Sunday, February 18, 2024

Unhappiness of Kunsan and 29 Palms

29 Palms was my first duty station after I got back from Korea. My first day there I took a towel and started toward the sand in back of the barrack.  "Where you going," someone asked?  "To work on my tan."  He and a couple of his buddies snickered.  "Not out there you won't."  It was one of the hot months which are all mostly intolerable.  I lasted a very few minutes.  Someone pointed to the outside thermometer which read 137 degrees Fahrenheit.  I had a taste of a non-hot period during which high winds hammered us with sand if we dared to go outside.

We didn't have air conditioning back then.  We had "swamp coolers" which as far as I could tell increased the humidity but didn't lower the temperature.  I hear they now have air conditioning and other improvements at 29 Palms.  I don't care.  I don't like thinking about that place.  I once met a former Marine who retired to 29 Palms town and I asked him "why."  I don't recall his answer.  I was stuck with "why?"

Yes, the stars.  It was eight miles from the base to the "town" which had two movie theaters.  One was a modern theater for the day (1953) and the other was for lesser movies like Westerns and had a cover over the front seats but further back you sat under the stars.  I typically walked or jogged the 8 miles although Marines going to or from with cars would stop for me if I was interested.

I can't recollect how long I was at 29 Palms.  It seemed like years.  I notice went around that they were looking for Marines who had fired expert to transfer to Camp Pendleton as rifle coaches.  I was first in line for that.

Korea, if you don't count the war, was better duty than 29 Palms.  Camp Pendleton was my best duty station. I had a knack for coaching -- never dropped a shooter (that is, never allowed a shooter to fire below 180).  Kept up a quiet chatter with the worst of my shooters telling them to trust me rather than their own minds   Years later Susan questioned my approach saying, "what happens when one of your shooters goes into combat and you are not there telling him what to do?"  Don't know, but the senior coaches liked my results, promoted me to senior coach and let me run the coaching while they spent their time in the slop chute.  I might have stayed in the corps if I could have remained a coach, but once all the Marines assigned to us were qualified (or failed to qualify); then the coaches would be sent back to their "parent" duty stations, which for me would have been 29 Palms; so when my enlistment was up, I decided to get out, take the G.I. Bill and get a formal education.

The trip to Korea involved going by boat (the General Gordon) to Japan (Kobe) and after a few days flown by DC-3 to Korea.  My first job after college was at Douglas Aircraft Company at their Missiles and Space division in Santa Monica and Culver City. After the program I was working on, Skybolt, was cancelled, I transferred to Long Beach to work in the engineering department of the Aircraft division.  Douglas had one Project Engineer, Clark Scott, to handle all DC-3 work and I got to know him fairly well. After Scott retired there were no more project engineers assigned to the DC-3. 

There were at least two instances in my life when I stopped and took stock of my life, that is, where I was at the time, and how depressed I was to be there.  The first was in Korea shortly after I got to the USMC base at Kunsan.  I had learned that transfers to the front line were no longer being permitted; so I was going to be where I was for 13 months.  I stood at the barbed wire fence separating the base from the Yellow Sea and tried to see the sea, but saw nothing.  I saw an empty stretch of sand as far as my eyes could see.  I learned later that the Yellow Sea, at least at our location, had the longest tide in existence.  The Bay of Fundy has the highest, but the Yellow sea had the longest.  When it was in would lap through our barbed wire fence a short distance, but when it as out, it could no longer be seen.  My depression as it happened was short lived.  One day an Indian sergeant named Emhoolah asked me if I was part Indian.  My mother believed she was 1/8 Illinoiq which meant I was 1/16th Indian; so I told Emhoolah that I was.  I learned a few years ago, thanks to a DNA check by that my mother was wrong.  I have no Indian ancestry at all, but I didn't know that back then.  Emhoolah said that since he was the only full-blooded Indian on the base that he was the Chief and by virtue of his rank ordered all his minions to show up at the slop chute at the end of every day when they weren't on duty.  I neither drank nor smoked before joining Emhoolah's "tribe," but I learned to do both.  A lot of other things went on, mostly fun and enjoyable.  I didn't regret not being able to go to the front line for long.

The second time was quite a bit more austere.  I had been accepted as a rifle coach and was waiting with my seabag for the bus that was to take me to Camp Pendleton.  I stood for a long time next to my seabag, waiting.  I looked about me.  29 Palms did the Yellow Sea one better.  There was sand almost 360 degrees from where I stood waiting.  Surely my life in the Corps couldn't be worse than this.  I resolved to remember this time if in the future I ever felt depressed.  However bad such a future time might be, it couldn't be as bad as standing there in the middle of that miserable nothing waiting for a bus that took a very long time coming.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Blacklist and the storm

At the end of Season two

Elizabeth Keen saves Red

Who may or may not be

Her father. Meanwhile

Back here in San Jacinto

My daughters are on 

The other side of the 

Volcano.  Years ago

Daughters moved with

Husbands to the next

Village.  Now the weather

Changes and an atmospheric

River begins to fall.

Will it quench the volcano

Or merely annoy?

And shall I after

Nightmares hide

Here with Season three

And Jessica who is not

My daughter but

Does her very best?