Saturday, December 26, 2015

My First Week!

 “MY TEXAS ADVENTURE” Saturday December 26, 2015
Cloudy w/Thundershowers later 73°F/23°C in Cedar Park
  So, here we are, a week into the new adventure! The Christmas tree is - miraculously – still
MikeBo & Jordan, Jaydan
standing, and so am I. But, what a whirlwind week! Last Christmas Dana and the family were still in California, but I was scheduled for my shoulder surgery and the kids were all down with the “Holiday Grelb,” so I kept my distance lest I be stricken by their plague! (PS: I got sick anyway and had to postpone the operation). But, this year, it was full-court Christmas celebration with the grandkids. Combining a holiday celebration with a month of frenetic moving activity has left me, quite frankly, exhausted and somewhat shell-shocked, but still able to sit up and take nourishment.

  When push finally came to shove, Dana and I decided that the most expeditious way to get me moved was to do the exact opposite of what she and Jason had done. Where they rented their own truck from Jason’s company, loaded it themselves, and, enlisting the help of Jason’s brother in driving, caravanned with the family SUV and the truck from Lake Forest, California to Leander, Texas across 1400 miles of desert with four kids strapped tightly in their car seats with only one overnight motel stopover. After completing that Odyssey, Dana and her brother decided they were not going to allow their elderly patriarch to drive that route by himself. (They both conjured up visions of old gringo bones bleached by the sun scattered around the New Mexico desert). So, in quick order, I made reservations on Jet Blue for Lola and I, hired a moving company and a car hauler, and set off for Texas. Joe the Car Hauler gave me a two day estimate on moving my truck, so I loaded it up with my computer, printer, TV set and some other essentials, locked the tonneau cover on the cargo compartment, and waved good bye. I’m still waiting for my furniture and the rest of my belongings.
    Thanks to the stuff I brought with me on the plane or followed me on the car hauler, I am able to get a head start on setting up housekeeping. Also, the fact that I’m moving from a one-bedroom-one bath apartment into a two-bedroom-two bath place means I still have some shopping to do. So I installed my coffee pot in my new kitchen and headed for the nearby department stores, for some added necessities.  But, the end result of this effort is that I can move in as soon as my bed is brought in and start living there while I finished the unpacking. My computer is in with the internet hooked up and working. My TV is hooked up to cable TV and working. I’ve even done a couple of loads of laundry with the new washer and dryer which are in a compartment just off my kitchen. Which brings me to another “thank you,” I’d like to make before I go any further.
   Doctor Jeff Sodl, the master mechanic in the Orthopedics division at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center didn’t just fix my shoulder. He changed my life. Before the operation, I was literally a pain-wracked cripple. The role model for a contemporary One-armed Man in an upcoming sequel to The Fugitive!  I had very explicit instructions about how to use my newly reconstructed wing, and I followed  his instructions to the letter. But when all was said and done, I was amazed at what I was able to do in the way of packing and moving boxes. So, credit where credit is due! Mille grazie! Dr. Sodl!
  The initial tour of my apartment and all the lease negotiations were all done on line. Just as she had two years ago when I was in Italy, Dana scouted out the locations and the deal was finally done on line after Devon, the apartment manager took me on a video tour with his IPhone. My Texas move-in date was the same as my move-out day in Rancho Santa Margarita. So easy does the new property company make moving in that Devon tells me that sometimes months go by before he even meets some of his new residents.
  Austin is a modern day “boom town” that reminds me of my experiences back in the 60s, first in Arizona and a few years later in California. People from all over the known universe sensed that good things were happening, and were streaming in from the four corners of the world to grab a piece of the dream. My own reasons are narrower – the geographic location is not as important as being close to my family. And, I am living proof that age need not stand in the way of beginning a new life’s adventure. I plan on slowing down in a few weeks long enough to join the kids in celebrating my 75th birthday!
Now, where the hell is that moving van?
©Mike Botula 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

So, Here I am in TEXAS! How'd That Happen?

“MikeBo’s Texas Adventure-Chapter 1” Tuesday December 22, 2015
Mostly Sunny 77°F/25°C in Cedar Park, Texas
   Yea verily, gentle reader – Texas! And, I’ll give you a “heads up” on this whole deal by saying that
MikeBo Hisself!
there is no quick answer as to why I am in the Lone Star State. So I won’t even try at this point. And for my friends who have been following my exploits up and down the Italian peninsula, news about MikeBo in Texas must come as somewhat of a surprise. On the plus side, I am 1,600 miles closer to Rome and two time zones more in synch, so it could be said that I am closer to my ultimate goal….actually living in Rome. Actually, my move started out as nothing more than planning for a Christmas holiday with my daughter and her husband and my four grandchildren. Along the way, my month-long holiday turned into a one way trip. The family had moved to the Austin area four months previously for all the reasons a lot of folks are looking at California in their rear-view mirrors: jobs, prices, traffic, and, all of the other “usual suspects.”

  The kids’ move from California to Austin didn’t really sink in for me until I got back from Italy in September. While I was taking in the sights in Rome, tagging along with my tour guide son from Pompeii to Venice, and striking out on my own to Amsterdam for a visit with an old flame, not to mention night clubbing through the boites of the Eternal City, following Mike’s hot, new band No Funny Stuff, big changes were taking place back home in California! 
  The little retirement community I had settled into after thirteen years in Northern California, and more than two months of living in Rome had changed its complexion. I had moved into an apartment complex billed as a residence for “active adults – 55 years plus.”  And, indeed it was … when I first moved in. But, over time, the median age of my neighbors began to shift ever upward. The word active disappeared from the promotional materials. Activities like the daily exercise classes and swimming pool events, the monthly movies in the rec center, the weekly Saturday kaffeeklatsch and the regular bus excursions to places like museums and art festivals or Indian casinos gradually went away. The view from my third floor patio of the nearby Modjeska and Santiago Peaks became more frequently marred by the arrival of the fire trucks and van that carry the paramedics.  After a while, the occasional visit by the paramedics became an almost daily occurrence, and more and more of my neighbors arrived and departed in vehicles with wheelchair lifts. I noticed the changes more and more as I regained my own health and mobility following my shoulder surgery.
  A few weeks after the kids headed to Texas, I left Lola with Liliana, my housekeeper, and flew off for another Roman Holiday. (Exploits thereof finely detailed in my Diario di Roma DuĂ©: Rome Diary 2). While I holidayed in hot, muggy Roma, Michael and I Skyped regularly with his sister in Texas. All the reports were good. Everybody loved the big, new house, Jason and Dana both had good new jobs; in fact Jason had quickly earned a promotion. Jake and Jessica were doing well in school. The twins, Jaydan and Jordan, were thriving and happy. Texans were friendly and very helpful to the newcomers. Both Dana and Michael suggested that maybe Dear Old Dad should consider a move to Texas. All three of us also took note of the fact that my apartment lease would be up for renewal in January. So, when, I got back from Italy, I picked up Lola from Liliana, went home and made reservations for a Christmas visit to Texas. That was Step 1.
   Back at my “55-plus,” the aging neighbor trend upward had continued. There were actual traffic jams of walkers and wheel chairs at the central elevators and several times Lola was nearly clipped by a careening oldster in a speeding scooter chair. Sometime around Columbus Day I asked Dana to check out some apartments near her that were definitely NOT “55-plus!” I wanted to check them out over Christmas. She called me back the next day with three prospects and their web addresses, two in Cedar Park and one in Leander. All three offered virtual video tours, all of them real eye openers. After taking the video tours, I checked out the area on Google Earth, looking at both the satellite views and the Google Street View. I was able to tour the area from more than a thousand miles away. I printed off floor plans, crunched the numbers and discussed the pros and cons with Dana and Michael via Skype. The following week Dana called me to coordinate a time and date for me to meet the manager of the hottest prospect for a personal virtual walkthrough of a two bedroom apartment that had caught my eye. That’s how I met Devon Shults. In the days that followed I found myself moving closer to making the decision to move, but not until after the holidays when I’d had a chance to eyeball the location for myself.
   Around then, I received the property management company’s formal notice that my lease was up for renewal. It asked for my answer prior to the 30 day notice period. Then we started getting bids from moving companies and car haulers. As Thanksgiving approached, I wired Devon my deposit on the two bedroom I had spotted. The wheels were in motion, but, I was still stuck on the idea of returning to California after my holiday trip. After a few more conversations with Dana, Michael and Laura and, now, Devon, I had made the decision to still go to Texas for the holidays….but not return to California. I’d make my move now, and not later.
©Mike Botula 2015



Sunday, December 13, 2015

You Know the Song, Willie. Time to Sing it Again!

Last of the “Lost Musket” Journals
Sunday December 13, 2015
Sunny with rain likely later today 59°F/15°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
Howdy, Pardner!
  On the road again! It’s time to get on the road, again! Good ol’ Willie Nelson. And every few years,
Two Reasons to Move!
it seems, I start hearing that song in the open space between my ears, and, first thing you know, I’m packin’ up and movin’ on. If my life were an old western movie instead of a soap opera, I’d get screen credit as The Drifter! After almost 50 years in the Golden State, I’m catching an east-bound stage coach and heading for Texas, so I can be  close to my four young grandchildren. Dana tells me that Jacob, Jessica, Jaydan and Jordan are pretty excited about having their grandpa close by again, and, for that matter, so am I.

  Right after I got back from my latest trip to Rome in September, I accepted Dana’s invitation to spend the holidays with the family in Texas, so I used a bunch of frequent flyer points and booked a roundtrip on Jet Blue from Long Beach to Austin for me and Lola. (Can’t leave your poodle in a kennel over Christmas, for cryin’ out loud). My original plan was to arrive a few days before Christmas and stay through my birthday in January (My 75th!) After that, I would come back to California and plan my next trip to Rome and the other side of the family. While I was there, I would check things out for a possible move for me and Lola. And, you know how it works with the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men? They change. So, now, when I board the flight this Friday, that’s it! I will get to see the entire State of California in my rear view mirror, not just Stockton (which is a city best viewed in a rear-view mirror).
  When the kids first announced late last  year that they were pulling up stakes and moving to Austin, Texas, I had the same feeling the guy in that old Borscht Belt joke about the guy who watches his mother-in-law drive off the cliff in his new Cadillac. Very mixed emotions! Dana and Jason would be moving their family from a one-thousand-square-foot cottage into a 4,000 square foot McMansion in an Austin suburb. They both would have better jobs. The kids’ schools were not testing centers for the latest education brainstorm. What’s more the overall cost of living is lower than California’s. Jeez! Two-dollar-a-gallon gasoline!? Fuhgeddaboudit!
   As for me, while the economic differences between California and Texas are very appealing to me since I’m on a retirement income and the politically primeval in Washington, DC want to rob me of my hard-earned Social Security and Medicare and take away all the other public services that us seniors depend on for  our very existence, I am approaching my move with some trepidation. But, I will quickly register to vote in Texas. So maybe a can act as a small counterweight. And, I definitely don’t like the idea of having to change Senators or Governors either. I mean, like, Ted Cruz for Dianne Feinstein or a Rick Perry Clone for Jerry Brown? Fuhgeddaboudit! I will say that the Texans I’ve dealt with so far just to make arrangements for the move and my new home have been very warm, friendly and helpful. Being the optimist that I basically am, I have high hopes. And, yes, some of my very best friends over many years are Texans. Dana has given me a “heads-up” about some hazards in Texas that might, just might cause problems for my poodle, Lola. After all, in California, we don’t have fire ants, too many tornadoes, rattlesnakes that eat alligators, or killer Armadillos. So we will obviously have to do some adjusting.
  My blogging started with some Facebook postings about three  years ago when I went to Italy to visit my son in Rome as I started my comeback from the rubble of my second divorce along with some fairly serious health issues. Facebook led to Blogspot, led to the original Rome Diary, and to Lost Musket Journal on my return to the states. Along the way, I dug back into my research about my dad’s Navy career in World War 2 and the fun and games he had playing Whack-a-Mole with the U 667, and started working on a book which I hope to have in publication early in 2016. So, I plan to continue writing. The blog will continue, although the name will change. Los Trabucos or The Muskets have uniquely California origins, so a change of scene to Texas will dictate a title change. But, the blog and Facebook and all my other social media output will still lead  you to the website where I preside as Mastermind. And, I’ll gradually be updating everybody on my whereabouts. This is but the initial release. News services call a note like this an Advisory!
   I mentioned at the top that I am leaving California after a nearly 50 year stay. If you do the math…..I was 25 when Donna and I moved here from Arizona. She was from Illinois originally. I am a native New Yorker – Manhattan to be precise. After I turned 50, I turned to my wife one day and remarked, its official! I’ve lived in California longer than I was alive. So, I guess that makes me a California native! Now, lots of Californians will say that after they’ve lived there a long time. A little differently, maybe, but after a while, you become more of a Californian than whatever you were before: Puerto Rican, Polish, New Yorker, Pennsyltuckian, and Republican, whatever. California is a smaller scale reflection of America as a whole. Nearly every Californian now in the state came from somewhere else. My grandparents came from Central Europe. Their progeny scattered from Pennsylvania to the far corners of the U.S. Some of us Botula’s wound up in California. Dana’s family is now in Texas and I’m right behind them. Mike has found a new life in Rome, just a two hour flight from where his great-grandfather was born. The Earth revolves at a pretty good speed. If you jump high enough in your lifetime, you never know where you will come back down to Terra Firma. My next leap will take me across three states. When I land, I will be in Austin, Texas. And, who knows where the four winds will take me after that.
PS: Check me out on  Facebook, Google+ or
© By Mike Botula 2015


Monday, December 7, 2015

Harry Schultz' "Day of Infamy!" December 7th 1941

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” December 7, 2015: 74 Years to the Date
Fair, Sunny with Clouds 74°F/23°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
[Today's blog originally posted on the anniversary Sunday in 2014 of the December 7th 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I post this annually to honor those who were at Pearl Harbor on that fateful Sunday, and to say "Thank You For Your Service" to all veterans who have so faithfully served this nation in peacetime and wartime.]
Sunday Morning! Sunny. Just like it was on that other Sunday December 7th, the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called, “A Day That Will Live in Infamy.”
In their all-out attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the key targets for the Japanese were the battleships. They sank Arizona, Virginia and Utah., the USS Arizona still rests on the bottom, a war grave with more than a thousand valiant souls still aboard. In the midst of all of this flame and carnage, one scrappy destroyer escaped to fight another day, and took her fair measure of vengeance on the attackers. She was the destroyer USS Jarvis (DD 393) and on board was a young Quartermaster named Harry Schulz who would one day follow the lead of his ship’s namesake and disobey a direct order during the heat of battle to become one of the true heroes of World War II.
   Lest his name be completely lost to history, let me introduce you to Midshipman James C. Jarvis. Three U.S. Destroyers have carried his memory into battle: Jarvis I DD 38 which saw combat in World War I, Jarvis II DD 393 which escaped the Pearl Harbor attack, and Jarvis III, DD 799, which saw service from the end of World War 2 through the Vietnam War before it was decommissioned and given to the Spanish Navy. Midshipman Jarvis was born in 1787 and appointed as a Midshipman from the State of New York in 1799. As was the custom of the day, Midshipman Jarvis went to sea aboard the famed frigate Constellation. During its battle with the French frigate La Vengeance Deux in February 1800 young Jarvis was sent aloft to secure the ship’s mainmast. At one point he was ordered down for fear the mast might topple. He yelled down, “My post is here. I can’t leave it.” The mast crashed down and Jarvis went over the side with the rigging and was drowned. He was 13 years old.
  On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, the second destroyer Jarvis was moored next to another
destroyer, the USS Mugford DD 389 and their tender, USS Sacramento, 1914 vintage gun boat. The “after action” reports of all three ships show the Japanese attack beginning at 0758 on that Sunday morning. General Quarters was immediately sounded and all three destroyers opened fire on the attacking aircraft with anti-aircraft machine guns and their five inch guns. The ship’s log notes that the machine guns commenced firing at 0804 hrs., with the five inch gun firing the first shot of any five inch gun in the harbor 60 seconds later. The USS Jarvis was credited with shooting down four enemy aircraft during its escape from Ford Island to the open sea. It is believed that Jarvis was the first to draw enemy blood on that bloody Sunday. Among the seamen receiving
special commendation for their action during the attack was Quartermaster First Class Harry Niel Schultz, who had been with the Jarvis since it was commissioned in 1937. 
    Schultz was later given a commission and eventually commanded the LST that my dad sailed on in WW2. But, on December 7th, Schultz, a career peacetime Navy enlisted man, was aboard the Jarvis. The Jarvis fought its way to the open sea and safety. Its gunners shot down four enemy warplanes and evaded the attackers’ efforts to sink it and block the harbor entrance.
    Schultz and the Jarvis survived Pearl Harbor, and about two weeks later Jarvis left Pearl Harbor with the carrier Saratoga to join the Task Force assigned to relieve the Japanese attack on Wake Island, but, in a controversy that resounds to this day, that mission was scuttled and the Japanese took the island on December 23rd. In January 1942, while on an anti-submarine patrol the Jarvis rescued 182 survivors of a Japanese torpedo attack on the fleet oiler Neces. By July, 1942, Schultz and the Jarvis were on their way to the Solomon Islands to take part in the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7th. The transport ships that Jarvis was escorting came under a heavy attack and the destroyer was torpedoed in spite of the fact that only 9 of the 26 attacking Japanese planes were able to penetrate the American defenses. After the battle the ship moved to Tulagi where seven wounded crewmen were transferred to a hospital on shore. Quartermaster Harry Schultz went ashore with them to make sure they were cared for. That assignment saved his life.
 The Jarvis’ skipper, Lt. Comdr. William Graham, Jr. ordered the ship to steam for Sydney Australia for repairs. Shortly after, she steamed across “Iron Bottom Sound” and ran into the approaching fleet of Japanese Admiral Mikawa’s heavy cruisers, which had mistaken the destroyer for an American heavy cruiser. As she continued to steam westward, the Japanese again attacked her with a force of 31 planes, raking her with machine gun fire and torpedoes. USS Jarvis went to the bottom of Iron Bottom sound at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on August 9th with all hands. Brothers Billy and Lans Wilson were among the 233 crew members who died that day. Quartermaster Harry Schultz went on to a new assignment.
Rising from the ranks Schultz earned his commission in 1944, and took command of US LST 920, a landing ship that saw action from the beaches of Normandy to the invasion of Okinawa back in the Pacific.  He was one of only three members of the crew of 110 or so who had ever been to sea. Schultz’ executive officer was my father, Lt. Charles Botula, Jr. But unlike my dad, Harry Schultz didn’t talk about his wartime experiences.
On August 14, 1944, the LST 920 and its sister ship the LST 921 were sailing in a convoy across Bristol Channel about 70 miles from Lands’ End, England. At 4 p.m. the LST 921 was struck by a torpedo and broke in two, the aft portion sinking.   Half the crew was lost. A second torpedo launched by the attacking U667 was aimed at the 920. My dad recalls seeing the torpedo’s wake, but a British escort vessel came between the attacker and
Radioman Fred Benck
his ship and was blown out of the water. Standing orders were for all ships to remain with the convoy if attacked. Captain Schultz ordered Radioman Fred Benck to send a message to the convoy commander.  "WHO IS PICKING UP SURVIVORS?” The reply was an order, “DO NOT BREAK CONVOY!" This message was delivered to the captain. In about two minutes, he came into the Radio Room and ordered Benck to send the message again. This time he waited for the answer which was "DO NOT BREAK CONVOY!" As Benck told me years later, “H N SCHULTZ then used these words, ‘TO HELL WITH HIM’ and we pulled out of convoy to turn back and pick up Survivors! A message came from the Commander of the convoy to get back in the convoy. The message was never answered!”
   Like the Wilson brothers on the Jarvis at Guadalcanal two brothers were serving on the two LSTs in the convoy. One of the Forty-seven crewmembers of the LST 921 pulled on board the 920 was Seaman Gerald F. Hendrixson, the twin brother of LST 920 crew member Harold Hendrixson. Thanks to Harry Schultz, the Hendrixson brothers both made it through their ordeal.  A few days later Captain Schultz was called before a court martial but later cleared of any charges. Many years later I learned from Schultz’ family and friends that
Attacking U-boat U 667
he had never gotten over the loss of his shipmates at Guadalcanal, and he was not going to let any more good sailors die if he could help them even if it meant disobeying orders. Shultz’ left his command of the LST 920 in 1946, stayed in the Navy after the war, and eventually retired as a Commander. Two of the officers from the 920 that I talked with in researching this story told me that Schultz always “kept a certain distance” from his officers and crewmembers. Knowing about his earlier career as I did, I realized that he had already lost one shipboard “family” in the war, and he probably didn’t want to form any close personal ties with his new one. And, my dad, who was on the bridge at the time of the U-boat attack, never knew why his “Skipper” disobeyed orders that August afternoon. He said he was “stunned” when Captain Schultz broke that convoy rule and gave the order to and come about.
    A few months later, Captain Harry Schultz and LST 920  sailed through the Panama Canal and on into the Pacific Ocean. Next stop? Pearl Harbor on route to the invasion of Okinawa and the end of World War 2.
Ciao, MikeBo