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Month: May 2016

My dad’s secret mission in the Pacific in WWII

My dad’s secret mission in the Pacific in WWII

barneyatwarIt’s been 13 years since the old man died. He was typical of that generation where he never talked about WWII or any engagement.

But towards the end of his life he would make these cryptic references to the secret mission. Neither my brother nor I could pry any details out of him. One time, while waiting at the deli counter in a supermarket, out of the blue he said, “It was around this time we spent a week playing cat and mouse with a Jap sub.” * I asked him to elaborate and he just shrugged and said, “Nothing. Never mind.” He seemed distracted, lost in thought.

A few years after he died I was talking with my brother and he brought up the secret mission thing. I mentioned the supermarket incident and decided that I had to look into it. Off to the Google I went.

What I found was an article in the Cleveland Plain dealer from 2009 that stunned me. It was called John Wicinski of Garfield Heights was on a secret mission aboard the USS Tucson: A World at War

Wicinski, 87, of Garfield Heights, said he and fellow crewmen aboard the USS Tucson were told only that they were part of a secret mission. The details became obvious that night as the lone cruiser assumed the role of a battleship supposedly leading a naval task force in an attack on Japan.

They were out there with their asses hanging out.

The plan, as detailed in the U.S. Navy Cruiser Sailors Association newsletter last fall, was to have the Tucson break from the task force on its own and head for southern Japan, while the rest of the group actually sailed in the opposite direction to bombard Hokkaido and the Northern Honshu islands, which lay beyond the range of B-29 bombers.

A team of Navy tricksters aboard the Tucson would send out a flurry of radio dispatches that mimicked the communications of an entire task force, with ships talking to other vessels and aircraft. The hoaxers used scripts and even moved to different locations aboard the cruiser to obtain different background noises for their transmissions.

The hope was that the Japanese would monitor the broadcasts, assume an attack was imminent in southern Japan, and reposition their defenses accordingly.

The old man did say that one point they they were at general quarters for a week, which in miitary parlance means an announcement made aboard a naval warship to signal the crew to prepare for battle or imminent damage, but again, no details despite being pressed.

I contacted the U.S. Navy Cruiser Sailors Association to see if I could get a copy of that article since I was the son of someone who was on that boat. They graciously provided the article which you can read here. 

The old man’s boat was a light cruiser which accompanied battleships. He said it was like a floating ammo dump. Somewhere I have a copy of a letter Admiral Halsey sent to the fleet thaking them for “giving Tojo what for.”

That was that generation. He was told not to talk about it and he never did.

*The USS Indianapolis had just delivered the first atomic bomb to Tinian when it was attacked by a Japanese submarine. The cruiser sank in 12 minutes. Some 900 of its 1,196 crewmen survived the sinking, but only 316 were left by the sharks four days later for rescue.


Watkins Glen , my Woodstock

Watkins Glen , my Woodstock

From the archives, 2009

watkinsnewsOkay. So they had Woodstock. Whoop-de-do. That’s all we’re going to hear for the next week. I wasn’t allowed to go. I was only 13 years old. That was the concert for older kids. Then our time came. That time was July 28, 1973, in Watkins Glen.  Summer Jam, the forgotten bastard child of Woodstock.

It was a one day concert and featured only three bands, The Allman Brothers, The Band, and the Grateful  Dead.  Still, it was our time and what a time it was. We had more people than those losers at Woodstock. The Guinness Book of Records puts the total at 600,000. To this day it is the largest gathering of young degenerates in United States history.

It is unclear why Watkins Glen didn’t take its place alongside Woodstock and Altamont in the pantheon. It could be that by the time it happened, the war was winding down and there wasn’t such a sense of urgency like the one that hung over the Woodstock Nation. There was very little chance that we would be drafted unless Nixon decided to ramp up the fighting again, but that was unlikely.  There would be no Fish cheer here.

Maybe it was a transition from one era to another. If Altamont was the death of the Sixties, maybe Watkins Glen was the wake held by its younger siblings. Whatever it was, it was ours.

The morning of the day before the show, four of us strapped a tent to the top of a Corvair, packed that death trap with a cooler of ice, a carton of cigarettes, two hits of mescaline and five cases of beer. We figured we could buy the rest of the drugs we needed when we got there.

After we got about an hour away from the concert site, we ran into a massive traffic jam. We spent most of the day in that jam and it was sweltering. But it was a party atmosphere. You’d move a few feet and then stop for about 15 minutes. During that time, cars emptied out and people socialized with each other, trading drugs, buying drugs and doing drugs and cooling off with cold beer.

Many decided to ditch their cars on the side of the road and hoofed it to the concert site. Not us. We were going to get there and get a camping space.

When we finally made it to the entrance of the concert grounds, it quickly became apparent that the $10 tickets we bought wouldn’t be needed. There was no longer an entrance gate. In fact, there were no fences or gates or any kind.  Actually, there were,  but they had long since been trampled to the ground. As we inched our way onto the grounds we bought ourselves a quarter pound of pot and six hits of acid. That left us with just enough money for gas to get home.

We made it to the camping area and set up our tent.  So many people arrived the night before, the three bands did shortened sets, basically extended sound checks. People were just milling about, sharing what they had and just having a grand old-time. Everyone was wandering from campsite to campsite. Much to the organizers’ credit, they had an ample supply of cases of gallon jugs of water.

The day of the show, we got up, made some breakfast and prepared for our day. We pre-rolled dozens of joints for convenience sake and packed our “provisions” into our backpacks and cooler. I dropped one of the hits of mescaline and just in case, put a few hits of acid in my pocket and off we went to see how close we could get to the stage.

We wound up nowhere near the stage, but near two speaker towers so at least we could hear. The concert was a few hours away, so we had a great time with the people around us. It was a gigantic sea of stoned humanity. Yup, this was our Woodstock. It was hot and the sky was clear. We were having the time of our young lives. One big, burly, shirtless guy who said he was from Oakland kept doing a thumbs up and screaming. “Tunes are a big plus!” I figured he needed a hit of acid which he excitedly accepted. I decided that what the hell, I might as well do one, even though I was tripping on mescaline.

We watched as a skydiver floated erratically down toward the crowd, laden with orange smoke flares. Even in our drug induced haze we could tell something looked wrong. He looked limp and lifeless. We later learned he died from the flares.

The Dead did their three-hour or so set. Even the acid couldn’t make their endless noodling bearable. I had never seen the Dead before and I wasn’t planning on seeking them out any time in the future. Oakland was a huge Deadhead and was grooving big time. He thanked me again for the acid.  After the Dead and a slight delay as they changed the stage, The Band took their turn. In the middle of their set, the sky darkened and opened up. It seemed to be a given in that day and age that at any big outdoor rock show it was going to rain and rain hard.  We were soaked in a minute but it didn’t matter.

We decided to go back to the tent.  So there we were, four soaked and stoned  teenagers, in a tent and trying to figure out what to do. I decided we should eat something. I turned on the gas camping stove. I spaced out until someone said, “Maybe you should light the stove.” As I lit the match I saw God. I’ve never seen such a colorful,  massive flame in such a confined space.

We all sat in stunned silence for a few seconds until we recovered and someone said, “Man, that was pretty cool.” But we removed the stove from the tent anyway to avoid another “pretty cool” moment.

We heard The Band begin to play after the rain, but we decided to remain at the campsite and take a break.

It was dark when the Allman Brothers Band finally took the stage. Nobody wanted to go see them with me. They were too involved in their trips to physically motivate. So, alone I headed out with a bottle of whiskey and a jug of water. It seemed to take forever to get to the concert area. It was tough going since I was still tripping my brains out. The mescaline high had worn off and I was now in the midst of  the acid trip. It was slippery and muddy and I kept falling in the mud.

I finally arrived and was able to get almost near the stage. I was still damp and covered in mud. I started talking to a girl who turned out to be from Pittsburgh. She had a blanket wrapped around her and offered to share. We were both wrapped in the blanket, watching, drinking and smoking. She accepted a hit of acid.  At some point I must have decided I needed a nap because I woke up on the ground wrapped in Pittsburgh’s blanket.  I got up and apologized and she said not to worry. I looked like I needed the rest.

As it turned out I was out for the bulk of the three hour set. The good thing is that all three bands did a long encore together. After that, I bid goodbye to Pittsburgh and meandered back to our tent, which amazingly enough, in my incredibly stoned state, in the dark, I was able to find.  .

I awoke all fuzzy, blurry and out of focus. It was Sunday. We lingered in our post drug haze, smoked a couple hairy dogs, made some breakfast and waited for the bulk of the people to leave. We meandered out to the concert area and looked at the gigantic mess that was left behind. It was hard to believe that hundreds of thousand of people were there just one day before.

The ride home was painful and long. Even young, healthy, teenage brains and bodies have their limits. When I finally arrived home my parents were sitting in the kitchen. They looked at me and laughed. I took a shower and went to bed for a day.

I eventually fell out of touch with my Watkins Glen cohorts when I moved away.  I do know the kid who owned the Corvair joined the Army and was blown up at Fort Dix in the early 80s. He was part of a team that disarmed dud explosives on the practice range. One exploded unexpectedly and he was one of four who were killed. He was the one who was pretty much the straight one in our group of drug degenerates.

Berniebots Behaving Badly

Berniebots Behaving Badly

It was Sanders’ supporters who were tipping point for me when I made the game time decision to vote for Clinton in the New York April primary. As much as many Sanders supporters tried to claim the Bernibro and Berniebot behavior was an invention by the mainstream media, it wasn’t.

Back in February CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Sanders about it

“Have you heard about this phenomenon ‘Bernie bros’?” Tapper asked. “People who support you, and sometimes attack in very crude and sexist ways?”

“Yeah, I have heard about it. It’s disgusting. We don’t want that crap,” Sanders spit out. “And we will do everything we can, and I think we have tried. Look, anybody who is supporting me and is doing sexist things is — we don’t want them. I don’t want them. That’s not what this campaign is about.”

Sanders’ Rapid Response Director tweeted


Hector Sigala, Sanders’ digital media director, told Mashable

“We love our supporters, and we know we wouldn’t be here without you all, but it does add a layer of complexity when we have to track what you all do during some moments when we are shaping our messaging,” Sigala posted on the subreddit. “Above all: just know you represent our movement and be respectful with those who disagree with you.”

That last line jumped right out at me.

Back in 1984 I worked for the Gary Hart campaign in New Hampshire and New York. We had quite the wacky crowd in NH; hard-drinking and pot smoking enthusiastic kids. He was the dark horse against Mondale and wasn’t given a chance of winning the primary.  When we would be bused to a campaign event we were always issued the standard warning

Remember, these people are normal and we need you to be on your best behavior. Feel free to drink and eat, but watch yourselves. Your behavior reflects on the candidate.

When we gathered to prepare for canvassing, we were also told be to be respectful, especially to those who did not support our candidate.  Don’t argue and if you get a Republican household, thank them for their time and move on.

We listened. We didn’t go to Mondale rallies and make trouble. We stuck to our work. We managed the impossible. Our candidate upset Mondale by about 12 points.  As much we liked Hart we had no delusions. The philandering rumors were making the rounds and we knew about them. But he was a smart. forward thinking politician . For those who don’t remember, or are too young to know, this is how a 2014 New York Times profile described him

Hart was invariably described as a brilliant and serious man, perhaps the most visionary political mind of his generation, an old-school statesman of the kind Washington had lost its capacity to produce. He warned of the rise of stateless terrorism and spoke of the need to convert the industrial economy into an information-and-technology-based one, at a time when few politicians in either party had given much thought to anything beyond communism and steel.

Compared to Hart, Sanders is nothing more than an angry, populist crank whose platform I happen to agree with. But I can’t see him as President.

Back to the present. I just came across this


They just can’t seem to help themselves. They have no sense of self-restraint. They have no clue how their behavior reflects on their candidate.

As a footnote: On primary night 1984 in NYC we were watching the returns at some hotel I can’t remember, I was asked by a Senator Bill Bradley staffer who I worked with during the NY primary if I wanted to come work for the Senator.  I demurred since I had a big problem with him voting for Contra aid. I always wondered how my life would have changed had I said yes?


Progessive purity, Sanders and Clinton

Progessive purity, Sanders and Clinton

Sanders supporters and the progressive purity crowd have questioned Clinton’s progressive bona fides. Bernie Sanders says there is no such thing as a “moderate progressive.” What progressive era? The progressives of today aren’t the same ones from the early 1900s.

Well, if she doesn’t believe in eugenics and raising the minimum wage to keep immigrants and “defectives” to prevent them competing with the white man in the job market, then maybe she isn’t. The minimum wage was part of the “racial hygiene agenda.”

If you wanna be a historic progressive, that’s what you gotta believe.  Oh, things have changed? Get outta town!

I’ve read articles that compare Sanders to Teddy Roosevelt. Then why isn’t he pro-eugenics? How about one his letters from 1913?

I agree with you if you mean, as I suppose you do, that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind. It is really extraordinary that our people refuse to apply to human beings such elementary knowledge as every successful farmer is obliged to apply to his own stock breeding. Any group of farmers who permitted their best stock not to breed, and let all the increase come from the worst stock, would be treated as fit inmates for an asylum. Yet we fail to understand that such conduct is rational compared to the conduct of a nation which permits unlimited breeding from the worst stocks, physically and morally, while it encourages or connives at the cold selfishness or the twisted sentimentality as a result of which the men and women ought to marry, and if married have large families, remain celebates or have no children or only one or two. Some day we will realize that the prime duty the inescapable duty of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.


Farmer Yassir, National Lampoon

Farmer Yassir, National Lampoon

NL_LemmingsBear with me here. I loved the National Lampoon’s early 1970s Lemmings record. It was a take off on Woodstock.

My favorite part was “Farmer Yassir” and his line, “Long hair, short hair. What the hell’s the difference once the head’s blowed off.” The character was played by Gary Goodrow.

Fast forward to the early 2000s. I go into the Kettle of Fish in the West Village to see my pal Warren who was behind the stick. I walk to the far end of the bar. It was pretty crowded and noisy and all of a sudden, through the din I hear this voice. I say to Warren, “That’s Farmer Yassir!”

Warren looks at me incredulously and says, “Yeah. How much pot did you smoke in college? Yeah that’s Gary. You have to invite him down and make him say that line.” I just couldn’t. It was too weird. So he goes down and talks to him the next thing I know, Gary comes down and Warren introduces us. I shake his hand and say how it is a pleasure to meet him.

Warren says, “Go ahead, ask him to say it and buy him a beer.” And I said, “Could you please say that Farmer Yassir line?” He smiled and said it in that voice. “Long hair, short hair, what the hell’s the difference once the head’s blowed off.”

I have to say, it was a weird, but one of the greatest moments in my life. He wasn’t some large celebrity. He was someone who made an impact in my young years and was not a household name, but I knew who he was.

He passed away in 2014.

But I thought of him when Prince died. He gave many people much joy over decades and he was a hotshot. But Gary Goodrow loomed larger for me. It wasn’t a lifetime, it was one moment. One moment that affected me. Sure it was a silly moment, but it make me think those silly moments are the ones that stay with us.


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