Vietnam

Musings

Some of history’s biggest catastrophes have been created by devious people with a lot of time on their hands.    For example, Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’, 9/11, the use of Napalm as weaponry, Watergate,  The University of Texas Longhorns 2016 season.

I was fortunate enough to retire from a more than three decade career in Broadcasting.  Since shutting off the perpetual live mic, I’ve read a lot, watched a shit ton of documentaries on mindless topics such as a day in the life of a lemur, how and why honey never, ever spoils and of course the Maysles’ Grey Gardens, and a strange but colorful 67 minute journey into the life of style maven, Iris Apfel, a woman who never met a feathered boa or bracelet she didn’t like. 

Oh yeah, there’s the one about Hitler’s fascination with the occult,  one about Virgin Mary’s personal concert for three Portuguese shepherd children at Fatima (that one required Big Pharma) and an intriguing documentary about another  Prince William, a dashing sort and oddly handsome for a British royal.    He was killed in a plane crash almost 60 years ago.   Look him up.

I have eclectic interests, I suppose and what I can’t look up on this contraption, I think about in my head.

I muse about things.     I wonder if Caroline Kennedy has ever seen the Zapruder film.  I wonder what she does or thinks about every November 22nd, if she think or does anything at all.  I wonder if Fidel Castro’s death meant anything to her.

I wonder who the first person was to watch an egg emerge from a chicken’s…..whatever….and decided to crack it open and determine it was edible and eventually vital in many recipes.     How was flight conceived?    Who in the hell thought that smashing atoms could be weaponized and a used as a fuel source?   Yeah, I’ve seen documentary on Hans Bethe, but he basically conceived nuclear fission by looking at sunshine. Huh?  Must’ve had a welder’s mask.

I’ve thought about politics lately.   I’m glad Trump won but a lot of sore losers are going to make his political life a living hell.   I wonder what affect his presidency will have on his hair.

Then, there’s Benghazi.

I listened CSNY today singing a live version of “Ohio”.    For you youngins, that’s a song written  about four anti war protestors who were shot and killed by National Guardsmen during a riot on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

Hence, the title.

Then, I started musing lyrically.   It’s missing a few lyrics but you’ll get the gist of it.    And here it is, with apologies to Mr. Young.

No soldiers, no Clinton calling
They were definitely on thier own.
That September there were four bodies
Four dead in Benghazi

Gotta get down to it

Ansar al-Sharia cutting them down
Should have been protected long ago.
How much did Hillary know with
Chris Stevens dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

I also think about how some people with absolutely no moral compass can live with themselves.

My, my…how you young know-it-all millennial saplings who think you’re so much more emotionally evolved than everyone else, would have loved the Sixties.   Tumult was so in vogue back then.   There was a real purpose to it back in The Day.

Today? Not so much. Bitch about whatever offends your concept of diversity and when you throw a brick through a window because of that, or because of university rape cultures, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, global warming, trans bathroom issues, entitlements of all kinds, or how being female in 2016 somehow means being a victim, remind yourself you could be in a Humvvee and drive over a powerful IED on a deserted road in Afghanistan.

You could be in a massive firefight in a hellish jungle in the Mekong Delta.

Or near the 38th parallel.

Or liberating what’s left of a fucking Nazi death camp.   Endure any of those things, then you can tell me you need a safe space and a therapy dog.

That’s all I have to say.

(Turns on mic on last time, then releases it from hand to drop on the ground to imply righteous indignation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

I turned 55 last week. If we break that down, I was born in April 1959. I was four when JFK was assassinated, ten when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. Thirteen during the fateful Munich Olympics. Fourteen at the discovery of Watergate break in. In graduated from High school in 1977. I was 20 when all those middle aged looking “college” students overtook the American embassy in Iran.

Chrome or Firefox can help you figure out the remaining milestones in my life.

Those helped me learn that More than 79 million children were born during the boom years between 1946 and 1964. And despite a definitive trailing off of stork deliveries between 1958 and 1964, babies were a bumper crop. As a side notes, I hardly EVER meet people my own age. Advances in birth control perhaps……more saltpeter in the diet.

Anyway.

Essentially, what this means is that I’m at the very tail end of the storied baby boomer generation, that post war period in which our fighting boys came home from the Pacific and European Theaters to a country of burgeoning prosperity, growth and massive randiness. Lots of babies were conceived to the dulcet tones of Harry James, The Ink Spots, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Puccini and countless others who performed all the many languages of love…..even the sweaty operettas that were the one white stands.

I’ve had many discussions with people born two years ahead of me and three years behind me. Most agree that our years under the boomer heading left us feeling undefined and lacking a purpose.

Those born in 1946 to 1954 got to be Hippies. Peace, love, dope were ways they “countered” the Vietnam war. Protests in front of the university’s administrative office and eventually taking it over was the order of the day. Tossing a Molotov cocktail in the ROTC building and watching it burn, baby burn. Getting gassed by the National Guard when a gathering for draft card burning became a bonfire. They defied their parents and grew out there hair, wore the weirdest clothes and attempt to live in their version of Utopia, no rules, just love…..and lots of it.

The problem is, perfect worlds take work and these communes needed money. Nature can sustain but it’s a helluva lot easier to buy the seeds and the equipment needed for everything to take root. An all for one and one for all mind set has it’s merits, but not in a practical across the board application, not in a working self sufficient commune. They ‘re still around I know, but would guess they number in the tens….if that much.

The basic structure of a fully functioning society currently and always will consist of leaders and followers and with any luck at all, the followers get to decide who these leaders are in office

And when they must leave said office

Then, suddenly with crows feet and receding hairlines comes insight and awareness.

We traded the tie/dye for Brooks Brothers and Ferragamo and thought to,ourselves, “Gee, there’s something to this capitalism stuff. This Madison Avenue gig sure beats helping Arlo and his old ladies, Moonbeam and Starlight slop hogs back at the commune. And yet, we’re still groovy people so communal living can work……but for a profit; as apartment complexes, but instead of working for the common good, tenants “pay”to live there”. They’re on their own for everything else.”

“Cool, no more mass feedings And guess what? This college degree thing is helping me make money!!!! That shit is more magic than mushrooms!!!

“And we need to make all of this happen with cars of our own. Our own stereo equipment, fabulous furnishings An the occasional four cocktail lunch at Trader Vic’s is nice. ”

Growing our own food turned into trips to the supermarket and if we still felt compelled, climate permitting, all we needed was the occasional trellis of tomatoes growing on the balcony of the 24th floor two bedroom/2 bath apartment on the Upper Eastside.

We were entrapped by the trappings. We became the very thing we tried to convince ourselves we weren’t. The Establishment.

And so it goes.

I was too young to be a hippie. It might have been in the generation that gave birth to them, but I didn’t feel apart of the chaos, which really didn’t change things. I watched the Sixties unfold on the nightly news. President Johnson kept sending troops and the North Vietnamese kept sending them back to us in body bags. I got the fact that this war felt futile. I remember looking up where Vietnam on the map. Texas is bigger, I thought. And at the same time, I didn’t see civil disobedience helping the country return to peacetime any faster either.

I heard my father’s views on the the war, Commie Pinkos and damned grass smoking Hippies and crazy women who went braless; How LBJ looked like an opossum and Nixon seemed sleazy. And the more criticism I heard, the more I wanted to be one of these, cool, indignant, stand up people. In tried. At 12, I bought peace symbol,patches and black light posters and a cool mobile with the word, “moratorium” in neon letters hanging down.

Moratorium? Isn’t that stage thing at a school with seating?????

But as I said, my timing was off…..as were my verbal skills.

I entered High School in the fall of 1973.. Troop withdrawal from Vietnam happened in ’75. Nixon left office shortly after that, then came the American Bi-Centennial and after that, we welcomed in the insidious disco era and with that came THEE ugliest clothing style EVER.

By the time I graduated from HS, there weren’t any grandiose causes. Sure there was Save The Whales effort, the ecology, inflation, gas shortages, feminism struggled and while that worked to a degree, women still make less than men, but by God, Title 9 allowed us femmes to participate in sports. Strides were made but that which didn’t work, didn’t prompt mass protest.

Why?

A couple of years ago the Hipsters decided socialism was the order of the day so the Occupy movement began…..then ended. There was a fair degree of good ol’ 60’s style anarchy at the WTO protests in Seattle a few years ago and every once in a while you see protest marches, picket lines, union disputes rear their heads, but nothing like that which happened on a daily basis on college campuses and outside political conventions 45-49 years ago.

Why is that? Why do we no longer go all Abbie Hoffman and The Weather Underground over issues?

Protests do work. Women and African Americans can vote and are offered the same freedoms as everyone else thanks to the bravery and bloodshed of those who dared to take on the mysogenists and the bigots.

Union demands are met with walk outs by the members. Am organization can’t make money is no one is running the factory, but that only benefits the members. Very often the rest of us have to pick up the tab fir their pay increases. Unfair??? Only if you choose to look at it that way.

Your piece of the pie is out there, but please understand once and for all YOU have to bake the damn thing yourself. Baking a pie takes time and the right ingredients. It’s a labor of love. But as in life, work, effort the driving force to make it a pie rivaling anything Martha Stewart could create.

But I do believe what we learned from the Hippie era was valuable. They, like every other know-it-all generation eventually grew up. Being hip doesn’t help the new titanium one that you had to surgically inserted a few weeks ago feel any better. We’ve grown up. Time mellows us all. Logic infused by mature reality replaces ideals.

Now don’t get me wrong; to rise up for a Common Cause is great, but what do protests and huge rallies with placard holding hordes of people shouting rhyming insults en masse do today, other than make great headlines?

I appreciate everyone who devoted their time and in some cases, their lives to causes that brought about true change and forced a nation to stop, rethink and rewrite it’s Constitution.

I appreciate the Peaceniks and Pacifists. Change can come by a persistent belief in a cause through non violent means.

But this is America and still a Democracy when I last checked. We thrive in a free market system. Capitalism. Free speech, the right to assembly within limits. L-I-M-I-T-S. Everyone has the chance to grab the brass ring of his or her making. Individual “failure to launch” in its truest form, is the fault and the responsibility of the person.

Lots of things contribute to bad economic times. The fault lies everywhere; In big business, sure— corporate greed is real, but not destructively rampant. If so, there would be repeats of Enron and World Com happening every day. Do corporate giants play a role? Only to a degree. They get away with what they’re allowed to get away with. Wall Street isn’t entirely to blame for the whole magilla, neither is Big Oil or Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Banking. All the problems start , as they have and always will—in Washington. The lawmakers there are the ones who allow tax breaks for corporations, these are the people who allow subsidies, who make the laws that work for some, while impeding others. Laws are the unfair way to keep us equal. And we as a citizenry put lawmakers in office, we actively chose the people, these professional politicians and their federal regulations. Washington is a mess. It’s in dire need of deep analysis and meds. Lots of meds. Thorazine drip time.

The next time you want to participate at a sit-in in a bank lobby or fire bomb a building or go out and fight the forces that were sent there to keep you from getting violent in the process of exercising your free speech, stop and think. Save for the glorious triumph of Civil Rights and certain other causes, protests—a la the Chicago 7—-don’t work. Not like they did or ver did, for that matter. These bloody, anger fueled rages didn’t bring US troops home any sooner. Whales are still being killed, the ecology is still gasping for clean air, as is the economy.

As Dorothy learned from Glenda, The Good Witch, you hadthe power the entire time.

The next time you want hope and change, vote…not only at the ballot, but with your wallet. Affect the bottom line if anyone or anything bothers you that much. In this day and age, refuse to buy a product because you disagree that its manufacturer has relocated its headquarters in a country ruled by tyrannical regime. Or they dont hire homosexuals or ban prayer from the classroom.

Then take it one step further by voting against then governmental tool who allowed the move and grant the tax break it guaranteed.

Vote people in and out of office, refuse to purchase certain things made by companies whose policies you despise…these things are the new Molotov cocktails. Do this and embrace your own version of a scorched policy.

Trust me, someone will get burned.

The Past Is Prologue

boston bombgingI was watching previews on one of the Pay-Per-View channels recently and saw this movie that based on the number of palm trees and Cuban restaurants in the background, had to have been set in Miami.   It’s called “Step Up Revolution” and it stars a whole bunch of people I don’t know and focuses  on a premise for which I DO NOT care.     As best I could tell the gist of it concerns young agile, coordinated and choreographed kids, perfectly coiffed and wearing the latest fashions worn only by the most  discerning  of 21st Century militants…

With rhythm.

Apparently, the movie would have us believe that some  big hotel developer wants to build the granddaddy of all hostels on some land that’s so important these dancers decide that performance art  which entertained the city with flash mob demonstrations in the damndest of places, simply isn’t enough….they need ‘protest art”.   And as best I could tell, this involved various impromptu stagings of the cast of “Fame”, dancing atop taxi cabs, bike racks, marquee signs and on my last nerve.

Protest art???????

MEMBER OF THE  ESTABLISHMENT:   “What was that move you just made, young man?”

MILITANT HOOFER:  “Well Sir, thank you for noticing my interpretive angst.  That was, if I say so myself,  a perfectly executed  grande jété with a healthy dose of  anger and just a  soupçon of belligerence thrown in.  You know—-for good measure!!”   

Explain a furious  fouetté jeté to David Rubin,  Abbie Hoffman, Bobby Seale or  the late Jill Johnston.     I don’t think these very involved Yippies would compare the burning of the University’s admin building,  the takeover of a major college’s ROTC’s HQ or disruption of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago with any of your moves.    Back in the Sixties and early Seventies when the war was raging in Southeast Asia, these guys made points with Molotov cocktails, causing an explosion here or there and inciting riots–serious riots—-the kind which resulted in brain damage for some unlucky few.  You know, the real rebels who believed in The Cause so much, they  “throwing their heads up against” a policeman’s  billy club repeatedly.

I don’t condone this behavior, but I completely understand the need to be heard, the need to express oneself and think in some misplaced  narcissistic way, that your actions can help change the world.     That said, castigate me if you will, but I can wrap my head around what the Brothers Tsarnaev did at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week.     I get hate, anger, bitterness and revenge, regardless of the miscues it appears to those who don’t share the terrorists mindset.     I can understand how those feelings, especially in a young person can be idealized, then radicalized.    Argue if you care to, but these are basic human emotions that we all have; the ones that can and do rear their ugly heads from time to time.   Save for the training and intent to randomly murder civilians.

What I  DON’T understand is how that line gets crossed.     I seriously wonder how anyone can take these raw emotions to such an extremely dark place and keep them there so long and so well fed, that the concept of exploding pressure cookers filled with nails, ball bearings and a body count can become normal thinking; a  natural goal for which these mean and women can aspire.   Maiming, death, spilled blood is what matters to them and its best if that blood is red, white AND blue.     What we as a nation have done, are doing and no doubt, what we’ll continue to do, will always be the scarlet elephant in the room.     We do are civilian take downs it under the guise of wartime.     We do it to defeat any one who things differently and threatens said mode of thinking.       And if some unintentional uh…..well, collateral damage happens to be part of the end result???   We all know that old saying:   all is fair in love and war.

The Vietnam war ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon to the Ruskies.    “Good lord!”, thought the war hawks, “The dreaded Communist hun will take over  and the domino effect will happen after that.    Other countries will  fall and go the way of Larry, The Left Leaner.”

But that didn’t happen.

What took hold of this tiny little country whose populace can create culinary magic with fish heads, was a fairly rapid rise in capitalism, as Communism fell.     I do believe the country still considers itself Marxist or Leninist  but it sure welcomes capitalization.   It now has its first millionaire…or that would “dongianaire”.   Vietnam’s currency is known as the dong (liberation dongs post 1975)  and you betcha things are a hoppin’.      We’re talking  capitalism of the meaty Westernized variety.   These days in Ho Chi Minh City (which was once called Saigon) you can see the same  Starbucks, retail shops and  fast food joints that dot almost every American city, large and small.   There’s even a Louie Vuitton boutique.   Now, that’s a lotta dong for a little bag.

Protest art, bombing civilians with pressure cookers or high-flying unmanned drones,  trying to strong-arm a well-armed cop in the name of peace with your long hair and love beads proudly blowing in the tear gas are efforts that just don’t make sense to me.   No, I’m not getting more liberal,  it’s just that I’ve gotten old enough to see the folly in many causes that once seemed so purposed.     Peace, I’m beginning to think, is really a frame of mind.

I just wish more of us could manifest it.

Beyond that, I don’t understand why we didn’t learn the lessons from September 11th.

And last week, it was like watching  mini-reprisal of that dreadful…one on a non-stop, continuous loop.   Just as I did 12 years ago, I watched in horror the raw, unedited video taken minutes after the bombs exploded in Boston last week.     One of the very first images I saw and will always see when I close my eyes, is that of Jeff Bauman being taken by wheel chair to the race’s First Aid tent.   Both legs beneath the knees had been blown off.    I saw two jagged and bloodied tibias, with no sign of fibulas attached, no sign of muscle tissue either;  .just tattered flaps of skin, gently waving in the breeze created by the movement of his transport.

There were other horrific sights, too; all ghastly images that ‘had’ to be created to prove a point, loudly and clearly.  Dzhokhar  Tsarneav claims that he and his older brother Tamerlan  did it because of their intense faith in the Muslim Brotherhood and for America’s involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and all those civilian deaths in those war-torn regions.     This “protest” killed four people altogether and injured nearly 200.     This was revenge on a small, but effective level.

It’s all immensely tragic, no matter what you call it and yes, there will be those who’ll have the temerity to  call the dead and wounded “collateral damage”.    It’s interesting—Gitmo prisoners were always referred  to “casualties of war”.    I’m

VICTIMS

sure they were considered “victims” from the Taliban’s perspective.

Those who died in the towers, at the Pentagon and at the field in rural Pennsylvania on that balmy September morning 12 years ago victims to us; “casualties of war” for anyone  who applauded the events of that day.

Just words, I know, but try telling explaining either definition to Todd Beamer’s wife,  Barbara Olsen’s husband, the Kurdish woman cradling her dead brother, gassed by rebels.   Say this to the father of Martin Richard, the Boston  bombing’s youngest victim, the little boy with the charming smile who  wouldn’t live to see his ninth birthday.

Perhaps the specific term to be used here  depends on which side of the detonation device you’re on.

Goddamned Semantics. 

The Salute

This hand gesture is as much a part of military life and living as the uniform, weapons and battle strategy. 

But where did it begin?   How did it begin?

No one really knows;  not even military historians, but this form of demonstrating respect for someone of a higher rank has been a party of military lore for ages…and not just that which falls under the heading of American.  

The salute dates back through history.  It’s made with the right hand (the “weapon hand”) and initially, it’s believed, was raised as a greeting of friendship.  The idea may have been to show that you weren’t ready to use a rock or other weapon. Courtesy required that the inferior make the gesture first.  Certainly, there’s some connection between this old gesture and our present salute.

One romantic legend has it that today’s military salute descended from the medieval knight’s gesture of raising his visor to reveal his identity as a courtesy to his jousting opponent, his king or even his Lady fair.  

The truth is, the military salute has in fact had many different forms over the centuries. At one time it was rendered with both hands.  But obviously that was awkward and probably made the saluter (?) too vulnerable.  What we do know is that it has been a long-established military custom for juniors to remove their headgear in the presence of superiors. In the British Army as late as the American Revolution a soldier saluted bv removing his hat. But with the advent of more cumbersome headgear in the 18th and 19th centuries, the act of removing one’s hat was gradually converted into the simpler gesture of grasping the visor, and issuing a courteous salutation. From there it finally became conventionalized into our modern hand salute.

Whatever the actual origin, clearly in the tradition of every branch of the US military, the salute has been used to indicate a sign of respect, and therefore a right and a responsibility of every soldier regardless of rank.

But civilians can salute the military as well.   It might not come in the form of a hand gesture, but it’s every bit a formal honor and commendation.

It’s something that sadly,  we only learned to do in the past ten years, really.   For decades, we forgot about their sacrifice.   Something happened after the Korean war.  Our attitudes toward our US Servicemen changed.   Even the attitudes of soldiers changed.   Why?   The U.S. got into the war, in earnest, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  It was a sneak attack and it was thought for years that US scrap metal sold to Japan was used to make the airplanes, the subs and the very bombs that killed  2,402 men wounded almost 13-hundred others.  This enraged every American and this anger united a country.    Unlike the first and second World Wars,  the US was drawn into conflict with Korea and Vietna,m too.     

But the Vietnam war and its veterans deserve special mention.   The war happened at a very corrupt period in American history.   If those who fought in World War II were/are our greatest generation of Americans, then those they gave birth to, the ones who revelled in the spoils of post war-America and who’d grow up to ostensibly spit in its face, are indeed, the worst.

Harsh?   Nah…..

It was the Peace/Love/Dope generation–the Hippie idealists hell-bent on turning the country into a Utopia.     This conflicted with some servicemen who got so caught up in the war, so motivated by fear and by the belief in our absolute rightness and lest we forget, Vietnam served as the perfect place for some to exercise their own savagery and sociopathic tendencies, that a  minority killed innocent women and children,  raped innocent women and behaved in the most inhumane of ways. 

Lt. Calley and the My Lai massacre comes to mind.   Now, that isn’t to say that some women and children were in fact, gun wielding, American killing Viet Cong sympathizers; enemy combatants, if you will.   And in Vietnam,  as it has been in every war, it was kill or be killed.

Additionally, we must remember that Vietnam was the first televised war.  Cronkite and others brought it into our living rooms every evening.  We ate Salisbury steak and peas and carrots at the dinner table as talking network heads reminded us of the number of US casualties and B-52s that had been lost that day.     We saw things and heard about things that preciously, war correspondents kept to themselves and things for which soldiers refused to speak.  War IS hell–make no mistake, there’s nothing ever civil about battle and we witnessed it…true, we did so from afar and from the safety of our dens, but we saw what we saw;  including that which happened here at home.  The protests, the riots that seemed even more senseless than the war that had prompted all of that violent anarchy.    

Perhaps it’s because I’m older and wiser that I’d like to think that maybe…just maybe,  some of the unrest and hatred forthe Vietnam war and those who fought in it, was spurred on by a little bit of guilt.

I’m sorry for the way Vietnam vets have been treated.   I am, but I’m pleased that these days and really, since the first Gulf War 20 years ago, we’ve mercifully matured as a country and have come to understand that the soldier does (as he has always done) what the soldier is ordered to do.  We now  honor our warriors mroe than ever before because we know that he/she is just doing his or her duty; what he/she willingly signed up to do.

It also helps that we’re now well aware that war is a political device.  Even so, duty is upheld regardless of politics.   I commend every soldier who can see beyond that point.

And that’s why on this Memorial Day of 2011…almost ten years after the country’s second most unifying event…I pay homage to the US service man and woman.   And beyond that, I salute the mother who raised him or her.    The husbands, the wives and the partners who tearfully watched them board that plane…or walk up the gang-plank of that battle ship.   I salute the children who anxiously await the return of their parent from the battlefront.  I salute the man and woman fighting the battles a home who miss their family members.   

I tearfully commend the fathers who’ve tragically had to bury their children.      

In closing, I honor every man and woman who has ever raised their hands; who took that oath; who donned the uniform;  who brandished a weapon; and took a life…..or lost his or her life….. in order to save mine.    

It is with gratitude that I salute you.   


dccccc

How I Spent The Second Day of 2008

calender2.jpg

It was cold in Houston today. When I woke up here in Westchase, on the Southwest side, it was 30-degrees. I stayed in most of the day, thinking.

That can be dangerous.

I was thinking about life, as I am wont to do…my life, how I got here and why.

Funny, how that whole process works.

In the simplest of terms, if you take the fun out of sex, all we’re talking about is sperm meeting ovum.

They emerge from their respective corners, shake and then the mating ritual begins.

The sperm pummels her cell walls and with the help of some special microscopic enzyme on his battering ram (no euphemism intended) he’s able to finally penetrate. Fertilization happens and then comes morning sickness.

Just think about what’s really happening here.

We start off as nothing more than human tadpoles, really. Then we become a fetus, a baby, we’re born as infants, then morph into toddlers, 1st graders. Then, Jr. High students; High Schoolers turned Collegians. Then we become taxpayers; 30-somethings; angry menopausal crones….you get the picture.

And if we live long enough to be able to use all the discounts afforded us from AARP, we then exit the world, as we came into it. Pink, wrinkled, helpless and unable to walk for many.

And in that time, we’ve probably watched a million hours of “Gunsmoke”.

This full circle aspect makes me think—how can anyone really doubt evolution when you think about the human life span?

From fetus to Festus.

I know what you’re thinking;  what does that last line mean?

I don’t know.

GROWING UP KENDRICK

I can’t think of my life without thinking about growing up in Karnes City, Texas.

I was always one of those kids who had this innate desire to entertain; to make people laugh. As far back as I can remember. My parents have regaled ALL of my boyfriends with stories of how I did this and that. Like the time I memorized parts of John Kennedy’s inaugural address. I was only four at the time. My parents recorded it.

“The toach has been passed to a new gen-uh-way-shun of Am-mare-wee-kuns”.

I heard the recording it for the first time as a twenty something. To be honest, I actually thought it was a recording of me doing a drunken Ted Kennedy.

Then, as fate would have it, I was forced to learn how to do an impersonation of Lyndon Baines Johnson far too soon.

But there I stood, entertaining at my parent’s parties–with my chin pressed down against my chest, someone’s borrowed specs down on my nose with my eyes peering over them in typical LBJ fashion. It was a decent impersonation of the president, I guess–for a five year old anyway. Fueled by adult laughter, I’d stand there, addressing my fellow Americans in my parent’s living room, opining over the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, my presidential plans for “The Great Society” and of course, my undying paternal love for my semi-beautiful daughters, Lucy Bird and Lynda Bird.

I’m not going to say that I was a brilliant kid; well, precocious maybe, but I had this strong desire to entertain. I would sing and dance in my living room in front of a huge plate glass window with the hopes a Hollywood director would drive by and discover me. I mean, come on! Karnes City, Texas circa 1965 wasn’t exactly a HIVE of hip and happenin’ activity for the Hollywood elite.

I had big dreams for a little small town girl.

Then I grew up, went to college and agonized those first few weeks about declaring major. It was going to be either drama or broadcasting. If I majored in Drama, I’d go to either NYC or Hollywood and be broke and forced to eat rats. If I majored in Broadcast Journalism, I could probably stay in Texas and eat mice. The latter was more appealing.

So, I’m in college and it takes me eight years to graduate. I had to work full time and that made taking full class loads impossible. That made my very proud mother a little crazy. You see, my mother was/is a proper sort. She likes to make sure things “look” a certain way. Propriety. Her children were no exception. That it was taking me seven years to graduate was an embarrassment to her.

I am the youngest of three girls. By the time I arrived, my two older sisters, Karol and Kathy had taught her what she needed to know about mothering.  One would think so, anyway.   She was in some ways, more laxed with me. Not so, in other ways. But I played my role of the youngest to the hilt. Oh yes, make no mistake—I was the “wild child”.

Peace, love, dope.

I did as I wanted, most of the time. I was fearless and wanted to experience everything.

And I usually got caught.

Mother would ground me and I’d stay in solitaire for a day or so and then, she’d get all tied up in other aspects of her life—her clubs, social responsibilities, her marriage and what have you, then she’d forget and I’d go about my merry way. But her memory lapses didn’t keep me from repeated bouts of punishment. It got so bad that she was asked once about her children; Mother said she’d raised two lovely girls and one “After School Special”.

Later, she tried to get me to watch “Scared Straight”. Remember that one, fellow oldsters? I reminded her she was damn lucky I didn’t STAR in “Scared Straight”!!!!!

But I grew up and eventually got my proverbial sheepskin. I graduated “thank you, Laude” with about two thousand other bright-eyed optimists in my particular degree program.

As I’ve stated here before, my first job in TV was for the CBS affiliate in Laredo, Texas, an interesting town of about 175- thousand on the Texas/Mexico border. I was named Executive Producer and Anchor for the six and 10 pm newscast and made a whopping $5.25 an hour, some 25-cents more than the rest of the staff.

I was the Alpha female.

Laredo was truly one of those Dickensian experiences: it was the best of times; it was the worst. I made no money, was broke all the time and went without a phone and electricity sometimes, but had more fun than I’ve ever had in my entire life.

And did living on the border help my Spanish!!!!! I started life in Laredo not really knowing the language at all.

We’d go across the border to Nuevo Laredo (which is now something you can’t do without risking your life) and go to dinner. Lavish meals for five bucks or less. But even though the US is across a narrow body of water, Nuevo Laredo is still Mexico and its food and water are still an American G.I. tract’s arch nemesis. The ubiquitous “they” always say that necessity is the mother of invention. And having the gnawing, debilitating pain of the fabled “Turista Two-Step” or the dreaded, “Montezuma’s Revenge” after drinking the water or literally, eating anything that was grown or raised in Mexico, well THAT will force you learn another language faster than a Berlitz class!

I distinctly remember the afternoon I mastered Spanish.

I was at a Mexican grocery store because I needed to buy a few sundries. I’d gone there after having lunched on a meal at a Nuevo Laredo restaurant. There, I’d feasted on a greasy enchilada and a slab of fillet of guess what.

For dessert, I got intestinal distress.

Severe intestinal distress.

And children, THAT’S how I learned the hard way that “Donde is the casa de ca-ca?” DOES NOT mean “Where is the restroom?” in Spanish.

It was on that fateful, yet educational day, I also learned how the Spanish say, “Clean up in aisle 23”.