Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Sometimes you're the bug...

and sometimes you're the windshield!"

I heard Neil Bonnett say that once years ago and it's one of those perfect metaphors for life.

My wife not being a fan of Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin, we spent Oscar night watching a nominee from 1950 that she thought she'd seen but hadn't. A newly mastered DVD version with some extras, I was delighted to revisit it with company for once.

"Twelve o'Clock High" I read in my teens, before I ever saw the movie, though I grew up watching the series when I was a "tween" and it was in repeats. It's one of the influences that led to my love of airplanes and mechanical things. The authors, Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay, Jr. were there in different capacities in the 8th Air Force and the story is a compilation of characters and groups they served with.

When I finally saw the movie I was impressed with all of the portrayals, none more than Dean Jagger who won his Oscar for it. Knowing the "flying history" behind it made it all the more personal for me.

Going back now and watching it brought all of those early emotions back, plus those of thinking of all the lives affected by the war and fighting it; the lives of people I know today, here and on the "other side of the pond".

Shocking was getting to the documentary part and hearing someone say that the U.S. Marine Corps lost 20,000 men in the Pacific in their campaign across the islands.

The 8th alone had over 26,000 killed out of 47,000 casualties; these were half of the Army Air Corps casualties for the entire war.

After watching the movie I dug in one of my bookcases to come up with some books I bought through Powell's a few years ago. One was Beirne Lay, Jr.'s account "Presumed Dead" of being shot down over Europe after he assumed command of his own air group mid-war. The 2nd I found was a biography of Paul Mantz, who flew the B-17 that "bellies in" early in the movie, sliding into tents etc. The movie company tried to get the then re-named Air Force to do it and were told "no way"; Mantz agreed to do it, flying solo. As he set her down, he figured out he could still steer her with the "toe brakes" although the landing gear was up and that was how he managed to snag the tent without doing any other damage downfield.

The 3rd I still haven't found, a paperback copy of the original book "Twelve o'Clock High".

"Presumed Dead" I consumed in my spare time in 3 days, unable to put it down when I could get a chance to read. Concise, but beautifully written, it's added to my love of the French countryside.

It also shocked me at one point. As they are transitioning from training to England, they flew a southern route considered safer because of the weather at that time of year over Greenland. On landing in Marrakesh, Lay writes about the last crewman leaving the plane, tossing the DDT bomb through the hatch and closing it...

No wonder so many of those of our "Greatest Generation" are fighting cancer! DDT was still in use by the Navy in '73 when I was on shipboard; the olive drab cans that I sprayed around my bunk to stop the roach invasions (which didn't even slow them down) had it painted on the cans. But tossing a "DDT bomb" into the aircraft who's oxygen system I'd be breathing from, where I'd be living and fighting and dying takes on a whole new meaning all these years later (as does lying in a bunk I'd sprayed entire cans around and in the locker of).

(BTW, the way we finally stopped the invasions on shipboard was to line the edges of our racks with 400mph tape, sticky side out, after taping every seam and joint closed, then waking up in the morning and roasting our catch with butane lighters!)

Beyond all that I spent one day last weekend watching my son and grandson outwork me as we helped my sister's mother-in-law move. The next I spent recuperating as my knee was not happy with me at all; it's still grumbling a bit 5 days later. I've also been fighting what is either the last cold of winter or the first cold of spring...whichever it is, I'm tired of it!

Monday I helped my son pick up more subfloor and underlayment along with trim for his house. Dottie was off yesterday and I was coughing too badly to go see a movie she wanted to, so we ran errands instead, getting the last of the fishing licenses and boat permits for the new year; finding some corned beefs she can fix for a belated St. Patrick's Day dinner this weekend, and since she felt sorry for me being sick, she bought me a slab of ribs for dinner that I'll also be eating for lunch and dinner today. We also went by the apartment that Mary Ruth moved to last weekend so Dottie could see it and helped her sort some of the things that went into her storage unit. A beautiful apartment with a brook and waterfalls outside her patio doors, I envy her a bit!

So it's now Wednesday afternoon and I'm still waiting for WalMart or Sam's Club or someone to call say that I'm worthy of their employment. After I eat something, I guess I'll try filling out an app for Home Depot, though I've put that one off because I somehow feel disloyal to GM if I go to work for someone that campaigns a Toyota in NASCAR...silly guilt button, I wish at times I could disconnect it!

May the week be kind to each of you!


10 comments:

Ange said...

I was thinking of you after finishing my post, and now I'm jotting down a list of things to read and watch, though I really shouldn't, but I really want to.

I loved this.
You should write a book.
I wish you would.
Have you?
Please do.
The roaches getting torched on tape? Yeah, please write it.

I hope you heal soon. Not convinced winter's over, so you still get a clean slate for spring.
Spring's gonna be lovely.

Take care of yourself.

breathethenexhale said...

I love that visiting your place leads me down paths of history that I had no idea about. You really should consider writing a book, I think it could be a combonation of fiction and non fiction (your life as a base).

breathethenexhale said...

I love that visiting your place leads me down paths of history that I had no idea about. You really should consider writing a book, I think it could be a combonation of fiction and non fiction (your life as a base).

GirlWhoShould (Lucy) said...

Write a book? Thats a great idea.
Like the tales of pest control. Hope the job apps in well
Lucy x

Anji said...

I'm with everyone else, you should write a book.

My dad died of cancer, being a farmer he was exposed to a lot of DDT a well as other chemicals.

Where abouts in France does 'Presumed Dead' talk about?

dragonflyfilly said...

hi alan,
been ages eh?
yeah, write a book...i'm hoping to go the Surrey International Writers Conference in October, still waiting for the registration form to be posted...

and go for Home Depot...i really like the local Home Depot here in BC...

chat soon,
i hope,
cheers for now,
pj

Connie in FL said...

You have a way of cramming so much life into one day. I am in awe.
One of the few who are still blogging. I miss that from so many. Enjoy your weekend.

Connie in FL said...

You have a way of cramming so much life into one day. I am in awe.
One of the few who are still blogging. I miss that from so many. Enjoy your weekend.

Debbie K said...

Dear Alan
Thank you for sharing your life with us.
I agree with everyone else, you should definitely write a book.
I hope your ailments all improve soon and you can jump for joy celebrating that job all your hard effort deserves.
Take care
Debbie

Green tea said...

I agree with everyone else here..
Start with a short story and see where it goes.
Good luck with the job hunt.. :)