We were up late for Bad Epitaph's CARNIVAL Benefit. I had to drive Heather all the way back to her place in western Lakewood, I was in bed by three and up again by ten to get to the brewery by noon. I was tired. And I was there to help everyone tear down the benefit.
Two and a half hours later I was rushing downtown for what? For the event, the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the end of the Gulf War, of the "liberation of Kuwait." Two weeks earlier John Campbell (I still don't know his rank) also known as "Leah's vet" invited all of us. I knew Leah would be there, she was supposed to get an award or something, or so she had told me though it was supposed to be a secret. I assumed no one else from the show would show up, but who knows?
The Naval Reserve Center, where the event was to be held was on "East Ninth across from the Rock Hall" -- little did I know that was exactly where it was, a completely unnoticeable building down there by the harbor. I had parked way up a Lakeside and though it was unseasonably warm (61 degrees said the billboard on the stadium) it was so windy.
Just across I-90 this guy is on the off-ramp at the light in an I-Roc, he rolls down the window, "Hey!"
"Yeah?" I ask, but miss his question, it's blown away on the wind. I get closer.
"Where's the Rock Hall?" he asks.
I swing my arm behind me and point at the extremely odd-looking glass pyramid that stands out against the sky like the world renown building that it is.
"That's the Rock Hall," I shout.
When I walk through the doors of the Naval Center, I am wind-whipped and nervous. A man in cammos waiting at the door doesn't even ask what I am there for, he tells me "downstairs, end of the hall." So that's where I go.
It's a long narrow hall, I have to go through a few doors and it actually gets quieter not louder so I don't know if I have passed it or what. At the end of the hall there are cadets, at least six deep, on either side of the hall.
As I approach the first (perhaps to ask - is this the room?) they all snap to attention and salute. I actually jumped back. The one on the end smirked. I didn't know what to do. At the end of them I see Campbell, waving me forward. He's got a big smile on his face. "Don't be scared," he said.
I walked through, nodding deferentially at the cadets. Freaky.
Leah and her parents are right there, in the front row and they make room for me. I am still freaked. We are the only two of the cast who come.
Campbell apparently organized this chapter of Gulf vets, and they seem to love him a great deal. A lot of awards were handed out, he put together most of them though a few were from others to him, and he was noticeably surprised and choked up. I already knew from Leah's work that he is quite an emotionally connected man.
I finally see him bring up an award that had a copy of "The Gulf" program in it. He talks to these people, this room full of veterans, cadets, parents of soldiers who died in Saudi Arabia, journalists, about our little play. About these teenagers and young adults, who searched their hearts, asked difficult questions, wrote short plays and put on a show about their war. We remembered what they had done.
Then he asked me to join him at the podium. I was very surprised.
I walked up, he thanked me, I cannot remember what he said (he, of course, made a joke about my looking like Dr. Green) and gave me an award, a frame with a black, cloth background -- the program, a U.S. flag patch, a commemorative stamp, a Gulf War medal with the state of Kuwait on it -- and the caduceus, the symbol of medicine, the symbol of healing. I thanked him. I took the plaque. I sat down.
Leah was honored next, she received the plaque and an American flag.
We were the only two people who were not affiliated with the military or politics who were honored that day. And I have conflicted feelings. I am proud, and I feel so strange about where I came to be honored by a veterans group. I protested this war. I set out the produce a play that condemned this war as a cynical exercise. I bristled at plays called "Patriotism" and plays that went out of their way to vilify Saddam Hussein. And yet something honest came through, so honest that even those who might be offended by its candor, by its questioning, by its refusal to accept the line as it has been handed down, saw what was real, and special about this work.
I don' know what to think about it. I didn't know what to say -- others had given speeches and I didn't thank I would have if I had been ready for it. It was all said in the play.
Sunday, February 25, 2001
Sunday, February 18, 2001
First Bradley Method class. We move on, our pregnancy moves from a personal realm to a much more public one, interacting with other couples, couples we never speak directly to for an entire two hours who we will see, week after week, for twelve weeks. Learning how to give birth. Learning how to coach birth. Learning a method for making a truly distressing life experience as pain-free and easy as is is possible. As is possible.
I put my head against Toni's belly -- we have begin to sing songs. We sing together. And we sing stupid children's songs to the creature inside. "I've Been Working On The Railroad." The "Mockingbird" song (what are those lyrics?) John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt. Are we going to have to sing children's songs to our child? Wow. I assumed we would sing cool songs, Cole Porter.
I press my head against her belly and I feel the baby kick my face. I listen, in the quiet, to the noises inside Toni, the noise that the baby hears (yes, now a baby, not just "the fetus" or "the creature") because, you know, I cannot picture it as a baby. Because it isn't one yet. I was never good at imagining myself as a grown up, nor anyone else. I do not play such fantasy games, maybe it's because my father never encouraged us to have goals. But I want to know what it is like now, to meet the baby on its own terms, not make up some imagining future I cannot possibly know.
It's warm. It's wet. It's dark. It swims around, there's still enough room. I don't know if it's a boy or a girl. But it swims around in there, and kicks, registers its opinion to its mother.
When it joins us out here, I will know the answers to so many questions. Right now I am enjoying the mystery.
Monday, February 12, 2001
Yesterday I developed a fever, and last night was difficult ... I had to sleep apart from Toni, we were waking each other up. Things are very difficult, she gets indigestion, and she snores and I cannot sleep. Couple that with the fact that I could not get warm in bed, with her ... that was weird, I actually warmed up on my own in a different part of the house. So I was at home today, successfully doing nothing. The day after a show closed. I think that's a good thing.
Saturday there was a large crowd (for this show) roughly sixty people. Included were the subject of Heather's "I'd See You Again" piece, the mother who served and her daughter, then 10 years old, now a student at CSU. They were both tremendously moved. The mother never knew what it was like at home during that time, she had no idea how tumultuous it was for us as well. She has boxes of stuff from that time, but she hasn't looked at any of them. Some are filled with letters from children at home.
Last night, closing night, "Leah's Vet" came. She had mentioned him several times, he was a medic, and she had written a play or two about his experiences but they just didn't fit. But he came anyhow, with his wife, who was also in the Marines during the war, and their young son.
Leah had said, a week or two ago before the show opened, that this man wanted to speak to us, all of us,personally, while we were still working on this. That kind of creeped me out. Leah had remarked that, despite his emotions, how moved to tears he was remembering stories for her, she was also virulently anti-Iraqi. I didn't want any of the actors spooked by the potentially emotive, possibly angry rhetoric that might be shared.
But he was there, and insisted on all of us, the entire company, gathering together so he could speak to us, last night. And what he had to say was how much he and his wife loved the show, how grateful they were that we remembered them. He said Sean's portrayal of "PFC Guttenburg" and his talk about "family" was right on target, and how Josh's "Gulf War Syndrome" series was also very important, how many vets have died from the Syndrome, and how no one cares.
He also invited us all to an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the peace declaration (Sun., Feb. 25) downtown. Rumor has it they will be honoring Leah at the event.
I realized some things myself last night. Of course, I discouraged the marketing director from promoting this event through VA halls. I am anti-war, a pacifist, and just assumed what we said was potentially offensive to Gulf War vets.
That was assuming all (or most even) vets haven't also spent the past ten years wondering what happened, and why no one talks about it. Sure, it was a decisive victory, and when they came home everyone was all gung-ho, yippee, all those stupid parades, &c. ... that was a long time ago. They, too, wonder what it was all about, and why no one walks about it. The fact that we decided to mention it at all was enough to make at least these three veterans thrilled. And they were all wise enough to know we weren't dissing them. The government maybe, but not them.
I was so depressed going into this ... a play about a war? What was I thinking? This isn't Guerrilla Theater Company, you can't just sling half-baked generalized opinions around, not about this. But the crew was fantastic. And for once I knew how to get the results I wanted. I wasn't always sure, but I followed my instincts and opened myself up for commentary from people like Sean and others. The format worked, the materials worked, the artists worked.
Despite the small houses (and what did I expect) I am immensely proud of this show. I am proud of all the people who made it, I am proud of myself.
Oh, and I was right about not needed the "Patriotism" monologue. Those vets let us know the show already had "patriotism" written all over it.
Friday, February 09, 2001
So about a half-hour ago I gave up and woke up. Toni has been snoring very loudly, it wakes me up and then she gets all upset because I am awake and fidgety or that I get up too early. I'm only trying to let her sleep but it upsets here. But then I got to wash dishes, update the website and now I get to write in my journal.
I am about to be a father. And I read in one of these books how neglected fathers can feel (it was a touchy-feely DAD book - "The Expectant Father") but man, here I am and no one asks me how I am, what I think about being a father - they ask about Toni, which is great and I really shouldn't be thinking more of myself than her, but the fact that my friends don't even ask is a little chilling.
Sunday, February 04, 2001
Saturday, February 03, 2001
The creature (as we now call it) is very active at funny times. It was enjoying "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" last night. Apparently it also has something to say about Toni's poetry analysis class. I haven't felt it yet, but it is slowly becoming more real. When there were doubts about its health I could image it disappearing, getting smaller - I was afraid to acknowledge it, to say good morning, to talk to it. Now it grows and grows. And I get excited.
Of course, that doesn't help me work any harder on the nursery, or anything else. But I did make dinner three times this week, and did clean out my office closet. This morning we saw the midwife, Ellen. She's great. Everything seems to be normal, normal weight gain, normal heartbeat, everything.
I have gotten in touch with a man through the Internet who maintains a site about the "Kassels" of Saint Louis, MO. I am trying to locate my father's birth parents. I have always wanted to do this, but after the scare with the fetus, I want to know as much as I can about my blood relatives. I do not wish to meet them, however. I just want to know.