Lou’s Mom turns 100 on a busy weekend for peace activism

Much as I enjoy–usually–promoting peace, I have to say the highlight of this peaceful weekend was hearing Cleveland Indians television announcer Rick Manning begin his short list of birthday greetings during the Indians-Orioles game Friday evening by mentioning my mom’s 100th birthday which, coincidentally, was on Friday. The few other birthdays Manning subsequently mentioned were, of course, far fewer years than my mom’s. She had seniority, after all, and certainly deserved first mention.
       As usual on Saturday morning I, along with about a half-dozen other promoters of peace, gathered behind the West Side Market from 11 a.m. ’til noon. I positioned myself near a kiosk where folks pay for parking, although the first 90 minutes are free. I often talk with people, greeting them cheerily, sometimes saying. “Nice day. I could take this weather year-round…no snow. Well, that’s not going to happen.” They smile, sometimes laugh. I think a friendly, humorous apolitical greeting goes a long way and I let my flag and uniform speak for my sentiments.

        I asked one man at the kiosk if he was from around here and he said he is from Columbus. I asked what brought him to Cleveland and he said, “Hamilton,” referring to the much-ballyhooed play which is being presented in the State Theater on Playhouse Square.
        I said, “It’s a lot cheaper than in New York.” He said the ticket prices here are about a third of what they are in New York.
        After lunch with fellow peaceniks at the Koffie Cafe on Market Street, I walked to my car, parked near the western end of the Lorain-Carnegie (Hope Memorial) Bridge. A man walking toward me, apparently familiar with my peace initiatives, surprised me by saying, “Thank you for your continued witness.”
        I said, “You’re welcome. I appreciate that.”
        Today (Sunday, August 19th) was unusual on a number of fronts, not the least of which was seeing the three-dimensional Jason Kipnis, Indians second-basemen, signing autographs about two hours before game time by the gate where players enter the team’s parking lot on the south side of Progressive Field. Heretofore I had seen only the two-dimensional Jason on my telly.
        I stopped to watch Kip as he signed a couple of autographs. A woman who got his signature wanted to take a selfie with him, but her arm wasn’t long enough to get both of them in the photo, so Jason graciously obliged her request to take the picture. As he walked away Kip gave me a combination wave and salute. Very nice.
        I took my traditional position at East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue. As usual, many people ignored me or grudgingly muttered a terse response to my cheery greeting. Oh, well.
        One young man walked up to me to ask about what I was doing and I explained I was promoting peace, letting people know some war veterans are pro-peace. When he spoke I detected a distinct German accent. The gentleman told me he is an engineer and is in town for training at the Huntington Convention Center. He said he works on construction projects at a U.S. Army base in Germany but initially had misgivings about taking the job because of our involvement in other nations’ affairs around the world.
        I told him I used to play volleyball with a woman from Weimar, Germany (Kristina Heuer) and that when I had asked Kristina several years ago what big city Weimar is near, she said, “Dresden.” I told the young German engineer that I had said to Kristina, “I’m so sorry for what we did to Dresden” (firebombing during World War II) and that Kristina had replied, “I’m sorry for what we did to the world.”
       My new German friend noted, however, that Dresden has been rebuilt beautifully since the war.
       He wanted to take my photo and of course I obliged his request and I encouraged him to circulate it as much as he could. So, I assume at least some folks in Germany will see this Vietnam veteran’s peace message. That’s pretty cool!
       One passerby carrying a plastic bucket full of bouquets that I assume he hoped to sell to baseball fans stopped to chat. He didn’t understand the symbol on my flag so I explained its meaning and origin, adding that I am simply promoting peace. He mentioned the late boxer Muhammad Ali’s opposition to the war in Vietnam and that Ali had said he had no problem with the Vietcong. I added that Ali also said no Vietcong had ever called him the n-word.
       We agreed that Ali was right on the money in his opposition to the war in Vietnam.
        One young couple said they liked my flag and I said, “Thanks. I wish everyone did. Some people have said to me over the years, ‘Where are the stars? There are supposed to be stars on the flag.’ And I have said, ‘The stars are in hiding. They are ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with all the death, destruction, instability and chaos we have caused in the Middle East, beginning with our invasion and war in Afghanistan in October, 2001 and invasion and war in Iraq in March, 2003. Millions and millions of refugees, and it’s all on us'”
       The couple nodded in understanding.
       After spending a couple of hours at the corner until the pedestrian and vehicle traffic thinned out, I walked north on East Ninth Street. Shortly after walking by Progressive Field’s Right Field District gate, I noticed a smiling woman with sunglasses standing in line take my photo. I smiled back and pointed toward her. She ran toward me, smiling, with her arms outstretched and I thought, “Do I know this woman? Is she a friend of mine?” I couldn’t tell because of her large sunglasses. Her exuberance made me think I knew her, but she was a stranger. As she bear-hugged me I kissed her on her right cheek and encouraged her to circulate the photo as much as possible. She said she would.
        On the way to Tower City to catch the Blue Line rapid, I offered upbeat greetings to people heading toward the stadium. I started to furl my flag in front of Jack Casino, located in the old Higbee department store, when a woman asked if she could take a selfie with me. Of course I obliged, unfurling my flag.
        Turns out she and her husband are from Salt Lake City and are motorcycling across the country. She said today was their first day in Cleveland and that they planned to travel to Maine, returning home to Salt Lake sometime in October.
        I told her one of my GI buddies in Vietnam was from Panguitch, Utah. She smiled in surprise and said she has a friend who has a ranch in Panguitch. She asked me my army buddy’s name, but it took a few seconds to dust off my 50-year-old memory, then said, “Nate Tebbs. Nathan Tebbs.” The woman said she would mention Nate’s name to her friend. (Nate was a great, friendly guy with a terrific winning smile and an infectious laugh. I hope he is still around.)
        As with everyone else who took my photo today, I encouraged the woman to circulate the selfie. She said she would.
        While waiting for the Blue Line rapid in Tower City a middle-aged woman approached me as I sat with my furled flag. She wondered if I was a Marine, since her brother is a Marine and I said, ‘No…Army. Marines have a different shade of green uniform.”
        I then told her that I am a member of Veterans for Peace and mentioned my flag is a peace flag and I unfurled it for her. She was pleased to see the peace symbol and I told her that toward the end of a brief speech I gave on Public Square last November, I said “If I had my way I would make the peace flag the American flag. We need much more peace, civility, tolerance, mutual respect and compassion in our society. If I had my way, I would fly the peace flag on the flagpole on top of the White House, but would fly it above the American flag.”
          She smiled at my comments.