Monday, March 30, 2015

pooling my memories

When I was stationed in central California at Castle Air Force Base in the early 1970s, I had a friend from South Dakota.  He had great fun calling his younger brother in Huron to taunt him with the news that he had just returned from swimming with a group of friends at my apartment pool.  In March.

Of course, his brother did not believe him.  After all, in March, there was still snow on he ground in South Dakota.

Well, it is March here in Barra de Navidad, and I have been having great fun using the pool at my house.  It is not only an architectural gem, it is very functional.

Today I slipped into it and spent a couple of hours reading Erik Larson's most recent release on my Kindle.  Dead Wake.  A re-telling of the sinking of the Lusitania almost exactly 100 years ago.

Some of Larson's recent book have been rather uneven and indifferent.  Not so this book.

I thought I knew a lot about the Lusitania, its sinking, and the propaganda machine that it provided the British to suck America into a war where America had no interests at stake.  But, I was wrong. 

Larson has a knack for personalizing his tales.  As we get to know his characters better, we start feeling like an observer in a story that we know will not end well.  And we care about them.  Even when the events are a century old.

This is Larson's World War One book.  I suspect he may have others in him.  By slicing out a cross-section of a short time period in that conflict, he has provided a valuable assessment for his readers to re-think some of our assumptions about one of the silliest and most horrific wars of the last century.

Almost all of us know how the deaths on the Titanic caused safety standards to change on cruise ships.  But three years later, the life boats on the Lusitania proved that hope and change are often hollow dreams.  Twenty-two boats -- of which six were launched before the ship sank.

I am not certain the book was a wise choice for me.  In just over three weeks, I will be boarding a cruise ship in Red China.  Threats from German U-boats and rogue icebergs are improbable. 

But it does not mean that cruise ships do not have deadly incidents.  The 2012 sinking of the Costa Concordia with its 32 deaths is a reminder that what man can float, nature can sink.

The nice thing is that an incident on this particular cruise is about as likely as me writing in Putin's name on my 2016 presidential ballot.

Read the Larson book.  Go swimming.  Take a cruise.

Life is too short to not build up some good memories for those lonely days in the nursing home.

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