Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Now for some good news

My mom passed along to me an e-mail from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. They're the group who funded the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. They've been working for several years on establishing an educational center near the Wall. If you've ever been to the Wall, you'd have noticed that there is very little information there for visitors, other than the names of the Wall listed in directory books near the entrances. Volunteers at the Wall have for years answered questions for visitors and have helped with locating names.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund announced in the e-mail that they've just received a lead gift of $10 million from Time Warner Inc. for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center.

The full press release is here.

On the outside looking in


This boy was selling bananas to us through the windows of our boat on Ha Long Bay. I didn't get close enough to him to get a better photograph because I was struggling to deal with seeing him there, in the rain and mist, standing on another boat alongside ours. Or maybe he'd climbed aboard. I couldn't tell because I was on the inside of the boat and I shied away from getting close to the windows.

I've thought about this boy often. Part of the reason is that I saw what was to me a photo with a lot more emotional impact, one that Dino had in his exhibit. But the other reason is that he was on the outside looking in. It makes me think of a story I read in my Intro to Fiction Writing class, a Willa Cather story about a boy named Paul, who looked into the windows of the opulent Hotel Schenley (now Pitt's student union building) from out in the cold.

Paul knew that was a different world, one to which he did not belong, inside that hotel. And it makes me wonder what this boy sees, and what he thinks about it.

I think one of the reasons I couldn't get any closer to him was because I wanted to take him on board, to take him inside where it was dry, to give him lunch and to take him from a world where he has to work. It was a Saturday, so I don't know if he does this every day, or just on weekends--but from what I understand, many of the "boat people" in Vietnam are very poor. And in Hue, the people who lived on houseboats were at one time not allowed to send their children to school.

But, like I'd attempted with my friends when I was a child, rescuing wounded birds, I knew that taking him in wouldn't solve anything. He'd be in a strange environment, away from his family, and I wouldn't know what to do to make him whole.

The outcome of Paul in the Willa Cather story was not good.

With this boy, I have no way of knowing what his future holds, but he reminds me that there are so many poor people--children, especially--who need us to look outside of the windows of our warm, fuzzy existences and open those windows and reach out to help them.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The real things


My friend Mike photographed these visitors in his yard. I had a few dragonfly sightings Friday and yesterday, but not the real things.

I know I haven't written much this week. I started a new job on Tuesday, which I'm enjoying. I'm working at a hospital, and I've been online reading up as much as I can about the area in which I'm working. I love the challenge of a steep learning curve. I'm also adjusting to a new and longer commute.

Speaking of long commutes, my cousin Terry just e-mailed me to say he's trapped in Philly on his way back from Europe because of Philly-Pittsburgh flight overbooking and cancellations. The one time I was on a Philly-Pittsburgh flight I sat next to a trans-Atlantic pilot who used to fly out of Pittsburgh but now commutes to Philly since US Airways moved their trans-Atlantic flights to that airport. I'd hate that commute.

Vietnamese Cuisine story

The Vietnamese Cuisine story by Liz Rogers is in today's Washington Observer-Reporter. You can hear Tuyet (finally--I know how to spell her name!) and see more photos by Scott Beveridge in a Quicktime movie here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Missing Officer's Remains Found in Vietnam

My friend and former colleague Mike e-mailed me today an AP story. It used to be that once upon a time it was easy to find AP stories online, but the AP's changed how they do things. As a former newspaper web employee and as a reader, I'm frustrated by how tricky it can be to find the stories I want to read.

I found a couple of Philadelphia television stations picked up the AP story and published it on their web sites. Here's a link to the story on 6abc.com.

I don't know how long this site keeps stories up, so I don't know how long the link will work--hopefully it'll be working for awhile.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lunch in Bloomfield, dinner in the Delta

Thanh invited me to her house in Bloomfield today. Her nieces prepared sample dishes of the food that we'll be serving at the Friends of Danang Vietnamese dinner fundraiser on July 9.

It's pretty hard to miss Thanh's Bloomfield house. There is a large Buddha in the front yard. My friend Melissa used to live a few blocks away, and she knows the house well. When she was growing up, another family lived there, and Melissa spent some time at that house.

I love how those houses in that part of Bloomfield have always felt so much like home to me. I used to spend so much time at Melissa's house that I don't remember now if I ever bothered to knock when I went in. And her Italian-American family always seemed to have plenty of great homemade food to go around for company. Like me.

When I was very young, my Polish-American great-grandmother was like that. My happiest childhood memories are of sitting around in Babka's kitchen, eating a little, and listening to a lot of stories. By the time I was in high school, Babka was no longer able to do that, and I found a similar place with Melissa's family, and her grandmother.

Today, I felt like I found that same vibe, only this time it was with my Vietnamese-American friends and two other guests, Scott Beveridge and Liz Rogers from the Washington Observer-Reporter. They were working on a story about our dinner, and about the food, and we all sat around in the dining room and ate while we listened to Thanh's nieces talk about learning to cook from their grandmother in Vietnam.

Their grandmother's photograph is on the altar in the dining room, along with their grandfather's photograph, and their uncle's. As is tradition, those ancestors who are deceased are honored there with incense and gifts of food. I am sure that grandmother was smiling at her granddaughters today. It was an incredible meal--a great preview of that upcoming dinner--and such a warm, kind atmosphere.

And--onto dinner in the Delta. Scott Beveridge has some photos from his 2004 trip to Vietnam on Flickr. Flickr's fun but its upload tool is wonky, so start at the last photo and work your way forward. It's a lot different than any meal I experienced in Vietnam, but it's much more real as well. And there are stories to go with the photos.

Joe Galloway interview on NPR's Morning Edition

I was listening to the local public jazz station this morning and caught an interview with retiring journalist Joe Galloway on NPR's Morning Edition. It's available on the NPR web site. Galloway is going to continue writing his weekly column for Knight Ridder's Washington Bureau. I admire Galloway not just for his journalism, but also for who he is as a human being. He's a long-time supporter of Sons and Daughters in Touch, and in "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young" which he co-wrote with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore (Ret.), Galloway coined the phrase "Gold Star Children" and wrote some lovely words about us.

Galloway is also the only American civilian to have been awarded the Bronze Star medal, for his actions while he was in the field as a journalist with the 1st Cavalry Division in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam in 1965. If you've ever seen the movie "We Were Soldiers," Galloway is the real-life journalist that Barry Pepper portrayed.

And, Galloway shares a birthday with my mom. He's done a tremendous job organizing an annual Ia Drang reunion, and my mom and I have attended twice at the invitation of our friend Barbara Geoghegan Johns. Here's a photo from the birthday on November 13, 2004. Cheers!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Photos: Father's Day Rose Remembrance

I searched Yahoo! News for photos from this morning's Father's Day Rose Remembrance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Found a reflection photo of Shelby Zacharias. Shelby's grandfather, Staff Sgt. David Spears, was killed in Vietnam. I last saw Shelby at the Vietnam Women's Memorial on Memorial Day when her mom, Karen, was speaking.

Here's another photo of Shelby.

And another.

Here is a photo of son touching a rose to a name.

There are two other photos posted, and I can't tell if more will show up, but if you go to Yahoo! News and search photos for Vietnam, you'll be taken to this search results page. It's an easy way to check for more photos.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Father's Day ceremony at the Wall

There's a Father's Day--that's tomorrow--ceremony at the Wall at 8 a.m. Eastern. CNN is planning on doing a live feed. I don't know for how long, and I'm sure if there's only no bigger, breaking story going on at the time. (You just never know.)

Sure would have been nice if CNN had showed up for the ceremony last year, when a whole group of us kids from Sons and Daughters in Touch had a ceremony there that Father's Day morning. But I'm glad they're planning on being there this year.

Yolanda Acevedo is going to speak at the ceremony tomorrow.

I'm hoping usvets.tv is there tomorrow and creates a webcast of the ceremony--they were there for our Father's Day ceremony last year.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow...I'm not feeling all weirded out about it like I used to.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Phuong's pho outing

My friend Scott e-mailed me a link yesterday to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette restaurant critic's story about pho. My friend Phuong visited three restaurants with her colleagues at the paper, and the information she provides in the story makes it worth reading.

I'm bummed that when we were in Hanoi, we only were at the hotel one night, and had to leave so early in the morning that we did not have a sit-down breakfast at the hotel. I did have pho the morning before, in Ha Long Bay, and had also had it at the Furama in Danang and at the Majestic in Saigon. It was different in all of the places, and different than anything I've had here in Pittsburgh. So far. I'm determined to learn more about Vietnamese food this summer.

And now guess what I want for breakfast?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Seeking viewer feedback

So, I'm curious...if you saw the documentary preview last night, what did you think? If you feel comfortable posting comments about it that other people will see, click the Comments button after this post and fill out the window that pops up. (You can post comments anonymously...but I'd rather you tell me who you are, just so I can get back in touch with you.) Or, if you'd prefer, go to my profile page and click on the e-mail link. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Whew!

Glad that's over.

It was so fun for me to watch the documentary preview tonight with my friend Steve. There are a few things that I really liked:

-Seeing how the interviews with Boone, Perry and Chris looked. I liked seeing the Furama and the view from the boat on Ha Long Bay.

-Seeing us all in the Foreign Affairs office in Danang, and using that to intro us with our "old photos".

-The shot of Boone and me talking to the children outside of the cemetery. Loved that! I didn't get to take any photos of that, and those children were amazing.

Just called my mom. She's watching the Stanley Cup finals with Freddy, after a long day the two of them spent in Biloxi. She said that the devastation there is still so bad that it looks like a movie set. They had a hard time finding where they needed to go because the road signs were washed away during Katrina and they're not yet back. They asked for directions from a man from Houston who was in Biloxi doing construction work.

The Carolina Hurricanes might win the Stanley Cup tonight. I've always thought that was a strange name for a hockey team.

Tonight's almost here

I'm still fired up about this documentary preview airing this evening. I've made more phone calls today that I'd like to admit. I even called the hair salon I go to and asked the receptionist to take my message to my stylist and to the owner. They've heard so much about this trip from me that I knew I would feel guilty if I didn't call them.

That said, there are a few things I feel compelled to mention if you watch tonight. First, I don't know what exactly is going to air. Second, the evening after our cemetery trip was one of my favorite evenings--if not my most favorite evening--of the trip.

I was so relieved to have that cemetery visit completed. That evening Thanh had arranged a picnic dinner for everyone on the beach at our resort hotel in Danang. The sun set fairly early, by six or so. We were near the equator, so the hours of daylight and dark were fairly equal. It felt GREAT to be out on the beach after dark and to have a little bit of an ocean breeze. Dinner was fantastic. And later, while I was talking with a bunch of trip-mates in the hotel restaurant, I ordered a creme brulee and a beer. How classy of me. Not! But it was sooo good.

I was thinking of that creme brulee when I stopped into Jean-Marc Chatellier's bakery in Millvale this morning. I thought about getting a few fruit tarts for this evening, but I wimped out and went with butter cookies, which are, like everything I've ever had from there, fabulous.

There is nothing like starting a day with pho for breakfast and ending it with beer and creme brulee. I must do that again.

Minette's travel diary

Finally, it's June 14, the air date of the documentary preview. I was just on the WQED Multimedia web site, and I found this: the intro for Minette Seate's travel diary.

Minette's put an unbelievable amount of time and energy into this project. And Minette was a great travel companion. I can't wait to read her travel diary.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Documentary Preview Wednesday, June 14

WQED-TV in Pittsburgh is airing a preview of the documentary "In Country: A Vietnam Story" on its news magazine show, OnQ. The OnQ "cover story" for that episode is the MLB All-Star Game, which is taking place in Pittsburgh next month.

Air dates/times as follows:
Wednesday, June 14 7:30pm-8pm
Wednesday, June 14 11:30pm-midnight
Thursday, June 15 12:30 pm-1pm

I don't know what is going to be aired in this preview, but it will likely include some of host Chris Moore and his friends on their return to Vietnam, the work of Friends of Danang, and my trip to where my dad's company was ambushed.

If any of you in the area have a chance to tape it, please do--there are folks outside of the viewing area who are interested in seeing it.

Thanks!

Not just the facts, but also the truth

I sat in on a talk my friend Phuong gave to a group of high school students about a month ago. One of the students asked her about journalism, and I remember Phuong saying that she had to find not just the facts, but also the truth.

There's a man who's been working on a book involving my dad's unit. With my own questions about what happened to my dad and his company when they were ambushed, the facts are somewhat clear. I know where they were, more or less. I could take daily radio log and get a pretty good idea how many men were wounded. And I know from various documents and survivors that there were 11 men (including my dad) who were killed.

But many documents, including the 11 posthumous Silver Star citations, are questionable. I learned the documents exist, all right, but the person who wrote them was not there. And I learned from several survivors that eyewitness statements were never taken.

Factual from those citations: that those soldiers are dead. I can't even say that the ranks, roles, squads and platoons are correct in all cases.

I am not saying these men did not deserve these citations. What I am saying is that they deserved the *truth* in those citations--which would have meant that eyewitness statements would have been taken. That may not have been possible with the men who'd been cut off, but it would have been possible with the ones who weren't. And it didn't happen. After the ambush the company was taken out of the field for awhile to regroup, so any argument that they were still out there fighting would not hold.

The only way to get the truth is from the dead, and that isn't going to happen in this lifetime. But the next best thing is to get the stories from the eyewitnesses who are willing to talk about it--and understandably, most aren't.

If you can't confirm what's on the narratives of those citations with an eyewitness, then you can't take them as truth. And in a work of nonfiction, you then can't use those narratives, not only because those narratives aren't truth, but because it's plain wrong in so many ways.

The dead do not deserve to have untruths told about their actions *twice*--once in a citation and another time in a book. It's wrong to the families--who weren't told much of anything in the first place. And it's wrong to the readers--who shouldn't be fed shaky material because the author was looking for "filler" to use.

This so makes me want to work as an editor. Or go to law school and become an attorney. What concerns me is that I'm sure things like this pass through editors all of the time.

You want to use "filler"? Write fiction.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

One neighborhood, three wars

I've been fighting some sort of bug for the past few days. I slept all day Saturday, save for a few hours in the morning and early afternoon and about an hour in the early evening.

Today I got out a bit and visited with my friend Lisa and then drove over to Polish Hill to visit with my grandma, Aunt Rita and Aunt Janet. Uncle Jimmy's building some new steps to his upstairs apartment. And I got to talk a little bit with Mr. Welka. Mr. Welka is a World War II veteran who recently moved into a senior apartment building and from the sounds of it seems to be enjoying himself there. He was back at the old house to sell some furniture.

Grandma said that Buddy stopped over the other day and said he's going into the hospital for coronary bypass surgery. Buddy is a Vietnam veteran and a good neighbor--I hope you all can send some positive vibes his way.

And today is the first anniversary of the death of a soldier in Iraq, the cousin of a woman I know from Polish Hill. Please keep her family in your thoughts as well. Anniversaries are hard enough this far out for my own family, but with a war still going on, I can't imagine how tough this must be.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Update on my newest family member

I posted a few days back that my cousin Maureen was in labor. Thankfully she's not *still* in labor--and my apologies if I've allowed anyone to think that. Maureen's new son arrived on Sunday afternoon.

I had an update from Daddy Jason tonight. William Alexander Mueller arrived on Sunday, June 5 at 5:11 pm. He was two weeks early, and he's recovering from an infection. He should be going home with the folks and his big brother Andrew and the two family doggies on Saturday.

In related news...Aunt Janet (who works at the hospital) now has an e-mail account. Yippee! I'm going to send her an e-mail so she has something in her inbox.

Memorial Day 2005

A few days ago, I posted a link to a CNN transcript about a nurse and a father.

You can read the speech that father made on Memorial Day, 2005 a few hours after he met the nurse by clicking here.

And if you would like to see the archived webcast of the speech, click here to go to usvets.tv and under Live & Archived Events in the right-hand column, click on 2005 Annual Memorial Day Observance at the Wall.

I was there for the event, and that was one of the most incredible speeches I've ever heard.

It looks different in daylight



The following afternoon, after the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.

Later that evening...


Samantha at her dad's panel


and me at my dad's panel.

Most times when I've been to the wall at night it's been when there's a chill in the air and there are few people there. This time, it was still quite warm and muggy, with not much of a breeze, and there were tourists all over the place. While I'm glad there were tourists there, it's nice to have some quiet time at the Wall.

We weren't aware then that there were robbers lurking in the Mall, and some of their victims had been attacked. Washington's been so security-heavy since 9/11 that I'd forgotten it was once a dangerous city, and still is. When I was in college in the late 1980s I remember the stories of how so many homeless people lived on the Mall. Does anybody know what's happened to them? Maybe they've just moved to another location? I did see several people who looked homeless and obviously had some mental issues, but those people were near our hotel which was not on the Mall.

My cats are snoring. It's time for me to go to bed.

It's late and I'm thinking funny thoughts

The funniest line from my recent trip to DC:

Watch your silks, I just flipped a chicken.

Lesson learned: do not wear a satin shirt, which could be mistaken for silk, when the person seated next to you is attempting to eat sweet and sour chicken with chop sticks.

Here's a photo of me and Samantha before the chicken flipping incident:


I still have no idea where the flipped chicken landed, other than that it did not land on my shirt.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Doctors, fathers and nurses

There have been several stories written about the diaries of a North Vietnamese woman, a doctor, who was killed during the war. Here is a link to a story in the New York Times.

There is an excerpt of Dr. Tram's writing in the story:
"Just yesterday," she wrote at one point, "a badly wounded soldier 21 years old called out my name, hoping I could help him, but I could not, and my tears fell as I watched him die in my useless hands."

Just over a week ago I spoke at the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and I said there, to all of the nurses and the doctors (and to everyone who got my father out of the field and to the hospital) that what they did mattered to my family. They may not have been able to save my father but they were able to give us the consolation that he died somewhere where he would have been relatively safe and comfortable--and maybe most importantly, not alone.

The most touching story I've ever heard so far regarding medical personnel in a war is the story of a father meeting a nurse. The transcript is here, and once you're on that page, scroll down until you get to the "Vietnam Veteran" after the COMMERCIAL BREAK.

Rumsfeld's visit to Vietnam

I received an e-mail from a veteran friend this morning, who sent the text of an AP story about Rumseld's visit to Vietnam. The whole concept of Rumsfeld in Vietnam scares me; I'm afraid he's capable of undoing years of progress in our two nations to get along.

He's pressing the Vietnamese government into working to find our MIAs--
here's the story link.

and I felt compelled to write the following as a reply to that veteran and to the others on his e-mail list. One of the vets who shall remain nameless sent me a nasty reply about my being an expert in foreign policy and my message was "propaganda". And if you feel that way, too, so be it--I could give a rat's you-know-what--this is a personal issue for me. Ever met the son or daughter of an MIA from any country? Any idea the amount of heartache they suffer?

I'll shut up for the time being and go on with that e-mail I'd sent out earlier today.



Hello, all--

After having been to Vietnam recently and meeting a man who'd worked on an MIA commission there for ten years, I believe the people there sincerely want to help. I think it's a matter of governments and bureaucracy getting in the way. That man I met had misunderstood my father's situation and thought that he was MIA, and I know he would have done everything in his power to help me--because his own father is MIA. For people of my generation in Vietnam, this is a common, and sad, situation.

I got some good news on Memorial Day: my friend and Vietnam veteran Allen Hoe finally got the phone call that the remains of some of the men he served with have been located. They'd had an emergency evacuation of a camp in a place called Kham Duc on Mother's Day, 1968. He has been working with JPAC for years on the return of those remains, and he said that he'd recently had things moving along very well because he was able to work with the Vietnamese veterans.

The Vietnamese are still very poor and they don't have many resources. I'd heard from some children of MIAs in this country that our government has cut back funding for JPAC, which really upsets me. Imagine how upset those children of MIAs are about it.

When I was in DC over the Memorial Day weekend, I watched Rolling Thunder. I know people in this country care about this issue, and want our government to work to resolve it. It angers me, how, to my ears at least, Rumsfeld sounds as if the only thing holding back locating our MIAs is the Vietnamese government.

Thought you should all be aware of that and if it upsets you, too, to contact your representatives in Congress and let them know how you feel about this issue and JPAC funding.

thanks,
-Noreen Doloughty
daughter of SSG james C. Doloughty, KIA 7/9/69

Monday, June 05, 2006

I don't feel like talking

Sometimes, things really stink.

I had to go to the funeral home tonight for Debbie, a friend of some friends of mine from high school. She had only gotten sick last Tuesday, and she died on Saturday morning. I saw my friend Melissa and her mom there. Her mom is doing well--she'd been very sick for the past year and she looks great.

The viewing was at Zalewski's in Lawrenceville, where I know Elizabeth (I grew up with Elizabeth's Uncle Larry) and Walter. One of the first funerals of Walter's career was my dad's. I brought a few photos from my Vietnam trip to show to Elizabeth and Walter. The last time I saw them was for Mrs. Bulger's viewing, and her son-in-law Tony was on the trip with me.

I told Walter about the dragonflies.

On the way home, I realized I was hungry, and debated on where to go considering I was alone and wearing a dress. I probably should have gone with a place on McKnight like Eat 'n Park, but instead I went to the North Park Lounge near my apartment complex. It was the site of the college graduation party Melissa and I had together when her cousin Greg was one of the owners. Greg passed away unexpectely a few months ago.

I tried to ignore the obnoxious men at the table across from me (they were the epitome of yinzerdom), and I read the ads that were inlaid into the table. There was one for a hair salon called Bliss that had dragonflies on the ad. I tried to laugh but it wasn't in me tonight.

When I got the check and the take-out box for the remainder of my giant fried fish sandwich, a redheaded guy with glasses, who seemed to be drunk, walked over to the table and babbled something about he'd noticed I was alone and wondered if I wanted to hang out and talk.

Part of me felt bad for him, but most of me felt like being very direct. I told him I'd just come from a funeral home (gee, do you think I would be in a place like that in a black dress for any other reason, dude?) and that I didn't feel like talking.

No wonder I never go there alone unless there's a snowstorm and I'm out of food.

I left the waitress a big tip for having to put up with that crap. I couldn't do it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Karen on the Chris Moore Show

My friend Karen Spears Zacharias was on the Chris Moore Show on KDKA-AM this afternoon. I found out with short notice, so I didn't get a chance to call everyone, but I did manage to reach several of you. To learn more about Karen, visit her web site: www.heromama.org.

It was strange for me to hear Chris talk about me, though I'm glad he did. I'm trying hard to figure out what sort of impact my story is going to have when the documentary preview airs June 14 and the full documentary airs in November.

Before listening to the radio show, I had a several-hour talk with Dennis, who served in Vietnam with my dad. And I got news today that my cousin Maureen is in labor with her second child, and that a woman I knew from high school died yesterday.

It's looking like tomorrow I may be at both a maternity ward and a funeral home.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Family ties

On Thursday I went to Aunt Anna Szalinski's funeral. Aunt Anna was my grandma's sister-in-law. My grandma was part of a very large family (eleven children, I think--someone correct me if I'm wrong!) who started out on Ridgeway Street on Polish Hill.

I grew up in the same neighborhood, and I got to spend a lot of time walking to those streets above Bigelow, to visit with Aunt Mary, Aunt Agnes, Aunt Helen, Aunt Josephine, Aunt Ceil (and their families) and with Uncle Joey who worked at the kielbasa place.

Aunt Anna and her family lived in the eastern suburbs by the time I was growing up, and I didn't get to see them very often. But my mom always admired her--her husband had died young and she raised four sons alone. I think my mom admired her in much the same way she admired Aunt Rita, who raised her four sons after a divorce.

Thursday was my first day of unemployment, and though funerals are not such a great time to see people, I decided to go, because my mom is in Florida and couldn't make it, and Aunt Janet had hoped to go and wasn't feeling well.

It was so nice to reconnect with everyone. It was especially nice to talk with John, who'd served in Vietnam in the 25th Infantry in 1970-71. I talked a little to Frank about walking around those streets to visit the aunts, and he had similar memories of that.

So much of that connectedness is what I noticed in Vietnam--people seem very close there, and families seem to live near each other--and I miss that. When I grew up on Polish Hill, if people didn't know me, I'd explain that I was Barbara's daughter, and if that didn't work, I was Laura Szalinski's granddaughter. That never failed.

Kids like me got to hang out with the older people and hear all sorts of stories, and I miss that. I also am just now realizing how lucky I was to grow up in such a big, close family, and a community where that was the norm.

Greg's daughters mentioned that they loved the movie "The Bread, My Sweet" when I told them that the crew who was with me in Vietnam had worked on the movie. I loved the movie not just for how beautiful it looks, but for how it captures something of how things were for me growing up. Granted, the movie is based on an Italian family, but for all of the hanging out I got to do on the other side of the Bloomfield Bridge, I can't say that the Italians are all that different from the Poles--but they do have better food. Sorry, Grandma.

I had this sense when I was in Vietnam that I was home. I feel out of sorts with American culture most of the time anyway. But there, I think I found some sense of what I miss from my childhood--the sort of summer day into summer night hanging out.

Maybe I just need to go work in a coffee shop. Now that I quit my job, a whole world of possibilities has opened up for me.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

WUSA-TV9 video

Go to this page:
http://www.wusatv.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=49799
and click on the link in the Related Video box called
Peggy Fox reports from the Vietnam Wall Memorial.

I talked to Peggy for awhile at the Wall and did a quick interview. I liked how the piece was edited on the 5pm news. I think this clip is from the 7pm newscast.

I'd decided to approach her after I watched Peggy and a cameraman work. They were being respectful but yet were right in the thick of it--there were a lot of people making rubbings. It can be a difficult position to be in, trying to capture that without upsetting people who might be feeling pretty frazzled.

My speaking gig



Here's a photo my friend Peter sent me. Proof that I spoke at the Vietnam Women's Memorial! It was a good experience, but an odd one--first my friend Karen politely let me know that I had to stop talking because someone was playing Taps. (I was so nervous I don't think I noticed. Thanks, Karen.) And then I had to stop several times for President Bush's helicopter and whatever other helicopters join in with his security detail to fly from the White House to Arlington Cemetery and back. Their route takes them directly overhead of the Vietnam Women's Memorial.

One plus is that during that time the flights landing at Reagan National are halted, so at least I didn't have to compete with jets.

I spoke mostly about my trip to Vietnam. I'll blog more about that at some point. I'm still processing all of that.

I've posted some photos from the weekend at my Flickr pages at http://www.flickr.com/photos/noreen_ellen/ and also have some shots from my Vietnam trip there.