Saturday, December 18, 2010
The only known use of a Komodo dragon in war by the United States was in the battle for Okinawa. A ten foot long, 300 pound lizard named Syracuse was trained by Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Barry Fiske. We don’t know how he trained the dragon. Though we do know Fiske’s grandfather was an itinerant preacher who became a lion tamer. We do know, between whip cracks the elder Fiske shouted bible quotes, know the chair other’s kept between themselves and lions is where elder Fiske sat and read sermons to lions. In the Fifth Marine Regiment’s morning report of May 6, 1945, “… Staff Sergeant Fiske led a dragon on a raid against an enemy position at 0200 hours …” Syracuse took the foot of a sleeping Japanese lieutenant before crawling back into the night, bringing the foot, still in its boot, to Fiske. A man in San Diego, California, went 263 hours without sleep, no hallucinations. Japanese soldiers couldn’t duplicate this feat, but fear of the dragon kept them from sleeping for days, deteriorating combat effectiveness. No way of knowing if the Japanese believed Syracuse was acting on orders. The prehistoric nature of fear is handed down the generations. We know Fiske inherited the bible, whip and chair which he carried on Okinawa as talismans. At night mortars exploded above the trees, galaxies growing and disappearing in the black sky. Fiske read the bible to Syracuse at the bottom of their foxhole. After the war, Fiske left the Marine Corps, moved to Los Angeles and became a plumber. In a postcard to one of his sons, he wrote, “a man can make a life with a bible, whip and chair.”
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
It was one of those rare tap dancing accidents – I broke both feet while transitioning from a Cincinnati time step to a maxiford with toe. As I love the sound of metal on wood floating through a quiet theater, I was rehearsing in the early morning, dancing next to the curtain where the sound is richer, muffled by the thick cloth. My feet tangled. I fell like a clown wearing bulbous red shoes rolling out of a car in a circus tent. A janitor who was about to begin mopping the aisles called for an ambulance. The driver was an amateur medical historian who had just authored an article on bone density in tap dancers and took me to Doctor Timothy Charlton, one of the few orthopedic surgeons in Los Angeles who specialize in tap dancing injuries. Doctor Charlton shook his head over the x-rays. The calcaneus in each foot pushed into the talus with such force that the nerve endings had been unalterably reversed. He had seen this many times, but only as a result of a faulty double stomp buck time step. My only hope of ever again dancing was for both feet to be amputated and sewn on the opposite leg. Doctor Charlton drew a foot on the x-ray showing me what my right foot would look like on my left leg. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I think people are admiring my shoes when they look down for a touch too long while standing next to me in an elevator. Sometimes I dream of that morning. They wheel me into the operating room. Gene Kelly is there wearing green scrubs. A mask covers the bottom of his face but I recognize his eyes. As he picks up a scalpel he begins to tap his foot and is soon doing a paddle roll. The doctors and nurses join in.