Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memoriam

When I was 16 or so, my family went to Hawaii. We stayed nearly a week on the little island of Kauai with all the wild chickens, geckos, beautiful jungles, waterfalls, and reefs. Paradise (and incidentally where I want to "retire" to).

The last two days were spent on Oahu touring Pearl Harbor. We toured the Missouri, the staggeringly huge battleship that spends it's retirement in the harbor (if you're rusty on your history, this is also the same battleship where the Japanese signed the official documents surrendering the war.) I've always loved ships, and it was this tour that first sparked the thought that I might join the Navy one day. We also toured a submarine while we were there, I don't remember the name of it. It was tiny and claustrophobic and my mom didn't want to be in it, but I found it fascinating. I knew sub-life would never suit me, I need fresh air and sunlight way to much, but still fascinating all the same.

But the part of the trip that stands out the best in my memory, even now nearly 10 years later, was the Arizona. She sits literally no more than a couple yards beneath the surface, some parts only a few feet beneath the water. There is a bridge built above her running crosswise so that you can stand just above her submerged deck. Looking down into the water, a portal in time seemed to open and a misty ghost of the ship rose until her deck was beneath my feet and I was standing looking into the harbor as any of her sailors might have done the day she sank. At the end of the bridge is a floating memorial with the names of those sailors that were killed or drowned. Columns of names that rose well above me head go on and on, naming the dead. I think I stood there until I had read every one of them. I was only 16 then, but many of the dead had barely been two or three years older than me.

When I was 19, I performed in a production of Hair, the infamous musical is which hippies protest the Vietnam war and actually get naked on stage. We did a slightly edited version of the show which meant no nudity, but we poured our heart into it none the less. I'd always end up nearly in tears by the end of every show, but the part that I remember the most clearly is this song, in which we had just had a bloody slow motion battle, metaphorically ripping each other to shreds. At we came to the end of the song, the drummer would strike the snare at the end of a line, and someone else would fall, shot. We then went into this song, and from the dead, I and another boy rose and began to move - he doing ti-chi and I doing ballet. In those moment on a dark stage with only a few footlights lighting us from oblique angles and the audience sitting in the green glow of the exit signs, we were all transported from the rough wooden stage to dark, wet jungles full of mud and half imagined demons. My friend Apollo and I acted together in this production and we never forgot it, and I think it really did influence the direction our lives took; make love not war became our new philosophy. We grew up to be the tribe we once pretended to be part of, working for a world of peace and love. When you learn to talk to the dead, they teach how to better live. Standing on that bridge staring into the water where once living people walked, I started hearing their whispers. Now I hope to satisfy their wishes by spreading peace and love to all those I can.

The spoken lines are in German for this one, but there is enough English to understand.

I remember you, and honor your sacrifice. Namaste.