Sunday, June 19, 2011

Apples in Stereo -- "7 Stars" (2007)



Simple lives we once left behind,
We’re so distracted now
Secret lives we have lived inside,
We’re going backwards now 


It's been two weeks since I came to Joplin to help out my parents and see what the tornado had done to my hometown, and it's time to move on.  This post will feature a few final pictures from my visit.

I didn't plan to post the last of those pictures on Father's Day -- it just happened that way.

There are a lot of Joplin fathers out there who lost their jobs as a result of the May 22 tornado, and a lot of Joplin fathers whose families' homes were destroyed.  I've never been in their situation, but I think I have a pretty good understanding of how they feel.  

Maybe younger fathers are different than fathers who are my age.  But I can't imagine that there is anything more important to fathers from my generation than being able to provide food and shelter and the other material necessities of life for their families.  Not being able to do that would be a crushing blow to your psyche.

I don't care if you lost your job or lost your home due to a once-in-a-lifetime act of God like a flood or a tornado, or something else that was completely beyond your control.  It's still the father's job to take care of his family -- period.  No excuses.

Call me old-fashioned, but that's the way I see it.  I know that a lot of wives make as much or more money as their husbands, and I understand that the norm today is for both spouses to work outside the home.  Both my daughters work full-time, and I expect them to keep working after they get married.  But one of the major criteria I will apply to any potential husband is whether he strikes me as someone who can be counted on to provide for his family.

George H. W. Bush
It struck me today that all the men who were Presidents of the United States for the first 40 years of my life were members of the World War II generation -- the "greatest generation," as it has been called.

Dwight D. Eisenhower -- who became the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe -- was inaugurated as President when I was less than a year old.  He was succeeded by John Kennedy, who commanded PT 109.  Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford also served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, while Reagan was in the Army.  Jimmy Carter entered the Naval Academy in 1943, and did not serve in the war because he did not graduate until after it had ended, but close enough.  And George H. W. Bush flew 58 combat missions as the pilot of a carrier-based torpedo bomber; he had to parachute out of his plane when it was set on fire by anti-aircraft  flak when he was bombing Japanese positions in September 1944.

My father
It was easy for me to take all those presidents very seriously as men, regardless of what I thought of their politics.  That's because they were father figures.  My father saw combat in World War II, and nearly all of them did as well.

Then Bill Clinton came along.  Clinton was only 6 years older than I was -- no father figure he.  The fact that he was from Arkansas was a big negative for me, of course, but the bigger negative was probably the generational thing.  I knew guys just like Clinton when I was high school -- hey, I probably had more in common with Clinton when I was in high school than I'd like to admit -- and it was very hard for me to take Clinton seriously when he was elected president.

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton was a chubby kid with a crazy mom who played saxophone in the marching band.  I guarantee you that when the hot cheerleader who sat next to him in history class asked for help during the final exam -- "Pssst!  What's the answer to  question 23?" -- he moved his arm so she could see his answer sheet.

As I've explained, I went to Joplin shortly after the tornado to check up on my parents and provide them with some practical help and moral support, but also because I spent the first 18 years of my life there -- a simpler life I left behind on the way to becoming "so distracted now" -- and I wanted to see for myself exactly what had happened to the schools and neighborhoods that were the center of my universe.

Every day that I was there, I took long walks and used my Blackberry to take pictures -- many of which I've already posted.  Looking back, it was almost as if I was a tourist on a trip to the site of an ancient civilization, where I snapped pictures of ruined temples to show the folks back home.  

After I left, I saw a picture of a homemade sign from Joplin that said "Put down your camera and help us," or words to that effect.

Mea culpa.  I worked to help clean up my parents' house and yard, but I didn't do anything to help anybody else.  Maybe I  should have done that instead of just being a voyeur.

On the other hand, I even saw local policemen stopping to take pictures with their cell-phone cameras.  It was hard not to stare, and not to want to have photos of what things looked like -- without having pictures to show, I could never have described what I had seen to my kids and my friends.

And while I moved away from Joplin a long time ago, it was where I spent the first 18 years of my life.  I knew much of the area where the damage was the worst intimately.  I had walked and ridden my bike on those streets 40, even 50 years ago.  I wasn't just gawking at Irving Elementary School and Joplin High School and all the destroyed houses in between -- those were my schools, my neighborhoods.

I saw this house when I was walking from Irving School (which was destroyed by the tornado) to the house I grew up in (which was damaged but will survive).  The interior of this room is surprisingly intact, given that the wall that enclosed it was ripped off -- it looks almost like a stage set:



This house is only two blocks from my parents' current house.  The clothes hanging in this closet appear to be undamaged -- why are they still there two weeks after the tornado?  



Someone took the time to prop up this child's bicycle on its kick stand.  Who?  (Why?)



This sign was leaning against a half-destroyed house on Murphy Boulevard.  Before the tornado struck, had it been hanging in a young girl's bedroom?



I saw abandoned wheelchairs at several different locations.  This picture was taken near 24th and Iowa, just across from the high school -- the houses in this area were completely flattened:



These wheelchairs are standing in the parking lot of a nursing home where several people were killed.



It was an odd coincidence that I saw three houses with ruined pianos on the same block.  Here's one of them:



The legendary Dude's Daylight Donuts on Main Street -- New York Times story about local businesses that were destroyed by the tornado led with a mention of Dude's -- was just a pile of generic rubble:



But after poking around for a few minutes, I found definitive evidence that I was at the right spot:



Finally, while walking on West 26th towards Main Street, I saw some inexpensive metal flatware lying in the gutter.



There were actually 9 spoons instead of 8, which is even more odd.  Where were the forks?  Where were the other knives?

God only knows.  And God only knows where about a million other missing things have ended up.

I know all too well what could have been lost if my parents had lived 2 or 3 blocks further north.  They were lucky.  But a lot of people weren't.

A lot of people in Joplin lost not only their forks and knives -- but also their clothes, and cars, and pianos, and family photos, and kids' toys.

And a lot of people lost a lot more.

Here's "7 Stars":



Here's a link you can use to order the song from iTunes:

7 Stars - New Magnetic Wonder


Here's a link you can use if you prefer Amazon:




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