Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finding the Focus of a Story

Ashley and Faye, Spokane, Washington, September 1944.

I'm close to wrapping up the last two weeks or so of my father's letters to my mother from the Western Pacific in the last year of World War II.

It has been quite a journey.  I've met my father as a 24-year-old puppy, and learned a great deal more about the one part of his overseas service during the war that he rarely talked about. The war part.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yard Bunny Attempts to Look Like Statue

In the morning, when I'm working at my computer and having my second cup of coffee, I often notice the Yard Bunny hop by on the brick patio.  This morning, I got up to see if he headed for the remaining romaine.  Indeed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Hope For the Future: Middle School Young People Like These

The Spring Choral Concert at Crittenden Middle School, Mountain View, California, gave all who attended a bright picture of the future of America.

A friend of mine invited me to see her son perform at his local middle school's Spring Concert. The family's father is in the Marines and has recently deployed for Bahrain, where he will serve for a year. 

When they learned this would be a twelve-month assignment, the family was a little stunned.  But when he departed in April, they pulled together to make it work.  They are now doing what military families everywhere are doing:  their best to cope, to serve, and to go forward with a smile, so their loved one can do his job, and return to the arms of his family.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Magical Side of Family Research: A True Tale That Surprised Two Daughters

Some costume jewelry from our mother's collection, that was a big hit at our garage sale in June of 2010. It had a treasure mixed in with it.

Last June, I had just about reached the limit of my ability to sort through my parents' possessions.  They had died within months of each other just half a year before, and I was a bit wrung out. I asked my sister--told her, actually--that if we were going to get rid of all the stuff left over from their lives--stuff I had rather ruthlessly piled in the garage--I wasn't going to be able to manage a garage sale on my own.

My sister rose to the challenge and with the help of her loyal spouse, the three of us mustered a weekend of garage sale recycling:  you take our junque, and we charge you almost nothing if you just get it the heck out of our driveway.

In the course of this exhausting event, we almost sold a precious item we shouldn't have--but something caused my sister to hold it back.  We had no idea what she had saved until this week.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Battle Aboard a Doomed Dirigible: And a Battle for a Doomed Dirigible Hangar

In this Ronald Reagan movie, the airship U.S.S. Macon is called the "Mason" but other than that the details of Moffett Field, in Sunnyvale, California, remain key plot points in the 1940 thriller.

I've been out at Moffett Field several times this past week, donating a little time at the Historical Society as they host the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour.  The tour brings a B-17 "Flying Fortress," a B-24 "Liberator," and a P-51 "Mustang," to Moffet each year.  These are among the last of the World War II planes of their kind that are still flying, and they are used to remind people all over America of the amazing work the World War II generation did for all of us.

The planes landed in the shadow of Moffett's historic Hangar One (and will stay there through 9/28/2011), an enormous local landmark designed to house the U.S.S. Macon, an airship the Navy hoped at one time would be part of the future of naval aviation. And though the airships didn't turn out to be much use, the hangar remained--a stunning local standout of a structure.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maria and Arnold Re-Deux: I'm Shocked, Shocked, This is Going on in Hollywood!

There's enough Hollywood sleaze in Kenneth Anger's two books to satisfy the worst schadenfreude in the best of us.  BTW, that's Liz, not looking her best ... 

The newspapers and television stations are going nuts for this Arnold-with-the-love-child thing.  Perhaps, for the aging actor, it will be just the kind of virile publicity he will need to get his macho acting mojo back.

Really.  You think I'm kidding?  In Hollywood, practically anything that is sleazy is possible, and practically all publicity is good publicity. If you don't believe me, take a gander at two of my favorite, truly tacky books about Hollywood, by the weird and wonderful Kenneth Anger: Hollywood Babylon, and Hollywood Babylon II. They are both just awful.  And lots of fun.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The "Wild Deuces" of the 1902 Aviation Engineers

A photo of my father, Commander of "C" Company, from the unit history of the 1902 Aviation Engineers' overseas tour in the Battle of Okinawa. 

The unit history of my father's World War II battalion arrived in the mail yesterday from Maxwell Air Force Base. It is absolutely fascinating, though difficult at times to decipher.

The reports that make up the history began life 66 years ago as monthly reports, typed up by an adjutant for the commanding officer who shot it up the chain of command to his commanding officer. Thus, they are, as is the case in almost all big organizations, reports heavy on things one would want the chief to know, and light on any details of "complications."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Meeting Arnold and Maria

Big news in California, when the governator and the heiress go Pfffft.

When I was first in television news in Washington D.C., I anchored an early newscast at WJLA, the ABC-TV station there.  One day when I was in Baltimore with a news crew, we ran into Maria Shriver who was also on a story there with her crew.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Being a California Greenie

The beginnings of my summer vegetable garden.

I think now that Jerry Brown is governor it is a California law that you have to plant a vegetable garden in the summer.  I think if you don't, they put you in jail with all the people they've arrested for smoking.

Actually, the real reason to grow a vegetable garden here is in self defense.  In July and August everyone is running around trying to give away their excess zucchini, cucumbers, and yellow squash.  If you have planned ahead and grown your own garden you can say, in all fairness, "I'd really love some of those bell peppers.  But you ought to see the stuff I have growing my garden.  I'm just overwhelmed by it.  So I couldn't possibly.  But thank you so much."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Symbiosis of Needlepoint and Writing

This is a Beth Russell needlepoint kit based on a William Morris design.  He was a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement at the end of the 19th century and his many designs for fabric and wallpaper are still much in use today.

I love to write during the daylight hours, and have been spending lots of hours lately--as most of you know--transcribing those World War II letters of my father.  I'm now on letter #198, have transcribed 116,354 words of my father's purple prose to my mother, and have about 70 more letters to go. 

I wonder if these letters used up his entire lifetime quota of words.  For the rest of his life, he was such a quiet person.

Anyway, with so much writing work ahead, I find myself wanting to take a break in the evenings.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yard Bunny Salad Issues: What to Plant in The Summer Garden?

"Hold the poppies, and I'll have my dressing on the side." 
Remants of the Romaine remain.

Earlier this spring I planted some lettuce to see if it would help to keep the Yard Bunny family from inhaling my iris, as they seemed to be doing.  Not sure that helped, but they certainly enjoyed my thoughtfulness.

Yet when I evaluate the Yard Bunny salad preferences, I notice they:  adore arugula, banquet on the butter lettuce, and nibble the Nemesia.  But they reject the Romaine.  Interesting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The "Code Talkers": No Secret to Ernie Pyle

Pfc. Preston Toledo and Pfc. Frank Toledo, Navajo cousins, transmit messages in the South Pacific 1945.  Photo from the National Archives.

In some recent history research, I stumbled upon something surprising.  It relates to the Navajo "code talkers," whose work gained great notoriety in the 2002 film Windtalkers starring Nicholas Cage and Adam Beach.

From that film and other information I've read, I was under the impression that all in the program were sworn to secrecy and the story not revealed until 1998.  That is what is says in the film and in the National Archives' Prologue magazine (Winter 2001).

I discovered this isn't true.  The "code talker" story was published more than fifty years earlier in a national best-seller.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Television Saga of Capturing Osama

A friend and I were driving home from the movies last Sunday night when he turned on the radio and we heard the stunning news: the president planned to announce within the hour that the U.S had killed Osama bin Laden.

I was so excited when I got home I ran to several neighbors saying "Quick! Turn on the TV!! It's Bin Laden! We got him!" Some of my neighbors don't know me very well yet--so I'm pretty sure they now think I'm a nut case.  But I can't stand it when anyone misses a big story.  I guess I blanked out and thought I was back in a newsroom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tears Turn to Water Vapor

But Dad, that Pacific Ocean is too bloody cold for a skinny kid!

When I was very small and something would make me cry, my father would fold up his long legs like a praying mantis and sit on his haunches and look me in the eye.

"Don't cry," he would say.  "Don't you know that tears turn to water vapor?"

This startling observation was always a good trick to stop the spigot.  Whatever water vapor was, it seemed to be something that could stop a person from crying.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The G-Men Get Their Man

If you think of Bin Laden as the modern John Dillinger, the whole thing makes more sense.  Bin Laden wasn't a terrorist or a military man.  He was a criminal.

He sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind.  And the whirlwind came down in the form of a chopper full of Navy SEALS.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mom and Dad and Too Much Information!

I've mentioned, I think, that I am transcribing my father's World War II letters to my mother, with a plan in the works to write a book.  I know at least one of you has mentioned to me she thinks I'm obsessed with my father.  I have never thought that was true. He seemed to disapprove of me somewhat and I have been in a sort of quest to find out why. But obsessed?  I hope not.

But if it were true; the enormous job of transcribing these letters has been a very good cure.  I am getting really sick of this love-lorn, baby-talkin', spelling-challenged engineer.

I hope this doesn't last forever. Then I'll never get this book done.