Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hopeful Rebound

Prelude

Canada and the U.S. (United States) have comparable traditions, customs and practices. We speak matching languages, eat and enjoy the same food, drive identical vehicles, watch similar sports and our governments fundamentally function as a democracy which consists of conservative and liberal ideologies.

I have never been a world traveler but always took pleasure in journeying to the U.S. Throughout my life I have visited Austin, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Daytona Beach, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach and Rochester.

One of my favourite cities is Detroit...I know what some of you are thinking...is Puritan fucking nuts, DETROIT ? I can understand some folks shock and disagreement, especially if they read the article in www.infowars.com - "Detroit has gone from being the greatest manufacturing city in the world to a global joke." The story was significantly realistic and sad.

The write up mentioned "Motown's" population has greatly dwindled, almost 2 million to 700,000 in the past few decades. Thousands of abandoned houses have been torn down but still have tens of thousands of abandoned dwellings that remain standing, which some of them have sold for as little as one dollar...WOW!!

Close to half the population is functionally illiterate and 40% of street lights don't work. The Police Dept. has been reduced by 40% (five will get you ten the Fire Dept. is in that equivalent circumstance) and the average response time for police calls is 58 minutes...dam scary.

To make matters worse Detroit's Mayor Kwane Kilpatrick (2002-2008) was sentenced to 28 years in prison for a corruption scandal. In 2013 the "Motor City" filed for bankruptcy...$17 billion, which was the largest in U.S. history.

We all know "Hockey Town" has been struggling for a long time. I have visited "Motown" on a number of occasions and always had a pleasurable experience. Let's face it, every big city has it's "zones", some a good, some are not so good.

It all started back in the late 1980's and early 1990's when my ex-wife and I would travel to Dearborn Heights, Michigan to visit her aunt and uncle...R.I.P. and God rest your souls. Dearborn Heights is a small blue collar suburb fifteen miles west of "Hockey Town". At that time the population was approximately 60,000.

We would always cruise into "Motown" riding the "People Mover" (an above ground rail transit system) and visiting "Greektown" which is a historic commercial and entertainment district dominated by many Greek themed restaurants.

We attended sporting events such as a M.L.B. (Major League Baseball) game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox at the now defunct Tiger Stadium. I was amused by the urinals in the men's washrooms, they were long, white, horizontal troughs.

I recall watching an N.F.L. (National Football League) exhibition match between the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.

There were additional sporting events we could have appeared at but there weren't enough tickets for everyone. I remember one instance my ex-wife's cousin had great tickets for the Tigers and New York Yankees and the seats were awesome...along third base line. But again, only four tickets for six people. I could have seen the game but my attitude was...if all of us can't go, I'm not going either.

Even back in those days Detroit had considerable economic and urban blight...the city was quickly decaying...there were certain areas you could "tour" and different locations you would avoid. Nevertheless my ex-wife's relatives always showed us a delightful time...without fail, fantastic American hospitality.

The next time I set out for "Motor City" was for a three day "getaway" with my E.A. (Executive Assistant) in 2003. It was the American Thanksgiving and we "scored" tickets to the traditional Thursday Detroit Lions Thanksgiving day football game. To generate more excitement for myself, the Lions were hosting my favourite team, the Green Bay Packers at their new stadium Ford Field.

It is a magnificent indoor North American football facility replacing the Silverdome which was the previous home of the Lions. Ford Field opened in 2000 and has a capacity of 65,000. Directly across the street is Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers which also opened in 2000. The ball park also has the appearance of a beautiful sports complex. I haven't taken a seat there yet, but hopefully it will happen soon.

We checked into the Pontchartrain Hotel (now Hotel Crown Plaza) on Wednesday (they day before the game) around 12:00 p.m. It was roughly one mile from Ford Field across the street from Joe Louis Arena the soon ex home of the Detroit Red Wings of the N.H.L. (National Hockey League).

Since we had a small fridge in our room I inquired where I could purchase beer. Not thinking I could have probably bought beer at our hotel bar. Regardless of that, I was told there was a bar across the street behind the hotel that sold beer for take out...I was flabbergasted and amazed...I couldn't believe it, take out beer at a bar.

The first thing that entered my non-liberal mind was not as many stringent, ridiculous and authoritarian rules for alcohol in Michigan to what I'm used to in "McWynne Wonderland."

A very good friend of mine who lives in Calgary, Alberta told me some pubs in Calgary and British Columbia bars also have a take out policy on alcohol. What the fuck is wrong with this province, mind you alcohol is just one of many issues that need to be overhauled in this White Trillium territory.

I walked into the bar and it was crowded with customers who appeared to represent a combination of blue and white collar lunch time crowd. I purchased twelve bottles of Budweiser "pints", I can't remember the price but it was appropriate.

The owner of the bar and I started to "drum up" some conversation and he asked me if I wanted tickets to the game. I replied I already have a pair. He showed me his tickets...they were better seats than mine. He displayed a seating plan of Ford Field and my seats were high corner end zone in the upper deck...you could say the nose bleed section. His tickets were on the five yard line and twenty-five rows up. I gave him forty dollars and we exchanged tickets.

I arrived back at the hotel with twelve cold "Buds" and new, improved and upgraded game passes. Strangely enough the owner of the bar was Canadian...he lived in Windsor, Ontario,

The game was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. but we arrived at the stadium via taxi an hour and a half before kickoff. The reason we appeared that early is quite simple. I coached football for numerous years at different levels. I basically taught myself about the x's and o's of the game. Whenever I attended any professional game I would always be there early to watch both squads warm up and performing the pre game drills. I would try to pick up some tips I could utilize for the team I was coaching at the time.

Fox Television Network N.F.L. Sunday was televising the game. James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long were the pre, half time and post game analysts. It was "cool" watching the maquillage artists "touching up" the celebrities make-up and assuring their hair and wardrobe was neat and proper during television commercial breaks.

A 16 oz. plastic bottle of Labatts Blue beer was (as I recollect) around six dollars. According to Forbes Aug. 20/14 a twenty oz. bottle of beer is $8.50...the Lions and the Dallas Cowboys are the most expensive in the N.F.L. when it comes to buying beer.

I still find that fairly reasonable for a sporting event considering how we are taken advantage of and gouged, any which way but right in this frightfully nerve racking province called "Yours To Discover."

We saw a Green Bay touchdown pass right before our eyes. Although the Packers lost 22-14 it was still a splendid game and I witnessed Favre and "The Pack" live.

When I think of it now my E.A. and I had a splash of naivety after the game. We couldn't locate any taxis so we walked back to the hotel. It was 4:00 p.m. and the streets were desolate and deserted...like a ghost town...we were the only people in the area.

The locality was classified as downtown and there were a considerable number of buildings that were dilapidated...story goes the city was in an urban renewal phase. Anyway, it was enlightening and we returned to our hotel safe and sound.

The hotel prepared a lovely and absolutely delicious Thanksgiving dinner for their guests...an all you could eat buffet. The menu consisted of oven roasted turkey, creamy mash potatoes, homemade dressing/stuffing, thick brown gravy, kernel corn, sweet green peas and baby carrots, macaroni salad and cole slaw and warm soft rolls. For desert there was pumpkin pie and chocolate cake...all that for $20 a person.

A meal like that in Ontario, and for that price, I really have to laugh out loud in an unsavory fashion and then say NEVER...only in our dreams. The overbearing and inflexible marketing boards and selfish and power hungry politicians who operate this empire won't allow it...the tax payers NEVER get a break.

A few times we would be sitting in our hotel bar taking pleasure in drinking our adult beverages and smoking cigarettes...sadly the state banned smoking in all restaurants and bars in 2010. However an article in Michigan Radio Jan. 27/14 said State Representative Tom McMillin wants to loosen Michigan's smoking laws, allowing smoking on patio bars and other outdoor area.

During our last night we were very surprised to encounter folks from Youngstown, Ohio in the hotel lounge. You are probably saying, so what, big deal Puritan. It was a big deal. My E.A. lived in Youngstown for three years back in the seventies...her ex-husband received a full ride football scholarship to Youngstown State University.

We drank together, traded some stories and had a few laughs with the Youngstown bunch. Unfortunately they stated that the one time working class, university and steel town had also deteriorated like Detroit.

Nevertheless "Motown" is making a slow come back. Several new hotels, restaurants and art galleries have been established for the revitalization program for downtown.

An article in Yahoo News (Dec. 17/14) said businessman Dan Gilbert moved his company "Quicken Loans" headquarters to the city and has more than 12,500 team members working in the downtown sector. He has also invested $1.5 billion in restoring downtown.

The Detroit Red Wings will be moving to a new arena in 2017 called Little Caesars Arena. Besides the rink there will be a 650,000 square foot sports and entertainment district. It will also include mixed use neighborhoods and new residential and retail outlets, located just a few blocks from Ford Field and Comerica Park.

The Detroit Pistons of the N.B.A. (National Basketball Association) are contemplating moving their team into the downtown area also. They presently play at Auburn Hills which is a suburb thirty four miles north of "Motown."

The District Detroit (April 28/16) reported the Little Caesars Arena will be a cornerstone of the District Detroit, a $1.2 billion live, work and play development fueling the city's redevelopment.

My last visit to Motor City was 2003. You might conclude I'm writing this "piece" for Detroit's tourism...I wish that was the case...there would probably be some sort of gratuity for my editor "Uncle Block" (who created and designed my blog) and I for our effort.

I would really like to see "Motown" make a comeback. The regeneration of the city won't happen immediately...it will be a substantial lengthy process for the metropolis to achieve their once proud culture again.

Epilogue

Detroit isn't for everyone...obviously it's not a tropical paradise. Some individuals say it's unfavourable and distasteful because of the municipality's deterioration over the years...I think it's a great place to visit and if you have friends or relatives residing there, even better. It is a superb sports town and has numerous attractions and lovely restaurants. Hopefully the city will make an abundant, thorough and full recovery.

The End

The Harvenut Puritan Project
Puritan will return with Changeup

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Tragic Blunder

Prelude

"I have asked Commanding General Westmoreland what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression and he has told me. And we will meet his needs...we don't want an expanding struggle with consequences that no one can foresee, nor will we bluster or bully or flaunt our power. But we will not surrender and we will not retreat."

President Lyndon B. Johnson, July 28, 1965.

Before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated I recall one of his statements in a speech that has been incorporated in my mind for numerous years. I will paraphrase what he said: America isn't going to send young people to fight a war in Southeast Asia. Well, we all know that Johnson didn't follow through on Kennedy's pledge. In 1965 there were 184,300 American troops in Vietnam and by April 30/69 543,000 military personnel called Vietnam their "home".

I'm neither a historian nor an expert on the U.S. (United States) involvement in Vietnam. But for some odd reason, it has always intrigued me, probably because my generation was constantly exposed to the war by the media. We were made aware of it every night in our living rooms on the six o'clock news with Walter Cronkite. I also remember watching the Bob Hope Christmas specials where he and other celebrities would entertain the American military stationed in Vietnam.

I look back on two incidents that still remain in my mind today...both were on T.V. (television). On Feb. 1/68 South Vietnam's Chief of National Police, Nguyen Ngoc Loan executed a handcuffed V.C. (Viet Cong) prisoner...he pulled out his pistol and shot him in the head...his prisoner instantly dropped to the ground...dead.

The other clip was on June 8/72. A screaming and crying nine year old South Vietnamese girl was running nude on a road...she was hysterical. Her name was Phan Thi Kim Phuc and her back was severely burned due to a South Vietnamese napalm attack. They dropped the bomb on her village of Trang Brang because it had been attacked and occupied by the N.V.A. (North Vietnamese Army). Some how she survived and lives in Ajax, Ontario today.

I think most people who watched both happenings on T.V. would agree, it certainly opened up our insight and intellect about the horrors of war...something we had never seen before.

The war certainly took it's toll, all wars do, on the U.S. The following are some grisly facts from Vietnam Warfacts, Stats and Myths - US Wings: combat deaths - 58,220, injured - 304,000, severely disabled - 75,000, 100% disabled - 23, 214, 5,283 lost limbs, 1,081 underwent multiple amputations, 61% of those killed were younger than twenty-one years old and over 2,000 are still M.I.A. (missing in action).

It certainly wasn't any "tip toe through the tulips" for South or North Vietnam. According to the website "Ask" figures released by Vietnam in 1995 claimed 2 million civilians died on both sides, 1.1 million N.V.A. and V.C. and between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed.

Vietnam was a combat spot for years prior to the U.S. involvement. The French-Indochina War began Dec. 19/46 and ended Aug. 1/54 when the French surrendered to Vietnam shortly after the brutal defeat they encountered after a fifty-six day siege by the Viet Minh forces of Ho Chi Minh on May 7/54 at Dien Bren Phu. However, Vietnam was divided with the North's ideology of communism and the South's political belief, republic.

The U.S. campaign in Vietnam started in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy sent four hundred American Green Berets Special Advisors to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese troops. I've read a few articles on why the U.S. entailed with South Vietnam. To summarize, the U.S. was very worried and concerned that North Vietnam would invade and conquer South Vietnam and sooner or later the entire Southeast Asian theatre would be a communist sanctuary. Was it that plain and simple or did the politicians have another plan with a trick card hidden up their sleeves?

Are the assassinations of South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Drom on Nov. 2/63 (carried out by his generals) and U.S. President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22/63 just coincidental...I find them remarkably unusual and perplexing.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident on Aug. 2/64 in my opinion, is what kick started the Vietnam War. The U.S. "claims" that North Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on a navy destroyer the U.S.S. Maddox. Over the years there has been plentiful and overwhelming evidence that the event was false, in fact never occurred. Nevertheless, it granted the U.S. government the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and gave President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia...welcome to "The Nam" America.

In Jan. 1965 the U.S. draft (conscription) had 5,400 individuals called and by December there were 45,000, and the monthly draft call increased 17,000-35,000 people. If Americans refused the draft there would be harsh penalties. Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali found out about conscription. In 1967 he refused to participate in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs and was sentenced to five years in prison (which he never served), fined $10,000 and couldn't fight for nearly four years.

One of my favourite All In The Family episodes is titled "The Draft Dodger" Season 7, Episode 15, 1976. Mike's friend is visiting the Bunker household at Christmas time. Canada was a shelter for some U.S. draft dodgers, one unofficial estimate was 30,000-40,000. I recall Rochdale College in Toronto, Ontario located on Bloor Street West just west of Yonge St. in the 1960's. The facility was an educational institution but was also a haven for some draft dodgers who sold illegal drugs to the community...you could say it was an illegitimate Shoppers Drug Mart.

According to C.B.C. News, Nov. 10/15, 20,000 Canadians enlisted to engage in the Vietnam War and 134 were killed in action. When I was in Grade 8 at Westview School in Hamilton, Ontario I found out one of my classmate's older brother had died in the Vietnam war. I didn't offer my condolences towards him. I was familiar with this war (the media drummed the "conflict" into our minds) but I thought, oh well it's just another war...I was a young and stupid 13 year old kid. Now I wish I would've shown some solace towards him.

I discovered the following information about my fellow classmate's brother from Talking Proud Archives. He was a private in the U.S.M.C. (United States Marine Corp) and began his tour of duty on Oct. 24/67. He died on Feb. 8/68 in Khe Sanh at an outpost called "Hill 64". Like a lot of soldiers who perish in wars, his was a gruesome and horrible death. An explosive device struck his bunker and his head had been blown off from the base of his skull to his forehead. His name is inscribed on The North Wall - Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Windsor, Ontario and The Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

When I was in Grade 12 in 1972 at Westmount Secondary School I recall a good high school buddy (we are still friends today) said to me he had considered enlisting to fight in the Vietnam War. I asked him, "why" and he replied, "to fight communism". Lucky for my friend he procrastinated on his decision...the war was quickly winding down and coming to an end.

I read two excellent books about the horrors and awfulness of the Vietnam War, 'Charlie Company: What Vietnam Did To Us' by Peter Goldman and Tony Fuller and 'Everything We Had' by Al Santoli. Both novels are true accounts of numerous G.I.'s experiences in Vietnam. I noticed an interesting comment in the paperback 'Everything We Had' on page 151, which has Al Santoli saying "It wasn't the N.V.A. that beat us, it was our own politicians." How many times did we hear that after the war...bureaucrats poking around in affairs they don't have a fucking clue about.

Over the years Hollywood has done a spectacular task and effort of producing Vietnam War movies. Here are a few: Coming Home - 1978, The Deer Hunter - 1978, Apocalypse Now - 1979, Friendly Fire - 1979, A Rumor of War - 1980, Born on the Fourth of July - 1984, Purple Hearts - 1984, Full Metal Jacket - 1987, Good Morning Vietnam - 1987 and Hamburger Hill - 1987.

I can't leave out one of my all time favourites, the 1986 masterpiece 'Platoon', winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture. This classic shows what took place in that war. The heat, the bugs, booby traps, friendly fire, firefights, the V.C. tunnels, drinking, drugs, how important body counts were, soldiers raping young Vietnamese girls and innocent villagers murdered are all highlighted in this first rate movie. The opening credit of the film reinforces how young the soldiers really were, "Rejoice O young man in thy youth" - Ecclesiastes. The 1985 song titled 'Nineteen' by Paul Hardcastle also strengthens the fact a lot of the troops were less than twenty years old.

On March 16/68 the horrifying My Lai massacre occurred. Over five hundred villagers (men, women and children) were murdered by American soldiers. U.S. Intelligence reported My Lai was a suspected headquarters of the Viet Cong 48th Battalion but as it turned out, they were wrong. After the slaughter it was covered up to be a savage firefight. The following excerpt is from the website Digital History: women were raped and other civilians were clubbed and stabbed to death. Some victims were mutilated with the signature 'C Company' carved into their chests. One soldier testified, I cut their throats, cut off their hands, cut out their tongues and scalped them.

Six months later a twenty-one year old soldier wrote a letter to General Creighton Abrams and described what really happened. He also sent letters to thirty members of congress. After a thorough investigation twenty-six soldiers were initially charged but William Calley, a second lieutenant was the only person found guilty. He was convicted of murdering twenty-two unarmed South Vietnamese civilians. On March 31.71 he was sentenced to life in prison with hard labour at Fort Leavenworth. One day later his sentence was reduced to a house arrest. After serving three and one half years of his house arrest President Richard M. Nixon gave him a presidential pardon and Calley was a free man.

In my opinion My Lai wasn't righteous and certainly not justified. Wrong information, mistaken identities, revenge for the U. S. troops, who knows...it's no myth, there are no rules in war. We all have knowledge that the V.C. would blend in with the villagers so who could the Americans trust...they only sureness they had was with each other. We have all seen pictures of American troops walking through farmers' fields with many of the villagers harvesting and tending their crops or maybe they were N.V.A. or V.C. ready to wipe out an entire platoon. If it was me in that situation I would be a fucking paranoid basket case...again who could you have faith in?

Hollywood director Oliver Stone has been planning to produce another Vietnam War movie since 2007 titled 'Pinkville'. It's about the My Lai massacre. Some of the actors rumored to partake in the film are Nicholas Cage, Woody Harrelson, Shia Labeouf, Michael Pena, Michael Pitt, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis. The word Pinkville meant an area identified with particular danger. I have a 'gut feeling' the movie will not be created or released and the U.S. government is the reason for that. Either way you examine the massacre, it was a shameful, disgraceful and embarrassing event for the U.S. and America doesn't want to be reminded of what happened on that day at My Lai.

President Richard M. Nixon started to withdraw troops on June 8/69 and The Paris Peace Accord on Jan. 27/63 brought 'so called' peace to Vietnam. The U.S. withdrew all their remaining military personnel but North Vietnam violated the agreement for the next two years continuing it's conquest on South Vietnam...the U.S. was finished in Vietnam, never to return.

On April 30/75 the last Americans departed Saigon and the N.V.A. and V.C. troops swarmed into Saigon and encountered little resistance...the V.C. flag was raised at the Presidential Palace, and North Vietnam had finally conquered South Vietnam.

I remember that day watching Saigon collapse on television. Frantic and hysterical people fleeing the city because the N.V.A. and the V.C. were only an hour or two away and viewing U.S. military personnel pushing $250,000 (at that time) "Huey" helicopters off U.S. aircraft carriers to make space for South Vietnamese refugees...the war was absolutely and undoubtedly concluded.

The American politicians biggest phobia and worry was, if North Vietnam wasn't defeated, all of Southeast Asia would be under a communist regime...their mandate was simple, destroy communism. As of today, of the eleven countries that compose Southeast Asia, Vietnam is the only communist nation.

President Johnson had considered using atomic bombs on North Vietnam as the U.S. did on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan Aug. 6 and 9, 1945 respectively but decided against it fearing he may start a nuclear war. Myself and a lot of other people probably thought the same thing...just fucking nuke North Vietnam and the war would be over...of course "shooting from the lip" is very easy to do. I realize now, maybe not a good idea.

However, the war was unwanted, a waste of time, effort and money and most of all the cost of HUMAN SUFFERING AND LIVES. The U.S. should have continued to have their military advisors assist and counsel the South Vietnamese armed forces...their maximum involvement in the war should have never happened. But in retrospect, it's extremely simple for me to "shoot my gate off"...especially half a century later.

Epilogue

It had to be a total devastation for my classmate and his family to receive the dreadful news of their son's and brother's death as well as all the families whose loved ones died in the Vietnam War. Sadly, the memories will never be erased for them as well as the men and women who did make it home. I have watched the 1986 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, "Platoon" on thirty five occasions. Each time the movie finishes I always say to myself, "I thank whoever, I didn't have to serve in the Vietnam War.

The End
The Harvenut Puritan Project

Puritan will return with Hopeful Rebound


Heebie - Jeebies

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