There Was a Time

Maggio Vietnam Wall RubbingIn high school, I worked two summers on the Hennepin Canal, a relic of the 19th Century connecting the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers allowing mules to pull barges from Rock Island to Chicago.

Although it was a “failure” — due to the simultaneous widening of locks on those big rivers that made it quickly obsolete — new engineering techniques required to construct it made the Panama Canal possible.

Lock 22
Hennepin Canal, Lock 22. This is what it looks like today.

One summer day, while I painted the Lock 22 bridge red with a hand brush — the last guy to do so since 1974 — a fellow worker just returned from Vietnam showed me his photographic scrapbook.

Full of dried Vietnamese ears linked together with twine to make belts.

Full of dried Vietnamese noses woven together with fishing lines to make necklaces.

He was proud of it.

Sensing a wave of bile rising to my throat, I turned away in disgust.  He’d married a neighbor girl, but I consciously never crossed his path again.

My draft number was 61 in 1972, but this was 1974 and the war was over.  Looking back, it may have been a good time to go into the service because I wanted to be a photographer/journalist and the bullets wouldn’t fly with fury again until the Persian Gulf War in ’91.

But those pictures made those ideas untenable, even though this was the Watergate era, the apex of newspaper journalism when everyone — it seemed — wished to be Bernstein or Woodward and the military would let me write and take pictures without a gun in my hand.

When I was a bartender at the Playboy Club (’79-’80), I’d hang out at the Billy Goat just to smell cigar smoke and catch a glimpse of my hero, Mike Royko, chomping a cheeseburger. The quintessential Chicago journalist who pitched softballs with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Mike Royco

This song is my tribute to those who served in Vietnam.

One of my best friends fought as an M-60 machine-gunner on a PBR craft, which was a twin-engine fiberglass pleasure boat built for speed and outfitted with twin M2HB .50 caliber machine guns forward in a rotating shielded tub, a single rear M2HB, one or two M60 light machine guns mounted on the port and starboard sides, an Mk 19 grenade launcher, and a Jacuzzi drive so it could enter the shallow water.

M60
M60

He speaks little of the combat he encountered in Vietnam, but I’ve shared hotel rooms with him and he gets up in the middle of the night, pounds the headboards with his fists until they’re bloody, and battles demons all night long. Talks to his service comrades throughout the night, those who lived, and those who died.  The few battle stories he has shared make me wonder why he sleeps at all.

A cherished mentor escaped the draft by going to college, but his younger brother served in the Army and volunteered for a rescue mission — even though he was at the end of his tour and knew he was going home to his family in a month. Refusing to turn his back on his buddies when they needed help, Randall Maggio paid the ultimate price.

Randall Maggio
21 years old

Randall Maggio Medals

The Maggio Way
The Maggio Way

This song does not pay justice to anyone who served in the Vietnam War.  I’m not even sure where it came from.  Suffering a long songwriting drought, I tuned the guitar to an open chord, and there it was.  The melody requires only the picking hand.

But I do know the pain and suffering that war caused still lives today.

I see it in my friends’ eyes, hear their screams in the night, and feel the anger they exude when confronted with the Vietnam Memorial Wall.  Randall’s brother Drex and I went to the Traveling Wall in Chicago one summer, but he couldn’t get near it.  I could see the veins in his forehead sticking out, his fists clenching.

Vietnam Memorial Wall

Vietnam was invaded at least eight times — in the modern era alonebefore our attempt.  We couldn’t even learn from the French, who were defeated by the same guy who kicked our ass.  We won a majority of the battles and killed an estimated one-million-one-hundred-thousand Vietnamese and Viet Cong, but lost the war for the very same reason the French limped home in disgrace.

Inadequate Education Mixed with Greed and “Christian” Nationalism

When a Supreme Court member’s moral stance is “I love beer!” and a ten-year-old has to carry her rapist uncle’s baby to full term — or risk being charged with murder — then it’s obvious we don’t even know our history going back a mere fifty years.

We’d already learned those lessons — as polio taught us about vaccines — but lightly-educated politicians in high places are now forcing the idea into ten-year-old brains that it makes perfect sense to murder their incestuous rapists because they’re going to face a murder charge, anyway.

Kill My Rapist
Kill My Rapist!

And now polio is back.

One has to wonder if sheep wormer will be prescribed for this new outbreak.

“Christian” Nationalists say they pray to Jesus, who as a Jew believed life begins at birth, not conception.  They don’t even know the God they’re praying to, much less read and comprehend a Bible that explains love conquers, and that we should render unto Caeser what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.

A preacher I admire once said from the pulpit: "We want you to read your Bibles. Make no mistake. But please don't pick them up all at the same time because the resulting dust storm would blot out the sun."  

-- Reverand Bill Carter, Holston Conference, UMC

They do not know the horrific harms connected to a mixture of church and state foisted upon innocents across the centuries.  Our own brewing Civil War is a direct descendent of those historic horrors.

Now we have to learn them all over again via death and destruction.


I tried to research how many times Afghanistan’s been invaded, but I grew weary when I got to ten.  We couldn’t even learn from the Russians, who slunk home with their tail between their legs after the Taliban blew them out of the sky with US Stinger missiles carried by Tennessee mules.

Taliban and Stingers
Taliban and Stingers

There Was a Time is dedicated to those who served in Vietnam and live with its consequences to this day.

Our undying gratitude will never be enough, will never repair what’s been torn asunder.

 


There Was a Time …

Verse 1

There was a time when I was sixteen.

Didn’t have a guitar, and had no self-esteem.

There was a time when I turned eighteen.

Still unexposed to anything obscene.

Bridge

Then a letter came by the US Mail.

It said I had a choice:  Vietnam or jail.

Verse 2

I went to war. Yes, I did, and now

I flop around at night like an ocean squid.

I went to war. Yes, I did, and now

I flop around all night wondering what I did.

Chorus

We fought for the helicopter company Bell.

We fought for Dow Chemical as well.

Don’t ever get on the wrong side of The Man.

Do your stint and eat the Spam.

Vietnam or jail.

Verse 3

There was a time when we thought we’d win.

But the real enemy was lurking within.

That same country that sent me to war

Slaughtered my son at the Capitol’s front door.

Bridge

He was a fine policeman they said.

Then they jabbed a flag pole into his head.

Chorus

There was a time before we sold out.

There was a time when we had no doubts.

There was a time when we thought we’d win.

But the real enemy was lurking within.

 Copyright: Alarice Multimedia, LLC.

This Crazy Liberal Dude …

 

Subversive Literature
Subversive Literature

You should read it!

It’s a gruesome yet beautiful, redeeming love story about this crazy homeless liberal dude with long hair, one set of clothes, and dirty sandals who possesses an open heart, and an open mind, and then He opens doors and cares for immigrants (He was an immigrant himself), plus the sick and poor. Lepers.  

His best friends lived hand-to-mouth and stank of fish.

Wealthy “conservative” Pharisees and Sadducees don’t give a damn about the sick and poor who have already been born — they make it as hard on women as they possibly can — and they absolutely HATE the liberal.

They try to “own” Him several times, but His wit makes them turn away in shame.

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.”

They accuse Him of being “woke” after His Sermon on the Mount opened everyone’s eyes with the concept of grace:   “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

The story is set in the past and the Pharisees and Sadducees don’t have AR-15s yet to turn Him into Holy Goo (not to be confused with the Holy Ghost), so they have to nail him to a tree.

But He wins in the end!

You’ll have to read it to see how.

It parallels exactly what you see on Fox, but with the lies cut out. And it gives you comfort when you read the END OF THE STORY.

Love wins!

Hate loses!

Goats on one side, sheep on the other.

Read!

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