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May 27th, 2019

Boomer

Normally on Memorial Day I simply give a silent nod of thanks to those who served and died for their country and for the American Dream. When I bought the house my nextdoor neighbor was a man named Joe who had served during WWII in the merchant marines. We would somedays find ourselves out on our front porches (Baltimore rowhouse front porches are where you really get to experience what a neighborhood is) and he would tell me stories about the war, often insisting that he was no hero, just some guy who moved supplies back and forth across the ocean because it was his job.

Me: So tell us again Joe about that time your ship got itself into a minefield and you looked over the side and saw a mine almost right up against it…

Joe: (slightly amazed voice even after all these years…) Oh yeah…that was a Big one too…

Through him I came to realize that the heroes to those guys were the ones that didn’t come back. So I usually refrain from calling them heroes or saying rote thank-you-for-your-service because I never know whether I’m making someone who was there feel better or digging at old and terrible wounds.

My generation’s war was Vietnam. I came close to getting drafted but failed the pre-induction physical, and before they could call me back in for another go at it Nixon had turned off the draft and I was spared the Vietnam experience so many of my generation were thrown into. So when Memorial Day comes along I don’t feel as though I have the requisite life experiences other do, to get too enthusiastic about this holiday.  And considering what it is we’re memorializing (our war dead) it strikes me as offensive to make it a celebration. It’s a solemn day of remembrance. People, young kids mostly, died in our wars. Some of them were unavoidable and there was no other way. But not all of them, and perhaps this is not the day to be bringing that up. But there’s one other thing I think that needs some discussion, especially today, while the veterans of the Vietnam war are still with us. When you use the word ‘Boomer’ as a curse, who is it you think you’re spitting on?

This was posted on a Facebook memory group I follow. The group is focused on memories of growing up in Montgomery County Maryland, which was my stomping ground for much of my kidhood in the 60s and 70s. Those are times we remember fondly, most of us. Boomers, as we are called nowadays…usually by much younger people who have no idea what a Boomer actually is. Lately I’ve begun to feel like I don’t know what it is and I’ve always been one. This man is 70. I am 65. The difference between us is he was drafted, and had no choice but to go, and I just barely escaped it. But we both had to walk into our local draft board office the instant we turned 18, we both had to carry our draft cards with us at all times, and I was called and went for my pre-induction physical. He must have passed his. Then this happened to him…

WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SHARE IS A VERY PERSONAL STORY.IT HAPPEND 51 YRS AGO IN VIETNAM WHEN I WAS JUST A 18YR OLD FROM WHEATON MD. AND I ALWAYS CONSIDERED MONTGOMERY COUNTY HOME…I NEVER TOLD THIS BECAUSE COMMING HOME NO ONE WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT NAM OR THEY JUST WOULDNT BELIEVE.I WAS DRAFTED IN JULY OF 67 AND WENT TO NAM IN JANUARY 68 JUST BEFORE THE 68 TET OFFENSIVE.AFTER DOING SOME RESEARCH I HAVE FOUND THE GRAVE SITE OF MY GOOD FRIEND GENE COLLIER WHO IS BURIED IN A GRAVE YARD IN EASTON MD..I PLAN TO GO THIS WED. AND PLACE A QUARTER ON HIS GRAVE WHICH MEANS THE PERSON WHO PLACED THE QUARTER ON THE HEAD STONE WAS WITH THE SOLDIER WHEN HE DIED.GENE WAS THE FIRST GOOD FRIEND THAT I LOST AND THE FIRST MAN I EVER SAW DIE..IT WAS PRETTY DRAMATIC FOR THIS 18YR OLD…I REMEMBER FEELING SO HELPLESS AND CRYING LIKE A NEW BORNE…I STARTED CUSSING GOD AND CALLED HIM EVERY VILE NAME I COULD EVEN THROWING HAND FULL OF DIRT AT THE SKY..AND I DIDNT CRY AGAIN UNTIL ALMOST 40 YRS LATTER.GENE WAS THE FIRST I SAW DIE BUT NOT THE LAST.I TURN HARD AND COLD HEARTED .ONE TIME OUR COMMO BUNKER BLEW AND KILLED 3 GUYS INSIDE.WE WERE MADE TO GET DOUBLE ARM INTERVALS AND HANDED A EMPTY SAND BAG AND TOLD TO GO THROUGH THE COMPANY AREA AND LOOK FOR PEICES OF THE THREE..I SAW PEICES ON TOP OF THE SUPPLY TENT AND THEN I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW A BABY FINGER AND RING FINGER ATTACHED TOGETHER.AS I WENT TO PICK UP THE FINGERS A STRAY DOG RAN UP AND SNATCH THEM UP AND RAN OFF.IF I HAD MY RIFLE OR PSTOL I WOULD HAVE SHOT THE DOG BUT I THOUGHT HOW DO YOU TELL A MOTHER OR WIFE THAT A DOG RAN OFF WITH PART OF THERE LOVED ONE.THERE WERE OTHERS CHICO AND BOB WETZEL JHONNY AYERS AND MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER TERRY KAWAMURAI NEW TERRY AND HE WAS KILLED AFTER I WAS HOME BRAVE MEN ALL.BUT GENE WAS THE HARTEST.YOU SEE HE GOT A LETTER FROM HIS WIFE THAT HE WAS THE FATHER OF A LITTLE NEWBORNE BABY GIRL.SOME HOW WE FOUND A 1/2 BOTTLE OF SEGRAMS TO CELEBRATE.A MONTH LATTER GENE WAS DEAD..THIS IS WHY MEMORIAL DAY IS AND ALWAYS WAS SPECIAL TO ME..I AM 70 YRS OLD NOW AND HAVE THOUGT OF ALL WHO I SERVED WITH THROUGH THE YRS.I HAVE CRIED AND MADE PEACE WITH MY PAST AND WITH GOD..I WAS JUST A YOUNG PARRATROOPER FROM WHEATON MD WHO HAD TO GROW UP FAST..WAR IS SUCH A WASTE..FIRST TIME I EVER TOLD THIS BUT HELL I’M AN OLD MAN NOW AND JUST HELD ON TO THEM ALL THESE YRS…STAY SAFE THIS WEEK END..AND NEVER FORGET WHY YOU ARE STILL FREE..P.S. VERY APPREHENSIVE ABOUT SHARING AND POSTING THIS AND I THINK I KNOW WHY…FROM ALL THE NEGETIVE CRITICISM OVER THE YRS ABOUT SERVING AND THE WAR…BUT HERE IT GOES

How about on Memorial Day we rededicate ourselves to fighting right wing war mongering, and the leaders, pundits, and classless morons who never served, let alone actually saw combat, that cheer us on into the next splendid little war? How about we rededicate ourselves to not letting this happen to our teenage sons and daughters for no reason other than realpolitik, or national pride, or the sick vanities of celebrity politicians and pundits? And next time you hear someone say Boomer with contempt remember this man and consider there are thousands like him. ‘Boomer’ is too general a word to describe a generation just over half of which had the draft and Vietnam haunting them then…and now…and just under half who never had to carry a draft card in their wallets on threat of arrest and imprisonment if they didn’t always have it on them. I am on the cusp of that divide, and I see across it. They are more different landscapes than ‘Boomer’ can embrace with a shred of meaning, let alone understanding.

And there was more going on back then besides the war. There was the civil rights movement. The struggle to integrate the public schools. There was women’s liberation. There was the fight against censorship (After Grove Press published Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” in 1961 obscenity lawsuits were brought in 21 states against booksellers that sold it. Also in 1961 Lenny Bruce was arrested for using the word ‘c*cksucker’ in a comedy routine on stage. This was even before the underground comics started rattling cages everywhere.). There was the gay rights movement. And yes, there were people in our generation on both sides of those fights…which is partially my point here. But mostly it’s this…

…AND THEN I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW A BABY FINGER AND RING FINGER ATTACHED TOGETHER.AS I WENT TO PICK UP THE FINGERS A STRAY DOG RAN UP AND SNATCH THEM UP AND RAN OFF…

People bled. Inside and out. People are Still bleeding from what happened to them back then. I see it all the time. I don’t have the horrific memories some do (I have my own struggle with things that happened to me as a gay teenager and young adult), but I walk among my generational peers and I see this stuff and it makes me angry, livid at times, to hear ‘Boomer’ thrown around like a spitball. If you can offhandedly lump everyone born between 1946 and 1964 together with a single word spoken like a curse then you have no clue about that period in your own country’s history, let alone the threads in this one that have their origins in that one. Read this man’s testimony. And maybe understand why, when I hear anyone use the word Boomer with contempt (Hi Ezra Klein and VOX!) I block them. Instantly. You have nothing to say to me. Or to anyone else, really.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Boomer

January 23rd, 2018

That Is Now, This Was Then…

The Boys in the Band stars Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer on bringing play to Broadway

Put this down, I reckon, in the same category as I’m trying to get used to hearing the word “queer” as something other than a homophobic slur. I absolutely detested this play. And yet, seeing this group of proud out gay actors taking it on and making it theirs made me want to go watch them do it. I hated everything about this play, and especially its overall tone that so it goes for such as us. “If only we could learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”

And here we are, decades later, and we can marry the one we love, and gay kids can grow up not hating themselves, and seeing happy and whole lives ahead of them. But that is now, this was then…

“What I like so much about Boys in the Band is how the play right now reads so much as, ‘Look at how things have changed and look at how they haven’t,’” Parsons, 44, explains in the above behind-the-scenes video.

“We’ve come so far in the last 5 years, just legislatively. And yet there’s been this explosion of backward thinking and harmful thinking and political ideology that swept our country,” says Quinto, 40. “We are responsible for standing up and being acknowledged and celebrating ourselves and celebrating our community in a way that shows these people that are trying to undo the progress that we’ve made that we are not going anywhere.”

Adds Crowley: “You just have to be reminded of how our freedom didn’t exist. We can’t lose it. We can’t go back. There is no good time to tell it except all times.”

I’ll accept that, and go watch this play not as an historical document so much as in full agreement with Crowley’s warning. This is what will happen to us all over again, if things go back, if the Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkins of the world have their way. Yes…now I can see the play in a different light, now I can see how important it is to keep this play alive.

I bought tickets for the May 12 afternoon performance. Get train tickets and a hotel room within walking distance of it later…make a New York City weekend of it and take one of my good film cameras because they love Manhattan island very much.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Is Now, This Was Then…

February 1st, 2017

No…The American Dream Will Not Go Silently Into The Night Mr. Bannon…

…it is bigger, richer, more urgently felt than you could ever know…

 

One thing I love about this ad is the open acknowledgement of how immigrants were treated even back then. It’s so refreshingly honest about our history compared to the rainbows and unicorns version I got back in early grade school. We were so proud of our little melting pot back then…back when we were competing with the Soviet Union for the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. Not so much anymore.

If a certain German someone and I were still on emailing terms I would have loved to share this with him. But now I’m not even sure he’d appreciate the sentiment in it. It’s one thing to be determined to follow your dreams. It’s another to be determined not to have any. But some of us still believe in our dreams…rough hewn and broken though they may be… Here’s to you Herr Busch. Here’s to you Herr Anheuser. Prost!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No…The American Dream Will Not Go Silently Into The Night Mr. Bannon…

March 10th, 2016

Not What It Used To Be

While staying at the Walt Disney World parks I would make extensive use of my  annual pass. It basically gives you freedom to wander around the parks without worry about  when your tickets expire or which park you’re allowed into that day. So if I was staying at Boardwalk I’d start my morning with a walk down the path to Hollywood Studios…

 

hollywood studios walk-sm

 

…and make my way to The Writer’s Stop to get my morning coffee and a danish.  The Writer’s Stop is  a nice little coffee shop/bookstore tucked in a corner of Hollywood Studios, themed as a studio writer’s lounge/hangout.  And now it looks like they’re going to close it, another one of my favorite places in WDW, to make way for more Star Wars stuff.  I can’t really blame them. Star Wars is hot right now. It’ll bring the tourists in…and the money.

I’m probably not going back to Walt Disney World, largely because it’s not as much fun if I have to remember the fight I had with a certain someone every time I go back. But there is also this, and I discussed it the other day  with a co-worker who is also a big Disney fan: it’s feeling less and less every year like Walt Disney’s World, and more like Disney Corporation’s World.

I think when I started going back in 2008 I was just seeing the last fading light of Walt Disney’s influence on the parks. It was something special to me because I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was still alive and when I walked into Epcot that first time it all came back to me. But in the years since they’ve bought Star Wars and they’ve bought Marvel, and while those are all fun things they’re not necessarily Disney things. I don’t think that much matters to the boardroom anymore. Those of us who still remember Walt Disney are getting old.

It’s still the Rolls Royce of theme parks. The nearest competition can’t even come close. But I wasn’t a theme park kinda guy back in 2008…I only got talked into it by a certain someone, and then, to my surprise and delight, only dived in because I remembered Walt Disney. I don’t need to keep coming back anymore, if it can’t at least still be his theme park.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not What It Used To Be

July 20th, 2012

Today in 1969. 1969. 1969!

On July 20, 1969 I was 15 years old and sitting in front of the family TV with my little Kodak Brownie Fiesta, and I snapped this shot off the screen…

The TV was a monochrome unit powered by vacuum tubes and had a tuner that picked up VHF channels 2 through 13 and maybe also UHF channels too, although there wasn’t much to see on UHF and on VHF you just had the three major networks and maybe one or two local independent stations. It got its signal with rabbit ear antennas. Cable TV was for the rural folks who lived too far away from the city transmitters to get a good signal. The household telephone (there was only one) was hard wired into the wall and had a rotary dial. The household music player was a German made console unit, also powered by vacuum tubes, that had an AM/FM radio that also picked up four shortwave bands, plus an automatic turntable you could stack up to five records on. It would play record speeds of 16, 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rpm. It was however, not a stereo unit. We wouldn’t get a stereo record player in the house until I was 17 and mom bought me a small portable unit for Christmas. Cameras used photographic film, you wanted to read the news you bought a newspaper, school teachers handed out assignments and tests printed on mimeographs, and if you wanted to listen to music on the go, something small enough to fit in your pocket say, you bought a small transistor radio. These typically only picked up AM radio signals and had a jack for a single earphone to plug into one ear. The Sony Walkman would not appear for another decade. Computers took up entire floors and were programmed with punch cards and paper tape, and the “user” was considered to be the programmer who submitted the job, not the poor schlep who needed the output. I was sitting in front of the TV with a camera on that day because the first mass market home video recorders would not appear until 1975. And we were putting human footsteps on the moon. It was 1969.

 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Today in 1969. 1969. 1969!

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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