Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Pocket of Resistance: A World of Difference

This appeared in the old version of this site earlier this summer. We were visiting our nephew, niece and her family in Boston in June. Kate and Conor Hansen, Zack Jewell, and Kate and Conor’s remarkable children Leo and Oona, took us on a cook’s tour of Boston on Sunday, and then Monday, Kate took us on a tour of Concord, Lexington, etc. along the trail of Revolutionary War battles. I continue to try and refill the archives of the website. It is good for me in many ways to revisit these writings.

a world of difference, it was; it was
almost surreal
after san diego june gloom
where the flowers and the water
threatened to go away
against the tan and brown backdrop
of high desert,
benign from the japanese current,
to be thrust into the heart of our history,
independence and all,
literature and all;
guests of our niece, nephew, family,
we roamed boston, concord, lexington,
where revere cast off for his famous ride
preserved by a plaque besides
twenty feet of railroad track going nowhere;
the ship constitution lay in drydock nearby,
wood, oak wood begat “ole ironsides”
naval history
with people climbing the brow,
stomping around the main deck
wondering about the belaying pins’ purpose
in the heat of oncoming summer;
then the day of departure
when new england rain brought real cool,
not the southwest corner imitation cool,
as our niece, appropriately Kate,
drove us by concord
where the battle for real freedom began,
the battle road
where they skirmished into boston town,
lexington with the house on the edge of the green
where the young patriot crawled
upon the porch to die
for me;
emerson’s house; thoreau’s walden pond;
alcott’s house, the one with the little women;
hawthorne’s old manse before the one
in salem with seven gables
screaming literature,
the stuff of my dreams;
tourists, families, school groups
walking the paths where the fight for freedom
began near two and a half centuries ago,
crossing the transoms, wandering around the homes
where american lit began living
on parchment with quill pens
i wondered as we drove past
the asphalt parking lots
with the people pouring out of
cars and buses heading
to the paths and transoms
if they would get a sense of all that history
i rode without word in the back seat,
awed by the significance of it all,
simultaneously feeling
i was trespassing
on the privacy of
paul the silversmith,
of iron sailors on
the wooden ship nicknamed ironsides,
of minutemen who died for us,
of literati in their homes
wished, oh i wished
we all could have a moment of
silence, respect
for the beginning of our past
tromping on it.


Notes from the Southwest Corner (Archive 12/03/07): Barber Shops – The Beginning of a Hairy Tale

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barbershop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

A Pocket of Resistance: Sports Commentary I

This post began as a “potpourri” of comments about the human side of sports, i hoped humorous and interesting, a collection of my thoughts on the weekend sports events and the commentary on sports tidbits from various sources (cited) i found to be interesting.

i decided i needed to explain my attitude about sports journalism. One of the major contributors to that attitude occurred during a hiring interview for a sports reporter. I felt how this interview came about required some background.

When the background information rambled into the fourth page, i realized it was too long to hold interest of many readers. The explanation will not be a short series of posts before i get to posting my original idea of a weekly commentary on sports, likely to be here on Sundays or Mondays.

Of course, this is my website, and i may just blow it all off and not publish anything of this nature after this one.

Way back one thousand years ago or so (January 1972), i became the sports editor of The Watertown Daily Times in upstate (and i mean UPSTATE) New York. It was a wonderful, too short experience before i returned to the sea. i had a dream, a vision if you will, about how a sports section should be presented to its readers. The vision was formed by learning from the journalism magic master coach, JB Leftwich at Castle Heights where The Cavalier won national awards almost every year and JB produced a gaggle of some of the best print journalists in the country. It was enhanced by a year of tutelage from the master, the immediate descendant of Grantland Rice, Fred Russell, legendary in his own right (or is it “rite”: Blythe Jewell, Ann Donnell, or Joe, Carla, or Kate Jewell, set me straight), at The Nashville Banner. Bob Roberts, the managing sports editor taught me the ropes of organization, layout, makeup, and production, while George Leonard and Waxo Green offered me advice and counsel in a gentle manner while giving me even more insight.

i wanted the Times  sports section to be the best of the mid-size daily papers in the country. John Johnson, my Vanderbilt friend who hired me to replace Jack Case, a sports editor of the old guard (never used “football field” or “coach” when “gridiron” or “mentor” was available) gave me the chance and support and provided me with the means to step forward from linotype and metal makeup to “cold print.”

i had no intention of letting the sports section drift toward a statistics monster, a Monday quarterbacking told-you-so analysis sheet, or a confrontational approach. i wanted my sports pages to be like Fred Russell’s: about athletes, about rising above the crowd, about winning the right way, about people, about drama, about humor, and most of all, about good literary journalism.

It was a challenge. With Jack gone, i was the sports department. Since the Times with a circulation of 45,000 served most of the upstate New York area, i wanted to have complete coverage of national sports as well as expand the coverage for local sports.

When i began at the paper the previous May, my salary was $125 a week. I was one month into marriage. We had a used 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass i had bought from my father’s Pontiac dealership for $1000. Our rent for our two bedroom upstairs apartment was $105 a month. We had an old English Sheepdog named Snooks and soon added a cat we named BK (the names were taken from my aunt and uncle, Snooks Hall and Bettye Kate Hall who were second parents for the three Jewell children). My Navy reserve weekly meetings brought in another $150.

When i took over, we were expecting our child in July. i asked for a flat $200 a week to work the hours necessary to produce the best sports section possible and not be concerned with how many hours it took.

The Times did not have unions, but it had a guild. I was told the guild would not abide my not working at hourly wages. Perhaps in two or three years, i could advance to the management level and be paid a flat fee. I did not understand this line of reasoning, but i had been in the Navy, and i knew things did not often work in what made common sense to me.

The first week of being sports editor, i worked an absurd amount of hours. The Times was an afternoon newspaper, like The Banner – oh, how i miss afternoon newspapers. For afternoon papers, staff gets in early. This sports writer got in earlier than most.

I would get up at 4:00 (sort of like i do now, but now it’s because the old man doesn’t sleep more than six hours and goes to bed earlier than he ever dreamed he would do) and walk the long two blocks through snow and minus fifteen degrees, arriving before 5:00 a.m. – Sometimes, i would take the Cutlass, but it was frequently not visible under new snow in the parking area across the street.

The paper had to go to press by 10:00. Then, i would perform the usual administrative requirements, get ready for the next day, arrange for interviews, plan the schedule, and attend a post-production meeting with the general manager at 1:00. I would get home around 2:00, eat a quick lunch my wife had prepared and take an hour’s nap (i do have some good habits or traits from my father).

After waking up, i did some chores and often covered a local sports event or watched a game on television with the purpose of commenting on the national sports scene in the next day’s paper.

That first week, the work stretched to something like 70 hours. I took home over $300 for the period and felt like a rich man but also felt somewhat guilty. I wanted to make good money, but i didn’t want to get more than my share. What was important to me was producing high-quality, much-readable sports pages.

I repeated the process the second week. Management called me in and directed me not to work more than 50 hours a week.

This began my realization i was not going to make the money necessary to support my wife and child sufficiently in this line of work. i knew i could become a success financially if i stuck with it, but i recognized the time required to make it to financial well being was too long and would be too hard on them…and me. It was when i began considering asking the Navy to allow me to return to active duty. But that is another story.

For the next seven months, i worked all of the hours necessary to publish quality sports sections, usually over 60 hours. Each week, I reported 50 hours on my time sheet.

i wanted to have the Friday night scores in the Saturday  paper. There was no structure to do that. I brought in a student on high school sports nights to man the phone switchboard and take scores, statistics, and box scores from coaches and appointed individuals. When he was to start, i went to the daytime switchboard operator (after hours, the system went to what we now call voicemail and provided phone numbers for emergencies). I asked for instructions on running the switchboard, explaining my need to do so. She was aghast and said she couldn’t do such a thing without the business manager’s approval.

I went to the business manager seeking his approval. He denied responsibility and told me the general manager had to make the decision. I went to the general manager and he informed me he could not make that decision, that it was the general manager’s decision.

I stepped outside the general manager’s office, leaned back against the wall and considered my options. Then after waiting the appropriate time, i went back to the business manager and told him my plan was okay with the general manager if it was okay with him. He replied it was certainly okay with him if the general manager approved. I returned to the general manager and told him the business manager approved. I was blessed with the general manager’s final approval as well. From then on, high school scores were reported in the next day’s paper, not two days later – i am older now, can’t remember everyone’s names, and i am too lazy to look them up.

I have surpassed my limitation rule on length of a post. It is 6:00 a.m. i need a nap. This story will be continued.

Notes from the Southwest Corner (archives): Good Things Happen to Those Who Wait

i began writing a weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat in October 2007. Except for a few hiccups when i missed a deadline, it has appeared in the paper, initially on Thursday and now on Tuesdays.

With my superb sense and lousy execution of organization abetted by an unhealthy dose of procrastination and some degree of adult attention deficit disorder as well as a significant problem with CRS, i am struggling with archiving all of my columns, primarily for my grandson, and have decided to use this site as an excuse to actually get some organization accomplished. So in addition to linking you to my column on the newspaper’s website and archiving the current columns, i will be posting old ones here. In my first search, the earliest column i found was this one, the sixth “Notes…” column that was published in November 2007.

Fittingly, this one was about my mother and Lebanon High School, two forces that have had a powerful impact on my life and remain such even though i did not attend the latter.

Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.
Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Last Monday, Ms Denise Joyner, the Lebanon High School Athletic Director called and announced Estelle Prichard Jewell had been selected as an inaugural member of the Blue Devil Athletic Hall of Fame.

Estelle Jewell is my mother.

About a year ago, J.B. Leftwich, a weekly columnist for this paper, a close family friend, and my mentor in journalism (which I have noted frequently), wrote a tribute to Estelle and suggested she might have been the best women’s basketball player in the history of Blue Devil Sports. For her size, his suggestion just might be a slam dunk.

In a 1935 district tournament semi-final, Estelle scored 33 points for the Blue Devilettes girls basketball team and was named to the all-tournament team. For the 1934-35 season, she scored 283 points in 19-games. This was during an era when most games were low-scoring affairs, rarely exceeding 30 points total. Her single game and season scoring records stood for a quarter of a century.

She will be inducted during a half time ceremony during LHS basketball games, December 14

I am elated. LHS’ Hall of Fame is honoring her just after she turned 90 in July.

I am anxious to learn of other inductees. Clifton Tribble, Don Franklin, David Robinson, Ann Lucas. Louis Thompson, David Grandstaff, Hal Greer, and many others immediately come to mind as probable selections. It bemuses me to think of my mother standing next to these heroes of mine and receiving her plaque.

Estelle Jewell today does not come across as a hall of fame athlete. Being 90 certainly belies her earlier skills. She also tops out at five feet tall. I saw her take a shot once. It was a two-handed push. She jumped and spread her legs when she shot. From fifteen feet, it hit nothing but net. I don’t think she could do that now.

In reflection, she laughs about her play. “I got 33 in the semi-finals,” she says, “but I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn the next night, and we lost.” I have never heard her brag about her accomplishments.

In her recollection of a game at Mount Juliet, she recalled how she would try not to drive for a lay-up on one end of the court because she might run into the Ben Franklin stove underneath the basket. The stove heated the entire gym.

Not considering the stove, it was a different game then with three zones with two guards on the defensive end, two forwards on the offensive end, and two centers in the middle who passed the ball from defense to offense. One dribble was all that was allowed.

Still, Estelle’s accomplishments remain exceptional.

Her shooting skills were probably enhanced by chores. Her grandfather, Joseph Webster, the retired Methodist circuit rider, would give her a penny for each fly she swatted and killed inside the farmhouse on Hunter’s Point Pike.

Her endurance and strength were likely abetted by other chores she and her two sisters and brother undertook while her mother was a care-giver, working day and night (Her father, Joe Blythe Prichard, died young and the family lived with their grandfather).

When her hall of fame career in sports was concluded, Estelle quickly put it aside and went to work. She learned secretarial skills at the County Court Clerk’s office in the old courthouse on the square. She worked for the Commerce Union Bank on the north side of the corner of the square and East Main Street. She married my father, Jimmy Jewell, in 1938, three years after she had graduated from LHS.

She is a reflection of all of the women of that generation whom I have known: practically feminine with a firm grasp of reality; frugal but willing to lavish gifts and love on her family and friends. She is a product of hard times (the depression), frightening times of sacrifice and victory (World War II), security produced by hard and loyal work, and change without end. They are strong, balanced, and loving women.

But every once in a while, basketball will come up in a conversation, and you can still see the sparkle in Estelle’s eyes.

When I called my mother for congratulations, her and my father’s excitement made it an unforgettable phone call. She was thrilled. The news was something to feel good about.

Thank you, Blue Devils for proving in a good place like Lebanon, good things do happen, especially for those who wait.

A Pocket of Resistance: All Is Calm

 i wrote this in 1962, i believe it was during my freshman autumn semester at Vanderbilt. It was a lonely day after i learned someone i had a crush on had found someone else…in Cleveland. i’m glad it didn’t work out, not that i have anything against Cleveland. This remains one of my favorites. “All Is Calm” is included in my book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, which is still available through me, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Author House.

All Is Calm

the sun is shining outside, but it is cold;
the sky is blue outside, but the trees are bare;
the wind whispers softly, but its coldness bites into the skin;
the windows reflect the sparkling sunshine, but the glare hurts the eyes.

i walked to the top of the hill and looked down on the lights of the city,
hoping to remember something beautiful and warm,
but the memories brought sadness
because they were of the past instead of the present;

a tear came to my eye, and the wind made the tear cold.
i was alone; the fact burned my heart as it chilled my soul;
i watched with sad amusement as two squirrels
in the lone tree on the hill chattered to one another;

i walked down the hill back to my lonely room,
four walls, bare lights, blaring radio, books, un-emptied ashtrays.

the sun is shining outside but it is cold;
the sky is blue outside, but the trees are bare;
the wind whispers softly but its coldness bites into the skin;
the windows reflect the sparkling sunshine;

but the glare hurts the eyes,
and all is calm
but yet…


A Pocket of Resistance: A Rather Wonderful Weekend

Maureen and i are home.

We flew into San Francisco last Thursday for our annual visit with Alan, Maren, and Eleanor Hicks in conjunction with the incredible experience of “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass,” the free three-day concert in  a bulging Golden Gate Park.

Alan had already picked up Cy Fraser (his wonderful Julie was attending a relative’s pre-nuptial event in Los Angeles, and regrettably, we missed her) when they gathered us up for the trip to their home.

Alan, Maren, and daughter Eleanor, an attorney for Google, have this wonderful home in Forest Hills, our headquarters for the weekend. On Friday, the guys arrived at the park around 8:00 am to stake out a close-up spot at the Banjo Stage, the main performance stage out of seven throughout the park. On Saturday and Sunday, Eleanor joined the early birds. Our usual routine is to claim our territory, walk about half of Hellman Hollow to grab some the first breakfast burritos from a concession stand and get coffee or latte’s on the way back. Then, we read or take naps until showtime, noon on Friday, and 11:00 am on the other two days. This year, Jim Hicks, Alan’s brother and long time fraternity brother of the trio, made the old guys a quartet. Friends of Alan, Maren, and Eleanor joined us throughout the days.

i left early with a several others on Saturday around 4:00 pm, but we had someone there every day until closing around 7:00 pm. The three-day total attendance apparently did not reach the 800,000 i predicted. Official attendance will be published in the next few days. But Saturday had to have set a record. Hellman Hollow was so full, it took at least 45 minutes to walk to and from the port-a-potties about 100 yards from our spot, an important statistic for an old man to know as the day wore on and the beer consumption increased.

The attendees cut the swath of race, country of origin, religion, persuasions, age, and every other possible categorization in every way possible. Booze flows freely. The aroma of marijuana hangs over the hollow like a haze. Yet in the six times we have attended (i think Alan and Maren have been there for 9 or ten years out of the fifteen), we have never witnessed a fight. It is people getting along with people.

i have discussed the music before, but it is rather incredible: eighty-six groups or solo performers sang and played. They all were of the highest quality.

The festival is fantastic, but time with our friends and their friends is even better.

We cannot thank Alan, Maren, and Eleanor enough for letting us share the experience. We cannot thank Cy, Jim, and the others for sharing the time together. And we are especially grateful to Ralph Lavage, our neighbor, who insisted in taking us to and picking us up at Lindbergh Field.

i have run out of superlatives for the experience.

But it was long, and honestly, we both were glad to get home.


Thanks, everyone…and see you next year.

Willie Nod: Silver Bird

This is one of a couple of books i’ve been working on for a long, long time. i have decided to publish them, even though they are working drafts, as serials on this website, much like Charles Dickens and many others did with magazines and newspapers a couple of centuries ago.

i know me well enough to admit the likelihood of me actually publishing these books  is highly unlikely. As for mainstream publishing, i have no desire, after gathering information on the process, to submit to the publisher’s requirements, the political maneuvering, the required marketing efforts, or the effort required from this procrastinator to meet deadlines – just ask Jared Felkins, the editor of The Lebanon Democrat.

i have also proven to myself that self-publishing as my daughter Blythe did so amazingly with her wonderfully funny poetry in Something Smells Like Pee, is a challenge because me learning to use publishing software programs looks more like a scientific research project involving mice and mazes.

Finally, my experience with print-on-demand and co-op publishing was not pleasant. I have eliminated that route from my options

Thus, it finally dawned on me i can publish them on this website.

This particular book began as a poem to my daughter Blythe when i reluctantly was  going through a separation and divorce while stationed at Texas A&M’s NROTC unit. In the summer of 1978, the Navy decided i would be an excellent choice for running the second-class midshipmen surface indoctrination at Little Creek, Virginia for the summer. Flying a puddle jumper over North Carolina, i mused over the fact that the close day-to-day relationship with Blythe was changing forever, and there was nothing i could do responsibly to change that. Looking out the window at the clouds, the beginning thoughts of this poem came into my head, and i had written the poem, intact, by the time i had landed.

Over the years, i wrote a number of poems to Blythe. Then when Sarah was born (seventeen years later than Blythe), i began a new batch of such poems. Since grandson Sam was born, i have written a couple of more and gave him a pamphlet of all of the poems a couple of Christmases ago. 

Sarah is working on illustrations for the “book,” and her drafts will be included with the poems. Obviously, i need to work on the graphics and layout.

You might say this is a work of love.

Sarah's opening drawings
Sarah’s opening drawings

willie_nod-silver bird01Willie Nod and the Silver Birdwillie_nod-silver_bird02

Willie Nod rode the wings of the silver bird
high in the clouds;
he laughed at the night wind
when it threw the rain.
Willie Nod smiled and rubbed the neck of his bird.
He laughed because he loved people and
the silver bird.