Iron Filings - 51
September 1, 2017
Iron Filings – 51
I would like to invite all those interested to join a new International Society that I am starting at this very moment. There are no membership dues, no meetings, no funny outfits. We will be doing community service of a particular sort, which is (this is our membership pledge): Whenever someone says “Thank you” to me I will not thank them in return, nor will I say “No problem.” I will say, “You’re welcome.”
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Note From A Citizen Concerned About A Whole Lot (me) – There are those of us who lived through the Cold War, who saw missile silos built in the Dakotas and Nike missile installations built near Chicago and many other cities, whose freshman year in college found us gathered around televisions in the Student Center wondering and fearful over whether or not the Cuban crisis would unleash ICBM’s throughout the world, and who are now wondering what’s going to happen with the crackpot in North Korea, Kim Jong Un – the young lion who now has ICBM’s capable of hitting the United States, and who, currently, says he’s planning on attacking the U.S. protectorate in the South Pacific, Guam.
I learned a lot about Guam in the sixties. We moved into my Uncle Jack’s house in DeKalb when he accepted a job as principal of George Washington High School in Agaña, Guam. He took his brand new Chevrolet Impala with him and then lamented that the salty sea air was not kind to his new car. When he returned to the States after five years and sought another job in education, he found that his experience in Guam was somehow – credentially speaking – not recognized by California education officials. Thus, he had to begin as a substitute teacher.
Uncle Jack was an interesting character. When I began writing I was intrigued to learn that his wife, Kitty, was a cousin of one of my favorite writers, Ray Bradbury. I often hoped that that family connection would allow me to meet him one day but that never happened.
Uncle Jack was a musician by trade and training, and also a concert pianist. For many years, before Guam, he worked at the Illinois State Training School for Boys near St. Charles. Most significantly (for me) he started a drum and bugle corps at the school. A high point of every year here in DeKalb was the Northern Illinois University Homecoming parade, one of the truly classy features of which was the ISTSB Drum and Bugle Corps performing and maneuvering with my uncle marching alongside. With a little shuffling of my own I’d get to the front of the crowd when I saw them coming and he’d give me a big smile. I used to wonder if he was just happy to see me or if he was happy that I (a drummer, too) wasn’t a part of his corps.
So we connect with strange places in strange ways at strange times. Uncle Jack died a long time ago – lung cancer, his Pall Malls ever-present in a steel cigarette case. Were he alive today he would, of course, be worried about Guam. He’d made a lot of friends there that he kept in touch with over the years so the idea of the King of the Hermit Kingdom using that island for geopolitical leverage would have been horrifying.
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Landscape Woes Update – Our four new trees are healthy and beautiful, and the new front lawn has come up lush and vigorous, some crabgrass rearing its ugly spread but that’s a manageable pluck. I will not, however, talk about our water bill.
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Gayle and I – we graduated in the same high school class – have a class reunion coming up this month. It’s amazing how, as the class ages (and, alas, keeps growing smaller), these reunions become much more gentle affairs. For the most part, we’re all just happy to see whomever shows up, congratulatory toward those who remain relatively fit and healthy, and more than willing to listen to the litany of ailments of those who feel the need to so recite. Achievements, wealth, position, status – those just don’t mean all that much anymore. Maybe they never did.
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Like most people, I have been puzzled by the tragic collisions of two U.S. warships with freighters in the last two months. I mean, these are billion dollar boats presumably equipped with enough technology to spot a fly in a hurricane, yet in the middle of the night they can’t spot the running lights of a giant tanker bearing down on them – let alone noticing suspicious, and large, radar blips coming way too close, or little widgets on a G.P.S.? Maybe it’s time to bring back the crow’s nest and keep a sailor high on a mast looking out for things.
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Why do we have to spend so much time wondering what our president is going to do next?
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G.K.Wuori © 2017
Photoillustration by the author