It is 5 AM Saturday morning on Marco Island, March 19, 2011. Everything is still, there is a full moon over the Island and other than some distant sirens, it is absolutely quiet. My Rhapsody music program is in full swing and I am listening to Frankie Lymon singing “Only fools fall in love”… Life is good; I say to myself and watch a newspaper truck deliver the Saturday paper. I walk out and pick up the paper.
All of a sudden I find myself in Sendai, Japan. It is the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and an unprecedented Tsunami. Homes are flattened, cars are crushed, lives are ruined, hopes and dreams ended. Everything around me is in pieces, 10,000 or more people are missing. I blink my eyes and I am now in the Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear power complex standing very close to the wreckage of the nuclear energy plant where brave men in their protective uniforms are spraying water onto a melting reactor. Steam is rising from a dry pool full of spent fuel rods. Helicopters are dropping water from huge buckets onto a broken facility. This is all surreal.
Frankie Lymon song is over and now it is Elvis belting out “Crying in the Chapel”. It was 1970 when I traveled hundreds of miles across the country with my friends in a rickety bright red 1950 Rambler which was purchased for $ 50.00 in cash to see Elvis in one of his last concerts. He was heavy, sweaty and oh so great! When I hear Elvis’ silky smooth voice, I leave the broken down reactor in a hurry. I suddenly find myself in downtown Benghazi, Libya with the rebels. These brave souls are fighting with whatever weapons they can get a hold of to save their country from the grasp of a ruthless dictator. Unfortunately, they have no command and control structure, no battle plan, no experience and training. They are just a rag tag collection of shoeless patriots wearing old, torn up clothes. Everyone is running around aimlessly, some are manning ineffective anti-aircraft guns against high flying MiG-23’s and Mirage-F1’s. Gadhafi’s air force is relentlessly dropping bombs on them. I see an old man standing next to the anti-aircraft gun, throwing stones at the aircraft as he shouts “Allah-u Akbar/God is Great”… Where are the air forces of the West, I wonder? Who is manning the no-fly zone? Didn’t the UN vote for sanctions yesterday? Smoke from burning buildings rise towards an otherwise sunny and clear Benghazi sky. I have been here in better days when business was good, before the thug Ghadafi ordered the downing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. This is an important city, the oil terminals and refineries are here. The rebels want to control it, government forces want to take it back.
My music changes to “It’s been a hard day’s night” and the Beatles are now filling the morning air. Instantly I am transported to Manama, capital of the small Kingdom of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf. This is home to the US Fifth fleet where my US Marine son-in-law is presently deployed. Bahrain is very important to America and its location in the Gulf is important to the West. It is presently ruled by a Sunni Royal family although the majority of the population is Shiites. They have been fighting government forces in the streets of Manama for over three weeks, looking for regime change and an end to oppression. Today, the center of town is teeming with Saudi soldiers who are here to restrain the protesters who have been in the streets since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in nearby Egypt by a popular people’s uprising. Saudi King seeing that his kingdom and power may be next, sent in his elite troops to quash the uprising in Bahrain under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council; and that is exactly what these troops are doing. Things are not going as well for the protesters here.
Now it is the Rolling Stones with their best seller “Can’t get no satisfaction” on Rhapsody. I wonder if I am playing the music too loud. It is now 6 Am and I see the first rays of the morning sun rising over Barfield Bay. The first Cardinaljust landed on one of the bird feeders in my back-yard. The Saturday morning edition of the Wall Street Journal is spread it over the lanai table. Dear God! The value of the Dollar and the stock prices for the week are very disappointing. National debt is rising and rolling towards me like the tsunami in Japan. I glance at the unemployment figures and they are still way up there. I am really beginning to get depressed. The news is overwhelming me on this beautiful morning. There are more Cardinals in the feeder now joined by the ever present morning-doves. Life is good on Marco Island.
I walk into the kitchen and start the coffee brewing. I am now in a tent with our brave Marines in Afghanistan. They are brewing their evening coffee before they go on night patrols, a very dangerous proposition in this strange land. Now I see the faces of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen in Iraq trying to finish the job they were asked to do. It has been a long haul. Families at home are also suffering. I take my first sip of the hot, steaming dark cup of coffee.
I am on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, a behemoth of an aircraft carrier only a few miles off the coast of Japan. We are loading food, water and other necessities on board SH-60F helicopters for transport to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. There are 3200 serviceman and women on board and they are working around the clock, despite the fact that the carrier went through a radioactive plume only a few days earlier. That is the American way, I say to myself, the only way!
Somehow, I leave the aircraft carrier and I am now in Sana’a, capital of Yemen. Everything around me is dry, the earth is scorched and dust is everywhere. It is the kind of dust that sticks to your face, goes in your nose and covers your eyes. There are rebels outside the City. Government may fall any time. I recognize a few of the CIA operatives dressed in local garb buying bread at the corner store. I wonder “why bother with the local garb?” This small country is very important to the West in the fight against terror; this is home to the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Things are not going well here either.
The sun is up and I can see around me clearly now. It is going to be another beautiful Marco Island day. A few runners go past my house followed by the usual morning bikers. It is so peaceful and I get a sudden an urge to jump into the pool. Then I remember the fuel rods melting in the dry pool in Japan; all the radioactive particles in the air, death and destruction all around me; the old man throwing rocks at the Libyan Air Force jet in Benghazi; I think about our Marines in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq and aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, working around the clock…
Elvis is back, singing “Suspicion”. I stop by to say goodnight to Hosni Mubarak in his Summer Palace in Alexandria, Egypt. He is wearing his blue and white striped silk pajamas, ready to retire for the evening.
It must be getting hot already. It is now 7 AM. I am beginning to sweat. I walk back in the air conditioned room, turn the TV on and watch the President of the United States and his family being welcomed in Brasilia, Brazil… I wonder how he did on his NCAA bracket after the first couple of days.
The music is definitely getting louder. It is Napoleon XIV (a.k.a. Jerry Samuels) singing his classic “They are coming to take me away, ha, ha; they are coming to take me away ho, ho, he, heeeee”. And I am hoping this has all been a bad dream and I will wake up any minute now.
“They’re coming to take me away, HA HA – They’re coming to take me away, HO HO HEE HEE HA HA – To the funny farm – Where life is beautiful all the time.”
And the day is just beginning for me…
Currently a member of Marco Island’s Code Enforcement Board, Tarik Ayasun has given many years of community service to various organizations.