Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

Letter From New York 05 30 2016 Memorial Day thoughts from the Vineyard…

May 31, 2016

A dense fog is beginning to settle on Edgartown harbor after a wet, chill day; rain pummeled down in sheets for a time and then there was the damp aftermath.   I was delighted that I had thought to bring a sweater with me to the bookstore.

There was a steady stream of customers through the store and while it didn’t seem busy, when we closed out we had had a rather good day, he said, sounding like a shopkeeper.

Bookstore front

I have a whole new respect for people who work in retail.  I have always attempted to be nice to them.  I will work even harder. 

One elderly lady was in the store, with her daughter I think.  My colleague, Stav, took care of them.  Her credit card said her name was Gimbel and he asked if she was any relation to the department store Gimbels?  And they nodded and said yes, they were.

It was Gimbel’s Department Store in New York that started the Thanksgiving Day Parade, watched by millions every year, now the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  But back when they made the original “Miracle on 34th Street” it was Gimbel’s that was making the parade.

Gimbel’s and Macy’s were both sold to Federated at some point and they phased out the Gimbel’s name in the 1980’s.  The daughter said that no one young remembers them but Stav is younger than me by far and he remembered them.

Macy’s was the child of Isidor Strauss, who went down on Titanic with his wife, Ada.  She would not be parted from her husband as the ship was sinking. 

There are several memorials to their love in New York, most famous is the small park near 106 and Broadway, by which I have often walked.

It is Memorial Day and I don’t want that to go unnoticed.  I thought about it when I was swinging, at last, out of bed today.  I went to bed early last night, incredibly tired and slept long, having wild murder mystery dreams.  [One of the things Joyce asked me to do was make suggestions for new mysteries to order…]

It is Memorial Day and I was thinking of all the men and women who have served  the US in all its wars. 

And always, on Memorial Day, I think about Greg Harrison, with whom I went to high school.  Older than me, he enlisted in the Army after high school and died in some rice patty in Viet Nam.

He was a gentle soul.  He once teased me about something and when he realized he had touched a chord that hurt, became protective of me.  And I remember him every Memorial Day.  I went to his funeral in Minneapolis and could not comprehend he was not with us anymore.

I still cannot quite comprehend that he is not with us anymore.  I still remember the moment when he realized the tease hurt me.  He had not meant to and after that, he was very good to me.

When this day comes, I mourn him.  And will, until I die. 

I am not in Minnesota and so cannot bring flowers to my parent’s graves; my brother does that, thankfully, as he does to our Uncle Joe, who was the most important father figure in our lives.  Our father was a reticent man, not much given to social interchanges.  Uncle Joe, however, was, and living next door to us, embraced us all. 

When I was twelve, my father died and Uncle Joe did his best to be the best uncle he could be to me.  He loved all his nieces and nephews and did his best to be fair and generous to us all. 

He is remembered, too, this Memorial Day.

In the meantime, politics plunges on toward whatever end.  I am weary and wary, fearful and fretful and it will be what it will be.  And when I return from my summer sojourns, I must do what I can to see Trump is not the next President.

Ah, fog envelops the harbor.   At this moment, no boats at anchor can be seen.  Time for dinner, a little time and then to sleep, perchance to dream…

Letter From New York 05 22 15 Musing on Memorial Day…

May 22, 2015

It is a little after noon on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I am headed north on the train for the long weekend, planning a restful time at the Cottage. There is a little work that needs to be done around the Cottage and a few things I need to work on but I think I am going to be spending my time this weekend largely on the deck, reading a book.

Right now, I am devouring Erik Larsen’s “Thunderstruck.” I am sure I’ll finish it this weekend after having stayed up later than I planned last night after getting wrapped up in the story of Marconi and a murderer.

As I head north, the Hudson River is choppy and bronze colored. White caps tip the waves as the sun shines down brightly; in the distance a few clouds scud across the horizon. The hills have turned green and we sit on the verge of summer. Against such idyllic circumstances it is not hard to slip away from the world and to focus on the nearby, the familiar and the comfortable. I’m sure many of us will be doing that this weekend.

Memorial Day was established to remember those who died in our armed forces in service to their country. There are over a million men and women who have. It grew out of the devastation of the Civil War in which over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had died. Women went out to cemeteries and laid flowers on the graves of those who died. Originating in the south, the custom moved north during the years following the war, becoming a formal holiday in the 20th Century.

As a child, we went on Memorial Day to put flowers on the graves of the grandparents I had never known and on the grave of the brother I would have had if he had not died two days after birth. It felt somber and real and was considered a duty.

Not so much today. We have a more nonchalant attitude today to Memorial Day for the most part; it marks the unofficial beginning of summer with Labor Day marking the unofficial end. It was only in 1971 that it became the last Monday in May. I think I should remember that but I don’t.

I’m not sure that all that many go out to mark the graves of relatives with flowers these days. The VFW and other such organizations see that soldiers’ graves are marked with small flags. It is a tradition in the cemetery on the road to the Cottage. There will be parades.parties, barbecues and picnics, especially parades. It’s a big day for parades.

Hudson may have one but its big parade day is Flag Day. No one has ever explained it to me but that’s the day the City of Hudson pulls out all the parade stops.

On Memorial Day, the flag will be at half staff until noon and then raised to its full height to represent that after honoring the dead we will continue to protect the liberty for which they gave their lives.

Meanwhile almost 5% more Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend than last year, availing themselves of the cheaper gas prices than last year’s though higher than earlier this year. Most people will be driving to their destinations.

Gradually I am getting toward my destination, looking forward to being at the Cottage. The sky is marginally cloudier, the market is down marginally, more boats are on the river and I am looking forward to the long holiday weekend but will do my best on Monday to remember those who served and died and also to think about those currently serving, men and women who are probably not enjoying the pleasant vistas I have.

Have a good Memorial Day Weekend.

Letter From New York 05 21 15 From Palmyra to Santa Barbara…

May 21, 2015

It is the Thursday before the Memorial Holiday weekend and people are fleeing the city; driving through the park was the easiest I’ve ever experienced when I was taking a cab back after a morning appointment on the East Side. It is also another grey day in New York, one in a series though the forecast for the weekend is supposed to be better than what we’ve had.

The media news of the day has been a full blast of coverage of the final show for David Letterman, who for thirty-three years has worked the late night hours, longer than anyone else. The New York Post had a columnist who did an exegesis of Letterman’s career, feeling he had gone from unique to mundane but the majority of reports were glowing and regretful that he was leaving the scene. He bowed out with grace and humor, didn’t shed a tear though those in audience did. Bon Voyage!

Also trumpeted across the headlines today was that Palmyra in Syria has fallen to IS and now IS is in control of 50% of Syria. Palmyra has given it control of a hub of roads that are major Syrian connectors as well as major gas wells. Fears have grown that the magnificent ruins on the outskirts of the city will be ravaged by IS militants. In the meantime, the city’s residents are cowering in fear of their lives. A house–to-house search has been going on as IS looks for Syrian soldiers. 17 have been reported killed, some by beheading, because they were associated with the government.

Adding a new wrinkle to the already messy situation in the Middle East is that Putin is putting his finger in the puddle now. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abidi is in Moscow and Putin is making him feel very welcome. The Russians are talking about expanded trade and delivery of military weapons to the Iraqi armed forces. The Russians have also been cozying up to Iran, which has been helping Iraq. An interesting mix is developing here and it can’t be making Washington happy. One gets the feeling that maybe we’re being outflanked.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Chinese are taking some tiny spits of land in the South China Sea and artificially making them much larger. One of them will have an airstrip big enough to take very big planes. These islands are being used by the Chinese to expand their territorial claims. To refute those claims the U.S. has been sending planes through what we consider international airspace and which the Chinese now consider their airspace. The tension is rising over what effectively amounts to a stationary aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

In Baltimore, six officers have been indicted in the Freddie Gray death that incited days of violence.

Santa Barbara is cleaning up its oil spill, not the worst they’ve had but bad enough.

And the state in which Santa Barbara resides, California, is learning to sip water rather than guzzle it. Though there are those who are fragrantly keeping their lawns green and their pools filled. It is a stark picture of the economic divide.

The President of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, announced that he would not revoke the charters of groups that allowed gay councilors.

Ireland is voting tomorrow on whether or not to allow gay marriage. It is looking as if it will pass as polls indicate as many as 70% are in favor of it. Flights from America to Ireland are fully booked as Irish citizens are returning for the historic vote. Trains and ferries are being organized to take the Irish from the UK home for the vote.

Too bad Americans don’t take voting that seriously.

I must seriously end this, as shortly I will have to go meet my friend Paul Krich to have dinner in celebration of his birthday this week.

Letter From New York May 31, 2010

June 1, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Over the Memorial Day weekend my brother Joe and his friend Deb came to visit me in the city and we did everything we could to make it a New York weekend. We wandered the city, did a rickshaw ride through Central Park, went to see Jersey Boys on Broadway, went to very good restaurants, Redeye Grill and Capsouto Freres and Café du Soleil. We walked the streets, took taxis here and there and soaked in the beautiful weather.

It was hard not to be thinking of the military this weekend, what with it being Memorial Day and it also being Fleet Week and the city full of sailors and Marines, all marching through the town in crisp uniforms, unfailingly polite and looking oh so young while some, for reasons I can only imagine, also seemed so old, looks in their faces that spoke of what they had seen. One such young man was on the train with me on Thursday morning coming up from Washington, D.C. He was a Marine, carrying his kit with him, a face both impossibly young and impossibly old, eyes that burned, making me wonder what they had witnessed. It was a face that marked itself into my mind and will be with me for a long, long, long time.

We also walked around the area near Ground Zero, seeing the hole from which, slowly, is arising the new World Trade Center. We passed a listing of those who had died there, the first name, whose last name started with a double “a” was actually the son of a friend of my brother’s, a moment that made 9/11 even more real than it already was. We walked up Broadway and stopped at St. Paul’s Chapel, mere steps really from Ground Zero. On that day everything around it was destroyed but it endured. George Washington worshiped there during the months that New York was the nation’s capital. Since 9/11 it has become a shrine to that time, that moment in history. In the days and months following 9/11 it became a place of refuge for those who were working in “the pit.” Men and women would work, stagger to St. Paul’s and sleep in the pews or on the cots that were around the perimeter, each of which was outfitted with a stuffed animal. Food was served, souls were touched, bodies were cared for and human beings met human beings, anchoring the workers in the goodness of the human spirit as they were fresh from working in a place that spoke to the evil that men can do to one another.

It was difficult for me. When Deb asked me a question about where I was, what happened to me that day I found myself choking back tears. It comes that way sometimes – I can speak of 9/11 dispassionately and other times I can’t. I am there, I am back again in all the trauma of that day and the days that followed. I can feel the shudder of the building I was living in that was the result of the impact of the first plane hitting the first building. I can stand again at West Broadway and Spring Street and see the flames from the first hit tower. I am still somewhere in my life waiting for my friend of the time Cheryl to arrive, having walked up from near Ground Zero. I am still in the smoked filled, acrid smelling streets, filled with crowds of refugees and crying, dust covered men and women walking traumatically north.

I cannot get away from all of that day. It lives within my soul. Walking with Joe and Deb through that space brought it back, painfully. And yet it was good that I remembered. It reminded me that Memorial Day was about remembering and I was remembering this Memorial Day weekend, remembering 9/11, remembering that all those young Marines and sailors were serving us in the wars that resulted from that day, remembering that were other wars that have been fought and men and women who had sacrificed in those times.

Letter From New York: Memorial Day Memories

May 26, 2009

Letter From New York

Memorial Day Memories…

Memorial Day originated to honor the dead of the Civil War; it has grown to become a major holiday, primarily honoring the fallen dead of our wars and has had added to it the opportunity to honor all those we have loved who have gone before us in death. There will be parades; wreathes and flowers will be put upon graves. There will be picnics and barbeques; I write this as I am waiting to go to one while savoring the inchoate beauty of sitting looking out at the creek while surrounded by my two acres of trees with somewhere off in the distance the safe sound of someone mowing their lawn.

This is the kind of day when things seem right with the world, safe and welcoming, a suggestion there will be happiness, fun and camaraderie during the summer ahead. We do know there are no guarantees but on days such as this it almost seems as if the universe is willing to offer the promise of one, the soft sweet illusion that the world is really as perfect as the day, as much in harmony as this kind of day. We can momentarily shove aside the harsh realities of such things as the possibility of another nuclear test by the crazy North Koreans, riots in India, the battle with the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan with its overflow into Pakistan, the pirates that plague the Gulf of Aden, and all the other travails of our planet.

As a child I recall neighborhood parades, marching down local streets, full of flag waving and drums, adults and children with smiles on their faces, laughing while dragging makeshift floats and making cacophonous music. There will be parades today, I am sure, in the towns and hamlets scattered through Columbia County. Up in Kinderhook at the café an older gentleman who had once appeared on the Ed Sullivan show did a musical march through the songs of our wars. A friend who found it wonderful phoned his performance in to me.

The Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the official summer season in the United States; while summer does not officially come for nearly another month, the summer “season” for Americans has arrived. Forward from this day we will march boldly into summer, folding back the tarps covering tennis courts, filling swimming pools and washing down picnic tables while stocking up on citronella.

As I woke up this morning, the local PBS station, much like the man in Kinderhook, was airing a history of patriotic songs, probably going back as far as the Revolutionary War; I, however, didn’t wake up until World War I, followed by WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, the first Iraq War, the second Iraq War. It was an intriguing musical history of America, bringing a flood of memories and reactions. Not born until after WWII, I felt a stir of emotions as veterans described their memories of D-Day, the loss of Glen Miller, the meaning to them of the songs of the Andrew Sisters.

The moral ambiguity that came to the Viet Nam conflict was caught in song though I believe that perhaps the most important outcome of Viet Nam may have been to teach my generation to separate the soldiers from the conflict. While most Americans have come to believe the second Iraq War was, at its very best, a flawed enterprise, it also did not mean we needed to execrate the soldiers returning from a war of which we did not approve. We have felt free to embrace and uphold them and to celebrate their service even if we did not approve of the war to which they had been sent to fight.

That, on this Memorial Day, is a thing for which I am grateful.