Friday, July 16, 2021



(Written 7-30-2015)

Whoever thought a 72 year old, white American male would be appalled at the thought of an innocent, unarmed creature being lured, even taunted into a gruesome, unnecessary shooting death by a white, armed hunter.

Well, I am, and I don't understand the reaction of the rest of the world. No, I really don't understand why everyone mourns a lion lured to its death to satisfy someone’s ego as I do, but not the death of seventeen year old Trevor Martin, also lured and taunted by an armed adversary he didn’t know was stalking him. 

Maybe if Cecil had been a black lion with a hoodie instead of the ordinary, King of the Jungle type, nobody would care, just like they don't care about Americans killing innocent, unarmed blacks daily as if it were a field day. I am appalled. I am really appalled.



I was introduced to a neighbor's son not too long ago, who, within two minutes, told me he was an ex-Navy Seal. My Air Force veteran’s fib detector went off immediately. Of course we didn't call it a "fib detector" in the military, it had a more cynical name based on a great ingredient for growing mushrooms, but it hadn't gone off that loudly since 2012 when some barfly in Wildwood, Florida, told me he used to fly the airplane we were removing from in front of his American Legion post. The “airplane” he supposedly flew was in fact a Mace cruise missile, one that I worked on for eight years.

The aircrew members, fleet commanders, weapons mechanics, launch officers, submariners, anyone who sat at a control panel with millions of tons of explosives literally inches, or seconds, away from their control, were cloaked. They were cloaked by security procedures, and often by political situations as well. They sat in silence, often in boredom, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, shift after shift, startled, often terrified, when the klaxon horns went off. 

They did it for almost thirty years while cities, military bases, naval ports and airbases were dialed in as targets for the nuclear missiles that sat sixty feet above them or behind them. Are we practicing destroying the earth or our we really doing it this time? Is this real or another exercise that will stop just short of an actual launch? Did the Soviets really invade West Germany or did China roll into South Korea? Is Japan under attack or are we just pretending once again? You know, for practice.

Our nuclear power, not only at home but in Europe and the Far East as well, was the only possible way for us to offset the numerical superiority the military forces Communist regimes had aligned against us. Don’t believe me? You are among the many Americans who suffer from amnesia or naivete. You probably believe Captain American will sweep down and save us from malignant adversaries set on destroying our country. No, it was the guy next door. He wore a cloak then, and most likely still does today. Most who wore the cloak knew they would kill millions of people if the war order came. People they would never see.

Do they still wear the cloak? Your neighbor who proudly boasts he was a Navy Seal or a Green Beret or a Ranger? Probably not. More likely your neighbor is wearing the invisibility cloak inside out so it shimmers with glory. Forty years ago all the wannabe heroes I met while I was in the service were “Green Berets,” even though the majority of the braggarts I met didn’t even know what an MOS was. No, I’m not going to tell you except in the Air Force it was called AFSC and in the Navy it's your rating. Today, thanks to media suffocation, most of the wannabes claim they are Navy Seals, even though you can tell by looking many of them couldn’t swim across their own bath tubs. Real Navy Seals cringe and the old timers just smile.

The people who won the cold war sit next to you in restaurants and shop with you at Walmart. But you don’t know who they are and probably never will. They still wear the cloak. They wear it the way it was meant to be worn, not inside out. They don’t tell you what their job was.

You cannot conceive what the cloak-wearer’s finger tips represented to mankind. The first time a live nuclear weapon was delivered to my unit’s first operational launch bay, the launch crew Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), who had trained with the same launch crew in the United States at the Tactical Missile Training School in Orlando and practiced for over a year with his crew on site, broke down and cried. The operation was suspended as the maintenance and launch crews watched in stunned silence. Would the powers-that-be-pull the whole crew, or would they proceed replacing the only the overwhelmed crew chief? The operation was briefly interrupted, but soon finished by the book. It only took minutes before the entire crew adjusted and the insertion was completed.

There are the Cold Warriors you didn’t know were cloaked until they unexpectedly let it slip. It is understandable. They served every corner of the world the United States had military bases or Naval Fleets. Many units weren’t even acknowledged, such as the 498th Tactical Missile Group on Okinawa. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered the only Air Force nuclear missile unit in the Far East not be identified by name, only its initials.

I think that cloak today is nothing more than a revelation of our American society.

It is those who did, and those who want everybody to think they did.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Of Puppies and Purple Skin

Not all of my skin is purple, just the parts exposed to the sharp, little teeth of our daughter's new four-month old puppy. The skin on my arm is not normally purple, I’m just incredibly sensitive to bruising and scrapes, a condition that comes with age. My wife, who also suffers from the same process known as “aging,” calls it “onion skin.” All it takes to turn our skin purple is a four-month old puppy that is a lot faster than we are.

I tried to convince myself I am as physically capable now as I was just a few decades ago. I know it isn’t true, but I do my best to maintain the myth that old age is just a state of mind when I know full-well that my daughter’s puppy has made our arms and hands look like we suffer from a major skin disease. Besides, their reflexes make us look like we move in slow motion. The puppy probably thinks I am just another wiggly chew toy that squeaks. The louder I squeak, the more fun it is to chew!

I gave up climbing on the house roof a few years back when I realized I couldn’t swing my legs around the aluminum ladder to climb back down. Insecurity swept over me as I stood holding the ladder looking at the grass some twenty feet below me. I carefully, slowly, finally got a secure step on a ladder rung and climbed back down to reality. Gone were the natural abilities from when I scampered up a cylindrical, aluminum tube only forty-four inches across but forty-feet long, mounted at a seventeen degree angle, in dim light with an Air Force tool bag in my hand while wearing combat boots. Gone was the inherent sense of balance, the quickness, the absolute confidence that falling wasn’t going to happen.

I knew damn well I was about to fall off the roof, though. I remember thinking “If I get down from here in one piece, I’m not ever going back up another ladder!” Believe me, aging isn’t just a state of mind. My mind knew I was in a precarious situation that I had sorely underestimated. To paraphrase comedian Flip Wilson, I let my ego write a check my body couldn't cash.

Taz was a seventeen-year old Golden Retriever that had been a real test for us when he was only two years old, but our arms never looked like we rolled around in barbed wire. He was our last dog, and while we miss all of our wonderful dogs, we have decided not to add any more to our family. All our dogs developed into wonderful companions, each with its own personality, to become real members of our family. We know our daughter’s puppy will do the same for them.

Someday, in a weak, quiet moment many years from now, long after the latest cute bundle of fur has passed on, they’ll probably say, “You know, we need a puppy…”

They may not have arthritis by then and maybe they might still be climbing up and down ladders. There is however, a real, real good chance they’ll get purple skin.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Writer Identification Guidelines

I’m always looking to improve my writing, so I downloaded a free writer’s guide advertised on the Internet as essential to succeeding financially as a writer. Financial success at my age is mainly based using coupons and careful redemption of my credit card bonus points. I’m retired and have no Pollyanna dreams of a garage full of Lamborghini's just because my muse brilliantly nudges my fingers around a computer keyboard. I may be the only reader who enjoys my writing, but then all authors enjoy their own writing, I write compulsively and continuously, I just don’t make any money at it.

I will never be successful like J. K. Rowling - 500 million copies - and Mickey Spillane – 225 million copies – who both triggered the precious “Gimme more!” response in their readers. I would love to spark that desire in millions of readers, but I’d still write for free. That’s one difference between a professional writer and a compulsive writer.

Don’t get me wrong, the free guide for copy-writing as a profession is an outstanding piece of work, invaluable if you want to write and still make mortgage payments, but it subtly defines the major differences between compulsive writers like me, usually untrained, and those who write because they are really good at it. Most have been trained, and usually at great financial expense or time. There are, however, more than a few autodidact writers who have succeeded in the commercial or academic literary word. That’s what I am. No, not a successful writer, but an autodidact.

It’s the difference between reality and fantasy, the difference between vocation and avocation; the difference between work and a hobby. Yes, hobby, the money losing proposition you get to deduct from your Federal Income Taxes. Compulsive writing is as much like owning a bass boat or a hang-glider. I can’t think of a single professional hang glider pilot although professional bass fishing guides can do quite well. Most of those people are autodidacts. I can’t think of a single university that has a baccalaureate degree in sport fishing. Golf? Maybe, but not fly casting. Yet there are masters at fly casting. They are all autodidacts.

And therein lies the difference between the two types of writers: the ones who paid to learn how to write and the rest of us who hammer away simply because we enjoy doing it. That’s the whole point of a writer's group: we amateurs and semi-pros get to compare notes and pretend we can get out of a new Corvette without embarrassing ourselves.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021



I recently submitted an article to a writers magazine for consideration and they in turn forwarded an electronic copy of their latest issue as a teaser for my possible subscription. I had read bits and pieces of prior submissions and browsed through reviews of their material, but had never seen a full issue of the magazine. I had hopes my writing would meet their criteria but by the time I finished reading, I had changed my mind. It appeared to me the entire collection had been cleansed with an sterilizer.

The stories were without a hint of blood or sweat, ugh, sweat, but evenly saturated with contrived, saline adjusted tears. Apparently tears lead to book sales. I wondered how many passes through a computer it took to find the specific words used to create the carefully engineered, structured product that superficially appeared as ingenuous writing. Every piece in the collection could easily have been written by the same author, one who spoke precise, articulate English, rooted in Shakespearean grammar, with access to a large, unlimited - and ingenious - thesaurus.

There were seven separate articles written by seven supposedly different writers in the anthology that sparked my epiphany. I had never read any of the seven writers beforehand so I had no idea what to expect from any of them, except one thing: I expected them to all be different. The subjects and styles were all different and even the genres were a cross section of any good readers magazine, but by the time the articles got to me, they had been homogenized and cleansed of any personality. They were all quite sanitary and boringly bland. Elevator music. Musicians restricted to only one tempo or rhythm, regardless of how many notes they played. I write this knowing full well there are people who listen to Baroque endlessly, but they know they like Baroque and don’t pretend to be listening to something else.

What were the stories like before they were force-fed through the corporate/academic process that produced the anthology? At least several stories had great premises and interesting plots. Only one, however, had any characters I’d turn the page to know more about. I knew all I wanted to know about most of the non-dimensional protagonists in the first paragraph or two. The dialog used by the characters in each of the stories was as interesting as reading the end-user agreement that comes with your computer’s software programs.

There are ten thousand ways… No, wait, is it a myriad of ways? No, I’m using the word myriad as a adjective, not a noun. Right? My muse is getting an upset stomach.

How about, “there are many” ways to spend my time that are more exciting than reading contrived, improbable but somehow remarkably familiar stories that all fit the mold of salable material delivered with the empathy of a robot.

Sorry, my Internet is down right now, so I’m out of literary antiseptic.