Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

Purest? But Certainly a Pure Delight

Once upon a time, sports fans had their heroes. Many were considered such because of their prodigious athletic feats while the sports journalists of their era overlooked all sorts of things these heroes did that would have raised eyebrows if not hostility.

Now, sports phenomenons are viewed with a spyglass for indiscretions or even politically incorrect statements or bad behavior. Those who are on “our” team are reprieved, forgiven; those on the opposition teams are lambasted, reviled.

There are others in this guy’s category: a tremendous athlete in his sport who loved the game because he played it right and was a good guy on and off the field.

Granted, i was privileged to watch him for most of his career and consequently find him a treasure. i will not argue about “greatest pure hitter” because there are so many who rival him in that category and the state of the game and the sophistication have changed, making such comparisons ridiculous.

But folks, Tony Gwynn was a treasure, not just for baseball fans in the Southwest corner, but for the game of baseball and for all of us to admire and learn from on how to go about our business, our passions, and our relationships with everyone else.

He also was loyal. He turned down numerous more lucrative offers to remain a San Diego Padre for his entire career. This by the way gained him the eternal ire of the MLB union more focused on their members making money than the spirit of the game. When he retired he went back to his alma mater to coach the San Diego State Aztec baseball team.

Man, i would like to see him at  bat one more time. i recall a moment in the NL playoffs and actually found the moment on Youtube when Joe Morgan, a great hitter himself for the Big Red Machine of the 60’s, the color commentator caught the brilliance of Gwynn when he hit a double off the Big Unit Randy Johnson, the 6-10 lefthander with a wicked fastball and an even nastier slider which Gwynn promptly deposited down the left field line to propel the Padres over the Astros in an NL division playoff game in 1998.

So if you have a minute or two and want to watch not only greatness but a good man do his thing, here’s something i tripped upon today:

Not Quite the Same

Almost every year when i resumed writing on a regular basis, every year tomorrow received a lot of my attention.

Gotta tell you, i’m not too much into it this year. i’m chastened. No, i feel handcuffed. Writing is hard in these times as i feel whatever i write some friend will take offense. Pious posturing? Perhaps. i don’t know and i will not question anyone’s motive or stance. But trying to write the right thing nowadays is one hell of a lot harder than it used to be.

Although my golf is still restricted, i did chip and putt at the Miramar Memorial Golf Course this morning. You remember Miramar, don’t  you? They filmed “Top Gun” there. The base is all Marine now. Top Gun is, or was, in Fallon, Nevada. i don’t know if they still have it.

My golfing buddies joined me for a beer after they finished their round, my retired military buddies, curmudgeons in the truest sense, a group of folks we’ve assembled over the years who call each other “asshole” and mean it as a complement. i don’t worry what i say to them. We will remain close friends.

When i got home, i sat down to write and found it just wasn’t there. i sort of struggled through the rest of the day, tried to read something pleasant and did read a bit before just giving it up. As Maureen headed for bed, i went out to this backyard with the intention of reading a bit more, or writing something just for me. That always seems to help. i put the crusty old iPod onto Dvořák and the Handel’s “Water Music.” Hoping for solace, i guess. It sorta worked.

Then, i heard the muffled fireworks from a distant celebration. Wrong day, of course, but that seems to be the norm today. After all, we have added days to the celebration, not for honoring independence but giving everyone more time to party.

Tomorrow, we will visit neighbors for a while in the appropriate safe mode. But the day will be mostly quiet. i might even do some chores. i will hear more fireworks i’m sure.

Mostly,  i hope some folks will actually read our Declaration of Independence and not attack the writers for their sins or hold them up as superheroes, but read it for the ideas they expressed. Their views were limited by time and space and a culture that discriminated as it did in all cultures back then. But read it for the idea of independence and equality they put on parchment and signed, and…well, they said it better than i:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In closing, i will quote Major Kenneth Morgan, professor of Latin 101 and 102 at Castle Heights Military Academy who told my class his definition of “Freedom:”

Freedom is the ability to do anything you want to do as long it does not take away someone else’s freedom.

May you have a wonderful and thoughtful Independence Day.

Eighty-Two and Counting

It rained. They moved the service inside. Her grandfather, by then a bishop, performed the ceremony. His father made his last public appearance before succumbing to tuberculosis a half-year later.

He had courted her in the car he had reconstructed after he bought it for ten dollars from a Cumberland University Law student, rebuilding the engine and putting on a wood chassis while he was in high school.

He had quit high school in 1934 before his senior year to work at an automobile dealership to support his family after his father could no longer work.

After she had graduated from high school, she had refused an offer to play for the Nashville Business College’s AAU Women’s Basketball team because she knew some other girls in town had their eye on him, and she didn’t want to risk losing him.

It was July 2, 1938 at the First Methodist Church on East Main in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Today is the eighty-second anniversary of their wedding. They were here through seventy-five of those. He passed away forty-three days after that. She hung around for nine more months before joining him.

i will always miss them.

Estelle Prichard and Jimmy Jewell in Shelby Park, Nashville, 1937:

Jimmy and Estelle Jewell, 2012:


In the autumn of 1972 on the only tour i can remember taking during my Navy liberty, i rode a bus to Pompeii. Much of the city had not been excavated back then, and from recent television programs about the city, much more information has been revealed about what happened .

i was enchanted. Ancient places, things now gone always move me, like the Petrified Forest in Arizona. When i returned to my ship, the USS Luce (DLG-7), i wrote this:

i went to Pompeii today in the rain;
left Naples on a tour bus
where at the front of the bus,
a fat little man
mechanically spoke his piece
about squares and statues, history,
as pimps, prostitutes, hustlers,
little boys selling dirty pictures
while trying to pick the target’s pockets,
along with everyday people
moved in masses
along the promenades
as we passed:
innumerable puppets in a large box,
highly seasoned with the filth of a city;

until we escaped to a smaller city
with polished tables of intricate design
mother of pearl cameo necklaces;

then a quick dash across the inland roads
to Pompeii
where the rain gently gathered
for the vendors to turn out
their umbrellas and raincoats
for a few lira to add to their take
selling photos and guidebooks;
the little fat man in his bemused fashion
told of the grandeur and beauty
of the ruins
reeling off death statistics
dropping his voice suggestively
while showing rooms of licentiousness
among the ruins;
i wandered away from the tour
wondering about the people
they became death statistics
i was quiet, wondering;

i left Pompeii today in the rain;
near Amalfi, the clouds broke out
the sun in its harsh, unyielding glory;
the water far below the cliffs
on the narrow road
the hillside homes were bleached white
against the fury of the sea.

i left the bus to wait for hours
to make a telephone call
back home,
only to hear the unanswered ringing;
i walked to the pier
where i waited for the liberty boat
to take me back to the ship

at least the rain had stopped.

With Boots On

This was written in 1977 when i was the senior Navy associate professor (can you believe that?) at the Texas A&M NROTC Unit. i think i was seasick in the same manner folks get homesick.

no longer do i have a ship to steam;
the oceans upon which i sailed are
more than a thousand miles away;
my life is no longer entwined
with courses, currents, tides
coarse men of the sea;

academia flourishes here:
alive and well: professors stalk truth
behind their horn rims in cow country,
walk the pebbled paths,
loiter in the shade of trees
where birds are killed at night
by good ole boys
to prevent droppings on the pebbled paths;

i sit in my fluorescent lit office
laughing at the moon through the window,
which forgot to go down
this morning;

i wonder
how many cowboys
died with their boots on
in the streets
where the defeated general
grew into a legend?

if it rains,
i can watch
academia expound
let the world slide by
without getting my boots
on the bird-dropping free paths;

the seas, though far away,
sometimes beckon
with simple fury;
i remember
walking the decks
in the eye of a storm
with my boots on.

A Heavenly and Universal Experiment (with apologies to Mark Twain and his Letters from the Earth)

A long, long time ago, the Lord of the Heavens and the Universe, including all things within it, decided to conduct an experiment, namely creating a creature who had the capacity to go beyond the Law of Nature and improve upon life for the creature and others like him.

The experiment on Earth had begun very well. Then it went south, and the Lord of the Heavens and the Universe wiped out all but a handful of his experimental creatures and started over. For while that went well like the first phase, but that too went south. This time, the Offspring of the Lord was sent down to see if the Offspring could get it back on track. For a little while that worked pretty well too. But the creatures had an incredible capacity to screw things up, and in spite of many advances in improving their lifestyles, greed and self-interest took those advances and turned them into abuse of others through power grabbing, self-aggrandizement, then fear and hatred and more abuse, even killing creatures of their own kind.

The Lord of the Heavens and Universe is considering what can be done next with this mess on Earth.

Simultaneously ten million light years away, the Lord of the Heavens and Universe looked down on another planet and modified the experiment. The planet was Raptureon in the Solar System Glie in the Galaxy Xanad. The galaxy was similar to the Milky Way, the solar system was similar to the Sun’s, and Raptureon was similar to Earth.

On Raptureon, all began just as it did on Earth, creating these creatures who could think beyond the Law of Nature and could care for others of its kind beyond the family unit. In the creation of these creatures on Raptureon like those on Earth there was one major exception.

Five million years after the human experiment was created on Raptureon when, like on Earth, it began to go south, the Lord of the Heavens and Universe decided to intervene, not twice as he had intervened on Earth, but only once on Raptureon and in a different manner.

The Lord of the Heavens and the Universe first passed down his most important rule, which these creatures who were exceptions in the Law of Nature could understand. He passed it through all of the religions and the cultures to all of the human creatures on Raptureon.

The one law all of these experimental creatures were required to live by was simple:

“Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”

Unlike on Earth, the Lord of the Heavens and the Universe decided to take a personal hand in upholding this one law above the Law of Nature. The Lord of the Heavens and Universe decided that once this law was made known to all of the creatures, and they failed to follow the one law, their lives would end quickly and painlessly. Anytime one of the creatures disobeyed and did not do unto others as they would have the other do unto them, the disobedient creature was gone to the great beyond.

The Lord of the Heavens and the Universe then sat back and observed his experiment, having set the penalty for failure to obey in the “automatic” mode.

The population of Raptureon began to decrease rapidly. Over the space of less than three years, even though it had taken five million years for the population to grow, the numbers were reduced to only a handful of these creatures. Even this small number of the creatures seemed incapable of adhering to the rule. Greed and self-interest and vanity in their own knowledge, which they believed was superior to anyone else’s knowledge, were too seductive for these creatures not to employ power grabbing, self-aggrandizement, then fear and hatred and more abuse on anyone with whom they had a relationship.

Soon, the entire population of these human creatures on Raptureon was down to two, a man named Evers and a woman named Adamina. The Lord of the Heavens and the Universe stopped his other ventures for a while and gave close attention to what happened next.

As it is with nearly all relationships between a man and a woman, Evers and Adamina began to argue over who was right. This particular incident was about which fruit they should eat.

Suddenly, Evers and Adamina were gone. Kaput. There were no more of these creatures capable of rising above the Law of Nature on the planet Raptureon. The plants and other creatures on the planet Raptureon thrived. It was a beautiful, wonderful place for each and every living thing to live by the Law of Nature except, of course, those creatures that had all gone to the great beyond.

The Lord of the Heavens and Universe, his Offspring, and even his buddy Satan, laughed and laughed together at the result of this part of the experiment.

Then, the Lord of the Heavens and Universe turned his attention to the other part of his experiment, the one that was ten hundred million light years away in the Galaxy Milky Way in the Solar System of the Sun on the planet Earth…

Old Man Ramblings On a Sunday Morning

i took almost an entire week off my usual routine. To begin the week last Monday, i had stitches removed from my right arm above the elbow. It was from whacking out an early caught melanoma. It was successful. i am clear of the scourge but no golf for at least another two to possibly five weeks. Ugh.

This also played with my mind about my time is coming. Not imminent. But it’s coming. So i worked at what i could. My book is wading through Mombasa where a whole chunk of things happened in a short period of time, not like the long, seemingly forever time off of Oman. So half-way through Mombasa and the week, i took a break.

Turned my attention to honey-dos, except it’s more me than the honey. i hung sunshade on our new trellis duplicating the style of the old one next to it. Next, i’ll hang the lights, build a couple of boxes for storing tools, trash, and junk in the “dog prison” (someday, i really will relate that story, but not for a while). The back and side yards are looking quite a bit more respectable now. We plan to spend more time there. Already, i have been out there past nightfall reading and jotting down my thoughts.

i have been pretty good about staying out all of the frays, offering encouragement to friends and relatives and having discussions with friends i trust will continue with an open mind despite differences in opinions. Learning, i think it’s called.

There is peace in this strategy for an old man. i can step out and look down one side and rest easy with the peace of mind flowing over me:

We talk about putting a fountain and bench out here, a contemplation area if you will, but as with many such plans, it will be a while.

Quite frankly, i am at peace. If i thought i could have a significant impact on positive change, i would be in the thick of it, but i have observed the clanging of cymbals, blazing rhetoric of folks my age, and it seems to just stir them up, stress them out, with no real impact on much of anything except maybe alienate a few friends who disagree with cymbals of their own. i am attempting to digest this clanging noise with calmness. Don’t know if i can do that, but when i do, i am at peace. You young un’s go for it, but please try to correct the core problems, not the superficial ones.

There are other sources of my peace, of course: friends. As mentioned in a Facebook post yesterday, we are meeting a dear friend for a safe lunch in a park today. A number of folks have commented on Nikki McCullough’s artwork newly hung in our kitchen. i tried to find Nikki’s original post of the artwork, which is when i fell in love with it, but i couldn’t. This should give you a better idea of what it really looks like.

Thanks, Nikki.


Mose, As Usual, Nailed It (And Made Me Feel Not So Alone)

i was bemoaning the world and me. Surly, i finished dinner and retreated to the outside area to read or write in twilight with my old fashioned (can you believe it’s obsolescent?) iPod accompanied by a bluetooth speaker on “shuffle.” The writing wasn’t going well. i didn’t want to read. The after dinner wine was good, but i was in a dark mood…until Mose Allison once again came to my rescue and made me smile.

i hope he makes you feel better too:

Thanks, Mose.

For those of you who might not want to listen to Mose (although i can’t believe someone might choose to not listen to him), here is what he sang:

Stop this world, let me off
There’s just too many pigs in the same trough
There’s too many buzzards sitting on the fence
Stop this world, it’s not making sense

Stop this show, hold the phone
Better days this lad has known
Better days so long ago
Hold the phone, won’t you stop this show

Well, it seems my little playhouse has fallen down
I think my little ship has run aground
I feel like I’m in the wrong place
My state of mind is a disgrace

So won’t you stop this game, deal me out
I know too well what it’s all about
I know too well that it had to be
Stop this game you know it’s ruining me

Well, I got too smart for my own good
I just don’t do the things I know I should
There’s bound to be some better way
I just got one thing more to say

And that is stop this game, deal me out
I know too well what it’s all about
I know too well that it had to be
Stop this game you know it’s wrecking me

A New Tradition

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. i am making it my tradition to post two previous things i have written about my father. And i am most fortunate to have a great father for my  grandson. Thank you, Jason Gander.

Written in 2000 for Jimmy Jewell’s 86th Birthday:

An Incredible Man

There is an incredible man in Lebanon.

He was born September 28, 1914. The first record of his family in America dates to 1677. His great, great, great grandfather came over the Cumberland Gap with Daniel Boone and was Daniel’s brother-in-law, marrying the Bryant sisters (this is from family oral history and not documented). His great, great grandfather moved to Statesville, Tennessee (about 20 miles from Lebanon) in the early 1800’s.

He had three brothers and three sisters. He is the only one left.

He has lived through two world wars, fighting as a Seabee in the Southern Philippines, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands in the last one. He has lived through the depression, the cold war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.

He had to quit his senior year at Lebanon High School to go to work when he father contracted tuberculosis. He started as a mechanic, shared a business with his brother-in-law in the 1950’s, and then became a partner in a combination of an automobile dealership and a gas and oil distributorship. He retired in 1979.

He and his wife have been married 62 years (he passed away shortly after their 75th anniversary). Their romance continues. the first home they owned was a one-room house adjacent to his wife’s family farm on Hunter’s Point Pike. They bought their next home on Castle Heights Avenue in 1941 with the help of a $500 loan from a friend. They have lived there ever since (they moved to Deer Park, a whopping three blocks down the street in 2004).

He and his wife put three children through college. They have five grandchildren (when he passed away, they also had three great grandchildren). They have visited every state in the union except Alaska where they were headed in 1984 when his wife’s illness forced them to turn around in British Columbia. Nearly all of their travels have been by RV’s, most in a 28-foot fifth wheel. When he was 72 and his wife 69, they made their first cross-country trip to San Diego where they had spent winters since 1986 with their eldest son and his family. They have made several trips up and down the east coast since then. The fifth wheel is still ready to go in their backyard.

They live comfortably in their retirement. Most people guess his age as the early 70’s. Last month, he painted their master bedroom and sanded and painted the roof of their two-car carport. When he can’t find anyone to go fishing with him, he hooks up the boat trailer and goes by himself. Now he usually throws his catch back. When he used to bring the catch home, he would clean the fish and give them away. He doesn’t like to eat fish, just catch them.

For years, he had the reputation as the best mechanic in Wilson County. He can still fix anything except computers and new cars because he has shunned learning the electronic advances.

All of this isn’t why this man is incredible.

He is incredible because he is such a good man.

He is a willow. He bends with the winds of change and changes of “progress.” Yet he never breaks. His principles remain solid as a rock. He is extremely intelligent but humble.

He seems to always be around when someone needs help. Everyone considers him a good friend, and he reciprocates.

He is not rich financially, but he is one of the richest men around.

My generation’s fathers were family men. They lived through hard times and hard work without a whimper. They believed in giving a day’s work for a day’s pay. They kept their sense of humor. Their sons wish they could emulate them.

Jimmy Jewell, this remarkable man, remains my best friend. i am his older son. i have wanted to be like him since my first recordable thoughts came into my head over fifty years ago. One close friend said of him, “I have never had a better, more caring, more fun-loving, thoughtful friend.” It seems to be a common theme among the people who know him. That’s whom i want to be like.

My father and i have enough talks for him to know how i feel, but i’ve seen too many people wait until someone is gone before singing their praises publicly. i figure he’s got a good chance to outlive us all, but i wanted to acknowledge how much he means to me and how remarkable a man i think he is.

And this is a poem i wrote about him, and i remember him remarking after he read it that he didn’t realize i knew so much about him:


When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
those folks should look at his hands:
Durer, if he saw them,
would want to paint them.

His hands are marked from
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors,
starting in ’34 at twelve dollars a week.

He has used those hands to
repair the cars and
our hearts;

His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bougainville, New Guinea, the Philippines.

His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.

Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands,
pumping life;
tales are etched from
grease and oil and grime,
cleansed with gasoline and goop and lava soap;

They are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring.

His hands own wisdom,
passing it to those who know him
with a pat, a caress, a handshake.
His hands tell the story
so well.

If you would rather listen to me recite this poem:

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy.



A Rant Gone South

i was ready to go on a rant. No, not about the things i promised myself and likely many others to not discuss here or elsewhere. No, there were several incidents where i have been getting ripped off and discovered such in the last couple of days. And it wasn’t by scammers or phishers or whatever other kind of little people with small mean minds keep on trying to con you and me out of our money. No. It was big business and developers and marketing buffoons trying to fool me to get as much money as they could rather than trying to make money by providing a product or service at a fair price, a concept long gone down the swirling water in the toilet bowl.

In fact, i wrote about six long paragraphs on the rant before remembering someone once wrote or said money was the root of all evil. Gave it up.

i gave it up because i moved out of my home office to under the umbrella in the corner of our backyard. Late afternoon. A glass of viognier, sun moving toward our false horizon of the slope at the back of the yard. Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album i first heard in Bill Parsons apartment in Nashville when he was still a teacher at Montgomery Bell Acadamy is playing on the bluetooth.

And again, i’m thinking i a lucky man.

And i remember:

Like Junes growing up flat in the middle of Tennessee when the thirty mile trip to Nashville Pike named the Lebanon Pike on the other end making it pretty much a day trip. Remembering when nothing much was entering my mind besides sports, playing it, that is, although i caught every baseball, football, and basketball radio broadcasts and  couple of college games on Saturday and one NFL game on Sunday.

Then there came the girls and i was smitten, oh about two dozens times: the fair, movies at the Capitol and the Princess, dances where you got dressed up and danced to that scandalous rock ‘n roll music. “The Stroll.” Every once in a while getting a good night kiss at the door and eventually figuring out that parking stuff.

i could go on through college as even at that advanced age all was still relatively innocent, even though we didn’t think so at the time.

But why go further? i was in the glory of not knowing all the real problems. i was being taught the right way to act and how to treat other people and ethical behavior and i didn’t, did not  even know it. i thought the world was full of folks like us, thought that good was at the core of everyone’s heart. i was working toward figuring out i would get along in the world under those rules.

Then it was gone. Adulthood sucks. i had to learn how to deal with all those folks who didn’t fit the image i had they would be.

But this afternoon, i’m listening to “Golden Slumbers”

Once there was a way
To get back homeward
Once there was a way
To get back home
Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby
Golden slumbers
Fill your eyes
Smiles await you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby
Once there was a way
To get back homeward
Once there was a way
To get back home
Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby


Ahh, the lullaby. Will it come tonight? i know i will awake to smiles in the morning. And i will not cry.

Fittingly the next track on the “Abbey Road” album is “The End,” and i think about carrying that weight a long time. But i gotta tell you folks, i ain’t carrying that weight. i have a whole bunch of family and friends of every variety — and it just struck me i can’t be more specific without someone interpreting i’m on one side or the other — and they are not a weight.

Sitting here in the Southwest corner, i am back home. George, Paul, Ringo, and John and i have gone on that journey back home.

And it is time to leave my reverie. Maureen is serving up carnitas tacos with all the fixings.