Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary Baby

Today is the first Anniversary of The Beach Bum Report’s first post. One of my friends, Richard Feder from Fort Lee, had been nagging me for more that a year to start blogging. He told me that I wrote well (questionable, at best) and that I had some good stories. In addition, I could make some pocket change by placing ads on the Blog. This sounded like a good idea.

I set up the account on Blogger in September 2006 but didn’t post my first blog until November 30 (6 month’s after my retirement). In December 2006 I was averaging 12 visitors per day. Before going on a four month leave of absence last July, I was averaging 28 visitors per day. Since I have returned to the Blogosphere on the11th of November it’s been 18 per day. Many of them read my Blog on a regular basis. This makes me happy.

However, I had thought that by now I would have a much larger readership. Therefore I am disappointed. I’m a firm believer in the two to the 10th power philosophy. This is, if 2 people tell 2 people who tell 2 people, ad infinitum (like a pyramid scheme). Allowing for diminishing returns, I should have about 1000 regular readers per week.

Now if only 10% of these 1000 regular weekly readers clicked on my ads (I currently have only one –, but plan to add more as soon as my readership increases), I’d be able to support my bad habits. I might even be able to afford one of those Hoochie-Coochie girls to clean out my pipes.

My plan for my second blogging year is to blog more often (only 175 blogs last year). As Mr. Feder sez, I have the time. I also plan to visit more blogs and add the interesting ones that I find to my blog roll. Three of the four that I currently link to are excellently written provocative blogs. Check them out on the right side bar.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mr. Hyde

Earlier today I read in the Chicago Tribune, that former US House of Representatives member Henry J. Hyde passed away at age 83. Mr. Hyde had been my Sister’s (the Saint) Congressional Representative for many years.

I spoke with him on many occasions during my self exile to Berwyn, Illinois in the early 1980’s. Henry was a very intelligent and quick witted person. He was also a good orator. He constantly cracked jokes and told stories about his fellow House members (he never mentioned any names – he left that to my imagination).

Henry was a good Irish Catholic and had the old fashion Catholic values that were very common in the Chicago Area. He represented a Congressional District where the constituents are predominantly white and Catholic.

So how did I meet Mr. Hyde? How did I end up at several of his parties? I knew his daughter well. She was a party animal and a fun person to be with. Henry didn’t really like this quality in his daughter, but he tolerated it. He also didn’t particularly like her choice of profession – she worked as a teller at Arlington and Sportsman’s Parks - Race Tracks!

I haven’t seen her or her father since 1982, but have good memories of both of them and the time that we had shared.

The Beach Bum.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

In the news today there was an interesting story. A man from Augusta, Georgia attempted to open a bank account with a counterfeit $1,000,000 bill in the small South Carolina town of Clearwater. He was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of forgery.

When the astute bank employee refused to open the account the man started to curse at bank workers. Consequently he received the disorderly conduct charge. The first count of forgery is for the $1,000,000 bill. The second forgery charge came after investigators learned he bought several cartons of cigarettes from a nearby grocery store with a stolen check.

How can the first charge of forgery possibly stick? Everyone in the banking industry should know that there is no such thing as a Million Dollar Bill. I have several $1,000,000 bills which were given to me as gag gifts. They are available on the internet and in novelty stores. Since no such denomination of United States currency exist these cannot be forgeries. As for the second charge of forgery, unless the clerk at the grocery store actually saw him sign the check and is willing to testify to that fact, the best that they can get him on is petty theft.

I have a friend that collects paper currency. There is probably a fancy name for these collectors, but I’m not going to bother looking it up on Gooooogle. The pride of his collection is a US $500 bill. He told me that this bill has been out of circulation since the early 1970’s. He also has a lot of foreign currency. It’s a nice collection but I rather have the cash instead.

By the way if anyone has any interest in any of my $1,000,000 bills, let me know. I’m willing to let them go for $20 US. No forgeries please.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Last Fire Drill

In a comment posted to one of my Blogs, a friend said that I should write some Kagnew Station stories in my blog. I feel that most of the stories that I tell about Kagnew Station, Eritrea, Ethiopia, East Africa are a little too obscene for this blog. Most of them cannot be toned down without losing the true essence of the story.

While looking through my files I found a story, written in 1999, that I could post to this blog. But before I post the story I must first give you some background information.

Artwork by Roxie Howard
Kagnew Station was a communications monitoring post located in Asmara, Eritrea (8200 feet above sea level). It reached its peak (no pun intended) in the late 1960’s and its closing began in 1973 with the withdrawal of the largest unit stationed there; The Army Security Agency. I had the good fortune of being there during the prime years (1966-1969). Subsequently I am the antagonist in a chapter of Michela Wrong’s non fiction book about Eritrea.

All that being said, here is a homogenized story about life at Kagnew Station in the late 1960’s. This is for you Pal Val.

It was the summer (rainy season) of 1968. Company "A" had just gotten a new Company Commander (LBJ – a sobriquet given to him because of his physique). I was on "A" trick, sharing a two-man room on the second floor with Little Willie. We were working Eves on the next to last day of the cycle. That night, after work, knowing we only had just one shift to go before our 48-hour break, we did what came natural; went downtown to savor some of the local nightlife.

At the ungodly hour of 0645 the Company fire alarm went off. I, as well as others, thought that this must be the real thing. Usually in the past we had always been warned of upcoming Fire Drills. Most of the guys would shack up downtown to avoid participation.

Grabbing what we could to cover ourselves, we headed for safety in the street in front of the barracks (I wish I had a picture of this). Guys came out of the barracks in sheets, in blankets, in under shorts and some with towels wrapped around their waist.

The alarms and noise in the street had also awakened the dependants living in the family housing across the street from A Company. As we gathered, they gathered, waiting for the Fire Trucks to arrive.

Out of the building comes the new CO. He sarcastically congratulates us on our ability to vacate premises in orderly fashion. Boos and hisses followed. Most of "A" Trick dropped their cover, walking naked back to the barracks and bed. The dependants living across the street were appalled at sight of us being au natural. Some of the guys even waved the distinguishing mark of their sex at the dependants. The families complained to the Post Commander. From that day until the day I left Kagnew that October, we didn't have another fire drill.

The Beach Bum

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In Vino Veritas

My youngest daughter (who reads my Blog on a regular basis) told me that my Blog is full of spelling errors and improper word usage. When I asked her for an example she said “You used the word worst where you should have used the word worse.”

In a telephone conversation, an old friend from Chicago basically made the same comments. He said that I over punctuate, I misspell words (usually homonyms) and that my usage of grammar, in general, is borderline.

This embarrasses me because I have always prided myself on the proper use of the English language. I have corrected youngest daughter on her grammar too many time too count. And now she is correcting me. Turnabout is fair play!

She attributes it to my use of Vodka and my writing when I am “half in the bag”. In fact, she has cut me off of my Vodka and has instead put me on red wine to supplement my beer drinking habit. So now instead of being a drunk, I am becoming a wino.

I have always liked wine, especially red wine, but like Gin it tends to do strange things to me. Vodka does not take away my inhibitions. Gin and wine do. For example, a few nights ago, I was singing along with one of my favorite songs at 0130 hours. This, of course, woke my daughter. She admonished me and sent me off to bed.

Now if you have ever listened to me attempting to sing when I have been drinking wine, you’d know that this is not too appealing to the ear. I sound like a cross between Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and a cat that has just had its tail caught in a mousetrap. When I was young I had a good baritone voice, but the years of alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking has made it very raspy. Add to this the fact that I am usually wearing headphones (at a full volume level) and cannot hear how bad I really sound; it becomes a nightmare for others.

So here I sit, nearing midnight, with 9 beers and nearly a half of a 1.5 liter bottle of cheap Merlot in my gullet; writing this piece and getting ready to sing again. I think my daughter will soon put me back on my daily Vodka ration, just to get me off of the wine.

Please forgive my misspellings and grammatical errors, as I am, as usual, half in the bag.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, November 25, 2007


Today I read that there was a movie on the Hallmark Channel called “A Grandpa for Christmas”. It will be repeated again on the 30th of November. The review stated “A cheerful if woefully predictable holiday yarn that weaves in a couple of musical numbers and plenty of caroling to flesh out its 85 minutes, "A Grandpa for Christmas" is a true throwback, leading a wave of Hallmark Channel fare clearly designed to fill a niche the major networks have mostly abandoned.”

The Hallmark Channel is not one of the channels that I watch n a regular basis. Why? Please note that the movie run-time is 85 minutes. When placed in a 2 hour time slot this means 35 minutes of commercials or 17.5 minutes of commercials per hour. Considering that the first 20 minutes of the movie are usually commercial free, this leaves us with 35 minutes of commercials in 100 minutes (35% commercials and 65% movie). This means that there will be 7 minutes of commercials and 13 minutes of movie for every 20 minutes of programming.

As unbelievable as it may seem, I still would like to see this movie. It’s about children and old people, two of my favorite topics. But the main reason is the star of the movie; Ernest Borgnine. I didn’t even realize that he was still alive and still acting. This is ironic because I watched one of his earliest movies on TCM last night (From Here to Eternity) and wondered if he was still living.

My favorite Borgnine role was that of Quinton McHale on television. McHale’s Navy was one of the funniest programs in the early 1960’s. The crew of the PT-73 was a bunch of misfits that always came through in the end. The supporting cast was great; especially Tim Conway and Joe Flynn.

As bad as the review of “A Grandpa for Christmas" was and given the fact that it will be inundated with commercials, I will still be watching it this coming Friday. Just to see Ernie in what might be his final role.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Loss of a Friend

44 years ago today (November 24th) I wrote an essay for an English class. It was the Sunday before our Thanksgiving break and I had a paper due on Tuesday. I had a tendency to put off my assignments until the eleventh hour. I felt that I did some of my best writing when under pressure.

Why do I remember this date and the essay so distinctly? I wrote it two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The theme of essay was about the loss of someone that you love and admire. I did love and admire the president. But the essay could have just as well been about a family member or a friend.

The essay came straight from my heart, full of pathos and bereavement. The title of the essay was “The Loss of a Friend”. I never mentioned the President’s name, but everyone knew who it was about when I read it aloud in class.

I was deeply touched and impressed by President Kennedy’s speeches and his charisma. When he spoke to the youth of America, he won our hearts. “We stand today on the edge of a new frontier - the frontier of the 1960's - a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils - a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats." He made my generation feel that they could make a difference, and he gave us hope for our future. "In each of us, there is a private hope and dream
which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit
for everyone."

Most people my age can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the President had been shot in Dallas. Classes were suspended and televisions were turned on in all of the classrooms. The girls all shed tears and the guys (who are made of much sterner stuff) sat quietly with somber looks on their faces.

Reality had set in.

I pondered the ramifications of this loss of a friend for hours before writing my paper. I have often wondered how things may have changed had John F. Kennedy lived and had served two full terms in office. My idealism disappeared on the day Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President; my life had been changed.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, November 23, 2007

The Boss Returns

A few months ago, I read that Bruce Springsteen (The Boss) was back on tour with the E Street Band. This is probably my all-time favorite band. I’ve attended 7 of his concerts over the course of the years. My heart pounds every time I hear his music live.

Like Bob Dylan, Springsteen is a lyrical poet. I own all but the latest Springsteen album, either on vinyl or CD. I’ve heard one track from the new album and I didn’t particularly like it. But sometimes Bruce’s music grows on you and a song that you didn’t really like at first seems to get better with age. The classic example is Born in the USA. I didn’t like that song at first, but three months later I was humming it.

I have some great memories of past Springsteen concerts.

I can vividly recall camping out twice in the 1980’s at a local Shopping Mall and waiting in line for Springsteen tickets to go on sale at the Ticketron. It was not as much fun as camping out for Jimmy Buffett tickets (a virtual parking lot party), but you do get to meet some interesting people.

Today it’s all college students, who work for the ticket agencies, in line. Real fans don’t stand a chance of getting good seats, unless the by them from a ticket broker. The last Springsteen concert that I attended was in the 1990’s. I bought from an individual for $10 over face value. His sister and her boyfriend sat next to us.

In today’s market you will end up paying over $100 over face value for the bad seats and up and over $1000 for floor seats. At those prices I guess that I will never attend another Springsteen concert.

The Beach Bum

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Great Waste of Time

My daughter subscribes to several premium cable TV channels including HBO, Encore and Showtime. All have at least 7 different channels. Needless to say I have spent much of the last three months watching a lot of movies.

Now that I have my computer set up again, I have been spending much less time watching the Boob Tube. It’s amazing how many hours one can waste watching the same movies over and over again. I even watched one movie back to back. First I watched it on HBO and then on HBO West. This is pure lunacy!

How many times can you watch episodes I, II, and III of the Stars Wars saga. In the past 60 days I have probably seen each of them at least 6 times. I was beginning to understand what R2D2 is saying and I'm also starting to phrase my sentences as Master Yoda does ("Always in motion is the future", instead of saying the future is always in motion.) Perhaps I’m becoming a Jedi Knight.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching these movies.

Last week Uncle John (my brother-in-law) asked me how I could watch movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, over and over again (“Dude, those are Chick flicks”). I told him that they were currently the best commercial free programs available. This is a sad commentary on today’s television programming.

He said that I should be watching the History Channel, the Military Channel or the Science Channel. He also said that I should expand my mind (I still have occasional flashbacks from the last time that I expanded my mind). But even on these channels it’s the same old programs repeated over and over again. Plus most of them have at least 18 minutes of commercials per hour.

A lot of the programming on the Discovery Channel and its above mentioned affiliates seem to me to be someone’s Masters Thesis. And it sounds like it is the same old announcer on all of them; this guy must be making millions. Where are Leonard Nimoy and Paul Winfield? At least I enjoyed listening to their voices.

I have spent the last few days writing and playing computer games. This has drastically cut down on my television hours. I will have a personal internet connection within in the next two weeks. This will mean even less television. Much of my time will be spent answering or deleting the 1044 emails that are currently in my in-box.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Last Saturday night we watch the movie Asteroid on the Si-Fi Channel between 700 and 1100. It was originally a 1997 two part made for television movie, that I had fortunately missed. The acting was mediocre but the writing, editing and directing was much worse. Plus the concept of the movie was scientifically implausible.

So why did I sit there watching this movie for four hours (one and a quarter of which were commercials)? I watched it for a very simple inane reason. Uncle John (my brother-in-law) appeared in three scenes of the movie as an extra. The film was shot in the Denver area and John had nothing better to do at the time. In addition to getting free food on the set he was paid $60 per day to just stand around and hobnob with some of the actors in the movie.

Uncle John takes pleasure in associating with celebrities. He always has. He is what people refer to as a Groupie. He seeks them out so that he can have future bragging rights. He spent a lot of time on his cell phone Saturday night calling people to alert them of his appearance in the movie; which amounted to less than 10 seconds of screen time. (“Remember that picture of me and so and so the actor; well it was taken right after this scene.)

As a general rule I don’t appreciate people talking though a movie that I hadn’t seen. But as this movie was so bad, I didn’t really mind John’s constant jabbering about the actors and the movie (“he was a real nice guy”, “this scene was shot 4 miles from my house”, “they gave us the same food that the actors ate that night” etc. etc.).

In my lifetime I have met (and had conversations with) many individuals that have been considered to be famous people. It’s really no big deal; for me it’s just a memory. I rarely crow or brag about meeting them. Most of them are just people like you and me; only they tend to be wealthier or more prominent in the public eye.

In my eyes the most impressive of the famous people that I have met; was an Admiral (not my cousin “The Admiral” although he is also an impressive person) who I met in the early 1970’s. This Admiral was one of the first WWII Navy flying aces and was feature in a book authored by John Gunther. His wife was a former Miss America. I would stand, spellbound, for hours listening to his stories and his opinions on current affairs. At that time he was the Director of the National Security Agency. I thought that he would eventually become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He didn’t make it to that position because he was apolitical.

He is one of the few celebrities that I will boast about meeting.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

For The Birds

Another major difference between Nowhereville and Treasure Island is the variety of Avian Life Forms (and yes you are reading it correctly – I did not misspell the word Alien).

On Treasure Island we had a large number of water fowl. Years ago I had categorize the Island birds into three major groups; Free Birds aka Beggar Birds, Snow Birds (the non-human type) and Thieving Birds.

The most prevalent Island bird is the Sea Gull. A friend of mine calls them “rats with wings”. The Gull actually falls into two of the aforementioned categories; Free and Thieving. So do Pelicans. Although the Pelican will fish for his dinner if all else fails. Herons and Egrets will also fish, but if a hand out is available they will sit there and beg.

In fact, one older Blue Heron would actually tap its beak on one of my neighbor’s doors. The neighbor would then feed the bird, which ate directly from her hand. Visiting friends who had seen this event were amazed.

The largest group of Snow Birds is the Monk Parrots. They come down (from the Carolinas and Georgia) in October on their way to the Keys and return back in late spring. Next to the Gull these are the noisiest birds that I have heard. And like the Gull they enjoy taking a dump on any newly wash vehicle. I didn’t wash my car for more than three years and never found any bird shit on it. My one neighbor would wash his SUV once at least once a week, but no matter where he was parked, it would be covered with bird droppings by the end of the day.

Here in Nowhereville, I rarely see a gull, as we are 8 miles inland.

While sitting on the Pool Deck I have a good observation point for the back yard. I’ve have seen Robins, Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Crows, Cardinals, Finches, Mockingbirds and even a Hawk. Most of these birds eat insects, which is good because there are plenty insects here for them to eat. Except for ants and Palmetto Bugs, it’s was slim pickings for the birds on the beach.

Two of the Mocking Birds that frequent my daughter’s yard have interesting calls. One imitates a small dog barking and the other sounds like a telephone ringing. The telephone bird drives me to my wits end. I often get up to answer the phone when it isn’t even ringing.

To top all this off, my daughter’s next door neighbor raises exotic birds. They have some of the strangest bird calls that I have ever encountered. I have never seen these birds so I have named them by their calls.

The first and most aggravating bird is what I call the “Rusty Gate” bird. This bird’s call is shrill and sounds like an old gate opening and closing. This may go on for hours in the morning. It’s almost as bad as hearing fingernails scratching on a blackboard.

I’ve named the second bird the “Smoke Detector” bird. This bird’s call sound like a high pitch beep. Similar to the sound that a Smoke Detector makes when it’s battery needs replacing. This happens for about 2 hours every morning unusually about a minute apart.

Then there is the “Mars Attacks” bird. This bird makes me laugh because each time that I hear it, I think of the Tim Burton movie of the same name. Its call sounds like the Martians in that movie; Aak, Aak Aak, Aak Aak Aak. This bird will usually continue until mid afternoon.

I don’t miss the Gulls or the Parrots, but some these bird calls are much worst.

The Beach Bum

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From Paradise to Nowhereville

For 9 years I lived in my personal Paradise. Treasure Island, Florida had everything that I wanted or needed. I worked less that 7/10ths of a mile from my apartment. There were 9 bars, 5 restaurants, and 3 sub shops within walking distance (under a half mile). A grocery store 2 blocks away, a discount liquor store a half mile away and a Walgreens 3 blocks away. Needless to say, I averaged adding less than 1000 miles on my car per year.

The running joke about me was that I didn’t go to the mainland because I hadn’t renewed my passport. The truth was that I really had no need the leave the Barrier Islands; especially with the advent of on-line shopping.

I could fish off of any one of three piers behind my apartment building. I could be basking on the beach within 3 minutes of leaving my apartment and swimming in the warm Gulf water within 5 minutes.

So why did I leave my Island Paradise and move 60 mile north and 8 miles inland. To put in a nutshell, it was because of local politics and the greed of others. I never have been fond of politicians. As my Dad would say “they speak out of the corner of their mouths.” As for the greed, I don’t begrudge people for trying to make a buck. But when they try to make a windfall profit at the expense of others, I tend to despise them.

In 2003 our Mayor, Leon, decided to move away from Treasure Island and did not seek re-election. Leon was my next door neighbor and he was pro business. His predecessor Walter was also pro business. At this point in time many small businesses were hurting for lack of tourists coming to the Island due to A) 9/11 and B) the state wide smoking ban. Most of our European Tourists ceased to visit Treasure Island. The mom and pop motels and the restaurants were hurting the most.

The Mayoral Campaign in 2003 was a scare tactic campaign targeting the elderly (according to the 2000 census; Treasure Island’s full time resident’s average age was 55 years old) people that were on a fixed income. Threats of property tax increases loamed heavy on the voter’s minds. However most of the voters did not realize that their property taxes could not increase more than 4% per year unless their property was sold and reassessed.

A proposition was also put on the ballot limiting the height of new construction on the Island. It was strangely worded (probably intentionally), so that a no vote would mean yes. Regardless of this I think that it would have passed anyway. The powers that be did not want and new Hotels and did not want to encourage tourism. In fact one of our larger Motels, the Ramada, had just sold and was being demolished to be replaced with condos.
Hurting for business many of the small Motels sold out to Real Estate developers, who planned replace them with condos. The Real Estate market on Treasure Island was booming. Property values began to skyrocket because of the new construction. This is one of the reasons Mayor Leon moved. His house and pool is now a vacant lot. He laughed all the way to the bank. As well he should have.

My apartment complex, consisting of 37 units, was sold to developers in June 2005. They planned to rehab the grounds and convert the apartments into condo units. They told all of us residents that they would give us at least 60 days notice. They offered us first choice on buying our apartments/condos. Many of the residents, including my daughter and son-in-law gave their notice immediately, feeling the impending doom. I had decided to stick it out until the end.

The new owners bought the property for 6 million dollars with hopes of nearly doubling their money within 3 years. The previous owner had paid $1,750,000 for the property in June 1999. The annual property taxes went from under $30,000 to just under $110,000. The 10 tenants that stayed were paying less than this amount in rent per year. Then there is trash, sewer and water. They were in the lost pool! They had forgotten the basic Real Estate principle of “Highest and Best use”.

In addition the developers re-landscaped the property, put on a new roof and made many cosmetic changes to the building. I would estimate that they sunk at least a half million dollars on these projects. To this date they have rehabbed three apartments and have sold none. The market, as I had predicted, had fallen apart. There are currently more that 400 empty condos on Treasure Island. Many of them are brand new.

Their new plan was to sell off one section of the building to other developers and in late June 2007. I received my 60 day notice with the option to move into another apartment with a higher rent. I declined the offer. And that is the reason why I now currently live with my daughter in Nowheresville, Florida.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rescue at Sea

The waters of Lake Michigan can be especially cold in the month of May. If they get warm at all, it’s usually in July and August. It depends upon the prevalent wind direction. Surface water temperatures of over 68 degrees are rare before late June.

The month of May in 1981 was colder then normal. We were wearing jackets while sitting in the cockpit of the Valiant. There was a zesty breeze and the sail was, as the Captain would say, invigorating. It was a Sunday afternoon and we had sailed to the “Crib Line” and then plotted a course to Navy Pier.

The Captain decided that we should head back to the harbor and to eat snacks and drink liquid libations. The crew was in total agreement with this proposition. We were all shivering and hungry.

As we headed back into Burnham Park Harbor, we noticed a school of small sailboats coming out of the harbor. These were of the 14 to 16 foot variety. The Captain mentioned that it was a great way to learn how to sail. The Park District gave classes and allowed people to take these small sailboats out for a very low fee.

All of a sudden the wind picked up and it was gusting. We had already dropped sail as we were nearing Miggs Field towards the harbor’s mouth at McCormick Place.

One of the small boats, which a young man and woman were sailing, got knocked down and had overturned in the water; keel up. They were attempting to get out of the cold water and climb onto the overturned boat.

The Captain immediately called the Coast Guard on the VHF to report the incident. At this point we were about 50 feet from the capsized boat. After seeing that the occupants of this small craft were in despair, my cousin, “The Admiral”, stripped off his cloths and jumped into the frigid water. He swam to them and helped them to get onto the upturned hull.

We arrived on the scene before the Coast Guard cutter. We brought the “Admiral” and the young couple aboard the Valiant. We gave them all blankets and a shot of cheap Brandy. Surprisingly none of them suffered hypothermia.

I often wonder if they (the young couple) ever attempted to sail again!

The Beach Bum

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The Fog

In the summer of 1981 I spent a lot of time fishing for Salmon (Coho and King) on Lake Michigan. The “Captain” had an annual fishing contest with a friend nicknamed “The Moose”. The Moose had the advantage because he owned a “Stink Pot” and could get out to “The Happy Fishing Grounds” faster than we could.

Salmon like cold water, so as the water warmed the Salmon would go farther out and deeper into Lake Michigan.

Fishing for Salmon requires down riggers. We were one of the few sailboats that were set up for Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan. In fact, the Charter Boats would mention our location on their VHF’s (The Green Sailboat). We listened to our VHF to see where
the Charter Boats were fishing. These captains would guarantee their clientèle a fish. And they had a very good idea where those fish would be.

It was late June 1981 and we were in a dead heat with the Moose. The Captain decided that we should go out to mid-lake. We motored out of Burnham Park Harbor before 0700 hours, and were in the “Happy Fishing Grounds” 90 minutes later.

At this time a fog had come over the Lake. The visibility was about 20 feet. We were dead center of the Lake, about 30 miles off shore. This area of the Lake is well known for its Barge traffic. Most of them coming down from Minnesota and Lake Superior and going to the mills in Indiana.

All of a sudden we heard the loud blast of a foghorn. We could not determine the direction from which it came. The “Captain” assured us that the ship would have radar and knew exactly where we were. This was of little solace as we did not know where she was and could not determine which direction the sound was coming from. We lie hove to and prayed that this ship wasn’t heading directly at us.

We attempted to reach them on the VHF with no success. At this point we were metaphorically shitting in our pants. We were also consuming beer in mass quantities. After 30 minutes the horn seemed more distant. We were safe and headed back towards the harbor.

The following year the Captain bought a Radar Unit for the Valiant to prevent a re-occurrence of this event.

The Beach Bum

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The Big Blow

It was our custom to have group sailing on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons. The Captain didn’t like to overcrowd the sailboat, so he set a limit on the amount of mates that could go on a Wednesday or Sunday sail.

On Wednesday nights we would start out at 1800 hours, return at dusk and then sit and drink and eat for about an hour. One Wednesday night in August 1981 the breeze on the Lake was beautiful and someone mentioned that it was a perfect wind for a sail up to Waukegan. We could eat breakfast there and then head back to Chicago.

The Captain and my cousin the Admiral thought that it would be a good idea. I said sure. Two young ladies who worked for Quaker Oats decided to play hooky and joined us. We pulled out of the harbor at 2030 hours and began to sail north.

We took turns sleeping. The Captain and I took the first watch as it was impossible for anyone else to sleep while we were sleeping. Both of us snore! The Admiral once described sleeping down below with the two of us as a “night in hell”. When one of us would stop snoring the other would begin and then we would snore simultaneously (Stereo).

We reached Waukegan early that morning and spent about an hour at the Yacht Club.

The winds had died down and were now coming from the northwest. As we headed back to Chicago we decided to do a Spinnaker run. The Spinnaker is a beautiful multicolor sail that aids forward movement in light winds. It does require some work to set it as you must first put up a spinnaker pole. This is why we rarely hoisted the spinnaker.

It was early afternoon and the two young ladies and I went down below to the cabin to play gin rummy. I originally suggested strip poker, but they weren’t too hot about that idea. I guess neither one of them wanted to see me naked.

Out of nowhere a very strong wind came up from the North. Suddenly we were heeled over and water was coming over the gunwale and into the cockpit. The Captain was screaming for me to come up from the cabin, and was yelling commands.

The first thing that we had to do was drop the spinnaker. The Admiral was already on the foredeck attempting to knock down the spinnaker pole. Unfortunately it requires a tall person to accomplish this act; the Admiral wasn’t tall enough to do so. He was jumping at the pole trying to knock it down while the Captain was at the helm still screaming orders to the crew.

I worked my way to the spinnaker pole slowly, because of the heel of the boat. I was holding on for dear life and the Captain was barking at me to move faster. At this point in time the Admiral had given up on trying to get at the pole and was preparing to drop the main sail on the Captain’s command.

Although it seemed like it was an eternity for me to reach and drop the spinnaker pole, it was probably less than two minutes. We doused the spinnaker and then dropped the main sail. A collective sigh of relief came from the Captain and the crew. We immediately grabbed a beer and sat looking at the Captain, waiting for him to speak.

He told us that it was a job well done. We saved the Valiant! The worst case scenario would have been a knock down with us clinging to the hull. There was also the risk of snapping the mast.

Under the tutelage of the Captain we had all learned how to react to a dire circumstance. He had taught us well and we all lived to tell the tale.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


In May of 1980, my marriage to the “General’s Daughter” was falling apart. I decided to quit my job and relocate to a different venue. It was a cooling off period, so to speak; a time to attempt to get my head back together again. So I left her and my three children in Maryland and headed for a safe haven; Chicago, “My Kind of Town”.

Chicago is a wonderful place to live during the summer months. It’s a vibrant city where there is always something to do or see. I moved in with my parents and got in touch with many close relatives and friends. I took a part-time job painting houses with my sister’s husband. The problem with that job was that I couldn’t climb up a ladder; I would get dizzy and the ground below would start to move (I have Vertigo). The running joke was that I had to stick with painting basement windows because I would get a nose bleed after the 4 rung of the ladder.

1980 was truly the Summer of George (my apologies to Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza). After being in Chicagoland for about 3 weeks, my cousin, the Admiral, invited me to go out sailing on a boyhood friend’s (The Captain) sailboat. It was a 32 foot Sloop moored on a can in Burnham Park Harbor (Northerly Island).

I had never been sailing before; I had been on sail boats but only in the harbor. This was the Captain’s second sailboat. Actually it was his third.

The first was a Dinghy that he and I converted into a sailboat in his uncle’s garage. I believe that this vessel now lies at the bottom of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The second was an old wooden boat that leaked like a sieve. I can recall going to the harbor with the Captain, to pump out the bilge and drink beer, in the frigid month of November 1968.

In 1980 the Captain had just been bought out of his managerial job at International Harvester and was receiving severance pay; therefore he was in no hurry to take another job. Not only was this the “Summer of George”, it’s also the “Summer of the Captain”. Two friends with nothing to do besides enjoy what life has to offer.

I spent most all of my free time that summer on the Valiant. The Captain attempted to teach me how to sail. He gave group classes to would be sailors/boat owners to help defray the cost of his mooring and Yacht Club fees. The best of his students were invited to crew aboard the Valliant, especially if they were good looking young ladies.

Now that the groundwork has been set, I will relate several Valiant sailing stories on my next Blog. They will be slightly embellished due to a lack of memory of the participants in these escapades.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Hot Fun in the Summertime

This year’s annual trip to Chicago was one of the better ones that I have had in recent years. I was able to reunite with more of the people that I had desired to reunite with than in past years. I spent less time in the bars and taverns than usual and more time with my sister (the Saint) and her family.

I was able to eat an Italian Beef sandwich with peppers and Pizza three times (one from Connie’s, one from the Home Run Inn, and one from my favorite neighborhood bar in Forest Park.) without intestinal distress. The Saint, who is an excellent cook, put me on a new supplement to aid with my digestion. It worked. However, I didn’t press my luck and have a Chicago style Hot Dog.

The first Sunday that I was in Chicago, I celebrated a good friend’s birthday. This event was held at my favorite neighborhood tavern. The bar is owned by another one of my good friends. People than I hadn’t seen for years were in attendance. It was an eclectic group of miscreants from all walks of life and the conversations were excellent as usual.

I spent most of the following week sitting in the Saint’s back yard, reading the newspapers and doing the puzzles (Crossword, Jumble and Sudoku). I usually read my news on-line, but since the Saint’s house is a non-smoking zone, I opted for the print edition. I prefer the print edition, but being a good Bohemian; if something is virtually free I lean in that direction.

My sister’s back yard is small but a very pleasant place to spend the day. For the most part the weather cooperated. We had a couple rainy days, but only one day in the upper 80’s. Good weather for mid to late July. The Saint is a consummate gardener; it seems that each year she outdoes herself with her floral displays. The diversity of the flowers and plants and their colors are amazing and aesthetically pleasing to the senses.

On Thursday we planned to go sailing on Lake Michigan. When in Chicago I sail aboard a 32 foot Sloop moored at Burnham Park Harbor. Although it was actually a beautiful day, the winds were coming from the North East at a sustained 15 KPH with gusts up to 25 KPH. Not an ideal day to sail on Lake Michigan. The Captain made the call at1600 hours – NO Sail!

I mentioned the fact that 25 years ago he would be yelling “No Guts – No Glory” The Captain countered with “There are no able bodies aboard, today”. I was the youngest crew member at 61 years old; in fact the Captain still calls me young George. So there sat bunch of old fogies eating Connie’s Pizza, drinking beer and wine and reminiscing about the old days aboard the “Valiant”.

I came up with several good sailing stories from circa 1980 – 1981. I will write about them in my next Blog. The parties involved in these stories told me to feel free to embellish the stories on the Blog. Most likely, I probably will.

On the third Saturday of every July, my cousin “The Admiral” organizes the “Five Generation Family Reunion”. Not only family members, but also friends from the old neighborhood also attend. This usually is the highlight of my trip to the Windy City. Even though some key members of the family and friends were absent this year, it was still a great time. The Beer, Wine and Bullshit flowed like water. And a good time was had by all that attended. I can’t wait until next year.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

He Says He's Alive

I have finally returned to the Blogosphere. No hissing or booing please.

A lot has happened since my last Blog on July 12th. After returning from my annual Chicago adventure, I prepared for my move from my apartment on Treasure Island to my daughter’s home in Nowheresville, Florida. I miss the Beach and the people that I knew while living there for more than nine years.

Nowheresville isn’t really that bad; it’s a nice place to live but I wouldn’t want to visit it unless I had family living here. There is basically nothing within walking distance. I had grown accustomed to walking everywhere on Treasure, Island. Most resort communities are set up that way for the tourist trade.

I had planned to return to Blogging by mid-September. I have been using my daughter’s computer for my email, but I couldn’t smoke inside the house. The designated smoking area is the Sun Porch. The Sun Porch is not air conditioned and we had an exceptionally hot September and October. On most days it was at least 85 degrees out there. I don’t really mind the heat but I think that my computer would not like it.

In the very near future I plan to Blog about my Chicago trip, my move and my observations about my new home. Then it will be back to my usual nonsensical Blogs.

As my cousin, the Admiral, said in an email to my friends; “George is alive or at least that is what he says.”

The Beach Bum

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Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. The original holiday was called Armistice Day to commemorate the signing of the peace agreement that ended World War I. This agreement was signed on the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month in 1918.

Later in a presidential proclamation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower renamed that day as Veterans Day. A day to be set aside to honor all that served in the Armed Forces. Being that I am a US Army Vet from the Viet Nam era, this Holiday is of great importance to me. As well as it should be to all of us. Veterans whether they were combative or non-combative contributed to our freedom and to sustain the American way of life.

Yesterday I went to the local Wal-Mart with my daughter. As I wandered through the aisles in the store I came upon an old man. We may have been the same age, but he looked much older and haggard that I do.

This old man was wearing a faded Baseball Cap with the words Phu Bai on it. Phu Bai was the home of the 8th Radio Research Field Station and not too far south from Hue, Viet Nam. This is a place that I knew well because several of my Army buddies were stationed there in the late 1960’s.

I initiated a conversation with him by asking him if he had been in the Army Security Agency. He told me “No, I was in the Infantry and the MP’s.” I next asked him when he was stationed there. He replied 1965-1966.

He then asked me if I was in Phu Bai; I replied that I was stationed in Africa, but knew several guys that had been there. We spoke for a few more minutes. I wished him a good Veterans Day and shook his hand and thanked him.

He then asked me why I was thanking him. I told him that it was because no one else, besides family and other Vets do. There were never any Welcome Home Parades for Viet Nam Vets. As well as there hadn’t been for 1990’s war in the Mid East, nor will be one for the Vets of the Iraq War. We both were tearing at this time. I shook his hand again and smiled.

If you know any Vets call them today and thank them. It will mean more to them than you can possibly imagine.

The Beach Bum

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