I leave to go to South Korea in a few days. Not on vacation, I'm going for my 11th tour entertaining the troops with Armed Forces Entertainment. I had been approached many times by them to go on tour but chose to wait till my son was 18. That was four years ago. I didn't want to stop mothering so I decided to mother the US military.
It's been quite a wild ride these four years. I have been to places all over the world that I would never have dreamed I would go to; Iraq during combat, War-torn Kosovo, and El Salvador, the murder capital of the world. This trip to Korea is different though because my dad fought in the Korean War and I have wanted to go there since I started touring.
While I was growing up my father was larger than life, he spoke loud, he drank harder. By trade my dad was a teacher and during the summer vacations he worked as a bartender in the Catskill Mountains. On the side he was a bookie, but that's a whole other blog. On summer days I would watch him set up the bar in the afternoon. In would walk some of the comedy greats: Rodney Dangerfield, Jackie Mason, Totie Fields. They were there to do their soundcheck and bullshit with my dad. Is it a wonder I feel so at home in a bar or that I became a comedian myself? I wanted to be just like him and many would say I am.
I remember when I was just a little girl, I would sit and watch him shave every morning. The shaking of the shaving cream can, filling the sink with water, and getting out his razor. Then, the sound of the razor against his skin, the dipping of the razor in the water, and finally the tapping. How I so wanted to be him.
One morning I asked him if I could shave with him, he smiled and said yes. I'm sure he was thinking of the therapy bills coming down the pike. I stood next to him on the toilet bowl lid, put shaving cream on my face and with a toothbrush followed everything my dad did. Even patted my self down with what I will assume was Old Spice and, off to school! I went smelling like my dad but beaming.
I got so much of who I am from my dad, especially my sense of humor. My dad could tell a joke! Laughing was something we always shared and I would learn to share with others as I grew up. We would watch I Love Lucy during dinner, Abbot and Costello on Sundays before football and my beloved Marx Brothers whenever their movies showed on TV. I can still remember me and my dad on our family vacation in Europe repeating lines from the film Go West as we walked down cobblestone streets.
He never spoke to me about the war, I just knew that he had gone over and was wounded. A few years ago my husband told me that my father had told him the story about getting shot. When I first got married, my dad was not a fan of my husband... who was a musician and couldn't provide the lifestyle that my dad wanted his daughter to have. As he has aged my father decided that my husband is the son he never had and felt he could open up to him about Korea.
In a foxhole surrounded by the enemy, my dad was loading a machine gun with soldiers on either side of him. He got shot in the hand, the other two were killed. He was 21, younger than my son is now. Had the wind shifted you wouldn't be reading this right now. I can't imagine my son having to deal with watching someone die. This really explains a lot of why my father was who he was as I was growing up.
So going to Korea for me will be very emotional to say the least. I asked my dad what base he was stationed at and he said "Base? We just went to the front lines and fought." I am going to be performing on 12 bases, none of which my dad ever saw.
I am going to the point where my existence was determined.
How many people can say that?
To stand on the land that almost took away my dad and be able to say, "You didn't get him. In fact, he had ME and I had my son, so there." Life goes on...full circle.
PS: It really is a circle going from NYC to Seoul.