But don’t we also like to say the ’60s was a decade that defined a generation? (Play opening chords of Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” here.) And didn’t Vietnam define the ’60s? That decade, by the way, didn’t really start until July 27, 1964 (Gulf of Tonkin incident), peaked on May 4, 1970 (Kent State) and petered out on Aug. 8, 1974 (Nixon’s resignation). If that decade defined the folks who are running things now, I think everything about it is still relevant (with the possible exception of Oliver’s “Good Morning, Starshine”), including the war and how we reacted to it. Kerry went off to battle. Bush used his family connections to get into the Texas Air National Guard. So what? As I recall, after five years of escalation and no definitive explanation, young guys started thinking seriously about dodging the draft. Some thought about shooting off a toe or, worse, moving to Canada. They faked illnesses, learned to limp or pretended to have bad eyesight. I knew a guy who got a deferment because he had faulty tear-ducts. No kidding. Everyone I knew who was subject to the draft probably would have done what Bush did, in a second—if their father was a congressman, that is.
Privilege has its advantages. I know. In the summer of ’72—the same year Bush’s Guard service is questioned—I, too, used family connections to skirt the system. I had spent the first month of that summer in Arizona and didn’t get back to Ohio in time to fulfill my two weeks of required in-the-car training from high-school driving instructor (and athletic director) Tony Prasher, who once told me that the whole long-hair and bearded-hippie look started with Fidel Castro. But that’s beside the point, which is: Because my mom worked as a secretary at a local elementary school, she had an in with school district officials like Prasher, who was a real powerbroker. With this connection, I had to complete only one week of in-the-car training, followed by a single successful parallel-parking job, and I had my license. Just like the president, I had vaulted ahead of the masses because of, well, who I was. I feel a lot better getting that off my chest. I think the president should do the same thing. At this point I think it’s important to note that I’ve caused only one automobile accident in my life, and Texas—or even Alabama, for that matter—was never overrun by the Vietcong and today remains free of communist rule. All’s well that ends well, I say.
There is a liquidambar tree that has grown against the very top of a streetlight pole standing at the corner of First and Wall streets. When the wind blows and the tree moves against the pole, it emits an eerie moan. This is right across the street from the office of the folks who support Measure D, which if it passes would ban genetically altered crops from Butte County. Maybe the tree is trying to tell us something. Who knows?
One more thing: For my money, Brian Clark of Duffy’s Tavern is the best darn bartender in this town. And this has nothing to do with the fact he has tickets to this year’s Ohio State-Michigan football game that will be played in the Horseshoe. No sir, nothing at all.