35 Years After Vietnam

I admit to have been one of those people who actually supported the Vietnam war in the beginning of 1967. After all, it was an American war, I was an American, ipso facto, Q.E.D. My opposition to the conflict evolved over the next year or so…


Was it only six years ago when I realized that the Vietnam war, contrary to the historic record, was not over after all? I’m talking, of course, about Vietnam vet John Kerry and what he did (or didn’t) do in protesting a war he once fought in, dredged up during the 2004 Presidential election between Kerry and George W. Bush, whose own military record also came into question.

I admit to have been one of those people who actually supported the Vietnam war in the beginning of 1967. After all, it was an American war, I was an American, ipso facto, Q.E.D. My opposition to the conflict evolved over the next year or so, starting with the Beyond Vietnam speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he died. (Was that just coincidence?)

The group that most influenced me at the time was the VVAW, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was one thing for civilians to oppose the war. It was quite another thing to see soldiers who had been fighting the war then come out against it.

In time, I found about some of the history of conflict in Vietnam, the fighting against the Japanese and the French, among others. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 might have signaled the end of colonial occupation, but it led to greater involvement by the Americans, first in small numbers of analysts in the 1950s to massive numbers troops in the mid-1960s, facilitated in no small part by the prevarication that was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August of 1964.

No doubt that many of the soldiers may have operated honorably, but it’s also true that the My Lai massacre in 1968 was not the only atrocity in this drawn-out engagement. My buddy Steve Bissette wrote a piece about a couple films delineating military failings during Vietnam and a more recent conflict. (I actually chuckled when I discovered his post was dated February 2, for that was the date in 1972 when the draft for those born in 1953 took place; that’s a LONG story.)

My general disinclination towards war is fueled by the belief that even in a “good war” (a true oxymoron), bad things, unintended things occur. Even the “good guys” get it wrong sometimes, regardless of the safeguards. Thus war should always be a last resort, not a first option.

In a bold attempt to be “fair and balanced, I point out to you The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Vietnam War — “the latest installment in Regnery Publishing’s bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide™ (“PIG”) series — [Phillip] Jennings gives you the surprising truth, and backs it up with facts that liberals ignore.”

I should note that I haven’t read the book. Among the assertions:
*The Tet offensive was a debacle for the North Vietnamese
*Communist Vietnam is now trying to emulate a more capitalist approach
I actually agree with both of those statements, but not with most of the others.

Thirty-five years after Vietnam and we’re still fighting the war.

***
Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Pete turns 91 on Monday.

ROG

The 50th Anniversary Celebration

I can only blame it on the fact that I was feeling lousy – still feeling lousy, actually – that I forgot until Friday night that Friday was ten years since my parents’ 50th anniversary. It would be their last one.

My sisters and I decided to surprise them for the event. We called their church, trying to arrange for a room. There was only one problem; someone else wanted the room for the same day. This was months before the date; couldn’t the other party change the date? This is our parents’ 50TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Well, no, because the other party, it turned out, was our father, wanted to have a surprise gig for our mom himself. So we decided to join forces.

I came down with my wife and my parents-in-law, who had met my parents at Carol’s and my wedding only the May before, when my father did all the decorations and floral arranging. We all wanted to help, and did somewhat, but he had a vision, and it was difficult for us mortals to fulfill it in the way he had in mind. So he did most of the church hall decoration himself, with my sister Leslie’s help since she had worked with him on these types of things decades earlier. The rest of us did some of the heavy lifting. The difference between this event and the wedding ten months earlier was that my father had to rest occasionally, maybe more than occasionally.

Sunday, March 12, 2000, we all went to church, diverting our mother from the building’s assembly hall. We attended the church service, during which a peculiar thing happened: my parents were invited to renew their vows. I don’t know if my father knew about this, but my mother, my sisters and I certainly did not. I think my sisters and I gulped a bit. Would she actually say yes? My father could be…well, let’s say, five decades of marriage always has its complications. There was what seemed to be an interminable pause before she replied in the affirmative.

Afterward, we had the party. There was singing and tributes from various folks. My sisters and I had put together one of those video montages of photos that ran throughout the event.

The next day, the wife, the in-laws and I went home. Well not quite home. We left Charlotte at 6 a.m.. got to the in-laws’ house in Oneonta, NY, 715 miles away, at 9 p.m. and just crashed.

What had been a family tradition was to get a family photo every time the Greens got together if it had been a while. The last one we sat for was on their anniversary in 1995, but for some obscure reason – probably the contentiousness of that day (but that’s another story) – we didn’t in 2000. Since my father died that August 10 from prostate cancer, the lack of the family photo became one of those “coulda, shoulda” things in the family lore.

ROG

Sunny Day, Chasing the Clouds Away


If you’ve gone to Google the past week or so, you could not help but to have noticed the visual tributes to Sesame Street. The program hits its 40th anniversary tomorrow, November 10. For someone past the targeted demographic – I was almost 17 when it first aired – there was a period in which I watched it a great deal, especially in college.

The recollection is now fuzzy, but the Muppets of Jim Henson would show up on a number of variety shows in the 1960s. Possibly the first character to make the transition from the Henson act to Sesame Street was Kermit the Frog. Kermit was green, as I am (of sorts) and early on sang a tune about the difficulty of that fact, something about blending in with so many other ordinary things, and people passing you “over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky.” Boy, could I relate. Kermit was also often a bit exasperated, as I was.

Here’s part of the first episode, before a slew of guest stars discovered that it was cool to appear on Sesame Street.

But it wasn’t just the Muppets that appealed to me. Bob McGrath, who plays Bob, looked very familiar; perhaps I recognized him from Sing Along with Mitch (Miller)? I also liked Susan, played forever by Loretta Long. Don’t know how long I was watching, but it was enough time that I remember both the old Gordon (Matt Robinson) and the “new” (1973) Gordon, Roscoe Orman, switched in a very Darrin Stephens way. I even went out and bought a soundtrack album in those first years, which unfortunately got lost or stolen. So when the 10th anniversary album came out in 1979, although I wasn’t actively watching the show anymore, I purchased it. More than that, I played it quite often for a good decade.

Jaquandor has a bunch of Sesame Street YouTube links, including an early version of “Bein’ Green” and the one the one about explaining death that manages to make me tear up every damn time.
ROG

Tin or Aluminum?


Jacquandor did this lovely tribute to his wife on her last birthday. Being an unrepentant thief, I thought I’d steal it for Carol’s and my 10th wedding anniversary, which is today. But I won’t get to 100 points.

1. The first movie we saw together was Speed, which probably has some metaphysical significance.

2. She was, at our old church, chair of the Membership Committee. Part of that involved being welcoming and that’s what she tries to do. I was chair of the Council on Ministries, which included Membership, so we were at a number of meetings together.

3. First time I met her whole family, it was Thanksgiving 1994. It was a foreign concept to me, all four adult children in their late 20s and early 30s, coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. I haven’t been at my parents’ home for Thanksgiving since 1971 or for Christmas since 1996, and that was rare.

4. Even more foreign, the Olin Family Reunion every year near Binghamton, NY. Carol’s mother had seven siblings, and one of them, Warren, traced the family back over 320 years to an indentured servant named John Olin who jumped the boat, hung out with Indians for a number of years before marrying Susannah Spencer. Carol had over 30 first cousins on the Olin side alone. Meanwhile, the Yates and Walkers on my families’ side had sporadic events. And because my parents were both only children, no direct aunts, uncles or first cousins.

5. She grew up in Greenville, NY, not that far from Albany, but she liked the country and thought Albany was too big. She’s since altered her position on this.

6. When we went out the first time, then broke up, I was still in her brother Dan’s wedding, and she was good with that.

7. Why did we break up? These things are always complicated. But certainly one factor for me was her ability, now thankfully greatly diminished, to, as a lawyer might say, “assume facts not in evidence.” Years later, only one example sticks out. We were cooking at my apartment, and she put a hot pan on the counter because she assumed it was heat-resistant; it was not. It melted the paint and left a cooking pot-sized burn mark. I probably did not react well.

8. Even though we weren’t dating, I rode a bicycle in the snow to pick up medicine for her. She had that effect on me.

9. I found that I missed her a lot, though I’d see her a lot, including at a weekly year-long intensive United Methodist-driven Bible study called Disciple that took place usually in her home. Read the whole Bible in 34 weeks, including the parts not required for the discussion.

10. There were a couple of failed attempts to get back together, the less said about the better.

11. I’d do lots of things to be around her, including a trip to the Washington County Fair with a Bible buddy, me, her and her (idiot) boyfriend. Not recommended.

12. When I started to woo her again in earnest in August 1998, long after she’d broken up with said boyfriend, she was oblivious to it until October, when we went for a walk at Five Rivers nature preserve and I gave her a big kiss.

13. She helped put together a JEOPARDY! watching party for me in November 1998, but she wasn’t there; her job in the insurance industry, which was well-paying but frustrating, had her in Madison, WI.

14. We got engaged at a restaurant on Lark Street in Albany called Justin’s in mid-January 1999.

15. We waited to get engaged because her brother Mark was getting married on 1 January 1999. I DJed that reception, BTW.

16. She quit that well-paying but frustrating job in February 1999 so she could see me more often, help plan the wedding and get ready to go to graduate school.

17. We went to Portland, ME in March 1999 as her birthday present to me. We got snowed in and had to stay another day. Awww!

18. I razz her every St. Patrick’s Day about the dress incident. The term “toning the bed” has a specific significance to us.

19. She developed a bond with my father, initially, over the fact that they both liked painting trees. His work on arranging the design of our wedding reception, including the flowers, sealed the deal. Since he died a year and a half later, I was always grateful for that.

20. Whereas I developed a bond with my father-in-law over baseball. I’m guessing none of his sons could identify Jim “Mudcat” grant – former Minnesota Twins pitcher. He and I have gone to several minor league baseball games. One, at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown earlier this decade, Carol attended to and conked her head on a beam.

21. Carol and I we danced to At Last by Etta James at our reception. It may be a cliche now – it may have been one then – but it definitely seemed appropriate.

22. The timing of our wedding was driven in part by our trip to Barbados which I won on JEOPARDY! We didn’t want to be in the Caribbean when it was too hot and/or during hurricane season, and we wanted to use the trip as a honeymoon.

23. The worst part of our honeymoon – leaving an all-inclusive resort to return to the “real” world.

24. When we got back home, which the first floor of the two-family house she’d bought in 1992, there were so many unopened presents – and nowhere to put them – that it took a week just to try to do the thank yous.

25. In the pre-wedding session, the minister said we ought to get a place that was ours, rather than hers. This became evident in the attempt to get all my stuff in that apartment. Dresser on top of a dresser, the idea of some TV home designer who said when you have limited floor space to “build up, up!” She did try to make the space mine.

26. Before we were engaged, she had booked a trip to Scotland with a college friend in July 1999. We both acted as though we were really cool sophisticates who didn’t mind being apart for a week a mere two months after the wedding, but this proved to be untrue on both sides of the Atlantic.

27. Being alone in “her” house, I suddenly heard every creak, every noisy neighbor.

28. We started looking for houses in the fall. There was one house I really loved, and she liked, which once belonged to an acquaintance of mine. Lots of built-in book shelves, etc. Unfortunately – or actually fortunately, in the long run – our inspector found water damage under the stucco which would have cost too much to repair, and the owner wouldn’t budge on the price. So we walked away.

29. The house we ultimately moved into we saw early on in the process, indeed, before the stucco house, but it took several months for the price to go down enough for us to make an offer.

30. It is almost undoubtedly true that if it weren’t for Carol’s fiscal prowess, I would be a homeowner. Whether that’s a good thing or not – I had been a renter since I left the family domicile – remains to be seen.

31. Part of what I hate about being the homeowner is fixing things because, frankly, I’m not that good at it. In most areas, she is more handy than I.

32. I have, though, been ceded the areas of computers, which is pretty laughable, since I don’t really know what I’m doing there either. But I know just enough – how to burn a PowerPoint presentation onto a CD, how to cancel a print job, and, related, how to reboot the DVR.

33. I’m also mostly in charge of the heavy lifting – the manual lawnmower, the snow shoveling, though she helps when it’s severe.

34. A couple weeks after moving into the house in May 2000, I stepped on a nail in the back yard. I hobbled to the front of the house, rather than tracking blood into our new old house, walked in the house, and called, “Carol!” She said. “I’m upstairs!” Undoubtedly, I was too calm sounding. Ultimately, she drove me to the urgent care place.

35. Carol started grad school to become a teacher of English as a Second Language in the fall of 2000; I was living with a coed!

35. I got to read every one of her papers looking for not only typos but consistency of idea; she’s said repeatedly since then how much she appreciated that.

36. A few weeks after 11 September 2001, I suggested we get away for the weekend. She said we could get away while staying at home; this is a fiction. When she’s home, she’ll always find something that needs cleaning or fixing or tending. So we went to a B&B in a place called Cherry Valley, NY on Columbus Day weekend, only about an hour away, but it was wonderful. Things I remember from that weekend: Mark & Leanne’s daughter as born and, in the only world news news I actually heard – there were no TVs – the U.S. war in Afghanistan started.

37. She denies this, but we’re often late because she’ll take on one last thing – doing one last load of laundry, pick up a few things. I’m usually late because i just lose track of time reading.

38. Speaking of laundry, even before the child came, she was doing it several times a week. I was more of a weekend launderer in my single days. she washes at a temperature one notch colder than I would. She also fills the machine less full than I tend to.

39. She thinks I have too many pair of underwear. This comes me usually from doing laundry every three weeks – therefore, 21 pair. I think she has too few.

40. In 2000, Carol’s older brother John, my greatest ally in wooing Carol back, starts dating a woman he met online, discovers he has colon cancer, and gets married to Cyndi 31 December. It was supposed to be the day before, but a massive storm that blanketed that part of northern NJ with 26 inches of snow. The actual wedding the attendees were my parents-in-law, Mark & Leanne, Carol & me. (Dan was home with Tracy, who was eight months pregnant with twins). And the reception more so, with Mark & Leanne getting lost and never making it there, so there were two cakes for the happy couple, four attendees and the minister and the organist.

41. Various members of the Powell family, including Carol and me, make regular trips to NJ to see John who seems to be getting better, then not so much. He died 12 February 2002. Carol, who just doesn’t generally do that, was compelled to write a poem for the occasion; it’s very touching.

42. In her first year in this house, the second of Carol’s grad school, the big expenditure was a new kitchen faucet. It would wobble like a car’s standard transmission on acid.

43. We used to watch TV together more than we do now: American Idol, My Name Is Earl. Now she watches her shows (figure skating, Dancing with the Stars), I watch mine, Lydia watches hers (though one of us generally watches with her). Carol and I eventually will watch those unwatched eps of Scrubs, the Office and 30 Rock. (That whole bit in The Office where Michael goes off on his own? We haven’t seen it yet; don’t tell my wife.)

44. Carol’s a decent cook but a better baker. I think it’s part of that 4-H thing she grew up with. My cooking tends to be limited to a half dozen things.

45. In 2001, we got a new kitchen floor and a new dishwasher. The old dishwasher had damaged the old floor. With the dishwasher, I did something I seldom do: read the manual. I often rearrange the dishes Carol places in the machine. Just last weekend, only 7.5 years after getting the machine, she agreed that I load the dishwasher better than she does, that my way creates far fewer dishes that need to be hand washed.

44. In the summer of 2002, we had a bat in our bedroom – the flying variety, not baseball variety. Being a country girl, she figured to leave it alone and it’d leave us alone. Wrong. Ultimately, we ended up getting rabies shots, which almost derailed her trip to Ukraine.

45. In the fall of 2002, we got a new refrigerator. She likes a full larder; I like to see what’s actually IN the refrigerator.

46. She does most of the food shopping. When I go, I usually buy multiples of things on sale. She used to think having four boxes of Cheerios was silly; now, I think she understands the strategy.

47. When we discovered Carol was pregnant in the summer of 2003, we kept it a secret from everyone, not just because we’re supposed to, but because we enjoyed having this delicious little secret.

48. We found out about a resort in Poland Spring, ME that only allowed adults, so we went there in August 2003; we didn’t know when we’d have a chance again.

49. Carol giving birth to Lydia in March 204 was amazing; she was very strong, probably a function in part of the Kegel exercises that she was doing on the Bradley method.

50. That was why when she had the jaw surgery that went not well last year, I knew it had to hurt tremendously. The most physical pain I’d ever seen her in. Not surprisingly, I HATED it.

51. We both felt out of our element with a constantly crying baby until we slowly started figuring out together.

52. There’s a division of labor with the child that’s evolved over time: I drop her off at day care, Carol picks her up. I generally dress her (and if necessary , slowly wake her) in the morning, but Carol does her hair, etc. Carol picks her up and makes dinner before I get home. We trade off on medicines and the like. But I read stories and sing songs. These get thrown off when Carol has evening meetings or I have choir.

53. She has become more politically aware. Partly it’s that she watches and listens to and reads more news from a variety of sources than she did when I met her.

54. We share a common gross irritation with litter as an act of royally selfish people.

55. The best thing about our recent vacation sans child is that we had a good time alone together while not talking about said child all the time.

56. She loves Norman Rockwell, so when we went to his museum last year, i looked at the graphic novel stuff, and she – OK, we – looked at Rockwell.

57. She likes Lindt’s chocolate truffles. She gets them for every major holiday: Mother’s Day or our anniversary; her birthday; Christmas.

58. I used to be the guy up half the night, but she has (grumble) converted me to a morning person.

59. (stolen from Jaquandor) Why don’t we play mini golf more often? We both love mini golf. The Daughter loves mini golf. What gives?

60. she’s one of the only people I know who doesn’t think I’m kidding when I say that I’m basically shy.

61. It used to bother me that she didn’t read my blogs, not even the one for the newspaper. In fact, for that one, her colleagues would tell her about my recent post. Now occasionally she’ll surprise me with “I read that on your blog.” I wonder how long it’ll be before she discovers THIS post? Shhhh!

Happy anniversary, honey!
ROG

Blogiversary Numero Quatro

When I say that I have posted every day for four years, and I say, “I don’t believe it,” I’m not being rhetorical. Given the whimsical way I started this blog, AND my notorious lack of discipline, I figured it’d last a month or two, maybe until the JEOPARDY! saga was finished, or after I made some observations about the daughter until she hit those early milestones.

Yet here I am. I’ve really tried NOT to write more than once a day. I don’t have time. How did I do THIS year?
2008: May, September, November, December; 2009: January, February reached goal
2008: June, October; 2009: March one extra post
2008: July, August; 2009: April three extra posts
So that’s 374 posts in the past year, not to mention my other blogs here and here and here and my work blog here.

One of the things about blogging, of course, is that one doesn’t do it in isolation. I don’t think some people realizes that blogging is more than the writing. Near-twin Gordon talks about the 70/30 rule – I don’t know if it’s original with him, but it doesn’t matter – which is that 70% of the time you blog, but the other 30% of the time you spend reading and commenting on other blogs.

This has gotten more tricky this year by two factors:
1) my wife’s internship, which has made use of our single computer more difficult. Perfect example happened yesterday, when I got up at 4:35 a.m. to work on this post, but my wife ALSO got up at the same time to do school work until 5:55; given the fact that I have to wake the child at 6:30 and leave at 7…
2) my embrace of Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. I was reading the March 2009 Ladies Home Journal this week – it was left in the lunchroom – and someone wrote that Facebook is “a big time suck.”

That “other” time is important; it keeps me informed, even if it’s about weird stuff. But also one starts to actually care about those other people. When Tom the Dog tweets: “Today was a good day. Tomorrow will be better. I feel like I’ve turned a corner. About time.” a few days ago, I hope that means he’ll start blogging again. When Scott gets laid off from his job, I feel the need to commiserate. Yet I’ve met neither of them.

The great thing about this busyness is that I stopped worrying about the number of hits I get on a given day, or my Technorati score, or any of that. I AM happy that this blog is still in the top three or four when one Googles Roger Green.

This coming year, I’ve decided that I need to do a few specific things:
I’m going to continue to do ABC Wednesday because it forces me to stretch.
I need to do my long-promised list of Beatles songs in order of what I’d want on to hear on a desert island; some of the biggies will not fare well.
I need to continue my year-by-year analysis of Oscar-worthy movies so I can finally make my list of my favorite movies (though one on my list is certainly NOT Oscar-worthy).
And of course, my once-a-month Lydia piece.

I MAY miss a day or two. It’s much more likely given the fact that I’ll be away for a couple weeks this summer without computer access. Or maybe I’ll just post YouTube videos like Eddie does when he’s stressed. I will likely, in the words of Alan David Doane, reposition some stuff for sure.

Thank you all for coming by. Comments are always welcome.
ROG