Monthly Archives: October 2014

Vietnam Diary – Day Zero. Plane ride to the war

Steve A. (who asked his last name not be used) owns a paving company in  New Jersey. Below is the story he told to the Editor of East Coast Stories about his time as a U.S. soldier in the Vietnam War.

Day Zero – The plane ride to the war.

It was not like today’s Army. Despite multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, the American Army of today is a professional fighting force with good morale composed of volunteers.

That was not us. Many years ago I was on a transport plane which was taking a lot of other soldiers like me to the war in Vietnam. None of us wanted to be there. We had all been drafted into an Army we did not want to be in and were heading to a war we did not want to fight.  By that point the war had been going on for a very long time and there seemed to be no end in site.  You can’t imagine how bad morale was in the Army at that time.  In addition to the tension of the war, there were a lot of racial problems in the Army. There was no feeling of togetherness at all. The only feeling anyone had was how do I get out of this alive.

The only people on the plane who were volunteers were the officers, but they did not look like they wanted to be there any more than the rest of us. I was sitting in the front row. On one side of me was a baby-faced  Lieutenant  fresh out of ROTC, who was a few years younger than me. On the other side was a skinny Private with glasses who looked like he should be checking books behind the counter of your local library.

About an hour before we landed the sniper rumor started. The rumor was that the V.C. had stationed an expert sniper in the jungle near the airstrip where we were to land.  In order to crush U.S. spirit, the sniper would kill the first man who stepped off each troop plane that landed at the airbase.

All these years later I can look back and realize what an idiotic rumor it was. The Army would not let a sniper just continue to pick off the first soldier from plane after plane. And if that ever did happen it would have been on every T.V. station and in every newspaper in  America.

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On the plane ride, however, the sniper rumor got stronger and stronger and we really came to believe it.  Some psychologist would have a field day calling it a case of mass hysteria. The officers should  have put a stop to it but they just sat there and said nothing as the troops got themselves into a panic.  Oh, that is something else I should mention about the Army officers then versus today’s professional army. When I was in the Army a lot of our officers were really really bad.

So by the time the plane landed, every man on the plane (including the officers) was convinced that the first man to step off the plane would be killed by a V.C. sniper. The plane rolled to a stop and the ground crew opened the door. Bright sunlight and heat poured into the plane. None of us moved.

The entire planeload of men just sat there in complete silence and no one got up.

At least 5 minutes passed and no one budged or spoke. Then the silence was broken when a huge Sergeant stepped in from the outside and yelled, “What the Hell is going on!   Why the Hell didn’t anyone get off the plane?”

The librarian Private next to me spoke up in a squeaky voice and explained that we were all told that a sniper would kill the first man off the plane.

The Sergeant laughed loudly and said. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard! The first man is not going to get shot. Watch!”

And with that, the Sergeant took his massive arms and grabbed the baby-faced ROTC Lieutenant sitting next to me.  The Sergeant picked up the Lieutenant and threw him out the door of the plane. There was no gunshot. The Lieutenant was bruised and embarrassed, but no sniper killed him.

With that we all stood up and I stepped out into the blinding sunlight to begin my war.

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I learned three things that day that I would keep repeating to myself during my time in Vietnam.  The first was not to believe every idiotic rumor. The second was that Sergeants are the ones who actually run the Army. The the third and most important thing, was that I might actually survive the war.

Editors note: This is the first of a 4 part series about Steve’s time in Vietnam.

 

 

The First Witch – Lilith and her origins

This is the story  of the First Witch, as has been passed down for centuries.  When people first began to read the Bible they were fascinated with the story of Genesis and how all things were created. People read Genesis over and over and soon they realized there was something missing.Genesis 1.27 says”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them.”

But ancient people noticed that in  Genesis 2.18 the statement is made that “Then the Lord God said, “it is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” Why was man alone? What happened to the First Woman who had been created?

Genesis goes into great detail about how the Second Woman (who we all call Eve) was created. Genesis 2.21 states, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up the place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

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Scholars and peasants alike debated the two great questions. What had happened to the First Woman and why did God make the Second Woman from a part of Adam himself?

They finally agreed that the answer lay in the phrase where God says “I will make him a helper fit for him. ”  It was obvious that the First Woman was somehow unfit. But how?  What had she done?

Again, the ancient peoples came to a consensus. It was not what the First Woman had done. It was what she had not done. She had refused to be a helper.  She wanted to be herself. She wanted to be equal;  and because Adam could not accept that she had run away. And all of those characteristics in the eyes of the ancient world branded such a woman as a Witch.

 Eve was then made out of a part of Adam himself (his rib) so that she would be a piece of him and subservient to him.  The Witch had not been created from man. She was completely independent of him.

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The”Witch story” is never mentioned in the Bible. It is something people in the Middle Ages labeled the first woman as.

In modern times, we portray witches as old an ugly, but that is not how the people of the Middle Ages saw them. To them the Witch was a beautiful and sexual young woman. She had left the Garden of Eden long before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and then covered themselves with fig leaves to hide their nakedness.  That means that The Witch was naked when she left, and remained proud of her nakedness.

The stories of the Middle Ages do not end there. There are many tales of the Witch periodically luring Adam away from Even and tempting him with her open naked sexuality.  These tales became so lurid over the centuries that the Catholic Church itself put great effort into changing common picture of a witch into an ugly hag.

So every Halloween, when you see little girls dressed up as ugly old witches with green faces, remember it was not always so. The Witch goes back to the beginning of time, and she was much different than the Trick or Treaters could ever imagine.

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Over the centuries, people even gave the First Witch the name of Lilith. This, of course, was also the name of Frazier’s wife on Cheers. The writers, purposely gave her this name. The name Lilith continues to be a source of either pride or hatred, depending on how someone views a woman’s role in society.

 

 

 

Monster From the Deep

In the city of Stamford Connecticut, Shippan Point was a world unto itself. It is a peninsula that sticks out into Long Island Sound with Shippan Avenue being the only road running in or out.

Shippan Avenue ends at  a  beach at  the very tip of Shippan Point. Like most Connecticut beaches it is more rocks than sand. Despite that it was very popular with young couples looking for a place to be alone at night.

It was supposed to be closed at night, but the police did not bother to enforce the rule. There had never been any trouble on the beach. That is, until the Donahue boys decided to have a little fun. There were a lot of Donahue kids around Shippan point. Ten boys and two girls to be exact. Keeping track of them was such a chore for their parents that they actually had a book in their front hall for the kids to sign in and out. The parents often only knew where all the kids were by checking the book.

No one worried about their kids. Shippan point was safe. It was a wealthy mostly Irish community and the chief of police himself (also Irish) lived their. At the entrance to the Point, where the homes were less expensive, lived Officer Mickelson. The families on the Point paid him a stipend to do  extra patrols in the area.

That’s why it was such a shock to the residents when the killer attacked.

It wasn’t a real killer. On the fateful night, Jeff Donahue hid on the other side of the jetty and put on a black wetsuit. Then his brothers covered him from head to toe with seaweed, until he had a very close resemblance to the Creature From the Black Lagoon. For an added touch they gave him a fireman’s ax.

Jeff was a very good swimmer. He held his breath and went underwater and swam around the stone jetty and swam towards the beach.   His brothers peered over the jetty to see what would  happen.

The nighttime beach was full of young lovers as Jeff swam underwater towards it.  He emerged from the water and onto the beach and screamed at the top of his lungs as he did so. He waved the ax and shook the seaweed.

creature from the black lagoon

The Donahue boys thought the people on the beach would scream and then laugh, just like you do when someone give you a Halloween scare.  They assumed that after the initial shock people would  realize it was just a silly kid covered in seaweed.

What they did not expect was that people would scream, and just keep screaming. The lovers all ran off the beach and got into their cars as fast as they could . They roared down Shippan avenue and raced away to find the police station.

The Donahue boys had forgotten that Jeff was a big guy. He was on the football team after all. And it was night. And he was carrying an ax.

It was dark enough and there was enough seaweed covering Jeff so that no one recognized him. So he got out of the costume and ran home with his brothers as fast as he could. They dried off the ax and carefully put it back in the garage. The wetsuit went into a separate bin.

Their hearts were pounding, but it still seemed very funny. It did not seem funny anymore  next day when they found out that the police had set up a roadblock and sealed off Shippan Point. Half the police force was in Shippan looking for the killer.

Jeff and his brothers decided to just wait it out. The police would go away after a few hours and things would get back to normal.  But police don’t really go away when they think they have a killer cornered. The search was in its third day when Jeff and his brothers had to make the terrible trip they had been dreading. They walked down the hall opened the door to their father’s den and walked over to where he was sitting behind his huge desk.

Their father showed no reaction at all. That made it even more frighting than if he had actually yelled. He simply reached over picked up his desk phone and called his friend the Chief of Police.

No charges were filed and no police reports were typed up.  In those days the Irish of Stamford handled things among themselves in various unofficial ways.  There are no records at all, to the point that some people claim the incident is just a legend that never really happened.  But those people never knew these kids.

Another thing no one really knows, is  what sort of punishment Mr. Donahue doled out. It must have been pretty bad since to this day the boys will not talk about it.

Things went back to normal in Shippan Point for the rest of the summer. The only thing different was that Officer Mickleson drove his car extra slowly whenever he passed the Donahue’s house. If the boys happened to be in the yard at the time they would quickly move into the house. The look in Officer Mickelson’s eyes told the boys that their days as practical jokers were over for good.

John Wick – movie review

John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves is not really a movie. It is more like a very violent video game shown on the big screen. The producers did not bother with much of a plot.

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John Wick is a retired killer who used to work for the Russian mob. He left that life to marry a lovely woman who has now just died.  The only two things left in John’s lonely life are his car (a 1969 Mustang) and a Beagle puppy his wife left him.

Bad guys break into his house and  beat John up. They steal his car and kill his dog. We are not  giving anything away here. This has all previously  been shown in the coming attractions for the movie.

This all takes place within the first 15 minutes of the picture.  The entire rest of the movie consists of John Wick hunting down the man who killed his dog, and in the process killing anyone who gets in his way.

It turns out that the dog killer is the son of the head of the Russian mob John used to work for. Therefore, there are hundreds of goons with automatic weapons protecting the killer at all times. John must mow them all down to get what he wants.

Keanu Reeves has gotten himself into fantastic shape for this role. He really does the action scenes excellently. The problem is that there really is nothing other than the action scenes. There is no real character development. It is never explained who John Wick married or how she convinced him to stop being a killer.

The reason it is like a video game is because the body count is absurd and there is a total lack of police presence.  There is only 1 cop in the entire movie and he just says hello to John despite seeing a dead body. We assume this means the cop is on the take, but that is also never explained.

The rest of the time Wick and the Russians are firing automatic weapons and exploding bombs all over New York City and no police show up.  We don’t even hear any police sirens to hint that maybe the authorities have taken notice. Speaking of hearing, don’t expect to hear much for a while  after leaving the theater. The movie does not have a great sound track, but it does have an incredibly loud soundtrack.

The most interesting character in the movie is a cheerful and beautiful hit-woman named Ms. Perkins.

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She is played by Adrianne Palicki, who, unlike the other actors, seems to be really having fun with her role.  She and John Wick obviously know each other, but the movie does not give any details as to when or where or what their relationship was.

If  you want to watch a loud movie with non-stop action and  a body count close to 100 then this is the one to see. However if you care something about character development, storyline and common sense then you should probably miss this one.

We give this movie 2 Stars   **

 

 

 

 

 

The Hot Seat

In my senior year at Duke, Larry, Bill, Bruce, Glen and I rented a big house off-campus. It was not easy to do.  It was in a nice residential neighborhood and the landlord was very wary of renting to a bunch of wild college guys.

We convinced him we were the complete opposite of wild. We were all trying to get into different types of grad schools so it was all studying  and no parties. Larry was the one who convinced the landlord. Larry was pre-law and a real smooth talker. Plus it was Larry who had convinced us all to move into a house that was really much more than we could afford. Most of us had wanted a much smaller place, but somehow Larry talked us into it. He was going to be a great lawyer.

We could barely meet expenses. The only  good thing was that there was no heating bill since the house had oil heat and the tank was full when we moved in. Larry calculated that the oil would last through the entire winter and we would never have to pay  penny to heat the place.

Larry was wrong. All the oil in the tank got used up and there was still a long time before the winter was over.  Of course,  winter in North Carolina is not anywhere near as bad as it is in New England, but it still gets pretty cold. It was in the coldest part of the winter when the oil ran out. Day by day the house got colder, until eventually it was the same temperature as the air outside.

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We ended up spending most of our time in the living room which had a giant fireplace. A pile of wood had also come with the house. We burned the logs from the woodpile, but but eventually the wood pile was fully depleted

Larry happened to be taking a night class when the wood finally ran out. As the fire started to burn down to nothing, Bill happened to say, “Well I know where to get some more fuel.”

Then Bill disappeared into Larry’s room. A couple of minutes later he came back with the wooden legs he had unscrewed from the easy chair in Larry’s room. He tossed them into the fireplace and the room started to heat up again from the warm glow of the burning legs.

As the fire consumed the chair legs, Glen went out to the garage and came back in with a saw and a bunch of other tools. He proceeded to Larry’s room and we heard a lot of sawing and banging. Then he came back into the living room with the rest of the chair in pieces and threw the pieces into the fire.

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As the fire began to roar, it was no longer about keeping warm. It became a kind of crazy game to find whatever in Larry’s room would burn. It turns out the answer was everything.

A wooden bookshelf, a desk, a desk chair, a night table all went into the fire. Then things that were not even wood got tossed in. Pillows, blankets, cushions all went up in flames. The fire was actually making a  roaring noise. The room was becoming uncomfortably hot, but the craziness continued.

It turns out that a box spring and mattress will actually burn too. Of course, first you have to do a lot of work to chop and cut them up, but it can be done.

The burning went on for a long time, and by the time it was done there was nothing left in Larry’s room but piles of books on an empty floor.

It was very late at night when Larry came home. The fire had died down until there was just a lot of smouldering embers. He said “Hi” to everyone then went into his room. A second later he came back out to ask where we had hidden all his furniture. He did not believe us when we told him we had burned everything. But when he finally looked into the fire place he could see the metal springs from his box mattress. They were the only things that refused to burn. They were still glowing red and giving off a lot of heat.

Larry was too stunned to be angry. He thought that all his roommates had somehow gone temporarily insane while he was in class. He was probably right. The fire was not about Larry. No one had been mad at him. It was about releasing the constant pressure from exams and classes and grad school applications. We all felt badly  about it afterwords, but we all still thought it was funny.  Except for Larry.

We ended up re-furnishing Larry’s room with various pieces of furniture from our own rooms. Slowly Larry forgave us, and the house got warmer when Spring arrived.

Bill, who had started the whole furniture burning  episode, went into Forestry Management. Ironically, the main thrust of his job is developing better ways to prevent fires. Larry got into the University of Virginia law school. As we all predicted, he turned out to be a great lawyer. He now lives in a beautiful custom deigned house.

The architect was very surprised when Larry insisted the house be built without a fireplace.

 

 

 

The Tourist’s New Pet by Gregory Farrell

I was walking down West Broadway yesterday evening and passed one of those miniature parks which is surrounded by cobblestones.  There were two middle-aged woman tourists from the Mid-West oohing and aahing over some tiny  animal which had come out of the park and was not able to get back in due to the low cobblestone wall.

They were looking at a small black creature and one of the women was saying, “poor little baby. Are you lost? Can’t you figure out how to get back in?”

Just then an attractive young woman in a short skirt and a tight top walked past and looked at the scene disgustedly. In a loud Brooklyn accent she shouted “It’s a baby Rat Ladies!” and continued on her way.

The tourists either did not hear her or at least pretended not to.  I also decided to leave, since I could not stand to  watch any longer. You see, the woman from Brooklyn was correct. The creature that the tourists were treating like some lost kitten was, in fact, a baby black rat. Not like  nice clean lab rats. It was the disease-ridden, unbelievably dangerous type of animal that ever city in the world tries unsuccessfully  to wipe out completely.

As I walked away one of the woman was crouching down getting ready to pick the rat up while the other woman was looking for some of bag or box to put their new pet in.

I have the feeling that in some hotel room in New York tonight there is a rat in a cardboard box being fed crackers and cheese from a mini-bar.

So; if in the next week or two you hear a story about a couple of tourists dying from some bizarre infectious disease, you will know how they got it.

You never know what you are going to see in New York if you just look around while you walk. Just don’t pick anything up.

 

Fury – movie Review

Fury is the new World War II action movie Starring Brad Pitt  as a tank commander with the nickname Sergeant War Daddy.  He and his crew are a combat hardened team in a Sherman tank that has seen war from North Africa all the way through to Germany itself in a tank they have named “Fury”.

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One of the crew was recently killed and the tank gets a young recruit (Norman) who has only been in the Army for eight weeks and was trained as a clerk-typist.  The rest of the tank crew hates Norman immediately since one inept crew member can get everyone in the tank killed. Norman is excellently played by Logan Lerman.

The war is supposed to be almost over. The Germans are obviously defeated. Germany itself is being destroyed, but the German government will just not surrender. So the killing continues. For tank crews it is especially dangerous since the German Tiger tank is a far superior machine to the American Shermans.

The battle scenes are exciting, and much of the movie is filmed from the inside of the tank itself.  Brad Pitt is great.

The one problem is that the plot goes in too much for very old Hollywood cliches.  The tank crew is appropriately diverse. There is a Latino, a southern religious guy, a tough crude guy, the rookie and the tough but paternalistic commander. All of these men are stock characters right out of a hundred other World War II movies. The only reason the director did not add an African-American to the crew is because it is well known that the American Army was completely segregated during World War II

The scene that seems the most contrived is the one where Norman meets a young and beautiful German woman (Emma). She is played by   Alicia von Rittberg.  She is lovely with  sparkling clean and brushed hair, a bright new dress and is healthy and well feed.

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She looks great, but for a movie that is supposed to be showing what war really looks like it just seems silly. There was no civilian in all of Germany  who still  looked that beautiful or that clean or that well fed in 1945. A more realistic portrayal of civilian life in Germany at that time is in the autobiographical book A Woman In Berlin, which we have previously  reviewed. In that book the woman stated that all she thought about every second of every day was how to get food and how to stay warm.

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Still, despite its flaws this movie is worth seeing. It is action packed and the tank battles themselves show what it was like to be inside one of those “steel coffins”. They may be stock Hollywood characters, but you do care about what happens to all of them and you do admire them despite their flaws.

Because, after all, some cliches are actually true. Lest we ever forget, there really was a time when very brave men were willing to work together despite their differences and fight or even die for the things they believed in.

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For  a true historic story see Gamal and the Jews- A First Hand Account of When President Nasser Expelled the Jews from Egypt.

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We give this movie Four Stars ****

Please e-mail us if there are any movies you especially want us to review, or topics you would like to see covered.

You can also write to us at Cedartree@live.com

 

Be sure to read our stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running for Cake

Our high school wrestling coach was Mr. Hess. He had been a star athlete  at Princeton in both wrestling and track. He was very discouraged that we were all not more like him and he wanted to whip us into perfect shape. Mr. Hess was also the history teacher and his favorite topic was ancient Sparta.  He wanted us to be just like the Spartans.

He was always devising bizarre training techniques for us. Like the day he decided to improve our reflexes by splitting the team into two groups and having us play Dodge-Ball. The only problem was that Mr. Hess could not find the keys to the locker where they kept the soft bouncy-balls. So instead he handed out a bunch of basketballs for us to use.

Being high-school kids, we of course aimed the basketballs for each other’s heads and genitals. You could only protect one part at a time, so we all got hit in the head a lot. I still remember what it feels like to have multiple basketballs smashing into your head repeatedly. Just like ancient Sparta. Mr. Hess thought it was such a success that he had us play “Spartan Dodge-Ball” 3 items a week.

Then Mr. Hess decided the problem was not with our reflexes but with our stamina.  He decided  that what we really needed was to run. Not just a little warm-up run before practice, but a really long run for an hour or more.

The only problem is that the wrestling season takes place in the middle of the winter and the school had no indoor track.  Mr. Hess had also not told any of us about this ahead of time so we had not brought any warm running  outfits to wear.  After all. wrestling is an indoor sport.

So Mr. Hess gave us all thin grey sweatsuits and sent us outside to run in the middle of one of the coldest winters Connecticut had seen in 50 years.

It turned out that Mr. Hess had an ulterior motive. He was way behind on his teaching responsibilities.  He had piles of essays and tests he needed to read and grade. While we were running in the cold he was going  to stay inside and catch up on his work. So he sent us outdoors and set up his papers to grade.

The rest of the team just ran around the parking lot of the school, shivering and wondering how long before they could go back inside.  But I had a plan. I took off and ran off the school grounds and down the street.

About a mile from the school was the home of my friend John Hoffecker, and that’s where I ran to. It turned out that not only was John home, but that his mother had just finished baking a chocolate cake.

John and I ate delicious warm cake and watched T.V. I ended up staying a lot longer than I had planned. When I looked at the clock I realized that I had been at his house for over an hour and a half.

In a panic, I ran back to the school, dreading what would be in store for me when I met up with Coach Hess. When I got the parking lot none of the team was there.

I ran into the gym and there was the whole team doing push ups and looking  miserable. It turns out that they had only stayed outside for a few minutes before they got too cold and headed back inside. Mr. Hess was furious with them. The team had ruined his plans to catch up on his work, so the was punishing them by making them do push-ups until their arms ached.

Then he turned to me. I awaited whatever evil punishment he was going to give me for cheating on the run.  Instead his face broke into a wide smile. “There’s my little Spartan!” he said. Then he addressed the rest of the team. “Farrell has been outside running for almost two hours and you wimps couldn’t even take it for 15 minutes.”

I felt badly for the rest of the team, but I never told anyone I had really been eating chocolate cake the whole time.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of the team’s reaction. I just didn’t want to ruin the pleasure Mr. Hess had gotten. He actually thought that he had turned me into a Spartan.

Some of the parents eventually complained about Mr. Hess and he was forced to change his training methods.  The administration gave him a manual and told him he had to use normal  training methods like other coaches used. It was probably better  for us, but somehow it just was not as much fun. Knowing that our coach was a little insane and might suddenly do anything at all was the best part of being on the wrestling team.

I thought about this story because the other  day I was driving through town and I saw a group of high school kids running. One of them fell back from the rest and as the others turned a corner he stopped running. He then turned back and walked into the local bakery.

I wonder if he was getting a piece of chocolate cake.

 

 

 

 

 

Sneaking Up On Seagull

On this incredibly warm October 15th is was 75F degrees in New York.  Even the animals were enjoying the last warm days before Winter really begins.

In the series of pictures below a seagull  lets  me get closer and closer as he relaxes on a railing in Hoboken looking across at the New York  & Jersey City skylines.

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Seagull 003Here he is lifting up one foot and thinking of flying away as I get too close. But he decides to trust me.

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The Seagull’s view

Alone and Afraid in Texas

The following is a true story told to the Editor of East Coast Stories.

Nolan does not tell this story to very many people. Even though he is now a middle-aged man he still gets a frightened look in his eyes when he talks about that time.

Nolan grew up in Texas and it happened 45 years ago when Nolan was 10. To understand it you have to realize how just how alone you can really be in Texas.

Every summer Nolan’s parents would send him to spend a few weeks on his grandparent’s ranch. Nolan loved the ranch. It was 70 miles from the nearest town and was one of the most beautiful and peaceful places he had even been. His grandparents were always happy to see him. His grandfather loved teaching Nolan what it meant to be a “real Texan”.

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His grandparents also spoiled Nolan.  They let him eat whatever he wanted and he could stay up watching T.V. shows. Grandpa had put a special T.V. antenna on top of the house just so Nolan could get reception.

One night his grandparents were going to drive into town to have dinner with friends in a fancy restaurant.  They invited Nolan to come along, but he was looking forward to staying home and vegging out in front of the T.V. instead.

Nolan was sitting in front of the T.V. finishing off a giant bag of potato chips when he heard a loud banging from the garage.  At first he thought it was an animal stuck in the garage, but it sounded like some sort of chopping.

Nolan went to see what was going on, and as he entered the kitchen he became frozen with fear. He could see thick door to the garage shaking. Someone was trying to break into the house by chopping through the door with an ax.

Nolan got up his courage and screamed as loudly as he could.  He shouted that he was not alone and that he had called the police. There was no answer from the other side of the door, but the chopping continued.

Nolan ran to the phone and called to the police. The dispatcher told him that a a car would be sent immediately but that they could not get there for at least 45 minutes.  With the town so far away even if the police car went 120 miles per hour the whole way, Nolan realized that he was totally alone.

The chopping continued and Nolan could hear the wood start to splinter.  Nolan didn’t know what to do. He looked for a place to hide. It was a small house there  there were not a lot of hiding places.

Nolan ran to the closet to hide, and when he opened it he saw  his grandfather’s 30-06 rifle. Nolan knew how to use it since his grandfather had taught him. On the top shelf was a box of shells.

Rifle

Nolan is not sure how he got the courage, but he loaded the rifle and ran back to the garage door. The chopping continued and he could see the head of an ax coming thought the door with each stroke.

Nolan screamed that he had a gun and was going to shoot but the chopping continued.  Nolan put the barrel of the 30-06 right up to one of the cracks in the door and pulled the trigger. The sound of the rifle indoors was deafening.  Then Nolan heard screaming. Several minutes later there was a screech of tires as some sort of vehicle raced away.

Nolan wanted to open the door to see what had happened but he was afraid that someone else  might still be outside. Nolan realized that he had never seen the intruder’s face and the intruder had never said a word to him.

When the police arrived they all told him how brave he had been. That was the same thing Nolan’s grandparents told him when they got home. There had been no way to call his grandparents. This was before the days of cell phones, and Nolan had forgotten what restaurant they said they were going to.

The police spent a long time at the “crime scene”. They told Nolan he had definitely shot the intruder. There was blood. A lot of blood.

The police never found the person who had been trying to break in.  One policeman told Nolan that the intruder had lost so much blood he had probably gone off and died somewhere. Not exactly the most sensitive thing to tell a 10 year old kid.

Nolan now lives in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S. In most New Jersey towns if you call the police they can be at your home in 5 or 10 minutes. Nolan points out that we don’t know what it means to be truly alone.

Nolan’s house has an alarm system and thick solid doors. If you ask him if he has a gun in the house he will never give you a straight answer. Let’s just say if you go to visit him it would be a good idea to call first and let him know you are coming.

 

 

 

The Judge – movie review

The Judge is an  excellent film starring Robert Duval and Robert Downey Jr. as father and son.  Robert Duval is Joseph Palmer, a very stern judge in a small Indiana town. Robert Downey Jr. is his son Hank, who works in Chicago as a highly paid defense attorney who is best known for getting guilty people off through legal trickery. The two do not get along and have not seen or spoken to each other for years.

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Hank returns to Indiana for his mother’s funeral and is soon caught up in the toughest legal case of his career. Judge Palmer is accused of killing a defendant who had appeared before the judge years before. Judge Palmer had given the man a light sentence and then the man went out and committed a brutal murder. The Judge always considered  that the worst mistake in his career.

On a rainy night Judge Palmer is driving and  hits and kills a man riding a bicycle. At first it seems like just a tragic accident. However it turns out that the man killed was the same man the Judge had freed many years before.  Judge Palmer is accused of premeditated murder and Hank is the lawyer who will defend him.

The characters in this film are all excellent. None of them are portrayed as stereotypes. As the movie progresses it delves more into the complex nature of the relationship between the Judge and Hank.

The film also has a full cast of excellent supporting characters played by by fine actors. Vera Farmiga is Samantha; the girlfriend Hank left abruptly when she moved away years before. She is now a successful business owner and is not quite sure how she feels about Hank being back in town.

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The prosecutor is played by Billy Bob Thornton, who wants to make sure justice is served and that an arrogant Chicago lawyer does not keep a murderer from going to jail.  As the case continues Hank realizes that his Chicago tricks are not going to work here. He is going to have to use the truth of what actually happened on that rainy night. But what is the truth? What is his father not telling him?

This  is one of the best films of the year.

We give it  Five Stars *****

 

 

 

Terrorist Deer

The following is a true story. The names and places are real.

Will is the kind of guy salespeople love. That’s because he believes anything they tell him. This is the story of one purchase a salesman talked him into.

Will and his wife Marilyn live in a lovely house in Mendham, New Jersey. That is the same town where the late  Whitney Houston used to live.  Will was always very proud of the landscaping, until two years ago when there was an exceptionally dry summer.

Will watered the grass and bushes every day, but they started to look worse and worse. Parts of the bushes were disappearing every night. There was only one explanation – Deer! He never saw them during the day, but every night they were eating anything green they could find.

Will went to the Home Depot and found that there were lots of things you could do about deer. A high fence would be the most effective, but Will did not want to destroy the look of his home. There were also all sorts of pellets and sprays that were supposed to repel the deer. One of the sprays was made of real Coyote urine, as disgusting as that sounds.

However, the salesman was able to get Will to buy the most expensive contraption in the store.  It was an entire system of motion detectors hooked up to a water sprayer that ties into your outside hose. Supposedly, when the deer got close enough, the motion detectors would send out a signal to the hose which would  then shoot out a stream of water to scare away the deer.

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The salesman told Will that these are the same type of motion detectors that U.S. Special Forces set up around their campsites to detect the approach of Al Qaeda. Now, I am no expert on military equipment, but I really don’t think that our soldiers are using the same type of hardware available at the local Home Depot.

So Will bought the entire system and set it up to ward off the terrorist deer that were attacking his bushes every night.  It seemed to work, since in the middle of the night he could hear the hose spraying again and again.

However, despite the nightly  hose spritzes the bushes kept getting more and more chewed up. They had become nothing more than little stumpy shrubs. Will decided to find out what was really going on at night. He went to a local electronic and gadget store and bought a high-end pair of night vision goggles. (As I said, salespeople just love Will).

Deer Story 3

That night he put on his goggles and  stayed up looking out his bedroom window into the backyard.  When it was completely dark he heard the hose go off. That’s when he saw something completely unexpected.

Will had not realized how much the summer drought was impacting the deer. They weren’t just hungry. They were also thirsty.   All the local sources of water had dried up and deer were having a hard time finding enough water to survive.

Will’s motion activated hose sprayer was the best thing that had ever happened to the deer.  Over the summer nights the deer had come to figure out that if they came to that particular spot water would magically appear.

DEER STORY 2

Will looked out his window, and through his night vision goggles he saw the deer lining up to get near the motion detectors, and then thirstily  lapping up the water as fast as the hose could spray it out.

That night Will realized the deer were not terrorists intent on destroying his landscaping. He suddenly understood they were just beautiful fragile creatures trying not to die during the worst drought in 20 years.

Will left the motion detectors and hose set up all summer, and even set out out some buckets filled with water. His bushes got smaller until they were nothing more than little nubs. Will didn’t care. He loved staying up at night and watching the animals he had saved.

Will doesn’t spend much time worrying about his landscaping anymore. Now he is into buying gadgets for his car.  The last time I saw Will he had just installed into his car a device that was supposed to change red lights into green. All you had to do was push a button on your dashboard and the car would send a signal to the light automatically turning it from red to green.

DEER STORY 1

Will and I took a ride in his car to test it out. We pulled up to a red light and Will pushed the button on his dashboard. The light stayed red. Will explained that the saleswoman had told him that sometimes it took a few minutes for the signal to reach the light. We sat at the light for several more minutes and then the light switched to green. Will was happy that the device he had paid $395 for had actually worked.

Yes, salespeople everywhere love Will. So do deer.

 

 

Bun-nanza Volunteers Photo

Below is a new photo of  all the Volunteers who helped at last week’s Bun-nanza event.

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You can see more about the event at the Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue website, including pictures of all the rabbit winners.

If you missed Bun-nanza  we will keep you informed of other upcoming events.

One of the statistics mentioned at the event pointed out how much help was needed. In the past year Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue was asked to take in over 400 abandoned rabbits. However, due to space and financial constraints they were only able to take in an additional 12.

Please help this excellent cause.

 

 

The Gentle Woman Visits Bun-nanza!

The Gentle Woman was at Bun-nanza today in Martinsville New Jersey. This an annual teaching and participation event held by Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue.

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The public came to learn the proper ways to care for rabbits, and many brought their long-eared friends to get a nail clipping.

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The fellow comfortably resting in the hut is Joey who Rabbit Rescue has up for adoption.

Bun Day Oct 5 007This large male Lop is Mistletoe who was brought in by his owners for a nail trim.

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Michelle was the resident nail trimmer, who has a very soft touch with all the bunnies.

Bun Day Oct 5 022We did not get this little grey rabbit’s name. He was too busy enjoying his parsley to tell us.

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Pictured above are Sherry and Peggy, two of the volunteers. Peggy grew up on a farm and is currently writing a children’s book entitled “Chatham Hill”  based on the experience. The book has 3 bunnies as the main characters with a cat as the protagonist.

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This Young lady brought in her two rabbits Bella and Buttons to say hello.

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In addition to seeing rabbits, visitors to the event learned many useful facts all rabbit owners should know.

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Karen, the founder of Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue holds a very curious young bunny.

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Nina helped raise money by selling bunny logo T-Shirts and sweatshirts.

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A contest was held to announce the winners of the Photo Contest.

Old Mom Photos 004The Gentle Woman’s bunny Sunshine actually won a prize!  His picture won the “bunny loafing” category.

Bun Day Oct 5 030As you can see, Sunshine was thrilled with the gift basket prize when it came home.

This was a wonderful event at which we learned much and had a lot of fun.

 

Gone Girl – Movie Review

Gone Girl is an exciting mystery starring Ben Afflek. He plays Nick Dunne whose wife Amy has gone missing under strange circumstances.

gone girl 1At first Nick  seems like a loving distraught husband frantically searching for his missing wife.  However, as the search grows cold the police begin to focus the investigation on Nick himself to see if he is really more, or maybe less than he appears. Apparently the Dunne’s marriage was not the perfect  tale it originally seemed to be.

We are going to make this a very short review since  we do not want to give away any of the intricate twists and turns of this excellent plot.  We will only say that we are giving this movie one of our very few Five Star ratings which is the highest we award.

gone girl 2Ben Afflek is excellent as the husband who you don’t quite trust. He is just a little too good looking and his lines to the media about his missing wife seem just a little too rehearsed.

Watching the movie one cannot but notice how much Ben Afflek and real-life wife killer Scott Peterson look alike.

Scott Peterson

The entire cast in the movie is excellent. The missing wife is played by the beautiful Rosamund Pike, who is shown in flashbacks about the Dunnes’ marriage before she went missing.

Carrie Coon is great as the caring but tough sister Margo Dunne who loves her brother Nick but is smart enough not to believe everything he says.

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It is a cliche to say a movie will keep you on the edge of your seat but this one really will.

We give Gone Girl Five Stars!       *****

 

Prison Dogs

Prison was not at all like Beth had expected. There were no gang fights, no racial problems, no weird prison tattoos. The prison was immaculately clean, but not in a nice way. More of  a hospital antiseptic type of clean.  There was just the same boring routine over and over. Every day was exactly the same as the day before, and the day after.

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The part  of the daily routine Beth hated the most was the group therapy session. A bunch of women sitting on chairs in a circle in a cold gymnasium talking about the problems that got them to prison.

The stories were all the same. Bad homes, bad boyfriends, bad decisions, bad drugs, bad booze all leading to the same place.

But the worst part of being in prison was the fact that you knew you were a Loser.  You always thought so before, but now it was official. For the rest of your life there would a be mark in your record that you had been in prison. A place for Losers surrounded by other Losers the good people of the country did not want anywhere near them. You were nothing and you knew it and now so did everyone else.

prison 1

Beth never spoke during the group therapy sessions. She knew that if she did she would end up just screaming at the other women and telling them all to shut up. Telling them all that they should just stop their whining and accept who they were. They were worthless and they should accept it and just shut up.

There were other things to do in the prison, but Beth had not signed up for any of them. Training programs that were supposed to prepare them for the “real world”. But those programs were voluntary and Beth decided not to volunteer for any of them. She would rather just sit in her cell and stare at the spotlessly clean wall.

Then one day she noticed that there was a program for prisoners to try to help train search and rescue dogs. Beth had no interest in it except for the fact that it would take place every day at the same time as Group Therapy. If she signed up for the dog thing, she would not have to attend therapy sessions.   So Beth signed up to help train the dogs.

ANIMALS 007

A week later she and two other women were standing in the prison yard with an enormously fat man named Wally who had brought 3 dogs with him and was explaining the techniques of how to train a search and rescue dog. It was a lot more complicated than Beth had thought.

Each of the women was assigned a dog to work with. Beth was given a large  Golden Retriever named Jumpy. He was named that for obvious reasons. He was a very friendly dog and was so happy to meet people that he had a tendency to jump on the person. The problem was that he was so big and strong that he sometime knocked the person right over. The other two dogs were a Beagle and a German Shepard.

Wally explained that these dogs had all already flunked out of the usual search & rescue training program. This was their last chance to try again to become useful search & rescue dogs.  If they could not make it they would go back to the animal shelters they came from.

Beth got it. These dogs were all Losers too. That was the only reason they had been brought here. A bunch of Loser dogs trying to be trained by a bunch of Loser prisoners.

It turned out that it was very hard work. Fat Wally was like a drill instructor. Every day he showed up at the prison with the  dogs and they all trained for 3 hours. He brought boxes and crates and set up the prison yard like a fake disaster scene. Then the dogs would have to search for “trapped” people. Sometimes there was no one to find. Sometimes Wally would get other prisoners to hide under the boxes and the dogs would find them. Jumpy got better and better as the weeks went by. He loved when he “rescued” someone.

Beth had never been close to anyone in her life. She had been with lots of boyfriends, but had never really shared her feelings with them. But she did with Jumpy. When they took breaks from training, Beth and Jumpy would sit on the grass apart from the others and Beth would talk to Jumpy. He would look at her with those dark soulful eyes intently listing to everything Beth said.

She knew he did not understand what Beth was saying, but it didn’t matter. Somehow she sensed that Jumpy related to the feeling of what she was saying, even if he could not understand the exact words. Beth told the dog all the things she had never told her mother or her boyfriends or the prison therapist.

One day Wally came up to them while Beth was talking to Jumpy. Beth was afraid that Wally was going to make fun of her. Instead he said,

“You know, I like dogs a lot more than I like people. Dogs have all the good characteristics which people pretend to have but really don’t. Dogs are loyal. They are truly brave, and they love you unconditionally.  I have never once had a dog betray me or tell me I should lose a little weight.”

As Wally walked away Beth looked at him like she was seeing him for the first time. She saw him as not just some fat guy with baggy clothing. She realized that he was that rarest type of man. He was a genuinely good person. He actually cared about the Losers of the world.

That night Beth was sound asleep when the bright lights sudden snapped on in her cell.  A guard came in and rushed her down to the Warden’s office without explanation.  Beth did not know what she had done wrong, but it must be something really bad.

When Beth arrived, the Warden’s office was crowded with people. There were police officers and fire fighters. She also saw Wally and the two other prisoners who were part of the dog training program.

Even though it was the Warden’s office, Wally seemed to be the person in charge. Everyone got quiet as he spoke.

“There was a gas explosion at an apartment building about 15 miles from here. The entire building has collapsed. The rescue workers think there may still be people trapped inside the rubble but they can’t find them. We are the only rescue dog team withing 500 miles so we are going in. Lets move!”

The next thing she knew Beth was in a convoy of rescue vehicles speeding along the highway with sirens blaring  and lights flashing. She and the two other prisoners were sitting in a crowded truck along with the three dogs four firemen.

When they arrived at the disaster scene it was chaos. An entire 5 story building had collapsed in a gas explosion and was in a heap of bricks and twisted metal. There were small fires everywhere and people who had escaped the collapse were being taken away in ambulances, or were wandering around in a daze wrapped in blankets.

Wally gathered the dog team in a circle. “You are going to split up and each search separately with your dog.  A firefighter will be teamed with you to take you to where they think there might be a trapped person. You are all good. I have seen you working with your dogs and I know you can do it. Remember; trust your dog.”

A young fireman lead Beth and Jumpy  to the corner of what used to be the building and said. “There is a woman who says her little girl never got out of the apartment which  was in this area. We have been over every square inch but can’t find anything.” He gave her a whistle and said “signal us if you find anything.” Then the fireman walked away and left Beth and Jumpy alone.

Beth nodded and then crouched down to speak to Jumpy. She  spoke to him in a soothing tone and calmed him down. Then she  put on his paws the little plastic booties that search dogs wear so that broken cement does not cut their paws.

The search began and Jumpy carefully began sniffing the ground.  His whole demeanor changed. He was not running around or nervously jumping like he usually did. It was like he knew this was a job and it was time to get to work.

Jumpy had been searching for almost 20 minutes and the Sun was beginning to rise. Then he suddenly stopped and cocked his head. He would not move from a particular spot. He looked at Beth and began barking. Beth blew the whistle with all her breath and the emergency workers came running over.

It took almost half an hour for the the rescue workers to carefully dig where Jumpy had indicated.  It turned out there was a hidden air pocket under the rubble.  The little girl was trapped but alive.  The little girl was pulled out covered with dust but breathing. Her mother came running over and was crying and laughing with joy at the same time. The girl was rushed to an ambulance and her mother rode away with her.

The fireman who had given Beth the whistle said to Beth, “That’s quite a dog you have there. Has he ever rescued anyone before?”

Beth reached down and patted Jumpy on the head.

“Me, ” Beth said. “He rescued  me.”