Listicles for itchy feets

Spring on the Gulf Coast is a time that is hard to beat. When I say Gulf Coast, I mean the area that extends from the “ArkLaTex” to the Florida Panhandle. It is a grand time of the year although it always leaves me with a case of “itchy feet.”

My feet, figuratively speaking, have developed that old get-up-and-go-somewhere feeling even more this year since, literally speaking, my feet have held me back from doing much of anything.

At last report, my podiatrist said I should go through about two more weeks of taking it easy on my tootsies, or should I say tootsie. My hammertoe surgery was performed about three weeks ago and yesterday was the first time I could even remove my foot from bandaging and take a shower. It, the shower, was “mahhvelous,” as Billy Crystal would say while performing as Fernando Lamas on “Saturday Night Live.” The toe doesn’t look very well, but that is only because stitches were only removed from both top and bottom of the toe.

I have been pretty much cooped up recently, that is hopefully ending in another week. One might observe that by reading my previous blather. My Union’s steward training at the end of July is in Albuquerque. It will be nice to get out and get away, despite that our training tends to get rather lengthy. And after reading about the Albuquerque police and its brutal ways, I might just stay to myself in my hotel room after training.

All this said, I have some places I have wanted to visit for R & R but couldn’t for one reason or the other, mostly a lack of funds. With that in mind I began thinking of the various places I have been after listening to sports talk radio hosts who were making a listicle of their favorite “Sports Towns.” With that in mind I shall make my own listicles of favorite places I have been to help prod my sad and itchy feet into happy and (non-itchy?) feet. Some of these places I visited 35-to- 40 years ago so for sure they will have undergone change. But as with gifts, it — supposedly — is the thought that counts.


1. Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

2. Perth, Western Australia

3. Auckland, New Zealand

4. Taipei, Taiwan

5. Devonport, Tasmania, Australia

TOP FIVE MAJOR UNITED STATES CITIES (More than 1 million people)

1. San Antonio, Texas

2. San Diego, California

3. Los Angeles, California

4. Dallas, Texas

5. Houston, Texas

TOP FIVE LARGE U.S. CITIES (From 500,000 to 1,000,000 people)

1. Denver, Colorado

2. Austin, Texas

3. Washington, D.C.

4. El Paso, Texas

5. Fort Worth, Texas

TOP FIVE MEDIUM-LARGE U.S. CITIES (100,000 to 500,000 people)

1. New Orleans,  La.

2. Gulfport- Biloxi, Miss.

3. St. Louis, Mo.

4. Little Rock, Ark.

5. Las Cruces, N.M.

THE REST OF THE BEST (Less than 100,000 people, for various reasons. U.S. and Territories.)

1. Nacogdoches, Texas

2. San Marcos, Texas

3. Hattiesburg, Miss.

4. Santa Barbara, Calif.

5. Estes Park, Colo.

6. Ruidoso N.M.

7. Lake Charles, La.

8. Mobile, Ala.

9. Stockbridge, Mass.

10. Albany, N.Y.

11. Milwaukee, Wisc.

12. Big Sur, Calif.

13. Agana, Guam

14. Surfside, Texas

15. Sabine Pass, Texas

16. Newton, Texas

17. Maydelle, Texas

18. Llano, Texas

19. Wimberley, Texas

20. Lajitas, Texas

*Just as larger cities are ranked more as sentimental favorites, places that I just like, and cool spots on the map, the 20 listed above are not ranked and are merely listed and enumerated.



Great name, ugly ship

Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt was a visionary to some during his tour of duty as Chief of Naval Operations. To others he was a pariah. Zumwalt led the Navy from May 1970 to July 1974. As a matter of fact, he left that post — one he assumed as the youngest CNO in Navy history — only a day before I took the oath to join.

The CNO was known for his looser regulations regarding hair and beards on sailors and beer in barracks vending machines. But he had the thankless job of keeping the Navy in tact during the end of the Vietnam War. That was a time marked by racial riots and widespread drug use among sailors.

I came to admire Zumwalt both during my time in the Navy and up  to the 40 years since. I noted in his biography that the future CNO was a destroyer officer and CO before eventual promotion to flag rank. Although I only served one year, including one western and southern Pacific cruise, on a “tin can,” I was hooked on the older ships’ lines and profiles. So I can’t help but wonder what Zumwalt would have thought about the class of destroyers that would bear his name.


The way ships and whole classes of ships are designed usually take place over a number of years. The DDG-1000 class, which is of the Zumwalt line, began to take shape four or five years after he died in 2000. The ship is a guided missile destroyer that came out of the DD(X) program. The “DD” designation are the identifiers of hull numbers for destroyers that were built up until 1980 when the last Spruance-class ship was commissioned. The ship on which I served was a Gearing-class destroyer which was first laid down in 1944 and eventually launched in 1946. The Agerholm, my home away from home in 1977-78, was the oldest active duty destroyer serving in the Navy at that time.

The Zumwalt is scheduled to join the fleet next year. Two other destroyers are being built in that class, the USS Michael Monsoor and the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. The former ship is named for Master-at Arms 2nd Class Monsoor, who was a SEAL posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. Johnson, of course, was the president of the US from 1963-1969, and a World War II Navy Officer.

No doubt, the Zumwalt and its class will be among the most technologically engineered warship in history with advanced electronics and weaponry. She (as ships are referred to) will be 210 feet longer than the WWII era ship on which I served. The widest point of the ship will be double that of as the Agerholm’s width. The “official” speed for the Zumwalt is about the same for all Navy ships, around 30-35 knots, as actual speeds are classified. A big difference between World War II–Vietnam destroyers is in crew size. The Zumwalt class will carry almost half as many crew members. Another big difference is both in missions and armament to carry out those missions.

The old DD-826, my ship, was primarily in the anti-submarine warfare business. It fired torpedoes both through tubes and from rocket launchers. In the early 60s it was the first ship ever to fire a nuclear-powered anti-submarine rocket, or ASROC. With the ship’s two “big guns,” the two 5-inch/38 cannons, the ship could engage in offshore gunfire support. She did so in both Korea and Vietnam. The ship was hit by North Korean gunfire.

The USS Agerholm fires a nuclear-tipped torpedo from a rocket launcher in  1962. Fifteen years later I would ride this beaut

The USS Agerholm fires a nuclear-tipped torpedo from a rocket launcher in 1962. Fifteen years later I would ride this beaut

The Zumwalt carries a variety of missile launchers including those for firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, ASROC, 155mm cannons, among others. The ship can likewise carry two helicopters.

The electronic sensing systems on board are probably too complicated for me to even talk about, if they are not classified, which they probably are. This leaves the design for me to squawk about.

The Zumwalt class will be that of “stealth” destroyers. Take a look at the picture and you will find that DDG-1000 looks nothing like your father’s or grandfather’s tin can. The strange lines and angles of the ship will likely leave enemy radar-watchers without a clue that probably the most lethal destroyer in naval history is coming. It will be a problem for our aggressors. It will be a bit exasperating for me, as well.

You see, all the weird design is, well, I hate to say it, but it is truly butt ugly. Through history, ships have been objects of beautiful design, even if these objects are meant to kill and create havoc. A naval ship is something more than a machine or tank. It, she, or she it, guys (and gals) live on these ships for years or more at a time. Some of us sailors call her home, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffett. These ships also act as an art work of our country. Often, we invite locals from other nations onboard to visit the attractive ship from other lands. People from Australia and New Zealand thought ours was a nice-looking ship, I remember them saying. Even the Red Chinese sailors we encountered in Jakarta stood and looked admiringly at our ship.

Given, you wouldn’t want to see your ship sunk by an enemy missile. My ship was sunk by a “friendly” missile. It should have bore a happy face :). But I have seen the pictures of my ship several hundred feet down on the Pacific floor off the coast of San Diego. The Agerholm was sunk during missile testing in the early 1980s. More recently I’ve seen a video of the actual attack, which would have likely blown me to smithereens whether I was at battle stations or chow. I don’t really like to watch the video or see the pictures of our ship at the bottom of the ocean.

So it is a great idea to have a stealth ship. We want to outrun, and hide, from the enemy. Perhaps some day they will have an ability to build attractive “warships” again. Until then … well, sorry Bud.






The sound and smell of Facebook and free speech

Many reasons exist as to why one should avoid Facebook at all costs. Probably just as many reasons are out there why Facebook is a valuable communications platform.

“I don’t use Facebook,” said someone, I don’t know who, during a holiday gathering recently. I remarked that I use it to keep up with my family. I usually check it a couple of times a day.

I disagree with much that I see on Facebook. I see just as much with which I do agree. I take the good, with the bad, relatively speaking.

A friend in Alaska is discovering or perhaps rediscovering her eye for art in the digital photos she takes. Most are of outdoors with her dog. Her dog photographs well. Many of her nature shots are otherworldly. Those I mention are true art.

One of my brothers moderates a group devoted to our hometown. These are thoughts shared about all of our past days in the small East Texas town or within the school district in which many, if not most, shared.

A former student, brother of a classmate of mine and whose mother worked with my mother, hit a Facebook homer over the last couple of days sharing and asking the group to share little giblets of memory. These involved remembrances of sounds and smells. It is so incredibly mind-blowing to me as a journalist to take in all these moments in time. And that is what they are — moments. Add them up in actual time and you might get a couple of hours.

Shared are sounds of screen doors noisily but reassuringly closing. The sound of horse hooves and tack are recalled as the young boys and girls rode in their Texas tradition. Then there is the call of the bird I always thought was the whipoorwill. Turns out, it was a different bird.

The smells included fresh hay in the hot summer sun that teenaged boys sweated while loading up bales on trucks and trailers for the local farmers and ranchers, and rewarding the kids with a little spare change. The honeysuckle that any East Texan must surely smells in the brilliant green of spring.

That particular sense, that of smell, became expanded for me. Certain times that sense will take me to my younger days though not necessarily in my hometown. Instead I remember my young adult days.

The smell of diesel in the morning hits me with a memory of Central Fire Station where I mainly worked at the beginning of my five intense and memorable years as a firefighter. With each snootfull of diesel comes a vision of the wall where helmets and bunker gear were lined up for all the shifts. It is simple enough why it is such a stunning memory. It was where we were gassed with diesel fumes from Engine 310. Here I was a 22-year-old man, making my own way in the world, and where I feared only that which was knowable. That’d mostly be another daunting smell, one of the homes we would encounter fully engulfed in fire, “burners” as we called them.

It was said that the scent of flesh and bones from the “toast” — what we privately called with a macabre sense of humor those unfortunates who were burned up. Perhaps it was an insensitive description but it was one of those mechanisms to prevent our dwelling upon that misfortune.

The sea had its own distinctive smell, or should I say smells. The scent of the Gulf of Mexico beaches and those of Southern California were different. Places such as “the OC’s” Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach in LA County or San Diego’s Pacific Beach sometimes was as much sun screen than marine. But after spending a year on a ship in the Western and Southern Pacific you would sometime forget you were floating out there. Oh, and how could I forget the 2 1/2 years I was only a mile from the man-made beaches of the Mississippi Sound?’

Finally, there is the scent of reefer, so pervasive in the 70s and 80s that it was difficult not to inhale, as a president said he didn’t.

One has to use Facebook wisely. Don’t show those pictures of you passed out in the yard with “dead soldiers” littered all around. Trophies which were exhibited from those days of “partying till you puke.” Some thought should be given how such a powerful platform as Facebook should be used.

Those words written by Ol’ Justice Oliver W. Holmes’ from Schneck v. United States in 1919 are probably a good enough reason to watch one’s P’s and Q’s regardless whether one believes in self-censorship.

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic … “

Oh well, I don’t go to theaters much these days anyway.



Boomtown SE Texas: Let it rain

We had a hell of a rain on Friday. The thunder started booming about 4 a.m. and didn’t seem to stop until nearly 8 a.m. Normally, I can sleep and sleep well through thunder and a heavy rain, but this stuff just kept on rolling. The rain did likewise, falling and falling some more. Some areas in Jefferson County were hit with 4 inches to 6 inches from only several hours of rain. Consequently, some of the same old underpasses went under water.

The city of Beaumont has spent millions to install better conduits for flood water to flow off into the Neches River. The river, which is the Beaumont-Mid Jefferson County-Northern Orange County portion of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, is located on the eastern side of Beaumont. Still the area floods when we get a lot of water in a short period of time. And people still drive their cars into the flooded underpasses. I think I saw a figure of like 36 cars had to be pulled from underwater. Fortunately, no one was killed. Such is the price you pay when you live in an area that is at most about 20 feet above sea level. But, I guess the river can always use some refreshing.

I see different figures but the Port of Beaumont — on the Neches end of the waterway — usually runs from about the 4th largest port in the country to the 7th. I used to like to go down to the port and take a look at the big ships in port. Now they have a more restricted are around the port due to maritime security, a.k.a. MARSEC.

 “The Coast Guard employs a three-tiered system of Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels designed to easily communicate to the Coast Guard and our maritime industry partners pre-planned scalable responses for credible threats,” says the Coasties.

A liquid natural gas tanker is assisted by tugs on the Sabine-Neches Waterway on the Upper Texas  Coast.

A liquid natural gas tanker is assisted by tugs on the Sabine-Neches Waterway on the Upper Texas Coast.

President Obama signed a bill last month that is meant to boost water projects across the country. Southeast Texas is to get the largest bucks from that legislation, the Sabine-Neches Navigation District said last week. The district said there are 71,000 vessel transits — meaning in and out  each year — in the entire Sabine-Neches complex. Those group of ports are located in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Sabine Pass. And since the modern petroleum industry began “right cheer,” as our Cajun Texans say, I suppose it is only logical that most of the cargo sailing around the area’s ports consist of crude oil and it’s byproducts.

 “We produce about 13% of the nation’s gasoline daily,” said Clayton Henderson, assistant general manager of the Sabine-Neches Navigation District 

Oh, and I forgot to mention there are big ol’ liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals at either side of where the Sabine-Neches and its bay, Sabine Lake, empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

If the remainder of the Keystone Pipeline gets allowed and built, it will end up right cheer in Jefferson County. And for something kind of completely different, some of the stockpiles of chemical weapons being taken from Syria for destruction — where do they go? Want to take a guess? Those nasty “weapons of mass destruction” are being sent to Port Arthur.

Now one may ask, why did he start with heavy thunder and rain, and end up with tons of petroleum products and weapons of mass destruction?

To look at it one way there is certainly a lot of stuff to go boom were the wrong people to get hold of all those dangerous product made and transported to and from our area. We would probably need a lot of foam if something caught fire, but we have plenty of water or so it seems.

Texas is a huge state and not even the biggest in the U.S. It is second in size to Alaska. But one gets a feel for its size when it looks at average rainfall from the nearly 60 inches per year we average here in Jefferson County to the 9-something inches received some 800 miles away in El Paso County.

I have to say that the LP terminals at the terminus of Sabine Lake bother me the most. But what can one do? Boosters of the project to deepen the Sabine-Neches channel by 8 feet say this will “promise” 78,000 new jobs in the area. It’s all about the jobs isn’t it? Or at the very least, the promise of jobs.

It seems as if someone needs to use the existing channel to transport to us a big ol’ “paradigm shifter.” Get that sucker rigged up like snappy, and working. Then, we should ask our Native-American friends who live about an hour away to the north on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation if they might be so nice to come down here somewhere and do some rain dancing. Because even with all the rain we already receive if things get rough we might need even more liquid gold.


Will the isolation give up the ongoing Malaysian mystery?

Perhaps Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is located in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps not. After the immense speculation and leads given the public from corporate and government sources one could think the Boeing 777 jet with its contingent of almost 300 lives aboard might just be anywhere. It is heartening to think a possible crash site might finally be spotted, according to media reports.

The strange paths this Beijing-bound flight supposedly took and the elements to which the flight pertains is certainly a mystery worthy of fiction. If indeed this jet is found in almost completely the opposite direction from where it was headed, then that too seals the mysterious flight which headed out just after midnight from Kuala Lumpur on March 8. And while the 24-hour media has raised the possibility the 777 might perhaps had been en route to as far north as Pakistan, the possibility the aircraft and its passengers and crew may lie in the Indian Ocean east of Western Australia seems to make more sense than any other ultimate destination.

It didn’t really hit me at first when a newscaster commented this morning that the missing place could in a place as “remote” as to the east of Western Australia. When one looks at a map it really can understand just how far removed from civilization such a place really is.

I made a trip once sailing out of Fremantle, the Swan River port city for Perth, Western Australia, headed for Jakarta, Indonesia. I don’t remember much about the passage, our two warships alone  out on the Indian Ocean. We had spent the better part of two months visiting ports all up and down the two major New Zealand islands and to three Australian ports in a semi-circular journey from New South Wales, to Tasmania and up to Perth. The majority of us sailors, under 25, had just experienced “sailor-man heaven.”

So I really cannot comment too much one way or the other about the trip across the western Indian Ocean and into the Java Sea. The only thing that really sticks out in my mind about the Indian Ocean is that it was generally hot as hell, it being during the heat of the southern winter. I did notice what appeared to be dirty-looking ocean water, it being one of those odd instances one comes across when at sea after awhile.

Few islands of the Indian to the west of Australia other than Madagascar are noteworthy.  The only place in the Indian Ocean where I have known people to go was Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, home of the major U.S. Navy facility that was built in the 1970s mostly by Navy Seabees. A number of my Seabee friends were deployed there at one time or another. One even sent me a B.I.O.T. T-shirt though I don’t know what happened to it.

Yes, I would have to think that area west of of Perth is pretty remote as many ocean areas might be. Still the ocean is tranquil and desolate in many areas of the world as it is there. Hopefully, this remote area will soon uncover this ongoing mystery and provide some comfort to those with loved ones on Flight 370.




Some heroes gets their rewards and others get, something else

EFD Celebrates 2,500 posts since 2005. Weird huh?

It was nice, if only for a short time, to view something on TV news other than blatant speculation over what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. I speak of the somewhat solemn ceremony that is taking place in the White House as I write this. Of course, the airing of the ceremony on CNN didn’t last long because Jake Tapper had to come in and talk and talk some more. The White House to do is honoring 24 soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam with the Medal of Honor. These were Black, Hispanic and Jewish soldiers — the majority awarded posthumously — who were originally presented the Distinguished Service Cross. A congressional review upgraded the awards from the nation’s second highest for valor to the top decoration. It isn’t stated on the special “microsite” but because these brave soldiers were Black, Hispanic and Jewish is why they were not originally awarded the Medal of Honor.

First U.S. WWII hero. Dorris Miller, remains without Medal of Honor

First U.S. WWII hero. Dorris Miller, remains without Medal of Honor

It is always a glimpse at a real hero to read the citations for the MOH dating back to the Civil War. Well, some may argue that certain ones didn’t deserve the award. Read the citations and make your mind up on your own. And, it’s certainly not to say that a few of the awards are, shall we say, unusual, such as the Unknown Soldiers of Rumania (now spelled Romania) and Italy, both from World War I.

Speaking of unrewarded heroes, which we were, I see there is a development in getting additional recognition for perhaps the first American hero of World War II. I wrote a story more than a decade ago as to how locals in the Waco, Texas, area had made a push to upgrade a Navy Cross — now the Navy’s second highest — to the Medal of Honor. The award was third highest behind the MOH and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal when Cook Third Class Doris Miller received the medal.

Miller was a Black farm hand from the Waco area when he joined the Navy in 1939 and ended up as a mess attendant and cook, one of the few jobs open to African Americans back then. Miller, called “Dorie” by his shipmates, was stationed on the battleship U.S.S. West Virginia berthed in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Miller responded to the attack along with shipmates. Miller helped move the ship’s captain, whose wounds proved mortal, to a place of greater safety on the bridge. Although he had not been trained to fire anti-aircraft weapons, Miller took over such a gun battery and began shooting at Japanese planes. Stories passed down through the years say Miller even shot down one of the planes, though it was never proven. Miller was portrayed in the 2001 movie “Pearl Harbor” by Cuba Gooding Jr.

There remains a long-held notion that Miller would have been a Medal of Honor recipient had he have been white. To the day, the effort to have Miller nominated for the MOH has failed. It is most fitting, though not a substitute for a Medal of Honor, that the Republican U.S. House member, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents that area of Central Texas, is leading an effort to have the Waco Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital named after Dorie Miller. I used that facility for my VA primary care for some seven years. And I believe that I played a pretty major role as a journalist in keeping the facility from closure. I know that sounds conceited and probably is. But it is nevertheless the truth. The publication I wrote for back then has the hardware to prove it . That isn’t taking anything from them. Papers like rewards and they got recognition for my work and that of a couple of others.

Okay, so now what? We go back to endless coverage of Flight 370? It is a mystery, though one wonders how long it will sustain the coverage cable news is giving it? Only fate and the suits know for sure. So until next time, … “All Right. Good night.”


A “Z-moment” for the Air Force top airfolk

It seems that U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff and his general minions in the USAF bureaucracy recently had a “Zumwalt moment.”

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III recently approved sort of a “Casual Friday” when it comes to certain physical training (PT) attire, according to Stars and Stripes. The newspaper is a worldwide, independent publication run by the Defense Department. Colorful shoes or “moral T-shirts,” the latter of which was worn to help build unit pride, as well as unit patches are among the items which will be okay for exercising airmen and airwomen. I think they are all called “airmen.” Perhaps for a more PC term the collective could be changed to “airpeople” or “airfolks,” the last being a play on words with Air Force. Get it? No?

While subtle changes to help Air Force personnel feel better about what they do and what they’ve accomplished, the reg rewrites pale in comparison with the sweeping Navy reforms of the early 1970s instituted by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt. Bud. Hmm, I don’t think I could ever call such a historic figure and military leader “Bud.” But I might. Bear in mind that Admiral Zumwalt passed died 14 years ago, making such ridiculousness moot.

Zumwalt was going out as CNO just as I was coming in. Almost to the day. He was never my CNO. That was Adm. James L. Holloway III. A.k.a.Trey. No, I was just joking about the nickname. Holloway, had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In Navy speak: “He was around so long that he remembered when Jesus was just a mess cook.”

Beyond a doubt, Zumwalt made some major changes during his tenure as the Vietnam war was winding down. Morale was low and would continue that way for awhile. Zumwalt put beer in barracks vending machine. He had what someone apparently thought was more modern styles of uniforms introduced, doing away with the “Cracker Jacks,” so called because they reminded one of a Florida redneck with a jacked-up pickup off which he was to steal a tire. No, you should know by now that wasn’t the reason for the uniform’s moniker. They were so called because of the little sailor on the Cracker Jack box. Beards were likewise allowed. In the Navy beards were allowed, not on the Cracker Jack box.

Some sailors feel Zumwalt went too far. This opinion was especially held by some of those men who would light up the beer machine at 0630, these were a small part of the career Navy men or “lifer,” as they were so named in an invective.

I recently used a picture where I wore a beard during my promotion to Petty Officer Third Class — minus my commanding officer — as an example for a question I asked a Facebook group. The group is for Navy veterans. I say the overwhelming majority liked growing or would have liked to grow a beard when they were allowed. Even some of the women veterans seemed to mostly like them. One reply, not from a woman, was especially dripping with scorn. Yes, he was a scorn dripper, Sunday driver yeah, It took him soooo long … Sorry. A Beatle  flashback. The scorn dripper said:

 “Zumwalt was the worst thing EVER to Hit the Navy. He screwed us so bad.”

To each his or her own.

Many military uniform regulations are just plain ridiculous. Though I had yet to sail the seas, I initially found a cultural clash between “fleet types” like me and Seabees while stationed on a Seabee base. Seabees could go off base in their, then, green utility uniforms or fatigues. Those of us wearing a blue jumper or dungarees had to change before leaving or wear a dress or semi-dress uniform. A storekeeper I knew gave me a nice, comfy foul-weather coat. It was green, with the Seabee patch. A guy, like a “bouncer” in the dining hall wouldn’t let me in until I finally made some Seabee friends and surrounded myself with them.

Flip-flops and frayed jeans were popular then, I guess they still are in some respects, but the officer of the deck or petty officer of the watch would often not allow a sailor off the ship for liberty with such attire. I always ignored their breach of dress etiquette when I stood the latter. In some places, mostly where great numbers of sailors were on liberty such as in Subic Bay, there were actually Shore Patrol who wrote “tickets” for wearing flip-flops or such.

So these changes in Air Force wear — although I imagine some “old-timers,” now 30-somethings, burn with indignation — are one step toward eliminating the ever-present hard ass culture of the military. I mean, it’s not exactly having breakfast in bed served to new recruits or mints on their pillows.


Five years and yet still no book. What a Dick!

Friends, Romans, Country Boys, lend me your ears. I don’t know quite what to do with them but I am certain I will find a use. Just keep your ear wax, you heah?

As you can see, I have nothing worth writing this afternoon. And, although that has not stopped me before I shall be brief here. That is, less than 500 words, or so I hope.

I thought I would update the writing project. What? You didn’t know I had a writing project? Why I do every day, or so. But other than hitting or missing here I have been continually on the path during the last four or five years of what some people call a “writing a book.” I just don’t know what I want to write a book about. That has been my problem for the last four or five years. That and medical problems. Those problems and financial problems. We’ve had hurricanes. A 32-hour-per-week job that is called “part-time.” And on and on.

I can say that this project will not be a work of fiction. Or for the most part that is. Or maybe it will be fiction that is based on truth. Or maybe it will be an epic poem. Or maybe it will be … Or maybe it will be. Hell. I don’t quite know still. I do have an idea, though it sounds kind of stupid. But perhaps Hemingway thought a fisherman’s obsessing over a large marlin was stupid. I don’t know. People have all sorts of stupid ideas.

My novel will need specific structure to succeed. It must be short. I mean really short. It should be so short that having finished this work might move even a village’s most accomplished nincompoop to boast of his bookish conquest.

My struggle with writing a book is probably my greatest conflict in life. Well, it is certainly one of those. I thought of passing along my idea in this blog. But why would I do that? What if it turns out to be an excellent idea that some smart but unscrupulous writer discovers? Then again, why would a smart writer be reading this blog? I’m just using a little self-deprecating humor there. I know I have smart readers. Especially those who continue to follow my work year after year.

Okay. That’s it for today. The next day I have off that I don’t have to visit a doctor, I will begin on my literary journey — once more with renewed purpose. I can see myself on Charlie Rose. Uh, on his PBS show, not on Charlie Rose himself, my heft sitting on his shoulders beating him upon the ribs shouting “Faster, faster, Rose, you old scoundrel!” Well, that just prevented me from ever appearing on the only interesting talk show to be broadcast these days. Plus, that sentence just kept me from all the rest of the TV shows. Why I couldn’t even get on Jerry Springer, I bet.

Enough grandiosity. I’ve yet to even write my first words. Well, okay, how about these?

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”


That tragic, deadly, ol’ Love Boat

Have you ever wondered how many boxes of toothpicks can be made from a single tree?

Most toothpicks in the U.S. are made from birch, according to, the answer to everything, the trut,’ the whole trut’ and nothing but the trut.’

Well, according to one site whose pedigree I couldn’t tell you:

In one cord of wood (logs 8′ in length, stacked 4′ high, and 4′ wide) can be turned into 7.5 million toothpicks.

Reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a kid. The board of directors are sitting around in a board room (where else). A chart is being pointed to at a company called Acme Toothpick by some suit. The suit says: “Unfortunately, we expect a sharp decline in profits this year since the company bought a new tree.”
And we all laughed.
So what brings this up? Why it is the Love Boat. Yes, you remember so many years ago … “The Love Boat promises something new for everyone …. ” Like the prospect that this episode will be followed by “Fantasy Island.” “De plane, de plane … “
The MS Pacific is the ship once known as the Pacific Princess. That was when she embarked from across the way from the Long Beach shipyard in which my destroyer was dry-docked during that magic summer of ’77. Magic? Magic Tragic. It’s just “artistic license.” After all, someone probably made tons of money from that terrible “Love Boat” theme. Get over it. The Pacific limped into a Turkish shipyard last week, listing much like half of my crew on a one-night liberty in Fiji. A ship recycling company bought the ship — the Princess, not my destroyer — for about $3.3 million.
One might think this about the worst ending ever for a 70s icon of love. But, oh no, it gets even worse.
No doubt the “Love Boat” sucked as a TV show. Who knew it was actually lethal?

You can tell a sailor by the shoe that they wear (And that’s a fact, Jack!)

Lately I have enjoyed some of the posts on a Facebook page for Navy members that I joined awhile back. The page certainly reminded me of how firmly my feet are planted in the “black shoe” Navy, one of the monikers for those whose naval service was primarily rooted in the Surface Warfare community.

It might surprise those with little or no knowledge of the service, that “the Navy” is not a homogenous branch of what is now the Department of Defense. Oh, and “homogenous” has nothing to do with the gay and lesbian communities of the armed forces.

The Navy is certainly more than ships even though the surface Navy has its own sub-groups. For instance, the “Gator Navy,” uses vessels such as Dock Landing Ships, or LSDs, that can launch smaller craft inside a well dock. The LHAs, or amphibious assault ships are what many would have years ago referred to as a “helicopter carrier” but these behemoths are much more than a place to land a whirly-bird. The name gator refers to landing ships that have either giant stern gates or small gates on the bow, depending on how you look at it. In any event these gates can literally hit the beach, so the reference to amphibious. These ships are the most likely to have contingents of Marines on board, which is always good for a little culture clash.

I have known and even have friends who are “jarheads” who served on these amphibious ships. But I know few swab-jockeys from the Gator Navy. But I’ve been told these are a wholly different bunch of sailors than say those of the tin-can, or destroyer groups.

Tin-can sailors these dayx are most identified with what are now guided missile destroyers and guided missile frigates. Most destroyer squadrons are usually groups of destroyers, cruisers and frigates, all of which today have a “G” in the ships’ hull names to indicate they are guided missile type ships as opposed to the old “gun ships” of my day. Although, an entire class of “DD ships” have come and gone since I last sailed. But, I was on the last active-duty, World War II-era gun destroyer, the USS Agerholm (DD-826.) She was decommissioned in December 1978, seven months after I left it to separate (honorably) from the Navy. The ship was sunk in 1982 off the Pacific coast of San Diego in a Tomahawk missile test.

The tin-can sailor, at least of my day, were certainly a whole different breed. Why some folks even wondered if some of us were even of the human race.

Other groups of sailors who sail on the water are those on carriers, or “bird farms,” as we called them. Although the regular crew are surface sailors, they are most often affiliated with the “brown shoe” Navy. These are the people associated with aviation, known for their officers and chiefs wearing brown shoes with their khakis instead of black ones. The true “airdales,” another term for aviation folks are those assigned to the various type of aircraft squadrons which rotate on and off the carriers.

Then, there are submariners. They are certainly a breed apart. One of my Yeoman “A” School instructors was a submariner who put it succinctly: “When we are up here (on land), the world stinks. Life is only good down there.” Okey, dokey, Pal!

Of course, there are the special forces types, SEALs and those who operate the Special Ops boats, all of which have grown quite a bit population-wise in just the last decade. I don’t know very many true SEALs. I met way more people who said they were SEALs than who really were in that elite bunch. The one guy I knew who I believe really was a SEAL was a pretty strange dude. However, one didn’t have to be a SEAL to fit that description in the Navy.

Last but surely not least are the Seabees. These are the construction types who also are trained in mostly defensive military combat training. “We Build. We Fight,” their motto, although, “We Drink” could be added to the slogan for most Bees I knew.

The majority of my Navy time was spent with the Seabees, the name comes from “CB” meaning Construction Battalion, which is how most Seabees are organized. I wasn’t in a battalion. I served 2 1/2 years at the Naval Construction Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., one of two homeports for the Bees. These are the Atlantic Fleet Seabees. The Pacific Fleet Bees are based at Port Hueneme, Calif., located in Ventura County  near Oxnard.

I thought I might reside on the Mississippi Coast after I finished my tour in the Navy. I didn’t, I moved to Texas. But because the thought crossed my mind, I transferred to the 20th Naval Construction Regiment in Gulfport to finish my time of about three weeks after saying good-byes on my tin-can. I really didn’t do much militarily there during my very short time except getting my last Navy regulation haircut some scum-sucking lifer forced me to acquire. (Note: Not all lifers are scum-sucking, though I thought that at times of some career Navy back then.)

The Seabees wear mostly combat boots, by the way. The Gator Navy? I don’t have a clue. SEALs? They can wear any damn kind of shoe they want! And that is my point, if there is one to be made. There are a bunch of different types of Navy folks. If you want to know a little bit more about what kind of sailor a sailor is, try looking at his or her shoes.