Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

What?

There are some things that amaze me.

Like yesterday, Maureen went to the Naval Hospital we used to call Balboa, but they got uppity and renamed it a whole bunch of times. For now., they call it Naval Medical Center San Diego. i still call it Balboa.

We both go to Balboa to see several specialists there. Preventive Maintenance, something i learned on ships in the Navy that is worth its weight in gold .

Regardless, we were there. There were several things i noticed about which i will refrain my comments. They would sound like a rant. They would be. But three things could not be overlooked.

In the middle of the complex courtyard, someone decided to place a cannon that appears to predate World War I. They painted it gold. i’m wondering what the hell are they telling their patients with an age-old gold cannon in the middle of a medical center.

In the bowels of Building One, the medical center boasts a McDonald’s. Healthy. Right?

And finally, i went to the men’s head on the second deck of that building. As i looked down at the urinal, i noticed a silver plaque beside the handle to the flush mechanism, which itself had a green arrow pointing upward and a red arrow pointing downward. Well, if a man is standing next to a urinal, he doesn’t have a lot to do but his business, so i, with time to spend, read the plaque.

It bragged about how Sloan, the manufacturer of the urinal and the Navy Medical Center were being environmentally conscious and conserving water.

Then it gave operating instructions. It said if there was liquid waste, i should push the handle up. If it was solid waste, i should push the handle down (All i could think about was Young Frankenstein when Gene Wilder as Young Frankenstein, kept telling Marty Feldman as Igor, and Terry Garr as Von Frankenstein’s assistant to “PUT THE CANDLE BACK!”).

First, i wondered what brilliant mind thought solid waste would be in a urinal. Then, being inquisitive, i flushed twice, once up and once down. i couldn’t tell any difference in the flushes.

Go figure.

This is the kind of thing old men think about.

Late Night (okay, okay: it’s only 9:30, but for me it feels late) Ramblings of an Old Man

i revel in being old. But i don’t feel old, other than the aches, pains, stiffness, and waking up in the middle of the night because i have to pee.

i’m sitting here wondering why the hell i beat myself up for not doing more, not having more, not being all i expected to be or all others expected to me.

Then, sitting alone with one lone reading lamp on in the dark of night, i laugh. Out loud.

Next door, the daughters of the wonderful neighbors from Ciudad de México are playing with their friends around their pool. The sounds of young people laughing is music.

Maureen has gone to bed. It is quiet other than the laughter next door. Polaris in Ursa Minor hangs brightly about two points to port of Mount Miguel’s peak to the east, silhouetted by the lights of the city.

We went down the hill for dinner to a tapas bar and had short rib tacos and green style enchiladas with a delightful albariño.  They even had Jimmy Smith’s organ jazz for background music. We came home, sat down, and read our books to Andrea Bocelli’s “Toscana” album. i stopped reading, leaned my head back, closed my eyes and just listened in the quiet.

The young folks next door have gone inside. In the quiet, it occurred to me i really am old. However, this is nothing to complain about. i have many friends. i have two wonderful daughters. i have a wife who understands me, puts up with me, and still loves me. i have my night.

And i am at peace.

i hear and read the ravings of friends and a whole bunch of others who seem to need to hate, who need to throw rocks over the wall, who seem to fear others, who fight change. i don’t understand and, consequently, will not find fault for they are my friends. i hope they can have the peace i have tonight.

Does that peace come with age? i don’t know. Tonight, it does not matter to me. Bocelli’s album has run its course. i have put my book aside and before picking this laptop up, i read Wordsworth. It is good to read Wordsworth. It seems he understood the world.

And peace.

Old Man Oops

Actually, it wasn’t an old man “oops.” It was a poor editor’s “oops.”

in my post about David Maraniss’ book, A Good American Family, i admitted i was no longer a “vociferous” reader. Oh, i hope i never was. What i meant to write and now have corrected in that post is “voracious.”

i was once a voracious reader. i don’t think it’s possible to be a vociferous” reader.

Sadly, a Connection to the Past and a New Hero for Me

Posted separately a few moments ago:

Actually, it wasn’t an old man “oops.” It was a poor editor’s “oops.”

in my post about David Maraniss’ book, A Good American Family, i admitted i was no longer a “vociferous” reader. Oh, i hope i never was. What i meant to write and now have corrected in that post is “voracious.”

i was once a voracious reader. i don’t think it’s possible to be a vociferous” reader.

i have just finished reading David Maraniss’ book, A Great American Family. i did not get very far the night i first mentioned the book here. It took me a while. i am  no longer the voracious reader i once was. i often choose to write, procrastinate, play golf, do home chores, or most famously, take a nap before i read.

But this book, like the one David’s son Andrew wrote, Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South, was riveting and struck me deeply, personally. It took me time because as i read i reflected on a story i knew in the back of mind but had never really considered in the all of the aspects of that dark time in our history, especially when i considered it in relation to what is happening in our country today. i would reread passages and attempt to put me into the same position as David’s older brother who was born the same year i was born, 1944. But the Maraniss family was in Michigan. My family was in Middle Tennessee. Still, i related.

What Elliot Maraniss experienced and what his family endured because of paranoia, fear of the unknown and a blindness from our elected officials and their followers to our Constitution’s idea of freedom, equality, and justice seems so remote from what my parents and our family living in Middle Tennessee experienced. Sadly ironic, the folks like ours in the South were naive to the evil disguised so well by power brokers of the South and throughout our system who created the terrible situation that put the Maraniss family and many others through such dismal times.

The story intrigued me in many ways.

One was of disgust we could bring down such cruelty, such injustice to our own countrymen.

One was amazement this kind of thing could happen right after we, including many of the perpetrators of such horror, recently had defended our country, our way of life, our freedom from the same kind of evil.

One was confirmation that many folks caught up in this maelstrom of fear and hatred as well as many other evils before and after the “Red Scare,” weren’t, at heart, evil people. As i write in my home office, behind me is a beautiful floor to ceiling book shelf cabinet built by a guy named George Hoemann. i discovered him through Maureen’s friend from her youth. i don’t think my in-laws knew George even though he lived about a block away from them in Lemon Grove. As the cabinet making progressed, i spent some time in his workshop adjoining his house. In those conversations, he revealed he had been in the German infantry in World War II. George and i never discussed his political opinions. i’m guessing he thought it was dangerous waters to wade through. i was concerned probing into those areas might make George uncomfortable, especially with a Navy commander. But forty years after WWII, i knew George was a good man.

Another thing that intrigued me was the skill and hard work of David Maraniss. Working on my book, i am aware of the requirements for research, collation of sources, organization, not to mention honest straight forward writing of the highest caliber. i fall far short of David’s capabilties.

i also recognized Elliott and David Maraniss were exemplary products of what i consider the golden age of journalism. David’s description of his father as a newspaper editor sounded so much like many newspaper folks i knew as i wandered through the world of sports writing until i committed to a career at sea. My mentor, JB Leftwich; Nashville Banner sports editor Fred Russell and his managing sports editor Bill Roberts; Watertown, New York’s Watertown Daily Times publisher John B. Johnson and his son and my good friend John B. Johnson, Jr.; and Lebanon Democrat’s G. Frank Burns, Amelia Morrison Hipps, and Jared Felkins all were caring, kind people and great family members while being uncompromising and blunt if necessary to stick to objective and correct journalism.

Scarily, i also related to what occurs in David Maraniss’ story of his family having the potential, if not already well on the way to repeating a terrible blot on our country’s history. We just can’t seem to learn from our past. We either honor or denigrate our forefathers with no understanding of the culture and beliefs of their time, layering our own culture on top of the past. We don’t note what was wrong and avoid such terrible results. We repeat them.

i found hope, hope in we can continue on with dignity and succeed in having productive lives. And we can do it under the worst of circumstances. My friend David Carey, a POW for five-and-a-half years in Vietnam cites the mission of those POW’s was to “return with dignity.” They did. And Elliott Maraniss and his family returned from their ordeal with dignity. American dignity. Unique.

Finally, i found a new hero. i should have known about George Crockett, but i didn’t until i read about him in A Good American Family. George William Crockett, Jr. had skin pigments darker than mine. He lived in a time when many people actually believed his race was inferior to my race, poppycock that some people still believe today. And this idea of group superiority appears to be expanding to more and more groups and is becoming more divisive and more confrontational than ever. As noted, we just can’t seem to learn from our past.

George rose above such evil thinking. He did not subscribe to group think. i hope i think like George Crockett thought. As described by David Maraniss, George certainly forecasted my ideas of equality:

In an essay he wrote on March 17 he denounced the “separate but equal” status that whites imposed in the southern states with the acquiescence of some black leaders and instead championed a universal perspective. “For myself,” he wrote, “I have never regarded race consciousness or race pride as a particular virtue, and I am hopeful that more and more Americans become less and less conscious. Hitler and his followers should be an example to these extreme race chauvinists.. The sooner we begin to think, act, and react as Americans and not as hyphenated Americans the sooner we shall find the common basis and partnership which is a prerequisite for America’s race and color problem.  The phrase “our people” had no racial connotation for me. Indeed, all Americans, all humanity, constitute my people.”

And he captured my thoughts on freedom, equality, and justice:

In riding the subways in New York, Crockett told the jury, he noticed a sign that said, “Freedom is everybody’s business.” He thought it was the perfect motto to apply to the defense in this case. “Freedom is indivisible,” he said. “We cannot deny freedom of speech to communists and at the same time preserve freedom for the Jews and for Catholics and for Negroes or for persons of foreign ancestry. You cannot outlaw the Communist Party because of its political theories  without creating a most dangerous precedent, a precedent that may used in the future to outlaw a religious organization or the political organization or the inter-racial organization to which you and i might belong. Once we in America forget that freedom is everybody’s business, once we accept the facist theory that communists have no rights at all or that all communists should be sent to Russia or put in concentration camps, once we begin thinking and speaking in those terms we descend to the very depths of Hitlerism.”

i don’t intend to dictate or even suggest how other people are supposed to think or act. i hope what i put forward will give the opportunity to pause and consider what is right or wrong. i hope everyone i know reads A Great American Family for the same reason: to consider what we can learn from the past and make our lives, our country a little bit better.

In this book, David Maraniss was right on.

Thank you, David.

A Man of Many Talents

i have recounted several tales here about my close friend, JD Waits. He remains a legend. There are many other stories to tell. JD generates stories. Nearly all of them are hilarious. When we were stationed on the USS Okinawa together (we met in the XO’s cabin while en route from Perth to Sydney, Australia in September 1981), we became famously or infamously known as the “Booze Brothers,” a takeoff of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd’s “Blues Brothers” characters.

At social functions, we showed up in black suits with white shirts and thin black ties. We wore black fedoras, dark framed sunglasses, and even wrote our names of Jake and Elwood on the tops of our fingers in sharpies like the the tattoos of the two film characters.

When JD married Mary Lou in the party house in the Coronado Cays, i was the best man (Maureen and i played Tony Bennett’s version of “Second Time Around” after their vows). JD and i went formal with white pants, blue blazers, our fedoras, and white rimmed sunglasses. The photo here is blurred because i didn’t feel like taking it out of the frame. Besides, we were pretty blurry back then. It hangs outside my home office, my reminder of one hell of a trip with JD:

Currently, JD is a top safety expert across Texas working out of Austin. He  commutes from Bastrop where he and his wife Mary Lou have a beautiful home on an acre of land, backed by the fourth tee of the Pine Forest Golf Club. The club house and a three holes  are along the banks of the Colorado River. Sounds like JD.

i don’t think i’ve ever related in my stories that JD’s second cousin is Tom Waits. Although i knew JD was a man of many talents, i did not know he was into music like his cousin.

But when we were in Petaluma for lunch with our hosts, Alan and Maren Hicks, last Saturday, i spotted a theater downtown. It had become a music venue. When i looked closely at the side billboard announcing coming music bands, i knew it had to be my friend. Even the name of the band made sense:

Even the name of the “Theater and Music Hall” seemed to fit.

Walk with an Old Man

i am winding down, light-headed from a near five-hour drive from Santa Barbara to the Southwest corner, feeling like i had just come off a fourteen-foot “Aluma” craft after fishing all night for striped bass on Center Hill Lake with my father, something i haven’t felt for a while, or at least something of which i haven’t made that connection.

i was going to write of the magic trip to see Alan and Maren Hicks with the bonus of their daughter Eleanor joining us for the Fourth. i will later. Tonight, i am tired.

i will not watch the All-Star game, just as i didn’t watch the home run derby last night. Hype, marketing, not, NOT baseball. When they get another selection process, i might watch, but not this one with fans stuffing the electronic voting box with their favorites. But that’s another rant. If i can pull myself from this infernal machine, a tough task for me, i will read a bit and go to bed early.

But on the wham-diddly (i sorta made that up) boring but tense insanity of today’s drive, i thought of something i wanted to write:

Walk with an Old Man

the old man wasn’t stooped yet,
but
he could tell he soon would be
so
he requested his grandson join him
for a week or so
in his home where he recently moved back
and
his request was accepted
and
the young man came east
and
the two went to sports events,
golfed, fished, shopped, played games,
his and the young man’s games,
laughed a lot,
and of course,
the old man told stories, lots and lots of stories.

as the visit was nearing an end,
the old man took the boy into the nearby city,
not to the museums, or shopping, or the big events,
but
down into a rather shabby, run down section
where the old man liked to go to visit the bars
to talk to the old timers, down and out,
listening to their stories,
better understanding humanity,
even at his advanced age;
now he didn’t take the young man
into the bars, walking the street around sundown,
feeling the grit, the humility,
the strength of the people who abided there,
living in their forbearance with dignity;
as they walked, the old man spoke to the young man:

son, when you have lived as long as i have,
you will learn the things i have learned,
only they will be different then:
you live in a different world, with different, if not more,
things to learn
but
i’m a thinking if i tell you some of those things i’ve learned
you may not have to learn them again;
after all, if i had learned them earlier,
i might have avoided some of the worse things that happened;
maybe, maybe not
but
there are a couple of things i think are pretty important:
it ain’t how much money you get, earn, or just have;
it’s how you use it.
it ain’t how much you are loved;
it’s how you love.
it ain’t how much religion you have
(and boy, i can tell you there are all sorts of religions
that claim to know, even the atheists, who just believe,
and
i envy them for knowing so much;
i guess they are smarter than me,)

but
that’s beside the point);
it’s how you practice your religious belief.
it ain’t how powerful or popular you are;
it’s how you handle any power or popularity that may come your way;
and finally,
it ain’t what you’ve achieved in your job; in your politics, in your life;
it’s the way you treat other people face-to-face;
and
if you are ever in a fix about what you should do,
just do the right thing:
you’ll be all right.

there’s a heck of a lot more i would like to tell you;
i have a lot more stories, know a lot more fishing holes,
a few more golf courses, maybe even go to museum;
i know a couple of good un’s;
some more good places to eat
but
you gotta go home tomorrow
and
continue to grow up;
let’s go get a malted milk.

A Sports Perspective and More

Garrison Keillor is publishing his “Writer’s Almanac” again. i’m not a big fan of his but i read the “Almanac” every day until it went away for a while. Today’s entry,
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?hl=en&shva=1#inbox/FMfcgxwChclvtDtgfchbvChBBcBsQTTq
included a poem by Mick Cochrane, originally published in The Southern Review. Cochrane’s poem captures my idea of great baseball the way it should be played.

i have copied the poem here and hope i have not violated any copyrights. i do this in appreciation of Cochrane, Keillor, and the almanac, and obviously not doing it for money.

How to Sacrifice
by Mick Cochrane

Pivot in the box. Square up.
Surrender to the pitcher.

Slide your top hand up the barrel,
don’t squeeze, keep your hands

soft, bend your knees.
You need to keep your balance.

Let the ball come to you––
be patient. Don’t stab at it.

Point your bat, absorb the shock,
and hope the ball stays fair.

Afterwards expect no high-fives,
no headlines, no contract

extension. No one bunts
himself onto an all-star team.

You do it because that runner
on first, he needs to come home.

He’s your teammate,
he’s your brother, he’s your son,

and you, you’re the guy who still
knows how to lay one down.

A Child to Love

She was beautiful when she was born. Of course, i suspect nearly every parent thinks their child is beautiful at the infant stage. But she truly was beautiful.

She has grown up well. She is a successful career woman, She is one of the two best parents my grandson could possibly have. She cares for people and animals.

i was going to wax poetic, or as poetic as i can wax and started a long piece about her growth from those first beautiful days until the current beautiful days. But i decided she wouldn’t appreciate that, and i could always make an error.

So here are some of my memories of my beautiful (inside and out) daughter:

Uncle Snooks loved her.
She loved Snooks of Joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her mother loved and still loves her with no bounds.
Her dad stills has an unconditional love for her.
They went to Hawaii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They went to the Petrified Forest.
She flew to Seattle to vacation with her dad (one of his best times ever).
She met her other mother and went sailing in the Southwest corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then she got married to the best father my grandson could ever have.
Then she gave birth to the most wonderful grandson a papa could have.
And she loves her mother.
And they live a good life in Austin.
And she still makes me happy like she always did, only in different ways now.

Happy 47th Birthday, my dear Blythe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jewell’s, a Family

i began this last Sunday. But we changed our schedule and drove north for the Independence Day parade in Sonoma with our good friends, Alan and Maren Hicks. The driving was a mix of bad (Los Angeles and San Jose) and good (the rest of it). The stop in Paso Robles was enchanting and the Hick’s remodeled home is even better than the original i loved. 

The Fourth of July is always very poignant for me because it is symbolic of our freedom and quest for equality, no matter how many times we stumble backward in that quest. Hopefully, i will post some more comments on  the travel, our wonderful time here, and Independence Day. For now, i wish to express joy and sadness about families close.

i’ve been intending to write something about a significant family loss last week. But i found it difficult and kept putting it off. Couldn’t find the words. Perhaps it was because i wanted so much to travel to North Carolina to honor her with my presence.

She was my cousin, one of the three daughters of Jesse and Alice Jewell. They took care of me when needed from my birth until i was six or seven. Myrtle and Joann got me into high school plays as the little kid. Shirley was the anointed “baby sitter.” But they all, including Aunt Alice made sure i was okay, which was sometimes tough like when i locked myself in their bathroom on what i remember as Wilson Street, a block or two northeast of the old Lebanon High School football stadium. Shirley had to crawl through the high window above the tub to rescue me. It remains a family legend of Shirley’s rescue and my…er, not so smart move.

As things happen, especially with Jewell men, the close knit family of five brothers and two sisters wandered apart as they married women who were close to their own families. One, Aunt Virda, died in her twenties. Wesley and his wife Barbara moved west seeking better living. Uncle Jesse, Aunt Naomi (known as “Aunt Noni” in the family) and her husband Uncle George stayed close. Uncle Jesse, the plumber, and Uncle George, the electrician, teamed with my father Jimmy to fish and boat on the river together. But they too went their own ways with employment and family.

They remained close. Their families though remote remained close as well with the center of that closeness being my parents and Uncle Huffman, the youngest of the siblings, and his wife Aunt Louise who remained in Lebanon, the family home.

The two older sisters of Uncle Jesse, Myrtle and Joann each married members of the Lumbee tribe, a Carolina tribe with origins from the Tuscarora, Siouan, and Algonquian Native Americans. Then the Jimmy Jewell children got itchy feet. Sister Martha moved to Colorado, then New Mexico, and then back to Chattanooga. Brother Joe went to New England and stayed there. The oldest, some goofy guy, smelled newsprint and the sea and ended up in the Southwest corner.  The next generations splattered across the country: California, Florida, Vermont, Boston, Arkansas, and North Carolina. i’m sure there are some of those next generations in other states as well.

i sometimes wonder what Mama and Grandpa Jewell would have thought of this had it been possible to project the future when they moved from the hamlet of Statesville to Lebanon in 1898.

The closeness remained.

Joann Jewell Jacobs passed away in Charlotte, North Carolina almost two weeks ago after a long battle with dementia. She was one of the most beautiful women i have ever known inside and out. She remained close. Joann and her daughter Jamie were one of the last Jewell family members to be with my father, visiting him and my mother the day before he passed away five years ago. From that moment, i kept planning to go see her, but failed. i regret that.

Virda left us in the 1920’s. Grandfather Hiram Culley departed in the late 1930’s. Mama Jewell passed away in the early 1950’s. Of the next generation only Aunt Louis remains with us. Jesse, Alice, Wesley, Barbara, Naomi, George, Huffman, Jimmy, and Estelle are gone. Uncle Jesse and Aunt Alice’s daughters have joined them. The daughters’ generation, including me, is slowly moving on, slimming down the numbers.

But there are others like Jamie and Jewell and Lori and Kelley who still hold that Jewell family closeness in their souls. i can feel it.

i don’t think i can express it better than this photo with Joann, Jamie, Jimmy, and Estelle a couple of years before their last visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i’m missing you, Joann.

Vandy Boys

i have tried to stay low key. Not get excited. Not get nervous. Ignore my superstitious gremlin attempting to overtake me.

None of this actually happened, of course: i was higher than a kite, sometimes too excited to talk (and we know that is really, really excited). And nervous. Lord, was i nervous through the Super Regionals and the entire College World Series. i watched nearly all of the nine games my team played live, a rare occurrence for me. i usually record sports and watch to fast forward through the talking heads and commercials, but this, this was too important.

Along the way, old friends from college and high school kept growing in my correspondence about the CWS. It was fun to reconnect with so many but a little scary. That former sports writer stuff on my work list seemed to make me an expert of some sorts. i doubt it, but the title, even though it was long ago, apparently bears some weight. So that seemed to add a bit more responsibility. And then one of those friends has been spreading rumors that my previous optimism brought on a curse for our team, so i adopted a cynic’s pessimistic stance. After our team’s first win, i became concerned that such a stance might create a double-cross and have the opposite curse of its own.

But tonight, the Vandy Boys won it all. i sat in my chair and soaked it in, feeling a glow. A glow of what?

Yeh, my team, Vanderbilt won their second national championship in baseball. Their reputation as a power house in the sport is established. And winners beget winners. More championships are possible, difficult to obtain, but possible. And they deserved it. They outplayed the best teams in the country. The story lines and yes, the ironies are many.

For a little while i was giddy just like the fans in the stands in Omaha, just like the fans on Hawkins Field, Vanderbilt’s home stadium sporting the Fred Russell press box, and inside Memorial Gymnasium, and two dozen homes literally in every part of this country where my friends reside, and many more.

For me, there was something even better. Vanderbilt did it the right way, or as David Williams, who passed away within a week of retiring from his post as Vanderbilt’s Vice-Chancellor of Athletics would say, “The Vanderbilt Way.”

Coach Tim Corbin, whom his freshman phenom and outstanding player of the CWS, Kumar Rocker, called the “Sabin of college baseball,” epitomizes Williams’ idea of doing it right. They were a great fit together, and i believe Corbin has influenced other Vanderbilt coaches to approach their sports with the goal of doing it the right way, the Vandy way.

What is the Vandy way? Williams preached college athletics should be about developing an athlete to be a complete person, giving him or her the opportunity to succeed in the sport in which they competed while also giving them an education to maximize their success in their sports or in another area of their interest if athletic success failed to materialize. The Vandy way is to help the student-athlete develop into a mature, adjusted, responsible adult capable of success and capable of dealing with failure.

Many college athletic programs use such ideas as a hood ornament while recruiting athletes to win. Period. The athletes from those programs may move on to succeed in their sport, but the lack of emphasis on education (such as the many “one and done” basketball schools) leaves those athletes short in development as a human being.

Yeh, it’s not perfect at Vanderbilt. Never is. But they keep working hard to meet Williams’ idea of the Vandy way. And what i’ve seen so far, William’s replacement, Malcolm Turner is focused on getting more success done the Vandy way.

Tim Corbin and the Vandy Boys showed how it works. i’m proud of them.

And it is now late, well past midnight on the East Coast, past my bed time. i sit here in this glow, absorbing what i just saw.

i’m pretty sure somewhere up there David Williams is smiling.

And tomorrow morning, i will shave. It’s been a while.