I Have The Deck….

Last week’s collision of the USS Fitzgerald  near Yokosuka, Japan brought back a number of memories of Navy days. No, I was not involved in an unwanted crash at sea but it is undoubtedly the worst fate that can befall a captain of the line. The loss of seven sailors only exacerbated the sense of helplessness and failure for that poor chap. His career in the US Navy is over, plain and simple.

The will be boards of inquiry and perhaps a court martial of the guilty parties. This is not fun and games but serious business. Shipboard life can be tense or laid back given the surrounding areas and tactical situation but one must be always ready to take things from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds.

That destroyer probably had a crew’s compliment of 250 with 15 or so officers. They supervised everything from the propulsion systems to weaponry as well as the gear for detecting the enemy and taking appropriate action. All officers stand the “watch” except for the supply officer who is known as the “pork chop,” as one of his duties is keeping the mates well fed.

There are various watches throughout the ship from the engine room to combat information center to the bridge itself which is El Supremo in any given four hour period. There are six watches a day. The bridge is manned by an Officer of the Deck(OOD,) a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), a navigator, helmsman, lee helmsman and various lookouts. I go into this detail because it makes the tragedy above all the more maddening.

When I was aboard ship there were rudimentary devices by today’s standards that enabled one to know your position at any given moment. Today’s vessels must be chock a block with whiz bang devices that constantly spit out data in an almost instantaneous fashion. Somehow, some way, personnel dropped the ball in an extraordinary fashion. The waters they were in were extremely crowded shipping lanes. If you stared at your radar there were blips everywhere. Where were they going? What was their course and speed? Were they a danger?

On the Mid watch from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM things can be quiet. At least 80% of the crew is sleeping soundly beneath you and in all actuality an officer who might be no more than 22 or 23 years of age is calling the shots. It is at the same time exciting but sobering to know that you are the man.

The Navy is steeped in tradition. There is a ceremony when the watch shifts on the fourth hour. If I came on duty, I arrived about 15 minutes before the appointed time. I ascertained the ship’s position and situation. All of the systems of the ship were reviewed in case there were items not quite up to snuff. You might have one of multiple radars off line for maintenance. A bilge pump might be acting up. All part of the picture.

When I felt I had the situation in hand I said “I am ready to relieve you” to the Officer of the Deck. He acknowledges and then I say, “I relieve you” and he replies, “I stand relieved”. That is a seminal moment both in lore and maritime law. I have authority only to be taken by the Captain or Executive Officer who at this time are sacked out below. I then announce, “This is Mr Kenny and I have the deck.” Various seamen report out loud and the reins are passed. Game on.

The whole nature of the collision depends on a number of factors that can be complex. The are international rules of the road that seem to have been violated. You pass port to port which is not what happened. But you are also beguiled by the fact you are supposed to maintain course and speed so that the opposing ship is not guessing what you are going to do. Then you have the meeting situation which is called, “in extremis” because you have to take rapid evasive maneuvers. Basically you give it hard right rudder and all ahead flank. If the other guy does the same you might avoid each other. Didn’t happen.

The last piece is the action of the OOD. If he has his wits about him, he has sensed the impending doom and has hit the intercom and announced. “Captain to the bridge” rather forcefully. The skipper would then take control and make his decision. That is why the buck stops there. No matter what is going on he is responsible. That’s what he gets paid for.

I bring all this up for two reasons. In this day and age I am amazed at how many chief execs of publicly held corporations are relieved for incompetence or impropriety and then receive the golden parachute. Market conditions or underlings so far down the chain are responsible and how was I to know? Mega millions are spent on their tenure and the same even if they go down in flames. Something doesn’t seem right.

The second is the nature of service to your country. Where else could a kid fresh out of college receive this type of training and responsibility? It was a combination that I will treasure forever. I truly feel badly for those that did not get this opportunity. For once in my life nobody cared who my daddy was or where I went to school. I could have been on a ship or a gun battery or in the cockpit of a supersonic jet. It teaches you a lot about yourself.

I was somewhat amused when I came back from Viet Nam after being Officer in Charge of a Swift Boat. I went to work on a trading desk and had to be trained on how to deal with customers. It was somewhat surreal to think a month or two before I was responsible 24/7 and now I had to just listen. Such is life but think about that when a current day vet comes looking for a job. He’s got a lot of living under his belt no matter how old he is.

As always
Ted The Great.

The Captain’s stateroom is right below the bridge. He can be up on the bridge in seconds. The commander of the Fitzgerald was medevaced with a head injury as the container ship rammed right into his stateroom. There is a good chance the OOD had not called him to the bridge.

Times have changed. Back in 1970 I and my fellow officers received a sum total of $4,000 pay for being OINCs of river gunboats for a year. I think that even included combat pay. Oh yes,I forgot it was tax exempt. Today a Ltjg makes around $4,000 per month with over two years of service. Still not a lot. Most services have one officer per 5 enlisted except for the Marines where it is 1officer for 8 grunts.

In 2015 there were 235 shipping accidents which ranged from collisions to sinking to groundings. Around 20% were due to unexpected meetings on the high seas. The same amount were attributed to putting ships on the rocks or sandbars. That will also affect your career.

Today 1/2% of our population is in the Armed forces. In WWII that was 12% but that was 80% of the males between 18-25 years of age. In the Viet Nam War approximately 8% of the draft pool was conscripted. Today well over 90% of our population has no connection to anyone in the armed services.

All the World Is A Stage….

At the earlier part of the week I was struck by both the NBA championships and the Senate hearings on Jeff Sessions. Yesterday in Alexandria brought a whole new dimension to this saga we call life. Celebrities in oh so many ways. Some for better. Some for worse. We hold ourselves and our heroes to scrutiny, demanding, catcalling, praising and adulating. We are all bit players.

I am not a close follower of the NBA but for some reason these finals intrigued me. The Cavs and the Warriors were beyond talented and featured two superstars in LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Both played their hearts out but with different personas. Durant more of a quiet giant going about his business and Le Bron, the scowling chest pumping gladiator urging his team on. As I watched I wondered what drove them? Was it the winning or the limelight ?

Pan over to Capitol Hill. The Dems were licking their chops and the Republicans were building their defenses. The object was to discover the truth whatever that is. Was this just Kabuki theater or was there going to be a reasoned inquiry and objective conclusion? Then the press briefings with the combatants standing in lockstep before the dais with the lead singer flanked by the chorus behind saying, “Amen brother or sister.” More vaudeville than drama but theatrics nonetheless.

Where does this desire for notoriety come from? Is it just them or all of us? I will espouse that from birth we are taught to act out and please. Our parents compare us to other kids and tout our talents. “That’s my boy or girl” as they beam with pride and high five any one around. As a consequence it feels good to be the object of praise so we strut our stuff more and more.

Whether it is in the classroom, sports field or dance floor there are winners and losers. We constantly compare ourselves to one another. We get up in the morning and look in the mirror and decide whether or not we are looking good or there is a giant zit in the middle of our forehead and it will set the tone for our day. How does my golf swing look or does my house or car reflect my success in life? We are thespians in everything we do.

The distinction must be drawn between ego and pride. The latter is a feeling of pleasure and accomplishment. You worked your ass off and done good. You can look back and revel in that fact and you feel at ease even if you were not the eventual winner. Durant and James had to feel they left nothing in the bag. Defeat hurts but pride is the salve for that wound.

Ego is a little different. It says there is no one like me. I am the greatest and you better believe it and heap huzzahs and hosannas on me. The cheers and great press become addictive and you do not rest unless you have more and more of it. It is said pride gives a swollen heart and ego gives a swollen head.

Celebrities live this life 24/7. Ironically movie and rock stars crave their privacy while trying to please the fan base. Politicians demand respect and you have to pay to get their attention. High ranking execs constantly ask, “Do you know who I am?” whether in public or private. The true oxymoron is that these snits and petulance bespeak a whole lot of insecurity. I don’t feel too strong about me, ergo I am going to rag on you to make me feel better. Classic.

The tragedy is when we go beyond simple childishness and the game turns deadly. A guy doesn’t like Trump and that transfers to all Republicans. His mind is fed by vitriol and has the right to correct the wrongs of the world. It is not ideology but the sign of a very sick person. I would hold that as we see more and more of this lunacy people feel more brazen and think this is part of the mainstream of life. News reports and breathless ‘breaking coverage” makes the sicko giddy with the prospect of fame.

Throughout the theater of life some play as comedies and others as tragedies. The danger is not so much in outcomes but that we don’t feel we are part of the cast. We look on with disinterest or numbness as the killing of 4 or 5 at a UPS depot feels so far away. Today it was on page 10 and not even an article but a small insert in News of The Day. We laugh and chuckle at the comedienne carrying the severed head of the Donald. Not a fan of either but it is not funny.

The bottom line is the world is a stage. At times we are stars, other times the director and others  the spectators. The roles are interchangeable but each one carries its own gravitas. It is not on tape or digital photos. It’s all live and exciting to be a part of. We should not overplay our role but rather be part of the company. Share the applause and correct the bad reviews. The show is never ending and must go on. The curtain is rising. Break a leg!

As always
Ted The Great

None to speak of.




Reunion Weekend……

Georgetown asked me to write something of a bio for the reunion magazine. As I put words down I couldn’t help but be amazed at what has transpired over the past 50 years both personally and geopoliticially. You never understand your history until you pause and review. Some good and some bad but a wonderfully varied and downright interesting existence.

So much coalesced this weekend. As I saw people I had not seen in five decades there was wonderment. Some had not changed one iota. Some had changed for the worse and many for the better. Some had found incredible fortune and others had fallen on hard times both physically and financially.

We relived the hijinks of the 5th Copley dorm, our sophomore abode that was affectionately called the Animal Kingdom. Long ago a cohort decided to try his talents as a Motocross biker on our L shaped corridor. As he deftly maneuvered the 90 turn he missed and wiped out the statue of Our Lady who was watching over the troops but no more. Just one of many stunts to prove we were indeed Gentlemen of Georgetown.

The campus is packed tighter than a drum. Former ball fields and parking lots are chock a block with new dorms and classroom buildings. Not an inch to spare. Interestingly with its increased size there was more a sense of community than disparate pieces. Buildings were as much form as function. The local watering hole, the 1789, still held court for all as the only place to have that cold one midday. As I walked the streets, memories welled up and it was good fun. Nice to be young again.

The neighboring environs have not changed much. There was always a subtle sophistication of the brick sidewalks and cobbled streets but most of the stones are now gone. Wealthy politicians or whatever cohabited with the raucous students. As we walked by, cleaning people were doing their best to restore row houses to some form of presentablity. Sorry dad, the damage deposit will not be returned.

May and June are magnificent before the swelter of steamy summer days take hold. The students that were around didn’t look much different from us except for their habadashery and brains. Not sure I could get in the place now as they only accept 15% of applicants. They seemed pleasant and not arrogant. Sort of an aloofness to those around that probably comes with our new technology. Mainstays like Clyde’s and Dixie Liquors have not lost their panache.

As we said our good byes we knew most would not be back again. Out of 850 graduates there were 150 attendees and 150 who had passed on. I wonder if the other 500 ever gave a thought of coming back. Maybe like me there were unavoidable circumstances that kept them away? Such is life.

A wonderful buddy, Pete Sullivan from the Bay State had a bunch of us over for an after party. He and his wife Jean live at the famed Watergate and the festivities took place on the roof patio. It afforded a panoramic view of DC and therein my revery took another turn. The District is really a wonderful city with buildings and monuments from every vantage point. No comment about the denizens that make government their life’s work. There are many who have tried to make it a better place and yet so many who just want to suck at the teats of federal largesse. I wish we could brand the good guys and bad, at least for a reference point.

Sunday morning my roommate and his wife joined us for a visit to the Mall which can only remind one of a European city with its rich gardens. We stood at the Washington Monument where the four esplanades lead to the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Kind of like the good the bad and the ugly. We all felt it would be a wonderful DMZ for the Trumpster and pols to get together. You couldn’t leave until you figured this mess out.
The final trek was the most poignant. We went to the Viet Nam Memorial and then the WWII Memorial. Their dissimilarities were striking. The first is stark as the granite lists 58,000 poor souls whose lives were cut short in a faraway place called Indo China. The entryway is simple and the message was raw in that maybe this was something that never should have happened but we wanted to honor them somehow.

To the contrary our fight against Japan and Germany had an aura of celebration. Towering columns with wreaths represented every state in the union. Porticoes remembered Iwo Jima, the Philippines, Midway and Okinawa in the Pacific. Likewise the Atlantic heralded the defeat of Germany and the enormity of D Day. There are 4048 stars each representing 100 servicemen and women who died. 404,800 in all.

Both memorials feted the warrior. One told of us defending our homeland after Pearl Harbor. The other of perhaps a bogus crusade after the Tonkin Gulf confrontation. One was personal and the other ideological. I shudder to think of the resources we waste in defense not only in the US but the world in its entirety. We have this whole deterrence thing which I understand perfectly and agree with in principle. But just for moment think of its absurdity. We are armed to the hilt for a war that hopefully will never occur.

I am not a pacifist. We have to defend ourselves when attacked. Yet as a wartime vet I think I have a right to question the sanity of our wanderings in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will always wonder at what good we could do with the trillions we spend on firepower. It was probably apt I finished my reunion weekend on the Mall. As brothers in arms we all got back together again. Hoya Saxa!

As always
Ted The Great.


There are over 450 hotels in the DC area. Some for tourists but mostly for those that want to do business for the government. There are more than 750,000 in the area workforce with 1/3 of those employed by the government.

The Pentagon is 6.5 million square feet in size with about 3.7 million sf of office space. It is home to around 23,000 military and civilian personnel. There are 17.5 miles of corridors.The same person who oversaw the Manhattan Project supervised its construction.

About 23 million people visit our nation’s capital vs a little over 10 million for New York City. The most popular attractions are the Smithsonian and the Lincoln Memorial.

We watched three flights over the city of Marine One. It was said that one carried His Hairness to play golf with Peyton Manning. There are actually three to five helos that fly with the actual one carrying the President not marked in any way and the others acting as decoys. There are approximately 600 Marines that are involved i the air operations.

In Greek Hoya means “what” and Saxa means “Rocks” What Rocks!



“I Hate Everything”…..

A fellow reader of my “ I Love” blog a few weeks ago sent me the lyrics to George Strait’s classic, “I Hate Everything.” I was a bit put off at the reaction but this morning I reread the verses. More on that later. I consider myself extremely optimistic and upbeat but events of the last week or so are testing my mettle.

A sicko killed two men on a train because he did not like a young girl’s hijab and didn’t care for the two unsung heroes coming to her aid. We had people blowing themselves up in the UK and Afghanistan because they didn’t like ISIS being subject to derision and cruelty. Sadly poetic in that justice. Washington. The Donald. Need I say more. Liberals hate conservative and vice versa. Ditto, the rich and the poor. Is it really hate?

I started thinking about this while I covered my four miles. I forgot my headphones and had to cover the distance sans entertainment. I hate when I do that. So I was left to ponder and define this thing we call hate. It is an intense or passionate dislike for someone or something. I can’t stand you. My blood boils when I see this or that. I am seething inside and ready to lash out. Really? All because I cut you off on the road or said something you didn’t like?

I started thinking about levels of vitriol. Almost akin to the Richter scale. So a minor thought or inconvenience might be a 1 or a 2. Don’t really notice it. Next is irritation at 3 or 4. Can’t let it go immediately but it will pass shortly. Noticeable but no damage. Next is anger or the proverbial pissed off. This has staying power and those around you feel the tremors. Let’s go with 5 or 6. Then we get to the big daddy. This ain’t going away. It becomes the focus of your life. Sanity has now left the room and we are subject to rage and continuous grinding of our mental plates. Any where from 7 to 10 and you might even cause a tsunami.

As I thought about my daily wanderings I realized that I probably use the word hate a fair amount. I hate it when I get stuck in traffic. Or you are approaching a light with some doofus in front you going at a snail’s pace until the light turns yellow and he floors it. I hate to wait for elevators and slow golfers. I hate Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell with equanimity. I hate arrogance and at the same time timidity. I hate commercials and stupid shows.

Going back to my measurement of irritation how many of these do I really hate? Probably very few get above a 3.0. Truth be told my use of the word is probably more out of habit than actuality. But I still employ it for a variety of situations. I repeat it constantly. and then does somehow the essence become part of me. Could I possibly hate more than I love at least in theory? Ugh!

People and things bug us. If you are tapping your finger or constantly clearing your throat while I am trying to write you are getting to me. If you are insensitive to the world around you and show no understanding of the havoc you are wreaking you have gotten my attention. So maybe we dislike our world being put upon as if it is our personal sacred turf. You disagree with me ergo I am bent out of shape. You are not up to my standards and expectations. In other words you better toe MY mark and not yours. Interesting.

Let’s bring in cognitive therapy. It teaches you how to react to things in a different way. Your way of looking at things is creating a roadblock to anything near happiness. If you are hating most things or at least a good portion of them then you are not a carefree camper. Your mental images and predispositions drag you down. All of a sudden your life sucks. Sounds crazy but it happens. We are creatures of habit. The old half empty, half full glass thing.

In a totally bizarre way we have absolute control of our world. Everyday occurrences or interactions with people should be viewed as inanimate objects. It is not the actual thing but how we react to them that matters. I can do so in a plus, minus or ambivalent way. But it is not set in stone. Change is so incredibly difficult at times but within our reach.If you like being a pain in the ass then go for it. But if it really doesn’t fit then do something about it.

“I Hate Everything” is a Country and Western ballad of a man drinking in a bar and bemoaning how bad things are. As he drops another twenty to pay for his drunken stupor, a picture of his kids falls out of his wallet. Probably the first time he has looked at it in a while. It’s the first step of many to get him back. Who knows if he makes it but there is that element of hope. Might be that way for all of us.

As always
Ted The Great.


Ambivalence is a state where you are positively and negatively affected by someone or something. Sometimes described as love/hate or mixed emotions. The uncertainty is sometimes maddening.

When we love someone, we shut off the part of our brain that judges – a trait that, we hope, has led to more happiness than sorrow. When we hate someone, we leave the judgment part of our brain a’blazing.

The Montagues and Capulets, the Hatfields and Mccoys, Shiites and Sunnis, Jews and Palestinians are examples of family or religious feuds. The hatred is passed on from generation to generation and woe be tide the family member who does not carry it on.

To not hate one must understand and forgive. Realize what that person is going through and why they are the way they are. Change if you can but more importantly forgive or accept.