Wanna see a bad guy get it? LOL
She’s killing me, I tell ya. My little Cake Boss.
She is never, NEVER ready on time. Have I said never yet?
This morning was no different. I plead with her to be ready at 8:45 am, five minutes earlier because it is pouring outside. Raindrops the size of watermelons. And that means the world’s supply of crazed mothers and grandparents in their M1A1 battle tanks in desert camouflage will be assaulting the three or four dropoff places at school – all at 8:55 am. Our Marines should be embarrassed these mothers can assault the beach head on time – every time. But unlike the Marines, its every mom for herself. Damn the others. :-)
As usual, my son is ready. He is always ready. Sometimes he forgets things like his homework – but he is always ready.
Then I begin to yell at her. “Brooke! What are you doing?? Get in the car!”
Then she procrastinates even more… She’ll do the exact opposite – like my ex does even today. She’ll run to the bathroom or decide to wear a different pair of socks or whatever. I yell at her even more as I will have to drive like a NASCAR driver just to get near the school that is a bazillion miles away. Tokyo’s closer.
It’s 8:48 am and Jack is waiting in the car as usual…for his sister. Reluctantly, I haul her 100 ton backpack to the car. It must be filled with Walmart’s entire inventory of nail polish. Well, there are books in there at least.
She finally runs to the car – in her bare feet – in the rainwater left by the watermelon-sized raindrops – while holding her socks, shoes and… hairbrush.
We get to the school as the bell rings. Jack jumps out…but not Brooke. Of course not.
Brooke suddenly remembers her mama didn’t sign an assignment sheet that was due yesterday. Crazed Marines (aka as mothers) are honking at me…while my Little Cake Boss struggles to put her Converse on while searching for that paper. I sign it. She finally jumps out but her shoes are still not completely on. Criminy.
I get home.
I see something pink and white on the back seat under her hair brush she carried into the car instead of her backpack I lugged for her.
It’s the Text Princess’ iPhone.
They page her. I wait in the hallway. She comes. I hand her the phone. “Papa! You didn’t have to bring it-aaah…” in her trade-mark Valley-girl way of talking… but she knows she’d have a heart attack without it. It’s like the little notes girls used to pass around in class when I was her age.
Watch this… The first thing she’s gonna do is lecture me when she gets picked up…after she’s the last one to leave the school, of course, texting as she walks.
So very eloquently written…
Originally posted on Life In The Gym:
*Warning – This is another off topic post but something that has been on my mind. Actually, I do a lot of thinking while doing cardio so I suppose it’s related, albeit distantly, to my workouts.
Racism exists in this world. That’s an indisputable fact. America has waged a long and reasonably successful struggle against institutional racism but if you look you will be able to find instances where you can rightly point to someone who has been treated badly solely because of their race. If those cases come to your attention, you can throw your energy behind peaceful efforts to see that the wrongs are righted and to help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
That’s correct action. That’s working in the right direction and it’s doing what our Christian faith asks of us. We are to be defenders of innocents who can’t defend themselves.
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It indeed turned out to be a volcanic week. The end began the night before on Saturday at 10:30 pm when my son asked, “Papa, can we go to the Mojave Road tomorrow?”
Mojave Road?? In the morning?? Egads.
The week was already in shambles… full of surprises.
My 13 year old son requested one of my apples pies so I baked one on Tuesday night…from scratch. Crust included – never mind it looked like a clone of Shaq’s head. The pie turned out pretty darned good if you ask him. Can you hear it sizzling as it came out of the oven?:
My 11 year old daughter has multiple dance classes every week night except Friday plus 2-1/2 hours on Saturday – right in the middle of the day. On Thursdays, although she has a two hour window in between two classes, she chooses to stay to chat up a storm with her friends…except last week. As I take her to her 4:30 pm class on the 4th (late again as she is never ready on time), she asks me to pick her up at 5:30 instead! Plus, as she exits the car, she manipulatively says, “…and today’s National Cookie Day, Papa. Can we bake some chocolate chip cookies later tonight?” Geez. Rushed across the street to Ralph’s to pick up more brown sugar and some walnuts then headed home…
As I was pre-mixing the dry ingredients for her cookies, Jack rushes into the kitchen at 5:15 pm all excited. He said, “Papaaa… I forgot to tell you but there’s an orientation night at the high school.”
“Oh…OK. When?” I ask.
“Toooo-night…” in a shy voice…
Holy crap!! I never got a notification of the orientation but it turns out he had taken something home to his mama; of course, she didn’t bother sharing that with me! Then double crap! (There’s a triple crap coming.) I had to pick up my daughter in 15 minutes but the orientation started at 6:00! Arrgghh!
Throw some snacks into a bag, load my son hurriedly into the car, then zip off to her dance studio. I was a few minutes late and she was waiting outside. I am NEVER late when it comes to the kids and especially with my little girl. As I hand her the snacks, I tell her she has to stay because….. :-( Boy, did she get upset at my son…from a distance!
We get to the auditorium in the nick of time.
We transitioned to a classroom later listening to the IT department head give his presentation when… the triple darn hits. My phone starts vibrating… It’s 6:45 pm… It’s my little girl calling from the dance studio. She forgot a piece of her dance clothes for her 7:30 class. Geez.
I couldn’t leave Jack alone so I had to pull him out of the orientation and rush back to the dance school. I picked her up to take her home as I have NO idea what “thing” she needs. I take her back by 7:20 only to have to pick her up at 8:30.
Ah, the volcanoes…
I had been asking Jack where he would like to go on a Sunday especially since the last two months have been Brooke’s dance, dance, dance for competitions and dance “conventions” every weekend. Saturdays and Sundays. Get up by 5:30 am. Criminy. I felt bad leaving him home but I had no other choice.
So at 10:30 pm on Saturday, he brings up the Mojave Road. He would like to go there. I looked it up. It was a dirt road that makes the Baja 500 look like skateboarding on a sidewalk. Sadly, I said we couldn’t go because it’s 4 x 4 terrain; plus, the rainstorms had made some sections really rough going.
“Jack!! What are you going to do when we get there! Duh!” she asked, then stormed to her room. Oh, man. I feel sorry for her future boy friend. Did I write that? Where’s the backspace…
Believe me, I’d rather fight Godzilla rather than getting the Little Cake Boss out of bed early on a Sunday. Braving an apocalypse, I cracked open her door at 7:30 am; I escaped with just one black eye and a broken arm. But we all managed to get into the car by 8 am. Drove like crazy as it gets awfully cold and DARK real quick out in the desert. We got there a little after noon.
Hole-in-the-Wall is an area where volcanoes spewed lava over millions of years. Geologists theorize that uneven cooling of the layers of lava aided in creating pockets of trapped gasses within. Through the eons, time had eroded away the lava layers, exposing these “holes”. The plateaus surrounding the area were what remains of the tops of the original lava flows millions of years ago. It has also been rumored to have been a hideout for outlaws in the days of the Wild West. Their saddles must have had built-in GPS to have been able to come back to this forsaken place. If it weren’t for Sparklett’s making door-to-door deliveries, they wouldn’t have had water, either.
As this story is getting too long, some snaps by my son and I from Hole-in-the-Wall:
I encouraged Jack to take photos as there is an art show at his school early next year:
This is his result:
I have been remiss in visiting Old Man Jack; when I arrived there today, I made sure he heard my Mustang he loved to ride in so much… I hope his now silent neighbors didn’t mind too much. As I neared his resting place walking on very sodden soil, it was clear I was his last visitor from some months ago. The grass had definitely encroached on his gravestone; even the hole where the water decanter should be seen was covered up.
As I trimmed away the overgrown grass, I fondly remembered a “Whhhoooo-eee!” Old Man Jack let out once. That one time, he had an extra emphasis on the “Whhhoooo”… with even more of a sopranic “eee” at the end. He then proceeded to tell me about how his old man kept him in line as a boy while handing me something from his past. More on that later.
And that word’s made up, you know…”sopranic”. But for that moment, he was definitely Julie Andrews. :-)
In our chats in his cluttered garage, Old Man Jack used to tell me how he used to “tussle” a lot while growing up in Glendale, CA. You know. Fight. He wasn’t embarrassed to say he took a lickin’ – once in a while. He frequently said one reason why he took a lickin’ was that he was a runt so he took up body building for protection – as well as for the girls. He had flashed his trademark grin while gently shaking his head fondly left and right as while talking about his youthful adventures; you wonder what crazy memories flashed in his mind filled with life’s wisdom to power that grin.
He reminisced that his dad was also a bit of a trouble maker, especially when he had a bit too much libation but that he was the family enforcer. Old Man Jack said his dad was also a sailor – a baker in the US Navy to be exact but he also had worked as a barber. They were together out in the SW Pacific during the war but on different islands. He said his dad would once in a while send him a cake and cookies on a B-25 Mitchell that was making some kind of supply run. Old Man Jack instantly became the most loved sailor on that island when the cake and cookies were unloaded… provided the pilots didn’t eat them along the way.
On the way to visit him at his resting place, I decided to listen to the news. Well actually, the only time I can hear the news is while in my Mustang is stopped at a light – the exhaust isn’t exactly quiet (listen below)… and in that brief instant, the newscaster reported again about a pro sports figure and an alleged “beating” he gave his son. I turned it off as I am tired of the media making a circus out of every perceived “socially incorrect” behavior. Of course, I wouldn’t know of the intimate details of the allegations. Can’t trust the media, you know.
Don’t get me wrong. I sure as hell don’t condone BEATING a kid. No way. But… I believe there is nothing wrong with a spanking – or a “whippin'” as Old Man Jack’s generation used to say. Because of the social pressures exerted by a faction of our culture, taking a hand – any kind of hand – to your child means police show up at your door – at least here in California. “Positive reinforcement” goes only as far as your front door.
There is nothing wrong with a good spanking, in my opinion… Or, when I was going to junior high school, it was called a “swatting”. There was our PE teacher, a Mr. T. He had a swat board the size of Rhode Island made out of balsa wood thicker than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps. It was even taped at the handle to enhance the grip for his elephant sized hands AND he had several large holes drilled into the paddle section to increase the device’s aerodynamic characteristics, i.e., more paddle speed, more pain. I’m positive he had its aerodynamics tested in a wind tunnel. If any of my male high school buddies are reading this, they know exactly what I’m talking about. I think the paddle section was even painted black. All the PE teachers carried one of their own design.
Believe me, the threat of a swat kept MANY a kid in line… meaning they really gave it a thought before crossing that line and risk getting caught – and greeting the aerodynamically enhanced swat from Mr. T. One benefit was it taught respect – the hard way.
Frankly, the prohibition of spanking – in my opinion – has contributed to the growing disrespect and behavioral problems being shown by many of today’s younger folks. A kid never gets a well deserved licking, i.e., pain, if you did something bad. All a kid gets now is a painless lesson in positive reinforcement or detention. No pain, you gained. You learned it was OK to whine, too.
But back to his “Whhhoooo-eee”…
As Old Man Jack belted out the whhhooo-eee, he handed me this; it has been hanging safe and sound in my hall closet since he gave it to me:
It’s a barber’s leather razor blade sharpening strop (not strap). Specifically, a “Scotch Lassie”; it was his father’s:
While I wasn’t clear if this was the one that was used or not, Old Man Jack got a whippin’ with this on occasion from his dad…the same one who sent him cakes and cookies out in the Pacific during a vicious war. From a couple of the stories he told me, it sure sounds like he deserved the whippings and therefore, the reason for his whhhoooo-eee. And you know what? Old Man Jack turned out to be one helluva respectful and forgiving man.
Remembering he was giving me that trademark grin while handing it to me, he said something to the effect of, “Koji, I’ll tell ya… The thought of getting another whippin’ from my dad sure kept me from getting into more trouble…but not ALL the time.” Knowing Old Man Jack well by then, it made me grin, too.
With that, he said it was time for him to part with it, to move on and that he wanted me to keep it… if I wanted it.
Knowing how it was an intimate guiding influence of how this great man turned out to be as he was, of course I did. I think he was glad.
But I sure miss his trademark grin and I think he misses my cigar in return… but not the whippin’ I gave him when he challenged me at stop lights in HIS ’68 Mustang on our way to breakfasts.
He hated getting whipped, you know.
The Firebombing of Tokyo – Epilogue
War is hell.
Scars are left on those who had to endure the horror…
Those who witnessed it…
Those who fought in it…
But then hopefully there is a healing.
Perhaps it will take a generation or two.
But it will happen.
Perhaps one will never forget… but one can forgive.
Perhaps is it wrong of me – a person who never endured war – to say it so simply. Forgive.
But I have witnessed forgiving with Old Man Jack… Mr. Johnson…
Warriors have forgiven and tried to move on with their life in spite of nightmares for the rest of their lives.
The result is endearing friendship. The same USAF that bombed Japan assisted thousands of stranded Japanese civilians after the tsunami. The world has benefited but at the cost of the sanity of single souls so many decades ago.
Captain Ray B. Smisek
On Sept. 2, 1945, Captain Ray Smisek once again made a round trip flight to Tokyo.
This time, it was as a member of one of the great air armadas ever assembled in history. Over 300 carrier based Navy planes and hundreds of B-29s. MacArthur rightfully wanted to make an impression upon the Japanese people by ordering a huge flyover Tokyo Bay and the USS Missouri, where the formal surrender documents were signed. (They were to fly over at the moment of the signing but were late, upwards of ten minutes. MacArthur apparently whispered to General Hap Arnold of the USAAF something to the effect of, “Now would be a good time, Hap,” with respect to his missing armada.)
It was the crew’s 21st mission. They were going home.
In Part 1, son S. Smisek said of his father that he hated to kill anything – even bugs. That was his character.
Capt. Ray Smisek returned home to his parents after the war and tried his hand in the Los Angeles real estate market; he also worked as a cook in a restaurant. He must have made one heckuva Sauerkraut, one of his favorites.
But… Ray Smisek had met a young woman while he and a back-seater were on a cross-country training flight in 1942. They were flying from Greenville, Mississippi when the BT-13 trainer developed engine trouble. To make matters worse, there was a bad storm. Not swell conditions when you’re training to be a pilot. Fortunately, the clouds miraculously parted and a small town below was bathed in forgiving sunlight. He said he did a barrel roll and dove through the break in the clouds. It turned out to be a rural airport in Springfield, MO (now known at the Springfield-Branson National Airport).
S. Smisek explained to me that his father rarely, if ever, talked about his time at war while he was growing up. That was very typical, you see. His son wrote very eloquently:
When I was growing up, he never spoke much of his time during the war. When asked about those times, I could see a sullenness come over his face, then he would most often ask me another question just to change the subject. In those rare exchanges when he would answer, he made it very clear that he desired no recognition for what he had done. He desired no contact with his fellow comrades, felt no honor for the devastation he had helped cause, and amazingly to me, felt no affection whatsoever for the incredible aircraft which had brought he and his crew back safely from so many missions over so many horrible places.
He, along with the rest of these brave young men, was an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being – a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so that countless others would have the freedom to accomplish theirs.
Raymond B. Smisek was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in 1989 and passed away at home, surrounded by his family, in August 1990. He was just 70 years old. His son believes his father also suffered from another cancer – one related to unhealed scars from war. His son said they were cancers of the soul and spirit, much more damaging than those of the body. His wife – the singer in the big bands of the ’40s – passed away in 2001.
Please visit his son’s tribute to the men of the 330th Bombardment Group at www.330th.org. For the sake of the families of the WWII airmen, S. Smisek has researched and brought many of the pieces together of what it was like for their fathers at war. Through his website and in a sterling triumph several years ago, S. Smisek played a key role in coordinating the meeting of a Japanese gentleman living in Canada with a B-29 pilot from his father’s squadron. Seventy years earlier, the Japanese gentleman was in Kumagaya Japan as an eight year old, running from the bombs being dropped from the pilot’s aircraft. The two finally met and it was moving and emotional moment per S. Smisek. For an article of the meeting, please click here.
There was no escaping bombardment for Aunt Eiko, even after moving to Fukui slightly inland from the Japan Sea; the US Navy shelled their farming neighborhood heavily. She also vividly remembers a small group of high school aged Japanese soldiers relaxing at the nearby beach and still cries inside knowing their fate.
Preceded by my mother, Aunt Eiko and grandma returned to Tokyo sometime in mid-September to find it in shambles. People were living in lean-to’s, she said, and running water still had not yet been re-established in devastated areas. Food was a tremendous daily hurdle. She cannot recall when but she remembers it was such a relief when MacArthur began rationing out beans and drinkable water…but it was American beans. Still, the beans were appreciated.
But their greatest savior surviving the first few months after war’s end was another relative – an American. An American of Japanese descent that is. Taro Tanji was born in Livingston, CA but was drafted out of the Amache War Relocation Center in Colorado by the US Army. He became a member of the famed Military Intelligence Service.
He arrived in Tokyo at war’s end as part of the US 8th Army’s Occupation Force. Through his intelligence connections, he was able to track down Aunt Eiko and family in a suburb called “Toritsu Daigaku”. Some of it had miraculously escaped burning.
Driving up in his US Army jeep, he stayed at their house every weekend. Each time, he would bring a duffle bag filled with C-rations, instant coffee and American cigarettes for my Grandfather (which he reluctantly accepted – funny story). Yes, Aunt Eiko ate the Spam and deviled ham. Taro managed to get in a good word and found both Aunt Eiko and my mother jobs at the PX.
Things were tough until the early 50’s. Dogs as pets were still rare as they also needed to be fed…but Aunt Eiko wanted dearly to achieve one of her dreams – to have a dog.
And so she did… She named him “Prince”, or “Puri” when you shorten “Pu-ri-un-su” pronounced in Japanese. She loved him until he passed away in 1968. She was devastated, of course. I think Puri was an escape from the war’s ugliness for her.
She met Paul Sakuma sometime in the late 60’s; he was a Hawaiian born Sansei who was also drafted by the US Army into the Military Intelligence Service by the US Army. He was attached to the 720th MP Battalion to serve as a translator. He told a funny story to Aunt Eiko where the MPs frequently raided certain types of “houses”… You know… GI’s were prohibited from “fraternizing with the enemy” so they would raid them. One time, there was a fellow MIS Nisei caught inside. He made sure the “howlies” couldn’t escape…but held the door open for the Nisei. After being discharged, he decided to stay in Tokyo to live and worked for the USAF as a civilian employee, using his knowledge of Japanese as a go-between.
They married but had no children – but a week before my first marriage in 1980, I got a phone call from Aunt Eiko in Tokyo. She was sobbing uncontrollably.
Uncle Paul had gone upstairs in their beautiful home he just had built for them after washing her car. He screamed, “Eiko!” It would be his last word; he suffered a massive heart attack and died, right there at the top of the stairs in his brand new home.
Soon after his death, Aunt Eiko immigrated to the US along with my grandmother. She became an US citizen about a dozen years ago.
In an irony, the country that bombed her city to ashes in 1945 bestowed upon her beloved husband Uncle Paul (as well as to Uncle Taro) the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010 for their service to the country. While both had passed away before the award, Aunt Eiko cried for happy when I surprised her with the medal. She said, “Even after all these years, Paul still brings me happiness.”
As for her childhood friends, she is all who remains now at 88 years of age, just like Old Man Jack. Her friend who was burned during the firebombings was one of the last to pass away. She was the tall girl standing behind Aunt Eiko atop the Asahi Newspaper Building on October 30, 1937 and shown here in 1963.
A most sincere thank you to S. Smisek without whom this series would not have been possible. I wish him continued fortune with his 330th Bomb Group’s website, helping those descendants piece together their father’s contribution in World War II.
Previous parts can be found by clicking on the links below: