Well, January turned out to be quite a month. The national news was pretty much dominated by political stuff and COVID-19 reports. Some of our retired AF friends living elsewhere in the country have already received both vaccinations. In Lincoln, shots began earlier this week for people even older than I am. Nita and I hope to be notified sometime in the next three weeks or so.
Nationally, the events of January 6 – the storming of the Capitol -- will remain as an enduring part of our national fabric. Years ago, some acquaintances in the British military reminded me in a joking fashion that they had set fire to the place in 1814. I never thought anything remotely similar to that would occur in my lifetime.
The inauguration was the other big political event in January. I always enjoy those ceremonies regardless of party because they are such watershed moments in the history of our country. The first election I remember being discussed was Truman’s victory over Dewey in 1948. I was a small boy at the time – that was in the Stone Age long before TV reached our house – and I recall my parents listening to the returns on the radio. I don’t remember the inauguration specifically or that of the two Eisenhower ceremonies that followed (although we did watch the election night coverage of the second one on my dad’s new prized possession). The first ceremony I specifically remember watching was JFK’s. Great inaugural address. (Ted Sorensen, his speechwriter, grew up in Lincoln.) I checked the words of his speech a few minutes ago. Here are some of them:
“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans …”
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty …”
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Wow, wish we had a leader on the horizon in either party who could speak like that. I was thinking as I typed those words how much the world and attitudes in this country have changed since he said them.
I watched Kennedy’s address from Minot AFB, North Dakota. It was ungodly cold there and I remember how cold it was in Washington D.C. that day with all the dignitaries bundled up on the podium. I guess that all came to mind was because the biggest local news we had in January was some Minot-like weather throughout most of Nebraska. When the snow that started on January 25 finally stopped at three in the morning on the 26th, 15 inches had fallen – the second largest amount ever recorded in Lincoln. A high wind added to the issues. Everything – schools, businesses, mail delivery, everything --was shut down for three days. Plows working around the clock kept main arterial streets barely passable. Side streets were a disaster. Glad that one has moved on, although a weather warning has been issued for a storm that may bring us more snow and bitter cold temperatures over the next few days. The cat and I are getting mentally prepared for time in the recliner in front of the fire place.
Before I move on to other things, I must comment that when the blizzard struck Lincoln, an AF friend, CMSgt Frank Viser, saw fit to email me that it was 70 degrees in San Antonio when he went for his run that day…
Writing News: Still waiting for returns on a couple of submissions. Many publishers are running late on notifications. The pandemic has contributed to that. So, that could be the reason for the delay. Or, it could be prompted by good news or bad news: good news if the timing means that the pieces are being given an extended look; bad news if they have been discarded and no one has yet seen fit to let me know. This is a strange profession.
Over the past few weeks, I have been busy with the final writing of a very rough first draft for a prospective book titled (tentatively) “Glory in the Shadows: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders -- Cold War to the Present Day.” This one has taken a long time. There are reasons/excuses for that. I have set it aside at times to work on other projects and there is a boat load of material to research and wade through. Also – and perhaps most importantly – this book covers conflicts that many potential readers have been acquainted with in an up close and personal basis. In the first two “In the Shadows” books, my descriptions of the wars themselves were fairly condensed. In this one, I would like to provide a little more detail so as not to shortchange the people who were there and lived through it firsthand. Hopefully, that will work out, although I think the draft will need considerable trimming as I go through the edit process.
One of my two favorite daughters sent me the book “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of the Churchill Family and Defiance During the Blitz.” I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is factual history that reads like non-fiction. The Washington Post review was: “Reads like an elegant thriller ... utterly compelling … marvelous stuff.” The book covers the actions and activities of Churchill, his family, and friends – and has great anecdotal stuff on the reactions of the British people during this pivotal time in history. This was the time of Dunkirk, the Blitz, the Battle of Britain. England was alone. It has hard to imagine what the world would be like if Britain had given in – as some in Churchill’s party and in the populace urged him to do.
One of the many things in the book that I have enjoyed is a tidbit about Churchill and a cat named Nelson (after the admiral). The two were apparently devoted. Churchill took Nelson with him when he moved into Number 10 Downing Street and sometimes even when he went for the weekend to Chequers, the country estate used by British Prime Ministers. On occasion, Nelson slept at the foot of the bed. Churchill composed some of his speeches by saying them aloud as he marched back and forth through the rooms at Downing Street or Chequers. Sometimes, he apparently carried Nelson as he was walking and orating. One can imagine the words for “We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender ,,,” and “Never in the course of human events have so many owed so much to so few” and other of the English-speaking world’s greatest orations perhaps emerging as Churchill, cat in hand, marched around a drawing room.
And now, for your reading (dis)pleasure: a couple of TRULY AWFUL PUNS.
Today I saw a dwarf climbing down a prison wall. I thought to myself: that’s a little con descending.
I hired a fixit man to repair five things in my house
He did numbers one, three, and five.
He only did odd jobs.
Yeah, I know. Really bad and you’re probably angry. But, remember: if you seek me out to complain, you’ll have to stay socially distanced. (And you may not recognize me with my mask on.)
Best wishes to all,