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San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

May 14, 2007

Hangover Back
Monday. As I get farther into David Tablot's BROTHERS - The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years I begin to realize how really weird the world was during a time when I was graduating from high school and entering college, weird in the sense I personally had no gut understanding that our nation was skating so close to the abyss. Why? I don't know. Maybe it was because I was two years old when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I'd never known a time without the specter of the bomb. Maybe because I was a teenager when Kennedy was elected in 1960 and, as a teenager, I was merely exercising my god given right to have no fucking idea what was going on.

Curtis LeMay, the head of the Air Force during this period, believed we'd be at war with the Soviet Union by the end of my first year in college, and advocated, along with a significant number of his colleagues, we launch a first strike against the Soviet Union before they were able to increase the size of their then small nuclear arsenal. Yes, a few of our cities would be incinerated - Washington D.C., New York, no way to tell which planes would get through - but we'd, you know, “win”. (LeMay had commanded our air forces when we fire bombed and then atomic bombed Japan and he knew full well what a bombed city implied.)

I don't remember this being a topic with any of my fellow students - we were in the habit of hanging out at the Red Robin or the Blue Moon and discussing in detail the world and its woes over pitchers of beer - and, although a non-nuclear Vietnam was looming on our horizon, we had no idea the head of the United States Air Force believed in his heart we'd be exchanging nukes with the Soviets (in a war we would start) by Christmas. What we would have known was that Seattle, home of the Boeing B-52, the Red Robin and the Blue Moon, would have been high on their target list. Strange days then, strange days now.

How many members of the current administration have said he or she believes one of our cities will suffer a nuclear attack, either a dirty bomb or the real thing, in the not too distant future? More than a few. Talk about life changing events. If you survived - they nuked the city down south, but not your city up north - you could be sure whatever life left would be scary; scary for the people out there in the world (difficult business that, figuring out who they were and where they came from, best to just bomb the usual subjects and hope we get most of 'em, probably no way to get 'em all), scary for those of us who survived (goodbye pluralistic democracy, hello Dick Cheney). So, you youngsters out there, go figure this out, OK? Head them off at the pass while I sit here in Oakland sipping my sake and cheering you on, wondering though, about that white cloud rising so rapidly above the city of San Francisco. Better lay in an additional supply of sake. Doesn't look like the stores are going to be open for very long.

And the reason for all this pessimistic blather?

I dunno. Maybe it's to increase the uncertainty around here, force myself to get out of my comfort zone. Everybody around me talks about my comfort zone. “You need to get out of your comfort zone.” I spent the first three quarters of my life with demons snapping at my ass, why would I want to invite them back? It took me time to figure out how to settle into this particular life, why return to a cold wind wrapped in a wet towel?

Because in forty-seven days you're unemployed.

Ah, yes. There is that. We keep coming back to it, don't we. Still, I do have the rent covered for the next decade or two, longer than I myself am going to last.

You keep repeating this crap. “Going to last”. What a wuss.

Well then. Maybe we stop this jabbering and take a deep breath, open that bottle of sake I have sitting in the kitchen and think pleasant thoughts on this sunny day in Oakland: a nip in the air, but warm in the sun; Ms. Emmy sitting on my lap dreaming of anchovy paste and tuna fish, dolphin safe. In my comfort zone, in other words. A little sake tonight, a couple of pills in the morning to bang the hangover back.

The photograph was taken at the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival parade with a Nikon D2Xs mounted with a 70-200mm f 2.8 Nikkor lens at 1/320th second, f 2.8, ISO 100.