Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

  On Memorial Day, I am humbled by those that make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Freedom.

  Before I retired, there were occasions when I would be in public while in uniform. Occasionally, I would be thanked by total strangers for my service. I would politely thank them and told them I would accept their gratitude in behalf of those that really deserved it.
  I am thankful for my dad who served in World War II and the Korean War.  Even as a young boy, I could see the toll it took on him from seeing the horror of war and keeping it bottled up inside while in the service of his country. 

  I pray that the men and women who are at risk in the defense of Freedom, be kept safe and brought home soon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hup! Twoop! Three! Four! - Epilogue

  As I previously mentioned, I was honorably discharged from the Air Force on March 13th, 1972.  For the following two years I was inactive reserves, which meant all I had to do was zilch. So I was officially a full civilian in March of 1974. 
Image result for kc-135  Well, a couple years go by and I am thinking I need a part-time job for some additional income.  In December of 1976, I enlisted into the New Hampshire Air National Guard at Pease Air Force Base with the 157th Air Refueling Wing.  The unit flew the KC-135 bird.  It was impressive how well maintained the planes were.  At the time, the unit got more air time then the regular Air Force counterparts on the base.  I went into a new career field of radio maintenance.  Interestingly, this was the field I wanted to go into when I originally enlisted in 1968.  I only stayed in for a year because there were too many conflicts of time with my full time job of cash registers.
  I don't know what it is about December's, but in December of 1992, I found myself enlisting with the Idaho Air National Guard and the 124th Fighter Group because I needed the bucks.  This time, the only job available was that of an Administrative Specialist (clerk), as I was during the last year of my four year regular Air Force term.  The unit was on Gowan Field which is a small base opposite from the working side of Boise Airport.
  OK, I broke the December loop.  In May of 2003, my full time job transferred me to Virginia, where I also transferred to the DC Air National Guard located at Andrews Air Force Base, home of Air Force One.  The unit I was in was the 213th Combat Comm. Squadron.   Again, still a clerk and will be for the rest of my military time.  It was a strange place, I had no desk, no chair and felt very displaced.  There was a glimmer of hope that I might be able to get back into Tech. Control in this unit, but it didn't work out.  Maybe just as well, since it was a combat communications squadron at a time when there is a lot of turmoil.
  I was laid off in Virginia and found a new job in upstate New York, hence a change in my Air National Guard status.  In July of 2004, I was in the New York Air National Guard and assigned to the 109th Air Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base on the opposite side of Schenectady Airport.  This was the Guard unit I liked the best.  They did the best job of looking out for each other.  One of the primary missions of the unit was supporting the National Science Foundation in Antarctica and Greenland.  I never made it to the South Pole, because it would have meant being away from home for too long, but I did volunteer to go to Greenland, that was interesting.
  All good things must come to an end and in February of 2009, I retired from the Air Force.  One of the smartest things I ever did, was to put 20+ years into the military.  Not because I was smart, but more of dumb luck.  The lucky part wasn't the little pension I get, but the medical benefits which, these days, are invaluable.
  It was a great experience, and if I had it to do over again, I would have done the same (more or less!).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Herzlich willkommen nach Deutschland!

Image result for germany  Lesley and I are currently in Germany.  We are celebrating the marriage of her son, Alex, to Melanie, twice!  In Germany, you have a civil marriage and, if you want, you can have a 'church' wedding or any variation of it, which is what they did.  It has been great fun, meeting people for the first time or again.  After all the festivities, they will get away from it all and go to Bali.
  It is taking me longer to type this because the German keyboard has some subtle differences and I frequently have to stop and make corrections.  This is my second visit to the country and, like last time, I am wishing I could speak the language.  I am planning on rectifying that during the very near future and hopefully will be a little more interactive next time.  Besides, it will be handy to have a working knowledge of the language when Lesley is on the phone talking to family in Germany and I can make sure she isn´t speaking ill of me! :-) The primary reason we are here is to attend Lesley's son's (Alex) wedding.  We left home on the 13th and return on the 23rd.  
Image result for fresh vegetablesMc Donalds Cola-Glas im CAN-Design  I have to admit Coke tastes a bit better here.  They use sugar like it use to be in the U.S. instead of high fructose corn syrup like they do now.  The McDonald burger's taste the same (yummy) but I can't get them to put ketchup on it instead of mayonnaise!  The roads are very narrow, but ön some roads they have something clever that we should have in the states;  when you approach a traffic light, there is another light that you come to first that will flash yellow a few seconds before the traffic light is about to turn red.  Surprisingly for a country that is so old, there are still a lot of forests, open land, and vegetation and that results in a very green outdoors, more so then home, except, maybe Vermont.  The vegetables are better here, greener lettuce, redder tomatoes, and generally fresher.  In some ways the buildings are built better, in other ways not.  The ceilings are always a minimum of nine feet high.  I am not impressed with their electrical wiring methods.  There roofing is better, they are always tile or slate where in the U.S. you only sometimes see that, but mostly we have asphalt shingles.  The windows are cool, they open inward like a door (easier to clean) and also tilt open at the top using a double hinge system.  I guess I can go on and on about this stuff!

air travel  Air travel on this trip (and most trips these days!) was so-so.  The flight over was ok but our baggage was lost for two days and they didn't hurt themselves resolving the problem.  They did have a TV screen for each seat with a decent collection of things to watch.  I saw The Green Hornet and Tron.    
  I probably drive anyone around me who speaks English crazy (especially Lesley) with my endless questions.  There are so many curious things that I see that are different from home so I turn into a little kid.  Twice I have been spanked for talking too much.
  Auf wiedersehen!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hup! Twoop! Three! Four! - Part 5

Landkarte von Oklahoma, USAApril of 1971 finds me at Tinker AFB, outside of Oklahoma City, OK.  The local neighbourhood is Midwest City.  Tinker is a large base and while I was there, it was referred to as OCAMA (Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area).  I recollect that it was a major logistics center for aircraft engines and many other things.  I also remember that, at the time, there were more civilians then military personnel on the base.  I was in a tenant unit called the 3rd Mobile Comm. Group.  It was different from the 2nd Mobile Comm. Group that I was a part of while I was in England.  The comm. package for the 3rd Mob was transported overland by convoy while the 2nd Mob package was transported by C130 aircraft.  The biggest difference for me, was not a good one.  For some obscure reason, I was involuntarily cross-trained from tech control to an administrative specialist, a fancy term for a clerk.  I was not happy about that because I enjoyed tech control.  What added insult to injury, was one of my buddies, Rookie Ryan, was also transferred to the 3rd Mob but he was still a tech controller.  A cruel joke, I thought.
  Anyway, we all muddle through, don't we?  The area was pleasant enough.  Although the Oklahoma City area was isolated from the rest of the world, there were still plenty of resources available.  At the beginning, I was housed in the barracks on base, two to a room.  My room mate was Gary who continues to be a good friend to this day.  A shortage developed for barracks space and a group of us was given the opportunity to move off base.  We jumped at this idea and found an apartment at the Casa Cortez in Midwest City.
Dart
Charger
  My first car, the 1949 MG, was left in England when I received news of my transfer to Turkey.  Now, here at Tinker, I am getting the need for another car.  It just so happened, Rookie Ryan's dad was a car dealer, so I saved up a down payment, got a loan from my hometown bank in Kennebunk, and ordered a car.  I went from a very old car to a brand new car, which was a 1972 Dodge Dart.  In retrospect, I should have chosen a cooler car.  If I had it to do over again, it would have been a Dodge Charger.
  One day I was making my rounds around the base picking up and dropping off correspondance for my unit.  All part of the exciting life of a clerk, oops, administrative specialist.  I always used a military jeep which was kind of fun to buzz around in.  On this day, we had 'black' ice on the roads which was a very unsusual occurance for Oklahoma.  The jeep sported 'mud' tires which are useless on ice.  At one point, I went into a skid and managed to collide with a 'six-by' which is a large military truck.  I wasn't much of a match against the truck and just bounced off it.  There was little damage, but the incident prohibited vehicles moving about the base until the ice subsided.
  During the hottest part of the summer, the commander decided it would be fun to have an exercise, so we deployed to the area alongside of an airstrip.  It was dreadfully hot, but we soldiered on.  Our water supply was from a water trailer that was towed behind a 'six-by'.  Even though we were very parched, we could not drink the water because it tasted so bad.  Saying it was brackish did not fully described how disgusting it tasted.  The only other time I tasted water close to being that bad was in a little town in Idaho.  Eventually the water trailer was taken away to another water source and refilled.  So one problem solved. 
  We were living off 'C' rations which were better then 'K' rations but not as nice as 'I.F.' rations.  'C' rations were comprised of a canned muffin, a canned juice, and a canned 'entre' which was a spaghetti substance or a meat substance or some other things I don't recollect.  It also included a mini pack of three cigarettes which I would barter for something else since I was a non-smoker.  The can of juice tasted OK, but it would have been better if it was cold.  Well, no refrigerators in the tent, so I had to apply some good ol' high school science.  I set up a little cooling system which chilled the juice enough to make it more enjoyable.  I hung my helmet upside down and filled it with water.  Then I soaked a t-shirt in water and rolled the can of juice up in one end of it in such away that it would stay in place.  Then I put the other end of the rolled up t-shirt into the helmet of water and drapped it over the edge of the helmet and let it dangle down.  By capillary action, the water in the helmet would flow through the t-shirt, thereby staying wet.  The wet t-shirt wrapped around the can would evaporate.  Evaporation causes a natural cooling action, like sweat on your skin evaporates to help cool you.  Voila!  Chilled juice!  Second problem solved.  The only other problem was being there, but I couldn't do much about that.
  During this time, I was starting to think about what I was going to do when I was finished with the Air Force.  One summer job I had, was working for a 2-way radio company, taking care of taxi, police and public utility radios.  I enjoyed that and thought I might pursue that by obtaining a commercial FCC license.  With that, I could also get a job with a radio or TV station.  So I studied and took the first of a series of exams to obtain the various classes of licenses.  The test I took was in Oklahoma City in the Federal building.  Little did I know that a few years later, that building would be blown up.
  March 13, 1972, marked the end of my active duty in the Air Force.  So with that, I packed up my stuff, loaded up my little Dodge Dart, and headed home, to Kennebunk, Maine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"....Between Science And Superstition...."

  OK, to set the mood, click here!
The Twilight Zone was one of my favourite television programmes growing up.  I just started watching the old shows (again).  There is something about watching black and white television that gives the viewer a different sensation and even more so in high definition. 
  The creator, Rod Serling was a rare breed, click on his name and you will see his biography.  I have just finished reading it and learned a lot more about him that I didn't know before. 
  It is fun to watch the old shows for various reasons.  Serling sometimes would put an underlying message into his scripts and sometimes they were more straightfoward.  One reason he started his own show was to avoid the censors and restrictions by sponsors that he often encounted when writing for other shows. 
  I also enjoy seeing the everday objects of that time period on the 'sets' that were familiar to me when I was young.  The old baking soda fire extinguishers hanging on the wall, or the Coca-cola dispenser at the soda fountain of the local drug store, the old cars, to name a few.   And seeing famous actors when they were much younger and less famous.
  If you ever want to see old shows like this as well as current shows and movies, I highly recommend Netflix.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Culinary Corner

  Those that know me, know that when it comes to food, I am basically a 'meat and potatoes' guy.  Nevertheless, I do have my favourite foods:

- Orange juice is my second favourite beverage and as I go into the warmer weather, I always enjoy real orange juice (not from concentrate!) that has been in the freezer just long enough to become 'slushy'.  My most favourite beverage?  Read on...
- People have accused me of being a 'Coke-a-holic'.  I am not, however, as long as I get one a day at lunchtime!  I am better behaved with my Coke usage then I was living in the West when I had a large insulated mug that I would constantly refill all through the day.
- I have become very fond of Lesley's Mahogany Stew.  Yum!  It just melts in your mouth.  Slow cooked in a crock pot for hours and hours.
- There is nothing like a well-made burger, NO CHEESE PLEASE!  Yes, people think I am odd because I don't like cheese, doubly so, when I tell them I like pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Go figure.  But, yes, burgers are very tasty.  When I build mine, it is with onions, lettuce and ketchup.
- I like pasta...again, no cheese.  You might think that is a contradiction of terms because most people think pasta and cheese go together. If you are a regular  reader, you have already learned that I am, how should I say it, a little different.  Yes, pasta and sauce for me...and meat is OK, too.
- I think I have mentioned this before, my dad use to make what he called 'tuna pea wiggle'.  White sauce with tuna and peas over toast, or a variation with chipped beef instead of tuna.  Anyway, I have always liked that, but don't get much opportunity to enjoy it.  When I tell people about it, they just look at me funny.
- Might as well include comfort foods, as well.  Sometimes I have a hankering for crushed saltine crackers in a bowl with milk and sugar or bits of bread with the same.  I think these were conjured up when there was no ready-to-eat cereal in the house.
Image result for pie- Pies....ahhhhh!  The best apple pie I ever had was made by my grandmother.  There have been a couple pies that have come very close!  I had the great privilege of living with my grandparents for several years and between my grandfather being a butcher and my grandmother having been a cook, well, there were some pretty great meals on the table.  Every Saturday night, it was homemade baked beans and at family gatherings were yeast rolls, large and fluffy, with  real butter to melt on them.  Another speciality of my grandmother's were cream of tarter biscuits, oh boy.  I can just go on and on about her cooking but I am starting to drool onto my keyboard.  I have to admit, there are some store bought pies that aren't bad.  One I like is Marie Callendar's Razzleberry frozen pie.  One more pie to mention (am I hooked on pies?), Lesley makes a great no bake pie that is...., well, heck, here is the recipe:

             BERRY BERRY COOL PIE

Servings: Makes one pie - Freeze time: 5 hours - Prep Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 to 2 cups berries, mix or match (raspberries, blueberries or blackberries)
1 (8 ounce) container frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
1 (6 ounce) graham cracker pie crust shell
Instructions:
In large bowel, mix together sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice, combine well. Mix in berries. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon mixture into crust. Freeze 5 hours or until set. Let stand 30 to 40 minutes before serving. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in freezer.

Image result for whoopie pie- I am also a sucker for homemade whoopee pies.  For those that have been sheltered, a whoopee pie is creme filling sandwiched between two devil's food cake patties three to four inches in diameter.  Sounds good, eh?

There are many more foods and goodies that could be mentioned, but we all have favourite foods that can make us weak at the knees, in fact, I would love to hear yours if you can suffer through the gamit of posting a reply to me!

Food is our common ground, a universal experience. - James Beard