Notes from the Southwest Corner: an addendum to “A Pleasant Walk Through History”

lebanon-bookThis photo of the book cover accompanied the column in the paper addition of the paper (hmm…i have to think about that statement).

As per my usual modus operendi, i didn’t go back and check and therefore didn’t include the other books on that shelf: No Longer Hangs the Fluted Shade: Random Observations in Verse, Paul Wooten’s poetry book; Castle Heights Military Academy 100th Anniversary  Alumni Directory;  Grand Ole Saturday Nights, Margaret Britton Vaughn; Discovering Tennessee, Mary U. Rothrock; Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History, John Allison; Tennessee: The Volunteer State, Mary French Caldwell; Landmarks  of Tennessee History, edited by William T. Alderson and Robert M. McBride; Remembering Wilson County, published by Wilson County Bank & Trust; and Haunting Memories: Echoes and Images of Tennessee’s Past, photos by Christine P. Patterson and text by Wilma Dykeman.

And although William Faulkner was as Mississippi as Mississippi can be, his works bring me back to home. Faulkner’s County: Yoknapatawpha, a photographic essay of Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding area accompanied by quotes from Faulkner’s novels evoke feelings, real powerful feelings, and i include the book in my list.

i have found the information about the books and their authors, editors, and publishers are almost as interesting as the books themselves.

i keep trying to imagine Major Wooten bending over his desk, writing his poetry by hand in his classroom (wasn’t it in the McFadden basement, Heightsmen of my time?) after the cadets had gone to short order drill on the drill field; the track team had rendezvoused on what is now known as Stroud Gwynn Field and will soon become history so Wilson County Bank and Trust can build a headquarters building (sometimes progress isn’t) and played Jimmy Reed’s album of blues over the press box speaker system, the baseball team had ambled down to the diamond on hill street east of the drill field to smack out hits and field grounders and lazy fly balls. And then i try to picture the erstwhile major taking them home and clacking out the poems on his typewriter into the late evening.

Lillian, his wife, compiled and edited them. i have a copy signed by Lillian, dated the year the book was published, 1994. i ‘m sure my mother and father bought the book for me. Lillian wrote, “Jim, Enjoy a chat with Mr. Wooten through this book of verse.”

i have had chats with the Major on numerous occasions.

His poetry is more poetic than mine. His is classic poetry. And it rhymes. It is thoughtful, deep, light, meaningful, humorous, and most of all, it touches my soul. Yet it seems we both have had this passion for writing, not necessarily for others to read, but something that drives us from within to put things down on paper, except now it’s on this infernal computer screen. Of course, it is pleasing to know people read what i write and like it. i’m sure Major Wooten felt the same when his works were published.

There are times when i chastise myself for missing him. He was always there on the hilltop in his Army greens, but i never had him for class. i think we would have connected. i remember him as being a nice man who seemed professional, a teacher. i had already started to write poems, mostly as an outlet and all pretty bad. i have never rhymed very much and keep trying to categorize what i write because “poetry” seems like an exaggerated compliment. But Paul Wooten’s verses are poetry, pure poetry.

In the introduction, Lillian writes when April rolls in, she will honor his request to “Look out the window once, for me.”

And in April, i will look out the window, pull No Longer Hangs the Fluted Shade down from the bookshelf and have another chat with the major.


A Pocket of Resistance: JD, a Very, Very Funny Fellow

For those who might have missed my time with JD, we met for the first time on board USS Okinawa in transit from Perth to Sydney, Australia in 1981. After returning from deployment, JD moved into my apartment on Coronado for several months. Then he moved to what was then the Oakwood apartments about eight blocks from me. We sailed on his sailboat and ended up, with the help of Blythe selecting, in a condo in the Coronado Cays. Maureen and i were maid of honor and best man at his and Mary Lou’s wedding in April 1983 before we married that summer.

The four of us have remained fast friends through about ten moves and living about 1200 miles from each other.

JD is the funniest, most inventive guy, i have ever known. i don’t watch comedians live or on television because JD is funnier.

For example, as i was going through stuff to organize or toss this afternoon, i ran across an invitation to his and Mary Lou’s home in 1992. As JD said, “It’s a double-wide in Lakeside.” The home was so well done, i occasionally think about doing it myself. Of course, Maureen would leave, but kill me before she went. After all, Mary Lou had to ward off a mother o’possum in her bathroom with a hair dryer.

Still i think you might enjoy JD’s humor.

First page:


Second page:


The man is a genius. The party was great.

A Pocket of Resistance: On a Sea Far Away

Late yesterday afternoon, i found something that brought back memories, and i can get caught up with my memories. i was in the middle of about a dozen projects of various ilk and running close to the edge. i needed a break.

In my continuing quest to leave no mess behind, i again turned to my photographs. i ran across an event at sea i had experienced on a regular basis.  It was an evolution that faded from frequent practice but is now a regular event again. Reduced liberty ports is the reason in this new age of the Navy.

The photos didn’t quite capture the breathtaking awe of such an evolution, but i could visualize the event in my mind. i was not the conning officer and being the the “supplying ship,” it was not as challenging, but the photos do capture the spirit of such a maneuver.

The year was 1983. The place was the Indian Ocean in between Diego Garcia and Masirah, Oman. i was executive officer on the U.S.S. Yosemite (AD 19).  We held our pre-underway hi-line brief and readied for the evolution. After gaining communication and radar contact with the U.S.S. Gallery (FFG 26), a lookout spied her on the horizon, and we maneuvered for the rendezvous. Captain Frank Boyle, Yosemite’s commanding officer and a man who had Navy blue running in his veins, contemplated the upcoming event in the captain’s chair on the port bridge wing.


The bridge team gathered and this goofy guy in the sweater checking his watch, the XO, discussed the situation with the captain.


The Gallery, an Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigate began it’s approach.

uss_gallery 1

We raised the day shapes for “restricted maneuverability,” a ball, a triangle, and another ball (the second ball is not visible in the photograph and the triangle’s shape is not evident).


Gallery moved forward into position on our starboard side.


Once alongside in position, we could see her bridge.


We began passing lines to linehandlers on the Gallery’s forecastle next to her missile launcher.


The lines were passed.


Our linehandling detail was prepared.

yosemite_linehandlers 1

We performed the required hi-line safety check of passing a test “dummy” in the boatswain’s chair. Personnel transfers by a boatswain’s chair required linehandlers rather than power winches.


Later on the sail north to Masirah, we hi-lined two of our female officers, LT Sharon Carrasco and LTJG Emily Baker to the U.S.S. Lynde McCormick (DDG 8), a temporary “cross deck” so the women could experience life aboard a combatant. This was in the initial stages of the “Women at Sea” program. Most senior male Navy officers were not in favor of putting women on ships, and we were reprimanded for this transfer. Navy brass did not want good press on the program. They wanted to kill it.

In “UNREP” evolutions, it is much more fun (or scary) to be the ship coming alongside. It requires skill and experience, as well as a feel for the ship, the winds, and the sea, to maintain the proper distance and alignment from the ship on a steady course and speed, the latter nearly always twelve knots.

During previous UNREPS on maneuvering ship when i had the conn (driving the ship with instructions to the helmsman {rudder control} and lee helmsman {shaft revolution orders to the engineroom}), i quickly learned main control (the engineroom) would only laugh at a one revolution (a turn) change in speed. So when the ship was moving very slowly ahead in our relative position and i knew we needed just a slight reduction, i would order “drop three turns,” then “add two” turns” to get the one turn.

Staying alongside was made tougher, especially in rougher seas by the “Bernoulli Effect.” When the ships were alongside, only 120 feet apart ideally, the pressure created caused a drop of water level between the two ships of several feet. This drop created a force pulling the ships together. Conning was doubly difficult during UNREPs. i have included a photo from the web to give a good representation of the seas during an UNREP.

030908-N-0x¤030908-N-0119G-001 Atlantic Ocean (Sept. 8, 2003) -- The Military Sealift Command ship, USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) steams alongside USS Enterprise (CVN 65) while conducting an early morning replenishment at sea (RAS). Enterprise is underway in the Atlantic Ocean for her Comprehensive Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and upcoming scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Ro

(The Navy’s UNREP photo was taken by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rob Gaston, USN  and can be found at

My first hi-line experience was when they used “double boatswain’s chairs” capable of carrying two personnel at once. i was in the last lift of 21 midshipmen returning to the U.S.S. Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) after spending a day aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVS 11) in 1963. The linehandlers aboard the Thomas were exhausted after pulling the other transfers across. They wore out when i was about thirty feet from reaching the ship. i dangled there above the roaring sea for what felt like hours but probably was not more than a minute or two. i was relieved when the linehandlers regained some strength and pulled me aboard.

The Navy banned the use of the double chair reportedly when two admirals were dunked in the Mediterranean during a hi-line transfer shortly after my experience.

My funniest hi-line experience came in the late 1970’s. Amphibious squadron staff officers were cross-decked from the helicopter carrier flagship to an LPD for a day of inspections. The senior officer, not very well liked by many on the helicopter carrier, made sure he was the first to hi-line back. When his chair was midway through the transfer, ships rolled toward each other and the hi-line suddenly went slack. The commander was dunked into the water. As the ships rolled back away from each other, the boatswain chair shot back up and bounced up and down. Line handler tiredness was given as the reason for the dunking.

i loved hi-line evolutions.


A Pocket of Resistance: The Turnip Green Legend


This tale of turnip greens started out with one intention, but it somehow morphed into a legend, much too long to put in one post. It reminded me of my father’s talent of telling wonderful stories of Lebanon  and our family past. But more so, it produced a picture in my head of his sister, Aunt Naomi (pronounced “Aunt Noni” by the Jewell children) standing regally in the middle of the room, tall and lithe with elegant white hair, regaling me with stories on end, one leading to an idea about another, and wonderfully on, and delightfully on.

So when i realized after writing all that is enclosed here didn’t even mention the original idea this should be a serial, two posts, unless another thought takes me in a yet another different direction.

i just couldn’t stand it.

i had gone to the Navy Commissary for one item. ONE.

Maureen is not big on sausage, at least the breakfast kind. She prefers bacon, burnt to  a crisp. After all, she is a native of Southern California. But i like my sausage. In fact, i’m damn particular about it. i have been in  culinary heaven for over thirty years since i found the commissary at the San Diego Naval Station, adoringly called “Thirty-Second Street” by the old guys, carried Tennessee Country Pride sausage, mild and hot varieties.

i don’t go there very much anymore. Since Maureen retired, our groceries come from her shopping at Trader Joe’s; Valley Farms Market, a family owned store in Casa de Oro with great meats and sea food; a few particular items at Henry’s ( a place that has gone corporate and has been rebranded as Sprouts, but i don’t care and still call it Henry’s) and Costco (That used to be Price Club, but Sol Price sold out to Costco and made a gazillion dollars); but she shuns the commissary.

Perhaps her shunning was produced by her first visit to the commissary in 1983. We had married in July. i left  my bride in San Diego after a ten-day honeymoon for about six-weeks in Mayport (Jacksonville), Florida, the homeport of my last ship, the U.S.S. Yosemite, which then deployed to the Indian Ocean for eight months.

Maureen had become a military dependent and decided one day at lunch, she would check out the commissary for a couple of items. Now Maureen worked for Parron Hall Office Interiors and was polished and always dressed to the nines at work.

So she took off for the Thirty-Second Street commissary, which was a great deal different then than it is now. To begin, it has upgraded buildings twice in the last thirty-three years. Back then, it was a very large quonset hut tucked back into a corner on the “dry side” of the base. It was also in the age when credit cards were not fully entrenched and Navy personnel, especially the lower ratings, lived from paycheck to paycheck. This meant the commissaries and the Navy Exchanges were packed on paydays (the 15th and the 30th each month).

Unwittingly, Maureen went on a payday. She picked up her two small items and went to the checkout line. That is when she discovered the line wound around three aisles and every dependent wife (even though i was with some of the first women Navy personnel on ships, women in the Navy were still sparse) had shopping carts piled to the top — no, there were no “express lines” back then. She reluctantly got in the back of the line. Then she noticed the very large woman in front of her was pushing one cart and pulling another. They were both piled up to the absolute limit (i’m guessing one of the carts was all Twinkies). Maureen calculated it would take her at least an hour to get to the cashier.

She put her two small items on the shelf and left. Since then, she only goes back under duress.

Before Maureen retired, i did  a great deal, if not most of the grocery shopping. i nearly always came home with Tennessee Pride Country Sausage and a couple of items for Southern fare, which the commissary did well in stocking.

But Maureen retired and loves to cook really good and really healthy food.

Occasionally, she admits she would like me to cook some of my limited dishes: mostly my mother’s meat loaf, black-eyed peas, and biscuits as well as my own concoction of okra, tomatoes, and onions, grilling steaks, and my smoked turkey  for special occasions.


But for the most part, my quick runs into the commissary are snuck into my being on base for other reasons, and nearly always just for Tennessee Pride. But Monday as i walked by the produce department, i spotted turnip greens. i couldn’t pass them up. i just couldn’t stand to pass them up.

So late this afternoon, while sipping on a blueberry and rosemary modification of a gin and tonic, the instructions courtesy of John Moriarty, the whisky expert and bartender supreme at the Park Hotel in Kenmare, Ireland, i tried to remember Mother’s way of cooking turnip greens. And that leads to the second part of this legend.

But i must end this part by saying the blueberry and rosemary gin and tonic was beautiful.

A Pocket of Resistance: An Old Saying

i vowed not only to refrain from  making any comments about politics but to ignore all posts with political comments.

So this is not really political. It is more of a reflection. When i was growing up and in elementary school, the cold war was raging between the United States and the U.S.S.R. One thing i remember most clearly was something told to me by everyone, especially teachers at McClain Elementary School, and always after we had climbed out from under our desks when the atomic bomb drill had concluded.

“The communists believe the end justify the means,” they told me over and over. “We don’t.” they emphasized.

It seems to me now we do. In almost every endeavor, a large number of Americans justify using chicanery, lying, knifing someone in the back, cheating, and defaming whom they believe is their competition to get what they want.

Even in sports, which i always thought was to be played on a level playing field and honorably with no cheating, the end is more important than how you or your team gets there.  And then some coach (and i’m pretty sure it was a football coach) said, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” It’s gotten worse.

Business is run by folks who cut corners, violate laws, abuse their employees, and make false claims about their service or products because someone taught them that was the way to do business.

And politics…well, i think we all know about that, and still good folks pass around lies about the opposition because “they do it.”

My school teachers and my parents would be aghast. i am too and very, very sad.

A Pocket of Resistance: Obituary and Stuff

i don’t think about dying a lot: got too many other things to think about. But i suspect anyone within a couple of years of my age has thought about dying. So yesterday, i decided to write something about how i think about it in the hope folks i know might think a little bit more constructive about what they would want when it happens.

obituary and stuff

getting ‘bout that time
to contemplate what
my obituary should read,

written them before :
some technique for setting goals,
getting in tune with myself,
something like that

maybe i just have faced the fact
i’m gonna die
sooner than later
compared to the rest of my living time
quite frankly, i don’t know what to say
it doesn’t matter
someone is gonna take my ashes in an urn
back to Lebanon, Tennessee,
back to Wilson County Memorial Gardens
put me in the ground
in the plot next to my mother and daddy
where they only allow headstones to read
name, birthdate, death,
which i guess is just fine,
someone is gonna go newsworthy on me
the funeral home will want an obit
the newspapers will want one
quite frankly, i don’t want one
it is part of the world in which we live
then die nobly, or at least that’s what the obit will say
i have written before about what my father said at eighty-seven,
it’s now true for me:

 son, i’ve had a good life;
(i would add “with a few hiccups, of course”)
i’ve got a good wife;
all my children are good children;
my grandkids are great;
now, all i really want
is to go quick.

he was a wise man
now i know what he meant
even if it’s about fifteen years earlier
than when he spoke this wisdom
another ten before he went quick.

so what should this obituary say:

James Rye (jim) Jewell, Jr. died the other day, (age tbd) at (someplace) where he wanted to be with his wife, daughters, and grandson by his side. He went quick. He had a full life, loved a lot, hated very little, had a good time, and always tried to do the right thing, sometimes failing in that, and was proud to have all of the family and friends he had. He did a lot of things and never got to the top of any of them because he went off and started doing something else before he got to the top. He loved to write and he loved being at sea. He was too trusting with a belief in the good nature of folks to really ever fit in this world of distrust. Still he loved to watch people live and never held a grudge although some people made him sad. Now, he is coming back home. And this time, he will stay.

Yeh, that’s what i would like the obit to say;
it won’t, of course;
it will be too late for me to care:
the grave marker next to my mother and daddy’s
will be enough,
quite enough.


A Pocket of Resistance: The Old Navy

Pete and Nancy Toennies could not join us for our golf round celebrating our thirty-third anniversary yesterday.

They have a dog named Cody who is in the last round of living. Pete and Nancy are in the process of making the “when?” decision, one of the most difficult decisions i have had to make twice and is a driving reason for us not having a dog until i am confident the dog will outlive me: i don’t ever, ever want to make that decision and live through the consequences again. We did go out for dinner with the Toennies last night, eating at a tony Coronado restaurant on the outside patio. I feel deeply for Pete and Nancy in their dilemma .

In their golfing absence, we were joined by Mark and Andy, two young Navy Surface Warfare Officers. Mark is the “OE” division officer and the Network Security Officer aboard the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) (i think that is right: i apologize Mark, for my bad memory; i will correct this when we run into each other again if i got it wrong). Neither of Mark’s billets nor his class of ship was around when i was on ships.

Mark played baseball for Penn State. His golf game reminded me of mine years ago except his game is much, much longer. i told him of this driver i had in the late 1980’s. It had a graphite head and a graphite shaft. My friends named it “The Scud Driver,” Like the missile the Iranians had around that time, my tee balls hit with that driver would go a long way, but no one knew where they would land.

Andrew is the weapons officer aboard the USS Germantown (LSD 42), home ported in Sasebo, Japan. Her class of Landing Ship Dock ships is the successor to the Anchorage class. i was First Lieutenant aboard the Anchorage (LSD 36). My favorite Navy tour was that job on that ship. She is where i grew into being a mariner. The weapons officer aboard Anchorage worked for me.

Andrew played baseball for Concordia University, a small university in Nebraska. Andrew is from near Galveston, Texas, and is a big Texas A&M fan. Of course, i was the senior Navy officer at the NROTC Unit at Texas A&M from 1976 to 1979, one of my two Navy shore tours. Like Mark, Andrew has a lot of potential as a golfer. We might get in nine holes before he finishes his two-weeks of training here and heads back to Sasebo Saturday. Sasebo is one of my favorite liberty ports of all time.

Mark’s girl friend, Andrea, moved to San Diego from Croatia about six months ago. She rode with Mark for our round.

It was good to connect with two young officers who were me almost fifty years ago. i told them a bunch of sea stories, and they seemed to enjoy connecting to the past Navy.

It is a different Navy, but it has good folks, and there is always hope when there are good folks involved.

The afternoon made me nostalgic.

This morning, i opened an email Pete had sent me yesterday.


The photo was a reminder of the way the Navy used to be. It also reminded me of my third class midshipman cruise.

In 1963, the other ships in the Intrepid (CVS 11) anti-submarine carrier group went to Halifax but the Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) was sent to Sydney, Nova Scotia for Canada’s Independence Day (July 1). In the parade, six midshipmen, including me, escorted the six parade “princesses” through the streets. For a week, we wandered the town, drank a significant amount of Carling Black Label beer (“Hey Mabel, Black Label”), and met some nice young ladies.

On the last night of liberty, we worked out a plan with the first class midshipman who had the duty. Liberty for seamen, firemen, and third class petty officers expired at 2200. First and Second Class Petty Officers (Acey-Ducey Clubs, remember?) had to be back to the ship by 2300. Liberty for chiefs and the third class midshipmen  expired at midnight. Officers could stay out until the next morning. Knowing the first class middie would be the quarterdeck officer of the deck for the midwatch, we worked a deal where he would cover for us and a half-dozen of us could get back as late as 0400 without getting caught.

We arranged a party with six of the girls we met at one of their homes on the outskirts of Sidney. It all went well and everyone was having a good time. Then the six midshipmen returned to the ship around 0200 where all hell was breaking loose.

Most of the sailors on liberty had gathered at the dance hall in the middle of town. They were dancing with the local girls, and some of the local boys took offense. Around 2030, a fight broke out between a local and a third class petty officer. The fight grew until it became a huge brawl in the middle of downtown.

Liberty was cancelled. Shore patrol was beefed up with crew from the duty section, and all hands were ordered back to the ship . The quarterdeck watched was doubled and the executive officer was on the quarterdeck from when news of the fight reached the ship until the captain returned.

Wide-eyed from watching the bloody sailors with soiled and torn uniforms (much like in the photograph) straggle back to the ship, we were stunned when we found our first class midshipman was not on the quarterdeck, replaced by a more experienced OOD and the XO. When we reported aboard, we were immediately put on report.

We hovered around the quarterdeck watching the sailors return in small groups or one by one.  One third class petty officer passed us by after crossing the gangway. His head and arms were splattered with blood, along with his service dress white uniform which was in tatters. He was obviously very drunk and without his dixie shop (sailor’s cap).

When we asked him what happened, he said some guy hit him with a chair, and they had a donnybrook. We then asked him if he was okay. He smiled. A front tooth was missing, and then he answered, “I came back, didn’t I?”

We were further surprised when we learned the captain had not returned. He had been a submarine commanding officer before becoming the captain of the Lloyd Thomas and preferred going on liberty with the chiefs rather than the officers. Finally around 0315, his sedan pulled onto the pier. As the executive officer walked to meet him, the captain, being held up and helped aboard by the chiefs, reeled across the brow, obviously four sheets to the wind. He and his chiefs had been to a hole in the wall and been tossing them down since early evening unaware of the brawl or liberty being cancelled.

When the XO informed him of the events, the captain rolled his eyes and yelled, “Well hell then, liberty call for all hands.”

Of course, the XO immediately nixed that and helped the captain, with the aid of the chiefs, to his cabin.

At 0800 the next morning, the Lloyd Thomas got underway. The foggy harbor area was thick with small vessels at anchor including several Japanese fishing ships. The captain took the conn and was giving orders to the helm and lee helm, obviously a little woozy from the previous evening’s activity. He sped up to standard speed too early and turned to starboard a little late, scraping the side of one of the Japanese fishing ships. Looking down from the signal bridge, my watch station for sea detail, i watched a half-dozen or so Japanese fisherman jumping, diving, or falling into the water.

We continued out of the channel to rendezvous with the Intrepid and her other escorts.

The midshipmen, including me, received ten hours of extra duty for missing liberty expiration. My ten hours of extra duty was spent mostly cleaning and painting hot, dank, and out of the way spaces. i was told the State department had sent a letter of apology to Nova Scotia and Japan, but all concern apparently ended there. The captain, then a commander, made captain. The incident, including the collision at sea, did not hamper his career. He did not give himself or his chiefs any extra duty.

Yep, it ain’t the same Navy. Perhaps, perhaps, the new Navy is better. It is certainly less boisterous.

i’m glad i was in the old Navy.

A Pocket of Resistance: Staying Power, Thank God

Thirty-three years ago on a day like today though much less humid, a sea breeze reached the house on the corner lot where Taft Street intersects with Hughes Street. The temperature in the afternoon reached 95.

The backyard of the house was spotted with one white pavilion tent and about a half-dozen serving stations. The wedding took place in the northwest section of the backyard, Reverend Joe Jewell presiding.

He read the vows written by his brother, the groom, and edited by the bride:

We are here today to celebrate a union.

Maureen and Jim have traveled different paths to meet at the opportune place to become a perfect union. Their love began as a friendship and has grown far beyond what either had dreamed possible.

Their wish today to be a celebration, a joyous day of laughter and warmth; they wish to share their elation of finding each other with those here today. They hope the emotion of gladness they feel will overflow and others can feel the wonderment and peace of togetherness they share.

The light of love lit by Jim and Maureen has allowed them insight into previously  unseen corners of their lives and to see down corridors of their future.  This light also has revealed a depth of emotion that defies explanation. It has cast the light of clarity on relations with other people important in their lives, redefining and deepening those relationships. In their relationship with each other, this light of love has allowed them to experience a depth of feeling coexisting with an openness and sharing they have not attained before.

This union does not create walls but invites freedom to Maureen and Jim to be who they are with each other and with others with whom they have shared. This wedding is a symbol, an announcement, a consecration of a relationship that has been blessed as a union by the spirit and power that transcends us all.

Jim and Maureen, do you promised to share your joy, your insights, and moments of beauty with each other? Do you promise to support each other without inhibitions or reservation in all of your endeavors and moments of reflection, both high and low? Will you continue to hold each other close in body and spirit? And do you promise your friendship with each other, from which this love has grown, will continue with the same openness, depth, and fervor as it began?

This ring is a permanent symbol of this union. It signifies the love, adoration, and friendship between these two people. Its never ending circle is a symbol of the extent of Jim and Maureen’s love.

It should be remembered the ring is a symbol and cannot completely capture or represent the love and commitment these two share with each other.

The lord bless you and keep you; the lord let his face shine upon you and give you peace.

When i reread and copied those vows today, i kept thinking about how gracious my brother was in reading them without at least chuckling. But he delivered the words with feeling.

It is a bit smarmy in parts and a bit overblown. The writer and editor were in love and wanted to share that with all of their relatives and friends. So i think that is perfectly fine.


The above photo is sort of perfect. We are cutting the cake covered with chocolate covered strawberries with my Navy sword. My mother is in the background to the left of Maureen.

We have now been married for more than half of Maureen’s life. That is amazing to me. i often think it was good to have married each other later in life than most. i think it makes us more tolerant of each other and with the other people we hold dear.

We have settled (somewhat) into our routines of an aged relationship. The length pales into comparison to my parents’ seventy-five years of marriage. Still i think our length of marriage shows our staying power and it’s just fine, just fine.

And i, as i have pointed out a grunch of times, am a lucky man, a very lucky man and have been so for thirty-three years.


A Pocket of Resistance: the old mariner’s eternity

The Facebook video of a ship in a sea storm posted by David Hughen, my recollections of  storms at seas in sharing David’s video, my response on his post, my Tuesday column, and my posting here about going down the PTS pier yesterday, made me nostalgic, missing the sea life. And tonight when i continued my flailing quest at organization, i came across this poem i wrote three years ago. Seems sort of suitable:


nigh onto thirty years ago, the old mariner left the sea;
after nigh onto thirty years, he still misses the life:
the sea takes your heart, your soul, and sets you free;
the sea becomes your mother, your ingénue, your wife.

so the old man climbs his hill each day
looks down to the bay
beyond the sliver of land
they call the strand, which forms the bay,
gazes out to the sea,
which just goes on and on and on
until the curvature of the earth
takes the sea away from the old man’s gaze
into eternity
he breathes a sigh
for what used to be
he shifts his gaze down
to the harbor where the new
gray ladies lie at their berths:
modern, sleek creatures,
electronic, green-powered wonders
of advancement, they say
he remembers
the huffing and puffing of the steam ships
with twitches and twangs
of machinery
sweat and labor of men
manning the engine rooms, fire rooms,
magazines and crowded mounts
belching fire and smoke and noise;
realizing those old ships of the old navy
have gone over the horizon
as well as the sunset
into eternity
he breathes a sigh
for what used to be.

A Pocket of Resistance: The Fat Man

i read the email and felt numb, all over numb.

Then i was confused because i could not figure out how much of the hurt was because i had not done what i had promised myself to do.

Forrest Crockett Carr had sent me the email. It was the obituary of one James Allan Smith prefaced with Crockett’s note, “One of the best ‘town boys.'”

Every one i have known looked up to Jimmy Smith. He, John Sweatt, and Kent Russ took care of me at Heights and beyond. Jimmy and Kent were instrumental in getting me to pledge Kappa Sigma at Vanderbilt where i forged some of the strongest friendships i’ve ever had and many remaining so today.

Tiger golf team, 1958: Burke Herron, John Castro, Billy Lea, Bill Rose, Jimmy Smith, Charlie Teasley, Bob Pinkerton, Charles Gilbert, Tom Goldsby.
Tiger golf team, 1958: Burke Herron, John Castro, Billy Lea, Bill Rose, Jimmy Smith, Charlie Teasley, Bob Pinkerton, Charles Gilbert, Tom Goldsby.

Jimmy was just flat something special. At Heights, he played on the last golf team (1958, i believe). He exuded cool, which was a difficult thing to do in the school’s military uniform. Jimmy and Leonard Bradley are the only two guys i remember who could pull that off. And Jimmy excelled. In everything. Graduating my freshman year, he was the 1959 class salutatorian.

Then Jimmy and Kent Russ went to Vanderbilt. Three years later i followed. The summer before i matriculated, Jimmy invited me to a Kappa Sigma summer party. It was not pretty. i drank rum and coke for the first (and last) time, drank more, and blew lunch somewhere. It should have given me a clue, but it didn’t. When classes began, there was no question what i would pledge, and to this day, i’m glad Jimmy and Kent influenced my being a Kappa Sigma pledge. My closeness to my brothers remains strong and good.

Both of them watched over me that freshman year and tried to help me as much as possible, but i was on an inevitable course to failure. Even as my grades slid and my acumen for calculus vanished, i still thought i could do everything, including partying hard, sleeping late, skipping classes and still bring my grades up. It didn’t happen, but it wasn’t because of Jimmy and Kent.

At Vandy, everyone knew Jimmy as one of the coolest guys around. His favorite phrase was addressing everyone he liked as “fat man.” It became such a deal, he was known as “Fat Man,” and that was a cool thing. He impressed me in everything he did. He was an immaculate dresser, never overdressed, never underdressed. And just as he did in his Heights uniform, he made everything look cool.

Jimmy hung out often as The Sportsman Club to the west of the Parthenon in Centennial Park across West End from Vanderbilt. The cool guys hung out there. Of course.

In the spring, Jimmy invited me and another freshman (i think it was Cy Fraser) over to his apartment, where we drank scotch. i was not a scotch drinker, but Jimmy drank scotch so i thought it was cool and drank it that night. Then he put on a record. The artist remains one of my all time favorites.

It was Mose Allison singing on all the tracks of “Mose Allison Sings.” i listened with awe. I  fancied myself a blues fan, and obviously, Mose has some of that in his songs, but it was different, jazz, cool, just like the Fat Man. i later learned it was also the first album where Mose was allowed to sing on all of the tracks. Jimmy knew. He was that cool.

Jimmy left for Virginia law school after that year, and i never saw him again. Through my Lebanon, Heights, and Vandy contacts, i kept loose track of him, and knew he had become a prominent labor and contract attorney in Atlanta. i also learned through either John Sweatt or Earl Major or both, Jimmy had lost his vision in his later years.

The Fat Man was an inspiration to me. i always wanted to be like him. He was the coolest, but he also was one of the most genuine friends i ever had. After learning he was in Atlanta, i vowed to get his contact information, call, and even planned how i would go spend an afternoon or a dinner with him. i’m sure if i had, i would have more memories of how cool, intelligent, genuine, and funny he was.

But i was thwarted in my initial efforts to contact him, usually being called away from my quest for some immediate crisis. The item on my checklist kept getting pushed down the page.

i am terribly sorry i was not more tenacious. i hurt from his loss because he meant so much to me. i hurt even more because i did not spend more time with him.

i guess what i’m really trying to say is: if you have a friend who is special to you but with whom you haven’t communicated in a long time, don’t put it off. Find them, call them, visit them.

If you do, i don’t think you will hurt as much as i am hurting right now.

Rest in peace, Fat Man.