i stayed at home today. It was Sunday. i think. Didn’t feel like Sunday.
i’ve been in my version of sequester for a fortnight. No symptoms. Just thought what if everyone in the world had stayed in a safe version of sequester for these two weeks what the statistics would look like. There are enough illogical resisters out there this thing could go on for years.
How much does the media impact this? They are trying to inform us, but some of their reporting creates panic. How do we fix that? Haven’t fixed it history, and we keep stumbling over our mistakes, get up, and keep moving on as if we never stumbled. Sad.
* * *
My brother Joe is an incredible person. Incredible. His depth and expanse of knowledge is amazing. And he is deep. Deep. And good. Did i mention good?
In a moment of my disillusionment a while ago, Joe suggested i read an author that might help me get my mind right (Still one of the best lines from “Cool Hand Luke”). Rainer Maria Rilke. I did. Reread him in during this downtime. Caught a passage that sort of screamed at me deep inside:
Why should you want to give up a child’s wise not-understanding in exchange for defensiveness and scorn, since not understanding is, after all, a way of being alone, whereas defensiveness and scorn are a participation in precisely what, by these means, you want to separate yourself from.
And i thought: there is way too much defensiveness and scorn out there. Yet, we seem to thirst for it, enable it, applaud it. We hide it in nationalism, socialism, religion, causes, but it’s there, front and center at every roll call falsely responding “here” as if it belonged. Why?
Joe is so valuable to me and should be to so many people. He has two traits combined that are damn near impossible to find: wisdom and caring. He does not suffer stupid, but he always tries to help. He is religious in the right way.
As we finished dinner tonight and could not find anything we cared to watch, certainly not the infinite updates ad nauseum about our state of fear and tired of reruns, we caught a streaming of the San Diego Symphony. Ahh…
Don’t know when we spent an evening listening to Tchaikovsky. Nice.
And we, here on our hill in the Southwest corner, near four miles as the crow flies from the Pacific, find all is calm — as the word “pacific” was intended to mean — and being close to only a few can bring understanding and inner peace.
i wish that and good health for all of you.
And quite frankly, i’ve been alone more a less for more than a year several times, mostly at sea, and it ain’t all that bad.
In this dark time (if you are responsible and wish to what is best for you, your family, your friends, and the world) of hunkering down, it can be difficult to adapt. As Hays Mershon pointed out, us old mariners who spent months at sea and even longer periods away from home, have more experience than most when it comes to being isolated on a small ship for long periods of time. Seems to work for me.
But today, as you might discern from my earlier posts, was a birthday. We’ve gotten away from presents between Maureen and i on birthdays. It’s usually a meal at a favorite dining spot, dress up, good food, great atmosphere, and home to bed. That’s about it. But still, under the present conditions, going out for dinner was pretty well shot.
So what should i do?
Well, we started by screwing up her domain: breakfast. i took off for Donny’s Cafe. Donny has a great little place annexed to a bike store. Coffee is the thing, but he and his wife have expanded it into magic breakfasts and great lunches. It’s so good, all the bikers and all the cops go there. But Donny’s place is closed except for coffee and limited breakfast items for limited morning hours. “Ah, hah,” i said — well actually the “ah, hah” came when i realized i was out of my whole bean Colombian coffee which i grind and make with a French press in my mornings — ordered an asiago bagel and an onion bagel with cream cheese (of course) and an avocado toast. Nice quiet breakfast. Maureen didn’t have to cook and i washed the dishes.
Then in the evening, Sarah and i (and Maureen, she couldn’t keep out of it), we went special. Earlier in the week, Wine Vault and Bistro brainstormed a way to still provide incredible food and wine to their customers. Wine Vault has long been our place to go for special evenings. The atmosphere is perfect, the chef is incredible and the pre-fixe repast with paired wines is absolutely the best. Chris and Mary came up with a plan. They sent out emails to regular customers offering pickup of four magnificent courses and par bread created (and i write “created” purposefully because his stuff is beyond just cooking) by Chef Gregory.
Mid-afternoon, i traveled downtown to the north end of India Street, a food maven’s heaven of cuisines: the iconic El Indio Mexican restaurant with a park of outside tables across the street (El Indio used to be where Marine Major Bruce Brunn and i would hit after a lunch run around Balboa Park for post-run tacos with a Dos Equis in the little park before returning to our flagship); the iconic Blue Water, which is the best seafood deli i’ve ever experienced; the British pub Shakespeare’s, which takes you all the way to England and provides Black and Tan’s, Guinness and Bass Ale, along with the fish and chips or bangers and mash; the Thai special place Saffron; a new American deli; a Japanese Sushi Bar across Washington; and Maureen’s favorite post meal go-to Gelato Vero Caffe, which she claims has the best gelato outside of Rome. Nearly all of these great places are offering take-out at various days and times.
Traffic was almost non-existent, parking was where i chose, both anomalies in this usual glob of vehicles. i picked up our order with a nice six-feet apart conversation with Chris and returned home in record time.
Sarah then took over getting the food prepped and setting the table.. Maureen, unable to keep her gourmet self out of it worked with Sarah on the preps while i felt…well, dispensable. The result:
Sarah found blooms in the yard for the flower arrangements. She got out the high end placemats, the good silverware, the special San Diego Zoo napkin rings, the wooden wine goblets given to us by the legendary Aunt Fran for our wedding gift, the handmade china Maureen bought from an artist when she lived in Monterrey. i brought out the bluetooth and outdated iPod and put Julian Bream on “shuffle,” low volume. And we dined on: Salmorejo (gazpacho-like chilled tomato soup from Spain), Thai Shrimp Curry (a spicy Asian stir fry with a shellfish broth over fragrant jasmine rice), triple mushroom lasagna (with housemade ricotta and black truffle Béchamel), Cassoulet (with Toulouse sausage, bacon stewed beans, and roasted root vegetables), and that wonderful baked bread.
At the restaurant, we get the pour of the paired wines with each course. Not ready to take on four wines, we selected a bottle of 2017 Margerum “M5” Red Rhone Blend from Santa Barbara.
Damn near a perfect dinner.
Maureen and Sarah settled into the family room to watch the end of a chick-flick comedy thing. i washed the dishes.
i had asked Maureen to name the one movie she would pick to watch if she could only watch one all of the time. She demurred. i mentioned a few i knew she liked plus threw in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Silverado.” She laughed and asked, “What about Monty Python?”
And i said, “Sure, i love “Search for the Holy Grail.”
Being Maureen, she didn’t choose her top pick, she chose “Search for the Holy Grail” because she thought Sarah and i would prefer it.
We all enjoyed until it reached, or rather, the knights reached the Bridge of Death. Maureen declared she ate too much and retired.
It was a lovely birthday day.
Of course, reality struck this morning:
“What did you do with the paperwork for the new blinds?” she asked as she shuffled the the file cabinet in my office.
“i gave them to you,” i said indignantly.
“No, you didn’t,” she shot back.
“Yes, i did.”
“You gave them back the first time, but you took them back to check something,” she responded.
“Yes, but i gave them back to you.”
“No, you didn’t,” she almost shouted as she began to rifle through the mounds of paperwork on my desk much to my annoyance.
“Yes, i did,” i answered haughtily but thinking she had a small chance of being right went out and checked in work room in the garage. No luck.
“They are not out there,” i said upon returning, “i gave them back to you.”
“No, you didn’t.”
This went back and forth a few more times getting more heated after each exchange.
…then, then, she picked up a file out of the cabinet and said in amazement, “Look, here they are.”
i then had several options, and i knew, i knew it made no difference what i said, it was still going to be my fault.
So i said, “See, i told you so.”
She wagged her finger at me with a scowl, laughed her sheepish laugh, and then we both laughed, then hugged and kissed.
These are sea stories about an institution in military life not found in civilian organizations, at least not officially or legally.
For those who haven’t served in the military, the institution is called Non-Judicial Punishment or NJP. NJP is the beginning of the justice system for military organizations, which ends with court martials.
i’m sure the other services will disagree, but because of the nature of being isolated on a ship at sea, NJP is unique in the power it has over the crew and the necessity it has for good order and discipline as well, of course, with justice.
My first introduction to NJP just happened to involve me. In 1963, i was aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) as one of 21 third class NROTC midshipmen. Our first liberty port out of Newport, Rhode Island was Sydney, Nova Scotia. We were not aware, or at least i was not impressed with the idea of sticking to rules and regulations. We had just concluded our first year of college, and we were raring to have a good time, which we did.
While in Sydney, liberty on the Thomas was declared by rank: Liberty for second class petty officers and below expired at 2200. First class petty officers and below expired at 2300; Midshipmen and chiefs liberty expired at midnight, and Officers at 0600 (as i recall) before we were to get underway at 0800. On our last night of liberty in Sydney, a half-dozen third class middies executed our plan to have a good time for as long as possible with the assistance of one of the first class midshipmen. He had the duty that last day and had drawn the OOD quarterdeck midwatch. He agreed to not report us if we came back after liberty call during his watch.
We arranged to meet some local young ladies at one of their homes. The crew had found the local dance hall and went there in mass, but we opted to miss that and have our own rendezvous and, of course party, party, party. As i remember, my night was really uneventful, but i did drink a good bit of Carling Black Label (Do you remember, “Hey Mabel, Black Label?) and was happy to stay until about 0200.
That is when our plan pretty much fell apart. When we crossed the brow to report aboard around 0230, our accomplice was no longer the Officer of the Deck. A junior officer had taken over and the Executive Officer, a stern, no fooling kind of guy, was on the quarterdeck.
The dance hall had created some jealousy when the sailors began dancing with girls of the local boys, also at the hall. A fistfight began between a sailor who was dancing with a local was confronted by her boyfriend. The fight expanded until all the men were rioting while the ladies went home. It was a doozy. Bottles of Mabel’s beer were apparently missiles in the air and used as weapons as well.
Liberty was cancelled around 2100 when the shore patrol and local police reported the melee to the ship. The ship was had mustered to see who was missing and began counting heads to ensure everyone got back.
The Exec ordered the quarterdeck to put the six of us on report. We acknowledged but rather than head for our racks, hung around close to the quarterdeck to watch sailors straggle back from the brouhaha. It was a constant but decreasing stream of sailors in varying degrees of disarray.
My favorite returnee was a third class petty officer. He stumbled off the quarterdeck around 0230 on his way aft to his berthing, drunk in partial uniform with his whites torn and bloody and big chunk of his jumper top missing. He also had no shoes or socks. We caught him as he reeled down the weatherdeck.
“Did you win the fight?” we asked.
“Win?” the sailor shouted, “Hell, i got back didn’t I?”
One of the last groups to return were in a cab. About four chiefs and the captain poured out and stumbled (a nice way to describe it) across the brow. The captain, a former submariner, preferred running with the chief petty officers rather than the wardroom. Seeing the stern XO there, the chiefs disappeared immediately after reporting aboard.
The XO, looking for some command guidance and relief apparently, approached the more than slightly inebriated CO and almost pleaded, “Captain, liberty was cancelled at 2100. They had a big fight between the town guys and our sailors at the dance hall. i’ve been very worried about you.”
The captain reeled about, looking cockeyed, and said, “Dammit, that’s great. Liberty for all hands.”
The XO, as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, which wasn’t very unobtrusive, escorted the captain to his cabin.
The next morning, the Lloyd Thomas left the pier to join the other ships of the USS Intrepid (CV 11) flotilla in the eight-week cruise. i’m not saying the captain might have been a little bit hungover and i cannot find a report of the incident in any search, but while standing out the harbor, the Thomas sideswiped a Japanese fishing vessel. i know because standing the port wing lookout, i watched as the startled Japanese crew went from eating their bowls of rice to jumping over the side. Amazingly, the ship proceeded out as if nothing had happened.
A day later at Captain’s Mast, i was assigned three weeks of extra duty, meaning after the working day, i was assigned a couple of hours each day to do onerous tasks. With my devil-may-care, good-times-roll demeanor, i had a good time. The best moment was the night i was assigned to scrub down the after-steering gear room, just aft of my berthing which was on the first deck below the fantail. With the huge gearbox creaking and groaning, i climbed atop and took a nap. Figured that would show the XO.
i never quite understood how i and the other midshipmen got such punishment at NJP for our pretty innocent foray while the Captain was doing his thing and the chiefs got off Scot free.
It dawned on me this morning as she arose early and ruined my birthday surprise as only Maureen can, i should make this an annual post. This is a love story. It’s true, although we still disagree on some insignificant points, but then again, that’s what happens when the birthday girl of 69 has been married to a goofy guy for near 37 years. And her disruption of plans this morning and the arguments over insignificant points leads to laughter and a hug. Can’t ask for more than that.
Once again, Happy Birthday, Maureen.
In March 1982, i was the Weapons Officer on the USS Okinawa (LPH 3), an amphibious helicopter carrier – For some quirky reason, the department head position was entitled First Lieutenant, which i preferred, on all of the ships of that class, except the Okinawa. My commanding officer was Captain David Rogers, one of the best captains i had on the ten ships on which i served.
Dave was very proud of his ship. He desired it to be the best, and asked me to come up with a way to make our quarterdeck (for landlubbers, this is the main, if not the only entrance to the ship, a ceremonial and practical place for greeting guests coming on board, a check-in, check-out place for officers and crew, and for enforcing security. In short, like the bridge at sea, the quarterdeck is one of the most important places on the ship when moored or anchored.
But on carriers, or at least helicopter carriers like Okinawa the quarterdeck was located on the hanger deck, one deck below the flight deck. It was a cavernous area for stowing helicopters and performing maintenance. It was not a showy place. That made making the quarterdeck better than all of the others on the waterfront a difficult task.
Okinawa already had a huge red Japanese torii (ornamental gate) we placed on the quarterdeck when in port. But the captain wanted our entrance to be better. That was my challenge. Finally, a couple of my division officers, CWO4 Boatswain Roger Ellis, and i came up with a solution. A bosun is the heart of deck departments on large ships. Bosun Ellis was one of the best bosuns around. His wife was a very short and very round Filippino lady who was involved in a lot of department activities, including creating beautiful macramé (she made the lanyard for the boatswain pipe the department gave me for a good-bye present a year later and it hangs from my Navy brass clock in my home office still).
The Okinawa’s quarterdeck spilled into the hangar bay, a huge but not very attractive space. Guests, while waiting for whomever they had come to visit had to stand in the area. We decided to buy partitions and make a waiting area with some nice, but durable seating and hang artwork on the partition walls.
Captain Rogers thought that was a marvelous idea. So on Friday, March 12, 1982, Boatswain Ellis and his first class boatswainmate were to include panels in their bi-weekly department shopping run. The boatswainmate had straggly, straw-colored hair, which he combed into as much of a ducktail as a regulation Navy haircut would allow. On these runs the duo wore civvies. Both had on jeans. Bosun Ellis had on a black tee shirt, which did not hide his more than adequate beer belly. His hair, jet-black, was thick and also worn with a hint of a ducktail. The boatswainmate wore a studded black leather biker’s jacket over a white tee shirt. When he took off his jacket, his cigarette case was wrapped in the left sleeve of the tee shirt.
They left the ship about 1400. i had a lot of paperwork and stayed in my department office until well after 1700, more than an hour after liberty call. That’s when the pair returned.
Somewhat surprised to find me, the bosun told me they had gotten all of the needed supplies except for the panels. When i asked why, he explained, “Well, sir, we went to Dixieline Lumber (the local hardware store). They didn’t carry panels. They suggested we try this place downtown, Parron-Hall Office Interiors.
“We went there and it was real fancy, way above our pay grade. But this lady came out and helped us. She was nice and pretty, and I noticed she didn’t have a ring on her left finger.
“But she was way too skinny for me.”
Handing me the brochures he brought back from the lady, he concluded, “So I thought you should go down there and take care of getting the panels.”
On Monday morning, March 15, 1982, i drove downtown and walked into Parron-Hall Office Interiors. The receptionist called for Ms. Boggs. Our first meeting is still disputed. She says i had on my Navy hat. i have never worn my Navy hat indoors and insist my piss cutter was either in my hand or folded in my back pocket. i say she had on a light dress, and i could see her legs silhouetted by the sunlight coming through a window. She says no way.
Regardless, our panel search was over. Somehow i managed to get about five “business lunches” out of the purchase. i hated fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption, and tried hard not to let this beautiful young woman influence me, but i did keep the relationship as friendly as possible. When the purchase was made and the delivery was on the ship, i went to her office for the last administrative check on Thursday.
Then, i asked her if she would like to go see John Lee Hooker at the Belly Up Tavern in Carlsbad that Saturday.
She asked, “Who’s John Lee Hooker?”
i replied, “He’s one of the best blues singers,” and then inquired, “You do like the blues, don’t you?”
She evaded the question by declaring, “I like all kinds of music.”
She then stated i should know she had a “primary relationship.” i asked, “What’s that?” She laughed.
We went to see John Lee at the Belly Up Tavern Saturday night, and then we went back to the Belly Up on Monday to see Doc Watson.
And so it began.
As to why i was attracted to her, she was beautiful but the realization we could have a relationship that lasted for a long time came to me on a special night the following autumn.
We had been out for dinner uptown, not in La Jolla, which was most often our preference. For some reason, we were driving around Kensington, an upscale neighborhood. We passed a beautiful ravine, and i parked. We just talked about many things in the short stop, but she started talking about her beliefs. It struck me hard that she and i had incredibly similar views about living the right way. The more we were together the more i recognized how caring she was without a mean bone in her body.
And then, she sent me flowers. It was probably a first. A florist delivery truck pulled up on the pier and the driver delivered a rather impressive floral array to the quarterdeck.
“These are for Commander Jewell,” he said. They were delivered. i became a shipboard legend. This rather incredibly beautiful woman had sent flowers to Commander Jewell.
Then i got orders across the country to the USS Yosemite (AD 19) in late summer, which would deploy across the world to the Indian Ocean. She voiced concern about our relationship lasting so far apart. So i asked her to marry me. She said yes.
Before i left, she gave me some photos of her. One of her bosses, Bob Long, was also a very good photographer and had a shooting session with her. My favorite was enlarged, framed and hung on the bulkhead of my shipboard office. It is now above the desk in my home office.
All the lights except the reading light above my chair are off. Maureen went to bed to read. She will be asleep now. i can no longer read more than two paragraphs in bed without falling to sleep. That is why i am in this chair.
i will not write my usual thousand-plus words here tonight. i may do that tomorrow to honor her. She deserves honor. After all, she has put up with me going on 37 years.
No words, even though i might attempt it tomorrow, can express how much i love this lady.
She is beautiful inside and out. She is caring. She is loving. She’s a little crazy. She has a great laugh.
We are a great fit. You bring me joy.
Happy 69th Birthday tomorrow, my beautiful Maureen.
BONITA, CA – Last Friday, one regular golfer noted he had an Admiral Rickover story.
When I mentioned last week’s column and the midshipmen who broke his engagement only to be rejected by Rickover, my golfer exclaimed, “I knew that guy. He was my roommate at the Academy.”
The two stories were similar but took different twists at the end. When Rickover noticed the roommate’s grades had slipped, the midshipman confided his fiancé had moved to Annapolis for his senior year, a distraction, but his focus would be on nuclear power if accepted. Then Rickover used the ploy he had used with my story.
“Call you fiancé and cancel the engagement,” Rickover demanded. Doing as told, the midshipman called his fiancé with Rickover listening, he announced, “Honey, I just wanted to tell you I’m going to be an Naval aviator, not a nuclear submariner.”
Then there were two moments when I was A&M’s nuclear power advisor and in Rickover’s gun sight.
Texas A&M was renowned for it’s nuclear engineering program, and one NROTC cadet was a brilliant nuclear engineer. He held a 4.0 grade point average when I counseled him in preparation for the Navy’s Nuclear Power program acceptance process.
“Midshipman (name not included intentionally), I am sure you will get to the final interview with Admiral Rickover,” I commenced, “But I can find no commonality in Rickover’s interviewing techniques to tell you what you should say or do.”
“However,” I continued, “The one consistent thing I’ve found in all of the post-interview comments I’ve read is this: If you make a statement or respond to a question from the admiral, do not recant. When interviewees go back on a previous comment to the admiral, they are not accepted in the program.”
Concluding, I cautioned, “So I advise you to stick to your guns, no matter how hard the admiral tries to dissuade you.”
The young man went to Washington, D.C. and flew through the preliminary process. He entered Rickover’s lair in the late morning. When he refused to budge on a statement, Rickover sent him to the “waiting room,” a small room with a chair and a light bulb where he waited for several hours before being summoned again.
Again Rickover pressed him to recant his position. The midshipman refused. He went back to the room for a couple of more hours. The process was repeated into the late evening before Rickover directed him to stay over and see him again the next morning. After another round of refusing to budge and more time in the “waiting room,” the admiral finally asked the midshipman if he had been coached and by whom.”
The midshipman told the admiral “Lieutenant Commander Jewell” in the NROTC unit had given him some suggestions about how to respond in the interview. He was dismissed. Rickover picked up his phone and called the president of Texas A&M. The Admiral demanded his Navy staff, a.k.a. me, should not counsel midshipmen when they were to interview. Then he called the NROTC Unit Commanding Officer, my direct boss, Colonel Ivins. The next morning the colonel called me in and told me what transpired.
“And you know, Jim, Admiral Rickover called in the middle of supper,” he griped, “I swallowed my taco whole, nearly choked.”
The midshipman? He never made it to submarines. The nukes considered him so valuable after he was commissioned, they sent him straight to the research arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He never wore a uniform, but did very well.
Another prize midshipman was the regimental commander of the Cadet Corps, probably the first Navy cadet to hold the position. He also was brilliant and loved the Aggie Corps. I gave him the same direction, but it did not prove a factor.
Upon his return, he noted the interview went well until Rickover asked him what was entailed in being the regimental commander. The cadet told Rickover he was responsible for leadership of the 3,000 strong corps. Rickover mumbled something to the effect that was his job.
That evening, the TAMU president and Col. Ivins received their second calls from the admiral. “What the heck do you think you’re doing down there,” he screamed at the president, “You teach them nuclear engineering. I’ll take care of the leadership.”
The colonel got off a bit lighter this time. He didn’t swallow his taco.
The other day, i received a Facebook post with a digital story telling from a young friend…well, she’s younger than me, but that is becoming just about everybody. Regardless, the story was impressive, and i dwelt on how to write something about what a wonderful and caring person she was and remains.
i considered our get together from a couple of years ago. i was pretty much retired, and she was planning for retirement when we met, and sort of got to that stage. But not really. We both still have things to accomplish. The dinner we shared with spouse and friends was delightful. Then we had coffee on a Sunday morning. We caught up. Her accomplishments are remarkable and in keeping with her caring.
Then, i remembered our past. i began an email to my family: wife, daughters, son-in-law, brother and his wife, sister and her husband. Then i changed my mind.i thought she might find it embarrassing, maybe even a little offensive, especially considered the status she has obtained. So i asked for her permission to tell the story.
i do not know how many of you tell my story of “Kathy the Drunk.” If i have related that story to you, this is a bit of an expanded version.
In April 1969, the USS Hawkins (DD 873) returned to its home port of Newport, Rhode Island after completing its overhaul in the Boston Naval Shipyard and almost three months of refresher training or “REFTRA” at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. i returned to an empty nest. My wife of six months had left me and filed for divorce. i had waived my rights to delay the divorce under the “Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act” because i realize contesting the divorce would just make things worse. Still i was in a dejected state and returning to a wonderful apartment on Tuckerman Avenue looking directly across Easton Bay to the Breakers, Vanderbilt’s summer mansion, was not a joyous occasion.
The small bedroom, spacious living area, tiny kitchen and bath was only half filled with what Jane had determined was mine. i had married believing it was for my lifetime and that half-empty apartment poured fuel on the fire of my angst.
The marriage was one of the dumber things i’ve done in my life, putting her in a most difficult situation without my realizing it. But i was committed for my lifetime, or so i thought, until that empty, desolate, feeling hit me when i opened that door.
If there was one show, besides westerns, i loved more than all of the rest when television became another resident of our household from 1954 until i went to college in 1962, it was Red Skelton.
We are hunkered down. During the day, i attack many things i previously have intended to accomplish but have had other things to do like golf, dining out, golf, Balboa Park, golf, the Zoo, golf, visiting friends and places, golf, walking on the beach (which i almost never do), and golf. i still have a lot of tasks remaining.
By dinner time, i’m sort of worked out. Our tradition is we dine on dinner trays in the family room and watch as much local news as we can stand. We, then, used to watch sports mostly. In spite of the sports sequestering and having our fill of covid-19 updates and advertising stuff that this hunkering down is supposed to make more attractive, we have maintained our tradition. But we are into this seriously for about two weeks. Maureen and Sarah watch their movies and television shows mostly during the day. They allow me to watch my preference at night, which often is none, so i read, listen to music, and write.
But as noted earlier, i go to oaters, especially when i need a picker-upper. We also go back to old movie favorites. “Casablanca” (thanks, Judy Gray, for bring this one to the fore) with Sarah. Sarah had us watch a show from the “Mandalorian” series. And i’m sure “The Quiet Man” is not too far away. We found “Cheers” reruns. Then, the other night, i found “3rd Rock from the Sun.” i searched fruitlessly for one of my favorite series until i went to Youtube. Last night, we watched the first show of the series “Evening Shade.” i had forgotten how star-packed that series was: Burt Reynolds, Marilu Henner, Ossie Davis, Hal Holbrook, Charles Durning, Elizabeth Ashley, Ann Wedgeworth, and my favorite Michael Jeter. So now, we have those three and westerns to choose from each evening until this thing blows over.
But sometimes, even all of that seems to be missing something, especially in this re-run of drear in the Southwest corner rainy season where we have gone over our annual average of rain of ten inches by almost two inches already with at least one more of these Pacific generated wet weather patterns, which will generate all of the weather guessers after screaming about a possible drought now warn us that all of this rain will make a lot of stuff grow, turn green, then brown, and be superb fodder for wildfires by summer’s end, a pattern the weather guessers love, a circular soap opera suspense story.
But in an almost funk last evening, i went to my go-to time killer, spider solitaire on my laptop, but spied something in a sidebar. i checked it out even though i had no clue who Dini Petty was, a rather remarkable woman it turns out and hostess of a Canadian television show of her name. But this one show caught me.
It was an hour-long — almost, they cut out the commercials — interview with an older Red Skelton.
i was entranced. His bubbling humor and adlibs did not fade with age. He was a showman and a promoter of the old school and his claim to the amount of work he accomplished in so many pursuits was a little bit too hard to swallow. As he spoke and Dini laughed and swooned over him along with her audience, i was taken back to all of Red’s shows. They were clean (for the most part as there were some innuendos funnier than what was the literal interpretation), inventive and more difficult for a comedian to keep ’em laughing than with the foul language shock of the later comedians. And he did it for twenty years. Twenty years every week.
But the other thing that kept coming through was his humility, his genuine caring, his humanity, and yes, his sadness in his personal life.
The world was better with Red Skelton. i wish i could go back to those years when i watched. i could miss Milton Berle, Martha Raye, “The Ted Mack Amateur Hour” (where Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, Jose Feliciano, Irene Kara, and Tanya Tucker debuted — looking this up in Wikipedia, i found Louis Farrakan played a violin under his birth name Louis Walcott — and others. But not Red. No, not Red.
If you are too young to really know about Red Skelton or wish to reminisce a bit in this sheltering, i recommend Dini’s interview. It’s a bit long, but i think worth it: