An appalled Boston Globe staffer alerted me yesterday to Mike Barnicle’s debut on the Huffington Post. “Who’s next, Jayson Blair?” my correspondent asked.
I read it, and the familiar hackery took me back many years, when we all read a columnist called Barnicle in a paper called the Globe in a city called Boston in a country called America. Barnicle’s conceit is an old one for him: Some guy died in a place called Vietnam 40 years ago, and, damn it, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton don’t even know who he was. But Mike Barnicle does.
Not to denigrate the memory of the soldier who died, Francis Xavier Kane. But Barnicle’s been writing this column since at least the 1980s. In Barnicle’s hands, these maudlin exercises invariably involve the use of the phrase “a place called,” an attempt to imbue his sentimental ramblings with a Hemingwayesque touch of manful dignity. For instance, in his HuffPost piece, Barnicle informs us that young Francis Kane met his end “a few miles west of a lethal place called Quang Tri City in a country called Vietnam.”
As I said, Barnicle has written this column many, many times over the years. What follows is a sampling. Believe me, it didn’t take long to put this together.
“He was killed in a firefight exactly two years ago at a place named Tuwayhah in a country called Iraq. He was 25.” (Boston Herald, April 14, 2005)
“All the simple things people take for granted disappeared for Peter Damon in the flash of an explosion early one morning last fall in a place called Camp Anaconda located in Balad, Iraq, north of Baghdad.” (Boston Herald, March 9, 2004)
“Lucas is 67, McCarthy is 83 and both hold the Medal of Honor, awarded for what they did on two different days of February 1945 at a place called Iwo Jima.” (Boston Globe, Oct. 26, 1995)
“He was south of Hue City, Vietnam, with the 9th Marines, in a place called Phu Bai.” (Boston Globe, Sept. 30, 1990)
“… a place called the Gulf of Tonkin during the summer of 1964.” (Boston Globe, Aug. 21, 1990)
“On Sept. 17, 1966 — two days before his 19th birthday — he found himself in a place called Cu Chi, which is about 15 miles west of Saigon, Republic of South Vietnam.” (March 11, 1990)
“His last name was Gonzalez and as he lay dying at 18 near a place called Con Thien in the Republic of South Vietnam nearly a quarter century ago.” (Boston Globe, April 25, 1989)
“… he has only one leg, the other having been blown off just over 20 years ago at a place called My Tho, a very pretty town on the Bassac River in the Mekong Delta …” (Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1988)
“… almost exactly to this day, my friend Tommy Gill, then with the 3d Marines, nearly lost his life to gunfire at a place called Con Thien where fighting was fierce and constant.” (Boston Globe, Feb. 12, 1988)
“He was killed at a place called The Parrot’s Beak, fighting the communist army from Hanoi.” (Boston Globe, March 30, 1987)
“Wake me up and tell me no mother’s son ever died in a place called Vietnam.” (Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 1985)
“… two decades since other Marines, elements of the Ninth Division, walked ashore about three miles south of a place called DaNang …” (Boston Globe, April 26, 1985)
“His name was Anh Mai and he had come to the United States of America in 1979 from a place called Saigon in a country called Vietnam.” (April 15, 1985)
“The soldiers were fed three times in the nine days before the survivors emerged at a place called Stalag 3B near Frankfurt.” (Dec. 17, 1984)
“It is a letter, a letter written on Memorial Day of that year from a place called Khe Sanh in a country called Vietnam.” (Boston Globe, May 30, 1983)
“All of them came back except for Frankie Viola who caught a bullet on March 3, 1945, at a place called ‘Sulpher Island,’ known in history as Iwo Jima.” (Boston Globe, May 14, 1982)
“… razor blades spilled out of his mouth as he lectured those outside a Senate hearing room about the growing troubles in a place called El Salvador.” (Boston Globe, March 6, 1981)
“God is dead on the cover of Time magazine. Your son is dead in a place called Chu Lai. Who killed him, anyway?” (Boston Globe, Dec. 10, 1980)
“He hated the war. He was of the First Marines, India Company, Third Battalion, fought in a place called Quang Tri province, Vietnam and hated it.” (Boston Globe, Sept. 10, 1980)