Last night I went to a Christmas party, and had a lovely time. Of course, in one of the back rooms the television was on so football games could be watched (Auburn wins the SEC! Coupled with an Ohio State loss, Auburn improbably is playing for the national championship! Wow!), amongst the imbibing of delicious red wine and snacking on amazing finger foods (one can never go wrong with roasted asparagus wrapped in grilled prosciutto, I find), and some also thoroughly amazing conversation about literature and history and so forth. Paul was unable to attend, so I stopped drinking around tennish and was able to drive home on a cold foggy night at around twelve thirty.
And, as you can see, I have added this years sexy Christmas icon. :)
I am taking a break from working on both the play (yes, I am writing a play) and the work-in-progress (yes, I am also writing yet another novel) and am about to make a late brunch. I've also discovered that the best way to deal with the chill of winter in my office here at the Lost Apartment is a heating pad. I've had one against my lower back pretty much this entire day thus far and it has done a most excellent job of warding off the cold, not to mention that it's keep the muscles of my lower back nice and warm and loose.
Bravo, heating pad! You will most likely become my bosom buddy during this chilly winter months.
I also have to finish proofing a pseudonymous novel, which I will probably do this evening during the Saints game.
I also need to start thinking about Christmas presents.
Anyway, back to brunch.
Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!
Seventy two years ago, at approximately 7:15 AM local time, Japanese bombers launched a sneak attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. Eight of the US Navy's finest battleships were anchored along what was called Battleship Row; the Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, California, and Pennsylvania. Within minutes the airfields on shore and the ships were ablaze; the Arizona sank in a matter of minutes with hundreds of sailors trapped inside.
Almost every one of the ships sank; the ones that didn't were severely damaged. In one stroke, the Japanese military leaders thought they had knocked the United States out of the Pacific arena and went on a lightning-like attack all over the Pacific; the Philippines, Singapore, Pearl Harbor, and other islands and archipelagoes most Americans had never heard of before. They thought they would be able to consolidate their newly conquered empire before the Americans could regroup and rebuild; they also thought the strong isolationist anti-war feeling in the country might prevail.
It was, to say the least, one of the most major miscalculations in military history. Less than four years later, their entire navy (including their merchant marine) was at the bottom of the ocean, their Air Force non-existent, their army was decimated, and the Americans now possessed weapons of mass destruction--which they had already used twice, obliterating the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in minutes--they had no choice but to unconditionally surrender.
Pearl Harbor--December 7, 1941--the 'date that will live in infamy'--has always fascinated me; as has World War II itself. (It truly staggers the mind that I have yet to go to the National World War 2 museum, which is maybe five blocks from my house.) I've always wanted to write a book about that time; who knows, I still might. I read as a teenager, at my father's insistence, James Jones' From Here to Eternity; I've not reread it since then, but I loved it at the time and it should probably be reread by me; a recent e-version was released with all the things the publisher cut out--including Jones' dealing with homosexuality in the military; it deserves to be read for that alone. I also read Herman Wouk's The Winds of War and War and Remembrance; they too remain on my list of favorites. (I think it was the summer before my senior year when I went through my phase of reading gigantic books about World War II; I could be mistaken.)
When I first went to Hawaii in 1991, I definitely wanted to go to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
In 1991, the Memorial was still operated by the US Military, and it was a moving, solemn experience. Before our group was taken out to the long white rectangular building out in the harbor, we were taken into an auditorium where we watched a film about the attack, interspersed with a tour of the wreck in slow motion, taken with underwater cameras while several voices tonelessly listed the names of the men who died on board. It was very powerful, and deeply moving. Once the short film was finished, the tour guide in his Coast Guard uniform informed us very solemnly of the rules, closing with:
This is NOT a tourist destination. Please remember that the USS Arizona is a military cemetery, so show respect for the dead, and the losses suffered by the families who loved them.
The group who'd gone into the theater were your typical tourist group, talking, pointing things out in the little museum, talking and laughing. The group that climbed into the motor launch and went out to the memorial was very different. No one spoke the entire way there, while we were there, or on the way back. We were silent in respect for the dead.
It was very powerful, and very moving.
Pearl Harbor itself is quite beautiful; Hawaii is indeed paradise. There may be more beautiful places on the planet than the Hawaiian Islands, but they are definitely in the top ten at least. The sun was shining, and the water sparkled as the launch headed out there. The ship, rusting and decaying, is clearly visible beneath the Memorial. What surprised me was that the water was so shallow; one of the Arizona's smokestacks is above the surface.
At that time, fifty years after she sank, oil bubbles still escaped in a steady stream to the surface.
It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience out there.
Unfortunately, the next time I went to Hawaii a year or so later, the Pearl Harbor Memorial had been transferred from the military to the US Parks service--and it was no longer the solemn, respectful experience it had been the previous time. The entire time I was out there, as people spoke to each other in normal tones and children ran around screaming and playing, I was horribly offended.
My maternal grandfather served in the Navy during World War II, and he served in the Pacific Theater. I've never really known the name of the ship he served on, or what he actually did; he died in his sleep long before I was born. But my grandmother's house was filled with framed pictures of him taken in his uniform in Hawaii; she had an entire box of mementoes and souvenirs he'd brought back --or sent home to her--from his service days.
So, for me, the notion that the Memorial had stopped being treated as a military cemetery, like Arlington, and was now being treated as just another national park, was horribly offensive. It was no different to me than if my grandfather's grave was being desecrated and disrespected.
When I returned to the mainland, I wrote letters of complaint to the the Department of the Navy, the National Park Service, my congress people, etc. I got the usual token form letter responses. I returned to Hawaii several more times after that trip, but I flatly refused to go back to the Memorial. I refused to be a party to the desecration of a military cemetery.
It's been almost twenty years since I've been to Hawaii, so I don't know if the same mentality governs the management of the Memorial, or if such bad conduct by visitors is still tolerated. I know that if I ever get the opportunity to write the book about Pearl Harbor that I hope to someday, I will have to return to Hawaii, and I shall have to go back out to the Memorial.
Not many people seem to note, or care, about Pearl Harbor Day anymore. Maybe they don't know what it means. Maybe they just don't care about the 1500 lives lost that day; I don't know.
On 9/11, I remember saying to Paul, "So this is how it felt to be an American on December 7th, 1941."
May those who died on 12/7/1941 always be remembered, and may they rest in peace.
It's been a truly odd week around the Lost Apartment.
Wednesday is rather a blur. I didn't sleep well on Tuesday night, and was thus tired all day; not just sleepy but that horrible, wretched feeling where every muscle and every joint and every move you make just aches. About midway through the day I started getting a horrible headache that nothing seems to make go away. I kept praying for the workday to end, so I could go home and curl up in my easy chair with Scooter purring next to me. It was on my way home from work that I realized that it was damp and muggy and warm--and I hadn't taken a Claritin (who needs Claritin in fucking December?). So I took one when I got home, and half an hour later my sinuses started draining.
Most unpleasant, but lesson certainly learned.
Needless to say, Thursday was a much more pleasant day. I slept pretty well Wednesday night (amazing what utter exhaustion can do), and had a pretty good day over all. Today's not been that great, honestly--I stayed up really late last night, and overslept this morning and never really recovered. I have managed to get a lot of stuff done that needed to be done--mindless things (I was off today) but I really needed to write today and that just didn't happen. Heavy heaving sigh.
I have to say I was highly amused by all the commentary last night's presentation of The Sound of Music Live triggered on Facebook and on Twitter--I sat in my easy chair and literally was laughing out loud at the caustic wit of my social network, which was endlessly more entertaining than the show itself could have ever dared to be. And I am no longer a huge fan of the film. I used to be; when I was a child it was the first movie I remember seeing on the big screen--we were late the showing, and we walked in on the scene where Captain Von Trapp blows the whistle and the kids march out of their rooms to meet Maria. We watched the movie all the way to the end, and then, since we'd been late, the theater let us sit through it a second time. (We really didn't really miss much at the beginning; maybe ten minutes? It was awfully generous of them, really. Of course I was about six, my sister was eight, which meant my mother was a very pretty and young looking 24...) I remember the movie theater was on 26th Street, which was about a four block walk from the apartment we lived in on the south side of Chicago, and afterwards we stopped and had something to eat at the Woolworths counter on the corner of 26th and Pulaski, another what we called then a 'big street'. 26th and 32nd Streets were big streets, and so was Pulaski--we lived one block off Pulaski.
I also remember watching it when it debuted on television when I was in my teens, and I was still pretty spellbound by it. I read both of Maria's books, both The Story of the Von Trapp Singers and Maria; I was horribly disappointed that the movie wasn't exactly true to life (like movies ever are!). I knew that they ran a B&B in Vermont, and sometimes they still performed. The movie still, though, meant a lot to me; I would watch it every time it aired.
Sometime in my cynical thirties was when I finally turned on the movie, stopped seeing it through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia and finally watching, and evaluating it, as an adult. It's terribly sentimental, overly so, certainly, but beautifully filmed, and the music is good; the loss of Julie Andrews' singing voice due to a botched throat surgery was truly a tragedy; the range! The purity! Absolutely amazing.
But now I can't help but roll my eyes whenever I see it.
For the record, I don't condemn those who still love the movie; I just no longer do. I love my memories of it; I love the memory of the six year old boy going to a movie theater for the first time with his mom and his older sister; of sitting in the theater and having my mom hold my hand; of hearing my mom humming the music softly next to me along with the enormous people on that gigantic movie screen, of seeing something magical up there on the big screen. I love my memory of going to the counter at Woolworth's and having a hamburger and french fries and a chocolate milk shake, and the nice lady working behind the counter who tweaked my nose and made me giggle.
That's the movie's magic for me; the memories it brings back to me. But I don't have to watch the movie to trigger those memories any more; I've managed to separate the memories from the film-as-trigger.
But for the record, if I ever hear the music--I smile.
And you cannot beat that incredible opening sequence, highlighting the incredible beauty of the Austrian Alps, and then the camera focusing on the twirling girl in the field as the music swells and Julie Andrews start to sing in her wonderful pure voice...
Okay, maybe I do still have soft spot for it.