"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit." Elbert Hubbard

Monday, July 19, 2010

Motion Pictures and Memories of my Father

Yeah I know, that's an old term that no one uses anymore. I just love the sound of it. Also the way it's called the cinema in England. It just gives film that special something that the term movies doesn't have in my mind. As noted in my profile, I'm a film snob. Why? Frankly I consider most contemporary stuff to be absolute crap. An insult to the intelligence of the film-going audience.

One of the things I do miss about living in Noo Yawk is the fact that there were alternatives to the latest dreck at the monsterplex. Theaters such as the Film Forum and the Angelika are amongst my favorites. Foreign films, revivals, limited release "arthouse", you name it. Anything but the latest "I saw what you screamed at the final destination last summer IV" garbage.

I can remember seeing William Castle's classics, House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler shown as they were originally screened with the gimmicks Castle added to make it an interactive experience. A rare film geek pleasure it was. I even have a vague memory of my father telling me about seeing House on Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts when they originally ran in theaters.

My father was a fan of classic horror films and he passed that on to me. Some of my childhood's most treasured memories are of watching the classics on an old black & white television set with him. Creature Features and Chiller Theatre were what I grew up on and I don't believe my mother approved of such material at my tender age. In fact my father used to wait until mom, who worked overnights, left for her commute to Manhattan before waking me up to watch whatever was on that night. Of course dad also allowed me to do other things mom didn't approve of either such as a cup of coffee to start my day before getting on the bus to kindergarden.

We also shared going to see films too and I can remember some of them such as Yellow Submarine (which was way over my head at four years old), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Valdez Is Coming, Farewell, My Lovely, and The Wind and the Lion. I begged him to take me to see The House That Dripped Blood and spent the entire film hiding my face in the seatback in front of me as I was terrified out of my six year old mind by the vampire in the film. We stayed for the entire film. Not sure if it was because my father was enjoying it or he was too busy laughing at my reaction. I do know it was a long time before I asked him to take me to a film like that again.

Nowadays I'll watch these films, especially the horror classics with a sense of nostalgia and longing. For the experience of sitting there in the darkened theater or our living room with the lights turned off and sharing the enjoyment of it all with my father. One of those things that was just between us. Everytime I watch one, I think of him and how I wish he was still sitting there beside me. Somehow I think he is.

I can't forget mom though. She took me to films on the opposite side of the spectrum such as The Adventures of the Wilderness Family and The Goodbye Girl. Of course there was the time that my sister Linda was home from college and the three of us went to see Blazing Saddles. My mother was mortified if I remember correctly and said something to my sister about such a film for a ten year old (me). But then Linda was the one who unwittingly turned me on to Monty Python's Flying Circus. It was late one night in our living room and we were watching PBS. Even at such a young age I found the show hilarious.

Once I did watch a horror film with my mother. I was up late one summer night, watching television in the dining room when mom came out to see what I was doing. Somehow I convinced her to sit and watch The Comedy of Terrors with me. Mom said that she couldn't believe I got her to watch this "silly" film but laughing and enjoying herself as she said it.

Here for your viewing pleasure, are some films that I highly recommend if you've never seen them.
1.Mister Roberts (1955)
2.The Thin Man (1934)
3.The Night of the Hunter (1955)
4.The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)
5.The Getaway (1972)
6.The City of Lost Children (1995)
7.Key Largo (1948)
8.The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
9.Paint Your Wagon (1969)
10.The Anniversary (1968)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fresh goodies from the oven, Part 2

Honey almond bars-These are a crowd pleaser. Simple and delicious but not too sweet. I've made this with all three varieties of honey from Uriah Creek Apiaries and been very pleased with the results. You can taste the subtle difference in flavor and it's wonderful.

This the first batch I made, following the recipe to the letter. Since then I no longer put the icing on them, they're just too good by themselves. The honey does it without needing any other flavors to distract from the simple combination with the almonds and cinnamon.

Raspberry peach bread-I throughly enjoy making seasonal quickbreads and this was my first try at this combination. Very well received but next time I'm dicing the peaches instead of being lazy and just slicing them.

Blueberry peach bread-I made this at the same time as the raspberry to start off my spring season baking. I try to use local ingredients as much as possible and go with the seasons.

Forest fruit bread- I call it this because saying blueberry strawberry raspberry bread is just too long. I love the base recipe for this quickbread because it's only limited by my tastes and imagination. In the fall and early winter I make it with apples and cranberries, by themselves or combined. I've also made this in a pineapple coconut combination. I expect to try my hand at a version of this, come autumn, with fresh pumpkin from the garden of my friends Rob and Mary.

I've gone over to using local, seasonal, and organic ingredients as much as possible. It only makes sense to me to follow the rhythm of the seasons, support local farmers, and stop putting unnatural chemicals into the earth. Not trying to change the world, just how my behaviour affects it. I'm a part of the cycle of life on this planet and need to act accordingly.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fresh goodies from the oven

I've waxed lyrical about my baking, but never actually posted what I make. Here is some of what I've been bringing forth from my oven this season.

Pineapple cookies-I'll have to go back and try this again. They came out more like biscuits in smell, taste, and texture. Not a problem in itself but not "pineappley" enough. If I can get this recipe to work to my satisfaction, I will experiment with pineapple coconut cookies.

White chocolate macadamia coconut cookies-No need to change this recipe, they were a hit the first time around. I brought a few dozen to a friend's barbeque and there were no leftovers for my friend to enjoy. I used a tool called a cookie scoop and they came out perfectly uniform in size, allowing me to get a dozen more than the recipe said it would make.

Blueberry buckle-A "buckle" is a berry filled, single layer cake with a streusel topping. It's not a cobbler which it is sometimes confused with. Another first time hit, the only changes I'd make to this would be how many varieties I could make. Strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc.

Molasses cake-Good but it needs something. I'm trying this one again with raisins and a cream cheese based icing like you would find on a carrot cake.

Fruit filled oatmeal bars-Another first time favorite, this one is with cherry pie filling. I'll be doing this again with apple, blueberry, and peach. I went lazy on this and used canned pie filling. Eventually I will be making my own, just not yet.

I've got a few more recipes to show off but that's for the next posting. Need to get off my lazy ass and not go weeks between posts. I apologize to you my dear readers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Support Your Local Farmers

It's that time of year again. The farmer's markets are open. Yesterday was the first market day of the season here in Barnegat. Pictured below are some of the delicious things that were available, all grown here in New Jersey, not shipped halfway across the country. It's a beautiful thing to get to know the people who actually produce what you eat, to talk to them face to face and let them know how much their efforts mean to you.

I can't understand not having a personal relationship with the good folks who bring food out the earth. For too much of my life I knew nothing about what I ate except that it came from the store. Not anymore.

Next week I'll be picking up some of these cucumbers and try my hand at making my own pickles. It's much easier than you think. What's better than eating food you produced yourself?

I didn't catch their names, but here are the two lovely ladies running the stand I stopped at. That's okay as I will be back next week and bring them a sample of what I baked using the honey purchased from them. I did converse at length with the young lady on the left. She's pursuing a career in culinary arts and is starting at the same school I am looking at attending next year. We also knew some of the same instructors as she just completed school where I took courses this past spring.

I only had enough cash on me for some wildflower honey and peaches, the first pick of the season. I had one today and it was wonderful.

To make my day better, a suprise was waiting for me at home. I recently subscribed to Edible Jersey Magazine and my first issue was in the mailbox. They even sent me the last issue as a bonus. It's published quarterly, following the seasons. The summer issue has stories about scallops from off the Jersey coast (and the hard working fishermen who bring them in), Hopewell Valley Vineyards, and pickles (including how to make your own).

Just more reasons I'm settled here and never leaving. As for the blueberries from my previous post? My home is filled with the scent of fresh baked blueberry bread.

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients."
Julia Child

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blueberries and my #@!&ing kitchen

Once again it's blueberry season here in New Jersey. I wish I had a freezer so I could put a couple of flats of blueberries away and have them year round. Eventually, when I gut my kitchen and turn it into something that I can really work in, along with a separate pantry including the aforementioned freezer and plenty of storage.

The original owner of the house did nothing to the place. No big deal, except that the amount of work space in the kitchen is miniscule. This house was built in the early Seventies when it was all tv dinners and frozen crap. No one needed or wanted counter space to work on. I literally have to juggle to do the prep work for real cooking and baking.

I hate it. To quote my friend Morphy, "I hate, hate, stabbity-stab, absolutely hate it!"

I can picture what I want in my head. The stove, sink, and dishwasher will remain in their locations because moving any one of them will require way too much trouble. Knocking out walls and re-routing water and electric lines. If I go whole hog, it will require gas being installed in the house for a combo gas/electric oven. Electric for the oven and gas for the stovetop. As it is I will be closing off a door and moving it into another room for access to the laundry. This will allow me to almost triple my counter and cabinet space. The kitchen table goes. To be replaced by an island with electric installed or a very large butcher block. Instead I'll just add some raised counter space with a few high stools and a view into the back yard for an eating area.

I haven't yet been able to picture the pantry/storage area. I do know it will be in another room. Either I greatly enlarge the laundry room or cut the mud room in half.

When (and I emphasize when) I'm done, I will have a real working kitchen that I can do large amounts of baking in, along with canning and preserving. And I'll finally be able to have friends visit and treat them with proper hospitality.

Someday. Eventually. Sigh...

But for now, back to the blueberries, the official state fruit of New Jersey. If you live here or are in the area this month and want some, go out and pick your own. There's baking to be done.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Memorial Day, when we honor our dead and their survivors. Those who didn't make it home, those who have passed on since, and the families left behind.

Here in Barnegat, we had two days of ceremonies. On Sunday we honored the fallen and were proud to officially present a brother with long overdue recognition for brave deeds from forty years ago. Monday was celebrated with a parade and barbeque at the American Legion hall.

VFW Post 10092 Commander and American Legion Post 232 Commander laying the wreath at the Barnegat memorial to veterans, fire-fighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians. We had a small crowd in attendance, which I did not get any pictures of unfortunately. Our neighbors, friends, and family; we are grateful for their support.

We remembered the fallen, but also honored a comrade in our ranks, affectionately known as "Captain Jack" .

1LT John Monahan, Vietnam-1970.

CPT (Retired) John Monahan-2010.

CPT Jack being presented with his medals by his son, also an officer in the US Army and Iraq veteran. In attendance was his father-in-law, the oldest member of our VFW Post at ninety-seven years of age, a B-17 bomber pilot in WWII.

These four medals were for actions committed forty years ago in Vietnam. The Silver Star, Bronze Star, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and Vietnam Wound Medal with two Oak leaf clusters.

1LT Monahan was a Mortar Platoon Leader with A Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. The Bronze Star Medal was awarded for his service in Vietnam and Cambodia while the other three were specifically for his actions during 19-25 May, 1970.

In essence a platoon from his company was pinned under extremely heavy fire and taking severe casualties. He fought his way forward through enemy fire with several other soldiers carrying much needed supplies. Discovering that the leadership of the platoon was killed or wounded, he assumed command and was wounded several times during the day from both enemy fire and napalm while directing artillery and airstrikes danger close to his own position, managing to keep from being overrun by the enemy. After the better part of a day, he was able to move the platoon back to the company position and finally accepted medical aid for himself.

In the most important words of the citation, I quote: First Lieutenant Monahan's valorous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

I cannot do credit to the narrative of that day. His son read to us a full and proper account of the battle in detail. We are honored to count him in our ranks. CPT Jack left the Army in 1971 and served with both the Army Reserve and Army National Guard until 1982, when he retired from military service.

On Monday we had our parade which I marched in for the first time. Which unfortunately means I did not get any pictures to show here. It was a good event nonetheless, excepting whoever set off a firework as the veterans marched past. It went from downtown Barnegat, up Route 9 to the American Legion hall, where they graciously hosted a barbeque for the marchers and viewers. I met more of my brother veterans and several friends. Had some food and was also introduced to kind people who offered assistance if I need it in taking advantage my veteran's benefits.

I'm glad I moved here and decided to stay after returning from Iraq.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan...

Pres. Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address-4 March 1865

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tuna steaks...mmmmm

In my efforts to improve my cooking and baking skills, I took two classes this spring. I'm self taught and wanted to actually get some professional training. To supplement that, I'm doing a lot of reading on the subject and subscribed to two magazines. Edible Jersey and Cook's Illustrated.

I highly recommend the latter if you want practical information without all the fluff and advertising of other culinary magazines. Edible Jersey is excellent too, but only concerns itself with the local and seasonal foods of New Jersey.

I decided to try a recipe from Cook's for a red wine vinegar and mustard vinaigrette designed to help prevent tuna steaks from over or under-cooking on the grill. I don't own a grill, the money was set aside when I moved into this house, but I haven't gotten around to buying one. I just pan fry on a non-stick skillet.

The finished vinaigrette, seen here, was easy and quick to make. I did modify it slightly to suit my own taste and ingredient availability.

Here is the recipe:

Vegetable oil (to coat the grate if you're grilling)

3 tbls + 1 tsp red wine vinegar

2 tbls Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is best)

2 tsp honey

2 tbls freshly chopped thyme or rosemary (which I didn't have, so it didn't go in)

3/4 cup olive oil (for this type of cooking, extra-light is best)

1/2 tsp salt

Whisk all the ingredients together except the olive oil. Use a stainless steel bowl as aluminum will affect the taste because of the acidity in the vinegar. While whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mix until thickened.

Generously coat your tuna and place on the cooking surface, which should already be pre-heated to temperature. I had the burner set to medium for my skillet on an electric stovetop. Salt and pepper to taste. Save the remaining vinaigrette for dipping or applying to the steaks when served.

The tuna steaks after preparation and just put on the skillet. Looks good, doesn't it?

After I turned them. Look even better, don't they? Normally I use tongs, but I also used a spatula because fish can fall apart on you quite easily. Don't fuss with it, you only need to turn a piece of meat once really, unless you want those fancy cross-hatch marks when you grill. Cutting into it or using a fork is bad and so is pressing down on it. Yeah the sizzle sounds great but is actually drying out the meat.

The finished product with a side of steamed golden and white corn mix. Yeah, that's a paper plate. Lazy of me but I'm not cooking for an audience here. Once I tasted the tuna, I didn't care what it was on. It was that good. Nicely seared and charred on the outside, still pinkish on the inside. The vinaigrette was excellent with the taste of vinegar and mustard definately there but subtle and complementing the tuna. Cooking time about five minutes per side as they were thick steaks cooked on medium heat.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It's not about sales at the car dealerships. It's not about going to barbeques. It's not about the start of the beach season. It's not about getting a three day weekend off from work or school.

That's not to say don't enjoy these things this weekend, but during it all remember why. It's called Memorial Day for a reason. This is why.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings up sorrow into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon-1914 (Emphasis is mine)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fishing for blues

My friends Rich and Deb have invited me several times to go out on the water with them and do some fishing. This year I took them up on it and was glad that I did. Here we are putting their boat in the water at the Barnegat Municipal Dock.

It's the season for Bluefish and that's what we were heading out for.

Here they are as we head across Barnegat Bay.

Rich was giving me primers on everything. Navigating the bay, recognising hazards, landmarks, and how to find 'blues. We had to go all the way out to where the ocean enters the channel to the bay just off Barnegat Lighthouse. Several dozen boats were clustered there as you can see, which was the first indicator. The second was the flights of birds gathering overhead and diving for small fish, which blues feed on.

Deb caught one and I handled the net, which was interesting. It also prevented me from getting a picture as I really didn't want to go overboard or lose the fish. Blues are strong and they fight. It took me two or three tries to get it in the net and then onboard. You have to be very carefull getting them off the hook as they have sharp teeth and will bite you.

Here is Old Barney as seen from the ocean side of the channel.

Folks taking a break on the bay side of Island Beach State Park.

A perch and nest for the Osprey which you can see all along the barrier islands and coastal wetlands of the New Jersey shore. We stopped nearby for lunch and watched one catch a fish.

After that we headed out to cruise along the bay and Rich had me take the helm. A bit scary at first as we were in shallow water and I've never handled a boat before. He was quite patient with me as every two minutes I was asking him what to do and where do I go. Eventually I got somewhat of a feel for it although it was a bit harder than I imagined.

We headed south to go visit friends of theirs and Rich wisely took over to dock the boat.

All good things must come to an end so we headed back in for the day. Here we are pulling back into the boat launch. Only one fish to our credit, chilled, salt sprayed, and wind burned but a good time was had by all. We met again later that night for dinner and trivia games. My knowledge of history, literature, film, and politics is always a welcome addition to the team.

They're good folks and becoming good friends. I'm happy that I met them as it's been extremely difficult for me to form attachments since I've come home. That's not the fault of people I meet, It's mine and I do feel bad when people think I'm being standoffish or rude.

We met my first night out on the streets after returning from Iraq. The only open stool at the bar was right next to them and I was just wanting real food. A steak, potato, and scotch on the rocks. Didn't even bother to change out of uniform, just drove straight from Ft. Dix to the Lighthouse Tavern. I remember clearly how friendly and welcoming they were and will never forget it. They've been quite patient, kind, caring, and generous to me and it means more than mere words can say.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buddy Poppy, Part 2

Beautiful morning to be outdoors and I spent it with John Rivers, our Post Commander. He joked with me about my being the next Commander at my first meeting. Who knows? I'm the "kid" in my post and the thought of officiating before men who have been there and done that before I was born is intimidating. But they're a good bunch of guys and I feel comfortable around them because they know and understand what I'm going through right now. That's been difficult to feel because I find myself thinking and behaving like I'm still in Iraq most days.

Once again we met many kind and generous people. The season here at the shore is just starting and I found myself guessing who was not a local based on what people had purchased at Walmart. Pillows, bedding, and towels seemed to be the majority of what was in the shopping carts of folks heading to LBI for the first time this season.

John was in the Army and fought in the Korean War. Not a "Police Action" or "Conflict", it was a war plain and simple even if not declared officially as such by the legislative and executive branches of our government.

He started his service on Occupation Duty in Japan in 1949. Assigned to George Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Participating in the landings at Inchon and the battle to retake Seoul, they were relieved from the front to prepare for another amphibious landing, this time on the east coast of North Korea at Iwon. Again working alongside the Marines, the 31st fought at the frozen hell of the Chosin Reservoir. During his service, John went from being part of a machine gun crew to Platoon Sergeant.

Eventually rotated back to the states, he was assigned as an instructor for basic trainees at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. John recounted to me his most famous recruit, the singer Vic Damone, whose attitude and performance he was not very pleased with at all. Having been considered a total idiot by my own Drill Sergeant, I know what it means to be on the receiving end of their disapproval. Not pleasant, not in the least.

I look forward to further involvement with the VFW and getting to know my brother veterans. It helps a little with the feeling of being totally isolated and the emotional shutdown that impairs my ability to come back to the real world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Friends Meeting House-Barnegat

If you head down E. Bay Ave towards the municipal dock and the bay, you'll pass through Barnegat's historic district. On your left is one of the town's oldest buildings, dating to 1767. It belongs to the Religious Society of Friends-The Quakers. A serene and peaceful place, it has it's own cemetery and is still an active house of worship.

This was the oldest headstone that I could actually read. If you can't see the detail, it reads: SAMUEL ARNOLD BORN 11th, mo, 30th, 1768. DIED 4th, mo, 2nd, 1817.

The most recent I found was from 1993. I didn't count but the name Collins seemed to dominate throughout the cemetery. No suprise as the first house built here was by the Collins family and Quakers were the majority of those who permanently settled the area starting in the 1750s.

I did find one gravesite that stood out. It had a memorial marker from The American Legion. A rarity as Quakers are pacifists. The most famous exceptions are such veterans as Pres. Richard M. Nixon, Daniel Boone, Nathanael Greene, and Smedley Butler.

Sometime in the near future, I plan on attending a worship service here. It's part of getting to know my neighbors and learn about aspects of religious faith that I'm unfamiliar with. I'm quite happy in my faith as a Methodist, but am curious about others, especially the Quakers and the Amish.

Barnegat is now my home for good and I plan on sharing my wanderings and discoveries along this area of the Jersey Shore with you, my dear readers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio, farewell

Sadly, Ronnie James Dio lost his fight with cancer. Lead singer for Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell, and his own band DIO.

Because I'm too computer illiterate to figure out how to post a video, here are links to two of my favorite songs from him with Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell. Neon Knights and The Mob Rules.

In my youth I was a total metalhead and still rock out to it today, as undignified as it may seem in my mid-forties. Why not? Dio himself was still touring through last year in his mid-sixties.

For all the great tunes, thank you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

T-Wall Art

Soldiers being what they are, love to leave behind signs of their passing through. It's become a bit more developed than the "Kilroy was here" of WW2. Here for your amusement is a sample of the art on T-walls in Kuwait, left by units as they waited for flights into Iraq. Our particular symbol for units of the 50th IBCT was the Jersey Devil as seen in the last two photos.

T-Wall is the generic name for concrete barriers that are probably the most remembered and recognised symbol of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan for those of us who were there. Jersey, Texas, and Alaska are the three most common sizes. Compare the size of those states and you can visualize the difference between the height of the barrier. They do save you the trouble of filling and maintaining the equivalent in sandbags.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Frank Frazetta, farewell

Another person whose work was an influence during my youth has passed away. His obituary from the New York Times this past Monday.

I clearly remember discovering my first book by Robert E. Howard in a used bookstore in my neighborhood while still in grammar school. That book is pictured above. I had already seen Frazetta's work on the covers of horror magazines such as EERIE, CREEPY, and VAMPIRELLA but this sent me over the edge into the world of heroic fantasy. The tales of sword and sorcery in the Hyborian age of Conan the Barbarian opened up a gateway in my mind to the fantastic. This led me within the year to The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkein and then Dungeons & Dragons (the original game, not the nonsense it has since turned into).

I was already into science fiction and horror films, but it was the finding of that particular book in a musty used book store that opened up whole new worlds of imagination to me at an impressionable age. By the time I hit high school, I was devouring books as fast as I could find them back in those days before the internet. It required a sense of adventure and discovery itself to spend my Saturdays finding bookstores and hours of digging through them for the right books. Being new to the literature of the fantastic and bookstores in general, it was all trial and error to find what I sought. But it was wonderful and exciting all the same. I can still picture those haphazardly organised bookstores and remember the motes of dust dancing in the sunlight of their front windows. The smell of homemade shelving and musty paper as I sat in a corner trying to decide on what to buy with the few dollars I had managed to bum from my father or earn doing yardwork.

I look back on those formative years with fond memories. How they truly opened up my love of reading. The chance meetings of others with similar interests, some who I am still friends with today. A rare occurrence as none of the kids in my neighborhood were into these things. They considered me a weirdo because of my interests.

To you Mr. Frazetta. For that one single book cover. For that moment that lit a spark in me. For the lifetime of reading pleasure that it has and will continue to give me. For a sense of wonder and amazement. For the friendships it led me to. I will always be grateful.

I thank you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Buddy Poppy

I've become active with the VFW and joined a post. Barnegat, Post 10092. It's part of my finally setting down roots in my community. They are an amazing group of men, some of whose stories I will tell in the future.

Yesterday I participated in the Buddy Poppy program for the first time and I'm glad I did. I'm helping fellow veterans and their families. The Buddy Poppy is not sold, we distribute them to anyone who would like one regardless of whether you generously donate or not. By accepting one you honor all veterans and we thank you for that.

I only expected to spend four hours out there yesterday but wound up staying all day. It was a good experience and being an old sergeant, I wisely brought a thermos of coffee with me. Good thing too as it was rather cool and quite windy.

I spent the morning with Dan, who was a Marine in Vietnam. We got to know each other and trade stories about our service. It was good to be with someone who understands. He didn't give me too many details, but it was good to be with a brother veteran.

The afternoon I spent with Dick Pollaid, pictured above. Dick went into the US Army at the tail end of World War 2 and joined the Army Reserve after his discharge. Called to active duty at the outbreak of the Korean War, Dick was an aircraft maintenance specialist. He spent his time keeping L-5 observation aircraft and H-13 helicopters flying. Both aircraft were vital to the troops on the front lines; engaging in spotting for artillery and close air support, emergency re-supply, and evacuation of the wounded. Dick was first assigned to Charlie Company, 27th Infantry Regiment, "Wolfhounds". Of course the Army being the Army, it was soon discovered that he belonged elsewhere and was transferred to Regimental HQ where he could do what the Army had spent time and money training him to do.

The good folks at the Walmart in Manahawkin have allowed us to be in front of their store for the month of May. We will be there through Memorial Day and at various other locations throughout Barnegat and Waretown.

It was a good day and I met many kind and generous people. By getting involved and volunteering I'm also helping myself deal with issues. As a veteran helping other veterans, I'm slowly bringing myself back to the real world.

In Flanders Fields (1915)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still singing bravely, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

Friday, May 7, 2010

Barnegat Bay

It's beautiful here and I really can't picture myself living anywhere else. I'm five minutes from the bay and fifteen from the ocean. Eventually I'd like to get a kayak to paddle around the bay and explore. A friend has a sailboat and he'll teach me the basics of sailing this summer.