Crazy Uncle Jim, aka cuj, Gets a Fix

i can’t think of many things much better than an instant of today.

i drove up to spend some way too infrequent time with Renee Hoskins and her daughter Kinsley. Renee served in the Marines, is now going to school full time with plans to get her masters in gerontology health and wellness (or something like that: Renee straighten me out if this is wrong), working, continually fighting the VA Bureaucracy to obtain her rightful benefits, and taking care of her daughter. She is nothing short of amazing.

After several months of trying to get together again after a long layoff — Renee lives in Carlsbad, in the north, while we are almost to the border; her schedule, our schedule and the distance makes it difficult — we finally connected but even then, Maureen could not join us due to other commitments.

i drove to the Escondido, arriving at the Children’s Discovery Museum a bit late. Renee and Kinsley were waiting at the door. When i got out of the car, Kinsley jumped up and down, waved, and ran toward me yelling, “Uncle Jim, Uncle Jim.” She ran into my arms; i picked her up, and she gave me a hug around the neck.

And folks, it just doesn’t get much better than that: a great feeling of joy flowing into an old man.

We had a wonderful couple of hours at the museum and a quick lunch. Kinsley is a delightful, well-spoken, obedient, and energetic young girl. Her mother is caring, a strict parent who lets Kinsley grow and develop, and the love between those two is a beautiful thing to observe.

In many ways, Renee reminds me of her grandmother, Nancy Orr Schwarze. Being with someone who resembles a cousin who is so close she is more like a sister can also make my day.

It ain’t quite like being with my grandson, but it’s close. Boy, is it close.

Thanks, Renee.

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Being serious.
Good folks.
Good folks.

Tennessee Steam Engine

Today, after Jamie Jacobs posted some family photos, many taken at our old lake cabin in 1974 and another of her grandfather, my uncle Jesse Jewell, i shared and was going to include a link to a poem Uncle Jesse inspired by telling me the story.  He told me the story at Jay and Shirley Smith’s home in Lebanon a year or so before he passed away. It has been revised after my father corrected me on some of the facts. In my old brain, i somehow have moved the year to 1918 rather than the accurate 1913. So here it is, i think again:

Tennessee Steam Engine

Grandpa Cully and son Jesse
back in thirteen,
when my pap was a year away from born,
rode the train to Nashville
– a half day’s journey then,
fetching a steam engine,
the first portable saw mill in those parts.

Jesse was a strapping big man then,
a youth, not yet rounded with gut and jowls,
like when i knew him as Uncle;
when he told this story to me in eighty-four:
he wasn’t so strapping at 83,
shriveled into the baggy old man shapelessness,
pale cream complexion with wispy thin, pure white hair,
those eyes still sparking with mirth and caring
in the lazy boy rocker chair in his youngest daughter’s den
that November with the trees bare and grass
straw colored in the brisk sharp sunshine
of middle tennessee.
The trip was before Grandpa Cully
lost most of the fingers on his right hand
in that very same steam-driven saw mill on someone’s farm.
his hair had not turned white as it is
in the lone picture i have in the family book.
Uncle Jesse said Grandpa was wiry thin strong like my father
who sat at the other side of the den paying respect to the family,
while i listened to the tale.
Uncle Jesse said Grandpa Cully was more than
pulling his weight rousting the steam engine.

On the way back, driving that steam engine,
they couldn’t make it in one day:
Stopped the night
on a farm in Donelson Uncle Jesse related.
Pretty nice folks to put ’em up
without any idea who they might be.
had a good supper and pleasant conversation.
by my calculation the farm was
pretty close to where they built Opryland,
but the land was still country with
folks a lot more trusting than they are nowadays.

“When there’s static in the air and you can hardly hear
better turn on the radio of the Lord,”
A.P. and Mama Maybelle would intone.
Lonzo and Oscar, Lester and Earl, Foggy Mountain Boys,
even Minnie from Grinders Switch were real;
even Roy Acuff with his cave in Kentucky
would have made the show and held on till
the deep dark of three in the Nashville night
eating long after the opry closed for the night:
porkchopsandeggsandbiscuitsandgravy
with coffee in thick mugs at Linebaugh’s
on Church Street downtown,
just down the hill from the Ryman.

Long after that shiny new steam engine belched toward
Lebanon from the Donelson farm front yard
by Grandpa Cully and Uncle Jesse
did they start the Opry at the Ryman,
even longer before Opryland
sprouted in its full festival of plastic country glory
in that self-same place
where the farm once was, which was
just before the pale, grown soft baby skinned old man
with sagging jowls and kind countenance
would tell me this tale
the last time i saw him.

 

 

winds of darkness

winds of darkness

oh lord,
i have seen them coming
heard them coming
with thundering hooves and fiendish screams
out of the gray storm clouds,
dark, cumulonimbus storm clouds
and
they sweep darkness over the land:
darkness of
hate, fear
and
me, me, me,
and
mine, mine, mine,
and
there was no sunshine,
just dark
until
the young boy
stood leaning into the wind of darkness’
thundering hooves and fiendish screams
quietly repeating
“i love you,”
and
the darkness did not dissipate
but
but there was certainty it would.

oh lord,
i have seen them coming
heard them coming
with thundering hooves and fiendish screams
out of the gray storm clouds,
dark, cumulonimbus storm clouds
and
they sweep darkness over the land:
darkness of
bigotry, greed, and zealotry
and
there was no sunshine,
just dark
until
the young man
stood tall against the wind of darkness’
thundering hooves and fiendish screams
quietly repeating
“i love you,”
and
the darkness did not dissipate
but
there was the expectancy it would.

oh lord,
i have seen them coming
heard them coming
with thundering hooves and fiendish screams
out of the gray storm clouds,
dark, cumulonimbus storm clouds
and
they sweep darkness over the land:
darkness of
the meaness, selfishness of man
and
there was no sunshine,
just dark
until
the old man
stumbled backward though still fighting against the wind of darkness’
thundering hooves and fiendish screams
quietly repeating
“i love you,”
and
the darkness did not dissipate
but
but there was hope.

and
in the scheme of things
perhaps, perhaps,
that is enough,
hope is enough.

 

Thoughts of a Floor Cleaner

i am in the midst of changing some things, here and in my life. Here, i am dropping the title “A Pocket of Resistance” from the post headline. This is a category on my website. i have long thought it redundant, especially when i began providing the link to The Lebanon Democrat’s website and my Tuesday columns.

These changes will take quite a while because i am old, slow, technically challenged, have fat fingers, and don’t retain how-to information like i used to do. But i am changing.

It has occurred to me lately anyone who reads this probably knows why i call my stuff  and me “A Pocket of Resistance.” Just to revisit, i will provide a long ago post on that later…if i can find it.

A significant reason for these changes is i have rededicated myself to writing some books. JD Waits and i wrote a fun and i think useful book on leadership and management in the early 90’s. We called it “The Pretty Good Management Book.”  Recently, JD called and asked if i still had an electronic copy.

“Of course i do,” i replied and then couldn’t find it.

So i begin recreating an electronic file from my hard copy. i realized the information was still extant and still funny (to me and JD at least). i am still in the process of recreating and trying to edit and update where needed. Once completed, JD and i will make it available at a price like the one we offered for some consulting services as “The Jewell-Waits Group” back in the 90’s. Back then, we decided to not charge the outrageous fees most OD consulting firms charged. Our flyer had a stick drawing of a bird with the lead-in “Just like a little birdie, we work ‘cheep, cheap, cheep.”

We didn’t get much business. JD moved to Houston, then Raleigh, then Bastrop, working in Austin. i did a lot of other things that also didn’t make much money.

i am now working leisurely on the book again.

i’m also working on a short booklet, i wrote for my grandson. It was the precursor to my autobiography i am writing for Sam. Due to the distance between our homes and other factors, i don’t spend as much time with him as i would like to spend (like all of the time). Also since both of my grandfathers died before i was born and my parents never talked about them that much, i really don’t know what they were like, and i don’t want Sam to not know about me. So i continue this project, which likely will never be finished. i have no intention of publishing this one. It’s purely for Sam.

But the booklet he has is about the rules i try to follow in living my life. Most are not new, but things i believe are most important. i borrowed many of my rules from others. The booklet gave a bit of explanation and history about each rule. i am thinking of making that available to other folks. My working title is Papa’s Pretty Good Rules for Living.

Then, there is there is my experience on an Indian Ocean deployment as executive officer of one of the first ships with women as part of the crew, and the first to spend extended periods at sea with those women officers and crew. My working title is Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.

i continue to work on a children’s poetry book with illustrations by my daughter Sarah. Sam already has a copy of the manuscript. i call it Willie Nod and Some Such Things.

There is another poetry book out there. And if i ever really get motivated, i might turn several unpublished short stories into a novel.

So all of this green italic stuff started as a short introduction into a post about mopping the floors. i’ll save the bulk of that post for later. For now:

Yesterday afternoon, i mopped the tile floors in our house because of some goofy things i did yesterday morning. Our house flooring is about fifty percent tile. It’s a fairly big house. It took a long time. i thought a lot.

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: A Teaser

The sorting, scanning, throwing away, and organizing continues…endlessly. Then momentarily stopped as i ran into a pile of photographs from my last year in junior high. i longingly tried to remember every moment.

The below is a partner to the photo that will accompany my column tomorrow in The Lebanon Democrat.

1958 was one of the best, if not the best, years of my life — of course, i didn’t know then. Lebanon Junior High was simply fantastic. i was a football and basketball co-captain with Jimmy Gamble and Clinton Matthews respectively. i was a co-star in the eighth grade play with Sarah (Sassy) Ward, and was the male lead with  Martha Donnell as the female lead in the eighth grade operetta. i even made good grades, including a classic moment when Mrs. Purnell told me she could see by the look in my eye i finally understood the rudiments of algebra. Everyone was great friends. The teachers were kind and effective, and Mrs. Burton, a first-year principal was absolutely delightful. The beautiful Elaine Davis even wore my letter sweater.

And yes, i really didn’t understand it was to be my pinnacle. Mind you, i ‘m not complaining. Life has been good, and even if i could change a few critical points, which might have contributed to making a little less money, not becoming a successful writer, or whatever, i wouldn’t change a thing: i have an incredibly beautiful, talented and loving wife, two spectacularly talented and capable daughters, and a grandson who continues to make my buttons burst with pride. So no, i’m not complaining. i wouldn’t change a thing.

Back to the subject at hand, the  below picture is the cast of the eighth grade play that wonderful year. Mrs. Burton, who ran the whole thing is appropriately in the middle of the photo.

For all my old friends:

Front row (l/r): LeRoy Dowdy, Sassy Ward, the goofy guy, Sharry Baird, Clinton Matthews; Middle Row: Marcia Emmert, Beverly Hughes, MrsBurton, Elaine Davis, Laurene Smith, Henry Harding, Andy Berry, Mary Cardiff, and Brenda Hankins.
Front row (l/r): LeRoy Dowdy, Sassy Ward, the goofy guy, Sharry Baird, Clinton Matthews; Middle Row: Marcia Emmert, Beverly Hughes, Mrs. Burton, Elaine Davis, Laurene Smith; Top row: Henry Harding, Andy Berry, Mary Cardiff, and Brenda Hankins.

A Pocket of Resistance: George had it right.

In today’s “Writer’s Almanac,” the lead item notes this day in 1796, George Washington’s farewell address was published. i think the old dog knew what he was talking about:

Now only eight years old, the Constitution was in danger, Washington feared, of falling prey to the whims of popular sentiment. In 6,086 words, his address seeks to encourage the nation to respect and maintain the Constitution, warning that a party system – not yet the governmental standard operating procedure – would reduce the nation to infighting. He urged Americans to relinquish their personal or geographical interests for the good of the national interest, warning that “designing men” would try to distract them from their larger common views by highlighting their smaller, local differences. “You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”

A Pocket of Resistance: Heaven is Here: It’s an iPhone

A whole bunch of people my age, including me, disparage the ubiquitous use of iphones and smart phones among today’s youth.

i remain saddened neither of my daughters nor son-in-law get a daily newspaper, the stuff of my dreams for most of my life and now an integral part of Maureen’s and my morning routine.

i don’t often comment about my regrets about the next generation and their children being immersed in technology: mobile funs, video games, television, and such instead of what we had…before television, of course.

i often comment to Maureen — but seldom to others as i recognize i am old and don’t completely understand how those younger than i go about living just like my parents didn’t understand about how i went about living: different times, different culture — i am concerned about how all of this technology, innovation, social and health concerns might limit our grandson in the scope of his learning about the world.

Then after learning my grandson has his own iPhone yesterday, i asked my daughter and son-in-law about rules and if i could have his number.  Within the half hour, i swapped to text messages with him and received a Facetime call.

For over a half-hour, Samuel James Jewell Gander regaled me with a tour of his home, an introduction to Gordon, Sam’s relatively new gecko, a detailed description of several stuffed animals, and a narration about Sam being a “guide” tonight for parents at the PTA meeting (Blythe is the PTA president). There were several other revelations underway when his father, Jason, came home, and then Maureen came back from shopping, generating another tour and other stories for Grandma Mo.

It was tough cutting off the call, but knowing he had to do his homework (he told me about that as well) before the PTA meeting, i began easing out of the conversation.

It was tough.

It was tough because i was in heaven. Grandson and i just chillin’. The only thing that would have been better would have been to have the tour in person.

So now, every once in awhile considering decorum and proper distribution of time in Sam’s rather full schedule, i will talk to Sam. Just Sam and me.

Lord, that’s heaven. Pure heaven.

Thanks, Blythe and Jason…oh yeh: and Sam!

A Pocket of Resistance: Aunt and Uncle Memories…sort of

i may have posted this before and you may have to zoom in to read it. It is a poem my Aunt Colleen Prichard wrote soon  after i was born and her finance, my Uncle Bill Prichard was flying his fighter out of Belgium — the name on the nose cone was “Colleen.”

This is especially for all of my Prichard family. i just wish i could remember her in those days. Oh what gloriously romantic times it must have been…not to mention scarier than hell.

aunt_collen-poem-circa_1944

Aunt Colleen and a goofy kid outside 127 Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, TN, circa 1945
Aunt Colleen and a goofy kid outside 127 Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, TN, circa 1945
Nashville Banner article in 1945 re: First Lieutenant Bill Prichard.
Nashville Banner article in 1945 re: First Lieutenant Bill Prichard.

A Pocket of Resistance: Standing Proud with Women in the Navy

There are some things i’ve done in life i regret. There are many things i’ve done in life that are what they are and not much more, sort of a “so be it” thing.

And there are some things i’ve done of which i am immensely proud. One of those was the manner in which i handled my job as Executive Officer of the U.S.S. Yosemite (AD 19), my last operational tour in the Navy. i reported aboard twelve days after Maureen and i married, deployed to the Indian Ocean just over a month later.

The Yo-Yo had a crew of 900 with 100 women sailors and six female officers in a wardroom of 44. Previously, i had worked with one female Navy officer, Carolyn Prevatte, at Texas A&M NROTC from 1976 to 1979; in 1982, i saw a female deckhand on a tugboat assisting the U.S.S. Okinawa (LPH 3) tying up to a pier; and in 1979, i listened to three female officers Navy sounding officious at the Admiral Kidd BOQ swimming pool while i was attending the Tactical Action Officer course in San Diego. That was it before i was charged to be Number Two on Yosemite. 

i was old school Navy, the kind they don’t have anymore. We were rip-snorting, steam-driven, wild liberty hounds. Women were what we left back home and what many chased in foreign ports. There were many things wrong with that Navy, but there were many good things, too. i was frightened…well, not frightened but gravely concerned about being in charge of a ship with women as part of the crew. i remember being glad i was reporting aboard married rather than single. i later found out Captain Boyle had considering rejecting my assignment until he found out i was getting wed before i reported aboard.

i tried to get information about the “Women At Sea” program, taking leave and going to Norfolk rather than spending my last week in PXO school in Newport. My intent was to spend a day in Washington with the program coordinator, but she could not make herself available: too many congressional hearings. i ended up talking to the XO of a sub-tender with women in the crew. It was a total loss: the guy was macho up to his ears where if he had one, his brain had stopped working.

So there i went. i am still going to write the XO log kind of book about that deployment. Eleanor Hicks thinks it should be my next book. i think i’m going to write one or two more before that one. My working title is Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.

But today, i was attacking the piles in my home office: fairly successfully for a change, when i ran across this letter. It was from Lieutenant Kathy Rondeau who transferred from the Yosemite in Diego Garcia to report to her new duty station at NAS Jacksonville.

Her letter makes me feel proud of how it went on Yo-Yo, nearly eight months from Mayport and back. Challenges abounded. Frank Boyle and i worked together to make it work with very little coherent direction and often cross-threaded decisions from the desk sitters in DC (and when we got back, realizing the brass did not want the program to be a success: they did not want women to be stationed on ships).

And not only did it work well, the CO and XO gave those women, especially the officers good counsel on what they needed to do and what to expect in their careers. Kathy’s letter validates that.

i don’t know if you can read my scans. The new multi-purpose printer and i aren’t familiar enough with each other yet. So here are excerpts from that letter:

Thank you for all you did for me. You can never know how much you have helped me grow as a Surface Warfare Officer. That night we spoke about OOD quals – you said a lot of good things and I listened to you good advice. I agree with you about not worrying about what other people think or how other people got their quals. Also, i am proud to be a Surface Warfare Officer, and XO, if it had not been for the cruise, you, and the Captain, I wouldn’t be so proud…

…I never said goodbye to you, XO, it was too hard for me to do…you were so good to me and taught me so much professionally and built up my self-confidence as a Surface Warfare Officer and a department head.

That’s enough. i’ve put my scan of the three-page letter below. My new printer and i are not yet well acquainted enough to make the scans more readable.

Sadly, i cannot find Kathy on the web. i think i remember correctly that she went on and at least made captain. i would like to talk to her today and see how she is doing. And thank her for making me proud of doing the right thing on Yosemite.

rondeau-ltr-84-01

rondeau-ltr-84-02rondeau-ltr-84-03

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Sir Isaac Newt

There are more stories here to which i may return. But for now, an eulogy:

Sir Isaac Newt

Sir Isaac Newt
finally bought the farm
although he did not soar very much
during his lifetime,
just swimming around,
sitting on the rock
in the terrarium
we got him
after his unnamed compatriot
disappeared forever only days
after our daughter brought them home;
not much later, Sir Aristotle Newt
had taken a header in the deep sink
after escaping from the old terrarium
which we hope happened to the unnamed one.

we gave Aristotle a proper burial,
complete with a popsicle stick for a headstone
after our daughter demanded such,
her storing him in a plastic bag in the freezer
until i got home
to attend to him properly with respect.

then Ike swam on alone in his tiny world
sated with the frozen blood worm meal
we fed him a couple of times a week;
my wife, recognizing my procrastinating
cleaned his terrarium every other week
allowing him to roam in the bathroom sink.

oh, he had a good life, such as it was
in the terrarium on my desk next to the window;
i really did like him;
i would talk to him every day,
admiring his orange and black polka dot tummy,
considering his wide and vast knowledge of the world,
but
never saying anything,
not even making a noise.

my wife found him this morning
belly up
in the terrarium;
afraid i would be distraught,
she disposed of him
along with the coffee grounds,
an ignominious end
for such a glorious dainty creature.

for twelve years,
Sir Ike sat on my desk
calmly looking out at me from his terrarium;
other than when the cat would sit
on the top screen of the terrarium
or hungrily stare at him through the glass;
he always struck a calm pose,
making me feel akin, in control, peaceful.

but now, the newt era is over here.
Sir Isaac Newt is gone,
coffee bean grinds gone.

i will mourn only briefly for this
noble newt named Ike,
he was a good newt…

i think.