The Week My Brain Melted in a Good Way


Power to the poets! Journalist and poet Anne-Marie Cusac reads one of her works with Tanner Retzlaff, MMU student.

Power to the poets! Journalist and poet Anne-Marie Cusac reads one of her works with Tanner Retzlaff, MMU student.

Is it Thursday already? That means a performance—I am playing hand bells tonight at 7.

Am I Iooking forward to the concert? Yes. And no. I could use a night off, but I do enjoy attempting to make music, and I’m sure playing my bells is good for my brain. My poor, bruised, tired brain. It’s been a week where I’m marginally functioning on limited sleep and event overload.

Dr. Mohammad Chaichian speaks about his 1992 visit to Vietnam.

Dr. Mohammad Chaichian speaks about his 1992 visit to Vietnam.

It started Monday with an interesting presentation by Dr. Mohammad Chaichian on his 1992 trip to post-war Vietnam. I had a camera and recorded some images, but unfortunately didn’t take notes. It was interesting to note how, by 1992, Vietnam was still stagnated in postwar poverty—but after the United States ended a policy of isolating the country, the economy boomed—especially around not only Hanoi in the north, but also Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south.

I was impressed by several things—one was the diagrams Mohammad showed of the tunnel complex he visited. Or how, by 1992, many craters from B-52 bombing raids still littered by countryside. At one point, he showed a picture of a graveyard in Vietnam, and reminded us that, as much as the U.S. struggles to understand its sacrifice of 58,000 lives in that wretched war, the toll in Vietnam was far greater.

When will they ever learn?

Anyway, following the Monday presentation, Tuesday was the opening of an exhibit called “Visions of Courage: the Legacy of Vietnam” in the Janalyn Hanson White Gallery at Mount Mercy. The free exhibit, open 9 to 5 during the week and 10 to 5 on weekends, remains open until Oct. 25.

The exhibit incorporates Vietnam-era artifacts and information, some associated with Mount Mercy, some from the community. One interesting display is materials lent by Dale Kueter, the book author who speaks Oct. 13 on “The Wounds of Vietnam: How Long will the Healing Take?”

Opening of exhibit in MMU gallery.

Opening of exhibit in MMU gallery.

The gallery opening drew attention from two local TV stations, which is nice. KCRG report and KGAN report.

Wednesday saw the visit by writer Anne-Marie Cusac, who is known both as a magazine investigative journalist and as a poet. Although her presentation touched on completely different topics, to me it somehow fit in the theme of the week. It felt like there was something lurking about memory, and gritty reality, and thinking deeply about where we are and why and where we are going. And Cusac’s reporting and poetry certainly prove gritty realities, even in a book about a sexual affair that happens in a Canadian myth between a woman and a seal.

“Canadians hate seals,” she noted.

Anne-Marie Cusac speaks.

Anne-Marie Cusac speaks.

Well, I don’t know if I can survive many works week like this. Four irresistible evening events in a week is maybe two too many, for an old man like me.

I can’t say I’m unhappy. I thoroughly enjoyed them all. But this weekend is a newspaper production cycle, I have a mid-term exam to grade and two more to write.

And I’m ready for fall break. But what a week! More images.

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Filed under History, Journalism, Mount Mercy

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