My Dad, a War, a Memorial, and Me

I wrote this story for an old blog of mine 5 years ago and I’m reposting here for Veterans Day 2019.

By Dave Price

My father, Alvin Owen Price, in World War II

Yesterday was the 69th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. I wasn’t alive for the original VE Day, but my Father, Alvin Owen Price, was. My dad, like millions of men of his generation, was a soldier in World War II. He served in the European theater. And, like most of his contemporaries, he didn’t talk much about his war experiences. Over the years, I did learn some things. Never a fan of imposed authority, my dad spent much of his time rising in the Army ranks, only to be busted back down. He joked that he knew more about peeling potatoes on KP than firing his weapon on a battlefield. He was also convinced that the helmet the Army required him to wear made him go bald.

Actually, my dad didn’t need to use his weapon much. He was assigned to guard German prisoners-of-war. Every so often, some of the prisoners were flown back to the United States for further questioning. My dad would accompany them. They would fly into an airport near Fort Dix, New Jersey. It was on one of these trips to New Jersey that my story actually begins.

One of the soldiers in his unit, Joe Falls, was a native of South Jersey. He told my dad that there was a city named Bridgeton about an hour away from Fort Dix that was known for its parties. My dad, never one to miss a chance to party, said that sounded good. So he and Falls obtained a weekend pass and traveled to Bridgeton.

Arriving in town, my dad and his friend headed to the dance hall. This is how my dad described what happened next. They walked in. My dad saw a woman pouring punch. He turned to Joe Falls and said, “See that woman. That is the woman I am going to marry.”

That woman was Mary Louise Ivins. She taught school and lived with her parents on a farm about 3 miles from Bridgeton.

Over the next couple of years, Alvin courted Louise. On May 9, 1945, the war in Europe ended. In 1946, my father was discharged from Fort Dix. Shortly thereafter, he married Mary Louise Ivins. In 1952, I was born. In 1972, my father died. Three years ago, after retiring, my wife and I left South Jersey and moved to Crystal City, just 3 Metro stops from DC.

And all of that brings us to yesterday, the 69th anniversary of the day the war my dad fought in ended.

One of the great things about living in the DC area is there is so much history here. So I decided to go to the World War II Memorial to pay tribute to all the men and women, but especially my father, who had fought for freedom.

It wasn’t my first visit. I’m sure it won’t be my last. But it was my first visit on VE Day. I could have gone in the morning when there was a special ceremony honoring World War II veterans. But I wanted a more private, personal experience.

The chairs were still set up from the morning’s ceremony, but they were empty now. Those vacant chairs served as a stark reminder that some day in the not-too-distant future there won’t be any World War II veterans to fill them. When I was growing up, it seemed that every man I met had fought in that war. They had escaped death on the battlefield, but no amount of courage can keep you from death forever. Today, about 555 World War II veterans die every day. At that rate, you can see that it won’t be long until they will all be gone.

For those of you who have never visited the World War II Memorial, if you put yourself in the right frame of mind, it can become hallowed ground.

The monument contains vertical markers of all the states and US territories that sent men and women to serve. I went first to the Texas marker. That was where my father was born, the son of Walter Lee and Zonie Mae Price. My dad’s parents were farmers, but the driving winds of the 1930s blew their small farm and their Texas dreams away. So, like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, they loaded up their truck and headed west, eventually settling in Shelton, Washington. It was there that my dad enlisted.

I walked to the other side of the memorial to the Jersey marker. As I walked, I thought about the travels my dad made. From Texas to Washington state to Europe to New Jersey. I also thought about war – the cause for much of that movement. I never fought in a war. My son Michael never fought in a war. We both hope that neither of his children, Audrey or Owen, have to fight in a war. But my dad wasn’t that fortunate. He did fight in a war. Unlike so many others, he survived. Surrounded by reminders of death, I thought about life. To be more specific, I thought about the what ifs that come with life. What if my dad hadn’t survived the war? What if he hadn’t been assigned to guard German prisoners and come to New Jersey? What if Joe Falls hadn’t brought him to Bridgeton that night? What if Mary Louise Ivins had decided not to attend that dance?

But, of course, none of that mattered.  For all those things did happen. Lost in reverie, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning, I saw an older man in a veterans’ cap. “Could you give something to help homeless veterans?” he asked. I looked in a my wallet. I had $9. I handed him a $5 bill. As sacrifices go, it wasn’t much, certainly nothing compared to all of those made from 1941 to 1945. My dad would have given all $9. He was that way. His generation was that way. That is why they deserve the label the Greatest Generation.  Somehow, I believe they were made of sterner stuff.

It’s hard to follow heroes. But heroes show us how to live in tough times. Eventually they die, but their deeds live on. When he was little, I told Michael about the grandfather he never met.  Both he and I will tell Audrey and Owen about their great-grandfather. I know they will both be interested, but Owen’s interest might be a little stronger since this is where he gets his first name.

And since they are now 6-and-a-half and 5, the next time they come to DC, I will take them to the World War II Memorial and tell them about all the heroes like their great-grandfather of that time. For, no matter what your age, you can never have too many heroes.

My First Book Published Today

For my first 64 years on the planet, I never gave any serious thought to writing a book. But in 2017, I discovered the main thing you need for a book – a good idea. Sailing on our first-ever rock cruise, which featured Gregg Allman, I discovered 2,700 rock fans paying at least $2,000 each to hear music that was supposed to be just a passing teenage fad in the mid-1950s. I wondered how exactly did this come to pass.

And now today, 3 years later, my first book — Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation — has been published and released.

For now, it is available exclusively at the Politics and Prose book store in Washington, DC. It can also be ordered from the Politics and Prose website. However, the book will be rolling out in other places and as an e-book soon.

Here is the cover.

Bruce Springsteen, Donald Trump, and 2 Competing Views of the American Dream

Last week, American president Donald Trump and American rock icon Bruce Springsteen engaged in a on-line word exchange. Springsteen, a vocal critic of Trump, said “the stewardship of the nation has been thrown away to somebody who doesn’t have a clue as to what that means. And unfortunately, we have somebody who I feel doesn’t have a clue to what it means to be an American”. Springsteen’s remarks came after Trump tweeted that he “didn’t need little Bruce Springsteen and all these people” to draw crowds. Three years ago, I had a chance to attend a Springsteen concert and a Trump rally in Atlanta within 3 days of each. Here is what I wrote then.

How is a Donald Trump political rally like a Bruce Springsteen concert? Let me count the ways.

Before last week, I had never really considered comparing the two. But on Thursday, I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Phillips Arena here in Atlanta with about 20,000 enthusiastic Springsteen fans. Three days later, I was at a Donald Trump for President rally at the World Convention Center just across the street from the Phillips Arena with more than 5,000 rabid Trump followers.

Here’s what I discovered

1. In a post 9/11 America, you have to go through detection screeners when entering a venue to see either Springsteen or Trump.

I passed through the Springsteen screening with no problem, but I was detained by a Secret Service Agent for additional body screening with Trump. Maybe it was because I looked more like a Springsteen supporter than a Trump fan. Or maybe it was just the metal in the belt I was wearing Sunday.

2. Both Springsteen and Trump use music before their shows to set the stage and pump up the crowd’s anticipation and excitement.

Rock stars almost always employ music they admire as pre-concert background. Candidates do the same. Trump claims he personally selects the music played before he takes the stage.  On Sunday, the pre-show playlist leaned heavily on the Rolling Stones (“You Can’s Always Get What You Want,” “Time Is on My Side” etc). The Daily Beast has labeled Trump’s choice “arguably the best, most fantastic, and most eclectic campaign list of the 2016 election”. But there is a problem. Apparently, Trump has not asked the groups including the Stones for permission to use their songs. Interestingly, Springsteen has also been at the center of a political song choice. Ronald Reagan stopped using Springsteen’s anthem “Born in the USA” when he ran for president in the 80s after Springsteen asked him not to use it.

3. Springsteen and Trump are greeted with standing ovations involving thunderous clapping, shouting, and screaming the minute they are seen on stage.

If you’ve ever been to a big concert or packed rally with a popular politician you know the noise level we’re talking about here.

4. Opening questions are often used to get the crowd focused on what’s coming next.

During his Radio Nowhere tour, Springsteen would shout: “Can anybody out there hear me?” For Trump on Sunday it was “Are we going to win Georgia or what?” In both cases, the answer was a roaring “Yes1”

5. New “bits” and old “hits” are mixed into every performance.

On his current tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band are performing their double album The River in its entirety.  Several of the River’s tracks have rarely been performed. However, the 2nd part of the show is given over to more familiar songs such as “Thunder Road,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “Born to Run”.  For Trump on Sunday, the new came from the fact that one day earlier he had convincingly won the South Carolina primary. Here’s what he had to say about that: “We won with women – I love the women. We won with men. I’d rather win with women to be honest with you. We won with evangelicals. Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people. We won. It was a beautiful day”.

Of course, the candidate interspersed his message with such tried Trump themes as winning (“When I’m President you are going to get so tired of winning”) and losers (“They’re such losers. Just losing all the time”.

6. Fans are adamant about their admiration.

Ed Edwards and his son Matt. Both are 100% for Trump. Wife and daughter-in-law Michelle Nelsonisn’t so certain. She is currently debating between Trump and Marco Rubio. But she does dismiss the 3rd frontrunner for the GOP nomination Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “Ted Cruz is evil,” Michelle says.

Noted rock critic Jon Landau wrote these famous words about Springsteen in 1974: “I have seen rock n’ roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen”. In 2016, 69-year-old Ed Edwards of Fayetteville, Georgia, and his 36-year-old son, Matt, of Acworth have seen the future of the America they want and its name is Donald Trump. The father: “He’s not a politician. We don’t have control of our borders. And if we don’t have control of our borders, we have no country. Our country is going to hell in a hand basket. Donald Trump will change that”. The son: “I don’t think he can be bought. I think he’s our last hope. We’re screwed without him”.

7. Fans not only voice their support, they wear it.

On Thursday, I wore this favorite T-shirt to the Springsteen show.

This is the back of my favorite Trump T-shirt I discovered at his venue.

8. The thematic idea of a river and all it can symbolize ran through both performances.

In his song about loss “The River,” Springsteen sang these lines on Thursday:

Now those memories come back to haunt me

They haunt me like a curse

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true

Or is it something worse

That sends me down to the river

Though I know the river is dry

That sends me down to the river tonight

Or Trump on loss and the American Dream:

I thought to myself

I’m angry

People are angry because they’re tired of being the stupid people.

We have a right to be angry

Because we have been sold down the river.

9. Since both events were live, glitches can, and did, happen.

Springsteen failed severely to hit a note. On the giant monitors above the stage, you could see him chuckling at his failure. For Trump, it was the case of the Day the Lights Went Out in Georgia, which you can see for yourselves by clicking here.

10. Despite the fact that they are incredibly wealthy (Trump aself-professed billionaire, Springsteen a multi-multi millionaire) both superstars have come to stand with and speak for the common working men and women of this land.

Don’t believe me – run a quick check on Springsteen’s song titles or lyrics. For Trump, look at the economic statistics of his most staunch supporters. Or their musical listening favorites.

11. Both are famous enough to have songs written about them.

For Springsteen, it was the Eric Church hit “Springsteen” with lyrics like “When you think about me, do you think about 17? Do you think about my old jeep? Think about the stars in the sky? Funny how a melody sounds like a memory. Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night. Springsteen, Springsteen, woh-oh-oh Springsteen”. It wasn’t played on Thursday. For Trump, it was this unnamed song played by an unknown artist on Sunday with lyrics like “Don’t be a chump, vote for Trump. He’s got the power up in Trump Tower”.

12. Because of their power and success in their respective fields, Springsteen and Trump have both earned the title “The Boss.”

The Boss has been Bruce Springsteen’s nickname since he first began directing bands at the Jersey shore in the 1970s.  For Trump, it’s a sobriquet he was bequeathed when he began building his real estate empire in Manhattan and solidified when he became the host of the hit reality TV show “The Apprentice”. As the Boss, both had to fire people. Springsteen once fired the entire E Street Band to explore a solo career, but thankfully brought them back together again. “You’re fired,” became a Trump catchphrase on “The Apprentice”.  NBC then proceeded to fire Trump himself over derogatory remarks he made about immigrants as a candidate.

 I could go on.  But I think I have established my premise. Now, I’m not saying a Springsteen concert and a Trump political rally are identical. There are obvious differences. But in many ways, Trump and Springsteen are mirror images of one another. The words of Trump and the lyrics of Springsteen may be quite different in tone and text, but they are addressing many of the same issues – loss, economic instability, change and uncertainty, fate and the future.  Both talk about the restoration and reaffirmation of America and the American Dream.

One comes at problems from the right; the other the left. Both, I would argue, claim to want to make America great. Trump would add “again”.  Springsteen might be more comfortable with “truly for the first time”.  Both have expressed ideas how to accomplish that; one through fiery, simplistic oratory, the other through image-enhanced song lyrics. Both want to lead people to their vision of America’s promised land.

Now no offense to Ed, or his son Matt, or the thousands here in Georgia and the millions across the country who are joining them, but I’m much more of a Springsteen guy.

But hey Boss – from one Jersey guy to another – how about it? You and the Donald in a winner-take-all struggle for the direction of the American Dream and the very soul of our country. Now that’s a series of shows between two great showmen that would definitely satisfy my hungry political heart. I know who I would want to win for, in that race, only one candidate was born to run. And his name isn’t Donald Trump.

Jane Fonda Is Proving You’re Never Too Old To Take a Stand for What You Believe In

Actress/Activist Jane Fonda is arrested on the steps of the United States Capitol (Photo by Talking ‘Bout My Generation)

By Dave Price

For Academy-Award winning actress Jane Fonda social activism is nothing new. In the 1970s, she protested against the Vietnam War, an action that placed her on President Richard Nixon’s enemies list, drew government surveillance, and left her with the nickname “Hanoi Jane” from those who felt her activities, such as a trip to North Vietnam, were treasonous and un-American.

In fact, her mugshot, in which she raises a fist, became an iconic symbol for war dissenters and counterculture renegades of that time.

But her advocacy didn’t end there. In subsequent decades, she lent her efforts to the ongoing fights for civil, women’s, and environmental rights. She carried that activism into many of her best movie roles – the wife in the anti-war movie Coming Home, a news reporter in the nuclear plant disaster film China Syndrome, and with co-stars Dolly Parton and Lilly Tomlin, as a harassed working woman in 9 to 5. 

The money from her wildly popular Jane Fonda’s Workout video tapes in the 1980s was used to fund the leftist organization Campaign for Economic Democracy, an organization founded by her then-husband and left-wing politician Tom Hayden, a prominent ‘60s activist who wrote the Port Huron Statement for SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and was a defendant in the infamous political trial of the Chicago 8 case stemming from the police riot marred 1968 Democratic Convention. 

Now, at age 81, Fonda is proving you’re never too old to take a strong stand for what you believe in. The actress, currently starring in the Netflix series Frankie and Grace with Tomlin, has moved temporarily to Washington, D.C. and unveiled her latest cause, Fire Drill Fridays.

Fire Drill Fridays is a three-part action aimed at forcing American leaders to take immediate action on climate change. On Thursday nights, from now until late December, Fonda is hosting a panel of experts on a Facebook program exploring various issues of climate change and suggesting actions to curb the problems. On Fridays at 11 a.m., Fonda, joined by experts and spokespersons for climate change groups, is staging a rally near the U.S. Capitol. At the conclusion of that informational session, Fonda, along with all those who choose to join her, engage in an act of civil disobedience, such as standing on the Capitol steps, which causes them to be arrested by federal police. 

At the first Fire Drill Friday on October 11, Fonda told those of us in attendance that while she has long been involved in the battle over a better, cleaner environment, the current government’s refusal to even admit the crisis is real, let alone act on it, drove her to consider more dramatic ways of getting the warning message out.

“Change is coming by design or by disaster,” Fonda told the crowd. “A green new deal that transitions off fossil fuels provides the design. “As (teenage environmental activist) Greta Thunberg says ‘our house is on fire’ and we need to act like it”.

“Our climate is in crisis. Scientists are shouting an urgent warning: we have little more than a decade to take bold, ambitious action to transition our economy off of fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable energy,” she added “We need a Green New Deal to mobilize our government and every sector of the economy to tackle the overlapping crises of climate change, inequality, and structural racism at the scale and speed our communities require”. 

At that initial rally, Fonda said she planned to enlist other of her Hollywood friends concerned about climate change to join in the protest. At the second session, Fonda’s co-star Sam Waterson was arrested. Last week, actor Ted Danson, the star of Cheers and the current show The Good Place, joined Fonda and was taken into custody by authorities.

Fonda told Booming Encore she realizes many leaders of government and business, particularly President Donald Trump, won’t be pleased with the Fire Drill Friday activism. “I can no longer stand by and let our elected officials ignore — and even worse — empower — the industries that are destroying our planet for profit,” Fonda said. “We cannot continue to stand for this”.

Fonda added that she isn’t concerned about any impact the planned three-month protest and arrests will have on her career. “I’ve been here before,” she said. “I mean, I can’t be attacked any more than I already have. So what can [Trump] do? I’ve got nothing to lose.”

(Photo by Talking ‘Bout My Generation)Fr