Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
Last week I was driving in my old Pontiac SSEi along the coast to the VA Hospital in Long Beach the rain started. In the parking lot, rain drops collected on the windshield and when large enough drops streaked down like giant tears, a single lightning bolt struck somewhere close enough that the thunder followed instantly. Now it was raining hard.
Classical music played on the radio and I decided it was a moment to sit still, watch and listen.
I am not much of a musician—cannot hit any note and have had no musical instruction, but I knew the music was Polish. It was sweet and fun, not the heavy, serious music of Russia, dramatic Czech, serious German or frosty cake from Austria. I was listening to Chopin’s Concerto #1 in E.
I stayed in my car to listen and watch the tears streak down as the music and rain took me back to the many times I drove my Audi from Vienna through Poland. At the point where I would cross over the Bzura I could no longer receive radio from Vienna and that of Warsaw took its place. I spent 70 percent of the 1970’s in Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. During all the travel time I listened to a lot of radio. But that point of inflection--crossing the Bzura-- remains vivid because I once stopped near there in Zelazowa Wola; Chopin’s birthplace and childhood home. During the Cold War few from the West and no Americans roamed around in central Poland and Chopin’s childhood home was not visited by many tourists. Although it was a historical site, the door was open. No attendants were guarding the piano standing in the corner behind a rope barrier, which I easily crossed over, sat in his chair and plinked a few notes on Chopin’s piano.
The music ended, the rain stopped and I got out of my car somewhat surprised to be in California.
The inauguration of John F. Kennedy was a cold but sunny January day in 1961. We West Point cadets led the parade, marching and breathing our breath freezing into the air.
Old and new presidents, Ike and JFK in top hats.
In his address, Kennedy asked his most famous question, about what you can do for your country.
My Company K 2 classmate from San Antonio, Texas, and I were happy to march after having had to stand for hours at parade-rest without moving- we had to be ready, so “Hurry up and wait,” the Army motto, applied. We were thinking about what would happen later, as I had invited identical twins from my home state of Ohio to be our dates at the Inaugural Ball. It was a big deal for all of us-- teenagers at the time.
After we cleaned up and put on our dress gray uniforms, we met our dates and went to the formal ball. The girls wore formal dresses, of course, and we were all very proper. Frank Sinatra was one of the special guest performers and we danced uncomfortably to music of the 50’s. It was a happy time, but then the girls went back to Ohio and we got on the train to go back to winter at West Point-“gloom period.”
The next time we marched for Kennedy was not so happy. It was November 1963.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.