.At the wedding of my nephew’s daughter
Ready for a snooze
Toritto in Asmara, Eritrea – 1965
Next week, on the 18th of November, it will be 56 years since I enlisted in the Army.
Why did I enlist? Well I was a high school graduate working in a bank for over four years and not making enough money to live on my own. I was 21 and was still largely supported by my father, He had an 8th grade education and was getting to that point in his life when he couldn’t do unskilled construction work anymore. I needed to lessen his burden.
I had graduated high school at 16 (I skipped the entire 8th grade – clever boy) on a Thuraday and went to work full time on Monday in the mailroom of the First National City Bank of New York.
I joined up for 4 years. I wanted to serve in the Army Security Agency which was involved in signal intelligence, reporting to the National Security Agency. Most of the first year would be involved in training.
I had a girl at the time and we knew we were going to marry eventually. She had just turned 18 so there was no hurry. There was however the matter of conscription. I received my draft card when I turned 18 and it was just a matter of time before a poor kid living on the outskirts of Coney Island was called up.
I was not attending college full time; there was no money for that. National Guard and reserve units were completely filled with the sons of the well to do and were impossible to get into. So there would be no deferment for me – unless of course I failed the physical.
I went into the army 4 days before President Kennedy was murdered. By Christmas she and I decided not to wait. She married Private Toritto.
Nine months later I was on the horn of Africa.
So on the 17th of November 1963 there was a “going away” party at my home. Previously there had been one at the bank. My buddies got to say grown up farewells. At my home my brother and my future wife got roaring drunk, my bro decorating the shrubs outside the house. My girl was put to bed by my mom until she recovered sufficiently for me to take her home.
The Army Induction Center – Whitehall Street
Next day I reported to the Army Induction Center on Whitehall Street in Manhattan, just a block from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. JoAnn would take a job just steps from the building while I was in Africa.
I am going to take my physical. I’m 5′ 7″ tall in shoes; had a 29 inch waist and weighed maybe 125 lbs. back then and was blind as the proverbial bat without my glasses. I could barely see the biggest letter on the top of the eye chart. I was a fine physical specimen indeed.
I join the long line of young men which included those like me who had enlisted for whatever reasons and those who had been called up and had no desire to become soldiers. So we are all standing in our “tighty whities” – skinny guys, fat guys, muscular guys, guys with tats.
Directly behind me is the biggest, most muscular black guy I have ever laid eyes on. I took a quick look and estimated he was about 6 feet tall, a good 5 or 6 inches taller than I and weighed maybe 200 lbs. This guy just towered over me and was rippling with muscle. He made everyone in the line look like milquetoasts. He and I standing together was a study in contrast and good for a laugh.
So there we all were, moving through the various rooms with different doctors checking us out. Height. Weight. Nose. Throat. Heart. Lungs. Eyesight. Mental fitness. Feet. “Can you read? Are you homosexual?”
Then of course your “junk” was inspected – for hernias. “Turn your head left. Cough. Right. Cough. Next!”
If you had 20/20 vision with your glasses on, you passed. If you were fat, you passed. The Army in its wisdom would place you in a “fat platoon” to diet, exercise and lose the weight. If you could read a stop sign you passed.
Lots of guys who didn’t want to go had notes from their doctors. Hernias. Bone spurs. A touch of asthma. Few were classified 4-F or physically unfit. The Army needed men.
And so we moved down the line to the foot inspection. I passed. I was in.
The examining doctor spent some time with the huge black guy behind me. Surely he had the makings of a soldier much more than I. He was big and he was fit. He was a poor black guy who had been conscripted. He would go.
He was rejected. Flat feet.
What! How could you take skinny guys, fat guys, guys who can’t see 10 feet without glasses and reject him!
He patted me on the shoulder and smiled.
He was Emerson Boozer, running back for the New York Jets who would be there for Joe Namath’s Jets victory in the Super Bowl over the Baltimore Colts – the first victory for the American Football League. He wasn’t going in the Army. He would be a pro football running back for more than a decade, be inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor, help win a Super Bowl – but his feet weren’t good enough for the Army.
He was nice but he wasn’t drafted. I was learning how the world worked.
Emerson Boozer left and I was sworn it, put on a bus to Fort Dix New Jersey and assigned to Company O of the 3rd Training Brigade. Our barracks were left over from World War II and had two coal stoves for heat. Every night in those buildings someone was standing “fire watch.”
Before bed we were inoculated against every disease known to man – all in one shot. We were all sick as dogs at 5 A.M when rousted from our beds for P.T. (running around the quadrangle), then breakfast. Fat boys went to the fat platoon and got special low calorie meals. Then it was off for uniforms and standard Army gear.
The first days included classes on military regulations and discipline, learning to line up, roll calls, marching, policing the area, physical training. On my 4th day while listening to a Chaplain drone on about morals it was announced that the President had been shot.
I put on some muscle during those days. Learned to be a bit of a marksman with a rifle. Spent time in the snow and cold. Got bronchitis. Spent a few days in the hospital. Got a nice rousing cheer from my platoon when I got back.
My parents and my girl visited occasionally on weekends. Other nights I would sneak out after bed check, hustle across an open field to a bank of telephones and call JoAnn. We spent one night in a local motel together and I had to sneak back to the barracks before dawn.
My dad came to pick me up for ten days Christmas leave; he filled up the car with other guys heading for New York City, dropping them off at bus or subway stations in the city before we headed home.
I would marry within the week.
I had no bone spurs nor did I play pro football.
Kyrsten and Coal Joe
Well Senator Joe Manchin of the great state of West Virginia spoke today.
You all know old Joe by now. He has single handedly held up President Biden’s economic agenda. With a 50/50 split in the Senate between Dems and the GOP , his vote is necessary to pass the President’s social legislative package.
Passing it is vital. Failure will only indicate that Dems really can’t get anything done and would probably be catastrophic to their chances in the mid-term elections next year. Failure could be the ruin of the Biden Presidency and would do more to bolster the return of Trump than anything I know.
Well since Joe has become the necessary lever to push he has become a prima donna. He’s enjoying the spot light and sees the opportunity to delay and deny to get what he wants. The party be damned. He cares not that he is the only significant vote out of 50 holding things up. If he gives his support, Kyrsten Sinema, a new Senator facing election next year probably will to.
Joe wouldn’t agree to any paid family leave, even after it was cut from 3 months to 4 weeks. I guess West Virginia’s women simply birth their babies, get out of bed and go back to work. Or they are all so financially well off that they can afford to simply stay home without pay.
So paid family leave was completely stripped from the bill leaving America the only country in the western world without it. Thanks to Joe.
He also opposed the child tax credit cutting it from 5 years to one, which still did not get his commitment to support the bill. He opposed the expansion of Medicare to cover dental and vision care. Even with a cap on annual amounts. Joe thinks it fiscally irresponsible. Buy your own false teeth. I had to. Two thousand bucks.
Finally Joe railed against any assault on the fossil fuel industry.
Why? “Coal” Joe is from West Virginia and wants to save those fine coal mining black lung jobs back home.
Besides, he has large investments in fossil fuels and big donors in coal and oil who contribute big bucks to keep him right where he is.
Doing Mitch McConnell’s work for him. Mitch is laughing his ass off while Joe spouts tripe about “bipartisanship.”
Manchin also was instrumental in killing the possibility of lowering prescription drug prices and the billionaire’s tax. Fiscally irresponsible.
Its time to stop characterizing Joe Manchin as a “moderate” Democrat. Bull shit. nd I don’t have a clue as to exactly how he represents the people of his state; a state in the lower 10% in just about every measure.
In today’s remarks Coal Joe mentioned something he wants. He wants House progressives to vote for the hard infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate. House progressives have refused unless Joe commits to supporting the social spending bill. They have slashed the social spending bill by trillions and have given up a lot while Joe has given up nothing. So progressives are holding the hard infrastructure bill hostage.
So today Coal Joe fiercely criticized House progressives for refusing to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the social reconciliation package moves forward.
“The political games have to stop,” the Democratic senator said. “Holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.”
Of course, Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the other key Democratic holdout in the Senate, have used their two votes to demand and get drastic cuts to the reconciliation package and are now refusing to endorse the framework for the smaller bill.
So one could make the argument that the “political games” are not restricted to the progressive wing of the Democratic party.
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are two of the most selfish senators I’ve seen since the Eisenhower administration. For months, these two have bullied the White House and progressive Democrats into bending to their will. Key liberal priorities such as paid family leave and medical leave and measures to reduce prescription drug costs, provide two years of free community college and repeal key elements of the Trump tax cuts have been jettisoned. The total cost of the bill has been cut in half — from $3.5 trillion to around $1.75 trillion — all to satisfy Manchin’s and Sinema’s demands.
And still they will not commit.
He has also made it clear he will not support a carve out in the filibuster rule to pass voting rights legislation. He is after all for “bipartisanship” and “compromise” even thought there is not one Republican vote supporting voting rights legislation. Republican activities to repress the right to vote are the reasons we need the legislation in the first place.
If the Dems can’t get this passed Manchin should be stripped of his Committee assignments and drummed out of the party. Sinima should face a well financed primary challenger next year. She has betrayed the progressives of Arizona who sent her to office.
I will contribute to her challenger’s campaign.
As for Coal Joe, if he doesn’t vote for the bill we have no need of him and are no worse without him. He is making it impossible to govern anyway. His actions are only helping Trump.