Monday, April 21, 2014

COFFEE CLUB



She really gave the old guy a funny look followed by a helpful but somewhat confused smile. The old guy smiled back while it slowly became clear to him the comunication problem was not a lack of intelligence by the "associate" of the sporting goods store, it was just a "senior moment" on his part.
The conversation that began this inquiry went like this, "excuse me, can you tell me if this store carries the old style percolator coffee pots?". 
"I don't know what that is". "Well it's the type of coffee pots people used before the Mister Coffee drip coffee maker was invented".

She looked at me like I had aliens crawling out of my butt. The more detail I went into about watching the coffee brew as the water turned darker and darker in the little sight glass on top, the more she turned her head with a quizzical look like dogs give you when you're talking shit to them.
It would have been frustrating if it hadn't been so damn funny. I was sure they would carry them, after all, campers still used them. I wanted one for the fishing shack so I could stop using those expensive coffee singles and I don't care for instant.

She finally called Rick on the radio, Rick was a little closer to my age group, although he grew up after the Mister Coffee made its debut he knew about the old perkers and gave her the location so we walked right to the same area I had scoured moments before and they magically appeared.
They had a nice selection of them, all non-electrics of course. As we stood there I waxed nostalgic on the "good ol days" of the world of yesteryear. God, when did I turn into that guy? The days of yore, when if you had a cell, it meant your ass was behind bars, back before "the bomb" was a way to describe something cool, it was something that Nikita Khrushchev wanted to drop on you so he could laugh his ass off while you duck and cover. The closest we came to lasers and computers was watching science fiction movies and the internet existed only in Al Gores head.

I could just see in my minds dimming eye, mom busy getting breakfast going on a cold dark winter morning. On the counter would be the coffee pot plugged in and perking along making that sound that we all remember if our hair is gray or gone. I remembered that commercial, I knew it would be on YouTube. You old timers will know this commercial, that song that Maxwell Coffee makes when it perks. Go ahead and Youtube it, you know you want to hear it again.
AMC's Mad Men has begun its final season, this show is great and it's fun seeing life in the 60's recreated so accurately. At least in my mind and memory.
Life was simple back then and good to the last drop.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

UPS AND DOWNS

Going through mini yo yo's on my weight and big yo yo's in my retirement account. I obsessively monitor both. I have a good handle on the former. I have little to no control on the latter, (did I get that right)?
I feel really fantastic health wise except for occasional knee issues, oh yeah and the drinking problem. By drinking problem I'm referring to the cervical spinal fusion on two levels of my neck that inhibit me from tipping up the can of beer to get that last drink. I really have to lean back and get my whole body into it to get that can cleaned out. I wouldn't want to be wasteful.

I started to get in shape a year and a half ago. Walking many miles and working out regularly. I have lost between 50 and 55 pounds and kept it off for the better part of a year. I had to drop 2 of my blood pressure meds because losing the weight made vascular system so happy.
I saw my Cardioligist this week. I love seeing this guy smile, when I first met him he didn't smile at me at all. I thought someone had just pissed in his corn flakes or something but it was me. It was 3 or 4 years ago and I was about to be hospitalized to be cardioverted out of Afib for the first time of my Afib career. He was also not smiling at me back then because of my lack of energy, getting winded after a short walks and high blood pressure even though I was on several meds and being stuck in Afib for days.

Although I may feel 20 years younger now, I have to remind myself that I don't look 20 years younger. It helps me keep things in perspective. I'm not out chasing after 30 year olds, or even 40 year olds. I'm happy staying in my own age group, they're slower, it's easier to cut them from the heard.
I understand maintaining the weight and keeping fit will be an ongoing battle for the rest of my life.
I also understand that just because I feel great, that is no guarantee of longevity. Pistol Pete Marivitch always comes to mind when I'm feeling euphoric. But I figure as long as I keep this guy smiling I'm doing the best I can.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

STONE, MARBLE AND METAL (hollowed ground and more hollowed ground)



I'm glad we walked to this place instead of taking the Metro. At first it was just a matter of expediency that saw us walking across the Potomac. The Potomac, I can't say that word or hear that word without remembering the Apocryphal tale about young George Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River.
Seems like I was taught this in school at a very young age. Back in the early 60's when I first heard this, a dollar was big money. Back in the 1700's when Washington supposedly did this, a dollar was a fortune!
Today you can't even buy a Hershey Bar with a buck. The current president throws trillions of dollars into the river and he doesn't bat an eye.
But I digress, anyway the Potomac is a wide river, you would have to have an arm like Randy Johnson to make that shot.
We made it to the Arlington Visitors Center to wait for Renee and while milling around I came to a large black and white photograph of the Arlington Memorial Bridge that we just walked across. In the photo there were thousands and thousands of people lining the way as a horse drawn caisson carried the body of 46 year old John Kennedy the 35th President of the United States. 
"Ask not what your Country can do for you, ask what you can do for your Country", you sure this guy was a Democrat?
Anyway there is history every place you walk, stand, or look around here.
Renee finally arrives and we take off. There is much ground to cover and lots of things we want to see. Of course, The Changing Of The Guard at The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier, is top of the list and if we hustle we can just make the next one. We get there right as it begins. Standing on the steps high on the hill watching this unfold gave me chills. I doubt that it would give Chris Mathews a thrill up his leg, but it was a very profound moment for me.

After quietly observing this very solemn and honored ceremony we slip off behind the steps and walk along the Amphitheater. There were openings at the back and Renee spotted something and asked me what it was.
I didn't know exactly, but it kind of looked like a mast with a crows nest mounted in a concrete structure.
We decided it warranted a quick look.
I was immensely glad we did. It was a mast, a very old mast from a very old ship.
We walked around the front of the concrete structure and I read the bronze plaque that read "USS Maine". "Remember the Maine!", I said. The rallying cry that moved a nation to war with Spain after the Maine either blew up in the Havana harbor or was blown up by the Spanish in 1898.
I remember reading about the events surrounding this pivotal sinking. I had no idea the mast, anchor and ships bell were salvaged and brought here as a memorial to the 168 souls lost on board that day.
The chills just keep on coming!
I could spend the rest of the rapidly depleting day right here among the memories and the ghosts of The Maine, or walk back to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, but Renee eyes our next destination on top of a hill. 
Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee or at least it used to be. Of course when war between the States broke out Lee was not in a sellers market and he had to walk away from equity. 
Again something I did not know, actually, seeing how History class was nap time for me it's not surprising I didn't know General Lee once had a home here.

The Arlington House although a thing of beauty, the view of the porch is what held my gaze the most. And just a few short steps away I could see the enormity and the relative closeness of the Pentagon.
Again I am getting schooled just by looking around. I guess I have always known the approximate location of the Pentagon but now I really know it, I can see it, I can walk to it. It's a shorter hike then what I'm used to. Standing on the hill I could imagine what it looked like on that day of infamy.

As we were looking down at this amazing building where the best military minds in world punch the clock, a couple struck up a conversation with us about it.
They had just been there and saw the 9/11 Memorial that is located on what used to be the parking lot at the side of the building where some murderous cowards crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the side of The Pentagon.
The couple was persuading us to go see this Memorial, we didn't need any convincing, we were going. We had just one more stop to make here at Arlington. We had to see the JFK Memorial and the Eternal Flame.
Renee and I don't agree much when it comes to politics, but this is one thing we can see eye to eye on.
In a few short minutes we walked downhill to where President Kennedy rests. Again my memory shifts around all the history I'm surrounded by and settles in a third grade classroom some 51 years ago. The intercom crackles and a muffled unintelligible radio broadcast comes through the speaker and into the ears of several confused 3rd graders.
After the announcement, the teacher had to explain to us that the president had just been shot.
I was, we were, too young to understand the immediate impact of this event, much less the historical significance.
Today, this old man can understand some of it, bit not all. It is profound to be this close to the body of JFK and turn around and see the route the funeral procession took to bring his body here.
My memory of those few days goes from hearing that static filled news over the intercom, to the day I was standing in our living room watching a black and white TV showing the coffin of Kennedy laying in State while thousands upon thousands of world leaders, dignitaries and just ordinary peoples shuffled by to pay their respects. I don't know why but I couldn't stop watching it. I just remember while this was going on they were walking Lee Harvey Oswald down some corridor and they kept switching the coverage between the two events. Then I saw on live television Jack Ruby shoot Oswald.
I ran through the house yelling my head off trying to get everyone's attention. I was the only one in the room.
Lots of things happen to a kid, I imagine you forget 99 percent of it, no matter how feeble minded I may be now or will be in the future, I will never forget that black and white event.
As if today day couldn't get anymore poignant, it was time to make the pilgrimage to The Pentagon.

We jumped the Arlington Metro to the Pentagon City (I never heard of Pentagon City), Metro for lunch. After lunch we chose to walk to the Pentagon, I wish we would have gotten a pass to tour the inside of the building but you have to apply way in advance to do that. Understandable. I would have wanted to see this amazing building even if it hadn't been one of the targets of 9/11. It's a name that is synonymous with America's power and strength.
They broke ground for the Pentagon September 11th 1941. It stood impenetrable for 60 years. 
The Pentagon Memorial is unlike any I have ever seen and a lot of meaning is built into its layout. There are 184 bench-like structures with a matching water feature under each. Each one with a name of one of the victims inscribed on the end. The ones that have the ends that face away from the building represents the victims who were in the Pentagon. The ones that face the other direction is a memorial of the victims who were aboard Flight 77.
We were there in the daylight. I got this picture off the Internet that was taken at night.
This day began with me standing before a flag from the War of 1812 and it is ends honoring the victims of 9/11 and rememberence of the sacrifice made in all wars before, in between and still occurring.

The whole day has been somber to say the least and very sobering. Now I think I could use a drink. 




Monday, April 7, 2014

STONE, MARBLE AND METAL (paying respects)

A new day dawns in DC and as usual when I wake up at the Hinkley Hilton I walk to the window pull back the curtain to look at the Washington Monument.
I  looked, rubbed my eyes and looked again. It's gone! The whole damn Monument!
Construction accident? Terrorist? David Copperfield?
No, fog. Thank God!
Renee has 1/2 day left of her seminar, me and her son will hit the Smithsonian Museum of American History after that we will go pay our respects at the war memorials, then meet up with Renee at Arlington National Cemetery. Although she lived in DC for five years, she never made it to Arlington.

Back on the Metro at DuPont Station, I'm getting the hang of this now. Get on the Red Line to Metro Center, jump on the Blue Line to the Smithsonian Station, piece of cake.
I really loved the Metro, very clean and efficient.
I very much enjoyed the museum of American History, my favorite displays, Archie Bunker's favorite chair and the huge flag that yet waved that infamous night back in September of 1814.
I had no idea that the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore even existed anymore and it was right here in front of me. I just stood there and stared at it thinking about Francis Scott Key held captive on a British ship in the midst of the War of 1812, staring at this very same flag and writing a poem that would become a song using a melody of lifted from an old English drinking tune called "To Anacreon In Heaven".
That was the start of an emotional day from here it would only get more solemn.

After we left the Smithsonian, we walked around the closed for repairs Washington Monument staring up at it as far as my cobbled together neck would allow.
We walked up to the still new looking WWII Memorial. It was opened in 2004. This is an outstanding tribute to the rapidly disappearing group of men and women that saved the world. It's shocking to think they waited that long to build this monument, but what a monument it is!
From there we went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Compared the memorial we just saw, The Wall is very subdued, I remember when it was first built, it had many detractors. Some even saying the plain black granite angled wall "looks like death". Given the 58,249 names engraved on the Wall you could describe it that way. 


I have friends and family that served in that war, my friends and family have friends and family whose names are on that wall. It was a little rainy and a lot gloomy as we walked along the Wall, walked among the veterans looking for their family and friends names on the Wall. The volunteers who were veterans themselves helping people locate those names on the Wall.
No this memorial is not ornate and not as large at the WWII Memorial, it does not even compare with the Korean War Memorial which also has a black granite wall.
When I think about the shameful way the returning Vietnam vets were treated by the anti war creeps, I don't think and I believe most vets of that war would agree, I just don't believe a large loud ornate structure would be appropriate. 
Most guys came home in civvies so the peace loving leftists wouldn't spit on them and call them baby killers.
This plain black granite wall just seems to fit in the landscape, quietly and unobtrusively, much like the soldiers who came home and just tried to forget it all and quietly blend into the landscape. Some were successful at this, many were not.

Walking in the rain we made our way to the Lincoln Memorial. I have seen this iconic statue sitting there with that thousand mile stare since I was a kid, but not in real life. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, the Republican president who freed the slaves at a huge cost of lives including his own.

I spend a long time in there looking up at the huge statue, then I stood beside him looking out in the same direction, straight ahead at the Reflecting Pool and at the Washington Monument.
Old Honest Abe has had plenty of time to ponder. I have just about used up my pondering time so we make one last stop before we plan our trek to Arlington, the Korean War Memorial.

My father served in this war so did his friend, my Uncle Kenny. Dad altered his Birth certificate so he could join the Army at 16.
The memorial is similar to the Vietnam War Memorial only in that it also has a black granite wall. But unlike the other wall it does not have the names of the KIA's or the MIA's. Instead it has ghostly images of soldiers engraved in the stone.


There are several larger than life size statues of soldiers clad in metal ponchos that are on what looks like a large patrol in weather kinda like what it was that day in DC. 


Looking at the statues all in different poses carrying M1 Garrands and Carbines I was reminded of on old war story told to me many years ago by an uncle long gone now.
Me and Uncle Kenny were talking while imbibing whiskey and coke.
Mine mixed to half strength, Uncle Kenny's was mixed by me just he way he liked it. Fill a glass with whiskey and add just enough coke to give it a little coke color but no coke flavor.
I've been known to get combat veterans to talk about things not discussed in the light of day or sober. Like I would get my bro in law Bob who is also my buddy many years later to talk about some things that happened in Nam, things that hadn't seen the light of day in a long long time.

Uncle Kenny told me a few stories but the one that brought vivid images to my mind was the way he found out that the Communist Chinese had entered the war on the side of the villainous North Koreans.
It was a very cold November night and he was out with small patrol not expecting much contact with the North Koreans. It was a dark night but suddenly they were confronted with the sight of thousands of Chinese moving around and through their drastically outnumbered patrol. The patrol hadn't been spotted and they had no chance in hell surviving a firefight. So spread out, they all just hunkered down and waited for the hordes of Chinese to pass by. I could just see young Kenny crouched down in the dark, heart pounding so loud he was sure the enemy could here his heartbeat. 
Kenny related the story (as best I remember), "we all just crouched down in the trees and waited, seemed like forever, then I saw one of them walking right up toward me. He just kept getting closer and closer. I couldn't shoot him, we all would have been dead, there was just too goddamned many of them. I took out my bayonet and just waited. I knew I was gonna have to cut his fuckin throat. I just squatted down beside that tree, then he just walked by me like I was a ghost". Old Kenny shook his head and stared at the wall like he was back there again in his minds eye. He finished his story, "Mark it musta been 20 below but I had sweat running down my face". We drank a lot that night.
I hadn't thought about that story in a good while. I guess this is an appropriate place to recall something like that.

A short time after that memory of Uncle Kenny came and went. I got a message from Renee, the seminar is winding down. I pull up Google Maps on my phone and start calculating distances. Looks like the nearest Metro is just a little closer than our next destination, in the opposite direction. I ask Renee's son if he's up for a hike, sure lets go!

Walking the historic path from the Lincoln Memorial across the Potomac on the Arlington Memorial Bridge was a fitting tribute and I'm glad we walked it. It was the route taken when the horse-drawn coffin brought JFK to his final resting 41 years ago.

 We were heading in the same direction to visit with him and thousands of other hero's.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

STONE, MARBLE AND METAL (if I see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi in here shits gonna get real!)



Having ended the debate of the pro-foreskin/anti-foreskin with the red crotch demonstrators on the Capitol lawn, we walked around the Capitol Building to see the Supreme Court Building. I figured surely there would be a more substantive demonstration there.
Ehhh, not so much. Didn't looked like much happening at all. We got through security and were told the court was in session but for the most part things seemed kinda dead there. So we headed across the street.

We got to the Capitol Building just in time to take the next tour.
I was highly impressed with the architecture of the interior and the abundance of artwork.

The Rotunda was spectacular, much of the artwork especially the murals reminded me of Italy which makes sense due to the fact that Italian artist Constantino Brumidi was commissioned for most of the work done there.

The tour didn't include going into the House or Senate chambers, we were instructed to visit the office of our states Congressmen or Senators to get a pass. We were going to be pushed for time so we had to pass on that. Probably just as well because for years now I have watched those crooked jackasses Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid make complete fools of themselves on TV. I have screamed and cursed and flipped them the bird so many times when they appeared on my TV, I wasn't sure what I would do if I ever saw those dipshits in the real world. And I'm not sure if I had enough bail money with me.
The girlfriend probably would not have taken it so well either.

I have to tell on myself while I'm on the subject of my propensity to blurt out my politics at times. When we first arrived in DC we walked the 2 miles to the White House. Looking across the expanse of beautifully maintained lawn at the structure that has housed our leaders since it was rebuilt due to the war of 1812. I think about men who have called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home during that time. Some of the best this country has to offer and some of the worst. I thought about what a buffoon Jimmy Carter was and still is. I thought about what an embarrassment Slick Willie was and still is not to mention his wife. Now the current resident embodies both of those poor qualities plus a couple more.

For the most part I maintained some measure of restraint and civility aside from the rude gesture I made at the building but regretted it almost instantly.
It was when we walked around to the North Lawn I noticed that across the street someone had erected what amounted to a protest booth. There were many signs on the booth but the one that I focused on was a sign that had the Star of David and words condemning Israel. I didn't even notice the person who was at the booth. When we got close to it I muttered possibly loud enough to be heard at the booth "some asshole doesn't care for Jews".
Renee said something to me, I don't remember what, but whatever she said got me to focus not on the sign but on the sign maker.
There she was, this little hunchback old lady, she looked older than Methuselah.
I felt like a jackass, still do. But then again I pretty much feel like that all the time.

I found out later her name is Concepcion Picciotto, she's somewhat famous, at least in the anti-nuke anti-Israel circles. I read on the Internet she has been protesting there for decades. Mostly denouncing the the U.S. for our use of the Atom bomb on Japan and our maintaining a nuclear deterrent. Yeah I know, it's kinda played out, but she probably feels like it beats playing Mahjong with all the other hunchback old ladies, 

After Renee's son and I left the Capitol Building we had a little time left before we were supposed to go to another seminar dinner so we walked toward the Washington Monument.   
We didn't walk all the way to it, the Monument is still surrounded by scaffold about 1/3 the way up. It is still undergoing repairs it sustained from an earthquake in 2011. I would have loved going up to the top. I watched a YouTube of someone going up to the top and the views were incredible, may have to make another trip.

The Smithsonian Metro station was located close to the center of the National Mall. I sat on a bench close to the Metro station and just took in the experience. Renee and I have talked about the importance of "being in the moment" at special times and places. As many places in the world she has traveled to and lived in she knows a thing or two about that. I have a tendency to let my camera be in the moment because I want to preserve the moment with something more dependable than my addled mind.
So I stopped taking video and stills with my Galaxy S4 and just soaked up the sights and sounds of the National Mall.
The Cherry Blossom trees were still days away from blossoming, there were no Million Man marchers here (there never was), but you could feel the history all around you here. 
I never realized the proximity of all these famous landmarks before, everything is right here, within my walking distance.

I used up the remaining minutes of our extra time and it was time to jump on the Metro and meet Renee at the Bistro Bistro. No that wasn't a typo, that's the name of the place where the seminar organizer was having the dinner.
We met up with Renee and made the short walk to the restaurant. Again my manners and protocol would be tested. The food buffet and the alcohol were all included in the price I paid last night which included last nights finger food and booze. It was a very good deal and as per usual I made the most of it.
Luckily a lid was kept on controversy and the conversation was light and interesting and for the most part I held true to the Lincoln/Twain adage "it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt", at least I think I did.
I should have remembered to do that the day before when at the White House I inadvertently called that little hunchbacked old lady an asshole.

Sometimes I do go ahead and remove all doubt.
Apologies to the little old hunchback anti-Semite.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

LEAVING THE SCENE



We interrupt our regular programming of the digital form of showing your friends your boring vacation slides, that is my series on my recent trip to DC, to bring you this public service announcement.
Due to recent events you are warned that in the event you are driving through Detroit and you are white and you accidentally hit a black kid, DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT STOP!
Even if it is not your fault do not stop, drive to the nearest safe location, which means get the hell out of Detroit then pull over and call the police.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/03/driver-assaulted-by-crowd-after-hitting-boy-clings-to-life/7285575/

Thank you for your attention, we will now resume our regular programming.
Sorry about your luck.