Letter from the Vineyard 01 08 2020 A Place of Refuge…

The birds 2

Letter from the Vineyard, January 8, 2020

A Place of Refuge…

“Well, here we are, ready and willing to go to the birds, and we can’t even find the way!” is the opening line of Aristophanes’ “The Birds” in a translation by a high school classmate, Jeff LaCount, performed my junior year in high school, playing Euelpides [Good Hope] with Greg Harrigan as Pisthetaerus [Trusty Friend], a play lightly skewering the politics of the time [450 BCE, 1960’s America, 2020 America?].

Both are middle-aged grifters who con the birds, led by a man transformed into a bird by a magic potion, into creating a kingdom for them, outwitting the gods, becoming the envy of other men.

It is a play about the folly of men, gods, their ambitions, the most fantastical of Aristophanes’ plays, permeated also by his sense of doom, as Athens had set out on an expedition against Sicily, ending up ill-fated as could be.

When I performed it in high school, I hadn’t a clue what it all meant.  I had good lines; I got good laughs; the director was happy.

Three years later, Greg died in the rice paddies of Vietnam.  I was at his funeral, shaken that that good man was dead even before he lived. Jeff LaCount died sometime later, no one seems to know why or where.

Our lives have been cluttered by our country’s ill-fated military expeditions. Vietnam.  Afghanistan.  Iraq.  None of them have turned out well for us.  Are we not all, who were alive at the time, a bit haunted by the photo of the last helicopter leaving Saigon while those who helped us were left behind, clawing at the embassy gates?

Shortly after we invaded Iraq, I was having a perfectly civilized lunch with a friend, ex-CIA, at Le Bonne Soupe on 54th Street in Manhattan, who asked me what I thought of the invasion?  I responded: Rome came a cropper there; I feared we would, too.  Over a magnificent pate, the reason we were there, he said he agreed. His area of expertise at the CIA was the Middle East and could have taught Carlos Ghosn a thing or two about getting in and out of countries.  My friend had more than once been smuggled into and out of a middle eastern country in a packing crate.

Afghanistan, the forever war, clogs on; after eighteen long years, we have started to talk about having lost.

Couldn’t we have learned from Alexander the Great? The Romans? The British? Or the Russians?

The Mideast is a quagmire vexing the western world forever, it seems.  The Brits, who owned the world in 1918, partitioned it to serve their purposes; we have all paid the price since.

While things have deescalated a little, we could be moving toward war with Iran, a thought which does not help me sleep well at night.

Sometime in the last years, I read some Evangelicals support Trump because they see him as facilitating the Second Coming, helping bring about events foretold in the Book of Revelation.

War with Iran might look a bit like the Book of Revelation.

And to my ex-CIA friend, with whom I have lost touch, we have come a cropper in Iraq; they are asking us to get out.

Peter Simon was the epic photographer of the island; god rest his soul.  Yesterday I looked at the 2020 Peter Simon calendar; it rings in January with this thought of his:

“I have traveled to exotic places, and have lived various lifestyles in the past, but have never felt so at peace as I do as a Vineyarder. I feel as though I have escaped the craziness of the ‘real world’ and am living out some dreamy fantasy, where the elements I value most are all anchored firmly on this sea and soil.  The Vineyard is the last resort for me.” – Peter Simon, “On the Vineyard,” 1980.

Like Peter, I have traveled to exotic places, lived various lifestyles, and there is a peace I find on the Vineyard.  It may not be my last resort and it is a place of refuge as the world grows mad.

God save us all.





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