Taking a Knee

November 23, 2016

washington-monument-at-night-jeff-stein

It had been a few years since I had returned from the Vietnam War,  my hair was now long and I was back in Washington DC.  I had been there the weekend before as part of what were called The May Day Demonstrations protesting the war.  The week before the police were cracking heads and hauling people off to JFK stadium.  That was the reality of the week before but, this weekend was different, this demonstration was scheduled for the Vietnam Veterans of America and there were 500,000 guys in camo walking around the capital.  The police were acting like park tour guides now.  This was the only demonstration I attended that the protesters knew what they were talking about.

That night we camped around the Washington Monument.  It felt good to be camping with so many brothers one last time.  The war stories were free flowing that night and some were even true.  At one point, maybe around ten , a guy that was not a veteran, pulled down one of the beautiful flags that ring the monument.  His intent was to burn it and I’m sure he expected we would cheer his actions since this was an anti war week-end.  That kid was snatched up like a rag in a dogs mouth, he was on his back in seconds before he knew what hit him and the flag was taken from him.  We informed him that we protest the actions of our government.  We protest the war but, not our flag, not our country.  We shed blood for that flag, we watched our brothers die for that flag.  Our fallen went home covered with it.  Many of us carried one tucked inside our flack jacket or inside our helmets. The flag went back up the pole that night as we made sure that misinformed hippie understood what he had done, the grave mistake he had made.  He left unhurt but shaken.

Today when I hear the National Anthem played, I face the flag, I remember the fallen that will always be 18 years old in my memory.  They were not victims, they knew the risks and took them anyway for what they believed to be a greater good, I sing along and, though I try to hide it, the tears always roll down my face.  Feel free to take a knee but, while you’re down there, try to understand that it is not the country, the anthem or the flag you disagree with but a policy.  And while you are down there know that the 1% of Americans that are veterans see more clearly how small you are, how self absorbed you are and how ignorant you are.

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160 MPH HUMMER

July 12, 2015

18gh7cdonpar1jpgI’ve known this story for a few years now but could not tell it.  A good friend might have had trouble with the US Government it it were known.  I can tell it now.

Max Notter was an immigrant from Europe.  When he came here he believed that he had a debt to pay to the country that had welcomed him so he enlisted in the army to serve.  He served in the airborne, became a jump master and fought in two wars.  Max paid this country back in spades.  But then, Max never did anything if it wasn’t big.  I know a lot of the stories that surround this man and most of them still make me laugh.  This one is one of my favorites.

A large war game had been planned at Ft Bragg and the airborne troops were packing up to get on the planes.  Max’s squad had their gear all crammed into their Humvee that was to be dropped with them on the jump.  At the last minute a mortar team approached them and said they were going to jam their gear in the vehicle.  Max told them, “No way”, there was no room left in the thing.  But, the mortar boys ran to the Captain and were told they could put their gear in Max’s Humvee.  Getting Max mad was not a good thing.  While all the mortar teams gear was getting jammed into and crushing the squads gear, Max had walked over to the rigger (the guy that packs the chutes) and quietly told him to rig (make sure it does not open) the chute.  The squad thought the Humvee was old and worn out anyway and wanted a new one.  I know that terminal velocity (the maximum speed a body can achieve in free fall)  of the human body is around 160 mph and I don’t know if anyone has ever figured terminal velocity of a Humvee so I’m only guessing here at 160 mph.  On close inspection of the picture it may have gotten closer to 200 and a speed record I’m sure.  Max got his new Humvee and the mortar team never bothered them again or found any of their gear.

Yesterday I got the news that Max had lost a battle with cancer I didn’t even know he had.  This is why I can tell the story now. Another good buddy came around to tell me the sad news and we pounded a glass of rum (the traditional Marine farewell) to Max.  We shed no tears though we both loved him. Instead we told one Max story after another while having more rum and laughed our heads off, as it should be.

C I D

October 20, 2013

Years ago I was driving around lost with my girlfriend.  Being a guy, I was happy to continue “exploring” and, being a girl, she was not.  So, after half an hour of brain eating nagging I pulled into a Dairy Queen to comply and ask for directions.  For a man this is way more humiliating than being told to hold her purse or go buy tampons at Wal-Mart.  I stand in line and when it’s my turn at the window I ask, “Can you tell me where I am?”, to which she answers very slowly, precisely enunciating so I’ll understand, “You….are….at…the…Dairy….Queen”.  There went the last of my pride.  I walked away not knowing which one of us was dumber, her, thinking that’s what I wanted to know or me, asking for directions.  And I still was lost.

I  was reminded of that story the other day when my teenage son came home after a trip to the store with his girlfriend.  He had been sent there by his mother with her credit card.  On the back of our cards where a signature should be we write C.I.D. to encourage the clerk to check the I.D. of the person using the card.  Needless to say, the name on the card was my wife’s and not my son’s name and as luck would have it, this was a one in a thousand clerk that did, as requested by the card,  asked to see I.D..  My son handed over  his license thinking the jig was up.  She studied the picture on the license very closely, glanced up and compared it to him and then said, “Yep, this is you”, while ringing up the purchase.  We can all feel much more secure now knowing these clerks are looking out for us.

Jon Rumble – One Last Time

August 6, 2012

I was in the rear healing up from injuries and decided to take in a movie at the Rest & Recuperation Center.  The movie was The Green Berets with John Wayne, a comedy at the time for the Marines in the seats.  Hollywood’s view of war was laughable.

As I walked back out into the sunlight I heard someone behind me say, “Mike!” so I looked over my shoulder but saw only the other jarheads squinting in the afternoon sun.  “Scott!” was the next thing I heard but my glance to the rear still didn’t result in anyone I knew.  I continued to walk until I heard, “Mike Scott!” so I stopped and turned finding myself face to face with a stranger.  I guess my blank stare gave it away, I had no idea who this guy was or what he wanted.  “You don’t know who I am do you?”, he said laughing, “It’s me Jon, Jon Rumble!”  I said, “No you’re not”  “Jon is a friend of mine I went to High School with and you’re not him”.  This was the start of a two-hour conversation.  It was Jon Rumble, just not the one I remembered from Woodson High School.  He had a lot of weight stripped off by the Marines and he now had a mustache.  He was an extrovert in school to say the least but now, he had a more of an edge, he was very sure of himself.  We swapped stories about the days back in DC area until I believed it was my friend.  Then he began to tell me about the unit he was in, 2nd Combined Action Group.  He was excited about what they were doing.  He felt good about job.  Here was a group that worked in a village at the villagers invitation.  They protected the village and taught the local militia to defend the people as well.  They did projects that helped the village such as digging wells, building schools, helping with the harvest, etc, etc. but this was not the Peace Corps.  The teams saw more combat than any other unit in Vietnam and suffered high losses yet, more Marines volunteered for another tour with the CAP teams than any other unit in the military.  Once a team pacified a village it moved on and never had a village fall back into communists hands.  They were winning the hearts and minds of the people and the war.  Jon was so over the top with enthusiasm for the program it didn’t take  long to talk me in to sending in an application for consideration.

I was accepted and sent to CAP School in DaNang were I attended language  and culture classes as well as small unit tactics.  Two weeks of sun up to sun down classes.  I wrote home to my girl friend, Ace Tally telling her about seeing Jon and how I was going to visit his team as soon as I could.  Just after arriving at my assigned team 2-2-2, I got a letter back from Ace that began with, “I guess you haven’t heard about Jon…..”.

While his brother, Jed was visiting him, the village was attacked and Jon died, defending a small village thousands of miles from his home.

I can’t help thinking that these things happen for a reason.  A one in a million meeting on the other side of the earth, why, what for.   I drink a shot of rum every Marine Corps Birthday and whisper names as I slam the glass to the table.  I will never forget, and maybe that’s it.   Semper Fidelis

Dogs and New Year

December 31, 2011

This shot seems to sum up so much about my dog buddies over the years.  I’ve managed to be friends with a bunch of this type.  Just a sack of unconnected dog parts with no real reason to exist other than to take up space in my house.  Like all my friends.  Bless em all.  I can say that I’ve never had a “pet” but, I’ve had a lot of “friends”, or they had me.  A couple of times it felt just like I’d been had.  Each one of them made me smile and often laugh and each of them broke my heart when they had to go.  They say that dogs don’t go to heaven and I think “they” are wrong.  Any time I meet people who don’t like dogs I know all I need to know or want to.  What kind of God wouldn’t like dogs.  He went to the trouble of making them so I would expect he’d like them enough to let them in the “house”.  I hope so because I don’t think I’d like to go anywhere that my friends couldn’t go too.  It’s New Years Eve and I’m sitting here in Baja remembering all my old friends and couldn’t leave out the ones that loved me every time without question.

Hot Dogs

December 1, 2010

For years I have been taking a load of crap from my well-meaning friends about the stuff I eat.  Specifically hot dogs.  “Don’t you know what they are made of?”  “They’re filled with sulfites and red number 2.”  Yes, yes I know all about it.  I’ve even watched them being made and I’m still not put off.  First let me say that I consider the hot dog to be the perfect food and I’m sure your will agree with me once you have listened to the logic.  Consider the fact that they are already throat shaped.  It is all ready to slide perfectly down the inside of your neck with out hanging up on anything.  Just insert.  OK, I can hear some of you now saying, “If you swallow it sideways you could choke”, and I agree but that’s part of the perfectness of the dog, it gets rid of the dumb ones thus  improving the breed.  That’s built right in.  I should also point out that, when I say “hot dog” I am talking about “all beef” of course.  I consider any use of feather meat to be false advertising because it just isn’t what a hot dog was ever intended to be and I think it was God that said that.   You can throw them on the grill or just nuke em in the microwave, steamed, boiled and even raw.  My mom used to make beans and franks and my dad would eat them with peanut butter on them.  Name any other food that is this versatile.  It can be prepared in less than a minute and clean up is easy.  I rinse with beer, the other perfect food.  Show me someone that will turn down a chili dog with onions and mustard and I’ll show you a commie pinko.

Killing VWs

October 27, 2010

 

OK, I admit it, I killed several VW Bugs back in the 60’s and 70’s.  The fire dept had to extinguish one in Holtvill, Calif. and I still managed to drive it to Dallas before it gave up.  In Dallas I patched up the poor thing and limped it back to Washington, DC where it died in front of my girlfriends house a smoking hulk.  The best of the VW stories happened one Saturday night in Virginia.  I was coming back from a coffee house where I played guitar and sang other people’s songs.  Yep, I was a folksinger.  My buddy Carl had come along that night and we were just getting the Bug up to speed when I heard Carl click his seatbelt.  We were just cresting a hill and doing around 45 mph when I saw four head lights lined up across a two lane road.  That was all she wrote.  Things went real fast for the first split second.  The girl driving the GTO on the wrong side of the road, over the double yellow lines, on the hill, on the curve, doing 65 mph in a 45, managed to lock up her brakes and swing the rear end of her car around like a giant baseball bat.  I had managed to just miss her front grill.  She swatted me deep into center field.  Both front tires of the VW laid down right where we hit and the front of the Bug went away.  One minute I was going south at 45 and the next I was headed north at about the same speed.  We took out a small billboard and began to roll down a small embankment.  I don’t remember just how many times we slowly rolled down it, I just remember Carl saying he’d had enough of it and opening his door to stop the next roll.  The next thing I recall was this girl with her face at my window screaming.  She hadn’t killed me in the wreck so now she was going to scare me to death.  Almost worked.  When I got back up on the road I could see her car was in two pieces.  There sat the frame and engine and next to it was the body with two people sitting in the front seat.  Except for the two people it looked like something you’d see on an assembly line in Detroit.  The fact that all the cars came apart most likely save our lives.  We went to a near by farm house to call the police and she called a wrecker service.  I didn’t listen to her conversation but I did catch that her uncle was the wrecker driver.  When the wrecker pulled up to the scene a guy gets out with a rubber mallet in his hand and looks at the two halves of the GTO, right away goes to his knees laughing.  We he regains his composure he tells the girl, “I think you’re going to have to tell your dad”.  When she called she had asked him to come fix the car so her father wouldn’t know about the accident.  I wasn’t in much better shape myself, I had borrowed my sisters car and was going to have to tell her it didn’t exist anymore.  I carved one more notch on my drivers license.

Life Raft

October 13, 2010

We were working on the boat, making it ready for the voyage ahead, when I noticed the emergency raft sitting in its fiberglass box on its cradle.  On top was a hydrostatic release that would trigger a CO2 bottle to automatically inflate when it hit the water.  This triggered a memory, followed by a smile.  I had forgotten all about this story.

It was sometime in the early seventies and I was married, living on Walnut St in Rochester, Michigan.  It was a second story apartment that, in any other place or time would have been called a closet.  A 10’x10’ living room with a hallway kitchen that connected to the bed room and bathroom that was even smaller.  Among my hippie friends we had the nicest place.  We had real furniture instead of cinder block and milk crate shelves or wire spool tables.  I wasn’t in a band anymore, I was married. 

I recall the day that my friend Bill asked me if I wanted a 12 man raft.  I thought it would be cool to take it to the lake and anchor it out in the water filled with ice, beer, Boones Farm and Annie Green Springs.  Bill had “picked it up” somewhere couldn’t figure out what to do with it.  He assured me that it didn’t leak even though he had never tried to inflate it.  He lugged it up to the apartment on a Saturday morning in its bag and dumped it in the middle of the living room.  My wife was not happy.  “What the hell do we want that piece of crap for?”  I tried to explain all the cool things we could do with it.  I told her about the lake idea, I told her if we ever got a speed boat that we could tow it and I might have said we could camp in it.  I couldn’t think up things to use it for fast enough.  She had taken me by surprise, how could she not like it.  Why couldn’t she understand that it was just a “cool thing” and let that be enough to want to own it?  As badly as I wanted to own it I still wanted to inspect the dusty goods so I pulled it out of the bag.  On the bag was written “Property of _________airlines”.  I didn’t ask questions and I still don’t believe that somewhere an airliner is flying across the Atlantic with one raft missing.  It was pretty old and I had my doubts it would hold air now that I looked at it.  On the side I found a pocket with a large CO2 cylinder inside.  This had a metal lever attached to it and a lanyard attached to that.  It was a sure thing that this old cylinder had lost its charge years ago.  I pulled on the lanyard just to see how it worked.

My first wife was a tiny thing and a former gymnast but she wasn’t small enough or fast enough to get out of the way.  She was launched into the kitchen butt first.  Bill and I were pinned against the wall along with the furniture and a very surprised Black Lab.  As memory serves me that raft was a double tube and about 16 feet across and if you remember I said my living room was 10 foot.  It all happened in a split second.   There was plenty of CO2 in that cylinder as it turned out.  I could hear the sounds of my wife screaming somewhere and the thumping and bumping sounds of the dog as well as the sound furniture dying.  Bill and I started to laugh which didn’t make the wife happy.  I laughed until the thought crossed my mind that we couldn’t move and this would be an embarrassing way to die.  Bill managed to reach a valve on the side and soon the gas bag began to deflate.  Our dining room table was trashed so we went looking for a wire spool.  I never did take it to the lake.  Now, as I look back, I wonder how I can forget stories like this.

Real Spanish 101

September 22, 2010

Trying to learn Spanish here is complicated by the fact that all the Mexicans here want to practice their English on us.  We have Rosetta Stone and it’s very good but, it teaches the Spanish I need to make a speech at the UN.  I want to learn the real Spanish.   “Buenos Dias” is not how they say, “Good Morning”, what they really say is more like, “Bun dia”.  I have some friends that are teaching me how to speak like a regular guy.  I, in turn, am teaching them the finer points of English.  I’ve taught them that we don’t say, “Good Morning”, just “Mornin” or on Monday mornings, “F.U.”.    The following is a short list of words and phrases I am teaching our southern brothers and sisters.  Guano head or goat head   – Go  ahead,   lemie – Let me,  Jewwanna – Do you want to.  I know I’m just scratching the surface here but, I think it is important that when we teach a language we teach the real thing and not the language our high school teachers want us to speak.  My goal here is to have these people speaking English as poorly as we do by the time I leave.  Of course, it is my hope, that I will speak really bad Spanish by the time I get back.  So far so good.  Maybe next I can visit  France.

Mexican Update

September 15, 2010

I’ve been so busy that I have let my blog go for some time.  The life down here is quite different and I have forgotten that it might be interesting to the folks back home.  We are all doing just fine and settling down to life on the boat.  We have had our ups and downs but on the whole things are fine.  Our days begin around dawn by walking the dogs in a near by field that is also used by quite a few people for their morning walks.  Back on the boat we grab a fresh smoothie and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

some breakfast.  By this time even Mike is up.  Next we tune in to channel 22 on the VHF radio for the morning report from the Yacht Club that helps the Gringos  along We get our mail their and other information about what is going on in town.  After that we get to work on the boat until the temperature starts to get into the 90’s around 11:30 and then it’s time to get below decks and take a siesta that last until around 4 or 5.  During the last few months the heat index was staying around 117 with the temperature around 104.  The sun goes down about 7:30 and the cool evening wind begins to blow if we are lucky.  Mercifully , the temperature has begun to drop as the cooler season is beginning.  Today’ the heat indes is only 114.  There are two small bars at the marina where we can get something to drink,  I have discovered the Michaladas (sp I’m sure) which is a mix of beer and lime juice with salt  around the rim of the glass like a Margarita.  Except for the salt it’s much like the British Shandy.  There are two small pools on the roof of the marina buildings that offer an escape from the heat.                                                                                                                        After dinner we try to get some work done on the boat with the help of the spreader lights. 
We should have all work done on the boat by the end of December and at that time we begin our trip back to the United States. December also the time of year that the Pacific hurricanes that spin off the coast of Mexico are, for the most part, over.  So, even if the boat was ready right now, we would be staying put.
 We had hoped to be able to buy some more equipment down here but found it was ether not available or just way too expensive.  It looks like we can make it to Panama in about 30 days if the weather is on our side.  Getting through the canal will be a challenge.  Piles of paperwork and hiring pilots and line handlers to get through the locks not to mention the transit fees.  Now we find out that if we can’t make it through in one day we have to pay again for the second day.  We also need four dock lines that are 150 ft long.  Once we get through the canal we will head up the east coast of Central America and up to the Yucatan peninsula.  From there the final leg of the trip is crossing the Gulf of Mexico which will take several days.
We look forward to getting back home but will miss much of La Paz.  We have made many friends here that we will miss.  Mardel, the lady that makes the best shrimp burger in the world, Moi, the local policeman that spars with my son Mike and takes art lessons from me.  Raffa and Martine are owners of one of the small marina bars by night and are computer  programmers and marine biologist during the day.  We drink and talk of the culture of Mexico and sometimes revolution.  Martine’s little girl got on the boat once,  she climbed into a bunk and refused to leave and Shannon would have let her stay if her dad didn’t want her back.  Of the hundreds of people we have run into down here I have met only one that I didn’t care for.  All the rest have been very nice and much more patient with the dump gringos than we deserve.  Trying to learn Spanish from them while they try to practice their English on us is a lot of fun.  Our body language abilities have become extraordinary.  In short, we are having a great time and wish you were here.