Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

Blubbering Gets in the Way of Writing

i continue to refine my routine for writing effectively. It has evolved into my spot in the garage, a retreat, not really a man cave. This is now almost a requirement since i got the monster microfiche reader. It sits atop the desk my father made out of mostly scrap wood for my daughter Sarah. She had it in her room until she went to Austin. i moved it to the garage for a work table, but i find it comforting to write on the desk he built.

Then i discovered i write better when i have some of my music playing: not the blues, not my idea of hard rock, quite often old jazz or some of favorite classical stuff, more often than not Handel’s “Water Music” or Dvořák’s 9th, “The New World” symphony.

So this morning, i powered up the monster, moved my laptop the desk and rumbled through my LP’S, found one i thought would be good to write by, and put on Chet Atkin’s “C.G.P.” (Certified Guitar Player). i was getting into it, even thinking i might get two installments on this website this week.

But i had to stop abruptly. The last song on side one is “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye.” It’s about a man’s father. Chet said it reminded him of his father. So he starts to play and sing. Now i’m sitting here in my space in the workshop side of my garage where my father and i worked on many projects together side by side for sixteen straight January’s and February’s when he and Mother came out to miss the Tennessee winters.

And Chet sings this song:

i’ll get over it, of course, but it’s gonna be a while before i start writing today.

A Final Note on Mother’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

The woman on the hill made me realize that.

Mothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

That’s about when i started piddling.

A Way to Go

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

https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/wwii-veteran-from-san-diego-dies-on-final-leg-of-honor-flight-1.579966?fbclid=IwAR3Ez7LXPSqUF8cqOIav7kaWmIc1JQxxvEJIILdvZXYsjM68ylqwm_z8-Lc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Quick

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

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

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

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

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

the dark side of the hill

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

the dark side of the hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hat Proud

For those of you who might have missed it, i am proud of being called a mariner.

Captain Frank Boyle gave me that compliment just before i left USS Yosemite (AD 19) as his executive officer at the end of April 1985, telling me i wasn’t just a surface warfare officer, i was a mariner.

It was a bit bittersweet as it turned out because the Yosemite was my penultimate Navy assignment and my last at sea tour. i have often seriously said if they would let me drive steam ships, i would still be at sea.

i had read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in Major Tom Harris’ English class at Castle Heights. i was enthralled but really didn’t understand why.

It took a while for me to feel like i was a mariner. The sea clearly spoke to me in 1963 on the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764). i was not ready, i had my mind on partying, girls, and somewhere in there, sports writing, but i knew  the sea and i had a heart felt conversation. Then when i was at Middle Tennessee, Dr. Bill Holland gave me a depth of understanding of Coleridge’s mariner and that albatross. Holland also became a good friend.

i got close to being a mariner on my first ship, the USS Hawkins (DD 873) under CO, Captain Max Lasell and XO, Lieutenant Commander Louis Guimond. But i only rode ships on my next tour and got out with sports writing on my mind. Faced with the responsibility of supporting my daughter on the way and her stay at home mother, i reconsidered , remembered my love of the sea, and returned to ocean’s deep.

In my nine months on the USS Stephen B. Luce (DLG 7)  with Commander (later Admiral) Richard Butts at my side, including four months on a Mediterranean deployment, the sea and i had another meaningful conversation. i felt i had become a good conning officer, a good officer of the deck (OOD) and a pretty decent Naval officer, but i wasn’t yet ready to call myself a mariner.

The Luce tour earned me a spot in destroyer school en route to department head tours. As Engineering Officer, Chief Engineer, or CHENG on the USS Hollister (DD 788),  i passed the test for being a ship’s engineer. But engineering does not a mariner make.

It was the next tour, First Lieutenant of the  USS Anchorage (LSD 36) where i realized i had become a mariner. Commander Arthur St. Clair Wright, the commanding officer, and i had a symbiotic relationship and shared our love of the sea. If i could pick one job in the myriad of jobs i have had over 75 years, i would pick that job to do for my entire life. i was at home. i was a mariner.

The feelings were confirmed when i spent two years as the Weapons Officer of the USS Okinawa (LPH 3)  under Captain (later Admiral) Dave Rogers and Captain Roger Newman.

Captain Boyle’s complement was the perfect way to leave that life behind, even though it was bittersweet.

Then on this past Friday, the thoughts of the sea returned. Bob Schoultz, a retired Navy SEAL captain and the son of Vice Admiral Dutch Schoultz who passed away last year, went to his car before joining us at the nineteenth hole after our round of golf. He had a number of golf items he had saved from his father’s memorabilia to share with us.

Bob is a leader and continues to inspire and teach others in the ways of good leadership. His father is a legend in Navy aviation. i have the greatest respect for both of them.

Bob looked into the box he brought from the car as he asked, “Who is the oldest of you surface guys?” Having two years on my close friend and fellow retired SWOS commander Rod Stark, i ‘fessed up.

Bob handed me a cap.

The circle is rather complete now: Coleridge, the albatross, Bill Holland, Max Lasell, Richard Butts, Art Wright, Dave Rogers, Roger Newman, Frank Boyle, the two Schoultz’s, and:

 

 

A Good Day for an Old Man

One morning last week, i awoke grousing about all of the things i had to do. i complained about not having the time to read for a couple of hours, workout to combat aging for an hour or so, record all my records, write more on my book, yadda yadda yadda. Dark day, feeling bad, feeling old.

So i started with my honey-do list. You know, that never-ending list which is continually interrupted by more instant honey-do’s and require you to do about twenty other tasks to get to the one she wants you to do for her immediately. This time, i put a twist in it and put what we both wanted done at the top of the list.

i began with replacing a wood-rotted, termite-weakened beam in the trellis outside our master bedroom. This included beginning a sanding and scraping the entire trellis in preps for painting. Next i worked on our tomato-strawberry, herbs, and onion garden boxes. Then i planted some more gladiola bulbs in large planter boxes. Finally, i began to repaint the crowns of the posts on our stucco fence. Our next door neighbors to the northwest decided to invite Willie Wonka to visit and painted their house and their side of the fence, including my side of the post a bright yellow.

There are a couple of stories here but i will bypass them for now.

The point is i worked all day. Nothing artsy-fartsy, nothing technically sophisticated. Just work. When it was concluded, i felt…well, satisfied. i wasn’t trying to influence anyone to do anything to make me some money or prestige or power. i was just doing something useful and working up a bit of a sweat. It reminded me of long, long days working the well deck of the USS Anchorage (LSD 36) with loads and unloads. It reminded me of digging graves in Cedar Grove Cemetery in the hot and humid summer days. It reminded me of mowing the adjacent acre yards of J. Bill and Bessie Lee Frame and Fred and Ruby Cowan across Castle Heights from our house.

Satisfaction, a good tired.

It seems to me such enjoyment, such satisfaction of just doing good work has been mostly dismissed by the way we have progressed (sic).

i thought about making a point or two here about some important things. i put all of that stuff behind me, forgot about dealing with other people in the thorny miasma of relationships we have created, and just put my effort in doing something productive.

That is enough to make it a good day for an old man. It’s too bad we all can’t have those kind of good days.

Thoughts on Cathy Alley’s Facebook Post with Thanks to Judy Gray

Thanks, Judy.

Judy tagged me on Facebook so i would see Cathy Alley’s post of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.”

For those of you who did not see it, here is a version taken from one of “The Kate Smith  Show” videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zF7a0wB-Lg

After we got our first television, about a 15-inch screen that sat in the corner of our living room across from the front door, black and white screen, of course, i was impressed with Kate’s singing.

At first, i didn’t know about Kate’s show. We didn’t have a television. My only awareness of television was provided by Roberta Padgett. The Padgett’s lived to the north of their lot that separated our house from theirs on Castle Heights Avenue. The Padgett’s were one of the first to get a television on our block, around 1950. Roberta would invite me over to their den, which i considered an incredible place to have as our den was about half a dozen years away from reality, to watch “The Howdy Doody Show” in the afternoon.

Because of that, Roberta was the girl with whom i fell in love.

But in 1954, we caught up with the Jones’s…or at least the Padgett’s, when we got our own television.

i would turn Kate on when i got home from school . Her half-hour show came on at 3:30 p.m. on WSM, the only channel we initially had in Lebanon, at least what we could capture on our small but still ugly roof antenna. The shows consisted of what WSM considered the best of the three only networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC. Before Kate, there was only the Native American logo and silence (although i think i remember a sound as well, like a hum). As i recall (not necessarily a reliable source), the Native American chief’s image was accompanied  by the logo of National Life and Accident Insurance, the station’s owner.

But for me, Kate was only a time killer before what Roberta had shown me: “The Howdy Doody Show” where my favorite parts were the “Tons of Funs” silent movies, Flub A Dub, and Clarabell. Phineas T. Bluster was an object of my disdain. Buffalo Bob was a bit of a wuss in leather shirts with western fringe. Howdy was just too damn cheery. Chief ThunderThud endeared himself to me with his expression of awe, “Kowabunga.”

Of course, i lost my heart to Princess SummerFallWinterSpring, one if not the first of many loves in my life i dreamed about in television. The real life Roberta had competition.

Then at 5:00 p.m., i was riveted to Ruff ‘n Ready, the white whiskered guy in a cowboy outfit because he introduced the daily oater. Roy Rogers and Bob Steele ignited my desire to be a cowboy after my father introduced me to Hopalong Cassidy, who started that dream. Hopalong rode Topper into my life on Castle Film’s 8 mm film “Bar 20 Rides Again.”

i know all this stuff about Hoppy, not because i remember so well but because the three-inch square box with Hoppy holding his gun on the front sits on my bookshelf.

When Daddy would set up the portable movie screen to show home movies to us and whatever relatives might join us, nearly always Aunt Bettye Kate and Uncle Snooks, the children would demand we watch Hoppy and Woody Woodpecker first. He usually relented for one of the two.

i don’t recall Hoppy ever being on Ruff ‘n Ready’s show.

Now to prove my recall is faulty, the next afternoon highlight i remember was “The Mickey Mouse Club.” i am not sure what happened, but Kate, Howdy, or Ruff ‘n Ready must have fallen off the screen. My post school, pre-supper world was focused on that show, not because i enjoyed the cartoons, or much of the rest of the show, but my love was now squandered on two television dreams: the aforementioned Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and Annette. i kept wishing i could go to summer camp and capture Annette’s heart and whisk her away from that wimpy Skip — meanwhile in New York, one of my best friends of all time who i would not meet for another six or seven years,  Alan Hicks, was head over heels for Darlene.

But alas, my joy was ended when the news took over. John Cameron Swayze told it like it was without bias, a lost art, on “The Camel News Caravan.” i rejected the idea of listening to the news. Hmm, old habits have returned. But i did like John’s Timex commercials. i particularly remember them tying a Timex wrist watch to an outboard propeller and whirling the boat around the water for a couple of laps. After the boat docked, John took the watch off the prop and declared, “It takes a licking, but it keeps on ticking.”

Then it was supper time. Not much better things in my memory than Mother’s suppers. The fare varied but every supper seemed to include her legendary biscuits and fresh tomatoes.

It seems my every weekday during the school year from 1950 to 1956 was highlighted by afternoon television. This is a faulty memory of course. There were other things going on, but the way i remember it, even though she created only a nuisance of waiting for MY shows, Kate started it all.

i am aware of the current displeasure with Kate and her other racially incorrect songs creating the latest rancor. i also know any comment i might make about that will be taken as offensive by one side or the other, perhaps both, and i wonder why we insist on having two sides , or three sides, or exponentially more sides, even today.

All i know is i did not infer any negatives on those afternoons. Kate was part of it.

God Bless America.

Curmudgeon Ramblings

Seems to me we used to do complex things with simple tools and now, we do simple things with complex tools.

Not much difference in the people though. There are still good un’s,  and mostly good un’s with a little bad thrown in, and bad un’s with a little good in ’em, and worser un’s, and some that just need to be wiped out with no resort to a legal system. Pretty much like people have always been.

And we keep trying to fix it, coming up with ideas that will fix it for us but pretty much screw it up for a lot of folks who aren’t us or like us.

Seems to me we need to get back to fixing complex things with simple tools, like behaving ourselves. Like dealing with people with compassion and understanding, not drawing lines in the sand, not throwing rocks over the wall.

Now that would be different.