Letter From Milo: Living To Learn

July 16th, 2019

You’d think that someone who had heart surgery a few months ago would know better. You’d think that the person would have learned a lesson. You would suppose that someone who came this close to riding shotgun with the Angel in the Sharkskin Nightgown, would consider changing his wicked ways.

Well, I had open heart surgery recently and the only change in me is that my body has a few more scars to show off at the beach.

Against all common sense, against all medical advice, despite the anguished pleas of my wife and children, Ol’ Milo is at it again. Yes, folks, I’m drinking, eating red meat, sneaking the occasional cigarette, toking on the occasional joint and, once again, enjoying impure thoughts. Yes, sir, the Bum Gene (see one of my earlier posts) is in full roar.

Now, the obvious question is: How fucking stupid does a man have to be to continue a lifestyle that nearly killed him?

The obvious answer is: Very, very fucking stupid.

A short while after coming home from the hospital, my good friend, I’ll call him Bruce Diksas to spare him undue embarrassment, came by to visit. He brought along a few bottles of wine, a joint and a pack of Camels.

“You look pretty good,” Bruce said, uncorking one of the bottles. “Got some color in your face.”

“Yeah, I feel pretty good,” I replied, though I was still sore from the surgery where they had cracked me open like a lobster tail, then sewed me up like a hog being prepped for the barbeque spit. “Should be as good as new in a couple of days,” I added, lying.

“Here, have a drink. You’ll feel even better.”

“Good idea.”

As we sat at the kitchen table talking about the White Sox, the economy, pussy, the criminal incompetence of the Bush Regime, and Bruce’s upcoming trip the Bali, it occurred to me that just a few years ago Bruce had undergone some pretty serious surgery himself. I won’t go into details, but he came through it with his flag waving high.

It also occurred to me that many of our friends are suffering health problems. Granted, most of my friends have lived rather checkered lives, overdoing just about everything there is to overdo. But the undeniable fact is that they are all aging baby boomers, living at the tail end of the great post-war bubble . If our lives were basketball games, we would be entering the fourth quarter. Although there is always the chance of overtime, the sad truth is that you can’t count on it. I’ve had good friends die in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. In one case a good friend died at the biblical age of 101.

They’ve died in all sorts of ways — car accidents, gunshot wounds, explosions, diseases, drug overdoses, jealousy, broken hearts, suicides and poor judgement. The common thread running through all these deaths is that, except for suicide, most people don’t have a say in the time and manner of their passing. It’s a lottery where the main prize is oblivion.

So, I suppose living into your 60s is an accomplishment of sorts. Although it’s a piss poor accomplishment, at best.

As Bruce and I started on the second bottle of wine, toked on the joint and lit up Camels, we smiled at each other, both of us aware of the game clock but happy to still be in the game and able to partake of some of our favorite vices. We clinked glasses and made a toast.

“To your health,” Bruce said.

“And yours, pal.”

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Letter From Milo: The Bump On Uncle Rudy’s Head

July 9th, 2019

Here are the last few pages of the 1st chapter of “The Aristocrat House,” in which Uncle Rudy learns one of life’s great lessons (see the last sentence).

The Aristocrat House

The bump on the head seemed to calm Uncle Rudy down. He sat up and looked around curiously, blinking his eyes, as if he had just awakened and was confused about his whereabouts. His chafed, swollen and bleeding face had a placid expression that slowly turned to a look of great sadness. Shaking his head and sighing deeply, he rose unsteadily to his feet and stumbled into the kitchen.

I followed him into the kitchen, just in case he attacked Vivian again. I didn’t know how I could stop him, or even if I could stop him, but I knew I couldn’t let him do anything more stupid than he had already done.

Uncle Rudy ignored Vivian, however, and went directly to the sink, where he turned on the tap and began splashing water on his abused face. After gingerly patting his face dry with a paper towel and lighting a cigarette, he turned to Vivian and said, “Viv, baby, we can work through this. It was just a little misunderstanding.”

Still seated on the floor and crying, Vivian blubbered, “Get out! Just get out!”

Trying to compose his battered face into a smile, Uncle Rudy replied, “Come on, honey, be reasonable. Every love affair has its rough spots.”

Vivian looked up and laughed bitterly. “Are you crazy! Get out before I call the cops.”

“Baby, baby, there’s no reason to…”

“I mean it! I want you out of here.”

Uncle Rudy tried to turn on the charm. “Sweetheart, you mean the world to me. What about all those great…”

“If you’re not out of here in 10 minutes, I’m calling the cops.”

“Ok, ok,” Uncle Rudy said, holding out his hands in supplication. “If that’s the way you want it.”

“10 minutes or I’ll have you arrested for stealing from me,” she said, angrily. “And take that pimply brat with you,” she added, unnecessarily, I thought.

20 minutes later we were driving away from Vivian’s, all of our belongings stuffed into the trunk or piled on the back seat. Uncle Rudy had pinched a couple of whiskey bottles before we left and had one propped between his legs, sipping from it as he drove.

“I can’t believe that one-legged cunt had the nerve to throw me out,” he commented, morosely. “And just when I was getting close to her money, too.”

“What makes you think she had any money?” I asked. I wouldn’t have guessed that Vivian had any real money. She dressed plainly, lived in a small apartment and drove a car that was three or four years old. If she had any substantial money, she hid it well. It seemed to me that she was just a lonely woman, desperate for company, who had run into some bad breaks, one of them being Uncle Rudy.

“Think about it,” Uncle Rudy continued. “She must have gotten some compensation for that leg. They’ve got laws in this country. You lose and arm or a leg on the job, they’ve got to pay you for it. I bet she was sitting on 10 or 15 thousand dollars.” Wistfully, he added, “You know what I could do with that kind of money?”

He drove a while in sullen silence, muttering and drinking, no doubt thinking about the fortune that had just slipped through his fingers. After working his way through a third of the whiskey bottle, he seemed to snap out of his self-pitying funk.

“It just goes to show you,” he said, ruefully, his words beginning to slur. “A woman doesn’t need two legs to walk all over a man.”

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Letter From Milo: Rudy’s Fight With Vivian

June 19th, 2019

As threatened, here is the third installment of the 1st chapter of a work in progress called “The Aristocrat House,” in which Uncle Rudy engages in a savage, no-holds-barred fight to the finish with a one-legged woman named Vivian.

The Aristocrat House

“No, baby,” Rudy answered, innocently, “I haven’t seen them.”
A few days later, she asked, “Rudy, sugar, I can’t seem to find my wristwatch. Will you look around for it?”

Uncle Rudy spent 10 minutes rummaging around the apartment, searching for Vivian’s wristwatch. Scratching his head in consternation, he said, “I can’t find it, Viv. But I’m sure it’ll turn up sooner or later.”

“That’s strange,” Vivian said, looking thoughtfully at Uncle Rudy. “I wonder what the hell happened to it.”

If she would have asked me, I could have told her exactly where to find her wristwatch and ear rings. The wristwatch was on display in the window of Woodside’s Pawn Shop on Washington Street. And the ear rings were adorning the earlobes of a wife or girlfriend of one of the bar flies at Kaiser’s Old Style Inn, where Uncle Rudy had sold them while I waited in the car.

The end came when Vivian caught Uncle Rudy going through her purse.

“What the hell are you doing?” She was standing in the doorway of her bedroom, leaning against the doorjamb. She wasn’t wearing her leg and needed the doorjamb’s support to keep from toppling over.

Uncle Rudy was caught in mid-theft, with Vivian’s open billfold in his hands. “Nothing honey,” he sputtered. “I was just, ah, just looking for some cigarettes.”

“I don’t keep my cigarettes in my billfold, you son of a bitch,” she snarled, then turned and hopped back into her bedroom. When she wasn’t wearing her prosthesis she hopped on her good leg to get around her apartment. Or, if she had been drinking heavily, she scuttled crab-like along the floor. In a moment she hopped out of her bedroom, holding something behind her back, and hopped up to Uncle Rudy. Before he could react, she sprayed him with mace.

Uncle Rudy screamed in pain, clutched his face and fell to the floor. “Oh, God! Aaahhheee! What the fuck did you do! Sweet Jesus I’m blind! You rotten fucking whore! Oowweee! I can’t see! I can’t see!”

While Uncle Rudy was screaming and rolling on the floor in agony, Vivian leaned over, as best she could, and sprayed him again. Then she turned to me. “You little bastard,” she hissed, her face contorted in rage, and aimed the can of mace at me.

Before she could spray me, I ducked to the floor and tried to scramble away. In my frantic effort to get away from her, I inadvertently bumped into her good leg. She teetered for a moment, arms flailing, and crashed to the floor, losing her grip on the can of mace in the process.

Uncle Rudy was still on the floor, writhing in pain. He had pulled his shirttail out of his trousers and was vigorously rubbing his face with it. His agonized screaming had subsided to low moans, raspy grunts and muttered curses and threats.

“You gimpy fucking slut! Oh, man! Are you crazy! Ooohhh, shit! What the fuck is wrong with you! God damn!”

When he realized that Vivian was squirming on the floor next to him, Uncle Rudy reached out and grabbed her remaining leg. Vivian tried to crawl away but he had a good grip and held tight. “I’ve got you now, you greasy spic cunt,” he hissed, murderously. “I’m going to rip off your good leg. You hear me! See how you like that.”

I was scared to death. I had never seen Uncle Rudy like that. He looked like some sort of monster, his tear-stained face was swollen, red and raw, and his eyes had narrowed to bloodshot piggish slits. I knew something terrible was going to happen but had no idea of how to prevent it.

When Vivian felt Uncle Rudy grab her leg she squealed in terror and tried to shake him off. When he tried to pull her closer Vivian wrapped her arms around the base of a heavy floor lamp.

“Leave me alone!” she shrieked. “Let me go!”

“I’ll fix you good, you ugly old Mexican whore,” Uncle Rudy growled.

“Please, Uncle Rudy,” I pleaded, frightened that he might seriously hurt her. “Let’s just go. This is crazy.”

“You, shut the fuck up!” he barked at me, then tugged roughly on Vivian’s leg. But she held her grip on the lamp and couldn’t be budged. Uncle Rudy yanked harder, but the only thing that gave way was the lamp, which rocked back and forth a couple of times, before falling and crashing down heavily on Uncle Rudy’s head. He howled in misery when the lamp slammed into his head, its glass shade shattering and showering him with shards of glass. He immediately began bleeding from several small cuts on his face. Releasing Vivian’s leg, he clutched his face again and moaned, “Oh, fuck me.”

As soon as her leg was freed Vivian scurried into the kitchen, out of Uncle Rudy’s reach. When she was out of harm’s way, she sat up with her back propped against the refrigerator, placed her head in her hands and began sobbing.

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Letter From Milo: Lovely Vivian

June 12th, 2019

As promised, here are the next few pages of a work in progress called “The Aristocrat House,” in which Uncle Rudy begins taking advantage of an unfortunate one-legged woman named Vivian.

The Aristocrat House (next couple of pages)

“What the fuck do you care where I got the money,” he replied, still admiring his reflection in the mirror. “Swear to God, sometimes I think all that artsy-fartsy scribbling you do is turning you into a faggot.” Turning and pointing at my backpack, he added, “Why don’t you quit wasting your time with that shit and do something useful for a change, like learn how to shoot pool or play cards, something that’ll bring in some money.”

Ignoring him, I said, “Doesn’t matter to me where you got the money, but all those cop cars pulling up downstairs seem real interested.”

Uncle Rudy’s swarthy face turned as pale as a doily. He yelped “shit!” and rushed to the window. He had a terrible fear of incarceration. He had been in jail a few times and the experiences didn’t agree with him.

When Uncle Rudy peeked out of the window and saw nothing but the bleak landscape of factory refuse, his ashen face returned to its normal ruddy color. When he heard me laughing, he muttered an unintelligible curse and half-heartedly swung a backhand in my direction. But I knew it was coming and ducked away. He was generous with his backhands, though none too accurate.

Still staring out of the window, Uncle Rudy reached into his pocket and pulled out his bottle. “I still can’t believe that whore threw me out,” he muttered, morosely, then had a drink, smacked his lips and put the bottle away. “You’d think a bitch with only one fucking leg would have more sense.”

Sighing deeply, he walked to the edge of the bed, sat down and rested his head in his hands. “Stupid fucking cunts,” he muttered again, “don’t even know when they’ve got it good.”

For the past month or so we had been living with a Mexican woman named Vivian, in her small apartment near the lake. Vivian had lost her right leg, above the knee, in an industrial accident. She was a heavy drinker and I suppose that’s why she and Uncle Rudy got along so well at first. They stayed up late every night, drinking themselves senseless. When Vivian got good and drunk she would start crying about her missing leg.

“You don’t know what it’s like for a girl not to have two good legs,” she said, sobbing. “I can’t even wear a decent dress or high heels. Can’t go dancing. Can’t even go for a God damn walk in the park.”

Uncle Rudy did his best to soothe her. “Oh, baby, you’re my sweet little angel,” he told her, drunkenly, his eyes welling with sympathetic tears. “You mean everything to me. I’d love you if you didn’t have any legs at all, or arms, either.”

“You mean that, Rudy? You’re not just saying that?”

As I mentioned, Vivian had a small apartment. She fixed me up with a roll-away bed in the pantry, just off the tiny kitchen. But I was just a few feet away from the living room and could hear everything they were saying and doing.

“I would never lie to you, baby,” Uncle Rudy assured her. “You want another drink?”

“Please, honey, and drop another cube in it.”

There was silence for a while, then drunken giggling and laughter, followed by a lengthier silence. Then I heard Uncle Rudy’s voice again, thick and slurred.

“That’s it, Viv, don’t stop.”

“Do you like it, Rudy? Do I make you happy?”

“You’re the best, Viv. Swear to fucking Christ, nobody does it better.”

I couldn’t help myself. I had to look. I snuck out of the pantry and carefully peeked into the living room. The lights were low and all I could see was Vivian’s prosthetic leg, with its elaborate system of buckles and leather straps, leaning against the coffee table.

I poked my head farther into the darkened room and saw that both of them were still on the couch. Uncle Rudy’s eyes were closed and his trousers and underwear were bunched around his ankles. Vivian’s head was in his lap and she was greedily tending to his erection, her head bobbing up and down like a plump strutting pigeon. When Uncle Rudy opened his eyes and looked down at Vivian, an odd expression came over his face. It wasn’t a look that I recognized or had ever seen before. It wasn’t passion or excitement or even drunken lust. The only way I can describe the expression was to call it a look of perfect serenity, the same idiot’s smile that I’d seen in pictures of the Dalai Lama, the Pope and some of the more inbred members of the British royal family. It was as if he had come through a terrible storm and had finally reached quiet waters. The hard edges of his face seemed as if they had been buffed away. The crafty gleam in his eyes had softened to a dull glaze of contentment. He had eaten well that day, was drinking to his heart’s content, and was now having a woman cater to his sexual needs. All was right in Uncle Rudy’s world. He was at peace.

We stayed at Vivian’s for a little more than a month. Vivian didn’t pay much attention to me. She was indifferent to my presence, rarely speaking to me or acknowledging my existence. I figured she tolerated me, the way a dog lover tolerates fleas, as the price she had to pay for Uncle Rudy’s company.

Still, living there wasn’t too bad. I had plenty to eat, a warm place to sleep and clean clothes to wear. Vivian was grouchy in the mornings, which was understandable, considering the amount of alcohol she drank in the evenings. But I learned to avoid her until early afternoon, when she and Uncle Rudy started their drinking and carousing.

I would have been content to stay there a while longer, but, of course, Uncle Rudy ruined it for both of us. He began stealing from Vivian. I knew we were in trouble when, one morning, I heard her ask, “Rudy, honey, have you seen my pearl ear rings anywhere? I thought I left them on the coffee table last night.”

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Letter From Milo: The First Three Pages

June 3rd, 2019

Dear friends and readers:

As promised (or threatened) here are the first few pages of a work in progress. I plan to serialize the first chapter on this blog site, unless the police, Catholic church, or mobs of torch-carrying peasants intervene. The serialization will run for 4-5 days, every Wednesday and Monday. Those of you with tender sensibilities, sensitive stomachs, high ethical standards or high literary standards may wish to avoid this site on those particular days. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Aristocrat House
by
Milo Samardzija

“God gave us sex to make up for all the other awful things he did to us.”

Chapter 1

It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Rudy was a worthless human being. I discovered, early on, that he was lazy, a liar, a petty thief, a drug abuser and a habitual drunkard. He was a bully when he was drunk and mean-spirited when sober. He was also coarse and profane, a spiteful, unrepentant racist and misogynist, and completely unreliable. When it came to money, women or responsibility of any sort, he simply could not be trusted.

That said, Uncle Rudy did have a few things going for him. He was a good dancer. And he dressed well when he could scrape up the money to pay for the cheap, flashy suits he favored. And he spoke with a trace of a Slavic accent, which, as he explained to me, “Most cunts can’t resist.”

Uncle Rudy was not a bad looking man, in a raw-boned, beaky Eastern European way. He was tall, slender but strong, with a head of dark hair that he slicked back to cover a growing bald spot, and he had all of his front teeth. He fell just short of being handsome, however, by a receding chin, shifty, calculating eyes, and excessive hairiness.

As I mentioned, Uncle Rudy was pretty much of a disgrace as a human being. He lacked character, conscience, scruples and dignity, but he was all the family I had. I was 15 years old and without him I would have been alone in the world.

We were staying at the Aristocrat House, a seedy, roach-infested transient hotel near the factory district. It was a horrible place, reeking of urine, disinfectant, unwashed bodies and other nauseating odors. The rooms were small, dimly lit and sparsely furnished. The paint on the walls was peeling, the plaster was cracked and crumbling. Yellowed, fading signs on every door read “No cooking or open fires allowed.” The communal bathrooms, located at each end of the long, narrow and trash-strewn hallways were rank, stomach-churning pigsties. In fact, calling them pigsties would have been a compliment. They were so nasty that the Spanish Inquisition could have used them to wring confessions from heretics.

Despite its proximity to the local mills and foundries, I doubt if even one honest working man rented a room at the Aristocrat House. I couldn’t imagine anyone with money or a steady job choosing to live there. It seemed to me that most of the residents were damaged souls, low-lifes and losers, the unemployable and the mentally ill, people who had to look up to see rock bottom. For them, it was the Aristocrat House, the institution or the street.

As disgusting as the Aristocrat House was, it was still a step up from our previous accommodations. For the past week and a half, Uncle Rudy and I had been living in his car, a battered and rusting five-year-old Ford Fairlane that he had received as part of his last divorce settlement.

“I’ve seen worse,” Uncle Rudy said, as we walked into our room and dropped our luggage; a duffel bag, two beat-up suitcases, a couple of shopping bags, and a canvas backpack that held my sketch pads, charcoal sticks and colored pencils. Looking around, he added, “Yeah, I’ve seen a lot fucking worse.”

“Well, I haven’t,” I replied.

“That’s because you’re too fucking young and stupid to know better,” he said, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pint of whiskey. He took a long drink and gestured at me with the bottle before screwing the cap back on. “When you get a little older you’ll find out that there’s always a place that’s worse. Anyway, this is just temporary. We’ll get the fuck out of here as soon as I get my hands on a bitch with some money.”

“Speaking of money,” I said, “how are we paying for this place?”

A few hours earlier we had no money at all. The only reason we hadn’t starved to death was that there was still a bartender in town who was foolish enough to extend Uncle Rudy credit. We lived on bar snacks for a close to a week.

Uncle Rudy ignored my question. He was standing in front of the small mirror above the dresser, absorbed in combing his hair, taking particular care to cover the bald spot on top of his head. When he was satisfied with his appearance, he stepped back, cocked a finger at his image in the mirror and said, “You are one good looking motherfucker. And don’t you ever forget it.”

I looked out of the small grimy window for a while. It wasn’t much of a view, just enormous piles of slag, railroad tracks and billowing smokestacks. And in the distance beyond the factories, shimmering like a murky mirage in a wasteland, was Lake Michigan. I thought about going out later and drawing some sketches of the dismal scene, but I was tired and decided to wait until the next morning.

“You didn’t steal it the money, did you?” I asked. I knew he stole it, of course. That’s how he lived. He preferred to steal from women. They were his favorite target. But he would steal anything, at any time, from anybody. Once, in the back seat of his car, I found an empty charity canister, one of those things you find on store counters asking for donations to fight diseases and other righteous causes. I don’t remember what cause that particular canister was collecting for, but I do remember that there was a photograph of Jerry Lewis on it.

To be continued…

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Letter From Milo: Uncle Rudy

May 29th, 2019

Dear Readers:

Once again, I’m letting down my readers and partners here at The Third City. I’ve got nothing to say. I’m dry as a bone, due to a heavy schedule of cardio therapy, part-time work, rewriting a previous work, heavy drinking. sexual excesses and, of course, lack of talent and inspiration.

Please be patient, and I’ll have something very interesting ready for next week.

Jonny Randolph, the Barn Boss of this scabby, flatulent and talentless outfit, is pissed at me. He thinks that I’m just lazy, or, even worse to his way of thinking, jockeying for a raise. As far as I’m concerned he can go fuck himself. The same goes for his buddy, that low-life bastard Benny Jay.

Those two sons of bitches are threatening to withhold my Christmas bonus unless I start carrying my weight around here. Well, they can take their $5 Burger King gift certificate and stick it up their collective asses. And that’s all I’m going to say on that subject.

By the way, I’m done with the Chicago Bulls. They can go fuck themselves, too. How does any self respecting basketball team lose to the worst team in NBA history on their home court? It boggles the mind. I’m going back to following my other favorite team, the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL. As soon as I find out at least one of the players names, I will start rooting for them in earnest.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Beginning this Wednesday, the 16th, I will start serializing the first chapter my novel in progress. It’s tentatively titled “The Aristocrat House” and there’s sure to be something in it to offend everybody. It is a vile, sexist, blasphemous, and often disgusting story of a sleazy, low-life petty thief and self-described gigolo, named Uncle Rudy, who is trying to raise a 15-year-old nephew in the most unusual circumstances. The serialization should last just a couple of weeks at about 2-3 pages at a time. So, if you have a delicate stomach, religious scruples, high ethical standards or high literary standards. I suggest you avoid The Third City for a while, at least while I’m posting chapter 1 of “The Aristocrat House.”

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Benny Jay: Donna Reed’s Memorial Day

May 27th, 2019

The strongest memory I have of Donna Reed is as Jimmy Stewart’s wife, Mary Bailey, in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I’ve seen that movie a hundred times — watched it nearly every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I love that scene where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed — young and in love — are walking home at night from the dance. He promises to give her anything she wants in life. Just say the word and he’s gonna “throw a lasso around the moon” and give it to her.

Yeah, yeah, I know — I’m hopeless….

I was thinking of Donna Reed cause of a story in the New York Times by Larry Rohter. Turns out that during World War II — when Reed was still in her twenties — hundreds of soldiers sent off to the battlefields of Asia, Africa and Europe saw her as a beloved reminder of the life, women and country they missed.

They’d write her letters — hundreds of hundreds of letters — “as if to a sister or the girl next door, confiding moments of homesickness, loneliness, privation and anxiety,” Rohter writes.

“The boys in our outfit think you are a typical American girl, someone who we would like to come home to!!!!!” wrote Sergeant William F. Love. He wrote that letter on August 18, 1944 from the jungles of New Guinea.

Here’s another letter quoted in the story: “Sometimes I wish I was back there with the old gang, able to go the usual rounds of the week. Occasionally, I will set on the fantail and look at the moon, wondering how many of our old friends were doing the same.”

Then there’s this 1943 letter from Lieutenant Norman P. Klinker: “One thing I promise you — life on the battlefield is a wee bit different from the `movie version.’ It is tough and bloody and dirty….quite an interesting and heartless life at one and the same time.”

On January 6, 1944, Lieutenant Klinker was killed in action in Italy.

These letters would have been long forgotten. Except Donna Reed saved them — kept them in boxes — and her daughter discovered them. One thing led to the another and Rohter wrote it up in today’s New York Times.

Here’s the thing: Donna Reed “became an ardent antiwar campaigner” during the Vietnam War. She was co-chairwoman of “a 285,000-member group called Another Mother For Peace,” and she volunteered for Senator Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 anti-war presidential campaign, according to Rohter.

The story quotes her biographer, Jay Fultz, who writes: “She looked forward to a time when 19-year-old boys will no longer be taken away to fight in old men’s battles.”

Anyway, on Memorial Day, I’d like to offer a toast of gratitude to all the men and women who served.

And here’s to all the other warriors — Donna Reed among them — who fought just as hard for peace.

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