Monthly Archives: September 2018

Ramblings of an Old Man on a Saturday Morning

Maureen is off to a “movie date” with her “girl friends.”

Sarah is going to the San Diego Zoo with one friend and then to Safari Park (nee Wild Animal Park) with another.

Billie Holiday, the catahoula mix; Dakota, the pampered princess; and Bruce Willis, the epitome of a “fraidy cat” are with me for the day.

i am taping the Vandy-Nevada game to watch a bit later and skip all of the stuff other people must find somewhat interesting, and of course the never ending stream of commercials dedicated to making money and disrupting the flow of the contest.

And it’s been a while coming back to my briar patch, my writing place. i’ve been working on the book and dealing with the fact “old” is here in the house. i’m reminded a lot of the time from an annoying shoulder and neck issue, which may not go away. Ever. Part of life, i surmise.

Been thinking, too. That is a scary thing.

 *     *     *

It all began this morning when Maureen and i started giving each other shit about our faults. i was going to describe it in another way, but we both sort of lean on D.H. Lawrence’s idea about making profanity not profanity because after all, they are just words, and even though it seems the mass of our population now seems to believe words can be destructive, it’s the people saying them that are destructive, not the words because i know because they taught me somewhere around five or six years old “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” and Owen Wister knew it when he had his hero (the Virginian, of course) deal with the novel’s  asshole…oops another one of those words, but this one is what my bunch of friends who rally around the Friday Morning Golf game proudly take that title as a compliment… in a way best be described by an excerpt from Wikepedia:

The novel begins with an unnamed narrator’s arrival in Medicine Bow, Wyoming from back East and his encounter with an impressively tall and handsome stranger. The stranger proves adept at roping horses, as well as facing down a gambler, Trampas, who calls him a son of a bitch. (At the time, the word was an unacceptable insult in any society, except between joking friends.) The stranger lays a pistol on the table and gently threatens, “When you call me that, smile!” 

And…where was i?…oh yes, Maureen and i this morning giving each other shit about our faults, which, by the way, we no longer consider faults but just differences and things we actually admire about each other but would never admit it and when we do give each other shit, we roll our eyes, evoking my mother’s famous facial expression, and laugh and then we go to each other and hold each other in our arms and warmly laugh and say, “i love you” expressively, which we do and which sort of defines us now because we have passed from the passions of youth although we were a bit beyond youth when our passions were in full bloom and our admiration for all of our strengths and things one might admire in us although my strengths and list of admirable traits are damn short, especially compared to hers, and we have advanced, not because we are old, at least not because i am old because she still reeks of youth compared to me, but because we are experienced and we know, perhaps knowing all along through the passion and the admiration that subconsciously we understood the good, the sharing we would have then and have now that we are two humans who happened to connect at the right time with the right feelings about life and about each other and someone somewhere smiled on us and let us understand what love really is about.

i think we love a lot of other people more because we have stumbled on that understanding.

    *     *     *

Then i read about some silly ass (oops, again) idea that passing gold chains on the sidelines of the Miami Hurricanes football team to someone who made a sack was becoming a big deal and other college teams were trying to outdo the Hurricanes with their own gimmicks, and then i thought about how silly and inane such gimmicks are, and then i realized pretty much any sport not on a sandlot or empty court or empty field by someone unsupervised under the age of…a moving target, this age thing as i played for the game until my twenties, but now in the age of supervision, orchestration, marketing, product selling, and false idolization of plastic heroes and heroines, the age is probably around six or less.

And then i thought about touchdowns and how much i wanted to score one in a real game (i did: one on a punt return, 447 yards according to The Lebanon Democrat in 1957 in a Lebanon Junior High Colt game at the old high school stadium on Coles Ferry Pike) and how i imagined crossing the goal line and passing the football to the referee, letting my actions speak for themselves and not go into some kind of idiotic dance and attention-seeking histronics, which is now sadly de rigueur. But then, we can understand as it seems our very existence, all marketing, all political posturing, all just about everything focuses on gimmicks and we buy into it big time, ignoring what is really important, which is one of the reasons corporations like Nike don’t care if the gimmick is negative because the notoriety sells their products (and i’m not taking a stand on Colin Kaepernick, the National Anthem as i have said my piece and no one seems to have listened and they are still arguing apples and oranges and it has done nothing but deepen the chasm between those people who are intent on taking sides.

Nah, i’m talking about dealing with the essence of things, dealing with people face to face, not creating false idols or false enemies, not taking sides but believing in the goodness of most of us, all of us, which seems to be pushed into the background as folks keep trying to kill all of those demons hiding under their bed at night…like ten year olds.

    *     *     *

Most of you should know by now i’m not a formally practicing Christian. There are many reasons, but the biggest reason is hypocrisy. Those in churches who are not into hypocrisy seem to get shuffled into the back of the room But i do believe in the tenets of Jesus Christ as i interpreted his lessons from the Bible’s “New Testament.”

And then with all this gimmickry and stuff, i got to thinking about everyone wanting and buying things and ideas to make it easy. Then i thought what a ridiculous idea it is to seek making it easy. As my good friend Dave Carey said, “It (life) ain’t easy. It ain’t supposed to be easy.” i would add it would be awfully boring if were easy and all of the gadgets, technology, innovation, etc., etc. to make it easy don’t work. Easy and money ain’t the answer. Living well is the answer. Doing the right thing is the answer. Enjoy life, learn. Take care of others. Get off this easy shit (oops again).

    *     *     *

You probably have figured out it ain’t morning any more. And i’m still rambling. So i watched my taped version of Vandy drubbing Nevada, a good show, but the real tests are yet to come. It was fun, and my fast forwarding through all of the stuff except the game, i watched the three-hour broadcast in about forty-five minutes. Just right.

    *     *     *

And then i went to a little slice of heaven for lunch. Well, maybe not heaven but a good place, good enough for me anyway. The Bonita Golf Club. i sat at the bar. Val is one of the daytime bartendresses (my word, obviously). She is a neat young lady and very, very busy on Saturdays. Everyone knows her. She knows everybody as well. All of the bartendresses, waitresses, and waiters seem to know everyone.

The place is packed. The bar when i arrived had one seat. It’s that way most of the days i go there. The food is standard bar fare. But there is nothing bad and mostly great. The cheeseburger is splendid. The onion rings are special. The chili is really, really good. And then there is the club sandwich, the shrimp tacos, and the carne asada quesadilla: my favorites.

There are nine televisions in the bar and the other sitting areas, but not on the outside patio. They all have different sports events except three have the pro golf tournament.

But the best part is the people. There are all kinds of people of every skin tone, many origins, different political and religious positions, the spectrum of educational levels. There is a Pearl Harbor survivor who parks illegally in a spot right outside the door. i usually write nasty notes and put them on the windshields for people who park illegally, but not him. He’s earned it. There’s a retired Navy SEAL who is there almost every day. i often avoid him because i know i will enjoy the discussion so much i will overstay my time.  There is this one Latino who talks really loud, but laughs a lot and it seems like everyone with him is having fun. There is this one guy at the end of the bar who is buying every kind of drink and beer for what seems like three or four groups of golfers, men and women. The basketball player who played professionally in Europe is not here. He and i laugh and talk about foreign places and golf courses. Kevin Mitchell, the outfielder who played most notably for the Giants is not there. i talked to him a couple of times. Nice guy. Those two are here most of the time.

It is a fun place.  i’ve never seen an argument there. It’s people, all kinds of people, golfers and non-golfers, having fun with each other.

If it’s not heaven, it’s sort of like i imagine heaven would be.

Why Navy?

i have probably posted this before, but i don’t care. How i ended up with a Navy career still amazes me. Since i realized i was not going to be a sports star or even extend my sports past high school, i wanted to be a writer. The Navy was a choice for the matter of convenience. But looking back, it was a wonderful choice and shaped my life. i am proud of my choice. So here it is again.

SAN DIEGO – As the new year ramps up, I am back in the Southwest corner considering why I made the Navy my career.

My father also has wondered why a boy from Middle Tennessee would choose the sea for his livelihood. Others have wondered the same thing.

The sea called me during my midshipman cruise on the U.S.S. Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) in 1963. We steamed from Newport, RI, to Sydney, Nova Scotia; to Bermuda; and back to Newport as part of the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVA 11) battle group.

My last four weeks were in engineering with two watches and normal work requiring 16-hour work days. Having no more sense than now, I went from my last watch to the crew’s movie in the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) hangar – “DASH” was a weapon which did not last long. Sailors called it “CRASH” instead of “DASH.” But its hanger on the 01 level just aft of amidships was perfect for showing movies.

This night, I watched “The Quiet Man” for the first time. As I left the theater and traversed the torpedo deck, I walked to the port side and gazed at the full moon.

The ship was making 15 knots. The moon’s reflection cut a wide, rippling, reflective path straight to me. The boilers roared through the forward stack. The bow wave was white, curling from the side and swishing its whisper as the ship cut through the water. “Darken ship” allowed no lights except those for navigation. At least a billion stars blanketed the black sky.

The sea grabbed me. She came down that path from the full moon, wafted across the bow wave, and reached deep inside. I felt her grab my heart and take it away.

I have loved her in her fury of the winter Atlantic, when she tossed a 500-foot ship around like a cork, ripping off protruding metal like dandelion bristles, and tossing sailors around the ship like matchsticks. Her intense fury blanketed the sea surface with froth.

I have loved her in the doldrums of the South China Sea where not a breath of wind existed, and the sea surface was glass for a week. I saw my first “green flash” then.

In the summer of 1973, steaming in the operating areas off of Newport, Rhode Island, my father saw why I went to sea. My ship, the U.S.S. Luce (DLG 7), was undergoing a major inspection. My Commanding Officer learned of my father visiting and invited him to ride during our underway day.

As a lieutenant, I was the sea detail officer of the deck. My father was by my side as I had the “conn” while the ship stood out of Narragansett Bay. As soon as we reached the operating area, we went to 25 knots for rudder tests, rapidly shifting the rudder to max angles both ways. The commanding officer and I went into a frantic dance, running in opposite directions across the bridge to hang over each wing checking for small craft in the dramatic turns.

After the rudder tests, I took my father into the bowels of the ship to our anti-submarine warfare spaces. My father stood behind me as I directed prosecution of a submarine contact. In the darkened spaces with sonar pings resounding, he watched as we tracked the sub on our fire control screen and simulated firing a torpedo.

After lunch, we set general quarters and ran through engineering drills. Finally, we transited back to Newport.

With mooring complete, the captain gave my father a ship’s plaque. My wife and mother were waiting on the pier when we debarked from the ship’s quarterdeck. As we walked the brow to the pier, my father said to me, “Son, I understand why you would want to make this a career.”

I did. Somewhere in the latter stages of that career, I met a woman, a native of San Diego, and we got married. After a brief taste of being a Navy officer’s wife, she and I returned to San Diego for my “twilight” tour, the last four years on shore duty.

So now when I walk up our hill to raise and lower the flag, I look out to sea and check to see how many ships are pierside at the Naval Station.

And that, my friends, is why I made the Navy career and live in the Southwest corner, far from my home in Tennessee.

Joe: My Reflections

Joe.

Not my brother Joe. Another Joe.

Joe Hill.

i lost him about a week ago.

Saturday, Maureen and i drove to Huntington Beach to pay our respects and a great deal more.

It was a small gathering, perhaps on the plus side of twenty. In the home of Joe’s brother Gary. A quiet service devoted to remembering Joe, telling stories, and yes, quite a bit of emotion.

i didn’t spend a lot of time with Joe. He was frequently with his sister Janet when we would see him.

Janet and her then husband, Frank Kerrigan, met us when i was the executive officer on Yosemite. Both fresh out of the University of Chicago med school, Frank was the ship’s doctor and Janet was one of the doctors at the clinic on the Mayport (Jacksonville) Naval Base, Maureen’s doctor. This was right after Maureen and i got married and the two were a integral part of our first year together. They are the godparents of our daughter Sarah.

The two left the Navy and created a successful primary and urgent care facility in Palm Desert.  When we went to see them, Joe was often there.

Joe Hill is quite possibly the nicest guy i have ever met.

i could immediately tell Joe cared about me and about Maureen. We were old friends within minutes of our first meeting. It was always a feeling of happiness i would get when i found out Joe was part of our time with the Kerrigan’s.

Jan and Frank had a good divorce, if there is such a thing,  and they, along with their new spouses, Deborah for Frank and Greg Mokler for Janet, continued to include Joe in their activities.

The last time i saw Joe Hill was at Frank’s retirement party at his home in La Quinta. Joe had not changed one bit: full of energy, full of corny jokes, and overflowing with empathy.

Another thing about Joe: whenever we left some get together like the retirement party, i would find myself wishing i could spend more time with Joe.

i no longer have that opportunity.

Joe was a bit different from most folks i know. He was smart, practical, fun and chose window washing as his career. It wasn’t as if he had no ambition. It was as if he chose that profession simply because he liked it. Joe did things Joe liked to do.

Our world is not kind to people who are nice and do things they like to do and don’t make waves, don’t make judgements but accept people, everyone without judgement, love life as it is.

About a year ago, Joe came down with some health problems. They lasted six months or so. His window washing business went financially down hill fast. Joe suffered from depression. He drank too much.

About a week ago, he killed himself.

Joe was a dedicated Christian in his own way. He read the Bible at least twice a day. i did not know that until Saturday. It made sense. He was the kind of Christian that followed Christ’s teaching. He did not judge, he did not throw stones, he loved. As his sister said at his memorial, Joe was ready to go to his heaven in which he so strongly believed. i’m sure he is there.

And we have a void.

At the service, numerous people told stories of Joe, things i would have never suspected but made sense. Funny stuff. Living life to the fullest stuff. Joe Hill.

So Joe, all i can say is i will never forget you and the way you lived. It was an inspiration and, Lord, oh Lord, i wished we had many more like you.