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Triggering incident

April 20, 1996
9:20 a.m. Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple
Los Angeles, California

I am not approached by Buddhist monks, who do not mention to me that they are raising money at this elaborate event.


March 23, 1971
12:40 p.m.
Bien Hoa, South Vietnam

It is a hot afternoon in Bien Hoa. Someone’s trying to smoke us out, I swear. There’s a fly buzzing about. It keeps landing on my nose. I tell it to bother the other men. I don’t wish to be treated differently because I am a senator’s son, or because I graduated with honors from Harvard with a degree in politics. The fly seems to me to resemble Sander Vanocur, whose manner in the presidential debate of 1960, though bordering on irritating, was appropriately persistent. I admire something about this fly.

We are typing with great haste. Sergeant Goff says the deadline for the newsletter is 3:00 p.m., and there is no excuse for making the printer wait. I make a crack about Greenwich Mean Time, the International Dateline and how in his home state of Virginia, which is firmly in the Republican column, we would have ample time to finish our work. I am as capable of ribbing the sergeant as the next guy.

"I’m referring to this time zone, Gore. Fuck. Shut up and type. I don’t need your shit today, private." I sigh, to show my respect.

I mention to the rest of the unit that with these old manual typewriters—with their rudimentary tape correction systems—we are putting ourselves at inordinate risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which would prove very costly to the army in the future should universal health benefits be offered. The men stare at me blankly. The thousand-yard stare of war.

I don’t think I’m going to be invited to tonight’s whoring.

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