Journeys of Enlightenment
(1967, Marble Mountain, Danang, before dawn)Rigged with cameras and film, M3 grease gun, .45 caliber pistol, Ka-Bar knife and a week’s survival gear, I climb aboard a VMO-2 UH-1E and we’re off, heading northwest. At 0545 we drop sharply under low clouds and careen wildly through the steep, foggy valleys of Laos. I dump gear out the hatch, fast-rope down onto a river bank, and salute the departing chopper. In several days of stealth, I locate my target without moving a leaf or raising a ripple. I photograph an SA-2 Volkhov SAM complex, the missile drills of its North Vietnamese crew, and the rank insignia of its Russian supervisors. On the fourth day, military dogs sense me, and Pathet Lao sentries begin shouting and shooting. A few close tracer rounds force my evasive action. Withdrawing to the back of beyond, I become a ghost invisible to patrols. On the fifth day I break radio silence to call in my position and effect retrieval. Deploying the skyhook aerial recovery system, I brace for a wild ride. Ten minutes later I’m plucked vertically from the bush and reeled into a KC-130 at 90 knots. I arrive at the main Danang airfield amidst a few incoming rocket and mortar rounds.
(1968, Anaheim, mid-afternoon)
I wait patiently in line among other happy, vacationing tourists, then climb into a small boat to drift gently through Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World.” My boat guides itself into the dark tunnel, on a voyage through an imaginary ideal world of coexisting countries and cultures. It bumps gently around each bend to reveal new groups of animated dolls in national costume. In joyful unison, they sing “It's a world of laughter, a world of tears, it's a world of hopes, and a world of fears. There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware: it's a small world after all!” But with each new bend in the ride today, troubling emotions arise within. My experience of conflict will not allow me to balance a utopian vision of world harmony with my reality of war, nor my disappointment in humankind. Struggling to process hope, frustration and despair, I exit the boat in tears.
(2013, Brandon, late evening, running)I find comfort in the music of Kansas:
‘Carry on, my wayward son.
There'll be peace when you are done.
Lay your weary head to rest.
Don't you cry no more. . .’