I am getting back to work here

I have not posted on the blog since last summer.  In the interim I have been working on my other blog.  If you know about that blog, you know about it. If you don’t,  let’s just say I do not want to cross contaminate between the two blogs.  This is the lighter of the blogs, where I am going to put out family histories or stories that I want to tell.  You can contact me if you want to know about the “dark” blog.  But for now I am going to tell you what I am going to focus on projects here for a while.  I am doing this not only to give you an idea of the things I uncovering or rediscovering, I am also doing it to put myself on the hook to complete the unfinished posts in my queue.

Grow Old

Photo from promo materials from the film “They Shall Not Grow Old” by Peter Jackson

Last night, Matt (the eldest of the “sons”) and I attended a screening of the film “They Shall Not Grow Old”.  One Hundred years have passed since the end of the Great War (World War I).  This film is about the ordinary British/Commonwealth Soldier along the Western Front from 1914-1918.  This was not meant to be a discussion of significant battles or a rehashing of the geopolitical implosion of Europe in the wake of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Hapsburg heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1914.  This is a story, told through the film archive of the Imperial War Museum in London,  using over 100 hours of film shot along the Western Front from 1914 -1918 and over 600 hours of audio files of Veterans of the Great War telling their stories.  It was not a Ken Burns style documentary, but it was a powerful piece of film making.  I know this is not everyone’s “cup of tea”.  But I was all in.  Thanks to Matt for inviting me to attend one of the screenings here in Norfolk, Virginia with him.

 

At the end of the film, after the credits had run, Peter Jackson discussed the techniques used to restore and make the film more natural to watch.  It was really fascinating.  One of the things he said resonated with me.  He pointed out that as the generations pass these stories are lost.  He encouraged people to preserve those family connections to history.   I am going to do just that.  I have been researching the service of my great-grandfather, Ensign Sidney J Kelly, USN and two of his sons during the war.  His youngest son, my grandfather, was too young to serve in the war.  I have Sidney Kelly’s service record from the National Archives and information on his sons through unit histories that I will share.

I am also working on Bernard Kelly (my maternal grandfather, Sidney’s youngest son),specifically his service with the Fire Department in New York.  I recently acquired a copy of his service record and I am working with sources in New York to get more information on his house assignments throughout his career.  I have completed his chronological list of assignments from 1928 through 1960. I am trying to fill in details.

Finally, I am working on a post about the Baumanns of Red Hook in Brooklyn. I have always been curious about my father’s family so that is a labor of love and curiousity.  Along with all this family history,  I may throw in some funny stories and adventures to Savannah into the mix.

I think I have given myself enough of a homework assignment for the moment.    Stay tuned…

Flopping

I purchased my current mattress after the break up of my marriage.  It was not supposed to be my forever mattress, only my transition mattress.  After eight years and even more lumpy spots, it had to go!

After weeks of procrastination, I went shopping.  The first few stores were not doing it for me.  In each, I was met by a sales associate who appeared in front of me as if dropped by a pneumatic tube associate dispensing system activated by opening the door of the store.  With each salesperson came a big toothy grin and a clipboard with sale flyers, credit applications and, no doubt, a list of everything the manager wanted the staff to sell.  The associates in each store stayed in close formation, chatting me up, looking for personal details to bond with me so I would make a purchase, preferably on my new store credit card.  The only thing they needed to know was that I was shopping for a mattress, I was there to flop, lay still and sort through the selection on my back.

mattress

The last store was different.  I slipped into the vast showroom unnoticed by the staff.  Perhaps their pneumatic associate delivery tube system was down.  The last time I was here, the mattresses were way in the back of the building, so that is where I headed, weaving through the confusing galleries of bedrooms, dining rooms, leather recliners, and couches.  When I finally arrived in the back, I was dismayed to find the former mattress gallery full of beach house offerings.  “Wicker (shuddering), so much wicker!”

I plotted my escape from the store.  Did they stop selling mattresses?  To find that answer I would need to talk to an associate. No, it was better to locate a way out as stealthily as possible.

20180818_122327As I weaved my way out it happened, a desk caught my eye.   I wanted a new writing table. It had to be hardwood, at least 60 inches wide, and a close match for the furniture in my bedroom.  As I was examining it, a strange feeling came over me, perhaps a feeling a wildebeest experiences when they sense a lion, with a clipboard, sizing them up.  I moved away, picking my route through the maze of galleries, increasing my pace as I went. I was using my peripheral vision to track the predator associate as I moved ever closer to the front door.

I moved left and stumbled on the entrance to the mattress gallery.  I darted around a half wall and there, in front of me, a sea of mattresses.  I flopped on the first one.  Wow, not too firm, not too soft.  The lioness approached, but the half wall obstructed its view.  She moved off slowly. There were more wildebeest to be had.

I checked out the selection and returned to the first mattress I had tried during my escape.  We have a winner!  Now I need to find an associate.  They are never around when you need them!

This is a blog post written for a class, Blog Writing I, I am taking with Gotham Writers Workshop

Gotham Writers Workshop Assignment

I recently completed a creative writing course through the Gotham Writers Workshop.  The following short post is the updated draft of the third week’s assignment for Individuality.  It is a rant piece on something I hate.

Sand

I hate sand.  I have always hated sand.  When I was a child, my mother would take my siblings and me to the beach at Breezy Point.  Only in her late twenties, she would haul her five children out of Brooklyn in a station wagon full of towels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beach toys.  Once at Breezy Point she would first take me out to the beach, spread out a big blanket and place my three-year-old butt in the center.  Only then would she go back and grab the rest of my siblings with one of her girlfriends schlepping the gear needed to keep five kids, all under the age of 7, entertained for a day at the beach. Mom would not worry about me wandering off my cotton island in the sand.  I hated the feel of it burning my feet, on my skin and in my hair. I hated the taste of it in my mouth.  Most kids bring pails and shovels to the beach, I brought a hand broom and fought my first battle in the sand.

I still hate the texture, the way it gets into everything, and never seems to go completely away. It collected in my boots, scratched my glasses and never really shook out of my desert camouflage uniform. It concealed explosives and absorbed blood, the stain from either only lasting a few hours before being covered. Giant storms of it would blow and envelope everything in its path.  The sun could not completely penetrate the huge clouds rolling across the desert. Sand could steal the horizon and any sense of safety I had retained.  The taste of it was always in my mouth, I breathed it in and coughed it up.

I hate that it took a body as quickly as a bullet took a life.  I hate how it covered mass graves and weapons caches.  Even when heavy equipment was brought in to move it, you knew it was only a matter of time before the sand would undo all the effort to displace it.

No amount of washing those uniforms seems to be able to get rid of all the sand.  Even now,  14 years later, I can pull out the big plastic bags in which my combat uniforms are stored, and I will still find the powdery off-white substance that fuels my nightmares. It makes my skin crawl.

Everyone laughed at me and thought I was weird when I was three years old because I would go to such lengths to avoid contact with sand.  Forty years later, I remembered what I knew as a very young boy. I have no use for sand.

 

A man with an umbrella is king in a downpour

May in the low country of South Carolina is subject to rapid changes in weather.  On this particular Saturday, I was attending the morning Commencement Ceremonies at the College of Charleston.  With scattered heavy showers in the morning, the event was moved inside to protect student, faculty, family, and friends from the potential of severe weather.  After the event, we were off to the condo on Kiawah Island for lunch and gifts for the graduate, the daughter of my dear friend.

After lunch, I was heading to the elevator with a full trash bag and my umbrella.  As the door opened to the elevator, a gentleman and two women were already aboard heading down.  They were impeccably dressed.  The gentleman was admiring my big, ratty umbrella. He jokingly offered to buy it from me.   I let him know the trash bag was negotiable, but the umbrella was going to stay with me.  I would, however, be happy to walk everyone in his party to their vehicle under cover of my ancient canopy.  He smiled and thanked me and said they were going to wait for a shuttle to take them to the location of a late afternoon wedding nearby.  I hopped off the elevator to head to the dumpster to relieve myself of the trash bag.  When I came back to the front of the building, there were about a dozen people standing under cover in semi-formal attire.

Their shuttle arrived in front of the building.  I started ferrying people down the steps and around the ponding water on the sidewalk that led to the shuttle.  I started with an elderly woman with a great sense of humor and her daughter. She asked me for my name and thanked me for assisting her.  I then followed with some of the other women in the party and a final walk through the downpour with two younger men.

I was soaked by the time I was done, and the shuttle pulled away to the wedding.   I thought it was pretty funny that these folks, none of whom I had met before, were so appreciative of the simple kind gesture of providing cover to keep them dry so they would be comfortable at the ceremony about to take place.  It cost me nothing but damp clothes to keep them mostly dry.

A casualty of all the divisiveness and tension in the country over the past year is civility.  My parents and my grandmother taught me manners as a child in the 1960’s. In today’s world, I think we would all be better off if we offered a kindness to someone who could really use it.  I know that ferrying people under my bumpershoot will not end the unpleasantness that is running rampant.  It is not going to solve climate change or bring world peace.  But maybe it will improve someone’s day or experience, and perhaps that spirit of kindness will manifest itself in a kind act paid forward by one of the passengers under my umbrella.

It can’t hurt.

Final

The Battle Standard of Treason

It now stands on the west side of the Chesapeake Expressway just before the toll plaza heading south towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It will be seen by countless thousands of vacationers driving to the beach for their summer vacation along the Atlantic Coast.  A vast majority of those vehicles will have license plates from northern states. Yankees traveling from  Ohio, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the New England States.  They will all get a glimpse of it in the breeze.  And some of them will know that they are not welcome here.  The message will be quite clear, flapping in the wind as they continue their trek south.

dscn2423

Alongside the Chesapeake Expressway

The flag flying there is the Confederate battle standard, an 8 X 8-foot flag that accompanied the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia into battle.  Although romanticized over the last 150 years, this flag represents an attempt to fracture this country. To many, it was the battle standard of treason.

I don’t usually drive that far south on my daily commute, but I was made aware of the placement of the flag from an article in the Virginian Pilot.  I drove south this morning to have a look myself.  While to the passer-by this may seem to be as innocent as the placement of a flag noting the position of a Confederate unit on a battlefield (the nearby exit is Battlefield Blvd, although that is a reference to a Revolutionary War battle) it will be clear to most locals that this flag’s purpose is to further the cause of Southern Identity Politics. The placement is meant to be a challenge, to be off-putting, threatening.  They are trying to parlay the flag’s presence to stir up sentiment in the Commonwealth that will divide us.

The flag was erected by a group called “The Virginia Flaggers.”  If you look at their Blogspot, they are advocating for the return of the flags of the Confederacy and the Restoration of Southern Honor.  They have placed 26 Confederate Flag displays, on private property, throughout the Commonwealth in positions to attract attention to their cause.  The crown jewel of the collection is the 20 X 30 foot Confederate Navy Jack in Chester, Virginia, alongside Interstate 95.

Rallying around those flags are people who feel marginalized by a state that has turned Blue in the last few election cycles.  These people feel like their state has been overtaken by “carpetbaggers” from the North who have come south and diluted the gentile quality of southern society.  Of note, in recent years the Commonwealth’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe, a Syracuse, New York native, stripped these very people of their coveted battle flag license plates.  This group seems to think that their way of life has been threatened by transplanted northern liberals.  As we enter the gubernatorial election cycle, they are recruiting Republican candidates who will support their cause and continue the rhetoric that demonizes those who are geographically challenged by not having been born in the Commonwealth or the other states that seceded from the Union over 155 years ago.

I think there is a place for Confederate flags and monuments.  I believe that they should be displayed on battlefields to mark lines.  I believe it is appropriate to use them to mark the graves of Confederate dead in private cemeteries and in museums throughout the country.  I think that the monuments to Confederate dead in nearly every Virginia town and city are appropriate and should be left in place.  I don’t see them as a threat, but as a reminder of the rank and file soldiers who may have romantically believed their cause was righteous and their home state more sovereign than the federal government.  I think the cry for removal of statues of Robert E.Lee, for example, by groups like the NAACP and Black Lives Matter is shortsighted and equally divisive.  They are promoting their own vile brand of identity politics.

This flag is flying on private property.  So a lengthy discussion of flying it on public land or the exercise of the groups 1st Amendment rights does not apply here. In fact, if you travel the rural roads of Virginia, you will see all manner of Confederate flags, from the Bonnie Blue Star to battle standards adorning the front porches of thousands of houses and vehicles.  That speaks to a larger issue.

What does matter to me is that this is sending a message about the City of Chesapeake, the Commonwealth of Virginia and those who cling to the “ideals” of the old South.  It screams intolerance, hate and a nineteenth century failed economic system reliant on enslaving other human beings. How can that help our communities or state?

I am a big fan of the first amendment.  I think people have the right to speak their mind and spew their hate as much as the next guy. I spent over 23 years wearing the uniform of the United States to protect and defend those rights.  I will gladly stand up and say that this group, hiding behind the defense of their “heritage,” has every right to show their ass. To reveal what they really are.   I also believe that their mission is to further their own version of identity politics and has nothing to do with their heritage.  That is not conducive to life in this country or in this century.

At some point, we need to all be Americans.  I think it is time to look forward, not cling to the failed political and economic systems that nearly destroyed this country over 150 years ago.

Parlay

How you delayed my flight…

You don’t know you did it because you were in a rush to get to your connection at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. This was not a delay caused by the airline or by the weather, it was caused by the inconsideration of a fellow passenger.  Let me explain.

On 22 December 2016,  I hopped on an American Airlines flight (AA 4054) from Norfolk, Virginia (ORF) to Washington D.C.(DCA). There I was to pick up a connecting AA flight (AA 4142) to Savannah, Georgia (SAV) to be a +1 at an event on the 23rd.   We had a short ground delay in Norfolk, but we were wheels up pretty quickly for the 40 minute flight north.

cl-65The flight to D.C. was  uneventful. That is until we aborted the landing because, as the pilot said in his announcement, he was uncomfortable with the separation between landing aircraft.  We bolted out to the west and rejoined the pattern to the south of the airport for a second approach.  This time there was no issue and we were on the ground heading to the apron area where the Canadair CL-65 aircraft were serviced at a common gate.  There was a younger woman a few rows ahead of me who was agitated about the “go around”, concerned it would cause her to miss her connection. Even with the short ground delay and the second approach to Reagan National, we landed close to our published arrival time. The passenger a few rows up was working herself into a lather.

If you have been in the AA terminal at Reagan National where the regional jets are managed, you will know that you do not arrive at a gate.  You arrive at an aircraft parking area where passengers are unloaded onto buses that take you to the nearby terminal building at Gate 35 X.  Your departure from the aircraft is really dependent on either the slowest baggage handler or slowest passenger deplaning the aircraft.  With the opening of the cabin door and the placement of the ramp off the jet, we began gathering our stuff from overhead bins and headed out.  My young friend about two rows up had really spun herself up and, in her haste to deplane, caught the strap of her bag on the armrest of one of the seats in row 8.  Instead of reaching down to release it, she gave a violent jerk and pulled her bag away from the obstruction.  In doing so she ripped off a large plastic piece of the armrest and scurried off the plane (to wait in the bus).  An older woman immediately ahead of me from row 9 stopped to move the broken piece of armrest out of the aisle.  The rest of the passengers exited the plane, collected their red tag bags from the baggage cart beside the plane and boarded the bus for the terminal.   Once there I saw our young, agitated traveler hop off the bus at a run and disappear into the terminal.

My flight to Savannah was scheduled to board very soon after I entered the terminal.  I had enough time to use the rest room before hopping back on a bus that would bring me to my next regional jet.   Once I was aboard the bus with my fellow passengers we went out to the aircraft.  I was amused to note that we pulled up in front of the very aircraft I had just arrived on from Norfolk.   We waited on the bus for 45 minutes for a “maintenance issue”.

DCA BUS.JPG

While people were generally in a good mood because of the holidays, it was a little confining to be packed into a bus, standing, on the tarmac waiting to board a plane.  Patience was beginning to wear thin as we cooled our heels.

We finally did make it on to the aircraft.  I said “hi” to the flight attendant who recognized me from the first leg of the trip.  She asked me where I was sitting on the first flight and then asked me if I had seen someone damage the seat in row 8.  I told her the story and she just shook her head.  We were going to be an hour or so late into Savannah because American Airlines maintenance had to effect a temporary repair to the armrest.  Once the jagged plastic remaining on the armrest was taped up, no longer posing a threat to crew or passenger safety, we were off to Savannah.

My point here is that the young, impatient traveler on my first flight, who was so annoyed at the potential of being delayed or missing her next flight, did not take the time to calmly free her baggage strap from the armrest and leave the aircraft.  As a result, she damaged the armrest, created a minor safety issue for the airline, delayed 50 people from leaving on time to their destination (although I doubt anyone was connecting to a flight out of Savannah) and put that aircraft behind on the rest of the schedule for the day. That may have had consequences on crew availability.  All this during the busiest travel period of the year.   While  being in such a rush, her lack of courtesy probably inconvenienced hundreds of people during the rest of the day. I wonder how many people missed connections on the other legs flown on that aircraft because of the hour delay she unnecessarily and unwittingly created.

There are unintended consequences from our actions.  I think that if were all a little more mindful of our behavior and treated our fellow travelers with a little respect, those consequences may be more positive.  We really do impact the lives of other people with our actions, even those with whom we share a fleeting moment in an airport or an hour in an aircraft.

Time to stop the tantrums

Full disclosure:  I am a white male, mid 50’s, with an education.  I am just the sort of person you don’t want to listen to if you are one of the people wearing a safety-pin and protesting the election. If you don’t want to read this, please go find some kitten videos on You Tube, I don’t want to bruise your feelings.

I had no problem with the outcome of the election.  I had an issue with the choices in this election.  In one of my early posts on this blog I went through my reasons for disliking both candidates. I won’t rehash my thought process, you can read it if you want. My home state of Virginia went blue in a tight election.

I am not happy that we have a buffoon as our new president-elect.  I am old enough and well read enough to understand how the election works. Start with Article II, Section I of the Constitution and then go read the 12th Amendment  if you need a refresher.  The lofty ideals of the Constitution were put down on paper in order to establish a country where a peaceful transition of power could take place, especially in times when social discourse is less than polite and the candidates have set aside the real issues of this election in favor of an unnecessarily dangerous division of the population.

I see the protests after the election and I have no issue with them until they become violent and destructive.  At that point, I am deaf to your cause and I am all for correcting you on the spot.  What I find particularly amusing is that these protestors, who think the end of the civilized world is nigh, are rampaging through the streets of the cities that supported their candidate.  On Wednesday night, “protestors” marched on to I-95 and stopped traffic in Richmond.  Congratulations for stopping people from getting home and interfering with interstate commerce. Your message was lost. In Chicago, a motorist was beaten by a bunch of thugs because he was white and they assumed he had supported Trump.  That would be a hate crime.  In Oregon protesters walked along the roofs of cars in a dealership and kicked in all the back windows and windshields.  Lets call it like it is, this is the kind of anarchy and destruction caused by criminals who are hijacking a protest.  If you support the “protestors” that do this, I will warn you that at some point, it is going to blow up in your face.  There will be a reaction and it will probably not be an equal and opposite reaction by any means.

There are remedies for this election.   In 4 years there will be another presidential election.  If you don’t like what he has done, vote him out.  In two years the entire House is up again as well as 1/3 of the Senate.  Vote for the candidate that supports your position. Do what you need to do, within the law, to correct the path you fear the country is on.  Just remember, people with the opposite point of view will be doing the same. A little respect goes a long way.

If you want to have the president elected by popular vote only and disband the electoral college, you need to work on a constitutional amendment that repeals the 12th Amendment and establishes the popular vote as the metric that decides future elections.  There is a process for this that does not require the burning of buildings or the smashing of windows on police cars.  I will point out that in the wake of the 2000 election where the winner won the electoral vote and not the popular vote there was an uproar that fizzled out pretty rapidly.  No move to amend the Constitution was made, even when the Democrats had the White House and both Houses of Congress for a couple of years (2009-2011).

And just a note for those of you that have been watching the Hunger Games over and over to get ideas on how to deal with your new dystopian Trump reality, you need to understand something.   Some of us “deplorables” believe in the rule of law.  I see Roe Vs. Wade as a settled issue, the law of the land.  I see gay marriage as settled law.  Why should I deny the same right I have to be miserable in a marriage to a LGBTQ person? I don’t support the repeal of the 19th Amendment (yeah, I heard that one last week while in line to cast my ballot). And no matter what you hear, doctors will treat patients because it is their duty and solemn oath to do so. You cannot replace Obamacare unless you have something with which to replace it.

I see the far right as the same grave threat as the far left.

The new president is not a conservative, he does not have the full support of the Republican House and Senate Majorities.If you think there will be a Republican love fest in the aftermath of the inauguration you are not paying attention.

The reason for the unrest is that the Democrats rigged the process for Hillary and she was too busy being entitled to her birthright as the first woman elected president that she alienated a huge swath of the population.  On the Republican side of the ledger, they chose a narcissistic toddler to be the  nominee.  Does the fact that she could not win the election against Mr. Trump speak volumes about Secretary Clinton?

In the meantime, let’s pull up our big boy/girl pants and stop throwing your post-election tantrum because you did not get what you wanted.  Time to grow up people!  The Constitution is there to get us through difficult times.  We will get through this.

A note for those of you that did not bother to vote, I don’t want to hear a peep out of you. And for those of you moving to Canada, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  My deepest apologies to the people of Canada for the coming trickle of knee jerked immigrants from your southern neighbor.

via Daily Prompt: Lofty
Lofty
I'm part of Post A Week 2016

The Space to Write

The largest room in my house is the master bedroom.  It actually could be divided into an office and a bedroom. There is a bay window area that is home to a desk that is perpetually covered in old family photos waiting for a turn in the scanner, snail mail and Blue Ray discs of Firefly, Downton Abbey, and Poldark.  I try to write at the desk, but I am too easily distracted.

There is another room in the house that could be classified as a formal living room. If you come into the foyer from outside, you would make an immediate left into a small room that is home to an old, reupholstered couch, two wing chairs liberated from a Smithfield, Virginia antique store, and a pair of bookcases that I built not long after my wife and I moved in here in the late 1990’s.   She is gone but, I am happy to say, the bookcases remain.  This room was a clean slate in the post divorce world order.

Furnishings in this room were either made by me, reupholstered or purchased after the departure of my ex.  The book cases are filled with books collected over the years as well as old black and white photos from my family.  Two of my favorites are a photo of my maternal grandfather in his FDNY Captain’s uniform with lioness (circa 1950’s) and the hero shot of my dad as a Naval Aviator crouching on the wing of a Grumman F-9 Cougar on the deck of the USS Intrepid in the late 1950’s. The shelves also serve as a sanctuary to my collection of military challenge coins, a lug nut from Greg Biffle’s #16 car from NASCAR’s Pennsylvania 500 in 2012 (a memento of a crazy weekend with my two brothers) and a Lego model of Serenity (Captain Mal Reynold’s ship).  It is also home to my great uncle’s early 1960’s Tonka Suburban Pumper, a toy that my siblings and I would play with while visiting his ancient brownstone in Brooklyn.  I have surrounded myself here with things that are of little value to anyone, but are priceless to me

It is in this room where I seem to be able to write despite its central location and lack of doors to the foyer or the empty dining room next to it.  It is the spot where my two twenty something sons will toss their bags, the day’s mail or college textbooks on the coffee table and start chatting about their day.  Despite this room’s ability to collect chaos, it is the room where I can get my thoughts together and sometimes convey those thoughts onto the screen of my laptop.

I guess I find the calm of writing in the room that is the storm of my house.

#everydayinspiration