Saturday, May 30, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

The latest combined casualty numbers for Iraq and Afghanistan is 4,962 dead.

As a child I remember at my grandmother house at the famed 4th street address seeing a picture of 3 smiling young men in the South Pacific.

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This picture was shown in the local newspapers and is significant because it was a reunion of two brothers and their cousin. From left to right, Joe Kowaleski (cousin), Francis Poltrack (Marines) and Edward Poltrack (Pilot).

What is is extraordinary about this picture is the reunion part. The Pacific is a large place, it’s wartime, the only communication is sporadic letters. Ed writes about how he managed to arrange this meeting on Nov 22, 1943. He got Joe and tracked down Fran. He remarks about how thin and worn his brother looks. He writes how he asked about the fighting then regrets bringing it up.

About a year later the Commander of the 1st Marine Division predicted that the island of Peleliu could be taken in about 4 days. The battle lasted for 2 months. Peleliu had the the highest casualty rate of any battle in the Pacific War. The Japanese had entrenched themselves into the hillsides. It is arguable that the battle was not even necessary and a distraction from the more important goal – the Marianas.

Fran was killed at Peleiu on Sept 17th 1944, he was 25 years old. I’ve heard the stories about how my grandmother heard the doorbell in the middle of the night and went to an empty doorstep. My older cousins remember the relatives gathering at the family hotel in tears. I only know that there was an uncle I would never know.

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It took me a while to understand what a “Gold Star Mother” was. My grandmother would ride with the other mothers in the parade. As a child I had no concept what they had lost.

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I have a childhood friend on the wall in Washington. Fergus Connors Jr. was my buddy back in Stamford Ct when we lived in Veteran housing after the war.

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Remember our war dead on this day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I’m ready to go back to Bimini

There is something to be said about floating in the warm Atlantic ocean which has a bit more salinity than is found up on our northern coast. Just drifting in nature’s amniotic fluid.

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Bimini knows how to welcome it’s visitors. Bimini consists of 2 islands. We flew on Bimini Air on a very nice SAAB turbo prop to a small (and I mean small) airfield on one of the islands.

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I knew that this was one friendly place when they handed me a rum punch on the ferry ride to the other island where we going to attend Tom & Danielle’s wedding at Bimini Bay.

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Tom is the son of our long time friends the Dunfee’s. Our kids grew up together and we have had a few adventures over the years. I met them through my Navy roomate Frank Chupko at a party that we still talk about, probably because police were involved.

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We arrived 2 days before the wedding and enjoyed the 2 pools and the ocean. This is a shot of the “infinity pool” which has the optical effect of appearing to blend with the ocean.

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I did a bit of research before I left and found that I could take a snorkeling view of the Bimini Road leading to Atlantis (at least I believe it was).

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The tour was lead by Bill Keefe of Bimini Underseas. They also offer dolphin encounters and Scuba diving. This was great fun because all the participants were wedding guests. Elaine was an experienced diver so she did some diving while we knocked back a few Kalik beers.

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I found it interesting that the ocean level was 350 feet lower 12,000 years ago. This indicated that the entire Bahamas was probably Atlantis. Score one for Edgar Cayce.

Danielle did an nice job of giving us some nice activities. I joined the ladies to do some vigorous yoga to the sound of the surf. Danielle also taught the class!

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She also arranged a very interesting tour of Bimini led by Ashley Saunders, a historian, author and artist. Ashley gave us a great tour of Hemingway’s cabin. I placed my hand into a cannon and received a bit of a surprise.

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These lizards are everywhere but they seem to be harmless, still a surprise!

We ended up at Ashley’s residence/museum/boutique and he explained how he made up from materials found on the beach. Great place.

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I purchased one of his books to read about medicinal plants and pirates. Pirates loved Bimini because it afforded a nice view of their prey along the gulf stream.

As we were taking this tour, I was dismayed to learn that I missed the opportunity to have a few with my former Navy roommate Frank and his brother John who were tending the bar in Alice town at the End of the World Bar.  This was a definite miss on my part. Frank and John know which bars to visit. Even more amazing is the fact that they picked the most famous one in Bimini. Here they are in all their splendor near the infinity pool with Ginny:

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The ending of the tour led directly to the wedding. One culinary treat of the island is Conch Salad. You slice and dice  Conch, Onions, Tomatoes, Peppers, and liberal amounts of lime (to “cook” the still living conch). A nice hot sauce and a coconut rum and pineapple drink and you have yourself a wedding appetizer.

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The wedding was great. Any wedding that allows you to wear a hawaiian shirt and be barefoot in the surf is a great wedding.

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So Congratulations Tom and Danielle. We had a great time!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Congratulations Jesse & Stephanie

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We attended Stephanie & Jesse’s graduation today. Both graduated as engineers, Jesse is a mechanical engineer and Stephanie is a chemical engineer. Stephanie is a member of the Society of Women Engineers.
This commencement was “Green”. Power for the ceremony was supplied by methane produced by a landfill. There were recycle and compost bins near the food area. Shuttle service was available and I noticed a train depot right on campus.
I was especially impressed with the commencement address given by Gary Hirshberg the CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm. I have a warm spot in my heart for the Stonyfield Yogurt folks because for a short time I lived next Samuel Kaymen one of the founders here in New Ipswich. When he came over to introduced himself I was actually cooking up some of my own yogurt in a Salton yogurt maker (this was in the wonderful 70’s when we were going to change the world and be self sufficient). I remember having a fine burrito supper with his family with plenty of wine… but I digress.
The conferring of degrees was accompanied by folk music plucked  right from the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook with a little Ian & Sylvia mixed in. The Graduates were puzzled by the musical choices but it took me back, way back.
Congrats again Jesse and Stephanie, you made your folks proud (and this uncle and aunt)

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Monday, May 04, 2009

The Couch takes it’s final bow

Faithful readers of my blog may remember my travails on moving day with my friends and family. If you are new to these pages you may read about one experience by clicking here.

This last weekend I was spared another move because my daughter moved with the help of her brothers and her friend. I was spared the anguish. I spent the day managing to crush a chainsaw under a tree but that story may need it’s own post.

One issue with the initial move was the impossibility of moving a couch up a narrow and winding staircase.

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This necessitated a dangerous external levitation of this ponderous loveseat

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This process was reverse engineered when the time came to make the next move and the process was much quicker: