I thought it might portend good fortune yesterday morning when my companions and I departed Mission Bay (San Diego) for a couple hours of fishing. A mermaid was taking in some pleasant weather in the middle of the channel. She hadn’t much to say as to where to find hungry fish. Perhaps she was just dreaming of our region’s famous fish tacos; the boats all sitting off La Jolla didn’t seem to have any better luck. (A mutual friend of ours once reminded me that the hobby was not called “catching” as it takes skill and proper timing.) But i will still go as often as I’m invited. A career Navy man, I need to put to sea every so often to refresh my retired Sailor “Saltiness”. And seeing a mermaid, gives me another sea story to share with my readers.
A fisherman, a boat captain, and me put out from Dana Landing just before first light on a gray Saturday morning. The fisherman was experienced, the boat’s owner, a former Navy man but not a fisherman, was hoping for a large catch and me, a retired Navy Senior Chief, neither boat owner nor fisherman, was keeping a weather eye on the horizon. With choppy seas ahead, the fisherman brought along Dramamine. (We all took it.) Had I brought along any bananas? To the fisherman’s question, I responded none.
luck and bananas
Apparently, sailors should not bring bananas on a voyage if we wanted fishing luck. With eight years at sea in the Navy, the thought crosses my mind, had I “ever” seen bananas in the fresh fruit available on the mess decks? Apples and oranges, I remember, but never bananas. Sailing superstition links bananas to lost ships and cargoes. (I looked it up online.) I heard that overcast days are pretty good days for fishing. Our companion, a passionate fisherman, who knows where he has had success and what signs might mean good fishing, provided me a rod and reel. He also showed me how to properly tie a weight and hooks. The rest was left for me to figure out. Fish are not waiting for the unsuspecting fisherman to drop his line and jump on the hook.
seabirds and dolphins
Nine miles off Pacific Beach at mid-morning, the swells were past tolerable, and the overcast remained. With a couple larger boats in the distance, and seabirds, pelicans and dolphins for company, we found some floating kelp and put down our lines again. We took it for a good sign when the captain caught a seabass and the fisherman brought up a rock cod a little later. We decided against going farther out. (One of us admitted to being queasy.) We put down our lines again off Sunset Cliffs and determined the fish finder was not malfunctioning; it had not detected fish all morning. (The seabirds told us as much as neither tern, gull nor pelican were seen retrieving fish from the water at any point.) Back in the channel leading to Dana Point Landing that afternoon, I snagged two mackerel. No fish were worth keeping.
I learned a few things from our adventure. Overcast days do not suggest good fishing weather. The lack of bananas does not conversely bring good luck. Neither does bringing a large cooler. Dolphins do not mean lots of fish are about. And a bad day fishing is better than a good day working. Twelve hours after suggesting to our wives we’d be fishing “three or four (hours)” we got home. The fisherman is one I admire. He intended to play softball all the next day. I slept for ten straight hours. And might go to bed early tonight. But I have Craigslist and OfferUp dialed in; I’m looking for a rod and reel at the right price.
In 1998 or perhaps 1999, when Commander, US THIRD Fleet, Vice Admiral Herb Brown was embarked on the USS CORONADO (AGF-11) we had the first and only Halloween that the embarked Staff celebrated underway. Or I should clarify, that the enlisted members of the Staff celebrated underway. It might have been a first-ever “trick or treat” that was robustly and enthusiastically celebrated in an underway Navy vessel.
Several of my peers in the Petty Officer First Class Mess had the idea, with us underway to Anchorage during Halloween, to make unfinished compartments in the aft part of the ship a “haunted house”. We had made a port visit to Pearl Harbor earlier in October, where we picked up supplies. My “partner-in-crime”, Storekeeper First Class, aka “SK One” decided that we would add a little to evening by going around-in costume – Trick or Treating – but handing out candy to various members of the Staff and crew. I wore a Frankenstein mask and an old suit bought at a Honolulu thrift store, and my partner, the Grim Reaper (complete with a rubber sickle). The most memorable door we knocked on was the Admiral’s cabin. He was traveling with the ship up to Anchorage and had a family member with him at the time. I think the sight bowled him over with laughter. We bestowed a couple pieces of candy and a toy “Death Star” ornament.
Meanwhile, for members of the crew off-duty we had a great time with our “haunted house” – complete with ghouls, Davy Jones, and a booty chest. Since that part of the ship was still under construction, glo-sticks provided the only light, adding to the spookiness. For days afterward, there was a lot of scuttlebutt going around about who might have dared to go trick or treating the Admiral, the ship’s Commanding Officer, and others aboard. I don’t think we admitted to it, but the Supply Department Head I think figured out SK1 had to be involved. (I was suspected also, as I had made a remark to my Intel officer a week or so earlier.)
Twenty-five years later, and retired eleven years now, each Halloween has become an opportunity to be a little creative, to entertain the neighborhood children and our grandchildren. Tonight was no exception. But that particular Halloween nearly 25 years ago, was memorable, such that it still makes me chuckle when I put up the inflatable Frankenstein yard decoration.
NOTE: While the AGF-11 has been decommissioned and scrapped a long time, the communications call sign for this command and control ship, during my assignment on her, was re-designated “Death Star” in response to a quip by an enlisted member of the crew published in the NAVY TIMES. The CORONADO was a SPAWARS (now NAVWAR) testbed for all sorts of new bleeding-edge technology during my time aboard – and was pretty amazing for a renovated old LPD. As for the gifts we gave out to certain senior officers? During a port visit in Seattle, after the “Death Star” designator made the rounds among the Staff, SK1 and I found a memorabilia store in Pikes Market where we bought several Star Wars “Death Star” ornaments. Oh, that remark I mentioned earlier? “Wasn’t the Death Star, the ship in Star Wars that was blown up…. TWICE?”
It was the tone of the ad on craigslist that caught my wife’s attention. We were looking for a used filing cabinet for our business and personal files.
“Text or call”, the ad said. “I don’t do email”.
It said to contact the seller between “0800 and 2200, that’s between 8 AM and 10PM for you landlubbers”. The number was phonetically spelled to frustrate scammers and telemarketers. The ad continued that the seller did not want payment in anything other than cash. When I read the ad on craigslist, I “knew” this was another old Salt.
In the manner of two old shipmates, though meeting for the first time, it was typical Navy. He challenged, “You got your shots?” (Meaning of course, the COVID vaccine.)
I replied. “Which ones? Hepatitis? Anthrax, Cholera, Typhoid? – I’m a Sailor- had ’em all”
Laughing, he retorts, “No the one that hurts like hell!” The mystical shot with square needle story, I winked knowingly.
His wife gave the two old Salts a smile and went inside the house. “She’s heard it all before”, he chuckled. We swapped stories on the places and ships we had both seen. And that was thirty minutes after we traded greenbacks for the cabinet we put in my SUV. And that is no bull**. (Comments edited for you landlubbers out there.)
Age merely shows what children we remain.Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
I am taking the opportunity to play again. Watching our grandchild once or twice a week, we have taken every opportunity to go to parks to run with and after him. With nice Southern California weather, time to run through the grass, over the little bridges, and then feed ducks at the lake. As Zander gets a little older,. he more boldly climbs up jungle gyms. Sliding down slides, he directs us to follow after or to catch him – over and over again. Sitting on his uncle’s lap he enjoys swinging on swings. But not that high he says. And as “mam-mam” and “pop-pop” get a bit more winded, we suggest going to get a little frozen yogurt and then to “mam-mam’s” house to play. Even though a pandemic year has stolen time from us all, It is unavoidable that both preschoolers and grandparents still have grown older. Yet it is pretty much a given that clambering around a jungle gym and marveling at child’s play, this old Salt feels younger for a little while.
I am dusting off and republishing a few of my oldest efforts blogging. Rough around the edges. Originally published in July, 2009.
My old Senior Chief back in the days before political correctness blanched most of the testosterone from the military, used to introduce himself to his charges, “You have two rights in this world, one, to live, and another, to die. Gentlemen, when you f*** up, I will take one of them away from you!” I was the Petty Officer assigned to escort restricted and brig confinement -bound men at the NTC San Diego Correctional Custody unit, when the Navy Training Center and not an artsy community/ civic center.
It was his responsibility – and by delegation, mine as well, to attempt through proper application of discipline and hard work to turn last-chance misfits – clowns, chronic whiners, and immature boy-sailors into rule-followers, and rehabilitated men. There were of course, two alternatives that several ended finding – discharge at the convenience of the government, or hard time at the Navy Brig – and then discharge.
After those formative days of my youth, I see my responsibility as training young people in my charge, Sailors in my Reserve unit, recent graduate-engineers at work, and especially my sons, to help them develop along the right course. There is a culture in the military that juniors respect the senior enlisted mentors, as this is how the former progress to becoming the latter. In the civilian workforce, particularly in companies which nurture and reward excellence among all employees, there is a lot of the same cameraderie, cross-training, and shared purpose.
As a parent, though, raising boys who were as independent-minded and stubborn as mules, was work! These teens were self-disciplined only to the extent of things which held their interest – guitars, skateboards, and motocross bikes. Perhaps memory of similar behavior in those young men from the Correctional Custody days, urged me to impart some cautionary pearl of wisdom. Often the effect was wrath and counter-accusation, and exasperated red-faces. It would have been so much easier to find “a fan room”. (a Fan Room is a noisy air handling compartment where 2 could a disagreement with a few fists, without a public display). But political correctness has broken down all the means to apply discipline at any age.
Too much is thought of individual liberties, psyches, and others well-being, to the detriment of everyone from classroom pupil, to those helmsmen of a warship or even public transport operators. Policy which prohibits certain behavior (texting on cell phones while operating a train) is only effective when the individual has ingrained self-discipline.
Seems it never rains in southern California Seems I've often heard that kind of talk before It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya? It pours, man, it pours
I think the rain we have been seeing from multiple storms since the Governor of California required our state to deal with catastrophic drought, at the beginning of 2019, is part of a secret conspiracy to ship the melting polar caps- Arctic and Antarctic to California. While I do not believe in secret Governments, a vast global conspiracy to fool people about a pandemic, or the right-wing movement to control women’s uteruses, I am beginning to suspect that all the rain we have been getting is meant to shove the illegal succulent trade in Southern California back across the Arizona border.
At least, the rain is giving a big boost to my fruiting stone-fruit trees: Apricots, peaches and nectarines. And all the other ornamental bushes are flowering. This is also a treat for my roses. But “April showers bring May flowers” was never a rhyme we knew in California before now.
I am dusting off and republishing a few of my oldest efforts blogging. Rough around the edges. Originally published in July, 2009, on my then first blog site “White Male Born Forty” It feels like it was a thousand years ago.
It is unusual for me to admit that I may use technology, but do not necessarily embrace it. While I make my living at a technology company, I do not embrace every nuance, gadget, or appliance that others find indispensable. I have no interest in the Ipod. I don’t need a special ring-tone for individual callers. It is amusing, but not a necessity, that I have the latest cell phone, Kindle, or detail my every move tweeting away on Twitter.
Several years ago a friend at church introduced me to a novel web mail site, Gmail, where I could absolutely ignore the routine preoccupation with overflowing my storage capacity or even whether I could find a particular email in all that space. In the 12 years since I first used email and particularly web mail, this has become an indispensable tool for me. Daily I am reminded why I am proficient with email — some engineer or supervisor may ask me about an event that I was in some manner responsible a year or two prior — and I can influence the outcome of that conversation by producing an archived copy of an email showing he is off the hook!
But I have drawn the line! First, I was intrigued by a site offering an opportunity to find and swap sea stories with shipmates. In thirty years around or in the Navy, there have been a lot of folks I would like to have a chance to thank, call out, or just laugh together at how gray and fat we have become. But then it started to flood in — “Join me on MySpace”, “Check out old friends and family ties on Genealogy.com”, “Be recommended to other professionals on LinkedIn”, “MSN”, Navy instant messaging, business chatrooms, political websites and a constant barrage of instant messaging and recommended websites to my Blackberry and my computer. Even the TV – via the cable programming – offers two -way, instant, specialized content at the push of a button.
But what the heck is “Twitter”! and why would anyone care! I really have gone from being occasionally curious about that old friend who still owes me a drink or two from that bar six thousand miles and fifteen years ago, to a little irritated by the invasion of the peddlers who insist that my love life could be improved – as a result of my using the term “love bratwurst” in the search engine last week! Have you ever tried to delete the unwanted spam in your email, or railed against the indignity of the monthly charge from some obscure “entertainment” site simply because you ordered tickets to “sponge-Bob meet pimp-my-ride” show online?
I often am accused of behaving and thinking – and thus the origin of my blog’s name – as a White Male who was born an inflexible, stuck-in-my-ways, 40 year old. Hey I know plenty of people who begin sentences with ” when I put the record on the turntable”, or “would you believe we used to call our friends from pay phones?” It seems now strange that once, “social networking” was hooking up at the drive-in on Friday nights! Just as I am convinced that you can adapt at any stage of life to perform more efficiently with a technology aid – I am equally convinced that the society degrades to a little with each new technology introduced.
If we only had the technology dreamed up in the Matrix! Plug that big cable into my head and fill me up with all the information so I can jump across high-rise buildings or drive a SPECWAR combat chopper, or speak Mandarin. But you know, the part the movie didn’t show is that all that body morphing and plugging in – you couldn’t find privacy in a toilet. Everybody was connected to one giant theater.
So today, I have a brief encounter with social networking, but prefer the good, old-fashioned, 10-second chit-chat at my favorite donut shop when I start my commute to work, ” how’s the apple fritters today?” “isn’t it great that so many folks start their day with a cup of your coffee”. The day they offer me the ability to pre-order my sugar-fix on Twitter, is the day I wrap my head in aluminum foil and move to that spot in the desert 3 or 4 miles off the paved road, where the folks still complain about the neighbors when the nearest is a half-mile away. Wait a minute! Let me get on Facebook to update my status! Otherwise I might become a technophobe!
In the late 1970s, a British radio program, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced me to brilliant satire, a science fiction story, and more of the British wit I already enjoyed in another British show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A book (Douglas Adams), television and a 2005 movie popularized the story for fans.
For those who are not fans, the story introduces us to Arthur Dent, an ordinary English guy, completely lacking in self-confidence, who finds one morning that his home is scheduled for demolition by the local government planning commission – to put a highway where it sat. He commiserates with a friend, Ford Prefect, who it turns out is an extraterrestrial who has come to rescue him. Apparently some galactic planning commission intends to destroy the Earth that day, to put through some highway of its own.
The story involves several humorous jabs at bureaucracy, technology, space travel, romance, and political incompetents. At one point, the plot story describes that some galactic beings – in the form of common mice – commissioned a computer to answer the question, “what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?”. The answer, “42” confuses them, so they seek a second computer to find the specific question that “42” satisfies. Before they could get a satisfactory answer, the computer – Earth – was destroyed for that highway mentioned earlier. At the end of the story, everything is made right again with a newly-assembled planet Earth, but the mice-beings and their quest for the eternal answer are thwarted by Arthur.
Sometimes I think that the eternal answer to the meaning of Life will continue to elude most people. For the rest? Love your neighbor, enjoy the time you have, and most importantly, do not misplace your towel.
As I get older, I wonder what has become of my military-physique – the early one, not the rounder one of my last year – and what became of the ‘forego the mission, clean the position!” fanatical routine with cleanliness. Not that I don’t love the smell of PINESOL in the morning, but leaving the house all day with two big hair-shedding dogs results in a truce between the advance of dirt and actual boot-camp standards of clean.
Attitudes that once were socially and fiscally conservative, I generally vote in every election, hold ‘personal responsibility’ in high esteem — welfare is for the most-desperate and least able to work, and believe military service is beneficial to everyone between 18 and 50 years old. Now, I hold fast to my church family, my spouse, and keep my personal values fairly close to the chest — outside the street I live on. Fortunately, I have neighbors who were also military or police, and are now retired. A neighbor on a street where I walk the dogs has a “DON’T TREAD ON ME” flag above his door. Another proudly has a TRUMP sign. Both have pickup trucks with Marine and Army stickers on the former. Then again, I wear “VFW Life Member” and Navy Chief t-shirts to work. But I am mellowed with aging.
I have YOSEMITE, bicycling, and Grand Canyon hiking stickers on my car, a VFW license frame and a Nature Conservancy brochure on my car seat – I contribute to purchasing wildland around San Diego to preserve it. What happened to the guy who owned firearms, enjoyed target plinking, and was a fan of talk radio? Gone.
I need to get out of California. I’m starting to love it here.
Saturday was a fine day to relax. Some weekends relaxing mean an early-morning hike with my friends and the dogs. The dogs and I were a little out of sorts yesterday – I think they count the days between weekends knowing that Saturdays are the hiking day. But we had an appointment that morning so the hike was scratched rather than rushing through the park.
On other weekends, I try to straighten out my garage, or work on a list of projects, painting, putting up pictures, and sweeping the patio. With dogs, dog hair is everywhere, and in Southern California, dust coats everything so I HAVE to sweep every weekend. I’ve considered buying a leaf blower to deal with this. As I look at the bushes and trees, I start thinking I should buy a power trimmer or hire some professionals to get my trees and bushes cleaned up.
Sometimes I channel wood-working and gardening ambitions to build stuff for the yard. Last Fall it was a new gate; the one it replaced was a decayed bit of fencing that I had for several months propped up with rebar, baling wire and metal posts. For months I’ve kept the old wood in a back corner of the yard for a future project.
Last weekend I worked in the front yard. Rock roses, and tea tree, and bark made this area more ‘finished’. I knew it was pleasing with all the new color when my wife joined me for a late-afternoon iced tea and magazine time on the front patio.
This weekend I built a raised bed frame for vegetables – a pee-free zone. I had marked off an area to create a vegetable and herb garden last year, But it became a playland for the dogs. I now have to get the soil, mulch and plants potted which is next week’s goal. My next project – or somewhere on the top five in my list – a dog run, will take the place of the chicken wire. It has nonetheless been effective- fruit trees, bushes and some succulents have a renewed lease on life now. But we are getting near that time of year to have friends over, so the wire has to go (soon).
The best part of these projects is the work with power tools, wood and planning and seeing my ideas take shape. At other times, with sinks backing up, cable TV losing picture, or one of the cars develops a glowing idiot lamp, I know it will take more effort to solve. Those things are not horribly difficult – I work with troubleshooting electronics all week long – but are particularly irritating when they occur late on a Sunday afternoon.
Fortunately, my meter tells me the car trouble is an easy fix. The sink clog was vanquished by a determine wife with Clorox, hot water and a plunger. The dogs are going amok — but not on the plants; it sounds like coyotes are hunting in the vicinity. Maybe they are coming to check out my garden. Perhaps they will eat a few gophers – we have plenty to share with the local predators.
I need to savor the moments I get to relax. Tomorrow, my work commute comes early And even a little dog-pee won’t make the commute nor my job any easier.
According to highly disreputable sources, Vladimir Putin, erstwhile KGB spymaster, first thought about becoming President of Russia when he met Ronald Reagan. A fan of the Gipper’s Western movie classics, he modeled his rise to power in the same fashion. RR lead the Screen Actors Guild as President twice; VP lead the Russian Federation twice as President – and as Premier, in the intervening years. President Reagan lead California; VP lead the KGB which employed as many spies and “apparatchiks” as the California bureaucracy. And in his travels, he was photographed on horseback, gifted with a cowboy hat, and met with influential people. And met also with politicians in America.
|Vladimir Putin (“fan”). at left (1988)
I hope this Western will play well to audiences. WIth all the outlaws, cheats and desperados in the world, we need them out of our local, state and Federal Government. Given the chance, Donald Trump may yet prove to be the Fastest Gun in the West.
AUTHOR’s NOTE: a good script is revised often before the movie is produced; sometimes the author and sometimes the audience wants to re-do a scene or even the entire film. I have to admit that this re-release is improved.