Monday, November 27, 2006

Honest! I didn't do it...I don't even like doughnuts!

Did you ever buy a sack of doughnuts for the family, but they declined to eat but one little doughnut apiece , leaving ten fragrant pastries in the white bag...just sitting there...and you have an assortment of teas to brew, and well, maybe you make tea or coffee several times a day, and every time you say..."these doughnuts are small...ONE MORE WON'T HURT!", and so by the bewitching hour, the last doughnut is gone; wife ate one, visiting daughter ate half of one, and you, you unrelenting raider of the doughnut sack, yes, you, of the repetitively chanted eminent domain mantra, "WHO'S GONNA KNOW OR CARE ANYWAY!"..., mentally screaming 'carpe diem' , and then it turns to 'carpe doughnut!', as the bag lies there, violated, ripped, crumbs in the bottom, the contents ravished, the day done.

And you go to your chamber and write in your diary, "...I ate a piece of dry toast and went to bed."

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I'm old enough to remember this date in history, like most of the people in my age group.
Mostly I remember the headlines of The Journal-Gazette, the morning paper out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. JFK was welcomed by enthusiastic throngs at Love Field , Dallas , Texas.
The ensuing events of November Twenty Second , Nineteen Sixty Three changed my generation of USA children forever. I finally visited JFK's gravesite on my high school senior trip in 1967. It was a moving experience . ~Dexter

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Old 283rd Dustoff out of Nha Trang, Viet Nam

Five blocks west and one block north of me sits the local hospital's heliport. Here being so "stuck in the sticks", helicopter ambulances fly low over my house frequently, at all hours. Scarcely one passes o'erhead that doesn't flash me back to memories of the 283rd Dustoff crew that serviced Camp McDermott , just outside Nha Trang, in 1970 and 1971. While I have written of my misadventures of suturing and maybe mentioned that my primary duty there was working in a small ward helping GI's ward off the terrors of drug addiction and insanity, I haven't said much about the "secret duty" of the corpsmen of the 575th Medical Detachment. Occasionally, in the middle of the night , a call would come in, not to us per se, but to the helicopter crew that kept a Dustoff chopper parked on the heliport adjacent to our Quonset hut that was the dispensary. They usually had a full crew on hand, but sometimes , in that crazy place...the medic had wandered off in pursuit of pleasures of varied nature. So they came to the dispensary and asked for volunteers. Someone always volunteered. The whirling machine took off and always returned , sometimes with alarming quickness. The medics that went with the helicopter crews many times had had no experience in these endeavors. The "typical" flight roared off to a place where a firefight had taken place , and frequently was still going on. The medic was given a helmet so he could hear the talk from the pilot to the ground . A combination of smoke grenades and flares showed the pilot where the LZ was . The trick was landing that machine, picking up the wounded soldiers and getting airborne and moving quickly. We had an outstanding pilot, a warrant officer named B. A short squat man who looked more like a farmhand than a pilot, this man could FLY that sucker!!!! I got so I would volunteer to fly with him whenever I could...that way I would get my share of flying done and not get stuck with some of the newer men being rotated in to fly the helicopters. How many pilots could you expect to survive with when frequently the helicopter blade made contact with the jungle canopy at the edges of the clearings we had to land in!! For me, W.O. B was the ONLY one!! The man was an amazing pilot! What would the medic on a Dustoff op do? Mostly, get familiar with compress bandages and iv bottles. The iv bottles were of utmost importance; if we were out of plasma we would use blood "volume expanders", which was just fluid to maintain blood pressure . Usually, the wounded men would be in Cam Ranh , delivered expertly by Mister B or counterpart , alive, and hopefully destined to live, within twenty minutes or so. Amazing! Like I said, this was not my regular job, and the flights are mainly just a blur in my mind, as everything happened so FAST! While Mister B flew at what seemed like extremely high altitudes after picking up the wounded , the 40 mile ride back to Nha Trang from Cam Ranh was flown very low...right along the coast just above the beach line. I seems like when we left Cam Ranh it took only fifteen minutes to get back to the Quonset hut in Nha Trang. Mister B wasn't only a helicopter ambulance man. I do remember with great clarity the time he told us of when he flew gunships and in a battle from the air to the ground he and his men killed a great many Vietnamese soldiers. I don't believe I had ever sat like that in a calm setting and heard a man tell so matter-of-factly how he and his crew mates killed so many men so rapidly. It kind of stunned me, and the coolness of his demeanor while telling us still is fresh in my mind. I was 21. Mr. B was 24. I still have a little knife with the insignia of the 283rd Dustoff on it....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Is it poisonous?

When we lived in "TheCrackerbox", a small Indiana rural house my folks rented in the late 1940's and early fifties, snakes were everywhere! We would walk down the hill to neighbors in the summertime when the tar was all melty and snake carcasses would be smashed into the tar , LOTS of snakes. Snakes were all over our yard, mostly garters. The fields were full of blue racers, and frequently we would bale one up into the hay wagon, sometimes almost dead...but sometimes NOT ! Those heads with all those teeth creeped me out. When we moved to a farm house I have vague recollections of Queenie, a German Shepherd, and our dog Rusty, a medium terrier/collie (or SUMTHIN') fighting over a large blue racer, each dog pulling an opposite end. Snakes were rarely seen when we moved into housing in and later near Waterloo, Indiana. I have never seen a snake in Bryan, Ohio.The last snake I hit was a blue racer, 21 years ago on the way to work. I hit it just was hit by both front tires...yes , so I was right when I was a kid...they DO get that big. Normally the birds (lots of turkey vultures around here) would have eaten it or drug it away in nine hours time, but I noticed i twas still on this little-used country road as I returned, so I took a look...crushed head and tail ,and I think it was a blue racer or maybe some sort of bull snake...I ain't no snake expert, after all !
After I got out of the army my friends would come back from Michigan with mushrooms in May. I got the "bug" and had instant success in1976 when we found nearly an entire station wagon full of large yellow morels near Johannesburg. The next year we were coming back from dropping off our kids in Grand Haven at their grandparents' marina on the Grand River. Somewhere in the piney woods I decided to go pick mushrooms! Now what I am about to tell may sound like"a story"...but I COULD NOT TAKE FIFTY STEPS WITHOUT SEEING SNAKES. Medium sized snakes that looked like sticks on the ground! They were infesting that woods by the thousands, I suppose! I got the heck outta there and never went back! Near Kalamazoo by a railroad track I tried again...days yield: one dried-up mushroom and fifty snakes! ~Dexter

Dad was Swindled, by Colorado Bob's Standards!

Colorado Bob's post about a place in which he lived and paid five dollars a month reminded me of my first home, in 1949 and the early fifties. We called this rural Indiana home "The Crackerbox."
It featured an outhouse with a bag of lime and a resident snake that lived in the newspaper insulated walls.
We heated with an oil space-heater and Mom cooked with electricity.
We had one cold water spigot in the house.
We heated kettles of water and bathed in wash basins.
Dad was a salesman and gone a lot , and Mom was stuck there out in the country with no car.
My brother and I played in a big yard that contained gooseberry bushes, plum and apple trees, and a vegetable garden.
All was well...until one day...
Floyd the landlord came and told Dad he had to raise the rent.
Dad was paying fifteen dollars a month. Dad was prepared to hear Floyd say he needed twenty dollars a month.
"Is seventeen-fifty alright?"
"Sure, Floyd" , said Dad.
If only Dad had known about the cost of rent in Colorado...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Private John Block and The Unknown Factor

It is very close to being 37 years ago, exactly, when Private John Block's father died suddenly. I knew Private John Block as well as I knew any of the other trainees at the US Army school at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where they ran thousands through a ten-week course which would guarantee we would then be able to save the lives of our wounded comrades in Viet Nam . Private John Block was called out of morning formation and told the bad news, and within a few minutes a Jeep was there to take him to the airport on emergency leave. I remember the shudder that seized my torso as I imagined how I might react to such an event. I was not ready to lose my parents, and this event may have been my first basic grasping at a philosophy which mandates appreciating life to the fullest, and even if I couldn't be near loved ones at every turn of the page of life, I could still appreciate the fact they were still around. I could phone and write , stay in touch. I was fortunate because my parents were around for many more years. Private John Block returned after a few days to the training routine. We were all excited in a concerned , life-and-death-serious manner, when our assignments came to us after training was through. Whoops of joy went up as one small contingent received orders for Panama. Elation was in the air when a sizable number of soldiers were told they were headed for Germany. My friend who slept in the top bunk above me was sent to Philadelphia's recruiting station. Japan. England. Thailand. Outposts hither and yon we were scattered to...then the roll call started, and platoon after platoon after platoon received the same orders: report to Oakland Army Base. Light groaning murmurs of disappointment wafted through the ranks, and only one WHOOP !...this being from a young man whose home was in the East Bay Area and it did not register on him that Oakland Army Base was this huge jumping-off point for Viet Nam. Me? I got the best deal of my life; I was assigned to Monterey , California, and stayed there for ten months before being handed my one-way ticket to Oakland Army Base and the great beyond . Private John Block...where does he fit into the conclusion? I don't know if he was devastated at his father's death and just didn't care about himself anymore, or was so terrified of going to Viet Nam, or somehow thought he was getting a great deal, but Private John Block and a few others sort of donated their bodies to the Army for experiments to be performed on them! This was by invitation only, and the ones that accepted got a pass on Viet Nam. I asked John about it and he said he would be testing malaria prevention and "other projects". I always wondered about Private John Block and if he ever got out of the test-labs alive or was sacrificed to develop a better malaria prevention tablet or shrapnel resistant body armor. It is a strange and beautiful world. ~ Dexter


It happened. Lately it has been a rarity for the Michigan football team to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes. More of the same occurred today as the Buckeyes won again. The score being close, 42-39, makes it no easier to take, as number one in the nation was on the line.
Will the Wolverines get a rematch since the two teams were so good? I am not counting on it.
It would be nice to see Notre Dame get a shot at Ohio State...

Grease, Well Done...Bravo!!

We drove to Maumee , Ohio tonight to see my granddaughter in her school play, "Grease".
I hadn't seen a school play in years. The differences are immediately noticeable; they perform in a brand new auditorium, and they use individual headset/microphones to be heard. I had to keep remindng myself that these were kids only about twelve to fourteen years of age. They were really good.
Afterwards, our party of five went to see my other granddaughter who was working in a nearby restaurant. She waited on us and that was a first. She has to work because she gets her driver's license in a week.
It seems such a short time ago when we were coming home from a Williamsburg vacation and got word she was she's driving a car.
Grandkids grow up faster than your own children.
As an old friend used to say, "tempus, it sure do fugit!"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Different Wars

Whether you saw a TV documentary of the history of the Harley Davidson Company or read Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels you got the same information. Motorcycle groups formed after World WarII from veterans who felt ill at ease with society; they didn't fit in, and were more comfortable around like-minds . I suspect a lot of these vets felt they had seen too much for a young man; maybe they had killed or witnessed war atrocities or maybe felt guilty or shameful at some things they had done. Maybe they were shell-shocked and were experiencing nightmares. Beer and motorcycles took the edge off.
Many more came back from WWII and bought tract housing and got good jobs...many thousands took advantage of a great GI Bill and used the benefits to obtain degrees from universities. Many clammed up and would not talk of the war, even to their wives.
These are the stereotypical vets that we remember , many of us had family members that fit this mold.
History books don't mention any vets who came home trying to find an audience to hear them tell of the D-Day Dodgers, for example, who drank vino in southern Italy and skipped Anzio.
My late work-friend, Merlin, told us of his days in Korea, freezing day after day,counting the days...warding off frostbite of interminable days-on-end.
Vietnam came along and I grew up with it, and with perfect timing was drafted and sent to California for a year after training. I saw and listened to many returning vets . The older non-commissioned officers laughed at me when I told them I had not been over yet, telling me I'd get to respect "Charlie". I worked in the fort hospital and made frequent trips to the Navy air field near Monterey to bring back army soldiers to the fort hospital for rehabilitation, which was mostly spent in a hospital bed. Many of these guys told me '"Don't go!" . They told me what a mess they had witnessed in Vietnam...two years after the 1968 Tet Offensive had demoralized the war effort. A fellow soldier disappeared one day. I was supposed to work with him on the hospital ward and he did not show up. A month later word trickled back that he had had his parents send him money and he had made his way to Sweden. Another guy shot half his hand off to avoid going. I went.
When I came back I was a bubbling cauldron of hate for our policy in Vietnam. I spent a few years protesting and talking to high schools classes, just expressing my views of the war .
What I'm writing about is support for our troops in Iraq and other outposts.
Many times when soldiers are interviewed they are very loyal to Geroge Bush's policy of invading Iraq. Even when wounded horribly , losing both legs even, they are waiting only for the day when they can go back to Iraq.
I have spoken out against the invasion of Iraq when it became eminent Bush was taking us there. The soldiers and all military personnel are volunteers.
The U.S. has been involved in this war for longer than we were in WWII.
Abu Ghraib prison torture and the murder of Iraqi citizens has been in the news a long time.
I contend the U.S. presence has already sparked a civil war but the government continually says it's not...close, but no civil war.
Bush has backed down..brought in James Baker and Bob Gates, but still vows to win in Iraq.
Most of the troops apparently support him...even having given their legs and arms , they yearn to go back and finish the job, whatever they and Bush think that might be.
Support the troops? To do what?
When I came home I was cursed and shunned by crude civilians and many that counted, like employers and bankers. That was the support of THIS troop I received. And I deserved no better. That war was horrible. This war is horrible. Can we NOT support the Iraq war and still support the troops that support the war effort and want to defend it to their deaths?

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Tea, too

I rarely drink tea when out, as we don't have any tea houses here in town and trying to get a decent cuppa in a coffee shop or restaurant is hard if not impossible. My grandma was a tea lover back in the 1950s. She drank Lipton green tea, and loaded it with many teaspoons of sugar. She was the kind of person that was a wonderful cook but ate like a bird, preferring her tea. She made it one cup at a time and always had that water kettle on the stove.
Mother was also a tea lover. My older brother says she was influenced by Arthur Godfrey's radio ads. Godfrey pushed Lipton tea and Mom listened. She preferred black tea, and we always had that around. I started drinking black tea at an early was verboten.
I had tea around as an adult but rarely even thought about drinking it, especially when I was out searching for beers of the world and that perfect single malt scotch and the finest Kentucky bourbon. After I had sampled and drank all the beer and whiskey I could stand , I spent more time finding out about coffees and teas. When I got back into regular tea drinking, I bought some cheap herbal teas. Not bad, but after drinking alfalfa tea I switched to Earl Grey tea, and English Breakfast teas.
I read some articles about tea, how the paper tea bags contain only what is referred to as "dust", and the finer teas must be brewed using whole leaves. I see Lipton has a new bag style...triangular. Mom used to have metal tea bags and would also buy loose tea and put it into these metal things and steep the tea that way. I have much more to learn about the fine teas that are available now. These days I have discovered Stash brand, very good green and black chai, and a mediocre plain green tea. It's cheap, but good on a cold November night in Ohio.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I saw a long advertisement for Eight O'Clock brand coffee. I had never before seen it advertised ! It was always for sale at the old A & P stores around Indiana and Ohio where I live. I seem to recall it being around since the early 1950's...and never before saw it advertised on TV. The ads say it is as good as Starbucks...well...I am attracted to Eight O'Clock for the taste as related to cost! It's cheap! Starbucks beans are usually around nine-something and Eight O'Clock beans are around $3.80.
My favorite coffee beans are Seattle's Best.
I always start my day by grinding beans to make a pot in my Mr. Coffee.
What is better than an English-style fry-up (sausage, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, bread...) and a pot of freshly brewed java? Not much! Later I'll comment on teas I like.
Dexter ben al-Dogg