Monday, June 28, 2010

A toothless pony: thoughts on baseball and Memorial Day

Two days ago, i entered a long explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Briefly, we are undergoing some life changes and the site was hacked, sponsoring my rededication to make the site different and hopefully better - with the help of Walker Hicks.
Please read the explanation in the Saturday, June 26, 2010 post, "Hacked and revisions." One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

A toothless pony: thoughts on baseball and Memorial Day

SAN DIEGO – In spite of recent weather aberrations, June rolled into the Southwest corner in classic form.

The standard “May Gray” arrived late and now “June Gloom” is fully established. While the rest of the country feels summer, this seaport town sits at the end of the Japanese current waiting until July for real summer weather.

For now, the cool marine layer overcast greets us for breakfast and rolls back in for the evening. A light jacket is required for raising and lowering my ensign (U.S. Flag) at the top of the hill. Early morning golf requires warm clothes at tee off and shorts and sunscreen by mid-morning, a logistics problem. My daughter and I went to a Padre baseball game last Wednesday evening, and Sarah was cold enough at the end of the 10th for us to leave before the game was over, a rarity for us.

* * *

There are few things I enjoy more than going to the ball park with my daughter. These outings elicit memories of Sulphur Dell and the Nashville Vols.

The Wednesday game was rife with connections for me as the visitors were the St. Louis Cardinals. For those of you who do not remember the Braves moving from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta, the Cardinals had a lot of Southeastern fans prior to 1966.

St. Louis was the closest team and a perennial competitor for the National League pennant. There were New York Yankee fans and Brooklyn Dodger fans, but the preponderance of the Old South rooted for the Cards.

Wednesday, four young men sitting next to us discussed baseball as if they were aficionados. Then the one next to me spotted a St. Louis fan wearing a team jersey.

“Who is S. Musial?” he asked.

Fortunately, one of his companions responded, “Stan Musial. Stan the Man was a hall of famer who had over 3500 hits.”

* * *

It was hard for me to accept there are current baseball fans who don’t know Stan Musial.

In 1953, Stan Musial was one of my heroes. I was nine and playing my first organized baseball, the Pony League, on the McClain School playground diamond. The manager put me at catcher and thus I became the wearer of the “tools of ignorance” forever, even as the backup when playing other positions.

The Pony League provided me another example of Lebanon’s community spirit.

Headed to McClain in the mid-afternoon, I pedaled my bike furiously down West Main. Somewhere between Castle Heights and Pennsylvania avenues, I spied the limb of a maple hanging high over the sidewalk.

Having a brain the size of a small pea, I decided to grab a leaf, some pitiful reenactment of snaring the merry-go-round golden ring. I held on when the leaf did not separate from the limb, skewing my bike into the rut created by proficient sidewalk trimmers.

Of course I crashed, not onto the grass but kissing the concrete with my face. One of my front teeth broke off. Blood was on the sidewalk. Being a brilliant nine-year old boy, I simultaneously wondered how to get to the game and cried for my parents.

Then the angel appeared. Mrs. Thompson, a gracious, gray haired lady driving down West Main, spotted the fallen pony leaguer, stopped, put me in her car, and drove me home. My mother answered the door and beheld this wonderful lady and a crying, bloodied, half-toothed gremlin screaming his head off because he was going to miss his ballgame.

Four years later, Mrs. Thompson was my home room teacher at Lebanon Junior High seventh grade.

To me, Mrs. Thompson was the epitome of Lebanon civility. She was intelligent, knowledgeable, and handled discipline problems firmly, but with kindness. She always did the right thing at the right time.

This old toothless pony leaguer will not forget Mrs. Thompson.

* * *

Nor will I forget the many men and women who have lost their lives in the service of their country, including friends. The list is too long to include here.

Our Memorial Day yesterday did not include attending any of the many ceremonies in this military town. But raising and lowering my ensign, I took the extra time to gaze across the Southwest corner and remember those heroes who died to enable me to enjoy such a view and live the good life I lead.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Storms from the Past

Yesterday, i entered a long explanation of why this site and my current status is bring about changes along with what is a radical poem for me (at least of those i've shown to someone else). Briefly, we are undergoing some life changes and the site was hacked, sponsoring my rededication to make the site different and hopefully better - with the help of Walker Hicks.
Please read the explanation in yesterday's post. One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

Storms from the Past

SAN DIEGO – By now, the waters should have subsided in Middle Tennessee, and the 1000 year flood is a memory wreathed in the losses among those hardest hit.

Although storms are few and far between in the Southwest corner, I have experienced the force of storms at sea. As I pored through the staggering photographs of Lebanon, Nashville, and other Tennessee towns in the the flood’s wake, I reflected on storms from my past.

Hurricanes, typhoons, and just plain storms fill a small but significant part of my past on the bounding main. The most interesting one happened on my last ship, the “U.S.S. Yosemite.”

In August 1984 with East Coast ships scarce due to deployments, “YoYo” was tasked to play the role of an “orange” adversary in a Caribbean fleet exercise. “JATO” rockets were installed amidships, and we went off to fire them, simulating a missile attack on the carrier battle group.

With the conclusion of our part of the exercise, the fleet scurried over the horizon and “YoYo” turned her bow toward Mayport, Jacksonville’s Naval base, and started home at a waddling 10 knots, pretty close to the top speed for a pre-World War II, 400-pound steam plant. The weather turned strange. It was one of those times at sea when there is no horizon. Our entire vista was gray, different shades, but all gray.

Strange Seas

In 1984, satellites were not available for weather reports, and we had not received any radio notice of bad weather. We wondered about the quiet, still grayness and the muddled sea around us.

On destroyer tenders, the executive officer also served as navigator. Lieutenant Noreen Leahy served as my assistant while filling the billet of operations officer. Noreen was one of the first women graduates of the Naval Academy and well-schooled in celestial navigation and piloting. Captain Frank Boyle and the two of us had not experienced seas like this before. Although it was calm, it was almost creepy. We were perplexed.

From the depths of my memory, an excerpt from and old version of “Knight’s Modern Seamanship” emerged while I stood on the starboard bridge wing one morning. The theory was if you faced into the wind and threw your right arm back as far as you could (about 115 degrees) your arm would point toward the center of a tropical depression.

I tried out the theory by attempting to face the wind. I moved to the port bridge wing and then top side to the flying bridge. There was no discernible direction to determine a depression center.

Eye of the Storm

I consulted the captain with Noreen listening in, “Captain, I think we are in the center of a tropical depression,” explaining my reasoning.

He agreed, and we altered course to the northeast, moving through the least dangerous quadrant of a depression. The winds picked up and back where we had been was indeed the center. After we had cleared sufficiently, the depression quickly became a tropical storm and then Hurricane Diana.

Back in Jacksonville, my wife Maureen heard the warnings and called Jan, a Navy doctor married to the “Yosemite” doctor, Frank Kerrigan (we four had become close friends). They both were from the Southwest corner and had no idea as to what they should do. On the ship, Frank and I wondered how our wives were faring as we stood out of harm’s way, about 500 miles northeast of Diana.

As the hurricane moved north, the warnings moved with it and were lifted for the north Florida area. The “Yosemite” once again turned homeward, finally entering the Mayport harbor three days after our scheduled return.

My Wife’s Hurricane

Frank and I had been greatly relieved when Diana only threatened to come ashore in Jacksonville and moved northward. We were glad our wives did not have to board up windows.

Diana rolled on up the coast, building up to 135 mph winds. A frontal system precipitated what the weather guessers call a cyclonic loop, decreasing her winds to around 90 mph. She came ashore at Wilmington, N.C. Although she never became the storm of massive destruction like Katrina, she did claim three lives and caused $65.5 Million dollars in damage before exiting to the Northeast.

It was Maureen’s only hurricane experience first hand. For myself, I will never forget being in the eye of a hurricane as it was forming in the Caribbean.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hacked and revisions

Over a month ago, some buffoon hacked into this site.

i am not sure what he or she thought they accomplished unless it was just some bizarre and wimpy lost soul bent on being destructive. These sort of folks doing these sort of things have always struck me as lazy and below normal humans in reason and motivation. i almost feel sorry for them.

i am past my anger. Walker Hicks, the inventive and very professional multi-media whiz who designed this site (with precious little help from me), has successfully put the site back in operation except for the poetry section, which we are continuing to recover.

The hacking corresponded with some life changes, providing me the opportunity to refocus on the site and what i am doing and should be doing.

My wonderful wife, Maureen, is in the process of stepping away from a career which has spanned almost 30 years and all of our marriage.

Many of you know we met when i was one of her first customers at Parron Hall Office Interiors in March 1982 - i have written about that initial meeting previously (see "Our Twenty-Third Anniversary" under "Commentary" in the "Articles" section of this website).

Maureen's replacement arrives at Parron Hall in August. Maureen then will begin to pass over her work except for a few special projects she plans to complete herself. We anticipate she will be completely out of the business by the end of the year or earlier.

What is next remains unclear except that i must start making some real money soon or we will have to dramatically change our lifestyle. What that fallback position might be remains a work in progress. Regardless of what the changes eventually turn into, it is an exciting time but also somewhat frightening. i may actually have to grow up for real. Even though i declared my adulthood at 46 and other various times, this time it looks like no joke.

i have pared several of my hair-brain schemes for making money from my repertoire in an attempt to focus on those more realistically likely to actually bring in some real income. Consequently, Walker and i are in the process of revising the "Business Office" section of the site, and i am updating my bio.

The most impactful part of this reorientation to the site is i will resume my "posts," including catching up and posting my weekly "Notes from the Southwest Corner, which appear the Monday editions of The Lebanon (TN) Democrat.

As readers of that newspaper know, i am also writing a weekly business column entitled "Minding Your Own Business." I have not made these columns available to the general public on this site while i determine the most effective marketing strategy to syndicate the column. They may eventually be available to everyone in the articles section.

It occurred to me i am almost six months away from turning 67. i do not feel old, except for a few extra squeaks, occasional aches, and more hacking than i used to exhibit on a daily basis.

And by hacking i don't mean what happened to this website.

As it has always been, i have reflected upon all of this, and actually found a poem i wrote in 1997 that parallels some thoughts i have about all of this. The poem is included below. i must warn you there is some profanity and sexual content involved.

After all, i was in the Navy, and my vocabulary is a bit more raunchy than that of many of my friends. I happen to agree with D.H. Lawrence who felt we needed to exhibit this part of our language and bring these words into open common useage. It is not the words that are hateful, bad, or profane. It's the thought and actions behind them. I do not shy away from them except to spare someone's sensibilities who does find them offensive.

So please read the rest of this long post if you are not offended by such language.

And thanks for visiting my site.


thoughts about an old age male and others like me while walking a very old dog on an Indian summer evening

old men,
thick and sad with memories
they cannot replicate,
hock up phlegm from their guts,
spitting out the screen door onto the dirt
spackled by the rain shower gray day.

lived hard,
mostly forgotten along with the departed hair,
strength, suppleness of youth;
they don't pee on the garden flowers
after several beers like they once did;
the in betweens were shots of cheap bourbon back then:
eyes sparkled with piss and vinegar,
now are flat with blurred vision cataracts;

burping, peeing, farting, shitting-in-their-pants
liabilities they have become
after ruling the world.
some feign youth with not-their hair,
wonder drugs, makeup,
screwing everything that can get them hard
until hardness disappears forever:
sad old fuckers.
occasionally, some will defy the odds,
not deny but accept the inevitability:
growing old, dying.

looking close, their eyes have depth,
crinkles in their ruddy skin are defiant,
not old age silky paleness.

looking close, their eyes have depth,
crinkles in their ruddy skin are defiant,
not old age silky paleness.

memories are for the others,
fences are to mend,
fields are to plow,
life is to live,
death is to die

- Bonita, California
- September 30, 1997