Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Pocket of Resistance: Music City Bowl

Watching the Music City Bowl while recording the second half of Vandy’s basketball game. With two minutes left, it is a cliff hanger with the Aggies trying to rally (they didn’t pull it off and Louisville wins, 27-21.

The game was exciting, but as usual, i am frustrated the talking heads and commercials didn’t allow me to watch the Texas Aggie Military Marching Band. They are inspirational. Kelly Winkler Adams, who was there, was impressed. She should know. She and her husband Jay Winkler have two sons that are marvelous, successful musicians with about ten years in marching band experience.

But with all of that, the most striking thing about the game was the head referee. He looked scarily like Doug Neidermeyer, the villainous and downright dumb egotist who was the BMOC and ROTC commander in “Animal House.”

The ref was the highlight of my evening. Every time they zoomed on him making a call, i thought of Neidemeyer and started laughing.

But only because, the sports media wouldn’t let me watch the Aggie Marching Band..

A Pocket of Resistance: Rickover and Today’s Politicians and Their Supporters

The amount of crazy, one-sided crap on social media posted by folks with blinders on is reaching frenzied proportions, and the flow will only increase for the next ten months.

It reminds me of a story i ran across years ago when, as the Senior Naval Officer at the Texas A&M NROTC Program, i was interim nuclear program recruiting officer for about six months and consequentially learned a lot about Admiral Hiram Rickover, the eccentric father of the Navy Nuclear program. i no longer know the source of the story.

As the tale went, Admiral Rickover was sitting before the House Armed Services Committee on some matter relating to his job when a committee member asked him if he had the power, what would he do to make the military establishment more effective.

Rickover said he would take half of the flag officers in the Pentagon and give them all an individual office in the “D Ring” (the next to outside ring of the Pentagon) and supply them with pens and a notepad. Then he would direct them to write notes and other papers and send them to the other flag officers in that ring. The generated writings and the flag officers who wrote them would never leave that ring. Then, he said, the other half of the flags would go about taking care of business.

i think we should divide up the conservative and liberal contributors to social media and put all of them in two separate social media programs. There, they could send all of their views to the others in their group: conservative to conservative, liberal to liberal (since they never read or listen to the other side) and the rest of us wouldn’t have to deal with it on our social media.

A Pocket of Resistance: Priorities

The Christmas saga wound down today.

i took a nap around 9:00 this morning that lasted four hours. i am still not in sync but knew a lot of things needed to get done. i made a “to-do” list and prioritized both physical work, computer/administrative work, and somewhat addled brain work. i went through the list and had my action plan scheduled.

Then Maureen came back from the grocery.

The top priority on my action list immediately became:

 Do whatever the hell Maureen tells me to do even if it doesn’t make sense or is out of order

i showed my list to Maureen.

She didn’t think it was funny.

A Pocket of Resistance: End of a journey

It is early, early Tuesday morning. i am  about to go to bed (and hopefully, asleep) in my own bed.

i am writing a summation of my travails with American Airlines, including a blow-by-blow description of today’s silliness beginning with a 3:00 a.m. awakening until now: ugh. i will complete that ugly story tomorrow when i can think as straight as i can think…unless i play golf; then it might have a Wednesday finish.

But on the five-hour flight from Charlotte, i met two really nice young men and hope we can keep our connection. Jim Watkins, a senior at ‘Bama, and Jim Esler, a insurance agent and a new force in the San Diego chapter of The Propeller Club — more on both later.

Just being home is enough right now.

Peace.

A Pocket of Resistance: Just Trees and me

(Written Sunday, December 27, 2015) I’m on my sister’s back porch again. It is a lovely but strange experience sitting here the day after Christmas outside in shirtsleeves.

I did not go to Christmas Eve midnight service. Thunderstorms and lightning were operating at full bore. I was the only one going to the service and decided i would have a couple of more glasses of wine and not risk late-night eve driving in the storm.

My nephew’s family had Santa Claus out on his farm and then came over in the late morning for breakfast and gifts. It rained a humongous amount all day and the thunder drove Wally, the family dog under the bed in the master bedroom. It continued throughout the day and evening, finally tapering off sometime during the night.

The entire area around Chattanooga, both Tennessee and Georgia, has been hit hard. For a while, there was only one road off the mountain. Now there are two but a third had a chunk of it washed away and repairs will be a long-term affair. Christmas has been chaotic nice, but it shouldn’t be any other way if five children are involved.

The country is chaotic from the crazy weather.

signal_mtn-trees-2But our flights have been rearranged; Christmas highs have lowered to a regular rhythm; our stay with the Duffs of Signal Mountain has been what Christmas should be everywhere.

And sitting here on the porch hanging out over the descent, i look at the hundreds of leaf-bare trees with limbs akimbo. Faded white and green moss and these vines that sprout green leaves appearing to come from the trunks and limbs rather than being a vine.

It is peaceful. i am in balance with my world.

A Pocket of Resistance: Vacation Extension

Well…There is nothing exactly like an extended vacation.

Last night, i could not sleep after half-packing for our departure from Signal Mountain scheduled for 4:00 a.m. i finally half-dozed on the den couch.

About 1:00 a.m., i heard Sarah calling for me from upstairs. i responded thinking she wanted me to help her pack and figure out the weight of her check-in after adding her Christmas presents. “Dad,” she said with more than some concern, “they cancelled my flight. Did they cancel yours?”

“I don’t know, Sarah,” i replied, “If we were notified, it would be a voice mail on Mom’s phone or in her email.”

i was just a bit concerned because American Airlines, in all its majestic glory of money grubbing at the expense of their flyers, had already demonstrated gross inability of effectiveness. On the flights here, they had sent Maureen an automated voice mail, telling her our flight from Dallas to Chattanooga had been cancelled, followed with human voice mail directing her to ignore the cancellation notice. When we finally got to the gate from AA to AA Eagle, we had to be re-routed because the bogus cancellation. This resulted in our adjacent seats being ticketed as the same seat. They never notified Sarah and her ticket needed to be reissued again. They gave her a double seating assignment as well. Fortunately, we all made the flight.

Maureen was asleep. Knowing she cannot sleep on the plane, i opted not to waken her to get to her phone or email. i began checking with Sarah. The flight was cancelled. There was no notification for us, only Sarah. There were no American flights out of Chattanooga to our destinations of Austin and San Diego today. There were very limited flights for those destinations on other airlines, and it would cost us as little as $800 per ticket or as much as $1200 per ticket. i called American. i was informed by the recorded voice my wait time in the queue would be seven hours. i asked them to call me back. i called the Chattanooga Airport, hoping to get to the American desk there: No such luck. It is impossible to talk to a human when you need to immediately talk to a human at AA (and most of the other airlines as well).

i finally talked Sarah into trying to sleep. i actually went to sleep on the couch for almost an hour, waking to my alarm set for when i knew Maureen and Martha would be up.

Once awake, i told the two of them what had occurred and suggested i go to the airport to talk to a human. They agreed. Since it was 4:00 in the morning, the traffic was not bad and i got to the airport in about 20 minutes. the American line was not too bad. But they were taking passengers to Charlotte first. it was about 20 minutes before they began processing the DFW-bound passengers. i was fourth in line and it took another 20 minutes to get to the desk. They had re-routed us on day later flights, all going to Charlotte for connections.

i gave up when the lady told me there were no other available flights before Tuesday.

When i arrived back on Signal Mountain, i told my wide-awake sister about what had happened and wrote down the new schedule on a sheet of paper for Maureen, who was fast asleep. i laid down beside her and had just gotten to sleep when my phone rang. It was American calling me back.

i decided i needed to review the options and went downstairs to talk to the agent. Amazingly, they had called to say i could now talk to an agent but they put me in the queue for another ten minutes. Finally, i talked to another human.

Sarah’s flights had no other options. i got Maureen on an earlier flight than our original re-route, but i had to stay on the original.

So tomorrow, i will take Maureen and Sarah to the airport for a 5:20 a.m. flight to Charlotte, 534 miles EAST of here. From there, they will take flights WEST to Austin and San Diego, both arriving at their final destination in mid-morning, close to what was planned for today. Then, i will go back up the mountain, wait, and catch my flight leaving for Charleston at 5:45 p.m. for my connection to San Diego which will arrive at 10:13 p.m., barring any other AA glitches. It will likely be midnight on the left coast before i get home.

It will be a fairly long day for me.

But, we get a day with nothing scheduled on the mountain. i plan to take a walk around the Carriage Hill area of Signal Mountain. We may have a leisurely lunch somewhere. It will be nice to have another day with Martha and Todd and hopefully, we will get to see Tommy and Abby again – who am i kidding: i’m hoping to see three-year old Allie and the twin boys again.

So it ain’t all bad. I look at it as an extended vacation.

But it will be a cold day in hell before i fly American again.

A Pocket of Resistance: Thanks, Mr. Longfellow

In several of my recent writings, i’ve been trying to express some feelings about this Christmas thing. i think i got close with my latest Democrat column about “balance.” But then this morning, i opened up my “Writer’s Almanac” email and read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Meeting.”

The man did have a way with words…words that captured my feelings about this Christmas thing better than i. Here is the poem, now in the public domain, printed in today’s “Writer’s Almanac:”

The Meeting

After so long an absence
At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
And but few of us linger now,
Like the prophets two or three berries
In the top of the uppermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year;
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.

A Pocket of Resistance: Greetings

It is Christmas Eve afternoon on the mountain.

hall-christmas_tree
Jim and Annie Hall’s cedar Christmas tree.

i sit on the porch hanging off of the mountain overlooking Shoal Creek Road (when the thousands of trees on the steep slope are bare in the winter). I am sitting on the porch because it is unseasonably warm for this time of year. A storm producing tornado conditions swept through last night with the warmth following in its wake.

i finally got into the Christmas mood this morning. I had been faking it until then. My sister’s grandchildren had kept me merry, but i was faking it for the Christmas thing.

You did not receive a Christmas card from me this year. This is it. Maureen has never been a Christmas card person. i don’t know why, but i am okay with that. Years ago, i decided i would take on that task but vowed to be personal. Even if i succumbed to the Southwest corner Jewell newsletter catch-up thing, i wanted to write a personal note. The first year, i began with “A” in my contacts list and got through “M.” The next year, i started at “Z” and made it all the way back through “L.” This became standard in one direction or the other every year.

Allie-sarah-02
Sarah and Allie

i quit altogether, quite frustrated, about five years ago.

With my help, my sister Martha, put the turkey in the oven. We will have a late family dinner tonight: our Christmas dinner. Tomorrow, we are planning on leftovers and lots of sweets. Of course, the Prichard boiled custard will be included anywhere we can fit it in.

All of the other Signal Mountain Duff family will be here tonight. i may be the only one to go to the Signal Crest Methodist Church midnight service. That’s okay.

i’m not sure about tomorrow. Wisely, Tommy and Abby decided it would not be practical to bring 15-year old Hannah, 11-year old Olivia, three-year old Allie, and Max and Culley, the two four-month old identical twins over to spend the night here. Christmas morning for the children will be at the Tommy and Abby Duff farm.

Olivia
Olivia

So Christmas gifts tomorrow morning will be a bit later than usual. That’s fine. For some reason, i am sleeping longer at night than i do in most places.

But as i sit on the couch, i am missing my daughter. We were in Austin last year, but circumstances dictated we not be there this year. Because of situations i wish to remain private, i have not had Christmas with my older daughter, and now, my grandson Sam, since 1980. As a consequence, all of my Christmases since have had a hole of sadness.

But knowing Sam nor his mother and father won’t miss a step and have a wonderful Christmas makes it okay.

Besides, even though its warm enough to be April rather than December and i am sitting out on the porch rather than by a roaring fire, there are some children here reminding me it’s beginning, if not look like it, be a lot like Christmas.

i hope all of you have a merry one.

Culley and Max with their grandmother after a long day.
Culley and Max with their grandmother after a long day.

A Pocket of Resistance: Old Sailors

Last night, Norm O’Neal, my friend and shipmate from the USS Hollister (DD 873), my first tour in 1968-1969, forwarded this poem, sent to him by another shipmate Robin (somewhere i have Robin’s last name, but i’m too lazy to look it up now).

Yesterday, after our usual Friday morning golf, Rod Stark, Marty Linville, and i regaled Jeff Middlebrook with military tales, mostly Rod and i recalling old times in Thailand; Sasebo, Japan; Pusan, Korea, and the majority about ribald and raucous Subic Bay within the towns of Subic City and Olongapo, Philippines.

i have been writing my Democrat Tuesday column about storms at sea for the past several days, thinking about my times aboard Navy ships.

The timing for this poem was perfect. Besides, i like it a lot. 

{Copied and posted without edit; i was tempted to edit and used proper capitalization, but for some reason, it seems more like a sailor’s poem this way. Perhaps  this is because it looks more like the Navy messages we used to get at sea}

OLD SAILORS SIT
AND CHEW THE FAT
ABOUT THINGS THAT USED TO BE,
OF THE THINGS THEY’VE SEEN,
THE PLACES THEY’VE BEEN,
WHEN THEY VENTURED OUT TO SEA.
THEY REMEMBERED FRIENDS
FROM LONG AGO,
THE TIMES THEY HAD BACK THEN.
THE MONEY THEY SPENT,
THE BEER THEY DRANK,
IN THEIR DAYS AS SAILING MEN.
THEIR LIVES ARE LIVED
IN DAYS GONE BY,
WITH THOUGHTS THAT FOREVER LAST.
OF BELL BOTTOM BLUES,
WINGED WHITE HATS,
AND GOOD TIMES IN THEIR PAST.
THEY RECALL LONG NIGHTS
WITH A MOON SO BRIGHT
FAR OUT ON A LONELY SEA.
THE THOUGHTS THEY HAD
AS YOUTHFUL LADS,
WHEN THEIR LIVES WERE WILD AND FREE.
THEY KNEW SO WELL
HOW THEIR HEARTS WOULD SWELL
WHEN OLD GLORY FLUTTERED PROUD AND FREE.
THE UNDERWAY PENNANT
SUCH A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT
AS THEY PLOWED THROUGH AN ANGRY SEA.
THEY TALKED OF THE CHOW
OL’ COOKIE WOULD MAKE
AND THE SHRILL OF THE BOS UN’S PIPE.
HOW SALT SPRAY WOULD FALL
LIKE SPARKS FROM HELL
WHEN A STORM STRUCK IN THE NIGHT.
THEY REMEMBER OLD SHIPMATES
ALREADY GONE
WHO FOREVER HOLD A SPOT IN THEIR HEART,
WHEN SAILORS WERE BOLD, AND
FRIENDSHIPS WOULD HOLD,
UNTIL DEATH RIPPED THEM APART.
THEY SPEAK OF NIGHTS
IN PIG ALLEY AND GUT
ON MANY A FOREIGN SHORE,
OF THE BEER THEY’D DOWN
AS GATHERING AROUND,
TELLING JOKES AND SEA STORIES GALORE.
THEIR SAILING DAYS
ARE GONE AWAY,
NEVER AGAIN WILL THEY CROSS THE BROW.
THEY HAVE NO REGRETS,
THEY KNOW THEY ARE BLESSED,
FOR HONORING A SACRED VOW.
THEIR NUMBERS GROW LESS
WITH EACH PASSING DAY
AS THE FINAL MUSTER BEGINS,
THERE’S NOTHING TO LOSE,
ALL HAVE PAID DUES,
AND THEY’LL SAIL WITH SHIPMATES AGAIN.
I’VE HEARD THEM SAY
BEFORE GETTING UNDERWAY
THAT THERE’S STILL SOME SAILING TO DO,
THEY’LL SAY WITH A GRIN
THAT THEIR SHIP HAS COME IN
AND THE GOOD LORD NEEDS A GOOD CREW.
– Author Unknown

A Pocket of Resistance: A wonderful little corner

Yesterday, i asked Maureen if she would like to just go somewhere nice today.

We had been going in different directions for seemingly forever and spending a lot of time at home in different rooms doing different tasks and other pursuits.

She thought it was a good idea. We talked of going walking on the beach.

But as the morning wound down with my weight training and her yoga, we thought about going to Balboa Park instead. On the ride toward town, Maureen mentioned she would like to have seafood for lunch.

i suggested Blue Water. It’s a fish market and seafood grill where we seldom dine. We just forget about it. But not today. It was wonderful. Maureen had a halibut taco, and i had the special mussels with the surprise addition of clams in an incredible tomato, lime, and jalapeno sauce.

After lunch, we walked about half a block to Gelato Vero Caffe, one of Maureen’s frequent stops; me not so much. But today, they had maple walnut gelato, which makes a good run on my favorite ice cream, black walnut.

It was on our walk, i realized this is a wonderful little corner of the world. The corner is the intersection of India and Washington Streets just inland from I-5 just north of the city proper. Blue Water is the first restaurant up the one-way India Street. Then come the others:

El Indio is one of the best known Mexican restaurants in the city. They serve border-Mexican and many people go across the street to eat on picnic tables in the small park.

The next spot for gastronomy is Shakespeare Pub. It’s all British, and it gives off the feeling we just crossed the Atlantic when we go upstairs.

Next to Shakespeare’s is the Rubicon Deli. It is fantastic.

Next is the Wine Vault and Bistro. It is quite possibly our favorite restaurant of all time. The decor is simple, elegant, and white. They serve a three-course pre fixe on Thursday and five-course pre fixe on Saturdays, both with paired wines. It is very affordable. They also have numerous vintner dinners where the owner of a winery describes each wine while we dine on the different courses. Owners Chris and Mary are the best.

Then, there is Saffron Chicken. Maureen claims it’s the best Thai in the city. She often brings dishes home. i must agree.

The last stop actually on the corner is Gelato Vero. But that’s not all.

Across the street, there’s a taco shop, a basic bar. Up the hill a couple of lots is a really good sushi place. Turning the other way and going under the interstate, there are about three more places, the best being 57 Degrees,  a wine and boutique beer place with super appetizers and a mind boggling number of wines and craft beers.

That’s our corner. A great deal of the dining (except for Wine Vault) is outside. We were on the Blue Water’s patio today. Of course at midday, the temperature was hovering around 70 degrees, pretty much the same from October until June.

That makes that wonderful little corner even better.