A Pocket of Resistance: no title

i have seen those ghost riders rolling across the sky
chasing herds of herefords and long horns
through the gray, gray heavens flecked with white clouds.

“oh,” the folks say, “you are just an old man
“imagining, dreaming foolishly.”

and

they are right

but

they have never heard the hoofs pounding
the cattle braying
the steeds neighing
the riders screaming

in the bleak blackness of night.

A Pocket of Resistance: Dark night

The day began as promising prospect.

i awoke, did some work on organizing, had yet another wonderful breakfast courtesy of Maureen while sitting at my Great Aunt Ida’s – what a wonderful term for a relative – oak breakfast room table while reading the newspaper and watching a few hummingbirds feed off the sage in front of our window. i gathered myself and headed to Salt Creek, a wonderful golf course with terribly bad bunkers, for a round with my friends.

When i arrived, one of my golf partners informed me one of our foursome had suffered a heart attack. i will not name the golfer because knowing him, he would like to keep this as quiet as possible, but suffice it to say he is one of my closer friends in the Southwest corner. As i write, it appears he has missed the fated scythe, and will be going home in a couple of days.

i called another friend to inform him of our mutual buddy’s situation. He was shocked and then informed me his sister, a huge success and a wonderful, caring woman, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the extent of which has yet to be determined. She, i’m guessing, would also not care to have this published, so she too will remain anonymous.

i take this all in stride on the surface and look for ways to help, either by doing something or staying the hell out of their business. But inside, i broil.

In the late afternoon and with more information about my two friends, i walked out into the “work area” of my garage, which in the new world terminology is my “man cave.” i do not like the term, but it is probably accurate in this case.

i sat on the love seat i had purchased with my ex-wife for almost nothing in an auction outside of Watertown, New York  damned near forty years ago. I had kept it through five moves, most cross-country relocations, refinished it and repaired the broken leg, and done my first upholstery job including springs for the seat shortly after my divorce. In the subsequent moves, it was mostly kept in storage, and when Maureen saw the fabric i had chosen for the covering, it was apparent it would never be part of our interior decor. i had taken it down from the garage’s makeshift attic with the intent of a new upholstery and possibly getting into our house. By the way, that is not going to happen.

But i sat there rather than getting to about one thousand well-intentioned tasks on that old frayed, cat-attacked, upholstery across the rug my parents had in their back entry from my father-in-law’s work bench i had rescued from his garage in the house in Lemon Grove where his family lived for forty years.

It all seemed surreal. i sat there just not thinking.

My world continues to change. It was meant to be that way, but quite frankly, i’m not handling this kind of shit very well. My parents lived into their late nineties. They watched nearly all of their generation of family and friends go before them. They handled it with grace and understanding, and even though they had us and many other family and friends, they were eventually alone.

The alone i can stand. Dealing with those close to me hurting from the invariable infirmities and  disease of aging and losing those who don’t make it through such problems sucks, quite frankly.

So i sat there in the silence of a garage on an old love seat by myself. i asked why. There was, and will probably never be an adequate answer, unless it is by someone convinced they know more than me for themselves, for themselves.

My parents in their last years wondered why they were still around. We kept telling them they were a joy for their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and hordes of friends in a lovely small town where they lived for all of their lives.

They didn’t buy it.

My answer is to keep on living well, doing what i think is right, treating everyone – and i mean everyone – as a valuable human being for as long as i can. My parents did that without thinking about it.

But man, this is one hell of a long, not very enjoyable  trip through time.

A Pocket of Resistance: An atypical Sunday

It actually started Thursday when Regina Gonzalez, our next door neighbor, invited us to dinner tonight with Luis, her husband.

Then yesterday, when i confirmed and asked if we could bring anything, Luis invited me to kayak this morning.

It was a beautiful morning

otay_lake-2Just before seven, i helped Luis load up the instrument of torture on top of Luis’ car, and we drove a little less than fifteen minutes to Otay Lake. The lake was formed as a reservoir by damming the Otay River in 1897. In 1916, a rainmaker supposedly was too successful, and the ensuing downpour washed away the dam creating a wall of water between twenty and one hundred feet high, which killed fourteen people and washed away many farms and homes.

The dam was rebuilt and the reservoir is pretty much the same as it was then, but now it is a lake, a recreational area, and the past home of an Olympic training center. The Olympic rowing teams still train there. Their lane floats run almost the entire length of the race.

the_kayakWe unloaded and Luis installed the soft seats into the shell. Two of his friends and fellow kayakers pulled into the unloading area with their, surf ski’s, Starfighter versions of a kayak. Luis told them we would go ahead as the monster we had was slow but stable.

We loaded and pushed off the shoreline for our trek. The last time we did this was the first in the orange burden of workout because i had proven incapable of balance on Luis  surf ski. We had rowed for about a half hour on that junket. But this time, we were going for it.

This morning, there were no Olympic teams, about a dozen folks fished the shore, there were even less fishing boats, including the inner tube variety. There was just this really good kayaker (Luis) and the neophyte who for some strange reason, could not help but slide down in his seat. It meant more work with my arms and upper body, but less with my abs. Still, we covered about five miles in somewhere around an hour and a half.

luis-vera_cruz-1-2
Luis (right) and his two friends from Vera Cruz, whose names i cannot recall (a sadly common event for me).

As we started, there was some discussion about me trying one of the star fighters after our trip. But as we neared the shore, i realized i was too tired and trying the less stable boats would be a catastrophe, i begged off.

So the four of us sat on the decaying picnic table. Luis prepared breakfast. His bunsen burner hot plate was filled with tortillas, which in turn were filled with  a wonderful mushroom concoction topped with a delicious Mexican cheese. Luis served them with a spicy hot green salsa

and limes. We told jokes and got to know each other. To be honest, i was a bit ashamed as always as all three spoke passable, if not good English, and my Spanish remains non-existent although i keep trying to get better. Still, we had a good time.

Luis with his friend and the old nut he keeps trying to teach to kayak.
Luis with his friend and the old nut he keeps trying to teach to kayak.

i will do it again, thanks to Luis.

When i arrived home, i had planned to repair stucco on various places, primarily on the fence that borders our two property lines. I had kept finding excuses to not take this on for several reasons: i had not done any stucco for twenty-five years and was concerned i might not do it right; more immediate priorities kept popping up like naps and golf; there were bougainvillea around the areas needing repair, and i did not want to harm them or the other plants; and at the top of the list, although i would never tell Maureen, it was hard work.

So i took a nap. When waking, i decided it would be more prudent to just do one of the areas with the most damage, where i could see through the exposed chicken wire into the black of the interior.

Not wishing to upset Maureen, i dressed as she requested and even slathered myself with sunscreen. The job took about forty-five minutes. i was immensely proud of getting started and proving to myself  i could do it. i assessed the process and decided i could repair all the damages on the fence and a few around the house in about two full days. That meant it would have to wait until we get back from our Independence Day trip to Sonoma to celebrate with Alan and Maren Hicks for the third straight year, a mini-tradition.

safety-firsti showed Maureen and although she was positive, i think she was a bit disappointed i had not done more. We went inside and i attempted a conversation about something serious (or at least as serious as i can get). But she looked at me, giggled that timid giggle she has when i have done something stupid, and said, “I can’t have a serious discussion with anyone dressed like that.”

i was crestfallen. Over half of what i had on, i had done for her, to keep her from worrying about me getting blinded by stucco (what?), bitten by some ground monster hiding beneath the fence, losing my hand to a stucco float, frying my head in the sun.

i showered and dressed in something else. The serious discussion never occurred and we went next door to a wonderful lobster dinner with Luis and Regina, followed by espresso and a game of Petanc (Luis and Maureen beat Regina and me in a close match).

When we got home, i  went through email and Facebook posts. i was tired.

i slept well.

 

A Pocket of Resistance: The Mac Is Back

i am almost whole again. At least, i am almost as whole as I’ve always been, which is still several bricks shy of a load to steal an old saying from Roy Blount, Jr.

About three weeks ago, i managed to spill about ten inches of water from my glass onto the top of my Mac Air.

i kept my presence internetly (i made that term up in case you wonder) alive by my return to an old PC laptop. It was difficult to go back to Windows, and of course, i couldn’t get into a bunch of sites because my passwords were on the old computer. But i did make some entries on Facebook, and of course, i had to write my columns.

i thought it was going to cost me a gazillion dollars and twenty years of hard labor to get back to operating on my Mac Air with all of my data and programs and passwords and whatever the computer tech gods demanded. Then the Navy, of all things, came from a suggestion by Bob Schoultz, a golfing buddy, and the Navy Exchange computer repair and maintenance folks in the back of the store on 32nd Street (Old sailors, who have seen about seven hundred title changes of Naval Station, San Diego, still call it 32nd Street), they miraculously brought my computer back to life for a pittance of what the governing lords of Apple were going to charge me.

So i’m now back on my game, at least as much as i could be back on my game.

During my quasi-downtime, i’ve thought a lot about moving forward on this writing thing of mine. i don’t know if i will actually do anything, but i’ve thought about it.

i also piddled a lot. My piddling has a purpose much like my purpose in thinking about writing. i’m getting ready to do some major home projects, big work involving multiple skill sets in hardscape, electricity, chain saws, radial arm saws, picks and shovels, and all of that kind of stuff. My piddling in all of the above will get me prepared to start on these major, wonderful projects in, oh say, about 2044. i’ll be 100 if i live that long. And i won’t take any bets on that.

 

15th tee at Sea 'n Air Golf Course, Naval Air Station, North Island
15th tee at Sea ‘n Air Golf Course, Naval Air Station, North Island

And of course, i played golf. Poorly. Yesterday, i concluded three straight days of walking golf courses. Coupled with my Monday walk-run, i pedded, i.e. moved across the ground using my feet, for over twenty miles. It’s been a while since i did that. So i’m proud of that even if my golf scores were rather pitiful. And the courses and the camaraderie after the rounds (coupled with a couple of beers) was the best.

 

 

Drake, hen, and six ducklings in 2nd green water hazard. Sea 'n Air
Drake, hen, and six ducklings in 2nd green water hazard. Sea ‘n Air

And the rounds themselves, however horrible, give one time to pause and see nature in the middle of a big city…well, maybe not actually in the middle.

And now, on this Saturday, June 25, 2016, i begin again. To catch up, i thought i would post an annotated historical pictorial of my down time. Some may be repeats when i dipped back into the web world during my layoff. For that i apologize, but this morning with several of those piddling jobs begging to be wrapped up and the pressure of the cleaning ladies coming early (Maureen demands i clean up my mess before the cleaning ladies come, which i sort of understand but not really), i’m just flat too lazy to look them up.

sam-presentThese two gifts in the photo have a place of honor on my desk. They are going-away presents from my grandson who gave me the gift with a hug and said, “I love you, Papa.” Pretty well takes the starch out of my sails every time i look at them. This was on the next-to-last day of our trip to Austin in May, one of the best trips i’ve ever made anywhere, anytime. Son-in-law, daughters, and one Mr. Samuel James Jewell Gander are settled in for the foreseeable future so our trips there will continue. We would move there. Austin is a vibrant city with all sorts of things for all sorts of people, not to mention an incredible kaleidoscope of cuisine. But the traffic is worse than San Diego, and it’s just too damn hot. Still i remain tempted. i thrive on gifts like these.

Hmm, it seems i’ve become too misdirected on this post. i mean i start something with an idea and it expands into damn near a book and i want to add photos and then each one seems like it should have a life of its own, and i ponder until it’s too late and the thoughts are bouncing around inside like the steel ball in an old pinball machine with no levers with payouts on the odds built up by adding nickels. The only way to direct the ball was to properly whack the front or sides of the machine without a “tilt.”

Charles Hon was the best at this. Legend has it he paid for his room and board at Vanderbilt from his pinball winnings.

i was never very good at pinball, and the idea balls intended for this post are caroming inside my head. If i tried to control it with taps, undoubtedly  i would laurer it (Okay, Charlie, how do you spell that?).

backyard-contemplationBut then on a Sunday morning without my Mac Air, Maureen and i had post breakfast coffee in our backyard sitting area. i brought out the CD player and played Julian Bream pieces. The next morning, i went out by myself, put on Handel’s “Water Music,” and wrote on a lined paper pad.

Somehow everything then seemed just fine.

i may get around to posting some pictorial essays about that time, but for now:

This is what you get.

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: The Model Father

Today seems to be overflowing with good feelings for this old man, and many others i’m sure. Amidst all of the praise and love i’m feeling. i had to stop for a moment and think about him. He was the best, at least for me. i have praised him here before and thankfully, i let him know how i felt about him several times before he left me behind. i could not go through this day without honoring him once more. The below includes two columns and a poem about Jimmy Jewell. The first column was one i wrote on his 86th birthday. The second column was right after he passed away just over a month shy of his ninety-ninth birthday and right after his 75th anniversary with his wife. The poem, “Hands,” one of my favorites, has been here several times. When he read it, his comment to me was “I didn’t know you knew all of those things about me.

Thank you, Jimmy Jewell, for being the model for being a good father and a good man to me, your other two children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren, and the uncountable number of children who considered you a father or a grandfather.

scan

 

An Incredible Man

There is an incredible man in Lebanon. He was born September 28, 1914.

The first record of his family in America dates to 1677. His great, great, great
grandfather came over the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky with Daniel Boone and
apparently was Daniel’s brother-in- law. His great, great grandfather moved to Statesville in southeastern Wilson County in the early 1800’s.

He had three brothers and three sisters. He is the only one left.

He has lived through two world wars, fighting as a Seabee in the southern Philippines

in the last one. He has lived through the depression, the cold war, the Korean War, the
Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.

He had to quit his senior year at Lebanon High School to go to work when his father
contracted tuberculosis. He started as a mechanic, shared a business with his brother-in-
law in the 1950’s, and then became a partner in an automobile dealership and a gas and oil distributorship. He retired in 1972.

He and his wife have been married for 62 years. They remain infatuated with each other. The first home they owned was a one-room house, adjacent to his wife’s family farm on Hunter’s Point Pike. They bought their next home on Castle Heights Avenue in 1941 with the help of a $500.00 loan from a friend. They have lived there ever since.

He and his wife put three children through college. They have five grandchildren.

They have visited every state in the Union, except Alaska, where they were headed in 1984 when his wife’s illness forced them to turn around in British Columbia. Nearly all of their travel has been by RV’s, most in a twenty-eight foot fifth-wheel. When he was 87 and his wife was 84, they made their last cross-country trip to San Diego where they spent winters since 1985 with their eldest son and his family. They have made several trips up and down the east coast since then, and the fifth-wheel is still ready to go in their backyard.

They live comfortably in their retirement. Most people guess his age as early 70’s.

Last month, he painted their master bedroom and sanded and painted the roof of his two- car carport. When he can’t find anyone to go fishing with him, he hooks up the boat trailer and goes by himself. Now he usually throws his catch back in. When he used to bring the catch home, he would clean the fish and give them away. He doesn’t like to eat fish, just catch them.

For years, he had the reputation as the best mechanic in Wilson County. He can still fix anything except computers and new cars because he has shunned learning the electronic advances.

All of this isn’t why this man is incredible.

He is incredible because he is such a good man.

He is a willow. He bends with the winds of change and the changes coming as progress. Yet he never breaks. His principles remain as solid as a rock. He is extremely intelligent but humble.

He seems to always be around when someone needs help. Everyone considers him a friend and he reciprocates.

He is not rich, financially. But he is one of the richest men around.

My generation’s fathers were family men. They lived through hard times and hard work without a whimper. They believed in giving a day’s work for a day’s pay. They kept their sense of humor. Their sons wish they could emulate them.

Jimmy Jewell, or James Rye Jewell, Sr., this remarkable man, remains my best friend. I am his oldest son. I have worshiped him since the first re-callable thoughts came into my head fifty-three or so years ago. I still find myself wishing I could have his strength, his kindness, his work ethic, his love, his faith.

My father and I have had enough talks for him to know how I feel. But I’ve seen too many people wait until someone was gone before singing their praises publicly. I figure he&’s got a good chance to outlive us all, but I wanted to acknowledge how much he means to me and how great a man I think he is.

Happy eighty-sixth birthday, Dad.

September, 2000

Good man gone

By now, most of you know my father, Jimmy Jewell, passed away last Tuesday, 46 days shy of his 99th birthday.

This newspaper and its competition carried articles about him and as well as his obligatory obituary. He would have been embarrassed by all of this fuss over him. He shied away from publicity.

Jimmy Jewell’s near century of living is interwoven with the history of this city and this county. His history has been fairly well documented in many of my previous columns.

But I do not wish to discuss his history or how it has been interwoven with the city. I wish to honor him for what I think he treasured most: being a good man.

In the early 1960’s, I first heard of Jimmy Jewell being described as a “good man” when a Seabee buddy of his from World War II, Elmer Hauser,  traveled from Arizona to see Daddy. Elmer and his wife Minnie went to dinner with us at Dr. Lowe’s second Plaza Motel on North Cumberland. There Elmer leaned over to me and said, “You know your father was the best liked man in our battalion (the Navy’s 75th Construction Battalion). He didn’t drink so he would give his beer and liquor rations to his friends. Everybody wanted to be his friend.”

Elmer chuckled and then explained to me confidentially, “But the reason he was so well liked was not the rations. He was liked because he was a good man.”

July as we prepared to move Jimmy Jewell from UMC to his new but short-termed home of Elmcroft Senior Living in early July, I went to see my mother in their new digs.

A man on a motorized wheel chair met me half way down the long hall.

“Are you Jimmy Jewell’s boy?” he asked, ignoring the fact I resemble my 69 years.

“Yes, I’m Jim, his older son.”

“I thought so. “I’m Basel Tyree. Can’t wait to see him,” he continued, “I’ve known Jimmy since the late 40’s. He worked on my cars. He is a good man.”

We talked some more and in one humorous exchange, I laughed. “When you laugh, you sounded just like him,” Basel observed said.

“Best compliment I’ve ever received,” I replied.

Archie King, also on a motorized wheelchair had met me earlier with eagerness to see my father. When we met the next time, he told a story of when his car had been rear-ended in the early 1950’s.

“The insurance company was only going to pay for the bumper and the dents to the trunk, but the frame was bent. I didn’t know what to do,” Archie related.

“I told Jimmy about it,” he continued, “Jimmy took the phone, called the insurance agent and said ‘I’m Mr. King’s attorney, and we are going to sue your company if you don’t pay for fixing that frame.’

“They paid. There’s no telling how much money Jimmy saved me,” Archie concluded and then added:

“He’s a good man.”

After my father passed away, several folks like Tilford Elkins and John Cook also used “a good man” to describe Jimmy Jewell. I decided to cite them and others in this column. But before the Sellars Funeral Home visitation was over Saturday, I could not keep up with the names of those who used the term, I had also lost count.

That pretty well describes how Jimmy Jewell has been perceived in this town. I think it was his greatest trait.

It occurred to me there are other Lebanon men who have earned or are earning the “good man description.” Perhaps my perception is somewhat flawed, but I recall thinking of many Lebanon men of my father’s generation being “good men.” I believe it was not a false perception. The men of that generation valued the trust and caring of others over physical possessions or power. They did not draw lines in the sand unless it really mattered. They tried to make things work for everyone.

It seems our culture now leans toward self-protection, greed, and self-aggrandizement more so than in those times. There were a lot of good men back then, but they are dwindling quickly.

Jimmy Jewell was one of the best of those good men.

August 2013

Hands

When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
but
those folks should look at his hands:

Durer, if he saw them,
would want to paint them.
His hands are marked from
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors,
starting in ’34 at twelve dollars a week.

He has used those hands to
repair the cars and
our hearts;

His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bougainville, New Guinea, the Philippines.

His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.
Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands,
pumping life;
tales are etched from
grease and oil and grime,
cleansed with gasoline and goop and lava soap;

They are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring.

His hands own wisdom,
passing it to those who know him
with a pat, a caress, a handshake.

His hands tell the story
so well.

2009

A Pocket of Resistance: Family History

i was puttering or piddling, depending on who might be describing my Sunday morning, around in my office when i stumbled up on an envelope in one of my myriad of piles. It was an old airmail envelope.

It came from Mama Jewell’s memorabilia. She, Carrie Myrtle Orrand Jewell was my father’s mother. i’m pretty sure the writing was my grandfather’s. His name was Hiram Culley Jewell. i never met him as he died of tuberculosis in 1939, five years before i was born at the age of 63.

The scrawling handwriting labeled the contents as “Pictures of Mama and Papa.”

grandpa-jewell-envelope

Inside there was one photo about 1-inch by 1 1/2 inches in a small thick-paper frame. It was a woman but hard to make out:

great-great-grandmother

i fooled with the simple photo tools i have and enlarged the photo itself:

great-great-grandmother-1

It is a photo of a young Sarah Jones Jewell. She was born in 1842 and died in 1878. From family stories, she was a most caring woman.

The only other item in the envelope was an unframed photo of my great grandfather:

great-great-grandfather

i also have worked on this photo to the extent i can. He is Hiram Carpenter (Buddy Jewell), born in 1844 and died in 1886 when my grandfather was ten. There are some family stories about how this impacted our lives as well as the one about my great grandmother.

i will provide a link on Facebook and tag all of my relatives that i can.

Tomorrow i will start searching for a place to have these photos restored much better than i can. When that is done, i will distribute the copies to family members. i will retain the originals until i come up with an idea of how to retain them in the family records. By my rough count, my grandfather and grandmother had seven children, 14 grandchildren, and at least 23 great grandchildren. It was at this point in my calculations i gave up trying to count great great grandchildren or other offspring of my great grandparents.

If anyone knows of a individual, company, or service that could restore these two photos, hopefully in the San Diego area, i would greatly appreciate the contact information.

Right now, i feel very connected to my family’s history and small, so very, very small.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Tragedy Strikes Twice

 

This column was published in The Lebanon Democrat this past Tuesday. i think it is one of my better ones. However, my editing was bad. You see, i fried my laptop last Thursday week with a full glass of water on the keyboard. It is in the process of being repaired or the data being retrieved, but it has put me in a quandary and going back to a PC and Windows, rather than the Mac, has thrown me for a loop. Even passwords, especially to my own web site has been a problem.i hope the below revision has been edited properly.  With the help of Walker Hicks, the game is back on.

SAN DIEGO – Two events, similar but different, occurred this past week.

Muhammad Ali, nee Cassius Marcellus Clay, in case you have been sequestered, died Friday after an extended battle with Parkinson’s disease. The world has extolled Ali’s virtues and celebrated his life.

Thursday night, Donny Everett, a Vanderbilt freshman pitcher from Clarksville, drowned in Normandy Lake. Donny’s accident was broadcast widely in sports media, and the Commodores were lauded for honoring their fallen teammate while losing to Xavier and Washington and being eliminated from the NCAA.

Both were athletes a cut above the norm and both were honored after their deaths.

Ali’s claim as “The Greatest” was not without merit. He was meteor with a mouth rising to fame when I was in high school and college. I covered his bouts from a distance while working in sports journalism. He eclipsed the magnetism of boxing champions who preceded him and was, in my mind, the last great champion of the “sport of kings.”

Donny Everett, 19, was a gifted pitcher who remained loyal to his commitment to play for Vanderbilt even after being selected as Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year and projected to be a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft after his senior season for Clarksville in 2015. He was praised for his 99-mph fastball and his ability to eat up innings. This season at Vandy, he recorded a 1.5 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings.

Yet there were differences between the two.

Ali was two years older than me. Donny was young enough to be my grandson.

Ali took me through a gamut of feelings about him.

I considered him our country’s hero when he won the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960.

In February 1964, I listened to the Clay-Liston championship fight on my small radio in my Vanderbilt dorm room. I was mesmerized. While many sports writers and fans found his antics and braggadocio unattractive, I thought he was marvelous.

When he changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam shortly after winning the championship, I questioned him and his new religion. I was on an NROTC scholarship. Ali’s conversion seemed to me as an affront to my religious views and patriotism.

As I was nearing graduation in 1967 and pursuing Navy OCS after being declared 1-A for the draft, Ali declared he was a “conscientious objector,” beginning four years of legal battles before the Supreme Court overturned his conviction for avoiding the draft. Since I had committed to serving my country, it was hard for me to understand Ali’s motives.

As the years progressed, I learned more of Ali’s reasoning for his religious conversion and how he was passionate about equality. I again became an admirer of his views and his boxing prowess. When news of his contracting Parkinson’s disease, most likely due to the many blows while boxing, I was saddened. When he lit the torch at the 1996 opening ceremony for the Atlanta Olympics, I was thrilled.

Vanderbilt teammates leave a space in their line for their fallen teammate, Donny Everett.
Vanderbilt teammates leave a space in their line for their fallen teammate, Donny Everett.

I knew little of Donny Everett. I saw him pitch a scoreless inning in the SEC playoffs. That was it. But as I read about the person and the athlete, I could not help but draw comparisons to Ali. Donny’s time on earth and his passing will certainly not have the lasting impact Ali has had on the world. Everett’s potential, his conviviality, and his loyalty are gone. He could have been a champion in American sports. He could have had a positive impact on the world as an athletic hero. We will never know.

I believe Ali’s words about how he would like to be remembered would be shared by Donny had the young man had the chance to think about it:

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Peace is where you find it

There are times when i can get downright depressed. Such a feeling does not occur often. Most of the time such feelings are more annoying than any deep pain, but i must confess i have had those moments as well, just rarely.

i have sought many options, most recommended, some self-invented, for eliminating these moments of depression. i have attempted Buddah-like, Zen humming. i have tried running. i have tried reading the Good Book. i have tried reading inspiring and motivating books. Once, a long time ago when i found out i would be losing the right to be a full-time father to my daughter, i went out in the back yard in the middle of the night, and smashed poles against a tree until they were splinters. And yes, i have tried drinking.

To some degree, they all worked.

This morning early, i arose for what men rise for when they get old. Returning to bed, my mind raced on a number of things depressing to me. They would not go away. i admitted i would not be able to go back to sleep, and slipped out of bed, hoping i would not awaken the beautiful houri lying next to me as she has done, surprisingly willingly for nigh 33 years.

i went to the other side of the house and gathered a pile of to-do papers. On top was a copy of my book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems. It was not very successful in terms of making money. Counting the expense of print-on-demand publishing, i think i’m about $900 in the hole. But it is mine. i did what i wanted to do, and about fifty or sixty people have a part of me in their library. i now have a small cache of copies i sign and give to friends when i think of doing so. This copy was in the pile for that purpose.

Before signing, i opened it toward the back. Recently, something occurred i connected to one of my poems. i thought i would look for a connection again. My thumb caught on page 217, the first page of a longer poem i entitled “Fiddlersburg and Billie Potts Resurrected: A Note to My Brother.

i read the poem and i felt better. It not only gave me perspective and calm. Reading it, i realized i had the right perspective and calm within me, and i had them all along. i think i will try reading my own stuff again.

Fiddlersburg and Billie Potts Resurrected: A Note to My Brother

the little star over the left tit.
they buried Little Billie and
no one knew in that patch of land between the rivers which was
Fiddlersburg, revisited and drowned
under the auspices of TVA,
the government men.

i would like to resurrect Little Billie and Fiddlersburg,
but there is no more South,
only a filmy, flimsy image of what used to be
or a caricature of used-to-be South.

and Robert Penn would insert some Italian here:
i would ponder the depth of what he wrote,
but what you see is what you get with this old sailor;
the point is (without Italian)
we strive for balance, and it never is balanced, especially in Italy, especially in Southern Italy; In our South, balance ain’t
Southern lonesome;
it ain ‘t passion;
it ain’t.

i may be there again,
i may be suffering enough,
touching depths of my Southern,
unbalanced male soul,
not brooking balance but
yearning for tragic,
yearning for lonesomeness.
we are the last of a breed i fear;
i wonder how many still exist,
i even wonder about you, my brother;
but we can’t tell even the most intimate soul mate,
even brothers perhaps;
for to reveal the awful truth,
shit,
even to write it,
which it what it is all about, will alter it;
will take it inextricably, permanently away.
we can no longer be the tragic figure
we wish to be,
even though we’ve never
really figured out the tragedy.

there is a sadness in joy
because of all forgotten.
there is a joy in sadness
because of realization.

the schooner, sails hauled down,
motors into the narrow pier
in the mist of twilight.

A Pocket of Resistance: LJHS Devilettes

i posted this team portrait on Facebook Monday. It is of the 1957-58 Lebanon Junior High Girls Basketball team. i asked if anyone could name the players and i received several correct names. i was working on naming them all but was short on four of them. i pulled out the 1962 Lebanon High School annual. The annual was Jimmy Nokes, but he graciously sent me his copy when he read something about me not being able to remembers. Thanks, Jimmy.  i got  one or two more names.

Then, more responses from my Facebook post came in. Sarah (Sassy) Ward Jaeger blew me out of the water by naming all but two. Then Ken Clinard provided Brenda Callis’ input which made the list complete except for the mysterious number 25, second row, eight from the right. This is frustrating in that i think i should know her.

It was a fun exercise about a wonderful time in my life, long, long ago. They were beautiful women, inside and out, and Lebanon Junior High School is an experience not likely to be repeated for anyone.

Below is my annotated list of the LJHS 1957-58 Blue Devilettes, political correctness be damned:

ljhs-women-basketball-1958

First row: Jennifer Brewington, manager ( she was the Football Homecoming Queen the previous autumn, and i have a photo of Jimmy Gamble and i as co-captains with her in the middle where Jimmy and i look like deer caught in the headlights); Elaine Davis (in the eighth grade, she wore my letter sweater and my ring around her neck); Pet Meadors (who could beat me in one-on-one); Mary Cardiff (at her home on Castle Heights Avenue, right behind my aunt’s home on Wildwood, Mary introduced a bunch of us to “spin the bottle” when we were in the sixth grade: i didn’t get to kiss any girl) Judy Baker; Sharry Baird (i dreamed about her one night in the fourth grade and fell in love with her the next day in Mrs. Major’s class on the second floor of McClain Elementary (1954, i think) and she remained my platonic love (although usually from long distance) for the rest of her life); Sarah (Sassy) Ward (she was my twin in eighth grade class play, “The Sunshine Twins,” at Lebanon Junior High, 1958). Second row: Suanne Smith, Catherine Jones (as mentioned in the Facebook responses, i rode her and sister Betty’s horse — i only remember falling off — on their farm on Coles Ferry Pike), Jean Ballinger, Yvonne LaFevor, Brenda Hankins (one of the most constant friends in my life),  Mister Mac ( a glorious man who did so much for so many and was a close friend of my mother), Marcia Emmert, the mystery young woman, Dorothy Bryan, Angela Wilson, and Bobby Jane Reed.

It was, without question, one of the best years of my life.

A Pocket of Resistance: William (Tad) Jenkins

Another note about Memorial Day.

Yesterday, my cousin, Lori Oxendine, posted a photo of this young man on Facebook and told of his and his ship’s heroics in WWII. Later yesterday, i found the program included here (again) among my grandmother’s keepsakes handed down to me from Aunt Naomi (Jewell) Martin, to her son Maxwell, to my father, and finally to me. I am in the process of sorting this box of memorabilia and more from Mother, Daddy, and Aunt Bettye Kate Hall.

The photo on the program is the same as the one Lori posted. i’m sure my cousin Joann has a copy, but this one is special in that it has our grandmother’s writing on the side of the front page. i am imagining Carrie Myrtle Orrand Jewell,”Mama” to me, in that house at the beginning of West Spring Street writing the note to file in those special things she kept: “Jessie’s boy that they took care of when he was young and went into the service.”

i do not know the circumstances around Uncle Jessie and Aunt Alice bringing Tad into their family. Knowing them, they saw someone in need and took action, making Tad a part of their family. The sisters, Myrtle, Joann, and Shirley, considered him a brother.

Lori called him “Tad.” The program lists his nickname as “Tab.” i’m pretty sure Lori is correct. i didn’t know him as he and his ship, The USS Rowan (DD 405) were sunk eight months after i was born.

It makes me shudder to think of the sacrifice of all Americans during that war, and Tad’s hits close to home. i can envision the church on North Cumberland Street: dark wood inside with stained glass  windows. i can imagine reading the typed program, and reciting the litany in unison with the congregation. i can hear the rustling of quiet in the minute of silence at the conclusion. i can picture Aunt Alice, Aunt Naomi, my mother, and Mama Jewell tearing up while Uncle Jessie remained stoic during the service. Here’s the four-page program:

jenkins_memorial-1944-1

jenkins_memorial-1945-2

jenkins_memorial-1945-3

jenkins_memorial-1945-4

While thinking about how powerful a service this must have been, i wanted to say something more and did another web search. There, just as powerful, perhaps even more so was this newspaper clipping:

survivor_news_clipping

i found myself wishing Tad had been one of the young men in this photograph. At that moment, i was in tune with the agony of World War II.

i am sending the program to my cousin Joann, a wonderful caring lady in her own right, who knew Tad as her brother.