Travel Log

My Latin is a bit rusty, but I believe this was erected by Pope Pius IX

The Roman Colosseum was interesting. It was a shame that it was such a tourist trap, but the opportunity to walk through a structure that’s older than America was unique. I was surprised to see  just how many memorials to Christians who died there that had been erected.

A Helluva Birthday

I know that posting has been light as of late, but work has gotten in the way. I am currently halfway around  the world showing the flag for the United States. As you might imagine, internet connections are not the greatest at sea, nor is my free time as bountiful. But, I have not forgotten about you, dear readers.

About a three days before my twenty-fourth birthday, I received travel orders from Big Navy for to go meet USS FIRST SHIP out on the wild Atlantic. So, in keeping with one of the longest standing Naval traditions, I dropped everything I was doing and hopped on a plane on the eve of my birthday and flew thousands of miles to points untrodden. I actually turned twenty-four somewhere over the Atlantic.

I am now working hard, trying to get up to speed on the steep learning curve that are daily operations aboard a warship. I will update the blog as I am able, and will hopefully be able to return to three posts a week. But, fret not, Kipling Friday will continue unabated.

Obligatory Birthday Post

Because it’s my birthday, I’ve decided to share an excerpt from one of my favorite television shows. . . in the world! I’m a huge fan of the British television show Top Gear and Jeremy’s, James’, and Richard’s zany antics. The clip below is some of Jeremy Clarkson’s finest work and what I believe to be the standard for all cinematic automotive reviews. Enjoy.

Misadventure on the Pedlar, Part Uno

This is a story of the best beer I’ve ever had. Like most of my stories, it involves me thinking I was invincible and can withstand anything life throws at me. As is the usual case, I was reminded exactly where the limits of my mortality actually exist.

This particular story takes place on the Pedlar River nestled within George Washington National Forest. GW National Forest is itself settled in amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western Virginia, about an hour or so from Lexington. Every Spring, the Corps of Cadets runs an exercise designed to test the 4th Classmen on their fieldcraft, namely skills such as land navigation, shelter building, and wilderness survival. The exercise covers a roughly twenty mile course of arduous terrain in some of the most beautiful country Virginia has to offer.

I participated in the aptly-named 4th Class FTX (Field Training Exercise) each year of my cadetship. It was a wonderful way to break up the monotony of the Institute Experience and also recharge my batteries by getting away from the hustling weariness of modern life. Unfortunately, George Washington National Forest tried to kill me every single year.

Continue reading “Misadventure on the Pedlar, Part Uno”

The VMI Legacy

On the 15th of February, the VMI Family lost one of its most distinguished Alumni, Colonel William Dabney ’61, USMC (The announcement can be found on The Institute’s website). Colonel Dabney served with distinction in Vietnam, commanding two rifle companies of Marines in defense of Hill 881 South (Hat Tip to CDR Salamander). For his actions, during the Siege of Khe Sanh, Colonel Dabney received the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps’ second-highest award for valor. Colonel Dabney eventually returned to The Mother I to serve as Commandant of Cadets, influencing a great many Cadets during their most formative years.

But the passing of Colonel Dabney is quite what makes him so special; he’s simply another warrior embarking on the great journey to Valhalla. No, it is what the Colonel’s story can teach us about leadership and personal courage. If you follow the two preceding links, you can read the story in full, including his citation for the Navy Cross. You can also read his remarks upon his receipt of the award.

Will the VMI Corps of Cadets please rise. (All seats remaining vacant after  invited guests were seated had been occupied by cadets.)

Our generation – these men who just stood before you – came home from war to a nation not much disposed to honor the nobility of their service.  Today, as Pete said a few years late, you gave us our parade.  Thank you!(Audience and Warriors applauded the cadets)
Many of you will soon shoulder the responsibility of command leading the citizen soldiers of your generation.  Eight of your number have already given their lives in the cause of freedom in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Should you be called upon to take America’s patriots in harm’s way, you will find awesome, as I did in my time, their courage and determination.  The experience will become the signal moment in your lives.  We wish you God speed, and we salute you. (Another round of applause with the loudest and most robust coming from those 40 men in the front rows of Jackson Memorial Hall.)
His speech is a wonderful example in the old guard showing the newly initiated the way things should be done. True leadership requires that you teach those whom will replace you everything you know in order to be successful and to accomplish the mission. You must also inspire them by your example. If you expect your subordinates to be courageous, you yourself must be courageous in the face of hardship and criticism. You must also be well-grounded in the history of your organization, using examples to inspire those who you lead. A thorough knowledge of history also better arms you against making the same mistakes as your forebears.
This is a concept that was always well-drilled at The Mother I. From day one, every Cadet was taught that he or she has a long, illustrious legacy which they must uphold. It is these teaching moments that build the “Never Say Die!” attitude and shows the Cadets that it is now their solemn responsibility to carry on the proud tradition. It is this knowledge that has lead so many Institute Men to win the day even when facing insurmountable odds, much like Colonel Dabney did during those seventy-seven fateful days on top of Hill 881S.

Mulholland Drive

Growing up in Los Angeles was an exceptional experience. I didn’t realize it at the time, in fact, I ran from it as fast as I could. Looking back on it now, I realize that most of that running was due to my teenage yearning for freedom from my parents’ control and need to explore. Now that I have been transplanted three-thousand miles away, in a town lacking the same energy and vibrance as the City of Angels. Now I yearn to return to my city.

Anyway, the City of Los Angeles encompasses multiple different districts from the hustle and bustle of downtown, to the glamor of Brentwood and Beverly Hills, to the bluffs of Malibu, and the San Fernando Valley. Separating the glitz of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the Los Angeles that all non-Angelinos dream about from The Valley are the Santa Monica Mountains. The mountains themselves are rather pedestrian, covered in shrubs and wild grass and houses. But the real beauty is a stretch of tarmac running along the ridge line called Mulholland Drive. This is what it looks like in the daytime:

Mulholland to Downtown

It doesn’t look like much, but stretching from the Hollywood Freeway to Sepulveda Boulevard, it offers the car enthusiast one of the best driving experiences in the world. As it winds its way through the hills, bordered by precipitous drops down the hillside, it provides breathtaking vistas for anyone truly interested in gazing upon the fair city below.

As with most things in life, Mulholland Drive isn’t perfect. You see, those nasty rumors about the gridlock of Los Angeles traffic just so happen to be true and seeing as this masterfully sculpted lane is situated between major thoroughfares between both sides of the city, it is nearly always blocked with a multitude of cars during the daytime. Which left my teenage self and my compadres with a dilemma. We fancied ourselves automotive aficionados; living for the thrill of a quarter mile, the ecstasy of a proper canyon run, and that most allusive of highs: speed. Velocity. Quickness. Rapidity. It didn’t matter what you called it, we chased it, like an addict chases after his next fix. We were young and very foolish, and nearly paid the price for it quite a few times. And one of our favorite places to bathe ourselves in the siren song of screeching tires was Mulholland Drive. But what ever were we to do in order to combat the evil that was rush hour traffic?

Being the inventive young lads that we were, we surmised that we would simply drive Mulholland when the traffic was not there: nighttime. We congratulated ourselves on our brilliance and set out the next available evening. We were young and invincible, and showed utter contempt for the darkness that had encircled our road of choice. But that evening, and all evenings after that, our chutzpah was rewarded by our city, with views like these:

The Valley At Night

Our city was beautiful from above. It amazed us, and provided the perfect backdrop as we carved out corners in the Hollywood Hills. And to this day, the nighttime view from Mulholland Drive is one of the things I long to see again most. It is how I remember the City of Angels, the city of my childhood.

Los Angeles will forever hold captive a special place in my heart. It’s diverse culture and life will always beckon me. It is such a wonderful city. It is my city.

Valley at Dusk

On Cartoons

YouTube – Cab Calloway St. James Infirmary by Fleischer

My senior year in high school I signed up for a cinematography class (one of the benefits of growing up in Los Angeles) in order to fulfill a graduation requirement for a fine arts elective (another benefit of going to school in a Liberal state). To make a long story short, due to a clerical error, I ended up in an animation class. Now, I’ve never been a particularly good drawer, cartoonist, or painter; so it was with quite a bit of trepidation that I decided not to switch out of the class. The real deciding factor was the fact that one of my best friends had signed up for the class with me, and I wasn’t going to leave him high and dry. That, and it had a reputation as an easy class, which would allow me to keep my commitment to focus my senior year on friends, football, and fun.

So, there I was on the first day, forced to confront the horrendous disconnect between the copiously-detailed visions in my head and my left hand’s ability to translate them into an image on a sketch pad. I have always been a man of words, even though I spent a good portion of my teenage years running from it. The pictures in my mind are just as vivid as any of Picasso’s or Renoir’s, but my medium is the written word, using adjectives, verbs, nouns, and all the others to paint the perfect portrait. My drawings on the other hand were all childish.

But as nervous as I was, the first day proved that most of the rest of my fellow students had the same approximate level of cartoonist ability as I did. To make matters even better, our teacher was a cartoonist-turned-English teacher who looked as if he had just come back from catching some early morning waves. His long blond hair and laid-back attitude put me at ease.

Anyway, in order to showcase different styles of animation and to educate us on the history of animation, he would pull old cartoons from the vaults and play them for us. These were the true golden standards of cartooning, from back in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties, when great men like Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng made them.

One of the cartoons he showed one day was the parent of the clip pasted above. It’s from an old Betty Boop reel and features caricatured Cab Calloway singing the Saint James Infirmary Blues. I was captivated from the moment I laid eyes on the screen. Cab’s haunting voice paired with the surreal imagery thrilled me. It inspired me, the tune playing endlessly in my head for the rest of the day.

Since that day, I’ve searched the whole wide world over trying to find the cartoon as it is a personal favorite of mine. Having stumbled across it this evening, I have been in a wash of nostalgia, reminiscing about my high school days.

“But how did you fare in the class?” You, my beloved reader, might ask. Well, I can tell you quite plainly that hours of hard work and diligence honed my drawing abilities. Also, the cartoon cemented Cab Calloway’s version of the Saint James Infirmary Blues on my favorites list in iTunes. So in the end, it all came up spades.

The Immortal 600

A few days ago, I recounted the story of my Great-Great-Great Uncle, Ozniah Brumley, and his involvement as a member of the Immortal 600. Well, I’ve stumbled upon some more information concerning them, and felt I should pass it along. The first is an account of their experiences under fire in Charleston, as told by 1st Lieutenant George Finley of the 56th Virginia Infantry. The second is a link to the website of the local detachment of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Georgia who have championed the cause of the Immortals. The third is a long history of the Immortal 600 from HistoryNet. And last but not least are three books: one which list the entire roster of the Immortals and two which tell the tale of the Immortals. They are shown below:

The Biographical Roster of the Immortal 600

The Immortal 600: A Story of Cruelty to Confederate Prisoners of War

Immortal Captives: The Story of Confederate Officers and the United States Prisoner of War Policy

The least we can do, is to keep the memory of these brave men alive. The Civil War is a great wound upon our nation’s history, with brother exacting vengeance upon brother. Through our understanding of the War’s history and its atrocities, we can prevent another such conflict from ever arising.

It’s Good To Be Back

In the last twelve months, I’ve graduated from college, gotten a job, lost a job, and have had to wade through the current quagmire that is the jobs market. And a quagmire it is, as it seems that everyone is hurting and even the usual jobs available in the service industry are quickly fading. At least that’s how things are in my little piece of The South.

But, as bleak as things seem, there are calmer seas on the horizon as I received wonderful news a few short months ago. I was informed that I had been selected for a Student Naval Aviator (SNA) slot by the direct accession selection boards run by the United States Navy. In short, I will be heading off to Officer Candidate School in the next few months to continue my dream of flying fast, pointy-nosed, jet aircraft off of (and back onto) big, gray ships.

Unfortunately, the wait time and amount of paperwork to process in order to join the military these days is quite long, so I’ve decided to try and return to blogging, as well as a few other side projects that I’ve been neglecting lately. I figured: I have the time, so I might as well. Anyway, expect more activity in these here parts of the internets, especially if my side projects amount to anything beyond spinning my wheels.