Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Pocket of Resistance: my iPod

i love my iPod, and i haven’t event touched its potential. i’m getting close thanks to George Lederer (thanks, George).

Today, i didn’t work on getting all the playlists organized or recording some more of my LP’s. I had work to do. Maureen had yoga and a birthday brunch with some of her closest friends. So i went to get a few items from Home Depot and pick up something for Maureen from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Now, i don’t know how your Sunday morning radio programming matches up, but in the Southwest corner, it stinks. i love fishing, but i don’t even understand why any fisherman would listen to someone talk about fishing for three hours (of course, i don’t understand how anyone would listen to any specialty talk show for more than five minutes). My other choices were church services or religious talk shows, which all sound too pious for me, or golf talking, or some ex-jocks telling me how much they know about all they don’t know.

There is some good programming on the FM side, but i just wasn’t in the mood.

So i hooked up my iPod and clicked to “shuffle.” i have 4700 tunes on my iPod.  This morning, i was amazed my “shuffle” seemed to hit my mood. But maybe, just maybe, i fit the iPod mood.

The playlist: Etta James “At Last;” Andrea Bocelli “Cieli de Toscana;” David Newman “Everything Must Change;” Bill Evans “Just You, Just Me;” Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong  “A Fine Romance;” Eliot Fisk, Vivaldi – “Mandolin Concerto in C;” John Lee Hooker “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer;” Nancy Wilson “At Long Last Love;” Charles Mingus “Portrait;” Frankie Vallie & the Four Seasons “Big Girls Don’t Cry;” Academy of St. Martin Orchestra, Mozart “Symphony No. 35; Academy of St. Martin Orchestra;” Percy Mayfield “Please Send Me Someone to Love.”

Damn near a perfect Sunday morning. i love my iPod.

i hope you had a good one as well.


A Pocket of Resistance: Fog

George and Sarah, i killed what remained of your Bulleit Rye, small batch, tonight. It was good, but not quite as good as Mr. Dickel’s, even his Old No 12 Sour Mash. Besides Mr. Bulleit and i have just been introduced. Old George Dickel and i go way, way back, and we have talked into the deep of many a night, as we have done tonight after my brief introduction to Mr. Bulleit.

Maureen has gone to bed. I should have. i must rise early for Friday morning golf. She does not have to rise until she is damn good and ready. i was closing up the evening, setting all for tomorrow, checking the last emails and Facebook postings, hoping to find i don’t know what when i realized i had started a poem this morning, which was incomplete. So George – Dickel that is – and i worked on it some more. Here it is, first draft, which is usually my last draft. One explanation: On old steam warships like destroyers, directly aft of the bridge was what then was called Combat Information Center, or “CIC.” It was all radar and plots in red light to not destroy “night vision” to provide the electronic picture of what was going on in actual combat or enhance the visual perception of the bridge watch during peacetime steaming, either reporting contacts showing on the radar long before they would be sighted visually, or assisting navigation during piloting coastal waters.

i consider myself a lucky man to have been at sea in the Navy before we became so sophisticated and electronic. It was a time, long gone, of a sense of self-reliance, where ship and mariners worked as one, a whole entity against the elements, especially in fog. i suspect i will make several revisions to this one. But George (Dickel), Mr. Bulleit, and i wanted to share it tonight.


i arose this morning to grayness;
morning light was suffused into the grayness;
the street and driveway were gray;
the bright house paints were muted
by the cast of gray mist;
the hills, even the sky itself had vanished
in the thick gray of the fog.

at sea, fog would envelop me and my ship
as if it were a cold, cold blanket
intent on plunging inside and extracting life’s breath
from me and from my ship:
gray unto gray unto gray unto gray;
“set the low visibility watch”
two deck seamen fight through the darkness,
the gray darkness
to the bullnose on the forecastle
the stern chock on the fantail
to peer into that darkness
more importantly to listen, listen
for a sound, a fog horn
hopefully far away
detecting a direction:
unlikely expectations,
the conning officer on the bridge
just hopes there are no other lonely transits
on the open sea
at least spotted on the radar
in the red lit combat center aft of the bridge
to warn him of the impending danger
as the midwatch wears on into the dark night.

Yet, open ocean fog is a piece of cake
compared to entering port
in the murky mist of coastal fog,
the sea detail watch on the bridge
cannot see the bow, much less the channel buoys
the watch relies on combat again:
“radar holds us on track,
“twenty yards to right of mid-channel,
“nearest shoal water two hundred yards
“off the port beam,”
the sound-powered phone talker
repeats the words of the CIC watch officer
to the bridge watch
while the navigator stares at the chart
while his quartermasters plot the course
with their own radar repeater
confirming combat’s report
as the conn and the captain
peer into the gray nothingness
hoping to see some dark figure
that might be a building or landfall
from which they might see
through the gray fog
where they really are.

A Pocket of Resistance: The Night After

The birthday wishes, lots of them, are over. Sarah and George are in flight back to Austin. Maureen warmed a splendid ragu sauce and spaghetti dish we had with a salad and a nice merlot for dinner. Just the two of us. She is now listening to the news in the family room with the fire i built earlier dying down.

i may put on another log later and read a bit. There’s this Robert Penn Warren book,  A Place To Come To,  i want to finish. i started reading it about six months ago, and unlike most of Warren’s work, this one is hard for me to get into. Warren and Faulkner remain my two favorite novelists, and this novel is just a bit disappointing. But i find it difficult to not finish any book.

Tomorrow, i plan to start my year of seventy-two. Of course, there is a golf round involved. This one with one of my best friends, Pete Toennies, whom i’ve known since we were both on an Amphibious Squadron staff deployed to the Western Pacific in 1979-80. That deployment was one of the craziest and most rewarding in my span of nine long deployments.

There’s this bathroom wall i need to mend. i hope to repair at least one fault a week in our 26-year old house from here on out. Houses a quarter of a century old require attention, and i haven’t been very good at addressing aging problems, with the house or me.

It will probably take at least the rest of the month to work out our travel plans and budget for the year. This fixed income stuff is a little tiresome when it comes to our desires to see people and things. So we are going to be a little more proactive and plan ahead. Maureen is good at detailed planning and budgets. i’m not. i’m also, as Ricky Nelson sang, a “Travelin’ Man.” It is hard to get that out of my blood. i’ve seen enough places but there are others i would like to see with Maureen and return to my favorites. Now, i am more interested in seeing friends and family than places, but those friends and families are spread just about everywhere. So travel can accomplish both of my needs.

If it were just me, there would be constant travel, but there is this lady, you see, who likes to spend her evenings with me at this home with a fire in the fireplace with music playing while we read. And she likes to fix me breakfast and eat the same at our kitchen table every morning looking out the breakfast room window and hopefully catching sight of a humming bird. Strange, i think, in the quiet of this evening after the whirlwind weekend with Sarah and George, strange that i enjoy the evenings and the breakfasts and the fire and the humming birds and, most of all, being with her, probably more than she does. And all the while, i’m thinking of hitting the road to somewhere. Strange, indeed.

sam-space_gunAnd as this afternoon wound down, i received a wonderful phone call. Blythe, my daughter, wished me “happy birthday,” and then, Samuel James Jewell Gander, my grandson with the middle names honoring my father, pronounced, “It’s good you have lived so long,” (or something like that: Blythe, please correct because i think his actual pronouncement was funnier).

Here is Blythe’s correction on the Sam quote: “Hey, good job on staying alive for so long.” and i was right: it is funnier.

After  a brief conversation, i asked him how he was, and he replied, “Amazing.”

Made my day, and now, i will sleep well tonight.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: An Old Man’s Reflection


i am violating one of my rules to post this today. i normally wait a day to post my column from The Lebanon Democrat. But what the hey? i’m 72 by three hours and i want my friends to read this on my birthday. i will return to my normal column posting practice next week. i have received a grunch of well wishes, mostly on Facebook concerning this event. This morning, i vowed to respond to every one. But there are a lot of them, and i am old. So it will take a little time, a little time, but thanks in advance.

BONITA, Cal. – When you read this, I will have just turned 72.

Jim Jewell, outside of the Jewell residence on Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, Tennessee, 1948
Jim Jewell, outside of the Jewell residence on Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, Tennessee, 1948

Dr. Charles Lowe delivered me at 7:35 am, Wednesday, January 19, 1944, ably assisted by my grandmother, Katherine Webster Prichard at McFarland Hospital. I’m sure Estelle Jewell was glad to get rid of me, unaware of what she would have to put up with for the next 70 years.

My father for whom I was named was in the waiting room. The next day, he caught a train back to his 75th Construction Battalion in Gulfport, Miss.

I have thought about that day and this day, and what it means to me. I am not sure why 72 seems like such a significant age.

Turning 60, 65, and 70 didn’t bother me. Oh, I celebrated like everyone else on those significant milestones with black balloons and bad jokes, but my participation was to make my family and friends who were honoring me feel good about the celebration. I really wasn’t all that caught up in the symbolic meaning.

But why 72? Why does this year seem different, more significant, if you will?

Perhaps it’s because 1972 was a pivotal year in my life. Perhaps it is because part of that significant year was my first daughter, the beautiful and talented Blythe was born. Perhaps it was because my career intentions as a sports writer took a U-turn: I gave up my sports editorship of The Watertown (NY) Daily Times and rejoined the Navy with a four-month Mediterranean deployment at the end of the year.

My life had been altered dramatically.

Perhaps that is why “72” seems significant.

Regardless, I feel I have crossed a meaningful threshold today. Except for a number of minor maladies (which a generation ago would have probably killed me) and various aches and stiffness, I don’t feel old. But this weekend, I took my younger daughter Sarah to Disneyland for her adventure with five friends. I confessed to myself I was old.

After I returned from my chauffeur duties, I considered where I have been and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Although I officially left Lebanon as my home almost a half-century ago, my hometown has been a major factor throughout my life, perhaps more so now than since I left in 1967 for Navy OCS. Lebanon, my family, and my friends have been a wonderful influence on me.

I realized I loved to write and have been doing so ever since Lindsey Donnell and Tom Harris hooked me on writing and J.B. Leftwich hooked me on sports journalism at Castle Heights. The Navy took me to places I would have never seen (even a few I would have cared not to see) and gave me a look at the world and people I would have never appreciated had I not spent about 15 years at sea.

I found websites providing facts about today. One stated my “Life Path” number was 11. I usually ignore such things like horoscopes, fortunetellers, etc., but one of my football jersey numbers was 11, so I read on. My number supposedly meant I possessed “intuition, idealism and invention,” and had “the potential to be a source of inspiration and illumination for people.”

I like that, but it is relatively unimportant when I am 72. The “illumination for people” part intrigues me. I have long thought the older crowd should be a source of information about the past. My mother and father provided me many tales of Lebanon and my family. Their stories enriched my understanding life and helped in my decision making.

Providing stories and observations from the Southwest corner is now my goal. I hope I can provide stories to help younger people make better decisions in their lives – not to emulate me for mine has been a bumpy ride, but what they can consider in determining their own paths.

Sometime today, I will remember a conversation I had with my father when he was 86 and on his last trip to the Southwest corner. We were on a task in the garage, when he stopped, looked at me and said, “Son, I’ve had a good life. I have a wonderful wife, good kids, and great grandkids. Now, I only want one thing: When I go, I want it to be quick.”

Celebrating my 72nd birthday, I completely understand what he meant.


A Pocket of Resistance: New Guinea Memory

In my continuing quest to not do anything productive after 3:00 p.m., i have spent most of my late afternoon and evening piddling around with a whole bunch of stuff, including shuffling my piles of things to do into new piles. While doing so, the below photo, included here before fell out of a pile.

papua_new_guinea-statue 3

It still makes me laugh and recalls a port visit filled with unique experiences. This was one of them.

In November 1969, i joined the staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Most of the squadron ships went from there to Sydney and then through the Great Barrier Reef to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. On one day of liberty, several of the staff officers went out to artifacts shop, a large open-air building with an unimaginable amount of stuff from the natives.

Had i a brain, i would have bought everything i could carry back to the ship. All of it was at bargain prices. i could have made a bit hit financially selling it back in the states. But, of course, i didn’t want to fool with it. So i bought a wooden carving, a rather grotesque face carved into a shield shaped three-foot board. The face had an oversized hook nose. The shop sales person informed me, it was used by natives to hang raw meat from the roof of their straw and mud hut to keep it away from animals before it was cooked.

After i was married to Maureen, she decided my treasure was ugly, scary, not politically correct, and several dozen other things to express her displeasure. After my arguments, aka pleadings, were summarily dismissed, i threw it out.

About six months ago, we went on one of our frequent visits to the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park, one of favorites. One exhibit had wood carvings from Africa and Southeast Asia tribes, among others. There were a number of such works on exhibit with information attached including the estimated value. i pointed out to Maureen we could have displayed it in our home to show how connected we were with native artwork in many countries or we could have sold my hook-nosed buddy for about a thousand dollars.

She moaned and complained about me listening to hear and complying with her wishes to throw out the old hook nose.

As i roamed around the shop with Conrad Borman, the guy i was relieving as Current Operations Officer, i spotted the statue in the above photo. i gave him my camera and he took the shot. i could not resist placing my hand in a most inappropriate place.

i should have bought the statue instead of old hook nose. Maureen might have let me keep it but with no fondling allowed.

A Pocket of Resistance: Mount Miguel Morning

This morning as usual, i walked out to our driveway to retrieve the Sunday paper. Making the coffee and retrieving the paper while Maureen makes one of her wonderful (and healthy breakfasts, sometimes even including a sausage patty for me). Breakfast and newspaper reading has become our daily routine, interrupted only when i play early golf.

But when i looked up over my neighbor’s house across the street, Mount Miguel once again took my breath away. The photo below is not as clear as it could be because i took it quickly with my phone before the clouds rose or burned off. It doesn’t do the scene justice. Still, it is an awesome sight and encouraged me to post a poem that has been here before and included in my book: A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems.


Mount Miguel February Sunrise

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

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

Man’s antennae now reach skyward
on Mount Miguel’s peak,
silhouetted black against the rising orange orb,
before it slings 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 once 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.

A Pocket of Resistance: Captain J.C. Hayes



jc_hayesCaptain J. C. Hayes is someone i will never forget.

I met Captain Hayes in August 1980.

I had been high-lined from the USS Cayuga to the USS Belleau Wood as Amphibious Squadron Five was en route to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I had been serving as executive officer of the Cayuga for two months due to the standing XO having a breakdown (another story). When the new XO arrived, i returned to my job as the staff’s current operations officer (by high-line).

Captain Hayes had just relieved as commanding officer, and was senior to our commodore, Captain Jim McIntyre, an E2 pilot who preferred to be known by his aviation handle of “Silver Fox.” This seniority business made things, i later found out, a bit awkward.

After the high-line and settling back into my quarters, i made my official visit to the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Hayes, in the late afternoon. He was a big man. We hit it off. The captain was from Easley, South Carolina, which made it easier. I enjoyed our visit and decided i liked him. The surface line officers stuck together in the amphibious environment where many senior aviation officers went to get their major sea command tours for furthering their careers.

I later was told in World War II, Captain Hayes had been a coxswain of an LCM3 (5 generations earlier of the landing craft LCM8, which were the state of the art during my service). His ship was involved in the invasion of Okinawa. Captain Hayes, then a third or second-class boatswainmate, took supplies into shore after the beach head had been established. As the story goes, when he returned from his run, he could not locate his ship: Japanese gunnery or a Zero fighter had sunk it.

He also was in a underwater demolition unit (the origination of Navy SEALs) in the Pacific, was awarded a masters degree in nuclear physics from the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California, and was in Admiral Byrd’s command in the admiral’s last exploration of Antarctica.

He was legendary among surface sailors and had been known to go out on a bridge wing and cuss out the line handlers on the forecastle several hundred feet away. And they heard every word. He was an old school surface mariner, my kind of Naval officer.

After getting back on the Belleau Wood for the next couple of days, i was deeply involved with catching up on my duties. I had been on Cayuga for over two months. I saw little of anyone except at the morning message meetings with the staff.

After we entered Puget Sound and set sea detail for going into Esquimalt, the Canadian navy base, the staff assembled on the flag bridge directly below the ship’s bridge. As the Belleau Wood closed to the harbor entrance, we received an intercom message from the ship’s bridge. The boatswainmate of the watch told us the port master wanted to talk to the commodore on the bridge-to-bridge UHF radio, which was not on the flag bridge.

The Commodore was loath to leave his post and directed me to go up to the ship’s bridge and talk with the port personnel.

I climbed the ladder to the bridge, feeling a bit awkward. The port should be talking to the captain of the ship, not the commodore, and there was this aviation-surface tension, not to mention the reverse seniority awkwardness. As i arrived, Captain Hayes in his gravely booming voice directed his junior officer to give me the microphone to the bridge-to-bridge radio.

The port officer pointed out crosswinds had picked up significantly, the harbor entrance was narrow, especially for a ship such as a helicopter carrier, and the tight berth would be difficult for ship of such size with the wind to moor without some damage. He then asked if the commodore would agree to going to anchorage, a mile-long liberty boat transit for the liberty party.

Feeling proud of myself for my tact, i pointed out to the port officer the commodore was not in charge of the ship, but i would ask the commanding officer, Captain Hayes, what he thought was best.

“Thanks, Lieutenant Commander,” Hayes began, “Tell them i won’t enter the harbor and will go to the assigned anchorage.”

“Aye, sir,” i replied. Then hitting the transmit button on the bridge-to-bridge, i told the port officer, “Captain Hayes said he can’t get the ship to that berth in these conditions and will take the ship to the anchorage.”

Then i heard Captain Hayes in full force:


“Yes, sir,” i replied meekly. “I apologize,” quickly retreating down the ladder.

The ship went to anchorage. I went on liberty, caught a hydrofoil to Seattle, rented a car and picked up Blythe, my ten-year old daughter at the airport. She and i spent a day in Seattle, rode the hydrofoil back to Victoria, stayed in the Empress Hotel, one of my all time favorite places, took a ferry to Orcas Island where we stayed with my long-time college friend Cy Fraser, spending the night in sleeping bags on the small patio of his log cabin to wake up and watch the deer grazing between us and the rocky beach of Puget Sound about thirty feet away.

Blythe and i went back to Seattle where i put her on a plane back to Austin. It was one of the nicest weeks i have ever experienced, all because i was with Blythe.

And to this day, i feel a kinship and understanding with J.C. Hayes. He taught me the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.”

Captain Hayes retired in 1983 after 40 years of active duty. He returned to his home in South Carolina where he passed away last year.

Sleep well, you wonderful mariner.


A Pocket of Resistance: A Joke

Norm O’Neal, who was on my first ship, the U.S.S. Hawkins (DD 873), in 1968 -69, and i reconnected through Allen Ernst who was the Leading Petty Officer of the sonar gang in 3rd Division of which i was division officer. Allen passed away a couple of years ago, but Norm and i have maintained contact along with several other sailors on the “Hawk.” Unfortunately, i have not been able to meet with them at several get-togethers/reunions. Norm is a great joke teller and frequently emails them to me, a highlight of my day.

His latest just came in this afternoon, and it is just too funny not to share:

A Priest was leaving his mission in the jungle where he had spent years civilizing a tribe of natives, when he realizes that the one thing he never taught them was how to speak English.

So he takes the chief for a walk in the jungle.

He points to a tree and says to the chief, “This is a tree.” 

The chief looks at the tree and grunts,  “Tree.” 

The Priest is pleased with the response.
They walk a little further and he points to a rock and says, “This is a rock.” 

Hearing this, the chief looks and grunts, “Rock.” 

The Priest was getting enthusiastic about the results when he hears a rustling in the bushes.  As they peek over the top, he sees a couple of natives in the midst of very heavy sexual activity. 

The Priest is really flustered and quickly responds, “Man riding a bike.” 

The chief looks at the couple briefly, pulls out his blowgun and kills them both.

The Priest goes ballistic and yells at the chief, telling him that he has spent years teaching the tribe how to be civilized and to be kind to each other and now, how could you just kill these people in cold blood? 

The chief replied: “My bike.”

A Pocket of Resistance: Rain gear

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s raining in Southern California.

Compared to rain back home, this doesn’t count very much on the scoreboard. But you see, us folks in the Southwest corner just flat aren’t used to it, and neither is the land. The average annual rainfall out here is ten inches, and it’s been woefully short of that for several years. Drought is the operative word, at least for the last year or so.

But here comes El Niño.

Between yesterday and this evening, we’ve gotten drenched by our standards. Some parts of the county have had almost three inches of rainfall. Down here near the border, only just over an inch has fallen, but Bonita just got out of a flash flood warning, and there are number of streets flooded and several waterways threatening to overflow their banks. Areas of San Diego have had more flooding, especially in the streets. You would think not knowing being used to this much rain, the denizens would not get out very much and be very cautious. But oh no, not Southern Californians. i have gotten tired of watching cars with water past their wheel wells stuck, grounded, messed up. And i’m not talking about out of the way sideroads. i’m talking about major thoroughfares. The commute parking lots of the freeways are longer than normal by a bunch. It’s ten p.m. and i’m betting there are folks who haven’t gotten home from their nine-to-five job yet.

And we are projected to receive a total of over four inches this week.

Fortunately, we do live at the top of a hill and are pretty well protected from any serious problems. We have checked our drainage system and it’s working pretty well. But there is a lot of insanity below us.

i had things to do outside, so i put on my rain gear and was in the garage talking with Paul Shipley, our landscaper supremo when Maureen walked out. She doubled over in laughter when she saw me. She said she had to have picture of me because no one would believe this was the man she slept with.

She didn’t take the picture. So i thought i would help her. i’m not very good at this selfie thing, but this should give you an idea of what she was laughing about:

2016-01-05 16.54.12

i didn’t think it was THAT funny.

But she better get used to it because it looks like i’ll be in this get up frequently in the next several months.

A Pocket of Resistance: Rain and Skin Color

i used to love to run in the rain. i used to love to walk on the beach in the rain. Yesterday, i walked down a pier in the rain. i think i still would like to run in the rain and walk on a beach in the rain. But rain is also productive in my head, or at least, productive for me. i thought of about ten things to write about between yesterday morning’s rain and right now. There is supposed to be a gully washer this afternoon. My head might explode with ideas about what to write. Maybe, just maybe, i might go out and run in the rain. i know i won’t go down to the beach to walk in the rain: too much traffic. i suspect i will sit here and keep the fire going in the hearth and write. Maybe i’ll read some, or listen to music.

On New Year’s Day as we were leaving the golf course, Mary Ann Schoultz indicated she enjoyed my posts and encouraged me to keep on writing. i responded, “I don’ t think i could stop (writing). That is true, especially when it’s raining.

skin color


no green?
no purple?
no chartreus?
quite a while ago,
we had a close family friend
who was purple,
actually an ashy white
like a ghost
with purple overtones
white hair:
not white like they say my skin is white
white, real white.

she had some sickness,
a condition we called it,
solved with an old chemical remedy
which turned her ash white and purple:
scared the beejeezus out of me
when i was too young to say “hell” or “shit”
did so with my pals
never so my parents could hear.

she was a very nice old lady
i learned not to be scared.

now, i keep wondering
why we call me white,
those brown,
them yellow,
some red,
some black;

“people of color,” they say;
“we all is of color,” i say.
we all are different;
we all are the same;
we all have good folks;
we all have some bad apples:
apples are red,
violets are blue,
so is the sky,
so why do we do
the things we do
like label people
by color
by damn.