All posts by James Jewell

A Ride Down Another Memory Lane

This morning, i shared a photo of Col. JB Leftwich i had put on Facebook five years ago. The link attached to the memory doesn’t work. It was a Lebanon Democrat work and apparently, the new owners of the newspaper did not transfer older editions with Coach’s columns and mine. The below is my column from the bad link in the . As i said, i wish i could sit down with him on that back porch room and talk to him, with one of Glen Ed’s dirty martinis of course, and discuss the state of journalism, especially print journalism, and sports. He inspired this column:

Notes from the Southwest Corner: A ride down another memory lane

SAN DIEGO – After six months of pretty frenetic travel, my wife and I are back in the Southwest corner for what could be as much as three months.

I am not sure what to do with myself.

There are all sorts of things I need to do. This retirement thing is so full of medical checkups, administrative requirements, honey-do’s, home projects, keeping track of family and friends, and, of course, golf. Then, there is this column I write every week. I feel like the Haigha, the March Hare in “Alice in Wonderland,” running hither and yon yelling “I’m late, I’m late.”

As I mulled over all of this last week, I also attacked my “to-do” list. One item was to ensure my old files, contacts, and ticklers were not required from my last employer, Pacific Tugboat Service. Thursday, I gathered up my laptop and headed toward the bay.

As I drove down my hill, I decided to bypass the freeways even though I was late enough to miss the dreaded Southwest corner commuter traffic. I wanted to drive the roads that have been part of my life on and off for forty years. I took the back roads.

As I turned down my alternate route, the back way as we used to say, I thought of JB Leftwich, “Coach” as I and other journalists from Castle Heights called him. He wrote a beautiful column for this newspaper about 40 years ago. His path led from his home on Castle Heights Avenue through a winding route to the Methodist church, then on East Main next to the post office. Coach reflected on what used to be at various sites along his route.

Coach’s route was two miles. Mine was close to 13…so I drove. But I reflected on what used to be much like Coach must have done on his hike.

I headed northwest from Chula Vista to National City. Both were sleepy little residential bedroom communities when I first came to the Southwest corner. Both still have small pockets of small homes, typical of houses built in the 1950s. Chula Vista has grown into a major city in its own right and continues with continual development of the 100,000-acre ranch once owned by the Scripps family. National City is auto dealerships and industrial businesses with those residential pockets decaying and slowly giving ground to commerce.

When I reached the waterfront, I turned north on Harbor Drive. The Naval Station’s southern piers used to be for the Mothball Fleet. Decommissioned ships, mostly destroyers from World War II, silently held vigil over that end of the bay. They had been weather proofed for a possible later call to action. No one was on the piers except for a lone guard.

Later, the mothball fleet was mostly scrapped with a few moved to other locations. The Mothball Fleet is now located in Philadelphia, Pa.; Bremerton, Wash.; Suisun Bay, Calif.; and Pearl Harbor. Active ships, mostly amphibious ships moved to the southern piers. My favored route to work 30-40 years ago was through the back gate, opened only for a few hours at the beginning and end of the workday. The route was not well known, and I could slide in and out while avoiding the mass of traffic at major gates.

Driving north, I shrugged. Modern has replaced shabby. Training buildings, well-appointed maintenance facilities, and a dental command are where old boats and landing craft were strewn haphazardly in weedy lots on the “dry side,” inland from my route. Now the gates to the “wet side” are modern, expensive technical security wonders. Base security civilians and “aquaflage” uniformed security Navy personnel man the gates. Sharply dressed marines with snappy salutes were the sentinels back when.

Officer, chief, petty officer, and enlisted clubs have been replaced by a few and little-used “all-hands” clubs. The gate itself touts the new Navy. Just past the entrance is roundabout with a an impressive flag display.

The Navy has changed. Like it’s surroundings and entrances, today’s Navy is more efficient; more technically savvy; in its way, more pin-pointedly lethal; safer; and more politically correct. Until my latter years on active duty, it was ribald; labor intensive; a work hard, play hard bastion of…well, sailors being sailors. Today it is more a social engineering system, embroiled in political positioning and using weapon technology “platforms.”

In truth, it is a much better Navy. On my drive of memories, I accepted I liked the old Navy better.

Murphy’s Law

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

The Ultimate Principle: By definition, when you are investigating the unknown, you do not know what you will find.

Goofy guy’s question concerning The Ultimate Principle: When investigating and you find the unknown, how will you know you found it?

Night Garden

have you ever walked in a garden
before the dew fell on the roses,
after the lights in the house were out
the world was quiet
the stars were dancing with the planets?
have you ever stopped to listen
to the sounds of silence in the garden and beyond
when there are no lights in the house
there are whispers from the stars dancing with the planets
the moon is the smiling chaperone in the heavens?
if you have walked in the garden at night
listened to the sounds and the whispers from the sky,
have you forgotten?

i almost wrote a lecture here about being locked into your role
because if you are old and locked into to your role,
you have forgot about walking in the night garden
you are a youth
on a quest that does not bear consideration
of anyone who disagrees,
which demands you could never walk in the night garden
that is for you to decide, not me.

i still walk in that garden at night
before the dew falls on the roses,
after the lights in the house are out
the world is quiet
i still stop to listen
to the sounds of silence in the garden and beyond
i still hear the whispers from the stars dancing with the planets
i see the moon smiling as the chaperone of the heavens?
i still refuse to lock myself into a role
pursue a quest that forbids
my walking in the garden at night
hearing the sounds of silence and beyond
the whispers of the stars dancing with the planets
see the chaperone moon a’smiling
it is night
the garden, the sounds of silence, the stars, the planets, the moon

Boots On

i am trying to collect my thoughts. Old days of an old salt  are resurfacing, and i am trying to tame my feelings running amok with the fire on the USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD-6)  and watching “Greyhound” tonight with Maureen. i wrote this in what was both one of the darkest hours of my life and when i realized there was so much more, so much more. It was in 1978 at Texas A&M when i wrote the below: The ships are no longer “a thousand miles away,” but visible from my hill at the Naval Station, San Diego, three miles as the crow flies. One is still burning. i leaped to fault the current Navy two days ago, and i am ashamed of being such a hypocrite. And those ships, although much closer are even further away from me right now.

Boota on

no longer do i have a ship to steam;
the oceans upon which i sailed are
more than a thousand miles away;
my life is no longer entwined
with courses, currents, tides
coarse men of the sea;
academia flourishes here:
alive and well.
professors stalk truth
behind their horn rims in cow country,
walk the pebbled paths,
loiter in the shade of trees
where birds are killed at night
by good ole boys
to prevent droppings on the pebbled paths;
i sit in my fluorescent lit office
laughing at the moon through the window,
which forgot to go down
this morning;

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

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

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

A Tale of Woe (if you ignore my derisive guffaws and a few moments of almost crying)

Amidst all the craziness in this world right now, we found some comic relief…if i don’t get killed for writing this. Perhaps i should explain.

My wife is one of the most wonderful humans in this world. i have maintained for a long time there are a number of incredible women i have loved, still do, but i sincerely don’t believe any of them could put up with my peculiarities as Maureen does. i mean by the end of this month she will have been putting up with me. ME. for thirty-seven years, damn near a lifetime in purgatory. She is an angel of mercy.

She bends over backwards to be involved with things i like. She became an ardent baseball fan, went to several hundred Padre games with me and now will often comment on why the pitcher should have thrown a changeup rather than a fastball on the low outside corner or a slider. And now, we play golf together. She, although unwilling to practice and will pick up her ball at any time she is frustrated, is getting better and better and better. Her knowledge of the game continues to improve.

Well, except for tonight. i had watched the first segment of today’s PGA tournament  at lunch and recorded the remainder. i like to do that so i can skip through the interminable bullshit (excuse me) with which the talking heads can bore me and just watch the play. Maureen loves to watch it as well and often asks me questions about strategy, club choice, etc. (which is rather scary because anyone who has seen me play knows i have no clue).

She watched with me before departing for another trip to the grocery store. i turned it off.

After supper, a superb steak dinner, steak provided by her grocery trips and my amazing and secret but simple seasoning and grilling on the egg knock-off along with another of her and Sarah’s collusion on a salad beyond what i’ve ever experienced in a restaurant, and Maureen’s potatoes and her seasoning on tomatoes from our small garden plot.

After the scrumptious meal with an after dinner glass of wine, i actually quit working on or worrying about my seven thousand, four hundred, and sixty-eight home projects  and my two hundred and thirty-seven writing projects to watch the rest of the “Workday Charity Tournament” where Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, and Viktor Hovland were the final threesome.

It was exciting. Great golf. Maureen and i were both intrigued. i kept making my asinine curmudgeon comments which Maureen ignored while she kept asking valid and honest questions. Until she had to take her bath. But she kept hanging on because Thomas and Morikawa had tied at the end of regulation and were in a playoff.

i was glued in. The first and second playoff holes were spectacular golf. i was so glad i had recorded it so i could end my evening with the conclusion of great drama. Maureen’s bath was calling and she began preparing for that, apparently because her bath takes precedence over great golf, which i will never understand. She washed her face with special soap before the bath, something else i will never understand, and went in to check her email on her computer.  i was locked into the epic battle on the course.

As she headed for her bath, she stopped and revealed she had looked at the final scores on her computer. i was bellicose in my admonition for her not to tell me the final result.

She said she would never do that, but she had a question. i, being a complete idiot, asked her what was her question. My recorded version was entering the third playoff hole.

And then, she asked,

“The computer said Morikawa won but their scores were the same; how could that be?

Aghast, i explained as cordially as i could, their scores were the same because they tied with those scores at the end of regulation play, and the playoff was separate. i’m not sure she yet  understands the concept.

i turned off the television. The drama was over.

And i gotta a lot of stuff to do tomorrow…while i’m still sadly laughing.

i do love her, you know.