All posts by James Jewell

Something Older, Something New

The “Something Older” in the title is me. The “Something New” is not really new but several quotes from Faulkner in Martin J. Dain’s photo essay book, Faulkner’s Yoknawpatawpha County i have possessed since the early 1970’s and take off the shelf and go through every so often just to give me a moment to relax and even mediate a bit:

You must struggle, rise. But in order to rise, you must raise the shadow with you. But you can never lift it to your level. I see that now, which I did not see until I came down here. But escape it you cannot. The curse of the black race is God’s curse. But the curse of the white man is the black man who will be forever God’s chosen own because he once cursed him.


from Dilsey, perhaps my favorite Faulkner character, this one from The Sound and the Fury. When i read of Dilsey, i think of Vicey Shavers, the wonderful lady who cared for me when Mother did some part time work from about four years old into my teenage years:

I’ve seed de first en de last,” Dilsey said. “Never you mind me.

“First en last whut?” Frony said.

“Never you mind,” Dilsey said. “I seed de beginnin, en now i sees de endin.”


Then one day the old curse of his fathers, the old haughty ancestral pride based not on any value but on an accident of geography, stemmed not from courage and honor but from wrong and shame, descended to him. He did not recognize it then.


Because man’s hope is in man’s freedom, The basis of the universal truth which the writer speaks is freedom in which to hope, believe, since only in liberty can hope exist — liberty and freedom not given a man as a free gift but as a right and a responsibility to be earned if he deserves it, is worthy of it, is willing to work for it by means of courage and sacrifice, and then to defend it always.


But like i said we was all busy or anyway occupied or at least interested, so we could wait. And sho enough, even waiting ends if you can jest wait long enough.


…fear, like so many evil things, comes mainly out of idleness, if you have something to get into tomorrow morning  you’re too busy to pay much attention to fear. Of course, you have fears, but you have — you don’t have time to take them seriously if you have something to get up and do tomorrow. It don’t matter too much what it is…and if it’s something that you yourself believe is valid…

This post was begun five years ago. i was struggling with what to add and didn’t finish. It was automatically filed as a “draft.” i was cleaning up my files (a never-ending and hopeless endeavor), i ran across it. Reading it this morning, i realized it was a bit bold, if not downright improper, for me to try and add remarks to Faulkner’s quotes. And this morning, it seemed damn close to what i think about where we are, what we might do about it, and how i can live feeling better about me and feeling better about living amongst what we live amongst.

So i deleted references to my seventy-fourth birthday, and let Faulkner’s words speak for themselves as they have spoken to me.

Dain’s book is still in print and available. But if you care not to purchase but would like to look at some awesome photos and read some powerful words, drop by and we can go through the book together and discuss how we feel about it.

A Seaman’s Doubt

i found this in drafts of posts today when digging up those i had misplaced or forgotten (old men, especially this old man, have a tendency to forget and misplace things). A good story, this book Brenda Fake recommended to me.

i have just finished reading Frankie Maru by Lionel F. Price. My good friend, Brenda Fake sent it to me after the author had given it to her. It is not a book for everyone. It was for me.

The book relates the story of how the USS Frank Knox (DD-742) , with the nickname of “Frankie Maru,” went aground on Pratas Reef, an atoll in the South China Sea in 1965 while transiting from Vietnam to Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

i related.

The Knox was a FRAM II Gearing class destroyer. i was the First Lieutenant and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer on the USS Hawkins (DD-873) and Chief Engineer on the USS Hollister (DD-788), and ASW Officer again on the USS Stephen B. Luce (DLG-7).  The former two also were Gearing class destroyers but FRAM I’s, which meant they were very similar to the Knox, but had one less 5-inch 38 gun mount and the bridge was enclosed, part of the pilot house, while the FRAM II’s, like  the Knox had open bridges with the pilot house enclosed. 

The Luce was newer and bigger and much more modern. While sports editor of The Watertown Daily Times, i served my two weeks of annual active duty service aboard the USS Waldron (DD-699) of the earlier Sumner class of destroyers, and spent eight weeks during my third class midshipman cruise aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764), a FRAM II like the Knox.

i spent a bunch of time as OOD (Officer of the Deck) on all but the Thomas. i don’t recall ever being close to going aground but twice and that happened on the the USS Okinawa (LPH-3) when i was the OOD.

The first time occurred when we had given an aviator (whose name will not be included here) the conn as we stood out of  San Diego Bay in order for him to become qualified for command of a deep draft Navy ship. The channel was fairly wide but if a large ship was standing in while your ship was standing out, it became tight, a piloting/channel challenge; not an open sea situation, but it was close. Too close. He became confused and turned the ship perpendicular to the channel, headed straight at Harbor Island.  Close enough that the diners in the pier side restaurant window seatings were swallowing their salads and entrees aghast at the bow of a helicopter carrier hanging over them.

The second near grounding occurred when i was the Sea Detail OOD while standing in to San Diego Bay at night with only one main feed pump and tug going DIW (Dead in the Water) ahead of us in the channel with no warning. This tale has a story of its own, but for now, suffice it to say, to avoid the DIW tug, i executed an emergency maneuver that propelled the ship directly to the shallows of North Island. A welcomed recommendation from the navigator reminded me to shift rudder and avoid running aground. That, by the way, is the way a ship’s bridge team should work together. We escaped a collision and a grounding.

Although these close encounters were not as complicated as the Knox’s, these two close calls and a number of near collisions with other ships, i respect the problems facing the Knox  watch standers on that calamitous night in 1965. Of those, one close call on the Hawkins in 1969, and one on the Luce in 1972 stood out for me as i read the pages of Frankie Maru.

On the Hawk, an oiler turned too early on a maneuver in the rough seas and foul weather of the Northeast Atlantic. It was the evening watch. i had asked the captain, Commander Max Lasell to remain on the bridge for that particular maneuver before he went down to the wardroom to watch the evening movie. He did stay, thank God. The oiler passed in front of our bow and we estimated we were as close as 75 feet to her starboard side, possibly 50 feet (We didn’t have time to measure). i had given the CO the conn and i ran all the other aspects of managing the ship.

Afterwards, the two of us discussed what had occurred. i concluded i might have made the same “All Ahead Emergency,” but perhaps not in time. That most likely could have been the difference between a near miss and a collision at sea. 

On the Luce in the Med in 1972 on the mid-watch (midnight until 0400), a radar contact appeared at somewhere under 20 miles. Combat (CIC), i as the OOD, and the JOOD arrived at the same course and speed for the contact, and tracked the contact on our radar repeaters. The bearing did not change (no drift) and the distance between us continued to close. That meant the CPA (Closest Point of Approach) was zero, a collision course. The calculated course and speed validated that under the International Rules of the Road, she was the “burdened vessel” and the Luce was the “privileged vessel.” For landlubbers, this means the privileged vessel should maintain her course and speed and the “burdened vessel” should maneuver to avoid the collision, nearly always turning to starboard to pass astern of the “privileged vessel,” aka us.

Following the captain’s standing orders, i awoke Commander Richard Butts, and told him of the contact and the status, adding i would keep him informed. Before the distance between the Luce and the cargo ship was ten miles, the lookouts had spotted her, and the JOOD and i had also found the contact with our binoculars, even though she was hull down (only the mast or superstructure showed above the horizon while the bulk of  the ship was still below the horizon). The visual contact , and the calculated course and speed from tracking on the radar still showed a collision course.

The contact had not yet maneuvered. i called the captain, informed him again there was no change, and apologetically asked him to leave the sea cabin and come to the bridge. He was by my side within two minutes or less. The JOOD and i had been continuously on the port bridge wing to take sightings on the contact using the wing’s gyro compass repeater. The captain was at our side. No change.

At five miles,  i took over the port wing gyro compass, personally taking sightings and reporting to the captain standing beside me that there was no change in bearing. Then inside of four miles, i found the bearing had slightly moved to the right. i told the CO. i rechecked and told him the drift was about 1/2 degree. i recommended we take evasive action. It was way too close for me. Commander Butts asked me if i was sure there was bearing drift. i confirmed. He then replied negatively to my request to change course and speed (i had planned to turn hard to starboard and go to “All Emergency Flank” as i had learned in several shiphandling courses. The bearing kept increasing slightly as we continued too close.

The merchant ship passed in front of our bow. The closest we came was probably about fifty feet. It was close enough for us to look up into the merchant’s lighted pilot house to see it was empty, unmanned. The ship was running on autopilot.

It was a cool autumn night on the Mediterranean, but i was sweating. The captain looked at me, winked and said, “If you have bearing drift, you won’t collide.”

Dick Butts was one of the best CO’s i had on my ten ships and made two stars. To this day, i am pretty sure we stayed on that course because he wanted to teach me a lesson.

He did.


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