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!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


This is the 35th birthday of my youngest child. He is the only one of my six children not born in November. It was a Friday. So I always look for good things to happen for me on the 13th of the month, particularly when the day falls on a Friday. Happy Birthday, James!

I am now going to try to call him in Hawaii where he is working now. Getting through would be good luck if he is not working on the ship today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I don't care what the calendar says, this has to be the longest month of the year. The temperature got down to 22F last night. I realize that my Canadian friends would not consider -5C to be really cold for a Feb night. It's just the odd day's tease like last week's one day of 70F but rainy. At least today will be clear, calm and warm(er). Spring will come.

This is Feb 12 which we once celebrated as Lincoln's Birthday until it morphed into the politically correct Presidents Day, except in the South. When I first came to the SOUTH over 50 years ago, I was told "We don't want no stinking Yankee holidays". Instead we had Lee-Jackson day in January, which has now become Lee-Jackson-King day as the Virginia Legislature could not bring itself to add a holiday for Martin Luther King. Oh well!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Everyone is asking me about the commercials and the half time show during the Super Bowl show. I am even getting e-mails from companies I shop with on line asking if I saw their commercials or to rate their effectiveness. I haven't a clue.

I am probably one of only a dozen people in the USA who do not have a working TV in their house. So when I watch TV it is in the bar next door, where the noise level is so high that the sound on the game is turned off. I have no idea what the voice track is or even what the product is. The marketers are so clever and subtle that the product is not displayed or in the case of a service like banking or insurance can't be.

So I have no idea what the giant rodents driving a car or sitting on a park bench are trying to sell me. So I wish the ad peeps would stop wasting my time and delaying the games and save their money to pay dividends to their already filthy rich stockholders, like me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


When I first moved to Norfolk in December of 1967, I was told that it never snowed here. We were promptly buried under about 15 inches. It turned out that Norfolk didn't own a single snow plow. Now, after almost 45 years Norfolk and Virginia Beach still don't. There are some trucks that can fit plow blades on them and various road repair equipment that have plows, but they still get caught off guard every time.

There have been winters when there was no snow. Other winters we got just a dusting or two. This winter we have had several heavy snow falls. Last night it snowed again and today the side streets are all covered with ice as the temperature still has not risen above freezing. Welcome to the sunbelt.

Monday, February 07, 2011


The Super Bowl is over. The Chargers are now Champions of the world of a game that is only played in the 50 United States. Oh well! This week finished up OK. I am healthy, in one piece, well fed, sober and home and well rested and looking forward to my next adventure.

Last Super Bowl Sunday, 2010, I started out in Annapolis buried under 2 feet of snow. It took all morning for the parking valets to dig my car out of the parking lot and then I had a long difficult drive home over snow covered roads. After the game I fell and cut my head open and spent the night in the emergency room and laid up for several days.

In 2009, I came home from the Caribbean with Pneumonia and spent several days laid up. I barely avoided a hospital stay.

This year is better.

Friday, February 04, 2011


The Dark Ages are about half over but the days are getting longer and somewhat warmer.

This week I got a call from the Military Sealift Command that I had been hired and I should report for work on Feb 28, the last official day of the Dark Ages. They told me I should arrive for work that first week with my luggage, packed as if I would be gone for six months.

First I will have to attend a Mariners boot camp in New Jersey for about six weeks and then I will be assigned to a ship. I may travel right from that school or there may be a period of waiting. I don't know where I will be or how long the first assignment will last.

The adventure continues and I got tired of being retired. I realized that I was paying to do what I have been doing, crewing on ships and boats. Now I will try it as full time employment. I will give it my best effort and hope it works out. More in the future.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Five years ago today was the day of my wife's funeral. When I was in school, we called this 8 weeks "The Dark Ages". The eight weeks between Christmas leave and the end of the winter sports season, the last weekend in February, were dark. The sun set before supper and we were sometimes on our way to class before sunrise. Semester break was always the last weekend in January and was only a weekend. There were always term papers and projects to turn in on return from Christmas leave and exams the last week of January. We were supposed to work on those during the leave. Sure!

Football was over, baseball wasn't started, Navy never was a basketball power and the rest of the winter sports were "minor sports" and interrupted by exam schedules. The competition swimming pool was a relic from the 1920's and the water cleaning system was broken for years. We used that pool for survival training too and by this time of year it was so filthy that it took courage just to get into it. The weather was cold, and rainy and we couldn't get the boats in the water for the ice. The spring sports were reduced to indoor conditioning, but Spring always came.

Now the administration has outlawed the term Dark Ages and the old alumni will take revenge at the Dark Ages Happy Hour at a local brew pub next week. Spring will come and now that the sun is out I am going for a walk on the beach.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Yesterday marked the fifth year anniversary of the death of my wife of 40 years. I marked the day by visiting the cemetery and adding fresh flowers to her grave. They won't last long but the flowering pots of hyacinths and tulips I left will be a sign in the coming days of the Spring to come. I haven't been going there as often recently, but there hasn't been a day in the last 5 years that she wasn't on my mind. It isn't as difficult now as it once was but I can never leave those many years completely behind. But I have the family we created and life goes on.

So now I am looking for a job on the water and James is off to Hawaii on his job. I am looking forward to Spring and the Jets are still playing football. I have resolved to get myself back in shape.

In school we called this the "Dark Ages", but they always yielded to the glory of a Chesapeake Bay Spring.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I hate January! Cold, Snowy, sleet filled, windy and dark are words to describe the winter in Virginia Beach. The entertainment and lifestyle that make up the summer here are also missing. It is the end of things and the beginnings of others.

Janus was the two faced God of the Romans looking both forward and back. I met my wife at a New Years eve party 1959 and she passed away five years ago tomorrow. Claire's book store in LA is closing and I am looking to start an new career in the merchant marine. Two of my grand children are planning on getting married this year and there is always the next birthday of some family member, graduation, promotion or adventure. There is always a new beginning and when the weather gets this cold you know that Spring can't be too long behind.

Spring training starts in only six months and then comes another summer, another Baseball Season and long, sunny summer evenings. The Dark Ages will end just like they always did and the flowers will bloom again.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Anyone who tells me this is the result of Global Warming is stupid. I was two days late getting to Jamaica, and when I got home it was snowing. It probably will not stick this time, but the weather has been unseasonably cool so far.

So I am home, safe andsound and I will post more when I figure out how this works.