Random Thoughts (what else?) on a Sunday morning

It’s been a hell of a week. Our trip to Concord and San Francisco was cancelled by my executive decision — it’s a rare event in this neck of the woods when the old retired commander pulls out his combination cover to take action. It proved a good but sad decision. It was our annual trip to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park where we spend three days with Alan, Maren, and Eleanor Hicks, along with 800,000 of our closest friends listening to a cornucopia of music but mostly bluegrass at the Banjo Stage. And this year, we had added a treat of seeing some of my favorite people: our nieces and their families from Maureen’s side of our family.

But recovery was required. And it turns out, the commander’s executive decision was a rare wise choice.

So i had my moon and Mars make it okay Thursday morning. Then Friday, i went and played golf. Boom, the world was back in the toilet again — no, not really: after all i was walking a golf course, even if my game sucked, in great weather with my friends. And where else but Admiral Baker, South Course, in Mission Valley could one find such insanity.

The thirteenth hole runs east along the San Diego River.

The golf course and the surrounding Navy recreation area is about the only thing preserving wild life in Mission Valley. The Admiral Baker area is surrounded by more apartments than the population of most towns, ditto the condominiums, several thousand car dealerships, an obsolete football stadium, a convention center or two; every hotel chain known to man and a few which aren’t, three thousand restaurants of which one or two are decent for dining, and two mega malls. In Baker, deer abound and run across the two courses with abandon; coyote hunt with seemingly no courtesy for interrupting putts; all sorts of other animals flock and hide in the edges of the river, and Friday, we watched eight egrets with wing spans of seven feet or more take off from the river and glide gracefully over the landscape for an hour.

But if you slice your ball into the river off of the thirteenth tee or dub a second (or third) shot into that river trying to get across to the green, you don’t go into the river’s abutting brush to retrieve anything, even one of your foursome. Snakes abound along with many other unknown wildlife. Hell, i wouldn’t even eliminate the possibility of an alligator or two being down in that jungle.

But there on the thirteenth tee and strategically located along the edge are several signs like this (thanks, Pete, for the photo — my phone’s memory was screwed up):


Well, i’m telling you if there are any children playing down there

  1. A golf ball ain’t gonna hurt them. They are tough enough to beat the hell out of our entire foursome.
  2. Their parents should be in jail.

But nothing else really mattered compared to the small thing that sent me into hysteric euphoria: As i was setting up my app on my phone for my golf GPS before we teed off, i noticed i had a reply to a text i had sent to my grandson Sam the day before.

It read: “i love you.”

There is nothing, not one damn thing in this entire world forever, that could make me feel any better. i’ve been floating on air for about 42 hours.

Then early last night, i’m having a typical day for someone who roots for underdogs: Vanderbilt, San Diego State, and the Padres lost, and i’m old enough to know there ain’t no such thing as a “moral victory.”

So i hit Facebook and find this:


My two daughters having fun together in Austin. It occurred to me they have an incredible capability to enjoy life to the fullest, and i know with certainty, they will be fine.

So there is another week i will walk on air.

♦     ♦     ♦

On another note, observing sports, something that has been an integral part of my life since forever, is about to lose me.

Televised sports is ruined by grotesque intervention by fans through antics, noise they hope will impact the contest in their favor, and boorish behavior; rules inserted with no real connection to the game itself because of fear of injury, commercial time, self promotion by the television channel; replay after interminable replay to try to get everything perfect in an imperfect world; the inanity, incorrect and over analysis by announcers who apparently think they are the two smartest people in the world who have to tell us how dumb we are, repeating those inanities ad infinitum; and profane amounts money spent on something that really should have no priority over education, equality, poverty, justice, and the American way. It’s downright embarrassing to be part of the same human race.

If it were not for video replay, which allows me to fast forward through dumb commercials, half-time drivel (i would even gleefully welcome back watching the marching bands, especially the Texas A&M Military Marching Band), and replay studies of silliness, i don’t think i could watch at all.

Finally, i had to turn off the Ryder Cup.

First, the fans were out of control. The chanting of “USA, USA…” grated. i don’t think the 50,000 plus had a clue why golf is such a wonderful sport. And then learning this morning, two fans were ejected from the event for screaming obscenities and other insults at our visitors, i was…well, just sick of out-of-line behavior. i wanted to watch some of the greatest golfers in the world compete, not idiots crowding the fairway. And how the hell do those folks in the bleachers sit there for ten hours or more?

One final note. Except for Tiger Woods, i did not see any people: players, marshals, announcers, or  fans with dark skin. There is something incredibly wrong with that. i’m not blaming anyone. I don’t know how to fix it. It is representative of something that remains truly wrong, wrong, wrong with our country. And we, individually;  not through legislation, not through protests, not through politically correct language, not through taxes, welfare or another program that gives some national figure a platform to enhance his/her own image, power, or wealth, need to fix it through each of us treating humans like…well, like humans.

Mooned and Phased

Nope. It’s not what you think.

In case you haven’t noticed, i am not a happy camper when it comes to my choices for the next presidential election.

My sports teams have defined in the tank (except for the Vols: yes, Vandy stalwarts, there remains a warm spot in my heart for what used to be the magnificent orange jersies, white numerals, high-top cleats, and the single-wing  Vols, and when they are not playing the Commodores, i still root for them).

Our traditional annual trip to the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival” in Golden Gate Park with our close friends Alan, Maren, and Eleanor Hicks, and now their son Alan Jr. as well, this time with a preceding stop in Concord with Maureen’s wonderful family Stefanie, Eric, Stefan, and Naomi possibly including Ann Minolti, Nikki, Mark, and Markie Knighton, was called off by me, who made a household executive decision because Maureen has not been feeling well. She is on the road to recovery, but i did not wish her to be miserable traveling. i would rather she be miserable with me at home.

So i have been in a dark place.

Since we weren’t in Concord or on our way to San Francisco, i made an oft-made, seldom-carried out effort to get back in my definition of good shape. i woke my usual early and decided to do a run/walk from our house. It was even before first light.

i had climbed the initial hill and was up on the next road of this high desert mesa when i looked skyward to the southeast. Hanging low over the borderlands of Baja California was the waning crescent moon, a sliver of light cradling the darker orb. Directly above it was the morning bright Mercury, named after that wing-footed Greek god.

i would have taken a photo with my iPhone, but i would have had to stop my pitiable jog, and maneuver the phone out of its holster, and most importantly, lose the song i had playing on iTunes, BB King singing “How Blue Can You Get?” So there is no picture of the moon rocking Mars.

But there it was. In the dark before the dawn has not yet considered dawning. This old man in some semblance of himself shuffling toward what? Redemption? He, in his dark place, sure as hell didn’t know. Even BB King didn’t know, even though he had the right idea, and the old man is  staring Mars, the ancient myth, rocking on the legs of the waning crescent moon over Baja, in the face.

And in the quiet of the morning where the worlds collide, there was peace in the heavens.

Stick it in your ear, politicians, money-grabbers, power brokers.

i think the moon, Mars, and i are going to do just fine.


i feel…well, i feel poltically disenfranchised.

Johnson’s gaffe yesterday demonstrates to me he is greatly lacking in timely critical thinking, a capability i think is required of our president (and no, i’m not going to be lazy or attempt to be cool and in the know by using the acronym POTUS, yet another dumb aberration of our language).

So now, i am looking at a wasteland. Trust, responsibility, cooperation, good judgement, and concern about others are only facades. Power, money, self-interest, rock throwing,  influence, influence peddling, and lemming-like following are the drivers. Citizens are too interested in their own causes to even read or listen to the other side, except to pick what is said or written to death. Critical thinking is colored by one’s biases and prejudices across the board.

i spent twenty-two years and more avoiding political involvement other than voting. As a member of the military, i understood that was part of my job. Apparently, especially among the higher ranked personnel, this is no longer the case. Now i am old and my pushing for political change sounds hollow and…well, old.

i can only vote for presidential candidates i trust and platforms which make sense.

Although the Libertarian platform is far more logical than the other three, it contains many items with which i do not agree. Except for that platform, all else in this upcoming election is shameful to me.

i would like for us to finally have a woman president, but not this candidate.

i strongly believe we should hold our presidential candidates to higher standards than everyone else, but right now, i don’t see any candidate being held to a higher standard, or any standard that might interfere with a party’s desire to win. Neither do i find any candidate or any party even faking trying to do what’s right.

i was taught in elementary school communists believed the end justified the means, and our country, our government did not believe that and did not utilize unethical or illegal means to win.

That is no longer the case, especially in our political system.

i wish a check box for “i protest any of these candidates being elected” would be included on the ballot, but that will not be an option.

Unless there is some major, major change in the next month, i cannot in good faith vote for any presidential candidate.

i am disenfranchised


Encouraging Words

My grandson Sam has an iPhone. If i remember correctly, he is close to the age we gave Sarah hers, although it was a long time before iPhones. i will not be a curmudgeon (for a moment) and make some dumbshit observation about walking to school in the snow without a cell phone when i was young. In fact, i think it’s a good thing he has one: it has a security aspect in that he can get in touch with his mother or father when he might be confronted with a problem. It also is giving him what has become an essential life skill, the capability to use a phone and electronics, the world of the cloud.

It also gives me the ability to communicate with him at any time. We have “Facetimed” together once, on which i commented here several weeks ago. i have been trying to figure out what i could do when and what i shouldn’t do when when Blythe, my daughter, Sam’s mother, clued me in — i take some substantial “clueing in” a lot according to Blythe, my other daughter Sarah, and Maureen.

So this afternoon, knowing Sam would be at soccer practice, i decided to text him to give him some encouragement about practice. It was then i realized i know no soccer terms except “GOOOAAALLL!!!” And man, i hate that almost as “Going, Going, Gone.”

My terms of encouragement back in my sports days were fairly simple:

Basketball: “Don’t double dribble”/”Keep your hands up” / “Use a bounce pass.”

Football: “Kick ’em long”/”Hit ’em hard”/”Watch his belly button; he can’t fake you out with that.”

Baseball: “Swing level”/”Use your body to block the ball”/Use both hands to catch a fly”

There seems to be little cross over. “Kick ’em long” seems about the only one which might apply to soccer. But is that a good thing?

What a pickle.


Today, my father would have been 102.

He was my best friend.

He said little to me in terms of how to live my life. I am pretty sure i only received about four letters from him my entire life. Later, he said very little on the phone, letting my mother do the talking.

Everything he did, everything he said, and everything he wrote had a powerful impact on me.

And boy, did we enjoy laughing together.

Early 1943, about a year after they bought the house on Castle Heights Avenue. The caption was written by my Aunt Bettye Kate, her sister. This is roughly about the time i was conceived. He would enlist in the Seabees in August.
September 1943, about a year after they bought the house on Castle Heights Avenue. The caption was written by my Aunt Bettye Kate, her sister. i was about four months into making my debut. He had enlisted in the Seabees in August and would soon be on his way to boot camp and CB training.. And just look at those hands, even then.

And i must say separating my thoughts about him from those about my mother is just flat impossible.

i am one very lucky man.

i miss him, but i also learned from him life moves on, and our task is to live it well, and do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances. So i will once again repeat one of favorite poems i wrote about him.

Hands, circa 2009

When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
those folks should look at his hands:
those hands could make Durer cry
with their history and the tales they tell.

His strength always was supple
beyond what was suggested from his slight build.
His hands are the delivery point of that strength.
His hands are not slight:
His hands are firm and thick and solid –
a handshake of destruction if he so desired, but
he has used them to repair the cars and our hearts;

His hands are marked by years of labor with
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors
(long before mechanics hooked up computers,
deciphering the monitor to replace “units”
for more money in an hour than he made in a month
when he started in ’34 before computers and units).
His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bouganville, 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 itself into his hands
and beyond;
the tales of grease and oil and grime,
cleaned by gasoline and goop and lava soap
are etched in his hands;

they are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring, and love:
oh love, love, love, crazy love.

His hands speak of him with pride.
His hands belong
to the smartest man I know
who has lived life to the maximum,
but in balance, in control, in understanding,
gaining respect and love
far beyond those who claim smartness
for the money they earned
while he and his hands own smartness
like a well-kept plot of land
because he always has understood
what was really important
in the long run:
smarter than any man I know
with hands that tell the story
so well.

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.

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:
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
they sweep darkness over the land:
darkness of
hate, fear
me, me, me,
mine, mine, mine,
there was no sunshine,
just dark
the young boy
stood leaning into the wind of darkness’
thundering hooves and fiendish screams
quietly repeating
“i love you,”
the darkness did not dissipate
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
they sweep darkness over the land:
darkness of
bigotry, greed, and zealotry
there was no sunshine,
just dark
the young man
stood tall against the wind of darkness’
thundering hooves and fiendish screams
quietly repeating
“i love you,”
the darkness did not dissipate
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
they sweep darkness over the land:
darkness of
the meaness, selfishness of man
there was no sunshine,
just dark
the old man
stumbled backward though still fighting against the wind of darkness’
thundering hooves and fiendish screams
quietly repeating
“i love you,”
the darkness did not dissipate
but there was hope.

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.