Going up to Chico tomorrow for a (2-HOUR) drive to see a man about a late 70’s Sansui MONSTER receiver. Lights and wavy-wand meters that go back and forth. I’m really not an Audiophile guy, my ears are tin – but/and like a ’78 Bianchi all-Campy Nuevo Record — blah-blah — it’s something I would have simply been totally unable to afford at the time as a lawnmower pusher-guy and campus food-service pot-washer. And I was a good pot-washer, and a better student than my dormitory-mates who were simply trust-fund babies awaiting their turn at the next elite enterprise job-slot. I had to work. But I was still just a chump.
My affluent College-Contemporaries bitched about the relative ~and~ competitive merits of their exotic turntables. And then here comes me: THE Doofus: scratch-scratch. I was not a very popular,, thumb-fingered guy. But all that techno-electron tail-sniffing left me in awe, because I didn’t even have a circular piece of vinyl for which to spin. I was between worlds and never had records to begin with (Records? Not even my own Immigration and Naturalization papers). People with enviable “collections” – serious the round black damn things weighed a tonne, too much, and took up too much space, but mainly they also cost too much. Stuff I did not have I also did not rally miss, because I knew at any time I could be gone and they would still be butt-sniffing. So I went to Vienna with nothing musical. Maybe I was lucky to be a fool – I was footloose and fancy free in more ways than I even knew.
But now I’m going up to look at a sound-machine of epic proportions, to drive a couple crazy speakers for the now-other house — up in the piney woods, because I have walls to paint and floors to fix, and a whole new project in which to live…….

Directionless Travel

Back in the late 70’s when I was tramping around and wasn’t sure which road to take, where to go next, or even when to move-on, I would often pull out a small pouch with three Chinese coins from a shop in Chinatown, and consult the I-Ching. Fat lot of good it ever did, but it was a kind of time-out to acknowledge I had no clue. I didn’t pray to God for directional guidance, I prayed to Him for protection and perspicacity. The two things He couldn’t necessarily give to an idiot, a fool, and a knave I asked for – and the one thing that might work, I didn’t. I think I eventually got it but I wish I had prayed for Math skills and an ability to easily understand numbers…
I had messed-around with Tarot and other systems of divination including Color and Personality cards since Jr. High (probably weighted with significance because it had an unmlaut) – and you must include the dreaded and thoroughly bogus High School Career Guidance-Center Test among such methods of divination.
Later with enough knowledge and experience about how such ephemera workd, I probably could have set-up shop letting people tell their own stories back to themselves. As it was I eschewed a University path in “Psychology” mainly because I wanted to see how Society and Civilization actually worked and functioned, not how we wished it did. Apart from the Madame Zelda’s of the world who hustle poor shlubs for big sums of money, the method is mainly an internal reflection pool that draws up it’s own signatories from a person’s own internal daemons – and I kinda hustled myself. But there was a lot of that going around in the 70’s, really a lot.
At least I didn’t get into crystals and interplanetary nutzoid stuff, and my experience enabled me to avoid the Ashram-path to perpetual poverty and a pauper’s indulgences, or the amplified brainy aspect of Heaven’s Gate Scientism. Young people shouldn’t seek-out this pseudo omniscient “wisdom” crap but in a world of extreme competition with pressure for success, pressure for companionship, and pressure for acceptance, it appears as shortcut to at least some kind of Status and Achievement — and it’s been around ever since some idiot ate a green bug or a bad piece of barley and saw lights in his head – and didn’t die from it.
Somehow it didn’t kill me either.
UPDATE: It also REALLY didn’t help much either — not in companionship or achievement, and it leads to a lot of blind alleys worse than any DOS D&D game, black as night and fewer clues. I wish I had done something different or had some skills that provided work and a bit of money, but I was unemployable and couldn’t even get a job in the relative comfort of Retail, so I did manual labor.

Enola Gay

One of the things my dad mentioned in a brief “sermon” when we were visiting at the Homestead on Christmas, was that our friend Earl who died a few weeks ago was the substitute/alternate pilot for Paul Tibbets on the Enola Gay.
Earl mostly flew the Navigator seat because he was so good at numbers, a skill that advanced him greatly at Lockheed after the war when he patented a number of aeronautical processes etc., and also because everybody in the aircraft wanted to get home on the dot and dime instead of landing in the ocean – but he had the pilot’s wings for a B29 and was well qualified to fly it – and he was the next name on the list.
After the cessation of hostilities and before demobilizing he flew missions that dropped pallets of materials and food to guys on the beach who had been released from Japanese POW camps. They were in pretty rough shape.
Godspeed you greatest-generation, and thanks for the Liberty – I wish we had kept hold of it better.

It Fits!

Despite some internet chatter and misgivings this awesome, semi-old, Marine Corps OK3CS bayonet from the Afghan/Iraq Theater fits my Mossberg 590 just fine. Locks on very tight in fact. WOOT!
USMC Combat Bayonet
“From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…” Too bad our recent escapade in Tripoli turned out so disastrously, the Current Administration is a one-man wrecking ball – our soldiers and sailors and corpsmen and airmen (and women each-too) deserve so much better.
UPDATE: the Marine bayonet is a bit longer (8-inch blade with a 1-7/8″ serrated section vs. 7-inch blade) and a bit stronger than the Army M9 unit, so good.

Wet on Wet

Another drencher is coming (UPDATE: upons uns right now) and Folsom Lake is up seven feet in the last week, and from 17% capacity last January to %37 now. Yay water!

Lake Oroville now stands at 32 percent of capacity, while Lake Shasta is at just 31 percent. California will need a lot more rain and snow to break the drought.
But the recent rain has improved prospects for gold panners, said Brad Sankus, who was mining Sunday along the South Fork of the American River near the Salmon Falls Bridge.
“It’s fantastic,” Sankus said. “It’s really moving stuff around. That’s what we need for gold panning.”

Gold? Yes, GOLD!
(**UPDATE: Wettest December in seven years to-date, on record. We’re doin’ good.)
In this Obamaconomy every bit helps… Reminds me of the Carter Era but without the weird and gaudy vehicles of AMC: the Gremlin and Hornet, and the terrarium Pacer. AMC was an exquisitely American company conglomerated from refrigerators and vehicular obsolescence, an automobile company formed by the 1954 merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company. They gave us the staid Rambler, and later the rakish Javelin, the blimpish Matador, and the hot-rod AMX. What do we have now by comparison? All those $3,000 Corollas that started coming in on the wave of Japanese Import-Invasion are settled in land-fills by now.

My dad bought a 6-cylinder Rambler station wagon with his meager Pastor’s salary in ’62, and we drove it down to Ensenada (which I barely remember, being only 4 or so) and then all the way across-country (when I was 5) to a Baptist Mission conference in Green Bay Wisconsin. Along the way I saw the Badlands of South Dakota and the faces on Mt. Rushmore – and other sights like the green Sinclair Dinosaur gas-stations. I remember Mom driving through the night in Nevada as we kids slept in back, and the sound of sprinting jackrabbits, drawn to the light like moths, hitting the undercarriage. *thump* *thump-thump* You don’t stop for jackrabbits. We drove through a torrential Mid-West thunderstorm in Nebraska and saw a lightning bolt flash to the ground in the middle of a farmer’s field, halfway between us in the car on the wet road and a small farmhouse. A plume of smoke arose as the crash of thunder filled the station wagon. Dad said something about, “Probably a small blob of glass out there,” and drove on at the recommended 65mph speed-limit. I learned that 60mph was, “a mile a minute” and both my timekeeping and math skills advanced. We stopped at gas-stations with 10-¢ soda pop-dispenser, one where the bottles lay in a column of chilled air behind a tall, thin, glass-door, held back by metal yokes. You had to read the cap to choose between Coke, 7-Up, Root-Beer and Dr. Pepper, and then forcibly yank-out the soda you wanted after you heard the sound of the coin-drop. There were some weird flavors and mysterious brands back then too. On hot days and without a dime, sometimes we just opened the thin door and stood in the chill breeze of the machine.

My favorite was 7-Up, but a few years later when we were overseas there was only Coke and Fanta Orange. There was no root-beer except what might be made by local soda-pop entrepreneurs. Locals made soda from tap-water and local flavors, colored with fluorescent dyes and bottled with bottle-caps. Hand-bottling technology hasn’t changed since the Gold Rush days and you just need fizzy water, a lever, and the expensive part: caps. Sometimes the local pop-caps were picked-up off the ground re-used since that was an expensive bit of formed metal. At small shops selling “Coke” you also had to check and see if the bottles were re-used and that the cap was un-bent, because in a miserably poor country and an effort to save money and make a bit more, people would simply mix up their own batch of fizzy-brown stuff for sale. There were no sanitation or hygienic standards as such, or health inspectors – except for the Big Ugly-American Company Coca-Cola that also made Fanta. Drinking anything bottled besides that stuff could set-back your Typhoid-Cholera booster shot a ways and have you lying down puking your guts into a basket in between running to the bathroom with convulsive diarrhea. Also no using the ice or drinking iced-beverages – you didn’t know where that water came from, and in a miserably poor country with incredibly polite and friendly people, none of them wanted to offend you, so you would always be assured and re-assured by vendors and servers that everything was “pukka and top-notch.” Good times. (Various UPDATES.)

Gray Saturday

IMGP1903_x1000Awoke around 4:00AM in the dark to the sound of pelting rain. At 6:00 the light had barely come-up and the gray was thick all around. This time we’re not above the crud and in the Light. Wet, cold, rainy-gray days with mist in the gullies and down between the ridges always reminds me of Boarding School. Not much to do, and all that is lacking to really fix the reminder is a touch of dysentery or a fever. I spent a few days in the Dispensary at different times. It was a mini mock-hospital with a nurse and white, enamel-painted steel-framed beds separated by curtains. It smelled like disinfectant. One night I was there for fourteen stitches to my hand where I had cut it open on a broken bottle in deep grass while we were at the lower playing field, playing Capture The Flag in the dark. There was usually one or two sick boys attempting to eat barley soup, and recovering from some disgusting tropical ailment like worms. The medicine you have to take for that makes you weak as a dog.


There was even plenty of .22LR in evidence, and big and little canisters of powder! Problem being they had 2018 prices attached. I came across no Ninja Tacticool Operator Slings, and the sole Ontario M9 pig-sticker was going for New York prices. But there was a bunch of great old lever-guns in archaic calibers, some sweet M1 Garands and a variety of old single-actions – and many friendly faces. I bought a bunch of raffle tickets for a nice AR Upper from the NRA guys, and had a fine time chatting. Next time I should walk around with a chipped coffee-cup and dribble-stained t-shirt – would have fit-in right well too. It’s a small-town show with some gemutlichkeit to it. I counted things I already had, and in better shape – including antique ammo – maybe next year I should set-up a table?

Grail-Grail, Puzzle-Pieces

When you start building a project, whether it’s a rifle or a vehicle, you need to begin with the propellant/power-plant unit in mind. I know everybody builds Fords and Chevys, but where I can find a 1918 Hispano-Suiza V-8?  – or maybe here? 300-something HP seems to be the goal for the motor, not sure about the weight… Some awesome Kiwis built a few.

After that a reproduction kit, or something. A few hundered hours spinning wrenches and slapping dope on silk, volia!
Since I live on a hill, when it’s done it will be relatively simple to get it push-started and off down to the airport below, no?
If I had a ranch in Texas and a Class III stamp (and a dozen Dillons set up for .303 British) the Lewis gun would be cool (and the synchronized Vickers too), and I could fly around with it and rat-a-tat to my hearts content.
With a few lights and some IR stuff it would be an awesome-bitchin’ night-fighter shootin’ wild hogs – as long as the exhaust and engine heat-plume didn’t make the IR bloom…
And of course it would be cool to have a ridin’/flyin’ buddy to join along. I know there’s a bunch of Aero-Gunny types out there besides Bridgid, like Murphy’s Law for instance…

Civilization and the Grail

Probably most of you are familiar with Marko’s essay on Why the Gun is Civilization, (also widely copied and mistakenly attributed to some unknown “Maj. Caudill” ) and maybe also with the “Grail-Gun” series at Borepatch by, ASM826 – which  got me thinking about how many of my own guns are “Grail-Guns,” and it seems to me that the Holy Grail was really the chalice of Civilization, so grail-guns are really our way of holding onto that surprising Relic.  Interesting confluence, that.

My first rifle, the Krag-Jorgenson M1898 inspired me to learn to shoot – and I almost got into re-enacting.  I was bent on acquiring several pieces of Soldiers’ kit, but while looking around the whole turn-of-the-century military re-enacting “scene” pretty much dissolved.  So now I have a hat that’s worthy of the era, and an old leather belt and holster, and a 1900-dated Krag bayonet – because before the Gun was Civilization there was The Knife – and it’s a big one!  I also set to reading and studying to learn more about the conflict in the Philippines where the Krag rifle saw the most action.   I had never known or been taught anything about that time before, and the enthusiasm of it all inspired me to obtain the appropriate side-arm – but not the weak Colt .38 that caused the adoption of the 1911,  only its immediate predecessor would do, the M1909 Colt New Service.

I enjoyed firing the old rifle in bolt-action matches at my gun-club (that I joined because my dirt-ridin’ friend who helped me learn to shoot was a member), and thereupon came the second grail; an 1944 M1 Garand from the CMP.  And with the fire of Civilization ignited within me, I sought out the companion side-arm, a Colt M1911a1.  Had I been from a family of Marines an Ithaca or a Remington-Rand might have been the Grail, but my dad was Navy.  And it didn’t stop there, because my brother had an M1 Carbine I had to have one too.  His was a Rock-O-La, and mine became a National Postal Meter Carbine.  And I also needed bayonets for each rifle and carbine, and the book War Baby detailing the development and wartime production of the carbine, distributed among ten different contractors.

And as an aside for the Garand, while my Father-in-Law was dying a few years ago his roommate (briefly) at the sanitarium was an old soldier who had served in the Pacific Theater as an original Army Ranger.  His short term memory wasn’t much better than the FIL, but he could go on at length about his war experience, hiking up and down the mountains of New Guinea in the mud.  He said that years later he was at a WWII museum in Hawaii where a rifle was on display, and he recognized the serial-number – it was his own Garand.  And so I read The Ghost Mountain Boys, about the New Guinea campaign and then Sledge’s “With the Old Breed” about the fighting at Peleliu and on Okinawa.

But apart from these small bits of study and besides reading about WWI aircraft as a kid, my Military History and tactics knowledge is slim, thus NotClauswitz – which I even spelled wrong.  I was never good at playing RISK either.


Guns-n-Airplanes of my Youth

In the fall towards the end of my 7th year we left our precious and protected bubble-life among the BayAryans, and flew to an overseas destination that was anything but protected.

It was on a cool and blustery morning that we climbed into a hulking Pan-Am helicopter at the local airport and flew up to the big airport in San Francisco, then away to foreign land on a Pan-Am Jet Clipper 707s.  Hawaii our first destination was delicious nectar.  We stayed with old Missionary friends of my parents and ate poi at Church on Sunday – a slightly different take on the usual Communion Host.  A few days later Japan was next and it was raining upon arrival.  Tokyo was *interesting* wet-and-hot, and more Church friends to visit in Kyoto.  Following that we arrived in Bangkok Thailand (and stayed in a Missionary bungalow – you get the picture?).  The waterways called klongs and general environment was exotic beyond belief, and the heat had increased.  Our friends there were the Naval Attaché whom my dad knew from Annapolis.  Finally we landed in Calcutta – which was hotter than hell and stank like the devil, and still a hundred miles from our final destination.

At eight years old, desperately bored in the heat and humidity of the blistering sun, I would lay on my stomach on the cool red-purple tile floor and choose a random volume from the Encyclopedia, and open it up to and read.  The first long, multisyllabic word that I asked my older brother how to spell was, “How do you spell, Machine-gun?” And he replied patiently because he was a whole year-and-a-half older, “Mac-Hine-Gun – you pathetic moron.”  So learned to spell Machine-gun and studied its operation.

The diagrams in the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the air-cooled gas-operated .30 Caliber gun were tiny but detailed, with arrows and numbers.  It was a treasure-trove.  My young eyes and inquiring mind sought out each detail, from the combustion of the propellant, to the bullets’ travel, to the gas pushing on the bolt to reverse the bolt impulse, to cambering another cartridge – and it was there that I knew the cartridge was not one thing – a bullet – but that it was comprised of other components: primer, case, powder, bullet.  Like how molecules build on atoms, and dysentery was made of various stains of surly and extremely unpleasant amoeba molecules that could nearly kill you as fast as a bullet.   And I got sick that winter and nearly died.  There was a week-long period of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea until I was so weak I couldn’t stand up from my bed and had to crawl into the bathroom.  It sure seemed like I was done-for, and that’s how I remember it , but my parents don’t seem to remember anything much except for few doctor visits from the Missionary Clinic.  It must have been something bad in the food or unsanitary food-handling that even the unpleasant typhoid-cholera-diphtheria shots didn’t help.

Between the age of eight and eleven, I could tell you about many of the makes and models of WWI aircraft that ever flew – including their horsepower-to-weight ratio and engine size/hp – because I was busy reading, and the Encyclopedia Britannica had flight instructions and take-off and landing procedure as-documented were also very studiously examined, and nearly as important as reading Biggles – the legendary British airman, of whom the adventures  were usually available at the railway station reading/magazine cart.

I read about Otto Lilienthal who flew gliders in Germany and shifted his weight around to control them.  I read about the aces like the American Frank Luke who landed and took-off from a German observation dirigible, and race-car driver Eddie Rickenbacker, and the Canadians Ray Collishaw who flew a Sopwith Triplane, and Billy Bishop who flew an S.E.5a with a Lewis Gun mounted atop the wing and who may have shot-down and the Red Baron – Manfred Von Richthofen.  And in reading all this I also learned about Richard Wagner, the composer of the Flying Dutchman and the great French Aces like Georges Guynemer and Charles Nungesser .

So I *knew* how machine-guns worked and also *how* to fly, and my brother and I built numerous tissue-paper covered model airplanes – not just from those simple die-cut and numbered “kits,” but hand-built from wax-paper diagrams pinned down to a table where you had to cut all your own sticks and pieces and spars and shapes.  The center-of-gravity was a known concept and necessary component to aircraft design, and when I was nine I was determined to build a glider, and fly it off the rooftop of the old, three-story Missionary Bungalow.  Mom (always) said, “Not today, we’ll do that another time.”  And so my plans for a fabric-winged bamboo airplane never took final shape because it was dangerous.

Which was weird because we played with knives and the other usual dangerous toys, shot airguns (that were heavily controlled), swung from tall trees out over a canyon after jumping off a roof, slept under mosquito nets to avoid Malaria, traveled on steam-locomotives that stank like the devil, saw Leprosy and Elephantiasis close-up, had cobras rounded up from the garden – and generally lived amid a diverse population of where aboriginal bow-and-arrow hunters wearing only a lungi could be found sharing-space on the train platform next to a well-to-do Babu in perfect saffron-colored Kurta and Dhoti standing next to a khaki-dressed soldier holding a black-painted Short Magazine Lee Enfield with it’s forearm wrapped in wire.

And then they shipped us off to Boarding School and everything changed, again…