The Day After The Holiday

Memorial-Day-festive-table-decorFestive Memorial Day

Today is Tuesday, the day after the long 3 day Memorial Day holiday, and things are starting to return to normal…All the people enmeshed in the web of work world have piled into their cars or trains or buses or subways and made the commute back to work, back to their desks and cubicles or auto repair stores, whatever……I did it myself for 45 years, so I certainly know how it feels…One thing is sure, there will not be much real work done today! Everybody will be either hung over or busy swapping stories about how they spent their weekend…

For myself, I spent my weekend in a different way…I stayed home for the first time in 5 years this Memorial Day weekend instead of visiting my daughter, since she is currently visiting me…I used to drive 3 hours up to her house in Northern rural California and BBQ in her back yard every year…It is a strange and wonderful thing about San Francisco, we are both blessed and cursed by our perpetual fog, the city is swathed in the fog all summer long and most of the spring, and the temperature at best may reach 60, but that is rare…

In comparison, when I used to drive up to my daughter’s house, just 150 miles away, the weather would always be in the high 80’s or 90’s for the traditional family get togethers, the “Big Three” BBQ days, like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day festivities, but in San Francisco on those days it is always like foggy, chilly, in the mid 50’s maybe, and because of the high fog it appears the sky is cloudy, like right before a Mid Western rain storm….

This is a virtual rule of nature in San Francisco, the traditional summer holidays are almost always in near frigid winter…. Yesterday, for example the fog was so thick there was actual moisture in the air, you could feel it on your face and I had to use my windshield wipers when I drove my car…It was also windy and WAY too cold to even think about our traditional BBQ…

If you drive 20-30 miles in any direction out of San Francisco during the spring and especially the summer, the normal seasonal weather patterns apply…. The temperature shoots up into the 80’s at this time of year, and the more traditional weather patterns apply the farther inland you go and the farther away you are from the coast…Of course since I live only 6 blocks from the ocean, there is no relief in sight just because the calendar denotes a designated, official holiday…

Like I said, it is a mixed blessing, because I also do not have to suffer from the extreme heat waves and the high humidity so prevalent on the East coast or my native Midwest…. Since I was born and raised in Chicago, I am all too familiar with these extreme weather conditions, and that goes double for the winter, with the frigid sub zero days and the howling Arctic winds I grew up with and considered perfectly normal as a child…Back then, they didn’t even have a “wind chill” factor, it was just cold or colder!

In San Francisco the temperature in the winter drops down to the low 50’s and if we are not suffering a drought, like we are currently enduring, it usually rains most of the winter….It NEVER gets cold enough to snow here, which is a good thing because we have some of the steepest streets of any city in the world…The natives of San Francisco always bundle up in gloves, scarves, boots and heavy coats whenever the winter temperature dips into the low 50’s….

I used to laugh at these reactions when I first came here, and in a way I still do, but the weather here has a way of thinning out your blood so I am more aware of the mild winters than I used to be, and doubt I could survive a full blast Mid Western winter like I grew up in anymore…There is NO snow, no ice, so there are no snowplows clearing the road, no snow to shovel off the sidewalk, no trucks laying down salt to melt the ice, no need for anti freeze or weatherproofing your car in the winter….

In fact the climate was the main reason I moved to San Francisco, and I picked a great time, arriving in April of 1967 just months before the epic Summer of Love hippie festival and celebration of life that all of us who were here enjoyed that momentous and historically significant, profound and culturally impactful summer….

The Summer of Love produced a seismic shift in time and attitudes, in expectations and realizations, in dreams and hopes and realities…It was a once in a life time adventure, and I am proud and happy to have been an integral member of this massive transformational shift in cultural morals, the changing of the guard from the old values to the new ones that still exist today…I was at ground zero of the biggest “happening” in recent American history, and I consider myself blessed to have been here at that precise moment in time and history……

So this is the day after the Memorial Day holiday, and I am a retired hippie now so I no longer have to deal with work world…I wrote a blog yesterday about the significance of Memorial Day, and spent some time reminiscing about family and friends, of all the soldiers who had died in the service of their country, and I watched “Private Ryan” with Tom Hanks, a great, realistic, gritty WWII movie on TV….

All in all, I had a nice holiday, even without the traditional BBQ, and I hope you enjoyed yours too…

Memorial Day

Memorial dayvietnam wall

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor all of the fallen soldiers who have died defending our country throughout it’s history…We have all probably lost loved ones to some war at some time, since war seems to always be with us, but there can be no greater sacrifice than laying down your life for your country in combat….

There will be marches and parades and ceremonies all over the country today memorializing those who died in the service of their country, and “Saving Private Ryan” with Tom Hanks, the epic WWII movie is playing all day in San Francisco on the AMC channel…But be it in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or wherever American soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, this is their special day….

According to my Google sources: Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for “remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.”

I have my own personal story to relate…My favorite cousin, Danny, served in Vietnam…Every day of his tour there as a US soldier, he volunteered to go “on point” on the various patrols his unit was engaged in…Going “on point” basically meant that you were the first soldier to lead your unit through hostile territory on the patrol, seeking out and searching for enemy positions and hence the most likely to first encounter the enemy….It was a very dangerous task, and most soldiers were reluctant to volunteer for it…

Danny reasoned that somebody had to do it, and he trusted in fate to see him through, and it did, he never once received a scratch while on point, the most dangerous duty a foot soldier in Vietnam could perform…. Although ironically, the war did claim him after all… He died of malaria he contracted in Vietnam a few short years after he returned unscathed from the war itself…

So I am sure we all have our own personal tales of friends and relatives who fought and died in foreign wars, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and countless friends and contemporaries…In fact, almost all of us baby boomers had fathers who served in WW II, both in the European and Pacific theaters of war….These are the men that Tom Brokaw immortalized in his book, “The Greatest Generation”…..

An ex soldier named Brett McKay expounded on Brokaw’s theme when he wrote “But there may never have been a generation when the ratio of honorable men to slackers was higher than the one born between 1914 and 1929. These were the men that grew up during the Great Depression. They’re the men who went off to fight in the Big One.

And they’re the men who came home from that war and built the nations of the Western world into economic powerhouses. They knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real blood, sweat, and tears. They were humble men who never bragged about what they had done or been through. They were loyal, patriotic, and level-headed. They were our Greatest Generation.”

I think that WWII will forever be remembered as the last “good” war, when the forces of good and evil were so clearly defined; with the lunatic fringe of Hitler’s Nazi’s and the calculated Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor plunging Fortress America into a war it neither expected nor desired…

But it was like getting jumped on the street, you had to fight back to survive, and every human being will fight to preserve his own life or family, simply out of self defense, it is an innate human defense survival mechanism, without which we could not have survived throughout the ages…

I am not defending war, but sometimes it seems it is thrust upon us and we have no choice but to fight back, and that seems to have been most obvious in WWII…The other wars that followed, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Iraq and the whole middle eastern set of wars still going on  have been assailed by many as politically motivated, and not a clear case of self defense….

This does not lessen the tragedy, heartbreak, and human toll on the soldiers who fought and are still fighting in these wars, and especially on their families at home…. Memorial Day in this country is for ALL the soldiers who died in the service of America, and for all of them and their families we should give thanks, honor, and respect…It is often said “Old men make wars, and young men fight and die in them”….

Anyway that is the real meaning of Memorial Day, so give a few moments out of your busy 3 day weekend of barbeques and fishing trips and travel excursions and family get togethers to at least reflect on the ultimate sacrifice these military men, mostly all young men and women, who were cut down in the flower of their youth serving their country, our country, America….

Remember they were doing it for us, they died or were wounded in action with hostile forces to defend our way of life, to preserve our heritage, our traditions….In truth, many of them did not want to do it but did it anyway, and that is a measure of their courage and sacrifice that should be remembered and honored in this one day of the year set aside for their memories, Memorial Day….

War is horrible, it is ugly and destructive and negative and ultimately self perpetuating, an endless round of attacks and retaliations, and we can only hope that one day everybody, especially ALL of the world leaders will come to their senses and recognize this basic fact….Until then we can only honor our fallen soldiers, whoever and wherever they made the ultimate sacrifice on this, their special day…

It reminds me of Peter Seeger’s hauntingly beautiful folk song” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”