2a Anderson [or Growing up during The Vietnam War]

Life was disjointed, difficult, and deadly.  We grew up in chaos.  We were throwaway children during the time of the draft, living dangerously because danger was all we knew. My adolescence was a hopeless time. This is one of my stories.

The Animals – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts was not always a place of high priced abodes and yuppie couples who had made good.  In the 60s, there were basement apartments rented out to anyone who could pay, regardless of their professions.  Such was the place I’ll call 2a Anderson Street.

The back alley crawling into 2a was a toilet for indigents, or even for drug customers who occasionally came and went.  The clientele was not the best, nor was the product.  Old rubbish swept through, riding eddies brought by New England fall.  Leaves were sparse in the densely packed Hill.  Rubbish would simply have to do.

It was a bitter time of war.  The nightly news consisted of body-counts and gruesome photos of mangled bodies.  A time when a teenager’s coming of age might consist of a swift death, or a whirlwind romance resulting in youngsters getting married before their time—simply to say they had.


What better time to leave your seed behind than before you died from a booby-trapped disposable lighter some Vietnam teenager left to blow your face off, or from being impaled by feces-smeared, bamboo spears set to spring up at whatever tripped them.  It was a time when the future of the country felt there was no future at all.  We were a lost generation.

2a Anderson Street was my refuge away from my parents.  For all the violence across the sea, there was none like the violence at home.  I had learned young to keep my eyes lowered when being spoken to, affording just the right amount of eye contact to show my attentiveness.

My life was a careful balance of survival.  Vietnam made home look good.  School was just an interim between the two.   2a was my home away from home, and the grime in the alley meant nothing at all. Home was clean, and home hurt.

The door leading into 2a opened on a small stairway that dropped down into a windowless apartment that smelled of sweat and old cooked food.  The room adjoining the door was huge, twenty by twenty feet, with four cots, one in each corner.

A makeshift pantry led the way to the back bedroom, where Karla and I would lay at night, listening to the grunts and moans of those in other beds, partaking of young things consenting to their passions.

We would giggle, but I was scared.  Still, I felt safer at 2a Anderson than in the streets or at home. There was something about the place that made me feel more alive than I’d ever felt before.  It was just a matter of time before I realized why.

The denizens of 2a were a jumbled lot, harboring weekenders looking for space away from their parents.  I never knew why they allowed us to trickle in; I was just grateful that they did.  I only remember two of the names: Jay and Rocky.

Jay was a broken soul, probably a Vietnam remnant.  He never spoke, just walked by and looked at us as if we were someone’s children over for a visit.  He was on the high side of his twenties, but his dull hazel eyes were tired beyond their years.  His shoulders hunched as if he had carried a heavy load too far.

Then there was Rocky, twenty years old, a full-blooded Navajo Indian, with straight black hair to his shoulders and beautiful brown eyes filled with soft pain.  He always had a quiet hello for me mixed with a little smile.  Rocky was a junkie, but then most of us were drug abusers.  My choice high was LSD, and it was beginning to wear on my body.  I was thin, even emaciated, and I almost didn’t care. I was fifteen years old.

I had become adept at reading faces, and something in Rocky’s face told me he would never give his pain over to others—that his was a private lot, buried behind those smoky eyes.  He minded his business and never delivered harsh words. His tone was sad, soft and knowing.  There were whispers that he dealt in heroin, and from what I’d been able to see of his arms, it was true.

He’d catch me looking at him sometimes, searching for who he was, and give me a look like an amused brother tolerating a little sister.  He was not at all like the others in the apartment.  There was carefully covered well of emotions wrapped in stone inside of him.  But I could see them all.  2a Anderson was no longer important; it was Rocky who I went to see.

A number of weeks after I had started frequenting 2a, my peers moved on to a new rite of passage and were clamoring for me to join them.  My fear had kept me safe for a while.  It was supposed to be the greatest, but I was afraid of needles.  Karla set up a double date with her boyfriend and another young man who would walk me through my task.

We went to my young man’s small apartment, settled in the living room, and lined up to use the syringe.  I was nauseous just watching them mix the brownish-white heroin and water in a spoon, holding it over a candle to liquefy it, then sucking it up through a small piece of cotton as a crude strain for impurities.

The needle was huge, something that a vet would use for a larger animal–a horse, maybe.  To me, it looked even bigger.

“C’mon. You want to go?” They badgered…

I told them to go ahead—until there was no one else to go.  I sat in a kitchen chair while they all gathered around me, letting Lucky push Hell through my skin.  He searched, poking the soft tissues underneath, finally producing blood as he drew back on the plunger.

I widened my grimace, watching him squeeze, slowly pushing the milky fluid into my arm.  A fog fell over me as supper crept up my throat, forcing me to the bathroom where it exploded into the toilet.  I had made my rite of passage.

The weekend came.  It was time to trip into Boston.  I was excited about being able to tell Rocky that I what I had done.  Miles crept by as I walked and hitchhiked in alone to bring him the news.  Now he would have to accept me as an equal.  I had had the courage to follow in his footsteps.  I arrived at 2a, and searched for him in the darkened room, finding him in his corner.

“Hey, Rocky, look at my arm.  I shot up for my first time the other night.”

 I brought my arm up, smiling as I pointed to a wound surrounded by blue/black tissue, nestled in the crook of my arm.

He grew quiet, staring at me for a moment, and then dropped his gaze.  His eyes glazed as he lost himself in some memory of long ago.  His face lifted, eyes focusing on mine, as he slowly removed his shirt and turned his arms out to me.

There were two hard lines of tissue running up each arm.

“Is this what you want?  I don’t know where to shoot anymore.  Is that what you want, too?”

At that moment, I knew he was dead.  There was no hope in his face, but I could see how important it was to him for me to listen.  I wanted to hug him, but I was not sure how.

The next weekend I stayed home.  2a was raided, and a significant amount of heroin was found.  I heard through the rumor mill that Rocky went to prison, Deer Island. They turned Karla loose after contacting her parents to pick her up.  I never saw Rocky again.

For the next few months, I struggled with my hallucinogenic abuse, but I never shot up again.  Rocky made me know I had a choice; that he wanted me to be okay.  As the years have gone by, I’ve often thought of him. I’ve cried at those times.  I wish there were some way I could let him know he helped me value myself—

only because I saw in his eyes how He valued Me.

Copyright 1999 Joyce Bowen






There is no way to explain to you what nightly broadcasts of bodies on the tube can do to growing minds.  As children of the Vietnam War, we were deluged with those news program preparing our young males for what the 18-year-old military draft held in store for them.




Videos below will give you a taste of what we saw every day.


The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2017):


Viewer discretion is advised. Some content in this video may be objectionable. This video contains violent images. Some language in this video may be offensive.

THE VIETNAM WAR, an immersive ten-part, eighteen hour documentary film series directed by acclaimed filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the epic story of one of the most divisive, consequential and misunderstood events in American history, as it has never before been told on film. Not Edited for Television.


Vietnamese revolutionaries led by Ho Chi Minh end nearly a century of French colonial occupation. Vietnam is divided in two. Communists in the North aim to reunify the country, while America supports Diem’s untested regime in the South.

Distributed by PBS Distribution.


Ken Burns

The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2017):



This little film is a mirror held up to the United States and its citizens. What we see in the mirror is not pretty. The interviewed vets are low on formal education but nevertheless articulate and thoughtful. So what they are saying cannot be laid off onto social backwardness and lack of moral centering. They are quite aware of the moral lines they have crossed and indeed enjoyed crossing. And they are this way because we are this way. It becomes very clear on hearing these stories that My Lai was by no means the exception, and that the watchword was the phrase taken by Nick Turse for the title of his book – “Kill anything that moves” – get the body count. Any dead Vietnamese is VC and body count.


Viewer discretion is advised. Some content in this video may be objectionable. This video contains violent images. Some language in this video may be offensive.

THE VIETNAM WAR, an immersive ten-part, eighteen hour documentary film series directed by acclaimed filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the epic story of one of the most divisive, consequential and misunderstood events in American history, as it has never before been told on film. Not Edited for Television.


U.S. airpower makes the difference in halting a North Vietnamese offensive. After being re-elected, Nixon announces Hanoi has agreed to a peace deal. American prisoners of war will finally come home—to a bitterly divided country.

Distributed by PBS Distribution.


Ken Burns

The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2017):

Déjà Vu (1958-1961):

Riding the Tiger (1961-1963):

The River Styx (January 1964-December 1965)

Resolve (January 1966-June 1967)

This Is What We Do (July 1967-December 1967)

Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)

The Veneer of Civilization (June 1968-May 1969)

The History of the World (April 1969-May 1970)

A Disrespectful Loyalty (May 1970-March 1973)

The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)



40 years ago we met The Napalm Girl. The iconic photo woke the world up to the reality of the Vietnam War. We traveled to Vietnam-to the very spot where history was made-to produce The Power of a Picture for ABC7, Los Angeles



A pragmatic U.S Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam

War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the

bloody street fighting in the Hue.



Radio funny man Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) is sent to Vietnam to bring a little comedy back into the lives of the soldiers. After setting up shop, Cronauer delights the G.I.s but shocks his superior officer, Sergeant Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh), with his irreverent take on the war. While Dickerson attempts to censor Cronauer’s broadcasts, Cronauer pursues a relationship with a Vietnamese girl named Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana), who shows him the horrors of war first-hand.



In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer (Robert Duvall), and a crazed freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.


What happened during the Vietnam War draft?

Read More HERE

5 thoughts on “2a Anderson [or Growing up during The Vietnam War]

Add yours

  1. I was born in, lived through, and survived this War. Fought for Freedom? Fight for Freedom? Whose freedom? What a rubbish lie! No wonder people have been suffering war after war after war…and still swallow such rubbish lie and keep regurgitating it ad nauseaum!
    Those who call themselves “Historians” who arrogantly wrote and make “documentaries” about this War, don’t even understand what this War was all about!

    This is my “gentle touch” on the tiny part of this War.






  2. BTW, here is my take with this new found “foot stage”
    “All Vietnamese Were ‘Gooks’, We Were The Civilized People”


    The Yanks left after had bombed the hell out Hanoi just to force the Communists to sit down and sign the Paris Accord 1973 AFTER Henry Kissinger’s Secret 1971 Trip to China to meet Zhou Enlai. And the subsequently Nixon went to meet MAO ZEDONG (1972) … so the Yanks could leave Vietnam in “honor”.
    Hence, the Vietnamese and the Chinese Communists won the War, the South Regime lost power.. But the whole Vietnamese as a People have lost everything during and after the War ended even now still a faked Communist society with statist capitalism! I myself as a baby boomer Saigonaise did not understand my “own War” better until I read Professor Antony Sutton’s works especially “America’s Secret Establishment”.
    Governments always WON every WAR , and the People in both sides lost every war!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s not how we felt. It was horrible and haunting. When my sons were born –1st 1 and I knew they couldn’t take him in the draft if he was my only son–but then I had another boy. So I marked the day until my youngest turned 26 because I thought my sons were past draft age–only to find out they had up the draft age to 32. That war has haunted me my entire life–and I saw the birth defects caused to this day by the chemicals we dropped. I grieve for your country and people, and always have.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: