Talented friends edition.
- My friend Adam Wahlberg has a nice piece in our alumni magazine about a panhandler, a statue, and a soul-searching moment. It's specific to Adam but universal. We've all been there on that curb. Somehow Adam also rates a Barry Blitt illustration? Not just that: he gets drawn by Barry Blitt? Was Blitt an alumnus? A Hubert Humphrey fan? Excerpt:
I stand on the curb a long moment, wondering when and how I became this guy. I shoot a glance across the rail line to Minneapolis City Hall. Hubert Humphrey is looking right at me. ...
I’m 41. Humphrey (B.S. ’39) was heading back to the U.S. Senate by the time I was born. Before that he was mayor of Minneapolis, a U.S. senator, vice president under Lyndon Johnson, and then the Democratic candidate for president. He died when I was in grade school. I never met him, voted for him, heard him speak, or experienced him in any firsthand way. But I’ve always been inspired by images of him. It’s the smiling thing. He’s always beaming in photos, especially when surrounded by throngs of people. The Happy Warrior. With how polarized the discourse has become, are people even allowed to be happy in politics these days? We have a comedian in the Senate right now who has barely cracked a smile in two years.
- Minnesota's newly conservative legislature, at odds with any notions of Minnesota Nice, not to mention 20th century progress, are wasting everyone's time by attempting to ban gay marriage in the state. My friend Jim Walsh, in the pages of Southwest Journal, penned this take on his first birds-and-the-bees lesson, an adolescent run-in with (and run from) reactionary forces, a middle-aged f-u to those guys and that moment, and a parting kiss:
Which was somewhat comforting, a subtle reminder in these times of scarlet letters, sexual suspects, and same-sex lynchings: No matter what laws go on the books, no matter how hateful the ignorance, people will find good love and good sex with whomever or whatever they please.
Because it feels good.
- Finally, one of Adam's best friends, and someone who's written for me in the past, Martin Kuz, is now working for Stars and Stripes and is stationed in Afghanistan. His first pieces came out this month. One is about “harrassing fire” in the remote region of Kor Jalal. The other is on the difficulty of being both soldier and ambassador in this remote region:
For now, the obligation to safeguard the remote southern reaches of Logar province — an area of eastern Afghanistan that troops dub “the frontier” for its sand-swept landscape and sparse population — falls mostly to the Company D platoon, deployed here since October. They have taken fire on at least 60 occasions from insurgents who typically strike from no closer than a half-mile away, hiding amid the clefts and caves of the surrounding mountains. “We never see them,” said Pfc. Joseph Tichacek, a radio technician. “You see muzzle flashes, but that’s about it" ...
Even nine years into this conflict, Beck recalls that early in the deployment some villagers saw U.S. troops and thought the Russian army had returned. “Closer to Kabul, people have more of an understanding of the world,” Beck said. “Out here, they just want to be left alone. But the Taliban isn’t going to leave them alone.”
Smile while you can, love whom you can, keep your head low.
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