December 28, 2009

Dirty little secret of 'government' health care.

It is pretty simple really.
Outside of capital investment such as a CT Scanner or a huge lab, the item which in almost all cases the LARGEST cost of ANY business is always wages/labor.

America has offshored almost all of its manufacturing capability since the end of World War Two.
Manufacturing was the holy grail of working class wages, driven by  "organized" labor and rising standards of living brought on by these decent (if mundane and boring), jobs. Factory labor was often the PRIMARY source of tax revenue, and municipal income.

Then the sharp pencil kids figured out that Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians and others would do the same job for three or four CENTS on the dollar that American labor was charging. A 'new day' in profiteering was begun.

As people began to complain about losing family incomes... another voice was heard from.

Enter stage left those that while reaping the benefits of the increase of dividends on the bottom line made public pronouncements of how WE somehow 'owed' it to these people to raise THEIR standard of living. These same people that were crying in other countries milk neglected to mention that vast numbers of Americans would lose the only decent paying job that their families had EVER had.

Time passes. People adjust. Some retire or are RETIRED forcibly. Some die from Lung Cancer, Silicosis, other things brought on either by the job or by the lifestyle made possible by these jobs and simple human cussedness.

A new generation arrives. Jobs are FOUND for them, specially those with the wherewithal or gumption to morph thru the government training systems and come out degree or certificate in hand.

The new holy grail of American labor? Wait for it..... HEALTHCARE.

NOW in order for the stage left folks to consolodate POWER wich is the ONLY goal of politics a huge RUSHED push is made to get 'universal healthcare' IMPOSED, even though a quick read of all the plans SHOWS that it won't be "universal".

So... back to point 'a'... the LARGEST cost of ANY business, and make NO MISTAKE about it 'heath care' IS a BUSINESS is always wages/labor.

All those kids that went into the medical arena are about to be factory workers, EXCEPT instead of the jobs going AWAY they will be DRAFTED at some lower form of compensation, whether it is simply fewer of the 'gravy' billings that everyone has gotten used to OR some form of government IMPOSED fee structure.

The fat cats will never lose a dime but the nurses, the radiologists, the clerks and the maintenance people will see a drop in the standard of living BEYOND that their parents did.

And this time???? where will THEIR kids go for work.

December 18, 2009

My first experience with the shortfalls of academia.

My first experience with the shortfalls of academia.

It was May 5, 1961 and I was in elementary school.
Alan Sheppard sat atop a Redstone Rocket in what was then Cape Canaveral, Florida. I was in Port Orange a scant 35-40 miles down the Intracoastal Waterway, a block or two from the water.

In years to come I stood on my dock and watched the Double , then Triple manned test ships lift from the Cape, often able to hear and feel the roar. I saw every Moon shot from that dock and listened to Uncle Walter telling us about the brave new future.

Back to that morning in 1961, the powers that be had  jammed about 160 of us into the auditorium to look at a grainy, black and white picture on what had to have been a nineteen inch teevee.

When the view was far better in the real world outside.

Things have not improved much in academia.

December 10, 2009

Ghosts of eBay.

In about 1963-4 we went back to Colorado to get Grandads, (Dad's Dad), old Dodge. We took it home to Florida when he moved in with my Uncle in N. Carolina.
Moms Mother had a 1961 Chrysler too with the big fins on the back. she drove along with us.
About two months ago I got this postcard off of eBay for a couple of bucks of the little motel right up near the house.
The more I looked at it the more it nagged me till I blew it up.
The FIRST NIGHT we were home, for reasons I no longer remember, after going back to get the car, we stayed at that hotel...
This was shot early in the morning!
what are the ODDS?!?!?!

December 1, 2009

When morning comes.

November 26, 2009
Today begins the second year without a family of any kind.
Oh Mom actually died the thirtieth, just her and I here alone.
In spite of all of the Hospice, and the former long-time hospice nurse, Renda that used us to ego-up,... assurances that it wouldn't happen that way.

But it is today, by my choice, that I choose to begin the second year.
It was Thanksgiving afternoon that I decided to put that hospice bird in,
For something to keep busy with as much as anything,
and almost the last time Mom spoke to me.

She came back from where she was going... to visit here,
looked up at me from the hospital bed in the living room and said, "what's going on?"
I had already had to explain to her three times that she was dying,
And I just didn't have it in me to do again so I said "I'm cooking a Turkey".

"What the hell for?" was her reply.
"It was thawed out and not enough room in the freezer for it"
Was my answer, and she was gone again.
I finished cooking that day, stayed awake for two more,... deathwatch alone.

The last thing she said to me hours before she died was,
"I'm so worried about leaving you here alone",  she'd been assured I wouldn't be…
When she was bright-eyed, sitting at her craft bench working and asked directly.
By someone who made now admits proudly she made no effort at all to do so.

Mom kept the blood pumping, the breath going till
It was no longer my birthday, did not leave me with that,
as well as the assertion that according to Renda I wasn't worth any effort in ANY way, from someone so selfish as to come into our lives, then denigrate them and leave BOTH of us hanging knowing full well what they were from the start, simply to feel good about her own.

Friends tell me not to dwell on this, and most times I do not,
But as I told the woman who spent ten years with me recently, NO ONE is more amazed that I survived all this relatively intact than am I, and no one could have anticipated such interweaving.

I did my job, I completed my mission, I did not shirk.
Mom was terrified for me at the end and even though it added to my burden I  lied and told her "It's OK, I've met somebody…"
Once again, two years on, when morning comes I will be alone.

Now... if I bring this up I am scorned by the perpetrator as interfering
with her LATEST happiness and threatened with legal action for telling the truth.
Shunned by that sorority of women that caused John Updike to state
“How do you write women so well? I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.”

There have been others here since, for I'm not shy, or terribly ugly,
But the thought that someone would do that to another in that kind of stress simply to make themselves feel good about themselves, released by $3500 in job bonuses...
That would give a stone pause, in pursuit of companionship.

Night after night the dog and I watch Law & Order on teevee,
Monster after monster paraded to 'justice',... almost universally male.
Because advertisers know that women hold the purse strings
For the soap and sneaker culture that teevee runs on.

But often now I wonder, having run off all applicants
Who makes the monsters?
Who breaks the men?
And perhaps John Updike was understating the situation.

October 15, 2009

Bad Bob and the St. Augustine barmaid.

We started in the City of Ormond Beach on a bright beautiful June day headed for Pasadena California, with a load of common concrete blocks and some household goods.
There was no leaving the blocks, the owners Mother was adamant. "Those belong to Dick, and I mean to see he gets them".

Dicks' brother was named Bob.
Bob was going to be doing most of the driving, I was along to make sure he got there.
Now Bob had a problem that now would certainly have some sort of warm and fuzzy title, but then was known by those who loved him and those who didn't as 'a case of the asshole'.
You could put Bob in a closed locked room (and often we wanted to), with five people and in an hour three of them would want to shoot him and the other two would be demanding a rope. Bob's problems had to do, accidentally, with alcohol, but only accidentally...

He'd 'accidentally' get drunk and start some shit somewhere.
We'd long ago decided that with him it wasn't the booze, the booze just let the 'inner Bob' out.

So why did I get in a U-haul truck with the guy for a cross continental trip? Well, suffice to say that at that period of my life one of the reasons that Bob and I ran together was that it made me look nearly normal, and the word around town was that, for me..., RIGHT NOW, a vacation was a good idea.

This was about 1973, a year or so before this the wonderful Paul Newman movie "THE LIFE & TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN" had come out and a bunch of us had gone to see it. Bob had not been among us which was unfortunate for him. Had he been there I am sure that his brother Dick would never have uttered "that is how my brother will end up" at the demise of Stacey Keech as"Original Bad Bob the Albino".

There was a wonderful line in the movie when one of the grizzled types runs up to Newman as Judge Roy Bean and says [after Bean shoots Bad Bob in the back] "You call that sportin'? It weren't a real standup fight."
Judge Roy Bean: "Standup? I laid down to steady my aim."

Dicks' brother Bob forever became 'Bad Bob' or 'Ormond Bad Bob' that night.

So as I said, we started out from Ormond Beach on the coast of central Florida, headed for Pasadena/L.A. California with these household goods and this load of about a hundred concrete blocks. this was about the time of the first big Medfly scare, and every scale and weight station we tried to pass would send a trooper out to run us down, lights and siren going.

Since I had done my best to talk "Ma" out of sending these concrete blocks to Dick they got loaded last and every inspection officer that opened the roll up door would be faced with a respectable sized concrete wall. It made the truck handle oddly too.

Most officers would look at Bob, then me, then the wall and either laugh (I had the story down pat after the second stop), or start up in there and clamber around peering in boxes, digging around in trunks, just positive that SOMETHING must be going on.

Of course there wasn't. There might have been some recreational goods in the cab of the truck but they never looked there.

We learned that if we'd take the off ramp at the scales and stations they's just look disgusted and wave us through, but EVERY time we didn't we got ran down and searched.

I should have gotten on a greyhound and come back to take my lumps the first day. We left bright and early, but we only made about a hundred miles.

Just outside of Saint Augustine the right dually pair on the back threw a shoe. We limped it into civilization and called U-Haul and they asked us to bring it another three miles in to town. Saint Augustine may be the oldest town in the country, but in 1973 it was also one of the smallest.

Blessing or curse; I still don't know but the U-Haul was only a block from the 'old town' tourist area and when we got there it was lunch time. "New place right across from the Castillo that supposed to be pretty good!" the kid working on the truck told us, "Called the Mill Top" he offered.

Between the truck depot and the Mill top there were four or five other interesting looking places, three nice, clean newish looking respectable hotel/apartment style establishments and two dives that looked like they'd been there since the local language was Spanish, and in St. Augustine you just could never be sure.

We of course being young discerning types went for the dives. "We'll just have one each and then get lunch" we asserted. In the first one the barmaid tending bar was a knockout, drop dead brunette that Bob instantly fell in lust with.
"Damnit Bob, how many times to I have to tell you that women work DAYS in a place like this because they are entangled with some guy, not so you can pick them up!" I tried, unsuccessfully, to ward off disaster.

"Ah. Bullshit! You just don't know anything about wimmen", stroked Bad Bob.

She ended up slapping him, which surprised Bob, me,... her... and half the bar which was now getting filled up with the afternoon crowd. He really hadn't done anything to warrant it, he was just too cocky and persistent.

I imagine if you'd asked her later what had caused her to do it she'd have said 'I dunno... he was just an asshole!'.

After a cool down period in the next dark seedy three hundred year old bar, we went to the Mill Top, had a sandwich a couple of beers,

and headed back to the truck. New tires all around like a NASCAR pit crew, and away we went.

End part one...

Bad Bob and the bed biters.

When last we saw our hero, Ormond Bad Bob, we were leaving St. Augustine Florida in the afternoon headed for Pasadena California with a six wheel dually U-Haul truck loaded with household goods and plain old concrete blocks.
The concrete blocks had been his brothers college  bookshelves and his Mother was adamant that she was going to see that Dick (bad Bob's brother) was going to get them.

After an adventure with a blown tire, a incensed barmaid and a great lunch in a place I eventually felt was my second home in St. Augustine we got on the road.
This was 1973, not long after the original oil scare OPEC engineered gas shortage.
All of U-Hauls trucks had been fitted with governors to make sure that the gas that the renters was buying wasn't wasted. In June of 1973 I went from coast to  coast at 58 miles an hour.

There was also my travelling companion to consider.

I once saw Bob, aka 'Bad Bob', aka 'Ormond Bad Bob', cause an entire John Wayne style bar fight in Daytona Beach by lighting a stick of incense, but that is another story.. the guy wasn't "bad" in the modern sense as much as he was bad AT, so many forms of human interaction, and a few drinks did NOT help the situation.

So. Booming along with just over a ton of concrete blocks by the roll up door and after the forward load of shirts, small furniture, household goods destined for
Pasadena California we finally got moving, at, wait for it 58 miles an hour.
The first day we covered, after flat tire, about three hundred miles. We'd probably have pushed on through the night except for two things, one, we were headed for Bob's brother Dicks' house in New Orleans and didn't think it wise to roll in there at four in the morning, and two during our wait and after at dinner, we had had a bit to drink.

So we stopped in Monticello Florida. Remember now that this was 1973, the Eisenhower interstate System was in the last gasps of being completed.
We had been on and off I-10 several times in our journey already with more to come.

The last 'off' leg we ran down old US #90 for what seemed forever in the dark with not even farmhouse lights showing, until we came into Monticello.
"Jeez, I'm beat!" says Bob, "me too, lets hold up someplace for the night" was my reply, just as we started OUT the far side of Monticello and BOOM right at that moment a Mom & Pop motel appeared.
I've blocked out the name over the years, but it looked NEW, in the dark..., from the truck...

Ever shower with Sulfur water? Ever meet a REAL bedbug? Ever have to pay cash in small bills for a hotel room in the USA?

It was a long night.

About two AM I took the mattress off the bed, stood it against the wall, sprayed the box springs with my can of deodorant more for the sanitizing effect against moving things than smell and finally got a couple hours of sleep.

I had been looking forward to this trip for a couple of reasons, one I'd never been to California before, and two seeing Bob make an ass of himself in town I could only imagine that like a car wreck I'd not be able to look away on the road.

He slept through the entire night without moving. 

I scratched, squirmed, sat on the floor where I got to watch the roaches, and finally, like I say, I got a couple hours of sleep on the box springs.

Daylight came and I shook Bob awake. "c'mon, lets get an early start and make up some time!" I said, "mmluph,,, gorph,.. uh. "OK, I guess so" was the reply I got.

Breakfast was back on the interstate at a brand New SAMBO's soon to have it's own problems, me reeking of sulfur, Bad Bob calling me a pussy for scratching away, and by about ten in the morning we were finally out of the state, in Alabama, headed for New Orleans.

Bad Bob lost on the Mississippi Delta

When last we saw our hero, Ormond Bad Bob, (and if you haven't seen parts one or two, click on the link or this won't make much sense...), we were leaving Monticello, Florida June 1973 in the afternoon headed for Pasadena California with a six wheel dually U-Haul truck loaded with household goods and plain old concrete blocks.

After almost sleepless night in Monticello we finally cracked the Alabama Florida border on the second day of our trip. Bob had some personality problems. the last woman I'd known him to date had once told me, 'it's not like he's really a BAD guy in spite of that handle that his brother hung on him, it's just that when he's NOT being an asshole it's like there isn't anybody there'. I could relate at that time in my life.

Alabama, between Florida ands Mississippi it a tiny spit of land, gerrymandered between the state to give Big Cotton in Alabama a port that couldn't be taxed in the 1800's. I have driven across it on the same road in under an hour many many times.
We managed to spend half the day there.

"OOOOOWWW!!! there is the BEST Army-Navy store here!!!", cried Bob as we left the Florida border behind, and so there was, family run, covering acres of ground not far from where turn off to the battleship Alabama is.
We walked and dug in that place for at least a couple hours, ended up spending almost nothing, (I was going to a new life in California after all!), and got back in the truck headed for a night in New Orleans.

Mississippi is kind of a blur, I know it's not from speed because the U-Haul had a governor on it that allows a maximum of 58 miles an hour. I was deeply happy though when we got into Louisiana though, till we stopped for gas.

I'm not sure if it is still the case but in 1973 you could buy a pint of hard liquor in almost any convenience store or food selling gas station we saw along the I-10 route we were taking.

This really wasn't a good thing.

Bob didn't have a drinking problem so much as an asshole problem, in that, after just a couple of snorts he'd scream "GETTING' FEISTY" and begin to do things like give the middle finger salute to fellow drivers.
Beer wasn't so bad, he could stand oh, six or eight beers before losing his higher (as in survival) instincts, but hard liquor, well...

Bob came back from the gas stop we'd pulled the truck into with a couple of hot oyster 'po'boys' sandwiches and a big paper grocery bag. when he put the bag on the floor and I looked inside all I could say was "OH *SHIT* BOB!" for there were two half pint bottles, one Tequila, the other Scotch, a pretty ratty looking lemon, a handful of salt packets an pair of cups and a banana.

To this day I have no idea what the banana was for, though I suspect he didn't want to 'look like a drunk'.
I'd seen him buy canned dogfood once for a similar reason, then we had to find somebody who had a dog.

"That is IT" I told him.. if you are into this shit I'm drivin'.

"You want to get out here?" he asked? "If I do you better make sure I don't have phone money!" I pushed back.

"OK, OK.. you can drive, I'll just sit over there and get shitfaced."  So we swapped.

Back on the road. An hour, one oyster sandwich, and a half a half point of tequila and a half half point of cheap scotch, because the  tequila "tasted off"  later and it's, "GETTING' FEISTY" and glaring at the other vehicles.

At 58 miles an hour you don't spend too much time on the inside lane, so he wasn't as bad as if he'd been on the drivers side. At some point in pretext of wanting a drink I'd gotten hold of both bottles and tightly capped dropped them behind the seat so at least he wouldn't get any worse, but he wouldn't pass out either. That was, I guess now looking back at it, a good thing.

I was concerned about him passing out because he was the only one to know where we were going and now we were coming off the long, long bridge into New Orleans. Dick, aka BIG Dick from my time working in the amusement park, Lived out on the delta a ways from the city proper and Bob had steadfastly refused to either give me his address or phone number "Dick is very funny about that you know he's had ex-wife trouble".. I'd tried everything, starting with roaring at him "you fucking ASSHOLE I KNEW HIM BEFORE I KNEW YOU!" and "SHIT I'VE HAD EX-WIFE TROUBLE AND NEVER BEEN MARRIED! GIVE ME THE FUCKING ADDRESS!".

But to no avail.

So now we were cruising down the interstate just past lake Pontchartrain and Bob is peering at the map as it was getting dark, and muttering "but it's right off the interstate!"

Suddenly he looks up and sees a exit sign and scream "GO THERE!" and off we go onto I-310 or it's 1973 equivalent.

Inside of a mile or two we are on a two lane city, then country road. "Lets just stop and call Dick and get directions I said for the first of what must of have been twenty times that night.

Finally at about eleven PM we found a truck stop open, Bob having sobered up from sheer anxiety I think, and he called his MOTHER back in Florida to get Dicks phone number. Dutiful brother that he was came and got baby brother (If you hadn't been with him I'd have taken longer Lloyd), and with me driving we retraced our course to three exits BEFORE the emergency 'turn here', and so to bed.

Morning came early, Dick has reenlisted in the navy and has a late watch that day so he could sit and visit with us while wife number three (I truly can't summon her name), fidgeted around with the teevee and coffee pot.

"Dick were are we going to put these concrete blocks?" I asked. "Whaddya mean?" Dick replied.

"Your Mother INSISTED we deliver these to you!" I says as I open the roll up door and show him the wall in the back of the truck. "If not for these we could have brought everything in my van", I tell him.

A long, long silence ensues.

"Wellllllll...." Dick says, I can't take them, for Chirstsake I'm going out to sea next month and (insert wifes' name here) is moving back in with her parents into an apartment." "I guess you better just take them on to Mom and see what she wants to do with them."

"Now just a god-damned minute here", I screamed, "this fucking truck might, just MIGHT get up above 58 miles an hour without this load of stupidity!"

Big smile, "yeah... I know" and Dick is walking into the house.

End of part three.

October 13, 2009

It was fifty years ago today.
The folks said 'I do' in Phoenix
after having trouble finding
a magistrate on a holiday.

They stayed married till
his death in 1982,
thirty-three years together,
always loving each other,

Four years along they
decided to do something
they didn't have to,
they decided to love me.

but this is about them,
both long gone now,
the two finest people
I have ever known.

September 23, 2009

When Freddy let me drive.

When Freddy let me drive.
Ever do sixty miles an hour 18 inches above the water?

My godfather and my folks next door neighbor was a man named Fred who had grown up on the Niagara River in New York State.
To hear Fred tell it his father had destroyed at least the first, if not first several (it could get a little vague), old boats he'd managed to acquire as a boy, as being unsafe, and he would have no son of his going over the falls!
By the time I met him, Fred had grown and matured into a 6'3 roundfaced crewcut man who was the kindest human being I ever knew.
Funny, strong, smart, he became my surrogate Father while my Dad worked overseas.
We lived on one of the deeper estuaries of the Halifax River, Indian Lagoon system that drained and filled twice daily though Ponce Inlet between Daytona and New Symrna Beach Florida.

Fred went through a number of boats before buying his pride and joy, the earlier boats were not extraordinary.. a few outboards, a medium sized day cruiser..
Ah but about 1963 somewhere he found what in it's early day had been a Captains gig on some smaller naval craft.
A HIGGINS BOAT. This wonderful old wooden craft had been kept up pretty well or Fred would never have touched her, she got a new coat of top quality varnish a classic rubbing with aluminum foil where needed and a complete carb rebuild and inspection.

Fred was chief mechanic at Volusia Aviation for many years, working there the day the stroke came on him a few months before retirement...

And he had a goal. He wanted to own a boat that would do sixty miles an hour over the water.
For those of you who aren't wet inclined your average ski boat might, wide open make thirty, or thirty-five miles an hour.

This was cooking.

All was well till he bought the 'offy' carbs. OFFENHAUSER carburetors were THE thing in the Grand Prix racing circuit in the mid to late sixties, and how he got them shoe-horned on this inboard I'll never know but they worked.

They worked rather wonderfully. The GOAL was in sight! Most of the running was done over the measured mile that Fred had mapped out in the Intracoastal Waterway channel about three miles from our houses.

Where I came in, outside of grabbing every 'check ride' I could get by hanging around out at the dock any time I heard a tool clank next door, was that these carbs weren't really designed for a boat, the hammering and banging of the hull at speed made the carbs go out of adjustment.

So I got to drive.

Imagine a 8-10 year old boy, growing up close to the newest, largest race track in the country getting to pilot a craft on the water well in excess of fifty miles an hour.


In later years I realized that there were times he was simply messing with me.

When Freddy Let Me Drive
Part II

(Coast of Florida, 1963-65ish, near Ponce Inlet)

My godfather, a man named Fred, had purchased a former captains gig, an 18 foot long WWII vintage Higgins inboard speedboat. Inboards were not common or favored on the east coast of central Florida in the sixties, outboards having the ability to be beaten over oyster and sand bars and continue to operate.
Inboard rigs usually have a single shaft per engine coming through the bottom of the hull and up into what is essentially a auto style engine inside the boat. They don't take kindly to beating.

Fred's goal was to achieve sixty miles per hour on the water in a craft he owned. To make this a reality he'd purchased a set of OFFENHAUSER racing carburetors for this boat.

I was the next door neighbor kid, eight or ten years old.

The new carbs on the boat, all I ever remember him calling her was "the HIGGINS", were not made for beating at speed over rough terrain or intracoastal waterway chop. They would produce amazing bursts of power, and then go out of adjustment. Fred was a big guy but he couldn't be in two places at once, someone holding the wheel was needed when you'd get that sort of engine surge.

So I became the pilot.

As I said at the end of part one of this little story there were times he was simply messing with me.
We'd be beating down the Intracoastal at over fifty miles an hour, him in the back fiddling with the jets on the carbs and without any warning whatsoever the power would just cease.
The Higgins was a tight, sweet little craft, and in years to come I realized that she'd probably have walked a stern wave her length without broaching, but I was eight years old...

A boat that is going that fast is cutting through an amazing amount of water, that's why you get wakes that 'V' away from the boat.
As all readers who have messed about in boats know when you chop the power several things happen.

One, all the water you've been pushing through says 'AH HA!' and rushes for the stern..
Two, the stern (hopefully) rises, the bow comes down off plane, and the boat settles into the water.

My swimming abilities were of the 'oh shit' and try to claw back to the dock category.

The first time we were beating down the line at about fifty plus in this thing, me with an eight year old death grip on the wheel, and the power chopped I knew what it meant to see your life pass before your eyes.

To start with there were more power losses than I now think were likely.
I think Fred was teaching me how to handle a boat and a powerful one at that.

The day would go like that, me at the wheel Fred in the back, up and down his measured mile, a few houses to the east of us, but otherwise nothing but the river, the sun, mangroves, and each other.

At the end of the afternoon he'd take the wheel, we'd go out almost to the inlet at twenty five or thirty which was damned fast as is, and as he'd come back towards Mill Creek and the run.
He'd line her up and as we passed his mark he'd firewall the throttle. The old boat would come up to where I doubt there was much beyond a foot of it touching the water at any given time, and run in a roar that sounded like an airboat with a bad cold.
The stopwatch told the tale, we would get SO close.. easing her back down onto plane Fred'd say, "well that was pretty damn good", and grin.

I often see people now who have such trouble bringing boats into trailers on ramps and smile to hear the best advice Fred ever gave me..

"It's all sailing" he'd say. "If it's wind sailing the power is on top and there are different rules, if it's power sailing the power is on the bottom but the boat handles the same."
"Move the hull through the water, don't try to move the water around the hull."

The funny thing is that I'm not sure we ever made the run he was after.
In addition to the JFK murder, my closest friend in those days, a cousin a half dozen years older than me killed himself and three others in a Chevy Corvair he'd only had a few weeks, trying to move a Oak tree at close to a hundred miles an hour.

Things go out of focus for awhile there.

Fred lived until 1982, was the man who explained women to me, (best as any man can to another), and his wife, the Lady Caroline still lives in that area, and is a dear dear friend.
[Sadly she passed away in 2006].

My favorite memory of Fred is a funny little moment.
He used to buy, then repair, and paint older cars in his garage so often the tools would be spread from the dock to the attached garage on the street.
I shagged a lot of tools as a kid. I learned the difference between a half inch and seven sixteenths socket by footsore experience and it taught me much.
One day though, Fred who was a great believer in MARVEL Mystery Oil, sent me to the shop for his oilcan, the kind that had a lever pump built onto it. "And DON'T squirt it on the way back!" says he.
Opening my mouth he gave me a look I remember to this day and said quietly, "I SAW you last time.".

Move the hull through the water, not the water around the boat.


September 17, 2009

"Goodnight and Good Luck", a bookman reviews.

Sitting alone in the darkness of my living room but for a cat, Digital Video Disc spinning silently in the player as black and white images of honesty and power walked across the screen, I was taken back to my boyhood.

I sat on Sunday afternoons on the carpet of the old homeplace at my Dad's feet while he watched See It Now or Person to Person with a far too skinny, cigarette smoking Edward R. Murrow discussing things that my Dad sometimes disagreed with.

I was barely a year old though when Murrow did his famous program on Joe McCarthy, and the Old Man would cut him quite a bit of slack for sticking it to 'Tailgunner Joe'.

Back to my living room. Nearby is a place that sells DVD's for a couple bucks each and recently I picked up Goodnight and Good Luck to bring home and watch. The few people that I know that would sit through what even Director George Clooney called a "talking head" movie are hundreds of miles away, so the cat and I watch alone.

WELL DONE, and artfully produced, Goodnight and Good Luck chooses to recount in some detail the WORK, if not life of Edward R. Murrow as he came to the realization that someone had to speak up for the victims of McCarthy's American Pogrom against anyone who either had no power or opposed him. Murrow, and it is important to understand this, was the Walter Cronkite of his day. People TRUSTED him, not least because he had actually gone on RAF bombing flights during World War Two when those bombers were shot out of the sky with sickening regularity by the Nazi's.

I recommend Goodnight and Good Luck, highly, it like AMC's MAD MEN is a slice of Americana long gone, and one to be seen for far better reasons.
It will leave you moved if you have a brain, stunned if you have a heart and enlightened if you have no idea what all this is about.

September 14, 2009

A memoir of another time, another place, another 4th of July, and another level of parenting.

A memoir of another time, another place, another 4th of July, and another level of parenting.

I've been thinking a lot about my folks lately.
I refer to them the same way that Dad referred to his,... "the folks".
Invited this week to a Fourth of July party Saturday I remembered one 4th when I was a younger fool than I am now.
I had gone three or four miles up the road to the tiny town of Port Orange to watch the fireworks over the Halifax River. I was about eleven.

The Folks had the next door neighbors over for drinks and dinner, stayed up late, indulging in far more of the former than latter.
Now lest anyone start with judgmental comments on The Folks about allowing a eleven year old boy to travel that far from home unescorted, I should note that they didn't know I was gone, they thought that I was out on the dock, and that I did not ask permission, I just went.

Life in Harbor Oaks was different in the early nineteen-sixties.

By the age of eleven I had seen a president buried and watched on live teevee as his suspected assassin was gunned down. I had seen convoy after convoy of American troops go by as we were pulled over waiting in our schoolbus in the cool September and October mornings, and listened to the Folks discussing whether there was any point in trying to fort up after a nuclear exchange between three of the biggest military targets in the country, when they didn't think I could hear.

I guess the final straw to my early childhood was when, in the third grade, a sheriffs officer had come to our elementary school and passed out dogtags to us.
I had tested out embarrassingly high on the standard IQ tests of the day not long before but it didn't take a genius, (which I wasn't, I was just nine going on twenty-five…), to remember what Dad had told me about dogtags.
One Sunday afternoon I had asked him while we had been watching Victory At Sea's segment on the assault on the Japanese held South Sea Islands.
The answer??? Dogtags were for identifying dead bodies.
In this case MY third grade dead body.

So…. You might see that when I decided that I wanted to go see the fireworks, knew I'd be back home before anybody missed me, and knew that the Folks weren't going to go because I could see them from the end of the dock, the only thing to do was go by myself.

I had gotten a beautiful new black Schwinn bike for my birthday that year and it made the three or four miles the work of just minutes to cover between the house and Port Orange.
However, in order to get to the toll bridge quickly where the fireworks were, I had to go right past Constable Greens' house.
Constable Green was what had passed for Law Enforcement in an area that seldom saw a Sheriffs cruiser, and was county, so had no police force.
He was at that point in history in the early sixties that he knew he had become an anachronism and his cop days were numbered but he was determined to be a rough tough cop to the end. Even better if he could put the fear of the law into somebody with very little effort.

I knew better than to attract attention by racing by. I had seen him get in his huge old Ford and go after kids for doing just that.
So I just sort of…. Rode by. Just in time for he and his no-neck wife to be crossing the road out to the river to watch the fireworks.
"MAC!, Where YA goin???" called the Constable, "Stop and visit a spell!"

Shit. An unescorted eleven year old boy in those days did not, NOT 'stop and visit', when the constable called.

So I stopped, dropped off the seat and duck walked the bike over to the dock they were going to but refused without speaking to get off the bike like a cowboy sitting his horse. I knew if I 'stepped down', I'd be stuck.

"I'm right behind my cousins Constable!" I lied, "I can't stay but a minute".

"Waaallll now young feller" I've been sitting up there on the porch most of the evening and I hadn't seen them go by!" the Constable had called me on it.

"uh," (point… never begin lies with UH), "They are in the pickup with the Folks and I have to meet them at the bridge!?!", I sallied back.

"Brenda wanted to ask about your Grandmother, dinnya Brenda?" which got a grunt out of Mrs. Constable no-neck.

"she's fine Ma'am, last we heard she was shooting Elk in Montana", which was the, I swear, the honest truth.

"I better be getting along Sir, I want to be there before dark".

"Yes I notice you don't have either a light or front reflector on that shiny new bike there, boy", threatened the constable.

"I'll be riding back in the pickup sir," I lied again as I intended to go the LONG way back which did NOT cross the Constables' path.

"Ok son, toddle on, but you just be sure we don't have another incident like last month, right!?!" and he finally let me go.

Because see, the month before some of the older local juvenile delinquents and I had taken an old truck drive shaft, tapped it for a spark plug, borrowed the Old Mans' beloved Model T coil and Randy's Dad's Acetylene tank and built a cannon capable of tossing a steel beer can packed with sand about a quarter of a mile.

It made a four or five foot geyser of water when the can hit the river and damn near no noise when it fired.

The first or second fisherman we shot NEAR, (we weren't dumb enough to shoot AT anybody with this thing…), must have stopped at the Constables house on the way home and let him know... because a day or two later while I was sitting on the dock fishing here he came putting along in his old jon boat with the tiny three horsepower kicker on it peering up into all the docks.

"What's yer name boy!?!", he called from the bow as he eased up to the dock… "seen anything suspicious around here in the last few days???"

That had been my first encounter lying to Law Enforcement.

Jack Tar, 1960

Jack Tar

July 02, 2008 08:32 PM EDT

I drifted back almost a half century today.
I was putting a coat of bottom paint on my newest old boat when it happened.
I'd opened the gallon of Jack Tar boat paint, that I first had shaken, then stirred, and found a sacrificial old brush to use, then begun.
The day was hot and sweaty, but the humidity wasn't too bad and I was able to paint uninterrupted for quite awhile. 
As I worked my way from one end to the other, working the olive drab bottom paint into the dimpled aluminum and over the goofy mauve palm tree branch camo that some previous owner had decided was needed on the BOTTOM of the boat(???), I flashed back to being six or seven years old and the first boat I ever painted.
It was another bright Florida day about 1960, this time down by 'Whiskey Creek' just a few doors away from our home on the water. My best buddy 'Scoop' and I had decided his uncle 'Ronnie' was just too busy, (the word Granny would have used might have been "shiffless"), to paint his boat.
I mean after all, the paint and brush had been laying on top of the boat for over a week and nothing happened.  The boat was upside down, had been wire brushed, was clean and dry, so…
WE decided to DO IT!
A screwdriver fetched from my house soon had the paint open, and we were careful to make sure the brush was fanned clean of any dirt and we brushed off the bottom of the boat before we started.
Like I said, we were maybe six or seven years old..
Painting away happily, careful not to get any on our clothes so our Mom's, (in Scoops case his Dad), wouldn't yell at us, it took us most of the afternoon sharing one brush back and forth.
Job done we went back to Scoops house for whatever we could get Leon his dad's houseboy (the first black man I ever met) to dig us out of the fridge, and felt pretty darn proud of our little feller selves…
Ronnie came home from work a couple hours later.
Ronnie, at times would "kidsit" for me on the weekends, I put it that way because I CERTAINLY wasn't a BABY, and we would end up at the bar at the North Turn of the Daytona Beach raceway having lunch, or just sitting looking out over the ocean. Scoop was his only brother's, (then) only boy and we all knew each other pretty well.
Ronnie found us and sat looking at us for awhile not saying anything.
Finally he laughed his funny laugh and said in his North Carolina drawl "boys, I 'preciate the help, really I do, but I guess you young'uns didn't know,…"  a moment stretched here…. "that you have to STIR paint before you use it".
I had thought it was kinda thin.
So it went, so it goes, tomorrow I'll add a second coat.