Thursday, August 20, 2009

GOING HOME by Bobby Barresi

I promised myself to keep away from this topic, but I constantly lie to myself, it’s easy, like Little Feat sang in Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, “Momma said keep away.”

Going home from Vietnam the second time was a bitch. But going home the first time was a friggin’ adventure!

June 1968, the Tet Offensive was in my rear view mirror, the “post mortar attack confession” to the Chaplain was now becoming a “story.” I decided, somewhere flying over the international dateline that I got 30 days at my disposal before returning to Battery B, 71st Air Defense Artillery, the jewel of the 97th Artillery Group attached to the Americal Division, aka the 23rd Infantry Division from the people who brought you the “Mi Lai Massacre” but don’t fuckin’ blame me. Bobby was in Singapore on R&R #2 with Miss Nancy Keong. Ask Paulie Glass. We were both spending our five-day rest and recreation in the humid, Britishy, too-close-to-the-equator paradise…

So the genius decides to visit Joyce Altman in St. Paul before flying home to Mom and Dad in Brooklyn, also the Deer Head Bar and Grill and the stickball games in the schoolyard et al.

The orange-colored Braniff Freedom Bird lands in Oakland. I get processed out quick because I’m just visiting America. Much head-scratching. Put on my newly starched khakis replete with the current insignias and flashy ribbons, polished shoes – “Sorry, Sergeant Kennedy, you can’t see your face in them,” – and on to the Aerodrome I go. Only I left here in June 1967, and now it’s Oakland 1968… WHOA!! Momma, what the fuck?

Heckle, heckle, little scumbag baby killer, how many kids you kill yesterday, GI? Yikes! We gotta get outta this place if it’s the last thing I ever do. It’s 12 o’clock and it’s time for lunch so into the men’s room I creep. Thankfully, I had my civies from R&R in my sand-stained duffel bag. Off with the military khakis. On with the paisley cotton button-down and khaki chino slacks. Only the military black shoes could be a giveaway, but it was a chance I needed to take.

I stuffed my duffel into one of those airport lockers, 25 cents I think, bought a pack of Tareytown filters and one pack of Camels, just in case. I needed to look cool for Choice Joyce. Oh, did I mention she sent me a Dear John in March of ’68? Like just after the fuckin’ Tet? Yes, she did. Said she was with child and would I please send her some money to help bring little what’s-his-name into a better life. Later, after much beer, Doyle explained to me that if I sent her money that I was the asshole of the decade. Greeno seconded it, and Monk explained that “you white ofay motherfuckers aint got no soul.”

So I wrote back that I aint sending her no money. A week or so later THE NON-SCENTED, NO S.W.A.K. ENVELOPE ARRIVES.

Back to the cab ride to Dupont Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota. I get out in front of her old apartment. Hot day. June in Minnesota. All the snow is thankfully gone. A lot of gopher holes in the fields. But this part of St. Paul is metropolitan, near all the right stuff. Up the wooden steps. Nice memories here. Beer, cigarettes, Burger King Whoppers, Pete’s 1965 Mustang. Pete, Becky, Joyce, me…

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange ya glad ta see me? The door opens and I’m looking at a much younger version of Joyce. It’s her younger sister. I cannot remember her name, but as she finished up cleaning the dishes I question her about Joyce.

“She’s at work. Be home about 6,” she says.

“Oh,” is my reply. “Did she have the baby?” I ask.


“Uh, like, where is the baby?”

“Well, Joyce gave him up for adoption to the convent down the street.” (In Minnesota they say “down the street.” In Brooklyn it’s “down the block.” Nevertheless…)

“Can you please take me to the convent?”

“Of course, Bobby. Joyce told me all about you.”

UMMM? What could that devil woman from hell have told her baby sister that might even remotely have a friggin’ amoeba-length of truth about me? UMMM?

What a beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed little Norwegian looking bambino he was. I did the math. June 1967. June 1968. No way, José. Not mine. But……………