M*A*S*H: An Appreciation for 2017

One evening when I was in college I was hanging out with friends in their suite. Someone suggested we watch a re-run of M*A*S*H on television, but one friend, Mark, objected. He thought the show was crass, too many references to drinking and sex.

Fortunately the “yea” votes won out, and even more fortunately it chanced to be the episode titled “The Interview.” If you don’t remember the show, “The Interview” is filmed in black and white, a mock documentary in which a correspondent interviews the members of M*A*S*H 4077. (M*A*S*H,  by the way, stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.) Interestingly, it was not fully scripted: the actors answered the reporter’s questions in character.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

“The Interview” is my favorite of all M*A*S*H episodes, and I might as well make full disclosure right now that I will argue here that M*A*S*H is the best television series of all time. Near the end of the documentary, the reporter asks each of the interviewees if he or she has anything to say to the folks back home. They do, and when B. J. Hunnicutt tells his wife and baby daughter that he misses them, my tears start to flow–every time.

And so they did, sitting in that dormitory suite. I glanced around the room hoping nobody would notice, but instead I saw Mark, the guy who’d objected to watching, brushing a hand at his eye. So did some others. Continue reading


On Christina Taylor Green’s first birthday, I spent the day on Vesey Street on the north side of St. Paul’s Chapel. In addition to being Christina’s birthday, it was the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and I was volunteering with the American Red Cross to check in family members attending the memorial service at Ground Zero, assigned to the check-in area

St. Paul’s is a lovely old church a few blocks from Trinity Church, with which it is affiliated, and almost directly across Church Street from the former site of the World Trade Center. After the September 11 attacks it became a respite center, both spiritual and physical, for recovery workers. They stomped into the chapel in their muddy work boots to rest, eat and sometimes to sleep on the pews. After the clean-up of the WTC site was completed, St. Paul’s was cleaned and became the home of a memorial to the rescue and recovery work. Despite the cleaning, a few scuffs remain from those muddy boots, and they are among the Chapel’s most sacred items.

On the wrought iron fence that surrounds St. Paul’s workers and visitors hung tributes to those who died on September 11 and those who worked at the site. On that long anniversary day I found myself going again and again to one t-shirt on the fence. It read: “The bravest thing a firefighter ever does is take the oath. After that it’s all in the line of duty.”

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