Lest we forget…

When does patriotism become merely another version of fandom?  Do we diminish the value of service by branding it with empty nationalism?

Today is Memorial Day in the United States.  We have set this day aside to remember and pay tribute to our war dead.  Many also memorialize family and friends who have passed.

As I’m wont to do, I begin to ponder things on days like this.

I feel a sense of solemnity on Memorial Day.  Sure, it’s the start of Summer and a nice three day weekend that lends itself to the beach, pool and cook outs, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with those things.

Somewhere in the number of 1.3 million American troops have died in war during our country’s history.  That’s a pretty staggering number.  That’s a lot of graves, not all of which are on U.S. soil.

Not really sure I have much of a point beyond that number.  1.3 million.  How many more before we’re done?

Shot, stabbed, decapitated, disemboweled, burned alive, drowned – all the the horrible ways you can die…

We wrap it up in ceremony and parades.  Do we do this to salve our consciences?  Wouldn’t no more war be a better memorial?

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How We Remember

In anticipation of Memorial Day

on the mark side

This weekend in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day, a day for remembering our war dead.  It has become the de facto beginning of Summer, yet we still take time to stop and remember and say a prayer of thanks for those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our county.  Remembrance and honor.

It’s gotten me to thinking about the nature of memory and it’s step-child, nostalgia.

Memory is a funny thing.  Two people can have such different recollections of the same events.  I’ve always wondered about that, how it could be.  It seems that our memories are subject to the many things that shape our perspectives, our perceptions, our reality.

Events that are crystal clear in our minds today may fade and become fuzzy over time, the rough edges of memory smoothed and rounded like pebbles in a stream.  Is it a self defense mechanism or more like a…

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Summertime Blues…

Upon the advent of another Summer…

on the mark side

I have a certain melancholy about Summer as an adult. Just as a Friday brings awareness of the next Monday, the start of Summer leads down the path to Autumn. Death, decay and darkness.

I’m quite the buzz-kill, I know. I can’t help myself.

Maybe I romanticize Summer too much.

Growing up in an age of childhood freedom, inspired by the books of Mark Twain, I see summer in the hazy gauze of my memories. Oh how I miss those carefree adventures. Riding, running, swimming, playing ball, tag and cowboys and Indians. Cruising the roadsides and ditches for glass bottles to turn in at the local gas station for the nickel deposit to fund our snack habits. Riding to the pool and spending all day taking advantage of the summer pass that Dad bought. Building forts in the carcasses of trees knocked down by the latest storm. Building bike ramps…

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From the FB Archives…

Someone asked me tonight, “what is best in life?”. I’ll forgive that they called me Mr. Young – even FB knows thats my Dad. But it got me a-thinkin’. I know, I know, nothing good can come of that. So, I says to myself, what is “best in life?” This is what I think today is best in life. Uncertainty, foolishness, fearlessness and passion. Life is uncertain – embrace it, ride it like a wave. Be a fool. Be a fool for something, someone – be unselfconscious in all you do. Be as silly, whimsical and happy as you can manage. Laugh, smile and make others laugh. That is a true gift, making others laugh. Don’t be afraid – fear feeds on itself and will suck the strength out of you. Fear and its partner worry will tie you down. F’em! Charge ahead, damn the torpedoes! You know what you love – do it. There is no substitute. It doesn’t have to be a great grand endeavor. Just give yourself to it. And then, from my personal perspective, there are some things that I consider best in life – a nice whiskey, a crushing riff, a long slow kiss, the laugh of a child, the warmth of the sun, reverb, a properly cooked steak, the love of friends and family, the awesomeness of the universe, the sound of coyotes on a cold autumn night, sharing a bottle of wine, cooking for others, the wind in my hair, a long run, having my hand held, a warm breath on my neck, a finely crafted beer, a candle lit dinner, a slow dance and bacon. So, for what it’s worth, that’s my answer today. Ask me tomorrow, and I may very well give a different answer. Cheers, peace and love

For Tina, on the anniversary of her upsetting the balance of the universe.

Happy, happy my dear friend.

May peace and chaos always find the right balance in your home, and those under your roof know the depth of your love for them.

May you and yours prosper and never want, and the light in your hearth never dim.

May those close to you never fail to show their appreciation and affection.

May your aim always be true, judicious and merciful.

May all of your dreams come true, your adventures be epic and shared.

Thank you for being my friend, my evil big (older!) sister, my Tina.

Happy Birthday!

Love ya,

Mark, aka “your stupid little brother” 😉

P.S.  Yeah, I so didn’t get you a card…

Through the fog of time.

I’ve been having this almost irresistible craving for raw oysters on the half shell lately.  I’ve been able to resist this temptation mainly because I’m not real comfy with grocery store oysters and going out for oysters alone just seems sad.

But, there’s another reason I’ve passed on this great delicacy.  The feasting on oysters has been forever tied in my mind to a very select, very special group of friends.  Yeah, yeah – I know…

A couple of years ago, Jeff and Tina took me out to lunch on my birthday.  We went to some little divey oyster bar in or near Orlando.  The oysters where fine and the beer kind of sad.  Coronas, I think.  We did our damage, to both the oysters and the beers.  It was an amazing no frills feast and I cherish the memory.

Last summer a number of friends had gathered in Seattle.  One afternoon, a small subset of the group ended up at a place down on the water.  Elliott’s I think it was called.  It was quite a bit fancier than the joint in Florida, and the beer selection was pretty nice.  We had a nice sampling of some of the finer varieties of Pacific Northwest oysters.  The place was crowded and we jammed in at the bar together, eating of off one another’s plates and sharing sips of drinks.  I think someone even ordered tequila.  It was the kind of brief experience that you might think only exists in literature or film.  It was perfectly scripted.

Lest you think we became oyster snobs in Seattle, the day before a couple of us found a little dive oyster bar in the Pike Place Market.  Greasy Eddies or something like that.  The oysters were great and the beers cold.

I may be remembering things more fondly than how they actually occurred.  I just might.  As I’ve discussed before, memory appears to be very maleable.  I may be guilty of selective editing.  I care not.  These memories, and the people in them are precious to me.

So, no oysters for me until I can share them again with one or more of these great friends; Jeff, Tina, James, Murray Lou or Laura.

However – and there’s alway a however, these terms and conditions are subject to change.  But you all will certainly be present in spirit, if nothing else.  Cheers!

Land of Hope and Dreams

I voted today.  By my count, this is my 8th Presidential election.

I look at voting as the quintessential personal act of citizenship.  A obligation to be sure, but an honor and privilege.  So many in this world lack the opportunity.  Everyday I drive through battlefields where men died and killed to preserve this Union and the freedoms we enjoy – would feel disrespectful to not honor them with this small yet important act.

I voted my conscience, my ideals and for who I thought was best for America and Virginia.  I know many will agree with my votes and many, not so much.  That is fine, in fact its a beautiful thing.

There are no loyalty oaths and no one peering over my shoulder in the voting booth.  The secret ballot is a bulwark against tyranny.

Regardless of who wins, I am hopeful for the future of our country.

John Wayne said regarding JFK, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my President and I hope he does a good job.”.  That’s the attitude I want to have.

I refuse to give in to cynicism, anger and fear.  Refuse.

So, if you haven’t already, go vote.  Follow your values, your American values.

This is a great country, home to a citizenry unlike the world has ever seen.  Our diversity is our strength.  I’m thankful to be an American.

Oh, and one last thing – turn off the news for a while…  I think we all need to take a breath and re-balance ourselves and ignore the chattering classes for a few days, or weeks.  Take a walk, go for a run, a ride or a drive.

Peace and Love.