My Morning in Exile

Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall fell. I’m obviously not equipped to do the event historical justice in this space, so I’ll share my own shallow personal remembrance: I was in the 11th grade, taking an advanced placement government and politics class. The teacher was way more interested in international relations stuff, however, so the syllabus and text for the class was premised almost exclusively on Cold War politics. With the fall of the wall, the entire lesson plan for the class was essentially mooted. It was at that moment that I realized “hey, maybe they’re not teaching us everything we need to know in school.”

Secondary remembrance: the fall of the Wall led directly to the Scorpions’ late-career hit “Winds of Change.” Who would have thunk that a band who once put out an album called “Virgin Killer” with a cover depicting a nude pre-teen girl covered in broken glass would one day tell us everything we needed to know about the thawing of NATO-Warsaw Pact relations? Anyway:

  • The Phillies say no to Pedro Feliz’s option; may activate a time machine and get the exact same player five years younger in the form of Adrian Beltre in free agency.
  • Some McCourtenfreude from the Boston Globe.
  • No, Sammy Sosa is not doing an homage to that awesome Eddie Murphy SNL skit.
  • Lackey to Milwaukee? Eh, why not? It’s not the craziest thing Olney has said recently.
  • The Rangers have pitching depth from which to deal. Hopefully for them it will work out better than all that catching depth they had last year.
  • One definition of happiness: receiving a case schedule from a court and realizing that you’ll be long gone before any of the hard stuff has to be done.

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    1. KR said...

      I don’t remember it at all, for which I’m mildly annoyed at myself. It’s not like I don’t remember being 7 years old, I just missed out, apparently.

    2. Alex K said...

      Speaking of not teaching you everything in school, how did you like “The Wire” season four? Have you finished it (and season five) yet? Is it sad that I care how you enjoyed a television show? Probably.

    3. Craig Calcaterra said...

      We took longer with Season 4 because of the World Series and stuff, but we just finished it on Saturday night.  Excellent, of course. Certainly more of a tragic bent to it given that it focused on kids, so it was much harder to watch. Omar’s little heist towards the end of the season almost completely made up for it in comic relief, however, so it’s all good.

      Diving in to Season Five tonight.

    4. APBA Guy said...

      Don’t forget Jesus Jones one-hit “Right Here, Right Now”. And the Scorps video of “Winds of Change” shot in a Moscow stadium really captures Europe’s mood in that period after the fall.

      A few years earlier I had the chance to tour the German border area (where West met East) with an Army buddy of mine. My Top Secret clearance helped, I guess, as the checkpoints got more serious the closer we got to the border.

      We passed through Wurzburg, home of the best beer in the world, Wurzburger Hofbrau, and also then home of the massive 3rd Mechanized Division. About 20,000 guys whose job was to face off against the estimated 400,000 Russian and Warsaw pact troops who’d be coming through the Fulda gap.

      Next up, right on the border, was the 11th Armored Cavalry regiment, maybe 5,000 deployed in the field. Their job was to buy 2 hours for the 3rd to saddle up. To do this, almost all their armament mounted TOW (wire guided anti tank missiles: very, very effective weapons for the mid ‘80’s) Of course there was lots of radar, other electronics, and all the bridges were ready to blow, etc. The camouflaged positions were practically invisible at ground level.

      Then of course was the border itself. Two miles deep of mine fields punctuated by East Bloc guard towers. You could see their versions of jeeps patrolling, with dogs running behind.

      The whole effect was incredibly chilly, frighteningly surreal. The concept that it was possible, even likely, that conflict in this area would cost nearly half a million dead in 1-3 days as a result of a likely “tactical” nuclear exchange made the entire tour far more depressing than scary, and that that whole scenario would then likely lead to escalation just boggled the mind.

      Seeing the Wall come down and watching those videos mentioned above, I imagined how much easier the lives of everyone along the border became, at least for a time. And while most people in the heartlands of both powers never had a chance (or had the desire) to actually see the powder keg along the border, knowing it was gone could only elevate everyone.

      But having seen the border and talked to a lot of our guys there, then seeing the videos, I could really understand and appreciate the mixed sense of joy and relief the Germans of both sides felt, and the sense of release for the Russians in the Scorps video.

    5. Ron said...

      I spent 3 years in Germany, and left on November 8th,  1989. When I boarded my plane, the wall was still up. When I landed in Philadephia, it was down. I missed the biggest party in the history of the world to go to Fort Leonard Wood.  My timing sucks.

      I do remember for about a month prior, East Germans were coming through the wall in droves. I spoke to many of them, and they said the guards (who used to have shoot to kill orders) stood by and let them go. The East Germans knew what was happening.

      The biggest memory I have is how ‘grateful’ all the East German girls were to American soldiers for giving them thier freedom.  Thier words, not mine.

    6. Alex K said...

      The way it ended up for Randy was the worst part of it, for me. When he’s in he hospital and Carver comes to see him hits me right in the gut every time.

    7. (Not That) Tom said...

      For some reason which I never did understand, “Winds of Change” was always in heavy rotation at my junior high dances. Even then, watching a bunch of bored, middle-class American teenagers slow-dancing to that song just seemed so…appropriate.

    8. Carroll said...

      Craig, I also saw you had some Sunday in exile posts.  When you are an ex-shyster should we expect to see more posts outside of Monday-Friday 9-5?

    9. Mitch said...

      Too bad our current President isn’t as interested in international relations stuff as your teacher was. Otherwise, he might have actually showed up to commemorate this rather significant event in history.

      /end rant

    10. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Carroll:  Almost certainly. I don’t think it will be an all-day kind of thing, but I’ll almost certainly be doing a handful of weekend posts most weekends once I switch over to full time.

      Really the general idea once I get there: write until my fingers bleed and keep on writing until the entire nation clicks in several times a day.

      If it goes well, I’ll raise my expectations for 2011.

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