At my age, regardless of all the good that has been and is part of my life, i can get down, down, down. Lotus Carroll, whom i knew for about a half hour in a park in Austin when she took some great photos of our family featuring grandson Sam, posted on her website today something that resonated with me.
I have been up and down pretty much most of the year. Reading Lotus’ post, it all sort of made sense.
i hope it will give you some insight as well: http://lotuscarroll.com/depression-universal-imperfection-and-help/
And then in a quiet moment after being in a dark place, i walked out to our back yard and just looked at where i am:
The coral trees are in bloom, the sage is exploding, the grass is green, and i am in the light.
Thank you, Lotus, and may all of you have a great week.
i just finished my Democrat column for tomorrow’s edition. It was about Maxwell Martin, who died April 24.
i shall not write more about that until the column is published tomorrow, only to say Maxwell was my cousin, eleven years older than me, but more like a distant big brother to me than a cousin.
It was difficult. i felt a bit guilty to begin with as i did not communicate with Maxwell as much as i wanted or should have. My facts about him are vague due to my faulty memory and great separation between my Navy, his work in Oak Ridge, and his living in Georgia and me in the Southwest corner. And it was just plain hard emotionally.
As i vainly searched for a photograph to accompany the column (it was Maxwell in a Castle Heights uniform kneeling down beside a very young me in the 1940s), i stumbled upon another box i had not thoroughly checked out before. This box was in a larger one Maxwell gave my father as he headed to Georgia and my father subsequently gave to me about eight years ago. This particular box contained memorabilia of my grandmother’s, Mama Jewell we called her. When i opened it, a wallet was on the top. It had been my grandfather’s, Hiram Culley Jewell. From the contents i gathered it was likely the last one he owned before he died from tuberculosis in early 1939.
Sifting through, i found letters and cards from family members to Mama.
Then i ran across a small but very full envelope. There were about twenty photos, small ones for the most part. i had seen them before in another box my father gave to me in 2002 containing the things he saved from his tour with the Seabees during the war, the last real war. These he obviously had sent to his mother. The accompanying letter had vanished.
There was one larger photo, about 3×5. i had seen it before as well. i may have even posted it here before. i just wondered how Mama felt when she opened that letter in 1945 and saw where my father was in Luzon, his living conditions, and realizing just how far away he was.
Once again, Norm O’Neal has struck the memory chords and taken me back to an incredible two-plus years of my life, commissioning and my first ship, the USS Hawkins. Norm sent an email with a “Smug Mug” link page posted about the Hawk by a sailor whose time aboard almost exactly coincided with mine (1968-69). Sometime today, i will find Gary McCaughey and reconnect if possible. i faintly remember him as i had a great amount of connections to the radio shack as ASW Officer, OOD, and CDO.
i am sharing this because i want Blythe Jewell, Sarah Jewell, and especially grandson Sam and son-in-law Jason Gander (who was a third class petty officer aboard Tripoli when he met Blythe) – hmm, i couldn’t tag him for some reason. i also wanted to share with Andrew L. Nemethy and Rob DeWitt. We shared the Hawk’s forward officers stateroom, a space not much bigger than my wife’s master bedroom closet for several months. Andrew, Rob, and i, along with a number of Salve Regina coeds, most notably Kathy McMahon Klosterman, had an incredible time in Newport.
i was especially struck by Gary’s photos of the Newport Jazz Festival. i saw a number of the performances but the one i remember the most was on sunny Sunday afternoon. i was sitting alone on the hillside during Ray Charles’ session. i was blown away by his rendition of “Eleanor Rigsby.”
For all, Gary’s photos capture life aboard a FRAM destroyer in the late 1960’s. Thanks, Gary and Norm.
i am still an amateur at this blog, Internet stuff, so if this link does not work, copy and paste to your search engine.
My day yesterday began early, as i like it, with a 4:30 rise; grinding the “Moto” Columbian coffee beans; setting coffee maker in motion; setting the breakfast table; and, as is required on Tuesday, yesterday, setting out the trash, yard waste, and recycle bins out by the curb for pick-up.
While the coffee was percolating, i did about half of the stretches and exercises i intend to do, par for the course. i checked my blood pressure, went through my email, Facebook posts, and re-prioritized my “to-do” list. In short, i was engaged with a routine i have come to enjoy. Then i sat down at the computer and began my most purposeful work of the day: creating a “Jibjab” card for my grandson. i did. i liked the final result…and then i hit a dark moment. Throughout the day, i have had thoughts up and down and here are a few:
Sam James Jewell Gander hit the nine-year mark yesterday. From all i know (which is not enough), he has a good start on having a successful and satisfying life. He has always been a joy to be around, and when Maureen and i sang “Happy Birthday” to him, i marveled at how grown-up he sounded. Bottom line assessment: he is going to turn out well, and there is not anything else that makes me feel better for him or his parents. Now, he is the core of my hopes and dreams.
Happy Birthday, Sam.
Here at home, my good thoughts go to my friends and my woman. i say mine, but she is hers and hers is a good one, one of the kindest, hardest working people i have ever met. She loves her roses. i told her last night after a round of golf with our friend Pete Toennies, “i love you, but i love your caring and the relationships you forge just as much.” i continued, “Two of the greatest things about our marriage is understanding and patience. Even though we are different in many ways, we seem to understand each other perfectly.” It is a balance i like, and her roses are wonderful. Every time she does a cutting and sets them in a vase on the kitchen table, i smile and think of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Our House:” my lighting the fire, her putting flowers in the vase, two cats in the yard (well, we have our two cats in the house, but our neighbor’s two cats have adopted our yard).
And then there’s darkness that creeps into my world of hopes and dreams and understanding, patience, and love.
i do not understand the hate, the need to be prejudice or superior pervading our world, especially Christians, who supposedly abide by the New Testament. i do not understand the need to judge others by our standards. i do not understand the fears we have. i am not a do-gooder. The sword sometimes needs to be wielded. i can do that if necessary. i am not politically correct, and i am ashamed we fight word wars. i do not understand why many view the past as some place we should find entitlements. It seems to me our answers do not lie in laws and regulations, especially with the ego centric yahoos who are making and enforcing such laws and regulations (both sides, dammit).
Such lack of understanding has been with me for a long time and created my “pocket of resistance.” One of my hopes is we will get better at trying to understand… for Sam.
In 1997 on a dark night, i sat down and wrote this:
i do not know why i try to talk to them and make sense because they do not listen because theyhavemanythingstodoandmovethroughtemjustlikethatmrcummingssothey have something else to face: fear. they love it and do not listen: i have given up on form and substance; even logic does not penetrate the gelatin mass of hyperlife we claim as real but i know sure as the spume of the pacific will flay the sand and the dog who frolicks there will die it is much simpler than all of that. the answer is really quite simple; if only i knew it.
And then, this morning as i prepared to go on my first kayak outing with Luis, our neighbor, i thought of Sam, Sarah, Blythe, Jason, and of course, Maureen. i thought of my brother and sister and their children and grandchildren.
As frequently happens, i wake up in the middle of the night because i am old and “doing my business,” as my mother used to call it, precludes sleeping through until morning. Also though less frequently, i go back to bed but cannot sleep because thoughts start bouncing around, uncontrolled, in my head. Often, these thoughts seem to me to be worthy of writing about. Some i ignore because i want to go back to sleep. Others just refuse to be ignored because i know they are worth recording. Around four this morning, such a sequence occurred, and i arose, went to my home office, and began pounding at the keyboard. This is my initial shot at honoring someone whom i admire very much. i have thought of adding the event where my father-in-law at the time, Col. Jimmy Lynch, and i rode out to the farm and used Joe Haynes pickup to load the the farm’s outhouse FDR’s CCC built in the 1930’s. We took the outhouse back to the colonel’s home, where he refurbished it, replaced the one-hole bench with a boat port-a-potty, and used for the bathroom for his garage poolroom, recreation area and workshop. But it has been a long day already..maybe later, or maybe another poem.
big Joe Haynes and his sailor boy
well, he wasn’t a mariner yet:
the seeds had been planted,
but for now,
he was more like full steam ahead,
a trackless locomotive leaving the sea behind
to head pell mell to wherever it would take him
even though he thought he had it mapped out
at the time;
big Joe Haynes called him sailor boy
for he had been at sea for three years
when they met,
but he was not a mariner yet; no, not a mariner yet,
so big Joe Haynes calling him sailor boy was just fine.
big Joe Haynes and sailor boy met in the northeast corner of texas,
in the middle of the night,
the sailor boy coming from a land
far west enough to be called east,
with Joe Haynes’ granddaughter of a sort;
big Joe Haynes with his bride Nanny Kat
drowsily hugged his granddaughter of a sort
escorting her to the other bedroom
before showing sailor boy
to the screened-in porch added to the side of the house
where a day bed, down mattress; soft white sheets
with the smell of drying on the line
in the sun freshened air of the northeast corner of texas
awaited sailor boy and the old english sheepdog pup
sailor boy and granddaughter of a sort
had picked up along the way from the land far away;
it was a good night for sailor boy after he and the pup
snuggled under the sun-dried sheets and quilts piled high,
falling to sleep together until the sun,
the self-same sun that gave those sheets their fresh smell,
doused the screened-in porch with morning sun rise
to let sailor boy know it was time for
the pup to be let outside to do her business.
the first morning, they ate breakfast
in the white wood spacious farmhouse kitchen,
beginning with Nanny Kat’s tomato juice
she canned from the tomatoes in the
garden just outside the back door;
eggs and bacon, of course, all from the farm
in the northeast corner of texas;
afterward, sailor boy and Joe Haynes granddaughter of a sort
wandered the farm,
the pastures where the fuzz ball of a pup and the cattle
eyed each other tentatively, cautiously, curiously;
then in the afternoon, big Joe Haynes,
announced he needed to buy some beer,
which entailed crossing the red river bridge
just up the road into oklahoma
where the liquor stores and the honky tonks
lined both sides of the highway at the foot of the bridge
on the oklahoma side, of course,
for the whole northeast corner of texas was dry, dry, dry
at the time
so northeast corner texans crossed the red river
to get their booze and visit honky tonks
like big Joe Haynes with sailor boy riding shotgun
crossed the red river
to stop at a honky tonk where Joe Haynes was famous,
or at least well known,
for he was a jocular big man, bigger than life and loving it,
claiming to be the mayor of razor, texas, population four;
the barmaid joshed with big Joe Haynes
while he and sailor boy had a beer or two
before buying the case and heading back
over the red river bridge into the northeast corner of texas
where the two told tales while drinking the case of beer into the late night;
the next morning, big Joe Haynes gently aroused his granddaughter of a sort,
proclaiming, “that sailor boy can sure drink beer.”
several years later, sailor boy returned
to the farm in the northeast corner of texas
where he and big Joe Haynes climbed into the pickup again –
the late 1950’s pickup, a ford, being big Joe Haynes’ other home
with faded grey paint and dirt and dust from farm work,
tools and broken parts of old tools,
with the bench seat with holes in the upholstery,
the back of which serving as the depository for big Joe Haynes’
bottle of vodka, which big Joe Haynes would retrieve,
casting his right arm behind the bench seat from his driver’s position,
holding the bottle against the steering wheel to unscrew the cap
before taking a full-throated swig, recapping the bottle,
returning it to his secret stash;
big Joe Haynes and sailor boy bounced across the fields
of the farm in the northeast corner of texas
to a pond
where big Joe Haynes pulled out an ten-foot long, four-foot high seine
so sailor boy could take one end and wade into the pond
while big Joe Haynes, handling the other end of the seine
directed sailor boy in sweeping arcs, waist deep in the pond
until the pond was clear of the crappie big Joe Haynes had stocked there
so the pond could be drained later
after sailor boy and big Joe Haynes returned to the farmhouse
swigging vodka as they bounced over the fields in the old pickup
before sitting on the front porch and drinking beer,
proud of their conquest;
years later, sailor boy came again after
big Joe Haynes and Nanny Kat sold the farm
because it was getting too much to handle as they grew older
big Joe Haynes did not have his farm anymore
with the cattle and hogs, vegetable garden, ponds
so he didn’t do much but sleep in the big bed in the front room
of the small house in town.
sailor boy thought big Joe Haynes,
with nothing to do since his farm was gone,
had earned the right to sleep whenever he damn well pleased.
Wednesday morning began well: good exercise, stretching; a bunch of small chores, some solutions to some home tasks, a wonderful Maureen breakfast. Through it all, i listened to an LP.
i have resumed listening to LPs, delaying again my six-month old project to turn them all to digital, courtesy of the new magic turntable i got in October.
But today was special. i picked out Judy Collins #3 album. i forget how much i loved to listen to Judy Collins during transits between Korea and Vietnam in 1970. She and Nina Simone are two of my favorite all-time singers. Thinking about it, i sort of came up with Judy and Nina putting social injustice in the limelight. Somehow, Judy’s songs resonated with me more than Joan Baez.
i wondered if my two daughters have listened to Ms Collins. Blythe, when staying with me went through most, if not all of my record albums, but i don’t know if Judy caught her attention. i’m not sure if Sarah listened to any of my four Judy Collins’ albums.
On this album, Judy sings my favorite version of “Deportee,” written by Woodie Guthrie and also sung by Joan Baez and Willy Nelson. i also prefer Judy’s version of Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” better than Pete’s or the much better known version from the Byrds.
And then in 1979, her rendition of “Send in the Clowns,” was always included in “Baby’s” repertoire in the Subic Officer’s Club (Subic Bay, Philippines Naval Base) dining room evening show. “Baby” was a large Filipino with an incredible voice. She could cover almost any singer’s great songs. But the show stopper was “Send in the Clowns.” Stephen Sondheim wrote the song for his musical “A Little Night Music.” Sinatra and Collins took it to huge popularity. Judy did it best, and it’s included on her “Judith” album, which i bought primarily because “Send in the Clowns” was included.
But in 1979, LCDR Mike Peck, LT Pete Toennies, LTJG OW Wright (then later Al Pavich replaced OW), and yours truly, after a couple too many of “Le Bomb Bombs (a killer drink we discovered from the bar at the Peninsula Club in Singapore), would get up from our almost nightly dinner at the O’ Club, and wait. Then when Baby would reach the point in the song when the title is sung, the four of us would prance across the dance floor in a what was likely a ghastly semblance to a line dance.
Funny how a good morning start, and an old LP can make my day.
Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, April 19, 2016.
BONITA, CA – At my age, memories can pop into my head at unexpected moments.
One of my greatest regrets is not taking the time and effort to keep a journal. During the 1964-65 school year while I was working for Fred Russell at the Nashville Banner sports department and living with four Vanderbilt fraternity brothers in an large old house near the campus, I told my friend Cy Fraser apparently my role in life was to record what was going on around me. But I was not disciplined enough to record it all.
I never really connected with any celebrities. I had brushes with a few, mostly through my daughter Blythe. Almost three, she hugged Rod Serling’s leg (creator of “The Twilight Zone”) in the Los Angeles airport baggage claim. Later in the same airport Kathryn Crosby spotted Blythe as she and Bing were deplaning and we were boarding. Kathryn came over, picked Blythe up, gave her a hug, and declared to Bing, “Isn’t she the sweetest thing?”
But me? Nope.
I did have some dealings with one of the most famous Naval officers: Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy who served longer, 63 years, as an active duty officer than anyone in Navy history, retiring as a four-star admiral.
He was also known to be eccentric. I can attest to that.
As the senior Naval officer in the NROTC Unit at Texas A&M and teaching four Navy courses, which designated me as an associate professor (yes, I still chuckle). In 1978, our submarine lieutenant billet was gapped, and I assumed the duties as the nuclear power officer (I laugh at that as well). In that role, I assisted midshipmen in getting accepted to the Navy’s nuclear power program.
I learned all I could about the acceptance process, which always culminated with a pass or fail interview with Admiral Rickover. I had heard many tales about Rickover, his inspections of his nuclear powered submarine fleet, and his interviews. I read about his research, his relationship with the Navy hierarchy and congress.
One of my favorite finds was a Rickover response about flag officers. The House Armed Services Committee was questioning the admiral on nuclear power and the military. A representative asked him if Rickover had the authority how would he make the Pentagon more effective.
Rickover responded, “I would take half of the flag officers (admirals and generals) and give them each an office in the “D-Ring” (the outside ring of the Pentagon). Then I would give them each a pad of paper and let them write memos to the other flag officers in the D-Ring, with their memos not ever going beyond that area.
“Then the other half would go about taking care of Navy business.”
Yet I could not find a trend in Rickover’s interview questions or applicants’ answers to help Aggie applicants gain Rickover’s approval.
There was the NROTC midshipman who Rickover directed to “make him mad.” The Middy looked at Rickover’s huge desk with many valuable items representing the admirals’ many accomplishments and awards. The interviewee reached over with his arm and swept all of the desk contents to the floor.
He was accepted.
One of my favorite stories gave me a clue as to what Rickover would not accept came from a Naval Academy applicant.
As the young man stood before the desk, Rickover looked through his files, “I see you are engaged.”
“Yes, sir,” the midshipman replied.
Apparently changing topics, Rickover then asked, “How much do you want to be in my nuclear program?”
“More than anything in the world,” the midshipman replied.
The admiral pushed the phone on his desk toward the midshipman and said, “If you want to be in my program, call your fiancé and tell her the engagement if off.”
The midshipmen mulled over his options, then called his love, and cancelled the engagement.
Rickover then looked at the applicant and said, “I wouldn’t have a weasel like you in my program; get out of here.”
His methods were strange, but they seemed to work. Navy nuclear power has not had a nuclear power related accident since the U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN 571) was commissioned in 1954.
I have reached my word limit. My interface I (from long distance) with Rickover will continue next week.
This came from an email to me from my USS Hawkins shipmate, Norm O’Neal. As i began to read, i kept thinking about how Ray Boggs would have loved this. Ray, my father-in-law and one of my best friends ever, was a dyed in the wool through and through engineer. But there aren’t many who have had a better sense of humor, and i don’t know many people who could laugh at himself as well as Ray. i hope you either remember him while reading this or admire him if you never, unfortunately, knew him.
I apologize for the spacing, but i didn’t want to screw with the formatting and take another half-hour to post this.
Ray would understand.
Got to Love an Engineer
Understanding Engineers #1
Two engineering students were biking across a university campus when one said, “Where did you get such a great bike?”
The second engineer replied, “Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike,threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, “Take what you want.” So I took the bike.
The first engineer nodded approvingly and said, “Good choice: The clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you anyway.
Understanding Engineers #2
To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
Understanding Engineers #3
A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, “What’s with those guys? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!”
The doctor chimed in, “I don’t know, but I’ve never seen such inept golf!”
The priest said, “Here comes the greens-keeper. Let’s have a word with him.” He said, “Hello George, What’s wrong with that group ahead of us? They’re rather slow, aren’t they?”
The greens-keeper replied, “Oh, yes. That’s a group of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime!”
The group fell silent for a moment.
The priest said, “That’s so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.”
The doctor said, “Good idea. I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there’s anything she can do for them.”
The engineer said, “Why can’t they play at night?
Understanding Engineers #4
What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers? Mechanical engineers build weapons. Civil engineers build targets.
Understanding Engineers #5
The graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
The graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
The graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?”
The graduate with an arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”
Understanding Engineers #6
Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.
Understanding Engineers #7
An engineer was crossing a road one day, when a frog called out to him and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.” He bent over, picked up the frog, and put it in his pocket.
The frog spoke up again and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn back into a beautiful princess and stay with you for one week.”
The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.
The frog then cried out, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I’ll stay with you for one week and do anything you want.”
Again, the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.
Finally, the frog asked, “What is the matter? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful princess and that I’ll stay with you for one week and do anything you want. Why won’t you kiss me?”
The engineer said, “Look, I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog – now that’s cool.”
Two engineers were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking at its top. A woman walked by and asked what they were doing.
“We’re supposed to find the height of this flagpole,” said Sven, “but we don’t have a ladder.”
The woman took a wrench from her purse, loosened a couple of bolts, and laid the pole down on the ground. Then she took a tape measure from her pocketbook, took a measurement, announced, “Twenty one feet, six inches,” and walked away.
One engineer shook his head and laughed, “A lot of good that does us. We ask for the height and she gives us the length!”
Both engineers have since quit their engineering jobs and are currently serving as elected members of Congress.
i hope you don’t mind, Writer’s Almanac, for my re-posting this on my website, but although i find Joyce incredible, Beckett mesmerizes me when i read his stuff, and in this excerpt from your daily email today, i found Beckett’s thoughts (in green lettering below) personal, as though he had written those words for me.
It’s the birthday of Samuel Beckett (books by this author), born in Foxrock, Ireland, a Dublin suburb (1906). He studied French literature in college and then went to Paris, where he met James Joyce, who by that time was almost blind and working on Finnegans Wake. Beckett became his assistant. He read books to Joyce, took dictation, and walked with him around Paris. He idolized Joyce so much that he began to smoke like Joyce and walk like Joyce. He tried to write in Joyce’s meandering style, but Beckett said, “I realized that my own way was in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding.”
Beckett eventually found his own voice and wrote many novels and plays, including his most famous, Waiting for Godot (1952). In 1969, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He wrote, “Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Beckett wrote, “My mistakes are my life.”
And, “We are all born mad. Some remain so.”
And, “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”
He also said, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”
There’s this incredible little corner of the city and the world in the Southwest corner.
India Street winds from downtown San Diego where it is the hub of what was the Italian fishing community and is now old Italian and haute cuisine eateries alongside new high rise condos. India Street parallels Interstate 5 north pass the airport until it dead ends into Washington Street.
i can feel the city history’s on this journey, even wondering what it was like when Richard Henry Dana traveled a similar route in 1732-34 (San Diego was a major part of Dana’s great book, Two Years Before the Mast). But i travel to the little corner at the end of India Street because i like to eat good food.
Perhaps our favorite dining in San Diego is at the Wine Vault and Bistro, an upstairs wonder in atmosphere and incredible pre fixe paired wine menus. The food, the wine, and the atmosphere just can’t be beat in our estimation. El Indio is one of the best known border Mexican restaurants. Many of the diners order and then take their meal across the street to a concrete picnic area.
Next to the Wine Vault is Shakespeare’s, a no-kidding English pub. Great British fare and i’ve never had anything but Guinness draught there, not even a “black and tan” (Guinness and Harp for the Irish version, Guinness and Bass Ale as the one i know best).
Close by is Saffron. Maureen claims it is the best Thai restaurant in San Diego, and i can’t argue with that. On the corner is Gelato Vero Caffe, which offers possibly the best gelato in the world.
Turning toward the bay on Washington and passing under the interstate is 57 Degrees. It’s a wine and beer tasting place with incredible appetizers, with an expansive array of wines from all over the world, over 100 bottled beers, and all twenty-eight San Diego craft breweries on tap.
Before the drive gets to all of this eating stuff, the roadside businesses hide a very informal, small, and casual place called Blue Water. For several years, we ignored it after it was established in 2006. But once Maureen just dropped in to check it out, it’s become one of our most frequented spots for fresh seafood.
We stopped for lunch today. There are all sorts of wonderful tacos, sandwiches, and full meals, but it is damn near impossible for me to not order their mussels. Today’s special was “bourbon, butter, jalapeño, and lime mussels and clams.”