Twilight Music.

The evening sky is indigo, shot through with streaks of crimson. The clamour of the crowd is omnipresent. A guide tries to shoo me, but my resolution sends him off, baffled. I know where and why I am here. She is about to sing.

She is old, but still beautiful. She sits still, quiet, seemingly asleep. Yet I can feel the energy in Her, the sheer power of Her voice. The crowd vanishes from my awareness – though I am surrounded by thousands, She and I are alone in the moment.

Then She stirs. She groans a bit, time taking its’ toll on her. She coughs a few times, and then … Music. No, more than that. Rapture. I am aware of the sound of Her, the smell of Her, and my heart vibrates to Her voice. Time stands still.

Then, She is done. All too quickly, with a tiny shudder and bit of a wheeze, She falls silent. This was just a rehearsal, a brief test of Her power. Yet it was magic, it was beauty, it was more than words can describe. She is relaxing now, seeming to doze off. But I can still feel that energy, that warmth, that magic She created. I walk away, left breathless, grinning from ear to ear. My wife shakes her head at me, but understands. My wife knows she married a guy who would always be drawn to that kind of lady. I give my wife a hug, but I look back as we walk away, knowing I’ll be back for more. And I can tell She knows, too, as a last wisp of her perfume wafts past. She knows I will always come back for more.

–  –   –

More than two decades ago, my wife and I used to travel to airshows to see WW2 warbirds. One evening at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, I overheard that the crew of a P-47 Thunderbolt were about to turn the engine over. I immediately charged over, and stood just behind the left rear of her tail, waiting. A crowd control guy came over and warned me that the engine would create a lot of smoke, and I replied that I knew exactly what that big air-cooled radial would produce. and I was standing right where I wanted to be, on purpose. He looked at me like I’d grown a third arm, shook his head, and walked away muttering. Yes, I stood there while they fired up that 18-cylinder engine, and stood wrapped in the smoke as it belched its’ way into life. I didn’t leave until the prop had stopped turning, and yes, my wife was standing at a safe distance, grinning and shaking her head at my silliness. What can I say – how many times in my life was I going to get the chance to be THAT close to a (at that time) 50+ year old WW2 aircraft? I’ve been prop blasted by a B-17, a couple P-51s. several trainers, and a B-25 with whom I spent a romantic foggy night in Aurora, Illinois. But the P-47 was THE best …. um, prop-job? .. I have ever received.

Posted in Aviation History | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

15 Years Later – What To Say?

All of us Americans know what today is, and what it marked 15 years ago. Nothing I can say will add or detract from that event, or to peoples’ suffering all these years later. But perhaps my own weird, warped sense of ironic humour might bring someone a little comfort or relief. So here goes…

The most direct impact 9/11/2001 had on me was, that for the first time in my entire lifetime, there were no airliners flying overhead. I grew up, in two different houses, under the flightlines of O’Hare airport. Every day, dozens of passenger planes passed over my head. I never was annoyed by the noise, it was just the soundtrack of my life. I worked around it, lived around it, slept through it. Until 9/11/2016, when the skies were suddenly silent. So much so, that on that day and the next, my wife and I watched TV in our living room with the windows open – something we could never do with the omnipresent roar of airplanes going overhead.

So how am I marking the 15th anniversary? In a house in Ohio where, if it’s REALLY busy, we get buzzed by the LifeFlight helo a couple of times a month. That’s it. Otherwise, my skies are empty, and silence is the norm. Quite a change.

And just so you know, if I sound odd (odder than usual?) in the next few days, tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. We “celebrated” our 9th anniversary on 9/12/2001. And a few years ago, I learned of the death of my mother on September 13th. Yep – 9/11, 9/12, and 9/13. Helluva week, ain’t it?

Oh, just one other note. Remember, when you think of the numbers 9 and 11, please add the number 343. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters went into the twin towers, never to return. May all those lost that day find eternal peace, especially the 343 of the FDNY. For you firefighter families, ring the bell 5 times, then repeat thrice over. Code 5-5-5-5. And know your loss is remembered by those outside the firefighting community, as well.

Posted in Current Events, September 11tth | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why 50 Years of Star Trek?

You know, I’ve been asked that infamous question about Trek, “What has made its’ popularity last so long?”. Sure, there’s the whole thread of non-racist, inclusive characters throughout the various series. But I tend to shrink from that answer, as it has become a bit cliche. So what’s my answer?

It’s the stories. And not just the big topics, but the smaller, more intimate tales. Two of my favourite episodes, “The Doomsday Machine” from the original series and “The Wounded” from Next Gen, are both ripping good yarns with technology and starship combat aplenty. but at the heart of both episodes are two captains. One has lost his crew, the other lost his family in an enemy raid. Both seem as if they’ll make it through, but the first goes suicidal and the later nearly restarts a major war. And the wonderful part of both episodes is the care taken by the writers to handle their mental conditions. Long before the acronym “PTSD”, and in the case of the Original Series episode not that long after British ww2 soldiers were punished for “Lacking Moral Fibre” (their version of battle fatigue or shell-shock), both shows took the time to show that not all fighting men are John Wayne. Most are no different from the rest of us – they can crack up, or they can bury their emotional turmoil until they believe it’s gone for good. But war changes all who are involved, and in ways we may not recognise until too late.

Sure, Trek can get preachy sometimes. It can also get lost in pathos or just some truly horrific writing (see “Spock’s Brain” from the Original Series, or most of Season One of Next Gen), but it is Trek’s ability, shown throughout all the series (especially the Animated Series, which I can’t recommend highly enough), to serve up entertainment that can sweep you up in the story, and leave you enlightened just a tiny bit afterward.

So here’s to another 50 years of Star Trek. May the new show, and (God, I’m gonna hate myself for saying this) the new movie series, continue to carry the torch forward. And may Trek truly, in those famous words, Live Long and Prosper.

p.s. Sorry about the “Wookie breath” comment last night. Friends shouldn’t let friends blog while stoned on Vicodin.😉 )

Posted in Current Events, Science Fiction | Tagged , | 3 Comments

A Long Time Ago ….

Hah! Gotcha! Thought this was gonna be a Star Wars post, eh? Wrongo, Wookie-breath!😉

Today, September 8, is the 50th anniversary of the debut of a little sci-fi TV series called “Star Trek”. Yes, half a century ago, Gene Roddenberry’s great gift to us all began its’ all-too-brief run on TV. Who would’ve thought, 50 years later, that it would have spawned an animated series, a whole slew of movies (including the current piles of crap with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto), four TV series (and a fifth one in the works),  and countless board games, computer games, books, magazines, fan fiction, and a real-life version of the show’s quasi-military organisation, Starfleet Command? (I’ll tell you all about my run-ins with those …. life forms. Scared the hell outta me, and I’m a rabbid Trekkie!)

I’ll try to post a few thoughts later on Thursday (after I’ve tried to get some sleep), but I just wanted to remind my faithful readers (all what, 3 of you?) of a truly great landmark. Let’s see George Lucas going strong in 2027 with HIS … oh wait, he already sold out to Disney. (Insert raspberry here.) So enjoy the gift from the Great Bird of the Galaxy, and I’ll close by wishing this day brings you peace and long life. Beam me up, Scotty!😀

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , | 5 Comments

An Unknown Hero You Should Know.

On Monday, Joe Hosteen Kellwood died. He was a Marine Corps vet who served in the Pacific during World War 2. That might sound like enough for him to be remembered, but there is one more thing that made him stand out. He was born Navajo, and therein lies the real story.

In World War Two, code-breaking was as vital a weapon as any carried on the battlefield. Much has been written and filmed about the famous British and Polish efforts to break the Germans’ Enigma code. The Battle of Midway in the Pacific turned on the US knowing where the Japanese fleet would be, and knowing this allowed our heavily outnumbered forces to sink four of the six large aircraft carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

But the Japanese were no slouches at breaking our codes. The Marine Corps were casting about for some coding system that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to break. They stumbled onto an interesting fact – the Navajo language has no written form. It is purely verbal, passed on through oral lessons. The Marines latched onto this, and created a code utilising Navajo words such as “tortoise” for tank, and so forth. This code was used throughout the Pacific on the last two years of the war, and was never broken by the Japanese. Joe Kellwood was one of these men, called “Code Talkers”, who used their knowledge of the Navajo language to relay orders and information across the unsecured radio links, coordinating troop movements, artillery and air strikes, and all the details required to ensure American victory over the Japanese throughout the Pacific. (For a very good retelling of the Code Talker story, watch the movie “Windtalkers” with Nicholas Cage and Adam Beach. The combat scenes are a bit overdone, and some of the facts are played fast and loose, but the movie presents an excellent introduction to the Navajo code system for those who are unfamiliar with it.)

Joe’s older brother died just 3 days before. He, too, served the US as an airman in the US Army Air Forces in Europe. While both of them are heroes whose lives deserve to be remembered and cherished, the unique contribution of Joe Kellwood to the success of our Pacific Theatre campaigns should be known by all. In the great pool of irony that is war, the Code Talkers showed that an ancient traditional language could outdo the most modern weapons in assuring victory.

Posted in Military History, Obituary | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Musings On Death And Life.

We are odd creatures, we humans. We know that our lives, that ALL lives, are finite. We know that everyone we know will die, that everything we love will eventually cease to be. The old saying “No one gets out of this alive” isn’t just a joke, it’s a truism.

And yet, we plunge on with our lives. Too busy to recognise how much we love our families and friends, how much we love our animal companions, how much we need life, love, beauty in our lives. But just like the song says, “Don’t it always seems to go/That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone”.

Watch any of the footage from the recent mass slayings. Every survivor, each and every one, will say something to the effect of “I wish I could have said ‘I love you’ one more time”.

Death, great or small, singular or massed, will touch us all. It’s unavoidable. And simple words won’t stop it happening. People will get shot, cars and planes will crash, disease will cut great swathes though our lives. But take it from me, with what has happened to me recently, you do have a tiny bit of control over death. You can’t stop or slow it, but you can make it less lonely, less cold, less impersonal. And it’s very, very simple.

Just say “I love you” to someone you care for. Not just on birthdays or holidays or anniversaries, but every day. Maybe even several times a day. Or give ’em a kiss or a hug (or both). Whether the object of your affection speaks human, animal, or whatever, make your love known. Don’t wait until it’s too late, then bemoan that you didn’t get the chance to say something. Do it NOW. And keep doing it. To friends, to family, to pets, heck – even to trees and plants. It takes so little time and effort, and can bring such great reward. Here’s how easy it is.

To my followers, thanks – and yes, I love all of you as friends. To a certain “rare bird”, your caring words touched me deeply, and I am grateful I found you among the ethers of the Net. To my recently departed Frosty, I love you, little Momma. And to my wonderful wife, a truly one in a trillion gal, well – hey, that’s kinda personal, do ya mind?!?

Thanks for putting up with me. I hope all your weekends are a LOT better than mine’s gonna be.


Posted in Animal Stories, Current Events, Obituary | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

And Now I Know Where God Went.

In my previous post this evening, I was mulling if God was still out there. I know now He is, and He’s got one more very special angel. Our little cat Frosty, of the huge eyes and the single daughter Bouncer she gave us, died about 2am, 15-20 minutes ago.

Frosty was always a little spitfire. She managed to intimidate both our former Mastiff, Sam, and our current Bull Terrier/Heinz 57 mix, Shane. She was the smallest of our cats, from the first big group we got when we took in a stray that we thought was our out-of-town neighbor’s cat. She kept the rest of the group in line, easily thrashing her littermate Max, three times her size. The Terror Twins, Deke and Junior, were never terrors once she entered the room. Her piercing yowl and oversize eyes made her the perfect Halloween cat.

And we didn’t think she’d be the first to go, either. We have Stryper, the much-older FIV-infected cat who is still going strong, and we have had Princess, our first cat, for at least four years more than we had Frosty. But she got really sick a few weeks ago, and went downhill fast – we think stomach cancer, from the symptoms. But just as in life, she set the conditions for her passing. She didn’t start seizuring until after Tamy had finished her snack after getting home from work at 11:30pm, and she didn’t let go until I came back upstairs from moving stuff around to keep the house a bit more tolerable. She was a fighter and a scrapper, never much of a lover or a cuddler, but you could sneak her a quick hug and kiss, as long as you didn’t make a big deal out of it.

So now we’re back down to nine. And my heart is absolutely shattered. I always wondered, once we entered catdom, if losing a cat would hurt as much as a dog. I got my answer tonight – an emphatic and heart-breaking “yes”.

If you don’t hear from me for a bit, you now know why. And you’ll understand the rambling, barely coherent nature of this post. Just do me a favour. Look up at the stars, as you read this. If you see a shooting star go by, well, just say “Thank you, Frosty” for me. She was a great cat, a truly unique spirit, and one I’ll never forget.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m gonna go bawl like a 2-year old. Again, like I have while I’ve writing this. Good night, and Godspeed, little FrostyMama.

Posted in Animal Stories, Current Events, Obituary | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment