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Category Archives: 1940′s
Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
I was trying for the past few days to think of a modern ethnic analogy to Jews, searching my mind for something to compare Israel to in modern and less-modern times.
Finally it dawned on me. The Irish and the Jews have a surprising similarity in history. Pre-diaspora Jews revolted, revolted, revolted against the Roman Empire occupation. And for 500 years the Irish revolted, revolted, revolted against the British depredations of Ireland.
Both groups have profound ethnic identification, geographic identification with ‘homeland’, and conspicuous religious doctrinal loyalty. Both groups have been reduced by starvation, by ethnic bigotry from ruling governments, by slaughter. Both have been endlessly persecuted by those with the power to persecute them.
For 500 years the British did everything a civilized power could do to empty Ireland of Irish and for 2000 years the European states and Russia did everything they could do to rid themselves of Jews.
All that ended with the Irish independence resulting from the last revolt in 1922, and the creation of the State of Israel following WWII.
During the decades following independence Ireland flourished for the first time in its history. Became, over the decades, the seventh most developed country in the world and among the wealthiest in GDP. Probably the most peace-loving country in the modern world in the 5/6th of the island where British no longer rule.
Israel flourished, too, though it couldn’t be accused of being peace-loving. Almost every moment of Israeli history includes brink-of-war scenarios. The early 20th Century British clich’e, “The Irish brought most of their troubles on themselves,” found its way into Israeli explanations of their difficulties with their own Irish/British analogy.
In view of the similarities that contrast between warlike and peace-loving is surprising. Rhymes more with relations in Northern Ireland and with the British. Religious partisans might suggest it’s the difference between the Old Jehovah and the New Jehovah. But history argues otherwise.
Seems a lot more likely that, while Ireland is strictly neutral, Northern Ireland is still aligned with the British and by extension, the US. So is Israel. And while Ireland is finally completely free of British oppression, Northern Ireland isn’t, and by contrast adopted something akin to Zionism in an attempt to rid itself of Britain and the British.
Terrorism, intimidation and threats. All the usual suspects from the bad old days. Jews and Irish. Israel and Northern Ireland.
Something to ponder.
Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
Tom, the retired USAF colonel who occupied the office next to me in the bomb shelter of the old National Guard HQ in Santa Fe, NM, should have known a lot about radioactivity. He spent the entire Cuban Missile Crisis camped under the wing of his B-47 bomber. Had all kinds of tales about the flight maneuvers a pilot had to perform to drop a hydrogen bomb and come away in one piece.
The New Mexico Emergency Planning and Management Bureau [EMPAC] was all housed in that bomb shelter. Most of the section chiefs were retired colonels, except my humble self, and Louis, head of Radiation Control. When nothing was going on there’d always be a few of us gathered in one office or another telling and listening to interesting experiences in our varied pasts.
So when Tom found his travel schedule was going to coincide with the one-day-per-year the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was detonated allowed visitors, we all envied him. He was gone a week travelling all over the State, and a few days after he returned several of us gathered in his office to hear all about it.
Naturally there’d been a nice dog and pony show at an old ranch house from the time a mile or so away, now converted to oversight center. Then, off to ground zero.
Tom described how it was all bare sand and soil, how they’d scraped away all the green glass that used to cover the spot. How visitors were warned not to pick up any of that green glass if they should find a piece.
So when his glance downward showed him a piece of that green glass peeking out of the sand near his foot, of course he had to tie his shoe. Slipped it into his pocket. Gave us all a sly smile when he pulled it out and held it in his palm.
Wow! A piece of green glass from the first nuclear detonation on earth! We all wanted to hold it. Passed it around, all except Louis. Our Rad Control section head. He stepped back a pace when his turn came to hold it.
“I’d like to put an instrument on that.” Louis had access to plenty of instruments, had more than a thousand of them spotted all over New Mexico. Part of the mission of his section was going around changing the batteries on those Geiger Counters regularly.
He was out the door and back while the rest of us waited in mild curiosity. The glass was back on Tom’s desk and Louis clicked the power switch. Didn’t actually have to get too near with the probe to peg the needle. Didn’t have to put on the headset to hear the buzz. We all heard it.
Louis had a straight shot at the doorway and he was first out. Followed closely by everyone but Tom. He just sat staring at that piece of green glass. Probably wondering what the hell to do with it.
I’ve always wanted to visit the Trinity Site, but I never got around to it. Even when I was living several years just up the road from it.
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
My friend Rich was telling me on the phone yesterday the “Hey! Looky over there!” technique for dealing with nuclear meltdowns is coming apart at the seams:
“We are very sorry for causing concerns. We have made efforts not to cause any leak to the outside, but we might have failed to do so,” he said.
Ono said the radioactive elements detected in water samples are believed to largely come from initial leaks that have remained since earlier in the crisis. He said the leak has stayed near the plant inside the bay, and officials believe very little has spread further into the Pacific Ocean.
Marine biologists have warned that the radioactive water may be leaking continuously into the sea from the underground, citing high radioactivity in fish samples taken near the plant.
Most fish and seafood from along the Fukushima coast are barred from domestic markets and exports.”
Other articles are finally describing the levels of radioactivity in the steam one of the plants has been producing since the day one. Luckily for Japan the prevailing winds will mostly take that cesium and whatnot into US and Canadian waters and over Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. And the radioactive fish migrations down the California and Mexican coasts.
Got me thinking about the US love affair with Japan that’s been sneaking off to cheap motels and consumating itself in the back seats of limosines for the past half-century following their enthusiastic surrender.
Which got me thinking about love affairs in general, and how they tend to end. [So Long, and Thanks for all the Valentines http://sofarfromheaven.com/romance/] That’s the source for the ‘little Japanese’ thing.
A few years ago there was a big flap about whether one of the US presidents ought to apologize to Japan for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasakaki. The logic being that Japan wasn’t quite ready to surrender yet, and that dropping those bombs forced them to quit fighting prematurely. I don’t know whether one of the US Chief Executives apologized, or didn’t.
But that’s the sort of thing happens all the time in love affairs when they begin going stale. Next thing you know something else will come along to stale things some more. Such as the Japanese sending cesium into the sky so’s the wind can take it to Seattle and Portland.
Japan, of course, could send us a lot of valentines or roses to make things better, maybe. Or maybe they could just admit what they’re doing and apologize. They could actually say, “Hey! Lookee over here! We shore could use a little help, advice and friendly ideas. From anyone who has some. We loves you Americans and everything else being equal, like you better not glowing in the dark.”
Or maybe it’s just time to lay aside that romance and tell the Japanese, “So long and thanks for all the valentines.“
Last night I came across a thrift store book I’d never gotten around to reading. One of those ‘last resort’ books set aside again and again. A backup for a time when I would be desperate for anything besides the labels on sardine cans.
But as I thumbed through it I was abruptly captured. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace, by Le Ly Hayslip.
Here’s a woman born in 1949 in a Vietcong controlled village near Danang where her family’s spent the previous generations fighting, first the French, then the Japanese, then the French again. As a small child she watches relatives and neighbors in her village raped and slaughtered by French mercenaries. Then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Ly_Hayslip
“Hayslip was born in Ky La, now Xa Hao Qui, a small town in central Vietnam just south of Da Nang. She was the sixth and youngest child born to farmers. American helicopters landed in her village when she was 12 years old. At the age of 14, she endured torture in a South Vietnamese government prison for “revolutionary sympathies”. After being released, she had fallen under suspicion of being a government spy, and was sentenced to death but instead raped by two Viet Cong soldiers.
“She fled to Saigon, where she and her mother worked as housekeepers for a wealthy Vietnamese family, but this position ended after Hayslip’s affair with her employer and subsequent pregnancy. Hayslip and her mother fled to Da Nang. During this time, Hayslip supported both her mother and an infant son, Hung (whom she would later rename Jimmy), while unmarried and working in the black market, as an occasional drug courier and, once, as a prostitute.
“She worked for a short period of time as a nurse assistant in a Da Nang hospital and began dating Americans. She had several disastrous, heartbreaking affairs before meeting and marrying an American civilian contractor named Ed Munro in 1969. Although he was more than twice her age, she had another son with him, Thomas. The following year Hayslip moved to San Diego, California, to join him, and briefly supported her family as a homemaker. In 1973, he died of emphysema, leaving Le Ly a widow at age 24.
“In 1974 she married Dennis Hayslip. Her second marriage, however, was not a happy one. Dennis was a heavy drinker, clinically depressed and full of rage. Her third and youngest son, Alan, was fathered by Dennis and born on her 26th birthday. The couple filed for divorce in 1982 after Dennis committed domestic violence. Shortly thereafter, he was found dead in a parked van outside a school building. He had established a trust fund, however, that left his wife with some money, and he had insurance that paid off the mortgage of the house.”
So here’s a woman, a real, no-shit Vietcong, tortured by the South Vietnamese, suspected of being a traitor by the Vietcong and sentenced to death, raped and escaped. Married a US civilian and became a US citizen.
Probably a person couldn’t be more caught-in-between from birth than she was. Surrounded by hundreds, thousands of other peasants caught in-between. Trying to dodge the steamrollers of forces they didn’t understand, South Vietnamese and US rifles pointed at them daytimes, Vietcong rifles pointed at them nights.
Yep, this lady is one of the people the guys with Vietnam Veteran caps walking around mining for praise and ‘Thank you,” spent their tours in Vietnam trying to kill.
Damned book ought to be required reading for anyone buying a SUPPORT OUR TROOPS sticker. Because at a foundation level, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS isn’t about the troops. It’s about people who are being defined as ‘the enemy’ those troops are going to do everything in their power to ruin the lives of.
People in US government who couldn’t locate the place on the map defining one side as ‘the enemy’ and the other side as ‘friends’.
Grandkid: Granpaw, what did you do in the Vietnam War?
Old Vet: I helped Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon kill a lot of people who didn’t need killing, helped destroy a country that didn’t need destroying, helped get a lot of GIs killed and maimed in the process. And I’m damned proud I did.
Grandkid: Oh wow! Thank you Grandpaw!
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
I wrote this post a year-or-two ago, but never posted it because it was overly long. But because the nightmare post below seems to lead here, and the only news I have is Tabby-news, I’ll post it despite the length.
The Runaways 1947
Causey, New Mexico, was a dot in the road. Pavement from nowhere to nowhere running between a scattering of frame houses, a small roadside store and gas station. A rock schoolhouse, a church, and a few rusting hulks of worn out farm machinery in the weeds.
Our cottage was on the same side of the road as the schoolhouse. Most of the village was on the other side, including the windmill across the road from our house where my sister and I went for water and carrying the bucket between us to tote it home.
To my tiny, four-year-old mind, the center of town was the store, diagonally across the road, to the left of the windmill. Everything of importance happened there. Cars from other places stopped for gas. The store had Milk Nickles. Ice cream on a stick, covered with chocolate. Pure heaven that didn’t come often.
If the store was heaven, behind our house was hell. The toilet. A ramshackle tower with dust flecks floating in the shafts of light that came through the cracks between the boards, light coming through underneath where the ground had caved away from the wall. Home of black widow spiders and the occasional rattlesnake. The place was a chamber of terrors for me. I was always certain I’d fall through the hole to the horrors beneath when I used it.
Our little cottage had two rooms. A sort of kitchen, living area in front also had a little counter where my mom tried to operate a little variety store. Keychains, trinkets, a handkerchief or two. Things that wouldn’t be found across the street at the store.
She was also a seamstress. Most of my memories of that time include her huddled over a treddle sewing machine working on the felt curtains she was making for the stage of the school auditorium. Mom was a woman twice divorced. In 1947, that was no small thing. In that time and place broken marriage was considered to be the fault of an untrained, unskilled, unwise, probably immoral woman. Two divorces, three children, and no resources made my mother the subject of mistrust by the woman of the community, and disdain by the men.
Memories have probably faded and altered with the half century since all this happened. The perspectives of a child plagued with fears and insecurities seem real in my recollections, but they, too, have probably been twisted with the turns and circles the planet has made around the sun; with the endless webs of human interactions, relationships formed and ended.
My sisters went to school in that village. Frances, my sister who died a few years ago, must have been in the second grade. Becky, maybe in the 5th. I hung around doing whatever preschoolers do in that environment when everyone else is busy. I have flashing memories of standing by the road throwing rocks at cars; trying to get the little girl down the road to show me her ‘wet-thing’.
I remember being lonely; of wishing aloud my mom would give me a little brother to play with. “I wish I could,” she’d reply, “but you tore me up so much when you were born, I can’t have any more kids.”
That trauma of my birth was a favorite theme of my mom. She was fond of telling me how the doctors were long arriving when I was ready to be born; how a nurse and my dad held her legs down so I couldn’t emerge until the proper people were there. How it damaged her insides and caused her to have to undergo all kinds of surgery later.
I recall I felt pretty badly about that.
During harvest season it seemed to me the entire community turned out to work in the fields. We’d all gather in the pre-dawn at the store, then ride together to the cotton fields in the back of an open truck. Mom and the girls were all there, along with the neighbors and some of their kids. Two of the kids were about my age: Wayne and Sharon Landrum.
In retrospect I doubt we pre-schoolers helped much. My mom had put a strap on a pillowcase and promised a Milk-Nickle every time it was filled. This was probably more to keep me busy and out of trouble than it was to pay for the ice cream bar. I can’t imagine that a pillowcase would have held the ten pounds of cotton it would have taken to pay a nickle.
The lure of sweets weren’t sufficient to occupy smaller kids, I suppose. There came a time when Wayne, Sharon, and I wandered off from the field. At first it was just to take a walk, but the road was long and we must have made some turns. Before too long we’d gotten so far from the farm we didn’t know the way back. We were frightened and kept moving.
In the end we found the lights of a farmhouse sometime after dark. The family brought us inside and fed us something. We sat around a stove trying to keep warm until some of the searchers came and picked us up.
In the morning at the store all those field workers who’d had to lose part of a day of wages wanted vivid descriptions of the spankings we got. They wanted to make sure.
That was my first experience with running away, at least on my own part. My mom had done some of it, running away from my dad and her second husband. My dad had done some of it, letting his kids go off, first to Arizona into the shelter of a brutal, drunken step-dad, then into the shack in Causey.
Afterthought, July 9, 2013
Reading through it this morning I find it difficult to create a context for this anecdote that isn’t submerged and overwhelmed by 21st Century value judgements and popular perspectives created by generations of affluence and ease for the general population of the US.
This isn’t a tale of ‘oh shit, we had it hard’, ‘oh damn, life is sure tough’, whining and complaining or just bragging. It’s a statement of perspective. In 1947 things were a lot different in a lot of ways.
Every adult had been alive through the Great Depression. Hardship was no stranger to most of them, and the yardsticks for measuring hardship would have all placed what happened with our tiny family as ‘challenging’. Not easy, but certainly not ‘hard’.
What our little capsule of humanity went through wasn’t poverty. And what’s measured today as poverty sure as hell wouldn’t have qualified, by any standard that existed at that time. Compared to the conditions a huge part of humanity was enduring in 1947 we could as accurately been called wealthy, as poor.
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
Probably I was four years old, must have been 1947, I was a kid with a recurring nightmare. I was walking along a raised roadway with my mom, my granddad, and my two sisters. A deep gravel pit reached alongside the road and my feet slipped, I fell and began sliding into the pit screaming for help. None of them looked around, none paused, they all just kept walking and I kept sliding and screaming until I’d wake.
With all these decades of hindsight I find that dream of a four-year-old amazing. I had no business knowing that much about people, about life, about my particular gene-pool at that age.
At the time my mom was between marriages and we were living in Causey, New Mexico in a two-room shack with no running water, an outdoor toilet, maybe no electricity, though we might have had electricity. I can’t recall. My granddad’s presence in the area was the only thing to draw us there. My mom was doing anything, seamstress work, pulling cotton, trying to operate a miniscule variety store in the house to earn a living.
A deeply troubled young woman with three kids and almost certainly more nightmares of her own to keep her company than anyone purely needs. Her financial woes gradually improved when she married again, but my thought is her mental processes turned concurrently to lies and manipulation. Maybe they’d never been otherwise.
Such a woman! I don’t believe my sisters ever recovered from the experience of having her for a mother, of always being caught in the vice of ‘love your mother’ and that mother being a destructive, master manipulative sociopath. I believe I did recover, but it’s just me believing it. I do know that when she died a couple of years back and I heard the news I felt nothing but a sense of deep relief, of peace.
I suppose it was the neighbor got me thinking of this. He came down bringing a cup of expensive coffee before dusk. As we sat he told me about some trial in Florida of a man who killed someone who was beating him up in a parking lot. An angry tale of violence and racial politics and justice.
As he described it to me I remembered something else he’d told me a while back, off-hand and matter-of-fact, about how his father had murdered two, maybe three people he [the neighbor] knew of. One a whiskey salesman who didn’t get his purchases for the bar he operated delivered. Beat him to death on the sidewalk in front of his bar. Another salesman he beat badly might have lived, might have died. I can’t recall for certain because when I heard the story I was still digesting the first salesman.
The next homicide by his father he was sure of involved a Mexican [or at least a Hispanic] who did farm work. Evidently screwed up a switch on an irrigation pump. That night the neighbor says the father took his .22 pistol and went out somewhere. The next day the Mexican farm worker was found dead on the railroad tracks shot nine times with a .22, then run over by a train.
The jokes around town proclaimed it to be the most elaborate suicide ever.
When he told me this story it didn’t include any value judgements, no overtones, no repudiation, no anger of the sort contained in the story of the trial in Florida.
I suppose an infinite number of monkeys pounding an infinite number of typewriters will indeed eventually write the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as someone claimed. I’ve seen enough families and enough parenting this lifetime to accept that some families and some parenting must fall within the ‘normal’ part of the bell-shaped curve.
But to go a step further and suggest there’s enough ‘normal’ floating around among the father and mother components to celebrate seems to me to be a possible overstatement. I count myself lucky my nightmares were only my own. When Bobby Dylan’s song offered to let me be in his dream if I’d let him be in mine I was never tempted. Still ain’t.
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
I was thinking last night before I dozed off about what TV, movies and fiction have done for us that reality couldn’t. I concluded it all boils down to mythology and self definition. An attempt to bring little guys into a larger picture where, in fact, they don’t exist.
Consider this: Can you name a single person involved in the American Revolution below the rank of Colonel other than Paul Revere? Anyone between then and the War of 1812?
From then until the Mexican War you might recall Nat Turner and his brief slave rebellion, or Davy Crockett, Travis, Sam Houston, et al. The mountain men and the fur traders. Meriwether Lewis and Clark, the Kit Carsons, Bridgers, the Coulters and Joe Meeks. The wild and wooly.
And all the names from the lower paygrades you might recall from the Mexican War are there because they were colonels and higher during the Civil War.
Follow it right on through from then until the Wars and whatever else is happening today. Where the hell are the lower-paygrade heroes?
Well, the fact is, they were out there at the time. They were the outlaws, the killers, the people most successful at taking what didn’t belong to them away from the people it belonged to. The James Gang, the Daltons, Butch and Sundance, Billy the wossname, Kid, the Youngers. Buffalo Bill, wiping a species off the face of the continent so’s the trains wouldn’t be troubled by them and cow men could use the land for cows. Masterson, the Earps, Hickok. Steely-eyed killers.
The US needed the genre fiction, the film industry and television to clean up history. The country needed common people out there getting massacred by Apache, Lakota, Comanche, people with names. People below the rank of colonel with names that weren’t John Jacob Astor and weren’t just getting filthy rich and powerful from it all.
So you want the heroes of the west today? Well, there’s John Wayne. Henry Fonda. Steve McQueen. Jeff Chandler on the generic Indian side. Burt Lancaster. Gary Cooper.
All of whom also, by coincidence, became the heroes of all the other wars the US fought. Became the common men of history where none existed before. Winning the west from the people who owned it, whupping the Germans and Japanese, the Vietcong and NVA, the Chinese and North Koreans.
All those heroes, frequently below the paygrade of colonel, helping us to understand our great heritage. Because, after all, our heroes define us in ways we’d be too modest to define ourselves. Most of us ain’t all that successful at taking shit that doesn’t belong to us, individually.
At least those of us who never got higher than the rank of major. The aristocratic dynasties went to Washington but the heroes all came out of Hollywood.
Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
Driving to Kerrville yesterday my mind wandered to the uncle of my ex-wife. Uncle Ed. Interesting man.
He was on the staff of Douglas MacArthur during WWII and was one of the first group of people into Japan after they agreed to stop fighting. Stood on the USS Missouri while the documents were being signed by all the parties and served on MacArthur’s staff for a while when MacArthur was Supreme Commander of Allied Pacific Forces.
Uncle Ed had a lot to say about all that when he could find someone to listen. I listened a good bit.
Ed thought there were a lot of serious flaws in the Japanese surrender speeches and documents by the Emperor and the other high-ranking Japanese officials. Fact is, neither the Emperor, nor the high-underlings ever mentioned the word, surrender. Nothing in any of it contained anything suggestingJapanese Imperial behavior toward the conquered lands was reprehensible, no mention was made of the treatment of prisoners, the tortures, the slaughters.
In fact, the ‘surrender amounted to a Japanese admission they’d tried to do what they thought was best for Asia and Japan, and lacked the moxey to pull it off. The Emperor confirmed this as his view in a presentation to the Diet four days after the arrival of MacArthur onto Japanese soil. Immediately following the speech by the Emperor his uncle, Prince somebody-or-other went further and proclaimed Japanese behavior was no different from the behavior of other strong, modern nations. He pointed out they didn’t take Indochina from the Indochinese, but from the French, didn’t take Malaya from the Malayans, but from the British. And so on.
Maybe it’s actually no surprise the Mayor of Osaka made his statements recently that the ‘comfort girls’ they forced to serve their troops were just a necessary evil to keep up the morale.
Carolyn’s uncle Ed recalled the Japanese aristocracy was egalitarian in this regard. He smiled that within five days of the arrival of US troops in Yokohama they’d brought in hundreds of peasant girls to serve in brothels to keep up the morale of occupying US troops. The money from those whore houses, the supposed, was the first significant US currency to circulate in Japan after the war. A few hundred thousand GIs need a lot of comforting.
I don’t suppose there’s actually any reason the Japanese today should feel any shame and remorse for the actions of their grandfathers. Any acknowledgement. The fact is, Asia remembers for them, even though the US has forgotten. Of all the countries in the world in danger of flexing their military muscles, probably there’s not one with as many willing hands on whatever it would take to stop them among their potential adversaries.
Digression: Aside from the deck of the USS Missouri and the whore houses, one of Ed’s most vivid recollections of immediate post-War Japan was that every civilian vehicle he saw ran on charcoal. Charcoal! Imagine that!
This is Monet George talking to you from KENM, Portales, New Mexico. The peanut basin of the nation. And we’ve got a little song here for you today.
The theme song for the station was “My Adobe Hacienda.”
Lord how I hated that song. They played it at every opportunity.
But they also loved, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People,” which didn’t exactly describe the local population except in fantasy.
Helped them feel better about themselves than they had any business doing.
“Doing What Comes Naturally” actually fit them better and, believe it or not, they liked that one, too.
I suppose “Buttons and Bows” would have resonated with any but the most stalwart souls in Portales, New Mexico, circa 1950-60, and it sure as hell got plenty of play.
Those were the days of “Knock knock” jokes, and the favorite joke around there was, “Knockknock.” “Who’s there?” “Kilroy” “Kilroy who?” “Kill Roy Rogers! I’m Gene Autry’s fan!”
KENM was a Gene Autry Fan.
WWII vintage folks ruled the world then. If it hadn’t been for “Tennessee Waltz”, “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “Fraulein” I expect KENM would have had long silences trying to figure out what to play.