post thanksgiving post

November 25, 2011

The sun is out. I’m riding Amtrak back home from spending Thanksgiving down in Eugene with my sister and niece. I just ate a sandwich of left over turkey and had a piece of pie. All around me is the Oregon landscape preserved by urban growth boundaries. There are a 1000 things to be thankful for. RU, family, good health, food, shelter, a good job, love, little debt, friends, 50 degree weather, two seats to myself on the train, a subscription to the New Yorker, quiet, drinking water, friendly neighbors who watch my house and feed my cats when I’m out of town, flocks of birds, colorful leaves, sheep, backyards, the time to notice these things . . .


with the old breed

November 12, 2011

My father served as Marine in WWII. He was in the artillery – G Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Division. I don’t know military speak, so I’m not sure if I’m saying that right. The 1st Marine Division is known as the Old Breed. My understanding is that they are stoic and bad ass group. I borrowed the title of this post from a book, a memoir actually, that was written by an Old Breed vet, Eugene Sledge. If you want to know what combat was like in the Pacific, read this book.

Dad’s platoon was sent in as replacements on Pelalu, where the the 1st Division suffered a 65% casualty rate, and after that he was sent in on front lines at Okinawa, where over 250,00 people total lost their lives. The following is an except from a letter Dad wrote me about his experience.

The night before Easter Sun we stopped within sight of Okinawa. You could see the flashes of the shelling and bombing ashore. I was leaning over the rail and someone came up to me and said, “Tomorrow may be your last day alive.” Somehow he didn’t really bother me, but I spent the night cleaning my rifle and making sure I had ammo in all my pouches. Nervous but not really afraid (I was 18 years old). Most of us were in our teens or early 20’s. Some people with us were in their 40’s.

In the morning (they did feed us) you had to eat on deck. The first thing  I saw were two planes with big red balls on the wings (the rising sun) not 50 feet above us. The sky was full of black smoke puffs from anti aircraft guns. We had to go in the “hold” and got in “ducks” small landing boats.

When we reached the beach I saw my first dead people. About three of them near the beach. The water was dyed red around them. It wasn’t like John Wayne movies. After a while you were indifferent to death and corpses. It was like going by a dead squirrel or cat in the road. There was always the smell and the maggots, but it became a way of life? You didn’t make close friends because in the next minute they could be “scrambled eggs” (dead or worse). 

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a strange kind of sandman

November 3, 2011

Last night I had a dream about Herman Cain. In my dream Herman looked different than he does in any of the photos I’ve seen, but it was still him, and I knew it was him the same the way I once knew in a dream I had in high school that this guy in bad drag, who looked like Anthony Hopkins in The Birds, was my grandfather.

The dream started out with me and Herman sitting face to face in a small office. It was like we were in a therapy session and I was the therapist. Except it wasn’t like any therapy session I’ve ever been part of. For one thing, the door was part way open. Anyway, I was confronting Herman about sexually harassing women and arguing with him about how he was always citing these inaccurate financial figures. I started yelling at him about how he was lying. I remember being really loud and pointing my finger at him and Herman trying to defend himself, but then just shaking his head at me. In the middle of my tirade I stopped myself. A good therapist wouldn’t yell at a client, I thought, and I then I just sat there, telling myself over over to just breath and listen. Herman got pissed at me anyway and got up and left.

Next thing you know I’m walking through this college campus that reminds me a lot of IU, and it’s sunny and there’s blue skies and people are walking around like they are trying to get somewhere. I’m looking for Herman. I head down this windy path and up ahead I see Herman’s body hanging from a rope, which is hanging from the limb of a tree. I think ‘oh my god’ Herman has killed himself, but as I approach, Herman releases the rope and jumps down. He kind of shrugs his shoulders at me and says something like ‘you can’t blame a guy for trying.’ I say something to Herman like ‘you like horses, don’t you Herman.’ I signal someone who’s standing off to the side, as though I’m on a set, and the person leads out to horse. Both horses are saddle up with these weird looking small saddles, kind like a jockey saddle that has enormous round wire stirrups.

Herman and I mount our horses start to down the path together. Herman is  laughing and kind of whooping a little and I’m feeling good to because I feel like I’ve made things better.  Herman start riding faster and but all of the sudden Herman’s horse is dressed up like a big Chinese paper dragon. His horse is jumping over things. Big, tall things like a tree.

I stop my horse to watch Herman. His horse is way up in the air, with its front legs extended forward and its back legs extended behind it, and it’s like the horse is flying and Herman is holding onto the reins with just one hand.  He’s flung his other arm up in the air. He’s laughing. It’s like he’s having the time of his life.  I remember thinking to myself, man, that horse can sure jump high.