Friday, March 14, 2014

Soldier on a Train: Talking about the Cold War with a Suspense Writer

Last week in one of the over-scheduled trips I make as part of my day job, I flew from Chicago to Philadelphia on the morning of Tuesday, March 4.  I was in uniform because there is no better way to fly than in uniform.  In 15 months when I get out, this is the benefit I may miss the most.

At about 3 pm I was on Rt. 95 driving to a Public Science meeting in DC.  Because of traffic at that time of day, I did not drive all the way to DC, but stopped at the BWI Airport rail station and took a train into Union Station then a Metro to Busboys and Poets Cafe where the meeting was being held.

The meeting was a science writers travelogue of two visits to North Korea.  He was very funny about his North Korean handlers, even while painting a very bleak picture of North Korea.

At 9pm I was back in Union Station and just made the 9:05 train to BWI.  I sat in cafe car and a young woman sat opposite me.  As she sat down she took three thick paperback novels from a bag and said, "I'm checking out the competition."  The woman I sat with for the next 20 minutes was Leslie Silbert, author of "The Intelligencer:" a spy novel set in 16th Century London and in New York today.  Her main character in the late 1500s is the playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was a spy for Queen Elizabeth.

We talked a little bit about her book and that she is writing another suspense novel.  But with Ukraine and Crimea in the news, the conversation turned to the Cold War.  She asked me a lot of questions about being a tank commander on the East-West border and what we thought about war with Russia.  That question was easy:  We thought there would be a war and that we would die in the first ten minutes.

I bought the book and really like it so far, especially the parts about Marlowe and spying in 16th Century London.  As you would expect, she has a web site:

On the opposite side of the aisle was a guy who knew a lot about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.  It was an interesting conversation with two very bright people (and me).  It was fun to remember again how different the world looked during the Cold War when we had any enemy with planes, ships, tanks and uniforms.  I was thinking, at least if we go to war with Russia, we won't be trying to "win hearts and minds."

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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