My Commonplace Book, Part 3 by Ron Steinman

                                   

                  Here is Part 3 of My Common Place Book

            My Commonplace Book, Part 3 by Ron Steinman

                                     1955

 

More for my growing list of words that someday I’ll find useful, or not: Annotated. Anchorites. Marmots. Effete. Effulgence. Effeminate. Antinomians. Requital. Mendacious. Someone said, “My friend, never indulge in any follies except those that will bring you great pleasure.”

Someone said, “My friend, never indulge in any follies except those that will bring you great pleasure.”

“Virtue is synonymous with enthusiasm.” Who said that? Was it Galiani or Nietzsche?

How is this for a jawbreaker of a thought. “The earlier 14th century Slavic nationalism of the Pole, Lithuanian and Czech directed against the first onward march of the Germans must be kept in mind when considering the recrudescence of the Slavic nationalism in the 19th and 20th Century.

“Martyrdom is the only way for a man to become famous without ability.” George Bernard Shaw, again directed in large part against the Germans.”

Song, “Getting to be a Habit With Me.” Momentarily reminds me of Carole. It is wonderful how I can look at her“

The mood and surroundings are air-conditioned Jean Paul Sarte.” Now, who said that and in what context? Can’t seem to remember almost objectively. It’s a good feeling.

“A man is nothing but the ensemble of his acts.” Sartre and his obvious emphasis on action.

 

Love is a sudden sting, the bite of a bumblebee. Love is missing a step going downstairs and falling flat on your puff-eyed, sleepless face. Erotic pleasure is having it all. Eroticism is the fusion of two soldering irons. Love is agony and reverence. (Something I wrote.)

 

“Where there is neither love nor hatred in the game, woman’s play is mediocre.” Nietzsche, again.

And, “In revenge and in love, woman is more barbarous than man.”

“To vigorous men intimacy is a matter of shame—and something precious.” This, more than many other things that Nietzsche says, requires an explanation. Why? What does he mean by vigorous, intimacy, shame? Add two more to the list. Abnegation and unctuous. And a third, emoluments.

Add two more to the list. Abnegation and unctuous. And a third, emoluments.

Just listening to a new rendition of “Black Magic.” He talks it, whoever he is. Really crazy. Different. It sounds strange to my weary ears. It is. The song has achieved its effect.

More for my growing list of words that someday I’ll find useful, or not: Annotated. Anchorites. Marmots. Effete. Effulgence. Effeminate. Antinomians. Requital. Mendacious.

Someone said, “My friend, never indulge in any follies except those that will bring you great pleasure.”

“Virtue is synonymous with enthusiasm.” Who said that? Was it Galiani or Nietzsche?

Song, “Getting to be a Habit With Me.” Momentarily reminds me of Carole. It is wonderful how I can look at her almost objectively. It’s a good feeling.

“The mood and surroundings are air-conditioned Jean Paul Sartre.” Now, who said that and in what context?

“A man is nothing but the ensemble of his acts.” Sartre and his obvious emphasis on action.

Love is a sudden sting, the bite of a bumblebee. Love is missing a step going downstairs and falling flat on your puff-eyed, sleepless face. Erotic pleasure is having it all. Eroticism is the fusion of two soldering irons. Love is agony and reverence. (I wrote this.)

Pickup “Russia” by Pares and Tawney, both in the Mentor series.

Buy “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

Back in New York, I’m on the subway reading the racing results on page 32 of the World Telegram & Sun, the finals from Belmont, the sixth from Saratoga. I don’t know why I’m reading the results. I never bet, have no interest in horse racing.

“The Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis J Carroll.

Read the “Renaissance Reader” and soon.

Add xenophobia.Charismatic.

Charismatic.  Finished reading James Jones, “From Here to Eternity.” I can’t call it a great book. Very little is great, really, and that’s my critique for the day, especially over a glass of beer. Parts of it moved me but the total impact was tough and compelling.

Finished reading James Jones, “From Here to Eternity.” I can’t call it a great book. Very little is great, really, and that’s my critique for the day, especially over a glass of beer. Parts of it moved me but the total impact was tough and compelling Idea. A car starts. End of

Idea. A car starts. End of idea.Words: pleonasms, auric, propitious, contiguous, tired (how did this get in here?), attrition, palimpsest, said (huh!), declared, stated, jejune, valetudinarian, exacerbated. Words, words, words.

Words: pleonasms, auric, propitious, contiguous, tired (how did this get in here?), attrition, palimpsest, said (huh!), declared, stated, jejune, valetudinarian, exacerbated. Words, words, words.

“The Company She Keeps.” Mary McCarthy. Should shake them up a bit on campus.

History, said Aristotle, represents things as they are, fiction as they ought to be.

Middle class money.

Middle class ethics.

Jewish home.

Jewish family.

Anti-Semitism.

Conservative home thus begets conservative parents.

Sports. Street sports. Roller hockey. Stick ball.

Brooklyn—When growing up—the neighborhood, the streets.

Brooklyn—The kids.

Brooklyn—The Bigger Kids. The block bully.

Trial. Error.

Drink. Confusion.

A whore.

“A man’s rhythm must be interpretive. It will be, therefore in the end, his own, uncounterfeiting, uncounterfeitable.” Ezra Pound.

Someone else said “Each line of a poem, however many or few its stresses, represents a single breath, and therefore a single perception.”

And “The poet must forge his rhythm according to the impulse of the creative emotion working through him.”Some outside reading:

Some outside reading:

“Rats Lice and History,” Dr. Hans Zinsser

“Post Mortems,” and “Mere Mortals,” Dr. C. MacLaurin.

“Anthropology and Primitive Culture,” Sir Edward Taylor

“Mind of Primitive Man,” and “Anthropology and Modern Life,” Franz Boas

“Early Civilization,” A.A. Goldenweiser

“Racial Basis for Civilization,” F.H. Hankins

“Wandering of People,” A.C. Haddon.

“To melt and be like a running brook that

sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness

To be wounded by my own understanding of love

and to bleed willingly and joyfully

To wake at dawn with winged heart Idea. Idea. Idea. Idea. Idea. Idea.          Damn it, none. Pray it through.

Damn it, none. Pray it through.

So near and yet so far.

Finders, keepers, losers, weepers.

Political nature abhors a political vacuum.

“Cynic: A snarler, a misanthrope. One who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest.

Cynical: Given to contemptuous disbelief in man’s sincerity of motives or rectitude of conduct. Characterized by the conviction that human conduct is suggested or directed by self-interest or self-indulgence.”

Read more of the following and in a hurry.

Emily Dickinson

Sidney Lanier

William Dean Howells

Edward Rowland Sill

Stephen Crane

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Robert Frost

Ezra Pound

Amy Lowell

Wallace Stephens

Robinson Jeffers

Gertrude Stein

T.S. Eliot

Hart Crane

William Faulkner  “To melt and be like a running brook that

“To melt and be like a running brook that

sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness

To be wounded by my own understanding of love

and to bleed willingly and joyfully

To wake at dawn with winged heart

and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

To return home as eventide with gratitude:

and then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved

in my heart and a song of praise upon my lips.”

The Prophet, Gibran

 

Man-environment; Environment-man. “Modern Man In Search of a Soul,” Carl Jung.

“Modern Man In Search of a Soul,” Carl Jung.

“The Rebel,” Albert Camus.

Old Testament.” Numbers R, XIV, 10.

 

“Why is there any being at all and not rather nothing?” Martin Heidegger.

“Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.” Ulysses, James Joyce.

“No one need make a spiritual detour to ascertain that he exists.”

The Tale of The Wig, Pio Baroja.

“Brutishness,” I suggested.

“Yes . . . All my brutishness, but he can scarcely read or write.”

“And he has never philosophized on life,” I added.

“No,” Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness.

“And he is all the happier for leaving life alone. He is too busy living it to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books.” The Sea Wolf, Jack London.

“The warbler, swinging

his body upside down

does his first singing.”

A haiku attributed to Kikaku (1661-1707)

Equivocal: Ambiguous. Of doubtful meaning. Capable of double interpretation.

Ambivalence: Simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from an object, person or action.

Hiatus.

Anachronism.

Megalomania

Carlyle once said, “A well-written life is almost as rare as a well spent one.”

“There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” William Shakespeare. “Macbeth.”

“We are anthropoid apes trying to live like termites while lacking most of the termite equipment.” Cultural Background of Personality, Ralph Linton.

“And thus anyone was saying as he looked at his neighbor.”

“The Illiad,” Homer.

“Custom, as Pinder said, is king over all mortals and immortals, and customs prescribed obedience.” James Bryce.

“Personality is the organized aggregate of psychological processes and states pertaining to the individual.” Ralph Linton, again.

***

Apathy.

Nuance.

“We know the answers, all the answers. It is the question that we do not know.” Archibald MacLeish, 1928.

“Underneath all, individuals, I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals. The American compact is altogether with individuals. The only government is that which makes minute with individuals . . .” “By Blue Ontario’s Shore,” Walt Whitman.

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” Goethe.

 

1956

Read: “The College Handbook of Composition.”

Read: “American Rhetoric” by W.W. Watt.

Read “1976” by Morris Ernst. Is this the book in which he discusses the positive consequences of our material society?

Call the Board of Education to see if they need substitute teachers?

Pizza.

Restaurant on East 58th Street called East of Suez.

Call the Capitol Theater at Broadway and 51st Street for tickets to “Guys and Dolls.”

I keep on reading everything in sight. “Ten North Frederick” by John O’Hara. “The Naked and The Dead” by Norman Mailer. “Neon Wilderness” by Nelson Algren. “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway.

Bring with me T.H. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”

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My Commonplace Book, Part 2

As promised is here is part 2 of my Commonplace Book.  

                 My Commonplace Book by Ron Steinman                                       

                                           1954 Part 2

Listening to the radio and a show called, “Jazz Corner.” It’s filled with the sounds of Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Petersen and others. Listening to them with a glass of cheap red wine helps make my day.

“The Moldau,” a symphonic poem. Powerful and moving. It is the theme for Hatikvah.

World War I. The French are at Verdun February 21, 1916 through December 1916. The French and Germans are in a long, brutal, bloody battle. One million are killed. 1,000,000 killed! How long, under normal circumstances would it take for one million people, mostly men, to die? Petain was the commanding general for the French. The French were “sustained” (sustained!) by the famous battle cry, “Ills ne passerant pas!” They shall not pass!

“Pain is necessary for nobility.” Nietzsche.

“Man is nothing but the ensemble of his acts.” Sartre. In other words, emphasis on action.

Charles Erskine Scott Wood’s “Heavenly Discourse” is very funny.

“You Better Go Now,” by Jeri Southern

Song: “This is You.”Robin’s Nest is a good disk jockey show.

Robin’s Nest is a good disk jockey show.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Carpe diem. A wonderful practice. I am trying very hard, although it is frustrating but so are many things.

Numerals are written as numbers (1,2,3,4,5) and not as words composed of letters.

Memorize: CH2-CH3–OH. Repeat. CH2-CH3–OH.

“No man is an island unto himself.”

“La Ronde” is a satirical French film about sex. Different and well done, it is something that could never be made in America.

Mickey Mouse. Minnie Mouse. John Paul Jones.

Nothing.

The exorbitant cost of psychiatrists, and psychologists, too.

Mike Todd is dead. One minute of silence is in order.

Finished reading “The Delicate Prey and Other Stories” by Paul Bowles. Also completed “Point Counter Point” by that fraud Aldus Huxley. Bowles is a wonderfully slight stylist and Huxley is a writer with too much fat in his brain.

The time is five seventeen in the afternoon on November 16, 1954. The day is dreary and it smells of coming snow. I close this, the first notebook with some sorrow, for it has been my most intimate associate.

Calderon says, “ The greatest of man’s sins/ Is that he was ever born.”

Othello to Iago, “I’d have thee live/ For, in my sense,/ ‘tis happiness to die.”

Palmira to Mohammed in Voltaire’s tragedy: “The world is made for tyrants; live and reign!”

Schopenhauer says that egoism is the form of the will to live.“Neither good nor bad can men be deemed. As they can, they live one day at a time.” Strindberg and his brilliant pessimism.

At Basin Street. Duke Ellington and Don Shirley. Duke is sensational. Shirley is light, refreshing, delicate. When I get the money to finally start collecting records I must get some of both. The music is fine, the beer is good, the place is half empty. I need a good laugh.

Play on Channel 4. TV Playhouse. “Class of 58.” Point: little or no hazing in colleges any longer. Point: atypical character. Too strong. Point: too much J.D. Salinger. Point: arrogance is too personified. Point: they don’t call teachers by their first names where I go to school. Point: maybe I’m reminded of college.

December 22, 1954. Brooklyn. I finished reading James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon.” I stayed in the perfect mood for its extreme romanticism so for the moment an excellent story for me. But not forever. December 23, 1954. Words heard in clubs, heard on the radio, heard on bar stools.

December 23, 1954. Words heard in clubs, heard on the radio, heard on bar stools.

Land of Oobladee.

Feeling the worst.

Real wild basket of ribs and a bottle of juice.

Joint. Three meanings with each in hand.

Lay it on her.

Skin, as in, gimmee some.

Pops.

She’s feeling kind of beat.

Wild.

Fall in.

Fall by.

Crazy.

Pad.

The same old jazz.

It’s a gasser.

The most to say the least.

How do you come on?

The greatest.

Somebody goofed.

The swingingest.

Cut out.

Don’t hand me that jazz.

Your timing was like the end.

Are the lowest, like in you are the lowest.

Broad.

Crack. A sexy broad.

Forgive me for coming on so square.

You are out of your skull.

Weirdsville.

The whole thing is real nervous.

Let’s fall upstairs and find out the skam.

Somebody has been making it.

There’s been a scuffle in my pad . . . Too. The three bears in 4/4 time.

Take it from the top.

Jack, don’t bug me. I’m beat. Bought a paperback book of short stories by Damon Runyon for 30 cents.

Bought a paperback book of short stories by Damon Runyon for 30 cents.

Reading “The Moon and Sixpence” by Somerset Maugham. Finished reading “God or Caesar” by Vardis Fisher.

Finished reading “God or Caesar” by Vardis Fisher“The Short Story in America” and “The Literary Situation “ by Malcolm Cowley.

“The Short Story in America” and “The Literary Situation “ by Malcolm Cowley.

 

From “Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche: Intransigence. Tartuffery. Pariahs. Rococo-taste. Nuances. Minotaur. Exoteric. Esoteric.

Lassitude. Insidiously. Debilitates. Attenuated. My education continues with these words. Where and how can they be used to best advantage, if at all?

My education continues with these words. Where and how can they be used to best advantage, if at all?

There is so very much I want to learn. Where to begin? Where is the time? I’m not a scholar, yet something drives me on to read all and everything. Why? Perhaps I shouldn’t care.

Two more for the list: Epistemological and iridescent

Two more: Ambergris and accouter.

It is either Nietzsche or he has one hell of a translation  “Where there is neither love nor hatred in the game, woman’s play is mediocre.” Nietzsche, again.

And, “In revenge and in love, woman is more barbarous than man.”

“To vigorous men intimacy is a matter of shame—and something precious.” This, more than many other things that Nietzsche says, requires an explanation. Why? What does he mean by vigorous, intimacy, shame?

“As the arts proliferate with prodigious fecundity, his lot is an increasingly hard one.” Learned Hand.

Calderon says, “ The greatest of man’s sins/ Is that he was ever born.”

Othello to Iago, “I’d have thee live/ For, in my sense,/ ‘tis happiness to die.”

Palmira to Mohammed in Voltaire’s tragedy: “The world is made for tyrants; live and reign!”

Schopenhauer says that egoism is the form of the will to live.

It’s late, dark and wet. At two in the morning, with the sparse light, shadows and gentle noise, it is a wonderful atmosphere.

“Neither good nor bad can men be deemed. As they can, they live one day at a time.” Strindberg and his brilliant pessimism.

Note: Part 3 will follow in one week.

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A Commonplace Book (My book of Things) by Ron Steinman

A Commonplace Book (My Book of Things) by Ron Steinman

What exactly is a commonplace book? The following should answer the question. It is my collection, as it would be by any other person, of just about anything and everything that entered my mind which I recorded mainly from 1954 through 1961 when I was a junior and senior at Lafayette College and then working at my first jobs after college while living in Brooklyn. Much of what follows is from a long-ago​ era. The books, the thoughts, even the ideas do not necessarily make sense today. Some ideas came from classes I attended, others came to me over cheap red wine or when drinking endless bottles of beer and ale. I include sayings and poems by other people. Some are aphorisms. Some are from essays. Some come from newspapers. Here for your reading pleasure and, I hope, to satisfy your curiosity are my collected thoughts, words, quotes, ideas, and observation about everything. Some are even in my words. There is poetry. There are musical notes, and notes about music and by musicians. There is everything and anything that caught my attention written down in small notebooks that I carried with me everywhere I went. I lay them down now just as I recorded them then: as I experienced them, without form or formula, in no order. Form was not important. When I first entered these ideas and “things” in my many small notebooks I did it so that I would not forget what I had read or observed. I wanted to remember some of what influenced me in my disorderly formative years. Order was not important then. It still is not important. But function is important and by that, I mean how each thing I recorded meant something to me at that time. I would like the reader to dip in and out, read what he or she wants or not. In the process getting to understand me as I came of age is key to who I am. Looking back on many of the oddball notes, the reading lists, the words, most of which I never used but I thought were important, are still relevant to me today more than fifty years later. However, many of the books and notes about them are no longer relevant. Some of the books fell into justifiable obscurity. Some, though best sellers and thought important in their day, also disappeared without a trace. Writers once revered, no longer matter. Styles and methods change. Writing evolves with the times. That aside, keeping the record was vital in what has now become my “Commonplace Book, a Catalogue of Thoughts and Things, 1954-1961.” It is a time machine of my world over those seven years unique to my ever-widening range of interests. Think of it as I do — my life more than fifty years in the past. Except for no internet, nothing digital, no email, no Twitter, no social media and anything else considered modern, little has really changed on how a person copes with the difficult job of understanding who he or she is, where he has been and where he might be going. I will be posting it on my WordPress blogs, on Facebook and Linkedin. Read it free or not. It is up to you. Ultimately I will publish it on Amazon.

1954

I wrote many of these notes in and around Easton, Pennsylvania, the home of Lafayette College where I majored in history. In 1954 I was a junior and well beyond my original dream of being a doctor, a surgeon, by the way, because my father thought I had the hands to cut into and cure someone of a horrible disease. After one semester at college I realized that I did not want to be a doctor and, even if I did, being a surgeon was furthest from my mind. I started to delve into literature, into history, into how people thought and I sought answers in those disciplines that applied to my future. I read voraciously. Nothing was too mundane. Everything had validity. I kept notes. My reflections eventually became the book I call “Notebooks,” the parts of my life after college and available from Barnes&Noble.com which I am currently annotating for future publication. My fun then, though fun does not describe my headlong approach to self-education, was in the doing. Now it is in seeing where many of my ideas first came from and knowing how useful they still may be.

Beginnings

Thought: “When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.” Winston Churchill.

“Knowledge is power for good or evil. Confusion is created when it is in the hands of the few or the grasp of too many. Education is an important stepping stone but it is only the beginning.” Who said that? I can’t find the attribution. I would love it attributed to me. Fat chance.

Richard Wright’s, “The Outsider.” Painful, searing book.

Bismarck once called the English and their imperialistic wars,
“sporting wars.” Maybe that’s why they couldn’t hold on to their empire.

“Here sit I, forming mankind /In my own image, A race to myself, /
To suffer and to weep, /Rejoice, enjoy, and heed thee not, as I.” Goethe, Prometheus.

“. . . the delighting in man as man in man’s body as well as in his mind.” Boccaccio. Neo-paganism at its best.

“A military triumph is the most obvious form of national success.” Of course. Who owns this line?

“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war. And who said this?

Words: Harbinger. Penurious. Eleemosynary. Recalcitrant. Iniquitous. Desiderata. Ebullition(s).

Psychic, psychical, fear, love. personage.

Existentialism. Organized religion. Personification of the self. Isn’t that a tautology?

Heard on the radio: “Fortune In Dreams,” The Marquis.

“Bobbie,” The Marquis.

“If Love is Good to Me,” Nat King Cole.

“Penthouse Serenade,” by anyone, anyone at all.

Chet Baker and his beautiful, liquid trumpet.

Woody Herman’s great recording, “The Story of an Itinerant Musician.” Woody’s gravel voice, “. . . when they first met, they gassed each other.” Have another beer. It’s so great. I want what he’s talking about.

More Woody. “I’m Sorry About The Whole Darn Thing.” Last line, “You goofed baby.” How true, how very true.

“Saturday” by Sarah Vaughn. “Weary as a party girl in last years
clothes. . . “ Terrific line. It implies so much.

Gerry Mulligan’s marvelous baritone sax.

“Take The A Train,” Duke’s great piece played by Dave Brubeck and friends. Great immersion.

The Dave Pell Ochtette, a fine group, chamber in its makeup, almost symphonic with its bell-like horns.

Sauter-Fiunnegan big band sound. Very clever musical arrangements. Who will recall them in ten or twenty years?
Part 2 will follow in one week.

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Anatomy of a Riot by Ron Steinman

Anatomy of a Riot by Ron Steinman

It has been relatively quiet in Northern Ireland for many years. But reading between the lines and hearing from active sources Northern Ireland can blow apart at the slightest provocation. If it does, and opposing sides take to the streets, as is their want, one might expect riots to rise to the top as cream does in milk. If it should happen, for those who do not remember the heavy days of demonstrations, the following is a primer on what happens when riots become the means of expression for many who consider themselves disenfranchised. As we are seeing today, the demonstrations in Iran have easily turned into riots in certain parts of the country. This may help explain what happens when a demo becomes a riot wherever it takes place.

 

Lately I have been recalling events I saw as a journalist. Having covered “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland from their start in the early 1970s, the possibility for future riots in Northern Ireland still exists. There are always the diehards in any society who wait in the wings for their chance to erupt. Northern Ireland is one of those places.

Riots in Northern Ireland were usually preordained. After having finished marching to honor an event that, say, took place 400 years earlier, each side would make ready for battle. After the march, people wandered freely before positioning themselves ready to fight. Lined up on one side of the macadam street were Protestants carrying sticks, rocks, paving stones and petrol bombs. Across from them were their Catholic adversaries armed the same. Between the two groups standing tall, looking ominous and fully armed, plastic see-through shields protecting them, their rifles loaded with rubber bullets, were mostly young khaki-clad, very fit British soldiers assigned to keep the peace, if possible. On the fringes were the R.U.C, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, dressed in dark blue. They nervously held lethal batons in sweaty hands. The R.U.C was the local police in Northern Ireland hated equally by Protestant and Catholic.

Along with the activists, were the spectators, mostly women and young children cheering and egging on their friends. Journalists from many countries with pencils and pads, still cameras and televsion cameras made up the rest of the observers. The anticipation of action was so strong you could smell it while it cooked. It would not be long before fighting overtook procrastination. Pent up emotions would soon break loose with a fury.

Once you are in the middle of a wild street demonstration that degenerates into a riot, it forces you to focus more than usual on what is happening around you. Your mouth goes dry. If you are someone who sweats, perspiration rolls down your cheeks. Your heart beats faster and turns your legs to jelly, as you inadvertently become part of the violence. Though I experienced riots in Guatemala, Hong Kong and Saigon, those in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, and Londonderry, standout as the most memorable. I may add, the least fun, as well. Not that covering a street demo should be fun, but it should not be life threatening, as it often felt it was in Northern Ireland.

As the sides faced each other, there was a moment of quiet. A pause. Perhaps it was no more than a second or two. I could hear the wind blowing. Someone coughed. I heard a sneeze. My camera crew, my correspondent and I tensed. Still early afternoon, daylight prevailed. Life seemed to stand still. Then, whether by a signal or not, someone on the Catholic side tossed a burning bottle of gasoline into the crowd in front of him. It explodes, spewing gasoline and fragments of glass everywhere. The other side retaliates. So the riot begins, a beast of a different sort with its own heart, physicality, and even a bit of soul, especially when you believe you are fighting for your life, its past and present. Emotion rules. Fear dies. Reason vanishes. Anger dominates.

Everyone rushes at each other, shouting, throwing stones and paving blocks, waving sticks and clubs, aiming to hurt whoever dares to stand in front of him. The soldiers hold their ground, immobile, anxious, fighting back, butting heads, firing off rubber bullets, kicking and slashing at the mob in front and back of them. The police get involved in the melee but they are not in the middle of the fray. It is to their advantage to be on the sides and pick at the residue from the milling crowd. More often than not they try to take down the Catholics in the fight paying less attention to their Protestant constituents.

More gas bombs fly through the air and explode in the crowd. One or more people on each side become flaming pyres which their brethren quickly extinguish by rolling the burning bodies on the ground. Clothing is torn and ripped. Faces bleed. There are bruises on everyone’s hands. Torn fingernails are the norm. Heads banged. Bodies broken. For the moment, the noise overwhelms. All you hear are screams, shouts and yelling. Using metal garbage can covers as shields and weapons, each side advances on the other only to fall back or move forward depending on how aggressive one or the other is. The air fills with smoke and the smell of cordite when the army fires its rubber bullets. You can hear the groans from the pain each group inflicts on by the other.

Then, as if someone pulled a plug, the air goes out of the demonstration and just as it began it ends. It is over. The participants fall back to their original positions. The riot did not wind down. It just stopped, as if a subliminal signal ordered everyone to halt in place. The street, littered with debris from the fighting, becomes unnervingly quiet. The army steps back and reforms into its original units. The police move aside and collect themselves before returning to normal duty. The adversaries go their separate ways. Many of the participants head to the pub of their choice. There they would assess the day. Their wounds would start healing. Having a drink to assuage their thirst was a necessary respite from the high-octane fueled action they had just been a part of without any winners or losers.

 

 

 

 

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The Draft by Ron Steinman

Recently Clyde Haberman wrote a piece for the Editorial Noteback segment of the New York Times that appeared on its editorial page October 26, 2017. In 2005 in a piece for The New York Observer I wrote something similar advocating a return to the draft. Here it is for you to compare it with Clyde Haberman’s article.

The Draft by Ron Steinman (as appeared in The New York Observer in early 2005)

Hardly any are speaking of it, and then only in a whisper, but an explosive and divisive issue lies just below the surface, facing President Bush, his White House, cabinet and the American people. The draft.

Remembering how the draft in Vietnam worked is not pleasant. Its abuse is an even worse memory. Think for a moment of those in power who did not serve. President Clinton stayed out. President Bush disappeared somewhere into the reserve and is still missing over Georgia. Dick Cheney managed to never get near Vietnam. Today in Congress, only Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has a child serving in Iraq. What does that say about privilege and a willingness to serve?

When we recall those drafted for service in Vietnam and who they were, it is easy to understand the disenchantment with a system built on privilege and power, a system that allowed the United States government to put minorities and the underclass on the front lines. After all, they were not contributing much to the economy anyway, so instead  train them for a few weeks, give them uniforms and guns, and send them to war to do the dirty work of the old men who started the war in the first place. True, the draft became more equitable toward the end, but the damage, already done, was impossible to repair.

We do not have enough troops on active duty to cover the world, but they are everywhere anyway. America now has troops in Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Bosnia, Bahrain, Qatar, Haiti, Guantanamo Bay, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Germany, Japan, including Okinawa, and South Korea. Not to mention South America and Africa. There are 135,000 men and women in Iraq. They will stay for the duration despite what the Department of Defense says about recycling and a drop in their number as the country stabilizes. If. One million plus remain stationed in the United States. I do not include Special Forces operations underway in the world anytime in the dark.

We are running out of young people, meaning volunteers, and that is why we call up the reserves and the National Guard, neither of which has the necessary training for sustained engagement in a war, nor as police. Weekend warriors do not make always reliable frontline troops. Add to these call-ups the problems they face when they return home. There are lost jobs, failed businesses, inability to pay mortgages, broken homes. Morale suffers both at home and for the troops in the field. This does not make for a military with the ability to concentrate on the job at hand, fighting a war, any war, anywhere in the world.

With the potential for more hot wars, the need for emergency troops to for cooling out of control situations such as Liberia and Haiti, and with the pool of volunteers waning, we must do something to help wage the war on terrorism which will surely not taper off soon.

If Iraq ends tomorrow, successful or not, and all our troops come home, we will still have to restock our military. Reservists and National Guard will return home, I hope, to resume normal lives badly disrupted by the war. Will be other wars similar to Iraq? That is beside the point. Rest assured, in the world as it is today, (and as it will undoubtedly worsen,) there will be a never-ending need for fresh, well-trained troops.

America’s volunteer army has been remarkable, and its men and women the best in the world. However, without a draft to fill the empty slots caused by attrition, the end of a tour, death, and wounds, we will never have the strong military we need and deserve. Better we do it now it than wait. Later it may be too late. However, the new draft must be equitable. It must use the full pool of all able-bodied young men and women. Deferments should be for anyone who cannot cut it physically or mentally, or if they prove extreme hardship. If a military position is not an option for the person, they should serve in some capacity, full or part-time, on the home front to relieve those on the front lines.

Naturally, there are those so opposed to any war on political grounds they might become draft dodgers to protest government policies. They will never be a major factor though, and if they believe by running they are making a statement, I say more power to them. The reality is that the world is not at peace now and will not be at peace in the future. If we are to preserve everything we love, especially for our children, we had better protect them the best we can. A standing volunteer army is not the answer. The draft is.

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Food: Where Least Expected by Ron Steinman

Food: Where Least Expected by Ron Steinman

 

Do not let anyone tell you if you were a journalist during the Vietnam War living in Saigon that it was a hardship post with no redeeming features. True, the occasional good never hid the horror and terror of life in a war zone. Yes, the streets were overcrowded, probably with well over a million people folded into a city that normally and happily could live with perhaps only a quarter of a million. At night many of those who had fled the fighting in the countryside slept on the street and in doorways of equally crowded buildings. The streets were dirty. Sanitation was almost non-existent. The sewers did not work. Frequent rain caused them to overflow and backup, among other things making it difficult to walk. The water was not fit for drinking. Best to first boil it and then treat it with iodine or chlorine tablets, whichever was available, and even then, drink with care When showering or bathing if accidentally swallowed, the water usually caused severe dysentery. There were frequent blackouts with no electricity and brownouts — limited electrical power — noted daily in the local papers that warned about the electricity available by neighborhood on a rolling basis.

I do not want not to make light of the war and the terrible consequences, the Vietnamese faced daily. Good food in some restaurants, whatever the kind or type, was available if you could afford to pay the price. Rice, some of the best tasting in Asia, shrimp, crab, fresh vegetables and freshly baked bread and pastries were on menus in all varieties of restaurants. There may not have been enough to eat for everyone, but almost no Vietnamese starved though they did not always get the best quality food. I had a big apartment and a fully stocked kitchen but I never cooked. I ate most of my meals out. There was always more than enough appetizing food in many of the restaurants I frequented. I want to emphasize that the choices and memories are all mine. The average Vietnamese never entered these restaurants. Mostly, they could not afford to eat what we called eating “on the economy” because they did not have the money to do so. I am sure that many of my colleagues had their own preferences and favorites and those they disliked. Yet, it should be said, the French — if they gave anything lasting to the Vietnamese people under their long and heinous occupation — taught them well in the art of cooking, especially baking bread and making pastries.

Givral, a popular coffee house in a corner of the Eden Building, downstairs from the NBC News bureau, was my morning hangout when I had time. The rich, sweet Vietnamese ice coffee was excellent. The French pastries, especially those smothered in buttercream, were something to behold. During all my years in Saigon, not a day went by that I did not eat one of those pastries or drink an ice-cold coffee. I can taste each even now. Coffee shops of note, competitors of Givral, were Brodard and La Pagode.

Ramuncho was a French restaurant also downstairs from the bureau, run by a former Vietnamese army general and sometime senator. I usually sat on the small balcony overlooking the main room and enjoyed steak (real beef probably obtained illegally from the PX, and not buffalo meat as some thought,) mashed potatoes and a salad of small, sweet Dalat lettuce gently tossed in lemon, garlic, and olive oil. Algerian wine was terrible so I drank San Miguel Beer brewed in Hong Kong and smuggled into Saigon by seamen off a freighter.

At Aterbea, often a crowded restaurant run by a Corsican and his much younger Vietnamese wife, I ate the best soufflé I have ever tasted outside Paris. Maybe it was the war but the Gran Marnier and the chocolate offerings were delicious and, though usually for dessert, when accompanied by a fine French baguette, each was enough for dinner. Naturally, the meal always ended with a double espresso.

Korean food was synonymous with The Eskimo, where the air-conditioning ran to extreme cold and the food, to extra hot and spicy, including locally made kimchi.

In Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon, the sprawling nightclub Arc en Ciel served outstanding Chinese food, particularly its thin, deep fried noodles submerged in fresh seafood from the Saigon River, and vegetables topped by a brown sauce slightly infused with garlic and Nuoc Mam, the national sauce of Vietnam. It came to the table in a huge bowl while still sizzling. Then we dug in with dueling chopsticks while listening to heavily made-up Vietnamese women singers entertain us with songs as diverse and bizarre as, “Danny Boy,” and even, for reasons we could never understand, “God Bless America.”

On a street behind the Caravelle Hotel sat the Chung Nam restaurant, known to Westerners as Cheap Charlie’s. Here the food was as cheap as the name implied. The corn and crab soup was filling. Noodles were always the exact density. Deep-fried pigeon and crab claws wrapped in shrimp paste were delectable. Without asking, waiters kept your rice bowl full. In those days, I ate at least three bowls at every meal. My staff called me “The Three Bowl Man.” Those days are long gone.

Finally, and fondly remembered, there was the Rex BOQ (bachelors officer quarters) on Nguyen Hue directly across from the bureau. Famous for its open rooftop Sunday night steak fry and grill, that is where I could eat a sirloin or porterhouse steak, have a baked potato, and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce while talking baseball or football, and sipping icecold American beer. While eating we often looked out over the city watching a helicopter raid, a bombing or strafing run by American planes and mortar fire to and from enemy positions across the Saigon River.

Authentic Vietnamese food was everywhere. Often the best came from the many cooks whose stalls lined the streets selling fresh pho, the beef, noodle and fresh soybeans Vietnamese national soup. Mostly hard-working women, they squatted for as long as twelve hours every day alongside their charcoal burners preparing some of the richest food found anywhere in Saigon, including broiled shrimp, baguettes stuffed with pate, soybeans, lettuce, lathered in nuoc mam, sometimes vinegar and red and black pepper.

My office manager, Josephine Tu Ngoc Suong’s mother owned a small restaurant in the front yard of their large house where she served breakfast and lunch. Though she did not cook dinner, I was the lucky recipient of Mama Tu’s wonderful cooking. On nights when work kept me in my office, Josephine’s sister Agnes would arrive with several metal containers of food, that included soup, rice, often noodles and Mama Tu’s unforgettable omelet loaded with small, delectable shrimp. All missed.

 

 

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Dressed for War by Ron Steinman

Here is the first of my promised three pieces about the Vietnam War.

 

Dressed for War by Ron Steinman

Mr. Minh owned a small tailor shop on Tu Do Street in downtown Saigon. On that street of many bars and restaurants, he catered mostly to the Americans and Europeans who lived and worked in Vietnam. Always with a smile on his face, his deft fingers, with great skill, hand-tailored shirts, jackets, suits, trousers, long and short pants and any clothing you designed, including what we called the correspondents’ jacket, Khaki colored with enough pockets to carry anything anyone would ever need or want. After arriving in Saigon, I had him make me six short sleeve shirts from the finest Sea Island cotton which I wore in South East Asia for many years. But Mr. Minh did not outfit my staff at NBC News for combat. It was not what he did.

If you, as a correspondent wanted to survive in the field, and that is what I as NBC News bureau chief wanted you to do, especially when going into combat with the troops, you could not go wearing pressed chinos, a polo shirt and flip-flops. That would not work. You would stand out like a sore thumb, a fish out of water. And it would not be safe. You had to dress for the role and dress properly. You did not want to be a target for the enemy or a distraction for the military unit with which you were traveling.

When a new staffer arrived in the bureau, I gave each recruit a short talk about how Saigon was unlike any other assignment they would ever have. Our main job was to cover war, and when covering war one had to wear the right clothing for convenience and safety. T-shirts and sandals would not work in rough terrain. Though I had a pair of rubber-soled flip-flops cut from a discarded truck tire and wore them for years, I never wore them in the field. After my welcoming talk, I sent the new man (and it was almost always a man), accompanied by a driver or a Vietnamese staffer to one of the many black market locations found throughout the city. We used the one behind the Central Market or another at dockside on the Saigon River near the Majestic Hotel. The idea was to dress the new correspondent or cameraman as close to looking like a trooper as possible.

First, he tried on and then bought a steel pot, a helmet that would protect his head, that he could use for boiling water or making soup. He purchased a heavy flak jacket, important and useful, but he had to buy it on his own because NBC News would not authorize the bureau to purchase it for him. (But we did anyway. I had an issue with headquarters for years over the need for flak jackets.) With his head and body now protected, he tried on the latest official combat boots and bought two pair because they wore out quickly in the jungles, rice paddies and hills of South Vietnam. Then came the clothing itself. At the open-air market, each item of clothing lay folded neatly on rickety tables, usually sold by an American soldier in exchange for drugs, booze or needed cash. The new staffer also bought a fatigue jacket with many pockets. After all these years I still have mine, though packed away in storage. He bought long fatigue pants which also had many pockets. Several pair of Khaki-colored underwear and at least two pair of heavy socks rounded out most of what he needed. He also purchased a lightweight wool cap for under the helmet, not for cold weather but for better protection in the jungle or the rain.

The new man usually tried on most of his outfit in the open. There were no changing rooms. When he stripped to his underwear, hardly anyone noticed. The Vietnamese staffer who accompanied him negotiated, or better, bargained the best price for everything he bought. He paid the black marketers in American dollars, better known as green and was soon on his way back to the bureau.

Most of the clothing was also available at the PX, the Post Exchange in Saigon or preferably, Long Binh, the biggest American base in South Vietnam. However, what we needed we found only on the black market, though against the law, winked at as a way of life during the war. Available, too were the latest Nikon cameras, tape recorders and typewriters from Japan, Germany and Switzerland, along with imported beer, canned anchovies and even cans of expensive French pate.

On the way back to the bureau, the new person added several tin canteens for carrying water and Kool Aide. Then he was ready for his initial assignment in the field, probably a combat experience that would change his life forever. Clothes do not necessarily make the man, but in wartime the right clothes, not very stylish, were an absolute necessity.

 

 

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