Monday, May 30, 2011

Lest We Forget......

Lawrence Joel

Rank and organization: Specialist Sixth Class (then Sp5c), U.S. Army, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade.

Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 8 November 1965,

Entered service at: New York City, N.Y. G.O. No.: 15, 5 April 1946.

Born: 22 February 1928, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Medal of Honor Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp6c. Joel demonstrated indomitable courage, determination, and professional skill when a numerically superior and well-concealed Viet Cong element launched a vicious attack which wounded or killed nearly every man in the lead squad of the company. After treating the men wounded by the initial burst of gunfire, he bravely moved forward to assist others who were wounded while proceeding to their objective. While moving from man to man, he was struck in the right leg by machine gun fire. Although painfully wounded his desire to aid his fellow soldiers transcended all personal feeling. He bandaged his own wound and self-administered morphine to deaden the pain enabling him to continue his dangerous undertaking. Through this period of time, he constantly shouted words of encouragement to all around him. Then, completely ignoring the warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his search for wounded, exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as bullets dug up the dirt around him, he held plasma bottles high while kneeling completely engrossed in his life saving mission. Then, after being struck a second time and with a bullet lodged in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies ran out. Displaying resourcefulness, he saved the life of 1 man by placing a plastic bag over a severe chest wound to congeal the blood. As 1 of the platoons pursued the Viet Cong, an insurgent force in concealed positions opened fire on the platoon and wounded many more soldiers. With a new stock of medical supplies, Sp6c. Joel again shouted words of encouragement as he crawled through an intense hail of gunfire to the wounded men. After the 24 hour battle subsided and the Viet Cong dead numbered 410, snipers continued to harass the company. Throughout the long battle, Sp6c. Joel never lost sight of his mission as a medical aidman and continued to comfort and treat the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered. His meticulous attention to duty saved a large number of lives and his unselfish, daring example under most adverse conditions was an inspiration to all. Sp6c. Joel's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Historiclemo note: Long before Mr. Joel was immortalized in a country song by Big and Rich, I came across his name while doing a show in Winston-Salem N.C. in 1985. He was a favorite son; his name adorns a stadium, an auditorium at Walter Reed, two clinics at military bases, and a street near the hospital in Ft. Campbell KY.

"Greater Love Hath No Man.....Then To Lay Down His Life For a Friend."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Farewell, Bobby Wheeler.....

My memory is as deep as a well, and as shallow as a thimble.

And yet it wanders.

Back to 1981 or so, I believe, and an episode of TAXI.

If you've never seen TAXI, you are missing a comedy gem, in my opinion; a great ensemble cast, wonderful writing that that never (with some exceptions) depended upon one single character for material.

At least, not at first.

Andy Kaufman became a household name as Latka; catch phrase after catch phrase that are, in some cases, still being used today. They played to him a lot as things went on, so I tend to abuse my own statement.

Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim, who's slow delivery and occasional lapses into hyper-sanity were guffaw inducing.

But it was the other characters taking center stage that was so fascinating.

Alex (Judd Hirsch) going to Europe for the first time, with glorious dreams, but winding up doing nothing but solving a Rubik's Cube.

Elaine (Marilu Henner) having a terrible day and stating that there are no Princes or Castles or White Knights left in the world; only to find that Jim has built her a castle in her living room, out of the metal in his van.

Louie (Danny Devito) and his on-again off-again girlfriend Zena. And his Mother.

But the one that comes to mind today is Bobby Wheeler: struggling actor, talented, but always just out of the reach of success.

There was an episode where he reads a review by a pompous critic, and is so incensed that he writes a letter to the newspaper, but his better nature takes over, and he disposes of it.

And Louie takes it out of the trash and sends it to the paper, which makes Bobby both a hero to the theatre world, but an enemy of said critic. And the next night, the critic is attending Bobby's one man show on Charles Darwin.

He sweats through it, and that night the critic meet him, and lets him read the review. It's a beautiful review; the kind any actor would want to get. And through the conversation, you find that the critic is genuine; Bobby's performance was incredible, and it makes the critic believe in Off-Broadway theatre again.

And then, the critic tears it up.

A bad review, he explains, would make Bobby a martyr. A good review would make him a star. But no review at all....would make him disappear as if he'd never been.

It was a great episode, and it spoke loudly to a young man with dreams of being an actor himself.

Jeff Conaway, who played Bobby Wheeler in those Halcyon days, passed away yesterday at age 60, from a combination of pneumonia and sepsis. He ended his life as an on-again off-again drug user, famous in his infamy and alas, the very portrait of the modern Icarus.

He will be missed by the grown up young man who still has dreams of being an actor.

pacis exsisto vobis.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A view from the bluff.

The Missouri River is being a pain in the Western Part of the Northern State's ass.

Yes, I'm aware that the mental image of that sentence is terribly skewed. But the feeling remains.

Lots of rain in Montana; a slow snowmelt in the Rockies, and now we are literally bursting with water and no place for it to go. So, they're opening the damn this weekend, and 85,000 square feet per second will soon be making it's way south.

And then, they'll increase it later in June to 105,000 sfs.

Yeah, it's going to be a little difficult for some of the houses along the river to stay afloat; but the city itself is going to be reasonably okay. They've evacuated the zoo, and the sandbags are being stacked in the hope that they can hold it off for awhile.

They say it'll be high water until....August.

Mother Nature has been particularly angry this season; huge wildfires, floods in the entire Midwest, tornadoes everywhere. There is, of course, no logic to it, and trying to apply rhyme or reason is futile. All we can do is hold on tight and ride it out. And hope for the best. And pray, if you've a mind to.

And live.

Live with the knowledge that nature is what happens when we're busy making other plans. Live with that knowledge, but not with the fear that it's just around the corner. Assist and support when you can.

Life is equal portions of Tragic and Magic.

Remember the latter when you're dealing with the former.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


And back home again in the Northern State, where the weather isn't predictable, but I know where the basement is.

For those of you following along, I just recently returned from a sojourn to Kansas City, Missouri, where I saw a wedding, a plethora of old friends, and a couple of interesting museums. There were pictures taken, and souvenirs purchased.

One of my favorite former students, Greg, got married this weekend to the woman he's been with for three years. He claims that they got married on the 21st of May, because their first date was three years ago on the 22nd, and she didn't want to have to wait three years to get married.

Either Greg is a funny guy, or a huuuuge procrastinator.

The wedding was supposed to be outdoors, but this is what happened. There was supposed to be some kind of Rupture on the 21st, but nobody could quite figure out what time it was supposed to be; some said Noon, some said 6 PM...but nobody could tell from a close reading for clues in the bible whether it was Eastern time or Greenwich Mean Time. And then, suddenly, nothing happened.

So much for the Rupture.

It has also been a record for the river flooding (worst in something like 135 years), and tornadoes (worst in 60 years), and there were a couple hanging around that weekend.

So, they move the wedding indoors.

You'll never guess what happened.

Yup. Sunny and warm. All day.

But it was a lovely ceremony, well attended and I wish all the happiness in the world, and riches a-plenty both material and spiritual, to the happy couple.

I managed to sneak in a couple of visits; one to the Harry Truman Library and Museum in Independence, which is one you'll love to see. So many cool things to look at and listen to and watch. He was a fine man; made difficult decisions at the close of WWII; held the country together after that; spoke for the people between NY and LA like they mattered; and lived a purpose-filled life. One of those people on my "Fantasy Dinner Party" guest list.

I also attended the Steamboat Arabia Museum. I have always had an affinity for the old boats, ever since I heard the first stories of the Sultana (it's another story). This boat was sunk in the Missouri back before the Civil War, and was left under a farmer's field when the river changed channels. A bunch of amateur treasure hunters found it and dug it up, and the cargo was perfectly preserved. And it's all in this museum.

It was a lovely vacation, all told. Lots of old stories; I was quoted again and again, which is an unnerving experience when you, yourself, think that most of what you say is full of KakaDoodie nonsense. But I was treated to a litany of Historiclemo Quotes from the old days that made me laugh out loud. I was, apparently, a very clever fellow in my youth.

And now I'm back...mowing the jungle and weeding the beds and paying the bills and such.

England in 30 days!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big wheels keep on turning.

I enjoy traveling, I always have.

And of course, I would like to believe that it is, as all the philosopher's maintain, the journey and not the destination.

This is belied by the fact that Interstate construction ticks me off; or, more specifically, it ticks me off that people over-or-underreact to the construction. Just drive the speed they want you to, my friend...and we'll all get where we're going without rancor.

I like driving. You can see so much, even when you're behind the wheel. I like to see where people are from. I try to put together people's lives by what they wear on their car: the plates (the state their from; in some cases, the county they live in), the plate frames (where they bought the car, where they went to school, what sports teams they like, or whether or not they're a proud parent or grandparent of an honor student), bumper stickers ("you can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands" is making a comeback), or other stickers tell much about the driver. And then, whatever you can see in the car itself: child seats, groceries, dogs, cats.....children and how many. And then, the driver.

I like giving kudos to drivers when I'm on the road. If they have a nice car, if I catch their eye, I let them know my admiration for their ride. I NEVER try to correct bad behavior...that way leads to madness. Usually somebody ELSE'S madness. And that's unpredictable.

You miss a lot on Interstates that you can see on State and County roads; but, along the Interstates in this Northern can see some pretty cool stuff.

The way a farming community comes up along the road; huge houses on large tracks of land, in various states of decay. The house is sometimes in disarray, but the equipment is always shiny. The silos stand tall in the against the morning sky. And when the sun hits the highest part of the town (usually a bright white church spire) it's what Norman Rockwell always told me it would be like.

You would be amazed how many old cemeteries are built on the sides of hills.

Aside from the quaintness of the small community, there is, to me, some comfort in the crossroads, as well. It's probably the broad education I received as a younger Historiclemo: I spent half my life in the suburbs, and half of it in the rural communities of the Central Mitten. I like the small towns, but I'm also enamored of the bright lights of the Interstate crossroad...arc lights.....huge stores and fast food places with their colorful lights. Some call it blight. I don't.

I love driving by a ball park or a playing field as the sun comes down and the lights come up. It doesn't matter whether it's a Major League ball park or a Friday night High School football game. I roll down the window in the hopes that I can get a whiff of the air, or a cheer for the home team.

I'm traveling now, if you haven't guessed; and this morning, there came a cool rain. I sat at the window with my cuppa coffee and simply...watched the rain fall.

My mind is quiet.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Ignarus , Illic Est Gaudium

I cannot claim to be an economic wizard. I have a hard time balancing my checkbook, but since most of my life was living hand to mouth, there really wasn't that much to keep aware of.

The National Debt is so large, it ceases to be a real number. I do know that the country has been in debt since before the Civil War.....and of course, we need to be able to feed the electorate something easy to, debt it is.

There was a poll conducted back in the 1970's...I believe it was concerning the need to find alternative energy sources, such as Solar, Hydro-electric, etc.....and the results of the poll showed that...well, we're pretty selfish. We are not swayed (I speak in generalizations, mind you, and not, unwitting reader, may be swayed by the following argument) by entreaties for the welfare of the generations to come. Most Americans at the time felt that they wouldn't know anybody a century from, we need to do what we need to do in the here-and-now and not start thinking in terms of Science Fiction.

So. If the debt is over a century and a half old; and generally speaking, we're not that sympathetic to the plight of the future Americans.....


The final, funny part of this whole thing is that Mr. Trump has declined the invitation to join in the Republican Gavotte (To the right.....Ever to the right....Never to the left....Forever to the right....), seeking the need to make more money for himself, the network and oh, yeah...the charities that are represented on Sell-ebrity Apprentice.

He was supposed to bring new insight into the debt, and the deficit.

This guy who's been in bankruptcy three times.

Isn't that a little like asking Jack the Ripper for surgery tips?

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Do You Watch After 2 AM?

There is a pretty sizable crap buffet when it comes to late night/early morning television.

There is only so much news one can watch; especially since, with rare exception, there is a recurring loop of news on the major news networks...unless something unusual happens, like an earthquake, a flood, or the accidental killing of a terrorist.

Tonight, the Oprah Network is running ROXANNE. One of my favorite movies. I love the Cyrano story, but when you add the Steve Martin secret ingredient, it's just a wonderful film.

I recently acquired the soundtrack of the film; apparently, it's rare, but it's lovely. And I paid far under the market price for it; thank you, EBay, and your sellers that don't really know what they have.

Which leads me to wondering what my list of favorite "After 2 AM Movies" would be, if I were to create one.....

In no particular order, and assuming that ROXANNE is one of them....

EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS.....I can't explain it, really. It's a movie about music; it's a mystery; it's a 'look back to look forward' film. I just enjoy seeing it after 2 AM.

GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK.....even before 2 AM, this is a great film. Great performances, historically accurate (taking into consideration the condensation of events for the sake of time and conflict), and a very nice blending of actors and kinescope.

RAISING ARIZONA.....Oh, my God, this is a funny film after several dozen viewings, over twenty years.....and it contains, by far, the greatest chase sequence EVER. With Yodeling.

THE BIG CHILL.....I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said; great cast, great soundtrack.....

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.....if you get the director's cut, it's about 4.5 hours long, but you'll never feel the time passing. One of the best "gangster" films ever made, with DeNiro, James Woods, and a cast of thousands.

FORBIDDEN of the classic sci-fi films of the 1950's; it's THE TEMPEST in space.

AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON....if you like KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE or THE GROOVE TUBE, then you must see this film. It's episodic, sketch comedy based upon, well...late night television. This movie got me through Graduate School.

THE ABOMINABLE DR. of those campy horror films starring Vincent Price. It's far too difficult to describe, but it's great fun.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.....I have re-considered my original assessment of this film; at first, I wasn't fond. Too many American accents, probably. But having seen it a couple of times, I have developed a new fondness for it.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.....the original, with Sinatra. The height of Cold War paranoia, well paced, well acted, edge-of-your-seat suspense. And Angela Lansbury.

and finally,

THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION.....a Sherlock Holmes tale that answers the question of how Holmes overcame his cocaine addiction...with the help of Sigmund Freud, or course! A wonderful story within a story...within a story. And Alan Arkin as Freud; and Olivier as Moriarty.

Oh, well....back to CNN.

Have a good morning, all!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This is not a revelation; it's not even an original thought. We frown on original thought here.

I first read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in...well....1976.

At the time, as a young man of (AGE REDACTED), and in the time of upheaval that was the end of the Nixon administration and the push-back that became the Carter administration that later became the push-back that became the Glorious Day of Reagan....

Well, needless to say that although I was fairly attuned to what was going on (I was an incorrigible 'need to know' kid), but had no idea on how things ran until....


I still don't REALLY know how things run.

And if I do, I can't tell you.

And if I do, and I can't tell you...I have to say that you DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

I know and I DON'T WANT TO KNOW sometimes.......

But there is digression here.

The whole idea at the time seemed could a country such as ours, who had served as a beacon for the world, could be turned into what we perceived our enemy to be? And by enemy, I mean the Soviet Union, frozen in the image of Stalinistic Creepiness.

A country where 85% of the population answers to the other 15%, which controls all the media, the economy, and the military forces.
A country that has boiled it's language down to the very basics, eliminating art, and poetry, and drama.
A country perpetually at war, with enemies that may, or may not exist.
A country who's government monitors everything, including the thoughts of the populace.
A country where torture is acceptable at even the lowest levels.

Surely, this would never happen here.

Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When in doubt....make Shadow Puppets!

Well, this is awkward.

There is nothing in the goings-on here on the Great Mudball Satellite that has peaked my curiosity and interest.

CNN and FAUX News have let me down.

Or, I'm not paying as much attention as I used to.

It's raining here right now; the kind that's accompanied by the percussion of the thunder.

So, that's your weather update from the Northern State.

In sports:

The Tigers are on a 3 game winning streak.

The Red Wings are playing like every game is Game 7. Tonight at the Joe is game 6. Frankly, I didn't expect it to go five. We don't just have Winged Wheels...we have Winged Wheels on FIRE!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

When the sun is golden and the leaves are green.

As you well know, or can gather from the time and date stamps on some of these entries, I work in the dead of the night. And recently, we changed the schedule a little bit...the upside is that I only work four days a week; the downside is that each day becomes two hour longer.

Today is a grand experiment, so to speak. Lately, the days have been almost unbearable. And by days, I mean nights. And by unbearable, I mean suicide inducing. So, the first of the ten hour shifts.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

I sleep during the daytime. I get to bed sometime around 1 PM, and I awaken sometime around 9 PM. And in my youth, I could sleep at a moments notice. I could drop off for twenty minutes, and I'd be good for awhile. In fact, I could work around the clock for several days if I got a 20 minute nap every so often. But in my age, I've found that sleeping in the daytime is hard.

Largely, because people feel it's their right to be loud in the daytime.
Selfish bastards.

Actually, a little of it might be that my adult-wired brain hasn't quite put down the idea that when the sun is up, you're supposed to be working.

Either way.....night's are hard when days are awake. I'm no longer that young guy.

But I did dream last night (afternoon). I was sitting under a tree, in a quiet park, with a stream running through it. It was a very temperate day, so I assume Spring or Fall.....and I was reading THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING.


Friday, May 6, 2011

What's in a name, exactly?

So...the various tribes of Apache are looking for an apology for the naming of a recent action by Navy Seals as "Operation Geronimo."

Remember when I was talking about perspective the other day? Here's another example...

When I saw that they had named the Operation "Geronimo", I was very impressed that they had named the operation after a character from Thomas Kyd's THE SPANISH TRAGEDY; the character of Jeronimo (sometimes spelled Heironimo and yes, Geronimo) is driven mad by the machinations of those around him, and eventually does unthinkable crimes (let's just say that some of the fun of TITUS ANDRONICUS was influenced by THE SPANISH TRAGEDY).

The name made perfect sense to me, given that perception.

I would also like to point out that Kyd named his character sometime between 1582 and 1592....some 237 years or so before the famed Apache was born.

It would be insensitive for me to go any further on this subject.

I'm just going to put on this parachute, and let myself out...


Thursday, May 5, 2011

I like my Cinco de Miracle Whip.....

Cinco de Mayo!

For those that assume it's Mexican Independence's not. It is the day in which they commemorate a victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla.

They commemorate with large amounts of Tequila, apparently.

Americans tend to simply commemorate that it's the Fifth of May....with large amounts of Tequila.

On the Fifth of May, everybody becomes a Mexican, similar to the way that everybody becomes an Irish Catholic on St. Patrick's Day.

Of course, St. Patrick had to drive the Snakes (Druids) out of Ireland (by slaughtering them, no doubt). The Mexicans simply had to defeat the French.

And we all know the history of French warfare. It's best summed up by Janitor Willie, who refers to them as "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys."

Those of my brethren often refer to days like this as "amateur night." When far too many people drink far too much and wind up doing far to many stupid things.

Be careful, my friends.

Most of you are funny to watch when you're drunk; and I would miss that if you were jailed or in otherwise incapacitated.

Ole! And whatnot.....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In the silence between the act and the aftermath.....

Oh, the nightmares I had last night, my friends.

And all the thoughts that run through my head.....

It isn't pleasant in the corners of my mind this morning:

I have images of grieving families all over the world.

I have a quiet pride for the men and women who stand on front lines and do unpleasant things to protect me and my right to speak my mind....but I hold their bravery in the highest of esteem.

I have images of people celebrating in the streets at the destruction of people and property in the early days of the last decade; and I have images of people celebrating the killing of a single man in the desert.

I was angry when I saw the first. And I was ashamed when I saw the second.

Yes...a few days ago I vented my feelings at the results; and I stand by them not as an exultation of joy, but as a guy who's life was complicated by the man's presence, and will be further complicated by the man's absence.

I'm reminded that we are all of us, Americans, descended from those that used violence to break from what they considered their oppressors. We dumped tea into the harbor dressed as Indians. We stood behind rocks and trees when most armies still met in long lines on the field of battle.

I'm also reminded of a great novella written by Richard Matheson, called I AM LEGEND; and one of the guiding principles of the novel was the fact that when everybody turns into vampires....then the humans are actually the disease. It's a question of perspective.

I have done my best in my sobriety to remove malice from my heart; but I am human and the need for vengeance runs in our blood. I have turned to Faith to help out, but religion rears its ugly head from time to time and that confuses the issue. But I bear no malice for those that seek to avenge themselves upon us for whatever reasons they need to justify the behavior.

I seek, as I have always sought, to understand. And understanding requires knowledge; and knowledge requires conversation.....not preaching, or pontification, but honest conversation.

When knowledge is achieved, and parity is met, then through that a comfortable peace will be achieved.....

Then I'll dance in the streets.

And I would be pleased if you would all join me; it's been far too long since we all danced with spirit and love and abandon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

a quck note.

I take no satisfaction in the death of any man.

But Farewell, you Bastard.