Al, a Short Note in the Interim

i apologize to all of you.

i have started a half-dozen posts about Al Pavich. There could be another twenty, perhaps more.

But i can’t finish them right now.

i don’t know why. Writing about a loss, a sadness, hard times usually brings me relief. i’ve handled losing others close, very close to me very well in the past. i have tried my old trick of catching myself heading into the abyss of sorrow with thinking “What would Al want me to do, how would Al want me to act.”

Right now, i can’t do that. i’ve been pretty raw the last couple of days. Maureen, as usual, has been a saint in putting up with me.

i just can’t write those posts about Al right now.

For those of you who may be close to the Southwest corner, the memorial service for Al will be 0800-1000, Monday, May 23, aboard the USS Midway museum in San Diego.

This is very, very appropriate.

Al would approve.

i will write those posts…eventually. It’s quite a story.

Al

This is tough. i’ve been trying to write an episodic post about a man who was a hero in so, so many ways. i keep struggling to just get past the first three or four paragraphs. Tough. His wife, Darcy, a heroine in her own right, called me Wednesday while i was on my way to a lunch with a shipmate from another tour. i don’t ordinarily answer calls while i’m driving, but i saw it was Al. It wasn’t. It was Darcy. When i heard her voice, i knew the news was bad.

i won’t complete that episodic post about Al Pavich right now. He died in the Phoenix airport Tuesday. Typically, he was coming home after a trip to see a friend who was in hospice.

That evening (Wednesday), i expressed my feelings in a poem. i still feel that way. The episodic piece about Al will likely be several posts. But here is how if felt the evening after Darcy gave me the news.

Angry.
i lost a friend yesterday
i found out today.
it was about the time
i read from another friend
about some insane political frenzy
they believe
because
they wished to make me believe,
i suppose,
the insanity
so i could become insane
along with them
i suppose,
but
it seems to me
they have somehow
lost caring.

this friend i lost
was more than a friend
we had become blood brothers,
different as night and day,
but tolerant of the differences
enough to be bonded together
for life
until his ended yesterday.

he did not play politics except
to help those for whom he cared
and
he did that well, very well,
to take care of people
with passion, common sense,
just caring
and
he was above
the hate and fear
and
insanity of politics.
so i am angry
folks draw their lines in the sand
over politics
and
abrogate
caring.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 and
oh, Lord,
Al did, he was, and he will dwell with you.
and
i am angry
at the smallness of those
who cannot care
as Al did.
Take care of him, Lord.
He deserves it.
knowing you will,
my anger will subside
and
i will sleep well
tonight.

i do not know you, Isabella

i do not know you, Isabella;
i’ve only seen you from afar;
i fell in love with you, Isabella;
i might just as well have loved a star.

it was at a barra de tapas in Barcelona,
i saw you laughing with men gathered round;
we were in the Ciutat Vella of Barcelona;
i might just as well have been in old Boston town.

your jet black hair flowed to your waist;
your eyes were dark and flashed like fire;
your lips were red set on your faultless pale face;
all of which ignited my desire.

i knew the futility of pursuing you;
you were younger with fancy men at your side;
i was an old sea dog who sailed oceans blue;
i knew my kind you would not long abide.

i left the Ciutat Vella of Barcelona
where you laughed, smiled, and teased the men;
i returned to my ship in Port Vell Barcelona;
it’s been a long, long time since then.

i do not know you, Isabella;
i’ve only seen you from afar;
i fell in love with you, Isabella;
i might just as well have loved a star.

Mothers

i am a pocket of resistance, especially to regulated days honoring something or someone. i have been a little bit lenient when it comes to Mother’s Day. In fact, i’ve written quite a bit about mothers on Mother’s Day. i like to think i celebrate the mothers in my life on a frequent, if not daily basis.

They all have been important to me. To be honest, some of these mothers and i have had our bad moments, mostly precipitated by me i suspect. But in the long run, they are mothers i loved and still love because they all had that incredible mother’s love that made things work out. i love them all.

Mama Jewell. She and i were in this world together for way too short a time. i can still feel her love for this grandson.

 

 

 

 

 

Granny Prichard. Her energy and strength during tough times and her love for her children and grandchildren were the cornerstones of an amazing family that stuck together and still sticks together.

 

 

 

 

Mother. Just yesterday, i walked outside through our kitchen door where there was one chair on the small patio. i could still see her sitting there with her head back and her eyes closed soaking in the Southwest corner sunshine. Her children and her grandchildren were her focus in life.

 

 

 

Aunt Bettye Kate Hall. i could write volumes about this woman. She was truly my second mother.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was this other mother. We were divorced in 1978. i only agreed because i knew her love for our daughter was the most important thing in her life. i was right.

 

 

 

 

And this one. Oh, this one. She is the best mother and other mother going. Her love goes far beyond that. She loves her nieces, nephews, friends’ sons and daughters as if they are her own.

 

 

i could not end without one more of two of my mothers with their son/grandson.

 

 

 

 

i love you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marine Layer in the Morning

Tuesday early mornings are not only for paper retrieving, but also they are trash days. So, i get up a bit earlier, clear the house of trash, recycle stuff, and yard waste, push the bins out from behind our gate, and place them in front of the sidewalk.

Most folk round here put their bins out the day before. Some even have their yard guys put the yard waste bins out front when the yard guys have finished three or four days earlier. Not me. i don’t like the bins out front any longer than they have to be. i owe that peculiarity to one Jake Hughes.

Jake was our garbage man in Lebanon. He would park his mule-driven wagon on the street in front of our house, walk to the backyard, pick up the garbage can, walk back, dump the contents in the wagon, and then return the can to its proper place in the backyard. On numerous occasions i would follow him on his trek and marvel at the mule, the wagon, and exchange pleasantries with Jake. That weekly trip — i think our day for Jake was Tuesday as well, but that just may be a faulty trip into nostalgia — started a long time before i came along and ended when the City of Lebanon bought their first mechanical garbage truck in 1959, i believe. It was a sad day for me because Jake would come no more. Rumor has it that Jake got rich with his garbage business. i hope so. He deserved it.

But our garbage cans were never in front of the house except for that weekly haul to Jake’s wagon. After Jake, Daddy or one of the boys would take that can out to the front of the driveway on garbage day and retrieve it after the riders (surely we didn’t call them “dumpers”) had tossed the refuse from our can into the howling, screeching jaws of the newfangled garbage truck. It was awesome, terrifying in some ways, but it just wasn’t the same.

When i rolled out the bins today, early morning was shrouded in the marine layer. i breathe it in deeply. There are a lot of ports in this world, but there are only a few in my experience that breathing the marine layer is so palpable. San Diego and Long Beach can claim that on days such as this when the marine layer is resistant to moving back offshore to the western horizon, hanging around just so i can breathe it in, smell it. Perth, Australia; Sasebo, Japan; and Hong Kong all could have such mornings. On the east coast, Norfolk had a few when i was there. i’m sure that many others had it. i just don’t remember them, and i certainly don’t remember breathing it in, smelling it.

But the best, or at least my favorite seaport town with that smell, that dampness luring one to the sea, remains Newport, Rhode Island. Perhaps it was because it was in my first Navy experience. Perhaps, even with the rise of high end and high price tourism fancy, it has  retained that feeling of history. i could feel that seaport aura, breathe in that seaport air, and connect with the sea.

The White Horse Tavern sits on a hill about a half mile east of Narragansett Bay. The cuisine has varied over the years but for as long as i can remember it has been high end good eating. It is cozy and the bar is — i struggled to come up with the right word. Maureen and i had an armagnac there with a chocolate delicacy and coffee after our meal in ’83, and closed the place down around midnight talking to the bartender, and that word is — perfect. It is even better after i found out it was the home of a pirate quite a while ago. i mean a real plundering pirate who would bury his treasure somewhere on a remote Caribbean island and come home to sip a rum here. i’m guessing he had a white horse.  When we emerged from that wonderful evening up on that hill, you could smell it: sea air coming ashore, just like that pirate smelled it, oh, some 300 years ago.

And Hite McClean. Yeh, Hite McClean out of Vanderbilt from Mississippi, the attorney who was attending “knife and fork” school before taking on his JAG duties. Late ’60’s. Hite and i hit Mac’s Clam Shack, when it was a ramshackle real shack on the waterfront next to a small sail craft maintenance shop, and the grit from the sandblasting  before painting would find it’s way into your stuffed quahogs or beer, but the best quahogs ever but likely to put you down for a day if your stomach was a bit delicate. And then, Hite and i hit The Black Pearl, sadly gone i’m told, and have a few more so when we got back to his place, i slept on the couch rather than going back to my apartment. Waking up and just a bit queasy the next morning, a Sunday, we had our coffee, walked out to the bluff with the ocean waves crashing below, sending surf up from which mist touched us as we sat on the bluff with our feet dangling over the fifty feet or so to the sea battered rocks. And Hite and i drank our coffee in the cold sea mist damp and told stories of great scope and waxed philosophical or something.

Yeh, Newport is the best seaport.

As i come back in, i go out to the backyard and check our garden for fresh strawberries. Currently, our yield is just about right for a day of strawberries. It’s about to explode and we will be sharing with our neighbors. The tomatoes are doing well, about to start their yield, which will last for about nine months. i felt like a farmer, like my great uncle out on Hickory Ridge, but his early morning tasks were calling in the cows, milking and feeding the hogs, while Aunt Corrine gathered the eggs from the chicken coop, not strawberries, not tomatoes, not onions or herbs, and certainly nowhere near the smell of the sea from the marine layer ashore.

As i turn, the sun is beginning to burn through the marine layer, kicking it out to sea. i can see the skies layer thinning and sun bringing a light to the eastern sky. i look down our side yard where the one stands. i usually first view it when i go into my office with my first cup of coffee and open up the shades. This morning, it struck me it continues to prosper for my viewing pleasure.

Come to think of Bonita in the Southwest Corner ain’t so bad as a seaport place either. i breathe deeply one last time before entering the kitchen door. There’s not any pirate in this house. Wait a minute…

 

Roses in the Morning

When i go out to retrieve the newspaper, my reverie with first light disappears as the days grow longer. Still, that early morning activity, sans stars and short though it may be, provides me with moments of contemplation and reflection. Southwest corner early mornings are good for such things.

This morning (Saturday) Maureen’s roses brought a recollection to my mind, a good thing for an old man. Maureen’s roses are like nearly everything she does: planned well, never overstated, with taste and flair, and flat out lovely, like the lady herself.

Viewing this particular rose bush of hers, a memory rose to my consciousness from forty years ago. Maureen and i had become a twosome, not yet committed long term, but moving in that direction. We had become close and playful. Dinners and music. Laughter and just getting to know each other. i had given her some gifts, nothing large or anything, but i like to think i’m pretty good at giving meaningful gifts.

She topped me.

The USS Okinawa was in a major seven-month overhaul. i was the ship’s overhaul coordinator. Maureen was an account executive for one of the area’s top office interiors firms. She had a couple of projects for providing desks and other equipment for Navy offices on base.

It was around ten in the morning. i was up in my small office on the 03 level, going over work status, problems, coordination of numerous projects.

Maureen, on her way to one of her on-base clients, picked up an impressive floral arrangement. Now, Maureen dressed to the nines in her business outfits was a knockout business lady in high heels. She parked close to the pier where Okinawa was moored, walked down the pier, climbed the two-story platform to the brow and walked across to the quarterdeck on the flight deck. She handed the impressive arrangement to the Officer of the Deck and asked him to have it delivered to Commander Jewell.

When the OOD, i suspect with a dropped jaw, accepted the flowers and told her he would comply. Maureen turned and retraced her journey to her car.

The OOD handed the flowers to the messenger of the watch and ordered him to deliver the arrangement to me. The messenger traversed the flight deck, climbed two levels of ladders to the passageway and walked to my office.

Obviously, i was thrilled, impressed. Just flat blown away.

Now, this was the Navy then. Scuttlebutt went crazy. Sailors were jabbering about this lady, incredibly beautiful and sophisticated. And she had given Commander Jewell a bunch of flowers. Nobody had ever heard of such a thing. Maureen and i, through no fault of my own, had become a legend, a sea story on USS Okinawa.

i looked at those roses this morning, remembered the sea story, chuckled quietly, took the paper to our breakfast table, and made our pot of coffee.

The day started well.

Punting on the Thames

i ain’t close: an ocean, a continent, seven time zones, and three hundred plus years away.

But the other night, with the magic of electronics, in the lovely night air of the Southwest corner, i sit alone envisioning punting on the Thames.

It’s Cy Fraser’s fault. In 1963, he was air conducting Handel’s “Water Music” while listening through headphones in a sound booth in Vanderbilt’s Heard Library. Billy Parsons and i found him there, waving his arms in ecstacy…No, no, no, not all of that drug crap, which seems to have obliterated the wonderful definition of the word from our English language. Ecstasy: “an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement” from Miriam Webster, whom i assume was the great granddaughter of Noah, but no, just the name of the Merriam brothers who bought Noah’s dictionary and made it famous and made themselves very rich.

But i digress.

i can still see Cy leaning back in that small chair with the earphones on his head, waving his arms as if conducting, even occasionally pointing to an unseen orchestra member to come into the play at just the right time.

i bought my first LP of Handel’s piece the next week, most likely with funds i should have spent elsewhere, but that particular sin has been with me for pretty much all of my life: buying stuff  i wanted with funds needed elsewhere or simply nonexistent, requiring me to scramble to cover the expense.

i have four LP’s of that magnificent piece and two CD’s. i play it whenever i want something inspiring while i write or read something impactful to me. and often, it is one of two classical pieces i play when i just want to sit, listen, and contemplate (Antonín Dvořák’s Ninth “New World” Symphony is the other favorite, another classic Cy brought to me).

That other night in the Southwest corner listening, i just listened. i closed my  eyes and tried to carry myself back to 1717 when Handel put together the music at the request of George I for playing as the King and his assembly partiers on a barge with the musicians al on another barge.

i wonder how that punting went. Were the partiers listening? Certainly the king must have been paying attention. He asked the musicians to replay the music twice more during the voyage.

And as i listened, i could not imagine the king and regal attendees feeling what i felt listening 305 years later. Still, it would be nice to punt on the Thames.

Thanks, Cy.

 

Hoping, Believing, Thinking, Knowing

i have been contemplating writing something about this post’s title words for quite a while. My contemplations are fuzzy. i still haven’t quite figured out how to write about what i’m thinking. There also are some holes in my facts about what i’m thinking. Some research is required. And quite frankly, i am not sure i will even publish it even if i do actually put a complete writing about it on paper…er, in a computer file. But right now, i wish to share an experience with you:

This Easter morning, April 17, 2022 at 0600 local, 1300 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) while standing at 32.65694 degrees latitude, 117.00966 longitude, in the direction. of 090 degrees (dead east), this was my view:

Yes, i have hope.

On Track, Part II

As i indicated in “On Track, I” my attending Danielle Lister’s meet ten days ago not only let me connect with a rather remarkable young woman, but it also put me back on track. Here are the other thoughts that afternoon generated:

63 years.

Oh, i’ve watched track and field on television, especially the Olympics and some other special events but only remotely since that warm 1963 sunny spring day on what is now The Edward S. Temple Track on the Tennessee State campus.

That track stadium, like nearly all of them now, was a bit less polished then. When i walked around the Mesa College stadium where they were holding the track events in the Arnie Robinson meet, even though it was shiny and polished with fake grass and some high falutin’ substance for the track, that feeling i had first experienced three score years ago on much less refined facilities returned.

Friday when i got to the area where they were holding the field events, which they call “throw events,” where there was real grass and pop-up tents, and athletes grilling burgers and hot dogs and eating pizza, i was back on what is now Hale Stadium on the Tennessee State campus.

Track meets are like a three-ring circus. There is something going on everywhere. You can’t see all of the events because they are going on hither and yon at the same time. There is a casualness unlike the regimen of football, baseball, and basketball. It is on the whole less dramatic, but for the individual events, it seems more tense to me, even more exciting.  Yesterday, i once again questioned why i didn’t go to more events, or wondered why i didn’t cover them during my sports writing days.

i mean i even had friends, especially two friends: John Sweatt and Kent Russ. They both took me under their wings during Heights football seasons. They both were on the track team.

What do i remember about that? i remember walking up Hill Street at Castle Heights Military Academy from the baseball diamond after practice. The track team was still at it on the football field, track, etc. And someone had turned on the speakers in the press box, and hooked up a turntable. Jimmy Reed ‘s sweet blues with that iconic harmonica was wafting in the wind. And i’m thinking why didn’t i play a sport where i could listen to Jimmy Reed. Oh yes, that oval of a track was composed of cinders, not plastic or rubber.

However, i recognized i was quick and not fast. In one physical fitness competition, i cleared not quite four feet in the standing broad jump. Distance running, i.e. anything longer than 440 meters seemed like work and pain compared to playing football, baseball, and basketball. It was only much later that i discovered how much pleasure i got from running. i was not so inclined in spite of Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Loving You, Baby”

The track meet i attended in Nashville those many years ago was special in many ways. To begin, i was with one of the best athletes, and probably the fastest, i have known in my living. Kent Russ was instrumental in my becoming a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He had been a post-graduate at Castle Heights, played football and ran track. He also was on a track scholarship at Vanderbilt. i soon found out he also was on an AAU 440-relay team with Ralph Boston.

For you younger folk who are too young to remember Ralph Boston, he set the first man to break the 27-foot barrier in the long jump, winning the gold in the 1960 Olympics, and medaling in 1964 and 1968. He was a giant among U.S. track and field athletes and named as the country’s 1960 Track and Field Athlete of the year.

Unbeknownst to me, Ralph was a timer at that meet long ago. Kent parked the car and we walked across a field to the track. We were standing right by the track when Kent introduced me to Ralph. i tried to act natural. i’m not sure i pulled it off.

We chatted for a while when Ralph asked if Kent would mind giving him a ride to downtown Nashville after the meet to pick up his car from his mechanic. Kent quickly agreed. Our conversation turned to the meet. Kent asked Ralph if he thought Bob would break his world record in the 100-yard dash. Ralph said Bob had a chance

They were talking about Bob Hayes, the sprinter on the A&M “Rattler” team. Hayes is in the the NFL Hall of Fame due to his incredible performance as a receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. He played football for the Rattlers, but he also had broken the  world 100-yard dash record earlier in the year.

Ralph moved over for his timing duties. Kent and i watched trackside about halfway from the oval to the finish line. Hayes didn’t break his world record but he tied it. Ralph later commented that the officials were very lenient in that he believed it was wind assisted.

One of the last events was the 440-relay. Hayes ran the anchor leg. When he passed by Kent and me, he was running so fast i thought he was going to run out of his skin. There was no doubt in my mind Bob Hayes was the “world’s fastest human.” Even today, i vividly recall the fastest human flashing past me no more than three feet way.

As the meet wound down, we found Ralph and walked across the field to Kent’s car. When we approached the car, i went ahead and opened the back door and began to get in when Ralph said, “No, no, i’ll sit in the back seat.”

i protested. After all, i was getting in a car with a World Record holder, an Olympic champion, and the driver was his teammate on a relay team.

Ralph then pointed out the civil rights protests were raging in downtown Nashville.  Woolworth’s was in the midst of a sit-in due to their segregation policies. He then told me if he rode in the front seat, there would be a much better chance all three of us could get shot and killed.

i meekly climbed into the shotgun seat (pun intended) while Ralph sat in the back.

i have thought about that afternoon many times. My respect for Ralph Boston grows each time.

I was naive. Only in short glimpses of the news was i aware of what was going on concerning civil rights. i was too busy being a college boy, partying, girls, booze, and even studying occasionally when an exam loomed. i knew the protests were going on, and i was repulsed by the violence against the protesters, but it was a blip on my priorities.

i know it wasn’t an intentional ignorance. i don’t feel guilty. i was a nineteen-year old male. i wish i had been more aware. Done something more. Sometimes in a quiet moment, i feel ashamed. But there was no intent to harm anyone, or help anyone. The testosterone was raging.

Ralph Boston was focused. He was his own man. He felt equal, if not more equal, to anyone. His priority was his track and field prowess. He obviously cared and liked people…of all kinds. He treated me like he treated Kent. i felt i really was a friend.

As with many thoughts of this nature, my feelings ultimately end up as sad. i am sad our country with such a basis like our constitution, regardless of the creators intent, as a powerful statement for equality, could have fomented such hatred and invoked the need for protests. i am sad racial, ethnic, and social gaps still exist and with it, the hatred and violence.

But i’m proud of being a friend, albeit a short-lived one, of Ralph Boston.

And i’ll remember that glorious sunny afternoon i spent watching and spending time with incredible athletes at a track and field meet 63 years ago.

Thanks, Kent.