Friday, November 01, 2013

paths of glory

Paths of Glory was filmed in 1957, directed by Stanley Kubrick as an anti-war movie, starring Kirk Dougle at his fiery best and Adolphe Menjou as on Old World Cynic. The story involves the trial of three enlisted soldiers who refused to go over the top in a trench warfare battle, refusing to risk certain death. They were arrested for cowardice and put on trial. Kirk Douglas defended their actions as the reasonable thing to do, that is, the four soldiers did not want to die.
Nevertheless they were found guilty of disobeying the order to attack. At the end of the movie the three soldiers are executed by a firing squad.

And there is one final scene, which you can watch if you click on the link below. The song is an old German folk tune and it brings the rowdy soldiers to tears.

Paths of Glory. I love this movie and I will make two points.

1. Anti-war movies have the opposite effect from what was intended -- they celebrate war even if the "message" is against war.

2. The German people are hopelessly sentimental -- listen to the song.

Paths of Glory -- Hugo's Version
We had a kind of hobo gang in the 1970s, avoiding useful labor and riding trains. Hugo was trapped in the Hare Krishna Temple in Gainesville, Florida, but we helped him escape.
Then Hugo joined us romping around the country for a few months. One day Hugo I and were smoking cigars in a camp near Santa Cruz on the West Coast. The cigars were a cheap brand called Swisher Sweets, but they smoked pretty well for the money, which we didn't have. That particular conversation with cigars -- sitting on a rock, by a stream, under the redwoods -- was memorable for some reason.
Forty years passed and I got a letter from him, catching up. He's a doctor in Florida now, has children and grandchildren, living well enough, and then he told this story which I share with you...... He talks about the people we knew -- Bartholomew was our unofficial leader -- a lanky man from Tennessee. And Selma the beautiful Egyptian woman. And Gabriel from Brooklyn and Susan Simple. I was Frederick the Great.....

Dear Frederick,

Do your children know about our old times on the road?

Like you, I have spent 40 years moving around, have gone to all continents. My great fortune was to find a very strong and independent woman who has put up with all of my eccentric behavior for many years.

She has her own spiritual identity, completely different than mine (whatever that is), and we never discuss my history on the road, she knows very little about it.

I met up with Barthalomew, Gabriel and Selma, many years later, a few years before Bartholomew left this earth. It was depressing for me, because the magic was gone, Bartholomew was a shell of a person impressing very lost people with the same old stuff. I discovered that there were urban legends formed around many of our own experiences. We did live out a miracle, I have no doubt about that. There were too many unexplainable events.

You know, I have often thought about you, and what became of you. So glad to read your blog, and see all you have accomplished.

There is one thing I've been dying to tell someone, but every time I try, it just doesn't come out believable. So here it goes.

A few weeks after we smoked those cigars near the creek under the redwood trees we went in different directions. Just outside of Santa Cruz , I was crossing a bridge alone, and there was a girl climbing over the rail, apparently she wanted to jump.

She was very pretty and pure looking; I slowly approached her and said, “Sister , please don't jump , I want to share something with you.” She was crying, and asked me not to come any closer. So, I put my bed roll down, and sat on top of it about 6 ft. away from her. I noticed she had on tulasi kunti on her neck; remember I had just come out of a Hare Krishna temple when you found me in Gainesville. And what I never told you, was that the day before I met you and Bartholomew and Selma I wanted to take my own life. You know Frederick, you actually saved me from that, and I never found the way to thank you. So, thanks brother.

Anyways, back to the jumper on the bridge. Noticing her neck beads, I said, “You know Krishna is just another name for God. Just because you didn't find peace, doesn't mean it's not there for you.” She said, “How do you know about my confusion?” I said, “because I am just like you. I wanted to just stop thinking about God, and Krisna, and chanting and deities, and people telling me what was right and wrong. A million light years ago, about 4 months ago, I left the Gainesville Hare Krishna temple, and was on that same rail your on. Somehow I was saved by brothers and sisters that opened up another gate to heaven. And that's what I'm here for. The heavenly father has sent me to tell you that he loves you, and that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. But you cannot end your life, because your body is just a horse that you' riding. You are eternal, and will just keep suffering in another world.” She asked me if I was an angel, and I said yes, I'm your brother and you must choose to live in this world, but not be of this world.”

I told her that I was going to walk in any direction she wanted, and all I wanted was for her to walk a while with me. I would not preach to her, give her any more advice, not even talk. I picked up my bed roll, and sure enough she followed me like a stray cat. Not sure how far we walked, or how much time went by, but we never spoke. Then she said, “I will never be able to re-pay your kindness, but I have something to say to you.” So, I listened. She told me she knew who I was, she had seen me sing with a traveling Hare Krisna group called Radha Damodar in Atlanta about a year before. Now this really blew my mind, because I did travel all over the country in a greyhound bus with no seats and just Indian instruments. She had my undivided attention. Suddenly she had strength, and I felt like jumping off the bridge. She told me in a very matter of fact way, “Your family needs you, go back to them. I am going back to mine, thank you.” And she turned around and walked away in the opposite direction.

That night I could not sleep, and had visions of a woman, fat and old, extending her hand full of bangles, for me to grab. Like if she was a gypsy or something. The next few days I did not eat or smoke. It was like a demon had left that girls body and jumped into mine. But it was not that. Somehow , I don't know now if it was a day, a week later, I ended up in Chico, California. When I rolled into town, all I could think about was that girl saying go home, your family needs you. I started to cry for the first time in years, and was sobbing like a little girl on a corner, with a dirty robe on, bare feet, and no desire to move from that curb. I prayed to God, and told him how confused and lost I felt, that my life had no meaning without love and people to share it with. I asked for a sign, a direction, anything! Then I was suddenly very hungry, but there was no peanut butter or money, so I went to look for a salad bowl. I passed an old house with a big palm on the front lawn, a palm readers advertisement. And out of a screened front door came an old fat hippy woman with bangles and tie-dyed robes, I was shocked because she looked just like the fat lady in my dream several nights before. I was paralyzed and just stood there looking at her.

She went inside and came back and walked over to me and put a silver dollar in my hand. She asked me to get off of her front lawn. I walked about a block, and there was a garage sale. Out near the side walk was a mannequin about my size, wearing a black suit, white shirt, and penny loafers with a sign on the headless top saying $1 dollar. I looked at my new silver dollar, gave it to a kid inside the garage, and he removed the suit, shirt and shoes from the mannequin, put the clothes in a brown paper bag and gave it to me.

I followed the yellow brick road on our usual magic carpet and there was a church. I walked into the empty church, knelt down and prayed. A young priest approached me, and asked me if I was hungry. "Yes, father."

He led me to a courtyard and brought me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. I ate it, and he asked me, “So, what's going on?" I told him the short version, like...I grew up in Evanston Illinois, went to Catholic schools, attended Loyola Academy, joined a Hare Krishna Temple, then I traveled the states and rode the rails with a hobo gang, searching for truth....and now I just want to go home to Chicago. He asked me for my parents phone number, went inside, and came back about an hour later and said, “I booked a flight back to Chicago tonight, your Mom is picking you up at the airport. Let me get you some clothes, and you can come take a shower."

"Father , I have my own clothes in this bag. " I pulled out my $1 dollar outfit, took a shower, shaved, cut my hair, and went back to Chicago." That was 1975, August 17th.

So Frederick, I've been holding this completely unbelievable story inside of me for almost 40 years. You might be the only person I know that might believe it.


It's nice to hear from you, Hugo. Sometimes a good cigar is all you need.

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