Friday, January 27, 2012

Minty Addiction

         It’s “that” time of year again… time for me to give in to those dastardly purveyors of dessert discs – the Girl Scouts of the USA. In the guise of supporting an organization that is “the premier leadership development organization for girls where young women discover their potential, connect with others and take action in their communities and the world” I gladly fork over tens of dollars to possess my all time favorite cookie – the thin mint! I have spent hours searching out the front window for the usual door to door pitch, but none have come my way. So I have put myself in the hands of a couple of parents at work who are dealing the desserty delights for their daughters.

          Over the years various recipes of cookies have come and gone from the multi-striped order form and then there are the few standbys that continue to be offered for sale. But none - none match the power and presence of the miraculous mint and chocolate concoction. With its dimpled coating trapping the flavorful textured biscuit inside. Why are there 6 dimples on the top? I have searched the web and not found an explanation. Were they there last year? I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you.

          In years past the nutritional panel provided some evidence for the addictive like force that these little devils seem to have. I’m sure that there is a logical explanation for it being included in the recipe. I have also searched the web exhaustively to try and find some reference to “crack” flour, or cocoa or some other reasonable inclusion in a cookie, but none have surfaced.

Fortunately the noted ingredient is no longer in use; however it has served its purpose well as many thousands have found themselves unreasonably obsessed with consuming and hording boxes of them. LOL

          The affliction has led me and thousands of others to create our own recipes of delightful dishes based on the magnificent mint. I must admit I have slathered many different coatings onto them. Like making little round chocolate mint peanut butter sandwiches. I prefer chunky myself. Or replacing the common graham crackers in a few s’mores with a couple of thin mints, trapping the gooey glob of melted mellow between them. Sure it oozes out all around, but you don’t have to add any chocolate – unless you’re down right desperate. I’ve been known to line a bowl with a half dozen or more before adding several scoops of the finest French vanilla ice cream and some hot fudge topping. Or holding out until the ice cream is at its thick and creamy liquid stage to dip a handful or two of the cocoa covered discs and then slowly masticate them into a mouthful of ecstasy. The best and simpliest pleasure comes from selecting a few from a box that's been in the freezer for a day or two. Crisp chocolate mintiness to go with any warm drink or a tall glass of whole milk!!! Ahhh heaven in a box!

          But I personally haven’t reach anywhere near the obsessiveness of others… check this out…

Hmmm not sure about a "dessert beer" flavored like my favorite.

There are untold numbers of mixed drink recipes that try very hard and come very close to emulating the little delicacies. My attempts have failed miserably - it's hard to make Jameson or Glenmorangie palatable after adding minty chocolate flavors or cookie bits. Here's another interesting idea, although I prefer sausage on mine!

Yes indeed - a thin mint pizza! From none other than Rachael Ray! It's made with chocolate chip cookie dough, handfuls of thin mints and drizzled with white chocolate... yummy. Gotta try this one pretty soon!

          Most of us with the addiction are very much aware of it and are thankful that they're not available just anywhere at anytime. When I got home last evening, with my dozen or so boxes of treasure I placed one in the freezer in hopes that they would render their deliciousness and indomitable texture the following evening in a celebration of week’s end. But not wanting them to become uneatable from some unknown cause I talked myself into making allowances to taste a single delectable dark brown chocolaty disc. However once I opened one of the wrappers I surmised that without being properly wrapped the remaining 15 would suffer some type of degradation and be somewhat less than perfect in flavor. It is unfortunate that I have such a weakness and low moral fiber that I chose to consume those that would’ve remained behind. I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the local representatives of the Girl Scouts of the USA whose marketing savvy forced me to purchase so many of these so many years ago and continue to offer them for sale. I just pray that my cache lasts longer than last year's did!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flight of Two

                This is something a little different than you normally would find me writing about. There aren’t any flowery adjectives, no picturesque language. Not something I've seen out the front window. What you will find is a description of an incident I was involved in while I was stationed in Viet Nam with the 361st Aerial Weapons Company as an aircraft technical inspector. A story I haven’t shared with anyone before, odd that I would do it here. The unit flew AH-1G Cobra gunships in support of many different kinds of operations throughout the area surrounding Camp Holloway near Pleiku.

                As the night TI I was supposed to work from dinner time until breakfast signing off repairs to our aircraft, but most of the time it was from noon to takeoff the next day. Because I was “available” during the day I also spent time in the field trying to get downed birds flyable or rigged for extraction by our sister Chinook company that shared Camp Holloway with us. Occasionally we’d have newly rebuilt aircraft to pickup down south and fly back. They’d need an inspector to check out the aircraft to make sure they were airworthy before the trip back to Holloway. I was usually the chosen one, which I didn’t really mind because it was a chance to get to a bigger city, Vung Tau, south east of Saigon on the coast. Another plus was that I would fly in the front seat on the way “home”.

                The unit had two aircraft waiting for pickup and I got the word that I was to accompany two pilots and a mechanic to inspect them and fly back. After a full night’s work I threw on my flight suit, grabbed my helmet, my side arm – a classic Army issue 45 that I’d traded for - with a half a dozen full clips and headed to the flight line. The four of us climbed into a slick on its way to Vung Tau to be rebuilt. I don’t remember much about the flight because I slept through most of it. Even with the sound of the turbine, transmission and the rotor blades I managed to get some sleep. Flying almost due east we turned south to follow the coast at Qui Nhon. It was a lot safer to fly over the edge of the ocean than triple canopy or rice paddies and tree lines. We landed at Tuy Hoa, refueled the aircraft and took the chance to grab a quick beer before we headed south again.

                It took most of the day to get to Vung Tau – it was 100 miles to Qui Nhon and another 400 to Vung Tau. Landing late in the afternoon we grabbed a cab to downtown where we had dinner together at one of the “authorized” clubs. From there we agreed on a meeting time and place for the next morning and then we all went our separate ways. I’ll save those details for another time, another story. Luckily everybody made it through the night, more or less. We met at the designated time and place and shared another taxi back to the base. As soon as we had access to the helicopters I set to work doing the inspection. The mechanic, I’ll call him Mitch opened up one bird as I did an exterior preflight on the other and then we switched. It’s an involved process; after all I had to make sure that everything was in flyable shape. My signature was going into the book indicating that there was nothing wrong and I was going to be flying in one of them. I certainly didn’t want either of them to fall out of the sky with me in it! It took all day to check out both helicopters especially in the heat out on the psp and dealing with the after effects of the previous night.

                There were a few small things we had to fix after run up and then we were ready to leave. There was a short discussion about having to fly back in the dark – it was already 5 PM. That would put us back in Pleiku around 8 PM. The Captain pulled rank and decided we should leave – done deal. The two pilots flipped a coin to decide which aircraft they’d fly and Mitch and I did the same. I ended up with the Captain and Mitch got the Wobbly. Our aircraft number was 610 and the other was 816. We all climbed in and after a hover check we moved over to fuel up. We took on 1800 pounds but for some reason 816 took on less. Once cleared for takeoff we headed north up the coast, retracing the route we flew on the way down. 816 took the lead as we climbed out over the flooded rice paddies surrounding the city. About 5 miles out the Wobbly got on the radio and reported that he had a vertical vibration at max speed. The Captain asked if he wanted to fly it or head back. They had a few questions for me about the transmission and other parts of the aircrafts drive train. Nothing I’d seen would cause a problem like that and I told them I felt confident the aircraft’s condition wasn’t critical. I’d seen the same thing happen to Cobras after a regular 100 hour maintenance check and it would disappear after a few hours of flying time. The Wobbly finally said no he’d fly it home; it was a smoother ride as long as he kept it between 110 and 120 knots. That would make it a longer ride “home”.

                It was pretty much radio silence from then on except for the Wobbly calling for artillery clearances from the main airfields along the coast like Phan Thiet. The Captain checked in with Cam Ranh Costal Center as we headed north of Phan Rang through the pass. The Captain knew I was stationed at DBT just west of Cam Ranh so he took a detour over my old airfield. There wasn’t much there, just a bunch of empty revetments that used protect our Chinooks. We skirted Nha Trang and continued up the coast. By now the sun was disappearing quickly and the night changed the whole perspective of flying over a war zone. It wasn’t long before the lights at Tuy Hoa airfield came into view. We radioed in for landing clearance so we could refuel. We landed in the dark, hovering over to the fuel dump. I loaded another 1600 pounds on our ship, filled to the rim. No time for a beer this time! Back into the air we continued north toward Quin Nhon but for some reason we couldn’t raise them on the radio. The pilots did a fuel check, the Wobbly was about 200 pounds under us. Flying over the darkened landscape it was easy to find the fire bases that had electric lights and then the villages with their small cooking fires.  The next radio call was to Phu Cat since we couldn’t get Quin Nhon. Luckily we were able to raise their approach control and they gave us clearance to fly west if we maintained an altitude of 5200. High enough to stay above the artillery and any combat aircraft. Turning to a heading of 260 we were finally on the last leg of our journey leaving the relative safety of the coast.

                We passed over Ahn Ke in clear but rough flying weather and 15 mile visibility. Passing over two lighted compounds just west of Ahn Ke the first was silent, but the second sure wasn’t. They were firing automatic weapons to their southwest and northwest as they took incoming fire and probably mortars that I could see explode inside their wire. The streams of colored tracers spraying out at each other was kind of disconcerting. In another few minutes the Wobbly called over saying that he could see the mountains and that we were okay. He called back a few minutes later suggesting we change our UHF settings to 131 – Pleiku Approach Control channel. Just after that we reached a solid wall of clouds. I watched the Wobbly put 816 into a controlled descent toward the bottom edge of the bank. The two pilots exchanged pleasantries about what to do that ended in a few expletives from each. I lost sight of the other aircraft’s lights as the Wobbly entered the clouds. We had started to follow his lead but as the visibility dropped to zero the Captain initiated a constant climbing right turn through the soup for about 5 minutes. With no references I started to get vertigo but it disappeared as we broke into a clear area. The Captain was trying constantly to contact the other helicopter but his radio transmission kept breaking up just like the intercom. He tapped me on the shoulder and as a glanced back at him he pointed to his mike and then at me.

                I picked up his attempts to raise 816 for another few minutes, to no avail. We tried the beeper and still couldn’t get a response. The Captain was finally able to raise Pleiku but we couldn’t link to the radar on their UHF channel. We switched to FM and after an eternity we picked up their signal. By now the Captain had no voice communication and it was left to me to call us in to the airfield. First time for everything, I’m no pilot just a scared young kid in the front seat. Radar asked for our position and I replied with where I thought we were, they had us make a right turn and from that they identified us. During our approach I continued to try to reach 816 on the two or three UHF channels we had used and on FM. No answer, no luck. I told Pleiku were number two in a flight of two AH-1Gs and that we had lost our lead aircraft between Ahn Ke and Pleiku. I asked if they would do a search for them. Pleiku replied there were no other contacts in the area. Sinking into the seat a thousand things raced through my mind as we made our GCA to about 3 miles out and then turned toward Holloway. Were they down? Where and why? Was it something I missed? I began to constantly run the inspection checklist through my mind. When we neared the air strip the Captain flipped on the landing lights and they immediately failed. What next? There we were, approaching an uphill airstrip with no lights on the ground and none on the aircraft, in the dark of the night. The tower spotted us somehow and eventually cleared us to land.

                I acknowledged their transmission and began searching the black space in front of us. Catching the minimal light reflecting off the metal scrapings left behind on the landing strip I was able to call the aircraft down to within 5 feet of the landing strip. Quickly moving to our flight line the Captain finally put it on the psp and began shutdown. Relieved to be on hard ground the comfort didn’t last long, as soon as I could get the canopy open I was in the commo shack yelling to my fellow night shift buddy to try to find 816. I spent the night there, half asleep half listening to the radio traffic. At first light all of the aircraft we had that weren’t assigned for the morning took off to search for the missing helicopter and crew. Nothing came in, no one found anything, no one saw anything. I finally went to bed around noon and was back at work on the flight line that night; hoping beyond hope.

                Three days later in the middle of the afternoon a courtesy call came in from a slick out of Phu Cat saying that they had spotted and reported the possible crash site west of An Tuc. As soon as I heard about it I was on my way to our slick climbing in right after the pilots, the Captain was flying a mission that afternoon. The short flight seemed to take forever and then there weren’t any clearings nearby where we could set down, there were three or four other choppers already on site. We set down a few hundred yards away and made our way through the thick vegetation, uphill to the remains of the helicopter. It was 816. The investigation team was already there; two body bags were lying next to the ship. The Wobbly had flown his aircraft directly into a hill side, the transmission broke loose and what was left of the rotor blades had flexed and cut through the rear canopy. The front seater – Mitch… there was no way he could have made it. The back seater – the Wobbly was killed by one of the blades.

                They wouldn’t let us do anything, touch anything, not even transport our buddies back “home”. It was along ride back to Holloway… Hmmm by the flip of a coin. Since then I always call tails… Since then, I still wonder if I missed something, something that forced them down into that hillside. The official report said not… I still wonder today…

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Old stuff, Com 101

        I was rummaging through some stuff from my college days at CSC, Colorado State College and came upon my spiral from freshman communications class – COM 101. You remember the one, they made you write different types of essays to develop your communication skills? After glancing over a few less than stellar assignments I realized I really could’ve used spell and grammar check and probably turned a few of the B’s into A’s… to quote the instructor “watch for misplaced modifiers, coordinate adjectives (?), sentence fragments and common errors – they distract from the overall coherence.” What the hell is a coordinate adjective? I still don't know!

        Anyway, for those of you that have read my more recent attempts at written communication you might recognize the style that was revealed back in 1968. I believe this was an assignment to write a “Description”. Hmmm kinda open ended… This was titled “Description (?)”, and if you spent any time on the campus in Greeley you probably know exactly where it takes place.

                The trees stretch toward the grey, menacing sky; their bare branches seem to grab at the hazy afternoon ceiling. The pillars of living wood form like sentinels along the broken cement walk. From the corner you pass through a corridor of elm and oak while the shaggy rug of wintered grass lines the tipsy squares of cement. Now and then the clatter of scattered gravel opens the cold silence and seems to echo from behind each tree. A few paces down the walk and you might catch a glimpse of a squirrel searching the joints of each branch for an afternoon snack. But he sees you move and shoots up to the highest branch of the tree, disappearing much like the afternoon breeze.

                It’s time you stopped and took in all that the wooded lawn has to offer. A few brisk steps through the leaf scattered mat of grasses and you’ll find a spot to sit and lean back against one of those magnificent wooden columns. As you put your weight down a small, cold chill creeps up your back as if you’ve been caught up in the webbing of a spiders home. At first the knotty bark needles its way through your coat and into your back. But with a few small adjustments the knots are comfortably placed and a new warmth overwhelms the coolness of the ground beneath you. Taking time to look about, that grayish tail with feet suddenly bounds from a tree just opposite yours. Try as you will to stay quiet and motionless he soon spots your position and is off again, up among the spindly, blackened branches of an immense elm. Losing him among the joints and jogs of the wooden net your eyes catch the sun as it sneaks through the billowy sky. The grayish afternoon crawls away while the tide of powdery blue and warming sky redecorates the day. A chatter from the squirrel announces his joy as a warm breeze pushes the leaves up from their resting places to crash and tumble across the lawn.
                But still there is a cold loneliness surrounding you. It’s not the lack of beauty or the cold that’s finally disappearing; it puzzles you to think what could be wrong now, with the sun high amongst the vacant robins’ nests. Finally it happens; you’re joined by a couple strolling down a worn pathway. They seem to fill the whole colonnade of trees and ruddy grass rugs with something clean, fresh and bright. Though they passed by in a moment, lost in their own world, their brightness was shared by all. Even the wiry squirrel came down from his mountainous perch, fearlessly beckoning to you. But with his chattering the cold haze resumes, covering the sun as the evening grows near. So you pick yourself up and briskly stroll back along the crumbling cement walkway, you will remember this place, this day, it was good to you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter Day Outside

It’s a truly winter day out the front window.
The afternoon air is frigid, the landscape lifeless and uninviting. The sky above is covered by a dull grey layer without even a hint of the sun. Off in the distance small scraps of washed out blue teasingly rest along the horizon.

Abruptly the wind intensifies and the marbled grey sky turns darker, heavier and ominous. Quickly hordes of primal crystals fill the air, stampeded along by the frozen air currents. The nearly blinding mass is made of small, agile, pellet like flakes that rush their way to the ground. Spun and jumbled, scattered seemingly without purpose they quickly cover the freezing earth.

Menacingly the storm builds, forcing a feeling of gloom and forewarning. Now the air is filled with the small hardened shapes dancing in all directions. The arrogant squall of winter weather eventually marches on, leaving its remnants behind as a display of its dominance.

No gentle fall of fluffy crystals, no hope of gathering handfuls for play, no brilliant sunshine in its wake. Just the raw cold power of a bleak and forbidding nature, leaving an inhospitable and desolate feeling behind.

Turn from the window with a shudder in search of warmth and security, surely the sun will shine tomorrow?!?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

High School Reunion Reflections

 It was an interesting picnic last summer to say the least… there weren’t hundreds lining up for burgers n dogs – maybe 25 or 30 of my fellow class mates from a few decades ago. Somehow that seems better to say than 44 years ago.LOL! Putting names to faces was a bit dicey for some but there were the few that I could name coming up sidewalk from the parking lot. Guys that I’d spend some of my best teenage years around and a few ladies who are as unmistakable now as they were then – shall I say they have aged much more gracefully than I.

It was good to not to see little cliques here and there, everyone mixed so well together – like the state football champion running back talking old times and new with the lead chair from the brass section. Old stories about ski club bus rides, study hall escapes, coaches who taught and teachers who coached… Have you seen? Where’s he or she now? Good stuff!

Many times the discussion turned to today and tomorrow. How are you doing? Things are tough for some… Thank god most of us there still have our health - some are not doing so well. Most are retired or near, some still relish in the daily grind even at our age… Some have matured, some of us not so much! LOL

I’ve heard people say they hated high school and wouldn’t go to a reunion ever. I don’t understand that – guess I have a very different perspective. How could you not want to see the people that helped mold you into what you are? Why wouldn’t you want to see and say hello and get to know again the close friends you had as a teenager? Sure some you have kept in touch with but most have faded away over time.

We did crazy things together, we did good works together, we created artwork, music & drama together, we scored touchdowns & baskets & runs together. We learned to live together, we chose careers, we chose friends together. We cried, we cheered, we won, we lost.. We experienced love and loss, we learned to deal with pain – physical and emotional. WE did all that and more. We – that group of fellow class mates, many of whom you spent 12 years of your life with… and a few have spent the rest of their lives with.

High school reunion? I wouldn’t miss it for the world if I could. These are the people partly responsible for “me”, whether it was just a smile in the hall on the way to class, the first love, the laughs at your jokes, the put downs for doing wrong, the support when your young world was falling apart. I relish the days I spent at old WRHS and all of the people who were a part of it. Because they were and are a part of it now in their own way. From watching submarine races to determining if light was a particle or a wave are a part of my life, a part of me I’d like to revisit every year or so…

It's good to see “old friends” – Carol, Cindy, Kent, Bev, Jim, Craig – just to name a few. Dreams tonight will be retro, n that doesn’t mean black n white – LOL! Spinning some ’67 tunes – I’m almost there… It’s great to have and see great friends! Lov ‘em all!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


On the edge of consciousness I hear the rumble of thunder,
Pulling the sheet and blanket up for protection
I drift back into unconsciousness to dream again…
I’m running as the thunder gets louder, closer,
In a dark jungle, wet abrasive leaves tear at my face,
It's so close, so loud, I fall
Something, someone lands on top of me,
Holding me down they begin digging in to the exposed flesh of my arm,
It's standing above me now,
The sound is deafening as I feel an icy hot probe enter my ear...
No! No! No!
Finally startled awake, I’m safe! Yes, I'm ALIVE! 

The purring cat wanders away across the bed...
Her job done as I roll onto my feet and stumble to the door to let her out....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Endure the Agony

Endure the agony of hours spent alone, no one to touch, and no one to embrace 

Suffer through the fear, never to know love again, to be empty inside – forever 

Bear your weaknesses, I can’t tell her, I shouldn’t say anything, I’m not good enough 

Continue the hopelessness, I’m not wanted, no one cares 

Dwell on the should have, the could have, the missed opportunities 

Descend deeper into the abyss, darker, deeper, and lonelier  

Perpetually self fulfilling  

Stop, end it 

Step out into the light 

Take control, break the cycle 

Tomorrow, No today – now! 

How… I’ve forgotten how…. Help me? 

Who is that shadow at the door? Standing there? 

Is it?  No, it is only loneliness, and loneliness waits 

Reaching out its hand, beckoning from the darkness