As may be obvious from what I have said so far, my treasures aren’t worth much in money, but they are invaluable to me. One example is the North Vietnamese combat helmet sitting on a table in my living room. It is olive drab in color, decorated with a round metal piece an inch and a quarter in diameter showing a gold star against a red background. According to the internet, it is the People’s Army of Vietnam (North Vietnam) Surplus Military Emblem. Another American (I can’t remember who) gave me helmet to thank me for my service.
Other rooms sport other memorabilia. In the piano room, in an honored spot on the wall, is a photo of two combat boots. The picture is labelled “Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.” That’s the motto of one of the characters in my novel, Last of the Annamese, set during the fall of Saigon. The picture was a gift to me from the photographer who took the picture and found the empty boots haunting. To me they symbolize combat death—all that’s left of their owner is the boots.
Close by is a watercolor painting of the cathedral in Kiev seen behind two modest dwellings with freshly washed garments hanging from a clothesline. Hanging next to the painting is a round brass tray some two and a half feet wide filled with a colored engraved depiction of a phoenix. Sitting on a cabinet beneath the pictures is black carved head of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. Beneath the windows looking out to the east are two round porcelain garden seats. Both are white. One is decorated with pictures of dragons against a foliage background; the other is three elephant heads joined at the back. The three-headed white elephant was the royal symbol in the kingdom of Laos. It is called Airavata.
Next to the piano is a round, dark brown, wooden drum table, some two and a half feet high with a removable top. I’m not currently storing anything inside the table. Not far away are three porcelain elephants from Vietnam. They are several feet high, brilliantly colored, and decked out with intricate howdahs (riding seats).
In the adjoining room, the sunroom, adjacent to the deck at the back of the house, are more treasures. Hanging on the wall above my reading chair is a reproduction of the head of the virgin from Michelangelo’s sculpture, the Pietà. Mary’s face captivated me when I first saw it, and now I can look upon it at will. Opposite the chair is my bright green temple dog, a hyperbolic ceramic rendering of a Chinese dog with a ball in its mouth primed for play. Above the fireplace is hung a circular green Aztec cut-out silhouette of a solemn face encircled by intricate patterns and set against a tan background.
More next time.