You already know what I did on my vacation, i.e. taking Ghost out for a 4000 mile trial run, refreshing my Minnesota DNA, bingeing on leaf photos….
What I’ve done since—well that is complicated.
The holiday ended Saturday, September 16th. The Vietnam War took over Sunday, the 17th. The impact on me, a non-participant who lost neither family nor friends in the war, has nevertheless been powerful. In the days since Déjà vu, the first episode of this 10-part series, aired, many of us have been re-experiencing a deluge of emotions, swept along once again in that old river of sorrow, rage, shame and disillusionment.
And for those of us of a certain age, give or take a decade or so, a current of pure nostalgia flows throughout. After all, the biggest events of my life: marriage, motherhood, college, divorce all took place with Vietnam as the soundtrack…sometimes so far away and soft I could barely hear it, but gaining in proximity and volume as the years went on.
Then the present intervenes in all of this pastness and I add another detail to my upcoming Asian jaunt with Vietnam on the itinerary. It’s been disconcerting—two hours ago watching the relentless bloody battles, this hill retaken for the third time, a new body count announced, American kids, Asian kids, hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today…now researching flights on Vietnam Airlines between Ho Chi Minh City and Danang, and scanning the hundreds of hotel availabilities on Booking.com for anywhere in the gorgeous land of Vietnam a tourist could wish to travel.
I’ve written many pages in the last few days about this juxtaposition of past and present. Sometimes I’ve cried; sometimes I’ve just been deciding between which outfits will be the most comfortable for strolling the streets of Hanoi. But everything I’ve written so far has consisted of wild-eyed rants…of which, god knows, the world has an overabundance…so let me not post those.
I did want to make a basic statement about time and place in my life at this moment though… And now I have…So let me move on with writing about what is, hopefully, to be one of the bigger adventures of my travel life, with Vietnam as one part of a bigger whole.
So…if the Vietnam War had to be described in one song would this be it?
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Bob Dylan (A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall)