Thursday, March 3, 2011

USA: Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Before you perhaps make an arbitrary choice or decision, consider this ‘non-fiction’ episode. But first, do you remember going to the library as a child for the first time? Wow! Zillions of books! Two Sections! Fiction! Wow! Cool! Non-fiction? What? I stood there looking at this ‘Non-fiction’ sign and thinking that Adults are not necessarily going to tell you the God Aweful ‘Non-fiction!’
Hummm! Yes!

So, before I even had so much as touched a book, by eyes were already open.
Sometime later I discovered ‘disclaimer’ and thought, Ahhh!, another word for ‘Non-fiction!’
And then, can you imagine, ‘Yes, your Honor!’ See, you’re already ahead of me! ‘Yes, I swear to God, it is the Absolute, (fingers crossed), Non-Fiction!’
Yeah, our black brothers can tell you all about their ‘non-fiction’ experiences. Well, at least one has figured it out. Why do I feel ‘white-maled’ by a ‘black-male’ living in the ‘white house’? I’m pissed! Naaaah, just kidding! I’m not pissed. I like him, actually.

So, anyway the ‘non-fiction' episode:

On December 27, 1969 shortly after 8AM, I signed a document that basically, but very clearly stated two things. One, that I would not disclose the nature of my service to our country in Viet Nam nor would I disclose where and with whom this service was in Viet Nam, to anyone. Two, that if I was ever asked why my service had been reduced to a little over a year of active duty and only two years of 6 years in the Reserves, I was to reply as follows: Our Government had over enlisted 30,000 too many troops and needed to reduce this number and I was therefore discharged, Honorable, satisfying my military service to our country.

I was walking across the asphalt outside headquarters at Fort Mason in San Francisco, thinking about this seeming absurd statement, which I had just signed. Another military screw up. One arm not having a clue what the other arm is doing. But, I frankly didn’t care! I was free! I was out! I could get back to my life which was waiting for me just 8 hours away in Hawaii. The fact that our Government was at the very same moment increasing the number of troops in increments of 10.000, 20.000, 30,000 to support its failing efforts in the Viet Nam ‘Conflict’, not war, by supporting a bourgeois corrupt regime repressing it’s peoples into farm slaves didn’t seem to fit, did it?

I met my future wife on the 3rd or 4th of that January, 1970 and we were married on June 21st, 1970. She was the only person that ever asked me about my military service and I told her, with as straight as a face as I could, “Our Government had over enlisted 30,000 too many troops and needed to reduce this number and I was therefore discharged, Honorable, satisfying my military service to our country. I had full G.I. bill to pay for my college, and to even buy a house.” And, she apparently believed me. Why not, actually.
For me it was just another little closure on a part of my life that I would just have soon forgotten.

Life goes on. Two children, lifes adventures, mishaps, etc.

In about 1995 or as recent at 1997, I remarked in a letter two my children that the only person who had ever been aware of my being in Viet Nam and what I had done was their grand father, Joe Wittenmeier, who I had ‘by chance’ meet in San Francisco on the Friday before the eventful Monday the 27 of December 1969.

I had arrived at Fort Mason in the later part of the afternoon on that Friday. I went into headquarters and the clerk looked at me, my discharge papers, turned around and looked at the clock on the wall and without turning back around to look at me, said, still staring at the clock, like it was somehow telling him what to tell me: ‘There is not enough time to get you discharged today. You will have to wait till Monday morning at o eight hundred. You can stay here in the barracks or leave. But you must be here promptly at o eight hundred on Monday morning so we can discharge you.

I stood there looking at this same wall clock watching the seconds roll around slowly and realized that I had no idea what the clock was telling me to tell him, so I said: ‘See you at o eight hundred!’, and I walked out the door and looked at the Golden Gate bridge, listening to the traffic of 101 just above me and I said to myself, I got to get out of here! I walked up to 101 just before the toll gates and in my Navy blues, duffle bag over my shoulder stuck out my thumb. Joe Wittenmeier, by future father-in-law pulled along side me, rolled down the window and said, “Where you going sailor?” “Out of town!” I got in as he opened the door. Half way over the Golden Gate bridge, Joe Wittenmeier was the only person who know that I had just returned from Viet Nam where I trained Navy Seals to paddle Zodiacs straight and that I had moved to Hawaii at the age of 6 and sailed there from the very same point of departure, Fort Mason, in 1954 in December also.

So, as I was walking out the door of the Fort Mason headquarters the next Monday morning, besides thinking how screwed up the military was, I was also saying to myself, ‘Oops!, I just lied!’

And I lied again, on orders. Heavy duty orders. The military has executed men for just such ‘not lieing’.

In any part of this ‘non-fiction’, did anyone ask, How the hell did Bob Palmer end up in the military in the first place? I can only prompt you here to ask this question. It was the lottery draft. I was number 26. My parents called me on Maui where I was surfing and pretending to be a student at Mauna Olu College and said to me, Make a reservation to come over to Oahu. We are going to take you to the Naval Reserve Center and get you into the Navy Reserves. So the next day, I did just that. The next night I flew back and layed in bed and said to myself: ‘Self, you have just been fucked!’

Well, it was either this or going Quebec and learning French and living with Pierre and Rene’e.

This is already too long of a story. It make it short I came in first in my class and got to choose my post, Pearl Harbor, USS O’Bannon and then, and then and then there I was on the asphalt of the Fort Mason grounds waiting for my bus to go to Travis Air Force Base and then back to Oahu and, like I said, get on with my life.

You make the call: USA: Fiction, Non-fiction or …..

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