Saturday, November 21, 2015

Horse Soldiers

I was just watching the Horse Soldiers with John Wayne.
it's a so-so John Wayne movie, I like it because I've heard about
it since I was young.   My father was a recruiter in Natchatoches, La
when that movie was made there in in the late 50's.  Because he was
the highest ranked (only) federal official, he had to be there to supervise
the filming on federal land.

He got to meet John Wayne at the location, and my dad pointed out
that the fencing all had barbed wire, but barbed wire wasn't invented
until after the civil war.  John Wayne said that 'people like you are
what make movies so expensive.'   But they added split rails to all
the fencing.  Some of it in the movie looks more like they just wired
some branches to the existing barbed wire to cover it up.

My dad did get to meet John Wayne again in town.  He needed to buy
a present for a son or nephew and my dad took him to the store where
they sold model toys and helped him find what he needed.
He was a down to earth kind of guy, no entourage or assistants needed.

My parents lived there in Natchotoches to have a few of my siblings there,
then moved up to Newfoundland Canada to have a few more.  It's really
beautiful there.  If I was going to live in Louisiana I'd live in Lafayette
just to get a good lunch every day, or in New Orleans if I could get an
apartment in the quarter, but Natchotoches would be a good backup
retirement spot.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Sum of all fears

I've said before on this blog that Tom Clancy was a little too
close to the truth in his novels.  I'm watching the Sum of all
Fears on TV, where they massacred the book and made the
bad guys some neo-nazi group instead of the islamofacist
group in the book.  I'm sure they changed that to be politically
correct, but it was a major mistake because if they had left it
as originally was told it would be a much more timely movie.

The attacks in Paris just happened in Paris 3 days ago, I'm guessing we'll
be seeing more of the same in Europe.  ISIS would be fools to
attack in the USA, we currently have a dope/inept/apologist in
charge, and if something major is tried before the election it would
sway events away from the inevitable Hillary towards one of the

Much more likely they are working on a deeper game or bigger
attack similar to the Sum of all Fears.  God protect us from smart

It really matters not a whit what the Republicans or Tea Party
think we should do to Isis.  At some point either the problem will
be fixed by the Europeans, or some terrible event will happen and
rest of the country will rise up and demand war to the knife.

Watching the videos of the president in Turkey today, he sounded
like the most inept high school debater in southern louisiana.  Even
CNN's Armenpour was talking about how inept he sounded.

I never expected to see Clancy's fictional presidents portrayed in
real life.  He had several presidents beyond reality in novels, and
each one was more venal than the last until Ryan took over.  The
current president is similar to a Tom Clancy character, likely
to get his comeuppance in the 3rd act.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Seasickness and other problems

I have a limited ability to travel by boat.  I set the record for shortest
time to being seasick on a crewboat when I walked onto one at the dock,
entered the crew area and smelled that crewboat smell of diesel/lysol/cleaned
vomit and turned around to puke on the dock.

My dad had an iron stomach (still getting used to writing that in the past
tense :( ).   When we were on lake Pontchartrain in his 14' aluminum boat
trying to catch shrimp in 4' waves I was already asking to go home and
he was focused on doubling our catch from one to two shrimp.  He told
us the story of when he was on the LST going from Morocco back to
New York they were in the tail end of a storm and the waves were the
same height as the wheelhouse.  The sailors were short handed and my
dad was one of he few people that could stand a watch so he stayed up
in the wheelhouse during the storm.  Even the captain had to turn and puke
in a bucket, but my dad stayed standing tall.

The LST made it's way to New York and they arrived at some ungodly
hour and were dumped off the ship.  The USO should have taken care of
them to get them some place to stay on liberty until they could draw pay,
but they were no help, a guy from the salvation army drove them from
brooklyn to manhatten and got them a place to stay.  My dad never supported
the USO after that.

He ended up being roped into working with shore patrol, paired with
a NYC police officer and had his nose broken in a bar fight.  He described
his nose as a Roman nose (it roams all over his face).  I look enough like
him that the priest stopped me on the way out of the church to say that it's good
that I got his looks and his other fine qualities, but I would never have the
guts to wade into a bar fight.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Sadness and stories

My Father passed away a couple of weekends ago.  He rode home in an ambulance
for hospice care, then died the next day.

It only hit me later that my father's stories about how his father died were similar.
My father moved to New Orleans as a boy from the country in Avoyelles Parish.
They were sharecroppers there, but due to the depression they lost the farm they were
on and moved to New Orleans where there were jobs available as world war 2 was
beginning.  My grandfather had Tuberculosis, and he passed away when he was 42
and my Father was only 12 years old, but he didn't want to die in the hospital in the
city, and they paid for an ambulance to take him from New Orleans up highway one
to Moreauville in Avoyelles Parish, where he passed away.

My father apparently always had a fear that he would die when he was 42, and
strangely enough when I was a boy and heard the story about my grandfather, I
was afraid that he would die when I was 12 years old.  Events don't repeat exactly,
but things do seem to echo down from the past.  (I was tremendously relieved
when I became a teenager and nothing bad had happened.)

Because my Grandmother was in debt to pay for that ambulance, they had to rent
out rooms or at least beds to people working in the war factories in New Orleans.
My father and Uncle Garner were in a house that was full of beds, most of the people
that were staying there worked at a cardboard box factory, others worked at Avondale
shipyards across the river (my Aunt's husband was one of those).  Enough people were
staying there that they had to hot-bunk, and they were paying for a bed and meals.

My father worked as well.  He worked as a paper boy for the Item (or maybe the
states-item, now the paper is the times-picayune-states-item), and he didn't start learning
english until they had moved to New Orleans.  He told one story of how he met
Carlos Marcello.  He was standing on a street corner selling papers, but it was raining
so hard, like a "cow pissing on a flat rock" that his bag of papers were mostly mush.
A young well dressed guy came out of the corner bar and offered to buy all of his ruined
papers, the young Marcello was carrying the take from the slot machines in the bar
and it was a bag of coins.  He told my father to reach into the bag of quarters and grab
as many as he could hold with both hands.  That was several dollars more than the cost
of the ruined papers and was enough of a windfall that when the news showed Mafioso
Carlos Marcello on trial my father responded with that story.  He couldn't be such a
bad man.

My father also worked at a pharmacy (all of this happened uptown, close enough to still go
to St Aloysius high school on Esplanade),  The pharmacist was willing to pay my
father's way to Tulane to study to become a pharmacist, but the family needed money
and he enlisted in the Navy instead at 16 by fudging a birth certificate.  I don't think
it mattered much anyway, he had already graduated high school, H.S was only to the
11th grade at the time.  He should have gone to Tulane, he was smart enough that
he was a good student even though he had just learned english as a teenager.

My father served around the world in the seabees.  In Guantanamo bay Cuba, Trinidad,
morocco, Newfoundland, Spain, as a recruiter in the USA in Northwest Louisiana and
Virginia, at bases in Norfolk and Providence, RI, and finally in Jacksonville fl.

He retired there on a disability after 20 years and reaching Senior Chief Petty officer (E-8)
We were always told growing up that he had emphysema due to smoking and sandblasting without breathing protection in Spain.  Just in the last year we learned that it wasn't emphysema that he had, but while he was in Spain there was an accident where an idiot moving some gas cylinders filled with Chlorine gas dropped them off
a forklift.  One cylinder hit the edge of a concrete pad and sheared off the valve, gassing
everyone in the warehouse and killing a couple of spanish workers and injuring several
other people including my father.   It was classified due to that fact that they were working
there as part of the Palomares nuclear bombs that were lost when a plane crashed.
One was lost at sea, and that one was part of the movie with Cuba Gooding Jr, the ones
on land were broken and scattered radioactive material across the area.  The seabees
were scooping up contaminated dirt and moving it, and he was injured as part of that
operation, so the idiots in the navy classified it and my father never told us about it
until 50 years had passed.  (he was honorable even to people that treated him poorly).

The Navy was good enough to send an honor guard to the funeral, with the full 21 gun
salute.  When taps played the rain changed from an occasional drizzle to a full sad downpour.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


We went to Morocco for work a few years ago, I was curious to
go because my Father had been there working on the US Navy
base and I grew up hearing stories about his time there.

We were in the hospital this morning and I was trying to talk about something
to get my father interested in talking.  As he ate a few bites of the apple fritter
I smuggled into the ICU I mentioned that we went to Morocco a few
years ago, and we even went to Marrakesh.  My Father perked up
a little and said, "I went there too,  we went in a truck".  Which must
have been a crappy trip, because we went on a crappy train ride
from Casablanca and it took all day.   I can't imagine a ride in a 2 1/2 ton
truck in that heat.

[I know he's told me where his base was,  but I don't remember where
or how to spell it.  (quick google and it's Port Lyautey, and I would have
never spelled it like that, I remembered Port Liotee.)]

My father was in the Seabees and they went to Morocco on an LST
in the mid 50's.  It was after my Father's unit spent several years in
Cuba and Trinidad.  , and he had already made Chief.

The barracks that the French had left them were up on a hill, and the
rebels were shooting out the lights on the base and occasionally hitting
the barracks.  The MCB commander told my dad to take apart the
barracks and move them down the hill.   Since the buildings were built
up on skids, or had two big 4x4's along the base of the long axis,
my dad suggested they just disconnect everything and drag the buildings
down the hill.

It worked.  They had a big d-4 bulldozer, cut all the water and electricity
and dragged the buildings down to new foundations, pulling them in one
long train to avoid multiple trips up to the top of the hill.  He was quite
a clever young guy in the seabees.

I didn't get much more today, just "we went to marrakesh in a truck
and it was terrible".  I should have been taking notes as a teenager
when I worked with him on his camp and the stories came thick and fast.

Friday, April 24, 2015

No money for NPR

I listen to the NPR station a lot.  One of the things I really missed
when we lived outside the USA was NPR and the calming voice
of all of the people from the Northeastern universities.  It never really
bothered me how slanted it was, they normally interviewed enough
primary sources that it was easy to tell what had really happened, even
if all of the interviewees are lesbians it is still better than the normal
voiceover reporting of the other networks.

Now we are back in Houston and I can listen to NPR while stuck in traffic on
I-10, or stuck in traffic on the beltway, or stuck in traffic on I-45.
What has changed in the past 9 years is the tone, before there
was a smirking sneering superiority over the 'bushies' and how
stupid they were.  That was frustrating but there was still a large
amount of non-political primary reporting that was better than
anything else on radio.  Now they are beyond slanted,  any viewpoint
against the current administration is reported as a conspiracy theory,
or those zany republicans trying to politically attack the president.
The switch might be slight, but they've changed from slanted to
active campaigning for the democrats.

It's bad, but now I have Pandora, and whenever a political story
starts I can switch over to a crappy 80's music mix.  Over the past
two weeks every time I turned on the radio NPR was asking for
money, but giving money to them would be like sending
a walmart card to ISIS.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On the Mustachians

I'm off work this week and not shaving, going by the rule of thumb
that if I'm not being paid why should I shave?  It's not working too well
though, I'm looking less like Tom Selleck and more like Santa Claus.

The oilfield downturn, forced days off and a high chance of being laid
off means most of my brain's clock cycles are being taken up by money,
what is our burn rate and how long until we have to take up residence under
the bridge.

It would appear that by cutting back our outflows, we could limp to an age
where I'd start to draw a pension so I've stopped scoping out sub-ponte living
conditions and I'm reading more on retirement.  The expert on low cost living
and early retirement is Mr Money Mustache, who's blog details living well
below your means, saving intensely then retiring young.

With very clear prose he details the main barriers to retiring young, which
are spending too much while you are working so that one's saving level is
too low, the main culprit being cars and driving, and if you need a high spending
level to exist then when you run the numbers on the really great retirement calculator
at FireCalc, the estimate will be you can never retire.   It's a very circular problem,
spend too much, save too little and use those same spending estimates to predict
retirement predicts working until you are 80, and that leads to pissing away
even more money when you think it doesn't matter either way.

Here in Houston living without a car would be unpleasant at best, with a high
likelyhood of being squished by a semi-truck at some point.  Living in Colombia
would be much cheaper and no car is needed, but being shot down in a hail
of gunfire is pretty likely as well, so I really need a more in-between type
place.   Not too hot, not too cold, low crime, good schools...probably doesn't
exist.  I guess I'll just enjoy my last two days of lay-off then work even harder
to stay on payroll as long as possible, the upturn should start in 6 months or so.
Just 2 or 3 more boom-bust cycles and I can retire with or without a mustache.