For those readers who might not approve of profanity, or “swearing” as my mother used to call it, you might wish to pass on this post as the “F…” word is critical to the story. (this italicized section will have the green font color once i figure out where my “color” icon went or someone smarter than me, like Walker Hicks, shows me how to change the font color)
My last tour in the Navy, based out of the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado, was as the Director of Leadership and Management for the West Coast and Pacific Rim, and also the director of Command Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO) for the same areas. This position was supposed to be the executive officer facilitator for the Prospective Commanding Officer/Executive Officer Leadership and Management one-week course, but morphed into the two-day Command Excellence Seminar. After eight months of facilitating the course with Captain Dave Carey, i took the lead when he retired. For over three years with CDR Larry Phillips, then CDR Raul Vazquez, and several others, i conducted a minimum of two of these seminars, sometimes as many as four, every month for senior Naval officers and a bunch of other government managers.
When i retired, i eventually got into leadership, organization development, and team building consulting. From my four months in Navy OCS (September 1967 — February 2, 1968 until i quit writing my “Minding Your Own Business” about three years ago, i have had this constant consideration of leadership.
There is one constant in leadership. As Dave Carey called it: “Followership.” And sometimes, it can get bollixed up. All folks in leadership positions are not necessarily effective leaders. Case in point (true story as well as a sea story; the identities are kept anonymous here to avoid someone’s embarrassment).
A destroyer type ship was concluding an eight-month overhaul in a Naval shipyard in a big city. A Naval Academy graduate, by then a lieutenant was Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. He had invited his fiancé and her parents aboard the ship to show them his work place. He had taken them through the sonar suite, the bridge, the ASROC missile launching area and concluded by taking them to the Mark 32 torpedo tubes on the starboard side. His second-class torpedoman in his dungarees was leaning against the bulhead with his white “dixie cup” cover tilted over his eyes.
As the prospective in-laws and young woman arrived, the lieutenant proudly pointed out, “And here are my torpedo tubes.”
The second class petty officer shrugged, tipped his hat to the back of his head, and pointedly disagreed, “Excuse me, sir, but those are MY fucking torpedo tubes.”
What is now a long time ago but in the overall perspective of my life and what i’ve done, a recent event, i tried to name my fledgling and never quite successful financially business consulting business “FMG.”
The letters stood for “Friday Morning Golf.”
The business “fictitious name” name was already taken, but FMG remains part of my weekly ritual.
For those who might not have had me relate this story, FMG began in the early part of 1991.
There were three officers, two Navy commanders and an Army major stationed at the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado for our twilight tours, who played golf together every weekend. It was often difficult and frustrating to get tee times on the four Navy courses (at the time, Sea ‘n Air at Naval Air Station, North Island, Admiral Baker North and South, and the Navy, Marine Memorial course at Naval Air Station, Miramar. The reason was a large number of military retirees would play on the weekends, the only time the active duty could play.
So the three of us, Rod Stark, Marty Linville, and i vowed, once retired to not play military courses on weekends except for tournaments so active duty personnel would have less competition for tee times on weekends. We have kept to that vow.
After retirement, Rod became the club pro at the North Course in Sun City, California; Marty went to work as an expert in human/weapons system interface for a military consulting business, and i, with our younger daughter Sarah being born on the day i retired, became mister mom. Marty and i would occasionally get a round in together, and during one of those in early 1991, we came to agreement on playing on Fridays. Marty was working a four-day, ten-hour schedule, and i, of course, as mister mom, could have Maureen take two-year old Sarah to a day-care, (the wonderful Karen Escobedo) for the morning.
The two of us have been playing Friday morning golf at military courses, mostly North Island, since then for twenty-five years. Rod rejoined us in the mid-1990’s. We’ve had others join us, as many as three foursomes a while ago. Now we have a base group of the three of us, Pete Toennies, Bob Shoultz, Mark Shults, Jeff Middlebrook, and Ed Hebert. When Al Pavich recovers from some medical issues, he will rejoin us. Jim Hileman is an occasional addition, and often we bring guests. We nearly always have two groups playing.
Our rounds are most frequently at North Island, which i have described before.
But today, it just seemed so perfect. Yes, i had a good round for me, but the joy of walking about five miles along the coast with friends validated my belief of my being a very lucky man.
Some views, again from a very limited skilled photographer:
The gray shapes at the very top o f this pine are two young ospreys learning to fly. The mother, much larger was in a nearby tree. The trees are next the second tee. A male an female osprey used to nest at the top of a light standard behind the fourth tee, but it was torn down to make way for a new enlisted quarters complex. We think (hope) this is the same family repeating the spring ritual again of having two new additions each year.
The pond guarding the second green is a favorite for ducks and the pretty much worthless coots (who destroy the grass around the ponds and litter the greens with coot poop). This family of eight ducklings were unafraid as we walked to the third tee box.
Perhaps that was because mom and dad were about five feet away.
A view from the fifth green. The original nine, now the front nine, but greatly altered, was created in 1975, mostly constructed by Seabees. The view is looking at the driving range on the left, an aircraft parts supply complex in the background, and golfers on the first fairway.
And finally from the fifteenth tee, a sight i always enjoy which sometimes makes me nostalgic is the magnificent Point Loma and the channel entrance into San Diego Bay. Not visible here, but on the horizon, is a flat top (aka aircraft carrier) steaming south to reach buoy #1 and begin its transit down the channel to its pier.
i cannot play here without thinking of how many men and women are away from home port on seas far away and foreign lands in harms way. It makes me feel good to remember i was once one of those who defended our freedom.
One of the pure joys of living in the Southwest corner comes around this time of year every year.
You don’t have to do anything to enjoy it but drive around or walk around. It’s a tree in bloom native to tropical and subtropical regions of South American and Caribbean countries and widely planted in Asia according to Wikipedia. But they are here, in abundance. They are called Jacaranda. Here’s a few i enjoyed in the past week (unfortunately, my rather inadequate photo skills cannot capture their full glory):
Having seen my two dozen or so rather spectacular and unspectacular immersions on our last kayak adventure (and perhaps because he learned my real age), Luis still called me last night and invited me to another kayaking adventure early this morning.
You see, he had a new strategy. The more sedate and more stable orange kayak was a two-seater, and he thought that might be a better way to approach my entry into the sport.
We loaded up the kayak and headed out just after 6:00 a.m. It was overcast. The “May Gray” of San Diego has established itself with a vengeance: cool overcast from the marine layer until mid-morning, perfect weather for about four to six hours, and the marine layer rolling back in the late afternoon into Southwest corner perfect weather. But if you have lived here long enough, this is fine. In fact, we enjoy the seaport weather.
It also provides a blanket to retain the heat during the night, and the temperature was over 60 degrees when we parked on the beach, and loaded up. i sat in the front seat with Luis joining me in the after position. His strategy worked. Although i was a bit apprehensive after my last splash fest, after a few strokes, i was comfortable. We rowed for probably slightly less than an hour. It was…well, refreshing. Luis and i talked, comparing my life growing up in Tennessee and his in Mexico. At times, i felt i had gotten a bit awkward and knew i was working some muscles that had not been addressed in quite a while, nothing unpleasant.
Afterwards as we had done on the first, jewell-water-logged outing, we sat at the nearby picnic table, Luis hauled out a small cooler and his bunsen burner contraption. He proceeded to make excellent breakfast sandwiches of a wonderful bun, ham, Mexican cheese (i must get the name from him later), avocado, and chipotle sauce. Our bottles of water were supplemented when one of Luis’ frequent kayak partners from Vera Cruz (i must get his name from Luis because i am old and forgotten already) brought him two bottles of mezcal. We did some taste testing of one as Luis explained the differences between mezcal and tequila: vivé la difference (Maureen is asleep and unavailable to check my French).
It was an entirely pleasurable experience, and on the way home, i vowed to work on balance so on future outings, if Luis invites me again, i might advance to the Starfighter stage.
Other than enjoying Luis’ company and our exchanges of who we were and where we came from, the experience in itself was satisfactory. Otay Lake reminded me of Old Hickory, Center Hill, and Watts Bar Lakes back home where i fished with my father and many others, and waterskied with Henry and Jim (Beatle) Harding’s family and my own family. The quietness as we glided around the lake reminded me of solo fishing moments on Spring Creek when i would put our fishing boat in at the Sportsman’s Club ramp off of Denny Road in the early, early morning, and plug the banks, mostly unsuccessfully, for a couple of hours. Bliss it was then, and pretty damn close on Otay Lake. This lake is formed by a dam of the Otay River, which eventually ends up feeding into San Diego Bay. The vista at the boat dock area reminds me of the old Sligo dock on Center Hill where we would often put in to night fish for striped bass. The high desert rolling hills, well on their way to turning summer brown, remind me i’m not back home.
Then, there is this aberration we came upon while kayaking. Anchored in the middle of the lake is a small barge with rectangular building protruding from the deck. i wondered what it was until we rowed close enough for me to see the “men” and “women” signs. It was a public restroom in the middle of the lake. i’ve been the environmental regulation guy at Pacific Tugboat and aware of the many pluses and equal number of absurdities with our environmental programs. But a toilet in the middle of the lake was dumbfounding to me. i mean, there are fish, turtles, birds, snakes, and lord knows what else crapping and peeing in that lake, many after gorging on trash can trash immediately before their lake dump (so to speak). Yet humans must stop and use a port-a-potty in the middle of the lake. Sometimes i think we think too much. i know i do.
But i’m still looking forward to our next kayak outing. At least, i’ll know when i take my headers into the lake waters, it will be void of human waste…at least, if people actually use that weird thing.
I am not fond of any government-anointed day to honor or celebrate something other than Independence Day. To me, such “official” days obligate me to be part of the crowd and limits my ability to do things at my chosen time my way to honor the mothers in my life, laborers, veterans, etc. Even worse, when i receive such praise and affection, i wonder if it was heartfelt or driven by the requirements of the lemmings for dads, veterans, etc.
The worst, as Blythe has pointed out until she had to make the cards for Sam’s school celebration, is Valentine’s Day. What a commercial windfall for card makers, jewelers, and candy producers. And then, there’s Halloween…
But hey, people have fun and enjoy it, so what the heck. After all, even a curmudgeon like me can play the game.
So here’s to the mothers in my life, and there are a number of them:
The current generation of moms in our family is rather spectacular. Blythe is a beautiful Mom. Kate and Abby are tremendous moms. The Prichard moms continue to be amazing. The Jewell moms also are super. Their love, caring, and parenting promises a grunch of good people in this world to be and gives me hope.
Then in my generation, Blythe’s mom’s greatest strength is her love for her daughter and grandson. My sister Martha and sister-in-law Carla are great examples of great moms and it is beautiful to watch them with their grandchildren.
And then, of course, there is Maureen. i will save most of my praise of her for our private, quiet celebration today. But she is the glue that holds us together, and her love for Sarah, Blythe, Jason, and Sam cannot be overstated.
It began, at least in what history i have available, with the previous two generations.
i shall not address how wonderful my mother was as a mom – we never, ever called her “Mom.” She was always “Mother” or “Grandma.” Even though she has been gone a week shy of two years, it is too emotional for me to write of her even now.
Mother, her sisters, and our grandmother were the seeds of all this. Even Aunt Bettye Kate Hall, who never had her own children, was seen as the second mother to all of us.
My father’s mother, “Mama” Jewell is one of my sweetest memories. I was seven years old when she left us, but i still remember her love.
Then there was Granny, simply an amazing, amazing woman: four children, full-time caregiver, taking care of her father as well as her children; then all of the eleven grandchildren, then “housemother” to a mass of Castle Heights junior (elementary) school boarders.
To commemorate all of them, i include a piece i wrote about the Prichard mothers almost ten years ago. They all are gone now but not forgotten; never forgotten.
Ode to Three Sisters and Their Mother
The old lady came busting out of the old century;
where she had been
an exquisite china doll of immeasurable beauty;
young men chased her
to allowable limits in the Victorian South
after we turned from reconstruction
while Teddy was roustabouting with Spain
in that little skirmish we often forget.
Remember the Maine.
But Granny came busting out;
fire in her belly, grit in her craw, pluck in her spirit, gleam in her eye;
with the handsome man who won the chase,
taking her and his bloodhounds
to the retired circuit rider’s farm out on the pike
where Granny’s circuit rider father would
preach occasionally without the horse or mule
in the hamlet of Lebanon,
smack dab in the middle of Tennessee,
Where some bright folks built the square
over a cold water spring
they discovered in “Town Creek”
in yet an earlier century.
…and the children would come around wartime,
dropping among the years of the first big one
we resisted until the Luisitania took its hit and sank like a rock;
…and the children came,
five in all until one died
as young family members often did
in those pre-antibiotic days.
The handsome blood hound man who chased
criminals through the woods
took his own hit,
a decade after the war.
So the little maelstrom with grit in her craw
packed up the chillun’s and the belongings
making the trek to the groves
of central Florida
for a couple of years to
escape the sinking of the hound man
and the attendant feelings thereof.
In thirty-two, they came back home,
each with some grit in their craw.
Granny, the queen of grit,
went to work,
taking care of those who needed care
outside the family in order
to take care of her own.
…and the children grew up early,
cooking the meals, washing the clothes, cleaning the house,
gathering eggs, milking the cows, pulling the weeds;
before playing ball,\
earning money until
they went to college in the little town,
or went to work,
The second big war came, again
in a wave of terror,
This time in an atoll’s pristine harbor,
taking hits, sinking to the shallow harbor depths.
Remember the Arizona. The brother went off to war after marrying
a woman of another religion from down the road,
west a bit, in the big city.
He flew a plane named after his lady Colleen,
returning to the Tennessee hamlet, still
with fire in his belly, grit in his craw, pluck in spirit, gleam in his eye
before leaving for the orange groved paradise
he found on the southern trek several years before.
The preacher man was gone;
The hound man was gone;
The brother was gone;
The three sisters and their mother,
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes,
with their three new men
stared at the world,
staring it down straight in the eye,
wearing it down with their labor
until the world cried “uncle,”
admiring their fire and grit and pluck.
There were circles entwined with circles of family;
the circles orbited around the threes sisters and their mother:
all was well.
…and the world rolled on;
Granny finally gave up her pluckish ghost with grit in her craw;
no longer would she braid the waist long hair,
tying the braids atop her head
as she had done for so many years;
the three sisters rallied with
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes.
The grandchildren of the matriarch
spread with the four winds, remembering.
When the circles got together,
the three sisters remained the constant,
demanding the world stay in their orbit,
and the world was warm with laughter and love and
a sense the world was safe
as long as they all inherited
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit; gleam in their eyes.
The world is older;
Granny is gone;
the youngest sister recently joining her,
the oldest failing fast:
The three sisters leaving us slowly with
the fire waning to embers, but still there is
grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes;
staring down the world.
As we get older, Maureen and i are finding comfort in establishing routines that please us.
One such routine(on days i’m not leaving early for golf), is breakfast. i get up early, put on the coffee, set the breakfast table, retrieve the newspaper (The San Diego Union-Tribune)) from the driveway, perform my morning stretches and exercises, check the computer for breaking Facebook posts or responses, email, news, sports, and weather, and maybe write a bit. Maureen wakes up, makes the bed, does her morning beauty thing, and prepares breakfast, normally some egg concoction beyond the simple eggs over easy, perhaps some Tennessee Pride country sausage for me and bacon for her, and fruit, always two to four different kinds of fruit.
She listens to the television news (sic) while working on the breakfast and records it to watch later so i won’t get upset with how much it’s slanted or really non-news. On days i remember, i put on some music when she calls me to the table. We sit down in the breakfast room niche, check to see if we have hummingbirds feeding on the lavender or sage outside the window, and start eating with the two cats looking on hopefully but vainly.
As we eat, we read the paper. i check the headlines in the national, local, and business sections, noting anything i might wish to read in depth later. Then she basically reads all of those sections while i spend most of my time reading the sports section and the comics.
And every breakfast, i think about such routines fading from our daily patterns. I have never seen either of my two daughters with a newspaper. All but a few major dailies are in trouble with decreasing circulation. Most local papers are owned by corporations which detract from potentially great coverage to cut costs.
My parents read the newspaper, but never in the morning. We ate breakfast together preceded by “grace,” and then scattered to our various jobs and schools. The newspaper was an afternoon read. For as long as our home was at 127 Castle Heights Avenue, The Nashville Banner came every afternoonuntil it sadly defuncted (my word) in 1998. i didn’t really understand that the morning paper, The Nashville Tennessean, had a liberal slant and the afternoon paper had a conservative slant until i was in college. In truth, i only read Fred Russell’s column “Sidelines,” devoured the sports pages, and read the comics even then, and hardly read the news sections until later in high school.
As Maureen and i read, she occasionally gasps, cries “Oh no!” or otherwise expresses dismay. i laugh and marvel at athletic accomplishments (i hardly ever read the financial-focused sports articles or the “courts and sports” news). i like to start out my day upbeat, not dismayed and despondent: hence, only sports and comics in at breakfast.
Occasionally, i marvel at stupidity. My marveling occurred twice yesterday morning. The “U-T” had a front sports page article following up on an earlier feature. Bryce Miller, a newcomer to the sports department since The Los Angeles Times Syndicate bought the San Diego paper, had written about a University of San Diego volleyball player.
Lisa Kramer is an All-American at the sport. She was interviewing for a job at Lululemon, an athletic apparel retailer, in Fashion Valley, hoping to gain some income while a fifth-year senior. A woman yelled, “Does anyone know CPR?” while holding a limp young three or four year old girl who was not breathing in her arms. Lisa immediately responded, conducted CPR, and got the girl breathing again. She continued aid until paramedics arrived.
Yesterday, Miller reported Lululemon did not hire Kramer, telling her they were “going in a different direction.” Stupid bureaucracy is alive and well in the retail world. i for one also am going in a different direction. And my direction will never lead to Lululemon.
Then, in yesterday’s daily sports feature “Off the Wall,” the reporter Boyce Garrison informed me about head dresses at Florida State. You see, the student government has asked the college administrators to make wearing “Native American” head dresses to sports events a violation of the student code of conduct. It seems the head dresses being worn were not representative of the Seminole tribe, but other tribes.
Now, that’s stupid. Why would students wear head dresses if they weren’t part of their mascot’s culture? For that matter, why would anyone be so rude to wear such headgear, which would have to interfere with folks behind them seeing the game. Oh, i know: they thought they might get on ESPN for a couple of seconds. Stupid.
i may just have to limit my part of our morning routine to the comics.
At my age, regardless of all the good that has been and is part of my life, i can get down, down, down. Lotus Carroll, whom i knew for about a half hour in a park in Austin when she took some great photos of our family featuring grandson Sam, posted on her website today something that resonated with me.
I have been up and down pretty much most of the year. Reading Lotus’ post, it all sort of made sense.
i hope it will give you some insight as well: http://lotuscarroll.com/depression-universal-imperfection-and-help/
And then in a quiet moment after being in a dark place, i walked out to our back yard and just looked at where i am:
The coral trees are in bloom, the sage is exploding, the grass is green, and i am in the light.
Thank you, Lotus, and may all of you have a great week.
i just finished my Democrat column for tomorrow’s edition. It was about Maxwell Martin, who died April 24.
i shall not write more about that until the column is published tomorrow, only to say Maxwell was my cousin, eleven years older than me, but more like a distant big brother to me than a cousin.
It was difficult. i felt a bit guilty to begin with as i did not communicate with Maxwell as much as i wanted or should have. My facts about him are vague due to my faulty memory and great separation between my Navy, his work in Oak Ridge, and his living in Georgia and me in the Southwest corner. And it was just plain hard emotionally.
As i vainly searched for a photograph to accompany the column (it was Maxwell in a Castle Heights uniform kneeling down beside a very young me in the 1940s), i stumbled upon another box i had not thoroughly checked out before. This box was in a larger one Maxwell gave my father as he headed to Georgia and my father subsequently gave to me about eight years ago. This particular box contained memorabilia of my grandmother’s, Mama Jewell we called her. When i opened it, a wallet was on the top. It had been my grandfather’s, Hiram Culley Jewell. From the contents i gathered it was likely the last one he owned before he died from tuberculosis in early 1939.
Sifting through, i found letters and cards from family members to Mama.
Then i ran across a small but very full envelope. There were about twenty photos, small ones for the most part. i had seen them before in another box my father gave to me in 2002 containing the things he saved from his tour with the Seabees during the war, the last real war. These he obviously had sent to his mother. The accompanying letter had vanished.
There was one larger photo, about 3×5. i had seen it before as well. i may have even posted it here before. i just wondered how Mama felt when she opened that letter in 1945 and saw where my father was in Luzon, his living conditions, and realizing just how far away he was.