My Tivo Is Possessed by the Devil!

I cut the cable some months ago, or more accurately, I broke the dish and got rid of satellite. In its place I got a very nice antenna which picks up about 40 stations, maybe 20 of which come in clear and I am interested in watching. I also bought a Tivo Roamio OTA DVR which records over-the-air (OTA) channels and accesses apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime among others. OK, now that you have the background here is the problem.

Janis recorded a movie recently off one of the OTA channels. It turns out to have been appropriately named Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington. I never watched it, and Janis got about ten minutes into it and decided it wasn’t for her, so she deleted it—or more accurately, tried to delete it. My Tivo disagreed with her decision to delete the movie and refused to do so. None of the usual methods of deleting something recorded on the Tivo has worked. It pretends to delete the movie, but it always comes back! I can delete other recordings, but not the Devil!

It gets worse. Janis called me in to see if I would have any better luck. Nope. After several and various attempts, the Devil would not go away. I decided to let it rest and try the next day as if that might make a difference. It didn’t. Repeated attempts to delete it failed. Each time I deleted it, the Tivo puts an “X” beside its name in the guide, pretending that it is about to delete it—and then deletes the “X” and puts the blue dot back—and, of course, the Devil in a Blue Dress is still there!

And—it gets even spookier. Forgetting my recent failure with the Sync Witch in my truck, I was determined that I was not going to let some stupid electrical device outsmart me. So I devised a very clever plan to delete the movie. There is a delete option I had not yet tried. You can set the Tivo to delete a recording on a certain date in the future. “That’s it!” I said in my eureka moment. With a sneering cackle, I set the Devil to delete in two days, August 12.

Two days later I checked and the Devil was still there—AND he had reset my delete date to August 14! “This is some crazy fluke,” I muttered and reset the delete date to August 16.

Well, it is August 17 as I write this, and the Devil in a Blue Dress IS STILL THERE and has reset my delete date to August 18!

I have no illusions that it will actually delete on that date. Once more I have been beaten by artificial intelligence. As a society, we are doomed. The movie “Terminator” was prophetic.


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Conversations With My Truck – Part 2

Well, it happened again. All I wanted was to play my music on my iPhone through my truck’s audio system. That should be as simple as pressing a button, and the “Sync Lady” replies with “Please say a command.” I reply with “Bluetooth audio”, and she plays my iPhone music for me. Sometimes she gets confused and asks me if I really said “Bluetooth Audio?”


But this time she didn’t play any music – silence. So, I press the button on my steering wheel again, and she replies, “Please say a command”. To which I reply, “Resume play”, which usually wakes her up and she plays my music. That didn’t work. Again silence. Button again and this time, assuming she is hard of hearing, I yell, “RESUME PLAY!”

She must have been offended by my tone because I think I could detect a bit of irritation in her voice when she replied she didn’t understand me and I should repeat my command. We go through the button, command process once more, and she is still playing dumb and claiming she doesn’t understand me. And I am becoming irritated—really irritated!

I called her the “Sync Lady” above, but at this point, I am using a different name for her, and it rhymes with “Sync Witch”.

Button once more and she replies, and this time I am sure her tone was sarcastic, “Please say a command.”

OK. At this point, I lost it and replied with language that was unbecoming of a gentleman. Yes, that included profanity—lots of it, in fact—and expressed very loudly. There might also have been some fist shaking and flying spittle—I don’t recall all the details.

Defeated, I pushed the “CD” button on my radio and contented myself to listening to my Pink Floyd CD, over which I still had some level of control.

At that point, I’m sure I heard a soft but sadistic cackle come from HER!


UPDATE: It seems I am not the only one having these voice recognition problems.

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The Honey Island Swamp Monster

The Honey Island Swamp is on the Louisiana/Mississippi border along the Pearl River in the “toe” of the Louisiana boot. The entrance to the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area often referred to as “Honey Island”, is located where I-59 crosses the Pearl. The WMA is a favorite hunting and fishing place for the relatively nearby New Orleans residents. It is mostly swamp and marsh laced with small bayous with not a lot of high ground, especially when the Pearl reaches anything approaching flood stage. Deer and squirrel hunting is popular in the WMA.

It is also reputed to be the home of the Honey Island Swamp Monster (HISM), Louisiana’s version of Bigfoot. My son Heath and I met the HISM many years ago on a squirrel hunting trip. Many years ago is something like 1985ish. It was just after dawn and we had settled into our stands in a grove of oak trees, taking a seat at the base of an old oak. Heath, being around 15 then on one of his first hunts, was sitting with me so I could keep an eye on him and make sure he hunted safely.

Must have been a spot that was hunted out, because we saw no squirrels. Not being an early riser, I was soon dozing off. That’s when we heard “him”. It was a baleful cry off in the distance as if the HISW had lost his momma and was calling out for her.

Heath poked me in the ribs. “You hear that?”

“Hear what?”


It was obvious he was concerned, so I blinked myself into wakefulness and listened. Soon, I heard it, too. A long tone that changed pitch with no apparent purpose than to cry out almost as if in pain or calling to a like being.

Another poke in the ribs from my 15-year-old. “What’s that?”

“Ummm. Nuttin,” I replied.

Heath wasn’t buying it. “That sounded like something. What?”

We listened but heard nothing more out of our HISM and began to relax. We moved to another area in hope of finding squirrels and settled down again under another big oak tree.

And we heard him again, that long drawn-out cry, but this time it was a bit closer. “Dad, what is that?”

I fessed up. “I have no idea. Never before heard anything like that in the woods—ever.”

Then the unspoken was finally spoken. Heath looked at me and said, “Is that the Honey Island Swamp Monster?”

“Naaahh,” I assured him, but vacating the Honey Island Swamp suddenly seemed like it might be a good idea. “I’m getting hungry. How about we head back to the truck for something to eat?”

Heath readily agreed. We worked our way back to the trail we had come in on, which happened to be closer to the direction the HISM screams had been coming from. As we nervously headed for the truck we catch sight of movement in the bushes beside the trail and out steps a man with a shotgun. We startled each other briefly, and then he waved as he approached. “Any luck with squirrels?” he asked in Spanish-accented English.

“No. We’re giving up.”

“Me either,” he replied. “I’m trying to find my hunting buddy. You see anyone around…?” And he described how he was dressed.

“Nope. Haven’t seen anyone.”

“I’ve been calling to him with my bugle, but he doesn’t answer.” And he reached around his back and pulled out a beat up old bugle that hung by a cord across his shoulders. And I’m thinking we have found the Honey Island Swamp Monster. He must have noticed my questioning expression and said, “We use these down in (some Central American country) where I’m from to communicate in the jungle.”

Heath and I looked at each other and smiled. So much for our Honey Island Swamp Monster.

You can see a video taken in the 1960s that supposedly shows the HISM at this link.


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Stupid Stuff

As I look back on my life (I am 73 as of 24 July 2017), I sometimes wonder how I survived some of the stupid things I did. Many of those I don’t even wish to recall much less speak of. Yes, they were that dumb. I assumed, with advancing age and its associated experience, I would get better at avoiding that. Maybe not. And maybe it is advanced aging that is reversing some of my “learning”.

I recently had one of those “stupid stuff” experiences, and it was a real first for me. We were traveling by car to Florida with some friends. There were enough of us that we took two vehicles. I was driving my Ford F-150 crew cab with Janis and one passenger. It was lunch time, and we stopped at a gas station outside of Mobile, Alabama, for something to eat. The station had an attached Wendy’s hamburger joint. Unfortunately, parking was unusually limited for a station and restaurant combo as large as this one and finding a parking space was difficult. I finally found one at the end of a row and the ensuing conversation concerning whether or not the other car of friends also found one distracted me.

We got out and went inside, ordered lunch and had a relaxing meal. I informed Janis that I needed to go to the restroom before getting back on the road and sauntered off to attend to same. On the way, I happened to stick my hand in my pocket and discovered my truck key was not there, and I always lock my truck! Rats! No problem. I always give Janis the extra key when we travel—only this time I forgot to do so.

After attending to business I rejoined our group and asked—hopefully—if Janis had, by chance, grabbed the extra key out of the drawer when we left home. Nope. Still no problem. I have that key pad entry system on the truck, which I never use. I knew (hoped) the card with the code on it that Ford gave me when I bought the truck was still in my wallet. Half expecting my truck to be stolen, I immediately decamped for the parking lot with the rest of the crew in hot pursuit.

Upon arriving at the truck, I discovered the doors were not locked thus no need to search for the code card. I also discovered my wallet was in the console next to my pistol, the key was still in the ignition, and — AND — the engine was running!

That is the first time I have ever done something like that.

When I related that story to my friend Mike, he told me a story of a similar event he experienced. Mike does graphic installations both inside and outside of buildings. For outside installs, he often uses a lift trailer which will extend up to 30 feet. He drags that long trailer behind his Suburban when he has an outside installation to do a job that day. One day he needed to swing into Walmart to get something. She slipped the Suburban into a slot and went inside. About a half hour later he came out to discover he had forgotten he had the trailer that day. His suburban was in its parking space with that long lift trailer sticking out in the drive between the rows of parked cars. Whoops!

Inside installs often require the use of a ladder, and Mike sometimes pushes the envelope a bit too far. One night he was doing an install in a grocery store over the dairy section. He leaned out a bit too far and tipped the ladder over. He landed in the yogurt.

“Clean up in aisle seven!”

Sometimes I wonder if we will survive old age. Probably not…

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Eight Weeks Later

Remember back eight weeks ago I posted about my grandson going off to Air Force Basic Training? It is now eight weeks later and here he is.

Janis and I drove over to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, to be there for Blake’s graduation from basic training. It was a grueling trip that was supposed to be about eight hours that turned into more than ten with several periods of stop and go traffic—an hour and a half just to get through Houston! It was an intense and emotion-filled weekend as we joined his parents, his sisters, and some cousins as well as an aunt and another grandmother. Having done my basic training at Lackland back in December 1968-January 1969, I found it particularly moving. This was especially so because Heath, my son and Blake’s father, had also been there a few decades after me, in 1996, when he did his basic training at Lackland. Three generations of Casteix men in the Air Force. The three of us are in the pic below.

Blake will next be going to NAS Pensacola for training in “Non-Destructive Inspection”. That means he will be inspecting aircraft for structural integrity, and the testing involves non-destructive processes. It is a highly technical field. Interestingly, Heath has his own business doing aircraft airframe repair and then FAA certification of the repaired parts. He learned that trade in the Air Force. Later as a civilian, he took training in what Blake will be doing, and his business is also a FAA certified NDI inspection station which has more business than he can handle. That means Blake will have a job waiting for him when he gets out.

I guess you have figured out by now that we are all very proud of Blake.

A point I would like to make in closing is that “education” need not always mean college, and success and financial security need not require a college degree. Heath makes a lot more money than I did at this point in his life. I am of the opinion that many kids in college today are wasting their money and would be better served by military training or a good trade school. Unfortunately and incorrectly, that sometimes carries a negative stigma for some people.


Filed under Family History, War Stories

Memorial Day 2017

This one is kind of special. The reason why is that twenty-one-year-old young man in the photo, the one in the white shirt holding up his right hand. That is Blake Casteix, my grandson. That was Tuesday when he was in the process of swearing to “defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic”. He is now at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, for Air Force basic training. That will be followed by tech school at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he will be trained in cyber security. Sounds like a career field he can use when he gets out, assuming he doesn’t make a career of the Air Force.

His dad was also in the Air Force, where he learned a trade, one he is using today, as a civilian, to make a good living with his own business. Everyone thinks you must go to college to be successful and make the big bucks. Ain’t so. There are many career fields in the military where a young man or woman can learn a trade and make a good living at it afterward—or even use it as a springboard to attend college on the GI Bill. Sadly, not many young people are willing to do that. Instead, they whine about not having any opportunities. I am calling Bravo Sierra on that. If you want it, there are ways to get it, but you might have to work for it instead of having it handed to you.

I was also in the Air Force but after I graduated from college. I had my college handed to me by my parents. It took the Air Force to gave me maturity I did not get in college. There I learned to do my job in a way that reflected on the fact that someone’s life might depend on how well I did it. For that reason, I believe in universal military service. Unfortunately, that would open the military up to having a lot of people that will never “get it” and never appreciate what it can give them. And maybe it is better if it isn’t that way.

This Memorial Day I salute Blake Casteix and all those who have written that check out to the United States of America for payment “up to and including my life”.

The complete Oath of Enlistment –

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, War Stories

Why I Hate Flying.

I HATE flying and refuse to get on a plane unless I have no other viable choice to get from point A to point B. In most cases, I will drive before I will fly. No, I am not afraid of flying. I have many hours in many different types of aircraft. In civilian life, I have flown in many of the big commercial planes, both prop and jet, enough that I earned sufficient points to upgrade to first class on the return trip home from my business trips. I even had a couple of helicopter rides and a flight in a single engine Cessna that was dropping skydivers back in the sixties.

In the Air Force, I flew more civilian flights for training schools or TDY deployments, plus trips in Huey helicopters, six-seat U-6 Beavers, C-130s, one of which was ski-equipped landing in an unimproved runway, and even a seaplane landing on a lake once. I almost had a ride in the back seat of an F-4 Phantom II as an “atta-boy” award. That would have been fun.

Even been involved in one minor “crash”, which I wrote about here.

So it isn’t like I have not been exposed to flying. I used to enjoy flying, even the nine hours I spent in the cargo hold of a C-130 coming back from Alaska. (I was on leave and grabbed a “space-available” flight out of Anchorage with some Ohio Air National Guard types returning from summer camp.) In spite of the canvas jump-seats and loud interior of the C-130, I actually consider that to have been more comfortable than having my knees crammed into my chest on a modern commercial flight. And the “boxed-nasty” they gave us for lunch on that C-130 flight was better than what you get in today’s commercial flights.

I hate flying because the experience has become a miserable affair for me. Some of that is because of those lovely folks who brought us 9/11 and the government agency that sprang from that (TSA) with all their silly efforts to make us think we are safe. I mean, really—patting-down a five year-old girl or a 90 year-old grandmother is going to protect me? Or my favorite, the Muslim garbed TSA agent patting down a nun. Give me a break!

To go almost anywhere by air today, you will at some point be routed through a “hub.” That involves a layover of an hour or more—better make it “more” to cover for flight delays and weather. I once missed a connection (last flight of the day to NOLA) because of weather and spent the night in the Atlanta airport to catch the first flight out in the morning. Lovely experience. At least they don’t close the terminal at night. On that C-130 flight from Alaska, it landed in Toledo, Ohio late at night. The airport was joint-use with the Air National Guard on one side and the civilian part on the other. By the time I got there, the last flight for NOLA was long gone, and they were locking up the terminal for the night. I begged, and they agreed to lock me inside rather than go search for a hotel. It was actually a better experience that the one I had nearly 30 years later in Atlanta, because I was much younger then, and there was no CNN blaring its propaganda all night long in the Toledo terminal.

I used to do a lot of business travel, and to go to Kentucky on business, I had to arrive at the airport at least two hours before my flight, fly to Atlanta (or Cincinnati), lay-over, fly into Louisville, rent a car and drive to Frankfort. I can actually drive from NOLA to Frankfort in about the same time all that takes and with easier pee stops, infinitely better food, and in considerably more comfort. And when the meetings are over, I don’t have a mad dash in five o’clock Louisville traffic to catch my flight. Less anxiety.

Airlines have squeezed the customer out of every last dime, charging or proposing to charge for what was formerly included in your ticket cost. Meals? Forget it. Either buy something in the airport or make do with a small bag of pretzels.

Seat comfort? Forget that. They have added rows both ways. You get to share that armrest with your neighbor (better hope it is a skinny woman), and when the guy in front reclines his seat, it will be right into your kneecaps. Reclining yours moves you to an awkward contorted position from which sleeping is possible only for those who have been without sleep for at least the last three days. Now I hear one airline is offering (and I use that word very loosely) a special lower rate with even less legroom, and the seat doesn’t even recline. Oh, and no carryon. You must check even your computer. Not gonna happen for me.

Overbooking – I understand they want to fill the seats of no-shows—milk every penny out of that flight— but aren’t those seats already paid for by the no-show (or his insurance policy)? Isn’t that double-dipping?

Standing with hand-straps like on the subway is next. Not for moi. Flying has become a form of self-abuse that I refuse to submit myself to unless I have no other choice. That takes a trip to Europe off the table for me.

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Meet Maggie

Been a while since I posted a teaser from my latest book 1943. Well, here is one. This excerpt introduces a main character to the story, Maggie. Considering that this story has an underlying romance element, it may seem strange that the second half of that romance (Maggie) doesn’t show up until almost half way through the book. Here we see her first appearance after she has had a particularly bad date that left her feeling a bit “desperate”. She is a divorcee whose husband has left her some years before. Dating, at forty-five, has proven to be something less than she had hoped for.


After regaining her composure, she stood and tore off a paper towel from the dispenser under the kitchen cabinet, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. “No use crying over it now,” she reminded herself.

Her cell phone rang, and she fished for it in the bowels of her huge purse, hoping to find it before whomever was calling was sent to voice-mail. It was Darrel, her most recent mistake. “Oh, it’s you,” she muttered when she saw the caller ID and simply tossed the phone back into the purse.

Maggie went to the refrigerator and retrieved a Diet Coke, popped the top and gulping nearly half of it down, expecting that to help. But it didn’t. She still felt like crap—useless and unloved—cheap—and now needing to belch. She let it fly, and it was a good one.

The phone rang again. “Go away!” she screamed at it. It did not. It rang for another eight rings before whoever it was gave up, probably HIM.

Then the house phone rang. She snatched it from the charging cradle. “What?” she yelled into the phone.

“My, aren’t we testy tonight,” said Scarlet. “Something wrong?”

“Nothing. Sorry. What do you want?”

“Checking on you to see how you liked your date.”

“He was an utterly useless pile of cow manure.”

“Wow! Liked him that much, huh? What did he do?”

“He was a jerk, a complete narcissist-in-love-with-himself jerk. Then he wanted me to go back to his condo for a drink and…”

“I take it you passed on that exciting offer?” quipped Scarlet.

Maggie laughed at her sarcasm. “What is it with men that everyone of them thinks just because I’m over forty I must be desperate to get laid by just any smooth-talking jerk?”

“You’re not?” Scarlet asked, trying to sound sarcastic.

Maggie sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”

“You have my sympathies. Finding a good one isn’t easy. I’m looking for husband number three now. The first two were jerks.”

“Tell me about it. I’m done with this singles and dating bit. I haven’t the time to waste on idiots who are trying to impress me with their toned bodies and clever, flattering banter.”

“Wait! Don’t do anything rash. I just opened a bottle of pinot noir, and I’m on the way over there.”

“No, no. I don’t need to get smashed over this.” But it was too late. The phone was dead and Scarlet was already out the door. Less than thirty seconds later she waltzed in Maggie’s back door.

“I’m sure glad you live across the street. Makes these midnight bitch sessions so much easier.” With that she grabbed two wine glasses from the rack and offered one to her friend. “You need to whine, and wine goes so well with whining.”

As Scarlet filled the glasses, Maggie laughed. “Scarlet, I love you. You could always make me smile when I was feeling down.”

“What are friends for but to be there when you’re hurting?” As Scarlet passed the wine to her, she paused a long moment before responding in a more serious tone, “Maggie, you are a beautiful woman with so much to offer a man. Don’t give up on life. You just need to find the right one, one who deserves you. Your ex-husband didn’t. He was a jerk, and I told you that before you married him. Ken is gone from your life, out in California chasing beach bunnies and probably catching some social disease. That’s a plus—that he’s gone from your life, that is—not the social disease part. That has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for you, but you have to give it some time.”

“Time? What about the four guys I’ve dated since Ken left me? Explain those.”

“Simple. I never got to approve any of those. You were on your own, and well, you made bad calls. You should have passed them by me for my inspection first. I have a sixth sense about these things.”

“Sixth sense? But you’re working on husband number three. How can you spot my jerks but not your own?”

Scarlet shrugged as she took a sip of wine before replying with a wave of her hand, “I donno. I get all wrapped up in the heat of the moment, if you get my meaning. I can be more objective with your jerks and see their flaws before you discover them the hard way.” She held up her hand. “OK, so you had a bad experience—check that—a few bad experiences. I know this dating thing can be a pain, especially if they are auditioning for the role of life partner instead of just a goodtime friend. I know you well enough to know you’re not someone who can get along indefinitely without a partner. Frankly, I’m surprised you’ve lasted this long. I know you’re trying, but I think you may not be giving them a chance. You’re afraid to commit.”

“You suggesting I was too hasty with Darrel?”

“Not at all. He was and remains a jerk. What I’m saying is not all of them are. Don’t get discouraged. The right one will come along, and when he does, don’t let him get away. Because you’ve been hurt in the past doesn’t mean you’ll always be hurt in the future. Sometimes, you just have to trust your heart, even when logic is screaming no. I was the class clown and can be flip about this. You are the more serious member of our dynamic duo—well at least since college anyway. Back then, you were kind of wild, and now you’re a professional woman running a successful business—I’m babbling, aren’t I? You’re the kind of person who needs that happy-ever-after ending, but remember this: Every happy ending has to have a beginning.” Scarlet remained silent for a moment to allow that to sink in. “And sometimes, that beginning may look rather strange at first. Yeah, you’ve made a few bad calls, but not all men are like Ken or Darrel—or the other three. There are actually some rare gems out there that can appreciate something good when they see it. You have to give them a chance to show you that.”


1943 – Road Trip! Searching for Miss Betty on a WWII Harley-Davidson is available here.

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Fifty Years Later…

In the fall semester of college 1965, I made a decision that has changed my life forever—and for the better. I made a whole bunch of new friends and had wonderful experiences with them I would have never had otherwise. I pledged a fraternity—Epsilon Chi Chapter of Kappa Sigma, to be exact. This was at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL), which is now called the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL).

I began that session with no thought of joining a frat, but my neighbors at our new off-campus apartment were all Kappa Sigs and recruited me and my two roommates. I am thankful they did. I “went active” in the winter of ’66 and finally graduated in ’68. Of all my college experiences, those three years were the best. I made friends that I still have contact with. Some stood in my wedding, and I stood in theirs. While those were fun times, they eventually came to an end with graduation. Many of us went off into the military, marriage, and jobs after leaving school, and many of us lost contact with most of our brothers.

Fifty years later, an event changed that. A brother, Bo Cooksey, was about to pass with cancer, and some of his Kappa Sig brothers reached out to others from Bo’s era for a party in Lafayette. About thirty-five brothers from that period were located and able to come, some from far away states. It was a wonderful time in spite of the reason for the gathering. It stirred in us the need to not wait again until one of us was dying before getting together again. A reunion sprang from that.

A year later 102 brothers from the 1960s were found and able to attend a reunion in the Alumni Center at UL. In the process of searching for all these brothers, we discovered that thirty-seven of us were deceased already, which isn’t surprising, considering we were all in our mid sixties–mid seventies. Some died of diseases or accidents—and even Vietnam—many way too early in life.

It was a gathering with laughter and tears, and it will go down in my memory among my fondest. Yes, a few of us might have gotten a little snockered (not me). Many old tales were recalled, but the truth was never allowed to stand in the way of a good story. David Coughlin regaled us with his memories of the “Mobile Gross-Out Unit” activated in response to us being put on probation. Yes, we were on probation at least once while I was there. Back then Kappa Sigs (on the USL campus at least) were known as the “Animals,” and this was years before the movie “Animal House” came out. I don’t think we were as bad as those guys in the movie, but some might disagree, the Mobile Gross-Out Unit being just one reason for that.

For those who must know the details: It involved several brothers (who shall remain nameless, as they have attained some level of professional respectability as adults) riding around the campus in an IH Scout 4X4 with the top removed (and past the frat house that turned us in) while exposed their backsides, a position which is generally referred to as a “moon.” At least it was a simple moon and not a “double hog-back growler” (which, believe me, is much worse, but that’s another story, and it shall not be told on this blog.)

The infraction was hazing, which the Epsilon Chi chapter practiced back then. It really wasn’t that bad and prepared me well for my military basic training after graduation, which was a cakewalk after experiencing “Hell Week” as a pledge.

What’s my point? We make friends in our travel through the Valley of Death. Sometimes those friendships are allowed to fade away—and we should not allow that to happen. “Friends and Brothers” are too valuable to let slip away.


The pic is of me in my Eric “Otter” Stratton pose.

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I’m retired?

No, the question mark in the title is not a typo. I have been officially retired since February 15, 2017 after 44 years with SPAR, Inc. Been there since 1973 after I got out of the Air Force. It was a fun ride while it lasted. I got to work on some truly wonderful, challenging, interesting, and rewarding projects. During those years, I had the privilege of working with some very talented people, designing packaging and product promotions for local, national, and international brands. My team at SPAR won numerous awards over the years: locally with the New Orleans Ad Club, nationally with the American Advertising Federation, and even some international design awards. Like I said, I had a talented team.

But all good things must come to an end. Upon reaching 72, I decided I needed to hang it up and go home. My expectation was that I would live the life of leisure after working since I was fourteen. So far, that has not happened. I intended to devote my “leisure” time to painting, writing, and Bible study. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. I have done some Bible study, but no writing and I have not lifted a paint brush yet. Instead, Janis has had me digging holes in the yard to plant stuff in and running a chain saw cutting other stuff down. Seems rather contradictory, doesn’t it? I mean planting and then destroying?

I’m having to take more doses of OTC pain killers these days, and a good bourbon on the rocks in the evening feels mighty rewarding after a day swinging a shovel or a chain saw—and feeling it. I’m hopeful that this period of physical exertion I had not previously associated with retirement comes to an end soon—before it kills me. Otherwise, I may have to go find a day job so I can get some rest.

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