The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood and the Alabama Theater

Today (Friday) we ate quite well. Not that we haven’t eaten well on previous days lately, but today we ate exceptionally well. The Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort, where we currently reside, had a package for all of us old USS Cleveland sailors that included tickets to eat at The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood buffet. The web site shows the innards better than I can but here’s a quick peek at some of our group chowing down in our own private section of the facility.


Pretty much any kind of seafood you desire, especially shrimp, is presented in many different ways. Pretty amazing. Calabash, by the way, is a word that describes food in this way: Calabash seafood typically refer to seafood that is lightly breaded (usually dipped in milk & then a combo of flour & cornmeal) and then fried. Usually in a calabash-style restaurant you will get huge portions, oftentimes with a combination plate of several types of seafood – shrimp, various kinds of fish, crab, oysters, etc.. and hushpuppies. Calabash is also the name of a small town in North Carolina near the southern border north of Myrtle Beach. Driving on Myrtle Beach one is assaulted with all manner of calabash restaurants. It gets a bit confusing after a bit. Just remember, it’s all good. I’m happy to report, too, that none of it caused my blood sugar to spike. I think another reason it was OK is that Diane was very careful about what I ate. She takes really good care of me.

I would have liked to stay a little longer at the buffet but we had to leave in order to make it to the Alabama Theater before 7 pm to see ONE The Show. It was truly a great show and is highly recommended by all of us who attended.

We weren’t allowed to take photos of the show so this is the only picture I got of the inside. It’s special because it has Diane in it.

The host of the show, Greg Rowles, who won Ed McMahon’s Star Search Show as the Best Male Vocalist 25 years ago, honored all of us USS Cleveland sailors and even provided a lot of the ship’s history. Pretty special evening.

After the show we all headed back to the Sea Mist for our last night at that facility. After breakfast Sunday morning we packed up and drove all the way north to Hilton’s Ocean 22 high rise. It took 11 minutes. We fiddled around a while, driving north to an enormous RV park, with a very small dune that one must traverse to access the beach. It looks like a place we should visit.

From the looks of things, fishing off the beach is a requirement.

See you tomorrow …

Myrtle Beach, SC

Yes, we’ve embarked on another journey. Some of you may be thinking that, considering the sad time we had in Maui recently, we would have given this trip a little more consideration before committing. But, we’ve actually been trying to get some time at Myrtle Beach for the last five years or so but something always comes up that messes it up. Mostly the deterrents come in the form of hurricanes this time of year.

This time, we made it all the way. Here’s proof …

OK, yes it’s the baggage carousel at the Charleston airport, but that’s the airport we flew to and rented the car that got us to Myrtle Beach. Another reason we flew to Charleston was so we could reconnect with our luggage which got there 8 hours before us.

Here’s what happened – there are no non-stop Alaska flights from Portland to Charleston, but there is one from Seattle. So, all we had to do was get to Seattle early enough to make the connection so that we could arrive on the east coast at a decent time of the day. The reservations she got allowed us almost an hour to get to the connecting flight in Seattle that would arrive in Charleston at 4:30 pm their time. If you think about that for a minute, considering the 3-hour time difference, we would arrive at 1:30 pm St. Helens time. Then, figure in flight time from Seattle you can see we had to leave pretty early.

We got up at 3:30 am to catch the PDX to SEATAC leg that left at 6 am. The first snafu we encountered was when TSA kicked us out of the precheck line because out KTN wasn’t printed on our ticket. We knew that but had the letters from TSA as proof that we had KTNs. That’s Known Traveler Number in case you didn’t now. Not good enough for the ambitious little guy who insisted that it had to be on our boarding pass. The first time this happened, on the way to Maui, the TSA agent would have let us continue if we knew the KTN. Not this guy, however.

So, we returned to the ticket counter and fixed it with some manual interventional assistance of a cheerful Alaska Agent.

We breezed right through.

Got to Seattle in plenty of time to make our connection then ‘things’ kinda went south with regard to customer service and scheduling accumen of managers at the SEATAC International airport who parked our plane on the runway for 30 minutes because there wasn’t an open gate for us.

There we sat, with 12 other folks who needed to make the connection, watching the clock tick away, diminishing the probability of making the flight to Charleston.

We finally parked at N15 about 7:20 pm and our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 7:45. Our pilot and crew assured us that everyone knew we were on the ground and the reason we were late and that they would hold the plane for us.

It was a huge lie. We got to the next gate, D21, in time, but management had already filled our 12 seats with standbys and sent the plane on it’s way, 20 minutes early. Kinda makes your day, ya know?

Then we were sent to the Alaska Customer Service desk near gate D2 that is manned by folks who are accustom to dealing with upset people and apparently don’t see the need to be friendly any longer. We 12 were demoted to 3rd class citizens (whatever that is) and the fact that we missed the flight due to decisions made by the airline.

The two agents behind the counter were working to re-book flights for misplaced people but their hearts weren’t in it and they weren’t very careful about information they doled out. For us, for instance, after they professed to have got us seats on an American Airline plane leaving shortly, gave us a confirmation number and sent us to gate D8 and told us to talk to one of the AA agents there to get us seat assignments. We made that trek and learned that the confirmation was invalid and that the flight we were supposedly put on was full. No seats available.

Back to D2 and customer service. At different agent made another attempt and actually got us seats on a plane leaving in a few hours for Dallas. From there we were booked on an AA flight to Charleston which was to arrive at 11:30 pm.

Interestingly, our bags were transferred from the Portland flight to the original non-stop connection with no problem, but they couldn’t delay 10 minutes to wait for the people who owned them. That’s why our luggage arrived in Charleston on time.

And, they didn’t have any trouble delaying the newly acquired flight, for some reason, which pushed our arrival time in Dallas a little later yet. That was OK because we had a 2-hour layover in Dallas.

Once in Dallas the flight to Charleston was delayed twice ensuring our arrival time wa pushed beyond midnight. Yippee!

By this time both Diane and I were to the point that we could see humor in all the things that had happened to us during this trip. It was like a comedy of errors so it was easier on both of us to accept the comedy of the situation instead of being bitter and upset.

Now, the good part of all this. On both of the flights we met passengers who went out of their way to accommodate both Diane and I by switching seats so we could sit together. You see, with all this switching going on, we were considered standby passengers with no real guarantee we’d get on an airplane. Because of that, we were placed in seats that were rows apart because, you see, all those other passengers made their flight on time.

Our fellow passengers made it all OK and we had a great time talking with them. Had we caught our original flight we would have missed that opportunity which would have been kinda sad.

When we got to Charleston we sent directly to the AA office in the baggage claim area to retrieve our on-time bags. The cheerful agent said, “oh, you were on that Alaska flight …” which kinda told the entire story.

After getting the bags we went looking for a cab because I was told the car rental agents closed up at 11:0-0 pm. But, we saw some lights on at the rental area and saw people turning in to that area. There was hope, after all. You see, we had a car reserved for the trip so we could get to the Air Force Inn at Joint Base Charleston for the night, then drive to Myrtle Beach in the morning.

When we turned the corner and saw lines of people at pretty much all the various rental agencies, and way off in a corner was Enterprise, with one agent working and a line of 2 people ahead of us. It was a miracle.

Long story short, we got a car and made it to Joint Base Charleston with no problem. It was only about 5 miles away, so we didn’t expect problems.

At the Air Force Inn we had a reservation and the agents were waiting for us. We got our room, spent the night, and took off for Myrtle Beach earlier this morning. We fudged our check out time beyond 11:00 am because it was so late when we checked in (1:30 am or so) and stopped at a really busy restaurant for lunch. It was the Long Point Grill in Mount Pleasant, SC for lunch. It was absolutely wonderful and the place was jumping. I had shrimp and linguine. Diane had a chicken BLT sandwich and a cup of tomato and artichoke soup. It as good, but getting it meant she could only eat half her sandwich. So, of course, I ate the other half.

The drive to Myrtle Beach was very relaxing and it was great sailing along without a care, our worries behind us. Life was good.

Now we’re here on the 9th floor, at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd with an ocean view.

Our view north
Our view south.

How sweet it is.

Oh ya, the reason we’re here is to attend the 22nd annual reunion of the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. So, there will be more news later.

Cheers.

Can you hear me now?

Just a short snippet to share an interesting (to me) interaction between my fashion-conscious bride and myself as she was preparing to drive herself to an unplanned doctor’s appointment.

Diane has been suffering from what we thought was a bad cold which originated on Maui at “The Wedding”. It started with a severe allergic reaction to a fancy drink with tiny flower petals sprinkled on top. That seemed to clear up and lasted about as long as the flight home then the cold struck with a vengeance.

Last Thursday morning Diane emerged from the bedroom about 9 am with the new that she had an 11:40 am doctor appointment which she made because she was deaf in her right ear when she woke up.

OK. Two things really got my attention right then … Deaf in her right ear, and Doctor appointment at 11:40 am.

Deaf is serious because I’m pretty sure she wasn’t that way when we retired for the evening. At least no complaint was issued. But, then, she doesn’t complain about aches, pains, and other maladies. Then to say she had an appointment with her doctor in just two hours was incredible. That NEVER happens because doctors are usually booked out for a couple of months. Turns out the appointment wasn’t with her PC, but with another doctor in the practice who had just had a cancellation. Had that not happened her next appointment was in November.

With two hours to go, one of which would be used up with travel to Portland, Diane took a shower leaving me alone to contemplate my future with a half-deaf spouse, something I had never considered a possibility. While she showered, I got a little spruced up myself because she wasn’t going alone. You see, getting to Portland requires that we transit through Scappoose when our favorite bagel shop lives and I KNEW she was going to stop there. That wasn’t the only reason I was going with her, but it was a good one.

When she emerged, dressed and ready to go in a nice pair of grey pants, a matching grey sweater, and a pretty blouse. Since she’s color blind she relies on my to reveal the color of her clothing when she isn’t sure and I almost always tell her the truth. Sometimes it’s fun to send her off on a mission somewhere in a blue ensemble with brown socks, but that hardly ever happens. Any more anyway.

This time she wanted to know if her blouse was black or blue or grey. It was black and grey and matched perfectly and I told her so. No way was I going to send her out of the house in something that didn’t match. She looked great, of course.

As I knew she would, she pulled into a parking spot at the Scappoose Bagel shop and I dutifully went in a ordered her favorite – cinnamon-raison, split, toasted, and schmeered with generic cream cheese. I only get plain bagels.

She donned her car-bib (yes, we have those) and once back on the highway I handed her half of her bagel. She munched her way through the first half, and half of the second half before handing it to me stating, “I’m tired of chewing.”

I still had a few bites left of my second half but decided I wasn’t going to let a Scappoose Bagel go to waste and finished it for her. She was concerned that I might catch whatever she had but, since she was driving, she couldn’t stop me. It was a bit chewy, but not as bad as I thought it would be. Thankfully, I had the remainder of my bagel to satisfy my taste buds.

We got to the doctor’s office in plenty of time and she was quickly summoned while I lounged in the waiting room. She wasn’t gone long and we were quickly on our way back home. During the walk to the car she revealed that her right ear drum was perforated, she had infection in both ears, and the inside of her nose and throat had the appearance of someone experiencing an allergic reaction. So, the Maui Allergy attack manifested into a hearing loss. Amazing. That’s speculation, of course, but the only common theme so we went with it.

The doc prescribed prednisone, antibiotics, and Sudafed to deal with her ailments. Sadly, they weren’t ready when we stopped by Rite Aid in St. Helens on the way home, but I gave it a while then went back for them.

All day yesterday she was in misery with ear pain and coughing/sneezing attacks but, despite a two hour afternoon nap, she went to bed at a reasonable time and slept through the night. This morning she awoke with no pain which was very good. Still deaf on the right side, but no pain.

Now she’s off to Fred Meyer to buy something for Gilligan who is 12 today. That’s another story to tell.

The thing about Diane’s malady is that she needs to heal enough to make another long airplane ride to South Carolina this coming Wednesday.

We have non-refundable tickets to Charleston and, by golly, she’s going.

Cheers.

I’m Listening

I’m listening to my lovely wife, Diane. She told me a couple days ago that I haven’t posted anything during the month of July. I checked and, by golly, she’s absolutely correct. I haven’t. I can only attribute this lack of posting to old age or, perhaps I’ve simply used up most of the words available to me in a given period of time. I’ve heard that’s a ‘thing’. Diane has a cousin who, when she’s at a loss for words, says “…I must have used up all my nouns.”

Considering the amount of time that’s passed I’m pretty sure I can’t possibly remember things in proper sequence, if I can remember things at all, so I’m just going to ramble and see what happens. That way I can be just as surprised as you when something profound sneaks out.

Let’s see … on July 15th Jerrie Anne Diane Cate celebrated her 8th birthday which means the school district has no choice but to allow her to attend 3rd grade when school resumes in September. She’s pretty stoked about that. Matter of fact, she actually cried when the school year ended because she likes school that much. Her older sisters love school, too, so it’s apparently a genetic ‘thing’ that comes from their mother’s side of the family. I guess it could be from Diane, too, but it’s surely not from me. I was perfectly OK when summer showed up and I was still wearing little boy clothing.

Shortly after Jerrie’s birthday we fired up the bus and returned to Paradise Cove for a few days of R&R, by ourselves. You may recall we took The Littles there in June for about a week. We had big plans to spend a lot of time in the hot tub but I don’t remember doing that even one time. Instead we spent our time either sitting on or walking along one beach or another, watching the waves. The high light of the sitting part was when we parked ourselves on a tall dune above the remains of the Peter Iredale which has been a fixture on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park my entire life. We were there to watch the sunset and saw some whales playing along the shore spouting a few times, showing us their tails, then disappearing. It was pretty special which is good because the sun went behind some clouds and there was no proper sunset. It just got dark and chilly. Be we had whales!

We returned from that trip on Monday and had a few days days to recover, we thought, until Diane discovered that we had reservations at Big Eddy County Park near Vernonia on Wednesday. This was another trip with The Littles because it’s a yearly Family Camp for Jennie’s and Daniel’s church. We’re always invited and we almost always go because it’s great fun. The Littles went last year for the first time and loved it. They got to spend days, literally, in the Nehalem River, and they made lots of new friends. The great thing about this is that the church rents the entire park so the kids can be free to go wherever they want with no fear of something bad happening. They just had to check in with their home camp on a regular basis so we knew where they were and they could not venture into the river without adult supervision. All we adults had to do was sit around our campfires talking and eating snacks. Once in a while kids would show up and we’d have a meal. The big deal with food culminated in a dessert social where I cut Jerrie a piece of very rich chocolate cake that was far too large. She savored every morsel but wound up giving it all back, plus, later that evening. I suspect it tasted much better the first time it passed her lips. She recovered nicely the next day and was able to spend lots of time with her friend Lilly.

The bigger Littles (Gilligan & Baylee) put dozens of miles on bikes, riding all over the park with their friends. Most of the bike riders were careful but we had to be wary of the smaller ones with training wheels. They weren’t overly concerned about who was in front of them as they pedaled around, talking to whoever was riding next to them. Diane was almost run over many times because she either didn’t hear the rattle of those training wheels or she thought they actually knew about the rules when encountering old people. Like, don’t run into them. They tend to tip over and break things. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

I exercised our small little BBQ for one meal by cooking hamburger and chicken patties. I don’t use it often, and only clean it when I do figuring that whatever bad things may have grown on it since the last use would surely be consumed during the warm-up phase. It’s worked so far and has provided us with some tasty hotdogs with a hint of steak and old hamburgers. They are a culinary treat. Now that we’re home I’m reminded that I need to remove the 4 chicken patties I left on the BBQ when I put it back in the RV. I have no valid reason for doing that. It just seemed to be OK at the time. I can already hear Diane calling my name, in large capital letters — “JEROLD BRADLEY CATE” — when she reads this.

In case you’re wondering about the danger of little kids playing in the Nehalem River, fear not. It’s not a big river. It’s more like a large creek. And there are always lots of people around lounging on a variety of different kinds of floating devices. It’s pretty safe.

That’s about it for this time. Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.

Don’t Mess With Stuff You Don’t Understand !

Last Friday I was watching The Littles (our granddaughters) play with slime on the kitchen counter, fascinated by how the stuff just oozes between their fingers and drips all over the place. Then they just roll it up into a new ball, dabbing the drips into the ‘Mother Piece’ where all slime eventually goes prior to being stuffed back into the small plastic container from which it came. 

As I watched I couldn’t help but feel an urge to join in the fun but withheld myself until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Grabbing a fairly large piece of this jello-like material, stretching it, wadding it up, just letting it kinda melt, and then impulsively reached over and slapped it on Gilligan’s head.

Everyone got real quiet as Gilligan shrieked, “Grandpa, what did you do?” I thought it was obvious … I was playing a prank on Gilligan. That’s what I thought, anyway, until I tried to remove the stuff from her hair. 

Turns out that slime, at least the version I used, sticks to, and is easily removed from every known substance EXCEPT hair. Who knew? Apparently all the kids did from past experience, but they didn’t share that with me when they decided to let me play. That was a terrible mistake.

I worked really hard at removing  what I could all the while listening to many versions of how they’ve all seen it done on YouTube. I even watched a few of videos of people practicing this new art. Feeling a nervous breakdown coming on I decided I had to make a decision and settle on the Mayonnaise Solution. I would have taken photos but my hands were all sticky and no one else thought to take any so that moment was lost. Just trust me that I made a mess, all the way down to her tender little scalp. The example provided is a milder mess than mine.

Getting the Mayonnaise out and got a handful and glopped it on Gilligan’s head. and started kneading it around the assaulted area. As I worked the mess, it started turning pink, taking on the color of the slime. This gratified me because it was apparent something was happening. I continued rubbing it on the affected hairs for about 30 minutes and magically it all kind of disappeared, just like in the video. I found it was amazing and was able to regain my composure with this new knowledge.

After it was all said and done, Gilligan forgave me for being stupid and was pleased with the final outcome. 

I went to bed happy and slept nicely right up to 0500 Saturday morning.

The dogs don’t observe weekends. 

Nashville

Nashville. What is there about Nashville I can share that you haven’t heard before? Probably nothing, unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life.

OK. That was rude. Or was it? There might be something positive about living under a rock for a long time. I can’t think of one right now but something might come to me later.

We got here yesterday (Tuesday). By the time we got to the hotel it was 8-ish local time and well past our normal dinner time of 4-ish. We’re staying at The Inn at Opryland, a Gaylord hotel. That’s what’s on my room key … “The Inn at Opryland, a Gaylord Hotel“. It’s even on their website that way which leads me to believe that someone named Gaylord owns a bunch of property in and around Nashville and wants everyone to know it. That’s an opinion, of course, but that name is attached to a lot of different kinds of businesses in the area. So, I think I’m correct on at least half of my stated opinion.

In case you’re wondering about why Diane and I are in Nashville, I’ll tell you. We’re attending the 2018 gathering of the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. Yes, another reunion of crew members of a ship I served on. A gathering of the survivors. The last one of these we attended, in Bremerton, just a few weeks ago, for DD-808, one of the crew members died at the reunion. Turned out it wasn’t the festive event it was supposed to be. Hopefully, that won’t happen this time.

Our friend, Yolanda, was in the lobby talking with a few who had arrived earlier. Yolanda is the widow of one of our members who passed away a number of years ago but she continues to attend these gatherings. Maybe you’ve seen her as Anne Betancourt. She’s an incredibly nice lady.

Now, where was I? We had just arrived, and we were hungry. And the hotel, Gaylord’s hotel, conveniently has a restaurant on the main floor called the Opryland Backstage. So, we paid it a visit and learned a couple of things. First, the food is really good; Second, they have excellent live entertainment. A fellow who called himself Jeff Dayton picked and sang for the room throughout our meal, playing pretty much any song requested by the crowd in the room. He was pretty awesome. After reading his bio on Wikipedia I understand why.

Our waitress last night was Maria who is from Rochester, Minnesota. She is not tall, blond, and obviously a hard worker. After watching her scurry around for a while I asked her if she was a singer and she said she was and wanted to know how I knew. It was just a guess. I figured an attractive young girl from Minnesota, working as a waitress in Nashville, probably had aspirations of a musical career. She told us she sings in the restaurant once in a while and we let her know we hoped we might have the chance to hear her before we leave. Interesting evening and a great hamburger.

We slept in a little bit today and missed breakfast so mosied across the street to the Cracker Barrel thinking we might encounter some of the crew we came to see. That didn’t happen, but we had a pretty good meal then jumped in the SUV that Diane rented for us, a Nissan Pathfinder, and went looking for Belle Meade Plantation. It was #1 on a list of places to see in Nashville that Diane found someplace.

It wasn’t difficult to find and we both really enjoyed the tour. A young lady named Kellan led a group of us through the mansion and explained the history of the family who lived there and how they started out on the property. It was a lovely story that covered a great deal of ground and I was totally blown away with her presentation. It was just fun listening to her share her incredible wealth of information in such detail. True, she’s no doubt done this dozens of times, but still, she was really interesting.

After touring the mansion we walked around the grounds for a while, got all sweaty from the humidity, and called it a wrap, got in the rental SUV, cranked up the A/C and headed back to the hotel. Of course at this time it was rush hour in Tennessee so it wasn’t a quick trip. We didn’t mind. The scenery is quite nice here when you slow down and look around.

Tomorrow the reunion officially starts and I may have more interesting stuff to share. But, for today, this is it and it’s time for bed.

Buona notte

Desiderata

No doubt most of you have read, or at least heard of this poem. It was  written by Max Ehrmann’s in 1927. I don’t read it often but every time I do a sense of peace settles over my soul, making everything right with my world. There are many experts out there who have analyzed Max’s poem in an attempt explain what Max is ‘saying’, but the true analysis, in my opinion, is what it means to each reader.

I share with you simple words of peace …

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann – 1927