Monday, January 26, 2015

The Voters Have Spoken, and I will be Spending More Time With My Family!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Monday January 26, 2015
Mostly Cloudy 74°F/23°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
                Over the weekend, I posted my very first attempt to predict the outcome of one of Hollywood’s top awards programs for films and television, the SAG Awards.
                The voters have spoken.
                I bombed.
                But, that…as they say, is “Show Biz.”
                Now, my intent in even writing about this was to share with you, gentle reader, some of the back-story thinking on why I believe the SAG Awards are the very best barometer of an actor’s work. These awards are bestowed on the performers, by a jury of their peers. Of the top industry honors presented to actors, the SAG Awards are selected by the 111,228 members of SAG-­AFTRA. The awards date back 21 years, when the program was created by the Screen Actors Guild. SAG and AFTRA – the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, merged in 2012 to become the present day amalgam SAG-AFTRA. While members of the Motion Picture Academy and the Television Academy, who fall into several different categories, vote for recipients of the Oscars and Emmys, with the SAG Awards, performers vote for performers.
                Each year SAG-AFTRA members like me are given the opportunity to view the nominated productions. The union and the studios host screenings, send out DVD copies of nominated films, and give access to internet streaming sites so the members can watch the performances. It can be a very time consuming process. It also serves to enhance the sense of community felt by people in the entertainment industry, and I believe the process enhances the validation as performers felt by the recipients of the SAG Awards. In the industry, it has long been felt that the SAG Awards also point the way to how the Oscars and the Emmys will be awarded.
                Now, as for this year’s SAG Awards. If this were a Supreme Court decision, I would be the Justice tasked with writing the dissenting brief, or the minority report. In short, I was way off the mark in my choices.
                As reported in the Los Angeles Times this morning, the SAG Awards went to:
·         “Birdman” won the SAG Award for Best Cast, the closest award to Oscar’s Best Picture. (I picked “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” “Birdman” also beat out “Boyhood,” “The Imitation Game,” and “The Theory of Everything.”
·         Eddie Redmayne won the lead actor award for “The Theory of Everything.” (I picked Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game).”
·         Julianne Moore for Lead Actress in “Still Alice.” (I chose Keira Knightly for “Imitation Game.”)
·         Patricia Arquette for Supporting Actress in “Boyhood.” (I went with Felicity Jones in “Theory of Everything.”)
·         J.K. Simmons, Supporting Actor in “Whiplash.” (Simmons is really one of my favorite actors, but I was thinking “Lifetime Achievement” kudo and went with Robert Duvall).
I didn’t post any choices in the television category since I felt there were too many choices and too many programs to really screen all of them and render an opinion.
        I also want to take a moment to thank my friend John Corcoran for his note to me right after he saw my blog post. “Cork” is the real deal. He’s a real, live film and television critic and still plies the trade. Here’s his note:
“I don't really have a dog in this fight as it were, but I agree the SAG awards are among the classier award shows given each year.  I have a few disagreements. I'd start with my choice for best actress, which would be Julianne Moore. This was a very demanding role, one of great subtlety and nuance, and had to be played by an actor unafraid to express the non-linear working of Alzheimer's. One day fine, one day convinced you've utterly lost it. Nice to see a part where the victim is self-analytical and smart enough to know what's wrong with her and provide play-by-play.  In supporting actor, you favor a veteran master actor well known and previously honored for extraordinary work in his long career.  Good work by Mr. Duvall but nothing approaching a career best. That can't be said of J.K. Simmons, whose performance isn't just great, but a quantum measure above anything I've ever seen him in before. Not only do I believe his a great performance, but a one-for-the-ages level performance. He is no mere monster here, and he does some wonderful things to add to the quirkiness of the monster he could have been if played as a caricature. Give Duval a Life Achievement award, but after all those years of toiling in obscurity as a Veteran Character I believe Simmons deserves the Oscar and will get it.”

Thanks, John. I appreciate your comment. We agree on Simmons. I’ve got my fingers crossed for him.  And, next year at SAG Awards time, I’ll defer to you on predicting the outcomes.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

"And the Award Goes To......"

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Saturday January 24, 2015
Sunny and Windy 68°F/20°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
Unleaded gas $2.24 gal/ €1.99 gal
At the top of my viewing list this weekend is my favorite awards show. I’ll be watching from my rocking chair with my faithful dog Lola curled up on the futon beside me.  It’s the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - my favorite awards show because I actually get to help decide who the winners will be. I have that privilege because I belong to the entertainment union, SAG-AFTRA, which sponsors the SAG Awards.
It is, to quote its website, “The only televised awards shows to exclusively honor performers, it presents thirteen awards for acting in film and television in a fast moving two hour show which airs live on TNT and TBS. The awards focus on both individual performances as well as on the work of the entire ensemble of a drama series and comedy series, and the cast of a motion picture.” As a union member and SAG Awards voter, I could not feel more privileged if I were a member of the College of Cardinals selecting the next Pope.
As for the other awards shows, I usually watch another channel. For one thing, directing all those egos in one coherent production is worse than herding cats. Apart from Sacheen Littlefeather’s speech at the Oscars back in 1973, when she turned down the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando in The Godfather, there are rarely any surprises. And, I absolutely hate it when the recipient pulls out the written crib notes so that everyone from deity down to hair stylist and caterer can get credit for the golden moment. I can understand why so many of them show up hammered. And even when the “exit music” starts, it does not mean that the award winner is about to shut up. (I have actually gone to the kitchen for a fresh drink, hit the bathroom on the way out my front door and mowed the front yard, and still found them babbling on the dais when I returned to the living room). I’ll settle for reading the results in the trades the next morning. That takes me 30 seconds.
The SAG Awards is different. These winners are my former colleagues, and, every year, I am sent a collection of DVD’s and links to super secure studio website and asked to view and vote, along with several thousand other professional performers. I usually don’t share this story, partly because recent acquaintances will just chalk it up to “senior dementia,” and for those who’ve known me professionally for all those years, I don’t have to. But, I’m breaking radio silence this year to share with you an insider’s view that there is at least one awards program on television that is the “real deal.”
I’m not going to predict the final outcome. For that, I’d have to be clairvoyant. But, I would like to share some of my impressions.
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. My vote goes to – The Grand Budapest Hotel! After watching Imitation Game, Theory of Everything and Birdman, I almost passed on Budapest Hotel. After all, I had already seen Edward Norton in Birdman and he was his usual amazing self. No, I went for Budapest Hotel because I have rarely seen so many great actors under one roof having so much fun just by being great actors having so much fun. Budapest Hotel went immediately into my short collection of “cult classics,” along with The Big Lebowsky and anything by the Coen Brothers.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: This was a toughie for me. I admire all five nominees-Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Keaton, and Eddie Redmayne. Gyllenhaal especially hit close to home for me, because in my days as a TV newsman I had known some real versions of the rapacious paparazzo that he portrayed in Nightcrawler. Mine came down to a choice between the portrayals of two historical figures Benedict Cumberbatch as cryptanalyst Alan During and Eddie Redmayne as physicist Steven Hawking. It was a saying from my favorite quotemeister, Winston Churchill, that finally swayed me into voting for Benedict Cumberbatch, when Churchill described Russia as, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Of course – Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game.”
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: The nominees – Jennifer Aniston, Cake; Felicity Jones, Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore, Still Alice; Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl; and Reese Witherspoon, Wild. From her first moment, Felicity Jones literally jumped off the screen at me as she consistently impressed me with her ability to create a character that so complimented that of her leading man, Eddie Redmayne. Remember, the SAG Awards are all about ensemble performances. So, my choice is – Felicity Jones for Theory of Everything.
Outstanding Performance By a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: The nominees are five of my favorite actors – Robert Duvall, The Judge; Ethan Hawke, Boyhood; Edward Norton, Birdman; Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher; J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. Now, I don’t know if Robert Duvall will be have many more winning roles, he is 83 after all, so my vote for him also represents a desire to honor him for a lifetime of acting achievement. I first saw him as the reclusive Boo Radley in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Also, as I screened The Judge, I got a kick out of seeing SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard as the judge who sentences the ailing and old Robert Duvall character to prison. Good to see that I’m still a member of a union comprised of working performers. I think Ken should get a SAG award. How about Best Performance by the President of SAG/AFTRA in a motion picture?
Finally, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. The nominees are: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood; Keira Knightly, The Imitation Game; Emma Stone, Birdman; Meryl Streep, Into the Woods; Naomi Watts, St. Vincent. As the Joan Clarke character came on screen in The Imitation Game, I watched for a while then reset the video to the opening of that scene, all the while thinking, “Is THAT Keira Knightly?!!!”  Very different than the Keira Knightly of Love, Actually, or Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Not just another pretty face in this key supporting role. Knightly gets my vote for Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
Well, by now the votes are in and counted, and we all get to see how it turns out on Sunday Night if you watch it on TNT or TBS. I’ll be following the awards with you. We can compare notes on Monday.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

As the NY Times might describe it: A Small Correction!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Wednesday January 21, 2015
Mostly Sunny 71°F/22°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
                When they do the next iteration of “The Wizard of Oz,” I want to audition for the part of the Scarecrow. Ray Bolger did a wonderful job in the 1939 MGM production, but I think I have aged into a place where I could be very convincing in that role in a new production, even though I certainly can’t tap dance like Bolger could. At 74, I periodically seem to be in need of a new brain.
                Earlier this week, I wrote about a visit to a medieval abbey that my son and daughter in law took me to last year when I was on my extended visit with them in Italy. While I could recall the weather that day and every detail about the church itself and what the local townsfolk were wearing, I could not, for the life of me remember the name of the abbey.
                Now, I wanted to tell that story on that day, and after a great deal of brain-wracking and attempts to clear the fog from my elderly memory, I went ahead and told it without providing the name of the place. This was an oversight that was quickly remedied by separate Facebook postings by my son, Michael and his sweetheart, Laura. So now, in the finest traditions of journalism, I am going to publish a correction, and update my blog.
                The minute he read my story, Michael responded by posting a link to the Wikipedia article about the abbey. This was followed moments later with pictorial proof that we visited there – a picture of my son and me in front of the ancient Farfa Abbey, which had been founded by the Benedictine Order.“The abbey had been built on the ruins of an ancient Roman estate, which, in turn had been built on the ruins of an even more ancient pagan temple. There had been a Catholic church on the site for a thousand years.” The abbey’s official website provided even more information. It’s definitely worth your time to visit the website. Here’s the link.
Los Dos MikeBos at Farfa, Italy
On Monday, I had written,
                If you are planning to explore Tuscany or Sabina on your next Roman holiday, I heartily recommend visiting Farfa Abbey, and make sure you stop by the Herbalist’s Shop at the front entrance. That’s where you will find the honey I mentioned along with other specialties like locally produced olive oil, soaps and ointments and other such items. The abbey is about an hour’s drive from Rome. It’s been there longer than I had thought. Its history as an abbey has been traced back to the 6th century, with the original structure having been destroyed after the fall of Rome.
                Here’s “Today in History” for January 21st.
1793 - Louis XVI of France is executed by the guillotine in Paris, following his conviction for high treason. (I mention this as a reminder to Islamo-extremists and others of a similar ilk to be careful when you piss off the French people.)
1968 - Vietnam War: Battle of Khe Sanh - One of the most publicized and controversial battles of the war begins. (You can either confirm this date in the Almanac, or call my Marine buddy Bruce Kaspari who was actually there and will be happy to share the fun times with you).
2008 - Black Monday in worldwide stock markets. (Was it a Monday? All I remember was the sun started coming up, then the world went dark until yesterday, when President Obama gave his State of the Union Speech). 


Monday, January 19, 2015

If it's not going right, it must be Monday!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” January 19, 2015
Partly Sunny 71°F/22°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
Unleaded gas $2.45/gal or €2.11/gal (55¢/liter)
[Don’t be surprised if your gas station is mobbed by cars with Italian license plates!]
Greetings, everybody. This is your captain from the flight deck. We’ll be taking off for points unknown shortly, just as soon as we get final clearance from the tower, and your flight crew completes running through our checklist. We have no idea where we will end up at the end of today’s flight, but here on “Escapade Airways,” it’s not the final destination that matters but the adventure we have along the way.
Check list:
1-      Open eyes. Take pulse.  OK? Check!
2-      Get up. Head for bathroom. Don’t forget to brush teeth. Check!
3-      Head for kitchen. Pour water for coffee. Check!
4-      Notice plugged drain in kitchen sink. Check!
5-      Send email to apartment manager requesting drain repair. Check!
6-      Note that you are completely out of coffee. Check!
7-      Turn on whistling kettle for tea. Check!
8-      Make tea. Add lemon and honey. Check blog responses and email. Check!
9-      Check on Lola. Is she awake, asleep or deceased? One eye open and breathing? Good, you’ll have someone to pal around with today. Check!
My mornings start this way just about every day. I like to take a few minutes first thing to make coffee and take my personal inventory before I plug in my Sonicare and get dressed. Today I am cheered to read a new Tweet from Melissa Etheridge who has come across my blog and takes a moment to tell me that she enjoys it.  If I should die before breakfast, her note has made my day. The plugged kitchen sink drain and my stupidity in not buying coffee while I was marketing yesterday just rolls off my back. Even my homebrewed cup of tea tastes good this morning.
As I ladled the honey into my tea cup, I flash back to a Sunday morning last year during my Italian adventure. Mike and Laura were driving us from Rome to Selci, a small town in Sabina, in the hills above Rome for a weekend at her folks’ vacation home. On the way, Laura directs Mike to detour to a 12th century abbey. In the blink of an eye, we leave the 21st century and begin a trip back to the Middle Ages. Parking the car we walk along a path toward the abbey in the distance. The way is lined with vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables from their makeshift stalls. We are greeted warmly along the path, and assure each vendor that we would stop and shop with them on our way back.
The abbey had been built on the ruins of an ancient Roman estate, which, in turn had been built on the ruins of an even more ancient pagan temple. There had been a Catholic church on the site for a thousand years. A sign at the entrance invited travelers to enter. I’m not a Catholic, but I enjoy visiting places like this. Moments after I took my seat toward the rear of the sanctuary, I heard some distant voices singing a Gregorian chant. Then, the sound of chimes as the scent of incense touched my nostrils. Preceded by a cadre of altar boys, the priest began his procession into the sanctuary to begin the celebration of the mass. As they passed my pew, I glanced across the church to see one of the faithful in a confessional opposite from where we sat. I couldn’t help but wonder what sins were being divulged at that moment. Our Sunday outing had transported me back to a very dark time in European history, but I realized that even in those trying times there were places that offered relief from the darkness and a respite for a weary traveler. Then, came the moment that connects my visit to the abbey and today’s cup of English Breakfast Tea. In the little abbey gift shop that we visited following the mass, was a display of souvenirs and keepsakes. The abbey’s shops financially support the church and the monks who serve there. The little shop stocked a variety of local delicacies which were grown in the fields around the abbey, and one of the most popular items were the jars of honey made by the bees that were tended by the monks of the abbey. Laura related the story of the monks and the abbey and the bees that inhabited the countryside. Much love and tender care were expended on the blossoms that flourished in the surrounding countryside, and the result was a continuous harvest of an especially fragrant and sweet honey. People come from great distances to visit the abbey and purchase it.
As much as I love honey as a sweetener for my tea or an ingredient in a delicate pastry, I always love a good story to accompany them. And, this was a wonderful story. I purchased several jars of this exquisite confection to give to friends as an accompaniment to my own story of our visit to the abbey.  On the way out, we stopped along the path to chat with the vendors, admire their wares, and make our purchases, as promised. Finally, it was back to the car and on to our next adventure, leaving our stopover in the 12th century behind us.

Footnote: Following my trip down memory lane, Lola and I went for our morning stroll, had coffee with some of the regulars downstairs in my apartment’s “social center,” and then trotted off to Trader Joe’s for a pound of their custom-ground Kona coffee ($19.99) along with some other supplies. When I returned, Juan, our miracle-working maintenance supervisor was knocking on my door to fix the plugged sink drain. By noon, my good ship “Lollipop” was back on course, and Lola and I were ready for our next adventure. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life!

 “LOST MUSKET DIARY” January 17, 2015 - 74 Years to the Date
Mostly Sunny 75°F/24°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
                He: “Say, would you like to join me for lunch?”
                She: “I’d LOVE to. Just give me a second while I run and get my teeth.”
                Ah! Life in the post-soixante-dix lane. Life after 70. And the number keeps going up. But, that’s a good thing. Thanks to my Sonicare and lots of flossing not to mention the skills of my dentists over the years, I still have all my teeth. But not everybody reaches this point in life with all the ivory intact. So, gather around the campfire boys and girls and let’s all sing!
“Happy Birthday to ME! Happy Birthday to Me! Buon compleanno a mi! Buon compleanno a mi! Happy Birthday, Dear Mikie! Happy Birthday to YOOOOUUUUUU! (And…many more!)”
Hot damn. I remembered. That in itself is an accomplishment. The kid has reached 74. A good moment to count my blessings.
 I had no inkling just how completely my life would change from 2013 to 2014. A year later, and I’m still adjusting, but, enough time has passed since last year’s watershed moment that I feel that I can now share some highlights of my journey. It’s been a year of rebuilding and renovation, and that is an ongoing process.
Now, I know I should be sitting quietly in my old rockin’ chair, wrapped in a blanket, sucking on a lemon and listening to my surviving friends and family sing that ever popular anniversary ditty while I try to blow out the forest fire on the top of my birthday cake. But, DAMN! I’m the one that got to this milestone in my life, and I want to be the one to sing the solo. As this latest orbit of mine around the sun progresses, I will be on the record as having officially outlived my grandfather. He was 74 when he left us back in 19-ought-47. Now, with this latest birthday, I’ve managed to match his accomplishment. Not too shabby considering I lost one uncle in his 30s, another right after he turned 50, and my own dad at 57.  But, when my divorce lawyer told me that the actuary said that I was good to go until age 83, that I began, ever so slightly, to hope that I might escape what seemed to be a curse visited upon the male Botula children. So, my 74th is a special one for me, and I plan on doing some serious reflecting.
I’ve known almost from the beginning that I share my natal date with one of our Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, a fellow Capricorn, who was also born on January 17th…. Not 1941 in New York City like me, but 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. Franklin epitomized what I always hoped to become: He was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. In later years, I also discovered that he was quite a “ladies man.” Hearts and giggles punctuated his life into his 80s. “Go, Ben!” “Yay, Mikie!”
January 17th is also known as an important date for reasons other than a birthday shared by Messrs Botula and Franklin. Some of the highlights:
·         1861 - Flush toilet patented by Mr. Thomas Crapper. (This is probably my favorite next to sharing the day with Ben Franklin).
·         1893 - Queen Liliuokalani deposed, Kingdom of Hawaii becomes a republic. (Important date in the progression of US imperialism, and it happened before we stole Panama from Nicaragua to build the Panama Canal. I’m a History major. I notice things like this).
·         1920 - First day Prohibition comes into effect in the US as a result of the 18th amendment. (OMG! This happened on my birthday, for chrissakes! Next to Pearl Harbor, the darkest day in American History).
·         1977 - Gary Gilmore, convicted of murder is executed by firing squad in the Utah state prison. (My KMPC buddy Larry Reed actually bought one of those gag newspapers with a headline that read: “Gilmore, Botula Celebrate on Jan. 17th”. No Larry, I haven’t forgotten your dreadful birthday present).
·         1989 - Gunman opens fire in Stockton, California schoolyard; 5 students slain, 30 wounded. (In my opinion, this is where a lot of this madness began. Stockton was my home for ten years and I used to drive past the school from time to time and say a prayer).
·         1991 - Operation Desert Storm begins against Saddam Hussein. (Just a coincidence. We were having cake and ice cream in my office. I was the DA’s news secretary then. After that, my phone didn’t ring for a month).
·         1992 - My brother, Packy, celebrated my birthday in ’92, by flying two transatlantic missions on the same day. He was an Air Force pilot, attached to NATO Headquarters, assigned to flying the NATO Supreme Commander. He had just flown across the North Atlantic on the first trip, and moments after landing at Pease AFB in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was told that he needed to turn around and fly the general back to Europe. Two transatlantic flights in one day in the dead of winter. He said it was a white knuckler both ways and after 25 years, decided to retire.
Among the other notables sharing my birthday are:  Actress Betty White-1922; singer Eartha Kitt-1927; hair stylist Vidal Sassoon-1928; ventriloquist/puppeteer Shari Lewis-1934; Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali-1942; First Lady Michelle Obama-1964.
It’s been quite an adventure, and I’m fortunate that I’ve been in a line of work that enabled me to see a lot of history in the making. This past year has been devoted to rebuilding, and I have to thank my kids – Mike and Dana - for their love and support for motivating me to do just that. Renovations include: getting cataracts fixed so I can see again, and letting me get my driver’s license renewed; picking up some other new parts like the new shoulder joint to be installed in a couple of weeks and getting my overall health back so I don’t have to use one of those walkers or scooter chairs. (Besides, I think a walking stick or cane gives an old guy some dignity that a walker or scooter chair completely takes away. And, don’t even get me started on “stair lifts” or “alert buttons” or [gasp] “Depends”).
I’ll be sure to check in again next year. Same time! Same station!


Friday, January 16, 2015

What is a Trabuco? Give Up? Check it out!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY*” January 16, 2015
Mostly Sunny 74°F/25°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
Shell unleaded $2.64/gal €2.38/gal (70 cents/liter)
If gasoline in Rome, Italy sold as cheaply as it does in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, Italian drivers would stampede to the nearest gas station knocking over everything in their path….the Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican. Even Hadrian’s wall could not stand up to the surge. So if you Patriotic, God-fearing Americans have been thinking that the oil companies have been screwing you, just imagine the frustrations of the average Italian, or Greek or German or even English driver who has been paying the equivalent of $9 to $12 dollars a gallon for their petrol for a lot longer than we’ve been paying four or five bucks a gallon. And, sorry, Charlie, but I don’t feel one bit sorry for “Big Oil.” Maybe when the widows and orphans who depend on oil company stock dividends to live out their “Golden Years,” begin to starve maybe the politicians who want to take the Social Security pensions away from old geezers like me who worked all their lives to live in relative comfort instead of under a bridge somewhere, will back off. Somehow, I don’t envision the former chairman of British Petroleum to come knocking on my door at my 55+ “active senior” apartment house, begging for a crust of bread and some peanut butter to get him through until breakfast.
                I had fully intended to mention the gas price as an “oh, by the way,” when I started today’s blog. I had intended to write about my “project du jour,” but got carried away. So, let me get back to the subject at hand.
                This week, between the morning when I woke up and realized that I had recovered from “the viral condition” that had flattened me for nearly a month and the phone call that came from my doctor’s office informing me that my shoulder surgery is now scheduled for February 2nd, I decided that I needed to get my house in order. First step? Organize my sock drawer.  More on that in a moment, but first!
So, wow! I will be celebrating Ground Hog Day this year under full anesthesia while Dr. Sodl opens a five inch incision in my right shoulder and saws off the top end of my upper arm and hammers in a new ball joint. Then he will do a matching number on my clavicle and scapula to put a metal socket in. Then, he will join the two parts together, reattach all the muscles and, “Voila,” I will become “Mr. Titanium!” If that works on my shoulder, I’m going to talk to him about some other parts on my aging body. But, first, back to the sock drawer.
One of my first realizations when I resumed my bachelor’s life a year ago is the reality that my once vast empire lies now within the confines of a one bedroom apartment. So for the past year, I’ve been engaged in an overall reduction in resources. Frequent donations to Goodwill, trips to the landfill, giveaways to family and friends, having a crew from “College Hunks,” cart away the detritus of decades from my storage unit, donations to garage sales and rummage sales. And this morning after unwrapping my latest prize from, I decided to tackle my sock drawer.
I set a plastic storage container on my bed next to a big trash bag. The contents of the storage bin will go under my bed; the contents of the bag will get dropped off at Goodwill.  First thing was to lay out all the socks that have no mates. Those get trashed. I know I will find more odd socks in the future, but for now I’m winning. Then, I found a pair of gloves that I had bought last year at a flea market in Rome. They didn’t look right. The reason? Two left hands. Just as was about to toss them in the trash, I found another identical pair of gray gloves. I checked. Sure enough. Two right hands. Wow! I thought. A matching pair of gloves. Identical color and fabric. Now I have two good pairs of gloves. Elapsed time: 1 hour, 5 minutes. Plus, the time to start my daily blog on the subject. At this rate, I am going to have to live until my 84th birthday to get this job done, because right now I have to take Lola out for her midday walk around the block. At least the sock drawer is done. When we get back, I’ll start on the Tee shirt drawer.
                Ciao, MikeBo

*Lost Musket-approximate translation of Trabuco or musket. Spanish “conquistadors” were armed with trabucos or blunderbusses, which scared the hell out of indigenous natives, especially when the trigger was pulled and they went “boom.” In 1769 Spanish explorer and later California Governor-General Gaspar de Portola and his men stopped to camp in a canyon near present day Rancho Santa Margarita, California on route to the village of Los Angeles. During the stop-over, one of Portola’s men lost his Trabuco in the forest, setting off a massive search for the weapon, which was never found. The incident might have gone unreported, but for one of the monks who accompanied Portola, who later wrote about it. As a result, the name Trabuco has become an overwhelmingly popular place name in this part of Southern California. One version of the story has it that the soldier walked into the woods to answer a call of nature, leaned his Trabuco against an oak tree, and had the gun stolen when he wasn’t looking, either by a mischievous native or a passing bear.

Friday, January 9, 2015

My Muse Returns!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Friday January 9, 2015
Cloudy: 69°F/21°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
                To my surprise, I received a “get well” card from my periodontist yesterday. Strange, I thought, I didn’t realize anyone else knew I was sick. (For those of you who read my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything new since December 7th. Pearl Harbor Day. Well, that is one reason. Another is the anxiety I’ve been experiencing as a lead-up to the shoulder joint replacement surgery that was originally scheduled for January 6th. (Nothing, like the prospect of having someone cut your shoulder open and take a Skil saw to your clavicle, scapula and humerus, to break you out in a cold sweat in the middle of the night). Between the new titanium shoulder joint and the silver amalgam fillings in my teeth, the airport metal detector should sound like a symphony orchestra on my next jaunt through LAX. (Damn! I wish I could take Amtrak to Rome, instead of Air Sardine). I promptly emailed my periodontist to thank him and his staff for their consideration, and told him that I was putting the Christmas cards away and holding his “shoulder joint replacement recuperation card” for the appropriate moment, and buying myself a “get well from the flu” card to put on my table top. I owe Dr. Chrispens a lot. I’m already over 70, but still have all my own teeth – minus four wisdom teeth.
                The doctor I saw for my “viral condition” last week was subbing for my regular guy, who, it was rumored was out sick with the flu. My HMO does everything but track their older patients down and restrain them until they get their annual flu shot. This year though, the pharmaceutical companies managed to turn out huge batches of vaccine that was only about 34% effective against this year’s strain of influenza. (Probably too busy lobbying Congress to prepare an effective vaccine). This year I not only got my flu shot, but a pneumonia booster as well.
Captain Harry N. Schultz
                I think it was Mark Twain who said, “first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, is to pick up the newspaper and turn to the obituary pages, and, if I do not see my name, I get dressed and have breakfast.” So, yesterday after typing my name into the Google web site, I concluded that I was still alive, so I made a pot of coffee and took Lola downstairs for her morning watering. (Blogspot December 7, 2014). Like so many of us, Kelly Schultz, retired Navy Corpsman and school teacher, periodically carried out random Googles as part of his daily internet surfing sessions. His latest Google has led him to my blog account of his uncle’s heroism during the U boat attack on his convoy off the coast of England in 1944. When we finally hung up the phone, I discovered that my muse, that fickle scamp, had returned. I had learned that there really are people out there that read my stuff. It’s not like being on television where people recognize you everywhere you go, but being a writer has its benefits, too… long as you have something to write about.
When I returned, I had just poured a cup, when my cell phone rang. There quickly commenced a nearly two hour chat with a nephew of my dad’s old Skipper from the LST 920.
                The younger Mr. Schultz told me that, in reading my story about his uncle, he had learned some new information about Captain Harry Niel Schultz that the old seafarer had kept from even the closest members of his family. It’s a common complaint among the offspring of the “Greatest Generation.” A lot of these guys and gals lived through some absolutely horrendous times. Then, when they had finished kicking the Axis Powers’ collective asses, just shrugged it off, gritted their teeth and came home to restart their lives. Returning veterans of all wars carry with them the same demons, but, each generation has a different name for it and a different way to deal with it.
Lt. Charles Botula, Capt. Harry Schultz
           My dad never knew what happened to his old skipper after the war. And, he had no way of knowing that Captain Schultz had survived the sinking of his old destroyer and the loss of its entire crew during the invasion of Guadalcanal. Years later, crewmen of both LSTs that I wrote about- the 920, my dad’s ship and the 921, the U-boat’s victim, remarked that Harry Schultz always seemed like a distant figure to his men. A ship’s crew, especially in wartime, is a family. Everybody knows everybody else, and there are no secrets. Family gossip is called “scuttlebutt” in the Navy, and “scuttlebutt” is the lubricant that keeps everything running smoothly. Harry Schultz didn’t hang out at the water cooler on his ship, and it took years before the reason for that came to light. He had lost his entire shipboard family to the Japanese in one horrendous moment, and he was not going to allow mere orders to keep him from disobeying those orders to save members of his new family from a watery grave. My dad frequently said that during the time he was serving under Captain Schultz – from the ship’s commissioning in June, 1944 until he left to come home to the states in November 1945; through U boat  “Wolf Packs” in Europe and swarms of Kamikazes in the South Pacific, no crew member of the LST 920 was injured or killed in combat.
Michael and Harry Schultz
                I really appreciated Kelly Schultz’ update on his uncle. I had learned that Harry Schultz stayed in the Navy after the war and retired as a Commander. I knew that he had a son, Michael, but, I didn't know until Kelly told me that Harry was one of several Schultz brothers who served in the Pacific during World War II. And, most of all, I was able to tell Kelly, that I had talked with more than one veteran of the LST’s 920 and 921 who are still singing Harry Schultz’ praises to this day because their Skipper brought them all home safely. His uncle was a real hero, and I'm glad that I was the one who finally got to tell his story. It would have been a shame if he had simply done his job and slipped away into history.

Ciao, MikeBo