Alvin York was born in 1887 in Pall Mall , in the Tennessee mountains .
You might have seen the movie . Gary Cooper played Alvin , a hillbilly sharpshooter with a crush on a girl and determined to get some “bottom land” so he and she can get married and build a house . He had reformed his life from his fighting and drinking days and had become a devout Christian and a pacifist .
York reluctantly joined the Army during The Great War and was sent to France. He had tried to get out of the draft as a conscientious objector . Alvin York was by then a determined pacifist . “He were agin’ it ,” someone in the 1941 movie might have said .
1941 was another hot year for world wars . The draft had begun again , too , and the country desperately needed soldiers , sailors , and airmen . The movie SERGEANT YORK was not-so-subtle symbolism for reluctant peace-loving young American men who were not hot on fighting someone else’s war somewhere across the ocean . After all , Alvin York hadn’t wanted to go , either , but he did his duty to God and country , and he became the most highly decorated American soldier in WWI .
How he became a war hero is quite an amazing story . Corporal York took command of seven surviving men on patrol when the non-coms were killed and York attacked the German positions single-handed . Pacifist York shot 28 German soldiers , one at a time , before a German officer surrendered his 128 men and 32 machine guns . ” I teched-off the one in the back of the line first , ” York explained . Just like hunting turkeys back home , he had said .
In later years York was reluctant to talk about his exploits . He wanted to forget the war and he tried to explain that he had only experienced a tiny bit of it , ” a fifty mile stretch “.
I was sitting in my apartment near Robertson and Palms one day when the phone rang . It was a girl I knew from college . She and I used to go out for a time . She was a year ahead of me in school and when she graduated I didn’t see her again . Five years had passed by the time of the phone call . Our romance had passed five years before , too , or had never really developed , more likely , but we parted as friends .
I was surprised and pleased to hear from her . It was one of those little suddenly- appearing sparks that can light up an otherwise drab day . Turns out she lived not too far from my apartment . She was teaching elementary school . I was teaching , too .
” I was looking through the school yearbook , ” she said over the phone , ” and I saw your picture , ” she said , ” and so I decided to call . ”
This was a nice cozy explanation for the out-of-the-blue call except for the fact that my picture wasn’t in the yearbook . I never waited around for the graduation ceremony , either , or sat for any graduation photos or wore any cap-and-gown or threw any mortar-board in the air .
The school mailed my degree to me instead of handing it to me . Well , actually they mailed it to another guy with the same name as mine who had graduated fifteen years ahead of me . Well , his middle initial was different from mine and no other facts of our lives matched ; but , you know , school registration clerks sometimes make mistakes . This other Dan was good enough to send my certificate along to me with a short note telling me what had happened .
She asked me if I would like to come over to her place for a visit . Sure . I was thinking of some time in the future ; maybe next week . She said , ” What about tonight ? ”
So I went . I was in my old car cruising over to the address in Santa Monica before I knew it . On the way I , naturally , was dredging up memories that I might use as conversation starters . Ah ! The Neil Young concert ! Of course ! That would be a good topic to begin with .
She and I had gone to a Neil Young concert at Royce Hall at UCLA . Rambling Jack Elliot had opened for Neil . What was it , 1972 ? 1972 , give or take a year . It was a great concert . Tickets were , I think , only two dollars , but they were limited because Royce Hall has limited seating . The idea was to wait all night outside the ticket office on campus to be sure to get tickets . That idea was shared by hundreds of us , and people were drinking wine and partying all night until the ticket office opened the next morning . It was fun . She and I were there in the crowd . I thought that this would be a great memory to share to begin the conversation !
She met me at the door to her apartment . We said hello and then I immediately mentioned the Neil Young concert . Start off strong !
Her features twisted up into a sour look . ” I’ve been trying for five years to forget that concert , ” she said .
” Huh ? ”
” Don’t you remember how we drank wine and partied all night until the ticket office opened ? ,” she said .
” Yeah . ”
” And then when we got to the window that morning you bought two tickets and turned to me and asked how many I was going to buy ? ”
” No . I don’t remember that . ” I had absolutely no memory of that at all .
I hadn’t even stepped into her apartment yet , but I was already defeated , already chewed up into little chunks just waiting to be spit out . I knew , as odd as it was , that she must be right in her recollection . I quickly tried to dredge up from my mind muck a more accurate memory of that moment than the one that I had been harboring for all of those years ; but I had no luck whatsoever . I just didn’t remember it like that at all .
It gets worse .
” And I don’t know who that girl you were with was , but I had to sit three rows behind you and see you all through the concert , ” she said .
” I was with you , ” I said . Dumb thing to say , I know , but that’s the way I remembered it , and so I tried foolishly to push that version a final time . My desperate and pathetic defense , of course , didn’t fly .
” I’ve been trying for five years to forget that experience , ” she said again .
It was probably high time to turn on my heels , climb back into my old Chevy , and go back home , but she invited me in , like the spider to the fly , and in I went .
We talked awkwardly for a few minutes , mostly about the ins and outs of teaching . Teachers are always willing to talk about teaching . And then her phone rang . She took the call in her bedroom , closed the bedroom door . I sat out in the living room with my mineral water , or my tea , or whatever she had served me , if anything , and I waited .
I didn’t hear the words of their heated discussion , but I got an earful of the tone of the conversation . It seemed to me , and I think I’m correct to think it , that she had had a fight with her boyfriend . Temporarily lonely , or perhaps in some silly strategy to make the guy jealous , she had called me and invited me over . Maybe I was down toward the bottom of a list of guys she’s known . I hope that I was toward the bottom of the list , for her sake .
Anyhow , the guy called while I was there in her place . I’m sure that’s what was happening . It took them a long while arguing about the details of their spat , but they eventually came to some mutual settlement over the phone and called a truce . Of course I’m making all of this up ; but I think I’m right just the same .
Her problem now was obvious : Dan is still in the room . Bad enough before ; but now : really awkward .
When she finally emerged from the bedroom she immediately asked me if I had to get up early to go to work . I made a show of looking at my watch . ” Oh , it’s that late already ! Sorry to run off ,” I said , ” but I have to get up early in the morning . ” I should have thanked her for the convenient prompt . And I was off .
Early mornings for me then, by the way ? No . I lived ten minutes away from the school where I was teaching in those days and didn’t have to be at work until 8:00 am. —— Yet , an acceptable justification to bug-out of a bad situation is an acceptable justification to bug -out of a bad situation . I would use the term face-saving , but I’d already lost that option at the front doorstep , and the only option left was to cut and run as soon as possible .
Some of us were sitting around the dinner table when the subject of invitations that didn’t work out too well came up . I thought of this one .
I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once . —— Thomas Mann
There is a blogger out in the wilds of Connecticut who has a regular feature entitled something like “ If We Were Having a Beer ” . He mentions Yeungling in just about every one of those posts , it seems . Yeungling is a delicacy in those parts , I suspect , a relatively local brand of beer . These posts are conversations during which a variety of small talk occurs and profound revelations about life are revealed with a light humor if not light beer .
Another blogger friend of mine up in the Pacific Northwest , thus directly opposite the CT guy if one views the world with a USA-centered bias , occasionally take us on walks around the neighborhoods of Portland. His are photograph -based wanderings around the town and he shows us common objects that somehow take on more significance simply by being pointed out as worthy of notice .
I , despite all suspicions , fake news reports , unfounded aspersions , and flimsy evidence to the contrary , listen intently to and learn from others . In this post ( part 1 of 2 , presented in this separated manner in order not to tire a person out ) I use the ideas of these two bloggers .
I don’t have a name yet for my special feature . I don’t know if it will become a regular event or not . ( I’m going to ask my plumber his opinion ; [ a Guinness man , no less ] ; and he’ll level with me ). Well , let’s not get ahead of ourselves . We’ll move on .
I spent part of the afternoon a few days ago having a beer at a little place down near the river . Boats were passing . I had my little camera…………………… .
Catching on ?
Why not sit and have a beer . Take a few photos . Let the passing boats do the work .
Best of both blogs .
Hope is a waking dream . ——Aristotle
I have planned for months to take a trip up north to view the upcoming total solar eclipse that will cross the continent . I have a sister who lives in Coos Bay , Oregon , and my plan was to stay with her . The eclipse begins to cross the continent at Lincoln City , I heard , a beach town just a few miles north of Coos Bay . I’ve been looking forward for months now to this unique event .
All of this , I have been thinking , would be in September , when the eclipse would happen . Imagine my surprise last week when I read that the eclipse wasn’t going to happen in September . I suppose the rest of the universe already knew this . But not me . August ? August .
The trouble is that I am in Poland and our return flight to USA is scheduled for —– let’s see…………. , oh ! , Total Eclipse Day . Yeah , we will be in the air on August 21 . I hope that the pilot knows what s/he’s doing when the sky goes dark . Does s/he have to be wearing special dark glasses ? Don’t ask me ; I didn’t even know when the eclipse was coming .
Sometimes I get something stuck in the nether recesses of my mind and it’s stuck in there way too long , even when it’s hopelessly unbased in fact .
I think that a certain friend of mine , months ago , told me that the eclipse was coming September 21 . I remember that moment . We were having a burger at a place called Hook . Not that I’m passing the buck and blaming him because I’m not , but I think that that misstatement months ago was the start of my stuck-in-the-mud misdirection and subsequent stubborn confusion .
The thing that worries me most about this is that my brain is probably full of this kind of misinformation . I am fully aware that much of what I think is real is real only for me and that other people see the world differently . I guess that’s life and the reality of individual realities . Had I paid more attention in philosophy class in college I might be better able to explain this stuff . Meanwhile , I just mention it as one of the doubts I would have if I were one to ponder the intricacies of life in such a manner .
Luckily , I tend not to ruminate on such matters in such a manner if I can help it . ( I can almost hear Ada right now and other people who know me saying : ” Duh!” in a loud chorus . Even my plumber made a mildly censorious comment [ if there is such a thing ] about the placement of a new toilet — but I won’t go into that right now .). I think you’ll only drive yourself crazy to contemplate deeply serious aspects of life too often or too seriously . I think Kant said that . Maybe it was Rod McKeun , though . Socrates ? Mark Twain ?
Okay , forget it .
Oh , I’m not saying that I’m right . My apologies to you intellectuals out there , to you philosophers , to you diligent and thoughtful monks discussing issues such as how many angels will fit comfortably on the head of a pin . (My Jesuit high school teachers would already be asking, I suspect : What are the parameters of the pin ? The philosophy lecturer at UCLA would be asking : How do we even know the pin is actually there ? ) But , well , we all have a right to our own perceptions and misperceptions . Or , maybe we don’t . There must be a class out there , perhaps on-line : Philosophical Foundations of the Morality of Perception . (But , I’m not going to sign up for it .)
But , you may have noticed , philosophers don’t run the world ( as far as I can tell ) . Angels , as I understand the abstraction , don’t run the world either . But these superficial observations are neither here nor there for our purposes today . So let’s move on .
I kind of wish that I had paid more attention to the actual date of this total solar eclipse . The last one across the US , I read , happened in 1979 . I don’t know how they work exactly , but I might have to wait until , say , about 2054 to watch the next one . Yeah ? I don’t know ; are they on a strict schedule ? ( Science was not one of my strong points in school , either, obviously ! I was lost , for example , in Chemistry 1 in 10th grade as soon as the teacher started discussing moles , which popped up in the first chapter of the textbook. ) .
Too late in the game by 2054 or 2055 , I think .
Reminds me of the joke about the 100 year old man who volunteers to umpire a little league baseball game . The coaches are skeptical . They question him about his eyesight . He points out far- off objects and he describes them in detail until the coaches are convinced that his sight is excellent and that he can do the job .
Then the first pitch . The old man is silent .
Was it a strike ? Was it a ball ? He is still silent . The coaches begin to loudly question him . What was it ? Make the call !
The old man says : ” I forgot .”
Jeez. I can’t even get the month of the eclipse straight , at my current age . Imagine me at the time that the next total solar eclipse passes across the continental US . I wouldn’t put much hope in anticipation of any extraordinary powers of observation of mine by then .
But , we’ll see .
Ada told me about the cruise ship that would be down at the dock until 4:00 pm , so I decided to go take a quick look . I figured that were it a really big one it would be across the river somewhere .
But no . It was a big one and it was parked right out front . I didn’t bring my camera with me for my little walk , so I went back to the apartment to get it . It only took me a few minutes to get back with the camera .
I took a few shots of the ship . Small river cruise boats arrive frequently in the summer here , but I’ve never seen one this large here until today . Polish naval ships visit for Navy Days , which seems to happen fairly often , or maybe for other festivals too , but they don’t match this cruise ship’s size . Remember , this is a river port .
When I showed Ada the photos , she said , ” It’s not that big ,” like I was exaggerating the whole thing . There are the photos ! She wasn’t impressed .