B-58’s Are Why I Didn’t Get Laid by Daniel N. White

by Daniel N. White
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
October 29, 2010

B-58 Hustler in flight

Image via Wikipedia

Ran into my friend Robert the other day at the gym.  He and I have been going to this gym or some other most all of our adult lives.  Probably for about the usual reasons–we are both physical, physically active people stuck in desk jobs, neither of us wants to get fat like a third or better of everyone has nowadays, male vanity some no doubt too, and at least for me, Robert in his single days too, it isn’t a bad place to meet women.  Over the last couple of years we’ve gone from conversations at the gym to friendship.  We both read books, damnere a rarity these days, follow current events, both of us are keen on airplanes and aviation–Robert has his pilots license and I never got mine, I went to college instead, and after an epic struggle with indifference and boredom I finally got my problematical liberal arts degree from the big state U downtown–Robert got fed up earlier and harder than I did with the educational process (a cousin to the digestive process, you know) and never got his, which hasn’t stopped him any.  We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and after catching up on the more interesting and droller recent events we started catching up on the latest in our personal lives.  Robert asked me about this woman I had sighted in on at the gym–Mary–and knowing of my interest in her asked me how that was going.  I banged the heel of my hand on my forehead, groaned, said something about how I really blew it there, but maybe it wasn’t my fault, sort of maybe… and Robert said that it sounded like a story, so tell me it.

So I was upstairs, in the aerobics area in the upstairs of the gym, about ten days ago, and I was just starting a long run on the stairmaster.  Mary wandered by, as her aerobics class was just getting out, and we got to talking while I warmed up on the stairmaster.  Topic turned into how much the world had changed in our lifetimes, and I said how the end of the Cold War had to be, hands-down, the biggest change for all of us in our lives, getting that horrible false staged imprisoning struggle out of the way was going to give us all a better chance in our lives, that we could have a whole lot better future. a more honest and realistic one, with all that us-versus-them nonsense out of the way.  Mary said that she didn’t think that at all, that the Cold War just wasn’t that big a deal.  Goddammit, Robert, she said it in that tone of voice and with that tilt of head over onto one shoulder thing that told me loud and clear that she was doing that stupid female routine of “Well, that’s an unpleasant subject, and it isn’t nice to talk about it, because it just gets people upset, so lets not talk about it, OK?”.  I swear to God, Robert, that women do that sort of shit ten or a dozen times more than men do, that “Well that isn’t a nice thing to talk about so lets not”, sweeping it under the rug routine.  I am dead-assed certain, Robert, that women have this gland, like their pineal gland, that compels them to say and do this sort of shit, and I bet that if you went looking for it on the dissection table you’d probably find it right next to their shopping gland.  I listened to Mary say that stupid shit, and maybe I was quiet for a second or two, and then it was like a switch threw upstairs, something got let out hard and fast up there, and without being able to stop it, I had put on what my friend Clint calls my drill-instructor’s voice that comes out sometimes when I am economy-sized pissed off–loud, nasal, redneck, grating as hell, makes plenty of people wince when they hear it and generally when I’m using it I’m in the ugly part of me that enjoys making people wince.  I don’t think you’ve ever heard it and you can count yourself lucky you haven’t, or that you’ve never been on the receiving end of it, either.  So I half-yelled to Mary there from the Stairmaster, while she was stretching out on the floor in front of me:  “Are yew fucking stuupid or what?”–ummm, rather the wrong way to start a conversation with some woman you are trying to make time with, that.  “I don’t know what yew thought about when yew were growing up, but I thought about nuclear war plenty when I was, and it wasn’t just because I grew up on a SAC base, either. Everyone I know with civilian daddies thought about it plenty, too.  You know, there’s this friend of mine’s story you are gonna hafta hear because I just cannot fucking believe that yew just said something that fucking stuupid.”  Yep, Robert, I was off and going, and there was no stopping it, either.  Doesn’t happen very often like that, but when it does I’m telling you you’d better run for cover.

“So I’ve got this friend named Ed, who is my age, who grew up in Bryan, Texas.   Ed was an only kid, the apple of his mother’s eye, and Ed’s parents moved to there from Houston when Ed was about six years old.  Seems as Ed’s momma wanted to be around her family, who was from those parts.  Ed’s dad got himself a blue-collar job at the local air force base, since closed, which had been kept open at the behest of CongressmanSenatorVice PresidentPresident Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his mother, a sharp gal, got her a cashier’s job at the Piggly-Wiggly that turned into quick enough an assistant manager’s job.  They had them this nice little house in a cluster of houses too small to call a subdivision where his aunt and uncle and cousin lived, on the outskirts of town, in the shadow of the air force base.

“Bryan/College Station was a whole lot more rural, dumpy, slow, and backwards then than it is nowadays.  Still a slow dumpy ugly place–most college towns have a good deal of cultural spinoff from the local college, which makes them better than average places to live, but A&M doesn’t, and that suits most the constipated white people who live in those parts just fine.  Ed had a female first cousin there, and they got to be bestest of friends right away–cousins can do that sometimes, they don’t have sibling rivalry getting in the way of all the ways they are alike.  They had a pretty good childhood there for the next year or two–B-CS being rural, and this being in the days before TV had really caught on, no video game shit either, kids had a time to grow up in the out of doors and explore and wander around and still be watched by neighbors looking out for them in a way that kids don’t nowadays.  Particularly with parents being scared about serial-killer bogeymen on the loose like they are nowadays, too.

“But things went bad wrong for Ed’s little cousin.  She got sick with one of the childhood cancer leukemias, and in a space of six months she got sick, wasted away to a skeleton, and died.  Back then they couldn’t do jack for treatment of leukemias like they can now, and that six months of time–shoot six months for an eight year old is a decade for us, must have made it that much harder for Ed to watch it happen.  Ed was obviously hurt and limping from it, but his parents figured that he’d grow out of it, and be back to his normal kid self after a while.  But this one event scared the shit out of them, and showed them that things were a whole lot worse for Ed than they’d thought.

“Ed’s mother had been having this weird sensation at night for a while that there was this something in their bedroom at night when they were sleeping.  One night, she woke up clean and alert from sleep and froze dead still right then.  Little Ed was standing next to their bed, and was holding his hand over her mouth while she slept.  Watching real carefully, not moving a twitch, she watched Ed go over to his father and do the same.  Ed then left their bedroom quiet as a ghost and went back to his bed.  Ed’s mother was plenty freaked out by what she had just seen, and then it hit her–Ed was coming into their bedroom at night, making sure that the both of them were still alive, still breathing, that they hadn’t died on him in the night like his cousin had just did.

“Like I said, Ed’s mother is a plenty sharp and capable woman.  She realized that things were a hell of a lot worse with Ed than she’d figured, and at no small cost to her time and pocketbook and career she started taking Ed to a child psychiatrist in Houston, there not being any in B/CS of course, twice a week for the next couple of months.  She had a whole lot of love and determination and guts to do that, going to a shrink wasn’t something done much back then, particularly by rural-background people like her, living in those parts.

“I’m pretty down on psychiatrists and psychiatry, it mostly is just witch-doctoring dressed up as medicine.  But I’ve got a different take some on child psychiatry, at least until recently when it spawned all those goddamned godawful satanic child molestation bullshit cases that ruined the lives of so many daycare workers and the kids involved too.  Jesus everyone here has gone out of their way to forget that sick evil bullshit we did to all those poor bastards in the ’80’s.  Anyway, if psychiatry is at its best a case of rent-a-friend, then child psychiatry is rent-a-grandmother, which is no bad thing, not for scared and hurting little kids.  I’m sure Ed’s momma found a good one, because after a while Ed came to terms with his cousin’s death and became his old normal happy self.

“Except for the fact that Ed was still having nightmares, nightmares where he’d wake up screaming in the middle of the night.  Now why this was gets back to that Air Force base in their backyard there, which was a SAC base, with a squadron of B-58 jet bombers stationed there.

“Talking about that B-58–quite an airplane in its day, for these days too for that matter.  First and only supersonic jet bomber we ever made.  Large pure delta winged bird, shiny polished stainless steel and aluminum skin, four afterburning J-79 turbojet engines slung under the delta wing.  Thing stood off the runway with some spindly tall landing gears, long skinny area-ruled fuselage–the coke-bottle shape, and to sidestep a slew of aerodynamic problems it had this large pointed area-ruled insect-looking pod slung underneath it that held fuel and avionics and the nuclear weapons.  It was one hell of an accomplishment to make something that big fly supersonic–it had only been done before with little pointy jet fighters, and hell the thing was supersonic on the deck, even, flying faster 200 feet or less off the ground than a .45 bullet.  Pilots flew them plenty that fast that low, did it without any of the avionics autopilot equipment they do now, and hell the pilot fatigue load from that sort of flying was such that you could only fly that fast that low for maybe 90 minutes before your brain just fried and froze up.  Makes formula one driving look like a kiddie game.  But they all flew them like that all the time because that was your strike profile, that fast on the deck no Russian weapon could touch you and you’d be safe.  Not that the fuel burn at that rate gave you much longer than that at that speed and altitude anyway–plane was, like everything supersonic, thirsty and short-legged.  Thing was cutting edge of a bunch of technologies–airframe, engine, avionics–which in translation means that the engineering wasn’t quite done right and the thing had plenty of bugs and broke a lot and was a maintenance whore that cost a bunch to fly and spent a lot of time busted in the hanger and it crashed a bunch from mechanical failures, too.  Aircrews rarely survived either crashing a B-58 or ejecting from one, either.  Like its supersonic cousin the Concorde, the B-58 was an engineering success and an operational failure–hence, the limits of engineering made plain.  It was also the first airplane to cost more per ounce than gold did, back in the ’50’s when gold was $35 an ounce.  Shit some of the newer birds–B-2, F-22–cost more per ounce than $1000 an ounce gold does.  And it probably still holds the record for being the noisiest airplane ever mass produced, turbofan jets nowadays whisper compared to the turbojet J-79’s.

“Anyway, the Air Force kept some of the B-58’s parked out on the taxiway at all times there on the base, and Ed and family would see them every time they drove out of the neighborhood.  What really got their and everyone else’s attention were the periodic squadron scrambles, generally held late at night or some other inconvenient time, when the alert siren on base would sound and the aircrews would run and drive like maniacs out to their airplanes and get them into the air as quick as they could so that they wouldn’t be caught on the ground by a Russky sneak attack you know.  Jets would spin up with a whine, light up with a loud bark, and then they’re idling, scream pitch noise at pain level loud.  RPM’s run up into shriek level and the sound volume triples as they jockey them into position for takeoff,  scream and shriek as they throttle them up and down into position for takeoff, and then they were in position for takeoff, standing them hard up against the brakes, engines shrieking full on.  Brakes off, it bolts down the runway.  Partways down the runway the pilot lights all four ab’s, shockwave boom from that busts all the window glass for a kilometer around if they haven’t already replaced them all with plexiglas.  A hot squadron sends one down the runway every 13 seconds like clockwork–BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM–until they are all gone, and it is quiet again.

“So Ed began to have this nightmare about the B-58’s not long after his cousin died.  He’d be dreaming and there’d be this noise and he’d look up and there’d be this B-58 flying overhead, looking for him.  He’d try and hide, but the B-58’s always found him, and he had to run.  He’d run away, run and run and run as fast as he could, but the B-58’s were faster, and would always catch up with him.  He’d look up and see the B-58 directly overhead, and it’d drop the bomb on him, and the bomb would fall towards him, faster and faster getting closer and closer and bigger and bigger and he’d start screaming in little kid terror as loud as he could, and would scream himself awake.   Awake, and he’d go off to his mother for consoling, and then shuffle back to bed and try and sleep.

“You see, Ed hadn’t understood what those shiny airplanes meant, what all that jet noise meant, until his cousin died.  Once his cousin died, Ed became brutally aware that those jets were standing there at wait on the air base there to do to some unimaginable number of Russians off in some distant unimaginable Russia what had happened to his beloved cousin, and that similar Russian bombers waited on similar Russian air bases to do the same to him and to each and every single person he knew and knew of in the whole entire universe of Bryan/College Station Texas what had happened to his cousin, and that there was no telling when it could happen, and that there was nothing, not a single god-damned blasted thing he or his mother or father or anyone else could do to stop that from happening.  The child psychiatrist could explain death to Ed, but she couldn’t explain away thermonuclear war.  These nightmares kept up for about six months or so, until Ed managed to develop the psychological defenses and rationalizations we all have about nuclear war.”

Yeah, Robert, by this time I’d quit the stairmaster and Mary was staring at me, hadn’t said a word.  But dammit that part of me I try and keep good and bottled up wasn’t done with her.

“So Mary, tell me something.  It is 1963, and your beloved one and only boychild comes to you in the middle of the night, sobbing, sobbing to you ‘Mommy, I’m scared.’  You are half-awake there, in the warmth of your bed, in the raw of the night, and you hear off in the distance the last noise of the B-58’s going away from that air force base in your backyard, flying away off into the night.  Tell me, Mary, what do you tell your one and only?  Lying there in bed,  hearing those jets, tell me, how do you know that the balloon hasn’t gone up and that this time it is just an exercise, that this time it isn’t for real, honest, not this time, no, no.  What great font of adult wisdom do you tap to tell your little boy that there will be an ordinary sunrise for you both and all soon, that you needn’t worry, that all is well.  How do you know?  What do you know?  What do you tell your little boy?  And what do you tell yourself?”

Mary stared at me for a good solid minute, Robert, with that totally blank expressionless look you get from someone when you really hit home.  I’ve got no idea what she was thinking, but when she tilted her head to that same familiar bimbo angle just before she was about to speak I cut her off and flat-out told her to just get lost.  She got up and left without saying a word to me, then or since.  No, Robert, I didn’t get any off of her, and B-58’s are why, goddammit.


Media Blackout regarding Fidel Castro’s Speech on the Implications of Nuclear War + Fidel Castro: Message against Nuclear War

Nuclear Weapons and the Survival of the Homo Sapiens by Fidel Castro Ruz

Nuclear Weapons and the Survival of the Homo Sapiens (Part II) by Fidel Castro Ruz

The medical and economic costs of nuclear power by Dr Helen Caldicott

Nuclear Madness – Interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott (must see video)

2 thoughts on “B-58’s Are Why I Didn’t Get Laid by Daniel N. White

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