Wednesday, December 08, 2010

That "Day of Infamy"...

is always a hard one for me.

In early December of '73 I stood on the flight deck of the Kittyhawk as we pulled into Pearl Harbor; the ghosts dancing in my head as I tried to envision that terrible morning. Hundreds of photos, newsreels and all of the movies from then and now have only added to the spectres, but not like one piece I read a few years ago. An interview with an "Arizona" survivor.

A man who, luckily enough, was below deck and aft when hell was unleashed. Though shaken and deafened, he made his way topside and was trying to help others off the ship as he made his own escape.

He saw a shipmate he knew who seemed completely dazed and in trying to guide him, grasped his elbow.

The arm crumbled beneath his fingers, the skin and muscle flash-charred to ash...his shipmate dead but still walking.

Nothing will ever lessen our loss that morning! The passage of time; the loss of those who lived through it; the refusal of our modern corporate media to discuss it; the number of supposedly educated who have no idea what the date was, where Pearl Harbor is, or the living breathing ship pictured above that became an instant tomb for so very many that horrible day.

The movie "Pearl Harbor" from a few years ago shows them using cargo nets to retrieve the bodies from the wasn't something they made up!

The years and the dwindling numbers of those who lived through that hell on Earth have done nothing to lessen their sacrifice. With the 70th anniversary of that attack and our entry into WW2 approaching, please look around you at anyone you see who is in their mid-80's and thank them! Whether military or civilian, all gave something to the effort that allowed us to be here, whether it was an active military role; the industrial outpouring that supported them; the scrap and food drives and rationing that supported all!

And as you listen to the voices of today proclaiming "me" and "mine", wonder along with me if that effort would ever be possible again!

"Remember Pearl Harbor" is a cry that needs to never be allowed to die!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Photo is from the Navy Archives; the USS Arizona in the late 1930's, blue toned by me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The clusters of teachers huddled in the hallways as we came in from recess were nothing new. That they stayed there so very long after the bell had rung had happened before as well. Last time they had whispered to each other; the words inaudible but the tone of worry obvious.

But the stifled sobs were something we hadn't heard before...the wiped tears as our teacher came into the classroom and dismissed us for the afternoon. There was no doubt for any of us that something was wrong.

Last time I had walked to our babysitter's house to find her husband there, slightly snockered, telling her how we were all going to die from the radioactive fallout of the missiles that were going to hit the SAC base at Omaha, Nebraska and the Air Force base at Topeka, Kansas. I didn't really understand the Cuban Missile Crisis at 6 going on 7, but the fear of every adult in my life was palpable.

This time I didn't know what to expect...

But the last thing I expected was to walk in the front door of the babysitter's to see Walter Cronkite removing his glasses as he announced the death of John F. Kennedy. The lump still rises in my throat these many years later, and the tears still well in my now old eyes.

I told someone not long ago that sometimes I think I've lived through too many events like this. Too many times the vise has gripped my heart and extracted its price. Still, though you'd think I'd be smart enough to steel my heart against the horrors wrought by human against human, I've never been able to.

Not so many years later, I was invited to attend a summer band camp at the University of Kansas. My first extended trip away from home, my mother lectured me all the way there about do's and don'ts and not "disappointing" my parents. As we arrived she finally stopped and I turned on the radio.

The announcers were discussing the death of Robert Kennedy, early that morning. In my luggage was his book "To Seek a Newer World", my first "venture" into modern political thinking. Fueled by all I was seeing on television of the Vietnam War and the protests; the race riots both on television and at home in Kansas City following the murder of Martin Luther King, I had heard Kennedy reading a bit of one piece of it and was spellbound by not just his voice, but by the words he spoke; by the heart that spoke through them.

I've written before of that feeling of a bright burning flame that was dimmed to a flicker that day. Of the spirit of "can" and "can do" drowned out by the voices of selfishness; of greed; of dividends and tax-cuts.

I've seen the America I grew up believing in reduced from a country that was "ours" to "mine". A place for "everyone", to a place for "us".

I've watched as those I served with gave their all off the coast of Vietnam; I've mourned as they died in their barracks in Lebanon, on rescue missions in the desert of Iran, or while in peaceful harbor aboard the USS Cole. Never "ours to question why", history will judge some of those who spilled their blood much more harshly than they could ever dream.

I've watched as the nation that (justly) pursued, prosecuted and executed war criminals for waterboarding civilians turned her back on history; on all that was good and just about her self, and did the very same thing to others...

On this sad anniversary, I look back and wonder how different things could have been...

And I wish, sometimes, I could close my eyes, for just a little while...

I'm tired of seeing train wrecks!

May the week be kind to each of you!

And on Thursday, whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I'll be giving thanks for each who find their way here!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


of so many things has occurred since my last entry here...

Discovery that having given up the assembly line in 1999 and gone to a mostly forklift job at GM left me very unprepared for spending 12 or 13 hours on my feet, climbing steps, climbing ladders and constantly walking, most of it "with a sense of urgency".

My job is much the same as it was at GM those last years; unload it, or put it away; find it and deliver it; find it and schedule it's delivery. The forklift has been replaced by my legs, along with dollies and pallet jacks; the RF monitor that was on the forklift the last few years replaced by a "gun" that has at least 7 or 8 screens I've found or been told of so far, only 3 of which can you be "logged into" at any one time.

I've filled part of a little notebook with how to make "the gun" do this or that; each day it seems I learn one more thing, especially when I work with someone I haven't worked with before. None of the hours of training I went through dealt with any of this; that was all about dealing with customers, or benefits, or some of the paperwork for shipping things...mostly things I never deal with.

I do deal with customers sometimes when I deliver a "rush" to it's intended department or the front of the store to await the customer's checkout. Usually it's a "can you tell me how much this is" or "where can I find...". I know how to get the price out of my RF gun now, and some things I can give a vague idea of location, though usually I try to use the "walkie" on my belt and get someone who works in the department to help them.

I'm being a bit vague because given the "conservative" bent of my employers and the knowledge that I'm not (in most things, anyway) I don't want to identify them or them to identify me here.

Between training, then following people in the warehouse around for 3 days on half-shift, then pulling three 8's in a row, it took 3 days for my legs to stop aching the first week. The 2nd it was two; last week I did 4 and the 3rd night was miserable. That last day I remembered something from the body building magazines and added a teaspoon of Glutamine to a glass of Quik and 3 hours later my legs hurt less than they did that morning when I got up to go to work...I'm hoping I'm onto something here!

My weight is dropping rapidly; about 15 pounds in a month; I've punched 3 holes in my belt in that time...

All in all, I think this is going to work out.

Sorry about the lack of time to update of late, let alone for Facebook or Twitter...'til I hit on that Glutamine, it was several days before I felt like doing anything but sitting (or lying) and by the time I recovered I either had things to do at home, or it was time to go to work again.

Time to go buy an oil filter for my truck...running it on Mobil 1, it's been 18 months since I changed it, though barely 4,000 miles. The Silverado has some kind of sensing system in it that decides when you should change it, and the other night as I left it said "it's time". Funny, it still looks almost new, though I know it's probably the moisture it's picked up from the short trips it usually is driven. In the manual it says it might come on at 3,000 or at 15,000...had it been anything but synthetic I'd have changed it at 12 months even though the mileage wasn't there yet.

I'll be here more often now, given exceptions for Dottie having some vacation days coming up and the Holidays...

Not sure how I'm going to like my first "Black Friday" in "retail" since 1972...

May the week be kind to each of you!


Friday, October 01, 2010

Back to the future...

Among the many irons in the fire of late, I've been rekindling my knowledge of trumpet related things. I lent my grandson one of mine, and having not been able to play for the last 20 some years because of my teeth, I'm amazed at some of what's changed in two decades...

First was the band book he came home from school with...including DVD.

This week I've learned there are no truly "full line" music stores here! They can all order this or that and have it in 3 days, but don't expect to walk in and get a mouthpiece today unless it's the very basest average of beginner models. Not to mention that the prices out of New York have doubled, but locally they've tripled or quadrupled if you call around.

You used to be able to go buy 2 or 3 to try and return the ones that didn't work for you. You still can out of New York; up to 15 of them...if you have the credit card balance to cover them all.

Not locally!

When I lent my grandson a beginner trumpet (more a matter of smaller bore than quality) I lent him the shallowest mouthpiece I could dig up to go with it. My own, the jewel it took me years to find "back in the day" is much deeper and has a wider rim because of the lips my Dad used to refer to with an ethnic slur that still bothers me.

Dillon doesn't have that problem and what I lent him is a bit much to make it easy on him...

I finally came up with the Bach 7C last night, the one I should have sent with him the first day, 3 weeks later, stuck somewhere it shouldn't have been (like many things around here). If I could find one locally I'd also have him try a "10 1/2C" (even shallower, makes higher notes easier, better for "thinner" lips and smaller lungs).

In my on-line explorations and reading I've found out that some of the idols of my youth used a mouthpiece I'd never heard of, a "Parduba 'double-cup'" that has a shallow cup for upper register, but at the bottom of it is a 2nd deeper cup to allow more air to fill in the tone throughout the range. Louis Armstrong used one through the 40's and later. It also turns out that Dad's idol, Harry James used one from '35 on. James had grown up playing in his father's circus orchestras and the legend had it is that all the playing and practice were what had built his range and tone...

My hope (fingers crossed) is that I can try a pair of those and find one that will let me pick up the horn again and play enough to satisfy "the urge" without putting so much pressure on the porcelain bridge I've already blown up once ($2500 in 1989) that I have to replace it again! (Both times I begged the dentist for a full plate I could "glue" in, knowing many of the old-timers had made that work and was told that this was so much better an option. For eating, yes, it has been, but there is more to life sometimes...)

Even better is that, pending background screen and such, I have a job starting in a few weeks, so I should be able to order those and not have to feel guilty about it! Part-time, 3 days a week...I had hoped for 4 but we'll see how it plays out. They said if I survive the holidays I'll become a "part time" employee instead of "seasonal"...I plan on surviving!

Other things I'm finding that amaze me are the forums available on "the net" that cover instruments, technique and such, along with fully written out transcriptions of some of the solos I spent hours taking apart spinning 33 and 78 rpm recordings of...Dad would have really been upset had he figured out how many times I spun some of his old shellac discs before I got my first cassette recorder and wired it into an old turntable so I only had to spin them once and could then wear out the tape I made!

In the mid 80's, when I had that first "bridge" and started playing again I was still spinning 33's to play with because so much was unavailable on CD. I'm looking forward to playing with some of those now, as 33's changed pitch as they played, starting out flat as the needle rode the outside edge of the disc and slowly going sharp as they spun faster when it moved inward on the album. (Sadly, during that stint in the late 80's, I used enough pressure as I worked into the upper register that I snapped the steel posts out of the root-canaled teeth supporting that porcelain bridge and not only had to have it rebuilt, but now it has even less support than it did then.)

If I get my desktop running again (driver issue) I'll fire up Deezer and see what mp3's are like as well...

Having that outlet was always a means of expression that came many times it was much easier to "bend a blue note" than to find the words for whatever was bottled up inside me.

Through all these years, I've never stopped "hearing" the music "in my head"...hearing what I'd have played to solo or counterpoint any given thing at any given time. My fingers still run through the fingerings as my mind flies...

Perhaps letting some of that loose will make way for more practical things!

May the weekend be lovely and kind for each of you!


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Watching the wheels go 'round...

So many posts I've written in my empty head these last weeks, though never getting them transcribed...

My son's house is on the market finally- for what it is and it's price I'm confidant it will sell quickly, though there are a few odds and ends that still need doing. The sign went up in his yard a week ago, and after a day to recover I spent the next one taking care of the lawn and gutters I'd neglected during all the other chaos going on in my life. Today I'm glad as the rain from Tropical Storm Hermine is just south of me now and we're supposed to get up to a foot of it in the next 36 hours or so.

What spare time I've had, snatches of a few minutes here and there I've been reading a memoir. "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace" I heard about in an NPR interview before I retired and bought it last holiday season with a gift card I received. Transcribed from diaries saved by the intelligence officer told to burn them, it is the diaries of a lady doctor serving her country in the combat zones of Vietnam in the late 60's until her death in 1970. I can't help but think of the doctor killed in Afghanistan, Karen Woo. In reading her blog (reference is a link to the story, her name is a link to her blog) I feel guilty sitting here in the relative comfort of my living room...

Dang Thuy Tram's memoir is especially poignant for me as a few years later I was off the Vietnam coast on the Kittyhawk, serving with pilots who probably overflew her and that she refers to in her writing; most certainly with aircraft that did. Her references to "us" have a lot of the same rhetoric I hear being used to describe others by many of "us" today...less than human terms...terms that not only imply a lack of understanding, but a lack of intent to ever understand.

I am always awed by the intolerance of this it by one religion for race for another...awed and sickened!

A beautiful artist I know through this blog world has recently been asked to leave a venue she loved because of someone else's intolerance for her. She has a knack with brush that touches my soul, yet someone can't see the beauty in her work and has decided that she has no right to show it.

I see the news of religious intolerance in New York and Florida...

Churches burning in other states...

Tea Party people asking for instruction manuals for "Wyoming displays" ...

The "enlightenment" I thought was beginning two years ago...a great age of tolerance and understanding that would lead us to great things is being overshadowed by those who fear losing their grip on power, be it the power of money or the power of "control". Those who would rather drag us kicking and screaming back to the 19th century instead of entering the one we are in.

Finally bringing me to my own point of intolerance!

Because I refuse to let them do me, to you; to my grandkids or yours!

"Over the last three years, most victims of terrorism have been Muslim. So there’s not a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between extremists and moderates of all the religions. ... What is important is not to live in fear. The most dangerous [thing to do] is to give up and lose hope. The main enemy is not terrorism or extremism, but ignorance"
Queen Rania of Jordan

That applies to so much in this world!

Or, in the words of someone wise beyond his age:

"We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others."
Will Rogers-1924

May the week be kind to each of you!


Tuesday, August 03, 2010


seems to be confronting me from all directions at the moment. Skills I've let lie dormant are being called forth to do battle with things left behind by others who either didn't have them or didn't far, mostly, with good results.

My son is getting his house ready to market, on a fairly short timeline and there has been much to do to get it ready. I'm lucky he operates well on less sleep than I without falling apart mentally or physically. I'm also very lucky that he learned sheet-rocking from my brother-in-law, as I didn't really learn it from anyone and it's always turned into more of something along the lines of auto-body work for me!

His wife has been busy painting anything that stands still long enough; over the weekend my wife even got in on that part of things as we were fitting and hanging doors. Today has been an "off" day for me as he has my truck so he could pick up plywood to take to someone else to make cabinet doors for him. I voted this morning, then took a nap (I've come to look forward to those of late) then spent some time in my little gym.

Yesterday I saw my doctor and was told that I'm good for another twelvemonth and that he'll see me then, something he's picked on me about in the past. (Only seeing him when I'm healthy...)

Last night we all took a night off to go watch my youngest nephew get his Eagle Scout award from the Boy Scouts. His older brother and their father having been Eagle Scouts makes it a very special rarity, from the way it was explained. Tomorrow he goes back to college, where along with working on his teaching degree he managed to adopt a Cub Scout troop last year and plans to continue with them this year as well. My oldest grandson is now in my nephew's "home" troop...I hope I'm around to see him get his Eagle award as well!

As I write it's 102F. (39C.) with a heat index of 110F. (43C.) on the shady side of my house. Our warmest day in 3 years according to the local weatherman. I'm glad I'm inside, listening to the window-unit air-conditioner cycle! When I think of the times I'd go fishing for 8-10 hours on afternoons like this I wonder what was wrong with me! I sure don't deal with it well now!

I've been spending minutes of my "slack time" as I find it reading a book of essays by Amy that has really struck me discusses how our languages lock us into our viewpoints as well as our societies. I'd like to think us wise enough to see beyond that, but sadly know that has to be something we work at; something that doesn't come naturally.

It's primary day in Kansas and shark week on Discovery Channel...there's a correlation there that should be a warning to some of those with their names on the ballot! I've done the best I can for today and will have to wait for November now, with somewhat a sense of dread as our we haven't managed to elect a Democrat for a Senator since 1932...I'll be glad to see Sam Brownback go, but not sure I'll like his replacement any better!

On the national level I'm still astounded at the abundant hatred that finds its way into the rhetoric on every issue and on every level. It's as though it had been bottled up somewhere behind a dam for the last 40 years and now, given a chance to burst forth into the sunlight that should have made it wither in the light of understanding, it instead is being fueled by the bloodlust of intolerance.

A mongrel product of this nation and its melting pot; I can point out ancestors from most of Europe. I also know that others, from other places are mixed in as well, along with some who met their boats when they got here. I had ancestors on both sides of the "War Between the States", or as some would have called it "The War of Northern Aggression"; one of my grandfather's grandfathers died in his butternut wool (Confederate) uniform in the hills of Tennessee a very few years before a re-united Congress passed the 14th Amendment that seems to be the newest point of attack on the agenda of those who think that every person they hear speaking a foreign language is an illegal immigrant.

It's truly sad to see the "worst in us" encouraged instead of the best...

May the week be kind to each of you!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Letting sleeping dogs lie...

Much like my old dog, though I haven't been doing more sleeping or lying about than usual (actually less), I have been lying low.

Dottie took two weeks off around the 4th of July, some to get ready for the family 4th we held here again this year (fireworks are still legal); we had planned on fishing some (thanks a lot for the 8" of rain in June and 3" so far in July) and getting the house exterior ready to paint (see note about rain above).

Instead, some things inside got done; my nephew came to visit for 3 days for the first time since before he left for college and we went out to 3 movies in 2 days, besides the ones we watched here. "Karate Kid" (Jackie Chan better get an Oscar); "A-Team" (not George Peppard's crew anymore, and though I remember them fondly, it was a nice update); and the newest "Twilight" (nicely done...wonder when Bryce Howard will be letting her kids watch it).

Nephew got history lessons in watching "Twelve O'Clock High" with my narrative and me pausing it each time he started texting...(I believe if you are going to watch a movie, watch the movie) and the sequel to "American Graffiti", "More American Graffiti". Of course, he wanted to re-watch the original first; the 2nd is actually a pretty good documentary of the "late" 60's...Scott Glenn and Candy Clark steal the show...yes, that Scott Glenn; the one from "Silverado".

My knee has finally, after 7 months, eased or healed enough I started walking on the treadmill again for the first time since I partially tore the quad and bruised my femur last December. After 10 days of slowly building my time, speed and incline, I finally started lifting weights again as well and already feel better than I have in months. We shall see if I can re-engineer myself into something I don't mind looking at in the mirror now...

The photo I led with was taken the night of the 4th; it was Angel's best 4th ever (she's pretty close to deaf now). With two intermissions for rain we had everything done but the sparklers when the 3rd deluge began about 11. We saved the sparklers for a week, John, Noel and the grandkids came back for dinner last Saturday and I cooked honey stir-fry, then we finally concluded the fireworks. In the 50 years I remember, this is the closest we've ever come to a "rain-out".

I hope life is being kind to each of you!


Monday, June 28, 2010

As the losses mount...

for all of us, but especially those who live along the Gulf, this clip speaks to the ones that haven't been thought of yet:

The reports keep coming in of workers not being allowed protective gear; not being allowed to seek outside medical attention without being cut from the payroll...

I worked with a lot of dangerous chemicals for part of the time I was at GM, running the phosphate coating system for the bare metal between the body and paint shops. There were known carcinogens you weren't supposed to breathe; there were other chemicals that would be immediately absorbed through your skin before you could wipe it off if you weren't wearing rubber gloves. Most of the time I was very careful about taking every precaution advised as I did my job.

I am grateful I was allowed to!

Between the EPA, OSHA and our President, you'd think someone could make sure these workers are allowed the same opportunity!

Just recently there was a huge settlement to pay the rescue worker from September 11 who were poisoned by the collapse of the buildings that terrible day. The military, far too late for far too many, is finally owning up to it's poisoning of our soldiers in Vietnam with Agents Orange and Blue.

How long before these workers, trying to save an eco-system from a modern day "robber-baron" the likes of which the world has never seen, are fighting to have their needs taken care of while their poisoner returns to paying dividends?

July 4th approaches, along with our annual celebration of our independence. Perhaps we need to declare our independence once again, from corporate tyranny!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

A bit of credit...too little too late!

Information Pioneers: Hedy Lamarr from Information Pioneers on Vimeo.

I had read mention of this years ago, but this is a better explanation of the technology. Like so many things through the years, she deserved better at the hands of our government.

I remember reading of the government refusing to pay Nicola Tesla royalties for his patents, saying they were in dispute by Marconi; then when Tesla died in '43 they told Marconi that Tesla's patents were in order and he had no claim...

It would be nice to think they wouldn't do things like that now, but I have my doubts!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time for a break!

I've been so caught up in the world's tragedies of late, both current and past, that it's time for a mental break! Besides the Gulf and reading up on Minamata disease I've been studying a lot of WW1 documentaries; suffice to say it's amazing how many of our current problems in the world can be traced back to "The Great War" and it's ending. I always knew that the lines drawn on the maps back then had come back to haunt us; I didn't realize how much politicking had gone on behind the scenes to create them.

A man of the time observed that "the United States had never lost a war nor won a conference"!

Seems old Will (Rogers) was right again!

3 weeks ago my wife went on vacation for 2 weeks; we did some things here, some planned some not, and finally got the boat out for the first time this year, to the delight of the grandkids who got to ride and take turns driving.

When she went back to work my daughter-in-law left for a concert jamboree and my son decided that was a good time to tear out their one bathroom, to the subfloor and the studs. When I didn't have the grandkids Dottie did and I went to help him; it's back together now and in much better shape than it began.

Since then it's been catching things up around here, trying not to float away in the rain and watching far too much news.

A photo of Jean Harlow on a friend's blog today made me realize it's time for an escape, so wen I sign off here I'm digging out "Red Dust" or "Bombshell" and slipping away for a while...

May the world be kind to each of you!


Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Black Lagoon...

sadly, one no creature could live in!

British Petroleum's oil was 9 miles from Pensacola, Florida when I got up yesterday...

Last night it was in a wildlife refuge just a few miles outside New Orleans, 2/3 of the way through the wetlands lying between the city and the ocean.

When those wetlands die (and they will die from this poisoning) that means the next hurricane the sets her sights on the city that Katrina couldn't kill will have miles of a head start.

And like that iceberg that sunk the Titanic, what we can see is only an "nth" of what lies beneath...though British Petroleum would like to deny that their dispersant agents are causing the oil to "suspend" beneath the surface, the Jean-Michel Cousteau has posted footage of it and much more since.

If you'd like to read more or see more footage, here is a link.

I've mentioned before my Grandmother passing along the belief she learned from the Native Americans when she and my Grandfather were on the reservations; the one that says before you decide anything you should consider how it will affect not just your generation, or your children's, but the next 7 generations who will live with the consequences of what you decide right now.

I fear more than 7 generations will be dealing with the decisions that led to this and the ones being made in their wake! This afternoon I was watching footage as a reporter turned over the rocks at Prince William Sound, Alaska and the tarred rock still lying there was exposed so many years later...Exxon has plowed right on, but they sank the lives of an entire ecosystem as they fed their greed. I don't believe, in the end, British Petroleum will be any different.

May the week be kind to each of you!


Friday, May 21, 2010

W. Eugene Smith

A few weeks ago someone on Twitter asked how much sushi they could eat without worrying about mercury. My reply was to ask if they'd ever heard of Minimata Disease.

I spent a lot of time when I had my first computer looking up people I had admired through the years; I still do as new information pops up all the time.

When my Dad and I first started playing with photography around 1967, we knew someone who was a member of a black and white "salon print" club, started attending meetings and then joined. Among the many names of the photographers they all admired I kept hearing of W. Eugene Smith. If you've seen WW2 photographs from "Life" magazine, you've most likely seen some of the work that made him famous.

In the early 70's he and his wife moved to Minimata, Japan as he worked on a photo essay about the effects of the Chisso Corporation's dumping of mercury in their wastewater from 1937-1968. The disease named for the city, first diagnosed in 1956, was the result of the mercury accumulation in the fish and shellfish that those surrounding the bay lived on. Though the deaths had gone on for more than 30 years the government nor the company did much to halt them.

Smith tried to use the power of the photo essay to make the world take notice of the plight of the villagers. His reward was a beating at the hands of company employees on January 7, 1972 that was so terrible that his sight in one eye deteriorated, his health was permanently damaged and slowly worsened until his fatal stroke in 1978. Their attempt to stop his work, however, failed as he still finished his essay, including a photo called "Tomoko Uemura in her Bath"; the most famous of the series, showing a mother bathing her crippled daughter. Though withdrawn from circulation by Smith's widow Aileen at the request of the girl's family after her death (she gave the copyright to them so they could decide when and where it could be used) a Google search will still find it. Barack Obama has cited seeing it in a textbook as part of what has influenced his view of environmental issues.

The photo I'm going to include here is "Tomoko's Hand", from Wikipedia and credited to the Aileen Archive. Smith's widow Aileen has continued his fight to bring the attention to Minimata disease. His prints are yet again on display at a museum on the East Coast right now; his wife was just in Japan for a commemoration of the anniversary of the date the disease was tied to the mercury discharge from Chrisso's plant.

Chisso had paid small settlements even before WW2 began for other chemicals they had released into the fishery; as this began they deployed water treatment systems that didn't really treat the water; legal maneuvering; minimal financial settlements...their tactics seem to have been a blueprint for other companies all over the world, ones we've become all to familiar with.

They continue to this day; there are still lawsuits, still "spin" going on (one of the newest is referring to "Mad Hatter's Disease" instead of calling it "Minimata Disease" to disassociate themselves from it).

As I look out into the Gulf of Mexico and see all that is transpiring there; as I think of the $500,000 acoustic shut-off valve that would have shut the well down immediately when the "blow-out preventer" the company had "altered" from it's original design and left with dead batteries in it (the acoustic shut-off that is required elsewhere in the world but exempted for all wells in the Gulf by Mssr's Bush and Cheney); as I see the almost million gallons of a dispersant that's been illegal to use in Britain for 10 years because of it's toxicity; as I see those who had their hands on the throttle as the train left the tracks allowed to say what can and can't be done towards clean-up and mitigation...

I sometimes wonder if we ever truly learn from anything!

May the weekend be kind to each of you!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Who will be next?

Not what I was planning for my next post, but when the link popped into my Twitter stream this morning, I had to share. Something I wasn't taught in high school and didn't learn of 'til I'd come home from serving in the Navy; something that led to a lot of examination of other aspects of "our" history (and others) that continues through today.

Something that convinces me that no matter how high we hold our "torch of freedom" it can be gone as quickly as "a candle in the wind"!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So many irons in the fire...

and all of them gnawing at my innards!

Watching BP deny that no matter who they hired to set their rig up, it's their lease that's ruining the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico...

Watching more and more come out about the "Magdalene Laundries" and their victims, along with the other abuses of "organized religion" that rate higher in the news; those who abuse alter boys; those who hire rent-boys...

Watching those who would like to re-write our history try and alter our textbooks to censor the things they'd rather not know...

For days these have all spun and whirled in my mind; half-mentally-written blog posts flood my thoughts. Today I found a link that reminds me that even in the darkest of moments we have to cling to hope...

I wish I could embed that so you got the first photo instead of just a link! It's an NPR story about the art that was created by the American citizens we locked in detention camps at the beginning of World War 2.

Were I still working, I'd have heard that story on my radio as I was an "NPRaholic". Today it turned up in a Twitter link from a Japanese writer I've been following as I catch up on Minimata disease and other news from beyond our borders. I'm thinking of trying to write about Minimata as I stumbled into it through photography and what happened to one of those I idolized as he covered it.

Thunder is shaking the house now and my weather alert radio is going off; I should shut this down now so I don't take a chance on a lightning strike!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't it make my blue eyes red!

Watching as we yet again destroy a large portion of our food chain; the livelihoods of millions; and the worst part; the ecosystem that billions of lives depend on...hearing RFK, jr. on CNN explaining that the acoustic shut-off valve that would have plugged this well the minute the platform was no longer connected and is required everywhere else in the world was exempted on all platforms in the Gulf...

all I can hear echoing in my head are the words "when will we ever learn"?

That, pitted against the goings-on in Arizona; seeing racism and hatred legislated into law instead of out of it for one of the second time in less than a year... Though they backed off a bit this afternoon, re-writing a bit of it, I still wonder when they'll start pinning the little yellow stars on people; when they'll decide they don't like old bald guys with I next?

Since I have little bits of everything in me, are we going to send my arms back to France and my legs back to Ireland? Does my nose get to stay for the bit of Indian blood in me?

I've been tired for a long time of those who assume every Latino/a they encounter must be an illegal...or every time they see an Vietnamese or Hmong that they must be a "boat people".

There's very damn few of us in this country who's origins are "from here"! Mine are from France, Ireland, England, with some Native American and probably some African mixed in. Each time I hear those words "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" that are etched on that beautiful lady in the harbor who greeted some of those ancestors of mine, I'm grateful to the one who put them there; his neighbors probably wanted to lynch him!

I worked for someone once who was 2nd generation Polish-American. His grandparents had immigrated here just before the turn of the century to escape religious persecution in Poland. With children born both in the old country and the new one, the children were quick enough to pick up the new language, though Mom and Dad never learned enough to be fluent. They managed to pass their citizenship test, but my foreman told me no one spoke anything at home but Polish as he was growing up.

During WW1 they operated a bakery and grocery store; more than once the bigots in the small Kansas town they lived in broke the windows out and painted racial slurs on the front of their storefront, not realizing that Polish and German wasn't the same thing...

How far are we from that again?

How far are we from the interment camps we put American born Japanese in during WW2?

Shall we just start burning those we don't like, like we did at Salem?

When will they decide I'm next on their list?

May this beautiful spring weekend be kind to each of you!


Friday, April 16, 2010

So much for that!

Cruise control didn't last long...I've just been ignoring it since it "kicked out"!

Mowed for the first time last weekend; after the terrace and the side-hill next to the driveway, on top of clearing gutters (lots of trips up and down the ladder and a fall when I missed a rung at one point) my knee was unhappy enough I had to ask Dottie to mow the "flat" parts of the lawn for the first time since she had her hip and knee replaced. Perhaps I'll be splitting all that into 2 days the next time it needs done, at least for a while! Perhaps next time I'll remember the sunscreen on my bald head as well; though it was only about 3 hours outside, I'm peeling...

That was after two days of wrestling with a clothes dryer; I'd never worked on one, didn't have a book, and though I managed to replace the belt and get it running again for just over $20, I spent a lot of time vacuuming lint out of places I'd never thought I'd find it, along with push pins, paper clips and other things the shouldn't be running around loose where I found them. I've cleaned french fries out of defroster ducts in cars before, and crayons out of seat belt reels, but didn't expect that!

This week has been spent filling out more job apps, getting things ready for a family birthday barbecue this weekend and finally, for the first time in ages, experimenting a bit in the kitchen. I hadn't really felt like it for a long time, but finally got out some of the books I'd bought before I retired and tried stuffing chicken breasts and grilling them on the George Foreman. The original recipe called for asparagus, tomato and fontina cheese, but not having fresh asparagus on hand, or the fontina, I subtituted Colby Jack and it turned out nicely!

The birthday barbecue mentioned above is the annual we usually hold for both sons; the younger, John, is 31 today. Last year it was so hard to get the family together that my sister had my nephew's birthday party late at the same time; this year, with him in college, he'll be sharing again. 

This will be the first time our older son, Bill has missed his birthday. At 32 I know we're lucky it's taken this long; I wasn't home for my 18th. Still, it won't quite be the same without him, though I understand that he can't slip home from DC for all the family events. So far his Mom isn't saying much, but I know it's weighing on her.

May the weekend be kind to each of you; may some unexpected joy find you along with a smile or two!


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Life is on cruise control...

and it's not that things aren't "going on" but after that last post, one of the nicest pieces of writing I may have ever done, it seems wrong to come back to the "mundane"...

May the days be kind to each of you; may your nights be filled with those you love!


Monday, March 22, 2010

(De)Commissioning our history

(USS Lexington, CV-2, passing Culebra Cut, Panama Canal, early to mid 1930's)

As I watch Texas try and excise the history it doesn't like from textbooks, it has brought to the fore a longheld belief that they aren't the only ones who have been doing so.

Growing up I watched the aircraft carriers USS Wasp and the USS Hornet pick up our astronauts as they returned from space. Vague memories of a little boy, his first ones of our modern Navy. Later as I read history, both in school and on my own, the names "USS Wasp" and "USS Hornet" came alive to me, along with others like "Saratoga", "Lexington", "Yorktown", "Ticonderoga", "Bon Homme Richard", the "Ranger" I made a short cruise on and even the "Kittyhawk" I WESTPAC'd on derived their names from the history of our country; reminders of her heritage, of her victories and triumphs. Even the "Langley", the first carrier, was named after an aviation pioneer (albeit one our government had funded and then later promoted in order to fight the Wright brothers patents, much as they played Tesla and Marconi against each other to duck paying royalties).

Later, newer battles and victories were added to the roster. "Coral Sea", "Midway", named for the 1st carrier victories of the war in the Pacific; "Tarawa" found her way into history, and someone remembered "Valley Forge".

"Lexington" replaced "Lexington", "Yorktown" replaced "Yorktown"; the famous names were kept in circulation. But things were slowly beginning to change...

A carrier was named for the secretary of defense who had most strongly advocated them, James Forrestal. A few years went by with "Constellation" and "Enterprise" finding their way back to active duty while history did much to change our country. It was decided that a president, fallen while in office, was deserving of the tribute of a carrier named after him and the "USS John F. Kennedy" was commissioned.

The next keel laid was named after the admiral who oversaw and won the naval war in the Pacific, Chester Nimitz. Following was a keel named after a politician who spent the years between the World Wars advocating the Navy and rebuilding it after the disarmament treaties that ended WW1. He also was a champion of the first nuclear carrier commisioned, the USS Enterprise, and his name was remembered on the USS Carl Vinson.

Next came the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the USS George Washington, then another naval advocate, John Stennis had his name immortalized to travel the world in steel.

All through this period, the old names were retiring, being decommissioned, some being scrapped, some being sunk, a lucky few being purchased to be made museums to the men who served aboard them and gave their lives to defend them.

Sadly, though the old names are all gone now, save the "USS Enterprise". Though I won't say that Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, or George H.W. Bush (the names on the last 3 carriers built) don't deserve memorials or to have things named after them, my own feelings are that presidents have libraries for that, and no matter which political party is in power at the time, trying to immortalize their idols in U.S. Navy steel is not nearly as fitting as allowing the Navy to continue its own traditions. The ones that have served us since our Revolution, when John Paul "I have not yet begun to fight" Jones lost the "USS BonHomme Richard" and then commanded the first "USS Ranger"...since the USS Hornet landed U.S. Marines on the shores of Tripoli...or a later USS Hornet launched Jimmy Doolittle's B-25's in the first raid to attack Japan's home soil during WW2.

How wrong is it that our politicians would erase our history while even "Star Trek" remembers?

I'm grateful to the Marine Corps for keeping some of these names alive on it's LPH's, but I grow weary of seeing history erased in favor of political legacy...

(The very first link above will take you to a U.S. Navy website listing all of the carriers in commission order, the dates they served and their "disposition". Clicking on any of their names will take you to another page with a more detailed history and some photos of each. For more photos, is a site I've spent countless hours exploring. The other links take you to Wiki entries or some of the ship museum websites.)

May the week be kind to each of you...


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Sometimes you're the bug...

and sometimes you're the windshield!"

I heard Neil Bonnett say that once years ago and it's one of those perfect metaphors for life.

My wife not being a fan of Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin, we spent Oscar night watching a nominee from 1950 that she thought she'd seen but hadn't. A newly mastered DVD version with some extras, I was delighted to revisit it with company for once.

"Twelve o'Clock High" I read in my teens, before I ever saw the movie, though I grew up watching the series when I was a "tween" and it was in repeats. It's one of the influences that led to my love of airplanes and mechanical things. The authors, Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay, Jr. were there in different capacities in the 8th Air Force and the story is a compilation of characters and groups they served with.

When I finally saw the movie I was impressed with all of the portrayals, none more than Dean Jagger who won his Oscar for it. Knowing the "flying history" behind it made it all the more personal for me.

Going back now and watching it brought all of those early emotions back, plus those of thinking of all the lives affected by the war and fighting it; the lives of people I know today, here and on the "other side of the pond".

Shocking was getting to the documentary part and hearing someone say that the U.S. Marine Corps lost 20,000 men in the Pacific in their campaign across the islands.

The 8th alone had over 26,000 killed out of 47,000 casualties; these were half of the Army Air Corps casualties for the entire war.

After watching the movie I dug in one of my bookcases to come up with some books I bought through Powell's a few years ago. One was Beirne Lay, Jr.'s account "Presumed Dead" of being shot down over Europe after he assumed command of his own air group mid-war. The 2nd I found was a biography of Paul Mantz, who flew the B-17 that "bellies in" early in the movie, sliding into tents etc. The movie company tried to get the then re-named Air Force to do it and were told "no way"; Mantz agreed to do it, flying solo. As he set her down, he figured out he could still steer her with the "toe brakes" although the landing gear was up and that was how he managed to snag the tent without doing any other damage downfield.

The 3rd I still haven't found, a paperback copy of the original book "Twelve o'Clock High".

"Presumed Dead" I consumed in my spare time in 3 days, unable to put it down when I could get a chance to read. Concise, but beautifully written, it's added to my love of the French countryside.

It also shocked me at one point. As they are transitioning from training to England, they flew a southern route considered safer because of the weather at that time of year over Greenland. On landing in Marrakesh, Lay writes about the last crewman leaving the plane, tossing the DDT bomb through the hatch and closing it...

No wonder so many of those of our "Greatest Generation" are fighting cancer! DDT was still in use by the Navy in '73 when I was on shipboard; the olive drab cans that I sprayed around my bunk to stop the roach invasions (which didn't even slow them down) had it painted on the cans. But tossing a "DDT bomb" into the aircraft who's oxygen system I'd be breathing from, where I'd be living and fighting and dying takes on a whole new meaning all these years later (as does lying in a bunk I'd sprayed entire cans around and in the locker of).

(BTW, the way we finally stopped the invasions on shipboard was to line the edges of our racks with 400mph tape, sticky side out, after taping every seam and joint closed, then waking up in the morning and roasting our catch with butane lighters!)

Beyond all that I spent one day last weekend watching my son and grandson outwork me as we helped my sister's mother-in-law move. The next I spent recuperating as my knee was not happy with me at all; it's still grumbling a bit 5 days later. I've also been fighting what is either the last cold of winter or the first cold of spring...whichever it is, I'm tired of it!

Monday I helped my son pick up more subfloor and underlayment along with trim for his house. Dottie was off yesterday and I was coughing too badly to go see a movie she wanted to, so we ran errands instead, getting the last of the fishing licenses and boat permits for the new year; finding some corned beefs she can fix for a belated St. Patrick's Day dinner this weekend, and since she felt sorry for me being sick, she bought me a slab of ribs for dinner that I'll also be eating for lunch and dinner today. We also went by the apartment that Mary Ruth moved to last weekend so Dottie could see it and helped her sort some of the things that went into her storage unit. A beautiful apartment with a brook and waterfalls outside her patio doors, I envy her a bit!

So it's now Wednesday afternoon and I'm still waiting for WalMart or Sam's Club or someone to call say that I'm worthy of their employment. After I eat something, I guess I'll try filling out an app for Home Depot, though I've put that one off because I somehow feel disloyal to GM if I go to work for someone that campaigns a Toyota in NASCAR...silly guilt button, I wish at times I could disconnect it!

May the week be kind to each of you!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Riding the range...

As I drive around my "home turf" I often feel the ghosts of those who were here before me...I've thought of writing about some of them and hope perhaps they intrigue you.

When I make my shopping run to Wal-Mart, I head west on I-70 then pick up I-435 south and cross the Kansas River. Visible from the bridge as I cross the river Mill creek flows into the river from the southwest. Somewhere through the years I've read that was the site of one of the Chouteau brothers original trading posts back in the days when beaver hats were "king".

As the road climbs from the river and I get to Shawnee Mission Parkway, I'm traveling beautiful rolling hills that once held a township named Monticello. It was there that a young man first wore a constable's badge and first tried his hand at law enforcement. He voted in the 1856 presidential election there. To know I'm sharing the same country that James Butler Hickok once rode always induces awe in me. You might have heard him called by another name; "Wild Bill".

It wasn't long after those experiences he met up with a kid muleskinner from a few miles to the north of here; one who would probably become one of the most famous "Westerners" of all time; William Frederick Cody. At 11 Cody lost his father to the "Border Wars" that consumed Kansas through her territorial days and continued through the Civil War, culminating in the 2nd burning of Lawrence, KS by William Quantrill. Cody and Hickok rode together in the Kansas Militia, leading both of them into scouting for the military and their other pursuits.

A few blocks north of me is the old Fort Leavenworth Military Road from what was then Westport to the Federal outpost that still exists. As he traveled to Leavenworth not long before the Civil War, William Tecumseh Sherman in his memoir wrote of spending the night at the Shawnee Indian School (now called the Shawnee Indian Mission), then rode west and crossed the Kansas River at a ferry owned by a white man and his Indian wife. That would be Moses Grinter; I've written of "The Grinter House" before, the first permanent house in my county. The house still standing replaced the cabin he and his wife had lived in for the 20 plus years before it was built. During the battle of Westport someone aboard the afternoon steamboat headed for Lawrence cut the cable on Grinter's Ferry, killing one of his hired hands; it was thought to be the work of one of the James boys trying to slow the troops from Fort Leavenworth reinforcing the Union troops. Later, after the railroad tracks that still parallel the river there were built, they were also said to have stopped a train or two.

The family of one of Hickok and Cody's friends from the militia days owned a tavern/rooming house called the "Six-Mile House" given its being six miles from the river on the Fort Leavenworth road. In a local history written by a school teacher she wrote of the shooting demonstrations that Hickok and his friend Theodore Bartels would put on after the war. Usually won by Hickok, she wrote of seeing him trot his horse down the lane, his revolvers pointing across his body, knocking bricks off the rail fence on either side...never actually taking aim.

Next to the downtown public library is the Huron Indian Cemetery; when the Wyandotte Indians were forced to relocate to Oklahoma Territory, they deeded over their land and buildings on the condition that the graves there would never be disturbed. In that same history I spoke of above, there is the story of what happened when the City Council decided they could take that land as there weren't any Indians left here to object. The aunt of Zane Grey, the writer, moved into the cemetery, with a shotgun and held off the sheriff while the City Council tried to evict her and legal proceedings were brought against them to enforce the original agreements. I've been told that my great-grandmother has a relative buried there...

A few blocks past the library, though the building is long gone, is where the "Free State" constitution for the state of Kansas was written (as opposed to the "slave state" constitution written earlier and never adopted). A couple of miles to the north lie the ruins of Quindaro, a settlement that had much to do with the transport of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railway. The high bluff they sit on was conducive for marksman to sit with their rifles, waiting to drive away the bounty-hunters trying to cross the river to recover those lives someone else considered their property.

The guerrilla Quantrill I mentioned earlier was a schoolteacher before the war, in a little town south of here named Maryville. What was left of Maryville was flooded by Hillsdale Lake as it filled, one of the lakes we fish.

My sister and her family live in Lawrence; burnt twice through the "Border Wars", the last time with much loss of life. When Quantrill and his raiders arrived they sent lookouts up Mount Oread to watch for dust clouds in case the military from Fort Leavenworth should come to the town's aid. 183 men and boys were executed; anyone old enough to carry a rifle up to the age of 90 lost their lives. The logos on the doors of the Lawrence police cruisers show burning buildings.

Mount Oread was where the University of Kansas was founded two years later, in 1865. It's where my oldest son and his wife both graduated from...

Those are only the ghosts from "my" side of the river...many more walk the Missouri side in the echoes of the music of the 20's and 30's...the echoes of the Pendergast political machine...the Union Station massacre...

I often wonder as all these ghosts gather 'round how many of those in the cars about me even know they existed? People always think "history" is somewhere else...that you have to "go somewhere" to find it...

But the ghosts wait everywhere, only waiting a chance to speak!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The treadmill to oblivion...

Besides the name of a book I've been meaning to acquire for ages (Fred Allen's autobiography, if that name rings a bell for anyone), it means that finally after almost 2 months I've found my way back downstairs.

I survived 1/3 of the monthly shopping run yesterday (only casualty was my pride, as I drove further to a different wholesale club to get the Hershey's Dark Chocolate bars my wife loves as mine quit keeping them; got out of the truck and put my bifocals on so I could read the list and realized I didn' t have the checkbook). I was waiting for Costco to mail their coupon book to do the seems to come later each month. I'll be going there on the way home from the osteopath's tomorrow.

The knee ached a bit last night, but it wasn't "pain". So today after I'd been up a bit, eaten and taken the anti-inflammatory and let it have a bit to "kick in" I went downstairs and donned the "new" shoes I keep next to the treadmill and started walking...slowly...

I wasn't trying to set any records, only ease back into things. I made it 11 minutes pain free, at 12 it twinged once (possibly I took too long a step) and at about 14 it started to hurt with each step. I stopped, shut things down and after a few minutes to make sure it was OK I came back upstairs.

It's the first time in almost two months the steps haven't hurt coming up. I'm still wary going down; Saturday I went to do laundry and wasn't quite "awake" yet, led with my left and "jammed" it, feeling the bone bruise that's slowly been healing these last few months.

At the Supercenter on Monday (the first 1/3 of the payday trip) I had stopped at the magazine rack; I can't afford them anymore, though every other month I can't help myself and buy one ("Hot Rod Deluxe", with photos and cars I remember from the issues I saw 40 years ago). It wasn't there, but I picked up a copy of something else that caught my eye and stood there while I skimmed their article on men's knees. It spoke of ACL's and the other usual injuries, then had a section on arthritis. It told people about the "partial knee replacement" that Dottie had a few years ago; said to be wary of "scope" surgeries (?) and then ended with a piece that said no matter what, even if it hurts a bit, you have to keep moving because that is what "lubricates" the joint.

So, tomorrow, after the doctors and Costco, we'll see if I can make it to 15 before the "twinge" kicks in.

I haven't really gained since I hurt myself, but I hadn't really lost in over a year, since I hurt my back the last best intentions got caught up in summer and other things and also, I think one of those laws of physics came into play...

Something about objects at rest tending to remain at rest!

It's time for some defiance...

A friend wrote this a while back and it has been weighing on my mind as well; having fought my way from 300 to 200 several years ago and yo-yo'd back to 340, I know well the demon he writes of! I made it down to 270 the 2nd time before I hurt myself a year ago December and have been rather stuck since within 10 pounds of 300...

Where's Excalibur when I need her?

May the week be kind to each of you!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Watching train wrecks...

was the phrase used a bit ago to describe watching the news. Normally, I can keep my perspective, but today was not such a day!

Hearing an executive try to tell Congress that his is an American company and that the cars in question were American cars was the beginning...I am grateful that they are assembling some here and sourcing some of their parts here, but the design and engineering came from "home" and that is where the profits go...back to his country...the one that our military defends. My old ship was homeported there for her last 11 years as deterrent to China and North Korea; now one of her newer sisters is, along with crew and families and a helluva a lot of our tax dollars.

As the man realized he was upsetting the Congress people he tried to explain; it started to sound like he was blaming the workers when another Congressperson went after him.

Got in the truck to run errands and heard someone from Wellpoint explaining that they had to raise their rates 39% to cover their costs. When she was asked about her salary she said she got $1.3 million a year in salary, $8.5 million in stock options and another $73,000 for something else.

Geez, we didn't make $73,000 last year...both of us together!

Then I get back home and turn on CNN to find out that a "killer whale", held in captivity despite having killed twice already, had just killed it's 3rd trainer. While I'm not "anti-zoo" and I realize that there are some creatures we wouldn't have in this world anymore were it not for captivity and breeding programs, etc., I don't think Shamu is on that list!

I'm sure tomorrow I'll get up and start my day with the Weather Channel and MSNBC and CNN again, along with my news page and Facebook and Twitter and a half dozen other places I go looking for things.

But right now I'd like to climb in a barrel and pull the lid on after me!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sharing the wealth...

My oldest grandson spent the weekend plus his Monday holiday. After playing video games and watching movies and parts of Daytona and the WinterNationals, by yesterday he was ready for something different. I lit the furnace in the garage and after a couple of hours we went out and I started clearing more of my workbench; him putting things in the tool cabinets or the trash; me sorting other ones into the "20 year drawers" beneath.

As we got to the back there was an old Rochester 2 barrel carb, in pieces, that I had robbed pieces from a few years ago for something else. Being able to see all of its "innards" led to explanations of "idle circuits" and "pullover enrichment" and then finally "being on the mainjets" with him able to see how they all interconnected, along with the cautionary stories about needles and seats and what happens when they "stick" (a deluge of gasoline spewing out of the carb top usually followed by an engine fire).

From under the bench I pulled out an old Rochester "Quadrajet", the 4-barrel "performance" carb from that same era; when he saw the 2 1/4" back barrels in comparison to the little pair in that 2-barrel he suddenly understood a lot more about "hot rods" and horsepower and gasoline comsumption!

I promised him a few months ago that if one of Dottie's "Powerball" tickets hits, we can build a "deuce coupe" using some of the other things I have stashed away in various corners and some of the multitude of parts you can buy now. I'm kind of hoping that in the next year or two things work out and we build something anyway...he's a lot more intrigued by mechanical things than his Dad or his Uncle ever were and it would be nice to pass some of the knowledge along instead of taking it with me!

(Not that this has anything to do with my last post or anything!)

For now though, he's more concerned about getting the boat cleared off before spring comes!

Me too!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Friday, February 12, 2010

February 13...

keeps coming back around, much as I wish at times it wouldn't!

Dad would have turned 83 tomorrow, and for all the baggage there was between us before I left for the Navy, we made up for it after I was out and moved home and his grandkids were born. That one son has no memory of him and the other only has the slightest ones is one of the sadder things I ponder altogether too often. 26 years disappear for me each time I touch his tools, or his old Ambassadeur 5000 (baitcasting reel)'s yesterday again and he's chiding me about his "educated thumb" being the reason he can cast 15 feet further than I, with the same reel, rod and line.

Little did I know 'til I took his apart for the first time after he died how educated that thumb truly was; he had taken the brake cylinders completely out of it!

Know you were and are still loved Dad...and missed terribly!

May the weekend be kind to each of you who find your way here!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Across the years...

"The Berlin Stories" have illuminated much. How anyone could have claimed "they didn't know", or "they weren't sure" in the late 30's is beyond me; people were telling Isherwood in '30 and '31 "just wait until they get them in the concentration camps".

With his words evoking the people and their times, I dug out a disc I bought a few years ago of Ute Lemper's called "Berlin Cabaret Songs". English translations of the original tunes playing in the clubs there when Marlene Dietrich was headlining...when Louise Brooks was lighting up the screen...

From the first track on the disc, 3rd verse:

are magicians
who make swindles disappear
The bribes they are taking
the deals they are making
never reach the public's ear
The left betrays, the right dismays
the country's broke and guess who pays
But tax each swindle in the making
profits will be record breaking
Everyone swindles some
so vote for who will steal for you
Life's a swindle..."

from "It's All a Swindle" written by Mischa Spoliansky and Marcellus Schiffer.

I'm guessing I shouldn't read anything into the fact that the composers, born in 1898 and 1892, died in 1931 and 1932...

Each day I hear people proclaim they aren't trying to take away my rights, only those of someone else. That I'm entitled, but someone else isn't. They step behind their masks of religion; they hide behind a flag and don't realize; I've seen it all before, if only in the history books, in literature, in poetry.

If the revolution is lost, now (and I fear it is) then it's only a matter of time before the knocks on the door start coming...

May the week be kind to each of you!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Old loves...

While in Vermont this last summer, we visited the Shelburne Museum. Among the standard displays there (well worth a visit in themselves) they had two special attractions going on as well. There was a Tiffany exhibition (more later) and a motorcycle show, with not only some Arlen Ness "dream" bikes, but some of the loves of my youth.

I was lucky enough 36 years ago to meet an old gentleman in San Diego who was supplementing his retirement by selling basket case motorcycles he had spent his lifetime acquiring. He had been a machinist, a tool and die man in the aircraft industry; he used to say he never married because his job was so critical he wasn't allowed to enlist during WW2. He was the lead inspector at Rohr Aircraft; they were building engine nacelles and other things related to the war effort. He said that during the war all the girls wanted a hero; right after the war they wanted a returning one and then, suddenly, he was too old for anyone to want.

He was the first "Anglophile" I ever knew; his mechanical loves in this world were Triumph and Ariel motorcycles & British motorcars. Born in 1910, he had attended machinist school at Ryan in San Diego the year after they built the "Spirit of St. Louis".

In 1936 he bought his first motorcycle, a Royal Enfield. It had it's share of mechanical deficiencies and in '37 he sold it and bought a new Triumph Speed Twin. He was still riding that Speed Twin when I knew him, though he had pulled the original girder front end ("two sheets of paper with an axle bolted between them" was his description) in favor of a later set of hydraulic forks, and bolted a sidecar on it. He used it as his parts chaser and it was ridden almost daily, up until the day he died.

During the war he acquired an Ariel "one-lunger", a 500cc single cylinder bike for the economy during rationing. They became his second love and he had 3 different models of the singles while I knew him, along with two of the "Square Fours" that have gone by in the photos thus far. I was lucky enough, having worked for him a bit to earn parts, to have him let me ride his '56 Square Four to a show for him one day when he was taking the Speed Twin. It was a treat I've not forgotten!

After the war as everyone traded their "rigid" Triumphs for swingarm ones, he bought them; as the "non-unit" bikes were traded for "unit" construction ones, he bought them as well. He did machine work "on the side" and did some race tuning along with a lot of riding, including some with a group of "desert rats" that included Keenan Wynn and Steve McQueen back when you rode the same bikes off road you rode on the street. I have an accessory "oil bath" he made that was intended to keep sand from getting into the motors; apparently he made a good little fortune selling them. Later, after he retired he also was doing Smiths speedo and tach work and rebuilding magnetos and generators, as well as assembling engines and transmissions.

Though he really didn't approve, a lot of the knowledge I acquired from him was applied to BSA's and a few Norton's I ran across through the years. He had no use for Harleys at all- "tractor engine in a cultivator frame" was his description of them.

I bought three basket case Triumphs from him. Mine was a stocker, a 1958 TR-6 4-speed. The one I bought to put together for my wife was also a '58 and looked stock, but had later model 750 internals and a 5-speed (some of that machine work he was so good at was involved in relieving the engine and transmission cases). The 3rd was a '47 500 rigid. To this day I regret parting with them during a long lay-off from GM when my boys were small...

So with all the fond memories the Ariel above brought me, for me the Crown Jewels of that display were:

(a World War Two flathead Triumph messenger bike)


(a 1952 Trophy model racer)

We had always talked of buying a bike again once the kids were grown and gone (and every now and then I can't help but go price a new Triumph) but the reality is that with her hip and knee replacements she'll never dare get on one again and so I can't really bring myself to be selfish enough to ride when she can't...

After we had moved here, in the early 80's I got a phone call from someone I had introduced to my friend as they were looking for Triumph parts. During one of those awful Santa Ana days his emphysema had finally gotten the better of him and someone found him in his shop.

I was told his nephew was going to sell the parts off along with the machinery and keep the technical stuff for those he knew to use as an open library. I hope he did; there was far too much knowledge there for it to end up in a landfill somewhere!

Dwight Dean, it was an honor to know you and to call you friend!

I hope you and Lou Kaiser and Jimmy Phillips and Wynn and McQueen are all out somewhere having a helluva good time!

May the week be kind to each of you (especially if you made it all the way down here)!


(a click on each photo will enlarge it. They have pretty good detail for handheld 1/8th and 1/15th exposures at 200 ASA setting...wanted to go back the next day with a tripod, but there wasn't time!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Doctor says...

keep doing what you're doing; if it hurts, stop doing it, at least for a bit!

He showed me the MRI slices; the bone bruise on the upper legbone that is still healing, the partially healed extent it started out at; the swelling around the partially damaged MCL ligament that "gave" and started this all; the fluid around the rest of the joint.

He also told me there is arthritis under the kneecap that was aggravated by all of this, but it's not something that needs surgery until much further down the road.

He told me not to start the therapy his assistant had written me the scrip for 12 days ago (was kind of avoiding that 'til I had the MRI results). He said I can go downstairs and start walking on my treadmill when I feel like; if it aches to get off it and let it rest.

They faxed me in a 90 day prescription for the anti-inflammatory, Meloxicam, they started me on the other week.

So that's the health update...time for some late lunch and maybe a nap!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Thursday, January 14, 2010


Not so many years ago, in reading Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" I was astounded by her calling out of the treatment doled out by "Americans" to the native populations that were here when they arrived with their "manifest destiny". After all, an 18 year old, writing in 1816...her awareness of what was going on in another "world" far removed from hers was quite amazing to me.

Last night, partway into "The Berlin Stories" I've had another such moment. Christopher Isherwood bringing up the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria with the ensuing murder, rape and pillage as he was writing in Germany during the Weimar Republic just before Hitler's rise to power. (In doing a bit of reading this morning, I just ran across a Time Magazine article from 1932 about a small part of that invasion and the "accidental" beating of an American ambassador by Japanese troops.)

I realize that nothing on Earth ever occurs in a vacuum; that there is always some news "out there" for those willing to look for it.

I also realize, having lived through the time of the Balkans and Rwanda and Darfur, that seldom are things like this ever halted before the wreckage of lifetimes is scattered. The toothless "League of Nations" of that day; the inadequately funded and under-empowered United Nations of this one aren't so very far apart in their abilities.

That so many generations have passed since Mary Shelley called attention to the plight of the Native American and yet 200 years later they are not given their due, or given apology, but have to fight in court against the government that has robbed them at every turn...

That so many years after our "War Between the States" to have a Senator stand up and say that had the "Dixiecrats" elected Strom Thurmond president in 1948 we'd all be so much better off now...

That so many years after "The War to End All Wars" the bullets and shells still fly...

That at this point that should be the pinnacle of human existence there are those who feel that they can vote away the rights of anyone they disagree with; they may imprison them in law as surely unjust as any prison camp...

That they may be executed or imprisoned for life if some of the "new laws" under consideration in some places aren't stopped!

Will we ever realize that every life is just as precious as our own?

May the week be kind to each of you!


Monday, January 11, 2010

"No use permitting those prophets of doom...

to wipe every smile away..."

Lines from old songs haunt me; like the headers on a page, they set the tone or summarize; they cajole or commiserate.

I was playing music from "Cabaret" 40 years ago, in band at school and along with Armstrong albums; I knew a bit of the mythology of the story. It was many years before I would see the movie; even more before I read of "The Berlin Stories" that first the stage play "I Am a Camera" then the musical "Cabaret" were sourced from. On my "bucket list" of reading material ever since, I finally caught up with Mr. Isherwood last night and am delighted.

So now I'm having a hard time convincing me to go out and chip the icicles off the facias and such and do some of the other things I'd been putting off while gimping around this last month. T'would be so much easier to escape to the Berlin of Sally Bowles and Lulu, Peter Lorre and Marlene Dietrich...

"Life is a cabaret, old chum..."

May the week be kind to each of you!


Wednesday, January 06, 2010


It's been hard to come here and write of late; I've been "living" on hydrocodone a lot of this last month as I blew something up in my left knee four weeks ago. In the beginning I thought I could give it a week and it would be better, but that has not turned out to be the case and I have an appointment tomorrow morning so someone can figure out whether it was one of the cruciate ligaments I blew out, or something worse. It's not much good like it is, or me along with it!

I hobbled through the holidays; everyone else's were great! The grandkids, the boys and their wives; my sister and her family. Bill and Laura made it home to D.C. yesterday after a detour through North Carolina for a rockslide the wiped out the Interstate highway they were on as they trekked east. After an afternoon's rest in Charlotte, they got home about 1:30 Tuesday morning.

I've not been sleeping well, so falling asleep sitting in my chair reading, trying to watch TV, sitting here at the keyboard, playing a video game; they've all become new experiences for me. Part of my excuse for not blogging...waking up as you rock forward in the chair because your knee is saying "don't do that, dummy"! isn't fun!

May the rest of the week and may this month and this New Year be especially kind to each of you!


Postscript: Thursday afternoon...

X-rays inconclusive; they don't show anything wrong, only the things that should be there...MRI tomorrow.

At least I know now it's not cancer! Not everyone's first thought, but my favorite jazz saxophone player went in 15 years ago for some knee pain, found out he had bone cancer and was gone in 6 much as my family has been decimated by so many different kinds of it, it wouldn't have surprised me!