February 12, 2015 § 2 Comments

Morley Safer, CBS News

Morley Safer, CBS News

I never thought I would say this: the controversy about Brian Williams has made me miss the Vietnam War. I miss the reporters who really went there, went there to report. I miss the visceral feeling I had when I saw the grass waving under the choppers and the sound of the blades that still alerts me, all these years later. I miss the reporters ducking and running. I miss being made to feel horrified and grief-stricken about events that deserve horror and grief. « Read the rest of this entry »

Progress Report

January 15, 2015 § 4 Comments

“Have you finished the book?” It was the first thing Fred said when he saw me one day and he followed it up with, “I’m going to ask you that every time I see you.”

And he has, too. He asks when he arrives for dinner, or at Cafe Dewitt where we are meeting for lunch, or even at his own retirement party at Ithaca College.

“Getting there,” I say. Inwardly I ponder the process, briefly touching in on a world that has become intimately familiar while remaining utterly strange – the world of the war in Vietnam in 1967 to 1969. « Read the rest of this entry »

Foxholes and Protests

December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment


Mark (right) and friends, January 1968.

I used to be annoyed with Mark’s friends and family for not at least trying to talk him out of going to war in Vietnam and then going back for a second tour. I could let myself off the hook because while I knew him and knew most of his friends I wasn’t in much communication with them.
When he set his sights on the Army we were in high school. He was an extrovert, school photographer and reporter. I was catatonically shy, loving French and my few friends but otherwise being generally miserable. But that isn’t the time that concerns me now. I am thinking of when he got back after his first tour in January 1968. « Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond ‘thank you’

November 11, 2014 § 5 Comments

Yesterday I wrote in Point of View that connection is an act of peacemaking, that connection subverts the forces of war. Today I listened to Sebastian Junger speak about Why Soldiers Miss War. What he says in that talk calls my conclusion into question, or at least betrays it as the wistfulness of a civilian.

That soldiers miss war puzzles most of us who want nothing to do with it. I am uncomfortable still when Mark tells me that he misses the war. I accept it. On some level I think I “get” it – he misses the excitement, the sense of competency, the pride in doing a miserable job that no one in “the world” wants to do. « Read the rest of this entry »

Point of View

November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Two writers, one American and one Vietnamese, met at a conference after the war and collaborated on a book, The Other Side of Heaven: Post-War Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers. Wayne Karlin, who had piloted a helicopter, imagines his co-author, Le Minh Khue, who had worked to clear American bombs from the Ho Chi Minh Trail:

… I pictured myself flying above the jungle canopy, transfixed with fear and hate and searching for her in order to shoot her, while she looked up, in hatred and fear also, searching for me …

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“There’s an old Vietnamese saying …”

October 23, 2014 § 3 Comments

VN 3 13 133

Vietnamese and American veterans, 2013, Binh Dinh Province, Viet Nam

In all the stories of the United States and Vietnam there runs a mysterious emotional and psychic connection that weaves through the increasingly frantic and desperate actions of the war, persists in the sad and unresolved aftermath, and shows up in the stories of individual people. « Read the rest of this entry »

Wise and Otherwise

October 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

In one of my favorite board games the players hear the first part of a saying from a particular country or culture. They then make up an ending that they think will be convincing. The dealer gathers the responses, includes the real one, and then reads them out. The object is to guess the right ending from among the clever imposters.

For example: There’s an old Welsh saying, “The first to be a thief …”

Or this one: There’s an old Japanese saying, “The road of time … ”

« Read the rest of this entry »