Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gremlins: My Old Friends

SAN DIEGO – Recently, a toilet in our home in the Southwest corner needed to have the handle mechanism replaced.

Unlike my father, who is good at just about any task, plumbing has never been one of my fortes. But I vowed to fix the problem.

When I was about four, I stayed with my aunt and uncle while my parents took my sister to see the doctor. Jessie and Alice Jewell lived on Fairview off of what is now the Baddour Parkway near the old LHS football stadium. Uncle Jessie was one of the better plumbers in Lebanon for years.

Somehow, I managed to lock myself in their bathroom. After a lengthy stay, my cousin, Shirley Jewell, now Mrs. Jay Smith, coaxed me into climbing out the window.Having that much problem with a bathroom then may have been the origination of my gremlins.


I believe in gremlins. Gremlins originated in RAF folklore during World War II as mischievous and mechanically oriented creatures. Some British folks believe the term came from the Old English “gremian,” meaning “to vex.”

Although I did not know it at the time, my gremlins began plaguing me when I was around nine. I had started mowing the lawns of J. Bill and Bessie Lee Frame and Fred and Ruby Cowan across the street as well as our yard.

On numerous occasions, the old rotary mower would balk when I yanked the power cord. I would fool with the choke, pull, and pull again to no avail. Finally, I would give up and call my father. He would come home from work, take one pull, and the mower would start.

It had to be gremlins.

In 1973 when I was the chief engineer on the “U.S.S. Hollister,” a World War II vintage destroyer with an engineering plant of mystifying and complex symbiosis, I became convinced gremlins really did exist.

I think my father had something to do with bringing gremlins into my world. Uncle Jessie of the great bathroom escape was his older brother. Then there were the old mower incidents.

Evap Gremlins

And when Jimmy Jewell came to visit us in Long Beach, I proudly took him for a tour of the “Hollister” engineering spaces, the underworld over which I ruled.

This quintessential automobile mechanic who once made a car out of two totaled ones, who had more knowledge of motors and mechanical systems than I would ever possess, climbed the ladders out of my realm, and commented, “I can’t believe you are in charge of something like this.”

He was right, of course. Now, I suspect his rightness again let loose the gremlins.

They first invaded my main distilling plant, or as we Navy engineers used to call them, the “evaps.”

The forward evaps were designed to turn seawater into fresh and boiler feed water at 720 gallons per hour. The after evaps were designed to generate 120 gallons per hour.

Shortly after my father’s visit, “Hollister” went to Hawaii. On the return to Long Beach, the temperamental forward evaps shut down. The little evaps huffed and puffed and miraculously started generating 200 gallons each hour.

This was enough to provide a small amount of boiler feed water, but the crew had to go on “water hours,” meaning no fresh water except for cooking and limited drinking for almost five days.

I was not very popular.

There was no rhyme or reason for the two evaporators not performing or performing far above their capacity.

“Gremlins,” I explained to my officers and chiefs.

Computer Gremlins

After I left the “Hollister,” the gremlins laid low until computers entered my world. The gremlins came back with a rush and have remained.

Accepting my computer expertise is just enough to get in trouble, I have a friend who puts things in order on a regular basis. Often, he shakes his head in wonder at how I have generated such bizarre conditions on my computer.

“Gremlins,” I tell him.

Now, the gremlins have possessed my toilet bowl. Resolved to triumph, I read instructions on toilet repair, went to Home Depot, and bought a repair kit.

Arriving at home, I flushed once before starting the repair. The toilet worked and has been working ever since. The repair kit is in our garage.


Watch out. They are proliferating.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two Views of the Old Navy

Right after i wrote a column about the change in the Navy from my career until now, i found a poem i had written a couple of years ago but had not finished.
i was struck by the similarity in my thought as well as a bit different approach.

i hope you enjoy them.

i was a sailor

i was a sailor
back when being a sailor
was tantamount to
being a man;
there weren't no great number
of automatic controls back then,
not one hell of a lot of video games
or graphics to read:
you turned the valves and the steam hissed;
you cleaned the boiler plates on the lower level
with the blowers blasting air in your face
for relief from the hot wet heat;
inserting the plates
and firing it up
hoping it wouldn't burn white
blow your ass
off the naval station
to kingdom come;
and the boilers would rumble
and groan and croak
and spew their smoke out the stack
and build up steam
until there weren't no smoke
and the boiler tenders
down in the bowels
knew they would be
getting underway

I was a sailor
back when we didn't know
what the hell politically correct meant:
we lined up the feed pumps
and kicked off the auxiliaries
and went on ship's power,
dropping our umbilical cords from the pier
like the doctor cuts the cord
on the newborn:
separating us from mother earth
and sending us to the bounding main;
when we turned the nozzles of steam
onto the turbines of the main engine
and watched the tree trunk sized shaft
turning slowly;
the engine room wheezed and coughed
and made you feel like you
were in a jungle of pumps
and the distilling plants gurgled with
Rube Goldberg smugness,
making you wonder if
they would really make
good water

I was a sailor
back when they meant
what they said when they said,
"if the navy wanted you to have a wife,
they would have issued you one."
Navy was a way of life,
living on board, locker in a club
just outside the main gate
with civvies,
you could go down to sailor town
drink beer and cheap whiskey
enough to make the woman look
pretty enough to pay
for the night
you could get back in time
for quarters at 0700
unless there was a fight.

I was a sailor
when the boatswainmates
swept down and triced up
and the decks were spotless
and first division stood
at the ready on the forecastle to
cast away all lines
like third division,
the anti-submarine pukes back aft
and the sleek greyhound visaged lady
got underway,
no tugs,
and no bow thrusters
like they the pansies are required to use
no sir:
we ruled the seas
stood proud in quarters standing out,
no manning the rails for show,
we did it like it was supposed to be
and the bow cut through the channel like
it owned the sea
and the trough slid up the side
only feet under the gunnel
and the stern wash was white with foam
and we were underway
rocking and rolling.
Our big guns were housed in
a metal death trap where
we stood alongside the breech
when the firing shook our brains, our guts, our souls
and we loved the thrill of it all
(as B.B. used to lament),
and the brass kicked out the aft end
and the hot case man with his asbestos gloves
smacked them out onto the rolling deck:
no automatic, manless machine of death
back then.

I was a sailor back then
when men were men
sailors were sailors
then was then.

- Bonita, California
- July 19, 2010

Old Navy; Then and Now; But Not a Clothing Store

SAN DIEGO – For the past decade, I have worked on Navy related projects in the Southwest corner.

Sometimes it is lucrative. More often, I am, as a good friend states, the hardest working man he knows who doesn’t make any money.

Occasionally, this avocation, my previous vocation, allows me to mingle with the Navy’s operators, an attractive aspect. I freely admit I loved operating in the Navy while on active duty.

I do not mean the incessant planning or the major staff level influence games. Nor do I mean contractors, the infinite generation of spreadsheets, or the voluminous quasi-legal bureaucratic documentation.

I mean, as we old Navy folk like to say, being on the deck plates.

In these too infrequent brushes with the real Navy, I find the Navy is not the one I knew. Certain aspects remain. Some traditions are still extant. But by and large, my Navy no longer exists.

A major difference is women. I am a strong proponent of women at sea. My experience in my last operating tour in the dark ages of the early 1980s has been documented as positive and successful. Those women were pioneers for what is now a gender neutral profession, at least as far as numbers go.

Recently, women became part of the crews in the submarine fleet.

My Navy was all male until that penultimate tour. It was rough and tumble, and definitely not politically correct. We cussed, we smoked, we worked hard, and we went on liberty with abandon.

When the women came aboard, a way of life vanished. This is not a bad thing, but it was definitely different.

Another difference is steam. There are still a few of the steam-powered mastodons around, but gas turbines and computer controlled propulsion systems are the norm. My Navy consisted of wheezing, huffing boilers in firerooms with heat and humidity that would make the recent Tennessee weather feel like Alaska. The unrelenting blast of noise from blowers futilely attempting to ameliorate such conditions was constant except when the ship went, as we called it, “cold iron.”

Now, navigators pinpoint their positions with global positioning systems (GPS). When I steamed, celestial navigation and piloting were as much art as science, and knowledge of currents, prevailing seas, and chart interpretation was how we got around. The bridge team was ten or so watchstanders with integrated tasks to maneuver safely.

Now one or two folks operate with push button controls. They may even be stationed in the dark technical center of the ship, more “Star Wars” than my bridges.

As an ensign, I was the “check-sight observer” in a five-inch twin gun mount, tasked to ensure we shot at the right thing. Being inside the mount while firing was a trip to Hades with 13 men crammed into a space about the size of my home office. The effort required to manually load the powder case and shell into the breeches bordered on superhuman, especially during extended firing. The report of firing a round could move the ship and turn nearby spaces into shambles. Inside, the percussion would shake you to the core, the acrid smell of the powder burned your nostrils, and the noise from the explosion felt like someone slamming their palms on your ears.

Today, gun mounts, if used at all, are unmanned.

A large number of old salts bemoan the passing of what was their way of life. There are just as many who take great pride in the new Navy’s technological advances and the once impossible accomplishments the Navy has had.

I, as usual, have mixed feelings.

The new Navy has more equality, more effective weapons delivery, and smarter sailors. The communication within the Navy, with other military units and back home is efficient, effective, and immediate. Every aspect of operation is safer. The technology is astounding.

The old Navy had more characters, greater labor intensity, more risk, and more personal decisions in any ship operation or task. Communication was accomplished by radio messages, signal flags and semaphore. The connection to home was long awaited letters and a few international phone calls in the dark of early mornings.

I am glad we have the new Navy. I also am glad I was in the old one. I should add that pretty much applies to life in general.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot and Cold Weather Comparisons

SAN DIEGO – Out here in the Southwest corner, it is a bit different than home.
While most of the United States is being seared by record heat, we out here are waiting for real summer to arrive.

It is, in fact, too cool.

Last weekend while folks back home were sweltering, I wore a wind jacket to play midday golf.

For those mired in the heat, these highs in the 60s might seem lovely. But folks in the Southwest corner are wondering why “June Gloom” still looms in July.
San Diego is a beach goer’s haven. Coronado Beach was recently ranked the country’s third best beach by Professor Dr Stephen Leatherman, director of the Florida International University International Hurricane Center (no, I don’t know why a hurricane center rates beaches).

Three golf holes at Naval Air Station, North Island where I often play abut Coronado’s beach. It is a lovely beach with the Victorian Hotel del Coronado to the south and the Gibralteresque Point Loma to the north.

In recent weeks, beachgoers have been sparser than usual. A July 4th photo in the “Union-Tribune” depicted beach goers wrapped in towels and blankets, rather than lying on them.

So we continue to wait for our version of summer in the low 80’s to show. Waiting for the warmth, I remember times I was really cold.

San Francisco in July

Only a few times have I been as cold as in San Francisco in July. In 1976, “U.S.S. Anchorage” made a port call at moored at pier 36, south of city center. A shipmate and I took liberty to play golf at Harding Park, the site of the 2009 President’s Cup competition. In 1976, it was an inexpensive public course, certainly not ready for a PGA tournament.

It was July so we wore shorts and polo shirts. By the second hole, we wished we had worn parkas. Winds whipping off the Pacific and Lake Merced cut us to the quick. Being golfers, i.e. not having a great deal of sense, we played the entire 18 teeth chattering holes.

Pusan, Korea in February

Another bone chilling experience was standing in to harbor in Pusan, Korea in February 1970. I had just become executive officer of the Navy unit aboard the “U.S.N.S. Geiger (TAP 197). The troop transport took replacement Korean troops to Vietnam and brought home the troops they relieved. With a Korean liaison officer, I was in charge of controlling the troops, anxious to get home and consequently too daring, sometimes unsafe or dangerous.

Unlike San Francisco later, I had on heavy weather gear. It did no good. The winds off of the Korea Strait cut through me like a knife. My face felt like it had frozen to a red, chafed ice block. The cold did not deter the returning troops. It was my first and last time to enter Pusan (now Busan) harbor in February. I am warmed by the thought.

Even though Watertown, NY, where I was sports editor of the “Watertown Daily Times” in 1971-72, was much colder than any other place I’ve lived, I did not consider it cold. Perhaps it was because I became used to it, or we dressed appropriately, or I don’t remember very well. But I do remember wanting spring to come in late March and it occurred for two days in mid-June.

J.J.. Arnold’s Watering Trough

But the coldest I have ever been was off Franklin Road in the late 1950’s. J.J. Arnold drove his grandson, Henry Harding, and I to the Arnold farm and dropped us off in the February cold to hunt.

When we tired of our sport, we waited outside the barn for Mr. Arnold to pick us up. Next to the barn was a watering bin for the cows. It was a round metal bin about six feet in diameter and about four feet high. It was iced over.

The story varies here depending on whether it is Henry or I recollecting, but my version has Henry convincing me I should test the ice. I climbed up and gingerly put one foot on the ice, then shifted my weight to stand on the ice. The ice broke and my leg plunged about two feet into the ice water below.

Mr. Arnold did not arrive for another hour. That hour is the coldest I’ve ever been.

So remember: hot summers aren’t all that bad.

Monday, July 12, 2010

ride to work

Changes to this web site and my pursuits continue.
Please let me know what you think of the site with an email to Today after catching up on posting my column, "Notes from the Southwest Corner" in The Lebanon Democrat, i have again begun posting other writings such as the poem below. Thanks for dropping in.

i rode into work this morning reluctantly.

The rain was intermittent.

Strings of thought tugged me back toward home
but fruitlessly.

When i emerged from the truck in the parking lot,
there was a break in the rain, and
the wind was warm.

i thought of running in the rain alone,

i thought of daughter and i walking in the rain, then
i thought of walking in the zoo in the rain:
people sparse,
animals staring back with no more care for the rain
than we,

i thought of the two daughters walking with me
in the rain at the zoo with no one around
but us and
the chimpanzees, elephants, bats and
tigers and bears.

They were good thought to have
as i trudged
once again
up the four flights of stairs
to my office
full of things to do.

San Diego, California
February 22, 2004

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Operation Stand Down: feel good connections

Recently, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about six weeks ago.

Operation Stand Down: feel good connections

SAN DIEGO –Independence Day weekend was a whirlwind of activities in the Southwest corner, yet allowing time for reflection on the reason behind the holiday.
Before the July 4th weekend celebrations, the “Democrat” ran Hilda Trenda’s story about last Friday’s “Cruise-In” at the Snow White Drive-In. In my head, it all fit together.

Cruise-In generated donations to Gerald’s Fund, which in turn supports Operation Stand Down, a program to assist homeless veterans in Middle Tennessee. Stand Down has it roots in the Southwest corner.

The original Stand Down began in 1988 in San Diego under the auspices of the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego (VVSD). The founders, Richard Talbot, Van Keuren, and Dr. Jon Nachison wanted to provide coordinated, comprehensive services to homeless veterans over a three-day period.

Stand Down Connections

Stand Down’s 22nd edition will occur here, July 16-18. My youngest daughter Sarah is attempting to arrange her schedule to allow her to volunteer as she has done before. Two of the primary coordinators of this year’s event are Rod Stark and Darcy Pavich.
Rod is one of my constant golfing partners and came within an eyelash of reading my retirement speech at my Navy ceremony the day my daughter was born in November 1989 (I barely made it to the ceremony before Sarah was born later that evening).

Darcy is the wife of another golfing buddy, Al Pavich, who shared a stateroom with me on a Western Pacific deployment in 1981. We have been close friends ever since.

When Al retired from the Navy in the mid-1990s, he became the CEO of VVSD and was the figurehead and major driver of the Stand Down program until his second retirement in 2008. Al molded VVSD into a model for the rest of the country and brought the physical site to a modern, state-of-the-art facility (in 2005, the name was changed to Veterans Village of San Diego to signify it’s purpose was not limited to Vietnam era vets).

Currently, VVSD provides services for more than 2000 veterans every year. VVSD’s program to assist homeless veterans obtain a job and a place to live a normal life has been declared the most successful program of its sort in the country.

Stand Down is the most visible program in VVSD’s success story. This year’s Stand Down will provide much needed help for more than 900 homeless veterans and their family members.

Birdy Connections

There are more connections. To me, the Snow White Drive-In is a Lebanon landmark. I frequented the burgers-and-ice-cream version throughout my sojourn at Castle Heights, Vanderbilt, and Middle Tennessee. After it became one of the best Middle Tennessee barbeque sources, I ate its fare on every return to my hometown.

Then, there is the connection of Sandra Edmonds and her mother, Ann Birdwell, the current owner of the Snow White.

I do not know either but I did know Everett Birdwell, Ann’s husband and Sandra’s stepfather. I knew him as Birdy. His previous wife who has since passed away was known as Cat, and they operated Winfree’s Restaurant on West Main. Winfree’s started as a family restaurant, where my family would occasionally go to Sunday dinner after church.

When I was working at WCOR, I would frequently go to Winfree’s to mix with Cat and Birdy while playing shuffle board until closing time. Birdy was a delight with a booming voice and great smile.

So after the “Cruise-In” at the Snow White back home and during my frenzy of activities in the Southwest corner through the holidays, I paused on Sunday and connected it all to the meaning of Independence Day.

While there were parties, parades, picnics, and concerts to enjoy, they all contained a more serious connection to our country’s forefathers stepping up to the plate and forming the greatest country in the history of the planet. The festivities also honored activity duty and veterans of the military who have put it all on the line, many with the ultimate sacrifice.

It is good Sandra Edmunds, Ann Birdwell, others in Lebanon, as well as my friends in the Southwest corner are contributing more than just nice thoughts about the meaning of Independence Day by helping veterans in need.

Those are some very good connections, indeed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

That’s me: a member of the “The Peculiar Generation”

Last week, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about a month ago.

That’s me: a member of the “The Peculiar Generation”

SAN DIEGO – Last week, my niece emailed me an editorial which labeled me as peculiar, something I did not know.

Kate Jewell Hansen is unlike her uncle in many ways. To start, she is a scholar. She graduated from Vanderbilt cum laude with a double major in history and anthropology, and she just received her doctorate in American History, specifically 20th century economic history from Boston University.

Kate was born and raised in the Northeast corner, where my brother lives to prove we Jewell brothers could be brothers, close friends, and as far away from each other as possible.

But Kate has roots in Lebanon, and thrived at Vanderbilt, Her doctoral research explores the impact of southern industrialization on political formation in its embodiment of the Southern Industrial Leadership Council, headed by John Edgerton of the Lebanon Woolen Mills. Her dissertation is titled “As Dead as Dixie: The Southern States Industrial Council and the End of the New South.”

I Am Peculiar

Knowing I am significantly older than her father, she forwarded me the editorial, “The Peculiar Generation,” written by Richard Pells in the on-line edition of “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

I have wondered why folks from my birth year had not been labeled. My parents are in The Great Generation. My sister and brother are in the mass of humanity known as Baby Boomers. But Lebanon friends of my age and I were born too late to be in the Great Generation. And being born during the war, not after, we are not Baby Boomers either.

This has not particularly bothered me.

Pells decided he and I were peculiar. I didn’t even know he knew me, but he pretty well hit the nail on the head. I agree I am peculiar. Most of the folks I know back home who were born between 1939 and the end of the war in 1945 are definitely not peculiar. With just a few exceptions, they are good folks, solid citizens, and very loyal to each other. In that regard, I hope I fit with them.

Transitionally Awkward

Pells describes us as being in a “transitionally awkward generation who were too young to have personally experienced the Depression or the war, but too old to have been embroiled in the turmoil on college campuses in the late 1960s.” He suggests the image of us peculiars is that we were “presumably too blasé or sedate to have participated in the battles against the Vietnam War or for the equality of women, much less in the revels at Woodstock.”

Then he asks, “What contributions, if any, has this generation made to American political and cultural life?”

Pells bemoans most of us men had “respectable but hardly remarkable occupations.” And he describes the women of the Peculiar Generation as “A few of the women pursued careers in primary- or secondary-school education, but the majority said they had concentrated on their families and volunteer work.” He disparages that “Almost everyone, male and female, seemed to love playing bridge.”

He does not approve.

The rest of Pells’ article attempts to debunk his own description.
He claims we didn’t like rock and roll but were hooked on jazz, and we didn’t watch “Ozzie and Harriet” or Walt Disney.

That’s where he lost me. This is not a column promoting liberalism or conservatism, but Pell’s column begins to sound like a liberal defense.

He praises a few of our generation, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and John Kerry, for rising above being just good folks. He then notes President Barack Obama acts much like Henry Fonda in his movie roles, “with his aura of ironic detachment from the political furies surrounding him.”

Peculiar Indeed

And Pells pats himself on the back for participating in the Vietnam protests when he was a Harvard instructor. He further states his heroes from the peculiar generation and President Obama’s emulation of Henry Fonda is what our peculiar generation has provided to improve our country in the long run.

Peculiar indeed.

The Peculiar Generation is hard to capture because we were and are so diverse. We span and therefore have characteristics of both the Great Generation and the Baby Boomers.

But to paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen in a 1988 vice-president campaign debate with Senator Dan Quayle: Believe me, Barack Obama is no Henry Fonda.

And I like being peculiar if it means I am solid, responsible, caring, and a family man.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Belated Father’s Day and Other Thoughts

Last week, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about a month ago.

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:

Belated Father’s Day and Other Thoughts

SAN DIEGO – Yesterday was Father’s Day in Tennessee and in the Southwest corner.

I was far from my father and had one daughter in Texas and the other visiting friends in Berkeley.

I am not overly concerned as I feel much like those folks who resisted Father’s Day becoming a national holiday around 1910 because they “saw it as the first step in filling the calendar with mindless promotions.” ( Still I would have liked to have been with my father, even considering the heat index difference between here and there.

On this Father’s Day, Maureen and I spent a quiet time at home, doing chores long put off and watching a bit of soccer’s World Cup, a Padre baseball game, and the the U.S. Open, at Pebble Beach.

No Pebble Beach

Although declared by many to be the best golf course in the world, I won’t play Pebble Beach unless they give me a free round. Green fees are $495 without a cart. Regardless of my being able to afford it or not, that amount of money to play one round of golf is obscene.

While you are reading this, I will likely be on one of the better courses in San Diego, Steele Canyon, paying significantly less than $495 and the amount will be for both me and my wife. It is my belated Father’s Day present.

On Saturday of this Father’s Day weekend, Maureen and I went to the wedding of a neighbor’s daughter at the Island Club, the former Navy Officer’s Club on North Island. The facility is now used for catering and hosting special events.

The wedding started at five in the afternoon. An arbor, replete with flowers and peacock feathers, was set up outside. The wedding party was framed by the backdrop of the beach, Point Loma, and the Pacific horizon.

The bride and her middle sister baby sat for Sarah. The bride’s youngest sister was one of Sarah’s best friends growing up. Neighbors and former neighbors shared a table for the reception and dinner festivities.

Enjoying Weddings

I have always enjoyed attending weddings. They are such happy events with just the right amount of ritual and commitment thrown in. Outside of my last one, my favorite wedding and reception was my daughter’s in Austin, fittingly about halfway between Lebanon and the Southwest corner.

That wedding happened 14 years ago come November in the historic, beautiful, and stately Central Christian Church. My entire family was there and my brother was the minister just as he had been for my sister and me.

I was recalling that evening 14 years ago as Saturday’s father of the bride was imploring the “neighbor” table occupants to help him with his toast. I could not help him, but his toast was just right: heartfelt, sincere, with a touch of humor, and not too long.

I remembered how easy it was for me to toast my daughter and brand new son-in-law. Even though my marriage had become an unbreakable bond of love and trust, I did not wish that wedding couple what we had. Instead, my toast to them was actually a toast to them and Blythe’s grandparents. In a way, it was a toast to my home town.

I toasted to Blythe and Jason having a marriage which would emulate the marriage of Jimmy and Estelle Jewell. It appears Blythe and Jason have a good chance of doing just that. Maureen and I also emulate my parents’ marriage, but getting to the 72nd anniversary will be bit tough considering I will be 111.

72nd Anniversary

In two weeks, my parents will celebrate their 72 years together. Such a solid, unwavering marriage was not unique for my parents’ generation. Those folks married and stayed married. And staying together was not out of convenience or fear of embarrassment. Staying together was a product of their love and trust of each other.

There are other couples still around, like J.B. and Jo Doris Leftwich, who have such strong and loving relationships. Sadly, there are not enough because many have left us. Their dedication to each other is hallmark of Lebanon marriages. We honored those on the distaff side last month.

This is a belated thanks and best wishes for this year’s Father’s Day celebrants of that generation, especially my father.

You have shown us what fathering is all about.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stormy weather? It seems so calm to me

Last week, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about a month ago.
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:

Stormy weather? It seems so calm to me

SAN DIEGO – Late last week, a friend called early in the morning to tell me it was raining downtown.

“Rain,” I said, “What rain?” There was no hint of rain only several miles away. “Yep,” Steve responded, “It’s raining real rain here.”

Rain in June is rare here, spot rain even rarer. So there is yet another Southwest weather corner mystery.

The call regenerated thoughts of storms. Even though I was in the eye of a fledgling hurricane as I recently related, it was not the worst storm I experienced.

That storm came unannounced and unwelcomed.

In December 1972, the “U.S.S. Stephen B. Luce (DLG-7)” returned from a Mediterranean deployment with Destroyer Squadron 24. Being the holiday season, the squadron was allowed to exceed the normal limit of 15 knots.

After crossing the Atlantic on a great circle route to Charleston, SC, the “U.S.S. Stanley (CG 32)” detached and headed toward its homeport. The other five ships turned north toward Newport, RI, expecting to cover the 1000 miles in about three days, arriving two days ahead of schedule.

There were no warnings about what was ahead. Even without satellites, Navy weather stations normally did a decent job on weather reports, but not this time.

When the storm hit us, wind speeds approached 100 miles per hour, perhaps even more.
The bridge of the “Luce” was 75 feet above the water line, and green water, i.e. real waves, crashed against the bridge windows often.

We tied bridge watchstanders into their posts. Only the officer of the deck (OOD) and his assistant remained unfettered to frequently shift from side to side for better vision. Mostly, this OOD stood behind the center line gyroscope repeater with one arm around a handrail, making small course changes to find a better course.

The bow would climb up a wave and about one-quarter of the 500 foot ship hung in the air before crashing down, the bow plunging under water before settling out briefly and starting up the next wave.

Foam covered all the sea except when the wind gave a glimpse of the dark blue ocean. The other ships were often within a 1000 yards but seldom seen except for their masts, the rest of the ship hidden by the waves.

Our watertight doors proved less than that, leaking from the pounding seas. Over a foot of water rolled about the main deck passageways. The galleys could not keep food on grills or steady in the ovens. We ate what was available, cold. We did manage to make coffee for almost five days.

The “Luce” took innumerable 45 degree rolls. Hanging tightly on a bridge wing, it seemed as if I was parallel to the sea.

When two other officers and I ate in the wardroom, the chairs were tied to the tables, unavailable. We propped ourselves on the floor against the port bulkhead. After a bite or two, the ship rolled fiercely; we lost our seating and tumbled across to the starboard side, sandwiches and coffee flying everywhere.

One enlisted man with the top rack in a three-tiered section was sleeping peacefully when another jolt tossed him out, and down across to the adjacent tier where he landed in the lowest rack with another startled sailor.

The “Luce” lost two days and arrived in Newport on its original schedule. Two older destroyers arrived about a half-day later. One newer class frigate arrived a day later. The final ship, another frigate arrived a day after that.

On one frigate, a freak wave crashed off a forward bulkhead and ripped a three-foot hole in the back of the forward gun mount. The ship experienced flooding forward but successfully secured the breach with damage control.

When we pulled in, none of the usual weather deck projections remained: life lines, fire stations, and damage control equipment were gone. Ladders (stairs to the landlubber) between decks had disappeared. Plenum chambers for air vents had been ripped back from the exterior bulkheads, eerily resembling giant wings.

Remarkably, we only had one major injury. At the storm’s onslaught, our assistant navigator took a dive into the brass around the chart table and cut a gash in his forehead.

Strangest of all, the sun shone daily through the entire ordeal.

Never before and never after have I been so glad to be home for Christmas.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pets: Who Owns Who?

Earlier this week, 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:

Pets: Who Owns Who?

SAN DIEGO – One difference I’ve found between my Southwest corner and growing up in Lebanon is the attitude people have toward pets.

Several years ago, I swore we would have no more pets. As I write, there is a mutt about 11 years old at my feet, an orange tabby staring wistfully out the window at doves tending to their nest in our eave, and this crazed black and white kitten attentively watches my fingers, ready to pounce, and knock something else off of my desk.

None of this would have happened in my youth. Things were different then and there and before. Our parents had pets when growing up, but those were farm pets. They didn’t have rhinestone collars and did not enter the house.

Things changed.


At the 1954 McClain School Halloween Party, my sister won a cocker spaniel puppy in a drawing held by Mrs. Vasti Prichard’s fourth grade class.

I did not think this was fair. Martha wasn’t in the fourth grade. She was in the second grade. Mrs. Vasti’s classroom was across the hall from mine with Mrs. Major. I was older. I wanted the puppy to be mine.

We named him Lucky.

The three children were excited. Our parents were skeptical. Immediately rules were set: no puppy in the living room or dining room; he had to sleep in cloth-padded cardboard box.

The box started out in the basement. The box and puppy eventually made it to the landing just outside the basement door to the kitchen.

We took care of Lucky through the winter. We worried the cold was too harsh even though the furnace was in the basement. I worried the old bedside clock would run down and not provide its comforting ticking.

Spring came as we waited to take Lucky outside to play. But Lucky wasn’t so Lucky after all. He got out on his own and was wiped out by a car when he tried to cross Castle Heights Avenue. My grandmother saw it happened and called my father to take Lucky away before we got home.

It could be the worst time ever. I didn’t stop crying for two days. All three of us were disconsolate, inconsolable.

Shortly afterwards, our father brought home Trixie, a toy terrier to provide us solace. I don’t remember what happened, but Trixie wasn’t there too long.

Later, Martha brought home a kitten. The kitten did not like us and left of its own accord shortly after arriving.


Our household remained pet-less until 1962 when my sister paid $15 for an Eskimo Spitz puppy. They got it from Ethel and Thelma Bass, maternal kin, who lived on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The puppy had long white fur, and Martha named him Cotton. Cotton was very independent. He roamed over the neighborhood – we really didn’t know the scope of his realm – but he came home at night. For a long time, we tethered him to his backyard dog house at night. But he became so reliable he would come home to eat, stay inside (den and kitchen only) for the evening, and sleep on the stoop of the back porch under the carport. In the coldest weather, my father would let Cotton in the back door to sleep inside.

Cotton stayed with the family for 11 years before he died. The three children had grown up and left. In addition to grousing about all of the white fur floating in the den, my parents hid well how much they cared for him.

Indoor/Outdoor Choice

When I married, I became a pet owner. Our pets have had royal treatment compared to Cotton. They have received the greatest care. In fact, I have paid more in veterinarian bills than what I paid for my first three cars.

They all stayed inside at night except the cats, who, up until our last two, roamed where they pleased when they pleased.

In the Southwest corner, we have lost four cats learning they are easy prey for the coyotes, rattlesnakes, hawks, and owls. Now our cats are indoor cats.

My previous lab, an independent cuss like Cotton would escape and roam, but I had to chase him down. Leash laws are prevalent in the Southwest corner. Roaming is not tolerated any more. Dogs don’t do as many dog things. Cats don’t do as many cat things.

It is different.