Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

St. George

We are on another Toennies-Jewell adventure. We are in St. George, Utah en route to Park City and golf, lots of golf. A comment on the trip was made about “we are family.” Might as well be. This is somewhere around 15-20 adventures the four of us have experienced, not counting what Pete and i have done sans spouses. And here we go again.

If you have never driven into St. George from the south, you should.

We stopped for lunch in Primm, just before Las Vegas, not wishing to stop and experience the glitz, baubles, neon lights, music noise at decibels in another stratosphere, folks intent on winning, losing, and cigarette smoke, but found it all anyway in Primm’s casino where we went for a burger to find the burger diner had been hijacked into just a bar, while the signs claimed the whole place was half smoking, half non-smoking — reminding me of the restaurant on Magsaysay, the main street of Olongapo outside the Subic Naval Base in the Philippines with the sign painted on the window claimed it was “50% Air Conditioned” — when at Primm’s the undeniable fumes of cigarettes defied the efforts of division and the smoke penetrated our senses and our pores before we escaped to the Mexican diner.

And then we went where you should go, at least once, to the high desert vistas with soaring cliffs with mesas on top and precipitous falls to the canyon floors. Rock, nothing but rock and some pockets of scrub vegetation, opening up to St. George. And then, the drive north opens up to the canyon surrounded by more subtle but still impressive buttes and mesas, even more breathtaking than the earlier precipices because the flat-lying layers of red sedimentary rock, capped by black lava rock, called basalt, lava actually, but that was…er, from 2.3 million to 20,000 years ago, resulting in striated rock formations blending the color of the earth with feelings of ancestral grounds here and wondering (again) how those pioneers heading west reacted when they first ran into this beyond grand beauty and even wondering how they could have reached here with mules, oxen, horses, wagons, on foot even into a desolate though beautiful land searching for a bountiful nirvana, and at seventy-five, eighty miles an hour in the back seat, i take it in and breathe deeply.

After settling into the hotel, we drive to the Cliffside Restaurant located on the strangely named South Tech Ridge Drive, to dine on top of bluff looking over the valley and yonder buttes, mesas but with the homes of the descendants of those pioneers and more recent invaders nestled in the valley, more than this land would allow if the land had its way. And the food was very good while we watched the lightning show at sunset and twilight. Impressive.

Now, the next morning, the view out our hotel window remains spectacular in spite of the ubiquitous franchise eateries and stores you now find everywhere like Home Depot, Target and on and on and on. Soon, we will depart this strange land and head north to another wondrous part of this world above the Great Salt Lake.

‘Tis a nice place to pass through, but i don’t think i’d want to live here. You see, i settled in the Southwest corner and don’t plan to move.

A Respite

The world has turned a bit crazy on this old man. The response to my book has been very gratifying, taking on a life of its own. At my advanced age, i am back in business, or at least one of the 786 varieties of business i’ve experienced. It’s called work. i have mixed emotions about all of it, good and bad.

Tonight, i should be hitting the rack, even though it is over an hour before taps. You know, 2200, when the boatswainmate of the watch purses his lips to his boatswain’s pipe and sings his “attention” tune over the 1MC and declares “Taps, taps, lights out! All hands turn into your bunks! Maintain silence about the decks! The smoking lamp is out in all berthing spaces.”

The small black dog of our new neighbors is still out declaring the night is his, unaware the bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls, and Southwestern rattlers are likely to assume his yapping is indeed mess call.

Such night sounds are now an annoyance. i recall my time in the nights of my great uncle’s farm on Hickory Ridge. We called him “Papa” ’cause our two had passed before we came along. On my times spent there in the tin roof farmhouse with the windows open and a fan running somewhere, night sounds abounded. They were good. We slept soundly.

Sleeping in that small bedroom in between Aunt Corrine and Papa’s bedroom and the front room was similar to sleeping on my ships. Sounds of the farm animals and birds of the dark and crickets and, if lucky, the rain on the roof, if as expected, provided an omen of safety. Sleep followed. Sounds of the fire room boilers and forced draft blowers and the whine of the turbines and the auxiliary blowers brought comfort. But when there was a scream in the fields from a predator taking prey, or the winding down of engines and blowers, i would awake and leap into action to make things right…or at least attempt to make things right.

Which leads me to think, at a time the old man should hit the rack, of moments of peace. Like the morning watch.

The morning watch was considered a four-hour watch. it wasn’t. The bridge’s messenger of the watch would descend from the pilot house to after officers quarters on the main deck to carefully prod and quietly call at 0315 (hopefully not to wake the other officers in the shared stateroom) the oncoming watch officer awake. The officer, asleep to the tune of the boilers’ wheezing and the turbines’ whining, would arise, throw on his work khakis and the olive green all-weather jacket, splash his face in the small stateroom sink, grab his red lens flashlight and move forward, then up the ladders to the O3 level, checking into Combat (Combat Information Center or CIC) to get a status report and then to the bridge to have the off-going OOD brief him on the current situation with contacts (other vessels), weather, and upcoming events, when completed with “I relieve you, sir” and “I stand relieved,” and the boatswainmate of the watch announcing Lieutenant Jewell has the deck and the conn,” and the off-going officer would strike below, and the new OOD would be there in the dark with the black sea and the uncountable stars and maneuvers with other ships events minimized, and the night was quiet and the contacts were few, and one could walk out on the starboard bridge wing to watch the spume of foam roll down the ship’s waterline and look to the end of the universe in the skies, and smell the eggs and toast and bacon and coffee from the galley below and pour another black coffee and hang on the wing wall to find peace. Then, the stars would start to fade, the night sky lighten, and a glow appeared on the eastern horizon, and the sun would rise, and the radio would crackle with someone on another ship calling “Delta Whiskey, this is Alpha Sierra; radio check, over,” and one would respond, “Alpha Sierra, this is Delta Whiskey, Roger, over;” and Delta Whiskey, this is Alpha Sierra, Roger, out,” and the relieving OOD would approach and the earlier relieving process would repeat, and the off-going OOD would descend the ladders to the wardroom where he and his JOOD, CIC watch officer, and perhaps the Engineer of the Watch, would replace the earlier diners except the captain and the XO who would stay for another coffee and chat with the watch standers while the latter ate their scrambled eggs and bacon and toast and more hot coffee, and there would be a moment of quiet and the lieutenant would reflect upon his three-plus hours of watch and realize it was his respite.

…respite, much like the peace Papa found when he called the cows at 0400 (although he just called it milking time) and led the milk cows to the barn and milked them with his lightning smooth hands and filled the milk urn and fed the hogs in the sty and walked back to the house as first light, then dawn streamed over him.

And folks, i have, in my time, experienced the respite, the peace of both. i wish you and i could share that kind of respite today.

darkgoldsilversmiles

the old man lay in the dark with
his lady beside him;
he recalled
darkgoldsilversmiles,
memories and now,
wanting to touch her;
not wishing to wake her,
for her sleep had become
a precious commodity,
he refrained
recalling
darkgoldsilversmiles:
how he would move next to her
in earlier times,
flesh to flesh, bodies entwined
in the selfsame dark
where they lay this night,
the old man stared at the ceiling
recalling the first time he saw her:
the beauty of her silhouette
from light streaming through
the window behind her
followed by
flirting, testing the waters,
searching for  real,
conviviality,
followed by
passion,
love in the afternoon,
evening,
morning,
followed by
the union of two souls
always touching
flesh to flesh
in the night;
now,
he resisted her control
which he recognized, admitted
he needed;
so love had evolved
from
meetingsearchingfindingtouchingpassionneeding,
darkgoldsilversmiles,
all of them collected there
in the dark with the old man and his lady beside him
while he would never forget,
still yearned to
touch, flesh to flesh
in the night.

A Magic Mist Over Orcas.

 No, not the whales, but the island named, not after the whales of which 71 reside nearby, but a Spaniard of old.

Francisco de Eliza was one of the Spanish explorers who ventured to the Pacific Northwest coast and named the Strait of Juan de Fuqua, the San Juan Islands, and some of the other islands of the archipelago. De Eliza named this particular island “Horcasitas” in the early 1700’s. This name was to honor his patron, the Viceroy of Mexico: Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo.

 Then one hundred years later or so, the Brits came into the area. Brits, being Brits and not in love their Spanish explorer competition, shortened the name to “Orcas” on their 1847 charts. The shorter version stuck.

The derivation of the island’s name is now mostly forgotten. The Orcas (the whale version) became associated with the island. Even that was misleading. Early whale hunters had named the large dolphins “asesnia de ballenas,” which means whale killer, but then an error occurred when the translators flipped the two words, resulting in “killer whales.”

 i will not go on a rant here about use and misinterpretation of words. After all, all of this above was just a sidebar to what i intended to write about here.

 You see, i was sitting on the porch up on a hill Wednesday morning, early as is my habit.

The porch looks south toward Shaw and Lopez Islands. The home is about a mile nor-nor-east from the ferry landing (the only way you can get to Orcas unless you wish to fly on a puddle jumper), and about 8½ miles from the village of East Sound.

One view from Cy’s porch

That is where i sat at 4:30 Wednesday morning.

Three white hulled sailboats glistened in the waters of Puget Sound, several miles away from the hill. Shaw Island and some smaller ones in the San Juan chain are beyond, lush green of pines and deciduous trees intermixed dominate. A mist wanders among the hills of the islands. The view is framed by similar pines and the tall broad leaf maples from the wrap around porch where i sit.

I frequently imagine getting away from it all…and i mean it all. My never-to-be imaginations mostly dream of an isolated cabin on Old Hickory Lake, which no longer exists, or 40 acres in remote Utah or Wyoming.

This Wednesday morning, however, i thought, “Cy figured it out fifty years ago.”

Cyril Vaughn Fraser, III, is one of my favorite folks of all time. We have been friends…no, more than friends, brothers for about ten years before that.

i don’t think i am special by the way. i don’t know of anyone who has met Cy who hasn’t immediately considered him one of their best friends.

Why?

Cy has always loved life. And, i think, life has loved Cy.

So, in a way, it is perfect Cy ended up on this hill overlooking paradise. Yeh, the winters are pretty bleak, not from, as you might expect, snow, but from the lack of sunshine from November until March.

No matter.

I am here. I am here with friends, brothers and by the connections, sisters. In what’s pretty close to heaven. Here are some photos we took during our stay.

But even those photos or what i have written here can capture the magic of the mist over Orcas. I think old de Eliza would approve.

Cy Fraser, Kathy Huberland, Goofy Guy, Maren Hicks, Alan Hicks, and Maureen Boggs Jewell at Mijitas, formerly Cy’s restaurant “Bilbo’s.”

And then, just like that, it was time to go. i’ll never get enough of Orcas Island, regardless of how it got its name.

We left in the mist, that magic mist of Orcas:

Leaving Orcas, almost the only way.
Magic Mist Over Orcas

Thirty-Nine

We keep working on it. Another big day. 39. We’ve been married 39 years today. Doesn’t seem like it. But we have settled in pretty well. Of course, it didn’t just start 39 years ago. It was over a year before. For me, the story never gets old.

It was early March 1982. i was the Weapons Officer of the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) homeported in San Diego. The Weapons Officer billet was titled “First Lieutenant” on other amphibious helicopter carriers. Regardless, it meant i was charge in pretty much everything not aviation, engineering, operations, or supply related.

One of those responsibilities was being in charge of the quarterdeck where all visitors entered the ship. From previous regimes, we had a large red torah that spanned the entrance into the helicopter deck below the flight deck. It was impressive, but Captain Dave Rogers called me to his cabin one afternoon. “Jim, I want our quarterdeck to be the best quarterdeck on the base. I want it to be the most impressive and known to be the best by everyone homeported here.”

I, of course, replied, “Aye, Aye, Sir!”

i discussed how we could make the quarterdeck renowned  across the waterfront with my division officers and Boatswain Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4) Ellis. The Bosun had a bit of a beer gut. He was married to a wonderful Filipino woman who macraméd  a lanyard for the boatswain pipe the bosun gave me. She was about 4’8″ and almost that wide. Great lady, just a bit wide.

We came up with the idea of a sitting area next to the quarterdeck. At the time, when guests or visitors came aboard, they had to wait for the watch to contact whomever they were there to see. That sailor or officer would have to come to the quarterdeck to escort the visitor. Often, the time it took to get to the quarterdeck was lengthy.

So we decided we could create a sitting area with panels, some chairs, maybe a sofa, and hang framed photographs about the Oki on the walls. That way, the visitor wouldn’t have to stand around in the working bay of the helicopter deck. Great idea.

We had to decide where and how to get panels. Since the Bosun and his first class were going to make a supply run Friday, the next day, i asked them to check out panels while they were on their run. Liberty call was early and the Bosun and his first class left around 1300. They were dressed in their standard liberty civies. The Bosun had on Levis with a blue tee shirt with his thick black hair combed back as much as it could to resemble a ducktail. His first class had on his biker’s jeans, white tee shirt with a leather jacket and a silver chain dangling down from the jeans. He had straw blond hair also combed back and the gap of a missing tooth was the final touch. They left for their mission.

i had a bunch of paperwork to work through and continued on after liberty call. The bosun came into the office with several boxes of toilet paper (i never understood why he didn’t get it through supply).

“i didn’t think you would be coming back to the ship, Bosun,” i remarked.

“Well, i didn’t want to keep this stuff at home over the weekend,” he replied.

“Did you find any panels?”

“Well sir, we went to Dixieline (a local lumber and home center). They didn’t have them, but they told us to go to Parron-Hall.”

“Parron-Hall?” i puzzled.

“Yes sir. They’re an office furniture place downtown across from the county admin building. We went there, but that place was way too classy for us. They had desks in the showroom worth more than my house.

“You are gonna have to go down there and see about them panels.”

“Aww, come on, Bosun, i have a lot on my plate.”

“No sir, you are gonna have to go down there. It’s on Ash Street.”

Then he added, ” You know sir, the woman who waited on us was really pretty. i noticed she didn’t have a ring on her finger. i’m pretty sure she’s single.

“And she’s way too skinny for me.”

Epilogue

Maureen, 1983

Midday on Monday, i drove down to Parron-Hall Office Materials. i asked the receptionist to see the person who had given her business card to Bosun. i stood at the entrance to the showroom. She came walking across with the sun shining in the window behind her (think Glenn Close in “The Natural,” only prettier). She claims i had my piss cutter on my head. That, of course, is not correct: i am a country boy from Lebanon, Tennessee raised correctly by my parents, Army ROTC at Castle Heights, a Naval career and, by the way, an officer and a gentleman. My hat was off.

We had numerous discussions about the panels, which required about four or five “business” lunches over the five or six weeks for the panels to arrive. When the deal was done, i asked for that date to see John Lee Hooker at the Belly Up. We attended several events over the summer including sailing with JD in the “Fly a Kite” race where we became (or at least JD became) a legend. We went out to dinner too many times to count.

And, as i have noted before, one night up in Mission Hills, i was driving and just pulled over and parked in a residential area overlooking one of canyons. We talked. And i realized we thought a lot alike. It took until early February before we determined it was, as they say, it was meant to be.

It will be relatively quiet for our 39th. We just returned from Orcas Island with friends (more on that later). Today, we will go the San Diego’s Museum of Art after considering LIttle Italy’s Farmer’s Market and a walk on the beach. Who knows? We may do one of the others or both as well. It matters not. i love her, and amazingly, she loves me. i think that is about all one can ask.