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Monday, May 30, 2005

Over-paid, Over-sexed, Over Here

T-PearblossomSm.jpgHE FIRST TIME I drove my family to Vegas, drove the van the back way to Vegas, the Pearblossom way, the dust-deviled road through California Mojave; first time I drove us all through the desert, was struck by its barrenness, its emptiness. Nuthin' here but wind and dirt and rock and scrub; split-handed Joshua trees fielding distant cragged hills. Drove us through tiny tumbleweeded towns with high-numbered streets, 133rd, 215th, city streets without a city out there in the middle of nowhere. Careful here, she says, Slow down: Highway Patrol are bored as raptors and wait to fall upon casino-headed prey. Wondered, first, How on earth d'they ever make a livin' here?, these tumbledown towns, snarled old-timers rocking in the wind beside 50's-style pumps, overalled mechanics glowering, spitting in the dust? Wondered next - call me hokey if you will - wondered why on earth they ever came? Why would men from way out emptiness of here where News seems not to reach, as far-removed as I had ever seen, why would men from here sail six thousand miles to die cold frozen-fingered deaths in shell-torn forests of Belgium or beaches and hedgerows of Normandy?

They did not have to come, but I'm grateful that they did.

As every schoolboy briton will attest who spent his summers playing Japsies in the woods or Dead Man's Fall, t'was feisty Tommy stood foursquare and beat the hated Hun? The Yanks - when finally they joined - arrived too late when all the work was done, in time to rob us of our glory and our wummin? It was not so. Though stand we did and battered and blitzed and blockaded we were; though valiant we tried in Africa, in Norway, Malta and Dieppe, we were not quite enough to turn the tide and send Fritz running with his tail between his legs. We steadfast isolated island we, it was a close-run thing, and though too proud perhaps to openly admit, we needed them; we called, and they replied. Out of cities and farms and even empty desert, from every tiny town across a continent wider than the ocean.

They did not have to come, but I'm grateful that they did.

Today this day it is Memorial Day - what we would call Rememberance Day - wherein remembered are the dead who fought in foreign wars; who came, but never back again. Of those who answered country's call and sailed and fought wherever they were told, who died there, bitter soaking deaths an ocean away, and all for people they had never met nor likely ever would. This, then, is my rememberance, a man full-grown without the press of jackboot to his throat, who never had to lift a finger in his life and all because of other people's sacrifice; this is my rememberance, simple perhaps but keenly felt:

I know they did not have to come, but I'm grateful that they did.

4 Comments:

Blogger DarkoV said...

Simply
Gorgeous.
My hat's off to catch the tears.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous madame l. said...

i hear you. seen. thanks.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous stephenesque said...

The sentiments you admirably express are well foreshadowed in the old Brit war time film, "A Canterbury Tale" - sadly not available on video in the U.S (of course). It's about a G.I who gets off at the wrong train station in rural Kent. Good stuff.

6:39 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

I loved that movie, which was so not what I was expecting it to be. I had never read the Tales, but hearing its prologue spoken at the introduction to the movie made me rush out etc... Rather like the vasty fields of France in this poor cockpit made me go read Henry V.

7:26 AM  

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