Notes from Napa

Tuesday, November 20, 2007



(This was written before Thanksgiving 2004. Perhaps it still has some meaning today)

Can you imagine what it must be like for those young Americans sitting
around the table over there in the cradle of civilization between the
Tigris and Euphrates, Attempting to celebrate Thanksgiving?

It is beyond my comprehension. What is it like in Fallujah, Mosul, Tikrit?

No doubt, Uncle Sam is providing them with some form of Turkey dinner. It may be actual turkeys, or some bizarre dehydrated concoction that is
supposed to substitute for the real thing. No matter. The commanders will
try their best to simulate a home cooked meal and the "feel" of a real

And the better job they do, the worse it will be.

As each young man and woman bows his head to say grace, memories of
last year's Thanksgiving will come rushing forward. They will remember the
chaos of home-children running wild, relatives over-taxing the bar, the
smells of real stuffing, gravy and cranberry. They'll remember how warm
they were. What the fire looked like in the fireplace. How naughty they
could be having a bloody Mary during the day time as the Cowboys take on
the Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day TV game.

They'll remember the comforts of a weekend off from work--slippers,
pajamas, robes, plaid shirts and jeans.

They'll think of the orange leaves falling everywhere littering the
ground like brightly colored oversized snow flakes.

More than a few of them will cry some. The emotion will be too much to
bear. How they will long to be home. How they will long to lie in
someone's arms-safe, secure in their own homes.

The memories of home will contrast starkly with the realities of their
everyday life in that windy, forsaken foreign land.

We here at home can't imagine the strain--the stress--the out right fear
of being stationed in Iraq, today.

On a simple jeep ride, will one run
over a lethal land mine?

While patrolling the streets to protect the
citizens, will gunfire suddenly break out as paid assassins ply their

Will some coward fire a rocket at innocent civilians, carrying not
whether women or children will be hurt? Under each cloak may lie a suicide
vest ready to detonate at any moment.

I would not like my child over there today. I don't know where these
parents of soldiers summon the courage to get through the day. The dangers
are so horrific, and so random. I'm not sure I'm made of such staunch
stuff. I admire those who are.

Selfishly, I hope my kids don't go. But if they do, I hope I can
comport myself with the grace, dignity and class that these parents are
demonstrating. Their courage is unbelievable. The courage of their
children, unfathomable.

We will have a happy, safe, warm Turkey dinner tonight. We will play
our annual "Turkey Bowl" flag football game in the rain, with our friends.
We'll sit around the fire and drink the world's finest cabernets because
courageous parents and even braver children have taken it upon themselves
to do what is necessary to preserve our way of life. How do we say thanks,
on this day of Thanksgiving?

How does the world say thanks that these young men and women rid the
globe of a psychotic, cruel dictator? (I always get a kick out of the
press when they take such a delight in reporting our casualties, forgetting
that Saddam was ruthlessly killing and torturing 10, maybe 100 times that
many every day-just for sport).

How does the world say thanks to these youngsters for bringing
democracy into a region which has never known freedom since the days of
Darius and Xerxes? (And please, can we get over this patronizing concept
that somehow Iraqis don't want democracy or are not capable of handling

All men yearn to breathe free, to vote, to grow the crops they want,
to be secure in their homes, to give their kids a better life, to speak
their mind without fear, to worship as they desire, and are entitled to
the blessings of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

That is not a
uniquely American concept.

We just do it better than anyone else.

None of us will be able to enjoy our holiday the way we have in the
past. It will be clouded by thoughts of those who were willing to go so
very far away, that we might be safe here at home.

We in America have
much to be grateful for. We have much reason to give thanks.

So, when
you're bowing your head tonight and counting those many blessings, say a
special prayer for those parents and kids which are making it all possible.
And don't be afraid to have an extra good time, or to be extra generous
and extra kind to one another.

My guess is that would be a small way of
saying thanks, for them giving us what we've got today. Happy Thanks
Giving from all of us in St. Helena.