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BRING THE WAR HOME!

A Novel About Resistance To TheVietnam War And Racism


In The United States Marine Corps.

By

BARRY S. WILLDORF

A GAUCHE PRESS
San Francisco, CA
www.agauchepress.com
Dedication
Copyright © 2001by Barry S. Willdorf To the servicemen and women who followed their hearts and minds in
opposing a senseless war. And to the civilian activists who supported them.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any
form whether in print, electronically, by mechanical means or otherwise,
including information storage and retrieval systems without the prior written
consent of the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages
in a review.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters to


actual people or of the events to events that actually took place is purely
coincidental.

ISBN: 0-9713026-0-X

Inquiries or correspondence should be to the Publisher at


www.agauchepress.com.

Printed in the United States of America


In 1970, I was hired by a civil rights organization to defend active duty
Marines who were involved in anti-war efforts and were fighting for racial
justice at Camp Pendleton, California. They needed someone, anyone, to
merely show up and throw a legal wrench in the gears of military justice. My
professional inexperience was a perfect qualification for that type of task.

Just two weeks before my wife and I were to join a small group of
FORWARD activists in Oceanside, California that was supporting these Marines, their
house was machine-gunned. An active duty Marine was wounded in the
I grew up in Massachusetts in the 1950’s, in a place where the WWII attack. We went despite this “message.”
vets sat out on the stoop on hot summer evenings, smoking Pall Malls and
Chesterfields and recounting their wartime experiences before an audience of Over the following year, our group was threatened, harassed and was
slack-jawed, admiring pre-teens. It was the age of the draft. Two years in the always under police surveillance. In spite of this close scrutiny, we took
Army was seen as a rite of passage. I fully expected that some day I would risks. We maintained an armed watch, night and day, to deter further attacks.
make that passage. However, the Vietnam War at first challenged and then We delivered banned anti-war reading material to GIs. We published and
upset these expectations. distributed a provocative newspaper. We also interacted with a broad range
of civilians including clergy, timid peace activists, “movement heavies”
In 1965, as a student in England, I participated in my first demonstrations right-wing adversaries, and even “radical chic” movie stars. There were some
against the War. In 1966, I joined the Students for a Democratic Society arrests and there were some narrow escapes. Every day was lived in an
while attending Columbia Law School. In 1967, I was a local organizer for atmosphere of paranoia, adrenaline rushes and the potential of violence.
“Vietnam Summer.”
Through this experience though, we had the privilege of meeting a wide
Thanks, in large part to the well-known Columbia student strikes that spectrum of servicemen, enlisted men and officers, of all races and with very
caused the cancellation of final exams for two consecutive spring semesters, I diverse backgrounds. Those GIs who knew us and understood what we were
managed to graduate from law school and in 1969 I became an attorney. But, committed to accomplishing could see that we were acting out of a sense of
like many of my contemporaries, I had been too busy occupying buildings, duty. It created a bond with the servicemen we knew and worked with. For
attending demonstrations and leafleting to spend much time learning the tools many of us, that bond remains intact to this day.
of my trade. Thus, I was ill prepared for a legal career.
As a lawyer who was on base almost every day, I was given the unique
Within weeks of my graduation, I was thrown out of my pre-induction opportunity to observe the military without the blinders of stereotyping. It
physical, after a heated misunderstanding with a doctor about the haphazard indelibly changed my political perspective and I try to touch on that in the
way he was performing a certain delicate procedure. Getting thrown out of a pages that follow.
pre-induction physical was a surprise because, by that time I was convinced
that I would get drafted and was resolved to go in and “organize” though I Bring the War Home! is, admittedly, only one person’s attempt to put
was never really clear what that meant. But being rejected by the Army some perspective on anti-war activity in the military during the Vietnam War.
because of my attitude only egged me on. I decided to use my legal training Though it is drawn from personal experiences, I do not believe mine were
to represent GIs. especially unique. I have chosen the novel format out of respect for some
very heroic GIs who deserve their privacy and peace. It would not do, even
after all these years, to breach their honored confidences. Nevertheless, I

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have attempted to faithfully memorialize a time and events that I fear are in
danger of being lost, denigrated or trivialized. The accomplishments and the
failures of the people involved in this effort to end an indefensible war, both
military and civilian, represent a significant yet unfortunately obscure aspect
of anti-war activity in this country. Bring the War Home! represents my
modest attempt to secure for it at least a footnote in history.

Barry S. Willdorf
San Francisco
2001

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was their habit. As wounds go, it wasn’t much to complain about. No


bragging rights. Only a shard of shrapnel that peeled back the top of his right
PROLOGUE index finger from the nail to the second knuckle, like a banana. But it hurt
like hell. Nothing has more nerve endings than the tip of a finger and it was
Jumpin’ Jack looked back over his shoulder one final time, just before he his trigger finger to boot. A corpsman dressed the wound and the field
pulled himself up into the chopper. He tried to remember how it felt when he hospital stitched most of the peel back where it belonged. Probably because
jumped down onto this ground on that first occasion. How the place looked to he was policing the garbage at his field kitchen when he was hit, the bacteria
him then. And he found himself wiping back a tear when he recalled his ran rampant and the thing got hellishly infected. He couldn’t cook and he
naive enthusiasm for the mission. He squinted as he looked up into the steep, couldn’t shoot so they sent him to the rear. For a while it looked like he might
lush hills. Hills with cover that, like the VC, refused to die back despite the lose the digit altogether. By the time they had the infection under control,
pounding. The napalm. The Willie Peter. Woods was too short to reassign. So they sent him back to Pendleton.
He shuddered to think how much he had changed. But the senselessness It was December 4, 1969. Donnie Woods, young, Black and proud,
of it all could not escape him. His tour was ending right where his conversion touched down stateside with a purple-heart and an attitude. He had earned
had begun. An LZ a couple clicks south of A Luoi along a thin ribbon of dust respect. He landed just as the Chicago police were pumping a Black Panther
that the maps describe as Route 548. Smack dab in the heart of the A Shau leader named Fred Hampton full of lead while he lay asleep in his bed.
Valley. They came back to a country far different from the one they left. When
That he was there, like thousands before him, beginning in 1966, was they had embarked, all we were saying was “Give peace a chance.” and
testament that nothing had been accomplished. Unless, you figured that a “Bring the Boys Home!” But during their year overseasthe mood of the
batch of KIAs and a mountain of mangled, amputated limbs were an student protesters chanting on the stateside streetshad become angry. The
accomplishment. Despite the effort, the bravery, the sacrifice and heroism new slogan had become “Bring the War Home!” There was a different
that could not be denied and should not be forgotten, the NVA were still quality now. A heightening sense of anger and betrayal on one side,
infiltrated in those steep hills. Returning after every operation, like water resentment and accusations of treason on the other. Words were becoming
does in the hold of a leaky ship, no matter how often you man the bilge heated. As usual, that leads to violence.
pumps. Well, these GIs were bringing the War home. But not exactly in the
He had been brought up for just one more in a long series of those bilge- romantic way we imagined. That’s the way wishes seem to work, especially
pumping operations. Something called Dewey Canyon. Now he was back to when it comes to wars and we students were about to get our wish.
the same spot, ready to rotate out. And although the landscape looked like it
did the year, the decade, the millennia before, now it was adorned with
ghosts. Neither best efforts nor atrocities, nor the millions of dollars that
Uncle Sam poured in had made a difference. But he had changed. It was just
a guilt-ridden shell of his former self the Marines would be returning. He was
hoisting an emotional time bomb into the chopper that would fly him to
Quang Tri on the first leg of a journey through Da Nang and finally back to
Pendleton. Back to his very own personal and permanent fire-fight.
The Black corporal, Donnie Woods, had beaten Jack home by a couple
of months. Thanks to NVA sappers who hit under the cover of darkness, as

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green in Central Park with rock stars rocking, lengthy, boring speeches by
leftist notables, Allen Ginsberg chanting to the thumping of conga drums and
naked hippies swimming in the fountains. We would puff clouds of pungent
dope, consign the smoke to the breeze, and the magical zephyrs would stone
PART ONE out the world to a blissfulness that would be peace.
THE FREE FIRE ZONE When I looked at her, it convinced me to speak up and get myself
noticed. So I cooked up something to say to the group. Sophomoric rhetoric.
1. But Emma smiled at me and I was glad for it. Encouraged by the look, I
“I took the job,” I announced as I walked in the door. asked her out after the meeting. There was only one obstacle. She was
There was no discussion. No debate. I took the job and I simply reported enamored with a student leader who was doing an impression of Che
my decision to Emma. That’s how a man did things. Guevara -- beret, cigar, beard, the whole bit. Fortunately for me he had the
“You took what job?” she replied, questioning, hesitant with a hint of same sort of flash-in-the-pan staying power as the real McCoy and was on to
annoyance. “What are you talking about, Eric?” something and, or someone else within a few weeks. After that we were
We had been married for just over a year and I wasn’t quite trained yet. I inseparable. We went to every demonstration together. Got busted together.
still kind of peed on the floor and needed to have my nose tapped with a Decided that after school was done we’d keep on working for an end to the
rolled up newspaper a lot. I needed to be housebroken. War. It was important to us. We were in love and we had something in
“I thought I told you about it,” I replied defensively. “Didn’t I mention common. But with all the activity, all the against the War stuff, we really
that I was going downtown to a meeting with George Kahn, remember, the didn’t take the time to look beyond that to whether we expected the same
guy who’s hooked up with that civil liberties outfit from Cambridge that’s thing out of a marriage. At least I didn’t.
recruiting lawyers for that GI legal defense project? C’mon Emma, I know I I didn’t have any idea that Emma intended to demand some rights to a
told you about it.” say in my affairs once the ring had been slipped on her finger. All I knew
“Eric, you told me that you were meeting with a guy who had some court about marriage was what I had seen and that sure wasn’t the way my father
martial cases he wanted you to take, not that you were heading off to a job had operated. He was the stereotypical trooper who got hooked by a broad in
interview,” Emma replied, her hands on her hips. Her lips twitched with a the middle of the war. One of those horny GIs who knocked up a generation
combination of curiosity and anger that she had been left out of the loop. It of girls and then went off to fight.
was becoming an issue with us, how I tended to make solo decisions, while When Sam Wolfe came back, he ruled the roost. If he wanted to go
she demanded a consultative role. Maybe even a veto. hunting, he went hunting. If his buddies called about a weekend fishing, he
We had not discussed this decision-sharing requirement prior to taking just announced he was going fishing. He had the right to play poker every
the big leap. In fact we hadn’t really discussed very much along the lines of Saturday night, stink up the house with spilled Seagrams and stale cigars
expectations. From the time I first noticed her, sitting on a large stuffed chair leaving the wife to clean it all up the next morning while he slept it off. He
in one of the Barnard lounges, her feet tucked up, hugging her knees, it was a was man’s man who gave his wife an allowance, an occasional night out and
physical thing with me. She was wearing tight corduroys. Brown ones. Nice an angry growl if she crossed him.
packaging, I thought in my boorish way. But he wasn’t a brute, at least not in the physical sense. He was proud to
It was at a meeting preparing for one of those giant Mobilization Against say he never struck her. Real men didn’t beat up on their lessers. “ Don’t be a
the War events. I had shown up to check out a committee that was involved bully!” He hammered that into me. But for him abuse stopped at the physical.
in the planning for the fall event. The goal was to put a million people on the All the rest was fair game. He was the mentor who told me that as far as

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women went, there was always a better one around the corner. And that any
man who let a woman tell him what to do was a pussy. So what did I know?
It was a disappointment to him that I got married. decision in every family and I claim that job.” I walked into the bedroom of
“Look, Emma,” I tried to explain, “We’ve been through this about a our tiny flat and slammed the door forcefully, half hoping that I might break
hundred times already. You graduate next month and we’re out of here. I hate it. I loved breaking inanimate objects when I got mad. It was a release and a
this town. It’s too big. The lines are too long. I can’t stand waiting two hours diversion from the risk of throwing a punch.
to see a movie. I can’t take getting up at six in the morning so we can get to “Go ahead, break something,” she challenged from beyond the door,
Jones Beach by noon and then spend another hour trying to find a place to pressing her luck. But she got me to be introspective and maybe she had a
spread our blanket. I’ve been to one too many student demonstrations. I’ve point. I had signed up on a whim, imagining it was going to be some kind of a
exceeded my lifetime quota of college building sit-ins. It’s time for us to get Kerouac-like, pseudo-military adventure. Something that could easily be
out of here and do something against this War out in the real world, where repaired if it went sour, with a roll of duct tape and a couple good beers to
there are real people who have an actual live or die relationship with what is cry in. And all I was giving up were a few shallow, slap-on-the-back
happening.” friendships with a bunch of guys who never ventured beyond opinions on the
She looked at me like I was full of shit. “You’re talking like I don’t
local quarterback’s groin problems. Among my friends, washing down a
agree we have to move on. But that’s not what the problem.”
Polish dog and fries with a few cold brews qualified as a genuine bonding
“Yeah, what’s the problem then?” I asked with a hint of menace.
experience.
“The problem, Eric, is that still, after a whole year, you seem to think So, for me, the opportunity to hang out with anti-war GIs and directly
that you can make those decisions for the both of us. Like I have no say. And confront the war machine seemed like the perfect answer to my dilemma of
what I think doesn’t count. I’m just supposed to tag along, ‘whither thou what to do with my legal training. It wasn’t the same for Emma though. If she
goest,’ to wherever you say.” decided to tag along (and I wasn’t too sure she was going to) she would be
“California.”
sacrificing a broad web of intricate, solid relationships.
“What?” She and her women friends put a lot of energy into knowing all about
“California. They recruited me, I mean us, for Camp Pendleton. I have a each other. They obsessed on things like details of lineage and thenuancesof
year contract. $5,000. Down in Oceanside. San Diego County. Beginning of their respective psychoses. They knew how much to value or to discount each
July. And just so you don’t think I wasn’t thinking about you, you should other’s opinions on a wide spectrum of affairs from clothing preferences to
know that there’s a whole collective down there. They’ve got a newspaper the jewelry each possessed and when she was most likely to wear a certain
and a regular organizing committee. You’ll get to work directly with active piece. Not to mention politics, amusements, theater, film, dining and men. I
duty servicemen. Marines.” hadn’t made any attempt to think about what leaving all that behind would be
“Oh boy,” she sneered. “I’ll get to work with Marines! Eric, are you out
like for her. How she would be agreeing to set herself adrift. For Emma, the
of your mind? I know absolutely nothing about the military. I want to work
consequence of my decision would be a great, traumatic unplugging that I
with people I can relate to. Just because you have this thing about the
failed to appreciate.
military, doesn’t mean, I’ve got to pack up and head off to nowheresville.” I emerged from the bedroom sheepishly, a copy of the Blade-Tribune,
She knew how to do it, to stick in the dagger. After only a year, she had Oceanside’s excuse for the press, in hand. “Here,” I said. “You might as well
my number. Knew what to say and when to say it. She was like a great big know the whole story.”
fucking superego on one shoulder demanding that I be responsible, while on She took it from me, sat down on the couch in our combination
the other shoulder my old man, Sammy Wolfe, was yelling like a top living/dining room and began to read:
sergeant, “Dump the bitch, asshole. You don’t wanna be married.” “Two Wounded In Attack On Anti-War Meeting.” it began. May 25,
“We’d better not get into this Emma,” I responded, raising my voice a 1970, Oceanside, California: “Two men, one an active duty Marine and the
few decibels. “That’s how I was raised. Someone’s got to make the final

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other a recently discharged Vietnam veteran were wounded over the weekend
when unknown assailants raked an Anti-War meeting with automatic gun
fire. way I figured it, they were sending boys to Vietnam to preserve the
“Police responding to the scene speculated that the attack may have been capitalists’ right to ship their fathers’ jobs overseas. I wasn’t going to risk my
provoked by a demonstration that took place approximately two weeks ago in neck for that cause without raising a stink. But if they wanted to pay for my
this Southern California city adjacent to the sprawling Marine Corps base at weapons training, I wasn’t going to stop them. The Selective Service got the
Camp Pendleton. At that event, a crowd estimated at a thousand Marines and message and tossed me out with a 1-Y, not suitable.
their supporters marched, calling for an end to the War in Vietnam. While the When I got back from the physical and announced the outcome, she
Anti-War activists who organized the demonstration claimed that hundreds of threw her arms around me like I had done something heroic. “What a relief.
active duty servicemen participated, officials noted that it was impossible to Now we can make plans,” she exhaled.
make an accurate assessment since the only people taking part in the march That’s when I confessed my mixed feelings about it. How I was glad that
who were not permitted to wear a uniform were the GIs themselves. I wouldn’t have to deal with the dangerous contradiction of being part of a
mission I opposed but, at the same time, how I really wasn’t happy that I got
“Recent court decisions have permitted active duty GIs to engage in
rejected from something as easy to get into as the U.S. Army.
political activities but only off base and if they are not wearing military So, she had it partly right with her comment about me getting into the
uniform.” the Base legal officer stated. Many of the marchers who were War after all. But only partly. She was scared, too. If she decided to go with
wearing uniforms, the police explained, could have been discharged veterans me, she had every right to be afraid. The place we were going had been shot
or civilians who have recently taken to wearing military surplus while at the up once. There was no reason to expect that it wouldn’t be again. But why
same time expressing their opposition to the War. wasn’t I worried? The answer to that question, I came to realize not long
“Residents of the area, many with strong ties to the Marine Corps
after, was that I was sure nothing would happen to me. I was immortal. And
expressed shock and outrage that the demonstration had been permitted by
the fact was that I wasn’t much different from those wide-eyed, naive young
local authorities and feelings have been running strongly against the
men who get themselves recruited into the services by blind visions of glory?
demonstrators since the event....”
It was a humbling epiphany.
Emma carefully set down the article as she worked to select her words. “Well,” I said to myself, “no one was forcing her to come along.” And
“So,” she said finally, “you get to go to war after all.” then I did.
All I could do was smile weakly. Once, I had made the mistake of “Yeah, I get to do something positive against this War,” I guilt-tripped.
confessing that I had some mixed feelings about having been thrown out of “And sometimes positive requires risk. How about you? Are you willing to
my pre-induction physical. I had explained that growing up, I had always take a risk to work against this War or do you want to stay nice and comfy in
expected to go in, do my duty, just like my father had done. I told her how New York, writing articles that only your friends will read, whining about
Sammy, my dad, had pushed for me to go into JAG, as a lawyer, a captain. government policy ?”
As a JAG officer, he said, there would be no chance that I would be doing I was as shameless as a Marine recruiter. I knew Emma wanted to help
anything that would be directly contributing to the War. stop the War. Bring those guys home. She, more than I, wanted to get the
Instead, I became active against the War. I got myself busted a couple
guns out of their hands. Wanted to do her part to stop us from dumping
times and that took JAG out of the picture. So when my number came up and
napalm on some poor peasant’s hut that had the misfortune to occupy high
I got a call for a physical, there were only two possibilities. They would take
ground. She was an easy mark from my appeal. Emma looked at me with
me as a grunt or reject me. Running away or going to jail were not in my
resignation. “What will I do there while you’re out defending GIs?”
deck of cards. Nor was a conscientious objector claim. But I was determined “I told you, they have a paper there too, Emma,” I answered with relief.
to let them know that if they took me, they would not be happy with what “The GIs put out a paper called Free Fire Zone. Because they are restricted
they were getting. I had opinions and I wasn’t shy about stating them. The

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in what they can do and say, they need people to help them write it, do
layout, get it printed and even distribute it. You’ll get to write articles that
people who have their finger on the trigger will actually read. If you want to
do something meaningful to end this fuckin’g War, the place to do it is with
the people who are fighting it, not with students and faculty who are running 2.
as far away from it as they can get. Oh, and by the way, the project has We lumbered toward Oceanside in our overloaded '63 Valiant like a
several women organizers already, so it won’t just be a bunch of men.” couple of Okies thirty years late. The back seat was piled high above window
She sighed, the sigh of surrender. level with stuff we would end up never using. The bulging trunk was tied
down by rope. The springs were bottomed out. A sagging car-top carrier
smothered the roof.
The day delivered a Provencal sky. The high bluish white kind of dome
that goes on forever and sucks all the shadows out of the landscape. Emma's
high cheek-bones, deep, mysterious blue-green eyes and the ever-so-slight
cleft of her chin benefited handsomely from the lighting. She was wearing cut
off jeans and a tank top for the swelter and sat as close to the open window as
she could get. Her thin neck craned forward to gain the cooling advantage of
an unobstructed breeze. Her straight long hair trailed behind, shining golden
in the sunlight, like the tail of a comet.
Off to the west, a cobalt sea puckered up to the reflecting sky with
hypothermic lips and sucked up the hot Mojave air. Ranks of four foot waves
pressed forward like infantry, cresting, holding their form against the
off-shore zephyr, then toppled neatly, one after the other, as if they were
doomed doughboys advancing against a machine gun. As we locked on to our
objective, a look of pleasant anticipation flushed color into her
not-yet-Californian complexion. Beauty, as they claim, is in the eye of the
beholder, but at that moment it would have taken some unusual beholder to
have resisted such a conclusion.
Oceanside, California during the War was one of a whole slew of towns
across the country that prospered by being up close and personal with a
military base. The town was unabashed in its efforts to sell sleaze, honky
tonk and cars to teenage GIs fresh off the farm. Its streets teemed with half-
assed hawkers who specialized in dragooning recent graduates of Advanced
Infantry Training into topless bars with big cover charges serving watered
down drinks. Its shops were operated by unscrupulous merchants who got
rich selling low quality goods to naive recruits. Stuff they couldn't afford and
would have no possible use for during the year they'd be over in the Nam.
“The credit is easy.” could have been the town’s motto. Like the preachers at

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a skid row mission, that's where MOP, the Marines Organizing Project, set up
shop.
The group included a number of vets who had been to Vietnam and upon their political adversaries. Indeed, there was abundant evidence that
whose experiences there had changed their minds about our country and Pendleton’s environs were swarming with such thugs.
about what they believed in. Now they were determined to bring their As I squeezed past a liberally dented '61 Dodge van that blocked up the
message right into the Green Machine's own back yard. Right into the driveway, I wondered whether the place was booby-trapped. But the
barracks at Pendleton, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, 29 Palms Artillery vehicle’s cheerfully decorated yellow submarine-like motif quickly squashed
Range and El Toro Air Station. They knew that by this time there were vast this concern and I boldly proceeded to the entrance. Emma lagged behind,
numbers of troops who didn't believe in the mission. GIs so traumatized by hesitant, digesting the scene at a little slower pace.
the Vietnam experience that they had become suicidal, homicidal, catatonic, My knocking was answered after a while by a short, stocky youth with
angry and a general drag. Their objective now was to provide aid and comfort tightly curled black hair and the burnished complexion of a Hispanic. He
to these guys. Keep them out of the brig, healthy and in one piece so they looked through the screen door of the porch, over the tops of his dark aviator
could get out with a good discharge, an even chance at a job and a glasses. His squared shoulders were placed to block any unwelcome
commitment to peace. A lot of people called MOP subversives, but that was intrusion. He was holding a Winchester 12 gauge pump shotgun across his
just politics. chest. We were not about to barge in on him.
Our destination was on Ditmar Street, a prairie straight road where “What you want?” he demanded inhospitably, through gritted teeth and
junior five bungalows lolled at parade rest behind lush lawns, neatly kept and with a menacing stare.
as trimmed as a Drill Instructor's scalp. Ranks of palm trees formed up for “We’re the Wolfes,” Emma replied with disarming charm. “From New
inspection at each curb, gently rocking in the July heat. All was in order... York. We’re here to replace Charles and Sylvia.”
except for a single sore thumb structure, out of uniform, unfit for duty and “Yeah,” I said, employing my well-worn joke, “the Wolfes are at your
irreverent. An insult to propriety and discipline, it slouched among the ranks door.”
of the righteous like a pockfaced delinquent. Rebellious. Taunting. Provoking The fellow didn’t acknowledge my attempted humor and muttered for us
to be arrested. to wait. He backed away from the door with what I took to be excessive
Once a similarly modest, conforming cottage, this house now mocked the caution. When he did, I noticed that the porch too was fortified. Below the
neighborhood from behind clumps of hearty, dull brown weeds that burst screened in windows there was a low wooden wall and behind it, all along
helter-skelter out of dusty soil. It suffered from a pathetic, slap-dash the front of the house, were sandbags, with gun slots, like a World War I
splashing of pilfered GI paint, in drab military monochrome, devoid of trim. trench.
Large spotlights pointed outward to the street from the corners of the two “Hey, Joanie,” he yelled over his shoulder, into the house, “You know
front eves like a San Quentin guardhouse. Strands of razor wire serpentined anything about some Wolfes from New York? They supposed to be taking
along the roof gutters. This wasn't a house, it was a bunker. over from Chuck and Sylvie?”
A zig zag pattern of automatic weapons fire prominently embellished its “Yeah,” screeched a disembodied voice from beyond the porch. “It’s ok,
facade. Great chunks of stucco had been dislodged revealing open wounds of Jesus, let them in.”
splintery lath. This, I realized, must have been the handiwork of the Jesus complied and admitted us into the living room. Three young
Minutemen attack that had been reported in the papers. A message from those women were sitting cross-legged on the floor, laying out what looked like
right-wing nuts who historically have been attracted to this part of Southern some sort of pamphlet. They briefly glanced up from what they were doing
California, like ants to a Sunday picnic. Word was that they were holed up in and smiled. One of them sprang to her feet. “Hi, I’m Joanie,” she said,
a compound somewhere out in the eastern reaches of the county, disguised in holding out a hand first to Emma. She was about Emma’s height, 5'5" or 6"
mild occupations such as TV repairmen. From time to time they and their but stocky and heavy breasted. She was wearing Ben Davis overalls, a tee
minions oozed down from the high desert to visit acts of cowardly ambush

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shirt printed with the announcement of some past Mobilization
demonstration. She would have benefited from a bra. Her wild bush of kinky
brown hair encased a puffy face that caused her eyes to squint when she “Name’s Mitch,” a voice intruded, after what seemed like an eternity of
smiled. It was a nice smile. Genuine, I thought. Thick lips broke apart to shuffling and snooping around the living room. “Boy are we glad you’re
disclose a fine set of choppers, white and straight. She eyed Emma up and here.” He offered us a meaty paw, adorned with the grease-smudged nails
down with unabashed interest. and raw knuckles of a clumsy auto mechanic. Mitch was a big-boned man of
“This here is Cookie,” she said, pointing to a tall, thin, light-skinned about 25 years, with long straight black hair that fell to his shoulders and out
Black woman wearing some sort of silk pajama type thing that accented her over his face, sometimes covering his eyes. He was wearing a white tee shirt,
delicate bone structure. Her finely chiseled nose and jaw line, her long, which he apparently used as a hand cloth, and soiled jeans that were so worn
slender neck, reminded me of a magazine spread I had seen about a through in the crotch and buttocks that they provided the world with an
supermodel from Ethiopia. She turned toward us with lilting graceful unobstructed glimpse of his genitalia. Mitch didn’t seem to feel a need to
movements. Cookie had a regal bearing that seemed out of place in these employ underwear. For a moment he scrutinized the laborings of the three
environs. It crossed my mind that she was slumming. But then, maybe so women on the floor but said nothing to them.
were we. “Come on in the back,” he invited, while self-consciously preening and
“And Gabrielle,” Joanie continued. Gabrielle was tiny and obviously pushing back his locks. “Nice to be finally free to grow it out,” he observed.
Hispanic. She wore her hair closely cropped and boyish. Long chains of Mitch limped into a kitchen, motioning us to follow. The room was
silver hoops dangled from her ears. She nodded coolly and sighed, like they pungent with the acrid smells of festering edibles. On the left was a sink,
all had better things to do. “Sorry, we can’t talk now, we’ve got a deadline to burdened by a mound of filthy dishes encrusted with the detritus of meals
meet,” she said. “We’ll get together in a bit, ok?” long past. Against the far wall an antique Fridgidaire hummed loudly as it
With that, the three of them returned to their task. Jesus went out to the waded in a puddle of meltwater, the result of habitual neglect of defrosting.
porch and slid into a collapsible beach chair with bright green and red stripes. Opposite, an ancient four burner gas stove bedecked with many layered
It was positioned low in a corner, where he was well protected from potential remnants of burned and spilled culinary efforts harbored a blue metal coffee
ambush by the sandbags. We were left to stand and fidget uncomfortably, pot with a cascade of brown vertical drippings permanently baked into its
watching the women prepare their publication. lacquer. In the very middle of the room, six feet in diameter, asplintery spool
I picked up the prior month’s edition of the paper, Free Fire Zone,and table dominated, like an altar to sloth, on the sticky, discolored black and
began to read: white checkerboard of linoleum.
“Today the War is becoming increasingly unpopular. Millions of citizens Seated on one of those folding metal bridge chairs that are a staple at flea
oppose it. Hundreds of thousands assemble and march to stop it. Elected markets was a representative of this kingdom’s knighthood. Mitch did the
representatives speak out against it. And now opposition is taking hold introduction. “This here’s Clayton.” He nodded in the man’s direction.
among the troops. There has been an enormous increase in the number of GIs “Army, First Infantry, Big Red One, a grunt.”
filing for conscientious objector status. But for those of you who of are not Clayton was a broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted Black man, over on the
opposed to war in all cases and do not qualify to be conscientious objectors ebony side of the spectrum. Tattoos decorated the length of his bulging arms.
there are still legal ways you can make your opposition known. It is ok for Recently discharged, he still displayed the evidence of a military buzz cut.
you to register your protest by writing to your congressman that the War is His hairline terminated millimeters from his eyebrows so that when he
illegal and immoral. You can join in demonstrations off base if you are out of wrinkled his brow, as he was doing during these introductions, he seemed to
uniform. You can learn the truth about the war you are being forced to fight. be devoid of a forehead.
The MOP, the Marines Organizing Project is here to help and support you. I stuck out a hand, but Clayton made a fist salute. “How’s it going?” I
Come visit our house and we’ll let you know what you can do to help to end asked.
this War!”

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“It’s shakin’,” he replied.
“Clayton’s from Chicago, South side,” Mitch continued, trying to help
the conversation along. readin’ when I came in? Free Fire Zone? Well, we used to call it
Clayton was wearing some sort of braided black shoelace on his wrist. DISGRUNTLED, a kinda takeoff on grunts, becoming ex-grunts, ya dig? But
He caught my questioning gaze. “It’s a Black Unity bracelet,” he explained, with the shoot-in, one of the brothers said the place was like a free fire zone,
grinning. “Accordin’ to the regs, we can wear ID bracelets with our uniforms. like in the Nam, and we got to thinking, yeah, it was kinda like that. Being
Black’s my identity.” He gave us another clenched fist salute and a “Right here in this part of the country, we were in a free fire zone, and so we thought
on.” He flipped open a couple more of the bridge chairs, and true to his MOS, that maybe the paper should be named that too. Sort of a place where the
grunted for us to be seated. We accepted. grunts can free fire on the brass.”
“The reg Clayton’s referring to” Mitch went on to explain, “is one of the
“Anyways, them sons of bitches left a note with The Blade Tribune the
reasons we need a lawyer down here. I don’t know how much you know
night after the machine gunning,” Mitch continued. “Said they had no
about it but we’ve been making it the centerpiece of our organizing effort
intention of operating a debating society with us peaceniks. An’ it didn’t
among the brothers. The brass can’t accept the fact that being Black is an
matter one bit to them that they actually hit a Viet vet and an active duty
identity thing. ‘Specially the lifers. A lot of ‘em’s crackers an’ they can’t
Marine. As far as they were concerned, we were just traitors an’ we’d be
accept the notion that Black people have a legitimate identity as Black.
better off dead than red.”
There’s been a lot of threats that if the brothers don’t take ‘em off, they’re “The Marine that got hit’s upstairs crashed. Should be down soon. He
going to get written up on charges. We’d like for you to do something about got free medical attention at Pendleton and a visit from NIS investigators
it. Coffee?” Mitch offered, as he poured himself some of the brew that was wanting to know what the hell he was doing in a dangerous place like this.
boiling itself sour on the stove. They transported me to the county hospital, but I got triaged to follow the
Emma glanced around the kitchen, rolled her eyes and politely declined.
completion of a police report. Shoulda given us both the purple heart.
I decided to take a chance. It would be educational. In response to my
Anyhow, the cops never even examined the note they sent to the paper for
acceptance, Mitch shuffled over to the sink and extracted a chipped mug from
possible clues. That’s why all the defense.” He motioned in the direction of
somewhere beneath the mound of the great unwashed. He fished a sopping
the sandbagged front porch. “Get used to it, we’re on our own here.”
grey dishcloth from the plastic bucket of lukewarm rinse water and swabbed He bent down to pat a shorted-haired, yellow-brown hound who had
the innards of my cup. As an extra sanitary precaution, he rinsed it once then slithered sheepishly out from under the table. The dog seemed to be the only
filled it with hot brown liquid from the pot. He limped back over to the table functioning housekeeper in the room. Between yawns, the animal engaged in
with my cup and sat down gingerly. a haphazard lapping of the floor droppings. “Good dog. Good Dino,” he said
“What happened to you?” Emma asked about the limp. “Did you get that
before returning to the subject of coffee. “We got some powdered milk and
in Vietnam?”
sugar.” He pointed in the direction of some bowls on the table.
“No. I was over there, all right,” he explained. “I was a corpsman, Navy,
“Thanks. I take it straight.” I took the mug and peered inside, examining
but assigned to the Marines. Worst fuckin’ job there is. Pickin’ up the pieces,
its contents. The flotilla of foreign organisms I expected were not visible.
all the while under fire. An’ they aim for you too. Try an’get you so you can’t
Still, I just held the mug and pretended to drink. I hoped these guys didn’t
be patching someone up and sendin’ em back into combat. Tryin’ to
notice my reticence and in short order, happily concluded that they didn’t
demoralize the grunts, ya know. But the whole time I was over I never got hit
seem to be concerned with etiquette.
direct. Not ‘til I got to this place. I was sittin’ in the fuckin’ livin’ room. “Want some cheese?” Mitch asked, jabbing a bayonet into what looked
Right over there.” He pointed to a couch that was visible from the doorway. like a large orange lobster buoy. His thrust broke off a piece the size of a
“Mindin’ my own business. Readin’ ‘bout the Padres. Baseball. Fuckin’ hockey puck, as well as numerous satellite crumbs that looked like friable
American as apple pie. They used an automatic weapon. Probably an M-16. asbestos.
Fuckin’ weird.” He looked in my direction. “Ya know that paper you was

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“What kind?” I asked.
“Commodity,” Mitch laughed. “Who the fuck knows what the hell it is.
Probably made in some lab by Dow Chemical.” He rose and limped over to a “Name’s Woods,” he introduced himself, raising his good arm in a Black
cupboard next to the stove. It looked like a Third World bodega. Big bags of Power fist salute. He too was wearing a Black Unity bracelet. “Donnie
rice. Another chunk of lobster buoy cheese. Enormous tins of peanut butter. Woods. Glad to see you. Are you the lawyer?” he asked with the kind of
Sacks of powdered milk. And a couple of hams in cans. “All fucking clear, studied accent one finds among the Black bourgeoisie.
government issue. San Diego County’s option for food stamps. Nothing they I nodded affirmatively and began to introduce Emma but, unnoticed to
give the People is fresh. Nothing that can spoil. Not for a million years.” me, she had wandered back into the living room to be with the women. Over
“We each git $50 a month from the support group,” Clayton chipped in. my shoulder I could see she had joined them on the floor and was
“All together we git $300 for the rent, eats an’ gas for the wheels. That makes participating in creating the pamphlet. I felt relieved.
us eligible for this here crap. Same shit’s we git in the service. Sucks, but it’s “Donnie was the other guy hit during the shoot-in,” Mitch interrupted.
free.” “Took a bullet fragment in his shoulder.”
“How come they don’t just give you food stamps, like in New York or “I heard you talking about commodity foods,” Woods said. “It kind of
San Francisco?” Emma wanted to know. woke me up. Good thing too, because I’ve got duty. They tried that shit back
“We all don't cotton to dose food stamps down heeyah,” Mitch told us in home in Richmond, dig. Fucking tortured the poor folks with it. The man
mock red-neck, while grinding some more beans in a well-worn hand grinder. who came up with that shit’s a mother. Keeps you hungry all the time. It’s
“Providin’ pooh folk wid dietary discretion ain’t an objective owah County supposed to motivate you to get off but the problem is there isn’t any place to
Supervisuhs approves of. Dey ain’t ‘bout to invest da pooh wid choices ovah get off to, if you know what I mean. So that program failed back home and
what dey eats. Dey judgmint cain’t be relied on.” they went back to food stamps. Power of the people, dig ...” He pulled at his
“Yeah,” Clayton added. “ A few coupons might git ripped off or maybe
uniform, gave us a wry smile and did a 180 out of the place.
traded ta some slime-ball store owner for a bottle of Ripple. With commodity “Right on, bro,” Clayton yelled after him. “Right the fuck on.”
foods ya can’t ‘buse the system.” he chuckled. It would soon become a part of our lives. Our daily fare. Commodity
“So,” Emma concluded, “Commodity foods is a program based on the foods would be welfare as we knew it.
philosophy that the only things a government should give the poor are things
that they can't possibly enjoy. Otherwise, God help us, they might ask for
more. Lose their motivation. Be forever unable to take the initiative and get
on their feet.”
“Ya got it,” nodded Clayton with a smile. He seemed to be warming a
bit. “Folks might git thesselves addicted ta the cushy life ya can have on the
welfare. Might end up unsuited to foragin’ for they own survival, like them
Yosemite bears or squirrels in the park.”
As we debated the politics of commodity foods, a lean, young Black man
descended a ladder from a make-shift sleeping loft they had constructed
above the kitchen. He was not as dark as Clayton and built along the lines of
a middle-distance runner, narrow in the waist and hips. His hair was high and
tight, well within Marine Corps regulations and he was squared away,
wearing starched utilities with the collar chevron of a corporal. His left arm
was in sling.

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Bring The War Home -

3. “What are those?” she asked when she noticed me stacking some papers
There was no room at the inn. Ditmar was full and to tell the truth, on the dinette table.
neither Emma nor I was complaining about it. Neither of us wanted to live in “Cases,” I replied. “Mitch didn’t waste any time laying the work on me.
a sty. Especially one that was ground zero for the Minutemen. We got Here’s a brief George Kahn had done on the Black Unity identity bracelet
ourselves a room in a cheap motel down by the beach while we looked for issue,” I said, displaying a file. “You remember, those shoelace things that
digs of our own. the Black GIs are wearing. They want me to file an action in Federal Court,
The place had a grungy charm. It was situated below the cliffs, at beach to get a declaration that these bracelets conform to the General Order on
level. You could pick the front door lock with a pen knife. The aluminum uniforms. They want to prevent the brass from harassing them on this
windows didn’t fully close, permitting comfortable, moist sea breezes to blow because they are using it as an organizing tool. If they can talk the Black GIs
through without obstruction, even when the weather up higher was humidity into wearing them, they can work towards a kind of union thing. Actually, I
and doldrums. It was “L” shaped. Furnished with a kitchenette, a lounge don’t have a clue what the hell I’m supposed to be doing about this,” I
chair, dinette for two, dresser and a black and white TV. Its lumpy double confessed, patting the manila cover. “So I’ve got a shit load of studying and
bed converted into a brown and yellow plaid couch for day use. All this came research to do to get up to speed. And here’s a couple of letters from guys in
for $10.00 a night. the brig who want representation. Mostly they are GIs who went UA.”
“So what do you think?” I asked Emma as we unloaded the Valiant. “What’s UA?” Emma interrupted.
“The place is a dump, but it will do ‘til we find something better,” she “That’s like AWOL in the Army. It stands for unauthorized absence.
replied. And here’s a letter from a Marine who wants to talk to me about
“I don’t mean the motel,” I responded, amused. “How did you like the conscientious objector status. The interesting thing is that he has already done
MOP collective? What do you think?” his tour in Vietnam and only has about a year to go on his enlistment. Most of
“I didn’t realize,” she said with apparent enthusiasm, “that there is a the servicemen want to apply for CO before they’re sent to Vietnam so they
whole movement going on. We were working on the paper and they had won’t have to fight. The military looks at that pretty suspiciously. But this is
articles and reports from all over the country. Did you know that they have different. He says he can’t continue to serve, even at home, because of what’s
GI coffee houses or organizing projects in Ft. Lewis, Washington, Ft. Hood, going on over there. It seems like his combat experience politicized him
Texas, Ft. Benning, Georgia, Long Beach, San Diego, Great Lakes Naval against the War. I can’t wait to talk to him.”
Station and they even have one in Saigon! I had no idea!” “Say, Emma, wanna go get some dinner?” I asked after a bit more
”That’s what I was trying to tell you, Emma. There are hundreds, unpacking. “ Kind of celebrate that things are working out? What do you
thousands of GIs in all of the services who are against the War and willing to say?”
do something about it. With your writing and research skills you can really She looked at me with a gleam of pleasure in her eyes. I could see that
have an impact here.” she was becoming happy with our prospects here. “Sure,” she replied. “Let’s
“And the paper has a circulation of a thousand copies,” she enthused. check out the finest bistro in this burg.”
“Most of them get distributed on the base, to Marines. It’s actually not a bad We cruised the waterfront investigating the seafood joints. Emma
piece of work. I think it can use some improvement but I wouldn’t be jumped out a couple times to peruse the menus. Finally we settled on a
ashamed to work on it.” fisherman’s shack type place up on the cliff, out on a point of land where a
“Not to mention that this is just about the only place I know where white small inlet called San Luis cuts into the sandstone and heads east along the
organizers can still work directly with Blacks,” I added, as I unpacked my border of Camp Pendleton. We ate on the veranda. Candles in red glass bowls
Smith-Corona electric. “Where there’s still a chance to act in an integrated flickered on each table. Not all the fish was fried. There was a reasonable
political movement.”

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Bring The War Home -
selection of cheap California wine. It was quiet and uncrowded. They took
credit cards. Between courses we held hands. Emma glowed in the
candlelight. It was like a first date. Magic in a new world. “Listen,” I said, changing the subject, “I gotta meet with Donnie Woods
We returned to our digs enveloped in the mild buzz of the wine. and some other guys this afternoon about the Black Unity thing. You got
Inebriated by a refurbished infatuation. The warm Pacific breeze playfully anything going?”
flicked at the calico curtains of our unit. Somewhere, not far away, someone “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do,” she said. “I’m going to get the paper
was playing slow dance music that reminded me of a prom long ago. I took and do a bit of apartment hunting. The women are going to show me around.
Emma in my arms and pulled her close to me so that I could feel those Give me a guided tour.”
wonderful parts of her woman’s body, up against mine. I put my hands on her “What you wanna do for dinner tonight?” I asked her.
buttocks and she brought herself closer, so close that we seemed to melt “Don’t you think we ought to be doing something with the collective?”
together into the sweetness of love. The kind of love that goes best with she asked. “We ought to be eating with them, at least most of the time if we
genuine affection, so that you don’t have to question or doubt or worry but are going to be a part of it.”
can simply be carried away totally, without even the slightest regard for the I must have looked disappointed. Like I was hoping for a repeat of the
consequences. Where you know what the other person wants and can put all night before. She noticed. “We’re not going to be living with them,” she
of your consciousness into making them happy, pleased and satisfied. And winked, giving me a hug. “Don’t worry. We’ll still have our private
that’s what we did...until the residue of wine and exhaustion got the upper moments.”
hand and we fell asleep in each other’s arms, on that swaybacked, lopsided I wasn’t worried. Yet.
$10-a-night mattress.
We woke the next morning covered with the red, blotchy bites of a
thousand ravenous sand fleas. Our room was infested with the suckers but we
had been too in love to notice. As far as I was concerned, it was a small price
to pay for the memory. Emma, on the other hand, set off to buy all of the
chemical remedies that she could locate. She had extermination on her mind
and was not about to do anything else until the job was accomplished.
“What you’re doing,” I told her playfully, “is just like the military’s
response to the Viet Cong. Throw every chemical you got at them. Wipe ‘em
out.”
“You’re weird,” she responded. “The Viet Cong aren’t fleas.”
“They are to the military,” I replied.
“Then you can live with them, Mr. Insect Rights,” she sneered.
“In your next life you could be a flea,” I jibed.
“Let’s just worry about this one.” She pointed a can of Raid in my
direction and made a threatening gesturethat I hoped was in jest. “Any more
of your nonsense and I’ll eradicate you.” she giggled.
I was tempted to distinguish myself from the fleas by claiming that at
least I didn’t leave itchy red marks when I bit. But then, I wasn’t all that sure
that her response wouldn’t be coming from the business end of that can of
chemicals. So I let her win this one.

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Bring The War Home -

4. pro quo, expressio unis et exclusio ulterius, res ipsa loquitur, carpe diem, in
We drove over to the MOP house just after noon. I parked our car around nomine patriae et filia et spiritus sanctum and head for the hills.
the block so that the license number would not get picked up. After the things “You know,” I fessed up instead. “I really don’t have a very good idea
Mitch had told me about the Minutemen and their de facto alliance with the how to cook up a legal strategy that can help you with the Black Unity
local forces of law and order, I was starting to feel a bit paranoid. I left identity bracelet thing. Maybe you can give me some kind of idea just what it
Emma in the living room with her new friends and headed for the men’s is you’re looking for and we can put something together.”
hangout, the malodorous kitchen. “Hell,” Donnie Woods piped up, lightning bolts of blue smoke roaring
Donnie Woods was seated at the table with a Kool in one hand and a can from his nostrils as he exhaled the product of his filtered Kool, “We don’t
of generic lager in the other. With him were Clayton, Jesus and another GI expect legal miracles. Black folks don’t expect to win in the white man’s
whom I hadn’t yet met. He was a pudgy, young man who, despite African courts. All we’re looking for is a little suit to fuck with the man’s mind so we
features, was hardly blacker than a Sicilian. He stood up to introduce himself. can get on with the organizing. You keep us in court a couple of months with
“Name’s Thomas,” he said with a toothy smile and a honey-smooth Southern the lifers off our backs and we can do some organizing around it. And then,
drawl. “Private Darron Thomas, but the bros calls me Deputy Dawg.” when we lose, we can do some organizing around that. You don’t have to win
“Like the cartoon?” I asked.
in the courts for us to get over. Just put together something that’ll hold them
“Yessuh. That’s right,” he responded amiably and sat back down. He
off a while.”
grabbed a can of brew and gave a little nod of his head in its direction. “Want Woods was a sophisticated guy. I was impressed...and relieved that I
one? It’s some o’that cheap piss fum the PX. Not too bad after yuh gets used wouldn’t have to exceed reasonable expectations.
to it.” “We got this heyuh gunny,” said Deputy Dawg, “Gunny Bonham. A
“Don’t mind if I do,” I said, trying to be cordial. I was the only white cracker, lifuh outta Mississippi, that’s been fuckin’ with us over at the mess
guy in the room and the only non-serviceman to boot. There was no point in an’ threatenin’ to git us all busted fuh wearin’ the ID. Maybe you could name
putting myself even further outside the circle. I took a free seat and him in the suit. Yuh know, sue him or somethin’ fuh violatin’ our civil rights,
unbuckled the hand-tooled leather briefcase that was a gift from a prisoner like our right to have our identity. Ain’t that some kinduh free speech thing?
out on Rykers Island in New York. A fellow who wanted to express his Like marchin’?”
gratitude for the shortened sentence I had gotten him in one of my first cases “Might be,” I responded, “if you all weren’t in the military. The thing is,
ever. It was summer camp arts and crafts quality, but it approximated the real GIs don’t have a hell of a lot by way of rights. You can’t say things that they
value of my services to him. I took out the brief that Mitch had given me the think bring dishonor and disrespect to the service. If you get yourself a
day before and placed it on the table. civilian bust for anything, that’s a violation of military law. When you’re on
The brothers all looked at me as if I were the Delphi Oracle about to
base, on duty or in uniform, you’re pretty much in their hands and all you’ve
expound on some truth that they would not be able to understand. Ironically, I
got’s the right to a lawyer, a fair trial and the sentence that the law
was certain that the less they understood, the more they would be convinced
prescribes.”
that I knew what I was talking about. But the truth was that all I knew about “But there’s a fuckin’ General Order that says that we can wear an
their damn case was what I had read that morning in George Kahn’s brief. identity bracelet with our uniform,” Jesus butted in. “That’s from way
Which was to say, virtually nothing I could take to the bank. As I glanced upstairs. Top Brass. Ain’t no gunny can overrule a General Order and make
around at their expectant faces I felt the urge to proceed in Latin. Make it a his own law, is there?”
priest-like sermon of gibberish and get the hell out of there before they “Well,” I hedged, “I read the part of the General Order that pertains to
cottoned on to the fact that I was an absolute charlatan. Ex post facto, quid the ID bracelet. It looks to me like the Pentagon was thinking more along the

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lines of something like those commercial Speidel type jobs. Not a braided
shoelace that doesn’t have any name on it. Just because you call something an
identity bracelet doesn’t make it one. Frankly, it isn’t likely some judge is they chews ya up and spits ya out. You be a fool if you go puttin’ yo life on
going to decide to tell the Commandant of the Marine Corps what his troops the line for them muthas.’”
can or can’t wear on their wrists.” “My Daddy got himself fucked over by the Navy real good back in ‘44.
“How long you think it’ll take them to get the case thrown out of court?” In that Port Chicago thing. You remember, where the ammo ships blew up?
Woods wanted to know. Killed hundreds of the Black sailors but the very next day the Navy ordered
“Oh, maybe two months from when we file it,” I speculated. the survivors back to work. Like nothing happened. Like there wasn’t any
“Well, in the meantime we can give it to the press, raise some hell about reason to question what went wrong or to figure out whether things could be
how the local brass are discriminating against Black Marines in violation of made safer. The way Chet explained it to me, the explosion probably
the General Order, how that’s racist. They’ll likely chill until the case gets happened because of carelessness. They had the brothers working night and
thrown out and meanwhile we might be able to get another fifty guys wearing day, under white officers, like the overseers they had back on the plantation.
the thing. Kind of makes it tough for them to come down on us, don’t you As far as the Navy was concerned, it was only the niggers that got killed and
think?” they weren’t going to lose sleep over it. So, when my Daddy and some of the
“I get your drift,” I smiled. “I’ll start working on some kind of bullshit
other sailors got uppity and protested, they called it a god-damn mutiny.
complaint and we can go over it to see if I’m saying stuff you want to hear.
Tossed ‘em all in the brig. Gave about fifty of them prison with hard labor
Don’t go counting on a win, though,” I winked.
and dishonorable discharges.
After the meeting broke up, I cornered Woods. “Got a couple minutes, “But me, I knew better.” Woods looked at me over the tops of his shades
Donnie?” I asked. and laughed. ““Times had changed,’ I told Ole Chet. ‘We got civil rights and
“Sure,” he said, with a hint of curiosity in his eyes. “What’s on your all, now. We got us Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown. And
mind?” there’s Sammy Davis Jr. on the TV hanging out with Dean Martin and Frank
“Well, I was really impressed by your political savvy. You’ve got a kind Sinatra. The white folks are buying records by the Supremes and Johnnie
of sophistication about organizing that I’ve got to confess I didn’t expect...” Mathis. And there are more Black doctors and lawyers.’” He winked
“From a Black grunt,” he interposed. mischievously.
“Well, I wouldn’t put it that way,” I sputtered, “but if that’s the way you “So I went in to get me the GI Bill. Money to help me go to college. Get
want to look at yourself, so be it. The point is that you’re obviously the one my Black ass out of Richmond. Well, it turned out that Ole Chet wasn’t that
who’s spearheading this action and I’d really like to find out where you’re far off the mark and that time’s hadn’t changed as much as I thought. So the
coming from.” young bloods like myself come into the Marines expecting to be treated
“Likewise,” he said, flicking his pack of smokes so that a couple of equal. With some respect. But then we get hit with a bunch of lifers who
cigarettes poked their filtered heads above the rest, the way that very cool think the Klan’s right on. They expect us to act like Uncle Toms or they’re
guys did it in the commercials. “Smoke?” gonna kick our ass. Make us walk point outta turn. Dig latrines. But when
I took one. He put the pack to his lips and pulled another out with his
they get in our faces like that, some of the brothers won’t take it. They’re
teeth. “Where would you like to rap?” he asked.
gonna fire on them or maybe, in a fire-fight, lob a frag in their direction by
“My car’s parked ‘round the corner,” I told him. “It isn’t bugged like this
accident. Then I come back and I find out they’re assassinating Black
place probably is. Let’s go for a spin.”
Panthers left and right.
“I knew what I was getting into,” Woods responded to my question of “Well, I’m for putting up a fight, just like Ole Chet was. But I’m not
how he ended up in the Corps. “My daddy, Ole Chet we call him, had a shit going to be stupid in my resistance. I’m going to fight them with their own
fit when he heard I joined up. ‘How many times I tole you, boy,’ he said, regs. That’s why I want the legal thing covered. I did my tour in the Nam and
“they’s a bunch a racist crackers. They takes what they can get outta ya, then

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earned that good discharge. When I get out, I mean to go into hotel and
restaurant management. Get me a good paying job at one of them resort
hotels. And I’m not going to let any racists take what I earned away from me. treated if the circumstances were similar. I had been in town only a couple of
I know it’s been a long struggle to get here and I know there’s a hell of a way days and was already expanding my perspective on things that I never would
yet to go. We got to be smart and patient. How about you, Mr. Wolfe? You have thought about otherwise.
been in the service? ” Woods broke the silence with another question. “So what brings you
I looked over at him and did a half cough, half laugh sort of thing to here?”
clear my throat. “Me? Nah. They didn’t want any part of me. I was about half I glanced at him as long as safe driving would permit. He wasn’t smiling
way through my pre-induction physical. Doing fine. Well on my way to in that polite, diplomatic way that servants and seekers of favors paste on
basic, when this old doc gave us an order to take off our pants so he could when they question a patron or professional. His brow was furrowed and he
check us out for hernias. I obeyed the order but wasn’t wearing underwear, squinted in an effort to entice eye contact. It was an expression that said he
unlike the rest of the guys. The doc got into my face like he was a drill wasn’t going to settle for some glib, off-the-cuff response. His security and
sergeant or something and yelled, ‘I just told you to take off your pants, not that GI Bill of his were at stake. He had a right to know whether I was a flake
your underwear.’ or an agent. “I mean,” he repeated, “how come you’re doing this?”
“Something short circuited. I puffed up and yelled right back into his I hesitated. “You know, I’m not sure I can give you an easy answer to
shocked puss. ‘I’m not wearing any fucking underwear. What kind of doctor that,” I began. “I’m not really sure. All I can tell you is that I’m against this
are you, anyway? Freakin’ out when you see a pair of balls and a dick? How War and I’m against you guys killing people who I think are patriots. All the
the hell can you check for a hernia through a pair of shorts?’ I thought it was VC are doing is defending their country the way anyone would and for that
a kind of mild response, given his attitude. He didn’t. He wrote out a piece of they get bombed and napalmed and called gooks and slopes. I’d like to think
paper and next thing I knew, I found myself benched like Arlo Guthrie that if I were in their place, I’d be doing exactly what they’re doing. And
described in his song, Alice’s Restaurant.” Only there weren’t any murderers coming here is sort of a way of proving that to myself. I think that part of the
and rapists there with me. I sat there all alone for about a half-hour while the reason I decided to come is because the place got shot up. The job of a
rest of my group finished up. Then a sergeant came by with a piece of paper soldier is to neutralize the enemy, right? Well every GI that I can get out of
in his hand. ‘Mr. Wolfe,’ he said. ‘I’ve been ordered to escort you off the the service is one that I’ve neutralized. So I guess coming here is my way of
base.’ fighting this War. Can I drop you somewhere?” I asked. “I’m heading back to
“They were throwing me out. ‘But I haven’t finished my physical,’ I
the house but I can give you a lift if you need one.”
piped up, taking the opportunity to be a wise ass. The sergeant looked at me Woods looked over his shades and down his nose at me. There was a
with this blank, cold stare, like he’d rather put a bullet through my head. hint of a smile. “This seat recline?” he asked.
‘That won’t be necessary,’ he said. ‘We have already made our decision “There’s a lever on the side of the seat,” I told him. “Pull up on it.”
about you.’ Next thing I knew, I was out of there with a 1-Y. Seems I’m not “I’m headin’ back to the Base,” Woods said as the seat fell back and he
needed for duty at the present time.” began to relax. “But you can drop me at the bus stop downtown. I don’t think
“Jeezus,” Woods remarked with evident amazement. “You mean all you they’ll give you a pass to drive me back to the barracks and it’s a long way.
white boys gotta do to get out of the service is to yell at the fucking man! The bus stop’ll be fine.”
Shit, if one of the brothers did that they’d be doing some kind of time or “Well, I was looking forward to seeing it but I’ll be heading out to the
something.” Base in a day or two anyway,” I told him. “As soon as I make arrangements
I didn’t know how to respond. Woods’ putting my experience in a racial to interview a couple of guys in the brig who want legal services. So I guess
perspective caused me to wonder about just how many of my experiences I I’ll be checking out the place soon enough.”
had simply accepted at face value. Events I took for granted but that a Black “In due course,” he smiled, “in due course.”
person would automatically compare to his expectation of how he would be

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5. moved to town, planning on opening up a practice. He seemed really pleased.


“Where’s everybody?” I asked Cookie when I got back to the MOP Claims the military that move in always get shipped out in a few months,
house. sticking him with the rent and a fucked up place. It’s two streets over and a
“Emma’s off apartment hunting with Joanie,” Cookie told me with a couple blocks down, so we can walk here.”
condescending arrogance. “Gabrielle an’ Mitch’s gone up to the printer in “So tell me about it,” I said, putting down the paper.
San Berdu with the paste-up of FFZ.” But before Emma could begin her description, Joanie interrupted.
“Why’d they go all the way up there?” I asked innocently. San
“Where is everybody?”
Bernardino was a twohour trip each way. When I told her, she got wide-eyed and red in the face. “You mean they
“‘Cause there isn’t a printer in all San Diego or Orange County willing
left you in charge?” she almost screamed. “You don’t even know the house
to print our stuff. Either they read the contents and get all uppity or the FBI’s
rules! This is so fucked...,” she said storming from room to room to confirm
already been there and told ‘em not to work for us. So we gotta go all the way
that indeed, no one else was around. “This isn’t supposed to happen.”
to LA or San Bernardino.” “Nothing did happen,” I said. “Everything’s ok. Let’s hear about the
“Where’s Clayton?” I persisted.
apartment.”
“Went on down to San Diego to see some of the folks he’s hooked up “You don’t understand,” Joanie persisted, enraging herself even further.
with,” she sniffed with royal indignation. “He’s into some organization down “This is like a base, a post. People have duty here and their duty includes
there. They’re the ones sent him up here to organize.” security. The organizers can’t just walk off and leave no one in charge. This
“What organization is that?” I asked.
is a breach of discipline.”
“Ever hear of Rod Katanga and the Black Liberation Front?” she said “Well,” I replied, slighted provoked by the fact that she thought of me as
with evident disdain for whatever it was.” ‘no one’. “You can’t court martial whoever’s UA until they get back.
“Nope.” I shook my head. “How ‘bout you. You come down here
Meanwhile, I’d like to hear about the new pad.”
courtesy of an organization too or are you freelance?” Joanie transferred her anger to me. “That’s pretty flip,” she accused me.
She looked down her proud nose at me, and contemplated whether or not
“ Maybe you don’t realize that we could be attacked at any minute. The place
to dignify my question with an answer. “You know what the Nation of Islam
could get raided. All our stuff trashed.”
is?” she asked. “And one person’s gonna stop that?” I exclaimed. “Or maybe they’d
“Malcolm X’s organization,” I nodded. “ ‘til they assassinated him. You
make a real good martyr. Look Joanie, nothing happened so whatever the
part of that?”
breach of discipline is, it can be fixed with no harm done. OK?”
“I think I’m going’ to take Dino for a walk,” she evaded. “C’mere boy.” While she continued to stew, I asked Emma again for the details. But
She put a couple of fingers to her lips she emitted a sharp whistle. The dog Emma seemed torn between giving comfort to her new friend and describing
trotted in from the kitchen. “Wanna go for a walk?” she asked as nicely as I the place to me. I resolved her dilemma for her. “OK, it can wait. Let’s all
had ever heard her speak before. Dino wagged his tail and ran a circle just sit here and be pissed until the rest of the folks get back.” I picked up
enthusiastically. “Let’s go, then,” she said to him. “See ya latter, Wolfe.” FFZ and went back to reading. Joanie and Emma went off into the kitchen to
Before I knew it, she was on the sidewalk, leaving me in charge of the empty confide but I could still hear Joanie’s snarling and had the impression it was
house and whatever responsibilities went along with it. directed at me. I had become an enemy.
I was reading a back issue of FFZ when Emma and Joanie returned from I had been at the project for two full days and had already succeeded in
their hunt. They were chatting excitedly. When Emma saw me she strolled up alienating two out of the three women. Cookie, I had written off as a given.
proudly and announced “Eric, we just found a perfect place. I’ve got a copy She wasn’t ever going to like white guys on general principle. So the fact that
of the lease right here. We told the landlord that you were a lawyer who just

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I had insulted the Muslims by accusing them of assassinating Malcolm X
probably hadn’t made matters much worse. On the other hand, Joanie hadn’t
started out with a grudge against me. But my lackadaisical sarcasm conflicted Cookie shrugged again, denying that she had to explain herself to a white
with her intense commitment. Anyway, dinner would tell me if the conflict girl or follow the rules, if she didn’t want to.
was going to be insurmountable I was not surprised at how Joanie handled this challenge to the house
The evening fare was a rude contrast to the night before. They were protocol. She let the matter drop and changed the subject. “Did the printer
serving a facsimile of pasta. A large pot of the stuff was congealing on the ask for money up front, like he did last time?” she asked Gabrielle.
stove, until it became so rubberized that you had to cut it off in chunks with a “Yeah,” Gabrielle replied, “ but we reminded him that he shorted us
knife. In another pot, a thin, gruel-like concoction of green peppers and almost two hundred copies last month and the printing was all runny, so he
onions in tomato sauce bubbled like a sulphuric hot spring until the life had owed us a refund. We got him down to a hundred in advance with the rest
been cooked out of it. On the round table, a bowl of crushed orange cheese when we pick up the papers next week.”
waited patiently to serve as a topping. Beside it, someone had impaled a “How we doin’ on the bread anyways?” Clayton wanted to know. “We
bayonet into a loaf of sturdy Italian bread from the day-old place. Mitch got enough to pay the bills?” He lit up a Kool and blew a puff of smoke over
stirred up a pitcher of powdered milk that could be stomached only as a the table.
condiment for the coffee. Otherwise, the drink of choice was tepid tap water. “Gonna be close,” Gabrielle reported, offering a summary of her
Plates and silverware were strictly clean-it-yourself. bookkeeping conclusions. “But we’re not gonna have enough commodity
Once we were all seated, Joanie injected her tension into the dining foods to survive now with the Wolfes. The van’s eating into our budget
experience. “You guys,” she began, “when I got back from apartment hunting something fierce with the repairs. And it’s still burning oil.” She frowned in
with Emma this afternoon, there was no one on duty. Somebody abandoned Mitch’s direction. “I didn’t think we’d make to San Berdu and back. We got
his post.” She looked around accusingly. “ I thought it was all agreed that to spend more money on ammo now so we can all be ready and fully trained
since the place got attacked there would be somebody responsible on duty at in case we get attacked again. We got to replace the radio that somebody
all times.” stole and the utility bills are going through the roof with the new spotlights on
Well, she was getting my goat. Not only was I a non-person, a “no one,” all night. Oh yeah, and we’re behind a month on the rent.”
but now, to the extent that I assumed any human characteristics at all, I was “I thought the bread from the Wolfes would cover it,” Mitch responded
“not responsible.” I could feel myself getting redder than that excuse for through a mouthful of dangling spaghetti that made him look like a horror
pasta sauce they were serving. creature emerging from the ocean, orifices oozing seaweed and scum. “An’
“Me and Gabbie took off before noon for San Berdu with FFZ,” Mitch by the by, that vehicle needed a new engine bad. The rings were shot. That
entered a plea of not guilty, jabbing at his mound of rubberized pasta. “That 289 I got for a hundred from those brothers up at El Toro really makes a
left you, Clayton and Cookie.” difference, despite what Gabby thinks,” he muttered, avoiding her
Clayton folded his arms across his chest and snorted. “I tole ya yesterday incredulous gaze. “Soon as I get it tuned up you’ll see the performance.”
that I got me a ride down to San Diego with one of the bros. Y’all knew “ Sept’n ya can’t get it ta sit right,” said Clayton with an insolent smirk.
that.” He stubbed the half-finished butt into his mound of uneaten pasta converting
“I just took Dino for a walk ‘round the block.” Cookie pushed aside her it to instant garbage.
rations and shrugged. “ I left Wolfe here. He was here when you came in “I’ll get it to work proper.” Mitch slumped. “Don’t you be worryin’
wasn’t he?” about it. It’s a bigger motor, so I gotta machine some stronger motor mounts
Joanie was flustered. “But he doesn’t know the house rules. He doesn’t and that’ll stop the shimmyin.”
have any training. You can’t leave a new person in charge without any “Yeah, if the rear end don’t freeze up first,” Clayton interjected. “I had
training or explanation,” she sputtered. me an ole Jeep truck once. Useta have one of them itty bitty four cylinder

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pots. Put me a big mother of a Ford engine in it but didn’t mess with the rest
of the power train. Fucker burned out the rear end with all that torque. Ya
gotta be doin’ the whole job, all the way to the wheels when ya change the we still have a couple of the Vietnamese films from Newsreel we haven’t
engine.” shown yet.”
Mitch nodded. “Don’t y’all be worryin’ about it.” Mitch groaned. “Aw, not again. Last time we hooked some saps in with
“We’ll just have to get out there and raise some money then, won’t we?” free moviesthey went running for the exits after they seen the propaganda
Joanie concluded. “Who’s got the support list?” about the VC kicking Yankee butt. And I can’t remember when the hat that
“Sorry,” Mitch apologized, “I ain’t brought it up to date yet.” we pass around at the end ever had a contribution in it.”
“Shit man, you’ve had the thing for a month. What the hell you been Dino ambled in foraging for scraps. “C’mere boy,” Cookie called. The
doing?” Joanie snapped in a way that she seemed unable to do when it came mutt snubbed the leftovers in his bowl and settled down with his head on
to the Blacks. Cookie’s feet. I could see in Clayton’s face that he thought Dino was a lucky
“I just ain’t had time,” Mitch whined. “It’s been one thing or another. dog.
The van. Leafleting. Counseling... Getting shot,” he added with a raise of “Yeah? But that’s what’s happening,” Joanie argued, ignoring the
eyebrows to reminder her that he had been recently wounded for the cause. “I canine interruption. “The Vietnamese people are actually beating our
just ain’t got around to it.” superior technology. That’s what a People’s War is all about. I think the GIs
Joanie was having none of his excuses. “Gimme a fucking break, Mitch,” ought to know that.”
she yelled over her shoulder as she scraped the remnants of her supper into “That ain’t the point,” Mitch protested. “We’re trying to do organizing
Dino’s bowl. “We’ve been here all that time too. We’ve all seen what you do here and this shit’s got very limited audience appeal. We can’t get the
and what you don’t do. You get where you want to go, no trouble. The message across if the film freaks them out.”
women have been doing all the shit work around here lately and we aren’t “Mitch’s right on,” Clayton injected. “Them young honky Marines just
going to take any more of this lazy sexist shit.” can't take the concept of Third World peasants kickin’ their ass. Them bein’
“I took the paper to the printer,” Mitch stammered in his defense. “And the bad guys. An’ the brothers, sheeit, they ain’t into this movie shit no way.
picked it up, too.” Ain’t ‘bout ta be spendin’ their off-duty time sittin’ ‘roun here watchin’ no
“Yeah, big deal. You got to go for a ride,” Joanie sneered. “I’m fuckin’ movie when they can be off blowin’ some weed and snatchin’ some pussy.”
sick of the women doin’ all the work and the men having all the excuses. Joanie and Gabrielle squirmed but held their tongues, not wishing to
There’s a fuckin’ war going on here, in case you’ve forgotten.” alienate the project’s only Black male organizer, or get drawn into
“OK, OK,” Mitch attempted a reconciliation. “It’s true that you women accusations of racism for failing to excuse this sexist glitch in his culture.
have been doing a shitload on the paper and all. But it doesn’t do no good for Cookie though screwed her face into an angry scowl and flung an acerbic
us to be fighting.” challenge. “I suppose, Clayton, that you’re sayin’ again that we oughta let
“I think we ought to divide up into teams,” Gabrielle intervened. “Each ‘em get high here, like you’re always advocating. We could really bring the
take a part of the list and get out to visit these folks. Make personal contact. brothers in if we turned the place into a whorehouse. Is that what you’re
We got to introduce the Wolfes to all of our supporters. Asking people to get sayin’, or did I miss something?” Dino squirmed.
behind legal defense stuff is a whole lot easier than asking for money to “I still think that if ya wanna organize the brothers, ya gotta lighten up an
churn out leaflets. We’re running an announcement for the legal services in let ‘em blow the weed and that’s a fact,” Clayton replied in the lower voice
the new edition of FFZ. We should be using it with our fund raising activities he used when responding to Cookie. The dog looked up and emitted low
too.” growl. “It’s all right, boy,” Cookie soothed, stroking the hound behind the
“Meanwhile, I think we should do a film showing for the GIs,” Joanie ears.
proposed. “We just got in the Yippie film about the Chicago convention. And

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“We all decided, Clayton,” Mitch added. “We can’t afford that risk. Half
the GIs we get in here are undercover pigs. We start lettin’ them do drugs
here and we’ll all be busted in no time. We can’t engage in meaningful they were wasting no time on the issue of turning me from “no one” into
political activity and do drugs at the same time. If we try it, we’ll all end up “responsible.” I was encouraged that they could agree on something.
busted.” Later in the day, we piled into the van with Joanie at the wheel. It was a
Clayton shrugged. “Just statin’ the facts is all. The only folks make it long, hot drive over back roads through rolling hills covered with scrub, bone
through to the end of your shows are the wanna be revolutionary types or dry grass, thistle and brambles. The last few miles were over dusty, rutted
them guilt ridden, masochistic cats just back from the Nam, who wanna whup wagon tracks. Every few miles she’d double back and cross paths with
their own asses for doin’ whatever dirty deeds they done over there. Clayton, who was driving our Valiant, its trunk loaded with weapons and
Everyone else got better shit to do.” He rose from the table and did a cool ammo. Finally when we had stopped in a secluded dry wash out in the desert
jive shuffle out of the room. east of San Marcos that was our practice area, I asked her, “Hey Joanie,
“Did you notice how Joanie backed off on her attacks when it came to
what’s with all the back roads and doubling back?”
criticizing Clayton and Cookie?” I remarked dryly on our return to the motel. “Pigs,” she replied. “We gotta do it to outwit their surveillance. Every
“She’s ready, willing and able to bust a white guy’s butt even though he’s a week they’re cruising to catch us when we go out to practice. Seems to be
vet and just got shot. But when it comes to criticizing a Black for breaking more and more surveillance around the house just as the time approaches. So
rules or for blatant sexism, she can’t even whisper a criticism.” we keep changing the time on them at the last minute. We keep doubling
Emma stared over at me. “Go easy, Eric,” she said shaking her head.
back so the driver of car with the guns knows it’s safe to move forward. The
“Dealing with a multi-racial organization requires diplomacy. Something
pigs would have loved to catch us transporting guns.”
you’re not too expert on.” It turned out I had a lot to learn. Although Sammie had taught me how
“Yeah,” I conceded readily, “I guess that’s true. I just go at things the shoot and clean guns, he knew nothing compared to the Viet vets. Mitch and
same way for everybody, even if it pisses people off. But Joanie comes off Clayton did most of the instruction. They seemed to take curious delight in
like a guilty liberal dealing with the Blacks. They can see right through her teaching us all kinds of irrelevant stuff, like how to set up ambushes and
double standardand believe me, they don’t respect it.” cross-fires. Stuff, we’d only need when the revolution came. The thought
“And I guess you think they respect you?” she challenged with a shake
crossed my mind that it would be bad evidence against us if we ever got
of her head.
caught because it had nothing to do with self-defense. In a few weeks Emma
“Naw, Emma, I don’t believe that. I don’t believe Cookie respects me.
and I had qualified for the questionable honor of all night sentry duty.
But that’s the result of her own racism. She can feel however she likes about
me, but what I say isn’t going to change because of her attitude. And her 6.
attitude isn’t going to change based on what I say. As far as I’m concerned, if It seemed like no time before I was backlogged with requests for help.
she doesn’t like my opinions or what I say, she can go fuck herself because I Each required a response that included instructions for the Marine to tell his
don’t respect racists of any color.” appointed military counsel to contact me so that we could work out an on-
“You know, Eric,” she observed, “you seem to have alienated two out of
base interview. I could see that keeping busy was not going to be a problem,
the three women in this collective in only one day. Have you ever considered
so I decided to take only the cases where the GI was not likely to cop a plea.
that you might have a problem getting along with strong women?”
Military counsel could usually do a better job arguing on the sentence, what
“Well I get along with you,” I said, driving through a red light and
the military calls E&M, extenuation and mitigation, than a civilian because
forcing her to white-knuckle it.
military judges resented the presumption of a civilian telling them what the
The morning after the “Who was AWOL?” debacle Mitch told me,
punishment ought to be. On the other hand, if the guy was going to fight it, a
“Eric, we’ve got weekly weapons training today and you and Emma are up
for it. And by the way, we’re gonna need your car for the weapons.” At least

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civilian would be more comfortable picking nits and raising a fuss than the
JAG captain who had career issues.
I needed an office badly...and stationery. Emma and I put our creative “You can call me Jumpin’ Jack,” he allowed on introduction. He was
heads together and came up with a name that could be defended against blond, with a cowlick and a jutting, cleft chin but stood a little too short to be
charges of misrepresentation, but was designed to mislead. The Civilian a recruiting poster boy. The Marines had bulked him up in basic, broadening
Defense Counsel Services or CDCS. his shoulders to hill-humping masses that could easily pack a BAR and all the
“Sounds like it has something to do with Civil Defense,” Emma gear for the long haul. His filled-out thighs bulged beneath his tight jeans. He
chuckled. was wearing a green GI tee shirt with the short sleeves rolled up to reveal
“And the ‘Services’ makes it sound official and public, like the Armed
biceps definition. Back when he had been proud of his status, he got himself a
Services,” I agreed.
tattoo on his right shoulder, a traditional globe and anchor with the motto
Together we created a logo with blue scales of justice inside a red circle
“Body by USMC” Now you could barely read it for all the scabbing and
of the words “Civilian Defense Counsel Services.” It looked so patriotic I
blood sores he had inflicted on himself trying to obliterate his embarrassment.
had no problem getting it printed in Oceanside.
He had glassy, dull blue eyes that seemed like the gaseous swirls of a Carl
Meanwhile, we worked on our new apartment and future CDCS
Sagan nebula. When he spoke, they darted back and forth nervously with the
headquarters, four tiny rooms above a double garage, fronting on an alley.
paranoid glare of a combat vet.
The place came unfurnished so there was plenty of shopping to be done. But “I want to find out about applying for conscientious objector status,” he
one of the benefits of living in a military town is the abundance of used stuff announced. “ I can’t take it in the Suck any more.”
available for purchase. In no time our living room sported a used black and “Why don’t you tell me something about why you joined up in the first
white TV, a butt-burned hatch cover coffee table with interconnected cup place,” I asked him.
stains that resembled the Olympic symbol and a thread-bare, saggy sofa-bed Jack took a seat on one of those “new” chairs. “Mind if I smoke?” he
with white, cottony stuffing oozing from its arms. For five bucks, we asked nervously.
furnished the kitchen with a pine planked picnic table covered with a sticky “Go on, I ain’t no shrink,” I tried to make light. “And I ain’t writing
checkerboard pattern shelf paper and two backless benches that would seat anything down. I just need to get an idea where you’re coming from so I can
four skinny people. We graced one of our two bedrooms with a brand new see if we can put together a CO or if there’s some other way I can help you
Sears mattress and a warped, four-drawer maple veneer bureau with drawers out. You know it’s pretty unusual for a guy to try to get a CO after he’s been
that refused to close. The second bedroom became my office, complete with a to Nam. Usually they try it to keep from getting sent over. So in some ways
hollow-core door propped on some crates as a desk top, a creaky oak swivel this could be easy. But, on the other hand, there’s very little precedent for
chair and two high-backed dining chairs from a set that had long since been what you’re asking. The key to a CO is being against all wars, and morally
dispersed to the four winds. opposed to using arms. You can’t just be against one specific war, ” I hinted
The walls soon displayed our collection of posters saved from Peace
broadly, expecting him to pick up on it and say the right thing. “So it would
Marches past and Fillmore East psychedelic rock concerts that we couldn’t
help a lot if you told me why you joined up to be a Marine and then we can
really remember attending. Emma hemmed some Indian designed yard goods
get into how you changed, or what changed you so that you can’t fight in any
and we push-pinned them into the moldings above the windows for curtains.
war. The Marines will certainly want to know what happened to you over
Everything else we owned, we packed in 25 cent orange crates that lined the
there that turned you against the War. Part of my job will be to figure out the
free walls. If possessions are an indication of freedom, we were about as free
best way to present you. To do that, I’ve gotta know about you from the git.”
as we could get. He told me that he came from a small town in upstate New York that
I was now ready for my first consultation. He turned out to be John was a long way from anywhere. His description of the burg made it seem
Conlon, the corporal recently back from Nam who wanted out as a interchangeable with a hundred others from the salt-splashed rocks of coastal
conscientious objector.

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Maine to the spine of the Alleghenies. A place where the churches were
neatly painted in white with black trim. Where the steeples stood tall above
small clusters of homes and red brick commercial buildings. Where the solid death sentence, but a part of you feels betrayed and doesn’t give a shit, ‘cause
hardwood and pine structures of the 19th century were made to last, you’re wondering, maybe a little bit, maybe that what you done, that what
memorials to the people who built them. Its main street, as Jack described it, you’re doin’ just ain’t all that ok, ain’t all that for God and Country like you
was lined with family owned businesses. Everyone knew everyone else’s thought and just possibly that you might deserve to take a hit.”
affairs but the split between Republicans and Democrats was about as I didn’t really know what to say. The kid was obviously suicidal. And I
significant as personal preferences for Pepsi or Coke. It sounded a lot like the started to regret that I wasn’t the shrink I joked about earlier. “Well, Jack,” I
town I came from. fumbled, “that’s real helpful. Sounds like you grew up in a place similar to
“You don’t know, man,” he admitted with some difficulty, “ when I me. My old man was in the military too, but he made it back. Lucky, I guess.
joined up, I couldn’t even listen to the Star Spangled Banner without getting But you still haven’t given me any information about how you’re a CO. I‘m
a lump in my throat. My father was killed in the Korean War, but I never getting the message about you feeling guilty about what you did over there
knew him. I was just a baby when he died. His name is one of six engraved and that maybe you’re even a little suicidal. That might get you a psych out,
on a brass plaque in front of the town hall, right next to a howitzer. On if you wanna go that route, but I don’t hear a CO in your story yet.”
holidays the American Legion comes down and puts flags and flowers around He looked back at me with an unmasked expression of defensiveness and
it. We’d go down there and they’d salute and stuff and play taps, and I’d be I could feel him stepping back from the engagement, distrusting. “I’m not
so fuckin’ proud, I’d want it to be me on that plaque. gonna psych out.” He shook his head firmly. “I ain’t crazy or nuthin’. I seen
“We’ll, I guess ‘cause of my dad and all, and my mother bein’ in over what I seen and I done what I done but no way I’m gonna cop to being nuts.”
her head with her new old man, who didn’t like me bein’ around very much, He got up from the chair and started to leave. “If you can’t help me....”
ya know, crampin’ his style, that I was destined for the service. I never really “Hold on there,” I put up a hand, not wanting my first client to walk out
thought too much about any options. In high school, the coaches would on me. “All I said was I didn’t hear anything that would get you out on a CO.
always be asking me when I was gonna join up. I guess they were kind of I just thought you were more interested in getting out that you apparently are.
worried that I would do it before I finished the track season. ‘Cause of how I don’t think you’re a psych case, but you certainly aren’t telling me that you
good a long-distance runner I was. So I just followed expectations. I swore in ‘ain’t gonna study war no mo’.’ It sounds to me like your combat experience
before graduation. I stayed around to get my diploma and then stepped onto a was a bummer, but I’m not sure what I can do for you at this point. I can
bus for Lejeune to become a hero.” He found himself laughing at the work on a CO application but I haven’t heard anything yet that would qualify
admissions. you for one. Otherwise the only thing a lawyer can do for you is defend you
“And when I went through boot camp, I was so gungy they made me a if you’re up on charges, which you aren’t.”
platoon leader. I was a PFC in advanced infantry training and made lance He sat back down and looked out the window, forming his thoughts. “I
corporal in my first year. They gave me a second stripe when I got to Nam. I guess it’s true,” he finally admitted. “If I had to fight, I would. I’m just turned
was battalion Marine of the Month my second month over. So you might say, off to their God and Country shit. I’ve come to see what a load of BS that
I’ve got some credentials. But after a while over there I started to notice shit was. There’s no way we’re over there fighting for God or Country and
that I didn’t expect, and got into doin’ stuff that Americans ain’t supposed to there’s no way I’m going to keep up the lie. I’ve had it with that crap and I
do and it changes you, inside. It made me begin to wonder if what I’d been want to get as far away from it as I can. You dig where I’m coming from?”
taught to believe in was right.” “Yeah. I think I understand that. I’m a few years older and got the word
He looked over at me, appealing for understanding. I tried to before I took the big step forward. You wised up too late for that, but not too
accommodate him with a knowing nod. But I didn’t know and I suspected late to do something. At least you’re not fooling yourself anymore and not
that he could see through me. He went on anyway. “And pretty soon, pullin’ willing to fool others. One thing’s for sure though, if you don’t shut up about
the trigger gets a little bit harder. Slows you up. An’ you know it could be a

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what you learned, they’ll fuck with you something fierce, at which point you
will end up needing my services. Here’s your choices, either you sling them a
line that you’re a CO, which you aren’t or fake being psycho, which will fuck side. I don’t know any lawyers who would want to put their name on a
you up big time when you get out, or you keep your mouth shut and burn up complaint against the Marines just so that some organizers can buy a couple
inside or you step outta line and take those consequences. It isn’t a great set months of time.”
of options.” I found myself taking a page from Joanie’s book. “George,” I argued,
“You blow weed?” he asked. “we’re in the middle of a war here. We’ve got a couple Marines on the inside
“Occasionally,” I hedged, putting a bit of my own paranoia out there. I who are organizing a Black servicemen’s union and they need the time this
really didn’t know who the hell he was. For all I knew he could have been suit can buy them to hold off inevitable harassment. So they can make the
NIS, sent to check me out. brothers believe that there is an actual movement they are being asked to join.
“Wanna toke?” he offered, producing a joint from his pack of smokes. Harassing the enemy is a legitimate tactic in a war, isn’t it? What’s unethical
“Not at the moment,” I begged off. “I got a whole shit load of cases about buying time? Do we have a movement against the War or don’t we?”
coming in and I can’t do weed and justice to them at the same time. Maybe
sometime when I’m off.” Kahn listened and told me he’d get back to me the way Hollywood
“I been blowing weed every day since about half way through Nam. An’ producers do to people they want to throw out of their office but don’t want
doing as much acid as I can get my hands on. That’s how I’m coping at the to reject outright, in case someday, they may turn out to be a star. That is, he
moment.” forced me to put the project on hold. But not long after this rejection, I got a
“If getting you high is getting you by,” I winked, “that’s probably as call that would change the whole picture.
good as I can do for you.” “Mr. Wolfe?” the voice asked. “It’s Darron Thomas. Y’all remembuh,
He got up to leave. “Thanks man.” He offered a hand and I shook it. Deputy Dawg?”
“You’ve been a big help. Really. Set me straight on the options. I got a lot to “I couldn’t forget a name like that,” I told him. “What’s up?”
think about.” “Well, actually, I’m callin’ from the Santa Ana jail. I got me ‘rested
“You going to the film show at the house?” I asked. “They’re gonna be ovuh the weekend an’ I’m callin’ ‘cause I need a lawyuh. I was hopin’ I
showing a Yippie film in a couple of weeks. Check it out if you can.” could git released into the custody of my company CO, ‘cause I ain’t got no
“Thanks,” he said. “Maybe I will. See ya.” bread fuh bail. They up’n stole all my money.”
“What are you in on, Darron?” I asked.
7. “They done busted me fuh robbin’ a gas station,” he replied. “The bail’s
I was hitting a major snag in the Black Unity lawsuit Donnie Woods ten thou an’ I’m going’ to the court tomorrah fuh a plea an’ bail hearin’. Can
wanted me to cook up. I was admitted in New York and could therefore y’all come up an’ represent me?”
represent GIs in military courts anywhere in the world, but I couldn’t practice “Sorry, I can’t. I’m not admitted to practice in California courts,” I
in California state courts. They had their own separate rules about who could explained.
practice in their courts. That required taking their test. I hadn’t even applied “I thought you was a lawyuh,” he said with the curt clip of frustrated
for it. Therefore I needed to locate a local counsel willing to appear with me. anger in his voice. “How come yuh can represent us Marines an’ y’all ain’t a
Finding that person turned out to be a problem. I contacted my recruiter, lawyuh?”
George Kahn, expecting instant support but he demurred, claiming that his “Oh, I’m a lawyer all right. But, lawyers can only practice in places
lawyer pool was “spread thin.” When I explained the tactic, things went even where they are admitted. I can practice in New York and in military courts,
further down hill. but I haven’t gotten around to getting myself admitted to the California courts
“Eric,” he told me with condescension dripping from his voice, “it’s yet and that’s where you are. I can make a call for you and see if I can get
unethical to bring a lawsuit you know has no merit, just to harass the other

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you an emergency lawyer, at least for the bail hearing. I don’t know whether
I’ll be successful, but I’ll do what I can.”
“Well, thanks Mr. Wolfe, for whatevuh yuh can do. If I git outta here, and there, they claimed. There was to be no delay. Their orders were so firm
I’ll prob’ly have to be seein’ y’all anyways, ‘cause when yuh gits busted like that they refused us permission to finish the meal. Barely allowed us to put
this it mean yuh ends up bein’ UA. So I’s gonna be up on charges back at down our forks and wipe our faces on the napkins. Jeffers got on the phone to
Pendleton, ‘less’n I can beat this heyuh rap.” his CO and made a plea that the brass relent. Instead he got a direct order to
“Well, then,” I agreed, “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon.” tell us to leave. His wife was mortified.
After he hung up, I got on the phone to Kahn. This time he was a bit Emma and I made no trouble and left, sharing apologies with the Jeffers
more helpful and put me in touch with one of his contacts in Santa Ana, who and a promise to renew our acquaintance for dinner off Base. We figured that
agreed to make an appearance for Deputy Dawg. the lesson Jeffers and his wife learned about the idiots running the military
I also made a call to a JAG captain named Jeffers whom I had recently
was worth missing dessert for. But Emma and I also realized that we had
met on another case. Like many of the Judge Advocates General men, he had
been informed on. We wondered who it was. Only the folks at the house
joined up as a means of skipping through his military obligation without
knew about this dinner.
significant risk of being killed by hostile fire and a favorable entry on his Between Captain Jeffers and the Santa Ana lawyer, we were able to
curriculum vitae. JAG offered him that plus officer’s privileges and duty spring Deputy Dawg into the custody of Gunny Bonham, the fellow Deputy
from 8:00 am to whenever in the early afternoon he could skip out for the Dawg had described several weeks before as a racist cracker. Bonham
golf course. It was a sweet deal. escorted Deputy Dawg back down to the Pendleton brig and told him that if
Still Jeffers was one of the rare few who was willing to step over the line
he ever got out of that place, he, Bonham, would be happy to kick his Black
and lend a hand. That may have been because he was Black, although light-
ass into shape for him down at the mess hall. It looked like frying pans or
skinned enough to pass. According to the credentials displayed on his wall he
fires, whichever way Deputy Dawg turned, and if I was going to see him it
was a graduate of Howard and after that, the University of Michigan Law
would have to be at the Pendleton brig.
School. A team photo revealed him to have been member of his college Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base in the country, stretched
basketball team. He was as close a colleague as I could expect to find and did all the way from Richard Nixon’s vacation home at San Clemente to
little things that set himself apart from the mainstream, high and tight Marine Oceanside and back from the beach to Fallbrook in the high desert. It
officer crowd. He wore tinted Jazz musician style glasses and had a thin, sprawled over 120,000 acres of undeveloped terrain, from beaches to
Thurgood Marshall moustache. He let his hair grow to the maximum mountains, from desert to woodland, making it suitable for realistic mock-up
permissible limit. tank battles, amphibious assaults and live ammo artillery practice. It was the
After we completed our first court martial together, Jeffers invited
only thing that kept LA out of San Diego, ironically preserving our native
Emma and me to dinner at his officer’s housing on Base. He said that his wife
habitat while dedicated to destroying foreign environments. Home to the First
was looking forward to meeting us. She had heard a lot about us from him
Marine Division, parts of the Third and Fifth Marine Expeditionary Brigade,
and was interested in learning more. He left a pass for us with the MPs at the
it was governed by a feudal lord known as a three star general, the “CO.”
main gate so we could join them for a home-cooked meal. And we were
having a very nice time. I had to wait until they got Dawg’s paperwork straightened out before I
His wife was a charming woman. She was darker than he was and wore
could arrange a visit. Getting on to Pendleton, for a civilian, required a
her hair close-cropped, in the Watusi style. Tall. Elegant. Educated. She had
visitor’s pass. Thanks to Captain Jeffers, the main gate MP shack already had
wrapped herself in flowing kente cloth accessorized with abundant, jangly
my name on a clipboard when I arrived for my appointment with Darron
silver jewelry.
Thomas, aka Deputy Dawg.
We had just gotten through the main course, a nice roasted chicken,
when the MPs knocked. They had orders to escort us off the Base right then

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“Be sure to stay on the main roads, sir,” a sergeant MP warned me with a
stiff and proper military salute. “Your pass is only good for travel from the
main gate to Mainside, the brig and back.” As I walked back to my car with his khaki dress shirt over blue pants. A phalanx of ribbons decorated his shirt
my pass, I heard the MP on the squawk box. “Six foot, one seventy, long red front. He had his index finger crooked around the handle of a cup of foul
hair and moustache. Blue Valiant. New York license.” Not all that accurate smelling, over-brewed java with the double gold bar insignia of his present
but close enough. I was under surveillance. rank. “Made captain,” he announced, proudly hoisting it aloft as if he were
It was a clear, silky morning and the sun was posing in brilliant yellow
making a toast, “on my second tour in Nam. Battlefield promotion.”
above the rugged purple and brown mountains in the east. The road followed
Daly was one of those soldiers heavily invested in war. If it ever stopped,
a dry river bed on my left. Beyond lay flat fields of wheat-straw weed,
mustangs would be the first to lose rank. I decided to feel him out. “You in
churned by dusty half-track ruts and dotted with occasional low brush. The
World War II?” I asked.
expanse of the Base lay before me, beckoning to go a bit heavier on the “How’d you know?” he seemed surprised.
accelerator. But less than a mile after I passed the main gate, I noticed that “My old man’s got a couple of those,” I said pointing to a row of his
they were tailing me in a marked jeep. Restrained by the tail, I arrived at ribbons.
Mainside late but without receiving the speeding ticket that already had my He brightened a moment then furrowed his brow. “Marines?”
name written on it. “Army Air Corps,” I told him. “He was a master sergeant in the Pacific.
The Pendleton brig was a disappointment after all I had heard. It
In charge of the ammo dump on Tinian.”
consisted of a pair of down-at-the -heels, wood-frame barracks fronting for
“After we took it,” Daly one-upped me and quickly changed the subject.
several shabby Quonset huts left over from two wars ago. The whole thing
“You here to see a prisoner?”
sat in dung brown dust about a mile from Mainside, hemmed in by chain-link I handed him a chit from Base Legal. “Private Thomas. I think you got
topped with a corkscrew of razor wire. This brig was no San Quentin but a him here.”
low security affair. The Corps wasn’t all that concerned with escapees. Their Daly smiled through the kind of yellow teeth that happen after gallons of
effective obedience training program backed by the threat of brutally sludge coffee and a couple of packs of smokes a day. “Disgrace to the
merciless retribution was sufficient to restrain all but the most recalcitrant of Corps,” he opined. “I look forward to the day we can ship that son of a bitch
desperados. For those few who were undeterred, the Corps had more secure to Leavenworth.”
accommodations elsewhere. They brought Private Thomas into a small, green room that contained a
I presented my credentials to a lone, armed Marine at the gate and was
metal table and two decrepit metal chairs with shapeless cushions. A young
allowed in without so much as an inspection of my briefcase. I mounted the
Marine guard told me to knock when I was ready to leave and closed the door
warped and warn wooden steps of the brig admin building and passed into the
behind him. We were alone.
domain of Captain Daly. Thomas was wearing starched and pressed utilities, the uniform of the
Daly was a large man, tall, with shoulders that seemed too narrow for his
day for prisoners in the brig. He put his cap on the table and waited for me to
barrel chest. His close-cropped hair was turning gray. He had a pencil thin
give him permission to sit. I motioned for him to take a chair and popped
moustache that reminded me of David Niven. His status as commander of the
open my briefcase. His file was thin. All I had was a rap sheet and the
brig was plainly announced on a plastic plaque. Behind him, on the top shelf
criminal complaint. “This doesn’t look pretty,” I said, pointing at the papers
of his gray metal bookcase stood a row of coffee cups, each bearing the
that lay before me. “The gas station clerk gave the cops a description of the
embossed chevron of a rank. Private all the way to master sergeant, plus two
car and part of the license number. Then he ID’d you after you were
with lieutenant’s bars in gold and silver. Daly was a mustang, an officer who
detained. You got a prior from Missouri on your rap sheet. If you’re
had risen from the ranks.
convicted, you’re going to do some time. Then the Marines could give you
He looked up at me from behind the pages of the San Diego Union sports
section and noticed me admiring his coffee cup collection. He was wearing

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some more and throw you out with a dishonorable. Where’d you get the car
they caught you in?” I probed.
Deputy Dawg looked around the room, as if concerned that there might look on their faces is worth the whole thing. When I sees their faces, I knows
be someone else listening. I got me the power.”
“It’s OK man,” I reassured him. “This is a privileged conversation. They He emphasized “power” like it was a state of nirvana and looked down
can’t use what you tell me, even if they are listening.” over the tops of his shades, checking me out, to see if I was shocked. I poker-
“Ripped it off in San Clemente,” Deputy Dawg grinned. He leaned faced it and he went on. “They only got me on one, man,” he laughed. “I
forward. “Lissen man, there gotta be some way we can beat this heyuh rap. I pulled off four others that night. Hope they don’t find out.”
mean the wheels wasn’t on no hot sheet, an’ the pigs jus’ pulled me ovuh “How the fuck did you get into the Marines anyway?” I wanted to know.
‘cause I be Black. An’ the ID wasn’t fair man. I mean there wasn’t no line up “I can’t understand why they took a gangster like you.”
or nuthin’. They jus’ drove by with the kid. ‘Course he gonna pick the first “Yuh can’t huh?” he snickered. “Well you gots a lotta learnin’ to do
Black man they shows him. The whole thing ain’t right.” then. Yuh know why they calls me Deputy Dawg?” he asked, and decided he
“Well, those issues are gonna get sorted out in Santa Ana,” I shook my was going to tell me whether or not I wanted to know. “‘Cause I drives like
head, ducking his complaint about police tactics. “My job is to see if we can them wild-ass deputies yuh see in them car chases on TV and ‘cause people
get some kind of deal with the Marines that will help get you out while it’s think I got this kinduh way ‘bout me like that cartoon character. Anyways, I
pending. But I’d sure like to hear what went down that night. You do it?” can drive an’ I can walk into a store doin’ this ‘aw shucks’ thing an’ no one’ll
Deputy Dawg nodded. “The truth,” he said, “is that I guess yuh could
think nuthin’ of it ‘til it’s too late. I was the fuckin’ best wheel man in East
say I’m ‘dicted’ to pullin’ stick ups. It’s like a sport with me. Ain’t so much
St. Louis,” he boasted. “An’ I ain’t never did no job where anyone got caught
fuh the bread, yuh dig, but it’s like for a couple minutes I got me the power
with me behind the wheel.”
an’ it’s a fuckin’ high. Yuh gotta unnerstand what it feels like fuh a Black “Until this one,” I reminded him.
man even if it’s jus’ fuh a minute to have the power. I been doin’ this a long He paid me no mind and went on with his brag. “The way yuh do it, yuh
time, on my weekend passes. Sometimes, when I’m hangin’ with some of the see, is yuh hot wire some fast wheels fum somewheres in the slums ‘cause
bloods we be bettin’ how many gas stations I can rob on the way up to LA most of the time, the cops won’t even do nuthin’ if someone fum the slums
an’ still get there in two hours. Couple months ago I did me six. Set a fuckin’ reports they vehicle stolen. Which half the time they won’t do anyways,
record.” ‘cause it always gonna cost a blood grief ‘long with bread to be dealin’ with
I must have been looking at him in some kind of disbelief, but if I was,
the pigs. An’ the wheels I rips off, a bro like me looks natural in ‘em. So once
he misunderstood the drift of my thoughts.
yuh got the vehicle, an’ yuh be satisfied ‘bout where the local pigs is at an’
“Man, don’t yuh know that it takes fuckin’ time to rob a gas station?” he
yuh done selected yo target, yuh chill out ‘til yuh feels like everything is ok.
waved a hand almost dismissively, as if he thought I was questioning his
An’ dat’s when yuh stick the ole’ .44 inta the suckuh’s face. Now,” he
ability to pull that many rip-offs in only two hours. But I had never even
pointed a finger in the air for emphasis, “it gotta be a big gun like a 357 or a
considered the crime as some kind of stowatch Olympic sport, as he evidently
44 ‘cause yuh gotta scare the livin’ shit outta them. And then yuh grabs yo
did.
stack of bills. Yuh gets back onto the interstate for couple exits, then gets off
“First yuh gotta git offuh the highway an’ cruise ‘till yuh find a station
and hides out in some hamburger joint or coffee shop. Have yuhself
ain’t got no customers,” he expounded. “One that ain’t got no bullet-proof
somethin’ ta eat for a bit an’ then yuh can do it again. And then when yuh be
cage fuh no cashier neither. An’ when yuh finds one uh them, yuh runs in,
finished with that fuh the night, y’all dumps the wheels somewhere’s back in
does a quick check of the scene before yuh stick the barrel of yo piece in the
the slums where the po’ folk can scavenge the parts off. An before yuh know
suckuh’s face, right between his eyes and then yuh yells ‘Give it up,
it, the cars nuthin but a burnt out body on some street an’ they ain’t no
motherfucker!’ Fuh him to turn ovuh the cash. An’ most of the time, the
fuckin’ evidence of nuthin. Like it nevuh happen.

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“Well, I was doin’ this fuh over a year an’ was so good at it, I dropped
outta high school after the 10th grade and went pro,” he said, making it sound
like he had signed with the Yankees. “I was ‘jus 17 at the time. But then one “How come, after you joined up you kept on doing the same old shit?” I
night, I got me a call from a blood I hung with some of the time, needed some asked with a smirky smile, unable to restrain my sarcastic side. “I mean like
bread bad an’ he wanted some help. I couldn’t let the bro down, yuh wasn’t driving a tank through the huts of peasants enough to make you wanna
unnerstan’ so I tole him I’d pick him up after I found me the right vehicle. hold off, at least until you get out and go back to the boredom of slum
That was the part I liked to do myself. Less chance one person ‘causin’ living?”
people to notice than two, yuh know. Mos’ of the time I could get inside a car “Aw, that sheeit don’t mean fuck all,” he rocked back in his chair and
in ‘bout 30 seconds.” shook his head, apparently missing the dark humor that I intended. “Don’t get
He asked me for a smoke and after I gave it to him he continued with his yuh off like a stick-up, man.” He continued, taking himself a whole lot more
story. seriously than I would have liked. “Runnin’ some bullshit game fo’ the man
“Well this heyuh particular night, I found me the wheels I wanted, a
ain’t the same as havin’ the power yo’ own self. An’ I’m good at it, Mr.
Camaro, aftuh only ‘bout ten minutes of lookin’. It was parked on a dark
Wolfe. Believe it. Best they is.”
street a long ways from the nearest streetlight. So things was going’ easy, an’ I looked around the holding cell where we were doing the interview.
I guess that got me a little careless. Anyways, I didn’t see the owner ‘til it “You aren’t that good,” I told him. “You’re in here, after all.”
was too late. The bro was ‘bout a foot taller ‘n me, lean an’ mean.” Deputy Deputy Dawg smiled. “I done more’n a hundred rip offs,” he bragged.
Dawg looked over his sunglasses again to make sure I understood that he “An’ been busted only twice. If you did that good with your cases you’d be
hadn’t punked out. That the guy was really too big and strong for him to King Shit of all the lawyers in America.”
handle. “Fucker pulls me out fum unduh the dashboard with one fuckin’ “Yeah, but I don’t go to jail when I lose.”
hand.” He described it, graphically grabbing at the air with one of his to “That don’t take away nuthin’ from the fact that I’m the fuckin’ best
illustrate how it was done. “Someone calls the cops and the motherfuckers there is at what I do, man. An’ mos’ people can’t say that bout what they do.”
actually come this time. He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Now, ain’t that the
“Anyways, I was lucky, ‘cause I was jus’ a kid and wasn’t carryin’ no truth?”
weapon. It was jus’ a misdemeanor. The public defender cops me out and it 8.
turns out, yuh see, the judge was a ex-Marine. The cat believed that the “Here,” Emma said, handing me a folded up piece of paper just as I
armed services made a man outta him and that it would do the same for settled down for a hearty breakfast. “Let me know when you’re ready to talk
almos’ anyone, ‘specially first offenders like myself. Instead of givin’ me six about it.”
months jail and three years probation like the D.A. wanted, he tole me he It was one of her lists. Her way of handling unpleasant exchanges
would drop the charges completely an’ give me a fresh start, if I agreed to between us. Emma made lists for everything. She professed innocent motives.
join the Marines. Claimed it was so she wouldn’t forget things. But she knew I hated her lists.
“The Marines were willin’. They didn’t even wanna hear ‘bout my So when she handed me one it was a bad sign. Either a scorecard of my
record. Took me straight in. Made me a tank driver ‘cause of how good I be misconducts or a criticism of my performance. She developed this sort of
at it.” hand-over routine and did a duck and cover number while I boiled and
By the time he finished, I realized I was resting my chin in the palm of
fumed. Then after I had cooled off, she would begin to work on me until I
my hand, to keep my jaw from hanging open with amazement. Were the
gave up. Once an item was completed, she took obvious pleasure in
Marines so hard up for bodies to fight this War that they had taken in this
eradicating it from the document. Merely putting a line through it simply
pathological robber, taught him all the fine points of killing and combat
would not do. It had to be totally obliterated the way Stalin airbrushed his
driving so he could concoct an even better one man crime wave when he got
rivals out of old group photographs.
out? Was anybody thinking?

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“This a hit list?” I tried to joke, looking at the four names on the piece of
paper.
“In a manner of speaking,” she parried. “If you want to dine on tuna attempted mutton chops. His lips retracted when he smiled to disclose an
casserole instead of cheese macaroni.” overbite of rabbit-like incisors.
“But Emma,” I protested, “I already bring $5,000 into the collective. I Together they showed Emma and me into a large living room that was a
already have done my share in raising money. Besides, I’ve got some heavy misnomer, as it appeared that no one really lived in it. I had the feeling that
legal work to do.” they had just peeled back the plastic covers from the furniture. Everything
Emma shrugged. “Eric, when you got me to come along on this jaunt,
smelled like Lysol and furniture polish. The bookshelves were laden with
you told me that there would be work for me here too. And there is. I’m
leather-bound volumes purchased for show and rarely consulted. The end
working on the paper and leaflets. We’ve got that film showing coming up
tables were strewn with glass and porcelain trinkets difficult to find outside
and you may not believe this but getting the word out takes some work. So,
of garage sales. They sat us down in front of a phony gas log fireplace and
maybe you haven’t noticed but you’re not the only one doing things around
leaned forward intently, inviting us to unburden ourselves, the way clergy
here. And whether you like it or not, the only way we’re going to supplement
and psychiatrists do.
our commodity food allotment with something nutritious is if we can raise This was the queue for the dutiful wives to enter, bearing the hospitality
some money. It’s your choice. You’re the one who likes to eat.” offerings. The Reverend rose gallantly and introduced his wife, Marylou, the
She had a point. That morning’s breakfast of government issued
bearer of a tray laden with tea, coffee and the necessary accessories. She
powdered milk and everlasting pink lobster-buoy cheese was a powerful
looked to be a somewhat past prime prom queen who had gained more than a
motivator. First on my list were the Reverend L. Thomas Harrington, an
few pounds in the wrong places and was sagging under the load both
Episcopalian minister and his assistant, Reverend Michael Simpson.
physically and mentally. She had what once was a beautiful and was still a
“You think we can set up a time to meet with them around a dinner?” I
very pleasing face. She turned out to be an obsequious woman. The kind
suggested.
people tend to describe as “very nice.”
“Best I could do was an afternoon tea,” she winked. “I already figured But the Reverend Harrington all but genuflected when he turned to
that the only way I’d ever get you to do this was if I dangled an edible introduce the second wife. Trumpets for Mrs. Raylene Simpson! Raylene
incentive in front of your nose.” was carrying a tray holding wafer type cookies in day-glow pink, lime green
On the approach, it looked promising. The Episcopalians sure weren’t
and custard yellow. She was a lean, hard-muscled blonde who looked like she
pikers when it came to housing their “men of the cloth.” Reverend
had just been roped, hogtied and dragged out of a West Texas saloon. She
Harrington’s place was a sprawling ranch house on a half acre site on the
was wearing a glossy silk dress in colors that matched the confections on her
outskirts of Oceanside. A line of palm trees marked the border of his front
tray but she seemed uncomfortable in it. I guessed she probably was more at
yard. A circular driveway led up to the double-doored entrance of contrasting
home in blue jeans. How Raylene ever hooked up with her rotund young
dark hardwoods. His lawn was Astro-turf green and well kept.
reverend must have been quite a tale. They hardly seemed “two peas in a
Harrington and Simpson met us at the door. They were an Oliver and
pod.”
Hardy pair. Harrington was tall and trim. Well-tanned. He appeared to be “How’r y’all doin?” she responded to Harrington’s introduction. “Would
about 35 but could have been ten years older. He reminded me of an old y’all care to try one of these here fine wayfahs? They’re absolutely
Yankee skipper with rugged, angular features topped off by full head of long scrumshus,” she declared. Raylene had the hard-scrabble manners of an Okie
wavy brown hair with a trace of gray. Simpson looked about 10 years farm girl with a twangy drawl to match. She was loud when she talked,
younger, was almost a foot shorter and lugged around an ample belly that clompy when she walked and oozed a sexual energy that was inappropriate to
seemed to explode from beneath his narrow rib cage. He was pale, with a a clergyman’s spouse. But, she seemed to be saying, “Who the hell gives a
freckled, cherubic face that had begun to develop incipient jowls. The reddish shit about that. Let’s have a blast.”
hair on his scalp was well along in the thinning process except for his

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“Why thank you very much.” Reverend Harrington reached over and
picked a couple off the tray, his eyes catching her glance. She returned it with
a seductive smile. Simpson reddened. Marylou twitched and suggested that What use is the Bill of Rights if Congress can make a law that deprives
those wafers would go nicely with some of her coffee. Harrington opined that people of their constitutional rights one way or the other?”
Marylou made the best coffee in Oceanside, maybe all of Southern “But the idea is that this sacrifice is necessary for the defense of the
California. That seemed to settle her down a little. I proposed to try some, country,” Simpson persisted.
injecting that the coffee we had at the project house was none too good, given “If that’s where you draw the line that lets Congress take away a
that we didn’t have the kind of budget that would permit of higher quality citizen’s constitutional rights,” Emma responded, “then you have to concede
goods, such as Emma and I were accustomed to when we were Ivy League we’re not at that point yet. It would be quite a stretch to say we’re defending
students back East. Emma winced and I got the message. What if these men our country by messing in a civil war seven thousand miles away. And even
were not of the Yale Divinity School ilk but rather some down-in-the-heels if you were to twist the truth to say that’s what we’re doing, then at the very
Midwestern Bible College where they resented the Eastern liberal elite with a least, Congress ought to have the guts to declare war before it forces its
passion? My elitist gambit would merely be nose rub to them. citizens to lose their rights. We’re way over the constitutional line here.
“Michael taught religion a Harvard a few years ago,” Raylene responded
Either the government has to come out and say this War is necessary for the
competitively.
defense of the country or they have to quit drafting people and just use
“It was just at the summer school,” Simpson corrected her. “A seminar. I
volunteers who are willing to give up their rights. Your argument about the
was adjunct professor for one summer.”
defense of the country shouldn’t even apply until they declare a war and we
“How did you like Cambridge?” Emma asked.
all know that they can’t put that one over.”
“Oh fine, just fine,” Simpson dodged. “Quite a liberal place, actually. All “Well, aren’t the Marines volunteers?” Harrington interrupted. “How is
those bookstores and coffee houses. There was a lot to do.” that argument relevant to what you are doing down here?”
“And Boston was right close by,” said Raylene. “We even went to one of “As long as there is a draft and young men know they are going to be
those outdoor concerts they give next to the river. Y’all know what I’m forced into some military organization or another,” Emma argued, “then there
talking about?” is no truly, non-coercive volunteering going on. But let’s get back to GI
“Pops,” Harrington nodded. “On the Esplanade. The Boston Pops.”
rights, which is what we are really here to talk about. Did you know that it’s
“That’s right,” Raylene brightened. “ They give this big concert on the
against the law for the GIs to organize a union? They can’t even wear a
Fourth of July and shoot off fireworks right over the river. Quite a sight. And
peace sign around their neck with their cross. In fact, the military could force
they’ve got these real old buildings from the Revolution. It’s so historic.”
them to remove their crosses if they wanted to. They have prevented Jewish
“They call it the ‘Cradle of the Revolution,’” Harrington added. Raylene
soldiers from wearing yarmulkes. They force soldiers whose religion opposes
seemed impressed with the breadth of his knowledge.
doctor’s treatment to be treated by doctors. Right now, some of the Black GIs
“Those same values are what we are all about,” Emma interjected,
are getting hassled for wearing a Black Unity identity bracelet. If they can
attempting to make some progress. “That’s why we came out here. Do you
stop these soldiers from wearing a bracelet they can prevent the wearing of a
know that GIs don’t have the protection of the Bill of Rights? They don’t
cross. The revolution is not quite finished. That’s why we’re here.”
have the right to free speech or a trial by a jury of their peers, even in time of “So what kinds of things are you doing?” Marylou wanted to know.
peace. So, if a kid gets drafted against his will and is forced into the military, “Eric’s started an organization called the Civilian Defense Counsel
he loses all his rights.” Services, to defend the troops who want to stop the War. Because they can’t
“But isn’t that necessary to run an Army?” Simpson argued.
really exercise their rights as citizens, they are always getting into trouble
“Yes, I suppose it is,” Emma agreed. “And it would make sense if there
with the brass and they need legal help. We try to help them beat the charges
wasn’t a law like the draft, that forces young men to either become convicted
and get them out with a good discharge so they don’t lose their benefits.”
felons and lose their rights or to go into the military and lose their rights.

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“What do you mean, ‘lose their benefits?’” the Reverend Harrington
asked.
“Well,” I explained, “a GI who serves for at least six months is entitled large plate glass window. Simpson pulled at a mutton chop, did a nervous
to get V.A. benefits like money for school or a home. But more important rabbit grin and mumbled a few platitudinous words of support for the cause.
than that, his discharge papers, the DD-214 they call it, tells prospective As we got up to leave, Harrington hinted opaquely that it might be a bit
employers how he got out of the service. If he got thrown out after a court divisive if he advocated aid or comfort for deserting soldiers from the pulpit
martial or even if the military wants to just throw him out administratively, but indicated that he thought that he could bring up the issue in some of his
kind of like firing him, the DD-214 states that he was discharged under other adult forums, which were held on a monthly basis to discuss topics of current
than honorable conditions. If a GI has to show an employer that paper, he interest. He promised to put the issue of the sanctuary movement on the
won’t get the job, for sure. He’s automatically disqualified from government agenda for debate and intimated that he’d propose to invite us. We might
jobs. Can’t even be a mailman. So a GI who gets thrown out of the military even get some supporters out of it, he supposed. But he didn’t want to do
because, for example, he is opposed to the War and refuses to ship over in anything that would bring discord and controversy to his church.
protest, or if he’s already over andrefuses to commit some war crime, Marylou showed us out. When we got to our car she slipped Emma a
because it’s an illegal order, he ends up with a life sentence as far as twenty from her purse, with an apology that it was not more and a request to
employment is concerned. He’s barred from all the good jobs. It’s a very high be notified of any forthcoming trials. She said she wanted to attend.
price to pay for personal integrity. My job is to help them so that they don’t
get sentenced to a life of poverty and discrimination.” 9.
“And we need all the help we can get, because there’s a whole lot of The Yippie movie was an Oscar winner. We had a full house of troops
guys in that position,” Emma added. “In fact, we probably are going to have a howling when Mayor Daley explained that his police weren’t there to create
major case coming up in the very near future. We’re planning to bring a case disorder but were there to preserve disorder. Everyone enjoyed the
to establish the Black GI’s right to wear the Black Unity bracelet.” demonstration of the new, improved Yippie helmet and how it prevented your
“What are you looking for by way of help?” Harrington asked.
head from looking like the remnants of a squashed watermelon if you had the
“Basically, we need people to come out and support the troops whenever
misfortune of getting clubbed by a Chicago cop. By the end, they were ready
they have to appear in court,” Emma explained. “We’d like help with
to riot, to join us in a trashing of downtown Oceanside. But some of us didn’t
publicity. If you can mention their cases in your church meetings and
know when to quit. Joanie announced that we had another film and would do
activities, that would be nice. Some of the churches up in the San Francisco
a double feature. Clayton knew what was coming and mentioned that he had
area are even organizing sanctuaries, where troops who don’t want to go to
to meet some brothers, couldn’t stay. We should have gotten the hint when
Vietnam can stay, in a protest. They’re using the tradition of the churches as
Mitch, who Clayton thought of contemptuously as a honky, said “I’ll go with
sanctuaries from government oppression and creating a public forum for
ya, man.” and Clayton let him.
these men to make a statement, gain support. But most of all we need money. The second feature was a piece of scratchy Viet Cong propaganda whose
Fighting a case in court is expensive. Getting out publicity is expensive. We value was mainly as historical evidence that they weren’t as skilled in film
are all working on a shoestring budget...” making as they were in revolution. It commenced with scenes of F-14s
“Eating commodity foods,” I injected.
screeching through the sky, bombs exploding, earth flying everywhere. Under
“And every little bit you can see yourselves clear to donate, would be
attack, scores of small people in black pajamas and conical hats began
appreciated,” Emma urged.
throwing down their various farming implements and running, leaped into
Well, churchmen are used to collecting handouts from their supporters,
what looked like sewers. After a quick cut, they emerged in pith helmets,
not being on the other end of the stick. To be hit up was virgin territory and
their antiquated machine guns blazing skyward. Soon the planes trailed
they responded poorly to the turned table. The Reverend Harrington squirmed
smoke and parachutes began floating earthward. Blackened, disheveled pilots
uncomfortably in his seat. His eyes focused off to somewhere beyond the

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were shown being lead away, trussed with their heads bowed. Then we
traveled south on dilapidated trucks as the scratchy soundtrack roused the
soldiers with strains of the Internationale. In the jungle, a platoon of young And you got carried away. But how many guys did that and didn’t end up
women were whittling bamboo stakes and placing them at the bottom of pits going against the big green machine like you’re doing. Most of them put it
that they then covered with palm fronds and dirt to create lethal booby traps. behind them. Get on with their lives. Try to forget what they’ve done. Chalk
For the grand finale we were taken directly into an ambush. Sappers blasted a it all up to war, man. It’s not like it says something about who you really are,
line of stalled tanks, forcing large, terrified white men to spring from the man.”
turrets, their uniforms ablaze. By the time the red and blue flag with the Jack sat down on the floor Indian style. He looked down into the vortex
yellow star fluttered behind the FIN and the house lights came up, the place made by his crossed legs like it was a black hole and he was hoping it would
had been abandoned. Only Jumpin’ Jack and his friend, Frankie diPietro, suck him into it. In that position he addressed his barely audible response.
remained of the crowd. “You ain’t been there yet. You don’t know, man. I didn’t know shit
“I wanted Frankie to see this,” he told me. “Get some idea what it’s like about the racism part ‘til I got into the Suck, man. But then, I began to notice
from the other side. I liked the Yippie movie but I was real glad you showed how they were always putting the Blacks into the shit details. But that kind of
the second one. I seen stuff like that. The boobie traps and them sappers. shit don’t sink in right away, ‘cause a lot of the brothers got an attitude, ya
You’d cut one down and another’d spring up in his place. Like a Joe Palooka know. And it takes time to get the picture. So I figure it’s like retaliation, OK.
punching bag. They don’t give up. They ain’t like us. If we were takin’ the But then, I can’t help noticing how we treated the ARVN. You know, they
losses they take, we’d pull back and call for air support. They just march ain’t got all the muscle we got, but they been fighting a long time and they
right over their dead buddies and keep coming. They hate our guts that ain’t gettin’ no respect. Sometimes they take ten times the casualties we do,
much.” but the first guys to get Medi-vac’d out are us. And there’s hostility. We’re
“To tell you the truth,” Frankie smiled shyly. “I would’ve left with them always callin’ Charlie gooks and such, but if Charlie’s a gook then so are
other guys. Except for Jack here. I ain’t for this fuckin’ War, but I ain’t for they. Even the brothers are calling them gooks, like they can’t see past racism
them neither. I think we should get the hell out. Leave that damn country for against Blacks to the racism against the yellow man. An’ what the fuck did I
them to fight over. But I don’t go for making them the good guys neither. know man, I grew up in a place where the only colored people I ever heard of
War’s war and everyone in it’s got a license to kill. Nobody’s the bad guy were the Black folks we saw on TV, like Rochester and Amos and Andy and
and nobody’s the good guy either.” the only fuckin’ yellows we ever seen were the ones that ran the laundry or
“You don’t understand man,” Jack shook his head. “The kind of things
maybe some Chinese restaurant in Albany.
they got me to do ain’t just war. It’s beyond that. It’s way beyond that. The “Yeah, we’re riskin’ our lives and all, but we ain’t the heroes that some
VC may not think like us, or act like us or believe in God like us, but they’re folks want us to be. We got the planes and we got the artillery and we got the
people just the same and the shit we’re doing to them is beyond war. The armor. But we also got R&R and are out of there in a year. Them ARVN and
brass is making us into criminals, animals. There just ain’t no excuse for what yeah, the VC too, some of them been fightin’ five, ten years. Lost all of their
we’re doin there. I don’t go by Jumpin Jack for nothing.” family. Got nothin to go home to but a burnt up patch of jungle. If we’re
Frankie nodded, like he knew the whole story. But, looking around the heroes what the hell are they?
room, I could see that the rest of us didn’t. Who, I wondered, would speak up “And then, when we take a hamlet, we gotta destroy it. Who the fuck
and ask him what he meant? knows? Maybe the locals are VC and maybe they ain’t. Who’s goin’ ta take
“But let’s face it, Jack,” Frankie responded, “ most of the guys who’ve a chance, get his ass blown off? So ya end up ‘callin’ in air strikes on some
been over don’t end up where you’re at. I mean, really, man. You fuckin’ shit hole, piss poor village full of rag covered, scarecrow peasants. But hey,
joined up ‘cause you wanted to. Went over to fight gooks ‘cause you wanted after awhile you start to see all this shit different. How it’s all crazy and
to. And so things got outta hand, like you gotta expect in them kind of mixed up and it changes you inside. None of it makes any sense, ‘cept
situations. Right? So you saw that fightin’ a war ain’t so pure and righteous.

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surviving. An’ that’s a fuckin’ good reason to blow some smoke or drop a tab
or shoot a bit of smack ‘cause the whole thing’s fuckin’ insane. ‘Cause ya
don’t want to think about what you’re doin’ and just want to survive. That’s As I heard the story, just after the place got machine-gunned, some of the
what it’s like, man. Marines volunteered to pull guard duty for the collective. One night, Jesus
“But for me, after a while, surviving didn’t seem all that fuckin’ and Deputy Dawg drew the sentry duty. You’d think, seeing as they were
important any more, after I added up the stuff I’d been doin’ to reach that trained Marines and all, they might have known what they were doing. But
objective. Maybe some guys can forget, or think they can forget. I ain’t about you’d be wrong. They had managed to consume a couple of joints, washed
to speak for them, but I can’t believe that a whole lotta them are ever going to them down with a few bottles of Ripple. Just like some fire base hell over in
forget and in the end, down the road, they’re gonna feel sold out one way or the Delta, I guess they were thinking.
another. I just hit that place maybe sooner than some. We stick up for each Neither of them would fess up to just how it happened but that pump
other under fire and that’s the best of it. We’re all brothers on that score. I’ll action Winchester shotgun went off and blew a hole in the ceiling the size of
remember that too, the good stuff. But how we got there in the first place and a hubcap. A load of double O buck blasted through the makeshift sleeping
the shit we did while we was there, well, good luck to the guys who can loft where Donnie Woods was sleeping. It whizzed past his head by a few
forget that. Good fuckin’ luck.” inches and opened a skylight in the roof. It was miracle the cops didn’t show
“Let’s be gettin’ back, man,” Frankie proposed. “This is bummin’ you up. At that point the collective decided to phase out all the active duty
out.” He looked over to us and shook his head. “It’s ok. He gets like this Marines from guard duty, slowly, so as not to offend any of them. There were
when he starts to remembering. Don’t you worry about it. We’ll see you later. questions about their discipline. They were prone to inebriation the moment
Come on, man,” he said to Jack. “It’s about time we be getting back to Base.” they left the Base and seemed to require a rigid command, which none of us
were capable of doing.
To my surprise, Jack and Frankie did see us later. Jack even began It was early September, not long after Emma and I had become eligible
staying over. Hanging out. Sharing dinners. Sleeping in the attic loft, because for the people’s glorious watch standing duty. It was about midnight on one
as an NCO, he could stay off base except when he was on duty. He even of my first watches. I was hunkered down in the deck chair and armed to the
brought a duffel bag over, with changes of uniform so he could report to duty teeth. I stuck the 9mm. Browning automatic that I recently purchased for this
straight from the house. chore, barrel first, into a gap in the sandbags, from where it could be quickly
withdrawn. I had the 12 gauge pump shotgun nestled in my lap. Dino, the
10. yellow, short-haired mongrel, was curled up under the chair for company.
Even though there were plenty of Marines around, guard duty at Ditmar A suspicious, unmuffled car shook me out of a doze as it cruised by and
was restricted to those of us who were not in the service. It was partly turned the corner. A short while later it came around again and slowed down.
because we wanted to keep the GIs out of trouble but also, as it turned out, I could see at least four people inside and they were gesturing toward the
they had been banned from the duty, incredibly, for incompetence. house. I peeked over the sandbags, pumped a round into the chamber and
The job was not complicated. It involved walking the perimeter of the slowly flicked the safety of the shotgun, training it in their direction. The
property. Checking all the barbed wire for gaps. Making sure that the bells driver had turned off his lights, but there were dots of glow inside the vehicle.
and cans were properly attached to the trip wires strung around the yard and A couple of them must have been smoking. The next thing I heard was the
capable of making the warning noises that were intended. After that, the engine rev. A moment later, a loud bang shattered the night. It startled me
sentry would take up a post on the street side behind the sandbags where it’s almost to the point of pulling the trigger. But our training paid off. I was able
hard to be a target. You were supposed to sit there for four hours in the to recognize that it was not the sound of a shot being fired. Whoever was in
shadows, all the while making sure not to be inadvertently back-lit by one of that car had produced a backfire. Then they drove off in a wake of laughter,
the MOP collective who decided to put on a lamp to read or who was just
fussing around inside the house.

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not realizing how close we had all come to disaster. They thought it was a
joke.
“What the fuck!” I heard Mitch yell from somewhere inside the house. Kool and sighed. “Hey Wolfie,” he slurred, holding out a green bottle with
“It’s cool.” I yelled back. “Just a backfire. Some yahoos fuckin’ around. the remains of some Ripple sloshing in the bottom. “ Want some?”
Assholes almost got themselves peppered with double O.” I tapped on the stock of the 12 gauge and shook my head.
I found myself wondering what the hell was I doing. If they had been He nodded his understanding. “Smoke?”
Minutemen attempting another machine-gunning what would I have done? I was eager to be sociable. It was not often that the brothers made the
Shoot back? And if I did, wouldn’t most of my fire end up in the walls of an effort to socialize with us white organizers, and Donnie was one of the few
innocent neighbor’s house at best or in one of their bodies at worst. In the who seemed willing to. I took one of his Kools and he handed his over so I
movies, when the bullets miss their intended target that’s the last you ever could light up.
think of them. But not in the real world. Here, bullets keep on going until “I see that dog sort of takes to you,” he remarked.
somebody or something stops them. Even the ones people shoot up in the air “Yeah, “ I replied. “Actually, I’m kind of surprised he came out here.
return to earth, according to the laws of physics, at the same speed that they Usually he hangs with Cookie.”
left the muzzle. And what then? Surely the cops would come and want to get Woods laughed and gave me a knowing nod. “Her protection.” he
in. What was my job then? Create an armed confrontation? Risk a Black smirked. He noticed the questioning expression on my face and went on to
Panther type massacre? If my luck went bad, I’d end up being forced to hold explain. “Clayton’s got this thing for Cookie, in case you ain’t noticed. But
off the Oceanside Police Department. Trying to arrange for a surrender in she doesn’t dig him at all. So she picked up this here hound as sort of
front of the press. So I came to the conclusion that shooting back, even at protection. Maybe you ain’t hip to the fact but Black men and dogs don’t get
attacking Minutemen would be a big mistake. The only good reason to have along very well. The man’s been using hounds for centuries to chase us down
the guns was to deter someone stupid enough to try to break in or fire bomb when we escape. Like how those redneck sheriffs down in Alabama are
the place and that possibility looked pretty hypothetical. always siccin’ the dogs on civil rights protesters. So she knows Clayton’s got
This sentry duty began to seem like a suicide mission. If shit really did
a special thing against dogs. He’s also got this power thing against women,
go down, all I’d be was a couple days of gruesome news. A casualty, like
especially Black women. So Cookie goes out and gets this hound to piss him
those poor students who blew themselves up in that townhouse back in
off. Keep him at bay, like. Works like a charm. But it fucks up the dialogue
Greenwich Village while trying to make bombs. If there was going to be an
we gotta have. So I kicked the dog out of the room because of the discussion
attack, chances were I’d be a dead duck, one way or another. Well, maybe I
we were having and I didn’t want either one of them talking through the dog.
was no different from those grunts on the Base after all. Doing shit that was
Or that dog would be growling and snarling in no time. You know what I’m
really stupid. Except I had volunteered for a different army.
saying? I guess that’s why he came out here to you.”
As this jumble of thoughts raced around in my head, an argument “Anyways,” Woods slurred, “ I been meaning to ask you how our Black
between Clayton, Donnie and Cookie was brewing somewhere in the back of Unity lawsuit’s coming? You got it done yet?”
the house and began to evolve into something close to disturbing the peace. “Problem with it,” I advised, shaking my head. “I can’t get any lawyer
“Hey, can you guys keep it down?” I hollered in from the porch. “I can’t admitted in California to help me file it. No one wants to put his name on a
stand watch with all that noise goin’ on in there and if it keeps up this time of loser, just to harass the Marine Corps. Can you believe it? I may have to go
night you all can expect the cops any minute.” Maybe it worked. all the way to San Francisco or Berkeley to find someone with the guts to do
A little while later Donnie came out to join me. He was walking
it.”
uneasily. Beset by an alcoholic tempest, he was listing first to port and then “Can’t say I’m surprised,” Woods said half laughing. “Ain’t no big deal
to starboard like an abandoned yacht, broaching in heavy seas. He slid anyway. We’ll keep moving forward with or without the bourgeoisie.”
himself down the wall until his butt met the stoop, took a long drag on his “What was that hullabaloo all about?” I asked, changing the subject.

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“Oh we were just talking about why the pigs are singling out the
Panthers and not going after the other so-called Black revolutionary groups.
You know, the Chicago pigs off’d Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their Cookie jumps in with her Elijah Mohammed rap.” he sneered. “How the
beds the very day I got home from the Nam. And before that, the Oakland Black man needs a Black religion. So I suggest to her, how come the Muslim
pigs shot little Bobbie Hutton and wounded brother Eldridge. That’s all a cats dropped a dime on Brother Malcolm? How it wasn’t a coincidence that
sore issue with Clayton, and Cookie too. Because if the pigs are leaving the it happened just when he got himself a revolutionary consciousness. How the
Muslims and Katanga alone, it must mean they’re not a threat like the evidence is that they were probably in on the assassination. And how Muslim
Panthers are. ” isn’t really a Black religion at all because the Muslims are still trading in
“That’s why I wanted you all to pipe down.” I responded, knowing the
Black slaves in parts of Africa even today. She can’t respond to that. So draw
whole story well enough. Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and Bobby Hutton had
your own conclusions.”
been some of the many bright and articulate young Blacks who had joined the
“Yeah, I read a report about how one of Malcolm’s bodyguards was a
Black Panther Party out of anger and frustration with the slow progress their
New York City cop,” I said. “I mentioned that to Cookie, the one time I ever
people were making in the struggle against racism. They had been killed in a
spoke to her one on one and she got pissed off. She hasn’t spoken to me
series of raids that were part of a Nixon/J. Edgar Hoover conspiracy to
since.”
defang the left. “Anyway, how come you can’t add up two and two?’ I asked them, not
“It’s my fucking luck to have to stand watch over three Black
meaning to make a big deal or nothing.” Woods continued. “But I just
revolutionaries who’re raising hell in the middle of the night, right in the
fucking had it with their tired shit. I guess that’s when it got a little loud. Clay
belly of the fucking monster. The pigs in this town would like nothing better
gets in my face about how the Panthers are practically begging to get iced.
than to get a complaint and become big heroes like the Oakland and Chicago
His point being that the Panthers are getting what they deserve or something.
cops. You think I want to be here for the goddamn incoming?”
Like he doesn’t see them as his brothers. And how we’d be better off doing a
Donnie’s teeth, white as pearls, sharp as a cross-cut saw, glistened with
Black thing ourselves. Not dealing with whitey at all. Which, he claims, is
an unsuppressed smile. “Yeah, I dig.”
the reason the pigs aren’t coming down on Katanga. Because he stays in his
“So how bad’s the split between you all?” I probed.
community and not up in Leonard Bernstein’s pad in Manhattan.”
Woods brooded on the question. He took a long drag on his smoke and
Woods nodded and sucked on his smoke. “You know,” he philosophized,
offered an opinion. “How big a split is it between revolutionaries and cultural
“the man is always fighting against the black and yellow and brown. And the
nationalists or Muslims? I’d say you can tell that by the fact that they don’t
way he gets over is by turning the poor and the minorities against each other
come to the aid of the Panthers. Instead, they attack them.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. so he can get them to do his dirty work. Look at me, man. The Marines got
“ That’s how you tell who the fuck’s a revolutionary and who’s all us brothers out on the front lines, kicking yellow ass. So what do I come
bullshitting,” he glowered, taking another drag on his KOOL and swallowing home to? My people being assassinated. A slum. Getting shot and then
the smoke in a gulp of Ripple. “Whoever the pigs are out gunning for, you hassled by racist pigs. Maybe set up like Geronimo Pratt? And if we start to
know for sure they’re not the man. So if you don’t give them support, you organize, they always seem to find a way to get us fighting amongst
must be either the man yourself or his ally. Doesn’t that make sense?” ourselves, just like Cookie and Clay and I were doing tonight. But in spite of
“Are you saying that Cookie and Clayton are government agents?” the proof, man, we still got the Cookies and the Claytons spending all their
“I’m not saying that.” Woods shook his head with denial. “But that time trying to avoid the truth. Clayton thinks we ought to be creating a
doesn’t mean they’re not being counter-revolutionaries. Clayton, with that separate Black country. Cookie says we ought to be building Black
Black nationalist shit. His boss, Katanga’s never had any real trouble with the businesses, cutting our hair short, getting white shirts and ties and joining a
man, despite the fact he’s always waving his pieces in front of the TV temple. Like that will take care of everything. Like the man won’t still be
cameras. He gets away with shit the Panthers get killed for. And fucking there controlling our lives. I say we can’t hide in a temple or pretend we’re

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Africans when we’re not. We gotta deal with the objective conditions that are
coming down around us. And that dictates we gotta stand up and deal with
the white folks, man to man. Then once we get our dignity, our place in this golden-orange shafts of sunlight began to filter through the crevasses of the
here country, we can go to Africa with our heads held up high like men and mountains, backlighting the sparse evergreens that crowned the ridgelines.
we can go to a temple or a church or wherever we want, knowing we aren’t My plan was to meet up with Jeffers at the officers club and scrounge a
there cause we’re running away from something.” cheap breakfast among the other early risers. Swaggering commanders and
“You’re right.” I agreed, careful not to overstep my boundaries. It was their fawning junior officers. The food, as always, was wholesome, plentiful
ok for him to criticize his Black brothers and sisters but for me to do so and cheap. On my arrival, Jeffers blessed me with news of the convening
would be bad politics. Just like he could call his brothers niggers. Like I officer’s altered priorities. The anticipated Special Court Martial that was to
could get away with using “kike”, but if any non-Jew tried it, the poison take place had been postponed without prior notice. I remained for breakfast
would never air out. Still, it was as rare as snow in Oceanside for me to be anyway, then returned early, hopeful that the postponement would segue into
talking politics with a Black man, as opposed to being lectured to, and I was a long overdue dalliance with Emma. Instead, inexplicably, I found myself
excited by the opportunity. “There’s no way I can see that this country’s lurking in the alleyway awaiting the mail carrier like a gumshoe in the
going to let Black people make a Black republic inside our borders,” I tested. employ of jealous spouse, hoping to find circumstantial evidence of
“And I don’t see very many folks out there of any color ready to help them do matrimonial infidelity. I was conniving to be first to the mailbox in the event
it. So, I guess Katanga’s outnumbered and out-gunned on that one. And my monthly check was there. Hoping to tap the till for a few extra bucks that
frankly, I don’t think Black people have got a chance in hell selling that would make for a little materialistic foreplay.
proposition to the white folks in this country. We’ll get nowhere unless we I knew that if Emma got her responsible mitts on it before me, it would
create a revolution for everyone. Black folks may be the most oppressed but go right into the collective bank account and that would be the end of it.
there are plenty of white guys in the Corps who came from shit and will be She’d broadcast the blessed event as if it were the birth of a royal heir. Plans
going back to nothing better when they get out. There’s no advantage in would be made and a budget etched in stone before I could insinuate a few
making them the enemies. Malcolm X knew that. I heard him speak once, preferential expense items of my own and then, if I protested, I would be
about six months before he was killed. That’s what he was saying.” made to look selfish and counter-revolutionary. As luck had it, the mail that
“That’s why they killed him.” Donnie Woods agreed. “Brother Martin morning contained the check and I got my hands on it.
knew that and they killed him too. When Huey started saying the same I pocketed the funds and took the rest of the bundle in hand to complete
things, they tried to kill him and now he’s in the slammer. The so-called the delivery. Opening the door, I found a meeting in progress. It instantly
leaders who they leave on the street, they’re all the separatists, nationalists deflated my pipedream. Gabrielle, Joanie, Cookie and Emma were huddled
and Muslims. Me, I ask myself who they’re killing and who they aren’t and around the hatch-cover, cups of steaming tea in hand. They hushed when I
that’s how I tell who’s really revolutionary and who’s just jive.” entered the room, as if I was an enemy agent and their cabal was about to be
All I could do was mumble a few “Right Ons” and hope I made it uncovered. They looked up at me and then back down again, working hard
through the night. not to acknowledge my intrusion. It was evident that either they or I would be
leaving shortly.
11. “The mail arrived yet?” Emma asked.
Fall was advancing and Mother Nature was getting stingy with her I handed it to her and she sorted through it quickly. “No check.” she
daylight hours. As was becoming my habit, I drove on Base in time to catch announced to the group who were watching her with interest. “If it doesn’t
the ascendant sun raise its gauze curtain on the day. As I headed East toward come soon, you should call them,”she said to me.
Mainside, the form and features of the Coast Range emerged like a I nodded. “What’s up?”
photographic print in developer’s solution. I set my speed to chase the night’s “We’re having a meeting.” she replied simply.
shadows as if they were a mirage, always just out of reach. High up the first

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“I can see. Where’s Mitch and Clayton?” I asked.
“This meeting is just for the women,” Joanie advised.
I raised my eyebrows. “I guess I ought to get the things I need and go the collective in that sense. Second, I seem to be doing a different kind of
over to Ditmar then.” I proposed. “How long you gonna be?” work than everybody else. In fact, I seem to be the only one that’s doing
“We’ll be over by lunch time,” Emma told me. something that’s making any money at all. Meanwhile, on top of what I’m
“By the way, “ Gabrielle said, “how’s it coming with your fund raising doing, I’m getting shit for not raising money, when, in fact, I’m putting in
activities. Have you gotten through your list yet?” more money that the rest of the collective together. Then, when people do go
“Naw,” I replied. “I just haven’t had the time. Been real busy with court
out to raise money, the thing they use to raise it is CDCS, my operation. But
martial stuff. I’ll get around to it. How are you guys doing with your efforts?
if money does get raised, it doesn’t go into the defense fund, but into the
I’d sure like to move up from macaroni and cheese to something with
general budget that the four of you women seem to be in control of. And
chicken or fish in it,” I said with a smile that I knew would annoy them. I
meanwhile, the food we’re eating sucks, big time. And beyond all of that,
went into my office and got some random files. I had no intention of doing
Joanie, Gabrielle and Cookie treat me like shit. They can’t even say a fucking
any meaningful work. There was silence in the living room until I left the
hello half the time. So I’ve got no reason to be big on contributing to their
place. As I walked away, I could hear them start up, and I figured that they
living situation.”
were not treating me kindly.
She looked at me like I was crazy. “Is it that you resent the women? Is
Later that day I managed to get Emma alone. “The check came in this
that it? You got off on the wrong foot with all of them, with insults and
morning,” I confessed.
arrogance and you want them to kiss your butt ‘cause you’re the big provider
She raised her eyebrows and gave me a questioning stare. “Why didn’t
of cash? You know better than that. The whole point here is that money
you say so then?” she asked. “You pretended that it hadn’t come in yet.
doesn’t buy influence-- that’s what we’re all about. You seem to have a
What’s going on?”
problem with that.”
“I wanted to discuss it with you before you had a chance to donate all of
“That’s pretty funny, Emma,” I snarled. “But let’s look at the facts and
this month’s money to MOP, Emma. I want to make sure that I am part of a
not the rhetoric. Gabrielle, it turns out, isn’t some poor Chicana from El
decision about how my stipend is going to be used and not have it made for
Barrio. She’s a graduate of NYU film school. The daughter of some left-wing
me, then forcing me to look like some asshole counter-revolutionary if I
Jewish-Cuban publisher who did something to antagonize Batista and
object. If I had said the check had come in, you and the women at that
managed to emigrate to the U.S. before Castro came to power. But did they
meeting would have started figuring out how it was going to be spent and
go back to join the revolution and give up their wealth? No way! Beneath
that’s not how I want things to go down with this check.”
that patina of brown skin and fluent Spanish is a genuine “red-diaper baby.”
“So, you’re making a unilateral decision? And, you’re not going to be
And Joanie! Why there’s another surprise. Ends up she’s an Ivy League drop-
up front about it?” she challenged.
“I guess you could say that I’m making a unilateral decision,” I admitted. out who decided to join the collective in a snit, to spite her parents. I
“The check’s got my name on it. No one else’s.” wouldn’t be surprised if she had a trust fund somewhere and is just not
“I thought we were part of a collective here, and we were going to make dipping into it while she’s slumming. Then there’s Cookie, who won’t even
collective decisions.” Emma put her hands in her jeans pockets and that say a civil hello ‘causes she’s so high and mighty Black that if she got caught
raised her shoulders in an aggressive stance. “What kind of capitalist shit is talking to a white man someone might think she was less than pure. If she’s
this?” ever spent a night in a ghetto, like where Deputy Dawg comes from I’ll eat
“You can call it what ever the fuck you want,” I responded, working our ratty couch. No, Emma, there isn’t one of your women friends, or you
myself up beyond what I was really feeling. “But that isn’t going to change either for that matter, that can’t come up with some bread from somewhere to
how I’m feeling about the way things are getting run around here. First off, in help make ends meet. But they’re not doing it. Ever hear the saying, ‘From
case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t living on Ditmar Street so we aren’t in each according to his ability, to each according to his need?’ Well they’ve

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got the ability and this month, I’ve got the need to have some steak and
chocolate and some good beer. Not that generic pisswater that the brothers
keep coming up with. You can join me if you want, but don’t talk to me about “Well, as you probably know, I’m running a legal defense project out on
a donation to the common fund ‘til I finish eating.” Pendleton. I got your name from a list of possible supporters. I’m providing
“It looks like you’ve got a lot of anger,” she observed dryly. “Go ahead civilian defense counsel services for GIs who are involved in Anti-War
then, have your steak and chocolate, you need it.” And she walked out. issues. Cases like refusing to go to Vietnam, illegal orders and racial
I did. It was a lonely meal. Then I did the penance. I grabbed the list and discrimination. I raise defenses that the military counsel would be
made plans to drop in on Morris Gilman and Benny Shapiro, two refugees uncomfortable making.”
from the radicalism of the 1930’s. “Tell me,” he said with an increasing frown, and the beginnings of a
Morris Gilman was one of those old lefties whom Joe McCarthy had, nervous twitch in his left eye, “How did you get my name?”
through intimidation and the blacklist, turned into a chicken rancher. But I realized at that moment that this was all a big mistake. The only reason
unlike the cluster that ended up hiding out in Sonoma County, he had sunk this guy had agreed to meet me was because he wanted to know who had
his roots in the parched backwaters of San Diego County east of Vista, on a stripped him of his cover. He was in hiding. In fear and wanted to stay that
few arid acres. The drive up to his modest ranch was over blue, crushed way. The only way he could make the repair was to discover who had
gravel that announced my arrival with a low grumbling. His house, of typical informed on him. I determined not to satisfy him. “We got your name from
Southwest architecture, stucco and red tile roof, stood on a slight rise among some folks in LA,” I lied. “They said that they knew you from SANE and
some spindly oaks. Three long chicken coops stood off to the downwind side, some civil rights stuff. Mentioned that you were an old Wobbly and might be
except for when the Santa Anas blew. interested in contributing to the defense of Anti-War GIs. My grandfather
Gilman was waiting for me on his screened front veranda. It was green,
was a Wobbly too. He was a lumberjack up in northern Maine. Aroostook
cool and pleasant with hanging plants and wind chimes all around. A safe
County. And he laid tracks for the Boston and Maine.”
haven where one could enjoy the present, regret the past and fear the future in
The Wobbly thing put him over the edge. His eyes blinked out of control.
nervous peace. He was a tall man. Enveloped in weathered, ruddy brown skin
His liver-spotted hands shook. His face flushed. “I don’t think I can help
the consistency of rough leather. Wrinkled features seemed to cascade from
you,” he sputtered, rising to let me know the visit was concluded. “I think
beneath straight white hair that was unusually long for a man of his age. He
you had better leave.” I hadn’t even gotten through half my coffee.
had eyes of dull, washed out blue and his thin lips barely parted in greeting. “Well,” I frowned, putting down my half-finished coffee, “I guess I got
He seemed frail and exhausted with the trials of life. A reclusive fellow who the wrong guy. I’ll make sure to tell those folks in LA that they got it wrong.”
left the impression of carrion. He gave me a weak smile and an even weaker “Yes, you tell them that,” he hissed.
handshake. “You can count on it,” I cavalierly replied. As I walked down the gravel
I found it curious that he had chosen to set himself up in such
path to my car, I had an uncomfortable feeling that he was right. There was
inhospitable surroundings. The inhabitants of these parts were not likely to be
good reason to fear. This terrorized man had carefully chosen as his cover the
fellowtravelers or even people who might be expected to strike up an
last hiding place he thought anyone would ever look for him. Right wing
agreeable conversation on politics or current affairs. We sat down to coffee
country. Yet he had been discovered. I watched him in my rear view mirror
on his veranda. He waited for me to start the conversation. I didn’t know
as he made certain I left his property. I felt sorry for him. He wouldn’t sleep
where to begin.
well tonight. And I wouldn’t either. The eerie calm that had prevailed for us
“This is a real nice place,” I observed, looking out over his domain.
these past several months couldn’t last. I drove away wondering what the
“You’ve got a nice spread here. My grandmother raised chickens for a while,
Marines and their allies were cooking up, and when the bomb would go off.
up in New Hampshire. But that was way back in the 20’s. She couldn’t make
My next chance for a few good meals was Benny Shapiro. How the
it in the business. How is it these days?”
collective got his name and number, I couldn’t imagine, but the scoop on him
“I get by,” he replied deadpan. “So what brings you out here?”

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was that he had once been an officer in Harry Bridges’ Longshoremen’s
Union. Then he went east to be a business agent with the ILGWU, the
International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. From there it got a bit murky. the dorsal fin on a great white shark. He had nicked himself in more than a
Benny hung out at Rancho La Costa, a gated place for the elite only, just few places shaving, probably using his razorblade of the month. He was fat,
north of San Diego. Rancho La Costa was reputedly financed by creative with round shoulders and looked like a coronary candidate.
accounting with Teamster pension funds. Rumor had it that it was a hideaway “Wolfe?” he asked, motioning to me to sit across from him. “Cup
for celebrities like J. Edgar Hoover and the kind of parasites that hang around ‘aJoe?”
pension funds. People like Benny Shapiro. “Sure, thanks.”
I called him without any expectations, but to my surprise, he agreed to a “‘Nother cup, Edna, please,” he yelled like steady customers do.
meeting. I was hoping to get to see the inside of La Costa but Benny had Edna brought a cup of steaming, burnt liquid and plunked it down in
other ideas. He proposed a coffee shop in Carlsbad. A sterile place furnished front of me.
with Formica counter tops and vinyl-covered chairs. Encased in huge, tinted “The pie’s good here,” he remarked. “Ya wanna slice?”
plate glass windows it permitted the patrons to see out, but denied the folks “What kind you having?”
on the street a look inside. It was the kind of place where Jimmy Hoffa might “Me? Nah. Doc says I gotta quit the high cholesterol stuff,” he said,
have been last seen with Sam Giancana. Where you’d expect the customers patting his stomach, “or else I’m gonna croak. Got me a heart condition.
to be named “Fat Tony” and “Three Fingered Louie.” Where they kept their Hell, he’s takin’ all the fuckin’g fun outta life. The old wonker don’t crank up
pies in a three-high plastic merry-go-round and allowed coffee to sour in the so well these days and the girls cost more than an old guy on a pension can
pot. afford. Can’t smoke. Don’t want me to drink. All this old stiff’s got left is
As I entered, I encountered the combo waitress/cashier standing beside
food and that prick doctor just took that away too.” His face screwed up like
the register, arms crossed, like the guardian of an entrance to a speakeasy.
he had just sucked on a lemon. “So Wolfe,” he continued, giving me a
She was a stubby, fiftyish female with hard-hat hair and bowed legs with
moment to sip the brew, “Let’s not beat around the bush. Waste each other’s
calves like a defensive tackle. Behind the counter, a cook who looked like he
time. I know what you’re up to on the Base. I done my homework and expect
doubled as the complaint department, worked feverishly at a smoldering grill
that you done yours too. For the record, I’m one hundred percent American.
that sizzled hot grease. He was an over-stuffed oily fellow in a stain-covered
Don’t like the crap your friends are pullin’ with the Marines up there. We got
tee shirt that stopped a few inches short of his distended belly. A half
a war goin’ here and the only fuckin’ thing to do in a war is win it. I don’t
cigarette, half ash appendage hung from his lower lip as though it was glued
give a shit who’s right and who’s wrong. We got boys over there that need
on. He turned to glare at me like he expected to be a witness and wanted to
our support, one hundred percent. That’s where I stand.”
get the identification right. Few patrons would be stalwart enough to “So what made you agree to see me?” I asked. “I’m not sure I
complain about the food or service. understand.”
“He’s over there,” the waitress bellowed in a voice like Ethel Merman, “Easy,” he replied. “You want some money, right? You wanna defend
nodding in the direction of the back wall. GIs who got problems with the military. I can agree with that. Hell, we all
Benny was seated in a booth at the far corner facing the door, his back have problems with the law sometimes,” he laughed and coughed. “And we
against a wall. He was the kind of guy who wanted to meet people for the all need lawyers. I got no problem with you defending GIs. And I can help
first time on his turf. To see you coming. To size you up first before you you out. But this is business. Ya know what I’m sayin’? It’s a two way
knew he was there. He watched me approach over his cup of coffee like a cat street. I’m willin’ to scratch your back but you gotta be willin’ to scratch
sizing up a canary. mine, ya see.”
He was getting on in years. Wispy white hair stood out from his scalp “I’m not sure I understand,” I repeated. “How can I help you?”
with a mind of its own. Purple and red veins webbed the sickly pale
complexion of his face like roads on a map. His beaky nose reminded me of

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He winked and a gleam of mischief flashed in his dull eyes. “Come on,”
he said. “You ain’t as dumb as you look. I give you a little money. You give
me a little information. Nothin’ about your cases of course. I ain’t askin’ you “They just let him out on work detail,” Woods explained. “KP. Assigned
to breach a confidence. But what’s goin’ on. Just keep me posted. Ya know him to police my kitchen. So there we were, me and Jesus and Deputy Dawg
what I mean?” all working NCO’s mess when Gunny Bonham gets into the Dawg’s face.”
“Yeah, I get your drift,” I said. “But there isn’t anything that you’d be “Gunny Bonham’s that racist lifer from Natchez,” Woods reminded me.
interested in going on. You can come by any time you like.” “Always calling the brothers ‘Boy’ and figuring out shit details for them. And
“Don’t worry about that,” he said. “You let me decide for myself what’s so the Dawg’s swabbin’ the deck like he’s ordered, except he’s doing a jive
interesting.” thing with the mop. Having himself a little fun. Gunny sees him and I guess
“I see what you mean,” I said, realizing with amazement that the guy had
he thinks Dawg’s enjoying himself a bit too much. He ain’t supposed to be
been actually put on my list by someone who figured I might be a candidate
enjoying swabbing. So Gunny gets in Dawg’s face. But the Dawg is chill.
for recruitment as an FBI informant.
Stays cool. Gunny can’t get Dawg to do or say anything that he can write him
“So, we got a deal?”
up for and that’s when he loses it. He starts in with the names. Calling Dawg
“I’ll let you know,” I replied, ambiguously. “Thanks for the coffee.” I
‘boy’ and ‘nigger’ and tries to get the Dawg pissed. I got worried that he
put down my mostly full cup. He could see I wasn’t going to be a stoolie. I
might succeed so I go up to him and tell him ‘Hey Gunny, no need to get
think he was even glad it was working out that way. He wasn’t the kind of
racial here. Dawg’s not messing with you. It’s cool.’ But Gunny’s not about
guy that liked informants, even though it was obviously his job to recruit
to lay off. He tell’s me how, quote ‘us niggers always stick together.’ And
them.
then he goes off on the Black Unity thing. Tells us he checked out the regs
“No problem,” he said. “ Be talkin’ to ya.”
with Base legal and got an opinion that the General Order says that you can
“Take care of that ticker,” I said, waving goodbye.
only wear an identity bracelet that identifies who the person is. Not what race
All three of them watched me leave. Followed me with their eyes. I
they are. Then he tells us that we are all out of uniform and orders all three of
could feel their stares through the tinted glass until I rounded the corner to
us to take them off. We all refused. Then he gave us each direct order and
my car. We all knew that the price was too high. The food wasn’t going to
each of us refused again. Then he calls it mutiny and calls in the MPs. Me
get any better but at least I’d still be able to swallow it.
and Jesus are restricted to barracks pending. They sent Deputy Dawg back to
I drove away wondering what the hell kind of list of supporters MOP
the brig.”
had. Was it just my bad luck that I drew a randy reverend, a chicken chicken “Mutiny?” I repeated.
farmer and a government agent? Or was somebody fucking with me? “Yeah,” said Woods, his voice dripping with the irony. “ Can you
believe it? Kind of rings a bell, doesn’t it? When was it I told you that I was
going to be smarter than my old man? Well, they sure kicked my fucking
12. butt, didn’t they? Guess this mutiny thing runs in the family. Ole Chet’s
“It’s me, Woods,” Donnie announced. It was just after Halloween. “They
going to have a heart attack when he hears about it. Either that or he’s going
just wrote us up for disobeying some bullshit orders and some other shit I
to die laughing at me.”
don’t understand.” “Stay cool,” I told Woods, certain that he would. “First thing, you got to
“Where you calling from?” take care of Jesus. They always try to split you up and Jesus is a weak link
“Barracks, man. They got me and Jesus on restriction and the Dawg’s because he’s young, apolitical and he’s not Black. They might try to offer
back in the brig.” him a Captain’s Mast in exchange for his cooperation against you and Deputy
“Deputy Dawg’s back in the brig?” I repeated, with amazement. “When
Dawg.”
did they let him out of the brig?”

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The Marines had beaten us to the punch. We had planned a lawsuit in
Federal Court about the right to wear the Black Unity bracelet, a civil rights
case with the attendant publicity campaign. Perhaps they had gotten wind of The way Frankie described it, Jumpin’ Jack was leading a squad of
it and put Gunny Bonham up to a provocation. Now the case was going to be grunts on a training maneuver over the rough terrain on the back side of
on their turf, in a court martial for mutiny. Pendleton. They were within weeks of their shipping over and this was a big
I called Captain Jeffers, down at JAG. As usual, Jeffers was happy to tune-up. The brass wanted to use some of their experienced NCOs on this one
help. He got back to me the next morning. No, there would not be a mutiny and Jack, they thought, fit the bill. He dropped a tab, Frankie said, before
charge. But yes, there were going to be charges. The three, Woods, Jesus and they headed out. They had humped several miles when Jack came to a
Deputy Dawg were being charged with disobeying a direct lawful order of a boulder that must have reminded him of something, and he snapped. He
superior NCO and Article 134, a catch-all violation that basically says that climbed to the top, held his M-16 above his head with both hands and
it’s a crime in the military to do something the brass doesn’t like. Article 134 screamed down at his men below, “Kill the gooks for Christ and Nixon. War
is vague enough to charge everybody with something. In this case, the 134 crime, Seig Heil! War crime, Seig Heil.” Then he threw his weapon down at
violation they cooked up involved being out of uniform. Wearing the them, gave his startled green troops a fascist salute and dove off, head first.
shoestring Black Unity bracelet made them officially out of uniform, Luckily for him a small manzanita bush broke his fall and instinct caused him
according to the charge sheet. to tuck before he rolled to a landing. The combination of these two fortuitous
Captain Jeffers advised that it could all be resolved if Jesus and Woods
circumstances saved his life and all that happened was he ended up cracking
agreed to accept a Captain’s Mast and agreed not to wear the wristbands
a couple of ribs underneath his scapula. His mental condition was another
anymore. There would be no brig time, perhaps some short restrictions to
matter. As they carried him away he was still chanting, “War crime, Seig
Base and a one pay-grade bust. Jesus, he suggested, had little to lose. He was
Heil!”
just an E-2 anyway and would soon get his orders to Nam, where he’d In hindsight, one could say it was inevitable. No matter how often I tried
quickly earn it back. Woods, Jeffers argued, was 4 months short and a Viet to get him to unload, he persisted in holding back the whole truth. It was like
vet with combat decorations. The most that would happen to him was loss of he wanted to preserve it for himself so he could wallow in the fester. He
a pay grade. He’d probably even get an early out. If they refused, Jeffers claimed that he had humped nearly every peak in the A Shau. Places he
speculated, it’d be a Special Court Martial that involved “bad time,” time in called “The Beak,” “Hoptown,”“The Eagles Nest.” His unit, he told me, had
custody that could keep him in the service in past his discharge date. And been dropped into action in most of +the LZs in I-Corps, searching and
he’d be risking a BCD, a Bad Conduct Discharge, as well. Deputy Dawg was destroying. The LZs he told me, had girls’ names, like Marguerite, Kathryn,
going to end up in prison anyway. He was sure to receive a dishonorable for Nancy and Helen. He found it a cruel joke, naming LZs after girls. What
that robbery beef up in Santa Ana, so there was no point in prosecuting him. happened there ruined half the women in the world for him, he said. He
Jeffers thought he could get the restrictions lifted for Woods and Jesus if they swore he could never ever go out with a girl who had one of those names.
just agreed to take off the Black Unity wristbands. But he wouldn’t talk about specifics. He’d go so far as to admit there
That wasn’t what Woods had in mind however. “Guess now we don’t came a point where he stopped being gung ho. Stopped volunteering and
have to get some lawyer from Berkeley to file that suit,” he observed dryly, started shirking. Until the company commander relieved him as squad leader.
dismissing Jeffers’ suggestion of a possible deal. “We’ve got us a real And somewhere along the way, he admitted, he began leaning heavily on
political trial now.” LSD. By then, John Conlon, American freedom fighter, metamorphosed into
Just after Thanksgiving, as I was settling into my preparation for the
Jumpin’ Jack, the hideous alien invader of a peaceful tropical paradise. Then
Black Unity trial, the second shoe dropped. Jumpin’ Jack flipped out. By the
he’d clam up.
time I learned of it, he had already been carted off to the loony bin at the I knew he was still using the stuff and that it was causing him to flash
Long Beach Naval Hospital. back on every killing and every burning hut. I could tell that the LSD was

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eating a hole in his defenses and had replaced the wounded remnants of his
self-esteem with merciless, self-loathing. Maybe it was even warping the
facts. I didn’t think that anyone could really tell that. But he had contracted a Emma and I went up to Long Beach on a Friday to visit Jack. I needed to
very bad case of Dr. Tim Leary’s revenge and whatever it was that he was see him to find out how a boulder could set him off. But the Navy was
trying to escape, it was so big and so bad that he seemed determined to throw allowing him no visitors. They wouldn’t even let me visit as his attorney,
petrol on the fire in the desperate hope it would cleanse his soul. since he wasn’t charged with anything yet, and his medical condition, they
Anyway, it was evident that Jack was hurting. Maybe I was just too indicated, did not permit it. I demanded a report that they refused to permit
inexperienced or deferential to combat vets, but I figured it wasn’t my place my visit based on medical grounds, hoping the incident would help prove that
to tell a Vet what he should or should not do about his wartime experiences. he was too nuts to stay in.
Instead, I did nothing. So for want of help, Jack became a casualty of the Since we now had time on our hands, we decided to stop by another
War, the psych-out candidate he vehemently denied he was at our first MOP project in the neighborhood. This MOP contingent was set up in a
meeting. shabby part of Long Beach, where marginal light industries mingled with
Even though there were others who also could have helped but did decaying rental properties. The headquarters was a weathered, 40's cottage in
nothing, I filled my pockets with the guilt of my impotence and ineptitude. a weed infested yard with an oil stained driveway. The paint on its drab
And it dawned on me clearly, for the first time, what an ominous clapboard siding was pocked with painful blisters and boils like the face of a
responsibility had been thrust on my shoulders, and how I had failed the test. scarlet fever victim. As we crossed the front porch to knock and announce
The lark, the Kerouac adventure, was no more. I had allowed a comrade to our visit, its sagging, dry rotted planking creaked complaints like a recently
take a hit and thus became, as they say, complicit. risen octogenarian.
A few days later, Captain Jeffers reported that they had him under No sooner had knuckle met wood than a wild, overweight oaf in a
psychiatric observation. If the military shrinks concluded he was psycho, motorcycle jacket with some stenciled skull and crossbones logo on the back
Jack would certainly get a medical out and along with it, a VA pension. But made a lumbering, hustling exit. He pushed his way past me screaming, "Da
the very idea that Jumpin’ Jack would be rewarded with an early discharge pigs is afta me, da pigs is afta me." Paying us no mind, like he was the white
and a lifetime monthly check to boot rankled certain members of the officer rabbit and we were Alice, he kept sailing his course, screaming the same
corps. Some of them, Jeffers intimated, were taking offense at Jack’s mantra, down the sidewalk, until he merged with his dilapidated
comparison of the Marine Corps with Nazi war criminals, especially in front environment. That was all we ever saw of him.
of green troops that they would have liked to send into combat all gungy and It seemed like he was telling the truth though. "Da pigs" to which he was
starry-eyed. His escapade rocked their boat. So the pressure was on to declare alluding appeared to be in pursuit. But something was out of whack. There
him fit and to charge him with Article 115, self-inflicting a wound. And were a suspiciously numerous lot of them and the interest shown by most of
Jeffers cautioned that although it may sound absurd to the civilian mind, there “da pigs” seemed to be more in the contents of the house than in the fleeing
was plenty of precedent for an Article 115 charge. It was not unheard of for a suspect. In fact, none of them seemed enthusiastic about apprehending this
trooper to wound himself, the proverbial “shoot yourself in the foot” tactic, oaf. It was like a search was what they had planned all along but they needed
he explained, to avoid some unwanted duty and a 115 was the charge they a pretext so they wouldn't have to get the warrant they probably had no basis
leveled on such occasions. to ask for. But my indiscretion got the better of me and I butted my silly ass
It appeared that shortly, Jack would either be leaving the Corps with a in.
pension or be enjoying long term accommodations at the brig. Given his "I'm an attorney and I represent the owner of the house,” I bluffed.
association with us, the former seemed less likely than the latter. “Unless you have a warrant, please stop the search until you have the owner's
consent."
13.

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"Hey, sarge," a rotund snooper yelled over his shoulder. "There's a guy
here, claims he’s an attorney who represents the owner of this place. Wants
to see a warrant." sporting first growth facial hair and uniformly clad in moth-eaten Mr. Natural
The sergeant poked his head around the corner of kitchen and into the tee shirts over bell-bottoms.
hall. "Yeah? Where's the owner?" "And what's this?" croaked another blowhard cop, slamming down a jar
Emma tugged at my shirt, a signal that we should get the hell out of with some clear liquid in it and what looked to me like a package of pipe
there. "I'll go have a talk with him,” I backed off. “We'll be right back." We cleaners. "Looks like bomb making material to me."
turned and left. That was as smart as I was about to get that day. "Pipe cleaners and sulfuric acid!" the young woman laughed. "We use
Unfortunately, we ran into the owner on the sidewalk. Bob was a tall, the acid to clean the brass that we make into roach clips and belt buckles and
gawky, hick of a fellow with long, stringy black hair. He had slumping pipes and stuff. You guys know that. Get off it."
shoulders, a threadbare ensemble and a matching ambiance. He was a The ole' sarge was getting red in the face. "Rooney," he screamed.
movement wanna be who couldn't be because he was a landlord. He "Bring in the rest."
approached us, hands in pockets, quizzical, wondering what was going on. Rooney dutifully produced some guns and ammo. The haul was a twelve
Bob seemed bemused by my account. "No biggie," he smirked. “I don’t gauge with a box of double O buck and a cleaning kit, an old FN assault rifle
live there. But the tenants work for me at the head shop and they’re all good from World War II with a couple boxes of shells and some stripper-clips, a
people. Might be a little weed in there. Let’s check it out.” .22 Ruger pistol and a .22 Marlin rifle, with scope, some assorted longs and
With world-class stupidity, Bob, Emma and I marched back up the steps
shorts for the .22s and a packet of targets.
of that forlorn cottage, determined to put a stop to this trampling upon his When they spread it out on the floor it looked like a lot of stuff. But as
tenants' constitutional rights. The full dignity of the law was on our side. We any Minuteman or Klansman would testify, it was no big deal. You could
demanded audience with the sergeant. have found more and better weaponry in Charlton Heston's den. Worse from
One of the boys in blue set aside the couch pillow he was probing for
their point of view, it all was legal. I was beginning to get confident this
contraband and headed off, in what I took to be compliance with my demand.
would blow over. But the gendarmes had manufactured an encore.
A few minutes later the sergeant appeared, holding a poster of a bald Mao "It's heavy. Could be a bomb," one of these lackeys observed, dropping a
Tse Tung. The one with that pimple on his chin, smiling benignly from the dusty, black camping trunk at Bob's feet like it was tribute from a distant
Heavenly Gate and often seen hoisted aloft by the Chairman’s minions as vassal and he was the emperor. "Open it," he demanded.
they stampeded their way through four thousand years of culture and social "How the hell am I supposed to open it? I don't have a key and it isn't
tradition. He displayed the Great Helmsman, like it was a porno poster and mine. I don't even live here," Bob whined.
we were being solicited to purchase tickets for the show. "You know "Neither do we." Emma stood up as if to depart. "And we’d like to
something about this?" he snarled. remind you that we've never even been in this house before you invited us to
Bob shrugged. “Is it a poster of Mao Tse Tung?"
sit down. We'd like to leave right now if you don't mind."
"I fucking know it’s a picture of fucking Mao fucking Tse god damn "Sit down!" the top cop ordered and we knew we were busted.
Tung,” the sergeant sputtered. “Do fucking commies live here?" "Now who wants to give me the key to open this up?" He held his hand
Before Bob could admit or deny knowledge of the raison d'etre for this out and turned around to give each of us the opportunity to cross his palm
particular piece of artwork, the cops commenced a roundup of the inhabitants with a key.
of the premises and herded them into the living room where they joined us. "Come off it," one of the young fellows snipped. " Do we look to you
First, a bare-foot young woman in thin sari-type wrap and kinky black tresses like the kind of people who would be carrying around a key to an old
that a tie-dyed headband barely held down, sashayed in between two of the camping trunk? Like one of your weird fat buddies from the donut shop with
gendarmes. She was followed moments later by three scraggly males, each

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those big rings of keys on his belt, heavy enough to pull down his pants so
you can see the crack in his butt real good?"
The sarge looked at him cross-eyed. "No one's talking,” he said. “Guess Shore Patrol was taking him off to the hospital or the brig. We ain't heard
we'll just have to break into it. Might be a bomb. Get me a knife from the from him since, and that was a couple months ago."
kitchen, a good strong one." Since the whole thing had now been reduced to farce, as a face saver, the
Rooney soon returned with the blade. sergeant busted us all for possession of weapons, bomb making materials and
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, sergeant, "one of the youthful subversive propaganda. It mattered little that the guns were legal and the
provocateurs suggested with unnecessary bravado that extinguished any bomb makings had a legitimate industrial purpose, the manufacture of roach
possibility we would get out of this fiasco without a trip downtown. "If it’s a clips. Nor was the local law deterred by the small matter of constitutional
bomb, breaking into it might set it off." protection for reading material, even if it was Mao’s Red Book. We were
"We'll just have to take that chance, won't we boys?" the sergeant
transported to their lock-up downtown.
volunteered. And a braver bunch of lads you'd never hope to meet. To a The next day we were allowed to read about ourselves in the newspaper.
man-jack of them they decided to hang around and watch their leader pry The Blade-Tribune ran a front page spread, with pictures, names and a lot of
open the potential trunk-bomb. inflammatory background on our terrorist activities. According to the media’s
"Uh, can we watch from outside?" Emma raised a point of order. But the “reliable sources,” the Long Beach police had broken up an underground cell
chair didn't recognize her because the chair was busily inserting a knife of Maoist terrorists in the very process of making bombs. There was a photo
between the lock and the trunk with the finesse of a Yosemite bear attacking spread for the national wire services. The guns and ammo, a couple of bottles
a tourist’s cooler. of sulfuric acid and the pipe cleaners were all laid out neatly on a linen-
Once the lock was broken, we were treated to the suspense of an
covered table so the press could get a clear front page picture. A radical
extremely slow lifting of the lid, as if it was a holiday surprise. Silence like a
still-life. They made us look like a serious militia. The AP and UPI ate it up.
seance. Only the last few inches of arc were accomplished with a flourish, "
Sent it all around the country, a headline story. "Police Smash Southern
ta da!" to reveal ....drum rolls... not diamonds, rubies or golden doubloons
California Terrorist Cell!" And the country was told how the good citizens of
but Red Books. It was filled to the lid with miniature volumes of the
Southern California were spared indescribable mayhem thanks to their crack
collected, abridged thought of Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Distillations of his
“Serve and Protect” forces.
best sixty second sound bites. The treasure of some ersatz Red Guard. The next afternoon, we received a visit from a representative of our
The hippie woman snickered when she saw what it was. " Simcock," she “defense team,” a law student who interned for a well-known local, radical
giggled. "He was going to take these and give 'em out to motels like Gideon attorney. "Stacey" was his name but we called him "spacey" because he was
Bibles. That was his great idea." often stoned and when he was, he would do things like steal your shoes.
The sarge looked at her like she was crazy.
Whenever we caught him at it, he'd say something like; "Man you a
"No. But he was," she said.
counter-revolutionary or something? You don't share your possessions?"
"What?" he quizzed.
Then he'd push his slightly too heavy lips together in a smirk, thinking
"Crazy." she said, like she knew what he was thinking.
himself brilliant for exposing bourgeois hypocrisy.
"Who the hell is Simcock?" The sergeant scrunched up his face and Spacey was only a law student, but for him, the nice cops waived a little
clenched his teeth with an angry curiosity. rule that says you have to be a licensed attorney to get into the Long Beach
"GI." She smiled with a hint of irony. "Just another one of those burned jail to interview a client. Spacey used his time with me opining how cool it
out, totally stoned grunts that our friendly government discards after they was to be into bombs and stuff, probing for details of my felonious complicity
don't need him anymore.” She clearly had more insight than I had given her in this absurd affair. I had to keep reminding him that I wasn't into bombs and
credit for. “Came back from the Nam a flaming commie. Last we saw of him, stuff and that I had never even been to the place before. After a while, Spacey

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heaved an exasperated sigh and expressed his genuine disappointment that I
wasn't the militant he had supposed. He announced that under such
circumstances, that is my innocence of the charges, it was unlikely that his Kahn prepared himself to dispense enlightenment. He assumed a cross-
employer would be accepting the case, but that he would see to it that I would legged pose in his massive, power-operated Castro convertible (It had to be a
have representation at the arraignment, which he supposed would be covered Castro.) that was positioned majestically at one end of his expansive yet
by the press. Then, I’d be free to arrange “more appropriate counsel.” barren, neo-modern living room. He invited us to find seats on a low white
Apparently, neither he nor the cops were more successful extracting cloth couch that faced him from a safe distance and offered us cups of
admissions of terrorist conspiracy from any of the other arrestees because on ginseng tea.
Monday, just before our scheduled court appearance, they gave each one of Once this was all settled, he set about explaining our major problem: we
us “a last opportunity” to tell them about the bombs. We all must have weren’t sufficiently opposed to smoking dope. “I hear tell your collective has
provided the identical negative response, seeing as there never were any changed its policy on drugs and that one of the Black organizers left because
bombs. The next thing we knew we were ushered down to the property room, of it,” he said.
given our stuff and gruffly ordered to get the hell out of there. We never saw His intelligence was good. After the disaster of the last picture show,
the inside of a courtroom. Clayton finally got his way. A consensus emerged with Clayton, Mitch, and
Gabrielle arguing that a GI just back from Nam, seeing what he saw, doing
14. what he did, had a right to blow a little weed without a bunch of pompous,
Not long after, we discovered the reason we were arrested. “Bad puritanical, politicos dictating to him.
politics.” It wasn't simply a case of Emma and I being in the wrong place at Cookie had blown a gasket. “Just look around our ghettos,” she sneered
the wrong time. Could this have happened to anyone? Nooo. It could only at Clayton with undisguised contempt. “All you see is stoned out brothers
happen if you had bad politics. Bad, bad politics. hangin’ on the corner, not doin’ shit for themselves, their people and
Just how bad could our politics be, we wondered? To get the answer to especially the little Black babies they be makin’. You think the weed ain’t got
this question, and for the sake of our future security, we decided to undertake nothin’ to do with that? You think the only way we can organize our people
a pilgrimage to my recruiter, supervisor and the West Coast GI Political is while they be smokin’ and snortin’ shit? Ain’t you read ‘bout Malcolm?
Thought Poohbah, the most eminent Guru, George Kahn, whom we had come What happened to him on the dope? You think you need dope to organize
to affectionately refer to as Genghis. Genghis had influence over my stipend, the brothers in the military? Well, let me tell you, the Prophet Elijah
retaining an effective connection with the prime benefactors of that East Mohammed teaches that you don’t need nothin but faith in Allah and in
Coast civil liberties organization that funded my work. It was important to yourself. And for sure you don’t need no drugs. Unless you ain’t seein’
nip this negative impression of “bad politics” in the bud. straight, you gotta notice there’s a whole lot more Muslim brothers in the
Kahn was a tall man, with soft round features and perpetually tense
service than we got here at MOP.”
shoulders. He wore his blond hair bushy and accessorized with a full Santa She said her piece and stomped out. Packed up. The last we heard of her
Claus beard. He sported the disingenuous smile of a television evangelist. On was a letter to Gabrielle. She asked her to mail some stuff she had forgotten.
this occasion, he was wearing a pair of black shorts and a jungle camouflage She was going by the name Latifa, she said. Joined a Mosque in East Saint
jacket, open to permit his curly, blond body hair to cascade from the breach. Louis. Didn’t want to know how any of us were doing. Except she asked us
He gave us audience in his recently constructed home on the unstable to take care of Dino. Hoped Emma and I would take him.
sands that make up Malibu Beach. For a movement heavy is was obscenely Genghis went on to criticize the “adventurist lawsuit” I had proposed.
ostentatious. The house featured wrap-around redwood decks and expansive But when he began to quote from Mao, Emma interrupted.
glass walls that exploited all the magnificence of the Pacific coast. The view
was stupendous but building there was an act of faith in both nature and the
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"Excuse me," Emma snickered, casting a skeptical glance my way, as if
to say, boy are we wasting our time here! “But that house was full of Mao
stuff,” she actually said. “We were up to our ears in Red Books.” alcohol. As we anticipated, it was an unacceptable rebuke to the party line. A
Kahn smiled a guru's knowing smile and raised a Buddha-like finger to few weeks later, an innuendo-laden report made its way to the East Coast
refute the apparent contradiction. "But they were making roach clips." leadership proclaiming our heresy. Inevitably, the controllers back East
"And belt-buckles," Emma replied, barely suppressing a disrespectful concluded that we were unreliable and thus unworthy of those meager
scowl. shekels that the rich, liberal theoreticians condescended to flip our way.
"And pipes" trumped Genghis with a condescension-dripping retort.
Funding, the little voices whispered, would soon be drying up. And the
“Hash pipes. Drug paraphernalia.”
prospect of greater reliance on commodity foods loomed larger than ever.
"So," I said?
"If they hadn't been operating a head shop, selling drug paraphernalia,
15.
they wouldn't have had the sulfuric acid. Without that, no bombs. Without the
It was part of the deal. Emma and I had a long-standing commitment to
bombs, no terrorism charges, even with the guns. It’s that simple, drugs are a
travel back East, for the New Year. A lox and bagels fix. As the departure
risk a revolutionary can't afford. You're hanging out with unsafe people
approached, Joanie began to stomp and pout up a tornado of passive
because they are involved with drugs."
aggression.
It would have been no use to confound this analysis with the fact that we
“We’re goin’ to have a meeting before you go,” Mitch told me privately
hadn't been hanging out with anybody. The great Kahn could easily have
one afternoon out in the back country while we shot bottles into bits with our
wiggled himself free of such a simple muddle.
.380 automatics. “‘Case you ain’t noticed, Joanie’s pissed about your
Competition, Ghengis reminded us as we parted company, was fierce for
vacation.”
these limited funds and it was only right that they be awarded to those with
“Yeah, I noticed. What’s her problem.”
“total commitment” (to his political point of view.) That, as they say, is
“Same as always. Someone’s taking a break. She can’t handle that.”
politics. Yer either with 'em or agin 'em.
I mentioned it to Emma, but of course, she was way ahead of me on the
And that, in a nutshell, was one side of the then current, revolutionary
subject. “Do you think we ought to cancel?” she asked. “I mean, it does look
youth movement debate. On the other side was Dr. Tim Leary, tuning them
like we’re using our white bourgeois skin privilege.”
in, turning them on and dropping them out. Like good fence straddlers, we
“Fuck no!” I responded emphatically. “We aren’t going to be any less
caught shit from both sides. We needed a karmic adjustment. Kahn, Tim,
white or any less privileged if we decide to stay.”
Kahn, Tim, Kahn, Tim. Aw shit. “There’s a WAR going on!” Joanie reminded us during the meeting.
Returning along Highway One from our enlightenment session, Emma
“We’ve got work to do. The bombs aren’t going to stop falling while you two
and I decided to hunker down for an expensive Amercian Express card
go gallivanting off enjoying yourselves.”
financed repast at a Palos Verde bistro. The card was a remnant of our
“They aren’t going to stop if we don’t go either,” I countered.
formerly middle-class life-style. A legacy from protective parents who
“Then you don’t believe we’re making a difference?” she responded.
wanted to make sure that we were safe in an emergency. Something I insisted
“What the hell are you doing here in that case?”
we hide from our ever-vigilant comrades, who would have urged us to max it “I am not saying we’re not making a difference, Joanie,” I replied. “But I
out on collective benefits. But since jailhouse fare was even worse than the am saying that even in a war, people get R&R and that’s what we need, right
commodity crap we had been forcing down, we felt entitled. Hell, even Mao now.”
ate well when he could. I, at least, could take the contradictions. “You see anyone else taking a break around here?” she snarled.
Well, it came to pass that we were agin 'em. Shortly after Cookie’s
desertion, MOP challenged Kahn’s authority in an editorial advocating that
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“Joanie, if you don’t want to take a break, that’s your business,” I shot
back. “I, for one don’t begrudge you a break. Take a fuckin’gbreak and lay
off the guilt trip.” in New York State. I think they called it Long Island. Rick had been groomed
“Listen,” Mitch mediated, “you guys’ve got connections in New York, to be Executive VP and heir apparent. Dad grumbled a bit when Rick dabbled
don’t you? I mean, some of the people you know got bread, right? Why on the radical fringes but wasn't worried. His wealth was a potent aphrodisiac
don’t you take some of the MOP literature. Pass it around. See if you can and he knew Rick would come around, sooner rather than later. Sandra, was
raise some bucks while you’re there.” the princess of an upper East Side money launderer for the remnants of
“Right on.” said Clayton. “Hit up some of them rich honkies. What you
Tammany Hall who liked to wear mini skirts made from less material than
call it, doin’ the MauMau thing with them Bernstein liberals.”
her panties. She was a researcher of injustices who spent a lot of her time
Emma was nodding her head, agreeing.
prancing about making sure everybody noticed her plump buns.
“You don’t have any idea what you’re asking,” I muttered. “ Fund
We met them for dinner at the five room coop on West End Avenue that
raising in New York takes a professional, and we’re just amateurs. In fact, as
they had received as a wedding present. They were pest-free digs unlike our
you know, I’m somewhere beneath amateur. Whatever you may think, most
old brownstone where, when you switched on the light, roaches scurried like
of our friends in the Big Apple don’t consider themselves sufficiently
protesters being disbursed by the New York Police TAC squad. They had
wealthy to qualify as donors and those that have the bucks resent being
spared no expense furnishing the place. A pair of gigantic leather sofas.
reminded of it. I know these people and we don’t have a chance.”
"Fifteen thou." Sandra modestly revealed. An antique four poster,
But there was Joanie’s anger to disarm and Emma’s guilt to diminish.
hand-made in Pennsylvania by Amish craftsmen, supposedly. Hand-woven
“Let’s do it,” Emma urged. “We don’t have anything to lose by trying.”
Persian rugs. Original artwork. Shelving of rare, polished hardwoods. There
We flew in on the red-eye, just after Christmas, our belongings in
was a commercial range in the kitchen, on which Benita, the illegal, under-
backpacks. On the bus in from Kennedy, I felt like an alien. I wasn’t sure
paid Jamaican housekeeper cooked their dinners so they could work late at
why. Up on the West Side, I sat in the borrowed apartment left for us by
their exhilarating revolutionary jobs.
friends who were off warming their buns in the Caribbean sun, nursing a
“Benita has left us with four courses, ready to go.” Sandra bragged. "No
warm cup of their coffee and a sense of unease.
one cooks better than Benita." And she was not off the mark by much.
“Does it feel funny to you, being back here?” I asked Emma finally.
Over coffee, life at the ole GI project was brought up. We proudly
“I’m not sure I can put my finger on why.”
showed them our mimeographed literature describing the project and the
“Yeah, a bit,” she agreed.
work we were doing. But they had glossy fund raising material, professional
‘Everything looks the same, but it doesn’t feel the same,” I said.
and slick. Sandra trotted out her eighty-page quarterly, complete with
“Maybe it’s us,” she observed. “Maybe we’ve changed. When we left,
scholarly articles, footnotes and bibliographies. The research she was doing
we didn’t know any Viet vets, much less active duty GIs. No one was trying
at the Manhattan, left-wing think tank that specialized in Latin American
to shoot up our home. The War was an abstraction and our arguments were
revolutionary writers, she explained, was really the apex of leftist political
hypothetical. We’ve been through a lot in the last seven months, Eric. I think
activity. We showed them the first rudimentary press releases we had created
we’ve changed.”
for the impending Black Unity identity bracelet court martial. They displayed
“Yeah, but how much?” I asked.
their own literature for legal projects that had to be more important because
“We’ve got a dinner date with Rick and Sandra tonight.” Emma smiled.
they involved “third world people,” instead of “agents of imperialism.” I
“Maybe that will answer your question.”
Rick and Sandra were newlyweds. Former SDSers who fancied mentioned the defense fund that we had established, and how necessary it
themselves leftist intellectuals. And though they aspired to be spokespeople was that we win this case, so that Black GIs could organize without
for the oppressed and downtrodden, neither of them knew the meaning of intimidation by the racist brass. They opined that money could be better spent
doing without. Rick's dad owned one of the biggest real estate developments educating “the people” about indigenous movements in developing nations,

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movements that had a real chance of creating progressive governments.
While our project needed money to buy groceries and gas, to pay for
accommodating witnesses and preparation of evidence, their publication the thought of hitting them up was unbearable. We wanted to have at least a
needed money to buy ads in the Times and Washington Post. Who is to say few friends left.
which way the money would be better spent? They lived on the upper West Side, next to Columbia University, in an
“But Sandra,” Emma subtly injected into the conversation, “ you’ve got elegant, rent controlled railroad flat. There was a large bedroom that
simply oodles of money. You’ve got these fabulous couches, this amazing occupied the front quarter and was mostly taken up with an inlaid, maple
apartment, Benita cooks gourmet for you. Meanwhile, we’re dining on bureau and a king size bed, piled high with seductive pillows. Beyond this
commodity handouts from the county. How can you even compare the two boudoir was a smaller room that Dan used as a study. It stood in dark contrast
situations?” to the bedroom, harboring a worn oak roll-top desk that Dan strewed with
Sandra was righteously offended and anxious to avoid any leftist tracts and periodicals in a way that made them look like they were all
misunderstanding. While Rick stood by, stiffly silent, hands folded across his in use but which had not actually been consulted in recent history. Down at
chest, she hastily fired off the coup d' grace into our rapidly deflating fund the end, the hall opened into a large living room with French windows
raising balloon. "Emma, despite what it looks like,” she insinuated in a high- fronting onto a narrow balcony. If one dared hang on to its sooty wrought
pitched huff, “we're not made of money!" iron railing, twisting like a gymnast to the left would reward the athlete with
Emma looked around the room and sniffed. “Sandra dear, it would be
a vista beyond the Hudson and the Palisades into the gray-orange pollution of
difficult for one to draw that conclusion based on these surroundings.”
New Jersey. An out-of-place eight seat mahogany dinner table took up a third
This brought a chill to the air colder that the January winds that were
of this room. It was set for four and ready to go when we arrived.
accelerating through Manhattan's canyons at that very moment. Not long Molly greeted us with hugs and kisses. Dan did one of his bear-hug
after, we descended from the towered coop hideaway to the street below, things and began tendering a steady barrage of drinks. With Dan on the job,
where those frigid gusts embraced us. We found them to be more nurturing no glass seemed able to remain unfilled, wherever hidden.
than Rick and Sandra's place. Molly was of that of light-skinned, yellow-haired, Celtic race that gets a
bad case of sunburn in a rainstorm. She came from what they call "old
16. money" which is far better than new money because the ancestor who did
We set about making calls to the few friends who were left in town over whatever nasty things had to be done to get it, was long dead. Despite her
the holidays. One by one we completed the reunion rounds at lunch spots and privileged station, Molly had been trained to do her own housekeeping and
over dinners at the bistros and cafes we had frequented as students. Each in cooking. She had been raised on an ethic of Scottish-Irish self-reliance and
turn became defensive when the subject of a little financial assistance was was refreshingly devoid of intellectual pretensions. If she had any blarney
hinted at. Some bristled that we had the gall to ask them to put some money genes, she had gifted them to Dan as a wedding present.
into our project. They chastised us. They were revolutionaries too, they Dan had been a grad student in history, on his way to a life in academia
argued. Weren’t they too giving their time to the revolution? Their when he dropped out to study law. But that had not altered his left-wing
arguments sure convinced me. We had a hell of a lot of nerve, asking opinions. He was also a jolly Greek. Dark, tall and slightly overweight from
"movement" people with lots of money to give us some when we should have the phyllo dough in his genes. Dan had a gift for embellishment and tall tales
been hitting up people with no money and/or no “politics.” Our marketing in which he was the central character. But if you knew him well, you knew
was all wrong. that for him life was more of a spectator sport. Presented with the opportunity
As our “vacation” wound down to the last days, we had not raised a to experience an historic moment, Dan behaved like a fan, preferring to
penny, despite Emma’s best efforts. All we had left to look forward to was a observe from the stands, but able to acquire the good seats. Unlike Molly,
free meal with Dan and Molly. A week earlier, we would have viewed them Dan didn’t come from old money. And the "new money" his family made
as fine candidates for a touch but we were so disheartened by this point that

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was diluted by eleven deductions. So that dowry that Molly brought along
didn’t exactly count against her, despite his professed Communist
sympathies. Sensitive to this contradiction, he was quick to assure everyone "What are we supposed to do with the stuff?" Mark wondered into the
within earshot that for a catch such as he was, there were plenty of rich girls phone.
to be had, thus proving that he had wed Molly for more honorable reasons "Tell them to pack it all up and move it out of there," I advised.
than her inheritance. Dan duly advised them, adding, "We'll be by in a few and check it out.”
They labored together to serve us a meal that was simple but very hearty “Nice of you to volunteer.” I shook my head and muttered in Dan’s
American fare. Time flew. By midnight, the blunt sluggishness of alcoholic direction. It was a cold, uninviting night even for those of us desensitized by
influence had set in. Eyelids were taking control over their own deployment. inebriation. “I guess we’d better get over there and see what’s happening,” I
Conversation degenerated. We surrendered to gravity, propping ourselves concluded reluctantly. I found myself a little jealous that the women would
askew on the rug with couch pillows. remain warm and comfortable while we would be cast out into the elements.
The phone rang. Dan startled and picked it up. “Don’t wait up,” I sarcastically advised them, hoping and trusting that they
"Yeah, Mark? Yeah, yeah, No shit! Yeah, you're kidding, no shit! Man, would not take the advice and would at least vicariously share the discomfort
so what are you gonna do?" He held his hand over the phone. "It’s Mark of our pending sub-arctic adventure.
Ravitz," he whispered in our general direction. "He's in big trouble. He's got So, not long past midnight we found ourselves trudging beneath the
this dope dealer tied up over at this house. He has this old friend, Milt, who 116th Street and Broadway Gate onto the Columbia campus, down College
was back here from Ann Arbor trying to score. The deal got fucked up. They Walk. Whipping winds swooped from behind Low Library, kicking the paper
kidnapped Milt and are holding him for ransom. So Mark and Milt’s partner detritus of urban campus life into a whirlwind that danced like a Hopi shaman
from Ann Arbor grabbed this guy in retaliation. They want our help. Should around the circular, raised marble centerpiece of the campus called the
they try to work a trade or should they just call the cops?" Sundial. A score of frigid, eerie lights, crowned by yellow-white halos,
"Is this for real?" I yawned. Dan confirmed that it was, first with them projected a grillwork of elongated shadows across the facades of Hamilton
and then for me. and Kent Halls. The thermometer was committedly plummeting into the
“Don’t you think the police might be a tad premature?” Emma teens. Our body core temperatures dove along with it and our pace quickened
suggested. “After all, there’s no telling who they’ll bust. Probably bring them to keep warm. By the time we negotiated the two long blocks and turned the
all in.” Her observation became a consensus opinion and we communicated corner onto Morningside where Mark had a flat, we were trotting and very
the same to Mark, the desperate. chilled.
"By the way," I said as I fluffed out my flattened hair with my fingers, He lived in a substantial brick and concrete structure embellished with
"what's to prevent those dealers from making up a totally different version of bits of faux-granite trim and leaded pane glass in the lower stories. The
the facts and turning in Mark for kidnapping? I hope their pad is clean.” building was one of a row of well-kept high-rises that hovered on the Heights
This insight was duly communicated, and Mark fessed up to having a like black-caped, bloodthirsty vampires, contemptuous and predatory. Below
couple ounces of weed, a .38 police special and the ten thoushand dollars them at the bottom of the hill, the burnt-out wreckage of Harlem sprawled
they were supposed to use to buy the hash they were trying to buy when Milt prone and decrepit. A long flight of piss-drenched stairs and a gauntlet of
got kidnapped. security stood between the unfortunate, desperate inhabitants of this lowland
Molly summed it up. "Guns, drugs and cash, a kidnapped guy tied up in and these darkly privileged dwellings.
their pad and they want to call the cops!" A heavy front door of black metal and safety glass guarded a small
Molly’s articulation of his predicament enlightened Mark to the airlocked hall, its walls bedecked with ranks of mailboxes and a double row
possibility that he was at some personal risk, it being his apartment. He made of buttons. Numbers and names, scratched onto plain paper and stuffed in
a plea for our assistance.
"Clean out the apartment of contraband," I suggested.

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name slots identified enough tenants to populate an entire North Dakota
farming community.
Dan poked at the buzzer and after a moment, a scratchy electronic voice I wanted to know about Milt’s scraggly friend from Ann Arbor, but
commanded that we identify ourselves. Upon satisfying himself that we were Ravitz quickly disputed a level of acquaintanceship that could assist me on
the genuine article, Ravitz buzzed us in. The hall was dimly lit but brightened that topic. He was merely the friend of his friend, Milt Levine, who was
when Mark opened the door and furtively popped his head out, looking in all presently in the hands of the kidnappers. Their sole common ground involved
directions just to make sure. He occupied a first floor apartment, just off the the risk of imminent arrest and potential co-defendantcy. In other words,
foyer. Ravitz had little basis to trust the fellow. He did however elaborate on what
Ravitz was above average in height, but a preview of middle age to come
he knew.
bulged his shirt, taxing its buttons. Emerging stress lines were already The fiasco began when his friend Milt had injudiciously bragged to his
commencing the irreversible etching process at the corners of his eyes and Ann Arbor buddies that he had this boss connection for Moroccan hash. On
mouth. His chin sported what a five o'clock shadow becomes on a swarthy the strength of this braggadocio, he had ten big ones pressed upon him by the
complexion when unattended past midnight. His pale face was flushed a doper crowd at U of M. His bluff was called. Milt had no choice but to save
guilty red, the color of those neon cocktail signs that decorate the outside of face and in slipshod haste, he arranged a deal with some shady operators
modest corner bars in working class neighborhoods. "Come on!" he urged us from Brooklyn.
in a hush that was as loud as the rush hour traffic on Broadway. The transaction was to take place on neutral turf, the Sundial, right
The lanky young hostage sat in the kitchen, trussed to the kind of chrome in the absolute middle of the Columbia campus, at midnight. Milt would
and vinyl chair that was in vogue back in the Ozzie and Harriet era. Long deliver the money in a brown paper sack in exchange for an identical bag
dirty blonde hair hung wildly to his shoulders. He wore ostentatious leather containing the dope. Whoever cooked up the scene must have been a classic
motorcycle pants, like the kind Peter Fonda was wearing when he got blown spy movie buff. But Milt’s caution had gotten the better of him. He went to
off his bike in Easy Rider. Gray duct tape sealed his mouth against yelling the Sundial without the bread, leaving Mark and the Ann Arbor Kid at the
and screaming. The pale edge of fear pulsated across his facial muscles. He Amsterdam gate holding the sack of loot.
was breathing in difficult snorts and sniffs. His adversaries proved worthy of this distrust. Their representative
"We can't take the tape off," the kid from Ann Arbor explained with a approached the Sundial toting a bag concealing a .45 automatic in lieu of
palms up helplessness. "He'll yell and neighbors might call the cops," he Moroccan hash. The gentleman apparently didn't accept Milt's explanation or
added, seeking our assurances that it was the right thing to do. his offer to produce the money after he could be assured that the bargain
"Aw he wouldn't be stupid enough to do that," Dan clucked amiably. He actually involved hashish. He suggested that Milt take a walk with him and
looked down at the hog-tied prisoner and shook his head. "You wouldn't be Milt was persuaded in the wisdom of such a course by the glint of nickel
dumb enough to call the cops and get yourself busted, would you?" plate. A few minutes later, one of the Brooklyn gang sauntered over to the
The guy shook his head, agreeing.
Amsterdam Gate and proposed a new deal, that he exchange the loot for Milt.
"What's his name?" Dan asked the hapless captor. The Kid was having none of it. Moved by the fear of facing his joint
"We got his ID." Ann Arbor responded, nervously offering up a wallet venturers back in the lower Peninsula without either drugs or money he
with all the information. rejected this deal with a well-aimed and effective right hook. It brought down
While Dan occupied himself with negotiating a tape removal, I made a the extortionist with such a depressing crack of cranium on pavement that
cautious approach to Mark Ravitz. He was sitting in the living room, rigid death would not have been a surprising result. Then, with the agility of an
and nervous, on the edge of an overstuffed green and pink flower-patterned Olympian, this Mid -western pugilist reached down and put the young thug in
couch. Che Guevara squinted romantically from an altar to one side, a full nelson. "Grab his feet," he commanded Ravitz. "Let's get him to your
suspiciously eyeing his competition on the opposite wall where Ho Chi Minh place. Quick!"
hung, slightly cock-eyed.

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New Yorkers know how to mind their own business. And what might
seem bizarre and bold to some is often commonplace in the Big Apple. Thus,
they were apparently able to accomplish this feat without raising the hue and Dan abandoned his interrogation of the ersatz cowpoke and the three of
cry of local citizenry. Just a couple of college kids carrying home their us huddled. “What do you think we ought to do?” I asked.
passed-out buddy. The task however exhausted the heroism of Ann Arbor and Dan scratched at his chin, as if in deep thought, which was impossible
by the time we arrived, he appeared to be absolutely useless as part of the for either of us in our condition at that time of the morning. “We can just
solution. chuck the dope down the hill into Harlem, but ditching a gun is not that
I looked at Ravitz with the kind of smarmy curiosity I imagined Phillip easy,” he mused. “ We can’t just throw it over the wall. I don’t mind them
Marlowe might have employed. "Have you cleaned up?" being stoned, but I got a problem with them being stoned and armed.”
He was flushed and there were a few beads of sweat condensing on his “How about the river,” Ravitz proposed.
temples. "It's all in there," he advised, pointing to a brown leather briefcase “Well, that requires finding a secluded spot, right? Tonight.” I replied.
nestled between the sofa and a greasy blue wall. “That means someone’s going to have to walk it across Riverside Drive and
"All?" the West Side Highway to the Hudson and, without looking too suspicious,
".38 special and a box of hollow points. Couple ounces of Panama Red. hurl it into the river from some location where it might be a good idea to hold
Ten thousand, cash," Ravitz responded weakly. on to it just to get safely back home. You up for that?” I looked over at
“In case you’re not aware of it,” I advised, adopting a tone of
Ravitz and saw that he was not. I looked over at Dan. He pursed his lips into
professionalism. “Almost every pistol in New York City is illegal. They've
a wry smile and shrugged.
had this Sullivan Law since about 1911 or 12. Practically no one except cops His manner disarmed me and I dropped my guard. Before I knew it, Dan
can own a handgun in the city, let alone carry one. This isn’t Texas.” and Ravitz made a deal that all of the stuff, the drugs, the gun, the hollow
“It's not a stolen gun, if that’s what you’re wondering.” Ravitz attempted point ammo and the loot be moved to Dan’s pad, as soon as possible. Our
to reassure me. “My legal address is in Westchester County." fingers had not yet thawed before we found ourselves once again fighting the
“The gun’s still in the City,” I observed, “and, by the by, hollow point
frigid gusts as we re-crossed the campus, our professional careers tied up in a
bullets are another problem. They’re designed to open up like a mushroom
brown leather briefcase.
when they hit human flesh so they make a great big hole. Using them is a war We delivered the cornucopia of felonies into Dan’s pad and opened her
crime butthe streets of New York are not the kind of war that is covered by up. It looked like a theatrical prop from a B movie. A stack of dirty bills
international law. Cops can use them. In cops hands they’re considered bound with rubber bands. A shiny nickel-plated, snub-nosed revolver, a box
humane. But for anyone else, it is evidence of depravity. It is not the kind of of cartridges and a large transparent sandwich bag full of marijuana.
fact you would want to have influencing a sentence.” Molly picked up the baggy, sniffed the contents and scrunched up her
I recited the maximums and minimums for the felonies he was presently face. "Cheap shit." was her verdict. "Shoulda tossed it."
committing. The penalties were not of the slap-on-the-wrist variety. He "Then let's flush it, " Emma proposed.
shuddered with the realization that he was out of his league. "Now what about the gun?" I asked, watching the grass swirl into the
"What are you going to do with all that shit?" I faked a bored yawn and vortex with a satisfying gurgle.
expected that he would be requesting a service. "Not a problem." Dan flashed a smile of reassurance. "I got a buddy,
Mark looked at me, his eyes betraying desperation, and addressed a Nick, who's going upstate to his cabin tomorrow morning. He'll hold it up
pathetic appeal. "I, I, thought....you uh you were going to take care of it. there, where it's legal. If things don't work out tonight, I'll give him a call first
You’re a lawyer aren’t you?" thing in the morning."
I nodded. "Hey, Dan," I called into the kitchen. "Would you mind "And no one's going to question me about a measly ten grand. " Molly
coming in here a minute. We've got something important to discuss." chuckled at the ironic truth.

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Dan picked up the phone and called Mark to tell him that the mission had
been accomplished.
"We heard from them." Ravitz announced. "They want to do a trade. Our I slapped my forehead with the palm of my hand in feigned exasperation.
guy for theirs. They wanna trade ‘em at this location in Yonkers. They're "So how were you planning to make this exchange in Yonkers?"
gonna call us back in ten minutes." Ravitz looked over at Dan. "There's no one else," he observed with a
"We'll be back over there in a couple." Dan responded. "Sounds like a sniff of victory.
good deal to me.” Dan looked over to me and shrugged. My prediction was confirmed. We
Moments later, we were off again, leaving the women snug, warm and were on the hook for an early morning tour of Yonkers with the hostage. The
curled up around ten Gs. There was no telling what fine ideas that sweet Catatonic Kid and Mark Ravitz were not going to be much help. And to tell
narcotic would churn in their brains. the truth, that was probably a good thing.
"We’ve got a few logistics to deal with," I told Dan on the way back to Before we knew it we were back yet again in the icy wind, headed for
Ravitz’s place. where big Dan stashed his vehicle, Riverside and 114th. Third lap.
"Yeah, like what?" Dan probed warily. Dan, fortunately, was a friend of cars and his old Chevy wagon started
“Like how things get decided on what we do and what we don’t do,” I right up. We picked up our load and confirmed the deal with him. We'd be
replied. “ For example, I don’t suppose you’ve given thought to what we say holding his ID. If he cooperated he'd get it back at the end of the trip. We
if they ask us to take this guy to Yonkers, have you?” I was sure he hadn't. were neutral and didn’t want any trouble. All we wanted was to do an
Dan was the kind of guy who said the first thing that popped into his head exchange. No matter what, even if his buddies cheated us, he'd be released
and then spent a hundred times longer figuring out how to make it work, so because we had his ID and would just deal with it later. He could go right
he could bullshit that he had it planned. now if he wanted or ride with us to Yonkers, it didn’t matter to us. But he
"I don’t see Ravitz and that schmuck from Ann Arbor anxious to drive
also had to know that there was no more ten thousand. It was gone. Out of
that mother out to the sticks, do you?” I continued. “ So, like are you going to
our hands. He and his pals could forget about ransom. They might as well let
volunteer us to chauffeur him through the streets of New York bound and
this Levine fellow go and everyone would just forget the whole thing.
gagged?” Our passenger was reasonable on the subject. He allowed how things had
"What do you think?" Dan asked, paying more attention to details now. gotten out of hand and that it was a good idea to keep the cops out of the
"I think," I said without having thought much about it either, "that we’re whole affair. We had a nice ride to Yonkers.
going to end up doing some dirty work and we better reach some kind of an I was surprised how much wild and vacant stuff there seemed to be in
understanding with the guy before we leave Ravitz’s pad. Convince him that Yonkers back in 1970. Maybe it was because of the dark. Or maybe the bad
the trade’s for real. Have his buddies talk to him on the phone when they call guys knew of this one place where nobody seemed to have gotten around to
back. I want him to go voluntarily.” sprouting a development. But there it was, a vast expanse of woodland,
"But maybe we should hold onto his wallet." Dan pitched in. “In case he
suitable for a gangland hit. Big enough to get lost in. And we would have too,
tries something, I’d like to have his ID.”
but for the navigational assistance of our passenger. At his direction, we
"Then, if it’s not a fair exchange, he'll know we know how to get him
pulled over to the side of the road. We returned his ID and bid him a farewell
and he'll be the one who's holding the bag for kidnapping."
with our best wishes that his friends were out there somewhere. With parting
Moments later we were back at Ravitz's flat and I asked him how he was
words of confidence that they were nearby, he sprinted off into the dark, like
planning to make the exchange.
a rehabilitated animal released into the wild. A few minutes later a shoeless
"The problem," he informed us, "is I don't have any wheels."
Milt Levine hobbled, tenderfoot, into our headlights.
"Well, what about your visitors? How the fuck they get here,
horseback?"
"Naw, car. But Milt's got the fuckin’ keys."

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17.
"The asshole didn't even say thanks when we dropped him off!" I
groused, referring to Levine and not to our newfound friend from Brooklyn. the some bedding and toys for the kids. A hell of a lot better than sending it
It was now 5 a.m. The temperature had gotten about as cold as it was going to back to Ann Arbor where those rich little putzes will just use it to buy drugs
get. A damp chill wind was pushing the first wave of New Jersey commuters from someone else, don’t you think?"
eastbound across the Hudson. Each exhale announced itself with a cloud of "And make a profit off of a communal sacrament," Molly huffed
icy breath. Dan scrambled for his key to the warmth of his lobby. He didn't sanctimoniously.
bother to respond until we had crossed the threshold. "They ought to count themselves lucky they'll be getting anything back,"
"Yeah," he grumbled, "I noticed." He called down an elevator. "Fuckin’
Emma concluded, pounding a fist into her knee for emphasis.
asshole. Didn't give a second thought to what we've done for him. Treated us All the while, Dan was nodding in agreement. SCUM, the Society of
like a goddamn cab." He let us in with two more keys. He had a whole lot of Communist University Members was just his cup of tea: intellectuals, radical
keys. It was New York City after all. young professors, recent alumni and grad students all united in their common
Molly and Emma were still up. Warm as toast. "Want a hot drink?"
pursuit of a perpetual draft deferment. They put out one funny paper. Text
Molly offered, as cheerily as if she had just awoken from a Cinderella-like
dripping with irreverence and risque sarcasm that 90% of the country would
slumber. There was acceptance. They served us hot tea, fortified by Dan's
never get. It was a journal that was no threat to influence the so-called
favorite single malt.
masses. As a result they were perpetually on the shorts for the next issue.
"We've got it figured out," Emma teased seductively. Meaning every bit
And this next one, Dan promised, would be a blockbuster call to arms.
of it while seeming to mean none of it. Dan had put in a rough evening. He was entitled to a call and
"What you got figured out?" I asked.
whole-heartedly approved the women's suggestion. So it all came down to
"How to divide up your fee," she said, playing the coquette.
me. The choice was an easy one. These past weeks in New York, without
"Say, why don't we just go out for breakfast? " Molly happily suggested
commodity foods, had reawakened dormant taste buds. They now cajoled that
as she poured more hot liquids into our cups with the energy of a truck stop
$500 would forestall reunion with San Diego welfare food. I voted with my
waitress.
stomach and made it unanimous. We would impose a tithing on the heathen
"What about the fee?" Dan asked, ignoring his spouse’s diversion.
felons from the Midwest.
"We think you guys ought to get a fee for your night's work, don't you?” After a hearty breakfast of slithery fried eggs and perspiring bacon,
Emma smiled. “A big fee. How much would you say you saved Ravitz and Emma and I decided to spend our last full day of vacation actually engaged in
his friends by just talking them out of calling the cops? Ten thousand? Fifty tourist frivolity. We boarded the IRT and aimed ourselves downtown to begin
thousand? Easy, and they lose the money and some of them probably go to with a cheap ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The morning was crisp with a
jail. Right?" winter sky of battleship gray. An anemic sun struggled toward an
Molly didn't wait for an answer. "And you put your own careers on the
unremarkable zenith over the Brooklyn warehouses and tenements, vainly
line.” She spiced her argument with animated hand gestures. “Carrying their
attempting to brighten the grimy metropolitan vista. Sailing into the teeth of
stuff across campus for them. Then transporting their hostage. Unbelievable!"
brisk, salty gusts, we gaped at the algae green Lady Liberty, her beacon
seeming more of a warning than a welcome.
In unison, they harmonized. “ We think you ought to take a thousand We lunched on shrimp in lobster sauce and chicken with almonds at
dollar fee.” Hung Fat’s in Chinatown. Then, after hiking across Canal Street into Little
Emma continued. "But not for us. What do you think about $300 going
Italy to gorge on cannolis and cappuccino, we trekked up to Orchard Street to
to SCUM, $200 to West Side Womens’ Shelter and $500 to the MOP. Dan
haggle our way into a cheap new suitcase. We topped it all off with a late
gets to donate to his favorite group. You and I get to bring home some funds.
matinee of All Quiet on the Western Front at the Thalia. Its theme of youthful
And Molly would like that new women's shelter to get some money to buy

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enthusiasm betrayed seemed timeless and, thanks to recent experience, I
found new meaning in what Remarque was saying.
We got back to Dan and Molly’s place just in time to find Dan on the This didn't help the settlement process very much. Dan was running his
line responding to a call from Mark. I listened in on an extension. Mark was index finger across his neck, cutthroat, for me to shut up.
telling him he hoped we had been able to get some sleep and explained how "Just one big one, Mark, my lad,” he bantered amiably. Just one G, a
he had waited until now to give us the opportunity. But there was nervous tithe. And it’s not going into our pockets either. Some will be going to
transparency in his presentation. Finally, he got to the point. “Milt and his SCUM. Your favorite paper,” he reminded him. “Some’s going to the West
sidekick are itching to get back to Ann Arbor and they would like to get their Side Women’s Shelter, to help those poor little children of battered women.
cash back as soon as possible,” he said. “And if you haven’t already handed And some to help out our brave Vietnam veterans. It’s all going to good
off the ‘package’ to your friend to take out of town, I was wondering if it causes. Nothing in our pockets. It’s a fair deal for everyone.”
wouldn’t inconvenience you too much if you could bring it over with the "Just a minute," Ravitz said. He communicated the status of these
cash.” negotiations to his co-conspirators and Milt got on the phone to contribute a
"Actually," Dan commenced negotiating, “that package was safe and lengthy stream of vituperation to the discussion. Upon completion of this
sound. If you want it, Mark, come on over and pick it up yourself. Frankly, overture, he offered us $100 and our lives.
I’m through being used as a delivery boy. By the way, those “vegetables” that This was a mistake. Dan’s hot Greek blood started to boil. He had a
you gave us were very rotten. We had to throw them away," tendency to take these kinds of things seriously. In his culture people didn't
“That’s no problem,” Ravitz replied, sounding disappointed. “Will you verbalize such threats. If they were stupid enough to do so, they would likely
be there in a bit? I’ll come over and pick up the package and the bread.” have an accident that prevented the threat from germinating. Dan made that
"Speaking about the bread,” Dan continued, "before we return it, we point to Milt, who immediately softened his tone. Negotiations proceeded.
have a little matter of our fee to settle." "Milt, two of us spent five hours each last night,” Dan explained. “Those
"What the hell are you talking about?" Ravitz snapped with an edge on. hours, even at journeyman rates would run about $250 bucks. But you won't
"What fee is that?" find anybody to do what we did for you last night for $250 bucks. Just the
"For the legal services we rendered to you last night, including travel after-hour services alone would raise it to $500, even if it were in-the-office
expenses, the surcharge for after-hours work, the surcharge for emergency research. We also had to do a bit of dirty work, if you know what I mean.
work and the surcharge for the specialized services that we provided which And your good buddies were no help. Taking all of that into account and the
you can't find in an ordinary law office. And oh yes, an override for the fact fact that you are a fucking ungrateful asshole, you ought to be kissing the
that we had to deal with a couple of the most ungrateful pricks it has ever ground we walk on that you'll be able to take back to Michigan 90 cents on
been my misfortune to meet." the dollar. Think of it as the risks of the business you're in. Big profits, big
"Your friends will be glad to know it will be going to a good cause," I
risks. Think of it as a donation to some good causes. Think of it any way you
piped up.
want but while you're doing it think of the charges that we're racking up right
"Fuck you," Ravitz replied. "It’s just a rip off. That's what it is. Just like
now talking to you."
those other guys. You never said you were going to charge us." "You bastards," he snapped.
"And fuck you too." I was quick to respond. "What did you call us for "Of course we are," I laughed. "We're lawyers! You want the nine or
then? You wanted professional help, didn't you, asshole? That's why you would you prefer to have some more deductions taken out?"
called us. You wanted legal advice. You were in deep shit. Needed to talk to Milt decided to cut his losses.
a lawyer. Then you needed us to do your dirty work for you. Now you say That wasn't the end of it though. Mark Ravitz spread his version of the
you weren't planning on paying for it? You’re lucky we’re proposing to give word and the calls flooded in to Dan and Molly's switchboard. There were
anything back." enough opinions to support a statistically significant sampling. Emma spent

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our last moments in New York fending off as much hostility as she could,
using impeccable logic and good humor. She had a bundle of good reasons
how much better use the money could be put than to stone out the Ditmar was not immune to its influence. I sensed it as I walked up the
undergraduate population of U. of Michigan at a profit to greedy assholes. driveway and I heard the whine coming from the hippie-painted van. It was a
But her best efforts did not win much success. The closely-knit network of plaintive wail, low and forlorn. I looked in and saw Dino sprawled on the
relationships that had nurtured her before we emigrated to sunny Southern driver’s seat squirming, his eyes rolling. It turned out to be an omen.
California was primed against her once Mark’s version found its way into Clayton had taken advantage of the holiday to conspire with his mentor,
Sandra’s paws. We found ourselves being compared to Stalin who, after all, Malik Katanga, the militant Black nationalist/separatist from San Diego. He
had begun his career as a train robber. Emma didn’t stand a chance against had replaced the Mao-Ho-Huey propaganda that predominated in the house
the network that she had enjoyed only a few months before and she lost many when we left with literature prominently featured his leader’s likeness in
friends because of this. I just shrugged it all off. It was garbage in, garbage camouflage utilities with officer’s rank, like a latter-day Marcus Garvey.
out. Katanga was an ex-Army sergeant and this cachet attracted a number of vets
We lifted off that evening on the red-eye with more cash in our pockets to his camp. Those of an ilk reluctant to put down the gun and looking for an
than we ever hoped to extract from that crowd. Looking down at the dramatic excuse to keep up the trappings of militarism without the accompanying
Manhattan skyline as the plane strained to cruising altitude, we sensed a burdens of discipline. As near as I could tell from reading the stuff, his
newfound alienation from those towers and lights. Estranged from the organization, the Black Liberation Front, advocated a mythical Africanism
microscopic evidence of business that went on as usual. And we both felt in that seemed to be a melange of cultural voodoo and wishful thinking.
our gut that it was no longer home. Henceforth, we would only be visitors. They had also reinforced Clayton with a new organizer whom the
Neither strangers nor tourists. More nearly refugees. brothers called Doc. Doc was a wiry fellow whose dark skin made him seem
of indeterminate age. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, sported a goatee and a
hairline that was receding into male pattern baldness. He spoke measured,
PART TWO careful prose into which he sprinkled cultural references. James Baldwin.
FATES AND FURIES Leroi Jones. Patrice Lumumba. He claimed to be a Marine vet, Third
18. Division, and to have been stationed up near the DMZ, in Quang Tri
Within the half-year since our arrival in Oceanside, the gods of change Province, where he had seen a lot of action. No one questioned his
had pressed the accelerator to the floor. Urban sprawl advanced like a credentials. He came with the Katanga seal of approval, and that was enough
rampant malignancy through the rolling farmland to the east, all the way to for the brothers.
Escondido. One day a hill was there, the next it was leveled. Creeks that had Joanie too had been busy on the recruitment path. Like Clayton, she felt
nourished the native flora for millennia vanished over night, to be forgotten the need for allies. This prompted her to embark upon a recruiting search that
until a hundred year flood might coax them into the basements of took her up the coast to revolution central, Berkeley. Here she had exploited
unsuspecting home buyers. Great chunks of terra firma were consumed in ambiguous political connections that seemed to run the gamut from a
orgiastic gulps of developmental gluttony so that in a geologic nano-second, commune with a porcine presidential nominee as its mascot to doctrinaire
the serene desert environment was transmogrified into expanses of heat Marxist theoreticians incapable of laughter. She had returned with Louise.
shimmering building pads, strip malls and ersatz Spanish townhouses of Louise had recently gained infamy as a SF State student strike leader.
pastel stucco. And with this progress came the acrid particulate atmosphere She had been expelled for assaulting its then president and later Senator, S.I.
of a petroleum gorging culture to degrade every breeze. It was as mood Hayakawa. This assault was actually rather mild in comparison to the normal
altering as a narcotic. Subtle but irrevocable. criminal fare. More of a performance piece, it involved swiping the
president’s famous tam o’shanter from his head and burning it in his

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presence, before a sympathetic audience, as well as the eyewitness news. The
theatrical appeal of this conduct, in direct proportion to the elusiveness of its
political content, was a prescription for notoriety. Thus she joined a galaxy of It was for this new bunch that Emma produced our envelope of gains
left-wing celebrities who had managed to perform a photogenic act to the from the Sundial adventure. With gusto she splayed the twenties on the spool
critical acclaim of a bourgeois media ravenous for representational imagery table like a Vegas card dealer. Clayton strutted around the table and flashed a
of the outrage du jour. broad-toothed grin, something akin to Long John Silver, thanking us for our
Louise was a short, large-boned woman with an acne-pocked, olive contribution while suggesting that we would enjoy a long walk on a rather
complexion and unruly black hair that doubled the circumference of her head. short plank. “Nice work,” he said, moving toward the cash as if Emma had
She had a refreshingly unfeminine lack of concern for her personal made him a personal present.
appearance that conveniently minimized the chance that a GI might mistake “Hold on, Clayton,” I said. “I think it’s Gabrielle’s job to handle the
her for a sex object. She sported a husky voice that broadcast prodigious, cash.”
intolerant opinions, honey-coated with a patina of benign sophistication. That Clayton looked through me and smiled. “ Guess you ain’t heard,” he
is to say, she had the skills of an effective politician. said. “We been changin’ how things get run ‘round here. The brothers have
While she was at it, Joanie visited the Oakland headquarters of the Black decided they can’t organize in this racist society in the same project with
Panther Party. Here she reported her concern that Clayton and Doc would whites.”
leave the Panthers out in the organizational cold unless they acted fast. The Doc nodded approval, as though he had dictated the script and Clayton
Panthers and Katanga were then dancing a dangerous, more-revolutionary- was doing a good job of fronting for him.
than-thou tango. A fierce battle for the hearts and minds of the bloods on the “We worked it out with Mitch. We’re gonna call ourselves the Black
street. Each attacked the other as police informants, Uncle Toms, infiltrators Servicemen’s Union. The BSU. You see this here Black Unity wristband?”
or agents provocateurs, depending upon the audience. Accusations flew faster He held up his right arm to demonstrate. “Well, all the BSU brothers will be
than volleys at Wimbledon. So when the Oakland Panthers heard that wearing them from now on. We’re gonna be organizin’ a union. This here
Katanga was stacking the deck down at Pendleton, they were prodded into house’ll be our headquarters, which means that if you ain’t Black you can’t
competitive action and ordered one of the sisters to join Joanie and Louise at live here no more. So’s it will be a comfortable, secure place for the Black
the project. GIs to meet and organize. Mitch agreed. He an’ Gabrielle an’ Joanie an’
Sukari was her name and she was firmly encamped in Cookie’s old digs Louise are gonna move out, soon as you all can get a place.”
when we arrived. A chilly, Afro-topped beauty, she seemed to slither in I looked over at Mitch who nodded in defeat. Gabrielle said nothing,
fashionably chic dashikis, ears resplendent with dangling silver earrings and agreeing with what was obviously a decision she didn’t want to contest.
slender arms festooned with matching bracelets. She looked down her “That your decision too?” I asked Donnie Woods, who had been taken
revolutionary nose at us honkies with the contempt to which she was entitled off restriction pending a final decision on the court martial. I wondered how
by her birthright as a victim of racial oppression, barely condescending to he, as a Panther supporter, was planning to fit into this mix.
introduce herself. Woods looked over and nodded. “Ain’t no big deal,” he muttered in a
Mitch, the nominal leader, was clearly no longer in control. He was a low tone. “We’re still gonna be allies against the man.”
figurehead now, as impotent as the British monarch. The subtext was clear. “It isn’t working,” said Joanie. “Us white people, with our white skin
No one wanted to be the first to admit it, but the new team signified a privilege, trying to organize Black GIs. We don’t understand what needs to
surrender of hope. An end to the integrated effort. MOP had succumbed fully be done. Don’t even speak the language. Black GIs are in the vanguard and if
to divisive racial politics. However, it was cast in a positive light. We were shit comes down, they’re the ones who are going to catch it. We’ll skate and
displacing the inert, stagnant thinking and ossified inactivity that had that will look even worse. White ex-students getting the Blacks into trouble
enveloped our project. and then getting off. It has gotta be Black organizing Black. ”

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“Right on, sister,” said Doc with a hint of condescension.
“We gonna need the money to keep the house going.” Clayton continued.
“Y’all got the fund raisin’ lists and ya know we can’t be raisin’ any bread a lot of expenses coming up to defend Donnie, Jesus, Deputy Dawg and
from those ministers an’ old lefties an’ Hollywood dudes. They won’t give us Jumpin’ Jack.”
shit. So, if we gonna survive, we gotta have the bread. Ya dig?” “What about your lawyer stipend?” Clayton asked. “You all get to keep
that. Ain’t that enough for first and last? I mean, so you just get a bigger
I couldn’t help it. Started to laugh. “I don’t mean any disrespect,” I lied,
place, right?”
trying to get myself straight, “But if you knew who was on my list and the “Look,” said Gabrielle, “you all are fighting over nothing. “We still have
prospects they have for money, you’d be laughing too. We never raised two months of rent to pay on this place and if anybody’s going to live in it
enough dough from that list to make a difference.” we’ve got to pay that plus the utilities. When we get through with paying
Clayton glowered at me. “Don’t make no never mind,” he said. “The
what we owe there isn’t going to be a hell of a lot left and we still got to
decision is made. This here house is for Blacks only from now on.”
finish repairing the van.” She cast a sarcastic look in Mitch’s direction.
“Whoa, hold your horses,” I responded. “This house was leased by a
“What is it you say we still need? New motor mounts.”
servicemen’s support group in LA. And your decision to split has got nothing Mitch nodded.
to do with who occupies it. Besides, Emma and I didn’t bust our butts to get “And since the brothers want us to move out soon,” she went on, “ they
this money just to give it to some organization we’re not a part of. It was for have to deal with the fact that we can’t get a new place without a first and
a single project, MOP. Not for some BSU thing we don’t know anything last, plus deposit, which we don’t have without some of this money. So let’s
about. Now we’re on the verge of losing the funds from the East Coast. We face reality here.”
need money just as much as you do to keep our project open. I don’t see why “She’s got a point,” Woods agreed. “We should wait until they get a new
you should get everything.” place, then we can talk about dividing shit up.”
Joanie shook her head. “They have most of the GIs. They have a chance It was clear that things were going down hill. There were more divisions
to bring in more. Lots more. The money ought to go where it will do the most here than we could even begin to imagine. Sukari glared at Doc. Doc leered
good.” at her while taking hearty swigs from a bottle of Ripple, which he only
“Everyone knows that the Blacks are the vanguard of the revolution,”
offered to share with Clayton. Joanie brushed a shoulder with Louise like
Louise injected. “And Black GIs are the vanguard of the vanguard, the
they were Siamese twins. Louise smiled at Emma and made a funny
warriors who will make it happen.”
twitching face whenever she looked at me. Mitch studied the floor and
Clayton and Doc smiled at each other and did a Black power thing where
seemed to be depressed. Woods told everyone he was going on duty in an
they each made fists and hit fist on fist, top and bottom, then butted palms
hour and had to get back to Base.
and ended with a power salute. Frankie was leaning uncomfortably “By the way,” I asked no one in particular. “What’s up with Dino? He
against the door jamb, not certain whether to leave now or to just wait it out. doesn’t look too good.”
“There’s still plenty of white GIs, and Brown and Yellow and Red ones too Clayton and Doc gave each other a conspiratorial grin. “Dog wasn’t
who need help,” he finally ventured. “ Every color’s dying over there because acting right since Cookie left.” Clayton smirked. “ Been hangin’ in every
of this War, not just the Blacks and I don’t see why you think everyone else vehicle he can get into. Hopin’ to escape, I guess. We gave him this tab of
should get cut out of the equation just because you wanna go off and organize acid. Figured it would mellow him out some. Didn’t work. Looks like he had
separately.” a bum trip.”
It was the first time I had ever heard him speak up and his support Gabrielle collected the $500 from us and put it in the metal cash box. For
emboldened me. “We’re talking here about having to get a second house and the first time I could recall, she locked it and took it into her room, closing
who knows what,” I injected. “We’re going to need money too. Plus we have the door behind her.

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19.
not to me, so it isn’t privileged and can be used as evidence against him if he
Frankie and I retreated to the little apartment above the garage, the only gets caught and they learn about it. Plus, you can be made to testify against
place Emma and I had to ourselves. “Ya know, Frankie,” I said as we him about the letter, even though you don’t want to do that. If you don’t
walked, “that’s the first time I ever heard you speak in a meeting. What got cooperate, you can be court martialed too. Keeping that letter is dynamite.
into you?” Now, I’m not telling you what to do or anything, you understand. What you
Frankie looked down at the sidewalk and quickened his pace. “You
do with that letter is your own business. I just don’t want to make it mine.”
heard ‘bout Jack?” he asked.
Frankie raised his eyebrows and smiled. “What letter are you talking
“What about Jack?” I bit. “Anything happened while we were gone?”
about?” he asked, and I had to admit that I didn’t know what the hell I was
“Ain’t ya heard?” Frankie said, surprised that I hadn’t. “Jack split.
talking about.
Busted out of the hospital just after you left. They got him down from his bad
“Say, Frankie,” I asked, now that he had become a co-conspirator, “What
trip. Dosed him up with thorazine or something. Then they let him out on the
got you into the Marines anyway? How the hell did they snag you?”
grounds. You know Jack. He can jump anything and the fence was no “Easy,” he readily admitted. “There wasn’t no way else to get out of
problem for him. I got this letter a few days later. He was in Seattle and where I was at. You may not believe what I’m goin’ to tell you but, anyways,
heading across the border. Said he wasn’t ever coming back. Signed it it’s the God’s honest truth.” He took a deep breath and looked over at me. “I
Corporal John Conlon, USMC Ret.” ain’t told most of this to no one,” he admitted, “but seein’ as you are a
“You still got the letter?” I asked with some urgency.
lawyer and all, here goes. My old man was a dockhand and we were piss
“Yeah, I kept it for you to see.”
poor. So one Christmas, couple years back he decides he’s gonna borrow
“Too bad you didn’t throw it away.” I told him. “I don’t want to see it.”
some money and give us a real nice time. Anyway, ain’t no one gonna loan
“Why not?” Frankie looked at me like I was crazy. “Ain’t you interested
my old man any bread, ‘cept these guys who make loans out of their pizza
in what he had to say? He was telling me all kinds of shit he planned to do
parlor at five percent a week. So my old man ain’t too bright. He gets himself
once he made it to Canada. He was in touch with some group up there, going
drunk or somethin’ and decides that four hundred at five points ain’t no big
to tell his story about war crimes to some sort of commission like with a
deal.
German name or something.” “Anyways, at first he made his payments. Twenty bucks a week. But
“Nuremberg Tribunal?” I asked.
after a few months the work on the docks slows up and he starts to fall
“Yeah that’s it. Like they done after World War II, only they’re going to
behind. Well these guys don’t use no lawyers or nuthin’ to collect what they
do this thing about how the US is involved in the same kind of shit. Killing
are owed. Anyways, pretty soon they get the picture that my old man needs a
off people because of their race. They got a name for that.”
bit more encouragement. First thing they do is rough him up after work one
“Genocide”
day, down at the docks. Tell him maybe he’s gonna have an accident or
“Yeah, that’s what Jack was saying. How he was going to testify like in
somethin’ ‘cause down at them docks things can drop offa cranes and stuff
a new Nuremberg trial about genocide in the Nam. I thought you’d be
easy, ya know. Anyways, they hurt him enough to keep him home from work
wanting to read his letter about it.”
a couple of days and that made matters worse. Then, they grabbed him on the
“Frankie,” I said patiently. “The supposed letter you got from Jack could
street, beat the shit outta him again. Then they begin to call my old lady,
be evidence against him. If it came from him, and I don’t know that for a fact
threatening to kill me and my brother if she don’t start turnin’ tricks to pay
and if he were in his right mind when he sent it and if you got what he meant
off the debt.
correct, his letter is an admission of desertion and means the difference “So my old man fucks up even bigger time and goes to the cops, breaks
between a charge of unauthorized absence and six months plus a bad conduct the code.
discharge, tops, or two years and a dishonorable. The letter went to you and

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So in retaliation, they kidnap my brother, Paulo. Finally, my old man
comes to the conclusion he really fucked up bad and maybe he even got my
brother killed in the bargain. So he gets himself drunk goes into the bathroom Emma, I could see, was pleased. Her home had just turned into a new all
and shoots himself. I was just turned seventeen. (except for me) women’s collective. After her ostracism from the New York
“So, anyway, the sharks let Paulo go to the funeral as a kind of good will crowd, she viewed this as a welcome turn of events. But I couldn’t say the
gesture an’ he just splits. The next day one of them goombas comes over with same.
a message that they expect me to meet the family’s obligations. I didn’t stop “Well, I guess you all ought to be looking for a new pad beginning
to think about it. I figured my best protection was a Marine Corps education tomorrow,” I suggested without diplomacy. “This place is not going to work
so I signed enlistment papers before my old man got cold in his grave. If I get for all of us for long. And that spare bedroom is actually my office, which I
back from the Nam alive,” he said with a grim -faced smile and a wink, “I’ll use every day.”
meet my fuckin’ family obligations.” Joanie and Louise looked at Emma. Gabrielle looked at the floor. The
He finished his story just as we arrived at our apartment. I grabbed a level of tension, if measured by sound, could have been described by an
couple beers out of the noisy fridge that came with place and tossed a can to increase of 50 decibels. Silence. Hostility. Grim expressions. Glances,
Frankie. I turned on the TV and plunked myself into one of the big floor quickly averted. Clipped, small talk. Emma played the hostess. Offering our
pillows to begin the long wait for it to warm up. Our used TV had a fickle food. Locating extra blankets, towels. Figuring things out. Unsuccessfully
personality and was more responsive to violence than to careful fiddling with hinting at me for assistance. Signaling for hospitality. It was not what I had in
its hyper-sensitive dials. I was pounding on the chassis, fine-tuning the flop- mind. Frankie made an excuse about getting back to Base and I volunteered
over, when Emma entered in a funk. She marched into the bedroom with only to give him a lift.
a perfunctory acknowledgment that we were there. I could tell she was When I got back, there were two new people sitting cross-legged around
grieving the demise of an organization to which she had devoted total the hatch-cover, drinking my beer. The man got up to introduce himself. He
commitment. But I had no interest in discussing the matter, fearful that it was short, slim and barely post-pubescent. He wore his dirty yellow hair
would result in my taking the blame for it. So I was glad for the excuse of shoulder length like George Armstrong Custer and was cultivating peach fuzz
Frankie’s company and the ball game. on his chin. Mr. Zig-Zag, of the cigarette paper logo, decorated both the front
Despite my expert, hands-on attention, the picture continued to flop. I
and back of his tee shirt. He wore the most radical pair of bell-bottom jeans
was up out of my seat performing various karate maneuvers on the cabinet
that Levi Strauss dared to market and stuck a cigarette stained hand out
when we were invaded. Joanie, Louise and Gabrielle dropped in toting what
towards me for a shake.
looked like camping equipment. It might have been a scene out of Dr. “Name’s Lucky,” he said in a Southern California patois. “And this
Zhivago but I had the feeling that it would be ending up more like “The Man here’s Melinda.” He threw a glance in the direction of his still-seated
Who Came To Dinner.” They didn’t wait for an invitation to dump the packs companion. She was light brown Chicana with bushy black hair topped off by
and baggage. Our revolutionary comrades operated on assumptions and a broad-brimmed, black Stetson. She was wearing a tee shirt with an R.
chutzpa. Glum and determined, they announced that they had been urged to Crumb caricature of Janis Joplin’s huge, cartoon breasts strategically placed
leave the Ditmar bungalow as soon as possible and complied. Without over her own. Her ensemble was completed with a black mini-skirt, fishnet
question, we would be putting them up. Emma invited Louise and Joanie into stockings and lace-up high-top boots. She reminded me of a reproduction of a
my office. “Our spare bedroom,” she put it. Gabrielle would reside on the Haight-Ashbury panhandler. Melinda looked up from the floor and smiled the
couch. So much for the Padres and Dodgers. spaced-out smile of the very stoned, mouth agape, in the grip of vertigo. I
“Where are we supposed to put Mitch?” I asked.
watched with fascination as her eyes rolled around in a desperate attempt to
“Mitch’s going to hang out with his friends at MOP down in San Diego
focus.
until we get a new place together,” Gabrielle explained.

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“We was over at the other house, trying to find you,” Lucky explained.
“Black dude over there told us to come over here. I heard about you guys
while I was over in Germany. My Dad sent me a copy of the paper and they “So one weekend, a bunch of us go down to Stuttgart on a pass before
had a story about what you were doing. Made it seem like you was a bunch of these big maneuvers the brass got planned, and score some hash. Fuckin’ shit
Commies, but I just said ‘far out!’ I mean, like fuck man, you guys are doing turned out to be the strongest boss stuff we’d run into the whole time we were
what needs to be done. Right? Shit, man the War sucks and the Army sucks there. Got it from some Afghani dude, name of Ali, like Ali Baba or
and I’m just fucking glad I’m out. I got some bread I saved up and me and somethin’ but we just called him Al. A block of the shit the size of a Chunky
Melinda want to help out any way we can. Ain’t that right, babe?” chocolate cost six bucks American. Unbelievable. We get back just in time to
Melinda acknowledged that it was right. “I’m on the student paper at
crank up and roll. So about a dozen tank crews hear about our score and we
Escondido Community College,” she slurred. “And I know how to do
all end up behind a supply truck tokin’ away. Only we ain’t got no idea just
publicity. Make leaflets and stuff. Like if you need something in our paper, I
how powerful the shit is. So we’re rollin’ on down into this little town,
can get that in too. Maybe even help set up some speaking gig or something.”
fuckin’ loaded out of our minds and this one guy drives his tank into a ditch.
Lucky meanwhile, was flipping through the crate of record albums we
Then another asshole hits the side of a stone wall and croaks it into a field.
had transported from New York. Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dylan, The
I’m laughing my ass off. Can’t fuckin’stop. But them streets in these little
Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe, The Dead.
towns are narrow, ya know. Too narrow really for a fuckin’ tank. I gotta
“Far fuckin’ out man,” he exclaimed, pulling a disk from the Beatles’ Rubber
make this hard right but I misjudge and ram the fuckin’ cannon right through
Soul Album. “Mind if I put on some sounds?”
the wall of this fuckin’ bakery. The fuckin’ baker comes out yelling shit in
He didn’t wait for an authorization and in a moment the strains of
German. And all the while I’m backin’ out of his shop and bricks are falling
Norwegian Wood, loudly played, drowned out Melinda’s volunteerism.
into his fuckin’ bread and cakes and stuff. And the whole fuckin’ battalion’s
“Ever heard this in German?” Lucky asked? “Fuckin’ weird.” With that
laughing their asses off, except the officers of course. They’re runnin’ around
criticism he segued into his story. “Guess you might be wonderin’ how come
tryin’ to chill out the locals, promising to pay damages.
a guy my age ain’t still in the Army?” “Well man the whole fiasco gets all the way up to division ‘cause there’s
I admitted that he did look a bit young to be a vet and he took my these peace activists in this town. Been organizing to stop using Germany as
comment to be a invitation to explain. a training ground for NATO and all and now the whole town’s behind them.
“I’m eighteen.” he announced. “Just turned it two months ago. I joined Pissed as hell. So the general calls for a full-scale investigation and that’s the
up when I was sixteen and nine months. Without my parents knowin’ nothin’ first time anybody in the Army ever bothered to take a good look at the birth
about it.” He laughed. “Fuckin’ recruiters don’t give a shit. They just sign date on my driver’s license and compare it to my enlistment date. Next thing
you up and leave it for basic to weed ya out. But I skated right through. Then I know, I’m being processed out with a general discharge. My permanent
they sent me to tank school. Never even looked at my license. Then they sent record’s got this big red stamp across the jacket stating that I’m not suitable
me over to West Germany to the Fourth Armored Division. What a fuckin’ for reenlistment. I’m not even fuckin’ old enough to register for the god damn
rip. I’m seventeen years old and they got me driving a Sherman tank. God- draft man, and I’m out with a discharge, veteran’s benefits and they say
damn blast. An’ the whole god-damn unit’s full of young guys just like me. they’ll never want me back even if the god damn country gets invaded. Can
Like the whole fuckin’ Army is made up of high school drop-outs and shit you believe it?”
and the brass is all lookin’ the other way. “Well, Lucky, ” I said. “ I guess you got the right nickname.” It was the
“Well, over in Deutschland there ain’t shit going’ on ‘cept’n maneuvers. first time that day that everyone could agree to laugh.
We’re always on maneuvers. Rippin’ up the fields. Chewin’ up the fuckin’
autobahn. Pissin’ off the locals. Gettin’ drunk and high and screwing their 20.
daughters.

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“What about that Hollywood producer and his wife?” Gabrielle asked as
I walked into the kitchen one morning not long after her move in. “What ever
happened with them? Did you ever see them about a donation?” when the “big one” hit. And after much map reading and female
She knew the answer. It was just her way of kicking my butt. “Naw,” I recriminations about not asking for directions, we drove through an open gate
shook my head. “Never had the time, with the Black Unity bust and then that that breached a high fieldstone wall. The invitation instructed us to park in
bust in Long Beach and with Jack’s freak out and all. Then we went to New the driveway in front of an attached three car garage that made the home
York and brought back that bread,” I reminded her. “So I never got the time. appear like a squashed down version of a Loire Valley chateau.
How about you? You score any hits?” I smiled her way but she wasn’t Following a flagstone path, lit by those ubiquitous Malibu lights that
looking. She didn’t want to hear my excuses or the accusation that she wasn’t infest California south of the Tehachapis, we came upon the home of Mort
qualified to throw the first stone. and Sherry Feldstein. The doorbell rang chimes of an interminable duration.
Joanie was listening in, though. “Might be interesting if you met them,”
Sherry answered it before the symphony was complete. She was a petite
she interposed. “I heard they were old lefties. Maybe they’d be interested in
woman, somewhere in her fifties, dark and athletic. She wore her black hair
putting some money toward the legal defense fund. That’s an old lefty kind of
long and straight. Her skin was welltanned and seemed darker in the subdued
trip. And probably you’re the best one to give it a shot, ‘cause you can tell
lighting of the hallway. Her face was etched with fine lines of age and
them about the defense and stuff.”
abundant sunshine. She invited us to enter with a warm, friendly smile and a
“Actually,” I said, as I looked in vain for a bit of milk to pour over the
genuine welcoming manner. She advised us that Mort was in the midst of a
dregs of cereal that this band of freeloaders had left for me, “It might be a
shower and change, apologizing for him that he had gotten home from work
good idea. I’d like to see their place. Heard about it. Up in the Hollywood
late. Then she invited us to partake of the view from the deck.
Hills, isn’t it? Maybe I can wangle a dinner out of it.” We were escorted there by way of the kitchen, a white tiled affair with
It was decided that Emma would join me. That it would be best to
stainless sinks, fridge and a commercial range. It featured a massive wall of
present an appearance of respectability. We would be conventional couple,
windows that looked down the canyon to where it opened out onto the
on a mission to secure ordinary justice, rather than a couple of flakes from a
blinking brightness of a hundred great white ways. A dark-skinned female in
new left commune.
a pink uniform stood at the sink enjoying at the view as she labored over the
Late afternoon, a few days later, found us motoring up Mulholland
pots and pans. She looked up at us, smiled briefly and went back about her
Drive. We jockeyed the battered Plymouth among the Cadillacs and Jaguars,
business.
Rollses and Lincolns all the while being eyed with suspicion by adversarial Sherry led us through a sliding glass door onto a deck the size of a city
drivers who looked us over for reassuring signs of whiteness and lot. It was railed in with steel tubes and cables. Small trees sprouted from
respectability. As we climbed to the stars, we’d slow to catch a fleeting redwood planter boxes around the perimeter. Lounge chairs were arranged in
glimpse through security gates of glitzy mansions that belonged to the enemy. suites at both ends, with tables and umbrellas. To one side there was a
People whose wealth and fame we were dead set upon bringing to an end. barbeque and a wet bar under a canvas awning that extended out from the
house. At the other end was a modest swimming pool recessed into the deck.
In this way, we dawdled in fantasy-land until the sun dropped into the
It was a back yard but suspended precariously high above the steep, receding
cobalt Pacific. Shadows now darkened our way while an army of hunched
slope.
over Hispanic gardeners and uniformed, dark-skinned maids emerged from I walked to the railing and looked out, succumbing to a case of vertigo as
the estates to wait for LA’s sporadic public transportation to deliver them I noticed how radically the land fell away into the murky depths of the
back to East LA for the night. It was a signal for us to intensify our search for canyon below. Only the tops of the very tallest trees obstructed the view. A
a little road that dropped down into a side canyon facing south. A byway to warm breeze rose up the canyon from the flatlands and tousled with my hair,
less ostentatious, ranch style homes, built on steep lots where no dwelling bringing with it a flotsam of distant freeway traffic noise.
really belonged. Here we came upon places where you hoped you weren’t

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“Would you like a glass of wine?” Sherry inquired.
Emma nodded agreeably.
“Mercedes,” Sherry called out, “would you please bring us a bottle of Anyway, my father was politically active, and one thing he didn’t want to do
the chilled chardonnay and some glasses. We can have it by the pool,” she was testify at HUAC against anyone. So, when the union started doing the
suggested. “It’s a warm night. Unusual for this time of year. We ought to take loyalty oath witch- hunt thing, he refused. They threw him out. He thought
advantage of it.” that if he hung around the movie industry he would get a subpoena, so he
“Yes, let’s do that,” said a freshly washed gentleman, as he emerged
split.”
from behind yet another glass door. “Hello, I’m Mort. I assume you’re Eric
“I see,” said Mort. “So they never subpoenaed him.”
and Emma Wolfe. Very pleased to meet you.” “Mercedes is ready to serve.” Sherry interrupted.
He shook my hand, rather weakly I thought and offered a handshake to
They invited us into a large dining area with views to the South and East
Emma as well.
where they treated us to a whole baked salmon, with rice and string beans,
“Sounds like you folks are from back East,” he remarked.
salad, dessert and coffee. Mort proposed after dinner brandy and a cigar for
“Whereabouts?”
me, which I declined. We sat down in the living room to continue our chat. I
“I’m from Maine,” I told him, “and Emma’s from New York.”
looked around to search for topics. There were book shelves with history and
“I was born in Los Angeles, actually.” Emma corrected. “But my family
science. Leo Szilard, Noam Chomsky, Rev. William Sloan Coffin. Works
moved back to Brooklyn when I was a baby.”
about Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer and the bomb. Norman Mailer. Beside
“That’s unusual,” Sherry said. “Most people you hear about moved
an easy chair, on a coffee table, were magazines. The Nation, New Republic,
West, not East. That’s what happened with both of us. We’re native New
I.F. Stone’s Weekly.
Yorkers but moved out here after the War.” Mort noticed my inspection and made his excuses. “Sherry reads that
“Well, actually my parents did that too,” Emma said. “But they moved
stuff mostly,” he said. “I’m not very political these days.”
back to New York because my father lost his job out here in the 50's.”
“But you used to be?” I probed.
Mort leaned forward, interested. “Was your father in the motion picture
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Used to be. But,” he said nodding in Emma’s
industry?”
direction, “ if you get too political in this town, they’ll kill you. You won’t
“Sort of.” Emma explained. “My father got an electrical engineering
work. They won’t say anything. Won’t tell you. But the work just won’t be
degree from CCNY. In World War II, they made him a technician with the
there.”
Navy. He worked on aircraft lighting stuff out here. So when the War was “That’s what Emma’s father said, too,” I agreed. “So how’d you manage
over, he just stayed on the coast and got a job doing lighting with the movie during the inquisition?”
studios. Met my mother. I was born. But then during the Hollywood Ten “McCarthy?” he took my drift. “I just kept my head down and my mouth
period, you know, McCarthy, they threw him out of the union ‘cause he shut.”
wouldn’t take a loyalty oath. So he went back home and worked for my “You didn’t get a subpoena?” I asked.
grandfather, who was in the wholesale lighting business in New York. Sold “Well,” he hedged. “I got one but they didn’t call me.”
lamps and fixtures and things like that.” “How’d that happen?” I asked, perhaps probing a bit too far.
“Why wouldn’t he take the loyalty oath?” Mort asked.
“He got interviewed by someone in Justice instead, and they decided not
“Well, that’s sort of a long story,” Emma said. “My grandfather was a
to call him,” Sherry said, rescuing him. “ I hear that you are working on an
Communist. They put him up as a candidate for Brooklyn Borough President
interesting case.” She changed the subject, adroitly leading me through my
one year in the 30's. He even got about 4000 votes, they claim. So people
fund raising spiel on behalf of Donnie Woods and the Black Unity campaign.
knew our family background. My father even enlisted to go to Spain when he
I had to be careful, I knew. Sherry had tipped me off, diplomatically, that her
was at City College, but they stopped taking volunteers before he could get
husband had talked himself out of public testimony by giving information. He
there. Probably saved his life ‘cause most of his friends who went over died.

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had been an informer. A fearful, fellow-traveler who would squeal to keep
his pathetic job directing B movies.
Emma and Sherry listened to my pitch for justice as long as they could. bras and panties on the chairs and their split ends in my files and them zipped
Then Emma, suppressing a yawn, asked if she could see the rest of the house. together until ten in the morning.”
Sherry obliged, showing Emma around while I continued to describe the She turned to look at me. “Does it bother you that they sleep together?”
legal intricacies of the Black Unity identity bracelet to Mort. she asked bluntly. “Is that what this is really all about? You’re threatened?”
“Well, another bust,” I remarked to Emma, as we drove away that “Threatened!” I repeated in my most haughty denial voice. “Emma, I
evening. “At least we got a decent meal out of it.” have clients to defend and I can’t even get into that room.” After a silence a
“Emma laughed. “You men.” She said. “One with no guts. The other bit too long for comfort while stealing a glance at her direction, I said, “OK,
with no brains. While you were giving that useless schlub a lecture, I was I’ll admit it’s embarrassing, but I’d be looking the other way if they were the
schmoozing with the one person in that house who was likely to give us opposite sex too and I had to get some important papers that they had covered
anything. And here it is.” She produced it triumphantly. “A check for a with their underwear.”
hundred bucks! Drawn on her private account. She told me to keep it quiet “Watch out!” she warned. “You just drove through a stop sign. Look,
until we left. She didn’t want Mort to find out. Said he’s afraid they could Eric, I know you don’t get along with them and they feel the same way about
trace a check and it might come back to haunt them. She thought it was you, but you’re not the only one around here who has a job to do. We’re still
funny.” putting out the FFZ and meeting with people around the county, organizing
“Boy, I’m glad I brought you along,” I said with admiration. “I need a
Anti-War stuff. And when it comes time for the Black Unity trial, it will be
professional like you.”
Joanie, Louise, Gabrielle and me who will be getting the people out in
support. Making your case look important in the process.”
21. “Don’t you think it’s funny,” I said, pushing the subject a bit off center,
“We have to talk.” I whispered to Emma during a rare moment when we “that two lesbians have decided to come down to Pendleton to organize
were alone in our apartment. It had been over a month since the exodus from Marines? Seems a bit weird to me.”
Ditmar and it seemed like there was going to be no end to the cramped living “How so?” she said, tight-lipped and defensive. She wasn’t in agreement
arrangement in sight. that it was funny.
“What about?” she asked with a hint of annoyance that I was being so “Well, I mean, uh, like what would lesbians want to be organizing
conspiratorial as to whisper. Marines for? The Marines are totally macho and they would blow a gasket at
“Not here,” I said, raising my eyebrows and looking around to confirm the thought that some of the women in our project were lesbians.”
that I was angling for a conspiracy. “This afternoon, I’ll join you shopping.” “You mean that you are blowing a gasket at the thought,” she responded,
Later that afternoon, on the ride to Safeway, I let loose. “It just isn’t accusingly. “For Christ’s sake, Eric, probably half the Women Marines are
working,” I began. lesbians. Don’t you think the Marines know about lesbians? Besides, why
Emma played dumb. “What isn’t working?” should it make a difference who is organizing Marines as long as they want
“Come on Emma,” I replied with exasperation. “You know what I’m
to do what it takes to end the War? Isn’t that the point? They’re not down
talking about. Our perpetual guests. We can’t go on this way.”
here to marry the guys.”
“We’re looking as hard as we can,” she stated, her gaze wandering off “Well, regardless,” I said, not wanting to confront my own prejudices, “I
toward the newest panorama of tract homes. “No one is willing to rent to think it’s time we all move, so that I can do my job and you all can do your
three women without steady jobs.” organizing. I need some space and, frankly, I’m sick of living with four
“Well, maybe that’s true,” I had to concede, “but it really doesn’t deal women.” I squinted over at her. “One’s plenty.”
with the problem that they are creating for me. I’ve lost my office. I have
nowhere to work and I can’t even get into that room half the time, with their

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People describe it as “pillow talk.” That makes it sound romantic. But
there can be another side of it. All you have to do is say the wrong thing.
Then slide into bed and feel tension that can make a body go rigid no matter discharged as soon as he was convicted of the armed robbery was wrong,
how soft the skin in which it’s wrapped. Muscles show up in places where Woods would likely be standing trial alone.
they ought not to be. And if you continue to open your mouth, you’re going Base legal was an indistinct structure huddled in formation among a
to regret it. But I figured that it would be a hell of a lot better now than cluster of similar cinder-block, two story buildings. Captain Jeffers was
having her deliberately begin a confrontation during the last of the ninth with located on the second floor, in an office hardly larger than an E-4 clerk’s
the score tied. So I asked her what her problem was. Did she want to talk cubicle. I met Jesus in the hall. He was seated uncomfortably on a molded
about it? A stupid question to ask a woman. She gave me an ear full. plastic chair, his head down, his cap wrung between his knees with both
“You know why I’m pissed, Eric,” she said. “That conversation in the
hands.
car this afternoon really showed me a side of you I don’t like. We’re all in “How’s it going, Jesus?” I asked.
this together, you know. And that means we’ve got to share. Keeping a place He looked up at me with apologetic, blood-shot eyes. “OK,” he
for ourselves, when others don’t even have a place to sleep is bourgeois, muttered.
counter-revolutionary and just plain piggy. Just because you’re insecure “Captain Jeffers in?”
about Joanie and Louise doesn’t mean you have a right to make your hang-up “Yeah, he said to knock when you got here.”
our problem.” We did. A moment later, Jeffers invited us into his generic green military
What she was saying was true but I wasn’t about to let on that I thought office. He tendered cups of institutional brew in plastic USMC mugs. I
so. I still wanted my space...our space. And I wanted the women, especially accepted and Jesus declined the drink. Nervously, he took the seat nearest the
Joanie and Louise, out of my face whatever the reason, conscious or window and began staring at the hubbub of military business going on
subconscious. So what if I was being selfish? Wasn’t it bad enough I had to outside, as if he might never see it again.
eat commodity foods because my stipend was the only money to actually “I hear you’re going to take the Captain’s Mast,” I said.
come into the project on a regular basis? No one else was contributing any “It’s a sweet offer,” injected Jeffers. “The deal is he keeps his pay grade,
bread. And now I couldn’t even keep enough toilet paper on hand to wipe my takes a 15 day restriction, which he’s already served, and loss of a month’s
ass. If that was bourgeois, so be it. I didn’t intend to live like the Viet Cong regular pay. He’s got orders to Nam anyway. When he gets there he’ll draw
just to satisfy some nut case’s warped sense of guilt. combat pay that will more than make up for the loss. It won’t go on his
I don’t recall exactly how I articulated these complaints. I had worked
permanent record. That’s it.”
myself into an angry fit and however I put it was apparently inept. Emma said “I ain’t even Black,” Jesus announced. “Black Unity wrist bands don’t
I sounded like Sandra. She rolled over and it seemed to me like her back mean nothing to me.”
became the Great Wall, which caused me to wonder whether Mao had to put “Is that what they told you, man? That because you’re Puerto Rican it’s
up with this shit. A blasphemous thought and also a bit pretentious. I wasn’t none of your business?”
anything close to the Great Helmsman. But rumor had it that even during the “Yeah man,” he responded. “They don’t think of me as Black. Don’t
darkest days of the Long March, he managed to requisition his own cave and even want me around no more. So why should I hang in there for them?”
there was even some malicious gossip that he could get laid whenever he “Well, if you feel that way, I guess you’re right,” I said. “You shouldn’t
wanted to. I fell asleep wondering why couldn’t I have that kind of cave. be forced into doing anything you don’t want to do. I think it’s a good deal
Sukari brought me more problems the next morning. She relayed Donnie
for you. Go for it.”
Woods’ report that Jesus had decided to take the Captain’s Mast and remove Jeffers got up and walked around his desk. He put a hand on
the Black Unity wristband. He asked that I meet with them in Jeffers’ office Jesus’shoulder. “OK, Jesus, see you Wednesday.”
that afternoon. Unless Jeffers’ prediction about Deputy Dawg being

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Jesus looked at me as if he were sorry. I put out my hand. “Good luck,
man. Hope you get through Nam in one piece.”
His grip was firm. “Glad you understand, man.” He snapped off a salute Black and Gunny Bonham’s been all over his ass for days, telling him he’s a
to Jeffers and disappeared into the black hole of the Green Machine. sap and a sucker. Keeps reminding him the brothers at the house don’t think
After Jesus left the room Jeffers said, “Before we interview Woods, I he’s Black. Won’t let him get full membership in the union, ‘cause he’s
think you should know that Private Thomas pled guilty to misdemeanor petty Puerto Rican.”
theft in Santa Ana yesterday. They broke the robbery charge down on a deal. “Yeah, I heard something about the split,” Jeffers admitted. “They say
I don’t know how the hell they pulled it off. Gave him a suspended sentence that there are two groups now, one Black and the other for everyone else.”
and probation. Then they remanded him to his company commander.” “Where’d you hear that?” I asked.
Corporal Donnie Woods entered the office and saluted, stiff and as
“NIS.”
proper as a lifer standing before his battalion commander. He was dressed in NIS, the Naval Intelligence Service was a military equivalent of the FBI.
the uniform of the day, starched khaki top with the perfect “V” of white tee Its agents often worked in civilian clothes. Attended our meetings. Pretended
shirt showing, and pressed blue trousers with the red stripes on the outside to be disgruntled GIs. You could usually tell them from the real thing because
seam. He was wearing his ribbons, the rifleman’s and marksman’s badges. they spouted rhetoric like it came from one of the underground papers.
He had seven ribbons in all, including the yellow Vietnam campaign ribbon Genuinely disaffected troops sounded like troops and for the most part, acted
with the three red stripes, his purple heart and several unit citations. But he like troops. They didn’t talk in movement jargon and didn’t ask questions
also continued to wear his Black Unity identity bracelet. The man was about our tactics and strategy. What they wanted was information that would
sticking to his guns. A first-class Marine. help them get out, as soon as possible. When one of those NIS guys came in
Jeffers offered Woods a chair and a mug of coffee. Told him he could
though, talking their “right ons” and their “off the pigs” stuff, wanting to
smoke if he wanted. Woods accepted the chair and lit up.
know how they could blow up the Base, you could be pretty sure who you
“Corporal, we’ve got an offer from Captain Eaton, the trial counsel. He’s
were dealing with.
willing to drop the case to a summary if you agree to plead to being out of “If you turn down the deal, Eaton mentioned a Special Court Martial and
uniform. Take off the Black Unity bracelet. You’ll get 30 days restriction and that the Convening Officer would be wanting 6 months and a BCD. They’ll
loss of two-thirds pay. No brig time, you keep your stripes. He thinks they’ll hit you with everything they’ve got. Oh, and you probably will be alone.
give you an early out during the 30 days. You’d be home free with an Private Thomas, whom you all call Deputy Dawg, in all likelihood, is going
honorable.” Jeffers looked across the desk hopefully. In all of his experience to be put on administrative leave pending a UD”
it was a good deal. “What you mean?” Woods seemed surprised now. “I thought he had that
Donnie took a long drag on the smoke and gave it some thought.
robbery beef up in Anaheim or someplace?”
“Captain, no disrespect meant, sir, but it seems to me that if I accept the deal, “Yeah, he did.” Jeffers continued, explaining now some of the facts that
it will be a signal to the brothers that they can’t wear the Unity bracelet. That he had failed to mention to me earlier. “He pled guilty to a misdemeanor in
I copped out. The whole point is that we have unity here and if I don’t stand exchange for a suspended sentence and three years probation. They remanded
up for our rights to express our identity, we won’t achieve that. It will be the him to his C.O. for charges down here. But if he agrees to take off the Black
same old, same old. That’s why they’re offering the deal. It’s not the time or Unity identity bracelet the general just wants him out. Figures that he’ll be
the pay. It’s the politics and I can’t do it.” nothing but trouble.”
“I think there’s something else you should know before you make a
Woods shrugged and asked if that was all. Jeffers suggested that he think
decision,” Jeffers added. “Your buddy Jesus accepted a Captain’s Mast. He’s
about the offer, that he had a few days to give Eaton the response. Woods
taken off the Black Unity bracelet.”
said that he would take the time to think about it.
Woods looked up and into the captain’s eyes. “I think I knew that before
you did,” he said, in an even tone, but with a hint of a smile. “ He isn’t really

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I walked with Woods back to my car and offered him a ride off Base
with me. It seemed important that we talk this all out and the best place to do
it was off Base. Woods agreed. too much to lose. Meanwhile, everything we say goes straight to them. He
The MPs followed us back the way I had come and retrieved my pass at gets his deal. You get fucked.”
the main gate. We drove to the beach, not talking about the case, believing Woods squinted to the west. “Nice of them to let him hang around our
that in all probability, my car was now bugged. The Oceanside pier was a house for a month, while they process our shit,” he said. Last week they had
much more secure location. him in the fuckin’brig. Now they can’t let him loose on us fast enough.”
The sun was commencing its plunge into the southwestern sky. A “Deputy Dawg’s a thief and a con,” I agreed. “You think they would
smattering of puffy gray-white cumulus clouds drifted before it, casting trust him?”
shadows over the green and blue winter sea. A sparse crew of wetsuited “If he’s got the brig hanging over his head, yeah. And I wouldn’t put it
surfers floated like seals just behind a formidable break, waiting, ever greedy past him to stir up some other shit or even make up some shit if there’s
for one that was just a bit bigger, better formed, more perfect than the last. nothing to stir, just so he’ll have something to give the man.”
The seventh wave. For them, there was always the one just over the horizon, “We can’t be planning your defense with him hanging around,” I stated.
the one they would miss and regret if they took off on the swell at hand. “The brothers won’t throw him out. He’s a brother, man. They believe in
“Always something better just over the horizon,” I observed, pointing in the Black Nationalist thing and probably more’n one of them’s a pig too.
their direction as we leaned against the railing and looked to the north. I How’s it going to look, we don’t let him participate in the defense of a Black
wondered out loud whether Donnie was doing the same thing with his case. Servicemen’s Union case when he’s supposedly one of us and a defendant.
Would it be better if he turned down the deal at hand? Was he just waiting for They got us by the balls on this. Right now, the only one over there we can
the seventh wave? Why should he fight for the wrist-band principle when no trust is Sukari.”
one else seemed willing to do so? “How do you know that?” I probed.
“The way I look at it,” he responded, “ this case, the stand I’m taking, is “She’s a Panther,” he replied naively, like the Black Panther Party was
a matter of principle. Besides,” he argued, “it was just like the perfect wave. I somehow immune to infiltration by informers.
might never catch another. If I stand up for this, no matter how it comes out, Donnie Woods was sophisticated and blind all at the same time. But it
I’ll always be able to say I stood for something. But if I cop a plea, I’ll be didn’t really matter. As long as we kept the defense principled, on the up and
nothing, man. I’ll be running like a slave. I’m going to fight like a Black man up, we could benefit from any support. The only thing we really had to avoid
should. That’s my mission here, ya dig?” was disclosing trial tactics to the NIS. That meant Deputy Dawg needed
I understood, a bit. Woods saw his future as an exemplary Black man. I
special handling.
had to admire him for it. “Pretty strange about Deputy Dawg, though,” I said. “We’ve got no choice.” I said. “There’ll have to be two defense cases.
“They had him cold. Now he beats the case and he’s out too if he just takes One for you and Deputy Dawg, and that information will be sure to go to
off the identity bracelet. Just has to hang around a month while they process NIS. The second one will be just between you and me. No one else will know
his discharge. Can’t blame him for taking it.” about that. For the time being, it’s best to let NIS think they’ve successfully
“There’s a catch, Bro,” Woods said while sucking on his Kool and
planted him.”
looking into the distance. “‘Til he takes off the Black Unity bracelet, he’s in “Hmmn,” Woods muttered, scratching his chin. “Probably keep me out
the case and gets to participate in our plans, right?” of the brig and off restriction too, if they think that they’ll be getting info.”
“You’re right.” I nodded, as the light came on. “Good thinking. I get the We separated at the pier. Woods headed to one of the clubs on the strip.
picture. Deputy Dawg shows up. Claims he’s going to hang tough on the Not a great place for white civilians to hang out. I drove back to my crowded
Black Unity bracelet. I’ve got to defend him too. He participates in our plans, apartment, feeling quite pleased with the strategy.
then, at the last minute, he decides to take the deal. Begs off ‘cause he’s got

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22.
“It’s up on 395,” Lucky told us. “I saw it on the way back from San
Bernardino. It ain’t some little thing either. It’s one of those full-size busted or worse with all the defense costs that go into it. I say we forget
billboards, like they got for Coca-Cola or somethin’ like that. Big mother. No about it. Fucking up a sign won’t stop the Minutemen.”
one driving south can miss it. ‘Support the Minutemen’ and them patriot-type “It’s not some adventurist action,” Gabrielle countered stubbornly. “That
guys like from the revolution, standing there in three cornered hats and group thinks it can operate with impunity around here. They go and shoot up
bandages around their heads with an American flag and the drum and flute our place. Get away with it. We fuck up their sign, we’re sending them a
thing and one of them long flintlock rifles.” message that if they fuck with us, there’ll be retaliation. And we know where
Lucky drove Gabrielle and me out to see it. The sign was prominently
at least one of them lives.”
situated on the crest of a little hill, in the middle of a field. A frontage road “The farmer?” Melinda asked.
passed by about a hundred yards to one side. It was surrounded by a chain- “That’s right,” said Lucky. “That fucker thinks he can put up a sign like
link fence that looked like it was electrified and had spot lighting so that that without fear. We gotta show them fascists that there are consequences.
travelers could see it at all hours. There was a farmhouse close by, dwarfed We hit that bastard’s sign, the next pig will think twice about retaliation.”
by a fluttering Stars and Stripes in a size I hadn’t seen anywhere outside of a “So fucking what,” sneered Louise. “There’s a hell of a lot more of them
car dealership. than there are of us and they know where to find us. We mess with their sign
“We gotta do something about that thing,” Gabrielle muttered angrily.
and they’ll come looking for us in no time.”
“Those are the fuckers that machine-gunned the house just before you came. “Maybe not, if they don’t know that it was us, exactly,” said Emma.
Wounded Mitch and Donnie. Fuck that patriot shit.” “So what’s the point of retaliating if they don’t know who to suspect?”
“Payback’s a motherfucker,” said Lucky. “Maybe we oughta get even, Joanie asked.
chain saw the sucker down.” “Listen,” Emma went on, responding to her question. “ Gabbie’s right
“Not a good idea,” I observed. “That thing’s got four posts the size of about us having to send a message. If we want to be safe down here, those
utility poles. We wouldn’t get through the first one before that farmer up right-wingers have to know that they can be hit too. Now they don’t have to
there,” I motioned with my thumb, “would be on us with a gun. They’re know precisely who did it to them. Just that ‘the left’,she made little quote
armed, remember and they’d love nothing more than to have our heads signs with her fingers, did it to them. That sign’s just as far from San Berdu-
stuffed above their mantel. We’d have to shoot our way out and the sign Riverside as it is from us. There’s a UC up there and other political activity
would still be up. We wouldn’t get five miles down the highway before we around. All they’ve gotta know is that it was revolutionaries that attacked
got stopped and we’d be lucky if it was by the pigs.” them. Why would they think it was us, unless we got caught? So it depends
“Hmmn.” Gabrielle thought. “But we could fuck it up quietly. Couldn’t
on precisely what we do to the sign, doesn’t it?”
we? I mean like we could paint it over. Mess it up. Nobody would hear “Like what have you got in mind?” I asked, knowing that when she
anything. We could do it at night. posed that kind of question she had something up her sleeve.
So no one would notice.” There was a glimmer of mischief in Emma’s eyes. “All we have to do,”
“Sign’s lit up,” I said doubtfully. “ Whoever’s up on that sign would be she said, “is paint over the “Minute” and put in “Weather.” We can do that in
seen any hour, night or day It’s a sign, after all. Supposed to be easy to see. no time. Just need a couple cans of spray paint. Use rubber gloves. Wipe the
We need a plan. This ought to be a collective decision, how we deal with it.” cans clean and leave’em there. Then chuck the gloves.”
“I don’t get it,” said Melinda.
“It’s not worth it,” Joanie argued when we made our report to the rest of “Ain’t you heard of the Weathermen,” Lucky snickered dismissively.
the group. “We’re here to organize GIs, not to get into adventurist actions “They’re this underground group that blows up police stations and stuff. Like
that don’t mean anything in the long run and just risk some of us getting they’re guerrillas.”

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“Mostly they blow up bathrooms,” Louise sniffed. She looked over at
Emma. “Em, “ she said warmly. “It’s a creative idea, but I’m still against it.
There’s too much risk of getting caught.” She looked my way. “Like Eric It was a cloudless evening with a three-quarters moon scheduled to rise a
mentioned, the sign’s lit up. If the Highway Patrol happens by, we’re done few hours later. It would give us enough light to work by, but not enough to
in.” be seen clearly from the road. As favorable conditions as we could hope for.
“The lights are no biggie,” Frankie interrupted. “I got electrician training There was a nervous excitement in the van as we drove to our objective.
in the suck, that’s part of my MOS. I can knock out that sign in 15 seconds. Like we were heading into some kind of combat. And indeed it was possible
All we need’s a bolt cutter in case we gotta cut through a lock on the fuse box that we might be. That farmer, and maybe there was more than one, was
and we’re in.” certainly armed. If roused by noise, there was the chance we’d be running
“Piece of cake there,” Lucky piped up. “My dad’s a tech for San Diego
into gunfire. This was, after all, a Minuteman compound. I thought about
Gas and Electric. He’s got bolt-cutters up the wazzoo in his truck. He’d never
what happened to the three civil rights organizers, Goodman, Schwerner and
miss one. I can have it this afternoon, when he comes home from work.
Cheney when they got kidnapped and murdered by the Klan down in
“And no way they’re going to think it’s us. Especially if they know
Mississippi and this place, those Minutemen guys, gave off the same kind of
anything about Louise and Joanie’s politics,” I half-joked.
creepy, bad vibes. I decided to bring my 9 mm along, just in case. The
“Well even they might figure it out if that van gets spotted. It sticks out
driver’s seat had some hellish loose springs in it and I tucked the piece up
like a sore thumb.” Joanie said, looking straight back at me.
under the seat, between the springs and the cushion. No chance of a fast
“Hey, no problemo,” said Lucky. “I got this friend with a spray gun. He
draw, but available just the same.
can do that van over in a couple hours. Needs it too, I might add.” To get at the sign, we had to take an exit a few miles past our objective
“Hmmn,” Emma mused, “if we get a paint job just before the action, we and turn back along a gravel frontage road that was used mostly by the
might fool all the law around here for weeks. They’re always on the lookout agricultural folk who worked the fields bordering the highway. I cut the lights
for the hippie van. This could have added benefits. Lets take a vote.” and made the turn onto a short gravel spur near the sign, stopping close
It was six to two with only Louise and Joanie in the minority. The plan
behind a clump of high weeds. Lucky had a backpack with cans of spray
was for three of us to do the job. Frankie would cut the power. Lucky
paint slung over his shoulder and a flashlight in his hand. Frankie held the
volunteered to climb the sign and do a quick paint job. “ We need a driver,”
bolt-cutter like it was an M-16. They bailed out as if the van was a chopper
Lucky pointed out, looking my way. When I didn’t volunteer for the job, they
and charged forward in a frontal assault.
all somehow decided that I should be the wheel man anyway and I got this Frankie, who was in the lead, promptly got hung up on some low barbed
vision of my bar card with wings on it, flying off to never-never land. But I wire left over from a former cattle fence. I watched with increasing concern
kept my mouth shut, because I didn’t want to seem like a chicken. It kind of as it took them a seeming eternity to cut free. Finally they were moving
reminded me of back when I was a teenager. forward again. They hopped the chainlink fence that surrounded the sign with
We all agreed that the sooner we did it, the better. Frankie went off that
ease, but apparently created enough of a racket to cause the farmer’s dog to
afternoon to arrange for the paint job and to score the bolt-cutters. Emma and
begin barking. This was not going to be the precision commando raid we had
I drove up 395 to the sign, to scout for a place to park and set up for the
hoped for. A few moments later the sign went black. There was only the dim
“action.”
beam of the flashlight sweeping willy-nilly over the sign, the ground and into
The next day, we took the van over to a garage in back of a house down
space.
near the beachthat was rented to Lucky’s friend. We left it there for the The dog continued to bark and was working itself into a kind of doggie
afternoon. When we picked it up after dark, it had become a deep Navy blue, hysterics. A light went on in the farmhouse, a couple hundred yards back up
the best color he could find that would cover over the rainbow of the hill. Even from the van I could easily see the door open and the backlit
psychedelia. Then the three of us set sail. silhouette of what I surmised to be the Minuteman farmer. He appeared to be

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carrying a rifle or shotgun. Shortly, a second fellow came out to join him,
pointing in the direction of the sign. The armed man moved cautiously from
the front porch down the stairs. He raised the gun and aimed in the direction None of us could resist returning to the scene of the crime. The next day
that his companion was pointing, the direction of Lucky’s flashlight. The we drove back to admire our handiwork. “Support the Weathermen” it said in
other one appeared to be unleashing the dog. almost professional script. Lucky, I could see, had potential as an artist. We
It was a breathless moment or two, as I wondered whether Frankie and were proud, but privately I doubted if one in a hundred, excluding us and the
Lucky were hip to the danger that was rapidly coming down on them. Then, Minutemen, had a clue to what it meant. The sign stayed that way for less
the flashlight went out. Seconds later they burst out of the bush, running hard. than a week and then got replaced by the Marlboro man.
I started up the engine, but left the lights off. They jumped into the van.
Lucky pulled off the yellow rubber gloves that he had been wearing, threw 23.
them in the ditch and slid the side door shut. “Let’s get the fuck out of here,” It had been more than seven months since I had even hung out just with
he yelled. men, and here we had pulled off a raid. Taken a risk. Been a team. It was
I backed the van out onto the frontage road and immediately ran it part exhilarating. A day later, I was still digging the macho. But a good mood is
way into a ditch. In a panic, I jammed it into first, spinning the wheels and ephemeral. As I climbed the stairs, three distraught women doused my
kicking up a clatter of gravel and dirt. Then a tire caught and we lurched euphoria and that was only the beginning of the maelstrom.
forward, out of control, almost dumping the front end into a ditch on the “Whatcha up to?” I asked, bounding over a pile of leaflets with
opposite side of the road. Finally, I got the van turned straight. newfound energy.
Moving fast now, I decided to risk the lights before I crashed into “We’re working on the Smith case,” Louise said, handing me a leaflet
something I could have seen with them on. I pulled a fast u-turn and gunned from the pile while avoiding eye contact.
it, leaving a patch of rubber down the road. Far in the distance I could hear “Fragging Frame-up” it screamed. Under a picture of a clean cut Black
the pow of what sounded like a shotgun going off. But we were too far away soldier, the leaflet announced that the Army was trying to frame an innocent
to make a difference. We made the highway with the engine bouncing wildly, Black Viet Vet for having allegedly thrown a fragmentation grenade into the
stressing the undersized motor mounts to the max. I slowed down before it hootch of his lieutenant, killing him. The Army had picked on Smith, the
fell apart and headed in the direction of Riverside for about ten miles before leaflet declared, because he was active in the struggle against military racism
stopping at an all night cafe. I found a spot well hidden behind a semi and and the lieutenant was a target of his criticism for singling out Black grunts
parked. for the worst of the shit details. The leaflet went on to explain that Smith was
We took a few moments to calm down and wipe off sweat from our faces innocent, but that fragging racist officers was justified in any case because
and hands. My shirt was drenched. Lucky pulled a crumpled joint out of his oppression of Blacks always justified retaliation.
jacket and lit up. Frankie chose one of his legal smokes. I bummed a little of “So what are you going to say about this?” I asked Louise.
both. They chattered nervously. “Well,” she replied, “I think we want to get the message across that the
“Ya see them motherfuckers. Tryin’ ta kill us. I fuckin’ thought that dog brass better watch their step ‘cause the brother’s are on the march. The day of
was goin’ to rip your ass off. Fuckin’ Doberman, he was. Bad ass mother.” racism in the U.S. military is rapidly coming to a close and if they don’t get
I was surprised at how calm I felt, now. I had to admit “ I was sweating hip to it soon, they’re gonna get their asses blown off.”
it for a while.” But then I felt a little guilty because I was only driving. I “Hmmn,” I mused. “You gonna pass out leaflets downtown supporting
wasn’t actually out there. I still felt a little chicken. fragging as revolutionary justice or are you going to be demanding a fair trial
“That was some bitchin’ drivin’,” Frankie said, paying me a needed for Smith?”
compliment. “What do ya say we celebrate with a little dessert?” Giddy, we “Both,” she said, frowning up at me, like I was a dumb shit. “The two
went into the cafe, ordered coffee and some pie and pretended to be truckers. aren’t mutually contradictory, you know.”
We killed half an hour chuckling at stupid jokes before starting back.

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I thought about Captain Daly. How he’d seen heavy combat in the
Pacific toward the end of World War II, then again in Korea and who knows
what brushfire conflicts after that. How he and thousands just like him As I was mulling over eviction options, Joanie dropped the second shoe.
wouldn’t easily be able recognize the distinction between supporting fragging “They caught Jumpin’ Jack after he testified at that war crimes tribunal in
and a fair trial for Smith and that Louise’s leaflet wouldn’t help them very Canada. Remember when he got his picture in the paper with those Viet
much in being able to. Moreover, I suspected that Daly might be into Cong women?” she asked. “Well, just after that, he decided that he ought to
disputing whether being up to your ass in gunfire is the best time to start return to the States. I think the VC convinced him that it was wrong to stay
debating with the guy on your right whether or not your order was racist, at up in Canada as a fugitive and the right course was to come back and force a
the risk of having a frag tossed into your hole. He’d just think that the kind of political trial. He was trying to sneak back across the border, to do this high
leaflet that Louise was set on distributing was a direct threat to his survival, profile surrender at a press conference, when they nabbed him. Too bad. Now
as it might provoke one of those less than “good men” that the Marines were they can make it look like he was a deserter, instead of turning himself in.
then dragooning into taking the opportunity of a combat situation to eliminate They’re bringing him back to Pendleton. The Black Unity case is not the only
a redneck. No sir, he wasn’t going to like that kind of a leaflet at all. And work we’ve got.”
passing them out wasn’t going to make my job any easier. I was just working “Well, maybe we’ll have to use the Ditmar house if we get evicted.” I
myself into a response when the subject got changed. mused aloud.
“Hi!” said Emma, disrupting my concentration. “Glad you’re back. Joanie shot me a glare. “We can’t do that!” she asserted.
What’s this mean?” She handed me an envelope embossed with the shiny “Why not?” I asked. “These are special circumstances now. Don’t you
black Gothic letterhead of a local law firm. think the political work ought to take priority to the sectarian divisiveness
“Hi,” I replied warily. The envelope was already torn open, so she that’s going on?”
already knew something that I did not. The contents were blunt and to the Louise turned on her heals and marched into what once was our spare
point. Emma could read. She didn’t need me to explain it. “Notice: To the bedroom. Joanie looked down her nose and followed Louise. Emma went into
Occupants....” it said. “Pursuant to California Civil Code section 728, you the kitchen, poured herself a cup of coffee and looked like she wanted to dive
must hereby surrender possession of the premises within thirty days of the in. The conversation was over.
date of this Notice.” If we didn’t, the Notice warned, we would be sued. It I didn’t get it.
then reminded us that since our lease had a provision for attorney’s fees, we “You don’t get it,” she told me that evening. “You just don’t get it.”
could end up paying the landlord’s expensive attorney if we didn’t comply. “Shush,” I responded. “In case you don’t remember, we’re not alone
Evicted! Secretly, I was happy about it. The place was too small for us here anymore. Let’s try to keep it between us.” We were in bed, or to be
now. But my immediate optimism that there might be a silver lining soon more accurate, on mattress, because that was the closest we came to having a
gave way to despair. With all of the surveillance and our unpopular political bed. “What don’t I get?”
leanings, it was going to be hard locating a suitable alternative residence. Emma rolled to face the wall. “Racism. You just don’t get it.”
The women had been making efforts. Every time they called about an “You mean why the Black organizers get the house and the money. Why
apartment, the landlord seemed to know who we were. The cops were tipping we end up five in a two bedroom apartment while three of them live in a
off every owner who was advertising a suitable space. We’d have to employ three bedroom house. Why my stipend goes to support all of us and we end
special security and ruses to get a lease. And the search would divert us from up doing all the defense work for both Black and white, while in the
the political work that was beginning to pile up. It would exhaust valuable meantime Clayton and Doc sit around all day blowin’ weed and drinkin’
time better spent organizing publicity for the Black Unity case. On the other Ripple. Yup, I guess you’re right, I don’t get why the other GIs aren’t as
hand, it might just prevent that provocative Smith leaflet from getting important to organize as the Black ones. Why the so-called vanguard gets
distributed. excused from acting the part and whatever they say is from God’s mouth.”

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“Black people are still slaves in this country...” she began, but I didn’t let
her finish.
“Emma, I’ve heard all the rhetoric, just like you. You don’t have to seemed to know what we were up to before we did ourselves and that did not
repeat it. I’m with you on all of that but I don’t agree that just because they’re bode well for our defense efforts on behalf of Woods and Jumpin’ Jack
Black they’re right, or that automatically, they’re the leaders. If we play that We were within days of the expiration of our thirty-day notice, when
card, the worst of them will get the money and the power and will want us to Gabrielle made her announcement. With these unsettling experiences under
become their slaves as a penance. We won’t win many hearts and minds by our belts and with furtive glances over our shoulders, we snuck into two cars
promoting the ‘first shall be last and the last shall be first’ strategy. Do you early one morning and set out, one heading south, the other east, for ten or
really think we can organize white or brown GIs around that?” fifteen miles before turning north and traveling another fifty or so to Dana
“Black GIs need Black leadership, Black role models. White people
Point. Hopefully it would be a safe location to meet and plan.
can’t be telling them how to make their revolution. The Communist Party “It’s a three bedroom ranch style,” Gabrielle reported excitedly. “It’s got
tried that. They tried it in SNCC.It failed. Blacks have got to have their own a big living room. Big enough for meetings and a large garage that we can
organizations and their own leadership. This is a racist country. That’s the work out of. The owner’s a Chicano contractor. Friend of my uncle Felix. He
way it is,” she responded. hasn’t put it on the market yet so the FBI can’t possibly know about it. We
“Yeah, I know that. Big deal,” I snarled. “But I draw a line where you
can move in right away.”
don’t seem able to. I’m not about to roll over and give up my common sense. “How do you think we should go about closing the deal without
They want to run their own organizations, fine, but it seems to me to be a bit spooking him?” Joanie asked.
hypocritical that they want to do it on the white folks’ dime and then tell us “I’ve already set it up,” said Gabrielle. “I’m working for the Wolfes, as a
that we’ve got to take their orders. You want to do a role reversal thing, go legal assistant. Eric’s got a small practice. Going to be working out of the
right ahead, but as John Lennon said, ‘Brother you can count me out.’” house. That’s why we need the extra bedroom. They’ll sign the lease. The
“I guess so,” she said, and we dropped off to sleep.
guy will be impressed that he’s renting to a lawyer. It will be cool. We can do
it tomorrow afternoon.”
“I found a place in Vista,” Gabrielle reported as she slid into the The next day, we were on time and dressed in our best. A suit and tie for
overstuffed corner booth next to Louise. We were meeting in a hotdog joint me. Emma in a low cut cotton dress with a floral design, conservative and
near Dana Point, due to infectious paranoia that had spread among us over suggestive all at the same time. The guy would spend more of his
the last several weeks. It seemed as though each time we’d get close to concentration on her legs and tits than in the details of a negotiation. We
signing a lease, the landlord would come up with an excuse. A cousin who would sign quickly. It would be fine.
had arrived unexpectedly. Damages that suddenly needed to be repaired. A We took a circuitous route to be safe and arrived early to check things
new-found intention to sell the place. Within the past week two nice places out. The house was situated on a small hill above the town. It had an
had fallen from our grasp when the landlords turned on us overnight. One had unobstructed view of the rugged green and gold mountains that lay some
even taken our money, first and last and had given us a signed lease. The next twenty miles to the east. .
day he called and said he had decided not to rent the place to us after all. Said The owner had recently built it himself, on spec, but had been unable to
flat out that he “wasn’t gonna rent to no trouble-makers and get his property sell it because he had employed materials a grade below tract home quality.
shot up.” We told him that he had signed a lease and it was too late. He said Consequently, stuff was falling apart left and right as fast as he could install
for us to come get our money now or he wouldn’t give it back until we went it.
to court. We took our money back and he tore up the papers. Since we hadn’t He had used glue-on baseboards and they were peeling off at every
disclosed our political affiliations or our association with the Ditmar house to seam. The self-stick tile on the floor didn’t and slipped around like you were
him, the information could only have come from one source, the Feds. They walking on ice. The plumbing, when in use, banged and whistled with sounds

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that reminded me of an auto repair shop. Electrical service was strictly third
world. Lights flickered constantly. Some sockets didn’t work and the ones
that did required the plugs to be taped in so that they wouldn’t slip loose and unconcerned with security, blurted out that he was able to donate some fine
break the connections. It had walls thin as gossamer that resonated like weed and our cover was promptly blown.
drumheads, promising many sleepless nights. The window sashes were made “They’re getting stoned over at Ditmar,” I chipped in. “I was there
of some sort of vinyl and had been installed out of plumb so the windows yesterday, working with Woods and Deputy Dawg on their testimony. The
stuck. As for the doors, the owner told us that we could only have four place reeked of weed. Seems like Doc has a connection on Base. Only ones
occupants “because the doors would wear out.” We laughed at the thought of who seemed straight were Donnie Woods and Sukari. Deputy Dawg was out
doors wearing out. But it came to pass. of his gourd. No use at all. If it’s good enough for Black leadership...” I
He showed us a six-month lease and looked down Emma’s dress while looked at Emma. She looked at Joanie. Joanie looked at Louise. We all
we leaned over the kitchen counter to sign up. shrugged. What the hell.
No sooner had we done all of the hard work of moving in than Mitch
showed up. Driving a Chevy station wagon, towing a Winnebago. He was
completely re-fitted including a new girlfriend. Her name was Zoe and it was
her rig. Actually it belonged to her parents, but they were getting divorced
and fighting over it, along with everything else. So pending the far off, Bleak 24.
House resolution, it suited both them nicely that she held it in a kind of Lucky spread the stuff out on one of our regular kitchen plates. Tiny,
escrow. perfectly square specks, as clear as Saran Wrap, each the size of a wheat
Zoe looked familiar. After the ritualistic, “Where do I know you from?” germ flake.
twenty questions, Emma finally placed her. She was the hippie girl with “Pick it up with the tip of your finger,” Mitch recommended, “and then
whom Emma had shared confinement in the Long Beach jail. Since the bust put it on your tongue. It’s window pane.”
she had been spending her time and trust funds following the Grateful Dead “While you’re waiting,” Lucky said, “have a toke of this shit. It’s a
around the country. She had met Mitch at a concert in Eugene. One thing led knock out.”
to another, as she described it, and they discovered their common interest in He was right. Before too long, it was hard to tell where the marijuana left
GI organizing. Mitch suggested that they come on down and check us out. off and the acid began. Things were starting to roll, like the deck of a square
See if they could help. No problem about the landlord’s restriction on the rigger in a Nor’easter.
number of people who could reside in the house. They had the Winnebago. Someone managed to put on a stack of disks. Soon familiar sounds of
Just needed a place to park it. No problem that the house’s electricity screaming, whining electric guitars, strings bent way out of shape, began to
wouldn’t support the trailer, they had a generator. They only needed to use fill the room. Senses reeled with discordant data. Songs blended, one into
the bathroom. Unfortunately, that put unacceptable wear and tear on the another disclosing trills and riffs that somehow had escaped my notice before,
doors. or at least were not as appreciated.
Mitch, Zoe, Lucky and Melinda hit it off right away. It was one of those We were still in take off mode when Donnie Woods and Sukari showed
matches that some describe as having been made in Heaven. This union of up. They had Dino, the hound, in tow. Gabrielle met them at the door with a
revolutionary white youth and the acquisition of the new pad, they reckoned, shrug of embarrassment for the compromised condition of our collective.
called for a party, which of course would require acid. To no one’s surprise, “Hey Donnie,” I managed from my sagged position on the couch.
having recently been on the Deadhead circuit, Zoe and Mitch were packing a “What’s up?”
stash. Mitch whispered this admission so that the bugging devices we
assumed were already in place wouldn’t pick up the disclosure. Lucky,

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“The brothers decided to get rid of this mutt.” he announced, looking
around the room in amazement at the scene. “We came by to deliver him. I
see you’re doing all right.” He winked at me. What trivia we must be if the earth itself could be flushed down the drain of
“The hound’s a fucking racist,” Donnie continued. “He don’t like Black time and space!
men at all. Been snarling at all the brothers who come by the house. Nipped I watched, unable to detach, while our earth plummeted as helpless as a
at Clayton for no reason. Just hangs under the kitchen table or under a bed. tiny boat tossed by tempestuous seas until it was swallowed up in a giant
You come near him and he snaps. He didn’t do that with you white folks so gurgling gulp that sucked the Milky Way into the sewer line of infinity. Yet it
we decided to bring him by. He’s yours.” had left me behind, stranded. Without name, identity, alone. I had become a
“You don’t think it might have something to do with the acid Clayton
mere droplet myself. Less even than that speck of sand.
and Doc fed him?” I asked, playing devil’s advocate. In a short while I would be in trials as important to the lives of my
“We don’t know nothin’ about that,” Sukari sneered, sloughing me off. “ clients as anything I had ever imagined doing. Yet, it was all nothing. I was
But I think it’s best this dog stay with you folks. Some of the brothers been now nothing. And I was terrified that I was not equal to the task. Hell, I
talkin’ about offin’ the animal.” didn’t even know who I was. But curiously, contradictorily, the acid made
“Dig it,” said Mitch. “We’ll take him. C’mere Dino, boy,” he said,
things easier for me. And I caught a glimpse of the allure the drug must have
bending down to pat the hound and welcome him into the house. Dino
had to a trooper in combat. Being detached and at one with the universe all at
whined a little, wagged his tail and trotted over to familiar, outstretched arms.
the same time. Flying high. Who-gives-a-shit-high.
“Thataboy,” Mitch mumbled. “Want some water?” He turned and went into I felt myself struggling for balance. Turning circles in a futile attempt to
the kitchen, the dog trotting happily at his feet. dance to the rhythm of the spinning, orbiting celestial bodies. Get in sync.
Donnie and Sukari turned down our offer that they join us for the
Yes, that was the ticket. Maybe then, I could be up to the task. But as I
festivities and left. Night had fallen. It was a moonless evening. Clear.
focused on this effort at balance, the unruly universe made a comeback. The
Exceptionally dark. The star show was extraordinary. “Hey, you guys,” I
flush boiled up and overflowed, spilling a vile, nauseating sewage all over the
suggested. “C’mon outside. Catch the stars.”
floor of my insecurities. I became the incredible shrinking man. The effluent
No one budged so I went out on my own.
of a billion stars loomed over me like a winter wave cresting at Waimea Bay.
What was unique about this star show, made it different from all the
Determined to pound me into the ocean bottom. Unstoppable, like the forces
others that I had seen, was that these stars were moving. Very slowly at first,
lined up against Donnie and Jack. And I knew I cared. And I feared failure.
so as not to frighten me, their motion began to suck me in. Soon I was
Their losing. My inadequacy. Humiliation. Maybe, in the end, that was all I
engrossed in the phosphorescent Milky Way’s swirling performance. Faster,
was fighting for. The avoidance of humiliation. Not very political. Certainly
ever faster it spun until it resembled the flush of a toilet bowl, from one
an ego problem. God damn those hallucinogenics. Maybe doing acid in battle
horizon to the other. Accelerating away from the source -- from me. Spiraling
wasn’t such a good idea after all.
outward as if I were observing through a telescope backwards. And as I This was turning into one of those “bad trips” that I had heard about but
continued to observe this miracle, a rainbow of stars in all colors cascaded never believed could happen to me. I had to find my way back inside. I began
like a slash into the whirlpool. Among them was the planet earth. Like a groping in the dark. Bumping into the Winnebago. Stumbling up the stairs,
droplet in a waterfall, it was helpless and insignificant, caught in the current toward the safety of an inside, a controllable, finite space. I started to panic.
of the whole. Then it registered that I was outside of it, looking in from a Stars would never be the same for me again.
boundless nullity of time and space. Like I was larger. Immortal, yet Gabrielle found me sprawled on the front porch. She helped me to my
strangely insignificant. I was as unimportant in the scheme of this cosmos as room. Listened to my explanations with patience. Made me feel vulnerable
a single grain of sand on a beach. Maybe, I brooded, the same could even be with the confession. Tried talking me down. From somewhere in the direction
said of the whole damn War. Who knew? And what of the great big, tough
US of A? How big and tough was it really in the context of the universe?

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of the living room I heard Procol Harum singing “ A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
I was certainly that.
A while later, Dino scratched on the door to come in. He looked fine
I regained consciousness to the sounds of knocking. It was 6:00 a.m. and now and was wagging his tail as if nothing had been bothering him. “You
the first, weak rays of light had begun to brighten the craggy pinnacles far to give the bum a quarter too?” I asked him. He cocked his head in the curious
the east. I opened the door to a scarecrow, backlit by the grayish way dogs sometimes do.
luminescence of early dawn. “There will be an earthquake,” he prophesied, But the psycho hobo turned out to be right on the money. Not long after
through a gap-toothed grimace. his visit a devastating earthquake struck the LA area. Smashed up a hospital
I was about to give this bum a piece of my mind for the presumptuous and a few people got killed. We were spared... because we weren’t anywhere
intrusion into our peace, when I heard a chilling “ Owooooh! ooooh! ow! near LA at the time, just like over two billion other people. Still, at twenty-
ooooooh” coming from under the Winnebago. It was a sound that I heard five cents a head, it was well worth it.
only once before, from inside the van that first day back after our trip to New
York. Dino was doing that whining thing of his again. I looked under the
trailer and saw the dog lying on his side, hind legs extended outward and 25.
shaking. A front paw was draped over his snout. If dogs do it, he appeared to They brought Jumpin’ Jack back to Pendleton and put him in the brig.
be crying. I had never seen a dog look like that before. Confined him in solitary. He was infectious. Contagious with radicalism and
“What’s the matter fella?” I asked. Dino paid no attention and continued Anti-War, Anti-Marine sentiment. He needed to be segregated. No visitors
to moan as if I was not there. I reached under to bring him out, but he gave would be allowed except his lawyer and family members who, under the regs
me a nip and I retreated. The dog was going psycho on us. at that time, included his fiancee, if he had one. Jack’s family, such as it was,
“Within the year,” the psychic tramp continued, paying Dino’s plight no lived in upstate New York and had neither the funds nor the inclination to
mind, “ there will be death and devastation.” His clothing was grease-stained visit someone who had brought such dishonor on the family. His story was
and tattered. His blotchy face was decorated with band-aids and stubble. His one of drug abuse, insanity and treason as far as they seemed to be
jaundiced eyes were red-streaked. His hair matted. His outstretched, pleading concerned. The brass were talking a General Court Martial for desertion,
hands were gnarled. He looked believable to me. based upon the statements Jack had made while in Canada and the pictures of
“How do you know this?” I asked, trying to ignore Dino’s hysteria.
him standing next to female Charlies. They were also hinting that if he pled
“I am a prophet,” he revealed emphatically. “If you give me something,
insanity, they might go with a medical discharge, but nothing was firm.
you will be spared.” Gabrielle had been collecting the press clippings. They were great
I decided not to take the chance. Being spared sounded like the right reading if you weren’t still under military jurisdiction. That one little glitch
thing to go for, so I fished a couple of quarters out of a pocket and handed made all the difference. Jack’s testimony in The People’s War Crimes
them over. It seemed like a cheap insurance policy. Tribunal admitted to playing a role in the torture and killing of captured Viet
“How about my wife?” I bargained. “Would you mind sparing her too? I Cong soldiers and possibly civilians as well, although he conceded that in a
gave you two quarters. ” “people’s war” it’s virtually impossible to tell the combatants from the non-
“He squinted up at me and nodded. “Two for the price of one?” as if 50
combatants. His descriptions were vivid and grizzly. He was a war criminal,
cents was his fare for a single ride on the salvation train. “You drive a hard
he declared. Under Nuremberg principles, he had to resist. The press ate it
bargain, but I guess that can be arranged.” I watched him shuffle off until he
up. His testimony was broadly publicized and undoubtedly embarrassing to
disappeared around the corner down at the bottom of the hill. He passed up
the military. So too was that notorious picture of him standing along side of
three or four other houses along the way. I had an eerie feeling about why he
the NLF’s representatives. Jack wouldn’t stand a chance at trial before a
had singled us out.

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panel of officers and senior NCOs. He had only two choices, plead insanity
or do a full-blown Nuremberg defense and go down in a ball of flames.
“We have to create a defense committee,” Joanie forcefully demanded. I responded derisively. “One struggle, my ass. I’m going to say this as
“The only way we can save Jack is to make his situation public. We’ve got to the person who will be defending Donnie Woods, so it’s not just theoretical.
identify him as a political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience.” Each case is going to have to stand on its own, because that’s the way they
“To make it work, we’d have to raise a hell of a lot of money,” Mitch want it. Forget the issue of money. They called this play and it’s not up to us
stammered, shaking his head. He looked down at the floor like an to be worrying about how they will be organizing. They kicked us out of the
embarrassed schoolboy caught in the midst of an awful prank. “A shit load house because, quote, ‘We can’t organize Black GIs with whitey around.’
more’n we’ve ever been able to raise before.” and you all supported them on that. So let’s be consistent here. Well, we’ve
“Well we didn’t have a good cause before.” Joanie hung tough. “But
got a major political case and the kicker is the GI is white. That just might be
now we do. Jack’s put himself on the line, saying things that the government
a bad deal for the Black Unity case, but having a white Marine war hero
doesn’t want said. They don’t want a show trial with all the bad publicity. If
coming out against Uncle’s war crimes sure helps the fight against the War,
we support him right, we can go national with this. It’s big.”
which is, after all, racist itself. Now you tell us we gotta compromise our
“What do you think?” Gabrielle asked, looking at me for the answer.
organizing to defend him, because if we do a good job of it that might,
“Can they keep people off the Base who want to attend his trial?”
hypothetically, offend a bunch of racist Black guys like Clayton and Doc. I
“He’s entitled to a public trial,” I advised, only partially sure of the
know Woods. He won’t be offended. He’ll be hurt that his nationalist
opinion. “I don’t think they’ll try to keep out civilians who want to witness
comrades fucked up. But he won’t begrudge Jack the best case we can put
the trial. I don’t think they can do that and not generate bad publicity about
together for him. That’s the kind of man he is. On the other hand, folks whose
secret military courts martial. It would hurt their image at a critical time to
only politics is ‘Black is good, white is bad.’ have got no politics at all.”
keep out the public. I guess that they’ll have to open up the trial.”
“We’ll organize a big demonstration, right on the Base, in support of Louise took that last remark personally and threw a book in my
Jumpin’ Jack, the GI who dared to speak out,” Emma said with a dramatic direction. I ducked and it broke a lamp. I broke into a smirking grin that only
sweep of her hand, as if she were pitching a script for a movie. pissed her off more.
“Yeah, s’pose it works out and we raise a bunch of money,” Mitch She looked over at Emma and snarled, “That asshole’s out of here or I
muttered gloomily. “S’pose we do raise all this money. Meanwhile nothin’ is am.” Then she stomped out of the room.
going down for the Black Unity trial. What about Donnie and Deputy Dawg? Emma shook her head. Tried to ignore the tantrum. “Well, the best place
Them brothers down on Ditmar are going to say that the whitey only gives to start, I hate to say it, is with Genghis. We’re going to have to make a
money to the whitey and that every dollar Jumpin’ Jack gets is evidence of pilgrimage to the great Kahn.”
racism. What then?” “We better run this by Jumpin’ Jack first,” I suggested. “We can’t form a
“Mitch’s right on,” Gabrielle concurred. “We better do something that defense committee without his approval.”
acknowledges the brothers. It’s racist if we don’t.” “I suppose that means you get to make the report to him,” Joanie
Louise got up and paced a bit to let everyone know that she was about to sneered, with only a veneer of civility separating the neutrality of her words
utter something profound. She put her hands inside the straps of her Ben from seething contempt.
Davis overalls and glowered. “White people, rich white people will give to a “Jack gets a civilian visitor.” I snapped in retort. “A family member,
legal defense fund that will support a nice white, blond GI who is telling wife, mother, fiancee. I’m not the only one that can visit him. Maybe you
them that he’s a war criminal. They’ll love that kind of mea culpa plea. But should marry him.”
we all know they won’t give a dime to support a Black Marine who is trying
to build an all-Black union. We’ve got to package the two of them together
and educate the donors that it is one struggle.”

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“Great idea.” Emma enthused. “Jack should have a fiancee. And I know
just the right person for the job.” She looked at Gabrielle. “Same age. They
worked together on the paper, so they know each other. It will be believable.” bigger picture than a single white soldier’s fate. It represents the freedom of
an entire race. And they see the Black Unity issue that way.”
Gabrielle blushed and looked at the floor. “I know how they see it. These days I’m around them more than anyone,
Joanie, who was a good 5 or 6 years older than Jack agreed. “What do remember? But that’s just not the reality. A Black union is not going to
you say, Gabbie? Jack needs a regular visitor besides Wolfe. You’re advance the struggle against racism any more that an all white union. You
perfect.” can’t fight racism with racism. Besides, you can always cut the issues the
“For the revolution!” Mitch chimed in, hoisting a cup of coffee in a
way you want, to get what you want. Make your issue seem more important
mock toast.
than anyone else’s.”
Gabrielle whispered assent with “aw shucks” embarrassment. Jack Her eyes widened. “I don’t understand,” she said. “How can you defend
didn’t know it yet but he had just become engaged. Donnie when you don’t even believe in what he’s doing?”
It was one of those nights. I knew it before I climbed into bed. Could feel “I believe in what he’s doing, Emma, just not in separatism.” I
it in the air. Emma had criticism on her mind. She was just waiting for me to responded. “ The Marines think of Blacks as second class citizens and treat
ask. To say something, anything, so she could lay into me. The way she them that way. The only thing they understand is a tough fight from an
rolled over to face the wall was impossible to ignore. I knew there would be opponent they can respect. Donnie Woods is that kind of opponent. They
no escape from the tension until I opened the subject. Asked sheepishly, need to see that he’s first class and I want to help him make that point. If it
“What’s wrong?” and then got a piece of her mind. I decided to get it over wereClayton or Doc, trying to organize a racist Black organization, well, I
with. “I bet you’re pissed at me because of what went down with Joanie and wouldn’t do it, even if they wanted a white guy’s help. Donnie’s different.” I
Louise.” saw doubt in her eyes. “Look, Emma,” I said, “Donnie is my friend and no
“You acted like an asshole.”
one wants to get him off more than I do. But at the end of the day, he isn’t
“Yeah, how so?”
going up for years. The most he will get is a BCD and six months. And, I’m
“You said the things you said to provoke. You don’t really believe what
betting he won’t even come close to that. On the other hand, Jack’s not just
you said, I hope. It sounded so racist.”
one white soldier. That’s why the VC suggested he return. He is symbolic.
“Oh, what’s so racist about criticizing Black people who are racists for
He’s put himself on the line to end a war. He represents resistance to the War
being racists? Compromising on the basis of race alone at the expense of
in the Marines, the most gung-ho of all the services. That’s what we’re here
other peoples’ oppression? Here’s Jumpin’ Jack, facing maybe ten to twenty
to do after all, isn’t it? End the War. And we’re talking about a war where
years in the slammer and we’re all worried about what happens if we raise a
hundreds of thousands of people are getting killed. As you know they seem to
bunch of money to defend him. Believe me, those so-called Black
be getting killed in all races and genders. Jack’s not just a single white
revolutionaries wouldn’t share dime one with us. You wait and see how much
soldier. The issues are way bigger than him. We’ve got to have some
support they end up giving Jack. But nevertheless, they’ll be demanding a
perspective here, and, if I may say so, some balls. It just pisses me off that
split of any bread we raise. Mitch’s dead right on that. If I say anything about
we’ve got people in this collective who think that the only way to be political
maybe not dipping into funds people may be donating for Jack, I’m a racist.
and progressive is to kiss every Black butt they see.”
Right? Aren’t there any common standards that apply to everyone?” “They are trying to keep things together, Eric. They want to have a
“You may be right about Jack, Eric,” she said, calling me by my given revolutionary movement of all colors, and not to alienate the Black GIs.
name, as she did when she was pissed, “But you have to understand where Everyone knows that we aren’t going to make any progress without breaking
they are coming from. Black people have been victims of oppression and down the barriers of racism.”
slavery for hundreds of years and it is important for us all that they don’t feel
like their issues are being sloughed off. They are organizing a union. That’s a

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“Keep things together!” I sputtered. “Who the fuck is together? We got
kicked out of Ditmar. Does that sound together to you? It doesn’t to me. And
kissing butt isn’t going to change that.” She tried to interrupt but I wasn’t we can’t sit in judgment of any Black because we haven’t experienced what
giving up the floor. “You think that they’re going to respect us and work with they have,” I sneered. “So what’s the deal? They may be guilty of the crime,
us because every fucking thing they do is ok with us, because they are but we aren’t able to do anything about it? Look, I grew up in a three-decker,
victims of racism? You think that? Well, let me tell you, I know these guys down wind from the Scott paper mill. We didn’t live in a high-rise apartment
better than anyone else in this collective. I visit them in the brig. I talk to on the upper East side. I didn’t go to Dalton. I was one of a handful of Jews
them about who they are and where they come from. I know more about in the town. The minority. My grandfather laid tracks for the B&M and
them, the real them, than the rest of you put together. And surprise! some of lumberjacked up in Aroostook before he became a house painter and died of
them just aren’t nice people. Some of them are crooks and hustlers. Some are lead poisoning. My father didn’t commute on the New Haven from
liars. Some are just fools. Some of them kicked us out and then turned the Greenwich to his big deal advertising job on Madison Avenue. He had a
house into a shit hole. No one says a thing, ‘cause they’re historically victims machine shop and my uncle fished Penobscot Bay, in a 48 footer, with only a
of oppression. But where they came from is no excuse. It explains a lot but it winch for help and a ship-to-shore radio if he got into trouble. I worked in the
doesn’t make them revolutionaries. And, if I may say so, it doesn’t excuse the machine shop when I was 14 and have the scars to prove it. I worked on the
absence of common decencies. In every society I’ve ever heard of, it has boat. We didn’t have white skin privilege where I grew up. There was no
been taboo to kill and steal and cheat. Those crimes are as unacceptable in other color but white. I didn’t see a Black face until I was in college. So
Africa as in Europe, so the concepts of good and bad aren’t foreign to people when the cops fucked with us on the street, there was no issue that they were
just because they grew up in the ghetto and some pig beat the shit out of ‘em just going to pull in the Blacks and let the whitey go. I’m not coming from
in a bad bust. That kind of behavior only becomes ok when guilty white guilt, the way Joanie and Louise are.”
people say it’s ok. It’s sort of like we’re passing a sentence on ourselves for “Oh come off it Eric,” Emma snapped. “You’re privileged and you know
discrimination. Well, it’s ok to pass a sentence on ourselves for society’s it. Maybe your family wasn’t rich, but they weren’t poor either. They owned
racism. I’m all for it. That’s part of why I’m here. But that doesn’t mean that that three-decker you’re always talking about. They weren’t renters. In fact,
the right sentence is to give thugs and thieves a get-out-of-jail free card.” if I recall correctly, they were actually landlords. And whatever they did for a
“C’mon,” she raised her voice. “ Most of the Black people you meet are
really decent. You make it sound like they’re all racist criminals and that it’s living, they were able to send you to college and law school. Don’t try to pull
not the white power structure that robs them of their rights and their dignity that poor working class shit with me. I know better. You sound very bitter
day after day. So why are you pulling out this racist stereotype argument that and angry.”
Emma rolled over to face me in a way that I interpreted as an attempt to
you know is bullshit? No one’s saying that just because a murderer is Black,
gain emotional advantage. “I don’t think that this is about racism at all,” she
it means he ought to get away with it. What we’re trying to do is put it in
observed, “or about sucking up to the brothers. Are you acting this way
context and to avoid judging Black people by white standards. You say that
because you think something is going on between Joanie, Louise and me? Is
Africans have laws against murder just like Europeans, but the difference is
that really what this is all about?”
that in Africa, except for the parts ruled by the whites, they are judged by
I was stunned, uncomfortable with the shift, and sought to return to safer
Black people who understand where they are coming from. In this country,
ground. “You weren’t comfortable with the facts, were you?” I said. “So
poor Blacks get judged by wealthy whites who have no idea what the Black
you’re trying to change the subject to a personal level, where you feel you
experience is and therefore can’t do them justice. I shouldn’t have to tell you
can control things better.”
that.”
“Behind all male politics and lots of their intellectual argument is a
“Emma, I’m not so sure I buy your argument about how no one’s
whole lot of testosterone,” Emma countered. “It’s pretty clear that you feel
excusing Black homicides. That fragging leaflet you guys are working on
threatened by the women in this collective.”
sure comes pretty close. And as for the old ‘White skin privilege’ argument,

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“I suppose you want to separate estrogen from women’s politics, like the
two don’t go hand in hand,” I responded. “ It’s just the men who have that
hormone problem, is it? If a man complains that a woman is acting the way threw the punch. ‘Cause he couldn’t control his anger, though he should
she is because it’s ‘that time of the month’ he’s a male chauvinist. But have, no matter what the woman said to him to get to that point. It’s always
women can get away clean when they accuse a guy of acting on his the guy’s fault ‘cause he couldn’t deal on a non-physical level. And now
testosterone. The trouble is that with you it’s never a two way street. Blacks you’re telling me that I’m responsible for violence against me because I
can get away with murder and white guys can’t complain. Women can accuse smirked and some woman couldn’t deal with it on a non-violent level. Sounds
guys of being piggy ‘cause of testosterone but men can’t explain woman’s to me like just one more chapter in the same old double standard book.”
behavior by saying she’s on the rag. You know, I just don’t buy the rules of I could feel Emma stiffening again. Trying to control herself. “You just
this game,” I grumbled, rolling over to avoid a face-to-face. It was my turn to aren’t willing to take any responsibility for anything, are you? You’re so
pull the cold shoulder routine. smart ass, with your lawyer bullshit. You don’t want to make things better.
“You’re jealous,” she persisted. “You’re insecure around them because
Just stir up shit. You complain about the divisiveness of racism, but you’re
they’re lesbians and you’re afraid they are trying to put the make on me. And
the most divisive element in this collective. You know, Eric, I think you’re
so you lashed out at them around something that you know would push their
becoming one of them. I hope you have a good night’s sleep.”
buttons. You didn’t deal with the issue in a principled way. You provoked.” She got out of bed, put on her robe and left. I could hear her in the other
“Oh. How’d I do that?”
room, talking to her women friends. I didn’t have to imagine what they were
“Your language. Your body language. The way you smirked at them. It
saying. For a few minutes I regretted that I had been so argumentative. But it
was that smirk that caused Joanie to lose it and throw the book at you. I
turned out that what I was really regretting was that I might have cost myself
understood how she felt. I hate that smirk. The way you use it to piss people
one of those particularly passionate, reconciliatory fucks that come at the end
off. It’s a wonder someone hasn’t killed you over it.”
of big fights with someone you really love. Maybe, I thought, Emma was
I had to laugh. Probably it was defensive. “Yeah.” I said. “It does piss
right. I was becoming one of them. On the one hand, I knew that the redneck
people off. I once got into a fight in Torquay, England, in a bar because of it.
line I had been slinging was divisive and destructive, but on the other hand,
This bouncer was chucking a couple of nice looking girls out of the bar for
Sammy, my alter ego, had gotten the better of me and I had succumbed to the
some reason, didn’t matter. I told them to join us. It pissed the bouncer off. I
fun of it all. For a brief moment, I wondered if I would be able to fall asleep,
smirked at him. He turned around, grabbed a chair and tried to hit me over
but then I did.
the head with it. I ducked and he smashed it over the table. Just like in one of I met with Jack the next day and he seemed delighted with the prospect
those John Wayne pictures, a real bar room brawl. Anyway, he had a whole of a female visitor to break the tedium of brig incarceration. He also gave
bunch of friends and I was with this guy who was a little chicken shit. So I immediate consent to the defense committee. If he was going to go down, he
got the shit kicked out of me. Cops wanted to arrest me for the fight, but the told me, he would prefer to do it as a political prisoner rather than as a run of
girls saved my ass.” the mill deserter. But we still had no idea what the convening officer had
“I suppose you think that was cool,” she sneered.
planned for him.
“Yeah. I kinda like the story.” I admitted. “Not everyone can say they
were actually in a real bar room fight. The day after, I hurt like hell. But I got
26.
a story out of it. So I’m not complaining.”
When the military is planning a General Court Martial, one where the GI
“Well, speaking of testosterone!” she said. “The point is that smirk of
can get thrown into the brig for more than 6 months and receive a
yours pisses people off. Provokes them to violence. And you know it, so
dishonorable discharge as well, the first step is an Article 32 hearing. The
you’re responsible for that violence.”
procedure is something akin to a civilian preliminary hearing, where the
“Well, well,” I snickered. “That’s quite an observation coming from a
woman. All the time you hear how the woman is the victim ‘cause the man

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prosecution puts on some witness to demonstrate to the brass that they won’t
be making fools of themselves by calling for a General Court Martial.
There was little doubt that they had the goods against Jack. For starters, damnedest to appear sure of himself and of the outcome, but his fumbling
the military had placed NIS agents in the audience at that Canadian war delivery gave away a touch of insecurity at his own competence.
crimes tribunal and they had made recordings and taken photographs. They He gave a perfunctory opening statement, promising to prove that
had a clean record of his apprehension at the border. With this evidence, they Corporal Conlon was a deserter who had given aid and comfort to the enemy.
exuded confidence that they could get a conviction despite the fact that Jack Then he called a dour Naval lieutenant from the Long Beach Naval Hospital,
had been confined in a psycho ward just months before all of this. That he who recited fifteen minutes of dreary data from the official records. It boiled
might be nuts was a matter for the defense and possibly sentencing. In a way, down to how Jack had admitted to physicians that he had injured himself
they had us in a bind. If we cared to take the position that Jack was bonkers, while jumping off a high rock and how he had broken confinement at the
that was ok with them. They would have loved such a plea, as it represented a Naval Hospital. We heard nothing we didn’t know already. I asked to see the
means to explain away all of the charges that Jack was making against them. documents, to check their genuineness. Jeffers made a few notes and we
Like what the Soviets always did with their dissidents, putting them into passed on the cross-examination.
mental hospitals. You had to be crazy, they liked to argue, to oppose the Eaton, puffing now like a peacock, next called a stiff, Clint Eastwood
communist system. Well, the military mind was running on a very similar type NIS agent. This fellow recounted in staccato, monosyllabic narrative the
track. An insanity plea would have suited them just fine. results of their intermittent surveillance of Jack while he was up in Canada.
The Article 32 came on quickly. They assigned the prosecution to He played a couple of tapes they had made, identified Jack’s voice and
Captain Eaton, a dull-witted but determined officer who appeared to be displayed several photographs of Jack giving his testimony at a table behind
devoid of any ability to appreciate a moral stand. Eaton was a man whose which was draped an unfortunately large Viet Cong flag. In the opinion of
only motivation was to earn the approval of his superiors. He was recently this agent, and over our objections as to his abysmal lack of scientific
graduated from a law school of questionable accreditation and that seemed to expertise, Jack was perfectly sane when he testified that the Marines were a
make him all the more resentful of anyone who had been trained at a school bunch of war criminals who had committed horrible atrocities on the
with any prestige. His knowledge of the rules of procedure was minimal yet Vietnamese people for which he felt profoundly guilty. The agent
substantially greater than his understanding of the rules of evidence or their concludedwith a quote attributable to Jack: “It is my duty to resist this outlaw
purpose. For Captain Eaton, the law was nothing more than a bludgeon to be force in every way possible. By any means necessary.” Again we examined
employed against the helpless so that he might achieve career advancement. the evidence, but asked no questions that might reveal a potential strategy or
He had no apparent perspective of its greater purpose, justice. He was perfect educate Eaton.
for the military and, the brass hoped, for this job. They intended to throw the Finally, Eaton presented a border patrol officer who had been brought
book at Jumpin’ Jack. down from Washington to tell us the details of Jack’s apprehension. From
The proceedings were held in a new, freshly painted courtroom. Two this fellow we elicited that Jack had offered no resistance. He had promptly
large MPs of color escorted Jack in from the brig, one on each side. He was admitted his military status and was in possession of both his uniform and his
spit and polish for the occasion. They sat him between Captain Jeffers and military ID when apprehended. These facts would be useful later to refute a
me, in the most comfortable cushioned chair he had experienced since he had claim of desertion, which requires proof of an intent to quit the military and
been hauled from the car on the day of his arrest. He seemed outwardly calm, to never return. Keeping his uniform and ID, being apprehended returning to
even stoic as he stared straight ahead, in the direction of the judge who was the US, all pointed away from desertion. On this charge, at least, we had a
going to hear the evidence against him. Only a repetitive eye blinking gave shot.
away any hint of nervousness. Nevertheless, the Marine judge ruled that Eaton had proved a prima facie
Eaton stood behind the counsel table, effervescent. This was going to be case of desertion terminated by apprehension, self-inflicting a wound,
his big case. The thing for which he might get noticed. He tried his

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escaping confinement, and to top that all off, making disloyal statements.
The first charge could get him three years. Self-inflicting a wound carried up
to seven years more. The third charge, escaping confinement, called for yet We could have chosen a better day for the outing. Jupiter and Neptune
one more year. Finally the disloyal statement beef could net Jack another conspired to cast the Fates and Furies upon us. Boiling grey clouds milled
three years. When the smoke had cleared, we saw that they were talking close overhead, taunting, blurring the distinction between day and night. The
about stacking 14 years of charges all together. sea, a melange of gunmetal and froth, heaved its salty mist into the fray,
The defense presented no witnesses. What was the point? We couldn’t seasoning the freshwater downpour with tangy tartness. A gusting chill wind
refute the basic charges at this hearing. We needed time to prepare a descended out of the Gulf of Alaska flailing the row of upscale homes on the
complete defense and we couldn’t risk educating Eaton. Anyway, it wouldn’t west side of the Pacific Highway, Route One. Its inhabitants, wisely, had
have mattered. The judge was just another JAG officer appointed by the same burrowed for shelter, eschewing travel, abandoning their cars in all available
convening authority that called the court in the first place. It was this base nooks, forcing us to park along the road and walk a couple of hundred yards
commander, unseen and never directly heard from, who was really pulling in the frigid, almost horizontal rain.
the strings. It was he who wanted all those charges. He, who stacked the Seeming to be personally offended by our daring travel, the tempest
court. And he was going to get the result he wanted. Putting Jack at risk of almost consciously attempted to inflict pains. Lashing us. Stinging every
big time at hard labor, he must have figured, would result in either a plea patch of exposed skin. Particles of salt and sand insinuated into the corners of
favorable to the Marines or an insanity defense, which might be an even our eyes. Impaling grains bespeckled our lips until there was burn and
better face-saving result. We started off thinking that all we were facing was bitterness. By the time we reached the shelter of Kahn’s front porch, these
a desertion charge. When we left the courtroom that day, it was clear that the demons had left us drenched, chilled to the core and violated.
Marines had brought up the heavy artillery. We found Kahn dressed to suit the elements, wearing an Irish woolen
pullover, a turtleneck of natural fiber and corduroy jeans with a slight flair at
27. the bottoms. His greeting was cordial, gracious. His large, brilliant teeth
I had seriously underestimated the Marines’ attitude to Jack. He was a flashed as he smiled condescension, like a politician on the stump. He invited
decorated Viet Vet and I figured that they would cut him some slack on that us to sit. Inquired as to our drink of choice. Coffee? Tea? Schweppes? He
basis. That had been my experience with every other case I had done to date. was accompanied by his retinue of hangers on. Movement versions of
If you had done your time in Nam, they cut you slack. But those cases were Tammany ward-heelers. It was evident that he was prepared for barter this
more runofthe mill. Long term unauthorized absences, disrespect, ordinary blustery day, not the usual bullshit. I found this a hopeful sign. Perhaps we
assault. Not an overt challenge to the very essence of the Marine’s mission. had something to trade.
Jack had crossed the line and I hadn’t really reckoned just how far. He was It was a bizarre negotiation. I had come, hat in hand, to seek money. But
worse than a deserter. He had cosied up to the VC and even though it had Sukari, advocating for Donnie Woods, was unable to disguise her disdain for
been in neutral Canadian territory, he was still a traitor. For that category all whiteys. Gabrielle, Louise and Joanie, when they spoke, were unable to
they would show little mercy. I should not have expected anything less. I was conceal their contempt for the money-bag movement heavies and influence
embarrassed by my naivete. peddlers who managed the lucre and, despite never getting soiled in the
This was going to be a “no-surrender” battle. If we were going to put in trenches, were certain that in the coming revolution they would play the role
place a functioning defense committee before Jack came to trial, we would of Lenin. Mitch superficially attempted a show of deference yet betrayed
have to move fast. And that fact left us with little choice. We would have to amusement at the pretension of it all. Emma tried to be diplomatic but
make a humbling pilgrimage to Malibu and pay homage to the Guru. I seemed depressed by the whole venture and to my disappointment, assumed a
demanded that the whole collective participate in this one. Everyone would passive role.
be required to pledge personal loyalty to the leader if we were to manage to
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On the other side of the table sat the money. Kahn, we knew, perceived
us as necessary evils, to be used, abused and discarded when our usefulness
had expired. The Support Our GIs honchos in his wake envied Kahn’s power Sukari glowered. “Woods don’t want nothing to do with them.”
and influence. Meanwhile each searched for an opportunity to exploit the “But Deputy Dawg?” the fellow persisted. “Isn’t he affiliated with
situation for personal aggrandizement. Everyone held the customarily them?”
negative opinion of the lawyer. “We’re going to deal with that.” Sukari replied obliquely, leaving the
Negotiations stalled when Sukari delivered the Panthers’ ultimatum. The others to speculate on the type of heavy, dire measures that Black
Black liberation movement, she asserted, could not publicize Jumpin’ Jack. revolutionaries were reputed to employ.
Black Unity was their priority. They might run articles. But any money they “That’s right.” Kahn agreed. “That’s their business. Ours is to get the
raised directly would have to be earmarked for Woods and Deputy Dawg. word out.”
Plus they wanted half of everything else that was being raised. Yet there was common ground after all. Persecution is the midwife of
SOGI’s directors squirmed, certain that dissent would bring accusations revolution and the nourishment of political movements. Donnie and Jumpin’
of racism. They dressed their responses in ambiguity. Sensing the potential to Jack were the stuff from which hay could be made. We all recognized
exploit our divisions, Kahn suggested that Sukari’s demands would not find opportunity when we saw it and it came in dress blues, as American as apple
favor among the contributors. Certainly neither he nor SOGI were racist, he pie, from the halls to the shores. The cases had cachet. They were a raison
sought to assure her. Certainly he could understand the Black position, yet d’etre for the political existence of all of us. And so, despite our differences
facts were facts. Reason and reality had to prevail. Donnie Woods was and mutual loathing, we were prepared to compromise for the cause. As the
looking at short time, he noted. Yet maybe 20 years of Jumpin’ Jack’s life day wore on, we debated civilly, restraining our worst impulses. Dealing and
might depend on what we planned here. And besides, he gently noted, some brokering agreements like the cigar-chomping, conventioneering politicianss
of the charges that were planned against Jumpin’ Jack invited defenses we professed to detest.
challenging the legality of the War itself. Finally, with a nod in Sukari’s direction, Kahn tossed a bone. “I think
“What do you mean by that?” Sukari asked. SOGI would be willing to put up funds for the defense in both cases. And to
“The charge that he was making disloyal statements, for example.” put money into publicity that would bring as many civilians as possible on to
Kahn explained. “What’s disloyal about confessing that you are a war the Base for the trials.” He looked at me. “We have a right to attend these
criminal? That you have seen and done things that this country, at another courts martial, don’t we, Eric? Don’t GIs have a right to public trials?”
time, in another war, said was so beyond the bounds of the acceptable that it I confirmed that they did.
was a soldier’s duty to resist. They may not have realized it,” he went on, “ “Well that’s a key ingredient in this action.” Kahn asserted. “Organizing
but they have set up a contradiction between loyalty and criminality. We can hundreds of activists and supporters to attend them. Bring them onto the
make some major Anti-War publicity out of it. Might even get some big Base. It’ll drive the brass up a wall. But,” he lectured, “ it will require
name witnesses to testify about the Nuremberg case. We don’t have a discipline.”
declared war here. If we get the right witnesses, we can get national and He was chiding us about drugs, I suspected. I decided to let his editorial
maybe even international coverage. It could be the major trial of the War.” comment slide. Certainly my recent trip to the stars had dampened my
He saw the sneering look of contempt on her face and sought to placate enthusiasm for recreational chemicals. It was a good thing, I mused, that he
her. “Perhaps,” he suggested, “ SOGI and its supporters could agree to didn’t have an inkling of what was going on over at Ditmar. Our ship would
putting up some money for the BSU. But if you want to go separate have been blown out of the water.
politically, it will be hard for us to argue that we owe you an equal share. We Kahn started to lay out a strategy. SOGI would begin with
can look into something.” announcements in their newsletter of the political persecution of the GIs at
“What about Katanga?” one of the directors asked, timidly. “Isn’t his Pendleton. The SOGI directors would get the copy placed as news in as many
group involved too?”

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Peace organization and underground papers as possible and the left-wing
news services as well. Contacts with friendly congressional liaisons would be
made. A letter campaign under SOGI auspices would be initiated. Trust fund doubt that he’s there. The animal’s been fucked up. Probably couldn’t find
accounts would be opened. Demonstrations that coincided with trial dates had his way back there any better than he could find his way back here.”
to be organized. Celebrities recruited to speak out on the political repression
of GIs who resist institutional military racism and war crimes. He dropped “He got himself into the van,” Clayton related, when I inquired about
names as if they were his best friends: I.F. Stone, Joan Baez, Staughton Lynd, Dino. I was waiting at the Ditmar house for my clients to show up. The place
Noam Chomsky, Robert Scheer, Jane Fonda, Wayne Morse. A defense was a shambles. The couch in the living room was sprouting springs and
committee would need to be established, which Kahn modestly agreed to cotton stuffing. The curtains dangled out of kilter, cut and torn. Drawers from
head. If we wanted the money we would get it...provided it was produced and the cabinets had been removed. Their charred remnants rested in the fireplace
directed by Kahn. And if the Black organizations wanted to do a separate where they had been burned for heat.
fund raising activity just for the Black Unity case, that was just fine. So long Clayton saw my curious glances at the devastation. “They cut off the
as we all agreed that there was a common struggle going on. The appearance power and gas, ‘cause we ain’t paid the bills,” he explained. “Ain’t no never
of a coordinated fight against a common enemy would have to be maintained, mind. We ain’t gonna be here long anyway. So, we found that mutt sitting in
even if the organizations were separate. Those were his terms. the passenger seat like he was waiting for someone to drive him away from
We all accepted. Kahn’s thunderburst of conceptual creativity got the place. We was all fucked up on Ripple,” Clayton said in mitigation.
everyone pulling together. Work was parsed out and eagerly accepted. “He snapped at us when we found him.” Clayton smiled at me. His
Everyone seemed delighted to get in on the ground floor of this new jaundiced eyes darted with deception, left to right and back again like the
movement effort. I was impressed by his accomplishment, bringing everyone carriage of an old Royal in the hands of a skilled typist. With a “what the
back into the fold. He wasn’t called the Guru for nothing. fuck are you going to do about it?” expression he relayed a version of the
We departed Malibu with understandings and deals. Outside, the tempest details.
had diminished into broken cloud cover. Rays of bright yellow-silver poked “We needed the van and that fuckin’ dog wouldn’t let us near it. We had
through, spotlighting a green-tinged sea. Rain ebbed to a fine mist. The winds to do somethin’, so Doc and me distracted him on one side and The Deputy,
abated. It was still wet, still cold, but not severe. The gods seemed appeased he comes up from behind and conks the mutt on the head with a baseball bat.
by our efforts and sent us these omens as encouragement that we might play Kinda knocks him out, like. And so we was able to get this pillowcase over
out this temporal drama as a comedy. For the moment, we had been provided his head, and tie his feet together like they do to them cows in the rodeo. But
importance and meaning. Swollen with our own significance, we strutted to the animal’s bleedin’ all over the place from getting hit on the head and
our vehicle, confident that we would be making history. We only had squirmin’ and wriggling’ and making these weird growling noises. We didn’t
ourselves to blame if we failed. have no choice, ya understand. So, Doc gets out the 12 gauge and we drive
him out to them arroyos east of here where we do the firearms training.
28. “We was gonna dump him, ya understand, but the dog’s nuts. He’s so
Somehow Dino got loose from Mitch. We couldn’t find him anywhere. pissed he’s tryin’ to kill us. Snappin’ and bite’n. So Dawg gets the idea that it
We drove all over the neighborhood looking for him, but to no avail. might be good to get some target practice on a moving target. And so we cut
“Maybe he tried to make it back to Ditmar,” Emma speculated. “Sort of him loose and he starts runnin’ ‘round crazy like. Snarling and pullin’ back
like a ‘Lassie Come Home’ type of thing. Dogs do that, don’t they? Go back his lips, showing them big teeth like dogs do. And the hair on his back starts
to what they think is home?” standing up. He’s a mad dog. Anyway, I throw some rocks at him and yell for
“I’m going over there this afternoon, to work on the Black Unity case. him to start runnin’ but he ain’t moving. He’s staring straight at us, like he’s
Got a meeting with Woods and Dawg. I’ll check it out.” I replied. “But I going to attack. Doc raises the bat to protect hisself and the dog like kinda

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goes for him. So I throw another stone at him and hit him on the head and he
starts to run a bit. He’s movin’ now. An’ that’s when Dawg fires on him. Hits
him, but he don’t go down. Just like loses some of his ass but he’s still on his tell ya,” he grumbled. “It’s oregano. They can’t bust ya for sellin’ oregano,
feet. He turns and looks at us and then turns back to try to get away. Dawg can they?”
shoots again, but I think he was using birdshot or somethin’ cause the hound “They can if you are selling it as dope,” I advised. “Maybe it isn’t weed
still don’t go down. He yelps a bit but keeps moving. Zig zaggin’ cause he’s but it sure is fraud and they can bust you for that.”
been hit. Well we gotta finish him off now. It wouldn’t be right to leave him “But who’s going to testify against me? What grunt is going to go into
in that condition, would it? Dawg takes another shot and this time the dog court and say he was trying to buy dope and got cheated?”
drops. I goes over to look and ya know that was one tough hombre, cause “How’d you get busted?” I asked.
he’s still alive and he tries to bite me. And so Dawg comes up and shoots him “Undercover cop,” Deputy Dawg admitted.
in the head. Point blank. Man, that motherfucker exploded! Fuckin’ blood “There’s your answer, then,” I said. “That’s who is going to court to
everywhere! I ain’t seen shit like that since the Nam. Anyway, we drag him testify against you.”
over to where somebody dumped a whole lotta shit and toss him into a “Don’t tell anyone this,” Deputy Dawg pleaded. “You’re my lawyer,
cardboard box, that used ta have like a dishwasher or somethin’ in it. So we right? You can’t tell anyone what I tell you. Right?”
offed the dog. No need for you to be wastin’ any more of your time lookin’ “That’s right,” I said. “Attorney-client privilege is what it’s called. As
for him.” long as you tell me about something you’ve done, not what you’re going to
Before I could say anything, the phone rang. At least something was still do, I can’t give it up.”
working in that dump. “Well,” Deputy Dawg whispered. “I got me this deal. Ya see. The brass
“It’s for you,” Clayton said. “The Deputy.” are supposed to cut me lose. Ya dig? Ya think this will fuck it up?”
“It was a bullshit tip,” Dawg whined. He was calling from the Oceanside Here was the opportunity I had been waiting for. “Deputy Dawg, Woods
lock-up. There had been some more trouble, he explained, and he needed my and I know about your deal,” I revealed.
help once again “A bullshit tip. How the fuck can they charge me with He looked at me with shock. “You do! How’d you find out?”
dealing weed?” he wanted to know. “It wasn’t fuckin’ weed.” “Deputy Dawg, you don’t beat an armed robbery in Southern California
“What was it?” I inquired. unless you make some kind of deal.” I looked him in the eye. “Don’t you
“Oregano. I bought this bunch of oregano. Them assholes just out of think we got that figured out? And you didn’t ever brag to us how you beat
Basic don’t know fuckin’ oregano from marijuana.” that rap, so we knew you were holding back something big, like they had
Woods had plans to go to LA that evening with Sukari. He had a meeting turned you. We aren’t that dumb.”
with the Panthers, to drum up support for his case. She was off borrowing “Then what were you waiting for? What were you going to do?” he
some wheels. Woods was already late for our appointment. With Dawg in the wanted to know.
slammer, there was not going to be much time to do any trial preparation “Nothing.” I said, without adding it up for him that we had been using
anyway, so I left a message with Clayton to tell Donnie Woods that I went to him to pass on false defense strategy to the brass. “We figured you’d fuck up
check out Dawg in jail and I’ll catch him when he gets back on Sunday night. sooner or later and you did. Woods can burn you now,” I told him. “He
That we’d go over our final defense plans then. “We’re on defense.” I knows all about you turnin’ into an informant. Now that you’re in here,
explained to Clayton. “We gotta pick a panel of jurors and then Eaton has to you’re out of the Black Unity case. He doesn’t need you any more. All he has
put on his case. There’s no chance he’ll be on the stand Monday.” Then I left to do is rap about you being the informer inside the Ditmar house and you’re
for the city lock-up and another bout with the incorrigible Deputy Dawg. a dead duck. You know that house is bugged. The FBI, the brass and the
Oceanside PD all listen in. Once they find out that the brothers are on to you,
“I was getting 10 bucks for a half ounce.” he complained in a self- know you are an informer, you’re no use to them either. You’re out in the
righteous lament. “Fuckin’ cops busted me for dealing. But it ain’t weed, I

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cold on both sides. The law’ll fuck you in the ass on this phony dope bust.
You’re just a nigger to them and if they can’t get any more use out of you,
you’re history. And if they let you off, well that’ll be just more proof to the turnkey entrusted with control of the final door was slacking off somewhere
brothers that you’re on the man’s payroll. Your game is up.” out of hearing range. The ordeal lasted a half hour all together.
He comprehended the desperation of his situation and decided to make I raced for my car, fumbled for the keys and pulled into a Friday
some amends. “There’s somethin’ I gotta tell you,” he said, looking sincere afternoon traffic flow that was beginning to congeal. I couldn’t take the
for the first time ever. “They gave me this ammo case with a belt of .30 cal. chance of getting pulled over. I just had to go with it and seemed to hit every
machine gun ammo in it,” he confessed. “I was ‘sposed to give it over to light along the way. I fell behind ancient drivers whose heads barely poked
Donnie Woods. For him to bring up to LA to the Panther meeting this up above the seats. Phantoms who drove 15 mph in 25 mph zones. My suit
weekend. So’s they could bust him on it just befo’ the trial. Once the bust became sticky with sweat. My heart raced. If I didn’t make it, didn’t get there
goes down, they’ll kill the trial and I cop to a Captain’s Mast. When I got to before they left, the whole case would go down the tubes.
Ditmar this afternoon with the ammo, Woods wasn’t there, so I handed it A plainclothes car was parked at the end of the block. I had become
over to Clayton and headed downtown to see if I could sell a few lids before proficient in spotting them. This one was a dark blue Chevy. A couple stiffs
y’all arrived. Clayton’s gonna give it to Donnie and they gonna bust him with crew cuts and necks that stretched the collars of their shirts to the limit
when he hits the INS checkpoint on I-5.” obtrusively occupied its front seat. They forced me to cruise the last block
I knew what I had to do, but there wasn’t much time. By now, Woods slowly, as if I hadn’t a care.
was probably at Ditmar, if he hadn’t already left. He’d get the case of hot Yet I did. As I passed the stakeout, I saw Woods backing a car out of the
ammo from Clayton but even if he figured it was fishy that Clayton was driveway. I honked and he stopped to let me pass. I blocked his progress and
giving it to him for the Panthers, instead of keeping it for Katanga, he waved at him to make sure he knew it was me.
wouldn’t be able to say “no.” He couldn’t lose face in front of the brothers. We both got out. Woods gave me a “power” shake. “We’re under
He’d take it. Put it in the car and then get stopped at the Immigration Station surveillance.” I whispered, smiling to cover my concern. “Don’t look. I just
up the road, halfway between Oceanside and San Clemente. They’d pull him drove past a stakeout down the corner.”
over, pretending it was just a regular spot check for illegal aliens but they’d “Big deal,” he said, smiling back. “The pigs are always checking us out.”
have been tipped. They’d find it and whisk him off to the brig. So much for “Maybe so, but I think this time you got something in the car that they
the Black Unity trial, the political statement. It was a clever plan. want to find real bad.”
Deputy Dawg hung on to me. “Do you think you can get me out on His grin got bigger. “How’d you find out about that?” he whispered, as a
bail?” He pleaded. “If I can’t get out fast, they’ll throw the book at me. I’m tiny bead of sweat formed on his forehead.
fucked.” “What’s happenin’, baby?” Sukari called, a bit too loud, from the car.
It was an ethical dilemma. He had told me things in confidence. If I left “We gotta get movin’ if we’re gonna make that meeting.”
him in the lurch to save Donnie with the information he had given me, I “Stay cool, girl. We got some important business here.” Woods told her.
would be breaching my duty to him. But who the fuck cared. He was a “The pigs are moving this way.” He muttered under his breath.
stoolie. He had set up my friend as well as my client. I didn’t give a shit “Pull the car back into the driveway.” I told Sukari.
about the legal niceties of it all. I had to stop a bust from going down. “Sure, She hesitated, not willing to accept orders from a white man.
sure.” I said. “But I gotta go do it fast. It’s Friday afternoon. If I don’t move “Do as he says,” Woods repeated with firmness. “Don’t be fuckin’
on this, you’ll be in all weekend. I gotta get out of here now and get to work.” around.”
“All the way to the garage,” I said. “As soon as I can, I’ll pull in behind
I rang for the bailiff to let me out of the interview cell. It was pure you and block the view.”
perversity. The guy let me cool my heels with Deputy Dawg for another 20
precious minutes before he let me out. Then I got delayed again because the

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The Chevy with the crew cut crew slowly rolled past. If they knew about
the ammo, they were in a dilemma. They had no grounds for a bust. Nothing
illegal was happening. As long as we made no moves they could call furtive, “Well, it isn’t just him,” I observed. “You gotta reckon with Clayton and
we had them in a stalemate. Their job had been to tail Woods until the bust Doc too. Anyway, you’ll know it was a set-up for sure if they stop you at the
went down, where it was planned, not to attempt a bust themselves. They Immigration Station and do a big time search,” I said. “I hope the car is
stared at us, trying to provoke a move. I nodded at them, letting them know clean.”
we knew who they were. I pulled a file from my car and opened it as if I were “Sukari” Woods yelled. “You sure the car’s clean?”
going over some legal issue with Donnie. It was all a ruse. When they got to “You bet.” she confirmed. “Borrowed it from Mrs. Harrington this
the end of the block they turned the corner and rolled out of sight. We had afternoon. I don’t think the Reverend’s car is a problem.”
our opportunity. I got back into my car and put it in the driveway behind “Well, if it is,” I mused, “it will sure make for one hell of a headline.” I
Sukari. handed Woods some irrelevant papers from my file and pointed at them with
“You got it in the trunk?” I asked Woods. animation. In case anyone was spying. I watched Woods and Sukari drive off
He nodded. to LA with a smug satisfaction. I shared Sukari’s confidence that the car was
“What’s it in?”
clean. Reverend Harrington might have been a lot of things but a dabbler in
“An ammo can in a duffel.”
illicit substances he most certainly was not. Yet I couldn’t help suppress my
“Get ready.” I told him. I walked out to the sidewalk to scout for the
curiosity. How, I wondered, had she come by his car. As far as I knew, she
cops. They had turned and parked around the corner but I was able to see the
wouldn’t have come within mile of that gent on purpose.
nose of the Chevy protruding a bit farther than they had planned. I gave Woods and Sukari were tailed by the blue Chevy until they reached the
Woods a slight wink and a nod and he moved the canister into the garage, Immigration Station where they were stopped and searched. He noticed an
under a coat. We both began to breathe a lot easier. MP van parked in the back. It followed them all the way to San Clemente,
“How’d you know about that?” he asked. like a polar bear stalking a seal. Then it turned back onto the Base. Its prey
“Half the fuckin’ city knows about it,” I said. “It was a set up and you
had escaped.
almost fell for it. We still got to figure a way to get it off these premises.” I went into the Ditmar house and made a call to the Provost Marshall’s
“It all makes sense now,” Woods observed, scratching his chin. “I office. I explained Deputy Dawg’s problem to the Duty Officer, omitting the
couldn’t figure why Clayton would turn it over to me. Hell, for all he knew, fact that I had warned their mark. I was counting on the tail not reporting the
the Panthers would be using it to blow his man, Katanga into the next galaxy. failure of their plan fast enough to interfere with my appeal for Dawg’s
But, ya know, I couldn’t just say no and turn it down.” release. I told them that I thought that it might be in their best interest to keep
“Yeah, yeah. I understand. You had to save face and all that.”
their end of the bargain with Dawg and to spring him from the Oceanside
“But are you sure that it was a set-up? How do you really know?”
lock-up. They denied knowing anything. Denied having any idea what the
“Can’t tell you,” I said. “It’s an ethical situation. Lawyer-client
hell I was talking about. But Deputy Dawg called me around eight that night.
privilege.” I winked.
He thanked me for the good work and told me he’d be seeing me on Monday,
Woods smiled. “Heard ‘bout the Deputy. What’d they bust him for this
ready for trial. That was the last I ever saw or heard from him, directly at
time?”
least. He reacted the way I suspected. That night he hot wired the old hippie
“Sellin’ oregano to the recruits. Tellin’ them it’s weed. Fuckin’ guy’s got
van, and disappeared.
no limits on his bullshit. Anyway, I gotta go. Promised to see if I could get
him out.” 29.
“Damn well better” Woods laughed, then turned serious. “If he’s here I was barely through the front door when I learned how Sukari came by
when I get back from LA he’s history. I’ll ice the motherfucker.” the Reverend Harrington’s car. Marylou Harrington was sitting on the couch

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alongside Emma, with Joanie and Louise hovering like protective wrens
above a nest. Her eyes were red from crying. Her head hung and her
shoulders were hunched in distress. There was a suitcase beside her. The wearing ‘I’m unhappy!’ like a big neon sign. And the Reverend, he was
women glowered at me as I entered the room. It was obvious that Marylou condescending and flirting right in front of you. You served the coffee.
had been dumped by the Reverend and consequently, one half of the entire Meanwhile he was all over Raylene with his eyes. It was a bad scene. You
species of Homo sapiens had become the enemy. He was the stereotypical were both into making you a drudge. So you grew into looking the part.
middle-aged male, abandoning the spouse of his youth for some skinny, When I saw the lines around your eyes, all I could think of was how they
young thing. Raylene, I suspected. And if I stayed around, I was going to be announced your unhappiness. Now I’m not some clever guy who can read
the surrogate scapegoat for eons of masculine treachery and infidelity. I people’s lives in their faces, by if I could see that, then probably a lot of other
quickly retreated into the kitchen and made a call to Lucky. Thankfully he people could as well.
was home and well advanced in a bout of recreational hemp experimentation. “But you’re free now and you can go positive. I once had a friend who,
I begged an invitation. by every objective criteria of beauty, you’d have to say was a very ugly
After several hours of space travel, punctuated by earsplitting audio - woman. But there was something about her. It was the way she looked at life.
Stairway to Heaven, Purple Haze and Surrealistic Pillow, I’d had enough. I The way she carried herself that made her beautiful. It taught me a lesson.
summoned my courage. If the women hadn’t finished their indictment of the You look on the outside like you feel on the inside and the whole world can
entire Y chromosome population by now, it was just too bad. I was going see it.
home, ready to risk the consequences. “What you had, what you were, wasn’t going well for you. Maybe you
I found Marylou alone in the living room, making up the couch for the were both too close to be able to say it. But now that he’s left you, you can be
night. Her spirits had not improved. The coven’s encouragement had failed to bitter and angry and pretty soon you’ll look that way on the outside too. Or
make her feel better. you can take the opportunity to be liberated and get a chance at a makeover.
“Let me give you a hand,” I offered. You’ve sure got plenty to work with. The lines aren’t so deeply etched that
“Thanks,” she said, “but it’s almost finished.” they can’t be merry and wise.”
“Did he leave you,” I asked with a bit too much boldness, “or did you “Marylou,” I said, touching her gently on the shoulder, “You’re out and
leave him?” you’re free. Don’t let bitterness swallow you up. There’s plenty of life and
“A little of both, I guess,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t compete fun out there for the taking.”
with youth. But I won’t live with it either.” She surprised me, putting her arms around me and giving me a hug.
I sat down on the corner of the couch and patted a spot for her to do the And just as she did, Emma walked in. I saw her first. She was shocked.
same. She complied. “I’m not good at this,” I admitted. “So, I hope it comes For a moment she just seemed to hang there. I winked at her and smiled. She
out right. Give me the benefit of the doubt as to good intentions. OK?” eased up. “I’m glad you’re out of it, Marylou,” I said. “And I think you are
She was wary, non-committal. “I hope I can.” too.”
I looked straight into her eyes. She retreated as far as the couch would She broke the hug and took my hand in both of hers. “Thank you,” she
permit, then relented. said, letting go slowly, following me as I got up, “very much.”
“Maybe you’ve been liberated,” I began. “Maybe it’s a new beginning Emma was curious and perhaps a bit jealous too. As we got ourselves
for you, not an ending. If that’s what you want to make of it. On the other ready for bed, she brushed out her hair with a bit too much vigor. “So, what
hand, you can let it overwhelm you. There are a lot of people out there who were you talking to Marylou about?” she probed.
grow old letting the sadness and bitterness of life consume them. Then, at the “Well,” I hedged, “I just figured that you and the two crones had filled
end, they’ve got nothing but regrets. her head with anger and bitterness, in the name of female support and that it
“When I first met you, at that afternoon thing at your place, remember? I
said to myself, now there’s a woman who’s in a bad marriage. You were

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wouldn’t make her really feel any better about either herself or about men in
general, so I decided to tell her what a man thought about her situation.”
“And what was that?” Emma asked defensively. hands around her buttocks and helped pull her up. There was a passion that
I repeated what I told Marylou. Emma looked up at me. Her mouth hung had not been there for many months. It was a special pleasure.
open a bit in surprise. “You told her that?” she exclaimed. “I didn’t know you
had that in you.” 30.
“I don’t know what got into me.” I laughed. “Maybe Lucky’s Acapulco The next afternoon I had a speaking engagement at the Unitarian
Gold. But, you know, I really meant it. I’d like for us to be positive about life Church. Reverend Harrington, who was not of that denomination, had set it
as we get old. I’d like you to age with beautiful lines of wisdom and glowing up. The topic was to be “The Church as a Sanctuary.”
contentment. I want us to have that. But I never find a way to say it. I feel it The Unitarians were operating out of a post-modern, raw concrete and
when I look at you and try to imagine us in twenty years. But I can’t bring stained glass building, solid yet simple. It was situated on a large, grassy,
myself to say those things. And even when I feel ready, it’s not the time or well maintained lot. The parking area was sufficient for more than a hundred
the place, or you say something that pisses me off or something just mundane cars. There was no steeple, as I imagined necessary for Christian
that breaks my mood and I can’t say, shut up, Emma, I’m feeling something denominations. But I had also heard that some people didn’t think Unitarians
beautiful about you or about us and I want to share that with you. Instead we qualified as Christians, and I’m not really sure how vigorously the Unitarians
seem to end up arguing about whose turn it is to fold the laundry or making argued the point. Inside, there was none of that blood and suffering. No
an excuse for not taking out the trash.” Christs on crosses.
“I don’t understand,” she said getting up and walking over to me. I was greeted by Reverend Harrington and the host pastor, a pallid,
Looking up at me. Backing me up against a wall. “Why can you say caring mealy fellow with quasi-hip sideburns and inappropriate bell-bottoms.
things to others and not ever find the time of the place to say things like that Skinny Raylene stood behind them and smiled at me, with the smugness of a
to the person you love?” victor as Harrington introduced me, benignly, as a civil liberties lawyer who
I looked back at her and put my hands on her bare shoulders. “You
had come from “back East” to create a legal defense team for military war
know, I’ve given that some thought,” I admitted. “And the best excuse that
dissenters. During the obligatory small talk, the Reverend said nothing about
I’m able to come up with, a poor excuse really, is that it’s harder to say
the absence of Marylou or Reverend Simpson. Everyone maintained a
loving things to someone you love. Marylou is easy. I’m detached. Marylou
pretense that there was nothing out of the ordinary.
can’t hurt me because I don’t love her. I like her and want to help her be “We have a pretty fair crowd,” Harrington observed, extending his arm
happy, but I don’t love her. She can’t hurt me. You, Emma, can hurt me in the direction of some twenty people who were seated in a circle, on metal
because I love you. So with you I have to be harder, to protect myself. I’m folding chairs, in a large, all-purpose room. They were an older bunch.
not afraid of other women, but I’m afraid of you. Something inside me keeps Retirees and those on the verge. As a group they were not directly threatened
saying ‘Protect yourself. Don’t let yourself get hurt.’ Because I love you and by a draft call to an unpopular war. For them the War was more an
if I give it all up to you I can be really hurt. Funny, isn’t it, that it’s harder to intellectual, political and/or moral exercise. Some of the women eyed me
be open with someone you love than with someone you don’t.” with curious interest. These men came in three, easy-to-recognize categories:
She put her arms around my waist and pulled herself close. Rested her
fidgeters who had been dragged to the event against their will, the sedated
head on my chest. “Boy, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t
ones who slumped in their chairs and lastly, those with a grudge that they
have to be afraid of me, Eric.” she whispered. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
wanted to vent and who sat with their arms folded across swollen bellies. I
“I’m not so sure,” I whispered.
was an ambassador from a generation none of them could comprehend. A
She kissed me and swung her leg up over my hip. Her soft thigh
representative of an exotic culture that seemed to anger and obsess them. It
snuggled against my side and she began to climb me as I stood there. I put my
was going to be a tough crowd.

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“I was told that you call part of this church a sanctuary,” I commenced.
“Probably you know that the tradition of churches as sanctuaries goes back to
the Middle Ages, when it was forbidden to enter a church with weapons. It you all would certainly have heard about his shocking experiences. And it
was a place where the King’s laws could not be enforced. And that meant would have helped our country come to grips with the truth about the War. If
that people, no matter what they had done, could find safety from the power Corporal Conlon had the chance to address the American people from a
of the state within its walls. A place of peace, where to do violence was sanctuary, people could see that the opposition is broader than just a few
forbidden on pain of excommunication. long-haired hippies and pinko professors. It includes people like Jack Conlon,
Right now, up in Berkeley, at a Unitarian Church similar to this one,
an all American boy who has been there and clearly knows what he’s talking
there is that kind of a sanctuary taking place. Several sailors from the aircraft
about.
carriers, Coral Sea and Ranger have taken refuge in the church to protest
“Another situation where a sanctuary could certainly make a positive
against the War. They are protesting the fact that the bombing campaign
contribution to the national debate is the issue in a case that will begin this
against the people of North Vietnam is indiscriminate. They are trying to let
Monday morning at Pendleton, when a Black Marine corporal, Donnie
everyone know that civilians are being targeted for bombing. By being able
Woods, will go on trial for wearing a wristband called a Black Unit identity
to take sanctuary in a church, the people have a chance to visit them and talk,
bracelet. The Black Unity bracelet is a symbol of their demand for dignity.
to question and understand. The sailors are not going to stay in there forever.
After witnessing the violent way the National Guard took control of Black
Just long enough for the issue to build and grow on its own. Then they intend
neighborhoods during the recent riots he felt it was important for the people
to turn themselves in. That’s the kind of thing the church can do. And they
to know that the combat units of the armed forces are full of Black troops
are the kind of GIs I came down here to defend.
who are bravely fighting and dying, even while their homes are getting
“Maybe some of you have problems with the peace movement, hippies,
burned to the ground and their families shot or arrested, just like the
and Anti-War activities, generally,” I said, acknowledging the body language
Vietnamese. His wearing the Black Unity identity bracelet represents his
of some of the men in the room. “But every one of us, regardless of our
demand that the government recognize Black people as good, loyal
politics could, under some circumstances, find ourselves either forced to
Americans and treat them with the respect and dignity we all deserve.
submit to the government or to pay the penalty for our conscience. Therefore “Donnie Woods served his country in Vietnam and has a purple heart.
it is important for each of us to recognize the significance of the sanctuary He is only two months short of discharge. Corporal Woods is charged with
tradition for our modern condition. Any one of us might need it some day. refusing an order to remove the Black Unity identity bracelet, even though it
“One of the cases I am involved in right now makes that very point. In
is really no different than wearing a cross, which the military allows. Donnie
about a month from now, Marine Corporal John Conlon will be going on
Woods is not alone. Many troops of all colors feel the same way he does. If
trial, facing as much as 14 years at hard labor because, when he was in
there were a sanctuary movement, Black GIs could use it to get public
combat in Vietnam, he developed strong moral objections to the War. He has
support. And if that happened, we’d all be able to learn a lot more about
said that he was forced to commit acts that we called war crimes in World
racism in the military, not from white lawyers like me but from the guys who
War II. When he talked about it with his chaplain, he was told that it was
are putting themselves on the line to bring the civil rights movement to the
ok, that God would forgive him. But he wasn’t satisfied with that brush-off.
Armed Forces.”
He began to read about the rules of war and he discovered that his unit was A hand went up. “Isn’t it true,” a ruddy faced gent of World War II
engaging in behavior that had been defined during the Nuremberg Trials as vintage asked, “that your work is being funded by the communists? Aren’t
war crimes. He felt betrayed. you really serving the purposes of the international communist conspiracy by
“So when he got back and was called upon to train others, he refused. He
reducing the effectiveness of our fighting forces?”
was on his way to a church sponsored sanctuary when he was arrested.
“Funding!” I exclaimed, barely suppressing a chuckle. “I sure wish we
Because he told embarrassing truths, the military has decided to throw the
had some funding. I’ve been up and down this state looking for funding and
book at him. If Corporal Conlon had been able to make it to that sanctuary,

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I’m still eating commodity foods. If there are any communists out there, I
want you to know that you are failing us. We need money! “As for serving
the purposes of the international communist conspiracy, when Congress It was hardly more than four walls and a roof. The clapboard exterior
passed the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it specifically gave every GI the had been neglected and the paint was peeling. Inside, it was unfinished.
right to be represented by an attorney of his choice. Up to that point, it was Sunlight filtered through the cracked walls. Whenever the wind whipped up,
possible for a commander to discipline, jail and even execute a GI without a sand managed to get inside. And the Marines had done little to spruce up the
real trial at all. An accused soldier wasn’t even entitled to the opportunity to place for the performance. Actual chairs were made available only for the
consult with an actual lawyer. The law now provides for the right to have a judge, jury, prosecution and defense. For the spectators, they had set up rows
civilian attorney. Someone outside the command structure to represent our of backless benches. They were providing bare bulb lighting. The only color
boys in military trials. What I am doing,” I firmly assured them, “ is actually came from the Old Glory and Globe and Anchor flags that were hanging
part of the military system of justice, not something subversive. It is a from movable poles to the left and right of the judge’s bench. In their effort to
congressionally authorized service to the country, just like a sanctuary would be as inhospitable as possible, they had unwittingly created a kind of “Uncle
be a service to God.” Tom’s Courtroom.” Given the political message of the case, it was more
With that, our host decided to cut it short. I had begun to invade his turf. fitting than they realized.
He was looking for talk but clearly, no action. Certainly not a sanctuary. He Woods entered, walking down the aisle like a prize-fighter with myself
rose to suggest that we might better discuss these matters informally over and Captain Jeffers, his entourage. He looked around at his supporters and
cookies and tea or coffee. On the walk back to my car after the event, I winced. Apart from Sukari and a couple of Oakland Panthers posing as press,
noticed Harrington open the door of a new car for Raylene. She scooted over everyone else was white. SOGI had shown up. So had the organizers for the
to his side, like a teenager on a Saturday night date. They drove away San Diego MOP. But even Clayton and Doc had failed to make a token
virtually joined at the hip. A few straggling congregants shook their heads. It appearance. It had to hurt.
was a small town after all. Harrington would soon be heading for a new A few moments later Captain Eaton, the prosecutor, arrived with his
congregation. witnesses in tow. He directed them to a front pew and bid us a perfunctory
good morning. We all waited for the judge.
31. The room was electric with anticipation. The spectators whispered snide
MOP’s press release announcing the Woods court martial had gotten observations and joked in voices just loud enough for Eaton’s ears. Behind
picked up by much of the underground press. It had made it into the Panther the audience, four white-gloved MPs stood at parade rest. Pistols at the ready.
paper, and even into some of the more conventional Black press like the San Stone faced. Attempting to be intimidating by shifting their weight from one
Francisco Sun. Alternative radio stations like Pacifica carried the foot to the other. Puffing out their chests. Nearly another half an hour passed
announcement. Some of the underground papers described the trial as an before our judge, Colonel Hansen, entered by a side door. The uniformed
opportunity to “invade” the Marines’ most famous base, and to show support personnel snapped to attention as he took his place.
for the GI rebellion. Captain Eaton rose to make a statement, but the colonel waved him back
Fearing that they were about to be overrun by Black Panthers, the to his seat. “I have an order to read from the Base Commander,” he
Marines decided to restrict this anticipated band of infiltrators to a location announced solemnly. “No spectators shall be permitted to leave the
far from their Mainside JAG courtroom. When the morning of the trial immediate environs of this building, except to return off Base via the main
arrived, members of the general public were subjected to warrant checks and gate. Anyone violating this order will receive an order banning him from the
reviews for possible banning orders. After some delay, the MPs directed Base and be otherwise subject to arrest. The members of the press are
approximately 60 tie-dyed, irreverent spectators to a ramshackle World War forbidden to seek or obtain any statement from any member of the Corps
II vintage storage building within a few hundred yards of the main gate. except by prior permission of Public Relations. Any obstruction or disruption

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of these proceedings or any inappropriate display of disrespect or emotion
relating to these proceedings, as determined by the military judge presiding
shall result in immediate and permanent ejection from the Base. There is to “The order didn’t cover me,” I observed dryly. “ I’m a civilian. The Base
be no photography and no tape recording of these proceedings, except by Commander can’t prevent me from speaking to the press. I still have the
official record or by prior written permission of the Base Commander.” The protection of the First Amendment and so do you.”
colonel looked out upon the assembly with contempt and disdain. “I hope you “What do you make of these dismissals?” another asked. “Do you think
understand that,” he said. they still have a case, or have they given up?”
“I am advised by the Convening Officer that certain charges, originally “Well, actually, we’re still in the same place as we were before,” I told
filed in this matter have been withdrawn.” he continued, half hoping to hear them. “The out-of-uniform charge carries only a month. But the disobedience
some cheers or applause that would permit him to carry out his threat to eject of a lawful order, Article 91 can still get Woods six, six and a kick.”
spectators from the Base. But there was only silence. “The charge of “Six, six and a kick?” a reported asked. “What’s that?”
disrespect toward a senior non-commissioned officer is withdrawn. The “Six months confinement, six months forfeiture of pay and allowances
charge of disobedience of a lawful General Order is withdrawn. There and a Bad Conduct Discharge,” I explained. “The issue is still the same. Was
remains to be tried the charges of not being in prescribed uniform, Article Woods out of uniform because he was wearing the Black Unity identity
134, and willfully disobeying the lawful order of a senior non-commissioned bracelet? If he was out of uniform, the order of his senior NCO to remove it
officer, Article 91. Is that correct, Captain Eaton?” was lawful. If he was not out of uniform, the order was not lawful. Woods is
Eaton jumped to his feet. “Yes Sir.” determined to go ahead and test the regulation, for the sake of all of the Black
“Are you ready to proceed with the prosecution, captain?” servicemen.”
“Yes sir.” “Can we quote you on that?” I was asked.
“And is the defense ready?” the judge inquired. “That’s why I’m talking to you.”
“No, your honor,” I said. “The defense had not been informed of these As I turned to leave, I noticed the profile of an irked Colonel Hansen
dismissals prior to your announcement and we ask the Court for a brief recess through the dirty glass windows of the courtroom nee shack.
to consider the impact of these dismissals on our position.” “You heard what he said, Your Honor. I object!” Captain Eaton leaned
“Very well,” nodded Colonel Hansen. “You may have one hour. This forward over the counsel table, his meaty palms splayed on either side of his
Court is in recess until eleven hundred hours.” thin file. Together with his flaccid, bulging belly they formed a sort of tripod
We filed out to consult. “Was some sort of deal possible now?” Captain that supported his upper half. His expansive rear fairly mooned the audience,
Jeffers wanted to know. Donnie shook his head. He was determined to testing the strength of the seam in his khaki pants. His puffy face, fixed in an
proceed as planned. He told us he had no intention of changing his position apparently perpetual scowl, hinted at anguish. He hadn’t liked what he heard
based on these dismissals. We worried though that the dismissals might make but, as he was bereft of knowledge of the rules of evidence, a whiny appeal
it appear that the case was now less serious, less newsworthy and that the was the best he could muster.
Marines were intent on giving Woods a fair trial before they screwed him. “Sustained!” Colonel Hansen ruled without waiting for debate. An
We were also worried that the few members of the press who had come down undercurrent of murmuring rumbled through the spectator gallery.
to cover the trial would leave. I reviewed my notes of the court’s orders. “On what ground?” I asked, curious to know what was wrong. Was it the
There was a loophole. Neither Woods nor Jeffers could talk to the press, but I testimony? The question?
could. “Ask your next question,” Hansen commanded. “I have ruled.”
They were huddled together, like the press usually is at these kind of “But I don’t know what was wrong. How can I ask my next question if I
things, talking to themselves. Speculating. I wandered over in their direction don’t know what was wrong with the last one?”
and they took the bait. “It was prejudicial,” Hansen replied curtly. “ Not probative.”
“Are we allowed to talk to you?” one asked.

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Eaton nodded in agreement. “That’s right, prejudicial,” he repeated.
To be sure, anything that the brass didn’t want to hear was prejudicial,
but that didn’t mean it was not probative. We were in the middle of a the communication expressed by the identity of the bracelet is governed by
colloquy concerning the General Order as it related to permissibility of the GO This is a matter of constitutional law. We are dealing with the right to
wearing identification bracelets. Gunny Bonham, the NCO who had free speech.”
originally provoked the incident with his demeaning of Deputy Dawg in the “The General Order speaks of the identity of the individual wearing the
mess hall, was the witness. He was claiming that to be genuine an identity bracelet. His individual identity,” the colonel replied. “That’s my
bracelet had to be made of metal. Together we had been pouring over the interpretation of the law. Free speech is a civilian concept. We’re in the
language of the General Order upon which he was relying. With some military. We’re not going to sit hear and speculate as to what someone might
difficulty, I had managed to get him to agree that the GO failed to discuss the be called. If your client was wearing a bracelet that said ‘Black Unity’ and
acceptable materials required for construction of the item. you put on some evidence to prove that it was his nickname, I would listen to
“Would leather be ok?” I had asked. He wasn’t sure, but opined that at
that. But right now there is no evidence that he was wearing anything more
least the identity part had to be in metal, with writing on it. I asked if it
than a shoelace around his wrist, so I don’t have to even get to the point of
mattered what the writing said. The Gunny said that it did. It had to be a
his identity.”
name. “You mean that it’s how one communicates the statement, not the
“Could it be a nickname?” I had probed. The Gunny thought that it
content of the statement itself, that is at issue here?”
could. “That’s right, ” said the colonel. “Good order and discipline require that
“So,” I asked, “it would be ok if I had an ID bracelet with words on it
in the military we limit the means by which we communicate our ideas.”
that said something like “Top Grunt.” “So if we have two wrist bands, each communicating the same idea, one
“Sure,” Gunny agreed. “That would be within the spirit of the GO”
in writing on metal that said “Black Unity” and the other symbolically by
“How about if my nickname were ‘Killer?’”
braiding, good order and discipline can permit one and prohibit another?”
That was ok too, according to the Gunny. In fact he knew several guys “Yes, that’s right,” said the judge.
with that nickname. “But when I look at the GO, Your Honor, it only says that you can
“Then ‘Brass Killer’ would be all right?” I asked next and that’s when
communicate a message concerning your identity by means of a wrist band.
Eaton got the point and objected. It was a matter of content. The concept of
There are no other limitations. There is no requirement that the identity be
“Black Unity” was content offensive to the Gunny and he was clearly
communicated in words. It says nothing about metal or cloth. Neither the
representative of the state of mind that existed among most of his NCO and
Gunny here, nor, with all respect, Your Honor, has the power to issue or
officer ilk. Hansen didn’t want that in the record, but it was too late. I asked
modify a General Order. Therefore, I submit that we have to get back to the
my next question, which undoubtedly was even more prejudicial.
issue of what is meant by “identity.”
“What if my nickname was ‘Black Unity’?” The colonel’s face reddened. “I have ruled, counsel. Do you have
“Objection,” Eaton screamed. “No one has that nickname.”
anything further to ask this witness?”
“Sustained,” said Hansen. I did not. The point was made.
“How do you know that no one has that nickname?” I replied, ignoring The colonel then ordered the matter adjourned for the day.
Hansen’s ruling. “I’ll bet you never even asked. How do you know that The alternative media railed: “RACIST COURT MARTIAL!” “How,”
Donnie Woods here isn’t called ‘Black Unity’ by all of his friends?” one moderator of a Berkeley radio station asked, “could the Marines try a
“I sustained the objection, counsel,” Hansen emphasized with a
heroic Black veteran and seek to put him in jail, for wearing a shoelace on his
hammering of his gavel.
wrist that merely symbolized his pride in his Black identity?” He went on to
“Yes, your Honor,” I said. “But I am entitled to a record here and that
means that I have a right to know whether you are ruling that the content of

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suggest that letters be written to the few sympathetic congressmen willing to
ask questions.
It was a politically untenable position for the Marines. They had nothing “Wanna get a drink,” I suggested, “to celebrate an Honorable
to gain. Over the evening recess, the top brass apparently realized this and Discharge?”
asked Washington for a clarification of the issue. Captain Jeffers called me at “Deal,” he replied through a broad grin.
home, late and told me that they had decided to postpone the trial until they We went to one of those dives on the main drag, where the grunts
got the clarification. There would be no proceedings the following morning. demanded the music at full volume. Where the beer signs behind the bar were
The next day, instead of working on the trial, I began to write a motion. in blue and red neon, and the strobe lights flicker above a tiny stage so the go
If the GO required a “clarification,” I argued, then it would be unfair to go girls appear to move as if they were in an early silent film. Where horny
convict a Marine on the basis of an ambiguity that the top generals were privates just out of basic pushed and shoved to stick dollar bills into their
admitting existed. Woods had to be cleared of any charge that required bras. Where they only served the crummy domestic beers and no one knew
“willfulness.” any better.
We took a table near the door, the size of a medium pizza. It was sticky
32. wet with the spillage of drink and the slobbering of 18 year-olds.
My motion to dismiss may actually have helped Donnie Woods. “So what are you goin’ to do now?” I asked.
Although it rubbed the brasses’ noses in the contradiction, it forced someone “Dunno.” Woods shrugged. “This happened faster than I expected. Came
in Washington to take notice. Woods called me a week later. “Can you give as a surprise. And getting banned from the Base puts a crimp in things. I can’t
me a ride?” he asked. hang with the bros now. Except when they let ‘em off Base. And it won’t be
“Sure, where are you?” long before I’m an outsider. I won’t be up on shit. It’s one thing to organize
“Main gate.” while you’re in, while you’ve got the same things to lose as the people you’re
“What the hell are you doing there?” I asked in unmuted surprise. He working with. But being out makes it another deal. Me and Sukari talked
had been restricted to Base since the trial went into recess, pending the about that. She figures that I ought to go up to Oakland and join up with the
decision from Washington, Panthers.”
“They discharged me this afternoon. he said. “ Fastest fuckin’ discharge “What do you think?”
I ever heard of. A couple of MPs came by and hustled me out of the kitchen. “Well, I like the Panthers a lot,” Wood hedged. “but I just got out of the
They just ran me through a physical. Had me sign a bunch of papers. The military and I sure don’t want to be going back into something like I just
next thing I knew, I was standing here calling for a ride.” came out of. I got a chance here to get an education with my GI Bill. I’m
“What kind of discharge you get?” I asked. thinking that maybe I ought to go to hotel and restaurant school and get a
“Honorable,” he chuckled. “The only way I’d sign the fuckin’ papers is degree. Then, I’ll see. I’m not saying I’m not going to be active. I’m just
if the DD-214 said honorable. Oh shit, wait a second.” he said, and the phone saying I don’t think that right now I want to make the revolution a full time
was silent. I waited. job.”
“MPs just handed me a Ban Order.” He laughed. “Can you dig it. One “I can understand that.” I nodded agreeably. “I was hoping that you and
minute they won’t let me off the Base and the next, I can’t ever go back on Sukari would hang around through Jack’s trial though. I think it’s important
again. Even though I’m now an honorably discharged Marine Corps Vietnam that there is a Black presence supporting him.”
Vet with a purple heart. These guys are too much!” “I can dig it,” Woods said, taking a long swig on his beer. He looked like
I met Woods at the main gate. He was sitting on a duffel loaded with all he needed time to find the right words, so I gave it to him. Finally, he
of his stuff, puffing on a Kool, like he was waiting for a train. He jumped up collected his thoughts. “I dunno if you noticed,” he began, “but the only
when he saw me coming, threw his gear into the back of my car and we took Black folks at my trial were Sukari, some Oakland Panthers and a couple of
off.

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reporters. None of the brothers showed. I don’t mean the Marines. They
couldn’t come. But no one else. Clayton and Doc didn’t show and they didn’t
do shit to get anyone else to come. It was a white show. Know what I mean?” “That’s what I’m worried about.” I admitted. “If I do my job like a
“Yeah, I noticed,” I muttered. “And I didn’t like it one bit either.” lawyer, I’ll probably cut the rug out from under his political statement. I
“Well the point I want to make is this. I can’t organize on the Base. I really am a government agent. Ironic, isn’t it?”
haven’t got any influence at the house. And even if I do get Black folks to “Don’t beat yourself up around it.” Woods consoled me. “Winning cases
come, how’s it going to look, them coming out for Jack when they didn’t for GIs isn’t a bad thing. Can you give me a lift back to the Ditmar house?”
come out for me? All in all, we’re fuckin’ lucky the Corps decided to let me he asked almost apologetically. “I’ve got some personal shit stashed up in the
out before someone noticed.” attic. Pictures from the Nam. A few souvenirs. My diary of the year over
“Maybe they did notice and that’s why you’re out,” I speculated. there. Someday, I may want to write it up. I’d like to get it before someone
“Yeah, maybe so.” He nodded thoughtfully and took a long drag on his decides it would be good for the fireplace. Know what I mean?”
smoke. “Maybe they saw that the Black Unity thing wasn’t a real threat to “Unfortunately, I do.” I sighed. “Let’s go. The sooner the better as far as
them and that they had it under control all along. There wasn’t any need to I’m concerned.”
make a fuss and get the civilians all riled up when the troops weren’t.” When we rounded the corner onto Ditmar, we smelled it. There is no
“Well that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. In which case, I guess other smell like it. The acrid, caustic aroma of burning toxins, old paint, dry,
you’ll be leaving soon.” aged wood, fiber and plastic, as it is being doused with water. There were
“Kinda looks that way,” he said, rocking back in his chair and downing blinking lights on the tops of vehicles. The crackling sound of radio
the rest of his brew. “I don’t want you to think that I’m deserting you,” he communications rended the air. A crowd stood across the street, held back
said. “But the truth is, there isn’t shit I can do for you except be a Black face by a yellow tape barrier, patrolled by uniformed officers.
in the crowd and I’m never going to play that role.” Clayton and Doc stood out, the only Black faces among the spectators.
“I understand.” I said with disappointment in my voice. I had anticipated Clayton had his hands in his pockets. Doc’s arms were folded across his
a day something like this since I returned from New York. It was the foreseen chest. They were in animated conference. Their white teeth glistened. They
fruit of the segregationist politics that Katanga’s cronies implemented. laughed. Did little shuck and jive steps. They were not upset.
Ironically, I viewed my successful defense of Donnie Woods to be a defeat. Opposite, yellow-orange flames were playing peek-a-boo from the
His release was a letdown. Now there would be no demonstrable connection windows of the bungalow. Dancing the shimmy in the breeze. Dense gray
between racism in the military against Blacks and racism by the military smoke billowed into the atmosphere. Tongues of fire, shooting from the roof,
against the Vietnamese. It made me chuckle unconsciously. engaged in a game of dodg’em with torrents of water aimed by helmeted men
Woods asked me what was so funny. in raincoats and rubber boots. A few of the fire fighters worked over the door
“I was thinking about a speech I gave a while back. To a bunch of with axes. But for all the activity, it seemed inevitable that the house was
Unitarians.” I explained. “I told them that because Congress had authorized destined to perish in flames.
the use of civilian lawyers in military courts, I was actually performing a Woods walked up to Doc and Clayton, leaving me a step behind. “What
government sanctioned service. When I said it, I thought to myself that it was happened?” he asked.
a load of crap. But look what happened. I got you off. Now there won’t be “Whoa, bro.” Clayton jumped, surprised to see him. “Thought you was
any connection between the Blacks’ struggle against racism in the Corps and confined to the Base. What you doin’ here?”
Jumpin’ Jack’s trial. I actually helped the government divide the movement. I “They discharged me today,” Woods stated in a minimalist way. “What
think that’s fuckin’funny.” happened?”
“Yeah.” Woods smiled sympathetically. “I see where you’re coming “We was just tryin’ to keep warm, ya dig?” Clayton explained. “Puttin’
from. Think the same kind of thing could happen with Jack?” some papers in the fireplace. An’ they went right up the chimney. Like the

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next thing we know, the roof’s on fuckin’ fire. An’ then, it kinda starts
spreadin’ along the ceilin’. All over the fuckin’ place. I ain’t never seen
nuthin’ like it man. That fuckin’ place must be made of kindlin’ wood or “Yeah? Big deal.” Lucky snickered when he heard it. “So you ain’t a
somethin’ ‘cause we barely got our asses outta there before the whole thing fuckin’ reliable person as far as they’re concerned. That’s actually a back-
went up.” handed compliment.”
“Fuckin’ near exploded like an ammo dump,” Doc concurred. “If we “That’s one way of lookin’ at it,” Frankie responded in an even temper.
done stayed in there another minute we’d be toast.” “But my MOS is as a communications specialist and for that I’ve got to have
Woods turned away from them and shook his head. “Let’s get the fuck a crypto access, which means I’ve got to have a security clearance. I can’t be
outta here,” he said to me. “You think I can crash at your place for a few taking and receiving messages from staff unless I’ve got that. And if they pull
nights? ‘Til I get my money out of the credit union and Sukari and I can it, I’m down to a combat platoon radioman. Which means that instead of me
catch a flight north?” being in a cushy H&S company, I end up being radio operator for some
Woods and I barely spoke on the drive over to our place. I was immersed newly-minted second louie in some piss ass platoon humpin’ the fuckin’
in thoughts that the opportunity to build a multi-racial movement had slipped boonies. Plus I gotta carry fifty pounds of radio shit along with my combat
away and with it an organization that could truly achieve meaningful change. gear. And on top of that, I gotta be right next to the fuckin’ louie, which is the
We were not heading for a revolution. It couldn’t be made in a segregated absolute the worst place to be. If Charlie ain’t aimin’ at him he’s goin’ ta be
society and our movement had taken the bait. Only our ability to doggedly aimin’ at me. And if some pissed off grunt tries ta frag him, he’s goin’ ta take
oppose the War remained as an option. In that moment I realized that with the me out too.”
end of the Vietnam War, this movement to which I was committed would “That’s all speculation,” Joanie soothed. “Nothing like that’s happened
probably wither and die. And I found myself psychologically in retreat like a yet.” Then she saw the look on his face. “Has it?”
revolutionary private in Napoleon’s tattered army limping away from It seemed like the longest silence I could remember having occurred
Moscow, knowing that the ideals of his revolution had been squandered on during the entire time I had been in Southern California. Finally, he hunched
the altar of self-aggrandizement. up his shoulders and bit his lower lip. “I’ve been transferred out of H&S
A few days later, Frankie came over on a weekend pass and brought Company,” he grimaced. “to an infantry platoon out at Las Pulgas. They’re
another dose of bad news. He had been visiting steadily since they threw Jack waiting orders.”
in the brig and, it seemed every day he was becoming more alienated from So that was it. That was the Marines’ plan for Jumpin’ Jack’s trial. They
the Corps. Like me, his morale was plummeting. He dropped in just before were not going to permit the kind of organizing that went into Woods’ trial to
supper and Marylou set him a place. jeopardize the conviction of a treasonous Marine who had testified before the
Although she was not quite old enough to be his mother, Marylou and whole world that their organization was a criminal conspiracy against the
Frankie were in the beginnings of a curious relationship. There certainly was poor and oppressed. First, they’d get rid of Donnie Woods, without whom
a generational gap. She had been a child of the fifties, while Frankie could they could bank on Jack not getting Black support. Next, by transferring
hardly remember Eisenhower. And there was a class difference. She had been Frankie to Las Pulgas, ten miles up the coast, they were isolating our best on-
brought up the sheltered daughter of the middle class. Frankie was from Base contact. It would be almost impossible for him to get in to meet with us
across the tracks; the kind of kid Marylou’s parents warned her to stay away regularly. Then, before the trial began, they’d ship him off to Nam, insuring
from. Worse still, he was Catholic. But they seemed to be meeting each that Jack would have no on-Base support. All that would be left were bunch
other’s immediate needs. She was the type of woman who submerged her of outside lefty civilian agitators.
own troubles and turmoil in the nurturing of others, while Frankie was an “So, Frankie,” Louise probed, “what are you going to do?”
emotional black hole. She became dedicated to bringing him some hard-to- “What do you mean?” he asked, seemingly surprised that Louise thought
come-by peace and warmth. He was greedily accepting it. there was a decision to be made.
“They pulled my security clearance,” he announced over the salad.

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“Well, are you going to go?” she pushed.
“To Nam?” He looked at her curiously. “Well, I never gave it much
thought before ‘cause of my MOS,” he admitted. “But now that you mention “What do you think, Frankie?” I asked. “It’s your life we’re talking
it, it seems to me that they are retaliating against me for being Jumpin’ Jack’s about. You go the sanctuary route and you’ll be busted for UA and probably
friend, even though I ain’t never done nothin’ to cause them to pull my missing movement. Chances are you’ll get a court martial. Maybe even a
clearance. They’re trying to stick me, to get back at Jack. I guess they think BCD, but most of the guys who do it get about 3 months confinement and
they’re sending a message that anyone who supports him will end up shipped then get thrown out on a UD, for the convenience of the government, as an
out real quick.” undesirable. The time is short but the discharge will stay with you for the rest
“Seems that way to me too,” Louise said. “They did the same thing with
of your life. You will lose all your GI Bill and VA benefits. All potential
Jesus.”
employers will ask for your DD-214 when you go looking for work and when
Marylou brought a large bowl of steaming spaghetti and began to dish it
they see a UD, they’ll think you were a major fuck-up. Most of them won’t
out. Serving Frankie first with a large mound of the stuff, she asked, half-
hire you.”
choking on her words, “How long do you think you’ll have before they send “How you talk him out of it!” said Joanie.
you over?” “Look, Joanie,” I snapped. “You aren’t going to be the one who pays.
“Shouldn’t be more than a month.” And there’s certainly nothing wrong with Frankie knowing the whole story
“Do you have any choice? Is there any way you can get your clearance before he makes a decision. No one wants to be accused of manipulating
back? What about a CO?” she asked, rapid fire, without waiting for any anyone. Right?”
answers. I could see the worry-lines returning to her face. “Look, everyone,” Emma said, putting down her fork and leaning
“I can appeal my clearance,” Frankie said. “But it will have to go forward. “Frankie is the one who gets to decide what he’s going to do.
through channels and I’ll be over and back before I get a decision. As for the Whatever he decides, I know that I’m going to respect and support his
CO route, I’ve looked into it but, you see, I’m not really a pacifist. If they decision. He has time and I don’t think that it’s for any one of us to be putting
asked my whether I’d fight to save my mother from a robber, and they do ask ideas into his head.” She picked up her fork and finished her meal.
shit like that, I’d be lying if I said ‘No.’” That evening, Frankie and Marylou took a long walk. They returned arm
“So what’s wrong with lying if it will save lives?” Marylou asked, in arm, smiling. She was able to drive him back to Base later that evening
surprising even herself. because her car still had not been discovered as being “subversive.”
‘I dunno,” said Frankie, “I guess I never thought of lying.” A few days later, I got a call from Frankie. He said that he was now
“Probably wouldn’t work,” I intervened. “ I mean, how’s it look? He’s restricted to the Base. That he would be getting no passes. And that it didn’t
got no problem with the Marines as long as he’s got this cushy job at H&S look like he would get to see much of us before he shipped over. The reason,
Company. But then they pull his clearance because he’s hanging around with he explained, was that there had been a couple of incidents in his battalion
us and instantaneously he’s a Conscientious Objector. Come on. Even if they that had put the brass on edge. The brass suspected that it was him.
can’t actually prove he’s lying, he isn’t going to prove that he’s got this deep- “Two nights ago,” he told me, “ in fact the night after our discussions
seated and long-standing opposition to the use of violence in all cases. And about ‘you know what’ someone broke into the battalion armory and ripped
that’s what he’d have to do.” off a dozen M-16s, a grenade launcher and a BAR along with some ammo.
“Well what about sanctuary then?” Marylou pressed, her hands on her Word was out all over Las Pulgas but the brass wanted to keep a lid on it, so
hips. “You’re always talking about it as a principled way to oppose the War. they put the whole camp on restriction. The next night they found a howitzer
What about that.” zeroed in on the San Clemente White House.”
We all could see that Marylou was intent on stopping Frankie from going “It wasn’t ready to fire,” he elaborated, “but it was well aimed. Nixon
over. We also could see that he was listening. She had gained some influence wasn’t around, so everyone knew it was a message, not an attempt to kill the
over him and none of us could find anything wrong with it.

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President. But when ya think about it, there’s some Marines out here actually
got the balls ta send the President that kind of message. It was a total freak-
out. The security was tight. Orders for my unit got cut overnight and military by some civilian. A judge. Priest. Coach. Or a father who’s still
scuttlebutt has it that they’re gonna pull the usual leave ya’ get just before ya’ fighting the last war. But they don’t really belong in here. You know that. I
ship over. So I called ta’ tell ya’ goodbye.” know that. It’s better for all concerned that the Corps just lets ‘em out. I just
The next morning, Marylou packed her suitcase and told everyone that don’t get the point of the pound of flesh attitude.
she was heading up to Berkeley. She had gotten hooked up with CCCO, the “I think you know that I’m actually doing you a great big favor.” I
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and was going to help with continued. “How’re you going to create morale, instill discipline, with my
their publishing. She also had plans to volunteer at the Berkeley sanctuary. clients around? You may believe in the mission, but big deal. My clients
She promised to keep in touch. don’t anymore, not after they’ve seen the reality. Then it dawns on them that
A few days later, we heard that Frankie’s battalion had shipped out. they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There ain’t jack you can do
about it but have a tantrum and fling ‘em into the brig. But that doesn’t really
33.
solve anyone’s problem. It just lets you brass get your rocks off. My job is to
I presented my credentials and was passed in without a search or
get them out as quickly and as painlessly as possible. And if I can do that
inspection of my briefcase. They knew me and, if there was anything
without you guys getting your revenge, well so much the better. But the end
untoward, knew where they could find me. I mounted the familiar wooden
result is that everybody’s a whole lot better off if I succeed. Hell, you tell me
steps into the brig admin building and ambled into Captain Daly’s domain
if you’d want to be in a combat situation with my clients. You’d be out of
like I owned the place. Daly was where he always was, doing what he always
your mind.”
did at this time of the morning. He looked up at me from behind the pages of Daly looked my in the eye. He wiped his prominent chin with the back
the San Diego Union sports section and brought a cup of foul smelling, over- of his hand and smiled. “You’re right about that last part. Say, Wolfe, you
brewed java to his lips. He greeted me with his usual smirk. ever been in the military?”
“Hi, Captain Daly,” I responded cordially. “Better watch out that finger “Naw,” I shook my head. “I’m sort of like my clients. Don’t take orders
doesn’t turn into a perpetual cup hook.” very well. Especially when it comes to a war I don’t believe in.”
He held up the cup as if toasting. “Works a trigger pretty good. Here to A gangly lance-corporal with wheat straw hair, looking like the inbred
visit the deserter again? Why don’t you just throw in the towel with this kid, offspring of Ma and Pa Kettle entered the office and gave the officer a sloppy
Wolfe. We got him by the balls and there ain’t shit you can do for him.” salute. “We brung the prisoner up, sir.”
“Well, captain, you may be right, but then again you may be wrong. We “Well, Wolfe,” the captain said, “Guess it’s time to get back to work.
just won’t know ‘til it’s over. Kind of like the War, wouldn’t you say?” See ya ‘round.” He ducked back behind the newspaper and I left the room to
Daly liked the repartee. Especially since he felt in total control. “Say the sound of an enormous slurp.
Wolfe, what the bejeesus do you do this for anyway? I mean, you can’t be The hayseed lancecorporal led me to a small room fitted out with two
making a shitload of money on these grunts. They don’t get any. And you metal chairs and a well-gouged table. There was a single dirty window for
know as well as I do that damn few of them get off. I mean courts martial light, reinforced by a grating to prevent the prisoners from jumping through
ain’t like them liberal civilian courts. We know how to deal with criminals and getting as far as the fence, where they could be shot if anyone was paying
and cowards and wise asses in the Corps. So what’s in it for you? By the attention. Jumpin’ Jack was brought in. There was a cheery grin and
way, can I get you a mug of coffee?” animation in his being. It was the best I’d seen him since they brought him
“Not until you get a cup with an eagle on it,” I joked. He squinted and
back in irons. His improved spirits were nothing for which I could take
grinned at the thought of himself as a colonel. “It’s like this captain,” I said.
credit.
“You think of these kids as bad apples. I think of them as victims of a big
time swindle. Half the guys you’ve got in here were dragooned into the

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“Gabrielle was here yesterday,” he explained. “She wanted to leave me
some underground papers. The MPs confiscated them, but she told me what
was in them. There have been some articles about my case, haven’t there?” know what the fuck you were doing. To be blunt, it looks like you’ll max out
“Several,” I confirmed. on the sentence unless you retract your statements.”
“I sure would like to read them.” he said. “But all they let me read here “I ain’t never going to do that.” He growled at me as if I was spouting
is the Bible and stuff like Sports Illustrated. SI hasn’t said a thing about my blasphemy. “You suggesting I wimp out?”
case, or even the War.” He laughed. “I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just telling you your options. I have to
I had an idea. “There’s one other thing that they have to let you read do that. It’s my professional responsibility. What if I don’t tell you that and
even though you’re inside,” I advised, “and that’s your legal papers. Suppose you get, say 10 years and then, while you’re in Leavenworth you start getting
I write a motion and attach the articles as exhibits. I can give you a copy of pissed that I didn’t tell you a way to get off?”
that and you can keep it and read it all you want. In fact, they can’t even look “You got your job to do and I got mine,” Jumpin’ Jack replied in a
at it because it’s attorney-client privileged material and can’t even be detached voice. “I been to hell and what the brass can do to me now ain’t shit
disclosed until I decide to file it. So I’ll just prepare a bunch of motions with compared to what they already done. We’re going’, ya understand. All the
stuff you want to see as exhibits and bring them to you every time I come. way.”
What do you think?”
Jumpin’ Jack liked the idea a lot. But I speculated that his press coverage 34.
wasn’t the thing that was really picking up his spirits. “How’re the visits with Without my knowing about it, someone, probably Doc or Clayton,
Gabby going?” I asked suggestively. changed the registration on the van into my name. I guess they wanted a
“Great!” he enthused. “I wish they’d let her visit more often. She’s real
honky patsy in case the van was used illegally. Whatever their intention, I
nice. I didn’t notice her that much when I was around last year. Probably
would never have gotten the information but for that fraud.
‘cause I was too wacked out. But she’s been really great. Lookin’ real good “You Eric Wolfe?” the voice on the phone asked. When I confirmed the
too, don’t you think?” fact, the voice continued. “This here’s Deputy Sheriff Ransom, calling from
There was no reason to deny it. He was smitten and anything but a grade
Potter County, Texas. We got us a vehicle here registered to you.”
of straight As for Gabby would be considered treason. “You got that right,” I “Deputy, my car is parked right outside. I don’t have a vehicle in Texas.”
said. “Think she feels the same way about you?” I replied. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Guess so.” He winked. “Think you can figure out a way that we can get “Ain’t you the owner of a 1964 Dodge van? We got us a registration
more time together?” here from California, says it belongs to you.”
“Doubt it. But I’m sure glad you got her. It’ll make the time go by “There was a van that was stolen from some friends of mine a few weeks
faster.” ago,” I told him. “But it wasn’t mine. I don’t know how you could possibly
“What do you mean?” he quizzed me.
have a registration in my name, ‘cause it isn’t mine.”
“Well, to be frank, Jack, you don’t have much of a case. You split. Been “You say the vehicle was stolen from a friend of yours?” he asked.
gone more than 30 days. Told the whole world that you were a war criminal. “Yeah, I think a Marine took it. He was trying to go home, I suspect.”
Left people with the impression that you never intended to come back to the “Would the name Darron Thomas ring a bell?” the deputy probed.
Marines. You had your picture taken next to some Viet Cong women. Then “Yeah,” I admitted. “You got him in custody?”
you got apprehended at the border. Your chances of getting off in a court “Not that lucky.” said the deputy.
martial are mighty slim. The only things you got going for you are that you By the time he got to Barstow, on his way back to East Saint Louis,
are a Viet vet and split from the mental ward. That may get some sympathy, Deputy Dawg must have known he was in trouble. He had to feel the
but only if you testify that you were so strung out on acid that you didn’t vibrations when he accelerated. How the motor torqued over. He had to

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notice the pull to the right. By the time he hit Kingman, the power train was
probably crying out for relief in a high, constant whine. A receipt revealed
that he had stopped in Flagstaff and bought some heavy duty transmission oil the cars operable long enough to get the customers off the lot. She, or one of
and some grease. If he had thought about the motor mounts, he would have her low life boyfriends was bound to be back for another car sometime, he
remembered that Mitch had mentioned the need for their replacement but had figured. So he decided that his next security measure would be a pair of
never gotten around to it. Probably it didn’t even enter his mind. Dobermans. Trained guard dogs. He found a guy in Lubbock who raised
Nursing the van across New Mexico must have been excruciating for them. Guaranteed them to be some of the most vicious, merciless animals in
him, a wheel man. He was safe from speeding tickets but he most certainly the Panhandle.
feared for his vulnerability as a Black man in cowboy country. He was an Anyway, he said, it must have been long about midnight. Everything was
easy target for the yahoo sheriffs who patrolled those roads. dark, except for his lights, shining on his sign like a beacon just off on the
Deputy Dawg managed to coax the van down the long descent from frontage road. It probably enticed Deputy Dawg like a flame does a moth.
Bushland as far as Amarillo, until the motor tore free of the mounts, twisted Dawg must have walked past and been attracted to that ‘67 Buick
and snapped the universal. It was beyond repair. He was barely able to roll convertible parked in the front that had “Clean, Low Mileage” soaped on the
onto the shoulder, less than a mile from an exit. He put up the hood. Wrote a windshield. He then probably returned to the van and got the bolt cutter that
note that he had broken down. Left it on the windshield and started walking. Lucky had left in it when we attacked that Minuteman sign, along with his
He made it to “Wild Wes Cars and Trucks”, a used car lot surrounded by a jimmy and the few tools he needed to pull the ignition switch and cross the
chain-link fence, draped with yellow, red and green pennants on 20 acres of wires. He must have cut the lock to the front gate with the bolt cutters and
desert on the old route 66, near the westernmost Amarillo city line. then threw the heavy tool into nearby ditchbecause that was where the law
Sheriff Ransom suggested I call a used car dealer named Herzog if I
found it later.
wanted to know the whole story. I was curious, so I did. He had just slipped the jimmy between the door-frame and the window
Wes Herzog was a talkative, crazy redneck. He gave me an earful. He when they struck.
ran a business called Wild Wes’s, he told me. His wife had run off with some Silently, without so much as a snarl, they came up on him. The first
trucker who worked the regular route between Oklahoma City and latched on low, at his thigh. The second lunged at his neck. It got him just
Albuquerque. He felt like he was living in one of those sappy Hank Williams below his ear and sank its sharp, long canines deep into his neck. If he had
C&W songs, he said. He was sure it was them who had ripped him off. She kept the bolt cutters he might have had something to use as a weapon, but as
had the keys. Felt entitled. Who else would have cleaned out the cash drawer it was he was virtually helpless. He fell to the ground. The Doberman with
and known the special hiding place where he kept the keys to his best cars? the grip on his neck twisted and pulled at his jugular like a trained assassin.
Who else would have been savvy enough to take the title papers too? It was The other ripped a huge gash in his side and then struck again in the soft
especially galling that she had taken the Coupe deVille, one of the few cars folds of his stomach, tearing at his guts. Mercifully, he lost consciousness
on the lot that didn’t have some major mechanical defect that had to be quickly. The jimmy was still in the window, when they found him.
repaired. If he saw them in town, he swore, he’d get even. He kept his .44 Wes told me that he had discovered him the next morning, when he
magnum with him at all times just for the occasion, he seethed. Just telling opened up for business. He was lying in a vast pool of congealed blood.
me about it on the phone got him steamed up. Another thieving Black, receiving his just desserts, Wes pronounced.
She had taken advantage of the layout, he told me. Had ripped off a key The sheriff-coroner came by and took him away to the morgue, where he
to his big locked gate, the one at the entry with the pair of longhorns attached later was identified as a convicted criminal and deserter, Darron Thomas, aka
to the top of his sign. And she knew where the switch was to turn off the Deputy Dawg.
spotlights. He lived in a mobile home in the back end of the property and his The women all cried when I told them. I shrugged and said it was too
view of the office, where he kept the keys and papers, was blocked by a row bad he had to die but the world certainly wouldn’t be a worse place without
of willows and the old Quonset hut that his half-assed mechanic used to make

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him. They thought I was cold, cruel, without empathy. They didn’t know him
like I did.
as he was concerned, we could fuck up the place all we wanted. The
developers, he said, could pick up the trash.
The site was a remnant of the idyllic “Old California,” that lives on in
those dreamlike scenes one finds on fruit and vegetable crate labels. There
PART THREE was only one structure with a roof, a gigantic, wood-slatted, weathered barn,
THE CONVENIENCE OF THE GOVERNMENT nestled in a tiny valley, down a short, dirt track. It was protected from the
sensory pollution of civilization by luscious, rounded, golden hills. A dry
35. creek ran along the back end of the parcel, splitting a grove of willows and
The Marines were determined that the trial of Corporal John Conlon white oak. There was a towering weathered windmill in front that pumped a
would not be a re-run of the Donnie Woods affair. Jumpin’ Jack’s public trickle of cool water into a horse trough. A decrepit, western style corral of
accusations made it certain that they had to save face. It was going to be a splintery gray fir rails rotted slowly to one side.
General Court Martial where the stakes were far higher than with Woods. The women had publicized the event well. Every utility pole in
They intended to leverage a guilty plea or go for broke. downtown Oceanside had a notice stapled to it. They glued posters on the
We tried to counter-attack. There was a traveling troop of entertainers sides of buildings and fences. They even managed to smuggle hundreds of
going around the country, much like the Bob Hope USO tour, only doing an leaflets onto the Base. Louise and Joanie organized a shuttle to the barn from
Anti-War shtick. It featured such headliners as Jane Fonda, Donald right outside the Greyhound station. By the time the event began, we had
Sutherland and Peter Boyle as well as several people who Louise knew from several hundred GIs in attendance. Among them, to be sure, were many
the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Louise called in a few chits and asked them representatives of the various government intelligence and police agencies.
to come down to Oceanside to perform in support of Jumpin’ Jack. By this It turned out to be a case of perception versus reality. The press reports
point, due to his public accusations of war crimes and the unfortunate picture versus the truth. We got the benefit of the press this time. It reported that
of him standing next to a female Viet Cong guerrilla, Jack had become hundreds of grunts had turned out to support Jack and the Anti-War
something of a darling with the Anti-War Movement, so they agreed. Movement. However, while mingling with this crowd, I discovered many
The fare involved slapstick skits about GIs outsmarting lifers and brass, who had come only to see if they could get a grope of Jane Fonda and have a
devious ways of undermining authority and anti-war songs. Interspersed with free party. Perhaps the reporters were biased in our favor, but probably it just
this lighter stuff were anecdotes of life in North Vietnam designed to made better copy than the truth. Most could have given a shit about Jack and
underscore the humanity of the people we were fighting and the inherent the principles that he stood for. It was damn lucky that along about late
justice of their struggle. afternoon when they were profoundly pickled, some of them didn’t try to
We held the shindig at an old barn on a ranch in Carlsbad that was slated rape the performers. As soon as the show was over, a couple of us arranged
for development. The owner, who Melinda knew, agreed to let us have it for for their escape. I wondered if the NIS was hip to the truth. If they weren’t,
free because he was pissed off. He was an older Hispanic farmer who had we were in bigger trouble than what was going on over in the Nam.
been victimized by heavy-handed Anglo pressure to sell the place to some The Corps decided that they were going to hold this trial in their big
developers with connections in the local government. If he refused he would spanking new courtroom at Mainside. They were bringing Colonel Hansen
get busted for sanitation and pollution violations and have nothing but trouble back to finish us off. Spectators would be permitted, according to Captain
from here on out. He didn’t have the money to fight “progress” so he had Jeffers, but every one of them would have to show ID, and be photographed.
agreed to take their bread and move on to another spread, further east. As far Security would be tight and made to be as much of a deterrent as possible.

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There was going to be a press officer available at all times. There would be
no “no comment” attributions to the military this time around.
Jack demanded that his court, the military equivalent of a jury, include faces as from the Woods trial, and a few more SOGI activists from the
enlisted men, as was his right under the UCMJ. In this case he was going to Seattle area. The Guru came up and wished me luck. He shook my hand
get a panel of seven. In response, the convening officer pulled two junior warmly and smiled his transparent smile. “We’re all with you,” he assured
officers off the court and selected a sergeant major and a first sergeant, each me.
with over twenty years service. The sergeant major had actually seen combat A couple of reporters approached, asking if we had anything to say.
in Okinawa at the end of World War II. The other had begun his career with Jeffers told them we had no comment. I told them that whatever we would
a stint in Korea. They had so many stripes and ribbons that you could barely have to say, we would be saying in the courtroom. One stuck a mike into
see their uniform for all of the gold and color. These guys knew their duty Jack’s face and asked him whether he had anything to add. Jeffers pushed it
and they were going to do it. away and told him that our client would have nothing to say to the press. Jack
I met Jack early on the morning of the first day in Captain Jeffers’ office.
looked at Jeffers, nodded his head as if in agreement, then turned to reporter
Two MPs were stationed outside to make sure that he didn’t make a run for
and said, “Stick around for my testimony.”
it. Jack was spit and polish in his khaki top with all his decorations and dress I nudged him into the courtroom before he could say any more or the
blue pants. reporters were able to ask the inevitable follow-up questions.
“Can’t wait for the day I can take this shit off,” he replied, pulling the This venue was a significant contrast to the tar paper shack they had used
front of his shirt, when I asked him how he was doing. He sat down in a chair to try the Black Marine, Donnie Woods. The chairs were comfortable. The
next to me and across from Jeffers, expecting some last minute briefing. counsel tables were more than adequate to spread out our papers. There was a
Instead, he received only silence. There was really nothing to say. We were pitcher of water and paper cups for us. It smacked of racism, although I’m
prepared. As prepared as one could be under the circumstances. sure the Marines never saw it that way. Their slapdash shack was more
Jack broke the gloom. “This reminds me,” he joked “of that old saying
symbolically appropriate for the grandson of a slave. But the white guy, no
from some Western: ‘OK boys first we give him a fair trial and then we lynch
matter what he was accused of, deserved the full regalia.
him.’ He smiled at each of us in turn. “Whatever happens, I want you both to Once again, our adversary was Captain Eaton. He entered the courtroom
know that I’m hip to the fact that we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell from a side door, not wishing to run the gauntlet of Jack’s supporters. With
of you guys getting me off. I know where I stand. All I would like out of this him this time was an aide. A lance corporal, legal clerk whose job it would be
is a chance to make my statement, ok? So, what I really want from you both to hand him papers and fetch whatever he desired. Also with him was a chief
is to make sure I have the opportunity. I don’t want either of you to tell me to warrant officer from NIS who had been the investigator on the case and had
hold it back, ‘cause it may go harder on me, ok? If I do that, I’ll be selling actually prepared the witnesses for the prosecution.
out.” We exchanged handshakes like the captains of a football team at mid-
Jeffers looked at him curiously. Then at me. “It would make things a field before the toss of the coin. A moment later, a sergeant whowould be the
little easier if I knew what it was you intended to say,” he urged. clerk entered and set up at a small table next to the witness stand. He was
“If I told you that,” he said, winking at me, “I wouldn’t know how you’d
followed directly by a matronly civilian woman, her gray hair done up in a
react. In fact, Eric here can’t even be too sure what I’m going to say. But one
bun, dressed in a long, quilted skirt, a white blouse with a green plaid necktie
thing’s for sure, I’m going to say it. They want a fuckin’ trial. They want the
and sensible black pumps. She reminded me of my Cub Scout den mother.
truth. Well, that’s what they’re going to get.” She plopped her formidable derriere onto an undersized swivel chair and
“It’s time,” Jeffers said, looking at his watch. began to manipulate dials and buttons on the machine that the Marines
We left the office and walked down a long corridor to the courtroom,
employed to make a transcript of legal proceedings. Such transcriptions were
followed by the two MPs. Spectators milled about, watching us, giving power
required by the UCMJ in every case where a penal discharge such as a BCD
fist type salutes and whispering “right ons.” There were many of the same

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or a Dishonorable was possible or whenever the penalty could exceed six
months. That is, whenever a conviction would be deemed a felony and the
defendant would bear the stigma of a convicted felon for the remainder of his “Sir, your moustache isn’t regulation and neither is your hair. If you’re
life. going to act as this man’s defense counsel in a military court, I think it is your
“She’s the instructor at the court reporter school on Base,” Jeffers duty to conform to military standards of grooming. Even if you are a civilian.
informed me. “I guess they want to make sure that the record is perfect, so It is disrespectful to the Marine Corps,” he opined stiffly.
there’ll be no technical glitch when they convict Conlon. I had a case once This provoked chuckles from the spectators and caused Colonel Hansen
where the defendant was given a Bad Conduct Discharge but they had to to slam the gavel down. “There will be order in this court or I will have it
withdraw the punishment because the transcript had some blank spaces in it, cleared,” he snapped. His threat had the desired effect.
where the court reporter couldn’t understand what was said. He was not “Do any of the rest of you have a similar belief?” I asked. There was no
experienced enough to speak up and ask for the testimony to be repeated. It’s response. “Your Honor,” I turned to Colonel Hansen, “I request that the first
very technical and the Court of Military Appeals is a stickler for a complete sergeant be excused from this court.”
record. They don’t want a screw-up like that here, so they brought in the best The colonel looked down from his bench toward the first sergeant with
they’ve got.” apparent displeasure at his voluntary announcement. “Sergeant, “ he asked,
She deftly placed the first of the wax disks into her recording device and “do you really believe that the length of Mr. Wolfe’s hair or his moustache
slipped the band of the mouthpiece over her head. She was ready to go and will prevent you from doing your sworn duty to give Corporal Conlon a fair
nodded to the clerk. trial in this case?”
“All rise!” he commanded. “Sir,” replied the first sergeant, “I always try my best to do my duty and
Hansen and seven Marine jurors marched in together. Five officers and I hope I could be able to do it here, but I have been sworn to tell the truth in
two enlisted men of the highest ranks. this examination into my fitness for this duty and the truth is that I am
Hansen immediately commenced the voir dire, our opportunity to prejudiced against Mr. Wolfe because he looks to me like a hippie
question them for “possible bias.” I found this a curious concept given that troublemaker and I really don’t think I can put a lot of stock in what he says.
each of the seven members had been personally selected for the task by the So as long as Corporal Conlon has him for a lawyer, I don’t think I can judge
commanding general, the guy who had chosen to convene a General Court him fairly.”
Martial in the first place. His decision left it no secret that he desired a heavy Hearing this explanation, the colonel shook his head. “All right,
penalty. Since he was also the man who held life or death power over their sergeant, you are excused.”
careers in the Marine Corps and since each of them was a career soldier, his “Thank you, sir,” said the first sergeant, standing and saluting. He made
influence was considerable. Consequently, each juror had to be biased. a parade turn and marched out of the courtroom.
Nevertheless, I was surprised by the results of my examination into their “Does anyone else have any other reason they think they might not be
bias. All of them, of course, denied feeling any pressure to reach a guilty able to give my client a fair trial?” I asked, looking back at the remaining six
verdict because they were under the command of the general who had men.
convened the court martial. What else could they say? But when I asked Seeing the success achieved by the first sergeant, a captain was
them if there was any other reason they could think of that might lead them to emboldened to tentatively raise his hand.
believe that they might not be able to be fair to the defense, two of them “Yes, captain,” I said, “do you have something you want to tell us?’
actually spoke up. “Yes, sir,” said the captain. “I don’t have anything against you, like the
“Yes sir,” the first sergeant said, raising his hand. “ I do not believe I can first sergeant does, but I want to say that I don’t like all these spectators out
be fair to the defense because of your long hair and moustache.” there. These outside agitators coming from all over turn this trial into a circus
“Captain Eaton also has moustache,” I observed. “Why is it that you can and that bothers me. If these are the kind of people,” he waved his arm in the
be fair to him and not to the defense?”

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direction of the spectators, and sucked in his breath between tightly-drawn
lips, “who are the supporters of Corporal Conlon, then I can’t say I can give
him a fair trial. I’m the kind of person that judges people by the friends they We bumped the sergeant major and got the recess we wanted. Colonel
keep and I must say, I’ve already made a judgment in this case about your Hansen announced that we would reconvene at 1300 hours to determine if we
client, based upon what I’ve seen so far.” would have a full court.
I looked over toward Colonel Hansen and shrugged. He looked back, When we returned, we found that the CO had gone us one better. Not
then at the captain. only had he replaced the sergeant major with a gunny who had twenty two
“Captain,” he asked, “do you think that you can put that prejudgment out years of service, but he had also added a staff sergeant with only 9 years,
of your mind and judge the accused based simply upon the evidence bucking for rank and a chief warrant officer who had been a police inspector
presented to you in the trial of this matter?” prior to rejoining the Marines, just so he could serve in Vietnam. We once
“Colonel, sir,” the captain shook his head and lowered it to observe the again had a court of seven and each of them denied any bias or prejudice.
floor, “actually, I think that the more I remain in the same room with these Captain Eaton laid out the government’s case in his opening statement.
people, the less likely it will be that I will be able to give Corporal Conlon a He would show that Jack had jumped off a high rock with the intention of
fair trial.” injuring himself so that he would not have to train troops for the War. Then,
“All right, captain, you are excused,” said the colonel. after he had then been confined in the psychiatric ward of Long Beach Naval
“Counsel,” if there are no further challenges for cause, do either of you Hospital, he broke his confinement by leaving the hospital and traveling to
wish to exercise your preemptory challenge?” Canada. He would show that while in Canada, Jack had made disloyal
After Eaton declined, I asked the court for a short recess to consult with statements in public, on several occasions criticizing the Marine Corps, the
my client and was granted ten minutes. President and the United States Government for engaging in an allegedly
“There are only five members of the panel left,” I advised Jack. “If we illegal and immoral war. The evidence, he contended, would also show that
exercise a challenge now, the convening authority will have to add new Jack claimed in public that we had committed war crimes like the Nazis who
members because they can’t go forward with only four. That could result in a had been found guilty in Nuremberg. And, he promised, the government
continuance. What do you want to do?” would prove that Jack had made these accusations in the company of known
“How long a delay will there be?” asked Jack.
agents of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese government, with whom
“Could be only a couple hours, or it could be days,” said Captain Jeffers.
we were at war. Eaton stated that he would prove that Jack was absent
“Actually, I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never seen anybody win a
without authorization for more than thirty days and that he had done so with
challenge for cause. I really can’t say what they’ll do.”
no intention of returning to the Marines. He argued that the convincing
A broad smile broke across Jack’s face. “Never happened before,” he
evidence would prove that Corporal Conlon was a deserter and that his
repeated. “Fine. let’s see what the fuck they’ll do. Who do you think we
desertion had been terminated by apprehension. This, he concluded
ought to bump?”
emphatically, was a most flagrant case. It caused irreparable damage to the
“Well, we got a light colonel, two majors, a second louie and the
good name and the sacred honor of the Marines and the United States and for
sergeant major,” I said. “The second louie is going with his superiors, so
those reasons he would be seeking the maximum punishment possible.
there’s no point in bumping him. I say it’s either the colonel or the sergeant On behalf of the defense, I announced that I was reserving our opening
major.” statement until the conclusion of the government’s case. I asked the judge to
“Well,” Captain Jeffers mused, scratching his chin. “I go with bumping instruct the panel members that this is a right of the defense and that they
the sergeant major. If we want to make things as difficult as possible, that is. should draw no conclusions as to the guilt or innocence of Corporal Conlon
The CO will have to scrounge up another enlisted man.” from our exercise of that right. I also requested that he instruct the panel that
“Why the hell not?” agreed Jack. “Let’s bump him.” the statements of Captain Eaton were not a substitute for actual proof.

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Colonel Hansen looked at me with annoyance. “I always do that, counsel,” he
snapped. “Thank you. Members of the Court, you have heard what Mr. Wolfe
has said. That is the law. Captain Eaton, please call your first witness.” talking. Jack told the Tribunal that his orders were to make it slow and
“Thank you, your Honor,” Captain Eaton said, jumping to attention. painful, so that the incentive to talk would be clear. Then he went on to tell
The first witnesses were a couple of grunts whom the government had how he had seen other suspected guerrillas thrown from helicopters by their
brought back from combat duty in Vietnam just to testify about what captors, even though they may not actually have been guerrillas at all but
occurred when Jack was leading their training mission at Camp Pendleton. merely peasants who were caught in a crossfire. The tape concluded with
They described how, suddenly, he climbed a large rock, screamed some Anti- Jack stating that: “For all of that, I ask your forgiveness and I make a solemn
War stuff, the specifics of which neither of them could recall and then, to promise that I will never again serve such an organization of criminals.”
their shock and surprise, jumped off the rock, injuring himself. They went on “Agent,” I asked on cross-examination, “do you have any other
to confirm that when they got to him, he was babbling incoherently. The statements from the accused?”
medics were called. They took him away and that was all they knew. I had no “No, sir, nothing on tape.”
questions. “Did you hear anything else from the accused beyond the testimony that
Next came a doctor from the Pendleton hospital whohad treated Jack
you recorded?”
immediately after he jumped off the rock. He had signed papers ordering Jack “No, I tried to get everything Corporal Conlon said on the tape. If he said
admitted to the Long Beach Naval Hospital and prepared orders that he be anything to others, I was not in a position to hear that.”
escorted under guard to that facility. On cross-examination, I asked him to “So all you have concerning the issue of whether or not Corporal Conlon
identify the papers he had signed. He was only able to identify his treatment intended to turn himself in or never intended to surrender to the Marine Corps
orders. “Did you also sign confinement orders?” I asked gingerly. is the one statement we heard.”
The captain shook his head. “I’m a doctor,” he smiled, “not a
“Well, I understand there were other statements to that effect that he
policeman. I just sent him along to psychiatric for observation. If they think
made to the press,” said the NIS agent.
he needs confinement, that’s for them to decide.” “But you didn’t hear them. Is that correct?”
A custodian of records followed, producing the documentation from
“Yes. That is correct. I didn’t hear them,” he admitted.
Long Beach Naval Hospital showing that Jack had been escorted to their “Thank you, that is all,” I said, sitting down.
facility by MPs from Pendleton and that he had been placed in a locked Eaton jumped to his feet, sensing a weakness in his case. “Agent, did you
facility for observation. He also produced official records showing that Jack keep the press clippings? The ones where Corporal Conlon is quoted as
had been confined in a locked facility when he was granted permission to saying he would never return to the Marines.”
venture onto the hospital grounds. The records showed that he had not “Yes, I have them,” the agent testified. He reached into a folder he had
returned from one such unsupervised recreational opportunity. He was brought with him to the stand.
reported absent and there were no further entries. Captain Eaton smirked. “Will you please produce them,” he said.
“No questions,” I said hopefully when my turn came. Eaton had yet to
“Your Honor, I must object,” I said, rising. “Newspaper articles
produce an actual confinement order.
purporting to state what Mr. Conlon said at some time when this witness did
Eaton’s next witnesses were two NIS agents who had been operating
not personally hear him say those things is the rankest of hearsay. My client
under cover at the War Crimes Tribunal in Canada. One introduced a tape
should not be required to respond to those press reports.”
recording he had made of Jack’s speech. In it, Jack had described an “Yes,” said the colonel with patience. “Captain Eaton, newspaper
experience he had in Vietnam where he personally had interrogated a articles can not be used to prove someone said what is reported in them. Do
captured Viet Cong guerrilla and was ordered to kill the man in front of you have any other reason why you want the court to consider them at this
another captured guerrilla. The victim had refused to cooperate with an time?”
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“But Your Honor,” Captain Eaton pleaded, “we have a stack of reports
from dozens of newspapers and they all report that the accused repeatedly
stated that he would never voluntarily return to the Marines. They all can’t government to turn over to the defense those documents which form the basis
have gotten it wrong.” of its prosecution. Are you telling me that this was not done?”
“I’m sorry, captain,” the colonel shook his head. “The rules of evidence “No, Your Honor,” said Eaton, breaking into a sweat that began to stain
require us to exclude hearsay unless there is an exception. Newspaper articles his neatly ironed shirt. “We gave them everything we were permitted to give,
are uncorroborated reports. You can’t introduce them because the accused but just not that file.”
can’t cross-examine the article.” “Your Honor,” I interrupted, “the defense moves to strike the testimony
“He can deny it,” Eaton argued. of this witness that identifies the two women in this photograph as Viet Cong
“We are on the prosecution case, now,” the colonel reminded him, losing
and also the testimony that someone from this Tribunal introduced them as
a bit of patience. “You have to proceed with your admissible evidence. I have
Viet Cong.”
ruled, captain. Do you have anything further from this witness?” The colonel shook his head. “Granted,” he ruled reluctantly, in hushed
“No, Your Honor.” tone. “Captain,” he addressed Eaton. “Do you have any other evidence that
“Then call your next witness,” said the colonel as curt as I had ever seen
can establish that the two women in this photograph are actually Viet Cong or
him toward the government.
on the subject of what Corporal Conlon said up in Canada?”
The second NIS agent was called and testified that he observed Jack Eaton asked for a brief recess. He consulted with his investigator and
standing next to two Asian women who had been introduced to the Tribunal then made a telephone call. Reluctantly he reported that he did not.
as members of the Viet Cong. He produced pictures that showed Jack We recessed until the next morning.
standing in the row behind them. He stated that he had witnessed Jack Before they took Jack back to the brig, he, Jeffers and I conferred.
speaking with them, shaking their hands and apparently smiling and nodding “Eaton seems asleep,” I said.
in agreement during conversations. He saw all of this with his own eyes, he “It’s not that,” Jeffers replied. “He’s not really that bright and I don’t
said. He then began to testify that he had obtained files from Military think he understands what’s happening. He spends all his time presenting
Intelligence that had identified both of the women as Viet Cong officials. open and shut cases where there are almost no objections. Most of the time he
I objected. “Your honor, the defense has not seen any files such as this
just takes pleas and argues sentences. I don’t think he has ever tried a case
witness described. As you know, we are entitled to receive all such evidence
with complex elements or where someone makes evidentiary objections. If he
before trial. Can we have a stipulation,” I asked turning to Captain Eaton,
ever knew the rules, which I doubt, he’s certainly rusty.”
“that the files the witness is describing, were not produced to us pre-trial?” “What does it all mean?” asked Jack.
“They are classified files, Your Honor,” Eaton explained to the judge. Jeffers provided the answer. “If he doesn’t shore up his case tomorrow,
“We weren’t allowed to turn the files over to Mr. Wolfe because he doesn’t he’s going to be in big trouble. Right now he seems to have neglected
have a security clearance.” producing any evidence that you intended to injure yourself when you
“You mean that the accused has not had an opportunity to examine the
jumped off the rock. He hasn’t got a solid record that you broke confinement
files upon which this man is basing his testimony that the people in this
because he doesn’t have a confinement order. I looked through the records
picture are Viet Cong?” the colonel asked with exasperation.
and I never saw one. Someone handed you over to the MPs to bring you up to
“That’s right, Your Honor. We couldn’t give the defense those files. We
Long Beach but either they never cut the confinement order or they lost it,
weren’t allowed to.”
because there isn’t one in court and there isn’t one in the Long Beach jacket.
“Well, that’s the government’s right,” said the colonel, “but it is the right
I think they just assumed you were under confinement because you were
of the accused to have an opportunity to prepare his defense and under
delivered by MPs. It was a screw up. The paperwork fell through the cracks.
military law, as you are well aware, captain, it is the obligation of the
Probably Eaton knows it and is just bluffing his way through that charge.

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Anyway, there are two charges they won’t be able to make stick. I’m not sure
what they can do with the disloyal statement charge. The crime itself is very
vague and they haven’t proved a hell of a lot yet. That leaves desertion. I had admitted he was an American, he said, but claimed he was from Southern
think that’s the one they’re really going for. We’ll see tomorrow. They’re California. He suspected that was not the case, because Conlon’s accent was
bringing in the Border Patrol officer who busted you.” clearly East Coast. He was always on the lookout for AWOL soldiers, he told
“So where does that leave us?” Jack asked me. the court, because there were lots of servicemen stationed up in the
“It leaves you with the opportunity to say what you want and to let them Washington area and they were frequently taking off into Canada where they
decide whether they want to throw the book at you. But the book just got a didn’t have to worry about the MPs and Shore Patrol. He had caught plenty
whole lot thinner, I think, after today. Unless Eaton has some surprises for us. of them. He could sniff out GIs pretty good, he claimed. Corporal Conlon fit
Keep your fingers crossed.” the bill. Suspicious, he asked to search the vehicle and when he did, he found
When trial began the next morning, Eaton did have a surprise for us. He Conlon’s Marine Corps duffel bag with uniforms and other evidence of
moved to dismiss two charges. First, that Jack had intentionally attempted to membership in the Armed Forces. He asked Conlon straight out whether he
inflict an injury on himself. He stated that because Jack had been confined for was in the military and Conlon then admitted that he was a Marine. He asked
several weeks at the Long Beach Naval Hospital, there must have been some for Conlon’s military ID. Conlon located it for him in a uniform in his duffel
question concerning his mental condition at the time he jumped. Therefore, bag. He then ran a warrant check on UA Marines and Conlon’s name came
the Marines had come to the conclusion that he hadn’t intentionally attempted up. He asked Conlon if he was UA and Conlon admitted that he was. He was
to inflict an injury on himself because he was not of sound mind when the then taken into custody.
incident occurred. They also, regrettably, had to dismiss the breaking Eaton rested. It was my witness.
confinement charge because there had been an error in the paperwork and no “Now, to make very clear, Officer Farrell,” I asked, “Corporal Conlon
confinement order had ever been signed, or if one had been signed, it could never denied he was a Marine, did he?”
not be located. It was a technicality. The Marines were scrambling to save “No, he did not.”
face. “He never denied that he was absent without authorization, did he?”
“Then if I have it correct,” said Colonel Hansen, “ we now have two
“No sir, he never denied that either.”
charges remaining. Making disloyal statements and desertion. Is that
“Did he answer all of your questions truthfully?”
correct?”
“Well not exactly,” Officer Farrell replied. “He told me he was from
“Yes sir,” Captain Eaton confirmed.
Southern California but that was not true.”
“OK, captain. You may proceed with that aspect of your case.”
“Where are we now, Officer?”
“I next call US Border Patrol Agent Michael Farrell,” Eaton announced.
Officer Farrell smiled, taking my point. “Southern California.”
Michael Farrell was an easy-going fellow. He spoke slowly. Matter-of -
“Did you ask him where he was from originally,” I asked, “or just where
fact. He presented as a “no particular axe to grind” type of witness. I could
he was from?”
tell immediately that he wasn’t someone who would be easily impeached. On
“I don’t recall.”
the other hand, if there was good evidence to be had from him, it wouldn’t
“So as you sit here today, you can not testify that Corporal Conlon ever
take a grenade to knock it out of him.
told you an untruth, correct.”
He apprehended Corporal Conlon at the border as he was returning to the
“That’s right,” he admitted.
US, he testified. Conlon was in a vehicle with British Columbia plates. He
“He never evaded any of your questions.”
was sitting in the back and there were three other people in the car. He made
“True.”
it a practice, he said, to speak to each passenger in vehicles that did not
“He admitted that he was a UA Marine.”
appear to be carrying a family. He wanted to know about nationality and he
“Yes.”
fancied himself somewhat of an aficionado when it came to accents. Conlon

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“He never told you he was a deserter.”
“That’s true. He never said that, but I didn’t ask it either.”
“He was apprehended coming back into the country, not leaving it.” my client has committed criminal conduct in the performance of his duties,
“Yes, that’s what I said.” that he regrets it and that he will not do it again. That is not the same thing as
“He had his military uniforms with him.” disloyalty, even if he is incorrect. One cannot be prosecuted for making a
“True.” disloyal statement when one is actually confessing or believes he is
“He was able to produce his military ID for you.”
confessing a crime.
“Yes, he was able to produce that for me.”
“In addition, there has been a complete failure to prove that the
“And you have indicated that there are a large number of military bases
statements attributed to my client either actually undermined discipline and
in the State of Washington, where a member of the military who is AWOL
loyalty or could have the reasonable effect of doing so. There is no showing
can turn himself in. Correct.”
that was even the intent of my client. Discipline and loyalty do not require
“Yes that is also true.”
one to be willing to commit a war crime for our country and if this court were
Finally, officer, you have also indicated that you are aware that there are
to rule otherwise, it would be a statement of the Marines that any objection to
also a large number of MPs and Shore Patrol up in your neck of the woods
our troops committing a war crime is disloyalty when our own country
and that they are on the lookout for GIs who want to slip over the border.
recognizes the sanctity of the Nuremberg precedents.”
Right.” “And what have you to say in response?” the judge asked Eaton.
“I did say that, too,” said the officer.
“Your Honor,” Captain Eaton began. He had once again sweated through
“So, if a member of the military was seeking to avoid apprehension,
his shirt. There was a great “V” of perspiration stain down the middle of his
crossing the border from British Columbia into the State of Washington
back to which his soiled underarms were advancing for a link-up. He
would be a pretty poor choice, wouldn’t it?”
drummed his fingers on the counsel table nervously as he leaned over it to
Eaton sprang to attention, the damage having become patently evident.
address the judge. His belly rested heavily on his papers and he heaved a
“Objection, Your Honor,” he yelled.
breath. “I think there should not be any dispute about it. When a Marine gets
“On what basis?” I asked.
up in public and states that he has committed a war crime by following
“You heard what he said, Your Honor, I object.”
orders, when he states that the whole Corps is a criminal conspiracy to
“Objection sustained,” said the colonel.
commit war crimes, that is the rankest disloyalty one could imagine. How
“May I have a basis for the ruling?” I asked the court.
could such comments not affect the discipline of the troops? It seems to me
“I have sustained an objection, counsel,” Hansen sneered. “You will
that this ought to be self-evident.”
have plenty of opportunity to argue your case. If you want to rephrase the
“Is it the position of the prosecution,” asked the judge, “that if a Marine
question, you may.”
confesses to having committed a war crime in the course of his combat
“No further questions. Thank you, Your Honor,” I said, turning my back
duties, that such a confession is per se disloyal?”
to him in the process and walking back to my seat. I could feel the daggers of
“No, not per se,” Eaton replied. “If he admits it during an official
his stare. His anger at my insolence.
investigation, it is not disloyal.”
Eaton rested his case and I immediately stood up to address the court.
“You mean that if he is asked about it in an official inquiry and answers
“Your Honor.....”
it, then it’s not disloyal and it can not be considered to undermine the
Colonel Hansen, frowning, looked over to the defense. “Do you have a
discipline of the troops, but if he volunteers it to the public, the same
motion?” he interrupted.
statement is a crime in itself?”
“Yes we do, Your Honor,” I said. “The defense moves to dismiss the
“Yes, Your Honor. In one case he is being ordered to say it by the
charge of making disloyal statements. We have heard nothing from any of
command. In the other case he is not.”
this evidence that shows any disloyalty, but rather a deeply held belief that

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“So then what you are saying is that it depends on the circumstances
under which the statement is being made and not the content of the
statement?” On the break, the Guru approached me and told me that he liked the way
“That’s correct,” Eaton nodded. things were going. I asked him how he thought the case was being reviewed
“Well, counsel,” Judge Hanson looked at me and grinned. “What is your by the press.
response? It’s not the content of the statement that we have to look at here “Like usual,” he said. “You won’t recognize that it’s the same case when
but the circumstances under which the statement is made.” you read about it in the papers.”
I had to admire him. He was throwing the argument I had made in the “Excuse me,” Captain Jeffers interrupted. “Captain Eaton would like to
Woods trial back into my face. Once, long ago, Justice Oliver Wendell have a word with us.”
Holmes ruled that it was not a matter of free speech for the law to punish The Guru backed away and we went into conference over in a corner of
someone who yelled “Fire!” in a crowded theater ... unless there actually was the courtroom.
a fire. His point was that it was not a matter of content but rather of the “You have a proposal for us to consider?” Jeffers began.
context in which the language was stated. “That’s right,” said Eaton. “We’re prepared to let your man plead guilty
“We don’t have to even address that fine philosophical issue,” I to an Article 86, UA, and recommend six months in the brig, credit for time
responded, ducking the bullet. “The charge requires some evidence, not served, full forfeitures and a BCD. He’s already done almost four months.
speculation, not supposition, not conjecture that there has been some breach With some good behavior credits he’ll be out within thirty days. We can all
of discipline among the troops or that anyone acted in a disloyal manner as a go home and have a stiff drink. What do you say?”
result of the speech. This statement, so far as we know, was not made to any “We’ll have to ask him,” I said, committing to nothing.
troops. We don’t know whether a single member of the military heard it A few moments later we huddled with Jack. Jeffers made the pitch. Jack
when it was spoken. We don’t know whether a single act occurred by a single looked at me for an opinion.
member of the armed services as a result of the statement. There is no “I’m not the one that’s going to have to do the time if you lose,” I said.
evidence that anyone deserted or went UA or refused an order because of “This is certainly a far better deal than I ever expected we’d get, but it’s the
anything Corporal Conlon said. In fact, we know that the troops whom result of us knocking out everything they’re throwing our way.”
Corporal Conlon was training when he jumped of the rock, went to Vietnam “What do you think’s goin’ to happen with the motion to dismiss the
and are now engaged in the very conduct which Corporal Conlon allegedly disloyal statement charge?” he asked.
argued against. Where is the evidence?” “I don’t have a clue,” I shrugged. “If it were a fair trial, which it isn’t,
I was getting worked up by this point. “I don’t even think we need to get the judge would have to throw it out because Eaton didn’t meet his burden of
into the question of how the Army can try Lieutenant Calley for war crimes proof. But this is a court martial. I don’t know what he’ll do, except whatever
while the Marines can try Corporal Conlon for objecting to the commission it is, he’s got to do it in front of the whole world. But even if he does throw it
of them,” I added, looking straight into the eyes of the second louie, hoping out, you’re still facing an Article 85, desertion, with an aggravation that it
to strike a responsive chord with him. He looked away. I heard snickers from was terminated by apprehension. That’s three years. You’re playing with two
the observers. I looked over my shoulder to see whether the reporters were and a half years of your life.”
taking it down. They were. At least they thought it was a good point. “Will I be able to testify if I take the deal?” Jack asked.
The theatrics were a bit too much for Judge Hansen. He banged his gavel Jeffers shook his head. “No,” he said. “You just plead guilt to the UA.
and suggested to Captain Eaton that he be prepared to address the issue of Eaton recommends six months with credit and we’re through.”
failure of proof on the elements of undermining discipline and loyalty and Jack looked out over the crowded courtroom. “I didn’t come back here to
announced a short recess. just do some time and walk away. I have a statement to make. I swore to
myself that I would make it and that’s what I’m going to do. It’s more

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important than a couple of years in the brig. I’ll do that standing on my head
and when I get out I’ll still be a man. Tell Captain Eaton thanks, but no
thanks. I got to live with myself in the end.” “You don’t!” she repeated, reading my mind better than I would have
We rejected the deal. Eaton seemed dumbfounded. So much so that he liked. “Wow.”
was unable to make a cogent argument on the undermining of the discipline “The defense calls Corporal John Conlon to the stand.” I looked across
of the troops. Reluctantly, but wisely, Colonel Hansen threw out that charge. to the table where Captain Eaton sat glumly, still amazed that we had rejected
It was political dynamite. He knew it and I suspected he got the approval of the deal. Jumpin’ Jack rose, saluted the court and marched slowly to the
the CO over the break to make the ruling. witness stand. His manner was proud, like a Marine. He was squared away
After the disloyalty charge was dropped, I moved for a recess until the like a Marine. And that very fact, the training they had given to him, made
following morning, claiming that due to the events of the day, we were not him a threat to them. He was about to tell these officers something that could
fully prepared to proceed. We had been ready to go on the disloyalty charge, only be said by an enlisted man in a courtroom and then only if that trooper
I claimed, but planned to end up with the defense to the desertion charge the was fully prepared to accept the consequences. I didn’t know what he was
following morning. Colonel Hansen bought it and declared a recess. going to say, or how he was going to say it. We were all going to find out
We now had only one charge left to fight and it boiled down to the issue
together. I just had to have faith. I could see that he was determined to win
of whether when Jack Conlon left the Long Beach Naval Hospital, he did so
their respect if not their agreement. If it were me, I’d have probably taken the
with the intent not to return to the Marine Corps. On the one hand they had
deal, but then, I hadn’t any real clue what he had been through.
his statements. On the other hand, he had been wise enough to have us send After some preliminaries, I asked, “Corporal Conlon, will you please tell
him his duffel with uniforms and his spare military ID. And he had been the Court why you joined the Marines.”
lucky enough to have made the request before Clayton and Doc burned down Jack looked at the panel, moving his eyes from one to another. “Because,
the house. But by far, the best argument we had to beat the desertion charge sir, I believed in this country and in God and I believed then that in serving
was Jack’s motive for returning. Whether or not they liked his testimony, it the Marines, I was defending my country from all of its enemies, both foreign
would still be convincing that he had always wanted to tell his story in court. and domestic ( he emphasized the last word.) The Marines was the best way
If they agreed that he had gone to Canada to make his statement but that he to do it.”
had always planned to come back to face the music, it would boil down to “Do you still believe that?” I asked.
only an unauthorized absence and not desertion terminated by apprehension. “No, I do not.” Jack stiffened his back and straightened his shoulders. He
If Jeffers and I could sell that argument, the most Jack would receive would looked them in the eye.
be one year. “Why is that?”
When I got home that evening and told the collective about the deal, “Because of my experience in Vietnam, sir.”
Gabrielle broke down. She couldn’t accept that Jack had rejected it. She “What was it about your experience in Vietnam that caused you to
wanted him out, she said. She wanted to talk to him, right away. change your opinion?” I probed.
“Could he still get the deal?” she asked. At this point, Captain Eaton jumped up and objected. “Relevance, Your
“ Probably,” I told her, “but I’m not going to let you talk to him now. Honor?”
Tomorrow will be the end of it. He wants to testify and I can’t let you “Yes Counsel,” asked the Judge. “What is the relevance of this line of
interfere with what he intends to do or say.” inquiry?”
“What is he going to say?” Emma probed. “Your Honor,” I said, “as I understand how matters now stand, the
“You’ll have to wait and hear it for yourself,” I hedged. government has only one charge pending against this Marine, that he is a
She looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You don’t know either, do deserter. Proving that charge depends entirely upon their convincing the court
you?” that he did not have an intention of returning at some point during an alleged
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I can’t tell you. Even you.”

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unauthorized absence. In order for us to prove that Corporal Conlon had no
such intent to desert and that he always intended to report back to the
Marines, we need to show the reasons why he left the Long Beach Naval there until the terrain gets very steep and every click is a major hump. It’s a
Hospital in the first place. It has become a case of Corporal Conlon’s state of good place to get ambushed. We’d go out on patrol and every couple days
mind. Once his reasons become clear it will also become apparent to any fair- one of our guys would step on a mine, lose a leg. Or we’d take some small
minded trier of fact that Corporal Conlon’s entire purpose was to announce arms fire. That’s when I began to pay attention. I began to cheer when the air
his intention to defend himself at a court martial. This presupposes a support dumped the napalm and Willie Peter. Laugh when Charlie fried.
continuing intention to return.” Mow him down when he got flushed out by the bombing. I started to really
Colonel Hansen grimaced. He had not liked where we were going but he get into the battle.
was also keenly aware that he had better permit us to go there or else no “So I couldn’t help but notice that no one tried to stop our guys from
conviction would stick. “You may continue,” he ruled, “but I do not intend to offing a gook when he popped out of a hole with his hands in the air or if we
permit any political diatribes. Do you understand?” ran across a WIA who they had been unable to evacuate. No one raised a
“Yes, sir, I understand,” I nodded. “You may answer the question, stink when an ARVN interrogator shot Charlie or tossed him out of a chopper
corporal.” after he got the information he wanted. It was all just business as usual. Part
Jumpin’ Jack perked up. The time had come to tell his story. He ran a
of war. No one said it was wrong.
hand through hair that seemed blonder now after his lengthy confinement. He “At first, I wanted to say something, but then I didn’t, ‘cause no one else
frowned at Captain Eaton. Glancing out over the crowded courtroom, he said anything. I just kind of minded my own business, ya know. Even though
leaned forward in the witness chair and grasped the barrier in front of it with I knew that it was not right to kill a prisoner. I just looked the other way.
both hands. Muscles bulged under his shirt. Veins strained in his neck. Then, before I knew what was happening, I kind of stopped looking the other
Looking first at the judge and then turning to the panel that would be way and began to watch. And maybe that bothered me at first. I don’t rightly
deciding his fate, he began. remember. But then, somewhere along the way, ya know, it didn’t bother me
“My company shipped over in January of ‘69. We were sent right up to
any more. Not the shots to the head, point blank. Not kicking their butts out
Quang Tri for assignment along the DMZ. Our first objective was to secure
of a chopper. Not clipping their testicles to the radio and cranking it up until
the highway and the railroad line that runs north out of Dong Ha to the DMZ.
they passed out and not when one of our guys slipped a wire around their
There was sporadic contact all along that sector then. I saw all the usual stuff,
necks and garrotted them. So over time, I got sucked into it.
I guess. I smelled the smells of death. That mix of gangrene, urine and feces. “Somewhere along the way, I started joining in. I don’t know when or
Heard the buzzing of the flies as they feasted on open wounds and bathed in how, it was just my turn, I guess. Maybe I was pissed off ‘cause we lost some
the pools of congealing blood. It should get to you, you know, the damage guys in a fire fight. The longer I was there, ya understand, the more I came to
hot, speeding metal can do to human flesh when it hits and how you don’t see know they guys I was fighting along side of and they were my friends, my
it coming. But, I have to admit,” he said, looking into the eyes of his judges, allies. Their lives were in my hands and vice versa. So I began to take it
and I could see his own begin to redden, “ that I wasn’t really moved by it all. harder and harder when we took a casualty, took it personal. And the VC
I kind of expected it would be bad like that and so I spaced myself from the were clever. They had to be. Sappers and snipers. Traps, mines and stuff.
reality. Just did my job like it was not really happening. Just a dream, you They didn’t have the air and armor so when they hit us it always seemed like
know, expecting the lights to turn off for me at any moment. So even when sneaky, in the back kind of stuff. Ya know what I mean? Not like hand to
some of our men were KIA or stepped on a land mine and lost a leg, it was hand combat. So I began to get into the killing. It became personal. And I
like hey, they’re on my team and it’s bad, but the other side is getting it started to get damn good at it. Merciless. That’s when they made me a
worse, so let’s just keep pushing. I moved along with it. corporal and gave me a squad to lead.
“And that’s how it still was with me ‘til after we secured the road and we
started moving out to the West and South. The country starts getting hillier

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“Anyway, I had changed and didn’t realize it. I guess there wasn’t even
any time to think about it. More like all I could think about was coverin’ my
ass and my buddy’s ass and the best way to do that was to kill as many gooks can’t walk away either ‘cause we don’t know who’s in there, how many, how
as possible. And everybody was thinkin’ the same thing, so there was like no big it is. I mean it could be the gateway to a whole complex. Could be full of
debating the fine points of what we were doing. ordinance. If we fu..., I mean screw up, we can end up blowing the top off
“And that’s how it was when my unit got lifted into the A Shau valley. the whole hill that’s got our whole company crawling all over it.
We had been fighting there steadily since 1966. Our positions were always “I call down to the lieutenant and he comes up, looks the sitch over and
getting hit by NVA mortar and sappers. They’re hard core fighters up there, says to bring up a flame thrower. Which we do. Now we know that if we
and they have the ordinance to do a job on ya, ‘cause the place is right on the gotta use the flame thrower our buddy’s toast along with anybody else in
Ho Chi Minh trail, close up to the Cambodian border. there. So the lieutenant orders in another man from my squad. Gives him a
“Well, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the A Shau is
pistol and a flashlight. And he’s calling back reports every few feet. Finds
surrounded by very steep hills and that’s where the North Vietnamese were
our guy dead. Finds two dead enemy. And then he yells back that he’s at this
dug in. But they were very mobile and hard to hit from the air. There’s a
place where the tunnel is widening out and it looks like there’s some tunnels
zillion tunnels in them hills. For years our guys were trying to knock them
running off to the left and to the right.... and then we hear an explosion. It
out using the big 500 pound bombs that the B-52s drop. Then they’d send us
sounded like a grenade ‘cause of all the echoing and there’s no more word
up to clean’em out. But Charlie is dug in real good and keeps coming back.
from him either, but smoke’s comin’ out of the hole. Now I’ve lost two guys
“Anyway, when we came up in ‘69 our guys were beat up bad and
in less than a half hour.
needed to be relieved. Our LZs were taking regular fire and we were losing a The lieutenant calls up the company commander and discusses the
lot of choppers. Recon had it figured that the NVA had plenty of supplies and problem and together they decide that they should seal the entrance to this
ordinance hidden in those hills, ‘cause like I said, they figured it was a tunnel with explosives and hope the concussions kill everyone in there. They
terminus for the Ho Chi Minh trail. But one of their tactics was to harass us figure probably there’s other exits to the tunnel and that we should fan out
with small unit actions to keep us from conducting the kinds of coordinated and search for them. Maybe, when we blow up this hole, we might just see
operations that might help us find all their stuff. Our job was search and some smoke coming out of another exit, if it’s close. So we’re ordered to
destroy, so the LZs and bases in the valley would be secure from Charlie’s spread out and observe. And when we’re all in place, they blow the sucker
fire. up.
“I was given a squad to command. I knew the guys. I was responsible for
“Well a couple of our guys see some smoke. So they head toward it,
them. And first we humped along the East side in the Eagles Nest area above
yelling that they found something, when one of them gets hit by sniper fire
A Luoi to secure a couple of our fire bases. We had a couple short fire-fights.
and the other is pinned down. Now I’ve lost three guys out of my squad. Two
Blew up some tunnels we found and I didn’t lose a single man.
dead, one wounded and they’re all guys I was in the field with eating and
“Then we went over to the West side of the Valley and started operations
sleeping and joking around for months. Guys who saved my butt. And I’ve
to secure a couple of hills called the Beak and Hoptown. One day, we found
got to say, we’re all pissed and scared at the same time, ‘cause none of us
this tunnel. One of the guys tosses a couple grenades into it. I send a man in
wants to be fighting hand to hand in no tunnels with an unknown enemy. But
to check it out. He’s yelling back from just a few feet inside the hole that
we’re beginning to think we may have to.
there’s a couple of dead gooks in there, when I hear some fire. He isn’t “Just then, a guy from another squad comes up to the lieutenant,
talking any more. We call to him, but nothing. I don’t know if he’s dead or dragging this scrawny little VC. He found this hole and hid quietly next to it,
alive, but it’s clear that there’s an enemy in there with a weapon, and he ain’t he said. Kind of reminded him of waiting out a rabbit back home, he said.
coming out. And when Charlie stuck his head out and started to take aim, he reached
“That guy’s our buddy and we don’t know whether he’s dead or alive.
down, pulled him out with one hand.
But I can’t send another guy into the hole and maybe lose him too. And we

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“The captain kind of smiles and says, ‘we got ourselves some
intelligence now.’ And he calls up an ARVN interpreter. But before the
interpreter arrives, another Marine gets into an exchange of fire with the first going to talk when the sniper yells at the kid in Vietnamese, ordering him to
sniper and wounds him. So now we’ve got two potential sources of say nothing. I guess he was an officer or something. So the kid clams up.
information about the tunnels. “I climb up to the top of the rock. It’s eight maybe ten feet above the
“The wounded sniper looked about thirty years old so he was probably in sniper. I put on a full pack and stand up like superman. Then I yell and jump.
his early twenties. He was lean and tough. Looked battle hardened. His I come down hard, jamming both my feet into his right thigh area. I could
wound was probably painful yet he didn’t seem to pay it the slightest mind. feel the bones breaking and the skin splaying out. The blood vessels popping.
He just squatted down where he was put, like those people do. He didn’t The sniper just winces, says nothing but the kid’s legs go out from under him
answer the ARVN’s questions, even after the interpreter hit him in the balls and he has to be held up on both sides. He’s crying now, but the sniper
with the butt of a rifle. He just looked beyond the ARVN, like he was dead repeats his order that he shut up.
already and this was just the road he had to take to get to heaven. “So I climb the rock again. It’s a contest now. A matter of wills. The
“But the other guy, the one that got himself pulled out of the tunnel, was boys are cheering me on. ‘Go Jack’ they’re yelling. ‘Yeah Jack, squash the
a different sort. He wasn’t more than a child. Looked about fourteen or bug!’ And I jump again, this time to the left thigh. But the same results. ‘I
fifteen. His skin was clear and unwrinkled. He didn’t weigh more than maybe gotta kill the bastard,’ I say to the captain. “Go to it then,’ he tells me, and a
a hundred and ten pounds. Almost looked like a girl. And he was scared -- cheer goes up from all the men.
you could see it in his eyes. If one of them was going to break, it was gonna “This time I aim right for his midsection. I come down hard, just below
be him. But it wasn’t gonna happen as long as that regular was there. his rib cage with both heels. I can feel the air go out of him. Stuff explodes
“I was so pissed off by this time that I went up to the captain and told
out of his mouth and his ass. Shoots up at me like a geyser and for a minute
him that I figured the best way to find out about the tunnels was to kill the
I’m not sure what it is. Then I can tell. It’s his guts. Coming out both ends.
wounded sniper in front of the kid. If we did it right, I said, the kid would
Blood, water, feces, guts everything that was inside is coming out. And I’m
piss in his pants to tell us what we wanted to know.
covered in it. His eyes are wide open in horror. Staring at me all covered with
“The captain was interested. Asked me what I had in mind. I pointed out
his insides. He is dead.
a high rock and said ‘I’d like to jump on that fucker from on top of that rock. “And the kid has shit his pants. He is on his knees. Crying. Trembling.
Squash him like a bug. The kid’ll talk after he watches me do it. We broke him. The ARVN interpreter tells him again that if he doesn’t want
“‘What if it doesn’t work?’ said the lieutenant. ‘Then we’ll be out a
the same thing to happen to him, he had better show us all of the exits to the
prisoner.’
maze of tunnels. He does. He tells us that there are probably ten more men
“‘He ain’t goin’ to talk anyway, sir,’ I said. ‘So there ain’t nothin to lose.
still inside. They have plenty of weapons and food. There are false tunnels
And I seen this work before. Look at that kid. He’ll tell us everything we ever
and places rigged for ambushes and we know that we could lose a whole
wanted to know. I’ll guarantee it.’ I was so anxious to commit this act that I
company trying to flush them out. So instead, we use the flame throwers, then
was even going to guarantee it. That’s how far I’d come.”
fill each exit with explosives and blow them all to kingdom come.
“Well, the captain said it was worth a try and the lieutenant agreed. In “When we finish, the ARVN asks me if I would like to jump again. If
fact everyone was getting up for it. It was going to be like a sports event. not, he’d like to try it. It looked like fun. I told him I’d had enough for one
Guys started to make bets on how many jumps it would take before the guy day. Before I know it, they’ve got that kid tied down under the rock. The
dies or the kid agrees to talk. Anyway, it starts to become a carnival and I’ve captain gives him the go-ahead and this kid loses his guts the same way.
volunteered to be in the center ring. “The men are all coming up and laughing, slapping me on the back, like
“They bring the sniper up under the rock and tie him on his back, spread I did real good. Telling me that I saved all of their lives by keeping them
eagle. They bring the kid up close so he can witness it. The ARVN tells him from getting killed in the tunnel. One of them says ‘You’re a real jumping
the same thing’s going to happen to him if he doesn’t talk. He looks like he’s

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fool, Jack, a regular Jumpin’ Jack’ and the name just stuck. The men called
me that for the rest of my tour.
“That night, we’re sitting around laughing about it all and one of the “I felt like I was in a box. Like all I could do was more drugs, and that
guys breaks down a shotgun. He’s got some marijuana and he’s telling was easy ‘cause they were all over the place and no one gave much of a damn
everyone to take a pull on the business end of the barrel while he holds a joint as long as we were out in the field and pulling our weight. So I started to read
at the other end. They call it shotgunning. First time I ever did it. Anyway it stuff. I wanted to find out what a war crime was. The result of this was it
got me so high I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. But seemed to come down to who won, or at least who got caught. Like the
somewhere along the way, it got me to thinking. First, about home and how airmen who got shot down over the North were war criminals to them and
proud I was being a Marine. And that got me to thinking about why I had heroes to us. And I was like a hero to our guys but if any VC knew what I
joined in the first place and how what I had done, killing this prisoner had done, I’d be a war criminal to them.
certainly had to be wrong. It wasn’t the Marine Corps creed or what God “Well, to tell you the truth, I stayed high the rest of my tour. I really
wanted. It wasn’t something that the country would be proud to learn about. didn’t give a damn if I got killed and I think that probably that’s what kept
It wasn’t something that I would want to tell my kids about. It was just plain me alive. Kind of like my punishment was to live and to carry this guilt
wrong. And we were all caught up in it, even the officers. They thought it around. God wasn’t going to let me die. I came to figure that maybe he had
was fun. Gave the ok. Even let the ARVN do it to that little kid who was just something else in mind for me. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what
a baby, really. So I began to wonder, that night, what had happened to me. it was.
What had become of me. “When I rotated out and came back to Pendleton, I was still trying to
“I’m not sure when it was, maybe the next morning, I got to thinking. figure it out. I knew that the War was a bad joke, a hoax on the people, but I
How come I only had this realization after I smoked marijuana? Was it true, wasn’t all that clear what to do about it.”
drugs made you think different about stuff? ‘Cause I wasn’t thinking before At this point Captain Eaton rose slowly from his chair. He was noticing
like I was thinking now. And it started to make sense why it was illegal. that everyone was rapt and attentive. The panel was purposefully looking
After a while I came to see that the people who were pushing this War didn’t down and away, anywhere but at Jack. The clerk was nervously shuffling the
want us to think about it and the best way they could figure to make that same sheaf of papers. The court reporter was periodically wiping tears from
happen was to make the drugs illegal. her eyes with a kleenex.
“I went to see the chaplain and talked to him about it. He said that I He was astute enough to sense the need to break the spell. “Your
shouldn’t worry. That I had been doing my job and I saved a whole lot of Honor,” he said in his most southern drawl, “we’ve all been listening to this
lives, a whole lot of my friends’ lives, by getting that North Vietnamese story patiently and sure it’s interesting, but it doesn’t have anything to do
soldier to talk. He said that God understood that in wars people didn’t behave with the charge that we’re here to try, which is desertion. This may be useful
the same as regular and that God would forgive me, because I had done on extenuation and mitigation, but that’s for another time.”
something that saved our mens’ lives. My motives were good. “Yes, Counsel,” Judge Hansen said to me. “Can you please proceed with
“But when I said to him that what I had done probably caused at least as questions and answers from this point so that we can address the relevance
many people to die, at first he didn’t understand. He wasn’t even thinking issues.”
that the VC were people. I told him that and he got real mad. “Corporal, “ I asked, not knowing precisely what Jack had next in mind,
“It got clearer and clearer. If Charlie had jumped off a rock and squashed but intending to set him up with a hint as to the issue. “ Will you tell the
one of our guys he’d be a war criminal, sure. But not when I did it. ‘Cause Court how this evidence you have given proves that you did not intend to
we’re people and they ain’t. And that’s how they make it happen. At least desert the Marines but always intended to return.”
that’s how they made it happen to me. I could see that I wasn’t gonna get any “Yes, sir,” Jack responded, taking a deep breath and relaxing a bit. “I
help from the chaplain. I wasn’t gonna be real good at explaining it to the was just getting to that when I was interrupted. I heard about the Tribunal in
other grunts. I wasn’t prepared for this reality.

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Canada and I was thinking that I ought to tell my story at it. But nothing was
clear until, when I was out on that training exercise in Pendleton with the
recruits that were getting their orders to go over. I saw that rock, just like the “Well, you intentionally left without authorization. You admit that,
one in the hills above A Luoi. That rock was sent from Vietnam to Camp correct?”
Pendleton as a message that here or there, it was the same war, the same “Yes.”
place really. What I was doing here was just as bad as what I did over there. “And you admit staying away without authorization for more than thirty
And so I got this message to climb it, relive the experience and then go to days, correct?”
Canada to tell my story in public. I could see that it was part of my mission to “Yes.”
do that. First, I had to break with the war machine by jumping. Only then “And you were arrested at the border, right?”
could I go and tell my story in a public tribunal where the world could hear it. “Yes.”
If I did that, I couldn’t get lost or ignored when I came back. The Marines “You didn’t just go up to the border and say to the officer, “I’m a Marine
wouldn’t be able to sweep me under the rug. But my mission was to come who’s UA and I am turning myself in. Did you?”
back here and put it on the record. Make it part of Marine Corps history the “No, I didn’t do that.”
only way that can irrevocably be done, a court martial. “In fact, you wouldn’t have surrendered at the border. If you had been
Jack pointed at the court reporter. “See, she’s taking it all down. It’s a allowed through, you would have not said anything to the officer. Right.”
permanent record. Like a stone tablet. I was anall American boy, a gung ho “Yes. My plan was to have a press conference in a church in Seattle and
Marine and got turned into a war criminal by this madness. I can’t just write then turn myself in. I was going to be in uniform and everything.”
it off like the chaplain wanted.” His face reddened at the thought of his story “Just answer the question, please,” Eaton demanded. “Your counsel can
going unheard. He clenched his fists. “We are the enemy as much as they are ask you about your plans if he wants.”
the enemy,” he announced in a lowered voice. “And we all better wake up “You’ve testified, corporal, as I understand it, that you’ve been using a
and realize that fact. That’s the proof I always was planning to come back. It lot of illegal drugs since this alleged incident in Vietnam. Those drugs have
was my plan. It is my mission. The fact that I’m here at all, saying to you affected your thinking, right?”
what I’m saying is the proof of my intention.” “They have changed the way I look at things, if that is what you mean.”
“No further questions, Your Honor,” I said. “Your witness.” “Well, it has affected your thinking, isn’t that right?”
Captain Eaton asked for and received a ten-minute recess. When he “My way of thinking about things.”
returned, he plowed in like an oaf. “You admit, corporal, that you’ve been “Are you sure it hasn’t affected your perception of what you have been
using drugs regularly since sometime when you were in Vietnam, correct?” seeing and hearing?”
“Yes.” “What do you mean?”
“And you also admit that using those drugs changed your way of “Corporal, what kind of drugs are you talking about, anything besides
thinking from being a good American and loyal Marine to someone who marijuana?”
breaks the law, breaks the rules intentionally.” “Some LSD,” Jack admitted, with hesitance and a slight squirm.
“Well, I still think I’m a good American and am loyal, but I suppose you “How much LSD, corporal?” Eaton probed.
could say that I am now willing to break the law intentionally, because I have “Your Honor,” I rose to object. “What has this inquiry got to do with my
a higher moral duty than to obey an illegal order. That’s the lesson of client’s intention to return? Isn’t that the issue here? How is this relevant?’
Nuremberg.” “This man’s been on drugs, Your Honor,” Eaton replied. “He admits it.
”Now, corporal, there’s nothing in the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg How can we tell what he remembers or what he thinks he remembers if he
that authorizes desertion, is there?” can’t even answer for his own state of mind, because he was on drugs at the
“No, just the right to refuse to obey immoral and illegal orders. But I time? How can he be believed?”
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“Objection overruled,” said the judge. “You may proceed, captain.”
“Your Honor,” I persisted, “it is their burden of proof. How can they
prove through this man’s testimony that he intended to desert, if their “So you decided to drop out.” Captain Eaton repeated. “Take illegal
hypothesis is that he was so influenced by drugs that he doesn’t know what drugs. Jump off a rock so you could avoid doing your sworn duty. Run off to
he was thinking. They can’t prove their case by testimony that they claim Canada to tell the world how bad the Marines are. That’s what you mean by
proves his memory is unreliable. That just doesn’t make any sense.” ‘drop out’, right?”
“I’ve ruled, counsel, “ sneered the colonel. “Proceed.” “I decided to stop taking part in a war that I could no longer believe in.”
“Can you testify here, under oath, that you recall your state of mind at all Jack said, slumping in resignation that the obtuse prosecutor was not willing
times while you were under the influence of LSD?” Captain Eaton to accept his explanations. “To stop being a war criminal. To do what I could
demanded. to explain myself. That’s what I mean by ‘drop out.’” Jack responded with as
“No, I can’t,” Jack admitted. “What I do know is that every time I
much anger as he could reasonably allow himself under the circumstances.
thought about it, it was always what I would be doing and saying to this “No further questions,” Eaton declared.
court. I never thought about running away.” We took a break before we summed up. As I walked out of the
“Never?” asked Eaton. “You were never tempted to just stay in Canada, courtroom, I got collared by the Guru.
where you were safe from prosecution?” “Well you sure fucked that up,” he told me. He was not smiling that
Jack’s eyes opened wide. “You know, sir, it never occurred to me that I usual phony toothy thing he did. His lips were clamped shut over those
was safe from prosecution in Canada. I’m a Marine, not a draft resister. I choppers and there was an aura of tension radiating from his neck and
thought the Mounties could arrest me and turn me in.” shoulders. His face was flushed. It was very un-guru-like.
“The fact is, corporal, that your mind is all warped by the LSD and the “What are you talking about?” I asked, surprised that he would assume
marijuana, isn’t it?” such an assertive and critical posture while we were still in the middle of the
I could see where he was going. He wanted more to discredit Jack’s case and Jack was at maximum risk.
testimony than to win the desertion rap. If he did that, the Marines could save “All that testimony about drugs. Was that your idea or was that his?”
face. They could write off Jack for his drug use and that would be good “Even if I wanted to, which I don’t,” I replied, “I am not at liberty to
enough. All his moral points would get lost in this shuffle. I hoped Jack could respond.”
make a recovery. “It really doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “You’re the lawyer and the
“My mind was warped by the Marines,” Jack replied. “The marijuana buck stops with you. That bit of testimony completely undercut a strong
and the LSD just helped set me straight.” political statement. Now the Marines can describe Conlon as a drug-crazed
“Do you subscribe to the philosophy of Timothy Leary?” the Captain kid who maybe had a bad experience in war and couldn’t take it, so he turned
asked. “You know, ‘turn on, tune in, drop out?’” to drugs. No big news. No big deal. They don’t even have to talk about war
“Well, I think, maybe I do, some,” Jack hedged, wiping a bead of sweat
crimes. He’s just a kid who broke down in war. This isn’t a political
from his brow..
prosecution anymore. It was your job to keep it on track and you screwed
“And that’s what you did, isn’t it corporal. You decided to drop out.
up.”
Right?” “By letting him tell his story? The truth? You want some perfect
“I suppose, in a way.” propaganda piece that isn’t real but that you can fit into your program?
“Desert? That’s what ‘drop out’ really means, isn’t it?” Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. And as a matter of fact, even though you
“Not to me it doesn’t. To me it means not going along with a mission don’t like the message, the dope did make a difference. It did open his eyes.
that I can no longer accept and that I no longer believe in. It means no more And for what it’s worth, if it did that for Jack, it was a good thing.”
war for me.” “Good thing? The kid tried to get himself killed?”

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“Yeah. Maybe he could’ve done a better job if he wasn’t stoned. Maybe
you’d have liked him better as a statistic. See ya around Kahn. I got a trial to
finish.” the Corps and who gloried in his betrayal. How, he wondered out loud, could
The panel of jurors was out for less than an hour. Perhaps Kahn was Corporal Conlon ask from mercy from his avowed enemy, whom he had set
right. Perhaps the drug thing made it easier for them, in some weird way, to out to destroy? It was a good question.
avoid the political implications of what Jack was saying. If he was loaded, he The panel came back within two hours. Jack stood at attention and faced
couldn’t really formulate a clear plan to desert. And there were the them as the senior officer on the panel read the verdict: nine months hard
bothersome facts of him being out in the open. Not trying to hide who he labor, reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a Bad
was. He had kept his uniform and ID with him. The prosecution couldn’t Conduct Discharge. He had five months to serve.
prove desertion beyond a reasonable doubt and they gave him that benefit. He My job was not yet over. I had to obtain the trial transcripts and, with
was convicted of an unauthorized absence of more than thirty days. Now the Captain Jeffers, prepare an argument for the convening officer, and then an
most he could get would be a dishonorable discharge and one year in the brig. appeal. To do that, I had to wait until the transcripts were prepared. Jeffers
That meant no more that eight more months confinement. We had whittled it told me to expect this to take about two weeks.
down and despite the personal consequences to me, I felt relieved.
After a conviction at a court martial the same panel decides on a 36.
recommendation for punishment. The process is called extenuation and For me, it was like the morning after a party. You come down the stairs
mitigation, “E&M.” Testimony is taken concerning the defendant’s record in hung over, to find the detritus of the night before. Half- consumed glasses of
the service and the reasons for the commission of the crime. Anything that wine staining your coffee table. Bits of cake ground into your rugs. Paper
might help a court in determining what the sentence should be is relevant. plates lodged discretely under your sofa, encrusted with the remnants of
This decision would be passed on with a transcript of the record and dinner. Bits of torn gift-wrap and strands of ribbon swept into corners.
testimony to the convening officer, in this case the three star general who Kitchen utensils, poorly cleaned and stuffed into the wrong places by well-
commanded Camp Pendleton. He would ultimately decide if that sentence meaning friends. And a melancholy loneliness amplified by the echos of
was appropriate or to reduce it. revelry so recent that the walls still reverberate.
Our trial strategy was to put Captain Jeffers in charge of E&M. I was not I made myself a bowl of cereal. The conversation was in mid-stream.
military and at this point the better approach would be for a Marine to argue Mitch was announcing that he and Zoe would be departing that day. There
the appropriate punishment for a Marine, not some outsider. Jeffers did a was a Zuni festival in New Mexico that needed his presence. Gabrielle was
good job. He pointed out Jack’s previously unblemished record. His combat making her plans to visit with Jack as often as possible before they shipped
citations. His distinguished Vietnam service. He pointed out the fact that Jack him off to do the remainder of his time. She grimaced when she saw me. Like
had served almost all of his four year enlistment. He asked for a sentence of the Guru, she held me responsible for the sentence and Jack’s decision not to
time served and no punitive discharge, hinting that Jack would end up being take a deal which would have left him free sooner. Louise and Joanie barely
discharged anyway after he served his sentence and there was no real chance acknowledged my presence. Emma put a cup of tea in front of me and went
he would be returned to active duty with troops. back to reading the Blade Tribune and its report of the mild sentence handed
Eaton argued that Jack had acted willfully and in knowing violation of
down to a drug-impaired Marine who went UA.
the law. He had set out to hurt the reputation of the Marine Corps and had I dined in their presence but alone. The stress and excitement of trial
done substantial damage to that reputation in the public eye. He emphasized gone, I had only my thoughts and the defensive rationale I was able to muster
Jack’s habitual use of illegal drugs while performing his duties, including in opposition to the hostility, disappointment and incipient ennui. But my
combat duties, where he may well have put his comrades’ lives, as well as his discomfort was soon distracted by a visit from Lucky and Melinda.
own in mortal peril. He asked rhetorically why the Marines should not
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Lucky was in his usual state of mind-altered good cheer. He was bouncy
and smiling. He reeked of stale marijuana and looked like he had spent recent
history humping Melinda in the back seat of his VW bug. Her disheveled that appeared to be a stranger to the clothes hanger or iron. He was holding
appearance did little to dissuade me from such speculation. “Hi Y’all” Lucky an envelope and looked like he was making a delivery. It was clear he was up
struck up. “How the hell’s it going?” He looked over at me. “Great fuckin’ to no good.
job. I really dug that Jack stuck it to them fuckers about gettin’ high. Soon’s I opened the door to meet him before he was able to knock. “Can I help
ya get the transcript I’d like ta send a copy off ta High Times. I think they’ll you?” I asked, hoping that he had come to the wrong home.
really dig how Jack told ‘em that dope made him see what a bunch of Nazis He pushed his hat back and looked down his long, pocked beak at me.
they are.” “I’m looking for Eric Wolfe,” he announced. “Does he live here?”
When no one responded to his comments, Lucky turned to Mitch. “Hey This was a relief. He wasn’t a cop or a detective, because he didn’t know
man,” he said. “Saw you got your shit packed up in the trailer. You planning me by sight. “You found him,” I replied with newfound bravado. “What can I
on splittin’?” do for you?”
“Yeah, me an’ Zoe’s goin’ down to the Zuni reservation. They do this “This is for you,” he said, handing me the envelope. “Consider yourself
ceremony this time of year and it’s suppose to be really secret, but I hear served. Have a good morning.” He turned and started to walk back down the
they’re letting white people watch for the first time and we thought we’d path. It was all in a day’s work for him. Nothing personal.
check it out.” “You too.” I called after him. He tipped his hat without turning back. I
“Far out!” Lucky exclaimed. “Where’d you hear about it?”
tore the end off the envelope to discover another one of those thirty-day
“Friend of Zoe’s turned us on to it,” Mitch explained.
notices to quit the premises that landlords give to tenants before they begin an
“Hey,” Lucky replied, in a burst of energy. “Ya think we might be able
eviction.
to get in on that. It sounds pretty cool. What do you think, Melinda? You’re I brought the notice back into the house. “Well, at least we won’t have to
even part Indian. They may dig that.” pay the rent this month,” I mumbled to no one in particular.
“Sure, why not?” Melinda agreed, suppressing a yawn. “Don’t think that “What did you say?” Emma called out from the kitchen.
there’s going to be much going on here for a bit. And we could sure use a “I said we’re getting evicted again, so we don’t have to worry about
vacation.” paying the rent.”
“Couldn’t we all,” Louise agreed, chillily She came into the living room. “Let me see.”
“So what do ya think?” Lucky asked Mitch. I gave her the notice. “Thirty days. We haven’t gotten your check yet.
“No problem, man,” he replied. “If it’s ok with the Zunis, it’s ok with us.
It’s already a week late. I thought we’d be in trouble for non-payment, but
We’re leaving this afternoon. First we’re heading up to LA to pick up some
this makes it easy. We don’t have to pay now, do we?”
shit at Zoe’s parents’ house then we’re going to be heading back down “Well, I guess not,” I replied. “It would be pretty stupid to pay this
through the desert. Gonna stop at the Grand Canyon. From there we’re going month’s rent and then have to fight to get back our last month’s rent deposit.
through the Navajo reservation to the Hopi mesas and then over to the Zuni The landlord’d probably keep it and make us go to court to get it back. I
reservation. We can meet up along the way, wherever you want.” guess there’s a silver lining.”
They were looking for a map as I finished my breakfast and headed for “More than one.” Emma hinted ominously. “We have to have a meeting
the living room to take a look at the paper. I had barely settled in when I anyway, about our future here. This just makes it all the easier.”
noticed a shady fellow walking up the driveway, heading for our door. I didn’t want to ask her the particulars. It sounded like a lot of stuff had
He wore a warped, brown Borsalino pulled down to cover all evidence
already been decided behind my back and the meeting was going to be just a
of hair. His face, shaded by the hat brim, looked furrowed and creased by
formality. I suspected that decisions had already been made while I was busy
age, excessive sunlight and/or frequent inebriation. He was thin and long. His
with Jack’s trial, but that no one wanted to share them with me until it was
wrists and ankles stuck out from a threadbare, single-breasted, brown suit

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over. The tone of her voice just confirmed a paranoid feeling that I’d been
having for weeks.
My check came in the mail the following afternoon. The custom had you want, are going to have to do something else. For that we need this
been for someone to simply present it to me for endorsement so it could be bread. So we’re going to do what everyone else around here is doing and live
deposited in the common account and used to pay expenses. After Emma’s off the land till they pull the plug on the gas and electricity and then it’s adios
comments the previous morning and the announced departure of Mitch and motherfucker.”
Lucky, it seemed prudent for me to get to the mail first. At that moment, it “Oh?” she looked away, out the window. “So you’re making that
looked like our project was shaved down to myself and four women. At least decision on your own. Without any input from the rest of us? From me?
two of them hated me. Another was pissed off that I had delayed her tryst We’re back where we started. Is that it?”
with her newfound lover and I was no longer certain the last was faithful. At “You mean, me making critical decisions for both of us? I asked. “Well,
least, it seemed, she had been let in on a plot against me. yeah, I suppose I am.” I said, answering my own question. “At least I’m
The envelope was a little thicker than usual. It was accompanied by a
making this one for me. I’d like you to agree with it but I can’t see any choice
letter from the
for myself. Beside, a lot of decisions around here have already made without
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Civil Liberties Military Law
me, so let’s call this one my turn.” I crossed my arms over my chest, pursed
Project. He thanked me for my year’s service and hard work. Unfortunately,
my lips and glared in her direction.
he explained, the Board had decided to terminate funding for the project. It She glanced up and said, “Then we’ve got nothing more to discuss, do
appeared that there was no longer a viable organization at Camp Pendleton, we?”
that the relationship between the Black Marines and the whites had “No I guess not.”
deteriorated and that there was very little activity on the Base that could It was a cold few days around the house. I wished that there was work
justify the expenditure of funds. They were a civil liberties organization, he for me to do, but there wasn’t any. There were no new clients. All I was
reminded me, and the meager funds available needed to be used to protect the doing was waiting for the transcript of Jack’s trial to be prepared, to write the
rights of the many, rather than the immediate interests of a few individuals. appeal and it would be finished. In the meantime, I wrote a few letters off to
This would be my last check. other projects inquiring whether they needed a military law expert. It was too
I brought the letter into the house and showed it to Emma. “My
early to expect a response.
discharge papers,” I said to her. “Convenience of the revolutionary “You may be interested in this,” Emma muttered, tossing a letter across
government. The Guru’s work,” I editorialized, relieved that I had an excuse the table not long after the hostile encounter over the last check.
to leave but also angered by the slight. “I knew this was coming after he It was a letter from Marylou. From an address in Berkeley. In it Marylou
argued with me about Jack’s testimony. He made short work of it. It’s so easy explained how she had left Oceanside and headed up the coast, stopping at
when you’re just a theoretician and aren’t in the trenches making the Las Pulgas to pick up Frankie. She managed to get him off the Base without
decisions that affect people directly.” him being discovered and together they drove North. It was graphic in its
She shook her head. “Well, this confirms the need to make some
detail. She related that they had become wonderfully close on the trip. That
decisions soon.” she said. “Where’s the check?”
Frankie had told her he was in love with her and that their age difference
“I’ve got it,” I admitted defensively.
didn’t matter to him. They spent the night together in a motel on the beach at
She looked at me and frowned. “What do you mean, ‘You’ve got it’?”
Morro Bay and climbed to the top of the rock, where they had a picnic of
“I mean that it looks to me like we’re not long for this place and I don’t
bread and cheese and wine and made love. They camped in Big Sur and
see any reason why I ought to turn this check over to a collective that doesn’t
walked together at Point Lobos looking a seals and sea otters and made love.
exist. People can blow in and out of here as they please and it seems the only
They went to a rock concert at the University in Santa Cruz, where she had
one that has to stick around and put bread into the place is me. Well, we have
smoked marijuana for the first time in her life, admitting that she liked it.
a month left in this shit hole and when it’s over, we, you and I, if that’s what

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They were now in Berkeley and Frankie was in a sanctuary at a church. He
had made statements to the press that he was refusing to go to Vietnam and
fight in an immoral war. She was so proud of him, she said. Meanwhile, she her car, while she was doing one of her classes. It seems a whole stack of
had changed her hair-style, ridded herself of her dowdy clothes and gotten a them, ones she had not finished transcribing, melted in the sun. Her back
small apartment through some members of the church support group. She was window acted like a magnifying glass and ruined the disks. They can’t be
about to begin job as the subscription manager for a Quaker publication that transcribed. There’s no record of the trial.”
was dedicated to supporting conscientious objectors, she said. She was on to I laughed. “I guess either the gods or that lady, or both were sure playing
a whole new life, thanks to us and felt so free and happy that she couldn’t a prank on us, weren’t they? Corporal Conlon wanted to make a record of
believe that a few short months ago she was a drudge and the wife of a war crimes, to make indelible history. The brass needed a record to convict
stuffed shirt. She was happy! him. Now it’s all a big zero. What are they planning on doing? Retrying
At least someone was, I thought. him? They can’t give him a punitive discharge, now unless they do.”
“No way do they want to retry him.” Jeffers confirmed. “The top brass
The two weeks for the preparation of the transcript were up and I was are really pissed. Colonel Hansen came down this morning and relayed the
becoming anxious for something to do. There was no work and the hostility CO’s proposal. They’ll let him out today if he agrees to a UD, ‘for the
level at the house had risen to the point where people would leave the room convenience of the government’ provided he doesn’t appeal his discharge for
when I walked into it. Or I left the room when one of the women other than ten years. That’ll wipe his conviction off his record. All he’ll lose is his GI
Emma entered. And as for Emma, we were being civil and that was about it. benefits but he won’t be a convicted felon. He’ll even keep his rank and
We weren’t discussing plans and we weren’t exactly enjoying an intimate they’ll reinstate his pay. What do you think he’ll say? He’s already
relationship. Something had to give. testified.”
I called Captain Jeffers and asked for a status report. “I haven’t got a clue,” I replied. “Let’s go over to the brig and ask him.”
“I was just about to call you. You better come down here right away.” he We drove over to the brig and asked Captain Daly to let us have an
told me. “We have some important matters to discuss and I don’t want to do emergency conference with Jack. He seemed to be expecting us. “Guess that
it on the phone.” son of a bitch is living right,” he said. “If it was me, I’da given him a firing
I left within minutes, telling Emma to tell the others that something was squad.”
up and to stay put until I knew what it was. I didn’t realize it then but this “Thanks for your verdict of sympathy,” I jibed, smiling. “I would have
would be my last excursion onto the Base. thrown you off the jury in less than a minute.”
I got to the JAG office just after noon, when everyone was at the “Semper fi,” Daly responded. “That’s the issue. Get prisoner Conlon,”
officer’s club taking their two hour, three beer lunches. Jeffers though, was at he hollered to one of the privates working under his command.
his post. The door to his office was open and he was standing next to his Jack sat back in his metal folding chair and took a drag on a roll-your-
desk, staring out the window, lost in some thought. own. “You’re fuckin’ shittin’ me.” he smirked. “Today? Ya mean I can get
“What’s up?” I asked, interrupting his daydream. the fuck outta here today?”
“You aren’t going to believe this,” he said. “You remember the court “That’s right,” Captain Jeffers confirmed. “They’re willing to let you out
reporter, the lady whom they put on the job because she was the expert and send you on an administrative leave from this afternoon. They’ll send
instructor?” you your discharge in the mail in a couple of weeks. All you gotta do is agree
I told him that I did. to a UD, an administrative discharge under other than honorable conditions
“Well,” he continued, “she had all of those wax disks with the for the convenience of the government and not to appeal it for ten years. As a
proceedings on them and was transcribing them. She was working on them, matter of law, it is not likely that you would win an appeal anyway and who
taking them back and forth from her home to the school where she does the knows what rights of appeal you would have ten years from now. Probably
training. A couple days ago, she left the disks on the back window ledge of

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none. So don’t think that you might get it upgraded sometime, because the
chances are very low.”
“Other than honorable conditions!” Jack exclaimed. “Their version of spark that I thought had gone out months ago. That evening, Jack was eating
honor isn’t mine anyway, so who the hell cares. And as far as their bennies dinner at our table.
are concerned, they can take ‘em and shove ‘em.” He looked at me. “ Let’s The next morning Jack and Gabrielle announced that they would be
get the fuck outta here.” leaving as soon as his discharge papers came through. They planned to spend
“We got a deal,” I reported to Jeffers. “Go call the colonel.” a few days out in the desert, at Joshua Tree while they waited. Then they
When Jeffers returned, he held a brief conversation with Captain Daly. A were going up to the Haight, where Jack had briefly stopped at on his way to
few moments later, Daly told Jack to “Saddle up. We’re cuttin’ you lose.” Canada and where he had been longing to return, with his girl, ever since.
Conlon slowly looked around the office, registering his emotions. He We were now down to four. It was clearly time to have that meeting and
gave Daly a snappy salute which the officer chose to ignore, and headed back settle up. The meeting from hell. Louise began with an attack on my elitism,
to his cell to collect his things. We walked out of the brig into bright, warm my professionalism and my male chauvinism. She accused me of controlling
California sunshine. Conlon was silent, looking around as if he wanted to my marriage to Emma and being a capitalist pig, because I had money and
remember every step of his departure. Strangely, he seemed less than happy. wouldn’t share it with “the people.” She argued that marriage was bourgeois
He had been robbed of his penance and felt the loss of the expectation. and it was the duty of true revolutionaries to smash monogamy.
I noticed. “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “Gabby will take up the slack.” Joanie, intimated how she had noticed how friendly I had become with
It brought him back to earth. He smiled broadly at the thought that this the Marine brass and how that proved that I was really a pig.
evening would be different. We waited together at the coffee shop in the PX, It got to me, I’ll admit it. I found myself asking how my old man would
talking about plans for the future. When I alluded to the demise of the handle a situation like this. Of course Sammy would have never gotten into it
collective, he expressed relief. He wanted to get as far away from the Base as in the first place. But if he had, he would have flipped the bird at these
he could, as fast as possible and had been worried that Gabrielle might wish females and told them he was heading off to find some real women. That
to linger. would have been that.
They had the paperwork done in a few hours and we drove off to Me? I sat and listened to the premeditated bashing and imagined the
surprise the women. orgasmic satisfaction of physical violence as the tension built in my shoulders
“I’ve got some news,” I said, opening the screen door to the kitchen. and arms. I could feel my biceps tightening, screaming for release, aching to
Emma was at the sink washing a pile of dishes. throw a punch. I imagined the relief that would bring. But I restrained myself.
“What’s that,” she replied, looking up with that bland look that women
I knew the consequences of a violent conclusion to this fiasco would be bleak
put on when they are angry with you and want to let you know that they are
and would put Emma over the edge. Even if I was going to lose her, I wasn’t
simply humoring your conversation.
going to give them the satisfaction of losing it. I tempered my macho with a
“Round up the others and go look in the car,” I said.
dollop of California go-with-the flow Zen this, Tao that.
“Don’t play games with me,” she snapped. “What’s in the car.”
“Just do what I said, Emma, please. It’s a surprise. Not a bad thing. Do it I looked over at Emma, hoping to find an ally. But she stayed silent. I
and you might enjoy it.” had been abandoned. The message was clear. She was sticking with the
She perked up a bit, wiped her hands on a dish-towel and went to get the women. I began to feel the icy, limpid tentacles of loneliness, pulling me
others. beneath the surface. I was either going to swim or drown. An emptiness filled
When the five of them came into the house it was like a cloud had lifted.
my heart. The detachment of solitude enveloped me. Protected me from the
Jack and Gabrielle were draped around each other negotiating a merger.
women’s harangue as my consciousness began to travel away from this place.
Joanie and Louise were casting misty glances in every direction but mine.
Emma, though, gave me a look with some of that old flame in her eyes, the

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There was no point in arguing with these women. I had no power of
persuasion. The game was over before I could even make my first move. I
had been set up. So I bailed. There was nothing else I could do, short of I was sitting on a patch of ice plants, frantically searching my belongings
senseless violence. I got up from the table. Ignoring them, I pulled the last for a sweatshirt, when I saw our Valiant coming. It rolled toward me amid the
forlorn brew out of the refrigerator. It was a can of Colt 45 malt liquor, a traffic that was routinely rejecting my thumbing entreaties. Inside, there was
drink I despised. Swigging the brew with arrogance, I bravely sauntered only a driver, Emma. My heart pounded with hope.
passed them into our room. In a daze now, I stuffed all of my clothes, clean She drove the right front wheel up over the curb, crushing ice plants with
and dirty together, into a backpack, tossed in my knife and a canteen and a reckless disregard for serious undercarriage damage. “Eric,” she yelled
attached a rolled up sleeping bag and mat. through the open passenger side window, “get in.”
There was only one possession left. I plucked the Browning from our I walked away from her, up the freeway ramp. Pretending not to notice.
dresser drawer and sat on our bed, cradling it. Contemplating. It had a She followed, slowly. Honked her horn. “C’mon Eric. Get in. Let’s talk.”
mesmerizing effect; cold, empowering…evil and strangely comforting. I There was no point in prolonging the inevitable. I relented and got in. On
pulled back the action, slipping a round into the chamber, cocking the the radio, an oily-smooth baritone was explaining the Kissinger theory of
hammer and contemplated the options. There was a moment. Then I pushed nuclear diplomacy. “Having the bomb,” he advised, “would do us no good
the release and let the magazine fall away, rendering the gun inoperable. unless the Soviets believed that we would use it. That means we have to be
With a sigh of resignation, I stood up, grabbed the piece by the barrel and prepared to use it. In fact, it may even mean that we will have to use it.” He
smashed the hammer into a window ledge, breaking it off. My war was over. was speaking apparently to a patsy of a reporter, who wondered whether that
I threw the broken weapon into our closet and slipped on my backpack. Then, didn’t negate the whole objective of not having to use the bomb. “Well, that’s
as if encouraged by a bouncer’s final shove, I tossed myself out the door and right,” said the Kissinger apologist. “We might have to use it to get them to
onto the pavement. believe that we will use it. Therefore, the Kissinger strategy is the only way
I walked away determined and fast. My mind furiously churned repairs
we can be certain that we are least likely to have to use it.”
to my self-esteem. For all of the love I had for Emma, I needed mountains of I’d heard enough and turned it off. It seemed to me that what he was
excuses why not to love. This was going to take a lot of rationalization work, saying applied to marriage at least as much as Weltpolitik. Men who used
I knew. Yet I was now unencumbered by external reality checks. I could physical threats to control a relationship would have to get their wives to
warp history as I liked, to create a balm. I mused on how life sometimes believe they would resort to physical force for the threat to do any good.
works in ironic symmetries. Almost a year ago the two of us arrived by car. Sooner or later, the only way that tactic would pass muster would be to
Southbound on the sunniest of days. It was night now and I found myself actually slug her. But once violence is ruled out of bounds in a relationship,
alone, carless, my thumb in the air. Soon I was aimlessly uprooting CalTrans the man is practically up shits creek. There’s no way in hell that a man is
flora by the side of an I-5 on ramp as I attempted to hitch a lift north, to going to beat out a woman in the marital power struggle when it is reduced to
anywhere. a battle of wits. Women have been in training for that tilt their whole lives. I
To the west, beyond the freeway, an unseasonably cool fog hit the beach
wasn’t going to clobber Emma. She knew that. I might just as well throw in
low and rolled across the sand in an amphibious assault. Headlong, it butted
the towel. Thanks a bunch, Henry.
up against the coastal cliffs that run in an almost unbroken barrier, border to “I can understand where you’re coming from.” she began.
border. There it hesitated, mustering its forces for a siege that would shortly I didn’t let her finish. “Oh, you can, can you? Where do you think I’m
lead to a breakout onto the broad coastal plain a hundred feet above. But it coming from?”
had already sent its chilling emissary before it. I had left in extremis, “You’re jealous,” she said. “You think I’m dumping you. Smashing
unconcerned with future travel plans. Emotional. In short sleeves. The cold monogamy. Got a thing for Joanie. That bugs you doesn’t it? Threatens your
breeze woke me from my stupor. I took the cold personally. It had come to manhood.”
punish me and no one else; to aggravate my mood of despair.

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“Well...,” I admitted, “when someone dumps a person for someone else,
doesn’t that say something about their so-called adequacy? I think so. But
when a guy gets dumped, not for another man but for a woman, I mean, that’s “No, that’s not it Emma. The grant ran out and I’ve got no more money.
a hard pill to swallow, don’t you think?” You know, it’s funny but it sounds like the same old story. Women keeping a
Emma looked over and smiled her alluring best. “Eric, you’re a fool. I’m guy around ‘till the money runs out then they show him the door. Same wine
not a lesbian. We’ve been together long enough for you to know that if you in a movement bottle.”
had been paying any attention at all. What’s with you anyway?” “It’s not like that,” she said with a hint of doubt.
C’mon Emma,” I responded. “Don’t you think I’ve noticed the looks, the “You may not believe this,” I continued, “but I’ve got the full spectrum
hugs. There’s stuff going on between you and Joanie. Don’t give me that shit. of emotions. All 88 keys. I don’t just have the bad ones, like anger, greed and
I ain’t blind.” jealousy but I have the others too. Men can have them. They can get hurt, feel
“If you aren’t blind, you sure are dumb,” she retaliated. “Eric, everyone sad, feel pain, betrayal, love. Believe me on this, Emma, if you’ve got ’em,
loves being liked. Being found attractive. Even by someone of the same sex. we do too. Maybe we cover up better, but they’re in here all the same.”
So big deal. Joanie thinks I’m attractive. So she’d like to go to bed with me. We had reached the immigration checkpoint and the line of cars was
That doesn’t mean I want to go to bed with her. And it doesn’t mean she’s about ten deep. There were only two officers on duty but they persisted in
pushed it. But it also doesn’t mean I’m not flattered by her attraction. I’ve conducting a thorough investigation of every vehicle with a brown-skinned
told her that and that I’m not interested. But don’t tell me you wouldn’t feel a occupant. In the meantime, they could have waved through a hundred illegal
bit flattered too if some guy found you attractive. I mean after you got past Irish immigrants and fifty French or German tourists who had overstayed
your macho, posturing indignation. At the bottom of it all, someone has found their visas. But that was not the point. It was skin color pure and simple and
you attractive and how is that something to feel bad or offended about?” we had to wait our turn to be waved through with a courteous nod and a
smile.
“This wasn’t some one shot deal, Emma. It’s been going on for months Emma took advantage of the slowdown and looked over at me. “I’m
and you were rubbing my face in it. So don’t make it sound like a little flirt.” going with you,” she said. “I don’t want to stay in the collective without you.
“We were working together, Eric. What do you expect? Was I supposed I love you. No one else. I’ve always been faithful.” Her wistful smile,
to quit? We had a job to do and the best way to do it was in a friendly illuminated by the headlights of oncoming cars, seemed to flash off and on
manner, not hostility. I suppose that’s what you would have liked.” like one of those old neon roadside advertisements designed to get the
“I would have preferred a little support,” I said in a way that told her that
immediate attention of weary motorists.
she had convinced me that I was an asshole for even fantasizing that she had It got mine. She had won me over. I believed her. Every bit. I took a
become Joanie’s lover. deep breath and knew that if she could still love me we were in this together,
“So would I,” she responded with conciliatory sweetness and a glance in for the long haul.
my direction. “I wasn’t getting any from you either, you know.”
“Well, what did you expect? I was the odd man, and I mean man out.” One of the beefy guardians of our borders directed us past a battered
“How can you blame that on us?” she shrugged. “I mean, just because ‘50’s Ford pickup with its torn out seat lying alongside as if it were the victim
the only people on the project who were doing any work were the women, of South Bronx scavengers. Clothing was strewn around its perimeter like the
how can you lay that on us?” petals of a wilted flower a week past prime. A pathetic bracero slouched
“I was doing work, too, which you seem to forget.”
against the front fender, resigned to detention beneath the watchful eye of La
“That’s different. You had a different job to do. It wasn’t a collective.
Migra. Nearby his co-conspirator, a forlorn, ageless woman, squat and
You were operating on an individual basis. That’s why they don’t want to
waistless, clutched her squirming brown infant to exposed breasts. Her broad
work with you.’
face, engraved with worry lines of oppression, impassive yet sad, followed

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the privileged travelers accelerating past to cruising speed in the fast lane of
life. With a free hand she was picking up the pieces of a broken clay pot.
Something of value to her that La Migra had delighted in smashing.
I felt a kinship. Like her meager possessions, the luggage of my feelings
was strewn along the highway of recent experience and I was helpless to do
anything about it. And then it came to me that we had gotten our wish. The
GLOSSARY
War had been brought home. As a consequence, it had broken the collective
AIT Advanced Infantry Training. In the Marines an
clay pot. The Donnies, Jacks, Luckys, Louises, Joanies, a whole generation,
extra period of training in infantry tactics
would be picking up the pieces for a long time to come.
Rubbernecking, I watched her until she faded into the obscurity of strategy and operations.
darkness.
We headed north in silence. Emma was driving.
APC Armored Personnel Carrier. A lightly armored
The End troop transportation vehicle.
ARTICLE 15 Referring to Article 15 of the Uniform Code of
Military Justice, which empowers
commissioned officers who are company
commanders and higher to impose various and
limited forms of punishment for infractions of
the Code, provided the subordinate agrees to
waive his or her right to a court martial.
ARVN Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the South
Vietnamese army.
AWOL Absent Without Leave. A military crime.
BAR Browning Automatic Rifle. An automatic
infantry weapon lighter than a machine gun
and heavier than a standard issue rifle such as
an M-1 6.
BCD Bad Conduct Discharge
CAPTAIN'S MAST Referring to an Article 15 non-judicial
punishment proceeding in the Navy and
Marines.
CO Conscientious Objector or Commanding
Officer, depending on context.

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COINTELPRO A covert operation concocted in the late '60’s
by J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI and
the Nixon White House to harass various left- GERONIMO A Viet vet and Black Panther who was
wing organization such as the Black Panther confined falsely for a murder based upon a
Party and to provoke them into situations Cointelpro informant.
where they would be vulnerable to being shot
by the police or arrested. GRUNT Usually an infantryman.
CORPSMAN A medic in the Navy who might also be GUNNY Gunnery sergeant, a rank specific to the
attached to the Marines. Marines. An E-7, the seventh highest rank of
non-commissioned troops. Invariably a “lifer”
CP The Communist Party of the United States. or career soldier.
DD-214 A Department of Defense form used for FN Fabrique National, the Belgian national arms
specifying the type of discharge granted each factory. A weapons manufacturer and brand
member of the armed forces" Honorable, name for various military weapons.
General, Undesirable, Bad Conduct or
Dishonorable. H&S Headquarters and Service Company. A
company in every battalion composed of
DI Drill Instructor. various attached specialties from translators
DMZ The demilitarized zone separating North and investigators to cooks, drivers and
Vietnam from South Vietnam pursuant to the including the commander’s staff.
1954 partition agreement. HUEY American helicopter gun ship.
E-1 Lowest pay-grade and rank for an enlisted I-CORPS The Northernmost operations sector in South
person. "E" symbolizing "enlisted" and the Vietnam.
numerical stating the pay-grade that
corresponds to a rank. E- 1s and E-2s are JAG Judge Advocate General, the legal branch of
privates. In the Marines, an E-3 is a Lance each of the armed services.
Corporal. An E-4 is a corporal. E-5s through KIA Killed in action.
10s are various sergeant ranks.
LIFER Usually referring to a career, non-
E and M Extenuation and Mitigation, the part of a court commissioned officer.
martial after the serviceman has been found
guilty of the crime(s) when the court reviews M-16 Standard issue automatic assault rifle after
his record and hears his excuses, prior to approximately 1967.
determining the sentence. MINUTEMEN A right-wing paramilitary organization active
FRAGGING From the term, fragmentation grenade. The in the 1960's generally a precursor to the
use of a grenade to kill one’s superior officers. militia movement.

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MOBILIZATION A loose collection of leftist and peace
organizations that coordinated the large
demonstrations against the war that took place RED GUARD A radical communist youth organization
in the late 60's and early '70’s. created and incited by Mao Tse Tung to
MOP Marines Organizing Project, a fictitious harass, humiliate, silence and intimidate his
organization of civilians engaged in supporting political opponents in particular and, in
Anti-War Marines. general, anyone who might challenge his
philosophy or rule. It targeted intellectuals and
MOS Military Occupation Specialty, a bureaucratic
the educated sectors of Chinese society in
classification number for the specialty each
particular.
soldier is trained to perform, for example,
radioman, driver, mortar man, etc. SOGI A fictitious organization of civilians engaged
in raising funds for various Anti-War
MR. NATURAL A cartoon character created by R. Crumb, organizing activities directed toward members
implicitly easy going and usually stoned. of the armed forces.
NCO Non-commissioned officer, a holder of one of SANE An anti-nuclear peace organization that was
the non-commissioned ranks of corporals and part of the "Ban the Bomb" movement of the
sergeants. early 60's.
NLF The National Liberation Front. Generally SDS Students for a Democratic Society. A
called the Viet Cong and used synonymously decentralized left-wing student organization
with the communist guerrillas. This that had dozens of chapters in colleges and
organization was ostensibly a broader based universities across the US during the late '60’s.
coalition of nationalist groups beyond the SDS organized demonstrations, student
communists all of whom were engaged in the protests, sit-ins and disruptions of university
effort to oust the US forces from Vietnam. functions during the height of the Vietnam
NIS Naval Investigative Service, The investigative War until it degenerated in partisan bickering
and security department of the Navy that also and factionalism in the early '70’s.
has jurisdiction to investigate various crimes
and conduct that affect the security of the
Marines. A military version of the FBI.
PFC Private First Class. In the Marines an E-2

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SNCC The Student Non-Violent Coordinating
Committee. In its early years, an integrated
organization that sent students to the South to WEATHERMEN A faction of SDS that took its name from the
register Blacks to vote. It practiced non- Bob Dylan lyric, "You don't need a
violence. Several of its organizers were killed weatherman to know which way the wind
while engaging in this activity. By 1967 the blows. This lyric symbolized their belief that it
organization was controlled by "Black
was possible to create a violent revolution in
Militants" or "Black Power" advocates such as
the US. in 1969 by engaging in what they
Stokely Carmichael and H."Rap" Brown who
termed "exemplary action." This involved
expelled all white members and started to
bombing, designed to break the taboo against
advocate, initially the right to self defense and
violent political action and to challenge that
later the right to engage in “revolutionary
prevailing philosophy that political discourse
violence.”
in American society was a sufficient process to
TAC Squad New York City riot police customarily accomplish necessary change. Weathermen
employed to break up demonstrations and to engaged in the process of making bombs were
attack and beat demonstrators. blown up in a townhouse in Greenwich
Village, New York City in 1969.
UA Unauthorized Absence, the same as AWOL
for Marines and Navy. YIPPIE Ostensibly the Youth International Party.
Made up of politically active hippies during
UD Undesirable Discharge,. An administrative the late 1960's and early '70’s, it was
discharge for the convenience of the supposedly dedicated to creating a youth
government (so they don't have to conduct a revolution. In actuality it was a spoof of
court martial) or, in context, the uniform of the political factions created by Abbie Hoffman,
day. Jerry Rubin and others to obtain media
UC University of California attention.
VC Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese guerrilla
forces, as opposed to the North Vietnamese
regular troops. V C in military
communications parlance is Victor Charlie,
hence, "Charlie."
WM Women Marine

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Acknowledgements

I want to express my grateful thanks to Sheila Donohue who


coached me and edited my early drafts. Her help in pulling together this story
was invaluable. Thanks also to Linda Romilly Irvine who turned me on to
Sheila. I also extend a heartfelt thanks to my friends/readers, Ann Ehrich,
Jane St. John, John and Elly Gould and Jane Kinzler. Their insights and
encouragement was most helpful. A special thank you to Kjeld Lyth who was
kind enough to give me a read and a perspective from the “other side.”
To Jonah Raskin and Peter Wiley, I want to express my
extraordinary appreciation for the giving freely of your time and providing
me with two of the most wonderful blurbs for which any writer could hope.
And a second thanks to John Gould who also helped me with marketing
ideas.
Finally, I want to express my love and gratitude to my wife, Bonnie,
who fortunately knows how one ought to spell and punctuate. Without her
support and encouragement this project would never have made it this far.

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