Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trumpets Of Possible Victory

Spent the humid, stormy weekend in Indy, visiting family, engaging in hyper-Perrin talk (a loud fast feature of my clan), and signing numerous copies of "Mules." Most of my family likes to read, and to have an actual, living, blushing author in the fold . . . well, let's say that this old thing felt honored to be so loved and appreciated -- that is, when I wasn't matching my relatives quip for quip. Like I said, they're a quick, verbal crowd. The collective din of eight separate, simultaneous discussions reaches speed metal tone and velocity. Music to my ears.

Brother Jeff and nephew Jeffrey, Jr. are holding up well months after Holly's murder. It's just the boys now, and their new life obviously has its bumps and down times. But they keep it going, tighter than ever, and having a son close to Jeffrey's age makes me wonder how I would hold up under similar conditions. Jeffrey and I had a nice chat about superhero comics and movies, a topic I can talk about for hours. We discussed "The Dark Knight," and Jeffrey asked me about the trailer that ran just before it.

"You mean 'Watchmen'?"

"Yeah. That looked cool. What is that?"

I offered a brief explanation, since the plot of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel is so complex and covers several time periods, with varied political overtones. Mostly, though, Jeffrey wanted to know who the characters were, specifically the "weird blue guy."

"Oh, that's Doctor Manhattan. He's the most powerful of the Watchmen." Something the film's makers are already highlighting.

Looks like they've included the good Doctor's intervention in Vietnam, based on that shot of him vaporizing a Vietnamese guerilla. It's a kick ass trailer, especially on an Imax screen. If you don't know the storyline to "Watchmen," there are various sites online that'll explain it in full. I'm happy that Nite Owl's uniform doesn't look as clunky as it does in the book. And of course Rorschach, the masked man with the hat, appears as crazy as he should be. I hope the film is as good as the trailer, heightened by that smooth Smashing Pumpkins soundtrack.

On Sunday, I attended my Mother's birthday picnic at a local park, a very muggy afternoon where you could lose eight pounds by simply blinking. Mother talked to me about "Mules," which she liked, but was put-off by the profanity, primarily in the book's opening sentence.

"Actually, I'm quoting Bill Clinton, so you can take it up with him."

I explained that I was writing for the time I live in, just like the late-19th century scribes wrote for theirs, and so on. Not only do people casually cuss, it is part of the larger culture, which itself is profane. My Mother has very delicate concepts about writing, something that holds her back in her own work. She also was concerned about the image of me in "Mules" smoking a joint in my hotel room while attending YearlyKos. I told her that if she had seen what I'd seen at that gathering, she'd be hitting a blunt as well.

I finally met the young National Guardsman who's dating my teen niece. He's a few years older than her, is in strong, military shape, and is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in a couple of months. When he discovered my Army past, he immediately asked me about the boot camp of my era, saying that his was a joke. "The Drill Sergeants can't call you names, and they don't push you to the breaking point. They just rush you through to active duty." I replied that this wasn't the case in my day, where the Drill Sergeants routinely called us pukes, maggots, faggots, girls, women, cocksuckers, and motherfuckers. They screamed directly in our faces, pressed their boots on our backs as we did countless push-ups in the South Carolina sun, and ran us until at least two or three recruits collapsed. The kid's face lit up. That's the boot camp he desired. He was down with the whole military mindset, and actually looked forward to being in Iraq.

"Really?" I asked.

"Hell yeah. I got a lot of buddies over there, and only one's been in a firefight."

"I wouldn't get too secure about that 'surge' success. There are many reasons for the overall lull in fighting. And it's not over by a long shot."

The kid didn't care. He wanted Iraq on his resume. Seems for some of his generation, Iraq and Afghanistan are proving grounds. If you can go and come back in one piece, while hopefully kicking some hadji ass in between, you earn serious bragging rights. It's not about "democracy" anymore, as this kid readily admitted to me. He thought we should just steal their oil and eliminate those who get in the way. I held my tongue more than not, too hot and tired to seriously argue with him. Absorbing what I did say, he assumed that I was an Obama supporter.

"Oh no. Not even close."

"Thank God for that."

"Well, I think I oppose Obama for different reasons than you."

"I'm a Ron Paul man, myself."

"But Paul's against the war."

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, then added that he's an avid listener of Michael Savage. Nice to see the kid has a sick sense of humor, even if he doesn't know it. I'm sure it'll come in handy where he's going.