A Modest Declaration

October 11, 2016


When in the course of human political events,

it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with obsolete political parties, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all humans are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness–that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among the people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

And furthermore, that whenever any system of quasi-governmental political parties becomes destructive of these ends, it  becomes the Necessity of the people to alter or abolish those superfluous forms, and to institute new political associations, laying the revised foundations on such principles and organizing political powers in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Liberty.

When a long train of political party misuses and misappropriations enables the party powers to take undue advantage of the people beneath two overblown party hegemonies, it is the right of the people–yea, it is their duty–to throw off such contra-functional political structures, and to provide new avenues for their political expressions, and more importantly, for their national security.

Such has been the patient, obsequious sufferance of many a hapless Democrat and clueless Republican under irresponsible,  exploitive party hacks; and such is now the necessity which constrains the exploited people to delete their formerly systematic, politically impotent political parties.

The history of those present political parties is a history of increasing irrelevance and institutional ineptitude, presently producing no useful thing, except insofar as it provokes a mounting urgency for reform amongst the American people. This discontent is soon to be directed against the ineffective Dhemmie and Repooblican lackeys, as the people realize their sincere desires and thus sharpen their dutiful efforts toward finding new governance, through the appointment of competent, dignified leadership. To effect such change as heretofore put forth, let us tell it like it is:

       ~~ Both political parties have produced presidential candidates who are incapable of upholding the dignity of the people whom they pretend to govern.

       ~~ Both presidential candidates have obsessively traded insults about each other’s crimes, bankruptcies, emails, and many other superfluous offenses too numerous to list. These narcissistic jabs serve no constructive purpose; rather, they ignore, in effect, the noble heritage and the inherent dignity of the American people; furthermore,  these Hillary/Donald excursions into ridiculous dog-chasing-his-tail quasi-rhetorical futility, do insidiously distract  the formerly productive attentions of  the American people,  and thereby dumb-down the entire political landscape. Such gravely irresponsible misdirection of the public discourse is destructive; it absolutely fails  to illuminate the serious issues and grave concerns by which our nation’s security and prosperity is now imperiled. Thus Hillary and Donald have utterly failed, by their useless antics, to edify or instruct us about anything pertaining to the governance of this nation, not to mention the rest of the world, to which we were in days past, the original, exceptional (haha) example of republican democracy.

       ~~ As concerning the two dumb-downed parties who, by their negligence and self-serving corruption, have facilitated the seizure of our presidential selection process by these two charlatans, we the people hereby reject their collusive hegemony over our individual lives and over our collective security as a free people.

We, therefore, the citizens of the United States of America, in our domestic habitations, in our cyber identities, and in our collective and individual dignity as citizens of a free nation, do set forth this appeal to our fellow-Americans, that we might ditch the old, has-been Democrat and Republican wrecked irrelevancies, and embark upon a bold, revised political scenario, by which we can  approach, adventurously, a new horizon wherein is the vigorous  extension  of our free expression and truly effective political organization, to whit:

Go ye out on election day and Vote. Feel free to Vote for any party that remotely reflects your principles, be it Green, or Libertarian, or whatever, but not the damn Nazis.  Endorse whatsoever political association you shall, in your good conscience, with regard to responsible leadership, devise.

Therefore, so that We, the People of the United States of America, may embark upon a new expedition of responsive leadership and effective government, do hereby now forsake the old, sclerotic Democratic party and the decrepit, obsolete Republican party,

And forsooth, by this means, government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth,

Because hey, if such a thing as this cannot be done in the United States of America, where on earth can it be done?


Glass half-Full

Tan Son Nhut 1970

October 9, 2016


When Johnny came marching home again it was in 1971, although really, there was no parade.

He wasn’t actually marching, anyway, but rather flying commercial out of Vietnam on a PanAm from Cam Ranh Bay. The jet featured American stewardesses, and this was a very favorable detail that our exiting guys did not fail to notice as they soared off to Pacific destinations and ultimately all the way back  over here to the good ole USA. It was a long flight from the war, and a long time to have to watch stewardesses traipsing up and down the carpeted aisles, serving food and drink; but our guys managed to get through it.

My old friend Johnny’s departing flight from Vietnam was a reversal of his arrival there, a year earlier, on a commercial US aircraft.

But here’s a curious fact that he confided to me. The “scaredest” he ever got while in Vietnam was on that first day, during the jet’s approach into Cam Ranh, because the descending plane was drawing enemy fire!

Welcome to Vietnam! Haha!

Last week, during the first days of October 2016, my old neighborhood friend Johnny told me about his one year tour in Vietnam. He lives in Louisiana, where we both started life; now I live in North Carolina. We brought our wives and had a Florida panhandle reunion at the beach.

We were chums in high school, but after our graduation in 1969 he went his way and I went mine. I went to college; he went to Vietnam.

I was protesting the war; he was over there in the middle of it.

Before last week, I had not seen Johnny since about 1975.

Now I’m writing a novel about that period of time, and about some of the differences–and reconciliation– between those two diverging groups–“them that went” and “them that didn’t.”

As it turned out, Johnny’s year of duty at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, just north of Saigon, was, he admits, easier than the brutal combat some of our guys had to endure out in the jungles while they were on patrol  being relentlessly pursued by the silently stalking Viet Cong.

During our time of defending the former Republic of Vietnam, tons and tons of weaponry, machinery, and supplies had to be delivered into the country to supply our people there. Tan Son Nhut was a busy location for transport and communications, and we needed a lot of guys on the ground to keep systems oiled, protected and combat-ready. My friend Johnny was one of those men.

During high school, Johnny had acquired some work experience in appliances and refrigeration. After our high school graduation he was not inclined, as I was, toward college. He worked for a while. Then he saw, you might say, “the handwriting on the wall” about how career choices were shaping up in 1969-70. So he volunteered for the Army. After boot camp at Fort Polk (Louisiana) and some duty-specific training at Fort Belvoir (Virginia), he shipped out, which is to say, he was put on a flight path that landed him at the Cam Ranh Air Base where they almost got shot down before setting foot in the infamous theater of Vietnam.


When my friend arrived at his post on the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut Air Base, he spent a year on guard duty, keeping watch over the rice paddies and distant jungles beyond the fence, and reporting whenever mortar fire or any other unfriendly thing was approaching the air base.

Inside the base, there were moments when our guys could take a little time off. Here’s a pic that Johnny snapped; it depicts a recreational session of high-stakes card-sharking, with maybe a little bluffing and probably some bravado bullcrap thrown in to keep the game interesting.


Here’s a pic of Johnny, taken when he had only been in Vietnam a few days.


Last week, after Johnny showed me a few hundred photos that had been stored away at his home, I thanked him for taking the time to meet me in Florida so we could talk about Vietnam.

Because I can’t write a book about what was happ’nin’ in the USA in 1969 without talking about Vietnam. I also thanked my friend for his service to our nation.

And I thanked God that he survived it. There were 58,000 of “them that went” who did not.

If you were a college kid like me in the 1960’s-’70’s, you will find it well worth your time to visit a few of the men and women who did not do college at that time, but who served–by choice or by draft–in the military. Right or wrong, won or lost, however you call it, they did what our country called them to do.

We may need many more like them before it’s all over with.

King of Soul


October 5, 2016


Coast is clear

life is dear

without fear

now and here

World turns round

up turns down

some get lost, others found

life goes back to ground

Build the town

structures up, but they’ll come down

lots of noise, then dearth of sound

still the world goes round and round

Another day, another turn

some will learn; some will burn

many earn and some discern

still the world doth turn and turn

Clouds rise up

life is tough

times get rough

lose some stuff

When all is said and done

we live and walk and speak and run

we feel pain but we find fun

until this present day is done.

What then?

Do it all again?

How about find a friend

in the one who died and rose again.


Glass half-Full

from Ridiculous to Sublime

September 28, 2016

A couple of nights ago, I briefly tuned into that  greatly over-hyped debate. Donald was blathering about Hillary’s emails and she was going on and on about his failure to release tax returns.

Nothing new here, just more of the same old same old blah blah.

So I ditched it, and went back to what I had been doing before, because, I thought, this is ridiculous.

Well then a day or two rolls by.

This afternoon, while listening to WDAV on the radio, my soul was stirred profoundly by the hearing of an amazing selection of music. And I found myself wondering, what is it about this music that moves me so much?

I don’t know, but I can tell you one thing. This music it is sublime.

What is sublime? you may wonder. I cannot adequately explain to you what the word sublime means, but I can show you where the meaning is clearly demonstrated if you will listen to this:


As the changing drama within the music builds up, pay particular attention to these     minute-time points in the video: 2:58, 4:00, 5:55 and 8:32.

I recently read something about how or why  this artistic dynamism moves us so much. In his book, A Secular Age,


Charles Taylor says . .

“. . . such art can serve to disclose very deep truths which in the nature of things can never be obvious . . .”

This music is, after all physical analysis is said and done, merely a pounding of wood and metal beneath the orchestrated hands of trained men. How can it be, then, that it moves me so?

To try to understand why or how, you might as well try to comprehend how or why, over two centuries ago, some men and women like you and me had a luxurious building constructed and then  walked around on its mosaic floor like they owned the place and then later a bunch of other stuff happened and things changed and it got covered up for a long time and then one day some other people came along and dug it up and said . . .

“. . .well, gollee, what do you know about that?”

“Gosh, Jeb, it’s a mystery to me.”


Glass Chimera


September 26, 2016

Shall Not Perish

So okay all you Republican floozies, if Trump is going to be the man with the plan then we need to get a few principles clarified upfront from the get-go.

#1. The man needs to be humbled and kept in his place, if he is going to be a truly effective leader. His ego is too big. This should be our strategy in dealing with the strong leader that he is.

#2. Other Republican leaders like Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Mitt Romney and both former Presidents Bush will need to ride him hard to keep the buckaroo in line with Republican principles.

#3. A very important principle of the GOP is the one spoken by our founder, Abraham Lincoln; he exhorted the folks at Gettysburg . . . “government of the people, for the people, and by the people shall not perish from the earth.”

And government by the people means teamwork, not one guy calling all the shots.

#4. Evangelical leaders who are smitten with Trump’s authoritative leadership style need a reality check. Remember the words of our Lord, the One who is faithful and true, who said,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave”

#5. #WhateverTrump does not mean that whatever Trump wants should be done. It means whatever Trump wants must be harnessed by the Republican party, the party that put him where he is today, the party that will keep his initiatives in line with Republican principles, the party that will diligently and compulsively advise him in matters critical to the preservation and extension of this great American Republic and also the free world at large.

#6. #WhateverTrump does not mean that whatever Trump decides to do should be done. It means whatever Trump decides should be done must be legislatively advised and consented to by the Congress of the United States; and limited, if necessary, but the Supreme Court of the United States, so that we will remain a representative Republic, a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

#7. For my fellow-Christians, the most important principle of all: In God We Trust, not in the power of any one man, nor any .gov to fix everything. For those who do not choose to trust God, #good luck, and may the farce be with you.

Glass half-Full

Covered Women

September 20, 2016


I was a Catholic kid growing up in the 1950’s. During that era, the Church schools were administered by nuns whose habits included keeping themselves covered by black and white cloth.

But during my lifetime, now extending into 65 years, all that nunnery garb has gone the way of the buffalo. You don’t hardly see old-style nuns walking around in public any more.

On the other hand, there appears to be a worldwide movement by some religious people to keep their women covered. More about that in a moment.

Another thing that was going on back in the day, when I was a youngster, was the growth of viewership in playboy magazine, a publication that was eagerly snapped by pubescents like myself and many others, for the sake of looking at naked women.

Generally, us good Catholic boys preferred to train our eyes onto the girls in the magazine, instead of the nuns who were teaching us at school.

That infamous magazine was not the only one, as you probably know. There were many others, such as penthouse and hustler. As the years rolled by, those rags just got raunchier and raunchier. Then along came the X-rated movie houses, peep house, topless bars and ultimately the worldwide web on which any female genitalia and mammary-triggered acting out can be fantasized. At various times I sampled them all before God got a hold of me and got me straightened out on a few things.

Now I notice, ubiquitously, we inhabit an hyper-stimulating post-religious world where many women who court the public spotlight compete with each other for  male gawks by flaunting outfits that take exposure, instead of fashion, to the max.

This is very titillating, and at times seems pleasant and quite alluring, but it doesn’t solve any problems. In fact, as a certified old geezer now I am starting to think this whole hefneresque uncoverage trend has generated more trouble than its worth.

All these sexy women sauntering around in the world can actually make a man’s life much harder–not easier–to bear.

My personal experience uncovers this truth: when you get right down to it, there is nothing better for a man in this world than a real, live woman who loves him, and there is nothing better for a woman than a real, live man who loves her.

But now we have millions of horny men walking around in the post-modern, post-religion, post-playboy, post-marriage, post-internet world being constantly tormented by all these uncovered women.

And so along cometh the Muslims imams, raising their hajibual judgements against our licentious western ways.

As a Christian, I cannot deny they have a point.

They want to keep the women covered. Western women see this as oppression. Maybe it is, but there are some western men who discreetly understand why it is that the Muslims want to cover their women with hijab and niqab. My born-again assessment of this conundrum is that Law (of covering women, or anything else) is no salvation–and no solution–for delivering us over-stimulated males from our sexual obsessions. We each have our own frustrations to deal with, and that is an issue between each man and his God. And his woman, if he is fortunate enough to have one.

In other news, it has been reported that some great historian said somewhere that what goes around comes around.

I could say that, in my lifetime, the notion of women being modestly dressed has incrementally disappeared; maybe it went around the dark side of the moon or somewhere to be disposed of forever. Religious people are criticized for being old-fashioned, puritanical, repressed, blahblahblah, for their antiquated ideas about keeping women covered.

Now the idea of modesty comes back around, but this time from a different source–a different religion–not the old Catholic one, not the old Puritan one, not the old Calvinist one, but the new/old Muslim one that comes slouching from the east.

And this old guy wonders if now we really get what’s coming to us. Nebuchadnezzer is not just mouthing empty fatwahs.

Maybe it’s time to take cover.

Glass half-Full

The Bang at Trang Crossroads

September 18, 2016

Here’s ann excerpt from chapter 11 of the new novel, King of Soul, now being written; the scene is Vietnam, about 45 years ago. . .

(Warning: viewer discretion is advised. This passage could affect your feeling of well-being in the world as it presently exists, and as it existed then. . .)

Ahnika was terrified; she was so scared to turn around and then see that plane coming at them, but she turned her head  anyway. The pounding of her bare feet against the road made everything in her terrified vision seem to bounce up and down with insanely out-of-place energized chaos and this only compounded her terror. The planes that usually zoomed above their village had never come this close before. Why was it flying so low, so fast, so directly toward them. And why, since it was bearing down so close, so fast–why were bombs coming out of it, tumbling projectiles? This was not right. There was something wrong. Then came the explosions. It was no bad dream. These bombs were exploding; the smoke was billowing faster than the villagers could run; it was covering the whole world. Her brothers were just ahead, running faster than she could. But Auntie was behind; that’s why Ahnika was looking behind, because Auntie was back there, with little brother in her arms. There was a part of herself–a part of her family–a part of her Vietnamese life still behind her, trying to run, stumbling, falling. Falling?! Auntie had fallen. No No No No!, but no, Auntie had not fallen, but little brother had fallen from her arms; little brother was down on the road. Ahnika saw the look of confused desperation on Auntie’s face, and just as Ahnika was about to try to do something, maybe stop, maybe try to get little brother,  a soldier grabbed him and then little brother was in the soldier’s arms but he was still wailing while the soldier was up and running again. Go! go! he yelled at Ahnika. Just ahead, other villagers were coming fast out of a the hut by the side of the road. Yellow and purple smoke was swirling as they ran through it; now there was bomb smoke behind and yellow and purple smoke ahead where the men had set off the smoke markers that were supposed to mark the temple grounds so their pilots would know where to not drop, but something was wrong and these explosions meant for the Viet Cong were hitting us instead something was wrong. After the first marker plume had fanned out but failed to prevent the pilot from hitting the wrong spots and so after he had dropped his loads off course something was wrong and while the ARVN commander was trying to stop the next drop, Auntie buckled at her knees, reached back behind herself to find out what was wrong with her leg and her pain was registered on her face she was clutching at the back of her leg and now her fingers were stuck together with the sticky napalm and so Auntie did not see it when the soldier who had got little brother took a direct hit of the stuff he was incinerated. But then the white-shrouded Caodai man who had earlier been in the temple with them picked up little brother he was not crying anymore and the whole scene was darkened with smoke and roaring noise and pain so bad you couldn’t even tell where it was coming from but then Ahnika was struck with such a force from behind that she was down on the ground gravel in her mouth in her face and the worst pain ever felt by woman or child behind her, or in her behind in her shoulders, her arms but then she was up again desperate energized by the fear and running, running, pulling at the neck of her clothes because they were too hot, too hot but when she pulled at them then suddenly their entire cloth just fell away and she was up again running, running, wailing naked, crying with the pain, past any understanding of what was happening to them all or why or why or how this burning world could have turned out this way and she had her arms flung out to the sides , like a cross while she wailed and cried, like a cross she appeared and she felt like the pain of the whole world had fell on her shoulders but it was not her shoulders it was somebody’s else’s in the nightmare, somebody else’s writhing, stretched out in pain and taking on the shape of a cross. It wasn’t her any more it was somebody else in that cross, in that Trang crossroads as they ran, ran, toward Cu Chi, but she couldn’t remember who it was taking the brunt of so much pain could it have been her or somebody else as everything in the world is going wrong and the weight of the whole damned world falls on those shoulders stretched out like a damn cross.

King of Soul 

In Capitolettes’ Orchard

September 14, 2016


A scene from from the new play, now being composed,  Barromeo and JulioCare,

from Act II. Scene II.

The scene: before dawn, in Capitolettes’ orchard

Enter  Barromeo.

Barromeo. But whattheheck? what entitlement through yonder Congress breaks?

It is the east, and JulioCare is the sun!

Arise fair sun, and burn off the fatted corporates,

who are already plump with capitalism’s excess.

Oh, How shall I fund thee, JulioCare?

Let me count the ways.

One, two, three, what are we pushin’ for?

Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same–

next phase gottta be an affordable game.

But hey! what Act through yonder Congress creeps,

shepherded by my Dhemmi peeps

It is my plan; O! it is my .gov!

Ob! that (s)he knew he/she were.

She/he speaks, yet spouts legal-speak, what of that?

Her/his eye discourses; I will pander to it.

See how he/she leans his/her cheek upon her/his hand;

oh that I were an MJ glove upon that hand,

that I might touch them little cheeks.

JulioCare (on hill portico above): Pshaw! woe is me.

Barromeo (aside): (S)he speaks: O! speak again bright angels in America,

for thou art as amorphous to this night

as some winged messenger of left-equality

unto the white-winged Right.

JulioCare: O Barromeo, Barromeo, wherefore art thou Barromeo?

Deny thy privilege, and ante up their game;

Or, if thou wilt not, be butt torn my love,

and I’ll no longer be a Capitolette.

Barromeo: (aside) Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

JulioCare: ‘ Tis but thy game that is my enemy;

thou art, thyself, not a politician bought-and-sold-for.

What’s a politician? it is not Dhemmi, nor Prublican,

nor ding, nor dong, nor any other part

belonging to a man. Ob! be ye some other name:

What’s in a frickin’ name anyway? that which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet;

So Barromeo would, were he not El Prezzo called,

retain that dear election by which he shows

his coolness.

Barromeo: Listen up, girl! By a name,

I know not how to tell thee who I am, except

I am, you know, El Prezzidente, and tell your

Capitolette Prublican patriarchs don’t you forget it!

JulioCare: My funds have not yet drunk! a thousand pages of thy remedy,

yet I’ll tell my maid Nancy to have them read the damn thing

after it is passed by yonder congressional hacks

so its passage will be sure before yonder sun arises

to cast dread light upon our desperate plan

for the candyman can the candy man can.

At least that’s what Uncle Sammy said back in the day.

Barromeo: Hey, fair maideno, we got it covered. Not to worry. We can slide it past your Prublicans duds quicker than you can say Taxonomy, according to Chief Justy Roberto. You just go back in there and get some rest

and I’ll take care of the rest, cuz I’m the best

thing since sliced bread

to come outa Chicago since Dick Daley was the head. . .

JulioCare:  Wait! (looking down at her cell) Pshaw! Pshit! My maid just texted–she said beware the ides of March and the

Big Banquos and the

Risk Corridors and whatever obfuscations my esteemed Prublicans bury in there before the whole damned spot gets out of the House of the Capitolettes.

Barromeo: Not to worry, babe. By yonder bleepin’ moon I swear–

JulioCare: Oh! swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, which is, bi- and by, darkened by its dark side and–pshaw! pshit!–there’s the lark, the herald of the morn, with harsh chirps and unpleasant sharps–’tis no nightingale that now soothes the forest of this night. Bi hence, be gone away! before reconciliation faileth to befuffuddle my forebears.

Barromeo:  But hey, babe, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?

JulioCare: What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?

Barromeo: the exchange of, um, thy love’s faithful vow for mine.

JulioCare:  That’s a great idea; tell ’em to go the Exchange. No big deal.

Barromeo: You got it, babe, but hey, parting is such sweet sorrow, ’till we meet again. . .

JulioCare: Oh, ’tis twenty years ’til then!

Barromeo: Whoa, whoa, don’t get bent out of shape. We needeth not such hyperbole.

JulioCare: Oh! when will we meet again! ’til then will I be but  shapeshifting and forlorn.

Borromeo:  In your dreams, baby; in your dreams. ‘Til then, this thing will come together when Prublican wood doth move against Dhemmo games.

Maid (from within): JulioCare, get yo’ assets back in here before the light of day changes everything!

JulioCare: Oh! pshaw! pshit! gotta go, Barromeo, but ’til we meet again in better circumstances . . .       ; -)

Borromeo: Farewell, fair maideno, until we meet again! stay thee away from the risk corridors, lest they fall upon thee with unbearable rate-hikes. ‘Tis a dangerous game. So fair and foul a game I have not seen, nor have most other folks. Hey, What’s in the game, anyway? a dollar by any other  special drawing rights– ’tis nuttin’ butt a tweet. I’ll see ya when I see ya. I’ll see your beloved currency and raise you an SDR. Fare thee well; my love for thee runs as deep as the Fed.

Exit Barromeo.

Glass Chimera

A Boomer Looks Back

September 5, 2016


Now that I’ve been growing up for 65 years, I am at last approaching some semblance of adulthood.

During the course of my baby’boomer lifetime, I have seen some changes; some of them I am actually starting to comprehend.

Now I look back on it all and find myself wondering about some things, but quite sure about some other things.

Several years ago, my wife and I spent some vacation time on the island of Maui, in the great state of Hawaii. While driving one afternoon down the western slope of Hale’akala volcano, we happened upon a memorial to a great man named Sun Yat-sen.

In his lifetime, during the early 20th century–1911, Sun lead many of his countrymen in a revolution that deposed the old monarchy of their country–the Chinese Qing dynasty. But before that happened, he had spent some time in Hawaii; that’s why there’s as statue of him there.

At the base of Sun Yat-sen’s memorial a quote from him is carved in the stone, and this is what is said:


Ever since I saw that, I have been working that pearl of wisdom into my way of living as much as I can. And this principle of living and learning has been not only a motivation for me toward acquiring useful knowledge, but also a source of great joy and satisfaction.

This principle is expanded in the Proverbs of the Bible: Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it. Proverbs 16:22.

Now this may seem like a philosophical idea, but it is really very productive in the living of real life. Here’s a nuts n’ bolts example:

In 1992, when I was still a young man of 41, working as a carpenter to provide for our three children, and for my wife who had not yet become a nurse, and for our household, I took a job with a construction company remodeling (a refurb job) an old K-Mart. My job was to tear old stuff out from around the inside perimeter of the store and replace it with a newer style of retail display.

I had been visiting K-Marts ever since I was a teenager in the 1960’s. So I had been seeing those retail structures for most of my life. But to look behind the facade, into the structure, and then to reconstruct the structure based on newer, more modern components–this work experience held a strange satisfaction for me, as well as a source of income for a season of our life.

Working on that K-Mart was more than a paycheck; it was a joy to behold as the various phases of reconstruction unfolded beneath my hands and before my eyes.

Look into the nature (or structure) of things!

Many years have passed; now I’m looking back on it all. Part of the outcome from this reflection will be a novel that I am now researching and writing. It is a story that takes place during the time of my youth; it has become a cathartic process for reconciling the difference between what I thought I knew then and what I now know about that turbulent period of my g-generation’s growing up.

Ours was the generation whose maturing was said to be delayed because Dr. Spock wrote a book about child care that–as some have judged it–convinced our mothers to spoil us.

While there may be an element of truth to that judgement, I have noticed in my conversations with some people lately that there is category of folks in our boomer generation who were definitely not spoiled:

Those guys and gals who fulfilled their duty to our country by going to fight the war in Vietnam–they found themselves in a situation where they had to grow up in one hell of a hurry.

What I am seeing now is, in my g-generation, there was a great divide between: Them that went, and them that didn’t.

While I was college freshman in 1969, trying to figure out what life was all about, and marching against the war, those guys who who went to ‘Nam were required–and yeah I say unto thee–forced to figure out how to keep life pumping through their bodies and the bodies of their buddies who fought with them.

Those soldiers who went over there had to grow up a lot quicker than I did.

I did not go to Vietnam. My lottery number in 1970 was 349, so I literally “lucked out” of it.

During that time, a time when I was stepping lightly through ivory-tower lala land, our soldiers on the other side of the world were trudging through jungles, heavy-laden with weapons and survival gear. While I was privileged to be extending my literacy skills,  they were committed to learning how to kill the enemy before he kills “us.”

Now it turns out my research about the ’60’s is swirling around two undeniable maelstroms of socio-political showdown: civil rights and the Vietnam war.

So, in my project of looking into the nature of things in the 1960’s, I am learning about that war and how it came to be a major American (undeclared) war instead of just a civil war between Vietnamese.

One thing I have found is that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara undertook a similar project in 1965. When he was in the thick of it all–as one of the best and brightest industrial leaders of that age, having been recruited as an insider in the White House, then calling the shots on major events, wielding incredible military power on the other side of the planet, in the heat of the moment and in the fog of war, he found himself wanting to know. . .

how the hell did this happen? how the hell did we get here?

McNamara’s question lead to a .gov-commissioned research project, paid for on our taxpayer dime, and ultimately made public by the primary researcher of that undertaking, a former Marine Lt. Col. named Daniel Ellsberg.

Look deep into it. In Ellsberg’s case he looked deep into 7000 pages of military documentation, starting in the 1940’s and going all the way through Tonkin Gulf in 1964.

Look into the nature of things.

I’ll let you know in another year or two–when the book is done– what my search dredges up from the streets and battlefields of our g-generation’s  search to find meaning and fulfillment, and maybe even a little justice and mercy thrown in.

But one thing I want to say, now, to THEM THAT WENT:

Although things did not turn out the way we had intended, there isn’t much in this life that actually does end up like we thought it would.

You went and did what the USA asked, or compelled you, to do, while many of us were trying to pull you back to stateside.

Thank you for your service. We’ll need many more of your stripe before its all over with.

Glass half-Full

Listen: Boomer’s Choice

Hammer and Sickle ’65

August 23, 2016

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 5 of the new novel, King of Soul,  now being researched and written. We’re talkin’ ’bout 1965:

       The manipulations of human history had conspired to contrive a vast, geographical hook. The hook itself was forged in the shape of a country; it was a skinny little wire of a nation, slung long and slender along the 900-mile S-curve of an Asian sea strand.  Upon this seacoast hook the fearless pride of Pax Americana would be fearlessly snagged, fish-like. But the snagging ended up requiring an extremely long expedition, for the catch fought on the line for eleven years before being reeled in.

       This was Ho’s intention all along; he was a very patient angler. Ho was not a novice; he had been around the world a time or two. He’d been to London and to Paris, Hong Kong and Can-ton. He had spent part of the 1930’s in Stalin’s Russia, and had learned a thing or two by observing Uncle Joe’s tactics. Ho Chi Minh understood what it would take to get his fish on the line, and how to handle the catch once it was snagged. The expedition would take 11 years, but eventually South Vietnam was dragged up into the Viet Minh boat.

       Uncle Ho had learned a thing or two.

       Around the world, especially in defeated France and in bold America, there was talk about Ho Chi Minh—who was he and who did he think he was and what the hell was he capable of.

       Some folks never saw the hook at all. When they looked at that odd-shaped southeast Asian country on the map, it resembled something else, with its long arc curving around the western shore of the South China Sea. .  . . . maybe a domino?

       No. Vietnam was no domino; there was nothing straight nor square about the place. Nothing predictable. But we didn’t know that until much later in the game.

       The shape of Vietnam did, however, have resemblance to a sickle, like that sickle of the  infamous hammer and sickle. It was a curved blade,  hauled upon the lean, hard backs of legions of peasant laborers. As the years of the 1960’s rolled by, the sickle was forged into a weapon, to be skillfully wielded in the hands of militarized Viet Minh insurgents and Viet Cong guerillas. And that army of sickles was backed up by the persistent pounding of Uncle Ho’s communist hammer.

       Vietnam was a hammer and sickle; that’s all. It wasn’t some great domino scenario that toppled the Republic of the South during the 1960’s, ultimately rejecting President Diem and killing him, and then later ousting Thieu and Madame Nhu,  like Ho had swung up at   Dien Bien Phu.

       After the French pulled out—with tail between their legs in 1954—when  the Americans pulled in, hellbent on showin’ the world how to defeat communist incursion, it was pretty slow going for awhile. B’rer Ho Chi Fox, he lay low, waitin’ to see what  B’rer Rabbit-ears would pickup on his radio, because B’rer Rabbit did have a pretty fancy radio, and a lot of heavy equipment to back it up with, and a heap o’ ordnance to fling around with a lot of fired-up thunderations. B’rer Rabbit-ears could sho’nuff make some powerful destructions when he put his mind to it.

       By the time things got really cranked up in 1965, the man in charge of yankee warfare had come up with a plan. But there was a problem.

       The problem was an old one; stated simply, from a mathematical viewpoint, it was this: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

       No way around it; shortest distance between Hanoi and Saigon was a straight line. But the line didn’t go through Vietnam; it went right through two other countries.

       If Uncle Ho were to set a taut insurgent line of troop transport from, say,  Hanoi to Saigon—like from the handle of the sickle to the endpoint of the sickle’s curved blade—it  would pass, not through the south part of Vietnam, but through Laos and Cambodia.

       This was a problem. It wasn’t so much  a problem for Ho—his stealthy, low-lyin’ insurgent diehards just crawled right under the rules of international proprietary expectations; they slouched through Laotian jungles and beneath Cambodian canopies like it was nobody’s business. After a while, the clandestine route they had cut for themselves was called by the name of the one who had commissioned it: the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

King of Soul