Thursday, April 30, 2015

Down to a minute

I took a lot of pictures and a lot of movies on board the Stennis.  This is an edited minute in the 18 hour days of Flight operations training.  After the last take off notice the crowd of sailors in different colored shirts run across the deck to get ready for the next take off.  It is a ballet of efficiency.

As you were,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CNV 74 --The Show

Jay "Heater" Johnson
Honorary Stennis Aviator
Hangar before the stage was set
Doing a show on an active aircraft carrier
during flight training exercises is like trying to do a half time show at the Super Bowl with the stadium moving through water at 12-15 knots per hour and planes taking off and landing on the roof.  The producers had to bring in the sound equipment and the flight operations had to be suspended for the day.  To clear space for the stage and an audience on the hangar deck, the crew had move 20 or 30 planes around and stow some of them on the flight deck above.  It took them all night and most of the next morning to create our make shift theatre. Below is a short YouTube I took when they were moving airplanes out of the audience space and "clearing the stage".

Setting up the stage on Hangar deck..
The official title of the guy who set up the show and made sure all the equipment was there and accounted for was "Fun Boss". Fun Boss is mainly shore side, but flies on with the entertainers to facilitate the production with the Navy. The Fun Boss had the power to get all the help we wanted to do whatever needed to be done for the show. He said this was his 154 arrested landing on an Aircraft carrier. However, he said they are never "old hat" and he never takes them for granted. Fun Boss has a great job. The party maker. When the crew sees the Fun Boss on board they know there is a party or show in their future.

At first the plan was to keep the bay door open for the show. Although it made a beautiful back drop, it was not good for the sound and lights. Fun Boss said he would get the doors closed and so he did.

Rehearsal after they closed the hangar door
After getting such a warm welcome from the crew, we were ready to do the show for them to give back something. Every performer in the show was a consummate road-seasoned professional,  so the sound check/rehearsal was smooth and fun.  Sound checks, when done right, let the entertainers entertain themselves.  A super private exclusive performance for us who will be working the show and not able to see it from the audience.
The musical director said the Admiral wanted a specific song in the show and had placed it last.  My friend Dick Hardwick, MC and fellow comic, thought that it was not strong enough to close the show so we persuaded him to put it in the middle and end with the Ray Charles version of America sung by Billy Valentine. (There is a YouTube video of the last few minutes of that song attached below.) When the crew came up to the stage to shake hands it brought me to tears backstage. It was a powerful moment.

There I am back stage. During the show. 
My point of view on the show.
Mostly I watched the show from behind the stage... Back stage literally and figuratively. From that vantage point, I saw a different show. I saw the faces of the sailors watching what was happening on stage.  At first they were reserved in ship shape military stoicism.  Each moment made that facade melt away a little more. Dick was the glue that kept it all together and monitored the humor quotient. By the time Darwin the Jazz Monkey hit the stage the crew was ready for some monkey business.  I didn't know how it would go with the ultimate sound-man's challenge and ventriloquist nightmare in this open hangar, but it could not have been more joyous.  It was not perfect theatrical conditions, but that audience. I wanted to bottle that reaction from those sailors and fliers and take it home. My time on stage flew by.
Darwin and Me on Stage
We all came on stage at the end to sing America. Dick grabbed the Captain and I grabbed the Admiral. We got them on stage and celebrated with the entire crew. They waved lighted flashlights in the audience.  It was amazing.
We spent the better part of the next hour just meeting or shaking hands with any and all crew members who stayed around to watch the stage strike.  With plenty of sailors ready to help,  the stage, lights, and sound gear quickly vanished into anvil cases then a cargo net ready to be loaded on the equipment plane.  As if it was all a dream the Hangar bay went back to its intended purpose and soon there were planes occupying the space which had doubled briefly as our theatre. Except for the smiles on the faces of young sailors it was like it never happened at all.
Practical Monkey Joke....
We hung out in Wardroom number 3, recounting the experience to each other and our officer guides. We answered their questions and got to know them as we decompressed from the show.
The next day was again an early call and it was back to being herded around to even more things that make the ship operate.  We got a fire drill demonstration, the Focsle where the massive anchor is stowed, the machine shop for repairing the F-18 engines and anything else that the officers could think of to keep us occupied.  And soon it was late afternoon and time to leave the ship.

This meant another briefing on the procedure of the catapult take off. Some of the suggestions were: 1) Make certain your four point harness is tight. When you go from 0 to 200 in two seconds any slack in the harness will impact your shoulders like a straight arm jab from a heavy weight fighter. 2) Make certain your hands are tucked under your arms.  During the catapult there is no way to keep your hands from flying out and hitting the seat in front of you. 3) Make sure your feet are secured and tucked behind the seat. If your legs fly forward they will hit the seat in front and your shins will never be the same again.  4) Have nothing in your hands or loose around your seat.  Any loose object will become a speeding bullet traveling at 200 miles an hour.  5) Lastly make sure your goggles are strapped on tight. There were tales of goggles separating from your face during the catapult only to come snapping back sharply when you reach air speed.
Once we were strapped in and ready to assume the take off position the anxiety begins.  There is no count down.  When the plane is secure on the catapult and all the vitals have been checked, and the pilot is ready and the safety crew has given permission you literally blast off. The only thing is... you never really know when. Like someone slowly pressing on a balloon, the anticipation of the pop is sometimes more stressful than the pop itself.  That was not the case in this operation, the shot off the bow of the ship lived up to the hype.
We hear the engines strain at full speed. We get in the positions we were instructed to assume. The engines rev up a little more. Seconds seem like an eternity until there is a metallic snap. Before you can comprehend what that sound was you feel a rush upward as you are falling face forward toward the unseen deck suspended only by shoulder straps. For a moment you doubt that the straps are strong enough to hold your massive weight.  It is like being a harnessed puppet pulled from a string in the middle of your back, straight up at 200 miles an hour.
The plane levels off and we are flying.  A dampened cheer of glee comes from the passengers. I give a thumbs up to my seat mate Dick and we grin at each other like four year olds.  The best roller coaster/carnival ride the US Navy can afford.

From that moment on it was like any other plane ride back to San Diego.
But... here is my take away from the show. The moment I get back home to check my email there is already a note from Barbara Guyll thanking me for entertaining the sailors.
My question was "how did you know?"
The audience from my camera. You can see Phil taking the movie.
It seems her son is currently on the Stennis and emailed her about the show. He told her I was taking pictures with my camera from on stage at the end. (You can even see me snapping the picture in the YouTube above) She thought I might have taken a picture of her son.  I sent her this picture of the audience at the end of the show.  When she told me the area he was standing I zoomed in as much as it would stretch.
Her son is the man on the left (picture left stage right) in the white observers uniform.
Extreme close up 
Small world made smaller by instant communication.
Thank you to the men and women of the USS John C. Stennis  CNV 74 for an unbelievable experience.
As you were,

Monday, April 27, 2015

CNV 74-- The Ship

Two rules: 
A) I am purposely not using names in this essay with the exception of Admiral Bowman who arranged this gift to all of us on board the USS John C.Stennis. There were many, many people who made this happen. Most of them were not on the ship but made it possible for us to be there and entertain the sailors. They may or may not want to be mentioned in my blog. One of the performers on this trip is a good friend and fellow Dog who definitely doesn't want to be mentioned in this blog. I didn't get any body's permission, so, to the Gentlemen of the BNSEF (Bohemian Navy Special Entertainment Forces)  You know who you are. Thank you for your service. it was an honor to perform with you all.  I will always remember my Navy buddies.

2) I am breaking this essay into chapters. 
This is chapter one. 

The circumstances....
I was asked by retired Admiral Mike Bowman to be part of a show for the Crew of the USS Stennis CVN 74. At the time they were doing flight operations training in the North Pacific.  The ship and the crew will be deployed somewhere closer to the action in the fall.
There were 12 performers and a support crew of 6 and two producers for a total of 20.  We flew an hour or more out of San Diego in a Military C-2 aircraft to eventually make an "arrested landing" on the flight deck of the Nuclear Aircraft carrier John C. Stennis. 
Suiting up to go observe Flight Deck operations. 

SIDE NOTE: For those who might not know how an aircraft carrier works here is a quick tutorial.  The upper deck of an Aircraft carrier is an airport. But even though it is a huge ship with a crew of 4000, the deck is three times too small for planes to land or take off. In order to slow the plane from airspeed, there are four cables that run the width of the deck. They provide the proper resistance for the weight and speed of the plane to bring it to a stop. To snag these cables a special hook on the tail of the plane (called a tail hook- naturally) is maneuvered by the pilot so that it catches the wire as he lands and the plane stops in 2 seconds.

That is called an arrested landing... basically a controlled crash where you go from 200 miles an hour to 0 in a matter of 2 seconds. Other than experiencing a crash there is no way to explain the feeling.  On the C-2 passengers face backwards. You get pushed back in your seat in a feeling that must be similar to a baseball when it is suddenly stopped by a catchers mitt.  G-force is just a number until you experience it. 
NOTE IN A NOTE: there are four wires so you have four chances to stop. The plane lands at full speed in the event that it misses all four wires. That is called a "bolt" and the plane immediately climbs to make altitude, circle around and try again.
CONTINUING SIDE NOTE: When a plane takes off from this mini floating airport they have the opposite problem. There is not enough deck to attain the ground speed for lift. To facilitate this problem the ship has a steam driven piston that runs the length of the flight deck. They hook the front gear of the plane to a knob attached to the piston which sits inches above the deck in a long slot.  The pilot throttles  the engines to near full speed and at just the right moment a "shooter" hits the red button to release the steam built up in the catapult and in 2 seconds the plane goes from 0 to 200 miles an hour and is airborne. When the catapult is deployed is sounds like something has hit the ship.  There is a loud bang and the ship shutters with the force of a 3.5 earthquake. But more about a catapulted take off later.
Back to the Adventure.
We land. And the plane taxi's to a spot where they can open the cargo door in the tail of the C-2 and we file off. We are led around the conning tower and down two decks.  One if the gang ways is metal grating open to the sea below. It is the first time we realize how fast the ship is moving, or that it is moving at all. We have landed on a quickly moving target. They take our goggles, life vest, ear protection and "cranial's". We are no longer dressed like crash dummies, and the color is coming back to our cheeks. There is lemonade and sandwiches in the Captain's in port office.
We met up with officers who will be our constant escort for the next three days.  Except for show day they kept us on a tight schedule getting a briefing from almost every department head on the ship. 

At one point they took us down to the Ammo magazine. It is where they keep the missiles, bombs and guns, when asked if there were nuclear weapons on board the K-5 said, "I can neither confirm nor deny." There were only certain areas of the ship they asked us not to photograph. This is the only photograph of the missile area that didn't violate that request 

In fact the only part of the ship we were not allowed to see was the nuclear reactor area. The sailors who work in that area have a special tag they wear.  When the color of the tag changes to orange, they are done.  They have absorbed all the radiation their bodies can take.  They are referred to around the ship as the "glow worms".

We watched the flight operations from the bridge, from the flight deck, from vultures row and from the Task Force Commanders observation deck (that is where the Admiral observes operations).  Since it was a training exercise we watched dozens of take offs and landings on the carrier, including night operations. To see an F-18 Hornet hit the after burners leaving the flight deck at night is an amazing fire show almost over shadowing the powerful compression you feel in your chest when you are on flight deck and the Hornets take off.  The captain said, "Until you have actually smelled it and felt it, you don't really get a sense of the magnitude of this operation." A ship is not a quite place, there is a constant rumbling dotted with metallic bangs and jet engines firing. There is a clean smell to the ship mixed with a patina of jet fuel and oil. It is distinctive.

Captain with the Glow Worms
We were DV's while on board. (Distinguished Visitor...the Navy loves acronyms).  Our cabins were spartan military grade but with only two people to a room it was equivalent to officers accommodations.  Technically we enjoyed a commissioned rank while on board.  Our first day we were so tired we were glad to get some rest in our metal bunk beds.  However, our staterooms were directly below the steam catapult.  We experienced the jolt and explosive sound of a 3.5 earth quake every four minutes until 3:00am.  We asked some sailors if the noise and the shaking bothered them.  They said you get used to it and after working 18 hour shifts on the flight deck you can sleep through anything. 
The average age on the ship is 18 to 20 years old. Our group of entertainers raised the average age on board considerably.  All of the sailors are in great physical shape.  There are no elevators from deck to deck and no stairs.  They have ladders.  Steep ladders that require precise navigation to avoid hitting your head or falling on your face. I didn't think to activate my iPhone pedometer to see how far we climbed. There was no cellular service at sea and the wifi was strictly confined to certain areas of the ship. 
We were generally taken to the officers Wardrooms for meals. Good food served 23 hours a day.  One hour each day is a ship wide cleaning duty.  Every member of the crew mans some sort of cleaning device from an electric buffer to a towel and cleans a section of the ship. There is a definite difference in what the officers experience and what the average E-1 experiences.  Down below there are decks with bunks three men high. Only if you are in the top bunk and the infrastructure of the duct work doesn't take the space away do you have more than 14 inches between your bed and the one above. 

Every sailor and pilot we met was friendly and smart and looked like they could be cast immediately in a new version of Top Gun.  A group of three fliers who showed us inside the AWAC were named, Party Boy, Ebola and Motor.  Party Boy was stunningly handsome, but I didn't get a photo of him since we were in one of those "no picture" areas.
In the next chapter I will go more into detail about the show, but my take away from this on board experience is this:  The quality of character, training, intelligence and responsibility of these service men and women is stunning.  You feel in very capable hands. It is how the government should function.  4000 people with differing ideas, backgrounds and abilities come together and perform like the dancers in a ballet troupe to accomplish what would seem the impossible. It is how America should work, all for one and one for all setting aside personalities to make things happen.  It makes congress look like a bunch of ego-centric old fools.
More later,

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hello? Hello?

The phone rings.... I don't recognize the number, but then I have some friends who are off the grid, so to speak.  I assume it is not someone I want to talk with because there is a long pregnant pause after I say hello.  Finally I hear someone come one the line.
"Hello Mr. Johnson, this is (insert name here) I work for a (insert name here) contracting company and we do work...

I put the phone down on the desk and continue what I am doing. I can hear the electonic chatter of the sales-pitch faintly but not distinctly.  After a minute or two there is a pause in the caller's running commentary. In the silence I pick up the phone and say.
"That is very interesting."
The caller said, "Are you thinking of doing work inside or outside your home.?"
"I Absolutely believe in home work. " I say.
There is a slight pause then:
"Inside the house or outside?" There is a hopefull tone to his voice.
"That would be correct." I say 
There is another pause of equal length then:
"Let me just ask... what is the project you are thinking about doing?"
"Yes that is a very good question." I continue, " Just outside my house and running along the perimeter I would like to build a moat.  I know I can't keep aligators in the water, but I am thinking that I could fill it with some sort of acid. I am thinking that battery acid is not that hard to buy in quantity? Or is it. That is somthing that contractors know right? "
He starts to answer, but I continue on
"No matter.  The main thing is I want shards of glass fixed to the edge of the moat so no one can get near the liquid."
Again I step over his next question.
"You see I am trying to keep contractors away from my house. I don't like contractors even the ones I know and allow to work on my property.  I wish there was some way to keep them from calling me on the telephone and disturbing me.  But at least if I knew they could not get to me personally I would feel better... So what do you think the trench, the concrete with embedded broken glass and enough acid to fry the average fat ass contractor would cost?"
There is silence on the other end of the line.
"I guess you need to come out and measure, Right... are your estimates free?"

My wife says, "Why do you do that... why don't you just hang up? Why answer at all... anyone we know will leave a message."

She is right of course. But that is the risk you take when you make an unsolicited call to my house. Besides I figure if they are wasting my time... I can return the favor.  If only with I had the talents of my friend Joey Van who is a double talker... I could keep them on the line for hours.
As you were,

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Suicide is...

Suicide is strictly a human behavior.  There is nothing else on Earth that willing kills itself for any reason except humans. All animals die by accident, old age, in an attempt to survive or at the actions of another; in the animal realm death is never a conscious choice.  A plant only dies when it lacks the proper conditions to stay alive. Neither animal nor plant will ever kill themselves because it is just too much trouble to go on.  Plants and animals do not purposefully die for for a philosophy or a cause. Given any chance to survive and grow life (with the exception of human) will find a way to express itself. 
Animals and plants have no consciousness of being alive therefore they have no concept of death. One might think by having no consciousness of death, self-sacrifice in the non-human world would be inconsequential and therefore common. But even without the awareness of itself, life chooses to live. But Man, the highest concept of consciousness, aware of its own existence, chooses to willingly end that consciousness for something unknown and un-learnable. I keep looking for a reason. 
I wonder about the suicide bombers who so willingly die for a cause. They die to kill others in an act of mass murder. I can see the problems this causes the Spiritual halls of Celestial justice.  Is the suicide bomber "laying down his life for his friends" and therefore "hath" no greater love, or is it violation of the sixth commandment forbidding murder?  Heavenly lawyers could debate and appeal that idea for eons. 
Zealots and revolutionaries aside most suicide is a human attempt to exit an unbearable physical situation. Pain, mental or physical, is usually at the root of suicide.  In some cases I suppose it can be done  for retribution or punishment to those left behind.  A "They'll be sorry when I'm no longer around" reasoning. 
Humans, in their cognitive reasoning, will sometimes bet their life on the unknown rather than suffer the known for one more minute. In our human wisdom, logic and awareness we figure that anything is better than what we are experiencing now, so we bet our very lives on it.  
Here are some sobering statistics:
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)
  • There is one death by suicide in the US every 13 minutes. (CDC)
  • Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year. (CDC)
  • There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. 
In the US every 13 minutes 26 people attempt suicide while only one is successful. If you don't want to do the math, that means that each year approximately 950,000 people attempt to kill themselves. People who never tell anyone they failed at an attempted suicide obviously can't be measured.  Perhaps that number is a million or so. 
Depression accounts for the majority of suicides.  The statistics of untreated depression is also staggering:
  • Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (CDC)
  • Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. (NAMI)
  • 80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication.
How do you process this information? I know I am a person who fights depression. I hope I am in the 80% to 90% for whom current treatment is successful. But even with help, the darkness is always just one light switch away. As my friend Cy indicated in her last letter to us, it is a matter of treading water constantly.  That effort became too much for her last Saturday.  
If you are unhappy most of the time. If you are joyful one minute but dreadful the next. If that swing is not under your control. If your inner dialogue won't let your consciousness be calm... seek professional for help.  There is nothing wrong with asking for and getting help. Most of the time it is a momentary condition that you will get over like the common cold.  In some cases it may be chronic and you will need medication.  A mental professional will be able to know the difference.  Don't try and diagnosis yourself the symptoms are not as clear as a cough, rash or elevated temperature.

There is such a stigma toward drugs that help us cope with depression.  Those of us who need them must really be crazy and totally messed up if we need medication just to seem normal.  Why is  insulin for diabetes not seen in the same way. Insulin is a drug that is designed to regulate the chemicals in the body so they function normally. Without the drug the diabetic could die. Drugs for depression are designed to regulate the chemicals in your brain to help it function normally.  Without psychiatric drugs the depressive could die as well, and usually by his own hand. 
I don't know what is on the other side. No one does. There will be plenty of people who claim to know based on a dogmatic belief. Their guess is no better than any other. 
I do know based upon the empirical evidence, all around us, that Life is hard wired to keep living independently AND human intelligence is not great enough to inform us when we need to move on. The world will always be a better place because you are here, do whatever you can to BE HERE NOW and find your peace of consciousness. 
As you were,

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cy Brinson

Before she changed her name to Cy she was Cindy Brinson to me. We both came from Dallas and her Uncle was my older Brother's boss during his college days.  Cindy was a singer and a piano player and we both ended up in Houston working for the Astroworld live show department after college.  When I reported to rehearsal in the Summer of 1971 Cindy was my only friend.  She was now married to Trey Wilson whom I would come to admire as one of the most talented people I have ever known.
I remember distinctly one evening as we left rehearsals Cindy said to me, "This is going to be a great summer.  Sandi Asbury said working with you was going to be a blast."  
"Sandi.. the beautiful dancer said that?"  I replied in astonishment.  I had an immediate crush on Sandi but had no idea she even knew I was in the cast.  I suddenly thought I might have a chance with her. Turns out a year later Sandi and I were married. (by the same preacher who married Cindy and Trey)
Cindy played the piano during the five shows a day we did at the Crystal Palace.  She was the one who observed every show and every prank we played first hand.  Some of the time we were doing things on stage just to crack Cindy up.  She had the greatest smile.
Cindy even went with Sandi and a group of University of Houston performers on a USO tour for two months the Christmas before we were married. Sandi and I lived in Houston for a couple of years and saw Cindy and Trey on a regular basis.

Cindy stayed in Houston as Sandi and I left for Hollywood.  Most of the kids from the USO tour were making their way to the coast to pursue show business. Cindy stayed and became a highly acclaimed jazz musician jumping head first into her music.  She changed her name when she and Trey were divorced. 
We would hear rumors about Cy Brinson and her popularity in Houston, but eventually lost touch personally. Typical show business, you meet, you laugh, you love and you leave. Friends forever even if you never see them again. 
A year ago I got an email from Cy Brinson it was out of the blue after 40 years of radio silence.  It was a long letter catching up on what she had been doing for these last decades.  The story included a incident during a tour her group was playing in Russia.  It seems that two of the guys in her group were gay.  As she and the two guys were walking back to their Hotel after dinner one night, they were attacked by some homophobic Russian bullies.  They beat up the two gay men severely and when Cy went to help, the hoodlums threw her to the sidewalk where she hit her head on the curb.  As it turned out she was hurt more seriously than the guys but she didn't know it at the time.  
After experiencing head aches and sever anxiety she went to her Doctor back in Texas.  He concluded that the injury to her head had damaged her brain severely, and these headaches and depression were symptoms of that incident.  There was nothing to be done but prescribe medications to help with the side effects.
Her letter went on to say that she went to a family cabin in the woods to recuperate and basically became a hermit. There she developed even more symptoms.  She became agoraphobic and could not be in a crowd of more than three people. She lost all interest in the piano and singing but developed hypergraphia, a condition that caused her to write and drawn compulsively.  She was either writing or drawing the entire time she was awake each day. She finished several books and hundreds of paintings.  She had come through that phase and was now reaching out to reconnect with her old friends.  We continued to email back and forth.  She became a fan of my blog commenting occasionally and that is the way it was until about 5 months ago.
That's when I got a friend request from Cy Brinson on FaceBook. I quickly accepted and directed her to some of her other friends I knew were on Facebook.  Over these last few months she posted pictures of herself and her art work and old black and white photos from the USO tour.  It was great to be back in touch with Cy... Cindy.  I thought this was perhaps the best use for Facebook, a person who wants to reconnect with old friends but could not be with more than three of them at a time in real life.  All of us were so happy to be back in touch with Cy.  It seemed like an empty space in our hearts had been restored.  
Last week in an effort to think about my own spiritual leanings I wrote a blog on my idea of Life Eternal. Cy wrote a comment:  

Cy Brinson Your timing was perfect for me today. Thank you. Thank you. Did I say, "Thank you?"
The thumbs up "like" was mine.  It was the last communication we had. A week later (last Saturday morning) she took her own life breathing helium until she went to sleep and never woke up. The official cause of death was self inflicted suffixation. It was planned in every small detail and she left a letter to all of us to "explain". In fact, the reaching out to all her old friends and joining Facebook was part of that plan.  We didn't know she was saying good bye. 
Her best friend said  "In Cy's world Saturday (the day she died) was a great day." 
It was the depression that finally got her.  That feeling of hopelessness that never goes away in spite of any happy circumstances.  She said she could not cope with it any more. In her letter she said, "It is difficult when people all around you say, you seem so happy.  You don't seem depressed."  She made the analogy that is was like treading water as hard as you can in the ocean just to keep from drowning and people on a passing cruise ship see you out there.  They smile and wave and assume you are having as good of a time as they are.  It is the classic dismissal most people give to depression.
It is very hard on those who "knew her when" to reconnect with her only to have that connection severed so quickly.  Music, Art, Literature, Laughter and happiness have all taken a huge hit with her exit.  The event that caused her so much anguish was the result of cruel intolerance and violence, two ideas that Cy most certainly did not indulge in. A beautiful friend, who was a loving and kind soul. It is tragic on so many levels.
We all miss you Cy/ Cindy,

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Duty Calls

I will not be posting for a few days. Here is the reason.... it's absolutely true and I want to make it sound as mysterious as possible.  
I have been called to serve my country.  I can't say any more about the mission now. However, I've been given permission to write about it with photographs,  but only after I am back.
Tomorrow I catch a plane that will land on an Air Craft Carrier at Sea.  I'm not sure where it is, they didn't say and I didn't ask. I won't be alone. Most of the members of the squad are good friends but I don't know the guys they call Ghost. (If you know the theme song to "Mission Impossible" or know any of the James Bond music... now would be a good time to play that theme in your head while I tell you the rest)
None of the people I am traveling with know that I have been on a mission like this before and on this same Carrier.  We have a few days to come together as a unit, perform our duties and be successful.
We could face danger....(if you still have the music playing in your head picture Bryan Williams saying the rest)
I was told by some one representing the Admiral that this trip would be an Adventure for all of us.  I looked up the actual definition of ADVENTURE and it is: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risk. Am I afraid? This is not a cruise ship. This is an armed nuclear powered Air Craft carrier. Of course - I know this is the real thing but, I actually feel very comfortable with the United States Navy in charge. 
My brother tells me the two of  us visited our Dad when he was a Commander on a WW2 Air Craft Carrier.  I was too young to remember. My Dad was defined in some ways by his career in the Navy, so I have always known there is US Navy in my blood.  This time I plan to make sure I absorb it in every detail. 
Mysterious enough... all true. More later.
As you were,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

And now for something Different

This is the text picture I got from my Son on Sunday Evening.  His first refrigerator in his own apartment. He got a good deal and free delivery, on a Sunday in the span of an hour and a half of purchase. I knew this was one of those adult/parent moments that social media was made for:  Getting a refrigerator in your apartment means you have officially moved in.  I "stickered" him back a thumbs up icon. We shared a Father/Son moment digitally.

Before ---
Perhaps it's my dyslexia but I realized the problem immediately upon seeing the picture of the refrigerator in place. Soon he would realized it as well. I wondered if we were having the same thoughts. The realization that sometimes when you get a quick bargain it comes with surprises. All sales final means you have to live with your mistakes. The one thing you need in a small kitchen is correct use of space.
I didn't wait very long to Text him back.
"It opens the wrong way but that can be changed."
I didn't know for sure the hinge of a refrigerator door could be reversed. I never did it before nor even considered the possibility. It was my Fatherly way of saying "don't worry, it will work out." My intent was to try and "fix" it the next day although I was not sure what that meant.  In that moment I flashed on my own Dad coming to my house to "help me" fix something.  I had a mental file of tainted memories of these times and it was not a pleasant one.
Those encounters never seemed to occur drama free. The job eventually was done but not before emotions and often breakables were sacrificed.  Unfortunately my boys saw much of the same behavior from me as they were growing up.  I have a better since of mechanics than my Dad, and I am better with hand tools, than my Dad. But my short fuse approach to common repairs is definitely his method.
This method starts with the tools used. All repairs should be done with a screw driver, a hammer and a pair of pliers. All other tools are "a lazy mans way of doing things. When I grew up we didn't have the money to buy fancy tools" he would say.  At some point neither the hammer nor the screw driver would be right for the task. If pliers could not accomplish it,  my Dad moved to Defcon 2.  This meant cursing loudly, screaming at the problem loudly, throwing the hammer and yelling the "Stupid thing is impossible to fix."  Only then, after cleaning up whatever the hammer broke, would the solution come clear on how to handle the task.  I think I learned that pattern a little too well growing up.

With that in mind I go to the apartment to survey the project.  It seems like a socket wrench and Phillips screw driver would be all that is needed. Although a YouTube video tutorial on how to re-hang a Refrigerator door suggested I would need a special kind of screwdriver with a six pointed star driver.  I thought I had that as well. So back to my house to get the tools and return to attempt a project for/and/with my Son. 
The cheap socket driver I had for the appropriate bolt size was plastic and broke before the third bolt was loosened.  My Son saw what happened and took a step back.  I felt that old pattern coming up from the tips of my fingers. The words "Stupid thing" were forming in my mind, but I did something I had never done before.  I laughed.  (Probably because I had no hammer to throw).  The calm helped me figure out a rag tag way to secure the socket bit to another driver... (Also cheap and not well constructed)  It would work for a moment then it would slip and all the parts would fall on the floor. All effort stopped to re-arrange the parts and tool. The fourth or fifth time this happened I was ready to explode. My grown Son was watching and waiting for it.  In his eyes I saw myself watching my Father from the past in a similar situation. But for some reason it was still funny to me. Seeing it as humorous kept it from seeming impossible. Finally the make shift driver broke as well and the project was stalled.  The doors were off the refrigerator and parts were carefully placed in the order they came off. My Son had taken pictures of the steps, but until we got a tool that could finish the job we were stuck.
We made our way to the hardware store.  I remembered that my boys never did care to go with me to the hardware store in the past.  Here we were on a pleasant trip to find a solution to a common problem. Something was different and I knew it. It was because so far a Johnson meltdown had not occurred.  
I found the perfect tool for the job, a Black and Decker 1/4" socket wrench.  Not inexpensive but perfect for what was needed. We returned to the door less Refrigerator. 
Before we left it seemed like a simple task to just reverse the hardware like a mirror image of the original and put the doors back.  But the break had confused us both, and combined with my dyslexia I spent some time doing the wrong thing. In one case I put a hinge right back on the place I had taken it from an hour before. But I was on a roll now, I was determined to break a pattern of behavior and not break something in my Son's new apartment.  The final three screws were eventually tightened and it was fixed. In that instant the small kitchen had twice the room with the Refrigerator door open. And one could actually open it  and look inside without hiding in the corner and sucking in your gut. 

Lesson learned here. I hope it is a change in the way I approach things in the future. My Son said, "I had no idea that could be done, I thought I was just going to have to live with it that way."  I agreed but I think he was talking about the Refrigerator doors.
As you were,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Absolute is also Vodka

I can truly only write what my mind dwells on.   I often quote my inspiration Spalding Gray who said, "I can not make up the lie that tells the truth." That seems to be my mantra and my limitation. I am baffled by writers who can write about a world so different from themselves and make that fantasy believable.  They also seem to be the ones who become the most successful. 
For the last few weeks I have been waxing philsophical, examining what I believe, thinking about religion and what it means, especially to me. I would love to write some funny anticdotes and I am sure I will later but for now all that I can really consider is the heady concepts of eternal life and consciousness. 
I know why dwelling on this particular thinking has engrossed me. This is how the current journey began.

About three weeks ago,  I posted a blog about a frightening moment I experienced on board an airplane.   It had a happy ending and I got to write about it.  Double Bonus. A gift to this compulsive writer albeit a little macabre to think of it.  But this philosophical frenzy did not start because of some "near death experience" on that airplane,  it began after I wote about the event.

I received this comment on the story: "Jay, as your friend, if you had died in a plane crash yesterday, do you know where you would be spending the rest of eternity? and why?"
That is a philosophical "essay question" if I ever heard one.  It's the last word that hooked me, "WHY"
I considered the question very carefully before posting an honest response in the same comment section of that blog. But the word "Why" will always lure me to deeper considerations. 

Instictively I knew the subtext of the comment, which is:  Was I "saved?"  Not saved from a near tragic areonautical disaster, but "saved" in the Christian sense of the word. I knew the response this reader was looking for.  As a child I grew up repeating this answer to similar questions.  "I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ  and absolved of all of my transgressions because he died on a cross for my sins." 
But then there's that word "Why". 

Why does the death of a self proclaimed Rabbi two millinea ago have any affect on my relation to Deity or Consciousness of eternity? Other than just accepting the concept of cosmic sacrifice at face value what do I really think?  It is much more difficult to craft my own concept to sync with my inner truth. That is because when it comes to these spiritual matters I was taught WHAT to think not HOW to think. I was taught WHAT to say but not HOW to think about it.  I am grateful to Universal Mind for the gift of a rabid curiosity. It compels me to seek my own answer to WHY?  Why am I supposed to think that? Why does it only work that way?  Thanks to a comment on a blog I can think of little else for now.  Words in any language are insufficient to describe the spiritual or the eternal qualities of Life and labels tend to confine the larger picture. The idea of God is too great to be contained but, here it is as simple as I can express the way I feel. 

I am an Absolutist.
I am Absolute in that I am
I believe conscious existence (God by whatever name) is Absolute, and man is individualized confirmation of that Absolute existence.  Man is Absolute awareness of Absolute existence.
That's it. That is my life's philosophy. 

Knowing this you can read on - over my shoulder if you wish. Although I am not sure the person who started this philosophical avalanche is reading now, it is of no matter... I have to explain it to myself any way. 
If you do continue reading....."keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out." - Walter Helmhurst 
If you do not wish to continue reading-  have a great day. Know that nothing stated here will change, increase, influence or affect your relationship to the Omniscient- Omnipotent existence of Absolute Truth. Absolute remains unchanged either way. Namste. 

adjective: absolute

  1. 1
    not qualified or diminished in any way; total.
    "absolute secrecy"
    synonyms:completetotalutterout-and-outoutrightentire, PERFECT, puredecided

I believe the substance of conscious existence is Absolute Truth. Absolutism by its own nature and definition has to be Monotheistic.  In whatever form you wish to visualize it and by whatever name you wish to call IT, the influencing animating force of all Life is Absolute, "Complete" "Total" "Perfect and "Pure".  A Supreme Being has to be Absolute or It is neither Supreme nor being.  

But, that differes from WHAT I was told to think in Christian teaching. Rather than  Absolute Power I am supposed to give God the relative position of a Father. A rather forgetful Father who needs to be asked politely and specifically for all favors big and small. A Father who needs to be reminded of even my most basic needs. His protection and Love are conditional on the observance of rules and rituals that differ greatly among all the established Monotheistic religions. And this Father God needs to be thanked constantly for granting my needs. If I ask in the right way, and thank him for his Love and my prayer is not granted, only then do I accept that God is Omniscient and knows what is best for me.  
These "relative conditions" can not exist in the mind of Absolute Supreme Being. Omniscience is neither forgetful, uninformed nor can it be withholding. Absolute is Absolute.

Here comes the HOW. How does Jesus fit into Absolutism? WHAT I was told to think is this: The horrible execution of a Jewish Rabbi 2000 years ago was a surrogate and substitution for my own horrible death and eternal punishment. That event was the ultimate cosmic sacrifice. WHY? Why would Absolute Omniscience have need for the ritual of a physical sacrifice. I can't think of a reason Why. 
Absolute Truth would say that the life of Jesus is much more important than his death.  Did he die so I could live? Or did he live to teach Absolute Love so I could understand HOW to exist in that consciousness too? Taking away the idea that Jesus died for humanity does not diminish his contribution to my salvation, in fact it makes it more important that I practice his ethics.  His mission was to teach me HOW to think,  not WHAT to think in order to avoid my own responsibilities.  His lessons, his life examples his Absolute commitment to Truth would be unchanged if I knew nothing of his birth or death. He lived in constant contact with the Absolute and gave us the mission to do likewise, not to do the work for us.  

Abolute life has no beginning and no end. Absolute Conscious existence does not end with death nor start with conception. Eternity is the constant consciousness of my individual connection to the Absolute Truth. 

I can  hear the crackling noise of Bible pages turning to find rebutal to this Absolute Philosophy. Fair warning,  I am not interested in passages from an ancient text that once again tell me WHAT I should think. I am only interested in Why.  

As you were,

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Is Life Eternal?

One day it dawned on me that according to what I was taught in Sunday School my life is Eternal. Even when my body dies "I" will continue to exist for eternity till infinity.  The way I interpreted it no matter what I did on Earth, I would still exist eternally.  If I was "Good" I would live eternally happy, and if I was "Bad" I would live eternally miserable.  My behavior had nothing to do with the fact that my "life" was eternal. That was a spiritual fact.  Simply stated it was up to me to interpret the rules to experience a better eternal vacation once I chucked off this mortal coil. 
Life without end is easy to visualize because I can't conceive of existence without my current consciousness. In philosophical terms, it is impossible to exist without consciousness because I only know I exist because I am conscious of it. It is not a play on words it is an existential truth.

So if I am living a life that is eternal when did that eternity start? I was told by that same Sunday School teacher that my life started at the moment I was born. The moment I was separated from my mothers womb, the eternity clock started ticking.  The older I got the more that didn't make sense. 
The fact is, eternity can't start. Eternity is "without beginning and without end".  If eternity starts, then there is a moment when eternity did not exist and that is impossible.  Even the allegoric interpretation of "The Beginning" in the Bible indicates that some form of intelligence was around before anything physical existed. Eternal Life/consciousness of some kind was there to observe the inception of the physical. 

Lately there is an opinion that "life" (eternal Life) begins at the moment of conception. There is no doubt that physical life begins at that moment, we can observe this scientifically. But is it self supporting life, capable of independent existence earlier than about 7 months of development? No. To be clear we are talking about the physical shell that is not self sufficient before that time, but what about "Life" eternal.  When does that "begin"?  It can't.  But IF you accept this theory that Eternal Life/ Infinity starts at human conception we have to readjust what we consider deity.
Who or what is the creator of eternal life if it begins at human conception? We have two options: the human female egg or the human male sperm. It seems that one of these small cells is capable of "creating the eternal, infinite clock that will never end." Their chemical combination is so powerful as to create not just human life but eternal life as well. Yet neither sperm nor egg is immortal.  Nor do they have life of their own outside the human body. This would seem to break, not only the spiritual rule of eternity but the laws of thermal dynamics as well.  

The Bible is full of parables.  I suggest one of my own here.  I have a car.  I love my car, it is not like any other car. Although similar to others it is mine and I identify with it and have made it my own. In fact people who know me well can see this particular car and say... "That's Jay's car."  I control everything that the car does.  I can make it go fast, go slow, stop, go, I can drive it safely or I can use it to create hazards and danger. The car is just a vehicle I control.  
If there was a super race of Aliens looking on Earth from so far away that the smallest thing they could observe was a car, they would think cars are independent intelligence beings. They would think the earth was populated by these metallic beings. These cars would be observed to go here and there controlled by reason and moved with logic. If they were really observant they would notice my car. It would move in a pattern and path that was strictly under some independent individual  control. To them that car would be me.   
Several years ago these Aliens would see the metallic me sitting on the street when another drunken metallic being smashed into me. The metallic me is so badly damaged it would never move on its own again. Other metallic beings would haul me off to some junk yard to rot in silence and stillness. To the Aliens they would have observed the death of what they knew as metallic Jay Johnson. 
On a micro level I was not killed only my car was totaled. I got a very generous insurance check and decided to purchase another car specially ordered from the factory.  The Aliens could observe my new car being assembled, shipped and delivered to my door.  Soon the new shiny metallic being would begin to move on its own.  The Aliens would have observed what they thought was birth. In reality the metallic beings have nothing to do with conscious birth, death or life nor are they any part of the human race except existing for a time as a tool.  

It is a metaphor, a parable. I am not a car, a car is not me. By the same reason I am not a body and a body is not me. Most religious philosophies agree with that last sentence. 
I have been the "animator/driver" of several cars in my life time. I existed before those cars were manufactured  and I existed after they were wrecked and scraped. 
If the car I ordered was scraped before I took delivery, I would simple order another and that vehicle would become my car. Destroying my car does not destroy me. 
Life never began and it will never end. If it has no ending as most religions teach, then it can not have a beginning. It can change form, it can assume a different shape it can originate new identities of itself but there is no human chemical reaction that creates eternity. 

Only my opinion, I am sure yours is different.
As you were,