MAY 30th

My father’s anniversary. William Douglas Wayland, only 54, nearly 55. Such a long seige of cancer surprising such a young man. It was, I’m now realizing, so terrible for us, who have now lost our sister and have a brother languishing in a nursing home, the very brother who came out of the house as I was clipping the hedges and said, “I think we’ve had it. They can’t find a pulse.”

It was the day after my triumph, a speech, a big speech. Dad never knew about that, me in front of 2000 people 69 years ago.

This day, this May 30th, a Tuesday, is waning. That was a Friday.

I’ve talked to Doug and Ron today. I’ve been told Bill saw a priest for communion. I saw to that. I’m so glad.

Family thoughts and all manner of thoughts going through my head.

I gave my speech in front of all the city, state and national dignitaries and with the assassinated President’s mother at my elbow as I spoke. Had his tragic death not occurred that November day in Dallas, there would have been no occasion for this speech, and so much in the world might have been different.

But it was, it did happen. I’ve wasted 42 years of my life drifting in a quasi-world of non-marriage marriage, of dissipation, of wasted talent. I’m 76 and can’t quite fathom that. Frozen in life, that must change. No pity, self or otherwise.

The following noon, 24 hours later, the bells were ringing at noon at the Mission Church down the hill from the hospital. My mother heard it. He went to God at noon. So much to think about.

That still, small voice, we must hear it, and those bells.

Dad, we are thinking of you. I’ve thought of you all this mostly idle day of my seventies.

It is 10:34 p.m. in Florida.

You were never here, Dad. But — you are here now….


I’ve salvaged this belatedly from a December 7, 2021 Facebook post regarding Pearl Harbor and a memorable Pearl Vet.


Remembering the man named Ray Walters. He was just one among the handful of Pearl Harbor veteran I met gathered around the flag pole out front of the Seminole, Florida VFW post back on December 7, 1991. These were guys who simply couldn’t make it out to Hawaii for the big 50th anniversary commemoration. I was doing a brief story about them for WTSP-TV, Tampa/St. Petersburg. Ray just happened to mention to me that he’d been at Scofield Barracks with James Jones, the author of From Here to Eternity which famously depicts pre-WWII Army life at Pearl and at Scofield which, to this day, is the Hawaiian Island’s largest U.S. Army installation and home to the 25th Infantry Division. It is 17,000 acres and adjacent to the U.S. Air Force’s Wheeler Field. It suffered collateral death and damage on December 7, 1941. The novel takes us up to that horrible Sunday morning the skies suddenly filled with Zeroes and stunned sailors, soldiers and airmen, some in the middle of breakfast, began dying in droves.

This fact of Ray’s friendship with the late author and my interest in books and authors intrigued me to the point where I decided to do a separate subsequent TV news feature story about Ray. It amounted to a study of the paradoxes and mysteries surrounding one solitary, perceptibly embittered human soul who was quite obviously shaped, or secretly psychically mangled like so many of that generation, by the severe experiences of war. After surviving the attack, Ray went on to fight with the 25th Infantry Division at Guadalcanal where he suffered a serious head wound. I forget how he spent his post-service life but I believe he’d had a good job from which he was now retired.

Ray shared a fascinating document with me (I still have a copy somewhere): an abundently friendly, newsy letter he’d received from James Jones in response to a letter Ray had written him, when the author was in Hollywood acting as a consultant on the movie version of Eternity, which is still considered an early 50s cinema classic. Perhaps you saw it, with Bert Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine, etc.. Jones offers a few generlized, wry, cynical pronouncements on the Hollywood crowd, then goes on to inquire of Ray if he had any information –those ten years after the war’s end — about the fate of any of their fellow Scofield Barracks vets. That included one named ( was it Angelo?) Maggio, whom Jones had heard might have died in the battle over the Pacific island of New Britain.

Yes, to my astonishment, there WAS a real Maggio. In the novel, that’s the name a young Italian-American soldier from the Bronx who is also major figure in the narrative. Did James Jones merely borrow the name and intend no parallel with the real-life Maggio? Fellow barracks mate Ray recalls a very wild, saucy and entertaining figure who bore more than a superficial resemblance to the fictional Maggio. He shared newsclips with me in which this real-life Maggio (who, in fact, survived the war), had subsequently sued Jones in a New York court for defamation in the wake of the novel’s publication and the movie’s release — a sad postscript, given the author’s solicitude for his fellow G.I. evident in that letter., (He certainly should have changed his character’s name; you’ll recall that Frank Sinatra earned his one and only Oscar portrayiang Maggio in the movie.)

Jones’s novel, by the way, does contain the standard disclaimer – all characters are imaginary and any resemblance to actual persons is accidental. It remains a mystery, therefore, why he didn’t work harder to distance the real and imaginary Maggios. Did he somehow intend the portrait as an affectionate tribute to his fellow soldier whom he believed was likely dead from combat? Strange. Perhaps Jones’s biographer deals with this.

Ray said he’d met up with James Jones a number of times in the post-war years. He’d collected, and showed me, all his (probably )first and (probably)signed editions of all Jones’s novels (including The Thin Red Line, which follows Pearl vets into the horrible Guadalcanal battle in which Ray almost died). Yet he had a curious take on his old friend’s literary career — that he didn’t understand why people had to write books in such “flowery language” about factual events that could be told far more simply. Plainly Ray was no lover of fictive literature. (I’d add, though, that Jones’s style in Eternity is on the purple and sausage-fingered side even for my tastes. In Eternity and Red Line, the writing is often downright awkward and peppered with tortured metaphors, e.g., “(B)elow him under the blows of the February Hawaiian sun the quadrangle gasped defenselessly.” But there is also a kind of primitive power and authenticity throughout, especially in descriptions of battle and its aftermath, which ring disturbingly true. Jones was also master of military detail which can be fascinated to the non-military reader, or, conversely, to millions of veterans, especially World War veterans, for whom it recalls a once lived reality. Jones’s 818-page novel ( unlike the movie) also only slightly fudges the darker, profane, libidinous, bibulous and exploitative side of soldiering, especially their ages-old interactions with prostitutes. In 1950 this might all have seemed boldly innovative. Eternity did, after all, win the first-ever National Book Award from critics.

Asked how Scofield Barracks soldiers regarded Jones, the budding author in their midst, Ray said, “to tell you the truth, we all thought he was a fag.” (Not an uncommon intra-personal assessment of the seemingly more delicate among men in the coarse, crude ambiance of barracks life — speaking from experience. It is perhaps notable that Jones offers accounts of homosexual activity in his trilogy of books about the war. He himself married, had children, projected, in on-camera inerviews available on-line, a classic male machismo and also turns up drunk a fair amount of time.)

But it was clear Ray felt a strong bond with Jones whose bonds seemed to grow stronger with literary types. He produced many, mostly forgotten books, enjoyed the praise of the likes of luminaries such as Mary McCarthy and Joan Dideon, lived much of his life in Paris, the darling of that literary crowd, wound up on Long Island with authors for neighbors, and died tragically early in his 50s from heart failure after many hard-drinking years, having more than once written of how the trauma and terror of the Pacific War left men hollowed out and broken, including perhaps, Jones himself. (The film version of The Thin Red Line makes vividly plain the dark Guadalcanal experience for terrified American and starving Japanese soldiers alike).

After doing my story on Ray, we had no contact. I don’t recall if he had children. He told me his wife had left him years before — gone off to “find herself,” he told me bitterly. He was a tall, substantial man, appearing youngere than his years. But no Bay Area vet I ask has any knowledge about him. It is most likely that he is gone, with James Jones and almost all the others.

One of the last things Ray shared with me was both intriguing and disturbing. He said just days before the Japanese attack, one Scofield Barracks soldier, consumed by an anxious premonition, went berserk, screaming that something terrible was going to happen. He was carted off, never heard from again. Then came the bombs and the death.

What on earth was that all about? Ray didn’t know, and went on wondering….He doubted, as do I, that that soldier had any special knowledge. And From Here to Eternity makes plain that well before the Japanese attack, Pearl Harbor soldiers and sailors knew war was coming. They just didn’t know it would come in that way, and directly to them. James records that the trauma of the attack left him and his fellows feeling caught up very intimately in history and civilizational danger and uncertainty.

Ray, wherever you are, thank you for your service and for the chance to tell your story. James, I pray for you and, through Ray’s letter, felt for a moment as if I knew you. I must get a copy into the hands of those who go on preserving your literary legacy.

And God Bless all Pearl Harbor vets, living and dead.


Here’s a story for Easter, the Season of Light. I’ll call it Mom Against Darkness, after my late mother’s uneasy fascination with a famous 1948 magazine article called, “Man Against Darkness.” It was a Princeton scholar’s unsettling thesis that God and religion are illusions, that we’re basically riding a big dirt ball (earth) spinning in the night of space and that it’s time to get used to it and liberate ourselves accordingly. I confess I think that way sometimes. “I’m not the only one,” as the late John Lennon sang. Why else would his “Imagine” be so popular, even at high school graduations? No heaven, hell, or religion, hence, no wars, greed or hunger..yoo-HOO, ooh-ooh. Good luck, grads!

Of course, John L was romping in a dreamy Elysium. Mom was marching into a nihilistic Apocalypse. She was 55 in 1958 and subscribed to The Atlantic Monthly, that once fine journal destined to morph into a glossy monthly repository of trendy “progressive” twaddle. (My opinion.) For their 1957 centenary, Atlantic editors published a hardbound 100-year collection of “reflections on our national life.” In effect, their ‘greatest hits.’ I recently discovered Mom’s battered copy, autographed by the editors, with a penciled notation that she started reading it 1/10/58, doubtless going cover-to-cover. Mom was a reader. James Russell Lowell, Mark Twain, Walter Lippman – they’re all represented in the volume. But only the page number of the September, 1948 “Darkness” article is circled, with mom’s inked addendum, “I enjoyed this,” her note for posterity. What did she find so enjoyable in so dark a vision?

The opening paragraph would have caught her Catholic eye: “The Catholic bishops of America recently issues a statement in which they said that the chaotic and bewildering state of the modern world is due to man’s loss of faith, his abandonment of God and religion.” W.T. Stace, the author, adds, intriguingly, that he “ entirely agree with the bishops,” but for decidedly different reasons. In those cold, dark post-WWII, post Atom Bomb days, he believed our morals and ideals were “our own invention,” and the world around us “nothing but an immense spiritual emptiness.” (I see Mom reading this in her parlor rocking chair while my devout father is off at a Knights of Columbus, my teenage siblings rocking and rolling in those late 50s and me upstairs memorizing Baltimore catechism Lesson 5: Question: What is man? Answer: Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made in the image and likeness of God….

Mom graduated from Worcester’s Commerce High, 1922 – no Princeton scholar. But she knew about darkness, being Irish-born, suffering bouts of Keltic melancholy, alternately rebellious and, retiscent, given to anti-clerical erruptions while writing light devotional verse for pious Catholic journals, all the time wondering if life really had any meaning, especially after my father died so young. She loved Robert Frost but, but, like him, was “aquainted with the night.” And here she was reading some guy telling us to “put away childish things and adolescent dreams, grasp the real world as it actually is, stark and bleak,“ give up our “romantic, religious illusions” or else “sink back into the savagery and brutality from which we came, taking a humble place once more among the lower animals.” Woe! Sounds like a joke that begins, “Nietzsche and Hobbes walk into a bar….”

So what was Mom thinking, reading this? Well, she loved toying with ideas, all kinds, but remained as skeptical of eggheads as she was of crowned and mitred heads. I believe she always wondered “why do the heathen rage?” (Psalms 1-12) In 1956, she wrote a poem called, “The Search” that ends with her in “His arms outstretched to bless!” Go figure.

“Darkness” author, Professor Stace, checked out of this “chaotic and bewildering” world August, 2 1967. Mom followed,August 5,1986. Maybe they’ve met by now. They’d have a lot to talk about. I’ll bet they know who rolled that big rock away from the tomb on Easter morning.


In or around 1957-58, I was a 5th grader at St. Ann’s parochial school on Neponset Avenue in the Dorchester (specifically, the Neponset) section of Boston. We were learning our catechism. I still have my Baltimore Catechism of Christian Doctrine, as it was called. Millions of Catholic children across the nation were instructed from the identical volume which was in a question-and-answer format.

I still have my copy. The Sisters of St. Joseph were our teachers — our catechists.

In our class — 5B– we were asked to protect our catechism copies by stapling on a sturdy light red cover made of material like oil cloth, which has helped preserve my copy’s deeply yellowed, fragile and flaking 131 pages these 65 years.

Sadly, my catechism has survived far better than the Sisters of St. Joseph, which was among those Catholic religious orders sadly decimated by its wayward, culturally conforming superiors in the seductive post-counciliar period of the 1960s and into the 1970s. It was those more senior St. Joseph nuns (though I believe “nun” is supposed to refer to cloistered not teaching orders) who insisted the order’s legions of devout women uniformly come out of their uniform, which was the “habit” — from the Latin habere, or habitus, referring to “condition or state of life.”

I’d wager that the majority of the subordinate sisters of that era still embraced their “condition of life” and welcomed its centuries-old outward manifested of a white linen coif and wimple and black full-length black tunic. It certainly set them apart, and they knew it would be their sacrifice. I once interviewed three aged St. Joseph sisters — forget just why — and they told me they didn’t want to give up their traditional dress but were ordered to do so. The habit had been their visible message to the world of their complete devotion to Christ. Sounds corny to modern ears.

Now, of course, we don’t need a “uniform” to tell the world we are Christian. But priests, nuns and sisters are consecrated religious. It had long been understood and accepted that religious garb identifies the individual’s consecrated state. Clothing is such an identifying mark across religions. Consider the Buddhist monks. (Get a bunch of tattoos and dye your hair purple and you’ll have declared outwardly your inward conversion to our age of expressive individualism that is no longer quite so individual.)

For sisters and nuns, I submit that the shedding of the religious habit began the outward manifestation of a different, more worldly theology and, ultimately, of inward conversion to a multitude of secularized, “liberalized” attitudes and beliefs. They often came, if they remained in the order, social workers more consecrated religious. The ranks of confused, disoriented sisters and nuns commenced to expand disastrously. The world welcomed them, but did this calm their inner storm? Some adjusted, many left. It was not a happy time for the rest of us who were once inspired by their visible sacrifice.

Things also went morally, socially, culturally disastrously awry for multitudes of plain Catholics and their children throughout the same period. I count myself in that number.

The first chapter of that Baltimore Catechism is The Purpose of Man’s Existence. (Guess that should be a Person’s Existence, if we’re to be political correct.) The last chapter is Prayer.

It’s almost Holy Week.

Keep praying.


March upon us. March Madness (college basketball), winter’s last furious lashes, and they are fierce, wet, wild, wicket all across the Republic.

I write hearing things in the walls.

The madness of the March hare, or references to it, sprang out of English folklore, and, of course, Alice in Wonderland. It refers to the wild, wierd behavior of the hare in breeding season. For humans, breeding in every season, the wild, weird behavior is forever.

In like a lion, out like a lamb? Not this year. And never, really, in Florida.

March winds

I know of only one song written about March. It is, “The Waters of March,” written by the progenitor of Bosa Nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim. The English lyrics, about the third stanza of this tic-toc melody, go….

It’s the wind blowing free, it’s the end of the slope
It’s a beam, it’s a void, it’s a hunch, it’s a hope
And the river bank talks of the waters of March
It’s the end of the strain, it’s the joy in your heart

On March 3, 1960, my 7th grade class at St. Ann’s Parochial School, on Neponset Avenue in the Neponset section of Dorchester (and just several yards down the street from my Neponset Avenue home) went on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Science. The highlight of the tour, in which we were allowed to roam free among the exhibits (one I recall featured a headset which you donned to hear the ‘sound’ of sunbeams reaching earth) was an assemby at which a speaker demonstrated and/or explained various scientific phenomina. And the highlight of this highlight was when the assembling consisting of several Boston school pupils were told to close their eyes and on the count of three open them. One, two, three — and poof!!! A wrack of flashbulbs went off in the newly opened eyes of a couple of hundred seventh graders leaving on their retina an image of skull and crossbones (how demonic! A symbol of death imprinted on young eyes.) The entire auditorium erupted in shocked hilarity, arms reaching out to grasp this image of jolly roger floating before their stunned eyes. It was the climax of the day’s presentation and the instructor had a hard time quieting the young crowd that was about to end its day filing back into buses.

But it was a singular and very different experience for me. Because, misunderstanding the instructions, I CLOSED my eyes on the count of three.

Never could follow instructions.

That night a blizzard descended on Boston. Three feet of snow.

And the river bank talks of the waters of March

It’s the end of the strain, it’s the joy in your heart….


February has been light on entries. In fact, I believe there’s only one, being my visit to the Last Mile Lounge.

So, with apologies for offering something so slight to my phantom readership — this recollection came to me today: how after returning to Massachusetts for my junior year in college after a summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains working at Kings Canyon National Park, I had brought a Sierra stone back with me. Just a nice little stone that, over many years, maybe centuries, had formed in the California wilderness. It wasn’t gold, it wasn’t precious. Just an ordinary stone — but special to me because it came from the land of the Sequoias. And one day in the woods of New Hampshire — I could not tell you exactly where — I came upon a stream. Alone, reflecting on the massive continental distance between the California mountain woods and these New England woods, I took the stone out of my pocket and dropped it in the stream bed.

I assume it’s still there, that little California stone that crossed the country — still there in that stream. Stones don’t wear away for generations, right? Perhaps even for millenia. And this was deep in woods where few have visited regularly or construction would seem unlikely to displace anything.

I just got thinking about permanence. I could go on — permanently.

No, I couldn’t. And the stream, flowing water, has been known to wear the earth down to canyons — grand canyons!

Well…that’s enough of that. For now. I’ll probably go on thinking about my stone — occasionally. This February Friday night Florida, with light rain expected and a beautiful gray cat spotted in the back yard, seemed like a good night for it.

I hope it was for you, too. Think of that stream, still flowing. Think of the tall, deep forests from which it came — a National Park. (And, of course, you really aren’t supposed to take anything out of a National Park, are you. Oh, I’m in trouble now. It was 1967. Is there a statute of limitations? Yes: death.)

And I hope that’s not a kidney stone I feel coming on. I pray not.

Once again, let this stony meditation end here.


I woke at 2 .a.m..Silent night, Holy night….a cold breeze is gently playing the wind chime in the carport.

Darkness. A cossetting darkness one could welcome for the grace and the memories at the heart of it; an easier time to remember that “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day (I’m singing it within, that traditional carol, so seemingly politically incorrect and exclusive in our divided time, “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen…” Rest us all).

It might, in fact, have been April that He was born, the same season in which He died, and this merely the solticial period when the sun was at it nadir and the pagan’s brightened with their torches and their ceremonies to penetrate and enliven that darkness before He came, and so the feast of our deliverance seemed a light-giving substitution in human hearts and minds. Traditionals will give you meterological and other reasons to believe December 25 is, in fact the day. But it does not matter. He is born everyday — and dies for us everyday. But there needs to be THIS day of our joy and remembance.

Of course, the other kind of darkness is always with us, that “heart of darkness” — and it was with me even as my sleep was interrupted and I rose in the heart of Christmas darkness. It was time to fight off that darkness and recall that He came “to save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray….O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…. ”

It is colder than it’s been in decades on this morning in Florida, the thirties, freezing. But I welcomed it, freedom from the sultry, endlessly sunny and sticky months.

Did I pray? I go soon on a Christmas Day journey, (having attended the holy sacrifice of the mass last afternoon). It will be, God willing, an easy five hour journey in a country that is tortured by severe, paralyzing, dangerous weather. Thank you, my Blessed Lord, for sparing me that challenge. Protect and comfort my family. May we never forget you, the whole day long, or ever. And I do, so often.

I did go back to bed for that “long, winter’s nap…”

Merry Christmas! To young and old, the living and the dead, to all God’s children, as we seek and so easily forget, “the wonders of his love….”

Another carol, that. Let us sing.


Don’t recall my age, don’t know where I and my parents were coming from, or how it happened that we were listening to classical music, but something came on the radio that enthralled me. It was after dark, that I recall.

I was, perhaps, ten years old. I asked to stay in the car in the driveway listening to the piece — and, no, I don’t recall what piece of music it was. But I lay across the seat listening. Then my father came out to say he’d found the radio station on which the piece was playing, but I said, no, Dad, I’d like to stay here, listening to it. (Was the engine on? Was I wearing down the battery?) Dad said, okay. It must have mystified but perhaps delighted him that I should love a piece of classical music so much — he who’s taste in music ran almost exclusively to Lawrence Welk and who liked only “nice, smooth music…” but who loved the “Warsaw Concerto” and owned it on a red, translucent .45 disc and listened to it repeatedly and hated it that, in the Hitchcock movie, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”(one of the very few movies we saw together) the attempted assassination inside the opera house interrupted the beautiful music in progress….

No, I don’t recall the title of the music or anything about it. But I can see my father, in his kind tolerance, walking out of our house and coming out to the driveway to the youngest son who came seven years after the other children and who mystified him and with whom he had an overly formal and perhaps distant relationship. I see him before that, inside our house, going to the trouble to find that radio station, only to have me say I’d rather stay in the car, of all places, and keep listening.

Thank you, Dad. For that moment, Forgive me for not loving and appareciating you more during your too short life. And how I wish I had gone on developing, truly developing that love of the greatest music, not the pop idyles of the pedestrian hours over all the years, and stayed with the piano, sunk down into life’s riches where all things truly worthy of loving and learning live.


This is about the woman, a young woman, that I saw on the Tokyo commuter rail taking me from busy Tokyo station to the station where I would catch a taxi back to Tachikawa Air Base. That’s where I was staying in a pleasant little, single-person dwelling on the base during a two-week temporary duty leave. In truth, “temporary duty leave” was merely the technical designation for the trip a military member might make from their base in Korea to Japan for, essentially, a vacation. For some it might be for duty. For me and others, it was just a two-week vacation, a break.

As I recall it was rush hour. I’d gone into Tokyo just to look around. I could not begin to recall just where I went or what I did on that particular day. It was September, 1970. I was a standing strap-hanger in a nearly full, though not jam-packed car. Japanese trains were clean, in my memory, and commuters polite, perhaps especially to a non-Japanese visitor. But I did not interact with anyone on this particular trip. I was glad it wasn’t more crowded.

Meanwhile, the train sped through the sprawling miles of densely packed fringes of metropolitan Tokyo, all fascinatingly terraced or stacked to accommodate one of the most populous cities in the world. I don’t recall, on that particular trip –standing in the middle as I was — much of what we passed. None of it, really. My eyes were fixed on the people and I only recall that young woman

She was sitting right before me. She was wearing a light top coat. She was somewhat heavy set, had long black hair. Her eyes were downcast. Never once did I see her look up. She was pressed in between other commuters and they would rise to get off, others would sit down — at least I seem to remember that. That would be the likely flow of traffic on a commuteer train.

The point is that she never once looked up, paid no attention to the movement around her — not at every stop where her body and the bodies of those beside her might sway barely perceptibly with the inertia of the train slowing, stopping, then starting up again. She was unmoving; she just stared down. There might have been a purse on her lap, her hands folded around it.

Then I noticed a tear streaming down her cheek. Then another…and another…. She did not wipe them away. She was immersed in a private sorrow and did not wish it to be known or to be observed. But, of course, I was observing this and wondered, why — why was she crying? I didn’t get the sense anyone on either side of her noticed that she was crying. (Perhaps they did and, in polite Japanese fashion, ignored the fact.) What was laying on the mind and heart of this young woman, perhaps a little older than me, perhaps headed home from work in Tokyo, for whom this commute might have been a daily routine while for me it was part of a joyous, solitary, exotic adventure in a strange land? I would not pass this way again, not likely. I haven’t been back to Japan….I recall and certainly have forgotten many details about those two weeks, visiting monuments and famous streets. I have not forgotten this small moment.

I could only surmise at the cause of her sorrow: trouble at work, trouble at home, broken romance, a death in the family, or of a friend, a bad medical diagnosis….

Of course, for some, a nameless but intense melancholy can come unexpectedly and overwhelm every other emotion unexpectedly. Like a tsunami…

In overly idle moments before this same laptop, I have recently watched on Youtube wobbly, terrifying cell phone video of a tsunami overwhelming Japanese seafront neighborhoods, people in shock, shouting and running for their lives, boats, cars and houses being swept away. Massive catastrophe, massive terror and sorrow. It is not, please God, likely that most of us in America will experience that particular character of catastrope in our lifetime. Such hazards are most often a potential reality for people living in South Asian regions where many of us Americans could only imagine living. But then — earthquakes that trigger tsunamie could strike either coast, especially the California coast….

And here in America, this summer– and even in the last couple of days — there have been sudden, extraordinary, deadly wild fires to the west, cutting through neighborhoods, consuming houses in minuters, trapping and killing people. And the floods! Horrible flooding in Kentucky. Shocking, unexpected, life destroying and mind-altering misfortunes that change lives forever. …

But I feel this was no grand sorrow I was witnessing on that Tokyo train. Just one of life penetrating small sorrows. But enough to make this young woman sit quietly crying on a public conveyance.

On that Tokyo train, where east was meeting west in that moment, everything, including the way people interact or register joy or sorrow, might well have been conditions by culturally distinct conventions and therefore be different from anything I might have recognized or expected. But here I felt sure I was seeing a quietly crying woman who could have been any one of us.

Should I have tapped her shoulder, given a wordless, trans-cultural expression of sympathy? No, that plainly would have been wrong. She clearly did not want that attention — would have been embarrassed.

When the train reached my stop, she was, if I recall accurately, more alone on that long train seat, eyes still cast downward, unmoving. Wherever she was going, it was farther out in the suburbs than where I was going. What if I’d had a sprig of flowers! (Ridiculous notion!) What if I could have dropped it in her lap before I moved to the door? Seen her glance up at my departing form, smiling…? This is almost vanity to think such things!

But again…

What if I had spoke Japanese –many westerners in Japan do — and could have leaned over and uttered some consoling word in her ear?

For all I know, this normally laudable American entiment might have violated some Asian shibbolith — who knows? Whatever…

This was fifty-two years ago this month. I didn’t mean to write so much about it. A simple sorrow, simply observed would have been better.

But I hope that was the most transitory of sorrows for that young woman. Who knows? Perhaps it had lifted and vanished by the time she reached her destination. A good little cry, and it was over. I hope so. I hope, if she’s still alive, she has had a happy, fulfilling life.

Living or dead, I’m thinking of her, obviouly. And praying for her. And while I remember the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, The Ginza…I will also always remember the young woman on the Tokyo train.


Dear Mom,

It is Tuesday night and it’s raining like crazy. I’m typing in the orderly room and I hear rain beating down on the roof. Our switchboard operator is listening to the radio. The televison blew up the other night. All this sounds dull I know but I’m quite content.

Peggy wrote me a nice letter, says, what is all this stuff about danger? If it’s actually worring you, mom, let me say that I’m hardly in any danger out here. This is not a vital military area, was never contested in the war and, while there are lots of Korean Marines here , there are no American fighing units within several miles. (Don’t worry — if we needed anything, there’s always the Air Force and these R.O.K. Marines are rough and tought and a wild bunch — good fighters. Our nearest American units are a 7-man U.S. Marine Advisory detatchment just across the bridge on the mainland, a Hawk Missile batterey about twenty miles down that miserable dirt road, then there is the whole General Support complex in the Seoul area, the Second and Seventh Infantry Divisions (the actual fighting units) are located on the central part of the DMZ (inland). This is where things sometimes get hot and dangerous and where incidents occur….oh, yes, we have infiltrators comong on the island. But I’m as unaware of that as you are that someone right now is being murdered in Neponset Circle. I’m far safer here than I’d probably be at Time Square and 42nd Street, or walking across Boston Common at night looking like I have a few dollars in my wallet….We all have our hiding places picked….This is an interesting and fairly attractive area — not the treeless, barbed wire DMZ. This is about as close as you can get to the enemy without having much motive to feel endangered…The only way it’s dangerous is because the road is rough and you might land in a rice paddy if y ou’re not careful and there are women and chidren and dogs and oxen ad ducks and chicken every inch of the way. I make it an adventure. I’m looking for the smoothest possible ride on the worst possible road.

You mentioned typhoon season. We caught the tail of one last night that came in off the Yellow Sea. I’m afraid I caught it worst of all riding back from Seoul in an open jeep. This rain tonight might be a hangover from the big storm which is gone farther out to sea now as far as I know.

End of September 1. I’m tired and I’m going to brave the rain down to the barracks and to my warm bunk. The rain’s really beating down now.

More about typhoons, etc., tomorrow.

Love, Greg