Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inky Finger Tips and Old Memories

A little over a month ago, I applied for a temporary job with the Census Bureau and took the qualifying exam. About 10 days ago I received a call offering me a position as an enumerator which I accepted. That means I'm a counter of some sort working in the field, possibly interviewing families although I think that part of the job won't come until next year which is the official U.S. decennial census year. This year involves all the preparation for the census itself.

My training was scheduled and rescheduled. I asked a few questions and know that my work will be in the area where I live and the job is part-time for 12 weeks. I figure that the income will finance a couple of east coast trips we have scheduled this year. So, what does all of this have to do with inky finger tips and old memories?

Before I can start training, I had to go in for fingerprinting and the filling out of forms. My appointment was yesterday (Friday) afternoon. The line was appropriately long but moved right along. The pleasant lady who took my prints was very talkative and had a lot of questions as she was rolling my fingers one-by-one on the ink pad and applying them to the cards on which the prints were recorded.

She asked me when was the last time I had been fingerprinted. I thought for a moment and told her the only time I could remember was when I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in March of 1956. She then asked me about that service; how long, where and that kind of stuff. That's where most of the memory kicked in.

I was 18 when I enlisted for 6 years in the Marine Air Reserve. I was assigned to VMA-222, a fighter squadron at Grosse Isle Naval Air Station down river from Detroit. After testing, I was given an MOS of 6600 which classified me as an air radio technician. The squadron flew AD-4 sky raiders, a prop driven plane that served yeoman duty in the Korean War. (In fact, one of my brothers and a cousin had served in the same squadron in Korea.)

Yes, The Ancient One was a weekend warrior in his youth. I had enlisted under the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 which required that at some point during my 6 years of service, I was to do 180 days of active duty training. The rest of the service would be in the form of one weekend a month and 2 weeks during the summers. But there was a loophole in the law; it did not say when that active duty was to take place and the squadron leaders seemed to be oblivious to the fact that I had not gone to boot camp or been designated for my active duty training. (The loophole was closed in late 1956 or possibly 1957 when the Act was amended to state that new recruits were to be assigned specific dates for their active duty at the time of enlistment.)

In my case, the fact that I had not been called up for my 180 days of training wasn't discovered until the fall of 1961. I had moved to Chapel Hill, NC to attend graduate school at the University of North Carolina. To complete the final 6 months of my enlistment, I was assigned to a squadron based at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, VA. That was when it was discovered that I had not done my 180 days but since I had less than that amount of time left in my enlistment, the Commanding Officer decided that it made no sense to send me to boot camp at the end of my term of service.

Yes, I was among a small cadre of Marines who volunteered to be available if my country needed me but never went to boot camp or received any combat training. I did get pretty good at removing and installing the radio gear in the AD-4's and that's what I did on my service weekends and summer training for 6 years. These are the memories evoked by my inky fingertips yesterday afternoon.

One last memory of that time. One morning, as I was getting ready to leave for my weekend training, my father (the original cantankerous old curmudgeon) saw me as I came down the stairs in my uniform. He looked up with a mischievous grin on his face and commented: "This is protecting me?" Dad's been gone over 44 years now and I still miss his sense of humor. At least I think he was kidding.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peacock Colors on Display

It happened Sunday morning while I was out walking. I came upon a peacock and several peahens. I do believe he was trying to impress the ladies as he displayed his colors in full.

When the peahens in attendance did not seem overly impressed, he offered them a different view.

You can see by their reactions how much the "turning tail" helped his cause. I think I was more impressed by his display, both front and back, than the young ladies were.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Draft Card. . .

I was cleaning out my wallet the other day and I came across my Draft Card. Actually, its formal name is my "Selective Service System Registration Certificate." It looks like this (front and back):

What is this, my children might ask. When I was young, all males were required by law to register with their local "draft board" within 10 days of their 18th birthday. The front of the card indicates that I complied, having registered on January 27, 1956 (the 56 disappeared over the years as the card became a bit frayed); it was the day after my birthday and (as noted in a post last month) my graduation from high school. You can see the selective service number assigned to me and my address. (This was a time before zip codes and the local postal zone was entered after the city name.) There was no draft at the time but registration was designed to help the government find eligible young men if it should ever be reinstated. With the exception of a few volunteers, women were not in the armed services in those days and there was never any intent to include them in a draft if it became necessary to conscript citizens into the armed forces.

On the back of the card you can find my vital statistics at that time and the fact that I was registered with "Michigan Local Board No. 97." I really can't recall when the requirement to register ended. But apparently I took the bottom admonition seriously. I have carried my draft card with me ever since that day over 53 years ago although I'm not sure exactly when I stopped providing the Board with my changes in address.

Times certainly have changed. Now we rely entirely on volunteers to fill the ranks of the military. I must confess that I was never completely comfortable with the idea of a volunteer, or professional army. For some reason, I felt there was less chance of the military becoming a political force in this country if it was filled with conscripts counting the days until their discharge back to civilian life. I guess my fears were a bit misguided. But I do feel badly for those who stayed in the reserves or joined the National Guard after their tour of active duty only to be recalled to service in a time of need, separated from their families and sent into combat.

But I'm a dreamer. I somehow still think it is possible to achieve the kind of peace that does not require combat ready militias ready to go into battle at a moments notice. Donna does refer to The Ancient One as a Pollyanna.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stacked Books

It's been over 3 months since I last wrote about the books I had read. But that doesn't mean I stopped reading; the below pictured stack covers all that was read, mostly on my daily walks.

The list:

  • Jeffrey Archer, A Prisoner of Birth

  • J.A. Jance, Hand of Evil

  • Douglas Preston, Blasphemy

  • Linda Fairstein, Likely to Die

  • Jonathan Kellerman, Billy Straight

  • Clive Cussler, The Chase

  • Faye Kellerman, Grievous Sins

  • John Lescroart, Betrayal

  • Linda Fairstein. Killer Heat

  • Raymond Khoury, The Last Templar

  • Barbara Delinsky, Accidental Woman

  • Michael Palmer, The First Patient

  • Sue Grafton, T is for Trespass

It's clear that most fall within the mystery category, some with an historical perspective and a couple also containing the elements of thrillers. It would take too much space to discuss all of them but I do want to focus on two in particular.

A Prisoner of Birth was the first Jeffrey Archer novel I have read and I will be seeking out more of his work. Set in England, the intricacies of the plot coupled with a wonderful mastery of language and story telling kept me on the edge of my seat, so to speak, all the way through. I hope that future encounters with his work will prove as pleasing.

In the case of Sue Grafton, I have read all of her "letter" mysteries although I don't generally find them to offer much more than the story at hand. However, in the case of T is for Trespass, one of the plot lines dealt with the criminal aspects of elder abuse and I found it to be extremely informative in that it placed the issue in the context of a "real" victim and the modus operandi of a "real" abuser. For me, it made human the types of things we all too often come across in newspapers where the stories are reported but not in enough detail to make clear the extent to which elder abuse robs senior citizens with limited capabilities of their dignity and, in many cases, what little they have in the way of possessions. I recommend this mystery to anyone who wants a clear picture of the horrors of elder abuse.

My reading continues. There are just so many more exciting, well written mysteries novels and thrillers out there. It is almost reassuring to know that I will never come close to reading them all. There will always be new crimes to solve and heroes to solve them.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day - Banners 17

A happy and romantic Valentines Day to all who stop this way.

May the love that this day represents translate into peace and harmony for everyone around the world. Enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peacock Pride

There I was driving home the other day when I had to stop suddenly. Two peacocks, in all their glory, were strutting across the street and they were not about to get out of the way of my car. They were royalty and knew I would stop. Fortunately I had my camera with me.

As they turned past my car, I was able to capture 2 more pictures of one of these prideful birds.

Then, this morning as I was returning home I was stunned by a peacock who fanned his tail out full and then turned around 2 or 3 times to make sure I got the best view possible. It was only the 2nd time in the 12 years we have lived in this neighborhood that I have seen the full display of peacock tail feathers. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone's camera with me and the following picture does not do justice to the magnificent bird.

But oh how he made my day!! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Just One of the Himmelfarbs

Yesterday I was the patriarch of the Himmelfarb clan; grandfather of the Bat Mitzvah girl. Or something like that. It was my first paid acting job of 2009 as I performed in the background on the set of Ronna and Beverly, a TV pilot being produced for Showtime.

The stars of the show are Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo who have worked together for several years as a comedy sketch team portraying events from the lives of Ronna and Beverly, a pair of oft-married and divorced Jewish women from Boston who, among other things, authored a book titled, You'll Do A Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Remarriage for Jewish Singles." You can find more about these funny women on their YouTube page and read about the pilot in a TV Guide article (1/08/09).

The scenes in which The Ancient One worked showed a batch of very sick Himmelfarbs and other guests arriving at a hospital suffering from apparent food poisoning, the result of "bad shrimp" served at the Bat Mitzvah party. Because he spoke up first, The Ancient One was selected as the member of the mob who threw up as they all entered the reception area. Fortunately, the mixture was fruity sweet, making the 7 or 8 (or maybe more) takes of the scene bearable. It also accounts for the "stuff" on his shirt, as seen below:

All in all, it was a fun day at L.A. Center Studios. And fortunately the shot was indoors for it was one of those rare, very rainy days in Los Angeles. Yes, they do happen! It also felt good to be working again, if only for one day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Visitor #8000

The Ancient One received his 8000th hit today. The visitor logged on from 20th Century Fox here in L.A. and found the site through a google search using "culver city public theatre" directors as the search term.

That reminds me that I have said almost nothing about
CCPT (the theatre company) since the season ended last summer. I thank this visitor for reminding me and I'll write soon about the new officers and the early stages of planning for summer 2009.

Thank you #8000 for jogging my memory.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Early Valentine Colors – Banners 16

Clearly it is February. On my walks this past weekend, I saw the first banners in celebration of Valentine's Day.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Not Quite So Perfect Flower

On February 2 of last year I posted about The Perfect Flower. I talked about the flowers that bloomed outside my office window at the beginning of February and included a photo.

This year the flowers actually appeared the last week of January. And while I offer up the following photo, the best of the blooms does not seem to be quite as "perfect" as last year's although it still brightened my day.