War Songs


At the tail end of my time in Los Angeles I’d been writing a series of stories about my friend, Eduardo’s family, and their lives in and around the Aliso Housing Projects. One story I’d never completed was about his brother Victor who was a Vietnam veteran. The grief over his brother’s death had unleashed the buried pain of his war experiences for Victor.

He told me how his life had changed during his time in the Vietnam War, where he’d been ordered to fire on children. I wanted background for the story but he would say no more.

I was searching for someone to talk to me about what it was really like in Vietnam. Finally, I asked my L.A. art dealer, Grady Harp, who I’d known for many years, if he knew anyone who’d been there who might talk to me.

To my surprise he told me he’d been a surgeon in Vietnam. He said he’d send me some poems he’d written. Two weeks later, here in Hawaii, I found myself on my way back from the post office, reading his poignant works, tears pouring down my face…

Grady visited for a couple of weeks, and over the coming months I generated a huge body of work. War Songs toured a dozen museums across the country.

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