Liberty for All

It’s been an eventful few days!

Last week I received my ISBN number for CITY OF DRAGONS, an occasion for much celebration–which I did as a guest blogger on Working Stiffs, through the generosity of the wonderful Joyce Tremel and other friends on that fabulous grog.

My friend Rebecca Cantrell is in town to launch her extraordinary novel, A TRACE OF SMOKE … we were the literary salon guests of one of the most wonderful and fascinating people in a wonderful and fascinating business, Mystery Readers International founder (and chocolate lover) Janet Rudolph.

Becky had a SRO launch party at one of my favorite places, M is for Mystery–and if you haven’t had a chance to pick up her book, you should. Historical noir at its finest–and at its darkest (the setting is 1931 Berlin).

And I’ve been chugging away at various deadlines, editorial and non-editorial, with nary a moment left over for noirish indulgence. But soon, soon … particularly as I’ll be blogging over on Pop Syndicate about my favorite film noir flickers.

Today, however, I want to talk about Memorial Day and San Francisco.

Beyond the normal tourist sensations of Fisherman’s Wharf–the ode to consumerism that is Pier 39, the gimmicky restaurants, the cheap t-shirts, the always-real and welcome barks of the sea lions and smell of sourdough bread–behind the wizard’s curtain is another chapter of The City’s history.

I’m talking Pier 45.

Just a short stroll down a working pier–yet miles away from the silver men and the keyboard players in the parking lot–is the Jeremiah O’Brien. One of two remaining fully-functional Liberty ships surviving from World War II.

She shares the berth with the U.S.S. Pampanito, a valiant WWII era submarine that has been preserved under the auspices of the National Park Service: the San Francisco National Maritime Park Association, to be exact.

The Jeremiah, though, isn’t part of the park. It stays afloat–and takes full-throttle cruises, particuarly during Fleet Week and for special commemorative occasions like the anniversary of D-Day–solely through memberships and volunteers.

Think of it! A living, breathing, working ship, one of only two remaining of 2,710 built–iron and steel, history in the water. And all through the tireless efforts of volunteers who love her, who maintain her, and who make sure that the Jeremiah will live over Memorial Days past counting.

I’ve had the honor of sailing on her–for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. And while most of the world knows her–if they know her at all–from the engine room of James Cameron’s Titanic (yup, she doubled for the tragic White Star liner), her legacy, her courage, and what she stands for touches us all.

The Jeremiah O’Brien is a Liberty ship. She is the last unaltered example of her kind. A floating museum of a war that was not predetermined, that was not a foregone conclusion. She and her sister ships ferried supplies and cargo to the front lines, and were a core part of the lend-lease program to Britain before the US joined the war. Roosevelt said this class of quickly built and aesthetically plain ships would bring liberty to Europe. And so they did.

In 1994, the Jeremiah O’Brien journeyed from San Francisco to the beaches of Normandy, revisiting her part in Operation Overlord. She was the only large ship to return for the 50th anniversary.

If you ever have a chance to see her, I hope you do. She–and the Pampanito–are floating Memorial Days, 365 days a year.

Next: More film, more San Francisco and more news!