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Eric inspects the fine detailing of the Lincoln hearse replica he and a group of local veterans built in 2015. In the future, the Hollenbecks will continue working to provide a transitional space at Blue Ox for newly returned veterans. Viviana is searching for funding for three new, culturally significant building projects for the vets to take on — a 1947 Woody Wagon, a 1912 San Francisco Trolley Car and railroad stops for the Sacramento Railway museum. File photo history museum, radio station, nonprofit organization, high school for at-risk teens and a program for war veterans. One of only eight remaining Victorian mills in the country, Eric says it’s the most complete job shop in the United States. While other mills have specialized, Blue Ox still does it all. Its high-end, historic reproductions can be found in mansions, museums and churches in every state of the union — everywhere from the White House to the Mascot Saloon in Skagway, Alaska. His list of accomplishments is 44 years long. “If you’re in the business,” Eric says, “you know Blue Ox.” Adding to their broad catalogue of endeavors, the Hollenbecks are now co-producing Radioman. Like everything they’ve taken on in 40 years of marriage, Eric and Viviana are working in true partnership. “I build the car and she puts the wheels on it,” Eric likes to say. McManus included a monologue in the play from the perspective of the radioman’s wife. He is careful to not be syrupy about their relationship but he gets it. “Jesus, I mean, he ends where she begins and visa versa,” McManus says. “I don’t know who either of them would be apart. … They joke with each other, they bust each Overleaf: The family of machines at Blue Ox dates from 1866 to 1948. Hollenbeck pulled most of the antique machinery out of blackberry bushes and from abandoned sawmills. Photo by León Villagómez

18 NORTH COAST JOURNAL • Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 •

other’s chops, they lean on each other.” Viviana is McManus’ touchstone when he interviews Eric. “She’s always who I go to to see whether I’m pushing him too far. Whether he needs a nap. Whether I need to pull back. Whether I need to bring out more beer or less beer,” he says. “Can you help to find a part of me worth loving?” reads a devastating line in Radioman, one that hits home for Viviana. Her life with a veteran has not been easy. She says post traumatic stress disorder takes its toll over the years. By giving the audience a view through the window of life with PTSD — the sleepless nights, the distance and the distraction — she hopes the play will increase understanding and inspire a shift in perspective on the challenges vets and their families face. The Hollenbecks are frank about the difficulty of revisiting Eric’s war stories to develop the play. Each step of the way, he has had to process what happened in the jungle all those years ago. “I can tell you from the inside that this has been pretty excruciating,” Viviana confides, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. “But Eric is in it for the good that might come out of it.” For him, the project is about educating the American public about the real cost of war. He defers to the last stanzas of his poems to sum up his reasons for this undertaking: And, as for the justness of any war One must never forget War is as far from Godliness

As we as humans can get Thus, pick this option carefully With the weight of a heavy heart For sanity is the casualty The minute War does start Soldiers often spend a lifetime coming to terms with what they experienced on the battlefield. Eric says in order to survive in war, you have to go crazy. “At some point, every soldier breaks,” he explains. “And when you break, everything’s changed in your head. Everything’s different.” When that internal spring gets bent too far out of whack, it can’t ever be bent back into place in quite the same way. “When the fight or flight mechanism gets broken,” Eric says with conviction, “there is no flight.” When asked how he “broke,” Eric curls into himself a little bit. He slurps on his cup of cold coffee. Part of him seems to leave the room and he replies bluntly: “Third day in country. That’s when I broke. It was when I dug up that dead kid and I started to cry on the jungle floor.” Eric’s own healing lies in helping others. “I’ve walked a mile in those boots,” he explains. “I understand.” “You know that saying,” he continues, “‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?’ Well, what does that mean?” He coughs a deep, smoky cough and continues. “Does it make you physically tougher? Well, that could be part of it. Does it make Continued on page 20 »

North Coast Journal 11-09-17 Edition  
North Coast Journal 11-09-17 Edition