My day yesterday began early, as i like it, with a 4:30 rise; grinding the “Moto” Columbian coffee beans; setting coffee maker in motion; setting the breakfast table; and, as is required on Tuesday, yesterday, setting out the trash, yard waste, and recycle bins out by the curb for pick-up.
While the coffee was percolating, i did about half of the stretches and exercises i intend to do, par for the course. i checked my blood pressure, went through my email, Facebook posts, and re-prioritized my “to-do” list. In short, i was engaged with a routine i have come to enjoy. Then i sat down at the computer and began my most purposeful work of the day: creating a “Jibjab” card for my grandson. i did. i liked the final result…and then i hit a dark moment. Throughout the day, i have had thoughts up and down and here are a few:
Sam James Jewell Gander hit the nine-year mark yesterday. From all i know (which is not enough), he has a good start on having a successful and satisfying life. He has always been a joy to be around, and when Maureen and i sang “Happy Birthday” to him, i marveled at how grown-up he sounded. Bottom line assessment: he is going to turn out well, and there is not anything else that makes me feel better for him or his parents. Now, he is the core of my hopes and dreams.
Happy Birthday, Sam.
Here at home, my good thoughts go to my friends and my woman. i say mine, but she is hers and hers is a good one, one of the kindest, hardest working people i have ever met. She loves her roses. i told her last night after a round of golf with our friend Pete Toennies, “i love you, but i love your caring and the relationships you forge just as much.” i continued, “Two of the greatest things about our marriage is understanding and patience. Even though we are different in many ways, we seem to understand each other perfectly.” It is a balance i like, and her roses are wonderful. Every time she does a cutting and sets them in a vase on the kitchen table, i smile and think of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Our House:” my lighting the fire, her putting flowers in the vase, two cats in the yard (well, we have our two cats in the house, but our neighbor’s two cats have adopted our yard).
And then there’s darkness that creeps into my world of hopes and dreams and understanding, patience, and love.
i do not understand the hate, the need to be prejudice or superior pervading our world, especially Christians, who supposedly abide by the New Testament. i do not understand the need to judge others by our standards. i do not understand the fears we have. i am not a do-gooder. The sword sometimes needs to be wielded. i can do that if necessary. i am not politically correct, and i am ashamed we fight word wars. i do not understand why many view the past as some place we should find entitlements. It seems to me our answers do not lie in laws and regulations, especially with the ego centric yahoos who are making and enforcing such laws and regulations (both sides, dammit).
Such lack of understanding has been with me for a long time and created my “pocket of resistance.” One of my hopes is we will get better at trying to understand… for Sam.
In 1997 on a dark night, i sat down and wrote this:
i do not know why
to talk to them and
they do not listen
have something else to face:
they love it and
do not listen:
i have given up on form and substance;
even logic does not penetrate
the gelatin mass of hyperlife we claim as real
sure as the spume of the pacific will flay the sand
the dog who frolicks there will die
it is much simpler than all of that.
the answer is really quite simple;
if only i knew it.
And then, this morning as i prepared to go on my first kayak outing with Luis, our neighbor, i thought of Sam, Sarah, Blythe, Jason, and of course, Maureen. i thought of my brother and sister and their children and grandchildren.
As frequently happens, i wake up in the middle of the night because i am old and “doing my business,” as my mother used to call it, precludes sleeping through until morning. Also though less frequently, i go back to bed but cannot sleep because thoughts start bouncing around, uncontrolled, in my head. Often, these thoughts seem to me to be worthy of writing about. Some i ignore because i want to go back to sleep. Others just refuse to be ignored because i know they are worth recording. Around four this morning, such a sequence occurred, and i arose, went to my home office, and began pounding at the keyboard. This is my initial shot at honoring someone whom i admire very much. i have thought of adding the event where my father-in-law at the time, Col. Jimmy Lynch, and i rode out to the farm and used Joe Haynes pickup to load the the farm’s outhouse FDR’s CCC built in the 1930’s. We took the outhouse back to the colonel’s home, where he refurbished it, replaced the one-hole bench with a boat port-a-potty, and used for the bathroom for his garage poolroom, recreation area and workshop. But it has been a long day already..maybe later, or maybe another poem.
big Joe Haynes and his sailor boy
well, he wasn’t a mariner yet:
the seeds had been planted,
but for now,
he was more like full steam ahead,
a trackless locomotive leaving the sea behind
to head pell mell to wherever it would take him
even though he thought he had it mapped out
at the time;
big Joe Haynes called him sailor boy
for he had been at sea for three years
when they met,
but he was not a mariner yet; no, not a mariner yet,
so big Joe Haynes calling him sailor boy was just fine.
big Joe Haynes and sailor boy met in the northeast corner of texas,
in the middle of the night,
the sailor boy coming from a land
far west enough to be called east,
with Joe Haynes’ granddaughter of a sort;
big Joe Haynes with his bride Nanny Kat
drowsily hugged his granddaughter of a sort
escorting her to the other bedroom
before showing sailor boy
to the screened-in porch added to the side of the house
where a day bed, down mattress; soft white sheets
with the smell of drying on the line
in the sun freshened air of the northeast corner of texas
awaited sailor boy and the old english sheepdog pup
sailor boy and granddaughter of a sort
had picked up along the way from the land far away;
it was a good night for sailor boy after he and the pup
snuggled under the sun-dried sheets and quilts piled high,
falling to sleep together until the sun,
the self-same sun that gave those sheets their fresh smell,
doused the screened-in porch with morning sun rise
to let sailor boy know it was time for
the pup to be let outside to do her business.
the first morning, they ate breakfast
in the white wood spacious farmhouse kitchen,
beginning with Nanny Kat’s tomato juice
she canned from the tomatoes in the
garden just outside the back door;
eggs and bacon, of course, all from the farm
in the northeast corner of texas;
afterward, sailor boy and Joe Haynes granddaughter of a sort
wandered the farm,
the pastures where the fuzz ball of a pup and the cattle
eyed each other tentatively, cautiously, curiously;
then in the afternoon, big Joe Haynes,
announced he needed to buy some beer,
which entailed crossing the red river bridge
just up the road into oklahoma
where the liquor stores and the honky tonks
lined both sides of the highway at the foot of the bridge
on the oklahoma side, of course,
for the whole northeast corner of texas was dry, dry, dry
at the time
so northeast corner texans crossed the red river
to get their booze and visit honky tonks
like big Joe Haynes with sailor boy riding shotgun
crossed the red river
to stop at a honky tonk where Joe Haynes was famous,
or at least well known,
for he was a jocular big man, bigger than life and loving it,
claiming to be the mayor of razor, texas, population four;
the barmaid joshed with big Joe Haynes
while he and sailor boy had a beer or two
before buying the case and heading back
over the red river bridge into the northeast corner of texas
where the two told tales while drinking the case of beer into the late night;
the next morning, big Joe Haynes gently aroused his granddaughter of a sort,
proclaiming, “that sailor boy can sure drink beer.”
several years later, sailor boy returned
to the farm in the northeast corner of texas
where he and big Joe Haynes climbed into the pickup again –
the late 1950’s pickup, a ford, being big Joe Haynes’ other home
with faded grey paint and dirt and dust from farm work,
tools and broken parts of old tools,
with the bench seat with holes in the upholstery,
the back of which serving as the depository for big Joe Haynes’
bottle of vodka, which big Joe Haynes would retrieve,
casting his right arm behind the bench seat from his driver’s position,
holding the bottle against the steering wheel to unscrew the cap
before taking a full-throated swig, recapping the bottle,
returning it to his secret stash;
big Joe Haynes and sailor boy bounced across the fields
of the farm in the northeast corner of texas
to a pond
where big Joe Haynes pulled out an ten-foot long, four-foot high seine
so sailor boy could take one end and wade into the pond
while big Joe Haynes, handling the other end of the seine
directed sailor boy in sweeping arcs, waist deep in the pond
until the pond was clear of the crappie big Joe Haynes had stocked there
so the pond could be drained later
after sailor boy and big Joe Haynes returned to the farmhouse
swigging vodka as they bounced over the fields in the old pickup
before sitting on the front porch and drinking beer,
proud of their conquest;
years later, sailor boy came again after
big Joe Haynes and Nanny Kat sold the farm
because it was getting too much to handle as they grew older
big Joe Haynes did not have his farm anymore
with the cattle and hogs, vegetable garden, ponds
so he didn’t do much but sleep in the big bed in the front room
of the small house in town.
sailor boy thought big Joe Haynes,
with nothing to do since his farm was gone,
had earned the right to sleep whenever he damn well pleased.
Wednesday morning began well: good exercise, stretching; a bunch of small chores, some solutions to some home tasks, a wonderful Maureen breakfast. Through it all, i listened to an LP.
i have resumed listening to LPs, delaying again my six-month old project to turn them all to digital, courtesy of the new magic turntable i got in October.
But today was special. i picked out Judy Collins #3 album. i forget how much i loved to listen to Judy Collins during transits between Korea and Vietnam in 1970. She and Nina Simone are two of my favorite all-time singers. Thinking about it, i sort of came up with Judy and Nina putting social injustice in the limelight. Somehow, Judy’s songs resonated with me more than Joan Baez.
i wondered if my two daughters have listened to Ms Collins. Blythe, when staying with me went through most, if not all of my record albums, but i don’t know if Judy caught her attention. i’m not sure if Sarah listened to any of my four Judy Collins’ albums.
On this album, Judy sings my favorite version of “Deportee,” written by Woodie Guthrie and also sung by Joan Baez and Willy Nelson. i also prefer Judy’s version of Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” better than Pete’s or the much better known version from the Byrds.
And then in 1979, her rendition of “Send in the Clowns,” was always included in “Baby’s” repertoire in the Subic Officer’s Club (Subic Bay, Philippines Naval Base) dining room evening show. “Baby” was a large Filipino with an incredible voice. She could cover almost any singer’s great songs. But the show stopper was “Send in the Clowns.” Stephen Sondheim wrote the song for his musical “A Little Night Music.” Sinatra and Collins took it to huge popularity. Judy did it best, and it’s included on her “Judith” album, which i bought primarily because “Send in the Clowns” was included.
But in 1979, LCDR Mike Peck, LT Pete Toennies, LTJG OW Wright (then later Al Pavich replaced OW), and yours truly, after a couple too many of “Le Bomb Bombs (a killer drink we discovered from the bar at the Peninsula Club in Singapore), would get up from our almost nightly dinner at the O’ Club, and wait. Then when Baby would reach the point in the song when the title is sung, the four of us would prance across the dance floor in a what was likely a ghastly semblance to a line dance.
Funny how a good morning start, and an old LP can make my day.
Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, April 19, 2016.
BONITA, CA – At my age, memories can pop into my head at unexpected moments.
One of my greatest regrets is not taking the time and effort to keep a journal. During the 1964-65 school year while I was working for Fred Russell at the Nashville Banner sports department and living with four Vanderbilt fraternity brothers in an large old house near the campus, I told my friend Cy Fraser apparently my role in life was to record what was going on around me. But I was not disciplined enough to record it all.
I never really connected with any celebrities. I had brushes with a few, mostly through my daughter Blythe. Almost three, she hugged Rod Serling’s leg (creator of “The Twilight Zone”) in the Los Angeles airport baggage claim. Later in the same airport Kathryn Crosby spotted Blythe as she and Bing were deplaning and we were boarding. Kathryn came over, picked Blythe up, gave her a hug, and declared to Bing, “Isn’t she the sweetest thing?”
But me? Nope.
I did have some dealings with one of the most famous Naval officers: Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy who served longer, 63 years, as an active duty officer than anyone in Navy history, retiring as a four-star admiral.
He was also known to be eccentric. I can attest to that.
As the senior Naval officer in the NROTC Unit at Texas A&M and teaching four Navy courses, which designated me as an associate professor (yes, I still chuckle). In 1978, our submarine lieutenant billet was gapped, and I assumed the duties as the nuclear power officer (I laugh at that as well). In that role, I assisted midshipmen in getting accepted to the Navy’s nuclear power program.
I learned all I could about the acceptance process, which always culminated with a pass or fail interview with Admiral Rickover. I had heard many tales about Rickover, his inspections of his nuclear powered submarine fleet, and his interviews. I read about his research, his relationship with the Navy hierarchy and congress.
One of my favorite finds was a Rickover response about flag officers. The House Armed Services Committee was questioning the admiral on nuclear power and the military. A representative asked him if Rickover had the authority how would he make the Pentagon more effective.
Rickover responded, “I would take half of the flag officers (admirals and generals) and give them each an office in the “D-Ring” (the outside ring of the Pentagon). Then I would give them each a pad of paper and let them write memos to the other flag officers in the D-Ring, with their memos not ever going beyond that area.
“Then the other half would go about taking care of Navy business.”
Yet I could not find a trend in Rickover’s interview questions or applicants’ answers to help Aggie applicants gain Rickover’s approval.
There was the NROTC midshipman who Rickover directed to “make him mad.” The Middy looked at Rickover’s huge desk with many valuable items representing the admirals’ many accomplishments and awards. The interviewee reached over with his arm and swept all of the desk contents to the floor.
He was accepted.
One of my favorite stories gave me a clue as to what Rickover would not accept came from a Naval Academy applicant.
As the young man stood before the desk, Rickover looked through his files, “I see you are engaged.”
“Yes, sir,” the midshipman replied.
Apparently changing topics, Rickover then asked, “How much do you want to be in my nuclear program?”
“More than anything in the world,” the midshipman replied.
The admiral pushed the phone on his desk toward the midshipman and said, “If you want to be in my program, call your fiancé and tell her the engagement if off.”
The midshipmen mulled over his options, then called his love, and cancelled the engagement.
Rickover then looked at the applicant and said, “I wouldn’t have a weasel like you in my program; get out of here.”
His methods were strange, but they seemed to work. Navy nuclear power has not had a nuclear power related accident since the U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN 571) was commissioned in 1954.
I have reached my word limit. My interface I (from long distance) with Rickover will continue next week.
This came from an email to me from my USS Hawkins shipmate, Norm O’Neal. As i began to read, i kept thinking about how Ray Boggs would have loved this. Ray, my father-in-law and one of my best friends ever, was a dyed in the wool through and through engineer. But there aren’t many who have had a better sense of humor, and i don’t know many people who could laugh at himself as well as Ray. i hope you either remember him while reading this or admire him if you never, unfortunately, knew him.
I apologize for the spacing, but i didn’t want to screw with the formatting and take another half-hour to post this.
Ray would understand.
Understanding Engineers #1
Two engineering students were biking across a university campus when one said, “Where did you get such a great bike?”
The second engineer replied, “Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike,threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, “Take what you want.” So I took the bike.
i hope you don’t mind, Writer’s Almanac, for my re-posting this on my website, but although i find Joyce incredible, Beckett mesmerizes me when i read his stuff, and in this excerpt from your daily email today, i found Beckett’s thoughts (in green lettering below) personal, as though he had written those words for me.
It’s the birthday of Samuel Beckett (books by this author), born in Foxrock, Ireland, a Dublin suburb (1906). He studied French literature in college and then went to Paris, where he met James Joyce, who by that time was almost blind and working on Finnegans Wake. Beckett became his assistant. He read books to Joyce, took dictation, and walked with him around Paris. He idolized Joyce so much that he began to smoke like Joyce and walk like Joyce. He tried to write in Joyce’s meandering style, but Beckett said, “I realized that my own way was in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding.”
Beckett eventually found his own voice and wrote many novels and plays, including his most famous, Waiting for Godot (1952). In 1969, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He wrote, “Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Beckett wrote, “My mistakes are my life.”
And, “We are all born mad. Some remain so.”
And, “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”
He also said, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”
There’s this incredible little corner of the city and the world in the Southwest corner.
India Street winds from downtown San Diego where it is the hub of what was the Italian fishing community and is now old Italian and haute cuisine eateries alongside new high rise condos. India Street parallels Interstate 5 north pass the airport until it dead ends into Washington Street.
i can feel the city history’s on this journey, even wondering what it was like when Richard Henry Dana traveled a similar route in 1732-34 (San Diego was a major part of Dana’s great book, Two Years Before the Mast). But i travel to the little corner at the end of India Street because i like to eat good food.
Perhaps our favorite dining in San Diego is at the Wine Vault and Bistro, an upstairs wonder in atmosphere and incredible pre fixe paired wine menus. The food, the wine, and the atmosphere just can’t be beat in our estimation. El Indio is one of the best known border Mexican restaurants. Many of the diners order and then take their meal across the street to a concrete picnic area.
Next to the Wine Vault is Shakespeare’s, a no-kidding English pub. Great British fare and i’ve never had anything but Guinness draught there, not even a “black and tan” (Guinness and Harp for the Irish version, Guinness and Bass Ale as the one i know best).
Close by is Saffron. Maureen claims it is the best Thai restaurant in San Diego, and i can’t argue with that. On the corner is Gelato Vero Caffe, which offers possibly the best gelato in the world.
Turning toward the bay on Washington and passing under the interstate is 57 Degrees. It’s a wine and beer tasting place with incredible appetizers, with an expansive array of wines from all over the world, over 100 bottled beers, and all twenty-eight San Diego craft breweries on tap.
Before the drive gets to all of this eating stuff, the roadside businesses hide a very informal, small, and casual place called Blue Water. For several years, we ignored it after it was established in 2006. But once Maureen just dropped in to check it out, it’s become one of our most frequented spots for fresh seafood.
We stopped for lunch today. There are all sorts of wonderful tacos, sandwiches, and full meals, but it is damn near impossible for me to not order their mussels. Today’s special was “bourbon, butter, jalapeño, and lime mussels and clams.”
Just about perfect.
About a year ago, my niece, Dr. Kate Jewell Hanson, commented to Maureen and me that her father, my younger brother Joe, was a “putterer.” i applauded her assessment, but questioned the accuracy.
From what i’ve observed, Joe’s puttering is like painting their entire house in Queechee, Vermont. It seems like every time i call him, he’s doing a major putter.
i, on the other hand, am a piddler, not a putterer (except on the golf course where i am not a very good putterer but do it a lot more than i should, or is that a “puttee”?), i have become more of a piddler, as our mother would have said, after stopping real work when i left Pacific Tugboat Services almost two years ago. i keep coming up with all of these magnificent ideas of incredible home improvements, which quickly become a bunch of tasks that need to be done before getting to the real one…and only one or two actually getting done.
Then, of course, i go way, way off track. Example: we have been working toward reducing all of the crap we have in our makeshift garage attic, made by my father and me with some old scrap plywood and discarded closet doors. A major part of that hoard upstairs is artwork that has been replaced in the house throughout the years. i like nearly all of that. So rather than giving it away, i looked for other options.
Since the first house Maureen and i have owned, i have had an office. This was primarily because i have always wanted to be a writer, and i have a rather ridiculous amount of books. The current home office is one of my favorite places on earth.
So what do i do with the artwork. i have made a second office in my garage workspace, the third car port in our three-car garage. i have kept a lot of my father-in-law Ray Boggs’ garage workshop pieces and tools. i have my own workshop and yard tools. Now i have a desk my father made for Sarah and the wall is now covered with artwork and photos of Blythe, Sarah, and grandson Sam.
After this bit of piddling, i decided to get organized, as in eternally not getting there. My sister Martha, brother Joe, and the goofy guy gathered at Martha’s home on Signal Mountain a little over a year ago to select photos from our parents, Aunt Bettye Kate Hall, and our grandparents for a digital keepsake Martha is scanning.
Both Blythe and Sarah had requested to have their grandparents’ photos not used in the project. So what we did not put in the project Martha, Joe, and i began, i took to Austin. But there was not enough time to adequately distribute them, so i brought them back to the Southwest corner. Added to that is a rather incredible amount of paperwork saved for books not written. i realized when going through the paperwork nearly all of the Navy related documents included my SSN, which must be redacted before tossing, or shredded.
So i made the shelves, found most of the stuff in a myriad of storage places and collected them. The intent is to go through them, keep the actual photo or paper if it might mean something to daughters or other family members, record them digitally, and shred or otherwise dispose of what i don’t keep.
i figure if i continue at the current pace, this will take me about forty-seven years, nine months, and seven days, or my one hundred and twentieth birthday.
But my garage is becoming my getaway place. i have an old computer speaker system, to which i hook up my iPod, which has 4700 songs on it from my 45’s, some LPs, and CD’s. i plan to add my cassettes and the rest of the LP’s and maybe even a couple of boxes of reel-to-reel’s up in the garage attic, which will more than double the current music list. This task will take about as long as the sorting project.
For now, i put the iPod on “shuffle,” sit at my (Sarah’s) desk, look at photos of my loved ones and some cherished artwork, write some stuff, play solitaire, read, or just sit and listen to Jimmy Reed, Ella, Frank, Dvorak, Handel, Jimmy Smith, Nina, and many others.
While listening, i think life ain’t bad. There have been a bunch of hiccups, and there are still some things that need to be fixed (besides the unending list of projects). Even with the hiccups, i’ve had a pretty good life, and no, it ain’t bad. It ain’t bad.
Today, Raymond V. Murphey on the Castle Heights Facebook page, posted the following:
Does anybody remember the command you call to order the platoon to turn into it’s self? Been trying to remember for sometime. Kinda like, to the rear march, but not…
As Richard Zack, Jr. informed us, “Counter column” was the correct answer. Raymond was thankful for helping him remember.
Several other responses followed.
Gary Moor: “Moor, get your head out …”
Cliff Kyle expanded the exact command to “Counter column march.”
Amy Beth Hale: “Oh, I was going to say column right. Well, I was close.”
The question and the responses brought back many memories. Army (J) ROTC drill was an amazing thing to me. At Castle Heights, we all took pride in doing it well, and we all claimed we hated it. There were some amazingly great lessons in the time we spent on the drill field.
And there were some humorous moments also. i vividly recall when the football team came to practice after a rare drill session at the beginning of the 1958 school year. Snookie Hughes and Gordon “Happy Harper,” two post graduates from Carthage who were recruited for the football team were in Company C when the drill was held.
The squad leader had been giving instruction on how you should never execute a right face when at right shoulder arms. Snookie and Happy were at the head of the squad line. After the instruction session, the squad leader put the squad through several right, left, and about face commands. Then he ordered right shoulder arms. Happy, unused to such drill, hoisted his M1 and held it parallel to the ground, rather than at a 45-degree angle on his shoulder. The squad leader to test his boys ordered “Right face.”
Everyone properly did not execute the order…except for Happy. He turned quickly and whacked Snookie in the back of the head. The tellers of this tale said it knocked Snookie out. i cannot verify that.
My response to Raymond and the responses:
Are you kidding? The Navy got all of that kind of knowledge out of me. In 1974 when discussing the change of command ceremony to be conducted on the USS Hollister in Long Beach, the outgoing captain, XO, and department heads considered what the options were when it rained.
Our dilbert weapons officer suggested that we move the ceremony from the 01 deck (with attendees in folding chairs on the pier) to the reserve armory about 3/4 of a mile away. The captain asked how were we going to get the crew there.
The weapons officer replied, “We’ll march the crew there, sir.”
At that, the captain, the XO, the Ops officer, and yours truly, the chief engineer fell out of our chairs laughing at such a debacle.
The discussion reminded me of a story from one of my best golfing buddies, Marty Linville. Marty, an Army major who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions as an artillery officer in Viet Nam, was stationed at the Naval Amphibious School primarily as the director of the Navy’s gunfire support range on San Clemente Island.
During a rare command personnel inspection, Marty was in charge of the gunfire support personnel. He was having them take position for the inspection as was about to give them the command “dress right, dress,” but had second thoughts. He called his master chief petty officer to the front to consult.
“Master Chief, what should I expect if i order the troops to “dress right dress?”
Without hesitation, the master chief replied, “Chaos, sir; absolute chaos.”
So Raymond, i don’t think my answer has any credibility.