You Got Lucky When You Met Joan

(Click on pictures to zoom) It was an amazing romantic encounter so very intense The moment I saw her eyes I began to lose my sense She walked up the stairs to meet me for a blind date When I look back I believe this was meant to be by fate The stars, planets and energy fields were aligned just right When both of us were brought within each other’s sight This beautiful and graceful modern dancer by chance to meet From a friend named Hal who gave me an invitation so sweet I said no at first thinking it a waste of time looking forlorn As I was going to the bay area for law school tomorrow morn This was going to be my last night at Cal State Long Beach A lively wonderful woman was surely way out of reach Having had blind dates from many a considerate friend Who would apologize later when it was another dead end But now was a different time and much to my surprise When those divine mysterious forces were summoned to arise And carefully place this lovely creative vivacious beauty Before an awaiting Annapolis grad who always did his duty For eight and a half years until he resigned his commission But on this fateful day had an unforgettably joyful collision Dark shimmering hair, sense of humor, very intelligent too Adventurous, a love of reading and children, a heart so true She made me feel important liked my photographs and slides Our chance meeting established she had the best life provides Lucky for me she had just finished a summer session of dance Tomorrow I‘d be in San Francisco it would be my last chance To learn enough about her to see if this could possibly be A kind and loving person who would share her life with me Our conversation seemed so natural as she set me at ease I was magically confident and somehow knew how to please Not the usual awkward athlete when time was so fleeting Everything went so smoothly from the very first greeting She was only twenty one and came from Oak Park Illinois I also from that state at Morgan Park a nine pound baby boy Eight years older but our birthdays were only a day apart The relationship continued building momentum from the start We both loved music, the outdoors, and having lots of fun And each of us left cold Chicago for the California sun She had an exceptionally warm smile that grabbed me right away When I hugged and kissed her that very special fateful day   Could our angels have been planning this encounter all along? When I think about our meeting it makes my heart sing a song “You got lucky” Dan when you met your lovely Joan She came into your life when you were all alone Then I asked her to come with me to see the Golden Gate And decide to live with me in Berkeley before it was too late She looked at me and smiled in response to this impulsive plan And I could hear my heart skip a beat as she said, “Yes, Dan” So off to the Frisco Bay we sped in my white corvette Stingray I will always be grateful for that wonderfully beautiful day And now that I am seventy two and she is sixty-four We are parents of three amazing children and what’s more We have three grandchildren and another on the way And are thankful for the blessings of each and every day We still love each other no matter what the day brings When I remember my meeting her that day my soul sings (Click to read: it will zoom)

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Best Blind Date with Joan

     Best Blind Date with Joan(click to zoom image) Always on a quest for the woman of my dreams, I went exploring the CSLB campus and noticed a women’s dance class met in the gymnasium’s dance rooms. Dancers from many states and countries took advantage of modern dance instructors available during the summer dance program. To be close to the dancers I took my camera case with all my lenses pretending to make a photo-journal report. At the Gym where they assembled before classes, I spoke to many attractive dancers fascinated by their hard but limber bodies, amazing energy, and joyful personalities. These colorful nymphs in pink, purple, green, turquoise, or blue leotards gracefully glided over shiny wooden floors in unison to lively music. Far too many looked interesting, athletic, disciplined, and creative. I had found nirvana. How could I connect with any of these lovely women? What could I say to meet them? Timid and shy, I just watched in awe. On my last day in Long Beach, a friend from the cafeteria named Hal said, “I want you to meet an attractive girl here this summer.” “I have always regretted blind dates. I’m leaving for Law School tomorrow.” “But Dan, she’s a dancer,” Hal said undeterred. Pausing to let his words register, “That’s different. I’m in!”I said with gusto. “We can do a double date with her friend Courtney this evening around six.” He gave me the address of a dancer named Joan. Hal was waiting in the second story apartment she rented. Footsteps warned she was ascending the stairs. Vivacious Joan Fowles from Oak Park entered and immediately I knew this encounter was going to be interesting. She had dark shimmering hair, a smile that showed an inner glow, a face and a body to die for. “Let’s go to my apartment,” I said and took her to my Corvette, put down the top, and sped off with my dancer! Hal and Courtney followed. We walked to the beach, took off our shoes, ran to the water laughing, and put our feet in the shallow surf. The sun was an orange glow that glistened on the rolling waves working their way to the shore near our feet. I mentioned my many photographs of sunsets in my travels to the Far East. “I loved  Florida's sunsets."  Joan said. “When did you live in Florida?”I asked. “My last three years at the University of Florida.” “I grew up in Miami and spent a year at Sanford, Florida that had awesome sunsets. Why did you come here?” “My dance instructor said Cal State Long Beach had a great dance program.” The sun had set and a wind started to blow from the west so I turned her towards me and said, “I have nature slides along with sunsets from the far east and at sea. Would you like to see them?” “Yes. Let’s go.” We ran to my apartment where I set up the slide projector and showed my best slides of sunsets, surf, mountains, volcanoes, and nature from the Philippines, Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam and Japan. We sipped Cabernet Sauvignon and listened to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart on my stereo and professional tape recorder. I set up my chair behind Joan while slides advanced every five seconds. Near the end I started to massage her shoulders. Her body language and smile spoke she liked my move. Afterwards we danced to rock music and Hal and Courtney left. We continued dancing. I had to know more about her and said, “When is your birthday?” “January 19.” “Mine is January 18!” I blurted out astounded and fastened on her eyes that expressed surprise, “Where were you born?” “Oak Park, Illinois.” “What a coincidence! I was born in Morgan Park--a few miles away.” I approached her. We hugged and kissed. When we touched I felt a fire growing inside—electricity that tingled long afterwards. Was this the woman I had been searching for all my life? As I gazed into her hazel eyes I felt she was. I have heard there are no coincidences—intense encounters were meant to occur. My heart recognized a chance at love when Joan and I interacted. There was no past or future; just the present. We were attracted by powerful forces working their magic. I paused thinking I don’t want to leave Long Beach. How can I prolong this date? On an impulse words flowed, “How would you like to see the Golden Gate Bridge?” She looked at me with that bright smile, “I’d love to.” I was riding a wave of excitement. She was the only woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I thought my search for happiness might have finally ended. I had tapped into some reservoir deep within me that awakened me to the possibilities of our future. We spent that night getting to know each other,  sharing some of our experiences, and dreams. After some dancing, I kissed her and held her tightly. We melted entwined in our fairy tale romance until daybreak. The next day after we retrieved her things and packed my Corvette for Frisco. On the way I photographed some mysterious mounds, mellow rolling hills with oak trees rustling, cattle roaming, red hawks gliding, seals sunbathing near flocks of birds, waves swirling, and ocean splashing foam off rocks on the coast.         We finally arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. The grace and form of the vermilion behemoth struck us both as reaching a fantastic goal with a unique color. I took a photo of Joan at the off-ramp. We embraced and after a deep breath, “I’m so glad you came with me,” I sighed.      (click to Zoom)

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A Yosemite Hike

After the first UFW labor convention was held in Fresno from September 21-23, 1973, Joan and I decided to visit Yosemite for a natural uplift. We rented a tent in Curry Village at the floor of Yosemite Valley not far from swift flowing, Yosemite River. My body and mind felt so relaxed in this pristine environment, I laid back and allowed the sun to warm me and the wind to blow in my face. Attracted by the magnetic force of nature’s beauty everywhere, we walked out through the waving meadows, towering pines, and resting deer to steepled rock formations and fallen red woods. We were mesmerized by the reflections of nature in the Yosemite River! Most of the water flowing in Yosemite comes from snowmelt in the high country, so runoff decreases during the dry summer. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls often only a trickle or completely dry by August. Other waterfalls, including Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil run all year; however, their flow can be very low by late summer. Near Yosemite Lodge, I watched the smoothed rocks glistening through the surface of the river from eons of time, billions of molecules of water striking surfaces, ever shaping the meandering river so that it appears different each visit.                                                             Our trek took us to a bridge and the ever-energetic Vernal Falls tumbling from a precipice a few miles away yet in walking distance up a steep pathway of seemingly carved rock. As we ascended the pathway known as the Mist Trail, we traveled under overhangs and around huge granite formations balancing carefully close to the mountain’s edge. Our eyes drifted to the chasm below ever spiraling down to a pool of greenish blue clear water. There the sparkling waterfall dropped its winding column of water twisting in the wind over a four hundred foot fall, then shattered the silence with its skittering splashing sounds. Nature had created a rainbow that quivered with the falling water separating into one, two, or three waterfalls in a constantly changing pattern.        Slowly as we trudged carefully on an incline flexing our hamstrings and calf muscles with a full stretch each lunge, we eventually reached an escarpment where we rested. I looked down above the wavy stream of descending translucent chilled liquid from the melting snowpack above. As we looked upstream, we observed a natural channel through which the blue green fluid passed over a bronze smooth volcanic surface. There it had cut patterns over the many years of erosive activity as if nature had taken a knife to sculpt it for the pleasure of those who admire it. We had reached a hard fought location where the view of Vernal Falls appeared completely different from the vantage point of the pedestrian bridge. Most travelers only saw it from that quick stop and did not tackle the steep and challenging rugged trail we enjoyed.    In another half mile we reached the vista all Yosemite visitors covet, which one can see even from Yosemite’s Valley at the right perspective. We had an unobstructed view of Half Dome and a 360-degree panoramic spectacle of the surrounding peaks, crags, mountains, and huge granite boulders of every size and dimension under white puffy clouds dotted with patches of blue sky.   Red Tailed Hawks, Falcons, Buzzards flew in circles riding thermals and gliding great distances when they rhythmically moved their outstretched wings. We saw Steller’s jay, American Robin, Acorn Woodpecker, Ravens, and Mountain Chickadees in the pine forests and near rivers and streams American Dipper Dart, White and Gray Herons, and a curious squirrel.    Yosemite Valley’s astounding and marvelous rock formations soaked our spirit. Hungry for sights foreign to the flat San Joaquin Valley, magnificent splendor contrasted with our Bakersfield shanty. We gradually worked our way down a mule path, which dropped rapidly. Soon the trail’s angle encouraged us to trot, then lope like deer. We tried to find a cadence and rhythm to ease our way down. Ever nearer the edge, we followed the trail until we reached the Valley floor. We returned to our tents in tranquility to dream of the astounding images we had seen. At sunrise, we left this wonderland on the curving road back to work, industry, and commitment. We felt refreshed from our energetic experiencing of nature’s most wonderful gifts that feed the soul, always available to the observant when needing refreshment.

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Vietnam Savagery

          My opposition to the slaughter grew more intense as I read reports that revealed baseless reasons we became involved and the atrocities our men in uniform had been encouraged to perpetrate. Emphasizing the "virtue" of achieving a high body count seemed to these "leaders" a way to demonstrate to the American people and the world we were winning. To verify kills, soldiers cut off ears of the Vietnamese dead. Some wore a necklace of ears. Only the soldier knew whether they came from combatants or villagers of any age or sex, caught up in the war. The "enemy," was amorphous but included insurgent Viet Cong, North Vietnamese regulars, and anyone who supported them. The authorities abused the term "insurgent." They characterized the VC as an armed force of communists supplied by North Vietnam, opposed to the South Vietnamese regime. However, our troops repeatedly attacked villages with, or without verification of their affiliation with the VC. The madness of this theory maintains that as long as fish swim in the sea of insurgency, you must kill as many of them as you can. That the soldiers counted so many children's ears, speaks to the insanity of this theory.                     On March 16, 1968, helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, door gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta landed their helicopter between American troops rampaging through My Lai village and the local people. The My Lai massacre was a watershed in the moral history of modern American combat, and a turning point in the public perception of the Vietnam War. Charlie Company was down to one hundred and five men by mid-March of that year. It had suffered twenty eight casualties, including five dead. Some of its soldiers had already begun to drift towards brutal tactics for which they appeared to enjoy impunity. The brief for its March sixteenth mission was to flush out the Viet Cong, whose elusive troops supposedly hid in My Lai — a hamlet of Son My village. Two platoons moved in shortly after 8:00am, while a third held back for "mopping up" duties. Both platoons splintered and once the shooting started, it seemed to spark a chain reaction. Soldiers went berserk, gunning down unarmed men, women, children, and babies. They showed no mercy to families that huddled together for safety in huts or bunkers. They even murdered those who emerged with hands held high. Some lucky villagers, including a few children, survived the massacre. Some of the soldiers did not join in the killing spree, but that did not include troop commander Lt. William Calley. In one incident, Lt. Calley ordered two of his men to fire on a group of sixty civilians they had rounded up. When one refused, Calley took over and, standing ten feet from the crowd, emptied his gun into them. Elsewhere in the village, other atrocities progressed. Soldiers gang raped many women, and beat and tortured hundreds of Vietnamese. They had merely bowed to greet the Americans who clubbed them with rifle butts and stabbed them with bayonets. Army members of one company mutilated some victims by carving into their chest the signature "C Company." By late morning, word had got back to higher authorities who ordered a cease-fire. By then My Lai was carnage with dead bodies strewn through the village. The death toll totaled five hundred and four. One American soldier suffered an injury when he shot himself in the foot clearing his pistol. Vietnam Savagery Army helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson approached the apparently peaceful My Lai hamlet from the air in his scout helicopter but did not realize what was going on until he saw a US Army captain nudge a wounded Vietnamese girl with his boot, then kill her. He, door gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta were witnesses. The copter landed between American troops rampaging through My Lai village and the local people in the line of fire to prevent further murders. Colburn and Andreotta provided cover for their pilot as he went to confront American forces and coax civilians out of a bunker to enable their evacuation. He ordered his men to shoot any US soldiers if they shot at civilians, confronted the senior US officer present, and persuaded terrified civilians to leave their shelter. Thompson radioed for another helicopter to evacuate the survivors and rescued a boy from a ditch. As his helo was lifting, they spotted movement in a ditch filled with bodies south of My Lai. They landed again and retrieved a single wounded child from the hellish scene. They flew him to a hospital. The military authorities concealed the My Lai massacre for one year before a participant talked about it leading to the court martial of platoon leader Lieutenant William Calley. A court martial convicted him of three counts of premeditated murder of not less than twenty two Vietnamese, and sentenced him to life in jail. Three years later President Richard Nixon intervened, releasing him. Many participants resigned to avoid prosecution. The Peers report told a comprehensive story of what had happened on March 16, 1968. The crimes had included murders by individuals and groups and assault, rape, torture, sodomy, and maiming of civilians. The report concluded that both Col. Henderson, the brigade commander, and Lt. Col. Frank Barker, the commanding officer of the task force, had knowledge of the war crime, but did nothing about it. The Peers inquiry recommended charges against twenty eight officers and two non-commissioned officers involved in the concealment of the massacre, but the prospect of successful prosecution crumbled. Army lawyers decided to charge only fourteen officers, and those cases ended in acquittal. A similar pattern emerged in the prosecution of the ground troops who had done the killing. The CID report said there was evidence to charge thirty soldiers with major crimes. Sixteen had criminal charges brought against them. A court-martial convened against five. The authorities quietly dropped charges against seventeen who left the army. Elsewhere prosecutors dropped all charges, or not guilty verdicts resulted.                (This article appears in the October 2012 Vietnam Veterans Against the War magazine and can be viewed with many other articles written by Vietnam Veterans to spread the word in the hopes that this tragedy never again be repeated anywhere): National Office Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. PO Box 355 Champaign, IL 61824-0355 (773) 569-3520 e-mail: (My Lai 2010)

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Mother Teresa


       Dalai Lama: My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. Mahatma Gandhi

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Never Mess with Marines

The coaches selected me to play in the Senior Bowl composed of football players who were finishing high school in the area. To improve my strength for the upcoming baseball season, I had begun working out on weights with a trainer three times a week and my strength and speed had increased that helped during Senior Bowl football practices. Designated a halfback, I finally had a chance to enjoy that position. Running the ball through the line in scrimmages,  and cutting left or right into the open, made me realize how much fun I had missed not trying the position when offered after I recovered from my concussion. Skip Lawrence called the first two plays for me to run the ball. Running the ball more than ten yards, driving linebackers off balance, and racing through the line for two first downs was a great beginning. After my second run, another coach yanked me for his team’s halfback and I played defensive safety for the rest of the night. At the end of the game we were awarded our jersey and I wore mine to celebrate with a friend. “Let’s buy some beer and party on the beach!” he suggested. “Why not? Let’s go,” I said.            We bought a six-pack of sixteen-ounce, Colt 45 malt liquor, and we drove in my black ’49 Buick to the bluffs of Huntington Beach and parked on a high hill covered with green ice weed overlooking an area near Tin Can Beach.           We had just finished the last beer when two attractive females in bikinis walked by. After rolling down the windows, I made an approving whistle and got out to follow them with my friend. Instantly, from behind, came two angry muscular dark haired men in their twenties with crew cuts who wore red and yellow shirts that warned: U.S. Marine Corps. They were Mexican as were their dates. In a flash two Pit Bulls jumped a Greyhound, while my friend escaped in a mad dash to the beach in the dark. The smaller one with square jaw, clenched fists, and contorted face, threatened me, “Hey, punk. What you doing hustling our women?” “Ahh, I’m sorry, ahh, didn’t know they were with you,” came stammering from my numb mouth. In a second he punched me in the face, but it glanced off me as I twisted my head quickly just before the blow struck. Despite my disorienting inebriation, I tried to defuse the situation, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I had too much to drink.” “Come on. Fight me, white boy,” said the square jaw. He heightened my fear knowing they both had brutal hand-to-hand combat training.“I don’t want to fight, drank too much beer, and am sorry.” “You’re chicken, white boy. I’m going to teach you not to fuck with me.” He struck me again with a strong uppercut that grazed my chin, as I dodged back a step. One woman standing on a large towel spread with food and drinks tried to calm the husky Marine, “Leave him alone and come here.” The other Marine was my height, had a narrow face, chiseled chin, and ugly scar on his forehead, curled lips, and a long nose. Muscles bulged from his red Marine shirt. He ignored the women and hovered waiting his turn. Neither would let me out of their trap. The tall one taunted, “Hey, white boy,” he said as he poked his finger in my chest on my jersey causing me to stagger. “You wearing a football jersey, man. Why don’t you defend yourself?” “I’m too drunk.” My response brought a quick punch to my face from the smaller man followed by another. When each blow came at my face, I turned my head, jumped slightly backwards, and stumbled, so it glanced off. That pissed off the smaller brawny Marine. Their eyes flamed with hatred. He lunged at me and swung a hay-maker. I ducked, slid under his arm, twirled around, ran as fast as I could, cut to his right, and sped off for a hundred yard sprint toward the ocean. How I escaped them will always be a mystery—they could have killed me or left me disabled and scarred for life if I had thrown one punch. My friend turned up a few minutes later near the water, “I saw the whole thing. I’m amazed you escaped. They were going to kill you.” We wandered along the beach listening to the waves breaking at one of the best surfing beaches in California. After walking a mile down the seashore my balance returned and we had lost the Macho Marines. “Let’s get out of here,” I muttered. We scrambled back up the dunes to the highway, ran to the safety of my car, and I sped  to Long Beach. After dropping him off, I drove home. That was the first time I had become drunk all year and it nearly cost my life. How foolish to let my guard down, quickly become drunk, whistle at strangers, and have a confrontation with professional killers. I barely had any control. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, I walked out into my backyard into the arms of the gentle night under a full moon, and was thankful for being alive.  

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