Monday, September 10, 2007

Diamonds From His Wedding Band

While many of my friends are buzzing about Britney Spears' godawful attempt at a comeback (in the interest of full disclosure, I watched her performance before changing the channel and yes, it was a train wreck, but hey, I'm not going to criticize given that I can't sing, dance, and don't have the body I had five years ago either and don't even have the excuse of having birthed two children -- no, my flaws are all about twinkies, booze, and a deep hatred of core exercises), I spent my night crying over Alive Day Memories, a documentary produced by my beloved James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano to me). He interviewed ten Iraq vets who suffered serious injuries, mostly amputations, a closed head injury, some post-traumatic stress cases. As in most effective documentaries, Mr. Gandolfini took himself out of the equation and let the subjects speak for themselves.

Staying out of the minefield of whether or not we should be in Iraq, the soldiers talked about their alive days, the day they almost died. All sustained serious injuries, most spending massive amounts of time in Walter Reed, multiple surgeries, fears about the future. Some memorable moments -- the solider who lost both his eyes -- one socket had too much scar tissue to support a prosthetic eye, but the other one contained a blue-colored eye lined with diamonds from his wedding band. His injury had destroyed not only his sight, but his marriage and this was his homage to both and the fake eye he liked the best and wore the most. (He had a few of them.) One soldier had her arm and shoulder blown off and talked about not being able to look at her injury for weeks, that if she didn't look at it, she'd be the same person she was before. But she wasn't. "I'm another amputee from the war," she said. "I don't know if anyone will want to love or marry me. I don't know if I had children, whether they'd accept me." One soldier said that her hometown had a way of "sucking you inside it and not letting go." She claimed that there were two ways to get out -- marry someone from another state or the military. "I got lucky," she said. "Some people my age are stuck her with two or three kids for their whole lives." She'd lost one leg and thought she'd never dance again, but she did with the help of several shots of vodka in a bar where line-dancing had not gone out of vogue. It was her comeback. Unlike Britney's comeback at the VMAs, not many people had been watching, some hoping for the best, many hoping for her to fail. She had the support of the tiny crowd that had gathered, and she sang loud, no forgetting the words for her. The writer Andre Dubus said he never heard anyone use the word grateful until he lost the use of his legs. Would you still go if you knew what you know now?, Mr. Gandolfini asked one of the soldiers who had lost both of his legs and one arm. I was pursuing my goal, he said. But if I could get my legs back, I'd pursue my other goals instead. He looked at the floor, as if trying to remember what those were, but he quickly said, I'm grateful that I have one of my hands, though. If I didn't, I'd be totally worthless. The garish scenes from the VMAs had all but faded from my mind by this point, the excess and decadence that serves to make us feel that we can never have enough, and for this, I was also grateful.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive." Josphine Hart

Cocktail Hour
Drinking documentary suggestion: Alive Day Memories

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!


Tony Soprano said...

As you probably know, Michelle, the Emmy Awards will be on Sunday, Sept. 16, if I'm not mistaken. Thanks for all your support of the show. As you know, The Sopranos has been nominated in many categories and I feel deep down that you really are a part of our success. I know you'll be rooting for us and thanks again for all your support.--Tony

Cheri said...

Oh God Michelle, what a moving thing... I'd probably do the same thing, cry cry cry! I've known so many to go overseas, friends close to me, and come back unscathed and I pray about how thankful I am for it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oww. It's so hard for me to watch such things. Even hearing about it second hand can be agonizing. I don't know how I'd feel in their shoes. I'm sure bitterness would be part of the equation.

eric1313 said...

I understand about Britany. She's desperate from whatever nightmare she's lived through--somethng you've said, to on past posts. Her world is about rejecting the role she was and allowed her self to be cast in, or a mold she was fit to. She wants to be herself, has the money and time to do so, and doesn't seem to know what that really is. She knows the media, and the good praise she once heard from it trained her to eventually take the negative to heart, something a lot of child stars have in common.

And that in and of itself might bother her too; always hearing Dana Plato stories at bed time when her parents gave up rational and wanted to scare her to sleep with a good kid/bad kid ultimatum and good night.

She's actually human, in body and spirit. That counts for a lot.

But she won't have to face what the soldiers had faced, and what they still have to face in their futures trying to have a normal life, have goals, or just remember what those were. Makes me think of every day being a gift we need to cherish.

That was beautiful. Glad to read it. Like always. Peace out, friend.

the walking man said...

The saddest part is not necessarily what body parts or trauma the soldiers went through, even though that is sad enough for them, their families and America as a whole but the saddest part is ten years from now no one, except the VFW, will remember and the VA will be the first to forget. Such is the end it seems of the three major wars just in my lifetime, Korea, Viet-Nam and now this debacle.

Peace, just give me some peace: John Lennon

Right on Josephine Hart



Frankie Da Fatass said...