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.
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.
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:
i thought this was in my poetry book but i couldn’t immediately find it. It is one of my favorites. While going through yet another folder of stuff, writing mostly, throwing most of it away, i ran across the original. It was written in a wheel book while my ship was en route Pusan, Korea from Vietnam. On December 31, 1970, i finished it on a flight to Seoul after we had docked in Pusan, and eventually tore out the pages and put them together with a paperclip.
Now, i have to go through that poetry book again to make sure it’s not there.
one hundred miles at sea
i saw a gull
against the cold, harsh rays of sun
whitest i’ve ever seen
out of how many thousand,
the gull was captured
in a prism of time
from which i shall soon escape
then watch the mockingbirds.
Dark grey clouds like a lazing, sulking cat hung over the Mexican mountains to the south and the precipitous hills east before Mount Laguna. Before long, as it has been frequently over the last fortnight, the cat will quit lounging, stalk, and attack with fury. Rain. Ain’t like my Southwestern corner.
But the weather is fitting for this thing they are calling social distancing. The governor of California has issued an edict for all Californians to stay at home. i am obeying because a higher authority has declared i will obey. That would be my wife. So i have gone beyond “social distancing” and am now damn close to sequestering. i think i am wise enough and healthy enough to not become part of the problem, but i am also positive i do not wish to be a bad example. So, bristling as usual when someone tells me what i should do, and not really blaming Maureen, i will do what i feel is the right thing and stay home. There is some leeway for exercise and going to parks . Eventually, i decided to forego golf, even though there is enough leeway to justify making it to my Friday Morning Golf round. i didn’t go and by the time my stalwart golf buddies finished their round, we knew all the courses out here in the Southwest corner will be closed by tomorrow. And i have a hard time bucking authority, even if the order is dubious — government men and corporation men have this penchant for relying on statistics, and those statistics come from “yes men” surrounding them who have agendae of their own: believe me, i know, seen it in action, but it ain’t pretty — but that obedience has been fostered by parenting and the Navy over about fifty years. So i’m staying home for now.
On my walk before the cat clouds struck with the rain and during the governor’s speech, i thought of my little cabin, the one i’ve dreamed about for a long, long time. i am not against being alone.
In the summer of 1984, my father called me. i was with Maureen in our relatively new home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Daddy was calling to explain why he was selling the lake cabin.
The cabin had been our playground, our relaxing place, our escape for us, extended family, and friends. In the sixties, my parents and my aunt and uncle bought the cabin on one-acre of lake front property on Denny Road, which was located on Barton Creek about a mile from the Cumberland River. It was a continuous gathering place with steaks grilled by the men and the rest of the supper fixed by the women with lots and lots of iced tea with lemons and sugar long before they began to make “sweet tea,” and we all sat at the table enlarged by card tables on the kitchen and dining room side of the one-room cabin with a outhouse out the side door but with running water, a toilet, sink, and shower, and after supper proper, the women brought out banana pudding, prune cake, pies, all kinds of pie with milk and coffee and we played games, mostly cards and board games with the kids, and we laughed and we frolicked outside, often rolling down the tiered-slope yard to the dock where there was a cool spring just off the end of the southern slip of the dock, which made you feel refreshed when you jumped or dove off the dock in the hot summer months, and we fished mostly fruitlessly off the banks and the docks and we water-skied around the largest pool of the Barton’s Creek, and Daddy would take one or two of us out to the river and troll for the striped bass, and we would plug the banks for the smallmouth bass and brother Joe would even play with the water moccasins, catching them with his hands out of the rocks piled high on the bank to prevent erosion, and we sunned on the dock, and the children and women would laze in the floats off the dock over the spring and the world was right and we didn’t know all of the nastiness, the prejudice, the hate going on in the world, and we laughed and dreamed and at night, we caught the fireflies or lightning bugs and put them in Mason jars with holes punched with an ice pick in the top and watched the sparkle in the night with the stars brimming over the heavens because there were no city lights to interfere with our vision, and we caught June bugs in the daytime and tied one leg on a string and let them fly around our heads in endless circles while we danced our young jig. And all of the world was right at the one room cabin on the lake.
But my uncle had died and the young ‘un’s moved away, and fewer people came to the cabin, and Daddy stored his boat in my aunt and uncle’s original garage for they had expanded and added another garage in the back, and my uncle was gone so my aunt lived alone with the old garage empty except for the washer and dryer and the Christmas decorations upstairs, and Daddy liked his boat there so he could go fishing somewhere else besides Barton’s Creek and Old Hickory Lake, like Percy Priest or Center Hill but he tended to the lake cabin and laid out a garden plot and grew his tomatoes. Then in ’84, he was 70 and he told his oldest son it didn’t make sense to keep the place just to mow and keep it up and tend the garden, especially when he and “Mother” were on the road a lot in their camper. And so, he said he was selling and told me he would get $44 Thousand.
And i gulped and understood and thought hard about buying it from him. i even had dreamed about becoming the owner and living there full time. i had drawn my plan, which added a couple of bedrooms upstairs extending over the parking area and turning that into a carport or garage and enclosing the outhouse into the house and extending upward for an upstairs bathroom; i also (knowing me) included a fireplace downstairs and upstairs. i wanted to buy it from him but i wouldn’t let him give it to me even if he offered and forty-four grand was quite a figure for a lake cabin second home when i was a commander and my new bride had left her job to be with me across the country and we didn’t have a lot of extra cash and even that did not play as much as my knowing him and knowing he would not allow me to get someone to maintain the place because he wouldn’t want me to pay for that and he would do the maintenance and that was the reason he was selling it, so resignedly i nodded approval of his decision.
And then it was gone. Many years later, Daddy and i went for a ride around the county and ended up on Denny Road. He stopped on the other side of the gravel road and told me what he would have done had he kept it. It was exactly the same plan i had without the fireplaces. After all, our Castle Heights home in which the parents lived for 62 years never had a fire in the fireplace, but still, our conversation brought back my thoughts of a cabin.
i wrote a column about this lake house for the Lebanon Democrat several years ago and received an extremely nice note from Linda Garvin Everette who lives there now with her husband. She had the column and the old photo framed and her husband was thrilled. And i was even more thrilled: good place from my past for good people.
And today, Linda sent me a photo from her house looking down on the dock and the creek. The dock, although i’m sure it has had loads of maintenance is still the same configuration as when it was our escape.
i still think about that place, but i ain’t moving out of the Southwest corner, at least for the meantime. Still, the idea of having a getaway cabin remains a dream.
This dream has been an off and on thing with many variations. When i was single, i dreamed of it being a romantic place i could take ladies and grill a steak and toss a salad and dine with wine with a cheese and sauterne after dinner moment with soft lights or better, candlelight and some classical guitar on the stereo. And then, i thought such would be for my wife and i to get away from the world and later take our kids so they could enjoy childhood on a lake like i did.
This dream morphed when i was in Watertown, New York. While i was the sports editor, i became friends with Earl Weideman, a teacher. Earl was a character, John Johnson, my friend and eventual publisher of the Watertown Daily Times who got me to come north for the job, introduced Earl and i. Earl and i ran a lot together and one weekend, we and my wife drove to one of the smaller towns on the St. Lawrence River, i’m guessing Cape Vincent. And we boarded a boat and drove out to the Thousand Island Earl’s family owned, and i fell in love with the place, not to mention i acted a bit goofy in my green Texas Boot softball jersey, which my daughter still wears around the house even though her sister Blythe was not quite yet on the way seventeen years before Sarah was born. Later in the winter, Earl drove me out there on the iced-over river in his car. i didn’t wear shorts then. And i started wanted a cabin for escaping the world again.
About ten years ago, Pete Toennies joined me on the last five days of a early March ski trip in Park City, Utah. It was a grand man trip. We skied daily at Deer Valley and went out for dinner each night. Stories abound. But one afternoon we were having a drink after skiing in the bar of Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge. A woman began talking to us about her home, which was out in the toolies, forty acres, only accessible by horse and sleigh or snowshoes in the winter. Then we went back in September with our wives and played golf and i dreamed again of my cabin, this time in Utah.
Now when i dream, i admit it is not reality, but it’s still in my mind. i think of taking all my old, not too pretty stuff, especially for a designer wife, currently filling up my garage and getting 40 acres with a one-room cabin and a big fireplace and living like Thoreau. It doesn’t have to be Utah. There are other places, and Tennessee lakes come into my vision again, and the small mountain town of Idyllwild about ninety minutes east and up from here is attractive.
Of course at my age, medical facilities would have to be near, preferably Navy, and a couple of decent golf courses with decent green fees also would have to be accessible. Although i want the heat to be mostly from the fire in the hearth, i will need heat, and probably air conditioning and…
Ah, hell. i ‘m sequestered right now, and we don’t have or need air conditioning, and the fire in the hearth is just right, and if i want to be alone, i can go out to the garage.
So i don’t think a one-room cabin is in my future.
All of this volunteer sequestering has giving me time to read as well as write. In the last two weeks, i have read two books i had put on the shelf with good intentions. They are related. Now, they are read.
My nephew Tommy Duff gave me one for Christmas, Ted Williams: What Do You Think of Me Now? by Richard Ben Cramer. The other is one i had on my shelf and will be sending to Tommy today, Being Ted Williams: Growing Up with a Baseball Idol by Dick Enberg (with Tom Clavin). There are a lot of connections for me with books about The Kid, aka The Splendid Splinter. Both books admit Ted Williams was a flawed hero. Of course, all heroes are flawed. But most won’t accept that possibility about their personal heroes. With Ted, it’s impossible for all but an idiot to believe he wasn’t flawed.
Both books do an excellent job of portraying perhaps the greatest hitter baseball has ever experienced in honest assessments.
i was interested because i feel some connections. Ted is acknowledged as one of the many great athletes who have come from the Southwest corner. He was focused on baseball, specifically hitting the baseball. i was never that focused but loved the game.
Baseball was also the only one of the three major sports when i was playing in which i was not at a disadvantage because of my size. Five-Six, One-fifty (that was a long time ago) boys must be the best athletes in the world to make it in football and basketball.
Darrin Sproles, my height, made the NFL with the San Diego (once) Chargers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Sproles, who retired recently at the age of 36, made the pro-bowl four times and was an important cog on the Eagles team that won the 2017 Super Bowl. Of course, Sproles was 190 pounds of very fast and agile muscle. i wasn’t then, and i am far, far away from that now.
Spud Webb at 5-7 and Muggsy Bogues at 5-3 were successful in the NBA. Both could dunk and were phenomenal shooters. Although i had a good eye and occasionally could hit from the corner and could drive with a quick release, i could almost get my hand over the rim most of the time, didn’t have a real jump shot, and was predominantly a right-hand dribbler. i shudder to think what a shambles it would have been had i played against the top tier of basketball players.
But i often wonder how good i could have been and what level i might have reached had i focused on baseball, had the instruction available now, and practiced hours and hours and hours rather than just playing. And i played a lot, a whole lot.
After all, Eddie Gaedel was 3-7. Of course in 1951, Bill Veeck, the high jinx promoter and owner of the St. Louis Browns put Gaedel on the team roster, and had him pinch hit against the Detroit Tigers. Gaedel walked on four pitches — he still officially has the record for on-base percentage, 1.000, his only at bat.
Not considering him, there are a number of players around my height who have succeeded at the major league level. Wee Willie Keeler, Hack Wilson, and Rabbit Maranville were early stars at my height. Phil Rizzuto and Freddie Patek came later. And currently, Billy Hamilton and José Altuve are my height.
i played a lot from somewhere around five-years old to forty-six. In my junior and senior years of high school, i played either baseball or fast pitch softball six days a week in the summer. i played softball regularly up until forty-six, and played in an “over-33” baseball league for four years, giving it up at 46 when i hit .206 for the season. Other than having great difficulty catching a high fly ball coming straight at me, i was a good fielder, a decent catcher, and very good contact hitter. i had no power, hitting one home-run the entire time.
But still i wonder…er, dream, and love the game. Absolutely love the game.
As for the Ted connection, i played at least five games at Ted’s original stomping grounds in San Diego, the diamond at Hoover High in San Diego. His accomplishments were always in the forefront of my mind when i was playing, especially after hitting over .400 a couple of years in Lebanon’s Babe Ruth League, probably the pinnacle of my baseball capability. And when he and Tony Gwynn became close and discussed hitting, he again became my hero along with Tony, the only guy who really challenged Ted as the last major leaguer to hit .400.
The two books both cover Ted’s entire life. They give different looks. Cramer is a writer and it shows. His prose is excellent and catches a lot of what Ted was like, especially in his later years when Cramer interviewed him several times. How Do You Like Me Now takes an in-depth probe into Ted’s psyche, pretty much concluding at heart, Ted, in addition to being one of the best baseball players ever and subtly pushing for Ted being the best hitter, ever, had a big heart and was well-intentioned even with his flaws.
The other book has more connections for me. Dick Enberg, in case you didn’t know, was one of the best sports announcers ever, and certainly covered more sports than most: baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and boxing at the highest levels. Enberg’s story intertwines the story of the Splendid Splinter with his own rise to success, an interesting parallel.
In the last of his sixty years as an announcer, Enberg came back to his home in La Jolla and was the television play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Padres. My team. Enberg announced Padre games for five wonderful seasons. Having given up my season tickets in 2014, and contributing to Maureen becoming a knowledgeable Padre fan, we watched him almost nightly through each of his last three seasons.
Sadly, Dick Enberg retired as a broadcaster at the end of the 2016 season. He passed away just over a year later, December 21, 2017. His book about his boyhood idol was published posthumously the next spring.
i don’t think i could pick one of these books about Ted over the other. They both give us a portrait of a man who was one of the best athletes in my lifetime, a war hero (he flew with John Glen and Jerry Coleman, the previous Padre announcer and Yankee second baseman during their glory years), and one who pursued excellence to a fault.
Great reads, especially if you are a baseball fan.
With all of this stuff going on, i forgot to post about something that happened yesterday.
You see, my father-in-law, one of my best friends ever, a fellow golfer, a project partner, and, yes, a drinking buddy, not to mention a wonderful father to my wife and grandfather to my daughter and having a great relationship with my father.
Ray Boggs would have been 102 yesterday. i could tell tales, brag, praise and make fun of him (which would make him laugh). But i think there are a couple of photos that tell the tale so well: