All posts by James Jewell

A Final Note on Mother’s Day

As anyone who frequently reads my posts should know, i am not a fan of government declared or what i deem silly holidays, like Valentine’s Day.

i save my vitriol on Mother’s Day because it just seems disrespectful. But, of course, i wrote my post about the mothers connected to me today.

Then, when i was driving to brunch with Maureen and Sarah, i passed, as usual, the Glen Abby Memorial Gardens. i don’t think my wife or daughter noticed, but i did.

The woman stood by herself on the hillside. She wore black, but it was not pure black. She had long black hair. i could not see her face, but she looked young, and i guessed pretty. From my distance, it looked like the long dress had flowers in the black fabric. Roses, perhaps, i thought. When i was growing up and we went to church on Mother’s Day, in addition to being dressed up and spit shined by our mother, we all wore roses. If your mother had passed away, you wore a white rose. If you mother was living, you wore a red rose. What a nice tradition it was. i hoped the flowers on the woman’s dress were white roses.

In the short glimpse i had as i was driving by, she was looking at a headstone, as if she were praying, or perhaps talking. i really don’t know that either, but that’s the way i wanted to remember her. i did.

It occurred to me the government, actually President Woodrow Wilson, got this one right. i think it good, cleansing, healing, and respectful to take one day and dedicate it to remembering and thanking mothers.

The woman on the hill made me realize that.


My mother and i did not always get along, but we always knew who was in charge, and up until her last day, she was in charge. Part of that was because she had the strong arm and will of Jimmy Jewell behind her, and there was no way i was going up against him about a disagreement with her.

She was in the emergency room on April 29, five years ago. Her pain, though mitigated by the magic drugs, was still great. She was tired. i suspect she was tired, not of living because she had been full of spunk that morning in Elmcroft’s beauty parlor when i dropped by on our way to Nashville, but tired of living without her husband of 75 years who had left her nine months earlier.

The specialist had pulled me aside and told me there were some serious decisions to be made. Estelle could have surgery, but the percentages of success were about 75/25 against. Even then, there was no guarantee how long she would last. Or we could give her meds and monitor her, but that would likely be the end. Even though i had talked to both of my parents about such a moment and knew well their “living wills,” i knew, as long as she was mentally capable, i would have to ask her.

i walked back into the emergency room, bent over the emergency room bed, and said, “Mother, you have to decide what we are going to do here.”

She said, “No. You make the decision. i don’t want to.”

i knew she had put me in charge, and i had the responsibility of her life in my hands.

i told the specialist, “She doesn’t want surgery.”

After her grandson, Tommy Duff and i had split spending the night with her, she passed away while sleeping a little earlier than expected. Tommy; his mother  and her daughter Martha; Maureen, whom she loved unconditionally as a daughter-in-law; and i were in the room with her.

i have thought about that in-charge thing a lot in the past five years. My mother ruled our house  with an iron hand. The rubber ball and rubber band had been removed from its paddle. That paddle sat atop the refrigerator, and when Estelle Jewell started reaching to the top of the refrigerator, i knew i was in trouble, big, red-rear-end trouble.

That was the way they knew how to raise their children in those days. It wasn’t wrong because they didn’t know it was wrong. It wasn’t abuse because it was done for mid-course correction of a child. We were to be seen and not heard. We were to say “please” and “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir.”

We have since learned a lot about parenting. Her rules no longer apply. But her (and my father’s) rules worked because there was never a doubt in my mind they applied those rules and the consequences of disobeying them because they loved me and wanted me to learn to do the right thing.

i suspect nearly everyone out there has had contentious moments with their mothers. Those are forgotten today because we have a national day declared for honoring them. And we remember how they loved us.

So happy and well-deserved Mother’s Day to all of you mothers who have shown your love without limit.

And a special wonderful day wish for Kathie Jewell, who has been the best mother for Blythe and grandmother for Sam because of her unconditional love of them, and for Blythe who has been as good a mother as one could get for my grandson Sam, and Maureen who has been the same for Sarah.

P.S. i’m glad Estelle Jewell was in charge for so long.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

The Basic Law of Construction: Cut it large and kick it into place.

Goofy guy’s current observance of The Basic Law of Construction: i’m replacing a cross beam of our trellis this morning and intend to comply with this law. 

Ramblings Thoughts of an Old Man Who Should Be Doing Something More Productive

Well, it started all right. i mean, this morning i was up and at ’em, ready to take on the world…okay, okay, maybe not the world but i had a lot of things on my plate.

But i slowed down somewhere around nine and started piddling. i’m good at piddling. Perhaps it is the weather. For this year up to now, Southern California ain’t. Record rains in the winter, the usual thirty days of clouds with traces of rain compared to what we had back home stretched from January to March and never really went away, including clouding up the first days of May, one of my favorite times of the year out here, all the way into “May Gray” and i’m afraid continuing through “June Gloom.”

But that’s seaport weather and shouldn’t put me in a funk. After all, it’s pleasant playing golf in cloudy cool weather, even with a mist. And it reminds me of the myriad of ports into which i sailed over the years: clouds, mist, small white caps on the seas, with mountains inland warmed by shawls of clouds over their shoulders like Mount Miguel yesterday morning.

Which led me to thinking of Newport which led me to thinking of shipmates. One in particular came back into mind when Maureen and i wandered over to North Park in the early evening yesterday for an early supper at one of our favorite spots, The Rose Wine Bar where we shared their delicious salad, a margarita pizza, and their rather incredible strawberry shortcake with the ice cream made right there. We liked it. Rather than show you the lovely display when served, i give you what it looked like before we made the bartender take it back.

But that wasn’t what made me think of Andrew Nemethy, whom i have written about before. Maureen tasted several wines, white and rosé. i, however, saw a red listed, the fourth on the list, with the description ending in “Hu.” To be sure i asked the bartender if that meant it was from Hungary. Well, i gotta tell you, Andrew, the Kardaka ’17 was spectacular. This is the second glass and it didn’t last long either.

Not like anything i had at the Black Pearl Tavern on the pier in Newport, Rhode Island, but then, i usually had beer with the best Boston Clam Chowder ever while listening to Jody sing folk songs with the parrot squawking not quite in tune. But that was another time, another place where what i called spring rolling through in late May yet better than the two days i felt spring in late June in Watertown, New York, but that too was another time, another place, long ago.

So i woke up this morning, raring to go, or at least raring for someone who passed three quarters of a century about four months ago. And what did i find for my work outside? Yup. Another one of those cloudy and dank days with sprinkles of rain daring me to finish my work on my trellis. But you know, it is what you make it, and when i walked around the backyard, it was sort of pretty in its own, peaceful way:






That’s about when i started piddling.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Robertson’s Law: Quality Assurance doesn’t.

Goofy guy’s corollary to Robertson’s Law: And if an executive of any organization claims it does, then he or she is wearing it like a hood ornament, not revealing what’s under the hood.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Wright’s First Law of Quality: Quality is inversely  proportional to the time left for completion of the project.

Goofy guy’s Navy First Lieutenant’s reflection on Wright’s First Law of Quality: It remains amazing to this old deck officer how many CO’s and XO’s would scream about properly painting out the ship, i.e. quality, but then demand radioing (Navy term for painting over rust, etc.) when a senior Navy officer or high-ranking government official was visiting within a week.

Oops to Chapter 8

Two days ago, my fat fingers hit the wrong button and a very rough draft of the beginning of Chapter 8 was posted rather then being filed in the “draft” folder.

i have deleted the post and am working on Chapter 8. The next installment will be posted before Friday.

i once again have proven i am technically challenged and sometimes…oh, okay, most of the time, a little goofy from aging.

i apologize for any confusion.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

First Law of Corporate Planning: Anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time left to change anything.

Goofy guy’s addition to the First Law of Corporate Planning: But then the planners will change the time to have enough time to change one more thing. 

A Way to Go

The news was a day late. It did not make me any less proud, and considering the lunch i had yesterday, it was all aligned:

San Diego has a large contingent of what remains of the greatest generation’s greatest folks who served: World War II veterans. It probably has the largest contingent remaining of those who were at Pearl Harbor one Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941.

Frank Manchel was not at Pearl Harbor but he was no less a hero. The fact San Diego has long honored veterans, especially those who served in World War II like Manchel makes me proud of the city. For those who don’t know, the San Diego Padres honor active duty and retired personnel, and veterans, every Sunday home game. There are many other examples of San Diego honoring military personnel, active duty, retired military, and veterans.

As the story in the link notes, Mr. Manchel died on the return trip of an honor flight. As i read, i felt proud.

Just like i’m proud of my friend and shipmate who shared a stateroom with me on the USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) while we were on the staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five deployed to the Western Pacific. Al Pavich was blown out of his swift boat in Vietnam, thrown about fifty feet (as i remember; it could have been a further toss) against a tree. Undaunted, he became a limited duty officer retiring as a Commander. He then became the CEO of Vietnam Veterans of San Diego (now “Veterans Village of San Diego” but still “VVSD”), which he led into becoming a model across the nation for rehabilitating homeless veterans . When i read the article, i thought of Al and beamed even more.

The story of Frank Manchel also brought to mind my connection to Pearl Harbor and aligned with my lunch yesterday.

Years ago, i put a flagpole atop the slope on the back of our property. The US Ensign (that’s what it is properly called in the Navy) flies there. It can be seen for at least three miles away. It has been the source of many compliments from folks in the area. One special complement remains the best.

Jesse Thompson lived at the bottom of the hill. One day, he came up to our house and knocked on the door. Only our high school daughter Sarah was home. He told Sarah he was a Pearl Harbor survivor and others who were there that day of infamy joined him every Wednesday to swap stories and reminisce. It turns out Jesse’s home was pretty much a World War II museum, filled with memorabilia of the war. He explained to Sarah that every Wednesday, he and his fellow survivors look up at my flag on the hill because it reminds them of the one on Mount Suribachi, you know, the one with the flag in the iconic photo of the Marines raising it after a victory on Okinawa. i was thrilled.

i have written about Jesse before. He’s gone now. There are precious few of those survivors left.

Then while Maureen was in La Jolla having lunch with friends, i decided to go to my favorite place, Bonita Golf Club. It ain’t fancy. That is one of the reasons i like it. Down to earth, good folks, lots of old ones. One of the old ones who i had never met bothered me. He always parks in a place at the end of the marked spaces, right next to the door of the restaurant. The vehicle is one of those that the makers couldn’t make up their minds if it should be a pickup or an SUV. On the back gate, there is a sticker that reads, “Pearl Harbor Survivor.” i certainly gave the owner a pass. He was due i thought.

Yesterday, i sat at the bar by myself with my club sandwich and a .394 (that’s an IPA made by the local brewery Alesmith honoring Tony Gwynn for his batting average, the year he would have matched Ted Williams except the players union had a strike) having a nice conversation with the young bartender about Nashville, where she had visited in February. An older gentleman in a golf cap comes up with an empty wine glass in his hand.

“Another chardonnay?” she asked, already reaching for the bottle.

“Yes,” he said and smiled at her. He was slow of gait but alert, had to be well into his nineties. Alone. He took his wine and walked back to his table. Later, he returned for one more glass of chardonnay.

i recognized he was the owner of the truck. It seemed a little awkward to introduce myself. i didn’t even catch his name. Now after reading the article about Frank Manchel, i plan to go back to the Bonita Golf Club until i see that whatever-it-is with the sticker on the back is there, and go find the owner. i want to have a long talk with him and thank him.

Back to Frank, i also could not help but think of my father’s comment i turned into a poem and is posted below (again). i’m glad Frank went out the way he did, honored, provided a tribute to his service, going quick. The way to go.

Going Quick

Two men, father and son,
hunched over a work bench
a number of years ago;
working on a project quietly
in the glare of the naked bulb
hanging above their heads;
they talked a bit,
focusing on the task at hand,
smiling quietly at the bond
they continued to build;
the old man with thick strong hands said,
“You know, son,
i’ve led a pretty good life,
got three good kids who have grown up well,
some good grandchildren, and
your mother;
‘bout the only thing I hope now
is when I go,
it’ll be quick.”

My father did go quick. He was in that war also, in far away places like New Guinea, New Caledonia, the Philippines.

A final note: i did a Google search for the attack on Pearl Harbor. i searched for “Day of Infamy.” The majority of the hits, including the first one were for a video game of that name. Sad. Downright sad.  Somehow we seem to have lost our balance, our perspective on what is important. We have a way to go.

i’m glad Mr. Manchel went the way he did. Thank you, sir, for your service.

And thank you, James Busby and Gary McCaughey for your posts about Frank Manchel.

the dark side of the hill

Here in the dark of this night, i thought of this piece i wrote years ago. Don’t know why. Been thinking about folks and how we seem to thirst to hear about other folks being on the dark side while we ignore we too have been to that dark side. i guess that’s it. i have been to the dark side. Still go there on a too frequent basis. Figure we all do once in a while unless we aren’t all that bright and ignore it. Sad. The dark place ain’t all that bad if you take it for what it’s worth. Look to make something good out of it. Let in a little bit of light. i hope, if you read this, you can catch that beam of light shining through.

the dark side of the hill

I was walking down a small-town street
a cold, harsh Sunday
when from a corner of an alley
a huddled, gnarled old man
leering from under a soiled and torn fedora
spoke to me:

“I have been to the dark side of the hill,
my boy,
“I can tell by your gait,
you are headed there;
frivolity and adventure
are what you seek,
but it’s not there,

I paid no heed, passing away
from the old man,
continuing to pass through
the sun-reflected snow
to the zenith of the hill,
and on.

the wind is biting
on the dark side of the hill;
there is no sun
to disperse the cold.

now, on some small-town street
on a cold, harsh any day
in the corner of an alley,
a huddled, muddled, gnarled old man

i have been to the dark side of the hill;
my gait is altered.