HMS Bounty

A steady mist poured from the sky that mid-June day in Maryland. Sue, Shannon, Aunt Laurie and I had been on vacation for about 9 days and it was our last day before heading north to Philadelphia to fly home. We got up at my Aunt’s house that morning, ate some breakfast and headed for Annapolis, our last tourist attraction on a trip overflowing with interesting and fun places.

I’d been to Annapolis before, but none of the girls had and so we meant to see the Naval Academy, the old town itself and soak in the historical vibe. The old statehouse showed us the spot where George Washington resigned his commission as well as the first peace-time capitol of the United States. A cannon from the 1600’s is mounted on the statehouse grounds and the storefronts and shops are beautiful.

We sauntered down to the wharf and waterfront to buy tickets for a boat tour of Annapolis Harbor and the Naval Academy. The line wasn’t long and there was a lot to see while we stood. Next to the boat on which we would ride sat the HMS Bounty at anchor. She had been in Annapolis for a couple of days doing a summer tour of the eastern seaboard and giving tours and allowing visitors on board. That day, she would sail from Annapolis to Philadelphia to allow more folks to see her.

I have a picture (that I’ll post here soon) that Aunt Laurie took of Sue, Shannon and me standing in front of it. She was built in 1962, a replica of the ship commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh of Her Majesty’s Navy. He famously lost the ship to an act of piracy committed by his first officer, Fletcher Christian and Mutiny on the Bounty has become part of the consciousness of the west. This replica was built for the Marlon Brando version of the film.

We stood and admired her lovely lines and watched people scurry about aboard her as they enjoyed the gray, cloudy and cool weather. It could have been worse, you know? June in Maryland can be pretty hot and humid. We escaped and felt lucky, more than willing to put up with a little mist.

As we finished our tour aboard the tour boat, Bounty set out under power through the harbor for her trip north to Philadelphia. She’d unfurl her sails later.  On Monday, Bounty was on her way from Connecticut to Florida when she encountered Hurricane Sandy about 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. She lost propulsion and foundered while taking on water. She didn’t last long, though crew members attempted to save her. They donned their neoprene orange suits and got in the water.

Unlike the Pacific, the Atlantic waters are warm, even this time of year, and it was possible that the crew members would live through the experience. Claudene Christian, 42, was one of the crew members and she was plucked from the water Tuesday. She did not survive the ordeal. 14 other crew members were rescued successfully, but the Captain, Robin Walbridge, is still missing.

I remember standing by and looking at the Bounty. I’m a fan of the story and had seen the ship in the Brando version movie, but was much more fond of the Anthony Hopkins/Mel Gibson version released in the 80’s.

Still-another tragedy in the long list of what will surely come out of the storm that hit the east coast. I’m saddened by the loss of people who I probably saw and thought nothing of last June.

“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by…”

For those in peril on the sea…


On a blue-green Sea.

Saturday was a zombie-day. Up at 5:30 with the alarm. Was supposed to be 6, but I blew it. No point in going back to sleep. Up to the church to pick up Shannon from a sleepover and lock-in at the church where she got something like 3 hours of sleep herself. Out we went to the soccer fields and played a winning game. The kid did pretty well, too–and we won 2-1. So, one more regular season game and if we win that one, we go to the playoffs. Cool.

Hot, Santa Ana winds yesterday. 90 degrees in late October. Annoying, but no worries. Did nothing on Saturday after the game. Simon continues to recuperate from the wound and has good and bad hours. He’s sleeping off a pain-killer right now, poor guy.

Covered a story last night at the Reagan Library and it was great– a student debate that apparently lasted all day. I was there for the final round at 6 in the evening. High school kids being engaged and focusing. It was awesome.

On to the annual Halloween party at Greg’s. It’s become something of a tradition and it was great to have Sue come with us last night-and we had fun. But Peanut plopped out about 10 pm and so we headed home and poured her into bed and us, too.

I slept in this morning until 9 am, something I have not done for many years but I felt I needed it. Papers are graded, lessons are planned, stories written, interviews done–I took Sunday mostly off. I wrote the debate piece this morning, did a 20-mintue interview this afternoon–but that was it. Long, simple nice and calm day and now enjoying the World Series.

Simple is good–no great essays to write, nothing challenging or laden with images. Just a day off for the most part. And I like it very much indeed.



Simon’s Very Bad Day

My schedule currently allows me to escape for lunch on occasion, however briefly. I came home today and said hi to Sweet Sue, but was quickly interrupted with a nervous, nudgy and overly-affectionate greeting by Simon, the wonderdog. He was panting a bit and wanting attention, so I patted his head,  rubbed his flanks a bit and pulled back my hand only to discover blood all over it.

Along Simon’s right side, nearly center of his torso aligned with his rib cage was a large and ugly wound. My first panicked thought was that he and Lucy-dog had again gotten into a tiff, as they did just after Simon joined our family nearly 2 years ago–and that she’d had at him. But the nature of the wound and its location precluded that. If Lucy wanted to hurt him, she’d go for his neck, chest or front legs, as she did then.

No, this was a serious puncture wound and I told Sue to call Dr. Thomas. He was kind enough to see us immediately, so we ran Simon down there and Dr. T’s assistant, Abel, lifted him up immediately and put him on the treatment table. He wasn’t going to allow the doc to work without sedation, unfortunately. So, Doc gave him a bit of happy juice and Simon sort of glazed over, tongue lolling, eyes open-but unable to resist.

Simon had apparently been playing with Lucy outside and she got him riled up. Two weeks ago, Sue and Aunt Laurie trimmed the bouganvillea way back-down to nubs. Now, at its fullest, brightest and best, bouganvillea has thorns and causes Simon and Lucy all kinds of scratches and cuts. But Simon ran into a bush and was impaled by one of the larger sticks. It ripped through the skin, down into the fat layer and directly through muscle. It actually tore a bit of muscle, too.

Sutures applied, pain-killers, antibiotics-both in syringe and then in pill form and about half an hour of watching the poor dog come out of the sedation by fighting hard to stand up without being able to–Sue took me back to school and then drove Simon home.

He’s whiny and wants constant attention–he’ll have a big scar on his right side, but hey, chicks dig scars. He’s a pretty healthy dog and that should help him heal.


What Cyrus said.

Cyrus Nowrasteh has become a friend over time. I had his son, Alex, in my class years ago–he’s married now, living in Washington, D.C. and setting the world ablaze with his brilliance.

So is Cyrus–so it meant a lot to me what he said. “It’s always about finding your voice,” he said. “I don’t care who you are, it’s a hard thing to do–but it’s necessary and that is what writes the words.”

It stung with the pain of a kidney punch and it lit up, aglow with 100,000 candle power into the recesses of my writer’s brain. He read a few pages of something I’m working on and of the 12 single-spaced pages I wrote, he found 3 that worked. And he’s right. The others troubled me from the beginning. And now I know why.

Find your voice. It’s not as easy as it seems. Look hard for what you’re trying to say. Say it–and say it again.

Thanks, Cyrus.


Seven Years

My students were very kind and informed me that today is the seventh anniversary of this particular blog. My but does time fly. When I started writing this, they were my daughter’s age and younger–she’s 11.


Where does the time go?

I have less to say than I did that evening. But, I have to tell you–the fact that my kids read my blog–and that they thought enough of that to tell me Happy Anniversary–makes me very thankful to be in the position I’m in.

Thanks Jessalyn, Danny, Theresa and Marie Pierre and all of you– I’m honored–and I’m humbled by the fact that I get to work with you all.


Days of Wine and Apples…

It’s been rather nice, actually. We decided to take breathers from our various schedules. We can’t and didn’t do anything extravagant–no overnight stays, no hotels–nothing like that. But on Saturday night, Shannon had a sleepover at the Navy base with a friend from her soccer team whose family lives on base, and so Sue, Aunt Laurie and I went to dinner at Michelle and Greg Kenney’s La Dolce Vita in Oxnard.

Greg was our neighbor when we lived in Ventura and I’ve written of them before. Michelle was his high school sweetheart and they reconnected after so many years. She’s the chef and owner and the food is spectacular. Simple, old world Italian food made with attention to detail. Michelle sat with us and we talked while we dined. Then, out came the port!

Good stuff, people. This was the Sangiovese Port from Sylvester in Paso Robles and I took this picture to get a view of the sludge on the side of the glass. It was unfiltered and delicious. There was also a syrah port that Sue like a lot and we got to sort of mix and match three different ports. Life is good when you know the owner.

Then, Sunday morning we went and got Shannon and pointed the car north from the Navy base to go up to See Canyon and Gopher Glenn to get our share of the fall apple crop. We bought some 20 pounds of apples, tasted a bunch of different kinds, stopped at Kelsey See Canyon Winery and ate an early dinner at Jocko’s Steakhouse:

Yes–all the beef, none of the atmosphere–or, perhaps, an overabundance of atmosphere in only the very best way. A slump-stone building with a 40 year-old interior and a helpful, but not overly so, wait staff who sees to it that the oak coals cook your choice steaks and meats to perfection. You get a relish tray and if you order salad, it’s iceberg lettuce, chilled–with possibly a hint of carrot and cabbage and loads of dressing. It may be unhealthier than the steak.

And it is glorious! Must. Go. Back.

It’s a busy time, gentles. Long hours-lots of writing and deadlines, Shannon’s schedule of nightly practices or confirmation, homework and friends. Sue is working part-time and running our home–it’s all a jumble. And it was good just to take some time to be ourselves and enjoy each other’s company.

Need to do that more often.


Thank you For this Good Life

Ugh. Three deadlines, four interviews, 1500 words, about 17 e-mails, several verification phone calls. All today. On top of a full day in the classroom. And I still have time to do this. It’s a good life, I tell you.

But it’s a busy life, too and it’s a breakneck pace. So far, so good. No real complaints. I’ll sleep tonight–I don’t have a problem with hard work. I like it, actually. The tension is keeping it busy without overdoing it and that’s a tension that’s not easy to balance. On a day like today, it works–but it’s a day that kept me from a walk with Simon. He’s fine–Sue took him to the dog park and he ran and played. I, however, did not. I can’t do that everyday. Gotta have a walk–gotta get me some exercise or this schedule doesn’t keep. So, see what I mean? The tension has to work.

Dad contacted us with very bad news last night. His dog, Sam, passed away yesterday. Dad loves his dogs. To be quite frank, if reincarnation has any real truth, I want to be one of my dad’s dogs in a future life. OK-that’s over the top. He rescues dogs that are at their end–and he gives them a loving home and cares for them.

He and Joanne found Sam in Prescott Valley, Arizona where they lived for quite a few years, having just moved back here to California at the end of this past summer. Sam started life with a rough hand. He had doggy-diabetes and he needed meds for his stomach, arthritis and a few other things.

He did, however, live a fairly long life. I believe he was close to 12 years old or so and dad had him since he was about 3 or 4. Dad medicated him, fed him a special diet, gave him love and walked him daily. Sam was a friendly and good dog and I know that my dad is grieving like I grieved Scoop. I miss Scoop-boy every day and I know that dad will miss Sam. Farewell, Sam. May your time with my dad and Joanne have been the blessing to you that your presence was to them. Peace and Godspeed.

Thursday–a diminished school day letting us out about an hour earlier than usual–then on to interviews and two more stories and aligning some info for some more for next week.

Like I said, it’s a good life. “Lord, thank you for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.”


No Rest….

October is here–and in typical So. Cal. fashion, it doesn’t know whether to be hot or cold. It’s opting for the warmer side of the spectrum, at least in the daytime–but at night, it cools down. Still, the a/c kicks on in the middle of the night sometimes. For those of you reading this disgusted that we’re running a/c at night, take a pill. Our home is a hot box and seems to trap its heat for the day. This works well during the cold period of the year, which here in Ventura County lasts for approximately 30 days during the winter–less during years like last year. It’s also a way for us to control our climate inside as Sue suffers from asthma and leaving windows open all night isn’t really optimal.

Shannon’s cold is on the way out–she’s left with the loose cough that accompanies said end. We’ll go and get our flu shots this week as a guard against the winter’s onslaught, such as it is in these parts.

The turbulence of the first few weeks of school are mellowing a bit. It’s still a bit of a kvetch for me, and I’m frustrated by the things that I cannot control like the budget stuff and the administration’s fecklessness. But as I say, I can’t control those and sooner or later, I guess it’s best to accept that.

Last week was a crusher. Many deadlines, too much new material to cover at school and I had trouble sleeping-and relaxing. I’m starting to gain more control, but by Thursday of last week I was a mess. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus and my moods were all over the place. I’d have 10 minutes where I’d talk fluidly about nothing for 15 minutes non-stop and then I’d shut down for an hour and not talk at all. Catching Shannon’s cold didn’t help, and I’m still having recriminations from that. It’s strange–as I sit and write this, I get anxious thinking about it.

So much of what we worry about we have no control over. It’s not enough to know that most days, though. I just get caught in the loop over and again of being anxious, having too much to do and not enough time to do it. It’s actually kind of silly-but it’s results are not so silly. Anxiety sucks.

Sunday, though–and a few things to do: Going to cover a story this morning over at Camarillo Airport, then home to grade papers and perhaps, walk the dog–and then off to a fundraiser for the local Humane Society. Sheesh. I thought Sunday was relaxing.



Turbulence on Take-off

The new normal here is a few days–sometimes a week or even 10 days–between posts. The schedule is hot and heavy and it’s hard to get a break at times. I’m usually swamped busy from about 7 in the morning until around 9 or 10 at night–yes, I take breaks for dinner and lunch–and most of the time, I make room for a walk with Simon or at least a quick romp to the dog-park, like today–to give him, and me for that matter, a bit of exercise or maybe just a break.

The MRI report came back on the neck and shoulders–not much changed from the one four years ago and it not much different from the one five years ago. I’ve been making progress with recent physical therapy and some exercises. Tonight, pulling the garbage out, a heavy yard waste can tipped over. I seem to have tweeked it a little–but I don’t think anything serious. Frustrating.

All in house, except mom who is visiting from Phoenix, have a cold. Shannon got it first and battled dutifully. She’s in the phlegmatic cough stage. No fever–lots of loogies. It gets caught in her throat. She awoke this morning about 6 and said she was having a tough time breathing–worked herself up. A few coughs, a warm shower–all was well. Poor thing.

Sue has it, too. So do I–we’re in various stages and it’s frustrating. No one likes being sick.

School is tough. Atmosphere is adversarial–budget is tight, under the gun for more budget cuts and possibly more furlough days or salary cuts. The gap in communication between the teachers and the district administration is huge and it seems to grow daily. It would be imprudent for me to discuss too much here what is happening, as I am a teacher in the district and I serve at the pleasure of the administration. Contrary to popular belief–no one has a guaranteed job, and I’m thankful to have the one I’ve got. For the most part, it’s a great job–but things are tough right now and it’s rather sad.

A rocky start to the school year, gentles–a rocky start indeed. Plenty of deadlines keeping me busy, a few business decisions I’d rather not make, but mostly happy to be having editors contact me. On balance–this part of the working life is pretty solid.

So, now as I sit here–watching Chopped with my mom and aching in my neck and feeling a bit un-nerved, I am in hopes that the week will smooth out as we go forward.