5Artz, A New Website for the Millenium

We have become a world culture that perceives it has no leisure time.

Out of Print” is a documentary produced by Morton Denn and directed by Vivienne Roumani. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend watching it. The film highlights my fears and those of many writers in the world. I think I can feel pretty safe in saying that there are probably a large number of writers and others (musicians, photographers, artists, voice over professionals) who are afraid that the ability of anyone to make a living creatively has been jeopardized by the expectations of anything in writing being free of charge on the world wide web.

It is my opinion that there are very creative artists who want to earn a living creatively.

5Artz Introductory Image
The look of the new 5Artz website


5Artz will be an online website featuring a store and mobile app that promotes what used to be known as the “short piece” or short story. For writers, short stories were compact creations of prose that elicited an emotion of one kind or another. Creating compact prose has become an art form, generally recognized in the form of an award.

Regretfully, many new writers do not even know these awards exist.

Perhaps the truest form of an award for a writer would be the willingness of a perfect stranger to purchase what they have created, demonstrating that their work has merit, or value. The recognition that a new writer could receive would be that the words they are creating are so valuable, that someone is willing to pay for their work.

The mission of 5Artz is to promote new creative talent via a mobile app.

Part of my therapy in getting my life back to where it should be, getting my stories out for all to enjoy, will be in sharing this blog on and about 5Artz, the site I am attempting to create for all creative souls in the world.

As a creative artist, I know how many other people have been sidetracked by the rigors of life.

There are people who have hobbies that will never see the light of day. They want to make a living doing what they love doing the most. I am talking about writing their heart out, baring their soul in visual expressions, painting pictures with light, expressing their highs and lows in life with song, or dramatically expressing themselves as other people, other characters in worlds we have not comprehended yet. The dream of 5Artz is to allow not “A”-listers, but “B”-listers, “C”-listers even you would consider “F”-listers to take a chance on themselves and learn how to become creative professionals and sell their work via phone app to a growing group of buyers, namely commuters.

Rear View Of Blond Woman On Stage
A graphic illustration of many new creative artists today.

There nothing like the site I am creating.

At the time of this writing, there are probably thousands of existing websites for hopeful artists to perfect their respective crafts, which  are fantastic places to visit. I highly recommend visiting all of them. 5Artz will be a site that compliments, not competes with existing websites for creative talent on the web. What I am creating is a site that capitalizes on the business that I learned as a novice writer so many years ago, and as a person who participated in online games. I believe there are features we can introduce from online gaming sites which could be incorporated into a creative site. A site dedicated to the democratization and freedom of creative expression, rather than something that fills a more conservative void; censored by the site owner.

The vision I would like to introduce is a community-run website that supports creativity of individual members, policed by its members and is self-sufficient.

In order to be self-sufficient, it cannot be a free site. It must have some way of supporting itself in order to add more tools, provide mentors and bolster its mobile app to survive. It will cost $3.99 per member each month to satisfy this need. Like the gaming world, as the demands of members become more intense to accommodate rising professional needs, we will create higher tiered memberships, which will feature better, more expensive tools.

 

blue big lightbulb shining surrounded by group of people
A visual concept of the 5Artz mission – courtesy of http://www.Istockphoto.com.

The site will grow with its members.

Members will vote on any new additions to the site. If members feel that something is not needed, it will not be added. Therefore, the website will be community-run, all monies collected in member fees used to pay for staffing, upgrades, tools and maintenance. In short, the more members the site attracts, the more tools will be added to the site.

5Artz will feature short pieces of work.

Each member will agree (in writing) to sell their finished short pieces for no more than $1.00 (USD). Why no more than the price I just quoted? Because I feel that in this day and age, the general populace find that purchasing something new and creative for $1.00 or less is more than equitable. The price is adequate, and can introduce the world to new talent, regardless of age, race, creed or gender.

So, if I’m only selling for $1.00 (USD) or less, how would I make money?

5Artz members will have a choice of selling their work through a free mobile app (that can be created with security options). The really cool idea about selling via a free mobile app is that members could be the very people marketing the free app. You can answer this hypothetical question. So, if we have 100,000 members, even 10,000 members pushing this app on their respective Facebook  pages or other social media websites, could we conceivably get people to download and use the app?

Yes, we could.

Word-of-mouth travels rather quickly, so imagine the app being downloaded by 1,000,000 (that’s 1 million folks) people. If you are a member and able to capture just 1% (one percent) of those users every month, how much are you earning as a creative individual? Let’s do the math: 1,000,000 x 1% equals 10,000 (if you can’t figure this out, I have provided you with a link). So, can you survive on the possibility of earning $10,000.00 (USD) per month as a creative artist? The beauty of this equation is that if you are an enterprising individual, you would create salable material every month that links to the previous short piece you created (this works for musicians, photographers, artists and voice over professionals), also working in something that leaves your new fan to salivate over your next piece the coming month. Create 12 pieces over a year, and a writer has the makings of a book, an artist or photographer; the makings for a portfolio, the musician the songs to create an album and the voice over artist, enough material for either a play or movie.

Short work is already gaining popularity.

Writers
The marriage of pen and keyboard.

Flash fiction has become a popular form of prose writing. It is quick, terse and conforms to the average needs of today’s mobile culture. Many times however, it is free. 5Artz is being created as a hopeful link between those who wish to develop a career creatively. The website will focus on a short story for a writer, one visual panel for an artist, one photograph for a photographer, one song for a musician or one short 5-minute audio piece for a voice over professional. The beauty of 5Artz is that the writer can have the freedom to express themselves in whatever method they choose.

A community that works together: 5Artz.

The 5Artz community (members) will have the opportunity to work with them, and those of us running the site will have the opportunity to ensure that the written work is placed in the correct genre (I will ensure that adult-rated material is placed in the proper adult-rated slots). I have worked for (and will continue to work for) Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc. and learned a valuable life lesson from my mentors.

NEVER CENSOR contributed work.

I will make it clear right now, that 5Artz will NEVER censor any contributed work. That work includes political, religious or work that may seem offensive to certain groups. It will however, be placed in specific categories, so that you the buyer, know what the work is about, so that you can make a sound buying decision before you make the purchase. Our work will be categorized in alphabetical order, with the community members and 5Artz staff creating new categories as they are needed. Work will then be reorganized as needs arise.

Any changes made to the 5Artz website will be known to the community.

All modifications to the site will be voted on by the community as much as possible. There may be certain changes that are necessary, but the objective of the 5Artz staff will be to ensure that the site is not only beautifully aesthetic, but simple and functional.

Gavel from Everystockphoto
A community staffed with legal professionals

Perhaps the greatest challenge for the website will be legal problems or fears regarding breaches of security or intellectual property disputes. All members will agree to mediation regarding intellectual property rights and problems that could arise from disputed claims of trademark or copyright infringement. 5Artz will employ a legal staff and mediators to work with members in resolving these issues through a support link.

5Artz will be the first creative website to house voice chat capability.

Imagine being able to collaborate with other people (creative artists) in projects where your finished product pays you both equally. The cool thing is that you were able to work out your collaboration verbally. The site would have a collaboration link set up, with online tools for you to create, develop, modify and finally submit salable, polished work for the mobile app for sale.

I have laid out my basic skeleton for the site.

We already have members on our original website: The Forum for Creative Innovation, and have already decided to eventually move the site and members over to the 5Artz site. We have not decided whether or not we will maintain the site yet, but it is something we will eventually kick around with our 5Artz community. In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy our short videos that we will be presenting for our initial crowdfunding campaign to raise awareness and hopefully recruit new members for the site.

 

Having your own classroom

Today is my birthday.

My supervisor and I stopped for a moment to talk about strategies for the upcoming year. Our fiscal year actually started on July the 1st. We have conducted two classes so far, graduating our second class today. I took a look around and snapped a couple of photos because the room feels so quiet right now.

Classroom1

It looks so idyllic to me, when compared to my former classroom:

LVULCrew

There are times when I miss my old classroom.

It was always filled with people. My day started at 8:00 A.M. and ended at 5:00 P.M. sharp, but it went by so fast that it seemed like an hour. In the 2 years that we were in our old location, I don’t remember a dull moment and I don’t remember a long day. Which brings me back to my opening statement.

My supervisor asked me when I was going to take vacation.

He surprised me with the question. So much that, I didn’t know how to answer him. My answer was that I would have to ask my wife. We talked some more, his advice being that I should really give some thought to taking time off, since he felt that the job tends to burn a lot of people out. I replied that I don’t feel burned out. Quite the opposite. I feel renewed. I told him that ever since I was hired, I’ve been addicted to the work. I look forward to the challenge of teaching more people something new. I enjoy helping people. I told him that I am afraid of taking vacation.

I have been formally teaching since 2003.

As a teacher, I even attempted working for the public school system and found that I just did not fit in. I am a maverick of sorts, with a need to share what I learn in simple, easy-to-understand words that do not confuse, befuddle or drive away my students. I teach adults. I cannot count the number of times that an entire class has asked me why I wasn’t their teacher in high school. I am told by my students, that there is a disparaging difference between my teaching methods and those of the teachers they had in school. In short, I am entertaining and passionate about what I teach and their teachers were robotic at best, uncaring at worst.

I believe that teaching is timely.

When I plan a curriculum for my adult students, it has to be not only engaging, but must include exercises that they can use. I teach all levels of computer technology, including Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Web Applications. I’m well known in Las Vegas for my laid-back teaching style and patience when explaining how to use any applications.

I am afraid of going on vacation because I would miss teaching.

I am trying to replace my love of teaching with my passion for writing. I plan to revisit writing my books and short stories that I shelved in lieu of manuals and lesson plans. What is also keeping me busy is getting my project online, so that it can grow as a much-needed business on the web.

So, it looks like I will spend my birthday agonizing over minutae.

No I will not spend my birthday agonizing over small details. My family is getting together with me, while friends and family are already wishing me a happy birthday.

What I will be agonizing over, during all the festivities is that I have aged another year. Time is growing ever shorter, and my bucket list of projects just keeps getting longer.

I guess that I’m just like a lot of people in the world.

My appreciation over all though, is that I am alive, I am in good health and I have the company of a wonderful woman that I am madly in love with, after being together for over 20 years. Oh, and the fact that I am able to share my thoughts with so many people is really cool.

Have a wonderful day. I know that I will.

There Can Be No Joy Greater Than Revenge — Noisy Upstairs Neighbor

Vengeance is mine, sayeth me!  I cannot believe that I have found my upstairs neighbor’s Achille’s Heel.  I was playing some music on my computer when I heard a foot stomping on the floor above me.   I chortled in hacks of mirth as I contemplated this new discovery.  At long last!  I believe I have found the holy grail, and my answer was right in front of me all this time.  From now on, I will exact my vengeance with evil intent and methodical regularity.  I will teach my upstairs neighbor a lesson for all the sleepless nights he and his roommate have mercilessly visited upon me.  But then, I could have always complained to my landlord regarding the noise and sleep my neighbor has cost me.  But this…this will sweeten my dealings with my upstairs neighbor.

Before I go however, I do want to say that having a noisy upstairs neighbor is akin to dealing with rats in your ceiling.  They never seem to go to sleep, no matter how hard you hit the ceiling.  I remember having an apartment (a very nice apartment with deep wood panelling and marble floors) long ago in the Philippines.  There were no clauses in how to deal with the rats that regularly would climb straight up the walls, to nest in the crawlspace between the roof and the ceiling of the home.  I would use a mop handle to pound on the ceiling in order to shut the rats up.  They would stop for a moment, then continue to squeal loudly.  I developed a resolve in dealing with the rats — finally settling on complaints to my landlord about it, and eventually contracting with a pest control company to get rid of the pesky buggers.  It would take five months before I was finally able to get a decent night’s sleep.  But…I dealt with the rats…my way.

Waiting for My Neighbor to Move…

My wife and I live in a bottom apartment in a quiet complex.  It was quiet at least, until our new neighbor moved in.  Usually on Friday evenings, he has people over to play with him.  We can hear them above us, stomping on the floor like a herd of elephants.  There are many times when I’m sorely tempted to call the police.  I keep thinking that a few well placed 911 calls would solve the banging, thrumming and noise that sometimes shakes the walls of our apartment.  My problem is that if I did so, my wife would probably shoot me, for making trouble for someone else.  She is probably right, my wife.  No sense in becoming labelled as the bastard of the community.  There are my civil rights though:

  1. My right to peace and quiet, so that I can sleep
  2. My right to be able to watch television or a movie in my living room without having to turn it up, just so I can hear the sound
  3. My right to not wonder if one day, someone is going to discharge a weapon above me that will end my life
  4. My right to snore away through the night, and not be suddenly wakened by a bang, bump, or any other sharp noise
  5. My right to relax in my bedroom, without dealing with the loud stereo that my upstairs neighbor decided to turn on

One day, I am convinced that I will be cleaning my gun in the living room and it will accidentally discharge into that upper apartment. (Good thing I don’t own a gun.) Or, that I will be working on the wiring for a electromagnetic pulse weapon, that suddenly discharges into the upper apartment, effectively killing every electronic part that my upstairs neighbor owns.  Now that, is a dream worth having…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: The Formative Years

My “A” School complete, I was ready for another ship, the USS Monticello (LSD-35). My most memorable and turbulent times came from my time aboard the “Mo Boat”.

  1. I was married to my high school sweetheart while on leave in Colorado, before going to my new duty station in San Diego.
  2. I played football against Jim Wolfe, who during the game almost ripped my ear off.
  3. My daughter was born in February.  I was prevented from seeing her birth because after listening to one of the men aboard the ship who told me that birth is the closest a woman comes to death, when my wife was in labor, begging for something to help her with her pain, the medical staff was calmly eating lunch.  I almost became very physical with the doctor and staff, thinking that she was going to die.
  4. Later that year, in September, my wife asked me for a plane ticket back to Colorado in order to show off our daughter to her folks.  Once she arrived, she promptly told me that she was not coming back.  She filed for a divorce within the week.
  5. I was asked by a chief that I worked for if I was “a descendant of those nip-flying buzz bombers” in front of over 15 other chiefs.  In my embarrassment and defense, the chief that I worked for took offense.  The chief who asked me that question thought he had a right, since he was married to a Japanese.
  6. My second trip to the Philippines resulted in meeting a very special lady, a dietary consultant who on one night introduced me to the infamous President Ferdinand Marcos, and his wife Imelda at a floating casino in Manila Bay.
  7. During a stop in Busan, South Korea, two friends and I went on walkabout, touring the city.  We happened to take a turn up a mountain, only to be escorted at gunpoint by ROK army regulars.
  8. While in Hong Kong, I not only toured the Tai Pak gardens, but spent a lot of time skulking around tiny shops and businesses in the notorius Wanchai district.
  9. In Japan, I had a chance to visit relatives on leave.  It was the first time I met my cousins, Kozo and Willy, who showed me around Tokyo and the Ginza district.
  10. Upon our return to the U.S., I had no one to greet me at the pier.  This time, I felt no empty feeling.  I wanted to stay abroad.

It would be 1979, when the USS Monticello would make its way up the Columbia River to Portland, Oregon for a shipyard overhaul.  I lost a good friend there one night, his body was found in a river, we were told he had been stripped of his shirt and shoes.  The police thought it was a “carny”, since there was a carnival in town that week.  We had other suspicions, that turned up a dry well.  Portland was a time of revelling for me.  I would begin to haunt nightclubs and dance places for one night stands.  Women I spent time with, some destitute, others just looking for a good time like myself.  I would find myself at the Copper Penny Two in downtown Portland, or Earthquake Ethel’s in Beaverton, or even the Pigeon Toed Orange Peel Bar and Grill, that catered to the college crowd that no longer seems to exist.  It was when the town of Spirit Lake closed in early 1980, that I began collecting articles from The Oregonian.  The mountain that people loved to travel to see in Washington, Mt. St. Helens had spit out plumes of ash and soot.  Something was happening, I could feel it in my bones.  It was on May 18, 1980 that the newspaper clippings I had been collecting came to fruition when Mt. St. Helens finally erupted, spitting out a plume of ash and soot that covered 3 states.  That occurred 30 years ago.  What many people do not know today is that we were not affected by ash from the volcano for 3 days.  We suffered from the fallout, the day becoming like night when the winds shifted.  Portland had come to a standstill.

These are my memories of a time when I was in the service.  It was my first 4 years, which eventually would lead me to another 16 years in the Navy.  When I left the service in August of 1980, to return to my native Colorado, I never thought that I would be returning to the Navy.  I was finished, I’d had enough.  Besides my uniforms, I had one memento from a very special lady in my life at that time, her name was Ruth Larson.  I can still remember one of our last telephone conversations when I called her from my friend Bob Berry and his wife’s apartment. My final gift was from Ruth, that I received in Colorado on September 5th, 1980.  It was a small package containing a pen filled with what looked like white dust.  Wrapped around the pen was a short note, “Just thought I would give you a piece of ash.  Love, Ruth”.

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: The First Years (Cont.)

John Barton decided to show me the town just outside the gates on my second day aboard the USS Long Beach.  We were accompanied by his long time friend, “Doc” Ackerman (a hospitalman that he knew from Vietnam), and Mike Trover, a Ship’s Serviceman Seaman that I had met that day.  That first night out in the Phillippines was reminiscent of being out in a carnival during the evening.  The air was smoky and hot as I passed the main gate of Subic Bay Naval Station, filled with the sound of music emanating from clubs along Olangapo‘s main street: Magsaysay Boulevard.  Throngs of people packed the bridge and river that separated the city and the base.  Children in banca boats screamed out to people lining the sides of the bridge to throw pesos to them into a river that they would attempt to catch, over water infested with typhus and various bacillium (I remember seeing the carcass of a dead dog floating down the river on a return trip). Everyone who has been to Olangapo in those days will attest to the children and young 14 or 15 year-old girls dressed in evening wear who would line the river, begging for money.  As soon as we stepped onto the surface of Magsaysay, we were met by a hoard of men shouting, “‘Dis way to women, we got lots of women, come…come!”  Children were at our sides, begging for pesos, looking for our watches and checking our back pockets for wallets to steal.  Women dressed in tight t-shirt tops and even tighter shorts also lined the start of the boulevard, each one begging us to follow her for a “good time”.  We passed a man selling authentic “monkey meat” barbecue on a stick, women in windowed stalls to our right, slapping rulers or wood sticks on their stalls to get our attention to change our money before we entered a club.  All around us were throngs of people.  I remember in particular, a black marine with a cut on the side of his head, obviously drunk, yelling to anyone in the crowd who would listen, “I’ll fight you, I’ll fight all of you.”  I made the mistake of looking at him, catching his eye.  He stared at me, trying to adjust his vision, stopping for a moment to state, “I’ll even fight you.”  Doc shooed us into Cindy’s, for a bite to eat, whispering something to someone who promptly ran off into the street, returning moments later with Phillippine constabulary to escort the marine we had just seen back to the base.

It was at Cindy’s where I learned about how John and Doc had met in Vietnam.  John had been a Gunner’s Mate 1st Class on a riverine patrol boat along the Mekong Delta.  Doc was on a helicopter gunship known as “The Poodle”.  I found it interesting that John and Doc could laugh about what happened on the fateful night that they met.  John thought that the vietcong had either called in by telephone, or by radio that a gunboat was smuggling arms up a canal that they never named.  What both men told us was that John, who was a gunner’s mate on the PBR at the time had his boat mistakenly shot out from under him by Doc’s gunship.  John went on to say that when they demanded the gunship crew give them a lift back to Saigon, the crewchief laughed, and told them they would have to “hoof” it back to safety because there wasn’t enough room in the chopper.  John said that his crew spent a few hours on the boat, wondering what they would do when a rescue chopper came in to pick them up.  John had the option when he returned to be shipped stateside, and instead, cross-trained to Ship’s Serviceman, to work in a ship’s laundry and earn his retirement pay.  It was John and Doc, who kept me out of trouble in those next days until the ship headed back out to sea, this time with myself on it.

The Long Beach was deployed from 1976 to 1977.  During the time I was attached to the ship, I was involved in:

  1. Bar brawls in the merchant marines bar ( in Port Louis, Mauritius, I found out that a whiskey bottle will break a man’s head, rather than break when it is used as a weapon)
  2. Underway Replenishment (I remember pushing tons of frozen meat down a chute stamped “Not Fit for Air Force consumption)
  3. Cleaning toilets that exploded with Collection Holding and Transfer (CHT) sewage (I was armed with boots, rubber gloves and an ample supply of Lysol and brushes)
  4. Witnessing the very last true missile launch, the TALOS missile truly was a sight to see, feel, and hear.  The entire ship shuddered when it was launched, lost at over 300 nautical miles, the missile was still on its flight trajectory.
  5. Riding through a typhoon (I was told that when the ship listed to a certain point, the superstructure would snap off)
  6. The Ugandan conflict (I was issued a .45 and 10 rounds of ammunition.  It was the day that I found I was “expendable”)
  7. Dealing with the captain when the Combat Information Center (CIC) was not supplying information (we were moving to plane guard station, 500 yards off the stern of the USS Enterprise. My operator down in CIC kept telling me “not to sweat it”)
  8. Finding out what it was like to be out in the Indian Ocean at midnight, looking at a clear, cloudless night sky — so many stars surrounding a huge moon over a surface that was as smooth as glass
  9. Discovering what it was like to return home, after so many months, knowing that no one (absolutely no one) would be on the pier to greet me — a very empty feeling

My time on the USS Long Beach (CGN-9) was short.  I was soon transferred to my “A” school for training to become an Operations Specialist in Great Lakes, Illinois.  I not only learned how dreadfully cold it can get, when winds blow across the lakes, but I almost washed out of the program there, were it not for an astute instructor who realized that the reason I was failing all of my tests came from a lack of confidence…garbage that I had taken from my family telling over and over again that I was a failure.  He gave me very important advice that I have followed to this day.  His tact was simple, since I only had one more chance to graduate, or be washed out and become a deckhand, chipping paint for the “rest of my life”.  He said, “Just say to yourself, not now Mom, not now Dad, I don’t have time for you right now.”  That instructor was right, I was not stupid.  I had been holding myself back all that time in school.  Up to that point, I had been scoring in the 50’s and 60’s, just not “getting it”.  I took his advice on that last test, my hands shaking and trembling as I scored my answers, repeating to myself throughout the entire test, “Not now Mom, not now Dad, I don’t have time for you right now.”  The results were nothing short of amazing.  The tests that had been holding me back all that time became simple.  I scored 98% on that test, and continued to score in the high 90’s until I completed my training.  I followed the advice I was given through my entire 20 years that followed, and on into college.  To this day, I am a person who consistently scores high on my tests, completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a 3.5 average, and my Master of Arts in Education with a 4.0 average.  That single event in a small, no-name military school in Great Lakes, Illinois, changed the very course of my life.

More to come…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: The First Years

My plane had just landed at Clark Air Force Base, Phillippines on a late September day.  Nothing is left of the base since the Pinatubo eruption, but looking back to those days, I can still remember every minute I was there.

The first thing that I remember was the heat, not a dry heat like one would find in Nevada, but a sticky, overwhelming heat that immediately left a fog on my glasses as soon as I stepped out of the plane.  We were directed to wait for a bus that would take us to Subic Bay, about a 2-hour bus ride.  I was one of the first people on the bus.  I noticed a very beautiful blond woman, a petty officer sit in the seat in front of me.  A young blond sailor asked if he could sit with her…pointing out that the bus was filling up, and he would have no place to sit down.  She relented, and soon they were involved in a light conversation as the bus begain its trundle toward Subic Bay.  About an hour passed, and the bus driver decided to pull over to a Sari-sari store for a beer break.  As I departed from the bus, a large group of children approached me.  I must have been an easy mark, because they flocked to me like a bunch of seagulls on a dead fish.  I was 19 then; naive and full of wanton charity.  I handed them all the change I had, not realizing at the time that they were patting me down, testing my watch to see how well it was fastened to my wrist, as they all crowed, “Hey Joe, gimme peso…hey Joe…”  As soon as they noticed I had no more change to give them, they ran to find another “victim”.   Our Philipino bus driver quickly became tired of the show. when the children started approaching him, shooing us all back onto the bus.  As we were boarding, the couple in front of me were laughing at the children.  The blond sailor turned to the woman saying, “You want to see something funny?”  The woman tittered a bit, then nodded.  He leaned out and yelled, “Hey!  Hey!  You want a peso?  You want a peso?”, as the bus began to move.  The children ran after the bus, hoping for one more coin.  I remember one boy in particular, looking up to him as he leaned far out the window his hands outstretched as he threw his beer bottle at the child’s head, the bottle bouncing squarely off of the child’s skull.  I remember turning to watch the child falling down in the dirt road, blood already matting his head as the other children gathered around him.  “There!  There’s your peso!” the blond sailor shouted.  Some of the men on the bus laughed, while the female sailor smiled and said, “You didn’t have to do that.”  The blond sailor gave her a surly reply, “Damn slopes deserve it.”  That image has lasted in my mind for a long time, and I still do not see how any of those children deserved to be treated in that way by one of us.  I was told before I left the United States that we were ambassadors.  I did not know what to say then, and I do not know what to say now.

My very first ship was the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), part of the then nuclear task force in the Pacific.  It was dark by the time we arrived, the bus dropping us off close to Cubi Point, where my ship was docked. It was a long walk up the gangplank, with my seabag slung over my shoulder, my orders clutched in my hand.  The duty officer had me escorted belowdecks to bunk with Supply (temporarily of course), until my more permanent berthing was assigned to me.  The smell was something to get used to as I walked through the passageways.  It was a mixture of bearing grease, sweat, and floor wax that wafted through the passage.  I remember being assailed by all kinds of foreign objects, understanding the differences between port (left) and starboard (right), the fact that a bathroom was now a head, and that my newest friend was John Barton.  John was a second class Petty Officer, a bona fide Vietnam Veteran who befriended me not only as someone I could confide in, but someone to look up to.  I can still remember those first words.  “New on board, huh?”  I nodded my head.  “Well, don’t mind me kid…I’m just an overpaid seaman.”  John was laid back and wise, the kind of mentor that one hoped to find, street smart and ready to help.

My first look at the Phillippines started here

More to come…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: How we Survived Boot Camp

In preparation for Memorial Day this weekend, I was thinking of writing about the 20 years that I served in the military. So, for the next 4 days, I will begin to recount my time in the service. This day will be dedicated to the days that led to my entering the service.

It was a day like any miserable day, July 1976. I was 19 years old, when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant. I was working as a “gofer” at a radio station, and in a pizza joint, making about $7.50 an hour. She didn’t work, my family didn’t like her or her family, but I told myself I loved her. I felt trapped by what we had gotten ourselves into. It was on that day that I decided to call a recruiter. I didn’t want to join just any service. My father had served in the Air Force for about 20 years then, and he really wasn’t happy about the service — in fact, he hated it. Dad hated the “head” games that he felt were constantly played with him. He despised the hours that he worked, and the politics in his squadron. So, the Air Force was out for me…besides, I didn’t think I could pass the examinations required for the Air Force. I didn’t want to go into the Army — too much of a chance that I would find myself on the front lines in some jungle. The Marines was out too, no way would I keep my head shaved, and bark like a dog. The Navy…yes, the Navy was it for me. Every time I had seen a sailor, they always seemed to be relaxed. They had a suave, “kick-back” attitude that I liked. Sailors traveled all over the place, and they held a kind of worldly swagger worthy of Popeye. So, I called the recruiting office for the Department of the Navy.

John Sutton was a good guy. He’d been a Radioman in the service for the past 15 years. He had a beard, and a hearty laugh. Better than the sour faces I saw in the Marine recruiting station next door. His assistant was the same way. I knew that this was the service for me. So, I took the ASVAB test, and waited a week for the results. In the meantime, I told my parents about my decision. They weren’t happy at first, Mom telling me that I was going to get myself killed someplace and Dad telling me that I should have told him first. Mom wanted me to join the Air Force like my father, but I could tell he was relieved. Dad and I never really got along together during my entire childhood. He had told me I would never amount to anything, that I was worthless because I skipped classes in school. Yet, I always seemed to come out smelling like a rose (well sort of). I was a straight “B” student, and to this day, I still don’t know how I managed that trick. I remember cutting class, only to sit out in the commons area, playing blackjack all day. Either that or I was ditching school to walk 3 miles to a shopping mall, spending my time until I was ready to go home. I would only attend class to take tests, and ace them.

My ASVAB scores were high, except for Math, which was mediocre. I could pretty much write my own ticket — I could get whatever I wanted. I wanted to get into radio, I’d been training to be a journalist/disc jockey during my time in high school, and the Navy had a rating called JO (Journalist). That was my ticket. But…there was one catch. I could get the rating, get the school in a year. I would have to be swabbing decks in the meantime, cleaning toilets, showers, serving people food, until I got my school. But, I could be an Operations Specialist. They handled the radar on the ships, controlled jets, even talked on the radio. John told me it was a sea-going rating, that I would be out to sea, but could make a lot of extra money by being on a ship. A Journalist would not get that kind of opportunity. Out of desperation, I took the Operations Specialist position, because I would get a guaranteed school, something I needed at the time, with my future wife and child to think of.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity that left my brain struggling to keep up. By August, I had entered the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and after being poked and prodded, was told that I would not be accepted into the military because I had flat feet, and had recently undergone surgery for a thyroid goiter that meant I would need to take medication. I was devastated, that after all the trouble I had gone to in order to get into the military, I was medically not going to be accepted. My father was with me in the MEPS office, and asked to talk to the medical officer. To this day, I don’t know what he said, but suddenly, my authorization was stamped that I was fit to go into the military. Wow, Dad had come through for me. I left for boot camp in San Diego 3 days later.

More to come…

Recruit Training Center, San Diego was not as hot as one might think.  Marines were part of our greeters.  A marine gunnery sergeant was the first in fact, to board our bus.  His words were simple, and he barked out every word.  “Everybody off the bus!”  We all picked up what bags we had.  “I said move out!” he shouted at us again.  “And don’t f***ing fall of the bus on your way out!” There was something about his demeanor that meant we were supposed to get off of the bus quickly.  We had various people, all of them with different colored pieces of rope hanging from an arm to distinguish them from everyone else.  I then noticed that the marine gunnery sergeant had no colored ropes hanging from his arm.  He stood in front of us for a moment to shout, “When you are here, you will face forward!”  He looked over to a couple of men shifting around in line.  “Shut up!” he screamed, lunging to the two.  “When I talk, you listen.  Do you understand?”  Both men had taken a step back, nodding their heads in assent.  “I didn’t say to move maggots, I said to shut up!  Step forward!”  The two men stepped back in line.

The sergeant stepped ahead of our group, positioning himself  ahead of our ragged line.  “You assholes look like shit!” he screamed at our group.  “Follow me!”  He began to march toward a large building, where more people with colored braids, this time in naval uniforms waited patiently for us.  As soon as our line had crossed the threshold of some large doors, they began to yell at our group, hounding and singling some of us out.  I dutifully followed the marin sergeant, who instructed us to wait behind a thick, solid white line painted across the floor.   A wall filled with a line of barred windows stood in front of us.  Workers behind the wall were beckoning to us one at a time.  When my turn came, I dutifully walked quickly to the window.  I had an older woman.  “Name?” she asked.  I gave her my first name and last name. “What city are you from?” the questions droned on, while she typed out 4 or 5 sheets of paper.  One of her last questions was curious, if I sang or played a musical instrument.  I said yes.  I read music; had been singing in choirs all of my childhood life, and had played a flute as well as a clarinet and saxaphone.  She pulled out a very large red stamp, placing all of the sheets she had been typing on inside of a brand new brown record file holder, and used the stamp on the front of my record file, instructing me to walk to a yellow line, about 20 feet away from where we had been.  As I was walking to the area, I noticed that others had started to congregate there.  Two or three red-striped men were standing with them, instructing us to stand on the line, with our bags at our sides.  One of the men looked at the folder that I had tucked under my arm, and motioned for me to surrender it to him.  He looked at the front of the record jacket, and told me to join a small group of men standing at a blue line not far from where everyone else was gathering.  One of them started to talk, when a short, blond man came out of nowhere to tell him to be quiet.  We all waited on the line for what seemed to be hours, until the very last man standing at the white line had been processed.  The large group on the far yellow line was being accosted by several men, all grabbing record files, then having them line up in different lines to march out of the building.  All of the groups, except ours.

The short, blond man standing before us instructed us to stand on the blue line, and stay quiet while he talked to us.  “My name is Petty Officer Estes.  All of you here are with me, because you are a special company.  Your number is 935.  Does everyone understand what I just said?”  We answered with a few mumbles.  Petty Officer Estes stopped what he was doing, we were hanging onto his every word except for a couple of men off to the side.  “When I talk, you listen!” he shouted.  “Now shut up!”  The two men stopped what they were doing, and looked at him.  “Now, I will say this again.  When I tell you something, and wait for an answer from you, all I want to hear is: Yes Sir! Do you understand me?”  We mumbled the words he wanted to hear.  “Damn it!” He yelled, his face suddenly becoming beet red.  “Did you hear me?” “Yes sir!” we all yelled back.  Petty Officer Estes paced across our line.  “Better,” he said.  “Now, as I was saying, you are a Special Company.  Each and every one of you has said that you are able to play a musical instrument of some kind, or you said you can sing.  If you look around you…you’ll notice that there are about 85 of you in this company.  15 of you will be members of the Blue Jacket Choir, you will be part of an elite marching group that will lead this company.  Those of you that can read music, and can play an instrument will be part of the Blue Jacket Band.  And those of you who don’t measure up will be part of the 50-state flag team.  “Do you understand me?”  We all shouted together this time, “Yes sir!”  Petty Officer Estes nodded his head.  “Good, because if any of you screw up, I will personally make sure that you repeat your basic training in one of the Rifle companies that you saw forming back there.  Petty Officer Estes pointed to the now-deserted area where the regular companies had formed up and left to eat.  “Yes sir!” we all replied again.  “Fine!” Petty Officer Estes replied.  “Now, all of you pick up your bags.”  We all picked up our bags.  A younger man with a blue rope stood beside Petty Officer Estes, who moved to the rear of our line.  “Now march!” Petty Officer Estes yelled to us.

It was Petty Officer Estes, who moved us through all 9 weeks of boot camp.  He told us that on occasion, we may be leaving the confines of RTC to come out into the real world to play or sing.  He was correct, we did just that.  I became part of the 15-man elite Bluejact Choir in 1976.  Every Sunday, we sang at church.  We sang at funerals, and we sang for our graduation.  We were a crack marching unit, our arms and gait exaggerated to create a stomping march that kept time with our 20-man band.  Petty Officer Estes was there to get me out of trouble, when I got into trouble.  He was there when I was part of a small group who were robbed at gunpoint on our second liberty.  Petty Officer Estes was there when we fired our first weapons, and led us into our first taste of tear gas.  I don’t think that any of us will forget Petty Officer Estes, and for myself, boot camp was over 30 years ago.

RTC, part of the Naval Training Command (NTC)  was officially closed down in 1997.  I was originally part of a group of perhaps about 150 men from all over the United States who flew in one day to one particular place for 9 weeks — Recruit Training Command, San Diego.  There were maybe 20 from Denver.  We had men from as far as Hawaii, and from San Diego or other parts of California, too.  The youngest of us was 17, the old man of our group was 26.  At the end of our boot camp training, all of us, except for about 10 received orders to commands all over the world.  I, interestingly enough, was part of a smaller group of 30 who were held back for a special school, teaching us how to tie knots, basic seamanship, and navigation.  But what stands out in my mind about RTC, is not so much the men that I stood with, or the trouble we got into, but something insignificant that stayed with me my entire life.  What I remember there was pigeons; pigeons everywhere.  We marched in pigeon crap, we sat in pigeon crap…I wouldn’t be surprised if we were eating pigeons at one time or another.  Pigeons were everywhere, and you could smell where they had been, if it wasn’t urea, it was crap.  To this day, I really can’t stand pigeons, in fact, I really think they’re crap.

More to come…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served

In preparation for Memorial Day this weekend, I was thinking of writing about the 20 years that I served in the military. So, for the next 4 days, I will begin to recount my time in the service. This day will be dedicated to the days that led to my entering the service.

It was a day like any miserable day, July 1976. I was 19 years old, when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant. I was working as a “gofer” at a radio station, and in a pizza joint, making about $7.50 an hour. She didn’t work, my family didn’t like her or her family, but I told myself I loved her. I felt trapped by what we had gotten ourselves into. It was on that day that I decided to call a recruiter. I didn’t want to join just any service. My father had served in the Air Force for about 20 years then, and he really wasn’t happy about the service — in fact, he hated it. Dad hated the “head” games that he felt were constantly played with him. He despised the hours that he worked, and the politics in his squadron. So, the Air Force was out for me…besides, I didn’t think I could pass the examinations required for the Air Force. I didn’t want to go into the Army — too much of a chance that I would find myself on the front lines in some jungle. The Marines was out too, no way would I keep my head shaved, and bark like a dog. The Navy…yes, the Navy was it for me. Every time I had seen a sailor, they always seemed to be relaxed. They had a suave, “kick-back” attitude that I liked. Sailors traveled all over the place, and they held a kind of worldly swagger worthy of Popeye. So, I called the recruiting office for the Department of the Navy.

John Sutton was a good guy. He’d been a Radioman in the service for the past 15 years. He had a beard, and a hearty laugh. Better than the sour faces I saw in the Marine recruiting station next door. His assistant was the same way. I knew that this was the service for me. So, I took the ASVAB test, and waited a week for the results. In the meantime, I told my parents about my decision. They weren’t happy at first, Mom telling me that I was going to get myself killed someplace and Dad telling me that I should have told him first. Mom wanted me to join the Air Force like my father, but I could tell he was relieved. Dad and I never really got along together during my entire childhood. He had told me I would never amount to anything, that I was worthless because I skipped classes in school. Yet, I always seemed to come out smelling like a rose (well sort of). I was a straight “B” student, and to this day, I still don’t know how I managed that trick. I remember cutting class, only to sit out in the commons area, playing blackjack all day. Either that or I was ditching school to walk 3 miles to a shopping mall, spending my time until I was ready to go home. I would only attend class to take tests, and ace them.

My ASVAB scores were high, except for Math, which was mediocre. I could pretty much write my own ticket — I could get whatever I wanted. I wanted to get into radio, I’d been training to be a journalist/disc jockey during my time in high school, and the Navy had a rating called JO (Journalist). That was my ticket. But…there was one catch. I could get the rating, get the school in a year. I would have to be swabbing decks in the meantime, cleaning toilets, showers, serving people food, until I got my school. But, I could be an Operations Specialist. They handled the radar on the ships, controlled jets, even talked on the radio. John told me it was a sea-going rating, that I would be out to sea, but could make a lot of extra money by being on a ship. A Journalist would not get that kind of opportunity. Out of desperation, I took the Operations Specialist position, because I would get a guaranteed school, something I needed at the time, with my future wife and child to think of.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity that left my brain struggling to keep up. By August, I had entered the Military Entrance Program and after being poked and prodded, was told that I would not be accepted into the military because I had flat feet, and had recently undergone surgery for a thyroid goiter that meant I would need to take medication. I was devastated, that after all the trouble I had gone to in order to get into the military, I was medically not going to be accepted. My father was with me in the MEPS office, and asked to talk to the medical officer. To this day, I don’t know what he said, but suddenly, my authorization was stamped that I was fit to go into the military. Wow, Dad had come through for me. I left for boot camp in San Diego 3 days later.

More to come…