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 Review

 

              
Jim Regan's                                      
Book Reviews
   
jjregan55@cox.net

 

Jim wanted me to replace his pix on the left with the one on the right. I  will leave both up for a few
just so you know it is still JR.  Gary

10-18-13

REVIEW/RECAP OF OUR TRIP TO THE UK AND FRANCE

SEPTEMBER 2013

 

For those MADcats interested in reading about our recent trip, you can go to an outside server @ https://www.hightail.com/download/OGhjT2pLa0QwVWxvSWNUQw   

And download the report. The report is too big for my computer to handle both the text and the pictures.

JR

 

MOTHER’S (or is it MOTHERS’) DAY TRIBUTE

                          (both work for me)

 

Each year at this time, and a few times in between, I try to reflect on the meaning of mother.
Other than the fact that I had no say in who was to become my mother, I did control the development
of my behavior and feelings towards the one who bore and cared for me. Yes, I, like you, had
directions that influenced my growth and development. Some, I took to heart and accepted. Others I
moderated or rejected. That’s what makes me, me.

I do acknowledge that my mom really tried to give me a strong sense of

right and wrong. Her guidance was always offered (sometimes directed) with affection in hopes that
I would walk “the straight and narrow.” Thanks mom…..It didn’t always work, but I give you an “A” for trying.

As posted on my page in previous years. I like to recall those famous lyrics sung by Eddy Arnold,
That Wonderful Mother of Mine.”

                  

          The moon never beams without bringing me dreams

                   Of that wonderful Mother of mine.

            The birds never sing but a message they bring

                   Of that wonderful Mother of mine.

         Just to bring back the time, that was so sweet to me,

          Just to bring back the days, when I sat on her knee.

                       You are a wonderful Mother,

                            Dear old Mother of mine.

                  You’ll hold a spot down deep in my heart,

                          ‘Till the stars no longer shine.

                          Your soul shall live on forever,

                            On through the fields of time.

                       For there’ll never be another to me,

                          Like that wonderful Mother of mine

                       I pray ev’ry night to our Father above,

                          For that wonderful Mother of mine.

                       I ask Him to keep her as long as He can

                             That wonderful Mother of mine.

                               There are treasures on earth,

                             that made life seem worthwhile,

                   But there’s none can compare to my Mother’s smile.

                                   You are a wonderful Mother,

                                      Dear old Mother of mine.

                           You’ll hold a spot down deep in my heart.

                                   ‘Till the stars no longer shine.

                                   Your soul shall live on forever,

                                      On through the fields of time

                                   For there’ll never be another to me,

                                  Like that wonderful Mother of mine.

 

                              Happy Mother’s/Mothers’ Day…..

                             ROSE HILDA HARMAN REGAN

                                                   1920

 

4-15-13

 

Review – April, 2013

 

Sidebar: Here we are in April and another start of spring. The hills are turning green, once again,
the matrimonial serenade of birds brings on a new crop of feathery offspring. My sunflower seeds
have burst through its earthy cover and the dreadful strands of Bermuda grass are reaching out to
engulf anything in its way. The last of my oranges have been harvested and the old strawberry
clumps have been divided into youthful single plants next to my Golden Girl, Ace and Beefsteak
tomatoes. April brings thoughts of the occasional showers that rain down from the heavens.
Most of us still remember Al Jolson singing the popular 20’s song, April Showers. The song provides
a great lead-in for this week’s review…”and a hard rain fell.”

 

The Book

I’m not sure I would have purchased the book, but since it was a gift, I felt swayed to read it.
Copywrite in 2002, and updated in 2008 “, …and a hard rain fell” is a GI’s true story of the
War in Vietnam. The author, John Ketwig, details in his 400 pp book how he was plucked from
early civilian life and sent to Vietnam, and how his service affected his outlook on life and country.

Disclaimer: My review is based upon the author’s story and the feelings he generated during and
after the war. The content of the book represents one man’s experiences as told fourteen years
after he returned from duty in the U.S. Army.

 

Like so many young men fresh out of high school in 1965, the author was faced with the decision
of what to do next in life. Work, college, the military became the obvious choices. John Ketwig
chose the latter after entering the world of work fixing cars and facing the inevitability of the draft.
He knew time was running out so he enlisted in the Army after acting on the advice of a recruiter
that he would receive advanced training in his line of work – automotive repairs, be guaranteed
schooling upon his return, and never see the daylight of Vietnam. Reportedly, his wide-eyed hopes
for a promising future went down the drain the moment he stepped into a uniform.

He describes his first eight weeks of basic training at Ft. Dix (N.J.) as being “pushed, pulled, beaten,
screamed at, humiliated and emasculated. After his basic training he was shipped to Aberdeen Proving
Grounds (MD.) for Advanced Individual Training in Wheel and Track Vehicle Repair where his good
aptitude scores and personal performance were recognized. He was encouraged to apply for Officer
Candidate School and he accepted. His hopes were dashed when he was told that there was a surplus
of ordinance officers and that he had been assigned to the Republic of South Vietnam.

The next year was to become a turning point in his life and his “attitude and vocabulary consisted mostly
of ‘fuck it.”

Ketwig describes his time in Vietnam as living hell. The use of dope, pot, booze became a way of life in
order to escape the daily tensions of a war. Seeing his fellow men and civilians suffer the tragedies of
combat made everlasting impressions – ones that began to shape his thinking, forever.

As his one year term in Vietnam was winding down, he decides to extend his tour by going to Thailand for
one year to be near a woman he met while on R & R and to help clear the cobwebs of war from his mind.
He buries himself in the culture and finds some relief from “The Nam.”

Returning to the U. S. brought new adjustments to his life, yet the insanity of what he experienced kept
falling on him like “hard rain.” A pen pal, Carolynn, became his life line and their subsequent marriage
brought special meaning and purpose into Ketwig’s disturbed life. The book may be hard to swallow for
some readers as they might question the author’s patriotism because of his outspoken accounts about
“The Nam.”, the army and our government.. I found the book well written, but I could only read it in
small doses. I needed to digest each account before moving on to the next.

All wars are tragedies. The Vietnam War remains a controversial event. Its history lives on for us to
remember.

J. Regan

April, 2013

 

 3-16-13

“HOLY SMOKE”

 

Let me begin by saying that I am not a catholic. But, as a curious sinner, I found the
selection of the (notice I did not say “our”) new Pope most interesting and informative.
The pomp and circumstance surrounding the entire process was impressive, and co-opted
me into a state of religious feeling that took me back to my younger days when I was an
alter boy. Now, I profess that I am a theist (the opposite of an agnostic), but my church
going habits are in dire need of practice.                                                                        

As I pondered over the various venues and events that took place in Vatican City, my focus
was not so much on the Catholic Church itself, but on its spiritual leader and what he stands
for. As I watched Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI leave the Vatican in an Italian Air Force
helicopter to the reclusive summer residence north of Rome known as Castel Gandolio,
I was taken by the thousands of well-wishers as they waived him goodbye and thanked him
for his service and the ceremonial closing of the main doors of the papal villa by the Swiss
Guards that signaled the end of his Papacy.

Who was to become the new Pope? This question occupied the minds of many around the world,
regardless of religious affiliation.

Those interested, watched the conclave of 115 eligible Cardinals as they gathered in the Sistine
Chapel to select “the one” who would lead the Catholic Church with its estimated 1.2 billion
members throughout the world. The ritual was culminated after the 3rd vote as white smoke
poured out of the specially erected chimney signaling that a 2/3rd majority had reached its
decision. Seventy-six year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina had been chosen.

The new Pope subsequently named himself Pope Francis after St. Francis of Assisi who was
known as a champion of the poor.

Being an observer of the process was educational and entertaining.

I listened to the reaction from the world over as both positive and negative comments dotted
our screens and airwaves. Much of the talk focused on the faults and setbacks of the church
as it had to deal with various scandals. Old, but disturbing news…..

I listened to Pope Francis as he expressed his thoughts on the state of the world, calling upon
all peoples, in all walks of life, regardless of religion, to practice their faith(s) and to seek
“truth, beauty and goodness.” He expressly emphasized that the church will seek to renew
collaboration with the modern day world but not at the expense of compromising the teachings
of the Catholic faith.

I thought that this man is for real, and although I will remain a non-catholic, I can find no fault
in his advocacy of reaching out to everyone, knowing that everyone is not reachable.

We need more leaders like Pope Francis. He will serve by example.

By: James FRANCIS Regan

3/16/13

 

 

MARCH 3, 2013

SITES AND SOUNDS FROM THE PAST – GAY’S LION FARM

 

 

WHEN LIONS ROARED

 

Many MAD mates may remember this long-gone piece of the San Gabriel Valley
landscape, Gay’s Lion Farm. Considered one of the highlights in the history of El Monte,

“The Farm” was home to over 200 lions. Founded by Chuck and Muriel Gay, this popular
tourist attraction was located on a five acre site at the junction of Valley Boulevard
and Peck Road. Sporting African style architecture, the U-shaped compound of cages
was devoted to the training, breeding and exhibition of African lions.

The Gays established a close relationship with Hollywood and many scenes utilized

their lions, including the famous picture of a lion that precedes every MGM picture.

 Originally known as the Golden Pictures lion logo from 1917 to 1924, it became MGM’s
trademark picture of a roaring lion that was seen at the beginning of every movie?
The first lion to appear in the logo was named “Slats.” Over the years, other lions have
replaced Slats and the logo has undergone some changes 

 

                                                        “SLATS”

 

 Gays Lion Farm operated until 1942 when it closed its gates due to the wartime
shortage of horsemeat, the animal’s primary food source. The lions were loaned
out to zoos and the gates never reopened.

 

                       

                                                        Gay’s Lion Farm

 

Special Note: El Monte High School adopted the lions name. The Gay’s provided a
live mascot for many of the school’s major events.

Thinking back to our MAD days and the old El Monte Athletic League, it was always
rewarding when WILDCATS tamed the LIONS.

J. Regan

3/2013

 

 

RECAP OF OUR TRIP TO SOUTH AMERICA      

Sidebar 1: The following report is a summary of our recent trip to South America.

We were accompanied by one of Vangie’s best pals, Charleen Magliolo (Noyer), former  MAD 1949 classmate.

Sub-sidebar: Taking care of two senior citizen women, one being my wife, required the patience of Job.

Now I know why my name is Jim…..

 

       Charleen, Vangie and Jim

          Buenos Aires

It has been over one year ago since I first started planning our trip to America del Sur (South America, that is).

We have learned from past experience that it takes at least one year to fit the pieces of the travel puzzle together
in order to have an orderly and pleasant experience. After selecting a cruise line (in our case it was the Regent Seventh Seas)
we knew the actual dates for the cruise, January 21 to February 14, 2013. The cruise was called Chilean Fjord Rhapsody
and began in Lima, Peru and ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We had never sailed with Regent before, but its reputation
is well established. Everything is included in a Regent cruise: air and land transportation, meals, ALL drinks and most
important, land excursions,. Not including any losses in the casino, our departure bill was zip, zero, nada.

A bit about the ship – The Seven Seas Mariner claims to be the world’s most inclusive line and is registered in the Bahamas.
It has sailed all of the world’s oceans.

            Overall length – 709’                Guests – 700                8 guest decks with balconies

            Beam – 93’                              Total decks -12            Cruising speed – 20 knots

            Draft – 21’                               First voyage – 2001      Officers and Crew – 445

 

 

Vangie and I have been to some countries in South America before. My exposure was to Columbia, and Venezuela,
two countries that I will never visit again. So, a cruise beginning in Lima and ending in Buenos Aires made good sense.
One area of interest that we all have read or heard about is Machu Picchu, the hidden Incan city in the sky. We arranged
a pre-cruise tour with Maupintours, a U.S. Company that I have used for previous land and barge tours. Maupin provides
guide service, hotel and air/land transportation.

 

January 16San Diego to Lima, Peru. Our excursion began as we departed United Air from San Diego to Houston.
The next leg of the journey was from Houston to Peru on a new 767. We arrived  just before midnight and were greeted
by our guide, Deborah,  and taken to the Hotel Casa Andina Miraflores (miraflores= “beautiful flowers”).

 

17th Lima to Cusco. Up early, we were picked up by our guide and taken back to the airport for about a one hour flight
to Cusco. Another Maupin guide, Kerry, met us and took us to the 93 room Novotel hotel, built in the early 16th century
and in the heart of the city. After a short rest and lunch, Kerry picked us up for a tour of Cusco and the surrounding area.
Cusco is a very interesting place. It is the historical capital of the Inca Empire. Today, it is a fast growing city with a
population of around 300,000 people.  It rests in a long green valley at en elevation of 11,200’ surrounded by high mountains.

 

18th – 19th  - Cusco to Machu Picchu

 

          CUSCO

 

After storing most of our luggage at the hotel, Kerry and a driver picked us up at 6:30 AM in a Mercedes van and we
headed out through the scenic mountains for a 2 hour ride to the
train station in Ollentaytambo. Once on board the train, we traveled
27 miles (1 ½ hours) along the raging Urubamea river on the narrow
gauge train owned by the Orient Express to the end of the line at
Aquas Callentes. Next, we boarded a bus for a 20 minute bus ride up 14
steep switchbacks on a dirt road through the clouds and mist to Machu Picchu at an elevation of 8,000’.
Vangie and I have been to some countries in South America before. My exposure was to Columbia, and
Venezuela, two countries that I will never visit again. So, a cruise beginning in Lima and ending in
Buenos Aires made good sense. One area of interest that we all have read or heard about is Machu Picchu,
the hidden Incan city in the sky. We arranged a pre-cruise tour with Maupintours, a U.S. Company that I
have used for previous land and barge tours. Maupin provides guide service, hotel and air/land transportation.

 

January 16San Diego to Lima, Peru. Our excursion began as we departed United Air from San Diego to
Houston. The next leg of the journey was from Houston to Peru on a new 767. We arrived  just before
midnight and were greeted by our guide, Deborah,  and taken to the Hotel Casa Andina Miraflores
(miraflores= “beautiful flowers”).

 

17thLima to Cusco. Up early, we were picked up by our guide and taken back to the airport for about a
one hour flight to Cusco. Another Maupin guide, Kerry, met us and took us to the 93 room Novotel hotel, built
in the early 16th century and in the heart of the city. After a short rest and lunch, Kerry picked us up for a
tour of Cusco and the surrounding area. Cusco is a very interesting place. It is the historical capital of the
Inca Empire. Today, it is a fast growing city with a population of around 300,000 people.  It rests in a long
green valley at en elevation of 11,200’ surrounded by high mountains.

 

18th – 19th  - Cusco to Machu Picchu

          CUSCOCUSCO

After storing most of our luggage at the hotel, Kerry and a driver picked us up at 6:30 AM in a Mercedes
van and we headed out through the scenic mountains for a 2 hour ride to the train station in Ollentaytambo.
Once on board the train, we traveled 27 miles (1 ½ hours) along the raging Urubamea river on the narrow
gauge train owned by the Orient Express to the end of the line at Aquas Callentes. Next, we boarded a bus
for a 20 minute bus ride up 14 steep switchbacks on a dirt road through the clouds and mist to Machu Picchu
at an elevation of 8,000’.This historical site is now managed by the Peruvian Government and is listed as one
of the “Seven Wonders of the World.” Reportedly, the Inca site was built in the 15th century Later abandon,
it was rediscoved by American historian, Hiram Bingham in 1911. Today, physical restoration of this  “wonder”
still remains in progress.

After our arrival, we checked our luggage into the 5 star Sanctuary Lodge adjacent to the ruins. We then
proceeded on a guided tour with Kerry. (Note: most visitors do a round-trip in one day.) By electing to stay
overnight, we had ample time to visit the area both later in the afternoon and in the following morning. The
ruins are terraced on steep mountain sides. The walls and structures are constructed out of rock. A water
system was engineered and developed to capture the rain and underground water and to distribute it  
throughout the landscape.

To physically describe this historical archeological site does not describe the history and meaning behind its existence.
The development of Machu Picchu is an incredible story of the strength and endurance of the Inca people. Reportedly,
they found this place of refuge as a means to escape being captured by the Spanish. Here are some of my interpretive
thoughts about this mysterious place
….

 

                        A hidden city high above

                        Built by Incas who sought refuge.

                        A heavenly place, close to the sun

                        Where peace and solitude unveiled their way of life.

                        Only ruins remain in this mystical place

                        Stone homes for shelter and terraced land to farm

                        Temples for worship – lock ancient secrets from the past.

 

After the tour we returned to Sanctuary Lodge and waived goodbye to our guide. We were fortunate
that the sky remained overcast, but not raining We were scheduled to rendezvous with her the next
morning when we returned to the train station. That evening we had a special dinner in the Lodge’s dining
room. Special entertainment was provided by three local Incan musicians. In celebration of Charlene’s
recent birthday, I had a small chocolate cake with candles prepared and brought to the table by a group
of singing waiters. The other guests joined in the celebration. Later that night we had one hell of a storm.
In the morning, I noticed that our patio furniture was strewn around the lawn by the wind. The new day
brought sunshine, however, as we headed down the mountain on the bus to the train station. We boarded
the train, with five other passengers and we were promptly informed that the storm had caused a landslide
and the tracks needed to be cleared before departure.. The slide blocked travel in both directions for
3 hours. After it was cleared, we were further delayed because trains heading to Machu Picchu took
precedence over trains returning to Ollantaytambo – an economic decision, no doubt. Landslides are very
common along the tracks during the rainy season. Sitting in the front seat looking out a picture window with
the engineer dozing on my right, we commenced our journey back along the river to meet Kerry at the station.
Ten trains passed us as we had to divert to side tracks while they headed to Mach Picchu. Arriving three
hours late, we met Kerry. We retraced the scenic ride back to Cusco and to the Novotel Hotel for one more
night before returning to Lima. Although built 300 years ago, the refurbished hotel featured a huge glass
dome ceiling over the center courtyard and dining area. We dined under the stars and reflected on our trip
to the “mountain in the sky.”

 

Thoughts about Cusco….                                                                                                

 

            Nestled in a high green        valley                                                                           

            Beneath high mountain peaks.

            A center of trade once ruled by the Spanish

            Old ruins remain from days of past

            A catholic cathedral shares the center town square

            Gold and silver adorn it walls and art

            Today, the old joins with the new

            A growing city, now self sustained

            Its past to cherish and its present to cultivate.

 

                                    MACHU PICCHU  - Lost City of the Incas

 

Sunday -20th: Cusco back to Lima

The next morning we walked two blocks to the Cusco Plaza Center and people watched. On the way back we
approached by a young man who wanted to show us his paintings. In an effort to help the local economy, we
bought two small sketches of Machu Picchu. Kerry picked us up around noon and took us to the airport for
our one hour LAN flight back to Lima

 

      

     ALONG THE SHORES OF LIMA 

 

Deborah met us In Lima and took us along the scenic coastal route to the Miraflores hotel. That evening,
the Concierge made special arrangements in the lounge for us to have dinner and to see the New England vs. Baltimore
play-off game on a big screen as another Harbaugh’s team captured a birth in the “Pro/Bro-Bowl” ending another great
day on the road. Tomorrow we board ship and, hopefully, “ship happens.”

 

Monday - 21th: Lima (Callao) Peru.  (Boarding the Ship)

 

                        Regent Seven Seas Mariner

 

Lima Modern

Today did not get off to a great start when I turned on the TV. The U.S. channels were covering President Obama’s
inauguration speech. I thought about returning to Machu Picchu to live a more simple life of peace and harmony. I decided
that I had better focus on the trip and forget politics for awhile. Deborah picked us up and we took the 45 minute drive
along the coastal route to the Port.

We boarded the Seven Seas Mariner ship at 1:30 PM and were greeted by staff in the Constellation Theatre where we
were given our room keys. Our stateroom (#956) was on the 9th-concierge deck. Upon entry, we were greeted with a
beautiful bouquet of flowers, champagne, wine and a box of chocolates from the ship’s director, Michael Coghlan. Michael’s
wife, Stephanie Baldwin (Miss California 2001), is one of Vangie’s personal friends from her pageant days.  Next stop was
lunch on deck #11 at the Le Veranda buffet restaurant, a forthcoming daily ritual. Late afternoon we went through the
routine evacuation drill followed with a wine and cheese hall party with our neighbors. Before dinner, the three of us
gathered (as we would each evening thereafter) in our suite for a few drinks, to watch Fox News, to recall the day’s
events and to review tomorrow’s venue.  We capped the evening with dinner in Prime7, a small up-scale American style
restaurant. Steak and Dover sole topped the menu.

 

Tuesday – 22nd :Lima (The Cruise Begins).  It did not take me long to discover that I had failed to pack my sport
coat and Bermuda shorts. My negligence proved that planning and execution require coordination! Fortunately, I found
replacement items in the ship’s Boutique. Since we had previously toured Lima with our guide, we elected to stay on board
and explore the ship’s inner sanctum before setting sail. That evening we had dinner (rack of lamb and halibut) at Signature’s,
another up-scale restaurant featuring French cuisine. At last, it was time for “Anchors Away” as we left Lima.

                                                                                                                                   

Wednesday – 23rd: Pisco        

                                                                                                                                 

                                    Cathedral

 

                                       Paracas National Reserve-Cathedral Rock

 

We spent the day ashore visiting the Paracas National Reserve. Once under water millions of years ago, the landscape
is arid with little vegetation and consists of hard packed sandy soil. The soil is so compact that the bus had no problems
navigating on its surface  We stopped at several places and viewed remnants of marine life in the hard packed soil.
The desert like environment extends to the shoreline cliffs where we viewed varied marine life. Guano deposits from
the birds cover most of the exposed rocky cliffs and are harvested for fertilizer. Huge salt deposits are present and
are mined and exported for commercial purposes, also. Most of the salt is shipped to the USA and used to salt the snowy
roads during the winter months.

That evening we had a special dinner  at Prime 7 with the ship’s director, Michael Coghlan. Needless to say, we received
special attention by the staff.

 

Thursday – 24TH: Matarani.          

Dry and barren desert                                                  

We arrived at the Port in Matarani at 1:45 PM . The port was surrounded with numerous small rocky islands. Matarani
is a vital link in connecting the Interoceanic Highway – theproposed corridor between two nations, Peru and Brazil. This
corridor will give Peru and Brazil access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, respectively. Nearby Arequipa, the second
largest city in Peru, is rich in early nomadic, Inca and Spanish history. We took a land excursion to Mejia Beach and Mollando  
Noted for its volcanic white stone, the picturesque countryside is dotted with white homes, palaces, and convents against
the backdrop of snow capped volcanoes, Arequipa enjoys around 300 days of sunshine and is a popular place to shop for
the best alpaca and woolen goods.

The city is encircled by three volcanoes, El Mistri, El Chacahani and the Pinchu Pinchu.

 

Friday – 25th : At Sea. While at sea, shops, boutiques and the casino are open. Guests have a choice of using the library,
computer center, or fitness center. Organized bridge tournaments and/or instruction are available or you can catch some
rays by the large pool or spas on the veranda deck, One of the popular amenities on board is Canyon Ranch, a spa with sauna
and steam rooms. Some treatments are complimentary, or you can spend a few bucks for some relaxing hands-on service
from top to bottom (to the bottom of your feet, that is).

Saturday – 26th – Antofagasta, Chile                                                                                                                                                                                   

Chile is a long and narrow country being 2,650 miles long and 221 miles wide. The capital is Santiago   

 

                        Antofagasta, Chile         

                

Mano del Desierto hand

 

The Pacific coastal waters off of Chile are affected by the Humboldt Current. Note: The Humboldt Current is a low
saline cooling current which flows from the Southern tip of Chile to Peru. It is often referred to as the Peru Current.
It is noted by its abundant marine life and is considered the most productive marine ecosystem in the world. We arrived
at Antofagasta at 7:00AM. It rests at the base of a steep coastal range The weather was clear and a comfortable 75
degrees. The city’s economic roots emanated from its rich minerals, nitrate and copper deposits. Just south of the main
city, we visited one of the main attractions, the ruins of Huanchaca. It was formerly a silver plant that processed silver
from Bolivia. Today, it is a restoration site in progress overlooking a modern museum

with historical artifacts. Across the street from the museum is a world class hotel and casino (quite a contareal arch, birds
and marine life. Another popular attraction south of the city is the arid Atacama desert. At about 1,100 meters above sea
level you can see a large sculptured hand (Mano del Desierto) protruding twelve meters above the sand. Sculptured by
Chilean Irrazabel, the hand depicts life’s injustice, loneliness, sorrow and torture – human vulnerability and helplessness.

 

Sunday – 27th  Coquimbo.

                         Third Millennium Cross (83M tall)                 

                    Coquimbo City

We arrived around 1:00 PM at the natural harbor and Port city of Coquimbo. Prior to arrival, we suffered through a
mimosa and caviar breakfast. Before breakfast, I dutifully commenced our laundry service at our deck laundry room,
Third Millennium Cross (83M tall) 110 steps from our suite. I sensed I was invading a woman’s domain (more on this latter). 
Coquimbo is an industrial and shipping center servicing the copper, wine and fruit industries .Our tour took us through the
city and to nearby La Serena. Along the way we stopped to catch the surrounding views. The Cerro Tololo Observatory
looms high above the City and is an important conjoint operation between an Association of Universities and National Science
Organizations. Also, towering high on a hill above Colquimbo is another landmark, the Third Millennium Cross. We then
proceeded to nearby La Serena,  the second oldest city in Chile. Tourism is a growing industry in this modern urban center.
Beautiful beaches and outdoor attractions attract outdoor enthusiasts. The Humboldt Penguin National Reserve is another
popular place to observe varied flora and fauna. We took a bus excursion throughout the city and neighboring La Serena.
Featured stops were at The La Recova Museum, the La Serena light house monument, the Naval museum and the University
De La Sereno for a towering view of the city. Coquimbo is located along the Pan Am Highway. We journeyed back to the Port
along the avenue Del Mar where seemingly endless beautiful beaches catered to sun lovers and bathers.

 

Monday – 28th  -  Valparaiso “Valley of Paradise”  

Steep Colorful City, with Dog doo doo

 

Ascenusors Funicular Railway                                                                                                                    

We arrived at Chile’s sixth most populated metropolitan city (300,000) this morning, Valparaiso (“Valley of Paradise”), an
elongated area compressed area between the high surrounding mountains and the sea, and located about 76 miles NW of
Santiago. We docked along side another cruise ship and close to three naval warships. Not long after our arrival, I was surprised
when a submarine surfaced about 200 yards off of our stern next to the naval ships. Neat welcome! The Naval Academy was
close to the navy docks so military presence was easy to discern.

Reportedly, there are 42 sub-cities within Valparaiso. Each has gained its identity from immigrants with European roots, namely
British, German, French, Swiss and Italian. The city has been dubbed the “Jewel of the Pacific.” Tourism and exports, namely
fruits, wine, copper, are shipped in overseas containers from the busy port. There were so many stacked containers ready for
shipping that we had to weave our way through the maze of containers for several minutes before we could exit the port. Known
for the use of funiculas (cable cars), these steep “elevators”  connect the central area with neighborhoods high on the hills behind
the city. The first use of funiculas was recorded in 1883, Today there are sixteen still in operation. We boarded one that took us
up a short hill to colorful neighborhoods. If you have vertigo, then skip the ride. Once on top, we walked around several
neighborhoods with our guide accompanied by many stray dogs. Needless to say, we had to watch where we stepped. The dogs are
homeless but everyone feeds them some tidbits. They reminded me of the homeless, except their “call sign” was more subtle!

Valparaiso was once one of the most important seaports since it was the major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans via Tierra del Fuego and the Magellan Straights. The opening of the Panama Canal devastated the port’s use.
Valparaiso lies in the vulnerable Peru-Chile Trench, an active earthquake zone. It has suffered severe losses of life and property
due to major earthquakes. The latest quake was in 2010 and registered 8.8. Before departing Valparaiso, I would be negligent if
I did not mention that it sports the oldest football team in Chile.

 

Tuesday – 29th  We spent the day “rockin and rollinAt Sea……

 

Wednesday – 30th  Puerto Montt                                    

Nearly 700 miles south of Santiago is Puerto Montt, a city of about 130,000 people. It serves as the capital of Chile’s
lake district and is one of the most beautiful places we had encountered thus far. It is also the terminus of the railway
and the continental portion of the Pan American Highway. German Colonists were the first to arrive in Puerto Montt and
their influence remain apparent in its architecture and way of life. Within a short walking distance from the port are
many vendors sporting their goods from colorful stalls

(Feria Artesanal Angelmo). Stretching for several blocks tourists can find  fine alpaca, wool and leather garments,
boots, woodcarvings, copper items, sweaters, shawls, and jewelry made from the semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli.
Utilizing tenders to go ashore we took a scenic tour through the city, including the Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square.
We then headed north to Lake Llanquihue, Chile’s 3rd largest lake. Surrounding the lake are impressive snow-capped
mountains and the Osorno Volcano. Our next stop was in Frutillar, a quaint Bavarian style village on the west side of the
lake colonized by German and Austrian settlers toward the end of the 1800’s.

 

Wednesday – 31st  Puerto Chacabuco.                 

 

 

Town Cathedral

               

Not only was Puerto Chacabuco a fun namn of Patagonia.

The town is named after a major 1817 conflict during the Chilean Independence War, The Battle of Chacabuco. 
There are no notable attractions except views of the Andes Mountains and the fjord.. The construction of the new
Carretera Austral Railway has made this frontier country accessible. We took a scenic drive along a river to the
Rio Simpson National Reserve wishing I had my fly rod.. After a walking tour of the Reserve we returned to the port.

 

Thursday – February 1st  Laguna San Rafael

The ship dropped anchor at Paso Quesahuen, the first narrowing of the Seno Elefantes Despite. Throughout the day,
guests boarded catamarans and took an hour cruise along icy channels to the Lagoon, San Rafael is an arc-shaped coastal
lake in the Aisen Region of Chile. The Lagoon was formed by the retreat of the San Rafael Glacier. It is a popular tourist
attraction where viewers can see the famous “Blue Wall” of the San Valentin glacier and hear it shed thunderous chunks
of ice (calve) into the blue green waters. After many “oos and awhs” the catamaran returned to the ship. The area is also
known for its abundant sea life, including albatross, grebes, black-necked swans and cormorants, dolphins, sea lions,
otters, giant seals and tuna. The beech forest is home to foxes, pumas and wolves.  Rainfall is abundant and snow keeps
the high mountain tops white. Numerous waterfalls shed the runoff and have left their time lasting marks as they cascade
downward to the sea. Today, there are few inhabitants in this isolated region.  In 1979 the ice field was designated a
World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Friday – 2nd: Cruising Estero Elefantes (Chilean Fjord)

We left Laguna San Rafael and remained at sea as we continued a winding route heading south though the windy and
misty Chilean Fjords. The landscape remained breathtaking as we passed heavily forested snow capped mountains,
some rising from fresh water lakes, others directly out of the Pacific Ocean, The fjords are the least populated area
in South America. The population is sparse and said to be lower than the Sahara Desert! Attesting to the navigational
dangers that lurk along the way, we passed The Ship Wreck of the Almirante Leonides. Reportedly, it ran into underwater
rocks 100 years ago. The mast and hull still remain visable. It now serves as  a bird sanctuary The highlight of the day
was a special viewing of the Tempano Glacier. We stopped about 200 yards from it while the ship’s Anthropologist and
Storyteller, Terry Breen, narrated over the PA system facts and figures about the Chilean Fjords and specifically the
history of Tampano. Most of the glaciers have undergone a receding process attributed to global warming, Tampano
being no exception. The Captain, using the latest state of the art maneuvering equipment, slowly turned the ship 360
degrees so that all guests could view the glacier from their balconies. Like all glaciers, the ice had different colors due
to the absorption of light. Blue indicates the most dense ice. Onward south…..

 

Saturday – 3rd

 Cruising the Fjords. Our cruise continued as we sailed up the Amalaia sound to view the Skua (aka Amalaia Glacier)
and then on towards the Peel Sound to visit the Brujo Glacier. Some migration of inhabitants has occurred since the
increase in boat and ferry service and the expansion of a major highway, the Carretera Austral, as proposed by the
former President Augusto Pinnochat. The Pan American Highway stops in northern Chile, but the Austral has helped
connect the Southern Coast with the rest of the country. It took 11 years to complete the project from Chaiten north
to Puerto Montt.

For the brave and adventurous, the route is considered a tourism delight - “a beautiful road studded with rivers,
waterfalls, forests, lakes glaciers.” The road is mostly unpaved and single lane in some places with wooden bridges
that cross over rivers and streams.

 

Sunday – 4th: Punta Arenas.    

                                                                                                                                                                   Continuing Continuing south towards the Straight of Magellan, we passed the Avenue of the Glaciers along the Beagle Channel
where six closely located large glaciers dominated the landscape. We ported in one of the few populated cities in
the southern most part of the Chilean Patagonia, the colorful provincial city of Punta Arenas, the first permanent
settlement in Patagonia. We took a bus excursion through the world’s most southern city and enjoyed photo stops
of The Magellan Strait, the port and the famous landmark, Tierra del Fuego. Other stops included the Maggiorino
Borgatello Museum, the open-air Museum of Memories and a pioneer cemetery featuring tall sculptured cypress
trees and ostentatious mausoleums.  Some guests elected to go kayaking and/or visiting an estancia (ranch).  Like
Valparaiso, the vibrancy of Punta Arenas was affected when the Panama Canal opened in 1914.

 

Monday – 5th:  Cape Horn.  “the sailors graveyard”

 

Tierra del Fuego

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Cape Horn is located at the southern-most tip of South America. It is one of two names I recall from my early
elementary history lessons. The other is Lake Titicaca, a body of water that borders Peru and Bolivia in the Andes.
Don’t ask me why…..

The waters surrounding The Cape are considered some of the most hazardous in the world.  Strong currents, winds
and towering waves have labeled the area  a “sailors graveyard.” Traditionally, a sailor who had rounded the Horn,
or Cape, was entitled to wear a gold loop earring in the left ear, the one that faced the Horn when traveling eastward
– and to dine with one foot on the table.”
Our Captain cautiously engineered our ship through the maze of this estuary of
islands as we dined with both feet under the table. What an adventure to circumvent the southern most tip of South America.

 

Sidebar: Chile and Argentina have engaged in heated controversy over land ownership at the tip of South America. Why?
Reportedly, the area is a strategic tourist launching point to the Antarctic.

 

Tuesday – 6th: Ushuala, Argentina.    

The Argentine town of Ushuala lays claim to being the world’s most southern city at 55 degrees south latitude. A backdrop of
high snowy mountains with challenging ski slopes provided an impressive backdrop behind the city. Despite cold winter temperatures
and limited sun, the climate can be quite pleasant most of the time. Sudden changes in weather, however, can surprise inhabitants
and visitors. Ushuala is touted as Argentina’s fastest growing city (maybe because it is a duty free port). Ushuaians are noted for
resisting conformity. Regardless of wealth, they “dress-down”, work and play hard . Outdoor activities bring out the best for
fishermen, skiers, divers, climbers and hunters. We docked around 7:00 AM along side another cruise ship, The Star Princess, a
monster of a ship with the capacity for 2,600 passengers (almost four times the amount of the Regent). I am learning that bigger
is not better. While on the cruise we heard the news about the 4,000 passenger Carnival Ship that had a fire and was being towed
to Alabama.

Our all-day excursion started when we boarded a catamaran and sailed out of the harbor bucking the wind and rain to view the
oldest historic lighthouse, Les Eclaiireurs, at the “end of the world.”  Heading north along the Beagle Channel (note: the Beagle
Channel is about 200 miles long and connects the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean), the ship took us to several rocky islands
(Seal Island, Isla de los Lobos and Island of the Birds) to view thousands of cormorants and sea lions breeding.  Quite a sight.
The Catamaran continued to Lapataia Bay -  the end of the road some 2010 miles from Buenos Aires. Back on land we toured  the
Argentine side of the Island  of The Tierra del Fuego National Park by bus and then boarded a narrow gauge railway built by and
for prisoners until 1947. Today it provides tourists, campers and hikers access to the interior of the park. Many parts of the
surrounding forest have been destroyed by fires and have created a ghostlike appearance to the landscape. Beech trees dominate
the forest growth and shelter 90 species of birds and 20 species of mammals. Beautiful waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, rivers
and streams follow the meandering bogged meadows and provide outstanding views of this sub-Antarctic forest.

 

Note: Our scheduled excursion to the Falkland Islands was cancelled due to the current, yet age-old conflict, between
Argentina and Great Britain.

 

Wednesday and Thursday 2/7 -8: At Sea. 

 Rough sea with 15’ swells. Hello casino and laundry. Goodbye bucks and dirty underwear!

 

Friday – 9th: Puerto Madryn.  

 Penquin Colony

 

                        Shoreline                                  

Madryn Madryn was not the most impressive stop on the cruise. It is located about midway between Tierra del Fuego
and Buenos Aires. Arriving in 80 degree weather, it was a welcome change from the cold climate after rounding the Horn.
Madryn, a city of about 100,000 people, is a popular vacation spot with great beaches and abundant sea life with several
seal and penguin colonies. An aluminum plant dominates the hillside and is the major industrial operation. Madryn offers
great commercial and sport fishing, also. Originally founded by Welsh British immigrants in 1880, the locus of activity soon
moved inward to the town of Trelew and nearby Gaiman. Nestled in a long narrow fertile valley with a river running through it,
the people turned their attention to raising cattle and sheep and growing apples, cherries and alfalfa. Much of the surrounding
interior is very dry and arid and only receives about 8” of rain a year. Today much of the farming has been taken over by
Bolivians. We visited Gaiman to view the oldest house in the town built out of local rock. For an afternoon treat we had tea and
scone while listening to a chorus of Welsh singers. The Welsh are well known for their choral groups dating back to their early
mining days in the UK.

 

Saturday – 10th: Another Cruise Day  

 

Sunday, Monday – 11th & 12th: Montevideo, Uruguay.      

 

                                 Parliament

Montevideo is home to nearly half of Uruguay’s three million population and is its only major metropolis. Built along
the eastern bank of the Rio del la Plata River, an estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay and the Parana
Rivers, it is Uruguay’s chief port. The river forms part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Serving as
the country’s commercial and political hub, Montevideo is a blend of the new and the old. Small museums, beautiful
b
eaches, parks and a lively nightlife reflect the progressive and diverse population. We took a panoramic tour of the
city traveling along the narrow streets of Old Town with its colonial architecture. A 12 mile waterfront links Old Town
to the eastern suburbs, and during good weather, is packed with fishermen, vendors, bathers and joggers. Like many
cites we visited, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy using physical fitness equipment scattered along the way. The buildings of
Montevideo reflect its wide cultural heritage influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and British immigrants.
Many consider the city as a vibrant eclectic place with a rich cultural life.  The city’s dominant building is the
Telecommunication Tower. Many locals feel it does not fit the environment and reject its imposing shadow on the city.
We visited The Plaza Independence, in the middle of downtown to view the Mausoleum de Artigas, an above and below
ground monument where an honor guard keeps 24 hour vigil over Artigas remains. Jose Gervasio Artegas is consided the
“Father of Uruguayan Nationhood.” Born in 1764, he rejected his early upbringing and moved to the countryside taking up
the life as a gaucho. He became one of the important military figures in the Anglo-Spanish War by helping to drive the
British out of Buenos Aires and later Montevideo. His organized efforts using guerilla warfare as a vigilante gaucho
eventually led to the liberation of Montevideo. The Plaza is surrounded by many historic places.

Of special note, Montevideo was involved in the first major naval battle in World War II.

 

Sunday – 13th – Buenos Aires.  

Sailing one hundred and fifty miles to the west, we reached our final destination around 9:00 AM. Buenos Aires is the
ninth largest city in the world. Like Montevideo, it lies along the bank of the Rio de la Plata (on the western bank), and
extends 75 square miles inward to the surrounding plains. The sprawling city consists of many neighborhoods. Our land
tour began at the Plaza de Mayo surrounded by the Presidential Palace, the old colonial town hall and the
Metropolitan Cathedral.

 9th Largest City in the World!

                                                                                 

Presidential Palace

 

 

                                         The Tigre Delta

       Dancing the Tango

Again, like so many of the cities we visited on the cruise, it is divided into barrios (neighborhoods) which reflect
ethnic backgrounds, commercial enterprises and special landmarks.  We drove through many of these areas
including Recoleta - most cultured, best hotels, boutiques and restaurants; Palermo – largest and greenest
neighborhood with 350 acres of parks and lakes, polo fields; Las Canitas – sports not only the most restaurants
but the world class polo field where the Argentine Open is played; Puerto Madero – newer refurbished trendy
area where old brick warehouses have been turned into waterfront offices and apartments; Plaza Martin – old
palaces and the military circle;  San Telmo – Old Bohemian barrio with cobblestone narrow streets and known
for its tango clubs; La Buca – port area; Downtown – Florida Street, the biggest and most important pedestrian
street with shops and restaurants. We took a special tour to the Tigre Delta area about 17 miles north of the
main city and boarded a water taxi. A fascinating area with numerous islands covered in forest and grasslands,
it reminded me of the waterways found in Venice.. None of the islands are connected by roads so all transportation
is by various means of watercraft, both public and private. There are traveling merchant boats that weave their
way around the maze of islands and peddling everything from water to groceries. The Tigre is used by the leisure
class and provides an easy weekend get-away from the city. Today the delta is undergoing extensive refurbishing
after years of slow deterioration. The area was named Tigre, after jaguars , which were called tigers and once
roamed the delta. After returning to the ship we were taken to a special dinner and tango show. Disclaimer: I do
not purport to know anything about doing the tango. My comments here are based on my observations and a few
facts thrown my way in the program. The tango was first originated by Italian immigrants at the end of the 19 century
in the outer suburbs of Buenos Aires. It has a variety of styles and is known as the dance of romance and love. It is a
sultry dance and has no basic step. Although some try to teach a basic step, the Argentine style is really improvised
walking to music with a partner. It differs from ballroom dancing in that partners dance in an embrace from very open
to very close positions. Ballroom dancers arch their upper bodies back from one another from the hips. Conversely,
tango dancers dance close from the hips. The last time I remember listening to tango music was back in the 50’s when
“Hernando’s Hideaway” was a popular song on the music charts. The song was turned into a musical about
Hernando’s hideaway, a raunchy dive in Illinois. My kind of place…..

 

Afterlogue.  Any trip takes its toll on the mind and body. Your head swims trying to remember the places you visited
and the things you did. With the loss of my camera, I found it more difficult to assemble the details of our trip.
Historical facts and figures are important in understanding the evolution of cultures and civilizations, however,
I have found that pictures help supplement my memory. Without pictures, I lose much of the verbal association with
the physical world. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference since my memory and thought processes are fading in my older age,

 

Life In The Laundry Room – A real life account while on-board

Who Stole My Laundry?

Backing up to Sunday (27th) in Coquimbo, I referenced my first on-board experience in the laundry room.
The minute I entered this facility located 110 steps from our cabin I was greeted by three women who were
busily engaged in ironing and conversation. I knew I was out of my domain immediately so I took a seat and
waited for a washer to become available. Each wash cycle, I soon learned, took 45 minutes. The TV was tuned
to CNN so I could listen and watch the news. After waiting about 15 minutes, a washer became available and
I threw our stuff into it. The dryers were stacked on top of the washers with dual controls. I pretended I
knew what I was doing when I set the dials but I soon learned from one of the ladies that I was using the
dryer control to set the washer! I gratefully accepted their instructions and launched my load. Not wanting
to stick around during the cycle, I returned to our room and reported to Vangie that I “did the job all by
myself.” Upon returning to an empty laundry room to retrieve my load, I found out that I had about 10 minutes
left in the cycle. I sat down and waited. A lady came into the room to get her laundry. She opened the door to
the dryer and let out a gasp! Her laundry was gone!! It is hard to describe the look on her face but it was
somewhere between being hit by lightening and having an unexpected bowel movement. She sat down in one of
the chairs gasping for breath as if she had been stripped of her worldly possessions (maybe she was?). I think
women need their underwear as a basic essential more than men.  I tried to help her analyze the situation by
noting that maybe she had already taken the clothes back to her room with her other load. She went to her room
and returned with the same look on her face. Another women in the room listening to the case of the missing
laundry proceeded to tell a story about what happened on another cruise. Reportedly, a woman had washed
and ironed her dress and left it hanging in the laundry while she took the rest of her clothes back to her suite.
Upon  her return, the dress was gone. Later during her cruise she spotted another lady wearing her dress.
She immediately confronted the lady and said, “that’s my dress.” The culprit responded, “prove it!” Needless
to say, my first exposure to the laundry room was more exciting than reading a “who done it?”

Don’t Touch My Underwear.

The next time we elected to do more laundry (its free) I sauntered into the laundry room as if I knew the ropes.
There were two ironing boards in the room and one was being used by an old codger dressed in his bathrobe and
slippers with his bare butt showing. I have never seen a guy (or for that matter, a woman) iron his underpants!
While waiting for an available dryer, he continued to press his shorts. My clothes were still spinning so I returned
to my room. Later, when I went to get my clothes, the same old guy had removed them from the dryer and had
stacked them (except for Vangie’s panties), neatly I might say, in a pile. He was quick to say that he never touched
women’s underwear because he knew that they did not like men handling their precious under garments.

I told him that that was news to me since I was used to handling them for many years. I got to thinking that he may
be right since I could have stayed out of trouble following his advice.

Will You Be My Boyfriend?  I never thought about laundry rooms as a place to hustle the opposite sex. I now know
it can illicit all kinds of emotions. On another escapade to keep our undies fresh, I asked Vangie if she wanted to
accompany me so I could show her how the laundry room functioned. She will attest to this encounter. There was a
very friendly lady finishing her chores when we entered the room. Attractive and talkative, she was enamored with
the fact that I was showing my wife how to operate the machines. Being attractive and talkative, also, Vangie disclosed
some other personal things about me that seemed to peak the other woman’s interest. Being divorced and seeking the
good life, she asked us if we wanted to share our companionship with her for the rest of the voyage without any strings.
I assumed she meant a kind of ménage a trois. Whoa! My eyes lit up but were quickly dimmed when Vangie said “get lost!”

Get In Line. Whether you are on a cruise ship or elsewhere, people just don’t like to wait in line. The laundry room
proved to be no exception. On another occasion, I retraced the 110 steps to the laundry only to find that there were
four people waiting and bags of clothing lined up in front of each of the three washers. I was not sure how I was going to
handle the situation so I sat down and contemplated my next move. I thought to myself, “self, who has precedence, a bag
in front of a machine with no owner present, or a person physically present with bag in hand?” I decided that one should be
present to maintain a position in line. So, I remained seated biding my time with bag in hand staring at the line-up of bags
contemplating my next move, if challenged. A few minutes later a tall lady appeared with curlers in her hair looking for an
empty machine. She claimed she had placed her bag in the line-up and had returned to her cabin to do her hair. Maintaining
my silence, she stated that she was next in line. Now I don’t like confrontations, but I was not about to be told how her
system operates. Firmly, I announced that by being present superseded her absence and I was going to wash my clothes
next. I am not used to getting the finger, especially by a woman, but she pointed her “fickle finger of fate” at me and
launched out of the room. Was I cool, or what?

Ironing Lessons. Looking back on my childhood, I think my mom tried to teach me how to iron some clothes. I probably haven’t
touched an iron since….I had a pair o Bermuda shorts and Vangie had some pants that needed a good press job so I decided
(during a free moment while Vangie was playing bridge) that I would try my hand at ironing. The exercise turned out to more
than an ironing lesson. Several ladies in the room noticed that I was struggling with my chore and proceeded to offer a helping
hand. I told them I could use their friendly hands since I was a bit rusty using an iron. Both ladies showed me how to position
my pants on the board before pressing them. They held my hand on the iron as I moved it back and forth. This was fun! They
even showed me how to press my fly  I thought about the old guy who was sensitive about other people’s underwear!  Vangie
was impressed when she saw the fruit of my labor. I only hope that she doesn’t ask me to continuing ironing when we return home.

Some say that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” so I hope my experiences in the laundry room have helped to elevated
me to greater heights.

 

Jim Regan

2/23/2013

 

Acknowledgement:

A special note of appreciation is extended to Vangie and Charleen for their patience and understanding in
sharing this once-in-a-lifetime travel experience with me. Despite facing a few uncomfortable moments
(like waiting for the next potty break on excursions), putting up with a few weirdo old fogies who thought
they owned the ship, on-board guest computers that tested our patience and an unforgiving Casino, the
Regent Cruise line lived up to its reputation. Our cabin was maintained meticulously, the cuisine was varied
and delicious, and the crew promoted an atmosphere of courtesy and efficiency. We may never return to
South America again, but in the meantime we can say “been there, done that.” Looking forward, I know there
is another Machu Picchu out there some where – a place to look forward to visiting before my final sunset.
LG: “Life is good.”

 

5-6-11    

MOTHER’S (or is it MOTHERS’) DAY TRIBUTE

                          (both work for me)

 

Regan family, 1936

 

Each year at this time, and a few times in between, I try to reflect on the meaning of mother.
Other than the fact that I had no say in who was to become my mother, I did control the
development of my behavior and feelings towards the one who bore and cared for me. Yes, I,
like you, had directions that influenced my growth and development. Some, I took to heart and
accepted. Others I moderated or rejected. That’s what makes me, me.

I do acknowledge that my mom really tried to give me a strong sense of right and wrong. Her
guidance was always offered (sometimes directed) with affection in hopes that I would walk
“the straight and narrow.” Thanks mom…..It didn’t always work, but I give you an “A” for trying.

As posted on my page in previous years. I like to recall those famous lyrics sung by Eddy Arnold,
That Wonderful Mother of Mine.”

                  

          The moon never beams without bringing me dreams

                   Of that wonderful Mother of mine.

            The birds never sing but a message they bring

                   Of that wonderful Mother of mine.

         Just to bring back the time, that was so sweet to me,

          Just to bring back the days, when I sat on her knee.

                       You are a wonderful Mother,

                            Dear old Mother of mine.

                  You’ll hold a spot down deep in my heart,

                          ‘Till the stars no longer shine.

                          Your soul shall live on forever,

                            On through the fields of time.

                       For there’ll never be another to me,

                          Like that wonderful Mother of mine

                       I pray ev’ry night to our Father above,

                          For that wonderful Mother of mine.

                       I ask Him to keep her as long as He can

                             That wonderful Mother of mine.

                               There are treasures on earth,

                             that made life seem worthwhile,

                   But there’s none can compare to my Mother’s smile.

                                   You are a wonderful Mother,

                                      Dear old Mother of mine.

                           You’ll hold a spot down deep in my heart.

                                   ‘Till the stars no longer shine.

                                   Your soul shall live on forever,

                                      On through the fields of time

                                   For there’ll never be another to me,

                                  Like that wonderful Mother of mine.

 

Happy Mother’s/Mothers’ Day…..

JR

4-11-11

Midway Madness All-Class Reunion Now On DVD

 

For those that missed the All-Class Reunion last October, or for those who want to relive the memory, a colorful 21 minute DVD is now available. Just send a $15.00 (or more) check made out to The Monrovia Schools Foundation and mail to P.O Box 2447, Monrovia, CA 91017, ATTN:  Bruce Staller.left And yes, it is TAX DECUTIBLE.

 

5-3-11

Attached are the orders since yesterday...Gary may want to use this...Bruce

 

DATE DONOR                 AMOUNT               STREET CITY, STATE, ZIP PHONE TOTAL

4/7/11 William F. Hunter         20

4/13/11 Gary Dayton                 15

4/18/11 Bruce & Mariellen Staller 15

4/22/11 Richard & Gail Eckstrom 25         11402 Casa St., Ventura, CA 93004

4/26/11 Andrew & Gloria Cullinane 25         831 Ronda Mendoza, Unit B Laguna Woods, CA 92637

5/2/11 Ester M. White '42         15         4456 Via Amable San Diego, CA 92122 858-457-4519

5/2/11 Marilyn D. Becker '50         15         819 W. Welcome Way Green Valley, AZ 85614 520-393-0222

5/2/11 Robert C. Lahey 15                        4919 Antelope Dr. Prescott, AZ 86301

5/2/11 Wilma Lee Coyer '50        20        44194 Meadow Grove St. Hemet, CA 92544 951-927-6479 ...................Total $165.00

 

 

REVIEW FOR FIRST WEEK IN MAY, 2011

 

Sidebar #1:  I have neglected my reviews this past month due to my travels, other projects and many distractions. Excuses, excuses, excuses…..

I’m not back with a passion, just a sense of duty. Maybe I have been sparked by the Navy Seals who took out Bin Laden. Whatever….

 

A Book With Inspiration

History has produced many famous figures. They have come from all walks of life, All have touched the world in a myriad of ways. Each one has some things in common - productive talent and tenacity in thought and action. These women and men have uncovered their interests and strengths, usually with the encouragement from others, and they have run with their talents to the point of becoming masters in their field. Whether they are religious figures, inventors, musicians, athletes or statesmen (not an all-inclusive list), each one has stamped their accomplishments on the face of the world.

This week (thanks to a suggestive heads-up by Harriett ‘52 and Ian Campbell ‘50) this week’s review focuses on one such exceptional sports icon, Jesse Owens. He made the world stand up and cheer as he ran his way into Olympic history. The book, TRIUMPH, The Untold Story of Jesse Owens And Hitler’s Olympics (2007), by Jeremy Schaap, retraces Jesse’s race into the limelight of Track and Field, culminating in his triumphant four gold medal performances in the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. Schaap is a well known sportswriter, TV reporter, anchor and author. He is a regular contributor to ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, N. Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, Time and Parade.

The author’s message explicates race issues, not only in the U.S. but in the closed environment of Germany under Adolf Hitler prior to WWII, where Aryan supremacy was shoved down the throats of those under his rule. It was during the “Jim Crow” days where prejudice  manifested itself in many ways - from being sent to the “back of the bus” to being denied admittance to a restaurant – that the Owens family carved out a bare existence.   Living in Alabama during the first 9 years of his life, he was the 10th and last child born to sharecropper Henry and Mary Emma Owens. The family relocated to the industrial state of Ohio in search of a better way of life. Fortunately for Jesse, his running skills were discovered at an early age by Charles Riley, a 50 year old coach and P.E. instructor at Fairmount Jr. High School in Cleveland. Riley became Jesse’s second father and mentor coach as he helped him hone his running skills. Later, at Cleveland’s East Technical High School, and at the request of its novice track coach, Edgar Weil, Riley was asked to assist him in coaching Jesse. Riley’s interest and influence never waived throughout Jesse’s career. Even though he was only 18 years of age, Jesse’s performances in the sprints and broad jump elevated him into national prominence, With Riley’s approval, Jesse was recruited to attend Ohio State under innovative Coach Larry Snyder where Jesse became known as the “Buckeye Bullet.” He began setting personal, national and international records running against such notable sprinters as Eulace Peacock, Ralph Metcalfe, Foy Draper, Charley Paddock and Frank Wykoff.

It became obvious to Jesse and his coaches that he was “fast” becoming an athlete with potential Olympic talent.

The book switches gears from Jesse’s early formative days in college, to the  organization, administration and outcome of the ’36 Olympic Games. Jeremy Schaap shares his and the observations of others about the backdrop of the path to the ’36 Berlin Olympics. The politics and dictatorial behavior of the Amateur Athletic Association (AAU) and its director, Avery Brundage who hovered over all of the athletes throughout their amateur experiences. Even Jesse’s eligibility to compete in the games was threatened  because of the financial assistance he received from Ohio State.

Hitler wanted to showcase the Olympics and what better way to document the event than to have Leni Riefenstahl, Germany’s premier film artist, make a complete documentary from start to finish. Her controversial role in filming the Olympics is overshadowed by Hitler’s henchmen attempting to engineer her production in order to embellish Germany’s lust for control.  The Germans first initiated the custom of carrying a symbolic torch from Greece to future Olympic stadiums when a hand-held large torch was ignited in Olympia, Greece and carried across Europe to Berlin. The author takes the reader behind the scenes as Hitler attempts to put on the “greatest show on earth.” Jesse’s Triumphs brought great glory to the USA and to him personally. His record of 10.3 in the 100 meters, 26 feet in the long jump, 20.7 in the 200 meters (a new world record) earned him the three gold medals and a place in Track and Field history. But the outcome of each event was only part of the Olympic story. Some, especially the press, believed Hitler snubbed Jesse and several other athletes by not personally inviting them to his box area. Jesse believed that Hitler had waived to him and, reportedly, he was not disturbed by this lack of attention, despite the claims by the howling press. He remained focused on his mission – to win three gold medals. Some controversy arose when Jesse was assigned the lead-off spot in the 400 meter relay - an event he did not anticipate being selected to run. Knowing that the USA had plenty of good sprinters, Jesse asked to keep the original foursome in place. His request was denied and two Jewish sprinters were bumped from the relay. This inflammatory incident is described in detail, both pro and con. As expected, the USA relay team won in record time – 39.8 seconds and Jesse earned his fourth gold medal.

What happened next will leave the reader with mixed emotions. Jesse returned to the States and his family thinking that “big bucks” were right around the corner.  I will close the last chapter in his triumphant life without revealing any details, thinking everyone “makes his/her own bed.” Or, do they?

JR

 

2011 ALASKAN IDITAROD DOG RACE – The Last Great Race On Earth: Willow to Nome – 1,049 Miles.

 

Start date: March 6, 2011; End date (in progress)

 

Yes, we were there!!!  (one more item off of my “Bucket List”).

 

Dallas Seavey- #21, Youngest Musher in the race.  If he wins he will be the youngest, ever, to win the Iditarod (We visited Dallas’s home and kennel and took a 5 mile sled ride)

 

On Sunday, March 6th, we witnessed sixty two (62) mushers (13 women and 49 men) with dog sled teams consisting of sixteen dogs, each, as they began the 1,049 mile journey from Willow to Nome.  This year’s contestants came from the U.S.(54) , Scotland (1), Canada (4), Norway (1), New Zealand (1) and Jamaica (1).

 

Traveling up, down and over the Alaskan mountain range, on and across rivers, lakes and the Bering Sea, the mushers push their teams day and night in what some call “The Last Great Race On Earth.” Some may remember that I reviewed this event back in January 2008.  For those that missed it, I will rehash some background of the Iditarod.  The name “Iditarod” means “clear water” and was coined by the Shageluk Indians after the Iditarod River.  The first Great Race started in March, 1973 to commemorate the 1925 delivery of life saving diphtheria serum to the people of Nome who were under siege by an outbreak of this deadly illness.  Because the actual race begins about 60 miles North - East of Anchorage on Sunday, a ceremonial start took place the day before (Saturday) the race in downtown Anchorage.  We joined in on the fun along with several thousand other spectators on the snow laden streets as each musher and his team of loud barking dogs waved to, a not to be outdone, howling crowd.  The ceremonial start also culminates Alaska’s largest winter festival, Fur Rendezvous (a.k.a.  Rondy), a week of fun and games.  Fur Rondy captures the history and character of Alaska and includes such activities as Running with Reindeer, dog sled rides, ice skating, carnival rides.  Grand Parade, exhibits and games like organized snowball fights, blanket toss and snowshoe baseball.

 

On Thursday we took a trip south to the town of Girdwood where Alaska’s biggest, highest and challenging ski area is located, Alyeska, dominates the Shugach mountain range.  It is known for its extreme skiing.  We took a tram to the top of the mountain for some outstanding views of the surrounding terrain, including “the seven glaciers.” Not far from Alyeska we visited a private Wildlife Conservation Centre where injured and abandon wildlife are cared for in hopes of returning them to their habitats.  Bears, Moose, owls, bald eagles, reindeer and antelope were among the animals we observed.  A great cause in motion.

 

Alyeska Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center – Portage That evening we attended the Mushers Banquet at the new convention center where we joined 2,000 guests and mushers for a fun filled evening.  After some lively entertainment and a steak dinner, the MC recognized several people who have dedicated their time and money to the Great Race.  Each musher was then introduced and then drew his/her starting number.  The Proceeds from the banquet and a special raffle go to the organization and administration of the Iditarod.  The raffle tickets cost $100 and only 4,000 are sold.  There are $190,000 in prizes, including four (4) 2011 Dodge Ram 4x4 Quad Cab Pickups and sixteen (16) other prizes.  And yes, I bought one.

 

The drawing is in April, so I if you hear a loud “yes” from San Diego, then you know my investment paid off….

 

On Friday we traveled 60 miles north-east passing through Wasilla (the home of Sarah Palin) to the town of Willow.  Five miles off of the main road we arrived at the home and kennel of 24 year old Dallas Seavey.  Dallas, his wife, Jennifer, and baby daughter, Annie, along with 65 barking dogs, live on about 50 forested acres next to a currently frozen lake.  Dallas comes from a well-known family of professional mushers.  His grandfather and father have won previous Iditarod races.  Of special note, Dallas’s father is in the race this year race, also.  The highlight of the day was when Vangie was tucked into a sled, pulled by 14 dogs-ones that would be in the Big race on Sunday.  Andrew (Dallas’s right hand man) was the musher who drove the sled while towing me on a trailing sled for a 5 mile ride over a frozen lake and tundra with me yelling mush, mush!!  Dallas has a special Siberian husky dog named “Hugo.”This handsome dog occupies a separate area and he literally looks and acts like the “King of the Mountain.” Some of you might have seen him as Shasta in Walt Disney’s film “Snow Buddies” (2008).

 

Hugo A.K.A.  Shasta Sled Dogs: People are surprised when they learn what makes a good sled dog.  The Siberian husky you see above was used to pull heavy loads during the gold rush days.  Most of the dogs that race in the Iditarod today are called Alaskan Huskies (note: the Alaskan Husky is not an AKC recognized breed).  They are bred for speed and endurance and their bloodlines may include anything from Samoyeds and Malamutes to German Shorthairs or Irish Setters.  Only one thing counts – performance.  Sled dogs are trained when puppies in order to get used to human handlers.  Their average weight is around 50 pounds.

 

They can burn as much as 12,000 calories a day when traveling an average of 100 miles per day (24 hours).  It is no wonder that sled dogs need a lot of fuel to maintain their energy.  A professional musher – may have a kennel of 50 to 70 dogs and they take their breeding programs very seriously.

 

On the way back to Anchorage, there is a well-know place of business that goes by the name of Gorilla Fireworks.  It sells used (?) and new fireworks!  Reportedly, shooting off fireworks (along with a few guns) is one of the great pastimes in this area.  The fireworks are spectacular but nothing like the Northern Lights!

 

On Sunday we traveled back, to Willow, once again for the official start.  There, we joined several thousand spectators on a frozen lake to watch the 62 mushers and their teams begin their 9 days (fastest) to 30 days (slowest) race to Nome.  The starting gate and trail was colorfully decorated with sponsor signs and lined the ½ mile chute before heading out into open country.  The atmosphere was filled with a party crowd, young and old.  Some brought their tents and chairs, barbeques, firewood, snowmobiles and sleds filled with such gourmet goodies as reindeer hotdogs, chili, and cold and hot beverages.  The first musher left the starting gate promptly at 2:00 PM followed by the rest of the contestants at 2 minute intervals.  So, for 2 hours we witnessed the parade of teams as they began another “Great Race.” You might find these facts of interest:

 

Checkpoints along the trail are:

 

1.0 Willow, population1,838

2.0 Yentna, population 8

3.0 Skwentna, population 111

4.0 Finger Lake, population 2

5.0 Rainy Pass, population 2

6.0 Rohn Roadhouse, population 0

7.0 Nikolai, population 104

8.0 McGrath, population 423

9.0 Takotna, population 50

10 Ophir, population 0

11 Iditarod, population 0

12 Shageluk, population 129

13 Anvik, population 99

14 Grayling, population 171

15 Eagle Island, population 0

16 Kaltag, population 230

17 Unalakleet, population 747

18 Shaktoolik, population 230

19 Koyuk, population 297

20 Elim, population 318

21 Golovin, population 144

22 White Mountain, 203

23 Safety, population 0

24 Nome, population 3,505 A few facts about the race:

 

In order to qualify to race in the Iditarod a musher must be 18 years of age the day of the race.  Each musher must be approved by the Qualifying Review Board after submitting an application by 11/30/10 and posting a $4,000 non-refundable entry fee.  Qualifications are based on prior experience, including the completion of designated races consisting of a minimum of 150 miles.

 

This year’s race was limited to 100 mushers.  Sixty-two entries were approved.  Last year there were 100 mushers!

 

Each musher must start with 12 to 16 dogs.  Note: the dogs must also pass a physical examination and must have received mandatory vaccines.  No less than six dogs must be on the tow line at the finish.  Mushers cannot add new dogs after the start.  They may elect to carry several dogs in the sled and rotate them as needed.  Sick or lame dogs may be left at check points only.  There are 32 veterinarians at the various checkpoints that monitor the condition of the dogs.  The death of a dog is given top priority and it must be taken to a checkpoint for examination and processing.

 

There are two mandatory layovers along the trail.  One is for 24 hours (usually taken at Takotna) and is at the option of musher who must determine which stop is most beneficial to the dogs.  There are two other 8 hour mandatory stops – one on the Yukon and the second at White Mountain.  These stops cannot be combined.  The time differential resulting from the musher’s starting position is adjusted during the 24 hour layover.

 

Each musher can use up to 3 sleds.  Two sleds can be shipped to advance locations prior to the race.

 

The rules call for certain mandatory items to be carried in the sled, e.g.  axe, sleeping bag weighing no more than 5 pounds, 8 booties for each dog, a cooker and pot and enough fuel to bring 3 gallons of water to a boil and some food for the dogs.  The bulk of dog food supplies (not to exceed 60 lbs) are dropped off in advance of the start at designated points along the trail.

 

The glow of gold is not just in the ground.  Mushers who finish in the top 30 positions share $510,000.  The winner receives a new Dodge pick up, also.

 

Beginning with the 31st place, the remaining mushers who finish receive $1,049 each for their efforts.

 

So, here I sit at my computer following the mushers as they subject themselves to sub-zero temperatures, winds up to 50 MPH, white-outs, sink-holes, breakdowns and hostile terrain on the trail to Nome.

 

Man's Best Friend

Start - Willow Lake

Keeping warm in my mink coat!

Ceremonial start Anchorage

If interested, you, too, can follow the race this week on your computer by going to www.iditarod.com .  I believe the Iditarod is, and remains, one of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world.  Just think, it all started by one courageous man who delivered diphtheria serum to save the people of Nome.

 

 The end of a perfect day…..

 

2-22-11 

Navy's 100th Birthday Air Show over San Diego Bay. You may have to copy and paste the following if it isn't blue. Cliff Casner sent the link to Jim. Don't miss it, this is better than being there, well almost. (Gary)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathaninsandiego/sets/72157626035272668/show/ 

 

    KICK-OFF CELEBRATION FOR  THE

 

100TANNIVERSARY OF NAVAL AVIATION

 

February 12, 2011 – aboard the USS Midway Museum

 

There is no better place than San Diego to celebrate the Centennial of Naval aviation. After all, here is where it all got started. Today, we were invited to join in the celebration of this historic event to honor the men and women of Naval Aviation – those who have served their country for the past 100 years.

It all started in 1911 when Captain Washington Irving prepared the plans and specification for the Navy’s first aircraft, the Curtis QA-1 Triad. Once completed, Lt. Theodore Ellyson became Aviator No. 1 as he took it to the skies.

A few interesting dates and facts (not all-inclusive):

1919         marked the year for our first Trans-Atlantic flight in

  the Curtis NC-4.       

1922            a Vought VE-7SF took off from the USS Langley – the first take-off from and aircraft carrier.

1929     the ZMC-2 metal (aluminum) clad airship powered by helium was built by Aircraft Development Corp of Michigan.

1930     the first experimental monoplane fighter XF5B-1

1933     the Boeing F4B-4 carrier fighter plane

1942     Grumman’s TBF Avengers

1944     CDR David MacCampbell became the USN’s highest scoring ace.

1944     Cdr Erickson USCG helicopter pilot No. 1 flew first life-saving mission.

1950     Angled flight decks constructed on carriers to aid in landing jet aircraft.

1957     F8U Crusader

1962     LtCol John Glenn, USMC, pilots the Mercury-Atlas 6 “Friendship 7” spacecraft.

              The P-3 enters the Navy’s

1967            The Sea Stallion helicopter CH-53A makes its debut

1971              the TAV-8A Harrier

1981              the space shuttle Columbia carries an all USN crew

1982              Lt Colleen Nevius became the first woman USN Test

Pilot.

1989              the V-22 Osprey makes its first flight

1995      along came the F/A-18E Super Hornet

2005              the Seahawk MH-60R helicopter shares the skies

2011              birth of the F-35B Lightning II

100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation

THE FLY-OVER

At approximately 1:00 PM today, almost 189 aircraft took to the sky in a fly-over of epoch proportions. People were perched on top of buildings, on their vessels in the harbor, along the piers and parkways and in their front yards just to get a glimpse of the Parade of Flight. Just under 5,000 people crowded their way onto the flight deck of the USS Midway as they watched the wide selection of airplanes (see list below) descend over the Coronado Bridge heading North over the bay circling around the north end of North Island. The Parade began with the Blue Angels streaking over us and ended two hours later as the entire CVW-9 Air Wing (36 aircraft) from the USS Stennis flew in a wedge formation over Coronado above the Stennis eastward over the clear-blue skies of San Diego. What a sight! Fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, transports, surveillance planes (like the P-3 Orion), old and young alike, all revived the significance of Naval Aviation. For those that like to keep score, here is a list of the aircraft that joined in the Parade:

The Blue Angels, STM Ryan, N3N Canary, N2S Stearman, SNJ Texan, SNB Kansan, FM-2 Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, F4U Corsair, TBM Avenger, SBD Dauntless, PV-2 Harpoon, SB2C Helldiver, HU-16 Albatross, T-28 Trojan, T-34B Mentor, A-1 Skyraider, FJ-4 Fury, T-2 Buckeye, T-33B Shooting Star, F-18D Hornet, UH-1Y Huey, AV-8B Harrier, H-1 Helicopter, CH-53 Helicopter, MV-22 Osprey, C-12 Huron, UC-35 Cessna, KC-130 Hercules, CH-46 Sea Knight, HU-25 Guardian Falcon, TH-57C Sea Ranger, HH-60H Seahawk, C-2A Greyhound, E-2C Hawkeye, T-34C Mentor, T-6 Texan, T-39 Sabreliner, T-45 Goshawk, C-20 Gulfstream, P-3 Orion, EP-3E Aries, C-40 Clipper, E-6B Mercury, F-5 Tiger, S-3 Viking, EA-6B Prowler, F-35 Lightning, CVW-9 Air Wing F/A-18 Hornets.  Whew!!!

Now if that was not enough, the Navy Seal crackerjack parachute team, the Leap Frogs, jumped out of a helicopter at 5,000 feet, one carrying the American Flag and emitting trails of orange and yellow smoke,  and then they all landed on the Carrier Stennis which was right across the harbor from where we were stationed on the Midway.

All in all, it was a sight to behold - one to bridge the past with the present, as the US Navy kicked-off its celebration of 100 years of Naval Aviation. And to all those that have served our country, both in the past and present, “THANKS” for maintaining our freedom.

JR

 

 

      SOME HEARTFILLING THOUGHTS ABOUT VALENTINE’S DAY

                                (THE DAY OF, AND THE MONTH FOR ROMANCE)

                                           A REPEAT FROM FEBRUARY 15, 2007

 

SOME THINGS NEVER GO AWAY, LIKE VALENTINE’S DAY. THE ORIGIN AND MEANING SOMETIMES NEED TO BE REFRESHED.  SO HERE GOES…….

SCHOLARS (NOT ME) HAVE ATTEMPTED TO REACH BACK IN TIME IN SEARCH FOR THE GENESIS OF VALENTINE’S DAY. BELIEVED TO HAVE ROOTS IN ANCIENT ROMAN DAYS (+- 270 AD). ITS ORIGIN STILL REMAINS SOMEWHAT AMBIGUOUS AS LEGENDS HAVE BEEN PASSED DOWN THE AGES. VALENTINE’S DAY, AS MOST HISTORIANS REPORT, HAD ITS START FROM A DECLARATION MADE BY THE ROMAN EMPEROR, CLAUDIUS II. HE DECLARED THAT SINGLE MEN MADE BETTER SOLDIERS IF THEY REMAINED UNMARRIED (I GUESS IT HAD SOMETHING TO DO ABOUT DISTRACTIONS). THE ROMAN CALENDAR MARKED FEBRUARY AS THE BEGINNING OF SPRINGTIME –A TIME FOR PURIFICATION. HOUSES WERE CLEANED AND THE ROMANS CELEBRATED THE FOUNDING OF ROME WITH A PAGAN FESTIVAL, LUPERCALIA. IT WAS A FERTILITY FESTIVAL DEDICATED TO THE ROMAN GOD OF AGRICULTRUE, LUPERCALIA, AND TO ROMULUS AND REMUS, THE FOUNDERS OF ROME. THE LOCAL PRIESTS SACRIFICED GOATS (FOR FERTILITY) AND DOGS (FOR PURIFICATION). STRIPS OF THE GOAT HIDE WERE USED BY THE YOUNG MEN TO GENTLY SLAP THE WOMEN AND THEIR FIELDS IN HOPES OF PROMOTING GROWTH AND PROSPERITY. ONCE SLAPPED, THE YOUNG WOMEN PUT THEIR NAMES INTO AN URN TO BE USED IN A LOTTERY. THEIR NAMES WERE DRAWN BY THE CITY’S BACHELORS. AND, ONCE DRAWN, THEY BECAME JOINED WITH THEIR SUITOR FOR ONE YEAR. THIS PRACTICE BECAME LABELED AS ANTI-CHRISTIAN AND SOON WAS OUTLAWED. VALENTINE, A THIRD CENTURY PRIEST, DID NOT AGREE WITH CLAUDIUS’ DECREE. SO, HE CONTINUED TO MARRY COUPLES IN ‘TRUE’ LOVE. REPORTEDLY, HIS REBRELLIOUS ACTS, INCLUDING HELPING CHRISTIANS ESCAPE FROM ROMAN PRISONS, LED TO HIS INPRISONMENT AND SUBSEQUENT DEATH. ONE LEGEND RELATES THAT VALENTINE, WHILE IN JAIL,  FELL IN LOVE WITH A YOUNG WOMAN (PERHAPS THE JAILOR’S DAUGHTER). HIS CORRESPONDENCE TO HER WAS ALWAYS SIGNED “FROM YOUR VALENTINE.” NOTE: THIS IS AN EXPRESSION STILL USED (BUT, I HOPE, NOT ALWAYS FROM JAIL!).

AS THE YEARS MOVED FORWARD, THE LEGEND OF VALENTINE WAS INCORPORATED INTO MIDDLE AGE LORE. LATER,  FRANCE AND ENGLAND ALIGNED VALENTINE’S DAY WITH THE BEGINNING OF BIRD MATING SEASON.  THUS, FEBRUARY BECAME A TIME FOR ORNITHLOGICAL (BIRD) ROMANCE. THE FIRST KNOWN VALENTINE GREETING WAS WRITTEN BY CHARLES, DUKE OF ORLEANS IN 1415 WHILE IMPRISONED IN THE TOWER OF LONDON. VALENTINES’S DAY BEGAN TO ESCALATE IN POPULARITY IN THE 17TH CENTURY, AND BY THE MIDDLE OF THE 18TH CENTURY, IT WAS A COMMON OCCURANCE TO EXCHANGE HANDWRITTEN NOTES AND TOKENS OF AFFECTION TO FRIENDS AND LOVERS. NOTE:  CATHOLICS AND CHRISTIANS ALIKE HAVE SAINTS NAMED VALENTINE.  LIKE ANY MIGRATION, VALENTINE MESSAGES WERE EXCHANGED IN AMERICA IN THE EARLY 1700’S. THE FIRST COMMERCIAL CARD WAS PUBLISHED IN 1840 BY ESTHER HOWLAN, KNOWN AS THE MOTHER OF OUR CURRENT VALENTINE CARDS. TODAY, ONLY CHRISTMAS SURPASSES THESE LOVE/FRIENDSHIP MESSAGES..

WHETHER CARDS OR TOKENS ARE EXCHANGED THIS DAY, THE MEANING OF THE MESSAGE REMAINS THE SAME. YOU ARE IMPORTANT AND YOU ARE SPECIAL. THERE IS SOMETHING IN MY HEART THAT SAYS YOU ARE A PART OF MY LIFE. HOW YOU GOT THERE IS IMPORTANT, BUT WHAT IS MOST MEANINGFUL, IS WHY YOU REMAIN A PART OF ME. I KNOW, AND YOU KNOW, ONLY……

HAPPY M.A.D. SAINT VALENTINE TO YOU AND YOURS,

JR

 

REVIEW FOR FEBRUARY 11. 2011

 

Forward:  My friend, Ian Campbell (’50) gave me another book to read – a killer one, literally, that took me on an 894 page journey to hell and back! Despite its length, THE COMPANY (2002) by Robert Littell will keep your mind focused on the inner workings of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, a.k.a. The Company). His book, although a work of fiction, is based on historical events using real people. In addition, Littell embellishes his story with fictional characters, places, dialogues and episodes. Combined,  

the reader will get a taste of four decades of espionage through the eyes and minds of spies, their lies, and who dies….

His book was so popular that it gave rise to a television mini-series which previewed in 2007.

Coincidence: The timing of this review coincides with today’s overthrow of the Egyptian ruler, Mubarak.

History and Timeframe: Keeping track of a country’s adversaries is an age old tactic. Even George Washington used a small group of spies to gain an advantage over his enemies. It wasn’t until WW II, however, that President Roosevelt appointed a war hero/lawyer, William J. Donovan, as the first Coordinator of Information (COI), a government group charged to coordinate information pertaining to the country’s security. During WW II, this body became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) with expanded duties mainly aimed at collecting and analyzing strategic information. After WW II the OSS was abolished and its function was transferred to the State and War Departments. In 1947 President Truman signed the National Security Act and established the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whose responsibility was to coordinate intelligence activities by collecting, correlating, evaluating and disseminating information affecting our national security. It wasn’t until 2004 that President Bush redesigned the CIA with special emphasis on counter terrorism. Today, the CIA remains the “central” focus point for keeping our home-front safe.

The Company: Robert Littell has devoted much of his literary life to writing spy novels. His vast knowledge of world events featuring clandestine operations enables the reader to revisit a series of real life events with real life characters, sprinkled with some fictional ones, and woven into a world where the double-cross, lies and deception are the daily dose for survival.

The story (really and anthology of events) starts out in 1950 when three Yale graduates elect to follow similar careers. Rowing crew mates, Jack “All-American” McAuliffe and Leo Kritsky are enlisted by the CIA as trainees while Yevgeny Tspin elects to walk to a different beat with the KGB. Jack’s Vince Lombardi like mentor, the Sorceror, takes Jack under his wing and helps him through operational crises in Berlin, Cuba and the mid-East. Throughout the book, the CIA tries to uncover a Russian mole that has penetrated the Company. Concurrently, the Russians are faced with spies and double-agents who are not dedicated to their cause. Littell does a good job portraying the fact that there are dedicated people on both sides of the curtain. Like a chess game, each opponent continually strives to outmaneuver the other guy, until the game is over, and “the wall comes down.” The author’s descriptions of how the spy game is played will keep you riveted as each side attempts to “one-up” the other.

I found the behavior of our Presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Johnson and Reagan) of special interest as they managed each pending crisis. Even today, the CIA remains at the heart of maintaining our national security. The people who enter this service are a unique breed, and in my opinion, place service above self.  The Company may be one of the best spy novels I have read

P.S. Don’t let the length of the book deter you from having a great read…

 

 

REVIEW FOR SECOND WEEK IN JANUARY, 2011

 

Sidebar #1: Well, I hope everyone is off to a good start in 2011.

Even if your not, you have the rest of the year, and maybe your life, to make up for it!

There is something about turning the corner on the past year and entering the next that gives rise to past reflections and wonders of what lies ahead. Like clockwork, life is filled with plenty of predictable events (like paying your taxes), along with a few mysteries thrown in between (like where did I leave my glasses). What ever happens, I am thankful that my old body and mind can still function, albeit at a reduced speed…..”Bring on the New Year”

 

Sidebar #2: Before I receive any e-mails and phone calls denouncing me for this week’s review, I want to clarify my position on the content of the book.

My political affiliation has nothing to do with this review, either the advocacy or denouncement of the expressed views of the author. I chose this book because it offers observations and explanations about a slice of history as seen through the eyes and written words of our last President, George W. Bush. Only time will tell what the long-term outcomes of his presidency will have on the history of our country and the world. Those that offer hindsight, or foresight, about his decisions will have to let their thoughts stand the test of time. And, my friends, most of us will not be around to know the results….Amen!

 

REVIEW

DECISION POINTS by GEORGE W. BUSH (2010) offers some poignant points about his presidency as he explains “the why and the how” of his decisions. Admittedly, he acknowledges that all of them were not the right ones. His memoirs have not been written as a full life chronological story, rather it is a thematic look at his eight year stint in the White House. As stated, “He hopes the book will serve as a resource for anyone studying this period in American history.”

I found the book well organized and easy to read. Throughout the book President Bush gives the reader brief glimpses into his childhood and the special relationship he enjoyed (and still does) with his parents, brothers and sisters, friends and, of course, his own immediate family. His candid and open remarks about his behavior during his formative years, including his drinking problem and the formulation of his religious beliefs, are insightful and set the tone for understanding his adult outlook on life.

Decision Points, as presented, offers the reader a chance to internalize the question “what would I do under the same circumstances if I was president”?  Each problem the president faced did not have a common timeline or urgency, whether they were self-imposed or placed on his desk (Note: I consider problems can be either negative or positive). Like a batter in baseball, some balls (or problems) can be thrown at you either fast, slow or with a curve. How you hit or miss it can leave you with a home run, a hit, a strike, or just stranded on base. As previously stated, President Bush experienced all of the above in his decision making process.

For instance, the magnitude of selecting a running mate or a cabinet member, although weighty in importance, does not have the same urgency as dealing with the 9/11 terrorist attack. With this in mind, each chapter takes on a theme – one that was deemed important to his administration, our country and the world. The following themes (topics) are explored

Stem cell research forced people to take sides. It became a platform for advocates to deal with scientific vs. moral issues. Even President Bush’s own family was split over the process of biological engineering. Fortunately, the matter became somewhat mute when scientists found bypass methodology without destroying embryos.

Who could forget 9/11? President Bush details his reaction and response to this tragic event and the importance of creating and maintaining subsequent security measures. Follow-up actions led to the passage of the Terrorist Surveillance Act in 2001. Such a measure helped our government monitoring the communications between terrorists and uncover plots of terrorism. The establishment of Guantanamo Bay became the controversial prison for those linked to terrorist activities. As reported, President Bush believes that his most important accomplishment was that the country did not have another successful terrorist attack during his remaining seven and one-half years in office.

The conditions in Afghanistan had deteriorated to the point that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were perceived as a threat to world peace. After considerable deliberations, and with the cooperation of Russia and surrounding countries, President Bush explains his rationale for the bombing of the Taliban. His attempts to deal with Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan’s Musharraf, was a political challenge, and it remains so today.

Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 was predicated on our intelligence that Saadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and it was only a matter of time until he would unleash them on other countries. After repeated diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and the passage of Congressional and UN resolutions to get Hussein to curtail his nuclear program, a battle plan was in put place which ultimately led to President Bush’s authorization of the invasion of Iraq. He explains the reasoning behind his decision and the repercussions that surfaced thereafter.

The decisions he made while Leading the country have their roots in his beliefs and experiences. His style of leadership sometimes earned him the title of “cowboy.” President Bush reveals his religious positions in his “faith based plans.” His attempts to reform social security were met with bipartisan opposition and became one of his greatest disappointments during his administration. In addition, his attempt to reform the immigration system ended on a sour note. He does, however, note that the successful passage of “No Child Left Behind” and changes in the Medicare program were noteworthy. Win some, lose some….

In 2005 hurricane Katrina became a disaster of epic proportions. The Presidents role in Katrina vis a vis the roles of local and state government officials are examined and the finger of blame pointed both ways. President Bush’s response to the disaster was viewed by some as discriminatory, a charge that weighed heavy on his mind. He describes the political infighting that took place between local, state and federal authorities concerning “who is in control” during such emergencies, and the consequences resulting from their costly delays. He outlines post-disaster actions that were taken by his administration – ones, that hopefully, would prevent the same type of response to Katrina

President Bush, along with his wife Laura, became big advocates in helping to address the HIV and malaria problems in Africa. The Protection Emergency Plan for Aida Relief (PEPFAR) was passed in 2003 and provided huge increases in aid to Africa. His account of dealing with politicians, individuals and organizations that supported the U.S. effort to help victims of HIV and malaria, and the resulting success of these programs. became a highlight in his administration (his emphasis). 

The invasion of Iraq was not going well. The increasing number of civilian and troop deaths and casualties due to sectarian violence led to deteriorating conditions. President Bush knew he was being put to the test by not only terrorists who wanted to create havoc, but from some Congress members like Harry Reid who proclaimed “the war is lost.” George Bush outlines the issues he was confronted with and the strategy deployed to, hopefully, bring about a democratic environment – one that would survive after troop withdrawal.

Known as “The Surge,” additional troops were committed in an attempt to

Bring about a peaceful solution. Again, the final results are not in, but Iraq is far different today than under the regime of Saadam Hussein. President Bush still questions his timing - “should he have acted sooner?” Time will tell….

The chapter entitled “Freedom Agenda” explores the concerns emanating from Palestine and Israel, Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, North Korea, China and Russia (partial list). He explains the underlying basis for his concerns about any country that suppresses freedom and democracy.

Last, but certainly not least, President Bush shares his thoughts about the Financial Crisis, its causes and his attempted solutions. He cites the turbulent conditions that led us into a recession. The failure of such programs as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, private companies like Bear Stearns, GM, AIG, and major banks, and the corresponding effects of these failures on the economy and individual portfolios contributed to economic uncertainty. Instituting the $700 billion TARP program did not yield the anticipated results. In fact, he states, “TARP had become a four-letter word.”

President Bush concludes the 472 pages of his memoirs with a short Epilogue that describes his departure from the office of Presidency to his every day life in Crawford, Texas where he immediately began to write Decision Points. The book does not focus on every decision reached during his terms in office. As stated, “I’ve tried to give the reader a sense of the most important consequential decision that reached my desk.”

 

Sidebar #3: The book is lengthy but it is worth the time to read it, especially with an open mind. Again, my review is not a political statement; it is an honest attempt to present the President’s thoughts and actions while he served the people of the United States. I will let history judge his decisions.

JR

 

 

 

FIRST REVIEW FOR 2011THE YEAR OF SMALL MAMMALS IN THE FAMILY LEPORIDAE, ORDER LAGOMORPHA AND FOUND IN SEVERAL PARTS OF THE WORLD *

 

Forward: Each year brings forth new horizons. Our vistas are widened and deepened by people. Albeit, Men and Women are the driving force behind progress. Their actions, both intended and unintended, help move things forward (and sometimes backward).

Our space program is living proof of our understanding of astronomical matters combined with technical achievements that have helped us probe “the beyond.” Some time ago, I reviewed Homer Hickam’s book, “Rocket Boys,” a wonderful true story about Homer’s personal pursuit of rocket science and space exploration. This week, I would like to take you, the reader, on another mission into space, “Riding Rockets,” featuring author and Astronaut Mike Mullane (2006). 

 

Sidebar: The reader does not have to have a background in science and/or math in order to enjoy this book. You may get twisted around with some of the designated symbols and abbreviations, but they do not detract from the human element of one man’s adventure into space. A complete glossary at the end of the book helps to refresh the meaning of symbols if your memory is short lived…..like mine.

 

Blast off!

This book is a true account of outrageous tales by a space shuttle astronaut, Mike Mullane, “Riding Rockets.” Mullane really tells it like it was starting in 1978 when a group of space shuttle astronauts coined themselves “TFNG” (Thirty-Five New Guys) after being selected by NASA to carry the space shuttle program to new and greater heights (pun intended)! The author speaks out about the inner workings of the space program, including the selection process, training program, mission assignments and the “behind the scenes” politics that have permeated the entire operation. His candid observations, combined with his witty and oft times raunchy behavior, reminded me of my locker room days where hazing and comedy were daily routines.

Mullane, a 1967 West Point graduate, started his flying career in the Air Force and flew 134 combat missions in Vietnam. Like Homer Hickam (referenced above), Mike developed an early interest in rockets and space. With the love and support of his parents, his destiny was sealed when he observed Russia’s Sputnik I racing across the sky in 1957, as if it was calling him to join in the quest to “Riding Rockets” into the great unknown. He did….three times.

Becoming an astronaut may sound glamorous, but the road into space is far from easy. The training can turn into months and years before a candidate may receive an assignment (the emphasis is on “may” since some will never get off of the ground)! Mullane’s chief frustration was with those who made these assignments. Like other potential crew members, he never knew the criteria for receiving a coveted assignment, or who was responsible for the selection process. Later reports validated that these problems weighed heavily on the minds of those who yearned for a place in space. Reportedly, both John Young (Chief of Astronauts) and George Abbey (chief of Flight Crew Operations Directorate) were at the center of this controversy. Mullane’s dislike for his bosses was so intense that he, like others, sought psychological help from Dr. Terry McGuire, a NASA consultant.

Mike describes himself as guy who can’t resist being a “smart mouth.” His sexist remarks coupled with a “potty mouth” were not always received well, especially by the opposite sex. I found most of his humor pretty funny, however. He claims to have eventually overcome his sexist attitude after many years of exposure to female astronauts who had “walked the walk.” He claims that he and his wife, Donna, married for the wrong reasons, but he acknowledges that without her and his family’s loyal support and love, he would not have been able to achieve his life-long dreams. The wrong reasons proved to the right ones.

You, as readers, can probably remember the phrase “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” Well, these words exemplify the danger that accompanies every flight into space. Mike shares his feelings about what goes through his and fellow crew members minds before, during and after a mission. The potential for a disaster accompanies each crew member whether it be at launch, ascent, flight or decent. And, it is not only in the minds of those aboard, but in the hearts and minds of family, friends and support staff. From the early days of Apollo to today’s missions, we are reminded of the fate of the Challenger and Columbia 7 and their crews.  To date, there have been twenty-four astronauts who have died, not all in space, however.

Mullane’s three missions are detailed with passionate emotion, probably because he did not know if each one would be his last.  I will leave the reader to fly along with Mike as he describes each journey. Two of his flights were for the Department of Defense and, understandably, cannot be discussed due to the confidentiality of the missions, This does not detract from his account of everything that went on inside the cabin, from using the toilet to waking up with an erection!! And, if that did not wake you up, then you will need a barf bag to handle the food created by NASA, especially for in-flight consumption. How about some dehydrated broccoli?

Each crew member has a given task with back-up assignments, if needed. As the space program grew in popularity in the early 80’s, new crewmember positions were created giving rise to “part-time astronauts.” Business participants in the program, like McDonnell Douglas, politicians, a schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe, and foreign dignitaries were anxious to climb aboard and earn their wings. (By the way, an astronaut does not earn his gold wings until he/she has reached an altitude of fifty miles after lift-off. Until then, the wings are silver.) These part-timers were not welcomed by NASA astronauts for several reasons. First, they were single mission individuals who interrupted the line-up into space. And second, training “part-timers” was limited to their experiments and learning the basic procedures of safety, how to eat, sleep and go to the toilet. “Before Challenger, twenty-two out of a total of seventy-five mission specialist available seats were filled by personnel who were not NASA career astronauts.”

 

Riding Rockets is much more than one man’s account of aspiring to become an astronaut. It is an inside look into our space program, its achievements and failures, and a tribute to those men and women who have helped discover what lies beyond. I can’t believe that there is a better way to describe the NASA spacecraft program than through the eyes, ears and words of someone who has “been there and done that.” Mike Mullane’s colorful account will certainly lift you to greater heights without leaving planet earth.

Five (+++++) stars for sure…..

JR

 

*If you missed the name of the mammal in the title, then think rabbit….

 

LAST REVIEW FOR 2010  12-29-10

 

Sidebar:  Caution -This book contains a great deal of four letter words, violence and some torrid “sexcapades.”

 

The author, Peter Maas is new to my review list, but not to the literary world. He was born and died in New York in 1929 and 2001, respectively.  A highly credited journalist and author, he has written more than a dozen books and numerous articles, mostly nonfiction, mainly about corruption, politics and the underworld of organized crime. Some of his works have been made into movies, namely Serpico, a true story about Frank Serpico, a New York cop. It became a Hollywood hit staring Al Pacino back in 1973. Frank blew the whistle on corruption within his own police force, and by doing so, the force turned against him. In 1969, Robert Kennedy hired Maas to interview the notorious underworld figure, Joe Valachi, while he was serving time in prison. After a lengthy legal battle with the government over First Amendment issues, Peter piggy-backed on his contractual assignment and wrote the Valachi Papers which also became a hit movie staring Charles Bronson. Valachi had turned into an informant and revealed information regarding the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra, including the identities of many of its members. His other investigative work focused on police and criminal groups like the Mafia. Reading the biography of Peter Maas is almost as good as reading his books.

MADE IN AMERICA (1979), is a wild ride into the mafia underworld. The main character, Richie Flynn, was a former New York Giants football player whose career soon ended after a knee injury.  Fortunately for him, his name recognition followed him around the streets of New York due to his game winning 93 yard touchdown run – the longest in Giant’s history. With the passage of time, however, he finds himself stuck in a rut selling Goldblatt beer until he is approached by an old friend who has devised a scheme to make some fast money. It all started when Richie is approached by a friend who has concocted a scheme for Richie to buy an abandon building that is going to be auctioned off for sale. Once in control of the building, and with the help of his friend and a few “Insiders”, he would turn it into a Child Day Car Center and then lease it to the City on a long-term basis. In return, the “Insiders” would take a piece of the action for doing the paper work and dealing with the City bureaucrats.  Richie is sold a bill of goods that they can pull off their end of the marginally legal scheme by delivering a signed lease. Richie is dazzled by the income he stands to gain, so he sets out to find the money to buy the building. His day (and sometimes night) job at Goldblatt’s Brewery as a salesman does not provide his family with much money, let alone money to support his pole dancing girlfriend. His vision of life in the fast lane overcomes him and he resorts to seeking a loan through his underworld contacts who deal in opportunistic loans. Desperate to find the money to buy the building which will house the Day Care Center, he is referred to a ruthless New Jersey loan shark, Al “King Kong” Karpstein. Anxious to seal the deal, he agrees to a short term loan with unilateral and unconditional terms and conditions, including naming Big Al as the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. Karpstein, an ex-heavyweight boxer, is noted for his brutal tactics if things don’t go his way. Sure enough, they don’t! Richie runs up against the bureaucracy of City government when the paper work is delayed while being processed. He needs more time to meet his obligations with Karpstein, and you guessed it, his time is rapidly running out, and so is Big Al’s patience.  He manages to borrow some more dirty money from another Mafia source, only this time it is on the East side of the Hudson River in New York territory. All hell brakes loose when the second source of money finds out his money is going to pay off Karpstein in New Jersey. Richie finds himself in a squeeze play between members of a bunch of New York/ New Jersey Italian Mafioso’s as he and his family and girlfriend are threatened. As a last resort, he turns to the FBI for help. Richie ends up in the hands of an aspiring federal prosecutor, Hamilton Wainright, who has an expressed mission to bring down leaders of the underworld. He co-opts Richie into testifying about his dealings with the Mafia loan sharks and their bosses. Does the trial mark the beginning or the end of Richie Flynn? I’m not on the witness chair, so you will have to find out for yourself….

The author’s extensive experience in investigating the organization and administration of the criminal underworld help the reader understand the inner workings of  what goes on in a city impaled by those who “live by the sword and die by the sword.” Made In America highlights the plight of those that chase the almighty dollar where there will always be winners and losers.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE……

JR

 

 

12-20-10

 

Christmas – 2010

 

As the old saying goes, “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas,” but not every where I go. I’ll start with the San Diego Chargers locker room where things have been a little naughty and not so nice. The ski resorts, however, are reveling in the white stuff, but many other areas have been ravaged by floods. Even the stock market has brought a few smiles to some faces, while at the same time our state is drowning in debt! So buck up Wildcats, who said life is a perpetual bowl of cherries.

With the return of the winter solstice this week, I am reminded of our wonderful universe and its many mysteries. Scientists have given us the answers to many of our questions, but the fact remains, at least to me, that somewhere out there, there are things going on that you either have to ignore, or rely on some sort of faith. But faith in what? I can’t answer this question for you. It must come from the teachings of those who have offered you/us daily lessons in understanding the mysteries of life. If you were a member of the Maasai Tribe in Africa, your faith might be on a different tangent than those that support my beliefs. But, so what! For example, the Kenyan landscape is thought to be where man took to walking on two feet. The Maasai believe in one God, Ngai, who separated the earth from the sky, only to take all the cattle with Him. To date, they still use cattle to explain the gap between man and God. So where’s the beef?                                                 If, and how one celebrates Christmas, relies on personal beliefs. To me, it is a fun time surrounded by some serious reflections on life’s journey. I derive more pleasure in giving, not receiving. Last Saturday, we had a Medal of Honor recipient and a group of active duty marines who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan over for a dinner party to express our appreciation for their service. One couple even brought their two week old precious baby. I couldn’t help think what a wonderful gift it was to “say thanks” to them for helping to preserve my right to enjoy another Christmas in this land of the free.

I would be remiss to not recognize my many classmates, who like the marines and other service men and women, have helped shape my life. I will close this year’s epistle with the message I wrote for our Midway Magic All-Class Reunion followed by our Christmas card message:

 

                    The Wildcat Way

          MAD people are special

          We knew it then, and we know it now.

          Some have left us, but not in heart.

          For memories outlast each of us

          “Til death do us part.”

          Through good and some bad times,

          We have never lost our spirit.

          To learn, to love, and to follow our dreams

          The light that led us down so many different paths

          Still shines here tonight, as one big beam.

          Together, once again, we reach out this day 

          And reaffirm our friendship

          For it’s the Wildcat Way.

 

And,

 

Our “Christmas is” message this year reads:

          A time to reflect, a time to share

                   Our thoughts of love, peace and good will.

          Each day brings new life with memories,

                   Some with bright sun, some with dark clouds.

          The test of time is not measured in length, however

                   But how we touch the lives of others.

 

And may the New Year Bring”

         

Joy, Good health, productivity, renewal of old friendships, new found friends, sustaining family love and lower taxes!

                   May Your Christmas Be Merry

                   And Your New Year Rewarding

 

                             Vangie and Jim

                                      2010

 

11-10-10

Sidebar: Maybe the smaller print will get your attention? If so, I just wanted all alums who attended the All-Class Reunion, Midway MADness, to know that a special commemorative disc is being made that will, hopefully, capture some of the highlights of the evening. You can help me out by sending me your “best of show” pictures via e mail as a JPEG attachment. Hank Morris has advised us that the best results will occur if your pictures have a larger pixel count, say somewhere between 768 x 1024. There will be some background music and some folks have already sent me their suggestions. If you wish to participate, then please do so NOW. I have set a deadline of November 30 (yes, this year) as the cut-off date. For those of you who have not viewed the Class of ’48 webpage, then I encourage you to do so. George Harpole has done a great job in putting together a disc featuring his class and some memorable moments. I had a photographer take 287 pictures of classmates, family and friends along with some of those classic happenings aboard the Midway. We can add some of Gary’s pictures and the intro to the program featuring the eagle flying from the Statue of Liberty to the Midway. So, please consider doing your part to codify our reunion. A copy will be sent to our school and city libraries. The cost is yet to be determined, but it will be minimal. Don’t you want to be a part of our MAD history?

End of Sidebar

 

REVIEW – NOVEMBER 10, 2011

 

Probably, one of the best books I have read this year is about to unfold before your very eyes….intense and engaging, to the point of shedding a new perspective on early American history, namely the westward movement, in a manner that I promise will make you hair stand on end, especially if you can stomach the distasteful act of taking a human scalp……

EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON, Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History (2010), by S. C. Gwynne is a powerful account of the Comanche Indians and how they influenced American history. Often overlooked as to the importance of their stronghold throughout the greater Southern plains, the Comanche tribes (there were many offshoots) stood between the East and the West as the greatest impediment to the development of this country.

Gwynne’s writing skills and scholarly research (backed up by fifty pages of extensive research notes, bibliography and index, compares well to such authors as Michener, Ambrose and McCullough. His detailed objective observations of important events, connected to real life interesting characters and their political, social and economic outlook, shed light on why there were raging and gruesome battles over a forty year period.

Raiding and pillaging towns, homes and farms was the trademark of the nomadic Comanche. Whether it was white folks, Mexicans, Spaniards, or other Indian tribes (they almost exterminated the Apaches), they killed anyone and everyone who stood in their way. It was their way, and the only way of life. Looking back in retrospect, the Comanche Indians literally stopped the Spanish from coming north and impeded the development of Texas and other Plain states for forty years.

The author chronicles the kidnapping of nine year old Cynthia Parker in 1836 when marauding Comanche stormed her family farm. Cynthia lost all hope of escaping while in captivity so she eventually immersed herself into Comanche life. She was able to endure the rigors of their Spartan life and eventually became the wife of the chief and bore him half-breed children. The search for Cynthia and other kidnapped children did not stop, however, as Rangers, militia and other groups tenaciously pursued their whereabouts. After taking on the Indian way of life, Cynthia was eventually found and rescued against her opposition. She proclaimed her desire to remain with her Indian family. What happened to Cynthia when she was separated from her son and daughter opened a new chapter in her life – one that is detailed by Gwynne and is not covered in this review.  Her son, Quanah, becomes the main character in the book. Good looking, strong, smart and engaging, he emerges as the most powerful leader of the Comanche nation. His brutality, cunning ways, and powerful leadership skills kept his people from being overrun by the national and local authorities. Thanks to the import of Spanish horses into Mexico and the subsequent raids into Mexico by the Comanches, the stolen horses brought about a whole new type of warfare. They learned to use these horses as their main vehicle for transportation and fighting with unmatched mobility. Their riding skills brought fighting to a new level of superiority. Again, the author describes these skills and how they affected their daily lives. A good example of the use of the horse was in the hunting of buffalo. A Comanche warrior could bring down many buffalo on horseback. It was said that two things mattered to an Indian, “war and buffalo.”

After the Civil War, and as people drifted westward, the Comanche tribes continued their unruly behavior. Texas Rangers, odd-lot soldiers and private parties tried to tame the tribes with useless unenforceable treaties. Ultimately, Washington politicos tried to round-up all Indian tribes and place them on reservations. One of the most famous sites selected for their new home was near Fort Sill, Oklahoma, an area where Geronimo made his mark. Today, it operates as a major artillery base for the United States Army. Dramatic clashes between settlers and Indians occurred regardless of the existence of any treaties. Between the years 1868 and 1881, over 31,000,000 buffalo were slaughtered for their meat and hides. Some said that “if you kill buffalo there won’t be any Indians.” The struggle to tame the “wild west” was slowly taking place as reservations were set up, buffalo were dwindling in number and the military was finally learning how to fight the illusive native Indians. Also, technological advancements in making guns and building railroads certainly helped to bring an end to 40 years of hell!

The remarkable life of Quanah, from childhood to mighty warrior and exalted leader of the Comanche nation is well documented in Empire of the Summer Moon. His ability to change the destiny of the Plain Indians remains one of the greatest feats of leadership, even to the white man.

 

About the author, Sam Gwynne: As an award winning journalist, he has worked for Time as its bureau chief, national correspondent and senior editor from 1988 to 2000. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the California magazine. His other books include Selling Money and The Outlaw Bank.

 

 

10-29-10

EAST, WEST, WHICH ONE IS BEST?

 

Well, we survived the big Midway MADness reunion aboard the USS Midway Saturday evening, October 2nd and immediately headed east for a needed vacation. Here is a blow by blow description of our journey, nothing earth shattering, “just the facts, mam”…….

 

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 10/4,5,6/10:                                                 FIRST STOP – WASHINGTON D.C.

We flew united via American Airlines leaving San Diego at 6:20 AM, by way of Chicago, and landed at Dulles airport at 4:00 PM. We promptly took a taxi to the downtown Hyatt Regency on New Jersey Street, just two blocks from the capitol for a three night stay.                                                

    Observations: We hired four different taxis to get around Washington. All four drivers were from Africa, namely Ethiopia! Our good friend, Merlene Williams (one of June’s best friends) had an aunt who was Haile Selassie’s (1892-1975) private secretary. The popular and revered Selassie served as Emperor of Ethopia from 1930 to 1974. So, it gave me an excuse to name drop and engage the driver in some personal conversation. They thought I  was a pretty cool gringo!!

I asked each driver how the recession was affecting them and the people in Washington. They had a common response, “what recession?” It was obvious that Washington remains somewhat insulated from the hoi pilloi.

Why Washington? Two years ago we were the successful bidders for a trip to our Capitol, including airfare, hotel and a private tour of the capitol. Knowing we would only be there for a few days, we decided that we would take the tour, visit the major landmarks, especially the national monuments, and meet up with Vangie’s long-time Miss California (1999) friend, MaryAnne Sapio, currently working as a health care lobbyist. The first day, Tuesday, we walked to the  Capitol’s Visitor’s Center and met our private guide, Steve Livengood, the chief Guide for the United States Historical Society who took us on a special 2 ½ hour private tour through the Capitol’s inner sanctum. His knowledge of current and historical events really embellished the tour as he gave us a behind the scenes peek in many off-limits areas.

In the afternoon we hired a limo (this time the driver was from the Congo) to see the sights, especially the various monuments, including the Lincoln and Washington Memorials, and those dedicated to the men and women who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. We rounded out our tour by driving to the Air Force monument and then around the Pentagon building, the largest structure in the US with over five million square feet..                                                                  Thanks to MaryAnne’s local knowledge about places to dine, we had  a scrumptious dinner the first night at Art and Soul directly across the street from the hotel.

Sidebar: On the way to the airport in San Diego, Jim discovered that he had left his sport coat in the car. So, the next day we went to the rennovated DC main train station where there were retail shops on the second level. Jim bought two coats for the price of one at none other than Joseph A. Bank. For lunch, we met MaryAnne at Bistro Bis, a popular hangout for locals who indulge in power-lunches. Vangie and MaryAnne tuned up with a bloody Mary, of course, as they chatted up a storm catching up on their mutual friends and past events. After lunch, and acting on MaryAnne’s recommendation, we visited the National Museum of American History. One of the most impressive artifacts on display was our original Flag (aka: The Star Spangled Banner) made by Baltimore flag maker, Mary Pickersgill in 1813. Reportedly, Mary was given a rush order by young Major George Armistead, Commander of Fort McHenry to create a giant flag that would fly over the federal garrison at Fort McHenry in hopes of intimidating the British Navy. The Fort guarded the entrance to Baltimore’s waterfront. Mary worked night and day on the floor of a Baltimore brewery creating the huge flag. Its final dimensions were 30’ x 42’. The flag is comprised of seven (7) stripes. Eight (8) strips (not stripes) of dyed red wool alternated by seven (7) strips of white wool compliment the 16’ x 21’ deep blue rectangular canton in the upper left corner, Each stripe is two (2) feet wide and the five (5) stars are two (2) feet across. The flag was moved to the Smithsonian in 1907. Due to its deteriorating condition, the flag was removed for restoration in 1998. Currently it is on full display on a 45 degree platform behind a large glass wall. We took a few moments out and sat down across from our flag and gave thanks for its creation and history.                                                       The last night in Washington, we went to another great restaurant, Johnny Palmers, another winning recommendation by MaryAnne. We were seated next to the windows along busy Constitution Avenue and watched the parade of people heading home from work without any signs of a recession….

 

Thursday, 10/7/10

ON TO NEW YORK

When we decided to go to Washington it seemed obvious that we should spend more time on the East Coast. What better way to take advantage of the fall colors than to take a cruise along the Eastern Seaboard to Canada. We booked a balcony stateroom (room L209) on the 15th floor (the Lido Deck) aboard the Crown Princess. After a short flight from Washington, we landed at JFK Airport where a prearranged land transfer took us over the Brooklyn Bridge, across mid-town Manhattan, to the Manhattan Passenger terminal where we boarded the massive ship. The Princess was docked next to the aircraft carrier Intrepid Museum, another popular tourist attraction, just like the USS Midway.

After unpacking and going through the expected muster drill, we poured ourselves a long overdue drink from the bottle of vodka we had smuggled aboard and enjoyed the Manhattan skyline from our balcony. We were assigned a table for ten in the Michelangelo Dinning Room amidst a bunch of teetotalers. Oh, oh…The

conversation went no where (either we were too verbose, or they came from another planet). We decided to change tables the next night.

During dinner the ship left the dock and headed out into the Anchorage Channel passing under the Verrazano Bridge and down the Hudson River as “The City’s” lights glistened on the water. We will never know how the first immigrants felt when they came to the U.S., but our hearts stirred when we passed the “Great Lady” standing tall on Grovernors Island. Seeing the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty brought thoughts of our ancestors and their pursuit of freedom as we headed out to sea on a northeasterly course  past Long Island towards our next destination, Newport RI.

 

Friday, 10/8/10

NEWPORT RI

Although it is the smallest state, Rhode Island has a big rich history dating back to 1636-39 when early refugees seeking religious and political freedom migrated from the strict Puritan life found in Massachusetts, Providence RI, Portsmouth and Newport. As a major hub for sea commerce and sparked by its manufacturing and trade, Newport, at one time, had trade greater than New York. The British tried to tax and regulate the trade but eventually evacuated Newport in 1779. It became a principal base for the French navy in America. After the revolutionary war, Newport was largely rebuilt and it became the locus for the New England textile industry when the first power loom was built in 1814. We had a 10 minute ride aboard a tender in order to go ashore.  The temperature was about 64 degrees as I sported my short pants. We walked around town and enjoyed seeing some neat old buildings. There was a baseball park that looked like a miniature Fenway park on the main street. Newport is noted for its grand mansions (often referred to as cottages) once occupied by such families as the Astors, Vanderbilts and Morgans. At the end of Long Wharf St. just before Broadway we saw the White Horse Tavern. It is supposedly the oldest operating tavern in the country. Its liquor license was acquired in 1687 and it is still dispensing the good stuff. Other notable sights in Newport that can best be seen on tours include, the American Colonial Hunter House, the Touro Synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in North America, Trinity Church built in 1724, Redwood Library, the oldest continuously used library building in the US, Bowen’s Wharf, St. Mary’s Church, the oldest parish in Rhode Island where Jacueline Bouvier married John F. Kennedy in 1953 and the Tennis Museum, the site of the first US National Tennis Championship (now called the US Open). We cut the day short and headed back to the ship for lunch. It was time for a bloody Mary and some knockwurst with some sauerkraut.

 

 

Saturday, 10/9/10

NEW LONDON CT

Founded in 1646, City officials decided to name New London after London, England in 1658. Part of the city was burned to the ground by the loyalist Benedict Arnold. The submarine Force Library and Museum is located a short distance away on the Thames River. Home to the Nautilus, the museum has over 33,000 artifacts on a rotating display and traces the “silent service” from the days of the Revolutionary War to the present. Nearby in Groton, is the United States Coast Guard Academy, the smallest of the academies, where cadets train to become officers. The city of New London has just completed its Waterfront Park adding further beauty to its historical landscape. We took a self-guided walking tour starting at the corner of State and Bank Streets at the Parade – the centerpiece of activity. The towering Soldier and Sailor’s Monument (1896) occupies the center of the Parade where sea going commerce was linked with city business. The monument commemorates the soldiers and sailors who perished defending the nation in the Civil War, The Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

As we walked up Bank Street, formerly the residential location for wealthy ship owners and merchants, we could see the transformation that had occurred. As New London grew, more businesses sprang up on State Street as it became the commercial artery in town.  Churches, City Hall, The Crocker House Hotel, the Beacon Building, the Munsey Building (now the Mohican Hotel, Lyric Hall, The Plant Building, the Garde theatre were some of the impressive structures added to the town’s landscape. The commercial growth and development of downtown New London created an urban flight as people moved their residences to outlying greener pastures. Through the years the city began to demo the old buildings and replace them with new and more modern (supposedly better) buildings. Fortunately, most of the important buildings were left standing. And, as New Londoners became concerned that their city was being changed into a different place, they began a concerted effort to restore the buildings as they were 100 years ago, thus keeping the historic character of New London in tact. As we walked past these magnificent old buildings, we could envision the hustle and bustle of days gone by, some good, some not so good (like when Benedict Arnold burned most of the town down). But as it stands today, New London occupies a place in US history – one that helped fulfill the American dream.

Sidebar: While browsing in an antique shop on State Street, Vangie spotted an old picture of “Our American Poets” Whitter (1807–1892), Emerson (1803-1882), Longfellow (1807-1882), Lowell (1819-1891), Holmes 1809-1894, and Bryant (1794-1878). With a name like Evangeline, how could she pass up having a picture of her mother’s favorite poet, Longfellow? It now hangs proudly in our house in tribute to his literary genius.

 

 

Sunday, 10/10/10

PORTLAND, MAINE

Originally called Casco, Portland was founded in 1632 as a fishing and trading post. Located about 115 miles south of Boston, it sets on a peninsula that juts out onto Casco Bay. The Portland Head Light located on nearby Cape Elizabeth marks the entrance to Portland Harbor. Its name was changed to Falmouth in 1658 and later changed, once again, to Portland. It is Maine’s largest port and city with 62,500 residents and remains a vibrant cultural, social and economic city. The nearby seaside village of Kennebunkport is a popular vacation spot for the rich and famous. We decided to take two tours while in Portland. First and foremost, we walked about six blocks uphill to Congress Street and visited the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. Being the oldest standing structure on the Portland Peninsula and childhood home to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it is well recognized for its historical and literary significance. Anne Longfellow Pierce, Henry’s sister, was the last family member to live in the house. Upon her death, she left it to the Maine Historical Society. After the tour we rushed back down the hill to the port and took a 90 minute bus tour throughout the city featuring elevated views of the bay, beautiful old mansions along colorful tree lined streets and a stop at the Portland Head Light, one of America’s great lighthouses, located on Cape Elizabeth and adjacent to Fort William Park. The Head Light was first lit in 1791. From the port, we boarded a tender and headed back to the ship.                                                                                                      Once aboard, it was time for a bloody Mary and a hot dog with mustard this time.

 

 

Monday, 10/11/10

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Vangie had been looking forward to seeing her long-time friend Marianne Leonard Cashman. Before moving to Boston, Marianne helped us organize our wedding. Her husband, Neil, owns and operates a wine business. Through advance communication (202-288-2112), Marianne, along with her two year old child, Samantha,, picked us up at the ship in her nice SUV. Since both of us had been to Boston previously, we just wanted to spend some quality time with Marianne. She graciously gave us a tour around town starting with a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. After leaving the museum, we walked a short distance back to the car through a small park where a group of people were setting up a pumpkin patch for kids. Marianne’s precious little pumpkin, Samantha, rose to the occasion and picked out her own pumpkin and promptly decorated it with stickers forming a face. Next, Marianne drove us across the Charles River to Cambridge for a look at MIT and Harvard. Back across the river, once again, we drove to the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood for a close-up view of Fenway Baseball Park, home to the Boston Red Sox. Fenway opened in 1912 and is the oldest major league baseball stadium in use today. With a seating capacity of just 37,402, it is considered one of the most attractive venues in the sport world. Marianne had made reservations for lunch in the Prudential Tower overlooking the entire city where we met her husband Neil. It was a delightful lunch, both the food and conversation. We even got to peer down on Fenway Park from 37 stories up!

We bid our thanks and goodbyes and took a taxi back to the Crown Princess.

 

Tuesday, 10/12/10

St. John, New Brunswick

Saint John is located along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the St. John River.

We had not signed up for a tour in St. John so we decided to “play it by ear.”

After disembarking the ship we walked a short ways up the street where I noticed a long-haired guy sitting in his SUV with pictures on the hood. After looking over the pictures, I asked the driver where he could take us for a couple of hours. He mentioned many of the landmarks and quoted me a price. I said “lets go.” The driver, Dave, was ½ native Canadian Indian and he turned out to be the best guide on the entire trip. Having grown up in St John, Dave knew everybody in town (or, at least they knew him). We started out driving around town as he gave us some facts and figures about St. John, one of Canada’s oldest and most unspoiled province. It still remains pristine with its many forests and fertile river valleys. More than half of the province is surrounded by coastline where most of the inhabitants live. Dave took us to a park with many lakes. The surrounding trees still radiated their colors and provided an impressive backdrop to the area. Probably the most popular sight in St. John is the Reversing Falls. The Falls is a natural phenomenon which occurs when the highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy force the St. John River to reverse its flow. Twice a day at high tide, the bay overcomes the force of the water flowing down the river through a narrow rocky gorge and literally pushes it back, thereby reversing the flow. Dave showed us the reversing effect by taking us back to view the falls both before and after high tide.

Dave’s local knowledge and contacts were put to good use when he took us to the St. John County Courthouse, the oldest courthouse in New Brunswick. Built in 1829, it is now designated an historic site of national significance. It is particularly famous for its free-standing spiral staircase, the only free standing stone spiral staircase built in the 19th Century that is known to exist in Canada. Over 100 tons of stone were quarried in Scotland and brought to St. John to build the stairway. Reportedly, the Government would not pay for the staircase since they declared it unsafe. So, the architect gathered 49 men from the local jail to test their weight on the staircase. The stairs did not collapse and the bill was promptly paid

Everywhere we went we saw the name “Irving” on buildings, billboards, gas stations, etc. Dave told us that J.D. Irving (of Scottish descent) began building his empire back in 1882 with his first sawmill. Since then, his businesses include: forestry, transportation, ship building, retail, equipment and materials and consumer products.

Another landmark in St. John is the independent Moosehead Breweries Ltd., Canada’s oldest and largest 100% Canadian brewery. Founded in 1867 by the Oland family, it has enjoyed six generations of private ownership. Dave surprised us with a quick visit to the reception area (tours are not available to the public) where he was greeted by his sister-in-law/receptionist and a real stuffed moose who provided a backdrop for a neat picture.

Back to the ship for another hotdog….

 

Wednesday, 10/13/10

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia and is the largest city in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. Once a military and naval base used to defend the British colonies, the historic properties in downtown Halifax boast beautiful restored buildings that recall the maritime history of the past. Vangie made contact with her friends Peter (the brother of the late Michelle Livingood) and Kay Vanier and arranged to meet them for lunch. We decided to Fed Ex the picture of American Poets that we purchased in Halifax since it would not fit in our suitcase, both size and space wise. After posting the parcel, we meandered down Spring Garden Road, a major artery in Halifax, past many retail shops, St Mary’s Basilica to Argyle Street where we were scheduled to meet Peter and Kay in front of St. Paul’s church (circa 1750). We ducked inside the church for a quick peek and learned that it helped feed the homeless and helpless who were quartered next door in a shelter. After we had met up with Peter and Kay and exchanged greetings, Peter suggested that we wander down Prince St. and find a restaurant. What a find! An Irish pub answered our beckon call, especially since it sported all brands of Irish suds. I had a Guinness and Vangie had her usual, a bloody Mary. Our friends had clam chowder while I decided on fish and chips. After a delightful lunch and stimulating conversation, we bid the Vaniers adieu and walked back to the ship along the newly renovated waterfront boardwalk just parallel to Water Street.

 

Thursday, 10/14/10

SYDNEY, NOVA SCOTIA

Sydney is located on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Its earlier inhabitants are believed to be ancestors of the Micmac tribes dating back to 2000 BC.

Sydney proved to be our least favorite city (except for shopping). From our stateroom we could look down on the dock and view a monster violin (the world’s largest)  standing over 100 ‘ in height on end next to the Marine terminal. The influence of violins in and around Sydney can be traced back to early Scottish immigrants. To date, music from the violin can be heard all around Sydney. Again, we decided to just walk around town. Starting at the  terminal located on Esplanade Street, we wandered up Nepean St. and viewed St. George’s Anglican Church, the craft market, Sacred Heart Parish Church, the Lyceum (centre for Heritage and Science), then back to Charlot St to browse the retail shops. Vangie found a women’s apparel store that had a sale going on…oh, oh! Tops, bottoms, jackets, sweaters, you name it, she bought it - enough stuff to last for an around-the-world cruise! One pair of designer jeans had a button missing so the sales lady said they would replace the button right away before leaving the shop. Without checking the contents of all the goodies in the bags, we headed back to the ship for another hotdog and sauerkraut lunch. After lunch and a nap, Vangie noticed that her new jeans were not in the package along with the other new duds. It was getting close to the time the ship was scheduled to depart so I hustled back to town on foot and reclaimed the jeans just in time to “set sail” into the sunset with a smile on Vangie’s face while a guy on the dock dressed in kilts played Amazing Grace on his bagpipes  

 

Friday, 10/15/10

AT SEA, rounding the corner and heading down the St. Lawrence River

Vangie’s thirst for playing the slots consumed most of the day and the night.

Princess Cruise Lines makes it easy to keep a running supply of cash handy by allowing guests to “charge it” to their room. One might say it is another type of room service without a tip! Playing penny slots can prove to be costly when each bet can be as high as $1.80. We won some, and lost some, mostly….

 

Saturday, 10/16/10

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC

Magnifique!! Located on the fertile north bank of the St Lawrence River near its meeting place with the St. Charles River is Quebec City, the Capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. And, after Montreal, it is the second most populated city in Quebec. Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, it is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only remaining fortified city with walls in North America. Originally, the French established Quebec City as an outpost, but soon turned it into a major hub for government and commerce. It remained under French rule until 1763 when 5,000 British troops, under General James Wolfe, surprised the outmanned French forces, under Marquis Louis de Montcalm in a battle on the Plains of Abraham. The battle lasted only twenty minutes and the French were promptly expelled from Canada; however, the British granted full recognition of a separate culture to the French Canadians, allowing them to keep their own language, catholic religion, legal system and way of life. Within a year, American Revolutionary troops, led by Montgomery and Benedict Arnold tried to take over Quebec City but were driven back. Fearing future attacks, the famous military garrison, the Citadel. began construction in 1820. It is still used today by the military and the grounds and museum are popular visitor attractions.

Quebec City is geographically divided into “up town and a lower town” areas. You can either “walk the walk” by taking the many stairs to upper town, or ride the Funiculaire (cable car). By far, the dominate structure towering over the city is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1893. It has hosted many world leaders, both in wartime and peacetime. Other structures that dominate the skyline, include the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Place Royale, Parliament and various museums.

We hired a private guide to show us around the city and its outlying areas.

Before we knew it, we were on our way to see the world famous Basilica, Saint Anne de Beaupre about 20 miles east of the City. Originally built as a chapel/shrine in 1658, it became a Basilica in 1876. Destroyed by a fire in 1922, the structure was rebuilt in 1926. It is one huge complex. The steeples are over 90 meters in height (that’s the length of a football field) and it is 105 meters long and 48 meters wide. Inside, there are three levels.

Saint Anne de Beaupre is credited with many miracles among the sick and disabled. Each year in July, over one-half million people come to the area on a pilgrimage to celebrate the feast of St. Anne, the Patron Saint of Quebec.. Evidence of these miracles can be seen as you enter the Basilica from the front. There were hundreds of crutches, canes and other related devices that had been cast aside and were now covering the pillars as evidence of being cured.

Along the way to visit the Basicilca, our guide stopped at Montmorency Falls, an impressive sight in both summer and winter. The falls drop 272’, exceeding the Niagara Falls drop by 98.5’. From the visitors center you can either hike to the top or take a cable car. On the way back to the city we saw  the Pont de I’lie d’Orleans bridge to the Ile d’Orlean, a private island with an agricultural base.

The rest of the tour was dedicated to seeing Quebec City, from top to bottom, literally, against the backdrop of the cliffs of Cape Diamond. We were driven around the citadel overlooking the walled city below and past the city’s major landmarks previously mentioned. Our driver let us off in the historic Old Town where we walked the winding narrow streets amidst churches, restaurants, bars, museums and shops. Vangie found an antique oil and vinegar cruet set with a silver-plated tray holder – something we had been looking for for quite awhile. We walked back to the ship as our visit to this wonderful old city was over.

Time for another hotdog, again with mustard…….

 

Sunday, 10/17/10

QUEBEC CITY,

As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” We disembarked the Crown Princess for the last time and took a scheduled bus to the Quebec City airport for our flights to Montreal and Toronto. We arrived at Toronto /Pearson airport around 4:15 PM. A limo driver drove us to the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto for a two night stay.

 

 

Monday, 10/18/10

TORONTO, CANADA

I had previously arranged a tour to Niagara Falls since Vangie had never seen this popular attraction. A Greyhound Tour bus picked us up at the hotel at 8:30 AM, and after several other pick-ups, we headed west along Lake Ontario, the smallest of the five Great Lakes. Even though it is the smallest of the Great Lakes, its size is impressive: 712 miles of shoreline, 193 miles long and 53 miles wide, making it the 14th largest lake in the world.

After about a two hour drive, we were on the outskirts of Niagara passing through St. Catherines, a city where my mother’s brother lived many years ago. Once we arrived at the Falls, we were escorted to the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel for a buffet lunch. The restaurant had a commanding view of both the Canadian and American sides of the falls. After lunch, we traveled a short distance to the elevators imbedded in the cliffs which took us down to the ramp and platform where we boarded the “Maid of the Mist,” a ferry type two-decker boat. As we boarded, we were given blue plastic ponchos to protect us from the mist. Being the first ones to board, we elected to go to the front of the boat. The boat headed to the American side first as the speaker system blasted out facts and figures about the falls. Bridal Vail Falls is part of the American side next to Goat Island which separates the two major sections of the falls. Next, we went to the horseshoe shaped Canadian side where the mist lifted high into the air far above the falls. The Canadian side occupies about two thirds of the total falls. The boat just hovered in front of the falls for about ten minutes with the mist rolling off of our ponchos as it partially shielded our vision of the crest of the falls. Without fanfare, the boat turned around and headed back to the loading/unloading dock. On the west side of the gorge was the old electric generating plant, long since replaced down the river. After the boat ride we had about an hour before heading back to Toronto. We wandered around the area and it reminded us of a seaside boardwalk or amusement park with specialty rides,  wax museum, peep shows, etc.

Back on the bus we were given two choices – to take a helicopter ride or go to a photo op location for picture taking. The helicopter ride over and around the falls sounded great to me so I signed us up. We were taken to the helicopter pad for our ride. Four people and the pilot were strapped in the sleek Bell chopper and “off we went into the wild blue yonder” flying over the Niagara whirlpool, the river and gorge, Queen Victoria Park, the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The ride was only 15 minutes but it really gave us a more comprehensive view of the falls and the surrounding area(s). The bus returned to pick us up and we began the long ride to Toronto following the river through wine country where beautiful upscale homes dotted the landscape. A quick stop for wine tasting proved to be a disappointing experience, both in choice of wines and location. To say that Toronto has a traffic problem would be an understatement. The freeways and surface streets are so crowded that it took us three hours to get back to the hotel. The Fairmont Royal York is an impressive hotel and being on the concierge level afforded us many complimentary amenities, including evening snacks, free use of a computer and a buffet breakfast. 

 

Tuesday, 10/19/10

TORONTO TO WASHINGTON D.C.

We left the hotel around 8:30 AM and headed back to Pearson Airport for our Air Canada flight to Washington DC. Landing at Reagan International Airport around 12:30 PM, we took a taxi to the nearby Hyatt Regency in Crystal City. Being at the tail end of our journey, we laid low for the rest of the day in preparation for tomorrow’s flight home.

 

Wednesday, 10/20/10

BACK HOME AGAIN IN SAN DIEGO

We departed Washington on American Airlines at 10:00 AM heading to Dallas/Fort Worth. We left Fort Worth at 1:20 PM    and arrived back in San Diego to cloudy skies at 2:30 PM. Getting to our house was no problem, of course. Getting into the house was a big problem, however! I forgot the key.

Fortunately, I remembered an alternative way to unlock the place, but it shall remain a secret. Once inside the house we began to unpack as we looked forward to our favorite dinner, tacos.

 

Epilogue: Washington doesn’t know we are in a recession. The Crown Princess is too big. The U.S and Canada are rich in history and remain joined in most issues. People who get sick need to practice good hygiene so

they don’t spread their germs (we became victims). “Go west, young man,” may have been popularized by Horace Greely, but I still find merit in his sense of direction. I continue to choose the west over the east, so long as I don’t have to continue westward to the Far East!

In this day and age, unless you are in virgin territory, state, national and international events can be followed just about anywhere, thanks to TV. The overriding event that captured our minds and hearts during our trip was the rescue of the coal miners in Chile. When possible, we watched the drama unfold to its successful and happy conclusion. The next most important event we followed was the baseball playoffs, wishing the Padres were still in the race, but now rooting for the SF Giants!

Maybe next year….

 

NEXT STOP (2011) – THE BALTIC SEA AND IRELAND

 

JR

 

 

REVIEW: 10/30/10

 

Here is a good engaging read for Michael Connelly fans, 9 (nine) DRAGONS (2009), featuring one of my favorite detectives, Harry Bosch.

As an LAPD veteran, the tenacious Harry seems to always carry a heavy heart dating back to his service days in Vietnam where he fought in  underground tunnels, like a mole searching for its next prey.  Called upon to investigate the murder of a known Chinese liquor store owner in south Los Angeles, Harry soon finds himself engulfed in Asian Triad gang activity ranging from murder to extortion. With the help of his partner, Ferras, and a member of the police Asian unit, Chu, the investigation reveals an extortion plot by Triad gang members. As Harry seems to be getting close to uncovering the killer, an unexpected event throws a cloud over the case. Bosch receives a threat to “back-off” of the investigation along with a video of his daughter, Maddie, who has been kidnapped in Hong Kong where she has been living with her mother. What seemed to be a local case has now turned into an international battleground. Harry drops everything in the laps of his partners and flies to Hong Kong to find his daughter. The plot becomes fast moving as Harry thinks Maddie is begin sold by traffickers who specialize in selling human organs.

The hunt for his daughter takes on several unexpected twists, so I will leave it to the reader to uncover the wake of bodies left in the rescue.

Back in Los Angeles, the investigation has stalled until Harry resumes his tenacious search for those responsible for killing the storekeeper. Like most other Connelly books, the experienced Bosch leaves no stone uncovered as he methodically unweaves the case. As he struggles with his own new personal life with Maddie, Harry relentlessly pursues the killer(s). In the end, the Nine (9) Dragons soon find that they don’t have as many lives as a cat.

JR

MAD ALL-CLASS REUNION

ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER  USS MIDWAY MUSEUM

OCTOBER 1 -2, 2010

REUNION NEWS 10-3-2010

 

THANKS TO ALL

Well, the party is over, but the memories linger on…..355 alumni and guests climbed aboard the USS midway Museum last night, amidst the threat of rain, but balmy weather prevailed proving that good guys win in the end! What an evening to remember….On behalf of your All-Class Midway MADness Reunion Committee, thanks to all who took part in this historic event. To try and recapture the entire weekend’s festivities would end in an exercise in futility, so I won’t. I will close this chapter in our lives with these thoughts in mind,

            Memories of the past will linger on

            Knowing each one has walked their personal line.

            Paths so diverse that they never seemed to have crossed.

But, yet one day, as we gathered to meet,

Our paths seemed like arteries sharing a common beat.

As if they pumped from the same MAD heart

With thoughts that still flow from days gone by

They will remain within us, as only we shall know.

JR

 

MADCATS ALL CLASS REUNION, USS MIDWAY MUSEUM

SAN DIEGO, 1 – 2 OCTOBER 2010

UPDATED 10/1/10: TOTAL ATTENDEES: 355!

Today’s Weather Report: 70’s- 80’s, Low Mid 60’s

overcast, thunder, high humidity & sprinkles

1937- 1                                              Lt. Col. Bob Anderson

 

1941 - 1

Ernie Ball

1942 - 11

Bob Heisler, Casey Heisler*

Dr. Warren Krentz

Ross (Bud) Lee

Gibby Marshall

Don McHone, Lorie Penniman*

1945 - 2

Al Gale, Dorsey Gale*

Don Smith, Margaret Smith*

Sally Drewes Steele

 

 

 

Esther Bauer White

 

1944 -3   Barbara K. Smith Buckman

Mary K. Buckman*,Patricia Smith (51)*

1947 - 23

Pat Hornecker Bertness

Audrey Pierson Bertonneau and Gary Prine (son)                

Jack Carnine

Don Garcia, Donna Garcia*

Mary Ann Woehler Harrison, Charles Goodspeed*

Ann Jaquith Kidd, Bob Anderson

Hank Morris

Sam Orchard, Mickie Orchard*

Dale Rose

Sarah Busby Schnippel

Howard Sears, Anne Sears*

Earle Smith, Terri Smith Weiland* (dtr)

Don Stewart

Russ Suydam, Jan Suydam*

Patricia Sayre Wilkes

 

1949 - 36

Lois Benson Anderson

Dorothy Worrell Bragg

Shirley Hunt Brodie

Marilyn Boehm Burns

Bob Chrisman

Bob Cox, Genelle Cox

Andy Cullinane, Anne Cullinane*

 

1949 (Continued)

Gary Dayton, Barbara Dayton*

Pete Densmore, Marian Densmore*

Dick Eckstrom, Gail Eckstrom

Ruthann Gardner Fowler

Bert Griffin

Bill Hunter, Betty Hunter*

Pat LoGuidice Johnson

Robert Lahey

Ed Losee, Bettie Losee*

Charleen Magliolo

Carolyn Boehm Mascarin

Joane Lee Miller

Jan Noyes Morris

Peggy Lawson Perkins

Colene Hornecker Porter, R. Porter*

Vangie Brownwood Regan

Janine Kwentus Schaberg*

Carol Fowler Streeter

Winnie Lou Card Whitehead

Ken Zerbe, Jeanne Zerbe*

 

1951 - 39

Joe Anderson, Shirley Anderson*

Morlene Pingle Atkinson

Chuck Batterson, Eleanor Batterson*

Dorothy Faulkner Caldwell

Harriett Heisler Campbell

Larry Chaffers, Loi Chaffers*

Dick Culp

Ed Gerber, Joyce Meyer*

Gus Gollar, La Wanda Gollar*

Tom Griffin, Dee Griffin*

Bob Heyn, Ulla Heyn*, Shelby Rigg* and

Andrew Cunningham*

Bonnie Lisle Hoffert

Brian Hoffert*(son), Oriana Hoffert*

Jerome Johnson

Marjean Brownwood Larson

Bob Packer (W)

Shari Fent Pollard, Charles Pollard (W)

Gary Ross

Frank Rucker, Bobbie Cetti*

Bob Runyon

Bob Schaar

Evelyn Stauffer Smith, Dale Smith*

1951 (Continued)

Chris Stauffer (nephew), Paula Stauffer*

Al Venton, Jean Venton

 

1953 - 19

Audrey Crellin Beatty

Jackie Jacobs Boardman,Daniel Boardman

Sue Okey Carr

Kippy Perrine Gambill

Pat Pilon Garman, David Garmin*

Don Glenn, Barbara Glenn*

Duane Gray

Jayne Fent Henke

Kathi Phelps Henry

Mel Laub, Joyce Laub*

Dianne Morris

Mary Bradshaw Pixley

Marilyn Nollac Spears

Chuck Stein

Sally Eggstaff Welsh

 

1955 - 17

Tom Arbogast

Bonnie Muller Asay, Tom Fish*

John Burt

Keith Chausse

Harriett Cravens

Tom Earle, Janet Earle*

Hal Folts

Linda Wellington Norman, Howard Norman*

Susan Sieman Norris

Bart Porter

Barbar Dollar Rogan

Chuck Rose, Barbara Rose

Ross Shade

 

1957 - 1

Roberta Johnson Saccoman

 

1959 - 2

Nancy Dayton, Jim Jones

 

1965 - 2                                                        Gay Boyer Kennedy and 5 guests, Maryanne Cheraz or Al Kennedy

1973- 2                                                      Jana Roach Burwell, Dr. Douglas Burwell (daughter of Shirley Peterson)

1946 - 4                                                        Bill Glorfeld                                          David Larson, Sandra Larson

Bob Burns

 

1948 - 28

Richard Bradburne, Tillie Bradburne*

Ted Caldwell

Phyllis Peterson Dobson

Louann DuVall Dryden, Jerry Dryden*

Don Gallogly, Alice Gallogly

Billie Griffin Hawks

George Harpole, Vicki Harpole*

Harpole – hold 2 spots

Bob Humble

Dennis McNulty, Jeanene Duncan*,

Gwen Maunder*

Fr. James Miller

Laird Moody, Thor Moody*

Bob Ross

Chuck Sharpe, Nancy Sharpe*

Sharon Spurgeon Sotelo, Ralph Sotelo*

Ed Thompson, Jan Thompson*

Shirley Peterson Roach Webster

 

1950 - 67

Mary Cauffield Amundson

Marilyn Hall Becker

1950 (Continued)

Bob Bills, Carol Bills*

Steve Brodie

Gene Cameron, Fran Cameron*

Ian Campbell

Joann Lawson Chrisman

Sharon Annin Clarke

Don Cottle, Diane Cottle*

Wilma Roberts Coyer, Chuck Coyer*

Marilyn Baker Curtis, Janice & Bob Davis

Dick Deutsche, Carol Deutsche*

Gary Freeman, Louise Freeman

Dorie Garcia, Lori Taylor

Jim Geary, Jo Geary*

Ed Gillenwaters

Margie Bradshaw Glorfeld

Joretta Bunyard Griffin, Darel Grifin*

Paul Griffith

Bill Hatch, Marilyn Hatch*

Dale Hicks, Carol Hicks*

Rich Humble, Nancy Sprague*

Darrel Jeffries, Jean Jeffries*

Barbara Stewart Keil

Larry Larson

Judy Draper Lehman

Judy Ann Pearce Marquart, Gene Marquart*

Richard Mountjoy

Boone Owens, Carol Logan*

Betty Peterson

Jim Regan

Lynn Reitnouer, Winnie Coyne Reitnouer

Bobbie Copeland Riddell, Dick Riddell

George Russell, Mary Rector Russell

Elsa M.J. Seifert, Norm Morrison*

Mark Beckwith(son),Megan Stewart (gdtr)

Marilyn Aronade Smith

Paulette Dunn Smith, Don Smith*

Brad Thompson* (son)

Herb Weimar

Colleen Kistler Wigenbach,

Jackie Stewart*

 

1952 – 25

Dave Ballenger, Mary Jane Ballenger

Bill Davis, Joyce Lewis

1952 (Continued)

Jim Elder, Pati Elder*(TBD)

Roy Gaebel, Betty Gaebel*

Marilyn Lambert Humble

Earle Hupp, Donna Spafford*

John Massey

Jack Kennedy, Mary Kennedy*

John Lloyd

Roland Moody, Mary Moody

Richard Moreno, Milagro Moreno*

Dorothy Gates Packer

Cloys Pfremmer, Dale Pfremmer*

Jill Stoll Vonder Reith

Marie Griffith Scofield

Miriam McFarland Stein

 

1954 - 24

Margie Van Gundy Clark, Ken Clark*

Marriann Doty, Art Doty*

Theo Roberts Geirloff

Diana Guthell Gottschalk, Eldon Gottschalk

Suzanne Hardy Keavney

Howard Krisvoy, Miko Krisvoy*

Pat Scott Lonan

Sandra Russell Pierson

Bill Powers and undisclosed guest*

Tony Saccoman

Tim Shugart (TBD)

Charles Sihler, Jan Sihler*

Bruce Staller, Maryellen Staller*

Don Swall, Betsy Swall*

Connie Weimar

Phelps Wood

 

1956 - 5

Sandy Jimerson Anderson

Peggy Chatfield McCarty, Terry McCarty*

Darlenne Rachwitz

Beverly Gaebel Wood

1958 - 2

Linda Van Gundy Miller, Ron Miller*

 

1960 - 12

Cliff Casner, Arlene Casner*

Terry Cheraz, Jeff Cheraz, Regina Hart, Maryanne Cheraz

Rosalie Sulzer Marty, Joe Marty*

Charles* and Gloria McCandless*

Julius * and Sandy Hofer*

 

1962 - 2

Bill Schowen, Margaret Schowen

1964 - 3

Judi Lashbrook Balek, Mike Balek*

Joan Johnston Vogeler

1972 Marina R. DeLaney

1974 Anita A. DeLaney(TBD)

1985 Jeff Cheraz, Regina Hart

 

Guests: (19)

Susan Motander ’73 Monrovia Weekly Newspaper and Judge Bruce Marrs,

Miss California 2010, Arianna Afsar and Chelle Hyde

Admiral John “Mac” McLaughlin, President and CEO, USS Midway Museum

Military –  Colonel Gates and Mrs. Gates, Lt. Col. Morgan and Mrs. Morgan, Captain Doug Trafican and Mrs. Diana Trafican, Gunnery Sergeant Gould and Mrs. Gould, Sergeant Cody Mills and Mrs. Britney Mills, Sergeant Michael Florez and Mrs. Alina Florez, Gunnery Sergeant Isaul Montez, Sergeant Leanne Neal.

 

Registration Hosts:

Rebekah Hernandez and Marena Bronson

 

Doctors in Attendance:

Dr. Rita Ng

Dr. Carson Lawall

 

 

And now a time-out for an overdue review…..9-4-10

REVIEW FOR FIRST WEEK OF SEPTEMBER, 2010

 

The All Class reunion has cut into my reading time. Sorry about that….

Posted below

 8-30-10

USS MIDWAY MUSEUM

REUNION SOUVENIR PHOTOS

 

As you enter the Hanger Deck, the first thing you will do is to go to the registrations desk. The SECOND thing you will do is to visit the photo

station for your complimentary photo. I want to give you a “heads up”

regarding the backdrop of the photo and who you want to appear in your photo. These two choices need not be made now, but I want to give you advance notice just in case you have some preferences and want to plan accordingly. 1st) you may want to consider who you want in your photo.

You can have up to 10 people if you want a group shot. 2nd) the photographer who will be taking your picture has a wide choice of backdrops, e.g. in front of a Hornet jet, the flight deck, etc. There will be a display table at the booth where you can select your specific backdrop. After your photo is taken, you will proceed to the Flight Deck for the rest of the evening. Upon your departure, your photo will be ready for pick-up in the same place that your picture was taken.

Don’t forget to say “cheese.”

JR

 

 9-1-10

 THE EXCITEMENT GROWS…..

 

ONE MONTH TO GO

BEFORE THE BIG SHOW.

SHINE THOSE SHOES

FIVE  POUNDS TO LOSE.

I WONDER IF THEY WILL KNOW ME,

OR WILL HE/SHE BE THERE?

NO LONGER SPORTING CREWCUTS

OR, LONG PONYTAIL HAIR

WITH SHADES OF GRAY

IT TURNS EACH DAY

THE YEARS HAVE COME

AND THE DAYS HAVE PASSED

BUT MEMORIES LINGER

WE WILL SOON RECALL

WITH ONE MONTH TO GO

BEFORE THE BIG SHOW

 

OCTOBER THE SECOND IS THE DAY

WHEN WE ALL MEET AGAIN,

ABOARD THE USS MIDWAY.

SO, SEE YOU ON BOARD

AS WE SIP AND DINE,

FOR ITS MIDWAY MADNESS

ALL CLASS REUNION TIME

 

 

 

And now a time-out for an overdue review…..

REVIEW FOR FIRST WEEK OF SEPTEMBER, 2010

 

The All Class reunion has cut into my reading time. Sorry about that….

My last review was June 25th and featured Wilbur Smith’s Monsoon.

My first review for September is Stieg Larsson’s (now deceased) second book in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire. His first book, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, previously reviewed, won worldwide acclaim. The reader could start with his second book, but I recommend you start with “Tattoo”. His first book firmly established a wide and varied host of characters. The “Fire” book broadens the scope and depth of these characters, along with some new faces that fuel the fire…..

Lisbeth Salander, the 4’11” tattooed social misfit, computer whiz with a photographic memory, and Mikael Blomkvist, the tenacious investigative journalist, are drawn into a sex trafficking operation that has taken the lives of three key figures to the investigation. Two of them were friends of Mikael, and the third was Lisbeth’s sleazy guardian, Bjurman. Salander and Blomkvist have become estranged after their association in the first book and Lisbeth has cut-off all communications with him. That is, until she becomes the chief suspect in the killings prompting an all-out international woman hunt. Eventually, Mikael finally confides in her that he believes in her innocence and convinces her that he will find the killers and bring them to justice. Initially, Mikael virtually stands alone in believing that Lisbeth is not the killer. His company had hired Dag Swenson, a free lance writer, who was about to expose the exploitation of young girls in Sweden, until his untimely death. Collectively, Mikael’s company was going to publish Dag’s research which would uncover many public and private high profile individuals involved in the world of illegal sex. Dag’s girlfriend is also implicated through her extensive research in similar matters while obtaining her doctorate. Strong evidence points the finger at Lisabeth when her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon! Two investigations are carried on simultaneously, as Millennium and the police join forces to find the missing Lisbeth. The name “Zala” surfaces throughout the investigation and is believed to be the mysterious figure behind the whole operation. As the evidence piles up, Blomkvist becomes more convinced that the murders are the people who want to put a stop to publishing Dag’s research and save the sorry behinds. Larsson pulls so many surprises in his book(s) that the reader can’t help but keep turning all 630 pages until he/she “puts the fire out.”

His next book in the trilogy is “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

If it is as good as the first two, and I’m sure it will be, and if I can survive the buzz, then I just might have to get a tattoo…too.

JR

 

 

8-2-10

GETTING THE HOOK!

 

Once I heard about the Navy’s Distinguished Visitor (DV) embark program, I immediately put it on my “bucket list.” It would be a chance in a lifetime to see the Navy in action aboard an aircraft carrier. Through my contacts with, and the support of, the USS Midway Museum, permanently docked in San Diego, I was invited to be a DV by the Commander of Naval Air Forces. The purpose of the embark is to expose certain community members to the role of aircraft carrier operations and to share their experience with others. So, read on, if interested ……

Upon receipt of my invitation, and after filling out the necessary forms, including holding the Navy harmless in case of going into the drink,” I was cleared to participate.

Disclaimer: I do not purport to be an expert on aircraft carriers or the Navy. In fact, my Army grunt days hardly qualify me to shoot a rifle! So please forgive me for using any nomenclature that falls short of accurately describing my experience aboard the USS Lincoln (CVN 72). I call it, like I saw it…..

July 30, 2010

5:00 am – After a shower, shave and breakfast I was out the door at 7:30am.

8:15 am – I arrived at the main gate, Naval Air Station North Island where I, and thirteen other men, were greeted by a member of the Public Affairs staff. We were taken to Building # 8, the tallest and oldest building on the base. It was formerly used as the airport’s Control Tower. It now houses the Commander for all Naval Forces and his staff. The entry hall is like a small rotunda with a replica of the first airplane flown briefly by Orville Wright in 1903 hanging from the ceiling. Next year, 2011, will mark the Centennial of Naval Aviation and will commemorate 100 years of flight. We received a briefing by a Public Affairs Officer and an overview of the Navy’s current air operations. In 2007, a new Maritime Strategy was formulated that brought all of the various naval entities together “under one roof.” Instead of competing against one another for the same pieces of fiscal pie, there is now a total integration of programs and services. The following function under one common command:

          11 carriers….10 Air Wings (40 to 50 in a Wing)….25 Air Stations

          168 Fleet, Reserve and Training Squadrons….3,600 Aircraft….

          And 100,000+ personnel

Pictures of the types of aircraft, both land and carrier based, were shown and their functions explained, including the Hornet, Prowler, Hawkeye, COD, Seahawk and Knighthawk helicopters, surveillance aircraft like the P3 Orion, Aires and Mercury. Of special interest, we learned that the next generation carriers, Gerald R. Ford-class CVN, will eventually replace the USS Enterprise and the Nimitz-class. The Ford-class carriers will have their tower(s) at the end of the ship, not in the middle, in order to improve the visibility of landing and launching aircraft.

10:00 am – After the briefing we were taken to a special area on North Island where we observed and learned about aircraft maintenance. At a cost of $60M to $80M for one Hornet, the Navy attempts to prolong the life of this aircraft through special maintenance programs. For instance, after about 6,000 hours of flight time, a Hornet is brought in for an overhaul. It is thoroughly inspected and repaired, as needed. The Navy claims it can get an additional 2,000 hours of flight time before it is taken out of service.

11:30 – Time for lunch at the Sea N Air, or the 19th Hole. We were taken to the base restaurant adjacent to the golf course where we joined other military personnel for lunch. Like the rest of the trip, we paid for our own meals.

1:00 pm – Embark time….The air terminal at North Island is small and efficient. At least we did not have to go through a security check. Each of us was issued a life vest and a helmet with ear phones and goggles. After a briefing, we walked out of the terminal and boarded a noisy C-24 plane. In addition to a regular seatbelt around the waist, we had shoulder straps which connected to a separate 4-way waist buckle.

About the C-2A: This versatile aircraft, known as the Greyhound, is built by Northrup Grumman. It flew us from North Island on a 150 mile westward journey to the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Nicknamed “COD,” which stands for carrier- onboard- delivery, it is a rugged “Mack truck” like aircraft that has two turbo props and a rear ramp entry. It is used to transport up to 10,000 lbs. of high priority cargo and 26 people to and from the carrier. Each carrier usually has two CODs assigned to it. Depending on the load it is carrying, the COD has a maximum speed of 345 MPH and a range of 1,500 miles. Passengers sit in an exposed and dark fuselage facing the back of the plane. There are no toilets!

2:15 pm - Touchdown

Since there are only two small porthole windows, you cannot see outside to gain any reference to your location. A crew member gave us a 10 minute alert when we were about to land. Knowing we were facing backward, it was logical that my body would be thrust forward, or the opposite direction we were landing. The plane went from 125 MPH to 0 in 2 seconds as the tailhook caught the 3rd cable! Note: there are 4 wire cables that stretch across the deck about 2 inches above the flight deck.

About the Lincoln: Commissioned in 1989 at a cost of $4.5 billion dollars, “the Lincoln is the 5th ship in the Nimitz class of nuclear powered warships. It is designed primarily to launch and recover aircraft that will power ashore and provide a strategic presence in its surroundings. Aircraft carriers are the centerpiece of America’s Naval forces with capabilities of power projection, forward presence, humanitarian assistance, deterrence, sea control and maritime security.” Here are some facts:

          Commissioned: 11/11/1989 at a cost of $4.5 billion

          Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts

          Length: 1,092 feet; Beam: 134feet, flight deck width: 252 feet

          Flight deck: 4.5 acres

          Displacement: Approximately 97,000 tons

          Speed: 30 + knots (34.5 miles per hour)

          Crew: Ship: 3,200 ; Air Wing: 2,480

          Armament: Two – Three Sea Sparrow launchers; 20mm Phalanx

                   CIWS mounts: 3

          Aircraft: about 80

          Home Port - Everett, Washington

         

On Board – After landing, we were taken to the Commanding Officer’s State Room for an introduction and briefing. Captain John Alexander is the current Commanding Officer. After a few opening remarks he introduced Rear Admiral Mark Guadagnini, Commander, Carrier Strike Group NINE, who shared his vision of the Navy’s mission and goals. Later that evening he joined us on the bridge and gave us a lengthy, but stimulating talk about many aspects of the Navy, including the history and projected future of  aircraft carriers and how they have become “the centerpiece of  the forces necessary for forward presence.” As stated, aircraft carriers are deployed worldwide in support of the nation’s global maritime strategy. They can respond to global crisis in ways ranging from peace time presence to full-scale war. Together with their on-board air wings, the carriers have vital roles across the full spectrum of conflict.

We also were introduced to the Executive Officer, Commander Timothy Kuehha and Command Master Chief, Susan Witman (no relation to Meg).

The Lincoln is currently participating in a “pre-season” exercise before being deployed. We were fortunate to be observing this full-scale operation.

The Flight Deck – The flight (top) deck is 1,092 ft long and 257 ft. wide and encompasses about 4.5 acres. The commanding officer directs the shipboard operations from the bridge located in the 7 story Island towering 130 ft. above the water.  The Island also houses the “air boss” who controls aircraft taking off, landing and in flight within 5 nautical miles of the ship. The flight deck personnel are dressed in color coded uniforms: Purple shirts fuel the aircraft; white shirts handle safety related jobs; yellow shirts direct movement of aircraft; red shirts handle all weapons and ammunition; green shirts hook aircraft to catapults and handle arresting wires; brown shirts are plane captains who are responsible for individual aircraft; and blue shirts chock and chain aircraft into position and drive tractors that pull the aircraft.

The Flight Deck is a beehive of activity in support of all aircraft operations. At its peak operation, four planes can be launched within 1 minute – no small feat!

Arrested Landing - After the briefing, we put on our protective vests, helmets and goggles and went out to the Flight Deck to watch the landings and launching. There are four retractable 2” thick wire cables that stretch across the deck that catch the plane’s tailhook. These wires are connected beneath the deck to large hydraulic mechanical devices which spool out the tensioned wire and absorb the momentum of the aircraft.  The Landing Safety Officer is the only person on the flight deck who does not wear a cranial protector so he can speak directly with the pilots and help guide the plane during the final approach. When landing, the pilot keeps the speed of his aircraft slightly above stall speed, but when the plane hits the deck, the pilot applies full power in case the plane fails to catch a wire. This way, the aircraft has enough power to get safely airborne for another attempt. To see a Hornet approaching at a speed of 160 mph, and then to be arrested by a wire cable which brings it to an abrupt stop in 2 seconds (appx., within 350 feet) is a “shock and awe” experience. While approaching the carrier for a landing, the pilots use what is called “the “ball” located to the left of the runway to guide them onto the runway. The ball (aka. the meatball) consists of a horizontal line of green lights with an amber vertical line in the middle. It can be seen by the pilots 1,000 meters out. The amber/yellow line symbolizes the plane and moves up and down. The pilot can see the plane’s position compared to the flight deck by lining up the amber light with the green line of lights. He/She knows if the aircraft is too high or too low or on the correct glide path. A good approach, then, is when the “meatball” is on the horizontal green line. Most of the planes I observed caught its hook on the third cable. If the pilot is not lined up properly, he will be waived off for another attempt. I consider landing more complicated and dangerous than launching an aircraft. It is a pilot driven maneuver, whereas the launch is an action caused and controlled by the flight crew.

Launching – The intensity of the manpower mobilized to launch a plane is impressive. It truly is a coordinated group effort. It is a dangerous and a loud activity. First, the carrier positions itself so that it is traveling into the wind – the direction for all landings and launches. There are four catapults on the ship that travel high speed in a short distance. Each catapult has two steam driven pistons inside two parallel cylinders about as long as a football field under the deck, Each piston has a metal lug on its tip which protrudes through a narrow gap along the top of each cylinder. The two lugs extend through rubber flanges which seal the cylinder, and through a gap in the flight deck where they attach to a small shuttle. The flight crew moves the plane into position at the rear of the catapult where it attaches a tow bar on the plane’s nose gear (front wheels) to a slot in the shuttle. Then a holdback bar is placed between the back of the wheel and the shuttle. Just before launching, the jet blast deflector is raised in back of the plane to deflect the heat and wind from the blast. The key figure in controlling the launch is the catapult officer called “the shooter.” He is positioned in “the bubble,” a retractable dome in the forward part of the Flight Deck. The shooter opens the valve to fill the cylinders with high pressure steam which will propel the piston at high speed. If the pressure is too low, the plane will not gain enough speed and will end up in the ocean. If it is too high, it could break the nose gear. So when the right pressure is achieved, the pilot is given the signal to blast the plane’s engines and the shooter determines when to releases the pistons. The steam slams the shuttle and the plane lunges forward from 0 mph to 165 mph in 2 seconds!!! Onward and upward into the wild blue yonder…..

A Floating Airport – Aircraft carriers are self contained. The Lincoln is a small city populated with a ship’s crew of up to 3,200 and an air crew of up to 2,480. This translates into 15,000 to 20,000 meals a day! Because most of the ship’s crew are between the age of 18 to 21 years of age, 6,000 hamburgers and 3,000 hotdogs are consumed each day (eat you heart out, McDonalds).

The second day was spent mainly below the Flight Deck touring support operations, as follows:

          Media Department (photography, journalism, printing, TV

          Medical and Dental

          Weapons (missles, bombs, ammunition)

          Chapel (3 chaplins: Priest, Episcopal and Baptist)

          Anchor Room (Two anchors weighs 30 tons each; chain 1,082 feet

                   And weigh 308,000 pds.;each link weighs 385 pds.)

          Hanger Deck/Maintenance and storage

          Food Service

          Combat Direction Center (computer enhanced air detection systems)

          Air Boss Bridge (flight operations)

          Admiral’s Bridge (Strike Group)

          Captain’s Bridge (ship operations)

          Ship’s Store

The food service aboard the Lincoln was excellent. We had a special dinner Friday night with the Commanding Officer. Lunch and breakfast was spent with both officers and non-commissioned personnel. Service was buffet style and there was a wide selection of food. It was a great opportunity to interact with the crew. I can attest that we are in “better hands” than Allstate!

Homeward Bound- After or morning tour, we had lunch and received some parting words from the Public Information Officer and his staff. In the back of my mind, and I’m sure the others, we were thinking about our next thrill of a lifetime- the launch. Again, we were given a life vest, goggles and a helmet and a safety briefing before boarding the COD. Once we were strapped into our seats and the rear ramp/door was closed, we sat in semi-darkness waiting for the big moment. Our straps were checked by a crew member and we were told how to sit. As the loud engines roared, I felt the plane moving into position for the catapult. We sat motionless for about 5 minutes. When I heard the COD’s engines ramp up, I knew that we were about to launch. The catapult fired and we went from 0 to 125 mph in 2 seconds. My body was thrust forward and took up the little slack left in my harness. We were now airborne and flying smoothly back to North Island. We landed about one hour later and the journey was over.

Epilogue:

The sole purpose of delineating my experience is to bring to the reader the true sense of purpose that the United States Navy brings to our Country’s military table. Yes, I was, and will continue to be, impressed with the dedication of the young men and women who serve this Country. As previously stated, the vast majority of the crew is under the age of 22! Many, like many of us when we were that age, have not found their way in life. The Navy is helping them obtain a sense of purpose - one that will promote self-development and a mature outlook on life while they serve their Country. They are volunteers and need guidance. Living in close quarters for days on end is not easy, especially at an early age. The vast majority soon learn, however, that cooperation and teamwork can bring about the best results. Many will not make the Navy their permanent career. Regardless of their length of service, each person will find some lasting value in their military experience. They willingly serve and protect us in order to preserve our freedom.

The ship’s motto is “Shall Not Perish.” It emanates from the last sentence of the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Lincoln in 1863. These words ring with freedom and they represent the lasting spirit of America and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

JR

 

7-28-10

Rooms are disappearing fast and rates are going up for our reunion weekend. I don't want to say "I told you so" but " the proof is in the pudding." Just now (5:30 pm 7/27) I have entered into a contract with the Embassy Suites for 10/1 and 10/2. The rate is now $159 per night and parking is $15. The regular rate is $174. Reportedly, the Sheraton has filled our latest block of rooms. If you have a AAA card you can get a Garden room for $118. A waterfront room will cost you $135.
When I said "onward and upward", I didn't mean room rates, but that is what is happening.....
JR

 

 

ALL CLASS REUNION UPDATE – 7/9/2010

 

Providing your class representative has your correct address, classmates should be receiving the six page special edition newsletter this month informing them about the All Class Reunion, October 2nd, 2010. Thus far, we have reservations from alums spanning the years from 1940 to 1975! Even Rocky Rockwood ’38 from Portland, Oregon might be in attendance, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” If you don’t know who your class rep is, then just call (619) 299-6742 or email me ( jjregan55@cox.net ) and I will

Send you a colorful Midway MADness newsletter

I have received several reports from people about hotel reservations. Currently, hotel rooms are filling up fast due to the city’s annual convention week which starts Monday, October 4th. Again, I urge everyone to make their reservations NOW!! The Sheraton/Marina is offering a $99.00 per night deal - not bad for being right on the water.

Also, some people have asked about the dress. Both Friday and Saturday night are California Casual (no levis, please). Ladies, especially, I suggest you bring a warm wrap. We usually have good weather in early October, however, it can get chilly on the Flight Deck

Tours: As previously mentioned (on several occasions) the USS Midway Museum is open daily to the public. The cost is $18.00 per person. HOWEVER, if you let me know in advance, say no later that one week before the reunion, you can tour the ship either Friday, Saturday or Sunday at NO CHARGE. You can easily spend several hours meandering around the ship so the night of the reunion may not be the best time to take a full-blown tour.

Price of Admission: The price has been set at $100.00 each. This includes a hosted Friday night social at the historic Abbey, one block west of Balboa Park, parking next to the Midway, a photo of you and yours on the hanger deck, a scrumptious buffet dinner, entertainment, swing band, fireworks and a reunion to remember. Please send you $$$ to our worthy exchequer, Elsa Seifert, at 1988 Olive Way, Pasadena, CA 911104-1716.

All for now, but more to come….

 

June 25, 2010

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION NEWS

According to Committee Members and Class Representatives, inquiries and reservations from classmates for the upcoming reunion continue to arrive in record numbers! Here are a few names of alums that have recently checked in….Gail Mertz ’44, Lois Anderson ’49, Jim Geary ’50, Rocky Rockwood ’38, Bob Heyn ’51, Jill Vonder Reith ’52 and Charleen Noyer Magliolo ’49.

A Special Edition Newsletter will be mailed to all alumni that have registered their interest and have their current address on record. If you are uncertain whether your name and address are on your class mailing list, then please contact your class representative (see our website at  www.madcatsalumni.org).

We ran out of invitations last month, but we now have more available. Don’t forget to arrange hotel accommodations NOW. The week following our reunion is convention time here in San Diego, so if you don’t want to live on the streets with the homeless, then make those reservations in advance.

If you are looking for another spouse or live-in, this may be your last chance…..We can even arrange different colored name tags for those in the hunt!

 

BOOK TIME  

I don’t like to get hung up on one author, but once in awhile I like to reemphasize the literary skills of  a writer by reviewing another of his/her books. Wilbur Smith is one of these authors. I recently reviewed A Time To Die, a novel in his The Courtneys of Africa series. This week I would like to highlight Monsoon (1999, 613 pp.), a continuation of Smith’s Birds of Prey story featuring mariner Sir Hal Courtney and his sons, William, Tom, Guy and Dorien. The plot is set in the early eighteenth century in England and literally “sails” to East Africa and Arabia. Again, Smith’s familiarity with the landscape of Africa brings out the best and worst of this continent.  Our hero and mainstay, Sir Hal Courtney, is highly regarded for his seafaring escapades and he is about to be commissioned by the British Monarchy  and the East India Company to go after pirates led by their fearsome leader, Jangiri, who have been marauding English trading ships on the Indian Ocean. Hal’s assignment will not only help his country, but it will be an opportunity for him, upon return, to increase his wealth. William, the oldest Courtney son, is left in charge of Hal’s estate, High Weald, and to run the family tin mines. British law dictates “primogeniture,” or the right for the oldest (sometimes referred to as “first blood”) to claim Hal’s estate upon his death. William (Black Billy to his brothers) is well aware of his lineage and flouts it over his brothers. Early on, there is a growing turmoil between Billy and his younger brothers. So, there is no love lost when Tom, Guy and Dorian leave their home and bully brother behind while accompanying their father on his special assignment. Special preparations are made to arm the Seraph along with other special provisions.  The long journey by sea ensues with her sister ship, the Yeoman of York, and it was not without illness, storms and human conflict. Little Dorian finds comfort in his older brother, Tom, and they take an oath to look out for each other. Twin brothers, Guy and Tom, begin to feud when they vie for one of the young female passengers, Caroline, the daughter of an East India Company official, Beatty, traveling with his family to the Company’s Bombay headquarters. Tom finally captures Caroline’s attention and they soon begin a secret amorous relationship which leads to complete alienation between the brothers. Guy hates his life at sea, and once his father realizes it, a deal is struck between Captain Hal and Beatty to have Guy enter into employment with the East India Company under Mr. Beatty’s tutelage and continue on the Yeoman of York to Bombay. Monsoon is a story that details the Courtney family adventures and it is non-stop action featuring “the good, the bad, and the real ugly.” After the Yeoman of York sets sail to Bombay with Beatty’s family and Guy, Hal and his crew devise a plan for going after Jangiri and his pirates to put a stop to their plundering of English ships. He and his crew fake damage to the ship and conceal their gun ports. The plan has a deceptive strategy when Hal “limps” into a Zanzibar harbor/port and lets it be known that his ship has suffered storm damage and that he is carrying valuable cargo. He anticipates that Jangiri will learn of the Seraph’s cargo and will attempt to hijack the Seraph once he repairs his ship and sets sail, once again. His plan is now in motion and a showdown seems imminent.  Once the Seraph leaves the harbor, it is only a matter of time until the awaited showdown occurs. And, all does not go well. Their strategy worked in part, but the unexpected (the author’s trademark) happens when the youngest son, Dorian, falls into the sea during the battle and is captured by Jangiri’s men and Hal sustains serious injuries. Each one of the Courtney’s carves out a separate subplot in Monsoon. Hal, Billy, Tom, Guy and Dorian, each one supply enough diverse action, romance and tragedy to keep the reader fully engaged. Loyalty between kin and friends, however, is continually tested and it becomes the cornerstone for survival. Once Hal, Tom and their crew take care of Jangiri and his pirates, they are faced with the loss of Dorian and Hal’s deteriorating condition.  They learn that Dorian has been sold into slavery and his whereabouts is unknown. Reluctantly, Hal decides to return to London and leave the search for Dorian for another trip. His injuries are life threatening and Tom assumes command of their homeward journey. Upon return, Hal is hailed by the King for his triumphant mission and his loot adds great wealth to his estate.

Hal’s success brings him a new aristocratic title and a seat in the House of Lords. Turmoil and tragedy continue to plague the family at High Weald, but the details will not be divulged here. Tom has not forgotten his pledge to Dorian – a lasting oath to never desert him. Sailing in a stolen French ship (England and the French were at war) and with a warrant for his arrest hanging over his head (reason undisclosed intentionally), Tom commences his return journey to East Africa and to the Red Sea in search of Dorry. The search becomes a dead-end when Tom learns that Dorian has died, but the story doesn’t stop here. Tom’s entrepreneurial spirit leads to a totally different lifestyle as he makes Africa his new home. He encounters his alienated twin brother, Guy, who has taken over the West India Company’s operation in Zanzibar and the Beatty sisters, Caroline and Sarah, sailing companions from his first voyage. Guy’s marriage to Caroline has turned out to be a disaster, but he finds a new love, Sarah. The mistreatment of Caroline cannot be remedied, but he can rescue Sarah from Guy’s household. He does. And, their life together takes on a new dimension and meaning to Monsoon. Their new-found life is filled with love and prosperity until a long lost brother and childhood friends and enemies surface to play an important role in their lives. Fighting on land becomes a way of life as adversaries seek to eliminate each other.

Wilbur Smith’s cast of characters is colorful and creative in their roles. Each one brings substance to Monsoon. His literary skills will keep you engaged through this unmatched journey. The ending is only the beginning for the Courtney’s, however, as the reader will want to continue with the next book in this magnificent series.

JR

 

Reunion News and Book Review – First Week of June, 2010

All-Class Reunion

If your name is on a class list and your address is current, then you should be receiving an invitation to the All-Class Reunion any time now. Contact your class representative (see www.madcatsalumni.org home page) if you have not received one by June 15th. More detailed information is also available on my web page, “book review and reunion news.” Thus far, it looks like classmates are favoring the Manchester Hyatt and the Sheraton Hotels. A “special edition” alumni newsletter will be mailed to alums of record in August. Everything continues to be falling in place as we enter the final planning phase. Now, the rest is up to YOU….Send in your $100 to Elsa Seifert, 1988 Olive Way, Pasadena CA 91104-1716. Make the check out to MADHS Class of 1950. You might ask, “what do I get for my $100 bucks?” Try these for starters: Friday 10/1 - a pre-union hosted party (it’s on us) at the historical Abbey; Saturday 10/2 - admission to the USS Midway Museum; free parking; tours and simulators; free photo of you and yours; no-host cocktails with hosted hor d’oeuvres; buffet dinner and dessert; entertainment, including South Coast Swing Band, Andrews Sisters Act; big screen pictorial memories and “blasts from the past”; fireworks; AND, an unforgettable evening with other alumni, old and new. For some, sadly, it may be the last time to reconnect and renew friendships. So, take your Metamucil, exercise and stay healthy. We have a special fund for those that need a little financial assistance. So, if in need, contact me directly @jjregan55@cox.net, or (408) 221-5663.

 

BOOK TIME

Some readers of my reviews know that I have a special affinity towards the continent of Africa. Having spent some time in Tanzania, Zulu land and South Africa, I would like, this week, to feature a notable African born author, Wilbur Smith. With over twenty books to his credit, his works have gained international recognition. About half of his books appear in three different series: The Courtneys; The Courtneys of Africa; and, the Ballantyne Novels. His initial book (1964), When the Lion Feeds, launched his successful career. Like other famous historical novelists such as McCullough and Rutherfurd, Smith is known for his thorough research before writing his novels. Born in Central Africa in 1933, Smith’s knowledge of, and sensitivity to, his native land and people, lend credence to his writing. Many novelists create a story that is purely for entertainment with little lasting value. Wilbur Smith, however, not only feeds the reader an entertaining plot, but he backs up his landscape with related historical and meaningful facts that support his fast moving novels.

A TIME TO DIE (1989-448 pp.) features Sean Courtney, a former African guerilla fighter turned safari guide. Sean leads his long-time friend Colonel Riccardo Monterro and his liberal daughter, Claudia, on an animal safari - one that turns from hunting big game, to being hunted! While hunting, Riccardo learns that he is faced with a terminal illness and he is driven to bring down the giant elephant, Tukutela, before he meets his maker. His feisty and bleeding-heart liberal daughter is against killing animals and becomes a thorn in the sides of Sean and her dad. In time, and In between arguments, a love/hate relationship is developed between Claudia and Sean. Tukutela, a giant old crafty elephant, manages to elude Riccardo’s cross-hairs and flees across the border into Mozambique to feed in the swamps. Mozambique is a socialist country where warlords are constantly fighting and pillaging the land. Riccardo, knowing his days are numbered, is willing to risk his life and pay Sean $500,000 to go after Tukutela, even though bands of guerrillas roam the area. By Sean’s standards, it is an offer he can’t refuse. One day while Sean and Riccardo are running down Tukutela, and while Claudia is nursing a foot injury back at the camp, the safari is suddenly interrupted when Claudia and several the safari natives are taken captive by a band of Renamo guerrilla warriors. At this juncture, A Time To Die takes on a totally different plot. Sean is transformed from a safari guide back to being a bush guerilla scout and fighter as he sets out to rescue Claudia with the help of his long-time tracker, Matatu. Once Claudia’s captors are located, Sean formulates a plan to rescue her, but his attempt is foiled and he is captured by his long time enemy, General China, a ruthless and cunning warrior who desires to someday run the country of Zimbabwe, at any cost. China has assembled a formidable army of Renamo troops but it is no match for the Frelimo  army who have Russian Hind helicopter gunships that house a Gatling cannon and deadly rockets. Even the rocket men on the ground found their RPG rockets ineffective at bringing down the Hinds due to the impenetrable shield of armor surrounding the fuselage. China’s army is facing daily raids and he soon realizes that he will be wiped out unless he can neutralize the enemy. In order to gain Claudia’s release, Sean must first agree to destroy the helicopters. Once the mission is accomplished, Sean, Claudia and their group will be free to go. The author leads the reader on a string of fights and chases that pit the two cunning rivals, China and Sean, as they attempt to outwit one another. Each time Sean manages to complete a mission he is blackmailed into performing another task in order to save Claudia. The relationship between Sean and Claudia has taken on a whole new dimension every since her capture. They realize that there are real feelings of love and respect developing between them, and what was once a love/hate relationship is now a full-blown commitment to spend the rest of their lives together. The plot(s) are interwoven and filled with plenty of action. Survival becomes the name of the game. Sean, Claudia and their own small group of trackers/fighters try to escape from the ruthless hands of China and his army. The safety of South Africa lies 300 miles to the South and enroute there are human and landscape obstacles to overcome. The ending left me hanging, but I assume it will provide the basis for Wilbur Smith’s next book in the The Courtneys of Africa series.

Sidebar: Today, there are still parts of Africa that are off-limits to travelers, especially in the Northern countries (there are 47 in Africa). South Africa remains a jewel of a country and I highly recommend it. Official reports have indicated that most of the aid coming from Western countries, like the U.S., never reaches those in need. The money is filtered off at the top. In the meantime, we continue to provide humanitarian aid to Africa, but accountability seems to be lacking. Big issues with few solutions…

JR.

 

May 28th, 2010

EVERY DAY IS MEMORIAL DAY

 

We set aside one day each year to pay tribute to those military men and women who have served our Country. This annual tradition allows us the opportunity to focus on our “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Just yesterday, John Finn, the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient died at the age of 100. Wounded 21 times during the Pearl Harbor attack, he exemplified the fighting spirit of our armed forces. Reportedly, his acts of heroism were only surpassed by his modesty and love of Country. It is fitting that we remember Lt. Finn and ALL those who have protected our freedoms.

 

Lee Greenwood’s rendition of God Bless the USA and its lyrics “I’m Proud to be an American” stick in the minds of many

As if “Proud” and “American” go hand in hand, and as if it’s born deep from within.

The red poppy symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice by those who believed

That freedom survives, but only if protected.

Memorial Day appears once each year,

A day to remember, a great token to recall.

Yet, a day should not go by that we give “thanks.”

For being an American in this great Country of ours,

Is a responsibility for ALL…and for ALL to remember.

JR

 

 

 

Posted 5-15-10

REUNION NEWS AND UPDATE(5-15-10)
TOURS
MANY FOLKS HAVE EXPRESSED AN INTEREST IN A TAKING A MORE EXTENSIVE TOUR OF THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM. REALIZING THAT PEOPLE WILL NOT HAVE MUCH TIME TO WANDER AROUND THE SHIP DURING THE REUNION, I HAVE ARRANGED TO HAVE FREE TOURS (THEY NORMALLY COST $18.00) ON FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY DURING NORMAL  TOUR HOURS (9 AM TO 5 PM). IT REALLY TAKES AT LEAST SEVERAL HOURS TO DO A SELF GUIDED AUDIO ASSISTED, TOUR. THERE IS A RESTAURANT AND SOUVENIR SHOP ON BOARD. THE DOCENTS ARE GREAT PEOPLE AND  WILL ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE. SOME HAVE EVEN SERVED ON THE MIDWAY AT ONE TIME. FOR THOSE WHO CAN STILL CLIMB A FEW STAIRS, IT IS REALLY WORTHWHILE TO VISIT THE COMMAND TOWER TO SEE AND HEAR ABOUT HOW THE SHIP IS DRIVEN AND HOW THE AIRCRAFT LAND AND TAKE-OFF.  THERE IS A $7.00 PARKING FEE IF YOU PARK ADJACENT TO THE MIDWAY ON THE NORTH SIDE. METERED PARKING CAN BE FOUND ON THE SOUTH SIDE IN FRONT OF THE FISH MARKET RESTAURANT. THERE IS NO FEE THE NIGHT OF THE REUNION SINCE IT IS PART OF OUR PACKAGE. ELEVATORS ARE AVAILABLE TO THE HANGER AND FLIGHT DECKS AND WE HAVE SIX WHEELCHAIRS ON STANDBY. IF YOU LIKE NAVAL HISTORY, YOU ARE GOING TO LIKE THE MIDWAY
--
Jim Regan
(408)221-5663 (cell)
(619)299-6742 (home)

REVIEW AND ALL-CLASS REUNION NEWS FOR MAY 22, 2010

MIDWAY MADNESS, THE ALL-CLASS REUNION TO BE HELD OCTOBER 2ND, CONTINUES TO CAPTURE MUCH ATTENTION BY OUR ALUMNI. RECENT INQUIRIES INCLUDE, ESTER BAUER WHITE ’42 WHO SAID “I THINK I CAN GET AT LEAST 20 OF MY CLASSMATES TO JOIN IN THE FUN;” LINDA PARK WARD ’69 AND HER FRIEND DANA COOMBS YOUNG ’69; ROSALEE MARTY ’60 FROM SAN JOSE; KAREN TRONVIG DAVIES ’59; BART PORTER ’55, JUST TO MENTION A FEW NAMES. FORMAL INVITATIONS WILL BE SENT OUT IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS BY CLASS REPRESENTATIVES, SO KEEP A CLOSE WATCH FOR YOUR ENVELOPE WITH A “WILLY” IN THE UPPER LEFT CORNER. A ‘SPECIAL EDITION’ ALUMNI NEWSLETTER FEATURING THE REUNION WILL BE MAILED IN AUGUST. IF YOU HAVE NOT SENT IN YOUR DUES TO THE ALUMNI OFFICE, THEN YOU WON’T HAVE THE BENEFIT OF RECEIVING IT. SO, PAY UP AND SHOW UP…….

I HAVE RECEIVED MANY CALLS AND E-MAILS CONCERNING LODGING. JUST TODAY, BOB PACKER W’51 SAID HE IS STAYING AT THE MANCHESTER HYATT DOWNTOWN. IT OFFERS THE SPECIAL “FLEET WEEK” RATE. CHECK OUT THE LIST OF LODGING OPTIONS ON MY WEB PAGE. JUST THIS WEEK I HAD LUNCH WITH THE OWNER OF THE HISTORIC HOTEL, SOFIA (FORMERLY PICKWICK), ON BROADWAY IN DOWNTOWN. COMPLETELY REFURBISHED, IT IS NEAR HORTON PLAZA, THE MAIN SHOPPING CENTER, GAS LAMP DISTRICT AND THE HARBOR. I SHOULD HAVE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SOFIA NEXT WEEK. PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT ME (619) 299-6742 IF YOU WANT TO DISCUSS ANY OF THE OPTIONS.

MOST CLASSMATES INDICATE THAT THEY ARE STAYING IN SAN DIEGO FOR THE WEEKEND. REMEMBER, A HOSTED PRELIMINARY PARTY WILL BE HELD FRIDAY NIGHT AND IS INCLUDED IN YOUR REUNION ADMISSION FEE OF $100. SO, IF YOU ARRIVE ON FRIDAY, YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS THIS CHANCE TO ‘WARM-UP” BEFORE THE BIG EVENT ON SATURDAY ABOARD THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM – IT’S A “TWO FUR ONE” DEAL……MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW.

BOOK TIME       

I MUST CONFESS THAT WRITING A BOOK REVIEW IS NOT AS STIMULATING AS HELPING TO PLAN OUR REUNION. BUT, I CAN’T STOP READING, EVEN THOUGH MY PACE HAS BEEN DISTRACTED. I RAN ACROSS AN OLD JACK HIGGINS BOOK, NIGHT OF THE FOX (1986) (316PP) AND IT IS A VINTAGE READ. HIGGINS IS A MASTER AT DEVELOPING INTRIGUING INTERNATIONAL SPY AND TERRORIST PLOTS. I HAVE PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED SEVERAL OF HIS BOOKS, MOSTLY NOTABLY “THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.” THE SETTING MAINLY TAKES PLACE ON JERSEY ISLAND, ONE OF THE CHANNEL ISLANDS LOCATED OFF THE SOUTHERN COAST OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NEAR THE NORTHERN COAST OF FRANCE (NORMANDY). THE TIME PERIOD IS JUST PRIOR TO THE INVASION OF EUROPE BY THE U.S. (D-DAY). THE PLOT QUICKLY EMERGES WHEN A SMALL CONVOY OF BRITISH SHIPS, WHILE PRACTICING A NIGHT BEACH LANDING IN PREPARATION FOR D-DAY, FALLS PREY TO NAZI U-BOATS AND SINKS SEVERAL OF THE SHIPS. ONE OF THE SUNKEN SHIPS IS CARRYING AN AMERICAN COLONEL, HUGH KELSO. HE IS ONE OF THE KEY FIGURES IN LAYING OUT THE TIME AND PLACE FOR THE INVASION. AN ENGINEER BY TRADE, KELSO WAS DRAFTED INTO THE ENGINEERING CORPS IN 1942 BECAUSE OF HIS EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE INVOLVING BEACH LANDINGS IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC. MEANWHILE, BACK IN LONDON, EISNHOWER AND HIS ENGLISH COUNTER-PART, BRIGADIER DOUGAL, LEARN ABOUT THE DISASTER AND THE POSSIBLE LOSS OF KELSO. THE BADLY INJURED AND SEMI-CONSCIOUS KELSO, HOWEVER, WITH THE AID OF ONE OF THE SHIP’S CREW, IS PLACED IN A LIFE RAFT AMIDST A SEA OF FLOATING BODIES WHILE THE SHIP SINKS. KELSO IS AT THE MERCY OF THE CHANNEL’S CURRENTS AND AFTER A FEW DAYS WASHES UP ON THE GERMAN OCCUPIED ISLE OF JERSEY AND IS DISCOVERED BY ONE OF THE LOCAL FRIENDLY RESIDENTS, HELEN De VILLE. HELEN, WITH THE HELP OF A CLOSE FRIEND, SEAN GALLAGHER, AN IRISHMAN CONSIDERED NEUTRAL, RESCUE KELSO BY BRINGING HIM FROM THE BEACH TO HER MODEST MANOR-A PLACE THAT IS USED TO BILLET GERMAN OFFICERS. COLONEL KELSO IS PLACED IN A SECRET ROOM IN THE MANOR. ONCE HELEN AND SEAN LEARN THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING KELSO OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE NAZIS, THEY USE THEIR UNDERGROUND COMMUNICATION CHAIN TO ALERT GENERAL DOUGAL AND EISENHOWER THAT KELSO IS ALIVE. MEANWHILE, BACK IN ALLIED HEADQUARTERS, THE PENDING LOSS OF KELSO HAD SET OFF AN ALARM OF GIANT PROPORTIONS. IF HE IS ALIVE, THEN HE MUST BE RESCUED OR KILLED BEFORE THE NAZI’S CAN INTERROGATE HIM AND LEARN OF THE EXACT TIME AND PLACE OF THE INVASION.                   HERE IS WHERE HIGGINS SHINES. ONCE, THE ALLIED COMMAND LEARNS THAT KELSO IS ALIVE ON JERSEY A PLAN IS DEVISED TO INSERT COLONEL HARRY MARTINEAU ON THE ISLE OF JERSEY. MARTINEAU, A RETIRED DECORATED AND RUTHLESS WARRIOR, AGREES TO TAKE ON THE ASSIGNMENT – TO EITHER RESCUE KELSO, OR KILL HIM. HIS ABILITY TO SPEAK PERFECT GERMAN SHOULD HELP HIM IMPERSONATE A SPECIAL ENVOY FOR HIMMLER AND GRANT HIM UNLIMITED AUTHORITY. ENTER SARAH DRAYTON A YOUNG ATTRACTIVE NURSE AND FORMER RESIDENT OF JERSEY…..BECAUSE OF HER FAMILIARITY WITH THE JERSEY LANDSCAPE AND ITS PEOPLE, SARAH IS ENLISTED TO ACCOMPANY MARTINEAU AS HIS “FRENCH TART.” CONCURRENTLY AND UNBEKNOWNST TO MARTINEAU, ANOTHER ACT OF IMPERSONATION IS PLANNED BY GERMAN FIELD MARSHALL ROMMEL. HE WANTS A COVER SO HE CAN ATTEND A HIGH LEVEL MEETING IN AFRICA WITH HIS GENERALS TO DISCUSS THE ASSINATION OF HITLER! A JEWISH GERMAN ACTOR, HEINI BAUM (AKA BERGER), IS ENLISTED TO “PLAY ROMMEL” AND GO TO JERSEY AS A DIVERSIONARY TATIC FOR ROMMEL WHO WILL BE IN AFRICA. THE REST OF THE STORY IS DEVOTED TO ‘PULLING OFF” TWO OF THE GREATEST ACTS IN MILITARY HISTORY ON THE ISLE OF JERSEY! LIKE A BOXING MATCH, THE PLAYERS BOB AND WEAVE AS THEY CARRY OUT THEIR RESPECTIVE MISSIONS-ONE TO RESCUE KELSO, THE OTHER TO STAND-IN FOR ROMMEL. THE AUTHOR MAINTAINS A SUSPENSFUL PLOT RIGHT TO THE END. AND, FOR SOME, THE ENDING COMES SOONER THAN EXPECTED.

JR

 

 

Posted 4-17-10

Under the watchfull eyes of JoAnne Clemmons Blye, Carolyn Boehm Mascarin, Charleen Noyer Magliolo, Elma Belle Griffitts Hall, Genelle Barnhouse Cox, Shirley Hunt Brodie, Dorothy Worrell Bragg, Vangie Brownwood Regan, a group from the Class of '49 recently toured the USS Midway Museum. Greeted by Admiral (Ret.) John "Mac" Mclaughlin, CEO of the Midway Museum, The group gave its stamp of approval for the ALL-CLASS REUNION to be held on the flight deck next October 2, 2010 (see picture). Alums are encouraged to save the date, get on-board, and make their reservations NOW!

REVIEW AND REUNION NEWS

 

ALL CLASS REUNION – October 2, 2010

Your committee met in Orange this week and the campaign to stage the biggest and best All-Class Reunion, MIDWAY MAGIC, is in full swing. It was decided that this/our website will be used to disseminate important information in hopes of keeping classmates fully informed. Formal invitations will be mailed to those alums whose addresses are on record. For example, you can find hotel/lodging options and a list of things to do while in San Diego. The price of admission has been set at $100.00 per person. This amount will pay for parking, use of the aircraft carrier USS Midway Museum, Hor d’Oeuvres, dinner, entertainment, swing band, dancing and fireworks. Please make your check out to “MADHS Class of 1950” and send it to Elsa Seifert, 1988 Olive Way, Pasadena, CA 91104-1716.

For those alums who plan on spending the weekend in San Diego, my wife, Vangie, and I will be hosting an open house on Friday evening, October 1st. It would be a good chance to get a “running start” on catching up on the past, present and the future. Food and adult beverages will be served. More on this preliminary event will be noted in future correspondence.

The success of the reunion depends upon “spreading the word.” Unfortunately, your class representatives do not have everyone’s address. So, if you access this website, www.madcatsalumni.org, and read this column, then you can help us by contacting classmates who have remained in your contact circle.

 

THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO

BALBOA PARK AND MUSEUMS: Museums of Man, Natural History, Timpkin Art, Air and Space, Hall of champions and Sports, photographic Arts

ZOO*: Located near downtown in Balboa Park on 107 acres , the world famous zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, including the rare panda. Phone: (619) 231-1515; Adult admission $33.50

WILD ANIMAL PARK*: Located 35 miles north of San Diego in Escondido, the 213 acre park is an extension of the San Diego Zoo and is home to over 3,500 animals representing 400 species. Phone: (760) 747-8702  Adult Admission $33.50 + parking.

SEAWORLD*: Located just north and west of the airport, visitors can see live shows, including the famous Shamu, dolphins and sea lions. Amusements, aerial rides, exhibits and aquariums are all within walking distance of each other. Adult admission $69.00 + parking.

LEGOLAND:  Located off of the 5 freeway about 20 miles north of San Diego, Legoland is a popular family park with over 50 rides. Phone: (760) 918-5346; Adult admission $67

HARBOR CRUISES:  One and two hours cruises are available with indoor and outdoor seating. Phone: (619) 234-4111; Adult fare @ $20 - 25

MARITIME MUSEUM: Located at 1492 N. Harbor and dedicated to the preservation of old ships and their history, the museum collects and maintains many famous ships, including the world’s oldest active ship, The Star of India. Phone: (619) 234-9153; Adult admission $12; sailing adventures available at additional cost

OLD TOWN: Known as the oldest European settlement in California, Old Town is conveniently located just North of downtown near the intersection of I-8 and I-5. Visit the historic State Park and the firstt mission, or just browse the shops (mostly Mexican). Trolley tours to Balboa Park, downtown and Coronado begin and end at Old Town

GAS LAMP DISTRICT: Considered the Mardi gras area of downtown San Diego, The Gaslamp District covers 16 ½ blocks ideally located near the civic and convention centers, Petco Park and the harbor. This historically designated place is home to 94 Victorian buildings, numerous restaurants and theatres. This popular area underwent urban renewal during the 80’s and 90’s and is considered the center of night life.

CORONADO: Crossing the famous San Diego-Coronado bridge to this high-end beach community with an island feel, Coronado is home to The North Island Naval Station and the Hotel Del Coronado on Orange Ave. Built in 1888, the Hotel “Del” stands as a classic landmark with its red turreted roof and ocean front property.

MISSION VALLEY AND FASHION VALLEY MALLS AND RETAIL STORES

Located North of downtown and just off the 163 and I-8 is some of the best shopping in San Diego. With over 2 million square feet of retail space, shoppers will find all major anchor stores and many boutique shops. 

TROLLEY AND BUS TOURS: There are several tour companies operating in San Diego. New visitors my want to take the 90 minute Old Town Trolley Tour. Beginning in Old Town, visitors can tour the best known areas of San Diego, including Balboa Park, downtown, harbor and the Hotel Del Coronado. Since the bus runs on a continuous schedule, riders may get off and on as they wish. Phone: 1-800-868-7482; $32                 * Visitors can purchase a 3 for 1 pass for $121 at these three attractions

GOLF: Contact Carol Streeter (’49) (858) 756-2689 for special arrangements.

 

HOTELS/LODGING

Since the reunion will be held aboard the USS Midway Museum, guests will have to make their own reservations. Your Committee has assembled the following list in order to assist you in your decision. For those class mates that want more personal attention and require additional information, please call Jim Regan @ (619)299-6742 or Carol Streeter @ (858)756-2689. Both Jim and Carol reside near the downtown area and have researched the following options.

 

   

 

                                    MAD ALL-CLASS REUNION

                                             LODGING OPTIONS

 

HOTEL                        RATE              PARK                          COMMENTS

1) Crowne Plaza         $89                  No fee                          Mission Valley

2270 Hotel Circle North                                                           (off 8 Freeway)

(888)233-9527                                                                                    5 minutes to downtown

https://resweb.passkey.com/go/MAD                                        10 rooms blocked

 

2) Embassey Suites    $179                $15                              Downtown near harbor

601 Pacific Highway                                                                 Comp. breakfast

(619)239-2400                                                                       

 

3) Hacienda                $139                $12                              Heart of Old Town

4041 Harney St                                                                        Near trolley

(619) 298-4707 (a Best Western Hotel)                                   Comp. breakfast

 

4) Hampton Inn          $149                $6                                Downton near harbor

1531 Pacific Highway                                                               Comp. breakfast

(619) 233-8408                                                                       20 rooms blocked

 

5) Holiday Inn            $166                $22                              across street from harbor

1355 N. Harbor

(619) 232-3961

 

6) Manchester Hyatt $100                $18                              Downtown near harbor

1 Market Place                                                             Ask for Fleet Week Rate

(619) 858-1545           special limited deal; purchase certificate(s) in advance

Ask for Alexis Squires

 

7) Marriott Courtyard           $125                $12                  Old Town, near trolley

2435 Jefferson St                                                                     Next to 5 freeway

(619) 260-8500                                                                       Comp. breakfast

 

8)Sheraton                  $99                  $12                              Near airport, on harbor

1380 Harbor Dr                                                                       Great views

(619) 291-2900                                                                       5 minutes to Midway

This is a group rate and I have currently blocked 10 rooms, The parking rate is being negotiated downward The hotel is directly across Harbor Dr from the airport and is right on the water with great views of downtown, North Island and Point Loma. There is a ¾ mile walkway along the parkway on the south side of the hotel so you can enjoy a nice walk….

 

Note: there are several cheaper hotels on Pacific Highway 2 blocks from harbor: Days Inn,, Pacific Inn, Motel 6,                                            

 

REVIEW FOR MOTHER’S DAY

Each year at this time, I like to give some recognition to mothers. It has become a tradition on my webpage to post the lyrics from a song made popular by the country western legend, Eddy Arnold. Written in 1918, “That Wonderful Mother Of Mine” captures the heart and soul of the feelings that can only be generated by a mother. I know, we all can’t be mothers, but we would not be here without one….

I confess that sometimes I questioned my own mother’s treatment towards me, or maybe it was the other way around? It took me awhile to learn which side of the fence I was on. And, it took a little (sometimes a lot) of ear pulling to help me understand what a mother’s mission in life really was all about. Without a mother, there would be no reason to contemplate our existence. Having one, for better or for worse, gives cause to pause every now and then, and to reflect on the precious gift emanating from a mother, her progeny.

 

Eddy Arnold - That Wonderful Mother Of Mine Lyrics

THAT WONDERFUL MOTHER OF MINE
Writers Walter Goodwin, Clyde Hager
 
The moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of that wonderful mother of mine.
The birds never sing but a message they bring
Of that wonderful mother of mine.
Just to bring back the time, that was so sweet to me,
Just to bring back the days, when I sat on her knee.
You are a wonderful mother, 
Dear old Mother of mine.
You'll hold a spot down deep in my heart,
'Till the stars no longer shine.
Your soul shall live on forever,
On through the fields of time.
For there'll never be another to me,
Like that wonderful Mother of mine
I pray ev'ry night to our Father above,
For that wonderful mother of mine.
I ask Him to keep her as long as He can
That wonderful mother of mine.
There are treasures on earth,
that made life seem worthwhile,
But there's none can compare to my mother's smile.
You are a wonderful mother, 
Dear old Mother of mine.
You'll hold a spot down deep in my heart,
'Till the stars no longer shine.
Your soul shall live on forever,
On through the fields of time.
For there'll never be another to me,
Like that wonderful Mother of mine

 

 

ALL CLASS REUNION NEWS

Formal invitations will be sent out next month. I hope readers have received their latest Alumni Newsletter with our front page article about the Reunion. You are encouraged to contact your class representative and register your interest. By doing so, your All-Class Committee will have a better indication of attendance and can plan accordingly.

FLASH: The Sheraton Hotel (directly across the street from the airport and right on the waterfront) has indicated that it will entertain a reduced rate for our alumni. Although not confirmed, the room rate may be around $100 a night. More to come on my web page next week. The Sheraton is about 2 ½ miles to the Midway and downtown.

 

BOOK TIME

This week we will put another wildcat in the centerfold, a place where she rightfully belongs.  Thanks to John Burt ’55, for alerting me to a book featuring one of his classmates, Marlys “Mouse” Marli Renfro Peterson ’55. Known as Marli (her stage name) Renfro most of her adult life, she became the “mystery girl” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 movie, Psycho, when she was hired to be Janet Leigh’s double for the famous shower scene. Author, Robert Graysmith, became captivated by Marli’s beauty, style and personality to the point of harboring an obsession that began in 1960 when he saw her picture on the 1960 cover of Playboy, a lasting impression to this day. His recent book, THE GIRL IN ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S SHOWER (2010), offers a detailed account of the filming of Psycho,  and the life of the raving red headed beauty, Marli Renfro. Graysmith’s book tracks Marli’s life in Hollywood, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Florida  after she left Monrovia High School, along with a disconnected, but parallel story of a serial killer, Sonny Bush. Since I am not into “show-biz,” I was not able to follow many of the names, nuances and technical aspects of the industry. The reader will be fascinated, however, by Hitchcock’s personality and his movie-making skills. His works were widely recognized by a huge audience of fans. And, Marli’s contribution to Psycho became a “best kept secret” for many moons. On the set, Marli’s costume was pure nudity and her 36-24-36 body gave Hitchcock and the cast and crew many pleasurable moments, It was the murderous shower scene that became the trademark for Psycho. It launched a new world of sexual expression, and it was Janet Leigh’s double that made it all happen.

Graysmith had previously written about the Zodiac and Jack The Ripper killers, so his interest in the Los Angeles serial killer, Sonny Bush, although tangential to the movie, is used to partially explain Sonny’s psychopathic behavior after seeing the Hitchcock movie. Years later, Marli was even believed to be raped and murdered in 1988 until new evidence linked the killing to a different fill-in actress. She is alive and well today

The author has written a collage of Marli’s life exposing her affinity to being an outdoors person as a sportswoman and nudist, a career as a model, a dancer, and a Hugh Hefner bunny, a full life, to stay the least.

Again, the author bounces the reader around between the life of Marli and the ongoing killing deeds by Bush. Both obsessions, but both true.

By the way, I heard it through the grapevine that Marli is coming to the All-Class Reunion. Hope to see you, Marli, aboard the Midway in October…...

 

 

BOOK REVIEW FOR APRIL 10TH, 2010

My friend, Ian Campbell (’50) acquainted me with this book. After reading all 644 pages, I deemed it a winner. A few words about the author, Stieg Larsson, are appropriate. He was born in 1954 and lived a life to the end as a left-wing activist. He and his female companion (they never married), Eva Gabrielsson, lived under the threat from right-wing violence. He was the editor in chief of Expo Magazine and wrote fiction crime novels on the side. He is recognized world-wide because of his Millennium Triliogy books, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who kicked the Hornets’ Nest, and this week’s book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, featuring the character, Lisbeth Salander, a dysfuntional computer hacker with street smarts and a photographic memory, who can only be described as a sociological misfit. Larsson was the number two best selling author in the world in 2008 behind Khaled Hosseini. Hosseini, if you remember, wrote A Thousand Spledid Suns and The Kite Runner.

 

Larsson’s life came to an abrupt end in 2004 from a massive heart attack. Due to Swedish law, his will was rejected because it was not witnessed, and because he never married, his literary works were placed under the control of his father. Eva, his long-time personal and literary companion, has his fourth book in her laptop and refuses to publish it unless she gains full rights to manage his novels. Thus far, it has been a stand-off…

Back to the book…..The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of most skillfully crafted crime novels I have read. It has all of the important ingredients: a dense and convoluted plot that has more twists and turns than a pretzel, predictable sexual exploits, investigative skills ranging from low-tech to high-tech, great characters, super landscape/setting and a clear literary style. Larsson has created an iconoclastic and one-of-a-kind fascinating main character, Lisbeth Salander. As a ward of the State, Lisbeth

Lives under a cloud of conflict as she is deemed incapable of being independent. The reader is drawn to her, not because of her beauty and grace, but because she totally marches to her own unpredictable off-beat. You get the feeling from her thoughts and actions that she is incapable of leading a normal life, partially explainable by her early childhood experiences. The plot starts out when Mikael Blomkvist, a well known investigative journalist and publisher for the magazine Millennium, is convicted of aggravated libel for slandering Industrial tycoon, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Mikael had claimed that Wennerstrom had used state funds for illegal arms deals, but he could not prove his allegations  Although not life threatening, Mikael received a heavy fine and a short-term jail sentence. His long time friend from journalism school and Millennium’s editor in chief, Erika Berger, tries to sympathize with him, but Mikael is too distraught to find solace in her words. The fate of their magazine is on the line as its reputation has been damaged and advertisers begin to “pull the plug.” Mikael convinces Erika that he needs time off from his duties so the public will perceive that he has been fired. In the meantime, she can run the company until the magazine’s image returns to the positive side.

Lisbeth Salander works for Milton Security doing personal investigative work on a freelance basis. Her boss, CEO Dragan Armansky, considers the quality of her work so thorough, that despite her looks (tattoos, facial riings and dress), she is a valuable resource to the company. One of her assignments was to do a report on journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

The timing of Mikael’s sabbatical takes on a whole new dimension when he is summoned by Henrik Vanger,  an 82 year old-line industrialist who heads up the Vanger Corporation, one of the most important industrial firms in Sweden.. Henrik, along with other members of the Vanger clan, live on a small island, Hedestad, near the north coast. Henrik is obsessed with the disappearance of his brother’s 16 year old grandaughter, Harriett Vanger and he wants Mikael to investigate her disappearance. If Mikael accepts the assingment he must move to the island for one year and agree to keep his investigation a secret under the guise of writing the Vanger family history, Henrik’s offer is so lucrative that Mikael can’t refuse. Henrik is convinced that some one from the family island compound is the killer. The major portion of the plot revolves around Mikael, and his soon to become assistant, Lisbeth Salander, as they embark upon an investigation that will turn the Vanger family upside down. Uncovering pieces to the puzzle will keep the reader riveted to the investigation. The idiosyncrasies of both Mikael and Lisbeth, the girl with the gragon tattoo, provide an interplay that sometimes appears to distract from the plot. But, somehow, they manage to keep the search for Harriett moving forward towards a conclusion that will keep the reader glued to the very end..

The book may even move you to think about getting a tattoo…

JR

 

MARCH MADNESS 28, 2008

 

REUNION NEWS

YOUR COMMITTEE WILL BE WORKING EVERY DAY UNTIL OUR ALL-CLASS REUNION ARRIVES ON OCTOBER 1, 2, 2010. THERE IS STILL MUCH TO DO, BUT, TO DATE, SO MUCH HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. OUR NEXT MEETING IN ORANGE ON APRIL 7TH WILL BEGIN THE FORMAL “COUNT-DOWN,” JUST 179 DAYS UNTIL MIDWAY MADNESS!  CAROL STREETER ’49 HAS SPEARHEADED A SEARCH FOR LODGING/HOTELS IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA. A LIST HAS BEEN COMPILED AND IS AVAILABLE TO THOSE THAT NEED SOME HELP IN MAKING THEIR RESERVATIONS.                                                             THIS WEEK I RECEIVED CALLS OR REPORTS OF INTEREST FROM BOB MEYERS (WINTER ’49) IN GRAPEVINE TEXAS; ROSS (’42) AND CONNIE LEE FROM SEAL BEACH ; GEORGE HARPOLE REPORTS THAT DON GALLOGLY (48), CHUCK SHAY (48) AND WIVES WILL ATTEND; JOANE LEE MILLER’S 85 YEAR OLD  BROTHER SAID COUNT-ME-IN, HARRIETT EICHELMEYER CAMPBELL’S SISTER VIRGINIA (’42) IS ALREADY TRYING ON HER DANCING SHOES; DICK BRADBURN (WINTER ’48) AND HIS WIFE TILLY (’55) FROM NEWPORT LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING EVERYONE; AND BOB RYAN (’50) CHECKED IN FROM PARIS, FRANCE. BY THE LOOKS OF THINGS OUR REUNION MAY BE BIGGER THAN THE “TEA PARTY” YESTERDAY IN SEARCHLIGHT, NEVADA. STAY TUNED AND ENCOURAGE YOUR OLD, AND SOME OLDER CLASSMATES, TO JUMP ON BOARD THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM BEFORE YOUR NAME APPEARS IN THE ‘GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN” COLUMN. YOUR CLASS REPRESENTATIVES AND WEBSITE EDITORS (madcatsalumni.org) STAND BY TO ANSWER ALL YOUR INQUIRIES. “BRING IT ON”

 

REVIEW

CERTAINLY NOT AS EXCITING AS THE UPCOMING REUNION, BUT I CONTINUE TO OFFER THESE BOOK REVIEWS AS A WAY TO PASS YOUR LEISURE TIME. I AM NOT A BIG FAN OF SCI-FI OR BOOKS THAT DEAL WITH THE SUPERNATURAL, BUT DEAN KOONTZ’S NOVEL, THE FACE (2003), KEPT ME ENGAGED FOR 600 PAGES OF PLEASURABLE READING. ONE OF BEST BOOKS, KOONTZ  IS IN A SPECIAL LEAGUE, MAYBE NOT BY HIMSELF, BUT CERTAINLY ON A LIMITED TEAM OF TALENTED WRITERS. HIS LITERARY SKILLS, ESPECIALLY HIS USE AND WAY WITH WORDS, MAKE READING FUN AND WORTHWHILE. TRY THESE EXAMPLES ON FOR SIZE:

            Snow fell on the City of Angels. Unprecedented, the shephard wind drove white flocks out of the dark meadows above the world, gently harried them between ficus trees and palms, along avenues that had never known a snowy Christmas.

 

            Corky called him Stinky Cheese Man because after many weeks abed, unbathed, he has acquired a stench reminiscent of many things objectionable, including certain particularly strong cheeses.

 

            To Hazard’s surprise, the ragged fingernails of superstition scratched at the inner hollows of his bones, where usually it lay buried, quiet, forgotten. But he didn’t know what had stirred his fear or why a sense of the uncanny suddenly possessed him.

THE TITLE, THE FACE, IS A MONIKER GIVEN TO CHANNING MANHEIM, A WORLD FAMOUS FAMOUS MOVIE STAR, WHO WAS BLESSED WITH GOOD LOOKS. ALTHOUGH MANHEIM OCCUPIES LITTLE PRESENCE THROUGHOUT THE BOOK, THE PLOT FOCUSES MAINLY UPON THE SECURITY OF HIS BEL AIR ESTATE, PALAZZO RESPO. MANHEIM’S 10 YEAR OLD SON, FRIC, IS THREATENED BY A MYSTERIOUS WEIRD CALLER WHO SEEMS TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PALAZZO AND FRIC AND FOREWARNS HIM OF BAD THINGS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.  ETHAN TRUMAN, A FORMER POLICEMAN, IS IN CHARGE OF THE ESTATE’S SECURITY, INCLUDING THE SAFETY OF ITS OCCUPANTS. A SERIES OF SIX MYSTERIOUS PACKAGES ARE DELIVERED TO MANHEIM’S ESTATE CONTAINING UNUSUAL CONTENTS, INCLUDING FORESKINS, A SEWN-UP APPLE AND A CERAMIC CAT COOKIE JAR FILLED WITH 90 SCRABBLE TILES OF EACH LETTER: O, W AND E. STUMPED ABOUT THEIR MEANING, ETHAN SEEKS OUT HIS FORMER POLICE BUDDY, HAZARD, IN HOPES OF UNCOVERING WHO IS BEHIND THE PACKAGE CAPERS.

THE PLOT, ALTHOUGH UNREAL, IS REALLY ABOUT REAL LIFE SURVIVAL AND THE ELEMENTS OF DESTRUCTION, HATE, LOVE AND A TOUCH OF SPIRITUALITY. KOONTZ’ HAS MASTERFULLY CONSTRUCTED A GROUP OF CHARACTERS WHO REPRESENT GOOD AND EVIL. THE CHARACTERS DESCRIBE MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS IN FIRST PERSON - WHAT THEY ARE UP TO, AND WHY.  ROLF REYNARD, THE DELIVERY KOOK BEHIND THE PACKAGES, AND HIS ENGLISH PROFESSOR BUDDY CORKY “MOTHER-KILLER” LAPUTA, AN AFFIRMED ANARCHIST, ARE COMMITTED TO SOWING SEEDS OF SOCIAL UNREST. THEY DELIGHT IN PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER AND/OR KILLING ANYONE, OR ANYTHING, THAT STANDS IN THEIR WAY, EVEN SOME INNOCENT BYSTANDERS. THE PRIMARY AND SECONDARY CHARACTERS HAVE REPEATED APPEARANCES AS ETHAN AND HAZZARD TRY TO FIND WHO IS BEHIND THE THREATS TO MANHEIM AND HIS SON. THE STORY TAKES ON A SUPERNATURAL REALM WHEN ETHAN AND HAZZARD EXPERIENCE GHOST LIKE VISITS FROM DUNNY WHISTLER, ETHAN’S FORMER BEST FRIEND FROM CHILDHOOD. WHISTLER AND ETHAN PARTED WAYS WHEN DUNNY TOOK THE WRONG DIRECTION IN LIFE AND ENDED UP A VICTIM OF MOB VIOLENCE. I FOUND THESE GHOSTLIKE APPEARANCES NOT DISTRACTING FROM THE PLOT.

FRIC BECOMES THE CENTRAL FOCUS IN THE STORY WHEN CORKY MASTERMINDS A PLOT TO KIDNAP HIM. IF SUCCESSFUL, ERIC IS IN FOR A HORROR YOU WOULD NOT WISH ON YOUR WORST ENEMY. MANHEIM, “THE FACE,” FINALLY APPEARS DURING THE FINAL STAGES OF THE STORY ADDING MORE SUSPENSE TO AN ALREADY GRIPPING TALE.

AND, AS THE STORY REACHES ITS CLIMAX, KOONTZ PULLS-OFF A GREAT ENDING-ONE WITH SURPRISE AND …….(for you to read)

JR

 

 

 

REVIEW FOR March 13, 2010

 

Reunion News    

Your All-Class Reunion Committee will be meeting on April 7th in the city of Orange. Classmates may forward any questions, comments or suggestions to the Committee or to their class representative. We are in the final stages of planning, so “speak now, or forever hold your peace.”

I had a chance to listen to the South Coast Swing Band last week aboard the USS Midway Museum, the same band that will play at our reunion. It provided the background music for HBO’s reception after viewing  Part 1 of the miniseries, The Pacific, which will air March 14th. You will like the band’s music. Strictly out of the 40’s and 50’s,                                                I hope everyone has received their “save the date” postcard by now. If not, give me a holler. Of special interest, the cover picture of the Midway was painted by our own Bob Schaar (’50).

Classmates keep popping out of the woodwork registering their interest in the reunion. Cliff and Arlene Casner (’60) from Roseburg, Oregon, Kippy Perine Gambill (‘53) La Jolla, Ca. and Boone Owens (’50) from Green Valley, Arizona are the latest mates to check-in.

 

The Iditarod

It is that time of the year when mushers and their dogs make the +- 1,000 mile journey from Anchorage/Willow to Nome. If you want to follow “The Last Great Race On Earth,”(XXXVIII), then go to www.iditarod.com. Last year’s second place finisher, Jeff King from Denali, is leading the pack with Lance Mackey (the first place finisher) right on his heels. After 600 miles the teams are heading down the Yukon River towards the Norton Sound and the Siberian Strait as they make the final push to Nome. Sub- zero temperatures, rugged mountains, frozen rivers, dense forrest and miles of wide-open tundra make the Iditarod one of the toughest tests that pits men and women against the great outdoors. Mush!

 

BOOK TIME

Author Stuart Woods is no stranger to this review column. With thirty-five fast moving novels to his credit, he continues to expand his Stone Barrington series with his latest book, SHOOT HIM IF HE RUNS. I have become a little tired of Wood’s plots. They do provide the reader with some light reading pleasure, but fall short on character depth and plausable action. If Woods does not revise his writing formula, then this series will probably “run out of gas.”

Shoot Him If He Runs brings back Stone, of course, his NYPD police buddy Dino Bachetti, his main squeeze CIA agent Holly Barker and CIA admistrative honcho, Lance Cabot. Stone is asked by the President, Will Lee, to go to St. Marks to find out if Teddy Fay, an ex-CIA agent and professional assasin is still alive. Teddy poses a threat to Will Lee’s reelection since he is believed by the public to be dead. His resurection, if true, could affect Lee’s political career. The President’s wife, First Lady Katie Lee, also serves as the Director of the CIA. Talk about a conflict of interest….

Stone, Holly (in a new disguise), Dino and his girlfrind Genevieve, fly out to the tiny island of St. Marks posing as vacationing tourists. The search for Teddy is often interrupted by cocktail hours, sexual interludes and swimming in the nude. And this is work? They soon learn that finding Teddy is not going to be easy. His mastery of disguise and his ability to remain one step ahead of his pursuers almost make Stone and Holly’s mission a dead end, that is until several government officials are assinated. The killings point to Teddy confirming his presence on the island, and Holly receives orders to “shoot him if he runs.” But first they have to find him.

The ending really doesn’t end and leaves room for another chase to find the elusive Teddy. If Woods is going to keep the Stone Barrington series alive, then he needs to enrich his recipe.

JR

j

 

3-5-10

This story comes from longtime staffer Jim McConnell, the man we call, "The King" around the office. He writes a weekly Then & Now column. He gives us a bit of history today about Monrovia football.

THEN & NOW
Jim McConnell

Say "wait 'til next year" one hundred times. When you're done, you will have articulated the mantra of Monrovia High football.

Few Southern California football programs have been as successful as Monrovia's. None have been as star-crossed.

In the 100-year history of football at Monrovia High, the Wildcats have had legitimate shots at no less than 24 CIF-Southern Section titles. Incredibly, they've failed to win any.

Monrovia High was founded in 1887, which makes it one of the oldest high schools in Southern California. The school first fielded a football team in 1898. In 1914, it was one of the founding members of the CIF. By 1921, Monrovia was in the running for a berth in the CIF-SS playoffs and took a 7-1 record into its regular-season finale against L.A. Lincoln. A win would have vaulted the Wildcats into the playoffs, but Lincoln won 33-0.

By 1927, under the guidance of former USC star Hobbs Adams, the Wildcats were back among the top teams in Southern California. Monrovia was 7-1-1 entering its final regular-season game against league rival Covina. The powerful Colts - two-time defending league and CIF-SS champs - prevailed and denied Monrovia a playoff berth.

The 1928 season brought more heartbreak for Monrovia rooters. The Wildcats went undefeated in nine games, but were held to ties against league rivals El Monte and Citrus, and Covina once again wound up representing the league in the playoffs.

The leading player on the 1927 and 1928 Monrovia teams was quarterback Willard Brouse, who went on to play for Howard Jones at USC.

After a couple subpar seasons, Gene McAlister took over as Monrovia coach and put together a powerhouse in 1935. It was quite possibly the best team in school history and among the greatest San Gabriel Valley teams ever.

The Wildcats, led by quarterback Leroy Zimmerman, end Johnny Lindell and lineman Lou Bowman, shook off an early-season, 7-0 loss to Pomona to win the Pacific League title. In one of the bigger upsets in Valley sports history, however, Monrovia was stunned by Muir Tech 14-6 in its final league game a week after the Wildcats secured the league title.

Even so, McAlister's team seemed to have shaken off that loss when it rolled over its first two opponents in the CIF-SS playoffs. That set up a championship matchup with Santa Barbara High at the Rose Bowl.

Monrovia was favored, but the Dons had other plans. They held off the Wildcats 14-12 in one of the most exciting Large Schools finales to that point.

The loss certainly didn't hurt the careers of Zimmerman, Lindell and Bowman. Zimmerman went on to star at San Jose State, played nine years (1940-48) in the NFL and made the All-Pro team in 1944. Lindell, who also was a star in baseball, basketball and track at Monrovia, opted for baseball and played 11 years in the majors (1943-53), most notably with the New York Yankees. Bowman went on to star at New Mexico, where he earned all-conference honors.

By 1948, Bob Blackman had taken over the coaching duties at Monrovia and guided the Wildcats back to gridiron glory. They went 9-0 in the regular season and qualified for their first playoff berth since 1935. As fate would have it, Monrovia's first-round opponent was Santa Barbara. Once again, the underdog Dons bested the Wildcats.

John Daniels assumed coaching duties at Monrovia in 1950, and his 1951 team was a beauty. The Wildcats, led by lineman Hardiman Cureton, rolled over 11 consecutive opponents. That set up a classic matchup in the CIF title game against Pomona, which also was 11-0. Pomona prevailed, though, 26-13 in front of a standing- room only crowd estimated at 25,000 at Mt. San Antonio College.

In addition to Cureton, who went on to star at UCLA and in the Canadian Football League, distinguished members of that 1951 Monrovia team included guard Jim Pullman, who went on to play at UC Santa Barbara; end Lawrence Ross, who played at the University of Denver and then in the CFL; and fullback Bob Ballard, who followed Cureton to UCLA.

Daniels fielded another strong team in 1952, when the Wildcats went 8-2. One of the losses, to South Pasadena in the first round of the playoffs, ended their season. The same story held true in 1953, when the Wildcats again went 8-2. One of the losses, to Fullerton in a nonleague game, didn't hurt. The other, in the first round of the playoffs to Whittier, did. The Cardinals rode the momentum all the way to the Large Schools championship game, where they were beaten by Santa Monica 34-19.

Monrovia fielded another strong team in 1957 that featured halfback Keith Lincoln, who when on to be one of the early stars in the AFL with the San Diego Chargers. The Wildcats were 7-2 that year, but a tough 31-26 league loss to longtime rival Pomona kept them out of the playoffs.

By 1959, Monrovia had a new coach in Mike Giddings. Everything clicked for the Wildcats, who took an 11-0 record into the CIF 3A Division championship. Unfortunately, nothing worked for Monrovia in that one, and San Diego High posted a 53-0 victory. San Diego, long a target of complaints from fellow Southern Section schools, knew the game was its last in the section, with the San Diego section due to open for the 1960 season. The Hilltoppers used their exit as motivation and swamped the favored Wildcats.

Don Robbins took over as coach at Monrovia in 1960, but the switch didn't change the Wildcats' luck. They put together an 8-1 season, but the one loss was in league to Arcadia, and it cost them the league title and a playoff berth.

Robbins guided Monrovia to an 8-0-1 record in 1962 and into the Large Schools playoffs. Unfortunately, they were matched up against powerful El Rancho in the first round and lost 19-0.

The 1965 season provided almost an instant replay of 1962. Robbins' team won league and took an 8-1 record into the Large Schools opener, where it once again was paired up with El Rancho and once again lost.

One of the more notable players from the Don Robbins era at Monrovia was wide receiver Fair Hooker, who went on to play at Arizona State and for six years (1969-1975) with the Cleveland Browns.

First-round CIF playoff losses again were the Wildcats' fate in 1966 (again to El Rancho) and 1968 (47-20 to Blair).

Tom Paton became Monrovia coach in 1972 and produced a series of outstanding teams. After going 7-2 in 1972, Paton guided back-to-back 12-1 seasons. The 1973 team, led by quarterback Doug Hopper, lost in the CIF-SS 3A final 14-7 to Crescenta Valley. The 1974 team lost to Santa Ana Valley in the 3A Division semifinals. Santa Ana Valley went on to rout Colton 47-14 in the 3A title game.

Perhaps the most notable Monrovia player during Paton's tenure was halfback Obie Graves, who went on to star at Citrus College and Cal State Fullerton and played two seasons in the CFL.

The 1981 Monrovia team, coached by Rick Watson, also reached the CIF semifinals. The Wildcats took a 10-1 record into that year's Northwestern Conference semis but lost to Antelope Valley, which then beat Burbank Burroughs 24-14 for the title.

In 1982, Watson's charges went 9-2-2 and reached the CIF Northwestern finale but lost 7-0 to underdog Verbum Dei.

The 1983 Monrovia team might have been even better. The Wildcats had an 11-0 record heading into a much-heralded Northwestern Conference semifinal matchup against Canyon Country Canyon. Canyon nipped the Wildcats 27-25, and that was perhaps the most bitter of all Monrovia playoff setbacks.

Among the many outstanding players on the 1982 and 1983 teams was Chris Hale, who went on to star as a defensive back at USC and play four years in the NFL.

It took Monrovia 14 years to get back to a CIF title game. The 1997 Wildcats were 12-0-1 entering the CIF-SS Division IX finale, but they came up short against Mira Costa, 28-14. Amazingly, the 1998 season was a virtual re-run, with Monrovia taking a 12-0 mark into the Division X title tilt only to lose 28-24 at Paso Robles.

Again in 1999, it looked like Monrovia finally would end its CIF jinx. The Wildcats, led by running back Akil Harris, were 12-1 going into a Division X championship rematch with Paso Robles, but this time the game was going to be played at Citrus College rather than far-off Paso Robles. Unfortunately for Wildcats fans, the site didn't make a difference as Paso Robles came away a 24-10 winner.

The 21st century brought yet another outstanding Monrovia team. The 2002 Wildcats were 11-0 heading into their Division X semifinal against Lompoc, but fell short. Lompoc went on to win the division title, a story that by then was all too familiar to the Monrovia faithful.

jim.mcconnell@sgvn.com
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2383

 

 

FEBRUARY 27, 2010

REVIEW- PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

A NEW TELEVISION 10 – PART MINISERIES ENTITLED “THE PACIFIC”  WILL PREMIER SUNDAY, MARCH 14TH. IF YOU RECALL, TOM HANKS AND STEVEN SPIELBERG PRODUCED “BAND OF BROTHERS,” A SERIES ABOUT THE INVASION OF EUROPE IN WWII. HANKS AND SPIELBERG DECIDED THAT THEY WANTED TO SHOW AND TELL THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PACIFIC DURING WWII. AS YOU KNOW, THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR AND WAS SPREAD OUT ALL OVER THE PACIFIC OCEAN.

LAST NIGHT, WE WERE INVITED TO THE PREMIER SHOWING OF THE FIRST PART ABOARD THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM.

IT WAS SPONSORED BY HBO. THE THREE MAIN ACTORS WERE INTRODUCED, ALONG WITH SEVERAL VETERANS WHO FOUGHT IN THE PACIFIC. THE FIRST PART IS ABOUT 1 HOUR LONG AND VERY IMPRESSIVE, DESPITE SOME GORY SCENES AND SOME BAD LANGUAGE, “THE PACIFIC” REALLY GIVES THE VIEWER AN UP-CLOSE VIEW OF HOW THE WAR WAS FOUGHT AND WON.

IT PROMOTES THE LASTING VALUE OF HOW OUR COUNTRY’S FREEDOM WAS MAINTAINED, AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS THAT FUTURE GENERATIONS GAIN AN APPRECIATION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AMERICAN, AND TO BE THANKFUL.

 

 

FEBRUARY 21, 2010

 

REUNION NEWS

As the word continues to spread about our All-Class Reunion next October , alumi inquiries keep coming out of the woodwork. Just this week we heard from Jacqueline Brown Little who lives in North Carolina, Gary Huff ’47 (Colorado) and  his sister Barbara Huff Bowerman ’49 (Orange). Don’t worry about running out of space aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway, at one time, it was home to over 13,000 sailors and marines! Be there, or be square….

 

BOOK FOR THE WEEK

Reading can serve many purposes. Along with speaking and writing, it is the foundation for communication. Unless you are reading to some one, it is one-way, however. What one receives from reading spans a continuum from serious study to recreational pleasure in the form of non-fiction or fiction.  Written words pass on the history of civilizations, both in fact and fiction. They help us translate  and codify our thoughts and ideas. For some, fiction novels occupy most people’s reading time. Once in awhile, I like to read a non-fiction book - one that sheds new light on people, places and events. JOHN BERENDT, former editor of the New York magazine, and known for his journalistic skills, has written his second book, THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS (2005), a non-fiction account about the floating city of Venice. His first book about Savannah, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994) became a record-breaking best seller (216 weeks).

Although non-fiction, both of his books read like novels. As an investigative journalist, he plies his skills in an objective manner by capturing an inside view of Venice’s historical landscape, its history and culture. Berendt actually took up residence in Venice so he could post-hole into the Venitian lifestyle, both past and present. His interviews of many colorful characters and personal observations of its people give the reader a close-up of the city, far beyond the normal tourist viewpoint, and help explain why “Venetians never tell the truth!”. He soon learns that Venice is a dying city with a dwindling population, declining in numbers from 174,00 in 1951 to 70,000 in 1996.                                                                                                          As the story unfolds, the famous opera house, the Fenice, had just succumbed to a tragic fire three days before Berendt”s arrival. This event plays a major ongoing role in the book. Upon investigation, much negligence was found, but was it an accident, or arson (even the Mafia looks suspicious)? What takes place, thereafter, reads like an anthology as a cast of  characters shed light on their personal lives and the lives of others.

Venice is known as a city of corruption. Yet, it has a rich history of art, literature, science, music and craftsmen, like the glass blowers. Each resident interviewed offers their own perception of what makes their city so special. Whether a butcher, baker or glass maker, or plumber, electrician, policeman, or member of the aristocracy or hoi poli, Venetians, all, have one thing in common, a sense of special individuality, both personal and civic. As the author travels around the city, he is introduced to such people as business man Massino Donadon, a self-made millionaire, who manufactures 30% of the world’s rat poison! Through his own ingenuity, Donadon has studied the eating habits of rats around the world and has tailor-made poison to kill rats. After all, rats in New York eat different food than rats in Japan. The former may taste more like pizza where the latter might have a hint of shushi.

One of the most interesting characters is Archimede Seguso, the famous

artist who designs and creates beautiful Murano glass pieces. He lives behind the Fenice and is greatly affected by the fire. It prompts him to create pieces that depict the fire.

The stories behind palaces, churches, gondolas, canals, tides and bridges are just a few of the landmarks that reveal the inner markings of this city of 1,800 acres surrounded by water.

The author has done a masterful job in bringing to light an inside view of Venice. Who knows, maybe you might want to visit or revisit it sometime and feed the pigeons, but hopefully, not with Donado’s rat poison….

JR

 

 

 

REVIEW: FEBRUARY 14, 2010

 

SIDEBAR #1:

It has been four years since our last winter olympics. This week marks the XXI (21st) games and the third time hosted by “Oh” Canada. Staged in Vancouver and nearby Whistler Mountain, we are witnessing the thrills and spills (even a death) by athletes from all corners of the earth.  For those who missed it, The opening ceremony, despite some technical difficulties, was filled with all of the splendor of olympic pagentry. One of the reasons I like to view such events is that it represents a slice in time when every competing country attempts to pit its best athletes against others in time, distance and beauty. You can’t help but admire the “Olympic Spirit” that mixes patriotism with competition, where even losers can capture the hearts and minds of all people. “Thanks” Vancouver for being a great host.

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION (Contd)

The Olympic games may be the greatest sporting event of the year, but our All-Class Reunion may very well be the greatest social event of 2010. Again, your committee urges each and everyone to “save the date” – October 1,2,3. Saturday evening we will climb aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway and show the rest of the world how WILDCATS party.

The best way to sign up is to contact your class representative (madcatsalumni.org ) or let Paulette Dunn Smith @ pndrpsmith@aol,com

or Jim Regan know @ jjregan55@cox.net.

 

BACK TO BOOKS

Linda Fairstein is a well established author, especially noted for her Alexandra Cooper Novels. KILLER HEAT (2008) is the 10th in the series. For those not acquainted with our heroine, Alexandra (Alex) , she is the Assistant District Attorney for New York County in charge of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit located in downtown Manhattan. The title is derived, in part, from the sweltering heat that occupies much of New York in the summer time. The other name part, killer, describes a psychopathic serial killer who murders women wearing a uniform after being raped and tortured in some of the weirdest environments in and around Manhattan.

The author has dedicated her book to an undisclosed rape victim who was assaulted in 1973. The details of the case are woven into the plot as new evidence is found linking  unrepentant Floyd Warren to the attack on Kerry Hastings. The cold case becomes courtroom temperature as Warren is being retried thanks to science and the discovery of the assailant’s DNA linking him to Hastings and other rapes. For 32 years Hastings has suffered mental and physical trauma due to the rape, but she is now willing to testify in court against Warren. With Alex’s support and coaching, Kerry’s testimony should be enough to put Warren away forever! But, the court will decide.

A subplot emerges, not only in the courtroom, but in Alex’s daily life, as members of a gang, the Latin Princes, disrupt the courtroom and attempt to retaliate for Alex’s role in the previous incarceration of its leader.

Alex’s love life with Frenchman Duc Rouget is not worth mentioning here.

As in other books in the series, Homicide Detective Mike Chapman, longtime confidant, colleague and friend of Alex, embark on a mission to catch a current serial killer that surfaces during the trial. The first, and badly decomposed body, is discovered in an abandoned downtown ferry building. When a second body is discovered with similar murder characteristics, the “Summer Heat” gets hotter….Pressure from the Mayor’s office and Alex’s boss turns the heat up more. Chapman is known as a history buff and he constantly challenges Alex and those around him with his knowledge of people and places in and around Manhattan, sometimes even the world. The reader may tire of his historical “teachings” but they do shed some light on the case. Governor’s Island with all of its military significance and a stone’s throw from downtown, becomes another site of the search for the killer. After the disappearance of another woman and the discovery of new evidence identifying the perpetrator. The clock is ticking like a time bomb to find the missing girl before it is too late. Join in the conclusion as Alex, Mike and others either strike out, hit a home run, or take a walk. You’r the batter, so “batter-up.”

I found the book somewhat unrealistic and tedious at times with too much minutia. It reads like a convoluted pretzel when you don’t know which piece to bite next. Sometimes a series can run out of steam. I will wait for the next book to draw my final conclusion.

JR

 

FIRST REVIEW IN FEBRUARY, 2010

 

REUNION NEWS

 

The word about our All-Class Reunion is reaching many corners of our planet! This past week I received a message from an acquaintenance who lives in the U. K. He read about our reunion aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway via the internet and he asked me if it is open to the public! Oh, Oh!!                  George Harpole (’48) and Fred Garside (‘48) have agreed to help us by contacting alummates from their class. Thanks, guys!!

We are currently preparing another article for the MAD Alumni Newsletter. Anyone who wants to put their two-cents worth in, please contact me at jjregan55@cox.net or Paulette @ pndrpsmith@aol.com.

 

REVIEW

 

After writing 33 novels, STUART WOODS continues to enjoy tremendous popularity among his readers. Best known for his Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series, Woods brings back 6’7” Santa Fe ace trial lawyer, Ed Eagle, in his second book in the Eagle series, SHORT STRAW (2006). Fun and a fast read, it is lacking in depth, filled with blunders, and short on characterization. This action thriller does not, in my opinion, rank as one of his best.

Big Ed is married to a sexy convicted felon, Barbara. She first appeared in Woods’ first book in the same series, Santa Fe Rules. Ed is looking forward to celebrating his fiftieth birthday and the opening of his new posh offices. After being drugged by his wife the night before his big day, his celebration turns into a nightmare. He soon learns that she has almost wiped out his savings, checking and stock accounts before skipping off to Mexico. Ed swings into immediate action trying to salvage his assets in almost a cavilier manner. Credit cards are cancelled, Barbara’s name is removed from all accounts and he manages to stop the transfer of most of his money before it is wired below the border.

He hires his ex LAPD buddy, Cupie Dalton, and a local Apache tracker, Vittorio, to go after Barbara. Their mission is to get her to sign off on blank divorce papers without causing her any physical harm. Ed figures that she can keep a modest amount of his money in exchange for his freedom. After all, a divorce will cause little interruption in his life, especially since he has already found a handsome and sexy replacement, actress Susannah Wilde, a Hollywood transplant who is taking up residence in Santa Fe.

A sub-plot emerges when Ed is asked by the overburden Santa Fe judicial system to handle one of its cases. By default, he inherits a murder case when he draws a “short straw” leaving him to defend Joe Big Bear for killing his wife and her lover. Fast moving Ed checks Big Bear’s alibis covering the time frame of the murder and learns that his client was engaged in legitimate work during the time frame of the shooting. The evidence is convincing and Joe Big is released from custody, at least for now.  Fast forward with Caution: Joe shows his lack of gratitude for his quick release when he later becomes a key character in an attempt to “take care” of  Ed.                    Back to the chase, as Ed, Cupie and Vittorio resume their search for slippery Barbara.  Meanwhile, Cupie and Vittorio have tracked down Barbara and it’s show-time. She manages to stay one step ahead of them, however, and shoots Cupie in the process! The rest of the story reads like a guessing game as Barbara out-tricks (while turning a few tricks) the two investigators as she heads back to California through the backroads of Mexico, across the gulf to Cabo and on to the Tijuana border. She is wanted in Mexico by the Mexican police for a previous crime – (to violent to mention here, but maybe you can remember what Lorena Bobbitt did to her husband?). Now, it’s the police, Cupie and Vittorio against Barbara. Each one has their own reason for her capture, almost like what is going on South of the border today, where kidnapping and bribes are the order of the day…

Eventually, Barbara shakes her trackers and finds refuge in California where she arranges transformations to her appearance and identity. With his new main squeeze, Susannah, Ed finally joins his hired PI duo in SoCal in the hunt for the elusive Barbara. Woods keeps the reader on a kinky chase right to the end – one that should have ended a lot sooner.

JR

 

LAST REVIEW FOR JANUARY, 2010

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION: 

Some of you may have recently received a picture post card with the USS Midway on the front alerting you to the All-Class Reunion October 2, 2010. If you have not received one, then you need to get in touch with your class representative and tell him/her that you want to attend. Reps will want your address, phone # and email address, so either call or e-mail them this information. Keep the picture post card in a prominent place as a reminder.

On a side note, the picture on the post card was painted by Bob Schaar ’50. Last year, he was commissioned by the Midway to paint the ship showing the San Diego skyline in the background. His added touch of the Ameriucan flag really brings a feeling of patriotism to his painting. It will probably hang in the Bob Hope Theatre aboard the ship when it is completed. His works can be found in such places as the Smithsonian, Pentagon, Kentucky Derby Museum, Air Force Academy, NASA Museum and International museums. Thanks Bob, for keeping the magic of the Midway alive.

 

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Once in awhile I read a book that is supposed to give food for thought. I guess this type of reading could be classified as a reference book of ideas. In this case, it is an aggregate of our actions and reactions to others, and how we can best manage them, while getting the most out of life. RICHARD CARLSON, Ph.D. wrote a pint-size book (5 ¾” x 6 ¾” , 246 pages) with gallons of chapters (100) of helpful ideas aimed at reducing stress and enjoying life to its fullest. Carlson died in 2006.  DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF…and it’s all small stuff  (1997)  is a simplistic and practical approach to learning how to manage you thoughts and behaviors. It was so well received that it spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

I liked the book because its short chapters (1-3 pages) can be read continuously, or intermittingly. Each chapter provides the reader with suggestions of how to focus on the things that really matter. Here are a few of the chapter titles that will give the reader a feel for things to watch out for in our daily lives:

            Don’t Interrupt Others or Finish Their Sentences

            Learn to Live in the Present Moment

            Allow Yourself to Be Bored

            Imagine yourself at Your Own Funeral

            Set Aside Quit Time, Every Day

            Become a Better Listener

            See the Innocence

            Practice Humility

            Adopt a Child Through the Mail

            Lighten Up

            Live This Day as if it Were Your Last. It Might Be!

The book may be lightweight in size, but it is a heavyweight in solutions. It might even lower your blood pressure! Carlson offers up some common sense solutions to help you manage and change your attitude and behaviors. I am reminded of the song sung by Christy Lane, “One Day At A Time Sweet Jesus,” wherein the message focuses on living in the present. After all, that is all we can do….

I must confess that I started reading the book with some skepticism. But, as I identified with the expressed behaviors germane to each chapter, I began to say to myself, hey that’s me. and I can do that. As a result I put into practice some of the things I thought would give me a better outlook on life. For example, I am going to adopt (not officially) a child in Tanzania and share some of “me” with him/her.

I don’t want to dwell on the book’s content. It is something for you to explore. I think it is a neat book to be placed in a prominent place along with a few other special books, not as a decoration, but for those who are attracted to exploring life’s challenges. Richard Carlson’s remark may provide a good closing to this review. Is the purpose of your life to empty your in-basket?

JR

 

JANUARY 23, 2010

 

REUNION UPDATE:  Our second meeting was held last Tuesday in Monrovia, the All-American city noted for its Wildcats and bears. Much was accomplished but there is still plenty to do….Your cross-class committee needs everyone’s help, especially as it relates to spreading the word. The challenge: each classmate needs to reach out and contact other mates, regardless if they have “stayed true to your school.” Tell them about our All-Class Reunion, October 1-2, 2010, in San Diego aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway. For some, sadly, this may be last time we can enjoy their company. So, lift up those phones, grab a pen and speak out to those lost souls and remind them that if they had not gone to MAD, then they would not have had the pleasure of working at Rosedale’s nursery, parking at Chantry Flats, smudging in the orange groves, learning to drive in the Santa Anita parking lot, or enjoying a shake and burger at Carpenters.

Contact your class representative now and say “count me in.”

 

Back To Books

Another familiar author tops this week’s review, JOHN SANDFORD, a pseudonym for John Camp. Like the poppies in spring, his novels just seem to keep growing. Originally, he started out as a journalist and reporter but graduated into becoming a serious and successful novelist. Some of my previous reviews featured his Prey novels, now numbering twenty. Other serial books include his Kidd and Virgil Flowers novels.

His latest book in the Virgil Flowers series is ROUGH COUNTRY (2009), the  headliner book for this week’s review.

Caution: if you can’t stand bad language, then don’t read this book. Like his others, the “F” word is used so often you would think it is a conjunction (pun intended).

Sandford has mastered the art of off-key dialogue scattered with sarcasm, humor and never-ending sexual thoughts and deeds, some conventional, some not. The title “Rough Country” not only fits the plot, but the wooded landscape of Northern Minnesota where a female bi-sexual advertising executive and partner, Erica McDill is murdered while vacationing at a “Ladies Lodge,” or as Virgil Flowers calls it, “a whorehouse.” Virgil is with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and works for his long-time boss, Lucas Davenport. The reader will remember Lucas from the Prey series. Lucas calls upon his ace crime solver, Virgil, to check out the crime scene. It doesn’t take long for Virgil to find out that he is in the midst of kinky environment where everybody seems to be involved in love triangles, and they are not equilateral….Half-truths and a lack of evidence keep Virgil on a seemingly never-ending trail to catch the killer. As he tries to sort out motives that led to the killing, he learns that McDill was in the process of taking over her Advertising Agency, that she was having a sexual relationship with someone at the Lodge, that the owner of the Lodge was in the process of selling “the Lodge/business”, that a local country band was playing more than music, and that the female guests were like fleas jumping from bed to bed!

The author uses a cast of characters that seem to fit the plot. Red-neck, liberal, weird, and sexy, their behaviors keep Virgil one-step away from solving the murder. To further compound his investigation, another killing and the disappearance of a key character occur, keeping him more baffled.  The plot jumps around as new evidence is uncovered, but Virgil’s mission is never in doubt   . The reader will marvel at the way Sandford portrays Virgil’s interaction with himself (praying to God) and with the other characters. Things do not always go smooth in Rough Country, especially at the Eagle’s Nest Ladies Lodge where everyone seems to be trapped in a spider web of naked lies.

JR

 

REVIEW FOR JANUARY 15TH, 2010

 

ALL CLASS REUNION COMMITTEE MEETING NEXT TUESDAY (19TH): Report to follow

 

BOOK TIME;

Sidebar: By way of disclosure, my topic for review is not intended to advocate any issue or political point. Whether you are a liberal or conservative is not relevant to this review. What is important is that we look at our country, and those who guide it, from a directional point of view, past, present and future. Scientists take the liberty to say “in the interest of science” when presenting their findings. So, as a literary critic, I, too, will hide behind my words by saying words are to live by, but the truth lies within. And, the truth is only known to those that speak it, or to those that have the privilege to witness it (my words).  It’s your choice….

End of Sidebar

 

This week I am literally “going rogue!” Yes, GOING ROGUE by SARAH PALIN (2009), the best selling book in 2009, is this week’s source of inspiration, condemnation, or desperation, depending on your political outlook! Again, it’s your choice. I found the read to be worthy of the time spent (400+ pp). Clear in style and content, Palin takes the reader on her personal journey in life starting from early childhood to her current position as a free-lance political advocate, and most recently as a Fox News contributor. Critics may, and will, question the validity of her experiences as recorded in her story. Supporters seem to be growing in number, however, as evidenced by the success of her book and the attention her message brings to our country.

Family, friends, religion and a deep sense of conservative values dominate her thoughts and actions. A firm believer that “Big Government” is intrusive and a contraceptive to promoting states’ rights, she has spent her political life exposing the ills of having “big daddy government” determine what is best for the “hoi polloi.”

Family life: Sarah’s views of her parents suggest a hard-working family with a pioneer spirit – one that promoted high expectations and helped shape her own life, and her family. Competition and determination became the backbone for getting ahead, whether it was in the classroom, on the basketball court or running cross country. She met Todd Palin while attending Wasilla High School. He, too, was an independent person with a solid work ethic. Part Yupsik Eskimo from Bristol Bay, Todd worked from an early age as a fisherman, later as a snowmachine dealer and eventually with the oil industry in Prudhoe Bay. Reportedly, his unconditional love and support of Sarah’s aspirations have never waivered.

Education: After high school, Sarah, by way of a short educational stop in Hawaii, ended up attending and graduating from the University of Idaho. Self-supporting and in need of financial help, she participated in Miss Wasilla Scholarship Pageant, the state’s Miss Alaska Pageant and the Miss America Scholarship Program in order to partially pay for her tuition. With a Journalism major and Poly Science minor, she became a part-time writer and broadcaster covering sports events and working as a waitress. Her tenacious efforts paid off and she was ready to take on a new life with her long time friend, Todd.                         Marriage, Family and Politics: In 1988, and without fanfare, Sarah and Todd tied the knot on the courthouse steps. Todd’s work took him away from their Wasilla home for weeks at a time, but their marriage stood the test of time as their family grew from two to seven (Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig). Sarah’s energy level was continually tested as she devoted herself to raising her family and finding time to contribute to community activities. Her sense of “service above self” brought her to the threshold of local politics when she became a council member in Wasilla, and eventually its first full-time woman mayor. After a failed race for the state’s Lt. Governorship, she took on the State’s corrupt body politic headed by Governor Murkowski and ran for governor. Using a grass-roots Campaign based upon common sense politics, she unseated the governor in 2006. During her tenure as governor, she exposed those in the legislature who had been corrupted through close ties with the oil industry. Many politicians ended their careers behind bars! Sarah went head on against British Petroleum (BP) and Exxon/Mobil who controlled land leases in the Prudhoe Bay area. BP was sitting on a gold mine of natural resources, but to no benefit to the people of Alaska. Accusing BP of being in default of its leases, she forced a showdown by threatening to open bidding to drill for these valuable resources. The result brought forth a bipartisan victory and a financial windfall to the 49th State. Her popularity swept her into a second term.

National Campaign: The latter part of her book deals with John McCain’s campaign for the presidency. While attending the State fair, she received an unexpected phone call from the McCain Camp to interview as his running mate. The call lifted her on to the national political stage. McCain was looking for a “game-changer.” And, reportedly, what he saw in Sarah melded with his own maverick qualities. What followed is history and subject to much speculation as to “what happened” on the campaign trail. Sarah shares her observations of the race in controversial detail. Treatment by the press, and the disputes between her “B-Team” and McCain’s “A-Team” staff, coupled with public praise and outcry, are documented from her perspective. Whether you voted for or against the McCain team is not the purpose in reading “Going Rogue.” I suggest that the title should read “Being Rogue!” The reader can’t help but think that from the beginning of her early days in politics, her mission has not changed. She has repeatedly spoken out against big government and the need to decentralize the decision making process. She still continues her independent mission of spreading “the word”, according to Sarah Palin, giving credit to her long-time hero, President Ronald Reagan and several legendary coaches.

Ending Sidebar:

Most of you know that I lean to the right. So what! I have read many books about politicians regardless of their expressed views. We can always learn by keeping our minds open to new and different points of view. Someone had to change my diapers when I was a little tot. Someone may have to change my depends as I grow old. Albeit, change is hard to escape when life extends beyond solitary confinement. I think there may be a little “rogue” or mischievousness in most of us. How much, of course, stems from our personal outlook and attitude toward others.

Enjoy the read. “It ain’t heavy.”

JR

 

 

Sidebar: Well, Christmas has come and gone, the “Year of the Tiger-Wildcat” has finally arrived and the Super-Bowl is right around the corner. AND, there are only 266 days to the MAD All-Class Reunion. Please circle the dates of October 1st and 2nd on those new calendars. Start planning for this big weekend in San Diego with some of the finest people on this planet, your classmates and friends.

 

BOOK OF THE WEEK

 

Author JAMES PATTERSON is not new to our review list. Known for having more New York Times bestsellers than any other writer, he leads the pack when it comes to

his Alex Cross detective series. The 16th book in this series is I, ALEX CROSS (2009), the subject of this week’s review. As usual, the reader can enjoy his short chapters and plow threw 374 pages in record time.

The plot immediately unfolds when Alex, while attending a family gathering, receives notice that his niece, Caroline, has been brutally murdered and he vows to get the killer. Upon investigation, he finds out that she was part of an escort service for wealthy and important people who frequented a “gentleman’s club” known as Blacksmith Farms in Virginia. It was bad enough to learn that she was murdered, but ending up going through a chipper or wood grinder, was almost too much for Alex to handle. With the help of his partner, Sampson, and other investigative agencies, Alex learns that several other girls have disappeared while working at Blacksmith, also. The first major breakthrough in the case comes when he discovers a code found in Caroline’s belongings – one used to hide her client’s phone numbers. Working backwards, Alex is able to identify who has been frequenting Blacksmith. The clients’ names are well-known dignitaries, including men from the Washington political, social and business landscape.

The plot frequently takes breaks after Alex’s beloved mother, Nana, has a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. In fact, a great deal of the book deals with close family interaction as Alex and his kids, along with his girlfriend, Bree, try to deal with Nana’s absence and her life threatening condition, almost to the point of being a distraction from the man-hunt.

The name, Zeus, emerges and becomes the focus of the investigation. And, his name is some how linked to the White House! Oh, oh….Even the Lady President gets in on the act by trying to have Alex leave the investigation up to higher governmental authorities.  And, a cover-up is about to happen.

Some bad guys, acting on orders from someone near the top, commence shutting down Alex’s investigation by “taking out” those in the know and intimidating Alex and his family. Blacksmith is run by a blackmailer who has his clients on film! The mysterious Zeus remains anonymous but his deadly sex acts have been captured by a hidden camera.

Back to Nana for a repeat of being taken back to the hospital, the plot returns to Alex’s family coping with her relapse. The detective is literally running out of energy as he wrestles with Nana’s condition and trying to find the killer.

Not deterred by orders “from on high” to leave the investigation to the CIA and FBI, Alex continues to pull the pieces of puzzle together.  Patterson leads the reader to a fast conclusion once the trail to Zeus becomes known.

Don’t ask me what the title “I, Alex Cross” refers to, but maybe you can figure it out….

JR

 

NEW YEAR’S REVIEW – 2010

 

Sidebar 1:  The Year of the Tiger is really the Year of the “Wildcat.” It was renamed (by me) for the All-Class Reunion to be held aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway next October 2nd, 2010. SAVE THE DATE……

 

Sidebar 2:  The year 2009 was some year! For some, their last one. For all, it’s past history. The New Year stands before us to create history. I like Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. It fits the cross-over from the past to the future:

            God, Grant me the serenity

            To accept the things I cannot change;

            The courage to change the things that I can;

            And the wisdom to know the difference.

 

LEAD-OFF BOOK FOR THE NEW YEAR

 

The author of this week’s book is the popular JOHN IRVING. His most notable works include The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, the latter winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2000, a film with seven Academy Award nominations. His latest and twelfth novel (2009), LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, is the subject of our review this week.

Writing a novel requires special skills, not the least of which is background and experience in the subject matter. Knowing a little bit about Irving, I could not help but think that the novel is an extension of some of the author’s real life, embellished with imagination and knowledge of the topics germane to the plot, like the culinary arts, the logging industry, wrestling and a historical perspective of the time periods beginning in 1954. According to Irving, he starts developing his plot from the last sentence and works backward to where the story begins. Last Night In Twisted River is the second book (the other being Cider House Rules) that the title is used in the last sentence. Strange, but true….His novel is characterized by life’s experiences, some tragic, some humorous, some touching and some far reaching.

Death comes early to Twisted River when a popular runaway young boy, Angel, while “driving” logs on the river, falls victim to a log jam and drowns. His influence on the Italian cook, Dominic Baciagalupo, his son, Danny, and Ketchum, a big-tough logger and Dominc’s best friend, survive the tragedy and provides a wake-up call - “don’t take people for granted – love them now.” The cook and his 12 year old son have a close relationship as they keep the local loggers and their families well-fed. Cook Dominic, having suffered an earlier logging accident leaving him lame, and later experiencing the loss of his young wife, Rosie, while partying with Ketchum and Dominic when she fell through the ice on the river, tries to provide a good roll model for his son. His lasting influence follows Danny throughout the book. Like his dad, Danny is on the small side, physically, but he has a bright mind - one that will eventually lead to a famous career as a writer. Dominic’s job as cook brings him in contact with several women workers who help him carry out his culinary duties. The cook finds companionship with one of them, Injun Jane. Unknown to Danny, his father has an ongoing sexual relationship with “big” Injun Jane until, one night, the 12 year old hears their moans and groans and thinks his dad is being attacked by a bear (New Hampshire is noted for its bear population). Coming to his dad’s rescue in the dark, Danny mistakes Jane for a bear trying to kill his dad and he strikes and kills her with an iron skillet. Once again, tragedy comes to Twisted River. This time, however, there are lasting consequences because Injun Jane was the live-in girlfriend of local Constable Carl, a volatile man who polices the area with an iron fist, publically and privately. The cook knows that when Carl finds out that Jane had been “sleeping” with Dominic, he would be hunted down and killed. Faced with this dilemma, Dominic’s only choice is to protect his son by leaving Twisted River and seek a new life. The plot, hereafter, takes on a “life-on-the-run” for father and son beginning with relatives in the North End of Boston. Their identities and lifestyles change, but life goes on….Dominic continues his life as a cook and Danny continues his growth pattern by excelling in school, especially in creative writing. Attendance at a local Catholic school, acceptance to Phillips Exeter Academy (sidebar: Bunny Gillett ‘51 and Newman Porter ‘49 went there, I believe) and graduation from university pushed Danny forward into the world of literary prominence.

John Irving leaves the reader with the strong impression that sexual expression comes (no pun intended) in many forms, and the chronological age of one’s life can shed light on specific behaviors. Drilling holes in a bathroom door in order to “peek” into someone’s private life, or to skydive in the nude, represent a few of his characters’ behaviors. Kinky, weird, but believable…..The book has many sexual overtones, some subtle, some not.

It takes 554 pages of back and forth reading to ingest the lives of Ketchum, Dominic, Danny and their friends and families. The plot is interrupted with flashbacks and fast-forwards that explain and re-explain how their lives interacted with each other, and others, as they grow older and while “on-the-run.” Ketchum seems to be the glue in his best friend, Dominic’s, and his son, Danny’s, lives. His language makes the glue stick.

As an accomplished writer, Danny weaves his life into creating novels parallel to his life. His novels eventually lead to his financial independence. Tragedies continue to plague him, however, from failed marriages to the loss of his son. His itinerant life leads him back and forth from Iowa City to the North East, even to Toronto where he becomes a Canadian citizen. His leftist leanings seem to be in tune with the Canadian way of life as he becomes a “man outside his country.” Again, I sense the author’s political outlook has found its way into the plot and contributes to his unrest.

The revengeful death of his father, and the guilt-ridden death of Ketchum, leave the aging Danny adrift, just like it was on Twisted River….

JR

 

December 27-09

Sidebar: This week has been a little hectic, so please don’t shower me with a lot of

negative comments. Last week I did a review, Crisis, by Dr. Robin Cook. And, because of a few positive responses I received about his book, along with many readers citing an interest in medicine, I will piggy-back on another of his books, TOXIN, and go for a two-fur. So, let the medicine go down…….

 

The Book

 

Let’s start with the definition of toxin. According to Webster, a toxin is a colloidal proteinaceous (something that resembles or is like a protein) poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation. In the case of Dr. Cook’s book (1998), toxin refers to food poisoning resulting from E-Coli 0157:H7 bacteria, like cow poop! Scary, but believable, Cook takes the reader on a journey from what can happen when a sick cow’s meat is allowed to be processed, along with other beef, into what is commonly referred to as a “beef patty,” or hamburger, if you will….(remember the little old lady who asked “where is the beef?”)

(take note McDonalds, Burger King and In-and-Out-Burger).

TOXIN is a novel about beef gone bad, literally, and how it can migrate its way into our food system. As expected, the author has taken a controversial topic and wound it into a well-worth-the-read story.

The book starts out when two old codgers (known as the 4-D Men) because they pick up dead animals and take them to a disposal plant are summoned to a dairy farm to pick up an ailing animal. In addition to making the usual $25 fee for their disposal service, Bart and Willy decide that they could make an additional $50 by taking the sick cow to a near-by meat processing plant. The reader can guess what happens next as the cow begins its journey along the assembly line to its final resting place as “an all-beef patty.” During the slaughtering process, the sick-cow’s decapitated head falls off of the rail onto the kill- floor which is covered with blood, guts and excrement. The head is quickly put back on the rail and hosed off without any of the inspectors’ knowledge. A Process Deficiency Report was filled out under Lot thirty-six, head fifty-seven to “CYA” and satisfy the requirements of USDA inspectors. What doesn’t become processed beef for human consumption ends up as fertilizer and food for animals. Now I know what keeps my yard green….

Respected for his expertise as a cardiac surgeon, Dr. Kim Reggis’ practice falls victim to a corporate take-over involving the merger of the Samaritan Medical Center, his home-base for surgery, and the University Medical Center by AmeriCare, a medical giant whose cost-conscious administrators are more tuned in to financial bottom-lines instead of  “tops and bottoms”……Dr.Kim is estranged from his first wife, Tracy and he has replaced her with Ginger Powers, an attractive girlfriend and the office receptionist. Having amicably worked out visitation rights regarding their daughter, Becky, Kim drops by Tracy’s house to take Becky out to dinner with Ginger. Succumbing to Becky’s adamant protest to exclude Ginger from their outing, he takes Becky to her favorite fast-food restaurant, The Onion Ring, a burger chain. It doesn’t take long for the reader to add 2 + 2. Becky eats a tainted hamburger – one that came from the meat plant that accepted the sick cow brought in by the 4-D men. By the next day, Becky begins showing signs of an unknown illness starting with an upset stomach. Unable to diagnose her symptoms, Becky’s dad, Dr. Kim, and her mother, Tracy, eventually take Becky to the emergency room. Here is where Dr. Reggis finds he is just another cog-in-the-wheel. Expecting preferential service since he is a respected member of the medical staff, he is unable to receive special treatment for his daughter. Kim takes out his wrath on the hospital staff and its administrators. His temper and self-righteous attitude lands him in police custody. Fortunately, his professional reputation and the death of this daughter help excuse his antics and he is released. Becky continues a downward spiral as her condition becomes worse with severe stomach cramps, bleeding and changes in her blood count. Blood tests now reveal that she has the E-Coli The next trip to the emergency room becomes her last when she expires after repeated attempts to revive her failing heart affected by the deadly E-Coli toxins. Dr Kim goes wild with anger and emotion and resists hospital protocol and procedures which eventually lead to his suspension. He knows where the meat has come from and he becomes bound and determined to uncover the meat industry’s “deadly” practices. Kim goes to Mercer Meats and meets a USDA Inspector, Marsha Baldwin who is co-opted into helping Kim inspect the meat company’s records. The word gets out that they could cause trouble for Mercer and the meat industry. Acting under the authority and direction of big-time meat business guy, Bobby Bo, a contract is let out to “take care” of inspector Marsha and Kim. During an unauthorized visit to the record room in the meat plant, Marsha discovers that a sick cow was bought from the 4D men under Head 57, Lot 36 and alerts Kim by phone.  She is caught in the process and mysteriously disappears. Kim hears the struggle with her assailant and drives to the plant where he is accosted by the killer. He manages to elude the killer, but not before security personnel and the cops arrive. Back to jail he goes for the second time…The same judge barely releases him on bail. Bobby Bo is not happy that Kim is still vertical and walking around alive. The killer, a hired meat plant worker, makes a second attempt to do away with Kim and Tracy at his house. Again, the attack is botched. After the attack, Kim refuses to go to the police because of his recent run-ins with them. So, he decides that he needs proof in order to bring justice to his daughter’s death and make public the need for better consumer protection related to the meat industry. Both distraught over Becky’s death, Tracy and Kim embark on a mission to get to the bottom of their daughter’s tragic experience. Knowing someone is after him, Kim hatches a plot to gain entry into the slaughter house by becoming an employee. Tracy becomes the look-out in the parking lot and is wired audibly to Kim so she can record his findings. Dr. Kim Reggis becomes the lowest worker in the plant by keeping the kill-floor clean. Unknown to Kim, his identity, is discovered by the killer. Will the third attempt on Kim’s life be the charm? He continues to roam around the plant observing operations in hopes of getting into the records room after the regular shift has gone home. The proof is in the pudding and he needs to find it.

Will Kim’s tenacious efforts pay off? Can the killer earn his keep? Will slaughter house practices, under the USDA scrutiny, pursue better levels of protection for the public? In this day of higher technology and the need to make food processing economical, yet meet the ever increasing demand for quantity, “we” should ensure health issues become paramount throughout the food chain.   JR

 

MERRY MAD CHRISTMAS TO ALL

 

SIDEBAR

Probably, some of the timeliest and controversial topics of the day emanate from the field of medicine. While our hucksters in Washington debate the merits and demerits of health care, we, the Hoi Polloi, await the outcome and the short and long-term effects of their decisions – ones that reek with politics, as usual.

 

REVIEW

 

CRISIS (2006) is this week’s book authored by Dr. ROBIN COOK. If you have not read any of his books, then you should imbibe in his literary medicine. Since his first book, Coma, some thirty years ago, Dr Cook has become the premier writer of medical fact-based novels, His books have become noted film and TV productions. Reportedly, he writes to teach, and in most instances, he creates a plot that piggy- backs on a timely topic, such as organ donations and transplants, medical malpractice, genetic engineering and drug research. Crisis combines the fields of law and medical care along with the boutique practice called concierge medicine. A word about concierge practice is in order. It is based on economics and the rationale to give patients more than just a fifteen minute look-see. Economically speaking, doctors need to attend enough patients in order to pay for his/her service, staff and ancillary costs associated with the practice. With governmental controls that act like a governor on reimbursement for treatment of Medicaid and Medicare patients, annual increases in insurance premiums resulting from malpractice lawsuits, doctors are forced to schedule enough patients to pay for their overhead, and admittedly, quantity can often override the quality of health care. Some, however, have changed the approach to their practice by reducing the number of patients and charging an up-front fee in return for more personalized service 24-7, including house calls. The good doctor is invited to join a concierge partnership where he soon finds that his new practice brings a concurrent change in his lifestyle. His new found freedom includes splitting from his wife, Alexis, and his kids, and taking up with his twenty three year old secretary, Leona. Crisis is a story about a 45 year old dedicated/workaholic Boston doctor, Craig Bowman, and one of his concierge patients, Patience Stanhope, an aging hypochondriac who suffers from just about every ailment know to womankind.  One evening while preparing to attend the symphony with his trophy live-in hard-body, Leona, Dr. Craig receives a call from patient Patience’s frantic husband, Jordan, who seeks Craig’s immediate help (once again) since Patience is having difficulties breathing and is demonstrating some new signs of distress. The conscientious doctor, along with Leona, rush over to see what is ailing Patience. Craig finds her barely breathing and showing signs of cyanosis (blue in color). After a few quick tests, he orders an ambulance to take the elderly lady to the hospital where she never recovers. Her death is attributed to a massive heart attack. Death of a patient is one of the tough issues a doctor must deal with, some more tragic than others. In Dr. Craig Bowman’s case, however, losing Patience Stanhope was perceived as a blessing in disguise. No longer will he have to tend to her complaints and rush out on false alarm house calls. He shares his inner feelings with Leona not knowing that his emotions will come back to “bite him” later.

Not long after Patience’s death, and out-of-the-blue, Craig is served with papers charging him with medical malpractice and wrongful death by her husband, Jordan. All of sudden his rosy new-found world as a concierge doctor is turned upside down and he becomes incensed when anyone, including Jordan, would cast a shadow over his reputation as medical doctor. After all, he was well known in the profession for his scholarly published research and skills as an internist. This downward spiral causes him to withdraw and lash out at anyone who would suspect him of any wrong doing.

The court trial takes over the rest of the plot, and it is a hum-dinger with many surprising twists and turns. The author brings his superior knowledge of medicine, law and criminal pursuit into play in and out of the court room. Randolph Bingham is appointed attorney for Dr. Bowman through his insurance company, and ambulance chaser, Anthony Fasano, leads the plaintiff’s charge. Craig is encouraged to patch-up things with his wife by moving back with Alexis and his daughters in order to improve his flailing image. He does. Alexis tries to be a compassionate wife by helping him through the trial. But, she encounters strong resistance due to Craig’s head-strong and self-centered view of himself. The story is further strengthened when Alexis calls upon her estranged brother, Dr. Jack Stapleton, a medical examiner who lives and works in New York, to come to Boston and help her and Craig survive the Crisis. Jack will appeal to the reader as colorful guy – one who is street smart, good at his profession of slicing up bodies, a survivor of a horrible tragedy when he loses his wife and two daughters in a commuter airplane accident, a health nut and last, but certainly not least, a guy who is about to be married in few days to his long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Laurie Montgomery. Talk about a full plate!!

Dr. Jack arrives in Boston to hold his sister’s hand and to help in any way possible. As the trail commences, colorful and dramatic courtroom scenes and characters create a negative atmosphere for Craig as his past is used to the plaintiff’s advantage. Meanwhile, Dr. Jack delves into the case looking for any thing that might help his brother-in law. After a review of the case records, and as a medical examiner, he thinks Patience body should be exhumed and an autopsy should be performed.  He enlists his New York detective buddy, Lt. Lou Soldano to open up some doors in Boston when Craig and Alexis’ daughters fall victims to a house call by two thugs who tie them up and threaten them with future harm if they don’t tell their parents to stop the autopsy! The threat is overruled by Craig and Alexis and Jack proceeds to get the permits and permission to exhume the body. As the clock ticks down and his wedding is creeping up on him rapidly, tension is coming in on all sides; the judge wants the case wrapped up ASAP; Jack’s fiancée wants his rear- end in New York in time for the wedding; he remains in unknown danger from those who want to stop the autopsy; and, Jack must complete the autopsy in time to enter any new evidence, if any, into trial before its too late.

The conclusion is a “doozy”.  It will make you wonder which crisis best represents the title. Does the name refer to the acts of Dr. Craig Bowman? Or, does it stand for the outcome of the trial? Or, does it suggest that concierge medicine needs a second look?

JR

 

DECEMBER 12, 2009

 

SIDEBAR:   Only 294 days until the ALL-CLASS REUNION!!!

 

Review

Books are a lot like trying new food. I call it the “taste factor.” Sometimes you are disappointed in the product and sometimes your taste buds come alive with delight.

This week’s book is a weak read, but it does provide some unusual entertainment. TRADING PLACES (2003) by bestselling author (?) FERN MICHAELS attempts to pull a “switcheroooo” -  one that requires the reader to have an imagination that surpasses Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Aggie and Lizzie Jade may be identical twins in looks, but that’s where the duos identities stop! Aggie, an Atlanta police detective, lives a conservative life trying to catch bad guys. Lizzie, on the other hand, is a wealthy high-rolling Vegas professional gambler whose swinging life style could match Tiger Woods.

The plot starts out when Aggie and her K-9 buddy, Gus, and her former boyfriend and partner are shot in a drug bust gone bad. Aggie and Gus survive the incident. Partner Tom does not. Aggie is put on a leave of absence due to her life threatening injuries as she faces a six month long road to heal her mind and body. Bound and determined to find who was behind the ambush, Aggie uncovers a corrupt ring of fellow police officers who have been skimming drugs confiscated during previous busts. Not knowing who she can trust, she leans on her long-time close friend and professor of engineering, Alex Rossiter. And, here is when the idea of “Trading Places” is hatched. Her physical and mental condition is so fragile that pursuing the case is not feasible. But, her swinging twin sister just might be able to pull-off the switch of the century. Upon learning of Aggie’s near-death experience, Lizzie returns to Atlanta and finds out about the extent of her sister’s injuries and the threats to her life, and Aggie’s proposed plan to “trade places.” The two agree to the new transformation of their lives and the exchange of roles shifts into first gear. After some coaching, fast learning Lizzie becomes detective Aggie. The switch enables Aggie to leave the area with Alex and get back to her roots by growing organic carrots on the farm she and Lizzie inherited from an uncle. Only a secure cell phone call away, the two keep tabs of each other’s progress in pursuit of who is behind the corruption and the growth status of the biennial herb Daucus carota. The author maintains an emerging dual love story while Alex and Aggie do their farm thing, and while Lizzie joins forces with Nathan Hawk, a local reporter, to uncover the bad cops. Back and forth the story goes, some parts plausible, some parts not believable.

Lizzie’s cover is blown when Nathan’s becomes suspicious while messing around with her body parts and he discovers a tattoo staring at him on her (you no where). Whoa!! The secret is out but Nathan vows to not blow Lizzie’s cover. Together, with Aggie’s help, the sister act moves closer to a forgone conclusion. The plot is stretched out into 390 pages, and if you like a shallow criminal- love story, you might try to decide who you would like to trade places with, Aggie or Lizzie…..

JR

 

NOVEMBER 28, 2009

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION NEWS

 

Pay your dues and get the news…….

For all you cheapskates out there – the ones who did not pay their alumni dues this year, here is what you missed in the latest edition of the alumni newsletter:

                               

 A little note from Gary Dayton, talking to "Don't shoot it's me Richard" Edwards a few weeks ago, he said he didn't send them $5, he sent $10. Richard is in an assisted living home using a scooter, on oxygen, but still the same old Richard. What's your excuse?

A BOOK BY ONE OF OUR OWN…..

 

This week’s book review is special. It was written by one of our own classmates, Carl B. Allen, class of 1957. Entitled, MEMOIRS of MYTHS and TRUTHS, In an Ordinary Pebble’s Extraordinary Life (2008). Carl takes the reader on his unusual journey through life drawing upon the analogy that humans are like pebbles that roll and flow in the streams of life with intended and unintended directions, sometimes smoothly, and sometimes with hardships.  He recalls his personal experiences that bridged his younger years into adulthood. Since his days at Monrovia were after me, I have not had the personal pleasure of meeting Carl. But, for those of us who grew up in Monrovia, Arcadia or Duarte, you will identify with many of his anecdotes. The reader will recall familiar landmarks and activities that dotted his colorful memoirs, many similar to ours, also. Places like Huntington Drive, Monrovia Nursery, Aztec Hotel, Chantry Flats, Duarte, Glendora, Ontario and Riverside race tracks, double drive, Clifton, Carpenters, Santa Anita Race Track, Monrovia airport, Nash’s and Henshaw’s Department Stores, Pasadena City College (PCC), Bob’s Big Boy, Mayflower Village, and familiar names like coach Dink Walker, Mr. Dunson, Ms. Clemmons, Mr. Brubaker and Bill Hatch, just to mention a few….

Initially, Carl spends considerable time telling the reader about his Irish heritage and family life before and after settling in Arcadia. Follow his school life from early elementary days at Santa Fe, Clifton Junior High and Monrovia-Duarte High School where he graduated in 1957 before moving on to Pasadena City College. Racing cars, playing sports, hanging out with friends, working and fixing-up old cars became his outlets. The reader will identify with many of his vignettes, having “been there, and done some of that,” also. His mechanical ability to build and rebuild cars left me in the dust! He could mix and match auto parts like they were a numbered jig saw puzzle. He credits his dad for turning him on to racing and building cars.  Reportedly, he fashioned himself after the actor James Dean and sometimes he acted accordingly - “a rebel without a cause.”

According to Carl, learning was sometimes frustrating due to his dyslexia which was later diagnosed when he joined the military. This condition did not affect his artistic skills when he successfully plied them in his careers and personal life. His love of art and music, especially jazz, remains with him today.

Carl spent 3 ½ years in the military after his enlistment in the Army in 1962. After basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey and advanced clerical training on the East coast, he was sent on an unusual security assignment to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, the command center for NATO in Europe. Again, he recounts his on-duty and off-duty life as an ordinary pebble, but with extraordinary outcomes. And, only he can sort out the truth from the fiction, and sometimes that is even hard for him to do…..

His candid remarks about his love life while a teenager and as an adult add passion (no pun intended) to his memoirs. So, from the world of ducktail hair do’s, to military crew cuts, his outward appearance changed, but not his inner self. Like the Johari window exercise shows us, what you know about yourself vs. what you do not know about yourself, and likewise, what is known about you by others vs. what is not known about you by others, establishes a personal awareness and interpersonal understanding of who you are, or how you are perceived by others. And, as Carl describes himself and others, each pebble (person) is different, all ordinary, but some extraordinary.

Career wise, he became the Head Claims Investigator for the County of Los Angeles where he worked for twenty eight years.

After several marriages, he is now retired and living in Prescott, Arizona with his wife, Kathy. Note: like my life, reunions can revive old relationships and can lead to finding another pebble in the sand!

Your fellow alums salute you, Carl, for sharing your story, Memoir of Myths and Truths.

 

Carl – You need to attend our All-Class Reunion next October 2nd in San Diego aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway Museum and face off with some of your old, and maybe, a few new buddies (pebbles) for a weekend amidst tall ships and tall tales….

JR

 

NOVEMBER 21, 2009

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION NEWS

 

And the list of classmates planning to attend continues to grow……

Just this past week I received a call from Bob Ginther ’48 who lives in Lenexa, Kansas; a quick visit with Gary  and Sue Schaar and their friends Carol Mayo and Peggy Johnson, and another note from John Burt ’55 – all indicating their desire to join the reunion aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway October 1,2, 2010. Thanks everyone for continuing to get the word out.

Our next committee meeting is in January, so if you want to get your two cents worth into planning the reunion, then be there…..

 

BOOK TIME

 

No matter what we hear, read or see, acts of terrorism continue to plague our lives. This topic has hit the literary world like a tidal wave. War and violence has always existed, but these acts have literally come into our homes, thanks to technological advances (?) in media coverage. Bestselling author, Frederick Forsyth, has capitalized on this popular genre in his novel, THE AFGHAN. Many readers will recall some of his other novels, including, The Day of the Jackal, The Dogs of War and the Odessa File. The Afghan is not about “who dun nit”, but rather, “what’s going to happen.” British and US Intelligence agencies become suspicious of an Al Qaeda operation known as Al-Isra, a name derived from the Muslim religion meaning “The Night Journey” and “The Heavenly Ascension” by the Prophet, Muhammad. Reportedly, this operation would surpass the tragedy of 9/11. After secure discussions about Al-Isra by top CIA and SAS officers, it became apparent that the best way to get to the bottom of the plot was to infiltrate Al Qaeda. Enter retired SAS Colonel Mike Martin previously featured in Forsythe’s book, Fist of God. Martin, raised in Iraq, fluent in the Arabic language, and a veteran of the Afghan conflict with the Russians, is identified as the only person who could pull off this infiltration plan. While fighting in Afghanistan, Martin befriends an injured Afghan, Izmat Khan, a Taliban commander. Kahn eventually ends up in detention at Guantanamo Bay. Through a series of covert moves, Martin switches places with Kahn and a planned escape occurs that will take him on a possible one-way mission around the world. In the meantime, Kahn, in a separate plot, is whisked away to a secret CIA cabin hideaway in Washington State. What happens there has no bearing on the main plot, but the reader will learn what an F-15 engine can do when it falls out of the sky!

Forsyth gives the reader a good history lesson into Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the religion of Islam, with special emphasis on its extreme form called Wahabbism.

The second half of the book deals with Martin’s penetration into the Al Qaeda network to learn about operation “Al-Isra.” Finally, he uncovers that a planned disaster will occur some place at sea and attempts to relay this information to his US and British counterparts. Colonel Mike is put to the test as he uses his experience and background to become a part of the Jihadists who will carry out the operation.

Unfortunately, he loses electronic contact with his Intelligence group. On chance, he sends a written coded message in a scuba diver’s baggage hoping it will find its way to CIA and SAS operatives. It does. Now it is up to them to find out how, when and where the disaster will happen. The plot becomes a little far-fetched (my emphasis) when the target becomes known - a floating G-8 Summit meeting aboard the QE2. Can Mike prevent another Titanic disaster, or will Davey Jones Locker be open for business?

JR

 

11-14-09 Jim received the following from Harriet "Hat"

I'll never forget the first time we met; We tried so hard to impress.

We drove fancy cars, smoked big cigars, And wore our most elegant dress It was quite an affair; the whole class was there.

It was held at a fancy hotel.

We wined, and we dined, and we acted refined, And everyone thought it was swell.

The men all conversed about who had been first To achieve great fortune and fame.

Meanwhile, their spouses described their fine houses And how beautiful their children became.

The homecoming queen, who once had been lean, Now weighed in at one-ninety-six.

The jocks who were there had all lost their hair, And the cheerleaders could no longer do kicks.

No one had heard about the class nerd Who'd guided a spacecraft to the moon; Or poor little Jane, who's always been plain; She married a shipping tycoon.

The boy we'd decreed 'most apt to succeed' Was serving ten years in the pen, While the one voted 'least' now was a priest; Just shows you can be wrong now and then.

They awarded a prize to one of the guys Who seemed to have aged the least..

Another was given to the grad who had driven The farthest to attend the feast.

They took a class picture, a curious mixture Of beehives, crew cuts and wide ties.

Tall, short, or skinny, the style was the mini; You never saw so many thighs.

At our next get-together, no one cared whether They impressed their classmates or not.

The mood was informal, a whole lot more normal; By this time we'd all gone to pot.

It was held out-of-doors, at the lake shores; We ate hamburgers, coleslaw, and beans.

Then most of us lay around in the shade, In our comfortable T-shirts and jeans.

By the fiftieth year, it was abundantly clear, We were definitely over the hill.

Those who weren't dead had to crawl out of bed, And be home in time for their pill.

And now I can't wait; they've set the date; Our sixtieth is coming, I'm told.

It should be a ball, they've rented a hall At the Shady Rest Home for the old.

Repairs have been made on my hearing aid; My pacemaker's been turned up on high.

My wheelchair is oiled, and my teeth have been boiled; And I've bought a new wig and glass eye.

I'm feeling quite hearty, and I'm ready to party I'm gonna dance 'til dawn's early light.

It'll be lots of fun; But I just hope that there's one Other person who can make it that night.

Author Unknown Life is Wonderful..

Don't forget it!

 

NOVEMBER 8, 2010 REVIEW

 

Sidebar:  For those men and women who are serving, or who have served our country, and for those who have laid down their lives for our country, we honor you this coming VETERANS DAY, Wednesday, November 11, 2009, and every day.

 

REVIEW TIME

One of the most popular and prolific authors of our time is Stephen King. His horror, fantasy and science fiction novels have entertained the literary world for many years. Of late, using the pen name of Richard Bachman, King took an old 1973 unpublished manuscript entitled BLAZE, a so-called a trunk novel deposited in a library in Maine, and brought it back to life. Reportedly, King, himself, has credited the resurrection of Blaze as homage to Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’.

This fast read is about a young man, Clayton Blaisdell Jr. whose physical size would have matched Primo Carnera, yet his mental capacity bordered mental retardation. Clayton was an early victim of an abusive drunken father who punished him by throwing him down the stairs three times resulting in permanent head injuries. His recovery left him with a big dent in his forehead and a mind that earned him the name of “dummy.”  At 6’7” in height, he had a heart to match, when not provoked. His classmates soon learned to not mess with Clay. King/Bachman excels, once again, as a master of bringing real life to his characters. The reader immediately grasps the notion that there is something good deep inside Clay’s mind and soul. After his traumatic injury, he became a ward of the court and began a life in and out of foster homes and orphanages where he soon gained the name “Blaze” from his schoolmates. The reader can’t help but become sympathetic with Blaze’s contrarian behavior even though he turns into a con artist, thief and kidnapper.

The plot is off-beat in its message. How can someone be so sensitive, yet be so insensitive? I found myself trying to justify Blaze’s criminal behavior knowing all along that he was sinking into an abyss with no return. From the beginning of the story, the reader follows Blaze as he interacts with a dead man, George, a former partner in crime. George haunts and taunts Blaze through on ongoing series of flashbacks. Blaze’s early school life was miserable due to his borderline mentality. With the help of a few friends, Clayton, (a.k.a) Blaze, periodically practices petty theft. He finds himself placed in several foster homes where he is mistreated. Eventually he ends up at Hetton, an orphanage. At Hetton, his school life is torturous thanks to a ruthless headmaster, Martin Coslaw. After a physical altercation with “the Law”, Blaze is sentenced to jail time. Once released, he heads off to city life in Boston where he finds work in a laundry. He continues to engage in part-time theft until he meets a con-artist, George. George uses Blaze as a partner in his schemes to rob, steal and cheat innocent victims. Eventually, George is caught and sent to prison leaving Blaze alone. His low-life continues until George gets out of jail and they resume their partnership in criminal acts. George has bigger things on his mind, however. He believes that they can enter the world of retirement by kidnapping a baby and holding it for ransom, that is, until George is killed in a crap game. Once again, Blaze finds himself alone and without the benefit of George’s wayward guidance. He decides that he should carry out the kidnapping without his deceased partner. The rest of the plot is devoted to planning and carrying out the kidnap of a son of a wealthy family. Could this deed be justified in light of Blaze’s checkered past? I don’t think the Latin phrase “mens sana in corpore sano” would apply under these circumstances…..two hours of spare time is all you need to make up your mind.

JR

LAST REVIEW FOR OCTOBER ‘09

 

MAD ALL-CLASS REUNION: THINK IT!!  OCTOBER 1-2, 2010

 

THIS WEEK’S BOOK

Foreword:

Eric Petersen, author of this week’s book, is new to my list of reads. Coincidently, he grew up in my second home town of Los Gatos, California, a boutique place nestled on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I shared his 95030 zip code in my residence and work for 48 years. LIFE as a SANDWICH is a light and humorous novel - one with real life overtones, especially for those who survived living in the fast lane during the electronics boom, which many say, started in the San Francisco Bay Area, namely Silicon Valley. The growth and development of the “hi-tech” industry was not confined to the Santa Clara Valley, however. It provided the impetus for the spread of R&D and manufacturing to such places as Austin, Boston, Dallas, Tampa, San Diego, Orange County Atlanta and Colorado Springs, just to name a few. For those who wanted to ride this tidal wave, it usually carried a change in lifestyle, sometimes, however, not always for the best. I, personally, fell slave to the electronics industry for twenty five years when our commercial real estate firm, in partnership with the Prudential, built millions of feet of “hi tech” office, manufacturing and warehouse buildings each year in an attempt to keep up with the unprecedented growth. Firms like IBM, Lockheed, Intel and Applied Materials were biting off huge chunks of space in order to remain competitive in a roaring economy. For those individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit and who saw an opening for the development of their ideas, and, hopefully, reap a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow, were usually faced with the need for a cash infusion. The sources for funding R&D came from either personal funds or from private investors. On the private sector side, some of this mad money was derived from wealthy individuals, allied companies who either needed the new widget or sought control of the up-start company, and/or from financial institutions, all believing in the viability of the new product and, of course, the expectation of a high return on their investment. The primary sources for funding, however, were (and still are) venture capital firms who usually specialize in certain business sectors. VC companies are backed by big money from private investment funds, pension funds and wealthy individuals. In return, of course, the recipients had to give up a piece of the action. Probably, the best known venture capital firms are located on or near the Sand Hill Road area in Palo Alto, California, a chip shot from the Menlo Golf and Country Club and Stanford’s Linear Accelerator. At the height of the boom, over SIX BILLION dollars a year was handed out to “start-ups” in Silicon Valley! Against this landscape, the reader should now be ready to undertake a roller coaster ride through Life as a Sandwich.

Back to the book…..

The backdrop of this fast-moving novel takes place in the San Diego area. Eric Petersen weaves many recognizable landmarks into the plot - ones that are especially familiar to those who have resided in Southern California, and especially in the San Diego area. The main character inside the sandwich is Wallace Noe, whose ambition was only exceeded by his lack of maturity, indecisiveness and a belief that self-sacrifice meant playing only 18 holes instead of 36. Wallace had a career path that befuddled his parents and friends until he sought professional help from an industrial psychologist. Because of his people skills and the results from some psychological tests, Wallace decided to take a detour from his nomadic life and to become a management consultant. His consultancy career soon ended, however, when his parents were killed in a helicopter accident and he inherited half of his parent’s estate. In an attempt to make something of himself, he enters the never ending world of software development. Already burdened with nagging in-laws and an aspiring career wife, Hannah, whose life as an airline attendant takes her frequently away from Wallace and their two young daughters, he finds himself in a “Big Mac” sandwich running between his start-up company, private school and home. As he burns through his inheritance and refinances his house in order to keep his fledging company afloat, it becomes clear that he needs outside financial help, also. It comes in the form of Michael Merksamer, “a seasoned executive and a practiced master of start-ups.” Maverick Michael proposes a merger of his company, Merksamer, with Wallace’s company. Trapped, and acting on the assumption that “something is better than nothing,” Wallace agrees to the merger, leaving him with a twenty percent ownership position in Merksamer Digital. Initially, things were looking up for Wallace when he lands a major client. That is, until major flaws appear in his software. In between patching up his faulty software program which was designed to help insurance companies better manage their clients, Wallace’s personal life takes a downward spiral when he becomes involved with the Escondido police department for impersonating a police officer. With increasing pressure from all sides, his scotch intake takes him one step closer to the delirium tremens level, and last, but not least, he succumbs to a sexual fling with a business associate. The sandwich effect continues to grow with no relief in sight. The author’s depiction of his characters fits nicely with the plot and keeps the reader wondering if it has a champagne conclusion. Life as a Sandwich has an underlying message that affects everyone. That is, what is the meaning of life, and what do we want out of it? And, lastly, how much energy am I willing to expend, and at what expense, to reach my goal? Each of us has to answer these questions, some time.

It is no wonder that some people like an open-face sandwich!

Well done Eric Petersen…….

JR

 

REVIEW FOR OCTOBER 25, 2009

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION (CONTINUED)

 

Our Committee continues to grow as plans for the big event next October unfold. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 19th @ the Monrovia Community Center @ 1:00 PM. Anyone interested in becoming a part of the Committee just contact Don Cottle or myself: Don.Cottle@Vistage.com , or jjregan55@cox.net. In the meantime, spread the word that MAD’s biggest and best reunion, ever, will be held aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway in San Diego OCTOBER 1-2, 2010. Plenty more to come…….

 

Sidebar: Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the commissioning of the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) at the Naval Air Station North Island where Captain Robert G. Kopas, USN, assumed command. The USS Makin Island is the second ship to bear the name of the daring raid carried out by the Marine Raider Companies A and B, Second Raider Battalion (Carlson’s Raiders) on Japanese held Makin Island on August 17 – 18, 1942, ten days after the US Marines commenced Offensive Operations in the Pacific on the island of Guadalcanal. The purpose of the raid was to destroy installations, take prisoners, gain intelligence on the area and divert Japanese attention and reinforcements from Guadalcanal. The successful raid was launched from the submarines USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut and is regarded by many as the first action in the realm of Special Operations. The first USS Makin Island was an escort aircraft carrier which served from 1944 -1946. The highlight of the ceremony was, after placing the ship in commission and breaking the pennant, the crew of three thousand navy and marine personnel manned the ship. They ran aboard and circled the decks facing an audience of about several thousand while the Marine Corps Band played patriotic songs. It was a sight that I will never forget, and I’m sure they won’t either.

 

BOOK TIME

Whether you are a history buff, or not, you will benefit from the late MICHAEL SHAARA’S Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the Civil War, THE KILLER ANGELS (1974).  Many readers may remember one of his books, For the Love of the Game – a baseball story made into a movie staring Kevin Costner. Shaara did extensive research on the battle of Gettysburg which took place during the third summer of the war (1838-1845). His vivid and emotional descriptions depicts the battle through the hearts and minds of the key cadre who “led the charge.” His descriptions of events and characters were formulated from real words and documents, not historical opinions, leaving the reader with an unbiased vision of the sequence of events leading up to the bloodiest war in American History. In fact, more American soldiers (over 902 million) gave up their lives - more than all of our wars and conflicts combined! As reported, the Civil War was about slavery and taxation of cotton products and it pitted certain Northern States against certain Southern States. President Lincoln’s attempts to bring the two sides together were met with an impasse. Under the command of the North/Union Army was General Ulysses S. Grant (his first name was really Hiram and the S was made up) and under the command of the South/Confederate Army of North Virginia was Robert E. Lee. Both men were West Point graduates but their command styles greatly differed. Lee was considered an old-fashion general while Grant was aggressive and brought new tactics to the battlefield. Grant went on to become our 18th President. The Killer Angels unfolds a two-sided story of how each army, under the direction of their Generals, assisted by their key officers and troops, fought the battle of Gettysburg. The author’s gripping tales of strategy and deployment used by both sides allows the reader to stand beside the main characters as they lead up to the final charge (Picketts Charge) to the top of (appropriately named) Cemetery Ridge. Shaara’s use of many directional maps helps the reader follow the movement of troops as the battle is formed and fought out to its bloody conclusion. The book is really about what went on in the minds of those that made the decisions that led to the outcome of the battle. It is written from a first-person perspective. Yes, the discussions portrayed by the author are fictional, but they are factually driven. The human elements of leadership challenge the reader to render personal judgments and formulate decisions as if you were there. I will leave the details of the battle for you to read.

Of special interest, the author’s son, Jeff, has followed in his father’s literary footsteps and has written several books codifying the “before and after” events of the Civil War.

JR

 

OCTOBER 17, 2010 REVIEW AND STUFF

 

REVIEW: VIKAS SWARUP’S latest book, SIX SUSPECTS (2008), may prove to be in the same league as his first award winning novel, Q & A. Q & A was so well received that it became the source for the recent big-time movie, Slumdog Millionaire which received five Golden Globe Awards and eight Oscar Awards. Q & A has already been ordained as a movie in the making. Swarup was born in Allahabad, India to a family of lawyers. Since 1986, his interest in politics led him into the India Foreign Service where he has served his country as Counsel-General to such countries as Turkey, United States, Ethiopia, United Kingdom, South Africa and most recently Japan.

Six Suspects is just that, six suspects. Playboy Vicky Rai, the son of a big time politician, is murdered while throwing a huge party celebrating his acquittal for murdering a female bartender who refused to serve him after closing time, even though “girls are supposed to get prettier after closing time.” Six Suspects are arrested immediately after Vicky is shot. Why six? After frisking the party crowd, the police find six guests “packing guns.” A run down of the six include, Mohan Kumar, former politician and big-time bureaucrat with a split personality; Shabnamji, a Bollywood actress;  a tribal member of a dying tribe named Eketi;  Munna, a street hustler and cell phone thief, a corrupt politician, Home Minister Jagannath Rai (father of the victim); and Larry Page (not the Google founder), a fork lift operator from Texas who has found love on the internet. The author weaves each suspect’s life into the political, economic and social landscape of modern day India. The reader is not spared the details of love, corruption, murder, blackmail and betrayal. What’s left? Reportedly, contemporary India’s GNP is growing at a current rate of 6%. Amidst this backdrop, however, “a violent crime is committed every three minutes, a murder every sixteen (that’s 90 per day)! I found the plot skipping around so much that I sometimes got lost and confused in the world of Indian words and meanings. But, Swarup’s skill at weaving threads from one suspect to another is very creative and he kept me turning all 470 pages. Six Suspects is a real “whodunit” mystery novel. And, rather than lead the reader to a hasty conclusion, Swarup has a knack of playing with his readers as he unwraps their lives. Be prepared to ride the never-ending highs and the lows of the streets of India where love, humor, sadness and grief resemble ocean waves.

Hint: you might want to take a few notes as you wade through the book. It might help you sort through the maze of characters and solve the murder.

JR

FIRST REVIEW FOR OCTOBER, 2009

 

ALL-CLASS REUNION NEWS

 

It is exactly one year to the day, October 2, 2010, that our All-Class reunion will be held. So, yesterday, your All-Class Reunion Committee kicked-off its first major meeting aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway Museum permanently docked here in San Diego, the city of our big event. The Midway has been voted the #1 tourist attraction in California. Members of the committee attending included Bill Hunter, Carol Streeter, Ed and Bettie Losee, Paulette and Don Smith, Elsa Seifert and Norm Morrison, Don Cottle, Gary Dayton, Ian and Hariett Campbell, Bob and Genelle Cox, George and Mary Russell and Jim and Vangie Regan. In the morning the group toured the Midway The Flight Deck was selected as the best spot to stage the reunion. Surrounded by water, the views are spectacular in every direction. To the South is the span of the Coronado bridge; to the West is Point Loma and North Island Naval Air Base, home port for the carriers Ronald Reagan and the Nimitz; to the East is the skyline of downtown; and, to the North is the airport area. Some of the group, the brave ones, took a test ride in one of the simulators.  The planning session continued in the afternoon at the Regan digs. The theme for the reunion is now dubbed “Midway MADness.” Program content was discussed along with ways to communicate with alumni. It was felt by all that the best way to reach mates is to work through class representatives and website editors. Proposals to cater the event were compared and negotiations are under way to reach an agreement with one caterer. A large video screen will be positioned against the backdrop of the carrier’s tower and will feature picture of blasts from the past. Hotel accommodations, along with other weekend activities will be announced in future correspondence. Simulators will be available for those that yearn to fly in the “wild blue yonder.” Midway docents will also be available for those who wish to wander around the ship. No-host bars with adult beverages will be available at favorable rates. Gene Cameron has donated 60 bottles of wine for grape lovers. This reunion is for all classmates who have attended Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School when it was MAD or just Monrovia. Old timers and new mates on the block will have a once-in-a-lifetime (and, for some, it could be a last-in-a-lifetime) opportunity to renew old acquaintances and meet some new ones. The evening under the stars will be capped with a fireworks show off  the bow (front) of the ship. All this and much more….so YOU SHOULD MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW and put aside $150 per couple or $75 per person. (That’s only $6.25 per person per month or a bottle of beer at the ballpark) !!  Join in the fun for the biggest and best reunion, ever…

 

BOOK TIME:

 Former lawyer, David Baldacci, first hit the literary scene in 1996 when his best selling book, Absolute Power, was released (previously reviewed). It was so well received that it was made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. Since then, he has written 16 other books, screenplays and many articles for magazines and newsworthy publications. Like many other authors, he has kept his main characters alive in subsequent books. This week’s book, FIRST FAMILY (2009), is the latest one in the series featuring Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. The first book in this series, Split Second, was followed by Hour Game and Simple Genius.

If you are into politics, tainted by scandals and corruption, then First Family will suit your taste. Sean and Michelle are called upon by First Lady Jane Cox when her brother’s wife is murdered and his daughter, Willa, is kidnapped while attending her special birthday party given by Jane at Camp David. Sean had previously helped Jane by “taking care” of her husband, Dan, when Sean caught him engaged in sexual misconduct. Not good for a sitting President…………………………………………………………………

The kidnapper, Sam Quarry, has developed an intricate scheme to get even with the President. Much of the plot is spent unraveling why revenge is so important to Sam and his daughter who is brain dead and on life support. The FBI jockey with Sean and Michelle as they try to join forces in finding Willa.  The search becomes complicated when the First Lady is caught in lies and misleading information. Quarry lives a rural life in Alabama on his age old family farm, Atlee. His kidnapping crime is supported by his son and a couple of drifters who have been trained to follow Sam’s orders. Once Willa is held in captivity, Sam sends several messages to Jan aimed at luring the President and the First Lady to the Atlee farm. The reader is challenged to figure out what Sam is trying to do and what is his connection to President Cox. The showdown at Atlee to rescue Willa is the prelude to the real ending. Politics is all about survival, but at what expense?

First Family will let you know if it is worth it…..

JR

September 29th Review

 

REUNION NEWS:

Twenty alumni have signed on for the All-Class Reunion meeting next Friday, October 2, 2009 @ 10:00 AM. Where: meet at the entrance to the USS Midway on Harbor Drive   or at Regan household @ 9:30 AM, 1300 W. Walnut Ave. Tour will be followed by lunch aboard the Midway, an afternoon planning session at the Regan’s and hosted dinner and social. Bring your enthusiasm and ideas…..call or e-mail me to reserve a spot (619) 299-6742, jjregan55@cox.net

 

 

Forward: Last week we visited with James Paterson and his book, Judge & Jury. This week’s review features another one of his latest books, Swimsuit (2009). Patterson is one prolific writer, especially since he uses co-authors to grind out his books. Reportedly, he outlines the plot and turns over the actual writing to his co-authors. Many notable authors, like Michener and Griffin, did the same thing. Subsequently, their writing took on a different literary flavor and the plots became diluted, lacking the original smack of creativity and originality. I suggest Swimsuit falls into this trap, also.

Review Warning: Swimsuit is not to be read by the faint of heart. It is a grizzly, violent and sleazy story of a serial killer run amuck.

Henri Benoit is a sick and ruthless murderer. But, then again, most killers are when they seek out pleasure and enjoyment in their acts of violence. Henri is prompted to perform his ruthless acts for personal pleasure and for money. His deeds have international roots when he is hired by a twelve member group who call themselves “The Alliance,” or as Henri dubs them, “The Peepers,” headed by Horst Werner in Switzerland. Henri’s job is to film lewd acts and then murder his victims. These graphic scenes are then transmitted via the internet to the Peepers. The plot begins on the island of Maui when a talented swimsuit model, Kim McDaniels, on location for a swimsuit edition for a popular sports magazine, is abducted by Henri. His ability to transform his persona and appearance to fit any occasion allows him to roam freely and befriend his victims. Kim’s parents learn of Kim’s disappearance when Henri calls them in the middle of the night and tells them that “something bad has happened to their daughter.” His call prompts the McDaniels to rush to Hawaii in search of their daughter. The stage has been set for a string of murders.

Ben Hawkins, a former dismissed Oregon cop and currently L.A. Times reporter, is sent to Maui to cover Kim’s disappearance. Ben becomes involved when Kim’s parents are approached by Ben to help him in his coverage of the story. Initially rebuked, the McDaniels learn of Ben’s police background and his interest in the investigation and agree to join forces in finding their daughter.

The victims turn out to be anyone who attracts Henri, either by accident, plan, or simply get in his way. Two swimsuit models, Kim’s parents and a twelve year old girl are murdered before Ben returns to his L.A. office. And, there are more to come. So much for island paradise!

Amanda Diaz, Ben’s live-in lover, biker and pastry chef, plays a support role in keeping Ben’s life focused, especially when her life, as well as Ben’s, are threatened by Henri. The killer remains unknown until Ben uncovers clues to his identity. When Henri finds out that Ben is after him the plot centers on survival of the fittest, Henri vs. Ben.

Short action chapters have become Patterson’s trademark and allow for easy reading. The characters are mostly shallow and lack clear sources of identity. The reader never gets to know them, especially some of the victims.

The latter part of the plot is dedicated to writing Henri’s biography. Ben is overwhelmed by force and taken to Joshua Tree National Park and is involuntary enlisted to ply his literary skills to write Henri’s life story. The tale becomes unfinished when a Park ranger discovers them in a closed area. Henri flees the area leaving Ben to find his way home. Henri never seems to be a step away from Ben and Amanda as he tracks their every move, that is, until Ben discovers that the killer has implanted a GPS chip in Hawkin’s hip. The final chapters find Ben struggling between finishing Henri’s story, struggling for his own survival and bringing the killer to justice.

As expected, the ending is ugly and abrupt. I would not bother to put on your swimsuit for this theme -less story, it might not fit!!!

JR

 

 

SEPTEMBER 19TH REVIEW AND STUFF

 

REUNION NEWS:

Three dates everyone should be aware of: Thanksgiving  - 68 days away, Christmas - 97 days, New Years -104 days AND THE ALL-CLASS REUNION  - 378 days. As we approach this October, 2009, loyal alumni should mark their 2010 calendars for the BIG ALL-CLASS REUNION firmly set for October 1st and 2nd 2010 aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway Museum permanently berthed in San Diego. Plan ahead now. Alert your class buddies, arrange your accommodations and transportation and above all stay vertical! An all-day planning session is scheduled for Friday, October 2nd, 2009 @ 10:00 AM aboard the Midway followed by a meeting at the Regan household, including dinner and adult beverages. We have a good representative group of cross-class alumni who have volunteered to stage the event, but we can always use more members. Your committee currently includes, Bob and Genelle Cox, Don Cottle, Ed and Bettie Losee, Bill and Betty Hunter, Bob and Jackie Schaar, Bob and Marilyn Humble, Ian and Harriett Campbell, Steve and Shirley Brodie, Paulette and Don Smith, Elsa Seifert and Norm Morrison, Mary and George Russell, Carol Fowler Streeter, Nancy Johnson Akin, Darell and Joan Jefferies, Joretta Griffin Bunyard, Gary Dayton, Rich Humble, Marjean and Larry Larson, Bob and Dorothy Packer and Jim and Vangie Regan. Please give me a call (619) 299-6742 or e-mail me at jjregan55@cox.net if you would like to join the group on Friday 10/2/09 @ 10:00 AM.

 

Sidebar: Who could forget the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” sung by Peter, Paul and Mary? It is a song of the innocence of childhood. Mary Traver’s death this week will probably soon be forgotten, but not the song. PPM, a folk singing group of the 60’s, had many other hits like Blowin in the Wind, 500 miles, Lemon Tree, If I Had a Hammer and Where Have All the Flowers Gone, to mention a few. Rest in peace, Mary. And “thanks.”

 

Just Another Book

 

James Patterson needs no introduction to our reading audience, or to the public. The New York Times has reported that “He holds the NY Times bestsellers list record with 39 NY Times bestselling titles overall.” Patterson has delved into multiple genres including, historical fiction, romance, suspense and fantasy. He is probably best noted for his Alex Cross Series (e.g., Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls), Women’s Murder Club books and TV Series (e.g., 1st To Die and 2nd Chance) and Step on A Crack series featuring NY city detective, Michael Bennett.

JUDGE & JURY (2006) has been co-authored with Andrew Gross. It takes the reader on one wild ride through 127 chapters (don’t worry; they are only 1 to 3 pages long). Not his best book (probably due to the dual authorship), but the plot, although somewhat far fetched, will keep you engaged for a fast chase of bad guys. Written in a first person perspective, Senior FBI Agent, Nick Pellisante takes down a Mafia mob boss, Dominic Cavello, while attending a wedding of his favorite niece. Cavello, known as the “Electrician,” has committed just about every crime known to mankind. His capture did not come easy, however, as several of Nick’s agents were killed in the takedown. The trial of the century consumes the next phase of the story. Court room antics, jury selection and witness disclosures point to only one outcome – guilty. But not to be outdone by the evidence, Cavello calls upon several international assassins to help him raze havoc with the judicial process and to effectuate his escape, but not before other killings, including jurors, have occurred. Wild? Yes!!

As a result of the trial, Nick is drawn to one of the jurors, Andie DeGrasse, a single mom and aspiring actress. After dancing around each other’s personal feelings and the loss of Andie’s son, their connection becomes romantically glued.

After Cavello’s escape, the chase goes dormant, as does Nick’s and Andie’s relationship.

Nick uncovers a new clue that may lead him to the assassins and the whereabouts of Cavello. Together, Nick and Andie commence an international pursuit – one that will keep you turning the pages faster. And, things become more violent the closer they get to the mob boss. It’s a winner take all situation and I will let the reader find out who is the loser. You be the Judge & Jury.

 

Ending Note: Next week I will have a write-up of James Patterson’s latest bestseller, Swimsuit. Stay tuned……..

 

September Review

 

Sidebar 1:  The lazy, hazy crazy days of summer are just about over as we are about to usher in the early fall colors of autumn. As heard in Chad and Jeremy popular tune, “Yesterday’s Gone.” But there is still today, and hopefully more tomorrows. Baseball is winding down to the playoffs and pigskin days have begun. Schools are back in session while our economy tries to escape a recession. Fires are raging in many regions of California as record heat waves scorch the landscape. Amidst the good, bad and the ugly, the good seems to prevail. So let’s all think on the positive side and be thankful for God, family, friends and Country….. “Forever Faithful”

 

Review For September 5, 2009

 

Frank McCourt first came to our literary attention when he wrote “Angela’s Ashes in 1996 and “’Tis” in 1999. Both were previously reviewed. More recently (2005), McCourt penned a memoir entitled “Teacher Man.” All of his books feature stories about his early days growing up in Limerick, Ireland and his subsequent immigration to the U.S.A. Sad, but true, he recounts his early years with typical Irish passion, with and without “the drink.” Teacher Man is just that. His teaching experiences in the New York City schools and colleges are explicated with wry wit, self-discovery and never-ending self-deprecating vignettes that leave the reader with questions of McCourt’s sanity and self image. To wit, “I don’t know what I believe except that I wasn’t put on this earth to be Catholic or Irish or vegetarian or anything, that’s all I know.” Frank takes the reader inside his classrooms from his first day at McKee Vocational and Technical High School on to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, and later to his tertiary assignments. You can’t help but question his negative self-esteem, judgment and social ineptitude. He does, too. Beneath his ups and downs, and there were many, McCourt always resorts to story telling in order to capture his student’s attention. Teacher Man is really about self-discovery through his 30 years of classroom experiences.  Early in his career as an English teacher, Frank finds that his students (and some times himself) display little motivation to learn grammar and sentence structure since their destinies have already been predetermined. “Their” world lies beyond the classroom and ends in blue-collar occupations, e.g., plumbing, shipping and other trades. McCourt literally wanders through life seeking out his “calling.” Teacher Man could just have well been entitled Student Man. He touts his failures and successes to teacher-student interaction, some times without reason, but always against the landscape of real life. He learns that real life results from the sum of all learning, both in and outside the home.

I found the book did not really go anywhere since it focused on bits and pieces of people’s lives, mostly without a beginning and an ending. It does create a lot of imagination and open-ended thinking. An easy read with a lot of repetition…….

JR

 

 

First Review For August, 2009

 

Sidebar 1: Now that it is August, we can breath a short sigh of relief – members of Congress are on vacation!

 

 Sidebar 2:   An organizational meeting for our 60th and All-Class Reunion will be held October 2nd and 3rd, 2009 at our house in San Diego. Anyone who wants to be a part of this planning session is welcome to attend. We will tour the Aircraft Carrier Midway, the site of our reunion October 2nd, 2010. Please e-mail or call me @ (619) 299-6742. 

 

Book Time

 

If you like to read about murders and landmarks in your backyard, say Los Angeles, then Author, J. F. Freedman’s exciting novel, In My Dark Dreams (2008) will keep you engaged from start to finish (424 pp). Three women have been killed during the light of three - three day full moon cycles in upscale West Los Angeles neighborhoods. The police and City Administrators are pushed to find the culprit before the next full moon. So far, they have no clues to the murders except for the timing and locations. Ace Lt. Luis Cordova (LAPD) is assigned to head up the undercover task force to catch the killer.

The author has assembled a good cast of wily characters who compliment their roles and provide good interaction. Initially, Jessica Thompson, a dedicated Los Angeles County Public Defender, is assigned a case to represent, Roberto Salazar, for charges of stealing and transporting television sets. Reportedly, he was helping a friend deliver the sets and was unaware that the sets were stolen property. Furthermore, his controversial arrest occurred against a backdrop of racial profiling. Jessica soon learns that Roberto, in addition to being a good husband, father, lay minister and youth counselor, is a highly regarded gardener by his wealthy customers who live in the areas where the full- moon murders have occurred. He vehemently claims his innocence as Jessica picks-up the cause and provides a defense that ultimately sets him free. The reader will enjoy the courtroom duel between the Jessica and the prosecuting attorneys. Life seems good as Jessica practices her work in the largest Public Defender Office in the world, trains for her first marathon and continues to nourish a two year relationship with her boyfriend, Jeremy Gilbert, who plays the bassoon in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Her good life, however, goes south when she learns that Roberto has been arrested again, this time while sitting in his truck prior to starting his first job of the day. For the second time, he appears to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Acting on an anonymous tip, the police, led by head sleuth Lt. Cordova, uncover evidence in Roberto’s truck that ties him to the latest full-moon murder! Whoa!! Back to jail…..

Roberto’s second arrest takes Jessica by surprise. Adding to this surprise, she learns that she is pregnant and that Jeremy has not only been playing the bassoon in Europe, but he has also been playing around with another woman. Not deterred, however, Jessica buries herself in her work while focusing on the upcoming marathon and the fate of her unborn baby. The rest of the book (last 200 pp) is dedicated to the convoluted trial of Salazar as he faces murder in the first degree.. Because of Roberto’s previous trial, and its successful outcome, he requests Jessica to represent him, once again. Amidst some administrative controversy, she is assigned as an assistant to her friend and superior, Joe Blevins, an experienced trial lawyer who describes Jessica’s role as "A defining moment in her career." Together, they strategize and carry the trial to a conclusion that the reader will not want to miss. Like the first trial, the courtroom is filled with suspense and drama as both sides draw their battle lines. Here is a chance for you to be the judge and jury under a full moon….

JR

 

 

Independence Day, 2009 Review

 

Sidebar: July 4th remains our country’s most important date. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the end of being under the rule of Great Britain, and it is generally thought to be July 4, 1776. Scholars have shown this date to be inaccurate but, with time, it is no longer an issue. Of interest, two of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, went on to become President, 3rd and 6th respectively, and later died on the same day July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of United States.

The genius of those who formulated the Declaration of Independence has stood the test of time, at least until now! Some have run with the word independence like it’s a floating game where rules do not always apply, and change is deemed necessary. Independence means freedom. It’s what we stood for then, and let’s hope it is here to stay.

 

BOOK TIME

Patricia Cornwell’s second novel in her Win Garano series, The Front (2008), is this week’s featured review. Considered by some as America’s #1 best selling crime author, I found The Front a little off of her usual good mark. You can breeze through this 180 page book in one setting. The plot takes on numerous twist and turns and it some times leaves the reader lost as it dwells on distractive character interactions. Cornwell’s center-court hero, unmarried-mixed race-motorcyclist Win Garano, continues his role as a Massachusetts State police detective assigned to the D.A’s Office. He is given an unusual assignment by his attractive boss, Monique Lamont, a Boston area District Attorney, who is demanding, conniving, cold and aloof. Monique’s outward behavior stems from problems that she has internalized from being raped a year ago. Her actions have earned her a reputation of being a hard-bad-kick ass - one who would do just about anything to gain notoriety and acceptance! Win is put on a special case assignment to resurrect a forty year cold murder of a blind British woman, Janie Bolin, in the small town of Watertown, Middlesex County. Monique thinks by linking the 1962 murder to the famous Boston Strangler that she can reap favorable publicity by using this investigation as a diversionary tactic - one that is really a public relations campaign for dealing with declining neighborhoods. Confusing? You bet! Win soon learns that there is a loose "Front" ("Friends, Resources, Officers Networking Together") consisting of municipal police department members who play by their own rules and cooperation with the State Police is not in their vocabulary. Another returning member of Cornwell’s cast is lead detective "Stump", a leg amputee. Like Win, she draws the wrath of D.A Lamont, but not for the same reasons. Stump and Win treat each other as adversaries, continually engaging in some smart-mouth conversations that often skirt the real issues, and not without sexual overtones. The case takes on a whole new issue when Scotland Yard becomes involved, not because of Bolin’s murder "across the pond," but because of terrorist’s connections that lead to Lamont! This is when things really get murky as the FBI and Raggedy Ann enter the investigation.

Despite the demands of his work, Win always takes time to visit and care for his aging superstitious grandmother, Nana, as they share the spotlight with their humorous interludes, along with, of course, Win’s sexual escapades.

The Front really comes together rapidly in the back stages of the book. Did the Boston Strangler really start his string of murders with Bolin? Is Lamont really involved in supporting terrorist activities? Is anyone the winner? Read on……

JR

 

 

REVIEW FOR JUNE 20, 2009

 

Sidebar:  Summer has arrived in full swing and by the looks of my tomato plants, we should have a bumper crop. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than to put on my farmer clothes and grub around in the good old earth. One of things I have on my "bucket list" is to cut a field of alfalfa. So, if anyone out there knows of some one who needs a free helping hand, please pass the word that I am ready, willing, and hopefully, able.

 

Book of the Week

 

If you are a Dismas Hardy fan, like me, then John Lescroart’s (less-kwah) latest Bestseller, Betrayal (2008), is a good read, not his best, but worth the time (550 pp.). Unlike his other books in the series, Dismas and his police buddy, Abe Glitsky, have late appearances, once the plot has been set in the first half of the book. The title, Betrayal, stems from a relationship that goes wrong between a 27 year old 2nd Army Lieutenant, Evan Scholler, a San Francisco Bay area cop, serving his country in Iraq, and a smooth talking Ron Nolan, an ex-Navy SEAL working as a highly paid and ranking employee for a military contractor, Allstrong Security, headquartered in the Bay area, also. Lt. Scholler and his 8 man squad arrive in Iraq and fall victims to an administrative foul-up in assignments. Instead of serving in a support capacity, they end up being assigned to high risk convoy duty protecting Allstrong as it carries out its contractual assignments headed-up by Ron Nolan. Evan and his men are co-opted by Nolan into participating in shady activities while risking their lives. The money hungry Nolan befriends Evan during serious bouts with alcohol. Evan pours his heart out to Nolan about his ex-girlfriend/ school teacher, Tara Wheatley, who has not responded to Evan’s correspondence because she is against the war and Evan’s involvement. On one of Nolan’s trips back to the Bay area, Evan asks Nolan to hand deliver a letter to Tara in hopes of reactivating his relationship with her. It proved to be the wrong move. Ron finds Tara so attractive that he begins to pursue her with a passion. "Lonesome Dove" Tara, responds to Nolan’s advances positively and further complicates the situation. Once he is back in Iraq, Nolan attempts to keep Evan in the dark regarding his new-found love, Tara, while maintaining the need for Evan’s squad to keep him secure in his money grubbing endeavors. While performing a risky convoy protection duty, everything goes sideways when "trigger happy" Nolan fires on a crowd of Iraqis and jeopardizes Evan’s squad. All hell breaks loose resulting in the loss of most of his squad. Evan suffers a near-death head wound from an explosive device and ends up in the hospital. The physical and psychological damage to his head and brain rendered the outlook for his recovery doubtful. No one seems to know if it was "mind over matter," or, "matter over mind," but through long extensive treatment, Evan eventually is able to return home to the Bay area, to his job with the police department, but not to his former girlfriend, Tara (her choice).

Suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), alcohol abuse becomes part of his daily life in order to cope with his failed romance and fragile physical and mental condition. Eventually, Evan learns that Nolan is romantically involved with Tara and that he has misrepresented himself, as well as Evan. This results in a vicious triangle of love. Jealousy and booze leads to a confrontation with Tara, and ends with a "knock down drag out fight" between Nolan and Evan. Soon after, Nolan is found dead and Evan is hauled off to the hospital and jail to be tried for murder.

The plot is squeezed with Courtroom Drama as Scholler is tried and convicted for killing Nolan. Here is where Lescroart shines. His courtroom drama combined with new evidence uncovered after Evan has been in jail several years, sets the stage for Dismas to enter the fray. Hardy inherits the case from a new defense attorney working on an appeal for Evan, but unfortunately, he suddenly disappears. Hardy agrees to pick up the pieces and pursue the appeal. Things really get fishy as Hardy, with the help of Abe Glitsky and his police resources, dig into the case. Coincidently, Abe uncovers a double homicide that is tied into Hardy’s proposed appeal. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together – ones that will allow Dismas to file and be granted the appeal for Evan, becomes a 24/7 obsession.  The entanglement in Iraq between Evan and Nolan become key issues in the case, and the FBI and Allstrong Security find itself right in the middle of the appeal due to the exploitation of federal funds. I liked the author’s conclusion as it takes many twists and turns. The entire story tends to drag out too long, but the ending makes the trip worthwhile. I hope Dismas and Abe get more of a front seat in the next book in the series, if and when, that is, there is a next one.

JR

 

REVIEW – 6/13/09

Author Stuart Woods keeps grinding out bestselling novels featuring Cop-turned lawyer-and-investigator, Stone Barrington. HOT MAHOGANY (2008) is #15 in the series and probably the weakest one! I found the plot dull and disjointed. Woods has several of his usual characters helping Stone solve a theft of an antique mahogany secretary. It all starts out at Elaine’s, of course, Stone’s favorite Manhattan restaurant and hang-out. Stone’s long-time CIA buddy, Lance Cabot enlists Stone to look out after Lance’s brother, Barton, who is suffering some memory loss after being a victim of crime. Barton deals in antiques and is a master craftsman in restoration of old furniture. With the help of another of Stone’s pals, policeman Dino Bacchetti, they try to unravel who is behind the switcheroo leaving Barton with a duplicate secretary. The plot is further expanded when Barton lets it be known that the theft may be linked to a bunch of double-eagle gold coins that they heisted out of Vietnam when he was in command of a Marine regiment. Looking for the "hot mahogany" takes Stone back and forth between New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut. And, as usual, Stone takes advantage of any good looking female who is willing to jump in the sack! The reader can get a little confused as to "who is on first." If you’re anything like me, you will not even be sure how the whole story ends.

I have reviewed several other books by Woods and I really like his writing style. Hot Mahogany does not seem to fit into his "winners"category. I bought the book at the LA Airport when I flew to Africa. An act of desperation, but it did occupy my time enroute. So, if you need a quick read and have access to a used copy, borrow it.

JR

 

OUR SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE, MAY 2009

 

Forward: South Africa is on the continent’s southern tip and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the Indian Ocean on the South and East. Namibia lies to the Northwest, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the North and Mozambique and Swaziland to the Northeast. About 45 million people live within the country’s 471,008 square miles. There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa, English being the only non-indigenous one.

 

A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

Our journey to South Africa began months before the actual trip. It all started several years ago at a USO auction in San Diego. During the bidding process, I made the mistake of excusing myself to go to the bathroom. When I returned to our table, I learned that my dear anxious wife had made the winning bid to go on a safari to Zulu land in South Africa. Now I know why many people wear Depends during auctions. Live and learn…..

Once I made computer contact with the people who run the safari operations in Africa at Zulu Nyala and confirmed our reservation, I needed to commence the administrative task of creating and completing a "to do" list. Note: any one reading this story can google Zulu Nyala and get a written and visual picture and description of the lodge and its accommodations. Back to the basics….Going to a far-away place for a week does not do justice to the expense of getting there, nor does it give you a chance to gain a broader experience and appreciation for the area, country and its people. So, after reading about things to do in South Africa, I settled on the idea of combining the safari with a land tour by driving the "Garden Route" from Port Elizabeth, located on the Indian Ocean, westward to Cape Town. Again, I researched the places along the way that I thought would be special and of interest. The thing I did not know was where to stay. There are many travel groups that can arrange accommodations for you. I contacted the Zulu Safari people and they said they could take care of my reservations, or I could contact a USA company that they would recommend, Wilderness Safaris, and it could handle the task. I elected to use the U.S. Company. After extensive conversations with a Wilderness Safari representative, I settled on places to stay along the way. I always like to know where I am staying before I get there. I guess I would not have been a good Nomad. We contacted our doctors regarding medical questions related to the trip and made sure our passports were in order. We made our flight schedules through United and South African Airways in order to reach our designated destinations. Finally, our departure date rolled around and we were off and running, or flying for the next 23 days.

After a long flight to Johannesburg we checked into the Intercontinental Hotel adjacent to the airport for a quick over-night stay. Early the next day we had a short flight east to Richard’s Bay on the Indian Ocean where we were transported to The Zulu Nyala Game Lodge, a private game reserve located between the Mkuze, Hluhlue and the St. Lucia reserves. Zulu Nyala became a household name during the planning stages and now it had become a reality. Zulu Nyala stands for Zulu as in Zulu land and people, and Nyala is the Swahili name for a South African antelope. We saw an abundance of both.             The architectural design and location of the Lodge was stunning. The natural stone walls and yellow wood floors, combined with thatched roofs, natural landscaping and beautiful interior decorations captured the ethnic heritage of the region. With a swimming pool, tennis court, curio center, bar and restaurant and yes, internet access, the lodge has all the comforts of home, and then some. It rests on a hilltop overlooking the reserve and offered spectacular views. Sunrises and sunsets were daily memorable events, as well as the wart hogs and monkeys running around on the lawn in front of our room . We, along with six other guests, were assigned to one of the Lodge’s Zulu Rangers. Our Ranger, Sofito, was in charge of our daily safaris. Well educated and personable, Sofito made each day’s trips both interesting and informative. We traveled in an open Toyota three-seater 4 wheel drive Landcruiser, the boxy kind you see in most safari pictures, behind our driver/guide and his tracker. There were watering holes scattered around the reserve, natural spots to see the birds and animals. Africa has coined the phrase, "the big five", i.e. lions, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard. We saw the big five, and then some. Monkeys, baboons, impalas, three types of antelopes (oryx, springbok and red duiker), wart hogs, giraffes and a wide variety of birds added to the daily attractions. One day we took a hike through the bush looking for rhinos. Sofito was in the lead carrying his rifle. After about an hour of trekking, we returned to our truck. No luck!  We were warned that the bush is loaded with ticks so we had to shower and examine our bodies, daily. While sitting beside the pool that day, I discovered one munching on the inside of my leg – Ouch! So much for using "Off".

Sofito arranged several night safaris. Since hippos only come out of the water at night to graze (they get easily sunburned in the sun and their skin cracks), we set out in search for these animals with the "big buns". We ran into two, and believe me, from behind, they looked bigger than the wide bodies of an airbus! Our second night excursion took us to an old rock quarry. There we watched baboons roosting in the rocks while we enjoyed a big fire and a few glasses of the grape. Another day excursion took us to St. Lucia for a cruise on its river and surrounding estuary where alligators, hippos and numerous birds were observed in their natural habitat. After the cruise, we took a short trip to the beautiful shoreline of the Indian Ocean where we dipped our toes in the water and walked barefoot in the white sand, reminiscent of Bill and Hillary dancing on the Sand in the Caribbean!

After 6 days of safaris, we left Zulu Nyala and were transported (about 4 hours away) to Durban, the 3rd largest populous city (3 ½ million) in South Africa and the largest seaport in Africa. From Durban, we flew south along the Eastern Cape to Port Elizabeth, another major seaport, adjacent to Nelson Mandela Bay. Six islands are off the coast of the harbor city of Port Elizabeth and have caused many shipwrecks. The city stretches about 16km along Algoa Bay and is approximately 770 km east of Cape Town. We picked up a Hertz VW Polo and, of course, the steering wheel was on the right side. South Africa requires foreigners to hold an International License in addition to your state license. Triple A will issue you one for fifteen bucks. Driving on the right/wrong side of the highways is an adventure in and of itself. Vangie’s shouts and expletives helped remind me to look both ways! The first night on our driving tour along the Garden Route (N2), we stayed at the Hacklewood Hill Country House in Port Elizabeth, a beautiful old manor built in 1827. Each one of the eight en-suite bedrooms were individually decorated and had large Victorian bathrooms, private balconies and verandahs. Before dinner I had a special tour of their underground well stocked wine cellar and I selected a special South African wine to accompany our gourmet dinner. After dinner drinks were served in front of the fireplace in the Lounge and needless to say, we had a good night of zzzzzzzzs.

On The Road Again….The next day we headed out bright and early for a three hour dive westward through Knysna to Plettenberg Bay. Lush farms located on rolling hillsides, interrupted frequently with deep gorges and valleys, were dotted with numerous cattle, pine and eucalyptus tree farms. The coast line was always in sight to our left. We reached our destination, Hunter’s Country House, located in an indigenous forest framed by the Tsitsikamma Mountains, 10 km west of Plettenberg Bay. The thatched homestead is surrounded by 21 luxury cottages and garden suites. Our large villa, built off the ground on wood pilings, was complete with a separate living room with a fireplace, floor to glass windows with an outside deck, large bedroom with its own outside deck, a 20’ x 10’ bathroom with heated floors and towel racks, a solid rock tub and a 6’ x 10’ pool/spa planted in the outside entry deck. We were warned to keep our windows shut when we were not occupying our room due to the invasive nature of the local monkey and baboon population! The following day we had a local guide pick us up and we toured the town of Plettenberg (population +- 40K) and the greater bay area. The bay is a popular resort for fishing, hobie cat sailing, surfing and whale watching. Beacon Island stands alone next to the mainland and is its central landmark. Growing and harvesting yellow wood is the main .industry. After our two day stay at Hunter’s House we continued driving west along the N2 to George which was about an hour away. From George, we headed inland and north on the N12 through spectacular rugged mountains for about another hour to Oudtshoon, the ostrich capital of the world and home of the famous Cango Caves. Here we stayed at Rosenhof Country Lodge, another old (1852) manor with twelve en-suite double rooms built around an open courtyard with gardens filled with roses and herbs. The highlight of our visit while in Oudtshoon was a visit to the Cango Caves, considered one of the seven wonders of Southern Africa. The caverns began forming 20 million years ago when acidic ground water chemically eroded the 100 million year-old limestone rock. Reportedly, about 3 million years ago when the water which once filled the caves drained away, the formation of dramatic stalactites and stalagmites began to form. South Africa’s earliest people (the Bush People) found shelter in these caves more that 80,000 years before the caves were discovered by the Dutch Colonists in 1780. Our tour took us about 600 meters into the caves and through 5 atriums. If you are skinny and adventurous, you can travel on your tummy through small openings for another 600 meters! No thanks! Oudtshoon is the location of a British military training base – one established during WWII, and now is used for training soldiers heading for Iraq.

After a one night stay, we left the Lodge and headed west and south on R62 through an ostrich filled valley 400km long and 80 km wide, bordered by the Black Mountains on the west, to Ladismith and Barrydale. We joined the N2 for a ways and then branched south to Hermanus where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Maritime Hotel overlooking the bay. While in Hermanus I filled the car up with gas. My credit card was rejected and I didn’t have enough Rand to pay cash. I told the attendant I would return in a few days and pay him cash. Trustingly, he said ok! I gave him my name and cell phone number to post on his most wanted list. Leaving Hermanus, we drove 20km southeast to Grootbos, a private nature reserve with two lodges. We stayed in a luxury suite in the new Forest Lodge overlooking the expansive sand dunes and Walker Bay. Each suite is a private stand-alone dwelling with winding paths to the main lodge. Grootbos is dedicated to the concept of fynbos, the relationship between insects, birds, mammals and flowering plants which comprise the local ecosystem. We took a two hour four-wheel drive throughout the 1,750 hector reserve. The highlight was seeing the spectacular flowering Proteas, the National flower, all over the hillsides. 

Wine Country, here we come:  The next leg of our journey took us back west through Hermanus (and yes, I paid my debt and a tip to the smiling gas station attendant as he gave me a high-five) and then north crossing over the N2 to Elgin and Grabouw and into the Franschoek Mountains. We couldn‘t believe that the scenery could keep getting better, but it did. I felt like we were in a fairyland. Orchards, vineyards, filled the lowest valleys to the highest mountain tops. Every place looked like it had been laid out by a surveyor. With only 30 km to go to our next stop, we encountered a "road closed" sign. We had two options, either turn around and go back where we came from, or ignore the sign. I chose the latter. We had not traveled ¼ of a mile when we ran into a crew of men replacing a large section of the highway. I tried to communicate with one of the workers that we needed to get through the pass to Franschoek. He pointed to a temporary bypass carved out below the construction project for their use. I elected to go for it. It was muddy, and filled with rocks and boulders. I inched the VW along the cut in the hillside for about 200 yards. The end was in sight, but the exit was steep and uphill. I tried three times to engineer making it to the top, but each time the wheels would not take hold, so I had to back down to a level area. I told Vangie to hang on because I was going to "punch it" and try to use the portion of the road that was less traveled. We lunged forward and began to "fish tail" as the mighty roar of our German engine was saying "I think I can." It did. Once on top and back on the paved road, we gave each other a high five and proceeded through the rest of the pass without having to change our pants! We soon realized that it was worth the risk to proceed through the construction project when we got our first glimpse of the picturesque village of Franschoek nestled in the valley below us.. The view below reminded us of Switzerland. The village was situated in a valley surrounded by green mountains with orchards and grape vines blanketing the hillsides. Winding down the mountain we entered Franschoek, founded by the French Huguenots in 1688, to our next home away from home, the boutique Franschoek Country House & Villas just on the outskirts of the village. Although the smell no longer lingers, the Manor House was a former perfumery dating back to 1890. Our accommodations were in one of the newly built 100 square meter luxury villas that gave us an outlook from two balconies. Their famous Monneaux Restaurant is among South Africa’s finest. Sightseeing and shopping in the village took up most of the next day. A good friend of mine from the U.K. had told me about a one-of-a-kind restaurant, La Petite Ferme located on a hillside just outside of town. Its legendary lunches are served from noon to 4:00 PM. We did it justice over a two hour lunch of calamari and Baboon Chardonnay. The food, wine and views were unsurpassed.

Onward to our last destination: Leaving Franschhoek westward on the R45 route, we took a leisurely one-hour drive through Stellenbosch to Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa (established in1652), and our final destination. The 122 room newly decorated Cape Grace Hotel would be our last stay for four nights. It is situated on its own private quay on the vibrant Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Our room was on the back side and looked out over the yacht marina. The front side of the hotel faces the working harbor. After checking in our rental car to Hertz, we wandered along the waterfront about 200 yards from the hotel to one of the world’s largest malls. We had arranged to have a guide takes us on a tour of the area for two days. The first night we finally had our first rain storm, including thunder and lightening. The next day it remained overcast but nice enough to travel. Cape Town’s most popular landmark is Table Mountain (1,087 m). It towers over the town to the north, and like its name, it is flat like a table. After several attempts to build a rail system to the top in the early 1900s, a local group of businessmen formed The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company and a cable car system was finished in 1929. With recent upgrades, the new cable system provides visitors with a 360 degree revolving views as visitors ascend and descend the mountain. Although there are several routes to the top, climbing Table Mountain can be dangerous. One experienced climber fell to his death while we were there. The mountain is part of the greater Table Mountain National Park. After a trip up the mountain, we turned south and circled the peninsula which culminates at the Cape of Good Hope. Contrary to thought, The Cape of Good Hope is not the most southerly tip of Africa. It is about 90 miles southeast of the Cape.. We crisscrossed the peninsula as we traveled the coast lines enjoying the many scenic views and the upscale homes belonging to the upper-crust. A large portion of the Lower Peninsula has been set aside as a National Nature Reserve. Baboons, zebras, élan, ostrich and other animals and birds live in this protected reserve. A towering monument to Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese explorer who first rounded the Cape, stands in his honor near the tip of the Cape.  Leaving the Park we headed north towards Simon’s Town on the eastern side of the Cape where we stopped at Seaforth for lunch. Afterwards, we walked about 200 yards to a protected area where a large colony of penguins resides. Here, white sharks, seals, fish and penguins claim each other in the food chain.

The following day was dedicated to touring the city. It has substantial downtown financial, commercial and retail centers. After a quick tour of the inner city, we drove around the Victoria & Alfred shopping centre near the Waterfront Hotel. Sea walls built in 1869 line and maintain the integrity of the coastline and provide the backdrop for the new soccer stadium under construction for the World Cup matches in 2010. Looking out westward a mile or so from the wharf is Robben Island. It houses a prison and was once the home for Nelson Mandela. We wanted a feel for the residential parts of Cape Town. So, our guide took us through the low and high end neighborhoods. Places like Greenpoint, Bantry Bay and Clifton provide the rich and famous with vistas beyond compare. The poor areas reminded me of Caracas in Venezuela where Blacks still live in small "shanty huts" made out of everything from cardboard to tin, and they are without water, electricity and indoor toilets. I kept asking myself if these conditions will ever change. I reaffirmed my belief that such conditions will not improve significantly unless the inhabitants use their educational system as a means for improving their own intellectual skills, especially a command of the majority spoken language. Currently, mandatory school attendance is not in effect. Furthermore, the African government provides free hospital care and a stipend each month for those below their poverty level. Women are rewarded with additional money for each baby they produce. If any part of this cycle is not broken, then upward mobility is close to impossible. Enough pontificating…..

Signal Mountain overlooks the downtown and wharf area. On top, an artillery battery was installed many years ago for defense purposes. Today, it no longer functions as a military installation. Its history has been maintained, however, as a cannon is fired at noon each day, except on Sunday. We went to the top of the mountain to observe the firing of the cannon. A member of the South African Navy sets and fires the charge each day. The timing of the charge is electronically synchronized so it goes off at the exact time of 12:00 noon. Only two other cannons in the world are fired to keep time this way, one in Edinburgh and the other in Hong Kong. Our last day was spent packing and doing last minute shopping at the V & A Centre. Cape Town International Airport is northwest of the city. Along the way we passed the University. The airport was a mess due to the massive construction under way in preparation for the 2010 World Cup soccer matches, probably one of the most significant events ever to be held in South Africa. It is already a sell-out.  Our flight to Johannesburg had been cancelled so we were put on another flight just in time to catch our 10 hour across-the-water flight to Washington, D.C. One of our bags did not arrive so we returned to California light handed. A quick flight from LA to San Diego brought us home 10,000 miles later.

Anyone who reads this account and wants more information about our trip can contact us directly. If you have not traveled to South Africa, then maybe, after reading this account, you will be able to vicariously identify with our adventure. We believe that our journey brought an added dimension ino our lives – one that was filled with 23 days of sunrises and sunsets, and lots between…...

JR 6/8/09

 

 

June Review

A time when spring ends and summer begins; A time for rose flowers; June gems: pearl, alexandrite and moonstone……

 

SidebarWe returned from our trip to South Africa. I can’t think of a word that aptly describes this country. It is so varied in cultures, flora, fauna and landscape that it’s like moving from the known/unknown to another known/unknown. As expected, the safari part of our escapade was filled with an abundance of animal and bird life. Daily, we saw (up close) the big five – elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo along with many other indigenous species. The cheetah turned out to be my favorite animal. It is the fastest animal on this planet and its sleek body puts other pussy cats to shame. After a week of two-a-day safaris, we flew to Port Elizabeth, an eastern seaport on the Indian Ocean, and commenced our driving tour west along the southern coastal Garden Route to Cape Town. From Port Elizabeth we headed west to beautiful Plattenberg Bay. Heading west to George, we turned north and inland traversing through winding mountain passes to our next destination, Oudtshoon , the ostrich capital of the world. There, we visited the famous Cango caves, one of the Seven Wonders of Southern Africa. The Caves, discovered by the Dutch in 1780, began forming 20 million years ago when acidic ground water chemically eroded the 100 million year-old limestone rock. Stalactites and stalagmites began forming about 3 million years ago after the water drained away. The caves were once inhabited by the bush people. We only penetrated these caves about 600 meters. Hardy souls, especially the skinny ones, can continue for another 600 meters if they are willing to crawl on their stomachs. No thanks! From Oudtshoon we headed south and coastward to Walker Bay near Hermanus, where whales were migrating from the Antarctic, colonies of seals were lounging everywhere and white sharks were cruising through the waters. Heading back north again, we traveled through high rugged mountain passes to Franschhoek for a grand taste of the famous South African wines. Here, the Dutch initiated the wine industry some 350 years ago. Vineyards dominate the landscape from the valleys to the higher slopes of the surrounding mountains. The area reminded me of Switzerland with its picturesque villages. Visiting South Africa this time of year has its benefits. It is the start of winter so there are fewer tourists and the countryside is in full autumn color. Leaving Franschhoek we went southwest to our final destination, Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa (established in 1652).

It is a vibrant city situated right on the coast and is the locus for commercial shipping to all parts of the world. The most visible landmark is Table Mountain which provides an impressive back drop just north of the city. Along with Johannesburg, Cape Town is another site for the 2010 World Cup Soccer matches. A huge stadium is currently being erected next to the downtown wharf area. Just south of the town is The Cape of Good Hope and its National Reserve. Technically, the Cape is not the most southern tip of Africa. The real tip is about 90 miles southeast. A backdrop of interesting mountains surround Cape Town aptly named Table Mountain National Park.  The 10,000 mile journey back to San Diego pales when I think of the first explorer, Vasco da Gama, sailing from Portugal to India in 1497. An impressive monument stand tall at the Cape of Good Hope.

Review Time

 

I know many people are up to their ears hearing about what is going on in Afghanistan. But, I urge you, the reader, to put aside your political beliefs and follow a Navy SEALs team of four through their unbelievable training program in Coronado to the towering mountain peaks of Afghanistan. This week’s review is a true story entitled, Lone Survivor, written by the lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell, along with Patrick Robinson (2007). It is an eyewitness account of a covert operation aimed at capturing or killing Ben Laden’s right-hand man. Initially, about one-third of the book is devoted to learning about the four team members, their background and training and the mission of Navy SEALs. The name SEALs is derived from the elements in and from which they operate (Sea, Air, Land). Being a SEAL requires a mental and physical commitment- one that transcends all other military training programs. A blow by blow description of what it takes to become a SEAL will leave the reader in awe and exhausted. Marcus and the rest of his squad were among the 30 recruits out of 180 who completed the program. Tough? You better believe it! After their graduation and deployment, the story shifts to the Northeastern Areas of U. S. Military Operations in the Hindu Kush Mountains, land of the Taliban. In June 2005, the four men known as SEAL Team 10 was sent on a clandestine mission north near the Pakistani border. Their mission was jeopardized when the team ran into some local tribesmen who relayed word to the Taliban of the SEALs presence. What follows became known as the battle of Murphy’s Ridge. Against all odds, Marcus and his buddies engage the Taliban in a vicious fight that killed many of them, and resulted in the largest loss of SEALs, to date. In just a 24 hour period, Marcus became the "Lone Survivor". What went on is described in uncompromising detail by the authors. Robinson and Luttrell have codified an event in military history – one that exemplifies the ultimate sacrifice and survival of men who know no ends to patriotism and love of country. It is no wonder that it is written in the official philosophy of the SEALs that "We train for war and we fight to win."

JR

 

 

MOTHER’S DAY REVIEW. 2009

 

Sidebar: Ok, I said I would be off to Africa for the rest of the month. Well, I couldn’t resist giving our readers a last minute quip before I left about someone so dear to our hearts, mothers. I suspect that nary a day goes by that some thoughts about our mother doesn’t invade our mind. This Sunday, May 10, is Mother’s Day. It is a celebrated on many different dates around the world due to its different origins. But, here in the U.S. in 1912, Anna Jarvis is credited for establishing a day that each family could honor its mother. Note: she was adamant that the location of the apostrophe was singular possessive. This bit of trivia should make every mother happy….

End of sidebar

 

Special Tribute

 

This week’s review pays special tribute to mothers. They are in an elevated class by themselves. As I look back on the days when my mother was alive, I sometimes feel remorseful and guilty about how I responded to my mother’s care and guidance. I don’t know how many times she told me "that she should have given me back to the Indians!" Mothers may be universal in name, but they ultimately have provided each one of us with a breath of life. One of my favorite songs sung by Eddie Arnold and written by Walter Goodwin and Clyde Hager is That Wonderful Mother Of Mine. It says it all…..

           

            The moon never beams without bringing me dreams

                        Of that wonderful mother of mine

            The birds never sing but a message they bring

                        Of that wonderful mother of mine.

            Just to bring back the time, that was so sweet to me

            Just to bring back the days, when I sat on her knee.

                        You are a wonderful mother,

                        Dear old Mother of mine.

            You’ll hold a spot down deep in my heart,

                        ‘Till the stars no longer shine.

                        Your soul shall live on forever,

                        On through the fields of time.

                        For there’ll never be another to me.

                        Like that wonderful Mother of mine.

                        I pray ev’ry night to our Father above,

                        For that wonderful mother of mine.

                        I ask him to keep her as long as He can

                        That wonderful mother of mine.

                        There are treasures on earth,

                        that make life seem worthwhile,

            But there’s none can compare to my mother’s smile.

                        You are a wonderful mother.

                        Dear old Mother of mine.

            You’ll hold a spot deep in my heart,

                        ‘Till the stars no longer shine.

                        Your soul shall live on forever,

                        On through the fields of time.

                        For there’ll never be another to me,

                        Like that wonderful Mother of mine

 

Thanks Mothers for making our lives possible even though I was impossible!

 

JR

 

MAYDAY REVIEW, 2009

 

SidebarFor those of you who read this stuff, please note that this review will be my only one this month. Vangie and I will be traveling in South Africa checking out the pirate situation. Not really! We will be on a safari in Zulu land and then drive the garden route along the southern coast from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town.

 

REVIEW

 

Recently, Bob and Genelle Cox gave me a book, Follow the River (1986), written by James Alexander Thom. I have previously read and reviewed one of his other books, From Sea to Shining Sea, an account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Thom is a distinguished writer of American Western historical novels. He is an author who literally "walks the walk," having traveled the paths of those he writes about. His thorough research of people, places and events, combined with his powerful literary skills, have produced some of the best accounts of real American history.

Follow the River is a riveting inspirational story about a married 23 year old pregnant woman, Mary Ingles, who survives an ordeal as a captive by Shawnee Indians. The reader will find some of the thoughts and actions so vivid that they will linger in your mind after you turn each page. Mary is a surviving witness to a tragic massacre when a band of Shawnee Indians invade her remote settlement in the mountains of Virginia in 1755. She, her two sons, sister-in-law, Bettie, and one male hunter- neighbor are taken on a forced journey to unknown territory. Initially, their husbands were away for the day tending their fields so they were unaware of the tragedy. Thom vividly describes the mentality and brutality of the Shawnee and the rationale for their behavior. Even their most savage acts are contrasted to their more human side. The band is led by a Chieftain named Wildcat. He takes an eye to Mary and her sons and gives them special treatment. Their forced trek takes them by way of the Ohio River. Mary remains observant and searches for landmarks along the way in case she can escape and needs to find her way back to her husband, Will. Day after day their journey takes them farther away into an unknown wilderness - one that holds beauty, danger and uncertainty. The ordeal is further complicated when Mary gives birth to a baby girl on the trail. Eventually, they reach the Shawnee camp and a new life in captivity begins. There are other prisoners in camp, including an old Dutch woman, Ghetel, who have been victims of the Shawnee’s harsh treatment, the same the newcomers are about to experience. This real life story tests the strength of the human spirit. The author is able to describe the raw and bare feelings of his characters with clarity and understanding, to the extent that romance, pity, perseverance and hatred are allowed to surface. Mary’s practical side and her desire for daily survival are not always in concert with Bettie’s beliefs, however. Sometimes, at the expense of alienating Bettie,  Mary is willing to sacrifice her dignity for practical results. She puts her sewing skills to work in a partnership with two French traders who run a trading post in the village. Knowing the Chief still keeps her in high favor, and that an overture of comportment is forthcoming, she continues to struggle with her inner emotions. Once the Chief confronts Mary with his desire to make her his squaw, she can no longer stay on the fence. She promptly rebuffs the Chief’s offer and her life becomes more complicated and edgy as she is no longer afforded special treatment by the Shawnee leader.  The author skillfully keeps his readers engaged as life in the Shawnee camp seems to take on a never ending saga of twists and turns, some expected and some unexpected, some good, and some bad.  With lingering thoughts of Will and home, and the growing unwanted advances by one of the French traders, Mary hatches a plan to escape with her chubby friend, Ghetel. The last half of the book is devoted to their escape as they begin their 1,000 mile journey homeward "Following the River" to freedom over unforgiving terrain. Like the Donner Party, each day became "an ordeal by hunger," as they struggled to live off of the land, knowing that each step would take them closer to home in Draper’s meadows. The reader is aware that Mary made it back. But, I will leave her reunion to those that have the tenacity (like Mary) to stick it out to the last chapter.                  .Thom’s research of other kidnappings and the ordeals suffered by white settlers during the French and Indian War have been well documented by him and other historical novelists. The story of Mary Draper, however, stands out as a pinnacle of the Westward Movement. Follow the River is one GREAT testimony to "how the west was won.".

Hint! Mother’s day is just around the corner

 

JR (back in a month)

 

REVIEW FOR APRIL 25, 2001

 

Sidebar:  With all the turmoil seen and heard around the world, our country’s southern border has become increasingly important as we address the social, economic and political impact of such weighty issues as illegal immigration, smuggling of guns and drugs, kidnapping and violence. Some might say that these crimes have reached epoch proportions. Here in San Diego, hardly a day goes by that multiple murders don’t take place just fifteen miles south in Tijuana. Beheading, as gross as the act is, is common. The reason I bring this matter to your attention is to create a "lead-in" to this week’s review. The timeliness of what is going on now, as it relates to the book I am reporting on, may give the reader a wider background and understanding of the past and present "South of the Border Down Mexico Way."

 

Disclaimer:

The language in this travelogue may be offensive to some readers. Read with caution, but try to understand that such communication really takes place. My review does not support it, so read on with warning…..

REVIEW

The title alone will cause you concern, GOD’S MIDDLE FINGER: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre (2008). Written by an English journalist based on his own experiences, Richard Grant takes the reader on a perilous journey into the vast and dangerous Sierra Madre Mountain Range, a rugged 900 mile long range that begins about 20 miles south of the Arizona border. The landscape consists of mountains that tower up to 11,000 feet and canyons that are deeper than the Grand Canyon. The more Grant learns of these mountains and its history, and despite the warnings of others, he is drawn into an inescapable reckless journey – one where he soon learns that murder is part of living! " It is to please the trigger finger." How’s that for an oxy moron?

The book is parceled into vignettes that capture the historical backdrop of the Sierra Madre, including its early inhabitants, their customs and mores, and how they have influenced this part of Mexico, then and today. It opens with a chase that puts the author on the run. At least he learns early on that the warning signs were justified. You will have to wait until the last chapter to find out what happened to Grant and his fascination for the Sierra Madre.

The range has been home to Indians, ranchers, miners, Mormons and other who sought seclusion from the outside world. Even Poncho Villa claimed it as his hideout. Bribes are common place and corrupt law enforcement personnel vie for a piece of the action. This behavior, of course, makes life difficult for those who do cooperate. Each chapter is a stand-alone story - a series of hair-raising vignettes. Through the use of his contacts and referrals, Grant manages to survive one adventure after another, but only at great risk, sometimes sprinkled with Mexican humor. His adventure is like a human safari as he seeks out the origin of Indian myths and the lifestyle of those that claim the mountains and valleys as their home. Today’s major dilemma is related to the drug culture. It affects our border and beyond, including its horticulture. It reminds me of what is going on in Afghanistan, where life is just a bowl of poppies, and anything, or anyone who gets in the way, is sacrificed for the end result - money.  

The author’s writing style is clear and disciplined. Although the book is only 277 pages, I found it a bit long. After all, once you have read about rape, murder, and drugs, it is hard to rehash the same behaviors in succeeding chapters. Grant’s humor and colorful characters, however, kept me engaged.

JR

 

A GOOD FRIDAY REVIEW

 

This week I literally pulled one of Vangie’s books off of the shelf. The author’s name caught my interest. I learned that the book was given to Vangie’s late husband, Dick Burt, by a close friend and who, coincidentally happened to be the author. Madmen Must (1978) by William Jovanovich, is a classical story of a young man who wrestles with every phase of his life with no end in sight.

Before I launch into my brief review, however, I want to plant some background of William Jovanovich. He is one of the deserving literary giants whose vision has made a lasting impact on our educational system and literary circles. First of all, his name may be familiar to some of you. He was President, CEO and Chairman of the leading textbook publishing company, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. ("HBJ"). His name was added to the company’s title by the shareholders in 1970. Starting as a textbook salesman in the late ‘40s, he became what some called a maverick manager of this diversified company at the early age of thirty four. He continued in these positions until his retirement in 1990. He died in 2001.  During his tenure, the company more than doubled in size and revenue.  It went from an $8 million dollar company in 1954 to $1.3 billion in 1999. Of special and local interest, "HBJ" spurred by William Jovanovich interest in education and entertainment, purchased Sea World Marine Parks, including the one here in San Diego. Mr. Jovanovich was well known in the literary world and is credited with championing some of the most influential writers during his career. Having authored seven books and numerous essays, his autobiography of Charles Lindbergh stands as one of the beacons of his colorful career.  In 2005, thanks to my wife to be, Vangie, I was fortunate to meet William Jovanovich’s widow, Martha. I was immediately smitten with a secret love for her. She is one of the loveliest, articulate and astute ladies I have ever met. It is a double bonus when I get to visit with her in her beautiful home and browse her world-class library.

Back to Madmen Must….

Most of this novel takes place in California, namely San Diego. The reader will recognize many of the names and places of local interest. The lead character, John Sirovich, driven by his intellectual and social curiosity, uproots from his eastern Serbian ways of life after attending college, and rides the rails westward. He knows that he has to make some future choices, to either return to the University for further study, or to seek out another avenue of pursuit. John is never sure what lies ahead of him. He seems to be like a whale taking in its never ending daily supply of plankton, hoping that the nourishment will keep him moving to the next phase in his life, hopefully higher. His upbringing, education and physical strength are in place, but he is unsure where his interest will take him. He finds a job as a waiter in the major hotel on Coronado Island (we know it as The Hotel Del Coronado). The author’s use of certain words will drive you to the dictionary, somewhat like Bill O’Reilly’s pronouncement of a daily word as he signs off on his O’Reilly Factor show. John is constantly wrestling with his thoughts and actions – ones that might move him towards greater insight and enlightenment. His intellectual curiosity is constantly challenged as he seeks out the limits to what is. He soon learns that all steps do not go up, however! Madmen Must takes place in the 40’s when there is international chaos. And, amidst this backdrop, the reader can decide whether one can, or cannot, dream beyond the limits of one’s thoughts or actions. Could it be that the author has relived some of his life through John Sirovich? You decide.                                                                                                                 Thanks Mr. Jovanovich for your contributions to the literary world.

JR

April Review

 

Sidebar 1:

Sometimes I don’t know where to start, but I have to start somewhere. So here I go, once again. Now that April has arrived my mind is fast forwarding towards spring and summer. I even planted my tomatoes this week. Vangie and I will be in South Africa the month of May. After a six day safari, we will be driving the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth located on the south-east coast (Indian Ocean side) to Cape Town on the south-west coast. Enough of Africa, I better tend to my review chores now before I get side tracked.

 

Two Books to Ponder

 

First one

For some reason, and I think I know why, I have been on a Korea kick. The current events that surround North Korea have refocused our country’s interest in national security issues. I know it has mine. The Head of State, dictator Kim Jong Il, has long been considered a tyrant with an attitude. His forthcoming missile test should make every country sit up and take notice. Recently, I wrote a review about USMC Tanker’s Korea. This week’s book is another "blood and guts" story about the U.S. Marines in combat, specifically what took place on Fox Hill near the Chosin Reservoir in late 1950. Entitled The Last Stand of Fox Company by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin (2009), it is an account of courage and determination by a group of marines who were given the task of keeping an opening in the Tuktong Pass in order to protect the movement of our troops into and out of the Nanguin Mountains.  Tough conditions and tough men don’t even begin to describe the ordeal that the 246 men of Fox Company experienced. Outnumbered 40 to one in sub-zero temperatures, this small group of marines withstood four days and five nights of abandoned assaults by the North Koreans and Chinese Red forces. Frozen guns, frozen feet, frozen rations and terrain that would not even suit a mountain goat were impediments in keeping Fox Hill, but not enough to keep the men of Fox from holding their position on this strategic rugged mountain top.

Through their thorough research and applied literary skills, the authors have done a magnificent job of assembling personal accounts of what transpired at The Last Stand on Fox Hill. Unquestionably, they have documented a military event in time that has reinforced the legend of the U.S. Marine Corps. Let’s hope we never have to revisit this Country again under similar circumstances.

 

Second one to ponder 

Climbing mountains is not for everyone. Reading about those that have done so, however, may appeal to a wider audience. Last Christmas, my son gave me the National Bestseller, No Shortcuts To The Top by Ed Viesturs (with David Roberts) (2006). It is an actual account by the author about climbing the world’s 14 highest peaks. I found that I did not have to race through the book from one peak to another. The reader might enjoy taking on one climb at a time, also. Too much climbing, either directly or vicariously, can get boring and exhausting if you don’t take time out to rest the mind and body. So, I won’t dwell on each one of his adventures. Rather, I will let you, the reader, experience some of his climbs, including Everest, Rainer and Annapurna. Viesturs, by the way, is an interesting character. His skills, stamina and outlook reveal a man of courage and strength of purpose, even when things go wrong. Tenacious beyond a doubt, but always thinking of safety for himself and his companions, Ed will put the reader on a path where few have been. Onward and upward…..

 

JR 

 

REVIEW FOR FIRST WEEK IN MARCH, 2009

 

Sidebar #1:

Well here it is the month of March, one of the 7 months which are 31 days long. According to Wikipedia, the name comes from the ancient days of Rome when it was the first month of the year named Maritime after Mars, the God of War. If you look around you in the warmer climes you will see daffodils in bloom. They are the birth flower for March. Easter, St. Patrick’s day and March madness are just a few of the recognized events this month.

 

Sidebar #2:

Reminder. Daylight-saving time begins tomorrow, Sunday, so set your clocks ahead one hour.

 

Another Book To Read  

As teenagers, we felt the effects of WWII. Our high school years were peaceful and were occupied with fun-filled activities. Remember Easter week at Balboa and Laguna, sports, social events, Carpenters, assemblies and the seemingly endless schedule of classes? Our personal and national peacetime was soon broken by the so called "Korean Conflict." I, like many others, prefer to recognize it as the Korean War. The draft soon hit home, or many MAD students pre-empted the draft and enlisted. This week I read USMC TANKERS KOREA, The War in Photos, Sketches and Letters Home by Roger "Rog" G. Baker (2001, 167 pp). The reader can identify with many aspects of the author’s early life while growing up in Culver City, Ca., some good, some not so good, but most so true. His accounts from enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1951, receiving basic training in San Diego, to fighting in the rugged terrain of Korea, are embellished with his letters, sketches and photographs while in the line of duty. Some might call Rog a grunt, but no one can call him anything less than a man who served his country with honor. Whether he was loading ammunition, maintaining his tank, serving as a 90MM gunner or standing guard, his performances brought out the best in him. Simple, straight forward, revealing and honest, Roger takes the reader on many excursions in his tankers as he unveils the perils of fighting the Chinese Communists in conditions that tested the heart and soul of every serviceman that fought in Korea. His memoir does not always paint a pretty picture. Through his naked eye, his sketches and pictures capture the essence of fighting in the rugged mountain valleys and ridges of Korea. The effects of Rog’s experiences took a toll on him, however. He carried the memories of his buddies and the devastating results of doing battle with him long after the war ended. In fact, he didn’t complete the first draft of his memoir until 1997. Fortunately, his mother saved his letters, pictures and sketches which enabled him to tell his straight-forward story about the USMA Tankers Korea. The reader may gain greater knowledge and appreciation from Roger’s accounts of what went on in "American’s first war against communist expansion. I did.

Note of Appreciation: To guys like tanker Bob Humble, and all those classmates who served their country, thanks. And, as my kids used to say, "you done swell."  

JR

REVIEW FOR LAST WEEK IN FEBRUARY, 2009

 

Sidebar: Gravity has its ups and downs depending on which way you’re headed…...

                        So if you lack direction, get a GPS!

 

BOOK TIME:

About the author….

I have not reviewed a book by noted English master storyteller, Jeffery Archer, for a long time. The colorful past of this popular novelist could provide a good landscape for a book or movie. As an author, playwright and former politician, controversy has followed him throughout his careers, even to jail for "perverting the course of justice!" After attending Oxford, his interest and political views brought him into Parliament at the early age of 29. In 1985 he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, later he was anointed into the House of Lords in ‘92, and did some personal and political time with John Major. After writing his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, Archer went on to pen international best sellers like Kane & Abel which gave birth to a CBS television mini-series in ’85.

About the book….

As The Crow Flies (1991) is a beautifully written novel that spans the time from the early 1900’s to 1970. Although lengthy (almost 800 pages), the reader will enjoy a fluid story that traces the life of Charlie Trumper, "the honest trader," from his early life of selling fruits and vegetables to becoming a department store magnet. As I mentioned in the Sidebar, Charlie may well represent those that know and practice their mission in life - to set sail towards upward mobility through personal sacrifice and hard work. Charlie will grow on you as he pushes his barrow (English word for wheelbarrow) from the East End London town of Whitechapel to the retail district of Chelsea. His work ethic and interest in peddling fruits and veggies started at an early age through the influence of his Grandpa Charlie, the bread winner for the Trumper family. Charlie’s dad was a dock worker who spent most of his non-work hours away from home drinking in the local pubs. His mother died when Charlie was born, so Grandpa provided the family glue for Charlie and his three sisters. It was a glue that was to stick with Charlie for the rest of his life. When his Grandpa died, Charlie took over his barrow business with a passion and fervor that launched his escalating career – one that had more "ups" than "downs." It didn’t take long before his business began to thrive, thanks to the teachings of his Grandpa, and the help of Becky Salmon, his childhood friend and the daughter of the Whitechapel baker. He soon began a program of business expansion, only to be interrupted when his father joined the Royal Fusiliers and died fighting the Germans in WW1. The loss of his father prompted Charlie to enlist in his father’s footsteps. He too, became a Fusilier and fought with dedication and distinction. But unlike his father, he managed to survive the "end of all wars." During his absence, Friend, Becky, held his business together.

Charlie immediately returned home to his fruits of labor (pun intended) and never looked backward. As his hormones matured, he found the lovely Becky more than just a former childhood friend. Her business acumen along with the financial help from her best friend, Daphne, enabled Charlie to diversify and grow. But Becky became involved with a deceptive son of a wealthy family, Guy Trentham, a military officer who was not a gentleman and was about to embark to India. After pledging his heart and soul to her before his departure, she soon found herself an expectant mother. With no intention of ever marrying Becky, Guy leaves her and never acknowledges her letters. Her previous introduction to Guy’s parents was a disaster, so she knows they will never be involved in her life, either. Charlie steps up to the plate, however, and covers-up Becky’s mistake by marrying her. Their marriage injected new life (no pun intended) into their relationship and son, Daniel, was born legitimate. The story takes many twists and turns as Charlie attempts to buy up a series of storefront shops in his quest to become bigger and better. Another interruption, WWII, takes the aging Charlie on an assignment that brings him greater distinction when he is called upon by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to ply his skills and oversee the military’s food program. After the war and upon his return to his shops in Chelsea, he soon learns that Guy Trentham’s wealthy and snobbish mother is a vindictive and devious person as she sets out to roadblock Charlie from fulfilling his dreams of developing a department store. As Paul Harvey always says, this saga will play out only if you "know the rest of the story." So, I will leave the ending on the table.

As The Crow Flies is skillfully written. Archer chronicles Charlie triumphs and tragedies from multiple viewpoints. That is, what happened is reenacted through the words of each major character. By doing so, each person’s motives are explicated so the reader can understand both sides of the story.

I guarantee Charlie will make a lasting impression on you. So much so, that the next time you push a wheelbarrow around, you will remember the "honest trader" from the East end.

JR

 

REVIEW FOR JANUARY 31, 2009

 

Sidebar: It’s tough to compete with the Super Bowl this weekend. It definitely has become an eating, drinking and viewing experience. The order of importance of these experiences is not always determined, however, by the outcome of the game! Enjoy. I will.

 

ONE NEAT BOOK TO READ

Forward: Recently, while exchanging pleasantries with one of my medical doctors, I mentioned that my granddaughter would be marching in the presidential inaugural parade. He responded by asking me if she was interested in science. I said I am not sure, but I am sure that she likes music. I went on to say that my 9 year old grandson, Tyler, is really into science education. The doctor obtained a new paper back book from a large box in his office and proceeded to write the following message inside the cover page. "To Tyler, Set your Goals High," (signed) Dr. ,,,,,,,,,,

Last week, I flew to my home in the Bay area. While in the air, I took advantage of the time by reading the book the good doctor had given to Tyler, OCTOBER SKY, by Homer Hickam. What a neat story. It is one book of his memoirs in the Coalwood Series, formerly entitled ROCKET BOYS. It was so well received that it was made into a movie (my note: read the book first). Homer Hickam was born in 1943 in a small coal mining town in Coalwood, West Virginia. Homer recaptures his boyhood dreams of going to work some day for/with Werner von Braun, the famous NASA rocket scientist. He shares his vivid observations of his home town, Coalwood, school, family, friends and foes, while coming of age. Reportedly, his family was very disjointed. His father was in charge of the local mining operations which consumed him both day and night. His brother was a high school football star and received the majority of his parents attention, except when Homer was blowing up his mother’s fence in her rose garden, or causing his father other forms of grief. His mother recognized that Homer marched to a different beat and encouraged him to look beyond a life in the mines. Like many mothers, she was devoted to her family and could manipulate the rest of the family into seeing her side of most equations.

It was Sputnik time in the late 50’s when Russia surprised the rest of the world with its mastery of rocket science. This, and a series of related events, sparked (pun intended) Homer into a lifetime dedicated to rocket science. During his years in junior and senior high schools, he demonstrated his interest by forming a rocket club. He and his buddies, with the help of some of his teachers, spent weeks experimenting with the design and materials necessary to construct rockets that would soon take them on a journey to the National Science Fair. Homer and his friends literally ignited (another pun intended) the town of Coalwood with their launching shows. They became a main source of entertainment for the town’s people. Out of self-preservation, Homer’s father set aside an area on the mine’s property called the Coalwood Firing Range in order to protect the rest of the town from the sound and danger of being a surprise target!  October Sky is more than about a young boy’s dream of "shooting for the moon." It is a lesson in growing up – a story laced with humor, sadness and sense of purpose. Today, many schools are using

October Sky in the classroom as a means of developing motivation, cultivating interest, building self- esteem, promoting problem solving and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. I would say the Hickam’s book(s) would appeal to those age groups starting in junior high school and ending with us old codgers. I did, and you will. I promise.

Homer went on to live out his dreams from a Rocket Boy to a successful NASA engineer. Thanks Homer for sharing your dream. Our dreams are important, also. So keep dreaming Cats….

JR

 

REVIEW FOR JANUARY 17, 2007

 

Sidebar: Next week marks the inauguration of our 44th President, Barak Obama and I have to share this one tit-bit with you. My 13 year old granddaughter called me a few weeks ago and informed me that her school, Redwood Middle School, was the only school from California and the only middle school in the country selected to march in the inaugural parade this coming Tuesday. Wow!! I think I am excited as she is. So if you happen to be watching the big parade on television, and you want to be a part of this historical event, then look for one of the drill team members carrying the second "O" (next to the "D") helping to spell out her school’s name, REDWOOD….

 

BOOK TIME

 

I have previously reviewed several of Bill Bryson’s books, namely A Walk in the Woods, Notes From A Small Island and A Short History of Nearly Everything . This week’s review is entitled "The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (2001).

First, a word about the author. Bill Bryson has enjoyed a great deal of success in his literary career. Born in Des Moines, Iowa in the fifties, he became a transplant back to the States after living in England for many years. Now a resident of New Hampshire, he continues to ply his writing skills with a humor that keeps a smile on his reading audience faces. With a minute mixture of "Travels with Charley" and tales by Charles Kuralt, Bryson has developed a unique and descriptive writing style – one that concentrates on his observations and experiences in a variety of environs. He can describe people, places and events with vivid imagination and use witty analogies to drive his point home. The Lost Continent is a travelogue that starts in De Moines. Bryson describes his motor trip to 38 states in his Chevette in search of who knows what?? I am not sure he knew.  As he wanders from town to town, or to big cities, he criticizes and laughs at the people that have allowed their landscapes to change for the worse (his emphasis). He does recognize, however, that what he sees as the good life may very well be the opposite view of others. Eating in diners, wandering around towns to take the sights in, constantly looking at women’s’ rear ends, and visiting museums and points of interest, are not always rewarding, however. Being a grumpy writer with a cynical attitude, Bryson undertakes his travels as if he can never be satisfied. I found that I got tired of his disparaging remarks even though they were overdosed with humor. His childhood memories of being on the road with his parents during vacation times serve as constant reminders that life was not always good, at least for him. Maybe his jaunt was an attempt to confirm or dispel his previous experiences.

One of his last paragraphs in The Lost Continent (299 pp) pretty well sums up his trip.

Well that was my trip, more or less. I visited all but ten of the lower forty-eight states and drove 13,978 miles. I saw pretty much everything I wanted to see and a good deal that I didn’t. I had much to the grateful for. I didn’t get shot or mugged. The car didn’t break down. I wasn’t once approached by a Jehovah’s Witness. I still had sixty-eight dollars and a clean pair of underpants. Trips don’t come much better than that.

If you decide whether you want to take this trip, then just give me a call or e-mail me and I will send you my book, free of charge, of course.

I’m off for a week, so I will be back under our next president.

JR

 

 

BOOK REVIEW FOR JANUARY 10, 2009

 

Sidebar #1:

As Louie Armstrong (aka: Satchmo) once sang "what a wonderful world" we live in. Where else can one sit back and be entertained by people who believe they engineer our economy and drive our political system so skillfully. With this kind of self-imposed leadership, an unusual relationship has been created – one that promotes symbiotic back scratching between those that give and those that take! I don’t believe that we seek these kinds of laughs, however. Or, how about back in ’55 when Tennessee Ernie Ford voiced a different kind of world when he sang                                                                                                     "You load 16 tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt.

Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go,

I owe my soul to the Company store…."

These lyrics were meant for our listening pleasure, not for all of us to practice….but then again, there are some leaders (?) that believe that these words are "living words" to abide, or not abide by (a term that has grown familiar when dealing with the tenets of the constitution or the creation of rap music). Where do we go from here? Who knows, but I’m in for the long haul. So, don’t be mad. Be a MADite and hang in there…..

 

Sidebar #2:

A historical event is in the making this Sunday. GO CHARGERS!!

 

Review Time

Probably no other author has brought legal thrillers to the forefront like John Grisham.

Dating back to his first books starting in 1988, A Time To Kill and then The Firm, he started a run of twenty novels. A few of his books have strayed away from the legal genre, but not many (remember Bleachers and Playing for Pizza?). I have selected one of his latest books, The Appeal (2008), because it has some contemporary political overtones, and not unlike what is going on in Chicago today, it feeds on the notion of "pay to play." It is about the law, politics and big business. The case in question pits a 34 year old widow, Jeannett Baker, against a giant chemical firm, Krane. Having lost her husband and son to cancer, she alleges that Krane dumped carcinogenic chemicals into the ground and water in and around Bowmore, a small town in Mississippi. The town becomes a disaster environs when the drinking water becomes contaminated and many of its citizens are stricken with cancer and related illnesses. Baker, represented by the Paytons, a small time husband and wife legal team, file a lawsuit against Krane. They sweat through 71 days of trial, and finally with a split decision of 10 to 2, the jury finds Krane guilty, and Baker finds herself on the winning side of a forty one million dollar verdict. The Appeal is not so much about the trial, but about what goes on behind the scenes during the appeal process. Krane is run by a ruthless money-hungry CEO, Carl Trudeau. He and his team of legal and political hacks have one mission in mind – to overturn the verdict by orchestrating a political campaign - one that would replace a sitting liberal State Supreme Court judge with one who would be pro-business and sympathetic to upholding the Krane appeal. With few exceptions, Grisham’s characters fit the plot. The plaintiff’s lawyer team, the politicos running the campaign, the money-hungry Senator, Trudeau and his trophy wife, the soon to be ousted Supreme Court Judge, and the soon to be new Judge and his family, all carry out their roles as if they were playing a routine game of checkers, with each trying to out maneuver the other.

The Appeal is a somber story and lacks any sense of humor and the reader has to bear through 482 pages to see who remains "down for the count." You will find the book an easy and entertaining read, but you will probably not want to keep it on your shelf…..

JR

 

  • LAST REVIEW FOR 2008
  •  
  • Sidebar:
  • For those of you who may read this stuff, well, we made it through the year! We can’t say that our lives were unblemished as we stumbled through the maze of economic, political and social turmoil, but the fact remains, we can still find Amazing Grace…
  • Yes, we lost some dear family members, classmates and friends, but the sanctity of life remains in tact. I extend my best thoughts and wishes to all of you in 2009 as we leave behind the Year of the Rat and enter the Year of the Ox.
  • Remember, our 60th Reunion is in October, 2010, aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway in San Diego, so hang on and take your daily dose of Metamucil. Also, as a reminder, the Reunion is for all former classmates and their significant others and/or spouses who attended "the high school in the valley" under the banner MAD….
  •  
  • Review:
  •  
  • Controversy is his middle name. He regularly calls people pinheads and patriots. Described by some as abrasive, a bully, self-centered and righteous; and by others as the "truth doctor," fearless, focused, and a survivor. You probably guessed the name of this best selling author and his latest book, A BOLD FRESH PIECE OF HUMANITY. You’re right if you answered Bill O’Reilly. His popular television show, "The O’Reilly Factor, aired each weekday night on Fox News at 5:00 PM (PST), is seen in many parts of the world and is considered by his many viewers as a no-holds barred quest for the "real"  story about people, places and local, national and world events, and touted as news that is "fair and balanced." (Note: this is not a commercial for either him or his book). It’s a review, so loosen up….
  • The book is, as entitled, bold and fresh as O’Reilly shares some descriptive stories about his (humanity) background, both personal and professional. How he came to be "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity" did not occur overnight. His family, the Catholic Church, friends and foes, combined with his extensive experiences as a news correspondent are linked together as he describes his evolution from early childhood into his present state of thinking and corresponding behaviors. The reader will be entertained by his early rascality and you might find some likeness in comparing your life to his. The reader may get the feeling that "Big Bill" (all 6’4") is on a crusade against evil and evil-doers (just ask Politician Barney Frank, Professor (?) Ward Churchill or GE’s CEO Jeffery Immelt). His bold and unrelenting approach to news casting has gained a world-wide audience as he strives to cover and uncover noteworthy events. The author is not afraid to examine his own strengths and weaknesses, and how they came about. You may not like his style, but you must admire his grit and his generous financial contributions to worthy causes.
  • Some of his other runaway best sellers are The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life; The No Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America; Who’s Looking Out for You?; The O’Reilly Factor for Kids: A survival Guide for America’s Families; Kids Are Americans Too; Those Who Trespass: A Novel of Television and Murder; and, Culture Warrior. All good reads, but some better than the others….
  • JR
  •  

    Review For First Week In December

     

    Sidebar #1

    Well, we have entered the last month of the year. As the saying goes, "much water has flowed over the dam" during the past eleven months. Damnations and jubilations!  Births, deaths, turmoil and blessings have all penetrated our lives and helped shape our behaviors and our outlook on the world around us. But hasn’t this always been the case? Each one of us experiences our own "wins and losses", some overlapping those of others, and they all help form our outlook on life, as it goes on…..

    Traditionally, and regardless of your religious leanings, December is a designated time to celebrate the holiday season. For some (especially the young), it is a time to receive. Likewise, and maybe more important, it is a time to give, by both young and old. Gifts or thanks can be expressed in many ways. They may be material, verbal, or simply thoughts and random acts of kindness.

    Regardless of the avenue one chooses to demonstrate his or her gratefulness to others, and even though it may not be directly related to the "receiver", the "giver" voluntarily reaches out to share something deemed important. This message is not a solicitation for gifts. It is meant to remind us (and yes, me, too) that the time is upon us to look back, look forward, and then reflect on our many blessings. Giving can become contagious. So watch out….

     

    This Week’s Review

    Some authors are prolific in their output. They can churn out books like bunny rabbits have litters! This week’s author is an exception to quantity. Selden Edwards spent over thirty years (1974 – 2007) to complete his first novel, The Little Book. Yes, it is the title of this very unusual story. Wrapped in the genre of time travel, the writer takes the reader back and forth between the golden age of Vienna (circa 1890’s) to almost one hundred years later (1988) in San Francisco, as told by the main character’s ninety year-old mother, Flora Burden, as she recalls the life story of her eccentric son, Frank Standish Burden III, more commonly called Wheeler. Through believable, and some unbelievable, series of vignettes, Flora begins her tale about her son who finds himself in Vienna in the year, 1897! How he got there is a mystery to Wheeler. Being in a strange city for the first time, yet seemingly no stranger to it, he is able to recognize important landmarks like the Ringstrasse, thanks to his prep school history teacher, Arnauld Esterhazy, whose love for Vienna was legendary in Boston’s premier prep school, St. Gregory’s, where Wheeler’s father and grandfather had preceded him in attendance. Esterhazy was called the Haze behind his back by his pupils. His teachings of his native land, Austria, was always embellished by his readings from The Little Book, a compilation of notes he had written about his observations while living in Vienna before migrating to the U.S. Wheeler’s father and grandfather were St. Greg legends , as was the elite Burden family. From Boston, his well known grandmother, Eleanor Burden, engineered Wheeler’s acceptance into St. Gregory for his last two years of high school, and then later into Harvard. Having grown up in the Sacramento Valley where he learned to throw a mean baseball, Wheeler found the eastern landscape quite different from those of his rural roots. He soon learned that his grandmother was providing him with the love, resources and inspiration to round-out his growth and development. The author’s portrayal of Frank Standish Burden III combines the characteristics of a hero who can do just about anything, with someone who possesses a sometimes flaky attitude hidden behind an unusual intellect that can only be unleashed, if motivated. As the story unfolds through his mother’s words and the use of her son’s journal, the reader will be taken, along with Wheeler, through this time travel into the lives of a wide variety of famous personalities, including Buddy Holly, Freud, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, and many other artists and political leaders. It is a lesson in comparative literature. Sometimes it is hard for me to separate fiction from history. Where do all these people, places and events fit in? And, how did they occur? You will have to sort them out for yourself. So, I will let you, the reader, be the judge of the events in Wheeler’s life. The title may be deceptive in name and size, but I assure you it will provide you, in time, a BIG read.

    JR

     

    A REVIEW AND Tid-Bits for the first week in November

     

    The Election is Over, Finally

    No matter whom you voted for, its time to move forward. Keep your cool and think positive. Let’s enjoy the remaining years in our lives. We only pass through it once!

    And thanks canine, Barney, for an early Christmas present. After all those years of careful training, you took a big bite out of the media for all of us!!

     

    How Sweet It Is….

     

    Like many folks, we bought a mixed bag of candy at Costco for Halloween. Whoever decided the variety of goodies that went into the bag did a good job. I am not a big fan of sweet stuff, but handing out the treats to the "tricksters and treaters" brought back some tasty memories. Remember Baby Ruths, Mars Bars, Abba Zabbas, Mounds, Hershey Bars, Snickers and Three Muskateers? It was fun sampling each one – so much for my sugar level…

    My favorite remains the Abba Zabba. It is considered a West Coast tradition that dates back to the 1920’s and is made of Chewy taffy with a peanut butter center.

    Which Brings Me To This Week’s Review, The Emperors of Chocolate, by Joel Glenn Brenner ( 1999). This National Bestseller gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at the two giants of the chocolate industry, Hershey and Mars. Brenner’s thorough research of the industry chronicles the origin of these two secretive companies and their clandestine operations. Unlike their products, the story is anything but sweet! Forest Mars and Milton Hershey hold the key rolls in the dueling confectionery business. Dating back to the early 20’s, the personalities of these two men shaped their companies, and their legacies live on today. The characters are real, and their stories almost unreal….

    Brenner undertook a routine assignment while working for The Washington Post – "to write a feature story about Mars, Inc., detailing the company’s response to Hershey’s emergence as the nation’s No. 1 candy maker." As a result of this assignment, the author decided he needed "the rest of the story." So he spent the next several years researching the Hershey Company. Of historical interest, Mars is a closely held private company. Hershey, on the other hand, is a publicly owned company. At one time, these two giants made 18 of the top 20 candy brands. This unique story looks into the secret world of candy making, including historical and financial facts, along with the personalities of the Emperors. Forest and Milton practiced there trade differently. Reportedly, they behaved at opposite ends of the spectrum. Forest Mars commanded his operations in an autocratic manner. Milton Hershey was known as a sensitive and caring person. He shared his dreams of success by supporting the world’s richest orphanage. The town of Hershey, Pa. is named after him. Rich in taste and tales, Benner will help you unwrap the secret world of sweets…..

    JR

     

    Veterans Day

     

    In a few days it will be Veterans Day. Traditionally, it is a special day to honor those who have served in our armed forces. Note: the government has declared that the attributive  (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling. This annual American holiday (both State and Federal) is usually celebrated on November 11th, depending upon which day of the week it occurs, i.e., if it occurs on a Saturday, then either Saturday or Friday may be designated; if it occurs on a Sunday, then it is moved to the following Monday. Originally it was celebrated as Armistice Day and marked the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI. According to Wikipedia and historians, "major hostilities of WW I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918." President Woodrow Wilson was the first official to proclaim Armistice Day in 1919. In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day.

    Veterans Day is more than a day off. It is a time to pause and reflect on where this great country has had to do battle, and to thank those men and women who have protected this Nation from its enemies. Many of us have served this country in ways that helped us grow up. One of the most revealing thoughts came out of my 48 year old son’s mouth a little over a year ago after touring the USS Midway Museum. He said, "dad, I really think I missed something by not serving in the military." Deep down in my heart I knew he was right, but I was also glad that he never had to taste war. The love and respect he voiced for his country and the people who defend it brought tears to my eyes.

    This week I had the pleasure of attending the United States Marine Corps 233rd birthday cake cutting ceremony on the parade grounds at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot here in San Diego. The event was highlighted by a pre-ceremony concert, presentation and retirement of colors, national anthem, several birthday messages, including the Depot’s Commanding General, Brigadier General Angela Salinas and a colorful uniform pageant that featured the uniforms worn by marines since its inception. It was an inspiring program and helped me focus on the true meaning of "Old Glory."

    Thanks to all veterans. Not only have you helped make this day, but my life, also.

    Semper Fidelis!

     

     

    News and Review for the last week in October, 2008

     

    Reunion News

    Many classmates have registered their interest in attending our 60th/All MAD class reunion in 2010. If things continue to progress in the right direction, we should have a great crowd. Please continue to express your ideas with us. They can help shape the event. Stay tuned……

     

     

    Review

    Thanks to my brother-in-law, Larry Larson ’50A, and his delightful daughter, Linda, they introduced me to this week’s book, Creature From Jekyll Island (Fourth Edition, 2008; 600 pp). Sounds weird, but don’t let the title turn you off…

    First, the author needs some introductory comments. He is a prolific writer who delves into some pretty weighty topics with unusual clarity. For example, he has dealt with the Supreme Court, the United Nations, taxes and international banking, just to mention a few topics. Griffin, himself, can be considered an intellectual libertarian who has aligned himself with such organizations as the John Birch Society. His literary talents have also been used to produce notable documentary films.

    This week’s book has political overtones, but I wanted to capitalize on the timeliness of the subject, our monetary system, especially in light of our current global financial crisis. It reads like a novel, but is based on fact. The author G. Edward Griffin walks you through the creation of the Federal Reserve and how our banking system operates. He documents his research using Federal and Congressional records, United Nations documents and commentaries from leaders in the worldwide financial community. It is a narrative of how the banks have become the controlling entity in our daily lives and how they got there.

    Disregard your current tax bracket, this read is for all of us. It’s scary enough to qualify for a Halloween gift. The focus of Griffin’s research is not so much to make the reader an expert in banking theory, but to shed some light on those individuals and groups that have brought us to our current financial condition.

    My review outlines below the assertions used by the author to abolish the Federal Reserve System. They are his, not mine. It is up to you, the reader, to weigh his historical findings as you test the accuracy of his assertions:

              -It is incapable of accomplishing its stated objectives.

              -It is a cartel operating against the public interest.

              -It is the supreme instrument of usury.

              -It generates our most unfair tax.

              -It encourages war.

              -It destabilizes the economy.

              -It is an instrument of totalitarianism.

    The Creature From Jekyll Island was established in the early 1900’s by a super-bowl of wealthy men:  Nelson Aldrich, Abraham Andrew, Frank Vanderlip, Henry Davison, Charles Norton, Benjamin Strong and Paul Warburg. As the old saying goes, "just follow the money." Griffin’s account is one of the best history lessons I have been able to absorb.

    JR

     

     

    Reunion News as of 10/21/08

    Our 60th reunion has taken on a new look. We hope you will agree with this bold move. We would like to invite ALL classes who attended MAD prior to the opening of Arcadia High School to join us aboard the USS Midway Saturday evening, October 2nd, 2010. Let me set forth the logic behind this change. When we attended Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School (MAD), the school was fed by three cities. Many of us had younger and older friends who walked the same MAD halls before and after the class of 1950. Many of us even married some of them. Now that our reunions are dwindling in number and attendance, for reasons obvious, why not hold an ALL MAD reunion aboard an aircraft carrier that is identifiable with our era? (It’s better than a submarine!) The Class of ’50  is not abandoning its 60th get-together, rather, it is opening the reunion to other MAD classes for one giant social event. Your comments are invited……

    More to come…..

     

    Tales and Travels in Ireland and Scotland, September, 2008

     

    Around the Emerald Isle

    I guess it is our Irish and Scot (not Scotch) heritage that drew us to these two beautiful places recently. With names like Regan and Bruce (the maiden name of Vangie’s mother) gin our heritage we yearned to wandered where out ancestors once roamed.

    Day 1 & 2: San Diego, Dallas, Dulles and Dublin was the route of our American Airlines flight. We arrived the next morning around 7:30 . Our game plan was to rent a car (small 5 speed SUV) and circle the Island heading South and clockwise. When I was planning our trip, I knew the areas we wanted to visit. What I didn’t know was where we would stay along the way. I found a website named Irish Tourism. Com, a group dedicated to helping visitors organize their trips. They helped us reserve a mix of recommended B&B’s and hotels, directions to each destination and sights of interest along the way. After missing a few turns on several round-abouts, we drove South on the M5 freeway and then East towards Enniskerry where one of the great world gardens, Powerscourt, is situated in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains (the largest national park in Ireland – 65,000 acres). Nearby, is Powerscourt Waterfall, Irelands’s highest waterfall.  Ashdene B&B was our first stopover in Avoca where Ireland’s oldest (1723) working weaving mill is located.  Ashdene is nestled in a classic setting near the Avoca River and surrounded by sheep roaming the hillsides. We had dinner in a wayside pub at the Meetings of the Two Rivers. Vangie , always on the alert for any gambling device, spotted a lottery machine next to the bar. She gambled one Euro and recouped the price of our dinner and reinforced my belief in the "luck of the Irish!" The next morning before shoving off, I checked the tires and found a large bubble on the left front tire. Fortunately. There was an old established tire shop, Brady’s, in the nearby village of Arklow. They had us back on the road in minutes. "Big 0" should take a lesson from Brady’s….

    Day 3: Leaving Avoca, we traveled Southward towards Enniscorthy, Wexford and New Ross,  home to the Dunbrody Famine Ship and the Kennedy homestead). Having previously visited the Waterford Crystal Factory, we bypassed Waterford going South to the coastal fishing village of Dunmore East and to our second stopover at the four room Brookside B&B. We dined on a delicious baked seafood pie in the village at Spinakers by tournament. The rain pounded us at night, but it didn’t dampen our spirits, nor those of the golfers who were also staying at Brookside.

    Day 4: Next stop on the schedule was Bantry. Entering County Cork and just  East of Cork city, was the resort area, Youghal (pronounced "Yawl." The film "Moby Dick" staring Gregory peck was filmed here in 1956. Youghal has a fine beach and is located at the mouth of the River Blackwater. Nearby, the Cobh Heritage Center is situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbours. It was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912. Cobh was one of the main ports of immigration from Ireland to the U.S. during the famine of 1847. We bypassed "kissing the Blarney Stone" in Blarney because of having been there and done that before, but more importantly, for sanitary reasons! It’s gross!! Vangie wanted to spend some time in Kinsale , and locate  a restaurant she remembered from her previous visit. She found it – the Vintage. It was closed and "for sale." We wandered the streets and had lunch at JJ Edwards, a local hang out. Another winner!!  All of our accommodations included the typical Irish breakfast of hot or cold cereal, toast, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, tomatoes, beans, tea or coffee, milk, light cream or heavy duty cream. Our  third stop was at the Maritime Hotel by the bay in Bantry. the The tide was out and several boats rested on the mud and kelp. Dinner was just down the street at O’Conner’s, more salmon….One of the main attractions in Bantry is the Bantry House and Gardens. It is the annual site for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival. Megalithic monuments and ancient standing stones are numerous in the area.

    Day 5 & 6:  Killarney. The route to Killarney took us around the south-west corner of the island as we headed north through the villages of Glengarriff and Castletownbere. We left the main highway and drove along the South coast of the Beara Peninsula, a route called the Ring of Beara. Since it was Irish coffee time we stopped in a little fishing village called Castletown Bearhaven. A film was just made there this summer, "On Dine." We traversed over the mountains to the north coast of the Peninsula following the Kenmare River into Kenmare which is located at the point where the River Roughty opens into the estuary of the Kenmare River. Killarney is about 40 scenic miles north of  Kenmare where we located our B&B, The Alghret House (named after Alan and Ghreta, the owner/operator.

    The next day we visited The Killarney National Park with its three interlinked lakes, Muckross House (a restored stately 1843 Victorian Mansion) and Ross Castle (15th Century). There are many other beautiful areas to visit in and around Killarney, including the famous Ring of Kerry.

    Day 7: County Clare, Dromoland Castle. From Killarney, our travels took us again north  towards Tralee, Newcastle and to the charming village of Adare, Sitting at the top of the village is Adare Manor, former residence of the Earl of Dunraven and now a 5 star hotel and golf resort where the next three Irish Open Golf Championships will be held. We bypassed much of Limerick and headed Northwest towards Bunratty Castle (1425) and the village of Ennis. Bunratty is a popular tourist attraction with a neat collection of furniture and where you can even enjoy a medieval banquet, or just drop in to the popular pub next door, "Durty Nelly’s. On to Newmarket-On-Fergus, the home of our next overnight, Dromoland Castle (16th century), situated on 375 acres. It is considered one of Ireland’s premier hotels. The woodlands, lake and golf course surrounding the castle provide guests with unparalled beauty and leisurely pursuits.

    Day 8 & 9: Galway was the next stop for two nights. Leaving Dromoland, we headed out to the coast through Ennistimon to the magnificent Cliffs of Moher overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They are 8km long (from Hag’s Head to the south to Obriens Tower (1835) to the north) and 214 m high. On a clear day you can see the Aran islands. We did. At the northern end of the Cliffs of Moher is the small coastal village of colorful Doolin, home to many music pubs where music festivals, some spontaneous, attract many crowds. The houses were all painted bright colors as they dotted the landscape. The ancient and famous caves of Aillwee are just north of Doolin located in the Burren, a mountainous limestone region that stands apart from much of the typical Emerald Isle. About one-half hour from Galway is Dunguaire castle in the village of Kinvara. "A.B.C.", Another Bloody Castle was not on our list of things to do, so the last stop of the day was The Menlo Park Hotel, near the River Corrib in Galway. When I asked the bartender at the hotel where to have dinner, he responded "don’t eat dinner here. Go downtown to McDonaghs," We were glad we did. The fish and chips were outstanding. On the way back to the hotel I got in a heated argument with a Nigerian cab driver. He started to tell me the virtues of voting for Obama. Needless to say, I didn’t tip him The next morning we took a bus west to the beautiful Connemara region to board a ferry (45 minute ride) to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore.  It was about 6 miles long and 2 miles wide. We hired a tour guide, Diane Flaritty, who was born, raised and lives on the island. She drove us around most of the island to historical sites, including the grounds of the seven churches where her relatives were buried, and to a mile-long footpath leading to an old fort on the highest hill on the island. We could look across Galway Bay and see the Cliffs of Moher on the mainland. The ferry took us back to Galway where we returned to the Menlo Park Hotel. Curious about the origin of the hotel’s name since Menlo Park is a city located just South of San Francisco, we were told by the restaurant manager that two wealthy men started it and later moved to California in the Bay area where the city, Menlo Park,, was named after them - small world.

     Day 10 & 11: County Donegal, Donegal Bay and the Sandhouse Hotel. Still heading north, we left Galway heading towards Donegal Bay, a 3 to 4 hour drive depending on what you wanted to see along the way. Near Sligo, the Ancient Tombs of Carrowmore, the Yeats Memorial and Donegal Castle remain popular attractions. I had told Vangie that we would be staying two nights at one of my favorite hotels right on a sandy beach overlooking Donegal bay. Enroute, we stopped in Bundoran for an Irish coffee (what else?) at the Great Northern Hotel, a destination resort surrounded by a challenging golf course overlooking the ocean. Just before reaching the Sandhouse Hotel, we stopped close by at the Smugglers Creek Inn for lunch. Nestled on a cliff and hidden from the main road, the Inn provided great food and views, and, of course, Guiness. The Sandhouse Hotel was just as I remembered it. Situated on sandy Rossnowlagh Beach and surrounded by rolling hills, this charming manor house (originally a fishing lodge) dates back to the late nineteenth century. Our third floor bayside suite was spacious and individually decorated in classical style. We slept to the rhythmatic sounds of the waves as they were pushed and pulled by the tide. The following day we explored the Galway peninsula following the southern coastal villages of Donegal and Killybegs (a fishing port where the largest blue fin tuna ever caught in European waters in 2001–968 lbs!) and then continuing on to Rossan Point. We took a one-lane mountainous road back to Donegal by way of Ardara, dodging sheep all the way….

    Day 12: Belfast.  On the way to the north coast Giant’s Causeway we crossed the border into Northern Ireland through Londonderry, a walled city completed in 1618. The walls (26’ high and 30’wide) have served their protective purpose well since they were never breached. Also known as "Derry," this city is best seen either with a tour guide, by taxi or on a river cruise. I found many street signs interesting since taggers had crossed out the "London" part of Londonderry. About a mile before the Causeway is the Old Bushmills Distillery, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery (one of my favorites). There are many sites to see along the coast, one of the most popular being the Carrick-a-Rede-Rope Bridge which spans a wide chasm to the tiny Carrick Island. Turning the corner from the north Antrim Coast we headed down the north-eastern coast through the villages of Cushendun, Cushendall and Glenarm. These areas are filled with natural beauty and one can find many historical monuments dating back to the Stone Age. After a long drive, we arrived in downtown Belfast at the Jury’s Hotel. Taking advantage of the daylight, we took a "hop on- hop off" city sightseeing tour of the city. Evidence remains of the turmoil between the Catholics and the Protestants as seen in the murals, statues and monuments dedicated to the "freedom fighters."

    Day 13 Dublin:  The two hour drive to Dublin on the freeway M1 was uneventful and culminated our circle tour of Ireland. We stayed in Bewleys hotel near the airport in preparation for the next leg of our journey - to Scotland.

     

    The Highlands of Scotland: River Cruise – The Caldonian Canal From Inverness to Fort William

    Day 14: Inverness

    A one hour flight via Air Arann took us from Dublin to Inverness. We were to meet our tour director at the Glenmoriston Hotel at 4:00 PM for transport to the barge, the Scottish Highlander. So, with several hours to kill, we roamed around the town of Inverness which is situated along the beautiful River Ness. At the appointed time we met the other six guests and the tour guide and drove to the Scottish Highlander moored at nearby Dochgarroch and received a champagne welcome. The barge was built in 1931 for grain transport. It was converted into a hotel barge in 2000 and refitted in 2006. It has accommodations for up to 8 passengers  in three staterooms (11’6" x 10’) and one suite (12’ x 12’ 4"). We had the suite and it was spacious, clean and comfortable.  Each cabin had a private shower, basin and toilet and were fully tiled with a heat radiator. Towels, washing gel, hand soap, shampoo, hair dryers and bathrobes were supplied daily.

    Here are some of the barge’s specifications: Dimensions – Length 117’; width 16’6"

    Generators – two, heat and power; Maximum speed : 10 knots

    Water and fuel capacity: 8 tons of water and 3 tons of fuel

    There were 4 crew members: Captain, Chef, Hostess and Tour Guide

    The Saloon/Dining room is 20’ x 12’ and finished in yew and Brazilian mahogany with a Walnut dining table seating 9. The bar was fully stocked and open 24/7 and all drinks were included in the cruise price.

    The Highlander accommodates all guests at a single sitting for each meal. The cuisine was excellent and bountiful. The wine varied and complimented the food.

    Day 15: Dochgarroch to Fort Augustus

    Our tour guide took us by van to the 14th century Cawdor Castle, immortalized by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and contained a superb collection of tapestries, pictures and furniture. We roamed the beautiful landscaped gardens, including a maze created with a trimmed hedge. We also visited Culloden Moor, an open battleground where the MacDonald and Campbell clans clashed in the 13th century. It was here that the Jacobite army fought to reclaim the throne of Britain from the Hanoverians for a Stuart King. Over 1,200 died in just one hour. Culloden was a short and bloody battle – the last to be fought on British soil. After lunch back on the barge, we cruised Loch Dochfour to Fort Augustus passing Urquhart Castle and the south shore of Loch Ness. The barge had six mountain bikes on board. Several of us rode from one lock to the next one (s) following the same route as the Highlander.

    Day 16: Fort Augustus

    After breakfast we cruised up the staircase of 5 locks through the village of Fort Augustus. We moored close to the village and roamed around the town on foot until lunch. In the afternoon we went by van to Urquart Castle which is nestled along the shore of Loch Ness. Returning to the barge, we visited Invermoriston Falls and saw the local heather-laced golf course, where the official green keepers are sheep! I had some delicious venison for dinner at a local restaurant behind the former Abbey which is being converted into a hotel.

    Day 17: Fort Augustus to Cullochy Lock

    Our next early morning cruise took us to Cullochy Lock by way of Kytra. After lunch we drove through Glen Moriston, a stunning highland countryside, to the romantic medieval Eilean Donan Castle, setting for the film Highlander. The castle has an idyllic island setting with multiple views of three sea lochs. After being abandoned for 200 years, the castle has been completely restored. I tried my hand at fishing, but no luck for the Irish.

    Day 18: Cullochy Lock to Gairlochy

    This morning we left Cullochy and cruised through two locks at Laggan and through Lochs Oich and Lochy to Gairlochy. The early afternoon was spent riding a cable car up the highest ski mountain in Scotland in the Nevis Range. We hiked up another mile and absorbed the surrounding beauty of  the highlands and its lakes. On the way back to the barge we visited the World War II Commando memorial (the first Green Berets) and the woolen mill at Spean Bridge. Unfortunately, credits cards can be used in most places, and I soon learned that I am married to a shopper!

    Day 19: Gairlochy to Banavie/Fort William

    From Gairlochy we drove south and parallel to Loch Linnhe to the battlefields of Glencoe and its museum. The ruggedness of the highlands can best be seen along the Glen Coe Highway (A82) at the foot of Ben Nevis, a mountain climber’s paradise. The cascading water falls amidst the heather and rocks are numerous while the sheep move unattended on the hillsides. On the way back we toured the Ben Nevis distillery and tasted a wee dram or two or three…The last leg of the cruise was to Banavie and Neptune’s Staircase, a flight of eight locks – a  magnificent engineering feat that connected the Atlantic Ocean (to the West) to the North Sea (to the East). Tonight we were treated to a special farewell Captain’s Dinner. Our modest and competent Captain said a few words, but the best remark was that we the guests) had just experienced the best weather all summer during our week on the Caledonia Canal

    Day 20, 21: Port Appin, Argyll, and The Airds Hotel

    I thought it would be a good way to wind-down our lengthy trip by staying in one of my favorite hotels, The Airds, for three nights, just 27 miles south of Fort William. The hotel faces Loch Linnhe, the Isle of Lismore and the Ardgour hills. Originally an 18th century ferry inn for passage to Lismore island, the Airds has eleven bedrooms which have been artistically designed and decorated in a variety of styles from sophisticated country house to contemporary and fresh. The two lounges with fireplaces provide relaxing moments to chat with the other guests, read or sip your favorite beverage. Reputed to be one of the best restaurants in Scotland, guests can enjoy a dinner menu that changes daily with fresh seasonal ingredients using local produce. The wine list is impressive and varied. Nearby, there are many places to enjoy either walking and/or cycling. One trek took us out to the end of the road on the peninsula along Loch Linnhe where we had unobstructed views of the islands Mull and Lismore. Circling back on the inward side of the peninsula we skirted along a path through farm lands where Highland cattle grazed against a landscape of dense trees, ferns and brush.

    The next day we took a one-half hour drive to the scenic seaport town of Oban where you can take one of the ferries to the Hebridean islands, or like us, shop and have an Irish coffee. On the way back we visited an old abandoned castle and had fish and chips by the dock at Port Appin. It was time to pack our stuff and prepare for the next day three hour journey to Edinburgh to catch our Aer Lingus flight back to Dublin.

    Day 22: Edinburgh to Dublin 

    The drive to Edinburgh was spectacular. We headed south towards Oban, then east at Connel. It seemed like we were always beside a lake, river or stream. The countryside grew from rolling hills to heavy forests as we passed through Tyndrum and the Trossachs National Park. At Killin we went south to Stirling where we picked up the M9 freeway and drove east to the airport where we returned our rental car and flew back to Dublin. Arriving late afternoon in Dublin, we checked into the Clarion Hotel next to the airport. The game plan was to tour Dublin the next day.

    Day 23: Dublin

    We took the city bus to Dublin and then hopped on a double decker tour bus to see the rest of the city. Starting on its main street, O’Connnel, we saw the out-of-character Millenium Spike, Trinity College, shopping district of Grafton, National Library, Museum and Gallery, St. Stephens Green, Temple Bar, Castle, City Hall, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Guiness Storehouse where they make 10 million glasses of beer each day(!), Heuston Station and the 1,750 acre Phornix Park. Whew!! It was time for a  pint and a late lunch at Mulligans. Back to the Clarion for our last night in Ireland.

    Day 24: Back to San Diego

    We never saw the darkness of night on our American Airlines flight home. We left Dublin at 10:30 AM and arrived in San Diego by way of Chicago at 7:45 PM (there is a 7 hour difference in time). Thanks to Michael Connelly writing skills, I was able to read one of his latest thrillers, The Overlook, during the flight.

     

     

     

    Review for October 4, 2008

     Gary,
    Thought you might like to view the barge we were on in Scotland. We cruised the Caledonian Canal for 6 days.

    The other picture is one of the classic restored castles in Ireland. 700 acres  - the castle is surrounded by a great gold course and lake. We stayed there one night.

     

    Sidebar #1

    Vangie and I returned from our trip to Ireland and to the highlands of UK/Scotland last night. The last time I visited these countries was in 1994. Some things have changed, some have not. There have been noticeable economic advancements in Ireland, especially, but the people remain the same, friendly and loveable. You would not have expected the highlands to change much. They haven’t. The beauty of these two places remains imbedded in the landscape and the people. We drove over 2,000 miles around Ireland mostly following its scenic coastline. Driving on the left side of the narrow roads remained a challenge, but having a wife that kept saying "stay on the left, dummy," kept me alert! In Scotland, we took a six day barge trip from Inverness to Fort William along the Caledonian Canal. With only seven people, plus a crew of four, on board, we traveled at a slow pace and enjoyed the many side trips to historic sites and walking in the highlands.

     

     

    Book Reviews   

    During my recent trip, I had a chance to read several books. The following brief reviews should give you a flavor for their contents:

     

                The Dive (a story of love and obsession) by Pipin Ferreras (2004): For those who like the challenge of holding your breath under water and to see how deep you can dive, then this true story is for you. Simply put, how deep can one dive on a single breath of air without the use of any breathing apparatus. Throughout his career, Cuban born Ferreras reclaimed the world championship free diving record several times each time his records were broken. His life took on a new meaning when he met Audrey Mestre, a French Marine biology student. Like Pippin, she became obsessed with free diving and learned the sport under Pippin’s tutelage. The strategy of reaching deeper depths took on a new dimension when "no limits" became the answer. "It was based upon the concept that the faster you can reach your targeted depth, then the sooner you can turn around and come back for air without going through decompression." This concept was enhanced by having the diver ride a weighted sled down to a specified depth, and then shoot back to the surface through the use of an inflatable device. Pippin’s obsession for diving was only matched by his love for Audrey. His life was crushed, however, when she suffered an untimely death while attempting a world record of 170 meters off the coast of the Dominican Republic.  The Dive could be a story of life, itself, which has its ups and downs. The downside (literally) is that if you don’t come up for air, then its adios amigos! 

     

                The Overlook by Michael Connelly (2007). Connelly remains one of my favorite authors. I have previously reviewed some of his other books, most recently, Echo Park (2006). They are well written, easy to follow and contain some of the best characters found in any literary series of this genre. As a former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Connelly knows the ins and outs of how the LAPD operates. It is also fun to read about familiar landmarks in and around the Los Angeles area. His lead character is legendary Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, a homicide detective who seems to be constantly struggling with the world around him, especially his superiors. His strong sense of what is right and what is wrong often puts him at odds with others. Bosch’s new young partner, Iggy Ferras, soon learns that his mentor is a man with uncanny intuition as he turns a crime scene upside down in order to get the correct results.  

    The title, The Overlook, refers to a place on Mulholland Drive that overlooks the city and where a man, Stanley Kent, is murdered, execution style. Harry is called upon by the Homicide Department to run with the case. The crime takes on an unusual shift when he learns that cesium, a radioactive material, had been removed by Kent from a nearby hospital prior to his death. Kent had been authorized to control the use of the material for medical treatments of cancer patients. Prior to his death, he learns that his wife is being held captive by people who want the cesium. With his wife’s life at stake, the abductors arrange to meet Kent with the radioactive material at The Overlook. The case takes on two dimensions, homicide and national security. The FBI enter the investigation like a heard of stampeding buffalo and much to his chagrin try to "take over" Harry’s homicide case. FBI Agent Rachael Walling, Harry’s one-time lover (Echo Park), is put on the case and the wrong kind of sparks begin to fly as the Feds maintain that national security issues supersede the murder case. They have strong evidence that links the murderers to an international terrorist group who might want to use the cesium for wide-spread destruction. Additionally, Iggy, the junior partner, becomes uncomfortable with his senior partner’s behavior as he circumvents the conventional ways of performing an investigation. So Harry is faced with the usual downtown politics, an arrogant FBI, a disgruntled partner and an ex-lover who are all causing great turmoil for Bosch. The reader can’t help but support Harry’s tenacious behavior as he goes about unraveling the case. The book is not lengthy (just under 200 pages) so you can enjoy a fast read with a super-sized surprise ending.

    JR

     

    Review For August 31st, 2008

     

    Sidebar

    Vangie and I will be traveling to Ireland and Scotland in September so I will give you time off from my ramblings. We will toast you each day with some Bushmills as we circle the Emerald Isle and visit the Highlands.

     

    Reunion News:

     

    Last Wednesday, your humble co-chairs and spouses held a special reunion planning session at the Del Mar Race Track Turf Club. Don Cottle and I felt the need to keep in close touch with each other in an equestrian backdrop, just like Santa Anita loomed in our backyard years ago. In between races we reminded each other that our upcoming 60th reunion needs a special "punch" – one that will provide some fun and stimulation to the Class of 1950.  Here are our thoughts. Everyone out there feel free to give us some of yours…..

     

    Some Thoughts about MAD 60th Reunion

              (As discussed by Don Cottle and Jim Regan on 8/27/08)

     

    Against the landscape of the Turf Club at the Del Mar Race Track, D.C. and J.R exchanged some thoughts and ideas (not necessarily in the order below) about the MAD Reunion to be held aboard the USS Midway Museum on October 2, 2010. Here is a recap of their discussion*:

     

    1.0             Reaffirmation of the location on the hanger deck; estimated attendance @ +- 100; adults only (no children nor grandchildren)

    2.0             Reviewed Paulette’s Committee mission

    3.0             Inclusion of other classes, namely ’49 and ’51: handle on a case by case basis, but not extend open-ended invitation

    4.0             Physical layout of stage, tables, buffet and bar area

    5.0             Check do-ability of having Marine Corps Band for opening ceremony and Miss California singing "opener"

    6.0             Main Program – speaker, entertainment (magic show?); slide show; instead of self introductions, prepare and distribute in advance, a book similar to the one used for our 50th reunion with a page for each classmate, including space for a current photograph

    7.0             Special recognition for those "Gone But Not Forgotten"

    8.0             Develop a quality souvenir program, including pictures and personal bio. (Bob Scharr art work). Hire videographer to record reunion events for DVD to send to all participants

    9.0             Inclusion of special guests, e.g. Principal, teachers ?

    10.0        Dinner menu – a buffet with lines on both sides of the tables

    11.0        Pre reunion hosted get-together @ the Regans; valet parking

    12.0        Post reunion get-together? Group breakfast meeting? (TBD)

    13.0        Weekend events (optional), e.g. zoo, tours, museums, etc.

    14.0        Places to stay in and around San Diego. We will provide a list of hotels and rates. Attendees will be responsible for their own reservations

    15.0        Name tags with 1950 class pictures (designed by Bob Scharr)

    16.0        Decorations – tables, placemats,

    17.0        Things to do aboard ship – tours, simulators, etc

    18.0        Music (canned or live) and dancing

    *This list is not meant to be all-inclusive

     

                                                                                                                                           Book Review For 8/31:

     

    Remember Superman? Faster than a speeding bullet; more powerful than a locomotive; able to leap tall buildings….

    Clark Kent (a.k.a. Superman) was one formable guy, humble, intelligent, clairvoyant - a cross between Hercules and Sampson.

    Dean Koontz in one of his early bestsellers, COLD FIRE (1991), created a super-hero, Jim Lionheart (you got to love the name), and like Clark Kent, Jim possesses a psychic ability to foresee people in distress. Unable to explain the origin of the transmission and reception of these signals, he is driven to believe that he is on God given missions – to save lives.

                …..I always had trouble accepting that it was God working through me, it seemed like such a crazy idea. But I lived with it just because there wasn’t any better explanation.

     

    I am not a sci-fi fan, but Koont’s writing skills kept me fully engaged as he details each episode using a unique landscape of words and ideas along with a great deal of suspense. Jim’s travels have no geographical boundaries. His divine "callings" seem to emanate from a built-in GPS (my emphasis) as he finds himself traveling anywhere on a moment’s notice to practice his humanitarian feats.

    One such mission finds him going to Portland Oregon. He rescues a young student while he is crossing the street in front of his school from a speeding truck driven by a drunk driver. Coincidentally, the incident is witnessed by a local newspaper reporter, Holly Thorne, who wants to interview Jim. As Jim is rapidly leaving the scene, she finagles driving him to the airport in order to obtain enough information to write a story. He is not about to reveal any thing of substance, however. After her strike-out with Jim, she has frequent flashbacks of this mysterious man. Frustrated in her job as a reporter, Holly stumbles upon other rescues made by a mysterious person who fits Jim’s description. Unable to get him off of her mind, she takes some time off from her reporting duties and sets out to find him. She soon learns that tracking him down does not lead to immediate friendship. The former teacher, Jim, is not about to exit his shell in favor of sharing his life with a stranger, especially a reporter. Certain weird events occur that bring the two together. As the story unfolds, the reader will struggle, along with the main characters, about who is directing Jim’s actions. Is it God, or is it through some other intervention?

    Enter "The Friend" and "The Enemy" from his forgotten past. Jim’s past is riddled with questions that need to be resurrected. The rest of the story shifts to his early childhood and the places he grew up. Haunted by the death of his parents at an early age…he submerged himself in a world of fantasy and developed a multiple personality.

    "The Friend" helps him understand that each person he has saved is special and "if allowed to live, will make a major contribution to the betterment of mankind."

    Follow the two "past busters" as they encounter good and evil. Things get pretty far out, but Koontz will hold your attention (maybe not your imagination) to the end.

     

    JR (on my 76th birthday)

     

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

     

    Reunion News and Review

     

    60th Reunion Update:

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

     

    Without fanfare, your committee is actively going about its duties laying the groundwork for our reunion in 2010. The end product may seem like a long ways off, but believe me, if the wheels were not in motion now, we would not be able to pull-off the best reunion, ever.

    For those who like to mess around on your computer, you might want to tap into the Midway’s website in order to become better acquainted with the ship:        www.midway.org

    One of the reasons we have chosen this noteworthy ship for the site of our 60th Reunion is that it represents our era - one that circled our lives, then and now. It was commissioned during our high school years and subsequently became a beacon for international service. Likewise, the Class of 1950 reached out into the world and set an example for those that followed in its wake, also.

     

    Review:

    You don’t have to be a jock or a sports’ nut in order to enjoy one of John Grisham’s latest novel (2007), Playing For Pizza. Unlike his legal thrillers, this New York Times bestseller is a lighthearted fable about professional football, Italian style. The reader is not required to have a technical pigskin background in order to follow and appreciate the story. Rick Dockery, the third string back-up quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, has never been able to climb out of his lackluster career. He has bounced around between teams like a squib kick sends a football on an unpredictable pattern down the gridiron. Its show time and Cleveland is in the AFC Championship game. Up 17 points with minutes to go, the #1 and #2 quarterbacks are sidelined due to injuries. Rick is suddenly cast into the limelight and proceeds to lead (?) his team to a defeat that would even surpass the Battle of Waterloo….Overnight he became known as a national "loser." In addition, to finding himself in the local hospital nursing another concussion, he finds out from his slick talking agent, Arnie, that he has been cut from the Brown’s roster. He was even named by a local sportswriter as "the greatest Goat in the history of  pro football." Arnie, sees the handwriting on the wall when other teams would not return Arnie’s calls in his attempts to find Rick another backup QB spot for Rick.

    Italy is know for many things, its art, cuisine, music, landscape, but American Football?? Arnie suckers Rick into continuing his fading career in Parma, Italy by playing for the Parma Panthers, a semi-pro team with a hodgepodge of characters who love the game and were willing to "Play For Pizza!" Note: the author visited Parma and based this novel on his observations and experiences - real football, real life, but fictional characters.

    Grisham has developed a flaky character in Rick. His lack of purpose other than playing football, chasing women and living the high/low life of a bachelor leads to a plot marked by self discovery. His loyalty to the Panthers is tested when Arnie finds a Canadian team that is willing to offer him a contract. His response may be the turning point in his career. The reader may enjoy the historical tidbits of Italian culture, especially the many food scenes. Parma, like so many other Italian towns and cities, is noted for its parmesan cheese, good vino and pasta dishes.

    Playing for Pizza, although an accurate title, is really about a bunch of maverick players whose careers run from blue to white collar jobs. Their love for playing football is almost as great as their love for food and drink.

    The Italian Super Bowl becomes the focus of the story. The Panthers have never been to the Super Bowl, and Rick has been hired to fulfill the mission.

    Rick’s love life provides little stimulation to the story. It does give the reader more historical perspective of the countryside rather than focus on his sexual conquests.

    The book is a fun and fast read. Caution: be prepared to call Dominos Pizza while trying to decide whether the Parma Panthers will win the Super Bowl.

    JR

     

     

    July 26, 2008

    Reunion News:

     

    Now that we have locked on to a date (October 2, 2010) and location (The Aircraft Carrier Museum in San Diego), our "Ponderings Paulette" is moving ahead with a "search and find" committee currently made up of Paulette and her husband, Don, Elsa Siefert, Joretta, Darrel Jeffries and Mary and George Russell. Their first official meeting is next week (see her website for more details). They have taken on the task of rounding-up our lost mates so that every living classmate knows about our 60th Reunion well in advance. It is a big job and they will need your help. So step forward volunteers and put a smile on the Committee’s face. Maybe each person from our class could send the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of other class member that they stay in touch with to the committee. Duplicate submissions will be welcome for cross-check purposes.

    That’s it for now folks. Plenty more to come…….

    JR

     

    On Thu, Jul 10, 2008 at 11:01 AM, jim regan <jjregan55@cox.net> wrote:

    JULY 11, 2008

     

    REUNION NEWS

     

    Ahoy ship mates!!!  Welcome Aboard!!! On behalf of your 60th Reunion Committee we are pleased (maybe even elated) to announce that our reunion will be held aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Midway #41 (now a museum) ported here in San Diego Harbor. The date of the reunion is Saturday, October 2, 2010. Get-togethers before (the 1st) and after (the 3rd) will help us tune up and wind down, so mark your calendars now. There will be no excuses accepted since you are receiving a 28 month advance notice.

     

    About the Midway:     With an unmatched naval history, the Midway had a 47 year career-longer than any other carrier- one that began at the end of WWII and ended with the liberation of Kuwait. "An odyssey that was shared by 225,000 Americans, most of them only a year or two out of high school." We were just 9th graders at MAD when the Carrier was commissioned. So it is an important part of our generation.

                In 1946, Midway was the first carrier to deploy in the winter into the Artic Ocean.

    Ultimately Midway aviators taught the rest of the Navy how to fly among icebergs. A year later, Midway was the only ship to launch a captured German V-2 rocket. It became known as the dawn of naval missile warfare.

                Midway, too, was known for its humanitarian missions. In 1975 on what became known as the Night of the Helicopters, more than 3,000 refugees were flown aboard when Saigon fell. Only 16 years later, Midway again came to the rescue when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, the largest volcanic eruption of the century. More than 2,000 lives were saved by Midway crew.

                Today, Midway has embarked on its final mission as a flagship naval aviation museum. It is the most visited floating naval ship museum in the world.

    Note: We will have special docent led tours arranged for reunion attendees

     

    Now that the date and location have been determined, everyone has a special assignment.

    Stay alive. Why?  Because you will not want to miss our 60th.

    Much more to come…….

    JR

     


    Hi Gang,

    We did it!! We can now officially place October 2, 2010 aboard the Aircraft Carrier Midway on our calendar for our 60th Reunion. This is really going to be neat. I will take some pictures and post them on our website. Now it is up to all of us to spread the word. I will continue to provide updates as the days, weeks, months and years go by.....

    Welcome aboard mates......

    JR

     

    60TH REUNION NEWS AND REVIEW

          Fourth of July, 2008

     

    Sidebar 1:       As you can see by the title of this webpage, I will be reporting on the progress of our forthcoming MAD 60th Reunion in 2010. A committee is being formed and we are looking for more volunteers. Please take a look at the attached committee list and see how you can donate your talents. Even though we have 28 months until show time, certain things need to get firmed up now (like dates and location). Next week, hopefully, I will have a firm commitment for the dates and location. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves so you will be around come 2010!

     

    Sidebar 2:       The Fourth of July (Independence Day) is a time to take pause and reflect on its meaning. It is more than hamburgers, hotdogs and fireworks. It is an annual celebration of our independence from Great Britain as codified in the Declaration that was signed July 4, 1776. Happy 4th…….                    

     

    Review for the Week:

    Many of my reader friends told me to read Greg Mortenson’s and David Relin’s New York Times Bestseller, Three Cups of Tea. So, I did. It is a captivating and moving real- life story about a mountain climber, Greg Mortenson, who became obsessively motivated with the notion of building schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially for young girls. In 1993, after being rescued in a failed attempt to scale K2, the second highest mountain on earth (28,251’) located in the Karakoram part of the Himalayan range between North Pakistan and China, Greg soon discovered a whole new world-one depicted by a mountainous landscape filled with unparalleled beauty, yet basked in a culture very different from his own. A place where political turmoil, economic and social poverty, religious freedom, age-old cultural mores and values, all seemed to run against the grain of Western Culture. But beneath it all, Greg found the people, although lacking in formal education, to be firmly ensconced in their way(s) of life. It was as if they possessed a tribal gene that brought simplistic fulfillment to their daily existence. It was against the shadow of K2 in the Katakortam mountains in a small Pakistani village called Korphe that Greg soon learned that he had a mission in life – to reach out to these people in a way they had never dreamed – to help them improve their children's education and to gain literacy. His premise being that education is the cornerstone for improving one’s quality of life. He was a man with a mission, and his mission was to build schools, especially for young girls. Three Cups of Tea is a story about one man’s commitment to help a group of people help themselves. Over many cups of tea, Greg learned that the first cup was an act of courtesy and a time to talk business. If a second cup was offered, then it meant that you had moved to a higher level of friendship. The significance of having three cups was to indicate that you are now considered part of the family. Many times while drinking tea, it came to pass that Greg made promises to build schools in remote villages. His interaction with the leaders of each village provides a never ending story of promises and fulfillment. He did, in fact, build over fifty schools during a ten year period. Each project was unique and took on a character of its own. Back in the U.S.A., funding each project became a never ending and consuming task Through the course of his work he established the Central Asia Institute in Bozeman, Montana, and with the help of donations from others, he continues to live out his humanitarian dream.

    Greg’s personal life was hard, not only for himself, but for his family. As the reader is introduced to his personality, it becomes apparent that his adventurous spirit, although dashed by his failed attempt on K2, never really left him. His tenacious efforts lifted him to the highest heights of humanitarianism, just like his idol, Mother Teresa.  

    Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns and Three Cups of Tea have a common thread, they all give the reader a better understanding of the people and lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with a greater appreciation for our country.

    JR

     

    60th REUNION COMMITTEE

                                          (as of 7-4-2008)

     

    THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE HAVE VOLUNTERED TO HELP OUT: (Good start, but we can use more mates)

    Don Cottle, Paulette Dunn Smith, Darrell Jefferies, Mary Rector Russell, Joretta Griffin Bunyard, Gary Dayton, Larry and Marjean Brownwood Larson, Rich Humble (no dogs allowed), Ian and Harriett Campbell, Elsa Seifert and Bob Schaar.

     

    REUNION CHAIR(S):        DON COTTLE AND JIM REGAN

    Don.Cottle@Vistage.com; jjregan55@cox.net

     

    DATES & LOCATION:     OCTOBER 1, 2, 3 – 2010 (pending)

     

    THEME: Submit selection process and suggestions to ?

     

    PROGRAM

              MC FOR MAIN EVENT

              MENU

              PUBLISHED PROGRAM

              AUDIO/VISUAL EQUIPMENT & SHOW

              MUSIC:     (how about a commemorative music disc?)

              DECORATIONS

              RESIDENT ARTIST:            BOB SCHAAR

     

    SPECIAL EVENTS:

    PRE-PARTY (Friday): REGAN RESIDENCE 1300 W. Walnut  POST-PARTY (Sunday A.M.): TBD

    PERSONAL TOURS AND ACTIVITIES

     

    WORTHY EXCHEQUER:         ELSA SEIFERT

     

    HEAD VITICULTURIST:           GENE CAMERON

                                                              AWESOME WINES CO.

     

    ACCOMMODATIONS:  Google it or call/email Regan

     

    MAILING LIST:   PAULETTE SMITH, MARY RUSSELL,   

    & PUBLICITY       ELSA SEIFERT AND DARRELL JEFFERIES

     

    RESIDENT PHOTOGRAPHER

     

     

    6-29-08

    Subject: 'Tis a great Sunday

     

    Good news from the Northwest Territory. Gene, our Head Viticultrist for the Reunion, and Fran Cameron will be sending "us" 60 bottles of wine for our bash! Just one more reason to attend,,,,

    Thanks Gene and Fran.

    The MAD '50-'60 Committee

     

     

    6-28-08

    Hi Everyone,

    Just thought I would let you know what is going on.....

    I have received numerous positive responses from our mates regarding the dates and location for our 60th Reunion. 100% of the respondents said that San Diego would be great and that either the first or second weekend in October was ok. A final decision will be made shortly. In the meantime I contacted the Aircraft Carrier Midway Administration about availability, cost, etc. They sent me a ton of info to mull over. I will be meeting with them next week. Paulette, Mary, Elsa and Darrell have taken on the BIG assignment of putting together a master list of our mates and they will spearhead communications with them. They will need everyone's help in searching for lost souls.

    I have asked Gary to change my Book Review Page to "60th Reunion." Hopefully, it will give us a better line of communication with everyone (not that everyone reads my page).

    Vangie and I, and with your help, will host the PRE-Reunion party (friday evening) at our house. We can accommodate at least 100 mates. Plans are to use the inside and outside areas of our house. For now, we will have a couple of bars set up, lots of finger food and a buffet table. Dress will be casual, of course (come as were when the ship went down!).

    I will compile a list of hotels in the area. Not Priority now, but I will have it done in the next couple of months.

    I was wondering if we should create/have a theme?? It might be fun for someone to coordinate the origination of a title for our Reunion. We could even turn the task into a contest.

    Bob Sharr should fit into our Committee somehow. He is so talented. I will e-mail him and ask him point blank what he would like to do for the Reunion ( e.g., posters, placemats, a cover for the program, or ???).

    Co-Chair, Don Cottle, has some great ideas. And, with his contacts, he will most likely pull a rabbit out of his hat. His enthusiasm has been quite evident, right from the start.

    One pitfall that I want to mention is time. It is important that we ALL keep moving ahead. It will be easy for us to slide back into our easy chairs thinking that we have plenty of time to accomplish our goals. After all, it is only 28 months until October 2010!! WRONG! We really have so much to do in so little time. And who knows what roadblocks may come our way??

    So long until next time.....

    JR

     

    Review for June 1, 2008

     

    First Sidebar:  We have just recognized one of the most important dates in our Country’s history, Memorial Day. Formerly called "Decoration Day," this Federal holiday was previously held on May 30th, but was changed to the last Monday of May by Congress in order to facilitate a three day holiday. Reportedly, Memorial Day was first held in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania in 1865 to honor Union soldiers who last their lives during the Civil War. It was, of course, expanded to cover all those U.S. men and women who have since died while in the line of duty. In addition to individual and group observances held throughout the country, this day of reverence has become a three day time to party, barbeque, watch the Indy 500, and you name it. End of Sidebar

     

    Second Sidebar:  Many of our classmates have served our country while in military service, especially in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The service and contributions of our mates will never be totally known. Periodically, stories of their military and civilian careers surface. This week, Gary Dayton has featured one of our deceased classmates, Chuck Hoggatt. I thought I knew Chuck fairly well since we were on the track teams at MAD and at Occidental College. Wrong! I had no clue about his service to our country. His son, Greg, sent me the Eulogy he delivered at his service. I thought it would be appropriate to share it with our website readers. So here it is. End of Sidebar

     

    Eulogy For Charles Vernon Hoggatt (delivered by Greg Hoggatt)

     

    Charles Vernon Hoggatt was born November 10, 1932 and passed away February 28, 2008.

    Son of Vernon and Edith Hoggatt, both school teachers and administrators.

     

    Military Man

    Raised in Southern California and after a brief attempt at college, joined the Air Force Reserves. Commissioned a 2nd Lt. in Feb. 1955. Attended flight school and obtained his wings and eventually rose to the rank of Captain and Aircraft Commander of the C130 Hercules. Served several tours of duty in Vietnam, flew countless missions around the world and received a multitude of flying commendations from the Air Medal to the Bronze Star and others. He was ultimately a casualty of the reduction in force and forced to take a rank cut and lost his flying status. He went into ground safety and served out his career, and retired after 22 years of service at the rank of Major.

     

    Husband

     

    Chuck was fortunate to find his life partner and soul mate in 1974. He married Ethel in July of this year and was able to live a long and happy retirement with her here in Palm Bay (Florida). Together they traveled, lived and loved.

     

    Father

     

    In May of 1961, in his first marriage, he was granted a son, who was able to carry on the family name as he was the only son of an only son. Even as a victim of divorce in the late 60’s he strived to be a good and loving father, instilling good morals and character in me. Chuck took on the role of Step Father to Ethel’s children and even helped raise them with the same ideal of good morals and character.

     

    Grandfather

     

    Two grandsons and numerous step grandchildren were his reward with time, and again, he tried to instill the same morals and good character in them as they were truly his beliefs.

     

    Mason

     

    Masonry was a part of his life as passed to him from his father and father’s father. Initiated in May of 1958 in LaSalle Lodge #1049 in Niagara Falls New York, passed to the degree of Fellowcraft in November, because of the war, he would have to wait till May of 1967 to be raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. He would have completed 50 years of Masonry this May. He did not stop here, he further went on to join the Scottish and York Rite, Royal Order of Scotland, and would like his father join the Shrine. It was here that he really enjoyed the service to others. He joined the Legion of Honor in the Shrine and would be the first elected Commander of the New Azan Legion of Honor. Taking pride in his military service and pride in other members of the Shrine who had served in the military, he began to venture out to Shrine Legions and rose to State Commander and even created new and lasting friends in the Southeast as well as in the International Legion of Honor.

    The annual wreath laying ceremony was his greatest joy. This event held at Arlington every Veterans Day, was a particular solemn and Honorius occasion. It was 25 years ago that the International Legion of Honor began its official participation in this event. This last year was the 25th anniversary of this event. My father being frail and sick from his illness wanted so bad to go and be the first person, who would complete 25 consecutive years of attendance, I knew that he would not be able to make it unless he had help. In November of last year I assisted him with going and he received an outstanding award and recognition of being the first and only 25 year consecutive year participant.

     

    The Man

     

    Opinionated, proud, honorable, strong morals, excellent character, stubborn, kind, caring, compassionate, all words describing the man, the husband and the father. But words cannot effectively tell you who Chuck Hoggatt was. This was done through his actions towards all mankind. It seemed that in his retirement years, he was always taking care of others, first both his parents. First his father who suffered a debilitating stroke and later his mother who required constant care until she passed. He even took care of his mother in law who lived with he and Ethel till she passed. He never faltered or complained about this self obligation as he felt it was his duty to take care of them. His greatest fear was that someday family would have to see him in dire need of care and he could not stand the thought of having to have someone take care of him. Thus many of you may not know just how sick he really was, for his pride was that of not wanting those of you who knew him to feel sorry for him.

     

    My Memories

     

    While being raised in both an active military as well as a divorced home, I only spent time here or there with him. It was not like the today’s children of divorce, every other weekend at a different house or seeing the parent at activities, but I only saw my father at limited times. He was either stationed overseas, or on the other side of the country and weekends just were not possible. However, there were times we spent together that shaped me and made me who I am. The one summer I spent with him in California, he signed me up to play Little League baseball. I arrived and joined a team that was already in progress, but he worked with me and taught me how to play and make friends in a new and strange place. As the summer closed we took a trip south to LA, enjoyed the typical things a kid wants to know, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and my first Professional baseball game, thus, that’s why I am a Dodger Fan. Our trip continued across to Vegas, Hoover Dam, down to Arizona, where he stopped the car alongside the road and just had to have a picture of me standing by one of the large cactus in the desert. I slipped on a rock and gouged my leg pretty good, but I don’t know what hurt him more, seeing me hurt, or performing the field sterilization of the wound and using his good Scotch and wasting it upon my leg. Our trip continued through the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, and eventually ending up in Kansas, the home of my Grandparents and the Hoggatt families. There he taught me to fish, rabbit hunt, all about the Hoggatt Family history. I to this day can vividly see these memories and still miss these times and places of our heritage.

    Eventually, I moved to Florida and upon his retirement, he moved here also. This was a time in my life as a young person that I became interested in other things than spending time with Dad. Summer jobs, football and friends all seemed to take precedent over making up lost time with my father. But he was an understanding father who knew these things were (in my mind) important to me, and he was patient and let me do them. I remember one time he came to town and picked me up after school. It was the night of a football game and he was here to see me and watch me play. I never knew at the time what it meant to him, but the coach let him ride on the team bus with us both to and from school.

    There were many more conflict in schedules between my teenage life and spending time with him, but it was not until after high school and in my young adult life that we actually grew closer to each other. At my first marriage, the birth of my two sons, his grandsons the heirs to the family name, my second marriage, my promotions within the Fire Department and finally my want to seek light in the Masonic Lodge. I have had the proud privilege to have my father raise me both in Masonry and in life.

    My stories can go on and on, but finally, prior to him succumbing to his illness, I was able to tell him this:

                While he was so proud of me and told every one of my accomplishments, I was the one who was actually prouder of him. His accomplishments in life, Military, Masonic and who he was and what he instilled in me are greater than anything I could ever achieve. My memories of all the things we have done will live with me forever. I only hope that I can give a fraction of want he has given me to both of my sons.

    Goodbye Dad, as I know you are in a better place

     

     

    Review For May 10, 2008

     

    Sidebar:  Sometimes visitors to our country are fascinated with what makes the U.S. tick.

    The growth and development established by our forefathers through "The Pilgrims’ Progress", though often taken for granted by us, provide those from the "old countries" with an enviable glance of just how a young (relatively speaking) country has been able to become the world’s leader in so many areas. Recently, some of our good friends from England spent a few days with us. The wife of my friend asked me several questions about the westward movement. I soon learned why she was so interested. She was reading Stories of Young Pioneers In Their Own Words by Violet T. Kimball, an anthology of events that took place as immigrants from around the world and American families ventured west via the overland Trail in the mid-nineteenth century to Utah, California and Oregon. Emanating from as far away as Europe, thousands of individuals, families and religious groups, e.g., Mormons, usually began their foot, horse or wagon (even wheelbarrow) journey west from such notable places as  Independence, Missouri and Council Bluffs, Iowa. These hearty souls were lured by the thoughts of freedom and independence, the offer of free land and the opportunity to live in a healthier environment with abundant resources.

    End of Sidebar

     

    The author, Violet Kimball, has assembled some sensitive and captivating writing by some of the young folk who participated in what some call the greatest test of physical and mental courage, the Westward movement. She backs up these tests of courage from written journals and records made along the trail, and some recorded years later. Walking barefoot over 1,000 miles across desert sands dodging thorns from prickly pears, bearing freezing temperatures (sometimes below zero), facing starvation and diseases along the trail were just a few of the hazards and conditions that faced these hearty souls, both young and old. The author has skillfully categorized this trek by using a narrative approach to back up her research. All of the written observations were made by persons nineteen years of age and younger. Adult diaries were also used to further explicate their earlier experiences. For example, one chapter is devoted to Daily Life on the Trail. Here is one quote from Eliza McKean, age 13 in 1847:

                I can still see the plains with the shimmering heat waves, the dark masses of buffalo moving over the rolling hills toward the Platte, the campfires of buffalo chips and later sagebrush…I walked most of the way across the plains, as did many other young folks.

    Each chapter contains a profile of one youth – one that supports the theme of the topic.

    Another chapter’s topic supports Romance and Marriage. Although moral attitudes were reflective of Victorian times, adults realized that they did not control the flow of hormones! Catherine Thomas, age ten in 1851 recalls:

                I certainly can remember vividly the skylarking (flirting) and good times the young folks enjoyed around the campfire…Our play games…"drop the handkerchief" and post office," and other kissing games were innocent. (Note: even spin-the-bottle)

    The lure of the west was not confined to the Northwest. Oregon was only one locus of attention. One Splinter group diverted its route to Utah to establish Mormon Zionism - the Promised Land, while others headed to California in search of gold. Regardless of their final destination, the Westward Movement expanded this Country’s frontier as never before.

    Kimball, herself, has traveled all of the trails in her book in order to establish her own sense of the landscape. Combined with autobiographies, records, and over 500 diaries of young persons, and with some back up by adult diaries, she has, in my opinion, made a significant contribution to unveiling a special group of young heroes… "Wagons Ho"

    I plan on giving my grandkids a copy of her book. Maybe they can relate to the words of their own age group since mine are categorized as being from the Dark Ages…..

    JR

     

     

    Review for April 12, 2008

     

    Sidebar #1:  With the upcoming elections, war in Iraq, global unrest, the summer Olympics under siege, illegal immigration and a host of other issues, I often wonder how we keep our sense of mental balance. It is so easy to whine, bitch and moan about everything going to "hell in a hand-basket" that I find myself trying to control my feelings as these happenings surround me and invade my daily life. The reality is that life has always been a living landscape of strife, turmoil and unrest- never ending ups-and-downs depicted by divergent views, some pushing the very limits of our zones of tolerance.

    Fortunately, there are good things that also affect our lives. Like the genetic makeup of chromosomes, they have the potential to ooze the "good, bad and the ugly." Unfortunately, we cannot take time-off to escape this bombardment, so we need to put everything in perspective. As Bill Gates once said in his speech on Entitlements, "life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself." So where do you find the "good side" of life? I believe it is already there. It is up to each one of us to put things into perspective while uncovering the love and beauty that surround us.                                                                        End of Sidebar.

     

    Which takes me to my first book this week…..?

    Lately, I have taken on a new path of indulging in the works of authors who not only can write effectively, but back up their words with the art of painting. Recently, my son, Rich, gave me a book named Paintings and Poems of Ireland by Phillip Terry (2006). He and his wife met Terry while staying in a bed and breakfast on the Mendocino coast. Over a glass of wine, they soon learned of Phillip Terry’s passion for painting and writing about the Emerald Isle. Knowing my affection for Ireland and its people, Rich knew that I would enjoy Terry’s book. After all, aren’t all Irishmen alike? The book became a jump-start to my every-day reading schedule. Like most new books, I first check out the cover, both front and back, and then read the Introduction as a prelude to getting into the story. After realizing how the book’s content evolved and how it was laid out with original paintings accompanied with a poem about the scene shown on each page, I began a whole new adventure in literature. Over the years as Terry journeyed throughout Ireland, he soon realized that his camera and corresponding paintings did not capture the sounds and history of each of his subjects. So, he combined his pen with his brush and explicated the beauty and background of each setting. On page one I started out looking at the two paintings entitled "Wild Ireland" and read Terry’s interpretation of the two scenes:

                In a mystic land called Ireland

                Wild skies and dark green eyes

    Wet sand and wind swept land

    Beer darkly brewed and clouds multi-hues

    The Emerald Isle and the sweet shy smile

    The bright red hair and the county fair

    The wandering sheep and dark night sleep

    I turned to the next painting and poem, Across Lough Corrib, and then on to the next. My attempts to digest the visual with the written word came to a halt! I could not continue reading my usual way as if each page depended on its predecessor. These were stand-alone experiences and consumed a story in and of itself. Like eating a rich dessert, I could only absorb so much before my "cup runneth over." So, rather than relying on an author to feed me the total content of his story, I found myself combining my visual and written senses in order to grasp the "whole picture." This is going to be fun, I said to my wife.

    Each day, I pick up Terry’s book and experience a few more pages. It has given me an added dimension to my usual mode of reading. I will return to the Paintings and Poems of Ireland again and again since Terry’s works allow the reader to appreciate an open-ended-never ending story. P.S. I find that my travels through Ireland, also, have given me a leg-up in relating to the author’s selection of people, places and things - those that represent the total landscape of the Emerald Isle.

     

    Review #2: Not long ago in the San Diego airport, I found myself without any reading material. I should know better. The choices are always limited and the prices are always higher in an airport, just like the beer. I hurriedly selected Tom Clancy’s EndWar written by David Michaels (2008). Clancy has enjoyed tremendous popularity over the years. His military action novels have been among the best. But EndWar may have ended my long-standing appreciation for his stories. Created by Clancy and written by David Michaels, the plot skips around the world from the Mid-East, Russia, Europe, the Caribbean, U.S. and Canada. Tipped off by the European Federation that Russia is about to launch an aggressive plan to regain its superpower status, a special U.S. Special Force team is sent into Russia to kidnap Colonel Doletskaya, the brain behind Russia’s mega-aspirations. Operation 2659 is the key name given to the crafty surprise Russian invasion of Canada in order to gain control of its oil reserves, and Doletskaya is not about to reveal the details of the plan. In disbelief, the Canadian Prime Minister is totally unprepared for any military action due to his country’s passive stance on any international conflict. As the invasion unfolds, the President of the United States is not about to allow the invasion without a military response. After all, the Canadian oil reserves are near and dear to the American people, also. Michaels’ writing reflects advance knowledge of the military, its jargon, weaponry and capability. I found his descriptions sometimes an over-kill. Except for female fighter pilot Major Stephanie Halverson and a couple of other characters, Michaels does not provide the reader with much in depth character analysis. The ongoing interrogation of Doletskava seems to be going no where and he is proving to be one tough cookie to break. So, without the benefit of Russia’s battle plans, U.S. air, ground and water forces are deployed to Canada in a defensive attempt to stop the invasion. Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray are under siege as the Canadians sing "oh Canada." You will have to read 400 pages to see who prevails. EndWar does give credence to the importance of who controls the world’s oil resources.

    Next time I am in an airport without a book I think I will write something, or get something to eat….

    JR

     

     

    REVIEW FOR 3/2/08

     

    Sidebar: This week marks the 36th anniversary of the running of the Iditarod Dog Race in Alaska. It is one of my favorite events. I reviewed the history of the race in a previous edition (January ’08) entitled Winterdance. To recap, the race was first held in 1973 to commemorate the delivery by dog sleds of life saving diphtheria serum in March 1973 to the people of Nome, Alaska. Aptly coined, the "Last Great Race on Earth," the Iditarod signifies the ultimate challenge between man, dogs and the environment.  I subscribe to the "Insider," a publication that keeps subscribers informed about the race – its mushers, and every thing associated with the event. If interested, you can "pull up" the website on Google  at Iditarod.com for a full account of the race, its history and the progress of this year’s race from Willow to Nome, some 1150 miles.

    End of Sidebar

     
     

    A Word About Books….

    By word of mouth, through publications, and a variety of other sources, we become acquainted with books. Sometimes the interest of others does not match our own. But the pursuit of reading really becomes a case of trial and error. I try to read as many different landscapes of stories that I can. Some do not always meet my interest or expectation. So, it is often hard to satisfy our readers.

    Disclaimer: Books may be for everyone, but the content may not! This week I present you with a book (not one that I elected to buy) but one that I found on my shelf (how it got there remains a mystery). THEY WHISPER (Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize), by Robert Olen Butler, is the most sensuous book I have ever read. Readers Beware: this book contains explicit words and descriptions that are not used in my normal – every day language. They are Butler’s, not mine. His words are considered literary art and focus on the world of heterosexuality.

    THE REVIEW (rated XXXXXXXXXX)

    Robert Butler is no newcomer to the field of writing. His other novels, including The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of  Bones, On Distant Ground,  Wabash, The Deuce, and A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain have gained him considerable fame in the literary world.

    They Whisper examines one man’s, Ira Holloway, inner most thoughts of his sexuality. From childhood to his mid thirty’s, Ira wrestles with himself as he literally undresses every woman that he meets or views. His catalog of encounters and what transpires thereafter, are "whispered" to him as re recaptures every escapade in his mind from his early daily life as a growing youth, husband, Viet Nam soldier, father, and public relations executive. From the time he worked at an early age in his uncle’s shoe store viewing Karen Granger’s feet in an X-ray machine, Ira, himself, became his own X-ray of  women without the use of Roentgen rays! The author helps Ira (and the reader) relive his moments of intimacy with all of his "loves" as he whispers back and forth, to and with them, as he attempts to keep each moment of ecstasy alive as he goes about his daily life.

    I did not find the story challenging or productive. The sequence of Ira’s thoughts bounce back and forth without continuity. The book’s 333 pages is folded into one chapter – and it seems like it is never ending. Ira’s convoluted marriage to Fiona, her struggle with her religious beliefs, and the birth of their son, John, become the focal points of the book. But, it does not stand in the way of his "whispers" with the past, even though Fiona drifts towards insanity.

    I’m not sure if They Whisper provides a clear message for the reader. For me, it reinforces the notion that life is not all about me, nor my past….but it can explain one’s behavior.

    Again, for those that read the book, the vocabulary may be unacceptable.

    JR 

     

    SOME HEARTFILLING THOUGHTS

                                                    FEBRUARY 15, 2007

                            (THE DAY OF, AND THE MONTH FOR ROMANCE)

     

    SOME THINGS NEVER GO AWAY, LIKE VALENTINE’S DAY. THE ORIGIN AND MEANING SOMETIMES NEED TO BE REFRESHED. SO HERE GOES…….

    SCHOLARS (EXCLUDING ME) HAVE ATTEMPTED TO REACH BACK IN TIME IN SEARCH OF THE GENESIS OF VALENTINE’S DAY. BELIEVED TO HAVE ROOTS IN ANCIENT ROMAN DAYS (+- 270 AD). ITS ORIGIN STILL REMAINS SOMEWHAT ALOOF AS LEGENDS HAVE EVOLVED. VALENTINE’S DAY, AS MOST HISTORIANS REPORT, HAD ITS START FROM A DECLARATION MADE BY THE ROMAN EMPEROR, CLAUDIUS II. HE DECLARED THAT SINGLE MEN MADE BETTER SOLDIERS IF THEY REMAINED UNMARRIED (I GUESS IT HAD SOMETHING TO DO ABOUT DISTRACTION). FEBRUARY MARKED THE BEGINNING OF SPRINGTIME –A TIME FOR PURIFICATION. HOUSES WERE CLEANED AND THE ROMANS CELEBRATED THE FOUNDING OF ROME WITH A PAGAN FESTIVAL, LUPERCALIA. IT WAS A FERTILITY FESTIVAL DEDICATED TO THE ROMAN GOD OF AGRICULTRUE, LUPERCALIA, AND TO ROMULUS AND REMUS, THE FOUNDERS OF ROME. THE LOCAL PRIESTS SACRIFICED GOATS (FOR FERTILITY) AND DOGS (FOR PURIFICATION). STRIPS OF THE GOAT HIDE WERE USED BY THE YOUNG MEN TO GENTLY SLAP THE WOMEN AND FIELDS IN HOPES OF PROMOTING GROWTH AND PROSPERITY. ONCE SLAPPED, THE YOUNG WOMEN PUT THEIR NAMES INTO AN URN TO BE USED FOR A LOTTERY. THEIR NAMES WERE DRAWN BY THE CITY’S BACHELORS. AND, ONCE DRAWN, THEY BECAME JOINED WITH THEIR SUITOR FOR A YEAR. THIS PRACTICE BECAME LABELED AS ANTI-CHRISTIAN AND SOON WAS OUTLAWED. VALENTINE, A THIRD CENTURY PRIEST, DID NOT AGREE WITH CLAUDIUS’ DECREE. SO, HE CONTINUED TO MARRY COUPLES IN ‘TRUE’ LOVE. REPORTEDLY, HIS REBRELLIOUS ACTS, INCLUDING HELPING CHRISTIANS ESCAPE FROM ROMAN PRISONS, LED TO HIS INPRISONMENT AND SUBSEQUENT DEATH. ONE LEGEND RELATES THAT VALENTINE, WHILE IN JAIL, FELL IN LOVE WITH A YOUNG WOMAN (PERHAPS THE JAILOR’S DAUGHTER). HIS CORRESPONDENCE TO HER WAS SIGNED "FROM YOUR VALENTINE." NOTE: THIS IS AN EXPRESSION STILL USED (BUT, I HOPE, NOT ALWAYS FROM JAIL!).

    AS THE YEARS MOVED FORWARD, THE LEGEND OF VALENTINE WAS INCORPORATED INTO MIDDLE AGE LORE.

    FRANCE AND ENGLAND ALIGNED VALENTINE’S DAY WITH THE BEGINNING OF BIRD MATING SEASON IN FEBRUARY, A TIME FOR ORNITHLOGICAL ROMANCE. THE FIRST KNOWN VALENTINE GREETING WAS WRITTEN BY CHARLES, DUKE OF ORLEANS IN 1415 WHILE IMPRISONED IN THE TOWER OF LONDON. VALENTINES’S DAY BEGAN TO ESCALTE IN POPULARITY IN THE 17TH CENTURY AND BY THE MIDDLE OF THE 18TH CENTURY IT WAS A COMMON OCCURANCE TO EXCHANGE HANDWRITTEN NOTES AND TOKENS OF AFFECTION TO FRIENDS AND LOVERS. CATHOLICS AND CHRISTIANS ALIKE HAVE SAINTS NAMED VALENTINE. LIKE ANY MIGRATION, VALENTINE MESSAGES WERE EXCHANGED IN AMERICA IN THE EARLY 1700’S. THE FIRST COMMERCIAL CARD WAS PUBLISHED IN 1840 BY ESTHER HOWLAN, KNOWN AS THE MOTHER OF OUR CURRENT VALENTINE CARDS. TODAY, ONLY CHRISTMAS SURPASSES THESE LOVE/FRIENDSHIP MESSAGES..

    WHETHER CARDS OR TOKENS ARE EXCHANGED THIS DAY, THE MEANING REMAINS THE SAME. YOU ARE IMPORTANT AND YOU ARE SPECIAL. THERE IS SOMETHING IN MY HEART THAT SAYS YOU ARE A PART OF MY LIFE. HOW YOU GOT THERE IS IMPORTANT, BUT WHAT IS MOST MEANINGFUL, IS WHY YOU REMAIN A PART OF ME. I KNOW, AND YOU KNOW, ONLY……

    HAPPY M.A.D. SAINT VALENTINE TO YOU AND YOURS,

    JR

     

     

     

     

     

     

    REVIEW FOR FEBRUARY 10, 2008

     

     
     

     

    Sidebar:  Did you ever wonder what it means when a book is labeled "bestseller?"

     

    I did. So I nosed around and found out that reaching such a status is not based on the number of copies sold, only (what a discovery!). However, the volume of sales certainly helps.

     

    Actually, there are numerous bestseller lists. These lists are generated, usually on a weekly basis, by such newspapers as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, LA Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Detroit Free Press, Houston Post and the San Francisco Chronicle (partial list). Each reporting source reviews data from its survey of mostly chain bookstores (Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc) thereby identifying the leading bestsellers in these stores. For instance, the Times selects 36 titles each week from 3,000 bookstores across the U.S., while the Journal polls 2,500 stores for their 15 top selling books. The challenge for every author is to achieve "bestseller" status if he/she expects to become a successful writer. There is no magic number of sales that results in being recognized as "bestseller."

     

    A book that sells 5,000 copies a year, however, is usually considered successful, vis a vis a book that sells 5,000 copies over a ten year period may not obtain this label.  Most never reach it.  Generally speaking, books fall into four categories: hard cover and paperback fiction and hardcover and paperback nonfiction. The genre, or distinctive type of category of literary composition varies according to the author’s interest, eg., Stephen King – science fiction, David McCulloch-historical novels. Specialty lists, including religious and educational books, do not often appeal to a wide reading audience. There are exceptions, however, like Rick Warren’s "The Purpose Driven Life." The key to promoting a book rests with the author. He/she needs to create a marketing strategy – no easy task. Publicity helps sell books and how it is spread depends on contacts, exposure, money, and naturally, content. Breaking into the literary field is not unlike becoming a movie star, painter, or architect. Ultimately, the content of any book will decide its fate.

     

    end of sidebar….

     

    BOOK TIME

     

    Last November I wrote a review for Kite Runner, a fiction novel by an exciting new author (my emphasis), Khaled Hosseini. My friend and former classmate, Ian Campbell sent me this book. And just last week, he sent me Hosseini’s latest book, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS (2007). (Thanks Ian for your gift of friendship.)

     

    I won’t compare the two books, but if you haven’t read either one, it is like going around with one shoe on, and one shoe off. Hosseini’s literary style erupts such emotion in the reader’s mind that even the portrayal of living in squalor can bring forth the warmth and understanding of how precious life is, not only to his characters, but to the reader, also.

     

    The setting, like Kite Runner (in part), is Afghanistan. The story’s 30 year time frame starts in the early ‘70’s when the country was ruled by a king. His reign soon ends when the Soviets invade Afghanistan. The following years showcase the rise and fall of the Taliban in a country filled with conflict and turmoil.

     

    Miriam, one of the main characters, is a "Haami", or illegitmate daughter of a wealthy businessman, Jalil, and one of his housekeepers, Nana, Miriam’s mother. Her life begins as an outcast with her mother. She soon learns that her destiny, like most Afghan girls, is

     

    not always under her control. The customs and mores practiced by the Afghagan people are derived from their religious backgrounds. Muslims, Hindus, Islamists share a country that demand strict adherence to doctrines. Hosseini skillfully identifies these practices and their effect upon daily life. Examples of food sources and preparations, pre-arranged marriages, the rights of men and women, the caste system, laws and the judicial system are woven throughout the book. His real life characters bring out the best and worst of human behavior. A Thousand Splendid Suns is more than a study of the interpersonal relationships of the Afghan people. It is a historical backdrop for the most recent thirty plus years of upheavals, beginning with a monarchy, then Soviet rule, to the take-over of warlords (mullahs), the Taliban, and most recently the intervention of the UN and United States. Note: a recent movie "The Private War Of Charlie Wilson" (a book I previously reviewed) gives added meaning to these warring factions in Afghanastan and the effects upon its people.

     

    Sad, but true… The depiction of the thoughts and actions of parents, children, friends and adversaries unleash the deepest love, hate and gut wrenching feelings, so powerful that I found myself unable to apprehend just how life can be sustained under such dim rays of hope. And where did the title of the book come from under this backdrop? You will have to read 367 pages to find out. And by the way, don’t bypass reading the Afterword.

     

    I now know (and you will too) why Hosseini’s books have earned the recognition of "Bestsellers."

     

    JR

     

     

     

     

    REVIEW FOR 2/3/08

     

     

     

    Sidebar: Well the party’s over but the memories linger on….I want to extend a hearty thanks to all of you who came to Palm Springs and joined in the festivities. I cannot speak for everyone, but Vangie and I had a great time. Here’s to many more!

     

     

     

    BOOK OF THE WEEK:

     

     

     

    You don’t have to be a woman or a sailor to enjoy this true adventure story. I found MAIDEN VOYAGE (1987) by Tania Aebi and Bernadette Berennan an unusual first person account of a young girl’s two year journey around the world. Tania had grown up as a troubled teenager in and around New York. Her family is described as affluent, eccentric and dysfunctional in many ways. Her father, Ernst, is an adventurer himself, traveling by land and water to all corners of the world. Her mother is mentally imbalanced but manages to still exude some motherly instincts towards her offspring. Ernst has many dreams for himself and his children. The reader soon discovers, however, that his greatest dream is to see Tania sail around the world by herself. You will get the impression that the voyage is born from Ernst’s marching orders. Once Tania establishes a personal commitment to fulfill her father’s dream, "to be the first youngest American woman to circumnavigate the globe, alone," she begins to prepare for the journey of her life, and maybe her last! Varuna, a 27 foot sailboat, is chosen to lead the charge.

     

    Tania’s sailing skills appear to be marginal. In fact, she almost didn’t make it out of New York harbor. The description of the adventure is sometimes technical, but I did not find it distractive. Breakdowns, navigation issues, weather conditions, and many perilous dangers, plague her from start to finish. How she handles these things help the reader become better acquainted with the world of sailing, its do’s and don’t’s. Maiden Voyage is not just about sailing, it is about the people she meets along the way, and the emergence of a new life in the making-one that started as an apprentice and ended as a journeywoman Maiden from New York. 

     

    JR

     

     

     

     

    Hi Mates,

     

    It's show time mates!! This is my last message before the big weekend. I leave tomorrow for Palm Springs

     

    so, if you need to contact me, call my cell phone @ 408-221-5663. I checked with the Follies and the dinner at the Spa/Casino hotel and everything is set. All you need to do is show up! Remember, lunch at Ruby's if you can make it. Don't worry about wearing any depends, cause there is an intermission. The excitement has been growing for several weeks, so bring your smile and good cheer. We have to be the greatest school on earth, so let's relive it once again. Green and white is in, so drag out your old/new dress.

     

    On a sentimental note, I want you all to know that I have received many responses from our classmates who are unable to attend our weekend of fun and folic. They ALL want us to know that their hearts our with us.  They wish us well, and hope we will remember them, because they will be with us in spirit.

     

    I dedicate this prose to all of you:

     

        There is a high school in the valley

     

        That is lacking not in friends.

     

        Our past is not forgotten

     

        No matter where our life has been.

     

        What matter most is we care,

     

        For each other's lives to share.

     

        Friends, like flowers, sometimes fade.

     

        But a lasting friendship we have made.

     

        As the days go by, some high, some low,

     

        Words and thoughts, for each to know.

     

        Times of joy and sorrow, laughter and grief

     

        A relationship so special that's beyond belief.

     

        So bring on Palm Springs, the city in the sun,

     

        MADcats from Monrovia  are ready for some fun

     

        To celebrate a bond that's still alive,

     

        A past unsurpassed for those who have survived.

     

        With gray hair and wrinkles, we are still in our prime

     

         a spirit still lives through the test of time.

     

        MADCATS we remain, lacking not in fame,

     

        United once again, in body and name.

     

    JR

     


     

     

     

     

     

     

    REVIEW FOR JANUARY 19, 2008

     

    Sidebar #1:  This will be my last review for January due to our reunion in Palm Springs on the 26th. I have just discovered that many of our mates have tried to e-mail me using my address on our web page. It is the correct address; however, when you punch it, it comes up incorrectly! This problem was fixed this week, so now you can sound off at will.

     

    Sidebar #2: Warning for those that use AOL. I upgraded to 9.1 last week. It has caused nothing but problems. After spending several hours on the phone with technicians in India, I was told that the 9.1 program has flaws. My problem is that my printer is activated every time I start to browse, so it runs continuously. At one time, I had over 100 documents in queue to be printed! So, BEWARE…..

     

    REVIEW: My book of the week is a whopping 600 + pages. Long on word, but worth the read. Most of you remember highly decorated Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North and his military background. His books have received favorable recognition from literary critics. Like Clancy’s novels, North, with the help of co-writer Joe Musser, has written some of the best military thrillers that mirror the world of international conflicts, especially about what is going on in Iraq, today. His first hand military experience brings reality to his plots, sometimes scary, and sometimes difficult to discern between fact and fiction. He served time in Washington during the Reagan administration as a member of the National Security Council coordinating Counter-Terrorism from 1983-86. His involvement in engineering the rescue of U.S. students on the island of Grenada, capturing the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro and helping plan the raid on Gaddafi’s terrorist bases in Libya earned him a position on the terrorist’s most wanted list! "MISSION COMPROMISED (2002) is a story of intrigue, espionage, and military adventure drawn from North’s own experience." His first two books in this trilogy, Under Fire and One More Mission were also international best-sellers.

    The Plot: Major Peter Newman, a highly decorated Marine hero, is the main character. And, somewhat like North, he is appointed to a clandestine job as the head of the White House Special Projects Office. After his appointment, he soon learns that his job will be to head-up United Nations secret covert teams who will be sent into "global hotspots" for purposes of assassinating terrorist and their leaders. Coincidently, one of the targets is Aidid, the guy who was behind the Mogadishu disaster (remember "Black Hawk Down?") – a massacre that took the life of Newman’s brother. Peter smells revenge in his new assignment..

    The reader becomes suspicious that things are not all right in Washington when Newman’s boss, Dr. Simon Harrod, the President’s National Security Advisor, in cahoots with the Deputy Secretary General at the UN, have their own agenda – one that spells betrayal and failure for Newman and his teams. Together, they are involved in secretly selling nuclear weapons to Iraq for huge profits. Their greed takes precedent over the success of Newman’s mission as it becomes Compromised. The result is political corruption at its highest level. (No finger pointing, but doesn’t this sound familiar!)

    North’s personal knowledge of government and the military cannot be disputed and adds depth and clarity to the plot, and its sub-plots. His descriptive writing using military terms is sometimes overwhelming, but his glossary helps when the reader’s memory fails. A rather unique feature in this novel is the actual use of North, himself, as a key character who aids and abets Newman in his endeavors.

    Another unique feature is the religious undertone that surfaces throughout the book. Christianity permeates the lives of Peter’s wife, Rachel, and the colorful characters that play key roles in Newman’s covert mission in Iraq. There are several instances when Peter finds himself faced with "come to Jesus time." The use and advocation of some of the basic tenants of Christianity penetrate the plot and are used to explain the practices and behavior of its diverse characters. Offensive? I didn’t think so!

    North and Musser take you on a roller coaster mission filled with enough suspense, excitement, romance and factual/fiction (oxymoron?) to explicate how and why the Mission was Compromised. Getting into Iraq is one thing, getting out proves a challenge that will keep you hunkered down to avoid any stray bullets…..

    JR

     

     

     

    REVIEW FOR JANUARY 13, 2008

     

    I just finished reading a book someone gave me for Christmas. Coincidentally, like last week’s review, the locus of the story takes place mostly in Alaska. WINTERDANCE (1994), by Gary Paulsen, is a true story about himself as he becomes obsessed by the idea of running the "Last Great Race on Earth," the Iditarod, an 1150 mile dog sled race. The name "Iditarod" (meaning "clear water") was coined by the Shageluk Indians for the Iditarod River. The first race was in March, 1973 to commemorate the 1925 delivery by sled dogs of life saving diphtheria serum to the people of Nome. Since then, such notable names as Dick Mackey, Susan Butcher, Rick Swenson, Martin Buser, Doug Swingley and Jeff King have led the pack with their championship runs. The fastest time recorded was 8+ days. The slowest exceeded 30+ days!  Because the actual race takes place in the wilderness, an 11 mile pre-race (for public relations purposes) is staged in downtown Anchorage so spectators can participate in the festivities prior to the "Winterdance." The actual start begins 30 miles north of Anchorage at Willow. From there, it zig-zags north through some of the most rugged environment on this planet and ends in Nome, next to the Bering Sea. This year the race is scheduled to start on March 1st. It will be number XXXVI. This year there are over 100 entrants (each use +- 12- 16 dogs). For those readers who would like to expand their knowledge about "The Last Great Race", you can Google-up the website "iditarodsledrace" and scroll to your hearts content.

    Now, back to Paulsen and the actual account of his adventure…. The author’s style of writing is very parsimonious, but colorfully descriptive, as he literally "mushes" the reader from the time he hatches the notion to enter the Iditarod, while living off of the land in Minnesota, to the time he shoves-off in the actual race to Nome. Paulsen’s sense of humor abounds throughout the book and I found myself chuckling to myself frequently as he goes about learning about dogs and what make them tick. With no previous experience in racing dogs, he soon discovers (mostly by trial and error) that  running a team of dogs is no easy task. I won’t take you on Gary Paulsen’s roller coast ride in the Iditarod in this review. Rather, I hope to leave the reader with enough interest to pursue this dogged course of events - one that verge on the impossible. Sub-zero temperatures, 50+ mile an hour winds, white-outs, sink holes, encounters with wolves moose, equipment breakdowns and a hostile terrain are just a few of the hazards that are common to the race. Fortunately, you don’t even have to leave the warmth of your arm-chair as "Winterdance" takes you on one of the greatest outdoor adventures through the Alaskan wilderness without having to say "Gee," or "Haw!".

    JR

     

     

    BOOK REVIEW: JANUARY 8, 2008

     

    My first book review for ’08 is a National Bestseller, Into The Wild (1996), by Jon Krakauer. You may remember some of his other books: Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Eiger Dreams, several previously reviewed  by me. Like The Kite Runner, Into the Wild  has been made into a movie.

    A nomad can be described as one who wanders from place to place, usually aimlessly, and does not have a fixed residence. Christopher Johnson McCandless, must have had some nomadic tendencies during his early life – one that set him on an adventurous itinerant course throughout the U.S. and which eventually ended his life in the Alaskan wilderness in an abandoned school bus near the northern shadow of Mt. McKinley in the summer of 1992. After his death, Outside Magazine commissioned Krakauer to write a story about this odyssey. The author became so struck by McCandless, his education, background and beliefs and death-defying life style, that he decided to write a book (Into The Wild) in an attempt to fill in the missing pieces of "what happened." He traces his travels and highlights the observations recounted by people he met during the course of his travels.                                                                                                                   Reportedly, from an early age, McCandless was drawn to the works of such writers as Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, Jack London, John Muir and Louis L’Amour, just to mention a few. To him, life was not to be lived in a conventional way, but to see, hear and feel what existed "outside the box."  After his graduation from Emory University in Atlanta in 1990 with a background in anthropology, and much to the dismay of his parents, Chris renounced his previous life and… "he even adopted a new name. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless, he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny." Like Horace Greeley, he headed West. Krakauer spends much of the book tracing his travels and his thoughts as Chris crisscrosses back and forth across the country in search of uncovering the true meaning of life (his emphasis).  McCandless’ ultimate fate is compared to other outdoor adventurers like Jack London, Everett Ruess, Gene Rosellini and John Waterman. Their feats in mountain climbing and survival brought them such labels as hero, stupid, idealistic and sometimes wacko….

    Alaska always lurked in the back of McCandless’ mind. To him, it would be the ultimate adventure to disappear into the wilderness and live in a symbiotic relationship with nature. His dream came true, but sadly, it turned out to be his last adventure.

    I hope I have given the reader a taste for reading about the travels of a young man who was hell-bent on bringing his life to full circle. I can’t help but think that there is a little (sometimes a lot) of the wild side in all of us. What drives us, or pushed Chris McCandless, will remain a product of our/his being, both nature and nurture.

     

     

    UPDATE AS OF 1/5/08

     

    KITE RUNNER:  I reviewed this book last year and said it was a winner. At that time, I also announced that there would be a movie made about the story. Well, Vangie and I just saw it today. It, too, is a winner. You might enjoy viewing this moving story on film. The film follows the book closely. Powerful and moving in every respect…. and thank God we don’t live in Afghanistan.