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Touting My Own Horn

A few weeks ago I went to considerable effort to let everyone know that my blog www.DealingwithCOPD.wordpress.com had been recognized by Healthline.com as one of “The Best COPD Blogs of the Year.”  I would not have known my blog had received this recognition had it not been for a friend at the Daily Strength Emphysema & COPD Support Group. I was extremely honored and had to brag about the recognition and you’ll got it pushed on you LOL. 

For those that know me and are used to me, know I stumbled pretty bad at accepting praise.  For the first year or so if someone said something nice about my BLOG I went to pretty big lengths to down play whatever kind words that were said.  Then early this year I had the light bulb turned on in my head.  Huntmode had her fingers on the switch and turned it to the on position. In that moment of clarity I came to realize how I had been insulting the folks that had been going out of their way to express their appreciation for my efforts.  I can’t thank them enough for their patience and support, and forgiving my knuckle-headness.

Now that I have completed my normally long opening remarks on to the meat of the matter.  Apparently my friend over at DS wasn’t the only person looking at that list of best blogs.  One of the web producers for remedyhealthmedia.com who is also an editor for HealthCentral found my BLOG because of the recognition it got as being one of the best COPD Blogs.  Then I got the below from that editor.

“Hi Bill, I’m an editor for HealthCentral.com looking for COPD bloggers. I came across your wonderful blog and would love to talk with you about writing for our site. If you’re interested, please email me at XXXXXXXXX@remedyhealthmedia.com. I hope to hear from you soon.”

I did in fact contact the editor, and we talked a couple of times.  I explained that I wasn’t a doctor or nurse or someone with any medical knowledge.  I was assured they weren’t looking to me for any medical information.  They wanted a blogger that wrote from the personal perspective, without drama or non-sense, and with a positive mental attitude, which pretty much sums up my blog.

They have an expectation that I will provide at least one acceptable post a month, but would gladly accept 2 posts per month.  I will write about topics that both I and the editor agree too, but the kicker is that the posts can’t be longer than 700 words no few than 500 (or there abouts).  As you’ll know I can hardly say hello in less than 700 words. So I am sure the 500 word minimum will be met without issue.

After careful consideration I have agreed to the terms as offered by HealthCentral, and I am completing the required paperwork.  I have no idea when or what the 1st post will be, we haven’t got that far. To top it off, smiling, I will be compensated for each accepted post.

So folks I am tooting my own horn, but please understand without you, your friendship, your support, your help, and your praise I wouldn’t be anywhere near this. Thank you, thank you so very much. 

If you have any questions please feel free to ask.  Concerns and comments are always appreciated. Take care, Bill

BTW this post is a record short post for me it is only 564 words.

 
38 Comments

Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Observations, Ramblings, Treasure Box Stories

 

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More about me than you would ever want to know….. A Grandpa Tale

Dear Readers, if this is the very 1st time you have ever read one of my posts, I am truly sorry to subject you to the following, I would suggest you look into the archives to find something interesting, this will just bore you to tears.  If you are someone who has followed me for a bit, you know I write a lot of stories for my granddaughter, to create memories of me for when my end of retirement comes.

For those of us old enough to remember AOL 1.0, that’s when I began my online experience.  It has been a wonderful experience to be sure, and over the years I have met and become cyber and real time buddies to a ton of folks. One of the ways folks learned about each other over the years where to send out questionnaires.  These questionnaires provided the answers to many commonly asked questions.  To be sure the online community has changed significantly since I was 1st online.  Sadly many of the changes have not been for the good.  But before I get way off topic, hardly a month would go by without a friend or chat room buddy or joke buddy wouldn’t be sending a questionnaire.  I think I was one of the rare ones, because every time I got the questionnaire, I completed it and sent it on. At one point I was only sending it back to the person who sent it, and my closer buddies (if the questions were significantly different).  What I have decided to do is take one of those questionnaires (from the wayback machine) and answer it again for my granddaughter only this time I will each question two ways, or maybe three. What the answer is now, what it would have been 10 yrs, and what it would be 20 years ago.  As you read you will find that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  The questions had definitive answers that the years don’t change.  So I am sorry now if that disappoints you. 

Already I have changed the ground rules I am using 2 different questionnaires and will be applying the answer as appropriate.  This 1st questionnaire is from the late 90’s early 00’s.  Just so the record is straight, this is being done on Wednesday July 2, 2014.

This is for your entire Life!    X=Yes  O=No

(X)       Gone on a blind date – several times but all prior to 1973 — Makes me feel old from the very beginning

(X)       Skipped school – yes, but not since 1980 (in 1980 I skipped college classes).  Yes I am dating myself lost count of the classes I skipped a long time ago.

(O)      Watched someone die – and I am thankful I haven’t.  

(X)       Been to Canada – the 1st time was in the mid 1990’s          

(X)       Been to Mexico – the 1st time while in Radioman “A” school 1969, have been to several Mexican ports of call since 2006, visits on Cruise Ships ports of call.         

(X)       Been to Florida – Move to Florida 2002 – had been here dozens of times prior to moving here.            

(X)       Been on a plane – My very 1st flight was when I left Louisville to go to bootcamp in April 1969            

(X)       Been lost – more times than I will admit                      

(X)       Been on the opposite side of the country – many times both during the service and as a civilian both working and visiting          

(X)       Gone to Washington DC – lived and worked in the DC area for almost 30 yrs                         

(X)       Swam in the ocean – yes and have been sunburnt on both coasts

(X)       Cried yourself to sleep – I believe we all have or will have at some point  

(X)       Played cops and robbers and I played cowboys and Indians

(X)       Recently colored with crayons – when I originally answered these questions the answer was no but having Cari in my life I can change this to a Yes

(X)       Sang Karaoke – at Joe’s in San Antonio, TX 1998 – it wasn’t a pretty sight   

(X)       Paid for a meal with coins only? – Christmas 1976 for Steph onboard the USS Independence – one of the best meals we ever shared

(X)       Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t? – and said many things I wish I could take back

(X)       Made prank phone calls – I was making crank calls before there were spam calls     

(X)       Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose – it wasn’t a pretty sight  

(X)       Caught a snowflake on your tongue – but this was before I moved to Florida   

(O)      Danced in the rain – maybe this is something I need to do while I still have a chance.        

(X)       Written a letter to Santa Claus – yes and I will and have encouraged any child that may have thought I was him to do so 

(X)       Been kissed under the mistletoe – yes but would have enjoyed more opportunities

(X)       Watched the sunrise with someone [and the sunset too.] – Yes  

(X)       Blown bubbles – Yes Cari and I have done so out on the Lanai

(X)       gone ice-skating – yes it was in the early 70’s and my butt is still sore  

(X)       Been skinny dipping outdoors – I have a swimming pool in a private backyard, and while I may look like I am a whale, I look like a whale enjoying himself

Here is the second set of questions, clearly the going back 10 the 20 years isn’t working out, but as appropriate I will share that information.  Now on to a game of 20 or more questions;

 

1. Any nickname? – yes “Ham” has been my nickname for over 45 years, but I have also been called “Red” at various times until I was 40, and before I even got out of elementary school (3rd grade) I was called Camelskin  

2. Mother’s Name? – Ila   

3. Favorite Beverage?

non-alcohol – Ice tea unsweetened no lemon, Coke, lemonade (pink) and the most important of all Water – Coke and lemonade thru my high school years, Coffee during my Navy career – Water didn’t become truly important until I started coming to Florida on a regular basis, now it is my 1st drink of choice

alcoholic – Knob Creek Bourbon on the rocks – Greygoose on the rocks – a good Bloody Mary (do not use greygoose), and Corina for my beer.  Being honest my choice in alcohol have changed as I have aged, my normal go to Bourbon is Jim Beam and has been for 25 years. I didn’t discover good Vodka until later in life, so whenever I had a bloody Mary it was always with well vodka. 

LMAO as I am typing this, I am trying like the devil to figure why Cari would ever want or need to know some of this stuff. 

4. Body Piercing – None except for those made during surgery

5. Tattoo – No, but I have scars, and those have much better stories than tattoos.  Cari to my knowledge your mom has 2, by the time you read this she may have 3 or 4 for all I know, ask her, and please don’t get any, well maybe one.  

6. How much do you love your job?—before I retired I was quite fortunate, I almost loved my job.  I had a 39 year career working for the Federal Govt, I was extremely fortunate to have worked on some very interesting projects, that were of significant importance, and I may have already spoke of those in a different post.  But my last four years of my career was my favorite because I worked directly with my customers, that part, well love is too strong a word, but I really enjoyed my job.  I am now retired and I enjoy this as much as I enjoyed working.

7. Birthplace – Baltimore Maryland

8. Favorite vacation spot – Australia, we visited there for 2 weeks in November 2001, next favorite Hawaii in 1999, next favorite Disney Cruise 2013, before all of these and when I was Cari’s age we always vacationed at the Grandparents place.

9. Ever been to Africa? – Yes during the Navy years, most likely it was 1970.

10. Ever eaten just cookies for dinner? Yes, I bet it would be difficult to find someone who hasn’t especially when you add the LARGE glass of milk

11. Ever been on TV? – yes evening news December 21, 1999 in London England about terrorism and the Y2K fears, CBS interviewed us as we departed a double decker bus. I stood in the background looking like a dork while Stephanie talked.

12. Ever steal traffic signs? No, and Cari I suggest you don’t either that is extremely dangerous.

13. Have you ever been in a car accident? YES – Christmas night 1967, partiers ran a red light and struck the car I was driving. Then 6 months later I was a passenger in a vehicle where the driver lost control and we struck a telephone pole.  I was in the back seat, and the 3 friends in the front were all seriously injured.

14. Drive a 2-door or 4-door vehicle? – I have driven both, owned both enjoyed them both, 1st car was 61 Buick La Salle, 2nd 60 Chevy Corvair Spyder, 3rd was a 1960 Chevy Impala Convertible (my 2nd favorite car) and I still remember the 16 other cars I have owned during my lifetime.

15. Favorite Number – 55 that was my jersey number when I played JV Football

16. Favorite Holiday – Thanksgiving, always has been and I have written more than 1 post about the meal.

17. Favorite day of the week? Sunday

18. How do you relax – read or play video games, I used to golf and bowl but health issues has taken that off the table, now my favorite hobby my passion has become this blog. Cari hobbies are extremely important.  As a person you must be rounded and grounded.  All work and no play will not allow you to be rounded and grounded.

19. How do you see yourself in 10 year? hopefully alive, and doing things that give me some level of pleasures. Answered in 2007, hopefully it’s still a good answer. We will see.

20. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV – UofL Basketball or Football, have been a U of L fan forever and 2 days.  Now they will have an opportunity to kick some UVA butt on a regular basis. (For daughter Allison and son-in-law Stu)

21. How do I vent anger – internal explosion – Cari this isn’t the best way to do this. You will find plenty of reasons to be angry over the years, and you will find that explosions is not the right response.  Be careful in the one you choose.

22. What am I most afraid of – Not being able to take care of myself.

23. What is my favorite flower – Roses, Mom grew them, and I find the so very appealing to the eye.  Always have been.  Though Steph had a wonderful garden in Virginia that didn’t include roses. 

Okay folks that is more than enough information about me.  Remember this is for Cari, I may come back to it and refine it or update as I feel necessary.  Though I doubt if I ever publish it again.

As always if you have any questions comments or concerns please feel free to ask. My answers will be as honest as I can be. Take care, Bill

 

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Our Move to Florida…..A Grandpa Tale

On July 17, 2002, we bought our home in Florida.  It’s a beautiful Florida Ranch, with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths, tall ceiling and plant shelves and my favorite area, the kitchen/breakfast nook and family room.  This is a post how this move came about.  For your viewing pleasure and envy I have included a picture and the floor plan for our home.  The hand drawn part shows the pool and screen covered pool.  But enough about that now, I will come back it later. 

This is a story on how we got here.  It begins on January 3, 2002.  My wife went to work at 8am as she had been doing for years.  She worked in the Hi-Tech industry, for an extremely large and profitable company.  She was doing very well and had worked her way up the corporate ladder quite well.  But rumors had been floating for months that reductions in workforce were coming. At noon that faithful day they stopped being rumors, my wife was one of hundreds laid off that day. She was caught in the 1st wave of massive downsizing of High-tech companies in the Washington DC area. 

Her severance package was very good, and would allow for her to take some time off, do some project in our home in Alexandria VA, and just relax before she started the search for a new job in earnest. 

In was very neat coming home each evening to find what new project she was working on. Like refinishing the hardwood floor in our den, doing decorative tile work leading down to the basement, and not mentioning all the work she did in her beloved garden. Our home had become the poster child for “Better Homes & Gardens” it was beautiful. 

During April of her efforts my annual golf trip came around.  I and 5 friends were meeting in Orlando Florida for a week of golf.  I was flying back on Saturday early afternoon, and upon my return was immediately driving to Fredericksburg VA to pick up our daughter and her friend so we could go to the NASCAR night spring race in Richmond VA.  When my wife picked me up, she told me she had been busy that week, and had accomplished a ton of stuff around the house, and she when into all the things she had accomplished, and drum roll please!!!! That she had decided what she wanted to do next career wise.  This really perked my interest, and I began to drill her seeking as much information as possible.  Smiling my wife told me it could wait until the next morning (Sunday) because she knew my schedule was extremely tight that day, she went on to tell me she thought it was a good direction, and for me not to worry about it until Sunday.  Trusting my wife, I took her at her word, and shoved the million questions I had to the back of my mind.  I picked up the girls as scheduled, we when to the race, and had a GREAT time.  After dropping the girls off at their dorm, I proceeded back to Alexandria, getting home at 2 am. 

Sunday morning over coffee and breakfast the story began to unfold. I must say that there had been a plan in progress for my wife.  While my wife was redoing the re-beautification of our home, she was spending hours and hours on the internet scouring the Washington DC area for potential employment, in her field at an acceptable salary level.  She understood going in there was a general industry wide layoff of folks with her specialty and especially at her salary level, but she was making had been making every effort for 2 months and to date had come up with zero, zilch, nothing she found acceptable.  She had even considered going to Kelly Girl, a place she had worked years and years before at the beginning of her career.  

But while I was playing golf, she had a flash of brilliance.  Realizing I was close to retirement, and that we fully intended on moving to Florida when we retired she renewed her search efforts looking in Florida for employment.  She almost immediately found that Florida has/had a significant shortage of teachers, and were hiring, and it fact were searching the entire country for qualified individuals to teach.  Steph immediately filled out a “pre-qualifying” job application.  Within hours of submitting that application, she was asked to attend 2 job fairs being one the 1st being conducted in Tampa FL a few weeks down the road (which would have put it in the last May time frame), and a second very shortly after.  We didn’t know what to expect except that if hired (and she was verbally advised that she would get multiple offers). They would have an expectation for her to be available to start the 1st week of July for new teacher training. 

In anticipation of Steph getting a job in Florida, and in her general choice of areas, and understanding the time constants, we enlisted the aid of a friend to put us in touch with a realtor on the East Coast of FL in the Cocoa Beach area.  We had a house hunters East Coast of Florida weekend.  We flew into Orlando Intl Airport, got a room there for the weekend, and met the realtor bright and early Saturday morning. Over the next several hours we viewed numerous houses, and I mean a shit pot full.  And pretty much like the show the agent showed us a ton that came nowhere near our list of demands.  It was like she never paid any attention to our requirements at all.  But come the end of the weekend we found a place that was okay, it didn’t have the required pool but the lot was large enough and the price low enough that adding a pool would not be an issue.  We signed a contingency contract and left $5,000 in earnest money. Flew home Monday morning thinking it was a good weekend. 

Two weeks later we are once again flying to Florida, this time so Steph could go to the Hillsborough County Schools job fair. (Hillsborough is on the west coast of FL).  We departed Friday evening (at least we tried).  We were scheduled on a 6pm flight out of Dulles Intl Airport, but because of weather (surprise surprise) our flight was delayed and then delayed again, not departing until after 10pm with us arriving at the hotel after 1am.  Steph at to be at the job fair by 7am, we had no clue as to where it was or how to get there.  The folks at the hotel were quite helpful, and after about 4 hours sleep I was driving Steph to this all day event.  She was to advise me on a regular basis how it was going (which she didn’t) at least not regularly. But Steph being the trooper she is, managed to get her dance card filled with interviews that morning.  I believe all told she had 4 or 5 interviews that day.  She ended up getting three job offers while attending the fair, 2 of which would sign her to a contract that moment, and she accepted the one that she felt best suited her skills and abilities.  This job required her to be in Tampa, for pre-school training by the 10 of July. 

We were forced to cancel the contract we had for the home on the East Coast and have yet another House Hunters weekend in Tampa.  The realtor in Melbourne FL recommended a realtor in Tampa, and we met her the Saturday of father’s day weekend.  Over the next 30 hours Steph and I visited between 30 and 40 homes, and pretty much rejected 30 of them in moments.  Of the 10 or so finalist I wasn’t really happy with any of them.  And I asked that we be shown just a touch of new construction.  The realtor took us to some model homes of a style that Steph really liked.  They had 4 home that were spec homes that would be ready in early July.  Of these homes we found them to be either too small or without a yard big enough to have a pool built.  As we walked back towards the model, the sales rep said she did have one other spec home in another neighborhood that might meet our needs.  She took us over there, and I fell in love with the house the moment I saw it.  It had the only curved drive in the neighborhood, and just captured my heart, and the backyard was large enough to support a nice pool.  Steph loved the house as well, but maybe not as much as me, but it was by far, head and shoulders, above any of the other 30/40 homes we viewed we immediately agreed.  We when back to the sales office, filled out 2 tons of needed paperwork, and left 5K in earnest money. We returned to the hotel knowing we would be flying back the next weekend to finish the paper work and make all of our selections for rungs and all those items. We were guaranteed the home would be ready for occupancy in a time frame that met our needs and the job was complete.  I am enclosing the floor plan and a picture of our home. We closed on the housed pictured below on 07/17/02, and immediately began the moving in process.

 As it is 10 years after we moved in

As it is 10 years after we moved in

 

I drew in the Pool and covered area, as well as  the Driveway.

I drew in the Pool and covered area, as well as the Driveway.

Because this has become a marathon I am going to close it out now.  If you want to hear about the experience of selling our home in VA, and the actual move itself, you’re going to have to ask LOL. 

As always if you have any questions, comments or concerns please feel free to ask.  Take care, Bill

 
35 Comments

Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Grandpa Stories, Pictures, Ramblings

 

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My Education, if I Only Knew….. a Grandpa tale

I sit here today a bit over 64, being somewhat reflective (not!), thinking about what I wanted to share with you today.   I have George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” slamming in my ears, but I know this post wasn’t going to be about music. In fairness I have been kicking the thought of my education and all the time I wasted in high school and even in the military schools I attended, and what could have been had I actually applied myself way back then.  In part this post also came about because yesterday I sat with Cari at the kitchen table practicing her multiplication tables.  Cari is in the 3rd grade and has not yet committed these to memory. We sat for over an hour practicing, we me giving her little lessons, and offering math truths as I knew them. And basically had a good time, I wouldn’t allow her to quit, and I wouldn’t allow her to just guess.   I know the truths (about math) I shared with Cari were correct because my wife (the math whiz) didn’t correct me. It was enjoyable to just sit with her and help. 

But this story is really about me, so let me get to it (btw Nickelback is pounding now).  When I went to school (1st grade thru 12th) I would have been the poster child for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), but that term hadn’t been invented.  If my grades had been a touch worst I might have gotten to ride the short bus (very non PC) to school. I was probably only a stupid smile or two away from being called retarted (extremely  non-PC), but the simple truth is that school really didn’t keep my attention. It wasn’t interesting enough, it didn’t stimulate me in a way that made me want to excel.  Throughout my entire education process, the classes I found interesting and stimulating I did extremely well.  You could look at any given report card and find I got an F in “English” but I got an A in “Reading.” (3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” now blasting away) Another example would be that I got “C’s” in Math but “F’s” in Algebra.  I had found out early in the educational process that I did not have to apply myself at all in order to get just barely passing grades, so I didn’t. And there was no penalty at home, sure I got yelled at, and I got “grounded” all the time. But it wasn’t enforced and I had a job outside of the house, so that kinda took the wind out of being grounded. Also, the folks didn’t know my hours or my schedule so it was easy to get around being grounded. I cruised thru the first 13 years (I did the 3rd grade twice) of school without putting in a lick of work.  But again, the classes or components of classes I liked I did great.  So as a result, I became an extremely lazy student.  (Garth Brooks “Thunder Road” is now slamming) I only (studied) when it was absolutely necessary.  The day before a paper was due, or the night before a big test, I was the poster child for cramming. Imagine that, a student with ADD trying to cram. LOL LOL. Sometimes it worked mostly it didn’t.  But I did graduate high school, it took a summer school English class, and Mom begging, but I did graduate.  In my HS class were approximately 283 kids, I was something like 265 in ranking.  It is hard to imagine that many students who accomplished less in HS than me. 

These bad habits continued into my Navy career but really stopped while I was in Radioman “A” school. My class at NTCC San Diego was the last class of radioman school to teach and require a level of skill in Morse code.  I was lazy, and I was just getting by, all the other components of being a Radioman had my interest, and I did well in those aspects. But if I flunked out of Radioman “A” school I would end up on the deck crew as a boatswain mate, which equated to really really hard dirty work, that I knew I wanted to avoid.  The minimum standards (in 1969) for graduating from Radioman “A” school in Morse code was to be able to receive 12 words per minute (wpm) and transmit (6 or 8 not sure which) wpm with no more than 5 errors, over a 5 minute period.  On the last day of qualifying I could transmit 8 wpm, but I was still hung up on receiving the minimum 12. Test after test I failed. Each test was a different message using all characters on the keyboard.  But the light came on, and the dots and dashes became songs and I qualified 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20 wpm in separate tests over a 2 hour period. I went from the slowest code reader to the 3rd quickest in the class, and graduated “A” school in fine shape.  BTW I never in my Navy career actually copied a real Morse code message.  I really didn’t have much of an issue with class room training the rest of my Navy days, and all things considered did quite well during my active duty time.

When I got out of the Navy, it was suggested that I might want to go to college.  It seemed like a good idea, and an easy way to make some money.  I did have the GI Bill working for me.  So a few months after I got established in my job, I enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College. Because I had been out of HS so long I was required to take a college prep math and English classes.  These where were a snap, and I pretty much aced both of them.  Thus I started my college career.  I started with the same attitude and study habits that I had 10 years before in High School. The 1st couple quarters were easy because I chose classes I wanted to take so I put the effort in. But the next quarter I took classes I was required to take and did very poorly.  So poorly that the VA counselor called me to his office and said “Bill, if you don’t pick you grades up, you will have to pay the government back all the money you have received to date.”  That equaled about $1,800 over 6 months, folks if you don’t have 2 nickels; $1,800 is a crap load.  LMAO, folks I took a 1.69 GPA and converted it to a 3.27 over the next 3 years.  I never had to pay a penny back, and I loved college.  My favorite courses were those that required reading and comprehension, and simplistic math courses. I aced Accounting I, II, and III.  The math was simple; it was just knowing and understanding the rules. Economics for whatever reason was another class I loved and did extremely well.  The science classes gave me issues, and required every bit of effort I could muster to get thru.  Business Law was another class I found to be easy because it was all about reading and understanding the rules.  But my most favorite courses were the political science classes.  It allowed me to be opinionated and I was graded pretty much on my ability to be opinionated LOL. How cool is that. 

One of my favorite college stories involved an English Literature course.  It was mid-term time and the test consisted of 10 questions. We used “blue books” to complete the test.  The kicker was that each question started off “In your opinion” blab blab blab.  The next week the test came back and I got a B+. I was so pissed. I stood up and questioned the professor how my “opinion” was only worth a B+, she was quite shaken that anyone would question her, and was even more put off when she couldn’t successfully tell me my opinion was only worth a B+, and I demanded an A instead of a B+ and suggested we take it up with the Dean of English at NVCC.  The professor decided that maybe my opinion was indeed worth an A.  As soon as she said she would change my mid-term to an “A” most of the class stood and made the same demand.  And while she stared at me with daggers in her eyes she gave anyone that asked a better grade, (who answered all ten questions with something other than BS)  based on their opinion she gave them the better grade. 

But the professor won in the end.  When finals came around, it was the single most difficult test I have ever taken, period. But, while it was difficult it was fair. Also the word opinion was not on the test in any form. LOL LOL. (“Boom Boom” by The Animals is playing now) I killed myself taking that test, and barely had it turned in on time.  The next week I got the test results and I got a “B” for the test, I stared at the B and said quietly to myself “Thank You God!  I ended up getting an “A” for the course, but it was the hardest “A” I ever got. 

College was a wonderful experience, but my career started to take off and I made the decision to concentrate on being a Dad and my career.  Two of the best decisions I ever made.  I love being a Dad and granddad, and I had a great career. 

I rarely do could’ve, would’ve or should’ves.  It makes no sense to try and second guess myself all the time. I of am of the mind that if I changed one thing, that action then ripples thru the rest of my life, making slight or large changes in every aspect of my life from the time of the change forward, for the rest of my life. I have so much to be thankful for that, I don’t want risk any of it to change any one thing.  But as successful as I have been, I can only wonder how much more successful I could have been had I applied myself way back then. (Melissa Etheridge’s “Refugee” is playing now and almost seems appropriate) I am not going to speculate, but, damn I don’t think there would have been a mountain I couldn’t have climbed.  I hope this is a lesson Cari learns early, and takes to heart. 

Thank you for indulging me as I took this trip in the wayback machine.  Education is so very important, and it doesn’t have to be college, our world requires all manner of folks, with all manner of skills. Yes some of those skills are learned in college, but in this day and age, that is not the only place to get an education that you can build on, that you can support a family on, and reach all manner of success. 

While writing this I have listened to at least 25 songs. Each song has provided some level of influence.  The artist included: John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, Seether, AC/DC, Five Finger Death Punch, Nickleback and Marilyn Manson to name just a few.  It has been a very enjoyable afternoon.  I hope you have enjoyed yours as well.  Take care, if you have any comments, suggestions or thoughts you wanted to share, please do.  Bill

 
21 Comments

Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Grandpa Stories, Observations, Ramblings

 

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And this ain’t no S..@#&% !!!!, the stories continue and continues some more….final part – I promise

When I ended part 3 of this series of sea stories I promised I would write about the storm of century.  I am again providing the picture of the USS Independence so you will have a visual.

 Uss_independence_cv-62[1]

In 1977 I made my last Mediterranean cruise.  We departed Norfolk in February to make the 5 day transit across the Atlantic. The Independence was accompanied by 6 other surface ships.  My rules of the sea, a group can only go as fast as the slowest ship.  For this cruise we had one of the oldest active fuel ships (oilers) with us.  On a good day (when fully loaded and she was) she could only maintain 10 – 15 knots (a knot = 1.15 mph), so at best the group of ships would make the crossing at approximately 16.5 mph.  This was under ideal conditions, that being smooth’s seas and a following wind.

As we approached departure date, there was a storm brewing in the Atlanta.  ComFive ( Commander 5th Naval District) was responsible for giving clearance for the task force to get underway, ComFive had the finest weather forecasters in the business (supposedly). And by direction, our shipboard forecasters were required to defer to ComFive.

The Indy Task Force departed Norfolk under threatening gray skies,  as soon as the ship cleared Hampton and made open seas, the flight deck was active landing the compliment of airplanes and helo’s approximately 90 in total.  Half the planes were secured to the flight deck, the remainder in the hanger bay.  It was hairy watching the last few planes land on board the ship.  As big as the Indy was, she was riding the conditions.  The gray skies of the morning had turned into a mesh of ugly wet gray skies.  It was no longer threatening to rain it was raining very hard. But the squadrons were securely on board.

The radiomen were much more busy than normal.  The CO (commanding officer & and our Flag officer for 6th fleet) were in constant communications with ComFive regarding the weather.  Everyone was super sensitive to it, and it was getting worst by the minute.  Our Oiler, (remember the slowest ship) was also in constant communications with our CO and the Flag.  We were not having smooth seas and a following wind, we were pushing directly into hell.  The morning of the second day we were pointed directly into the wind. Seas were running 15 – 18 feet, gusts at the 35 – 50 mph range.  The Oiler had to reduce speed to 9 knots because of the conditions.

My watch section was on duty when “FLASH” traffic started passing between ComFive and our Flag (Commander 6th Fleet).  It was determined that we were headed into a serious storm (by the time we got this message we had been in the serious storm for several hours), and that ComFive would advise the Indy Task Force should and when to make any course corrections.  Sitreps (Situation Report) where being sent to ComFive every 30 minutes as the storm worsen. The 6 ships in the task force were screaming at the Indy to change course, but we held fast under direction of ComFive.  Twelve hours later my watch section was again on watch, when we received “FLASH” traffic dictating a change in course. Following established procedures we had this message in the hand of the CO and Flag within 90 seconds of receiving subject message.  I initialed it when I pulled it off the printer and handed it to Gene, Gene my message handler initialed it marked action CO, and Alfonzo initialed it as before he put it in the air tube to the bridge, and we fired it off to the CO.  Total time from the moment the FLASH alarms when off to when it was delivered to the CO 90 seconds. We got a confirmation from the Bridge that the CO was handling the message.  It should be noted proudly that the USS Independence had won the Communications Green C in both 1975 and 1976 as the very best communications ship in its’ class.  It should also be noted that at that time, no carrier had won 2 consecutive Green “C’s, which meant we had our shit together, and as far as communications goes, there wasn’t a better ship in the fleet.

The problem was by the time ComFive’s weathermen decided we were going into a monumental storm we were already ass deep in the storm.  The weather was extreme, gusts of 50-75 mph.  The seas were at 50 feet and some waves were 60 or more feet.  And the storm got worst.  The Task Group was stuck, we could not escape the storm north or south, the storm was way too wide, and we could not put our tail to it.  Another significant problem was that our oiler could not make much headway in these seas, laden with fuel it was almost overcome. Waves were breaking above the bridge on board. And she could only make about 5 knots.  Navy doctrine mandates that the TG can go no faster than that of the slowest ship.  Because the Oiler could only make 5 knots the rest of the ships could only go 5 knots.  We rode this storm for 84 hours, the Independence was taking 12 – 15 degree rolls, almost the max for a carrier.  The Indy had waves breaking on the bow of the ship and at one point a jet was washed over the side. The tin cans were taking as much as 40 degree rolls. And it was reported that the oiler took a 25 degree roll.  Each ship sustained significant damage.  The 6 ships in the Task force lost all rafts and small boats to the storm, most of the communications gear (antenna’s and such) were lost to the storm. The Wainwright had her forward mast snapped in half. In most cases (during the height of the storm) only 1 or 2 radiomen were capable of standing watch on their ships.

Here I am including 4 pictures taken from the 09 level of the Independence, before the storm each its’ zenith.  I would have you again look at the top of the post to see how high the flight deck is off the water. 

Weather 1

In this photo you can see the wave beginning to break onto the flight deck.

Weather 40001

In the following photo the bow of the ship is fully engulfed in the wave.

Weather 20001

This final picture shows the wash from the wave coming to almost midships.

Weather 30001

The signalman taking these photo’s did not get a picture of the plane going over the side, but I got to type the message to CNO that we had lost a plane to the storm.

The Independence lost every antenna from the bow to midships.  If you look at the picture you can see them they are laying sideways, she also lost 75 feet of catwalk on the port (left for you landlovers) side of the ship, and the entire catwalk to the angle on the starboard (right) side.  Catwalk is area just off the flightdeck, and is where men stand during flight operations. In addition when the waves were breaking over the bow of the ship, we had an airplane washed overboard.  The Independence was so damaged we spent the 1st 10 weeks of the cruise tied to the sea wall in Naples Harbor while repairs were being made.  The Wainwright was escorted back to the states and didn’t make the cruise she was deemed to being unable to meet her obligations and was dispatched to the shipyards in Potomac Virginia.  She would not sail again for almost a year.

There was an Admirals Mass, conducted by the TG 60 Commander.  Alfonzo and I were the chief witnesses for communications.  We handled the message traffic, our initials were all over the key messages regarding the storm, and our handling of the message traffic was questioned again and again and again.  We had to stand before the Admiral and his staff and ask tons of questions.  The results of the Admiral’s Mass found the CO, XO, and Ops Boss innocent of any wrong doing.  The entire blame was deposited on ComFive.  The radiomen of the Independence were cited for our professionalism, and attention to detail.  And in particular both I and Alfonzo were given significant credit for the way communications were handled.

“And this ain’t no shit…! ! ! !

I have hundreds of other words in my head about those 84 hours we were in the center of that storm.  But I think you have the jest of it.  It was one @$*^^& ing storm.  If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask them.  Please take care, Bill

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Grandpa Stories, Pictures, Ramblings

 

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And this ain’t no S..@#&% !!!!, the stories continue

During my 9 years of active duty, and 5 more years in the Reserves, I have accumulated many a story.  Two of my readers seemed to imply they would like more, and MY aim is to please.  So here goes part 2. 

I would like to describe the USS C V Ricketts for you.  I know you have seen a ton of war movies, and have seen at least 2 pictures of ships other than aircraft carriers and submarines.  Of course Cruise Ships do not count, the cruises I went on during my navy time did not compare in any way to the Cruises I have been on as an old fart. 

The Ricketts was commissioned in 1962 and decommissioned October 1989.  I served on the Ricketts from 1970 to 1972.  She was 437 feet long, 47 feet wide, and rode 15 deep in the water.   The crew consisted of 330 enlisted men (the workers bees) and 24 officers (the queen bees).  In the 70’s deployments to the Mediterranean lasted at a minimum of 6 months, during my career, the longest cruise I was on was just short of 10 months on board the USS Independence.  Later I will offer the vitals on the Indy.

I have these two (of potentially dozens) sea stories I want to share with you about my time on board the Ricketts. Just to set the stage, everyone on board a Navy vessel wore more than one hat i.e. responsibility.  Most wore 2 hats, some 3 or even 4.  Besides being a worker bee, the other hat I wore was that as the Supply Petty Officer for our division.  Wearing that hat I was responsible for ordering all the necessary communications supplies (paper, pens, pencils, 5ply TTY paper and on and on) to get us thru a 6.5 month cruise (with a minimal amount left over).  It wasn’t impossible to get additional supplies, but just damn difficult, and costly.  It seems that the Capt. would rather have another shell for the 5 inch gun or another missile, than 2 cases of 5-ply teletype paper, go figure.  I held this responsibility for 2 years, and I was goooood!  I managed to over order, but just enough to use the extra as currency for barter. Remember the movie “The Great Escape” James Garner play the “Scrounger”, that was how I approached being the Supply PO on the Ricketts.   During my time on board the Ricketts I managed to scrounge up a pickup truck for the radiomen and 330 leather bomber jackets for the enlisted crew.

And so the story starts, LOL, “and this ain’t no Shit,” I was sent to the Navy salvage yard down the road from the D&S Piers in Norfolk for some piece of equipment the Chief needed. And while looking for the piece, I was BSing with the 1st class from Supply, and commented that we (the Radiomen) could sure use one of those pickups, he said when we’re done I will give you the paperwork to fill out, and we will see what happens.  After I gathered the part that I was sent to get, I was walking out the Supply guy and we walked past a cage with Navy leather bomber jackets, in it.  I asked if I could get some of those and he said sure.  So I took 11, one for each radioman and took those back to the ship as well.  I kept the one that fit me best, and gave the rest to the other guys. We were so cool. 

Anyway once I got back to the ship I took all the paper work the Supply clerk gave me for acquiring a “salvage” pickup truck, and began drafting a response to each question.  I didn’t fill out the form because I was only given one copy (this was before zerox machines). Once I figured out I had all the questions perfectly answered, I sat down at the type writer and began filling in the needed documents. I don’t remember if it was 4 documents or a single 8 page document or whatever combination, but I filled them in without a single typo, gathered my courage and when to my Chief.  At 1st he was beyond himself that I would do something like this on my own, but once he checked the paperwork, he said he would run it by the Ops boss.  I was summoned to the Ops Boss stateroom, and thoroughly questioned by him, before he nodded and said he would pass it on to the XO.  The chief was called to the XO’s stateroom, and I was standing in the passageway as they discussed the request.  The chief came out nodded at me as said we will see.  Later that day the CO of the ship approved our request, and 2 days later we had a ford econoline pickup truck parked on the pier 2 spots down from the Ops Bosses space.  It didn’t take long before when the duty radioman was making a message run, that someone else from the ship would tag along, at least part of the way. 

Winter was approaching, and us radiomen were wearing our bomber jackets, (which I had scrounged from salvage) and were fat dumb and happy, besides we looked cool.   Well, “this ain’t no Shit!” some folks on board were not happy with the radiomen for having the jackets.  A couple officers had bugs up their tushes over it, and said that only a select group of RM’s shouldn’t be allowed to wear these jackets.  They went on to say, that if the RM’s could wear these jackets then all the enlisted men should have the opportunity, blab, blab, blab.  The XO came to the Ops Boss who when to the Chief and pretty much said if the entire crew didn’t have leather jackets the RM’s couldn’t wear the ones I had gotten.  When told by the chief what the word was, I asked “If, everyone had a jacket, could we wear them?” The chief said that’s a good question I will get you an answer.  A couple hours later the Chief said that the XO will allow the jackets to be worn if everyone had one.  I was granted permission to go back to salvage and see what I could do.   That return trip to salvage, netted the Ricketts 319, additional leather bomber jackets, yes some were ratty but everyone had one.  The Officers of the Ricketts took up a collection to pay for the individual name tags that were required.  Surprisingly most of the bomber jackets ended up at home or being worn by girlfriends, and the guys on the ship preferred their “working jacket.”  I have no idea what happened to my jacket, but I know I didn’t have it a couple years later.   The pickup that I scrounged remained ships property for the next couple years.   

Just some facts I want to share.  In part one I described the living space on board both the Ricketts and Independence.  1) The actual sleeping area was approximately 6 foot by 30 inches, and had a 3 inch thick foam mattress.  The covering for this foam mattress was called a fart sack. 2) I was once told to go get 25 feet of chow line, so I went the mess deck and grabbed 5 guys from the chow line, arm to arm they were well over the needed 25 feet of chow line. 3) knee knockers will kill you they are  the holes cut thru the steel walls of the ship,  on which a lip is welded in place (around the entire hole) this lip is right at knee height, and if  you didn’t lift your leg high enough you banged your knee against the bottom of the opening as you passed thru, also in the online urban dictionary of slang there was a definition of knee knocker I wasn’t expecting. 3) The fore = bow, the aft is the stern. 4) Port is Left, Starboard is Right; easy to remember both port and left have 4 letters.  5) the navy jail is called brig, and if you are serving time in a Navy correctional facility you had to wear a pink hat (this may have changed in the 30 + years since I was in the Navy).

Okay folks, that’s enough for part 2.  When I continue, I will move on to the USS Independence.  But for now, I will stop it here, and let you digest this.  If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask them.  Please take care, Bill

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Grandpa Stories, Humor, Ramblings

 

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My Time at the National Gallery of Art….Epilog

My Time at the National Gallery of Art….Epilog

This is the final final part (finally) to my post dated April 7, 2013, titled My Time at the National Gallery of Art (NGA).  To bring this to a conclusion, I am going to address these aspects of working at NGA.

     Patrolling the Splendor of Dresden exhibit

     Patrolling the Galleries of the West Building

     Patrolling the tunnels under the Gallery buildings

In sharing these stories you will get the sense of creepiness that comes with a job like this, as well as, the beauty that I have spoken.

The Splendor of Dresden was an exhibit of Germany art created over 500 years.  It was on loan from Germany to the US, touring the country during 78 and 79.  It made its’ initial stop at NGA, and the exhibit was to be part of the 1st collections show in the new East Building. As such, the exhibit required special treatment, and had very specific needs for protection.  The exhibit (almost 10,000 square feet of exhibit space) itself was located in the new East Building of NGA, on the lowest exhibit level.  As the final touches were being put on the new building, the exhibit was being created.  The presence of Guards was mandatory per the agreement, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  During working hours there were numerous Guards, as specific locations thru out the exhibit, and after working hours the in gallery guards, were reduced to 2 each responsible for about 5,000 sq. ft.  There was also the normal walking patrol, which came thru the gallery every hour.   Besides painting, the exhibit included all manner of art objects; vases, statues, china, cloths, jewelry, bowls, jars, perfume bottles, and on and on.  But the most unique aspect to the exhibit (in my opinion), was the collections of armor, soldiers (both officer and enlisted), nobility, horses (yes!! stuffed horses with armor), men on horses, even some childlike armor.  And it wasn’t just a piece or 3; there must have been at least 15 different sets of armor on display.   These pieces were situated throughout the gallery, as if in their own pattern to provide protection to the exhibit.  You could hardly turn around without one of these pieces looking at you thru that faceless head covering.  Also, there were weird sounds coming from that gallery, sounds of metal rubbing together, voices, even smells.  BTW I was not the only Guard to hear and smell things I shouldn’t in such a secured place.  For a month I was one of the Guards that stood duty in this exhibit before it opened to the public.  If was creepy and freaky.  But with all the workmen and other guards, it was cool.  Again it was neat to watch the staff open a crate and remove another piece of art, then put into place in its’ own special display case.  Just before the East Building Grand Opening, I transferred to the 3rd shift.  Let me just say it was creepy walking thru that exhibit at 2am.  Whenever you did your walk thru patrol in this exhibit, you felt each set of eyes from the armor following you.  You could feel it on the back of your neck, you could almost hear the horses snort, yet as quick as you turned all you saw was the faceless armor.  Glimpses of shadows could freak you in a second.  Even coming up on the guard post you would make extra noise to let that poor guy know you were on the way.  The Splendor of Dresden was only open to the public for 3 months.  It took a month to break it down for movement to the next city, but there was a constant Stephen King moment in the exhibit hall while it was in Washington DC.

The West Building of the National Gallery of Art is the quintessential art museum building.  It is grandeur built upon grandeur and majestic to revel any other museum on the Mall in Washington DC.  Each gallery can hold 12 to 16 significantly large painting, allowing them each to have their space, making you the viewer feel alone with the painting.  With only a few exceptions each gallery has 2 entrance/exits, making it very easy to move from gallery to gallery.  Also, each gallery is devoted to a specific a period in art history be it; Renaissance, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Modern or Contemporary, with painting from that period in that gallery. As a visitor to the NGA, when visiting the painting, you always notice that certain pictures look back at you.  Your standing 6 to 8 feet away, staring at a Renaissance painting, or a Neoclassic, maybe a painting from the Romantic period, and once you have absorbed the texture, the detail, the color,  you finally notice that the painting is looking back at you, it’s absorbing your texture, your color.  It kinda creeps you a bit, but you move on to the next painting, and you again pick up these feeling.  These feeling really don’t leave until you on to the Modern and Contemporary painting or into the central hall.  Throughout your visit you are comforted by the hundreds of other people having their experiences with the paintings.

Having had that experience, now walk thru those same galleries at 2 o’clock in the morning, the lights are much dimmer, the shadows which didn’t exit during “normal” hours manifest from unexpected places.  Your flashlight only penetrates so far.  Now the eyes of the painting come completely alive, you wait for them to either wink or blink; you shine your flashlight and swear you can see the cornea shrink as the light hits it.  Each painting picks up your present the moment you step into the gallery, they pay close attention to you, and they follow you as you progress thru the gallery.  You whip your body about in effort to catch the eyes looking at you.  You know they are watching but you never can catch them.  They watch you from all 4 walls, you never leave their sight.  I walked thru those galleries probably once a night for over 18 months.  I would ask other guards if they experienced those feelings, some said yes, some no, some gave you a defensive laugh.  For as beautiful and unique as these painting were, they had a life to themselves.  They brought life into the galleries in which they hung.

Back a few thousand words ago I spoke of learning the patrols on the night shift. I would like to talk about the patrols thru the sub-basement and tunnels of the West Building of the NGA.  The sub-basement and tunnels below were the deepest part of the building, in the tunnels there was no radio communications, there were no phones, but there were watch boxes, and you had to be there at the appointed time.  The 1st week on the night shift you were partnered with a senior more experienced guard, and they showed you the ropes, where you could stop and rest, where the water fountains were on the way  and taught you how to get from point A to B in the best manner.  The infrastructure (heat and cooling piping, electrical service, plumbing, vents and such) were all down in the tunnels.  To my knowledge there was only once access point to the tunnels from ground level, and I believe it was pointed out to me by accident.  But of all the patrols, the tunnels were always completed as scheduled. If there were a shortage of guards or if the weather really sucked other patrols could and would be called off, but those bi-hour patrols of the tunnels were always completed.  Lighting was poor, ventilation was poor, it was dirty, the tunnels didn’t have the most pleasant of smells, and there were some critters down there that acted like they own the place.  The tunnels were made up on a grid, but the patrol thru the tunnels was convoluted.  In making this patrol you had to climb over some piping and under other piping.  In some areas you had to go up 2 or 3 steps and down 1.  The piping in the tunnels was from 2 inches to 20 inches or greater in diameter.  And the easy way to tell how successful you were at the end of the patrol was based on how clean you were. It is truly amazing how dirty one’s hands and crotch can get climbing over and under that piping.  The surest way to know if you were kinda going in the right direction was to check for how shiny the pipe was before you went over or under.  My partner showed me some shortcuts that we weren’t supposed to use, but if you took them you might as well report yourself.  Because you were as dirty as you would ever be.  You could use you flashing and stay on the beaten path, but if you weren’t paying attention you would walk right into the low hanging pipes.  And rookies always got busted.  Two times during my 2nd week working nights another guard laid hidden in wait.  Both times I had the living crap scared out of me.  I was so intent on not getting lost, on being timely, on staying on the beaten path I didn’t hear or see the guard until they pounced.  I screamed like a child, and really damn near wet my pants.  The following eyes of the galleries above and the armor of the ancient guards in the East Building did not hold a candle to a guard jumping from behind a pipe in the tunnels to scare the crap out of you.

Folks, thank you for your continued patience, this turned out to be much longer than I had originally intended.  But I hope you enjoyed it.  If you have comments or questions please feel free to ask. Please take care, Bill

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Humor, Ramblings

 

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My Time at the National Gallery of Art…. The Story …. Final Part

This is the final part (finally) to my post dated April 7, 2013, titled My Time at the National Gallery of Art. This is really a story about my first two years as a civilian working for the Federal Government.  During those first 3 months, I learned more about art and artists than I did the entire 30 years prior to getting that job, and the 30 years since leaving that job. This alone would make it the greatest job I ever held.  But there is more, and I now hope to wrap this up before it becomes a better book stop than read.

For those that want to skip all the detail and find out why I thought this was the greatest job I ever had, here are the prime reasons.  1)  I learned more about art and artists during this time than I did my  entire 30 years prior to getting the job at NGA, and the 30+ years since leaving that job. This alone makes it the greatest job I ever held. 2) I got to meet and talk (for about 4 minutes) to Farrah Fawcett Majors while she was still “Angels” hot.  3) Once on the night shift I got to study for 4 hours a night at the sitting posts. 4) I got to take the Secret Service Security Detail around the East Building in preparations for a visit and luncheon by then 1st Lady, Rosalynn Carter. 5)  As a night shift guard I could take friends and family on unique tours (during my off time) of the Gallery. 6) I got to see up close and very personal some of the most beautiful works of art known to man. 7) I got to participate in the opening of the new East Building of NGA, for as classical as the old building was in style, structure, and construction, the new East Building was modern.

Three months after starting at the NGA I had an opportunity to move to the night shift (11pm to 7am), so I jumped on it.  This got me additional monies for working that shift, it paid extra because now I could arrest people and I was required to carry a gun.  The shift also had access to a significant number of overtime hours, something that would really come in handy.  It also entailed additional week of legal and firearms training.  I aced the legal training, and qualified as a sharpshooter with a 38.

Just like when I started, you were partnered up the first week on the night shift.  You were given a watch key, and shown the routes.  Between the East and West Buildings of the National Gallery of Art there are 9 different walking patrols, and 6 sitting guard positions.  During a normal night shift you could be expected to have 4 walking and 4 sitting posts.  Rarely did you do the same thing 2 nights in a row.   Each walking patrol had at a minimum 7 stops.  At each stop was a watch box, as a patrol man you had to turn the watch box within a specific timeframe each hour or all hell breaks loose.  During the week you are partnered, you walk each of the routes learning the way.  The routes thru the galleries were relatively simply and the destination was normally in sight, and it was difficult to get lost.  But these were only 3 of the nine routes.  The other 6 routes took you thru the basements, above the galleries, thru the tunnels that had the building infrastructure, and outside the 2 building.  The West building of the NGA takes up a real large city block. Beneath the galleries are tons of office space, then a basement storage area, and finally the tunnels.  The basement and tunnels were poorly light, and creepy as hell.  The tunnels have approximately 1.5 miles of patrolling area, and there were normally more than one guard walking the tunnels any given hour.  I could write an entire post on just walking the tunnels, but this isn’t the time for that.

Above I gave 7 reasons why this was the greatest job I ever had, and now I intend on taking a moment of your time to speak to each.

1)  I learned more about art and artists during this time than I did my entire 30 years prior to getting the job at NGA, and the 30+ years since leaving that job. This alone makes it the greatest job I ever held. —  For a redneck just getting out of the Navy, and having grown up in Kentucky, this was an eye-opening experience.  It allowed me into a world I didn’t know existed, it allowed me access to some of the most beautiful things in the world, and it allowed me to learn about it in a pace that was fun and acceptable to me.

2) I got to meet and talk (for about 4 minutes) to Farrah Fawcett Majors while she was still “Angels” hot.  Farrah Fawcett Majors was possible the hottest, sexiest, coolest woman of the mid to late 70’s.  Her position as a celebrity allowed her special treatment.  One evening she was allowed to tour the galleries on her own after hours, because having her there during normal hours would have caused a major scene.  She came into the gallery I was guarding, walked around briefly and then turned to me and a question about the piece of art she was viewing.  Smiling, I had already committed the narrative information to memory, and I rattled it off like I knew what I was talking about.  When asked, I also told her my favorites were the French Impressionists (Monet, Renior, Cassett, and Cezanne) and directed her to the gallery where these painting were.

3) Once on the night shift I got to study for 4 hours a night at the sitting posts. While working at the NGA I was attending college, the 4 sitting posts I generally had each night allowed me to sit and study for 4 hours each night. Besides making me a better student, this freed up time during the day to be a good dad, and help out around the house.

4) I got to take the Secret Service Security Detail around the East Building in preparations for a visit and luncheon by then 1st Lady, Rosalynn Carter.   Shortly after the opening of the East Building of the NGA, Rosalyn Carter decided to host a luncheon for the wives of some important political figures of the time.  I got to guide her advance security team around both the East and West Building, from the tunnels to the rooftops, showing access points, and answering questions.  I guess the reality of it was that I got to take the security team “wherever” they wanted to go without question. Then I got to stand-off to the side while they talked among themselves.  But on the day of the Luncheon I was on the roof of the East Building looking down on the 1st lady and her guests.  Though the security team didn’t let me carry my 38 that day. And I am glad they didn’t.

5)  As a night shift guard I could take friends and family on unique tours (during my off time) of the Gallery.   It was just cool to go to the gallery get great parking in the basement garage and then be allowed access to take my friends and family on small tours of the building.  Unlike Farrah I had to take my friends and family during normal working hours.

6) I got to see up close and very personal some of the most beautiful works of art known to man.  I was allowed to stand and stare at painting as long as I wanted (when not working).  And the curators would answer questions and offer insight.  God was that cool.   Again this goes back to me learning so much about art and artists in such a short period of time.

7) I got to participate in the opening of the new East Building of NGA, for as classical as the old building was in style, structure, and construction, the new East Building was modern.  The 1st special exhibit in the new East Building was The Splendor of Dresden it was an exhibit of five centuries of art collecting from the German Democratic Republic, I got to walk the exhibit as it was being put together.  And to give it it’s due I am going to write an addendum to this post that speaks specifically to this exhibit.  But also I was there for the preparation of the galleries for the Small French Paintings, and Edvard Munch Symbols and Images.

I have already decided that I will have one more post on this subject just to speak about walking the tunnels, and the Splendor of Dresden exhibit.  There won’t be anything dramatic or earth-shaking just memories of those times, feeling I had, at the time, and the creepiness of the place.

Folks, I know this has gone on and on, but I have enjoyed sharing these experiences with you.  If you have comments or questions please feel free to ask.  Please take care, Bill

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Humor, Observations, Ramblings

 

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My Time at the National Gallery of Art…. The Story Part 1

This is the final part (not really) to my post dated April 7, 2013, titled My Time at the National Gallery of Art.  It started off as a simple post on my favorite job during my almost 40 years of service to the US of America. But being my normal wordy self, I managed to make a post out of just getting the job. I have no intention of rehashing how I got the job, so if you’re interested in that please refer to my April 7 post.

On Monday, March 27, 1978, I resumed my federal career by reporting to my new job as a GS-1, step 1 Security Guard for the National Gallery of Art (NGA). I arrived at the NGA at the appointed time, and began the process of being a federal civilian employee.  Even then I knew I would spend the rest of my working life being employed by the government, I truly liked the thought of continuing serving my country, even in this capacity.  But I had no idea the bumps and turns my career would make over the next almost 40 years.

Originally I took the 3 by 5 card at the Virginia Employment Commission to avoid the mountain of paperwork required to draw unemployment even for a brief period.  Imagine my surprise when I reported to work.  The first hour was pretty much telling us what our working hours were, where the break rooms where and most importantly where the bathrooms (the ones we were allowed to use) were located. LMAO it was like being inducted back into the Navy.  All the paperwork I had avoided looking for a job was dumped on me when I got a job.  Forms for taxes, forms for benefits, forms for health insurance, forms for disability (should I need it), more forms for different taxes, forms for life insurance, forms for payment of death benefits to name a few of the forms.  Then I had to read and sign acknowledgement statements.  Yes I read this, that or the other, yes I understood what I read, no I promise I won’t do that statements, and on and on.  Then I was issued my NGA Guard Uniform, yuk, my Navy dress blues were so much sharper. This was all accomplished before lunch that Monday morning.  There were 5 or 6 of us new guards that  morning, during lunch we kinda huddled together going over the morning process, we had all some level of military experience, and pretty much bitched like a bunch of enlisted men during lunch.  After lunch we were scheduled for four hours of intense classroom training, about being a guard, what our role was, how we were to act in the Galleries, who could we talk to, when could we talk, the locations of the bathrooms the patrons used, where the cafeteria and gift shops were located, and the closest metro stop.  But clearly the single most important thing we were taught was that NO ONE was allowed to touch the paintings or other art work except for employees of NGA’s curators shop or picture hanging shop.  Yes the NGA had employees whose main job was to hang pictures.   I worked for NGA for over 2 years and NEVER touched a piece of artwork.  Thus ended day one of the greatest job I ever had.

On Tuesday the new guards were given their 1st day in a gallery.  Being newbies we were put with older established guards that knew the ropes, we were told where to stand, what to look for, when to shift positions to another spot in the gallery.  We were given maps of the gallery and what exhibits were located in which gallery.  We were partnered up with an older established guard for the remainder of the week, and our schedules were established. Thus the end of day 2.  I promise I will not outline each of the 900 + days I worked for NGA.

One of the most interesting things I learned during that 1st week of instruction was that almost every painting in the building had a narrative.  And in each gallery there were 3 or 4 bins, each bin had the narrative for 4 or 5 painting.  These narratives provided the artist’s name, when he lived, his nationality, where he lived when that particular work was completed, the name of the painting, the genera of the painting, and any painting specific tidbit the average patron would find interesting.  I studied those pieces of paper, I read and reread them, I asked some questions (but apparently guards weren’t supposed to ask a lot of questions) about the artwork.  Within 3 months if a patron were to walk into the gallery I was guarding and asked about a painting, without fail I could parrot the information on those fact pages.  If I were asked what painting I liked best, I could be specific and I could tell them were to go…. to see that  painting LOL.  During those first 3 months, I learned more about art and artists than I did the entire 30 years prior to getting that job, and the 30 years since leaving that job. This alone would make it the greatest job I ever held, but there is more, and I will share it in the next installment.

Folks, clearly I am extremely wordy, and I put way too much of myself into some of my posts.  When I started writing this I figured one real long post or 2 shorter posts.  Well here I am closing in on a 1000 words in this post, and still have at least that much more to go.  Thank you for your patience.

As always your thoughts, questions, and comments are truly appreciated. Take care, Bill

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Humor, Ramblings

 

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My Time at the National Gallery of Art….

On October 26, 2012 I posted about the jobs I have had over my career, I went all the way back, as far as my mind would allow me, following my career path until I retired in 2009. One paragraph of that post was devoted to the time I spent at the National Gallery of Art (NGA). I would like to share with you an extended view of that job. Here is what I wrote about my time at NGA. I would like to expand that paragraph into a shared experience.

National Gallery of Art (NGA). This was the 1st job I got after I was honorable discharged from the Navy. It was the single greatest job I have ever had. It didn’t pay as much as my Navy salary, the uniform sucked, and I hated the hat, but I loved this job. I learned more about Art, and my appreciation for Art grew 1,000 fold during the 18 months I had this job. What I remember most about working at the Gallery was when I would make patrols at night, how the eyes of some of the painting followed you thru the gallery. That was extremely creepy. I also remember taking the secret service around the East Building so they could set up security for when the 1st lady (Rose Carter) had a luncheon there on the East Building Grounds. There is a whole post just talking about being a security guard at the National Gallery of Art. I look forward to sharing that story)

On Friday, March 10, 1978, I left the Navy with an Honorable Discharge, and became a civilian for the 1st time in almost 9 years. Prior to my discharge, Steph and I had numerous conversations about what I was going to do. One thing for sure, was go to college, and another and even more important was to get a job. Steph suggested that I should consider drawing unemployment while I settled into being a civilian, and during my job search. I agreed that this was a great idea, found the address for the Virginia Employment Commission, in Alexandria VA, and the hours of operation (9am to 4pm).

On Monday March 13, 1978 at 830am I arrived at the doorstep of the Virginia Employment Commission. Being my naïve self I assumed there would be a line (and I was correct), and I assumed it would be manageable (again I was correct) but I had no idea that many folks needed employment or drew unemployment. WOW was I surprised. I must have been number 150 when I got into line, and by the time the doors opened there must have been another 100 behind me. As I took my place in line, I quietly thanked myself, and my military service time, because after 9 years in the Navy, I knew how to stand in line and wait. In March 1978 the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. Minimum wage was $2.65 per hour.

About noon, my name (number) was finally called. Besides having my drivers’ license as identification, the only paper work I had was my DD214. Clearly the lady on the other side of the barred cage like structure was already tired, clearly she hadn’t had lunch, and equally clear she wasn’t going to take any crap. The lady glared at me and asked…..

What do you want?” to which I stated, “I am interested in drawing unemployment. Still glaring at me she asked, “What makes you think you deserve unemployment!” Still looking directly into her eye’s I said, “My girlfriend told me.” The glare got sharper, and the lady said, “and she told you this why?” To which I responded, “because I was Honorable Discharged from the United States Navy last Friday.” Her glare softened and she asked, “Do you have your discharge?” I said, “No ma’am, but I do have my DD214.” Her glare disappeared and she smiled after she reviewed that single sheet of paper, then she said, “Yes sir you do qualify for Unemployment, but you need to fill out some paperwork.” I returned her smile and said, “thank you.” At which point the lady started gathering documents to be filled out. When she was done, she started to push this 1 inch tall stack of paper at me, I looked at her and asked, “Ma’am what would I need to fill out to get a job.” She returned my smile and pushed a 3 by 5 inch card in my direction. I said, “Thank you ma’am, I will take the card.” She again smiled, and said, “When you finish filling it in just walk it right back to me.” “Yes ma’am,” I replied.

I completed the card, and returned it to the lady, and again took my seat. Five minutes later I was called for placement interview. I went into the office, the guy behind the desk looked at the card, and my DD214, and said, “You realize you qualify for unemployment,” to which I said, “Yes sir, the lady behind the counter said I did, but I found filling out this card to be easier. Besides I would really rather work if I could.” This gentleman looked at my DD214 for an additional 5 minutes and said, “Because you qualify for Veterans Re-employment re-establishment, I have 2 possibilities for you, and I can get you interviews; for one today, and the other tomorrow.” I beamed, and said “GREAT.”

After spending 3 and ½ hours at the Virginia Employment Commission, I left the building with 2 job interviews. The 1st interview was at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), in downtown Washington DC. The second scheduled for Tuesday was with Interstate Van Lines, in Fairfax VA.

After lunch that Monday, I met with the Captain of the Guard for the NGA, we talked about my military experience, education, availability, and a ton of other minor questions. He then asked for my SF171 (Federal Job Application). I showed him my best ‘Huh’ look and he reached into his desk and gave me a blank form. With a little bit of guidance, I completed the form sitting at his desk. BTW I completed the form in pencil, and signed and dated the form, as directed, to which he said, “You have to sign in ink.” At that time I erased my signature and resigned in ink. The Captain went on to say that personal would call me the next day to establish my starting date. So after being in the Navy for 8 years, 10 months and 20 days, and taking a weekend off, I was soon to be working full-time again as a Security Guard for the National Gallery of Art. On Tuesday I was called by Personal and officially offered the job (a GS 1/step 1 position as a Security Guard), with a start date 10 day at a salary of $6,561 or $3.15 per hour.  This was by the way, a significant pay cut from my military salary, but there was a lot less required hours.

I also went to the Interstate Van Lines interview. They also were interested in hiring me at “assistant manager,” but before employment I would have to attend a week-long training course, which at the earliest would be scheduled for 6 weeks down the road, and there would be no paid employment until after that training. I declined the position, and decided to continue my career with the Federal Government. Thus, in 10 days I started the best job I ever had.

Part 2 will actually speak to the 2 years I worked for the NGA.

As always your thoughts, questions, and comments are truly appreciated. Take care, Bill

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Ramblings

 

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