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
Drinking documentary suggestion: Alive Day Memories
Benedictions and Maledictions