Sketch of a swallow, ca. 1473 - 1458 B.C.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Sketch of a swallow, ca. 1473 - 1458 B.C.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
She quickly realized that taking pictures while you walk toward people walking toward you was difficult unless you like blurry pictures. She also realized that leaving the camera on all the time ran the battery down a lot faster than she liked. And the battery would die exactly when the perfect shot appeared.
My trek through the city that day was accompanied by my intrepid photographer muttering "Yellow, yellow, yellow...."
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The last Monday of May (May 25, 2009) is set aside to commemorate U.S. men and women who died while in military service. The gravestones at many cemeteries will be graced by U.S. flags placed there by family members and volunteers.
Although I like to think of my blog as a humorous and entertaining glimpse of my life, today I want to give you a piece out of my past, and I want you to be able to see Memorial Day not as parades, picnics and flags but instead as people, families, and children, both here and gone.
HBO recently showed a special program called "Taking Chance", which depicts the Military Escort Duty of a Marine Officer, based on a true account. In case you aren't aware, a Military Escort accompanies the body of any serviceman killed in duty overseas, all the way from arrival in the United States to the burial/final service where the Military Escort presents to the family the American flag used to cover the coffin. Military Escort duty isn't assigned, Military Escorts volunteer for the duty. In January of 1968 I volunteered for service in Vietnam. And I volunteered for Military Escort Duty.
I watched the program "Taking Chance" and went to tell Susan.
Susan: I remember you did Escort Duty when we were stationed in California. Do you remember anything about it?
Me: (without thinking) His name was Brown and I took him home to a little town in Illinois.
Susan: You were in the service for 5 years and up until now the only name you can remember from that whole time was your roommate in Vietnam. But now, all of the sudden, you can remember the name of the man you did Escort Duty for?
Susan did internet research and found a U.S. Air Force Officer named Brown who died in 1968 and had an Illinois hometown. More research pulled up a post from a David Brown, asking for information about his father, Barry Lynn Brown. Was it the same person? Susan did more internet research, made many phone calls to funeral homes and VFW centers where finally she talked to a very helpful veteran, Bruce McMillan. He offered to go to his local library and do more research for her and was able to mail her a copy of the local May 6, 1968, newspaper with the large headline "...Killed in Vietnam".
I emailed David telling him I didn't know his father but that I had served as Military Escort at his father's funeral. As a result of remembering his father's name, Susan's research, and Bruce's help, I've now been able to communicate with Barry Lynn Brown's sons, David and Kent; his widow, Patty; and his grandson, Connor, who never knew his grandfather but wants to go into the Air Force. They have been incredibly generous in their appreciation of what I did for them, yet they were the ones who made the ultimate American wartime sacrifice.
What did I do for them?
When my name came up to the top of the volunteer Military Escort Duty list I got a phone call telling me that within 12 hours a flight would be arriving from Vietnam and I was to meet it to begin Escort Duty. Not until I showed up did I find out where I was going and who I was escorting. I did my best to preserve the dignity, honor and respect Barry Lynn Brown deserved. I presented the folded American flag from his coffin to his widow, "from a grateful nation".
I can think of no greater honor I could have had than the privilege of escorting the body of an American serviceman, killed in action, home to his family.
Captain Barry Lynn Brown, Killed in Action, Vietnam, May 5, 1968
On Memorial Day, when most people think of small American flags placed on gravestones, think back to May 1968 and visualize a very young widow and her two sons, ages 1½ and 2½ years old, being handed a carefully folded flag by a very solemn young man.
Think also of the family of James Clifford McKittrick. They are still waiting for him to come home. I'm still waiting to send them my POW-MIA bracelet.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, DC, April 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This photo was taken inside the Met. Susan took about 10 pictures of this same arch while we were sitting in the Cafe. Each picture had a different camera setting as she was figuring out my/our/her new camers. I tried to explain to her the important thing to remember is which setting went with what photo. Her answer to that: "Damn, if I thought that was important I wouldn't have bothered to learn how 'Delete' works."
This camera belongs to a friend who left it in Susan's safekeeping while she went to get a cup of tea. The friend takes breathtakingly beautiful photos but says "Oh, this old camera... " That statement gives it all away -- she is definitely a superb photographer.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Why this painting? Plan A: We set up a blind date with Magpie who said she'd meet us at this painting in the Met. It was like a scavenger hunt finding the painting but she fortunately didn't stand us up. Plan A Enhancement: We also arranged a meet-up with Lost Aussie and her Significant Other and we knew that would be a sure thing because we'd met them before. Lesson learned from the previous meeting: There are TWO coat check areas at The Met. If you are going to meet someone "at the coat check" be sure you specify which one.
The moons or stars or whatevers were aligned correctly because we did manage to all meet and went off to dinner together with conversations about blogging, art, travel, food and everything else under the sun. I'm a Loner by nature but meeting everyone was really special. Thank you, Lost Aussie and Magpie for being my Blog Buds.
Susan was a camera fiend on this trip and trailed behind us to get this picture as we all walked through Central Park. Susan and Magpie have decided they are twins separated at birth because they have so many similar likes and dislikes. Not that they even vaguely resemble each other.
Lost Aussie and I met in an art class over a year ago and when we came to New York City last fall I met her SO, who turned out to have gone to the same Texas college I did. The only thing missing from this gathering was The Altered Page, who had too many conflicts to make our meet-up. Next time!
Susan speaks: Many, many thanks to our New York City friends who took the time to meet us. As I struggle and fuss to put Don's blog entries up, I'll smile as I remember how good, really really good, it was to be with you.
Monday, May 18, 2009
In the video you'll hear the sound of the bell carriage but you won't see the people all watching it as it moves down. Everyone waited patiently for the bell carriage to drop and watched as it wafted through the rotunda. Magic. The special part for us isn't always the art but instead the people looking at the art. In the picture above you can barely see the bell carriage, it's just below the woman in the white shirt on the top left.
"The museum invited Ann Hamilton to respond to The Third Mind with a site-specific installation in the museum rotunda. Her work, human carriage (2009) is a mechanism composed of two elements: 'book weights' made from thousands of cut-up books that ascend and descend the rotunda heights via a pulley system, and a pair of Tibetan cymbals encased in a white silk 'bell carriage,' which cascades down the balustrade around the rotunda spiral, its purifying ring awakening visitors with random chimes. Human carriage is a metaphor for the power of the transmission of ideas through books, which, in the artist's words, 'leaves no material trace but which might forever change you.' "
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Usually the Porcupine Cakes are little miniatures, just right for the two of us to split. But sometimes they just have the large one, suitable for frenzied attack. That's why the refrigerator is important because when you want Porcupine Cake for breakfast too..... Diligent as Susan is with the camera, this cake was already whacked into before she decided to catch her breath and take the picture.
Inside is very light and fluffy chocoate mousse and whipped cream filling, the outside is crisp chocolate g-something, twisted up into little curls. Silly as the cake looks, I like eating it, too, much to Susan's disappointment.
Was there anything else important we saw in New York City besides cake? Yes, but my Blog Wrangler is wandering off whining about missing her cake so you'll have to wait a day or so.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Street vendors sold colorful bags in front of the museum. The black and white one was tempting but we (ok, I) resisted.
Don't they have gardeners at the Guggenheim?