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They have better beds on the A ward.

The Guy In The White Hat.

Clinton's speech in Oakland

November 12th, 2000

I Owe Those Sailors
I went to the Veterans Day Parade. There's always a question, you know, no matter my assurances: "Yes, I'm going", "yes, I'm going", jumping up and down, waving my arms like a kid. Well, yes, it turns out I was, because I did.

This is probably the sort of Veteran's Day parade we'd like to have every year. Not all that many people attending, but nobody carrying signs or throwing paint or getting into arguments. Some nice old guys and girls from earlier wars, one or two from the First World War, many more from WWII and Korea, a whole lot, I assume, from Vietnam, although maybe they were further back and I just didn't see them, some high school ROTC marching bands, youngsters in battle fatigues and black berets, youngsters in green and blue and white.

Part of me said, "run kids, bullets hurt!" and another part of me said, "well, maybe a military career is OK, some people are cut out for it, after all, and what the hell, what's a few dead kids between generations?" Right. That was my thought, but just a lightweight thought, in passing. The last time I attended a parade I was marching in it with a loaded pistol, my troops in lock step behind me with their rifles, but no ammunition (thank God), and my sergeants ready to grab the automatic rifles we'd stashed under the Jeep trailer's tarp in case somebody ambushed us in downtown Tacoma. You remember Tacoma, Washington? Hothead central. Stupid in retrospect, but those were our orders and I was 24 and slow for my age.

Not much in the way of media at the parade, by the way, a couple of still photographers and the three local television networks, a single cameraman and a talking head. Maybe the networks had a larger operation further along the route, maybe not. I come early, shoot pictures, and leave just as they're starting. I'll see what shows up on the news tonight.

Not much else. I shot two rolls of black and white film, not many, but enough, maybe, to get me through Clinton's speech in Oakland the week. I still plan to leave for Seattle on the train a week from Tuesday. They told me I couldn't extend my vacation through the week following Thanksgiving, but they weren't really sure so they said they'd get back to me later with a final answer. They haven't gotten back and I still have that original return ticket. I'm tempted to just say fuck it and take off, coming home when I'd planned, but I know I won't. One negotiates, one does not stomp off in a funk. Unless one is unusually stupid. I assume you can turn in a train ticket two weeks before the departure date, there's plenty of demand for train compartments these days, and maybe instead of replacing it with a return plane ticket, I'll rent a car (daily rate, unlimited mileage) and drive down the coast shooting pictures, take three or four days, rain or shine, get back sooner but in a better mood. Which would be nice.

I just finished watching one of the local news programs. They talked about the low turnout for the Veterans Day Parade, although they didn't comment on some of the reasons, no wars, no draft, nobody, it seems, coming out to pay respects to the dead sailors on the USS Cole. Sorry Cole. It was a bunch of crazy sailors on the US spy ship Pueblo, nailed off the coast of North Korea, who got me diverted from Vietnam. I owe those sailors.

Both photographs were taken at the Bill Clinton speech last week in Oakland. The quote is by Jane Wagner.