Archive for the ‘1960’s’ Category

California!

April 18, 2019

there’s gold in them thar hills,

somewhere up near sutter’s mill:

them’s words that sparked the great gold rush,

and set us up us for the great golden push

Gold

California be the place you gotta go

so we loaded up our siri for sausalito

cruisin’ somewhere o’er the rainbow

where gentle dwellers come and go

speaking what makes their property ’ssesments grow

them gatlins said all the gold that’s there

be locked in some bank in beverly here where

somebody else will that precious stuff share

but hey

this is what i say

whatever stuff upon your dreams do thrive

whatever you do to keep that dream alive

whether you track with ferlinghetti

or train your sights on images of getty

keep that california dreamin alive

lest u get waylaid in some hotel california dive

where some say there’s alchemic gold

in that stuff that owsley sold

cuz when you wish upon a star

makes no difference where you are

whether u b goin’ to surf city surf city

or lookin for dem hollywood pretty

maybe try to hawk you little ditty

in tinsel town jez be twitty

cuz it be a factory town you know

they crankin up th’dream factory fo’ show

and when you wish to sight a star

makes no diff’n where you are

Cal the place you oughta go

so we loaded up the boat for sausalito

where weather underground stars did go

then caught light of day in law’n’order show

while light falls apart in a little room

like Alice with some kind of ‘shroom

on stanyan street

if you catch by beat,

where gentle dwellers come n go

speaking softly of how property ’ssesments grow

yeah demmie residents come and go

speak’n of what makes dem property ‘ssessments grow

but this i know

it may be all for show

okie from muskogee said

California or bust or ’til i’m dead

but whether u  b muskogee okie

yes i know i b get’n lit’bit hokey

or if’n  you b some smart silicon geek

u got to admit dat state is pretty sleek

been California dreamin’ all this week!

though you know i aint no freak

oh what fools’gold these mortals seek

u gotta believe it I know

and i be tellin you fo’ sho’

as so i been told

dem streets be wired wit gold

Citygold

though i now be gettn’ somewhat old:

all that glitters is not gold

what stuff our dreams are made of, or so i’m told

may the bird of paradise eclipse  your deepest woes

in the land of gold’n dreams and shows

here in California.

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

King of Soul

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Life~Trouble~Tragedy~Music!

April 13, 2019

In chapter 18 of King of Soul, we encounter one exploration of how music arises from human life.

In the year 1969, Professor Victor Komienko explains to his Music Appreciation class how a certain kind of music may arise:

“The University is the Defender of  high standards in all of the arts; music is no exception. In the slings and arrows of outrageous  intrusion, the best standards of the ages are maintained at the Conservatory, or as we have here, the University. This is a college where the fundamentals of performance are passed on to the next generation of musicians, and where time-tested principles of effective composition are taught. At the same time, the Conservatory—or  University—retains and extends those foundations, so that appropriately innovative works can be brought forth.” Dr. Komienko looked up to the top row of the auditorium; he surveyed his class purposefully from the top row down. The baton in his hand tapped out a quick little rhythm on the podium.

“Do you have any questions so far?”

Teddy, halfway up the center aisle, raised his hand.

“Mr. Scher, of course you would have a question.”

“How do you feel about electrified instruments?”

“You are asking about electric guitars?”

“Yes, sir.”

“As you know, electric guitars have a high profile in contemporary popular music. As for their use in the classical legacy, we have not yet seen it. I will say, however, there is an indirect influence insofar as some of the big jazz bands of the 1930’s, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.  The electric guitar, used primarily as a rhythm instrument, has become a standard part of their jazz arrangements.

“George Gershwin has included in some of his compositions rhythms and melodic figures that originate with the Negro music, which has been brought over, as we know, from Africa. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is the most notable example of this influence. The sound of the electric guitar itself, as an instrument, has not yet been heard to any extent that I know of.

“Traditionally, the guitar, unamplified as an acoustic instrument, has found an honorable place in the classical repertoire, most notably in the works of Spanish composers such as Segovia, and  Rodrigo.”

Teddy Scher raised his hand again.

“Yes?” Dr. Komienko responded, with a slightly disconcerted tone.

“Have you heard that the London Symphony has performed with the Moody Blues?”

“I have heard that they have done that. I have not heard any of the recordings. Thank you, Mr. Scher, for bringing that to my attention. We must, however, move forward with our syllabus now. Today, we will listen to a selection from the Italian Baroque period, Vivaldi’s Summer movement of the Four Seasons.

“The composer wrote notes to communicate to the orchestra the character of the music. In this case, Vivaldi had written a poem, which included the image of a shepherd boy being frightened by the fury of a thunderstorm. Vivaldi evokes, in the music, the fearsome effect of that storm. Additionally, he wrote at the top of this score—the piece you are about to hear—this musical instruction: Tempo Impetuoso. What does that tell you? Let’s listen to it, and perhaps  we will comprehend just what the composer was indicating by the use of that descriptor, Impetuoso. I do believe, Mr. Scher, that you will agree with me after hearing it, that, in some ways, Antonio Vivaldi was a forerunner of the rock music genre, which is driven, in its 20-th century heart, by that”—the professor raised his hands, indicating quotation marks with his fingers—’electric guitar you mention.’

“Of course, there were no electric guitars in Vivaldi’s day. However, in this case—the piece you are about to hear—I believe that same impetuous spirit of a present-day  lead guitarist was resident in a virtuoso  solo violinist of that day, whoever he might have been at the time.

“The violin concerto—commonly  called  Le Quattro Stagioni, or the Four Seasons—was originally named by Vivaldi, in 1725, as Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’ Invenzione , or translated, The Contest of Harmony and Invention. Perhaps, as you listen to this selection from it, you can surmise why the composer considered this work to represent a contest—or a sort of dual—between conventional notions of what music should be, as opposed to what music is as it is created and performed by the impetuous innovator—in this case, the soloist. Such  is the perennial contest, from age to age, between art that is generally acknowledged as appropriate and new art that is thought to be too disruptive.

“Now listen, and hear if you can, , the composer’s prescient gleaning of what music might become two and a half centuries later.  Arnold, please roll the tape. . .”

You will find one demonstration of this phenomenon here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaoqCARilbA 

 

King of Soul

Talking to the Device

March 23, 2019

I usually enjoy talking too people but I don’t like talking to a phone. To tell you the truth, I really do not even like talking to people on the phone. I’d rather do it face-to-face.

I don’t like talking to a car, a computer or a “device” of any kind.

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Lately my phone has been urging me to talk to it, and even call it by its name.

Siriusly though, I’m not into it.

I really don’t mind doing the alphabet thing with my fingers. That’s the way I was taught to communicate with the world, back in the ’60’s when I was baby boomer high school kid. Maybe it’s because, back in the day, I went to see Stanley Kubrick’s space movie, 2001, and the astronaut guy in the movie got into an argument with the onboard computer because the computer, as I recall, wouldn’t let him do something that he needed to do to avoid dying, or something like that..

The computer’s name was Hal.

In the last ten years or so, I have written and published four novels, using my fingers on a keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, I do like the newer version, you know, the computer keyboard, which is so easy to punch. These slick new ones are really the bees’ knees, and they beat the heck out those old Underwood’s and Smith-Coronas, etcetera etcetera.

So yeah, maybe I’m old fashioned. Imagine that—a guy who grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s being old-fashioned. We were the generation raised with a TV in the living room, which had never happened before in the history of the world. And we thought our parents were old-fashioned because they listened to Glenn Miller LPs and drank bourbon, while we preferred Jefferson Airplane and maryjane, and they insisted on running Ho’s insurgents out of south Vietnam, which didn’t turn out the way we planned.

Now our kids and grandkids probably think we’re old-fashioned because we don’t know how to talk properly  to a phone or any other device, and we still don’t know to make the icons wiggle around so you can move them around or delete them or whatever.

Delete them all, I say! Delete them all!

Ha! Just kidding of course. Where would be nowadays without our “ mobile device?”

Maybe stuck in Hotel California with some woman of ill repute with mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice and she says we are just prisoners here, of our own device.

Don’t wanna go there.

Life has actually turned out better than that, thank God.

Yesterday, I was watching an online video with two very smart guys talking about the state of the world, how it has changed so much and is still changing very fast.

    https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/thomas-l-friedman-and-james-manyika-the-worlds-gone-from-flat-to-fast-to-deep?

FacetoFace

In their conversation, Thomas was telling James that he travels around the world and notices that there are a lot of folks who are falling behind the crowd in their use of technology in this here 21st-century. He sees people who suffer under the pressure of these technological accelerations, and who feel that the world is leaving them behind.

Great idea! Leave it behind. Or let it leave you behind, whichever comes first. Tell your phone to go to hell if you want to. Tell netflix to go jump in the lake, and command your digital flatscreen to take a hike!

I mean, Thomas has some good points in this exchange. He says that we old geezers, and generally everybody else too, would do well to be self-motivated instead of, I suppose, expecting that the world owes me a a living, and he says we should keep learning all through our lifetime instead of just, you know, developing one skill—cranking out widgets or whatever—and then spend old age, maybe even middle age, crying in yer beer over all these changes that conspire to overtake us and render our mid-20th-century skills obsolete.

  Ha! “Conspire.” I didn’t mean to use that word. One thing I have learned is that it does not profit a man to build his world view around some conspiracy theory of history or politics or whatever the forces that be, are.

Because in the end, what really matters is not what the world did or did not do to you, but what you manage to do in spite of the possibility that the deck may or may not be stacked against you.

Every man a king. That’s what Huey said back in my grandfather’s day. Be the king of your own life, or queen, as the case may be.

And you have to understand that, as Ringo said, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

It’s best to, as Thomas pointed out, “amplify anything that is good and decent.”

I’ll second that motion.

Trust, ownership, lifelong education, true leadership, good community—these are the best attributes of “the good life”, which is not necessarily the same good life that Sinatra sang about.

Now, to close by reiterating my opening parry. . . the good life does not necessarily consist of knowing how to talk to your phone, or any of your other damned devices for that matter. But it does help to learn how to talk to people, and to get along with them in your community. And to build good community wherever you find yourself stationed at this stage of life, before the jig is up.

And one more thing. Do not ever neglect to, as Jordan B.P. says, Clean your room! Even if its in a nursing home. Don’t wait for the attendants do everything. Pull your own weight for as long as you possibly can, and pull somebody else’s weight, too, if you’re able to do it, for as long as you can.

As for the phones, etc—they can go to hell for all I care.

I won’t be there, because the Lord wrote me a good fire insurance policy back in 1979.

Glass half-Full

Give a hoot, y’all!

February 20, 2019

Here’s what I heard Joe Blow say the other day while I was trying to stay awake during the Super Bowl.

All this trouble in the world–it aint just gonna go away by itself. You know, it goes back a long ways.

For one thing, Catholic Church dominated European life and culture for over a thousand years. And for the most part they meant well (I know; I used to be one of ‘em)

But after a thousand years they (we) needed some corrections.

Long about the 1700’s, some new Reason-cultivating fellers came along—the so-called Enlightenment—and they ushered in a new way of thinking about everything . . . and they brought to the forefront a lot of profound questions, like . . .

PastFuture

Who should be in charge of things, what’s wrong or right about the way things are working out for everybody, what needs to be changed, why hasn’t God straightened everything out, who or what is God anyway? Maybe we’d be better off just to do without Him for awhile and figure this stuff out on our own.

By ’n by and moving right along . . .modern life in the so-called “West” began to be constructed on the ruins of Catholic Europe, as thinking people attempted to reconstruct society according to a reconstructed humanistic ole Greek/Roman way of analysis and ponderation.

And then came along science, duh, let’s not forget the rise to prominence of modern science . . .

analytical thinking with hypothetical testing to determine what is true or not true, what works or does not work.

And humanizing ethics . . . who gets fed and who doesn’t, who’s fat ’n happy and who ain’t . . .

Who’s in charge of this mess, anyway?

Well, must not be God. If there was any validity to that theory, those religious potentates and their blue-blooded partners in mime have pretty well got everything messed up, and how the hell can we fix everything. . . how can we get things turned around so that everybody gets an appropriate piece of the pie, piece of the action, their fifteen minutes of fame blah blah blah

Long about 1830, a couple of German guys, Marx and Engels figured out that what needed to happen was the folks who were actually cranking up all the factories, turning the nuts and bolts, churning out all them goods . . . those proletarians needed to take unto themselves control of the means of production and rearrange everything so that everybody would get pretty much the same, or at least something more like the same amount of life’s essential necessities  and let’s all get together and toss the rich folks on their asses and get this thing turned around.

Then, lo and behold, a  certain cadre of them revolutionaries managed to get a hold of a country—and a pretty damn big one at that—Russia, and start the work of getting the world turned around to their way of thinkin’ …

China statue copy

and now we know how all that turned out . . . between the Bolsheviks running the Czar out of town in 1917 and the Wall going down in 1989, there were a hell of a lot of water under the bridge, blood under the ground, and underground gulags and criminations that got imposed on millions of world citizens and it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t right and its a good damn thing them Soviets finally came to their senses, and even the Maoists even got eclipsed when Deng started to get the middle kingdom turned around and all that mess is still being worked out, even up to the present-day shaking off of Chavez and now the world is finally learning its lesson about all that totalitarian nonsense—

StalinDown

and that goes for you alt-right fascists and nazis too! Don’t you get any ideas about takin’ over, cuz we learned that lesson the damned hard way when that demonic fool with the weird little moustache dragged us into hell on earth for four years.

It took us many millions killed and a whole damn world war to get all that straightened out. And then another half-century of frigidity before all them spies from both sides came in from the Cold etcetera etcetera.

But nothin’s ever simple. It all just keeps going on and on and who knows how will end?

Maybe apocalypse; I don’t know. Could happen though.

Now in the 21st-century horizon arises this new ideology surrounding the notion that we humans should all get together and nullify our 200-year-old carbon-spewing habits real quick like in the blinkin of an eye so to speak according to the pronouncements of technocratic experts who take unto themselves the means of production, so to speak, (well shut my mouth! as we used to say down south) so’s we don’t carbonize ourself and our homo sapiens selves into obliteration!

Don’t get me wrong. Give a hoot, I say I say: Don’t pollute!

Let’s all pitch in and get this planet cleaned up, y’all. Truly. I’m not making this up.

But we don’t need to be jerking everybody’s human rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of mobility) to do it. I think we can undertake this climate change conundrum with a little common sense and maybe even some democratized republicized consensus on what needs to be done.

Like I said before: Give a hoot; Don’t pollute, y’all!

And hey, good luck with that! More power (but not too much) to ya. Just shut my mouth! if I’ve stayed stepped on anybody’s toes.

Not really. Freedom of Speech and all that . . .

Glass Chimera

Dr. King remembered

January 21, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

Fidelity

January 4, 2019

Marriage is the best.

I believe it’s better than all the rest,

safer, more satisfying, more productive than the horde

of various pairings, trysts, hot encounters this fast life may afford.

While Frank did croon back in the bygone time

of old love affairs being like fine old wine

I find fidelity to be the best kind.

Sleepin’ around aint worth a dime.

I’m entitled to my opinion, you know,

‘cause our Constitution says it’s so.

I know you may disagree with me,

and that’s your right, as it should be.

I’m just sayin’ one man one woman is the way to go,

Since way back when and long ago.

I mean I know in our g-generation

we thought we had some great revelation

that it was all about free love and blahblahblah,

but when the dust settled, race was over and last hurrah

’tis best to settle down with just one mate

and plant your seeds, your vines, and you know—procreate.

I find that children are where it’s at;

watching ‘em grow—nothing better than that.

Long time ago

in the big flowerpower show

Steven sang to love the one you’re with

and while it seemed a cool idea, it’s really just a hippie myth.

I’m glad I found the grace to settle down

instead of baying like some heated hound

at every pair of flashing eyes and bouncing breasts.

I’d rather have our shared memories in the old hope chest.

Judy blue eyes, joking, compared Steve to a dog;

the audience laughed, re-visiting their summer-of-love fog.

But where have all the children gone,

long time passing,

where have all the children gone

long time ago?

Where have all the children gone?

Gone to divorce, so many of us,

spirited away by lust, mistrust, diamonds and rust.

When will they ever learn?

When will we ever learn?

I mean I know its the cool thing to say

to let us all be trans and bi and gay

but give me marriage straight any day

and time will reveal it’s the best way

‘cuz when you get old and gray

you’ll have a mate with whom you stay.

Yes, Virginia, a lifetime of shared fidelity

is more precious and productive than wild revelry.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it,

‘though you are free to live however you want to do it.

You go your way and I’ll go mine.

Just give me my wife for the rest of my time.

TwoBlooms

King of Soul

The Ambassador

December 14, 2018

I was of that generation who wanted to save the world for democracy.

When I was born, my country was fighting a war in a faraway land, trying to run the communists out of Korea. It was a valiant effort we made over there, but only—from a military and/or political standpoint—about half successful. By 1953, we had managed to help get that little Asian peninsula about half-saved for democracy.

Just like most everything in this life, we manage to get things right about half the time.

That expedition did apparently turn out better than our other Asian deliverance mission—the one that ended, or so it seemed, in 1975 with our boys having to select which war refugees could be loaded onto an American helicopter and whisked away before the Viet Minh took Saigon and then later named it Ho Chi Minh City.

Like I said before, in this life we manage to get things about half right about half the time.

Which ain’t too bad really, when you consider what we’re up against.

I mean, life ain’t no bowl of cherries; it’s not a walk in the park. Sometimes it’s hard.

But you know, looking back on it all, there were the good times and there were the bad times. . .

When I was in high school, we thought it was cool to stay up late and watch the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny didn’t even show up on the airwaves until 10:30, CST, after the news, and so if you could stay up that late to catch his monologue etc, you were pretty cool. At school we’d try to make jokes as funny as Johnny could. Everybody loved Johnny—he was like the Jimmy Fallon of his day. He had really cool people on his show like Marilyn Monroe or Joe DiMaggio.

Famous people would always show up to talk to Johnny; he’d ask them questions about their careers in show business and Broadway and movies and whatnot and they’d talk about themselves, and Johnny always managed to crack a few jokes about whatever they’d be yapping about. Carson was so cool and we wanted to be like him.

Every now and then he’d have some serious person on too. But they’d still manage to have a good time.

BillynJohnny

Growing up in the ’50’s and ’60’s was pretty cool. We were the first generation to have TV, and that really changed everything, although nobody really knew what the outcome of all that boob tube influence would be. Public personalities became quite adept at blowing their own horns and making big scenes. Ultimately the guy with the loudest voice managed to bluster his way into the White House. And I guess it really should be no surprise to anybody the way things have turned out.

Who could have anticipated that there would come a day when the big 3 networks would slip into the background and the universe of media would be taken over by the likes of faceboook and twitter?

But of course there are always the folks in the background who quietly get through to people with an important message while so many others are busy running their mouths about all the great things they’re doing.

BillyinBerkeley

One thing I’ve learned about life during my 67 years: you gotta take the bad with the good. Shit happens, and you gotta deal with it, gotta get up the next morning and keep on truckin’. Ain’t nobody gonna feel sorry for ya. Well, maybe if you have a life mate to help you cope and get along, move on the next thing and all that, life can be a little easier to deal with. At least that has been my experience.

The good book says we oughta mourn with those who mourn and laugh with those who laugh. Who would’ve ever dreamed that, in our lifetime, two such different persons as these two would be laughing together?:

BillynBoris

Life is good; sometimes we win and other times we lose. When Boris Yeltsin managed to take hold of the old Soviet Union! it was amazing. Who’d have ever dreamed of such a thing? Berlin Wall came down without a shot after Reagan suggested to Gorbachev to tear down that wall.  Amazing stuff in my lifetime. JFK, had he lived to see it, would have been proud.

I mean this life is very good in some ways. In other ways it’s not so favorable. You gotta take the good with the bad, and you gotta help people. We all need a little help. It’s good to help people along the way. Occasionally, every one of us need some really big help. I mean, while there are some victories, there are of course some terrible setbacks and tragedies.

So while the good book says we should laugh with those who laugh, it also says to mourn with those who mourn.

BillynCoretta

We gotta help each other from time to time. Everybody need a little help from time to time. In my lifetime, we tried to go over there and help the people of Vietnam to muster up some democracy, and maybe it didn’t work out so well, and maybe in some ways we even made a mess of it but hey, when my daughter visited there a few years ago, and she rode a scooter through Ho Chi Minh City (used to be called Saigon) she said the people over there love Americans, and they have a tender place in their hearts for us. Go figure!

Going back even further than that, and thinking once again about what all was going on when I was born into this world. . . we were trying to make Korea safe for democracy, we find that some really good things  somehow managed to came out of it.

BillyinSeoul

I think it can be concluded that good things can indeed happen when every now and then someone comes along who is willing to—instead of tooting his own horn— work quietly and diligently as an Ambassador for the Prince of Peace.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I can think of one person, at least, who has managed to live in the manner described above by our brother Paul.

BillynKimIlSung

King of Soul

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near

November 11, 2018

In 1969, I graduated from high school and went to University. In college, there was no threat to life and limb for me. It was a safe place to be.

Many of my high school buddies didn’t take that route; they joined, or were drafted into, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to defend our nation. At that time, defense of our nation—defense of our security and our ideals—was considered by most of our leaders to be directly related to the defeat of the Viet Minh and Viet Cong in  Vietnam.

While I went to college, many men and some women of my same age shipped out to the other side of the world to run the Viet Minh insurgents back into North Vietnam, and to the shut the Viet Cong  down.

The difficult mission that our national leaders had laid upon our soldiers over there was no easy task: dangerous, deadly and damn near impossible. About 54, 000 of our guys and gals who served and fought in Vietnam never came back, or they if they did return it was in a casket.

My college experience here, Stateside, was a walk in the park compared to what our armed forces were called to do in Vietnam and other theaters of war. What they did, however, was nothing new. Although in Vietnam we were strapped with a whole new set of warfare rules that few understood, and that was a major part of our problem.

But I am here today to say that: Our soldiers have been defending the USA—our freedoms and values—for over two centuries.

IwoJima

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near, millions of our men and women have lived and died to defend us. We owe them—whether they served willingly, or were drafted—we owe them respect and gratitude for their willingness to be threatened and humiliated by the pains and dangers of war and the perilous requirements of maintaining government of the people, by the people and for the people.

From Valley Forge to  Vietnam to now. . . their brave service continues to this day: defending our shores, our borders, and helping other liberty-holding nations to maintain freedom from oppression.

While thousands of guys and gals of my generation were on duty in Vietnam, many of us back here at home were protesting and working to bring our people home, because . . . the longer that war dragged on, the more and more controversial it became. Finally, by 1975, we had shut the whole project down.

So our Vietnam veterans came home and got back into the routine of living in the good ole USA. For many, many of them, this was no walk in the park, no easy transition. PTSD was, and still is, rampant among them. And while we who did not go will never understand what they endured, we can still show our appreciation.

A few years ago, I reached a time of life in which I felt a need to somehow reconcile the controversy of Vietnam that our generation had endured. My literary working-out of this angst took the form of a novel, King of Soul, which I published in 2017.

On this Veterans’ Day, I share a brief excerpt that describes one little experience in the Vietnam War. I post it here today, so that those who were there and endured such tribulation—they will know that their bravery and sacrifice does not go unnoticed by us who did not serve.

For the sharpening of our collective memory of what the hell happened over there, I post the excerpt, which begins with a quote from a popular song that many of us singing here at home. from Chapter 19 of King of Soul:

. . .where have all the young men gone, gone to flowers everyone, when will they ever learn when will they ever learn? But on the other side of the world something very different was going down . . .

~~~

. . . the gunner for their platoon, and that day he was packing an M-60 machine gun. And now there was no doubt about the threat of those nearby

NVA. Sure as hell, there was no doubt any more about anything except: they were in a firefight. Time to fight, or die. Rob got the order to haul that M-60 down the hill to a certain position and open up on ‘em. He said all he could remember about that was that he put one foot in front of the other while scuffling down that hill dragging all that weight with him, and the infernal noise that was blasting out all around him. The adrenaline was pumping and he was stumbling through it, trying to keep himself and the gun upright until he could get to where he was going, or where he was supposed to be going, which he wasn’t yet sure of. It wasn’t just the machine gun he was packing, but also three ammo belts. I mean, it was a good damn thing that he had ‘em, because he was gonna need every last one of them rounds before it was all over with. Finally he got to where he was s’posed to be, rid himself of the ammo belts and heated up the M-60, aiming up at the ridge where the AK-47 flashes were poppin’ like deadly firecrackers, but a helluva lot louder. He said he felt like he was going crazy, but somehow the craziness itself was what drove him on to do what he needed to do. I mean, what else could a man do? He was just shootin’ the hell out of them NVA, or at least he hoped he was, because it was gonna be either us or them if he had anything to say about it.

For you guys who went over there and endured such as this, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Ypres, San Juan Hill, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, or  wherever you performed your duty for us . . .

Although we’ll never understand what the hell you did over there, still . . .Thank you.

King of Soul

Change is Gonna Come

October 19, 2018

Some wise person said a fish wouldn’t know (s)he was out of water until it actually happened. When the angler yanked the critter up the into air, the fish would immediately know that something had gone terribly wrong.

I think our situation in modern life is a little bit like that. In our present media-engulfed life, we humans are so totally immersed in electronic media that we would feel disoriented and panicky if we were suddenly jerked out of it—like a fish out of water.

Some might even suffer withdrawals.

Nowadays some social critics among us complain about the dumming-down effects of twitter and facebook, and all that other blahblah googlifief also-ran flimflam that’s floating around in the datafied air of 2018.

Back in the day, during the adolescent phases of my baby boomer generation, people romanticized about the fact that we were the first generation to get raised up with a tv in the living room and therefore a boob-tube mindset. Whoopdee doo that we had pop-culture and instant gratification on the brain instead of the traditional 1-2-3 and a-b-c worldview of previous generations. No wonder we fantasized that we could change the world. We were walking around in the first-ever TV-generated dream world.

Actually, some of us did change the world. Those guys who were mastering their calculus and fortran instead of doping up—they managed to hatch out a totally electronic data tsunami that has since commandeered our attention and maximized our compulsive fascination with constant entertainment distractions and rampant twitt-faced narcissism.

Along with some real information, of course. There’s always both bad and good in any changes that are gonna come.

A  generation before us in the timeline, it was another set of emergent media wonders that were transforming the world of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Our parents’ generation also grew up with a revolutionary media box in the living room and the dashboard—radio. They had Roosevelt’s fireside chats, Glenn Miller, Amos n’ Andy,  and Orson Wells’ terribly realistic radio depiction of us being invaded by extraterrestrial aliens.

But radio was no TV. Radio was about hearing. TV was like a whole new, artificial world of hearing AND seeing.

The rate of change, accelerating in the TV age, has exponentially accelerated and intensified with the coming of the electr(on)ic internet, 21st-century version.

A few years ago, I undertook a writing project to express some of the angst of the boomer generation that I grew up in.

Because I had graduated from high school and then entered college in 1969, my novel, King of Soul,  turned out to be mainly about the elephant-in-the-room issue of my g -generation’s historical  era—the Vietnam war.

But that war was far from being the only issue that we Americans had to deal with.

LittleRock

In struggling to depict—and even to somehow reconcile—the great divide between them that went and us who did not go to Vietnam, I embarked on a research project to learn how the Vietnam war had started and how it escalated to become such an overarching generational crisis. My g-generation was torn apart because of what all took place over there as a result of our tragic illusion.  We thought we could, with our high-tech way of doing things, show a country of undeveloped farmers how to expel the communists.

We learned a very hard lesson. It was tragic, what happened.

While the world had worked a certain way during the Big War, when we ran the Nazis back into their holes, something had sure as hell changed by the 1960’s.

The old tactics of massive military push against jungle guerrillas did not work.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the kids didn’t wanna have to go over there and do Lyndon’s dirty work.

The anti-war movement’s seemingly sudden organizational strength in 1967 was no mere happenstance. Those activists who devised a widespread effective resistance against the war had learned the hard facts of life from a previous protest movement—the Civil Rights movement.

It took a while for the anti-war movement to get its act together. But when they finally did, it was because of a hard lesson that had been learned by black folks down in dixie.

In the Freedom Summer of 1964, a widespread collection of honky activist youth suddenly showed up down in the Segregated South to help the black folk get organized for voting and organizing real societal change. There in the historical shadow of the old defeated, slave-slappin’ South, wide-eyed yankee students got a fierce reality check. Their rose-colored glasses were left broken on the blood-stained grounds of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, when they saw what violence and oppression the racist Establishment was inflicting on people of color.

Right here in Amerika, it was. Land of the free? and home of the brave!

A wake-up call it was. Based on what them wide-eyed college kids from up Nawth encountered when they got down here, they got a severe reality check. Stopping the war in Vietnam  would be no walk in the park. There was bad shit going down right here in the good ole USA, just like in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

If the peaceniks wanted to get us out of Vietnam, they would have to get organized, and maybe even pick up some heavier-duty tactics . . . civil disobedience.

Meanwhile, there were a few blacks who were doing alright. Sam Cooke was one of them.

During the early 1960’s, Sam was a very successful singer-songwriter. Most of his tunes were soulishly romantic and swingy. He had a knack of finding the best in everything he wrote about. With an admirable optimism that shone forth in all his song-work, Sam managed somehow to spread good will and positive attitude everywhere he went, in spite of all the tough changes that were going down.

Some may have thought Sam to be an uncle tom, because he didn’t get angry.

But Sam Cooke—even though he celebrated optimism and good attitude—was no uncle tom.

He was not a “house nigga.”

Here’s a song that expresses Sam’s feeling about the societal changes that he felt needed to happen in the USA in the mid-1960’s.  After his death in 1964, this composition was released posthumously on the B-side of a single record called Shake, and also on an album by the same name.

Here’s the tune, A Change Is Gonna Come:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBlaMOmKV4

And here’s my version:

    Sam’s Change Is Gonna Come

As we geezers have seen in our lifetime, change did indeed come.

But some things will remain the same.

Here’s a truth that always remains: Change is gonna come, like it or not.

When it does, may the change be with you, and . . . may you be with the change, if it is good.

If it’s not good, go listen to some of Sam’s old hit songs and get an attitude adjustment. Maybe you can learn to deal with it as he did—with a good attitude.

King of Soul