Cavalry State of Mind: A Book Review

If you ain’t Cav you ain’t shit! – traditional U.S. Cavalry saying

A book review of Jimmy Blackmon’s* Pale Horse: Hunting Terrorists and Commanding Heroes in the 101st Airborne Division

U.S. military leadership and civilian policy makers are once again eyeing Europe and Russia’s assumed resurgence as a near-peer competitor. Talk of issues like Russia’s new army divisions being established in its Western and Southern Military Districts has NATO generally, and the U.S. specifically dusting off Cold War era manuals and refocusing U.S. military efforts back on mechanized warfare. After 15 years of fighting wars that primarily consist of counterinsurgency (COIN) and counter-terrorism (CT) operations, many U.S. military and civilian leaders are wondering what COIN and CT lessons (learned over the past decade and a half) can be transferred with the U.S. military’s strategic pivot from Iraq and Afghanistan to eastern Europe as well as to the western Pacific. Colonel (Ret.) Jimmy Blackmon’s Pale Horse: Hunting Terrorists and Commanding Heroes in the 101st Airborne Division provides a guide on the lessons learned in Afghanistan that can be transferred to any future conflict. Colonel Blackmon’s simple premise of cavalry being a state of mind, with its inherent missions of reconnaissance and security, and how leaders empower and develop subordinates is both tactically and strategically sound for any battle, present or future.

Unlike most war memoirs, Colonel (then Lieutenant Colonel) Blackmon’s book on commanding an Army aviation task force (7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) doesn’t specifically focus on his experience, instead it focuses on the 7-17 Cav troopers and the infantry soldiers they supported in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces. As Col. Blackmon told me “my book isn’t about me, it’s about the soldiers, and it’s the story of their fight.” Col. Blackmon provides a view of the war in Afghanistan as it is fought from above, and provides insight into battles fought at Wanat, Korengal, and OP Bari Ali. This perspective provides the reader with a certain clarity that is rarely found in the media coverage of the war in Afghanistan.Task Force (TF) Pale Horse was not a traditional air cavalry squadron when it deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. TF Pale Horse was task organized with OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, AH-64D Apaches, CH-47F Chinooks, UH-60M Black Hawks, UH-60L Medevac, and Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles. TF Pale Horse didn’t just supply and support the ground forces; TF Pale Horse became a battlefield sensor. This sensor mission required every pilot, regardless of helicopter (or its traditional role of lift, attack, or reconnaissance), every aircraft crew member, and every member of the TF’s headquarters element to embrace the concept of reconnaissance and security. After every mission, pilots and air crews were to observe and report what they saw and encountered. Pilots were required to debrief the TF’s intelligence section following each mission. This cavalry state of mind of observing and reporting wasn’t something Col. Blackmon and his TF were specifically tasked to do, it was a mission that TF Pale Horse developed and executed to support the U.S. Army ground commander in the Central Kunar Valley.

In addition to imbuing every TF Pale Horse pilot with what Colonel Blackmon calls “a cavalry state of mind,” Col. Blackmon also, like all good leaders, empowered his subordinates and staff to develop new tactics and techniques. One such empowerment was the developing and encouraging the TF intelligence section to glean and analyze the information provided by TF pilots and air crew. This analysis resulted in what they called their enemy’s (named the “syndicate” by the intel section) Modus Operandi Template (MOTEMP). This MOTEMP helped TF Pale Horse interdict and disrupt the syndicate’s attacks on U.S. forces in the Central Kunar Valley. The syndicate’s MOTEMP showed a consistent, and complacent (a fatal mistake) process in which the enemy would get supplies and weapons from the bordering region of Pakistan, move these supplies and weapons through the Hindu Kush mountains to cache sites in the Central Kunar Valley. Following the movement and caching of supplies and weapons, the syndicate would meet, plan, and rehearse its next set of attacks. As with most counterinsurgency forces, the syndicate would then move to fighting positions, attack, coordinate follow on attacks if possible, and then regress. Because TF intel section’s correct analysis and identifying the syndicate’s stand operating procedure before, during, and after an attack, TF Pale Horse was able to begin interdicting and disrupting the enemy prior to it executing its attacks.

What Col. Blackmon’s Pale Horse shows is what good leaders have always known, and that is empowering subordinates to adjust the mission on the fly is a key ingredient in tactical success. The cavalry concept of reconnaissance and security cannot be successful unless every cav trooper believes in it. Col. Blackmon created a command environment which enabled attack, lift, utility, and recon helicopter pilots to become integral components of a cavalry outfit. Col. Blackmon empowered an intelligence section, led by a captain, to do what intelligence analysts do best and that is look at a puzzle or problem and then connects the dots based on good field reports and analytical acumen.

The concept of leading through empowerment of subordinates and molding a military unit into a single cohesive entity that is capable of interdicting and disrupting the enemy is not novel nor is it specific to Afghanistan. Even though Col. Blackmon’s memoir doesn’t provide strategic-level insight, it does provide an example of how military units should be led regardless of the type of unit it is, and it shows how a good command environment produces unique and effective ways to fight the enemy. Col. Blackmon tells a good war story of TF Pale Horse and its operations in Afghanistan if one takes his book at a singular level, but he also provides an example of how any fight in any area of operations or theater can be affected by the leader’s willingness to empower subordinates to innovate and then use those innovations in the fight. Pale Horse is more than a war memoir, it is a testament to the TF’s men and women, and it is a timeless guide on how to lead.

*Disclaimer: I am a friend and former National War College classmate of Jimmy’s.

An exploding Moon and Sexless Reproduction: Book Review of Seven Eves

My problem with fiction is either I have to make a series of unrealistic leaps of faith to follow a story or the book’s protagonist is undeserving of my sympathy…and gaining my sympathy through your writing is hard. Case in point…I loved Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye when I was in the 9th grade…what exploding of testosterone 14 year-old boy doesn’t love a sarcastic and foul-mouthed main character? Who didn’t identify with Holden’s resentment of the “phony” adult world? Sadly, upon revisiting Salinger’s Catcher later in life (reread it when I was 35) revealed that Holden was a typical know-it-all teen that had yet to experience life nor did he comprehend the daily compromises that adults face their whole life…Holden Caulfield had not aged well. Granted…I probably haven’t aged well either…but if a good book is going to be really good…then I should be able to reread a book 20 years later and be entertained. Salinger’s Catcher didn’t entertain me…it disappointed…I no longer had sympathy for Holden. I felt betrayed…and probably more betrayed by myself and my adult life…but I wasn’t reading Catcher at 35 to find some philosophical foundation…I was rereading it to be entertained.

Today, when I read fiction, I am not looking for some greater or higher moral or philosophy. Instead, I read fiction for two reasons…one is to be entertained, and two, to escape what Caulfield would have called my “phony” adult life. If I am going to read fiction I better be entertained and I better not have to make some unbelievable leaps to appreciate the story. I would like to say I have some genre that I prefer over the other when it comes to fiction, but I don’t. There isn’t a single type of fiction that I gravitate to over the other. There are, however, certain genres I usually avoid…and one of those is science fiction. Even though my academic nerdy adult persona may seem to indicate that I am a sci-fi fan…I am…in fact…not a fan of space travel, aliens, and tight-fitting space leotards…even though I will admit that I had been known to masturbate to Jane Fonda in Barbarella. What 13 year-old boy wouldn’t have “shaken hands with the unemployed” to this:

barbarella

Overall, excluding my youthful desires for women in thigh-high space boots (even ones with a worn sole), sci-fi isn’t my genre for fiction. Too many leaps…too many aliens…too many lasers…too much bullshit. EXCEPT…every now and then a book grabs my attention.

About the time Holden Caulfield was becoming my philosopher…Paul Atreides of Frank Herbert’s Dune became my hero. Paul was strong, smart, and could read people’s minds! Paul became a messiah on Arakkis…aka Dune. This book too was revisted…and unlike Catcher…Herbert’s Dune didn’t disappoint. The political intrigue and religious mysticism still held up…actually, it showed more depth. Who knew that a 15 year-old Sublime Monkey would be able to appreciate the nuanced politics of men and their religions would make even more sense at age 45? Dune didn’t make me take any leap other than sometime in the far future men would still be acting selfish and religion would be used as a weapon to control other men…made sense at 15…made sense at 45. So when it comes to sci-fi…the bar is pretty fucking high. Neal Stephensen’s Seven Eves met that bar.

Seven Eves is a fairly new novel by an author that a lot of sci-fi fans know…I’d never heard of him…but a good friend who does know his sci-fi…and knows my reading habits…recommended the book to me and then sent me his copy when he was done…hat tip to Shawn “I want a monkey” Albertson. The book is huge…fucking 900 pages huge…and every single page is a turner.

None of this is a spoiler…basically as the jacket cover says…the moon explodes into a bunch of pieces for some reason…and now that Einstein’s gravitational waves theory has been proven…I’m gonna say that caused it…and then present -day science is used to make sort of a modern Noah’s Arc via the International Space Station (ISS). That’s the only leap of any real significance that one is compelled to accept and move on with the story. What Stephensen gets right is how he uses modern science and technology and then logically pushes that science and technology forward 5,000 years. As much of a liberal arts nerd I am…science and technology isn’t exactly something I am overly interested in…especially in how 7 female survivors on the ISS could propagate whole races…viola “Seven Eves.”

Admittedly, there are parts of the 900 pages that I skimmed…I mean one can only read so much about genetics before one says…out loud…”I get it…they know how to manipulate DNA!” Other readers may find this fascinating…but like Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm…after a while you have to give up and assume Larson knows a lot of minutia about fucking hurricanes…Stephenson proves he knows a lot about nanorobots (workers on the ISS aka Noah’s Arc) and DNA coding.

Fortunately, Stephensen’s Seven Eves is 2/3rds present day (sorta) and 1/3rd 5,000 years in the future. It’s believable…it’s interesting…and the questions of what would you do if you were stationed on the ISS and earth was destroyed? how would you survive? what specific characteristics would you choose for your offspring and their offspring if you got to manipulate your DNA for future generations? Seven Eves raises interesting moral dilemmas and causes the reader to wonder how exactly would mankind react if it knew it had approximately 3 years of warning before the earth would be destroyed. Seven Eves isn’t a sci-fi novel insomuch as it is an interesting thought problem about how would mankind react in the event of a monumental disaster that the author, Stephensen, considered and then presented in 900 pages. The story never wavers…the logical thought process never tangents…Stephensen digs in and shows you a realistic approach and then shows you a possible outcome.

Seven Eves could be described as phony…what piece of fiction isn’t? Many argue it doesn’t get more phony than science fiction…except of course for the magic and dragons and hairy midgets of fantasy literature…yet Seven Eves feels more like a long article in National Geographic that is written by a geneticist on meth who also is highly interested in space exploration…and to me that is compliment. Holden Caulfield and Barbarella held my interest as a teen…but it’s authors like Stephensen and his book Seven Eves that make me happy that I’m an adult and capable of appreciating science and technology…regardless of the countless ways Stephensen explained how babies can be made without a male sperm donor….and surprisingly…there are a lot of ways.

Skim Reading the 2015 National Security Strategy

So gather round young warriors now
and saddle up your steeds
Killing scores with demon swords
Now is the death of doers of wrong
Swing the judgment hammer down
Safely inside armor blood guts and sweat – Metallica, “Four Horsemen

One of the first things you learn when writing “academic” papers for the federal government is how to organize content. Unlike, true academic papers…there isn’t necessarily a result or finding…or “truth” that followed extensive research. Instead, numerous federal government “academic” papers are nothing more than extension of politics and used as a policy tool to provide guidance in the best of circumstances…and at a minimum, point of view of the political entity that is releasing the paper.1 Federal “academic” policy papers are organized in a manner that provides the senior writer/researcher an opportunity to provide an succinct “executive” summary or introduction.2 This executive summary/introduction is the true narrative that tells the story of the paper and lays out how the rest of the paper will be organized…not surprisingly, numerous users of these documents quietly grumble and assume that the executive summary is written first…and the rest of the paper is organized and written in a manner to support this up-front narrative.3

With the release of the new National Security Strategy, the Obama Administration has provided its “guidance” and its point of view on how to secure the nation…until the next President is elected. The new President will bring in their own advisers who will in turn shape and mold the National Security Staff4…who will then “research” and release a new strategy. Interestingly, within days of the Obama Administration’s release of the 2015 National Security Strategy, it has been announced that President Obama intends to ask Congress for war powers that will focus on the Middle East and terrorism (primarily ISIS), it will be limited to 3 years, it will authorize the use of ground troops, and it will be geographically-limited. These 3 factors are significant and will be the subject of speculation among the media, national security thinkers, and academia for the next couple of weeks.5

Like all political documents, the new strategy has critics and supporters…naturally this typically falls along party lines. Criticizing and trumpeting a policy document are two of the easiest things to do in DC…you either point out how it is wrong and doesn’t support your point of view; or you show how the document supports your point of view…usually this done in a quick and superficial way that never identifies or discusses the nexus of the strategy with policy. Critics and supporters act…and write…as if the strategy is a standalone document that is neither a development on past strategies nor a document that signals a shift of policy. In other words, anyone can do this with little knowledge of national security or without a holistic view of policy. This last point about holistic policy is the reason so many national security thinkers lament the end of the Cold War…without a single enemy…it is extremely hard to have a Grand Strategy.6

Those of us that take the time to read the strategy fall into three general categories: individuals who work within the national security field (me)7, those that report on national security issues (media), and academia. I label these groups, in order, as craftsmen (using the strategy as a tool), observers (use the strategy as a form of news), and abstract thinkers (use the strategy as way to philosophically think about “security”). Unfortunately all three categories miss important points…and definitely do not take a holistic approach to the reviewing, using, and reporting on the strategy. This post is no different. This is nothing more than a summary of how the strategy is organized and how it reflects the policy goals of the Obama Administration…any other deep thought is internal only.

Quickly…through a couple of readings, and an internal debate…I have found that the organization of the new national security strategy is really the best way to understand it. Up front it is obvious that the primary writers…the National Security Staff…understand U.S. foreign and national security policy through the Terry Deibel lens. Terry Deibel was a professor at the National War College for over three decades, and wrote what we graduates of the college fondly call the “Deibel Bible” on American foreign policy. The new strategy’s table of contents reads like the basic concept of Deibel’s Bible: there are four basic national interests that all nations hope to attain, and will, if successful, attain. These are security, economic prosperity, value protection at home, and value projection abroad. You too can be a successful National War College graduate if you learn and understand this simple foreign policy tenet.

The new national security strategy is written in the manner of Deibel. The second paragraph of the strategy’s introduction identifies the recovering and growing American economy as a focal point…this is the very first point the strategy drives home…all things security-related point to this. Second, the strategy’s first 3 main “chapters” are entitled Security, Prosperity, and Values. The final chapter (other than the Conclusion) is the International Order…like a true Western Liberal Democratic government (not to be confused with the American bastardized definition of “liberal”), the final main point of the strategy is a discussion that resembles a Masters in International Affairs thesis by focussing on the concept of Institutionalism.In a world where America sees itself…along with the vast majority of the other nations…as the global leader, Institutionalism is the way we try to get other nations to follow our lead, and if they don’t…it is the way we use our allies to bring the lost sheep (like Iran) back into the fold.

After the Introduction, the strategy discusses Security. It is here that the following are briefly…and some might argue, superficially…discussed:

  • National Defense;
  • Homeland Security;
  • Terrorism;
  • Prevention of Conflict;
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction;
  • Climate Change;
  • Access to Shared Spaces;9 and
  • Global Health.

Arguably, some of these are what can be categorized as Democratic Party issues, but like all discussions of the post-Cold War world…WMDs, terrorism, defense, and homeland security take center stage.

Following Security, the strategy goes into Prosperity and discusses in order:

  • Economy;
  • Energy Security;
  • Science, Technology, and Innovation;
  • Global Economic Order; and
  • Extreme Poverty.

Like Security, specific political entities have specific views on the economy and what affects it…and how to grow it. Nothing new here move along.

Values is the last main chapter that follows Deibel’s model, and it reads as if Deibel had written it himself…obviously a disciple did:

  • Live Our Values;
  • Equality;
  • Emerging Democracies;
  • Civil Society and Young Leaders; and
  • Mass Atrocities.

Of all the national interests identified by Deibel, “value protection” and “value projection” seem to lead to the most shadowy and grey because the idea of “values” is more personal in nature than say the idea of “national defense.” Agreed there is a discussion on how to execute national defense…or what are the nation’s national defense priorities…but unlike “values”…there is no core debate on what the term means. Not wanting to sound redundant, but values become subjective and each person values the concept of “values” differently.

As noted earlier, the strategy ends with a discussion on international affairs and the idea of Institutionalism. Here the Obama Administration continues to try to pivot toward Asia10…but Europe still drains security thought11…and the constant and bothersome Middle East comes in third…finally, South America is given an obligatory nod.

This simple method of examining how the new National Security Strategy is organized is just one way to determine what the Obama Administration intends to focus on as it completes its second term. As with any “to-do list”…those things at the top receive the majority of resources…and this on the bottom get nothing more than a constant rewriting on the next list…sorry South America, but we will have to get to you later.

Unlike the strategy and its conclusion (which is nothing more than a restating of everything said before it), this blog post has no true conclusion…my organization skills are lacking and the best I can do is say that sometimes my skimming skills (perfected in Tennessee public schools) are proficient enough to allow me to digest a new national security strategy and come away with the feeling that there is nothing really new here. The new national security strategy reads like a laundry list of what the Obama Administrations wants to focus on. How this strategy is interpreted, internalized, and used by others within the government, Congress, and other nations is still something to be seen. Obviously, this strategy is something that us craftsmen, reporters, and academics are consuming. Its real importance is, at best, a matter of conjecture.

1. This is not necessarily a bad thing…national strategies are one of the prime ways a presidential administration informs the government, Congress, the media, and the public of its policy.

2. The President usually signs the first page or at the end of the introduction to show that he “read” the document and agrees that they are responsible for its content. I have no doubt President Obama has read and agrees with this document.

3. Top down management is the hallmark of any large political institution.

4. In 2010, and prior to the release of the last National Security Strategy in that year, President Obama combined the National Security and Homeland Security staffs. Prior to 2010, and since its inception with President George W. Bush’s first administration, the Homeland Security Staff was a separate entity.

5. I am not willing to bet on how successful President Obama will be on this attempt to have Congress grant him these war powers…but it will be interesting to see if these self-imposed limitations on the war powers will be help or hinder its congressional approval.

6. Grand Strategy is the term to identify the nation’s long-term and overarching priorities. Not surprisingly, in the short history of America, there has only been one period that the U.S. had anything as close to a single Grand Strategy and that was the Cold War. Arguably, the modern world with both modern and old issues…and globalization causes strategic thinkers to feel as if there is no unifying factor among all the security issues America faces…this is probably why individuals with ADHD have a hard time as strategists. This is also why the Obama Administration tries so hard at the beginning of this strategy to point so definitively at the economy…if you can’t have a Grand Strategy, you might as well act like you do.

7. Specifically, I focus on national homeland security policy, and generally on how it meets and compliments (or contradicts) with national security policy.

8. Basically for this discussion, Institutionalism (Institutional Theory) is the International Affairs concept that nations will act according to normative standards of the collective group or members of the international order instead of individual needs. The give and take among nations is governed by its participation or non-participation in international orders or institutions, and like individuals…nations give up certain individual interests for collective goals or interests…which is seen as a better long-term option. This of course is a gross oversimplification.

9. “Shared Spaces” is the term given to areas that the world is connected through or shares…such as cyber, space, air, and oceans. The U.S. Air Force calls the air (and probably some ocean) as “The Commons” and even uses the strategic phrase “defending the commons.”

10. Just like General MacArthur had hoped the US would at the beginning of the 20th century. 

11. Thanks Russia.

Leather Suits, Impersonating White People, and Mr. T: Eddie Murphy (and Richard Pryor)

…and this place used to be segregated…now a 22 year-old black man is on stage talking about how big his dick is. – Eddie Murphy, 1983, Delirious, Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall, Washington, DC.

I knew Eddie Murphy wore a red leather suit…a definite 1980s badass look…in 1983 for his stand up comedy concert Delirious because I had the cassette tape…and Eddie was on the cover in the red leather. I, however, never saw Delirious in a theater or on VHS when it came out…yeah back in the day this how you saw these types of comedic stand-up shows…unless you were lucky enough to have HBO…which meant your parents were very open-minded and assumed to be “rich.” I lived out in the “county” on my family’s farm…so HBO…and cable in general were not available. Interestingly, my parents didn’t get cable until I had gone off to college in 1988…which resulted in my parents being two of the most limited cable viewers ever…they had cable but they watched nothing but cowboy movies and TV shows…Gunsmoke was the reason my parents got cable. I did, however, have a cassette tape of Delirious. This cassette of Eddie Murphy’s amazingly funny…and extremely crude show provided me insight into a world where an extremely talented black comedian could say the word “fag” and “faggot” without a bit of worry…in 1983 you could still openly mock homosexuals and you could use the word “faggot” with impunity.

I did not see Eddie Murphy’s Delirious on a television until 1988 when I went to college. By 1987, Eddie Murphy had firmly established himself as an SNL alum and had so much celluloid exposure that there were even bad and unseen Eddie Murphy movies…which unfortunately he continued to make into the 1990s. Seeing Eddie Murphy’s Delirious in 1987 (or 1988…I can’t remember exactly but I am sure I watched it with a beer or six) added a unique perspective to an act that had been nothing more to me than Eddie Murphy’s voice on cassette which alternated between Mr. T, Michael Jackson, Eddie’s dad (who seemed to have a significant drinking problem), and a stereotypical…and angry…black woman. Now Eddie Murphy’s voice was visually-coupled with a younger version that wore a red leather suit…and black shoes that seemed to make the outfit look a little odd. My parents…while watching Gunsmoke…never knew that down the hall their son was listening to a black comedian mocking everything and everyone. After finally seeing Eddie Murphy’s red leather-clad routine…I giggled at the idea of how my very white parents would have gone bat shit crazy if they knew what I was listening to on my boombox.

1983’s Delirious was Eddie Murphy’s second show to make it to VHS…his first show, Eddie Murphy, was filmed a few years earlier when he was a new to Saturday Night Live. To this day, Eddie Murphy is ranked (by fans) as the number 1 SNL actor ever…which makes complete sense considering how the fans of 1970s SNL had moved on to real jobs, retirement planning, and basically becoming husks of their former cool selves, and how every SNL actor since Eddie Murphy has done nothing more than attempt to replicate Eddie Murphy’s comedic and financial success…and have failed miserably.

When Eddie Murphy was touring in 1983 and providing SNL fans his stand-up routine…Eddie Murphy had just finished filming 48 Hours and Trading Places. Couple these two movies with Eddie Murphy’s iconic SNL’s impersonations of Gumby, the Little Rascal’s Buckwheat, and an angry black Mr. Robinson…and you have a very talented young man who was at the beginning of a very exceptional comedic and pop culture career. Interestingly, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that Eddie Murphy had recorded Delirious in Washington, DC, at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall.

I am not sure if Eddie Murphy’s leather suit in his 1987 stand-up movie Raw (filmed 4 years after Delirious) is blue or purple. It is covered in paisleys and has matching shoes…which looks far better than the black ones he wore with the red leather suit in 1983. His hair is cut in what appears to be a Ultramagnetic MCs high-and-tight ‘fro. Eddie is wearing unsnapped racing gloves. In three words…Eddie Murphy is SMOOTH AS SHIT…and unfortunately I had never seen this film until a few week’s ago. Somehow, I had gone from Delirious on cassette to Delirious on VHS (and watched in my college dorm room) to nearly 25 years later…and then one boring evening I decided to watch Raw while eating dinner. Even in 2015, Eddie Murphy’s 1987 show seems unbelievably funny…crazy intelligently funny. Even with dated 1980s pop cultural references, Raw is a fantastic example of how the 1980s was all about looking and acting bigger than one may have actually been…but Eddie Murphy in 1987 wasn’t acting big or rock star-like. Eddie Murphy in 1987 was the MAN…Eddie Murphy had truly reached a pinnacle in his career.

Eddie is so fucking smooth, that the beginning of Raw is a short clip of Eddie as a small boy performing for his family (that includes a very young looking Samuel L. Jackson1) and telling extremely rude jokes that obviously embarrasses his parents…Eddie doesn’t give a fuck. In 1987, Eddie Murphy shows us he has always been an attention freak. This ability to mock himself shows Eddie Murphy’s security in knowing who he is and how he performs. Following this clip is footage of Eddie taking the stage.

Madison Square Garden is packed…surprisingly the director, Robert Townsend,2 inserts shots of fans talking about how much they love Eddie Murphy…these clips show primarily white women gushing their interest in the leather-clad comedian. As soon as these lily-white clips end, Eddie mounts the stage like a rock star. Late-1980s rock/rap instrumental music informs the crowd that pop culture icon is coming out. Eddie is a badass…Eddie knows who the fuck he is…Eddie knows he is on top of the world…Eddie walks out to a darkened…rock show dark…MSG with a grimace…and immediately goes into a piece about avoiding Mr. T at Hollywood parties in the preceding 4 years due to Mr. T’s supposed desire to kick Eddie’s ass for material Eddie used in 1983…basically Eddie Murphy impersonated Mr. T…a gay Mr. T… BA Barackas didn’t think too highly of this I guess.

In 1987, Eddie Murphy had been in 3 big films3 since leaving SNL…Beverly Hills Cop, The Golden Child,4 and Beverly Hills Cop II. Eddie is the top comedian in the world in 1987. Eddie Murphy is shitting pure comedic gold as he struts around the stage mimicking Mr. T, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, numerous generic white guys, and black women. Impersonation is the first place Eddie begins his routine…and he maintains it in perfect form throughout the whole MSG show.

Eddie Murphy is a rock star in 1987 because Eddie Murphy was a early 1980s rising star (and eventually the star) of SNL…Eddie Murphy had done Trading Places and 48 Hours...Eddie Murphy had rocked Washington, DC, in his Delirious show…and Eddie Murphy did this all because he could impersonate people.

Seeing Delirious and Raw again in 2015 is an endeavor that is full of trepidation and fear of seeing Eddie Murphy as an earnest young man who may be nothing more than a bad version of impersonations he had perfected on SNL. Watching these shows in 2015 had me wondering if I was going to come away from them with the same feeling I get when I see pictures of myself from the fall of 1987 when I was a senior in high school and rocking the worst mullet seen at my high school…the mullet was the official hairstyle of Tennessee in 1987. Seeing pictures of me from the fall of 1987 makes me cringe…my mullet is a sad attempt to look way cooler than I ever was…this mullet is made even worse by the fact that almost every picture of me in 1987 shows me wearing an acid-washed Jordache jean jacket. Watching Delirious and Raw in 2015…when saying “faggot” is completely (and correctly) inappropriate…could have been a horrible trip down memory lane that could have left me feeling as confused as I get when I see my 1987 mullet and jean jacket wearing self…basically I looked like an ugly teen lesbian with horrible fashion sense. I was worried seeing a 1983 and 1987 Eddie Murphy would leave me as embarrassed.

Unbelievably Delirious and Raw stand up to viewing without embarrassment. Instead of me sitting there in front of my TV wondering how I could have found Eddie Murphy funny, I found myself delightfully entertained…and with a sore belly from laughing. I know that mocking homosexuals is wrong…and I am willing to bet Eddie Murphy knows this now too…but fortunately Eddie Murphy’s comedic genius is obvious even though the 22 and 26 year-old Eddie Murphys’ juvenile mocking of homosexuals.

What comes through decades after these shows were filmed is that Eddie Murphy’s talent at impersonation and his ability to exaggerate the common idiocy of famous and generic people is a talent that few other comedians can do. Eddie Murphy’s genius is on par with George Carlin, yet Eddie Murphy doesn’t attack the public in general…which George Carlin perfected and uproariously presented with quick wit and sharp intellect…Eddie Murphy mocks, impersonates, and jokes about specific persons (Mr. T, etc.) or specific characters. Eddie Murphy presented the stereotypical black woman that so many of us knew…or didn’t know but suspected…in such a manner that it becomes obvious that Eddie Murphy isn’t mocking this “typical” black woman…instead Eddie Murphy shows his fear (and respect?) of this woman. Mrs. Murphy, Eddie’s mom, was a woman that all of us learned to fear…especially her gunslinger ability to hit her kids with her thrown shoe…and Mrs. Murphy became the foundation for the stereotypical black woman character that Eddie Murphy perfected.

Arguably, Eddie Murphy in Raw has matured…or at least participated in relationships with a few women…when he took the stage in 1987. In Raw, Eddie Murphy attempts to tackle male-female relationships in a way that is both insightful and obvious. True comedic genius is shown through the ability to take the ordinary and experienced and turn into a comedy monologue that not only portrays the truth…but expands the truth to the point of the humorously accurate.

Eddie Murphy has moved on and nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Dreamgirls in 2007. Like the rest of us, Eddie Murphy has moved away from the 1980s and grown up a bit. Eddie Murphy has had a successful career that built easily upon SNL, tons of buddy films like Beverly Hills Cop, and Delirious and Raw. As obvious as Eddie Murphy’s taste in leather suits changed, matured, and developed…from obnoxious red to glamorous and badass purple/blue…it is also obvious that the 1983 Delirious Eddie Murphy had transformed into a little bit older 1987 Raw Eddie Murphy who bounded the MSG stage in complete badassness. Eddie Murphy was a rock star in 1987…in 1987 he was Guns-n-Roses…in 1983 he was Ratt (or pre-Theater of Pain Motley Crue)…in the four years between 1983 and 1987, Eddie Murphy had grown from an up-coming shock rock band to a full-fledged genre-busting megaband. Like another 1980’s Eddie of iconic stature,5 Eddie Murphy had come of age.

I can’t really comment on Eddie Murphy’s fashion sense…again I was the 17 year-old sporting the mullet and Jordache jean jacket when Eddie Murphy was bounding the MSG stage in purple/blue leather. I can, however, state that aside from realizing that “faggot” is completely unacceptable, Eddie Murphy’s comedy is still something to be seen with wonderment. Go back and watch any number of other comics who took the stage in the 1980s and you will be hard pressed to find no more than a handful that were not only funny then…but funny now. Eddie Murphy excelled at bringing a Richard Pryor-type routine6 to a primarily white audience. Eddie Murphy not only made it acceptable to laugh at the unacceptable through his use of words like “faggot,” Eddie Murphy had made it acceptable to laugh at a black man impersonating a black woman…which now is so common place that the word “Madea” immediately makes us think of boring comedy that has become the Hollywood norm. Eddie Murphy had brought a type of comedy that had not been fully integrated into the full American comedy show fan base that used cable as the means to widen their view of the world. Eddie Murphy truly made a difference.

*Note: Since writing this…but not editing it…if you call me skim-reading it as “editing”…I have seen Richard Pryor’s Live and Smokin’. This is the first time Richard Pryor was filmed on stage doing “comedy.” It is 1971 and filmed at The Improvisation Club in New York. “Jarring” is what best describes my initial reaction to Richard Pryor’s “routine.” Richard Pryor had no routine planned…instead he had a list of things he was going to talk about. This show begins with Richard Pryor talking about how it was a bad day to be filming a show because he hadn’t done any coke previous to the show. Couple this with how casually Richard Pryor lights a cigarette with a match…which he just drops to the floor after lighting his smoke, and what you have is the true view of what Richard Pryor did for black comedians. Redd Foxx may have been doing dirty jokes…but only black people were listening to him. Richard Pryor, in 1971, is obviously in front of a primarily white audience…even though you never see any member of the audience…and Richard Pryor isn’t so much as telling jokes as much as he is speaking the “truth” as he saw it. Richard Pryor openly mocks the white audience…and they respond as you imagined white people would respond to a black guy mocking them in 1971. There is nervous laughter…there are a few boos…and (most importantly) you hear very little real laughter. This crowd did not find Richard Pryor and his mocking of whites funny. Especially jarring was the way that Richard Pryor actually looks and acts a little hesitant or embarrassed to be there…it is almost as if he knew he was crossing a line…he was being the first black to openly mock whites…in front of whites.

When Richard Pryor crossed that line…he completely goes way over that line. Richard Pryor admits to loving white people…because he likes to “fuck white big-titted blondes” and that he has sucked dick…and then when silence follows he asks the crowd “none of you have sucked dicks before?” This is obviously a first…Richard Pryor had gone where no one had gone before in front of white audiences. Interestingly, the more I watched the more I realized that Richard Pryor wasn’t embarrassed or hesitant…Richard Pryor was purposefully working the crowd…Richard Pryor was saying shit that needed to said…and he knew that the full effect would only be felt if it was slowly and softly presented. Richard Pryor’s impersonation of white guys is spot on…and no one in the audience was ready to laugh at it…again, Live and Smokin’ isn’t a comedy routine…Live and Smokin’ is a black man saying things that needed to be said. When Richard Pryor says “I’m not black, I am Puerto Rican. I tried that negro thing for 23 years and realized it had no upward mobility…” Richard Pryor is ripping a gauze or film off of 1971 race relations.

At the end, I realized Richard Pryor laid the ground work for Eddie Murphy. In 1971, Richard Pryor doesn’t get a laugh when he impersonates whites…but 12 years later Eddie Murphy gets a roar of laughter for it. Eddie Murphy’s quote at the beginning says it all…once we were a segregated nation…then Richard Pryor began (in 1971) talking about fucking white women and this laid the foundation for a 1983 Eddie Murphy to talk about how whites think black guys have big dicks. As crude or base this may seem…this is what progress looks like.

1. Samuel L. Jackson plays Eddie’s uncle and is definitely the most fly muthafucka in the living room…SLJ finds Eddie’s routine unbelievably funny.

2. Robert Townsend is an African-American which makes the primarily white fans in the intro clips even more interestingly odd.

3. Eddie Murphy had also been in Best Defense which is obviously a movie none of us had ever heard of.

4. The Golden Child is a movie I remember to this day and contains one of my favorite comedy scenes…one which I still quote to this day.

5. Eddie Van Halen turned from axe grinder in a skirt-chasing band that was overshadowed by megalomaniac frontman…to aging virtuoso that still is recognized as one of the greatest guitarist of all times. If that isn’t enough to establish Eddie Van Halen’s bono fides, then the mere mention of his marriage to (and eventual divorce from) Valerie Bertinelli…who was probably every 1980’s teen boy’s first lust…should seal the deal. 

6. Richard Pryor was one of Eddie Murphy’s influences…and even though Richard Pryor had gotten some commercial crossover success with such terrible roles as the one he had in one of the Superman movies…but Richard Pryor’s comedy albums and shows were still sort of off-limits to white audiences in the 1980s. It would take the advent of Blockbuster and later Netflix to bring Richard Pryor to white America’s attention…and by then he was either not touring or was dead.

All’s Well That Ends Well: Torture by a “Strong” Nation

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there

Where most it promises; and oft it hits

Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits… – William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (2.I.145-47)

Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT) (United Nations, 1984, 1987), which was signed by the United States in 1988 and ratified in 1994, defines torture during interrogation as:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity (p. 1)

Study after study shows that torture does not work and affects the victim as much as the torturer…don’t take my word on it…go do a minute Google search and you will discover that people will say and admit anything…real…fake… when electrodes are attached to the scrotum or they are subjected to an almost real sensation of drowning (waterboarding). For thousands of years men for personal or governmental gain have tortured other men. For thousands of years the results has been a mixed (and electrocuted) scrotum bag of maybe the truth…maybe the false…maybe a “dear God I will tell you whatever you wanna hear just don’t pull another fucking fingernail out with your pliers!”

Senator John McCain…a victim of torture by the North Vietnamese while a POW recently stated on the floor of the Senate:

“They [Americans] must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret…They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.”

What if the reported 119 individuals tortured by the CIA (according to the upcoming Senate report on CIA torture) gave one good lead? Would it be worth it? Would 5 good leads on planned terrorist attacks was the result of this torture? How does one do a cost-benefit analysis of torture? To conduct such an analysis one would need to further know what information was gained through CIA torture, and how that information was used. Unfortunately, when the giant report (with numerous parts redacted due to classified information no doubt) I feel that we will not see the benefits or leads that led to thwarted torture, instead we will read how torture victim after torture victim said whatever was necessary to save themselves. The ones…the CIA, the President(s), the military…are the only ones who will truly know how beneficial this American government-sanctioned torture was.

In the end, if the torture has led to some leads that stopped a terrorist attack…then a majority of Americans will stand happily by and sleep peacefully knowing that they are protected. But what is the cost of being secured by men who will do evil in their idea of “defending freedom?” Is America, the unilateral doer of all things globally, truly a strong nation?

Philip Bobbitt states that the War against Terror has some widely and tenaciously held assumptions:

  • that terrorism has always been with us, and though its weapons may change, it will remain fundamentally the same – the weapon of the weak seeking to wrest political control from the strong;
  • that because terrorism will always be with us, there can be no victory in a war against terror;
  • that because there is no enemy state against which such a war can be waged, the very notion of a “war” on terror is at best a public relations locution, like the “war on drugs” or the “war on poverty”;
  • that terrorism cannot be an enemy, the subject of warfare, because it is a method, a technique, even if a sinister and brutal one;
  • that because terrorism is only a means to an end – that is, because it is not distinguished by the pursuit of any particular goal – “one man’s terrorist is another’s man’s freedom fighter”;
  • that the root causes of terrorism lie in conditions of poverty, economic exploitation, neglect of health and education, and religious indoctrination that must be reversed before a war against terrorism can be won;
  • that terrorism is best treated as a problem of crime, by law enforcement officials, and not as a matter for defense departments, which are inappropriate when there are no battlefield lines or armies to confront, and when the context requires constabulary forces and political measures;
  • that if, on the other hand, terrorism is indeed a matter of warfare, there can be no place for the Geneva Convention or other rules of law in war that are applied to conventional conflicts;
  • that good intelligence provides the decisive key to defeating terrorism;
  • that terrorism will not flourish in democracies;
  • that more power governments gain, the weaker the civil liberties that belong to the public;
  • that terrorists “win” if they are able to force governments to enhance their powers of detention, surveillance, and information collection  or if the citizenry significantly modifies its everyday behavior;
  • that twenty-first century terrorism is the result of a clash of international cultures when medieval and backward worlds confront modern secular societies;
  • that confronting hostile states can only make the Wars against Terror harder to win because it diverts resources and wins fresh adherents for the terrorist enemy;
  • that the threat of terrorist attacks comes from the states of the Middle East or failed states in remote regions;
  • that if the jihadist movements are defeated, the threat of terror will subside, at least for the foreseeable future;
  • that terrorists will be confined to low-technology weapons for the foreseeable future;
  • that because they will be so confined, terrorists therefore pose at most a modest threat to the stability of modern societies;
  • that we should address this threat by concentrating on the likeliest assaults rather than preparing and organizing for the remote possibility that terrorists will pull off a truly catastrophic attack;
  • that the forces required to deal with terrorists are completely unrelated to the forces required to deal with natural disasters;
  • and, above all, that Wars against Terror really have nothing to do with such state-centric activities as ethnic cleansing and genocide or the proliferation and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction or nonpolitical events like power outages, tsunamis, famines, and other civilian catastrophes.1

The first striking thing about these numerous assumptions Bobbitt makes is the focus on “strong” versus “weak.” With this in mind, one must look at the historical context of the Peloponnesian War…as recounted to us by Thucydides. Athens…rich, imperialistic, philosophical…went to war with Sparta…militaristic and conservative. Two Greek poleis (city-states)…one a naval power (Athens…based on its rich sea trade) and one land power (Sparta…based on its history of young male conscription for its Hoplite infantry)…went to war basically over the age-old desire for societies/states to be the hegmonic power within their area of influence. Though a weak connection, one may argue that America now sits as the Athens of our age…while numerous states orbit within our sphere of influence while rogue nations and terrorist organizations represent Sparta with its strong defense of conservative ideology and their just or unjust feelings of being ignored and treated unfairly by America and its allies.

Terrorists execute prisoners, torture captives…and the Western world is aghast…how dare the “weak” resort to brutality. America tortures terrorists to ensure it gets the information and intelligence needed to protect itself from the barbaric hordes assaulting the Piraeus2 docks and the Phaleric wall.America, like Athens, views itself as a “strong” nation, and as Thucydides states in the Melian dialogue: “…as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”4

What has happened is that the CIA and the presidential administrations “supervising” it have viewed itself as a strong nation and conducted torture and a war against terror with hubris. History is written by victors as the saying goes…and as Shakespeare says all’s well that ends well. We shall see if America’s flagrant disregard to the effectiveness of torture (and potentially the use of drones) will allow it to keep its allies close at hand and its enemies at a distance. Arguably, the strength of America lies in the citizens that take an interest in the actions of its government and approves or disapproves through the ballot box.

1. Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent: The Wars For The Twenty-First Century, pp.5-7.

2. Piraeus was Athen’s port and its access to its trade.

3. Phaleric Wall was a defensive line that ran southwesterly from Athens to the sea just south of the Piraeus port.

4. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, p. 352. Melos was an Greek city-state that had refused to join Athens alliance against Sparta…Athens sent emissaries that were executed…thus Athens returned with an army and made the Melians submit because they were weak.

Veterans’ Day…One Suffering and Musing Comrade to His Father and Comrade-in-Arms

“I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them, And the white skeletons of young men-I saw them; I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war; But I saw they were not as was thought; They themselves were fully at rest-they suffer’d not; The living remain’d and suffer’d-the mother suffer’d, And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer’d, And the armies that remain’d suffered.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

“…he was veteran proud, tried and true, he fought till he was black and blue, didn’t know how he made through the hard times, he bought our house on the G.I. Bill, but it wasn’t worth all he had to kill to get it…” – David Allen Coe, “If That Ain’t Country”

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Since 1990 I have always made one call on Veterans’ Day…to my father…a fellow soldier…a fellow comrade-in-arms. We would always exchange our typical greeting of “thanks for your service” and then we would discuss what our plans were to celebrate. Some years my father mentioned some parade or event he was going to attend or participate in…and as he got older he just plainly responded with “I’m gonna go ride one of my horses.” I always made an attempt to get a tee time and play golf. For me I prefer to celebrate my holiday doing something devoid of Veterans’ Day references or meaning. Both of us dealt with our status as veterans in different ways…yet both of us laughed and said it was “our fucking day and we could do what we wanted.” We rarely worried with what others might think of our Veterans’ Day plans. We felt no need to explain ourselves. I usually shun Veterans’ Day events…and definitely avoid any sales greedily associated with the a day meant to honor me and my fellow military veterans.

Both my father and I come from a long line of men who have served. My maternal grandfather was a field artilleryman in World War I and came home blinded in one eye from a German mustard gas attack. I had an uncle who stormed the sands of Iwo Jima. I have a cousin who served in Panama and Desert Storm. My mom had a cousin who was a POW during the Korea War. There is even a Reese buried in confederate grave who left his home and hearth to fight for a lost cause. Soldiers and veterans all…my dad’s and my military service were just two more links in the long chain of our family’s service to our nation.

Tomorrow I won’t be making any calls. My father passed away a couple of weeks ago. Since then I have been busy planning his full military honors funeral at the National Cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina. I won’t be thanking him for his service tomorrow…instead I will continue filling out paperwork to ensure that he is interned at a National Cemetery with the honor he deserves.

I enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1990 due to being kicked out of college due to way too much beer and not enough college classes. My dad joined the U.S. Army because he was the son of a Alabama sharecropper and his future without military service would have been nothing more than scraping by. Each of us decided to serve because we needed something to better us…to educate us…to teach us how to be men. The Army gave me an undergraduate degree (G.I. Bill) and a Masters degree. The Army gave my dad a life to provide for his family and eventually he got a college degree. Both of us had moved from humble beginnings to men who had accomplished much…and much of it was a direct result of our military service.

One of the things my dad and I used to laugh about was how our military service had given us a lifetime of stories. The kind of stories that were best described as “shit you couldn’t make up.” One of the very first experiences I had…the moment I realized Toto and I were no longer in Kansas…was when I got my first mess hall meal (chili mac of course)…standing outside in the cold rain at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and I turned to the private next to me and asked him where he was from. The reply I got, to the best of my knowledge, was “Baahstan”…I had just met my first Irish-American Southie…I had just just experienced a hallmark of military service and that is how the military throws you in with a bunch of other guys from a million small towns and big cities…places you’ve never been to…or heard of.

One of my dad’s favorite stories was how he used to pull guard duty along the razor-wired fence separating East and West Germany (Fulda Gap) in the late 1960s and how he would exchange cigarettes with East German soldiers he would pass as each of them walked by on their different sides of the fence. In his own small way, my dad participated in military diplomacy at a very critical moment in the Cold War.

As Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass, dead soldiers are “fully at rest-they suffer’d not.” I am now my father’s suffering and musing comrade…and I have no one to call to tomorrow and thank or be thanked. Most of us veterans are quite content to quietly go about our holiday and do what brings solace to our hearts…we appreciate the “thanks” and we appreciate the parades…but in the end we all quietly carry our memories and experiences that only our fellow comrades understand.

To all my veteran friends and comrades-in-arms…thank you and I look forward to mustering with you in that final bivouac we all go to when our suffering here ends.

His Autumn: Thoughts As My Father Dies

…and gathering swallows twitter in the sky. – John Keats (last line of “To Autumn”)

The poet John Keats was supposedly “half in love with easeful Death,” and expressed the Romanticism longing for the unattainable. Easeful death is one of the most unattainable of life’s trials. In his poem “To Autumn,” he displays this longing for the unattainable by describing an imaginary ode to the autumn season and telling it of its beauty. Spring represents youth, summer equals young adulthood, autumn is the time of one’s old age, and finally, winter is death. Keats attempts to remind autumn that it too is beautiful. Specifically he writes:

 “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou has thy music too,”

Old age and the coming of winter hangs on the horizon like a dark and barely illuminated cloud. This darkened mass hangs low and foreboding. Cold and crisp winds whip through a tree-shrouded valley. Yellow and red leaves prepare to dance upon the wind as their dying anchors break the bond between limb and leaf.

My father is in the last moments of his autumn as I type this. His rasping breath, his personal death rattle, reminds me of the sound those dying autumn leaves make as the wind shake them…the call of approaching winter. My father’s bond between life and death is coming loose…he is about to float and fly on the wind and be tossed and turned until he drifts lightly to the ground…dust to dust…ashes to ashes…

I sit by his side. I listen to his autumn song. I have silenced my own summer tune. These days, I rarely hear the melodies of my spring. Now is the time for me to hear is last words…his last breathes…his last moments calling out to the hills in joyful noise.

My personal collection of life songs are bound to his. The man I am is the man he raised me to be. All that I have…all that I have gained is a direct result of his teachings. I know my own autumn and winter wait before me…my own personal dark cloud waits beyond his…but now is not the time for me to think of that…now is the time for me to sing my father’s song.

The oldest child of Alabama sharecroppers went on to be a man who owned his own land. A man with no real vocation went on to retire from two professions. A high school drop out who eventually got a college degree. He was an army veteran, with two tours in Vietnam, who found solace and peace in the lives of his children and grandchildren as he settled into his autumn.

My father taught my sister, his grandchildren, and me how to drive…how to ride horses…how to accept responsibility…how to live life as true to ourselves as possible. This man was a true raconteur…this man taught me the art of storytelling. This man never met a stranger…this man never left a person untouched. His smile and crystal blue eyes were infectious. His hands were always hard and calloused from a lifetime of work…yet never were they firm when he touched you. My father may not have been a man of great means…he was a great man.

As I watch him die…as I stand witness to his life and heritage…I feel both a torment and a peace at his passing. His was a great run…his was a life worth living…his life was a glorious masterpiece to be sung in all the seasons.

My father was not a man of poetry. My father was not one to lose himself in literature or the arts…yet he was a man who found beauty in nature, animals, and small children. He may not have ever read or heard of Keats…yet I know he would have completely understood the Romanticism ideal of longing for the unattainable. My father has easily accepted his death though…Keats would have been envious in the manner in which my father approached this final cool days of his autumn.

The last audible words my father spoke to me were “take my boots off”…he laughed as I went to his feet and pretended to remove boots. I guess you don’t need boots when you join the gathering swallows and twitter in the skies.