In 1951 my father shipped out from Mare Island. In Korea, at the age of 23, Second Lieutenant Vernon Judt was assigned to a Battalion Aid station. My father only ever told me two stories about the war. One, “When I first went over, when it was quiet, the doc and I would put an inch of whiskey in our canteen cups then fill it with water. By the end we would fill them with whiskey, no water.” The other was darker and more suggestive than inclusive with detail. “Some nights there would be so many wounded that the Doc could not handle them all. On those nights I would have to triage. Some, the ones you knew would not make it, I would give extra morphine to them and tell them that everything would be okay.”
I cannot imagine how a 23 year old, who slept in a bunker of sandbags mere feet, sometimes, from the front line, was able to make, let alone handle such life and death decisions. My father earned a promotion to First Lieutenant and the Bronze Star for service in a combat zone. The more I know of life and the world, the more I come to respect my father. I think of him often but it was especially nice to remember him this last weekend.
The United States has a varied and storied past when it comes to war. While I sometimes do not agree with the reasons we send our young into harm’s way I do very much understand the need for a strong military. “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm,” wrote Richard Grenier in a Washington Times article in 1993.These men and women, some who have given their full measure of devotion to our country, should be remembered, nay, must be remembered. Remembered not only for their sacrifice but for the legacy they left behind and that which many still stand for: The protection of our Constitution. From which I find the most important passage to be “. . . Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This weekend I did just that, to honor my father and all those who have served to protect a way of life, I sought happiness in the company of my friends. It was a bit of a whirlwind weekend for me, and since I promised to review the best food in Vallejo I will not leave you up short. I did have some of the best food in Vallejo this last weekend. All of it lovingly prepared by my friends. My socializing began on Sunday when my new friend Diana Lang invited me to a backyard potluck with a few of her V-Town Regulars. I just love it when my friends choose to open their homes and their pantries. The food was just lovely. Diana made spicy shrimps, which I inhaled, my contribution was a plateful of Bahn Mi bites, while our hosts, Mike and Kristin, served a lovely Gaspacho alongside a conversation starting Rum Punch, the punch, I assure you, was as tasty and it was effective. I sadly admit that after my first cup of wine and a refill of rum punch I remember little but the conversation. That I found to be light, warm and intelligent. Having another stop to make I thanked my hosts, bid my new friends adieu and headed off to the land of smoked tri tip. My neighbors Shawn and Shelby, whom I adore, invited me over, plied me with wine, barbecue and sage love advice. We laughed, were somber and were very glad we that had spent another Sunday evening together.
Monday, the actual day of remembrance, found me again in the company of friends, the original V-Town Social Club. The founding members include Darren and Andre’, Michel and Cande, myself, Tim and the lovely and charming Mary Patrick, who to all us men is the center of the universe. It was at her suggestion that we picnic at a place both unique and special. Unique, in that other than the 4 other people who picnicked there, the place was empty. Special, because we had the most amazing view of the Carquinez Strait, San Pablo Bay and the bridge. Potluck was the theme. This time I shared pate’, cheese, pickled vegetable and crusty bread. There was plenty of bbq chicken along with a selection salads, with a bit of salted caramel chocolate for dessert. After lunch we entered into a not-so-sobrietous game of Cards Against Humanity. Hilarity ensued, followed with crying peals of laughter. Salty eyed and sated we packed up and left our private spot at the rocky shores of the Cal Maritime Academy. Yes, you can actually go down and enjoy the bay shore there. Two things of note: they do have their own police department and please, be gentle guests when visiting there.
During WWII, it is often reported that Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding to support the war effort. To which he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?” The brave men and women who serve in our armed forces stand ready to do violence on our behalf so that we may continue to enjoy our way of life. In V-Town, my favorite way of life is to share food, liquor, time and myself with my friends, both new and founding. To you, the friends whom I have yet to meet, I look forward to our potlucks and picnics. May they be salty eyed and not-so-sobrietous.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often