Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

Some Reflections on an Old Metal Box

At my age, memories fade and confuse. It seems i’ve written about this box before. Don’t care. The real memories, not forgotten and clear came rolling out yesterday.

It’s not much of a box really.

i got it out yesterday to replace a button on my working shorts.

The box is about five inches square, an old haze gray box. In 1975, i found it my new stateroom on the USS Anchorage (LSD 36) when i reported aboard in San Diego to relieve the first lieutenant. Since the guy i was relieving had the first lieutenant’s stateroom, i was put in another stateroom. The temporary was on midship passageway in the after row, the first one on the port side in officer’s country.

Looking back, it seems almost prophetic where i was berthed. It had been the stateroom for the ship’s bosun. i never knew his first name. i imagine him as a balding big man with a deep voice. i do not know why. He left about a month before i reported aboard. He left me in an awkward position.

It was February. The Anchorage was about six weeks from a ten-month deployment to WESTPAC as a ship in Amphibious Squadron Five. i had never been on an amphib; didn’t know squat about them. i considered myself a destroyer sailor and had come from being the chief engineer on the USS Hollister (DD 788) out of Long Beach. But the Navy had decided to share the wealth and introduced split tours for department heads. i went from Destroyer School in Newport, Rhode Island to the Hollister for about eighteen months. Rather than spending three years in that billet, i rotated to an amphibious ship, one of the first department head grads to finish Destroyer school and then split to another type of ship, amphibious, or service force (oilers, ammunition carriers, etc.).

Although i was not enamored with the idea of leaving destroyers, the “greyhounds of the fleet,” i admit i was glad to leave chief engineering behind me. The job of keeping a thirty-year old, abused engineering plant up and running was harrowing to say the least. i was absolutely thrilled when i just missed my goal of holding it together well enough to meet all of her operational commitments. We failed to meet one five-day underway period just before we went into the yards for a periodic overhaul. It was one of my toughest jobs in the Navy.

So as the completely unarmed lieutenant reported to the Anchorage, he was counting on the ship’s bosun to provide all of his knowledge and expertise in maintaining amphibious operations at an acceptable level, at least until i learned more and became more proficient in boats, cranes, well decks, and landing operations.

One problem: the Navy (again) had decided to rotate the ship’s bosun a month before i got there. He left with no replacement.

But he left his little metal box in the small fold-out desk in his stateroom. With a felt-tip pen, he had written his name, “Bosun Holtzclaw,” now faded to almost illegibility, on the top.

When i discovered it the second day aboard, i picked it up and opened it. It was the bosun’s sewing kit. There were some small scissors, about a half-dozen sewing needles of various sizes, straight and safety pins, Navy exchange thread kits wrapped around cardboard, white and Navy blue spools of thread, and about fifty buttons from pea coat size to small uniform buttons for nearly all officer uniforms.

i didn’t have a sewing kit. Convenient. At least the boatswain left me something.

i have many tales about that deployment and my tour aboard Anchorage. Except for a couple of personal setbacks and a shocking abuse of power by the chain of command at the very end of my tour against Art Wright, one of the best commanding officers i had in my career, it was my best tour of my Navy career.

Not known at the outset, we would take part in the evacuation of Vietnam that May. We were chased by typhoons in the South China Sea. We did some rather amazing lifts of cargo and hit some great liberty ports. As first lieutenant, i was in charge of just about everything except engineering and the small Combat Information Center.

i was in charge of all exterior maintenance of the ship (the first commanding officer, Lou Aldana, told me my job was like a farmer’s: when it was good weather, my boatswainmates would work long hours painting and chipping. When it was bad weather, we would be getting ready for the good weather, and  when we had finished, we would start over again).

i also was responsible for the ship’s boats (an LCVP, motor whale boat, and the captain’s gig) as well as the embarked Assault Craft Unit boats, two LCM8’s (70-foot landing craft) and an LCU (120-foot landing craft). The two 60-ton cranes were my responsibility in addition to the flight deck, the mezzanine deck, and the well deck. I was the well-deck master for all boat and cargo operations. i was responsible for all flight operations and the flight deck. i had the gunnery department under my aegis and was in charge of all ammunition storage. Troop berthing (about 600 enlisted berths) were in my bailiwick and being in charge of any troops when they were embarked. There are probably a couple of things under my responsibility i have left out.

i was one of the four Officers of the Deck (OOD’s) underway and Command Duty Officers with 24-hour duty every fourth day. i was the sea detail and general quarters OOD. One load required me on station throughout 42-hours, followed two days later by a 22-hour load, and there were numerous loads twelve hours or longer.

And you know what, it was fun. No, it was a wonderful time to be a mariner, a Navy surface officer at sea. i’ll cherish the memories for the rest of my life.

*     *     *

i am a collector of memories, some might say a third degree hoarder. i have a garage full of stuff from the past, my past. i have an inexpensive glasses holder on my nightstand. My aunt gave it to me for a small Christmas present. I think of Aunt Bettye Kate every night before i go to bed when i use it for my glasses. i have a wine bottle foil cutter my brother and his wife gave me one Christmas. The plastic holder is broken and i have other foil cutters but i always use this one because i think of them when i open a bottle of wine. i have about two hundred photos of my daughters and grandson around the house and garage so it feels like they are with me when i am anywhere in our house. i have my father’s Tasmanian Devil floorboard covers i gave him for his Ford Escape one birthday. Every time i get in my car, i think of him.

That’s just the beginning.

And on a closet shelf, there is this little metal box tucked away for when i have to sew a button on some pants or shorts. Anything more sophisticated tailoring than that i seek out Maureen or even a tailor. At Castle Heights, i had about four or five “bachelor buttons” to use vice sewing on a button: emergency kind of thing. Yep, i have a couple in the metal box that allows me think of the hilltop back a long time ago.

Each time i pull that little metal box out, i think of the man i never met. i wish i had met Boatswain Holtzclaw. i have the greatest admiration for Bosun’s, some of the finest men and capable sailors i have ever met. i suspect some of CWO4 Holtzclaw wore off on me through his little metal box.

i would like to thank him.

 

 

 

 

Sean of the South Does It Again

Yeh, i’m a Methodist by birth and by somewhere around 500, give or take a couple of hundred, folks raising me in the First United Methodist Church, previously the First Methodist Church South, nee First Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee. Sean captured some precious memories for me here, even though our old church buildings with the three-sections of arched pews in the sanctuary and a balcony in the back are long gone. Hartford, Alabama’s Methodist Church and mine of yore in Lebanon are/were a bit different in some respects but very much alike in much of what Sean describes in his daily post, and reading it brought back the memories, many memories.

When i go home, which is far, far too infrequent, i go into the new church sanctuary –i haven’t yet been in the newly renovated sanctuary. The new and the newer versions on West Main are bigger and whiter and more majestic than that old one on East Main and have with electronics to aid the hearing impaired and abet not opening the Cokesbury hymnal to sing those hymns, and new modern stained glass windows i don’t particularly care for, and the revised ways of singing and voicing the liturgy. 

But when the hymn is over, we all still end it with a heartfelt “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh-meennnnnnnnn.”

Thanks, Sean:

http://seandietrich.com/hartford-2/

incongruity in the valley on a golf course

if you stop and think about it, it really was sort of incongruous:
perfect weather on a weekday
in the middle of a perfect September day,
seventy-five with a slight breeze
in the valley.

they call it Mission Valley now
named for the first California mission
further west in the valley toward the Pacific,
first one;
you know, the first one established by Junipero Serra,
the sainted friar, of course now being denigrated
because the naysaying destroyers of all things past
citing Fra Serra for not living up to today’s standards,
oppressing natives,
not allowing them to live like starving heathens anymore
while my forbears were fighting the Brits in the Carolinas
before crossing the Cumberland Gap to settle smack dab
in the middle of Tennessee with its limestone and sinkholes and
game,  lots and lots of game to live on
to eventually oust those natives across the continent
from Junipero Serra’s Kumeyaay
in a so much more brutal way
than converting them to catholicism.

then, the farmers came to the valley
to take advantage of the loam from
San Diego River sediment,
filling the valley with crops
before
the development men swept away the crops
to fill up the valley
with concrete, buildings, malls, stadiums, restaurants, offices, people:
lots and lots an lots of people and cars
so you can’t hardly move or breathe,
knowing when the rains come
(and they will definitely come),
the concrete will be covered with floodwaters
with the buildings and the people and their cars
isolated,
but the development men won’t care
’cause they will have their money in their pockets.

But this was now in the valley
on the eleventh green where deer graze —
hey, one of my foursome told of spotting
an eight-point buck grazing between
the twelfth green and thirteenth tee,
“not more than fifteen feet away from us,
“right there,
“nonchalant as if we weren’t there,”
he said,
reminding me of the herd of them deer
grazing on the fourth fairway
of the south course;
oh yes, the complex bounded by
the San Diego River to the south is huge,
navy huge: a park dedicated to
morale, welfare, and recreation,
but except for the golf course and RV park,
not used very much at all by
the military personnel for which it was intended
so the deer can roam freely,
not only deer but coyotes, one of which we saw in the winter
dashing pell mell out of the hills defining this valley to the north,
damn near mountains really,
this coyote going full bore,
ignoring us on the first green,
through the bunker into the ninth fairway
scattering the coots, culling one, a trailing one of course,
catching the forlorn coot in his jaws,
breaking the coot neck with a head snap,
dropping it there in the fairway
to catch another hapless coot,
dead with another head snap,
then puzzling over how to get them both in his jaws
before the maintenance man on his scooter turned mini-pickup
fruitlessly chased the coyote down the fairway
back to his lair.

Amazingly, i thought about all of this in a few seconds
on the eleventh green of the north course
called Admiral Baker in honor of the Naval Academy submariner who was
commodore of destroyer squadron 31 in the middle of the big war,
the one where they used this part of the valley for training aviators
to drop bombs just feet away from where
i missed my putt and where they found
some live remnants of those training bombing runs,
live bombs beneath the fairway just a few years ago;
the very selfsame fairway where a disabled plane a few years later
landed in an emergency unable to make it to Montgomery Field,
named for the man who did the Wright brothers one better in the 1880’s,
just over those hills to the north on Otay Mesa
(i’m betting that guy putting then missed his putt also
but with much more justification than me).

the other golfers left the green for their carts and the twelfth tee,
but i caught sight of something on the other side
of the arroyo at the bottom of those hills:
another flying machine of the animal kind,
a red tailed hawk, gliding up from what was most likely his nest,
skimming low over the yucca, acacia, manzanita, brush, cacti, and dead grass
for kill,
gracefully unaware of golfers and such,
flying low, in search of game,
then spotting a ground squirrel or something in the acacia,
divingquickerthantheeyecansee,
emerging with food to take home,
just like the shopper in the valley down river
emerging from Trader Joe’s
and
i watch the hawk, take a deep breath
thinking
jesus, take me home.

Place Settings

Maureen and Sarah often laugh at me about this.

Not so much Sarah as she is moving fast for work and rarely has breakfast with us. But she’s definitely in on the laugh thing. It has become a behind the back smirk kind of laugh because they don’t quite get it.

They shouldn’t. They were both waitresses in the previous lives and economy of service takes rule over formality.

i, however, am into formality, at least some of it…some of the time…when i want to be formal.

At least when it comes to place settings.

Now both of them know more about place settings than i do. Maureen finally informed me years ago i was putting the knife down with the blade pointing the wrong way, pointing out rather than in. i had no idea. But there are a lot of things Maureen knows that i have no idea about. But these two women have that efficiency thing going. They don’t put out any silverware that isn’t going to be used.

Not me.

You see, i think i’m a lot like others raised the way i was. The children took part in daily chores. One of our chores was putting out the place settings for meals like breakfast: plate, knife, fork, spoon, glass of orange juice for every one, glass of milk for the three children, and coffee cups and saucers for mother and daddy. On the round oak table. We didn’t use place mats. We sure as hell didn’t use chargers. Those chargers were for fancy meals like Thanksgiving and Easter and Aunt Evelyn’s and Uncle Pipey’s in Redbank.

We didn’t put out napkins either. Don’t know why. i do know when Douglas Lawrence came to visit from Gotha, Florida one summer, and we all sat down for breakfast, Mother had put napkins at every place setting. Some smart-ass kid asked why we had napkins out because we never usually had them. It was a moment i will always remember because my mother did the great curse on me with her legendary raised eyebrow scowl, behind Douglas’ back, of course.

But anyway, setting  out the place settings and getting the kitchen for the empress chef to do her magic. It is a routine, something i rarely have these days. But is my morning salve, meditation, quiet time, if you will, even if it is continually interrupted by the two cats who crave my attention then and ignore me pretty much the rest of the day.

There are connections, you see. It takes me back to 127 Castle Heights Avenue. That is a good feeling. It connects me with my father. After my parents moved to Deer Park, he gradually took over the meal preparation from my mother and her frailties, saving the really good stuff times for her to either take over or take charge, sometimes a bit of both when Tennessee country ham, biscuits, red-eye gravy, fried corn, squash casserole, and fresh tomatoes; meatloaf with mash potatoes, and the aforementioned biscuits, and several other legendary mother meals were to be served. But most of the time, it was my father in that pretty much new territory called the kitchen and breakfast table.

He always got up early. It became a daily thing after they both retired. When i visited Deer Park, i normally stayed in the guest bedroom with an adjacent wall to the kitchen cupboard. i would awake to his sliding the door back and getting out the morning fare, putting the coffee on, and rumbling around setting the table, getting everything ready (he specialized in cereal, especially Sugar Frosted Flakes with Tony the Tiger. Then he would call, “Mother, breakfast is ready.”

i get up early too, significantly earlier than he did. Perhaps that comes from my years at sea. i feed the cats, get the paper out of the driveway, grind the coffee beans (he got his from the Folger’s big tin can), start the coffee, put Maureen’s 647,000 condiments, chocolate, frothing machine, grater, and lord knows what else so she can make her coffee her way…with very little coffee but a lot of other stuff. i turn the kitchen sink faucet into a drip because Bruce Willis, the cat, likes to drink his water straight just like my coffee black, period: perhaps it’s a male bonding thing. i put a bowl of water out for dainty Dakota, the female cat. i get out the vitamins and the standard prescriptions for this old folk, i open the blinds so we can look out the window. Sometimes, i will get out the Bluetooth speaker and set it up for classical guitar during the meal, but i usually forget, and then…

i set the table.

From the table, i remove the table linen my great grandmother made by pulling out the threads in a decorative pattern for the border — my sister Martha once admonished me for calling it crochet and corrected me with the correct name of the craft, but of course, i forgot — and the flowers in the vase, usually Maureen’s roses, which leads me to humming Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Our House” and put them on a nearby counter. i pull out the place mats like the ones we never had growing up, i retrieve our napkin rings from their drawer — Now i know about napkin rings for when i got to my first Navy ship, the wardroom meals were formal to the nth degree, place settings perfect, the messes perfunctory formal, damn near religious in the unvarying courses, and napkin rings, round silver napkin rings, individually marked with care — and put them in their proper place.

i get out the silverware. We have about 368 sets of silverware for reasons far beyond my ken, but i like a certain set. i put the fork on the left side of the mat; the knife on the inside on the right side, blade facing inward, and then THE SPOON outside of the knife. Unless we are having soup or cereal, the latter being rarely, Maureen and Sarah never put out the spoons.

Then i turn out the overhead light and admire my work. The spoons are in place.

i know when they see the settings, they will laugh behind my back. Silly boy.

Don’t care.

It’s tradition, it’s connection. It’s me being me like where and how i was raised.

Laugh away.

Dr. David Williams

i know i have a lot of friends who are Vol, Gator, Tide, War Eagle, Trojan, Bruin, Buckeye, Spartan, Blue Raider, Moc, Aztec, Longhorn, Aggie and many, many other fans to the exclusion of any other athletic program but their particular favorite.

i’m not that way. i root for a bunch of college athletic programs — and root against those that appear unsavory to me in their moral, or lack thereof, to college athletes and their sports — but i have rooted for Vanderbilt for as long as i can remember and by 1962, they became and remain my favorite. Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for athletics, David Williams, a giant of man with a long and impressive career, announced his retirement from his position in a year from now to return to his love of teaching. i wish i could take a class of his.

When i learned of this, i wrote an email to numerous friends and family who have ties or are supporters of Vanderbilt. Afterwards i received a nice note from Andrew Maraniss, the author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South. Andrew included his Facebook post about Dr. Williams.

The text of my email and the link to Andrew’s FB post follow:

i am sure many of you are already aware of the vice chancellor for athletics announced today he will be leaving his post in a year and a search for someone to replace him (not) is underway.
i have seen some negative comments about Dr. Williams. i’m not sure why anyone would fault him.
i don’t know David Williams. i have seen him in many presentations and speeches throughout his time as vice chancellor, especially in a session during the 40th class reunion for the class with whom i should have walked across the stage. Every time, i have seen or heard him speak or read his comments on any subject, i have been impressed. But most particularly, the post presentation comments he made at the 40th reunion in 2006. Some yahoo, who obviously had not thought his question through to the end was almost angry when he took the audience microphone. He asked Vice Chancellor Williams why Vandy did not do something Florida did (as i recall it was about having separate athletic dorms) equating that to the athletic record the Gators had, obviously most notably in football and basketball.
Dr. Williams replied Vanderbilt was going to win and win in all sports. That was the goal. Then he added, but “We are going to do it the right way, the Vandy way.” It took me back to my Navy career when, on several ships our watchword was doing things the Navy way, the right way.
Dr. Williams, i’m sure, has had to walk carefully among the myriad of desires of Vanderbilt fans, supporters, and alumni. There were many mines hidden in his walk. He has shepherded Vanderbilt athletics into a realm where it has not been since the beginning of the twentieth century, being respected for its success, and while football and basketball, the latter men and women have not become champions yet, Dr. Williams has made every effort to put them on the right path. 
And he has done it all with dignity and a presence that exudes doing it the right way, the Vandy way.
Hopefully, the search will lead to someone who will adequately fill some very big shoes, but i don’t think anyone will ever replace this man who has dedicated himself to the student-athlete and Vanderbilt athletics for so many years.
Thank you, Dr. Williams. You will be missed.
The text of Andrew Maraniss’ post:
I know it has been fashionable for some fans to complain about the state of Vandy athletics, but I’ve never understood it. David Williams announced his retirement today and I don’t think there’s any disputing that his tenure has been the golden age of Commodore athletics, both on and off the field. All four of the school’s NCAA championships have come under his tenure, as have five of Vanderbilt’s eight all-time bowl appearances. Some complain about the comfort of the football stadium, but the facilities for all sports are better than they ever have been, including the indoor football practice field that he built, and Memorial Gym is about to undergo a major renovation. Vandy Athletics has instituted several innovative off-the-field programs, allowing student-athletes to study abroad, participate in more campus organizations and events, and land summer internships, all things that had been ‘impossible’ before. Graduation rates and academic performance remain stellar. Vanderbilt has retained great coaches and the people who work at McGugin are all extremely dedicated, hard-working, and professional, including people like Deputy AD Candice Lee, who not only played women’s basketball at Vandy but earned three degrees there and is recognized nationally as one of the emerging athletic administrators in the country. From a personal standpoint, I recognize that it was David Williams who worked so carefully to ensure that Perry Wallace was brought back into the fold and that his legacy was preserved – and will be celebrated – forever. At a time when it is obvious that college athletic programs are the tail wagging the dog at many universities, Vandy was fortunate to have an athletic director for so many years who understood that’s not how things are supposed to work. I think he always put the well-being of student-athletes first, and has interests far beyond the athletic fields, including books, music, movies, history, civil rights and the law. Here’s wishing David Williams a happy retirement and an acknowledgement from fans how far things have come, all while not sacrificing the values that make us proud to support Vanderbilt athletics.

Ramblings of an Old Man on a Saturday Morning

Maureen is off to a “movie date” with her “girl friends.”

Sarah is going to the San Diego Zoo with one friend and then to Safari Park (nee Wild Animal Park) with another.

Billie Holiday, the catahoula mix; Dakota, the pampered princess; and Bruce Willis, the epitome of a “fraidy cat” are with me for the day.

i am taping the Vandy-Nevada game to watch a bit later and skip all of the stuff other people must find somewhat interesting, and of course the never ending stream of commercials dedicated to making money and disrupting the flow of the contest.

And it’s been a while coming back to my briar patch, my writing place. i’ve been working on the book and dealing with the fact “old” is here in the house. i’m reminded a lot of the time from an annoying shoulder and neck issue, which may not go away. Ever. Part of life, i surmise.

Been thinking, too. That is a scary thing.

 *     *     *

It all began this morning when Maureen and i started giving each other shit about our faults. i was going to describe it in another way, but we both sort of lean on D.H. Lawrence’s idea about making profanity not profanity because after all, they are just words, and even though it seems the mass of our population now seems to believe words can be destructive, it’s the people saying them that are destructive, not the words because i know because they taught me somewhere around five or six years old “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” and Owen Wister knew it when he had his hero (the Virginian, of course) deal with the novel’s  asshole…oops another one of those words, but this one is what my bunch of friends who rally around the Friday Morning Golf game proudly take that title as a compliment… in a way best be described by an excerpt from Wikepedia:

The novel begins with an unnamed narrator’s arrival in Medicine Bow, Wyoming from back East and his encounter with an impressively tall and handsome stranger. The stranger proves adept at roping horses, as well as facing down a gambler, Trampas, who calls him a son of a bitch. (At the time, the word was an unacceptable insult in any society, except between joking friends.) The stranger lays a pistol on the table and gently threatens, “When you call me that, smile!” 

And…where was i?…oh yes, Maureen and i this morning giving each other shit about our faults, which, by the way, we no longer consider faults but just differences and things we actually admire about each other but would never admit it and when we do give each other shit, we roll our eyes, evoking my mother’s famous facial expression, and laugh and then we go to each other and hold each other in our arms and warmly laugh and say, “i love you” expressively, which we do and which sort of defines us now because we have passed from the passions of youth although we were a bit beyond youth when our passions were in full bloom and our admiration for all of our strengths and things one might admire in us although my strengths and list of admirable traits are damn short, especially compared to hers, and we have advanced, not because we are old, at least not because i am old because she still reeks of youth compared to me, but because we are experienced and we know, perhaps knowing all along through the passion and the admiration that subconsciously we understood the good, the sharing we would have then and have now that we are two humans who happened to connect at the right time with the right feelings about life and about each other and someone somewhere smiled on us and let us understand what love really is about.

i think we love a lot of other people more because we have stumbled on that understanding.

    *     *     *

Then i read about some silly ass (oops, again) idea that passing gold chains on the sidelines of the Miami Hurricanes football team to someone who made a sack was becoming a big deal and other college teams were trying to outdo the Hurricanes with their own gimmicks, and then i thought about how silly and inane such gimmicks are, and then i realized pretty much any sport not on a sandlot or empty court or empty field by someone unsupervised under the age of…a moving target, this age thing as i played for the game until my twenties, but now in the age of supervision, orchestration, marketing, product selling, and false idolization of plastic heroes and heroines, the age is probably around six or less.

And then i thought about touchdowns and how much i wanted to score one in a real game (i did: one on a punt return, 447 yards according to The Lebanon Democrat in 1957 in a Lebanon Junior High Colt game at the old high school stadium on Coles Ferry Pike) and how i imagined crossing the goal line and passing the football to the referee, letting my actions speak for themselves and not go into some kind of idiotic dance and attention-seeking histronics, which is now sadly de rigueur. But then, we can understand as it seems our very existence, all marketing, all political posturing, all just about everything focuses on gimmicks and we buy into it big time, ignoring what is really important, which is one of the reasons corporations like Nike don’t care if the gimmick is negative because the notoriety sells their products (and i’m not taking a stand on Colin Kaepernick, the National Anthem as i have said my piece and no one seems to have listened and they are still arguing apples and oranges and it has done nothing but deepen the chasm between those people who are intent on taking sides.

Nah, i’m talking about dealing with the essence of things, dealing with people face to face, not creating false idols or false enemies, not taking sides but believing in the goodness of most of us, all of us, which seems to be pushed into the background as folks keep trying to kill all of those demons hiding under their bed at night…like ten year olds.

    *     *     *

Most of you should know by now i’m not a formally practicing Christian. There are many reasons, but the biggest reason is hypocrisy. Those in churches who are not into hypocrisy seem to get shuffled into the back of the room But i do believe in the tenets of Jesus Christ as i interpreted his lessons from the Bible’s “New Testament.”

And then with all this gimmickry and stuff, i got to thinking about everyone wanting and buying things and ideas to make it easy. Then i thought what a ridiculous idea it is to seek making it easy. As my good friend Dave Carey said, “It (life) ain’t easy. It ain’t supposed to be easy.” i would add it would be awfully boring if were easy and all of the gadgets, technology, innovation, etc., etc. to make it easy don’t work. Easy and money ain’t the answer. Living well is the answer. Doing the right thing is the answer. Enjoy life, learn. Take care of others. Get off this easy shit (oops again).

    *     *     *

You probably have figured out it ain’t morning any more. And i’m still rambling. So i watched my taped version of Vandy drubbing Nevada, a good show, but the real tests are yet to come. It was fun, and my fast forwarding through all of the stuff except the game, i watched the three-hour broadcast in about forty-five minutes. Just right.

    *     *     *

And then i went to a little slice of heaven for lunch. Well, maybe not heaven but a good place, good enough for me anyway. The Bonita Golf Club. i sat at the bar. Val is one of the daytime bartendresses (my word, obviously). She is a neat young lady and very, very busy on Saturdays. Everyone knows her. She knows everybody as well. All of the bartendresses, waitresses, and waiters seem to know everyone.

The place is packed. The bar when i arrived had one seat. It’s that way most of the days i go there. The food is standard bar fare. But there is nothing bad and mostly great. The cheeseburger is splendid. The onion rings are special. The chili is really, really good. And then there is the club sandwich, the shrimp tacos, and the carne asada quesadilla: my favorites.

There are nine televisions in the bar and the other sitting areas, but not on the outside patio. They all have different sports events except three have the pro golf tournament.

But the best part is the people. There are all kinds of people of every skin tone, many origins, different political and religious positions, the spectrum of educational levels. There is a Pearl Harbor survivor who parks illegally in a spot right outside the door. i usually write nasty notes and put them on the windshields for people who park illegally, but not him. He’s earned it. There’s a retired Navy SEAL who is there almost every day. i often avoid him because i know i will enjoy the discussion so much i will overstay my time.  There is this one Latino who talks really loud, but laughs a lot and it seems like everyone with him is having fun. There is this one guy at the end of the bar who is buying every kind of drink and beer for what seems like three or four groups of golfers, men and women. The basketball player who played professionally in Europe is not here. He and i laugh and talk about foreign places and golf courses. Kevin Mitchell, the outfielder who played most notably for the Giants is not there. i talked to him a couple of times. Nice guy. Those two are here most of the time.

It is a fun place.  i’ve never seen an argument there. It’s people, all kinds of people, golfers and non-golfers, having fun with each other.

If it’s not heaven, it’s sort of like i imagine heaven would be.

Joe: My Reflections

Joe.

Not my brother Joe. Another Joe.

Joe Hill.

i lost him about a week ago.

Saturday, Maureen and i drove to Huntington Beach to pay our respects and a great deal more.

It was a small gathering, perhaps on the plus side of twenty. In the home of Joe’s brother Gary. A quiet service devoted to remembering Joe, telling stories, and yes, quite a bit of emotion.

i didn’t spend a lot of time with Joe. He was frequently with his sister Janet when we would see him.

Janet and her then husband, Frank Kerrigan, met us when i was the executive officer on Yosemite. Both fresh out of the University of Chicago med school, Frank was the ship’s doctor and Janet was one of the doctors at the clinic on the Mayport (Jacksonville) Naval Base, Maureen’s doctor. This was right after Maureen and i got married and the two were a integral part of our first year together. They are the godparents of our daughter Sarah.

The two left the Navy and created a successful primary and urgent care facility in Palm Desert.  When we went to see them, Joe was often there.

Joe Hill is quite possibly the nicest guy i have ever met.

i could immediately tell Joe cared about me and about Maureen. We were old friends within minutes of our first meeting. It was always a feeling of happiness i would get when i found out Joe was part of our time with the Kerrigan’s.

Jan and Frank had a good divorce, if there is such a thing,  and they, along with their new spouses, Deborah for Frank and Greg Mokler for Janet, continued to include Joe in their activities.

The last time i saw Joe Hill was at Frank’s retirement party at his home in La Quinta. Joe had not changed one bit: full of energy, full of corny jokes, and overflowing with empathy.

Another thing about Joe: whenever we left some get together like the retirement party, i would find myself wishing i could spend more time with Joe.

i no longer have that opportunity.

Joe was a bit different from most folks i know. He was smart, practical, fun and chose window washing as his career. It wasn’t as if he had no ambition. It was as if he chose that profession simply because he liked it. Joe did things Joe liked to do.

Our world is not kind to people who are nice and do things they like to do and don’t make waves, don’t make judgements but accept people, everyone without judgement, love life as it is.

About a year ago, Joe came down with some health problems. They lasted six months or so. His window washing business went financially down hill fast. Joe suffered from depression. He drank too much.

About a week ago, he killed himself.

Joe was a dedicated Christian in his own way. He read the Bible at least twice a day. i did not know that until Saturday. It made sense. He was the kind of Christian that followed Christ’s teaching. He did not judge, he did not throw stones, he loved. As his sister said at his memorial, Joe was ready to go to his heaven in which he so strongly believed. i’m sure he is there.

And we have a void.

At the service, numerous people told stories of Joe, things i would have never suspected but made sense. Funny stuff. Living life to the fullest stuff. Joe Hill.

So Joe, all i can say is i will never forget you and the way you lived. It was an inspiration and, Lord, oh Lord, i wished we had many more like you.

The Courtyard Tale, Epilogue

It’s over…

Of course, it’s not over.

The courtyard concrete (hardscape, to be politically correct) is painted. Twice. Three coats. The last two actually a color agreed upon. And of course, the touch up. Several times. Done. But not done. i know it.

It only cost about three times my original estimate and the time required was only about two days over the original projected time.

But then, there is some more touch up that will have to be done after Maureen looks at it in a couple of days. And now that we have a nice looking courtyard, i must clean the teak furniture. And now we will have to actually put some dirt, plant stuff in the cool  pots Maureen got (the ones i got at the Navy Exchange apparently were cheap looking, at least cheap enough to be relegated to the backyard but not enough to be dumped into my garage) and then add flowers, probably succulents. Then of course, i must clean the walls around the courtyard and there is some stucco that needs to be scraped and re-stuccoed and of course, repainted. And then, we must do something with those tiles.

Hmm…

But for now? i’m done. Proud of it.

And the goofy guy…er, old goofy guy who did it…er, is still doing it. But it hurts a bit more than it used to. Time for a gin and tonic.

A Courtyard Tale

It began innocently enough.

i have been absent from my site for a while. i had a lot i wanted to write (oh why, oh why do i feel compelled to write?) but all of that lot was going to take some time, and i got into this book writing thing, kicking it into high gear for a change, and so i didn’t write here and didn’t hit the post button.

So today, i decided after a bit of book writing, i would do home tasks. By my count this morning, there were about seven hundred and fifty-six, but i haven’t asked Maureen about what she would like me to do for about a week, so i suspect the number has doubled.

We have this courtyard, see. Our garage is in front (i still want my garage in the back. i have had that twice. Once on Castle Heights Avenue before my parents added on the family room and the carport, and then in Bryan, Texas: our house would meet my hopes and dreams if it was flipped and the garage was in the back, but they don’t do that out here in the Southwest corner nor pretty much anywhere else anymore) and the breezeway leads to a hall entrance and a courtyard with the front door into the living room and dining room. It’s a nice courtyard with a history.

We broke damn near every rule for buying a house when we bought this house twenty-eight years ago. i mean we were out for a drive, saw it and the sign, looked inside, and said to each other we want this house. So we bought it. Shouldn’t have, not with breaking rules and all. One of the best things we have ever done…except it’s getting old, so are we, and now the upkeep is eating into my playtime, time wise and money wise.

One of the culprits is the courtyard. i love the courtyard. We don’t use it enough. We should sit out there. We rarely do. When we were house poor after we bought this house against the rules, we looked out into the dirt courtyard for as long as we could stand it, and then we broke some more rules and had it landscaped. Pretty, of course.

My parents helped. We had started. Had the concrete poured (the actual beginning of this tale) and Maureen found the perfect tile for the stoop and the edge of the concrete. “Adaquin” i think they called it. One of a kind from a mine in Mexico. Of course, expensive. Maureen found it. We suffered in our decision until my folks came out for their winter outing, which they did for about 15 years. Somehow, we found a shop in Tecate, across a hole-in-the-wall border crossing about thirty miles dead east from Tijuana. Quaint place then. The knock-off concrete tile looked great. Mother and Daddy bought it for us for my birthday.

They delivered the pallets on our driveway. My father and i laid the tile. It was mostly him. We built the center planter together but he did most of the tile work. Nice place. Good job.  But the bozo concrete company supposedly had this beautiful colored concrete. It looked like it had the measles. So i painted it.

i painted it three more times, sometimes with primer, other times just paint like they told me to do. It never met our expectations. Then the years came and the knock-off concrete tiles begin to show they were made of concrete. i did not like the courtyard. It looked forlorn. The concrete tiles were fading; the concrete was rising to the surface. Gray. Ugh. The paint jobs didn’t hold. About five different paint jobs including the primers and several combinations of the various attempts made the original measles look look healthy.

Now we have a grand plan. We are going to put flagstone in the patio. When we can afford it. i have calculated that will be in about 2040 when i am ninety-six. So i came up with an interim plan. i would paint it again. With a better product now available. One problem: Maureen had to pick the paint and she wasn’t really enthused about my plan. After all, she wanted flagstone. So i brought home a brochure with very small paint samples. She picked one out. Gray. i like earth colors. She likes gray. i, of course, said okay.

i went and got the paint. Expensive stuff with the textured finish. But not as expensive as flagstone. Today there was the confluence of my wanting to get away from this infernal machine for something besides golf and the availability of the paint. i wrote some this morning, did some stretching, ate Maureen’s incredible, apple-blueberry pancakes, and began my project, planned to be about two hours of preps, two hours of drying, and three hours of painting. Good plan.

Did i mention the airplane soot? You see, i have learned about airplane soot. It makes most EPA announced dangers look like ice cream. All of the other dangerous emissions can’t hold a candle to airplane soot if you ask me. We are about four or five miles in a direct line from the flight path into Lindbergh Field, which they now call San Diego International Airport for political correctness concerns. Apparently, the wind patterns normally blow from the flight path directly to our hardscape and outdoor furniture. Our outdoor teak dining table, small patio tables and all of the chairs do not look like teak. They look dirty black…from airplane soot. Our courtyard gets the biggest hit. The soot mixes with the three or four paint jobs, and in addition to being a measles concoction of ugly colors, the courtyard  is extra ugly with the soot.

The soot also complicates painting preps. Power washing doesn’t just take the planned hour. It takes about four. Hours. And i don’t care what anyone tells you, power washing a courtyard with three or four coats of paint and airplane soot is a pain in the ass.

Done. After a lunch break and my every day nap, it is dry. i am excited. i get out the roller and the paint. i get a sample tile because Maureen and i decided we might paint the tile as well as the concrete. i paint the sample. Then i paint about about ten square feet. Feeling good, but i decide i should ask Maureen if i should paint the tile. i call to her and ask her to come out and decide. She opens the door, looks at the paint and gasps.

Now, we have been married for over thirty-five years. i know when Maureen is not pleased. i could tell this was one of those times. Being a complete idiot and frustrated, i say, “What? You picked it out.” This, as i knew it would even as i spoke the words, did not help.

i try vainly to recover. “Why don’t you go down to Home Depot and see if there is a color you like better (than the one YOU picked out, i did not add).?” Dammit. She did. Now, Maureen likes to shop…at Nordstrom’s, at boutiques, at art galleries, at Trader Joe’s. She likes shopping at Home Depot about as much as she likes getting a two-by-four slammed into the back of her head, which i figured she would like to see happen to me as she walked into our nearest Home Depot.

She came home with a gallon of another color. To test. We may do that tomorrow.

i finished the paint job around eight. About eleven hours including lunch and my nap. Of course, it’s not done. i will have to touch up tomorrow. We’ll (we?) have to decide if this is okay or if the sample is better. Regardless, by my count there are at least five to ten more steps in this process.

But it will look good when done, even pretty. After all, the two of us work well together.

i came in, ate the Thai food, Sarah went and picked up for us rather than the steak i was going to grill but ran out of time. i ate, showered, and sat down to write this. Before i started i walked out the front door and took two photos. Our new paint job…in the dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did i mention there was a beautiful full moon tonight?