Saturday, February 11, 2017

Unsung Heroes

When I was in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago, I went to visit a high school buddy who had a stroke while getting a cerebral cavernoma operated on. He's a lifer Marine NCO, with 30+ years in the service. He's doing inpatient rehab at the VA annex in SA. He has severe ataxia, dysarthria, and double vision. He started his family late, so he has a 4 yo girl and a 5 yo boy. His wife is recovering from lymphoma and back surgery while caring for him and the kids. He expects his rehab will last about a year. His goal is to pass the Marine physical after rehab and retire at the maximum age.
Unsung heroes.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Todos Aman a Caprichoso Caótico

El Caprichoso Caótico, desvelado y frustrado, se levantó de su bella y enorme cama imperial, y en la obscuridad de su palacio, fué a buscar a su malconsejero, el virrey Raspabarbas, y le pregunto: ¿son mentiras que no todos me aman, verdad? Raspabarbas le dijo: ¡tranquilo mi rey! Son noticias falsas las que dicen que no lo quieren. ¡Toditos lo quieren! ¡Las aves en el cielo, los peces en el mar, las bestias terrestres, hasta los pingüinos de Madagascar lo aman!
Al no estar convencido, con su smartphone, y usando los pequeños dedos de sus pequeñas manos, llamo al General Garrasflacas, el director de su desconsejo nacional de inseguridad y le pregunto: ¿son mentiras que no todos me aman, verdad? Garrasflacas le dijo: ¡tranquilo mi rey! Son noticias falsas las que dicen que no lo quieren. ¡Toditos lo quieren! ¡Las aves en el cielo, los peces en el mar, las bestias terrestres, hasta los pingüinos de Madagascar lo aman!
Todavía no quedaba satisfecho, y en la obscuridad, llamo a su directora de desinformación, la Señora Bocatuertas, y le pregunto: ¿son mentiras que no todos me aman, verdad? Bocatuertas le dijo: ¡tranquilo mi rey! Son noticias falsas las que dicen que no lo quieren. ¡Toditos lo quieren! ¡Las aves en el cielo, los peces en el mar, las bestias terrestres, hasta los pingüinos de Madagascar lo aman!
Caprichoso Caótico, furiosamente escribiendo en el Twitter con sus pequeños dedos reclamó: ¡son mentiras que no todos me aman! ¡Son noticias falsas las que dicen que no me quieren! ¡Toditos me quieren! ¡Las aves en el cielo, los peces en el mar, las bestias terrestres, hasta los pingüinos de Madagascar me aman!

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Nostalgia: longing for things past that mostly occurred in your mind.

I was quietly out of control the last semester of my junior year and most of my senior year of high school.
My priorities were soccer, boats, buddies, stage crew and girlfriends (serially) in varying order. I did ok in school except for the first quarter of English ap when we worked on The Brothers Karamazov. First and only time I flunked. To this day I react strongly to the memory of that book.
My last quarter of school I was checked out busy with my priorities, and acquiring a taste for bad literature and movies, cheap beer and white Russians (explains my affinity for the Dude?) I owe Angus Rogers for my graduating from high school. He took over from me as stage crew manager for the school's production of Hamlet and finished our graduation project after I checked out. I had a bad habit of not finishing things, and I struggle with it to this day.
I've always wondered what kind of network the Rogers, Zettel, Mansfield, Villar, Fisher, Schimoler, Allen families and my family maintained, keeping tabs on us. Always a place to eat or crash, our families were my guardian angels. Especially because I never called home when I was late. Bad habit which I carried until my mid thirties, when my children became teenagers. A belated thanks to all.

Nostalgia: a longing for memories of things past tarnished by too much handling.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What Really Happened To John Henning Speke.

This is a copy of the diary of Major Reginald “Reg” Mucker-Mafic, Royal Geographic Society found by my grandfather Isadore in 1916:

“17 September, 1864: Burton, Speke are GREAT LIARS! The day after the scheduled debate at the British Society, I went to the cellar to find a bottle of amontillado, and to my surprise found Sidi Mubarak Bombay sprawled on the floor, semi incoherent, a bottle of gin at his side. I went to help him get up, but he grabbed me by the collar, and begged me to listen to his besotted confession. He claimed that on their first voyage, Burton and Speke had attempted to enter the region west of Victoria Nyanza, where they had observed strange lights in the evening sky. This is his story:
'The porters and I warned them not to pursue that plan, but they insisted. They sent out two scouting parties that never returned, and so they decided to scout the area themselves. After days of preparation, on the scheduled day of departure, Burton, unsettled by the rumors he heard from the porters about a great and powerful kingdom that permitted no outsiders to enter, claimed illness and fell into his cot with a fever. Mad Speke on the other hand, buoyed by the rumors and strange unnatural phenomena we had observed on our approach decided to press on. I left a couple of men behind to tend Burton in his illness, and set off with Speke at a bruising pace. We travelled through a sun blasted country, devoid of flora and fauna, like nothing man had ever seen. The strange lights increased in frequency until they could be seen at all hours of the day. Speke’s madness seemed to increased every mile, so that on the third day, he was no longer muttering under his breath, but cursing the sky on each step in agonized screams. He started to drop and destroy his equipment, and it was all I could do to get the porters to gather the pieces and carry the extra load. Finally, as the sun set on that third day, a strange vibration could be felt on the ground. The vibration was strong enough to make the pebbles on the ground dance weirdly. It was impossible to rest. Taking matters in my own hands, I struck the now almost insensate Speke on the crown with my rifle butt. I had the porters drop the measuring equipment, pick up Speke in a carefully made up litter, and we reversed our course back to Burton’s camp before we met our doom in the inhospitable hinterlands. We never circled Victoria Nyanza on the western shore. It was impossible. When Speke and Grant tried the same, the result was not different. This is a great deception of which I am terribly ashamed and I will speak to no one else about.'

I am committing this confession to my diary. Obviously, the influence on Speke’s mind of the unnatural phenomena of the region and the strain of having to live a lie proved too much, and goes far in explaining Speke’s “hunting accident.” Of Burton, we know he was never trusted again, or commissioned with any position of value or responsibility for the rest of his life.”

Major Mucker-Mafic mysteriously disappeared one month after this diary entry was made. Only fragments of his diary have ever been found, scattered among the belongings of contemporary members of the British Society Of The Advancement Of Science.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Family Lore: Gen. Nelson Miles

General Nelson Miles' military career began during the Civil War at age 22 when he volunteered with the 22nd regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He survived the war and went on to serve during the Indian Wars and the Spanish American War.
During the Indian Wars he was promoted to Major General. Though he was not directly involved,  the 7th Cavalry, which was part of his command, committed the massacre at Wounded Knee. He was critical of the commander of the regiment and demoted him. After Nelson retired from the Army, he fought for compensation for the survivors of the massacre.
My family's encounter with Miles occurred during the Spanish American War. After the surrender of Spanish troops in Cuba, he personally commanded the troops that invaded Puerto Rico at Guanica. According to family lore, my great grandfather, Antonio Fillat Bastida, was a retired Spanish soldier, working as the superintendent of a sugar mill in Ponce, and was not well liked by his wife nor his workers. During the invasion, persons sympathetic to my great grandmother, Manuela Sandoval, warned her that Puerto Rican anti Spanish partisans known as "Los Tiznados" - "the Blackfaces", so called because they darkened their faces with charcoal, were going to attack Antonio before dawn. She let him know, and my great grandparents left after dark and sought and obtained refuge with Nelson's command. A year later, my grandmother was born, so, if lore is true, my existence is due to General Nelson Miles' protection of my great grandparents.
At age 77 Gen. Nelson Miles offered to come out of retirement and serve during World War I.
In 1925, my great grandfather ostensibly left for Spain to go to the funeral of a beloved uncle, and was never heard of again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Was My Ride

This was my ride from 1981 until 1984. She's the USS Clifton Sprague (FFG-16) and she's pictured transiting the Kennebec River. I'm a Plankowner, a member of the crew that commissioned her in Bath, Maine. Her homeport was Mayport, Florida during the time I served aboard her. In those three years we visited Halifax, Newport, Yorktown, Port Everglades,  Freeport, Guantanamo, Roosevelt Roads, Fort-de-France, St. Vincent, Panama, Honduras, Gaeta, Livorno, La Spezia, Piraeus, Bahrain and Karachi. We stopped to refuel in Bermuda, the Azores, Rota and Djibouti. We transited the Straits of Gibraltar, Messina, Mandab and Hormuz. We crossed the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. We supported operations in Lebanon after the bombing of the US Embassy. We were stationed in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. We supported operations during Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. We were stationed in the Gulf of Fonseca monitoring weapon shipments between the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and rebels in El Salvador. We supported the US Coast Guard's efforts intercepting drug smugglers off the Southeast coast of the US. We raided Soviet anchorages off the coast of Libya. We helped repair orphanages in Tela, Honduras. Our breakaway song was "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson, our talisman was Ziggy and our motto was "Nunc Paratus." 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Urgent Delivery

Two US Air Force C-130s flew in a loose echelon formation, low over the windswept ocean. It was close to twilight on October 23, 1983. The aircraft were late to their rendezvous with the USS Clifton Sprague (FFG-16) in the southern Caribbean. The ship had turned into the wind, and the C-130s flew along its length at an altitude of about five-hundred feet. A second or two after the trailing aircraft cleared the ship’s bow, a twenty-three foot long Boston Whaler was air-dropped into the ocean. A team of SEALS followed the boat almost immediately. The same was repeated by the lead C-130, but the drop started about twenty seconds later. By that time the aircraft was well ahead of the ship, about a half a mile away. In the quickly encroaching darkness this would prove to be critical. Some of the commandos were recovered from the windswept sea by the Sprague's crew on its motor whale boat. Others swam to boarding nets draped over the port bow of the ship, and climbed twenty feet to the ship's deck, struggling with their heavy loads and helped aboard by the ship's crew. The SEALS from the trail aircraft were all recovered and the motor whale boat headed as fast as it could to the location where the men and the boat from the lead plane had hit the water. By the time it got there, darkness had fallen. The Sprague also approached the location, barely making headway, using its searchlights to assist in the search. Expecting to jump in daylight, the SEALS only had a couple of chem-lights each to illuminate them. As the evening went on, the wind picked up and the seas got worse. At around midnight, the CO of the commandos advised the captain of the Sprague that they needed to leave the area and head towards Grenada so that the SEALS could complete their mission. The Sprague's captain protested, but was overruled by higher authority after a radio call to the Task Force command. The Sprague turned towards Grenada, and headed there at best speed, with one of the SEALS' Boston Whalers tide alongside it. The second Boston Whaler was found the next day, overturned, by the Sprague and an S-3 Viking aircraft searching for it and four men from the lead plane that had gone missing during the jump. The four men were never found. It wasn't until 10 years later that I found out the men's names: Machinist Mate 1st Class Kenneth J. Butcher, Quartermaster 1st Class Kevin E. Lundberg, Hull Technician 1st Class Stephen L. Morris, and Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert R. Schamberger.