Saturday, May 3, 2014

John Wayne: Why I Forgave an American Icon’s Politics

Good Day World!

A blast from the past..

Vietnam 1970 - I had been in country one week when my squad leader said, “We don’t need any John Wayne’s in this squad.” Nearly everyone I met during my tour in Vietnam and Cambodia agreed with that sentiment.

At first, it was hard for me to understand why everyone seemed so down on the Duke. At nineteen I knew very little about politics.

After watching him use his iconic status to support conservative causes that kept the war going I found myself at odds with my boyhood hero. There was no getting around it; the Duke supported the Vietnam War by producing, co-directing, and starring in the critically panned movie The Green Berets in 1968.

That movie was propaganda, pure and simple. After awhile, I understood why his name come to represent the establishment, and the senseless war we were fighting. I discovered there were no hero’s like the ones in the movies.

Just survivors. Most of the Vietnamese I met wanted us to go home. We came to realize we were invaders, not saviors. Then it became a game to stay alive, at whatever cost.

I never saw anyone cry out, “For God and Country” and charge into an enemy bunker with an M-16 blazing away. That’s not the war I saw. I saw corruption on the South Vietnamese side and the American side. A thriving black market. Master sergeants in supply getting rich. And lots of Americans doing drugs.

How could my boyhood hero have supported such a massive mistake? Why did he agree with the government that put us there for no good reason?  What made Marion Mitchell Morrison side with the bad guys? His hat was green, but it might as well been black.

While he epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon, he was also known for his conservative political views and for being a hawk on the war. Looking back, I believe the Duke felt he was patriotic and doing the right thing at the time.

Time has been kind to his memory. A Harris Poll this year placed him 7th among America's favorite top 10 film stars. He was the only deceased star on the list, and the only one who appeared in the poll every year since it first began in 1994.

To millions, he symbolized and communicated American values and ideals. Nothing will ever change that. I’ll always consider him a great actor despite disagreeing with his politics during those turbulent years of our involvement in Vietnam.

His son, Ethan Wayne, sold some of his stuff a couple of years ago. Ethan had such a large collection of his father's movie memorabilia that he decided to open his archives for the auction which brought record-setting prices.

Among the items sold was his Golden Globe award for True Grit. In an article two years ago. Ethan Wayne said his dad still resonated with fans around the world, not only because of his movies, "…but because he was also liked personally. People knew he was the same kind of guy off screen as he was on screen. You could sense that about him. He never got bogged down with the darker side of his life."

Some hold Wayne in contempt for the paradox between his early actions - he never went into the military - and his rampant patriotism in later decades. His widow suggested he was that way because he felt guilty and not because he was a hypocrite.

You know what? I forgave him a long time ago. I’m beyond those bad old days when the Duke wore a Black hat instead of his customary White one. I have no problem watching a re-run of  him in Stage Coach, The Searchers, The High and Mighty, The Flying Tigers, or True Grit.

Wayne played the lead in 142 of his film appearances. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every film he ever made.

It’s easier now for me to go back to my childhood days when the Duke ruled the cinema. I once worked as a security guard at a gated community where he and his wife Pilar lived in Newport Beach (1974). I saw him there regularly and he always took a moment to talk.

Those memories serve me well. He was easy to talk with. We had many interesting conversations, him in his non-descript Ford Station Wagon (white, and a horrible olive green), and me standing there in a rent-a-cop uniform at the main gate. He treated me with respect when he learned I was a Vietnam veteran.

One day, when I told him I was getting married, he gave me a cigar and wished me the best of luck.

Little did I know that his marriage was on the rocks at the time! I noticed that they never seemed to be in a vehicle together, but wrote that off as what rich folks did. Ride in separate cars.

I was only 23-years old, and had a lot to learn about relationships. I’m still learning after 40 years of marriage!

You know, I can’t help wondering what that cigar would have sold for at that big auction?

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Fun: A Humorous Look at the History of Food

                                                         Good Day World!
Camera pans in; 338,000 years ago somewhere in Ethiopia two early humans are discussing the merits of meat:
Oog“I’m sick and tired of eating grubs and berries!”
Nug - “Me too. You know what we got to do?”
Oog“Yep. Risk our lives hunting down meat that is many times bigger than Nug and Oog. It’s dangerous business, but a good dinosaur steak is hard to beat when you want something good to eat.”
Nug - “Not according to Oop. He says he won’t eat anything with a face and is fine grubbing around for berries and insects.”
Oog - “That’s because Oop is too lazy to hunt down a meat meal. Besides, he’s never been right since getting smacked by that big lizard’s tail.”
Nug - “Okay then. I’ll go get my spear and tell the little lady we may be gone for a few days.”
Oog - “Sounds good. My mouth is watering just thinking about the feast we’re going to have!”

Two months later Nug’s wife and Oog’s girlfriend are now with new hunter-gathers that don’t like meat!

Fast forward to 306 BC Rome.
Three wealthy diners are gathered in the triclinium (special dining room) lying on specially design couches (Lectus triclinaris). Around the table, the mensa, the three diners recline on their lectus and casually eat exotic food brought to them by slaves.
Over a spoonful (cochlear-type spoon with a needle-thin grip, which is also used as a prong to eat snails and molluscs) one of the diners speaks between mouthfuls of lentils imported from Egypt:
Petronius: “Food this good should never be on a dirty peasant’s table. They wouldn’t appreciate the refined flavors.” 
Cassius: “Let them eat fava beans, chick peas, and lupins, I say!”
Marcellus: “Let them eat what we deposit in the vomitorium this very day!” 
A hearty round of laughter is followed by gulps of imported wine.

The following morning a city-wide slave revolt results in a round-up of wealthy Romans. It doesn’t take long before fava beans and chick peas become Petronius, Cassius, and Marcellus’ favorite (and only) food.

Fast Forward to the American Civil War - 1863:
When on campaign, soldiers were issued rations of hardtack crackers (generally 9 or 10 crackers) when bread was not available, which was most of the time. Some of the common problems with hardtack were being too hard, wet, moldy, or infested with maggots and weevils. If they boiled their hardtack in coffee they could scrape the weevils off the foam.
Grumbling about hardtack was common and there was a popular song called “Hard Times.” The chorus went:
“Tis the song and the sign of the hungry,
Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!
Many days have lingered on our stomach sore,
Oh hard crackers come again no more!”

Soldiers through the ages have complained about rations, and the North and South armies were no different. They did however, exhibit a wonderful sense of humor when discussing their cuisine!

Fast forward to today.
Knock, knock who’s there? Lettuce…lettuce who? Lettuce in and we’ll tell you!”
We eat some pretty weird foods in the good old USA. Sometimes I don’t know if I should chuckle or upchuck. Here are a few examples:
Snake. No it doesn’t taste like chicken. Take it from me. I tried it. Try frog legs, alligator, or even quail, with a gamey seafood flavor. If you really want the whole experience you should catch your snake and cook him up yourself. Just remember to carry some anti-venom in case he’s quicker than you.
Brain sandwiches. Deep-fried calves’ brains can be found in restaurants all along the Ohio River Valley. I read that squirrel brains were a popular Appalachia food for thought. Unless, that is, you get the wrong squirrel carrying a variation of mad cow disease!
A popular Arizona restaurant serves Chapulines, aka grasshoppers. It’s a traditional food in Mexico and is said to taste like grass, hay, or shrimp. That’s quite a spread. Which is it? I’m not really tempted to find out.
Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” - Mark Twain
Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, May 1, 2014

‘Have You Already Read This Crazy Essay?’

Good Day World!

Deja vu to you, and does this essay look familiar?

I hope not. I’ll explain why later, but right now let’s cut to the chase. Have you ever had the feeling you had experienced something in the past when the experience was actually a new one?

Kinda creepy huh? It has been for me numerous times. As far as I’ve been able to determine there are two schools of thought on that sense of Déjà vu. You have the scientific viewpoint, and you have the folks who believe those feelings of Déjà vu  come from psychic abilities possessed by some people.

So what is it? Disorders in the brain or memories of a past life? What is Déjà vu? Let’s start with those researchers who spend their lives trying to find the answer. The feeling has been attributed to schizophrenia, anxiety and a malfunction of the electrical system in the brain.

Certain medicines are believed to be factors responsible for Déjà vu. Medicinal drugs such as amantadine and phenylpropanolamine have been observed to cause it.

A popular theory says our brains tend to associate different situations. Even more interesting, the brain often tries to experimentally reproduce a situation it has never faced. The result? Your anticipation of a certain event might make you think you’ve encountered a similar experience before.

In my reading on the subject I found there are several types of Déjà vu. Fair warning; this gets a little tricky. Basically you have Deja Senti, Deja Vecu, and Deja Visite.

With Deja Senti the feeling you have refers to something “already felt.” According to researchers something felt in the past was very similar to that felt in the present. The similarity in the two experiences can make a person feel they’ve done it in the past.

When you visited a completely new place, have you had the funny idea you knew what was going to happen next? That’s called Deja Vecu, and those who experience it feel they have a portal to the future.

There’s a fine line between Deju Vecu, and the last form of Deju vu called Deja Visite.
As the name implies, Deja Visite is all about going to a place for the first time and claiming to know it despite never having been there in reality.

It’s funny, but most of my Deju vu experiences were like “Oh No! Caught again!” I knew a guy in the Army who always claimed to experience Déjà vu and after a while I wondered if he was a psychic or a wacko. Luckily, we were only stationed together for a few months and I never had to find out.

While trying to understand this mysterious Déjà vu stuff I came across one explanation that was an eye opener. Scientists say one of the human eyes perceives a certain thing before the other. One eye actually records the incident earlier, they claim.

Meanwhile the other eye, which records the same incident milliseconds later, gives the brain a feeling of recollection. Researchers suggest that one eye perceives something and the brain interprets it. The other eye lags in time by a few milliseconds, perceives the same thing and sends the image to the brain.

So what happens? The brain perceives the image milliseconds later and thinks you’ve seen it before. Sound good? Well…maybe not. People with only one eye experience Deju vu too, a fact that has left those researchers scratching their heads and bumping into walls.

I’m sure this will only be a temporary setback and they’ll have another explanation for Deju vu one of these days. I’ll try to stay tuned to any further theories about this fascinating subject that may be worth updating in a future column. I’ll just have to be careful to remember that I’ve already written about the subject so I don’t have a case of Deju vu when I do!

By the way, if you think I wrote this essay before, please squint one eye and blink the other a couple of times until the feeling goes away!

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Distracted Pedestrians Narrowing the Gene Pool: There goes another one!

Good Day World!                                      
 Nostalgia moment; remember the old phrase, “…so and so can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?” It’s time to update it, and bring it into the 21st Century.

Now we can say, “…so and so can’t walk and text, tweet, play video games, and talk on the phone at the same time.” And we have statistics to prove it. One more thing, it’s called “distracted walking,” but I think that’s too nice a way to put it.

Some readers may question why I’m bringing up this subject. It’s only been a year since I complained about a new texting and driving law in California. Some of you may wonder, “What’s the deal with Dave? What does he have against technology?”

The answer is, nothing. It’s the idiots who don’t use modern technology safely because of a lack of common sense who interest me. I’m not really worried about getting walked over by a “distracted walker” as I’m sure I’ll see him or her before they see me. I’ll get out of the way. It’s when they step out into traffic that I can’t help cringing.

“Distracted walking” is a greater problem than I realized. Data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that pedestrian fatalities rose by 4.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, and injuries increased by 19 percent during the same period.

You may remember I pointed out a report on traffic fatalities caused by “distracted driving.” The first three months of this year saw a 13.5 percent jump in drivers dying because of distracted driving. Sobering data to say the least.

I’ve gathered some information that indicates “distracted walking” is emerging as a public health concern. In 2011 alone, 1,152 people were treated for injuries caused by distracted walking, according to data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That number is likely a gross underestimate since doctors or nurses may not have asked whether the patient was using a mobile device at the time of the accident, according to a July 30, 2012, AP report.

"We are where we were with cell phone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn't have the data," Jonathan Atkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said in the same report.

Here’s more revealing information: researchers at the University of Maryland identified 116 cases in which pedestrians were killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones. Two-thirds of those injuries involved men under the age of 30, and half of them involved trains.

If you go to YouTube there are endless videos of distracted people walking into things, or off them. Great for laughs. Funny stuff, right? Cathy Cruz Marrero, the woman who tumbled into a fountain while texting and walking in a mall in Pennsylvania, didn’t think it was too funny.

She’s a star on the internet now. She wasn't injured, but she told CBS News that she cried for days after footage of the accident landed on YouTube, where it was viewed more than 2 million times.

There’s another popular YouTube video starring distracted walker Bonnie Miller, a Michigan woman who recently fell off a pier while texting and walking. "I can't let pride get in my way of warning other people to not drive and text or walk and text. It's quite dangerous," Miller told ABC 57, a local television station in South Bend, Indiana.

There was nothing funny about her husband and a 19-year-old bystander jumping into the cold water to save her. She wasn’t laughing when Firefighters and the Coast Guard arrived and threw them floatation devices. Lucky for her it was just a humiliating experience and she’s alive to talk about it.

Another lucky distracted walker whose story has gone viral since it happened in 2009, is Alexa Longueira, of Staten Island, N.Y. This teenager fell into an open manhole while reading a text on her friend’s cell phone. According to a report by WABC, she fell 6 feet into four inches of raw sewage.

Unlike distracted driving, I don’t think there should be any laws against distracted walking; it’s probably an effective way to thin out the gene pool!

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

44 Years Ago Today: Remembering The Cambodian Campaign

bucketloader[7]Good Day World!

 On this day in 1970, my squad was attached to the  1st Air Cav Division and we crossed the border into Cambodia.

With us was the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 1st ARVN Armoured Cavalry Regiment, and the 3rd ARVN Airborne Brigade.

We entered the Kampong Cham Province of Cambodia. The operation was known as Task Force Shoemaker (after General Robert M. Shoemaker, the Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division).

Our force attacked the long-time communist stronghold with 10,000 U.S. and 5,000 South Vietnamese troops. Sporadic contact and ambushes happened nearly every day. We lost eight Americans killed and 32 wounded, which was low casualties for such a large operation that wound up by May 3rd.

Unlike in the picture above where I’m sitting on that bucket loader, I walked most of the time and was responsible for minesweeping the dirt roads which were loaded with landmines left by the retreating NVA force.


One of the many things I’ll never forget is the ambush that killed my partner, Rogers. It happened so fast it was a blur. I was lucky enough to be able to dive to the ground and crawl for cover without getting hit. He wasn’t.

I remember before we left for Cambodia we both sat down and wrote letters home. He showed me a picture of his wife who was 8 months pregnant. I wrote my sister Margie and told her what I knew about my new mission of going into Cambodia. It’s hard to believe that my letters weren’t censored by the military.

Both of us looked at the upcoming mission as somewhat of a lark. It was easily the biggest operation we’d been in yet. Talking with guys from other units helped keep me informed. Did I fear dying? Listen, I was 19 years-old and was too stupid to think I might die.

So, here I am today over 40 years later, still thinking about that tough time in my life. For some vets, like me with PTSD, there’s anniversary dates that remind us of those times. today is one of those dates.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, April 28, 2014

What Makes a Column, or Article Go Viral?

Good Day World!

What makes a column, or article, go viral?

I wrote a column for The Times-Standard newspaper on April 7, 2013, and it’s still going strong a year later!

At the time, my column Faster is not always better: THC ‘dabs’ can be dangerous was breaking news. I have to admit that I’m not sure why so many people are still reading it today. I just know that for the last year this column has been in the Top 10 Most-Popular reads among readers. 

Most-Popular among all readers Sunday April, 27th, 2014

Of The Day: This list ranks the top 50 most-clicked articles so far today.

1.Flight of the condor; Yurok Tribe looks to return bird to the North Coast

2. Faster is not always better: THC 'dabs' can be dangerous

Of The Hour: The top 50 most-clicked articles of the previous hour.

  1. Flight of the condor; Yurok Tribe looks to return bird to the North Coast
  2. Faster is not always better: THC 'dabs' can be dangerous

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Racism in Sports: LA Clipper Owner Sterling Shows His Colors

                                         Good Day World!

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m just naïve, or out-of-the-loop, when it comes to racism in sports today.

I thought everyone agreed Jackie Robinson was a great player (and man), but there’s people who still don’t like the fact that he broke down the race barrier in professional baseball.

I guess I need to read more on the subject because this article makes it clear that racism is still alive and well in professional sports. All of them.

Associates For Breast And Prostate Cancer Studies 24th Annual Talk Of The Town Benefit Gala

Then I read about the LA Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling. Wow! According to Time Online he’s had a long history of alleged racism — he paid the largest fine the U.S. government has ever handed out for housing discrimination, among other things.

Here we are in the middle of the Clippers’ playoff run and his mouth has once again spewed foul words about African-Americans.

TMZ has audio allegedly of Sterling arguing with his girlfriend because she put on her Instagram account a picture of her with Magic Johnson when she met him (she soon after took it down). The audio is hard to listen to it is so disgusting, but here are a few “highlights:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

“…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

Time for me to walk on down the road..

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...