I could hear Bob Steurer from across the lobby making fun of my yellow shirt as I tried to register at the Best Western, Music Row in Nashville. Knowing Bob was there was enough to assure me that it was going to be a GOOD couple of days. I met Jim Bast and Paul Caruso and was grateful for their attendance, because they were great people and were non-stop storytellers... No, not lies..... Stories.( Jim was the best I've ever seen at storytelling and napping at the same time) I really learned a lot from them because they seem to have stayed a little more sober than I while at Kagnew and remembered a lot more of their experiences that I did. Telling memories reinforces memory and I bet they had told them enough times to take them beyond the grave with them. Thanks guys for being there.
Bob Steurer arranged for a hospitality room for the next couple of days but the desk clerk seemed to say that there was something wrong... But we had problems communicating across the languages. (his was Indian) But, we thought we had it all straight and all ambled across the street for some dinner.
Meeting later in the hospitality room I went from conversation to conversation and from group to group learning what I had missed while at Kagnew. I mean, we had guys there who did things like teaching college downtown, builing schools and furnishing them for the locals, and many more worthwhile things. Hell, I hardly got passed the Oasis Club.. And if I did it was just to go downtown to help the few.... Actually,... only one at a time!!
Some of our group tried to negate the negative fame that the rest of us earned. I know that Roger Coday and Richard Cairns helped Downey to show our better side. They were the builders and teachers who combated the image of the "Ugly American" that some of us built by throwing beer cans at the 'stick-women'. (No.. I didn't do that) But if one Googles Downey's name today, you'll see he is still trying to help the people of Africa even though his family has suffered in the effort.
Many of us visited Lower Broadway that night for some entertainment, And as ever we were not disappointed. There is always some talented people playing there. The best this night was a guy doing a 'Jerry Lee Lewis' show that was outstanding.
Steurer and Roger Coday stocked the hospitality room and we prepared for a long session for Saturday. A Kagnewite named Harvey W. Wells who served in 1962 showed up from Kentucky. We enjoyed his company and he seemed to happy to meet people who had enjoyed his same experience. He heard of the reunion on Rick Fortney's website. (Thanks Rick) Richard Dunn and wife Linda, some great people from Birmingham, were also there. I think everyone identified some people in their pictures that we couldn't before.
Richard Cairns made the trip with his (and now our) friend, Mary Deckert from Wisconsin. It was forty one years since we had seen Richard. Like most first time attendees, I think Richard learned more than he told... And Richard... You might as well marry that gal if acceptance from the group is an indicator... Everyone fell in love with her. Roger and Jeanie Coday have become the rock of this group. Roger was a bad-ass MA [:>)]at the Oasis but he 's a little teddybear in Jeanie's hand now.
Our troubadours, Len Thomas and his sweet Marge were there and Don and Sue Lummus come in Saturday afternoon after a determined effort to get there. I think they drove about eight thousand straight thru miles to get there but after a couple of hours of napping, they were ready for the night. It must be all that training in those Texas honky-tonks or they are a lot younger than the rest. Bob Hamer (our honorary redneck Michigander friend) visited us for a day while he was on a road trip to Georgia. He invited us all to the 'D' trick reunion in Indiana in Sept.
On Saturday we all had a nice day of reminiscing, sharing pictures, etc but it was time for dinner so we made the trip across the street. When we returned we found out that we had been kicked out of the hospitality suite. The guest who had reserved it had arrived and the Pakistani management of the hotel suffered the rath of Steurer over our displacement.
We spent the evening around the pool, in the bar, and in the parking lot While being entertained by Len and Don.. It seems that somewhere in the past Don had had a steamy affair in a Wal-mart parking lot.... And wrote a song about it. For effect, he performed it in the hotel parking lot..... along with a good song about his many guitars, and what Sue has to look at when he's "Nekid".(and that was a bad visual) . Lenny also performed a song that I also thought was auto-biographical.... about a mother's worst nightmare. He performed it on the 'open mike' for the crowd.At our next meeting we will schedule enough time for these guys to wear themselves out! (and Jeanie too!)
Later that night some of our group were lucky enough to experience a match between a redneck and his wife as he bounced her of the walls most of the night...... (No Damit..... They were fight'n) I think Bob Hamer gave up and continued his trip on about 4:00 am.. (I think he was homesick for his wife after the fight.).. but the rest of us met for breakfast the next morning and had a great meal and some quality time togather before we started home. We parted as every time we've met like this..... Thankful for the time togather with such great people who's friendship has spanned four decades. Every minute was fun!!
Please, everyone, Help Rick Fortney as he helps us to remember!!