Trains

Seems like the trains have been running through the city forever. As long as I can remember anyway. Like the riverboats of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain, they take people toward their dreams. Some head off to Hollywood. Some to New York City. Some go to the country where the dreamers farm. I know, I know. Who wants to farm? Lot of hard work, and no guarantee. That’s what makes them a dream. The lack of a guarantee.

My dream is to just sit here and watch the trains pass me by. Last Sunday I came to this station and watched the trains up close and personal the way I always do. Sunday is a good day for that. There was this woman, blonde hair, blue eyes, pretty as a peach. Sitting here waiting for a train. “Where you going?” I asked.

“Any place but here,” she answered. She was leaving her husband. Getting the hell out of Dodge. Then she smiled. She had the kind of smile that could make a man happy his whole life if he were the right kind of man. Her husband wasn’t. So she was taking off with “No More.”

I watched her get on the train and thought about leaving too. I thought real hard. Then I turned and headed back to my one room apartment. I had lost my suitcase of dreams a long time ago.

Male Psychology

This here post is addressed to my female readership. Since I am a male myself, I am an expert in male psychology. I have advanced degrees to prove it. When I say, advanced degrees I don’t mean ph.ds. And I am not talking senility either though there are those who would state otherwise. I mean I do get, “I don’t know how your mind works.” Modern science has no answer to that one. I’ve been studied by the best. To state the obvious, I am a long time card carrying member of the male persuasion. So I think that qualifies me as an expert.

If I were writing a rule book on the male persuasion, there would be some items on the list I’d like to cover.

1.Males like to fix things. The bathroom sink. The car parked in the driveway. We may not be good at it but we will always give it the old college try. We especially love to fix our lady love’s problems. The moment our beloved says she is having some challenges with work, we’ve already stopped listening. We’re taking a mental looksee at “The Art of War” to see which strategy fits the situation.

2.When it comes to sports, there isn’t a sport males don’t love. ESPN puts a tiddly-winks championship game on and we’re there in front of the tv, rooting. You ought to know how true this is by the number of us who watch golf.

3.Males will do anything to help our team win. Wear dirty undies for six months. Stand on our head. Anything.

4.Males believe we were given an internal gps when we were born. It may not be true but there is no way we males will be dissuaded from this believe. This obsession with direction  is written into our dna.

5.If your male pet says “Huh”, it is not because he isn’t listening. It’s that he is listening a little too much. We need an interpreter for female-speak. So we are praying desperately to the great god Huh to interpret for us or unconfuse us.

6.When you ask your male, “What are you thinking” and he responds, “Nothing,” believe him. He isn’t thinking about something someone said this morning. He Isn’t thinking about the thing you just said. He isn’t even thinking about Donald Trump. He is not thinking anything. Once upon a time there were questions about this comeback. Then the NIH and the CDC saw this as a challenge. To find out the truth. They got together and funded a study conducted by over a hundred academic institutions. It was such a massive study thousands of men were experimented upon. The experimentalogists  poked and cajoled and massaged, they isolated and scanned and questioned. Finally they had their answer. There was nothing there inside the male brain to make any investigator believe the male was thinking anything but nothing most of the time.

7.Modern science, after years and years of speculation, has discerned that the male brain is not evolving. Rather, it is devolving.

8.Never, ever try to persuade a man that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Of course, he doesn’t know. And he knows that he doesn’t know. But he will never admit it. It is a point of pride.

I hope this has clarified questions some of you have been asking for years. Memorize these seven rules on male behavior and live by them and your relationship with your male pet will run smooth.

“Eight rules,” you say. “Not seven.” Now there you go, correcting a male. Don’t you know we males don’t take correcting very well? While I wait for you to apologize, I do believe I will go into my corner and do some pouting.

The Thing They Carried

It could have been the Germans. It could have been the Japanese. It could have been the Russians. But it was the Americans. The United States was the only nation with the resources to be able to create such a Thing. It was a Thing made for one job. For one purpose.

Since the Nazis launched their blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939, since the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor, war raged around the world. Millions were refugees, dead or held in concentration camps. It was time for it to be over. It would take a Thing to bring it to an end.

The question was: Would it work? The scientists said it would work. The tests had given them the assurance that it would work. But no one was absolutely sure. They would not know until those final moments over Japan. Until it was dropped.

By August, 1945, the Nazis had surrendered. But not the Empire of Japan though it was defeated. It had no air force to speak of. It was under allied blockade. Many of its greatest cities, including Tokyo, were devastated by the firebombing American B29s. Yet the military fanatics who led Japan had decided that the Empire would go down in a blaze of glory rather than submit.

The Japanese military used fifteen and sixteen-year-olds as pilots of planes that were designed to be nothing more than bombs to crash into ships. They fired human torpedoes from their submarines. This was a foreshadowing of things to come if the United States invaded the Japanese homeland. Every man, woman and child was to be a kamikaze. Even Japanese school girls were taught to attack the enemy with spears. Suicide was preferable to surrender.

Few events were as controversial as the decision to drop the Thing. It was debated among the scientists who created It. It was debated by both the civilian and the military leadership in Washington, D.C. President Truman decided the Japanese leaders had left him no choice. After discussions with his advisers, he came to believe that the Thing would shorten the war and save not just thousands of American lives but millions of Japanese as well.

The Thing’s name was Little Boy, also known as the Gadget, the Device, the Gimmick, the S-1, and the most technical of all names, It. It was created at Los Alamos in New Mexico. Then It was assembled 5500 miles from there on Tinian Island, a part of the Marianas in the Pacific. On the night of August 5, 1945, the technicians wheeled It out to a special loading pit to be lifted up into the the bay of the B29 that was to deliver It.

Hours before the mission, the crews of the 509th Composite Group waited. They did what crews do the night before an important mission. A few ate. Some lay in their bunks and thought about loved ones. Some drowned their homesickness with a few shots of whiskey. Some played poker. One, a Catholic went to confession. Another spent his time briefing the New York Times reporter assigned to the mission. The navigator checked his flight bag to make sure his navigational tools were all in order. Each found a way to while away the hours that dragged.

Practice. Practice. Practice. For months, the team had practiced dropping The Thing, then make a 155 degree turn to get the hell out of there. Now there was a different kind of practice. Just in case of a crash upon take-off, the weaponeer decided to load and arm the Thing once the plane was in the air. In the hours before the takeoff, he practiced inserting the explosive charge and the detonator into the Thing. Difficult work to do considering how tight, how hot, how poorly lit the bay of the B29 that was to carry It. When offered a pair of gloves, the weaponeer said no. “I’ve got to feel the touch.”

At midnight, the commander of the mission gave a final briefing. He was the pilot of the B29 that would deliver the Thing to its destination. He finished with a word of advice for the twenty-six airmen in the room. “Do your jobs, obey orders, don’t cut corners.” Then the crew had breakfast while the flight engineer went out to the plane for his preflight check.

Early in the morning of Monday, August 6, 1945, the rest of the crew—the pilot, the co-pilot, the navigator, the electronic countermeasure man, the two radar operators, the bombardier, the tail gunner, and the ordinance expert—climbed aboard the plane, joining the weaponeer and the flight engineer. Painted on the nose of the B29 was the name of the pilot’s mother, Enola Gay.

2:27 a.m. Front engine No. 3, then No. 4, then No. 1, then No. 2.

“Okay to taxi,” the tower said.

2:35 a.m. In position to taxi.

Clear to take off.

A final check.

Take-off weight: 150,000 lbs., 7000 gal. of fuel, 12 men on board, and a five-ton Thing in the plane’s belly. The Enola Gay was eight tons over its normal weight.

“Let’s go.”

All throttles were pushed forward. Down the 8500 foot runway, the plane went past the ambulances and the fire trucks every fifty feet on each side. At the last minute, the B29 lifted into the air and was off the island and heading north by northwest toward Iwo Jima. It would be over the Japanese homeland 1500 miles away in a little less than six hours.

The tail gunner tested his gun, using 50 of the 1000 rounds he had.

The radar operators studied the radar pictures of Hiroshima.

“Judge going to work.” The weaponeer began to load The Thing. He inserted the gun powder and the detonator. He tightened the breach plate. It took him thirty minutes to complete his task.

The pilot did a check with the two planes following and got a “conditions normal”. So far nothing out of the ordinary. He turned the plane over to his co-pilot and went off to chat with the rest of the crew.

The pilot palavered with his crew for a few minutes, answering any questions they might have, trying to ease any tension there might be. The crew gave him a thumbs up that everything was a-okay. The pilot returned to the cockpit. He took the plane up to 9000 feet for a rendezvous in the pale, pink sky above Iwo Jima. A camera plane and an instrument plane joined up with the Enola Gay.

“Proceeding as planned,” the pilot radioed Iwo Jima downstairs.

“Good luck.”

The three planes formed into a V, the Enola Gay leading the way. Now it was on to what was left of the Japanese Empire.

The ordinance expert armed the charge. He was the last person to touch The Thing. Then he checked the circuits of The Thing on his monitor.

The pilot announced to the crew, “You are carrying the world’s first atomic bomb.”

The Enola Gay climbed to an altitude of 30,800 feet.

“Bomb primary,” came the message from the weather plane ahead. The pilot announced, “It’s Hiroshima.”

All lights on The Thing remained green. It was ready to do its job.

Course change to a heading of 264 degrees.

“Initial Point.”

Hiroshima’s morning sky was bright and clear. Perfect weather.

Below soldiers did their calisthenics.

Below a doctor was administering a shot.

Below a sixteen year old girl drove a tram.

Below two women arrived at the bank where they worked.

The pilot knew the city like the back of his hand from studying maps, photographs and radar pictures. He headed straight to the Aiming Point.

From below: “Top alert.”

“On goggles,” the pilot directed his crew to put on their goggles to shelter their eyes from the blast of The Thing they were about to drop. Only the pilot, the bombardier and the electronic countermeasures man did not slip their eyewear over their eyes. They needed their naked eyes to do their jobs.

Hiroshima in the bombardier’s viewfinder.

The plane began its three-and-a-half minute run.

The pilot: “Stand by.”

Below a nurse sterilized hospital tools.

Below a group of boys played hide-and-go-seek.

Below a woman had breakfast with her two children and her husband. He read the “Chugoku Shimbun” daily newspaper.

One of the women in the bank wiped a desk top. A soldier removed his shirt.

The Aiming Point of the T-shaped Aioi Bridge came into the bombardier’s cross hairs. “I’ve got it.”

Fifteen seconds.

The doctor looked up and saw the Enola Gay. Just one plane. Nothing to worry about.

8:15:17 a.m. Enola Gay’s bay doors opened. The Thing dropped from its restraining hook. Freed of the five tons, the B29 lurched upward. The pilot swung the plane into a 155 degree right turn and a steep power dive. The bay doors shut.

The Thing wobbled, then picked up speed.

Below Field Marshall Hata dressed for a meeting.

Korean Prince RiGu cantered his horse on the Aioi Bridge

Radio Hiroshima broadcast an air raid warning. Thousands of workers stopped what they were doing and hurried toward the “safe areas”.

The Enola Gay now five miles from the Aiming Point and heading out of the city.

Five seconds to go.

At 1890 feet above the city of Hiroshima, the Thing detonated, untold quantities of energy released in a blast. A white light, a flash, a fireball fifty million degrees centigrade at its center. The fireball expanded to 300 meters wide.

There was a new sun in the sky. A sudden and throbbing roar, then total darkness, then red, yellow, orange, green burbled up from the city below, then grayish, brownish, black smoke. Looking down at it all, the tail gunner said that it was “a peep into hell.”

That morning in 1945, the people below in the city were no longer Japanese. They were human beings.

Sources
Books

Hersey, J. (1989). Hiroshima. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Smith, J. M. (2010). Fire in the sky: The story of the atomic bomb. Place of publication not identified: Textstream.

Thomas, G., & Witts, M. M. (1995). Enola Gay – Mission to Hiroshima. Loughborough, England.: White Owl Press.

Films

Hiroshima (BBC History of World War II) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2009). BBC Home Entertainment.

Joffé, R. (Director). (1989). Fat man and little boy [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

Modern Marvels – The Manhattan Project (History Channel) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2005). A&E Home Video.

 

 

A Word from the Sponsor: A Very Big WOW

I began Sunday evening by finishing up an 8000-word weekend. It was a part of the rough draft for a novel I’ve been working on since nanowrimo began. When I finish up a writing experience like that, I am two things: written out and high as a kite. There’s no greater high for me than a great creative session.

This one had been pretty darned wonderful. I got to know one of my characters better, an unlikeable lady if there ever was one. And I had written an awesome setting scene.

Just to let you know. I write every day. It keeps my creative juices flowing. Also it helps me solve issues that I am not sure I can solve when I start out. Like how am I going to get this character to do that thing when she will give me hell for sticking her in that situation. Once I start, one sentence leads to another and another. Pretty soon I am past the problem I thought was a problem. I have the confidence to grunt my way through.

Anyway I was checking out some of the blogs in my readers’ section. I came across a young woman’s post about living with her student debt. She wasn’t complaining. Her post was a response to another woman who wrote her boss a nasty letter. So I re-posted her post on Tuesday.

I was kind of bummed by the two posts. I started asking myself those questions you shouldn’t ask yourself when you’re tired. Questions like what has happened to my country. For that I don’t have an answer.

Then I chanced upon Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song, “Age of Miracles”, and it was like a kapow coming from Batman’s fist. It reminded me that no matter how bad things get, there is always the possibility of a miracle. I just never know what will happen to me when I turn a corner. I could very well meet someone who might change my life. Or I might run into a friend I haven’t seen in twenty years. Wouldn’t that be a WOW. I might trip over a hundred-dollar bill. Or the Huffington Post might email me and tell me how wonderful my blog is and they want to hire me full time. Now that would be a big WOW if ever there was a big WOW.

Of all the singer songwriters out there sending songs my way, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s tunes give me goose pimples more than just about anybody else I can think of. She’s the bees knees and the cat’s pajamas in my book. She’s been doing her magic for something like thirty years now and she just gets better and better. Of any artist out there, it is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s songs chronicling the life I have lived. Each song is always a surprise. “That’s me,” I cry out. “That’s me.” And there’s nobody I would rather sing it. She has the perfect voice for these chronicles.

I didn’t listen to her “Age of Miracles” once. I played it and I replayed it. I couldn’t get enough of the insights in this one, and the hope. Life can be a real bummer. It can be a real bitch. And here’s Mary Chapin reminding me life is downright awesome. While I am here bitching and moaning, there are those out there like Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. What a miracle that is.

As I thought about miracles, I thought I would pass along something I have believed since I began this blog. Each post here is a miracle. It’s miraculous that I created the darn thing. It’s miraculous that you read it. It’s a miracle that you and I met here in cyber space and shook hands. Now that is a very big double awesome WOW.

And don’t forget that no matter your situation, no matter what you are going through, there is a miracle on the way. You can take it from Uncle Bardie. And Mary Chapin Carpenter.

The Lovers

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

“Such a beautiful rainbow,” Melanie said to Walt.

“I made it just for you,” Walt said to Mel.

“You didn’t,” she said. “You can’t make a rainbow.”

“Oh, you think not,” he said, squeezing her hand just a little to show his love. “I spent several years at the rainbow-making school. I was their star pupil.”

“Were not.” She laughed. She liked it when Walt made up stories just for her.

“I was.”

They two stared at the rainbow, thinking beautiful thoughts. Walt thought about a Mel who could walk, Mel thought about a Mel who could walk. And they were very very happy.