A Pocket of Resistance: Trip – I

It is 8:30 by one of the time zones i’m living in.

i have traveled near eight hundred miles in just over eleven hours. It should not surprise you this old man is tired, and therefore, this will be short.

Other observations will follow. But as i curl up for a short sleep and early rise to complete the voyage, a couple of observations:

Dust devils intrigue me. So does this world i’m in.

i’ve stopped in Lordsburg, New Mexico. i’m pretty sure this is where my friends Henry and Beetle Harding have relatives. i was surprised it is as small as it is unless i’ve missed something. i thought i should contact the relatives, but not this time. Sleep is the driver.

i’m staying at the Comfort Inn right next to I-10. When i asked for a good place to eat with a bar — i think i deserved a martini — the clerk informed me the only place in town with a bar was El Charro, a Mexican restaurant, literally across the tracks from the main part of town.

It is a sprawling place, a bit run down, that reminded me of a VFW hall gone south. When i entered the restaurant, the waitress, serving all of one older couple in an area with seats for about seventy-five, pointed me to the bar, another cavernous area that apparently is a venue for parties.

i sat at the bar to order my meal and my much desired martini.

“Do you have Bombay Sapphire,” i inquired. The bartender, replied, “We only have well gin.”

i had her margarita. Good. i also had a chile relleno, my gauge for good Mexican fare ever since Virginia Harding made it for me and her sons back home in Lebanon, and a beef taco, of course with a beer.

But i kept wondering what George Harding would think of this.

A Pocket of Resistance: Feelin’ Good

i am sitting on the porch of my daughter’s rented house she shares with a couple of guys.

It is raining. Southern rain: occasional thunder and lightning in the distance, a summer coolness in the air with the wind blowing the mist through the air to where i sit. i miss it in the Southwest corner.

i sit here thinking about how much i like George Lederer, one of Sarah’s housemates. He is simply a wonderful, caring, and intelligent young man. The landlord is selling the house, and George and Sarah will be moving to different places by the end of May. They are friends by the way, but they are the best friends i’ve ever known not to be romantically involved.

George and i sat up and talked until Sarah got home from a late appointment. Then the three of us talked some more: good stuff but tinged with problems normally associated with relocating.

But yesterday afternoon, i was lucky enough to be given a “feelin’ good’ feeling. After the monopoly game of which i posted a photo earlier on Facebook, the boys; son-in-law Jason, grandson Sam, and i went out to get a pizza (Blythe was leaving for an evening presentation). We came back their home to eat, while Sam went to play in the other room and Jason and i talked about a myriad of things. Jason and i connect. Cool.

Then as i was getting ready to leave, Sam came in with a lunch box.

“Papa, this is a gift for you,” he said, but added, “The lunch box is just the wrapping; you can’t take that with you.”

Sure enough on the top of the lunchbox was a sign:

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He opened the lunchbox for me and handed me the small stuffed animal. There were a number of small figurines at the bottom. Sam announced, “And you can have one of these too.

i picked one out. After thanking Sam profusely, i put my gifts in my backpack and began my evening good-byes. Sam and i hugged about a half-dozen times before i got out the door, then a couple of more en route to my car parked about twenty-five feet away, then some “hand hugs” through the open window.

When i got back to Sarah’s place where i have stayed until Maureen arrives at noon today, i opened my backpack and put my gifts on the dresser top.

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My desk in my home office is pretty much cluttered with mementoes. But these gifts are going to have special place of honor there when i get home.

It is simply amazing how wonderful a grandson can make you feel.

A Pocket of Resistance: David was too

i have just arrived in Austin to be with my grandson, two daughters, and Jason (sorry, Jason: in that order).

It was a non-life threatening but very long and sometimes harrowing 1300 miles and 32 hours of minor misadventures and a few discomforts, all of which i enjoyed…after i arrived.

Traveling alone gives one plenty of time to think. i put my iPod (4700 “songs”), on shuffle, clicked ahead through most of the classical stuff because it’s hard to hear in a Mazda 3 doing eighty, and sang along when i wished…and i thought a lot.

There was one overriding thought throughout the trip produced by a voice mail Sunday afternoon. It was from Judith Pendergast. I knew it was not good news.

Judith is David Pendergast’s wife. David and i were partners in a two-team foursome who worked on reorganizing the (then) 18,000 work force for the Department of Energy’s Richland Operation Office, which was responsible for the management of DOE’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 640 square miles dedicated to creating nuclear bombs during WWII and the ensuing aftermath.

When Judith and i finally connected, what i suspected was verified. Only the timing was a surprised.

David died last July of pancreatic cancer, a disease he had temporarily conquered several years before. Because Judy could not penetrate Internet and computer security and government regulations on divulging personal information, it took her ten months to connect with me.

I was shocked. After David retired from organization development, he and Judith moved to Naples where they bought, renovated and resold homes for a while. We kept random and infrequent communication. i had actually thought about seeing if he would be interested in working, or at least providing for a book i was contemplating writing.

But i didn’t. Now, he is gone.

The timing of the sad news would not have made much of a difference had it been earlier. he is still gone.

David was one of the most intelligent, caring, and honest people i have ever known. This is slightly amazing in that he worked for the most part in improving organizations of Nuclear Power companies, and DOE, damn near an oxymoron from my experience, but he did it.

We made a good team. After about seven months of commuting from San Diego and Naples, we both volunteered to move to Eastern Washington’s tri-city  area because we realized how much our weekly commuting was costing the government and ultimately, the taxpayers. Until Judith arrived, David and i spent our free time together exploring the southeast corner of Washington, a delightful experience.

We also had the same ideas about effective management of the operation at Richland.

David, because of the respect he had earned from nuclear organization, was the leader, and he never missed a beat. There are several stories here that must wait. But after Ian Urquart, Frank Gatos,  David and i, evolved into the team, David and i became a one team and Frank and Ian were the other. alternating our time in Richland. And David and i  connected (another story).

i will write more of David later, but in this late Austin afternoon while my family are doing their thing, i am sitting in a much-younger-than-me bar, disguised as an eatery, listening to a strange mix of music, which suits my proclivities in the music world, but too loud: something i don’t understand since all of the young middle-agers here can hear better than me.

But on my crazy ride and sitting here, i keep coming back to something that actually involves two of the folks i’ve met in my rather diverse pursuit of living.

When i was getting input for that book i was contemplating, one of the first people i contacted was Peter Thomas. Pete is an incredible man who has accomplished things physically, professionally, and as a good human being as  exists. I asked him my question i planned to ask a bunch of my leader heroes what was the one thing most important to being an effective leader.

My question was, “What’s the most important thing for a leader to do to be most effective.

Without hesitation, Peter replied, “Do the right thing.”

Peter’s response has become my mantra in everything i do.

While talking to Judith, she reflected on David’s assessment of me.

“Jim had integrity. You could trust him,” he told Judith.

Then he said, “Jim always did the right thing.”

For him to assess me with the most important aspect of a relationship with anyone, not to mention satisfaction with your own being, is on of my most welcomed aspirations.

So did David.

i don’t like to toot my own horn, but this one is special because David was a special man.

So i am sitting in the Workhorse bar, writing this while listening to music way too young for me and writing this post. But you see, i ordered  their best bourbon because they didn’t have George Dickel (David always enjoyed my claim of Mr. Dickel’s bourbon excellence) or Jack Daniels.

i had one more than i should have. But i don’t care. David would laugh at that. And that, makes it okay with me.

RIP, David.

A Pocket of Resistance: Another Sea Story about that “F” thing

Again, if you are not fond of profanity, you might wish to  skip this one. As you can see, Walker Hicks showed me how to get a colored font. i’m green.

This sea story is not verifiable from my experience, but it is one of my favorite sea stories. In fact, i may have shared it here already, but i am old and can’t remember, and this “F” thing is now on my mind.

Back in time, before the Navy left Newport as a Naval station with ships, and before the station had the destroyer-submarine piers, destroyers anchored or moored to buoys in the the bay, requiring them to continuously steam.

It also meant to go on liberty, sailors had to take a liberty boat into Newport’s Long Wharf, the location of the legendary bar (it was a restaurant, but sailors knew it as a bar). When the sailors disembarked from their liberty boat and began walking up the pier, the sign in front of the establishment read “Leo’s First Stop.” When the sailors headed back to their ships before liberty concluded (back in those days and into my early years in the Navy, when liberty call expired sailors below second class had to be back by 2200, second and first class liberty expired at 2300, and chiefs’ liberty ended at midnight. Officers’ liberty hours varied, but was nearly always later, often only until morning quarters), the sign for the same establishment read “Leo’s Last Stop.”

The end of the Long Wharf also served as the mid-day snack bar. Geedunk trucks (similar to today’s food truck fad, but much more archaic; geedunk refers to snacks and cold drinks) would drive out to the end of the wharf and serve sailors who would take launches, usually motor whale boats. Ships’ crews would pick some designated runners who would take orders and money from other crew members, make the run and return with the geedunk.

One minesweeper’s executive officer had recently reported aboard. He was very religious and dedicated to limiting, if not eliminating profanity from the crew and wardroom. As part of his drive against profanity, he was holding an officer’s training session in the wardroom on the topic of not cussing. In concluding his exhortation, he empathically pronounced, “And there is no situation where a better word can be used rather than profanity.”

The minesweeper had a Chief Warrant Bosun, an old salt who was sitting in the back of the wardroom with his chair leaning against the bulkhead. He raised his hand. The XO, knowing the Bosun was an old school cussing deck hand, reluctantly, acknowledged him.

“Beg your pardon, XO, but i think there is one place where that might not be correct.”

Feeling like he was trapped, the XO said, “Go on, Bosun.”

The Bosun continued, “You see, sir, the other morning, Seaman Fritz was making the geedunk run for the deck division. There were a lot of orders that day, so he took two shit can tops (trash can lids) to carry back the geedunk.

“When he got the orders, he was holding the two shit can lids in each hand. Holding one lid in each hand, he put one foot on the gunnel of the motor whaleboat. The bow hook had not secured the forward line and the boat began to drift away from the pier.

“Seaman Fritz with one leg on the pier and one leg on the gunnel began to spread. Knowing he was about to do the splits before getting dunked, he looked at the shit can lids in each hand and said, ‘I’m fucked.’

“And sir,” the Bosun concluded, “There ain’t no other word you could use in that situation.

 

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: A Sea Story

For those readers who might not approve of profanity, or “swearing” as my mother used to call it, you might wish to pass on this post as the “F…” word is critical to the story. (this italicized section will have the green font color once i figure out where my “color” icon went or someone smarter than me, like Walker Hicks, shows me how to change the font color)

My last tour in the Navy, based out of the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado, was as the Director of Leadership and Management for the West Coast and Pacific Rim, and also the director of Command Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO) for the same areas. This position was supposed to be the executive officer facilitator for the  Prospective Commanding Officer/Executive Officer Leadership and Management one-week course, but morphed into the two-day Command Excellence Seminar. After eight months of facilitating the course with Captain Dave Carey, i took the lead when he retired. For over three years with CDR Larry Phillips, then CDR Raul Vazquez, and several others, i conducted a minimum of two of these seminars, sometimes as many as four, every month for senior Naval officers and a bunch of other government managers.

When i retired, i eventually got into leadership, organization development, and team building consulting. From my four months in Navy OCS (September 1967 — February 2, 1968 until i quit writing my “Minding Your Own Business” about three years ago, i have had this constant consideration of leadership.

There is one constant in leadership. As Dave Carey called it: “Followership.” And sometimes, it can get bollixed up. All folks in leadership positions are not necessarily effective leaders. Case in point (true story as well as a sea story; the identities are kept anonymous here to avoid someone’s embarrassment).

A destroyer type ship was concluding an eight-month overhaul in a Naval shipyard in a big city. A Naval Academy graduate, by then a lieutenant was Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. He had invited his fiancé and her parents aboard the ship to show them his work place. He had taken them through the sonar suite, the bridge, the ASROC missile launching area and concluded by taking them to the Mark 32 torpedo tubes on the starboard side. His second-class torpedoman in his dungarees was leaning against the bulhead with his white “dixie cup” cover tilted over his eyes.

As the prospective in-laws and young woman arrived, the lieutenant proudly pointed out, “And here are my torpedo tubes.”

The second class petty officer shrugged, tipped his hat to the back of his head, and pointedly disagreed, “Excuse me, sir, but those are MY fucking torpedo tubes.”

He was right.

A Pocket of Resistance: FMG

What is now a long time ago but in the overall perspective of my life and what i’ve done, a recent event, i tried to name my fledgling and never quite successful financially business consulting business “FMG.”

The letters stood for “Friday Morning Golf.”

The business “fictitious name” name was already taken, but FMG remains part of my weekly ritual.

For those who might not have had me relate this story, FMG began in the early part of 1991.

There were three officers, two Navy commanders and an Army major stationed at the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado for our twilight tours, who played golf together every weekend.  It was often difficult and frustrating to get tee times on the four Navy courses (at the time, Sea ‘n Air at Naval Air Station, North Island, Admiral Baker North and South, and the Navy, Marine Memorial course at Naval Air Station, Miramar. The reason was a large number of  military retirees would play on the weekends, the only time the active duty could play.

So the three of us, Rod Stark, Marty Linville, and i vowed, once retired to not play military courses on weekends except for tournaments so active duty personnel would have less competition for tee times on weekends. We have kept to that vow.

After retirement, Rod became the club pro at the North Course in Sun City, California; Marty went to work as an expert in human/weapons system interface for a military consulting business, and i, with our younger daughter Sarah being born on the day i retired, became mister mom. Marty and i would occasionally get a round in together, and during one of those in early 1991, we came to agreement on playing on Fridays. Marty was working a four-day, ten-hour schedule, and i, of course, as mister mom, could have Maureen take two-year old Sarah to a day-care, (the wonderful Karen Escobedo) for the morning.

The two of us have been playing Friday morning golf at military courses, mostly North Island, since then for twenty-five years. Rod rejoined us in the mid-1990’s. We’ve had others join us, as many as three foursomes a while ago. Now we have a base group of the three of us, Pete Toennies, Bob Shoultz, Mark Shults, Jeff Middlebrook, and Ed Hebert. When Al Pavich recovers from some medical issues, he will rejoin us. Jim Hileman is an occasional addition, and often we bring guests. We nearly always have two groups playing.

Our rounds are most frequently at North Island, which i have described before.

But today, it just seemed so perfect. Yes, i had a good round for me, but the joy of walking about five miles along the coast with friends validated my belief of my being a very lucky man.

Some views, again from a very limited skilled photographer:

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The gray shapes at the very top o f this pine are two young ospreys learning to fly. The mother, much larger was in a nearby tree. The trees are next the second tee. A male an female osprey used to nest at the top of a light standard behind the fourth tee, but it was torn down to make way for a new enlisted quarters complex. We think (hope) this is the same family repeating the spring ritual again of having two new additions each year.

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The pond guarding the second green is a favorite for ducks and the pretty much worthless coots (who destroy the grass around the ponds and litter the greens with coot poop). This family of eight ducklings  were unafraid as we walked to the third tee box.

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Perhaps that was because mom and dad were about five feet away.

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A view from the fifth green. The original nine, now the front nine, but greatly altered, was created in 1975, mostly constructed by Seabees. The view is looking at the driving range on the left, an aircraft parts supply complex in the background, and golfers on the first fairway.

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And finally from the fifteenth tee, a sight i always enjoy which sometimes makes me nostalgic is the magnificent Point Loma and the channel entrance into San Diego Bay. Not visible here, but on the horizon, is a flat top (aka aircraft carrier) steaming south to reach buoy #1 and begin its transit down the channel to its pier.

i cannot play here without thinking of how many men and women are away from home port on seas far away and foreign lands in harms way. It makes me feel good to remember i was once one of those who defended our freedom.

A Pocket of Resistance: Jacarandas

One of the pure joys of living in the Southwest corner comes around this time of year every year.

You don’t have to do anything to enjoy it  but drive around or walk around. It’s a tree in bloom native to tropical and subtropical regions of South American and Caribbean countries  and widely planted in Asia according to Wikipedia. But they are here, in abundance. They are called Jacaranda. Here’s a few i enjoyed in the past week (unfortunately, my rather inadequate photo skills cannot capture their full glory):

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A Pocket of Resistance: Kayak, yak, yak

Having seen my two dozen or so rather spectacular  and unspectacular immersions on our last kayak adventure (and perhaps because he learned my real age), Luis still called me last night and invited me to another kayaking adventure early this morning.

You see, he had a new strategy. The more sedate and more stable orange kayak was a two-seater, and he thought that might be a better way to approach my entry into the sport.

We loaded up the kayak and headed out just after 6:00 a.m. It was overcast. The “May Gray” of San Diego has established itself with a vengeance: cool overcast from the marine layer until mid-morning, perfect weather for about four to six hours, and the marine layer rolling back in the late afternoon into Southwest corner perfect weather. But if you have lived here long enough, this is fine. In fact, we enjoy the seaport weather.

It also provides a blanket to retain the heat during the night, and the temperature was over 60 degrees when we parked on the beach, and loaded up. i sat in the front seat with Luis joining me in the after position. His strategy worked. Although i was a bit apprehensive after my last splash fest, after a few strokes, i was comfortable. We rowed for probably slightly less than an hour. It was…well, refreshing. Luis and i talked, comparing my life growing up in Tennessee and his in Mexico. At times, i felt i had gotten a bit awkward and knew i was working some muscles that had not been addressed in quite a while, nothing unpleasant.

Afterwards as we had done on the first, jewell-water-logged outing, we sat at the nearby picnic table, Luis hauled out a small cooler and his bunsen burner contraption. He proceeded to make excellent breakfast sandwiches of a wonderful bun, ham, Mexican cheese (i must get the name from him later), avocado, and chipotle sauce. Our bottles of water were supplemented when one of Luis’ frequent kayak partners from Vera Cruz (i must get his name from Luis because i am old and forgotten already) brought him two bottles of mezcal. We did some taste testing of one as Luis explained the differences between mezcal and tequila: vivé la difference (Maureen is asleep and unavailable to check my French).

It was an entirely pleasurable experience, and on the way home, i vowed to work on balance so on future outings, if Luis invites me again, i might advance to the Starfighter stage.

Other than enjoying Luis’ company and our exchanges of who we were and where we came from, the experience in itself was satisfactory. Otay Lake reminded me of Old Hickory, Center Hill, and Watts Bar Lakes back home where i fished with my father and many others, and waterskied with Henry and Jim (Beatle) Harding’s family and my own family. The quietness as we glided around the lake reminded me of solo fishing moments on Spring Creek when i would put our fishing boat in at the Sportsman’s Club ramp off of Denny Road in the early, early morning, and plug the banks, mostly unsuccessfully, for a couple of hours. Bliss it was then, and pretty damn close on Otay Lake. This lake is formed by a dam of the Otay River, which eventually ends up feeding into San Diego Bay. The vista at the boat dock area reminds me of the old Sligo dock on Center Hill where we would often put in to night fish for striped bass. The high desert rolling hills, well on their way to turning summer brown, remind me i’m not back home.

Then, there is this aberration we came upon while kayaking. Anchored in the middle of the lake is a small barge with rectangular building protruding from the deck. i wondered what it was until we rowed close enough for me to see the “men” and “women” signs. It was a public restroom in the middle of the lake. i’ve been the environmental regulation guy at Pacific Tugboat and aware of the many pluses and equal number of absurdities with our environmental programs. But a toilet in the middle of the lake was dumbfounding to me. i mean, there are fish, turtles, birds, snakes, and lord knows what else crapping and peeing in that lake, many after gorging on trash can trash immediately before their lake dump (so to speak). Yet humans must stop and use a port-a-potty in the middle of the lake. Sometimes i think we think too much. i know i do.

Otay Lake restroom being lowered into lake before being anchored in the middle.
Otay Lake restroom being lowered into lake before being anchored in the middle.

But i’m still looking forward to our next kayak outing. At least, i’ll know when i take my headers into the lake waters, it will be void of human waste…at least, if people actually use that weird thing.

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Mother’s Day: Bah, Humbug; Okay, Not Really

I am not a fan of “Mother’s Day.”

I am not fond of any government-anointed day to honor or celebrate something other than Independence Day. To me, such “official” days obligate me to be part of the crowd and limits my ability to do things at my chosen time my way to honor the mothers in my life, laborers, veterans, etc. Even worse, when i receive such praise and affection, i wonder if it was heartfelt or driven by the requirements of the lemmings for dads, veterans, etc.

The worst, as Blythe has pointed out until she had to make the cards for Sam’s school celebration, is Valentine’s Day. What a commercial windfall for card makers, jewelers, and candy producers. And then, there’s Halloween…

But hey, people have fun and enjoy it, so what the heck. After all, even a curmudgeon like me can play the game.

So here’s to the mothers in my life, and there are a number of them:

The current generation of moms in our family is rather spectacular. Blythe is a beautiful Mom. Kate and Abby are tremendous moms. The Prichard moms continue to be amazing. The Jewell moms also are super. Their love, caring, and parenting promises a grunch of good people in this world to be and gives me hope.

Then in my generation, Blythe’s mom’s greatest strength is her love for her daughter and grandson. My sister Martha and sister-in-law Carla are great examples of great moms and it is beautiful to watch them with their grandchildren.

And then, of course, there is Maureen. i will save most of my praise of her for our private, quiet celebration today. But she is the glue that holds us together, and her love for Sarah, Blythe, Jason, and Sam cannot be overstated.

It began, at least in what history i have available, with the previous two generations.

i shall not address how wonderful my mother was as a mom – we never, ever called her “Mom.” She was always “Mother” or “Grandma.” Even though she has been gone a week shy of two years, it is too emotional for me to write of her even now.

Mother, her sisters, and our grandmother were the seeds of all this. Even Aunt Bettye Kate Hall, who never had her own children, was seen as the second mother to all of us.

My father’s mother, “Mama” Jewell is one of my sweetest memories. I was seven years old when she left us, but i still remember her love.

Then there was Granny, simply an amazing, amazing woman: four children, full-time caregiver, taking care of her father as well as her children; then all of the eleven grandchildren, then “housemother” to a mass of Castle Heights junior (elementary) school boarders.

To commemorate all of them, i include a piece i wrote about the Prichard mothers almost ten years ago. They all are gone now but not forgotten; never forgotten.

sisters
Bettye Kate Hall, Evelyn Orr, and Estelle Jewell, with Granny, Katherine Prichard, 1971: mothers supreme.

Ode to Three Sisters and Their Mother

The old lady came busting out of the old century;
where she had been
an exquisite china doll of immeasurable beauty;
young men chased her
to allowable limits in the Victorian South
after we turned from reconstruction
while Teddy was roustabouting with Spain
in that little skirmish we often forget.
Remember the Maine.

But Granny came busting out;
fire in her belly, grit in her craw, pluck in her spirit, gleam in her eye;
with the handsome man who won the chase,
taking her and his bloodhounds
to the retired circuit rider’s farm out on the pike
where Granny’s circuit rider father would
preach occasionally without the horse or mule
in the hamlet of Lebanon,
smack dab in the middle of Tennessee,
Where some bright folks built the square
over a cold water spring
they discovered in “Town Creek”
in yet an earlier century.

…and the children would come around wartime,
dropping among the years of the first big one
we resisted until the Luisitania
took its hit and sank like a rock;
…and the children came,
five in all until one died
as young family members often did
in those pre-antibiotic days.
The handsome blood hound man who chased
criminals through the woods
took his own hit,
a decade after the war.
So the little maelstrom with grit in her craw
packed up the chillun’s and the belongings
making the trek to the groves
of central Florida
for a couple of years to
escape the sinking of the hound man
and the attendant feelings thereof.

In thirty-two, they came back home,
each with some grit in their craw.
Granny, the queen of grit,
went to work,
taking care of those who needed care
outside the family in order
to take care of her own.

…and the children grew up early,
cooking the meals, washing the clothes, cleaning the house,
gathering eggs, milking the cows, pulling the weeds;
before playing ball,\
earning money until
they went to college in the little town,
or went to work,
or both.

The second big war came, again
in a wave of terror,
This time in an atoll’s pristine harbor,
taking hits, sinking to the shallow harbor depths.
Remember the Arizona.
The brother went off to war after marrying
a woman of another religion from down the road,
west a bit, in the big city.
He flew a plane named after his lady Colleen,
returning to the Tennessee hamlet, still
with fire in his belly, grit in his craw, pluck in spirit, gleam in his eye
before leaving for the orange groved paradise
he found on the southern trek several years before.

The preacher man was gone;
The hound man was gone;
The brother was gone;
The three sisters and their mother,
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes,
with their three new men
stared at the world,
staring it down straight in the eye,
wearing it down with their labor
until the world cried “uncle,”
admiring their fire and grit and pluck.

There were circles entwined with circles of family;
the circles orbited around the threes sisters and their mother:
all was well.

…and the world rolled on;
Granny finally gave up her pluckish ghost with grit in her craw;
no longer would she braid the waist long hair,
tying the braids atop her head
as she had done for so many years;
the three sisters rallied with
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes.

The grandchildren of the matriarch
spread with the four winds, remembering.

When the circles got together,
the three sisters remained the constant,
demanding the world stay in their orbit,
and the world was warm with laughter and love and
a sense the world was safe
as long as they all inherited
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit; gleam in their eyes.

The world is older;
Granny is gone;
the youngest sister recently joining her,
the oldest failing fast:
The three sisters leaving us slowly with
the fire waning to embers, but still there is
grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes;
staring down the world.

Such a lovely world they have shown us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Reading the Newspaper

As we get older, Maureen and i are finding comfort in establishing routines that please us.

One such routine(on days i’m not leaving early for golf), is breakfast. i get up early, put on the coffee, set the breakfast table, retrieve the newspaper (The San Diego Union-Tribune)) from the driveway, perform my morning stretches and exercises, check the computer for breaking Facebook posts or responses, email, news, sports, and weather, and maybe write a bit. Maureen wakes up, makes the bed, does her morning beauty thing, and prepares breakfast, normally some egg concoction beyond the simple eggs over easy, perhaps some Tennessee Pride country sausage for me and bacon for her, and fruit, always two to four different kinds of fruit.

She listens to the television news (sic) while working on the breakfast and records it to watch later so i won’t get upset with how much it’s slanted or really non-news. On days i remember, i put on some music when she calls me to the table. We sit down in the breakfast room niche, check to see if we have hummingbirds feeding on the lavender or sage outside the window, and start eating with the two cats looking on hopefully but vainly.

As we eat, we read the paper. i check the headlines in the national, local, and business sections, noting anything i might wish to read in depth later. Then she basically reads all of those sections while i spend most of my time reading the sports section and the comics.

And every breakfast, i think about such routines fading from our daily patterns. I have never seen either of my two daughters with a newspaper. All but a few major dailies are in trouble with decreasing circulation. Most local papers are owned by corporations which detract from potentially great coverage to cut costs.

My parents read the newspaper, but never in the morning. We ate breakfast together preceded by “grace,” and then scattered to our various jobs and schools. The newspaper was an afternoon read. For as long as our home was at 127 Castle Heights Avenue, The Nashville Banner came every afternoon until it sadly defuncted (my word) in 1998. i didn’t really understand that the morning paper, The Nashville Tennessean, had a liberal slant and the afternoon paper had a conservative slant until i was in college. In truth, i only read Fred Russell’s column “Sidelines,” devoured the sports pages, and read the comics even then, and hardly read the news sections until later in high school.

As Maureen and i read, she occasionally gasps, cries “Oh no!” or otherwise expresses dismay. i laugh and marvel at athletic accomplishments (i hardly ever read the financial-focused sports articles or the “courts and sports” news). i like to start out my day upbeat, not dismayed and despondent: hence, only sports and comics in at breakfast.

Occasionally,  i marvel at stupidity. My marveling occurred twice yesterday morning. The “U-T” had a front sports page article following up on an earlier feature. Bryce Miller, a newcomer to the sports department since The Los Angeles Times Syndicate bought the San Diego paper, had written about a University of San Diego volleyball player.

Lisa Kramer is an All-American at the sport. She was interviewing for a job at Lululemon, an athletic apparel retailer, in Fashion Valley, hoping to gain some income while a fifth-year senior. A woman yelled, “Does anyone know CPR?” while holding a limp young three or four year old girl who was not breathing in her arms. Lisa immediately responded, conducted CPR, and got the girl breathing again. She continued aid until paramedics arrived.

Yesterday, Miller reported Lululemon did not hire Kramer, telling her they were “going in a different direction.” Stupid bureaucracy is alive and well in the retail world. i for one also am going in a different direction. And my direction will never lead to Lululemon.

Then, in yesterday’s daily sports feature “Off the Wall,” the reporter Boyce Garrison informed me about head dresses at Florida State. You see, the student government has asked the college administrators to make wearing “Native American” head dresses to sports events a violation of the student code of conduct. It seems the head dresses being worn were not representative of the Seminole tribe, but other tribes.

Now, that’s stupid. Why would students wear head dresses if they weren’t part of their mascot’s culture? For that matter, why would anyone be so rude to wear such headgear, which would have to interfere with folks behind them seeing the game. Oh, i know: they thought they might get on ESPN for a couple of seconds. Stupid.

i may just have to limit my part of our morning routine to the comics.