I've been lax on telling you about our weekend, but it was so overwhelmingly amazing that I haven't been able to force myself to sit down and get it out. Getting it out means digesting it and summing it up in a way people can understand, and something's always lost. But I'll do my best. Thursday
Thursday night we went to see Tony Bourdain speak at the Overture Center. This was my birthday present to Wyl and he'd been looking forward to it since then - Tony's one of his heroes. And he didn't disappoint - he was warm and funny, and surprisingly nice. He's got a reputation for being a rude boy, and it's totally unearned. He just calls people out on bullshit - everyone from Rachel Ray to Man Vs. Food - but his overriding message was "Be grateful. Be sincere. Be respectful and nice to people. Be curious about the world, because it's fucking amazing." He took questions from the audience, and while there were some dumb ones - he doesn't care about our high-speed rail, you idiots - Hubs got to stand up and plead with him to eat an MRE or at a chow hall when he films in Iraq this season. Tony's got some visibility that might help soldiers get something better than lowest-bidder cat food.
Friday and Saturday
I took a rare day from work on Friday to attend Next Stop is Vietnam. NSIV was a three-day symposium presented by the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum and the UW ILS and Afro-American studies departments, exploring the role of music in the lives of soldiers, veterans, and the homefront. Our good friend Jeff is curator at the museum and is friends with the professors Wyl TAs for and they got together and created the event. It also celebrated the release of Next Stop is Vietnam (hence the title) and was good buzz for Wyl's professors' upcoming book chronicling stories about music from Vietnam vets. Phew, got all that? Now, a list of some of the amazing people I hung out with this weekend:
Dave Leucinger and Rockin' John from WORT
Hugo Keesing, Craig Werner, Doug Bradley, Charles Hughes, Jeff Kollath and others
I am so much cooler by association now. I attended great talks on such topics as black music and the black soldier's experience in Vietnam, Southern music and Vietnam, the acoustic music movement among vets, and a preview talk of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", Craig and Doug's upcoming book. In between and after the talks were lunches, dinners, parties, and the joy of a shared triumph.
The weekend wasn't all social, though; it was an emotionally challenging experience to hear what these speakers had to say and hear the audience (a good third of which was Vietnam vets) respond. The vets in the audience often had comments and emotions ran high more than once. It was easy to let the conversation devolve and slip into bickering about what each vet experienced or continued to experience. Luckily we had some excellent moderators and colleagues in the audience that helped steer the conversation back to the music when needed. But it did remind me, if nothing else, to be compassionate; as someone said, some of these guys will never stop fighting this war. They're stuck, in their heads, at a certain point, and they can't get past it no matter how badly they might want to. It's not arrogance or self-centeredness; it's trauma, it's pain, it's disillusionment and anger.We waited 40 years to start listening to what these vets had to say.No wonder they're angry.
I think the emotional center for the weekend for me was a moment during Craig and Doug's talk. They were covering some of the most common songs that vets had mentioned to him and playing clips of music, and they began to play Leaving on a Jet Plane... and the whole room began to softly sing along. It was... a moment.
Tony, drinking a local Point beer.
Jeff introducing Clyde Stubblefield, William Bell, and Art Flowers.
Hubs and our friend Brian listening to the same panel.
Doug and Craig at their talk.
Hubs nearly peeing himself because he's touching William Bell.
If you made it this far, you get a cookie.