Jun 14 2009
It has taken me a while but I finally have plowed through my latest bit of books. I’ve also begun to attack two others.
The S.O. dragged me to an estate sale after my sister left Saturday morning. She and her friend were moving on westward-as they move out on their yearly “escape trip” from the mind numbing banality of life in the particular circumstances life has place upon her. As one who is plotting a similar trip- I understand the need completely.
The sale was well gone by, by the time we arrived. It was in a house that was in one of those “yuppie” communities with houses jammed up next to each other-well kept, but trying to maintain a city atmosphere, without the city to support it. I told the S.O. this, “This house tries to be an old Charleston house-without Charleston around it. Doesn’t work very well”.
And then, in the display case, I came upon them-the wings of gold of a Naval Aviator.
Now unless you have endured the hours of anxiety and sweat required to earn them, one probably does not appreciate the reverence with which I type those words. When I was 16 years old-to be a “Naval Aviator” was the only thing that matter to me. I could think of no higher aspiration in life. That I eventually became the Naval Aviator’s kid brother-a “Naval Flight Officer”, does not in any way diminish my respect for that shiny piece of gold metal.
I asked the sales persons if the estate belonged to a Navy person-and they politely informed me that, yes the man had been a Navy pilot, “and had served in Korea”. No they did not know what he had flown.
Sitting next to those hallowed wings of gold was an officer’s hat crest-the kind worn on what properly-and if the world were still as it should be-would be known as a “cunt” cap. Further down were an officer’s cuff links-the kind worn with a white shirt-and are no longer used very much anymore.
To the left was the remnant of the book collection. Many of the books had been sold already but two were still there that caught my eye. One was a picture book on Disasters at Sea-Every Ocean going passenger ship catastrophe since 1900. It is an interesting book with descriptions and fairly comprehensive list.
The other and more important purchase I made was a volume of Rudyard Kipling. The book actually had a raised seal in the front page-again something very few people do nowadays-proudly informing me that it was “From the Library of __________ _________.”
This evening I set about to peruse it. The opening of the “Drums of the Fore and Aft” is apt reading for anyone who spent time in the profession of arms.
Two words breathed into the stables of a certain Cavalry Regiment will bring the men out into the streets with belts and mops and bad language; but a whisper of “Fore and Aft” will bring out this regiment with rifles.
Their one excuse is that they came again and did their best to finish the job in style. But for a time all their world knows that they were openly beaten, whipped, dumb-cowed, shaking and afraid. The men know it; their officers know it; the Horse Guards know it, and when the next war comes the enemy will know it also. There are two or three regiments of the Line that have a black mark against their names which they will then wipe out; and it will be excessively inconvenient for the troops upon whom they do their wiping.
The courage of the British soldier is officially supposed to be above proof, and, as a general rule, it is so. The exceptions are decently shovelled out of sight, only to be referred to in the freshest of unguarded talk that occasionally swamps a Mess-table at midnight. Then one hears strange and horrible stories of men not following their officers, of orders being given by those who had no right to give them, and of disgrace that, but for the standing luck of the British Army, might have ended in brilliant disaster. These are unpleasant stories to listen to, and the Messes tell them under their breath, sitting by the big wood fires, and the young officer bows his head and thinks to himself, please God, his men shall never behave unhandily.
I also finished my books peering into the brave new world that is coming to America-and which America is quite unprepared to receive:
And the book by George Friedman-The Next 100 Years:
Interesting reading both of them-although George Friedman’s conclusions are not very well backed up within the text. In particular I think he is overly optimistic about the role of the United States and its global power-but still worth the read nonetheless.
More to follow on these two books tomorrow.