Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Catholic Church and other derivatives of the Judeo-Christian faith extol monogamy as the true state of man and woman, then explain sex with the mystery of the birds and bees. Actually I don't ever recall hearing that lecture from my parents, although the stork was mentioned whenever a new brother or sister arrived unannounced from the hospital. Storks at hospitals made no sense to me, but my parents remained faithful to each other till death like mating pigeons.
On the other hand I have been a wanderer. I can't count the number of my paramours on one hand or all my digits and while I don't remember all their names, I do recollect their faces, smiles, and smell, yet very little of the sex. Woman pride themselves on their memories. They can quote you twenty years after the utterance left your lips. I thought that females would be the same about the act of love, but not all of them.
Several years back I ran into Valda at a studio opening in Manhattan. I had been out of town for a half-year in Asia. We sat on a window sill and spoke of our past and present. Two younger people came up to us and the girl asked, "Are you a couple?" "Not really." I smiled at the tenderness in her voice. I had been young once.
"You seemed so comfortable together." The young man beamed with the promise of two hearts beating as one and held his girlfriend's hand with tenderness. They had a lot to learn, but I wasn't in the ogod to bust their bubble, so I said, "No, we were never a couple, but we once were lovers."
"No, we weren't." Valda's answer was quick and harsh.
"We weren't? I was certain we had slept together on my futon with sweat slickening our bodies on a hot August night.
"Not at all." She was adamant.
"Are you sure?" Her kiss had been long.
Those encounters couldn't have been a phantasm of my fantasies. She had scratched my back to shreds. A fury dwelt in her eyes. The young couple were aghast. I admitted surrender. "Sorry, guess I was thinking about someone else."
I had slept with two of her best friends. Mary Beth and Lucille wouldn't know if I was right, but those two had vanished from New York at least a decade earlier. Valda walked away angry. She glared at me the rest of the night. I hadn’t thought I was so bad, but you never are bad as long your memory is outdated by reality.
The 15th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the civil equality to black ex-slaves and the GOP has promised to honor their privilege, but the Republicans remain true to the immortal words of Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, who explained why the party of Lincoln was short on blacks.
“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”
Earl Butz led into that comment by telling the following joke to White House Counsel John Dean and the singer Pat Boone on a flight from the Republican Convention.
"After a horrible forest fire, a baby duck and skunk orphan start a conversation.. all of a sudden, the duck asks the skunk what he looks like. the skunk replies “well, you have webbed feet, feathers, and a bill,…you’re a duck”…the skunk then asks the duck what he looks like,..the duck replies, “well, you’re white, you’re black, and you smell,..guess you’re a Puerto Rican”
White men were angered by Earl Butz’ forced resignation. Insulting the Pope about contraception and telling race jokes in mixed company were protected by the First Amendment or the Freedom of Speech.
Of course being white I never really hear too many white jokes, so a googled ‘fat white guy jokes'. The search came up blank, but I scored big time with ‘white man’ jokes.
How do you stop five white guys from raping a white woman? Throw them a golf ball.
How many white girls does it take to screw in a light? None, white girls can’t screw
How many white men does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, white men will screw anything.
What do you call a bunch of white guys sitting on a bench? The NBA
What does a white man do at the club? Pout while all the colored folk are bumpin’ & grindin’ with all of his fine white bitches.
What’s the difference between a white whore and a bitch? The white whore would screw everybody in the room and the bitch would fuck everyone but you.
What’s the flattest surface to iron your jeans on? A white girl’s ass!
What’s white and fourteen inches long? Absolutely nothing!
Why cant white men jump? They were too busy making racist jokes.
Why did white people own slaves? They were not strong enough to pick cotton – weak bastards.
And lastly what’s 12 inches long and white? Nothing.
That’s bullshit, because the proper response was, is, and will be John ‘Wadd’ Holmes, who was the champion of white cock. The blonde porn legend Seka had sworn that Wadd was the biggest in the industry. His manager had measured a fully-erect penis as 13.5 inches, although many actresses akinned his semi-erect penis to “doing it with a big, soft kind of loofah.”
Is nothing scared?
Only the GOP knows that answer.
New York City has been bled of out-of-towners with a merciless fury. Work that was once abundant for the young dries up, as your age passes 40. Successful friends move out of your pay bracket and your old slot has been replaced by twenty year-olds willing to work for less.
Faced with faltering income expectations middle-age men and women look beyond the borders of the five boroughs and contemplate the nostalgia of home. Many succumb to the siren's song of a town distanced by decades. Like Old Moses says in THE SEARCHERS, “All I want is a rocking chair.”
This simple desire is achievable far from New York and last month I heard that a good female friend, her husband, and two teenage children were setting out for California.
"So you're going back home." Our conversation was over the phone.
"Back to my roots." She had left the West Coast in 1993.
"What about one last night on the town." I invited her to the Mudd Club / Club 57 reunion in late October. “I don’t have time for that.” Garette wasn’t in the mood to see old friends.
“I understand. The West is calling.” I looked out the window of my top-floor apartment in Fort Greene. The sun was setting to beyond the low skyline. Summer had given way to autumn. The trees were losing to the color yellow. Winter was coming early this year.
“Agora.” Her hometown lay on the dry side of the Santa Monica Mountains. The TV show MASH had been filmed below her house. I knew the vista well from having visited her family there more than once during my 1995 stay in Southern California.
“Give my best to your brothers.” We had surfed El Matador and Ventura. They were the tallest white men above Santa Monica. I liked them a lot.
“I don’t talk with them anymore.” Garette said and then added, “My brothers abused me as a kid.”
"Oh." I didn’t have to ask how. Garette’s mom had eight kids. They were as wild as feral cats. I thought sex, but it was worse.
"They beast me."
“I never hit a woman like that.” I answered without thinking about the past.
“What about the time you hit your girlfriend in Paris. That 17 year-old model.” Garette and I had met at the Bains-Douches in the summer of 1984. We were just friends. No one believed that, especially not her husband.
“Candia.” I had entered our Rue Danzig apartment to find the Puerto Rican teenager with her Italian boyfriend. One punch dropped him into the kingdom of whimpers. Candia slapped at my fists. My fingers unfolded to open palms. Red murder flooded my blood. “I didn’t hit her. I threw her on the bed.”
“Are you sure?” Women have better memories than men. “What about whipping them out of the apartment with a ripped telephone wire. Naked into a snow storm.”
“I was a flurry.” Flakes had fallen softly as volcanic ash. The still beauty must have been lost on their unclothed flesh and bare feet. I remember feeling that they gotten off easy. Paris was part of France. The courts would have understood a crime of passion. Even a double murder was forgivable before the judge.
“So don’t tell me that you’ve never hit a woman.” The phone clicked off and my ear was glad that people weren't able to slam the receiver of a cell phone.
Garette was right. I had scourged Candia and her young boyfriend into the wintery night and other woman had answered to my fury.
My older brother and I had chucked rocks at a family of eight sisters for ascendancy of our neighborhood south of Boston. They never beat up another boy.
As a hippie I had picked up my youngest sister from a Wollaston Beach bowling alley twenty minutes late.
“I hate you.” Her tirade scorched my ears on the drive through the Blue Hills.
Inside our split-level ranch house she said something so despicable that I threw a Frye boot at her. It missed her head by inches and dented the steel door to the garage. What she said was forgotten.
So I really didn’t hit her, but two other women were on the list.
Alice had disappeared with the band Shrapnel for over an hour. I found her in the alley behind CBGBs. She smiled at me, as if I were stupid to have worried about her. Nothing had happened between her and the band, but that smile earned her a slap. I don’t recall ever apologizing, but Alice and I stayed together, until I left her for Lisa. The blonde model from Buffalo was as beautiful and cold as a Swedish movie starlet.
We lived in London together the autumn of 1978. The studio was next to Chelsea football pitch. She modeled with David Bailey, while I wandered the wet streets thinking the worst. The next winter she flew to Europe seeking fame and fortune on the runaways of Paris and Milan. Lisa vanished within a month. She called me at summer’s end to pick up her things.
"Why did you leave me?" I asked her as she got in a waiting taxi.
“Sometimes you don’t get all the answers.” Lisa sneered at me, as if she was getting revenge for something else someone else had done to her.
"No answer." I snapped and kicked her ass with enough force to propel her inside the taxi.
“Fuck you.” She slammed the door shut and the taxi drove her out of my life forever, then again she was already out of it.
Garette was right. The only difference between me and a woman-killer was the length of my rage. I could have killed Candia without any reservation. Kicking Lisa had come natural and slapping Alice happened faster than a rattlesnake fanging a desert mouse.
All three incidents were decades ago, but later that day I googled Lisa. Her last name was too common to find.
Candia was in a sisterhood down the south of France. They didn’t believe in modern technology.
The only one to whom I could say sorry was my hillbilly girlfriend. Alice would be attending both events. I would be doing the same. I rehearsed my apology before the mirror in my apartment.
Men had been beating women for time immemorial.
Cavemen supposedly clubbed women and dragged them by their hair into slavery.
There was no foreplay involved with the rape of the Sabine Women.
I stood accused of a crime and only forgiveness could help me forget my sins.
Alice was too busy at the first night’s reunion on Avenue A for a conversation. She was still a star and I was just another old boyfriend. Our friends regaled each other with tales from the 1980s. I gathered everyone for a group photo. Alice was going out to dinner with a famous painter. We once had lived around the corner on East 10th Street. Alice was still beautiful. I had been a fool to leave her, then again I had been a fool about a lot of other things.
Morning found me alone in my bed. I wasn't too hung over and soaked in my bath for a good hour. The razor slid over my face. I wanted to look good tonight.
Several film makers had contacted me for interviews.
I had worked every night at the Mudd Club the month of August 1981 to pay for my sister's wedding present. Mostly I had hung out at the downstairs bar listening to music.
SEX MACHINE by James Brown had been my favorite and the DJ played it once a night.
The reunion was at a bar next to the Williamsburg Bridge. I arrived early to avoid paying a cover.
The only time I had purchased a ticket at the Mudd Club was for the Marianne Faithful show. Teh price was $10. Her voice cracked on BROKEN ENGLISH. The concert was cut short by a hail of beer cans aimed not at the singer, but Steve Mass the owner. Everyone wanted a refund. Steve didn’t give back a dime.
"You don't come here for the music. You come here to be you." Steve shouted at us. He was right. At the Mudd Club Joey Arias, Klaus Nomi, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Anita Sarko, Richard Boch, Anya Phillips, James Chance, Michael Holman, and countless others were the stars of nights fueled by sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Not all of us made it.
I was more unknown than known, but nearly twenty years later as I sat down on the garden rooftop for an interview about those years, passing party-goers stared at me, as if they had known me. I didn’t think that I had changed that much, then again I stopped looking in the mirror after the age of 50.
“I only look at my shadow,” I told the interviewer along with the story of ordering Alice to turpentine a Jean Michel painting off our refrigerator. I could have sold it ten years ago for a million. “I was so smart.”
I had thought that I was going to make something of my life. The drugs, the drinks, the late hours, and the sex had cut into my body and soul. I was lucky to be alive and found myself sitting with Alice.
She was as sweet as the first day I met her through our now dead friends, Andy Reese and William Lively. We entertained a throng of onlookers with our remembrances. Michael Holman joined us to explain the separation of fun at the Mudd Club versus Club 57.
“They were art and fun and we were sex and drugs.”
I didn’t beg to differ and after the camera stopped rolling I asked Alice for a second.
"What is it?" She was nervous, as if I was going to ask her to sleep with me.
“I want to apologize for hitting you behind CBGBs. It was wrong.”
“You really scared me and I probably should have left you right then, except I wasn’t brought up that way.” Her family from West Virginia was like mine from Maine; LEAVE IT TO BEAVER on the outside and a John Waters film on the inside.
“I wish I had never done it.” My excuse was that I had been worried about her, but that had been an excuse.
“Me too. But that was a long time ago.” Alice smiled with forgiveness and excused herself.
"Yeah." She had done me a favor and I did her one by ending our conversation on the matter.
I went to the bar, convinced that I was no Ted Bundy, the mass murderer, but neither was I a saint. Most men are simply something in between good and bad, which wasn’t such a horrible thing to be in this day and at my age.
Old men never look good angry, but they get better looking with an apology. As long as they really meant it.
Monday, March 26, 2012
GW Bush's Vice President got a heart transplant this weekend. The old one had suffered through five coronary failures and Dick Cheney opted to wait over two years for a replacement, since there are too few hearts for too many chests. His doctor says that the new organ should increase the 71 year-old's survival rate, since the ex-VP from Wyoming was in good health. According to the Boston Herald Cheney critics bashed the hell out of the former eminence gris of the Bush regime, saying the heart was “Wasted on a war criminal. Hey Dick how many kids did your lies kill? Thats ok, hell can wait a little longer.” or “surgeons mistakenly transplanted the bleeding heart of a liberal” into the unflinchingly hawkish veep. USA Today reported that Albert Brooks wrote: "Dick Cheney gets new heart! Not to be confused with compassion." Chaney and his family have no idea about the identity of the donor. The Chinese have stopped harvesting the hearts of condemned prisoners. Even Cheney would have to think that was a good idea, but the man has his reputation. Prior to the start of Desert Freedom GW Bush expressed his concern about the potential casualties and asked Dick Cheney for advice.
"Tell them the truth. 5000 Americans, 1,000,000 Iraqis, but add one clown." The VP believed in simple solutions.
"Why?" GW was dumbfounded by the suggestion.
"You'll see." Cheney winked with Wyoming wisdom.
At the next White House press conference the reporters clamored for details on the casualties and GW Bush says, "We estimate that there will be 5000 American dead, 1,000,000 Iraqis, and one clown."
The reporters jumped to their feet and asked, "Why one dead clown?"
GW Bush smiled at Chaney and misquoted HL Mencken under his breath, "Nobody ever went broke misunderestimating the intelligence of the American public."
Dick Cheney could only smile, because only a fool laughed at his own joke. Especially since he had no heart.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Perhaps one of the most interesting words
in the English language today, is the word FUCK.
Out of all of the English words which begin with the letter F, FUCK is the only word referred to as the "F" word, it's the one magical word.
FUCK as most words in the English language,
is derived from German,
the word "fricken[?]", which means to strike.
In English, FUCK falls into many grammatical categories.
As a transitive verb, for instance.
John FUCK-ed Shirley.
As an intransitive verb, Shirley FUCKS.
It's meaning's not always sexual;
it can be used as an adjective, such as
John's doing all the FUCK-ing work.
As part of an adverb,
Shirley talks too FUCK-ing much.
As an adverb enhancing an adjective,
Shirley is FUCK-ing beautiful.
As a noun, I don't give a FUCK.
As part of a word abso-FUCKING-lutely,
And, as almost every word in the sentence,
FUCK the FUCK-ing FUCK-ers.
As you must realize,
there aren't too many words
with the versatility of FUCK.
As in these examples describing situations
such as fraud,
I got FUCK-ed at the used car lot.
Dismay, Aw FUCK it.
Trouble, I guess I'm really FUCK-ed now.
Aggression, Don't FUCK with me buddy.
Difficulty, I don't understand this FUCK-ing question.
Inquiry, Who the FUCK was that?
Dissatisfaction, I don't like what the FUCK is going on here.
Incompetence, He's a FUCK-off.
Dismissal, Why don't you go outside and play hide-and-go-FUCK yourself?
I'm sure you can think of many more examples.
With all these multi purpose applications,
how can anyone be offended when you use the word?
We say, use this unique, flexible word more often in your daily speech.
It will identify the quality of your character immediately.
Say it loudly, and proudly!
To hear this poem please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26UA578yQ5g&feature=related
According to the Old Testament Moses descended from Mount Sinai with two stone tablets inscribed with 17 Commandments and although the adopted son of the pharoah was the only man in the crowd who could read, Yahweh deigned not to write in Egyptian, so there could have been a thousand commandments for all Moses or Charlton Heston knew in the DeMille's version of THE TEN COMMANDMENT.
The re-interpretation in the ensuing millenia have whittled the 17 to 10, although the late comedian George Carlin shrank the list to One Commandment 'THOU SHALT KEEP THY RELIGION TO THYSELF!!!' I have religiously obeyed his non-divine edict, as have an increasing number of non-believers, however American education has ignored Judeo-Christian thought for the last half-century along with geography, history, math, art, PE, and any science with an -ology at the end of the word. People know less and less. Few can complete all the Ten Commandment, however anyone can resurrect the list by going to ask.jeeves.com and the interactive website had come up with its own list called the Ten Unanswerables, which are the following.
1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Is there a God?
3. Do blondes have more fun?
4. What is the best diet?
5. Is there anybody out there?
6. Who is the most famous person in the world?
7. What is love?
8. What is the secret to happiness?
9. Did Tony Soprano die?
10. How long will I live? Having recovered from my Friday night occupation of a bar stool at Solas on East 10th Street, I will try to provide Ten Answers for the Ten Unaswerables.
1. The meaning of life is simple. Live today for tomorrow you die.
2. There certainly isn't a bearded God wearing a muumuu in the clouds.
3. Blondes have more fun, if you like blondes.
4. The best diet is excess in moderation.
5. There are plenty of anybodies out there. They just don't know where we are.
6. The famous person in the world is Andre the Giant. To me at least.
7. Love is like pornography, I know it when I feel it.
8. The secret to happiness is loving yourself and the world around you. Even in North Philadelphia, which can be a very bad place.
9. Death on TV is cancellation. Even Tony Soprano can't escape swimming with the fish on TV.
10. Everyone lives until they die. See answer one.
Not trying to be smart, for anyone who thinks that he has heard all the answers has not heard all the questions.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I tried to enlist in the Marines soon after my 16th birthday. My mother wouldn’t sign the papers. The 1968 Tet offensive had her doubting the final outcome of the Vietnam Conflict. Boys were coming back in coffins. I wanted a gun in my hands. Returning soldiers were portrayed as drug addicted monsters. Dennis Halley came back with nothing more than a thirst for beer.
Dennis Halley had seen action near the DMZ. The Boston Globe had mentioned his heroics during the Tet offensive. My hometown’s John Wayne was dating my next door neighbor. Addy Manzi was the prettiest girl on the South Shore. We had vandalized an abandoned missile base of top of Chickatawbut Hill. The police had arrested me and I never gave up his or Addy’s name. I considered him a god and said that I was thinking about joining the Marines, while we were sitting by the Manzi’s swimming pool. "Why you want to go?" He stared at the stars. "I want to get out of here." My hometown had three red lights, fifteen churches, and no bars. It was a suburban purgatory.“I wouldn’t do that.” Dennis had served with the Army Rangers. He had returned with medals and a puckered hole in his arm from shrapnel. He shook his head. His hair was over his ears.
“Marines are taking a lot of casualties. Officers are gungho for promotion. One West Point fuck ordered my friend to get some beer. A mine blew up his truck. My man died for warm beer. Viet-Nam is fucked and if you don’t have to go then don’t go. Only people there are dumb fucks like me and poor white trash and blacks who can’t afford to go to college.”
“What about serving my country?” I believed in the American Way; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“I done served this country enough for the both of us. I spent two tours humping around rice fields, burning villages, and shooting at an enemy I couldn’t see. But one of them saw me good enough to shoot me. If I hear you signing up for the jarheads, I’ll kick your ass.” Dennis Halley was 20. He had killed VC. His eyes squinted like he was a stand-in for Clint Eastwood in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. His harsh words ran against the Pentagon’s optimism. "You want to leave this town, then join a carnival or circus."
“Okay.” I wasn’t arguing with my hero.
“Good, now give me some room.” He nodded to Addy. They wanted to be alone. I didn’t have to be told why and wandered across the lawn to my split-level house. It was painted pink.
The strength of his advice changed my life. I became a hippie instead of a Marine. I protested the war with conviction. My father considered me a ‘commie’, but he didn’t want me to go to Viet-Nam. Like Dennis said the war was someone else’s fight.I avoided the last years of the war by attending college.
By the time I graduated in 1974 our troop levels were down to 1950 numbers. More than 50,000 Americans died in SE Asia. Hundreds of thousands more were fucked up by grievous wounds to body and soul. Few of them talked about their experiences and those that had not gone wondered whether they missed the glory of war.
Dennis broke up with Addy and moved to California. She and I kissed after my older brother’s wedding. I was too drunk to attempt anything more in my family’s Oldsmobile. I quit my teaching job at South Boston High School in 1976 and relocated to New York. The punk movement was my universe. Manhattan was heaven for a young man in his 20s. I had friends. My girlfriend from West Virgina loved me and I worked at a rock disco on West 62nd Street. My days were free and I spent them going to the movies.
Double bills at the St. Mark’s movie house. 3-4 films a week. STAR WARS at the Whitestone Drive-in. ALIEN on May 25, 1979 at a Times Square theater. None was more important than the release of APOCALYPSE NOW on 15 August 1979 at the Ziegfield. I had seen CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF A 3RD KIND IN THE BALCONY. The sound was state-of-the-art.
Everyone from the club showed up an hour before noon. The line was around the block. The Ziegfield was the only theater in New York showing the film. It had won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May. This was the first day, first screening. None of us had to be anywhere else in the world but here. Whenever someone asked why we were waiting, they disconnected with their day and bought a ticket. We had orchestra seats.
It was a sell-out and disappointed film buffs were begging for tickets at any price. No one was selling. The thousand-strong audience filed into the West 54th Street theater with pride. This was where we were meant to be. Other friends were in the crowd.
We bullied our way to the center of the seating. No one with a hat was allowed in front of us. No Afros too. At noon the lights dimmed to a semi-darkness. None of us were ready for what came next.
A jungle filled the screen and the repeating whoop of helicopters passing overhead strobed over the sound system.
Dust and fire.
The young boy next to me ducked, as if the rotor blade might slice off his head and then a byzantine strum of a guitar followed by chimes. The predominantly male audience gasped with recognition.
THE END by the Doors.
A man’s face upside down overlapped with carnage.
A hundred matches ignited throughout the theater. Marijuana smoke clouded the air. This was genius. 153 minutes later I walked into the steamy afternoon with a better understanding about why Dennis Halley was so vehement about my not enlisting. APOCALYPSE NOW was a time machine back ten years.
“Do you think it was really like that?” My friend asked after fending off the next sitting’s questions about the film.
“Yeah.” I really didn’t know, but none of my friends who had been in Vietnam had spoken about the war. Some people told stories, but I figured those that knew didn’t say and those that say don’t really know. Now I had an idea and once more wished that I could have served in Viet-Nam.
Not to serve my country or kill VC, but to witness the spectacle of power and glory humbled by determination. It must have been something and I would gladly have risked my life to have the distinction of being a Viet-Nam veteran. Many men of my age felt the same way. We had missed out on the Big Show.
Like Civil War re-enacters more than a few of them claim to have been overseas with various units and this past month two congressional candidates were caught in these lies by the Press. They7 had been telling war stories to their small town constituencies for years. Everyone believed them. They were no John Kerry. There weren’t even GW Bush. They were Dick Cheney. Neither had been out of the country and that goes for me too.
I fired no M-16. I never danced with hookers at a Saigon Bar. Only go-go dancers in Thailand. Thirty years after the Fall of Saigon. My hair had been shoulder-length on that date. I danced in the streets of Boston with hippie girls. Our side forced the peace on LBJ, Nixon, the silent majority, and the military. I never expected a reward for taking a beating from riot police,but I’m getting old. The Department of Defense has yet to answer my requests for a pacifist pension.
Several years ago I flew over Viet-Nam on a flight back to the States from Thailand.
The country had looked at peace from eight miles high and I stared down at the mountains thinking about grunts humping 100 pounds backpacks up and down the slopes. It was a long way from America.
Back at work in the diamond exchange I told the security guards about my trip. Andy had served one tour in 1968. Army, but out of the motor pool. He had had no wish to end up a dead hero.
“I’ve been writing the Pentagon for a pension.”
“For what?” Andy knew my stance of the war. He felt it was a waste too, but also that we had to stop the reds from taking over the world.
“For all the years I protested against the war. Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NVA is gonna win.” The chant had served as a slogan at demonstrations throughout the USA.
“Fuck that. You traitors will get nothing.” Andy spat out these words. The Brooklyn native was right-wing. His 2012 choice for president was the feisty Alaskan Sarah Palin. Like my father he considers me a commie.
“And you deserve nothing. I landed in Saigon at the beginning of the Tet Offensive. Bullets were smacking into the charter jet and the sergeants yelled at us to take shelter. I spent the first three days in a trench praying for a truce. Mortar rounds landed ten feet from our shelter. I stayed one tour and got the fuck out. I don’t get a pension for it, so why should some long hair peace-nik.”
“Hey, the Feds give money to everyone. Why not me?”
“But you were never in Vietnam?”
“No, but I was in Cambodia.”
“You served in Cambodia?” Andy didn’t figure me for Army and he was right.
“No, I visited Phnom Penh and Laos too.” Both countries were next to Thailand. Thousands of farangs travel to the borders for a visa renewal. I thought about Dennis Halley’s dead friend. He was one of thousands that didn’t come back to the States.
“Have cold beer.”
“A luxury.” Andy wasn’t a drinker, but he liked cold beer. It goes good with ice in the jungle. 95 in the shade and sweat pouring from every pore.
“You got that right.” I saluted the retired cop as a fellow veteran although not of the war, but the times.
“Hippie scumbag.” He gave the finger.
“Baby-killer.” I didn’t mean nothing by it and neither did Andy.
My fingers split into a vee.
The gesture had many meanings.
Fuck the French to the English archers at Agincourt, since the frogs lopped off prisoners fingers to prevent their return to the killing ranks.
Churchill had transformed the vee into a sign for victory.
I remained true to the 60s.
“And love.” Andy returned the gesture, for war was a young man’s game made dead serious by the decisions of distant old men and like everyone else who lived through those times we were glad to be sucking air into our lungs.
Here there and everywhere.
When I visited Cambodia in 1995, I arrived at Phnom Penh’s airport on a brutally sunny day. My sunglasses offered little protection against the glare and stumbled toward the terminal seeking relief from the heat, then stopped upon seeing a score of young children getting off a bus. Every child was dressed in their best clothes and each was missing a limb or two. "They are flying to Bangkok for fittings with prosthetic limbs," a fellow passenger informed me with a hushed voice. Hopeful smiles disguised their absent arms and legs as well as their nervous anticipation of a long journey away from family and friends. I wished them luck with a smile. In Asia smiles have many meanings. Mine was shame. Amputees are everywhere in Cambodia and the mines laid during that long conflict reap new victims without a vacation. Strangely Cambodians don’t express anger about Pol Pot, the mines, or the long war, almost as if it had happened to someone else or talking about it might bring back those years.
Not me. I’d be out for revenge and my #1 target would be Henry Kissinger, who is portrayed in William Shawcross’ book, SIDESHOW as the principal architect of Cambodia’s descent from a neutral monarchy to the Pentagon’s secret front of the Viet-Nam War.
Prince Sihanouk had kept his country out of the neighboring conflict by waltzing between the USA and Vietnamese combatants. By 1970 this neutral status was unacceptable to the Nixon regime and Kissinger condoned the secret bombing of suspected NVA bases inside what was called the Parrot’s Beak.
Armed incursions followed by an ill-conceived invasion. Sihanouk was deposed and the Prince supported the Khmer Rouge against the Lon Nol dictatorship. This country of rice paddies and flood plains joined Laos and Vietnam in the holocaust. And despite the horrors portrayed in SIDESHOW, the Cambodians are a much more forgiving people than others who have suffered through a holocaust, mostly because they have to live with the perpetrators. They love Americans and only a few older people have any idea about what Kissinger or Nixon did to them. The rest live life as best they can without any help from the bombers of 1970.
Along the path to Angkot Wat’s Bayon Temple a quintet of amputees plays traditional music. A tourist stopped to take a photo and the leader of the troupe asked the visitor’s nationality. When the middle-aged voyager replied Texas, the band struck up YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS.
The tourist left a dollar and so did I.
Small reward for such forgiveness.
Forgetting is another matter.