Monday, October 18, 2010

John Sutherland – Rest In Peace

After I graduated from San Francisco State in December 1975, I went back to playing the drums at Spider Murphy’s in Old Sacramento with a band called the Night Owl Express. The first real gig that came along after SF State was a Technical Writing job in San Ramon for a company called Multisonics in 1976 and that’s where I first met Bruce Odelberg. Bruce and I struck up a friendship and he suggested I move into the old 19th-century house in Sunol with him to share the rent. There were four of us living there at that time, Bruce, myself, John Meyers and John Sutherland. The house was very large, great for parties and we each had our own rooms.

Sutherland was a friendly guy and we hit it off right away. John was very likable and a fun-loving laid back individual. We were all the same age, and John worked nights for Yellow Freight while Bruce, John Meyers and I worked in the daytime at Multisonics.  John was especially kind to me making sure I was included in many social activities. He had a great sense of humor and figured out early in life that his ego didn’t matter. Everyone who met him liked John; he was a lot of fun to be around. 

Money was pretty tight for me in those days and I remember it was John who loaned me the money to go to Great America on one occasion. He gave me a pair of work boots for a fishing trip we took in the Sierras. The three of us spent a good amount of time camping, fishing and hanging out together.

On one fishing trip to the Klamath River, John brought his bride-to-be, Lynn and the four of us (John, Lynn, Bruce and I) slept in the same tent during our week long trip. We not only fished for steelhead we caught quite a few and Bruce’s mom and dad smoked the fish at our campground. 

A few months after they got married, I married my wife Shelley; Bruce was my best man and John was a groomsman in the wedding. We bought a house in Dublin just down the street from John and Lynn and shared many weekend barbecues at the Sutherland home. We had a few margaritas too. Some of the best times in those days were spent with John and Lynn. Once, John decided to use gasoline instead of lighter fluid to start the barbecue; I think he used it to kill weeds in the lawn too. Shelley and Lynn cracked me up when they posed for a picture, each wearing half of the same pair of broken sunglasses.

It wasn’t long before our families grew. First with the birth of their son Ian whom Shelley used to visit as often as she could and then with our son Brian. Our second son Kevin came shortly after Lynn gave birth to the twins, Sadie, and Lucy and by then the Sutherlands had moved to Pleasanton and Shelley and I were living in Livermore. I remember visiting John and Lynn and giving them a box of condoms in case they were having too many babies. We all laughed. John was a good husband, father and a great son. After his mom passed away he would spend time with his dad whose health was failing.

Some of my favorite music came from John. He introduced me to the Story of Jesse James which is a compilation of songs by a variety of artists including Johnny Cash that retells the legend through songs.

Shelley and I moved to Santa Rosa after our daughter Michelle was born and would stop in to visit John and Lynn on our annual holiday sojourns to Livermore. When they moved to Redding, we stayed in contact with Lynn with annual Christmas cards. Our kids grew up, went to college, got married and started families of their own. 

So we were greatly surprised and saddened to hear that John passed away on October 5th, 2010 at the age of 62. Be thou at peace.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summertime Blues

Well, I got down from my perch again last month and went to Washington via Alaska Airlines to visit with my daughter-in-law and son who just returned from a 12-month deployment to FOB Ramrod Afghanistan. It was like a vacation for Shelley and I. We stayed at the Ramada in Olympia and had a very pleasant time. We attended the 5th Stryker Brigade’s welcome home ceremony at Fort Lewis and saw Inception with Kevin and Natalie. It was a ton of fun being with the reunited newlyweds.

The kids looked very sharp in their ball getup. Natalie was smashing and Kevin looks so cowboy in his Stetson.

Uncommon Courage

I am always very thankful to hear others thanking me or my son for our service to the nation. I also really appreciate how uncommon it is that young folks have the courage to put their lives on the line in service to our country. It isn’t the natural thing to do. It’s a lot more common to avoid any life threatening risks at all. Are you crazy? Putting your life on the line to protect someone else’s freedom? Freedoms that you don’t actually have while performing your duty? It’s nuts and it’s scary. So think about the kind of courage it takes for the men and women who put on a uniform every day to save your life and risk their own.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

U.S. Army Weather School

I enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 20, 1967, after graduating from Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, California.

I spent 8 weeks at Ft. Bliss, Texas doing Basic Training and arrived at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey in October for 19 weeks of Meteorological School.

I don’t remember a lot about the school itself other than it was broken into 3 sections. Surface Observations, Micro Meteorology and Upper Air. The few classmates’ names I can recall are Garry Patton (from Louisiana), Kenneth Cain (from North Carolina), Robert Rash (from Pennsylvania) and twins Danny and Ranny Wright (from Indiana). I believe my class began in October and graduated in February or March of 1968. I have some photographs of my class hidden in the garage somewhere and I will try to find them.

I was very fortunate to be promoted from E-2 to E-4 upon graduation and assigned to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona where I began my 93E-20 career as a Surface Observer at Libby Army Airfield. I also lucked out and was sent on two TDY assignments. The first to Searcy, Arkansas and the second, to Colorado State University for a hail suppression R&D project. The other members of that team included PFC Larry Webb, SP4 John Kelley, and PVT Brazil (an OJT 93E).

The first Sergeant at HQ & Met Support Company at that time was 1SGT Gonda who was replaced by SFC Kenneth Beth and the Activity CO was LTC Lin-Harris.

We had 4 Forecasters at that time who shared the LAAF duties but I can’t remember their names. I do remember they were E-7s, three of which were Specialists; something the Army has eliminated. Some of the NCOs I do remember the names of include: SSG Gieger, SFC Rust, SSG Bordine and SSG Escobar. My counterparts in surface observations included: John (Skosh) Whitten, Drexel Sterling, and Daryl Sartanowitz.

About a year after I arrived, the company lost its Company Clerk and since I knew how to type, I was recruited to take his place. Not long afterward the Meteorological contingent moved from the newer brick buildings to the older refurbished wooden quarters. We also had a Micro Met facility and Rawinsonde building just up the road from the airfield. Before moving the Meteorological Activity to White Sands Missile Range, we also did special projects on post including monitoring surface observations during drone tests at Laundry Ridge as well as special Rawinsondes for the effects of dew on microwave signals.

My luck continued as waves of new 93E-20s arrived and were sent to Viet Nam, Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, and Thule, Greenland but I had it pretty good as a married E-5 living on post at Ft. Huachuca. Since I was the Company Clerk I did not have any “extra” duties like CQ.

I did, however, have a “moonlight” job as a drummer. First in a Country Western band called the Star Lighters with Bill Morris and then in a rock band called the Earth Diggers. The later was made up of members of the 36th Army Band at Ft. Huachuca. So my day job was doing morning reports and administrative duties while at night I was keeping the beat at the NCO, EM, and Officer’s Clubs as well as off post night spots. I was ultimately replaced by a real company clerk and not long after got out of the Army in August 1970.

I went to San Francisco State University where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration after two years at Diablo Valley College. During my last year at SF State, I took the most advanced Meteorology class the school offered and with plenty of competition from math and science majors, maxed the class.

It really wasn’t fair my military weather training was a strong foundation and stout by comparison.

I had a successful career working for several high-tech companies including Hewlett-Packard and think the background I got in Meteorology, which I still love to this day, had a lot to do with it

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aufwiedersehen Zweibrucken

Aufwiedersehen is a wonderful way to say adios or goodbye. So many wonderful memories come flooding back when I read this word.

On 18 March 1945, Zweibruecken (which means two bridges in German) was first occupied by American Troops. Three months later, by the end of June 1945, the French Garrison took over the Kaserne, the German word for fort or base. The four buildings were restored and named Turenne Kaserne. In 1953, the French Garrison was transferred to Niederauerbach Kaserne and in turn, Kreuzberg was restored and enlarged by American troops. After completion of the project, Kreuzberg Kaserne became the Personnel Replacement Center of the U.S. Army Europe and as an Army brat was my home from 1960 through 1964.

In 1957, additional buildings were erected and the first (German Army) Bundeswehr unit, the 914th Transportation Battalion, moved in. In February 1959, the Transportation Battalion was transferred to Niederauerbach Kaserne and the 931st Transportation Battalion moved into the German part of Kreuzberg Kaserne. I can still remember the German troops singing as they marched through the housing area very early in the mornings.

When I left in 1964 it was called Turenne Kaserne. I don't recall any notification that the name was changed to Kreuzberg Kaserne and the reason for my confusion. Imagine the name of your hometown being changed while you were away.

Inevitably, all those military installations in occupied Europe would eventually be vacated and lapse into ghost towns. The properties reverted back to German control and many buildings on those sites were demolished and new establishments built.

The closest thing to a pub to our housing development was the Jagerhof where many of us had our first pizza and beer. While we were not supposed to drink if we were not 21, not much monitoring was done in those days and for the most part, everything was kept pretty tame. The Jagerhof

Coming of Age in Zweibrucken is a book now available from Amazon and describes my experiences living in Europe during the Cold War.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Profanity Prevails ~ the Sound is Deafening

I've seen two of this year's Oscar award-winning films, Inglorious Bastards, and Precious and have to say these are not appropriate movies for youngsters. The first was directed by Quentin Tarantino so I would expect it to include extreme cruelty and horrific violence. What I didn't expect, because so much of the dialog is in a foreign language, is the use of subtitles would be necessary. I don't see all that well so that kind of puts a damper on things, at least for me. Tarantino obviously fantasizes about evil. He has produced several films that are full to the brim. Precious on the other hand, probably out F-bombs any film produced to date. Some of the acting is wow-good but it sure isn't an uplifting story by any stretch of the imagination. I'm thinking maybe I 'm more an Avatar kind of audience. We shall see. I'm also aware the studios seem to mix the DVD sound and soundtrack in a way that my volume is always messed up. Either the background sound is too loud or the dialog impossible to hear. Among the other acclaimed films, this year are Hurt Locker and Invictus and I've heard both are very good. I'm expecting Hurt Locker will have plenty of violence (how could it not?) and probably plenty of profanity too but maybe Invictus will spare me.

I remember the first movie I saw where the F-word was used; it was M*A*S*H, believe it or not, and I was in the Army. I remember a big hubbub about the on-post theater being able to show it because of its focus on suicide and the use of the F-word during the football game. That was probably 30 years ago and look how far the entertainment industry has pushed the boundaries of sensibilities. It isn't confined to just the entertainment business either. It's in publishing, books, magazines, online, you name it. Our society has become more decadent and corrupt as the days pass by. (This has the sound of "The Fall of the Roman Empire" I know.) I began to notice it in the sixties when "the pill" enabled the "sexual revolution." Things like integrity, honesty, honor, values have all taken a backseat and gone downhill. It has permeated Political institutions like Congress, Senate, Governors, Mayors and others who are role models for the rest of us. Especially the kids. It isn't any wonder I'm watching the news broadcast about a 15-year old being arrested for attacking a 57-year-old woman and throwing her onto the rail tracks.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I am a purist, trust me when I tell you I am not. I confess to being a conservative Liberal whatever that means. I support the military but wish we'd get out of the wars. I would have preferred it if cheap handguns and rifles had been banned after we lost a President to a crazed fanatic (my apologies to the NRA). Unfortunately, there are quite a few crazed fanatics all over the world and whether they're influenced by our entertainment industry is doubtful but I sure do admire those societies who have maintained some manners and level of decorum when it comes to the way we treat each other. In a better world, it wouldn't be phony either.

Getting right to the point, I don't think I would take offense so much if it weren't for the fact that I'm trying very hard to "be positive." Some of the films I've seen this year have been upsetting my balancing act between being positive and depression.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Elusive Butterfly

There is a saying that goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Robert E. Lee is known to have twisted it a bit when he said, "an ounce of pretense is worth a pound of manure."

I just reconnected with friends from way back in elementary school and what a thrill it was. A longtime heartthrob of mine, we were in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades together and everybody lusted after her as much as boys with budding hormones are capable. She doesn't remember me (of course), can you believe that? Well, it doesn't really surprise me, she didn't know I existed back then either. We went to school, partied at the teen center, attended dances and spent quite a bit of time together in the same groups but I was not real memorable or remarkable back then. I still think of her fondly as someone who was special in those days.

I started smoking cigarettes in the 7th grade: played baseball, was in the Boy Scouts and had friends a plenty. But I was not the most popular guy around and she was the most popular girl. I piled up the demerits and got into some difficulties in the 8th grade, but she doesn't even remember that. Oh well, I feel like Charlie Brown.

Have you ever wondered why it is that things we thought we really wanted but never attained are our elusive butterflies? We continue to hold them in great esteem but only so long as we don't attain or reach them. If we actually experience them, whatever they may be, we find out what it's really like and it never measures up to what we thought it would be.

Just reconnecting is a big deal to me. I finally got another glimpse of one of my elusive butterflies and she is just as out of reach as ever. Some things in life are perfect.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's Don Been Up To?

I'll bet you thought I was taking a break from blogging and I have sort of. I Haven't written anything for the blog this year but I have been busy writing two articles on Flight Simulator. One is on Multiplayer Carrier Operations flying FA/18s off the coast of San Francisco and the other is a review of PMDG/Aerosoft's BAe Jetstream 4100.

Talking Heads

I'm a big fan of television news but one of the things that mystifies me is when the announcers disappear, where do the anchors or announcers go? Here in the San Francisco bay area KTVU channel 2 has a tried and true news team that for decades has received awards for their news broadcasts. Dennis Richmond retired, as did Ross McGowan but did you notice when Elaine Corral left a few year ago? Do you ever wonder why she did and where did she go? Dennis was replaced by Frank Summerville who worked his way up to the evening news from the morning and midday newscasts.

Just last week CNN's Anderson Cooper announced his sidekick Ericka Hill left for another position at another network. And while we're on the subject of CNN don't you think AC and Sanjay Gupta deserve an award for the compelling coverage they did on the earthquake in Haiti?

Where did John King go? They keep rotating the anchor on the Sunday morning news show. I do wonder about weird stuff, I know but I was thinking there might be a market for this sort of information. There are scorekeepers no doubt in the journalism world. There are a few who have left and I wonder where they go.