Ignorance Ain’t Bliss

Last week, hurricane, then tropical storm, Ernesto sort of roared up the coast and hit South Jersey. I figured our boat would be fine, since it was tied securely with two 1½” lines. I figured the fenders would help, too.

The winds here in Woodstown were in the 30 MPH range, just enough to make some noise and blow a few things around outside. Then I brought up The Weather Channel thing on my computer and noticed that the winds down around the Cape May/Wildwood area were sustained at about 51 MPH, with gusts up to 72. I started wondering if maybe I should have added a couple of spring lines, or something.

We made it down to the boat a couple of days later, and were relieved to see it still sitting in its slip. It looked a little funny, though, with the canvas missing from the top. Hmmm . . . Apparently, a fellow boater rescued the canvas, and placed it on the deck. The canvas itself was okay, but the wind ripped the zipper pockets off. The support frame was bent considerably, but I managed to straighten it.

We then discovered something else that we deemed interesting. The stern line was down to one of three strands, but some thoughtful fellow boater had secured the stern with line from one of our fenders.

I usually err on the side of caution with things like hurricanes, tropical storms, and gales. My attitude approaching indifference, in this case, seemed strange to me. For some reason, I never even thought about the canvas, probably the most vulnerable part of our boat!

But maybe my mind is becoming affected by the indifference of some of the other boaters out there on the waterways. Through the years, the amount of ignorance concerning rules of the road, common courtesy, and safety, has both amazed and annoyed me. No-wake zones apparently apply to only us and about 75 percent of the other boaters. The other 25 percent think that they were designated as no-wake zones only to inconvenience them from reaching their destinations at break-neck speeds.

The good news is that New Jersey passed a law this year requiring boaters to take a U.S. Coast Guard course on safety and rules of the road. The bad news is that apparently many people simply ignored what they considered as just another inconvenience for them.

Jet skis look like tons of fun, and are probably one of the greatest boating menaces ever created. They would be fine, if operated by relatively sane individuals acting responsibly, but like boats, they offer them to anyone who can come up with the money or financing. In NJ, taking a course is required, which doesn’t seem to stop anyone who doesn’t take the course from operating these things. This summer alone, three people were killed on jet skis in the back bays of South Jersey.

A young lady in her twenties drowned in Union Lake, in Millville, while swimming off a pontoon boat. Not surprisingly, no throwable personal flotation device (a requirement) was on the boat. Some boaters either never check to see what’s required by law, or simply ignore the inconveniences of maintaining a safe vessel.

There was no excuse for me not taking preventive measures to protect our boat from wind damage. If the vessel had broken loose, it could well have damaged other boats in the area. I can’t blame my negligence on the deficiencies of a small part of the boating world, and I’m thankful that someone else in the area at the time saved me from the consequences of indifference to a serious situation.

Time of the Seasons

A little more than a week left to summer, or at least as most people in the Northeast have come to know it. I don’t know why we’re so concerned with equinoxes and solstices, though. Everyone knows that summer officially begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day, and has for many years.

That said, it stands to reason that autumn begins the day after Labor Day and ends around the first week of December, when college football is, for the most part, kaput. In ancient times, when my primary football interest ended at the high school level, autumn finished up on Thanksgiving weekend. Every year, it looks more and more as if the beginning of winter will be pushed back (or ahead, depending on how you look at it) another week or so to the second week of December. As Division 1A conferences expand, they add playoff games, extending the autumnal season a bit more.

There’s no need to panic, however, because Christmas will always occur during the winter season, as will college bowl games. The Super Bowl, though, moves ever closer each year to becoming a spring festivity.

No matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicts, spring starts edging in on Palm Sunday, and officially begins on Easter Sunday, no matter what your religion. The only belief required is that summer has now begun its approach!

Not everyone, however, understands how the seasons work. I spent a couple of decades in the South, mostly Georgia, and they seem to have the school thing screwed up beyond repair! For this, I apologize to my daughters for moving them there when they were younger, but they have both grown accustomed to living there and prefer it over the Northeast.

In our section of Georgia, school ended in May and started near the end of August, and while I could have handled getting out before Memorial Day, it never would have made up for going back before Labor Day! As if that weren’t enough, a few years ago, they revised the schedule, and students now return to class sometime in the middle of August! I think I would have run away from home, or something.

There’s no way that could have happened where I grew up, at the Jersey Shore. Labor Day always marked the last day of work for seasonal businesses, and most of the high school students held summer jobs at these places. But that was back before kids could elect to not bother working during the summer. Now, the amusement piers actually send recruiters all over the world to obtain summer help, to countries where children receive no “summer survival stipends.”

So, we’re near the end, and it’s time for students to return to school and write essays titled, “What I Did Last Summer.” It’s a good thing I’m no longer a student, because I’d probably fair no better than a D minus this year.

How I Dodged the Draft

The other day marked the 39th anniversary (if you want to call it that) of my entry into the U.S. Navy. What this means (besides almost nothing) is that I could have been retired now for 19 years! That sounds good, until considering the fact that I would have had to spend an additional 16 years in the Navy. I never considered that an option.

I truly lived out the old cliche¢ of “joining the Navy and seeing the world.” Up until the point I left for Great Lakes Naval Training Center (boot camp), my world consisted of about a 170-mile radius, although the distended blob of my travels looked like anything but a perfect circle. I eclipsed that record on the train, somewhere in Pennsylvania.

During my four years, I managed to visit 16 countries, sort of. Yes, I was actually there, but a couple of places, such as Guam and Okinawa, consisted of standing around while waiting to change planes, or waiting for the plane to be fueled, or something like that. Malta was another story. I stayed aboard ship in Valletta, not by choice, exactly. Actually, I was given a choice, and staying aboard ship seemed like the better option.

I was also treated to a full year’s stay in the lush, tropical paradise of Vietnam, riding boats up and down scenic rivers, and except for the little detail of a war going on somewhere over there, the rivers were very scenic indeed. For some reason, the enemy never figured out we were there, or so it seemed. Supposedly they shot at us once, and we were too stupid to realize it until the crew of a PBR pulled alongside and informed us, but the shots were coming from about a mile across the river, so it was one of those, “Okay, if you say so,” things. We were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for that little episode, and I would have been embarrassed to wear it, except that it was quite nice looking. It also caught me a break now and then during inspections, after rejoining the regular (non-Vietnam) Navy.

Not being the heroic type, I didn’t exactly volunteer for Vietnam duty. I spent some time off the coast, on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, during the prior war season. I didn’t, however like my particular situation, especially concerning one supervisor, so I requested a transfer. The division officer told me that he would approve my request, but if he did, I would probably get orders to Vietnam. Again, it just seemed like the better option, and there was always the chance that I would be needed more in Philadelphia, or at least, that’s what I figured.

I arrived in Vietnam on a commercial flight, because my schedule was inconsistent with the Navy’s, and I showed up a few days’ late. The legal officer noticed the discrepancies on my expense report, so I guess you could say it cost me $175.00 for the comfort of a PanAm flight, instead of a regular military flight. That bothered me a little, because I was amassing a history of missing scheduled flights. I showed up five days’ late for the Kitty Hawk, but I really missed the flight by only an hour or two. I had to wait around Travis Air Force Base for five days, shooting pool, before they gave up and put me on a Northwest Orient flight. (Is it now Northwest Asian?) Anyway, everybody pretty much just shrugged and said, “Well, at least you finally got here.” I expected similar treatment in Danang.

I also missed out on their first attempt at putting me through Fire Fighting School. They even flew me off the Kitty Hawk for the occasion, and I don’t recommend that to anyone except dyed-in-the-wool thrillseekers! So the same division officer who later approved my transfer, said, “So you didn’t go to fire fighting school?” I told him I didn’t, and he said, “Oh,” and that was that. By that time, I was figuring that I could pretty much work out my own schedule for things, so you can see why I wondered about them raising such a fuss when I showed up “fashionably late” in Vietnam.

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly a model sailor, as they say. My only reason for joining in the first place was to dodge the draft, and all things considered, it was, again, the better option. I think I managed to somehow do a few things right, at least once in awhile, but I was never really happy about being there.

Everything in life seems to be a bit of a tradeoff, and so it is with service in the military. I went many places, saw many things, and experienced many other things that no civilian will ever get to do. I went to evening college (sounds better than night school) on the G.I. Bill, but I would never call it “free.”

So, would I trade all of the tropical sunrises for spending the time back home, working a regular job? Probably, but I’d still have to think about it.

PGA – Pretty Generous Advertising

I watched the PGA Championship over the weekend, and CBS put on a classic display of how not to televise a golf tournament. Yes, I understand that advertisements pay the bills, but two or four minutes of commercials for every 45 seconds of golf seems a bit excessive. Okay, maybe I exaggerated just a bit, but not by much.

I wonder if these companies realize that, as just one example, I’ll never do any business with the Royal Bank of Scotland, whatever that is. If that guy started engraving the trophy for Jack Nicklaus one more time, I think I would have jumped out the window! Okay, so I watched it from the first floor, and would have landed on my deck, but I think you know what I mean.

What a pleasure to watch the Masters Tournament, on the same network, but with only four minutes of commercials for every 60 minutes of golf! A few years’ back, we got to see the Masters with no commercials, because someone was protesting the fact that The Augusta National, an all-male club, had no female members! Strangely enough, I didn’t see any guys in the Miss Universe Pageant, but that may have been because I never watch it.

Aren’t we lucky to have computer graphics, though? Now, while we’re attempting to watch a birdie putt, we see people dancing across the bottom of the TV screen! All types of clutter shows up there, none of which ever interests me. Yes, I want to know about it if a major city (or even a minor one, if it’s near me) is being blown up by terrorists, or even by natural causes, but I can avoid “Dancing With the Stars” without being forewarned.

I wonder if CBS realizes that ESPN exists? When I’m watching a golf tournament, I really don’t care about the details of baseball games and tennis matches. That’s one thing that they actually could have scrolled along the bottom of the screen without much annoyance, rather than taking a “sports break” to keep me updated. The only updates I cared about were on the leaderboard at Medinah.

I also wonder if these corporations that spend millions of dollars on advertising realize that, much of the time, I don’t even know what they’re advertising! I’ve watched some of these ads dozens of times, and can’t even figure out what company I’m supposed to be buying something from, or why I’m supposed to buy it! Do they really think that I’ll run out and buy a particular vehicle because some girl changes into sassy clothes before hopping in the passenger seat? I would consider some of these cars they advertise, if only I could find a local road where the speed limit is 140.

But the PGA Championship wasn’t all bad. I don’t remember a single beer commercial. According to the beer companies, it’s okay to steal, as long as it’s your favorite beer. And beer should be much more important to me than the company of a pretty woman. My take on beer is that it never should have left the horse in the first place.

Falling Ahead

We’re into that time of year that instills a sense of dread in any reasonable person of school age, from elementary school through college. I say “reasonable” person, because I’ve known a few individuals who actually liked going to school. I managed to escape the feeling in college, for the most part, because I attended evening classes and generally continued on through the summers.

During my youth, I started cringing right around this time of the summer season, knowing that sometime soon, the lifeguards would blow their whistles, signaling “everybody out of the ocean.” Back in ancient times, it happened on Labor Day, but somewhere along the way, shrewd businessmen somehow figured out how to squeeze quite a bit more juice out of the grapes. It started with the senior citizen bus excursions, back in the 70’s, and next thing you know, everybody wanted in on the extended season.

I could always “feel” the end of the summer approaching, when the blazing heat of late July and early August gave way to a slight crispness in the air, and the shadows started losing their hazy vagueness.

Actually, my initial sense of dread started around July 4th, because it always came up more quickly than I expected, and I could visualize August looming on the horizon, much like a thunderhead on an incoming storm.

But August was the real thing! Just slightly more than four weeks to Labor Day, and the end of my parole! Those stupid back-to-school ads popped up everywhere, as if I needed a reminder! The herds of vacationers diminished a bit in size, as if many of them had already written off the season.

Some of them actually did write it off early, and headed back to wherever they came from to “get ready” for school. Like, who needs a couple of weeks to get ready for school? Fifteen minutes seemed more than adequate to me!

On the amusement pier where I worked, every few days, someone would make the rounds, bidding their farewells for the year. Some would be back the next, but some disappeared from the scene forever.

I disappeared almost forever in ’67, when I entered the Navy. My last year working on the pier was ’66, but I still visited during the following summer, before leaving for Great Lakes the third week in August.

I returned in ’71, and in just four years, the new regime had already infiltrated the ranks. The kids who used to run errands for us were now working the jobs we no longer wanted, but fondly remembered.

I hung around South Jersey until ’81, and lived in the South until returning in late 2002. They say you can’t go home again. Actually, you can. Just prepare yourself for the fact that somebody pretty much screwed it up while you were gone.

Where is the density really located?

The subject for this blog indicates that posts should be non-political.  I think an exception can be made for local politics, especially concerning happenings on “the island.”  Pretty soon, people will be able to stay in “Ocean City South,” which will be great for those who love Ocean City, but hate the absence of nightclubs.  I have mixed emotions about the evolution of Wildwood from a motel haven to a condo city.  I’m old enough to remember when the motel rage took over in the Crest, and the view at night along Atlantic and Ocean Avenues was somewhat impressive, especially before the motels developed all the wrinkles.  For the most part, the new condos were done tastefully, especially when compared to the old 2-story duplexes in OC.  But now, 24-story buildings will be springing up on the island.  The mayor says that increasing the allowable building area on a lot from 300 sq. ft. to 500 sq. ft. will actually decrease the population density.  What do I know?  I’m only an engineer, but I think I know where the density problem exists.

Sensational 60’s Rock and Roll Show

Well, we were down in my old hometown Saturday night for the 60’s show.  I think the Rip Chords should rehearse a bit more.  The “newest” Crystals looked and sounded great, and The Grass Roots did a wonderful job, even with Rob Grill being a bit out of it.  Peter Noone, however, put on a fantastic show, and had complete control of the audience from the moment he walked on stage.  We left after a song-and-a-half or so by Mickey Dolenz, who seemed to think he could upstage PN for some reason.  Comments?