Mare Island


The Mare Island Naval Shipyard (MINSY) dates back to the mid 1800’s, when Commander David Farragut was at the helm of all shipbuilding and repair operations. During the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay, it was Farragut who gave the order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Later, the Marines also took up residence at the Mare Island base.

The first U.S. submarines built on the west coast were constructed at Mare Island.

In 1996, the Mare Island Naval Shipyard ceased operations and was decommissioned. Today, the shipyard is a ghost town of empty buildings, broken glass, and rusted steel and burned timbers.

During WWII, the Mare Island base saw a huge surge of activity. Over 50,000 were employed to build and repair ships of all sizes and duties, and to staff a large hospital, a paint and rubber testing facility, a firefighting unit, and more. Mare Island was the bustling hub of all Pacific naval activities.

The massive cranes that were once used to hoist ships and submarines into dry dock now serve as decaying shelters for water birds. Osprey nests are common on the tops of the booms that tower above the island.

More than 500 vessels were constructed at the shipyard, including the first nuclear sub built on the west coast. Interestingly, the extremely patriotic military and civilian workers on Mare Island raised enough funds (War Bonds) to pay for every single submarine built at MINSY).

The island’s past is filled with hot steel, the clanking and whirring of heavy machinery, and of patriots’ love for their country and an unwavering respect for the military.

A visit to Mare Island is a journey to the very core of the United States. You can sense the hard work, the sweat, and the pride that went into keeping our country safe.

The setting today, though, is of gloom and doom and the feel of a post apocalyptic horror film.

I can’t help wondering what tomorrow will bring. However, if how we’re taking care of the planet is any indication of our future, well…


Why I play piano


The journey that begins as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge heading into San Francisco, is one of inspiration, awe, and wonder. But, before we travel on, perhaps a little driving music would be a nice touch.

A brief stop in the Presidio to gaze out toward Alcatraz Island, before driving through Pacifica and points south.

We’re now making our way along the cliff-side winding and roller-coaster-ish Pacific Coast Highway.

The views are spectacular. In fact…

…the scenery is so breathtaking it often makes me do strange things. Doesn’t everyone do this?

Obviously, the inspiration is contagious.

Windsurfing at Half Moon Bay. Life just doesn’t get any better.

On second thought…


The wine is bottled poetry


National parks are closed


Fort Pulaski was built to protect the port of Savannah against foreign invasion. One of the Confederate soldiers who supervised the construction of the fort was Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee. Lee would later become a general in the Confederate army.

In addition to heavy weaponry and 11-foot-thick brick walls, the fort was also protected by a moat that surrounded the entire compound. Perhaps, though, it wasn’t the moat that prevented enemy troops from approaching the fort on foot. Instead, it may have been what lies beneath the surface of the dark water that deterred intruders.

Inside the walls of the fort is a vast parade ground where soldiers conducted drills and other official military details. This is also the site of the first known photograph of a baseball game.

Baseball game taking place behind the rows of soldiers.

The fort overlooked the mouth of the Savannah River, where today large container ships enter from the Atlantic Ocean on their way to the ports in Savannah.

Confederate soldiers at Fort Pulaski slept in dormitory-style quarters.

The commander of forces at Fort Pulaski, Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, enjoyed slightly better living conditions than the soldiers who served under him.

Father Peter Whalen, chaplain of Confederate forces at Fort Pulaski, became a prisoner of war after the capture of the fort in April of 1862. He returned to Savannah after his release and ministered to Confederate forces throughout the state. In 1864, Father Whalen volunteered to minister to suffering Union prisoners of war.

Church at Fort Pulaski

Quartermaster’s supply room.

Jail facility inside the walls of Fort Pulaski

Dormitory-style sleeping quarters for prisoners

Arched grooves in the wooden floorboards were tracks/guides for cannon mounts that allowed the heavy weapons to rotate to various firing positions.

Cannon mount. Notice the wheels positioned in the arched grooves cut into the floorboards.

Cannons stood ready to fire at all times

Finally, we see a fully loaded ship leaving the Savannah River, entering the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island.

And, here’s a view of the Atlantic from a recently constructed fort at Tybee Island.


Cutest little baby face


I often find myself daydreaming about life in the good old days, back when people really had it made. When there was no stress or worry. Why, even writers had it made back then, with all that modern equipment at their disposal—things like fancy typewriters and kerosene lamps.

Yes, those were the days when foreign lands came to you, instead of you having to bother with pesky airplanes and the groping hands of TSA workers.

Speaking of travel, a Saturday trip to town was always a special day. The ladies occasionally took time to be measured for a new pair of shoes, while the men might be inclined to purchase a new collar, or cuffs, for the shirts they often wore for several days between washings.

Feeling a little sickly? No problem. While in town, you could pick up something for your health woes. Like a box of Swamp Root, or Chill Tonic. Swamp Root worked especially well to combat ailing kidneys, livers, and bladders.

However, if your problems were more of the “fanged” type, there was the handy-dandy Vampire Killing Kit.

The Putnam Dye Company guaranteed their products to never fail, and that their products were easier to use than the products of their competitors.

Do you have trouble deciding which coffee to buy? You know, since today’s grocery stores often have one entire aisle devoted to dozens of brands and flavor assortments. Well, “back in the day,” coffee worries weren’t an issue. The choices were Blue Plate Coffee, or…well, Blue Plate Coffee. Sometimes stores managed to carry one or two other brands, but that was about it.

Who knew turtles grew from beans?

Freshly butchered meat was always a treat, even if there were no refrigerators to help discourage bacteria growth and insect invasions.

How about a Sunday afternoon leisurely bike ride through the park?

Saturday clothes washing was easy if you owned an Easy brand electric washing machine.

Central heat meant placing the wood or coal stove in the center of the house, or store.

Freshly baked bread could be purchased directly from a horse-drawn carriage. Or, you could simply ask the telephone operator to connect you with #64, and a loaf of your favorite bread would be waiting for you at the bakery.

You certainly wouldn’t want to forget to grab some hog supplement or meat meal while shopping for fresh produce.

You know, visiting the good old days of times gone by aroused my curiosity, so I asked Sherman and Peabody if they could use the Wayback Machine to send me back to an earlier time in my life.

They agreed, and here’s where I landed—with two strange women who were far too deep into my personal space.

I’m already anxious to return to 2013.

St. Augustine, FL



On a blanket


What’s that you say? You don’t have access to the beach? Well, worry and sweat no longer, because I’m taking you with me today for a short walk through the marsh and over the dunes. So grab the sunscreen, a big floppy hat and your flip-flops, and follow along.

But, before we take the first step, I encourage you to start the song below and enjoy the smooth sounds of The Drifters as you slowly scroll your way down to the sea. Come on. We’re almost there…

Even as the skies darken with the threat of an approaching storm, the magic of the ocean is still there.

And then there’s this…


Now, don’t you feel better? Okay, so get back to work. Your editor won’t wait forever!


Country roads. Dark tree-lined tunnels.


Telephone poles and mailboxes zipping by. A blur.

Handcuffs swing from spotlight handle. Metal against metal. Tap, tap, tap.

Winding curves. Hit the apexes. Feed the wheel. Don’t cross your hands.

Is it hands at ten and two, or three and six?

Eyes darting from ditch to ditch, watching for deer.

Moonlight behind trees.

Limbs and branches like back-lit gnarled fingers disappearing into a black night sky.

Blue strobe lights transform fog into winking, blinking azure cotton candy.

“Are we close?”

“No, not yet. We was a long ways in the country.”

“Maybe three more miles.”

Radio lights blink in sequence.

Dispatcher speaking in monotone.

Stolen car on interstate.

Disturbance in West End.

Shoplifter at convenience store, Third and Bellview.

More blinking.

“There. Right there. The body’s in the woods to your left.”

“We drug him across the ditch right there.”

“See where them weeds are knocked down?”

Entourage of patrol cars stop.

Guns drawn.


Shiny shoes on dew-dampened grass.

Careful, don’t disturb scene.

Belt leather creaking.

Keys jingle.

Fallen leaves crunch and crackle.

Twigs snap.

“Where’s the body?”

Shrug. “Thought it was here.”

Humidity high.


Vests like dense clay around torso.

Hours pass.

Cadaver dogs.

Noses to ground.


Hundreds of mosquitoes.

Sunlight begins to squeeze through tree canopy.

Translucent yellow wands.

“Over here!”

A boy.

Lying in leaves and pine needles.

Eyes closed, mouth open.

Hands bound in back.

Gray duct tape.

Insects in and out of nose and mouth,

Like cars traveling the 101.

Buzzing flies.

Beetles scurrying and burrowing.

Someone’s son.

A brother.

A grandchild.

Cameras flash.

Measuring. Gathering.

Bullet casing in roadway.


Gansta’ wannabes.


“Didn’t know gun was loaded.”

“Took it from Dad’s nightstand.”

“It was a joke.”


“We didn’t mean to hurt him.”

A joke.

“We just wanted to scare him.”


One dead.

Four in prison.

Life sentences.

A joke.

Rainy day visit


Just across the Georgia state line, heading south, take a quick left turn onto Florida’s A1A, drive 15 miles, cross the Intracoastal Waterway, and you’ll wind up at Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach.

Unlike the beach near our home, parking at Fernandina Beach is plentiful and FREE. Beach access is also easy.

The beach here on Amelia Island, even during the week of July 4th, was surprisingly deserted.

A lone shrimp boat heading south, ahead of the approaching storm.

A couple of families and three sets of horse hoof prints in the sand were the only signs of beach intruders.

A military helicopter made a couple of passes.

Oddly, this was the only water bird on the entire beach.

A gopher tortoise must’ve sensed the coming rain and headed home.

Another tortoise sitting on his front porch watching the humans pass by.

Downtown clock tower.

Walking in the rain, enjoying the sights, and doing a little window shopping and browsing. But, walking in the rain, holding an umbrella, while lightning sizzled and popped overhead was probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Why buy the painting when you can capture the image with your cell phone? Sort of like reading an entire book while in a bookstore, though. Doesn’t really help the authors or artists pay their bills. Okay, now I feel guilty. Still, the painting was really good.

Of course, there was the traditional beach t-shirt shop.

I snapped this photo with Wally Lind (crimescenewriter guru) in mind.

Fernandina Beach, the town, is charming and quaint.

The warm scent of chocolate drew me to this candy shop. Unfortunately, candy is not on my diet.

Neither is ice cream.

But I can read all the books I want and I’ll still have a happy liver.

The rain was coming down in boat loads, so we ducked into this very nice two-story bookstore, where we found many of your books on the shelves. This was the upper level, where we also discovered the rare and elusive $3,000 solid copper pelican.

Then came the scarlet letter


A walk through the streets of Salem, Massachusetts is a trek into history. Each turn of a corner stirs the imagination. It’s a journey through what was once a fishing village whose residents believed a small pox epidemic and attacks from nearby tribes were the result of witchcraft. One can almost hear the cries of tormented young girls who shouted out the names of suspected witches, an act that basically condemned many to death.

To quell the rapidly growing “trouble,” a special court was assembled to try the so-called witches, and if found guilty the punishment was death. The first “witch” to be hanged was Bridget Bishop. Several others followed her to the gallows shortly after.

And then came The Scarlet Letter

Statue of Roger Conant, the first settler of Salem. This statue stands in the intersection in front of the Witch Musem.

A short walk from the museum led me to some interesting discoveries.

Hawthorne Hotel

House of Seven Gables, home to relatives of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne visited the home many times as a child which gave influence for the book, House of Seven Gables.

Courtyard inside the grounds of the House of Seven Gables. The red building is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s childhood home. It was originally a few blocks from this site, but was moved to be a part of the museum.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home until he was four.

Hawthorne was born in Salem on July 4, 1804. He died in 1864 while on a trip to New Hampshire with President Pierce. During his lifetime, Hawthorne did as many of today’s writers do, he networked with other authors, such as neighbor Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), Henry David Thoreau, Longfellow, Holmes, the Brownings, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Interestingly, Thoreau spent two years in a small cabin at the edge of Walden Pond, on property owned by Emerson. It was Thoreau who once stated, “That government is best which governs least.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, and was laid to rest on Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Ten years later, his wife Lydia was buried beside him.

Mine are the night and morning,

The pits of air, the gulf of space,

The sportive sun, the gibbous moon,

The innumerable days.


I hide in the solar glory,

I am dumb in the pealing song,

I rest on the pitch of the torrent,

In slumber I am strong.

–from Emerson’s “Song of Nature”


Nathaniel Hawthorne authored many works, including The House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter.



A throng of bearded men, in sad-coloured garments and grey steeple-crowned hats, inter-mixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.