Tag Archives: History

Misdemeanor Outlaw: #BHBW Author Jim McGarrah releases new #memoir #vietnam @jmcgarra

This article and book excerpt appeared in the Princeton Daily Clarion on May 28, 2017.

JimMisdemOutl

Misdemeanor Outlaw: Princeton native’s 10th book published in June

(PDClarion) Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Princeton native Jim McGarrah’s newest book, Misdemeanor Outlaw, a nonfiction account of growing up in Princeton and his life in the counterculture after the Vietnam War. The book (was) released by Blue Heron Book Works in early June (2017). McGarrah is the author of ten books and has received various honors for his nonfiction writing as well as poetry. In 2005, McGarrah returned to Vietnam to receive recognition for his writing and his work toward peace from The Ministry of Arts and Literature. In 2010, he was presented with a national Eric Hoffer Award for his memoir of the war entitled A Temporary Sort of Peace.

I was lucky. I came to believe the Vietnam War had been a criminal act by my government almost immediately on my return. That belief allowed me to return to the role I felt most comfortable in as a misdemeanor outlaw. Rebelling against the Establishment gave me the opportunity to perform a sort of penance and relieve some of my guilt. Oh, I had problems for many years but not nearly as severe as friends my age who tried their best to justify the war and integrate back into society as our fathers had done in World War II. It took decades for some of them to understand the true cost of these foreign policy adventures urged on by corrupt politicians and controlled by corporate interest. Many Americans ignore this cost still because we have an all-volunteer army to pay it for them.

The true cost of war is measured by intimate knowledge of blood and fire, lifting seared flesh and unattached limbs from the broken rubble of homes and schools, digging graves for mothers and babies still warm in the womb. However, the true crime of war is quantified not by death or money only but through the misery of its living participants after the fact—the emotional turmoil, the survivor’s guilt, the grief, the nightmares, the pathological dysfunction of homeless Veterans, the missing arms and legs, and the vacant souls. The families of veterans often end up broken as well, expecting their returned hero to be the same man or woman who left them for war.

JimPrinceton

I’m a story teller by trade and by spirit. Let me tell you a story. I have a very close friend, a good man, a family man, an intelligent man who paid a dear cost for his service to his country. As a matter of fact, he is paying still. You don’t know my friend and I will not embarrass him by disclosing his name, even though if I did you probably still wouldn’t know him. My friend was a great athlete and might have gone on to some serious university team if he had been blessed with no conscience. But, we were all from Southern Indiana, a place where God was good in 1968 and commies were the spawn of Satan. They hid under every rock. They lurked in every shadow. Like many of us, my friend watched a lot of John Wayne movies and from them developed a celluloid sense of duty. By that, I mean he built an emotional construct based on Hollywood rather than reality. Good guys never died, they just rode off into the sunset with a beautiful submissive woman draped across the saddle.

Believing what he had been taught from infancy forward, my friend fulfilled his responsibility and enlisted in the service. He became an outstanding helicopter pilot in Vietnam, a treetop flyer, skimming over the jungle and bravely out maneuvering the .50 caliber machine guns of the Viet Cong. He had one job, carrying young boys into battle and ferrying their torn, lifeless bodies from the battlefield back to some rear area morgue. Oh sorry, two jobs. Then, he had to flush the blood out of his helicopter with a water hose. Week after week, month after month, his life evolved into days of loading and unloading dead boys and nights of drinking whiskey to forget the days. He never killed anybody that I know of. He simply stacked up men who were already dead like he threw hay bales into the barn loft on those Indiana summer days between semesters of high school.

Coming home, he did what many others did and carried on the illusion of normalcy. He went back to college, got a job, got married, and started a beautiful family. Most of that went on during the day. His nights were given over to the dead and to the one thing that buried the dead for him in Vietnam, alcohol. Years went by; bottle after bottle was drained dry and still the dead refused to stay buried. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder didn’t exist anywhere in the 1970s except in the minds of Vietnam veterans. The government refused to acknowledge it and the VA doctors blamed the nightmares, the rage, the substance abuse and fear of intimacy, the inability to focus, the clinical depression and flashbacks on other non-military causes. It was cheaper that way. My friend didn’t have a problem with his memories of war, not really. He simply couldn’t handle the stresses of his job and his marriage. Stuff happens, right?

Eventually, he drank enough vodka and scotch that leaving for work in the morning was no guarantee for his family that he would return home in the evening. Sometimes, he stopped for a quick cocktail and woke up in a different town three or four days later with no knowledge of where he was or how he got there. Then his liver began to fail. This probably saved his life. By the time he ended up in a VA hospital, various government bureaucrats and medical people had begun to admit that maybe, just maybe, war might create residual problems for those who lived through it. Maybe the mind wasn’t meant to look at what extreme and random violence forced it to see.

I was lucky, as I mentioned earlier. I went back to school but joined anti-war organizations. I became a social activist and then a drug-addled dropout. Something in my brain finally clicked and I took flight in my mind. After years of struggle, I received a bachelor of arts degree and in two more years I completed two graduate programs and began writing books and teaching. My friend, not so much. He was, he is, smarter than me and in many ways a better person than me. But, his PTSD will sometimes not allow him to finish he starts. I don’t know why. No one can answer that, no doctors or preachers or even my friend. He went back to college in mid-life, as I did. He sat in a classroom and made A’s till the last couple of weeks of the semester and then withdrew from classes. It wasn’t a matter of work interfering. He kept too busy thinking about questions that have no answers. How did he live through war when so many men didn’t? Why did he deserve happiness and success? What made him any better than all those bodies he still carries in his mind? This is called survivor’s guilt and it’s part of the cost combat veterans who continue to live must continue to pay. It’s the modern-day result of criminal behavior by cowardly politicians.

I haven’t seen my buddy in several years, but the last time I saw him I was in some Midwest town signing copies of a new book. I met him at a bar. Yes, he was drinking again after ten years of sobriety, but he assured me only an occasional cocktail before dinner and maybe just one or two after. Everything was under control. The kids had survived adolescence and gone to various colleges to form lives of their own. Now that he could rattle around an empty house, putter in the garden, and read books without interruption, he felt well enough in his mind to handle drinking again. This is what he said, but both of us knew the truth. In the absence of the daily chaos involved with raising children and simply living, the dead were beginning to seep back into his consciousness, resurrected by loneliness.

Don’t get me wrong. This seems like a very sad story, but it has good elements along the way. My friend is making it and he’s a pretty happy guy all things considered. This is just a simple analogy on behalf of a new generation of young Americans who have been fighting in wars longer than any military in our history.

Sent into battle by a new generation of politicians, most of whom evaded the Vietnam War draft with phony ailments or by the political influence of their fathers, these young men and women serve multiple deployments in fierce, mind-altering, situations. If they live to return home, they face demons that only other combat veterans can truly understand — the highest suicide rate in military history, an unemployment rate double the national average, overcrowded psychiatric services and unsure treatment methods for PTSD, families that now see them as dangerous strangers, a public almost completely indifferent to their struggles, and a political system unafraid to use them for personal and corporateagendas. This is what real crime looks like, and it is not a misdemeanor. So, by all means, enjoy your Holiday, but please don’t forget that the flame and smoke from your Memorial Day barbeque grill or the pop and crackle of your fireworks signifies something far more important than parades and hot dogs for some.

Jim’s Website: http://jim-mcgarrah.squarespace.com

Jim on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JimMcGarrah.author

Jim on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jmcgarra

A War Poem #history #germany

Picture courtesy of Ferienwohnung Hauswald

She Told me a Story
by Laura Libricz

She told me a story. From the Sudetenland.
She remembered this one incident:
It was Easter 1944,
The Bohemian Forest.
The pastor came into her village.
He gave her an egg.
The egg she would never forget, she said,
The symbol of fertility,
Of new life, of nourishment.
That was the last time she saw the pastor alive; his caravan was destroyed by enemy fire.
She told me another story.
How he was taken from her:
Her prize gelding, three years old.
She witnessed his birth, raised him from a foal,
Slept with him in the straw.
The military took him away and didn’t pay a penny.
She shed a tear.
She told me another story.
The day the Czech soldiers came to expel them:
They took her grandfather’s watch, his only real possession.
He died that night, his heart broken.
She shed a tear.
After the expulsion.
Her feet ached from walking.
She watched the other women
Lost on the road, having left everything behind, pulling hand carts with trinkets,
The children silent, their eyes extinguished.
And no men.
But how her true love was taken away, she wouldn’t say.
She only told me that he snuck through her window
The night before he was to leave for the front.
He kissed her long and warm.
He made love to her that night, her first time.
He told her he loved her and would always hear her calling.
That night he gave her the greatest gift a man can give a woman.
He sowed a seed, gave her an egg, the symbol of fertility.
She bore him a son and still waits for him to return.
She shed a tear.

With much joy, I introduce Laura Libricz, #RRBC’s “Spotlight” Author!

Natalie Ducey

I am thrilled to welcome Laura Libricz, Rave Reviews Book Club “Spotlight” Author, on today’s stop of her blog tour.  Laura is an amazing, supportive member of RRBC who generously promotes fellow authors. I consider it an honour to shine the “Spotlight” on her today.

With much joy, I introduce Laura Libricz!

Author Pic

Welcome to Day 1 of my #RRBC “SPOTLIGHT” Author Blog Tour. I’d like to thank my host and the RRBC for this great honor. To kick off this blog tour, I’d like to talk about writing!

Everything that happens in my writing happens for a reason! Just like that moment while watching a B-rated horror flick on TV. The heroine hears spooky sounds coming out of the basement. The music rises and her footsteps slow as she walks towards the basement door. Her hand reaches for the knob and everyone in the room shouts, “Don’t do it!”

We wonder how she could be so…

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Magic Me a Meal #history #food

book promo 3 square kitchen lores

What’s for dinner tonight?

Have a look in the pantry, see what you have, what you’re hungry for, and throw together something delicious. There’s a German idiom for just this situation that goes: schnell ein Essen zaubern! And that more or less means: magic me a meal! Let’s go back to the 17th century, specifically in Franconia, Germany: the absence of mod-cons, the hardship and toil and war, and eating whatever one is offered. How can we make a days-old leg of mutton or an old rabbit and some shriveled root vegetables edible let alone taste good? Magic me a meal!

Before we even think of cooking, we have to get this kitchen warm. Unfortunately, we used all the wood during the night because it was chilly and we have to find more wood. And if the fire went out altogether, we need either some embers from another fire or some dried straw, a flint stone, and a knife to get one going. Lug the firewood, light the fire, sit by until it’s burning. Once the fire is going we need water. The buckets are empty. Lug the water from the well, enough to cook with, and for whatever else we may need water for.

Looking in the cellar, I have carrots, onions, and some parsley root that has been stored in dry sand since September. They have shriveled up but they aren’t rotten. Once they are cooked they’ll taste good. A skinned wild rabbit has been hanging here for two days. It smells a bit gamey but it still looks useable. The cellar has a constant temperature summer and winter. (If I had a thermometer, it would probably be around 8° C or 45° F.) We still have some winter apples. These apples store nicely and are also a bit shriveled. In the garden I can dig up a horseradish root. Some kale is still standing in the garden because the spring hasn’t been that warm yet. Kale can stay out in the garden all winter.

We are lucky enough to have a master who is a traveling merchant, so we have pepper and cinnamon. And salt. We would die without salt. Not only does the body need salt to function, we need salt to preserve food. Last autumn, we dried salted deer meat and carp meat. We used all the grain last week and won’t have any more for another week or more. All we have left is old dried bread and ground acorns. The wine is sour but it actually tastes good in the cooking. The chickens have finally started laying again now that it’s spring so we have eggs. Lots of eggs. And the goat is still giving milk.

The fire is burning nicely atop the open hearth and all the chores are done so we can start cooking without being drawn away. Embers are gathered under a metal tripod and small pots set on top. The large iron pot can be hung from the chain rammed into the stone wall if we needed to cook a big meal but it won’t be necessary today. The smoke from the fire goes out the open flue but our eyes are still stinging and watering. The only outside light comes from a small window on the other side of the kitchen.

Chopping onions really makes our eyes water now. We chop some dried deer meat as well and then heat some fat in the pan, throw the onions and the deer meat into the pan, and let it fry. After it browns, we pour a half a bottle of that sour wine over the top. Zisch! Fumes from the sizzling wine and onions fill the kitchen and our mouths water! We sink the rabbit into the Sud, the stock. The sour wine will hide the gamey taste. Add salt, pepper and some cinnamon. In the garden, we pick sage leaves, just a few, some lavender, and a bit of rosemary that survived the winter. And we just gathered some Bärlauch, or wild garlic. This tasty herb can only be found in April and May, so we need to make the most of it. We can preserve some for later but it tastes best when it’s fresh.

Our main course is simmering away and we can think about side dishes and maybe even a dessert! So, carrots, old bread, ground acorns, eggs, milk, apples, cinnamon. Fresh kale and horseradish. Do we have any honey left? We decide to make a savory porridge out of water, carrots, onions, and ground acorns, salt and pepper. That will fill the belly. There will only be a mouthful of meat per person anyway. We put all of it in a pot and allow the savory porridge to simmer along side the rabbit. And how about a handful of chopped kale fried in fat with a bit of salt and topped with some freshly grated horseradish and a spoonful of rare goat’s cream?

Dessert: just because this is historical doesn’t mean we have to suffer! Old bread, milk, yes we have honey, apples. Let’s make a pudding. We heat the milk and apples and add the honey. The master also knows a beekeeper who is high up in the guild so we can get honey. It seems to disappear rapidly though. (I love honey.) Whisk in two eggs and watch it thicken. Then pour it over the pan filled with dried bread, set the pan on top of the hearth in a warm spot and hope it thickens more. If we had a fire in the oven we could bake it. But the oven is outside and we only stoke that up when we’re baking bread.

The rabbit should be done by now so we thicken the stock by crumbling the old bread into it. After spending the last two hours cooking, we are tasting our dishes more than we have to. The people we are cooking for hover around the kitchen like wolves who have smelled blood. We settle at the table and after a prayer of thanks to those forces we believe in, the room quiets at the task of devouring our delicious meal! Magic *

(I wrote this article for Donna Huber’s Girl-Who-Reads blog. Check out her site!)

What inspires the setting of a story? #bookworm #booklovers

Sichartshof, eine verschwundene Ortschaft

At the base of the low mountain range Steigerwald, in a fertile little hollow called the Edelgraben, there once stood a sheep farm. The first inkling of this farm appears in the Dachsbach registry in 1450 as ‘Sigartzhoffe’ belonging to a man named Peter Sighart. The good man paid a chicken and some grain to settle his taxes.

Over the years, thorough searches in the archives have produced a few registry entries, a sentence here, a mere crumb of information there, regarding this mysterious farm: Sigartshoff, Sycharczhoff, Sichartshof. According to an undated entry in the Dachsbach registry that is believed to be before the Thirty Years War, around the year 1600, the little farm had grown into an accumulation of acreage of farmed fields, grasslands, and ponds for farming fish.

A patrician from Nuremberg named Sebald Tucher is then documented as having owned Sichartshof in 1629. He bought the farm from the widow Margarethe Hansen and had acquired more land to work. By this time, Sichartshof lay unprotected in the Aisch River Valley, the valley a well-travelled route for mercenary troops involved in the Thirty Years War.

Why would Sebald Tucher leave Nuremberg, a city protected behind massive, impenetrable walls, and move out to a country manor amid this time of agitation? Did he want to hunt? Did he want to drink? Did he need the products that the farm could yield for his family in Nuremberg? How did he live? Who lived there with him?

This forgotten hamlet is the inspiration for the farm named Sichardtshof in the historical novel series Heaven’s Pond. For the answer to these questions and more, read the historical novel The Master and the Maid. The forgotten hamlet comes alive again, its story just waiting to be told!

 

The Georgian Washing Day

This wonderful post comes from Pen and Pension, the blog of William Savage. Will writes historical mystery novels, set in Norfolk between 1760 and 1800. His first in this series, “An Unlamented Death”, appeared in January 2015. The second book, “The Fabric of Murder”  was published in May 2015. The third installment, “The Code for Killing”, will be published on 25th January, 2016.

Pen and Pension

17th century washing drying laundryAs I noted in a recent posting, one of the myths that goes the rounds is that everyone in the past was always dirty. It isn’t true. The wealthy weren’t, the poor almost certainly were. As I pointed out there, the costs associated with keeping yourself clean were considerable, both in money and time. In a society in which cleanliness and class mirrored each other, keeping not just your body but your clothing and linens clean was straightforward for the rich, a matter of continual care and concern for the middling sort, and probably a hopeless dream for most of the poor.

Don’t misunderstand me. No one in the eighteenth century could hope to match current personal hygiene standards. The means to do so were not available, not would it have been considered necessary. But within what was possible, most people above the very lowest income levels did what…

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Two Sides to Every Story #mondayblogs

Two Sides

 

I’m guest-posting today at The Maiden’s Court Blog

Two Sides to Every Story: The Thirty Years War: Result of Religious Strife or Excessive Greed

Heather: Today I have the opportunity to present the newest Two Sides to Every Story entry in the series and it is with a guest post by author Laura Libricz. This topic, The Thirty Years War, is interesting to me as I just covered this subject matter in my recent semester of class. Check it out! Read more…

 

More about Heather from The Maiden’s Court: 28, USA. Hi everyone! I started my blog, The Maiden’s Court, in May 2009 as a creative outlet for my reading and it has completely taken me to new places. I love sharing my reading and the things that I learn.

On my blog you will find my honest reviews of historical fiction books, historical movie reviews, and interesting historical content among other things. About Heather