All posts by Jim

Navy and Beer

This is not a criticism nor a political statement. It is an observation ignited by a story of a Fox news item on Google news internet link.

Paul Best, the reporter, tells us that the Pensacola Naval Base has ordered E3 and below, most of which are “airmen” (Seaman Recruit, Seaman Apprentice and Seaman, also “Firemen” if the new Navy hasn’t changed those terms to be politically correct) to not be sold more than one six-pack of beer a day at base exchanges.

In spite of what appears to be noble intent, this may be the silliest regulation ever imposed by our Navy. Supposedly, this will reduce the number of “alcohol related” incidents by young sailors and make training and safety more effective. If a sailor buys and drinks a six-pack a day every day, i’m not too sure the base has accomplished anything. And with the pay sailors get nowadays, i’m pretty sure they can get all they want above a six-pack, not to mention the hard stuff, off base and the local age limit will not deter them one bit.

It appears Navy Air is trying to be like the Air Force: you know, those guys who wear uniforms to look like bus drivers.

The article did make me think about the past and beer.

The first thing that came to mind was an incident on the US Army’s base in Pusan, Korea, now called “Busan” and perhaps both. It was 1970. i spent the night in the BOQ with Captain Ollie White. Ollie was assigned to the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) and had ridden our ship to observe and assist our transport unit who was in charge of the Korean troops being transported to and from Vietnam.

On the return trip to Korea, Ollie and i became good friends, and he invited me to dinner and a a couple of nights off the ship, something always welcomed.

We left the ship, caught a cab to the post across town, changed into civilian clothes in Ollie’s BOQ suite, had dinner, bought a couple of new albums at the post exchange: George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” among them, and went to the post “package store” for something to drink while enjoying the music.

Ollie went to get some bourbon, i think. i headed for the beer and got two cases of Olympia, one of the few US beers sold in the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) that did not have formaldehyde as a preservative. i figured what we didn’t drink in the evening and coming day, i would leave for Ollie and his army buddies.

i sat my two cases on the counter as Ollie came up to be next in line. The Korean native cashier looked at my cases and said, “No, no. You can only buy one case of beer.”

“Why not,” i asked, puzzled.

“It’s policy,” the cashier replied, “Beer is rationed to one case a day.”

At this point, i began my rant on what a stupid policy and how could anyone come up with such a bullshit idea, uttering a few more choice Navy terms before paying for my one case, picking it up and heading for the exit.

The cashier looked at me, then at Ollie, and said, “Must be a Navy man.”

*.    *.    *

As mentioned, most US produced beers available in WESTPAC at the time were loaded with preservatives that made them all taste bitter. Pabst Blue Ribbon put the date of canning on their beers. One night in the small officers club in Qui Nhon just northeast of the Delong pier where our USNS ships moored, four of our officers including me were drinking PBR’s when someone told me of the practice. i checked my can. i was drinking beer that had been canned in 1958, twelve years earlier.

Because of the preservative factor, local beers were consumed. The most famous was San Miguel, a brew in the Philippines. Military folks called it San McGoo. There are many, many stories involving San McGoo, and i am trying to imagine what would have happened had the Subic Navy Base, or the Clark Air Force Base had ordered a limit be placed on that beer.

i don’t think it would have been pretty.

*.    *.    *

My golf has always seem to include beer, even now for our Friday Morning Golf (FMG). But that has changed drastically over the years. In addition to the 19th holes, Navy courses had other sources for a beer. Out on  the courses, there were one or two covered areas containing soda can dispensers, one or two of which dispensed can beer. There was a chain curtain to keep someone from stealing the machines, but a golfer could put his arm through a link to deposit a quarter and get a beer. These beers were available at that price as late as the late 1980’s.

*.    *.    *

Things have changed. Prices have changed. Habits have changed.

i’m glad i was there for the old days and old ways.

o’er the hill o’er there

o’er the hill o’er there

i’ve done seen that demon coming
o’er the hill o’er there,
spitting fire and brimstone;
just hate, no justice there;
i’ve done heard the demon screaming,
the vile words that he yelled;
had i not known otherwise
i would think i’d gone to hell;
the screaming demon looked familiar;
the scowl and red faced anger
blurred the image of his face;
i wondered of whom he reminded me,
hoping my recollection was misplaced.
when i dismissed the fire and brimstone,
looking at the demon’s face,
i saw through the hate and anger,
seeing pure and simple fear
of what the demon had seen
o’er the hill o’er there.
i never feared the demon
nor fear what he had seen;
i had no need to scream
at what the demon had seen
o’er the hill o’er there;
i finally recognized the demon;
he was a friend of mine;
the demon was running
from the lies that trapped him in his fear
leading to his fire and brimstone
running from what lay beyond
o’er the hill o’er there;
i have no fear, no anger, no hate
for the demon and his fear
i just am greatly saddened
at my friend’s coming to his fate,
i will try quell his anger,
try to end his hate,
explain to him his fear
knowing i will fail;
sadly, i will leave him
while he spews his fire and brimstone;
i think i shall take a walk,
a look to see what might be there,
hopefully to calm whatever caused the fear
o’er the hill o’er there.

 

The Roughest Seas…for me

Lately, in discussions with former shipmates and  other old sailors, rough seas have been discussed. i experienced rough seas on my first night aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764) and fought back seasickness as the radar gang was trying like mad to make me sick (a ritual described here previously). My first ship after commissioning, the USS Hawkins (DD-788) experienced enough bad weather off of Cape Hatteras that she experienced her maximum roll of 45 degrees, dangerously close to her “point of no return,” i.e. if she went much farther she would just keep going and capsize. That was rough. i was chased by a typhoon across the South China Sea, forced out of Hong Kong liberty by another (my wife was there to spend a week with me), and actually in the eye of a hurricane when it was forming in the Caribbean. But in a weekly column in The Lebanon Democrat several years ago, i described the worst storm i experienced in 15-plus years of sea duty.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Stormy weather? It seems so calm to me

SAN DIEGO – Late last week (2013), a friend called early in the morning to tell me it was raining downtown.

“Rain,” I said, “What rain?” There was no hint of rain only several miles away. “Yep,” Steve responded, “It’s raining real rain here.”

Rain in June is rare here, spot rain even rarer. So there is yet another Southwest weather corner mystery.

The call regenerated thoughts of storms. Even though I was in the eye of a fledgling hurricane as I recently related, it was not the worst storm I experienced.

That storm came unannounced and unwelcomed.

In December 1972, the U.S.S. Stephen B. Luce (DLG-7) returned from a Mediterranean deployment with Destroyer Squadron 24. Being the holiday season, the squadron was allowed to exceed the normal limit of 15 knots.

After crossing the Atlantic on a great circle route to Charleston, SC, the U.S.S. Stanley (CG 32) detached and headed toward its homeport. The other five ships turned north toward Newport, RI, expecting to cover the 1000 miles in about three days, arriving two days ahead of schedule.

There were no warnings about what was ahead. Even without satellites, Navy weather stations normally did a decent job on weather reports, but not this time.

When the storm hit us, wind speeds approached 100 miles per hour, perhaps even more.

The bridge of the Luce was 75 feet above the water line, and green water, i.e. real waves, crashed against the bridge windows almost in relentless rhythm.

We tied bridge watch standers into their posts. Only the officer of the deck (OOD) and his assistant remained unfettered to frequently shift from side to side for better vision. Mostly, this OOD stood behind the center line gyroscope repeater with one arm around a handrail, making small course changes to find a better course.

The bow would climb up a wave and about one-quarter of the 500-foot ship hung in the air above the ocean before crashing down, the bow plunging under water before settling out briefly and starting up the next wave.

Foam covered all the sea except when the wind gave a glimpse of the dark blue ocean. The other ships were often within a 1000 yards but seldom seen except for their masts, the rest of the ship hidden by the waves.

Our watertight doors proved less than that, leaking from the pounding seas. Over a foot of water rolled about the main deck passageways. The galleys could not keep food on grills or steady in the ovens. We ate what was available, cold. We did manage to make coffee for almost five days.

The Luce took innumerable 45 degree rolls. Hanging tightly on a bridge wing, it seemed as if I was parallel to the sea.

When two other officers and I ate in the wardroom, the chairs were tied to the tables, unavailable. We propped ourselves on the floor against the port bulkhead. After a bite or two, the ship rolled fiercely. We lost our seating and tumbled across to the starboard side, sandwiches and coffee flying everywhere.

One enlisted man with the top rack in a three-tiered section was sleeping peacefully when another jolt tossed him out and down, across to the adjacent tier where he landed in the lowest rack with another startled sailor.

The Luce lost two days, arriving in Newport on its original schedule. Two older destroyers arrived about a half-day later. One newer class frigate arrived a day later. The final ship, another frigate arrived a day after that.

On the one frigate that was last in making Newport, a freak wave crashed off a forward bulkhead and ripped a three-foot hole in the back of the forward gun mount. The ship experienced flooding forward but successfully secured the breach with damage control.

When we pulled in, none of the Luce’s usual weather deck projections remained: life lines, fire stations, and damage control equipment were gone. Ladders (stairs to the landlubber) between decks had disappeared. Plenum chambers for air vents had been ripped back from the exterior bulkheads, eerily resembling giant wings.

Remarkably, we only had one major injury. At the storm’s onslaught, our assistant navigator took a dive into the brass around the chart table and cut a gash in his forehead, requiring several stitches.

Strangest of all, the sun shone daily through the entire ordeal.
Never before and never after have I been so glad to be home for Christmas.

2/2

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Lessons from a POW

The repeat of hometown columns continue. A couple of people have asked me why my posts have been more infrequent. The second COVID vaccination (Moderna) laid me low. It wasn’t serious, but i sure as hell was not bright eyed and bushy tailed for about four days. The reactions were intermittent and varied, touching all of the potential reactions. It’s over and worth it. i am not as concerned as before, still concerned, but not as much.

However, the real reason for the cutback is i am working on my book. It is almost like having a job and has demonstrated i am a bit weird compared to most folks. Having a job gives me structure and makes me feel like i am accomplishing something. Gives me purpose. Seems like lots of people just want to have fun and to have things be easier. i find i still need a purpose (other than golf). So at least for a while my entries here will not be as frequent. i will keep posting these columns from the past.

Dave Carey remains one of my heroes and a great friend. i really enjoyed writing this column.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – This past Monday, I left the cleanup from the San Diego fires and flew to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It was not an escape. It was work. I was co-facilitating a team building workshop for a California police department with my friend, Dave Carey. 

Dave is not your ordinary business associate. On August 31, 1967, Dave Carey’s A-4 was shot out from under him over North Vietnam. He spent five and a half years as a Prisoner of War (POW), most of the time in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”

Dave and I met in 1985 at the Naval Amphibious School in Coronado. We worked together for just shy of a year as I transitioned into Dave’s position as the head of leadership training for the West Coast and Pacific Rim. Together, we help create a two-day workshop on leadership excellence for senior Navy officers.

Dave retired. Four years later in 1989, I followed suit. After my initial dive into my new job as Mister Mom, I soon started to look for ways to generate income in the quiet hours.

After some discussion, Dave and I agreed I would write a book about his POW experience, or more accurately, about his motivational speeches concerning his experience. After completing the draft, we decided it really should be written in first person. The original draft is on my office bookshelf.

Eight years later, Dave holed up for three weeks and completed The Ways We Choose: Lessons For Life From a POW’s Experience.

Part of my approach to writing was generated from conversations with Dave. He and I were driving to another workshop about fifteen years ago when I asked him about what outcome did he expect the audience to have when he gave a speech.

Dave said he had expectations initially, but discovered his listeners made their own connections. Early on, Dave had completed a luncheon speech when a huge Texan came up to him, put his big arm around Dave’s shoulder and drawled, “Can I talk with you Dave? I understood every word you said today. The fact of the matter is, in this life, we are all going to get shot down, and some of us more than once.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve managed to get shot down several times. Dave’s book and his ideas have been significant guides to me as I have wandered through living. The book not only applies to San Diego, Lake Tahoe, and Middle Tennessee; it worked in the Hanoi Hilton over 40 years ago. 

Dave’s book revolves around a question he is most frequently asked, which is, “How did you do that? How did you and the other POW’s get through that?” He maintains they did that in a similar way to how we get through our daily process of life and work.

Dave’s assessment of how he and his fellow POW’s made it through boils down to five factors:

  • We did what we had to do
  • We did our best
  • We chose to grow
  • We kept our sense of humor
  • We kept the faith
    • In ourselves
    • In each other
    • In our country
    • In God.

His anecdotes relating to those factors are humorous, inspiring, and thought provoking. I have had the wonderful opportunity to discuss these things in depth with Dave. 

So I check myself against his factors almost daily. They have even become part of the value statements for my consulting group.

I will not ruin the book by parroting it here. However, I am particularly fond of Dave’s pointing out how the POW’s trusted each one of them would do the best they could, would resist the severe interrogations to their limit; recognizing each of them had their own limit levels. 

I now try to consider folks I work with are doing the best they can do. This puts a whole different shape to the way I work with these people. Fewer rocks are thrown; fewer lines are drawn in the sand; fewer chips are put on shoulders.

I would encourage everyone to read’s Dave’s book. Your connections should be yours, not mine, not Dave’s. I know folks in Middle Tennessee also get shot down every once in a while.

Note: Dave’s book may still be obtained on-line through the Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble; web sites, and Dave’s website, www.davecarey.com. You may also be able to order it from a Borders or Barnes and Noble bookstore.

Southwestern Chili: A Salute to a Legend

i know many things and damn near all of them are worthless. i stole this statement and learned many worthless things (and a few that weren’t) from a legend.

i have told this story before. When i went back to refresh my memory, i realized my earlier memory was wrong as i had combined two, maybe three, of the Jimmy and JD parties in that earlier post. So the below is that story revised. i don’t care. i wished to revel in it and take a break when i began this post last night rather than continuing work on editing my manuscript.

Last night, i’m sure most of you, including my wife, could have found something that interested you on that big flat black screen hanging or propped up in your house where you spend most of your time. i couldn’t. Vanderbilt basketball’s team took a hit from Alabama and officiating in the morning, staying close to the end, again. That was my television for Saturday. Maureen is not into oaters, and i’m not into Victorian chick flicks although i would pretend to watch if she chose one for her watching pleasure — But then i surfed to find a movie for her when i came upon the documentary, Living with Lincoln. It was an incredible story. i connected. So all Television, or whatever you are supposed to call it today, isn’t all bad…

But this is about today and the legend. JD Waits catches up to me age-wise today. 77.

In case you missed it, JD and i ran wild in the Southwest corner for a bunch of years beginning in the early 80’s and have continued a milder and long-distance version ever since. The photo below is of “The Booze Brothers” in our formal attire for JD’s second marriage to Mary Lou — there was another marriage in between the two with Mary Lou.

This morning i called, wished him a happy birthday, and then laughed a lot, a usual part of my conversations with JD. Some of his stories related today i could tell here and may later. Some of them cannot be here because neither JD nor i should ever be considered politically correct (or grammerly correct either and certainly have a penchant for off-color, and that’s putting it mildly, for that matter). But without any thought of his birthday being today, i made our Southwestern chili yesterday. Maureen loves it.

And that, that is what made me want to revel in the first version of JD and Jimmy Rye Southwestern Chili:

It was a great party. i don’t know how the idea came about. There were a lot of ideas that came about in the two-story, two-bedroom, two-bath, two-Navy officer apartment at 8th and E in Coronado.

Somehow JD and i decided to have a chili party there for the wardroom of the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) and invited guests. i think the final count of attendees was around fifty, in and out for three or four hours, maybe more. We planned for that many and realized we needed a really big pot to cook the chili.

We were single Navy officers who do not ordinarily have big pots. So we found a discount store, now gone, off of Plaza Boulevard in National City, and bought a really big, really cheap big pot that could hold something over five gallons. i’m pretty sure it wasn’t tin, but it was close to tin.

Now JD, among his many other talents, knows how to cook, especially Texas cooking. After all, his parents owned a diner in Houston and his father was the cook. So as we walked the aisles of the North Island Commissary, i was surprised after we got the stew meat, the red beans, the onions, the cheese, and the condiments, JD picked up several boxes off a shelf. Even though he could have made it from scratch, he declared it was much easier and just as good to use Shelby Carroll’s Texas Chili fixings packet.

So being us, we collected all the ingredients and the big pot in the apartment kitchen, and began. JD, a master at getting me in trouble, oversaw the mixing and set the temperature on the range. i was in charge of stirring. JD took a nap. i had a beer. i may have had another but when i went back to stir the chili in the pot, the wooden spatula struck something on the bottom of the pot. i had not stirred soon enough. The elixir at the bottom had stuck to the magic pot. Not realizing what it was, i scraped it off the bottom with my big spatula. When i picked the spoon up, i realized what the charred goop on the spoon was.

i called JD. “i think i ruined the whole batch,” i lamented.

“No problem,” JD cooly calmed me, “Just stir it into the rest. We’ll tell ’em it’s Southwest chili. They will never know the difference.”

The next morning, we sat out a can of Hormel chili alongside bottles of Thunderbird and Night Train (“Serve Very Cold” for obvious reasons), a total outlay of six bucks. We placed them on the big liberty ship hatch cover i had converted into a large coffee table sitting in the middle of the living room.  When folks expressed dismay, we assured them the Hormel can was just a joke. King Deutch, JD’s boss on Okinawa, showed up with his model wife, Jeannie. She insisted on having a glass of the Night Train. After tasting her wine, she assessed, “Quite elegant with a nice finish.” She laughed.

Everyone loved the chili. They thought Southwest chili was incredibly good.

Now, i don’t burn the bottom of the pan. The pan itself is cast iron and much. Some people even think it’s award-winning, which it is…to my way of thinking. And yes, it is cheating, but i don’t care. It’s good.

Thank you, Carroll Shelby.

And Happy Birthday, JD.

 

A Lovely Day Yesterday

It wasn’t planned. After all, i am not, as often stated, a fan of mandated holidays. Valentine’s Day is one of my least favorites. i don’t like some mysterious something directing me to express my love for folks, especially my wife. i mean i do that quite enough, thank you, without direction.

And i should have taken photos, but i was into the day, the experience, being with her, and stopping to take photos just didn’t quite fit for me. Besides who would like to look at a chubby, bald, old man in a selfie (of which there are very few…intentionally), even if he is on a beach with a beautiful lady.

It was after a lovely breakfast, during which i said i had not done anything for Valentine’s and she replied she had not realized it was that day. Good for her.

As i was washing the breakfast dishes, i asked if she would like to go for a walk. She, thinking i meant around the neighborhood, or perhaps the walking trail around the park at the bottom of the hill, said yes. i upped the ante. i said i was thinking about the Coronado Beach. She, somewhat surprised i think, said yes.

Somewhere around ten, we left. We drove through some of the neighborhoods on the island looking for plants that might go well in our continual rehab of our exterior (yeh, it’s one of her passions). Then we parked about a block from the beach. And took a walk.

My parking spot was near the beach gate into Naval Air Station, North Island, the most frequented Friday Morning Golf rendezvous. i’m very familiar with this area.

i’m pretty familiar with Coronado. When i returned from a 1979-80 deployment, i lived in a two story, two bedroom apartment on Eighth and E. Many legends were created there, most with JD Waits. i would run the island at night after work through neighborhoods not yet overcome with overbuilding behemoth proclamations of financial success, but small neighborhood homes, a small town gone wealth crazy.

But it’s still a beautiful place, and  barring intelligent financial responsibility, it would still be my first choice for living the rest of my life.

Today, it did not matter. Maureen and i walked the beach from the beach gate for the base to the Hotel del Coronado. Not quite high tide. i don’t wish to brag about it because of family and friends across the country are getting hit pretty hard with nasty, cold weather, but the walk was in mid-60’s weather, clouds almost nil, surfers bobbing beyond the wave crests, young children playing in the water, and the magnificent Hotel Del Coronado looming in front of us, and Point Loma jutting out into the Pacific behind us.

We walked through neighborhoods i remembered from when i lived here. Small, comfortable 50’s bungalows now overcome and replaced by mausoleum-like Taj Mahal wannabes on postage stamp yards. But it is still Coronado. Bikes, rider propelled and motorized, with boom box music, disturbing the ambience. Eateries, those with enough outside space to stay open swamped with tourists, from all over and lots from just over the bridge.

But not on the beach. No, not on the beach. So after our walk, we retreat to our go-to in South Park in the heart of the city. A late brunch at The Rose Wine Bar.

But all of that was not the big thing.

Two lovers, ne’er 39 years, holding hands on the beach they have walked many times before, remembering.

It is nice to remember.

And we didn’t even consider it was Valentine’s Day.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Whatever it is, it ain’t baseball

This was one of my old curmudgeon rants in my third weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat. i was correctly criticized for raining on the Boston Red Sox’s World Series Champion parade. i confess my Padres now are doing the same thing, hopefully with the same result, as was done by the winning Red Sox back in 2007. So i think i understand impact of a parade rain. Yeh, my team now also resembles Saruman. Still, major league baseball and other pro sports are out of control, and the crazy money being spent by fans to bulge the pockets of owners and fans is profane.

In Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune sports section, Aaron Rodgers, the 2020 MVP quarterback for the Green Bay Packers reportedly described this season as “180 days of having my nose hair scraped.” My thought was what if they had not had a season and devoted those nearly one million COVID tests to folks who were in much greater need than football players, and that doesn’t even count baseball and basketball player tests.

Our priorities remain nonsensical to me.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Mercifully, the World Series is over. 

Admittedly, this former sports editor did check the scores as the games progressed, but I didn’t watch. I chuckled occasionally thinking of what Fred Russell, the dean of Southern sports writers would have thought of what should be called “money ball,” which is not the strategy for obtaining players made famous by Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics.

The games were delayed and played at night for prime time television coverage. The Colorado Rockies had to wait eight days while the Boston Red Sox toyed in the American League playoffs. 

In the halcyon days of post World War II, the major leagues were far, far away, only something to dream and imagine as a boy in Middle Tennessee. 

We might have seen major leaguers going up or down when we made a trip to Sulphur Dell in Nashville to watch the original “Vols” play Double A ball against the Memphis Chicks, Chattanooga Lookouts, New Orleans Pelicans, Birmingham Barons, Little Rock Travelers, Mobile Bears, and Atlanta Crackers. 

The World Series was time for the Yankees to dominate, usually against the Dodgers. After television crept into our consciousness, my father and I would watch the Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean on Saturdays and the World Series. Then, my father was a Yankee friend. I rooted for the Dodgers. He won.

We played baseball from March to September and watched the Series the first days of October. When we couldn’t get to a real diamond, we played on lots. When lots weren’t available, we played in backyards. If space was a problem, we played “whiffle ball” and stick ball. 

As I recall, the first youth league in Lebanon was the Pony League. We played on the McClain Elementary School playground diamond. At nine while riding my bike to a game, I ran off the sidewalk, took a header and knocked out half of one front tooth. The next year the Pony League was replaced by Little League. I don’t think my tooth had anything to do with it.

What I saw of this year’s series bore little resemblance to baseball back then. Many players looked more like they played in a softball beer league than the majors. Mickey Mantle, Pee Wee Reese, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente played hard but dressed to perfection.  There were the extremists who were sleeveless like Rocky Colavito, but they were considered on the fringe in terms of the dress code. This year’s players looked like they were about to lose their pants.

Falstaff’s Game of the Week has evolved into overpaid super stars playing a modified game for the new version of gossip mongers, the sports fan of the twenty-first century. 

Bowie Kuhn, who passed away in March of this year, tried to fool us by not wearing an overcoat in the freezing weather of night games of the World Series when he was commissioner. Perhaps Bowie was the turning point. Professional baseball evolved from sport to entertainment.

The loved and hated Yankees have been replaced by the Red Sox. Deep pockets rule. Strangely, Larry Luchinno, the Bosox president, came from San Diego where he championed frugality and attacked the Yankees for buying pennants. He even called the Yanks the “Evil Empire.” Now, if not the “Evil Empire,” the Red Sox are the baseball equivalent of Saruman, the second level evil in The Lord of the Rings.

Now there are two different games. One league has pitchers who don’t bat and “designated hitters” who don’t play defense. So two different games are played in the series, depending on which team is host. 

Fred Russell would be sad but would find some way to express the irony with humor.

And Mr. Bush Babb, the overseer at the Cedar Grove Cemetery who played against Ty Cobb in the first Southern League before the irascible Georgia Peach made his name with the Detroit Tigers, would be aghast.

I must confess I am a contributor to this silly game of entertainment. Out here in the Southwest corner, I am a season ticket holder for the Padre games at Petco Park.

I often try to conjure up Sulphur Dell when I take my seat. San Diego is a long, long way from Nashville, and professional baseball is not the same. Baseball as I knew it is much like the home run Dick Shively would announce on the Vols’ radio network, “It’s going, going, gone.”

And yes, if it didn’t cost so much i would still have season tickets for the Padre games…that is, of course, if they will let fans in the stands.

The Devil Made Me Do It: two poems

He woke me up in the middle of the night. Put these thoughts in my head. Wouldn’t let me go back to sleep for fear of losing the thoughts like i nearly always forget the dreams i had except for snippets. i was afraid. i got up, bundled up, and began to write.

Actually, i don’t think it was the devil. i almost didn’t publish them here. But what the hell:

A Puzzling Question

now that the republicans have proven accountability and responsibility
is only required by the opposition,
and
now that the democrats have validated cramming their legislation
down the opposition’s throat is “unity;”
and
now that the democrats have proven accountability and responsibility
is only required by the opposition,
and
now that the republicans have validated cramming their legislation
down the opposition’s throat is “unity;”
and
now that all the politicians who get elected are
the ones who either have or raise the most money,

What remains of the Union and the Constitution?

it must be nice

it must be nice
to be someone who is
always right,
never wrong,
and
get mad at
folks who disagree,
and
only listen to
folks who do agree.
i don’t know
because i’ve never been
always right
and
try to learn from
folks who disagree
but now
i must admit
when i realize
someone believes
they are always right,
i turn the volume control
to off.

Apologia

i do need to apologize.

For about two weeks, i have not been very active in posting anything here, one or two maybe. My Facebook posts have been mostly sharing memories from previous Facebook posts.

i have been remiss.

There are two overriding reasons, among several other minor ones, for my absence.

The first is this book i’m working to publish. For over thirty years, Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings was a distant goal to work on when i was ready and put down when gathering information or the information i knew i would have to include just stopped me for awhile. i also got diverted with other jobs, personal relationships, other ideas for books, home projects, honey-do’s — i’ve discovered there is a major difference between “home projects” and “honey-do’s — other columns and posts, and, of course, golf.

Then i made it to the last couple of chapters for completion of the first draft. i’m on a roll, into it. Working almost a full workday five or six days a week, and some on the other day. The first draft is finished. The hard work is beginning.

i now have a job. Been a while. Love it. Gives me purpose. So my first priority for some time has been and will be the book. i will attempt to get partially back in the groove and with posts. But the book will be first and i will get to all of that other stuff after working on the book if the old man has any energy left.

The second reason is i am too sad. Social media, at least the one i use, Facebook, is really making me sad — i never was interested in Tweeting on Twitter because after all i cannot say or write the phrase in the beginning of this sentence without laughing out loud, and i don’t think i’ve said anything meaningful in 144 characters or less since i got out of high school (“I do” being an exception). Intelligent caring people i know are using Facebook to copy and paste baseless claims, or make their own up, fomenting division, throwing rocks at those they assume are their opposition, making bad jokes, and inflammatory statements because…? Maybe it makes them feel good. They haven’t changed anyone’s mind yet that i know of. Certainly not mine, and when i’ve joined the fray, i haven’t changed anyone’s mind either, that i know of. And dammit, i’m not talking about a particular group. It’s all of us using social media to be antisocial to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Why are we doing this to each other?

Sad.

So once again, i am considering how to operate in this toxic climate of social media. There are good folks out there i would like to keep in my daily scope of things beyond the few i would without social media. i like to hear about someone’s good day, significant accomplishments, wife, husband, children, grandchildren. i like to see memories of the past. i want to know when someone for whom i care is ill, has family not doing well, and even that unavoidable thing called dying.

But it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when the wheat is grossly outnumbered and the chaff keeps bludgeoning me with direct or indirect hate and fear.

So i’m working on it.

i’m still gonna be around on Facebook and with my posts, and i will get to responding to all the comments on my stuff, but is likely i will not be as regular and there will be times i might just disappear for a while.

i wanted you to know it ain’t (necessarily) you, babe.

I do apologize.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Finalities

October 2007, Column 2. Here’s my second weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat. It’s hard to believe it was 14 years ago, harder yet to believe i haven’t been home for more than two years. Yet i still remember standing at the top of my hill with other neighbors watching that fire, trying to determine if its route would impact us, and having our daughter wake us to see Mount Miguel in flames. That’s when we left and moved to Coronado to stay with our good friends, Peter and Nancy Toennies for one night. Fortunately, we have not had that experience again although wildfires are even more a threat now than they were then. The Southwest corner has its fires and earthquakes, but there are natural and man made disasters everywhere. You just have to choose your poison.

SAN DIEGO, CA – This second weekly column has been tough to write.

In a rare exception from my usual pell-mell, last minute throw-it-together mode of operation, I followed the tenets of making any worthy task a success. I determined the desired outcome as I started; I outlined the important steps and created a timeline for completing those steps; I gathered notes and resources and researched needed missing pieces.

Then came the fires.

I tried to stick to my plan and to my regimen. The fire had a different plan, however. It preoccupied my every sense for three days, even though I only briefly felt true concern for my family or my home. Even if I could have eliminated the overbearing presence from heat, smell, smoke, ash, news reports, incoming phone calls checking on us, or outgoing ones checking on others, the fires pervaded every sensible thought I tried to have on other topics.

This is my sixth start on this column. I wanted to write about connections and memories and good stuff. I am compelled to write about the fires.

The devastation and the impact here is mind boggling. Fortunately, the only thing to keep this past week in Southern California from being worse than Katrina is the number of deaths. Only seven deaths have been reported so far.

The fires desolated over 750 square miles. More than half a million people were evacuated. In San Diego alone, over 1400 homes were destroyed. On a local news program, it was revealed we were literally seconds away from cutting power to large numbers of residents during the middle of the crisis.

Returning from our evacuation, we must sort what we packed willy-nilly and place them back from whence they came. We must clean ash on and in the home without the benefit of water, blowers, or vacuums (from a call to conserve water and energy). The fires have put us behind in our usual tasks and added significantly to the list.

As I started on those five other columns, I attempted to escape the fires. Early this morning, I realized I needed some closure.

Of all of the horrible statistics of devastation and costs and of all of the reports of bravery, kindness, futility, anger, meanness, selfishness, and the other aspects of human nature, I have been most intrigued with a whole bunch of people, including me, dealing with finality.

Many people dealt with the prospect of finality in many different ways.

There’s an old adage about living every day as if it were going to be your last. Yet most of the three million people in San Diego County refused to believe it was their last day. 

Many ignored the evacuation orders and stayed behind. Some decided they did not trust the government to do its job. Some thought their presence would protect their homes. Some refused to leave their pets and livestock. Some valued their possessions more than life itself.

Learning from the 2003 fires, the ordered evacuations were more successful this time. One of the reasons was most of the evacuation centers in 2003 did not allow pets. With no where to go without their pets, people refused to evacuate. This time, the evacuation centers allowed pets as much as possible and had pet care built into the evacuation plans.

Of the half million who chose to put more days between them and finality, there were also many diverse reasons for doing so, and many different ways of going about it.

Some panicked and simply left seeking shelter somewhere. Some had planned thoroughly beforehand and methodically carried their plan out. Some like our family had pieces of the plan in place and tried to stay ahead of the curve, tried to make wise choices based on the information at hand and assessing the risks and benefits.

I experienced dealing with finality as I chose what to take and not take with us on our departure. It put some different priorities on what is important when we returned home.

I suspect the thoughts of finality will fade quickly for those who escaped home loss like us. We are already re-prioritizing without consideration of this possibly being our final day. 

Most of us who have gone through this twice take a little bit more learning away this time. Finality is closer to home.

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