Friday, December 18, 2015

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view- Jimi Hendricks

I've written nothing lately, just so I can keep you on the edge of your seat.

As most daughters go, our fathers are ageless, immortal and our first love and while a young friend was watching hers slaying dragons from his hospital bed, I watched mine carry Sir Lancelot to his final rest.

There were words and laughter and memories all mingled among the tears and the food. Southern Baptists know how to cook by golly. We flew straight into Houston and after Mr Toad’s Wild Shuttle Ride through the freeways we rented a car and arrived in Alvin, Texas, early. Unsure that we were at the right hotel Dad sent me in to ask.

“Is the Best Western on Luke Road Hwy somthin’or’nother? “

She flashed a weary eye and said, “Who are you?”

I used those alien yet, magical code words to see if they still worked, “I’m Smitty Godwin’s girl”

“Your Aunt Ruth was just in here looking for him,” was all she said and went back to her paperwork.

Like a parade-- aunts and cousins and uncles and in-laws and out laws streamed from the rooms and we were hugged and squeezed then whisked away to the viewing. Promptly at 20:00,(eight pm) the undertakers lowered the temperature to the point where we shivered and watched our breath almost smoked across the room.

The next day we heard words and sang hymns, and as we left the finality of my uncle’s death sunk in. One would think they would have tissues for such an occasion. I was grateful to Cousin Jeanene for having the foresight to bring some.

At the grave site there were more words and the 66th Black Panther Division 264th offered a flinching report of a twenty-one-gun salute followed by Taps, and the presentation of the flag to my aunt. A piper played Amazing Grace as he slowly walked into the piney woods.

In spite of the clouds, the sun shined bright, as they say, and we spent the afternoon at my uncle's home. As we prepared to leave, his widow said, “He’s really gone, Riley is really gone.”

We all stopped and looked at each other and then reminded her that he was all around her. That his blood beat through many hearts here as a reminder of his corporeal presence.

In his only brother’s death, it was as if I was witnessing a dress rehearsal for my father's. I left more prepared. I could no more shield the truth behind my eyes because every time I looked at him, my father offered words of comfort.

And so the day yielded its light to the stars of the listening night and I dreamt of the awakened dragon and asked,” Can't you see all around you, the dragon's breath?”

Related scripture: Psalm 44:18-26

Peppermint candy; the sword in the stone that grows through our family.

They're affiliated with my particular and ungainly past, with aunts and aprons and mouths that needed wiping, and half remembered ice cream spooned melting onto my wedged birthday cake.
How well I remember standing on dusty tip toes stretching to reach for the Depression era glass candy dish where he stored peppermint stick candy. I would wait expectantly for my offerings. Grandpa probably never gave me more than an inch of it at any time, but it was the best treat imaginable. Not memories or dreams but real pieces of my past. He married Nollie Bell in the summer of 1908 and possessed little besides the land on which they lived for 63 years. The Long Cove Baptist Church was the center of their lives with Bible reading and prayer at the breakfast table where appearance was mandatory.
Being one of twenty eight grandchildren I frequently pursued activities such as hiding in the grain, hunting for eggs and new baby kittens and upon occasion watch for snakes a reminder from Grandma who never once failed to remind me as I flew out the kitchen letting the screen door bang behind. Many times I played dress up in beautiful cast off clothes from attic trunks that transformed a sweat streak grubby little girl into a gracious lady of style and renown ruling the world according to whims until heat dissipated the magic of the attic forcing me to jump hopping down one stair step at a time relieved by the relative coolness of the 95º heat.
I hunted for adventures in Grandpa's engine room; smelling of well oiled machine parts staring round eyed into the toothy maw of left behind animal traps then back out side to select s shiny wrinkled up leaf we called tickle tongue because though I never laughed right out loud it did tickle my tongue when I munched on it and did indeed remind me a little of that prized peppermint candy.
Quick stepping and barefooted so the hot dirt wouldn't blister my feet down to the mailbox was a privilege that was fought over because the reward was a stick of peppermint and maybe a saltine or two. He kept a bag in the corner closet of the kitchen, which still smelled of peppermint when the house sold many years after he went to his heavenly reward. (Enoch's mind was clear though he had less desire to leave this earth and his wife, but he never had any anxiety over the certainty of a better life ahead.)
One night after chasing fireflies and cousins I sat in there in an agreeable slouch, inhaled the smells till it melted down the back of my throat in thick syrupy delight trying with all my might to save a moment so strong it took my breath away only to be scared away by spooky popping sounds of the summer sun setting as the house contracted. Ears plugged with fingers, I fled the consecrated rapture of red twist tied bags echoed twisted and round candy sitting mint and brand spanking new--peppermint why the very word showed it's rapid fire camphouros whorls white on red or was it red on white lozenge to be broken and eaten carminative red memories and peppermint perfumed smiles. An herb yanked from the earth to yank me back into the earth.
When he passed away there was a family lottery for that candy dish and Dad won. It was an outside confirmation to be seen and touched to be read aloud in the present as if Grandpa is a book in my hand, how else can I become real? The peppermint stick is my sword in the stone growing straight down through my family. The candy dish is a friend that sits in silence entrusting its stories to me from the perpetual frozen era of my childhood.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

Certain days will always reverberate through history and on November 22 at 12:29 Dallas time when the motorcade comes into sight nothing ever changes. It has become immutable no matter how much I want it to change that certain slant of light in the Zapruder film each time it's played...

    Click. The Presidential limousine glides though a Houston street making a sharp left turn onto Elm.
    Click. The President is smiling and waving.
    Click. Mrs. Kennedy looks at him with concern.
    Click. The president reaches for his throat and slumps toward her.
    Click. The Governor of Texas in the front seat falls forward.
    Click. Mrs. Kennedy rises and reaches across the back of the limousine.
    Click. She is pushed back into the car by a Secret Service agent.
    Click. The limousine disappears from view beneath an underpass heading for Parkland Hospital.

President's draft schedule for today 1963

Attending an Episcopalian school in Marietta, Georgia during a Spanish bazaar, the principal announced that President Kennedy had been shot. Ready to dance in a long red silk dress. It's from Spain, I whispered to best friend Sally. Narrow black lace trimmed the neckline and the bell sleeves, while wide black lace defined the two gathered tiers of a ruffled skirt. The princess bodice was lined and closed in back with a long red ribbon. The black lace mantilla trimmed with a red satin rose; fit under my hair. Altogether a muy bonita senorita.

School was immediately dismissed.

This is Daddy's boss and of course Dad is gone and the country is on high alert. It isn't uncommon to wake up in the morning and find he had left to places unknown, but I could pretty well guess where and why.

I sat on the church steps and cried until a neighbor picked up my sister and I. A few days later, school was closed as we watched President Kennedy's funeral. It is still hard to watch Jon Jon salute his father's casket. A man named Lee Harvey Oswald had shot him from the Texas Book Depository. Feeling an odd connection to these events in a strange sort of way since at that time all the books used in public schools in the United States, as well as American ones overseas came from that building. I had always noticed, even looked for the words Property of the Texas Book Depository stamped inside the covers of all the books I studied from no matter where I lived. Some sort of security was ripped away that day.

Two weeks later the school burned down; the President dead and Dad gone, it was very frightening to a young girl in grade school. John F. Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963 for reasons that remain largely unexplained to this day.

That film runs fifteen seconds. And an eternity. Looking back, it seems as if it was a point where it all started to come apart it would take decades to overcome. Nothing changes except those who watch, they watch a generation of Americans who would never be quite so young again. After that nothing was the same...

    Click. Vietnam.
    Click. LBJ announces he will not risk running again.
    Click. Robert Kennedy in a pool of blood after his victory speech in an LA hotel kitchen.
    Click. Another president resigns in disgrace.

Never again, I thought each time, would I take my country so lightly, my institutions for granted. But time passes, marriage, children; fortune smiled on me in this most blessed nation I found it easy to forget, become complacent... hubris is the child of forgetfulness...

    Click. Jetliners strike the World Trade Center again and again, and as much as I would like to blot it from memory I cannot and I am jerked to wakefulness, once again reminded how fragile this society is and understand that familiar feeling, that my way of life is not a machine that is run by itself, but one that requires daily heroism.
    Click. The sentinels change but the uniforms that watch over us while we enjoy our freedoms do not.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Despite only being 9-years-old, she owns Villekulla Cottage." Pipi Longstockings

We played a game in one Brat Group this week. We had to tell two truths and one lie. I’m pretty sure Pipi Longstockings would be right there with us. Can you guess the lie?
1)I sailed across the East China Sea during a typhoon, jumped ship in Singapore, and piloted a KC135 simulator.
2) I dated a male stripper, a running back for the Redskins, but fell in love with, and married my best friend, a restaurant manger
3) I did a late night Foxtrot for FOD for a F16.I only have one traffic ticket, and in my closet, I hang everything left-shoulder out.

Friday, February 06, 2015

There beneath the blue suburban skies

Ha Phan (sic), Vietnam, 1967
A U.S. twin-engine transport Caribou crashes after being hit by American artillery near Duc Pho on August 3, 1967.  U.S. artillery accidentally shot down the ammunition-laden plane, which crossed a firing zone while trying to land at the U.S. Special Forces camp.  All three crewman died in the crash.” Photo Credit

There beneath the blue suburban skies

 A memory of when our father was in Vietnam

This is one of the biggest, there are others, but this sticks out the most in my mind. It was enough for me to create imaginary friends who lived in my closet and traveled to school with me that fall in the basket of my bike.

Like many other military families, we could choose where to live while our dad was overseas and it was decided that we would like as close to Vietnam as we could, which to my mom was Vacaville, CA. Dad sent us a letter, an audio tape or a package everyday, like clockwork. It was on a summer afternoon with the smell of fresh mown grass and the sounds of "I'm a Believer" drifting by on a muggy breeze, that I walked down  freshly painted brown stairs to check the mail. There was nothing from Dad, I told my mom and sister.

About three hours later, Dan Rather came on the five o’clock news and flashed a picture of a C-7A Caribou that was snapped by a Japanese university graduate by the name of Hiromichi Mine. It had spent seven hours on an air transport headed for stateside media and depicted a Caribou coming apart in midair. “This incident occurred in August of 1967 when the Caribou (tail number 62-4161) flew into the line of fire of a 155mm howitzer, “states one Veteran.

Our father was flying the C-7A in support of Special Forces. We did not eat dinner; mom sent us to our rooms and spent the night crying on the phone to friends and family.  We held our collective breaths for ten days while we waited for word. And then on the eleventh day, just like that, we had a lot of mail from dad.

 Hiromichi Mine's picture was not only memorable for us, it became iconic for the era. Unfortunately, he was killed a few years later when the vehicle he was riding in took fire. 



Friday, January 30, 2015

Mr. Loo

Dad, a 28 year old freshly minted Captain in The United States Air Force came home one day and announced that we would be moving to a place near China, Taipei, Taiwan.

Where is this place? I asked him

.... and in a moment that lasted all of a second, but the memory will live on forever, he exclaimed,

Why Missy if you go outside in the backyard and dig a hole straight through the earth you would just about be in China! It's a land of magic, just FULL of enchanted people!

After many vaccinations for typhus, tuberculosis and cholera, we were packed and loudly grinding our way across the Pacific in a propeller driven airplane. There was no First Class, no heat, nor cabin pressure and we hopped our way across like a milk train, landing in Hawaii and Guam. We moved into a small home in the Little American City in Taipei. It was built of gray limestone painted with a yellow trim, it sat on a corner surrounded by a bamboo fence and inside there was rattan matting on the floor that would leave the most intricate designs on my legs after sitting for a time. My bedroom was down a short hallway on the right and my parents further down to the left, at the end of the hall was the bathroom. I was warned repeatedly to only drink the water from the water bottles, to never EVER drink the water out of the sink or I would get the worst tummy ache even DIE if I did!

Our first night there began with great adventure. Bright flashes of light and the acrid smell of gunpowder filled my room. I had never smelled or heard gunfire before and soon after the first several volleys I heard grappling and crashing about in my father's bedroom. I was running through the dark, where I could see and my father flew by me in blue boxer shorts and t-shirt his firearm raised above his head wild eyed and screaming.!! While he defended hearth and home I hid in the clothes hamper. It came to be that there was a custom in the neighborhood at that time to welcome new neighbors by lining the fence with firecrackers and setting them off. (They are SO lucky they didn't get shot) Soon our new home was full of friendly neighbors bringing in plenty of beer and a hibachi pot. To my wonder they set it in the middle of the living room floor and cooked up some wonderful sukiyaki. I drifted off to sleep while trying to talk, not knowing there would be so much more to come.

The Japanese occupied Taiwan throughout much of The Forties and did many things to improve the island building great roads. In the The Fifties and the early Sixties the Chinese Government moved onto the island and in other words it was the rich who had the power to move into the government offices. My father was stationed there by as part of a 'listening post' to keep tabs on the Communist Chinese Government. They would gather information on the movement of the Red Army in China and had three or four minutes to relay this information to Washington DC. At this time he flew the C-47 Gooney Bird and made monthly trips to Contact Airport for some R&R in Hong Kong. There he and his flight crew would be warmly greeted by the Hotel and all the Heineken Beer they could drink, which was truly an import and a real luxury of the time.

It wasn't long before Dad heard from the General's Aide about a man from Shanghai who had paid someone off to help him escape to Taiwan. Mr Loo was a cook and was looking for a position while he searched for his son in the Taiwanese Army. He moved into a small room with a cot off the laundry room by the kitchen and had few belongings. The first day I met him the phone rang and rushing over to answer he shouted quickly and all too loudly,

Wey? Wey?

My sister, Mr. Loo and I, Tien Mou, Taipei, Taiwan, 1959
Of course in my whole little life I had never heard the phone answered in such a manner and every time he would answer the phone I would just collapsed into a pile of little girl giggles! He was up early every morning leaving a pair of freshly shined shoes outside my father's door and asking me what I wanted for breakfast. He would cook me whatever I wanted which was usually pancakes with a light dusting of powdered sugar. (It wasn't until I returned to the US that I learned about syrup on pancakes. ) Later on we would set out for the street markets where he would shout and haggle, smell and sniff with a great flourish and style, the fruits and vegetables and finally choose only the best shrimp or pork for the meals he would prepare. These tasty delights he would carry home on his shoulders in a contraption I'd never seen. It was a bar with two rattan baskets hanging from the ends, perched just so as if he was wearing it. Most of what I liked about being with him was looking through his eyes at all I saw...sharing whispers that were funny, but we'd soon forget. Surely in my little girl heart it was as though we would never part and though I'll never capture what he meant to me in pen, I'm going to hope for the best.

One day while watching Mr Loo cook I took great note of the fact that he could drink the water out of the sink. Oh indeed I was astounded ! Mr Loo was definitely enchanted!

Dad had recently purloined a radio from a helicopter and gave it to Mr Loo who began to spend his evenings in his room listening to the Communist broadcasts, hoping to hear news of his son. Sometimes I would try to come in and listen too, shooing me out of the room, he was afraid that if he was caught listening to these broadcasts, they would throw him in jail. Standing rejected at the door one night I made a point of telling Dad about my amazing conclusion about Mr Loo and his immunity to the poison water! Threatened with losing his daughter's undying affections Dad rushed to the bathroom, seized his toothbrush and returned to the kitchen. He thrust it victoriously under the running water in the sink and furiously brushed his teeth until his mouth foamed bubbling proudly that he too was able to fearlessly face the death by tummy ache!

Because there was a variety of cultures Mr Loo spoke primarily Mandarin and this is the language my father says I spoke though I only recall a few phrases. Mr Loo's most frequently used phrase around me was,

Oh no Missy , please don't do!!

When I heard that I knew I was doing something terribly wrong. One day I had decided that the little keys that came attached to the tin cans to open them was a magical key that opened walls from the electrical outlets where all sorts of wonderful people lived in my imagination. It was fortunate for me that we were on alternating current by that time, but I did hear him yell just before the terrific shock. Watching the clothes tumble merrily around in the dryer window one boring day, it occurred to me that this might be a lot of fun for my younger sister to experience. Luckily she was too heavy for the drum to turn but it did cause the fuse to burn out and a great deal of smoke which brought Mr Loo to our rescue declaring,

Oh no Missy , please don't do!!

Time for Kindergarten and I was sent to a Catholic School. Preparations began for the Sacrament of First Communion and the girls who were to be the Bride of Christ, wore the most beautiful pink dresses with lacy shawls, I had ever seen. I was unaware that I was Methodist and not Catholic and arrived at the breakfast table one morning dressed in my own pink jumper. After some consternations from Mr. Loo I was dispatched to my room to put on my uniform. Carefully folding my jumper into three folds and then rolling it military style like I had watched Dad, I snuck the jumper into the metal lunch box I carried to school. It wasn't long before I was sitting in the church pew biting back tears feeling terribly left out during Communion. A few days later still angry about the whole matter I thought to myself , rather than waiting for the peddy cab to show up and take me home I would ride the bus like everyone else. It wasn't long before I realized that in my stubbornness I had made a terrible mistake and I was hopelessly lost on a city bus. I saw a man I knew was a religious, whether he was Buddhist, Priest, or a Shinto I'll never know. He reminded me of Mr. Loo and that was more than good enough for me..... I meekly joined this stranger while I waited for someone to find me. Meanwhile back at home the peddy cab had arrived without me and the driver, who the more excited he became the faster he talked, surmised that Missy, had been kidnapped by someone in the Chinese Government as some kind of plot against the spying US Government ! I have no idea how fast that message was relayed to Washington, D.C., but half of the US Air Force was out searching for me and it was Dad who found me waiting on the steps of the shrine-- temple -- church The only picture I have of Mr Loo is of him standing proudly behind me in my pretty pink 'Communion Dress.' He had seen my intangible wish and made it a cornerstone of reality.

A hero is a man who does what he can and his greatest power was his simple patience with me.

Mr Loo always wore Khaki trousers and a crisp white dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves. He always smelled of fresh ginger and garlic and whatever he thought I would feel. I watched one day as he drew beautiful pictures on paper. I asked him what he was drawing and setting me on his knee, he explained he was writing letters to whoever he could think of about his son His son had been drafted into the Army when he was only fifteen and that was Mr Loo's reason for coming to Taiwan -- to find his son and get him released from the Army. Indignant that Mr Loo was suffering so, I marched through the kitchen, reached up on the counter, grabbed a spoon and banged out the back door. He watched me digging furiously for a while through the window then opened the door and asked me what I was doing.

Why Daddy says, I sobbed, if I dig a hole right through the earth there will be China and your son can come home!

With a grateful bow he shut the screen door and left me to my futile task.
I don't know if Mr Loo was ever united with his son and my father can find no records of Mr Loo's full name.

Who else but I could have understood the words he used, his sense of humor, each of these things I know and cherish as if they were my own. Who knew him as well as I did? And who could have loved him as I did? It is said, 'Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay for awhile, and we're never the same'

Maryanne Radmacher-Hershey wrote, "I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world." There I learned that the greatest treasures are not those visible to the eye but found by the heart. And even though Mr Loo and I shall never be again as we were, it was enough.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Honoré Daumier

At the time of his work Honoré Daumier had been well known for satirical lithography he submitted his work often to the liberal French Republican Journal, Cariacture In these pieces, he made derisive fun of the foibles and misbehavior of lawyers, politicians and middle class gentry. In touch with the acute social and political unrest in Paris at that time he depicted events that were the result of the rapid development of an urban industrial society. As might be expected, the sting of his critical wit often put him in conflict with the government. In his unfinished The Third-Class Carraige

Daumier's quick penmanship style shows the viewer his interest in the political community. At that time it was an in your face realism, a way to cover events in an unrealized vehicle. The rude railway compartment of the 1860s. The people are poor and can only afford third-class tickets, he would repeat this subject many times in his many works.

He shows them to us in the un-posed attitudes and unplanned arrangements of the millions thronging the modern city--anonymous , insignificant, dumbly patient with a lot they cannot change. Daumier saw people as they ordinarily appeared, their faces vague, impersonal blank--unprepared for any observer.

Art Through the Ages

King Louis Phillippe was Daumier's first great theme, he also had a biting way to get across the inherent need for the social reform of the French heirarchy depicted in the tragic portrayal of current events in Rue Transnonain,1834. Crafting from the ordinary continuum of life he randomly gathered isolated views ..... unrehearsed details of human existence. His unique efforts would go on to achieve a reality antecedent to the candor and spontaneous settings being captured by the snapshot camera at the end of the century.


Debbie Godwin Adams. "Artists and Art in the Classroom" Tucson, Arizona.

1994. (Lecture presented at St Joseph's Catholic School.)

Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson , Arizona.

1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)

De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.

Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.