Christopher Caen: They fought for freedom then, we need to keep fighting now

There have been many famous pairs in history: Abbott and Costello. Bogie and Bacall, Montana and Rice. But an extremely dangerous combination is about to be launched here in The City. Soon the historic and creaky old boards behind the bar at the Washington Square Bar and Grill will be graced by the deeply religious combination of The Bishop of Booze and the Right Reverend. That’s right, from Monday through Friday, Michael McCourt (the Reverend) works the pulpit. Starting next Saturday, the newly recruited Tim Stookey (The Bishop) will take over the honors. We will see you at services.

Another combination making waves is our own Gavinator and Lou Seal. The City has been celebrating “Thank a Teacher Today” all month long (www.thankateachertoday.org). Bank of America and DonorsChoose have been helping the effort and needed someone to deliver donated materials to the schools. Faster than you can say “seal the deal” Lou Seal and the mayor showed up at Sheridan Elementary School to deliver the goods to a classroom of third-graders. Model solar systems and construction sets were bought, and who says our mayor can’t deliver the moon, eh?

One more combination is Jennifer King and Timothy Fredel. They have been involved with several nonprofits for years and are the parents of two children with Type 1 diabetes. However, the house they live in has an even more engaging history. Their home was originally the Fillmore Fell Group Home for emotionally disturbed girls, and this was the inspiration for what they did next.

Jennifer and Tim decided to sell the house, but in a way to bring it back to its roots. The house is up the hill from the Pitts Plaza housing project, known to the locals as “The Pitts.” With all the recent violence in the Western Addition, the approach of the summer and being out of school represents a unique threat to these children. What the house will become is the base for a foundation for the neighborhood children and for two nonprofits, Friends of the Children and City Youth Now.

Activities they will host include a weekend computer camp, a daytime resource and counseling center for parents and, most importantly, a supportive and safe environment for classes, tutoring, homework and extracurricular activities. Timothy and Jennifer are looking for investors to help with the cause; Think of it as a real estate investment where the return is measured in dollars and karma as well.

Not all pairs are people, and two more are on the schedule for this weekend: The San Francisco and The San Francisco. Before you get all wrinkled in the face, I am referring to the World War II cruiser USS San Francisco and the nuclear submarine USS San Francisco. To celebrate Memorial Day, many will be gathering this Sunday at high noon at Land’s End to remember those vessels, especially the cruiser. That ship gives us only time we can properly use the moniker “Frisco,” for she was known as the “Fighting Frisco.” She was on station for many of the important battles in the War in the Pacific, securing 17 battle stars and several Medals of Honor for her crew. She caused so much trouble during her time that the infamous Japanese broadcaster “Tokyo Rose” announced that she had been sunk. Several times, in fact.

Her bridge wings still stand today at Land's End, where they can almost look across the Bay to Mare Island, where her keel was laid down in 1931. Which brings us to the last pair of the day. In a town where all waris bad we can still remember those who died for us half a century ago in the middle of a strange sea. On Nov. 12, 1942, 77 sailors, including her captain and rear admiral, died in some of the most savage naval fighting of the war, under attack from ships and aircraft simultaneously and taking over 40 hits during the fight. At one unbelievable moment, the “Fighting Frisco” was engaged at the same time with a battleship, a cruiser and a destroyer. The history books will forever refer to it as “The Battle for Guadalcanal,” but the only location her crew will remember is Lengo Channel, halfway across the world and halfway to hell.

We seem to be of two minds these days. You can buy a video of the Gulf War on CNN, but we don’t want any warships berthed here. We don’t want to remember those who fought for our freedoms, but we seem strangely disinterested in fighting for our freedoms today. Warships on our waterfront are bad, but wiretaps on our lives are good. Fighting for our liberties is yesterday, giving up our liberties is today. But we wouldn't have today if not for people who fought for us all on a dark stretch of water in the middle of a night off an unknown coast. So be of one mind — and remember.

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