Thursday, June 30, 2011

Forever on a caravan trail

Prolific author James Michener once wrote a novel entitled, "Caravans." The book deals with traveling through Afghanistan immediately after World War II, and reveals the complexities and nuances of life in that country in view of the cultural and social differences between America and that distant nation. It would have been wise for President George Bush and U.S. military commanders to have read that novel before embarking on warfare there, however, it should not have been necessary for the drivers of these vehicles to have done so before embarking with their caravan from southern Minnesota to the Twin Cities. Should it? After all, how many cultural and social differences can there be between rural Minnesota and metropolitan Minnesota? a reader might ask. More than one would suspect, replies the wolf.

No doubt, someone knows

During the past eighteen months, I will have lived in eight locations. How many is too many? When is enough enough?

During this interval, I never have changed my mail address -- nor my primary email address, nor my banks, nor my driver's license, nor my concealed carry permit. I have owned one house (sold it) and four vehicles, one of them twice (sold it, bought it back, sold it again). They have been licensed in three different states.

Do not ask me how or why these things are the way they are. They are -- if you want them to be -- part of living in modern times, in the electronic world, in the age of anonymity. But, this also is living in a world that is unchanged since Day One: It is living as part of a caravan that sometimes pauses, but never stops.

During this time, I have been active at exploring the sea of blogs, yet only one person actually knows my name, my age, my real family history and my background thoroughly. Much of my past regarding education, military experience and marital history is right out front, but how much about the "real me" such data actually reveals is questionable.

My hair color and its length change when the mood strikes; my facial hair comes and goes; sometimes I wear glasses, other times I do not; my lifestyle changes and I blend in with whatever social or ethnic group interests me at the moment.

I suppose I was a bit paranoid about revealing my actual identity the first year or so of drifting upon the sea of blogs, which explains some of this, but mostly it reflects the "chameleon characteristic" born from being a reporter. I have written about it in the past on occasion. Most simply, it means this: Be who you want to be and be who you need to be, but always be in motion so the world never catches up to you.

All this amounts to another nonsensical piece of wandering words and leaves us with the question: What is next; where will the caravan lead? No doubt, someone knows. But, whom?

Freedom, baby .... freedom

For anyone who has not looked at a calendar recently, here is a not-too-subtle reminder that the anniversary of American Independence Day is soon to arrive.

Guitar "legend" and outspoken supporter of the right of any and all Americans to personally own and bear firearms, Ted Nugent, celebrated the Fourth of July with a concert in Deeee-Troit (= Detroit) on Independence Day in 2008. Here is one of the songs performed at that concert.

For anyone not familiar with Nugent, he is main man on the guitar. The singer is Derek St. Holmes.

I sincerely hope any and all Americans will take a few moments on July 4, 2011, to reflect on the magnitude of the act and the courage of the participants on that day in 1776 when 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence to break away from England and to proclaim the then-existing thirteen colonies as independent states.

In this manner, birth was given through forceful words and force of arms to a concept which evolved into a nation with freedom and equality for all -- so far, anyway.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

To spin the wheel of fate

Every June 25, my thoughts drift to the most significant fight in the forty-year history of the American Plains Indian Wars: The battle between the U.S. Army Seventh Calvary under the command of George Armstrong Custer and a band of mostly Sioux Indians whose leaders included Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. The event generally is referred to as Custer's Last Stand, since the five troops (a troop being the cavalry equivalent of an infantry company) under his immediate command were destroyed to the last trooper. The photograph shows Custer and his officers and the ladies of the Seventh Calvary during their days of wine and roses, on a picnic near Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota a year before the battle. Custer, wearing a buckskin jacket, is standing at the center of the photo. His wife, Elizabeth (Libby), is to his right. Ten of the fourteen men in this photo were killed at the Little Big Horn, including two of Custer's brothers  and his brother-in-law. A nephew, not present for this photo, also was killed there.

Once upon a time in the West

Have you ever wished you could have been somewhere even if it probably would have been the end of you?

At the risk of being ridiculed for these words (and I have been in the past), I wish I could have been among those riding with the ill-fated expedition of George A. Custer one-hundred-thirty-five years ago today.

Without going into detail about this event, suffice to say not a single one among all those troopers who were under the direct command of Custer lived to see the sunset on June 25, 1876. Neither am I going to turn this into a post about Custer, his life, his demise and all manner of data about the Plains Indian Wars, which lasted from the early 1850s until the battle/massacre at Wounded Knee in South Dakota on December 29, 1890.

For the most part, I respect and admire Custer, and, with exception of the events at the Little Big Horn River in Montana on June 25, I envy the charmed life he led until the very last day of his life. And, I firmly believe that under the circumstances, he made sound judgments that day, too, with one or two exceptions, which may or may not have sealed his fate.

Critics will say his battlefield tactics resulted in a rout and the annihilation of his immediate command. Having studied both the battlefield in person and cavalry tactics of the era via the written word, my own opinion is that, in most instances, his officers and troopers acted appropriately and according to textbook procedures.

His primary mistake was not to run his own Crow Indian scouts far enough ahead of the main body and not to heed the advice for caution given by these scouts, whose eyes and knowledge of the country were superior to Custer's own. How can a few hundred stand against a few thousand and hope to survive -- much less to win? But, fate in many forms converged on the grassy plains of Montana that day, and if any one of a half-dozen elements had varied only slightly, history would have been written differently.

Not having my reference material, which remains packed away in a storage unit, I can only paraphrase the events, and this is one of my favorite recollections of the aftermath. Following the defeat, a court-martial was held to determine if the deceased Custer had disobeyed orders. During the proceedings, a soldier from among those not under Custer's immediate command was asked if "the general" was good at passing information along to the men under his command. The soldier responded to this effect: "No sir. All we generally knew was that somewhere along the line the bugler would blow the order to charge."

That is what Custer did on June 25, and more than two hundred men died as a result of that last charge. Custer's luck ran out.

In any case, I would like to have been there. This is not because I have a death wish, but, rather, because I like to think that while all others perished, that barring just plain bad luck, I would have made it out as the only survivor. Oh, how I would love to have been there and to have spun the wheel of fate.

Most choose to perch, some to fly

A few days ago, I wrote these words in a note to another, and I thought I would post them here to see what, if any, reaction they might draw:

I do not know if you recall, but when I was writing posts in 2009 and sometimes in 2010, too, I would refer to the "incarnations" of my life. For instance, when I was in the Marine Corps, this was an incarnation; when I worked as a journalist, it was an incarnation; when I worked in prison corrections, this was still another incarnation.

Some people say they have a "role in life to fulfill" or a "calling" or a "career they love," or use phrases similar to those to describe how they have found a place in the world to call their own.

Well, I never have found a single place. I have worked at many jobs in many locations; had many varied interests in books and activities and hobbies; have been married twice; and have found temporary happiness and affection in many places and through doing many things.

Sometimes, I am sad because I have no lasting place in the world and no lasting love in my life. But, more often, I am glad that I have had the opportunity to experience so much of what life has to offer, rather than to perch on one branch doing the same work in the midst of the same people for years and years and years. I hope to experience more yet.

Maybe, that is the manner of life that awaits you, too -- a life of many experiences, a life of many "incarnations" -- rather than a single niche, a solitary role.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thinking, planning, listening ....

A riddle: What do a photograph of a storm cloud over a harbour, a twenty-two-year-old sort of love song by a British rock band called "Bad Company," a song proclaiming freedom by a Russian rock band and still another song about the "Wind of Change" by a German rock band performed during a concert in Poland have in common?

Something special ....