Birthday Dinner, With A Side Of War

I took a few hours off to celebrate NTodd’s birthday (see Dohiyi Mir on the blogroll). Oh, and I celebrated mine as well. Any day spent with my s.o. Stella and my longtime friend Catherine would be a good day; add to that a large pizza at Star Pizza (indisputably the best handmade pizza in town), a heap o’ presents (all small and inexpensive; none of us enjoyed the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the wealthy) and finish off with a mocha frappé,  and you have a very pleasant birthday celebration.

I also celebrated an accomplishment today: we all went to Catherine’s place, where I climbed a flight of steep stairs that lacks adequate handrails in three critical places. (I was wearing my boot and wielding my quad cane, of course, and both ladies were spotting for me.) I did not fall, ascending or descending; you have no idea what an accomplishment (and a relief) that was. It was the first time in well over a year (nearly two, actually) that I’ve visited with Catherine’s cats, who of course had utterly forgotten me.

Two gifts I especially appreciated were Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues and a coffee mug bearing the logo for Space Shuttle Atlantis mission STS-136, “The Grand Finale,” acquired (if I recall correctly) at Space Center Houston during the mission by a friend of a friend. Another book was Catherine Drinker Bowen’s Miracle at Philadelphia; that volume is singularly appropriate: now that the Constitution is history, I might as well learn more about its history. 😦

CORRECTION: STS-135. If I could tyep I’d be dangerous!

Most birthdays I remind people of a horrendous event three years to the day before I was born: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The best I can do at the moment is to send you to two items in The Nation: The Great Hiroshima Cover-up, by Greg Mitchell, and Peter Rothberg’s Top Ten Songs About Nuclear War. The cover-up is about what we’ve come to expect of our government…

The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for twenty-five years, and the shocking US military film remained hidden for nearly four decades. While the suppression of nuclear truths stretched over decades, Hiroshima sank into “a kind of hole in human history,” as the writer Mary McCarthy observed. The United States engaged in a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race. Thousands of nuclear warheads remain in the world, often under loose control; the United States retains its “first-strike” nuclear policy; and much of the world is partly or largely dependent on nuclear power plants, which pose their own hazards.

… and the collection of songs is heavy on the 60s-70s rock era, and regrettably omits the biting, dark, bitter humor of Tom Lehrer’s We Will All Go Together When We Go. (YouTube video; lyrics attached in its More… dropdown.)

As usual, I commend to you Thomas Merton’s Original Child Bomb; you will probably need to find a library that owns this slender but very expensive volume. (My copy was used and unexpectedly cheap.) In simple, direct language, Merton describes the consequences of the first two uses of nuclear weapons on human beings. Unless something is wrong with you, you will probably cry, or be sick, when you read it. And those are about the only appropriate reactions.

Other worthwhile reading is Howard Zinn’s The Bomb, an account and analysis by the late great and unapologetically liberal historian who, having been a bomber crew member during W.W. II, developed an antipathy to war unmatched in the published literature. This work is available cheap, from City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.

Will humankind ultimately survive the very existence of the Bomb? At one time I would have answered, emphatically, NO. Now I’m not so sure we’ll last long enough to test the effectiveness of our nuclear restraints, weak though they may be in this post-G.W. Bush era: global climate change in the face of endless conventional combustion may do us all in first.

A very happy birthday… and my sincere condolences… to anyone else born on this misfortunate day!

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  • MandT  On Saturday August 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Happy Birthday friend, a very happy birthday! And, believe me I know how wonderful those achievements are like…..the simple every day things that when accomplished give us that old sense of joy again. Good food, good friends and Ms Stella are a day to remember. peace, m

    • Steve  On Saturday August 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks, MandT. Yes, you would indeed appreciate the “things that when accomplished give us that old sense of joy again.” My best wishes to you as well!

  • NTodd Pritsky  On Saturday August 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    That’s strange, because we just got home from celebrating your birthday!

    Happy day, my friend.

    • Steve  On Saturday August 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      Many thanks, NTodd. And the same happy day to you!

  • Bryan  On Saturday August 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Happy Birthday to both of you, and congratulations on the progress, Steve.

    Everything takes longer, especially recovery from illness and injury, when you get older, as I have found out.

    • Steve  On Sunday August 7, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Thanks, Bryan. I hope any injuries you have suffered are far in the past by now. The condition that gives me grief with my foot is permanent, but indeed you are correct that if time heals all wounds, it certainly isn’t quick about it for old folks!

  • c  On Sunday August 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Happy Birthday Steve — congratulations on the progress and my sincere wishes that it continues!

    • Steve  On Sunday August 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks, c. I’m not sure there’s really any progress; it’s just the first time I’ve attempted those stairs since I reached the point of moving about with a quad cane and an orthotic boot. I don’t want to climb or descend those steps very often; it’s terrifying! The foot itself… you have to understand: it never improves, and never will. Charcot foot is a lifelong affliction.

      I believe I missed your birthday sometime in late June. I plead computer failure a couple of years ago; my newest calendar backup was from a very long time ago. So, belatedly… Happy Birthday to you, c!

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