Watchers, warriors and holy ones all have something in common with each of us. We all wear many hats. Baseball players and delivery drivers have their own and the colonials were no different. In fact, they pushed the limits of their day and put three corners into their hats? Take that, King George.
While unsure of the underlying purpose of the colonial design, I always liked it. In fact, the triple-cornered headgear was so popular they even wrote a song about it. Who can forget the rousing chorus of “My hat, it has three corners” [and just to be clear] “Three corners has my hat!”
Taking a cue from the worlds of horse-racing and NASCAR, let’s take a lap around all three corners and then, head for the Finish Line in a surprise ending I had not seen coming but have been itching to tell you about since last week. As you can tell, my obtuse imagination has been working overtime, so please keep all hands and feet inside the blog until it comes to a complete stop.
Corner One: Watchers.
As I left the house last weekend, I saw fire cracker papers gently blowing across the lawn.
It reminded me the Fourth of July was now July 6th. Now the 12th, barbecues have cooled and the fireworks have long since dimmed…even the die-hards who drive across the Illinois-Indiana border to buy every firework known to man have tapped out their urge to light fuses and blow stuff up in the name of the United States for which they stand.
Parade routes have been swept and outdoor concert venues have picked up all the litter from the thousands of flag-waving, sparkler twirling Citizens who turned out to enjoy the free concerts over the long weekend. My concert was via WFMT as the orchestra in Millennium Park played everything from Copeland and Gershwin to Tchaikovsky…who can’t do with a little 1812 from time to time, right?
On a slightly more cynical note, there was an article in a local paper about local festivals running the numbers after their long weekend of sponsored patriotic fervor. Apparently the Midwest saw really strong sales numbers for beer and brats this year. Just in time for Taste of Chicago to launch in the rain (ha!). So much for the Pursuit of Happiness.
But against the backdrop of hoopla, there was an excellent op-ed piece by Richard Kass in the Chicago Tribune about celebrating the Fourth of July. I’ve linked it for you, but you have to be a digital subscriber to view it online and I had the audacity to have read it in print in what people call a ‘newspaper’. [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kass/ct-kass-met-0704-20140704,0,7951599.column]
But bitterness aside, it’s no matter because his point was a good one. Look around this nation of ours and try to look at it from our Founders point-of-view; not the godlike caricatures we learned about in school (if we were lucky), but the real guys and gals that were walking around that hot summer in 1775 and then again, the following year. Would they approve of what we’ve done with the place? He closed out his essay with a call for taking a quiet and reflective moment on what this country means and what we mean to it…no parades, just a moment to think…
It made me wonder. Would they have had a clue as to how big we were going to get? Or how many of us there were going to be? Back in the 1700’s, you were lucky if you lived to the age of 40. Nearly 60% of the population worked in Agriculture – in some form and, were routinely expected to work 80-hour weeks. These were the ‘good old days’?
And if you were Native American? You had issues…real box cars of change hurtling at you too. No one was immune and the push westward was relentless…all the way to the frontiers of Pennsylvania. Hard to imagine the idea of the wild, wild, west extending as far as the Ohio River.
On the other hand, I can see our Founding Troublemakers applauding the idea of the Nation to be, being constituted with immigrants from every corner of the world. The planet had never seen anything like it – before or since. I don’t think they imagined cell phones, microwaves or 9-1-1. All they had were some church bells, a local militia (if you were lucky) and your own wits to outsmart a still very wild and sometimes hostile countryside. Building a barn? No DIY Network…just neighbors (again, if you were lucky). And if you needed a doctor? Better hope there was a blacksmith within riding distance or you might just be dead.
Early last week, I was heading back to the parking lot after work as Ryan came towards me, headed in. I can’t say I really knew Ryan all that well except to say I thought he was good stand-up kind of guy. Large and quiet, I had heard he’d done several tours in Iraq and then Afghanistan which is apparently where he learned how to make the large heavy equipment in our warehouse dance like Fred Astaire.
“Big plans for the 4th?”
He mumbled something about him and some other vets getting together with their families…but no, no big plans. And mind you, all of this took place in the time it took to approach, pause and then continue on our respective ways, so it wasn’t that he came across rude or anything. That wouldn’t be Ryan. But something didn’t sit right. But like I said, conversational pleasantries being what they are, I didn’t push it and let it go. I wanted to get home.
On Thursday, I heard someone calling after me to wait up. It was Ryan who caught up to me. “You know the other day when you asked me about the 4th?” I nodded. “Well you see, I don’t make a big deal about it or anything, but ever since I got back, I don’t always sleep, so putting explosions together with crowds isn’t a good idea…so I sort of, well, I lied. We’re actually staying home and not really doing anything at all. A few of my buddies and some of their families are coming over, but it’s a real quiet kinda thing. You’re more than welcome to stop by if you want. I know you meant good the other day. I’m sorry.”
Until that Thursday, it had not even dawned on me how many of our veterans were choosing not to be at the hundreds of red, white and blue parties thrown from sea-to-shining-sea and often, in their honor.
Back in the day, they did not have a name for it, but today we know what to call it. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Not once, not one time, had the thought of a guy like Ryan having to wrestle with PTSD ever crossed my mind.
On another Thursday back in 1863, Edward Everett was the principal speaker of the day’s program of dedication and ceremony. He spoke for over two-hours. Seated and hatless, none had any idea the impact the next speaker would have in just over two-minutes.
But before the next speech, let me first say one of my treasured and vivid memories in my adult life was walking around the Mall in Washington, DC with our host and a few friends after a night of dinner, drinks and some laughs at a comedy club. Around midnight, we had wandered to find ourselves at the top of the stairs and in front of Mr. Lincoln in his chair. You know the one.
Just him – and us.
So unexpected and surreal, our animated conversations trailed off as each of us stopped to take it in. After a few minutes, one of us started reading out loud, reciting Mr. Lincoln’s now famous words etched into the interior walls of the memorial that bears his name.
One by one, the rest of us joined him reading in what was now a reverent unison. No cathedral in Europe could have teleported me back across the words I’d learned in elementary school so many years before like the Lincoln Memorial did that night. It was holy. The memory of that night is so palpable I can only wonder what it would have been to be on that Gettysburg field some 150 years ago or so. Born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana and coming from Illinois where he had made his home, it was now late in the afternoon, when Abraham Lincoln rose to address the now restless crowd of 10-20,000 people. They had no idea what was coming…
FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH ON THIS CONTINENT A NEW NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL • NOW WE ARE ENGAGED IN A GREAT CIVIL WAR TESTING WHETHER THAT NATION OR ANY NATION SO CONCEIVED AND SO DEDICATED CAN LONG ENDURE • WE ARE MET ON A GREAT BATTLEFIELD OF THAT WAR • WE HAVE COME TO DEDICATE A PORTION OF THAT FIELD AS A FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR THOSE WHO HERE GAVE THEIR LIVES THAT THAT NATION MIGHT LIVE • IT IS ALTOGETHER FITTING AND PROPER THAT WE SHOULD DO THIS • BUT IN A LARGER SENSE WE CAN NOT DEDICATE~WE CAN NOT CONSECRATE~WE CAN NOT HALLOW~THIS GROUND • THE BRAVE MEN LIVING AND DEAD WHO STRUGGLED HERE HAVE CONSECRATED IT FAR ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT • THE WORLD WILL LITTLE NOTE NOR LONG REMEMBER WHAT WE SAY HERE BUT IT CAN NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY DID HERE • IT IS FOR US THE LIVING RATHER TO BE DEDICATED HERE TO THE UNFINISHED WORK WHICH THEY WHO FOUGHT HERE HAVE THUS FAR SO NOBLY ADVANCED • IT IS RATHER FOR US TO BE HERE DEDICATED TO THE GREAT TASK REMAINING BEFORE US~THAT FROM THESE HONORED DEAD WE TAKE INCREASED DEVOTION TO THAT CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY GAVE THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION~THAT WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN~THAT THIS NATION UNDER GOD SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM~AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH •
Corner Three: Watchers, Warriors and the holy ones.
I almost talked myself out of it, but I could not get Ryan’s unexpected invitation out of my head. So, at the last minute, I turned the car around and headed out to the little village in Chicago’s western suburbs where they live. Within minutes of having pulled into their driveway, Ryan had come from around back with a big grin on his face. Soon, he was introducing me to his wife, Lisa, their 4-year old, Zachary and their newest addition to the family, a 6-month old black Labrador named Billy. As we headed into the back, more introductions were made to a few of his friends and their loved ones scattered across the deck and the yard behind it. I don’t know why I’d been so apprehensive. Everyone made me feel at-home from the get-go. “Here, you like brats?” As the conversation in the backyard wandered across every topic you could think of (except the war), I got up and followed Ryan inside to give him a hand in bringing out the next round of food. These vets can eat!
Loaded with plates and making our way back out through the family room, I spied a book about Lincoln sitting open and face down on his coffee table. I don’t know where the question came from, but I heard myself blurting, “You like Lincoln?”
“Oh yeah, I guess I’m sort of a history geek…”
“Yeah, me too” and I went on to tell him about my midnight run with the former president and his words. “What do you think about the Gettysburg address?”
“You know I get why you did it. I don’t do it much, but sometimes, at night when the gunfire is keeping me awake (pointing to his head) and no one is around, I read the speech…out loud too” as he said with a grin.
“Yeah? And what’s it do for you when you read it?”
“You really want to know?”
“Yes. I really want to know. That’s why I’m asking!”
“OK. Straight up. It makes me cry most times. The things I saw; the friends that died in front of me; stuff I had to do. But you know what, what’s worst are the sounds. They never really ever leave. So when I imagine being able to hear Lincoln’s voice as he said what he said that day in Gettysburg, there’s a peace that comes over me…He knew the bloodshed was his call. He knew that because of what he thought was right, so many had died. He knew that. He went to bed with that every night, yet he stood fast in spite of it all. He knew what was at stake and what had to be done. So do I.” And with that, bolt-out-of-the-blue, he set the plates down on the counter as his shoulders drooped just a little and his breathing heaved ever so slightly. I could tell he’d just been hit by a moment and I did not know what to do. I’d really only just met him and here we are talking about Lincoln…and now we were suddenly deep in unknown territory.
Vets must have radar. Each one of them must have their own heaving moments, because about that moment, they silently started drifting into the room. There was no shame or attempt to stifle or glorify the emotion. It wasn’t long before they, his fellow vets, had pulled in a little closer, loosely gathering around us.
Feeling a little awkward and suddenly out-of-place being there, I must have taken a few steps back when I saw his wife walk up to him and put her hand on his shoulder. He pulled her in close and she whispered something. With that, his friends instinctively pulled in tight around them both and closed their circle. But as they did, one of them turned to me and pulled me inside. I was in awe.
There, in the middle of this huddle I did not know, Ryan looked me in the eye and squeezed my shoulder. Not a word was said. If there were tears, I did not see them in the evening light. If there was sorrow, all I saw was love. And there was pain, but it was carried by all of them. No one was left behind. And then, there was me – not having fought those kinds of battles; not having an insight (until that night) of just how real the wars still are for those with PTSD; feeling a sense of common unity that floored me. I did not want to even speak lest I end the moment.
Several hours later, I made my good-byes and headed back out to the driveway. But not long after I’d left their house, I pulled over into a grocery store parking lot and just sat there…thinking. Reflecting like Kass had suggested, so deeply honored to have witnessed such a communal act of healing. I almost feel like I’m cheating to even be telling you about it.
While I don’t want to mix the metaphors, if my Lincoln Memorial experience was almost spiritual, then this actually was. I’m still taken a little off balance by the whole thing.
We all have battles to fight. Like my new friend, each one of us has come to a point where we knew there was no other choice but to earn our independence and then, keep it. Many of us carry the scars from those battles. But that’s fine. Nothing wrong with scars…sometimes I look at them like medals and put them back until next time.
But if we’re lucky, really, really lucky, we can pause like Ryan knew to do that night and remember that each of us has each other to circle around when the weight is too heavy or the gunfire in our heads gets too loud.
On Friday morning, I was headed into the office as Ryan was coming out. To anyone else, there was nothing different in our greeting-in-passing. But they’d be wrong. No brass bands or anything, but there was just an extra depth to it when we locked eyes for just a second. He smiled and nodded to me as we passed, “Hiya”.
Without going into the full motion or even breaking stride, I caught myself making a small gesture of saluting. He grinned and then, returned it. (How cool is that?!)
God bless us, the Watchers. God bless us, the Warriors – the ones who died and more importantly, the ones who have returned. In my humble estimation, it is they who are truly the holy ones among us.
I did not know you then, but I know you now. You are my friend. Hats off.
born Erdélyi Tamás;
January 29, 1949 – July 11, 2014
TOMMY RAMONE, LAST ORIGINAL MEMBER OF THE RAMONES, DIES AT 65
Drummer Tommy Ramone, born Tamás Erdélyi, the last of the founding members of the seminal 1970s punk band The Ramones, has died. He was 65.
An announcement on the band’s Facebook page said Ramone died on Friday at his home in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. Ramone had been in hospice care for bile duct cancer, NPR has confirmed with Peter Erdelyi, Tommy’s brother.
Entertainment trade publication Variety writes that Ramone “played on the first three epoch-making Ramones albums, ‘Ramones’ (1976), ‘Leave Home’ (1977) and ‘Rocket to Russia’ (1977). He also co-produced the latter two albums with Tony Bongiovi and Ed Stasium, respectively. He appeared on and co-produced the 1979 live Ramones opus ‘It’s Alive.'”
As The Los Angeles Times explains:
“The band, whose members adopted a last name used by Paul McCartney to reserve hotel rooms in the Beatles years, were known for their bowl haircuts, ripped jeans and less-than-polished musical style.
“The four-member Ramones came out of Queens with limited musical skills, but by 1976, their staccato riffs and full-frontal garage rock assaults began to make their mark on British punk musicians. The band has been acknowledged by many as the inventors of punk rock.”
Reuters adds that the band “had limited chart success but deeply influenced scores of musicians who would go on to form bands such as the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Nirvana and Green Day.”
“They were seen as masters of minimalist, under two-and-a-half minute tunes played at blistering tempo, such as ‘Blitzkrieg Bop,’ ‘I Wanna be Sedated,’ ‘Rockaway Beach,’ and ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker.’ “
The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Source: NPR: by SCOTT NEUMAN July 12, 2014 8:32 AM ET
LORIN VARENCOVE MAAZEL
March 6, 1930 – July 13, 2014
Mazzel, Brilliant, Intense and Enigmatic Conductor, Dies at 84
“Lorin Maazel, a former child prodigy who went on to hold the music directorships of the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera and several other ensembles and companies around the world, and who was known for his incisive and sometimes extreme interpretations, died on Sunday at his home in Castleton, Va. He was 84.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Jenny Lawhorn, a spokeswoman for Mr. Maazel. He had been rehearsing for the Castleton Festival, which takes place on his farm, in recent weeks.
Mr. Maazel (pronounced mah-ZELL) was a study in contradictions, and he evoked strong feelings, favorable and otherwise, from musicians, administrators, critics and audiences.
He projected an image of an analytical intellectual — he had studied mathematics and philosophy in college, was fluent in six languages (French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, as well as English) and kept up with many subjects outside music — and his performances could seem coolly fastidious and emotionally distant. Yet such performances were regularly offset by others that were fiery and intensely personalized.”
Read the full article about this amazing man in the NYTimes article by13, 2014): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/14/arts/music/lorin-maazel-brilliant-intense-and-enigmatic-conductor-dies-at-84.html?_r=0
Ye watchers and ye holy ones is a popular Christian hymn written by Athelstan Riley (1858–1945). It is sung to the German tune Lasst Uns Erfreuen which also goes by the name Vigiles et Sancti. Its uplifting melody make this a favourite Anglo-Catholic hymn during times of great rejoicing.
LISTEN IF YOU LIKE, YOU MAY RECOGNIZE IT:
Recorded Sunday morning Eucharist 1990 at St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, Director of Music – Alistair Pow. Source material from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ye_Watchers_and_Ye_Holy_Ones
GOOGLE ON “ptsd veterans help” and hundreds of resources will be there…one can help you or someone you know. An excellent springboard for more on PTSD is the Resource List Off The Base (a WordPress Blog) provides. At ease? Not till the wars have stopped on the insides of every one of those who risked it all and came home. http://offthebase.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/10-things-you-can-do-to-help-veterans-with-ptsd/ Another Resource: http://acutakehealth.com/help-for-veterans-with-ptsd
PHOTO CREDITS: Military Hats – 5 Panel + Marge – Compiled by dan4kent. (L to R) 17th Polish-Lithuanian Uhlan Officer 17th Corps 1812 Czapkas; Confederate Artillery Officers Kepi 2nd Pattern; Military hat, Italian Wool, leather metmuseum.org; 1774 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldier Hat; Bearskin. photo by marcus_jb1973 on Flickr cbnd Some rights reserved. And thanks to Marge Simpson in her role as a one woman army. General Washingtons Tricorn: https://suite.io/brian-deming/32522ak; Barbecue (unknown); Flag at Night from another fine WordPress blogger. Check out her page…wonderful (and real) stuff to enjoy: http://adventuresinjuggling.me/2014/07/04/boom-boom-boom-even-brighter-than-the-moon-murica-and-all-that-sht/; Lincoln’s address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, November 19, 1863: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a05745/; Lincoln photo at Gettysburg_National Archives and Records Administration. The Smithsonian. Jump for an interactive lesson: http://americanhistory.si.edu/documentsgallery/exhibitions/gettysburg_address_4.html; Private Agony: http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com/2011/06/walking-wounded-part-2.html; Salvatore at Gettysburg. READ MORE ABOUT IT: World War II veteran Salvatore Scherma remembers his wartime buddy Martin Egler, and others on Memorial Day By Brian Albrecht, The Plain Dealer on May 25, 2009 at 6:45 AM: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/05/world_war_ii_veteran_salvatore.html ; Text Pic from acupuncture-for-PTSD-in-veterans_full: The Watchers by Laurence Winram as found on One Eyeland and described as being “shot in the Scottish borders using willpower alone”: http://oneeyeland.com/photo_gallery/the_watchers_laurence_winram_14836 ; http://homepage.ntlworld.com/davidjstokes/1700.html
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