Monday, April 18, 2011


There was one warm day last week, sunny with a high of 80F(25C) and the next day every early flowering plant was in bloom. Forsythia, dogwood, fruit trees, and even the daffodils and tulips which had been hiding from the late snows and frosts were showing their colors. It reminded me of the spring times I spent in the Mediterranean, in Spain, Italy and Greece. After a dreary Winter, Spring arrives overnight. Demeter returns from Hades and the hills are covered with wild flowers and the clouds are gone until next winter. Unfortunately that isn't what happens in north New Jersey. We haven't had anymore frost or snow and the colors haven't gone completely, but the days have been chilly and rainy and thunder storms and bad weather has been the norm. Fortunately, MY training session is almost done and by next Sunday, I will be back in Virginia Beach, where I know that Spring has really arrived.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Sometime in the late 1960's my uncle Bill Hogan moved from the Bronx to Fort Lee, New Jersey. At that time the Giants were still playing in Yankee Stadium and the "Meadowlands" was a Tidal swamp that stank of raw sewage at low tide. From his apartment you could look over the swamp. The Jersey turnpike had been in operation for several years and was going through a big expansion. He would often say that the turnpike authority intended to pave the entire state and make it just a way for everyone to travel between New York and Pennsylvania. That is just what they did with that area. The Meadowlands is now a combination of Sports venues and their associated parking lots. There is a football stadium, a racetrack, a hockey rink and a basketball arena. Then there are highway interchanges that rival anything in LA. But the Turnpike Authority did not rest on its laurels. Here in the center of the state the Turnpike is undergoing a major expansion. It is already six lanes wide and it is being expanded to at least 12, 6 in each direction. The ramps and toll stations are being moved and expanded and new interchanges are under construction. The roads around the expansion are also being widened and "improved". The result is a big, muddy mess and traffic congestion on a full time basis. If my Uncle can see this now, he must be laughing. Eventually New Jersey will be nothing more than some beaches, the Delaware Water Gap, the Pine Barrens and THE TURNPIKE.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Haven't they ever heard of spring in New Jersey? Last Monday was the equinox and the first official day of spring. There has been snow or freezing rain everyday since then.

We are doing Ordnance Handling this week on a driveway or in an unheated warehouse. The fork trucks don't do well on wet pavement and those steel chains and tie downs are brutal on your hands. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and cold(below freezing). The long range forcast is for more cold. Saturday is damage and flooding control with the certainty of getting wet. Oh well!

Next week is small arms training, at least they have an indoor firing range.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I made it through this week and now I have completed the most difficult physical part of the training. The beginning was working aloft and fall prevention. The rest of the week was firefighting training. I still have the bruises, cramps and aches but the rest of the training is not as strenuous.

When I was a child my mother told me I really couldn't fly like Superman. The Fall Pro training involves climbing vertical ladders in a safety harness and demonstrating four different kinds of safety retraints. To develop confidence you then have to step off the ladder and then swing to the next tower and then come down. Don't tell me I can't fly!

The fire fighting training is putting out fire in ship like steel mockups with water, foam, CO2 and other agents. We were wearing about 70 pounds of equipment and suits. "Bunker Suits", hoods, boots, gloves, breathing masks and air bottles. Not a nice thing to do to an old man.

I made it without falling out or giving up and next week is a solid week of explosive handling at Earle Weapons Station. Piece of cake.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


One of the reasons that I sold my house was to get away from the routine chores that came with owning a piece of land. I have been telling my friends that I have mowed my last grass, raked my last leaves and painted my last wall (bulkheads are not walls).

My yard is gravel and I am headed to a ship that has no dirt to grow anything.

Today I had no classes so I was assigned to cleanup duties. I spent my entire workday raking and bagging leaves and hauling them out into the woods to dump them. Oh well, at least they are paying me.

Friday, March 11, 2011


This morning I woke to the news of a really devastating earthquake in Japan and Tsunami warnings all over the Pacific from Midway and Hawaii to California and Chile. What has this to do with me in New Jersey?

My son James is working in Hawaii and staying in a beach front hotel near Barber's point and my grandson Patrick is going to Japan next week to his new USAF assignment. I am not worried about my son too much. He has matured a lot since I had to hide the car keys to stop him from going to the NC outer banks to surf the hurricane waves. I think that I can trust him not to walk down to the beach to watch the waves come in. Any problem that delays his shipboard work will delay his return home.

I think that Japan will get the airports back in service by next week and in any case the Air Force will take care of Patrick if he gets stuck somewhere.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey the conversation is about how recent events in Libya, Somalia, Bahrein, Japan and elsewhere will change our ship assignments when we finish the school.

It certainly is more interesting than a Lazy Boy in Chic's Beach.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The only way to learn how to put out fires is to put out fires. So now I am doing fire training with a whole lot of people about half my age. It is tough and the rest of it is the hard part. Next week is the rest of the fire training, small arms training, including the firing range, and survival swimming. We are getting safety training, which involves all the horror stories complete with pictures and film. I feel like I'm in driving school again.

When I get back to the hotel, I wonder about my decision process that got me to this point. Then I figure that the tougher the training, the easier the job. Onward and upward!