1. Where were you?

ground zero 2001

The Yankees hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks for games 3 to 5 in the 2001 World Series that was delayed because of the attacks on September 11th, a little more than a month earlier. I went to two of the games and visited “ground zero” in October 2001.

It was an unusually hot day in September. I must have been in a hurry because I didn’t bother to turn on the Today Show or the Morning Edition on Colorado Public Radio while getting ready for my commute to work in Denver.

This particular morning I took the Regional Transportation District (RTD) route 205 bus from the stop near my Boulder condo to the RTD Walnut Street station in downtown Boulder.

The bus stop was next to the convenience store where I stopped most days for a cup of coffee.

“Looks like it’s going to be a good one out there,” I don’t think the dark-skinned clerk understood a word I said about the great weather predicted for the day. He grinned and handed over my change. I clunked a couple cents into the plastic leave-a-penny take-a-penny tray on the counter and cut through the gas pumps to the bus stand.

From the downtown Boulder bus station, few passengers waited to catch the B Express bus to Denver. There’s no free parking. I was okay with transferring from a local bus downtown so as to get the seat of my choice, which was one with extra legroom toward the middle of the cabin a couple rows ahead of where a wheel chair would be parked – similar to the exit row seats on an airplane.

By the time we reached the last Boulder stop at the Table Mesa Park ‘n Ride, the seats were filled with commuters rattling their morning papers, cramming for college classes at the Auraria campus, reading books, listening to music on iPods, catching up on sleep.

This was well before laptops internet hot spots and smartphones. I was one of the few who had a cell phone. It was the size of a small box of Velveeta cheese. I didn’t think to call anyone.

“Did you hear what happened in New York,” the guy sitting to me asked. “No, I hadn’t heard anything.”

“An airplane crashed into one of the Twin Towers,” he said. “No, I hadn’t heard. What kind of plane?” The guy shrugged.

Other passengers murmured about the news and I overheard, “It was a small plane, like a Cessna.” Hmmm, small plane, nothing to see here, folks, and soon we all returned to being immersed in ourselves.

The bus pulled up to a stall in Market Street Station. We disembarked and made our ways up the stairs and escalators to the 16th Street Mall.

My connection on 17th Street was for the eastbound RTD 20 bus that dropped me off near my work in a converted single-family home in an older neighborhood.

I walked up the steps and creaked open the wrought iron screen door before winding my way up the stair case towards my office.

“You can go home if you want,” my boss greeted me at the top of the stairs. “Two planes hit the World Trade Center. There isn’t much more information but all the air traffic is grounded.”

“There was talk on the bus about a plane hitting one of the towers,” I said.

My colleagues had all gone. I had the longest commute to and from Boulder and the last to hear.

I walked back to the bus station and noticed the eerily quiet streets – no car engines, no airplane noise, not many people out and about. When I stood waiting for the light at Broadway and the 16th Street Mall, I glanced up at the Denver World Trade Center that I later learned was a similar target as its namesake in Lower Manhattan.

The bus back to Boulder was a-buzz with rumor, but I didn’t engage.

I hope ‘American Sniper’ has a good story: I like sniper movies

"American Sniper" has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit - fair use)

“American Sniper” has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit – fair use)

There’s been quite a bit of social media and entertainment news traffic about the movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.

Last night at the Silver Sage Village pot luck dinner, there was a pretty good discussion about the military experience of five men in the community , which is no experience. None of us saw any duty during the Vietnam War era, mostly because of student deferments.

I’ve always thought that service in the military was a part of my maturation process that I missed, considering that four of my uncles were in the army 1-A. My dad was 4-F.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch American Sniper.

After some thinking, I realized that I like sniper movies. There are sniper characters in lots of movies which date back to when I was a kid. I was a bit of a loner back then – still am – which probably explains my attraction to them.

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called "Combat". (photo credit - fair use)

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called “Combat”. (photo credit – fair use)

There was a TV show called Combat with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders and Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley. I remember one episode called “The Sniper”. The squad takes refuge in a French town after it was liberated and gets pinned down by a Nazi sniper. They can’t find him and Sgt. Saunders eventually figures out he’s been hiding in plain clothes in town.

Turns out the bad guy was abetted by Sgt. Saunders’ love interest. He eventually mows the sniper down with his Thompson sub-machine gun, after the girl gets sniped. She has a recognition and reversal and realizes she should have remained loyal to her homeland and dies in Sgt. Saunders’ arms. Combat always had good stories with war as a back drop.

From when I was young, I’ve always liked James Bond, some war movies – many have snipers as characters.

In no particular order, here are some sniper movies that came to mind. I’ve watched these many times. All of the video clips linked are graphic, so open them at your own risk.

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in "spy Game" (photo credit - fair use)

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in “Spy Game” (photo credit – fair use)

Spy Game – This is one of those two generational movies. Robert Redford plays a veteran CIA agent – Jason Muir – who recruits upstart sniper Brad Pitt – Tom Bishop – during the Vietnam War. He passes on all his spy wisdom to Pitt who is a bit of a renegade and ends up  imprisoned in China after a botched attempt to rescue his girlfriend who was aiding the bad guys in the Middle East in exchange for money to keep her NGO going. Robert Redford is retiring and the double entendre story has Redford giving his exit interview with his bosses while using CIA resources to spring Pitt and the girlfriend from prison. Bishop and Muir were both better loners than team players.

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in "The Professional" (photo credit - fair use)

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in “The Professional” (photo credit – fair use)

The Professional – This is an odd movie with Jean Reno as Leon, the assassin, and a 12 year old orphan named Matilda played by Natalie Portman. In one scene, Leon gives Matilda a sniper lesson teaching her how to follow a target with a high powered rifle. I think this scene is only in the director’s cut. I don’t remember it when it was on TV the other night.

Matilda wants to learn the ways of an assassin to avenge the death of her brother. Gary Oldman plays a rogue cop addicted to meth trying to foil Leon and Matilda.

It’s a different kind of love story and when the two aren’t blowing stuff up, the two get to know each other like father and daughter as well as partners in crime.

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit - fair use)

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit – fair use)

The Day of the Jackal – The original has Edward Fox playing an assassin who is hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. The Jackal ends up getting a clean shot at de Gaulle, but misses. He’s noticed by the French police who kill him.

Fox also became a staple in couple of my favorite war movies A Bridge Too Far which was written by my favorite screen screenwriter William Goldman and in Force 10 from Navarone, the sequel to The Guns of Navarone.

There was a remake called The Jackal with Bruce Willis as the bad guy who is being chased by Richard Gere. The new version doesn’t have much similar to the original. Both versions are on cable TV. I catch parts of them when channel surfing.

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in "Dirty Harry" (photo credit - fair use)

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in “Dirty Harry” (photo credit – fair use)

Dirty Harry – This was the first installment of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of San Francisco detective of questionable ethics Harry Callahan. It came out the year I graduated from high school in 1971. The psycho bad guy is a sniper called Scorpio played by Andrew Robinson. He was type cast after his Scorpio role. Towards the beginning of the movie, a San Francisco police helicopter catches up to him on a rooftop aiming on some unsuspecting targets. He leaves notes at each crime scene demanding $100,000 from the city government or he’ll keep killing random citizens ($100,000? why bother!?) He and Callahan have a final shoot out in a rock quarry when the infamous line “Do I feel lucky” is uttered. Scorpio was a Vietnam vet who came home and was a victim of PTSD and mistreatment when he came back stateside causing him to go berserk. This veteran stereotype probably wouldn’t go over very well today.

Eastwood also directed American Sniper. I wonder if he had any throwbacks to his original Dirty Harry role and Scorpio.

Back when I was a kid, playing war was a part of goofing around in my suburban neighborhood in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I still don’t think that there was anything odd about my pals and me dressing up like WWII soldiers and digging fox holes in the vacant fields behind the subdivision. It was a big treat to browse around the Sergeant’s Surplus store for old canvas backpacks, dummy grenades and such.

I didn’t turn out to be that demented.

This socialization process was the norm back in those days. I owned lots of toy guns, including a Sgt. Saunders Tommy gun by Mattel and a Marx bazooka that shot these blue plastic rockets.

When we played, nobody wanted to be the sniper because that entailed being alone and we all would rather storm pretend machine gun nests.

This is why I think there has always been a fascination with the lone wolf sniper persona.

There are plenty of other movies from Rambo to the Hurt Locker that include snipers in them. I’ve heard that American Sniper is very graphic. My guess is that any gore is left up to the imagination. I can’t see director Eastwood going over the top with any of that.

American Sniper will be on demand soon, I’ll likely live the life of Chris Kyle vicariously on the small screen.