By CHARLES ANDREWS

I AM A VETERAN

Of the Viet Nam War.

The way I usually say it, when I say it, which is not very often, is that I am a vet of the Viet Nam War era, because while I served during the very hell of it, late 1966 through ‘68, I did not see combat, spending half my time in training and the other half, through a life-saving fluke of assignments, sitting in Germany. The difference between being a veteran of combat in Nam, and a non-combat vet, is light years. You can still see that difference sleeping on our streets, 50 years later. Insult upon injury.

The politics of it was not a factor, because information back then was not readily available, and our government was lying to us, big time. Those student protestors? SDS, Black Panthers, Jane Fonda — had it much more right than Washington did. If I had known the facts, I probably would not have gone. It wasn’t until after I got out that the true picture became known to me, and swung me far left.

It’s worse than ever now. To the point that a POTUS will pretend a march north by desperate Central American families threatened by violence and poverty is “an invasion,” and calls out the troops to go to the border. But that was just before the election. Now, he seems to have lost interest. Even though it will probably cost us $200M and weaken our capabilities elsewhere. It was just another of his political stunts, with no thought to the human consequences. Me, me, me.

BUT THE WORST PART

Is the use of our military for political purposes. That is a big, fat, horrible no-no. The military has to be above politics or we are just another banana republic. But this comes from the orange abomination who couldn’t be bothered to go out in the rain recently to honor our fallen soldiers in France. Cadet Bone Spurs. Let other people take my place and die. It’s endemic in the Republican Party leadership.

So this recent Veterans’ Day was a mixed bag for me. America has an obligation because of its position of power, and it is so very sad to see that prostituted today.

I have decided to stop hating the things he says and does. He is the expression of a symptom, not the cause. But does it feel better or worse now, seeing the problem as lying with those millions of core followers? A minority but far too large, who do not share my basic values about democracy.

This politicization of the military, this disdain for our legal institutions, this attack on our very right to vote. I never would have believed it but here we are, and we must do something. We must.

TRAVEL!

Some have said we are going so far down the path of authoritarianism that it is time to move, to a sane nation. I understand. But I think we have the freedoms we do because others have stood up against impossible odds and said, no more, we will not back down.

I’m not leaving. But I don’t mind escaping! And I will, for half of December, to Tangier, a city I fell in love with on my year-long trip across two continents and 30 countries, six years ago. I’ll be hanging out with two Moroccan friends. It could be a great tale, of 4,000-year-old music traditions and their living embodiment, a tour guide who painstaking built a small luxury hotel that drew James Bond, of Rick Steves and Paul Bowles and Anthony Bourdain and myths and dreams. Anyone have a connection to a major travel publication where I can pitch this?

I’m operating on the cheap, of course (you can travel more often that way), and I have help there. I will tell you next time about JGOOT — Just Get Out Of Town, a fantastic niche service that finds “mistake” fares/hotel packages that very quickly disappear if you don’t jump on them. (LAX to Rome, flight plus 14 nights, $855, last Aug-Oct; Guatemala City, flight plus 8 nights, $441, Dec-Feb; Bali, flight plus 8 nights, $672, Nov-Jan.)

And there is Iceland’s WOW Airlines. (Sale fares, often, LAX to Reykjavik for $99 each way.) I’ve become a little disillusioned with them — they cancelled my booked flight to New Delhi ($199 each way), but their new offer is worth looking at. They have notoriously cramped seats, and all the other no-frills that allow them to offer such amazingly low fares, but now they announce greatly reduced prices on their premium seat package, a much more roomy seat plus two checked bags, cancellation protection, fast track security, priority boarding, an in-flight meal and no change fees. LAX to Amsterdam, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen or Dublin for $599 each way, LAX to Reykjavik $399, Nov. through March, selected flights. It ain’t quite first class but it’s a fraction of the cost. Just get out of town.

BODACIOUS BIRTHDAY: A new feature here at CURIOUS CITY, recognizing only the most noteworthy, incredible human beings on earth, prompted by one thing: odds were 7 to 1, but today, when my column comes out, is my daughter’s 25th birthday, so how could I not acknowledge it?

I‘m a journalist, I deal in facts, and here they are. Nicole is so well informed about so many things, particularly music and politics, exceptionally empathetic and compassionate, has a gorgeous voice, is color-gender-everything else blind, fearless, an outstanding writer, strongly loyal to friends, a talented painter, unwilling to suffer fools for long (including dad), a voice over actor with her SAG card from years ago, stands up for the oppressed and the underdog with action not just talk, an award-winning filmmaker, world traveler (35 countries, at least), a zine publisher, so danged smart (graduated summa cum laude from UCLA, Ethnomusicology and still managed to get out and have a good time), a sculptor and ceramicist, articulate (and with perfect grammar, thank gosh), songwriter, unbelievably generous, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, sitar, some piano), easy to laugh and smile, slow to criticize, very dang funny, and a beauty on the outside as well. And I’m sure I forgot a couple things.

This may be a father’s proud take, but anyone who knows her is nodding their head in agreement. I am such a lucky man, not one but two beautiful, extraordinary kids. Happy birthday, Punkin’. (She’ll hate this, but… too bad. Get your own column.)

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the mention Charles! Can’t wait to read more about your Tangier trip.

    (I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that I’m looking forward even more to seeing what you have to say about your JGOOT experience as a journalist.)

    Happy travels!

    Joel
    Founder – Just Get Out Of Town, LLC

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