Monthly Archives: September 2016

A Pocket of Resistance: Heaven is Here: It’s an iPhone

A whole bunch of people my age, including me, disparage the ubiquitous use of iphones and smart phones among today’s youth.

i remain saddened neither of my daughters nor son-in-law get a daily newspaper, the stuff of my dreams for most of my life and now an integral part of Maureen’s and my morning routine.

i don’t often comment about my regrets about the next generation and their children being immersed in technology: mobile funs, video games, television, and such instead of what we had…before television, of course.

i often comment to Maureen — but seldom to others as i recognize i am old and don’t completely understand how those younger than i go about living just like my parents didn’t understand about how i went about living: different times, different culture — i am concerned about how all of this technology, innovation, social and health concerns might limit our grandson in the scope of his learning about the world.

Then after learning my grandson has his own iPhone yesterday, i asked my daughter and son-in-law about rules and if i could have his number.  Within the half hour, i swapped to text messages with him and received a Facetime call.

For over a half-hour, Samuel James Jewell Gander regaled me with a tour of his home, an introduction to Gordon, Sam’s relatively new gecko, a detailed description of several stuffed animals, and a narration about Sam being a “guide” tonight for parents at the PTA meeting (Blythe is the PTA president). There were several other revelations underway when his father, Jason, came home, and then Maureen came back from shopping, generating another tour and other stories for Grandma Mo.

It was tough cutting off the call, but knowing he had to do his homework (he told me about that as well) before the PTA meeting, i began easing out of the conversation.

It was tough.

It was tough because i was in heaven. Grandson and i just chillin’. The only thing that would have been better would have been to have the tour in person.

So now, every once in awhile considering decorum and proper distribution of time in Sam’s rather full schedule, i will talk to Sam. Just Sam and me.

Lord, that’s heaven. Pure heaven.

Thanks, Blythe and Jason…oh yeh: and Sam!

A Pocket of Resistance: Aunt and Uncle Memories…sort of

i may have posted this before and you may have to zoom in to read it. It is a poem my Aunt Colleen Prichard wrote soon  after i was born and her finance, my Uncle Bill Prichard was flying his fighter out of Belgium — the name on the nose cone was “Colleen.”

This is especially for all of my Prichard family. i just wish i could remember her in those days. Oh what gloriously romantic times it must have been…not to mention scarier than hell.

aunt_collen-poem-circa_1944

Aunt Colleen and a goofy kid outside 127 Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, TN, circa 1945
Aunt Colleen and a goofy kid outside 127 Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, TN, circa 1945
Nashville Banner article in 1945 re: First Lieutenant Bill Prichard.
Nashville Banner article in 1945 re: First Lieutenant Bill Prichard.

A Pocket of Resistance: Standing Proud with Women in the Navy

There are some things i’ve done in life i regret. There are many things i’ve done in life that are what they are and not much more, sort of a “so be it” thing.

And there are some things i’ve done of which i am immensely proud. One of those was the manner in which i handled my job as Executive Officer of the U.S.S. Yosemite (AD 19), my last operational tour in the Navy. i reported aboard twelve days after Maureen and i married, deployed to the Indian Ocean just over a month later.

The Yo-Yo had a crew of 900 with 100 women sailors and six female officers in a wardroom of 44. Previously, i had worked with one female Navy officer, Carolyn Prevatte, at Texas A&M NROTC from 1976 to 1979; in 1982, i saw a female deckhand on a tugboat assisting the U.S.S. Okinawa (LPH 3) tying up to a pier; and in 1979, i listened to three female officers Navy sounding officious at the Admiral Kidd BOQ swimming pool while i was attending the Tactical Action Officer course in San Diego. That was it before i was charged to be Number Two on Yosemite. 

i was old school Navy, the kind they don’t have anymore. We were rip-snorting, steam-driven, wild liberty hounds. Women were what we left back home and what many chased in foreign ports. There were many things wrong with that Navy, but there were many good things, too. i was frightened…well, not frightened but gravely concerned about being in charge of a ship with women as part of the crew. i remember being glad i was reporting aboard married rather than single. i later found out Captain Boyle had considering rejecting my assignment until he found out i was getting wed before i reported aboard.

i tried to get information about the “Women At Sea” program, taking leave and going to Norfolk rather than spending my last week in PXO school in Newport. My intent was to spend a day in Washington with the program coordinator, but she could not make herself available: too many congressional hearings. i ended up talking to the XO of a sub-tender with women in the crew. It was a total loss: the guy was macho up to his ears where if he had one, his brain had stopped working.

So there i went. i am still going to write the XO log kind of book about that deployment. Eleanor Hicks thinks it should be my next book. i think i’m going to write one or two more before that one. My working title is Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.

But today, i was attacking the piles in my home office: fairly successfully for a change, when i ran across this letter. It was from Lieutenant Kathy Rondeau who transferred from the Yosemite in Diego Garcia to report to her new duty station at NAS Jacksonville.

Her letter makes me feel proud of how it went on Yo-Yo, nearly eight months from Mayport and back. Challenges abounded. Frank Boyle and i worked together to make it work with very little coherent direction and often cross-threaded decisions from the desk sitters in DC (and when we got back, realizing the brass did not want the program to be a success: they did not want women to be stationed on ships).

And not only did it work well, the CO and XO gave those women, especially the officers good counsel on what they needed to do and what to expect in their careers. Kathy’s letter validates that.

i don’t know if you can read my scans. The new multi-purpose printer and i aren’t familiar enough with each other yet. So here are excerpts from that letter:

Thank you for all you did for me. You can never know how much you have helped me grow as a Surface Warfare Officer. That night we spoke about OOD quals – you said a lot of good things and I listened to you good advice. I agree with you about not worrying about what other people think or how other people got their quals. Also, i am proud to be a Surface Warfare Officer, and XO, if it had not been for the cruise, you, and the Captain, I wouldn’t be so proud…

…I never said goodbye to you, XO, it was too hard for me to do…you were so good to me and taught me so much professionally and built up my self-confidence as a Surface Warfare Officer and a department head.

That’s enough. i’ve put my scan of the three-page letter below. My new printer and i are not yet well acquainted enough to make the scans more readable.

Sadly, i cannot find Kathy on the web. i think i remember correctly that she went on and at least made captain. i would like to talk to her today and see how she is doing. And thank her for making me proud of doing the right thing on Yosemite.

rondeau-ltr-84-01

rondeau-ltr-84-02rondeau-ltr-84-03

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Sir Isaac Newt

There are more stories here to which i may return. But for now, an eulogy:

Sir Isaac Newt

Sir Isaac Newt
finally bought the farm
although he did not soar very much
during his lifetime,
just swimming around,
sitting on the rock
in the terrarium
we got him
after his unnamed compatriot
disappeared forever only days
after our daughter brought them home;
not much later, Sir Aristotle Newt
had taken a header in the deep sink
after escaping from the old terrarium
which we hope happened to the unnamed one.

we gave Aristotle a proper burial,
complete with a popsicle stick for a headstone
after our daughter demanded such,
her storing him in a plastic bag in the freezer
until i got home
to attend to him properly with respect.

then Ike swam on alone in his tiny world
sated with the frozen blood worm meal
we fed him a couple of times a week;
my wife, recognizing my procrastinating
cleaned his terrarium every other week
allowing him to roam in the bathroom sink.

oh, he had a good life, such as it was
in the terrarium on my desk next to the window;
i really did like him;
i would talk to him every day,
admiring his orange and black polka dot tummy,
considering his wide and vast knowledge of the world,
but
never saying anything,
not even making a noise.

my wife found him this morning
belly up
in the terrarium;
afraid i would be distraught,
she disposed of him
along with the coffee grounds,
an ignominious end
for such a glorious dainty creature.

for twelve years,
Sir Ike sat on my desk
calmly looking out at me from his terrarium;
other than when the cat would sit
on the top screen of the terrarium
or hungrily stare at him through the glass;
he always struck a calm pose,
making me feel akin, in control, peaceful.

but now, the newt era is over here.
Sir Isaac Newt is gone,
coffee bean grinds gone.

i will mourn only briefly for this
noble newt named Ike,
he was a good newt…

i think.

A Pocket of Resistance: Crying Jag

i do not understand how, when i am working continuously to clear out and organize papers, photos, computer files, and niches holding an unknown number of things, why the piles keep getting higher.

When i completed my Navy active duty, i was excited because two-year, even four-year tours never gave me enough time to do all of the things i wanted to do to make my command permanently better. This included many, many, regulations and instructions which needed to be either tossed or streamlined (after all, the Navy is a bureaucracy too). So i thought i would have time to put things in order.

But my task continues, apparently unending. And yesterday, i found a poem, not properly filed, from 1984.

A month or two before, Blythe, my daughter, had returned to her mother in Austin after several weeks with us. It was the first time she had spent time with Maureen and me after our marriage. It was in our wonderful home in Ponte Vedra Beach. i dont’ think there are many things much sadder than a man having to say goodbye to his daughter, regardless of the circumstances. Then several months later, i was thinking about missing her and i walked the half-mile from our house to the beach. It rained and inspired me to write the poem. i wrote this later while my ship, the U.S.S. Yosemite, was on local operations off the coast.

crying jag

crying jag;
pelicans, swirling
low over cresting waves
slow:
a painting in the morning mist
burns through,
no discernible edge yet,
the lone man on the beach
walks where
the ocean folds back upon itself;
the man with a gray sweater
protecting against the late fall moisture,
trousers rolled knee-length,
shoes in one hand,
turns with his free hand shading his eyes
to return the pelicans’ gaze;
the wizened face tightens;
tears well up and roll
down the creases in his cheek;
darker clouds overhead
commence showering
pelicans and man;
the pelicans, if they cared,
could no longer tell
the man was crying.

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Water Hours…No, Not the Ones at Sea

This post is an avoidance strategy.

My printer went out last Tuesday. i could have made a fix on the old all-in-one, but it was time. So i wrestled with it for three days, did the Jewell version of quality assessment, and bought a new all-in-one printer, disregarding all of my research.

Since Thursday, the old printer is uninstalled and in the garage. The new printer is sitting on my desk with all of the cables unattached. i vowed to do it right: read all of the manuals and electronic instructions first, then follow them step-by-step, ensuring the wireless connections work, and on, and on, and on.

i don’t think i would be electronically, computer, or web challenged if i studied the procedures and the functions. But frankly, i don’t like spending my time learning all of the things to make things work to let me write and communicate. i spend more time on what makes it work than working on what i intended. It’s a lot like going out in the garage to do some home task and finding i need to do three or four other things first, and go get a tool i once had but don’t now.

Just flat don’t like that sort of thing.

So writing this is an avoidance strategy to keep from getting into the printer thing i know will take be at least two days and about a gallon and a half of frustration.

But this wasn’t supposed to be my avoidance. This was supposed to be about an idea that popped into my mind while watering spots on our front lawn this morning.

And that too is another story, especially about water in the Southwest corner.

You see water in the Southwest corner is mostly not from the Southwest corner. It comes from snow packs in the Sierras and down, down, down to the Colorado River, the one in Colorado, not in Texas, through the loam rich soil of the truck farms in Arizona and California to the east.

When it gets dry here — Duh: after all, this is high desert meant to support the four hundred Kumeyaay who lived on pinyan nuts here long ago, not the four million souls who have moved here to rely on Colorado River water and snow pack. Duh — the overlords pass down their judgment and their authority to the water authorities who declare the dear residents to kill the grass, which didn’t belong here in the first place. Reminds me of all the eastern folks who moved to Arizona because the climate and the vegetation was really good for all sorts of problems, especially allergies. So all of the folks get there and what do they do? They plant all the things from back home that produced allergies and other ills. Now the highly occupied areas of Arizona have allergy problems. Duh.

Regardless, our lawn damn near died. You see, my wife, the wonderful, incredible, responsible, loving Maureen Renee Boggs Jewell is a water Nazi. She was known to stop while driving to work to knock on a neighbor’s door at 7:00 a.m. and tell them they needed to turn off their lawn sprinklers because it was raining. So when the water authorities (hah!)  put out water hours for the good citizens, especially those with lawns, the water Nazi went overboard. No water. Lawn damn near died.

But the dreaded drought ended, sort of, as i predicted, and now the water authority and everyone else is worried the water will allow things to grow, which will become fire hazards in the next dry spell. Go figure.

The water Nazi maintained the rigid water hours and the lawn continued to die. So bad. i talked of turning our lawn into decomposed granite with boulders and pots of plants. But the lawn Nazi is also the money Nazi and didn’t want to spend the money to convert the lawn to decomposed granite (like my son-in-law, one Jason Gander, did to a small area behind his gate in Austin which looks really nice).

So i am working to save our front lawn. i rise early as usual, grind the coffee beans and start the coffee maker, set the breakfast table, and then as dawn suffuses light into the gray of morning,  i uncoil the hose off its hanger on the side of the garage, pull it across the driveway, and begin my spot watering of the driest parts of the lawn.

Somewhere in the middle of this small task, i thought of…no, connected with my father. Some of my earliest memories of him were him watering plants in our yard at 127 Castle Heights Avenue. He would get home in the late afternoon, early evening from fixing cars, grime in his fingernails and on his work clothes. His sleeves rolled up, he would take the hose and hit the needed plants and lawn spots until he was sure they had been given their proper sustenance.

Later, he had a sizable garden plot on the first tier from the road at the “lake cabin,” with tomatoes and other things always better than the store bought produce. He would go out several times a week to weed and water the small plot, waiting for the ripening.

Before they moved down the road to a more accommodating home for my mother who could no longer ascend or descend stairs without pain, without danger, he had planted a smaller patch he cordoned off from the rest of the yard with two by six boards. He would stand there in the morning and then later in the evening with the hose in his right hand measuring the effectiveness of the nozzle spray, ensuring his flowers and tomatoes (yep, tomatoes again) had enough but not too much water.

And once moved into the “adult condo” community, he found enough sculpted areas of dirt and pots to plant flowers, which he watered daily and in the summer twice daily.

i admired his constancy, his responsibility, his knowledge, his precision. But i saw no joy, no peace in this practice he practiced for as long as i could remember. It was admirable, but i didn’t have the patience. i liked these automatic, timed watering systems spraying unknowingly over the grass and plants.

Then, this morning in the gray break of morning, standing two thousand miles away from his watering, i recognized a peace, a simple joy coming to me. It was quiet, enjoyable, non-specific: just standing there with the water flowing from the nozzle on the bare, dry, and yellowed spots to become green again, regardless of the craziness of a green lawn and water hours in the high desert not meant for such landscaping.

There are many things my father taught me. i only recall about four letters he wrote when i was far away. We talked a lot, but only on maybe three occasions he gave me instruction. Yet he taught me continuously, and it always led to what my good friend Peter Thomas calls “doing the right thing.”

As i stood there this morning with my calmness, my peace in performing my task, i realized he still is teaching me.

And later, the printer has been installed properly.

A Pocket of Resistance: The Hawk, a real one, and me

I should be asleep. i will arise in four or five hours to do what i used to do in ten minutes except it now takes almost two hours to leave the house. Our first tee time is 0700 and Navy security is screwing up again, so i must leave earlier than usual. 0515 should be a good time.

i will go the back way probably: down the 54 freeway, but exiting south on I-5, not North. Going North means traversing the Coronado-Bay bridge and with security not opening the carrier or ocean gates because security wants to take an early day off for the Labor Day weekend, the bridge will be hammered from all the civilians and Navy personnel who don’t get the early day off trying to get in the main gate only.

Stupid drives me crazy.

And then my lone remaining passion in sports has smacked me in the head…again. Vandy looked like…well, they looked like Vandy: almost good but not good enough. Another long season looms.

So i sit here, not quite ready to hit the rack, but needing to do just that.

And i scanned my documents on the computer. And i found the below. i think it fits my mood:

hawk, on the fourth

hawk, soaring above
the periphery of southern California
civilization on the Fourth,
majestic in his flying hunt.

so hey, mister hawk,
are you seeking
a field mouse or rabbit or my cat,
which now also stalks your canyons and laderas,
which are what the mexicans call hills
only a few miles south of this high desert
turned green by the water
pumped in from arizona?

hey, hawk, are you also
turning to scavenging garbage
like the coyotes
at the bottom of the gorge below my house,
and
like the crows
who share your street lamp perches?
or
do you only occasionally feed
off the dead rabbits
just a bit too late crossing
the newly asphalted road
leading up the hill?

i marvel at our audacity
to infringe on your domain, mister hawk,
as i walk with the dog over your range
before returning to my house behind the hill
where the farm house,
the lone structure within miles of here
for many years
but now surrounded by the tract homes,
the lone house with truck hulks,
rusting pieces of metal and machinery
lying about
on the few remaining houseless acres
not yet leveled
by the graders of the development men.