Sunday, November 11, 2012

Amy Tan

Amy Tan Vividly Depicts the Challenges Of Chinese Mother-Daughter Relationships

THE JOY LUCK CLUB, a novel by Amy Tan, tells of the relationships between two strong-willed generations, four tough, intelligent American-Chinese women and their equally tenacious Chinese daughters. The four families are connected through The Joy Luck Club, a mah jong group that meets each week. After its founding member passes away, her daughter is asked to take her place at the table and the stories begin. Each of the eight women narrates two stories from her own point of view except for the deceased whose daughter tells her stories for her. The mothers relate stories about their lives in China, and the daughters tell of the trials that they face growing up as first-generation Chinese-Americans.

Tan's novel is brilliantly written and a must read.

The 1993 movie, The Joy Luck Club, and the flowering of talent of the Chinese actresses involved is amazingly poignant with some of the most touching and moving  performances I have ever seen.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Paper Flowers

In Memoriam to Dr. Harry Aron, My Master's of Psychology Thesis Professor and Friend. I want to share a few thoughts and part of a paper he presented at a symposium that I participated in, too.

I just found out about the death of my one time mentor in graduate school, a professor that was of absolute necessity for me in earning my Master's Degree in Psychology. I was being nostalgic about my past and I looked him up on-line only to find out he died. Perhaps another hard lesson learned by me.

Soon after meeting him, I discovered we had a common love of Asian culture, intellectual honesty, and a variety of artistic endeavors found in Japanese culture such as history of the samurai, haiku, cooking with a wok, and Noh theater. He found it amusing that I had an interest in both Italian and Chinese Opera as well as Boxing and Sumo Wrestling.  

I was working rotating 40, 48, and 48 hour work weeks at the time with a family to support while I was taking 16 units of course work. It was difficult but doable. We both believed in my work-ethic at the time but, he also believed in my intellect, which I never did nor ever will, and without him, I literally would not have entered Graduate School, presented my Master's Thesis to a meeting of The Western Association of Psychologists, or earned a Master's Degree in Psychology. 

He was personally kind and considerate to those he respected but it was rumored his classes were difficult to pass and the work assignments were massive. While an undergraduate, I took an Abnormal Psychology class from him that started with 165 students and ended with about twenty-five students. Over fifty students dropped the class the first week after he mapped out the curriculum and testing standards. He also told everyone it would be the most difficult class they ever had and there were two other Abnormal Psychology classes available being taught by other Professors. The class 'gulped.' The rumor was true.

It turned out he gave his lecture every other Tuesday, and traditional reading assignments on Thursdays and gave a test every-other Tuesday. Six major comprehensive tests and an unbelievably difficult final exam to master in a sixteen week course with four textbooks to read from cover-to-cover. Very few students passed his first test (the second week of class) and another fifty or more students dropped out. The third week more students dropped before the deadline was past. Of the twenty-five students that completed the class there was a mixture of C's and B's, no D's or Failures, and 3 A's.

I received a "fail" grade on the first test and went to see him. He told me, as most students, I had to learn how to answer the questions exactly rather than write my own opinions. He looked at my failed exam and said, "Not to bad, you should stay in my class, keep your opinions to yourself, and you might be capable of learning something."

The next test (the third week in class) I received a "C" grade and by the third test an "A." I stuck with the class and discovered he traditionally dropped one test grade and the final would be worth one-third of the final grade achieved. With my "fail grade" being dropped I went into the final with a chance at an "A" grade for the course.

Two students went into the final test with an 'A' grade and after the final, a third 'A' grade for the course was awarded that semester. I was graduating that year and had applied to the School of Psychology's Graduate Program. I had made it to the "stand by list" of students with a good chance, but not a guarantee, of being admitted. He called me to his office and asked if I wanted to be his Graduate Assistant. I told him I was on standby and he said not any longer as he showed me he personally had me admitted. He said anyone that could ace one of his final exams should be in graduate school.

I'll always remember on the day my daughter was born, by then I was his Graduate Assistant, Professor Aron came to the hospital with a Japanese-made folding paper flower as a gift for my beautiful baby daughter, Tracy Renee. Actually, at first I was worried she wasn't beautiful because a nurse said she looked "just like me."

To this day, I'm sentimental when it comes to paper flowers . . . what an elegant and thoughtful gift.


Perhaps there are future memories to be lived and to write about as these sixty-seven years of old memories fade away into a past not so consequential or meaningful to anyone alive but me, after-all.  

This is part of Dr. Aron's paper presented at that Association meeting held in San Francisco:

The argot which allows primacy to the 'one of one' relationship has totally swallowed Freud. Let me give an FDA caveat to this ingestion. This mongrel claim (see: the ordinary language philosophers) that an account of 'psycho-therapeutic' interchange is 'one on one,' reveals hope dragged out as knowledge (remember Mr. Dawson's quoting Koch on this bit of legerdemain). One careful account (impossible for Freud the reductionist) of the exchange termed therapy is: 'One on zero.' (This phrase emerged in one of my lectures.) The 'zero' is you, me, everyone, or that part of every person ('just that part' Freud was after) which is different; that which in the Classical Age (as Foucault has demonstrated) wasn't there (remember G. Stein 'On Oakland'); and which in the Modern age was locked into 'existence' by the Modern episteme. That very presence, the knower, radicalized (as we now say) the episteme, signaled (among other facets) the Modern episteme's total break with the Classical discourse (hence the sleight of hand comparisons of Kuhn and Foucault). The knower (Foucault's MAN-an expanded definition of that critical term in a moment) is authorized in the Modern age as inalienable authority, along with and separate from the authority of science. The knower, called forth in the break with the discourse of the Classical age, saw as his legend the demise of a single authority, namely; the word. Representation was the calendar of the Classical age. The 'word knew.'I have attempted to sketch for you Foucault's arguments: 1. That neither science nor psychology can speak of/as MAN; 2. That the human sciences (those parts of psychology, linguistics, sociology, ethnology, et al, which attempt to speak of/as MAN are not science, but imitation of the philosophical discourse of the 18th century, and 3. That the standard explanations for the lack of progress of the science of psychology are delusion. I am suggesting that to speak of/as MAN is to violate the guarantees of our founding documents: the guarantee of equality (which I read as the inviolability of differences), and the guarantee that power to govern (e.g. speak) rests solely in the people (which I read: in the individual). Since a professed aim of psychology is to draw man into science, into nomotheticness, thus into sameness, a collision course has existed ever since that aim was enunciated at the birth of psychology. The archaeological analysis of Foucault has exposed the double folly of that aim.

For those of you who would push aside Foucault, to rescue psychology (whatever that is): let me alert you to another older combat, Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein takes man (the language user) out of nature-thus out of the grasp of science. He eliminates, as factual discourse, any part of psychology involving language usage. Wrestle with that. 

Knowledge shall not, finally, know the knower. And, add to that: whatever Psychology is, MAN is not a part of it.


Aron, H. (1977, September). Psychology OR man. In Dawson R. E., Ralph, K., Sharma, S. L., Aron, H., Psychology OR Man: Neither Nor Either or. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Samaritan's Purse

My daughter, Tracy Renée, is a Regional  Director (All of Northern Calif. from Bakersfield on up to the Oregon border, and the State of Nevada) for Samaritan's Purse "Operation Christmas Child," part of the Franklin Graham Ministry. She has traveled to both Africa and Cental America in this pursuit and dedicated her life to making the lives of children more joyful and at onetime worked for an organization helping women and saving children, including the unborn. She is one of those rare people in life you seldom meet . . . a beautiful person both inside and out.

She was recently shown on TV (in Bakersfield California) during a shoebox drive. Here is a clip.
http://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/bakersfield-volunteers-gathered-to-prepare-shoe-box-gifts-for-hurting-children

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Haiku

For Readers that may be interested in Japanese Haiku,

"It is said of the three most famous haiku poets that Basho is the poet, Issa the conscience, and Buson the artist. I find myself going to Basho to look for the poetic moment, to Issa to comment on what is important and for perspective, and it is to Buson I go to for the art that is always before us in everyday life."

Most haiku poems make do with 3 lines, and the traditional, Japanese poetic form consists of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each. For translations the old rules may nor may not be adhered to throughout:

As exampled by this Basho haiku:

Kochira muke
Ware mo sabishiki
Aki no kure
 

Will you turn toward me?
I am lonely too,
This autumn evening.


This second example is unusually romantic and has the prescript, "Parting lovers." On the morning after a night of passion, lovers put their clothes back on and depart. The last line, imo ga ie, refers to the "dear one's house," (imo) being an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved. Notice this Haiku in Japanese written by Issa is one line (not three) . . .
  
kinu-ginu ya kasumu made miru imo ga ie

lovers parting--
looking back at her house
until only mist

An example of Buson's Haiku reminding us that white has been an auspicious color in Japan for much of its history. White represents purity and cleanliness in traditional Japanese society, and is seen as a blessed color. The White Chrysanthemum is also a symbol Love or Death . . . Take your pick . . .

White chrysanthemum . . .
before that
perfect flower
Scissors hesitate

There are many variants of haiku, including haiku of four lines (sometimes known as haiqua) or longer have been written, some of them "vertical haiku" with only a word or two per line. These poems mimic the vertical printed form of Japanese haiku my favorite one being: 

she watches
satisfied after love
he lies
looking up at nothing

(Blithe Spirit 10:4, 2000)
And finally a haiku by me, written in the traditional three line 5-7-5 form from my book, Drunken Duck, if translated in Japanese would be more syllables and perhaps linear:

kokoro anbun shiroi yuki no fuyu no shino danpen ka sa re ta tamashii wo motome te i masu 


分は心臓と死亡の冬の白い雪断片化された魂を求めています。

With half of a heart
A fragmented soul seeks death
In Winter’s white snow

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mental Blankness

The weird thing about getting old and fat is that it seems to happen overnight. You're going along in your usual not very exciting world, certainly not very dramatic in any way, and you attend a school reunion and your high school flame starts to snicker at first then breaks down in tears out of disappointment and embarrassment when she/he sees you. Or, not to be unnecessarily vulgar, but to be direct, your first flame's significant other points at you and loudly exclaims, "You fucked that?" Or perhaps you just look in the mirror on your 67th birthday and ask, "What the hell just happened?"

You'll have to trust me in this, you didn't age or get chubby overnight, it just seems that way.You have to have been indulging in food and drink and a variety of other activities for a long time before you get to be a curmudgeon that is 40 to 50 or more pounds overweight.

How do I know? It happened to me. No excuse for the curmudgeon part (i.e., being an ugly ill-tempered old person full of resentment and stubborn notions), but I used the excuse (among other excuses) of breathing problems  such as: being an early smoker until I quit when I was 21, being exposed to a variety of toxic substances including daily exposure to formaldehyde, asbestos, and smoke inhalation in a disastrous fire while in the Navy, a collapsed lung, pneumonia, scarring on my lungs from who knows what, to name a few. Still, until my mid to late forties I was a dynamo of energy, could out work any three people combined, and was almost anorexic, or as I refereed to myself as "wiry."

Alas, as my metabolism changed, I sat in a car or at my desk for twelve to fourteen hours a day, quit playing tennis, became more sedate, had much-much-much less sex (for five years or more) and ate much more fast food, drank wine everyday, and snacked my head off as my waist-line expanded all of which contributed to my breathing problems among, as anyone can imagine, other hang-ups. This daily never ending circle spiral downward and weight upward formed a chubby, growing old before my time, somewhat sex-starved, already gray-haired man by my forty-eighth birthday. I'm not complaining as I chose to live the life I was living and forty-eight seems so young to me now. Also, as my first wife and I separated and eventually got a divorce, I remarried and started a new life with another career and much happier circumstances, except for the one thing which was simply my expanding waist-line and chubby 'stubbornly' cute butt cheeks (such a vision). Is that three things? And did I just admit to being a fat-ass?

Age progresses relentlessly onward toward oblivion, unless you believe in an afterlife, while you fail to notice life pass you by, watch your money disappear into other hands, do not take resolute action, and live your life in self-doubt. The old adage, "He who hesitates is lost" is true and just so you know I always give credit where credit is due, my thoughts go back to 'Cato' (1713) when he wrote "Swift and resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster."

When I lived in Plano, Texas a couple years back, after retirement (age 63 to 65), I started writing and suddenly, desperately, wanted to be healthier and have more energy, to start life anew, or to give life to my old life, so to speak. Besides my writing (a Ernest Hemingway moment), I started a walking regimen (a Charlie Chaplin moment) and taking a series of vitamins (a Robert Cummings moment). For the very young or uniformed: Hemingway was an excellent American writer, Chaplin was a comedian famous for his funny walk, and Cummings was an actor famous for gulping down massive amounts of vitamins. I attempt (unsuccessfully) to write like Hemingway, I walk like a duck, and at one time I gulped down massive amounts of USANA brand supplements, hence the comparisons. At about this time I went from roughly 203 to 193 lbs. at my lowest. (Since my scale was three lbs. off to my bad my weight was really 206 to 196 low). After a week or two at this low weight for me, I rumbled around 196 to 200 lbs. (199 to 203) for a year in Plano up to, and including the first, month or two after a move to Chandler, Arizona. 

After a brief stint of travel and work to a chilly Seattle (at a weight of 196, really 199-200) with the excuses of getting older, the hotter weather in Arizona, and a book completed and published but evidently not to anyone's liking, not even my own, I eventually lost motivation or any inspiration whatsoever, to work, walk, wonk down vitamins, or write. Culminating by May of this year, on my birthday, my present to myself came to be the dual goals of achieving a certain "mental blankness" and an accurate weight of obesity (a new digital scale showing 211 lbs.) as I wondered optimistically if I was to old to start a career as a Sumo wrestler. My next thought was Fiddler on the Roof and it was 1964 and I started humming the tune to "If I Were a Rich Man." Don't ask me why? I know to the reader it seems kind of overly-dramatic of me as I became a self-indulgent 'whiny-mess' (the quality or state of being whiny and fat) and depression set deeply in to my psyche showing a complete lack of character on my part as truthfully, I can't sing although I can carry a tune while humming.

(Note: In my novel, Drunken Duck, I use the term "nothingness" instead of "mental blankness."

As I stopped 'doing' things I indulged in more food and wine, became even more sedate watching movies on NetFlix (deciding never to attend a movie theater again), and indulgently pursued my new goal of achieving "mental blankness." The ultimate of this goal is forgetting the past, wallowing in the present, and denying any future . . . however, being a catatonic schizophrenic or a lazy-fat-slob is a wee-bit too self-indulgent, even for me; I have my self-deprecating sense of humor to see me through "the best of times and worst of times, through my wisdom and foolishness" . . . a reference to not only my self-worth, as charming as it is, but to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, as well.  

On July 2nd, it came as a revelation to my wee-bit of a brain, similar to my brain exploding and having a stroke, that only a fool worries or becomes depressed about things he/she can no longer influence. Since I've been a gullible fool most of my life, and a mental obsessive-depressive since the publication of my book (signaling the end of my 'novel' career), especially during the months of May and June of this year, the one thing, besides changing my negative evaluation of people, objects, events, activities, ideas, or just about anything in my environment i.e., my attitude not affect, I could also influence my weight.

A distinction is necessary here as it is common to incorrectly define attitude as affect which is associated more with discrete emotions or overall arousal and not being pissed-off at the world. Affect in psychology or philosophy or common-language-use is generally understood to be distinct from attitude as a measure of change-ability or favor-ability, negatively speaking if you get my drift, I digress.

So  screaming silently to myself, "to hell with my histrionics and bad-manners," I started to change my life-style with a change in attitude (no, I did not get a lobotomy), food habits, and some modest exercise. I may still be a curmudgeon  and in a "woe is me whiny-mess" Eeyore state of mind but, I can influence whether I open my mouth or not and what I say, write, or eat (if not what I think or dream).

I've lost ten percent of my body weight since July, have become slightly more muscle-toned, especially around my back muscles (wall-push-ups), calves, thighs, and butt (recumbent bike). I lost at least two inches off my belly (less sugar and more pelvic-thrusts), I have an increase in energy, and my breathing, although not by any means perfect, is easier.

The moral of my story? "You may walk like a duck, be depressed as an old grey-gray stuffed donkey, and be the most foolish-ugly-old-fat-bastard or bitch in existence, but whatever your unlovable personality or dire circumstance, you owe it to yourself to breathe a little easier and make-believe Winnie-the-Pooh is your best friend."

You can quote me on that.

See some of my older posts on my journey of weight loss.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apocalypse Now

For the most important news of the day . . . I woke up this morning and now weigh 185 lbs., a new low! That's a drop of twenty lbs. since July 2 (when I started exercising and quit drinking wine), and a loss of twenty-six lbs. since my birthday on May 9, 2012 (at perhaps my highest weight and lowest point of my life). I had actually gained somewhere between seven and eleven lbs. between May 1 and May 9 and realized at this rate I was committing suicide by Food and Wine (an excellent magazine, by the way); I was performing, on myself, my own personal Apocalypse Now

Speaking of a little Apocalypse here and there, or for other, less important news, not as important as my weight loss, or President Obama's need to hob-nob with the celebrity rich to show he's just one of us little people . . . Israel's Prime Minister, Netanyahu, will speak at the United Nations about Iran's nuclear threat. Of course, President Obama will be busy with Beyonce and Jay Z, David Letterman, and the women on the View including Whoopi and will not meet with Bibi. Just like other people who lead "busy" lives and cannot find the time for trivial things, Obama has little time for what's not important . . . why try to prevent a nuclear holocaust when you can charm a television audience instead? After all, we all have to set our priorities and he sees his priorities as money gathering and getting reelected.

Obama knows the American media's liberal bias saves him from a true analysis of his Presidency. He's assured that no matter what he does, how he acts, what he does or doesn't do, that the media will report it from his point of view and the "people" will still love him anyway. He's so charming; so likable; so lovable; I get a chill running up my leg just thinking about his charisma as American media types, the elite media, cover-up for Obama's incompetence, lies, and apologies. If he and his minions say a film that had little to do with what is happening in the Islamist world today is at fault, so be it. His failed domestic policies are leading to economic ruin and his failed self-aggrandizing foreign policy of appeasement may lead to war, the destruction of Israel, and even get the USA nuked, but who cares when you get to see our President and First Lady with celebs joking around and having a good time . . . we, in America, after-all, have our priorities.    

Western leaders and naive people around the world (including many of the 1.6 billion Muslims who want to live in peace and harmony) do not realize what the Apocalypse means to either Iran's or Radical Islamism's leadership. "Radical Islam" is actually a misnomer and closer to "True Islam" than those apologist for Islam that claim otherwise. Anyone who says that "there is no anti-Semitism in Islamic theology" as President Obama, among others assert, is frankly ignorant, on a par with someone who claims that "Islam is (solely) a religion of peace." It's just not so.

In general, people and governing bodies think logically or politically that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon just as in the Cold War, the USSR and the USA  mutual destruction policies prevented there use in the past. No one thinks that anyone would want world-wide destruction and death; the cleansing of the world by blood.

Think again. For Islam, the "right" world starts with the destruction of Israel and the Jews. Read the Qur'an and the Hadith's of the Mullahs, it is not just Ahmadinejad being crazy. Not only are the Jews vanquished in the eschatological war, but "they will serve as ransom for the Muslims in the fires of hell."And, "The sins of certain Muslims will weigh on them like mountains, but on the day of resurrection, these sins will be lifted and laid upon the Jews."

Certain Muslim clerics and their apologists like Obama are saying rhetorically, I suggest,  “the command to kill non-Muslims is not for today, it was only for a certain time in the past, similar to the Old Testament." Islamist and millions of Muslims don't agree with this view. Where in the Qur'an does it say this, they ask? It does not say or teach  the commands to kill the infidels, unbelievers, Jews and Christians was only for a previous time. Why should they accept this rhetoric? They point to "proof in the Qur'an that (sic) the Jihad  is actually to continue and increase."

Simply, the truth of the matter is . . . that the terrorist element in Islam may not be shared by most Muslims but it cannot be denied it is a part of Islam and prevalent in countries that have an Islamic government. The radical fundamentalists cannot be ignored or denied as part of this religion, which influence has now become ingrained in the social and political as its fundamental historical religious tenants take root and grow in today's Muslim societies wherever they exist.

Furthermore, there is an obsessive fixation on the Jews in both Shi'ite and Sunni eschatology, and the obvious connection to the ongoing jihad being waged to destroy Israel is easily seen. It is not because of Palestine and will not be solved by a Palestinian State but, will only be satisfied by the complete destruction of Israel (the little devil or demon) and the USA ( the big devil or demon). Iran's leaders are not crazy, nor illogical, and they are thinking in terms of using political and social strategies, to carry out Islam's original religious agenda. One of the least understood of the central tenants to Islam is simply that destroying the world (read: current world order) is the prerequisite for making the world  "right," just as the Nazis and Communists before them saw a fundamentally flawed world order before them.

A growing number of Muslims, and what I refer to as all Islamist, believe in Apocalypse Now. The "temporary restraining order" found in the Qur'an (pointing to Islam as a peaceful religion) was only temporary after-all and is now over. In other words, the world must be purified by human blood -- earthly paradise can only be built on the ashes of destruction and death starting with Israel and ending in a world-wide Caliphate and one-world religion. To President Obama, and others who believe in the political correctness of saying "Can't we all just get along," I would say, "Appeasement won't work."

So does Ahmadinejad believe that he can "speed things up" so to speak in terms of annihilating Israel or whatever other evil lunacy is in his brain? In other words, he and the Mullahs want the Hidden Imam to come back so bad that they think they can hasten his return by perpetrating some kind of mass genocide?

If I say the answer is "Yes," does that make me paranoid, a prophet, or simply an observer of what's happening today . . .what they themselves have told us what they intend to do?

The Iranian Mullahs either already have, or will very soon be in possession of, nuclear weapons. This reality is horrifying in the context of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's verbalized fantasy of annihilating Israel. Part of this fantasy, and also the inspiration for it, is the apocalyptic world vision of Ahmadinejad -- and of many of his co-rulers. This vision involves the Islamic Shiite belief in the return of the Hidden Imam, who, Ahmadinejad ominously referred to when speaking about Iran's nuclear ambitions. 

The Hidden Imam is the Shi`i Muslim version of the Awaited Mahdi, one of two positive eschatological figures in Islamic thought, the other being Jesus. Al-Mahdi means "the rightly-guided one" and is described in many Sunni and Shi`i hadiths (or sayings allegedly going back to Muhammad himself) as coming before the end of time to make the entire world Muslim and establish global justice.

Ahmadinejad has explicitly stated that he intends to jump-start this coming end of time. While President Obama and world leaders dither, the world comes closer to destruction. Islam will not stop until a one-world Caliphate is established and Islam is the only religion practiced.

Vote for Obama and support Democratic leadership and America will get what it deserves: policies that will eventually destroy our economy and ransom our children's future, a foreign policy that guarantees greater hazards from Islam and possibly the destruction of Israel, a weakened America subject to more attacks, possibly nuclear ones, taking place on American soil.  

Personally, I've lived my life and fear nothing whatsoever except for a cheeseburger and fries; or care for my own well being except for mosquito bites; or for what is left of my "future's future" . . . why try to influence what you have no influence over? However, for all the sons and daughters and loved ones of the world it is time people awaken before it's to late. Our weak leadership in the USA, especially Obama and his supporters their false-ideology being no excuse or his reliance on rhetorical nonsensical political propaganda, his "political correctness" hiding his lack of any real leadership, in my view, are willing participants in this rush toward an Apocalypse Now.

Paste the below http:// to see a short film on this subject. 

http://redlinesforiran.org/video.html

Friday, September 21, 2012

Illusions

Today I was reminded of my past life in so many ways. Especially the years I spent on the job, as it were. I rember a Christmas party for the employees at Standard Brands Paint where I was the VP of Sales and host for the party. It was to put them at ease over the difficulties that stood before them and the company. I knew it was all over for me and I was going to receive a year's severance package as the new corporation from Venezuela took over control. They didn't like me and I certainly did not like them.The other thing I knew was that there was little or no hope for them to be successful. Ten months later, I lost two months of my severance package and all of the value of my stock holdings in the company as the company went into bankruptcy, the employees and stockholders lost all the value of their stock, no compensation, no severance pay, and they were instantly out of a job . . . perhaps a reality following the illusion of having a "Merry Christmas."

I took time out of my new life doing Trade Shows to write a few letters of recommendation for some of my former employees.

I'm a cynic, in a Tux, the look on my face tells it all, I'm actually ill in this picture, and when it comes to telling the unwanted truth in discovering the meaning of love, hate, work, or all categories of living a life we identify ourselves within this realm we call reality, I fell short that night, as I still fall short, today. 

I'm a believer that in a novel, fictionalized movie, or a song, an attempt at describing reality exists, even if it, by definition, falls short, I smile. In non-fiction, biographies, especially autobiographies, political speeches, or Christmas parties the attempt is simply to recreate a reality that doesn't exist, by design, as I grimace.

Both fiction and non-fiction have their place in the world of illusion.

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” Albert Einstein

"Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are merely illusions, albeit delusional ones." Ronald Dawson

Our five senses make us feel as if the emotions we feel and express are acutely real, that they have substance and are real.

Thoughts arise in our mind, and we achieve awareness of our-self and others. The same thoughts tend to repeat time and again. Our thoughts make us behave, talk and act in a certain personalized way, and thus cause the people that come in contact with our "Self", to treat us and relate to us in a certain manner. Love, hate, and indifference are predicated upon this.

Our use of language becomes strangled in nonsense. We wish others a "Merry Christmas" as we know tragedy will follow whatever our hopes. Our visions of love, hate, the Universe, the identification of difference, or political economy fall short of what (?) . . . a reality that doesn't exist?


I often wonder if anyone's interior life (subconscious) is reflected in their exterior one (superego); or claims of any sort of emotional truths whatsoever are simply obsessions hiding our self-centered-indulgence (ego).

What we experience, our feelings and emotions, and how we live are reflections of our thoughts "about things" not as they really are, if you claim reality. The mind creates a world of illusion that feeds our five senses which in return feed our mind in an incessant loop. We see, taste, feel, hear, and smell an elixir-like solution of blissful emotion only to discover later it's a cover-up for medicinal purposes.

Any change in circumstance is coexistent with changes of thought; once we love passionately then indifference sets in; we hate with ardor then change our opinion on a whim or perhaps a pay off; an idealistic youth becomes a conservative pragmatic adult, soon to turn into an uncooperative curmudgeon. Now I resent and deny any attempt at a reader of mine calling me, in reality, "an ill-tempered (somewhat old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions."

New illusions, accompanied by what we think and how we feel about things, replace old illusions. We create a world and the emotions attached to it which, when examined objectively, is only a delusional phase that we are going through that looks and feels real to the naive.

Life's process is like watching a movie. A person who is watching a movie often gets so involved with the characters and with what is portrayed on the screen that he or she becomes happy or sad, falls in love or hates, may laugh or perhaps becomes depressed at the illusion on the screen. At the moment the person decides to stop watching and manages to withdraw his attention from the movie, say when a young boy gets slaughtered in the movie's restroom, there is a revelation that takes place and the person may snap out of the delusion the movie creates, or living a life of naivety creates, as well.

Fortunately, for most people, all of one's thoughts and emotions are scheduled by the propaganda of illusion and any unscheduled reality stops on the way are brief and soon suppressed into a screaming subconscious. I'm not as fortunate and must live with the continual knowledge that my thoughts, feelings, and emotions are in reality illusions and I take this medicine daily, my just deserts, what I deserve so to speak, a bitter elixir.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Dogs

"Don't get your panties all in
a bunch, I was coming to the
good part about the drunken cat."



I initially wrote this (the part written in bold) on April of 2012 feeling down in the dumps and by May of 2012 I was languishing in a melancholia that engulfed my 67th birthday by May 9. "Happy Birthday to me" fell on my two deaf ears. 

"I tried many times to begin a new novel, yet I feel a complete lack of motivation for writing fiction, afraid of writing a non-fiction that may reveal my 'real self' being overwhelmed in the fluidity of an obnoxious self-indulgent weird depressive state, better put as a "who-cares-old-dog" mentality. I "bark" about politics, lying politicians, and people in general, along with other nonsensical life debates, having little use for the illusion of what others deem thoughtful considerations. A loss of the need for writing corresponds with my banal pursuit of meaning which is more like a game of triviality rather than any pursuit of knowledge." Then memories catch up with the ache in my loins -- a Biblical reference, surely -- and a multitude of memories leap into my brain screaming at me to quit complaining as I'm one lucky-old-dog to still be aching or breathing for that matter.

Now for the revised part:


Still, lucky dog or not, my writing has suffered direction and purpose if either ever existed in the first place even as I wrote Drunken Duck. To say it has not been a commercial success is an understatement, and reviews even by those I know personally have been complete silence or off-handed criticism or the kindly-meant caveat "the least you can say is you completed and got your novel published." I'm not complaining, I'm simply stating fact. If, somehow I count the silences along with the well-meaning criticisms and caveats, as possibly unfavorable or noncommittal reviews, I've had one favorable critique by a woman who I know from the office at my condo complex who after reading my novel said, "Wow!" Whatever she meant by wow, I didn't ask, I took it as a compliment. One is better better than none.

To finish, if I remember correctly the criticism of Van Gogh was ferocious and he didn't sell a painting until after he cut his ear off and was dead . . . I've had some sales and I think I'll keep both of my ears on for the present time if for nothing more than to listen to Lady Gaga.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Motivation and Hedonism

I consider myself a disciplined person but perhaps I'm fooling myself. Last night, I was reminded about failing my diet or perhaps even failing in life's goals. I started to once again question myself about motivation or better put, loss of motivation. It's true that 95% (some say 99.9%) of those who attempt to lose weight, fail.

What makes someone fail or succeed seems to be based on a motivating goal. It seems that suffering from lack of breath, or back pain, or even the specter of death is not enough to motivate someone to change habits. Some gain weight after attempting a diet.

My old scale read 208 lbs. when I weighed in on my 67th birthday, May 9, 2012. From May 1 to May 9 I must have gained 5 or 6 lbs. as I was on some kind of eating and drinking binge. I realized I was drinking more red wine and eating more than ever and I was going from over-weight to obese. I was going to balloon up to gargantuan portions and shorten my life with my lessened energy and inability to breathe properly. I felt tremendous stress. A few years back I had pneumonia followed by a collapsed lung and my breathing has been at "low-normal" since. Being over-weight or obese would not help matters.

So during the second half of May I started to change habits a wee-bit. I had no specific plans but I slowed my drinking down and lessened my portions of what I was eating. On July 2nd I had my last bottle of red wine for the month . . . I'm not an alcoholic . . . I'm more a creature of habit and a sugar addict. Then I started to read more about nutrition and weight loss and made the decision to give up wheat protein and its by-products along with the elimination of  HFCS wherever possible. Not easy as these two items are in many processed food products, soda drinks, and the like.

By late July my old scale read 198 lbs. I bought a digital scale known for accuracy and it showed me at 201 lbs. (still a ten lb. loss in six weeks is not bad). So in May I had been 211 lbs. and not at 208 lbs. From July 28 until about August 11, I dropped to 193-195 as it always fluctuates by about 2 lbs. from morning to evening. So a 16 to 18 lb. weight loss had brought me more energy and my breathing was better. However, by last night it was the fifth day without weight loss.

Last night I seem to have lost my motivation for losing weight. “I am whats I am and that's all what I am” as Popeye the Sailor often opined. I would rather be hedonistic in my desires to eat and drink anything I want. Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and in very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain). The problem of course is that, from my personal experience, in the pursuit of pleasure the pain often outweighs the pleasure (pun intended).
 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Goal of Weight Loss Program: 165 lbs to 168 lbs.

The goal of my weight loss plan will not be to, necessarily, just lose weight, but to lose body fat, especially my belly fat. Unless I'm standing on a scale, no one will know how much I weigh, but they will see my belly sticking out like I'm in some stage of pregnancy. I want to look like I'm healthier, have much more energy, and be healthier, too.
Actual weight loss is important, too. Here are some ideas on weight goals:
BMI: Weight for a Person 5 ft 10 in Tall: 151lb. (range 129 to 174) my goal will be 164lbs.
I was 145 lb. for much of my life and too skinny for my body type. When I was twenty years old I put on about ten lbs. of muscle through working an air hammer for six 40 hour work weeks. I kept that weight for nearly 15 years and was very healthy before I started on the path of gaining weight. So 155 plus 10 lbs. for my age will be about 162-165 lbs. with a 3 lb. fluctuation.Never, never, to go over 168 lbs. again for the rest of my life.
The Hamwi Formula:
  • For men:  106 lb for the first 5 ft; 6 lb for each inch over 5 ft
  • For women:  100 lb for the first 5 ft; 5 lb for each inch over 5 ft

Weight for a Male 5 ft 10 in Tall: 166lb. So for me 163 to 169.






































































Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Inspiration Doesn't Last Forever

The inspiration to write a novel entered into my being in Aug. 2008 around the time I retired. I was thinking about what differentiated sense, from nonsense and senselessness which led me, naturally, to think about my life. The hope of writing a novel slowly progressed from a possibility to an actuality. I was going to write a trilogy to be complete by 2010. It took me until Feb. 2011 to finish the first novel Drunken Duck and get it published. The story has many touch-points of what happened in my life beginning when I was eight years old in 1953 through 1966, but much of it is pure fiction or added on fiction to what actually occurred. I still haven't been able to make any headway to my satisfaction in the writing of the other two novels of my hoped for trio. By May of this year, my 67th year on this Earth, the inspiration disappeared and left my spirit drained. Seeking new avenues of artistic inspiration seems futile.

I wish I could find the motivation to write another novel or perhaps better said the tenacity but I have lost the inspiration to do so and have finally realized this very day that it will never return. But, then think, "Dum spiro, spero."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Favorite Haiku

Covered with the flowers,
Instantly I'd like to die
In this dream of ours! 

by Etsujen

Friday, May 11, 2012

Vision of Eve (Revised)


A Vision of Eve is a very short story of human history told to R. E. Dawson by P.F. Harrington  when they were only eleven-years old (1956).
Adam and Eve, Danny C. Sillada


As remembered . . . envisioning . . . the golden Goddess Eve, naked, hidden in the dark foliage of the Garden of Eden, the ghost heard her heartbeat, three heartbeats as he searched for her in the shadowy darkness. Suddenly, a bright piecing light shown from the Heavens bathing her and the beginning of the birth of Adam’s sons in a halo of light, God’s gift to mankind, bringing woman out of the shadow of darkness into the light—God’s mistake.
The ghost saw the two boys, twins, within Eve start to emerge from her sacred space. Jealous, envious, enraged by what the light revealed, lusting after Eve, dreaming of her giving him the apple as he fondles her breast, needing her for himself, wanting his own offspring to rule the world, and worship him, foolishly the ghost flung a bolt of lightning from his hiding place, behind the Tree of Knowledge full of monkeys. Piercing her through the heart, killing Eve, the lightning bolt spread throughout her body, destroying her sacred place, burning her sons into cinders, ashes, into dust before they could fully emerge from her womb.

Humankind destroyed, Adam wept, the monkeys were overjoyed, the snake smiled if only for a moment, and the ghost came from behind the tree. Guiltily, not really, he put a fig leaf over Eve’s sacred space, stole the apple from Eve’s smoldering hand, took a bite from the forbidden fruit, chopping the snake in half, after-all only a mealy-worm, giggled, lied when he said, “yummy” because in discovering “the Truth” he could no longer taste, smell, see, hear, or feel. Bereft of his senses, devoid of feeling, he had the gift of knowing instead—nothingness.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Five Senses


Women are like a
Bouquet of many Colors
Each hue, size, and form pleasing
Detect their sweet fragrance
Taste their honeyed essence
Hear their gentle whispers
Touch their dream-like soft petals
Watch them Blossom.
by Ronald Dawson

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sunset

Chandler, Arizona . . . 2012

This was taken at sunset from my patio-porch in Chandler, Arizona.

Palm trees and evergreen pine trees surrounding the lake.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fireworks (unedited)

Fireworks as a young woman looks skyward in amazement waves of rocking
bursts flowers blossoming revealing Singapore’s luminous lovely night.
Fireworks as a young soldier looks skyward  in astonishment waves of shocking
explosions lighten then shroud  Saigon's glowing deadly twilight.

The mimicry of a canon resounding she hears echoes the sound of life’s sharing
a flash of color a flower opens the vibration colliding with the night’s loving darkness.
The booming of a mortar  he hears echoes sound of death’s uncaring
a blast of heat a bright explosion colliding with the night’s hateful starkness.
Love fills the young woman’s palpitating heart each flower bursts into a lovely nesting
rumbling abounds she feels rolling sounds and sees skies heavenly light.
Fear fills the young soldier’s quick-racing heart each flash bursts into a lethal cresting
rumbling blasts he feels rolling sounds and sees skies hellish delight.

The beginning of desire wells-up as a bouquet of flowers reveal within her breast
surprise and wonder while she rejoices and in a beautiful display of fireworks, sees life.
The ending of all want fades away as shrapnel sinks deeply within-beneath his chest
disbelief and regret while he despairs and in a hostile display of fireworks, sees death.

by Ronald Dawson

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On War, Erotic Allusions, and Other Cliches

No ducks were harmed during the writing of the novel or this blog.

Critics and other ne’er do wells often warn writers against over-use of erotic allusions, cultural stereotyping, and political incorrectness. Sorry, when used with grace, modest abandon, and a slight twist, I am a sucker (cliché) for exposed lust-filled thoughts (erotic allusions), tearful heroines (gender specific language), maudlin love scenes (come on, keep it real) and semi-heroic bad-boy figures (sexiness and a challenge for all women to tame) often portrayed in Literature and Art.

One of my favorite movies, perhaps clichéd, based on a true-story, is Taking Chance. Man or woman, if you do not cry while watching this story, check yourself for a heartbeat, you may be beyond redemption. As we know, redemption is a must 99.9% of the time.

Another of my favorite movies is Apocalypse Now. Talk about political incorrectness: the hateful Vietnam War, the incorrectness of "I love the smell of napalm in the morning," or lusting after Playboy Bunnies in Vietnam . . . these scenes are definitely not worthy of political correctness although I personally embrace them myself. As for the slaughtering of innocents, all I can say is thank God for all the Politically Correct politicians we had and have (only the names have changed) in Washington D.C., Hanoi, and other centers of political power.


Actress Teresa Denton . . . Susan
in Forrest Gump
Being a romantic, one of my favorite “character-characters” of all time, most beloved to me, is Lt. Dan’s (actor Gary Sinese), for story-line purposes, modestly sweet Asian fiancée Susan (cultural stereotyping) seen in the movie, Forrest Gump. If I remember correctly, she says two words, “Hello Forrest,” and has a three-second close-up with ten seconds of screen time. Think about her character, within the context of the story, and if you are a romantic, you will instantly fall in love with her, as I did.

The hope for me, besides the dual purposes of entertainment and escapism, is that you, Dear Reader, will find a character in Drunken Duck that you will fall in love with, too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is " The Secret?" A Fairytale

I was asked by a young lady once "What is the Secret to love, life, and happiness?" Without thinking I blurted out, "A window seat." She looked at me strangely and I regret that I did not explain to her what I was thinking at that very moment and why my answer made perfect sense. Let me explain. "The Secret" is a book about achieving happiness and success basically by using the power of positive thinking whatever phrases and techniques espoused by its author or interpreted by the reader. Please, you true believers, don't get angry because if you are reading my blog I'm already very attracted to you for your intellect and adherence to the principle of the "Law of Attraction" as espoused in "The Secret." If you follow this 'law' religiously you are a positive person which brings to my mind . . . being at least 50% pessimistic, my half-full glass of liquids often half-empty . . .  my studies in Psychology. One thing I studied was Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: 1. Physiological Needs, 2. Safety Needs, 3. Needs of Love, Affection, Belonging, 4. Needs for Esteem, and 5. a Need for Self-Actualization 
I knew then, as I know now, that a more accurate point of view, other than Maslow's Needs or The Law of Attraction would be the 'Law of the Window Seat.'
 
Let's put aside such foolish needs as water, food, energy, air, and suitable living conditions as being necessary for life, happiness and success. I must admit, however, it's hard to be happy, successful, or sexually aroused if you're dead. While avoiding thoughts about the after-life, I became enmeshed in an intellectually train of thought mixed with a wee-bit of biotic and abiotic factors or sex. Biotic Factors defined, meaning of or related to life, such as plants, animals, fungi, protists and bacteria which are all biotic or living factors and abiotic factors defined, meaning nonliving chemical reactions or sometimes the term is related to factors that affect living organisms such as habitat, weather, political economy, etc. Sex needs no definition unless you are President Clinton testifying before Congress.
 
It just so happened that the young lady that asked me about the secret I was picking up at a hotel for a business meeting and in her room was a two-foot wide window sill (more like a window seat) stretching the length of a huge picture-window overlooking a panoramic view of the city of Seattle. Another contributing factor is that the Space Needle in the near distance looked somewhat like a phallic symbol. At that moment I felt "the Secret"of my personal happiness and success would be making love to her on that window seat. Don't blame me for such a fairytale like thought  . . . she was an incredibly beautiful Chinese woman with a magnificent intellect after-all . . . as I think back about what life would have been like with her if I had written that best selling book about happiness called "The Secret," better titled "The Window Seat" and revealed my secret yearning for her.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prologue to the Novel, Drunken Duck

Fifty Kilometers Southwest of Hue, 
The Republic of Vietnam, March 7, 1966

Five-year-old Lê Anh Trinh, a Chinese-Vietnamese girl, lifted her pet duck and concentrated as she held the duck’s neck firmly, turning its head toward the soldier with the camera. The duck having little choice but to pose quacked away loudly in protest until stifled.

Fortunately, both duck and girl would grow up protected by those who loved them, would have many suitors flock about, and have little ducklings or children of their own. One dressed in white feathers, the other wore a white dress with broad swaths of zebra-like vertical and diagonal black and white stripes, with a bow tied in front. Both had recently bathed and, being playful young scamps, would remain squeaky clean if only for the next few moments.

Trinh’s cleanliness, her dress, and neatly trimmed vigorously brushed hair, told of a special occasion. Her mama and her family, except her twin brothers and eldest sister, were going on a journey to Saigon, a faraway city. Although uneasy about leaving the village of her birth, leaving her twin brothers and sister behind, her excitement overcame her unease.

She showed off her pretty dress, along with her pet duck, to the two foreign soldiers. One of the two soldiers standing before her had given her and four of her seven siblings some Tootsie Roll Pops, hard-candy sweets with a chewy chocolaty surprise inside. The candy came on a stick wrapped in cherry-red colored crinkly paper.

Her fourteen-year-old twin brothers, in the civilian militia under the command of a provincial chief, were across the compound guarding the west wall and did not get any candy treats.

Her eighteen-year-old sister, Lê Thi Thu-Lam, refused any candy and refused to go with the family as she declared her intention to stay and fight alongside her brothers when the soldiers from the North attacked.

Trinh, a brave girl and not afraid, very much, knew everyone in her village, except she and Thu-Lam, seemed to fear the ghost soldier, the rumored eater of hearts, with the strange grayish-blue eyes, the giver of candy. Trinh knew the rumor could not possibly be true, she hoped.

The ghost soldier, called by Trinh’s Chinese grandpapa the guai soldier, had told her sister she must leave. When her sister boldly defied the guai soldier by sticking her tongue out at him, shaking her head ‘no’ and walking away haughtily in a huff, shouting, “I no go,” the guai soldier did not strike her dead and eat her heart for her insolent disobedience, but sighed, laughed quietly, shook his head ‘no’ in return and asked, “Wanna bet?”

She thought her sister liked him in spite of his demand that she leave. Trinh liked him even before he gave her the candy. When she looked at him closely, peered into his eyes, his eyes were not scary, but gentle and kind. She felt safe in his presence.
***

Arturo, a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, a giant of a man, knelt down, and snapped a picture of the girl and her pet duck with his Polaroid instant camera.

Amused at her determination to get the duck to pose, he smiled. “Her duck reminds me of you, always being hugged by a beautiful girl, quacking away loudly in protest while refusing to cooperate.”

Patrick, a Navy SEAL, tossed Arturo a Tootsie Pop, and responded, “Have you ever tasted drunken duck?”

“Don’t start with the Irish blarney. We don’t have time for any of your exaggerated stories or your attempts to make sense out of your senseless nonsense. I know I’m going to regret this, what’s drunken duck?”

“When it comes to food, my little one, I knew you couldn’t resist asking. Do you have a tapeworm for a pet? Never mind. It’s a yummy Chinese dish. You take a scallion, slice it into one-inch sections with your bayonet, crush some garlic with the butt of your rifle, place the scallion with the garlic in a large heavy pot or we could use your one-of-its-kind gigantic, Believe It or Not Ripley’s, enormous sized helmet.”

Arturo, retrieving an old childhood habit, growled.

Patrick lowered his voice so as not to frighten the duck or the girl in case they understood Americanized-English. “You slit the duck’s throat, chop its head and feet off, de-feather and de-gut the bird, wipe the duck inside and out with a clean damp skivvy shirt. I’ll loan you one since I’m sure none of your skivvies are clean.”

Receiving no response, disappointingly not even a growl, he continued. “Light some C-4, fill your helmet with water from a canteen, and bring it to a boil. Toss it, the duck not the skivvy shirt, into the helmet, add some salt and pepper, bring the water to a boil again, and then simmer, covered for forty-five minutes. Drain the duck, let it cool, dry it thoroughly, then refrigerate covered overnight. The next day quarter the duck, place the pieces in a glass container, and pour in a couple of cups of fine sherry, or home-brewed rice wine or, in your indiscriminate lack of taste, some fiery tequila. Cover, then refrigerate for a week.”

Arturo interrupted. “If you substitute mescal for tequila, it prevents worms. In Tijuana, I ate a drunken worm pickled in a bottle of potent mescal and I haven’t had any worms since.”

“You don’t need mescal to eliminate worms and parasites just eat some rice-wine soaked com ruou sprinkled with aromatic delicious Vietnamese cinnamon on it for flavor, but quit interrupting with a brainless story about an intoxicated worm. No one, especially yours truly, wants to hear about your bizarre eating and drinking habits.”

Having scored a point, Arturo smiled, and then inquired, “Where do you get Vietnamese cinnamon? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Vietnamese cinnamon is the best tasting cinnamon in the world. Up in North Vietnam, by the Chinese border, close to the mountain areas you can strip the bark off cinnamon trees and eat the fresh, soft sweet bark like candy, or you can use it in soups, stews, breads, or desserts. It’s similar to spicy Red Hots candy only more natural and flavorful.”

“When were you up there?”

“None of your business but quit interrupting, back to the subject at hand. If you’re alive after the week is up, drain the duck, and then chop the duck up, including the bones, into bite-size pieces. Serve it chilled, with some piss-warm beer if you’re a gourmand like you or with a slightly chilled white wine, preferably a Chardonnay with smooth buttery oak overtones and a hint of vanilla if you’re a gourmet like me.”

Arturo lowered his voice. “We can have duck burritos, duck tacos, duck with frijoles, duck Irish stew, or duck whatever. Rice wine is plentiful. We may be able to find some beer, but where are we going to procure a refrigerator here in this godforsaken land, hombre?”

Whispering back, he answered, “I’m ashamed of you, Artie, wanting to eat this poor girl’s little duckling. If you were a pet lover or had any feelings for children, you would have asked me, Patrick, old salt, where are we going to find a duck?”

“Our reunion is less than eight hours old Patrick, old salt, and I haven’t seen you in over three years, since we were seventeen, and you’re already starting to piss me off. Did you call in the cavalry?”

“Yeah, I called in the choppers alright. Captain Thompson evidently is the only one who hasn’t heard the order there will be no further evacuations. The Captain assured me he’ll be here in a few minutes before his radio gets fixed. I told him to fly in from the south. Most of the villagers, along with some of the more intelligent chicken-hearted militia, have already escaped traveling south by southwest. He’ll fly out this girl and her family, including the duck.”

“If Thompson’s radio isn’t working, how are you or the Captain going to explain to the brass how you were able to call him in, in the first place, amigo?”

“Smoke signals, carrier pigeons, sign language, drums, ESP, take your pick. Does it matter? All I know is this girl along with her family and a few others are leaving this valley of death.”

“So you think saving a few people is going to somehow redeem your whole sorry life?”

“Redemption is for the innocent like this young girl or a not so innocent true-believer like you. To use a cliché, my pea-brained little friend, redemption, as is beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.”

“Not so, amigo. Redemption, for eternity, is in the eyes of God. Remember, there are no atheists in foxholes, hombre.”

“How profound, that sounds like a line right out of a WW2 movie, but can I ask you something? Do communist guerillas dig holes?”

Without letting his childhood friend answer, he continued. “The answer is their Goddamn tunnels are everywhere. However, I’ll have to remember to feature your profundity in my memoirs. Even better, you can chisel it on my gravestone with your bayonet in an attempt to fool the angels.”

Arturo mumbled under his breath, “I just might do that.”

“I heard that. Anyway, it’s too late for me Artie-me-lad and if I can help save a few lives, what the hell, why not?”

“Yeah, it never hurts if one of those lives saved happens to be a young lady you may want to visit in Saigon in the future, like this girl’s big sister.”

“What future? Anyway, the important thing is I’m saving the duck from a hot bath and a hangover, and I’m saving you from a heart attack. There’s a lot of fat in a duck. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re a wee-bit pudgy. You definitely need to go on a diet. If you had your way, you and this possible drunken duck would be partaking in some bizarre suicide pact.”

“Drunken duck my ass.”

“Quit swearing in front of the kid, Artemus. Someday, if you behave yourself, or you should live so long, before you buy the farm, say adios into the sunset, or bite the bullet, I’ll tell you a mostly true story of a young lady who owned a drunken cat.”

“I can’t wait. I suppose you think when you say Goddamn or hell you’re not swearing?”

“Swearing is in the ears of the beholder my overly religious friend.”

Arturo replied, “Do you always have to speak about life in clichés? You’re always pretending the stories you weave are true, and can’t seem to live unless you have the last word.”

“A tautological truism, life as cliché is cliché. On principle, my stories have an element of truth, true or not and in our line of work Sergeant, the last word always ends with a Hallelujah-Amen, or a scream.”

The ghostly picture image appeared and took form on the Polaroid film as Arturo responded, “Tautological truisms are self evident and should go without saying. Hallelujah Amen is two words and a scream isn’t exactly a word dumb-dumb, another three points for me. Here, take this picture. This little girl reminds me of Sachi.”

“Tres times a touché mate. You’re a regular portrait taking, analytical, word parsing Mexican-American Einstein. Here, let me take a look.”

“Take it. You can have it as a keepsake.”

The picture of the little girl did remind him of Sachi his first girlfriend from kindergarten class. Wanting no reminders or keepsakes, his life lived present tense, not past, or future, he gave the picture to Trinh.

“Listen Patrick, I hear Thompson’s chopper coming.”

He suggested Arturo go over to the west wall, retrieve the little girl’s teenage brothers, and order them to leave on the arriving chopper whether the provincial chief, the newly appointed Territorial’s commander, agreed or not.

“What a good idea. I always knew you were a teary-eyed bleeding-heart softy.” Deceptively agile for a large man, Arturo turned and swiftly jogged off on his mission as Patrick gently scooped up the little girl and her duck within his powerfully strong gentle arms.

“Okay, time to go, sweetie. Let’s find your Mama and family.” The little girl snuggled within his arms. She laid her head on his shoulder and giggled when he tickled her tummy, accompanied by a loving “quack.”

After locating the girl’s mama and siblings, including Thu-Lam, he gave the young girl with her duck over to her mother.

Thu-Lam, barefoot, wearing white cotton loose-fitting pants with a matching blouse, a peasant’s uniform called an Ao ba-ba and conical hat called a non-la, tried to run, but he swiftly caught her, tossed her over his shoulder with ease, and carried her, as she struggled mightily, kicking-angrily, to the landing zone. This maneuver reminded him of a scene from the western movie The Magnificent Seven without the use of a horse.

Sighing wearily, he chastised his captive. “Don’t get your panties all in a bunch, my little flower, your whole family is leaving with you.”

Swatting her butt in an attempt to settle her down, he discovered, under her thin cotton bottoms, she wasn’t wearing panties. Sighing, a deeper sigh, he swatted her butt once more and told her and his overly active imaginative libido to “behave.”

The UH-1 Iroquois chopper came in fast, flying in from the south, swooped down from above with a deafening roar, spewed up a muddy wet-fog of debris, and landed. They put their charges on board, along with half dozen other villagers as Arturo shouted over the chopper’s reverberating blades, “Mission accomplished!”

Patrick looked at the Lê family, the siblings, the smiling-nervously young girl with her quacking duck, her older sister crying as she embraced her brothers, and their tearful mama. His own fate meaningless, he nevertheless, as a carryover from his childhood, remained a sucker for a woman in tears, let alone two women, a loving mama and her beautiful daughter. He stared directly into the deep-brown moist eyes of Thu-Lam, their hearts touched. Their eyes seem to pierce the other’s soul. He felt relief for the Lê family and saddened that the possibility of a love for Thu-Lam, a love that might have been, was now lost.

The helicopter rose into the air, hovered for a brief moment like a giant green praying mantis searching for prey, spewed out its venom briefly from two 60D machine guns, then flew away safely on the updrafts of its whirling wings, under the protection of the wind gods of war. A family rescued by Captain Hugh Thompson and crew, by Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Arturo Siqueiros, and by Navy Petty Officer First Class P.F. Harrington.

Patrick nodded to his boyhood friend and uttered a prayer, “Deo volente, media vita in morte sumus. Amen.”

“What does that mean, hombre?”

“God willing, in the midst of our lives we die. So be it.”

Arturo opined, “There are worse things than dying, hombre.”

Death, no stranger, a visitor since childhood, the ghost soldier responded, “Yes, I know, amigo, like living.”

The chopper flew west into the diminishing sun’s setting rays before sharply veering south. Dark-gray storm clouds formed, merged, and overwhelmed the sun’s translucent fading blood-red light. The murky-green world of the rainforest closed in as the ominous sky opened fulfilling its promise, raindrops splattering over the muddied rice paddies obscuring shadowy movements in the forest beyond. The earth began to cleanse and renew.

Eerily silent except for the sound of splashing raindrops and the beat of retreating helicopter blades, echoes of screams would go unheard until twilights next evening. As darkness fell, death approached. The helicopter escaped into the night.