Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

A Politically Incorrect Sea Story

Recognizing our penchant to get offended by just about anything, i want to preface this entry with my assessment i really am not prejudice against any race of people, especially the Japanese. Having spent some significant time there in the 1970’s, i found their culture and their customs wonderful. For those that don’t know, i was very close to becoming engaged to a beautiful Japanese woman when i did some really stupid things that ruined the relationship.

i also enjoy making fun and finding humor in many situations, even those that are embarrassing to me. So i hope everyone who reads this will take it as i intended: funny, not malicious, and certainly not racist.

This morning on the front page of the San Diego Union-Tribune, a feature story with two photos caught my eye:

http://enewspaper.sandiegouniontribune.com/desktop/sdut/default.aspx?pubid=ee84df93-f3c1-463c-a82f-1ab095a198ca

It is the story of the son of a US Army Air Corps officer in WWII returning personal items to the Japanese family of a pilot who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a heartwarming story of grace and forgiveness.

It also brought to mind one of my favorite sea stories involving two Navy officers in 1975. One was me. I was a lieutenant in the billet of First Lieutenant on the USS Anchorage (LSD 36). The other officer was Commander Arthur St. Clair Wright, the commanding officer of the Anchorage. We had developed a bond through the constant relationship we had on the ship.

The first lieutenant on a landing ship dock is a spectacular job if you like to work. i was in charge of well deck operations, boat operations, flight operations, weapons, cargo loads and unloads, troop embarkations and debarkations, all deck operations, and maintenance of all weather deck spaces. In addition, i was the sea detail and general quarters officer of the deck. i loved every minute of it.

Art was one of the three best commanding officers under whom i served. He was a Naval Academy graduate and had a great career at the time. He had a rich heritage in the Navy and Annapolis. He was robust; he was smart; and he thought out of the box. He had a previous tour in Sasebo, Japan as commanding officer of an ocean going minesweeper. During that tour, he immersed himself into the Japanese culture.

The Anchorage was in Sasebo for a month when a stern gate default required major maintenance. There were three distinct party districts in Sasebo. There was “sailor town,” an area for Navy sailors, stuffed with small bars and diners, a red light district of high order. There was “merchant town,” a smaller but perhaps even rougher area for merchant seamen. Finally, there was “sake town,” the area with restaurants and nightclubs for the Japanese populace. Art always went to sake town. On several occasions, he took me to his favorite sushi bars, and to this day, my dining there, picking the fresh seafood off the ice in the glass cases and then watching the sushi chefs perform their magic carving, remains one of my all time best recollections of dining.

Art had been to sake town one evening when i had the on-board duty as command duty officer. The next morning when i had reported to his stateroom for some order of business, he interrupted me to tell me he and i were going out that night, that he had found a place he knew i would like.

That evening, he and i went to sake town. As the sun was setting, we ate at one of those wonderful sushi bars. Then we walked to the real night life section where there were themed bars and entertainment venues. Next to one night club where the exterior resembled the fuselage of a 747, were stairs up to a second story establishment. As we walked up the stairs, a man dressed in a Japanese sailor uniform announced us “on board” with a bullhorn. Entering, we found the place to resemble the interior compartment of a ship complete with portholes looking out. There were about twenty tables toward the back, full of Japanese couples. The waitresses, including the bartenders wore mini-skirt versions of Japanese sailor outfits.

We sat at the bar and ordered our favorite Kirin Beer.

Art could drink beer, and he did not like to wait in between them. So he would order two, put one in his back pocket and drink the other. When through with the first one, he would order another, pull the second one out of his pocket. When the next beer arrived, he would put it in his back pocket and repeat the process. We were on our second beers, when Art directed me to look behind me.

There was a photography area set up with several sliding panels for backgrounds. They included a WWII Japanese zero, a Japanese tank, and one where it appeared you were standing on the bow of a Japanese battleship. To the side was a rack of clothes. Each was a different uniform of the military services the Japanese wore during World War II. i loved it. Art and i decided we would get the Anchorage officers to come down and everyone get their photos taken in one of those uniforms behind one of those backdrops. Then we would hang those photos in the wardroom.

As we returned to our beers, an older Japanese man and his date sat down next to me. He introduced himself to me. He told me he owned a tailor shop at the beginning of the large downtown mall. I realized it was the shop where i had a suit, sports coat, and a wool “camel hair” overcoat tailored for me five years earlier. We had a nice conversation about our past meeting.

As we were talking, the bartenders had put some marching band music records on the stereo. All of the Japanese patrons began singing boisterously and waving their arms to the tempo of the music. i asked my new friend what was the music about.

“They are spirit songs,” he answered.

“Spirit songs,” i questioned, “What are they.”

“They are the songs we sang and our sailors, pilots, and soldiers sang as they prepared for battle.”

Interested, but a bit wary since Art and i were the only Americans in the place, i decided to not pursue that subject.

Art and i returned to our Kirins.

My new friend leaned over to me and spoke again. “You know, my brother was a kamikaze pilot during the war.”

“Really!” i responded, not exactly, knowing how to react, but curious.

“Yes,” he confirmed, “But he lived through it.”

“What?” Art, overhearing the conversation, “What did you say?”

My friend repeated, “My brother was a kamikaze pilot during the war, but he lived through it.”

Art stared at his beer, contemplating for a second or two, then replied.

“Must not have been a very good one.”

The patrons stopped singing. We quickly paid our bill and left.

We never did take the wardroom back for those pictures.

 

 

 

A Memory Hidden in the Fanfare

It is easy to forget, hidden between the folderol and celebration of the holiday. But we don’t forget.

Saturday, July 2, 1938. They were married. They made it to the seventy-fifth year of celebrating their anniversary. Forty-three days later, he left her. Nine months later, she joined him. Today would have been the seventy-ninth such anniversary. i’m betting they are celebrating. Together.

It was a long romance. She pointed him out to her mother as the man she was going to marry. He was in bib-jeans walking home southward toward the square on North Cumberland. It was 1932. He was 18. She was 15. They were in both juniors at Lebanon High School. He had been delayed three years when yellow fever nearly killed him and put him at home until he recovered.

The photo above was in 1936, two years after he dropped out of high school to help support his family when his father could no longer work after contracting tuberculosis. They, with family and friends, went to the Smokies, the go-to place for Lebanon folks back then. Her mother went with them. No hanky-panky back then.

She had an offer to play basketball for the Nashville Business College’s women’s AAU team after she graduated from LHS in 1935. She turned them down. Later she revealed to her daughter the primary reason was she feared another of several women who had eyes on him might steal him away while she was off playing basketball.

They were to be married outside the First Methodist Church but had to move it inside when it rained. Her grandfather, a former circuit rider and retired bishop performed the ceremony. It was the last event his father attended before passing away seven months later.

He returned to work as a mechanic making $13.00 a week. She returned to her job as a teller for Commerce Union Bank earning $22.00 a month. They made it through life never rich in money terms, but never really wanting either. They saved. They worked. They did pretty much everything they wanted to do.

Jimmy and Estelle Jewell had the kind of marriage we all should have. They fit like hand and glove. They loved and they understood each other so they loved some more. Their love spilled over to everyone in their family. In fact, to everyone they met. It was palpable. In fact, it still exists because it spilled over to everyone who knew them.

I could go on and on, but it’s not necessary.

But i will tell you, if you are going to love, you should love like them. Forever. Seventy-nine years and counting.

A Few Thoughts About Freedom, Independence, and Ben Ferencz

This morning, three days before the most significant, in my mind, of the three government holidays i think should be the only government holidays, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day being the other two, i sat down at my desk in the early morning.

i have taken to taking my blood pressure (it’s relatively okay, but like my weight, a little more than it should be, correctable by better personal discipline, something i manage to forgo for personal likes), then i will start an exercise regimen, one at a time in between sitting down at the computer. i check my email, Facebook, this site to see if there are any comments. Then, i link to a couple of news media to see if anything really important has happened. This means i rarely read more than one headline item and often just go on about my business. Of course, i check the sports links, not as thoroughly as i used to, but after all, i was a sports editor, and in spite of continual ranting about “sports” no longer being sports, it’s in my blood.

This morning, however, a link positioned at the bottom of a news story where there are “sponsored” crap most of the time, i found this link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/. Out of curiosity,  i checked it out.

i couldn’t stop reading until the end. Many thoughts came rushing to my mind.

The first thought was what an incredible hero Ben Ferencz is and how his story is subjugated to all of the crap — i struggled for a better term here, but decided to call a spade a spade — above it about name calling, line-drawing, hate, one-sidedness, and acts Ben Ferencz has fought against all of his ninety-seven years.

Another thought was i am sitting here almost completely separated from the horror Ben Ferencz saw and pursued justice for those horrors while maintaining a perspective the vast majority of us have abandoned. i’m sitting here enjoying my coffee, my exercise regimen, my morning routine, even writing this post, because i have freedom, independence.

i reread Lesley Stahl’s report on her interview with Mr. Ferencz.

More thoughts kept hitting me in the head.

i was stunned i was not aware, or hopefully didn’t remember…no, that’s not right. i’m not hopeful i didn’t remember: i am ashamed i was not aware or did not remember the Einsatzgruppen’s crimes against humanity. i was stunned their horrible acts could have been swept under history’s rug altogether because of the busy slate of prosecution facing the administrators of the Nuremberg Trials except for the insistence and passion for justice of one Mr. Ben Ferencz.  And i was appalled i actually could comprehend how Einsatzgruppen “killing more than a million people — not in concentration camps — but in towns and villages across Eastern Europe” could have been completely ignored.

i almost wept when i discovered Mr. Ferencz’ wisdom when Ms Stahl asked if these international criminals might have otherwise been normal people: “Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–” and “Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.”

i paused and considered the horror of the concentration camps and the chilling mass murders of the Einsatzgruppen against today’s backdrop of murders across our country, the insane murder of innocents in wars across our world, ISIS, Taliban,  the Syrian government, and on and on and on. It doesn’t seem like we’ve learned very much from history.

Then, Leslie asked Ben if he was naive. His response: “Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.”

Yet he remains optimistic. Why? He sees progress. “Look at the emancipation of woman in my lifetime. You’re sitting here as a female. Look what’s happened to the same-sex marriages. To tell somebody a man can become a woman, a woman can become a man, and a man can marry a man, they would have said, “You’re crazy.” But it’s a reality today. So the world is changing. And you shouldn’t– you know– be despairing because it’s never happened before. Nothing new ever happened before.”

Maybe we are moving toward freedom and independence. But as long as we have countries, politicians, lobbyists, and religions promoting their beliefs over everyone else’s (and i’m not excluding any of those groups here), and their beliefs deny freedom to others, then we have not reached the end point.

To a large degree, i am free and independent. But with freedom and independence comes responsibility, the responsibility to honor all others’ freedom and independence. As Major Kenneth Morgan told my Latin I class at Castle Heights in Lebanon, Tennessee in the spring of 1959, “Freedom is the right to do anything you want to and long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s freedom.”

i also had some thoughts to add outside the content of the article and interview.

Even Ben Ferencz took action to prevent crimes against humanity and bring about justice and freedom. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. Our country, the United States of America, was founded by fighting for independence, freedom. That is what we are celebrating (and what will be often overlooked in the fireworks, barbecues, picnics, and even the glut of speeches) in two days. We have fought for freedom from tyranny and independence throughout our history. Mr. Ferencz rhetorically asks if the man who dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima was a “savage.”

It occurred to me there are many gray lines in this concept of fighting for freedom. How many lives on both sides were saved by dropping those two atom bombs rather than invading Japan.? Would the world wars have been drastically shortened had our country entered them earlier? Would Southeast Asia be better off today had we not even committed troops in the first place or didn’t draw political lines in the conflict itself, hampering the effectiveness of our fighting forces? i can’t answer those questions.

But i do think after reading about the incredible Ben Ferencz and considering freedom, it really isn’t free. Our country was founded and built on the idea of freedom for all mankind although even our founding fathers did not completely understand the concept. And yes, Mr. Ferencz, we are getting there. It’s a rocky road with still a long, long way to go. But we are getting there.

i hope, pessimistically, everyone in our country will pause three days from now for just a few seconds to remember what the Fourth of July is really all about, and how we all need to think about freedom and independence, not just for ourselves and our families but all mankind, and consider what we might do to continue our progress toward real freedom, complete with our responsibility to get there.

shaggy beasts

And there i was in a place i always wanted to go: Flagstaff. Doing what i have always wanted to do: write. Taking breaks just as i imagined: walks in the mountains, walks up to Buffalo Park, the crown jewel of the Flagstaff Urban Trail system. The first hike up i read the sign. The park began as a refuge for bison and other animals. i kept my eye out but only saw deer. i realized they could not have bison commingling with the human kind. Too dangerous for the latter. Sad, i thought. Then tonight, it sort of just came to me what it might have been like for those majestic  beasts before those crazy humans moved in.

shaggy beasts

oh, i done seen ’em coming
coming over the ridge
breathing fire
hooves of thunder
raising storms of dust in their wake
eyes aflame
coming after me
humped back furry beasts
coming after me
in the dry heat
way up in the mountains
breath hotter than steam
that’s it:
a herd of shaggy locomotives
coming after me
i done seen ’em coming
in my dreams
as i climb
the path up the mountain
to the tableland
they dedicated
to those shaggy beasts
then decided
the tableland would be a nice place
for the locals to enjoy
then recognizing
the horned shaggy beasts
were prone to run over
scrawny walkers
so
they relocated the inhabitants
to some protected prairie habitat
far away
so
i missed them
until
i done seen ’em coming
coming after me
over the mountain ridge
breathing fire and brimstone
in my dreams.

A Change is Gonna Come

Sam Cooke wrote it

Sam Cooke sang it. Then Otis sang it. Then Aretha sang it.

Then over fifty other groups sang it…and they are still singing it.

“A Change is Gonna Come.”

And it will. i believe the change Sam was addressing will come.

It was a heroic song. It is a beautiful song.

And the title words fit something far less important on this website. A change is gonna come. Here.

Last week, i wrote my last column for The Democrat, number 500. Last week, i completed my sequestered sojourn to somewhere and found it. What i found is i will continue to write.

i started a book, or rather i picked up where i left off at least a half dozen times writing a book. It’s about a ship, a wonderful ship in a position to allow change to come. The Yosemite did not only allow the change to come, she caused the clarions to blow the song of change to the heavens. She went to the Indian Ocean and unlike those tenders before her, she steamed north to the island of Masirah, Oman, anchored and performed wondrous repair and maintenance on ships of the carrier battle group, and she did it with an extended out of port time while women, one hundred enlisted and six officers were part of the crew and wardroom. First time. It was akin to what Sam Cooke was singing about.

i was the executive officer, and i think the lessons learned still apply today, not just to the Navy or the military in general, but to the world. Before continuing, i must thank Captain Frank Boyle, USN (Ret.), Noreen Leahy, Emily Black, and Dr. Frank Kerrigan for helping me remember, correcting the fault in that memory, and adding to the fun of writing this book. i also need to thank Blythe Jewell Gander, Sarah Jewell, Alan, Maren, and Eleanor Hicks, Joe Jewell, Carla Neggers, Kate Jewell, and Maureen (you know her, right?) for providing guidance and encouragement as i move forward in writing the book. Oh yeh, the working title is Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.

My book is a long way from finished, barely started really. But i will finish it. i don’t know if i will publish it for the public, but i will finish it. What will come next is yet to be seen. As it nearly always is with me.

i’m also dedicated to bring changes to this website. i plan to have more posts, to put a little more of my soul into these pages. After all, i am seventy-three and wise enough, i think, to not try and change the world. It’s the next generations turn to try their hand at that. My part in this thing called life is to provide stories about what has happened to me in those 73 years, what i’ve observed, and how i feel about things. This is not an attempt to change the world, but to, perhaps, let some folks who might think about my experience, read my stories, and maybe make their plan to change the world a little bit better.

Part of the change here is to see if i can cover my expenses. i am, with the help of the incredible Walker Hicks, planning to make this a subscription website around the first of September. It won’t cost much. i’m thinking about a buck a month, paid for annually. That should cover my expenses and reward Walker a small token of what i owe him.

i will need some help. So as i roll this out and continue to change and massage those changes, i will be asking readers to help me.

Like i have a problem with what to call this. When this began, Walker suggested the theme be golf-like. i certainly agreed to that. Walker came up with “jewell in the Rough.” i liked it a lot, and it has been on the banner of this site ever since.

Then i chose some categories to label each post. One category was “A Pocket of Resistance.” That is me. Blythe has noted i am a “contrarian.” That is accurate, but “A Pocket of Resistance” relates back to my discovery of that part of my nature while aboard the USS Anchorage in the South China Sea in 1975. i like it. A lot.

Soon, every post bore the label “A Pocket of Resistance.” It seems sort of duplicative to have everything labeled “jewell in the Rough” and “A Pocket of Resistance.” So i would like you readers to let me know which you prefer better or what you would like to see my website labeled. And don’t worry, i have a tough skin and can laugh at myself if you want to throw some rocks over the wall.

So, even though it is not as earth shaking-ly important as what Sam Cooke meant, it is important to me.

After all, a change is gonna come.

Somewhere a Long Time Ago

It was 1968. April.

i had flown on a military flight out of Charleston to Rota, Spain with way too much personal crap in a plywood cruise box.

i was reporting to my first ship, if i ever got there. The USS Hawkins (DD-873) was somewhere in the Mediterranean. Being completely naive (damn near my permanent state, sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse), i expected an overnight in Rota and being flown to my first ship in some romantic spot like Rome the next day. But they couldn’t find my ship…or something. Who the hell knows. My overnight turned into two weeks.

i cannot describe my loneliness. i hooked up with another junior officer and took a bus to Seville for the day: a bullfight and wandering around the city not having a clue as to what to see and what to do. That was about it except a couple of stories to save for later.

i was lonely. i had no clue as to what would happen when i actually did report to my ship. My world had tumbled upside down. i was out of place. But on the ride back from Seville, i looked out the bus window at the agrarian landscape. i was longing for calmness, order and for a brief moment, i found it.

southwestern spain

there are no rocks here;
there are just rolling hills of fields and fields;
there are no woods here:
one just feels a calm.

don’t stay long; it could get dull;
dullness could be an affixation of the mind:
one moment of one day, the dullness
turns to calm which can suffocate my kind;

it could be solitary here;
try not to think of this
amidst the military people,
it grows into left-right bliss.

people have no quarrels here;
at least, with life itself they live;
most people seem not to notice;
perhaps it irks their souls too much.

the fields are green here;
the ocean rolls softly in the bay;
the trees are green here;
spring’s coolness precedes summer days.

the bullfights are clean things
people watch to see men face
death for nothing more than an ear or more;
it is satisfying to the crowd and perhaps the matador.

the roads are curved here;
no super highways sever the countryside;
the world is clean here
as if the rest of the world has died.

there are no rocks here,
just rolling hills of fields;
there are no woods here;
i feel the calm.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, dancing a jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.
— Mother Goose

It was a cool 55 when i left Flagstaff just before six. Tom Suby came out to dump some trash from the house above my studio and we said goodbye again. While we were talking, i commented i smelled smoke and there was a smoky haze. He said it was the Kendrick fire, about 10,000 acres. When he realized i didn’t know about the fire, he was incredulous. “You really have been doing anything but writing, haven’t you?” he asked.

Yes, i had isolated myself that much. No television. No news except the exchanges with friends of the Fitzgerald collision, something we Navy surface types will be talking about for a long, long time. But that and some Facebook exchanges. After all, i was trying to get to somewhere.

Friday morning, i had found somewhere i wanted to be and i was taking it home.

It was old Jewell traveling again. My little Mazda 3 was packed pretty full, not jammed like i have traveled many other times, but full. i rolled onto old US 66 and shortly hit I-17, down, down, down the mountain. The vistas of pines in the rolling mountains was beautiful. And rolling down those curves, the highway folks had put up one of those temporary flashing signs that warned, “Look out for Elk.” i took that to mean meeting an elk on the two lanes down could be imminent. i had this thing in me that wanted to pull off at a safe spot and go look for elk. Of course,  i didn’t. Just kept rolling like i always do.

By the time i got to Phoenix, she was rising (okay, who makes that connection?). i called and told her i was coming home and i had found somewhere. By now the mountains and the hills and the pines were but hazy visions on the horizon. The landscape of Arizona is varied and always interesting. If only i could slow and study it some more. Of course, i didn’t. i just kept rolling. As always.

i cut west on state route 101, maybe there a long time but now a four-lane escape from Phoenix traffic, going south to I-10, then a quick jog to state route 85 to I-8 in Gila Bend, the land that i…, no i don’t love it, but i have had a number of adventures featuring Gila Bend, and i’ve always been amazed anyone would choose to live there and now even more amazed because it’s growing.

Now, i was in familiar territory: I-8, the ribbon of highway to San Diego. Been on this crazy route more times than i can count. 80 miles per hour, maybe more if i think the highway patrol isn’t hiding in the bushes somewhere west. Not much there to Yuma except exits to towns that don’t even have dots on the exit signs: Smurr, Theba, Piedra, Tarton, Stanwix, Aztec, Dateland, Mohawk, Tacna, Ligurta. Maybe a gas station and convenience store for the travelers, a couple of houses, most with no vegetation, a couple with tree breaks. That’s it. Not much to El Centro and ’bout the same until the road begins to climb just west of Ocotillo where i had to turn around once and spend an extra night (in El Centro where i dined at a Thai place run by Mexican-Americans, nice folk but their fried rice had a hint of salsa). Then up the mountains past Dos Cabezos until you feel like you just might be on the top of the world, that ribbon of highway launching across spans of nothingness looking down into valleys so deep you can’t see the bottom and looking up to the sky so close it feels like you could touch it. Then down, down, down where the names look familiar where there are now a grunch of casinos on the reservations until i hit the eastern edges of the city and the traffic looks familiar as i jockey for position to get the hell off this ribbon of highway gone lunatic and jiggety jog to home.

“Market is done.”

i’ve found somewhere, and i am home.

My little Mazda has done good. It will get a detail tomorrow. i was beat, worthless for the evening. Maureen puts up with me and we eat tapas down the hill, watch a bit of the ballgame recorded earlier and go to bed.

This morning, i arise and launch into old routines with the additional unpacking, organizing, washing. You know. Then before Maureen comes out of the bedroom, i assess where i’ve been. The trip home beat me down a bit more than before. But i am older. Someday in the future, i will have to stop such power drives to somewhere.

Somewhere? i found it. It isn’t exactly what i was expecting to find. The sequestered sojourn was not exactly the way i planned. But it did accomplish what i wished to accomplish. i know where i am. Somewhere. i’ll be a bit different now. i’m not sure exactly sure who that will be, but it will be different.

And i’m fine.

After all, when i walked out the kitchen door to fill Maureen’s garden water pail, i found this:

It’s good to be home, jiggity jig.

I’ve Been Somewhere

It is a lovely place, this someplace i have found.

Since i’ve found it, i’m moving on, back home where i belong.

i’ve checked out the car to leave a day early, early in fact tomorrow morning.

i’ve checked the car fluids, etc. as my dear bride asked me to do. i knew they were okay, but one of the primary drives in my life is to make her not worry. i’ve enough gas to get within a half-hour of Bonita, but i’ll stop somewhere after a couple of hours to fill ‘er up and go the rest of the way non-stop. My kind of driving. Just under 500 miles, seven to eight hours through the desert at its hottest. Done it too many times to remember them all. Do recall the old Toyota Corona station wagon through Arizona in July when i had to turn on the heat to keep it from overheating in 120-plus temperatures and then stopping in El Centro around 6:00 in the evening, thinking how cool it was only to see a bank sign thermometer reading 118. May get something of a repeat as the Southwest between Fredericksburg, Texas and El Centro, California is relishing in heat way above 100 degrees.

But it’s time to go. i spent today spinning wheels. i finally realized the sequestered sojourn to somewhere was over. i mean i got somewhere. i know where it is now, and i’m damn tired of the sequestered part. i was gonna gut it out through tomorrow. Then i talked to Maureen. That did it. i missed her. Flat missed her.

As for the writing retreat as i have called it, i got done what i needed. It’ll be a book sometime. It may or may not be published. Some folks will get a copy regardless. We’ll see.

It was good for me, this somewhere.  i will take somewhere with me when i leave tomorrow, but i’ll leave behind a wonderful workout/walk/interval training/run thing in the mountains. i think the introductory photo captures it.

But it’s time to go home.

Similarities

This morning as usual, i read “The Writer’s Almanac” in my daily email. One item struck me. Today is the birthday of Erich Maria Remarque, the German who at twenty was in the trenches during World War I. He’s the guy who wrote All’s Quiet on the Western Front. If you haven’t read it, you should.

As i read the item, i was struck with similarities between now and the time of Erich’s quote and the time of the item’s description of the later reaction in his home country of Germany. i have my vision of how it relates to now (and it wasn’t just ISIS), but i’ll let you come to your own conclusions about who, what, and how:

Remarque’s quote:

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow.

The excerpt from the article:

The novel sold more than a million copies in Germany in its first year of publication. Nazis were beginning their rise to power at the time, and they hated the book because it portrayed World War I as misguided and pointless. It was one of the books they publicly burned in 1933. When the film version of the book premiered in Berlin, Nazi gangs attacked the theater. Remarque lost his German citizenship in 1938 and eventually moved to the United States.

i found the similarities terribly sad. Why can’t we learn from the past?

Loco Moco

Please, please, please, as James Brown, the hardest working man in show business, used to scream, please, please please don’t tell my wife about this post.

This, obviously, will take some explaining.

You see, i am up in these mountains attempting to be reclusive, monk style, and write. i am surprised i’ve been pretty damn good at it. But there were a couple of things causing me…okay, okay, it was my choice…to wander from my monk-hood discipline of writing with walk/hike/runs breaks and otherwise isolation. As most of you already know, my last column was published in The Lebanon Democrat today. And one of my best friends ever, the Shreq of the Shreq and Donkey duo of which i was…yep, Donkey, Pete Toennies came home from the hospital today after shoulder replacement surgery yesterday. Pete, if you don’t know retired as a Navy SEAL captain. He and i met on a legendary 1979-80 deployment to WESTPAC.

So i thought i would celebrate a good run with my hometown paper and honor Pete.

Now there are many ways i could do this. If i thought hard enough, i could have probably conjured from the originally overstocked and fast dwindling groceries in the refrigerator and the cupboard. So i assessed. And i remembered. The assessment function revealed i still had a package of ground beef i had not touched in the refrigerator. i remembered a dish Pete and i revel in. Unfortunately, neither of our wives are thrilled with its nutritional value. Mine is downright revulsed.

In the early part of this decade, Pete and i were marketing to the Navy a product that made a lot of sense, would have helped the Navy meet some requirements, and would have saved a lot of money. So of course, the stakeholders eventually decided they didn’t want it. After all, it would be treading on their territory and they might (which they never did) figure out a way to do it in house. But in the course of our marketing, our old friend and shipmate in that long ago deployment, OW Wright, arranged for the two of us to brief a whole bunch of Navy security types in Pearl Harbor.

Pete and i flew in  and rented a car the day before the brief. It was past midday and we were hungry. We tried to find the monkey bar in Pearl City, but it had been quite a while and we couldn’t locate it, if it still exists, which is not likely. Not finding it was probably a good thing because someone later told me PETA or some other well-intended but misguided organization had gotten rid of the monkeys (hmm, wonder if they used one of those relocation services). Finally, we stopped at a a place advertising great food. It turned out to be a bowling alley restaurant on the overhanging balcony of the lanes. We checked the menu and weren’t particularly impressed. But we both wondered about the special, Loco Moco. The waitress described it, and we didn’t blink an eye ordering Loco Moco.

You see, Loco Moco is  a modern local Hawaiian dish on a bed of rice covering a dinner plate. Then there is a half-pound or more of cooked ground beef. On top of that is one or two fried eggs (you can get three eggs if you let the waitress know that’s what you want). All of this is covered with a shellacking of brown gravy. i now know why there are a lot of really big native Hawaiians.

Several years later, Pete and his wife Nancy began to have us join them on a Kauai vacation. It has become an almost every other year tradition. One reason is the four of us are good golf partners. Also Pete and i like to play when the women are pursuing more cultured activities. Our favorite course in Kauai is Kiahuna. There are short lava rock fences supposedly created by the Menehune, a Hawaiian version of Leprechauns. On the back nine between fairways is the remains of the rock home of the Portugee, a guy who became like an overseer of a good chunk of the island. The remains of his rock tomb vault is several paces behind the home ruins. Fascinating but off point.

However, on a day when the ladies were being cultural, Pete and i stopped for lunch in between a day of two rounds. And there on the menu much to our surprise (delight) was “Joe’s Loco Moco.” i am happy to report Joe’s is just as good if not better than the bowling alley version.  Of course, that could be influenced by the fact we washed Joe’s down with two mai tai’s, another thing Joe is very good at.

So tonight, i went back to the grocery and bought some packaged microwaveable rice and ready to mix and serve brown gravy. i made a dent on that refrigerated ground beef and decreased the number of way too many eggs and made my version of Loco Moco. It wasn’t bad and absolutely of no real nutritional value. So of course, i loved it, wished for Pete and hoped to god, Maureen wouldn’t find out.

It wasn’t quite as good as Joe’s on Kauai because i washed it down, gulp, with Pellegrino, not a mai tai.