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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Continuing my obsession with 'Hair'

Ok. The lyrics from 'Hair' at the end are a bit much, but the point remains: Little difference between college and war.

Before taking Alex to see 'Hair,' I talked to him a bit about the show's context.

"Do you know about draft cards?" I asked, since draft cards are kind of essential to the plot.

"What's that?" he asked, then shook his head. "Wait, I know about those things."

I explained a bit about the lottery, and the numbers, and the significance of burning draft cards. I didn't explain that if the government were to use that system today for getting bodies into bags in Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars would probably end within a month or two.

"Do you know what fellatio is?" I asked.

We covered LBJ, the anti-war movement, the idea that protest is a valid form of patriotism, types of drugs, the effects various drugs can have on a patriot, and then moved on to Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. Notably absent from the primer: morality. I figured it was best to just give him the information and then drop him into the show to work his own opinions out.

We got off the train and threaded our way through the theatre crowds to the Hirshfeld. I thought about explaining who Al Hirschfeld was but didn't want to mix media, so to speak.

We walk into the Hirschfeld, which is a great space. The lobby is filled with old Hirschfeld drawings we blow past so we can get to our seats. And when we sit, Alex looks down at the scrim covering most of the stage and asks, "How'd they do that?"

"How'd they do that?" is usually a question asked AFTER the performance starts. And what Alex is asking about is the moon spinning in the center of the scrim, a very impressive, bone-colored moon turning ass-over-tits. I tell him that the image of the spinning moon is a projection. Then wish I'd said nothing, because the moon looks so convincing I'd love to keep him guessing.

[Insert my own gushing over the show here. And seriously, I can gush about this show. Remind me to gush sometime. I'll tell you about the Hamlet stuff, the Ginsberg stuff, the jagged lyrics and the imagery. Seriously. Try me.]

Today, this morning, taking Alex to the airport, I asked him about the moral part of the show--the drugs and sex and dropping out vs. the straightlaced, fight when the nation calls, upstanding citizen part.

Alex was eating an egg McMuffin. His bag was beside him. Seventeen, right, and his head's already shaved, and he's already muscular, and he's already used to being told what to do by coaches and refs and teachers. We were on our way to the airport. Stopped off for breakfast.

"That part about the draft cards," I said. "You got that?"

"Yeah," he said.

"Dad ever tell you about the lottery?"


"Doesn't matter. The government used to choose its soldiers through some random process that you wouldn't even use to staff a McDonalds."

Ripped open by metal explosion
Caught in barbed wire

"Dad got close. I don't know. I don't know how it worked, but he got close enough in the draft to look at going to Canada."

"Gaa. Really?" Alex fake-shivered. "I'd do it too."

Bullet shock
Throbbing meat

A few days earlier, Greg and I took Alex to Princeton to meet with a sports recruiter, and now I was taking Alex back to the airport to return to Florence.

I sat across from Alex in McDonalds on 207th, watching him scarf down the greasy McMuffin, and talked about the Vietnam war and the draft, and thought about how taking him to Princeton had been similar to shipping kids off to Vietnam. Unfamiliar planes, unfamiliar trains, transfers, stations, dressing up and passing inspection. A kid from Alabama, his bag beside him, his head shorn, full of hopes given to him by elders and dreams he got on his own.

Electronic data processing
Black uniforms
Bare feet, carbines
Mail-order rifles
Shoot the muscles
256 Viet Cong captured
256 Viet Cong captured

I'd taken Alex to see 'Hair,' because I wanted him to get that his life was his own. I took him to Princeton because we're both from Alabama, and that seems like the thing to do.

Prisoners in Niggertown
It's a dirty little war
Three Five Zero Zero

As he stuffed the egg McMuffin into his face, I told Alex that our uncle Jimmy had gone to Vietnam, and that the war defined him. We used the same language about Vietnam that the recruiter had used about Princeton. That I imagine coaches use about football. That Dad uses about Alex cleaning his room. The language of pretending to get things done when there's nothing really to be done.

"I'd've gone to Canada," Alex said.

Take weapons up and begin to kill
Watch the long long armies drifting home

His head is already shaved, and he's the right age for the draft. I know the military is interested--or was, until November, interested-- in building up the ranks. I want him to go to Princeton, the government wants him to go to war, and I've no idea what Alex wants. But he's still amazed by scrims, and moons projected on scrims, and, you know. Whatever. He wants something too. I hope he can get it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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