All posts by James Jewell

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.


gridiron gone

long before the game became
what it is today,
which, by the way,
is not a game,
an entertainment industry,
boys played it in backyard dirt and scrub grass
with no grownups around,
wearing shirts or skins,
blue jeans and sneakers
after they all stood around
while the team captains
appointed by some mystifying process,
picked them one by one
the last one picked felt a little unwanted
yet thrilled to be selected:
although occasionally
someone would get slapped in the head,
or scratched on the back,
or skinned on the arms,
or poked in the eye,
or bruised pretty much anywhere and everywhere
it did not matter,
what mattered was
making the run
or making the tackle
or throwing the pass
or catching the pass,
or intercepting the pass,
crossing the goal,
what mattered more
was not getting spanked
for being late for supper,
afer showing up grimy, sweating like a hog,
oh man, it felt so good, so good;

then, the boys thought they were big, grown up
when they went to junior high
(nope, they weren’t middling; they were junior-ing)
early practice,
tossed their uniforms with
shoes too big and stiff with cleats they could feel on their soles,
helmets large enough to rotate on their heads,
padded pants too long, knee pads hanging down to the shin,
shoulder pads,
those magic instruments designed for invincibility
they went out to the recess playground,
another place for dirt and scrub grass
in the heat and humidity of August
to whack and push blocking sleds,
learning gee 36 and haw 37, 6-2, 7-1, 5-3,
until they were completely spent
before the showers,
leaving the uniforms in their lockers
in the open bay
where they would stink and stiffen
overnight from the sweat and dirt,
even a little splotch of blood
before their mamas picked them up
to take them home to supper,
then a game with spiffy uniforms,
gridiron field with stands,
sprinkled with parents,
while cheerleaders yelled,
outside the
painted lines,
between the goal posts,
oh man, it felt so good, so good;

a couple of years later,
they advanced to the big time in a small town
high school freshman pre-season practice
after being tossed
shoes too large, helmets that could rotate,
pants too long,
those magic shoulder pads of invincibility
to run out to a practice field
with dirt and scrub grass,
the day after the first unforgiving coach’s shouts,
they thought they would die
from muscle pains and stiffness
to lay on the floor
in the morning before
grimacing, rising to hit
the practice field once more
to get in shape
then playing real games
on that gridiron
with no one in the stands
except mamas and papas;
yet it didn’t matter because
oh man, it felt so good, so good;

the next August, it was time for the real thing
when the trainers tossed
shoes, helmets, pants and invincibility,
which were no longer so ill-fitting
the practice field was still dirt and scrub grass,
the blocking sleds seemed heavier,
the other players bigger, hitting harder
with warm-ups more demanding,
practices where you were a sissy if you drank water
after you had gulped down salt pills
perhaps suffering from injuries
serious enough to warrant hours in the hot whirlpool bath
the big day
with packed grandstands on the gridiron
with immaculate green grass and painted lines
while they donned the uniforms that felt like silk,
the invincibility spreading from the shoulder pads
to produce a hero in their minds
for the game, the game
for nine or ten autumn weeks,
the highs, the lows, the wins, the losses
took their souls almost to heaven,
repeated for two more years
oh man, it felt so good, so good;

then, it was gone;
the superb players went on to college,
only a few, of course,
to perhaps become part of the entertainment industry
while the others turned in
cleated shoes, helmets, padded pants, shoulder pads
that once made them invincible;
hung ‘em up;
went home to supper;
went to college or work
for a while, they played touch again
in vacant lots with dirt and scrub grass
it was never the same again
because they had touched the grail
oh man, it felt so good, so good.

1960 CHMA Tigers after beating Marion (Alabama) Institute Junior College, 7-6.


i saw him in the dark last night
walking up the road;
he was wearing dark, dark green
i could tell by the sheen t’was cast
coming off the crescent  moon;
with his hat down on his forehead
i couldn’t see his eyes;
he walked with a slight limp,
yet he carried not a cane;

it was strange he walked here
on these roads with modest homes
of the small town not far but still
a good way from the city
from whence he obviously came;

he turned and cocked his head
toward me sitting on my porch;
i raised my left hand in greeting;
he nodded, saying not a word,
then turned his head straight away
continuing on his way;
i watched as he continued on
until he vanished from my sight;

now i often think about him
when i sit on my porch at night:
he just seemed so familiar
though i had seen him ne’er before;
i wish that we had spoken
so i could have learned a thing or two;
he’s gone; i fear he shan’t come back
around this way e’er again;
i wonder where he’s gone
as the crescent moon fades
behind a dark green cloud.

A Sad Goodbye

Except when i was deployed on Navy ships, i have been reading newspapers daily since 1950  (of course, the first “reads” were looking at the photos and the comics). Seventy years. There were times when i was getting morning and daily papers, conservative and liberal. On many Sunday mornings in Newport, Rhode Island, i would buy The New York Times and spend most of the day reading the whole thing, methodically  going through each section i had spread across the living room floor. Since Maureen retired, reading the morning San Diego Union-Tribune at breakfast has become part of a tradition for starting my day.

i worked in the newspaper business nearly thirty years from office boy to editor to correspondent to op-ed columnist.

i have spent untold hours communicating with others i have known in the newspaper business about the state of the art, why it was declining, what could be done.

On the first of August 2020, this will all end with a sad goodbye.

i have cancelled my subscription to the Union-Tribune. That’s it.


It ain’t worth it. And i can’t get a straight answer even if can understand the “customer service” (an oxymoron if i ever met one) agent.

You see, when we received our last bill, the subscription fee had risen to $164 for eight weeks, that’s over a $1,000 a year. Wow!

So i called. The language barrier was so bad, i couldn’t even understand the guy’s name. And yes, i had my hearing aid in my right ear. And yes, he might have had some difficulty understanding my Tennessee twang because, no, even after being all over the place in the Navy for 22 years, and having been in the Southwest corner for 31 years since my completion of active duty, i still sound like i am from Tennessee…and proud of it.

When i informed the young man why i was cancelling, he didn’t even wait for me to finish to tell me they would generously lower the fee to $124 for eight weeks.  Yep: just a bit over $800 annually. What a deal. When i protested even more, he reluctantly and not so generously dropped the fee to $94 for eight weeks.

So having learned some stuff from bartering in Tijuana years ago, i pushed my luck. No dice. This kid must not be from Tijuana. Didn’t sound like it anyway. And, i discovered, his supervisor must have been in another country than him. He couldn’t let me talk to him.

Now to be fair, this fee is for the electronic version and what they now call the “hard” copy daily delivery. We only use the electronic version…actually, only i use the electronic version and that’s when i’m traveling and i haven’t been traveling except for an occasional distance observing, mask wearing trip to Home Depot two or three times in the last four months and am not likely to be going anywhere else for the foreseeable future.

But guess what? You get a break if you just get the electronic version. You have to pay extra to get the hard copy, but it comes with the electronic version, you know, the one we don’t use.

They also have this deal where you can get the  Thursday through Sunday hard copy or Sunday edition only in paper.

i would give you the exact cost for all of the options but that, my friends, i have discovered is a moving target. If you go to their website, all you can get is the fees for “introductory” offers and i don’t think after 70 years of newspaper experience on both ends of creating and reading and 35 years of subscribing to this paper or one of its version before they killed the afternoon Tribune puts me in the need for anything “introductory.” And there is no way one can determine what the fee will be after the “introductory” period. Hmm, thinking about it, i guess it doesn’t make any difference since whatever the real fee is, it will go up as soon as the financial whizzes with their superb “customer service” figure they can sneak it pass the subscriber, aka me.

Now, this kind of marketing, gouging the customer nonsense amazes me. You see, newspapers, especially large city newspapers are dying. This particular one reduced the size (width and height) some years ago so they could charge more for less. Then they started reducing the newsprint, i.e. actual news, to cram in more advertisements. Now with COVID, it is, i estimate, about one quarter of the amount of news it used to be and the sports section is not a section but a couple of many-ads pages in the back of the business section.

Insulted when i realized the extent they were yanking me around, i cancelled. And this was after we had finally reached the point where the “agent” and i could have an intelligible conversation.

i had pretty much stopped reading anything but the sports and the comics anyway. Maureen would read the other sections, but i didn’t want to get depressed that early in the morning. In fairness, the Union-Tribune is a bit less biased than most large dailies in my opinion. However, news journalism of all kinds has taken a dive over the last few decades. News stories aren’t. Period. They don’t follow the basics i learned because the reporters wish to be spectacular, lure you in, push their opinion, and slew the facts to get you to buy into their great writing or political position or both.

You see, when i was in the business, i believed the first paragraph of a news story should never, NEVER, be more than 25 words, and should tell the reader what, when, where, and how of the news article’s substance. Doesn’t happen very much anymore. Check it out.

But, but, Maureen and i have loved our tradition of the tactile feeling as well as of the reading the newspaper over juice, coffee, eggs, toast, and fruit each morning. So i decided to try again this morning.

i walked through the interminable and magic telephone recorded voice tree for about five minutes, less than the norm these days and thankfully with no really bad elevator music to reach a young lady who was decidedly worse at  English as a Second Language than the previous agent. i asked her for the exact, non-introductory, special pricing on all the options available so i could determine to cancel my cancellation or not. Apparently, they had not trained her for such an inquiry. There was a long silence, the only thing i had understood in this call so far. Then she began to recite all of the “introductory” offers.

i gave up. i told her i was not upset with her. i hope she understood because now i was screaming into my phone. i asked her to forward my displeasure to her superiors, which i am almost sure she didn’t because of that different countries problem. i hoped as they had warned the conversation had been recorded because perhaps, perhaps one of the marketing geniuses might listen and actually have a brain to understand. Fat chance.

So it’s over. In just a bit more than three weeks, i will be out of the newspaper thing. Oh, if i were back home, i would still read one or both of the local newspapers there. But out here in the Southwest corner, the newspaper boys have killed it for me, and i believe are already ringing that death knell for the their business.

And oh, i wish i could sit down with “Coach” JB Leftwich and Fred Russell, and Bill Roberts, and J. Bill Frame, and John “Yanch” Johnson…and Yanch, you may be getting a call soon because you, Lee Dowdy, Andrew Nemethy, and David Hall, if i can figure out how to contact him, are about the only ones with whom i could talk about the demise of newspapers as we knew them.

It will be a very, very sad goodbye.