad in a hijab still fills my insides with a crackling, sparking current of energy these many years later. I try to freeze a mild look of disinterest on my face as I glance at the other patrons, but the rapid thumping of my racing pulse is peculiar. Suddenly on guard, my alertness is at a peak and I really can’t look away and ignore. Something about “her” keeps me focused, to the point that I mentally calculate whether the very attractive and slightly effeminate guy sitting nearby on his laptop looks strong enough to help carry the litter urgent casualties outside, or whether or not the cute twenty-year-old in her scrubs, ready for a day of work, is an actual nurse or just a cosmetic technician from the beauty “enhancements” salon nearby. Sure would have been nice if she had been a RN so she could have helped me handle all of these trauma victims.

Wait. There are no trauma victims here. No suicide vest was just detonated in line. She may actually just be a woman raised in a culturally different land and sent to the States for a degree. This room may just be a bunch of middle-class workers and some college students grabbing $5 coffee to start their day.


Get a grip, and quit being such a sissy, cliché ‘war vet’ who sees Charlie behind every shrub and palm grove. Stolen victimization is just as bad as stolen valor. “Oh yeah, but what about ‘Be vigilant, because your adversary is a roaring beast seeking out who to devour next’. What about ‘evil triumphs when good men do nothing’? What about that?” A tiny smile flits across my face at the internal argument taking place between my soul and spirit, and presently the barista calls my name.

The hot cup warms my hand as I stroll outside, gingerly stepping past the dangerous line of customers still at the cash register. It feels good to put some distance between my back and the plate glass coffee shop windows as I range-walk to the car.

And the healing continues.

This piece was published in the Winter 2018 edition of Blue Nostalgia: A Journal of Post-Traumatic Growth, Vol. 3 | Military Experience & The Arts where my hope is that it will encourage and uplift. -DD



The oily and translucent deep purple of the beast’s skin gives barely a dim reflection as it glistens in almost total darkness. A humid stillness of death and decay hangs in the damp warmth where the beast rests in its filthy lair at the largest part of its funnel-like cave dwelling. There are bones and curling dried sinew, bits of gristle and teeth-marked remnants of cartilage littering the floor of the lair, in hills and troughs of refuse generated over the course of eons. Not as much as might be expected, yet the sheer volume of human bone and human remains that mounds and scatters across the expanse of the funnel cave’s base is layers deep and enormous.

A slowly expelled breath comes belching from deep within the beast, delivering a new wave of tepid and putrefying rot stench into the malodorous cavern. The breath is in stereo from two gaping mouths, one on each side of the blunted crag of its skull. In the center of the beast’s anvil head, dozens of slitted eyes bore down the funnel to the spout entrance, every sense sharpened to the next victim’s arrival.

Voluntary prey– one of creation’s most unique dichotomies.

An intricate set of mechanisms line the narrowing walls of the funnel spout tunnel, exiting in progressively narrower archway rings to the bright sunlight of the cave’s mouth. These carefully and meticulously crafted works of engineering embedded into the thick and dripping walls of the beast’s funnelcave are a sight to behold. Gears and conveyors, rocker arms and worm gears, woven amongst actuators and other-worldly hydraulic lattices which spread like tarnished bronze spider webs reaching high overhead. Self lubricating and honed to precision from constant use, the entire engineered system of complexity manipulates an ultra lightweight but wickedly effective set of rail mounted barbed pincer hooks, which cycle continuously inward in a plodding and silently uninterrupted rhythm.

Rays of sunlight reveal a shaded opening at the funnel’s spout entrance, where a base instinct, a carnal drive, summons prey toward the snare of this savage cave. From outside, some type of ancient holographic deception gives the vicious hook tram system a playful and very attractive appearance.

Alluring, sweet, exotic, and of course deeply arousing are the sights, smells, and sensations that enchant these hooks as they beckon a passing soul to take a second look. Explosive colors and images swirl in welcoming four-dimensional tendrils, accompanied by artificially conjured sounds of rapture and delight, mastery in their mimic. Sacred shapes that had been crafted at the beginning of time to trigger and excite and beckon, appear to dance and glimmer in a symphonic array of endless pleasure as they parade past. The carefully formed hooks have been fashioned to closely map the surface appearance of these ancient shapes, perfectly imperfect decoys. Absolutely deadly decoys.

Upon stopping to admire, a hypnotic surge and longing at once begins in the very hormones and pre-historic genomes of each potential victim. And they voluntarily relinquish a first instant of control to the enchanted mechanism, for which they are rewarded with a quick burst of satisfaction. And then another. This for that. An exchange of control for a morsel of erotic bliss. Power for stupor.

And the mechanism draws them in.

And the mechanism moves them up the funnel.

And they willingly, occasionally hesitantly at first, allow themselves to be conveyed inside. Ever deeper, ever unsatisfied, but ever seeking satisfaction. As the outside light fades and inner darkness descends along the otherworldly rails deeper inside, pleasure starts to have a bitter taste.

And the mechanism becomes a fearsome trap, a biting and coldly effective torture manacle that locks and restrains and lays open any skin it touches. Once in the zenith of the funnel, prey to the left and right is snapped up viciously by the beast as the mechanism delivers up its prizes as it was designed to do. The beast rages with unquenchable anger as it tears into the victimized prey without mercy. Brutally shocking is the stark transformation of that which beckoned from the outside with such alarming allure, to that which is now in an instant so terrorizing and full of carnal menace.

The beast roars in livid fury, “LUSTUS IS MY NAME!”

And for the prey there is no escape. The only hope is rescue.


Concept artwork is an original painting done by my brother, envisioned after reading my short tale. -DD
 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

I Heard It.

I heard a horn.

The tune they were jamming up at the front, it had a splender and a groove to it that was both fat and refined. New, yet comfortably pleasant. Something familiar, but something which in fact had never been played or heard before. Creative and fresh. A New Groove.
The amplified guitar was crisply pealing, and the snare popped a solid rhythm as the cymbals twinkled and bass kick thrumped alongside. Simple chords bobbed from the keys, a 4 and a 1 and a 4 and a 1, right in the pocket where they belonged.
But in it’s completeness I could hear something that wasn’t there. The urgency that suddenly crept up inside me was exciting but also confusing. It totally needs a horn. The horn is missing.

Where are we going to get a horn?
Is this, that horn I hear in my head, the beginning of a brass section actually making sense for the first time and not just someone else’s preference or idea?
As the New Groove leapt and curved, the horn notes in my head were as plain as reality. My ears didn’t hear them, but nonetheless they were there, just as they were supposed to be. As they had been prophesied.
You are letting me hear things, aren’t You? Things that Are Not as though they Were?
The evening moved along, and as revelation unfolded and facets were polished, the horn took a backseat on the bench of my mind.
There is an ebb and flow to supernatural presence sometimes, and here at the end of the evening, we have found ourselves in one. We have gathered densely for the conclusion, and for a closeness of unification to resolve ourselves until next time. From the outer fringe of things where I like to dwell, it seems like I am on the edge of a thick grove of human undergrowth, various heights, various types.
And then somewhere obscured within the grove of us, as the atmosphere rests calmly in a momentary suspension, as a reprise of The New Groove stretches out for a last farewell, a horn begins to play.
It rises, extending itself up, out, over. With a sound like a light umbrella web of golden oil, an honest to goodness horn starts playing.
Like a fullback after a stunning tackle, I stumble back and turn away as my emotions begin to crumble. I drop to a knee, leaning against a few chairs at the end of the front row, and begin laughing and crying at the same time. I can barely comprehend this.
Someone in the grove of humanity, as improbable as it sounds, just took the opportunity during our wordless Selah and began playing a soprano saxophone. With unusual skill, no less.
How or why there came to be an individual in our gathering tonight with a brass horn instrument I have not the faintest idea, but as the currents and dancing ripples of the horn joined in with the other instruments, I force in some deep breaths and wipe at my eyes.
According to Amos 3:7, the Sovereign Lord does nothing without first revealing His plan to His servants. And for this creative heart of music and worship tonight, Amos 3:7 was in full effect.


Faith Strengthens By Hearing

June 13, 2016

لقد تغلبت على العالم

I first heard about the late night attack on a nightclub in Orlando at about 1pm Sunday, and struggled to get my mind around how some media and government people were calling it a “crime”. In my gut I knew that this was not a hate crime, but a very effective insurgent attack on the American mainland. The Sunday evening news had more of the same, and categorization as a law enforcement matter began to stress me out; to me it seemed dishonest of them to call what happened a crime. I went to bed late, and had fitful bouts of sleep amidst the turmoil in my soul.

The media message-shaping and anti-2nd Amendment rhetoric had slightly lessened by Monday morning when the word was out that the attack had been claimed and attributed to ISIS, but that began to present even more deeply disturbing thoughts and feelings in me as I watched the morning news reports. I have “skin in the game”, so yes, I do occasionally seek unbiased reporting on the state of our Nation. I am aware that most of the “news” is bad, but I am personally called to be a voter and be aware of the times. It’s part of my character.

The way I see it, this ad hoc terror group known as ISIS is a 4th or 5th generation of Al Qaeda and similar Islamic militancy. In 2004, I served in the United States Army and deployed to Iraq to help fight against the 1.5th or 2nd  generation of AQ, known by many names but comprising terrorists of all flavors intent on damaging peace. Islamic Militants are the only people who have ever attacked me directly and personally, tried to kill me personally, and on Sunday morning, a 4th or 5th generation insurgent operative attacked and killed Americans on our own soil down in Orlando. This felt like an immediate and total failure, both to me and to the memory of my brothers and sisters who died in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting these people on their soil.

The anxiety and sense of catastrophic loss mounted as I prepared for work, and I sat very still on my couch this morning after getting dressed, thinking and praying.

We would never be mourning the loss of life today if the military had done our job in 2004. The gun control political spinsters would be ineffectual today if we had done our job back then. Nothing we’ve done in the last 20 years has made a difference, if foreign militia are killing us in our own cities and towns here in CONUS. God, where are YOU?

Irrational, yes.

In fact, these thoughts are as irrational as they were real to me this morning. Sitting on my couch, I read Psalm 136, and then prayed for clarity and peace, that the fear and anguish would be defeated. Love endures forever. Finally, I headed to work after seriously considering a sick day to deal with the grief and the anger and sadness welling up into my temples and behind my eyelids. There are more distractions at my office than in my home, and I honestly knew I would be less of a distraction to the kids and wife if we kept our normal Monday schedule. I needed to get out of my head and occupy my brain with the mundane.

Before I left the house, I checked all of my firearms, and said goodbye to the wife very meaningfully, as if I may not be coming home. It has been over 10 years since I’ve done that, but I felt as if CONUS had now become a very low intensity conflict zone. Anyway, I got to the office, lowered our National colors out front to half-staff, and then tried to concentrate on work.

The anxiety and the feelings of fearful hopelessness crept slowly but surely higher in my mind, and I began to pray fervently at my desk and listen to worship music. Finally, having had enough, I went downstairs to a vacant conference room, closed the door and turned off the lights. In the semi-darkness, I shut off my cellphone and took out the battery before plugging my ears and screwing my eyes shut tightly.

Everything was laid out before God. The streams of media and music and talking and interaction and busyness were shut off in my brain, and I bared it all to Him. I cried out for help, and for peace, and for a clear stability that was free of fear and anxiety and horror and failure. Psalm 136 came back, and I prayed each verse aloud. There began to be a withdrawing of the barrage, as if a tide was receding. My prayer was,

God, I give You thanks, but I need a reassurance that I will not be going crazy or having an emotional breakdown or something seemingly out of my control. Please help me. Amen.

With that I stood up and walked back to my office, expecting an answer. About an hour later, I made my way to our large main conference room for a scheduled meeting with Michelle Seymour of Faith Comes By Hearing. A well-established non-profit based out of Albuquerque, Faith Comes By Hearing specializes in Bible translations and spreading the Gospel to the entire Earth. Michelle had been on the calendar for about a month, and our philanthropy committee was excited to hear her presentation.

Things were going along nicely, and we were learning that their organization had served faithfully for over 40 years to spread the message of God’s Word, that they had held the original Scorby recordings on cassette in their collection of resources at one time, etc. etc. Then Michelle began to share about God’s new plans for them, with new technology that will allow villages to have portable solar-powered devices which spread the spoken Word of God. How their recording teams put together Bible stories in native tongues, where voice actors recite and perform the stories in Scripture, and it is played back to others so they can immerse in the Word. How the music and sound effects in these recordings have a profound effect on people, and when a voice actor says,

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

, indigenous peoples experience moves of the Holy Spirit. They actually have documented cases where people are being healed of illness and disease in remote countries as they listen to the Word of God and are touched.

Michelle told us about new tech advances where multi-lingual Bible translations can be delivered via satellite, and can be passed thru cell networks in the Third World now, almost like a Near Field Communication transfer. She talked about how their organization is using Bible apps to pass the Word in native tongues, all over the globe as technology breaks every barrier.

Then she started to share about their Military Bible Stick, which is a miniaturized audio device that U.S. Military chaplains have been using for several years now. It is a small black audio player with headphones, passed out for free to deployed soldiers and those who have redeployed, and which many troops have reported helps them sleep and calm down by listening to God’s Word. Evidently these recordings are helping servicemembers who are struggling with PTSD and other effects of their experiences.

As Michelle began to unpack the story of the Military Bible Sticks, my attention was riveted on her and I stopped taking notes. It was suddenly apparent that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me in a very clear way that this meeting had purpose beyond an “ask” for prayer or financial support from a non-profit partner. When she passed out brochures on the Military Bible Stick I stared blankly at the pages, barely able to absorb what I was seeing.

And then my world was wrecked by what happened next.

Michelle had picked up her smartphone to demonstrate their Bible.Is app which has multi-lingual audio capability, and she shared a recent anecdote about a flight to Detroit where she was showing the app to a seat mate. He was an Iraqi immigrant, and she pulled up the Bible in Arabic for him. His own dialectic Arabic, which was specific to Iraq.

When she pressed play and the audio of an Arab guy speaking began to fill the conference room, I became physically, emotionally, and spiritually overwhelmed. Utterly. Completely.

The Words of Life began to swirl around me in Arabic, and the hyper-charged current of God’s Presence began to pound my heart with Peace, and Security and Power. I started crying uncontrollably.

You see, I have heard much spoken Iraqi Arabic. I have heard military commands, and curses, and calls to prayer from minarets. I have heard hatred and anger and ridicule in Arabic, but I have never heard God’s Word in Arabic. Yet here I was, in the Main Conference Room at my law firm, the day after yet another terrorist attack on American soil, hearing the proceeding Word of God in Iraqi Arabic.

In those moments as the recording played, it was as if the God of Creation was saying to me,

“I was in Orlando last weekend, and I have overcome the World. You don’t have to worry. My Will is established, and I hear your prayers and heal your pain. Those who morn will be comforted. Those who need love will be loved. Peace will be a river.”

With very little composure, I shared with Michelle and the other attendees what had just happened, and at that point the whole room became an emotional mess. Today’s meeting was a divine appointment by the Overcomer of the World. We eventually recovered, and as we concluded our meeting I led everyone in expressing our thankfulness for God’s answers to our prayers.

Answers that can often have been scheduled over a month before we ever prayed.


I’ve given them unrestricted permission to use my story in any promotional material they would like. This is one of the days from 2016 that will stay with me forever. – DD



A silent and very secret battle is raging. It is a constant confrontation which never lets up, like being in a real-time imaginary world filled with non-stop mental fistfighting. It is no small thing to take thoughts captive, when those thoughts take form like a never-ending silvery rocket-worm commuter train rushing by, car after car, inches from the edge of the station platform.

“I, Jason Ford Kentworth, do solemnly swear…”

The flash thoughts are what disorient him the most, sometimes even to moments of absolute confusion. There are many kinds of flashes.

A persistent wife’s blue-green eyes flashing in stubborn resolve.

Humid summer’s eve thunderstorm lightening flashes.

A flawless diamond as it flashes in the sunlight.

A photographer’s camera bulb flashes.

Distant impacting artillery flashes.

Ambulance light-bar flashes.

Muzzle flashes.


“…that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States…”

The thought flashes are the worst flashes of all. They are what cause his lack of concentration, and they get in the way of his emotional good order and discipline almost on an hourly basis. He sees them in his mind’s eye, sometimes going down a trapline of randomly connected events or images from years ago in Iraq or before he ever joined. Even as the business client in front of him is explaining the next round of contract expectations for a new downtown office opening in two weeks. If only the client knew it was a one-sided conversation half the time.

“…against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”




Tonight there are unrelenting flashes of thought stampeding through his troubled mind. Familiar, violent ones that take him on hysterical paths which tangle with one another and braid themselves into a rope of mental and emotional horror that no one sees.

He carefully locks the SUV in its out-facing parking spot, and reaches for the little girl’s extended hand as he and his wife walk her to the restaurant entrance.

“If you didn’t want to get dinner out tonight, Jason, all you had to do was say so. We can still leave and go back home, without punishing the two of us for whatever it was…”

Something bitter and dark and hateful boils up into his throat, but he knows he would not forgive himself if he blurted it out on her.

Kris, Honey, I love you so much but you cannot even understand that nothing about this mental state tonight is your fault, or the baby’s fault. Absolutely zero. Not even worth trying to explain.

Reaching for the glass door with restaurant hours peeling from the lower pane, he stares angrily at her until she trails off and looks away, hurt.

Great. You just made it even worse.



Other patrons seated around them and at the bar are having a normal Friday night full of brazenly stupid ‘fun’ and carousing, but to Jay, every casual glance is a sneer or a look of poison. Every laugh is a mocking apathetic barb. A secret reality of threats and darkness and people who don’t care and would not think twice about harming the innocent swirls around him. On the misappropriated advice of a crusty military axiom, part of Jay’s brain formulates a workable plan to kill everyone in the restaurant if needed, as the flustered waitress scribbles their drink order on a soggy notepad.

Shifting in the booth uncomfortably, with his elbow Jay adjusts the grip position of the loaded Kimber 1911, .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol concealed on his right hip. The muscles in his upper back and neck are taut like elastic cords, and a hot tingle rises behind his ears as a room full of eyes may or may not be drilling into the base of his skull.

 Is she making me sit with my back to the room on purpose? To prove a point about how mentally weak I have become? Why is she doing this to me?


Kris is still feeling the sting of his silence since they left the house, but seeing something else that has just gone wrong, she inhales slowly and forces a smile.

“Come on, Cassie, let’s go potty before our food gets here.”

As their daughter happily scoots out of the booth, Kris silently, knowingly, motions for him to switch sides of the table while they are up. Her side is against the rear wall, and it is suddenly obvious to Jay that his wife has sensed and is trying to fix his tactical crisis here in their booth.

What a woman. What a friend. You are such an a**hole for even doubting her.

Mom and daughter walk away from the table and Jay slides out stiffly, hoping the people around them take no notice of the movement. He thinks to himself how wonderful it would be if the room were silent and empty. Well, not silent. Distracting sounds sometimes lessen the volume of the imaginary voices in his head, but there is no substitute for being privately, peacefully, alone.




He settles into the other side of the booth, and can theoretically begin to relax. Kris and little Cassie return momentarily, and suddenly he is inexplicably happy inside to see them. His heart leaps like they have not been gone mere minutes. This caravan of disjointed thoughts has made it seem like hours since they got up. In another minute or two he would have begun considering leaving their table to stride back and see if something had gone south in the Ladies’ room, or if an AQ-trained insurgent had taken his girls hostage or worse.

Because that sounds absolutely feasible, surely. You need help.

He breathes a sigh of relief, but in an instant the joy of seeing them back at the table evaporates. As Cassie reaches out stubby fingers for her crayons which are now on the wrong side of the booth, she dashes her cup of pink lemonade and ice all over the tabletop.



Stress and arousal. That’s what the counselors call it. Whatever it is, it is bitterly infuriating. Post Traumatic Stress Arousal causes fury, and at the same time is caused by fury: a devastatingly ironic conundrum. And Jay’s reality.

Pink lemonade sloshes across menus, napkins, and flatware, with a parade of ice cubes in tow.

In Jay’s clouded and warped mentality, the night, the dinner, their very reputation as a small respectable family, is ruined in one brief mistake of his precious six-year-old. The rage lurking just below the surface of his euphoria and frustration suddenly explodes up like a volcano under intense pressure, and conflicting emotions thrash his mind. The room begins to vibrate and shimmer, as he tries to maintain control. He senses his face has contorted into a mask of hateful spite. He is involuntarily glowering, jaw clenched, fists balled on the table as the drink pools around them and begins dripping onto the vinyl seat covering.

While one part of his mind acknowledges that this is just pink lemonade and a small child, another side of Jay rages uncontrollably at the removal of order and the injection of chaos, the destruction of anonymity and the sudden harsh glare of attention from every other diner.


It’s not just a spilled drink, it’s a lack of caution and discipline by those he most cares about. An irrational, illogical slither of thought begins to plot a course through his mind, millisecond by millisecond as the drink spreads in slow motion across the table. His synapses quickly link this spilled beverage to an imaginary day in the future where Cassie abandons disciplined caution and crashes her car into the back of a semi tractor trailer at the young age of eighteen. This scenario plays its way to a devastating conclusion in his mind, seemingly disconnected from that fact that its just a six-year-old who has accidentally spilled a lemonade.

His frustration with Cassie’s 18-year-old future self combines with the situation at hand, and logic is abandoned. The most exasperating part is the realization of just how absurd these clashing viewpoints are, even as the anger continues to pulsate. And he can’t get a grip.



In Jay’s warped mental awareness, his wife has just allowed this incident to happen by not foreseeing the risk of spillage and taking action to prevent it. Part of his frustration orients itself at Kris like a laser, despite the fact that he was sitting at the same table in the same moments prior, and could have, should have, foreseen the same event himself.

Kris sees his anger, and quickly springs into action. Her pulse quickens, and she deftly contains part of the icy puddle with a dam of napkins and the edge of her hand. Cassie notices his mask of dark displeasure, and slowly realizes her daddy is angry again. Thinking this anger is directed toward her, she begins to slowly lower her head as tears well up and her lip begins to quiver.


He wants to see himself reach across and gently squeeze her shoulder, or at least smile and wink to let her know its no big deal, but this raging carnival of senseless anger won’t allow for this incident to just be “no big deal”. It is a big deal. The 18-year-old love of his life, his baby, crashing her car is a big deal.

His courageous and long-suffering wife failing to keeping an eye on the details and not helping prevent negative consequences from happening to their daughter is a big deal.

His own lack of foresight and this inability to avoid attracting unwanted attention from the clueless and potentially hostile restaurant patrons is a big deal. The instinct and desire to put on a happy face is met with cynical, depressed laughter in his mind.

Why can’t I just shut off the side of my brain that stays intense, that overreacts, that finds shelter in hatred and rage, and can’t let something go?


Kris sees that her efforts have not made the situation ok. She feels the familiar crushing weight of hopelessness, and the creeping sense of failure that has pervaded her heart for years since he returned from the war. If she cannot even do something as simple as mop up spilled lemonade to his satisfaction, she has no hope of ever being the loving and cherished wife that she wants so much to be. The false inadequacy grips at her throat, and her mind numbs itself, anticipating the flustered waitress who will approach at any moment with an exasperated sigh and a fistful of paper towel.


Jay is suddenly acutely aware that his wife has just tried her very best to expertly handle the spill, and somewhere inside he is deeply appreciative. Just like somewhere inside a swamp there are pockets of fresh water. He also sees the tears forming in his daughter’s eyes.

It is in this moment that the anger and frustration shifts to a torrential flood of regret.


Regret that his wife does not know how he really feels about her.

Regret that Simmons was assigned to gun on the Humvee that day and bled out before the medevac bird from Taji had a clear LZ.

Regret that none of these people sitting around in the adjoining booths and tables even know what Simmons did for them.

Regret for what he would like to do to them right now in punishment of their apathy toward Simmons’ sacrifice.

Regret that he has made a mountain of this lemonade-flavored mole hill.

Regret that his love, his little girl, has no idea what is really tormenting him, and thinks it is her.

God, help. This is more than I can bear, and I am done trying to bear it on my own power.

 It all caves in at once and he cannot stop his own tears that suddenly spring forth. He silently stares at a molasses and bourbon swiss gimmick burger on the menu through a thick wavy flood of heartbreak.

It looks to all the world that he is having an emotional breakdown about a kid spilling a drink.

And all the world is so, so wrong in that assessment.


This is a prologue concept to a book I may write some day. First conceived in May 2011, it has kicked around in my heart to try and expose the secret world of PTSD anxiety, and share the road I’ve traveled to healing. While the story is fiction, the fight to captivate thoughts is very real. -DD
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.              2 Corinthians 10:5

A Dictation From God of the Angel Armies


I AM giving you, and you will give yourself, permission to no longer be keyed up or energized and “on guard” continually, so that in the unexpected BANG! when books are dropped, or a dynamite blast from a construction site building project happens, you are no longer vulnerable.


I HAVE HEALED YOU and you no longer need to be wary, be vigilant against unforeseen dangers and things or events that might happen, like an RPG to a guard tower or an IED hit to a convoy on Route Irish that has guys in it you just released out of the FOB less than 30 minutes ago.

I AM your Healer.

It is no longer your lifestyle to live fearfully, you are Mine. Trust in ME. Don’t trust in your ability to manage consequences. Sin exists but I have overcome, relax and release your fear, in Me.

I AM Trustworthy.

The people you will soon see and serve are people who still live in fear, of themselves, of the unknown, of the changes they see in their mortal form. In My immortality they are just moving forward in the path I have for them, so the changes are not alarms. Trust in ME with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge ME.

I AM directing your path. Run away from evil and run to me.

Healing to your body and breath to your soul. Rest to your soul. Forgiveness brings healing. Forgive the people who didn’t even know you but shot at you. Forgive the grief, forgive the suiciders, and the bitter ones, the ones with hatred and fear and anger. I have come for them, for you, to have abundant life, not abundant threats.  Trust me.

Trust. In. Me.

It’s ok.

Just trust Me and let go. Be the person you are supposed to be. Your watch is over, as it relates to Iraq. You will no longer ever again be in that place of restless, unrelenting danger.

I AM with you, I have called you by My Name, you are Mine.

When you don’t remember to carry concealed, I will be with you. And thru the brutal presence you will not be overthrown, and thru the fire and smoke you will not be burned or choked.

You can see and hear and take in sensory things that will no longer grip and paralyze you, and when your ears hear a sound that makes your palms sweat and your muscles tremble, your heart will stay calm and steadfast and the effects will eventually subside. The physical will catch up with the spiritual.

Because I AM with you and I have called you by My Name. Called you not by some title designated for you, like Much Afraid or Timid or Compensating, but I have called you by the Name Above All Names.

You are Mine.

Everything is totally fine, in this moment and forever more. You will not fear environments or spirits or people, but you will love ME and Fear ME in the way that a son fears and loves his father. It is ok to be dangerous and tactically dominant, and it is ok to be weak and ineffectual, as long as you humbly trust ME. I AM. Trustworthy.

That is what it came down to. Mistrust of the NORAD air defense network to stop commercial airliners from hitting your skyscrapers. Mistrust of leadership for imposing restrictive and politically motivated ROE. Mistrust of self-serving peers who would step on your forehead to gain another ladder rung for their careers. Mistrust of media who would grenade you as soon as applaud you. Mistrust of a spouse back home who *might* be wandering astray, as you mistrust even your own heart for looking around at options and fallback positional relationships and porn.

I am here to bring back your loyal trust, and allow you to be off guard and have everything escalate to ME, your Healer. In the calmness of MY love you will once again form strong cross braces and trusses that will be a platform which will not be precarious. A mental latticework that is not penetrable, that will not collapse into the hole, that will provide safe crossing. I will encourage and uphold you and help you stop worrying and patrolling  for threats. I will be your security and your vanguard. It is ok. It is well.

Your days were written before you even knew ME. I have always known you and loved you, and everything that has ever happened to you was what I allowed to shape you into My vessel. Nothing happened on accident, or outside of the orders I cut for you before you deployed. You will no longer be a prime target for the lies that you were not enough, or did not do enough, or did not see the ‘correct’ level of combat. I put you where MY PLAN would have the best chance of germinating, and it has. So look forward.

I make you, and everything, new.



This whole thing should be in red letters. I promise it was not authored by me; I just wrote it down that day as it was coming, as fast as I could. And it is words of  life. -DD

The ‘Boro, Downtown, at 1am


Same car.

Same few, same happy few, same band of brothers.
Eerily similar, the streetlights globe by thru my smudged window and we careen lazily down abandoned highway tar towards the skyline.

Shotgun controls the tunes, and we rock to some debatably good music as the dark trees whip past. My backseat accomplices are belting out since you been gone, and so what the heck, I join them. We sound like some kind of lame barbershop quartet, but nobody cares. The open window howls in disunison.

My eye stings from the flashing, whirling, sparks of ash that have just accidentally erupted from the tip of my tiny cigar. A multi-layered hole has been clumsily burnt thru the arm of this borrowed polyester suit coat, which is apparently good for a laugh or two from it’s owner in the front seat, so that’s a relief. Pipe smoke mingled with my garment-offending cigarillo is a wonderful aroma to accompany this second timeless night of permanent memories. We exit the dark, empty freeway and slowly prowl to a parking space.

Something flits thru my consciousness as we disengage our collective seven-hundred fifty pounds of gristle from the tangled backseat. It flickers before my eyes and whispers in my ears as if hearkening back to something I knew in Philly.
Could this be my city, too? I don’t know. I haven’t been here yet.
We begin our newly familiar trek thru the sleeping heart of a city, lamenting the fact that nobody had foresight to bring an actual camera.
It’s scary how much like last November this is tonight, so I don’t allow myself to think about it because I miss Uncle John a little too much still. Besides, tonight is way warmer, and my little brother is getting married later today after lunch. Way different, but still way similar.


Walking up then down the sloped sidewalks I sense a resting, a waiting until Monday morning to resume life. There are surprisingly many out at this late/early hour, and evidence of wasted cash is everywhere, bolted to axles with 22 inch chrome, wrapped around necks and hips, and parked alongside sewer grates outside unoriginally mundane nightclubs.

There is an obligatory stop outside a closed and emptied formerly “great good place”, in his mind immortalized as THE PLACE he met her. Don’t look like much now, empty pieces of emptiness scattered inside on the floor, abandoned, but we briefly acknowledge the significance and then walk on.


Some free running mockery, some disgusting guy talk, and then we catch sight of one of those locations where time warps: a multi-level parking garage. Everyone knows these places have magical powers, where floors disappear and reappear two down, where cars move themselves once in awhile, and where Neo occasionally fights Agents while inside the Matrix. Our pace quickens with sudden weird energy, and we stride in with blank direct stares fired at every surveillance camera.

The elevator adds an even greater comic-book-antihero-like feel to the moment, and I stare out the glass, arms crossed and cigar clenched as we rapidly begin the ascent. In moments like this there is always time for a pic from a cell camera; the self-taken group shot turns out to be epic in nature, beyond our wildest imaginations.

My cinematic mind is again drawn to the window, and concrete girders drop thru my line of sight as our cabin rushes up and the city rushes down… and then I begin to feel something inside me. Ownership, or the longing for it.
The coolness of the night air welcomes our squad as the door groans open at the top. My reverie is interrupted by some leftover fear of heights, inexplicable but very real, and then all is forgotten by the views.
Thriving darkness spreads out below us in urgent Need.

Lights twinkle, dance, move, float thru the carpet of night. Dozens of windowed stories rise around us higher, and the wind passes quietly. It is calling to me.

We spot a darkened ballpark and hastily head back down street-level to check it out. The field is asleep, and I can imagine sitting in its bleachers someday with my girls, catching a Saturday night game under balmy skies.



The pipes are empty, the Black & Milds are spent, and a half dozen large guys with mohawks roaming around after midnight is just what a sleepy patrol officer might need to help keep himself engaged until shift change… we may as well go get some nasty gas station food and call it a night.

As we negotiate our way to the car, I am conscious of the bond that has just formed, and is even now increasing in strength and intensity. I will be back here to see you again, you can count on that. Keep the lights on for me, keep the cracked sidewalks waiting.


A threesome walks directly at us and past, friendly slurred greetings as they put their best foot forward in an unconscious attempt to be something other than more random faces… It seems that once again, their drinks and social interaction have not seemed to help take away the emptiness and wistful longing for a purpose in life. We return the greeting, and I wonder about their destiny.

And I wonder about this new city. My new city.




The Call could not be denied, and the Triad is now my home. Since moving here in June 2008, I’ve learned that “our” parking garage from this night is one of the top locations in the city for suicide attempts. Every time I hear about one on the news, I shake my head and remember this night, and how we are to bring life where once was death. Suicide will die for good One Day. -DD