Sunday, May 31, 2009


On Saturday I watched two MLB games; the first game was between the Marlins and the Mets and was presented on our local Florida cable sports network the Sun Sports Network.

The second game was on Fox featuring Minnesota at the Tampa Bay Rays.

Both Florida teams won their games.

I should have been happy, but I wasn’t; in fact I was a bit perturbed.

Saturday May 30th was the real Memorial Day, at least in my opinion. The Federal Holiday was last Monday. This change (of dates) was created to give government employees (federal, state and local), as well as bank employees and Wall Street, a three day weekend.

First of all, Memorial Day (Decoration Day) shouldn’t be considered as a day to celebrate, party and shop, but a day to honor our soldiers. It’s a day to honor the dead that served their country. And served it with the ultimate sacrifice; their lives.

Back to Saturday and the ballgames.

Both the Sun Network and Fox switched to commercials when the National Anthem was played. This really angered me. I had planned to stand up and salute (it is now allowed for former serviceman to salute during the Anthem) to honor our fallen soldiers during the singing of the Anthem.

The Cubs (and White Sox) games on WGN always show the singing of the National Anthem before the game and then they cut to a commercial. I usually stand and salute (and get tears in my eyes)!

Saturday was a special day and to salute my fallen comrades I had to go to youtube. This is a shame!

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheering for the Home Team

For the past two nights I’ve been watching the Rays and Marlins (no, not the sea critters, the Baseball teams) and I am watching the rain delayed game now. The Interleague games are being played at Joe Robbie Stadium (now Land Shark Stadium) in Miami. This is not a Baseball Park it is a Football Stadium which is adapted to look like a baseball field. It doesn’t look like a ballpark.

The seating for Football is in the mid 70 thousand range and cut back to around 40,000 for Baseball (the seating is expanded when the Marlins are in the Playoffs or in the World Series).

The Marlins are a marginally profitable Baseball team; they have very low attendance at most home games. Therefore they trade away their good players just before it comes time for them to become free agents. More than several of the best pitchers and hitters in Major League Baseball are products of the Marlin’s organization. They are no longer on the team because the Marlins could no longer afford to pay them. What do the Marlins get in return; some more top prospects, young players that will work cheap until they get a shot at the big money.

The Marlins average about 17,000 fans per game. Although the cameramen try not to, all you see in the outfield is empty seats. Also when you watch the game on television the (amplified) crowd noise is not that loud. Imagine how it sounds to players at this large stadium. The players tend to play better when there is a large crowd cheering for them.

I remember going to Wrigley Field on weekday afternoons in the late 1950’s with attendance under 10,000 fans and it sounding louder than what I am hearing on amplified television today.

A friend explains this phenomenon to me by saying old people cannot yell too loud (plus most are half asleep during the game – “Wake me up if someone hits a Homer”). Kids can yell loud and tend to cheer for their team much more than the older crowd.

When I was a kid I went to a lot of Cubs games at Wrigley Field. I would arrive there for batting practice and talk to the players. One of my all-time favorite players was Ernie Banks. Ernie would talk to all of the kids and sign autographs. He would genuinely thank us for coming to the game to cheer on the Cubs, saying that we should make a lot of noise for the home team. According to Ernie this made a difference to the players (he told us “we want to hear you”).

If I were David Sampson (President of the Florida Marlins) I would give 10,000 General Admission tickets (per home game) away to kids between the ages of 11 and 16 when accompanied by an adult paying for a half priced ticket (and fill up those empty seats). Not only are you building a fan base but you are also making money on concessions that you wouldn't have otherwise. Plus the players get to hear a lot more cheering for the home team.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

An Unsolved Mystery - Solved

Thanks to my friend Al (Alfredo) I have spared myself from an embarrassing moment (talking to the neighbor about his tropical birds). Al left a comment on my Wednesday Blog about the new bird that has been driving me to the brink of insanity (a short trip). Contrary to popular belief, I do read all of the comments that are posted on The Beach Bum Report.

In his comment Al posted links to MP3 files of bird songs. The first one was right on the money. This was the bird that I have been hearing for the past two weeks. It is not a tropical bird as I had suspected, but a bird indigenous to North America.

It’s a big Woodpecker called the Pileated Woodpecker. This particular Woodpecker has decided to take up residence in my neighbor’s tree that overhangs the wooden fence between the two properties. It, the bird, at times will visit the trees in our yard; I hear the pecking on the tree behind my office (The Shed).

I first noticed it about three weeks ago when I heard a rapping/tapping sound emanating from the rear of the shed. At first, I thought that it was my son-in-law doing yard work. I went out to investigate and saw the largest Woodpecker that I had ever seen. The bird took one look at me and fled the area immediately.

Obviously the bird was angered by me making it depart our yard and has decided to remind me that paybacks are hell. It laughs and cackles every morning and afternoon; and it will do so for hours.

Cazzo – please ship that rifle as soon as possible.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, May 22, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

It has been raining here in my part of “sunny Florida” for the past 5 days. It’s not like our summer rains which last about an hour on a daily basis; it’s an on and off all day affair. Rain is a good thing at this time of year, especially since we had an extremely dry March and April.

For years I was a very deep sleeper (I have slept through an earthquake that dislodged me from my bunk). In fact, my cousin “The Admiral” once said that anyone that could snore (I also have sleep apnea) as loud as I did and not wake himself up must be a very sound sleeper. Our “Captain” had this same ability; he slept through his snoring as well as mine. When you are in close quarters on a boat the nasal sounds of sleep seem to be magnified.

I am no longer a deep sleeper. I’ve always had a hard time falling asleep, but in the old days once I went down; I was down for the count. I use alcohol (a carbon molecule away from the gas Ether) to lull me into that never-never land. For the most part it works and is a lot less expensive and more pleasurable than taking Ambien (Zolpidem – see I actually pay attention to the commercials on television) on a nightly basis.

Every morning, shortly after daybreak, I awaken to the singing, chirpings and squawking of the birds that habituate the trees in our back yard. Not to mention the raucous noises emanating from our neighbor’s rookery (at least his tropical bird collection wait until mid-morning to start to annoy me).

Now I have new aggravating noises because of our recent rainfall.

It took me two additional Vodka drinks and an extra hour to fall asleep last night. I can’t blame this one on the birds; they were all sleeping as I should have been. I blame it on the rain.

Thunder or the pitter patter of rainfall doesn’t stop me from sleeping. These are normal noises to which I have grown accustomed. It’s the damn croaking frogs.

They start their singing shortly before midnight and continue until dawn (probably to keep the predator birds awake all night). Actually they are mating. The male frog sings to attract the female. As water is their source of life, the five days of rain gives them a lot of areas in which to procreate.

Unfortunately they are not baritones and basses like the Budweiser Frogs; they are all tenors or altos.

The mating ritual will last for a few more days and then I'll return to my bitching about the birds. At least I’ll drink less Vodka and get more sleep.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shooting the Bird

The other day my friend Cazzo (AKA Mr. Clean) called me to gripe about his financial woes. He is in his upper sixties and draws full social security benefits. He also has his own home based business that is marginally profitable and works part-time in firearms section of a nearby Sporting Goods Store (his feet hurt after working and they probably also stink – I can empathize with this because for many years I worked in the standing position).

Our conversation covered many topics; both of us are proficiently adept at changing the subject in mid conversation. To keep the conversation pleasant we usually stay away from politics; he’s a Republican and I am a Conservative Liberal (or possibly a Liberal Conservative). He has called me a switch hitter.

The topic of our conversations usually reverts to the time that we spent in Africa together. The friends that we knew and places that we had been, with an emphasis on the bars and brothels that I frequented. He’s still in denial!

In our latest telephone conversation I asked a question that he couldn’t answer; I can’t either.

It is a well know fact among my friends that I do not particularly like things that fly. This includes, but is not exclusive to, insects and birds.

The question that I posed was about the old 1940’s and 1950’s movies and television programs that took place in the African jungles; especially the Tarzan movies and Ramar of the Jungle on television.

When strangers (usually bad persons) entered the jungle, the birds would begin chattering (sounding like laughter), next the Chimpanzees would start to chatter and then the Elephants would start to trumpet. This would warn the hero that impending danger was on its way. This was an excellent, though primitive, communications system.

But what is the name of the bird that makes those sounds? Cazzo didn’t know the answer.

Since we were in the Ethiopian highlands, and not the jungle, we had never heard these birds or saw a Chimpanzee (although there were lots of Baboons that would shriek at you and throw rocks – nasty primates). Even when I traveled to the Kenya wildlife preserve in 1968, I didn’t see a Chimp nor hear these birds.

I have always wondered if those birds really existed (or were made up by Hollywood sound effects crews).

Last week I got my answer; they exist. My neighbor (who raises tropical birds for fun and profit) has one, but I still haven’t asked him the name of the bird.

The bird has been driving me crazy for more than a week and I’m waiting for Tarzan to come and rescue me. Or maybe I should just buy a rifle from Cazzo’s gun shop.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Turning My Brain into a Mass of Creamy Goo

On Super Bowl Sunday, the premier date for some of the better television commercials that we will see all year, the pickings were sparse. Bad economy, I suppose! However we were treated to a good game and, in my opinion, an above average half-time show.

The Moose commercial was by far the best. The second best featured Alec Baldwin as an Alien touting I had never heard of Hulu so I checked it out. Hulu features television programs with minimal commercial interruptions. Most of what I saw (that was available) was newer programming in which I have no interest. I departed the site.

Last month I saw a new commercial featuring Seth MacFarlane (the creator, animator and actor on one of my favorite television programs – Family Guy) as another alien trying to turn our brain’s gray matter into a mass of creamy goo matter, by allowing us to watch television programming on the internet.

Earlier this week I returned to Hulu. This time I decided to use “my head for something more than a hat rack.” I used their website search option. I love animated programs (Cartoons) and my all time favorite is a Jay Ward series called Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends (later named Bullwinkle and friends). The cast was made up of old Stan Freberg alumni doing the voices of the main characters and William Conrad (radio’s Matt Dillion - Gunsmoke) as the narrator. During that time it was cutting edge humor geared at adults and teens.

Much to my surprise Hulu had it; the full first season of Rocky. I’ve watched 15 episodes from Rocky’s first season since last Tuesday. Each show is uncut (except for the original commercials) and lasts about 26 minutes (including about 4 – 30 second or less modern commercials; which are not of the obnoxious variety).

Then I started to think (a dangerous thing for me to do), if they have Rocky they may also have one of my all-time favorite sitcoms; McHale’s Navy. And they do and I have watched the first 15 episodes of that series. I can’t wait to go back to Hulu and search for more of what I call classic television programming.

So what if it’s turning my brain to mush and goo. At least I am returning to the “Golden Days of Yesteryear”.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Surrogate Mothers

While I am in still in that nostalgic craze about my time spent in Africa in the 1960’s; I thought that I should write this story.

There was an older lady (in her early 50’s – we were all in our early 20’s) that many of us GI’s from Kagnew Station knew intimately. We called her Mama Kathy or Mama K. I am not too sure if that was her real name. But we all called her Mama out of deference.

Mama K had a cheese and wine shop bordering on the street in the front yard of her house; it was more like a kiosk. She sold Italian cheeses, sausages, fruit and wine. For about $2 you could get a plate of food for lunch with a glass of wine.

As a youth I ate a lot of different types of cheese, primarily Wisconsin cheese. But none of those compared to the Italian cheeses that Mama would serve. Hard cheese, soft cheese, goat and sheep milk cheeses that were served with spicy sausage, fruit and a glass of cheap red wine (Barbera). It was an epicurean’s delight. I became a regular patron.

Mama K and I had many conversations over lunch and coffee.

When Mama K was much younger, she was a Padrona (the word she used) to an Officer in the Italian Army that was stationed in Asmara. In 1941 he was sent back to Italy and she accompanied him as his mistress (I’m not sure if he was married or ever had a wife).

The Italian Officer was killed in battle and in the early 1940’s Mama returned to Asmara. She was pregnant and wanted her child to be born in her native country. She had a son. Several years later, through an affair with a local Asmara businessman (also Italian), she had a daughter.

Her son managed a local Italian owned Night Club, famous for its European performing acts; including dancers, singers and acrobats. He didn’t like us Americans being in the club nor did he like us visiting with his mother. He was well known for shooting at cars driven by US Servicemen near his mother’s house and the kiosk. Therefore this place of business was Off Limits to military personnel. I visited regardless.

The daughter was a couple years younger than me. She was sent off to college, by Mama, to Pennsylvania in 1967. I often wonder if she returned to Eritrea or stayed here in the States. I had met her one time when she was working in the cheese and wine shop; she was cute.

I have always wanted to get more details about Mama’s life. A few people that were stationed at Kagnew Station in the mid 1950’s have written (to me) about her, but they called her “Miss K”. She was a legend and a wonderful person to know and to be acquainted with.

The Beach Bum

A post script note: (Mr. Richard Feder – Please note that I have intentionally ended another sentence with the preposition with).

Bad habits last forever – good habits die too soon.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

An Incredible Story

The second leg of Dave’s journey through Ethiopia takes us to Axum (Aksum). Both Dave and I had been to Axum while we were stationed at Kagnew Station in Asmara.

Axum is a small town that is very rich in Ethiopian (Abyssinian) history. It is best known for its Stelae (Obelisk) Field. The Queen of Sheba purportedly ruled her empire from this small town. Many Ethiopians as well as Eritreans consider Axum to be a very sacred place.

A few days before my journey to Axum, I was speaking to a local friends’ mother about my impending trip. As a child she had been to Axum with her mother (who was the mistress of an Italian military officer, her father, stationed in Ethiopia). They had traveled on a pilgrimage from Asmara to Axum for the Feast of Saint Michael.

In vivid detail she told me of her journey; what took us about three hours took them 3 days. The best part of her story was that on the feast day, the priests carried the “Ark of the Covenant” from the Cathedral to display it to the faithful that were gathered there in the Lord’s name.

I was in awe, because basically, this unbelievable story was being told to me by a woman (in her late 40’s) that I shared breakfast and coffee with several times a week. We had previously spoken about many things, but never religion. I knew that she and her daughter were Catholics because of the Asmara church (St. Antonio) that they attended.

Personally I do not believe that the Ark exists. I’ve never seen it. I have never seen God either, but I do believe that there is a “higher power”.

Without further ado, below is Part II of my friend Dave’s story (with more excellent photographs) about his trip to Ethiopia. As before, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

The Beach Bum

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Ethiopian Travels Part II

After Addis Ababa, Bahar Dar and Gondar, I went on to Axum. And although I had been there some forty years before, I didn’t remember a thing. Not that the town is all that big, it’s quite small in fact – you can cover it on foot from one end to the other in about 30 minutes. It’s just that other than the Stelae field, a church or two, and a few tombs, there just isn’t that much that is memorable. At least not 40-years memorable.

But as elsewhere in Ethiopia, maybe even more so, the people were friendly and welcoming – lots of smiles and hellos and invitations to coffee. I even met a few older folks who still spoke some Italian and greeted me first in that language. Like the old gal stationed outside St Mary of Zion who seemed half blind but had a great sense of humor despite her apparent disability,

A Bill Cosby look alike who insisted on buying me coffee,

and Berhane, the gatekeeper at the Stelae field.

Axum is in the Ethiopian province of Tigray, which adjoins the Eritrean highlands and is most similar to that country, culturally, linguistically, geographically. So it was here in the far North of Ethiopia that I had the strongest sense of having returned. I felt a real connection, with the place, with the people.

I was met with friendliness, hospitality, and good humor at every turn. Even at my hotel, where I might have expected the help to be somewhat blasé about tourists, the wait staff in the bar always seemed ready for a laugh.

Later my first morning in Axum I met two sisters, Roza and Helen, whose mother Azeb ran a kind of coffee shop in their house near the Stelae field. They insisted on treating me to coffee.

That same morning I also met Aregay, owner of the Abyssinia Handcraft Shop, who invited me to his house for coffee and popcorn, where I met his wife and a friend.

And still later that day, while walking to lunch, I met a young student, Nestenet, on her way to her afternoon classes. After I snapped her picture, with her OK, I got the idea she wanted me to buy her a dictionary for her English studies. Now the Lonely Planet travel guide warns of a minor scam down in Lalibela, where the kids ask for school notebooks, and after the obliging tourist has moved on, they return the item for a refund. So I was somewhat suspicious, and definitely noncommittal. I ended up blowing it off and never did go back to where she said I could meet her.

Two days later, however, as I was heading out from my hotel, who should I encounter but my young student acquaintance. And, as it turned out, there was a bookstore just a few doors down, which had a nice Amharic-Tigrinya-English dictionary for about two dollars. When I heard the price, I figured even if I was being scammed, it wasn’t all that much, and I ended up springing for two different dictionaries. But she seemed so pleased by these books; it was hard for me to think she was going to return them for cash. Indeed, after our purchase, she invited me to her house to show them to her mother. By the time we arrived we had picked up a whole entourage of kids. Mom, however, wasn’t about to have a pack of curious children staring at the faranji in her house, and she drove them off with a cupful of water as they crowded around the doorway of the living room/coffee shop. Actually, it wasn’t a coffee shop – she made and sold sewa, the somewhat sour, homemade beer made from millet, corn or barley. The sewa wasn’t ready that day, however, and she rustled up coffee and popcorn.

In the course of drinking the traditional three cups of coffee, I was introduced to little brother, a young neighbor who sat politely on the threshold the whole time, grandfather, and an older couple who seemed to be visiting, but who I never did learn if they were friends, relatives or customers.

On my last day in Axum I stopped by Azeb’s for a tea and met Abraha, who cut an almost dashing figure with his natty (sans dreadlock) rasta look.

On the way back to the hotel I ran into several of Nestenet’s friends who seemed pleased to have their picture taken.

Text and Photographs by World Traveling Dave

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Memories of Ethiopia

Two of the photographs that I decided not to post on the Guest Blog by my friend Dave, evoked several powerful memories of the time that I spent in Ethiopia.

After seeing them, my first thought was of the children that I had met in the rural areas outside of the city of Asmara. I had worked, with other GI’s, on several projects (including building a windmill) that benefited the local village population. Many other US military people did much more than I did for the people of our host country.

The children would gather around us (and as Dave says “they loved to ham it up in front of our cameras”). Although they never begged, we would give to them tokens of our friendship; usually small change and sometimes even an Ethiopian dollar (40 cents US). We would also bring items to these children such as paper, pencils and clothing from the Post Exchange at Kagnew. Many of these children had never left their village and had never seen the city of Asmara, just 30 miles away.

To the rural population outside of the city of Asmara, an Ethiopian dollar was a lot of money, considering that their annual family income was about $60 US (in 1967) or less. They bartered livestock (goats and sheep) for grain (mainly Teff) and other food stuffs. In drought years the grain was sparse and the livestock were very lean (little spare food or water to give them). But there were always hot peppers that would grow in any soil and under the most adverse conditions. These peppers were a staple in many Ethiopian dinners.

Ethiopia is where I acquired my taste for spicy foods. There was a local dish called Zigny (Zigne) that made Curried foods seem tame. Zigny was a stew that was seasoned with many spices that were roasted to make a powder called Berbere (Beri-Beri) which predominately was made up of local hot peppers. Just looking at the powder would bring tears to your eyes.

The most common Zigny was made with goat meat. It was served in a community pot placed in the center of the dinning area (usually a two foot tall table) and often accompanied by an equally spicy lentil dish. A flat sourdough bread called Injera (made with Teff flour) was used to scoop the Zigny from the pot. As in very many Mideast and African countries no utensils were used; you ate with your right hand only (never your left).

I had been honored several times, by locals that invited me to their homes for a Zigny dinner (one time we brought a live goat as a gift for the host). As my friend Dave said the people there were amazingly friendly and looking for nothing in return but a pleasant conversation.

Unlike my world traveling friend Dave, I’ll never return to Ethiopia; perhaps I should have never left!

The Beach Bum

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Guest Blogger III

Last October my world traveling friend Dave took a 5 week trip to Africa. We had both been stationed in Africa, at a place named Kagnew Station, in the mid to late 1960’s. Dave was an Italian Linguist and I was a Communications Analyst.

We, as well as many of our Kagnew friends, often rue the fact that we didn’t take in more of the African culture and sights when we were given the opportunity of a lifetime, to do so, compliments of the US Government.

I took several short trips including one to Axum to see the obelisks. My only major trip was a camera safari to a wildlife preserve outside of Mombassa, Kenya.

Last January Dave sent a bunch photographs that he had taken on the trip. He added personal comments to many of them. I recently asked him to expand his comments because I thought that I would make a good TravelBlog.

One of the things that I noticed was that things haven’t really change much since I departed over 40 years ago (Dave and I left Africa a day apart in October 1968). Things still look the same and the outgoing friendliness of the people (to complete strangers) still remains the same. Dave mentions being invited into homes for coffee (Ethiopian coffee is great) on several occasions.

I am breaking his story in to two parts. Below is Part I and Part II will follow in a few days. The pictures are beautiful and each tells a story. You can see them at a larger size by clicking on them.

The Beach Bum

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Travels in Modern Day Ethiopia

After 40 years I was back in Ethiopia – it was 40 years to the month since I was discharged from the U.S. Army Security Agency in the highlands city of Asmara, now the capital of Eritrea. I had spent 37 months as an Italian translator at Kagnew Station in Asmara, one of the army’s best kept secrets (in more ways than one). Now, in late 2008, I was back for five weeks of travel and exploration, mostly to visit places I had never seen before.

Addis Ababa, the capital, was a disappointment – sprawling, unattractive, devoid of any charm whatsoever. I didn’t meet a single Westerner who liked the city. But the place did have some interesting attractions, and even though I had never been there, it invoked a vague sense of familiarity. One constant was the role of the church, and how simply touching the cathedral seemed so important to the devout. As was reading the bible on cathedral grounds.

Something else that hadn’t changed was how kids could so totally enjoy a game using just a few pebbles. Or seeing women carrying firewood. Though I did find that a bit surprising in a capital city of three million.

But where the sense of familiarity was particularly strong was in the countryside and smaller towns. I had taken an overnight minibus from Addis up to Bahar Dar, and as the sun came up it was as if nothing had changed – people streamed along the highway out to the fields, some carrying a wooden plow, others driving a herd of goats, men with their arms propped on the staff they carried across the shoulders, some barefoot . . . beneath the surface almost nothing had changed.

Bahar Dar is on the tourist trail for good reason – Tisisat Falls and the monasteries on Lake Tana’s islands are so very colorful. But one of the things I found most interesting was how the monks and priests seemed to genuinely relish showing the tourist their biblical manuscripts and processional crosses.

Another pleasant surprise was the genuine hospitality of so many people. So many times as I was walking down the street, someone would invite me in for coffee, for no apparent commercial purpose. As did these three women.

Across the street from my Bahar Dar Hotel (Taken from in front of my hotel, located to the right, and out of the picture) were a series of small shops. These were basically little rectangular stalls, from 6-10' wide, maybe 4' deep, along the side of the street. They were open only on one side, and only above the counter. A few had display cases under the counter. Some were made of corrugated tin, some of old boards, some a combination of materials. One shop that I passed daily was operated by two sisters (Their place is down toward the end on the left). Whenever I passed by, they would smile and say hello and wave me over. Despite their limited English, it was fun joking and talking with the two sisters in their little stall. Unlike a shop, that you have to enter, you're closer and much more connected to stall keepers as you walk along. In fact you're much more connected to other people in Ethiopia just about everywhere.

Unchanged, too, was the kids’ desire to be photographed - so many of them are hams. Like this bunch in Bahar Dar.

To be continued .......

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

No News Is Good News

My Dad had adages for just about everything and anything. When I was a youngster, back in the Stone Age, many of them puzzled me. I’d think “What did he mean by that?” But I did remember what he had said. And today I use many of the same wise sayings.

One of the most confusing was “No news is good news”. Did he mean that there was never any good news or that not hearing any news was a good thing? If I asked what he meant, I risked being called a bumpkin; therefore I usually didn’t question the meaning of his sagacious advice. Later I learned that he, in fact, meant the latter. Not hearing any news was in fact good news.

I have used this phrase (“No news is good news”) throughout my life. Sometimes I use the phrase as there is never any good news and at other times I use the phrase to denote that I haven’t heard any bad news. Like my Dad, I like to confuse people.

I spend two to three hours every day reading online Newspapers and Blogs. I try to get both the Liberal and Conservative viewpoints on any topic that I find of interest. That way, I can bias my opinion on any subject that I espouse.

Back in my High School days I was on the Debate Team. I learned how to take either side of an argument. There you are taught how to champion principles that you do not believe nor are an adherent of (never end a sentence with a preposition – supposedly improper grammar – but I do it all the time when I speak and my writings are just an extension of my speaking).

During the past two days there was no news that adversely affected me or my family; therefore “no news is good news”.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Throwing in the Towel

In summer of 1969, I was still in the Army and stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. I lived off post (Laurel, Maryland) with three roommates that had been previously honorably discharged from the same Army unit in which I was currently serving. We all had the same College backgrounds – we were mid 60’s dropouts. That’s what landed us into involuntary servitude in the first place.

We had the party apartment of our complex. There was a major (forty to fifty attendees) theme party (Saturday night) at least once per month, plus a weekly impromptu get together with friends and neighbors. We even had a 3 Keg Perlick Beer Cooler as the focal piece in the living room of our apartment. It was like living in a Frat house, only better.

We had all served in the Army Security Agency (ASA) and our final destination was Fort George G Meade; the home of No Such Agency. I was the only roommate that was still in the Army. I had even bought a George Harrison style wig (I wore it at all the parties – it impressed the young ladies in attendance) to cover up the fact that I was still in the military.

All three of my roommates had done time overseas.

One was stationed at Harrogate, England (it was known as “Menwith Hill”) for two years until it closed down and was turned back over to the Brits. He had some great stories about the local “Birds” and pubs in nearby Leeds.

Another roommate had been stationed in Sinop (The Second Pearl of the Black Sea, AKA “The Rock”) Turkey. This was considered to be a hardship tour (no wives – no women). In this all male environment, sophomoric antics were certain to reach their peak. Occasional trips to the local Karahani (Sp?) relieved them of some of their pent up testosterone.

My third roommate was stationed at Kagnew Station in Eritrea, Ethiopia, East Africa. This was the same place where I had done my overseas duty. He had left shortly before I arrived, but through our conversations we found that we had a lot of friends in common.

On non major party Saturday nights we would sit around talking about our overseas adventures. There were really some great stories told. Of course they were slightly embellished by the teller of the story.

My roommate who had done time in Turkey suggested that we write a book or even a screen play about our adventures in the ASA. Being the most illiterate and youngest of our group (but with the best sense of humor), I was chosen to chronicle our stories and adventures. Besides, they told me that they all had real jobs and I was still in the Army (I never understood their logic).

I spent much of my free time (I had a lot) in my Army Job writing the definitive screen play about our lives in the Military service. I borrowed some concepts from Joseph Heller’s book Catch 22 (without actually plagiarizing him), that I had read in the mid 1960’s.

After supper (after quaffing a few/many beers), I would read my daily writings to my roommates soliciting comments and input. And most of the time they laughed at the dialogs that I had written. This was a good sign.

I was about 3/4's finished with my work of a lifetime, when in February 1970, I saw the Robert Altman movie M*A*S*H. It had better dialog than mine, but the same concept (different time period). I left my work unfinished. I was heart broken.

Several years later (1973), while attending the University of Maryland, I decided to write the ultimate screen play about growing up as a teenager in the late1950’s and early 1960’s. Again I was stymied, this time by George Lucas and his film American Graffiti. I finally gave up. I was twice bitten and twice heart broken.

Although my friends and professors encouraged me to continue writing; I haven’t. I know when to throw in the towel!

The Beach Bum

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