Catching up in July 2018

Or Where Have I Been

It has been a while since I have caught up on my blog and since I am supposed to be quiet today I decided to catch up.

The last you heard from me and Eileen (Ike) was that we were on an Alaskan cruise with the nice bunch of people pictured here. It was all great, as any cruise to Alaska should be. If you go on one cruise in your life I suggest it be to Alaska. We went because it was on Ike’s bucket list. Now there is one less thing to worry about.

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1Sharon, John, Cindi, Dan Ike and Bob on Serenity Solstice

We hurried home from the Alaska cruise to go off on yet another boat. This one was a self-guided cruise on an Expedition 46 on Lake Powell. Another bucket list item.

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Ike on the boat

We had a grand time doing almost nothing but enjoying the incredible scenery that is Lake Powell. We did rent a jet ski (another bucket list item.) and toured part of the lake. I say part because in four days, including the Jet Ski, we saw less than 5% of Lake Powell. It is big. Really big.

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Ike and Bob on the boat. And ‘yes’ we are naked.

We eventually came home and I immediately went under the knife to get my jaw rebuilt-again. It took me 15 year to get over the last failed attempt but St George has so many dentists I thought I would give them a try. It was a 3 hour stint in the chair while under sedation so it went pretty well. Two weeks later, yesterday, I had to have a revision surgery which is why I am being quiet today.

While on the health note I have been receiving a lot of physical therapy for a disk in my back that makes my legs hurt. My legs only hurt when I play ball but that is pretty much what I like to do. I also got an industrial strength brace for my knee. Same problem. Same cause. I guess I should take up golf but I am not old enough for that.

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Adventure storage unit #121

We have started the build out of the man cave. I am not doing it. So far the contractor has epoxied the floor. He is having some beams for the mezzanine powder coated red and he should be starting the real work any day now. But we all know how those contractors are.

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1662 Quartz Dr St George

Ike and also bought a house. The one in the picture. Since we have two separate homes we bought one that is the equivalent size of our two homes minus five garages. The man cave takes the place of the five garages. Why do two people our age need a house this big? Why do two people who are gone all the time need a house at all? Beats me. It is all Ike’s fault.

We have plans to go to Moab, UT next week and take another river boat cruise. For living in a desert we certainly seem to spend a lot of time on boats. Then Prescott, AZ in two weeks so I can play in a national tournament. As soon as we get moved in to the new house we are off to Lake Tahoe with some corvettes.

We still ride the heck out of the new motorbike, mostly in the mountains now that it is warm in Utah’s Dixie. I still play ball three days a week when I am here but now have more equipment to wear. Mostly a face mask as I play infield now and I just cannot afford to get hit in the face with a ball. I am still wearing the mark of the ball that hit me in the chest ten days ago.

Life is good. Ike certainly fills in a blank spot. She nags me about taking care of myself. She will also hit me for saying that she nags me about anything. I cook. She cleans. She cleans way better than I cook. So things are good and getting better every day. Who knew?

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July 6, 2018 · 9:18 am

Going to California-Twice!

 

March 2017

I have been on the road and remain on the road. It did not take me long to get restless in my new home in St George. Maybe my restless soul will never be content. Or maybe I figured out I need to keep moving before the devil knows where I am.

March 18-20 Death Valley Death Ride

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I went for an overnight ride with some motorcycle friends I had met a few days after I move to St George. They claim they are a Honda Goldwing motorcycle club but there is no hard evidence of that. Most of the members do own Honda Goldwing trikes but don’t do a lot of riding. Some own regular two wheel Hondas and the leader of the group owns a Goldwing version of a Spyder like I ride. They are all of an age where they all can make whatever claims they want.

We set out on a cool Saturday morning, hopped on the interstate and headed to Las Vegas. Then we headed north to Death Valley and as we did it got hotter. A lot hotter. By the time we got to the bottom of Death Valley it was 102 with a nice breeze blowing at 20-30 MPH. It pretty much was like riding with a hair dryer blowing in your face. Hot when we rode. Hotter when we stopped.

And we did stop. Often. To see the sights. Death Valley is worth a visit but not so late in the day or when it is so hot. And probably not on a motorbike. At one roadside stop I had to use the facilities. The facilities in such a desolate area are pit toilets.

I may not have mentioned this but since moving to St George my sense of smell, which had been non-existent when I lived in California, had returned. It must have been something to do with the cleaner air and lack of plant life in St George. At an age when most people are losing their senses, it was nice to reclaim one of mine. Food tastes better. I can breathe better. I can tell when there is something on fire on the stove. So it is a useful sense. Not like the sense of decency, which I never had much use for.

But back to the pit toilet. It is 102 degrees. This is a well-used pit toilet that is fully enclosed in a plastic room. The smell of this thing would have made a buzzard leave a gut wagon. Stink would have said that thing stunk. It will take a priest to get that odor out of that place. Wow! So along with it being so hot, that will be my one remembrance of Death Valley.

We soldiered on with most of our little caravan suffering from heat related problems. We motored out of the valley and in a matter of a few miles the temperature dropped 20 degrees and we came back to life. We motored into Beatty, NV to spend the night at a Motel 6.

Now a Motel 6 may not sound like a great place to spend the night, but in Beatty, NV it is as good as it gets. We showed up at 6 PM, with reservations, and some of our rooms were not ready. I do what I always do when faced with such obstacles, I bought a six pack of beer and a bottle opener. The magnet on my bottle opener demagnetized my room key and it and it would no longer work. I went to the front desk to get it reprogrammed and the desk clerk had left to get a sandwich at Subway. There were people standing in line to check in and he was at Subway. Emboldened by a beer, I went to Subway and brought him back to take care of business.

We went out to dinner at Denny’s that night. Once again, we are in Beatty, NV and this passes for fine dining. It was attached to an old casino that had to be ground central for second hand smoke. We ordered food, waited, and then we were told that they were out of spaghetti. Who runs out of spaghetti? I had a breakfast sandwich and a salad and both were quite good. As we were paying our bills, I noticed that our waitress was wearing a very dirty blouse. Not a big worry as I am pretty sloppy when around food myself. But it was covered with animal hair. Who goes to work in a shirt covered in animal hair? What kind of animal was it? Did the animal eat all of the spaghetti? I held my breath and walked back through the casino with so many unanswered questions.

We hit the road for home the next morning and what a difference a day made. Riding through the desert on a cool morning is one of life’s nice adventures. We stopped in Las Vegas to have brunch and then motored on home before it got too hot. I immediately ordered some new gear to make riding in the heat more tolerable.

March 21-23

I spent the next day trying to get some minor repairs done to my house with no success. I used my time wisely and got all of my motorcycle gear cleaned up, paid some bills and started packing for the next leg of my trip.

On Tuesday I played in a pickle ball tournament, took a shower, jumped in my car and started driving to California. I figured I needed to go see some old friends and check on how the drama group is dong with my latest play. I called it quits for the day after driving four hundred miles.

I ended up at a Days Inn in Lost Hills, CA. It was just a wide spot in the road with gas stations, a hotel and a Denny’s. What else does a gadabout really need? I nuked some food, slept, and was back in fighting spirit by early Wednesday morning.

My first stop was to have lunch with an old friend in Lafayette, Ca. She is Chinese so we had Chinese food. Oddly, what we call Chinese food is not what she likes to eat. Once she took me to a real Chinese place where I watched her eat fried duck tongues by the plateful. Apparently it is a delicacy. A people that can make a meal out of duck tongues will eventually rule the world

Then I drove some more to Jackson, Ca. One of my bucket list items was to stay in the National Hotel in Jackson and since the bucket is getting closer to the point where I can kick it, I thought I had better get to it.

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I checked into a room that dates back to 1862 when it was called It Louisiana House. The room had a veranda that looked directly down Main Street. The town is an old gold mining town and most of the buildings look original, although that is doubtful, as most gold mining towns burned down fairly often. Whatever, it looked cool.

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The view from my room

Jackson is known for its antique shops. I am not at all an antique guy but I was looking for garage art. My taste in art tops out at photos of ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ and other such classics. I am always hopeful that I can find something new to add to my garage walls. And I did: a vintage ‘stop’ sign whose absence, I am certain, is causing chaos at some intersection.

To celebrate my conquest I went to the corner bar, ordered a beer and stared at my phone like the other two patrons were doing. No cell phoned coverage was to be had. We put down our phones and had a conversation. What!? Who does that anymore? One of them looked like Gondorf (sp?) and the other was a rock crawler who was thinking of relocating to St George. Nice visit.

I went back to the National hotel and had a fabulous meal in their really old fashioned dining room: blue cheese wedge, chicken Marsala, red wine, and this chocolate mousse thing that pretty much put me in a diabetic stupor. I thought fondly of my last dinner out at Denny’s. What a difference four days and 800 miles makes.

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The wine cellar at the National Hotel

Thursday March 23

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Little Red Riding Hood

Thursday was a day of visiting. I started in the foothills with my old sailing friend Andre and his wife Debbie who now live in Murphy, a long way from the ocean where he started. The it was off to Angels Camp to visit Nick and Kathleen who were my across the street neighbors for eight years. Then it was on to Del Webb in Manteca where I use to live a few short months ago. I attended practice of the Drama Group who were working on my latest play, Feeble Fables. It was great to see everyone having a good time with the play and they were doing really well with it.

Then it was off to the street where I lived for eight years to visit some of the neighbors I lived next to for all of that time. Then off to visit some other people who I was close to. It was great to see everyone and catch up a bit. It was totally exhausting and I crashed early and slept like a dead person. This traveling is taking its toll.

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The Straw Pig

Friday March 24

I had a couple of more visits to make before I hit the road. I had breakfast, pretty much a standing date, with the lovely Linda W. We discuss the trials of being a mother to a hormonal early teenage grand-daughter. God does not give us more than we can handle. God must think Linda is a bad-ass.

I went to the bay area to visit another friend and then I hit the road home about noon driving in a heavy drizzle. (Is that an oxymoron?) I made good time and ended up in Barstow after driving about four hundred miles. First time I have stayed in Barstow. It could be my last.

Signing off for this time. Next up is the Long Beach Gran Prix but that is 12 days away so I have plenty of time to rest.

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March 25, 2017 · 3:02 pm

Update on My Elevated Life.

 

March 17. 2017

I have been living in St George for almost three months. It occurred to me that I have been doing enough stuff that I would start forgetting if I did not write it down. So here it is.

Of course, I have been busy with the normal new house things. There are a few repairs that needed to be made and scheduling different workers for different tasks has been taking up some time. Then there is my garage project that went sideways when it was half done. I undid it all, started over, and just today put in the last few pieces of tile. There is always something else to do but it is ‘done’ for now.

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I have taken about a hundred pictures out of my back yard and have yet to come close to capturing the view. Just come see it for yourself.

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I have joined a couple of softball leagues but I only play in one and I don’t play in that one very often. I have a problem with a rotator cuff that is not going to get better so I am nursing it. When it finishes breaking, and it will, I will need surgery and I am not going to do that any sooner than necessary.

I have taken up pickle ball to fill in the gap. It is easier on my arm but pretty challenging physically. I did the smart thing and took lessons since it is not an intuitive game. It is well organized here and nationally with everyone having to work their way up in the rankings. I have been ranked three times in 6 weeks but believe that I will be staying at my present ranking until I win a few tournaments. Unlike softball, it is a great game for people with a few miles on the odometer. It is named after a dog and has nothing to do with pickles, in case you were wondering

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I go out to eat a lot. I somehow have met different groups of people that love to go out and eat. I love to eat, in or out, so I am enjoying that a lot. Sometimes we go to the theater but mostly we eat.

My very best friend for more years than I can remember came to visit. John Wayne Warren and I have had many adventures together, some of which have been reported here. The really good adventures never are reported which is why we are still good friends after so many years. John was escaping the horrid weather on the west coast and we got to go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a couple of NASCAR races. John is the ultimate lug nut so it was fun.

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When we were not at the races, we were busy making modifications to my sim racer. As the name implies, it simulates a racecar, enough so that after about twenty minutes one is ready to get out of it. I have enough money invested in this to purchase a good used car. Moreover, much like a racecar or a mistress, it always needs something else. At least at my age I still have hopes of driving a racecar. A mistress, not so much.

So there you have it. There is much more but I had to get this out because I will be busy traveling for the next week or so. Stay tuned. You never know where I will turn up.

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March 17, 2017 · 1:32 pm

Don’t Boil a Baby Goat in its Mother’s Milk.

 

2/17/2017

I have an inquiring mind. I am always casting a light on things that are better off unexamined. Lately, I thought I would try to understand why different religions seem hell bent on killing each other.

There are 613 commandments handed down by God and number five or six, depending on who is counting, is ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ That is very easy for me to understand. It comes right before those that are all about not covering thy neighbor’s stuff.

I never could understand why it was my responsibility to not cover my neighbor’s wife. When I lived in Granite Bay, many years ago, my neighbors’ wives would put on their bikinis every afternoon in the summer, pour themselves a glass of wine, sit in the court and watch their young children play. There was no way I was going to cover them. I still get a crick in my neck thinking how willing I complied with the ‘thou shalt not cover’ commandment.

Okay, I got off subject a bit there. The point was to try to understand why the three main monotheistic religions have been trying to kill each other off, when all of them have the same list of thou shalt nots.

So, I read this book. Twice

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I learned many things. The most obvious is that “Thou shalt not kill” has been changed to ‘Thou shalt not murder.” Cool. That gives a bit of wiggle room that will help us convince ourselves that we are not going to all burn in hell. I suppose if you kill someone for no personal gain then you are on well-oiled roller skates to the promise land. I call bullshit on that one. Dead is dead. No matter your intention, dead is dead.

I also learned that the three major religions have way more in common than they have differentiating them. They all trace their roots back to Abraham. They all believe in there being only one God. They all have a claim on Jerusalem being the center of the universe as far as religion goes. They all have some version of 613 commandments.

The difference seems to lie in those troublemakers who purport to know what God wants. Of course, there is Jesus, who is God’s son on earth. Then there is Mohammed, who is the only true prophet. The Jews think they are the chosen people so they of course have the righteous path. Somewhere along the way, they all thought it would be a good idea to kill off the other side just so there would be no dissenting view. The entire “Thou shalt not kill.’ thing got pushed aside.

Now here is what is odd: The Christians crusade against the Muslims; The Muslims do jihad against the Christians; and everybody takes a shot at the Jews. Then when things get a bit slow, the Protestants fight with the Catholics, the Shi’ites fight with the Sunnis and, still, everybody takes a shot at the Jews. I have come to believe that the entire “Thou shalt not kill/murder” thing is a bunch of poppycock.

I searched through the entire list of 613 commandments to see if I could find one, upon which we could all agree. I did. “Thou shalt not boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk.” I am sure that most of us could agree that boiling a baby goat is not a good way to fix it. (For my South Louisiana readers; Yes. If you put some Zatarains Crab and Crawfish boil in it, it would probably be okay.) Certainly boiling it in its mother’s milk is cruel enough to make me want to become a non-practicing vegetarian. Of the entire list of commandments, this is one that I am going to go to the grave with a lifetime of compliance.

Thank you for listening. I will now go back to thinking of those hot summer days when I did not cover my neighbor’s wife. I feel very pious thinking of how willingly I complied.

(It is ‘covet’, you moron.)

(WTF knows what ‘covet’ means.)

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February 17, 2017 · 12:17 pm

Concealed Carry

 

2/9/2017

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I recently moved to the southwest corner of Utah and have yet to regret that decision. The air is clean. The roads are smooth. There is no litter. There is no graffiti. The weather is good. The scenery is awesome at every turn. Yada. Yada. Yada.

I have noticed that people are very polite. Not me, but people. I wondered about it and now I think I may know why.

I was having dinner with a group of people that I barely know. I happened to be sitting next to two ladies and this is the conversation that they were having:

Lady One: I have to get out and buy a new purse this weekend. I have been using the same 12 purses for the last 10 years and it is time I got a new one.

Lady Two: Get one of these. (She shows her the purse she has with her.) You can put your handgun right in here.

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Lady One: Oh that won’t work. I carry a forty-five and I need a much bigger purse to carry the weight of it.

I am certain I have never had dinner with two women who were both packing heat. I now understand why everyone is so polite. Now, so am I.

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February 10, 2017 · 3:18 am

Twenty Trillion

Twenty Trillion

2/9/2017

I have a guilty pleasure. Well, I have many, but this is one that I am willing to admit to. I love watching the national debt clock. It is a full page of numbers flickering the total US debt broken down in any number of ways. It is as mesmerizing as a 60’s lava lamp with the exception that there is real information there. Or is there? The unit of measure of the national debt is a trillion. But what does that mean?

If I say something using terms that are not understandable, then have I conveyed any information? A trillion is a number that is not understandable to me. I know how many zeros follow a one to make up a trillion. What I don’t know is what that number means. If I had to go to the store and buy a trillion toothpicks, would I go in my mid-size suv, a pickup truck or an eighteen-wheeler? Are there even a trillion toothpicks in existence in the world at any one time?

When I was young, accumulating a million dollars was a lofty goal that only the most successful people could achieve. Today, very few people would not have their lives changed if they suddenly came into a million dollars. The number of people who have actually put their hands on a million dollars at one time is probably very small. But if I had to go to the bank and get a million dollars, how big a vehicle would I need? As it turns out, I could go get it on a bicycle and a small shopping bag. This is what a million dollars looks like in one hundred dollar bills:

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The new benchmark of serious wealth is a billion dollars. Now that is some serious cheddar. I can honestly say I do not know anyone that has a billion dollars. Nevertheless, I do wonder how they would transport it if they had to. It appears as though they would need a small moving van to get it done. Here is what a billion dollars looks like:

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However, my quest is to understand what a trillion of anything would look like, with one hundred dollar bills being the measuring stick I chose simply because I am not certain that there are that many toothpicks in the world. If I had to move a trillion dollars what sort of vehicle would I need. As it turns out it would not be a bicycle or a moving van. Or a semi. I am not certain that your average railroad train could move this much money at one time because here is what it looks like:

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By now, I have convinced myself that I do not understand what a trillion is. However, our national debt is approaching twenty trillion. Now twenty is a number I can understand. And here is what fifteen trillion in hundred dollar bills would look like. That was the national debt five short years ago.

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Here is my conclusion: I do not understand what the national debt means simply because I do not understand the term used to describe it: Trillion. I will add it to a list of words that are not understandable to me. That list now includes organic, non-genetically modified, non-fiction and trillion. There could be others.

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February 9, 2017 · 4:22 pm

Collateral Damage

1/31/2017

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While I have serious thoughts, I seldom write about them. This story is serious, so if you are looking for your normal chuckle at my scribblings you might want to move on. This has to do with war. Or rather, the aftermath of war. Wars have consequences and those consequences are far-reaching and long lasting.

A little background. I was an airman between the years of 1967 and 1976. Of those years I spent the time between 1969 and 1972 either in Viet Nam, around Viet Nam or on my way to or from Viet Nam. There was a war and I willingly did my part, without question. In those days, the US was divided along lines of the military industrial complex and those adamantly oppose to the war in Viet Nam. I suppose there was a large portion of the United States that was not in either camp and just wished the entire thing would go away. It is much like the United States today in early 2017, although the issues facing the nation today seem almost comical in comparison. That could be because I fought my war and I am willing to let others struggle with whatever real or perceived wrongs that are left in the world. I am sure there are many.

Now being an airman, I served my time behind the battlefronts or in the air over friendly territory, if one can say that there is a friendly area in a war theater. There were always things exploding, shots being fire, and airplanes burning up but none of it was directed at me personally. A stray rocket or bullet could have injured me but I never gave it much thought. I think that is why we send young men off to war-they think they are immortal. My last flying mission I came in on a C-47 with one dead engine and one sick one. Since I was days away from returning to the US to marry my sweetheart, I decided that that was my last mission. The next time I took to the air was to leave Viet Nam. I left Viet Nam in November of 1972 and the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January of 1973, so the war was over. At least for the Americans.

However, in December of 2014 I met a young lady who brought it all back for me. Her name is Hanh. I met her on a tour bus in Hawaii. I was taken with the fact that she was so energetic, enthusiastic and that she spoke English with an Australian accent. She was young enough to be my daughter and looked, as is the way with Orientals, young enough to be my granddaughter. I never asked, but I calculated that she had to be 44 at the time we met.

Being an inquisitive soul, I had to find out how she came by that accent. And this is the story:

Hanh’s grandparents were landed gentry in North Viet Nam. The French believed that they could continue a policy of colonialization in Viet Nam after World War II but ran into a revolution against such policy by the Viet Minh. In 1953, the French lost a decisive battle at Dien Bien Phu and the Geneva Accords of 1956 divided the country on the 17th parallel. The Viet Minh took over the northern half and many North Vietnamese Catholics were allowed to flee to South Viet Nam to be resettled. This Operation Passage to Freedom settled some 710,000 North Vietnamese, mostly Catholics, to South Viet Nam. Hanh’s grandparents and parents were among these people as they had been stripped of their land and had no reason to stay.

Hanh’s father grew up in South Viet Nam and eventually worked with the US government in their fight to keep South Viet Nam independent from the north. The US involvement in that war ended officially on April 30, 1975 with the evacuation of the US embassy in Saigon. The last hours of this evacuation, or Operation Frequent Wind, was well documented on TV and in the newspapers. Many thousands of Vietnamese who had assisted the US during the war were evacuated on April 30th and many more had been evacuated before that date. Many were left behind. Hanh’s father was one of the latter.

Having assisted the US, Hanh’s father was arrested. He faced 7 years in a re-education camp. He convinced the Communist that he had not aided the US but was merely a law enforcement officer in South Viet Nam. This got him a one-year prison sentence. Hanh’s mother and the twelve brother and sisters went to live with an uncle on the coast of Viet Nam to await the release of their father.

When he was released, he rejoined them and Hanh’s father and uncle built a boat. It was an unpowered sailboat that was 43 feet long. When it was done, all of the children including then 6-year-old Hanh were loaded onto the boat. I believe there were 27 souls on board. Her oldest brother, who was 22 at the time, captained it. They were pushed off to parts unknown while the parents remained in Viet Nam. The reason the parents stayed behind was that if the children on the boat were captured they would be put in prison, and they would not be fed unless their parents did it.

They escaped capture, made it to Indonesia and were immediately taken into a refugee camp there. They were awaiting to be taken into a home in some western country. Since there were 12 of them, and they wanted to stay together, this provided quite a challenge. Eventually, a family in the US was found that would take all 12 of them. Hanh and her family refused to go. The last thing their father told them was that they were under no circumstances to go to the US as it had betrayed them by leaving them behind.

They continued their wait and soon there were two families in Australia that were willing to each take six of them. Since the two families lived close together, Hanh and her siblings took the offer and were resettled in Australia. They were well cared for by their new families and did well considering where they had started.

All the brothers and sisters immediately started working on getting their parents to join them in Australia. It took them ten years before they obtained release of their parents who then joined them in Australia. It was a joyful reunion but this is the part of the story that always brings a tear to my eye.

While they were apart, Hanh’s mother knitted clothing for her two young daughters, one of which was Hanh. When they were reunited, her mother gave Hanh the sweater she had knitted for her. It was sized for a small six-year old girl. Hanh was 16 and almost a full-grown woman when her mother gave it to her. That is so sad in so many ways.

However, there are many sad parts to this story. Her cousins were resettled in the US. Her uncle went to join them. Her father never saw his brother again because he refused to visit the country that he felt betrayed him.

Hanh eventually came to the US to find work as I suppose the US offered better jobs for someone like her than Australia did. She was returning to Australia to visit her family for Christmas when I met her. Since it is such a long flight, she chose to overnight in Honolulu before continuing her journey. This is where I heard her story. We met again on her way back to the US.

I do not know what has compelled me to write this story now. Maybe it is because there are supposedly more refugees in the world now than at any time in human history. Maybe because the world has a thirst for war that seems unquenchable. I think mostly it is that things I did for all the right reasons, had consequences that cascaded from one generation to the next. I am thankful that Hanh gave me a rear view look at the consequences of war.

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January 31, 2017 · 11:24 am