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.


Race ‘n’ age. Age ‘n’ race. Can’t touch this!!

A few minutes ago I was walking into the local convenience store. A “Brotha” somewhere in his 20s to 30s was about to walk into the store. I intended to open the door for him, my being closest to that door. Now, I was raised to open doors for no matter who it might be. I don’t think it is a traditional custom across our country because you don’t see someone opening doors for others, or at least I haven’t, very often in places outside of the South. I’ve seen people delighted by the custom while others were perplexed.

Brotha Man beat me to it though. He said: “Let me get that door for you, pops!”

I have to admit that I have never heard anyone call me “pops.” I used to call my Dad, “Pops.” I don’t believe any of my siblings ever called him that. I guess it was because I was in my late teens and early 20s, I wanted to be cool. Calling him “Daddy” was, I don’t know, just a bit on the little children side. I didn’t call him Pops out of disrespect. I am sure if it had offended my Father he would have let me know.

Back to the neighborhood sociodrama. I was laughing and muttered: “Pops.” The black guy said: “You never heard that?” I said that I didn’t. He went to the ATM and I picked up what I needed and headed to the cashier, who was herself black and in her early 20s.

“Did you see that?” the girl asked me. I asked her what she had seen

“That guy came in the door and grabbed his junk,” motioning about her mid-thigh. “I’ve seen guys do like … ” as she was raised her hand to a much more believable level for a crotch grab. Whatever length that may be.

I didn’t want to entertain her with more of the stereotypes I’m sure she always heard concerning, uh, size. The truth was that I have seen young black men, not all of course, grab themselves and wondered just what the Sam Hell that was all about? This is not some recent fad. I have seen this phenomenon going on as long as I can remember. Race always being the sensitive issue, I never even though to ask about it.

Thinking of something quick, I remembered about a comedy routine I heard Richard Pryor do one time. Pryor said that black guys hold on to it because the whites took “everything else we had.” I didn’t know what kind of reaction I’d get as a “Pops” telling that to a young, black girl. She laughed. A little embarrassed but a good laugh all the same.

I decided to look for some learned explanation for the crotch grab. Apparently it has been adopted as of late by the young white boys, the likes of Justin Bieber. And even some of the young princesses are doing it. “Crotch grabbing is the new twerking,” says Cosmopolitan.

The new twerking thing leaves me more puzzled. What ARE those young ladies doing?

About the only scientific explanation, not specifically related to the subject, comes from the self-testing for an inguinal hernia. It sounds torturous, the hernia, much like my fear of developing shingles. I have got to take that vaccination and make it prompt!

In less than three weeks I will turn 59. Yes, almost 60 years old and still so many questions. Faced with a situation such as the one I faced today, I left the store doing the only thing that came to mind.

The brother again opened the door for me.

I said:  “Hey thanks Junior. Be cool now.”

Bowe Bergdahl: Innocent, guilty? It’s enough to make one’s feet hurt.

What is good today? My feet are doing well. They hurt like hell. But they are doing well, a foot doctor told me so.

I drove to the VA Hospital today some 80-something-miles away in Houston, bad knee and all. This was my semi-annual checkup with the podiatrist. He clipped my toenails. Those on my right leg are hard to trim because I still have to wear that damn knee brace. I go back to the knee doctor next week. And to the sleep doctor. And to my primary care doctor. Were they all in one place, say the Houston VA Hospital, I could just pitch a tent in the lobby. But, of course, the appointments are in three different locations.

A good foot report is good news for a diabetic. The pain in my feet now are likely a byproduct of that diabetes. I really don’t know why they hurt so badly. Perhaps it stemmed from tight socks in shoes for a total of three hours on the road. Maybe it was the Coney Cheese Dog and Onion Rings I had at James Coney Island. Maybe, but it was a good lunch. I don’t know what made my feet hurt.  I don’t even know how I got on this subject. Perhaps it is because my aching feet overtake every other thought I have. Still, my intention of “soldiering on” through my hurting feet and knee was to pass along this column from Chicago Sun-Times writer Neil Steinberg.

Steinberg hits at the anger I feel over this entire story over the return of prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl who was held by the Taliban. The anger isn’t at Bergdahl. It isn’t at Obama. The anger comes from the nut cases, mostly Republicans, who could give a rat’s ass less that an American soldier is back in the purportedly friendly hands of his government. The anger at Bergdahl and Obama, it’s just whipped up meanness by a political party that is falling apart at the seams. The war these days is more between the so-called “mainstream” GOP and the Tea Party. The Tea Party didn’t make much hay in the primary congressional races of late so they’re pissed, and the sweat that is staining those starched white shirts of those starched white Republicans are pissing the old-line off to no end. The GOP will eventually go the way of the Whigs, Princess telephones and ashtrays on airliners.

But yes, I am pissed too! The GOP and the media and who knows who(m) else are too freaking ignorant when it comes to the armed forces because so few have served these days. Though perhaps some who have served skip the bad parts. Most of us do that. Hey, it’s more fun to remember the time we got shitfaced in Subic City and one of our shipmates, whose name I won’t mention — it wasn’t me by the way — met us at the door of a certain joint all dressed up in a Filipina’s stripping outfit of G-string and pasties. But I am willing to bet most service members remember more than one or two fellow shipmates or soldiers who went on leave or on liberty and never came back.

Going over the hill, as we used to call desertion, is not that rare. I’ve had close friends who deserted. It wasn’t during war that they left. So they weren’t shot. Of course, I don’t think anyone has been shot for desertion during combat since Eddie Slovik in WWII. Also, it isn’t just with Bergdahl, nor just with the military, but it seems that the presumption of innocence, that has long been such a great point of judicial magnificence with our system, has seemingly disappeared. Everyone knows Bergdahl is guilty, all the Republican senators say so. Everyone knows that whomever the subject of Nancy Grace’s show tonight is guilty, because she says so.

Military trials, court martials as they are called, are already stacked against defendants because of the way trials are structured. See the Manual for Courts Martial. I am too tired to try to explain it.

Bowe Bergdahl may escape punishment once, if and when, we find out all the particulars about his escapade. Or perhaps he may be punished. Whatever happens, I hope all goes well as possible for the young man. Five years with the Taliban as a guest seems like punishment enough.

The good news, of course, my diabetic feet seem in good shape. They also are feeling better, thank you.


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.



Hitting myself up with a needle gives me the incentive to stay healthy

These days I try my best to keep from a regular routine of insulin shots. My PCP, or primary care provider, said a half-dozen months ago that I was on the edge of requiring insulin. I didn’t like that idea too much so I worked and dropped my weight by about 15 pounds and lowered what is known as my A1C level. The A1C is the HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin, test. Says the Nation Institutes for Health:

 “The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about a person’s average levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over the past 3 months … The A1C test is the primary test used for diabetes management and diabetes research.”

The normal level is below 5.7%. Over 6.5 percent is diabetes. My level during my last check was 7.1, which was down from 7.4%. My goal is to get it to normal. You got to have a goal.

What really drives me to keep my A1C at sane levels isn’t all the really bad things that can happen to you from diabetes. I have peripheral neuropathy, caused by diabetes, which makes it difficult to feel my feet. My feet can also hurt like hell, feeling as if someone is shooting you in the foot with a nail gun. I have the pain in my feet controlled pretty well with medications. That is good because I have a lot of other pain to deal with. There are much worse actions diabetes can cause: blindness, gangrenous skin tissue requiring amputations, death, to name a few. But it is the desire to not have insulin shots several times daily the rest of my life that drives most of my activities designed to keep my diabetic numbers in check.

I don’t fear the shots or the pain. I have been giving myself monthly B12 shots for about five months. My doctor says she wants me to take B12 the rest of my life. The injections are not painful or if they are the pain is like a nanosecond long or shorter. Usually it is pain free cause I jab it in my arm and cannot feel the needle. The shots are a pain in another way.

The juice in the vial always wants to come out real-ll-ll-y slow.  It could give Heinz ketchup a run for its money. I always worry about getting bubbles in my syringe and hitting some pathway through my blood stream that would cause an aneurysm. Of course, you have to sanitize with alcohol wipes beforehand. Wipe the top of the vial. Create a sterile field on your arm. Then I have to go check to see if my arm is bleeding after I give myself a shot. So far it has usually taken about 10 minutes from start to finish to self-inject with B12. It was longer that that when I first started “hitting up.”

The reasons I take B12 is more complicated than taking the injections. The easiest way to explain the need for the shots is that I have a B12 deficiency, supposedly.

Naturally, I want to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible so I give myself the B12 injections and watch my diet and blood sugar levels as well as the old A1C. But shots are what give me the incentive to try and stay healthy. Getting older requires higher maintenance, just like your classic car. I don’t know if I would say that I am a classic though. I know some folks who would say that. And I know some people who would argue like hell with you about such a statement.