Another Military Anniversary: The K-Bar Knife


Red, Yellow, and White Tulips reaching for the sky
Tulips are my favorite spring flowers. I love looking at them when it’s very sunny out and they are spread out to catch some rays.

Spring is still trying to kick winter out.  We were sunny and gloriously warm yesterday and sunny today, but windy and cold.  But I’ve been able to do some tulip sight-seeing.  I think they’re probably only a couple days away from passing the torch to the next batch of flowers.

This week has another anniversary: The KA-Bar, which is a military knife.   This is like an all-purpose knife.  When you look at the link, skip over the first picture, which is a bit disturbing.

When I was in Desert Storm, I was one of the few in my unit to be issued one, or one that was like a KA-Bar.  The knife came with a whetstone, which it needed.  It dulled cutting through air!

I worked on fuel point, filling up the convoys that came in, and issued POL–Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant (it’s been so many years that I had to think about what stood for).

Knives are useful things.  I used to have a Swiss Army knife like MacGyver (the 1990s version, not this remake, which has none of the charm or fun).  I was surprised at how many uses I had for it.  Of course now it’s hard to carry a knife anywhere, even it’s small and for everyday use.  People are so afraid that someone will do something something bad with it.  In Washington, DC, we have to go through metal detectors to get into the museums, and bags are subject to searches.

Things have changed a lot from when a knife was just a tool we used every day.

Layers: A Desert Storm Veteran and 911


Washington Monument at sunset
I wrote this a year after the jet crashed into the Pentagon. I’m still amazed I could write about it then, because I don’t think I could do it now.

On September 11, 2001, the world changed forever when four planes crashed, including one that struck the Pentagon in Washington, DC.  Linda Maye Adams describes the events of the day in Washington DC from a Desert Storm veteran’s perspective.  This story moves chronologically through what happened and how it impacted the people who lived in that area, capturing the emotion of an unforgettable day.

Available from your favorite booksellers.

Adventures in History: Old Town Alexandria


For Labor Day, I decided to wander around Old Town, Alexandria. It’s a place where it’s like walking between two different times.  We have all the historic buildings and shops like Starbucks and Banana Republic.

It was a pretty nice day for wandering.  Not too hot and not too cold (we’ll have cold soon enough!).  Everyone was out walking their dogs, so lots of doggy action.

Alexandria was originally part of Washington, DC.   During the 1700s, it was major shipping port.  Those wonderful tall ships came down the river to pick up tobacco and other goods.  It was such a popular port that the city built out the waterfront from Lee Street down.

Visitor map is here if you want to follow along.  That street will become very important soon.

Potomac River from Alexandria

This is the Potomac River from Waterfront Park.  Maryland is that land in the distance.  In the 1800s, the British burned Washington DC.  Then enemy warships came down this area.  Fearing the same thing would happen to the city, Alexandria waved a white flag of surrender.

Statue of the Seafarer

This statue was also in the park.  It was called “The Seafarer.”  Not a specific person, but a beautiful work of art.

Then it was off to check out Point Lumley.  I admit I was thinking that there might be a lighthouse (there is one somewhere in the area).  Lumley was named after the skipper of a ship that moored there.  So I walked down Union Street.

As I pass a hotel, I catch a passing conversation.  A woman tells the concierge if he knows about the Coast Guard ship on the next block.

Wait…ship?  What ship?

Needless to say I have to explore this.

The Coast Guard ship Eagle moored at Point Lumley

I turn left on Duke street and see these masts.  Holy cow!

I was expecting a Coast Guard cutter, not a tall ship.  Magnificent, isn’t it?

It’s called Eagle.  Across the water, I can hear a woman’s voice over the intercom.  There is also a lot of activity on board, with the crew about their business.

After this, it’s time for Captain’s Row.

Historical signage for Captain's Row

This is a sign in front of a two block street dating back to 1783 and preserved for us to have a look.

Captain's Row Cobblestone street

It’s a cobblestone street.  I read about cobblestone streets in books, but this is what one actually looks like . I try to walk on it, a little bit.  The stones are very uneven.  Some have settled in places.  Not good for my feet.

A closeup shot of cobblestone

And a closeup of what it looks like.

Bizarrely, as I look at cobblestone from three hundred years ago, jets are roaring overhead.  I’m on the flight path for Reagan Airport.

Next up is George Washington.  I’m on Lee Street again, so I follow that to Cameron, then turn left.  I know George had a townhouse here.

From the perspective of today, it seems like a long ways. But if he lived here before the waterfront was built out, then he might have been pretty close to the water.

View of Gatsby's Tavern

My trip up Cameron takes me past Gatsby’s Tavern.  It’s actually a museum and a restaurant.  I’ll spend a whole post on that, since there’s a lot to see.

Sign saying George ate here

And, as you can see, this was a place that George Washington visited.  Hmm.  Maybe I need to check out the restaurant when I visit the museum.

Replica of George Washington's Townhouse

And here is George’s townhouse.

It’s actually a replica of the house and privately owned.  But note in the left window that George is peeping out.  George would stay here when he traveled in from Mount Vernon.

It’s also amazing because I never knew this was here, and I nearly always pass by it trying to get out of Old Town.

By the time, I’ve done a lot of walking, so I’m heading back.  But not without one last stop.

Historic city hall, fountain, and American flag

This is City Hall.  The building is historic.  The fountain and the flag is pretty cool.  It’s a lot of water, and the air is filled with the scents of it.

Back down to Lee Street and my car.  Parking for 90 minutes was fourteen bucks!

A Writer/Veteran Looks at History: Fort Ward, Virginia


I’ve been disturbed at the attempts I’m seeing to destroy history.  In Baltimore, there’s talk of removing statues.  Remove history and you take away who we are.  Since Virginia has a whole lot of historical sites, I thought I would visit them and talk about them.

First up is Fort Ward, which is in Alexandria, Virginia.  I like places where I can walk the area and try to picture what it was like for the people who were there.  Plus I get some good walking in.  The weather was nice and sunny, so it was pretty fun checking everything out.

This was a Union fort during the Civil War.   Today, it’s a park where you can walk around with your dog or even have a picnic.  The buzz of cicadas do battle with the sounds of cars racing by just outside the park.  It’s like an island in the middle of busy.

Fort Ward was an earthen fort built to defend Washington DC during the Civil War, though it never actually saw an action.  Construction was completed in September 1861.

This is a picture of the original design.

A diagram of the 5 pointed star shape of Fort Ward.

Time’s now worn down the earthen walls, and it’s hard to picture.  But this design was so that on the star’s points, soldiers could catching approaching enemy in the crossfire.  Very old military technology.

Gated entrance to Fort Ward
Starting at the entrance to the fort.  You can see what a nice day it was out–that sky is a pretty blue and clear.  Warm, but not muggy.

This gate was the only entrance to the fort.  The fort was surrounded by a dry moat.  I can imagine this being a guard post with two Union soldiers on duty, watching for arriving visitors.

Dry moat surrounding Fort Ward.

This is where I start imaging what the soldiers did.  This is the dry moat.  The picture doesn’t show the height really well, but it’s actually pretty steep.

Imagine running up to this berm and dropping down against it, your muzzle loader rifle at the ready and the enemy coming on the other side.  The berm would stop any bullets headed your way (hopefully), but you would still have to stick part of your body up over the berm to fire back, making yourself a target.

Rear view of Fort Ward

I wander on and come up to the fort itself.  This is from the rear view, from inside, so it’s what the Union soldiers themselves would have seen.  That white wall has a shelf in front of it for guard duty.

I get up and walk along it and this is what I see:

What I might see on guard duty from Fort Ward. All grass and bushes now.

And I stop here and think about being a soldier on guard duty.  It’s cold out, because whenever I was on guard duty, it was always cold!

And I’m scared because I don’t know what’s coming, except that I know that my enemy might be coming over that next hill to kill me.

War is both very personal and very impersonal.

Defensive position with cannons at Fort Ward.

Back down the stairs to check out what we in the military calls the “defensive position.”  This position was set up to defend Little River Turnpike (which turns into Duke Street) and Leesburg Pike (which turns into King Street,  Obviously named after General Lee).  All those streets are still here, but it’s hard picturing how it must have looked in 1861.

Time to get closer.

Cannon

This is one of the bigger cannons.  War then was definitely not for short people!  I can barely see over the cannon to where the enemy is coming.

So I try a smaller cannon.

Following a cannon's line of fire.

Cannon fire is very loud.  I was on Fort Lewis, walking on the sidewalk across the street from the parade field.  Someone was test-firing the cannon.

Boom!

I jumped and was going, “What the heck?”

I’d been in front of the cannon, so it was much noisier.  If you ever go to a cannon demonstration, make sure you are on the side you see in the photos above.

The door to Magazine No3

This was where the ammunition was packed with black powder.  It was very hazardous duty.  Then the military didn’t have the safeguards to protect the soldiers, so people often got killed.

Door labeled "Filling Room No5"

And this is where the ammunition is stored.  Also not a particularly safe place to be.

The front of Fort Ward, though bushes

Then I walk around to the front of Fort Ward.  If this fort had seen action, this is the view the approaching Confederates would have had.

More of the fort is visible at winter when the plants die off, so I can’t see much now.  But there’s that trench I’d have to cross if I were on the Confederate side, with cannons pointed down on me and probably soldiers with muzzle loaders.  Look on the left for a cannon poking out.

The last part of my trip I don’t have any pictures for, because there’s nothing left other than the story.  After the war ended, the African Americans who had been freed established what became known as “The Fort” around the remains of Fort Ward.  It was their home and a place where they raised their families.  They emphasized faith, education and moral codes.

As the Civil Rights Era kicked off, they were displaced by time.  All that’s left is a sign and a graveyard of a church in the area.  But some of the new generations still live in the area, and the street names mark the location (Seminary Road).

Here’s the link to the Fort Ward site.

I’m thinking of hitting Leesylvania Park next (you guessed it–named after General Lee, who lived in Virginia).  It’s a pretty area, a bit of challenging walk, and some interesting history that involves–of all things–gambling!

What do you think?  Is there anything you want me to wander off and check out (safety permitting)?

 

 

 

Apologizing for History


Washington Monument against cloudy skyThis weekend, I wanted to get out and do something fun.  That turned into a trip to the Museum of American History, which is right near the Washington Monument.  It was cloudy out, with rain predicted…and humid and hot.

The museum can be a lot of fun.  Like their Transportation history exhibit, or the one on food (with Julia Child’s kitchen).  There’s even the office of the man who invented  the first video game.  It’s pretty cool looking at how different creative people are.

There were also two exhibits which apologized for history.  I got a problem with that.

  1. History’s best value is if we take all of it into context.  Apologizing takes a piece of it entirely out of context, and devalues the rest.
  2. When the rest is devalued, we don’t hear about the positive things people did.

One of the exhibits that went on apology mode was on the Japanese internment during World War II.

What happened to the Japanese in the U.S. was a terrible thing.  I was glad for the opportunity to read George Takei’s biography, because his internment camp as a child put a different perspective on what happened (it was actually more interesting that the actor part).  I also went to an exhibit several years back (think that was at Freer-Sackler) of items made by people in the camps.  It was both sad and amazing, because it spoke of the power of  human spirit.

But I also have a bit of family history that comes with World War II and the Japanese.

My grandparents lived in San Francisco during World War II.  My grandfather was a minister of a church there.  My grandmother reported that she had to do a submarine watch on the coast of California.

 

After the war intended, there was a lot of distrust of Japanese.  My grandfather gave them jobs around the church.  It was a deeply unpopular thing to do, and he did it anyway.  The Japanese honored him about ten years ago.

History is about putting things into perspective and honoring who we are, warts and beauty and all.  Apologizing robs of us that perspective, which we need as human beings.

 

Triple Whammy: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free


Last October, I went gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free.  Also as processed-free as I could manage.

It was partially due to timing.  I’m lactose intolerant, but not allergic to wheat or anything like that.  But my mother died at the same age I’m at now, following a lot of health problems, ending with cancer.  She might have been predisposed to some of it genetically, but when I started looking at how we ate when I was growing up, I wondered if that contributed to it.

But it was also a growing change.   I ran across some old Jack La Lanne videos, started exercising, and got some of the books he’d written.  He didn’t just talk about exercising in those books, but also eating.  More vegetables!

I was reading a Washington Post article that mentioned the book Eat Fat, Get Thin.  It’s a horrible title.  Makes it sound like many of those diet books out there.  But there was enough about it in the article, that I bought it as an eBook.  Instant book!  Most of it talks about the diet industry, which makes a lot of money keeping us fat (as well as the drug industry, the exercise industry, and probably a few others).

So I thought, “Why not?”  It wasn’t like it was crazy eating.  It was just more vegetables, more fat, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, and no processed food.

Dairy-Free Eating

I grew up with lactose intolerance.  My mother had it years before it came in to the public view.  She had a terrible time of it.  We used to get her ice cream cakes for her birthday, which we couldn’t do any longer.  She had trouble traveling because airline food had dairy.  And everyone pre-made food source seemed to put it into everything.

Then, there weren’t any alternatives like almond milk or coconut milk.

I went largely dairy free the year before because of a book I read that said dairy was a mucus maker.  I couldn’t quite give up cheese.  I did see an improvement in my sinuses, though I still got the winter cold.

I was also shocked at how much dairy is still added as filler.  With all these people with sensitivities, you’d think some of the manufacturers would change the recipes.  No!  All they do is add a disclaimer that it contains milk.

Even vitamins had dairy in them.  I had to watch out because I’m also lactose intolerant, and a vitamin might claim it was dairy free and still have lactose.  It’s been a lot about reading labels.

I still occasionally have some cheese, but it’s usually in a pre-made salad.  That’s not a deal-killer for me.  Gluten on the other hand …

Gluten-Free Eating

I thought that dairy was added to everything.  Gluten is added to a whole lot more.

I now stop outside the door to check the restaurant’s menu.  There are a lot of restaurants that sell manly sandwiches or pasta.  It gets added into sauces, used as a coating for meat, and is pretty much in all deserts.

I went on the cruise back in February and even found the food there pretty limited.  Breakfast wound up being nuts (really!  I was on a cruise and eating a bowl of nuts for breakfast every day).  Lunch was always a challenge because they had a big pasta bar, and anything that wasn’t pasta had gluten in it, or was at least suspicious. Dinner was better because I ate it in the dining room, and that seemed more flexible.

Even the gluten-free magazines aren’t a big help.  They replace it with:

  1. More dairy.
  2. More sugar.
  3. Gluten free bread

It’s like we’re spinning around in this crazy circle!

This one’s been hard for me.  I still crave bread.  I wouldn’t mind having desert once in a while, but most of them hit the double-whammy of dairy and gluten.  And boy, I miss pizza!

Sugar-Free Eating

This one’s been easier, simply because I’m not buying premade food.  I’m also reading labels.  And not having dairy and gluten is a sugar killer because I don’t have a lot of deserts available to me to start with (though I’ve nipped at the Trader Joe’s gluten free chooclate-chocolate cookies on a occasion).

The result?  Since October, I haven’t had a cold, or the flu, and I haven’t needed allergy medicine in prime pollen season.

Memorial Day Parade


I was back in the Memorial Day Parade again.  You can see the Desert Storm veterans at about 1:44.  I didn’t march this time … my foot was not up to the long walk.  I’m in the jeep immediately following the marchers.

Inaugural Military Review


Disclaimer:  No political comments!  Any political comments will be deleted.

The Inauguration is Washington, DC’s big party.  The city fills up with people from all over and it’s a lot of pomp and ceremony.  We’ve had hotels in the area booked up all this week and next week, at least as far out as Quantico.

One of the things that was pretty cool was when the new President reviewed the troops.  I’ve been in parades before.  When I was in the Army, it was nothing like the parades in downtown DC, which have far more spectacle and better uniforms.

The ones I was in were on the Fort Lewis parade field, which was a big grassy field around a mile all the way around.  The uniform was the battle dress uniform.

We’d go out the day before and practice, because there was some special drill and ceremonies that were associated with it.  Drill and ceremonies involves certain types of marching moves.

In this case, we had to do two wagon wheel pivots, with the soldiers closest to the edge of the field being the spoke.  As we pass the viewing stand (bleachers in our case), the sergeant yells out “Eyes!  Right!”

Snap!  Our heads all turn to the right, facing that viewing stand until we pass.

I never saw much when I was in the parade beyond the person in front of me.  So it was pretty cool to see the military review as they passed in front of the Capitol’s steps.  If you see the footage again on the news, watch the heads of the soldiers as they pass.  You’ll see very clearly that their heads are turned towards the President in an “Eyes! Right!”

Weird Typos and Other Distractions


Dena Wesley Smith has a post up today about typos.  In this case, it’s what every blogger has probably experienced–someone zooming in to inform us that they caught us in a typo.

You have sinned!  You made a typo!

I don’t know what it is about typos, but they bring out the worst in people.  I suppose if you attach writer to that and suddenly we’re supposed to be perfect with the words.

Hmm.  Tell that to my fingers.  I am constantly making corrections because I am a lousy typist.  My fingers get tangled up and sometimes I have words that are mostly spelled correctly,  but have an extra letter in there.  Particularly as I’ve gotten older (to the point of reading glasses), it’s harder for me to tell if I have too many i’s and l’s, especially if the font is small or condensed.

But then sometimes extra words creep in, and where they’re not supposed to.  I wandered into an existing scene, did a quick spell check (three typos, not too bad), then read it.  Found this:

Hope passed added the flatware to the plate and passed up up, but left the glass behind

Clearly I was thinking it too many directions when I wrote that!

I like checking soon after I write because occasionally I run into one where I have to stop and think about what I was trying to say.  If it’s too long after, I have to strike the sentence entirely because I don’t remember.

Working on Multiple Projects

This week, I was part of an online INTP discussion, which was quite fascinating.  Filing was actually the major part of the discussion, and how hard it is just to put pieces of paper in files.  It’s like details, and I don’t have much tolerance for it.

But, also my natural state, I like hopping between projects.  Sometimes it’s a break, or a way to get a different perspective.  Sometimes I even get bored.  Doesn’t mean the story is getting boring, but that I need a break from it.

At the moment, I’m working on a science fiction novel, a mystery short story, and a fantasy short story.  Both the short stories are set in Morro Bay, California.  I’m thinking of wandering around between them, following the flow of what I want to work on.  I ended up getting hung up on the fantasy for a week because of a combination of getting stuck (let critical brain in and went in the wrong direction) and wanted to get it done.  The result is not as much done as I wanted to. I probably would have figured out the problem if I’d hopped to a different story.  Sometimes I need a little time to process where I need to go next.

Washington DC’s big party: The Inauguration

That’s only a few weeks away now.  We will be shut down close into downtown because all the streets will be closed.  Expect it to be cold.  We were 11 when I went out to my car yesterday.  Probably no better.  But that’s typical weather for this time of the year.  At least things will finally get back to whatever normal is after that.

Only six more weeks until Spring!

Snow, Power Outages, and Pantsing


We’ve had some very typical weather for Washington, though most of it is waaaaayyy early.  We don’t get frigid weather until January or February.

It was in single digits on Thursday.  Saturday started the day with freezing rain.  The ground was pretty slick.  Maryland had a 67 car accident on the freeway (no, that is not a typo!), and we had a 23 car one in Virginia.  People drive like it’s normal day, and we have major accidents.

Then the freezing rain turned to snow, and it warmed up a bit.  Was kind of nice on Sunday until 1:00 when a very cold wind blew in.  My power went out about 10 times between 1:00 and 5:00.  I want to write, and I have to get off so I don’t fry the computer!

I’m about 27K into the story, which translates as 10K.  Yes, I’ve written about 15K that is going bye-bye.  It takes me a while to write my way through the story. Some of my process is kind of like throwing paint at the wall to see what sticks.

My learning point on this is working on a B-story.  I thought it would be X when I started and even have a scene for it.  But as I wrote, a new character introduced herself into the story, and she’s very clearly the B-story.  So I’m thinking on some additional scenes early on for her.

But also as I got further into the story and events unfolded, some in quite unexpected ways, I realized that my opening chapter isn’t the right thing.  It served its purpose–get me started. But I had to learn more about what else was going to happen in the story so I could figure out how to open the story.

Being a pantser always means being open to change as the story evolves.