It’s with a heavy heart and a whole lot of angst that I’m writing this blog. The United States is now in its 34th day of a government shutdown that Donald Trump, our ersatz president gleefully takes credit for. The scenario has the emperor Nero written all over it. For those of you who were smoking in the boy’s or girl’s bathroom during that history lesson, Nero was the sadistic emperor who played his fiddle while Rome burned. Sound familiar?
The Coast Guard along with countless thousands of others are now facing the second payday without a paycheck. Part of the strumpet’s coterie suggests these hardworking folks go to their local grocery store and tell the manager, they can’t pay now, but they’ll pay later. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. As if the grocery stores don’t have to meet their own overhead and pay salaries.
Or how about this. When your credit card bill and your mortgage payment come due, the president wants you to pick up the phone and tell the nice person at the other end you are a government employee and you’re sacrificing yourself so he can build a wall for his supporters. Do you know how stupid that sounds?
Imagine telling 40,000 Coast Guard men and women that the sacrifices they make day in and day out is not enough. “Now you must sacrifice even more so I can build a wall.” And this coming from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If I wrote a book with this stuff in it, my agent would laugh me out of her office.
Of course, the Strumpet isn’t the only one to blame for the terrible predicament the Coast Guard and other federal employees are in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell evidently thinks his job is to be head cheerleader for the president of the U.S. Now there’s someone who must have been smoking in the boy’s bathroom when civics was being taught.
Our forefathers set up our government with three branches. The Senate and the Congress are supposed to make laws. Not the president. If the president doesn’t like what’s put before him, he can veto it. It’s then up to the Congress and the Senate to get enough votes to override his veto and make their proposal into a law.
Instead of assuming the unpleasant task of confronting the president, McConnell has, instead, decided to climb into bed with the strumpet. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would be infuriated if they could see this scenario being played out.
I don’t know how long this shutdown will continue, but I want to put a few salient facts about the Coast Guard before you. And if you’re not angered by what is being done to the members of the USCG, you’re part of the problem. If you are angered, then let the politicians know how furious you are, and let them know you have a long memory, a memory that stretches to the next elections in 2020.
If you do nothing, then when planes begin dropping out of the sky because air traffic controllers can’t do their job properly, when security at our ports falters, when the USCG can’t buy the gas they need to run their boats and helicopters to perform their Search-and-Rescue missions, you really must accept your part in this fiasco.
Maybe you know a Coastie who is struggling to make ends meet, maybe you know an air traffic controller whose mind is distracted because he can’t pay his kid’s medical bills, or maybe you know some other government worker who’s been told to take a job as an Uber driver or get a loan which will have to be paid back with double- digit interest while the billionaires in Washington waddle to their five-star restaurants and hotels, insulated from reality.
Support our unpaid patriots in whatever way you can. They’re hardworking folks just like you and me, and they don’t deserve to be betrayed by their Commander-in-Chief or other politicians in Washington. A couple of bucks, a gift card to help them through the crisis, a donation to a local food pantry; it’s all good. Contact the Coast Guard in your area. They’ll give you some ideas. Donate to the USO who’s also involved in assisting these dedicated men and women, being treated like shameless pawns.
Did You know…
The Uncommon Mariner
to leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/01/25/whats-really-keeping-america-safe/
Welcome to 2019. With the dawning of this new year, comes great hope. Hope that our lives will be better, that each of us, in our own way, will find a way to make our lives and those of others better.
Two thousand and eighteen was a good year. Before you decide to complain about how terrible it was personally or globally, let me paraphrase the curmudgeon Judge Judy. “You’re alive. Does it look like you’re losing?”
The state of South Carolina ranks close to last for things no one wants to write home to their mother about. Spousal abuse, economic well-being, and education and health. Yet it has a wonderful motto: Dum spiro, spero. “While I breathe, I hope.” A lot of not so nice things transpired last year personally and worldwide that it would be easy to lose hope.
I discovered mold issues in my house which caused a major drain on my time, resources, and energy. I had a truck on its last legs, at least they looked like legs when the mechanic put it up on the lift. My wife struggled with bad knees and legs and has been reminded of the pain with every step. The international community saw one of the greatest countries in the world alienate all its allies and suck up to despotic regimes that the rest of the globe has been trying to neutralize for over 75 years. Catholics and Baptists have had their faith betrayed by child molesters and their leaders, leaders whom they trusted for guidance and inspiration.
But the news wasn’t all bad. My agent who recently moved from Boston to Texas, has continued to represent and guide me along with many other writers. I doubt anyone not connected to the publishing world can appreciate the challenges and sacrifices she makes.
My wife wakes up every morning with a hopeful heart and throws herself head on into activities she loves. She continues to create shell wreaths that adorn homes throughout the Grand Strand of South Carolina. My daughter in the Coast Guard has taken over a challenging job at Sector Charleston, managing critical areas in personnel and resources. She would be embarrassed if I elaborated on the impact her personal efforts are making on her fellow officers and her charges. With Donald Trump’s government shutdown, no doubt her job has been made that much more difficult.
My son continues to work as a teacher in the Toms River school district where he inspires hundreds of high school students. I doubt he has an inkling of the impact he’s making on those lives. When not devoting his time to his profession, he pursues a Master’s Degree in genocide studies. Perhaps the world would be a much kinder and gentler place if more people acquired the sensitivity that kind of experience brings.
My other daughter, Jennifer, is now in her fifteenth year working as a counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation in South Carolina. Her wide array of clients includes elderly folks recovering from debilitating operations and diseases to younger clients with a variety of needs. Some are just hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times. Others are former prisoners and drug addicts seeking a new start in life.
In the midst of all the chaos, one thing remains that will see us through the hard times ahead. Hope. The recluse poet, Emily Dickinson, who in her lifetime, barely traveled a few hundred miles from her home, put it best.
“Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul.
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.”
Hope is like that. It’s quiet but real and will sustain you in hard times, no matter who you are.
As the new year, in its infancy, dawns, I wish you a fantastic 2019. Following is a piece I wrote last year that others have requested as a reprint, so I’m offering it to you as a New Year’s gift. May it help you reach deep into your soul where Hope lives and rediscover the strength and light you need to live the best year of your life.
The Uncommon Mariner
To leave a comment, visit https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/welcome-to-2019/
It’s hard to believe Halloween is almost here. Pirates know something about that holiday. Let’s face it who knows more about scary things like skeletons and things that go bump in the night. Especially since so many pirates were turned into skeletons over the years.
I’ve noticed a lot of advice being given to trick-or-treaters these past couple weeks. It’s good advice for kids who dare to go out in the dark, facing unknown dreads just for a little bit of candy. You won’t find genuine pirates facing their fears for a Snickers bar. Maybe a little rum, or a pretty wench, or a little gold, but it’s going to take more than a Mary Jane or some stale popcorn to get me out of me easy chair. It was a Mary Jane that ripped out half my fillings one Halloween when I was a kid.
A lot of the advice kids get is good, sound information. Travel in groups. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Watch out for obstacles. Not every adult is your friend. Check something carefully before consuming it. That’s advice every pirate should heed.
For example, a lot more pirates would have survived the Golden Age of Piracy if they stayed in groups. And even more would be alive if they didn’t take unnecessary risks. Blackbeard should have paid attention to that one. After an intense exchange of firepower, a ship that attacked him appeared to be lifeless. Instead of letting things alone, he had his men board the ship. Was he ever surprised when a whole regiment of soldiers and sailors suddenly poured on deck and decimated his crew.
And Captain Kidd was thinking more like a kid when he sailed to New York and met with the very man he trusted would exonerate him. Lord Bellomont may have held a respectable position as governor, but he certainly was not his friend. Kidd trusted two passes to Bellomont, passes that would have cleared his name. Instead, the passes mysteriously vanished, Kidd was put on trial, hanged, and his body left to rot on a dock where other sailors could view his remains for months to come. I bet Jamie Lee Curtis or Freddy Kreuger didn’t have to face anything like that.
Moms and dads have the bases covered when it comes to protecting their kids this Halloween, but I’m a little worried about pirates because some of the great advice kids are given is just plain terrible for a buccaneer.
For example, someone told his kid not to wear an eye-patch because it would obstruct his view. That’s terrible advice for a pirate. I mean what do you expect a bloke with one eye to wear? Besides when you’re being attacked by a one-eyed pirate with a black eye-patch, you’re probably going to think twice about fighting back.
Adults also tell kids to wear bright clothing so they can easily be seen. When you’re a pirate, being easily seen is the last thing you want to happen. How do you think pirates got their hands on all that booty not to mention their wench’s booty over the years?
Another piece of advice that is just plain wrong is wearing reflective tape on your costume. You can’t be serious! Bartholomew Roberts would still be alive today if he didn’t do something similarly stupid. He used to dress up in bright fine clothes with gold chains and other jewelry around his neck. Can you guess what happened to him at the very beginning of one battle? I’ll give you a hint. It was his last battle, and not because he retired.
Kids are told not to carry pointed sword, sticks, or other sharp objects. Now that is excellent advice. BUT NOT FOR PIRATES! I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell pirates before they go out to leave their swords below deck. I think you can imagine where they would stick them before I finished giving such fine advice.
Finally, kids are warned to avoid dark places. Now that’s sound advice for a kid on any night of the year. The trouble is that’s where pirates do their best work. And I can’t think of a better place for a pirate to cozy up with his wench than a quiet, dark place.
Halloween is almost here, so I gotta go. I have to look for my eye-patch and check to make sure my sword is sharp enough for whatever things I meet that go bump in the night. Then I’m going to grab me pirate wench and find a nice dark, cozy room.
Happy Halloween and stay safe.
The Uncommon Mariner
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“I like beer. Do you like beer? All my friends like beer. Gee! I wish I had one now.”
I can’t help but imagine Blackbeard or the crew of Calico Jack Rackham saying those words with gusto. Or Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He said so himself when he testified before the Senate committee recently.
I don’t think he helped his case much. When you’re pretty much fighting for your political life, how smart is it to brag about your excessive drinking habits?
I mean you’re more or less applying for one of the most important positions in government, and you don’t have the judicial smarts to tone it down? It’s more like the man was applying for a seat on the board of Anheuser-Busch who makes lots of beer, good beer. Or maybe he had a mental lapse and thought he was applying for the job of CEO of Brown-Forman, the company that makes Jack Daniels whiskey.
Pirates would surely welcome Kavanaugh into their circle. After all, what bunch of rum-guzzling, beer-swilling alcoholics wouldn’t want a Supreme Court Justice along for the ride? Pirates would probably find him quite helpful when their cases came to trial. “Charged with murder, mayhem, and robbery on the high seas? Not to worry! The judge is one of us.”
Of course, not all pirates swilled rum. In fact, they guzzled anything that had alcohol in it. Beer though did just fine. There’s one pirate, however, that was a teetotaler. That was Bartholomew Roberts. I think he probably tried to curtail his crew’s drinking, but I’m not certain he was all that successful.
Most people are surprised to learn that beer was an important part of a sailor’s diet in the 1700 and 1800’s. But there can be too much of a good thing. Because beer and ale spoiled on long voyages, rum became an important drink. When it became apparent performing one’s duties with a buzz was a risky business, Admiral Edward Vernon ordered that a sailor’s half pint of rum rations be cut with a quart of water. Because he wore a coat made of grogram, his concoction was eventually nicknamed grog.
It’s too bad Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t around a couple hundred years ago to serve in the Royal Navy. I think he would have found a home there though I think he would have enjoyed life more on a pirate ship where drinking and wenching were encouraged.
I like beer. Do you like beer? The trouble with beer or any other alcoholic drink is you’re a drunk if every night you’re having quite a few. Eventually, drinking too much is going to catch up with you whether you’re a pirate or a judge.
Speaking of judge, it’s no surprise that alcohol affects your ability to make clear judgments. That’s why it’s easy to scarf down a bag of potato chips and a plate full of sweets when you’re half in the bag despite your best intentions.
If you’re a pirate loading a cannon or a judge making life-and-death decisions, I have to wonder what faulty judgments could cost someone an eye or a hand or worse. For example, did you know that alcohol has been responsible for the demise of a lot of pirates. Jack Rackham and his crew got so drunk that they couldn’t fight when pirate hunters descended on their ship?
Want to know who defended the ship and the drunken crew who cowered below deck? Two women who people in those days believed were incapable of doing anything except looking pretty. Ann Bonny and Mary Read fought the British Navy side by side till they were so outnumbered that they were forced to surrender.
Would you be surprised if I told you before Jack Rackham was hanged, Ann Bonny reminded Jack of that night. “If ye had fought like a man, ye wouldn’t have to die like a dog.”
Beer? Rum? Or as Jimmy Buffett would say: “Tequila? Of course, I’ll have some.” He may have said it jokingly, but he would agree it’s good to know when to say when.
Ben Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us.” I guess for pirates and politicians who indulge in happy hour that meant “the more I drink, the more God must love me.” I don’t know if Judge Kavanaugh thinks like that. What I do know is he likes beer. He told us so in his own words. Several times.
John Ciardi once said, “All things in moderation. Including moderation.” So I think I’ll have a beer. If Blackbeard were here, I wouldn’t mind sharing one with him. I don’t think I’d want to have one with Brett Kavanaugh any time soon. I don’t like people who pretend they’re being honest when they’re covering up more than they’re revealing.
For example, he stated at the Senate hearing that boofed means farting when in fact it refers to anal sex. He also stated that the Devil’s Triangle was a drinking game. The truth is it refers to two men having sex with a woman. He may have written those words in his high school yearbook a long time ago, but he outright lied about their real meanings just last week before millions of people. What’s disturbing to me is that if he’s willing to lie about that, what else is he willing to lie about?
And I don’t like men who yell at women in a professional setting. Where’s the dignity and respect that’s called for? Or does that go out the window with good judgment when you have that first shot of vodka?
I like pirates. They’re a no-nonsense, genuine bunch. I like beer. But what I especially like are pirates who like beer. I’m not too keen on politicians, especially politicians who drink beer and either can’t or don’t remember to tell the truth afterwards.
Tell me what you think. Do you like beer? Would you like to share one with pirates on a crowded ship? Or would you be more comfortable sharing one with Brett Kavanaugh in a nice quiet setting?
Now that I’ve finished this blog, I think I’ll have a beer. If only I could find that bottle opener my pirate wench hid on me. Maybe it’s next to Jimmy Buffett’s long, lost shaker of salt. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll have my mermaid make me a Margarita instead. That’ll leave an extra beer for Brett Kavanaugh. Aarrgh!!!
The Uncommon Mariner
To leave a comment, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/thirsty-pirates/ But go finish your beer first.
Key West recently celebrated Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. Papa, as he was fondly called, is 119 years-old. Key West, as you probably know, was home to Hemingway from 1928 to 1940. Hemingway did some of his best work there. After alienating many of his friends because of an affair, he divorced his wife and married Martha Gelhorn. Strange as it may seem, he imposed a self-exile on himself, leaving Key West and moving to Cuba. There he wrote perhaps one of the best stories ever written. The Old Man and the Sea.
It’s the crowning masterpiece of a large set of literary accomplishments from a hardworking writer. The story isn’t long. But it’s packed with style and character, and it turned the literary world on its ear with its stark, simple writing. It earned him both the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. As a writer, I admire this especially in a world where so much writing is bombastic and self-aggrandizing.
I’ve always admired Hemingway’s writing though his personal life leaves a lot to be desired. Hemingway was no saint. Make no mistake about it. But none of us are. We struggle in the human condition, each of us making our share of mistakes, and all we can hope for is forgiveness and mercy from ourselves, each other, and God.
Hemingway once said the most essential thing a writer must have is a built-in “bullsh** detector.” I know I must drive my wife crazy, but I guess it’s the writer in me, so when I hear something that’s odd or hard to believe, I always ask: “Who said it?” Or “How do you know this?” And when she tells me who told her, I ask: “How do they know?” At this point, she sometimes grows frustrated, but the writer in me has to ask. Maybe like Donald Trump I’m wary of fake news. Though I think our motives are far different. I want to verify the facts. Our president only wants to acknowledge the ones that fit into his bizarre sense of reality
It’s not that I don’t believe things that I read or are told to me. It’s just that when things don’t make sense, my built-in bullsh** detector goes wild, clicking like a metal detector over a pile of pirate booty buried in the sand off the nearby Garden City Pier.
Another thing I learned from Hemingway is that if you want to accomplish something, you have to park your rear-end in a chair and keep it there till you’ve made some significant headway. He started work somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 each morning and pretty much stayed with it till way past noon. He would have his maid bring him a sandwich and something to drink and leave it outside the studio door over the carriage house where he worked.
He would then finish up his writing early in the afternoon. Not a bad day’s work for a writer who had to labor in the oppressive heat of Key West without air conditioning. Only then would he stop. He would then spend the next hour or so with his wife, Pauline, where they would often swim nude in the only inground pool for 100 miles around. Under penalty of being fired, his housekeeper was given strict orders not to disturb them or pry.
Hemingway no doubt could have gone on for another hour or two, but he once said that when you drain the well, you have to give it time to fill back up. As a result, he always made it a point to stop short of putting everything down on paper. That way when he came back the next day, he would already be deep in the middle of a scene instead of staring out the window, wondering what he was going to have for lunch that day.
Hemingway had a reputation for being a boozer, a reputation he deserved. But did you know he had a rule to never drink before writing and to never drink while writing? A lot of writers think alcohol makes them wittier, cleverer, or somehow opens the heavens so that the muses throw themselves at their feet. Hemingway was smart. He knew what seemed so ingenious during an alcohol-fueled writing session was just a lot of crap. His own built-in bullsh** detector wouldn’t allow even himself a free pass.
Hemingway rarely missed a day of writing. There were exceptions. The day his new fishing boat, the Pilar, was delivered was one of them. I can only imagine the excitement when he got news it was docked not far from his house. Not much got written that day, or the next or the next, or the day after that, but the creative energy triggered that day more than compensated for the time away from his writing table.
Wherever you are tonight, Papa, I hope you know what a difference you made in literature. I also hope you know that that built-in bullsh** detector is as important today as it was when you lived on Whitehead Street in Key West.
Happy Birthday, Ernest. Enjoy your lunch, savor your swim, and tell St. Peter I said to pour you a couple extra ones. You deserve it!
To leave a comment, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/life-lessons-from-papa-hemingway/ When you visit, don’t forget to view the Carriage House where Hemingway wrote.
It was the last week in June, 2003, that pirates sailed into the Caribbean, led by what may be the strangest pirate that ever lived. Captain Jack Sparrow. Not even Blackbeard could have guessed that Johnny Depp, in Disney’s swashbuckling film, Curse of the Black Pearl would plunder the hearts and wallets of pirate fans around the globe for years to come.
What most people don’t realize is that when Johnny Depp began to portray his character as a saucy, almost effeminate pirate, several of the executives bristled. Depp won out, and Disney was buried under an avalanche of cash. They didn’t complain much about that. Grossing over $654 million, Curse of the Black Pearl went on to become the most successful film of the year.
Other films in the series include Dead Man’s Chest (2006) which earned $1.1 billion. At the World’s End (2007) earned $960 million, On Stranger Tides (2011) over a billion dollars, and Deadmen Tell No Tales in 2017 plundered nearly $800 million. Not a bad take for a bunch of hapless, unwashed pirates.
Depp never won an Academy Award for Curse of the Black Pearl. He never won an Academy Award for the other five Pirates of the Caribbean either. In fact, of all the movies he’s appeared in, and that includes: Sweeney Todd (2007), Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory (2005), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Sleepy Hollow (1999), he’s never once won the coveted award. Is he that bad of an actor or do the people who vote on such things actually live with their heads up their astral?
Pirates never get old. Each generation must face the possibility of encountering some very real ones out on the high seas. Yet, as the Golden Age of Piracy, which lasted from around 1700 to 1720, fades into history’s rearview mirror, the appeal of pirates has never been stronger. Within a span of 14 years, Disney has sensed this, and continues to pillage the box office around the globe for the foreseeable future.
There are a few things that might surprise you about pirates. In fact, there are a few things that might surprise you about Johnny Depp. For example, did you know that he carries his pirate costume around with him so he can visit sick kids in the hospital? He’s not going to intimidate too many people with that kind of attitude. In fact, after playing the role of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, he found out the horse he rode was going to be put down so he adopted it. Softie!
Johnny Depp has been close friends with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones for years. Depp used him as an inspiration for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow.
Anyone who’s seen Sweeney Todd is probably aware of what an excellent singer Depp is, but don’t ask him to dance anytime soon. It’s one of his biggest fears.
When God made Johnny Depp, he threw away the mold. As a man of contradictions, he isn’t easy to explain away as the executives in Hollywood know only too well. When he was cast as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, not many people knew he was allergic to chocolate as a kid. While he was filming the first Pirates of the Caribbean, he fell in love with an island he came across in the Caribbean. He was so enamored by it that he bought it for $3.6 million. My brother-in-law would be proud of him. Everything there runs on solar power.
If you think Captain Jack Sparrow is a strange character, you’ll be more than amused at the real-life character of Depp. He has 30 tattoos on his body. In fact, he once said: “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” I don’t know if any of those tattoos are of saucy wenches or skull and crossbones, but he is known to have tattooed Winona Forever on his body. When he and Winona Ryder broke up, he had it altered to Wino Forever, a nod to his wine-keeping hobby.
You can’t say Johnny Depp hasn’t immersed himself in the persona of a pirate over the years. He was once accused of having trashed the room of a five-star hotel in New York City, something he flatly denies. To this day he swears an armadillo did it after jumping out of a closet. When questioned by police where it went, he pointed to the window. “Jumped out!” he exclaimed.
All the films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series serve up a lot of fun even if they are a little lean on historical accuracy. For example, did you know that most pirates never made anyone walk the plank. If they got around to disliking you, they simply threw you overboard.
Then, of course, there’s the Flying Dutchman. The historical account is actually simpler than what the movies portray. A Dutchman trying to round the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa kept being pushed backwards by ferocious winds and mountainous waves. Exasperated, he swore to the devil that if he would let him through, he would sell him his soul. Since then any sailor who sees the Flying Dutchman is doomed to die prematurely.
As for the depravity and slovenly dress of pirates, the crew of the Black Pearl got it right. The more unkempt and dirty pirates were, the happier they seemed to be though Jack Sparrow dressed more closely to real-life pirate Jack Rackham who sported fancy clothes. As for pirates’ finances, I’m afraid my financial planner would starve if he were around pirates of the Golden Age. When in port, most spent every last doubloon on wine, women, and debauchery. Of course, there were exceptions. Buccaneer, Henry Morgan, whom all that rum has been named after, saved a generous portion of his booty and bought several plantations in the Caribbean.
When the next Pirates of the Caribbean comes out, I wonder where the adventure will take us. It doesn’t matter much. When Johnny Depp transforms himself into Captain Jack Sparrow, and his mascara is barely dry, we’ll be running for our lives trying to keep up with him. See you then. I’ll be the one in the movie seat behind you, swinging my cutlass wildly and curdling your blood with the fiercest scream I can muster. “Aarrggh!”
To leave a comment, please go to https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/caribbean-pirates-nab-654-million-plundering-to-continue-indefinitely/
I’ve always been intrigued by mankind’s use of flags throughout history. They’ve been used to symbolize a variety of things. Governments have used them to evoke pride and patriotism in their peoples. Military leaders have used them on the battlefield to rally their troops. Flags have been used throughout history to instill fear in one’s enemies. Pirates were infamous for this. The mere sight of the Jolly Roger turned many courageous men into quivering jelly.
The U. S. Coast Guard flies a flag at small boat stations to indicate weather conditions. A single triangular red flag indicates a small craft advisory. Two piggy-backed ones warn boaters of gale conditions. A single, oblong red flag with a black box in its center indicates a storm warning. When these are piggy-backed, boaters better take notice. A hurricane is on its way. Ignore the flags, and sail at your own risk. I just wish the fools who ignore the flags didn’t expect the brave men and women of the Coast Guard to risk their lives to save them.
Signal flags, with each flag representing a letter of the alphabet, are used to indicate a wide variety of events or dangers a ship may be facing. The science of using them requires training and skill. For example, did you know the Juliet flag means “Steer clear. I’m carrying dangerous cargo and am on fire?” The Whiskey flag means “I have a medical emergency aboard.” And the Oscar flag means “Man overboard.”
In old times, when a captain died at sea, a blue flag was flown. As the ship arrived in port, anyone watching it dock immediately knew the crew was in mourning. Hence, the expression in our language “feeling blue.”
One of the most famous flags in the world is, of course, the American flag. The United States has set aside June 14 to honor it. It’s simply called Flag Day. A type of Flag Day was first observed one hot summer in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861, but by the late 1800’s Flag Day observances were being held all over the country as a way to incorporate foreign children into our society. If that were to happen today, I don’t think it would go over too well in some communities on the Texas border. There foreign children are more likely to be deported or their parents shot at.
Most folks don’t know that Pennsylvania is the only state where Flag Day is a legal holiday. The forward-thinking citizens there made it so in 1937. Other states across the nation observe it, but only Pennsylvania citizens deemed the flag sacred enough to merit a special holiday.
It’s a shame more people don’t fly the flag regularly. Most folks wouldn’t think of going a day without cable service, but not many seem too concerned about not seeing Old Glory on a regular basis.
Did you know that the American Flag is flown year-round by Presidential decree in five different places? For clarity sake, it wasn’t Donald Trump who first ordered it. You can probably guess a couple of places it’s never taken down. The White House, the Washington Monument, the USS Arizona in Hawaii, Fort McHenry in Baltimore, and the moon. I bet a lot of Raven and Oriole fans didn’t even know that.
It wasn’t until President Harry Truman signed a bill into law in 1949 that Flag Day was nationally observed. I wonder why it took such a long time for so sacred a symbol to achieve such a venerable status. Can’t bombastic, self-serving politicians ever get anything done without dragging it out for decades? I bet if they were told no cocktail hour till some work is done, Flag Day would have been a reality back in 1927 when President Coolidge championed the idea. .
Not everyone in the United States is a big fan of Old Glory. Many protesters believe it’s their God-given right to burn it in protest of their government’s policies. The Supreme Court has ruled they have the right to freedom of expression, but I can’t help but wonder if those brave enough to burn the flag in broad daylight would do so if they had faced down deadly enemy fire in the dead of night in some remote outpost in Afghanistan or a dark jungle teeming with Viet Cong. Those who want to burn the flag should talk to my wife’s cousin, Johnny Gilroy, one of this country’s true heroes. He can tell you about some of those Vietnam jungles and the men who fought by his side for your freedom.
If you really want to protest our government’s policies, smash your X-Box, burn your paycheck, or lend your debit card to a homeless Vet. A thousand protesters doing that will really get our nation’s attention.
I’m proud to be an American and if you come visit me, you’ll find the American flag flying along with the Jolly Roger and the flag of the Conch Republic. That’s the flag of the Florida Keys, a country unto itself, but that’s a story for another time.
It’s not a perfect country that Old Glory flies over, and like Blackbeard’s crew, we certainly have our blemishes. Bigotry, prejudice, and racial hatred don’t even begin to scratch the surface.
But when just one American stands up for another whom he doesn’t even know or even care for, the invisible threads of our unity are knit tighter than the threads of our flag. Great divisiveness has strangled our nation in recent years, but if we remember that only by working together can we survive, then our future is bright. But if we let anger, fear, hatred, and greed divide us, then we are doomed and no amount of flag-waving is going to save us. The choice is ours. Flag Day is a good day to remember we need to focus on what makes us Americans and not Republicans or Democrats.
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We recently celebrated the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, January 18, 1778 by Captain James Cook. Surprisingly, there were no tiki bars when he landed, no grass skirts on the women, and no pineapples growing there.
And I’m pretty sure neither Cook nor his men got leied by the natives, though they were surprised to see the visitors appear on the horizon at the culmination of a sacred festival. The natives took their appearance as a sign that they were gods. I don’t think Cook and his men did much to discourage that idea.
Cook named his discovery the Sandwich Islands after John Montague, Earl of Sandwich, a generous benefactor who helped make Cook’s voyages possible. I don’t think I would have called it that especially in front of a crew of hungry sailors.
One of the best books ever written about the islands was penned by James Michener, who once served in the Navy there. He went to great extremes to research his topic so that he got it right. Of all things, he called his book Hawaii. Imagine that. What’s more, the book was translated into 32 languages. I’d be happy if my book was translated into one language.
Though it’s a fictionalized account of the islands, Hawaii is so true to its history that it could be a documentary. One of the things you might be surprised to learn about Hawaii is that among the first settlers were Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands and natives from Bora Bora in the South Pacific. I’m glad they didn’t name their new home Hawaii Hawaii.
Everyone has heard of Maui but not many are familiar with Molokai, Hawaii’s fifth largest island. Its dark secret may be the reason. Unimmune islanders contracted diseases from visiting sailors and foreigners seeking their fortune. A small section of the island was set aside as a leprosy colony in 1866 and operated for over a hundred years. People exiled here were declared legally dead. That’s sad.
I’ve never been to the islands, but my daughter and son-in-law honeymooned in Maui. I wasn’t invited. As you can guess, the islands are breathtaking and all have their own, unique microclimate, so much so that you can indulge in sandy beaches, towering mountains, tropical rain forests, or volcanoes that still grumble.
In case you haven’t heard, the Hawaiian Islands are 2,500 miles from the mainland of the United States. Natives there don’t really use the phrase “mainland of the United States.” They just call it the mainland, and because it is so far away, everything must be imported. Cars, toothbrushes, hamburgers, and Hawaiian shirts. That makes living there quite expensive. You probably know Hawaii was made the 50th state in 1959, but what you may not know is the average home is around $270,000 while the average home on the mainland is closer to $119,000.
Despite the inconvenience and expense of having everything imported, the United States government is not about to close any of its bases. Hawaii is the key to protecting the mainland as well as keeping an eye on things in that corner of the world.
Unless you spend your life in the fantasy world of Facebook, you no doubt have heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On a quiet Sunday morning on Dec. 07, 1941, Japanese Kamikaze bombers came roaring out of the western Pacific and bombed the hell out of the American fleet and the Navy personnel there. Over 2,200 Americans died that day with another 1,200 wounded. The surprise attack destroyed battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and over 188 planes. The only reason our three great aircraft carriers weren’t destroyed was because they weren’t in port that day. Talk about luck.
Franklin D. Roosevelt called it a, “Day which will live in infamy.” He was right. And it’s why we should always be extremely cagey when dealing with the bastard in North Korea, nuts enough to think he can get away with something similar. When unstable leaders like Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump play chicken with each other, the whole world better sit up and pay attention.
As beautiful and breathtaking as the images of Hawaii are, America’s early involvement in the islands have their root in a dark and checkered past. The United States helped overthrow the legitimate ruler, Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893 after years of wrangling and manipulation, and it wasn’t because the U.S. had a yearning for Hawaiian guitars, grass skirts, or luaus either. The culprits behind the overthrow of the queen were white businessmen headed by Sanford Dole, eager to expand their pineapple plantations at the islanders’ expense.
But non-Americans shouldn’t get too sanctimonious. The Spanish brutalized the natives of South America for gold and silver. European countries like England, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands all had a hand in carving up the Dark Continent and wreaking untold misery on its native cultures.
Mark Twain once said, “There isn’t a foot of land in the world that doesn’t represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successful “owners” who each in turn… defended it against the next gang of robbers who came to steal it…” I bet Queen Lili’uokalani would agree with Twain’s assessment.
I don’t know if it’s the seductive images of Hawaii or the last few songs from Jimmy Buffett Live in Hawaii, but I think I’m getting a little nostalgic for luaus, Hawaiian shirts, and wahines in grass skirts. If my wife walks through the door wearing one, I’m getting my scissors out and do a little trimming. No sense letting grass grow under my feet. Or anywhere else.
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If Blackbeard were still alive, I’m not sure what he would think of the recent storms that have plagued the south. Though he spent quite a bit of time in the warm, sunny Caribbean particularly Nassau, he also made North Carolina his home. The Coastal Carolinas along with most of the deep south have been battling snow and ice for well over a week now.
I’ve lived here for the better part of thirteen years, and not only has this been the worst winter, but close to the worst winter on record. Folks up North have no trouble throwing me statistics showing how much more brutal winter has been in the North and Midwest. But when you live in Upstate New York or Wisconsin, you’re supposed to freeze your buns off, and you’re supposed to get snow. A lot of it.
To complain about it would be like natives here complaining because they get sand in their shoes when walking the sandy beaches of the Grand Strand.
The last time snow made news along the Grand Strand was in March 2010. It’s easy to remember. My son came to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon along with six thousand other runners. However, when the weatherman forecast snow for the morning of the marathon, organizers cancelled it the night before, even though the first snowflake had yet to fall. I can’t tell you how disappointed the athletes who trained long and hard were. My son traveled all the way from New Jersey. He ran it anyway along with others from New York, Ohio, and states far west of the Mississippi.
The cancellation pretty much reflects the attitude towards snow here. Towns throughout the South are not equipped to handle snow or the icing of roads. Cities and towns in northern cities stockpile mountains of salt and have a gazillion pieces of equipment to remove snow; most cities in the south have little in their artillery to fire back at old man winter.
Normally, any snow or ice that falls is gone when the sun rises the next day. This past week has been far from normal. Last night it got down to 15 degrees. With temperatures barely above freezing during the day, snow and ice continue to hang around for days instead of hours.
Many bridges and roads still ice over at night. Other roads have never melted. When the storm first hit, cars and trucks plowed helplessly into one another because inexperienced drivers didn’t understand the dynamics of a two-ton vehicle skidding on ice. Even emergency vehicles were forced to drive more slowly because of the hazardous conditions.
Diehard golfers, who have a choice of over a hundred courses to play on, found themselves reluctantly sitting at home when managers covered parts of their greens to preserve them from the devastating effects of the storm.
The good news is that temperatures are expected to rise into the fifties this coming week. It’s not enough to entice the Southern Belles to grab their bikinis and head for the beach, but at least the ice that has clung so tenaciously to roads will be a distant memory, and folks can get back to the business of playing golf and getting their gardens ready for spring. Even the pirates holed up here can start dreaming of outfitting their ships and prepare for a little pillaging, plundering, and wenching.
Whether you’re in the Pinelands of New Jersey, buried under three feet of snow, or basking on a Florida beach working on your tan, I hope the rest of your winter is mild. If it’s not, I hope you have a plan for staying warm. Part of mine includes putting on a DVD of Jimmy Buffett’s concert in Anguilla and snuggling up with me pirate wench. Let me know what you’re going to do to make it through the rest of winter.
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The closing hours of New Year’s Day are upon us and by now many of us who made resolutions have broken them. I’m posting this blog which I wrote last New Year’s Day because we all need a little encouragement when making changes to our lives.
Resolve to workout but missed the very first day? Promise to start that diet but answered that holiday candy that kept calling your name instead?
I’m not too concerned about that gym resolution or those few pounds that found their way to your waist. Doctors and psychologists will tell you it’s normal for people to break those kinds of resolutions shortly after they’re made unless they’re tied to a profound commitment to change.
And that’s why I’m offering you a second chance. A second chance to make some meaningful New Year Resolutions that will have a huge impact on your life. These twelve resolutions have less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with altering the behavior that will get you to the Far Side of the World where your Pirate Dreams await.
I hope this New Year holds a world of adventure for you with blessings that you can only begin to guess at. But if you expect to make it one for the record books, you have to hoist that anchor. God may provide the wind, but you have to raise those sails.
Good luck and see you out there on the Far Side of the World. Even if you’ve never met me, you’ll recognize me instantly. I’ll be the one yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs enjoying every swell and every dip on the High Seas of Life.
Happy New Year!!!
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