My Journal: What's going on in 505 World
"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us." ~ Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, 17 January 2018: Lee-Jackson Day, Snow Day
Taking this Ghosting Thing to the next level, I took Monday off. Yesterday, I went in for Staff meeting, My Last!, and today I took a snow day because we got about a half-inch of snow last night and because I had a Dermatology Appointment this morning. I will go in tomorrow for a bit and then I will go in Friday while Kim is at the dentist.
At staff yesterday, I wore my track suit and sat in the back. Still, they asked me if I could cover the VFT on Friday. My answer, "If I Have To," looked like it pissed a few people off who were sitting on their hands. Damnit. I have two weeks left and they act like they can't do without me. How many times was it just me and Chris Perry down there counting Pull-ups? No more. I'm done. Let the New SGM pull my weight. Oh Wait! He hasn't been hired yet.
I wrote the Corps yesterday, my last e-mail, thanking them for doing such a great job. Here it is:
Janissaries of the Commonwealth,
You were most impressive . I have viewed every video I can find, taken from all possible angles, and I must say that this has to be the perfect event to end my VMI career and my days in Uniform. I was proud like a dad. Your attitudes were amazing, your lines straight, and your rifles all at the same angle. I have received kudos from as far away as Britain, Japan, and Turkiye (not kidding), to which I replied, “I didn’t have jack to do with it; it was all the Corps.”
And, it truly was.
I spent all of yesterday reading articles about your performance and I only found one negative, which I would share with you here:
Military Coup at Inaugural
Richmond Free Press
Buffy Brightstar Moonchild, Reporter
afternoon, during the parade honoring our duly elected, democratic governor, a large formation of trained killers from VMI appeared from behind the capitol building, marching to the sound of their war drums, and brandishing Claymore Battle Swords and AR15 Assault Weapons with chainsaw attachments. They stopped the entire parade and refused to move until forcing the poor governor to grant amnesty, which we can only assume means that they have the freedom to commit any atrocity throughout our state. Once they forced the governor to their will, they let out a demonic war cry and marched off, stomping their feet like storm troopers, to terrorize the peace-loving people of Richmond. This reporter was so scared that she had to hurry to the designated safe place at Starbucks on the VCU Campus and has since had to seek counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress.
OK, I may have written that.
It has been a pleasure Mates.
To the class of ‘18—Great Job so far this year. Finish Strong. I envy those of you going into the service. If I could do it all again, I would jump at the chance. For those of you not, there are many ways to serve. Find one and pitch in.
To the Class of ‘19—I look forward to seeing how you all transition to leadership billets for next year. I expect to hear great things. Bring my replacement up right, like the class of 1998 did for me, and teach him/her the ways of VMI. This might be your greatest legacy.
To the class of ’20—Be great Sergeants next year. Never make your officers do your job, keep them informed, train the Rats well…they will be your Corporals.
Sunday, 14 January, 2018: Last duty and, oh by the way, I'm 65
Yeah. Today is my sixty-fifth birthday. I assume this means I am officially old. Ah well, You're only as old as you feel, age is only a number, and all that bull shit. Happily, at "Grandaddy's Birthday Brunch," with Kady, Jay, and the Kiddos, I found some great Shrimp and Grits at Fry's Spring Station. This may be a Sunday Thing from now on.
Yesterday the Corps marched in the Virginia Governor's Inaugural Parade. They did a fantastic job. I was amazed at their discipline and attention to detail. They looked sharp and did everything we asked of them. We practiced for only two one-hour periods and they did so well andwere so cooperative that we let them go and cancelled Friday afternoon's practice.
Saturday morning was an early start. I got up at 4am to drive to Lexington, just to get on a bus to drive right back, passing C'ville, to go to Lexington. The smart thing to do would have been to meet the busses there, but I couldn't do that to The L-Train. I knew he might need a little help getting everyone going, but, really, The Corps had it.
Once in Richmond, we sent cadets for chow, which consisted of two pieces of bread with a few slices of turkey, a pack of mayonnaise, an apple, and a small bag of chips. "We'll feed you lunch," they said. This was the only disappointing part of the day; everything else went well.
Once we passed in review and the Governor had given the Corps amnesty for PTs and confinement, we loaded busses for Lex, passing, once again, C'ville. I'm Stupid!
Once back, I loaded up Bess and drove home. I was back by 5:30pm, happy and tired. Kim made me a quick sandwich and I went to bed, having accomplished the last thing I promised the Commandant i would do before I left.
Wednesday, 3 January, 2018: Back Home
Kim and I drove home Tuesday. We got up before Elise and Cooper and, rather than wake them, left without saying goodbye. I figured I'd hear about it from Elise, but she was happy to get to sleep in...Cooper too, from what Elise says.
I spent this morning gleaning the War Room of unneeded and unwanted stuff. Now that I'll in one place, I don't need all that I needed dividing my time between two houses. For instance, I don't need nearly as many white t-shirts for dress uniform wear. Hell, I probably won't wear Dress Uniform again. Perhaps i will on Inaugural Day, but i think I may wear Civvies just to make a statement. This should be the New SGM's first big event, with me advising, but, well, they are just beginning the hiring process. I should be pissed off, but, EH!, I'm just going with the flow.
While cleaning and organizing, I watched a couple of good movies, Hyena Road, a decent Canadian movie about the war in Afghanistan, and Stone of Destiny, a movie about the recovery of the Stone of Scone from England by Scot students in 1950.
It was a nice quiet day.
Monday, 1 January, 2018: Happy New Year
The music was traditionally bad bubble-gum pop, but there were a few good moments that even a 1970s music snob could enjoy. I thought Alessia Cara was very talented but, the best show of the night was Camila Cabello. Brittany proved that she can't sing and dance at the same time. Mariah did an acceptable job considering the conditions, better than last year, but, she wasn't great. Neil Diamond was fantastic. Florida Georgia Line need to stop singing and go away...never ever calling themselves a country duo again. Nick Jonas was only decent...rating an "Eh!" on my scale. Sugar Land...uh...not impressive, though I love Jennifer's voice. Walk The Moon was interesting. Of course, there were a lot of people I never heard of (read "pop" above).
Midnight was spent with my Kady and Elise, Andy and his family, with Jay and Kel on Face-Time...warm and snug in Elise's house.
While we were out on Saturday, I picked up a local news paper and read an article there about discussions to remove or "add historical content to" the Confederate Memorial from Forsyth Park. I drove there yesterday to photograph it. It is one of the most beautiful monuments I have ever seen, and I'm glad I took photos of it. It will be a sad day if they decide to remove it.
I used the Mamiya and the digital. I loved the looks I got when I started setting up the big camera. Like the decline of high-fidelity to iPods and ear buds, I believe that the ease of cell phone cameras may be the end of real photography. I swear some people were wondering what the hell that big thing was.
Kim and I will leave for home tomorrow morning. I'm ready, for sure, but this has been a fun time. I'll have about a week at home before having to go back to work for my last few days. It is going fast.
Friday, 29 December, 2017: A Very Quick Photo Shoot
Yesterday, I took all of the cameras out for a photo shoot. My adapter came in the mail Wednesday, which was what I needed to mount the Mamiya onto my tripod. I drove to the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, across the Savannah River from River Street, to take a few shots there, then I planned to drive to Ft. Pulaski to see what might present itself.
It was COLD out by the river. The wind was blowing about 20mph, making the already cold and wet day feel much more so. As I set up my cameras, two pretty Italian girls asked if I would take their photo with their cell phone. "Sure!"
Once I got set up, I took shots with everything but the 35mm. Because the wind was so strong, I'm not sure about the shots with the big camera, even on the tripod. I guess we'll see. I've become way too spoiled with the immediate feedback and instant gratification of digital photography. Film will be good for me, but I think it will be a warm weather endeavor. Once I got everything back in the car, I scrubbed the trip to the fort.
Andy's parents, Al and Barb, will be here today, then the house will begin filling up as we approach the New Year. I like Andy's parents. They are great fun.
Monday, 25 December, 2017: A Quiet Christmas
Happy Christmas Everyone.
Kim and I are in Savannah watching Cooper, alone and unsupervised. Kim just made breakfast, at 1PM, with Mimosas. We're watching A Christmas Story, only one time through this year, I hope. When Elise is here, we have to watch it all day long.
Cooper and I had a nice Christmas Walk this morning, going down to the lake for a little off-leash time. He must be feeling better, because he pulled me around on our three mile route today. He has made me pull him around every other day we have walked this trip. I think he is over his mild case of pancreatitis. Now all I have to do for him is to get him on his regular diet.
I've had the best time down here working on my photography. First, my photos from my new Mamiya were posted by The Dark Room. Those turned out really well except for the low light. It may not be as hard to learn this camera as I thought, but I now know I need to mount it to a sturdy tripod.
Those photos inspired me, so I got out my Nikon DSLR and mounted the 50mm lens for a little available light practice. First came Moose, Elise's votive holder. Then I took some shots of a flower arrangement Kady put together, Taking a few shots of Cooper were challenging, he hates having his photo taken, but taking photos of Kady were even more a struggle. She posed, grudgingly, but demanded complete say-so and full artistic control over any photo I wanted to publish.
I was pleased.
Then, an amazing thing happened. Kady was emailing back-and-forth with her uncle Ed out in Texas and mentioned that I was working in Medium Format Film. He said he had a Mamiya 6 Rangefinder with three lenses packed away in his closet. He said that I could have whole kit, if I wanted it (hahahaha), for the price of shipping.
I said, "YES!"
Elise and Andy come in tomorrow. His parents come in the 28th and Kimber is coming in for New Year's Eve.
Tuesday, 19 December, 2017: Endings and Beginnings
Friday, Jay, Jake, and I went to see The Last Jedi. Jay bought us tickets on the 4th row at a fantastic theater, the Violet Crown. It was, I think, one of the best episodes so far, but I have a few questions I must sort out in my mind before I accept it as the best one ever. No spoilers here.
Dwyn met me at the apartment Saturday morning to pick up the bed and lamps. We used that trip as a reason to go to Massaki for sushi on our way through Staunton.
Sunday, Kim and I went to Jonathon and Kelly's house for early Christmas. Jake got a hover hoard and had it down in about a minute. He is very coordinated. Emmy was fascinated by the musical jewelry box...especially the fact that it locked. The was key was lost in about an hour.
Yesterday was a banner day. I began at 0400hrs with a wake-up, and was on the road by 0430. I cleaned out the apartment until I had to go in to work for BRC Formation and to organize Room Clearing. Once I had my guys moving around barracks and communicating with the Guard Room, I went back to the apartment to wait on the movers from Habitat for Humanity. I was very happy that they took everything...the rugs, my little desk, the chair, two ottomans, and the TV and VCR.
Once the furniture was gone, I called Gene at Housing Maintenance to inspect and I gave him the keys with much pleasure. DONE! I will be commuting from Charlottesville in January....when I actually go to work. I'm thinking I won't be working much after the Governor's Inaugural Parade on the 13th.
Once back in the Barracks, I checked on the iinspectors, re-organized them, and sent them back out. I don't think they had much business. I spent the afternoon working with my new medium format camera, a Mamiya RZ-67, which is MY Christmas present. It came in Friday before I arrived home from work. The film arrived Sunday night. I loaded up a test roll, and took some snaps around Barracks and Post, bracketing each shot to get a feel for the camera and lens. I mailed the exposed roll off to The Darkroom today.
Room close-out is a bit more brisk today. My cadet inspectors have been clearing a few rooms this morning, but I think the lions share of the work will be this afternoon and tomorrow.
I took Cadet Rebecca and her Rattie to Foothill Mama's for lunch. It was fun seeing her rat relax and begin to open up and have a little fun. I didn't eat much because the Staff had Pot Luck together in the conference room. It was all super delicious, especially the pecan pie that Kim made
Kim and I will be on the road tomorrow for Savannah. I'm looking forward to a Cooper Christmas.
Tuesday, 12 December, 2017: Last Days in Appartament le Misreable
It just hit me...today is the anniversary of our departure from Grenada in 1983. What a great homecoming that was. Our return was so different from what Vietnam vets endured when they came home. We came home to cheers, flags waving, and positive TV coverage. We came home to a resurgence of patriotism.
This week, I'll be cleaning out the VMI apartment and moving to Charlottesville on Friday. I'll meet Dwyn here Saturday morning to give her the bed and lamps. Hospice, I hope, will pick up the balance.
I'll have to work Monday and Tuesday, so I will have to commute. Then I'll be commuting during the last half of January, after Christmas Furlough, until I walk out the door February. My main focus will be the Governor's Inaugural Parade, but after that, I plan on being very ghost-like.
Kim asked me about Christmas last night, thinking I wanted a Drone. Yes, I do, but later. What I have been thinking lately, with this resurgence of film photography in my life, is that I need a medium format camera. Once out of my price range, you can now pick up great used cameras pretty cheap.
We went looking and found a Mamiya RZ-67, with a 60mm f4 lens, and two film backs on eBay for a decent price. We got the seller to shave $50 off the top making it too good to pass up. It should be in Charlottesville by this weekend.
I think I'll get Kelly to pose for me to try it out.
Here's a photo I took of her this weekend. She looks great in Black and White. I texted her and she said YES.
Sunday, 10 December, 2017: The Mystery in the Mystery
I have always loved books. As a young boy I perused my father's college books reading about biology, math, and sciences...much of which I didn't understand, but the idea of what books could offer was not lost on me. I spend hours at the Woodlawn Library after school, rummaging through the shelves, waiting on my mom to pick me up on the way home from work. I educated myself with the encyclopedia.
During one summer's reading program, a competition to read as many books during the course of our summer vacation as possible, I picked up a copy of a little mystery novel, "Mystery of the Wooden Indian" by Elizabeth Honness. Wooden Indian was one of a series of young people's mystery books that she wrote back in the 1950s.
I enjoyed this book and it has remained a great memory throughout my life. Quite possibly, it was the spark that made me love books so.
During our move, I found a photocopy of the book in a folder among my things. I set it aside thinking I would re-read it one day. My desire to read it again was as much out of respect for how I came by this copy as my love for the little story. It is the mystery in the mystery.
You see, our Sylvia gave me the folder. Few people have ever known me as thoroughly as our Sylvia and I am sure I mentioned the book during one of our talks, and, true to form, Sylvia never forgot it. She found the book in the Birmingham Springville Road Library and, painstakingly, photocopied each and every page, put it all in a binder, and give it to me for Christmas.
Think on that a moment. She remembered a moment's comment, went searching and found the book, and then stood over a photocopier copying an entire188-page book. Sylvia was like that. It was the finest of Christmas Gifts.
This weekend, while down with an upper respiratory infection...or something...I stayed in and watched a few movies, watched at some sports, played on my computer, and read the book. Of course it was an easy read, but it was just as fun as the first time I read it. Once again, I found myself trudging through the snows on New Hampshire with Doug, Nancy and their big sister Barb (I swear I'm still as smitten with her as I was back then), as they find the old wooden Indian hidden in the old sugar house in the woods. I remembered every twist in the story, knowing I could decipher the code, but looking forward to every discovery...read every word...taking them all as they came.
It was worth every minute.
QJSIBQT POF EBZ ZPV XJMM SFBEJU UPP.
Saturday, 9 December, 2017: A Sleepy, Snowy Saturday
We have my kind of snow outside today--Light, Not sticking to the Streets, and almost Gone. I was going out a few minutes ago to take a couple of photos to include here, you know, "First Snow in the New House" kinda stuff, but it's almost gone. Perfect.
In preparation for this well publicized snow, I brought home the snow shovel. I won't be using that this weekend. Good thing; I'm a bit under the weather with a sore throat. Hummm. I think I'll snuggle up inside and do nothing but watch movies and read.
It has taken me a week, but I think I'm over the SEC Championship loss. The way I see it, AU went into that game overconfident, thinking they would be playing the same team. GA came in knowing they needed to do two things to win--Hurt an already hurt Karryon Johnson and pressure/hurt Stidham. They went overboard trying to do this, but it worked. Their tactics make it easier for me to cheer for Alabama in the playoffs.
Saturday, 2 December, 2017: Iron Bowl and Sal's Visit
The Iron Bowl was so much better than expected. Elise and Andy left with Cooper on Friday, Kimber came in from Atlanta, and Jonathon came over for the game. I settled into my new chair for what I thought would be a tight game with lots of cussing, yelling, cheering, and normal frustration with AU Football. Mostly, however, I sat there dumbfounded and how we handled them. It wasn't even close.
I heard it said this past week, that Auburn is the best team in the nation right now, and I believe it. I think maybe Oklahoma might argue, but it was sure good to hear.
I went back Monday because no one but the new CSM was willing to open Barracks and she is too new to feel comfortable enough to do it alone. Neither of us had much to do. Tuesday, Major Sal brought his squadron leadership in for an off-site conference, using VMI facilities. I coordinated the visit and helped them gain access to things like a conference room, the gym, the mess hall, and I took them on a tour of barracks and post. They stayed through Thursday.
Wednesday and Thursday, I helped the Cadre practice the Rats for the Lexington Christmas parade, but, they had it. This year's Regimental XO is really outstanding, had a plan, briefed it well, and then executed it. All I did was give a couple of pieces of advice and some points for improvement, and watched.
Friday, I did a few things preparing for Christmas Furlough like putting team shotguns back in the Armory, but that's about all. I had packed the car the night before, so after guns were secure, I drove to Charlottesville, leaving the Christmas Parade to the Corps and whoever went with them. I'm sure they did a good job.
Now the wait is on for the SEC Championship game against Georgia. Can we beat them again? I don't know. It will be tougher if we don't have Karryon Johnson who was hurt in the Alabama game. If we do when, we're in the championship playoffs...but, One Game at a time!
War damn Eagle Y'all.
Monday, 20 November, 2017: A Glimpse at the Future
This will certainly go too fast. I'm into my third day of Furlough and it has been pretty damn nice. I've been working on the War Room, hanging photos, gleaning stuff I once thought important but now headed to Goodwill, and watching Season 6 of Longmier. Cooper time interrupts the work process, but that's just fine by me. I only have a few more days with him. He'll leave with Elise and Andy on Friday morning. I'll see him again at Christmas and then again in February and March.
My room is really shaping up. I was a little worried that I wouldn't have the wall space for my favorite things, but it has all fit well, and I think it looks good. Kim refused to lend a hand and that's probably best. I doubt that she would have covered the walls the way I have...but, seriously, what would I do without my guidons, 505PIR regimental Deitz print "The Beginning," my Para Reg print "The Paras are Landing," and my photo of Joint Command South East HQ?
My Canon A-1, 35mm camera, is loaded with Ilford FP4 black and white film. I'm ready to start shooting film again after talking to Sal about it while he was in Lex...and looking at all my old work from Izmir. I've even organized a shoot with Ashley for later this month or early December. I hope it works as well as I hope. I may even buy a medium format camera.
Thursday, 16 November, 2017: Here I am Again, Holiday Inn
Actually, I'm in the Super 8 up by Wal-Mart...watching the Seconds to make sure they don't hurt themselves or ruin the reputation of the Institute. Yeah. It's my job.
This hotel isn't where the action is. That must be at another hotel. The cadets here are occupied trying to find the shuttle to get to the fun. It's pretty benign here...a little loud music, but no crazy shit...yet.
I got up at 4am this morning and drove back from Charlottesville. Kim and I went to the JAG school at UVa to get her a new government ID Card. We ate lunch at Martin's Grill, my new favorite burger joint. GREAT burgers!
Tomorrow, I'll run the close down of Barracks for Furlough, then spend another night out here at this hotel. After I get up Saturday morning, I have to go by Barracks for a second, before I drive to Charlottesville. I get nine days off. Well...Elise has plans for me three of those days.
On Thanksgiving, we'll all do a 5K walk/run. The next day we're taking family photos with photographer Kelly Nye, something we've wanted to do for a while. Saturday, Iron Bowl day, Elise wants to hike a mountain, any mountain. She's a nut. I am not missing one second of the game, so, she better have a really good plan.
I just need to get through tomorrow.
Monday, 13 November, 2017: Holy Cow!
I still can't believe it. Auburn crushed Georgia's soul on Saturday. They were ranked #1 in the BCS Bowl poll for all of 6 days. No more. AU was firing on all cylinders and they couldn't stop our offense. Our Defense smothered their run and demoralized they young QB.
Final Score: #10 Auburn 40 - #1 UGA 17.
War damn Eagle!
I listened to the game at the VMI Game, where I froze for three hours watching Wofford crush our boys 45-14, and while driving to Charlottesville, making it there just in time to see the last few minutes in the 4th quarter.
The rest of the weekend was spent playing on my new computer and playing with my grandkids.
I drove back to Lex this morning without Coop. Kim is keeping him so I can get some work done. I'll go back Tuesday night after the Corps Thanksgiving Supper, stay through Wednesday, and come back here for Ring Figure duties Thursday and Friday. Thanksgiving Furlough is only a few days away. I'm pretty excited. It will be the longest time I've ever spent in the new house.
Friday, 10 November, 2017: Foundersveteranskellybilljarhead Day
Why am I working so hard? Where is my Replacement?
This week has been a shambles. I have Cooper. He is a job all by himself. Then, people keep asking me to do STUFF. We have two parades this week. We had practice parade on Wednesday with howitzers and all. We are celebrating Founders Day, Veteran’s Day, and the Marine Corps Birthday today. We have a posting downtown, one tonight for the Institute Society Dinner, and rehearsals to go with them. We have a Football Game tomorrow. The weather has been cold and rainy. Ridiculous! Miserable.
I cannot go home until after the game because many on the Commandant have other things going on, so I have to cover it…the whole game. The AU vs. GA game comes on at 1530, about the time I should be driving. This is Huge for both teams. I will have to listen to it on Sirius.
When I get home Saturday night, I have a few new toys waiting on me. My new computer is there. I am calling it the Star Ship Enterprise…because of its curved monitor and gee-wiz features. Cannot wait! Next, I have ordered all of the stuff I will need to crank back up my Canon A-1 35mm camera. Talking to Sal at my retirement ceremony has made me want to try that again. I used to do such good work with it.
Sandy is still there. The transmission went out on his big truck. Terrible. The Chevy place cannot get to it until Wednesday. I enjoy time with the man. He is so smart and can do most anything. It might be good to have him there as I crank up the new computer. He benefits from my new computer too. He gets my old one and I am sure he will figure out the problem with the start-up procedures.
Next week will not be as bad, just a pain in the ass. I will drive back to Lex early Monday morning, then we have the Corps Thanksgiving Supper Tuesday (always yummy), then I have to be in Charlottesville to get Kim’s ID Card updated, then drive back to Lex, Then Ring Figure hotel watching Thursday and Friday nights, and then Barracks Closeout for Thanksgiving Furlough. Saturday morning I will drive from the Hotel to C’ville for a week off….That will take a little planning and packing.
Having Cooper around has been great for me. We have been out for walks every day, sometimes twice a day. He has me feeling as if I am back on track. Certainly, he makes me a happy old man. Cooper is by far the sweetest dog in the world and everyone loves him…especially the cadets. There was a moment yesterday that I had eight cadets in my office playing with him. He is good for them as well.
Tuesday, 7 November, 2017: Playing with the Corps
Getting the last bit of blood from this stone, I was asked, two
weeks ago, to begin enforcing the one of the many rules this place
thrived on. I guess I can still fix things here, but I decided
to do them my way this time, not the VMI way. I began playing
with the Corps by E-mail.
Get your shade up. It may be down only when you are changing. The penalty is 5 Demos (M1867).
Thanks for your support and the brisk walk around Barracks on a fine Fall day. I only had to bone 49 Room Orderlies, most of whom did not believe the photos (below). No, I was not kidding. If I see shade below the 1/3rd Bar, your shade is DOWN.
Also, “I Just Finished Changing” is no excuse. That just means you’re damn unlucky.
This is great fun; See you this afternoon. 49 x 3 = 147 and it only took me 20 minutes.
Future Leaders of the Free World,
I must thank you again. I am now the leader in my family Fit-Bit Challenge.
This trip around Barracks was much faster, able to keep my pace going by stopping only five times. I hit one Rat Room for the second time in one day, making me believe they must be dodging the Rat Line by spending too much time in their Dyke’s Room.
If this improvement keeps up, I may be able to wear my running shoes and run it by Friday. My super-secret route around Barracks is almost two miles. It would be a good STOOP RUN!
I would try that tomorrow, but I’ve been asked to look for *Rooms not in MI Order and to check a random area of Barracks for UA Hay Downs. I personally believe that this is because VMI wants to get every bit of work out of me they can before I retire or that COL Levenson hates me as much as he hates you. It could be both. I’m kidding; COL Levenson doesn’t hate me.
If I’m your Room Inspector, I’ll be there tomorrow, 0800ish. You better look better than today…a LOT better. Room Inspection?-- Open weekend?
I picked up four Book Bags today. The poor souls who picked them up from my office purchased them back at a heavy price. Don’t let this be you.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Corps and Everyone else,
This is becoming monotonous; only 5 shades tonight. I’m sure it is for you as well.
Therefore, I will ask COL Levenson, tomorrow, if I can institute Santini Latrine Ambushes just to make this more fun and keep you on your toes. I’m sure he’ll go for it since he is a Sapper and trained for just this kind of work. I will also enlist the help of CSM Rubinstein and SsFC Bean and Ech.
If you haven’t seen The Great Santini, then Shame on You! Here’s YouTube Clip for your edification. Remember, Stay Alert, Stay Alive…and keep that shade UP!
15,556 Steps and it’s not even
Young Olympian Gods,
Thanks for your support. I hit my goal of 18,000 (18,819)steps on my way home after Taps. Sadly, I cancelled out these “gains” with a trip to Tong Dynasty (China House) in Covington for lunch.
Thanks also for not wasting my time up on the stoop. I think I will back off, a bit, and visit you only one time a day. Sadly, this will be random, so you will just have to keep that shade UP! This will give me more time to look at cleanliness and maintenance, find those evil UA Hay Downs, and smack down people who just can’t seem to clean their rooms. I’ll choose a random section of barracks for that, but, if you peek on my door, there is a map of Barracks with that section circled. Don’t tell the L-Train about this insider info.
When I first arrived here back in 2001, I found that Cadets didn’t understand a lot of what I said. This is because I have never had an original thought in my life and speak mostly in Movie Quotes. There was the problem. My Movies were not Cadet Movies. I began a diverse education program called “SGM’s Movie Night; Movies You Should Have Seen.” It was well received, but I was told to stop because of the copyright legalities. Blah, Blah, Blah, Yack, Yack Yack.
You’ve done such a good job
this week, I thought I’d send you my Movie Play List. I’ve
added a few favorites since then. They are in no particular
order. My all-time favorite? Becket, followed closely by
Josey Wales. Happy Watching!
Warriors of The Republic,
Now I must ask your forgiveness. I discovered, last week, that, no matter your rank, then The Man says, “You’re Marching,” well…You’re Marching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzRPioYPa28
Tomorrow’s Parade, though already on the schedule, is now being billed as my “Retirement Parade.” That’s kind of like a Go AWAY! party.
I thought I was going to get out of here with the only fanfare being the donuts that Bess and I would make in the Parade Ground as I departed Post. To my chagrin, that’s not gonna happen and I want to apologize in advance; I didn’t want you to have to march for me. However, since we all have to do this, there is something I want you to know:
I have invited my family and a few of my close VMI Friends (my inner circle) to come to Parade. Among them will be:
Put on a show for them. That way I can continue to talk smack about how great you are and how this is the Best, Toughest, most Awesome school on the face of the earth. Most of these folks already believe it. Show them again.
Rifle Angles and Straight Lines!
See you tomorrow. Sleep Well. Drink Water.
Thanks! Parade was magnificent and fun for my entire extended family. I wish there was more I could give you but the Governor has stopped answering my calls, the Supe had the Post Police on stand-by if I Zonked you (Major Jim Bean’s Suggestion…Google It), and the L-Train threatened bodily harm if I gave you Optional Shade Down this week (Kim’s Idea). Hopefully my appreciation will suffice.
The Band, MAJ Mitchell, and COL Brodie won everyone’s heart with their rendition of the Auburn Fight Song, my Tune played by the pipes, and The All American Soldier. I don’t know if you could hear me singing, but it was typically a horrible rendition, so be thankful if you couldn’t. War damn Eagle/Airborne, All The Way
The most meaningful moment was when General Peay had his private comments to me. Hiding a small body cam in my Jump Wings I was able this record this to share with you guys. Please watch the clip below.
Thanks Again. Cooper is with me the next two weeks, stop by and show him some love.
Tuesday, 24 October, 2017: Doing Too Much
This past weekend was crazy. We had Parades Friday and Saturday, Homecoming Dance Friday Night, Football and Reunion on Saturday, and a "Concert" at Lime Kiln on Saturday Night. I pulled OC in Barracks all day Saturday while the rest of the Commandant's Staff covered the dance, "concert" and hotels making sure the young people didn't hurt themselves or ruin the reputation of the Institute.
photo from the VMI fb page
I preempted the weekend by signing up for OC, then sending Chris an e-mail telling him I would not be available for hotel duty, probably one of the most personally dangerous things they ask us to do. Still he asked if I could cover the "concert." I declined. Hours of Digital Dave playing disco music did not sound like something I could stand.
I've done my time. I've been supportive. I can't do no mo. I'm not that invested in the cadets like I was back in 2007. I did Rat Challenge with these kids. I did 20-mile road marches and Corps Runs with them. I took them out every week, twice a week in the Spring, for NCMT. They were the first class to do the extended March on the FTX. I was all over the Barracks back then, talking to them...getting to know them.
Ashley drove in to spend time with me. That was interrupted by a missing Rat, a NCAA Baseball Player, discovered missing at 0800hrs, and reported to me at 0900hrs. I instituted the Missing Rat Procedures, contacting first the Roommates, his Dyke, The Post Hospital, Checking the sign-out Roster, and then calling the Commandant, S1, Baseball Coach, and Post Police. We got in touch with his parents who were in town. His mom finally got him to answer his phone. He was in a hotel Room here in town with his girlfriend. GREAT! He's leaving School this week. BETTER!
After settling everyone down and letting his parents and coach handle him, I got back to Ashley. We went to the PX for Coffee and had a great talk. She is such a treasure.
We only had one other incident the whole weekend. One young Alum went into two Cadet rooms and "tornadoed" both. Of course he was reported by the Cadets and identified at the game by L-Train. Hint-If you're going to do something like that, don't be the only guy wearing VMI khakis with VMI Spiders all over them. So, now he is sanctioned by VMI, was kicked off post and issued a no trespass order by the police. Idiot.
I was relieved by MAJ Gallagher at 1600hrs and went home to leave. Nohi stopped by as I was getting in the car for a quick chat.
I drove to Charlottesville for the rest of the weekend. Kim wasn't feeling well, so we didn't do a thing except watch Football. She had made me Cup Cakes and planned a steak dinner for Sunday night. Oh my goodness hot my girl can cook! I ate about eight cupcakes and the steak was absolutely fantastic. Had Kim felt better, it would have been the perfect weekend.
I have only four weeks till Thanksgiving Furlough. I get ten days off. When I come back from that furlough, I will have only twenty five days left until Christmas Break. I'll move out of Appartament le Misreable around 18 December, moving completely to Charlottesville the weekend before. I will commute the few days in January I plan to work.
It's going fast, but I wish we'd Slow Down!
This weekend, I will take the Color Guard to Martinsville Speedway for the NASCAR Data One 500. Sounds fun to me. Maybe I can meet Danica.
Tuesday, 17 October, 2017: Last VMI Shoot
This past weekend I took eight members of the team to a trap, skeet, and sporting clays shoot hosted by Virginia Tech's team. We arrived Friday night and stayed in the best hotel in which we have EVER stayed. Day one, Saturday, was at Fun Gun Farm where we shot Skeet. In the afternoon, we joined shooters from other teams, in squads of four or five, to rotate through the sporting clays stations. After a nap, we went to The Texas for dinner. Sunday, we were first up at Trap, out at Isaack Walton League.
Overall, we shot well, Nick being our top shooter with a 90 in Clays and Trap. Taylor shot a 92 in Skeet. The laws of averages was, as always against us, but you have to give it to VT, they had guys shooting in the high 90s.
But, that's it for me...my swan song with the team I started. Over the years I've had the pleasure of shooting with some great people and they are the cadets I've gotten to know best. In my final years here, it was the one thing I truly enjoyed.
I will miss it.
Major Chris got his orders yesterday. He begins packing out Monday for the active Army. What a huge turnover we're having here. #StillNoM. More on that later.
I have OC Saturday, Reunion Weekend. Young Classes. Troublemakers. Homecoming Dances, Concerts. Drunks. I likened it this morning to the boss as sending me out on Ambush Patrol my last night In-Country.
Tuesday, 11 October, 2017: BFF Sally's Visit
My inner circle is small, and it is rare that I keep friendships from days back in The Cult. Sally is one of those rare exceptions. She is one of the few people I don't tire of quickly and I relish the times she, Kim and I spend together.
Sal flew in to Charlottesville this weekend. I drove in Friday after Parade, skipped Saturday's Parade, and Kim and I picked her up about 10am. The rest of the weekend, we lounged around the house, eating Kim-made delicacies, snacking way too much, and watching football. We also had a good time trashing the people we knew from "Back Then" and reminiscing on how crazy it all was.
Reminder: I need to write a post on The Cult of The Doctrinal Pivot.
I met Sally back in '74 at a bible study, but we didn't really become friends until I returned from Grenada. She and Kim had become fast friends while I was gone and I inserted myself into their friendship once I got back. Sal has been to visit us almost every where we've lived, even coming to England with Sylvia, and we always get together when we're in Birmingham. he introduced me to many of my favorite places to eat in Birmingham. She and Bill and Sylvia were also very close and Bill thought of her like a daughter. Everyone in the family loves Sally.
This was also a Cooper Weekend. Elise and Andy went to DC for the Army 10-Miler, so Coop stayed with us. He was feeling a little under the weather, but I got him out for a few walks and took him shopping at Pet Smart. The dog actually shops when we go there. He picked out a bone and a pull toy, both of which made him feel instantly better.
The weekend was much too short and 0430 came much too early Monday morning. I was back by 0630 to help get ready for the Senior Military College Conference. Pffft.
I had lunch with Doctor/Professor Stephanie today. It had been a while, and silly; we work at the same place! We had lunch at Blue Sky, a local favorite. The conversation was lively, and, like always, turned to Turkiye and our concerns. We talked about going back, the risks, and still agree it's more dangerous to drive on I-81.
Monday, 2 October, 2017: Belvedere Plantation
I left VMI after Parade on Friday afternoon, ready for a fun weekend of Grandkids and Family. Saturday afternoon was Jakes soccer game, which gave me the morning to play around in my office, sorting out a few things I wanted to do. I bought a couple of Jason Isabel albums and updated my iPod, I ordered a new solid state external drive (since I dropped and destroyed the one with everything on it), and I fixed the connection to my home cloud for all my computers (That took some time to figure out).
The game was fun and a lot more exciting than adults playing soccer. Jake played a good game as a defenseman and as the goalie the second half. He made one diving save that was amazing and did a good job directing his team. He's grown a lot since last I saw him play.
Saturday night, I curled up on the couch with Kim for the Auburn vs. Mississippi State game. That was fun to watch. AU has come such a long way since that first game. I wish we could have another shot at Clemson.
Sunday morning, we all loaded up in Jay's Explorer and headed to the Harvest Festival at Belvedere Plantation outside of Fredericksburg. We started out with lunch, then went to the huge slide. Jake and Emily were fearless. Kim and I even had a go. Next was paint ball target practice, Jake's favorite of the day, after which was the Corn Maze.
This was no ordinary corn maze and they gave each team a flag to wave if you got lost. We learned a very valuable rule in the Maze- Never put a bunch of Neels in a situation where the leadership is in question. Jake thought he was in charge; he had looked up "how to beat a maze" on Google. Kim thought she should be. Kelly had opinions. Only Jay, Emily and I were relaxed and willing to walk in circles. Well, Emily was being riding Jay's shoulders so she was just having fun. We got hopelessly lost back in the back right corner. Jake gave up. Kim was tired and frustrated. I knew it was time to cheat, so I had Kelly pull up an overhead photo of the maze on her phone and we used it like a map, cutting through the stalks at one point to save a lot of walking. Once I showed her how and where we were, Kelly navigated and I led the way. We survived but not without coming close to a full Mutiny.
While the rest took a break, Jake and I went back to paintball and the slide. He and I caught up with the rest at the pony Ride. Emily was having a blast and riding tall in the saddle like a pro.
It was a great day.
By the time we got home, the plan to play our favorite board game had lost all interest. Kim made pizza, after which I went to bed. I was up at 0430 to drive back to Lex.
Wednesday, 27 September, 2017: The Long Long Week
The week is dragging by. I'm going home to the new house Friday, but Friday just won't get here. For the last two days I've done nothing in the office. I help out with things that the staff needs to do, work on the administration of the Trap and Skeet Team, and write continuity files. That's about it.
"Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length." ~ Robert Frost
Right now, the Height is Low and the Length seems Longer...maybe just sporadic. The height comes only on weekends when I can get up to Charlottesville with my people...not down here, that's for sure.
Come On, FRIDAY!
I'll be headed for C'ville right after parade. Until then, I'll try to keep myself occupied. Tonight, I watched Love Song for Bobby Long. The title seemed fitting. I love that movie. I hope to become one of Bobby's "Invisible People," fading away into a small life of family and friends.
I'm anxious to begin this new life.
Tuesday, 26 September, 2017: Photo Trip
Thursday, I finally got around to cleaning Bess. She was such a dirty girl. I still need to detail the inside, but she sure looks better with clean carpets and a shine on the outside.
I pulled AOC duty Friday night and then OC Duty Saturday Day. I have to be here anyway, so I may as well get paid for it. Saturday was Parent's weekend, so the place was full of happy people, mostly well behaved. Chris and I had a run-in with three drunk alums, but I shut that down when I was tired of them by threatening to call the police. They left after that and didn't return.
VMI. Poor VMI. The team is crushed. I feel for these guys, out there trying every weekend, playing teams twice their size. We are in the wrong damn conference. Chattanooga was too strong. Next we play Mercer, who gave Auburn a tough time. We need to list the small 1AA schools, less than 200 students, with loosing programs, contact them, and start a new conference....call it the Little School Conference. This current situation is ridiculous. Every team should have at least a Chance to win.
Saturday night was Auburn vs. Missouri, a first class ass whipping. Auburn looked technically and statistically super, albeit against a struggling Missouri team. Missouri, too, may be in the wrong conference. I don't think we'll get a real test until this weekend against Mississippi State. It was fun, however, to see AU points going up on the board, but it went so long into the night that I got tired of it and turned it off early.
Sunday Morning, I took Cadet Rebecca on a photo trip. She is a nice young lady (looks a lot like Anne Hathaway), a great cadet, super student, Marine option, and a star on the Women's Water Polo Team...and therein lies the problem. She's been here three years and hasn't see anything but the inside of Barracks and the pool. When the team travels, they get no time off. She from Florida and has no car, so she is sequestered to Lex when she does want to leave Post.
She comes by our offices to talk and in my conversations with her, I ask her questions about music, places, and movies...."Have you seen the Wind and the Lion?" "No." No is her normal answer.
She is my Cultural Orphan. I will be loaning her movies, burning her music, ...
I ordered her to "Meet me in the Circle, in Civvies, at 0900hrs, Sunday Morning...and Bring Your Camera!"
We drove west on I-64, stopping at the Rail Museum in Clifton Forge, continuing through Covington to Falling Springs Falls, and then to the Humpback Bridge at Exit 10. We took loads of photos and generally had a fun time. She's very quiet. Maybe she was just enjoying Toad the Wet Sprocket as we drove.
After the Bridge, we drove back into Covington for lunch at Hoy's place, China House. The food was great and almost erased the horrible memory of eating at the Kristal Kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I sure miss Tong Dynasty being here in Lexington.
After dropping Rebecca off at barracks, I pretty much slept the rest of the day.
Sunday Morning, 17 September, 2017: Auburn Football
I decided to go to Shem Creek after the Auburn Game. Jay showed me how to broadcast the game from Watch ESPN, over my phone, through the house Wi-Fi, to the TV set, using Chromecast. It worked great, but then, I had to watch Auburn Football.
I have come to the conclusion that the team hates coach Malzahn. Otherwise, I cannot explain four fumbles and an interception with 500+ yards offense. They must be trying to get rid of him in by being sloppy. Mercer!? Hell, they play in the same conference as VMI.
Jay went with me to Shem Creek. It was beautiful as the sun went down over Charleston while he, Cooper, and I walked the boardwalk through the sea grass. Cooper was a hit with the girls and the kids we met along the way and he loved the smells down by the fishing boats.
Saturday, 16 September: Back to Charleston
The family is in Charleston for some wedding dress shopping. I took Friday off, driving up to Charlottesville Thursday night. Kim, Jonathon , Kelly and I drove down Friday morning, arriving mid-afternoon. Elise and Cooper drove up from Savannah last night.
I'm already well into my job this weekend- Watching Cooper. I took him for a walk and evening constitutional last night, got up with him this morning, fed and walked him, explored the neighborhood, and played fetch with him out in the back yard.
Maybe Cooper is here to entertain me.
While the kids go shopping, I'm going to take Cooper to Shem Creek to walk the boardwalks. I hope they weren't damaged by Irma.
Tuesday, 12 September, 2017: The Little Shit I Do
Is I begin winding this job down, I am constantly reminded of the little things I do around here that I do not want to pass on to the incoming Sergeant Major, little shit that I've picked up because no one else wanted to or couldn't do it. It became blindingly obvious when the Commandant called me at lunch today to make sure the Board of Visitors Military briefing was loaded. Now why on earth, do you think, would he call me about a computer issue when he and two other officers are already there? The story goes like this-
When I arrived at VMI, back in 1997, I could barely turn on a computer. Once I figured out that this technology was to be a big part of my job, I began training, taking classes, reading, and experimenting. When I was deployed to Kosovo, I had the time to learn a number of programs. I got Computer Smart. Oh, Kim and Sandy will tell you, It was a struggle. They had to fix what I had done many times as I learned, but I can now hold my own with just about anyone.
When I came back to VMI, I got approval for extra laptop computers...one for the new conference room, one for the Commandant, and one for me, with a projector for traveling and for presentations. Information Technology had me test things like the first wireless and a couple of tablets...which were crap back then. They gave me a Palm Pilot which was useless. Wow. We have come so far!
So, I'm the computer smart guy on Staff, and the only one who could figure out how to set up and check the BOC brief before the briefing. I don't think it's so much that anyone else couldn't do it, I just didn't want the boss to fail because of some preventable mistake. Now it's done by the Center of Leadership and Ethics.
I also do Radios. Yep, Radios. I ordered them, had them programmed, issued them, inventory them, and service them. Each member of the staff has one, the guard team have a few, the Night OCs have some, and the Cadet Government have a bunch. When we need more, we order from a NOVA company, 60 for Matriculation Week and 50 for the 4th Class FTX in May. I have them pre-programed to work with our Radios.
Why me and not the Supply Officer? Again, no one else wanted to do it and I took the time to get smart. It wasn't hard.
I took over the Guard Team to fix the lack of focus on security and the perception that it was an exercise in futility. I've turned that back over to the S1/4, but talk to teach team, daily, and inspect standards throughout the day.
I took over the broken urinalysis program, writing and training the whole staff on procedures, bought a new test kit which is faster and more sensitive, and began a robust schedule of random testing. Last week, I tested over 100 cadets. Next week, I'll begin scheduling two staff members to work as a team, letting me have a few days off...and pushing it to someone else when I leave.
That's the goal: Get the staff to realize this isn't hard, it just takes time and emphasis. Get on this little stuff.
Tuesday, 5 September, 2017: A Goodbye to Old Friends
It probably seems to the casual reader that I'm the only one leaving VMI. This is not the case. Those people with whom I've worked for so many years are also ending their tenures here and moving on to retired life.
We've all grown old here.
Today we had a retirement luncheon for three of our ladies, much more than administrative assistants, they are more like teachers, mentors, and friends. They have been the grease that has made this Corps of Cadets move, our institutional knowledge, the ones who have seen it all.
Sandi joined VMI right out of high school. In her more-than-50-years of service to the Institute, she has been here since the Superintendent was a Cadet. The woman taught me more about VMI than any other person.
Kay has to be the most gentle soul I have ever met. Friend to mankind and all animals, she was the Flower Child of the staff, liberal in her politics, passionate in her beliefs. There is not a member of the staff that would fault her for that. She was and is an example of how you should live your life in peace and harmony with the Universe.
Monika has helped my do my coaching job more times than I can count. Though her first answer was always, "no," I learned with a little finesse, she would get instantly to work on my event and have it done to high standards in about 30 minutes. She was amazing. Even more amazing was how she found anything in the clutter that was her office space. What happened to her German neatness, we'll never know.
These ladies will be greatly missed and I believe, though I will ne the next to go, there are others close on my heels.
L-Train tells me he'll leave at 62, about a year from now.
LE is my age and if she sells her house, I think she's done.
Chris is going active Army as a Chaplain.
Mitch may be going soon; he's probably going to make Brigadier General.
No one wants Virgie to ever leave, but she will retire soon, I'm sure.
Even Holly tells me she has but two years. She was the first person I met in the Commandant's Office in 1997 and is still as pretty as she was then and still as sweet, efficient, and helpful as ever. She and Virgie have always been my favorites on Post.
Yes, we've all grown old together here.
Except Holly. Holly just doesn't grow old.
Monday, 4 September, 2017: Pre-Miller Time
I took a three-day this past weekend, leaving Thursday night after T&S. The house is BEAUTIFUL! Kim was ready for the invasion of Elise, Andy, His Family and their Friends...the event, Engagement Party.
It was a fun weekend beginning in the afternoon with Kim and the kids touring the venue, the Old Metropolitan Hall on the mall in Charlottesville. Then everyone closed in on Plaza Azteca for Friday dinner. Next to me was Andy's dad, two aunts, and an uncle. Across the table was his mom and Sandy. On my right was Kim, then Elise, then Andy, Jonathon, and Kelly. Emily was all over the place, the social butterfly. On down the table were three of Elise's friends, Lacy, Mel, and Katie from her early Army times, and a friend from Stewart, Julian...all Captains. Kimber, true to form, showed up late. The Jumbo Margaritas stunk up the night, but my food was decent. Not my favorite Mex place for sure...but the time was a blast.
Saturday was a run for the Kids. They got up early and ran a 4-miler in the pouring rain. Ridiculous! I slept in and took Cooper walking in between downpours. Saturday afternoon was the Party at Jonathon and Kelly's house. More Mex food, but this was all Kelly and Jay, and Delicious! The best thing of the night was the Photo Booth and Props that Kim set up. It was Hilarious.
Sunday was recovery time and then cake tasting for Kim and the kids. I took the future in-laws to New Market to show them the battlefield, but we got there late and missed the Cadets charging across the Field of Lost Shoes. When I got home, the house was silent. More Recovery Time.
After a very late dinner at Chipotle, I drove on back to Lex. This morning, I began a week long series of urinalysis tests. My Monday morning began at 0430.
Wednesday, 30 August, 2017: Last Crucible
The Maury River has tried to kill me four times. Each time is a story in itself. From me, it has claimed a throw-away camera, a watch, and a radio. The Maury Hates Me.
The first time I went in, was with the Rats of 1998 + 3, doing the vertical insertion station, a fifteen foot drop from a platform into the river. It may not be 15 feet, but it looked to me a lot taller than the High Platform at Cascade Plunge in Birmingham. I got a lot of river water up my nose and my sinuses got so infected, I was ill for about two days.
That same year, doing the Slide for Life, is when I lost my watch.
Then there was the canoe fiasco with Gerry and Rob, in February, trying to recon a rubber boat trip for Ranger Company. When I agreed to go, These two failed to tell me they didn't know SHIT about canoeing. So, we capsized against a bridge pylon, into freezing temperatures, pinned in the canoe by the force of the water. It's a wonder we got out alive. I really don't know how we did. The camera I took to document the trip was washed away with one paddle, the life preservers we were sitting on, and numerous other items we didn't have strapped down. We destroyed the borrowed canoe pulling it off the pylon with a winch attached to a 2 1/2 ton truck.
There was a day trip Conor Evans and I planned, from Rockbridge Baths to Jordan's Point. The day we went the river was down so we walked the damn canoe most of the way. About half way, bloodied, beaten, and having almost killed Elise, we gave up. I've never been back on the River in a canoe since then.
However, I did see a mature Bald Eagle that day.
My second trip was a test to see if we could swim the Rats down as part of a new idea for Matriculation Week...a station workout for them the last day, that would be called the Crucible. The rising First Captain for 2002-2003, Kyle Hare, asked me if I'd go with them to swim the river, from the Vertical Insertion to Jordan's Point to see how long it would take. The day was nice, it was March, and the sky was sunny. I agreed and met them there about 11AM. I checked...we were all strong swimmers. There were no life vests, but I figured we'd be OK, the Maury isn't very wide. Then we jumped in. Holy Cow it was cold. The water temperature had to be in the 40s. We started swimming, and swimming as fast as we could go, to keep our body heat up. We were at Jordan's Point in no time, all accounted for, and then had to walk up to Barracks in the 50 degree weather soaking wet. Not my smartest day.
Though our time estimate was skewed, we proved it could be done, and it was the beginning of the VMI Crucible as we know it today. Mostly, I've hung out at the River station all these years, swimming with the Rats and racing cadre, driving what I called the un-safety kayak ( named so for the frequency with which I tipped over other canoes for fun), or making sure the rats were organized with life vests before going in the river. During one pay-back tipping was when I lost the radio...went right to the bottom. We recovered it, but it was fried.
Sunday, was my last Crucible. The Rats ran from station to station, where they did obstacle courses, log carries, tire flips, sprints, stairs, hills, buddy carries, and log PT. In between stations they did massive amounts of sit-ups, flutter kicks, pull-ups, and push-ups. It's a smoker. At the end of the day they all assembled for military PT sessions led first by the 1st Class President, then by the Reg CO, then by the Reg XO, and then by the RDC President. Then Cadre marched them in their first Parade from the Drill Fields to Barracks, passing in review for the Supe at the library. They circle around the sentinel Box for their first Old Yells, then go to chow...the 9-day week done.
We lost 24 Rats during the week. More left the next day. The Crucible has a way of crushing souls.
Saturday, 26 August, 2017: Last Time on House Mountain
Thursday was House Mountain Day, the day the Rat Mass climbs to the top of Big House Mountain as part of their Matriculation Week. Ashley described it as "The worst day of the Rat Line."
This year, I ran the bottom, organizing the support, transporting and unloading the Gator, shuffling busses, and moving people. In the dark it get's chaotic at times, and it takes force to move people out of the way of bus movement. Once it gets light, I turn it over to the Cadets, who do a great job.
I was bored.
House mountain was formed about one billion years ago and, today, is the most prominent geographic feature around Lexington. What looks like one mountain from the Parade Ground of VMI, is actually two mountains. Beyond Little House Mountain, looking west, is Big House Mountain. From 2001, when I arrived for the Corps SGM job, until now, we have taken the Rats by Bus to the road leading to the saddle between the mountains, and up the trail to Big House. As part of COL Hutching's initiatives to increase the physical activity of the 9-day matriculation week the staff began reconnoitering the area, my first trip up, and started the planning process the Summer before the Rats of 2002 + 3 arrived.
I've kept count and have gone to the top twenty times, sometimes walking, sometimes by Gator most of the way, and most times up to the saddle by Gator and then walking to the top. It depended on my job. My favorite times were when I walked the whole thing, alone, in the dark. The trip was always so quiet and peaceful, and the sunrise at the top was always amazing. Injuries and my surgery have kept me off the top a few times and I missed the view, but I sure didn't miss the climb; it is seriously hard work.
Beginning my first year, I carried a rock from the bottom to the top and built myself a little cairn out on Goat Point, one trip up at a time. I had ten rocks up there at one time, then the next year, I went up and my cairn had disappeared. After that, I changed the route to go left at the "Dog Leg," to save us about an hour per company, so there was no real reason to begin building another one.
Now, I'm pretty sure, I will never go back. That doesn't bother me. It is just another "last" that I'm celebrating almost every day before my retirement.
I will miss the goat that lives up there. We're buddies.
Monday, 21 August, 2017: The Eclipse Eclipsed
Happily, I was not in Columbia SC today. I wanted to be, but my plan was not well received by my family. I remember how excited I was to drive to Florida with Dad, 7 March, 1970, to see the eclipse, only to get there to an overcast sky. Still, it was a great treat to have dad explain what was going on and to t=watch the sky turn dark. I remember it well, to include the birds going to roost as the sky turned darker. Dad let me drive most of the way home, while he slept, my first real highway driving experience.
I guess I should not expect to have the same impact Dad had on me with my kids.
I still had a good time observing the 87% occlusion that Lexington got, using borrowed glasses, my pinhole camera, and watching NASA's live feed. I stayed in touch with Kim throughout and she stated that she would be at the next Totality in 2024. I'll make sure she does.
That morning, however, my Brother Rat, Libby Olson came through town, on her way to see one of her roommates, and stopped in to see me. I took her and her friend Kaitlyn around Post showing off the new buildings built and changes made since she graduated.
Libby has always been a favorite. I was close with all of the girls in that room and they have all gone on the great things. Libby, as sweet as she is beautiful, was a surface warfare officer in the Navy and drove big ships all over the world. Now, out of the service, she continues her world travels on mission trips to impoverished places to lend a helping hand. Wanting a skill that she can use to help, she has gone back to school and is in her last year of nursing school in Tennessee.
I was sad to see her go, but there was science to do and rats to train. My Facebook post about her said, "The Eclipse was eclipsed by"...her visit. I think I'll remember them both for years to come.
Sunday, 20 August, 2017: Last Matriculation Week
The Rats of 2018 + 3, the future class of 2021, arrived yesterday to 90degree temperatures and 90% humidity. This morning, we're out-processing the first two. So weak. Who decides they want to go to "The Hardest College in the Nation" and can't hang for 24 hours. I theory has always been that we say Hardest, some kids don't know what hard means, because they have never worked hard in their life. What is amazing to me is that there are a bunch of little girls still out there trying, and these quitters are two are guys.
Perhaps these are kids who didn't want VMI, but were pushed here by parents. Maybe this is the "family school." We see that a lot. We get a lot of legacies; most survive, some do not. To me, it is just another indicator of the Sissifying of the American Male...GQ Magazine, man-buns, Crocks, metro-sexually, skinny jeans, pierced ears, and the like.
Ah well, this is my last one, so, Over to the next SGM...my Last First Rat Quitter has Quit.
My main focus right now is threefold:
VMI is going to have to get used to taking more and more of a back seat with me.
Thursday, 17 August, 2017: Going Again
I finally felt like getting up for a little PT this morning; I've been pretty tired from the move and the heat hasn't helped at all. I went for a 3-mile walk at 0600 just to loosen up and hope to do the same tomorrow. While I was home I picked up my Fitbit Surge and have been wearing it since. It is a great motivator. My plan is to get back to doing 18K steps a day. I and going to go do 4K more as soon as I get back to the Apartment Miserable.
I weighed 214 this morning, down eleven pounds since this time last month. That's pretty amazing considering how much I ate Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ashley came to see me today and we spent two hours talking over a small cup of coffee. She's the sweetest and so funny. Her little two-year-old, Nolan, is a hand full...all boy and all over the place.
Wednesday, 16 August, 2017: MRI #4
I had an MRI and an appointment with my surgeon today. All is well; no regrowth of the cyst. Still, my doc wants to do another next year.
I left work Tuesday afternoon, in time to get to C'ville by dinner time. When I got there, she had poor sandy hanging the new wooden pantry door and informed me I had to hand the new front porch light before dinner. We went out to Vinny's Italian Grill. I had the baked spaghetti this time and it was delicious...simply amazing. Kim's spaghetti now has competition.
After the doctor's appointment, we went to Fry's Spring Station, a great pizza place in an old filling station. I love this place...the pizza is so good and the building is the coolest. The staff is the Best! I really should take photos of these places, but I always try to link to their sites.
One of these days, I think I should probably comment on the riot in Charlottesville, but I need to let it all sink in. I'll just say this for now- There are a lot of fucking crazy people in this world. I wish they wouldn't come to my new town.
Monday, 14 August, 2017: And...So. We Begin Again
Cadre began coming in on Saturday. I came in for a while, made sure things were running well, and then drove to Amelia for Afton's wedding. The drive was a lot of fun. I took Highway 60 most of the way and then winding back roads through the piedmont below the Blue Ridge. The ceremony was beautiful and I sat next to Chelsea, one of my favorite people and one of the prettiest girls to ever graduate this school.
I came back 360 to 460 to 29 to 301/501, which seemed much faster, but probably was by only a few minutes. I arrived pretty late, but didn't have to be at work until late Sunday morning.
Sunday, I began issuing radios to cadre, watching a bit of the training, and doing a lot of coordination for the week to come. I actually got a lot done, and it seems that my brain is back to work.
Kim just brightened my day reminding me that I have a MRI on Wednesday. Oh, Yay. This should be the last one for a long while, so long as the critter isn't growing back. My eyesight and everything else seems fine, so I doubt they'll find anything wrong. Sill. I hate MRIs.
Wednesday, 9 August, 2018: Kudos to Kady
I just read through my last few posts, and, in reading them, it seems to me that I’ve focused on all the things that I have done, and have neglected top tell the Whole Story. Kim has been amazing!
From the start of this venture, she has been the shaker and mover of the project. She had a vision of how her house would look, and set in motion all of the things to get there. She ordered hardware and fixtures, chose paint, tile, backsplash, and stain, hired workers, assigned jobs, rented trucks and vans, and organized help from family and friends. When it came to moving, she had a plan and moved just as many things as I did. She had a chair made, just for me. She arranged with Habitat for Humanity to come pick up furniture and books we cannot use.
Once we moved everything, she was the person who dug out from under all of the clutter, unboxing boxes, putting things in their places, hanging photos, figuring out the furniture arrangement, and making decisions on what stays and what goes. Jonathon’s truck and Goodwill have been our friends in that process.
She has worked with the kids to make sure they had first dibs on things we could no longer accommodate. They took a lot of stuff which Kim and I were very happy to see stay in the family.
She has been calm and determined through the process and has rarely had to put her foot down about anything but my whining about the 1000 pillows stored I my room and my idea to stash things under the beds.
And…she has fed me.
Monday, 7 August, 2017: The Honey-do List
I left for Charlottesville Friday, before Noon. All I had done at my office was watch Ballers 3:2. I love that show, but I wanted to be on the road. Kim and I had been talking all week about our priorities of work, so I knew there was a big job ahead for the weekend.
First had to be the guest room bed, Sandy was on the way up to buy a tractor, and he'd need a place to sleep. I had to clear a place on the floor, which meant moving boxes to my room and re-stacking the picture frames for which we haven't the wall space. Once the bed frame was together and the box springs down, We moved Kim's mattress in there and then I hung the curtain rods for that room.
Next came her new mattress, one of those that comes rolled in a big box, that, basically, inflates when you crack the seal on the plastic. I have one on my bed and they are amazing. That was easy.
She and Kelly had hung the mirrors in the Master bath, which, when positioned correctly, made the light fixture off centered. That light was next, and though easy to do, it took a while. In the same bath, I hung two new towel racks, once the light was done.
There was a wireless, motion sensitive light she wanted hung in the utility closet. Two screws and that was done.
She had mounted a rack on the door of the pantry that needed shoring up. I put about ten screws in it, but we decided that we needed a wooden door there. Another trip to Lowes was in order. Sandy's truck came in handy.
I finished the hall bath by hanging a new towel rack, a new hand towel hook, and fixing the drain so it would work and the plumbing so it wouldn't leak. I should have done it myself in the first place. Handy Man my ass! I'M the damn handy man in this house.
I had all of this done by late Saturday, our plan to do nothing on Sunday but watch TV, read, and go out to eat. It was awesome, and I surely needed the rest. We had lunch at Jay and Kelly's and supper at Martin's Grill. Everyone was there for both meals, Kelly, Jonathon, Emily, Barbara, Jake, Kim and I. Can't wait to have the whole clan together in September.
My last order of business for the weekend was to wire my surround sound speakers in my office in preparation for Game of Thrones. They sounded great! but I watched it downstairs with Sandy on the big TV. It was a great episode.
I drove back this morning in the pouring rain. My path from my parking slot was a river, so I was a bit late getting to work. I didn't see anyone else on the staff all day.
I began training Rat athletes in Drill today. Another Last.
Thursday, 3 August, 2017: My Miserable Existence
I may as well be in 1984, sitting in my apartment in Alsancak, across from the Cami, with the traffic noises on Sair Esref Boulevard and the prayers of the Imam invading my enforced solitude. This apartment idea is for the birds. Yeah, it's a smart move knowing how the Fall semester is around here, but I don't have to like it. I'll have a place to sleep and eat; that's all it is to me. I have my music, my computer, and DVDs to watch. I bought a long range antenna, so I have internet. I brought good books. I have a few projects I want to do, like refurbishing my old desk, fixing Don's mandolin, and re-framing Bobby and Thomas Jonathan. My guitar and camera are here.
But it's not home. This is about as inviting as a hotel room in Kentucky. Actually, I may have subconsciously set it up like a hotel room in Kentucky!
The apartment is right on Main Street, so I get road noises all day and night. It's not as bad as Turkey, but I haven't gotten used to it yet.
I'll be in C'ville this weekend, but back here on Monday. Then, I won't see Kim or our new place for three weeks. Next week I'll begin training the soccer Rats and football rats in drill and ceremonies. Cadre come in next Saturday for preparation. The Rat Mass arrives for Matriculation on Saturday the 19th. Cadre will train them for nine days ending with the Crucible, a particularly rough day of running, exercising, and sweating, on Sunday afternoon the 27th. The old Corps returns that day as well. Monday, the 28th is registration, and Tuesday is the first day of classes.
My first break will be the first weekend in September. It should be a happy one... getting out of here, and Elise and Andy's engagement party with Cooper watching.
BUT! This is my last Rat Drill Training, my last cadre week, my last Matriculation, and my last Hell Week. Soon, I'll be attending my last football games, doing my last parades, and enduring my last Ring Figure.
Monday, 31 July, 2017: Getting There
I drove in from C'ville this morning for the early return football team fitness test. It was a bit of a cluster, but we got it done. Coach was pissed about the whole situation, expressing to me how we never wanted the team to get anything extra, and how if they did anything wrong we beat them down, and that sometimes his team got less from us. I wanted to tell him that he just explained the VMI system perfectly--a level playing field, no benefits for doing right, punishment when you get caught breaking the rules, and sometime it just Sucks! He's been here two years and he still doesn't understand it.
Kady and I kicked ass this weekend. The new place is looking amazing. I'd say that most of the boxes are out of the house. I delivered those to the recycling dumpster behind Barracks on the way in this morning.
The first order of business was to build the new bookcases and put the books on them, out of the floor. She moved one of her chairs back by my chair and it looks line a really comfortable reading area. This is where I'll read my news and drink my coffee in the mornings before she wakes...or so I think.
We hung the curtain rods in her room, the towel rods in the hall bath, fixed the off center light and mirror in there (that was a master piece of John engineering), worked on her room so she could move around, and began working on the Guest Room. We took a load of "go-away" items to Goodwill, and loaded up her car with things for Elise. These won't be delivered in two weeks, but getting that stuff out of the way, made all the difference. We tag-teamed the holes on the living room wall and the hall bath. I re-routed wires and she did the patching and painting.
Next weekend, I'll hit the Master bath, unless she and Kelly get to it first. I need to hand her two mirrors in there, and that's harder than it seems; they have to be perfectly level and the same distances from the light, faucet, and ceiling. I really hope she and Kelly do it.
By the time I get there, she should have a new mattress for her bed, putting her current mattress in the guest room. That means, I have to get on the Guest Room this weekend too.
The best thing that happened last week was getting out of the old house, completely. I signed over the keys Friday, and it was like having a mill stone taken from around my neck. 404 was a great house.
Wednesday, 26 July, 2017: Three Houses
The biggest problem with moving out of one place and into two, is what goes where. It has had me totally confused. Luckily, I have Kim. There is her stuff, which goes into a number of piles. There is the "go away pile" to Goodwill, the furniture going to Habitat for Humanity, Furniture and things claimed by Elise, those things belonging to Jonathon, things Kelly wants, Jake's toys, Kim's things, and lastly there are MY things that have to go in three places- the office, the Bachelor Pad, and up to the new house.
Making this more difficult is moving from a four bedroom house with a basement, a butler's pantry, and seven closets to a three bedroom townhome with no garage or basement, a small outside storage shed, and only three big closets.
If you've ever visited us, you know how we love photos and art. It was everywhere. Now we have about half of the wall space we had on Post, so, we have a lot more framed photos and art than we can use. How do we decide?
Kim's penchant for knickknacks, dishes, silver, and pillows is also overwhelming. The "guest room" is full to the brim with stuff that has no place. It's like we need one of those hoarder interventions you see on TV.
But, we're getting there.
The Batchin Pad is good to go; I'm sleeping there already. I decided to live in one room much like I did in Turkiye. I have a bed, chair, table which subs as a desk, and a chest of drawers to the clothes and uniforms I need here. I have my laptop, my guitar, my iPod, and my Bose speakers. I have defeated the old house smell with a number of Glade Plug-ins. I returned tonight to the smell of fresh linin.
My Room at the new place is perfect. I have it set up much like my room at VMI, but have my stereo and a huge TV. I will be watching Game of Thrones in 5.1 surround sound Sunday night. All this makes it a little crowed in there, but I like it that way.
Getting the cable set up was a problem. Somehow, Comcast had our cut-off date for the 19th and our connection date on 19 friggin AUGUST! Well, I got everything connected and called them. We worked it all day the 19th to no avail. That night I did my own trouble shooting, figured out the problem and a work-around, and they had it all switched on by noon the next day. I should work for them.
That being DONE, I started on my husbandly duties of moving, finding, and hanging stuff. I hung mirrors, photos, curtain rods, and a shower curtain rod. I've been magic finding things Kim needs, failing only once to find two pillows, which may have gone to Goodwill. Shhhhh. Trash and recycling is a huge muscle movement. I break down boxes, stash them in the back of the Mustang Truck, and then deposit them behind barracks in the recycling dumpsters on my way back to Post.
The Living Room has been rearranged three times. My new, BIG, recliner has thrown a wrench in the works. Instead of being under my beautiful ceiling fan, it is now in the back of the room, set up like a reading area. Oh Yeah. Reading. I'm sure it will be more like a napping area.
Now I'm down here and Poor Kim is trying to dig herself out of a real mess. I'll be there this weekend to help. She has a list, trust me.
Wednesday, 12 July, 2017: Pre-Move
Last Friday, Kim and I rented a Cargo Van from Enterprise to begin moving all of our household goods. The first load was everything off of the walls, photos, Clocks, and Art. It was amazing. That made up one whole load. Then came the books. I thin we could fill a small library and we have decided we need another book shelf, a BIG one.
Pillows! Holy Cow, we have a lot of pillows. We have bed pillows, chair pillows, couch pillows, decorative pillows, and pillows we don't even use. Of course all had to go because "we" aren't (read: Kim isn't) sure which pillows we'll use.
I moved all of the Christmas Stuff and Jonathon's boat and bikes up to his house Sunday Morning. Yeah, we have a LOT of Christmas Stuff too.
Today, we're packing up the kitchen, less the stuff I will use in my miserable bachelor pad. That should be a hoot. My plan is to stay out of Kim's way and just move boxes. I still have stuff to move from my home office up to Charlottesville, and I have some plumbing to do up there, so I expect to make one more trip before this weekend.
The Movers come Wednesday, so, by the close of the week, we should be mostly done. This coming weekend we will be putting the house together, things in their places, deciding on pillows. Can't wait to play Suite: Judy Blue Eyes in my War Room, on my stereo. My big chair should be here soon; that's a tradition. Pretty excited about That!
Tuesday, 4 July, 2017: Quiet and a Burger
Sunday, 2 July, 2017: Back in Lex Vegas
Savannah was a blur. It took much longer to get there than we thought. We beat Elise to the house by only a few minutes. Tory was there with Cooper and he lost his little puppy brain when he saw Kim and me drive up. It was great to see him and we went out back to play after he gave us both a nice greeting. Once Elise got home, I took a short nap and then we went to Los Bravos for dinner.
Kim and I were back on the road early Friday morning. Traffic was terrible. I'm guessing everyone had Thursday off for Independence Day weekend. We were in bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way to Roanoke. Saying goodbye to the other cars at the Natural Bridge exit was the best part of the day.
We went to Foothill Mama's for BBQ yesterday. I missed that place while we were Down There. I hope I can find a good BBQ joint up in Charlottesville to replace it. If I can't, Mama's will have to be an occasional special trip, just like Muchacho Allegre. We're going there for lunch today.
I took two days unpacking the car; I took entirely too many clothes and things I didn't use, so it was a bit of work, This morning, I washed Kim's car making sure all of the salt and pine needles and pollen were gone. Tomorrow, I'll detail the inside and clean off the back porch. I want to cook out for the 4th of July and it's nasty out there from all of the weather Lex had while we were gone. I didn't notice until I tried to take my Breakfast out there this morning. That didn't happen.
I watched Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellan, Laura Linney and Milo Parker this morning. Wonderful! By far one of the best movies I have ever seen. There was so much humanity it a little sad, and very inspiring. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, I highly recommend it.
This weekend and the 4th look like banner days for me. I look at it as a big retirement present. This year, Lexington is having their Independence Day celebration at the Horse Center, about two miles from here, instead of having it on Post at VMI. I have campaigned for this move ever since the first one I saw as the Corps Sergeant Major. I Win!
I'm looking forward to:
Yep. This year, I'm going to relax on my back porch, hope for food weather, cook some meat, and drink a beer, with some piece and quiet...and piece of mind...thanking whoever made the decision.
Wednesday, 28 June, 2017: Up There
Today was our last day in the Keys. I spent most of the day watching a Documentary on the history of Cuba, since my big brother is down there. I packed the car with everything but the last minute stuff. The last thing on my packing list for tomorrow morning is "Kim." Gotta make sure I have her in the car.
We'll drive to Savannah tomorrow and spend the evening with Elise and Cooper. Friday, we'll drive to Lexington. Once we get there, after I get a haircut and drive Bess for a bit, it will be balls-to-the-wall packing time, getting ready for the big move to Charlottesville.
We also have a wedding to plan; Elise and Andy are engaged.
It's the end of Summer. That's OK, because it also marks the beginning of my new life out of Uniform. Can't wait to see the place with all of the improvements Kim and Kelly have done. Can't wait to see my new chair and to set up The War Room, my home office.
Friday, 23 June, 2017: The Food Down Here
In my senior year of high school, my friends and I used to jump in our cars, grab a girl, and drive to Panama City Beach just to eat at Captain Anderson's Restaurant.
We drove big cars with huge V8s; gas was below fifty cents a gallon. The speed limit on 331 was "Assume Safe Speed." At eighteen, that meant "as fast as the car will go." Driving well over 100mph was normal. The small towns along the way like Luverne, Opp, and Florala, were the only things that slowed us down once we got below Montgomery. What takes five hours now, we could do in four, unless we stopped for boiled peanuts. As I count it, I took a different Woodlawn lovely on each trip.
These trips reinforced my love for speed and a good car. Captain Anderson's taught me to love good sea food. I can recall the name of every girl who went with me.
Down Here reminds me of all of that. How I wish I had brought Bess with me, but Kim prefers the comfort of her Fusion. I may do that one day by myself, drive down just for a photo of Bess at Mile Marker One.
The sea food is great Down Here. We have our favorite places and out favorite dishes.
S. S. Wreck Galley and Grill is a great little place just down Highway One. We like going there on Sunday's for brunch. They make a great pate of Shrimp and Grits and the best Key Lime Pie that I have found in the Keys.
Frank's Grill is a great little place that only seats those with reservations, but has the best calamari I've ever had and the fattest fried shrimp I have ever seen...delicious too. The Italian dishes are likewise Amazing.
Grassy Key Outpost is our Pizza Place and we are going there tonight, for the fourth time. GREAT Pizza! They make a really good and really BIG Key Lime Pie. It's enough for Four people, easily. They, also, make a great, the Lucky Seven.
Last night we went to the Island Fish Company. We went there a few times last trip, but this was our first visit this time. I had raw Gulf Oysters on the half shell and their Coconut Shrimp. Both were delicious. For desert, instead of Key Lime Pie, I tried their Deep Fried Key Lime Pie. Oh My, Hello! Where has this been all my life? It was about the size of a regular slice of pie, but covered in brown sugar and cinnamon. Holy Cow! It was great.
Kady found a place recommended by Southern Living. They are never wrong. Don't be put off by the outward appearance of The Keys Fishery Market and Marina. It is a little dive, right on the water, where you order and pick up your food through a small window. It reminded me of the old days of Milo Burgers on the north side of Birmingham. It was my kind of place as Kim would say and the food was, so far, my favorite down here.
Most days, we just cook up something in the RV, but eating at the restaurants is a big part of the fun on this trip.
Thursday, 22 June, 2017: The Gulf Amazes Again
This morning was pretty darn exciting. Like most days down here, I slept in, went for a 3-miler, had my breakfast, and then went snorkeling. I headed over to the rocks to have a closer look at the pelican sitting among the cormorants. The fish are more plentiful there and I get to see more species...more colors.
Our little bay is a fish hatchery and the babies have been hatching all week. On my way to see the pelican, I swam into a gigantic school of these tiny little fry, thousands of them, who seemed completely unconcerned with me. I just floated there watching the sun glisten off their little bodies, taking it all in. Then I became aware of something very large pulling up beside me and having a good look at me. It startled me and I almost jumped out of the water. My first thought? Shark!
I quickly recognized it as a manatee. It was in no hurry, grazing on the sea grass in the bay, and taking it's sweet time. I was able to swim along with it for about five minutes, knowing how lucky I was, keeping my distance, and wishing I could somehow get the word to Kim and Sandy inside the RV. It was about twice my size and about eight feet long, but graceful beyond compare. I wanted to get closer, but didn't want to scare it away or be rude, so I swan next to it about ten feet away.
As quickly as it came, it was gone. A couple of quick flicks of is gigantic tail and it was back out into deeper water.
Of course I hurried to the RV to tell Kim and Sandy all about it. In my excitement, I'm sure I told everyone in the RV Park.
It was a pretty great experience.
Sunday, 18 June, 2017: A New Spot to Spread Out My Stuff
My new standard for living down here is to sleep in late, eat breakfast, go for a walk, run, or bike ride, hit the pool or Gulf, and then write. I chose, for todays writing session, one of the little palm covered picnic areas out on the point that forms the docks of this RV park and the park to the south. I catch a nice breeze out there and it's away from almost everyone. I can think.
Mom and Dad never got it. I need background music to focus. My little pea brain wanders unless I have music. I was blown by every wind, especially trying to drudge through my homework assignments. If I picked up an encyclopedia to research snails, I would have read about ten different and more interesting "s" subjects, long before getting to "snail." I educated myself with the encyclopedia.
However, if I had on the radio or my little record player, my brain worked like most kids. It gave me rhythm. It was white noise. I would be deep into my homework and then would come the inevitable, "John! Turn off that music and do your homework"
So I rebelled. I refused. There was not enough grounding in a lifetime that would make me do homework or bring up my grades. I outlasted my teachers by making As on their exams and sharpshooting their lessons. I outlasted my parents by barely passing subjects I loved, even Gym. I tried, but just couldn't do poorly in Choir. However, I was still a smart-ass there, refusing to sing in the Senior Program because we were doing two Beatles songs. I HATE the damn Beatles. Singing repetitious refrains of Let it Be, is just not good music. The frigging Beatles did way too many drugs if they believed these to be "words of wisdom." Maybe they read too much J. D. Salinger. I got a B that semester.
Yeah, I was a smartass, but never disruptive. I hate rudeness.
It took a little time in the army for me to figure out that I wasn't studying to please teachers or my parents. I was doing this for me. I began to accept nothing less than As from myself, but then, Now I have My Music!
When I travel, I take along all my stuff. I need my stuff. I don't go anywhere without my stuff
Here's my packing list of Stuff:
I'll add my Telescope to the list in future years, especially when we go out West.
*Personal firearms, except for T&S shotguns and Three-Gun Team rifles, pistols, and shotguns are not allowed on VMI Post.
Friday, 16 June, 2017 : On The Seawall
"Never crush out a cigar butt. Just let it quietly expire, like our dreams." ~ Hector Alegria, FOX TV series Key West, 1993
Sunset on the Seawall is a community affair. Almost everyone moves down to the seawall as the sun sinks toward the horizon, bringing their chairs, dogs, kids, cameras, and drinks. We all line up, gathering in pockets of family and friends, facing the West, awaiting what nature has in store for us. For many, their god is the artist. For me it is all about the science of a spinning planet, water vapor, and the light from our local star.
Tonight was magical, a combination of nice people, the perfect location, and great weather. I gathered up all my implements for a nice bit of solitude, and headed to claim my spot along the wall.
To my left, a large group of folks were already set up, their teenaged daughters, still in their bikinis, looking a little impatient with their parents insistence on this bit of summer fun. One had a diving knife strapped to her leg which reminded me of Ursula Andress in James Bond's Dr. No.
A young, budding musician was sitting on the wall, his feet dangling in the water, strumming slowly on his guitar. He was pretty good, but played so softly that I couldn't make out the songs. I guessed that he is a brother since he paid the two girls no attention and they seemed just as disinterested in him.
I chose a CAO cigar, an Eileen's Dream, and two fingers, neat, of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select, moved my chair, took out my camera, and turned on my music down low so as to not disturb the young troubadour or the people next to me.
As I was about to settle in, a pretty young lady came by, walking her little Chihuahua, apologizing for cutting in front of our RV. I told her she was more than welcome and that it was no problem at all. Still, she explained that her dog was very old and that she didn't know how many more sunsets she would get to spend with her. That, of course touched my Cooper-loving heart and I asked her if I could borrow her phone to take a photo of them together. She quickly accepted and I took a few shots of her and her pup with the developing sunset in the background. Then I handed her the phone and left her alone with her little friend.
I could tell this sunset was to be spectacular. There was a cloudbank out in the Gulf that blocked out the setting sun, but had enough gaps between the billowing clouds that the light was shining through in rays that stretched downward like an oriental fan. Nature's display of yellow, gold, orange, blue, and grey is at its best when it's stormy. Far off to the right, flashes of lightning, just at the edge of the cloud front, complimented the light show and rolling thunder and my iPod added the perfect soundtrack to the evening.
The whisky and cigar, too, were working their combined magic.
It was peaceful.
I sat out until well after dark, sipping a little too much Jack and smoking the cigar down until it became uncomfortable to hold. I walked over to the natural area near the back of the trailer and dropped it there so it could burn out slowly.
Before the clouds rolled in over us, I turned on Whiter Shade of Pale, leaned back in my chair, and gazed up at the night sky, taking in the stars and listening to the thunder. It had been a long while since I had spent a night doing things so worthwhile.
Thursday, 15 June, 2017: Searching for Papa
I finally made it to Key West Tuesday, on my search for the "Real Key West;" Hemingway's Key West. Perhaps I was really looking for the Key West of the FOX TV series, but I know I'll never find that. I went looking for Hemingway, but ended up finding someone else.
I started at Hem's house and fell in with a tour group lied by a crass old lady who I'll call Old Miss Bossy. She certainly had control of the group and, twice, called people down for talking while she was talking. I thought she did a pretty good job with the story, but she thought she was funny, which she wasn't. The part of the tour I was with her, reminded me of going to Photography School. During the first class, the instructor asked the class what affected depth of field. I was the only one who raised a hand. "Distance from the subject, the focal length of the lens, and the aperture," I said. He looked at me, a little startled, and said, "You don't need to be in this class." She didn't tell me anything I didn't already know or couldn't find out by reading the displays. Still, for the casual observer, she did an acceptable job.
A rain storm came while we were overlooking pool. Another group closed in on us as we waited out the rain under the overhang of Papa's office. I decided, since I was carrying all my camera gear, to hang out with the second group to stay out of the rain. Not a wise choice. The second woman I'll call Crack Jaw for want of a better name. She was on something and had the drawn look of someone on hard drugs. She had a way of snapping her jaw when she talked that screamed "CRACK." The real deal breaker for me was that Crack Jaw told the story of the pool, verbatim, the way Old Miss Bossy told it. It all came off as a bit disingenuous. These were not historians, just tour guides, regurgitating a script. I was now obvious why no one could talk during the tour; like Stonewall at VMI, she would lose her place in the script and have to start all over at the beginning.
I decided to break contact and do my own tour.
I began putting my camera to work taking a photo of Papa's "Last Red Cent" at the pool, and continued with things that interested me--the polydactyl cats, Pauline's pool, their beautiful house, Hem's typewriters, and the hunting trophies. One thing I needed to see was the vantage point from which the camera filmed Seamus O'Neill, played by Fisher Stevens, in the TV Series Key West, typing on the grounds of the house, after fading from an actor portraying Papa was shown siting in the same place. To me it was The Shot that set the stage, explaining Seamus' desire to become a writer like Hemingway. I found the spot, or close enough to it.
My next stops were minor points of interest, but part of the story of Hemingway in Key West, Thompson Docks, the open lot where they held boxing matches, St. Mary's Church the he and Pauline attended, and the Colonial Hotel, and then met Kim and Sandy at the new Sloppy Joe's for drinks and lunch. Of Course, I had a couple of Papa Dobles. I'm not sure why, but I was pretty surprised by the quality of the food. My BBQ chicken sandwich, Sandy's nachos, and Kim's fish and chips were all very good. I guess I was expecting bar food.
After lunch I walked the half block to Captain Tony's, the first Sloppy Joe's, where Papa met, and began his affair with, writer Martha Gellhorn, who, like Hem, traveled to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War. Beyond becoming his third wife, she became one of the most famous war correspondents in the world and covered wars from Spain to the U.S. invasion of Panama which she covered in her last 70s. She was the first correspondent on the beaches of Normandy, disguising herself as a nurse and stowing away on a transport ship. She is a story unto herself, perhaps a better, more respectable story than Ernest Hemingway's. I will begin researching her as soon as I get back to VMI.
The sun came out as I searched for the Electric Kitchen, where Papa and his Mob ate breakfasts after nights fishing and carousing. By the time I found it, now a nice little gift shop, I was drenched in sweat, out of water, and done with my search. I called Kim and had them come get me rather than trying to find them.
Yesterday, after a morning swim, I watched Hemingway and Gellhorn. Excellent movie.
The days are relaxing here. I get up late, go for a run or bike ride, hit the pool or do some snorkeling, move inside from the heat or during storms, watch movies, and pretty much do what the hell I want to do. Kim has no demands on me and moves around at her own pace and internal clock. She waits on no one and gives little warning to her plans. If I want to walk to the pool with her, I had better watch for the signs and be prepared to move out with a purpose.
Wednesday, 7 June, 2017: Let's Hope the Sun also Rises
And then....The rain came in.
We had a storm last night...big wind, big thunderclaps, big waves, and big rain. Kim and Sandy say that their storm was bigger, but I wasn't impressed. I felt like I was going to be washed out to sea.
What do you grab first if your trailer capsizes? Flashlight? I don't know. I'm unprepared. Cell Phone? Probably not, but what if it was in a zip lock bag? I was thinking about all sorts of things like this as the RV rocked in the wind and the thunder storm swirled around us. In the light of day, I'm thinking my snorkeling kit would probably be the best idea.
It's still raining out and looks as if it will all day. It even rained on my run this morning. I hit the trail about 0830 when the rain broke. I was at my 1.5-mile turn-around at Duck Key when the rain came again. It was refreshing and a nice respite from the heat and humidity. The wind was to my back on the way back and it was strong, so I was able to stretch it out and pick up my pace. I haven't run in a heavy rain for a long long time. I had forgotten how much fun it is.
I've set up a small office in my bedroom, so, I'm not bored. I have my computer, photo kit, music, Bob-the-Plant, and stuff.
Tuesday, 6 June, 2017: Hacienda de los Piratas
Here's a shot of the RV. This thing is great. It has all the comforts of home and sleeps up to six people comfortably and seven if someone takes the couch. The air-conditioning is great and a must down here.
Sandy travels all over in it and has invited us along on his adventures. We were down here two years ago, last summer we went to the Poconos, and he's been up to visit Lex in it several times. The West is our next adventure, or so I'm being told. I've told them I've always wanted to drive Bess out West...Bess in the Badlands. I'll follow along or swing out ahead. Sandy told me today that he usually travels about 65 mph, so, I'm guessing out ahead will be the way it will go.
The only problem with this spot is the afternoon sun. It bears down underneath the awnings, so we head to the pool or the bay. Today we went looking for a souvenir shop. and found some fun things, but not what I'm after. In need a trashy shop that sells sea shells, t-shirts, and...Pirate Flags. I have decided that I need a pirate flag for this place. People need to be warned.
As unlucky as my search was today, we found a nice little sweet shop, Sweet Savannah. Continuing my search for the best Key Lime Pie, I had that and an iced spice çay. Both were very good. Kim and Sandi had Cup Cakes.
Monday, 5 June, 2017: Angels in the Spray
Day three began well. After a good night's sleep, my body woke me at 0600hrs. Old Habits! I dressed for a run and hit the door. The Humidity and heat hit me. Wow, what a change and what a shock to the system! By the time I got back from my 3-miler, I was drenched with sweat. It felt so invigorating, like a purge of the bad things from my body. The run was fun, except for one part where the path is more like a tunnel through the mangroves, that block any breeze and, it seems, oxygen. Kim says they are called "Tunnels of Hell" by distance runners down here.
After my run and true to my self-promise, I rolled out my workout mat, actually a good old US Army sleeping mat, and started working abs. Ouch! For something that I should be doing every day, it seems I have not been overly faithful.
Sandy got up about 0800 and fixed breakfast and coffee, so I'm typing as I eat, looking out over the Gulf. Sandy chose a great spot. We spotted it last time we were here, two years ago, and it is by far the best slot in the RV park.
It is right on the sea wall, at the far right of the park, which gives us our own, personal little bit of the Gulf. Very few people walk down this far, though swimmers usually do to see the marine life living in the rocks separating this park from the one on the right. I'm getting in the water as soon as Kim gets up and gets going.
I bought my own fins, mask and snorkel this trip. I didn't have fins last time, so I have been looking forward to snorkeling around the bay at a more efficient pace.
After a morning of swimming, both in the gulf and in the pool, we all took a nap. I led the way, laying down to "read" and waking about two hours later. I guess the sun, heat, and humidity really zapped me.
Tonight we went out groceries, and ate at Grassy Key Outpost, a nice little place with great pizza. While we were there, a strong thunderstorm came through and poured buckets of water on the island. We returned to the park to no power, but the power company was on the spot replacing the generator.
Saturday, 3 June, 2017: V-A-C-A-TION, in the Summer Sun
Coop and I drove to Pooler yesterday, an easy trip for a change with no traffic to speak of...except that whole Lake Norman strip before Charlotte. That's always a bastard. I kept my speed around 75 for most of the trip, except around Columbia. There, you had best pace traffic, which runs about 80, instead of trying to anything around the 55 posted limit.
We got to Elise's about 1600hrs, well before she was scheduled to get home, but we were able to get in the house through the Garage Code. Cooper was so cute. He spotted his neighborhood as soon as we got on the Pooler Parkway, and became more excited the closer we got to the house. When I let him out of the car, he ran to the front door and waited. I had to call him to the garage. Once in the house, he ran from room to room looking for his person.
Once he figured out she wasn't here, he looked at me with a look on his face that asked, "What the Hell?" I fed him a little early to keep his mind off the issue at hand.
When Elise came in, they were both beside themselves with excitement. It was fun to watch them wrestle on the floor. Once he felt loved again, she and I went to supper at Los Bravos, the best Mex place in Pooler and, perhaps, the WORLD! I love this place.
This morning, I slept in. Since graduation day, I've been up at 0600 every morning, until Cooper got here, and then I got up at 0530. Today, I slept till 0730 and stayed in bed until almost 0800. It was glorious.
After breakfast Elise, Cooper, and I went to downtown Savannah, walking Forsyth Park and then through the city to River Street, stopping by Savannah Cigars for a few good cigars for the Keys. I brought some great whiskey to go with them and I plan to celebrate Summer tomorrow night when I arrive.
Tuesday, 30 May, 2017: The June Plan
Just three more days to go! Cooper and I will be headed south this Friday morning, hopefully timing our arrival in Georgia after Elise arrives home from work. I'll drop him off there, and head to the Keys on Saturday, late morning.
Kim is already there with Sandy, so I'll link up with them for the whole month. The 5th Wheel is parked right on the water on the Gulf side, which will make for fun snorkeling adventures. The park has a fantastic salt water pool that also serves as a respite from the heat of the day.
My plan looks like this:
That's the plan anyway. Who knows what It may look like once I get there.
Until then, I'm having a great time with this ridiculous dog. We went for a three mile walk this morning before work. Just now, while playing ball in my office, the ball went under one of my conference table chairs. He refused to go after it and barked at me to come get it for him. The photo tells the story. I swear he does this because he knows it is funny.
Monday, 29 May, 2017: The Invasion
What was planned as a three-day weekend doing what I wanted, became a partial family weekend with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandbabies. It was a wild three days.
Sunday we hung out and watched repeated episodes of some kids mermaid show out of Australia...which is terrible. It is like a teen soap opera with fish tails. Em loves it.
That evening the grownups left for a wedding, leaving the grandbabies with me. I volunteered to babysit, silly me. My grandson was perfect, but Em was a lot more work. She panicked about her mom and dad leaving right after they drove off. The next four hours were spent trying to convince her that they were coming back. She and I both reached a saturation point about 1830hrs, so, with out any fanfare or discussion, I began the steps getting her ready for bedtime.
Once she was dressed for bed, I rocked her in Bawpaw's rocking chair, singing to her rather than reading. She fell asleep to my renditions of James Taylor's You Can Close Your Eyes, the perfect lullaby for the evening. Actually, I have put babies to sleep for years with that song. Once she was down, I watched a movie, The Good Dinosaur, with Jake-man, which was great fun.
Don't get me wrong. I had a great time doing this. Em and Jake are the sweetest kids and I'm looking forward to many more days with them soon, enough that Em feels comfortable with being with "just me" and enough that I'm normal to her. I think this was just too much for her to handle at once.
This morning was more of the same. I got up with Cooper and Em was already up with Kel. After our walk and breakfast, I started playing with Em and Kel disappeared. About three hours later the Kids reappeared, thanking me for letting them sleep in. After coffee, they packed up and headed home.
Now, I'm sitting out on my nice-and-clean back porch, typing this. Cooper is protecting me by growling at everything that moves. All birds, squirrels, rabbits, people look like potential threats to him. Bess is sitting across the street under her car condom, all clean and polished, probably pissed that I did not take her on a spin on her 12th Birthday. I will have to remedy that tomorrow. The bird feeder is empty, but an occasional bird comes to visit. My Nuthatches have stopped by to talk smack. They do not like to hunt for food and let me know their displeasure.
The sun is shining, a cool breeze is blowing, I have the ceiling light strands lit, and...the house is quiet. Poor Cooper is dead to the world. He's as worn out as I am.
No bar-b-qing for me today, but I'll toast lost mates tonight. Damn Few.
Wednesday, 24 May, 2017: Bawpaw's Chair
Standing about six-foot-one, he was a mountain of a man, barrel chested, his hands toughened by farming, his ideas and sensibilities shaped by the deep Post-War South, the Great Depression, and the Methodist Church, and his manner soften by my grandmother Lee, called Grand Mama Lee.
As far back as I can remember, Bawpaw was a store keeper, first in Geiger Alabama at the Yellow Front Store on the corner of Highway 17 and Bennsville Road on your way to Scooba Mississippi, the second, and until the end of his life, he owned his own store on Highway 18/43, the road between Berry and Fayette Alabama.
I don't remember much about their time in Geiger, other than the store; my grandmother Neel and Aunt Martha Ann moved into the same house, so my memories of that house are Neel memories. I remember them in the Berry houses, vividly.
Visits Berry centered around the kitchen table and Grand Mama Lee's cooking, outside playing in the yard and helping in the garden, and sitting around in the living room listening to the radio or Bawpaw telling stories, talking, and hulling pecans, shelling peas, or snapping beans. Helping out in the store meant treats. There was a gigantic pickle jar, a big barrel of peanuts, meat wrapping paper on a huge roll for coloring, sodas, an occasional candy bar, and, my favorite, sharing a Nehi Peach Soda with Bawpaw. I was the only one who drank these with him, or so I remember. The smell of a country store was amazing and I will never forget, though I am at a loss for words as to how to describe it, how great is smelled in Bawpaw's world. I'm sure my friend Vicki, who encourages my writing, would tell me to try, and maybe I will, later.
How I wish I had been into photography back then or had been old enough to write down the stories.
One of my most vivid memory is of the rocking chairs. Bawpaw and Grand Mama Lee had matching rocking chairs that sat in the middle of the living room. I remember rocking in them and being rocked in them all of my young life. When my Lee grandparents died, my mom asked me if there was anything I wanted and I said, "One of the Rocking Chairs." I pictured myself in one of these gigantic rocking chairs, so large that your feet came off of the ground when you rocked back, rocking my own children and grandchildren.
When I got to Mom-and-Dad's to pick it up, I was certain they had the wrong chair. It was small. It was wobbly, creaky. The caning was cracked and broken. This, I said, couldn't be the chair I remembered. Dad laughed and told me that I hadn't seen it since I was a small boy and that the last time I had rocked in it, my feet did, indeed, come off of the ground. Mom pointed out the rocked that Bawpaw had made himself to replace the original, worn out rockers.
I took it home, covered the cracked cane with cushions and a quilt, and sat it in a corner. It sat in every house we ever lived in until, while living at Silverwood, our first home in Lexington, a friend sat in it and it collapsed. I pieced and glued it back together, promising myself one day to have it completely refurbished, so that I could pass it to one of my kids...so that i could rock my grandbabies in it. When we moved to Post at VMI, I put in our basement for safe keeping.
Now that we have two grand children and are about to move to Charlottesville, I asked Kim to find a person here in Virginia who could refurbish, refinish, and cane it. She did just that, set it up, delivered it, and set aside the money.
I picked it up today and it is beautiful, right down to the hand wrought rockers. Just in time to rock Emily this weekend.
Monday, 22 May, 2017: The Beginning of Summer
This morning, I woke Cooper up at 0600 for a walk and his morning constitutional. It was quiet out, peaceful. There wasn't a soul in sight. The air was crisp and moist and the wet streets showed that it must have just stopped raining. I hadn't heard a thing.
I brought Cooper back from Winston Salem NC yesterday, after a fun weekend with Elise and him. We met there Friday night for good food and to hike Pilot Mountain. Friday night, we ate at The Katherine, the upscale restaurant in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel where we stayed.
We slept in Saturday morning and headed to the state park, parked and headed to the top. Lesser mortals and all other old folks drove up. How weak. The air was cool and the trail was shady, making for a lovely climb. By they time we got to the top, I wish I had driven. The climb was mostly a gradual semi-circle around the mountain, becoming steeper toward the top, with stairs to assist, which actually hindered the climb. Even Cooper balked on a few of the higher steps. He was a champ when we got to the top, climbing the big rocks that became out overlooks, seemingly uncaring of the heights. I assume he took his lead from his mom, who is as fearless as they come. Still, we held tightly to his leash.
Throughout the weekend, we talked mostly about the Whole 30 diet. Elise had just finished her month and was gradually adding things. Kim and I did it a year ago and I loved it. I never felt hungry and never had heartburn at night. I slept better and lost almost 20 pounds. It is a bit of work preparing meals, but worth it I think.
The view from the top of was spectacular, the air crystal clear from the recent rain. We could see forever. The people we met on the hike were nice and there were a lot of them. Even the folks who drove to the top were friendly and respectful of the place, other folks space, and the need for others to photograph. Most everyone spoke in hushed tones as if they were in a cathedral. Maybe they were.
The trip down the mountain seemed much faster and was certainly easier.
Dinner that night was Mellow Mushroom. I had the Mediterranean Pizza, which I want again, right NOW! Damn it was good. Elise designed her own, something that would fit into her Whole 30 diet, which she said was delicious. I will admit, it did look good.
We got in bed early, all of us worn out from the day. We got up early as well, and were on the road by 0700hrs.
The only negative thing during the whole weekend was finding out that my nephew Colin has a malignant tumor on his spinal column. It was discovered when he fell in the shower and hurt his back, a Luck Fall, I guess you'd say. Tests are all done and they will decide in the near future the course of treatment. They need to find surgical magicians like I had.
The last two weeks are a blur. It went so fast, with few problems, that I had little to do until the last day of school. I'm always organized to the best of my ability, knowing that I will be in the field during the first three days of Dead Week. Since we didn't go the FTX, all I had to do was supervise what I had already organized, checking to make sure small things like flags were done. The last thing we did was close out Barracks, and that was done by five. I walked away as the others closed down their stoops, went to Taco Bell, ate, and then returned to check things out and take down flags. By 1800hrs, we were all done.
Wednesday and Thursday I tied up loose ends and gathered up equipment left by cadets that looked to be mistakes. Cadets are sometimes sloppy when they leave here and forget things they need...passports, their Class Rings, billfolds, orders to camp, cell phones, ...and the list would never end. And, they expect us to secure it for them...probably because we attempt to do just that. It is only when I get a phone call from a mom complaining that we can't find something that their precious left behind that I get irritated. Mom's don't like talking to me.
Friday, I put up the flags, checked a few things at work, and got on the road by 1300hrs.
It's just me and Cooper until Saturday, when Jay, Kelly, and Emily come in for Stephanie's wedding. They'll stay till Monday and I get to babysit Lil' Em. Looking forward to that. We'll identify flowers and birds, and maybe do some star gazing.
Friday, 12 May, 2017: and...It's Raining
The rain started last night and the temps dropped into the 50s. Whew! I was starting to doubt myself and my decision to scrub the FTX. It has been pouring on and off all day, with a drizzle in between each downpour. We would have been in a bad way last night in the forest.
Now we're all sitting around trying to fit parade practice in between the showers. That isn't working very well.
Thursday, 11 May, 2017: Time on My Hands
Instead of picking up vehicles, distributing MREs, marshaling 450 fourth classmen, loading busses, and heading to the national forest, I'm at my work desk making a journal entry on my personal laptop. Bad Weather. We supposed to be having bad weather.
Tuesday, at staff meeting, we looked at the weather. It didn't look good at all--three days of rain, low temperatures, thunder showers, and flooding. Still, I said we should wait and see, living the old Airborne rule that, the moment you cancel a Jump for weather is the moment the weather clears.
Wednesday, it looked worse--a huge weather pattern, seven states wide, headed right over the training area--rain before we got out there, thundershowers the entire first day, rain all day on day two, and more rain the third day till Noon, with temperature going down to the 40s.
I wrote the boss from the house that we should cancel. We discussed that morning and we all agreed with my assessment. I cancelled with the cadre and staff, the national forest, and mailed back the radios. Holly cancelled the vehicles, port-a-johns, chow, and busses.
Then, we waited for the thundershowers to begin at 1600hrs.
All night I listened for the rain and thunder. I checked out the window. I tossed and turned, plagued by the need for all of this bad weather to start. I needed to know I was correct.
Now they are calling for my weather to begin at 1600hrs today and for it to go through the night and into tomorrow. I can only hope or I'm going to look like a bobo.
Still, it is a load off of my shoulders and I'm happy I'm not having to do it again...ever. It was always so risky. To have that many moderately trained cadets, sleeping under the stars, little food, light jackets, no sleeping bags, traveling over some very rugged terrain, was always a challenge. We've always been on the verge of snake bites, cold injuries, heat injuries, burns, broken bones, or dehydration...but, for the last fifteen years we have managed to sneak by the bad stuff. I call it Great Risk Management.
So, Now, instead of the FTX, I'm finding shit to do.
Saturday, 28 April, 2017: Dad's Radio
When Mom passed away in November 2015, We all assembled at the house to divide up mom and dad's things. I was surprised when Jim didn't want the radios. To me, they were such an important part of our early lives, that I thought he would want at least one. He didn't. I'm guessing because Colin wanted dad's stereo. I took home the Atwater-Kent, the Zenith tombstone radio, and the little Zenith table-top radio.
My memories of all three are strong. The Atwater-Kent was left at Dad's radio shop, that he ran after the war, by a patron who never returned for it. Dad's plan was to put LEDs in the burned out vacuum tubes to give them a glow and to bypass them with transistors that did the same thing. He never got around to doing that, but it is such a beautiful piece of art, that he kept it. I'm not sure what I'll do with it.
The tombstone radio is a beautiful piece of furniture and had been used for years by Mom and Dad as an end table, long after it quit working. I used it as a teen as an amplifier for my electric guitar, playing the bass lick to Satisfaction and Kicks, over and over, until Dad ordered me to turn it off. If the house ever sells, I hope to have it completely restored. It hit me the other day that I could play my iPod through it; Kim and I are really fond of old radio shows like Johnny Dollar, The Whistler, Suspense, X Minus One, and the Horror.
The little Zenith radio, sat for years under the black and white Zenith TV; dad loved Zenith. We kids listened to WSGN 610 on it by day and, when ionic conditions were right, WSGN out of Chicago at night. When we left Wahoma, Dad kept it under the house on his workbench so he could listen to news and music as he worked on his electronic projects. Jim used it when he built the set of Last Hotel For Women, a play at Birmingham Festival Theater, back in 1996. I helped him build that set, the summer before I moved to El Paso for the Sergeants Major Academy. It was one of the best times I have ever had with my big brother.
Last night, I pulled out the little radio, a Zenith Model H725, to clean it up and see what it would take to get it working again.. I thought maybe I could replace the tubes or perhaps replace the receiver with the insides of a more modern radio. Once I had it open, I noticed modern transistors on the wiring board. Dad had, sometime before he died, bypassed the vacuum tubes with transistors. I finished cleaning it, put it back together, and plugged it up. Worked like a champ! My dad was amazing.
Friday, 21 April, 2017: Traveling
I am in Delaware for the weekend with the Trap and Skeet Team. We drove in Thursday night for a three-day shoot. I'll get home Sunday night. Thursday morning, I was on the way back from Philadelphia, where I had been since Tuesday. The Color Guard and I helped open the new Museum of the American Revolution there on Wednesday.
As the semester draws to a close, things will get busier and busier. I really could not afford to take a week off work, but these things had to be done.
The museum trip was great...very patriotic. I took Colonel John with me as tour guide. He was the first person I thought of when the Governor asked us to go to Philly; he and I had been there together once before and I knew he grew up there and would be the perfect person to show the cadets and me around the city.
We stayed in the Hilton at Penn's Landing. I was on the 14th floor with an excellent view of the Olympia, Diligence, and Becuna in Harbor Park. The ceremonies opening the museum were well administered and attended. We began at Washington Square Park at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, and then proceeded to Independence Hall. After toasts by the Governors of the first thirteen colonies, the celebration moved to the new museum.
The keynote speaker there was Joe Biden. His comments were so positive and inclusive, healing and cathartic in many ways. I stood there listening to him, thinking, "There's our President." I believe him to be the man that could bring us all back together. Maybe in four years...
After the events were complete, we went on a hunt for a Philly Cheese Steak. Jim's Steaks came highly recommended and it was close, so we headed there after changing back at the hotel. Wow. It was obvious that I have never had a real Philly Cheese Steak. Jim's was So Good! The line ran out the door. There were celebrity photos all over the wall from the famous who had eaten there. It was a dive, sure, but I loved the place. Kim would say, "It's your kind of place!"
The Museum had some very important artifacts and examples of soldier kit and everyday life in the colonies. What is best about it is that it is a very well thought out historical exhibit, telling the whole story, and giving credit to all who contributed to our Independence. The firearms display was particularly interesting.
After releasing the Cadets for the rest of the night, my last stop was the Liberty Bell. I'd never seen it up close and knew I had to before leaving Philly. I didn't take time to see the whole exhibit, knowing I could research it, and Because I was beat.
Philly is wonderful...very beautiful, nice folks who obviously love their city, loads of history, and great architecture. I could do without the traffic.
The trip back to Lex was uneventful and I got back in time to have lunch with Kim before picking up the team and then driving north...AGAIN. I'll head back Sunday after we shoot. I expect us to do well; the lads shot great at Trap today.
Tuesday, 11 April, 2017: Butterfly Day
This morning, I took Kim to Richmond for a Day-Date. My goal was to get her out of the house for the day...for good reasons. She was such a good sport about it, probably because I was trying so hard.
Our first stop was brunch at Eat 33, a tiny little diner that had great reviews on Yelp. The reviews were correct. I had Blackened Shrimp Bennie- shrimp and poached eggs over toasted English muffin, topped with a hollandaise sauce. It was delicious. Him had a really nice breakfast which she said was outstanding. We both agreed, It's a Great Place.
Our next stop was the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. This is a very well visited and beautiful place. It was Tuesday at noon and the place was packed. That didn't bother us, we were in no hurry. Most everything was in bloom except the azaleas. Kim came away from the gift shop with a rare find.
I must have done very well in her book, because she set up, while I was driving, dinner at the Turk place, Sultan Kabab, my favorite, with the kids. It was a great ending to our day.
Wednesday, 5 April, 2017: List of Lasts
Since the day I chose my retirement date, 1 February, 2018, I've had a great time noting and announcing to everyone when I've done something at VMI for the last time. It began with The Presidential Inauguration and Breakout, both, gigantic pains in the ass. Yep, I'll never have to do another one of either. I'll probably help out with the Governor's Inaugural next January, but I don't plan on getting in the new SGM's way.
After May 16th, there will be no more spring furlough barracks closeout, no more spring FTX with post clean-up, no new cadet military training, no 4th class range day, no 4th class FTX, no more dressing cadets for commencement, no more New Market days, and no more summer barracks closeout.
Next Fall, I plan on cutting down on the dangerous crap I've done around here for 16 years, like staying out at the hotels protecting drunk cadets from themselves... so, I'm already done with that. I plan on turning the T&S Team over to Buck and acting as the assistant coach to help him out. I can't decide right now about OC and AOC, but, sometimes, that can be dangerous as well. I've already told the Boss that I'll be only administering the urinalysis test and training the staff in teams to actually conduct the test. Less will be More.
My timeline, right now, is to move Kim and our stuff this July, live in a small apartment here on Post until early December, and then commute from Charlottesville the few days I plan on working in January.
I guess you could say that it's getting better by the day, or by the event, around here.
Friday, 24 March, 2017: Tired and Busy
April is coming on quickly. It is always my busiest month of the academic year. The new website is going to have to wait. Maybe I'll work on it in June.
My team has two shoots in April, first at Va Tech and the second in Delaware. I'll go to the second.
NCMT training takes place the same weekend as the VT Shoot, so I have to be here for that. Range Day takes place the same weekend as the three-day Delaware shoot, so I asked Ech and Bean to cover that so I could travel. In between the shoots, the Governor requested that VMI send a color guard to Philly for the grand opening of the new Museum of the American Revolution. I'll take a team there on Tuesday, return Thursday Morning, and then depart Thursday afternoon for Delaware.
All the while, I'm planning for the 4th Class FTX and trying to get sergeants rank sorted out. To add to the fun, Kim and I are packing up the house, getting ready for the move this summer.
Come on June!
Monday, 13 March, 2017: Birmingham and Savannah
After closing barracks, I went home to pack. Kim and I took off for Birmingham Saturday morning about 8am. The drive down was uneventful. I have come to loath that trip and hope to make it a lot less in the years to come.
We stayed in Aloft in Homewood, a very nice little hotel on Soho Square. It was perfect for us and close to the highway so we could go where we needed to go in quick trips. The main reason for the trip was to visit with Kim's niece, Heather who was up from Florida. She and husband, Buck will be moving back to Arizona soon and we want to spend as much time as we can while they are on this side of the country.
The trip was short, but we ate at three great places, Taco Mama at the Summit, Sherry's Cafe in Trussville, and Rojo on Highland Avenue. I really like the restaurants in Birmingham, but not enough to visit again. I'll just find fun places in Charlottesville.
This morning, we drove to Elise's house. We got there a bit before she did, so I had some Cooper time and a nap. We'll stay through tomorrow and then head home Wednesday.
Thursday, 7 March, 2017: More Work Than Necessary
I began a new web site today. I'm really tired of the old one and thought I'd try to make some changes to make it look better and flow a bit better. Bear with me and come back often to see the new input. Spring break is here, so I should have a bit more time to work it.
Friday, 17 February, 2017: Here I am again, Holiday Inn...
Actually, I'm in a Days Inn, but I'm sure Sweet Baby James would approve of my reference. I'm there to watch Cadets and their dates after the mid-winter formal, protecting them from themselves, and hoping to protect the image of the institute. We have EMTs out here and hired security. I'm the last line of defense so, except for a few trips around the motel, I pretty much stay in my room.
Breakout took place on the 4th and the 1st Class had a great plan. Like every year, the Rats were smoked before noon, but somehow, managed to make it through everything thrown at them by the upper-class Cadets. The use of Sandbags this year was kept at a minimum, so cleanup went much better than in the past. I only had a few things to fin the next Monday.
Cooper is here in Lex with me. Elise and Andy are traveling together, first with Kim to Birmingham, then to his next duty station while Kim came back home. So...I get to keep Cooper. We've had a blast and have had great weather for walks and fetch. I have him in a good routine that lets me get my work done and keep him happy at the same time. I take him out at 0600 and then we eat breakfast. Once I'm dressed for work, we go for a walk and a little fetch. We do the same at lunch and then after I get home from work around 1700. He eats at 1800 and then we go back out before I head to bed around 2100. Of course there are trips to Barracks so he can give the Cadets love. The boy is popular.
My Retirement time line is a lot more firm. Kim and I decided to go ahead and make the official date 1 February, 2018. She'll move into the new place in August. I'll do the same in a small VMI apartment, using the furniture that we don't want for the new place. I'll move from the apartment to the new place before Christmas Furlough and finish up January by commuting. I begin the State paperwork in November, but Human Resources has my date and plan already. I spoke with the Boss and we'll look to hire the next SGM in October. I've been working on a Continuity Folder. That makes me happy.
Tuesday, 31 January, 2017: Coffee and Shotguns
This past weekend I was able to spend a little time with two of my favorite women, young VMI Alumni, Ashley and Afton.
I met Ashley on Saturday morning for coffee and then went back to the house to continue our conversation. It was fun and the time went too fast. I had to call an end to our visit to go cover the basketball game, but not before I got her to pose for a few new photos.
Sunday afternoon, I met Afton at my McKethan Park range for some skeet. It was cold and snowy, but we got in about a round and a half. Both of us were shooting like...well, not well...so, when it began showing too hard to see the birds, we called it quits.
The basketball game on Saturday was fun and exciting. We were playing Samford from Birmingham, and we played well. They are a good team, so we were pretty excited when we got ahead by ten points early in the game and held the lead for most of the first half. They slowly came back, and at the end of the game led us by ten. We came storming back to within two points with seconds left. Their shot to beat the clock missed and we passed to one of our players, all alone in the lane to tie it up. He shot and missed. Casey at the Bat!
This is Resurrection week for the Rats. Breakout is coming soon. I like this place a lot better after Breakout; it is so much quieter.
I can't believe it is almost February. So Good! Soon, I'll be moving into the little apartment and Kim into our new house. I expect the next year to go fast and I can't wait. I'm excited for what the future holds.
Elise and Cooper are coming Thursday. I'm pumped about that. I wish they were closer. I miss them living in Newport News. I'll keep Cooper for about two weeks while Kim and Elise go to Alabama for family business. I love him being here.
Saturday, 21 January, 2017: I'm done with THAT!
We boarded thirty busses to DC yesterday, about 0700hrs, for a 0800hrs start to Washington DC. Almost the entire Corps, 1500 Cadets, marched in the Inaugural Parade as the last unit in the parade. I call it "the finale" and we really put on a good show. We looked great, except for a bend in the formation of Second Battalion. I'm not sure what caused it, but I was happy with the way we looked. Rifle angles across Corps were nearly Perfect. Lines were straight and evenly spaced, except at the very beginning of eyes-left when the First Troop of the Philadelphia City Cavalry decided to stop right in front of us. It was probably not their fault either. Parades always "accordion," but it seems to happen to us every time.
So, this is my last Presidential Inaugural Parade. Hopefully we will have a new SGM by the time the new Governor of Virginia has his parade. He can do that.
Sunday, 8 January, 2017: Brrrrrrr
It is friggin' cold out there. We got a little snow on Saturday...about an inch, then the clouds cleared and we've had lots of sunshine. The snow is still here, because the temperature has been in the single digits. And Me? I've been in the house. I refuse to go out in this nonsense.
Wednesday, 4 January, 2017: Inaugural News
We're marching in the Inaugural. This is a great honor, no matter you personal beliefs or politics. It is a celebration of our American way of life, our system of government, and our Constitution. I feel sorry for the little kids who have been denied this opportunity by administrators and teachers who disapprove of our elected president elect. I am ashamed of people refusing to participate. These people are focusing on the man and they should be focusing on the position.
Yeah, we have a problem. We've had problems before. We just have to wait this one out and depend on our checks and balances. Look for good things and watch out for bad things. I remain optimistic. What else can I do at this juncture? If you're not happy, you have an election two years and another four years from now. Stop whining and start planning, working.
I have marched in four of these so far. I didn't like Jimmy Carter, but I was proud to march. I marched for GW's parade and two of Barak's. I was honored to do so each time.
So, Let's GO! Watch for the Biggest, Most Impressive, and dead Last unit marching in the Parade. We'll be the good looking cats in the gray overcoats with the red capes, carrying M14s with fixed bayonets.
Don't get in our way.
Tuesday, 3 January, 2017: Staying in Savannah
Kim was pretty under the weather, so, instead of driving on the second, I sent her home to Lexington with Sandy. That gave me another day with Coop and someone had to stay to pick Elise up from the airport Tuesday night.
The Auburn game was abysmal. Same Shit.
After picking the daughter up and listening to her stories of her weekend, I got in bed, intent on leaving in early morning. I woke up at 0345 and was on the road by 4. There was very little traffic the whole way home, and I got home a little before 12.
Mission Complete. No more traveling for a while, please.
Sunday, 1 January, 2017: New Year and Better, I Hope
Sandy and Kimber joined us at Elise's place for New year's Eve, while Elise flew to spend the celebration with her boy friend Andy and his family in NN. It was a quiet night of football, a little drinking, and terrible performances in Times Square. I'm thinking Dick Clark rolled over in his grave a few times.
I went to bed about one this morning, knowing I had puppy duty as soon as he decided to get me up. He eats at six, so that's about the time he comes to get me. It's a like clockwork.
The rest of today was also quiet except for a lunch trip to Cheddar's for lunch. Love their ribs!
The weather was good for longs walk with Cooper, so that's what I did on New Year's Day.