Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Pocket of Resistance: Mount Miguel on a February Sunrise

i think of this poem i wrote about eight years ago. Almost every morning i walk out to get the newspaper in the morning. i often stop and pause,  looking at the mountain, a steep hill really, with the sun peeking over her apex, and i imagine this land, this high desert nestled by the Pacific when Richard Henry Dana entered the bay on the Boston brig Pilgrim in 1935, an area with a population of about 200.

Mount Miguel on a February Sunrise

East north east of my front door,
Mount Miguel wore a shroud this morning;
The low clouds draped across her shoulders
below the peak at sunrise.

By circumstance, the front door of my home faces east,
greeting the sun god
like the Navajo’s hogan door has done for centuries
over in the Four Corners a mountain or so
east of here.

Man’s antennae now reach skyward on Mount Miguel’s peak,
black in silhouette against the rising orange orb, which will later
sling its white hot heat and light low to the south,
moving through the day,
bowing to the Baja lands of Mexico,
as it is wont to do in the winter months
here in the high desert.

The instruments of new fangled transmission look foreboding:
Spanish castle towers of the inquisition;
I wonder if the Kumayai sat atop,
above the cloud shroud,
lifting their own clouds of smoke,
transmitting their own news of the day.

The city folks implanted here
tend to forget what this land beneath them was;
really is.
We have learned to just add water
to get paradise,
now overrun with those that forget
to look East at the sunrise
silhouettes of the ghost talkers.

 

 

Bonita, California

February 25, 2007

 

A Pocket of Resistance: An Embarrassed Vet

Today is a big day for Veterans. Every year this time, i think about my father being the Grand Marshal of Lebanon’s Veterans Day Parade for his service in the Southwest Pacific as a Seabee in World War II.

i also think about many friends who stood in harm’s way, some of whom never made it back.

My overriding thought was well stated by my friend and shipmate. Al Pavich, a hero in his own right, both during and after active service. This morning, Al stated simply, “Thank you, Veterans; proud to have served with you.

Al and those folks i think about deserve such honor. i am a little embarrassed to be included. Oh sure, i drove ships around the ocean for more than 14 years of active service. And sure, i had a freighter blown up directly aft of my ship on the Delong pier in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. And i did a lot of support and a lot of training.

But i was doing a job i had chosen, quite frankly for financial reasons with a brand new beautiful daughter. And i loved it. If they would let me drive, i would be on a Navy ship today. I loved the camaraderie, the adventure, the ports of call, the moving every two or so years to another port (most of my moves were across the country or world).

It was service, but i don’t think of it in the same way as i think of my friend Dave Carey’s service who spent 5 1/2 years as a POW for his service, or Marty Linville who received the Silver Star for his heroic action in Vietnam, or Pete Toennies, a Navy SEAL who did a whole bunch of things i am not allowed to mention.

i am embarrassed. But proud. Serving our country is a rewarding career. It makes me feel good that i did it. i do like to think i contributed to the Navy’s mission providing support of the country’s policies at sea.

As Al so well put it: Thank you, Veterans. i am proud to have served with you.

A Pocket Resistance: Good Vibes

This past weekend, both Maureen and i got some balance.

i have noted when we return from a trip, we are usually empowered to keep up the good vibes from our travel experiences. But we quickly resume a rather predictable routine. We do our things: Maureen goes to her yoga, out with her friends, and attends her OSHER classes; i play golf, write, do too little and infrequent exercise, get further behind in a bunch of projects, and sit staring at this computer; and together we play golf occasionally, go out to eat all too infrequently (but since i am married to one of the best and healthiest cooking chefs i’ve ever experienced, this is not necessarily a bad thing), go to the museums, and that’s about it. Seems like something is missing.

About a month or so ago, i received a request from an old friend. Andrew Nemethy sent me a Facebook message or an email asking if his daughter and her friend could stay with us for a few days on a cross-country excursion, i, of course, said certainly…after consulting with my wife to verify “certainly” was appropriate. It was.

Andrew and Rob DeWitt joined the USS Hawkins (DD 873) in 1968 about a month after we returned to our homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. I had met the ship in Malaga, Spain, and spent a very short time in the Mediterranean and the transit across the Atlantic. For several months, the three of us shared a stateroom in forward officers, a small, dark, and dank little place where the most junior officers are assigned. We had a good time before i moved back to after officers, the more elite quarters if such a thing could be possible on a WWII vintage destroyer. We spent a lot of time together on the ship and ashore. Several of our stories approach legendary.

Andrew, Rob and i, along with our close friend and compatriot from Newport days, Kathy McMahon Klosterman, have reconnected on Facebook.

Then Andrew’s email arrived. Then Esther Nemethy and Erica Claire arrived on Friday. They are rather amazing young ladies. They both went to the University of Vermont. They recently hiked the Long Trail running the length of Vermont (272 miles) in 21 days and stopped in Chattanooga, Austin, Santa Fe, and Tucson (and probably several more) before our weekend together. They left on Monday headed for San Francisco before traveling to Colorado. There Esther will be working in the food industry with her degree in food repurposing and Erica will be a ski instructor in Breckinridge.

Most of the time they were here, they scouted out San Diego for the possibility of eventually moving here (i hope). But we had every breakfast and several dinners together. They were a complete delight. They energized me, and lord, did they make me wish i were in my twenties again.

Thanks, Esther and Erica.

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be)

As i get older faster, my damn near daily runs of six to ten to fourteen miles have tapered off to a fast walk of 3.2 miles on the hilly streets of my neighborhood three times on a good week. i have refused to do electronicize  my runs.

For years, i would put on my running shorts, shoes, and a tee shirt, stretch for about a minute or less and go for it. But now, required stretching and other things makes the preparation (and should take in the post stretching phase) about as long as the travel time.

i am hoping i can work back up to running this route and more, but for once in my life, i am not optimistic.

When i stopped the running part temporarily: still hoping of building up to a continuous run, the “Sprint 8” regimen, or the “10-20-30” routine, and settled into the daily speed walk routine, i also decided to try listening to my iPod, which Maureen has been doing for years. In my mostly solitary runs, i have enjoyed just thinking without worrying about putting it down on paper or computer, letting my mind wander, and enjoying the world running around me. So this change was difficult.

But on the first walk with those ear buds blasting away, i found a new solace.

For those who may not know, i was a deejay for WCOR AM/FM in Lebanon, paying my way through graduation at MTSU after a disastrous and wonderful two years at Vanderbilt. The deejay experience amplified my love of music of all types. As a result, my iPod has about 4700 songs of all genres except for rap, hiphop, etc. So when i am working or reading or just fooling around, i put my iPod on shuffle and just flat enjoy music.

So when i added the iPod ear bud experience to my speed walk, i found a new horizon.

i have always been a day runner. In the Navy in almost every command from the USS Anchorage on (1975), i ran at noon. i also would often run after work, especially when i lived on Coronado. But i have found if i now plan to run during the day, it nearly always gets put into the secondary priority, and i never make it

So i began my walk before most of the Pacific time gets up. Depending on many variables, i begin my walk just before or just after first light. Now that we have our cooler season (folks back east would laugh hysterically if i called it winter), I add some leggings and a long-sleeved tee to my wardrobe.

Thus this morning, i began my walk about ten minutes after sunrise, a bit late. Before i got much beyond our driveway, i ran into Ralph Lavage, our neighbor, walking his dog. We talked sports, as we  usually do, for several minutes before i resumed my walk.

i listened to Mose Allison, Grover Washington, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Martin, Badi Assad, a portion of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Sting, and Fleetwood Mac. But halfway up my hill and my turnaround point, a song played to which i listened with thoughts that i had not considered before.

i bought Frank Sinatra’s “Watertown” album when it came out in 1970, but i bought it in the Navy Exchange at the Sasebo, Japan Naval Base while my command supervised carrying Korean troops to Vietnam and back. It has remained one of my favorite albums. It is a sad album building upon a story conceived by Bob Guido, one of the Four Seasons, and Frank Holmes about a guy whose wife leaves him and their two boys in Watertown –There are at least eight Watertowns in the U.S., but i think the album name probably comes from Watertown, Connecticut.

The album was a Reprise album and did not do well on the market. i have found solace in the songs and have often fallen to sleep at night while it was playing.

But about two-thirds through my run, my iPod rotated to “What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be),” one of Sinatra’s songs on the album. Listening to the lyrics, i thought about the woman who Sinatra described. It was a composite of the three women who are most important in my life: Maureen, Blythe, and Sarah. The line about “freckles” is what piqued my thoughts about those three women. The woman for whom the singer yearned had qualities i found wonderful in all three, some in part and a few capturing all three.

i stopped and hit the rewind button to listen again. i was captivated. After all, i love these three women ole Frank was describing.

Yes, there was sadness, certainly intended in the album and the lyrics of this song. And there is sadness in my considering Maureen, Blythe, and Sarah as part of my life. Life changes; children leave, live in a different place, in a different time, with different ideas. Maureen and i are alone now, living in a house too big, but too much of us to yet let go. We are growing older and if all goes as well as we would like, emulating my parents, we still have twenty-plus years to be together. Our relationship has changed, and Maureen, one of the funny girls in the triad is different, not better or worse, just different. As am i.

And that is life.

So i listened to Frank crooning. i was in a good place. i love my funny girls.

A Pocket of Resistance: Sports Commentary III

My original intention of these sports posts was do it weekly. That ain’t gonna happen.

If this were my “job” (and this site may soon look more like a job, but that’s another story), i would work to write one of these weekly. But it ain’t my job…yet.

For now, i will post these sports commentaries occasionally, hopefully with the same approach as Fred Russell.

This commentary was set off by watching a sport i do not fully understand or appreciate: soccer, specifically college women’s soccer.

Maureen was attending one of her “OSHER” classes, which she loves. They are college “courses” of various lengths for adults. No credit is given. The classes are taught, or presented by college professors. Here in the Southwest corner, San Diego State and University of California professors participate (i don’t think University of San Diego professors participate). Maureen has taken art history, history of religion, Italian, and a bunch of others, but no sports-themed courses, which is what this post is supposed to be about. So i shall cease this deviation from the topic at hand.

…Anyway, Maureen was out, so i washed the second load of clothes and was in the den (i like “den” better than “family” room: it’s just the two of us here now) folding and putting them on hangers . i turned on the television with the unlikely to be fulfilled hope of finding something watchable. Recalling something i passed over on the sports television schedule in the morning paper, i turned to the SEC Network, which fills up the non-athletic event airspace with some guy named Paul Finneman talking and talking and talking about unimportant stuff. But as the newspaper sidebar had indicated, i tuned into the Vanderbilt Women’s Soccer Team playing Florida in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

There are several things i should explain before continuing with my comments about the quarterfinal match.

  1. For anyone who has read just a little bit of my stuff or knows me, i am a huge Vanderbilt sports fan. Unlike many folks back home, i root for Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky (in that order) unless they are playing against Vandy. i also root for other SEC teams, with the same caveat about Vandy competition, when they are playing non-conference opponents, especially the PAC whatever number they are using now, which used to be “Ten.” I grew up as a huge fan of both the Commodores and the Vols because of my father and George Harding. i root for Vandy, not just because i attended there, but because they want to be competitive in the right way in the SEC (more on that and Athletic Director David Williams later), sort of like Stanford in the PAC whatever it is.
  2. i know very little about soccer, and a great deal of it makes no sense to me. i have watched USA in the World Cup and the Olympics and greatly enjoyed seeing my grandson Sam in one game a couple of years ago. i even played in a game in Key West in 1968. While attending Anti-Submarine Officer training, i joined a bunch of underwater swimming students, and several other students in the training command there to play a team from a Dutch ship that was there on a port visit. They beat the hell out of us. Castle Heights had a soccer team but i figured whoever played a sport in the winter in shorts didn’t quite have a grasp of reality.

But when i turned on the television, there was Vandy leading the superpower Gators, 1-0 in the opening minutes of their tournament soccer match. i had to watch. When i finished folding and hanging the clothes, i pushed the hamper to the side and sat down, other chores forgotten.

It was fun to watch. Florida is a powerhouse and Vandy held its own.

By game’s end, i understood the strategy. i enjoyed the play-by-play and color analysis, which was not over the top, but explained a lot of things i would have missed. The announcers were not super critical “Monday morning quarterbacks,” but pointed out the good play of both teams and praised individuals when they did something above the norm. They pointed out mistakes but the criticism was never harsh.

Vandy lost, 2-1, against a superior team, which frequently sends its  players on to professional teams and the Olympics (remember Abby  Wambach?).

The ‘Dores were smart and good enough to almost pull off an upset, primarily due to brilliant strategy and tactics by Coach Darren Ambrose. Simone Charley is a force. A bit of Ambrose and Corbin needs to be absorbed by Vandy football and basketball coaches. This game was fun to watch.  i’m not much of a soccer fan…but i’m getting there.

In fact, i may watch them a lot more next year.

World Series Observation

My wife has turned into a real baseball fan.

i was ready to move on to football and anxiously awaiting the Commodore, Aztec, and Mocs basketball season even though the University of Chattanooga, Tennessee changed its nickname from Moccasins in honor of the indigenous tribes that once roamed East Tennessee to “Moc” for Mockingbird, the state bird. Apparently some idiots thought “Moccasin” was an insult rather than an honor. i am still high on all three teams going into the season.

But Maureen turned on the baseball games. It was delightful to watch two teams, both of which i wanted to win. i leaned toward the National League Mets because i still dislike the designated hitter. The play was spectacular, and the Royals had a determination to win that was palpable.

But the announcers apparently never heard of a pause. They went off of target, explaining many things that were flat out wrong or stupid.

Joe Buck kept trying to promote individuals making from half a million to twenty-five million dollars as storybook figures. He did it with a voice volume loud enough to raise the dead and my ire. Apparently, just short of screaming at a fast pace is supposed to keep one interested in the baseball announcer world. He was terrible. Good thing his father, Jack Buck, was such a great baseball announcer.

Harold Reynolds was the best of the booth team, but he often went overboard in his analysis. Whatever happened to throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, run the bases, and either score or be out?

Tom Verducci was simply a mess. i don’t like people who haven’t played the game at that level pretending to know as much or more than those that have. And quite frequently, he was flat wrong.

Ken Rosenthal is Ken Rosenthal: knows his stuff but i don’t care for his stuff being interjected during play.

Erin Andrews is savvy and her questions to the managers were very appropriate. But i don’t want to hear what a manager thinks he wants us to hear in the game. i want to watch his players, not him talk. i also wondered if she was there because of her credentials and effectiveness, which she had and was, or for eye candy.

In the first game, Fox Network suffered technical difficulties described as a loss of power in the fourth inning. i could not believe the network people had the power to stop the game in progress. They claimed it was because the loss of power meant there could be no instant replay review.

Give me a break. We’ve played baseball since the middle of two centuries ago without instant replay. They have umpires. Someone was making a decision based on, guess what: money, commercials potentially lost.

After the delay, the broadcast went to the MLB international network where Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz were handling the announcing duties. They were good. i did not like Vasgersian when he was the Padre television announcer. He wandered off the game and tried too hard to be funny. But for almost a whole inning, he and Smoltz were doing excellent work describing the game and telling the story without over-analyzing.

Then the Fox boys pushed Matt and John out of the booth and put in the three stooges, Harold, Todd, and Curly Joe.

Fox really distracted from a great World Series with enough drama to not require overkill.

Denouement

As much as i bash television, especially ESPN, Fox, and othe network coverage, for self-promotion, poor coverage, bias, terrible announcing, etc., etc., I have to acknowledge i can now watch Vanderbilt and many other teams in sports events i couldn’t even have listened to before the advent of ESPN in 1979. As much as i complain, i am glad the availability of sporting events is what it is today. And as i grow older, i know i can spend my more sedentary days to come watching sports.

So it ain’t all bad.

A Pocket of Resistance: A Noble Effort: Preserving the Legacy

Perhaps, just perhaps, Castle Heights Military Academy may have been the breeding grounds for my becoming a pocket of resistance.

There had been some previous evidence i might go against the norm. But nothing, nothing like resisting going to Castle Heights, less than a block and then the tree-lined narrow road up the hill.

In 1958, i protested as strongly as i could with my very determined mother and father about their decision to send me to Castle Heights. They knew it would give me a leg up academically; they had received an excellent tuition price for several reasons, one being my grandmother was a housemother for junior school “goobers” in the Mitchell House.

But i was transfixed with this absurd dream of becoming the next Clifton Tribble, star running back for the Lebanon High School Blue Devils, before i would go on and succeed and surpass Doak Walker at SMU or John David Crow at Texas A&M and to go from there to eclipse the Los Angeles Rams’ receiver Crazy Legs Hirsch or Bobby Lane, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions and then the Pittsburgh Steelers. At least, that was my plan.

Besides it was military school and there were no girls.

i lost.

i graduated as a “Cum Honore” cadet in 1962.

Best loss i’ve ever experienced.

Attending Castle Heights as a “town boy” was a unique, wonderful opportunity. Castle Heights served me well. Had it not been for CHMA, i would have never learned the hard, hard lessons of flunking out of Vanderbilt. Nor would have i met some the best friends i continue to have to this day. i would have never ended up at Middle Tennessee State University and graduated with the best degree i could have achieved in literature. i would have never been introduced to the Navy and learned of my love for the sea.

Castle Heights was a magnificent place: professors, regimen, boarding students, day cadets, academic reputation, athletics of the highest quality, and that insanely great student newspaper created by many but driven by the spectacular “Coach” JB Leftwich.

Castle Heights died, an untimely and undeserved demise, in 1987. Loss of Army JROTC support, rising costs, change in culture, Vietnam and the ensuing disrespect for the military, the cessation of the draft, and the costs of upgrading buildings a half century or older all contributed to the closing.

i often wish i could convey to my daughters and grandsons my experience at Castle Heights. Of course, that is as much a pipe dream as replacing Bobby Lane in the pro football annals.

But there are some folks who are dedicated to saving the legacy of that old prep school on the hilltop. There are many others besides the names one sees in the video. But those in this video have done a great job toward establishing a place to store the history of a great place. Rob and Susan Hosier deserve special mention for their dedication and unceasing efforts.

An aside: When i saw the women who are alumni, i could not help but feel some regret my sister Martha, because of the time and the place, was not allowed to attend. She did great in high school and college, and has achieved many wonderful things, especially as a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother, but her not being able to attend has been a major factor in my being a devoted advocate to women’s equality.

Thank you Barbara Leftwich Froula (and several others) for posting this video on Facebook. i didn’t cry, but the tears did well up. It was a great tribute to the institution and giving us the hope of preserving the legacy as Don Ash so well put it in his final comments.

They were very good years.

 

 

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Mr. Murphy and Political Lemmings

i have a lot of “friends” on Facebook. To be honest, i justify this with the intention of taking this website (or “blog”: i still have a great distaste for this label) to a subscription status,  for which Walker Hicks is providing the expertise as we move in that direction. But i also enjoy connecting and reconnecting with folks from back home in Tennessee, Navy friends, folks who are friends and relatives i met through Maureen, and other folks i have met in my myriad of adventures over a half century of living in a whole bunch of places.

i enjoy learning about what they are doing, what thoughts they have about everything, their posts sharing funny and touching links, and their concerns about their friends and family.

My friends run the spectrum from far left to far right. i admire all of their commitment and passion for what they believe.

However, i do get tired of the lemming-like postings on Facebook. They are loyal to whichever side or candidate they believe represents what they believe. But most of what they post is slanted, if not actually untrue because it supports what they believe is right. They are totally one-sided.

But such postings are also lazy. There is no consideration of the other side of the argument. They also are  mean and debasing to the other side. It is just the opposite of honest and open dialogue about issues and policies.

Quite frankly, i get real tired of the laziness, the meanness, and the manipulation of news, quotes, and lord knows what else to sell whatever they are selling, perhaps to themselves.

Then today, i peeled off my “Murphy’s Law” Desk Calendar to today. It read:

Todd’s Two Political Principles

1. No matter what they are telling you, they’re not telling you the whole truth.

2. No matter what they are talking about, they’re talking about money.

Todd, whoever the hell he is, is a very wise man.