On the surface, being called a Lifer could be construed as an insult, but that’s only in the mind of someone who has no intention of staying in the military any longer than they have to. I’ll also share that many of those who used the word “Lifer” as a negative wished they had chosen that life in their waning years.
Being a Lifer is a commitment to making the military a career, sticking it our for at least 20 years. I made that decision, with my Wife’s concurrence, in 1973, just five years after we were married. At that point she had only experienced two commands with me – NAVCOMMSTA Okinawa, and USDAO Rome, Italy. You wouldn’t think that was enough to make a career decision, but she did.
During the course of ‘her’ career we were sent to some interesting commands, only a few of which were centered in and around San Diego, California. Even so, San Diego quickly became her favorite port.
Our time in San Diego meant that I was stationed aboard one ship or another and spent a lot of time at sea, away from home, six months at a time. Perhaps that’s the part she really enjoyed. I don’t know. She never said. Even if that’s true, I think the larger part of the attraction was the life-long friends we met along the way and the demeanor of people who live on military bases. There’s a certain camaraderie throughout a military complex that we never experienced anywhere else. Maybe it’s just us. Who knows? We just like it.
Even now, when we travel, we plan our trips to include stops at various military bases along our route, staying in temporary quarters, and enjoying the atmosphere of those surroundings.
Although the sound of jets flying by on a Naval Air Station make her eyes sparkle, it’s the underlying aroma of machinery and fresh paint of a Naval Base, like San Diego, that truly has her heart. There’s just something about it that triggers good memories.
This was brought home to me yesterday when we were watching an episode of “The Good Witch”, there was a moment where the wife suggested they just up anchor and move to France. The husband, a doctor, gave it a little thought and agreed they should do that. After another brief pause, the wife reported that they didn’t really have to go, but it was really nice to know he was willing to make such a move. It was a test. He passed.
That interaction prompted me to ask Diane, “of all the places we’ve been in our lives, where would you most like to live?”
Without hesitation, she said, “San Diego. Not in the city, but not far from the ocean. That way we can drive by and smell the ships once in a while.”
I’d never thought about it that way, but that’s really kinda what we do. We smell the ships.
Yesterday was my birthday. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to stir up a panic situation causing everyone to wish me a happy birthday all at once. I’m sure it would have brought the internet to its knees and we can’t have that. Especially in the midst of a pandemic. No sir. I didn’t want that on my conscience. Surely it would have been the end of me. So, I kept it a secret from the masses to avert an overload on the world’s limited supply of internet connections.
Now that the party is over (yes, someone had a party for me) I can let you know that I am now 76 years old. Wow! I’m amazed that Diane let me live this long. I must admit there were moments when my continued presence in this world was in peril due to something stupid I said, or did, but we got through those rough patches and it’s all good.
Yesterday’s party was attended by Diane, Jeff, Jennifer, Heather, Tiana, Ivy, Lydia, Autmn, Jeran, Cora, Gilligan, Baylee, Jerrie, and Me. Please note that the only male participants were Me, Jeff, and Jeran. That made it 10 to 3 in favor of the fairer gender, but that’s just fine.
I would include photos of the festivities but, since I was the main attraction, I wasn’t available to take the shots like normal. Someone did, however, get a shot of me blowing out my candles. I didn’t blow them out like normal, but just fanned the flame with my hands until the candles went out. It worked pretty well and I’m pretty sure no one was expecting that.
Diane and the kids always ask me what I want for my birthday and my standard answer has always been “World Peace.” That worked well until a few years ago Jennifer actually gave me that. she made a PEACE sign and put a picture of the world behind it. She’s very creative that way. I haven’t some up with a viable alternative yet. I’m OK just living another day and being able to see all of these people frequently.
Three of the attendees most of you don’t know. That’s Ivy, Autumn, and Cora. They were spawned by Adam and Alicia. Alicia is my 2nd cousin because she’s the daughter of my 1st cousin Deborah, daughter of my Mother’s Brother, Uncle Lowell.
Got that? So, when it’s all said and done, Ivy, Autumn, and Cora are my 3rd cousins. I’m pretty sure that’s true. They sprouted from the Friday family side of my life.
My party was awesome. I even ate a piece of the ice cream cake Jennifer brought and it hardly elevated my BS level at all. Just a little over the desire number, but not much. It was good to spend time with my family and to get a chance to know a little about my 3rd cousins. Now all we have to do is get their parents over once in a while so we can get to know our 2nd cousins.
That’s about enough nonsense for today.
Hope all is well with all of you.
Here’s my newly installed flag pole that I won in an American Legion raffle about 10 years go. It resides where the Walters’ kids climbing tree used to be. Nice. Jeff worked really hard to get the tree down and drill a huge hole in the stump so the flag pole could be installed by my birthday. He did well.
A few years before 4:20 became a code for “let’s smoke pot,” Diane and I were married on that day, which today happens to be our 52nd celebration of that union. Why certain people chose to use this code for their activities isn’t clear to me, they just did. It doesn’t matter. What’s important to me is that we claimed it first. So, there.
To make it to the wedding I went home on leave from the Navy between duty stations to capture my bride. I was transported from the USS Cleveland, off the coast of the Viet Nam DMZ to Danang where I awaited a day for my flight home. According to the folks who made my air reservations, Okinawa was my next duty station and that’s where they ended my flight. I was a long way from Warren and on a time limit so I was a little flustered. After talking to a lot of people, I convinced them that they owed me a trip to CONUS (Continental US) since I was transported from Viet Nam and I wasn’t going to spend my 30 days of leave on Okinawa.
I was booked on a flight leaving the next day and stayed awake the entire 30 some hours to make sure nothing changed and I didn’t miss it.
When I boarded the Air Force C-141 for my flight I wasn’t prepared for the cargo they were hauling back to the states. The plane was full of aluminum caskets containing the remains of GI’s killed in Viet Nam. I didn’t count the caskets, but I felt compelled to walk amongst them, reading the names of who they contained. It wasn’t likely that I would know any of them, and I didn’t, but there was a need in me to do that. There was no pomp and circumstance involved in their loading (to my knowledge) so my little tiny bit of recognition seemed to be important. This was in 1968 when military people were generally despised by the masses.
The flight ended for me in Anchorage, Alaska where I voluntarily jumped ship and got a flight south to Portland. In Anchorage I called Diane to alert her of my pending arrival and boarded a more suitable airplane to Seattle. When I arrived there, I called Diane again to let her know that I would be in Portland in about 30 minutes.
Although Warren is about an hour’s drive to PDX, Diane made it there before my flight. Part of that was because she was driving my 1966 Chevelle Sport Coupe. It was quick, and she was determined.
She gathered me up and got me home on the 16th or 17th of April. Thankfully, all of her plans were in place for the big event. All I had to do was show up.
She selected the 20th because both of our birthdays are on the 20th and she thought I would be inclined to remember it.
The wedding was awesome. I got to marry my high school sweetheart and Bethany Lutheran Church was filled to capacity for us. It was an amazing turnout for two skinny kids from Scappoose (me) and Warren (her).
My leave period ended very quickly, too quickly, before I had to catch my flight back to Okinawa. Diane couldn’t go with me because she didn’t have her passport. She did, however, fly with me to Travis AFB, her first time on an airplane.
When she got her passport we arrange her travel from Portland to Okinawa, a trip she had to make on her own. She was a brave woman, but I knew that.
Taking that first step with me turned out to be a 20-year career for her as a Navy Wife. She professes to have loved pretty much every minute of it. So have I, and we’re still enjoying our time together.
Here’s the last selfie I took of us together at Cape Lookout State Park. This is where we were when the pandemic began and everyone was ordered to stay inside.
It’s been a while since I’ve let you know that I’m still out here causing grief. I’d ask for forgiveness but it really doesn’t matter because you either missed me or you didn’t. Not a problem.
The occasion for this visit is to let folks know that, after a grueling number of months, Adam got the job as Youth Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in St. Helens. Some of you may recall a previous post where I mentioned Adam and Alicia. We’re very happy for them and they are looking forward to making their home in the St. Helens area. We’ve had the privilege to visit with them a couple of times recently and it was enough exposure for me to actually remember the girls’ names: Ivy, Autumn, Cora. I can even call them by the correct name when I see them. It will be fun getting to know the Pinkston family better.
Cedric spent a couple of weeks at home and had to be back aboard the Nimitz for work today so Diane drove him back to Bremerton yesterday. I was allowed to ride along to keep her company as long as I didn’t ask a lot of questions. We planned to leave home at noon and managed to get gone right on time around 2-2:30. The ultimately goal was to arrive in Bremerton before dark, which we did. After dropping Cedric at his apartment we mossed up to the Trigger Ave. gate in Silverdale to the Naval Station to see if the Navy Lodge had a room available for the night. I called the previous day and was told NO. We’ve discovered that just arriving and asking works well, and they had a room for us. Nifty.
Before checking in we headed back into town to find a place to eat that had decent food, not fast food. After a long trip on the freeway we wound up about a mile away at Fujiama Japanese Steak House. It’s in a little strip mall close to the base and is truly deceptive in appearance. The entry is small but inside is at least 10 Benihana grills surrounded by chairs. Each grill could accommodate about 10 people, so it’s like a family style Benihana. That isn’t part of their advertisement. It’s just a steak house, right? It’s way better than that.
Diane and I split a steak and I inherited all of her broccoli from the vegetable pile. The chef was talented and put on a good show. To start he juggled some raw eggs which he then cooked on the grill. They were destined to be part of the fried rice. Before mixing it all up, however, he went around the table addressing each person in turn, then tossing a small piece of egg which they were supposed to catch in their mouth. Some chose to skip this exercise because they were wearing nice clothes, and others who accepted the challenge saw the egg flying over their heads, or splattering against their cheeks or chins. As it turned out, I was the last one and I caught my piece of egg like a pro. You would have been proud. I’m pretty sure the other diners wanted to applaud, but they didn’t. Diane was one of the decliners which was just fine.
Needless to say, the meal was excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Although the steak was good, I’ve already decided that the next time we go there, and we will, I’m getting the shrimp. I was given a couple to sample and they are awesome. And, there were a lot of them for those who ordered them.
In addition to catching my piece of the flying egg, you will be proud to learn that I was the only person at the table who actually ate everything on the plate. Well, Diane ate her plate clean, too, but she gave me those broccoli’s, right, so it didn’t count. Everyone else had to get boxes to remove the left overs.
After a good rest at the Navy Lodge, we got up and headed home, the long way. Lots of side streets are involved in the long way which make trips lots more fun. The first side trip was to discover where the Bremerton Elks Lodge is for future reference. We’ll be going there in June with our Winnebago friends. We don’t have a Winnebago any more but they let us tag along anyway.
After leaving Bremerton Diane began having thoughts of lunch so I searched for something suitable in Shelton, WA. I chose another steak house just because it had a 4 star rating but when we got there we couldn’t find it on the first drive-by. So, we wound up at Blondie’s Cafe which also has a 4 star rating. That’s 4 out of 5, by the way. Just sayin.
I ordered a Denver omelet and Diane had fish and chips. My omelet was tremendous and undoubtedly the best Denver I’ve ever had. Diane’s fish pieces were huge and she could only eat one of the three provided. Another good place to park your rear and enjoy an exceptional meal.
Now we’re home and gearing down for the night. Only one more hour to bedtime.
I’m sure I forgot a bunch of stuff but that’s OK. Diane will refresh my memory if she reads this.
It’s been a few days since we returned from Myrtle Beach and I didn’t honor the last statement in my last post about “more tomorrow”, so this is to get you up to date and share with you the end of the trip.
Getting out of Myrtle Beach was a breeze. It’s nice there, but we were ready to be home. There’s stuff we need to do there.
The trip to Seattle was just fine and we didn’t have any problem getting to our connection to Portland in plenty of time. As a matter of fact, we could have been an hour late and still made that flight.
Remember on our trip where Alaska wouldn’t hold our connecting flight for 10 minutes so we could make that flight, because our uflight was kept on the tarmac for 30 minutes after landing? Well, after missing it we discovered that they didn’t have any problem delaying every flight we were on thereafter. After landing in Seattle coming home, the Captain told everyone that we’d be at gate D-5 as he pulled the plane between terminals D and N.
Then he stopped. And we waited about 5 minutes.
The terminal we wanted was on the left of the plane and I told Diane I bet he turns right into N. That’s exactly what he did.
Doing this, of course meant we’d have to catch the underground train to D terminal and walk lots further than we wanted to. As we debarked, the Captain was waiting the door to the flight deck greeting to people and I said, “D-5, huh?” to which he replied, “it looks a lot like D-5. I was lucky to get what we got.” That pretty much sums up the mass confusion that seems to affect Seattle’s ability to keep track of how many gates they have and how many are open to receive planes. It’s pathetic, in my opinion.
Oddly enough, our connecting flight to Portland was leaving from, gee, D-5. It was empty when we got there. We chose to just park ourselves in the area and wait the hour required for it to show up.
About the time we were scheduled to board the plane the pilot, copilot and all the flight attendants showed up but the plane still wasn’t there. We waited for an entire hour more before they changed the time to delayed, then it was most of an hour more before it actually showed up. No reason was provided for our delay so I suppose it was just something we were expected to endure. We were, after all, at SeaTac International. That seems to be the way it is.
We eventually made it back to Portland and vowed to never, ever again make a connecting flight through Seattle. I don’t think I’d fly into Seattle even it that was our destination. The train would be faster, and more reliable.
Now, having shared all of the foregoing, I will add that I don’t think Alaska Airlines was the only one at fault for our delays. Not having a berth at a terminal for incoming flights seems to be a theme at SeaTac which I think is due to mismanagement some where up the chain. I don’t think traffic controllers are the ones calling the shots for where planes park, they just relay the information. Maybe.
Now I’ll share a photo form Joint Base Charleston where we found a Navy Uniform Shop. We wanted a new hat.
What caught my eye, and the reason I took the photo, is the “68” in the bottom right. It’s the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), the oldest nuclear super carrier in the fleet. It’s stationed in Bremerton, Washington and our grandson, Cedric, is currently serving aboard her. Looking closely you can see a sailor shoveling snow off the flight deck of this carrier. I’m pretty sure it’s not Cedric. It’s just struck me as very interesting that the Nimitz was part of this east coast collage.
Here are a couple more photos I took when we finally got home.
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.
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.
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.